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Daily Devotional 3-6-20

Forbidden Fruits
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Genesis 2:15-17

This is one story you have heard over and over. It has been preached about in worship, discussed in Sunday schools, lectured on at seminars and retreats, etc. But, we cannot finish talking about it because the echoes of that story still chime through the world. 

I remember, as a kid, a time I went to play with one of my friends at their home after school. His parents had gone to work and we had the whole house to ourselves. My friend told me of a gallon on top of a cupboard he wanted to show me. Then his little brother said, we couldn’t do that because their father had instructed them never to touch that gallon. We ignored the little brother, climbed the cupboard and brought the down the gallon to check the content. In it, we discovered traditional wine obtained from a palm tree. We drank some and placed it back on the cupboard. I went back home after playing and my friend’s dad disciplined him when he got home in the evening. 

Somewhere deep down in our hearts we all have the affinity to touch what we have been told never to touch. The spirit of disobedience was passed to us from our parents, Adam and Eve.  And throughout history, humanity has been eating forbidden fruits. The fall in the Garden of Eden keeps playing out in our individual and sometimes corporate lives in different forms. 

We live in a world filled with enticements. I call these forbidden fruits. Touching and eating them draw us further away from God. Enjoying them stifles our spiritual growth and retards, if not retrogresses, our maturity in Christ. Disobedience could be appealing to the flesh and mind but is deadly to the spirit. 

Christ, who is the second Adam, perfectly obeyed and submitted to God in the garden of Gethsemane. And, he gave us the power and grace to walk in obedience in a world filled with forbidden fruits. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to help us exercise the victory over them. Obedience to God is a possibility if we desire so. So, what do forbidden fruits look like for you? Could you name some of them?

PRAYER: God, sometimes I feel weary and defeated; sometimes it seems I cannot win the battle of my forbidden fruits. Help me to choose you. Help me to choose obedience over disobedience.



Daily Devotional 3-5-20

Living in the Light 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

This is the message God has given us to pass on to you: that God is Light and in him is no darkness at all. So if we say we are his friends but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin. 1 John 1:5-8

The account of creation reveals the duality in some of the created order. For example, sky and earth, water bodies and dry land, day and night, male and female, light and darkness. And, none of these elements can coexist as one entity. The day must fade away for the night to occur. The sky and earth cannot be joined.  Whenever you enter a dark room and switch on the light, darkness will vanish. We have yet to experience an occasion of day and night simultaneously. It will never happen! 

God is light, there is no darkness in Him at all. Darkness and light cannot coexist in God. He is pure and full of light. There is no trace of sin and defilement in Him. He is so sacred, the sting of sin does not affect his nature. Christ came into this world and was tempted in all points but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). God drew the line between light and darkness, this is revealed in the cycle of day and night, and we are called to respect the order. 

The child of God cannot profess to love God and neighbor and dwell in sin at the same time. We cannot serve two masters. If we are God’s, then His light indwells us. Following Christ is a life of having both feet in the light; it is a life of transition from darkness into light. If we profess to belong to Christ but practice sinning then we are liars. 

This is true and radical. Christ makes no room for compromise. He creates no middle ground.  We are either walking in the light or in darkness as a lifestyle. Yes, there have been times we chose darkness over light as children of God, but we must repent and practice the light. We must allow the word of God to wash away the deeds of darkness so that His light would shine brighter and brighter in and through us.

PRAYER: In the season of humility and repentance, grant me the boldness and submission to lay down my idols of darkness that I may live the truth.



Daily Devotional 3-4-20

The Sword of the Spirit
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

…the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:12

Life is full of battles. And, these battles are fought on many fronts—relationships, families, finances/economy, community, spirituality, government and politics, temptations, through the media, etc. The Christian is not exempted from these battles; in fact, the children of God face much warfare, because they belong to God and Satan always seeks to take down God’s children.  But, the good news is Christ has not left us vulnerable to the deceptions and temptations of the enemy. 

