Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Caleb – Man of Action

40 years after the spies returned from their mission (Numbers 13), the people of Israel reentered the Promised Land. For 5 years, they battled the nations who lived there, until the land that God had promised them was theirs. Then Joshua gave the different tribes and clans their share of the land as their inheritance as God had directed.

By this time, Caleb was 85 years old, quite probably the oldest man in Israel, and still fighting with his sons in the front line of battle. His faith had led to a promise from God, that he would inherit the parts of the land that his feet had walked, and he had held on to that word from God for 45 years. This man of faith had remained faithful in his faith.

In Joshua 14:6-15:19, we see that Caleb’s faith comes to fruition. This 85-year-old man approaches Joshua, the leader of the people, who was the only other member of the tribes to have been an adult when they had spied out the land under Moses and a witness to God’s promise to Caleb, and asks for his inheritance.

‘Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. 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. 14:10-12)

Such faith! Caleb reminds Joshua of the promise and testifies to the faithfulness that God has shown him. Caleb and Joshua are at least 28 years older than their nearest peers, yet Caleb is still as physically strong as he had been 45 years before. He is also just as strong in his faith as he had been 45 years before.

Caleb’s faith is not passive. He does not simply wait for things to happen, even though he has waited for 45 years. When the moment is right he stands up, steps forward and makes things happen.

When he talks to Joshua, Caleb…

  • Asserts the foundation of his faith – “The Lord promised, 45 years ago.”
  • Testifies to the truth of his faith – “Here I am, 45 years later, as the Lord promised I would be”
  • Seeks his inheritance by faith – “Now give me this hill country, that the Lord promised me that day… it is time”
  • States what will happen by faith – “The large people and cities cannot stand in the way of the Lord. With the Lord’s help I will drive them out”
  • Moves in faith – He went on from there to defeat his enemies and take the land that God had promised to him (Josh. 15:13-17)

Caleb was patient for 45 years, but when the moment came to act he did so with no hesitation and in total faith. His faith was a living, vital thing and his life and convictions were founded upon it. He waited for such a long time, but he did so actively by preparing himself and his family for the next stage. When they entered the Promised Land, he and his sons were not only ready to fight, but full of faith that God was on their side.

Caleb’s faith is an inspiration and I want a faith like Caleb’s.

It is a temptation, with matters of faith, to become passive.

  • Sometimes, we see what God says in faith and we fear that it might be too big for us to achieve. It can be tempting to withdraw or hide. Caleb understood that it was too big for him to achieve, and so trusted in God who was far bigger and more able.
  • At other times, we can become impatient with waiting for what God has promised to us and step forward too early. Caleb could have gone with the others, back into the promised land to try and take hold of it before God’s time (Number 14), but he trusted that when it was time God would tell him. He listened for the voice of God telling him to go.
  • We can become fed up with waiting and switch off, becoming overly familiar with what we have and coming to believe that it is all God has for us. Caleb never let go, even once, during his time in the wilderness. Even with his peers and friends’ deaths and the passing of the years, he showed awesome faithfulness to God’s word and patience with God’s timing.

Caleb teaches do much about faith. God’s word has its season and faith response to it. Faith should be in God’s word, in God’s time. Faith is never passive. Faith recognises the timing of God because it listens intently for the voice of God. Faith is eager to hear and even more eager to respond. Faith does not fear because in God there is nothing to fear.
Faith demands a response, but that response is not always the same for every situation. The key is to discern what God’s will is. Our faith response might be to wait, hold on, stand up, move, fight, or any number of other things. However, the key is to discern the will of God and move forward in faith.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)

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Caleb – Man of Faith

In the last blog I spent some time thinking about Caleb’s faith and God’s response to it. My thoughts there lead me on to a line of thought about Caleb that is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but is true by implication.

“Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord whole-heartedly” (Deut. 1:35-36)

Having believed the promise of God in regard to the Promised Land, as well as a further specific promise in regard to His own inheritance in the Promised Land, Caleb holds on for 40 years before he sees it become a reality.

Think about it.

Caleb is assured that he and Joshua would be the only men of fighting age to enter the Promised Land and see the inheritance that God had spoken of in Egypt. Every other man and women who had left Egypt as an adult would die in the wilderness. Apart from Caleb and Joshua, the only other people who would remember what it had been like to be slaves in Egypt, who would enter the Promised Land, would have been children at the time.

