Daily Devotional 4-24-30

Resurrected Eyes 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. Acts 9:17-19

How you see the world, a particular situation, or a group of people determines your conduct, responses, and relationships. We walk through life peering through many lenses. Some are good; others are bad. A bad lens influences one’s decisions towards others in a very negative sense. As Christians, we have the privilege––through the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God––to change the negative lens we wear that often makes us walk contrary to what our faith in Christ encourages. 

Saul, who later became Paul, encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, and as a result was blinded for three days. He was on his way to persecute the early Christians, having received letters of authority from the religious leaders. He was becoming notorious for how he threatened and treated Christians. After the third day of being blind, God sent Ananias, one of the Christians in Damascus, to pray for Paul. After praying, “something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight.”  This, I believe, has deep spiritual significance for us.

Paul did not just have his physical eyes restored, he also received a new spiritual lens through which he would see, experience, relate, and interact with the world. His worldview was repaired. Therefore, from that point of restoration, his life was completely changed. He now loved the very group of people he had hated. He saw the disciples and the Church through a new and better worldview. He had seen and interacted with his culture and the people through the world’s view of law, but now grace, truth, and love had taken the place of law. 

Resurrected eyes see the world through the lens God gives us. Our understandings, concepts, desires, affections, etc., will change in ways that honor God once we receive “resurrected” eyes. 

Do you need “resurrected” eyes?

PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to interact with the world around me in ways that honor you and reflect my resurrection with you. 

Daily Devotional 4-23-20

Love and Responsibility 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  John 21:15-17

So, after breakfast with His disciples on the beach, Jesus needed to ask Peter some serious questions. Peter had denied Jesus before a young girl during Jesus’ trial; therefore, he needed to know if Peter––who promised to stand with Him, but could not do so––would be faithful to Him once He ascends to heaven. This took a series of questions about Peter’s love. Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. He asked the same question thrice because Peter denied Him thrice.  Jesus also wanted to restore Peter, who probably carried guilt on his shoulders for denying Him. 

If you love me then, “feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my lambs.”  Jesus made Peter aware that love comes with responsibility. He had denied Jesus even though he claimed he loved Him.  Peter’s love was without responsibility. It was a love with zeal but without action. He knew how to say it, but could not show it when under pressure. It was love with passion, but without purpose. Jesus made him aware that if you claim to love then you have to show it with a sense of responsibility, because the love of God is always responsible; always working to demonstrate the heart of the Father to the world.

As Easter people, Christ wants us to do more than just claim to love Him. He doesn’t want us to just congregate and fellowship with one another. Jesus took God’s love to the next level by dying on the cross, and it behooves on us to take action if we claim to love God. The love of God may take us to places we wouldn’t normally go. It might take us to people outside our circle of familiarity and into situations that may even make us feel uncomfortable. The love of God is always on the move to help, heal, and restore. 

Jesus restored Peter, and mandated him to go forth to show God’s love to the world by undertaking certain actions. What will it take for you to show forth Jesus’ love in our world today? 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to not just claim to love, but to live responsibly with the love of God.

Daily Devotional 4-22-20

A People Transformed
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

Butterflies are beautiful; no wonder people visit butterfly gardens to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. But as you know, the butterfly goes through various life cycles to finally emerge as a fully-fledged adult. Each stage in the lifecycle requires an internal change for the next stage to happen until the final stage.

Paul uses the same terminology for these internal changes that take place in the lifecycle of a butterfly to describe the changes that occur in the life of a Christian. That word is “transformation.” It describes an inner working of the Holy Spirit that produces outer expressions, or fruits. He encourages believers to not conform (follow the patterns of the world that is perishing) to this world. Instead, they should allow God to perform His transforming work in their lives. This transformation is crucial, because as Christians we live with the kingdom of God in view. God will renew the world and establish His reign. Life will be amazing; it will be free from sorrow and pain. The character and attitudes of people in this renewed world will reflect the nature of God. God wants us to live that kind of life in our present world, because Christ Jesus has brought that life to us. 

