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Daily Devotional 6-13-19

Getting the Greatest Commandment Right
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful
 
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40
 
Love is the greatest commandment we find in the scriptures. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God’s love for his people has been the major emphasis and theme. I believe over the years love has gradually lost its true essence and understanding. Love in the Christian circle has often times been spoken of in very generic term. However, Jesus’ response to the question: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” opens our eyes about the greatest commandment.
 
Jesus introduces the order of priority in love. This may even play out in our human relationships.  For example, a wife may choose the kids over her husband, but after they become adults, the husband becomes her priority again. Others would prioritize their love for their spouse no matter what. Largely, prioritizing love in our human relationships could be contextual.
 
Jesus places our love for God as the top-most priority, followed by our love for others. This order is so important. In other words, Jesus is inviting us not to put anybody above him.
 
Whomever you love more than God becomes an idol to you.
 
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Matthew 10:37
 
Our love for others reflects our love for God. If we truly love God we will love others. However, we must not make decisions or take actions that will displease God but make someone happy. In that case, that person takes the place of God in our lives.
 
We don’t have to compromise our love for God to show how much we love others.
 
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the courage and discernment to not place anything above you in my life. Show and forgive me when I have placed others above you.


Daily Devotional 6-12-19

Jesus In All 
 By Julie White
 
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong in Christ Jesus. Thessalonians 5:16-18
 
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. James 11:2
 
Many things about the kingdom of God seem to be a paradox. As Kingdom citizens, we gain by giving, live by dying, and become great by becoming least. But perhaps the greatest paradox in the kingdom of God is when Christians find joy in pain and suffering. There is something that seems unnatural about that; about rejoicing in the midst of trials.
 
But a clarification should be made. God’s word says we are to give thanks “IN everything” not FOR everything. The Bible is transrational, not irrational; it represents thinking at a higher level, not a lower level. In the middle of trials and trouble, joy can still be found because we know that God works His good plans through the many things we experience.
 
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. Roman 8:28
 
If you are experiencing a painful moment in your life right now, you don’t have to fake having joy for the pain. Your joy is to be in the knowledge that God is in control and your faith in Him is unshakeable. Peter writes that trials and suffering come for that very reason: to prove that the faith we cling to is the real thing.
 
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7).
 
Learning to accept trials, struggles, and persecutions as trusses of our faith is part of our personal refining process. This makes us more useful to God! So instead of asking, “Why me?” we could respond with a higher set of attitudes:
Confidence — that God knows, plans, and directs our lives for the good
Perseverance — when facing grief, anger, and sorrow; better days are ahead
Courage — because with Jesus as our Brother and our Savior, we don’t need to be afraid.
 
PRAYER: Dear Father, we praise you for your constant superintendence in our lives.  Thank you for carrying us in everything and through everything, to the other side.


Daily Devotional 6-11-19

Sacrifice 
By Julie White
 
I will offer You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:17
 
During Old Testament times, approaching God was not a casual event, and it happened with some sort of sacrifice. The Bible tells us that Noah sacrificed the very best of the animals he had carried through the flood. Abraham loved God so much that he was willing to offer his own son as a sacrifice, and Hannah promised God that if He would bless her with a son, she would “give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11). All of these sacrifices were costly to the giver and demonstrated immense love and respect for Almighty God.
 
The literal practice of burnt offerings may no longer be necessary because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but the idea of giving something of worth to the Lord before approaching Him is just as important today.
 
Here are some of the offerings you can give God right now:
 
Prayer and Praise
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name. Hebrew 13:15
 
Thanks
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me. Psalm 51:17
 
A Humble Heart
Always be humble and gentle. Ephesians 4:2
 
Your Life
And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2
 
May we never come to the Lord empty-handed, but let us “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful to Him and Bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).
 
PRAYER: Precious Lord and Savior, remind us to glorify You with offerings of ourselves and all you have given us to be. Everything good comes from You, our blessed Redeemer. Help us to always remember the ultimate sacrifice You made for us. We love you, God. Help us love you more.


Daily Devotional 6-10-19

Living by Faith 
By Julie White
 
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  Galatians 2:20  
 
I can’t know everything, but I know God is faithful.
I can’t see the future, but I know God is in charge of it.
I can’t be everywhere, but I can be somewhere and make a difference.
I can’t have all the answers, but I know THE ANSWER, and that’s enough.
I can’t solve the world’s problems but I can be part of a solution.
I can’t change history, but something I do might change someone’s future for the better.
I can’t give all the encouragement that someone might need, but I can give some of it.
I can’t carry everyone’s problems for them, but I can carry a few.
I can’t be aware of every need, but I can be aware of one and do my best to meet it.
I can’t hear every cry, but I can hear one cry and try to calm it.
I can’t go everywhere, but I can go to one place and help.
I can’t rewrite yesterday, but I can make sure tomorrow is better.
 
