Separating Admirers from Friends (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 329

“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” (Luke 23:8, NKJV).

Admirers are shoppers. They are constantly shopping for pleasure and satisfaction. If you happen to possess what they like, they will cling to you. You become the object of their fascination. To the admirer, you are a beautiful and useful tool, but a tool nonetheless. You meet a need. In this sense, admirers can be manipulative, possessive and controlling. They have a deep need to mold you, if they can, to satisfy their expectations and to have you do their bidding.

 Moreover, admirers want to be entertained by you. If you lose your entertaining abilities or if someone more entertaining surfaces, they will let go of you. Because they are addicted to you, admirers need a constant supply of the thing which draws them to you. If supply ceases or dwindles, they must look elsewhere for satisfaction. The day you no longer meet their expectations, it’s over for you. That is what admirers do. And that is why they are in your life for a season. How long the season lasts depends on how long you can sustain their interest. Admirers are unstable. One minute, they love you; the next minute, they despise you.

Friends, on the other hand, have bonded with you. You are like a part of them. They see you as a soul to be loved not a tool to be used. You are like their twin brother or sister. Even when separated by thousands of miles, friends know their spirits are in communication. Friends do not need to manipulate or control you, because they are secure in their love for you and in your love for them.

Your mistake is not realizing the difference between an admirer and a friend. So, when the admirer suddenly turned against you, you got depressed because you thought you had lost a friend. The fact is, you did not lose a friend. You lost an admirer. And for every admirer who ceases to like you, there is another ready to fill the vacancy. Admirers are your fans, not your friends. Therefore, do not lose sleep over their actions. And do not make the mistake of depending on admirers for love. So long as they remain admirers only, they cannot love you. Make peace with that. One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand admirers.

We have said much already. Let us look briefly at our opening Scripture. Herod, the ruler of Galilee, was a big fan of Jesus. Note that. But he never got a chance to meet Jesus in person. One day, the opportunity came. When Jesus stood trial, Pilate sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:5-7). When Herod saw Jesus, the Bible says, “he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him.” In his excitement, he hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle for him.

But here is the crux of the matter. Herod admired Jesus because the latter was a miracle-worker. He was no friend of Jesus; nor was he interested in becoming one. He needed Jesus for entertainment purposes. For him, Jesus was a tool – a means to satisfy his craving for attention and entertainment.

For someone who was exceedingly glad to see Jesus, you would think that Herod would care about giving Jesus a fair trial. He was disappointed when Jesus refused to answer any of his questions. Of course, Jesus knew that Herod was no friend of His. Therefore, He denied him the pleasure of being entertained even by His words.

When Herod noticed that Jesus would not succumb to his wishes, this is what happened: “Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him . . .” (v. 11). One moment, Herod was exceedingly glad to see Jesus. The next moment, he was filled with contempt for Him. Was Jesus surprised? No. Herod was just being Herod, an admirer and not a friend.

To sum up: Knowing the types of people in your life will help you to adjust your expectations accordingly. It will help you to invest your energy where it matters. It will keep you from falling into relationship traps. Discern well. Know your friends, and stay blessed. Amen.

For further study1 Samuel 18:1-28 and John 6:10-11

Faith in the Unseen Jesus

Daily Devotional: Day 143

“Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him [Jesus], you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9, ESV).

Today’s devotional is meant to dovetail yesterday’s message. Recall that yesterday we learned something about how God doesn’t want us to make images and bow down to them. The Father’s desire is for us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and invisible, and He wants us to worship Him that way until the Day we see Him face-to-face.

You also will notice that the Son of God became flesh (visible) to save us from our sins; but after His resurrection, He ascended – body and spirit –  to heaven and didn’t leave us any physical representation of Himself on earth. He promised, however, to be with His Church always, albeit in an invisible manner. He further sent us the Holy Spirit (Who is also invisible). All of this tells us that God wants our worship to be based, not on visible images or some physical representations of Deity, but based rather on faith in the unseen Presence of God. True worship requires this kind of faith –  living faith.

