Daily Devotional 5-8-20

The Sower and the Seed
by Julie White

Matthew 13:1-23

The seed that falls among thorns is like those who hear the word of God and believe but who are choked and strangled by the cares and riches and delights of the world. They are not strong enough to pierce through these things and their faith bears no fruit. They are useless.

But the seed on the good soil represents honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.”

Christ Himself is the sower. The seed is the Word of God. The sower is skilled and spreads the seed evenly over everyone. The seed is good, and if given a chance, it will grow and blossom forever. The problem is the ground, the one who receives the seed.

It was the perfect story for men of the land. As long as men anywhere, in any time, seeded a harvest, they could meditate on those words. If Jesus were talking in a modern world, He might have used a different example. We might be led to imagine vast health measure. Suppose an epidemic threatened our city, a deadly disease that had only one prolonged regimen of medicine that prevented it and cured it. Maybe medicine would be sent to every address in the city; and each package would have detailed instructions for the months ahead.

Some people would throw it away without even opening it. Some would open it, read it with a fair amount of interest, put it in the ‘to do’ pile, and forget it. Some would read it and follow the directions until the taste of the medicine gagged them and their fear of the danger dissipated. Still others would really mean to keep up with the regimen but the pressures of their social calendar would eat up their time and their budgets would lean more toward sweets rather than the medicine, and they would give up too.

But some people would receive the medicine and follow the instructions, no matter the cost, patiently, earnestly, and victoriously. They would survive the epidemic. The others would not.

PRAYER: May our hearts become a fertile soil that receives the word of God, and yields fruits of the kingdom.

Daily Devotional 5-6-20

The Sower and the Seed (Part 2 of 4)
by Julie White

Matthew 13:1-23

“And other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns, growing up with it, choked it.”

The men sighed. Briars infested the ground like a disease, spreading and flourishing the minute a man turned his back. There were thorn plants, thistles and nettles, and father and son and his son’s son would work to remove them and there would always be more to choke the crop.

“And another seed fell on good ground and, springing up, yielded fruit a hundredfold.”

The men nodded with satisfaction. Already the fields were green with the promise of a good harvest from the seed that was saved; so it had always been, so it would always be. 

Then suddenly, the voice of Jesus ripped like thunder through that simple story.

“He that has ears to hear – let him hear!”

And they knew that, once again, Jesus had taken a simple part of their life and had given it new meaning. The sower, the seed, the rocks; all these were to speak to them of the things of God – a picture story of eternal truth.

The crowd stirred and rustled.  They were not abstract thinkers, these men and women, not intellectuals. They were used to dealing with things they could see and touch. Slowly, in groups of five or six, the men left, carrying with them the sound of His voice and a thought that they could ponder each day.

What did it mean the recital of facts about seeding a field? The disciples asked Him that. And gently, He explained, “The seed is the word of God.”

The seed that falls by the wayside is like the people who hear the word of God and don’t particularly believe it or receive it into themselves. The devil comes like the flock of crows and takes the Word of God out of them, and they are not saved.

The seed that falls on the rocks, sprouts then withers, is like the people who hear the word of God and get excited about it and believe it for a while – while life runs smoothly.  Then, in the strong sun of temptation, they give up because the roots of their faith aren’t deep enough to sustain the heat, and they are lost.

PRAYER: Break up the fallow ground of my life, to cultivate the seeds of grace.

Daily Devotional 5-5-20

The Sower and the Seed (Part 1 of 4)
By Julie White

Matthew 13:1-22

He stood in the sun on the hillside. His face, golden in the light, was earth-plain. He was a man among men, cleanly but poorly dressed, with the strong stance of someone who was used to walking. Only His eyes set Him apart. As someone once said, they were His Father’s eyes.

Around Him, near the Lake of Gennesaret, men and women sat listening. They had left their work, left shops and markets in town, left fields and animals when they heard He was there. They came to listen, and He was telling them a story.

“The sower went out to sow his seed…”

The men squatting in the fields nodded. Only a few months before, in the months we would call January and February, was the time for planting summer grain. All through the countryside, men had gone out to sow seed. Every man listening to Him this morning knew the weight of seed in a sack, the cool slippery feel of it in his hands as he sent it out over the earth, the rhythm of the sowing.

“As he sowed, some fell by the wayside…”

The fields of Palestine were small and carved into odd-shapes by family transactions of the past. And seeds were scattered by hand. Only the most valuable seeds like barley were laid out in rows. For the rest, the sower threw it out broadside. And seeds did fall on the edges of dusty roads, sometimes traveling on a breeze out onto the paths.  Everyone knew that.

“And it was trodden down, and the birds of the air devoured it.”

The men grinned. Who had not heard the crows descending on his field, feeding on the wasted seed?

“And the other seed fell on a rock, and as soon as it had sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.”

