Daily Devotional 11-12-19

Intrigued by Joy 
By Phil Ladwig

“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

I’m getting intrigued by the word “joy.” In my Christian discipleship, I’ve been exposed often to teachings about the love of God, and I could use a lot more because I think I’m only just beginning to grasp the depth and richness of God’s love for me and for each of us. That’s exciting.

But, in my Christian walk, there’s been some hard teaching and hard experiences. In addition to times of growth and satisfaction, there have been periods of doubt about whether I’m really doing well or not in my efforts to follow Christ. I frankly don’t think I’m alone in these struggles.

And, when I pursue scripture and Christian teaching, there is much about the need to endure pain, make sacrifices, and work hard to grow and mature in my walk.

And I think sometimes, unconsciously, my primary motivation has been this: “If I just work harder, or if I’m just more loving and giving, God will have to favor me with a good life, and help me through my current challenges.” If this sounds immature, I agree, but there it is. But, with help, I’m trying to grow out of this way of thinking.

One thing that is helping me is to better understand the motivations that led Jesus in his walk. I came across this scripture… “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God,” Hebrews 12:2.

And. these words jump out at me, “for the joy that was set before him…” Yes, he endured unbelievable pain and suffering for our sakes, but his relationship with his Father helped him see the goodness and grace that were being created by his life, and that was his motivation. There is something electrically good about that, and thrilling.  I want joy, as part of God’s love, to motivate me rather than fear.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I ask for the grace to have the right motivation for the things I do and my beliefs. 

Daily Devotional 11-11-19

Ordinary but Extraordinary 
By Velma Tim

A woman who was a follower lived in the city of Joppa. Her name was Tabitha, or Dorcas. She did many good things and many acts of kindness. One day she became sick and died. After they had washed her body, they laid her in a room on the second floor. The city of Lydda was near Joppa. The followers heard that Peter was at Lydda and sent two men to ask him to come at once.  Peter went back with them. When he came, they took him to the room. All the women whose husbands had died were standing around crying. They were showing the clothes Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter made them all leave the room. Then he got down on his knees and prayed. He turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes and looked at Peter and sat up.  He took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then he called in the faithful followers and the women whose husbands had died. He gave her to them, a living person. News of this went through all Joppa. Many people put their trust in the Lord Acts 9:36-42

It is often common in life to despise the ordinary, look down on the talents God has given us.  We imagine that our influence is so little, and we do not matter. Sometimes society has a way of measuring people and when we do not meet up to expectation, we look down on our small impact.

Dorcas was an ordinary disciple of Christ, nothing like the great apostle Peter, Paul, etc. She did not teach Sunday school classes or small groups. She did not hang out with the wealthy; rather her companions were widows. She was gifted with the ability to make clothes and she faithfully used that ability to meet the needs of those around her. That became her ministry: clothing the widows.

This ordinary woman with the ordinary ministry of making clothes for widows made such an extraordinary impact on the community that they had to send Peter to pray and raise her from the dead.

What makes our life extraordinary is not our platform, social or economic status; rather it is how we allow God to use our ordinary lives, gifts, and talents for the good of others and His church.

PRAYER: Lord, use my life, gifts, and talents to do extraordinary things for your kingdom.

Daily Devotional 11-8-19

Power of Unity 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.  And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Genesis 11:5-6

Unity is often admired and easily talked about, but it is hardly achieved. It is essential for the thriving of relationships, organizations, and even religious groups. The lack of it has destroyed many movements, institutions, relationships, etc. “Let us agree to disagree” is a popular notion, but where does that lead? True unity has tremendous blessings because it is the very nature of the Trinity.

Unity is so powerful that when people rally and unite for evil nothing can stop them unless a higher power confronts them.

As a background to the text above, all the people of the earth were one; spoke one language, under one leadership. They had the singularity of mind and vision. But, they decided to undertake a venture that displeased God. God saw their plan and said nothing can stop these people because of their unity. Confusing their language, God broke their unity and their project was halted. It took God himself to stop them because of their unity.

Imagine families run with a united front; churches truly united around a mission; governments operate with a strong sense of oneness—not even the devil could stand it. Imagine what families, churches, organizations, governments could accomplish if they buy into true unity. Unfortunately, the plurality of opinions and disagreements have bedeviled us into fragments, and our cumulative strength is lost against the forces that seek to undo us. 

Friends, it took the united twelve apostles of Jesus to stage the Jesus movement that has brought many into the kingdom of God.  Unity is the very nature of the Triune God.  In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for the unity of the disciples.  The strength of any community is in its unity, so Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” (Mark 3:25).

What would it take for you to become an agent of unity that gives life? What would it look like for you to spark the light of unity in your family, among friends, colleagues, etc.?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, make me a channel of unity.

