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Daily Devotional 2-3-20

Made for Purity  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“You are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13

Jesus used everyday images, elements, and situations to drive home important lessons about the kingdom of God. Parables are typical examples. Today’s text captures Jesus’ usage of salt to teach about the life and influence of His followers in their surrounding culture.

Salt is common because it is important. It has a wide range of usage. From domestic applications, to industries, to science labs, it has proven to be an indispensable compound. In the then Greek world, salt was so highly valued they called it divine.  In fact, the Romans had a saying that, “there is nothing more useful than sun and salt.” In Jesus’ time, salt was related in people’s minds in three different ways (we would be exploring them this week).

Salt, to the Romans, was connected with purity. They said it was the purest of all things because it was made from the sea and sun. It was indeed, the primitive of all offerings to the gods. So then, the Jews hearing this teaching from Jesus made a connection with purity. Therefore, Jesus’ call to His followers to be the salt of the earth is an invitation to be examples of purity. 

One of the characteristics of our world today is the lowering of standards. Standards of honesty, diligence, morals, conscientiousness, faithfulness, all tend to be lowered. It almost looks like those who aspire to keep high standards are seen as harsh and cold. Jesus’ statement is a call to His followers––who belong to the kingdom of God––to be examples of purity in speech, conduct, and thought. We live in a world where deliberate incentive to sin is rampant and displayed. The media has become the chief source of enticement and entanglement. In such a situation, the Christian has the tendency to withdraw from engaging with the world, in order to keep their purity. But, Jesus does not call us to pull away into seclusion. He, rather, encourages us through James to keep ourselves, “unstained from the world,” as we shine His light and love.   

Christians even have a better motivation to be the salt of the world: Jesus gave up His life for you. What would you give up to keep your purity?

PRAYER: When I seem to be overwhelmed by temptations and lures into sin, help me, Holy Spirit, to keep my saltiness (purity).

Daily Devotional 1-31-20

It Costs to Love   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Matthew 16:24

Love is the supreme ethic of the Christian faith!  From Genesis, in the Old Testament, through Revelation, in The New Testament, God plays out one song and one message—Love

The African culture in which I grew up did not frequently use the word “love.” We saw the actions of love but did not necessarily hear it. It was more of walking the talk. Then, I flew across the big pond into this nation and one of the surprises I still experience is how frequently we use the word love. “We love foods, sports, celebrities, puppies, and our moms. We love movies, nature, long walks on the beach, and everything in between. We are a culture, it seems, that is in love with being in love,” (Michael Kelley).  And, it seems, to say “love” is the defining ethic of the followers of Christ carries no weight. It may seem easy to love after the manner of the world, but Christian love costs.

In the texts above, Jesus gives the three conditions to be His follower: self-denial, carrying of one’s cross, and daily following Jesus. He then gives the identifying mark of His followers—Love. What Jesus is saying to us in these two scriptures is—it will cost us to love the way He loves. It will take self-denial, suffering (carrying your cross) and following Jesus in order to love God and people with the God-kind of love. The God-kind of love is what the world is in dire need of.   

The God-kind of love is sacrificial, demonstrative and takes initiative. It is the highest and best form of love. It gives without thinking of receiving. What exactly are the fruits or markers of this divine love? Paul takes time to list them for us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails,” (1 Cor.13:4-8).

So, let me ask you: Is your love the God-kind? Do you see any of these fruits in the love you profess to have for your neighbor?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me cultivate and grow in your kind of love.

Daily Devotional 1-30-20

Give Me Eyes to See 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. John 9:1

God is all-knowing. He knows our ins and outs. He holds a solid knowledge of our past, present, and future. God has an all-encompassing knowledge about each person. When God looks at you, He sees beyond your physicality, and even beyond your circumstance or need. But, He also sees what you could become. 

The key to understanding the text lies in the word saw.” In the Greek language to see means to perceive, discern, discover, inspect, and notice.  It also means to notice something and ascertain what must be done about it. When we import this meaning into the text, it could read, “Now as Jesus passed by, He discovered and perceived the circumstance of a man born blind and knew exactly what to do about it.” 

Friends, it appears seeing goes beyond just beholding something with your physical eyes. This kind of seeing I am talking about involves the heart. Seeing with your heart is different from seeing with your physical eyes. The physical eye may see an immigrant and/or a person of color, someone with a disability, someone with a chronic health challenge, someone with a social stigma, but the spirit-filled heart would see a person with dignity and destiny. The physical eye may see the poor, homeless, an addict, broken, disenfranchised, etc., but the heart may see a person with great potential for something. The physical eyes may also see a rich, popular person but the spirit-filled heart may see a person in need of some sort. The apostle Paul, confirms this when he said, “So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view [according to worldly standards and values], (2 Corinthians 5:16). 

