Jesus' Footprints

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Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.   In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up.   It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance.  A form was before my eyes (Job 4:12-16).

Sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?   What an eerie feeling it is to sense that something is in the room with you while you are sleeping.  It makes the hairs on your body stand up, indeed.

This night vision is not a work of fiction.  It is real.  It happened to a man name Eliphaz.  He was one of Job’s friends.  When he and two other friends found out about the calamities Job had gone through–losing his livestock, possessions, children and finally, his health, they went to see him.  They were so stunned when they saw the condition he was in–probably disfigured from the boils covering his body, they wept, and threw dust over their heads in deep mourning.  They sat with him in silence for a while until each of them began to speak to Job, assuming that he had brought his suffering upon himself because of sin.

Eliphaz shared the night vision he had.  It was used to illustrate his point that no innocent person has ever perished or the upright ever cut off, implying that Job was neither innocent nor upright.  However, we have read stories of the innocent and the upright being persecuted, martyred.  It was not up to Eliphaz to determine whether or not Job brought this suffering on himself.  Job didn’t need to hear these hurtful words.  He needed a friend.

Job’s whole experience shows us that God doesn’t do bad things to people–He allows it sometimes.  And we are not to judge others.  We can’t assume that they are suffering because of something they did. And that bad things happen to good people too.  And in the case of Eliphaz, people misunderstand who God is.  He believed that God was punishing Job when it was Satan who was responsible for these calamities.

Eliphaz believed that Job must have done something wrong and that for him to say that he was innocent, was like saying he was more righteous and pure than God.  Job was not attacking God’s character but was maintaining his innocence.  He knew that he hadn’t done anything to deserve what had happened to him.  The devil wanted Job to believe that God was punishing him and was trying to get him to curse him.  The spirit was either Satan himself or an evil spirit sent by him to distort a true picture of God and to destroy Job’s faith in Him.

The Bible advises us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Something else that stood out for me in the vision were the words, “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.”  This took place at night and it was in secret.  God’s doesn’t operate like this.  His truth is light and it is not secret.  We have to be discerning and test whatever new “light” we receive and see if it is in harmony with the Word of God.  

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2 Corinthians 10:12-18

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Too often Christians boast about all the wonderful things they are doing.  This was happening in the church in Corinth and that is why the apostle Paul addressed it in his second letter to the church leaders.  He wrote, “Oh, don’t worry; I wouldn’t dare say that I am as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, and measuring themselves by themselves. What foolishness!  But we will not boast of authority we do not have. Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you. We are not going too far when we claim authority over you, for we were the first to travel all the way to you with the Good News of Christ. Nor do we claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow and that our work among you will be greatly enlarged. Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places that are far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question about being in someone else’s territory. As the Scriptures say, “The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done.  When people boast about themselves, it doesn’t count for much. But when the Lord commends someone, that’s different!”

Paul is right.  When we boast we should boast about God.  We should be saying, “This is what God has done” or “God is a great God.  He has done this or that.”  We should always give credit where credit is due.  If God has done something wonderful, boast about it.  David in his psalms was always encouraging us to sing about the wonderful things God has done, to declare His wonderful works or to tell others how great He is.  We are to exalt God.  We are to brag about Him not ourselves and our accomplishments.  Without God we are hopeless—nothing.  We are great only in our eyes and maybe in the eyes of others.  But what good does that do us.  The Bible says we should be humble. Jesus never boasted and He had every reason too.  He was humility in the flesh.  God doesn’t like boastful people.  Humility is a quality He prefers and encourages.  Satan is boastful.  He thought he was great, so great that he wanted to be like God.  That led to his downfall.  Pride goes before a fall.  When we do great things, give God all the praise.

It is better to have God commend us.  He commended Job.  He commended Moses.  Instead of boasting and comparing your accomplishments with others’ boast about God.  People admired famous people like Princess Di and Mother Theresa because although they were wealthy, they were humble.  They helped others.  God is not impressed with people who have the most degrees or plaques hanging in their offices, the most possessions, the most talents or anything like that.  He is impressed with those who put others first and go out of their way to help people and not make a show of it.  Be the kind of person God wants you to be.  Humble.

When I read chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Job, I felt as if I was reading poetry.  The Lord’s words as He spoke of His creation and sovereignty are beautiful and rich.  We learn a lot too.  We learn that the ostrich is not loving toward her young.  She treats the, as if they are not hers.  We learn that God deprived her of wisdom and understanding.