For 40 years, Caleb and Joshua wondered in the wilderness with the tribes (about a million people) waiting for God to speak the word to send them back to take the land.

  • Let’s estimate that there were 600000 adult men and women at the time when the spies entering the Promised Land.
  • There are 14610 days in 40 years (including leap years).
  • This means that for 40 years an average of 41 people died every day.

Everyday, Caleb and Joshua watched men and women who were their peers, as well as those who were those older than them, die in the wilderness. Every day that passed meant that Caleb and Joshua become more and more set apart.

  • Caleb was 40 years old when he was sent to spy on the land of Canaan and we can assume that Joshua was of a similar age.
  • The age of adulthood for a Jewish male is 12 years old.
  • This means that, by the time Caleb reached the Promised Land for the second time, he was 80 years old and the next oldest man other than Joshua would have been 52 years old.

Caleb’s faith in the word of God is awe-inspiring. With each death and each passing day, it must have seemed more and more unlikely that he would see the fulfillment of the promise of God. Yet, he held on for 40 years (14610 days). He continued to believe, even though it must have seemed as if nothing was happening. Caleb was a man of faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)

How often do we get impatient with God? He promises so much and we believe Him, but for how long? If God’s word has not become a reality after 6 months, what do we do? What about after 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? At what point do we throw our hands in the air and shout, “It wasn’t true!!” and move on? What about after 39 years? If we were holding on to the promise of God for 39 years without seeing it becoming a reality, would we keep going?

This is a very serious point. How steadfast is our faith in the word and promise of God?

Let me illustrate from my own situation in the hope that it might be helpful.

3½ years ago I heard the clear call of God to step out of church leadership for a time. At the same time God promised that I would return to church leadership in the future and see amazing things happen by the Spirit’s power to God’s glory. 3½ years ago… and it still hasn’t happened. 3½ years later I am still in the same position. What now? Was the word wrong? Have I missed it? Do I need to do something to make it happen?

The core issue is the steadfastness of my faith.

I firmly believe that, when the right time arrives, God will speak clearly and simply and things will change. That, unless I hear the voice of God, I simply have to hold on and keep going. Until that time, I must be patient and listen intently for the word of God. I must learn to use this time in the wilderness to grow and learn and listen whilst I mature as a disciple of Jesus.

It is really hard. Really hard. There is nothing I want more than to be living in the Promised Land. I am impatient to see things happen and bored of the endless sand and manna and quail of the wilderness. Yet until God say “NOW!” I simply have to walk the path in the wilderness he sets before me.

What about you? What has God said? How long can you hold on?

Let me encourage you. In the end, Caleb received what had been promised to him. God responded to his faith and he received everything that he had been promised.

In the end, whether I receive what I hold to be a promise of God or not is irrelevant. All that matters is that God is God, His love endures forever, and the ONLY place that is worth being in is the place where God wants me. Right now, I am wondering in the wilderness and I have no idea when I will cross over into the Promised Land. But God is in the wilderness. The tent of meeting is always here and I can go in any time I like. The other stuff is just not as important as being close to God.

I want to be like Caleb.


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Caleb – Man convinced

Some thoughts on Caleb following my recent morning studies at home. It will probably take 3 blogs… but I will keep going until they are finished as I believe there is some great stuff to be learned here.

“The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders… from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh” (Num. 13:1-2 and 6).

Here’s what we know about Caleb at the point he appears in the Bible narrative.

  • He is about 40 years old, which means he was a slave in Egypt and has witnessed the whole Exodus.
  • He comes from the tribe of Judah, which will later produce David and Jesus.
  • He is a respected and trusted leader in his family tribe.

Caleb is chosen, with 11 other men who are leaders from the 11 other tribes of Israel (among whom is Joshua, son Nun, who becomes leader after the death of Moses 40 years later), to spy out the promised land. The people of Israel have walked pretty much directly from Egypt to Canaan at this point (although with well over a million people, it has taken some time).

Canaan is a land described as ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and God’s plan is clearly that the people of the Exodus will go in directly to take possession of the land that God has promised to them. The only delay being for a quick scout around.

