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Daily Devotional 4-14-20

Resurrection and Uncertainties 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  1 Corinthians 15:14

How do you relax and rest in uncertain times? How do you compose your mind and heart when you do not see the future clearly? How do you inspire others to keep living when dealing with a pandemic to which a solution is not even in sight? How can the resurrection of Jesus help us to compose our soul as we wade through these waters of life? 

I have lived among people who did not have control over their future; they simply lived one day at a time.  They did not know the source of their next meal. And, yes, they had some level of control, but on some crucial needs, they did not. Strangely, these people did not fret. If they ever did, I did not see it. They were the most peaceful people I have known. So, what was their secret?  In ministry, I have seen people who were terminally ill. Doctors told them the end was in sight; their bodies told them, too. One day, I asked one of them, “Why are you so peaceful? You do not seem bothered?” He responded, “I have learned to give the battle to the Lord.” 

Friends, the trusted way to deal with uncertainty is to find a resource you can trust and completely surrender yourself to that resource. Humans will always have their limit, and for you to keep living and thriving, you’ve got to have somebody or something that is powerful beyond yourself. And, this is where the resurrection of Jesus factors so importantly.  

It is the event that brings out our confidence in Christ. Our faith would be futile if Christ was not raised from the dead and the grave won. We would be the most miserable of all people. There would not even be the Church. The Jesus movement would have died long ago; the disciples would have become objects of fear and mockery. Paul was addressing the issue of Jesus’ resurrection because some people were entertaining doubts about the important event. He said our faith would not have had any foundation at all.  “But now Christ is risen from the dead… (1Corinthians15:20); this has become the reason for our faith and love in Christ. 

My friends who had lost control over their own lives simply abandoned themselves into the arms of Christ. We, too, can do likewise for such a time as this. Peace, faith, hope, confidence, courage, forgiveness, and love are possible because Christ rose from the dead and has given us every reason to trust Him. 

Therefore, you can be unafraid; you can have the peace of Christ reigning in your heart and mind; you can encourage others, if you will trust in the power of His resurrection. Christ is risen; He is risen in indeed!

PRAYER: Help me, gracious Lord, to renew my trust in you again, through the power of your resurrection. Amen.

Daily Devotional 4-13-20

Weeping Over Nothing 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  John 20:11-13

Jesus had cast out demons out of Mary Magdalene. Experiencing this power of spiritual healing, she followed the ministry of Jesus. She poured an expensive ointment on the feet of Jesus before His death. Nobody made her life whole like Jesus did. She wanted to do whatever she could to honor the Messiah. She followed along during the crucifixion. She had seen an empty tomb indicating that Jesus had resurrected. Upon seeing an empty tomb, all sorts of thoughts ran through her mind. She thought His body had been taken away under cover. Yes, she imagined that possibility. And she wept over no problem at all. She wept over what was supposed to make her happy.

The tomb is empty. Life invaded a death. And, instead of celebration, Mary was weeping.  

It is an Easter season and we are surrounded by the current global crisis. Would you choose the problem or the answer––who is Jesus? Would you choose death or life? Our challenge is real, but the tomb is empty. Our loss is real, but the tomb is empty. The end may not be in sight, but the tomb is empty. It is not the eradication of the crisis that makes us happy; it is the risen Lord who walks with us through the crisis that gives us the confidence to face each day with hope. And, because of the empty grave you can trust that he walks with you always.

PRAYER: Thank you, gracious Lord, for given us the gift of resurrection to keep hoping and living.

Daily Devotional 4-10-20

It Is Finished
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.  John 19:30

This was a crucial statement Jesus made on the cross before He finally died.  The Greek word from which we got “it is finished” means to bring to a full completion. It indicates the finality of an endeavor. A project or an event has been brought to an end, without the need for improvement or correction. The goal has been achieved perfectly. 

In the Greco-Roman world, a merchant might have said Tetelestai! after stamping a bill––the debt has been paid. The Christian’s debt has been paid in full by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. By Jesus paying the Christian’s sin debt in full,“God [has] made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him,” (Colossians 2:13-15). It is finished!

“It is finished!” At the cross, the Great Exchange took place, (2 Corinthians 5:21). The eternal debt owed for the sin of mankind was paid in full. God the Father looked upon His perfect, precious, and priceless sacrifice of His Son and forgave us all our sins once and for all. No longer is another savior needed to die again for our sins. And, no longer are you required to do anything to appease God to cancel your sin debt. Jesus’ sacrifice is enough for all time.  