He sends lightnings where He wants them to go.  They obey His command.  He hunts the prey for the lion and fills the appetite of their young.  He provides the food for the raven when its young cry out to Him because of lack of meat.  He knows when the wild goats give birth and the hinds calve.  He provides homes for the wild ass, and the eagle who at His command builds her nest up high.  Her home is on the rock where she can see her prey.  It is by God’s wisdom that the hawk flies south.  Every creation, all of nature responds to their Creator. God is reminding Job who is in charge and He is drawing his focus away from his situation and unto Himself.

God wants us to know that just as He knows every detail of the lives of the animals and nature that He knows every detail of our lives.  Just as He hears and responds to the cries of the raven’s young and just as He provides for the lions, just so He does for us.

Instead of questioning and wondering where God is during times of trouble and hardship, remember how He has taken care of us in the past and trust that He will in the present and in the future.  It is during these hard times that we ought to remember that God is in absolute control and that should give us some comfort and reassurance.

It is interesting that God speaks to Job in a whirlwind while with Elijah, it says, “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind, an earthquake; and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice” – 1 Kings 19:11, 12.

God speaks to us in different ways—in whatever way that will grab our attention and by whatever means.  The way He responds to us depends on the situation we are in.  Sometimes as in Job’s case we are so caught up in our woes and troubles that we fail to hear the still small voice and when we have other voices clamouring for our attention that makes it even harder.  So, God has to do what He has to do to get our attention.  And other times we are able to hear the still small voice once we have stilled our own thoughts and blocked out the external noises and distractions.

Be thankful when God seeks your attention.

Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering- Hebrews 10:23

Faith barriers hamper God’s plans for our lives.  These barriers can be doubt, insecurity, ignorance and fear.  Moses was insecure and doubted his ability to do what God called him to do.  Job was ignorant of the magnitude of God’s power.  Jonah was afraid of failing God.  Peter was afraid when he started to sink as he made his way across the water to Jesus and fear made him deny knowing Jesus and fear made the other disciples desert Him.  Intolerance made Paul persecute the Christians.  Let’s examine each of these spiritual barriers and how the Lord dealt with each of them.

When Moses said to God, “O My Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”  The Lord’s anger kindled against him and He told Moses that his brother Aaron who could speak well would do the talking.  “So he shall be your spokesman to the people.  And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.  And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.” (Exodus 4:13-17)  So, God dealt with Moses’ doubt and insecurity by sending Aaron with him to help him and equipping him with the rod, which would be used to perform miracles.  After God assured Moses that he would not have to face Pharaoh alone, he obeyed Him.

When Job was tested, he was confused.  He couldn’t understand why these terrible things were happening to him when he had been a righteous man all his life.  All that he had was taken away from him and he was covered in sores.  His life was in shambles and he wanted to ask God why.  “I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with me.” (Job 10:2)

Later in the scripture, God answered Job.  “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?  He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”  God reminded Job that He is the creator of all things and that everything under Heaven is His.  (Job 40:1-34)  Job sees God in His true image—God almighty, creator of everything in Heaven and earth.  He realised that God can do everything and that nothing is denied Him.  Job knew God by what he heard and believed but for the first time in his life he’s really seeing God.  His eyes are opened to the majesty of God and he is sorry for the things he had said before.  He realised that he had no right to question God or his love for him.  Instead, he should focus on God and remember that He is in control. 

In the beginning Job blessed God and held fast to his integrity.  He accepted the bad things that were happening in his life but his faith soon turned to doubt as he focused on the situation rather than on God and he began to question God.  When we concentrate on our troubles instead of concentrating on God, that is when we start to doubt Him and question His love for us.  God was there all the time but Job did not feel His presence because he was so caught up in self-pity and despair.  He was more focused on the flesh that he neglected the spirit—the Spirit of God who was with him.  God dealt with Job by reminding him of whom He is and that no one contends with Him.  We should worship Him and praise Him no matter what.  Once Job learned this, he was blessed with more than he lost.

Jonah was afraid of failing God but God used him to relay His message to the people of Nineveh when He could have done it Himself.  God desires to use people to do His wondrous works through, not only to show the people he is trying to get through to but, also the people he is using what He is capable of.  He wanted to show Jonah how merciful He is by sparing the lives of the wicked people of Nineveh when they repented of their sins.  He wanted to teach Jonah about tolerance because in those days, the Jews and the Gentiles did not get along.  God wanted to demonstrate His love and acceptance of all people.