PRAYER:  Dear Lord, help me not to second-guess what You can do through a willing vessel; to remember that it’s not the size of what I do, but the fact that I DID SOMETHING.  Amen.


Daily Devotional 6-7-19

Eternal God 
By Julie White
 
Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God. Psalm 90:1-2  
 
Augustine, like countless other philosophers, wrestled with the nature of time. Aristotle related time to motion like the sun with the earth moving across the sky. Einstein placed space, matter, energy, and time on an interconnected continuum.
 
Scripture doesn’t philosophize about time. It simply teaches that God created the sun and moon, in part to mark the passing of days. It also teaches that God is bigger than time. God transcends space and time because He created them. He holds them in the palm of His hand! We finite humans experience time as a succession of events, like floats passing by in a parade. But to an infinite God, the beginning, middle, and end are seen in a single moment. God exists above and beyond time. He is eternal.
 
Because God is eternal, He is our refuge in every generation. The passing of time has no effect on God. It seems that we often live in an emergency-type mode where people carelessly rush into things. If we don’t hurry up, we will be passed by or miss out. It is perceived shortness of time that makes us feel rushed. But not God. He never hurries. He never grows old or forgetful. He never runs out of time.
 
God wants us, His children, to shed our limited, temporal view and try to see life from the standpoint of eternity. Even when pain, injustice, confusion, frustration, and exhaustion parade through our lives, they are still only temporary, just as they were for generations past. I am amazed by what Jesus did while on earth! Any mistreatment I have experienced in my life is a total joke compared to the horrors Christ endured. As I write this, I am marveling at Christ’s humility. Instead of beating myself up for my lack of humility, I take time to praise Jesus for His.  Let me encourage you to look beyond today, beyond your circumstances to our eternal God, who died to give you your very life and invites you to live it with an eternal perspective.
 
PRAYER: Dear God, change me.  Help me to view the passage of time from your eternal perspective and to live a prayerful life, devoted to pointing others to your Glory and Majesty forever.


Daily Devotional 6-6-19

Divine Perception
By Julie White
 
May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.  To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.  1 Peter 5:10 – 11
 
Certain people I spend time with just get me. You could say that they hear through the ears of their hearts; that their volume button is God-tuned to just the right decibel. Along with being heard and understood, what else is it about their fellowship that is more satisfying, more fulfilling than that of others? I believe that the answer (for me at least) is, ultimately, divine restoration.
 
This world is in a constant flux of being torn down and being restored and so are we. We can’t help it. We live in a fallen world and when it knocks us down, sometimes we need help to get back up. Jesus is in the restoration business, and as His followers, we are in it too! A lot of people are screaming for help, for renovation, and not saying a word about it, and without a God-tuned volume button, we may not hear their cries.
 
We may hear their rudeness. God hears their emptiness.
We may hear anger. God hears their disappointments.
We may hear hatred. God hears their hurts.
We may hear toughness. God hears their fears.
We may observe immorality. God hears a lack of self-worth.
We may hear demands for attention. God hears cries for help.
We may observe pushiness. God hears insecurities.
We may hear stubbornness. God hears desperation.
We observe weaknesses. God sees strengths.
We see their failures. God sees their potential.
We see their past. God sees their future.  
 
One of the things God does through the gospel is to form a people (Titus 2:14). And there is nothing like the family of faith. As believers, we have inherited the family business, the business of restoration in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior! And if people willingly open their souls to your scrutiny, remember that you are on holy ground. Because of this, listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that you respond using the appropriate tools.
 
PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, for employing your people in the restoration business. Help us to hear what You hear from those around us, and then to take action with appropriate words and deeds that are effective in restoring others to You, to your love, and to your grace.


Daily Devotional 6-5-19

Freedom in Christ  
Authored by Julie White
 
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
 
When you think Galatians, think freedom. That’s what the first readers of this letter from the apostle Paul were prompted to think. Freedom is highly sought around the world today: in politics, in society, in voting, in education. These are all important and worth working to secure, but Paul’s letter to the Galatians presents the church with a freedom that goes deeper than all of these other important freedoms: freedom in Christ, who fulfilled the law in our place and also suffered its curse in our place.
 
