What’s Cooking?


What’s Cooking?

Genesis 32:22–31

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

Matthew 14:13–21

Feeding the Five Thousand1

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

What does it take for a miracle to take place?

You need:

1 mountain of need

1 small seed of faith

1 mouthful of gratitude

Grind the seed of faith underneath the need and mix with gratitude.

Bake in high heat with patience.

As the miracle begins to rise, pour more gratitude over it.

A friend of mine once told me that anytime we have recipes for spiritual or miraculous results, we have left true Christian faith and have begun to delve into magic, witchcraft, and paganism. Why? Because they are based on works instead of based on grace. They depend on our power instead of depending on God’s power. In short, there are no recipes for miracles. Sometimes I wish there were, until I remember that God usually knows better than me and my wishes.Sure, we can throw in scripture references to try to baptize it, but getting something wet does not change what it is. Only God can do that. And God does not wait for us to baptize people before He gets to work and working miracles in their lives.

I don’t just believe in miracles, I’ve experienced them. Healing. Miraculous provision. When you prepare meals at church and have no idea whether 10 or 100 people will show up, some miraculous stuff usually happens. Help from the least likely and most unexpected places. Like when our unchurched neighbors show that they’ve been looking out for our church. Yes, most of them are small, but I’ve also seen people come back from the brink of death and go home from the hospital as the doctors just stand there and shake their heads confused. Miracles do happen, we just can’t make them happen on our own.

More often then not though, we are called to take part in that miracle. Sometimes it is hard, grueling work, and we feel, like Jacob, that we are just wrestling God, waiting for Him to make His move. Other times, we don’t even realize we are doing much, like the disciples who offered up their lunch to help feed the crowd. Or perhaps, we are focused on organizing and passing out food that we don’t even realize how much we have done until the end.

God is the cook, and we are the small seeds of faith He uses, pouring out His Holy Spirit upon us as we are ground up, stirred around, and finally rise up in the heat of conflict… all the while, surrounded by a mountain of need. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes out of love and gratitude for our love and obedience to Him. It’s not a payment, it is an incentive that comes before our obedience, leading us closer to Him. You see, something prompted the disciples to offer up that food to Jesus, to believe He could put it to use. They gave their all and Jesus made it make do.

What are you offering up to Jesus today?

  1. (Mk 6:30–44; Lk 9:10–17; Jn 6:1–14)

Use It or Lose It


Use It or Lose It

Genesis 31:1–21

Jacob Flees with Family and Flocks

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s; he has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me as favorably as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength; yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me.

During the mating of the flock I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the goats that leap on the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and return to the land of your birth.’ ” Then Rachel and Leah answered him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has been using up the money given for us. All the property that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.”

So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels; and he drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. So he fled with all that he had; starting out he crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.

Matthew 7:7–11

Ask, Search, Knock1

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Do you remember what the 10th commandment given to the Hebrew people on Mt. Sinai was? Thou Shalt Not Covet… I find it ironic that it sat printed outside courthouses that handled petty lawsuits where people claimed injury in order to get something out of their neighbors. Undoubtedly, some of that injury was real, but I am doubtful that it is always justified.

This is the commandment we are most likely to forget (perhaps other than honoring our parents) because it cuts against the grain of our culture. We are taught to want, and we are trained to find our wants in what others around us have. Many of us were doomed the moment we started drinking the water. Some of us lasted until we had siblings born. But eventually, coveting is a trap that catches us all.

Jacob, for his many faults, learned not to covet. He began to look at what he already had with gratitude, instead of focusing on what he did not have, but wanted. So, instead of being upset with a deceitful father-in-law who had done him wrong, he instead focused on what he did have: God, and a host of experiences that showed God’s provision for him throughout his life. He knew he was not innocent himself, and could not expect a trouble-free life, but God had blessed him anyway. He still had received better than he deserved. God led him with blessing he continued to be willing to give up, for the sake of following God further.

That is the secret to understanding the teaching of Jesus on seeking God. God is not a wish granter in the way we sometimes wish He was. He leads us, and provides for us along the way. If we are not content with what we have today, it is almost a certainty that we will not be satisfied tomorrow – and even if we are, it will not last. We are called to give and receive freely, willingly, to and from both God and neighbor, and if we can do this, God will satisfy us with the fruit of our own life, and the bounty he prepares for us along the way.

On the other hand, if we focus so much on what we do not have and lose sight of what we do have, we may very well end up losing it all.

