Tuesday, August 24, 2010


How’d You Do That?!?

Chapter 3, verses 4 & 5 say a couple of interesting things that could be easily overlooked if we aren’t careful. “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” (NAS)

The first thing to notice is how quickly the people of Nineveh began to repent. Verse 3 tells us that it takes three days to walk across the city, yet Jonah was only into his first day’s walk when they were already repenting!

The second thing is that Jonah is no great preacher! He only says eight words, he has only one point to make, and he does not even elaborate on it with any jokes or illustrations! Had he been in my Homiletics class at Phillips University, he never would have passed! So, obviously it was not Jonah’s great preaching abilities that produced repentance in120,000 people including even their king. So, what was it then?

Some have speculated that word of what happened to Jonah had preceded him to Nineveh and that the people were already starting to repent before he even arrived. Others say that his appearance after being in the belly of the fish for three days was enough to cause people to repent! Well, he probably was quite a sight: hair and skin bleached by stomach acids, perhaps some blisters on his face and hands, smelling like vomit! But, come on now; this was Nineveh! These were a fierce and greatly feared warlike people; not easily moved by what they saw and heard. So what caused them to repent so quickly and fully?

It must have been something about the presence of God on Jonah! As we see throughout Scripture, whenever God’s presence shows up, the first thing that happens is that people become aware of their sin --- His light exposes it. Then people either choose to run (like Jonah did the first time) or they fall on their faces before Him and repent. No wonder He’s always saying, “Fear not!” It was obviously God’s presence there with Jonah that affected the people so dramatically.

So, what did Jonah do to merit God’s presence with him so strongly? How did he earn it? The truth is, he didn’t! We cannot merit or earn God’s presence. When Jonah repented and obeyed, he began to walk in the anointing of God’s presence. It didn’t matter how eloquent he was or how he looked, God’s presence was all that was needed to touch a city!

And you know what? The same is true for each of us. When we are confronted with and touched by His presence, and we choose to repent and obey Him in whatever He wants from us, we may discover that the anointing of His presence is with us, also! Try it; you’ll like it!

Next: Part 6

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


About, Face; Forward, March!

I find it interesting that it took THREE DAYS in the belly of the fish before Jonah finally repented! I mean, I’ve known some really stubborn people in my life (myself included), but you’d think that five or ten minutes in a fish’s stomach would have been more than enough time to solicit repentance from even the worst of us! So why did it take THREE DAYS for Jonah to repent? Well, most likely, Jonah began to cry out to God immediately after he was swallowed, but it probably took that long before GENUINE repentance took place!

In the early 1970’s I was an Adult Probation Officer for Harris County, Texas (the Houston area), and I had a caseload of over 100 people placed on probation by the District Court for some kind of felony offense. Back then, Possession of Marijuana was considered a felony offense, so my caseload consisted of people on probation for everything from possession of an ounce of marijuana to committing murder, and everything in between. I placed a couple of Christian posters up in my cubicle, and I took advantage of every opportunity I could to witness to those who had to report to me on a regular basis. Several actually gave their hearts to the Lord during that time, but there were also quite a few who got in trouble again while on probation and wound up back in jail. Some of them would then write to me from jail and describe how they had begun praying and asking God to forgive them; then they would ask me to help them get out! They were experiencing what I began to refer to as a “jail-house conversion.” Oh, they were truly sorry, all right; sorry they got caught; sorry they were paying the consequences of their actions; and they were trying to “plea-bargain” with God! You know what that is, right? It’s when you say something like, “God, if you’ll just get me out of this, I promise that I will ___________ (fill in the blank)!” Of course, none of us has ever done anything like that, right?!?

But that is not genuine repentance. Genuine repentance is something that begins in the heart. This is what Jonah was expressing in chapter 2. He wasn’t looking for an escape; he was speaking out of a heart that had truly changed! True repentance begins when we see our sin for what it really is in all of its ugliness, and we are truly sorry for what we have done. The Greek word in the New Testament that we translate as “repent” is the same word that would have been used in the military to give the command, “About, face!” It means that we must first make a 180 degree turn IN OUR HEARTS, and that we then begin to walk it out in our lives (“Forward, march!”).

The walking-it-out part is where our repentance is made complete. Without it, our “repentance” is just faith without works which, as Paul tells us, is useless (Jas.2:20 NAS). It is at this point that we must rely heavily upon the grace of God (Grace = God doing in us, for us, with us, through us, or to us what we cannot do ourselves.)! Without His grace we try to change and fail, then we fall into condemnation and eventually give up. Or, if by some chance we manage to walk part of it out in our own strength, we fall prey to pride and need to repent again! However, when we ask for His grace to walk out what has transpired in our heart, then He gets the praise and the glory as we see our lives being changed!

When God saw that Jonah had truly had a change of heart, He responded with His grace and caused the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry ground! Jonah now had the opportunity to walk out his repentance!

Next: Part 5, HOW’D YOU DO THAT?!?

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Part 3: Can God Use THAT?!?

When Jonah fled from God’s presence, he went down to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. Obviously, no one can hide from God, and Jonah’s sin not only put him in jeopardy, but also everyone else on board the boat when the storm God sent threatened to sink it. At first the sailors had no clue as to why they encountered this storm, but they were so terrified by its ferocity that each one began to pray to his own god. When this didn’t work, they cast lots to see who was responsible for the calamity, and the lot fell on Jonah. After Jonah admitted that he was the source of their problem and told them that the only way to resolve it was to throw him overboard, they still tried to row through the storm because they didn’t want to kill him. When they finally admitted that there was no other way to escape death themselves, they relented and agreed to throw Jonah over. Jonah 1:14-16 then says, “Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased." Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”

Did you notice the change that took place? The sailors forsook praying to their old gods and began to pray to the Lord, and when they saw the sea grow calm, they apparently turned their hearts fully toward Him! God used Jonah’s disobedience (and the way He dealt with it) to reveal Himself to others!

So, Ron, are you saying that God can use a believer’s sin (be it disobedience, rebellion, or whatever it may be) to bring about something good? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying! Consider Samson as another example. His lust after foreign women (and especially Delilah) was totally against the law of God, yet God used it to bring defeat to the Philistines! Or what about that rebellious, self-serving prophet Balaam who wanted to be paid to prophesy bad things against Israel, yet God forced him to prophesy blessing instead?

