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Daily Devotional 1-8-20

God Breaks the Silence 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Matthew 3:1-2

Who can stand silence? It is not a welcoming posture in relationships. When I first came to this nation, I was told that Americans don’t like silence. And it is quite true, as I have come to observe. Silence in relationships can be devastating. Often times, it is a signal that people are shutting down, there is nothing else to say, there’s a lack of interest. Could you withstand silence in your family for three days? I don’t think so! But, that was the situation of the Jews and their relationship with God.

For four hundred years, the Jews did not hear a word from God. There were no prophets. There were no words of encouragement or admonitions from God who used to speak with their forbearers. They worshipped in the temple and studied the Torah in the synagogues, but God was not speaking in new ways. They had no encounters with the divine. Some have called that period the Dark Ages. They were used to stale religious practices. They went through ceremonial rituals that offered no life, but that was okay for them because they knew nothing else. They were born and raised in a stale religion.

But, the long silence was finally broken! God visited His people again through the prophet, John the Baptist. For those Jews, it was a lifetime opportunity hearing the words of God directly from a prophet. Imagine the excitement and anticipation. No wonder people rushed to see and hear this man of God. The long period of silence and darkness was broken, and out of John’s mouth came these words of life, light and love: “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  They took his words serious and many were baptized. 

Repentance, to them, was a gracious word full of light. And it should be for us, too. It is an invitation from God to forsake darkness and embrace His light and love. It is not a condemnation; it sets people before God. Repentance does not only expose our sins, but more so takes us to a higher life in God. The kingdom of God is here, and the only way to experience it is repentance and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as the savior.

Out of the silence came the words of hope, light, and love for all of humanity.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see the areas in my life that I need to surrender to you.  Attend to my heart and speak a word of life to my soul.

Daily Devotional 1-7-20

Reset: Community  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31

What is the essence of love if it is held in privacy? What is the use of a light hidden under a bushel and not placed on a table to shine for people? 

In the Christian worldview, love has three objects: God, Neighbor, and Self.  However, too often, our love is misdirected and mostly centered on ourselves. Jesus even takes this command to love a neighbor to another level when He said, “love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:12. This is radically different in that the love of God becomes the basis, the motivation, and the driver of our love for others. 

Practically, this involves treating people with respect and concern to put the interest of others on a level with our own. Paul writes, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, (Philippians 2:4). This is crucial because our love for God is demonstrated by our love for one another. 

Don’t get so spiritually high to the point where you lose touch with the people around you!  

Love for a neighbor is a decision we make every day. It involves doing something tangible and specific. It is action-oriented. Get yourself out there (whatever “there” means for you) and bless someone with the Christ in you. The love of God is too great and overflowing for you to privatize it. Take time to think about somebody and bless them in specific ways. Look to your family, check your circle of friends, scan through your neighborhood, identify someone in need and show some love. Loving your neighbor involves crossing the line to the other side––to that person who hates you, the person who gets on your nerves, or the person who lied and stabbed you at the back. 

Love for a neighbor would also invite us to speak to them the truth in love whenever necessary.  Sometimes hearing the truth is like taking a bitter pill to heal from an ailment. The truth can be painful sometimes, but when it is spoken with love and grace it enables receptivity and healing.  Culturally, we shy away from drawing people’s attention to something that is personal, but what is love if it looks on unconcern or afraid until a life is destroyed or ruined?

“Faith is personal but never private.” —E Stanley Jones

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the wisdom in connecting with others, the boldness to speak the truth in love and grace, and the desire to love others intentionally.

Daily Devotional 1-6-20

Reset: Relationship with God  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22:37

The Israelites were marked as distinct people, because of their relationship with the one and true God—Yahweh. Christians, throughout history, have neither been marked by how much they know of their God nor by their religious activities. Instead, they have been distinguished by how much they love God. The Jesus movement did not become a nine-day wonder, but survived the centuries, partly because of faithful adherents who loved their savior enough to even die on His account. 

God had stepped out of eternity into time, and for the first time, people could know God through Jesus Christ. The religious leaders represented a religion, but Jesus was and is the Door into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the Pharisees and Sadducees often had problems with Jesus’ teachings. They inquired of Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law and Jesus drew their attention to the command to love God.

Christians today would be known by their love for God because love is the way of life in the kingdom of God.  

The love of God is the rule of life. It is the prescription that would save and heal lives. Friends, the reality is that God loves all equally, because Christ died for all. But, the truth is that we love God differently. The depth, height and weight of our love for God differs from person to person.  God, through Christ, has given Himself fully to us all at once. But, we love God piece by piece.  We grow in the measure of our love for God. 

Therefore, I encourage you as you have started a new year, to reset your love for God. Let the love of God be the motivation for all your thoughts and actions. Christ invites us to respond to God’s love in the realities of our practical life. Attend worship services and small groups, pray and study the bible, shun evil and sin, and pursue holiness and peace, because you love God. 

For you, a child of God, love should not just be a commandment, but also a desirement.

We should desire to love God because He first loved us. Would your life this year be marked by your love for God?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, as I begin a new year, help me make my love for God the topmost priority in my life. Let this become the foundation of my life.