“It is finished!” At the cross, God kept His promise to crush Satan’s head through the bruising of His Son. The power of sin and death was vanquished once and for all time.

When He shed His innocent blood on the cross on our behalf, our sin debt we owe God was and is paid in full by our Lord and Savior! Even though this event happened in the past, its effect is ongoing.  IT.IS.FINISHED!  Christ Jesus has met the requirement, and you do not need to earn your salvation. This is all the work of the GRACE of God. 

No longer are you a slave to sin. Because of Christ’s work, you are free to live to honor God and relationships around you. 

PRAYER: Gracious Father, thank you, for your gift of salvation; so rich and so free through your Son, Jesus Christ.

Daily Devotional 4-9-20

Jesus Thirsts For You 
Rev. Emmanuel Afful

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” John 19:28

The fifth statement of Jesus on the cross is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus’ body was dehydrating. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha, and the nailing upon the cross were taking their toll. He lived as a man and suffered as a man in order that He could identify with suffering humanity. From this statement we observe that Jesus suffered the full physical effect of crucifixion. There was no easing up, for the weight of our sins was placed upon Him.

 In this statement, Jesus fulfilled another prophecy, they also gave me gall for my food,
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
Psalm 69:21. Still, there is a deeper meaning to His thirst. Jesus was thirsty for the heart and souls of humanity. He had proclaimed the kingdom of God, but many doubted Him. Some blasphemed Him. His own hometown rejected Him. He was indeed thirsty for the heart of the people He died to save.

Have you yielded your heart completely to Him?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to offer my heart wholeheartedly to the Savior of the world, Christ Jesus.

Daily Devotional 4-8-20

The Father Forsakes the Son
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Mark 15:34

The suffering of Jesus had progressed quite rapidly: betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver; Peter denied Him thrice; soldiers manhandled Him; they mocked Him, and forced a crown of thorns on His head. They placed the heavy cross on Him to carry. They nailed Him to the cross.  His body was marred from the many beatings He endured. Isaiah rightly said, “Many people were shocked when they saw him; he was so disfigured that he hardly looked humanly,” (Isaiah 52:14).  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not,”  (Isaiah 53:3-4).

The climax of His suffering occurred when the weight of our sins were laid on Him. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6). The sinless Jesus became sin on the cross. He had to experience all of the brokenness of humanity so he could be a true mediator between humanity and God. Once our sins were laid on Him, separation happened, because sin separates. And, Jesus felt he had been forsaken by a loving Father, which was the climax of His suffering.

In this terrible, grim, bleak moment Jesus really and truly identified himself with the sin of man. Here we have the divine paradox––Jesus was made to be sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This experience must have been doubly agonizing for Jesus, because he had never known what it was to be separated by this barrier from God.

That is why He can understand our situation so well. That is why we should never fear to go to Him when sin cuts us off from God. Because he has gone through it and he can help others who are going through it. There is no depth of human experience which Christ has not plumbed, (Barclay).

PRAYER: Lord, help me recognize the price Jesus paid, that I may live to please and honor Him.

Daily Devotional 4-7-20

Choose Jesus
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:39-43

Repentance is crucial to our salvation. All those who recognize their sinfulness, believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and savior, ask for forgiveness, and turn away from their sins are granted the gift of salvation. This is healing and rest from the burden of sin. But, those who cling to their sins through unbelief in God’s gift in Christ Jesus choose their own condemnation. God’s gift of pardon and salvation is so rich and so free that it can feel too good to be true. Yes, the worst of all sinners can find freedom, escape eternal separation from God, and become a conduit of God’s love to others, if they, with a childlike faith, would believe and accept Jesus Christ. 

Two thieves crucified alongside Jesus chose different destinies. One of them chose unbelief and, consequentially, blasphemed Jesus. He had the greatest opportunity for all his sins to be wiped away and be eternally reunited with God. But, he chose to die without hopeHe missed God by choice, not ignorance. The other thief believed in Christ Jesus, and though his sins were many, was instantly pardoned and promised life in God’s paradise. He didn’t need baptism. He didn’t need the sinner’s prayer. A simple faith in Christ Jesus and repentance paved the way for new life with God.

These two thieves represent two groups of people: those who would argue and even mock the gift of God in Christ, and those, who, with a childlike heart, receive salvation in Christ Jesus. 

I like the immediacy with which Jesus attended to the repentant sinner: “today you will be with me in paradise.” I also like the fact that Jesus did not respond to the unrepentant sinner, because he chose condemnation over salvation, guilt over freedom, and unbelief over faith. 

Will you choose Jesus over your sin, or your sin over Jesus?

