Ever Feel Punished and Passed Over? What We Can Learn from Caleb

I don’t have a son, and the son-in-laws I’ve acquired came already named. But if I had a son, I’d name him Caleb. Here’s why:

You may remember that Caleb was one of 12 spies who went into Canaan to scope out the land as the children of Israel prepared to conquer it. All 12 agreed the land was bountiful and “flowing with milk and honey,” but ten of the 12 were seriously concerned about the fortified cities and the Anakites—a race of giants who lived there.

Caleb and his buddy Joshua were unintimidated. “Let’s go in immediately. The cities are strong, the people are large, but with God as our helper, we can conquer this land!”

Reason #1 why I’d name my son Caleb: He wasn’t afraid of daunting tasks, because he knew God would help him. Caleb had faith.

You may also remember that because the Israelites were wimpy, frightened, and weak in their faith, God punished them by making them wander in the wilderness until every person who said no to God had perished. Even the mighty patriarch Moses sinned and didn’t get to go into the Promised Land.

This left two men standing—Joshua and Caleb. These men did everything right, but because of everyone else’s sin, they had to wander and wait for 38 years. But you know what? They kept their faith. They kept their integrity. They waited patiently, served their brothers, and continued to believe that God was going to do what he’d promised.

Reason #2 why I’d name my son Caleb: He suffered because of others’ sins, yet still maintained his integrity. Now it’s promotion time. God has told Moses he’s not going into the Promised Land, so it’s time to appoint a successor. There are only two candidates—Joshua and Caleb. Both are wise, godly, faithful, courageous men. God chooses Joshua, and Caleb gets passed over.

There’s no injustice here; God knows who’s most qualified to lead the Israelites. But don’t you think Caleb is a bit hurt and disappointed? I know I’d be.

How does he handle it? Does he throw a tantrum, howl about how unfair God is, take his marbles and go home? Nope. He just keeps serving the Lord. He supports Joshua, throws his wholehearted allegiance behind him, and continues to faithfully carry out his duties as a leader.

Reason #3 why I’d name my son Caleb: He served faithfully in the shadow of another leader.

And finally, Caleb went the distance. When the land was largely conquered, and it was time to settle into their respective cities, Kenneth Gangel, in The Holman Old Testament Commentary on Joshua, describes Joshua’s unusual request:

“Even after 85 difficult years, Caleb had a great attitude about serving God and fighting for him. He wasn’t tired out; in fact, he was just getting excited. He didn’t walk up to his old buddy Joshua to ask for a maintenance-free, energy-saving home. . . . No, he asked for the hill country still inhabited by giants. He wanted the very area that had intimidated the other ten spies . . .”

I love this about Caleb. When he could have justifiably asked for an easy retirement, he asked instead for a daunting task he could only accomplish with God’s help and enabling. He never took the easy way out. Elisabeth Elliot is famous for saying, “When you have a choice between two things, choose the harder.”

Reason #4 why I’d name my son Caleb: He chose the harder thing.

Caleb is an amazing man of God. He clung to his faith, stood for God even when it cost him something, served faithfully in the shadow of another leader, and chose to do hard things. He’s a man I admire, respect, and want to emulate. He’s a man worthy of naming a son after, don’t you think?

I’ve barely skimmed the surface of Caleb’s life, but maybe I’ve whetted your appetite. If you’d like to read more about Caleb, check out his story beginning in Numbers 13. If you’re already familiar with this great man, what do you admire most about him? Or maybe you’d like to name your son after another godly hero of the faith. Leave a comment in the box below and share your thoughts.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.

Delivered by FeedBurner

Hungry for God is on Facebook! Will you take a moment and LIKE my page? CLICK HERE to help HFG share 5-minute devotions.




What We Have in Common with Mary Magdalene

Have you ever known someone who knew everything about 
you . . . but loved you anyway? 

That was Jesus. 

I’d heard him preach. Lots of times, from a distance. He talked about the kingdom of heaven, and oh, he made it sound so wonderful – like he’d been there, just the other day . . . “In my father’s house are many mansions. . .” 

But I knew I’d never see it. Too many sins. And too many demons, always at war within me. I followed him, but on the outskirts. He drew me in, in spite of myself. 

I watched him laugh with the children. I could tell he loved them. You can’t fake that. He’d gather them up in his arms and hold them close, then he’d whisper something in their ear. And they’d smile. Every time. 

I watched how he walked among the people – sick people, blind people, lepers even, and healed them. Why would he, a rabbi, touch them? They were unclean. Outcasts. The slum dogs of society. 

And then he cast the demon out of that little boy. That's when I began to hope. Maybe, just maybe, he could help me. 

So I waited. Until he went to Simon’s house. 

 And I brought my most precious treasure – ointment for his head. But when I cracked it open, my heart cracked open too. Standing there, him so pure and holy, and me so unclean. How could I dare to stand in his presence? 

My knees gave way, and I crumpled to the ground, oil sloshing onto his feet. He was looking at me – everyone was looking at me – but I couldn’t raise my eyes. My sin stood hopelessly between us. 