Daily Devotional 1-2-20

Pressing into the Future 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

Our human life is three-dimensional: the past, the present, and the future. Interestingly, these three are always working together somehow, in the order they occur. The past influences the present, which also influences the future. 

Now, at the beginning of a new year, most people dream of goals and accomplishments. These goals could be small or huge, depending on the person and their present stage in life. They could meet physical, spiritual, emotional, social, financial need, etc. I have a simple goal on my list: to develop a workout routine to enhance and improve my physical fitness. I am pumped for this, will not let anything stop me! It is a reality in life that every dream or goal comes with a challenge. These challenges could emanate from many sources including a person’s past. And, some people are not able to break free from the past to embrace the future. 

Paul, recognizing the glorious heavenly prize in his future, forgot about his past and pressed into the future. I do not believe he lost memory of the past. He just did not allow it to impede his progress into the future. He used his memory of the past to push his life forward. You, too, can experience new blessings in life as you position yourself in Christ without attachments to the past.

He broke free in order to enter the promised future. 

God, through Christ Jesus, is inviting us to the heavenly prize in the future, therefore:

  • Don’t allow the demons in your past,
  • Don’t allow the disappointments in your past,
  • Don’t allow the rejections in your past,
  • Don’t allow the failures and sufferings in your past,
  • Don’t allow the victories and celebrations in your past,
  • Don’t allow breakthroughs in your past, etc., prevent you from receiving the heavenly prize through Christ Jesus.

You can always have a goal that meets your spiritual needs, among others, no matter the stage at which you are in life. 

PRAYER: So, Holy Spirit, as I celebrate the glories and moan over the struggles of the past, help me to break free in order to receive the future you have in store for me. Amen.

Daily Devotional 1-1-20

My Presence Will Go with You 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.  How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” Exodus 33:14-16

I remember packing a few clothes and books and bidding goodbye to my family, friends, community, and nation. With mixed feelings, I parted company with my culture, favorite meals, wonderful friendships, etc. I was willing to journey into the unknown. I was certain yet unsure; I was peaceful yet anxious. I was glad I had responded to God’s call, yet had many unanswered questions. But, beneath all these layers was a rock of God’s presence with me. And, with that confidence, I journeyed into a foreign land where I had no connection.

God, through the leadership of Moses, had brought the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai.  Then God instructed Moses and the people to leave the place and journey into the Promised Land—Canaan. However, Moses would not just get up and move the people. He wanted to be certain about God’s company. Moses was aware of the wickedness they would have to encounter on their way.  It was a journey into the unknown. In His response to Moses, God said, “I will personally go with you.” 

By experience, most people have already filled their schedules for this year. They have made plans and projections. Some even have contingency plans in case of an eventuality. Some seem to have a pretty firm grip on what lies ahead. However, the truth is we are all journeying into the unknown. When you consider the past year, and the many things that happened, you would be humbled to admit that you cannot absolutely have a full grip on the future. 

Moses, though had seen the miracles of God in Egypt, wanted to be certain of God’s presence in the journey. And, I find so much comfort in God’s response to Moses. He is a God who journeys with us each of the ways. His name is Emmanuel—God with us. We may not know the how, when, where, but we know the Who. And, because we know the Who—God––we can be assured of rest. Throughout this year, you can be certain that your God will never leave nor forsake you.

Life hasn’t been all rosy since I stepped into his nation, but each step and experience has drawn me closer to God, and I am glad for the privilege. And, yes, this year you may not necessarily feel happy every day, but God is certainly with you, through and through.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to trust you with all my heart, as I journey into this year, with my family and friends.

Daily Devotional 12-31-19

Eternity in Mind 
By Velma Tim

 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:2

Retirement is something we all intentionally plan for. When someone retires without adequate planning and preparation, they are unable to fully enjoy their retirement years because of insufficiency. Those who plan well for retirement do not do so because they have more than enough, but most often they chose to sacrifice present enjoyment for future benefit.

Scriptures remind us that we are citizens of heaven with limited time on earth, thus as we plan for retirement from our work, we must also plan for eternity, (Philippians 3:20).

Those who fail to plan for retirement have excuses such as bills, family situations, cost of living, etc. These are all valid excuses, but they do not exempt them from the pain of unplanned retirement. Likewise, life is filled with many distractions that constantly want our attention; the cares of this world steal our focus without us realizing. The text we read today tells us to set our eyes on things above not on things in this world. How is that possible with all the distractions? A few suggestions as we strive to live with eternity in mind are:

Intimacy with God. The more we spend time with God, the more He fills us with His thoughts and strengthen us to overcome distractions.

Renew your mind. Romans warns us about conforming to this world and encourages us to renew our minds. This can only happen when we are intentional about letting the scriptures and the Holy Spirit influence the way we live, (Romans 12:2).