Use it or lose it.

  1. (Lk 11:9–13)

Counting Chickens Before They Hatch


Counting Chickens Before They Hatch

Isaiah 41:8–10

But you, Israel, my servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

the offspring of Abraham, my friend;

you whom I took from the ends of the earth,

and called from its farthest corners,

saying to you, “You are my servant,

I have chosen you and not cast you off”;

do not fear, for I am with you,

do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Romans 9:6–13

It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” As it is written,

“I have loved Jacob,

but I have hated Esau.”

One of my favorite books growing up was called Flap Your Wings, by PD Eastman. Take just a few minutes and listen to this story.

This is a parable of the Kingdom of God. We don’t know what we have until it is fully grown. Not only must we be careful not to count on people as being fellow believers until they start bearing fruit, but we should be careful not to count out anyone too soon either.

There is one major difference between this story and God’s kingdom though. We are not only born once and find ourselves stuck with whatever kind of creature we become. We are invited to be born again, not as the same old person, but as a new creation. It is as if Jesus allows the story to continue, giving the crocodile the choice of repenting back into his humble shell and re-emerging as a bird the next time around – or choosing to stay a crocodile.

Some would argue that the interpretation should be that the birds deceived him, trying to convince him that he was something he was not – and that may be true in this story. However, the moral of that interpretation is that people cannot change and your genetic circumstances, both good and bad, therefore determine your future, and there is no hope for you to do anything about it. You have no choice in who you are.

Jesus gives us the choice to choose who we will be. He does not force us to be anything. The lie is that we have no choice at all. Don’t discount God’s power to give us new life when we are fretting over the fate of our eggs.

Who are you choosing to be today?

Stomach for Vision


Stomach for Vision

Isaiah 14:1-2

Restoration of Judah

But the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land; and aliens will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the nations will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess the nations as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land; they will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them.

Philippians 4:10–15

Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ Gift

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.

Have you ever had the problem of your eyes being bigger than your stomach when you were ordering food at a restaurant? Perhaps when filling your plate at a buffet or church potluck? I have for more years than I can remember. Grasping the concept of portions has always been one of my biggest problems… knowing how much was enough and when to quit. I know I’m not alone either. Some studies show that just over 2/3rds of all people in the US are overweight, many suffering from the same problem of eyes larger than their stomachs. Alongside the hundreds, if not thousands of diets you can buy books on, their are support groups such as EDA which help those who want support in taking back their life from the obsession of food.

We suffer from the same problem of overextending ourselves in more areas than just eating. We do it spiritually as well, and especially some of us who serve in significant ministries. It has to do with a different kind of vision though.

Oftentimes we catch a vision from God, or at least we think we do, of a grand new ministry idea, and after we have talked it up with a few fellow friends, it grows, not unlike a fish story. Often, the more people we get interested in it, the bigger it gets, and we keep raising the bar higher, in the name of Jesus, can i get an Amen? Have you been there?

Then comes the first planning meeting and by God’s grace, someone is there who is a details person and they, again by God’s grace, start shooting holes in this thing, because it really has grown beyond what God originally gave us and what we are actually able to do. However, not wanting to let God down, and certainly not wanting to let all our friends down, we fight to keep it big and bold.

A month later, it begins to crash and burn, and if we are lucky, we are able to salvage the core of the vision that God actually gave us and begin there, in a much smaller place. Oftentimes though, it is too late and the opportunity has been lost due to us trying to make it bigger than God intended.

I wonder if this is how Israel read this prophecy of Isaiah. Payback. All those mega-nations around us were going to be their slaves, making up for all the years Israel was picked on and looked down upon. Right there, in the scriptures, by the prophet Isaiah. Something to look forward to, I bet.

I wonder though if anyone ever asked what they would do differently from the pagans when they ruled the nations? Would they treat the people any different than Babylon or Assyria? Or would they basically be the same kind of rulers under a different name? Were they, like their wicked neighbors, simply out to conquer the world and reap as much reward as they could from those around them?

Paul, on the other hand, did conquer those nations, in a way. He saw those nations come to the aid of Israel and serve her king. It was not through military might or economic maneuvering. It was by sharing the love of Christ and adopting any into the Kingdom of God that would come. What did he receive for his work? Persecution and eventually death, largely from Israel’s own leaders. He learned the secret of achieving those great visions of God though: Being content.