If we base our worship on what we can see, feel, touch and smell, we’re walking by our senses, not by faith. The Word of God says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV, emphasis added). You probably recall the story of Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. He hardened his heart and insisted that until he could feel, touch and see the risen Christ, he wouldn’t believe He was risen from the dead. Later, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and He upbraided Thomas, saying, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NKJV, emphasis added). The blessing is for those who, without seeing, believe the word of faith. Feeling, seeing, touching, or smelling doesn’t require faith. If the Word of God proclaimed by believers is not enough for a person to have faith, but he demands to see, feel, touch and smell something before he believes, then Christianity isn’t for him.

Based on everything we’ve said so far, today’s opening Scripture makes sense. Look at it again. Peter describes the kind of faith which produces authentic worship. Writing to groups of predominantly Christian neophytes, he states that they have not seen Jesus, yet they love Him. He continues by saying, they do not see Jesus at the present time, yet they believe in Him and are filled with a joy so glorious and inexpressible. This is the meaning of living faith and the meaning of true worship. Therefore, if you need a man-made image or statue of Jesus to help you worship the Lord, you are practicing a different religion not Christianity.

The Father seeks worshipers who will worship Him is spirit and in truth, based on faith in His Word, not ‘faith’ in images and religious objects or articles produced by men. The Bible shows that one does not need to see Jesus (or contemplate any visible man-made images of Jesus) to believe in Him or love Him.  Our faith and our worship should, consequently, be based on an inner conviction produced by the living Word of God that is preached to us. And, when faith is alive, it will produce authentic worship and the fruit of peace, joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 14:17). Let’s worship the unseen Lord through living faith.

May the Lord bless and keep you today! Amen.

For further study: John 20:19-31

Released from satan’s Shackles

Daily Devotional: Day 137 

Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15-16, RSV).

At the beginning of His Messianic mission, Jesus announced His mission statement (cf. Luke 4:16-21). Part of His mission was to set captives free and to release all those who were oppressed by the devil. Jesus’ mission of deliverance included deliverance from both spiritual and physical maladies masterminded by satan. Today’s passage follows an incident that occurred in the synagogue.

On a certain sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. In the congregation was a woman who, according to the Bible, had a spirit of infirmity. As a result, the woman was bent over and count not straighten up – for eighteen years. Long story short, Jesus set her loose from the satanic bondage, and immediately the woman straightened up. At this, the ruler of the synagogue was deeply upset and reminded the congregants to avoid coming to seek healing on the sabbath (cf. Luke 13:10-14). But Jesus responded with a sharp rebuke and a reasonable defense of His action.

Look at today’s Scripture. You will see the word “untie.” Jesus said that on the sabbath each of the people untied their farm animals to get them water. Interestingly, they didn’t classify that as a violation of the sabbath law. Using that logic, Jesus explained that if even animals could be untied and led to refresh themselves, how much more should a human being – and a daughter of Abraham at that – whom satan had tied up for eighteen years be untied on the sabbath day. Do you get what Jesus is saying? Even animals are not tied up for more than a few hours. Yet satan – evil as he is – had tied up that woman for eighteen years (That’s about 157,788 hours of being bound!). It was time to untie the child of God and let her walk free

I want you to notice something profound about Jesus’ answer. Notice that Jesus’ explanation for setting the woman free centered around the sabbath. As you know, the word ‘sabbath’ means rest. The point is this: Jesus came into the world to untie you and thereby give you sabbath rest from satan’s shackles (the shackles of sin, addiction, demonic oppression, infirmities caused by evil spirits, fear, spiritual death, spiritual blindness, etc.).

I pray that if you have been tied in any way by satan, Jesus will have mercy on you this moment and unbind you. Amen.

For further study: Matthew 11:28-30

Did Jesus Teach Conditional Forgiveness?

Daily Devotional: Day 129

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV).