Or what about me? While I was attending college in the late ‘60’s, I gradually slid farther and farther away from a close relationship with the Lord and engaged in activities that I much regretted later. On one occasion, I was attending a going-away party for some friends who had just graduated. As was the custom at such events, alcohol was abundant, and everyone (me included) was freely imbibing. At one point in the evening, some of the guys began making toasts, and one of my friends raised his glass and offered a toast to me, thanking me for introducing him to the girl he was soon to marry. Before I even had time to think about what I was saying, I responded with, “Yeah, well, you think that was good, some day I’ll introduce you to Jesus!” I guess everyone was too drunk to even notice what I had said, but my friend kind of smiled at me funny, and everyone went on with the party. As for me, I couldn’t figure out why I had said that, especially at a time like that, and in the condition that I was in. As far as I knew then, he was not yet a believer, but I didn’t even take time to follow up and actually witness to him … too ashamed of the hypocrisy I had been living, I guess. Well, after everyone went their separate ways, we fell out of contact with each other, and it was probably ten years later before I stumbled upon him again; and guess what … he was a pastor of a church somewhere in Texas! When I called and talked with him, he told me that what I said to him that night continued to work in him until he finally gave his heart to the Lord and eventually wound up in full-time ministry! In spite of my backslidden state, God had still used me to plant something in someone else that eventually helped get him into God’s plan for his life!

Now, does that in any way imply that what I was doing was O.K., or that Jonah’s disobedience was not all that bad, or that Samson’s sin was overlooked by God, or that Balaam was not still a rebellious prophet? No! What it does say is that God can redeem something out of any situation, no matter how bad it may be! So, when we find ourselves asking, “Can God use THAT?!?” The answer is, “Yes!” And when He does, it does not justify our sin, but it showcases His mercy!

Next, Part 4: About, Face; Forward, March!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Part 2c: That Can’t be God!
A number of years ago, when I was pastoring a church in Irving, TX, I saw a report on the news about a church in Houston that had received a package in the mail with no return address; and when the secretary opened it, the package blew up and injured her severely. A few days later, a large thick manila envelope came to our church, addressed to me, but with no return address. Well, great man of faith that I was, I immediately presumed that it was probably a bomb! After several hours of debating with myself over whether or not I should open it, if I should call the police, or if I should just throw it away, I finally decided to call a friend and get his opinion. He quickly calmed my fears and deflated my ego when he simply said that neither I nor the church was significant enough for anyone to want to send me a bomb! So I went ahead and opened the package (still a bit cautiously, I must confess), and what I found was a study workbook that I had ordered a few weeks earlier and that I was really looking forward to reading! I was quite relieved and very thankful for two things: 1) that I had not called the bomb squad, and 2) that I did not allow my fear of the “unknown” to cause me to miss out on receiving something that I wanted very much!

How many times have we shied away from God’s presence because of some freaky-looking manifestations that we witnessed in others, or because of horror stories we heard others tell, or because we allowed our imaginations to torment us with strange things that might happen to us in His presence? How many times have we looked at something that we did not understand and said, “That can’t be God!” and turned our backs, not only on what we saw, but also on Him? How many times have we missed out on something really good that God had planned for us to experience in His presence because we were afraid of the “unknown?”

Now, please don’t get me wrong! I am not in any way suggesting that everything that has been passed off as “from God” really is something that He did! But what I am saying is that we should not just automatically rule something out because it doesn’t fit into our understanding of what God does or what He is like. Many people in the Bible experienced things in God’s presence that were definitely outside of their paradigms! Think about what Moses must have thought when his rod turned into a snake; or what Aaron thought when he saw Miriam instantly covered with leprosy; or Jonah when he was swallowed by the huge fish; or the disciples when Jesus cursed the fig tree for not having figs, and it wasn’t even the season for figs; or what the early church thought when Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead; or Saul when the Lord knocked him to the ground and struck him blind! All of these people experienced something in God’s presence that was outside their paradigms; and besides that, there was no “scriptural precedent” for any of it! Someone may respond, “But back then God was establishing scriptural precedents that He no longer moves outside of!” If by that statement you mean that He does nothing now that He has not already done somewhere in Scripture, then you are trying to force Him to fit inside your box! The true scriptural precedent that He was setting for us to understand is that He is totally unpredictable and that He will NOT be made to fit into anyone’s box! If He never moved outside our paradigms --- in other words, if we could keep Him in a box and make Him predictable --- then He would not be God!

O.K., I know that some of you are thinking about some very specific things that you have witnessed or heard about that you would NEVER want happening to you! Tell me, do you believe (as I do) that God always has a purpose in everything that He does? If so, then it stands to reason that you would also believe that everything He sends your way is for your good, right? Then, whatever He causes to happen to you is because you need it! Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about. One time when my wife was enjoying His presence, she began to laugh uncontrollably. This went on for about 45 minutes, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop laughing! Afterwards, she felt a bit embarrassed by it and could not understand why God had done that to her. But a couple of weeks later she suddenly realized that the ever-present feelings of condemnation that she had suffered with for years were gone! God had removed them from her while she was on the floor laughing! For me, during that season when we were enjoying what we called “the river” of His presence, I would nearly always experience what appeared to be drunkenness in that I would weave and wobble when trying to walk or even while sitting in my chair. It was really embarrassing, but I realized later that God was dealing with an area of pride in my life --- I was always wanting to “look good” in front of others. I needed that experience! Whatever God has waiting for us in His presence is something we need!

But isn’t it possible to get deceived and experience something that is not from God? Yes, it is possible; I have seen it happen, and you probably have, too. But the way I understand it, that only seems to happen when we seek after some kind of EXPERIENCE or when we pursue MANIFESTATIONS instead of simply desiring to be in His PRESENCE! Things DO happen in His presence, but if we put the emphasis on those things instead of on Him, we make ourselves more vulnerable to deception! What I try to stand on is what Jesus said in Luke 11:11-13, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" There are two very important things to see here: 1) God will NEVER give us a counterfeit of anything good that we are asking for, and 2) what we should be asking for is more of the Holy Spirit in our lives instead of experiences and manifestations! It is through His Holy Spirit that we experience His presence, and in His presence we will experience only what He has planned for us!

Does that mean that we will always ENJOY everything we experience in His presence? No. Sometimes His presence produces conviction, Godly sorrow, and repentance. Or sometimes He wants to use some kind of experience to deal with something in our lives (like my pride). It may not always be a “fun” time, but it always bears some really good fruit! We need whatever it is that He has for us in His presence. And, yes, whenever we seek to come into His presence, we are facing the possibility of encountering something we have not experienced before, but let us not allow fear of the unknown to keep us away from that which He desires for us there!

