Archives For Caleb’s Crew

I am not wonderful. I am just a poor old frail and weak woman. God has taken hold of me and he gives me the strength I need each day. He uses me just because I know that I have no strength of my own.

Granny Brand
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“God wages war on our despair by loving us into the future and by opening us up to infinite possibilities. The person, from the believer’s point of view, is a pilgrim, a sign of what is to come. Thus it is that we are invited to live not in the future, but from it.” Living from the future means refusing to define ourselves as less than what we will be when we stand before God. Living from the future means living at the edge of glory and rejecting the attempts made by the world, the flesh, or the devil to cut us down.

Richard Krejcir quoting Alan Jones

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I don’t mean to say that I have… already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me…I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

The apostle Paul, around 60 years old, writing to the Phillipians about his growth in faith. [Phillipians 3:12-13]

This Week’s Special
Stop dwelling on past events and brooding over days gone by.
I am about to do something new.
Even through the wilderness, I will make a way and paths in the barren desert.
I shall provide water in the wilderness, and rivers in the barren desert.

Isaiah 43:18-21


Many years ago, I read two books by Dr Paul Brand, co-authored with Philip Yancey, In His Image,and Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Both books draw upon lessons Brand learned in his pioneering work with leprosy patients.** Full of amazing insights about the human body and the Christian faith, they are well worth reading, or re-reading.

But this post isn’t about Paul Brand. It’s about his mother who had her own fascinating story. Granny Brand started out her life as Evelyn Harris, the daughter of a rich British merchant. In her late twenties [a hundred years ago], she gave up her comfortable life in London and went to work in the mountains of southern India. There she married Jesse Brand and settled into a remote area where people struggled with sickness, poverty and hopelessness. The Brands cared for the people, sharing the good news of the gospel and caring for those who were ill. They had two children, Paul and Connie, who were eventually sent back to England for schooling. Then Jesse died of blackwater fever. Evelyn went back to England on furlough, and spent time with her children. But at the age of 49 she returned to India. For the next 20 years she continued the work, sometimes living in rugged mountain villages and sometimes working on the plains, based in Madras.

Her biography** does not dwell on her faults but it’s clear that she was not always easy to work with. She could be critical , strong-minded, and stubborn. But she was also passionate to help people in any way she could and her life is proof that the God doesn’t seem to mind using imperfect, exasperating saints.

Just before she turned 70, following the policy of the mission, she retired. And then she joined Caleb’s Crew**. Instead of returning to England, she settled once again in the southern mountains to start a new work. For 25 more years, until her death at the age of 95, she continued bringing hope and wholeness to remote villages. She helped eradicate the painful guinea worm parasite, fought marijuana growers, led Bible studies, took in foster children. Granny Brand is a great example that there’s no age limit on having a vision and making a difference in the world. Given that our life expectancy has increased over the last century, that’s a valuable lesson for all of us, no matter what age we are.


But I think the most notable success of her second career was not how God worked through her, but how God was able to work in her. Miraculously, He softened her, healed old bitterness, replaced irritation with love. When Paul Brand visited his mother towards the end of her life, he noticed a spiritual strength she had not shown before. And he found her younger–not in her body, but in her spirit. She had a deeper joy and peace. “This is how to grow old,” her son wrote.” Allow everything else to fall away, until those around you see just love. They will also see your own life renewed and they will recognize the love to be the love of God.”

What an encouraging illustration that we are never too old to be changed. God never gives up working in us. Regardless of what decade we are in, the power of the Holy Spirit can do the impossible in us, smoothing away our rough edges and healing wounds we thought were permanent.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16

**Links and Notes
** “Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen’s Disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.” [obituary in Christianity Today]

**Granny Brand: Her Story by Dorothy Wilson Clarke
There is also a brief biography of her here

**Introduction to the Caleb’s Crew series

At the age of 60, John Stott wrote:

“I was reading Leviticus 27 that day, which is about redemption prices. From it I learned that in Hebrew society “the value of a male between the ages of 20 and 60” was “50 shekels of silver”, whereas at 60 he dropped 35 shekels to a mere 15! Perhaps therefore, I thought to myself, I should regard my 60th birthday as my “Devaluation Day”. A Singaporean friend helped to rescue my sagging morale, however, by telling me that according to the Chinese a 60 year-old is worthy of added respect because he is now embarking on his sixth 12-year cycle.

Leaving aside these cultural perspectives, I sat that afternoon in my favourite nook on the Pembrokeshire cliffs and read the exhortation in Hebrews 12.1 to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. So I prayed for grace to persevere in Christian faith, life and service, and a few months later was encouraged by the promise of Psalm 92.14 that God’s people “will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green”. May it be so!”