Today’s Scripture is a puzzle to many a Christian. Did Jesus really mean what He said? We received forgiveness for all our sins during our new birth, right? So, do Jesus’ words apply to us? If I stand in God’s presence to pray, and for some reason I don’t forgive those who have offended me, is Jesus saying God will not forgive me? Is Jesus saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional? Wait, I thought God’s love was unconditional.

Some find today’s Scripture text somewhat ‘incompatible’ with the grace of the New Covenant; therefore, they either ignore it or explain it away. They basically believe that Christians are exempt from what Jesus is saying. But should Christians think the above Scripture doesn’t apply to them?

To arrive at a sound conclusion, let us look at the Scripture one more time. Notice that there is no ambiguity in what Jesus is saying. He is not telling a parable; nor is He using a figure of speech. He does not insert an exemption clause that says, “What I am teaching applies to everyone, except Christians.” His words are as plain and direct as they can get. The hard truth is this: Jesus is teaching that the Father’s forgiveness is conditional. If you forgive, you will be forgiven. If you refuse to forgive others their trespasses, the Father, being a God of justice, will not forgive you, either. I know this goes against much of what we’ve been told in churches, but we do not have the liberty to overrule Jesus’ teaching. He meant exactly what He said, so we will do well to take Him seriously.

In fact, if there is a group of people to whom Jesus’ words apply the most, it is us Christians. Why? Because we have been forgiven much; we have received grace upon grace (cf. John 1:16); we have been justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (cf. Romans 3:23-24). Therefore, we, of all the people in the world, have no excuse to hold anything against someone.

Anyone who is born again will have no issue whatsoever with Jesus’ statement. When you are born of God, forgiving people from your heart comes natural to you. You forgive without even thinking much about it. Your heart is always free from harboring  grudge, bitterness and unforgiveness. The secret is the love of God which has been shed abroad in our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5). With this kind of divine love in your heart, there is no offense you cannot forgive; and there is no bitterness or hurt you cannot overcome. Forgiveness is simpler than we think. Let us be like our Father in heaven: merciful and forgiving.

May the Lord let His face shine upon you today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 18:21-35

Is Jesus Your Number 1?

Daily Devotional: Day 113

“He who loves father or mother more than Me [Jesus] is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37-38, NKJV).

Anything or anyone you love more than Jesus is your true god. It’s that simple. 

The love Jesus extended to us is radical. It is so radical that it defies human logic (see Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymn about God’s amazing love. Pay attention to the lyrics). Similarly, from those who wish to follow Jesus, He demands nothing less than radical love, i.e. a love that puts Jesus above all things and above all relationships – a love for Jesus so strong that it is ready to pay any price to remain faithful to the Master. It is at this point that Jesus truly becomes the Lord and King of your life. Jesus doesn’t want to be your second or third love. He wants to be the only King of your heart.

Jesus says that if you love father or mother more than Him, you are not worthy of Him. Also, whoever loves son or daughter more than Jesus is not worthy of Him. Finally, if you do not take up your cross and follow after Jesus, you are not worthy of Him. These are strong words coming from the loving Savior. Yet, He speaks truth. What do Jesus’ words mean? Jesus isn’t asking us not to love our family. His point is, if your love for your family collides with your love for Jesus, He expects you to choose Him over your family. Or if your love for your family appears more important to you than your love for Him, then you are not worthy of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to sacrifice our love for Him on the altar of our love for creatures.

In fact, if our love for anyone or anything begins to grow in importance over our love for Jesus, we have a decision to make: keep Jesus and let go the other love; or keep the other love and let go Jesus. We can’t have both occupying number 1.

And carrying our cross means our readiness to cheerfully bear the cost of following Christ. This cost can range from suffering, time, money and spiritual discipline to humiliation and rejection by people. Jesus bore His Cross cheerfully. He expects nothing less from His followers. If we grumble and whine, it doesn’t count for carrying our cross cheerfully. Put Jesus first always, if He is your number 1.

Pray to the Father about today’s message.

For further study: Mark 10:17-31