Daily Advent Devotional 12-19-19

A Mary-Like Faith   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

So, God has been working out His plan to send His Son to die so that through Him the world may be saved. This, I must admit, was very unprecedented. It was the first time such an event was going to take place. For the first time, God was going to become a man. 

Before we embark or get engaged in an unprecedented project, we perform all our calculations to make sure we would land well, on a good note. We consider all possible scenarios and put measures in place to ensure smooth running. Imagine the number of scientific considerations made before Armstrong and his colleagues landed on the moon. 

In our natural world, there could be no conception without the participation of man and woman.  Therefore, the idea of Mary conceiving the Son of God in her womb, without male participation in the process was unprecedented. She could have asked many questions and raised an objection.   She could have also chosen the path of unbelief. But, her attitude to this good but unprecedented and scary news was one faith. She believed in God and welcomed the news with a willing heart.  Zachariah, a respectable aged priest, did not believe the words of the angel about the birth of His son, John. As such, he became mute until what was spoken to him was fulfilled. You would expect that a respectable priest in the temple would believe the words of God through an angel.  However, Mary, not Zachariah, chose the path of faith, not fear. She could have considered all the social repercussions and chose to opt-out. But, she fixed her gaze on the faithful God, and not the volatile society.   

Mary shows us that faith accepts the will of God. It is the kind of faith that dares into the unknown with full trust in God. It is an active faith. It is the faith that partners with God to bring to pass His wonderful plans for us and others. 

Somewhere within your heart, you have heard God. You are certain of what He’s calling you to do. It is so clear to you. But, sometimes we allow fear and the opinions of society to drive us away. We listen to others and convince ourselves that what God calls us to do is not meant for us. I pray for a Mary-like faith all the time. It is simple, yet strong. It is obedient. It is willing to suffer the scoff of the world. It is the God-pleasing kind of faith. It sees the bigger picture of the kingdom of God. 

PRAYER: Give me pure, simple, and true faith that pleases and partners with you, O God.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-18-19

Bethlehem–Of All Places
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.
Micah 5:2

Why would God speak of the birthplace of the Messiah long before He was born? What was special about Bethlehem? One would think the Messiah would be born in a very prominent place, a city of high economic, political, and religious significance like Jerusalem. Instead, God chose a small town with no prominence. 

Bethlehem had something to it, something that had prophetic significance to the ministry of the Messiah. This low-key town was noted for sheep rearing. Most Bethlehemites would be shepherds. In their business, the shepherds would separate the firstborn male lambs from the rest of the pack. They would give these ones special treatment, so they do not incur any physical defects. These firstborn male sheep would then be sold in Jerusalem for sacrifices in the temple.  Most of the sacrificial lambs came from Bethlehem. Annually, the Jews would pilgrim to Jerusalem for festivals during which sacrifices were offered.  

Now, one of the titles of Christ is the Lamb of God. This title was strongly connected to the function of Christ––to sacrifice His life to atone for the sins of humanity.  It is no wonder then that the Lamb of God, who would die to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), would have to be born in Bethlehem. So, after all, Bethlehem of all places had some significance. It reminds us that Christ was born to sacrifice His life that we may have life in its abundance (John 10:10).  

In what ways can we, too, as Christians live sacrificially?

  • Going out of our way to help others (Philippians 2:4);
  • Honoring God with our lives (Romans 12:1);
  • Setting ourselves apart from the sins of this world (James 4:4); and
  • Suffering for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:10).

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to offer my life sacrificially in sharing your love with the world.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-17-19

The People 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Mary. Joseph. The shepherds.  The disciples of Jesus Christ, who were mostly fishermen.  Matthew, the tax collector.  What did these people have in common?  Why were they employed in the Story of God? 

In the first century Palestine world, economic injustice was very paramount.  The society was divided into 5 economic classes.  At the top were the royals (the emperor and his family, who usually lived a lavished lifestyle).  Second in importance were the religious aristocrats.  This group was made of the religious elite (the chief high priest, the high priests, and their families).  Next was merchants and other religious authorities, including the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Below the poverty line were the artisans, petty traders and farmers.  The last and least class was the expendables.  This group was made of social outcasts such as the lepers, etc.  Upward mobility was not a reality in the then society.  The last three classes worked hard to keep the top two in shape and form.  Injustices and marginalization were heavily practiced. 