The disciples forsook Jesus and fled because it was written, “I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7)  Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear.  But, before this happened, the Lord said to Peter, “Simon, Simon!  Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)  Jesus knew that Peter’s faith would be tested and He prayed for him. 

Peter was called to minister to the Gentiles.  “Behold, three men are seeking you.  Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”  He restored Peter’s faith as He promised and sent him to give the Gentiles the same gift as He gave to the Jews.  Jesus enabled Peter to strengthen the brethren who glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”  (Acts 11:1-18)

As a result, the disciples spoke to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.  When the church in Jerusalem heard about the news, they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.  He encouraged them and a great many people were added to the Lord.  Barnabas went back to Tarsus and brought Paul back to Antioch with him.  There they taught a great many people and it was there in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-30)

God used Paul a non-Christian to convert other non-Christians.  Paul was there when Stephen was stoned.  He consented to his death.  Paul wreaked havoc on the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.  Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, Paul went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus so that if he found any who were of the Way, men or women, he might take them to Jerusalem.  It was on this trip that his life changed forever.

Jesus spoke to him and Paul, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  Jesus replied, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Paul did as he was told.  He received the Holy Spirit and immediately began to preach in the synagogues confounding those who remembered how he used to destroy all the people who preached in Jesus’ name.” (Acts 7:58, 8:1, 3, 9:1-21)

When we obey God or keep our eyes above, our faith is strengthened.  Our responsibility as Christians is to trust in God and allow Him to work wondrous things in our lives, use us to fulfil His plans.  God uses all sorts of people to work through as outlined in the examples above.  No one is immune to God’s power or love.  He desires that we obey Him and answer His call.  He equips us with everything we need to do His work and He is with us every step of the way.  Just as He promised Moses, Peter and Paul that He would be with them, He is with us today.  And like Job, we should praise Him in good times and in bad and unlike Jonah, we should not allow prejudice to hinder us.

Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” – 2 Corinthians 1:3

God comforts us so that we could in turn comfort other people.  When we have lost a loved one or going through a divorce or a long-term relationship has ended, we turn to God and he comforts us.  He helps us to get through these tough times.  When someone close to us goes through something we have experienced, we are equipped to help that person.

Paul relates in his letters to Corinth, “For indeed when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side.  Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.  Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)  God comforted Paul when he learned that the people in Corinth had repented and returned to a Christian lifestyle.  False teachers who had undermined Paul’s work there had besieged them.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul defends his Ministry. “I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters.  For some say, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing’.  Such people should realise that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.   If someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  But I do not think I am he least inferior to those ‘super apostles.’  I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge.  We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.  And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in things they boast about. “(2 Corinthians 10:9-11, 11:4-6, 12.)

Paul did not allow the attacks on his ministry or the hardships he faced to hamper him.  He did not allow himself to be swallowed in self-pity.  He continued to do God’s work.  He focused on the work rather than on the circumstances.  And he reiterates this; “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:  in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots,; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and  yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” – (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)

Paul in turn offers these comforting words to the people, “Become complete.  Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

We cannot do anything without God.  God is our Helper, Provider, Comforter and all that we have comes from Him.  God blessed Job with more than he had before he was tested.  God blessed Abraham with a son in his old age; God gave Hannah the son she prayed for; God protected David from Saul and His grace was sufficient for Paul.  America could not have survived the vicious attack it suffered on September 11th without God’s help.  God strengthen the nation and healed it.

Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Sometimes work can be frustrating because of unexpected problems, setbacks and the volume.  If we remember that we’re working for God, it would make the burden easier.  It would encourage us to work harder, do our best and tackle any problems that crop up.  We should be pleasing God not our supervisor or trying to earn praise from men.

It was through God that I got my current job and when I do my best I am glorifying Him.  Doctors, nurses, caregivers work for God when they care for the sick.  Teachers work for God when they educate.  The Salvation Army, Covenant House, Red Cross andUnited Waywork for God when they help people.  Churches and ministers work for God when they spread the Word.  No matter what type of job we’re doing we should do it well—for God.

As Paul advises, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)

When we do our work for God, rather than men it will register in our demeanour.  We will be satisfied, positive, and able to deal with stress, more committed, and have better and more productive relationships with the people we work with.

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in Heaven.”  Jesus spoke of a master who gave his servant talents according to each one’s ability.  All went out and gained more talents except one who buried his talent.  When we are given talents we need to invest them, use them, not waste them or hold on to them.  Talents can range from computer knowledge, education, communicative skills and other office skills that can benefit the employer and the company.

