Daily Devotional 2-20-20

Take Heed  2/20/20
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10: 12

Recently, I was leading a bible study at a homeless facility for men in Wichita. I love to fellowship and study with the men there, because they come hungry for the word of God. In the course of the discussion, one of them indicated to the group that he was once a pastor. He has had many ministerial experiences and talked about all the certificates he has. As he shared his heart out, I said a prayer quietly in my heart, “Lord, help and hold me by your grace through and through.” 

Our text today is an extract from the counsel that Paul was offering the Corinthians. He started by recounting the history of God’s grace with Israel as they journeyed in the wilderness. They saw God’s miracles that delivered them from Egypt; they passed through the Red Sea; they ate of the spiritual food—manna, and drank from the spiritual rock—Christ, who was following them.  However, not all of them pleased God, and they were struck. These stories have been written to serve as an example for us so that we may not fall, said Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

Friends, it is one thing to start a journey, but it’s a completely different ball game to finish that journey.  “The end of a matter is better than its beginning,” said the wise teacher (Ecclesiastes 7:8). It is better to recognize your weaknesses and trust and depend on God to keep you than to think you are invincible. Many Christians who have started their journey well have fallen by the wayside due to many circumstances. 

Paul invites us not to be prideful and arrogant about our spiritual uprightness. Instead, he encourages us to learn from the examples of the Israelites who tasted of the goodness of God yet fell, so that we may walk humbly and completely trust and depend on God, as a child completely relates to a parent.

Many forces in this world are seeking to undo us. Our struggle is real, our enemy is complex and strategic, and he knows when and where to attack. But, the good news is that we have victory in Christ. We are not at the mercy of this enemy; instead, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8).

Therefore, take heed, and rely on God’s grace to stand.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, I ask you to keep from falling, by your grace. Amen.

Daily Devotional 2-19-20

Every Christian’s Battle
By Velma Tim

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

As Christians, we are always living in battle. We constantly find ourselves in the tension between good and evil, light and darkness, and flesh and the Spirit. Finding ourselves on the better part of this tension is the ideal desire and hope for all Christian, but we are constantly in battle. The reason for this is that we live in a mortal body that is susceptible and desires what is contrary to the Spirit. However, we are not left without gracious help. The Holy Spirit empowers us, as we desire to please Him.

God shows us the way out of this tension into victory when He invites us to walk in the spirit.  He says walking in the spirit is the only way to live out the victory Christ won for us on the cross. How do we walk in the spirit? Psalm 1 shows us a possible response:

“Blessed is the one, who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”

Walking in the spirit simply means living according to the word of God. When we allow the word of God to shape and mold our lives, we make choices that please and honor God. Friends, God has spoken to us. His voice is in the scriptures. Whenever you read the scriptures, you are hearing the voice of God.

When we listen to the counsel of the world, the lies of the enemy, etc., we will find ourselves in doubt, fear, insecurity and all works of the flesh. But, when we delight in God’s word and meditate on it day and night we experience victory, hope, and joy in every aspect of our lives.

PRAYER: Lord, help me make your word the food for my soul.

Daily Devotional 2-18-20

Christ-Like Freedom
By Velma Tim

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

As a people, we often boast about our nation being a place of freedom, and we all celebrate that privilege. This freedom, though amazing, came at the expense of the lives of great men and women who sacrificed their lives. Our freedom also comes with responsibilities and when we ignore them we put our freedom and that of others in jeopardy.

In our scripture, Paul writes to a group of believers who are struggling to live out their freedom as Christians amidst false teachings. Paul affirms their calling to freedom, but reminds them that their freedom is not without boundaries. These boundaries are to help the Christian fully enjoy the freedom they have received, fulfill their purpose, and glorify God in the process. He encourages them to employ their freedom in Christ to serve others in love. In other words, we are liberated to serve Christ and others. We should never employ our freedom for selfish reasons.

True freedom has boundaries, and as we all continue to grow in our relationship with God it is important that we learn to celebrate the boundaries God places in our lives, because they are meant to help us truly enjoy this freedom.

PRAYER: Lord thank you for the freedom that I have in Christ Jesus. Help me respect and honor the boundaries to glorify you and bless others.

Daily Devotional 2-17-20

Products of Grace and Mercy
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.                        Deuteronomy 8:17-18

A favorite preacher of mine said, “There is always somebody is better than you.” It is so true and so humbling. What we have does not necessarily commensurate with our giftedness. There is nothing that we have that was not given by God, (James 1:17). What do you have that you did not receive? In a culture that promotes stardom, there is the likelihood to count your blessings and attribute them to the skillful and smart employment of your talents. 

