Daily Advent Devotional 12-6-19

What’s God Doing Down Here?  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8b

A well-lived life is one with a purpose! It has direction.  It is intentional.  It maximizes opportunities for advancement and wellbeing.  Most people attach reason to what they do.  Even, the mundane things in life have reasons attached to them.  I love to watch comedies after work because it gets me to de-stress, and refuel.  Parents support their kids through school and sport.  There is a purpose in there.  Somebody has developed a routine in life and sticks to it pretty well because there is a purpose attached.

Why did God choose to confine Himself to time, space, and matter for a season?  What was the purpose?  Our scripture has a response to these questions.

In our previous devotion, we saw how God promised that the Seed of the woman (Christ Jesus) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan).  Therefore, the coming of the Messiah connects with undoing the works of Satan.  God had to do something about Satan and his works.  Thus, He sent His Son to destroy the works of Satan.

So, what exactly did Jesus accomplish by destroying the works of Satan? 

Satan deceived our first parents to sin against God.  Making them sin was Satan’s accomplishment.  Therefore, if Jesus’ coming to the earth had a purpose, it had to do with the sin issue.  Jesus came to break the power of sin, so that we may not make sinning our habit.  Titus 2:11-14 reads, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. 

The saving grace through Jesus Christ also gives us the power to live above sin.  It enables us to not live our lives practicing sin.  We are not saved to be practitioners of sin, but righteousness.  God became a human so that humans may be like God in character.  He came to not make bad people good, but dead people alive. 

Friends, Christ came to be born, so that we may live in harmony with God as we practice the fruit of the spirit because sin is defeated. 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to live by the Spirit and not live to sin.

PROMISE: When temptation overwhelms you, my Spirit will uphold as you surrender to me.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-5-19

The Almighty Became a Baby  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine…For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given… Isaiah 9:2,6

For some people, the Christian’s assertion that God came to dwell with humanity is absurd. In the religious world, gods do not dwell with people. They exist somewhere in their own plane beyond the natural world. 

Remember when you needed to bond and build a relationship with your kids or grandkids? You played with them on their terms. Sometimes you were silly, and they loved it. You spoke their language so they could enjoy you. In short, you came down from your cloud and went to their level so they related and received your love.

A Child is born, and a Son is given.

Friends, God loved us enough to come to our neighborhood! And, He did not come as an alien. He became like one of us so we could relate and receive His love. The Lover needed to present Himself in a receivable way to His beloved. Yet, He was so human that many doubted if he was truly the expected Messiah. The religious leaders rejected Him, and His township did not believe Him, because He was too human to be God. 

The Almighty became a baby with a purpose. The light of God has appeared to those who dwelt in the dark. Those who walked in misery, death, ignorance, wickedness, sorrow, destruction have a chance to be delivered and rescued. Becoming a human, He mediated His light into our lives. Clothing Himself in human flesh was the only route to signal and manifest the era of hope, peace, and everlasting life for those who would believe in Him. 

Humility is necessary if we will touch lives around. It will take us to places we feel too big to go. Humility will make us identify with the less privileged, the poor, and the hurting. Often times, we see opportunities to represent Christ to many people, but we fail to do so. Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves with humility as found in Jesus (Philippians 2:1-8) so that we are able to serve the world with the love of Christ. 

PRAYER: Help me to walk with humility so that I am able to express your love to all people.

PROMISE: I will come wherever you are to redeem and help you!

Daily Advent Devotional 12-4-19

The Good Turn 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

I am sure you’ve had a situation of a good turnaround in your life before. Life seemed to go very well for you. Then all of a sudden something hit you big time. Maybe it was a sickness or a financial challenge. Probably a family relationship took a worse turn. It could be a divorce.Or the loss of a loved one  But despite whatever happened God intervened. He showed up to change the course of your life to a better path. And, with time, you found peace and joy in God.  God is always intervening, and the birth of the Messiah is the cosmic example.  

This is what we celebrate in the first advent: when God changed the story of humanity. He stepped into time and made a provision so that our lives may turnaround for the better.  In the fullness of time, the promise God (crushing the head of the serpent by the Seed of the woman) was fulfilled. 

So, through our first parents, we were separated from a loving God, the creator of the universe. We were absorbed into a life of selfishness and sin. We lost the God-kind of life. Sin dominated us. Humanity begun struggled to find life and peace but to no avail.  And, with its power to create and make provisions for good living, humanity was still heading towards eternal damnation.  It was not a good trajectory.  However, in the fullness of time, God’s promise was fulfilled. We, then, had the chance to realize a change in the course of our lives. We had the chance to shift from death to life.

