Daily Devotional 11-25-19

Spiritual Check-Ups 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He goes on living by the power of God. And though, we, too are humanly weak in Him, yet in dealing with you, we shall show ourselves alive and strong in Him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?  2 Corinthians 13: 4-5

Paul was dealing with an on-going problem in the Corinthian church. He was afraid that the sinful practices of the wicked city of Corinth had invaded the congregation and were drowning their effectiveness for God’s Kingdom. He wrote a letter to them first, hoping they would straighten out their lives before he arrived. Paul could have refused to communicate until they cleared up their situation, but he loved them. And the authority Paul had received from the Lord was to strengthen the believers, not tear them down. So, he reached out to them with the love of Christ.

We may be tempted to underestimate our ability to accomplish what Christ desires through us; to set our sights too low for any number of reasons. I know I am like this. But, we are not in the ocean of this world alone, in a rubber raft with a plastic paddle. As children of the Almighty, we are indwelled with the power of the Holy Spirit and we are alive and strong in Him. Whoa. This concept is a reality that I think many of us underestimate. 

Just as good parents want their children to grow into mature adults, Paul wanted the Corinthians to grow into mature believers in Christ. So, he told them to examine and test themselves to see if they were truly Christians. This scripture urges us to do the same, to give ourselves spiritual check-ups, to look for a growing awareness of Christ’s presence and power in our life. Someone once put it this way, “If we are not actively seeking to grow closer to God, then we are drawing further away from Him.” 

Examine yourself and take the test. What would be your grade?

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to give ourselves Spiritual check-ups to make sure we are continually living in ways that are alive and strong in You. 

Daily Devotional 11-22-19

Changed Lives 
By Julie White

He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and gave regularly to God. Acts 10:2

The early days of Christianity are exciting to me as I read about how God’s Spirit moved and how people’s lives were changed because of Him. Converts were pouring in from surprising backgrounds. Even non-Jews were responding to the Good News about Jesus. Among the first of these was a Roman captain, Cornelius. Because of all the violence, Roman soldiers had to be stationed throughout Israel to keep the peace. But most Romans, hated as conquerors, did not get along well in the nation. As an army officer, Cornelius was in a difficult position. He represented Rome but his home was Caesarea. During his years in Israel, he himself, had been conquered by the God of Israel. He had a reputation as a Godly man who put his faith into action, and he was respected by the Jews because he actively sought God, he revered God, he was generous in meeting other people’s needs, and he prayed.

When he prayed, God told him to send for Peter because Peter would give him more knowledge about the God he was already seeking to please. When Peter entered Cornelius’ home, he broke a whole list of Jewish rules! Peter confessed that he wasn’t comfortable, but here was an eager audience and he couldn’t hold back. He had no sooner started sharing the Gospel when God gave overwhelming approval by filling that Roman family with his Holy Spirit. Peter saw that he had no choice but to baptize them and welcome them as equals in the Christian church. Another step had been taken in carrying the Gospel to the whole world.

God speaks to us in remarkably different ways – through written scriptures, through the words of others, through circumstances and events. It is up to us to listen, to be perceptive, to be alert, and to take action.

What is God trying to say to you today through the examples of Peter and Cornelius?

Prayer: Thank you for not playing favorites God, and for sending Your Son because You love the whole world.

Daily Devotional 11-21-19

Take Your Stand  
By Julie White

Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the Devil’s schemes. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph 6:11,17

Swords were the most common weapon in a king’s army for centuries, but in this age of drones and air strikes, it seems like the richness of this metaphor in this scripture has been lost. Eighteenth-century commentator Matthew Henry helps us appreciate what the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, can do for a believer. As for its sharpness, God’s Word “cuts off ignorance from the understanding, rebellion from the will, and enmity from the mind…the word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart.”

Henry is telling us that the Bible has the power to remove hatred, supply understanding, and change our will. It has the ability to let us see how we need to change from the inside out.

We have been given access to a spiritual sword, a sword that is not forged on human anvils or tempered in earthly fires, but a sword that is of divine origin; an effective and powerful weapon. 

The Word of God in the hand of a believer is incomparable; it is so powerful that nothing can withstand it and nothing can overpower it. As a soldier of Christ, we must know our weapon well and train with it daily so we know how to use it well. When you draw on God’s Words, it’s not you speaking. They carry the same authority as the One who originally spoke them.

No wonder the apostle Paul charges believers to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Skill with the sword of God’s Word helps us become more effective and more powerful as disciples of King Jesus.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us train daily with the sword of the Spirit so that we may win battles for the glory our Lord and King.

