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!


Thursday, January 14, 2010


Part 1: Introduction

Recently, when I was thinking about Caleb (the one in the Bible), I sensed the Holy Spirit asking me a question, “Have you considered the price Caleb had to pay before he could possess his inheritance in the Promised Land?” It was one of those questions that doesn’t require an answer … I knew He was wanting to show me something, so I began to look back over the accounts of Caleb found mostly in Numbers 13 & 14 and Joshua 14 & 15. As I did so, I began to connect with Caleb in a new way, and I saw things about him that I had not seen before.

The first mention of Caleb is when Moses chose him as one of the twelve spies who were to be sent into the Promised Land to check it out firsthand and bring back a report. He was chosen to represent the tribe of Judah, so he was probably already a recognized leader or, at the very least, he was well-respected among his people.

We find out later that he was 40 years old at this time, so Moses did not choose him because of his youth; he was probably chosen mostly because of his wisdom and maturity (which is obvious from the report he gave when the twelve returned from spying out the land). We also can infer, even though there is no mention of a wife, that he was married at some point in his life, because there are two daughters who show up later in Joshua.

He was also obviously a man of great faith. For example, he saw so much potential in the Promised Land that by the time he returned from spying out the land he had already picked out the place he wanted for his inheritance (the hill country he asked Moses for later). And even though he recognized that the people were fierce and that there were giants living there, he was also fully confident that God would go before them and deliver the land into Israel’s hands. He was ready right then to enter the land to conquer and possess it!

Sadly, ten of the spies were not cut from the same cloth as Caleb. They saw how fierce the people were who lived in the land and how big the giants were; and even though they admitted that the land itself was very desirable, they embraced fear instead of faith and convinced the people of Israel that they could not possibly succeed if they tried to enter the land. It was at this point that Caleb began to pay the price that would be required of him before he could finally have the place he so desperately wanted.

Now someone may ask if I believe that God was the one forcing Caleb to pay this price. The answer is, “No!” I believe that it was a price imposed upon him by circumstances beyond his control; circumstances set in motion by others. Did God use these circumstances to do something in Caleb’s life in the process? Absolutely! The promise we have in Romans 8:28 is that God causes all things to work together for good to those love Him and are called according to His purpose!

Now, back to the price Caleb had to pay. So far, I have seen his bill broken down into seven different installments that were invoiced to him over the next forty-five years. Each of these installments will be examined in the subsequent issues to be published here. I will do my best to post a new one every three to four days if possible; maybe more often than that if I’m feeling my Cheerios. Of course, knowing me as well as I do, it is entirely possible that some postings will fall outside of that window! Since this is my first attempt at blogging, I guess we’ll just have to see how it plays out, won’t we?