God works through us in steps, and if we don’t work the steps, we won’t end up with the result we are seeking. There are no shortcuts in serving God. In fact, the most important part of the vision may be how God is working in and changing us ourselves through the work, more than any specific outward result. They go hand in hand. If we skip the inward work, we will not be ready for the outward results. The secret to keeping our vision the size that we can actually accomplish with God, is not about being pessimistic or doubting God, it is about learning to be content with whatever results God helps bring in response to our faithfulness. Being content pleasing God rather than impressing our friends… and we know we don’t have to impress God. He already loves us more than we can know. We just need to be obedient to His direction.

What vision has God given you?

How are you struggling with that vision?

What does simple, humble, faithfulness to that vision look like?

How can you find contentment in the work in process?

Jumping the Fence


Jumping the Fence

Genesis 46:2–47:12

Jacob Brings His Whole Family to Egypt1

When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.”

Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Now these are the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his offspring, who came to Egypt. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and the children of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. The children of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. The children of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The children of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan); and the children of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. The children of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Jashub, and Shimron. The children of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel (these are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, together with his daughter Dinah; in all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three). The children of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. The children of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and their sister Serah. The children of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel (these are the children of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and these she bore to Jacob—sixteen persons). The children of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. To Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. The children of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard (these are the children of Rachel, who were born to Jacob—fourteen persons in all). The children of Dan: Hashum. The children of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem (these are the children of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and these she bore to Jacob—seven persons in all). All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not including the wives of his sons, were sixty-six persons in all. The children of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.

Jacob Settles in Goshen

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors’—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”

So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.” From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.”

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the years of your life?” Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents.

Mark 4:30–34

The Parable of the Mustard Seed2

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The Use of Parables

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

In a world without God, or a life without God, we would be left to our own resources to make it through each day. When we take inventory of the possibilities before us, we instinctively look inward, at our own skills and abilities – the natural gifts God has given us. Even in our more spiritual moments, we still look to the gifts, spiritual gifts though they may be, that we have ourselves. It is part of the inward-focus of human nature. Some of the more politically ambitious of us learn to network and expand our resources by forming relationships with others, usually in a quid pro quo fashion.

Rarely do we ask strangers for help. It takes a place of real desperation before we go looking for resources that are foreign to us, even if they live right next door to us. Robert Frost’s admonition about fences has been rooted into us like scripture so much so that, in my personal experience, even those at the bottom of the economic end in our culture strive to keep up the appearance that they are not getting help from their neighbors.

Well, to be fair, I’m not sure whether it originated with the poor saving dignity or the rich seeking anonymity, but many of our food pantries and financial assistance organizations, although privately and personally funded and stocked, are treated like government programs created by congressmen and therefore anyone should have the right to use their services. Now, I have never come across anyone that literally thought they could come and take whatever they pleased. Rather, it becomes like a game instead. If you know how to present yourself in the right manner, you win the reward of food or money, but if you fill out the form wrong or mention the fact that you just came into some extra money recently, you will miss out. Most people are not malicious about it, and far more people need the help than we are willing to serve, but among all the poor I have ever lived around, no one came knocking on my door looking for help until I became a pastor – and then it wasn’t my personal help they wanted, it was the church’s help. Fences keep us impersonal and keep us from asking for help.

Jacob got over his qualms about asking neighbors for help. Hunger has its own way of humbling us to that point. Truly for him and his sons, it was more than neighbors they were seeking help from. It was a lost son and a black sheep of a brother they were going to, although they did not know it at the time. Jacob, now renamed, Israel (the man himself, the father of the 12 tribes) went on welfare with his whole family for the rest of his life.

In fact, I’ve not counted personally, but I would just about bet that the Jewish people have had way more time living in exile in other nations or under foreign powers than they have ever had in their own Promised Land. I don’t know if this is something to feel sorry about or if it is a lesson God has been teaching them in the long run. Teaching them and us all. Perhaps it is not just that we shouldn’t have fences. It is that we are called to be the people on the other side of the fence.

So it is with the mustard seed… the tiny little thing that grows well beyond its bounds and grows a place for every kind of bird out there. Nobody picks the mustard seed to plant in their landscaping. It does not have the honor of the Ceders of Lebanon. It is the seed that was so small it went unnoticed. In the end though, it is the one that they will all call home.

Sometimes the most important gifts we have in our lives are not the ones we own, they are the ones that lie on the other side of the fence, and no, it is not the property or possessions that our neighbors have… it is our neighbors themselves.