God, knowing the deceitfulness of the human heart, warned the Israelites not to forget Him in their prosperity. He cautioned them because in the context of settlement in the Promised Land, and enjoying peace on all sides, the Israelites were likely to forget about Him. You see, God knew them, thus, His call was right and timely. 

The warmth of wealth and accomplishment is so powerful and soothing that it can unknowingly sweep us away from God. Many people have rejected God because they look at their life and think they have all they need. They can do away with God, they say. Yes, you went to a good school, got good grades, worked hard, and it is paying off. A more intelligent person than you does not have a fraction of your blessing. Some are born into poverty, but you find yourself in a nation where you can climb up economically.

Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am,” (1 Corinthian 15:10). He attributed the success of his ministry to the grace of God. Yes, he worked hard, but he also recognized that God gave the harvest of his labor. Such a humble posture keeps us dependent on God. It does not only recognize God, but reverences Him as the source of life. To such people, the blessings of God cannot be privatized. They extend and share it with others.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to keep the right perspective of your blessings in my life.

Daily Devotional 2-14-20

Living as Saved
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then the Lord said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. Exodus 3:7-8

I love the stories of the Israelites in the Old Testament. They reveal the richness of God’s love for His people. Those narratives are metaphors for us, Christians, today. They also lead us to appreciate and appropriate the love of God in Christ. For example, the story of the Israel’s exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land is a metaphor for the Christian’s salvation and deliverance from sin and the world into the kingdom of God. 

The Israelites had been in slavery in Egypt for centuries. One word, bondage, summarized their life. They were hopeless, with no sign of rescue from the wickedness of their masters. They lived and raised their families in bondage so much that suffering became normal to them. Each day came with the expectation to be hurt by the very economy they suffered to build. Not feeling pain was an occasional blessing! Worse off, they had no idea of the true God of their ancestor Abraham. 

Then God commissions a deliverer, Moses, to lead the Israelites from Egypt. And, in His words to Moses, He said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated…” You see, the Israelites did not know God, but God knew them. Before He gave them the law He called them “my people.” He gave them the law after they were saved from bondage. God wanted them to live as his treasured people, so he gave them the laws. The same is true for Christians today.  God saved us not because we obeyed some rules, but because we simply believed and accepted Jesus Christ as our savior and Lord. We respond, then, to God’s love with the way we live. Thus, belief leads to behavior.

My dad loved me wholly when I was a kid. He knew when to discipline and pamper me. But, as a child I did not understand why sometimes he did not allow me to do what I wanted. Now I understand. When he did not allow me to have my way, He was preventing me from trouble.

Friends, the only way we show that we have been saved by grace is how we live our lives. Do not see God’s invitation to live right as burdensome; see it as a way of responding to His love in Christ Jesus.  

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to live as one saved from sin. Help me to lift up the weak and not condemn them.

Daily Devotional 2-13-20

Relationship, Not Rituals. 2/13/20
By Velma Tim

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

When I was young in my faith in Christ, I had very abstract concepts of God. Yes, I knew God loved me but that was not a reality to me. I knew there was something called “a relationship with God” but that was just a mental accent. I could not see the practicality of it. To me, God was far removed from the daily realities of my life. Now, I have grown in my faith, to some extent, and can fully grasp the idea that God longs for a relationship with us. God greatly desires a relationship with us because even He is a Person who can be grieved, (Ephesian 4:30). 

Religious rituals had been an integral part of the Jews. They had different rituals to perform at different times. In fact, some of the rituals came with strict instructions to ensure their efficacy.  But, when Jesus came to the scene, His teachings did not only wreck the minds of the Pharisees but challenged and changed their long-held religious concepts. In this particular text, Jesus indicates that in the kingdom of God relationship is more important than a ritual. Jesus literally says relationship is first, ritual is second. 

Note that Jesus did not snub the ritual of giving. He only placed it in the right order relative to relationship. Therefore, prayer, bible study, fasting, giving, and any other spiritual discipline are all good, but they must not take the place and importance of a relationship. The rightfully observed spiritual discipline and ritual will prepare and position us to honor God and the relationships around us. Thus, in the kingdom of God, spiritual disciplines are not the goal; it’s the relationship with God and others.

Never get so spiritually high that you cannot connect with another human being.

I hope that love for one another will become the reason and the motivation for all we do in life.  How we relate to a person is more important than how rigorous and regular we may pray. I encourage you to let the constancy of your rituals lead to the constancy of your love for one another.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to become more loving in my pursuit of life.

Daily Devotional 2-12-20

A Sure Foundation 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27

Life, they say, is not fair. And, yes, this rings so true if you have lived long enough on this beautiful planet. You may have encountered many challenges, and you may have even asked, “Why me, God?”  Well, Jesus did not promise a trouble-free faith. In fact, He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). 