***
At the age of 67, John Stott reflected:

“50 years ago today, on 13 February 1938 a young man knelt at his bedside and opened the door of his heart or personality, and invited Christ to come in. I was that young man. I have now had 50 years in which to test the reality of Jesus Christ. Tonight, on my 50th spiritual birthday, I want to bear witness to him, and to the length, depth, breadth and height of his love…

When I am asked if I have any further ambition, as my life approaches its end, I answer that my overriding desire is to become more like Jesus Christ, through the transforming power of his indwelling Spirit. For that is God’s eternal purpose for us all. And when Christ comes again, in spectacular magnificence, we will at last be fully like him, for we shall see him as he is.

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At 85, John Stott said:

Pride is without doubt the greatest temptation of Christian leaders. And I’m very well aware of the dangers of being feted and don’t enjoy it and don’t think one should enjoy it.

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More wisdom from John Stott:

At every state of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.

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If we truly love our neighbor,we shall without doubt tell him the good news of Jesus. But equally, if we truly love our neighbor, we shall not stop there.

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We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’

First up in Caleb’s Crew is John Stott who died last week.**

He’s not a member of the crew merely because he lived to be 90, but because he kept running the race and bearing fruit long after retirement age. In the memorial video about his life, I was struck that virtually all the pictures of him in action showed him with white hair.** He wrote his last book at 88, in longhand no less.** Here was a man who didn’t focus on the finish line but who kept his eyes on Jesus.

When Stott was 80, a longtime associate described Stott**:

To those who know and meet him, respect and affection go hand in hand. The world-figure is lost in personal friendship, disarming interest, unfeigned humility—and a dash of mischievous humour and charm. By contrast, he thinks of himself, as all Christians should but few of us achieve, as simply a beloved child of a heavenly Father; an unworthy servant of his friend and master, Jesus Christ; a sinner saved by grace to the glory and praise of God.

At 85, Time Magazine selected Stott as one of the world’s most 100 influential people, putting him in the “Heroes and Icons” category.**

As another blogger put it last week , “He lived well, he died well, and now he lives better.”**

I think you’ll find it well worth it to look at the links below.

Notes and Links
Stott’s obituary in the New York Times
Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times about Stott

video story with lots of white-haired pictures of Stott

Stott’s last book,The Radical Disciple

A few talks and sermons by John Stott that you can download
Note that Stott gave these from the ages of 84 to 86

Timothy Dudley-Smith’s reflections on Stott’s 80th birthday

Time Magazine’s profile of John Stott for their 100 most influential people issue [written by Billy Graham]
Time Magazine’s full list of the 100 most influential people

Dennis Haack on Stott

I think it’s time to put another item on the Snack Bar menu called Caleb’s Crew [right next to Babette’s Feast**]. I never paid much attention to Caleb until this year when a friend of ours, Dan, mentioned that he wanted to develop a spirit like Caleb. I went back and read about Caleb in the book of Joshua.

Here is Caleb in his own words:

Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite spoke: “You’ll remember what God said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me back at Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of God sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land. And I brought back an honest and accurate report. My companions who went with me discouraged the people, but I stuck to my guns, totally with God, my God. That was the day that Moses solemnly promised, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance, you and your children’s, forever. Yes, you have lived totally for God.’

Now look at me: God has kept me alive, as he promised. It is now forty-five years since God spoke this word to Moses, years in which Israel wandered in the wilderness. And here I am today, eighty-five years old! I’m as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. I’m as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. So give me this hill country that God promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If God goes with me, I will drive them out, just as God said.”

85 years old and still living life to the hilt. Caleb’s spunk didn’t come from himself though. As a commentator talking about Caleb’s courageous stand in Numbers 14 put it, “Caleb was not so much a man of great faith as a man of faith in a great God. His boldness rested on his understanding of God, not on his confidence in Israel’s abilities to conquer the land.”

I’m getting older. [And I know that regardless of your age, if you’re alive, that’s happening to you too.] I’m going to be needing models who can show me what it looks like to bear fruit in old age. Caleb’s crew.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming:
“The Lord is upright; He is my Rock
and there is no wickedness in Him.”

Psalm 92:12-15


Caleb’s Crew

**Notes
I’m not sure if I’ve ever explained Babette’s Feast as a menu item. It’s named in honor of Babette, the generous and gracious cook who made an amazing feast in Isak Dinesen’s short story, Babette’s Feast [which was then turned into a movie]. Here, Babette’s Feast highlights followers of Jesus who have remarkable, though sometimes hidden, lives.