The Galatian believers were beginning to turn from faith to legalism. The content of this letter to the Galatians is a declaration of liberation from legalism of any type. Christ’s death is important and the apostle Paul won’t let anyone forget it. Paul spotlights the reality of our liberty in Christ – freedom from the law and the power of sin, and freedom to serve our living Lord. After all, laws can influence conduct, but they do not change one’s heart. Lasting changes begin when the Holy Spirit lives in each person.
 
Paul’s letter to the Galatians has a particular message for us, too, because it was written to people who were like us in many ways. The struggle between the Gospel and legalism is still a relevant issue.
 
While the problem of sin extends to every corner of the globe and every corner of the human heart, the grace of Christ is freely available in just as extensive a scope. The real difficulty is not in being ‘good enough’ to be saved, but in accepting the fact that we are not ‘bad enough’ to be exempt from being saved. This is the human predicament.
 
Undeserved favor. This is the glory of God’s grace. It’s like a 401K where no self-generated contribution is necessary. It is received from our divine employer, not earned. It comes through God’s promise, not God’s law. It is assessed by human faith and love, not by human works. It is a gift and gifts don’t come with a bill…and this gift changes us!
 
Paul’s letter to the Galatians urges all of us, all global Christians, to radical acts of love spotlighted by and propelled by the Gospel of grace.
 
PRAYER:  Lord help us remember that, as Christians, we are not boxed in but are set free; that grace is a way of life and a way to life; that in Christ we truly are free to love You and to love others — with no bills attached.


Daily Devotional 6-4-19

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus  

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:28-30
 
Texting while driving is very dangerous. A number of lives have been lost because someone could not resist the temptation to respond to whatever text messages came on their phone while driving, and got into a crash. Texting while driving clouds judgment and reduces the ability to make quick and smart decisions. It keeps your eyes off the road and makes one vulnerable to a wreck. Texting is like a third party that distracts you.
 
In today’s text, Peter was having a lifetime experience. Walking on water was probably an unplanned highlight for Peter. He stepped out of the boat and began walking because Jesus had asked him to walk towards him. So long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was okay. But when the wind and waves got his attention, he began sinking. The wind and waves became the third part that took Peter’s gaze from Jesus. They influenced his thought. He lost faith and fear took hold of his heart. He heard Jesus’ word and stepped out on the water, but fear took the place of the word of Jesus.
 
As you cruise on the Christian journey, many third parties will come, screaming for your attention. Most of these third parties may not be evil. Their intentions may be good. However, the occasion may not be right. Some of them, too, may be calculated attempts to wreck your faith, turning your eyes from Jesus. It could be a difficult situation at home, bad news from the doctor, a loss, difficulty with a relationship, financial issues, etc. No matter the situation, do not take your attention off Jesus. Keep your faith and trust in him, and on his Word.
 
You are only vulnerable when you are without Jesus and his Word.
 
Our world is increasing with stuff that screams for your attention, gradually taking your heart off the Word of God and your commitment to his love. Some of these things promise happiness and a good life, but they will plunge you into chaos and disorder. I invite you to keep your eyes on Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Without him, we will be in a wreck.
 
PRAYER: Lord, grant me the steadiness and consistency of faith to keep my loyalty and commitment to you at all time.  Help me hold on to your word in all situations.


Daily Devotional 6-3-19

Looking unto Jesus

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
 
Jesus’ human experience is of great significance to us. Apart from the sacrificial death on the cross, which is the main reason for our salvation, Jesus also exhibited many great human attitudes towards life. Life is full of challenges. We face many battles and unexpected circumstances. While others are able to endure and overcome these challenges, many cave in, and are overcome by the battles.
 
Our text reveals Jesus’ attitude towards the pain of the crucifixion. He endured the cross because of the joy of salvation of humanity—God’s estranged people. He despised the shame of dying on the cross because God’s children would be saved only through his sacrifice. The writer of the text is encouraging us to set Jesus as our example in life. That means, we can trust him, believe him, and follow his teachings for our lives. Again, Jesus endured the cross to set an example for us to face the battles of life with confidence and boldness.
 
Jesus is the author and finisher; the origin and end of our lives. We can never do without him.  We must set our eyes on Jesus to learn his ways and values. Our failure to keep our eyes on Jesus may result in our sinking in life.
 
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31
 
Peter lost his focus and started sinking. He paid attention to the storm, and it nearly cost his life.  I want to encourage you to keep your focus and attention on Jesus and his words. Don’t give up on life. Trust in God during difficult times and see him do his work of grace to bring you peace and victory.
 
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, grant me to strength to keep my eyes on you as I move through life.