I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it in The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children are first hearing about Aslan from the Beavers:

But shall we see him?” asked Susan.
“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

No, His presence is not a “safe” place for the areas of our lives that need to change, but it is definitely a GOOD place!

Next, Part 3: Can God Use THAT?!?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Part 2b: I Shall Not be Moved!

     I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
     I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
    Just like a tree that's planted by the waters,
    Lord, I shall not be moved.

Please forgive me for taking this out of context, because the verses to this song speak of a steadfast commitment to Jesus and His Word. However, the chorus, taken by itself, makes me think about a lot of Christians I have known who have exchanged a steadfast commitment for a stubborn resistance! If you are a leader, and you want to see just how “Christian” your followers really are, suggest some kind of major change. Before long, you will hear a lot of “I shall not be, I shall not be moved” being sung by many (if not most) of them! Now, obviously, the younger the group you lead and the shorter the time that they have been together, the more flexible they will tend to be with change; but even with that group you will at the very least encounter some reluctance on the part of some. Why? Because people tend to resist change; and the more so the longer things have been a certain way before change is proposed!

People resist change for one or both of two basic reasons …

1.) Change rocks their boat!

2.) Change is going to cost them something!

1.) Change DOES rock the boat! It forces us out of some or all of our comfort zones, and we like being comfortable, so we tend to resist change! We like our food a certain way, we like our home a certain way, we like our schedule a certain way, we like our relationships a certain way, and on and on. Why? Because we get used to it that way, and it becomes our place of refuge and security … we feel “safe” there! And what really amazes me is that we can get that way about things that, in reality, are not all that great in themselves or that are possibly even downright bad! I mean, I can understand struggling a bit with leaving a nice home and a great job to spend your life on the mission field in some foreign country where you will feel completely out of your element, but struggling with making a two-week mission trip to Mexico because you don’t want to miss “Survivor,” … I mean, come on now! O.K., I know I’m stepping on some toes here (mine included), but let me ask this question: How many times have we missed out on what God wanted for us because we were unwilling to let go of something we’re “comfortable” with in order take on something different?

2.) Change ALWAYS costs something! Getting married means that you now share your space with someone else. Moving to a new town means finding a new church, new friends, a new school for your kids, and so on. Your kids growing up and moving out means an empty nest. A new direction for your church may mean a new style of worship. Revival means that you may have to accept people into your church who are different! A new pastor for your church means adapting to a new style of leadership. A deeper relationship with the Lord means giving Him more control of your life and letting go of that “pet” sin that you thought He really didn’t care that much about. Sometimes the prospective change is attractive enough that we are willing to pay the price without much hesitation, but quite often we count the cost and say, “No! I shall not be moved!” And, once again, we miss God.

So, what does all this have to do with avoiding God’s presence? Well, deep down we instinctively know that His presence seeks to produce changes in us, with us, for us, through us, or to us; and since we tend to be uncomfortable with change to begin with, then we’re not at all confident that we’re going to like the changes or be willing to pay the price that they will require … so, we avoid His presence! And what we are REALLY saying by avoiding His presence (because of our resistance to change) is that we do not yet fully trust Him to be the Lord of our lives! We still doggedly hold on to the idea that WE know what’s best for us! What foolish arrogance! Why do we have such a hard time believing that the One who created the universe and created us individually just the way He did, does not also know what we’re best suited for and what is best for our lives? If we could simply embrace the truth of Jer.29:11, then we would hunger after the changes that His presence brings and actively seek after Him!

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jer.29:11, NAS)

Next, Part 2c: That Can’t be God!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Part 2a: Just as I Am …

Just as I am, without one plea,
     but that thy blood was shed for me,
     and that thou bidst me come to thee,
     O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Whenever I think back upon the times over the years when I watched the Billy Graham crusades on TV, the one thing that ALWAYS comes to mind is the singing of “Just as I Am” during the invitation and seeing hundreds of people come forward to give their lives to Jesus! There was something about the message conveyed in the preaching and in this song that caused people to believe that they REALLY COULD come “just as they were,” and that they would find acceptance and forgiveness in the presence of the Lord. And that’s exactly what they found! And they discovered that being in His presence was a good thing! In reality, all of us experienced that same open-armed acceptance when we gave our hearts to the Lord … and we discovered that His presence was good!

So, what changed? What causes us, at times, to believe that instead of finding love, acceptance, and forgiveness in His presence, we will encounter judgment, rejection, and punishment? It’s usually because we have become convinced that, in His presence, all those areas of sin and weakness that we still struggle with will be exposed, and He will then find ample reason to judge, reject, and punish us; so we avoid His presence because we cannot stand the thought of being rejected by Him!

This is nothing less than the great deception of condemnation! Deception takes a little bit of truth (we really DO still struggle with some things), then adds a lot of lies to that truth. This is where condemnation comes in. Condemnation points the finger at US and convinces us to believe lies such as these: that God couldn’t POSSIBLY love us because we CONTINUALLY blow it; that we will ALWAYS let Him down; that we will NEVER fully overcome the things we struggle with; that we will NEVER amount to anything useful to God; that we might as well GIVE UP; and on and on ad nauseum! Romans 8:1 tells us the truth about all this --- that there is no longer any condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus! So, then, let us reject those thoughts and feelings of condemnation and come into His presence, not by way of any special merit that we have to earn somehow, but by the blood of Jesus that made it possible in the first place!

But, you may ask, isn’t there something about His presence that DOES reveal our sins and failures? Yes. Why else would Isaiah say, when he found himself in the Lord’s presence, "’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty’" (Isa.6:5)? However, what we MUST understand is that God does not expose our sin in order to condemn us; He exposes our sin in order to reveal His grace to us! The next two verses of Isaiah 6 give us the rest of the story: “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’" What happens in His presence is that He exposes our sin in order to set us free from it!

This amazing love that drew us to Him in the first place is the same amazing love that keeps on inviting us into His presence over and over again, even now! Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (NIV). Let us not AVOID His presence because we still struggle with things, let us SEEK His presence because we still struggle with things!

Just as I am, without one plea,
     but that thy blood was shed for me,
     and that thou bidst me come to thee,
     O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Next, Part 2b: I Shall Not be, I Shall Not be Moved!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Personal Note:  Sorry it's been so long since I last posted!  Our life-direction has been drastically altered over the past 6 weeks, so I have been a little distracted.  We're not sure what God has in store for us next, but we're confident that it will be in line with Jer.29:11 (NAS)!  I will try to be a little more consistent in my postings now.  Thanks!

