Daily Devotional 3-31-20

Highest Priority  3/31/20
By Julie White

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

If loving God is not our highest priority in life, we’re missing our purpose. No other dream or desire or search for significance will satisfy. To love and be loved by Him are paramount.

But how do we love Him well? Is it a feeling of affection? Worship services and songs? Simply obeying Him? All of these are part of the upward flow of love, but they aren’t enough. It is possible to feel affection for God without any sense of commitment, to worship and sing songs without feeling any affection, to obey without love. Jesus said that those who love Him will obey Him, but not everyone who obeys Him loves him. In fact, this may be why obedience is such an enigma in scripture. In those who loved God, it was heaven on earth. In the religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day, it was nauseating. The motive made all the difference. Obedience isn’t the key; obedience that flows out of love is.

In order to love God well, think of how you show love to any other person. It involves deep affection, being attentive, developing the same passions, and taking that person’s words seriously. In whatever manner you show heartfelt love to others, apply that to God. Cultivate affection. Stoke your feelings. Pay attention to His every move. Notice His desires and interests. Spend time talking to Him. Care for His heart. Whatever God says, take it seriously. Follow His instructions, not because you have to but because you’re passionate about pleasing Him. And, if anything gets in the way of loving Him, treat it as an intruder on your highest priority. Every day you love God well is a day you have fulfilled your purpose in life.

Prayer: Lord, I want to love you with all my being; my emotions, my thoughts, my words, my will, my actions. Help me to maintain this desire as my highest priority.  Help me to love You well.

Daily Devotional 3-30-20

FocusBy Julie White 

And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your eyes on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you have learned and received from me; everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Research indicates that we talk to ourselves at the rate of approximately 1,300 words per minute. What we believe is partially determined by the programming we absorb from our early childhood up to the present. 

But once we trust Christ, we are illuminated by the Holy Spirit to understand more and more of the Word of God. This sanctifies and transforms our thoughts and behavior as we renew our minds on a regular basis. We learn to evaluate each circumstance with beliefs and self-talk that look at the larger picture of God’s purpose and love in everything. What you allow into your mind determines what comes out in your words and actions.

In their very difficult circumstances of having been beaten and thrown in jail, here is what Paul and Silas did: Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening, (Acts 16:25).

In Psalm 42:11, the psalmist says this: Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again, my Savior and my God! 

While enduring the cross, suffering the most horrible, painful death ever devised by sinful man, Jesus looked at the people responsible for His suffering and said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing, (Luke 23:34).

Prayers, hymns, praise, and forgiveness. Ask God to help you focus your mind on what is good and pure. Challenge the stinking thinking, your misbeliefs that may be stifling your ability to focus on Christ! Replace them with the promises in God’s word. Allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit to focus on things that are excellent and worthy of praise; to think like God wants you to think.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me focus on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable and put into practice all I have learned and received from You.

Daily Devotional 3-27-20

A Sure Foundation
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won’t collapse, for it is built on rock. “But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on sand. For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”                Matthew 7:24-27

Christ has given us all we need, including His word, to guide and protect our hearts and minds. His words play many significant roles in our lives. It serves as a guide, a weapon against Satan’s deceptions, a discerning agency, and a foundation that holds our lives in place.

There are times that circumstances choose us. In fact, sometimes the more we even try to be careful the more we find ourselves chosen by battles in life. That’s to say, we cannot have control over everything all the time including dire situations. And, our faith in Christ does not necessarily exclude us from the vicissitudes of life all the time. There are times God will shield us from the storm; other times He will walk with us through it. Whatever be the case, He has provided a sure foundation: His word, to anchor us in life.

At the end of his maiden Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded with a parable about the importance of trusting, following, and holding onto His words. He also emphasized the stormy nature of life. Our faith will be tested by storms we do not choose, but the good news is that if we follow the word of God we will come out with a smiling soul and spirit. The storm may swirl around us but will never get into us if we hold onto the word of God. So, Paul said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Colossians 3:16) so the storms of life do not steal your inner peace. And, when this happens, we find stability even when all around is shaky.

I pray you make the word of God your daily companion, and a sure foundation in times of adversities.

PRAYER: When my soul is weary and anxious, let me find rest and hope in your word. Amen.