In the process to select a replacement for King Saul, Samuel, the prophet, nearly made a mistake when he saw the muscles of David’s big brother and thought he might be the chosen one. God intervened and said, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I recognize that this may be a stretch for some people because we are accustomed to seeing just with our eyes, but I believe if we are going to love all people as Jesus loves them, then we need to see with our spirit-filled hearts. 

Look at Jesus on the cross, and you would see the value of each person!

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to see with my heart to discover what you perceive in each person.

Daily Devotional 1-29-20

The Blessed Life  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the [a]earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:3-12

The Sermon on the Mount is popular among Christians. Scholars have given it many names such as Magna Carta of the Kingdom, and The Compendium of the Christ’s Doctrines (Barclay).  Jesus began His public teaching with the declaratory statements (beatitudes) that describe the Christian life. Each of the beatitudes begins with the word “blessed.” In the then Greek world, “blessed” was used to describe the life and condition of the gods. It was a life of perfect happiness and joy; thus, in Christ, there is a godlike joy. 

The presence of the Holy Spirit makes a person blessed. The Holy Spirit comes with such beauty, glory, aura, and richness that is indescribable. The blessing of God satisfies; it makes the Christian content. It makes one joyous in the face of adversity; it causes the Christian to remain resolute and unshaken in uncertainty. It is independent of material possessions. It makes the Christian have nothing, yet possesses everything. It causes the Christian to triumph in the midst of insecurities. The beatitudes speak of the blessing which sorrow, pain, loss, grief are powerless to touch. It is a joy that shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.

Christ did not come to curse, but to bless. And, for all who follow Him, for all who receive Him as their Lord, Master, and Savior, there is a certain life that is reserved for them—a life of joyous thrill and radiant gladness. In the face of the beatitudes, a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable (Barclay).  

PRAYER: Dear Lord, may my life be a testimony of your blessings. And, lead me to touch others’ lives with your blessing.

Daily Devotional 1-28-20

In Touch With Him
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “be unceasing and persistent in prayer.” (AMP)

Communication has become so easy in modern times! The days of writing long letters with ink on paper are long gone. And, why should we continue to do that when we can just send an email and the recipient gets it within seconds. I’m glad the old telephone with its wired connections is no more. With a few touches on our phones, we can communicate with people around the world.  Indeed, communication has become so easy and frequent. But, can we say the same about our communication with God?

God made us for fellowship and communion. He desires to engage with each person on a daily basis. Imagine living with your father and for three days there has not been any communication. Can you stand the silence and the uneasiness? You can begin to figure out what the problem is, right? Yet, some of us could go on for days without pausing to have fellowship with Him. God is constantly inviting us, but we either lack the ability to recognize His invitation, or too busy to pay attention.  

Prayer is every believer’s powerful lifestyle:  

  • Prayer plugs us to God, who is our source. It is more for us than it is for God. It expresses our dependence on Him.
  • Prayer aligns us with God.
  • By prayer, we are able to overcome the tendencies that distract us from our providential path. We get our lenses cleansed through prayer so that we are able to see as God sees.
  • Prayer will remove all the layers of debris on your soul and release you to love as God would.

For these and many other reasons, Paul encourages to pray without ceasing.

Praying is a spiritual discipline, and that is the reason for the lack of desire to practice it. Your flesh will keep fighting your effective prayer life, but we have to persist in taking those baby steps and growing in it. It will not happen naturally. It takes intentionality and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Dear God, Help me to make it a practice to stay plugged into You at all times.Grant me a yearning for You that drives me to connect with you and allow You to lead me in everything that I do. Amen.

Daily Devotional 1-27-20

Created In His Image 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Genesis 1:27 “so God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (NKJV)

The world is getting louder and louder in giving theories and opinions about people’s identity destiny. In modern times, scores of people have turned to the wrong people and places to find their identities. Consequentially, they have become worse off than when they began their quest.   I strongly believe, since God created us, we need to turn to God about our identity. The Bible, which has stood the test of time, and in which we find the nature, the will, and character of God, gives us the truth. God, the Almighty, created us. He not only formed us, but He made us in His image and likeness so that we would stand out from all other creation.  

Uniquely made, we are the only creation that is able to have a relationship with God. He made us for relationship. This is seen in our ability to receive and respond to His love. Christians are the only people in whom God dwells. There is no other creation or group of persons in which the Holy Spirit dwells. What a great blessing and privilege we have as Christians! Because of His indwelling presence, we are able to relate and interact with Him. He speaks to us, and we have the capacity to hear His voice. He guides us, and we have the capacity to follow His footsteps.  Listen to John, as he confirms this, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” (John 10:27-28).

So as you go out today, walk in the confidence that you are unique and set apart by God. Don’t let the fallen world and pop culture determine your identity. And, don’t let your body, with its challenges, instruct you on who you are. God took extra care to have you on this earth. Walk in this consciousness, and you will find rest for your soul.