Part 2: My Little Runaway, Run, Run, Run, Run, Runaway!

Over the years I’ve always thought that Jonah was running from the assignment that God had for him because he knew how fierce the people of Nineveh were, and he feared for his life. However, that’s not what it says in Jonah 1. In verse 3 it says that He was fleeing from the presence of the Lord (NAS). Then in verse 10 Jonah confirms that he was doing that very thing! While it is obvious in chapter 4 that the assignment was PART of the reason he ran, the MAIN thing that he was trying to get away from was God’s PRESENCE!

Now, before we start criticizing Jonah too severely, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. Most of us have probably, at one time or another (some of us more often than others), found ourselves trying to “avoid” any really close contact with God. Not that we don’t want Him in our lives, we just want to keep Him “at arm’s length” for awhile. Why do we do that? Because sometimes His presence makes us uncomfortable; perhaps even a bit fearful!

Well, that puts us in the same category as most of the people in the Bible who suddenly found themselves in His presence or the presence of one of His angels. Why would the angels say, “Fear not,” unless the people they appeared to were manifesting fear or discomfort in some way? It is a very common, normal human reaction to feel some degree of fear (at least some of the time) when we find ourselves in the manifested presence of God, especially when He shows up unexpectedly or presents Himself to us in a new way.

Then WHY does the prospect of being in His presence make us uncomfortable or fearful at times? Usually, it’s because of one of the following reasons:

• Fear of exposure and rejection

• Resistance to change

• Fear of the unknown

I will deal with each of these in the following posts.

Next, Part 2a: Just As I Am

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Recently in a small group Bible study we were looking at the book of Jonah. As we did so, I began to see (from a fresh perspective) some things in there that were an encouragement to me. I trust that some of them will encourage you also!

Part 1: Jonah Who?

In reality, very little is known about Jonah. In Jonah 1:1 all we are told is that he is the son of Amittai (whoever that is). In 2Ki.14:25 Jonah is mentioned as the prophet who prophesied that Israel would re-take lands that they had lost (which they were later able to do under King Jeroboam), but it does not say when he spoke this. It also says that he was from Gath Hepher, which means that he was of the tribe of Zebulun. Interestingly, there is not too much known about the tribe of Zebulun, either, because it is mentioned only infrequently in the Bible. In the book of Jonah, he is never referred to as a prophet, per se. In fact, the mission that God has for Jonah is to go to Nineveh and “preach” or “cry” against it, not to go as a prophet and give them a “word from the Lord.” So, it is very likely that, at this time, he was not yet recognized as a prophet by anyone! He was a relatively unknown man from a fairly insignificant family/tribe. Then, why did God choose him?

I believe that God chose Jonah because he was so much like you and me --- in other words, he was very much human! Apparently, he was not rich, not famous, not from a prestigious family line; and he had some very obvious weak spots in his character! He chose him, not because Jonah was so good, but so that He could show forth HIS goodness through him!

In Deu.7:7,8a (The Message), we are told that God chose all of Israel for much the same reason, “God wasn't attracted to you and didn't choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love…”

And in 1Cor.1:26-31 (NIV), Paul writes, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Wow, put it all together and it means that there is hope for ALL of us! In spite of who we are, who we were, where we’ve come from, what we look like, whether we’re young or old, whether we’re rich or poor, whether we’re strong or weak; or even how many obvious character flaws we still struggle with, GOD CAN STILL USE US! So, be encouraged! If you’re alive and kickin’, God still desires to help you fulfill the plans that He has for you! Just remember, it’s not because of who YOU are; it’s because of who HE is in you!

Next: Thoughts on Jonah, Part 2

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better. Thanks!

Part 9: Was it worth it?

This may seem like a strange question to ask, but think about it for a minute. Caleb paid a pretty hefty price before he could have his own personal inheritance in the Promised Land, and by the time he got it, he was 85 years old! Once he built his house, planted his crops, gathered his livestock, or whatever else he may have done, he probably didn’t have very many years left to enjoy it! It almost seems unfair!

But before we determine whether or not it was worth it, let’s take a closer look at Hebron (the city and surrounding land that was given to Caleb):

• After Lot chose the land around Sodom, and after God then promised all of the land to Abraham and his descendents, Hebron is where he and Sarah settled.

• It’s the first place in this new land to which God sent him where Abraham built an altar to the Lord.

• It’s where both Abraham and Sarah died and were buried, and then Isaac; and later on Jacob was carried out of Egypt to be buried there.

• It’s where Isaac and Jacob also lived and raised their families.

• It’s where the spies found the cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on a pole between two men.

• It was designated as one of the cities of refuge when Joshua divided up the land.

• The city, itself, was later given to the Levites as part of their inheritance, but the surrounding land stayed with Caleb and his descendents.

• It’s where David was anointed as king over Judah and where he reigned for seven and a half years.

• It’s where all Israel came at the end of that time and anointed him as king before he moved his throne to Jerusalem.

Pretty significant place, it seems! And while I’m sure that Caleb knew its history, there’s no way that he could have known ahead of time that it would be one of the cities of refuge and part of the Levites’ inheritance; or that it would one day be so important to a future king by the name of David. Yet, it is obvious that he sensed something special about that specific area, and that “something” drove him to pay the price he did and to settle for nothing less. It didn’t really seem to matter to Caleb how much time he would be able to enjoy it; he was doing it for something far more important than what he would get out of it --- he was doing it for his descendents and for the Kingdom of God! If you could go to Heaven and ask him right now if it was worth it, I’m sure he would answer that it was; but I also believe that if you had asked him that question when he was on his deathbed, even then he would have said, “It was worth everything I paid and much, much more!”

Let us not become disheartened when we find ourselves paying a bigger price than we expected before we are able to inherit our promises. It always seems to hold true --- the bigger the price, the better the prize! I find it interesting that the gestation time for a rabbit is only about four weeks, while for an elephant it is almost two years! The elephant DEFINITELY pays a greater price than the rabbit, but look at the difference in the size of the babies!! I don’t know about you, but I’m holding out for “elephants!” So, will it be worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!!

Note: This is the last installment of Thoughts on Caleb. I trust that you found something in there somewhere that somehow encouraged you. If you did, thank the Lord; if not, feel free to erase it from your memory. Blessings!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better. Thanks!