Daily Devotional 11-7-19

Golden Solitude  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day…So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24, 27-28

There is a whole world of difference between isolation and solitude. While the former could be detrimental to spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing, the latter produces spring of life. The former sucks the life; the latter positions us to receive renewal and restoration through contemplation, worship, Christian meditation and reflection, prayer, etc. In solitude, you are alone but not lonely. Isolation is gradually becoming an epidemic in our nation. 

Jacob had lived a life of struggle: connived with his mother to deceive his father, Isaac, to steal his brother, Esau’s blessing. He ran away from home for fear of his life and lived with his uncle, Laban. His uncle, in turn, deceived him on many occasions. Jacob’s life was one of continual hassle. He lived in fear. But, God had a different and better plan for him. After marrying two wives and having obtained some level of possessions, Jacob decided to move from his uncle. On their way he got the word that Esau was coming with his men to meet him. He got terrified and thought his brother was going to harm him because of the old family feud. He was traveling with a company. But, he decided to send all of them ahead. And, when he was alone he experienced a life-changing visit from the angel of the Lord. 

After the wrestling, the angel changed Jacob’s name to Israel. This resulted in the change of his identity, and his life changed for the better. Esau met him and greeted him with love instead of hatred. 

During His earthly life, Jesus consistently practiced solitude before meeting with the people. He observed prayer by Himself either early in the morning or at night (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12).

Sometimes we are too crowded to have a life-giving encounter with God. 

Meeting with the Holy Spirit in solitude makes our water overflow so we are able to bless those who are thirsty.  Time alone with God cleanses our lenses so we see as God sees.  In solitude our souls find rest and peace in God so we thrive in life. 

Would you make time and enjoy some golden solitude with your God in prayer, scripture reading, singing, etc.?

PRAYER: In the busyness of my life, grant me the grace and discipline to desire and spend time with you consistently.

Daily Devotional 11-6-19

Stay in the Ark 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark— they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort.  And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. Genesis 7:13-16

Compare how life would be in a storm shelter to your home.  Nobody would choose to stay in a storm shelter under normal circumstances.  It is not spacious enough.  Think of cluster phobia. But, despite all the enormous inconveniences, the storm shelter is the best place to be in the event of tornadoes and storms. 

Imagine life in the ark.  Think about all the animals in the ark.  Think of the noise. The smell of animals excrete.  Imagine the condition in this new ecosystem.  Certainly, neither Noah and his family nor you and I would choose such an environment.  But, when the push comes to shove we would.  And that’s what Noah did.  The only alternative was to be in the ark.  I can imagine Noah telling his sons before they went into the ark, “stop complaining, guys; this is our only hope of survival.” 

Who told you life in Christ would be all rosy?  Who told you Jesus Christ offers 99.9% life of convenience?  Wherefrom this gospel of stress-free life?  Why do we want to think that all Christian who suffer have committed some sins? 

I have news for you, friends: You will have many challenges in this world.  Jesus said the world would hate you because it hated Him first, John 15:18.  Life in Christ may not be all rosy, but it is all peaceful.  Jesus may not have experienced your exact challenges, but definitely went through the worst form of human inconvenience.  This, Paul, understood and embraced the suffering that attended his faith in Christ.  Thus, he wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18. Therefore, stay in the Ark, even Christ Jesus, because outside of Him is the wrath and judgment of God.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, grant me the grace to be steadfast and abide in Christ.

Ddaily Devotional 11-5-19

The Ark of Safety  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. Genesis 7:23

Most areas that are prone to storms and tornadoes have protection policies that include tornado/storm shelters. Having security is a good thing because it creates peace and freedom from anxiety. Thus, many people would pay more for their earthly security. But, how many have wondered about the security of their soul?

Our first parents fell to the deception of Satan. And, what was supposed to be a life of bliss in the presence of God turned painful and evil, absence from God. Life went downhill for all of humanity. In the midst of all the evil, God wanted them to repent of their sins. But, nobody listened to the preacher (Noah, 2 Peter 2:5). Thus, God brought judgment on humanity, except Noah and his family. God desired salvation, but people chose condemnation and judgment. 

Have you ever thought of how life would be if you were in the minority? Some of us cannot even imagine that because we have always found ourselves with the majority. Noah was the only righteous person on the earth during his time. Imagine that. Imagine the mockery, labeling, name-calling, etc., he endured. Noah was a lone ranger! He was socially and culturally misfit.  The people lived with no sense of accountability to God. Each one did what right in their own eyes. 

Now, Noah completed the ark; the torrential floods came down. 

While people perished under the flood, Noah and his family were saved above the flood.

Friends, there is an Ark of Safety for your soul; His name is Jesus. You can escape the coming judgment. You don’t have to perish like the wicked. He desires your redemption, thus, He died for you.  