Daily Devotional 11-20-19

Start Now  
By Julie White

So, Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. Genesis 6:22

The story of Noah’s life involves not one but two tragic floods. The world in Noah’s day was flooded with evil. The number of those who remembered the God of creation, perfection, and love had dwindled to one. Of God’s people, only Noah was left. God’s response to the severe situation was a 120-year-long last chance, during which He had Noah build a graphic illustration of the message of his life. Building a huge boat on dry land definitely made a point. For Noah, obedience meant a long-term commitment to a project. 

Some people have trouble sticking to any project, whether it is directed by God or not. It is interesting that the length of Noah’s obedience was greater than the life span of most people today. The only comparable long-term project is our very lives. But, perhaps this is one great challenge Noah’s life gives us; to live, in response to God’s grace, an entire lifetime of obedience.

How can you be obedient? Begin where you are. Obey now. Live this present moment in utter submission and openness toward God. Listen outwardly to your words, but within yourself, in the deeper levels of your life when you are all alone with God, keep up a silent prayer, “Thy will be done.”

An internal, continuous prayer life is absolutely essential. It can be carried on day or night, in the car, at work or at home, at school, and at the grocery store. A prayer of submission to God’s word and His will can be very simple: “Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.”  Repeat it over and over again within yourself. Every moment, behind the scenes, offer yourself in continuous obedience. 

Prayer: Holy Spirit, give me strength to begin where I am and be obedient to you now.

Daily Devotional 11-19-19

Letting Go and Holding On 
By Julie White

Yet I still belong to You, Lord. You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. I desire You more than anything on earth. God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever, and I am His. Psalm 73:23-26

As you look to the path before you, you may envision a twisted tree with branches going off in all directions. Circumstances have overwhelmed your emotions. Heartache and sadness weigh on you heavily. You have been hurt deeply and unexpectedly, and you may wonder how you can possibly find your way past the pain, past the tears. Then, you remember the One who is always with you. You recall God’s promise to guide you with a love that will never leave you and you begin to relax a bit. And you look at the path ahead where your eyes shift upward to focus on an autumn tree, filled with leaves of strikingly beautiful color. The image of those leaves through salt water magnifies their hues somehow.

Standing quietly, taking in the profundity of that tree, you begin to ponder all of God’s great works and think of what He’s done. I am reminded of His profound love for me; that no matter what happens to me, no matter where I am, God’s love abides. Out of this remembrance grows a level of gratitude. Give thanks in everything, scripture states. Then thankfulness opens your heart to God’s presence and your mind to His thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on enabling you to see your path from a different perspective. It is the light of God’s presence that heals the sting of disappointment and the sadness of heartbreak. It’s true that suffering helps us to identify with Christ. But, allowing His love to heal us is the path we should take forward.

How beautifully leaves change as they cling to the branch that feeds them. How beautifully we can grow spiritually when we let go of our own desires and hold on to the strength of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

Prayer:  Give thanks to Him, praise His name, and hold His hand tightly. Strikingly beautiful is the fact that He is yours forever and you are His. He will never leave you. Never.

Daily Devotional 11-18-19

The Power of True Community  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart… Acts 2:46

God is a communal Person. He exists as three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The communal God created us to be communal. Therefore, community provides a context for true living. The early Church has a lot to offer us. Not just the rich theology and foundations of our faith, but more so, how they lived out their faith in groups and in communities. They were religiously a minority—yet they grew and flourished. And, one of the sources of their strength and vitality was the true community that existed among the believers. 

True community was coded into their new identity in Christ. They looked out for each other.  They found solace and encouragement from one another. They knew how to stir each other into love. They truly cared for the needs of others. They became a community within the larger community. And, when their world saw their uniqueness and true love for each, the Lord added to their number. True community became a vital gateway into the life of the Church. And, this is so true for today’s Church. I find this true because people need people. True unity was the foundation for the early church community. They had a singleness of vision and purpose. They possessed childlike simplicity of heart towards each other. They easily shared their resources. 

The Church today could use some true community where the love of Christ is practiced. We need faith communities where people are respected for who they are and becoming. We need flourishing communities where words become conduits of grace, healing, and edification. We need people who will know our secrets and still respects us. The early church was made of imperfects, yet they flourished. 

Imagine families become avenues for healing instead of tearing down. Imagine friendships become a means of grace for us to grow spiritually strong in Christ. We need true loving communities and relationships where problems are handled with maturity, where we do not give the enemy a foothold. Instead, we endeavor to honor God and one another even in difficult times.   

Would you become a spark that would spread the fire and fervency of true community?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, make me a stream that will feed communities and friendships with the love of Christ.

Daily Devotional 11-15-19

Reckless Faith  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

I wish I could have this kind of faith of these three Hebrew boys. The faith that stares at death and dares to enter in with absolute and rock-solid trust in God. I wish I could have this kind of faith! I am talking about the faith that is not dependent on God fulfilling His promise of provision and protection. The faith that thrives and flourishes even in the face of seeming “disappointment” from God. He never disappoints at all! I want to be able to take the challenge.  I do not want fear to dominate my life. I want to abandon my life recklessly into God’s hand. I want to trust His plan for my life. I do not want what-ifs to dominate me.