Interestingly, most of the people employed in the narrative of the birth and ministry of Jesus were picked from those who were just above and below the poverty line.  These people lived in humble conditions.  They were poor.  The shepherds had nothing.  Joseph did not have much.  Mary depended on her family for economic significance.  The disciples did not make much, yet taxed heavily. 

So, why did God chose people with such social standing? 

God identifies with the disenfranchised, marginalized and those suffering economic injustices.  He identifies with those who cannot experience the abundance of their God-giving life because of man-made systems.  Living in a humble condition does not make humility of heart, though.  A person could have a great economic substance and still be humble before God.  Wealth does not necessarily erase humility. 

Humility is a character of the kingdom of God. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself…Philippians 2:8a.  Christ humbled himself so that he could identify with those who suffered economic injustices during his earthly ministry. 

Therefore, in this season of Advent, the Holy Spirit invites us to embody humility in all that we do.  We are called, also, to be the presence of Christ to the poor and the suffering.

PRAYER:  Holy Spirit, help me to humble myself so that I can help the poor and the marginalized in society.

PROMISE: I am with you even in your most broken moments.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-16-19

Christ, the Governor 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder…” Isaiah 9:6

Government, in our perspective, is associated with politics. And politics, for many of us is not pleasant.  The images we draw up in our minds are negative. This is even made worse as we witness what is happening in most governments around the world. And, in our case, the media has made it worse, busily cashing in on the slightest rhetoric a government official would make.  We wonder if God truly sets up kings and those in authority (Romans 13:1). 

However, government, in its original meaning is not evil at all. Adam was the first governor of the world. He was given the mandate to have dominion, to work the ground and ensure the sustenance of all God’s creation. The authority given Adam was to ensure the flourishing of all God’s creation.  But, Adam lost it! And ever since, governments have carved different purposes for their establishment. 

Wherever there is a human community, a government has to be established to ensure its sustenance and flourishing.

Christ, whom Paul refers to as the second Adam, came into the world to establish the government of God among humans. He came to make known the rule and reign of God. Christ entered into our broken world to administer the justice of God, to create order, to offer peace, and restore the broken relationship between God and man. He brought healing to the sick, hope to the hopeless, and life to the dead. In the government of Christ, the lost are found, dead are made alive, sinners are made holy and righteous; barriers are broken to embrace all of the human race. 

And, we look forward to seeing the full manifestation of the government of Christ when all things would be made new. It will be a time of absolute peace, blessings, glory, and honor.  There will be no sickness, no pain, and no hurt. Affliction will not be part of our vocabulary.  We, including the rest of creation, wait eagerly for the realization of the kingdom of God. 

Your destiny is not controlled by the systems of this world. You don’t belong to the economy of this world. If you have invited Him into and have allowed Christ to be the Lord of your heart, your life is in the hands of God. You can trust in this government because it is established on the shoulders of God. No one voted Him in, and no one will vote Him out. You are safe in His government.

PRAYER: In the midst of the broken of our world, May I experience the true blessings offered by your government in Christ Jesus.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-13-19

Prince of Peace   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I cannot count the many times I have heard people pray for the peace of the world.  We all long for peace within our borders and homes.  Deep down in the recesses of our soul, we cry for tranquility.  We anticipate and expect situations void of fights, pain, divisions, etc.  This is an unrealistic expectation.  I say this because the Prince of Peace stepped into our chaotic world, suffered and endured the brutalities and wickedness thereof.  He demonstrated to us that it is possible to live in this kind of world and still experience an inner peace that makes you thrive. His peace renews us even when our external realities are quite the opposite.

I recently visited a lady in her 90s at the hospital.  She has cancer and is terminal.  As soon as I entered her room, I knew I was before a saint.  She had so much peace around her.  She made dying look gracious and full of light.  Every word she uttered was accompanied by peace.  She has cancer.  But she has something greater and better.  It is called peace because the Prince of Peace lives in her heart. 