In fact, we are not fighting for victory; we are fighting from a position of victory.

Jesus has won the victory for us. And, it behooves on us to exercise that victory (Romans 8:31-39).

The question remains, how does the child of God exercise victory over the enemy? In answering this, I want to take you to the story of the temptation of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. In these narratives, Satan twisted the word of God to tempt our savior. In response, Jesus used the word of God. In the context of temptation, God’s word became a weapon to defeat the enemy. So, the scriptures aren’t merely a document, they are weapons to defeat the enemy of our souls.  

Therefore, it is not a surprise when Paul asserted that the word of God is the sword of the spirit with which we are able to defeat the enemy. When Satan throws up lies, doubts, fears, anxieties, and anything to take you down, you can counter him with the word of God. You can refute the lies of Satan and his cronies by trusting and adhering to the word of God.  

This Lenten season offers us the opportunity to search deep into our lives, and fish out where we may have bought into or succumbed to the lies of the enemy about Christ and ourselves. As we submit to what God says about us and the life He calls us to live, it cleanses our hearts and we live more fully unto God.  

What lies about yourself have you bought into?

What lies about Christian life have you succumbed to? 

What misconceptions about the gospel threatens your faith in Christ?

PRAYER: Spirit of truth, illumine my heart with the light of the word of God, to see and live in the way of Christ.



Daily Devotional 3-3-20

Soul Searching
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

John had been on the stage, preaching repentance. He had the crowd. He was a mover and a shaker of the community. He was bold and very charismatic like the prophets in the Old Testament. His disciples felt proud that they had John as their master; however, Jesus showed up and also baptized people. John’s disciples certainly did not feel comfortable about that. They probably thought they had a rivalry in town. They probably thought, “This Jesus is about the take the stage from our master. See how the crowd is moving to listen to Him.” Insecurity may have started gaining roots in their hearts. They cared so much about the ministry of the master. As such, they went to inform him.

John recognized that he had no competition with Jesus. He was secure in his role as the preparer of the way for Jesus. His reputation was never on the line. John was cognizant that the ministry was not about Him but Christ. Therefore, John told his disciples the he needed to fade away so that Christ may shine and all eyes shall see Him. John put his reputation, interests, rights, and privileges aside. He was willing to let them go so that all may hear and know Christ. 

The only way Christ may increase in us is when we decrease and fade away.

Lent is a season of dying to ourselves; a time of submission to Christ. It is a season of cease-fire in fighting God, bowing down before Him and raising our hands in surrender. Christ invites us to separate ourselves from anything that stands between Him and us. It is a time to do away with the idols we worship so dearly. Painful as it can be, the Holy Spirit nudges us to lay at the foot of the cross the things we think we cannot do away with so Christ may increase in us. Christ extends an invitation to search our hearts and name the things that compete with Christ. 

What are the things in your life that need to decrease and eventually fade away so that Christ may increase more and more in your life?

For John, it was his fame, reputation, popularity, etc. What would be yours? Somewhere in our lives, Christ is being stifled, and we ought to free Him by freeing our hearts from the layers of debris we’ve accumulated in the course of living.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the boldness to examine myself, that I live may be Christ living in me.



Daily Devotional 3-2-20

Suffering and Light
By Julie White

He will do in me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny. Job 23:14

Job suffered. He had questions, painful ones. He asked persistently, passionately, and eloquently. He refused to take silence for an answer. He refused to take the clichés of others for an answer. Job does not take his suffering quietly or piously. He disdained going for a second opinion to outside physicians or philosophers. Job took his stance before God. Yes, he went ‘right to the top,’ and that’s where he protests his suffering mightily.

Job’s suffering is important to us because he suffered in the same way we do. Undeserved suffering troubles us. Job was doing everything right when, suddenly, everything went wrong. This is the kind of suffering Job gives a voice to. And he does this so well, so accurately and honestly, that every last one of us can recognize his or her personal pain in his voice. He shouts to God. He refuses to accept the role of a defeated victim. 