The lives of the three Hebrew boys were at stake. Their faith in the true God, Yahweh, had brought them before the powerful man on earth at that time, Nebuchadnezzar. With a threat of painful death by burning in a furnace, the king demanded worship from these sold-out-to-God boys. They denied him worship and instead affirmed their faith in and allegiance to God. Their faith was not dependent on the ability or the promises of God. It had no strings attached. They just trusted Him.  It was a reckless faith—faith even unto death. They knew how to die in order to live. 

Imagine how richer and fuller your life would be if you had that kind of faith. Imagine you had the faith that did not waver in the face of adversity. Imagine faith, instead of fear informed all your decisions and choices. I have sat in a meeting where people were frantic with their thoughts and decisions. In the midst of the desperation, a gentleman made a faith-filled suggestion.  His demeanor was calm and free. Immediately we knew God was speaking through him. Truly, the freest people are those who walk with reckless faith in God.

PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to walk with you with a downright faith.

Daily Devotional 11-14-19

Praise Him Through 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ

By Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady

A friend sent me a beautiful picture recently. It was a picture of a plant responding to the winter-like fall season. The leaves were in various expressions of yellow, red, and orange, with brown dots. As I admired that beauty, I imagined what trees might say in the fall/winter season, if God afforded them that ability. Perhaps a complainant—this weather is too harsh; an encouragement—this too shall pass; an expectation—I can’t wait for spring and summer so I can show my flowers and fruits

Friends, the reality is that we, as humans, and especially as Christians, experience seasons. We encounter times of peace, joy and celebration as well as times of suffering and evil in various manifestations. The Psalmist recognizes this fact of life when he said, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

Our words of hope and encouragement come from the hymn above, which is a favorite of mine.  It provides comfort in trials by trusting in God. We are most tempted to praise and be in good relationship with God when all is going well with us. We easily say, Thank you God, in moments of happiness. However, when the season changes, when frustrations, fears, anxieties, etc., break loose on us, they usually define our confession. Unfortunately, some Christians define God only in feeling-good terms. For such ones, their praises are limited and seasonal.  However, faithful Christians praise God through all seasons. Sometimes tears and not ecstasy will accompany your praises to God. That is okay!

Whether your body is working as it should or not, Praise Him through.
Whether your expectations are met or not, Praise Him through.
Whether the bank account is full or not, Praise Him through.
Whether the relationship is cruising or tanking, Praise Him through.
Whether the marriage is working or not, Praise Him through.
Whether all is working well for your kids or not, Praise Him through.
Whether in tears or in happiness, Praise Him through.
Whether you are worn out or full of energy, Praise Him through.
Whether the problem is solved or pending, Praise Him through.
Whether you are accepted or rejected, Praise Him through.
In season and out of season, Praise Him through.

Daily Light 11-13-19

The Power of Prayer 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. Exodus 17:11

Israel had crossed the Red Sea and had become a free people. Immediately, they ran into challenges—lack of food and water, and an enemy to fight—Amalek. But, interestingly, these challenges led to the discovery of the grace and power of God. They revealed that God truly cared for them.  

Moses asked Joshua to lead in the fight against the enemy because he would be on the top of the hill with the rod of God.  Moses’ activity on the hill was crucial for the outcome of the battle. So long as Moses’ hand was raised up, the Israelite had the upper hand, but when he brought his hands down, the enemy gained control.

The outcome of the battle in the valley was determined by the action of Moses on top of the hill.  

This is a metaphor of how powerful and influential our prayers can be. Raising of hands to God or towards heaven has been part of worship. We see lots of this gesture in worship throughout the Bible: Psalms 28:1, 99:9,119:48,134:2,141:1-2; 1 Tim. 2:8.  In most of these cases, hands were raised in the context of prayer. 

Just as Moses’ action determined the outcome of the battle, so will our prayers have so much influence and determining power if we would pray and pray right.  The most powerful people are not those in government who draw up policies, but those who pray.  When Christians pray, the power of God is unleashed in a supernatural way to affect situations.  This is so true that James 5:16 said, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

You may not consider yourself a prayer giant, but your little heartfelt prayer can have influence if you can attach faith to your prayers.  By your prayers, you can influence situations in your family, workplace, church, nation, etc.  John Wesley once said, “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”

Your words may be few in prayer, say them anyway
Your faith may not be as strong, express it anyway
You only need a little of it anyway
Your voice may not be powerful, whisper your prayer anyway
For it takes a praying heart and prayer-answering God to change a situation anyway

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to pray when I don’t feel it the most.