The world’s idea of peace is usually an absence of trouble.  While this may have some truth in it, biblically, peace is associated with the presence of God.  In fact, the absence of God brings chaos deep in the soul.  Peace connotes wholeness or completeness.  The dynamics of life sometimes creates brokenness, incompleteness, etc.  Life sometimes steals our wholeness and introduces cracks, and things begin to fall apart.  Relationships fracture, good friends become enemies, families are ripped apart, conflict and division ensue, and life becomes a pain.  In the midst of these God sends us His Son, who is our peace…For He, Himself is our peace, Ephesians 2:14.  Christ Jesus represent wholeness and completeness.  He is the Wellbeing of our life.  The Shalom of our destiny.  He comes into our hearts to restore completeness, and fullness of Himself, who is our Peace.  His presence makes us experience peace with ourselves, no matter our external realities.  Therefore, we are able to serve as ambassadors of peace.  He sends us to sow seeds of peace in a world filled with all kinds of brokenness. 

PRAYER: Prince of Peace, inspire me to actively pursue peace and to help others do the same.  

PROMISE: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. John 14:27

Daily Devotional 12-12-19

By Julie White

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called… Mighty God…” Isaiah 9:6

Mighty God.” El Shaddai in Hebrew, this name signifies a mighty power that can be found only in a deity. When we understand that the word for God means, “Mighty Power” then we can see that this title really means the “Mighty, Mighty God.” In other words, Jesus is set apart and His might and power are seen as far superior to any other.

The evidence of His power comes from His teaching, His miracles, and the way He lived His life.  Scripture tells us that the crowds that heard Jesus teach were attentive because He taught as one who had authority.  He spoke as if He had a direct pipeline from God and He seemed to know their hearts. People listened and they felt God’s Spirit burn within them. The miracles of Jesus also reveal his mighty power.  Blind men received sight, crippled people walked, dead people came back to life, demon-possessed people were set free, fierce storms were calmed, diseased people were made well. Finally, evidence of Jesus’ power comes from the way He lived His life; how He endured temptation, and the events of His death and His resurrection.

Jesus has power over all things at all times and in all ways. He is God Himself!  The great mystery is that only those who believe that Jesus portrays God’s heart on earth can experience the Jesus of glory and grace who reigns in heaven. 

You might have to adjust your vision to see Jesus in the world today.  I know I do. He still does miracles and demonstrates power, but often only if you can look past appearances, refuse to dismiss a solution because it seems too humble or too unlikely, and get over any assumptions you may have about how He works or who He works with and through.  To know Jesus as your mighty God, expect the unexpected.  Then always expect Him to show Himself strong.

PRAYER: Mighty God, whose name represents power, help me see You in the people and circumstances around me; to be Your strength by helping those less fortunate and by not letting my left hand know what my right hand is doing.  Shake those in positions of power, who trample the defenseless that they may turn away from evil.

PRAYER: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Daily Advent Devotional 12-11-19

Incomprehensible Wisdom
By Julie White 

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor….” Isaiah 9:6

When Isaiah wrote his prediction of the coming of a “Wonderful Counselor,” he was telling Israel to remember that their Messiah was indeed coming to establish His Kingdom.  A Child would be born to fulfill the Covenant of David.  The Child was Christ, a light in darkness. “Wonderful Counselor,” tells the character of the coming child-King.

In this passage, the word wonderful literally means incomprehensible. The word is much weightier than the way it is used in our conversations today. We say things are wonderful if we like them a lot or if they are pleasant.  But Jesus is wonderful in a way that is unusual and mind-boggling, awe-inspiring and superior; He is wonderful in all things! It was wonderful love by which God gave Him, and by which He came, the manner of His birth was wonderful, His humility, His self-denial, His sorrows were extraordinary, His mighty works were wonderful, His grace, His glory, His dying agonies were astonishing, and His resurrection, His ascension…The Messiah causes us to be amazed and full of wonder!

The second part of the Messiah’s title is counselor. In ancient Israel, a counselor was portrayed as a wise king, like Solomon, giving guidance to his people.  Isaiah uses this word again in 28:29 to describe the Lord, “…He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.” Jesus is a wise counselor. No one teaches like Him. He is able to advise you thoroughly because He is qualified in ways no human counselor is.