When the spies return with a massive bunch of grapes about 40 days later, they declare that the land is indeed rich and flowing with milk and honey (Num. 13:27). But they also point out that there are powerful people living in Canaan already, in cities with high walls.

This report means that fear starts to grip the people, so Caleb stands up;

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30)

What is it that we act upon? Do we believe that the word of God is real and act upon it, or do we do as the people did?

The people of Israel stand on the brink of having their own homeland by the promise of God. Yet, when they find out that they are not going to be able to wander nonchalantly into Canaan and take up residence, they say; “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites” (Deut. 1:27).

I love Caleb, because he sees things entirely differently. His are words of faith, not fear. He too has seen the opposition that they face in moving into the land of God’s promise, but he chooses to believe only in God’s promise. He says, “God promised us, so lets go. We can certainly do it if God says we can”. Caleb believes God’s words and is willing to act upon them, even though the things that he sees suggest that the process might be harder than expected.

Let’s remember something. Nowhere does God promise the people that they will simply walk into a vacant land flowing with milk and honey. Rather, God tells them that they will be led to a rich land and that the land is theirs. He does not say that it will simply fall into their lap. Further, the results of the spy mission does simply lead to a conclusion that the task is impossible. Why would they believe that?

The God that these people are following has sent plagues on Egypt (the most powerful nation in the world at that time), parted the red sea, fed and watered the people in the middle of a desert, defeated enemies and given the people a faith and purpose. This is the God who stands with them on the edge of the Jordon having promised that the land is for them… and the people question whether he can give it to them?

Compare the words of Caleb above with the words of the 10 other spies.

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:33b)

These are words of fear. They define the feelings of the people and lead them away from God’s plan. “We fell small and our enemy looks big… we are stuffed.” These words assume that, because they see themselves as small, the enemy sees them as small. Despite the proof of God’s power and love over many months, the people choose to believe something else.

The words of Caleb are words of faith. He believes what God says and is convinced by the evidence of the power of God, that he has seen ever since Moses turned up in the brick pits of Egypt and told them that it was time to go. 40 year old Caleb has been there all along and, together with Joshua and Moses, he is the only person who believes that God can do what he has promised.

We need to have faith in the word of God, build ourselves up with testimony about God and act as if God’s word is true even when we do not understand it.

What follows is heartbreaking. The people of God ignore the men of God (Moses, Joshua and Caleb) and convince themselves that it will be impossible for them to take the land. They miss the opportunity to take hold of the wonderful promise of God because they fear.

This God, who is real, responds (perfectly understandably) in anger. “How can they not believe? Have they not seen what I have done for them?”

Moses asks God to forgive the people, and God does so, but He responds to their faith. Since the people believed that God would let them die, He did let them die in the Desert (Num. 14:28). He does not withdraw His promise of Canaan, but He delays it until the generation without faith has died and a new generation rises up. – Except for Caleb.

“Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord whole-heartedly” (Deut. 1:35-36)

God acts on the faith of the people, since their faith is failure and death, but he also acts on the faith of Caleb who believed that God is good for His word. Caleb believed with the same faith as Abraham, who left his home to go somewhere he was not sure was possible. Caleb trusted the word of God and was willing to go into a land that was occupied by strong people. Caleb was unsure how things might work out, but he was full of faith that they WOULD work out one way or another.

The BIG IDEA! – God responds to the faith of His people.

What is our faith in? How often is our faith defined by our fear rather than the Word of God? What do I believe? The inheritance of the people of God is that which they have faith for.

This is not a gospel of prosperity, since we do not define the actions of God by our faith. Rather, it is a gospel of faith. We receive from God that which He has promised, if we have faith for it. If we do not have faith for it, then we receive less than he promised. God always promises more than we can imagine or hope for (Eph. 3:20). If we are satisfied only by our own hope and imagination we will receive less that we are promised. Faith in God’s promises will always be a stretch because God’s promises are so much more than we can imagine.

I want conviction of faith like Caleb!


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How to create your very own Jesus

In order to create your very own Jesus, take the following ingredients and follow the instructions below.