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

Noah’s security was in a place—the ark. Our security is in a person—Jesus Christ.

Noah went into the flood as a minority, but came out as a majority and inherited the earth.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to live with eternity in mind and with the readiness for the second coming of Christ.

Daily Devotional 11-4-19

The Ever Greens  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3

I am in my office, writing devotions and looking through the window. I see trees responding to the changing season, by shedding off their leaves. The green leaves that once decked the trees with splendor and beauty, showcasing the creativity of their Maker, are withering and falling off because of the harsh weather conditions. Nature is having its toll on them. But, not so with every tree. The evergreens are built to be ever green. They are built to withstand the harshest climatic condition and maintain their beauty and splendor. Something in their makeup keeps them going through changing seasons. 

This Psalmist compares the righteous, those who have appropriated God’s love in Christ Jesus through faith, to the evergreens. Those who walk by the Spirit are planted by the streams of living water and their leaves shall not wither. Challenging times will come, but they will not be taken down. Paul, writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Christ keeps us through the thick and the thin!  The Jesus factor makes a world of difference for the Christian.  And, the Holy Spirit, taken residence, has become the fountain of living water within us.                     

The child of God is not nourished from the outside but from inside. 

It may look like you are dying and being wasted some of the days, but in Christ Jesus you are being renewed day by day. Child of God, you are not built to break and die off, just like that.  You are a masterpiece of God, a showcase of the splendor, majesty, and glory of God. Do not allow the world and circumstances to determine your attitude towards God, yourself and others. 

You are an evergreen!

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me walk with an evergreen consciousness.

Daily Devotional 11-1-19

Holy Discomfort  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5

I have been in some worship situations where I did not feel comfortable because of the sermon. I felt it was targeted at me. It seemed the preacher knew something about me and was inviting me to amend and grow up in love. You may have experienced a similar thing, during worship, or watching a preacher on the TV. You may have thought, I don’t like that preacher; he makes me uncomfortable. Yes, indeed! It is very discomforting when light is shed on some little secrets.

In a vision, Isaiah had seen the Lord in His splendor. He had seen an angel round about the throne of God. This was a holy sight! And, here is the kick:

When Isaiah saw the Lord, he saw himself.

The holiness of God revealed the sinfulness of Isaiah. Thus, he exclaimed, “I am a man of unclean lips…” When we encounter the Lord, His holiness brings to our awareness the stuff we hide in our hearts. We see our true selves when we come face-to-face with the Lord. 

But, I don’t want to be uncomfortable, especially in worship. I don’t want anyone to challenge or invite me to honor the Lord with my actions and thoughts. I want an environment, even in worship, where I am made to feel comfortable in my sins. Yes, I have stuff, but it’s nobody’s business to challenge me to grow out of them.

We should rather be happy and count ourselves blessed when we feel a conviction, but not guilt.  Guilt is the condemnation our sins deserve. Jesus has paid that price already. Conviction is a holy and loving motivation to honor God with the way we live. It is usually a sign that the Holy Spirit is near you. And, you feel uncomfortable because He sheds His light on your sins. 

It is quite dangerous and unhealthy to be in a faith community where you are not encouraged, challenged, and invited to honor God with all of you. Comfort, in this case, could be an ugly spiritual parasite, stunting your spiritual growth.  

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me embrace your invitations to honor you with my life.  

Daily Devotional 10-31-19

Call Me Naomi, Not Mara  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me? Ruth 1:20

The Lord has disappointed me. If God cares why would He allow me to experience this pain? This whole Jesus thing is a joke. Why would God punish me this way?

There are many Christians who may have experienced these or similar thoughts. In fact, some have left the faith or have considered dropping Jesus because of their painful realities. They expected Christ to show, and He never did.  

This was the story of Naomi. She traveled in the company of her husband and two sons to Moab in search of a better life, after her home country, Bethlehem, was hit by famine. Her husband and two sons died, leaving her and two daughters-in-law. She returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi asked her country folks to call her Mara because God had dealt bitterly with her. She chose to make bitterness her new identity. She was convinced God had disappointed her. 

But the truth was that God was not responsible for her pain. Life happens to people. But, God always works His plan even through the most painful experiences in life. 

See what’s gonna unfold!

Naomi led Ruth to marry Boaz. Boaz and Ruth gave birth to Obed, then Obed produced Jesse, Jesse produced David, Joseph (the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born), descended from David. 

Do you see the bigger picture?

If Naomi knew that out of the Ruth she brought from Moab, would come the Messiah, she would not have changed her name to Mara (bitterness).

God is always at work even in the most difficult and painful realities in our lives. We may not feel or see it. But, through faith, we know He is by our side working out His purposes.

PRAYER: Father, I may not see the bigger picture, or conceive what you could possibly do in my life. One thing I ask: to walk with you by faith in all situations.