Daily Devotional 9-20-19

The Unexpected Enemies of God 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4-5

Who are the enemies of God? The answer is obvious—Satan. Not just him, but his demons and entities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). And, while Satan maybe The Enemy, he intends on making enemies of God as well. His target is to get people created in the image of God to misguide and misapply their love. Right from the Garden of Eden, he has been fighting hard as a defeated foe towards his three-fold ministry of stealing, killing and destroying people.

It is important to note the audience of this letter was the local church. In other words, James was fully aware that the Christians in his day were foreigners in this world and they were not supposed to bond or establish attachment with the world. But why would Christ, through the writing of James, be so critical of the world? The answer lies in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “Satan, who is the god of this world…” Surprised that there is another god in this world? Being a god, he has the power and influence of the systems of this world. He can control and influence the media, politics, education, religion, family life, etc. He knows how to weave his plans through the culture to sway people away from God. He can even influence churches with false teachings. This has happened over and over in the history of the Church. 

So, James is reminding us today not to allow the part of this world that do not conform to the character of Christ to influence us. We must part ways with the influences of this world. This, I must admit, is not going to be easy. Just the notion of not conforming to this world may sound offensive to some people. But James invites us to decide who will influence our decisions, actions, and allegiance—the world or Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be an enemy to Satan than an ally. Christ has done enough for me: died to forgive my sins, loved me unconditionally even when I was dead in sin. I cannot do otherwise but to choose Him above the world. Today, I choose the path of an ally with Christ, rather than to become an enemy of the cross.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, grant me the strength to choose you above the world.

Daily Devotional 9-19-19

Only One Gospel 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ…As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9

These are pretty hard and serious words from Paul!

He is not mincing words here. He is stern in his response to the problem in the churches. But why would Paul choose such a harsh approach? Reason: he loved the Christians in Galatia so much that he would fight hard to protect them from false teachers. 

So, what was the problem? After Paul had established churches in the region of Galatia, some Jewish Christian teachers from Jerusalem had gone to Galatia and preaching false gospel to the churches. They were undoing the good work of Christ in Paul. They taught that one needed to be circumcised, observe the Sabbath, etc., together with faith in Christ in order to be saved. At best, it was a mixture of legalism and liberty. Moreover, these false teachers cast doubt about Paul’s apostleship. In his response to this issue, Paul wrote this white-hot urgent letter to keep the churches from being deceived by these false teachers.

Paul taught that salvation is based on nothing else than the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  And, when people place their faith in Jesus, they are saved from their sins, and everlasting torment. This is the only requirement for your salvation—even your faith in Jesus. This is truly freeing, a source of liberty from self-righteousness and legalism. But, some Christians struggle to enjoy this grace. They are often tempted to fall back into legalism, rendering the work of Christ futile.  

Have you ever thought that a little good work could earn you some favor with God? Is your confidence based on your ability to live right all the time? Do you sometimes feel your faith in Christ alone is not sufficient? If you answered “yes” to any of the above then a false gospel is lurking in your backyard.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to resist the subtle temptation to fall back into self-righteousness.

Daily Devotional 9-18-19

The Necessity of Community
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

There have been times I have felt I could handle things myself, without help from anyone. And yes, you don’t need people helping all the time. Sometimes, you just have the needed resources to manage your affairs. However, when it comes to your Christian journey, never subscribe to the lie that you can handle it on your own. This is one area in your life you need community, a company of Christian friends. Prior to His ascension, Jesus told the disciples that He would not leave them as orphans. Think about that. Jesus knew the significance of community.

And yes, the Holy Spirit came and enabled the disciples to live out their calling. I know you have the Holy Spirit, but you will also need a Christian friend because “two are better than one because they can help each other succeed,” (Eccl. 4:9). I like watching documentaries on wildlife, especially on how different predators use different strategies to hunt. Lions would usually isolate prey from a group. Watch out, my Christian friend, the enemy would trick you into isolation so he can pounce on you.

God created us to live in community. It provides security for us. It stirs a sense of belonging that often provides a level of wellbeing. One of the blessings we may desire is to have people who would speak into our lives. I am talking about people who would be bold enough to encourage, correct and challenge you to your best. You cannot afford to be a lone ranger. You will not go very far with that. You were made to have a quality community around you. In your Christian journey, you will need people around you to keep you going. I am talking about people who will know your secrets and struggles and still respect and honor you. People you can call when you are down. I am talking about people who would not define you according to your challenges.  People who would pray for you without you even knowing it. 

Do you have such quality friends?

Don’t run alone; you may run fast but not far. Run in the company of other Christians.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me discern the right company who may serve as a cloud of witnesses for me, and help me build and sustain a grace-filled relationship with such ones.