But he also recognizes that suffering is a mystery. And Job comes to respect the mystery and finds himself in an even larger one, the mystery of God. Maybe the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God, into a state of wonder, of worship, love, and praise.  It doesn’t inevitably do that, but it certainly did so for Job and it can for us too, if we let it.

Every time we persist with Job in beseeching God about our circumstances and in rejecting the quick-fix counsel of people who see us and hear us but do not understand us, we deepen our availability to the voice and mystery of God.

Even in the midst of his darkest season, Job knew that the apparent absence of God was not a sign of His disfavor. Job knew his own heart, he trusted God’s and he believed everything would work out in the end. In the dark, he trusted what he had learned in the light. A soul that makes that choice is built for eternity.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I believe.  Even when I can’t see what’s ahead, I know who you are and I cling to you always. 



Daily Devotional 2-28-20

Connecting 
By Julie White

The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

Jesus was moved with compassion on many occasions, felt anger toward hypocrisy and greed, wept over Jerusalem and those grieving at the tomb of Lazarus, and offered up prayers with loud crying and tears. Jesus, the incarnation of God, had deep feelings, so part of being Christlike means connecting in emotional ways.  God calls us to feel His feelings, to be finely in tune with His heartbeat so that our communion with Him will go deeper and grow firmer as we desire to feel like He feels.

God gives us many ways to connect with His heart through our own experiences.  He gave Jonah an object lesson with a vine in order to make a point about His own compassion.  When we hold a newborn baby, we experience unconditional love for someone who has done nothing to deserve it. When we feel jealous for someone’s love, we know how God feels about those who love lesser gods. When someone offends us, we get a taste of what God overcomes in forgiving our sins. In the joy of a wedding, we connect with the joy of the coming marriage of the Bridegroom and His bride.  When we give a gift that isn’t appreciated, we can relate to the disappointment of the Giver whose gifts and blessings are routinely ignored. Practically any experience in life can turn into a connecting point with God’s heart if we let it.

Notice how you feel in each of your experiences in life, and ask yourself if there is a divine parallel. Search for it. Do the same when you read the Bible, the very words of God. Better yet, ask the Holy Spirit to attune your heart to moments like that. Just beyond your vision, He watches and He waits. So, know that whatever you experience, wherever you go, you are on potentially sacred ground. 

Surely, the Lord is in this place and I was not even aware of it! Genesis 28:16

Search for and expect divine visitations. You’ll find that He is closer to you than you think.

Prayer: Lord, let my heart connect with Yours. Show me how my feelings reflect Your feelings and draw me closer to You with each new insight. 



Daily Devotional 2-27-20

Speak to Me, Oh Lord 
By Julie White

You have visited me in the night. Psalm 17:3

Few people carefully guard the way they go to sleep at night. Maybe they watch depressing news or talk-show gossip, or maybe they lie down anxious and stressed about tomorrow. Most of us put our heads on the pillow with unresolved issues in our hearts or our relationships. And all of these things simmer within us when we sleep.

God offers to minister to us through the night. While we sleep, He can do transforming work, addressing deep heart issues beneath the surface of our consciousness. He can shape our vision and our desires, heal the wounds we acquired during the day, implant solutions to problems, and do battle on our behalf in the depths of our souls. He gives counsel in hidden recesses, even when we aren’t aware of it. He can influence our thoughts and fill our dreams with His purposes.

For God speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds, He whispers in their ears…He makes them turn from wrong-doing…He keeps them from pride…He protects them from the grave.  Job 33:15-17

Maybe that’s why the calendar in God’s Word counts days from sundown to sundown. The victories of the night come before the victories of the day, not only in the rhythm of our lives but also as a picture of human history and salvation. Life begins with seeds before manifesting in fruit. This is God’s pattern.