So, what changes ought to take place for your life to reflect the Kingdom of God? While these changes may seem difficult, they are not impossible. I am so glad that we don’t have to do the hard work, because we would keep failing. The Holy Spirit works within us to produce the fruits of the Kingdom, even as we yield to Him. 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to yield my members to you that my life would be pleasing in your sight. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-21-20

Believing is Seeing 
by Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas said. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.”  John 20:27-29

Put your food in the microwave and within minutes or even seconds it is ready to eat. Take an x-ray and you don’t see any rays with the physical eye but you can see the image on film. Send a photo from your phone to another phone and in seconds it’s done. What do all these have in common? While we cannot see the energy working in these situations, we the can see the effects. So, the fact that we can’t see something with the physical eye does not indicate its nonexistence. Instead, we should consider the effects of the subject.   

Thomas had the right to ask for evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. After all, the disciples saw Jesus and substantiated their claim of His resurrection. Note that Jesus did not rebuke Thomas when He appeared the second time in his presence. Instead, Jesus took “faith” to a deeper level. He said, “…blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.” In other words, believing is seeing. This counters the popular saying, “seeing is believing.”  

No one has ever seen the Holy Spirit yet we believe––not just in His existence, but more so in His relationship and work in the life of Christians and in the world. There are some instances God allows us to gather evidence, but for most part of your spiritual journey gathering facts before believing would be impossible. This is where faith comes in. Our faith is crucial in handling matters of life so that we can experience the blessings of God. And we can be confident about our faith not because of who we are, but the object of our faith, who is God. It is God who gives substance and validation to our faith. 

The only reason you can give to show that you can experience peace in this crisis is your faith in God. Blessed are those who have not seen what they are looking for, but believe that God is able to provide their needs. Don’t wait for the evidence; have faith in God, and you will receive the blessings God has prepared for you.   

PRAYER: When my faith seems weak, strengthen me to look up to you for strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-20-20

Keeping Focus 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Role models, mentors, and coaches serve very important roles in society. They help direct the course of life of others; they provide counsel and offer wisdom. Most importantly, using their own experiences as examples and gleaning from lessons in life, they offer encouragement to those learning to achieve something. They help those in their care to stay focus in order to attain their desired goal. 

Jesus lived a fully human life. He experienced the joys and sufferings of the human existence.  And, like many of us, Jesus had vision. There was a purpose attached to his earthly life, and He had to fight towards the finishing line. He had to cross the line to victory. Yes, He was God, but he had to deal with shame, pain, etc., to fulfill His assignment. We, too––as we fight the good fight with all of our might to run the race and keep the faith­­––are challenged on many fronts to quit. But remember, quitters never win, and winners never quit! Jesus had to keep His focus so that He could complete the call on His life.

We are in unprecedented times. And, with the attending negative energies, we are likely to grow tired and weary. It is important for us in this situation to focus on Jesus, who encountered and braved many obstacles to finish the race. We can trust in His protecting grace to keep us safe and peaceful during this time. He’s got us in His mighty hands, so let’s keep our focus on Him. Let’s keep focus on the blessings and positive energies around us, so that, we are able to honor God and relationships around us. Your faith is shining. Trust in Him!

PRAYER: In the midst of the distractions, Lord Jesus, help me to keep my eyes on you, so that I will not grow weary in my faith.

Daily Devotional 3-17-20

Have You Any…?  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”  They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” John 21:4-6

In one of His post-resurrection appearances, Jesus went to the beach early in the morning and found His disciples. He asked them if they had any food and they responded, “No.” As Lord and Master of His people, who provided for their needs, Jesus asked them to cast their net in a particular direction, and they caught fish. Does this sound familiar? Do you remember the morning when Peter and his friends caught abundance of fish after Jesus had used their boat? That miracle opened their eyes to recognize the Man who had just used their boat. And, they followed Him from that moment.