Daily Devotional 9-17-19

Have Cheerleaders?
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Hebrew 12:1

Imagine yourself running in a marathon. And you get to a point where you feel so tired. Your legs are giving up. Your muscles are growing tired and cannot pull and push with the same energy with which you started. You may have started with an ambition to finish in the first 10 runners, but with the current reality of tiredness and the high level of competition, you decide to give up on your ambition. Then you get to a spot where friends and family have gathered not just to watch you run, but to cheer you on. They begin to call your name and cheer for you. All of a sudden you find your energy and some strength back. You begin to push yourself towards achieving your goal. 

Paul encourages that we are not alone in this faith journey. Rather, there are many witnesses of Christ who have gone ahead of us. These people experienced what you are going through right now. They encountered challenges and celebrations. They felt like giving up on God at a point just like you do sometimes. I am sure they complained and lamented just like us. But they made it! As such, they have become a cloud of witnesses cheering us on. 

I like reading the Old Testament a lot because it is filled with stories of people like us. These are not just stories of heroic deeds, but more so of human struggle, challenges, failures, personal and communal blunders, etc. Even the people of faith as recorded in Hebrews 11 struggled as they desired to please God. Their stories inform us that our challenges are not isolated. These men and women of God had similar struggles as we do. This is comforting, not in the sense of staying in our struggle especially with sin, but knowing that they made it, we know we can make it through Christ who strengthens us. 

So, go ahead and cry when the heat is on, and you feel like crying. It is okay to recognize pain and hurt. The thrust of the issue is what we do with our struggles. I encourage you to struggle with your struggle; don’t struggle against it. Let the challenges throw you into the arms of Christ, generating faith in you as never before.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the strength to finish the race, that I may the prize of everlasting life.

Daily Devotional 9-16-19

Believing is Seeing
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Jesus said to him, “’Thomas because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “seeing is believing.” It makes sense in the natural. And, it is logical to believe and trust what you have verified and approved through your physical perception. The complexities in our world today makes it even more sensible to verify something before you throw yourself into it. However, the Christian belongs to a new life where faith serves the sixth and spiritual sense. 

In the above text, Jesus had appeared to his disciples after His resurrection. All the disciples but Thomas were present to experience this blessed time with the Master. When he rejoined his friends, he was told of the visit of their Master, but he did not believe the good news. Instead, he spoke as anyone of us would, asserting that unless he saw and touched the wounds of Christ he would not believe the news. Thomas perceived the truth through his physical senses. The news was too strange and good for him to believe without verification. He wanted the facts in order to have faith. When Jesus appeared again to them, he made a statement that suggests faith is the sense with which we perceive the truth. To Christians, there is a sense of faith with which we perceive truth.

Throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus, gentiles were the ones who expressed audacious faith in Him. Their situations were so broken and shattered that their physical senses could not see the truth of miracle to overturn their predicament. As such, they switched to faith, and it paid off for them. Their physical sense informed of impossibility, but their faith reported possibility. As it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith and not by sight,” (Romans 1:17).

I encourage you to be alive to your faith in Christ; listen to the voice of faith. The reality is that in the midst of the challenges in our world, and your life, God is busily at work putting then pieces together. But, it will take your faith to perceive what God is up to, so you are able to make a quality decision. 

Feed your faith and starve your doubt.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit helps my faith.  When the negativities in my own life seem to get the better part of me, grant me the strength to faith in you.

Daily Devotional 9-13-19

Loved by Prayer 
By Julie White

“We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ. So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you Spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your life will produce every kind of good fruit. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so that you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.”  Colossians 1:3, 9-12

Because of our love for one another, Christians can have an impact that goes far beyond our neighborhoods and communities. Christian love comes from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Bible speaks of it as an action and attitude, not just an emotion. Love is a by-product of our life in Christ and Christian love is a decision to act in the best interest of others. One way we do this is through prayer. Here are some suggestions, based on Scripture, of how to pray for other Christians:

  1. Be thankful for their faith and changed lives;
  2. Ask God to help them know His will;
  3. Ask God to give them Spiritual wisdom and understanding;
  4. Ask God to help them live to honor and please Him;
  5. Ask God to give them more knowledge of Himself;
  6. Ask God to give them strength for endurance and patience;
  7. Ask God to fill them with joy and thankfulness.

All believers have these same basic needs. When you don’t know how to pray for someone, use this prayer pattern of the Apostle Paul’s. How many people in your life could be touched if you prayed this way?

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that You have enabled me to share the inheritance that belongs to Your people who live in the Light. Help me pray for others in a way that brings them closer to the truth of Your wonderful grace. 

Daily Devotional 9-12-19

God’s People
By Julie White

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  1 Peter 2:9

The Bible tells us our reason for being. Our purpose in life is to proclaim God’s glory in word and in deed. We exist, not to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to God. So, the church is to advertise the noble acts of God; to make Him known by proclaiming the excellencies of Him; a loving, merciful, and restoring God.

You were chosen by God. Being given the title, chosen people, relates to God’s love for us. The title, royal priesthood, a body of or a group of priests, infers that God has given us a corporate role in Christ’s ministry. As priests, we have the honor of demonstrating God’s love to others. He has made us a kingdom of priests for God, His Father (Rev 1:6a). Both titles, chosen race and royal priesthood, emphasize our God-given responsibility and our privilege and to uphold the dignity of the church because of our union with Christ.