Why would you buy into the lies of this world, instead of turning to the word of God to discover your identity?

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for setting me apart at creation. I choose to trust Your plan for my life and surrender all the lies that I have believed about myself. Today, I purpose to take Your word and believe it. Amen.

Daily Devotional 1-24-20

All Sufficiency of God  Julie White

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Are you worried about a need in your life right now? Though many things may feel random and wrong, remember that God is sovereign over everything. He can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that you trust Him. Perhaps you’ve forgotten how often God promises to meet all your needs as you trust him.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:32

I have been young, now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor His descendants begging bread. Psalm 37:25

God has dealt graciously with me…I have enough. Genesis 33:11

My God shall supply all you need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him…Those who seek the Lord shall not lack anything good. Psalm 34:9-10

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

There is no duplicity in God. His promises will be fulfilled. For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him.  That is why we utter our Amen to God for His glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20 

The word Yes, translated to the original Greek, means “sure,” and the word Amen means “firm.”  So, here is a rough translation of that scripture: For the sake of His name, His promises are sure and firm because He is faithful and true, therefore we can say yes and amen!

Your heavenly Father is the great provider, and in Christ you have all His promises and all your provision. Every problem has a solution and every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece God created you to be. He is always before you and alongside you. The One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand! He is ceaselessly working on your behalf, that is why your best efforts are trusting Him and living close to Him.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I will not worry. I will trust in Your grace and all-sufficiency.

Daily Devotional 1-23-20

Christ, Our Protector 
by Julie White

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior; my God is my rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my Savior, the one who saves me from violence.  I called on the Lord who is worthy of praise, and He saved me from my enemies…I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary, my cry reached His ears…He reached down from heaven and rescued me.  He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who were too strong for me.  …but the Lord supported me.  He led me to a place of safety…He restored me. 2 Samuel 22: 1-4, 17-20.

In this song, David characterizes God’s care with five military symbols. God is like a rock, immovable bedrock for sturdy footing, a boulder we can hide behind to keep enemies at bay; a fortress, or place of safety where the enemy can’t follow, a granite hide-out; a shield, a protective covering between us and harm in order to intercept specific attacks from the enemy; power that saves, our ultimate saving strength; a place of safety high above our enemies, inaccessible and impregnable.

David was a mighty warrior. But even with all his armies and weapons, David knew that ultimately, it was God who could protect and save. Because He believed it, David sought God’s guiding presence every day. David was a prayer-speaking man and his words were spoken to a prayer-hearing-and-answering God.  When troubling situations came his way, he was already in God’s presence and prepared to handle any test.

God’s power can carry you through danger and fear just like David’s. He protects you all the time, especially when you are too weak or scared to face certain trials by yourself or when your enemies (external or internal) seem to be overwhelming. But, He doesn’t want you to stay weak and scared. The manifestation of God’s presence in your life strengthens, protects, and guides you in order to send you back into the world to shine His light.

David knew that the true strength of his nation was not in weaponry, but in worship; not in firepower, but in God’s power. God alone can preserve nations and individuals. Will you show your confidence in God by looking to Him as the ultimate source of your safety? Seek His guiding presence with an attitude of constant prayer. He will protect you.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, thank you for answering my prayers, for rescuing me from my enemies, and for restoring me to You. 

Daily Devotional 1-22-20

Christ, The True Vine by Julie White

I am the vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.…If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is and thrown in the fire.  If you abide in Me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit so you will be my disciples.  John 15:1-8

Grapevines are productive plants; a single vine supports numerous branches and bears many grapes. 

In these verses, Christ is the vine and God is the gardener who cares for the branches. The branches are all those people who claim to be followers of Christ. Jesus explains the distinction between two kinds of pruning that he does: cutting off and cutting back. People who don’t bear fruit for God or who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut off from His life-giving power; separated at the trunk and tossed aside. They are fruitless and often infect the rest of the tree.

The fruitful branches are true believers who, by living in union with Christ, bear much fruit. They are pruned and groomed to promote even more spiritual growth and transformation.  “Fruit” includes making disciples of all nations as well as qualities of Christian character. To abide in Christ means to believe that He is God’s Son (1 John 14:15), receive Him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12), do what God says (1 John 3:24), continue to believe the Good News (1 John 2:24), and to relate in love to the community of believers, Christ’s body (John 15:12).

God is glorified when we come into and stay in a right relationship with Him and ‘produce much fruit’ in our lives. A branch cannot bear fruit of itself. Are you accepting and receiving the nourishment and life offered by God, the true grapevine?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me live my life by staying as close to You as a branch attached to a vine. Prune me so that I may draw others closer to You and continue to glorify You with my life.