Celebrating the first advent, Christmas, marks the beginning of the Turn, when God in Christ offered humanity the gifts of hope, peace, joy, love and everlasting life. And, as followers of Jesus, we are invited to be channels of good turn for those who are hurting and broken. 

PRAYER: Heavenly, as we celebrate the turnaround for humanity, help me become a channel of hope, peace, joy, and love for someone.

PROMISE: When life seems overwhelming, I will create a way into rest and peace for you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-3-19

Christmas in Genesis
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And I will put enmity, Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:15

How do you handle those who offend you? Are you able to make provisions for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation? It blows my mind, as I discover in Scriptures, the richness of God’s love for all of humanity.  

Many Christians are very familiar with how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the consequences of their actions. But, I wonder how many are aware of the display of God’s profound love and grace right there in the garden. Even in the midst of disappointment, God made a way for Adam’s descendant to be released from sin. Right there in the garden, God made a promise of redemption through the Seed of the Woman. Wow!

God declared to Satan that the Seed of the Woman––who is Christ, The Messiah––would crush his head. This is the first prophecy of the Messiah, and the fact that it was pronounced in the context of the rebellion leaves much to be desired. God did not waste time to make His intention of salvation known. He did not delay in making provision for the deliverance of His people.  Certainly, He did not delay in making the enemy know his final condition. The journey to Christmas, I believe, started in the Garden of Eden. 

Christmas is a reminder of how God desires to forgive and redeem those who sin against Him. It is an invitation to receive God’s gift of forgiveness, no matter how terrible we may feel. Behind the sight, sounds, excitement, and celebration we are invited to ponder on the generosity and grace of God to liberate us from the domain of sin. 

Now, this truth excites me, but more so, graces me to offer a hand of reconciliation and forgiveness.

PRAYER: In the glory and spirit of Christmas, grace me to desire reconciliation and forgiveness, where needed. May I seek the opportunity to make it right with someone in this season.

PROMISE: My grace is greater than your sin and mess. 

Daily Devotional 11-29-19

The Battle is Real   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures.  Galatian 5:17

Christians always live in the tension between light and darkness, good and evil, flesh and the Spirit.  To look for evidence, look no further than the times when you were torn between a choice that would please God and one that did not.  You have these two voices, each of them sitting at your shoulder.  Those two are enemies.  They have access to your mind.  You cannot control their whispering, but you have the responsibility and power to respond. 

God indwells you, but you also live in the flesh, which could be an instrument for God or Satan.  He desires you to please God at all times with your thoughts and actions.  But, the flesh, with its sin-bent desires influences you with negative energy to think and act contrary to what God desires for you.  Friends, this battle is real!  Can I get a witness?!  And, what makes us keep switching between yielding to the Spirit and the flesh is our choice.  Sometimes we choose to obey the Spirit, other time the flesh.  The weaker our relationship with Christ, the more we gonna obey the flesh, and vice versa.

But, listen to Paul encouraging you, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Did you hear that?! It is possible to yield to the Holy Spirit consistently.  We have grace in Christ to choose the Spirit rather than the flesh. 

Are you tired of struggling to obey God?  Are you tired of yielding to the flesh more than the Spirit?  Do you desire to please God? The answer lies in your relationship with Christ.  Get your prayer, bible study, worship, good Christian friendships on track.  These would become conduits of spiritual strength to enhance your obedience to the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to fight for victory.  Jesus has won the victory already, therefore, live from victory.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, strengthen me to make yielding to the Spirit a lifestyle.

Daily Devotional 11-28-19

I Am Thankful For…  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ ”  Leviticus 23:41-43

The Israelites have a festival called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booth or Thanksgiving. God gave them specific instructions about the celebration of this festival. He asked them supposed to build tents or booths made of branches and leaves of specific trees. They were expected to vacate their nicely built houses and stay in the booth for the seven-day period. The booths were temporary inconvenient structures. It predisposed them to bugs, and all kinds of discomforts, especially at night. 

God wanted them to remember their previous condition of life. He instructed them to remember all His mighty deeds: provision of manna, water from Rock (who is Christ), their clothes and sandals not wearing off for forty years, defeats over their enemies, etc. It was a time to remember and be thankful to God. 

Friends, we have an invitation to a place of remembrance. God calls us to go back into our lives and remember all He’s done for us. Remembering God’s deeds in time past positions us to depend on Him. It helps affirms the truth that it took God for us to enjoy what we have right now. Thus, we do not take the credit but ascribe all praises to Him.This is humility. Paul said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Thus, all we have were given by God. And, O, how much He has blessed us!

As you enjoy the company of families, friends, or even by yourself, you can go back deep into your life and remember all that God has done. Count your blessings and be thankful. Above all, let’s be thankful for Christ Jesus, His birth, death, and resurrection.