“Holy nation and a people for His own possession,” point to ownership; that we belong to God and He has set apart the church for His use. We are set apart for God. “I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the world” (Isaiah 43:21). And the verse, “Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light,” means that God’s call creates life! The marvelous light of Christ can move people from being spiritually dead/darkness to spiritually alive/light in Him. 

Being created for God’s own honor is an exceedingly high calling, but it is not a heavy calling. It is the consummation of joy in the highest splendor that exists: Almighty God. 

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving us a new spiritual ethnic identity as Your chosen people. As we focus on the ultimate reason we exist in this world, to glorify You, help us grasp the significance of our relationship with You and to proclaim it in the world.

Daily Devotional 9-11-19

Perfect Clarity
By Julie White
“Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete…but when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then, I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Corinthians 13: 9-10, 12
In Paul’s day, the city of Corinth was a famous manufacturing center for mirrors. State-of-the-art mirrors were made of buffed metal, silver, or brass. By gazing intently into the polished metal, the viewer could have a general, yet vague impression of reality. But, when you look at someone’s reflection and then you see that person face to face, there is no comparison. The reflection is, at best, a shadow of the full-blooded reality.
When Paul wrote of “full understanding,” he was referring to when we will see Christ face to face. In eternity, we will be made perfect and complete in the very presence of God. Then, we will have full understanding of one another as unique expressions of God’s infinite creativity.
The word Paul used for dimly is the Greek word for puzzle, or enigma. That’s what life is like, Paul was saying, even for a Christian. It’s a mystery. We are catching only the merest glimpse of the full eternal reality in Christ. We find ourselves here on earth, peering into an imperfect mirror trying to make sense of it all. We come with our gratefulness and our sorrow, our yearnings and our questions, and we gaze, gaze, gaze, wanting so much to see the full picture. But it seems that God allows us only a glimpse; enough to bring comfort and encouragement in order to keep on going.
What heart-cries still remain unsatisfied for you? What questions still remain unanswered? What yearnings remain unfulfilled? Remember that this life is only a dim reflection of the true reality yet to be revealed. Bring your desires, questions, and yearnings to Jesus. Let His Word shed light and meaning on your heart-thoughts and rest in the fact that God knows you completely and sees your best interest with perfect clarity.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help me to gaze upon You this day, for You hold the answers. You fulfill each longing and You are my satisfaction. Help me to see You clearly.

Daily Devotional 9-10-19

What Do You Want?
By Sam Sackett  
“The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Read the full story in Mark 10:46-52
He heard voices.
Friends talking. Children shouting. Business deals. Bickering. Joking and laughing.
He heard it all. Every day. From morning until the sunset, Bartimaeus sat by the roadside in the ancient city of Jericho and listened. On occasion, he would speak to passersby as they placed a coin in his hand. But mostly he listened. Blind Bartimaeus, the beggar. That was his identity.
Jesus had healed many people from diseases and afflictions. Miracles had been happening, and speculation was growing that this rabbi from Nazareth was more than a teacher or prophet. For several days chatter along the roadside suggested the rabbi was on his way to Jerusalem and would soon pass through Jericho. Eventually, Jesus did come, and with him a crowd of disciples, followers, and those curious to see a famous rabbi in their city.
That day, like every other, Bartimaeus sat by the roadside. When the crowd grew loud and Jesus began to pass by, Bartimaeus called out. The crowd was noisy, and so the blind man began to shout.
“Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Those around the blind man tell him to be quiet. A dirty beggar shouting for the rabbi’s attention is not a way to honor a famous guest in their city.
But Bartimaeus persists until the rebukes transition to, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Bartimaeus throws one of the few possessions he owns to the ground – his cloak – and makes his way to Jesus. His outer garment, and possibly even the coins he had received, are discarded without hesitation as he pushes through the crowd in response to the rabbi’s invitation.
Jesus speaks first, asking Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“To see.”
The request is direct yet undemanding. The unrelenting yearning waits expectantly for a response. At that moment, Jesus sees what others cannot and offers a one-word promise together with a declaration that redefines Bartimaeus’ identity. “Go. Your faith has healed you.”
The blind eyes see. The man once captive to darkness now stands liberated. And the poor in spirit is declared to be rich in faith.
Unlike a rich man who, after encountering Jesus a few days earlier, walked way feeling sad because he could not relinquish his wealth, Bartimaeus let go of what little he had. His spirit was not entangled with lesser things and was ready to receive.
The story concludes with Bartimaeus the faithful, following Jesus along the road toward Jerusalem as a witness to the grace of God.
I invite you to consider two questions:
  • Are you willing to let go of lesser things?
  • What do you want Jesus to do for you, for us?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to relinquish lesser things and receive the things of your kingdom you offer to me.