Part 8: Oh, by the way …

O.K., now it’s finally time for Caleb to have his portion. I mean, the land is pretty much subdued, and Joshua is distributing everything; so, Caleb gets his now, too, doesn’t he? Yes, he does!!! Caleb reminds Joshua of what God and Moses promised him, and Joshua (in so many words) says, “Go for it!” So, after forty-five years of waiting and paying the price, Caleb is finally given his inheritance! End of story! And they all lived happily ever after … right?

Well, not exactly … you see, there is this one little problem, Caleb. Somehow it seems that when the Promised Land was being conquered, some of the inhabitants of Hebron failed to be driven out. So, legally the land is yours; you just have to take care of a few little giants before you can inhabit it, that’s all!

So, here it is. The final installment still had to be paid. Caleb would have to face the giants that had laid claim to his personal promise and drive them out! Was Caleb up to the challenge? Absolutely! Remember what he told Joshua?

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." (Josh.10b-12)

And that’s exactly what he did! He defeated the giants and took possession of his promise!

We must also realize that giants are camped out on our promises, daring us to come and drive them off! And what I have found is that these giants are usually those that know us best, the ones that have repeatedly exploited our weaknesses in the past and have caused us to fail more times than we care to remember. They are our own personal demons, the ones assigned specifically to us, that MUST be confronted and defeated if we are ever to come into everything that God has for us! The devil has placed them there (1) because he knows that if we acquire our promises it means that the Kingdom of God is advancing even farther into his domain, so he must try to stop us; and (2) because these particular giants represent his best possibility of keeping us from taking what is legally ours to possess.

In order to deal with them, we need to understand that their tactics of attack are almost always basically the same. First, they target our greatest present and/or past weaknesses and try everything possible to get us to succumb to them once again. For example, someone who has really been working hard at overcoming uncontrolled outbursts of anger may suddenly be cut off in traffic, be treated rudely by his cell phone agent, find out that someone is spreading malicious rumors about him at work, get short-changed at the burger joint, and have his wife get on his case about leaving the toilet lid up --- all in the same day --- and it’s the same day that started off with the clear sense that something really good was about to happen! Coincidence? Not hardly! And if we fall prey to their attacks, then those same giants jump all over us with condemnation, making us feel totally unworthy of our promises, in hopes that we will give up and accept defeat!

Second, if they fail to get to us with the direct frontal assaults on our weaknesses, they shift gears and come at us with accusations thrown at us by others, trying to get us to believe that we have not yet fully overcome the very weaknesses against which we have made great progress! For example, several years ago the Lord showed me (very convincingly, as only He can) that there was arrogance and jealousy in my heart of which I had been totally unaware. I immediately cried out for forgiveness and asked for His help to genuinely repent! In fact, this revelation devastated me so much that I spent the next few years going so far in the opposite direction that I lost confidence that I could move in spiritual authority without being arrogant or jealous, so I largely backed away from the apostolic and prophetic giftings within which I was supposed to be functioning. For the last couple of years, the Lord has been restoring in me a confidence that I would be able to operate in the apostolic and prophetic anointings, free from arrogance and jealousy, and that it would be soon --- and with even greater anointing than before. This has been very encouraging, but I have still been trying to hear how and when this was to take place. Well, just recently He began showing me the “how” and assured me that the “when” was very near! Guess what --- just by “coincidence” some people who knew me “back when” suddenly started making various accusations suggesting (or outright claiming) that I had never really repented of my arrogance! The enemy’s goal, of course, was to get me to question myself again and cause me to back off from claiming my promise. The devil never has, and never will, play fair!

So how do we defeat these giants that seem to know us so well? Here are some suggestions I have gleaned from the lives of Caleb and others:

• Rely on the strength that is beyond your strength (“…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1Jn.4:4b)

• Be confident, bold, and aggressive (Josh.1:6-9)

• Do not succumb to fear. (While others saw Goliath as a big threat, David simply saw him as a big target!)

• Stay focused. (People are not your enemy; the enemy is your enemy!)

• Draw upon God’s grace, and never give up! (Even if you repeatedly fall prey to your weaknesses, you will eventually defeat the giants if you keep getting back up “just one more time!”)

Remember, when the giants are defeated, the promise will be fully yours, and the Kingdom of God will advance because of it!!

Next: the final installment of Thoughts on Caleb

Monday, February 8, 2010


Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better. Thanks!

Part 7: How much longer?

So, the forty years of judgment are finally over; the rebellious generation has died off; the Children of Israel are finally ready and willing to obey God and enter the land; now, Caleb finally gets his inheritance, right? Wrong! Before he can have that which both God and Moses promised him, he must first help conquer and subdue the inhabitants of the land! Oh, well, just a few quick battles and it’s all over, right? Wrong, again! It took another five years, and even then there were still pockets of resistance left! So, once more, the fulfillment of Caleb’s promise was delayed, and this time when he is so close he can almost taste it (the sixth installment of the price he had to pay before he could have his inheritance)!

You know, I’m beginning to really admire this guy! Had that been me instead of him, I’m sure I’d be complaining by now and saying something like, “That’s just not fair! I mean, after all I’ve had to go through these past forty years, I feel it would only be right to at least concentrate on Hebron first! Didn’t God, Himself, promise it to me? And, if I remember right, I don’t recall Him promising any of you any specific area, now did He? Besides that, I’m eighty years old! I’ve paid my dues! I think I deserve a little respect here! I believe I’ve earned the right to be the first to get my portion!”

But, as far as we know, Caleb did not react that way. In fact, there is no mention of him at all during this five year period. So, apparently, he simply faithfully did his part, along with everyone else, and helped Israel take the land. What we do know from Josh.14 is that he kept the vision alive even through this delay, and the promise burning in his heart must have driven him on with boldness and confidence. He knew that, when all was said and done, it would still be his!

Sadly, I’m afraid many of us don’t respond like Caleb. When the promise is finally within sight and almost within reach, we are prone to let our guard down and become extremely vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, especially those of pride and selfishness! How many times have we relaxed our grip on our weapons as soon as we first begin to see the promise being fulfilled, only to be blindsided by a counter-attack of the enemy? Just because we have established a beach-head does not mean that the land is ours! We must guard against bitterness and disappointment, and we must fight until it is ours!

