Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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From manna to bread

Having thought about the moment when God rolls away the reproach of Egypt, enabling the people of God to live in the promised land, the reality of their freedom is illustrated in the very next section of the book of Joshua.

“On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, he Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan” (Josh. 5:10-12)

For 40 years, God had literally fed the entire nation through the provision of manna. They would collect their daily quota on every morning (any extra would rot in the night) and eat what they needed. God was their literal provider and they would not have survived the first 6 months, let alone the 40 years, had He not been so. The people of God would have been either dead or scattered all over the region had God not fed them and kept them together as a nation.

After they crossed the Jordon, into the promised land, they committed themselves to the plan and rule of God as their King through the rite of circumcision. Then they ate the Passover.

The Passover feast is the feast that remembers the captivity and release from slavery of God’s people in Egypt. Every part of the commemoration contains symbolism that tells the story of their escape and salvation. The Lord “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Josh. 5:9), but not the memory and lesson of Egypt.

Don’t forget… God, our Father, saves. He releases the captive and restores them. He promises good things for His people and fulfills the promises.

The Passover feast celebrates the salvation of God for His people and here they celebrated, for the first time, in the land that he had promised them. This is an awesome moment, really fulfilling the incredible, wonderful promise of God.

As if that is not amazing enough, the passage goes on to tell us that the day after the Passover meal, they eat food that has come from the land that God promised them for the first time. Their freedom is not simply a virtual reality, but an actual reality. They are free, in the land that God has given them and eating the produce of the land.

“The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan” (Josh. 5:12).

It is easy to overlook the significance of the end of the provision of manna. It is the proof that God has been faithful and that the faith of the people of God, especially Joshua and Caleb, has been realised. The place where the Israelites are standing is no longer the ‘Promised Land’, it is their land. There is still a great deal of work to do, but Canaan is now, in faith, Israel.

For me, there are many promises that God has made to me. I love the promises and I love the fact that God is, day to day, providing for me and my family as we walk through the wilderness. When I come to the crossing, however, will I be ready to walk through the waters in faith and live and eat in a new land?

The people of Israel had paid for their lack of faith, walking the wilderness for 40 years, but their crossing over this time is no guarantee either. Yet, they have the faith to believe and trust in God, cross over and LIVE in a strange land. The preparation to cross over is not made standing on the banks of the Jordon River, so much as it is made in the 40 years between promise and reality.

Lord, let me have faith in your promise and have the courage to step into the reality.

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Freedom and Circumcision

After 40 unnecessary, but prescribed, years wondering in the wilderness, all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of the people of God who had looked upon the promised land and refused to enter it for fear of the people who lived there were dead. Even Moses, the Prophet of God, who God spoke to face to face, had died on the top of Mount Nebo, looking out over the land. This was a whole new generation.

Crossing over (part 2) had taken place. The million or so people of God had miraculously cross the river Jordon and were now, for the first time, standing on the very land that was the promise of God to them. This was a momentous moment and, having placed their feet on the land, they enact a ritual as a commitment of themselves to serve and follow God. It is an act that has not been performed for 40 years.

After the people had left Egypt, God had commanded that all of the men should be circumcised, in line with the promise to Abraham, as a sign of their belonging to God and commitment to follow God as their King. During the wilderness years, this practice had not been carried out on the children born, whilst all of the men who had been of fighting age at Crossover 1 had died. This left an entire generation of men (with only Joshua and Caleb as exceptions) who were part of the people of God but had not been circumcised as a sign of their belonging and commitment.

Thus, in Joshua 5, all of the men are circumcised. Ouch! No wonder it says, “And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed” (Josh. 5:8).

It is obvious to say, but necessary, that we who are God’s people need to commit ourselves to the plan of God. Contrary to much popular opinion, God does not worship and serve us. It is not we who decide what is right and wrong. We serve God and, even when it is hard to follow or we do not see the sense of it, we follow and submit to him.

God is all powerful and when he leads us to the edge of a promise, no matter how impossible that promise might seem to be fulfilled to our eyes, He has the power to make it a reality. We, the people of God, must have faith in the word of God even when it seems difficult to believe.

When the people of Israel had come to the edge of the promised land for the first time, they had looked at a wonderful place and been consumed with fear of the people who lived there. Even though God had told them that it was theirs, they had refused to enter the land. They were still slaves, in their minds, to the domination of human beings rather than fully submitted to faith in the promise of God. Their bodies were circumcised in submission, but their minds were not.