The servants who went out and gained more talents are employees who use their knowledge and skills to increase productivity while the one who buried his talent is an employee who has no ambition or creativity or is afraid to take chances or is content with the way things are and doesn’t like change.  This parable shows us that when we work hard and make contributions, we are praised, acknowledged for our efforts and in some instances get a raise or promotion.  The master was fair to all of his servants.  He gave those who deserved it many things to rule over—in other words, he gave them raises.  To the one who buried the talent, the master took it away and gave it to someone more deserving.

The relationship between employer and employee should be give and take.  Employers should be just and fair.  “Slaves (employees) are to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive

Yesterday on our way to work, I read Matthew 8 and verse 20 caught my attention.  I wanted to reflect on it more.  It states:  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  This was Jesus’ response to a scribe who came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus didn’t say “Follow Me”.  He told him that unlike the foxes and birds who had homes, He didn’t.  Jesus traveled from place to place.  He slept out in the open for the most part and sometimes stayed with friends.  He had no place to call home which makes sense since His kingdom is not on this earth.  He didn’t come to put down roots or to set up a kingdom.  He came to teach, heal and sacrifice Himself.

At first I wasn’t sure what He meant when He answered the man’s request to follow Him so I read some Bible commentaries which helped me tremendously.  Jesus was letting the man know that following Him was not a walk in the park.  It was not a glamorous life.  Discipleship carried with it a cost than not many are willing to pay.  This scribe was making a rash decision.  Was he interested in joining Jesus because of His fame?  Jesus was popular among the crowds.  People flocked to see and listen to Him.  He performed miracles.  He taught with authority that made the people marvel.  Jesus was akin to a celebrity in His day and that may have been what attracted this scribe.

This reminded me of the wife of Zebeedee’s request about her sons sitting on either side of Jesus in His kingdom.  Jesus asked if they were willing to take up the cup.  Do we want the glory but not the price that comes with it?  Peter and the other disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus.  They were in it for the long haul.  When the other disciples deserted Jesus because they couldn’t handle His teachings (John 6:60-69), Peter and the others stayed.  They didn’t take off.  Had this scribe joined Jesus’ ministry, at the first sign of trouble he would have flown the coup.

Jesus wants us to know what we are getting ourselves into.  Remember He knows our hearts.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knew this scribe and that is why He made it clear to him what being one of His disciples entailed.  Jesus’ was all about spiritual things not material things.  He had no riches, no home.  His ministry was supported by the donations of women.  He got around on foot.  Christianity is not about being popular or wearing fancy clothes or driving expensive cars or mansions.  It is about reaching out to people and sharing the Gospel.  Christ is the One who should be in the spotlight not the preacher or the church.

We don’t follow Jesus because it’s the popular thing to do.  We follow Him because we believe in Him and what He did for us on the cross.  We want to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus doesn’t want us to be spontaneous when it comes to following Him like the scribe.  He wants us to think it through, know what discipleship entails and make our decisions based on that.  He wants us to come into this with our eyes wide open and not have preconceived notions of a glamorous life.  We must be serious, not rash when it comes to the decision to follow Jesus.

One Bible commentary referred to the scribe as the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

Few as there were of the scribes who attached themselves to Jesus, it would appear, from his calling Him Teacher, that this one was a “disciple” in that looser sense of the word in which it is applied to the crowds who flocked after Him, with more or less conviction that His claims were well founded. But from the answer which he received we are led to infer that there was more of transient emotion–of temporary impulse–than of intelligent principle in the speech. The preaching of Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so.

“Wilt thou?” replies the Lord Jesus. “Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head.”

How affecting is this reply! And yet He rejects not this man’s offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow Him. Only He will have him know what he is doing, and “count the cost.” He will have him weigh well the real nature and the strength of his attachment, whether it be such as will abide in the day of trial. If so, he will be right welcome, for Christ puts none away. But it seems too plain that in this case that had not been done. And so we have called this the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

It’s true.  Jesus did not reject this man.  He did not tell him that he couldn’t follow Him.  All He did was let him know what the real deal was.  It’s like the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus but when Jesus told Him what he would have to give up, the desire to become a disciple was gone.  He chose his riches over Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t reject us when we want to follow Him but He wants us to examine our motives.

When we look at the other disciples, we see people who were serious about following Jesus.  Peter, Andrew, John and James left their families to join the ministry.  Matthew left his job to follow Jesus and to top it off, he threw a banquet for Jesus and invited his friends so that they too could experience what it was life to meet Jesus.

Don’t be rash in your decision to follow Jesus.  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Ask yourself tough questions.


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