Rock! The men grunted. Half the fields were rock, gray with stones. You could not plow most of this land. The seeds that fell on the thin earth above the rocks germinated and sprouted and then died when the roots hit a stone. You need deep, rich earth to grow a crop.

How deep are you in Christ?

PRAYER: Help me break away from superficial relationship Christ, and desire for a deeper commitment in my faith journey, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Continued tomorrow

Daily Devotional 5-4-20

Unquenchable Love  5-4-20
By Julie White

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.  For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Presence and passion go together. We can discern from scripture that God created human beings in order to share His love. We can also recognize that His love must be startlingly intense to have made the sacrifice He made on the cross to fulfill it. So, it makes sense that His desire for presence is motivated by His passion; a kind of passion we can barely begin to experience.

The love expressed in the Song of Solomon is a glimpse of God’s passion. Yes, it’s the expression of two human beings, but God didn’t create love (or anything, for that matter) that didn’t come out of His own heart or that He couldn’t experience. If He created the capacity of those made in His image to feel the intensity of love, it couldn’t have been foreign to Him. And, because the Song is a picture of the divine romance between God and His people, it becomes a remarkable expression of the motive behind God’s relentless pursuit of us. Nothing can quench His love.

These verses express the heartbeat of the One who desires your presence, and this heartbeat is stronger than anything you can imagine. His love flashes like fire, burns fiercely, and overcomes death! It cannot be eliminated by time or disaster. God has an unyielding desire to be with you and to make His Presence known to those who seek Him. And, when you reflect the intensity and relentlessness of His infinite heart, at least in some finite measure, you will connect with your heart’s true home.

PRAYER: Lord, your passion is the driving force behind the universe. Help me to connect with Your heart, and to know the strength of Your Presence more deeply.

Daily Devotional 5-1-20

The Light of the World 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jesus made this startling statement during the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacle. On one of the rituals during this celebration was the Illumination of the Temple. This was held in the Courts of Women, which had deep galleries to hold spectators. At the center, four great candelabras were prepared. When darkness came the candelabras were lit, and it was said, they gave a blazing light into Jerusalem and that every courtyard was lit with its brilliance. Then, all night long the greatest, wisest, and holiest men would dance before the Lord and sing psalms of joy and praise until cockcrow the next morning. In the morning, the light of the candelabras would be turned off. 

It was against this background that Jesus made His statement: I am the Light of the World that will never be turned off. Just as the great candelabras gave light and brilliance to Jerusalem at night, so does Jesus offer illumination to all who follow Him. They will never walk in darkness.  The world around the Christian may be dark, but he will enjoy the presence of the light of God, not for a season, but the entirety of his life. 

The light of life means two things: the life that issues from source of light or the light which gives life. Both are implied in this text. Jesus is the very light of God come among us; and He is the light which gives life. Just as the flower can never blossom when it never sees the sunlight, so our lives can never flower with the grace and beauty they ought to have until they are lit with the light of the presence of Jesus. When the light of Christ enters our lives, He illumines our path so we are able to see clearly; we can make the right choices, because our minds are illumined with His counsel. His presence illumines our path so we can discern between the right and the wrong. 

PRAYER: Come, Holy Spirit; grant me the grace to follow the path of Christ, as I journey in this world.

Daily Devotional 4-30-20

The Bread of Life
Rev. Emmanuel Afful

They replied, “You must show us more miracles if you want us to believe you are the Messiah. Give us free bread every day, like our fathers had while they journeyed through the wilderness! As the Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven.’” Jesus said, “Moses didn’t give it to them. My Father did. And now he offers you true Bread from heaven.  The true Bread is a Person—the one sent by God from heaven, and he gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day of our lives!” Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. John 6:30-35

Food is crucial to our sustenance.  It is the fuel for our physical existence.  It is what God provided to sustain humans and animals.  Even, plants have their food, too.  The culture of food has evolved over the years.  The many TV shows and channels dedicated to food, and celebrity chefs attest to this.  Different and new methods of food preparation, nutritional considerations, places of eating, and the pace of food service, also point to the rapid changes that have taken place in the food industry.  The pace of life has gotten faster, and food acquisition gotten easier. 

The Israelites wanted Jesus to perform many miracles to prove that He was indeed the Messiah.  They asked for free bread.  Probably they knew Jesus had multiplied bread and fish to feed 5000 men, so they requested bread from Him.  They delved into their history to see how Moses, who was a type of a redeemer, had provided sustenance for their ancestor in the wilderness.  Jesus responded that He was the bread given to their ancestors by God, and not Moses. 

Just as the physical life is sustained by bread, so should a spiritual life be sustained by “bread.” Without this “bread” there cannot be a spiritual life.  Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again.” With this, Christ reveals His understanding of Himself.  He indicates the role He plays in the world.  He is the Source and Sustenance of life. Without him no one can enter into a relationship with the Father. Therefore, Christ is the Source of life.  A person may experience existence, but to experience life is to have Christ Jesus.  The hunger of the human situation is ended when we know Christ, and through him know God. The restless soul is at rest; the hungry heart is satisfied.