  1. The Jesus who is in the Bible.
  2. The expectations and morals of the society you live in.
  3. The things that you prefer to do.
  4. The things that you think are good and right.
  5. 1 pair of philosophical scissors

Pile all of the ingredients on top of each other, ensuring that the ‘big’ Jesus of the Bible is at the bottom. (Inevitably, the Jesus stuff will be far bigger than all of the other things). You will notice that the edges of the Jesus stuff will stick out, overlapping the rest of the things in the pile. Take your philosophical scissors and cut away any of the Jesus stuff that sticks out. (After all, if it doesn’t fit then you don’t need it do you?)

What you will be left with is a Jesus who is exactly the same shape as you think he should be. This new Jesus will fit in comfortably with your life and will never make you feel guilty. In fact, you will hardly notice him at all. (Admittedly, he is not the same Jesus who lived or was sent by God to save the world, but at least he is not uncomfortable or inconvenient and you can fool yourself into thinking that you are a good person because this new Jesus looks a lot like you).

Alternatively, you can access any number of pre-packaged ‘Jesus substitutes’ from a vast selection of self-improvement books, TV channels and some bloke down the pub who is always happy to tell you what he believes and thinks that because he believes it to be true it is true.

Or… as a really radical idea… you could find the Jesus of the Bible and follow Him because He is real. He might not be comfortable or convenient, but He will offer you life in all its fulness. Even if the life he offers is a little different to the life you think that you want.

The best plan is to follow Jesus and be a disciple!


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Who is my neighbour?

I was interested to hear about a new UK government initiative to help the lonely and isolated people in our communities. The Social Care Minister, Norman Lamb, wants neighbourhood watch groups to practice ‘neighbourliness” in connection with those who are older and housebound.

Leaving aside questions of budgets, priorities, and resources (important though they are, this is not a blog to rant about politics), it seems to me that there is a far more fundamental issue at question here. When government has to encourage the citizens of its country to do something that has previously been a present reality, there is a problem.

What has happened in the UK that has led us to a place where loving the people in our street is an exception?

As our society has become increasingly secular and individualistic, the lonely and the lost are overlooked. Evangelical atheists bemoan the influence of the Christian faith and speak about the ‘essential goodness of humanity’, only to witness the marginalized made increasingly marginal and the gap between rich and poor widen all of the time. Our society loves less than it used to. I believe that this situation has a great deal to do with the waning influence of the Christian faith.

‘Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’

It is a fundamental part of the Christian faith to be a good neighbour. Offering love and support to those around us, not just to our family and friends. Time and again the Bible commands us to care for foreigners, strangers and people who live around us. To offer love and hospitality, whether we know a person or not.

This seems a very obvious point, but a vital that we consider it.

As Christians, we should love our neighbour.

Not because we are told to, but because it is the natural overflow of discipleship. If we do not have love for our neighbour, then there is something very wrong with the root of our faith in Jesus.

The Bible commands love for our neighbour.

Love is not a gift to be practiced, it is a fruit that results from good roots and healthy growth. We are not encouraged to interact with our neighbour, we are commanded to interact with them. Love is what flows in to the relationships that we have with those around us because it flows out of the relationship we have with our Father God.

As Christians, there is no greater opportunity to show the truth of the power of God’s love than through the relationships we have with those around us. There is no excuse, claiming that one is too busy with church work to drink a glass of wine with the people next door or a cup of tea with the lonely older person. To claim ‘busy-ness’ as a justification for being disconnected with the people around us is a disgusting travesty of righteousness.

Jesus commands us… Love one another as I love you.

Lets talk to our neighbours. Eat with them. Drink with them. Talk and share with them. Then they will become friends. Perhaps they will become friends of Jesus. Everyone is a winner!


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Obviously Transformed

How is it that we can tell if a person is close to God?

In my recent times with the Bible reading about Moses, I have found myself drawn, time and again, to the passages where he and the people of Israel encounter God. It blows my mind to think that every day of their journey through the wilderness, these men and women were able to see and experience the presence of God.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29-35)

In this passage, we see Moses returning from the presence of God with the second set of stone tablets with the words of the law. There are a few remarkable things that I would like to point out.