But then I remembered the blind man, and the lame man, and the leper. And my heart cracked open more. I began to weep, my tears mingling with the dust on his feet. 

That dirt – I knew it was a picture of my sin. This God/Man had walked the world and allowed the sin of us all to cling to him, yet it never became part of him. It washed right off. 

The more I sobbed, the more my repentant tears flowed. I knew I was making a scene, but I couldn’t help it. The fragrance of the oil permeated the room as I rubbed it onto his feet. My tears made silver trails on his dark skin. “ 

“Leave her alone. . . . she’s anointing me for my burial.” 

I heard his words, but they sounded far away and otherworldly

These feet . . . feet that had walked a hundred miles to search for the lost sheep of Israel. I loved those feet – the the part of him that was most like me – dirty. And calloused. And . . . human. I kissed them over and over again as gratitude filled my heart to bursting. 

 “Simon.” His voice again – tender and tired. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 

Then Simon’s voice, squirmy and self-righteous. “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” 

My tears, and the oil, and the dirt had puddled around those sacred feet. I reached for a towel, only to find I had none. Desperate to clean the mess I’d made, I fumbled with the tie that held my hair back. Grabbing a handful of my hair, I wiped frantically at the fragrant mess, trying to remove the evidence of my bold indiscretion. 

“I came into your house,” I heard him say to Simon. “You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.” 

I felt his fingers, rough from work, touch my face. Tenderly he raised my chin. I wanted to run, but a force stronger than fear held me in place. I waited for the condemnation I knew would come. 

 “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 

I heard his words, but they made no sense. 

“Your sins are forgiven,” he repeated to my disbelieving ears. 

“Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” 

As we move ever closer to Easter, it’s good to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 

As we follow him to the cross, it’s appropriate to ask: Have you ever seen your sin for what it is? Not a mistake or an indiscretion, but the thing that stands between you and a holy God? 

Have you, like Mary Magdalene, come to Christ in humility and repentance, wanting only to be cleansed? 

Have you believed, by faith, that Jesus has the power to forgive your sin and transform your life? 

Have you accepted his gift of forgiveness? 

If you have, then the words Christ spoke to Mary belong to you as well: 

“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

If you’d like to share what God has done in your life, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

(You can find this story in Luke 7:36-48.)

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.

Delivered by FeedBurner


Beloved Unbelievers -- How to Pray for Them

Think of a person you care about who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior.

If you’re like me, every time you think of this person, your heart aches. You know if they don’t accept Christ, they will die and spend eternity in hell. This frightens me—that someone I love could spend eternity separated from God (and from me). May it never be.

But the reality is that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account. The entrance exam to heaven has one question: 

In whom are you trusting?

There’s only one right answer: “I’m trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior.”

For years I couldn’t give that answer. The best I could do was hope my good works outweighed my bad works on judgment day. Some of my acquaintances, friends, and loved ones can’t give this answer because they haven’t yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. They’re still trusting in their works to get them into heaven. They don’t understand the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man shall boast.”

Because I love them, I witness to them, serve them, and do my best to demonstrate God’s love to them. But the most important thing I can do is to pray for them. 

I ask God to open their hearts to believe. Scripture tells us that no one comes to God unless the Father draws him (John 6:65), so it makes sense to ask God to draw our loved ones to himself and open their hearts to believe.

The book of Acts tells of a woman named Lydia. She was a religious woman who was trying to worship God as best she knew how. But she hadn’t trusted Jesus as her Savior. Paul shared the Gospel with her, like we should with our unbelieving loved ones. And then something miraculous happened. Acts 16:14 describes it this way:

“The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.” 

Apart from God opening a person’s heart to believe, the message of the Gospel falls on deaf ears. The spiritually dead cannot receive the life-giving truths of Scripture unless God opens their hearts. This is what we should pray for.

The take away from Acts 16 is simple: Pray for the people you love who don’t know Christ as their Savior. And when you pray, ask God to open their hearts. Pray and don’t stop.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom. 10:10).

If you leave your loved one's first name in the comment box below, I'd be honored to pray for them.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.

Delivered by FeedBurner


I Discovered Billy Graham's Secret

I discovered Billy Graham’s secret. 

At least one of them. 

Estimates of his 70+ years of successful ministry say he shared the gospel with more than two billion people. 

Think about that for a moment. 

Two billion people. 

Billy Graham was a man of integrity. And great faith. And moral strength. And a hundred other virtues. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a godly man – a man God blessed. 

Did you know Graham once turned down a lucrative Hollywood acting role? 

Yup. Cecile B. DeMille, along with Frank Freeman, president of Paramount Studios, offered him a chance to star in a remake of the movie, The Ten Commandments.

“I looked him straight in the eye,” Graham said, “. . . and told him that God had called me to preach the gospel, and that I would never do anything else as long as I lived.” *

“Presidents Johnson and Nixon offered him high positions in government — which he quickly and politely refused.”** 

These answers reveal Billy Graham’s secret to success – his single-minded focus. He knew God had called him to preach the gospel. In light of his calling, he held every decision – including whether to act in a Hollywood movie or accept a cabinet position in Washington – to the plumb line of that calling. 