In this particular instance, after they caught fish, one of the disciples exclaimed, “It is the Lord.” This miracle led to the disciples’ recognition of Jesus. Yes, indeed, it was the Lord––The Lord who provides the daily bread of His people; the Lord who attends to the needs of His followers; the Lord knows the heart desires of His children. It is interesting to note that the supernatural catch of fish led to the recognition of Jesus by the disciples. Perhaps, sometimes God does some miracles to open our eyes to recognize who He truly is. We grow in our understanding of God with time. And, sometimes, it takes situations, especially hardships, to recognize deeper dimensions of God’s love for us. While we enjoy the divine provision, the crucial issue is to recognize the provider as the Lord, and worship Him. 

So, let me ask you, “Have you any…?  Jesus is willing to provide. Will you give Him the chance?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, may your blessings in my life lead me to recognize you as the Lord of all, and worship you, as such.

Daily Devotional 4-16-20

Living from Heaven
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God.  Colossian 3:1-4

Culture and worldview influence and shape our thoughts and actions. The resurrection of Jesus opened the life and culture of the Kingdom of God to Christians. We have become members of God’s family. And, just like our earthly families have their values, so does the family of God.

Paul encourages us to set our minds and hearts on things in heaven. In other words, he invites us to live our lives from a heavenly perspective. When Christ rose from the dead, we rose with Him. Therefore, we are citizens of heaven. And, the heavenly cultural values should shape and influence how we conduct our affairs on the earth. He is certainly not pleading for an other-worldliness in which the Christian withdraws himself from all the work and activities of this world and does nothing but contemplate eternity. But there will be this difference: from now on the Christian will view everything against the background of eternity and no longer live as if this world was all that mattered.

Eternity and heavenly perspective must become the lens through which the Christian must see the world. When this happens, the Christian will soon realize that some of the things he thought he could not live without are actually not that important. Things that the world thought important, he will no longer worry about. He will go on using the things of the world, but he will use them in a new way. He will, for instance, set giving above getting, serving above ruling, forgiving above avenging (Barclay).

Through the resurrection, the Christian relates to the world from heavenly perspective. He thinks through issues and responds from a heavenly culture, and not the earth’s view of things. So, the Christian lives in this world, uses the resource of the earth, but is shaped and influenced by the values of the kingdom of God.

What does this look like for you? Do all the values you uphold and share reflect the kingdom of God?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, help me to live my life from a heavenly perspective. Amen!

Daily Devotional 4-15-20

Resurrection and Confidence
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 1 Corinthians 15:12-14

Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, His disciples were very timid, without boldness, and showed the inability to handle crisis. Peter, understandably, denied Jesus thrice before the young girl during the trial. They could not perform miracles nor heal the sick. They could not even understand some of the parables of Jesus. And, that, I think, was okay. They were growing. I used to think the disciples were faithless cowards, until I faced my own challenges growing up as a Christian. 

But, after Jesus’ resurrection we see a complete “makeover” of the disciples. The same cowards have now become bold, assertive, full of conviction, and filled with the power of Holy Spirit. The Peter who couldn’t stand before a little girl can now stand before the council of the priests in Jerusalem. So, what made the difference? What happened to these people? What became the source of their faith, courage, and confidence?

The resurrection of Jesus, amongst many things, has become the very foundation of our faith. It is the bedrock on which we stand. Our faith, our preaching, our confidence, and our desire to serve the world with Jesus’ love through the preaching of the gospel and serving others is all predicated on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. It is that singular act that sealed the deal. 

We, too, can walk in this confidence just like the disciples and later apostles. Our faith is not empty. Our faith has a foundation─the resurrection, and content─the story of God’s love for the world. Living in a world filled with crisis can lock your faith down. Jesus could not be locked down by death, and our confidence cannot be locked down. We can live boldly with confident hope knowing that our savior has risen from the dead. We can be unafraid of tomorrow. We do not have to have all the answers to live a life of courage. God has given us the surest reason, through the resurrected Christ, to live confidently in these uncertain times.

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, help me to live boldly and confidently, as one with hope, faith and love. Amen.

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.