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6

I encourage you to be careful about how you go to sleep. Ask the Lord for much more than “your soul to keep.” Fellowship sincerely with God as you doze off. Invite the Holy Spirit into your night hours. Pray for Him to do deep, internal work on your thoughts, visions, battles, desires, wounds, dreams, and attitudes.  His mighty ministry will affect how you wake up and enhance your ability to carry a sense of His presence throughout the day.

Prayer: Lord, visit me in the night hours. Let me fellowship with You as I sleep.  Minister to me and transform me from within.



Daily Devotional 2-26-20

Confession 
By Julie White

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. Dear children…we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus, the one who is truly righteous. He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins, and not only our sins, but the sins of the world.  1 John 1:9, 2:1-2

Confessing our sins is designed to free us to enjoy fellowship with Christ. It is an emptying of the bad that allows more space to be filled with good. God wants to forgive us. He allowed His beloved Son to die on the cross so He could offer us pardon. 

When we come to Christ, He forgives all the sins we have committed or will ever commit. We don’t need to confess the same sins over and over again and we don’t need to be afraid that God will reject us if we don’t keep our record perfectly clean. Of course, we should continue to confess our sins, but not because failure to do this will make us lose our salvation. Our relationship with Christ is secure. Instead, we should confess so that we can enjoy maximum fellowship and joy with Him and be transformed into His likeness.

So, if God has forgiven us of our sins because of Christ’s death on the cross, why must we confess our sins? As I understand this, by admitting our sins and receiving Christ’s cleansing, we are actually doing several things: agreeing with God that our sin truly is sin; recognizing our tendency to sin; ensuring that we don’t conceal our sins from Him (and from ourselves); being willing to turn from it, and relying on His power to overcome.

To people who are feeling guilty and condemned, don’t give up hope! The best defense attorney in the universe is pleading your case. Jesus Christ, your advocate, your defender, is the Judge’s Son. He has already suffered your penalty in your place. You cannot be tried for a case that is no longer on the docket. When you are united with Christ, you are as safe as He is. So, don’t be afraid to confess your sins, asking Christ to plead your case. He has already won it!

Believe that Christ Himself is the atoning sacrifice for your sins. It’s the truth. He stands before God as your mediator because His death satisfied the wrath of God against sin and paid the death penalty for you.

In Christ, you are forgiven and purified.

Prayer:  Gracious Lord, thank you for Christ’s atoning sacrifice that was meant for not just one particular group, but for the whole world.



Daily Devotional 2-25-20

Lent 
By Julie White

Lent is a Holy season of spiritual preparation for the Feast of Easter. It is a time to reconnect with the fundamental hunger at the core of our being for the One in whom we find all happiness. It is a time of grace, a time to renew our baptismal call and to live it out fully in obedience.

I’ve heard it said that a person has not shown true obedience if he has never had an opportunity to disobey. Christ Jesus is the standard of true obedience.

After being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the Judaean Desert. During this time, Satan came to Jesus and tried to tempt Him. But Jesus refused each temptation and discredited Satan by quoting Scripture, so Satan departed and Jesus returned to Galilee to begin his ministry. Summary of Matthew 4:1-11

Therefore, it was necessary for Him to made, in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:17-18

Only in the light of Christ’s resurrection does life have meaning. And, in order to experience the full power of the resurrection (the basis of our Christian life and hope), we must pass through a time of preparation. With intentional preparation, this expectant waiting, the deeper meaning of the Easter celebration can be enjoyed.

So it is that before the festival of Easter there has developed a long preparatory season of repentance, fasting, and obedience which brings us back to our ultimate desire, intimacy with God.

As Thou didst hunger bear, and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most Holy Word.


And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy Passiontide,
Yea, evermore in life and death,
Jesus, with us abide.

 

Abide with us, that so this life
Of suffering over past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.

 

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.

Prayer: Dear Lord, what do you want Lent to be about for me this year? What do you want ME to be about for YOU this Lent, God? Amen