On this second occasion, the people have had their minds renewed over the period of 40 years and ACTUALLY crossed into the promised land in obedience to God’s word. The people who lived in the land are the same as they had been 40 years previously and the cities, like Jericho, were still surrounded by high walls. Yet the people of God were willing to have faith in the power of God rather than the supposed evidence of their eyes. They were no longer in the mindset of the slaves of Egypt, who were unable to see past the power of human beings. Now they were children of God in body, mind and spirit.

Their act of circumcision was the final sign that they had left the past behind and were moving into God’s future. God speaks to them following;

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I love these words. In that moment, the people of God step out of the wilderness and into the promise of God. They begin to live by faith instead of fear. God, in His grace, rolls away the past so that we can walk into HIS future. These words echo down to us too.

No longer are their minds dominated by the experience of Egypt and the fear of people with whips. Rather, they are defined by their adoption as the nation who are ruled by the one true and living God. God, who took them out of Egypt with miracle after miracle, fed them out of nothing for 40 years and took them over the flooded river Jordon into the promised land, has rolled away the influence of the past.

This people are not longer the people of Israel. Now they are the people of God.

What about your slavery? What experiences and attitudes cause you to act out of fear rather than faith? Have you crossed over into the promised land yet?

Further, what about the Church? Does it live in the attitudes of the past and so called pragmatism, rather than faith in the promise of God that looks far away but is actually much closer?

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I hear and accept these words by faith. No longer will I be ruled by the past. Now I will walk into God’s future. And where my past affects my actions, I will leave it in the wilderness to be rolled away by God.


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Why should I listen to you? (a cogitation)

I have long thought that, in the UK at least, Standup Comedians are the new preachers. They stand before an audience and, with the use of comedy, open the minds of their listeners to the ideas and theories that they talk about in their set. There is a plethora of TV and radio shows where these funny people make their audience laugh hysterically whilst sneaking in comments about society and morality.

It is entirely understandable that the Comics would use their platform to express ideas and thoughts that they believe to be of value. The specific ideas and thoughts that they express, however, cause me far more concern because, for the most part, I disagree with them.

The medium is dominated by ideas of liberal sexuality and jokes at the expense of, most often, the Christian faith. The surge in acceptance for what were once alternative lifestyles is, I believe, mostly down to the preaching of comedy. In areas of pornography, family, sexuality and faith in God, comedians ridicule the establishment and preach that anything goes because as human beings we can do what we want.

It has become the commonly accepted norm in Britain that if a person can stand up and make you laugh, then what they have to say must be true. Stephen Fry holds the position of all-knowing authority, and others too speak with authority that derives from laughter. Dara O’Brien speaks for science and against faith, Sandi Toksvig for feminism and against faith, Jeremy Hardy for anything as long as it is against faith, Russell Howard, John Lloyd, and the list can go on. It is not so much that they hold opinions and ideas that are liberal so much as that they see faith as a target for ridicule and as the root of opposition to their own views.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not against comedy. I love comedy and it has affected some really important changes in society. Racism, for example, would never have been opposed effectively without comedians who ridiculed attitudes of racism. What I have an issue with is, what gives these men and women the authority to speak into culture and society? Why is their ideology authoritative?

“By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit…” (Matt 7:17-18)

This is where things start to get uncomfortable.

I disagree fundamentally with many of the ideas that are presented on TV and radio by comedians, who are culturally leading society in a direction that is un-scriptural and un-godly. Yet, it is not enough for me to say that what they preach is wrong simply because I disagree with them. There comes a point where I have to justify why they are wrong and I am right.

At some point there has to be a line by which we can come to a judgment on the authority of a speaker. It cannot be preference, because I might be wrong or deluded or misguided. It cannot even be scripture because, whilst I hold it as the foundation of my own action and authority, many others would not agree with it at all.

As I think about it, I can think of nothing better than fruit. The visible evidence of people’s live is their fruit. The question that lies beneath any claim for authority is, “what fruit is visible in the lives of the people who tell us what to believe and think?