PRAYER: Help me not to rush this season of thanksgiving, but with gracious pause, enable me to remember and be grateful.  May this cause me to be humble and depend on you.

Daily Devotional 11-27-19

Assurance of Divine Protection  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1-2

Reading through the book of Psalm makes me appreciate God. I mean, we serve a God, who is so personal and relatable that His people get the life-giving opportunity to pour their hearts to Him. I like the raw and organic nature with which the Psalmists expressed their hurts, anger, pain, questions, excitements, joys, concerns, etc. to God. You, too, could relate to God in those terms. And, it is okay to do that with humility and sincerity. 

Our text today depicts someone in a difficult situation. Someone crying out to God. Someone with a desperate heart reaching out to the Almighty. Someone who isn’t shy and afraid to let the tears roll down before God. I like that he did not need to man up before God. He felt safe with God, thus, could be vulnerable. And, O, how wonderful and liberating vulnerability is when expressed in safety!

The writer recognizes that those who trust in the Lord do experience overwhelming situations. I like that! He used the word when not if.  This indicates the righteous would experience some stormy situations.  In fact, Jesus made a bold unexpected statement, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I don’t think the disciples were expecting such news from Jesus. No. It does this sound good to our ears, either. At least not mine. 

The words of the Psalmist reveal their two parts: a challenge and a solution. For him, the solution to being overwhelmed with life is a refuge at the Rock. There is no challenge in life that has no solution in Christ Jesus. The greater the problem, the greater the solution. In Christ, giant problems meet giant solutions. In Him, there is grace greater than any problem!

There is a Rock, higher, wider and broader than you, so that, you can hide under His shade and protection.  He is the Rock of Ages. His name is Jesus. Would you take a cover under Him?! He has not left you unprotected. 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to run to the Rock at all times. May I never fight my own battles, but lean on your everlasting arms.

Daily Devotional 11-26-19

Power of Community 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:32-35

The members of the early church did not devote themselves to evangelism. They devoted themselves to each other and God. They saw each other every day and often shared a meal together, eating with “great joy and sincere hearts” (Acts 2: 46). How did they do that? Between bites, they chatted about the wonderful life they now had in Christ and they praised God for it.

When they finished their meal, they walked through the neighborhood streets and simply met the needs of the people around them from hearts of gratitude. They were able to share possessions and property as a result of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit in and through the believer’s lives. The sharing was voluntary; it didn’t involve all private property but only as much as was needed; it was not a membership requirement in order to be part of the church. Perhaps their words for each other weren’t always perfect, but their hearts overflowed with the perfect love of Christ who lived in them.

The spiritual unity and generosity of these early believers attracted others to them. Before people knew the doctrine that drove these believing neighbors, they experienced it. The result? People were added to the family of God every day. 

Evangelism was a result of their community.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, help me be united with other Christians in heart and mind in order to accomplish God’s purpose in the lives of those around me, and in the world.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-2-19

The Immanuel   12/2/19
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Have you been in a fearful situation where you did not know how you were going to breakthrough? Maybe you did not even know how to pray about it. Maybe you lost faith and confidence in God. You sighed deeply and thought whatever will happen will happen, and I am ready to bear the consequence. 

This prophecy was given at a time when Judah was under threat from her enemies—Aram and Israel. The prophet Isaiah encouraged the king, Ahaz, not to be afraid, instead, have faith in God.  He wanted Ahaz to know that despite the threat from his enemies, God’s presence was with him to deliver and secure Judah. Ahaz rather chose to trust in an ungodly alliance with another king.  This prophecy is also applied to Christ in the New Testament when the Jews were under the dominion of the Roman Empire. 

“God with us” points us to Christ, who is God in the flesh. Immanuel is a sign that God would neither leave nor forsake us in good and bad times. No matter how difficult life’s circumstances maybe we can have an assurance of God’s continual presence with us. Sometimes, we are tempted to think God had forsaken us because of a mistake or sin we may have committed. This makes us think we deserve the punishment. Time and time again, God had proven to be an ever-present help in times of trouble.

As we celebrate the season of Advent, take assurance in the fact that you are enveloped in God’s care and love. As He was with Judah when threatened and with the Jews under oppression from the Romans, so He is with you no matter what. I feel comfortable, and it makes sense to me that the promise of the coming Deliverer was made in the context of fear, panic, and oppression. 

What are you afraid of this season? What battles have you fought with no end in sight? Are you in despair? Do you feel forsaken and rejected? Do you feel lonely? This is the promise: God is with you!

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to cling to the promise of your presence. Help me to walk with the consciousness that you are always with me. I will not be afraid.

PROMISE:  I am always with you, even when you don’t feel it.