He asked the question, “Will this help me fulfill my calling?” 

If the answer was yes, he did it. If the answer was no, he didn’t. 

Pretty simple, huh? 

Step One: Determine your calling. 

Step Two: Make every decision – how to spend your time, energy, and resources – based on whether or not it supports that calling. 

What would our lives look like if we employed Billy Graham’s approach? 

I suspect they would be much more effective. And satisfying. And productive. 

I really want that. 

Don’t you? 

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1-2).

Now it's your turn? What is your calling in life? What should you say yes to in order to fulfill it? What should you say no to? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below. And if you're reading via email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and comment.

* Billy Graham's autobiography, Just As I Am

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.

Delivered by FeedBurner


Rev. Billy Graham - My Regret

When I heard Billy Graham had died, I was happy and sad at the same time. 

I also felt a profound sense of regret. 

I was happy for Reverend Graham. He’d fought the good fight, finished his race, and received his crown. The Lord Jesus, whom he had proclaimed without compromise for so many years, had declared, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” What a scene that must have been. 

I remember Anne Graham Lotz’ answer to me when, during an interview, I’d asked about her father. “He sleeps a lot. He’s tired. He misses mama.” 

I’m glad, for Rev. Graham’s sake, that, in his own words, he’s now “more alive than he’s ever been.” And he’s reunited with his beloved wife and his precious Savior. 

I also felt sadness. A great man – a champion of the cause of Christ – lived no longer among us. Although he hadn’t ministered publicly in years, just knowing he still lived gave me courage. I’ve always been comforted, whenever I’d hear of another pastor who’d fallen into immorality, that Billy Graham was scandal-free. He proved it could be done, that you could live your whole life without bringing shame to the name of Jesus. His godly example gave me hope. 

And then there was the regret. The bitter pill you can never cough up. 

Billy Graham came to South Carolina, where I’ve lived for more than 30 years, twice. The first time was back in 1950, from February 19 to March 12. He preached most of his sermons at the Township Auditorium, but also held one large event at what was then Carolina Stadium, but is now Williams-Brice Stadium. It's estimated he evangelized over 180,000 people during that crusade. 

My father was one of them. He was 14 years old. 

Reverend Graham preached again in Columbia in 1987, from April 25 to May 2. 

I didn’t attend. 

This is my regret. 

I was a young believer then. I’d been saved for less than five years. The church I attended was passionate about sharing the gospel. My husband was the first teenager who came to faith under its witness. 

Fiercely committed to the truth of Scripture, this church struggled with Billy Graham’s willingness to work with all denominations, even those that didn’t preach what Scripture made clear – that the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ – plus nothing. 

“When a person accepts Christ at one of his crusades,” the church leaders said, “he tells them to go to church. But he doesn’t tell them to go to a Bible-believing church, one that teaches that faith in Christ alone is what’s necessary for salvation. Those people will be led astray.” 

While our pastors didn’t specifically say we shouldn’t attend the crusade, they made it very clear that they disapproved. My husband and I, as new believers, eager to do what was right, chose not to attend. 

I’ve often regretted that decision. 

Now that I’ve walked with Jesus for many years, I’ve learned a few things that would have helped me make a different choice. 

I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. That if he saves someone, he’s also able to complete the work that began at salvation. I believe if someone is attending a church that doesn’t teach the Bible and gets saved, God will either lead them out or make them a missionary to that church. 

I’ve learned that while there’s only one way to heaven, there are a bazillion ways to share the gospel. Billy Graham’s way was one of them. One very effective way, I might add, one that God blessed tremendously. Who’s to say that our way is the only right way? 

The apostle Paul addressed this in his letter to the Philippians. “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here (in jail) for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18). 

And I’ve learned that we should trust our spiritual leaders, but we shouldn’t follow them blindly. We should weigh their advice against the infallible Word of God, then seek God’s will for our lives through prayer and additional wise counsel. 

While I can’t undo the decision I made 30 years ago, I can learn from it. I’ve learned to trust the Holy Spirit, be gracious toward those who serve God differently than I, and allow God’s Word to be the final authority in every decision I make. 

As I rejoiced at Dr. Billy Graham’s homegoing, mourned the loss of him, and regretted that I missed an opportunity to hear him preach in my hometown, God gave me a sweet gift. Through the wonders of technology and YouTube, I found a video of one of the sermons he preached during his crusade in Columbia. 

Instantly I was transported back to 1987. Big hair, big glasses, and a big God who redeems regrets and calls all mankind to himself. 

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever attended one of Dr. Graham’s crusades? Leave a comment below and share your story. 

If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. I hope you enjoy Dr. Graham’s message as much as I did. 

If you're reading by email and can't see the video, click HERE to watch online.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe? I'll send you twice-weekly 5-minute devotions to help nourish your soul. 
Because women need to connect with God in the craziness of life. 

Enter your email address and VALIDATE the Feedburner email sent to your inbox.

Delivered by FeedBurner