I believe that Caleb understood something that we must also embrace if we are to keep the vision alive and burning within us while we drive the enemy from our promised land(s): we have to recognize that the corporate goal must take precedence over our own personal goals! When we consider this in the context of Israel entering the Promised Land, we can easily see its importance. It would have been practically impossible for Caleb to take Hebron without Israel first subduing the rest of the land. And even if he had somehow managed to do it on his own, he would have been surrounded by enemies who would quickly defeat him!

However, in this current church age, we seem to have turned things the other way around --- our personal goals take precedence over any corporate goals we may encounter! As soon as we see some evidence of anointing on our lives, we can’t wait to find some place to show it off! I cannot begin to count the number of times over the years that I have seen people coming into our various ministries looking for a platform from which to express their ministries, giftings, talents, etc., instead of wanting to learn what they could do to help fulfill the larger corporate vision of the house! And instead of being a blessing to that ministry, they wind up causing problems; then they get bitter because they feel misunderstood and rejected! [I wish I could say that I have never done this, but … well, it’s always easier to see it in someone else … at least God had mercy on me and helped me repent and learn from it.]

What so many of us fail to understand is that our personal gifts and callings will only find their greatest fulfillment when they find their expression within a larger vision! If, like Caleb, we are willing to do that, our personal visions will be fulfilled, the ministry we are part of will be blessed and strengthened, and the Kingdom of God will be advanced!

Friday, February 5, 2010


Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you  understand this installment better. Thanks!

Part 6: Pass it on!

Sometimes part of the price that God requires of us before we can inherit our promise is actually a joy to pay. For example, when Jesus called the twelve to follow Him, they all had to leave something behind (fishing, tax collecting, etc.), but there is no mention of any reluctance on their part to do so. They each paid a price to go with Him, but apparently did so joyfully.

I believe that Caleb also joyfully and willingly paid the next part of the price required of him --- that of helping prepare the younger generations (those who would not die in the wilderness) to be ready to take the Promised Land at the end of the forty-year death march. Now I know that I am speculating here, but it does seem safe to assume that Caleb realized that he and Joshua would not be able to take the land by themselves, and that the younger ones would be of no help whatsoever unless someone prepared them. And since he had to find something to do for the next forty years, why not focus on getting them ready? After all, he had a good example of this in Abraham who went to war with those trained in his own house (Gen.14:14). I’m sure that he realized that if he helped train them, then he would be able to count on them to perform well when the time came to cross the Jordan and possess the land!

Preparing the younger generations is still something that is absolutely essential if we want to see the continued extension of the Kingdom of God into all the world! This is true for every expression of Christian ministry. If any ministry --- small or large, local or global --- wants to continue in an effective way after those of the first generation die or move on, it is IMPERATIVE that the next generations be prepared to carry on and take it even farther than the first ones did!

Obviously, there is much that could be said on this topic, but I would like to emphasize two things that I believe EVERY God-ordained ministry should incorporate into the preparation of younger generations. And if they fail to do so, I believe that they are setting up their ministries for failure.

The first is an impartation of the “every creature” vision that Jesus challenged us with in the Great Commission (Mk.16:15; Mt.28:19,20). This vision should be at the core of EVERY ministry, no matter what other focus(es) that ministry may have! Everything a ministry does should be done in such a way that it ultimately helps fulfill that greater vision! When the early church at Jerusalem failed to obey this command, they were persecuted and scattered so that they would do it! THAT’S how important it is! We receive so that we may give (Mt.10:8); we have been reconciled to God so that we may have a ministry of reconciliation (2Cor.5:18).

I also used the word “impartation” because vision is caught, not taught. This means that the vision has to be alive and burning in someone before it can be “caught” by others. Young people have a knack for sensing whether something is simply being taught or if it is a driving force in a person’s life. If they discern that what we hold forth as our vision is not shaping and directing our lives, they will find those to follow whose vision is alive in them, even if that vision is wrong! This is especially true in this day and age when “tradition” or “because I said so” are no longer good enough reasons for young people to continue doing what their parents and elders did. They must be motivated by something that is alive, relevant, and challenging ! I know of far too many ministries where the “first generation” people were full of vision and willing to do whatever necessary to see that ministry grow and prosper in order to help fulfill the Great Commission, only to see the ministry die or stagnate when that generation was gone. But the ones that continued to grow and increase in their impact on the world are those that managed to impart the vision to successive generations that in turn carried it on and allowed the way the vision was walked out to evolve according to the progressive revelation given them by the Lord!

The other thing that I believe should be a part of preparing the next generations is an emphasis on linking the generations in order to more effectively fulfill the vision. We must stop promulgating the concept of “passing the baton” from one generation to the next. This philosophy implies that one generation does all it can, then steps aside to allow the next generation to have a go at it. This kind of approach causes one generation to become fearful, jealous, or resentful of another. What a deception we have bought into when we embrace this position! It causes us to miss out on so much that is available to us when we are willing to draw upon the best that each has to offer and to combine those qualities for the sake of the Kingdom! The generations should not succeed and replace each other, they should come alongside each other (please see Mal.4:5,6)! I am sure that Caleb had no intention of spending all that time preparing those next generations to then simply step aside and watch them take the land! No, they went in TOGETHER to claim their inheritance!

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Please Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better.

I’m sure you realize by now that when I speak of how Caleb must have felt about something, I’m obviously speculating, because the Bible doesn’t give us this information. However, what he was facing was very real, and since he was a human like you and me, he could very well have felt these things and more. At least I know I do when dealing with similar situations!

Part 5:  It's Alive!

After joining the “Death March” with the rest of Israel, the next challenge Caleb faced (paying the price for his promise) was keeping the vision alive for the next 40+ years! It was absolutely necessary that he do so because, as Prov.29:18 tells us, without vision people dwell carelessly or they are unrestrained or they perish! If he had not held on to the vision, Caleb could easily have fallen prey to the numerous pitfalls and temptations that befell the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. Had he lost the vision, he would have perished along with the others!

But didn’t the fact that God had promised him that he would enter the land guarantee that he would make it? Sadly, no. This is one of those cases where a condition (keeping the vision alive) is attached to the promise, but the condition is not specifically stated. A very clear example of someone failing to meet this condition would be that of King Saul. The promises that God gave when He chose him to rule over Israel were awesome, yet he never saw them all come to pass! Why? Because somewhere along the line he exchanged the vision of serving God in his position as king to that of serving himself, and he perished! If we stop and think about it, we probably all know people who had a clear promise from God but never saw it fulfilled because something killed the vision before it came to pass.