Daily Devotional 3-26-20

Healing Relationships
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. Romans 8:28

In the past few days, I have been praying to God to help me see beyond our current global crisis.  This is isn’t an act of insensitivity; it’s an act of faith to see God and hear Him in the midst of this crisis. I desire to lift somebody’s faith by helping to shift focus from the crisis to Christ.

I am so glad we serve a God who isn’t the author of evil! God does not employ evil and wickedness just to teach a lesson. This is the reality: we live in a broken world; we live in a created order that for a long time has become susceptible to the suffering and evil of all kinds.   Even plants and animals suffer. Our world is so accustomed to suffering that God had to partake in our suffering through His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.  And, because this is so, He is able to come along sufferers and help them. When evil and suffering happen, God works His plans through them to make us become more like Him. And, I believe, one of the areas God may be inviting us to evaluate is our relationships.

All of a sudden, the name callings have ceased; no longer are we talking about how divided we are; political opponents are working with good level of cooperation and collaboration. I am wondering where the sense of “I am better than you” is in the midst of this crisis. Recently, someone indicated to me “my neighbors are usually nice, but they have become super nice.” I called one elderly lady, and with glee, she elaborated how the neighbors in her apartment are checking on her several times in the day. 

It looks like our common enemy has become a tool to teach us how to relate, show kindness, show compassion, and love one another. 

Maybe it’s time for you to forgive somebody who may not “deserve” your forgiveness. May be this is the time to see our common good and work towards reconciliation. Instead of vilifying people who disagree with you, bless and pray for them. May be this is the occasion for fighting couples to mend their relationship. The list could go on and on. God can work some great miracles if we will fit ourselves into His plans in this crisis. 

PRAYER: Lord, help me to see the common good of humanity that I may partner with you in making your love known to others.

Daily Devotional 3-25-20

Shifting Priorities
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” John 12:24-25 (The Message)

It has taken me sometime to bounce back to observe lent. I believe it was natural to take pause and focus on meeting my needs and those I am called to serve during this pandemic. As I reflect on the current global happening, I see the basic and foundational truth come to the forefront.  First, our world is fragile. Since this pandemic is not a respecter of persons, economies, political power, etc., it has caused the entire world to run for cover. The rich as well as the poor are observing all the necessary precautions. Developed countries as well as developing countries, and even underdeveloped countries, are putting measures in place to safeguard their people. Indeed the world is fragile. The good news; however, is that in the context of this fragility we can look up to someone beyond this world who is dependable and can hold us securely in His hand. That Person, I believe, is Jesus.

Second, community is indispensable. We have always lived in a society of no real connection.  Social isolation is even an epidemic, despite our social media connections. For a long time busy schedules have deprived us of organic communal life. We have lived our lives with very limited margins. But, now, our current reality has created room for us to organically connect with our families. Parents are spending more time with their kids and other family members. For some, this is the new norm and they’ve got to learn how to live this new life. In the midst of this crisis, having your community by your side provides comfort. Spending time playing, chatting, and just being present with each other relieves anxieties and fears. 

Therefore, we may have to die to certain things we thought we could not live without (actually, we may have just realized we can live without them) and visit our priorities so that we can live organically as God intended us to live. 

Where has Christ been in your life? Where has your family been?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, grant me the grace to see life anew. Help me set the right priorities so I may live a true life.

Daily Devotional 3-24-20

Prayers for the World, Part 2

…Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:7-8, Message.

Let us join Christians around the world in these prayers, adopted from Christianity Today:

  1. For families with young children at home for the foreseeable future: God, help mothers and fathers to partner together creatively for the care and flourishing of their children. For single mothers and fathers, grow their networks of support.
  2. For parents who cannot stay home from work but must find care for their children: God, present them with creative solutions.
  3. For those in need of regular therapies and treatments that must now be postponed: God, help them to stay patient and positive.
  4. For business leaders making difficult decisions that affect the lives of their employees: God, give these women and men wisdom, and help them to lead self-sacrificially.
  5. For pastors and church leaders faced with the challenges of social distancing: God, help them to creatively imagine how to pastor their congregants and love their cities well.
  6. For college and university students, whose courses of study are changing, whose placements are cancelled, whose graduation is uncertain: God, show them that while life is uncertain, their trust is in you.
  7. For Christians in every neighborhood, community, and city: May your Holy Spirit inspire us to pray, to give, to love, to serve, and to proclaim the gospel, that the name of Jesus Christ might be glorified around the world.
  8. For frontline health care workers, we thank you for their vocational call to serve us. We also pray:
  • God, keep them safe and healthy. Keep their families safe and healthy.
  • God, help them to be knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, as well as the changing protocols.
  • God, help them to stay clear-minded in the midst of the surrounding panic.
  • God, deliver them from anxiety for their own loved ones (aging parents, children, spouses, roommates).
  • God, give them compassion for every patient in their care.
  • God, provide for them financially, especially if they fall ill and are unable to work.
  • God, help Christians in health care to exhibit extraordinary peace, so that that many would ask about the reason for their hope. Give them opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers!