PRAYER: Merciful Lord, forgive me of my sins, and help me walk in forgiveness towards others.

Daily Devotional 4-6-20

The Gift of Forgiveness 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

Jesus knew the heart of people, including the religious leaders, who were always up to something against Him. They always sought for an occasion to accuse him. Whenever the crowd gathered at Jesus’ meetings, those religious leaders presented themselves not with a heart to listen, but to vet His teachings. Finally, in Jerusalem, they accused Him of proclaiming Himself as the king of the Jews––an accusation that could not be validated. Jesus was not found guilty, but the crowd wanted Barabbas, the thief, be released. He was subsequently sentenced to die by crucifixion.  The soldiers beat Him; they spat on Him; they put a crown of thorns on His head; they mocked Him, and finally crucified Him. 

Yet, Jesus ––who was filled with love and knew exactly what was taking place in God’s plan–– shockingly asked the Father to forgive His accusers and offenders.  

Jesus would never say anything contrary to what His death was meant to offer to all people.  

His death would earn for us the forgiveness of the Father. Therefore, instead of cursing those who maltreated and offended Him, he asked for forgiveness for them. He could not curse the people for whom He was sent to die.  

With the Spirit of Christ in us, we are empowered to walk in forgiveness towards those who hurt us. Stephen, one of the leaders of the early church, asked for forgiveness for his murderers before he died. “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep,” (Acts 7:59-60).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot live contrary to the blessings of the death of Jesus.  Forgiveness is not easy, but possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that God has forgiven our sins through the shedding of Jesus’ blood comforts and empowers us to walk in forgiveness. 

God’s forgiveness is so rich and so free; receive and walk in it.

PRAYER: Father, help me to accept your gift forgiveness, forgive myself, and offer it to others.

Daily Devotional 4-3-20

Pressing On 4/3/20
By Julie White

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.  But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me…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 Jesus Christ, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-16

Paul’s desire is to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him; walking daily with the Lord, always wanting more, always learning, always growing, “pressing on.”

We all live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be. Paul is saying that we shouldn’t be controlled by our past, but instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now and by growing it forward.

For example, we don’t drive a vehicle by looking in the rearview mirror. You drive by looking ahead, out the windshield. It’s helpful to take occasional glances in your mirror and use that information to make decisions about how to drive safely in the present and future. But if you spend too much time looking in your rearview mirror, you might crash because you’re not paying attention to the present. In the same way, you can take periodic glances backward in your life, but accept God’s grace and move on with what He is calling you to do now.

Perfection does not imply flawlessness, but spiritual maturity. Christian maturity involves living up to what you already know and living out what you have already learned. Paul challenged the Philippians to pursue Christlikeness radically by following his own example. As he focused his life on being like Christ, so should they – and so should we. Since the Gospels may not have been in circulation, Paul couldn’t tell them to read the Bible to see what Christ was like. So, he urged them to imitate him.

How much of your time is spent on efforts that will endure in eternity?

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you. Because my hope is in You, I can forget the past and press on to what you are helping me become.

Daily Devotional 4-2-20

Rescuer  4/2/20
By Julie White

The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34: 17-18

Sometimes when we look at God through the lens of our circumstances, He doesn’t look very good. That’s because sometimes our circumstances lie to us. They may portray a careless God or an indifferent God or even a brutal God. If He is sovereign, we tell ourselves, He could have prevented the crisis or the chaos we are going through. And yet He hasn’t. Therefore…and we may fill in the rest of the sentence with an indictment against His good intentions.

But never, nowhere in Scripture does God define Himself by the hardships of His people. In fact, the hardships often set up a demonstration of His goodness. It takes a captivity to reveal a Deliverer, a war to reveal a Warrior, or a sickness to reveal a Healer.  Our need creates an occasion for Him to show who He is. So, when you are hurting, it isn’t a sign of His disfavor. It is a sign of His desire to meet you at your point of need.

Whatever is going on in your life or in your heart right now, it isn’t hidden from God, and it doesn’t drive Him away.  In fact, He is drawn to you in your times of need. Heartbreak and despair are like magnets for His attention.  The key is lifting your brokenness and desperation up to Him as an offering, a gift of opportunity for Him to use. His unending love and compassion search for hearts that need Him and know it.

Tell God that you need His comfort. Acknowledge your discouragement and grief. Invite Him into your painful places.  Know that He wants to meet you there. He’s waiting.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your Word calls you “the God of all comfort,” and I am broken.  Please, in your mercy, fill my brokenness with Your wholeness. Thank you for being by my side.