PRAYER: Come, Lord Jesus, and satisfy the hunger in my soul. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-29-20

Do You Love Me More Than These?
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” John 21:15

The disciples did not know what to do, though they’ve seen the resurrected Lord. So, they went back to fishing. That night they caught nothing and Jesus appeared early in the morning. He gave them a directive, which they followed, and they caught fish. Then they realized the man who helped get some fish was their Lord and Master, Jesus. He invited them to the shore to have breakfast. Afterwards, Jesus asked Peter a serious question: “do you love me more than these?”

Some scholars believe that “these” in Jesus’ question meant the boat, net, and other fishing tools.  In other words, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than his business. Others believe it referred to the multitude of fish caught by the disciples upon Jesus’ directives. If this is the case, then, we could reframe Jesus’ question: Peter, do you love me more than the miracles, the blessings, and the provisions? Peter, would you still love me if I make no miracles for you? Would you love me if I do not provide in the way you expected? A third group of scholars believes “these” refers to the other disciples. Prior to His crucifixion, Peter had promised his loyalty to Jesus, during a conversation: “Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me…’ Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will,’”  (Matthew 26:31, 33). However, Peter denied Jesus that same night he made this promise. So, Jesus had every right to ask him if he loved Him more than the other disciples did. 

Are there other kingdoms in this world competing with the kingdom of God in your life? What other loyalties are battling with your loyalty to Jesus? What loves in your life are fighting to take the place of your love for Jesus?  Do you love Him more than the resources around you? Do you love Jesus more than the blessings and gifts He’s poured into your life? Would you still love Him if it seems He’s been far away from you? 

Jesus needed to know if He was the object of Peter’s love. And, I hear Him ask all of us: “Do you love me more than these?”

PRAYER: Forgive me for my divided loyalties, sometimes. Grant me the grace to yield my heart and love completely to you, Jesus. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-28-20

The Promised Presence, Pt 2  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

 In one of these meetings he told them not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them in fulfillment of the Father’s promise, a matter he had previously discussed with them. “John baptized you with water,” he reminded them, “but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few days.” Acts 1: 4-5

Jesus knew the challenges ahead of the disciples; He was cognizant of the fact that they weren’t bold and tough enough handle crisis very well. He knew the disciples would face persecution and suffering of various forms. He knew there would be times when fear would dominate their minds and hearts. Jesus indicated suffering was imminent for the disciples when He said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” (John 15:20).  And, for this reason, He asked them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

Jesus lived a countercultural life, and the disciples were called to continue living that way which was in stark contrast to their prevailing culture. Would the disciples be bold enough to live differently? Could they endure the criticisms and pressures from friends about their allegiance to Jesus? Could they stand losing relationships and personal gains because they were called to live outside the mainstream? It is for these questions that Jesus asked the disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

It is possible for us to experience and endure many challenges because the Holy Spirit, who abides in us, empowers us beyond our natural ability to handle suffering. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who gives us immeasurable grace to conduct ourselves in ways that honors Him––though it may be countercultural. We are not afraid to live for Him, because He is the author and finisher of our faith.

PRAYER: Grant us the boldness and courage, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to live for you. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-27-20

The Promised Presence 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

In one of these meetings he told them not to leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them in fulfillment of the Father’s promise, a matter he had previously discussed with them. “John baptized you with water,” he reminded them, “but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few days.” Acts 1: 4-5

Jesus was about to ascend to the Father, but that would not end God’s dwelling with His people.  In fact, it would open a better way of God’s abiding presence with us. No longer would only a few be anointed and be employed in God’s service. No longer would a few count themselves privileged to have the Spirit’s gifts in their lives. No longer would another human speak to God on our behalf. The Holy Spirit would indwell every child of God. We, by virtue of our faith in Christ, have become the dwelling places of Holy Spirit. 

Just as the Israelites needed the Father, and the disciples could not do anything without Jesus, so do we, Christians of today, need the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the fact of the matter is that it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t, the Comforter won’t come. If I do, he will—for I will send him to you,” (John 16:7). The promise of the Father would not be broken; thus, the disciples were expected to wait for the Holy Spirit. 

The ministry of Jesus Christ must continue; the gospel of Jesus must be preached beyond Jerusalem, Samaria, and Galilee to the ends of the earth. And for this purpose, the disciples had to wait for the Holy Spirit. Individuals, families, relationships, and our world need the power of God to bring healing to situations, and to change lives and circumstances. As Christians, we certainly need the refreshing breath of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen, embolden, and equip us to be His people in our world. 

PRAYER: Come, Holy Spirit, and fall afresh on us; impart our hearts with your holy fire that we may love and serve you.