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!