Over the years, I have seen two major assassins that target God-given vision. The first, as we see in the life of Saul, is pride which causes the vision to become about us instead of God. As soon as we start thinking that He chose us because we are something special, we start down a slippery slope from which it is very difficult to recover. God is not about making “superstars” of His servants; His desire is to demonstrate HIS glory THROUGH them! To prevent pride from derailing us, we must make ourselves truly accountable to people we trust who will be willing to tell us when they see it arising. It may hurt, but the wounds of a friend are faithful (Prov.27:6). Dear Lord, guard our hearts so that we do not desire to usurp any of the praise and honor that belong to You, alone!

The second major assassin sent to kill vision is discouragement. Discouragement is always quick to present itself when things don’t go as we want them to. I’m sure it was constantly hanging around Caleb, trying to get him to embrace it. The problem is, once we open the door and let it in, the first thing it does is attack Biblical hope and try to replace it with the counterfeit hope that most people embrace. Counterfeit hope is nothing more than wishful thinking where what we’re really doing is thinking, "It sure would be nice if something happened," but we don’t really expect it to. This kind of hope is really a breeding ground for even more discouragement. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is a confident expectation that the promise will be fulfilled! It has its roots in faith and a trust born out of an intimate relationship with the Lord. Heb.6:19 says that this kind of hope is an anchor for the soul. This kind of hope repels discouragement and helps keep the vision alive!

How do we hold on to Biblical hope and avoid the counterfeit? Through encouragement! I can just imagine Caleb and Joshua sitting around a campfire at the close of one of those days when the people rebelled and even more of their peers died. Caleb says, “Joshua, let’s talk about the Promised Land. I need to see it again in my mind’s eye.” And as they talk, the vision comes alive anew for both of them, and they’re able to “keep on keepin’ on” until the next time they need to talk and encourage each other (please see Eccl.4:9-10). We need to be encouragers and to be encouraged if we want to keep the vision alive!

But what about those times when it seems that there is no one around who can encourage us? Then we must do like David did and encourage ourselves in the Lord our God (1Sam.30:6). How do we do that? Through prayer, praise, and the Word. I know that’s what we feel least like doing when we’re discouraged, but that is when we must overrule our emotions and, by an act of the will, choose to do it. If we keep at it long enough, something will happen in our spirit-man that will affect our thoughts and emotions, and we will find that the Lord has encouraged us; and once again we will find that we can “keep on keepin’ on” with the vision very much alive within us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Part 4: The Death March

Please Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better.

Did you ever stop and think about how unfair it must have seemed to Caleb that, even though he had been ready, willing, and eager to go in and take the land, he now had to join the rebellious ones in their forty year death march? He had already been rejected and threatened by these people, now he had to suffer because of THEIR sin! True, he had the promise that he would not die in the wilderness, but it would be a very long and difficult detour for him … one that he did not deserve.

Suffering unjustly because of what others did (or did not do) became the third installment on the price that Caleb would have to pay before he could possess his promise. Instead of eating the milk and honey of the Promised Land, he would continue living on manna in the wilderness; instead of living in his own house, he would be tent-camping for the next 40+ years; and instead of celebrating the conquest of the land with his friends, he would be watching them die off one by one. And, he had done nothing to warrant any of this!

The truth is that all of us, to one degree or another, sometimes suffer because of what others do or do not do. Our nation is suffering right now because of decisions made by some powerful people in high places. People can lose their jobs because of poor decisions made by the owners of the companies they work for. Small business owners can lose their businesses because of embezzlement by an employee. Reputations can be ruined because of hateful gossip and false accusations. Christians can get burned out on church because of the sins of their pastor. A child’s bad mood can ruin a birthday party for everyone.

It is also true that all of us, to one degree or another, whether intentionally or not, have caused others to suffer because of what we did or failed to do. There are many things that I have said or done over the years that I wished I could “take back,” but that is impossible. After the deed has been done, the only option I have is to try to “make it right” wherever possible, and then to learn from my mistakes so that hopefully I will not repeat them.

The old saying, “No man is an island; no man stands alone,” is really true. No one is so totally isolated from the rest of mankind that the decisions he or she makes affect no one else. There is no such thing as “hurting nobody but myself!” Everything we do or choose not to do always affects others in some way!

Our greatest example of someone suffering for the sins of others, of course, is Jesus. He in no way deserved to be tortured the way He was, nor did He deserve to bear the consequences of our sins. And how did He respond to it? From the cross He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk.23:34). He did it “for the joy set before Him” (Heb.12:2); the joy of being “the firstborn among many brothers” (Ro.8:29).

Whatever promise we are believing God for is a “joy set before us.” Should we find ourselves suffering because of the sins of others as part of the price we must pay before seeing our promise fulfilled, let us ask God for the grace to walk in forgiveness toward those who cause it.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Part 3: Say it isn’t so!

Please Note: If you have not yet read the previous posts of “Thoughts on Caleb,” doing so will help you understand this installment better.

Imagine yourself in Caleb’s sandals for a minute. Ever since you first heard Moses talk about the Promised Land, it’s all you can think about. You feel like you can finally begin to imagine yourself actually free from slavery and with land of your own where you can raise your family, raise crops, raise sheep; whatever you want, because it will be yours! Then, to top everything off, you are chosen as one of twelve to go in and spy out the very land that you have been dreaming of!

Everywhere you go, your excitement builds! The land truly is “flowing with milk and honey;” Sure, there are giants and walled cities there, but you have no doubt that God will deliver it into your hand because He promised the land to Israel, and He has already demonstrated just how powerful He is! You have even picked out the portion that you want for your inheritance, and you have begun planning where you’ll build your house, where you’ll plant your garden, where you’ll dig the well, and on and on. Your mind is overflowing with ideas, and your excitement is building by the minute!

Then suddenly everything comes crashing down around you. The people have rebelled, and God has declared a forty year delay while the generation that refused to go in dies off in the wilderness. True, you have been told that you will not die and that you will still get to go in and receive your portion of the land, but not for forty more years! All of your dreams and expectations that have been building for the past days, weeks, and even months have suddenly been shattered! …

This was the second installment on the price that Caleb would have to pay before he could have his portion: he had to die to his own personal dreams and expectations. It was still going to happen, but not how he imagined it would.