Daily Devotional 3-23-20

Prayers for the World 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

…Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:7-8 (Message)

Let us join Christians around the world in these prayers, adopted from Christianity Today:

  1. For the sick and infected: God, heal and help. Sustain bodies and spirits. Contain the spread of infection.
  2. For our vulnerable populations: God, protect our elderly and those suffering from chronic disease. Provide for the poor, especially the uninsured.
  3. For the young and the strong: God, give them the necessary caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease. Inspire them to help.
  4. For our local, state, and federal governments: God, help our elected officials as they allocate the necessary resources for combatting this pandemic. Help them to provide more tests.
  5. For our scientific community, leading the charge to understand the disease and communicate its gravity: God, give them knowledge, wisdom, and a persuasive voice.
  6. For the media, committed to providing up-to-date information: God, help them to communicate with appropriate seriousness without causing panic.
  7. For consumers of media looking to be well-informed: God, help us find the most helpful local information to equip us to be good neighbors. Keep us from anxiety and panic, and enable us to implement the recommended strategies, even at a cost to ourselves.
  8. For those with mental health challenges who feel isolated, anxious, and helpless: God, provide them every necessary support.
  9. For the homeless, unable to practice the protocols of social distancing in the shelter system: Protect them from disease, and provide isolation shelters in every city.
  10. For international travelers stuck in foreign countries: God, help them return home safely and quickly.
  11. For Christian missionaries throughout the world, especially in areas with high rates of infection: God, provide them with words of hope, and equip them to love and serve those around them.
  12. For workers in a variety of industries facing layoffs and financial hardship: God, keep them from panic, and inspire your church to generously support them.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers!

Daily Devotional 3-20-20

He Cares
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 43:1-2

I invite you today to a promise of God made to Israel that we can claim and hold unto to in times like this. Two promises I see in this text: the promise of divine presence and divine preservation. 

God promises not to coach us on how to get out of difficult situations or turbulent times; instead, He will be with us in those circumstances. The Holy Spirit is with us in these challenging times.  And, we trust that He will take us through one day at a time. And, if God is with us, who or what can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

God also promises to preserve us. Yes, we may be drained emotionally, physically, and mentally; but God will preserve our soul! For His promises are yes and Amen. Hear these words in your spirit: “but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.  For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,  or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us,” ( Romans 8:38-39).

Daily Devotional 3-19-20

When Life Seems Paused 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

For many people, their regular schedule has been altered, if not halted. Daily rhythms and routines have been tweaked in small but significant ways. And, some may not know how to respond to these change. Having your kids at home all day at this time can be unnerving, especially when spring break plans have been canceled. The limited movement can also be very discomforting. Now, we all have to make new plans to adapt to the changes, after all, life must go on. All this can be very overwhelming.

The Psalmist recognized his vulnerability to being overwhelmed, but He was also cognizant of the leadership of God. He, therefore, entrusted his life to the guidance of the presence of God during turbulent times. When he wasn’t sure of the next plans, and the future seemed quite unknown and uncertain, he leaned on the Rock of Ages for safety and refuge. 

Allow this storm to carry you to the arms of Christ. Let Him be at the center of it all. This can be an opportunity to spend quality time with your family and those close to you. You can create some sabbatical moments for yourself to could help refocus on God. It can be an opportunity to mend some long-standing relationships. So, call some people and have really important conversations with them. This, I believe, is a time to come together. Make something out of this downtime. It could be a gift in the storm.

PRAYER: Gracious God, help us keep a positive attitude in this season. May we have the right heart and responses to those around us.