Sacrifice. Like a worker sacrifices the present pleasure for a better retirement, when we set our minds on eternity, we will hear the Holy Spirit call to sacrifice for God’s plans and purposes to be accomplished. Each of us will be called by God to make sacrifices as we walk with Him. For Abraham it was his son Isaac; for Mary it was her teenage years; for Paul and the apostles it was a life of imprisonment and even death. Each time God brings us to a place of sacrifice, our obedience to yield will always leave a lasting impact.

As we celebrate in this season of Advent, my prayer is that God will draw each of us into deeper intimacy with him. And, that we will be transformed as we renew our minds, not living by the standards of this world but living lives that are fully surrendered to God; saying yes when we are called to make sacrifices for the kingdom.

 Prayer: Holy Spirit, empower me to live each day with eternity in mind

 Promise: Though you live in the world, you are not of the world.

Daily Devotional 12-30-19

Longing for His Return  
By Velma Tim

 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

Once I took our youth group on a mission trip to Texas, we were going to serve those that had been impacted by the hurricane and have some great adventure. Everyone was excited and filled with much expectation and anticipation. Few of them slept on that journey. Even when someone dozed off it was for just a few minutes, and when they woke up they asked, “Are we almost there?”

When Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples could not take their gaze off him. They probably wondered, “will we see him again, what’s next, what can we do?” While they still gazed, an angel appeared to them and told them that this Jesus would come again. Immediately, the disciples knew what to do. The longing for their master’s return changed their seeming loss of hope to action and a longing to do all that Christ commanded in preparation for that great return.

Before His death Jesus had taught and talked with them about His death and resurrection, but many of them deserted him when he was crucified. They didn’t believe his promise of resurrection, but now they knew better; they believed the words of their master. He was coming again, so they lived each day with hopes of seeing Him again.

Like the youth on our mission trip, we are reminded that as we long for his return, we do so actively. When Jesus was crucified the disciples went back to their personal business, but after his ascension, they went to the upper room, received power and actively advanced the kingdom of God everywhere they went.

Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins in Mathew 25:1-13. They were all longing for the groom, but only five had extra oil for unplanned circumstances, the other five were not prepared. In verse 13 he encourages them with these words “Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.”

As we long for the return of our king in glory, we are reminded to fill our lamps with oil, stay watchful and get actively involved in advancing the kingdom of God on earth.

PRAYER: Lord as we long for your return keep us alert like the five wise virgins,

PROMISE: For in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay, (Hebrews 10:37).

Daily Advent Devotional 12-27-19

Love Lives  
By Julie White

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully.  Ephesians 3:17,18

The love of God is total and profound. It covers the breadth of our experience and it reaches out to the whole world. His love continues for the length of our lives.  It rises to the heights of our celebration and our elation. It reaches to the depths of our discouragement, despair, and even death.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners. Romans 5:8

God could have declared His love in other ways, of course, and He had throughout the pages of the Old Testament and in the lives of His people.  But He sent us Jesus to demonstrate His love for us. Jesus is the living Word and love is His very nature!  The Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to bridge the gap between us. The love that caused Christ to die is the same love that sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us every day.

And the power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that saved you and is available for you to call on each day.  You can pray for God’s power and love as you need it. God’s love always involves a choice and an action.  It’s commitment and conduct; it’s not just a feeling.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins, 1 Peter 4:8.

This verse isn’t telling you how many people to love, but how much to love the people you already know and the people right in front of you; to love truly and faithfully the people God has given you to love.

How well do you display your love in the choices you make and in the actions you take? Love Himself lives in you. Will you follow His example?

Prayer: Lord God, thank you, for it is only by Your grace that I can love others in deed and in truth.

Promise: God loves you and His love never ends. These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Daily Advent Devotional 12-26-19

Christ, Our Peace   
By Julie White

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace. Luke 2:14

The centuries have rolled by, and still, the world longs and looks for the peace that angels sang about on that first Christmas morning.  Even the land of Christ’s birth often seems torn by violence and conflict.

So where is His peace, you ask?  The peace of Christ abides in the hearts and minds of those who have trusted His grace. It comes personally, to one person at a time. Peace with God means that we have reconciled with Him.  There is no more hostility between us, no sin blocking our relationship with Him.  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord did for us, Romans 5:1.

God’s peace is not the peace of pretending that things are not as they are or the peace of being blind to conflict. It is not found in positive thinking, in the absence of conflict, or in good feelings.  It comes from knowing that God is in control; that our citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin.  

We can expect our relationship with Christ to produce peace when we are ‘in sync’ with Him. Daily, intentionally, center your life on God through earnest prayer, scripture reading, scripture meditation, and by enjoying the fellowship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

To fully understand the peace, the contentment, fulfillment, and security that come with Christ’s arrival, you may need to acknowledge Christ’s absence. Look deep inside at what you long for. Where are the vacancies in your life? How do you need to be fed? What in your life remains empty? When you focus on God and His Word, you will find the answers. You (God) will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Jesus is your peace. He restores you with God. To experience peace on earth, trust Him. Apart from Christ, there is no peace. Jesus gives us peace by giving us Himself. 

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that because of Jesus, we may have peace with you, with others, within ourselves, and peace for eternity.

PROMISE: For Christ, Himself has brought peace to us. Ephesians 2:14