In reality, most of us are a lot like Caleb. God promises us something, it comes alive within us, and we immediately start imagining what it will look like! Not only that, but we start expecting it to happen “yesterday!” Then, when it doesn’t happen when we thought it should, we become disappointed and start thinking that maybe God let us down or that maybe we missed God altogether. And if we manage to avoid that trap, when the promise does manifest, it seldom looks exactly like we thought it would! Knowing us as well as He does, God nearly always gives us our promises far enough in advance to allow us plenty of time to die to our own dreams and expectations (which we usually build up around those promises), then He fulfills them in His time and in the way that He intended from the beginning!

But why does it usually play out like that? Well, let me share a couple of things that will help us understand it a little bit better.

First, we need to understand that almost every promise God gives us is conditional. The conditions may or may not be spelled out, but they are nearly always there. If you look at all the promises in the Bible, very few are unconditional. For example, the promises concerning the coming Savior were all unconditional. Another example is the promise God made to Noah that He would never again destroy the world by a universal flood. Most, however, are conditional; some in the if/then format, others with the conditions implied rather than expressed. For example, the context of “God will supply all your needs” tells us that the promise is to those who are faithful to give.

The promises He gives us nearly always require some kind of obedience, thus they are conditional. The delay in seeing them fulfilled gives us time to walk out that obedience. He is getting us ready for the promises while at the same time getting the promises ready for us!

Second, whenever God gives us a promise, we always hear and interpret it according to our own personal paradigm. For example, God may say, “During this next year you will be busier than you ever have been before.” We may interpret that to mean that we will see a greater demand for our ministry, when God is really trying to tell us to get ready for the triplets that are going to be born!

Or maybe He is promising that a lot of new people will be coming to our church, and we immediately start imagining lots of new young families with children. When a bunch of tattooed and pierced young people start showing up, what do we do? Do we lay down our personal dreams and expectations and embrace them, or do we turn them away and keep hoping for the families?

I have heard tell of people who prayed for years for God to send the revival He promised, but then rejected it when it came because it didn’t look like they expected it to look! How many churches (who had been praying for revival) rejected the “Jesus People” in the ‘70’s because of the way they dressed and wore their hair?

If we don’t want to “miss it” when God fulfills His promises to us, we must be willing to lay down our own dreams and expectations regarding those promises! What He has in mind for us, and the timing in which He will do it, will both be far better than anything we could imagine anyway!


Saturday, January 16, 2010


Part 2: They Should Have Known Better!

Note: If you have not yet read Part 1, doing so will help you understand this installment better. Thanks!

In spite of Caleb and Joshua’s repeated attempts to convince the crowd that they should go in and take the land because God would be with them, the Israelites chose to believe the other ten spies who convinced them that it would be suicide to attempt it. All that night the people cried and complained to one another about being brought out of Egypt only to perish by the sword in the Promised Land. The poison of rebellion spread quickly and freely, and by morning they had decided to appoint some new leaders who would take them back to Egypt!

What was wrong with them? Had they so quickly forgotten how horrible it was in Egypt? Yet, here they were, rebelling against Moses and against God’s plan for their lives. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb all tried to dissuade them; but this only infuriated the mob, and they threatened to stone them!

These were the same people who had suffered as slaves in Egypt all their lives, who had seen the judgments against Egypt’s gods in the form of the plaques that God sent, who had experienced the angel of death passing over their homes while taking the firstborn of the families without the blood on their doorposts, who had seen the Red Sea parted and Pharaoh’s army drowned when they tried to pursue them, who had experienced the judgment sent on their own people after the incident with the Golden Calf, who had been led by the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, who had been fed supernaturally with manna yet complained because they had no meat (then faced another plague because of their complaining), and who had seen the judgment against Miriam when she and Aaron challenged Moses. But in spite of all this, they still rebelled! Incredible!!

This, then, became the first installment on the price that Caleb would have to pay before he could have his promised inheritance: he was rejected, rebelled against, and even threatened with death by people who should have known better! Many of them were his own friends and relatives!

I’m sure that most of us can identify with how Caleb must have felt. The ones who reject us that we didn’t expect it from are the ones who wound us the deepest. None of us expects to be accepted by our enemies or by people who don’t know us (in fact it is not at all surprising when they fight against us in some way), but when people with whom we have some level of relationship reject us and turn against us, they shock and hurt us in a way that no one else can!

Why do people who “should know better” respond like that, especially in this day and age? In reality, I believe that most of them (especially those reacting this way to leadership) do it for the same reason that the Israelites did it to Caleb … fear of the unknown. Whenever faced with something new, unfamiliar, and unknown, people tend to be quick to believe the horror stories that are always prevalent and freely circulated by those who have “been there” but failed to see it through the eyes of faith. It then becomes easy to find fault with those leaders who are trying to encourage them to experience something new.

Now, it would have been different if Caleb had done something that merited the rejection, but all he did was try his best to believe and obey God and to encourage others to do so also! He was a leader trying to get people to go in the right direction, but those who should have followed him stood against him.

Most of us have experienced rejection in one form or another at some time in our lives. Sometimes it is because we did something totally wrong. Obviously, there is no glory in that. But the truth is that even when our hearts are right and we are trying our best to do the right thing, two things inevitably come into play: 1) our humanity gets involved and causes us to mess up in at least one area (usually more); and 2) there will always be those who will use our mistakes as a justification for coming against us. And it especially hurts when it comes from those who “should know better!”

So what do we do when we find ourselves in a situation like this? Here are some suggestions:

• At first, do nothing! Our natural initial reaction would be to lash out in anger because we feel attacked and wounded. Or, if we successfully avoid doing that, the next impulse is to defend and/or justify ourselves. Neither of these reactions accomplishes anything productive; it only makes it worse.

• Instead, we should immediately get before God with as open a heart as possible. We need to ask Him to heal our wounds, to help us forgive those who came against us, to petition Him to forgive them for what they have done, and to reveal to us any areas where we may need to repent of wrong-doing. We will probably find that we need to repeat this step quite often as we walk through it!

• Next, we need to trust God that, even though this was meant to harm or destroy us, He will somehow turn it for good both for us and for His Kingdom. We must not give up! If we bail, the devil wins; if we hang in there, God wins! Don’t forget, He loves us!

• Finally, we need to try to respond in the opposite spirit. We need to do our best to demonstrate love for those who came against us, to be supportive of them any way we can, and to speak well of them whenever possible.

Remember, this is part of paying the price for our inheritance, our “Promised Land;” not just that which is awaiting us in Heaven, but also that which is promised to us in the here and now!