During the disorienting events of life, we are never left alone.  The Counselor is more than willing to lead if you ask Him.  In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

He knows the true value and worth of every living soul – of your soul.  He pays no attention to status or human honor or class, and when He came into the world, He did not inquire of your IQ or whether you were well-traveled. He is looking for hearts that are looking for Him. He was sent. And He came to seek and save the lost.

PRAYER: Wonderful Counselor, lead me with your divine wisdom into rest, peace and prosperity in you. Help me have a heart for you and one that seeks to understand the hearts of others.

PROMISE: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

Daily Advent Devotional 12-10-19

Our Forever Father 
By Julie White

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, His name shall be called…Everlasting Father…” Isaiah 9:6

Few words in any language evoke the kind of feelings we have when we hear the word father. Some of us may feel a sense of loss either because we had fathers who were wonderful but are no longer with us, or because we have unfulfilled longings for the kind of father we’ve never had. So, how comforting it is, to read about the birth of a precious child whose name shall be called Everlasting Father. Under His care, His protection, and His provision, you are safe and loved for all eternity.

Your heavenly Father’s compassion for you is without end. Christ’s ability to be a timeless source of fatherly love means that He will never leave you. There will be no good-byes with Him!

 And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b

The Lord who created and sustains all there is, is the same Lord who calls you His child.  His everlasting arms are under you and around you. He comforts you and strengthens you. He provides for your needs.  Jesus cares about you and about the most defenseless members of society; the hungry, the naked, the poor, the disappeared, the prisoner, the abused.

In the same passionate and everlasting manner, as Jesus cares for us, we are called to care for others.  One powerful way we can do this is by going before Him in prayer about the needs of the world and the people around you. Then the healing grace of the Father that touches us, can touch those who we bring before Him with the same power.

…our Father of sympathy and mercy, who is the source of all comfort.  He comforts, consoles and encourages us in every struggle so that we may also be able to comfort, console, and encourage others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Worship Him, your heavenly Father. He understands your hurts, your fears, your disappointments, your pain, and your dreams. Give them to Him. Allow Him to hold you close in His arms and tell you the story of His everlasting love for you, His precious child.

Prayer: Everlasting Father, help me pray for and act with compassion toward those who dwell in darkness, that they may look, beyond their trouble and pain to Your saving grace.  Uphold them by the vision of a world made whole.

 PROMISE: And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corthians 6:18

Daily Advent Devotional 12-9-19

The Vulnerability of God 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.” So he got up, took the Child and His mother by night, and withdrew to Egypt… Matthew 2:13

Sometimes true love takes you to a place of vulnerability. Love that is selfless will take you on a path of anxiety, tiredness, and even pain because of the beloved. Imagine, the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful God had become a baby, whose safety depended on a mere human being. Love had taken God on a path of submission and vulnerability. I do not believe anybody could have killed the Son of God, yet He went through the process of escape. The Father had to intervene for the safety of the Son because He had been exposed to risk. Baby Jesus was vulnerable yet protected. He demonstrated vulnerability as a character of His love. 

The God-kind of love is so nuanced. It has the audacity to dare into the unknown for the sake of the beloved.  It will go down where the beloved is. It will climb the mountain and descend into the valley.  It will cross the ocean, and brave the harshest condition for the sake of the beloved.  It is no wonder that Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints the width and length and depth and height— of the love of Christ,” Ephesians 3:18.

Our world has many challenges, including interpersonal struggles. Sometimes, it is hard to trust and be vulnerable after you have experienced misuse and abuse. So, we enter relationships, not with full thrust. We are careful just in case. 

God came into a broken world and had disciples who betrayed Him at significant moments. Did he know some of them were not trustworthy? Absolutely! Yet, He chose to love them anyway.  He became vulnerable for our sake. I pray that we will have the courage to love and be vulnerable as followers of Jesus Christ. I have failed at this many times. I want to calculate and see that all is clear. I want to be in control. But, the God-kind of love will always invite us to unfamiliar turfs, uncomfortable and vulnerable places. He invites us to those places because vulnerability comes under the umbrella of His protection and security.

PRAYER: Give me the heart of Christ, that I may love deeply as He did.

PROMISE: My love will come where you are and raise you up.