There was once a time when heaven may have been as close as a prayer, like a next door neighbor to us, but there was a fence that kept us out. That was until the day the white picket fence of heaven was painted red and we were asked to help invite everyone in.

Who are your neighbors?

When have they helped you?

What kinds of fences keep you from receiving them as God’s gift to you?

  1. (Ex 6:14–25)
  2. (Mt 13:31–32; Lk 13:18–19)

Squeezing Lemons


Squeezing Lemons

Genesis 30:37–43

Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the rods that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods, and so the flocks produced young that were striped, speckled, and spotted. Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and the completely black animals in the flock of Laban; and he put his own droves apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob laid the rods in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. Thus the man grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, and male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys.

Ephesians 6:10–18

The Whole Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Jacob may have been the original MacGyver. He took his impossible situation, the beginning of a long life dealing with the deception of others, and beat them at their own game. He did not only use intelligence, he used his persistence and willingness to do right even if he was not being treated fairly.

Ill treatment does not normally inspire us to perseverance and creativity. Usually we feel the opposite. We focus in all of our energy and effort upon that singular injustice – ignoring everything else around it. That’s our natural response, but natural responses lead to natural consequences… some of which we do not enjoy.

We need a supernatural response to injustice, and that’s exactly what Paul encourages us to do in Ephesians. The reason that we need the whole armor of God is because, our natural response is, once we get hurt, to take off all our armor and put it around the wound. That makes no sense in the battlefield. It’s a good way to get killed. Yet, think about it, the last time someone hurt your feelings, did you think to yourself I had better be sure to spend some extra time reading my bible this week, so that I don’t fall out of habit? No, we think about either 1) How we are going to get back at that person, or 2) How much alcohol or ice cream (pick your poison) it will take for us to get over our hurt feelings.

Only a person who is wearing the whole armor of God can really respond with integrity and creativity. To make lemonade out of lemons, you need a little bit of sugar, and keeping spiritually healthy all around helps you maintain a small but consistent supply of sugar on hand for just those situations.

What ‘lemons’ have come your way lately?

Where does your steady supply of sugar come from?

What To Do When the Man Keeps You Down


What To Do When the Man Keeps You Down

Genesis 30:25–36

Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense

When Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know very well the service I have given you.” But Laban said to him, “If you will allow me to say so, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you; name your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your cattle have fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything; if you will do this for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it: let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons; and he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.

James 3:13–18

Two Kinds of Wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Like many working families, growing up we did not go on vacations. Summertime and Sunday afternoons were used for catching up on yard work and housework that could not be done during the week. One particular job I can remember well was painting our front porch. We had a big, Victorian style house with close to twenty white wooden columns and a rail that went all the way around the front of the house, and while I’m sure we did not repraint the entire porch, it was big enough that there was always a part of it that needed redone. It was a constant reminder of the futilities of life, especially for those with few options. The work is always there, but it is not rewarding work, and it will never be finished. Long after we are dead and gone, the wood will need another coat of paint.

So, give me a power sander and lets go to work, right? Nope. My dad was old school, which meant we might be able to use a small block to wrap our sand paper around, but for the most part it was just sandpaper and our hands. For many of the smaller spindles in the rail, it probably was just as well, but wow it seemed like the most boring work you could possibly do. Sometime, during my youth I saw the original Karate Kid. My dad must have as well. Mr Miyagi was his parenting hero. I’m sure I resented him for it then, but I can see know he was simply teaching me what he knew best: Patient, hard work.

James tells us that we are to show our wisdom, not by guile or showboating our knowledge, but instead by a “good life” whose “works are done with gentleness born of wisdom”. You don’t get that kind of wisdom without spending time and sweat preparing wood for painting. Some believe that true wisdom comes from life experience, particularly in learning from many mistakes. Learning from mistakes is important, but some kinds of wisdom are not learned that way. Patience, diligence, and the gentleness that is required for delicate, laborious work, are not learned by making mistakes. They are learned by pushing out our selfish ambition and grudgingly succeeding, one step at at time.

Jacob had intelligence and guile. He could have simply run off with Rachel from day one. After all, Laban had been less than honest with him. Instead, Jacob would beat Laban at his own game with hard work. It was the slow game, the long walk, but in the end, it is only these that truly get us to where we need to be, and more importantly, help us become the people we were created to be. We rise, not through talent and ambition, but ultimately, through perseverance and discipline, because without these, we will have no balance to stay in those high places we seek to ascend.

What experiences have taught you patience and hard work?

What is the task that takes your patience and perseverance today?