This is uncomfortable because it is true for all points of view. There are celebrities who speak about female equality whilst simultaneously proclaiming their passion for pornography, which is almost certainly exploiting the people that they are claiming to stand for. There are also those who preach the love of Jesus who act in the most unloving and unforgiving ways. In both cases, their fruit is not consistent with their words. Their authority is seriously undermined.

What sets Jesus apart is that he preached a gospel of freedom through submission to God the Father, and lived a life that was evidence to his words. More impressively, his preaching led millions of other people into lives of freedom through faith if the Father. The fruit of his life and teaching gives overwhelming authority to the very thing he taught.

A problem comes when human beings take the teachings of the Bible and use it to justify their own opinions rather than allowing them to shape their lives. It is no wonder that the established Christian Church has lost authority to speak into society when there are scandals of sexual abuse and investment in weapons and tobacco. The life of the Church in this case is not consistent with its teaching. No wonder the ridicule of comedians hits so hard.

The truths of Jesus in scripture, however, simply transform lives. They bring freedom and life and healing. They might not be wholly acceptable to our liberal society, but the power that they display in the transformation of society cannot be ridiculed. The gospel of Jesus is simply too powerful to be challenged by the opinions of an individual. It is the power of God and it saves.

As a disciple of Jesus, the message I preach must be true and seen to be true. I am not perfect, but the fruit of my life is evidence to the truth of my faith. If I am judged on perfection then I will always fall short. If a person looks at my life and sees no evidence of the power of Holy Spirit then there is a serious problem.

What gives a person authority to speak is not the persuasiveness of the argument, or the position they hold, or the size of their audience, or that they speak words that are agreed with… Authority resides in the fruit that they put forward. Do they bring life and freedom and transformation and light and love?

This is simply my cogitation, but what do you think?


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Your Mission, should you choose to accept it…

I have a very simple, yet important, point to make.

The mission that Jesus gave to his disciples is VERY, VERY important!

It is so important that Jesus used the last verbal words that he spoke to his disciples to tell them about it.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20)

His disciples obviously understood the importance of the mission of Jesus, because they started the Church and the number of disciples multiplied at a fantastic rate. Further, the mission to share the message of Jesus and make disciples was so important that it was included, in some form, by all four of the gospel writers (Matt 28; Mark 16; Acts 1:7-8 (written by Luke as the follow on for his gospel); John 20:30-31).

Disciples, then and now, must understand that the mission of Jesus is far bigger than they are. That if they are disciples, it is their mission too. That Jesus gives his disciples power to carry it out. The truth is, this is not a choice for disciples. It is what being a disciple is all about.

This is not mission impossible, but mission imperative!


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Weird Family

It really is a good thing that the decision as to who can be a disciple and who cannot is not up to me. I think I would make decisions based upon my assumptions and prejudices. If it were up to me there would be no Bolton Wonderers supporters for a start. Jesus sees things in a very different way than I do.

We can choose our friends, but we cannot choose our family.

I thank God that I was not able to choose my family! There are some of them who I would never have spent the time to get to know, because they are very different to me. I am sure that they would say the same about me too. The simple matter that they are family, however, means that I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to spend time with them and get to know them. I love them. They are a strange bunch, some more than others (you know who you are!) but they are pretty amazing people. I am far, far richer as a result of knowing them.

The community of disciples, those who call Jesus master and follow Him, is not just like a family. It is a family.

He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matt 12:48-50)

Jesus did not call people to follow him because they were similar to him or one another. He called them because they all had the same bloodline. The disciples of Jesus are unified…

  • By sin – All people, prior to knowing Jesus, are helpless sufferers from sin (Romans 3:23).
  • By call – All people are called by Jesus to follow (Rev 3:20). No one is refused, but all people have the free will to refuse.
  • By grace – All of those who accept the invitation to follow are saved as a gift. Not because they deserve it, but because Jesus loves us (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • By adoption – All who follow Jesus are adopted into the family of God. They are sons and daughters, children of the same Father (1 John 3:1).

Every disciple of Jesus is part of the family of God. It is made up of some weird and wonderful people (I am the weirdest and my wife is probably the most wonderful), but each and every one of them is a mother, brother, father, daughter, brother and sister. Both the New Testament and our daily experience tell us that we are exactly like a family. With the same disagreements and dramas, loves and likes. But united by belonging and blood.

We cannot choose our family… we can only choose to love them as the Father loves us.