  • Moses’ face was radiant. This is not to say that he had a particularly effective skincare regime. Moses’ actual face shone with the actual radiance of God’s glory and presence. He was reflecting God’s presence in such a way that it showed.
  • People noticed. The leaders and the people were frightened to come near to Moses, because of the radiance of his face. They recognise in him something overwhelming of the holiness and presence of God. The reality of the glory of God that showed in Moses’ face struck fear into them.
  • The radiance in Moses’ face was the evidence that he had been speaking to God. This was a physical and obvious manifestation of God’s reality. Moses did not need to tell the people where he had been… it was clear and obvious. God’s glory was shining from Moses face. His words had authority because Moses was displaying God.
  • Moses had to cover his face so that the people could function. The veil was not for the benefit of Moses, but for the people. Those who were far from the presence of God were simply unable to cope with the proof and evidence of God’s presence. Had Moses not have covered his face, he never would have got anything done.
  • Moses uncovered his face to prove his words. Moses was shining with the presence of God whether people wanted to see it or not. It is the presence of God that is important, not what people want to see. But when Moses wanted to tell the people about God’s will he ensured that the proof of the effect of God’s presence was plain for all to see.

As I think and pray, it seems to me that it is VITAL that the people who speak to us about the word of God need to display the presence of God. If I am to speak God’s Word, I must display God’s presence.

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to come into the presence of God and not be changed by it. Therefore, the evidence of time spent in the presence of God should be clear in the lives of the people of God. If we do not display the glory of God’s presence then we are not going into His presence. We need to get into God’s presence.

This has some uncomfortable implications for Christians and their leaders. Does our time in the presence of God show in us?

Two things seem clear to me…

  1. As a Christian, I need to get into the presence of God.
  2. I need to be willing to let God confront me and change me

Huge implications for the way in which we approach prayer, scripture, fellowship and worship.


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Not converts… Disciples

There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.

A believer is a person who accepts that the Jesus is who he says he is. They believe that the message of Jesus has merit and that there is something of great value that is gained through faith in Jesus. They believe Jesus, when he says that he is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

It is easy to believe.

A disciple is a person who believes all of the above AND lives their life according to the reality of these truths.

We see in the Gospels that thousands of people follow Jesus, believing that he is a man of miracles and a great teacher, but not all of them are disciples.

It is far more challenging to be a disciple than it is to be a believer.

In the New Testament there is a Rich Young Man who comes to Jesus (Matt 19:16-22). He speaks to Jesus, declaring his belief that Jesus is a good teacher and asks how he might be assured of eternal life (salvation). Jesus tells him that he must live a life in service of God, following the commandments. The young man seems to be pleased with himself; “I do all of that”, he declares.

Jesus sees to the heart of things. He tells this young man to give up his money, which Jesus knows is the real thing that rules his life, and become a disciple. This breaks the young man’s heart, because he REALLY loves his money and all that it gives him. He walks away from Jesus.

Compare this rich young man with Matthew.

Jesus is walking along the street and he sees a typical booth within which the tax collectors work and take money (Matt 9:9-13). Matthew is a tax collector. This means he is well off and hated by most of the people of the town because he takes their money and works for the despised Romans who occupy the land. We see in Luke’s gospel (Luke 5:27-32) that whilst Matthew (who was also called Levi) had few friends, his money allowed him to throw parties and have powerful friends.

Jesus walks up to the booth and says, “Follow me”. Matthew simply gets up, leaves everything and follows. He leaves his comfort for salvation. As a disciple, he was trained by Jesus, was one of the twelve, built the Church, wrote a book of the Bible and, it is believed, died as a martyr.

Both of these men believed in Jesus, but Matthew was a disciple. The rich young ruler believed in Jesus, but, because he was unwilling to live the true reality of his belief he left Jesus’ side to follow his own path. Matthew put Jesus before everything else in his life and knew the Son of God because of it. He walked and talked with Jesus, every day. He was present at Pentecost when the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, filled him and gave him power. He lived each day close to Jesus, knowing the voice and closeness of God.

“…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:19)

Jesus’ mission for us is not to make believers who hold on to what they have already. It is to make disciples who gain what Jesus has for them by following and imitating.

People who see the changes in those who follow Jesus cannot help but believe that Jesus is something special. Our mission is to make is possible for them to turn their belief into life.

Making disciples is the goal of the Gospel lived and preached.

Disciples are so much more than converts.