In the kingdom of God, obedience distinguishes the wise from the foolish. He identifies the wise person as someone who walks according to the word of God. Wise people are excited about a word from God. They are more concerned about how the word transforms and shapes their lives.  They submit and adhere to the full counsel of the word of God. He who is wise finds assurance, safety, and peace in the word of God, as opposed to the unwise who seeks peace outside of Christ and His word. The unwise, according to Jesus, is only a hearer and a non-practitioner of the word. An invitation to the obedience of God’s word may seem harsh and cold to the one who builds his life in the sand, but the doer of the word of God surely builds his life on Christ––the sure foundation for our life.

Whatever we seek to build, be it, marriage and other relationships, finances, social significance, job, ministry, family life, etc., it will be tested through stress, discouragement, disappointments, anxiety, sickness, loss, disconnections, etc.  The one who walks with the word of God shall be upheld, but the disobedient shall crumble. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9), because we have a sure foundation—Christ Jesus. 

You may behave contrary to God’s word some of the time, but don’t make disobedience a lifestyle. Arise, repent, accept Christ’s forgiveness and live the beautiful life He saved you to live.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, free me from myself into obedience in you

Daily Devotional 2-11-20

The Bliss of Broken Heart 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

The word meek is one that is not favored. It has almost assumed a negative posture. It carries with it an idea of weakness and cowardice. It paints a picture of an ineffective creature. But, Biblically, this is not so. In fact, God described Moses as a meek person in saying, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth,” (Numbers 12:3). Yet, Moses was a very strong and effective leader. 

Praus, translated as meek, was one of the great Greek ethical words. It was used to describe an animal that has been domesticated and trained to obey a command. It was the word for the animal that has learned to accept control. Therefore, importing this idea into our contemporary sense we may say: blessed is the person who is God-controlled; blessed is the person who yields to the invitations of God; or blessed is the person who submits their instincts, impulses, and passions to the control of the Holy Spirit. It is these kinds of people that Jesus said would inherit the earth. They have their senses under discipline. These people are not necessarily weak or wishy-washy. They are not cowards. They are not fearful. They just have their senses under control. They know when to express the right emotions. They could be very angry, but their anger is expressed at the right time for the right reason.  

It is no wonder that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). God does not desire the unwise and unguided letting loose of all sorts of emotions and instincts. Paul saw the necessity of meekness in ministry and life, and he practiced it. Thus, he said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified,” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

You will be tempted. Someone might say something terrible about you and you might desire to retaliate. The pressure might be all on you and you feel like exploding and letting it all out in ways that do not honor God and the relationships around you. Just remember, blessed are those who have their instincts and passions under God’s control.

PRAYER: Lord, when I am overwhelmed by negative emotions, grant me the grace of meekness, to honor you and relationships around me.

Daily Devotional 2-10-20

The Bliss of the Destitute
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Poverty is not a word we want to be associated with. The poor are often isolated, if not ostracized by society. In fact, the wisdom of the poor is even despised. So, we work hard to get ourselves in a decent place in society. Therefore, it is quite surprising that Jesus would begin His teaching with an emphasis on the richness of the poor in spirit. 

In Greek, the word poor means utter/absolute destitution. It describes poverty beaten to its knees. Also, in Hebrew, poverty describes a person who has no earthly resource, and as a result, has put his trust in God. Therefore, putting the two meanings could read something like, “blessed is the person who has realized his/her helplessness and has put his/her trust in God.” This poverty has two sides of blessing: a complete detachment from things, and an attachment to God. Such poverty knows that life does not consist of the abundance of possession. It knows that true happiness and security do not come from things. “The man who is poor in spirit knows that things mean nothing and that God means everything,” (Barclay).

I do not think that Jesus calls actual material poverty blessed. It is not a blessing to live in slums, and not have enough to eat. The state of homelessness resulting in people sleeping under bridges with no basic human provisions cannot be described as blessed from a scriptural perspective.  The kind of poverty which is blessed, is the poverty of the spirit: when a person realizes his/her utter lack of resources to meet life and finds help and strength in God. Blessed is the person who utterly depends on God!

Independence from God is a curse and sin, and no child of God must embrace it. Our children come of age and leave our homes to start their own lives. While some find this freeing, others can’t imagine it. But, in our spiritual walk, we cannot grow out of our dependence on God.  Spiritual poverty will keep you connected to God, who is the Source of your life. Therefore, stay connected and dependent on Him.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the humility to realize that I am what I am by your grace. May I live to depend on you, and depend on you to live. Amen.