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?


The Promise of Help


The Promise of Help

Job 38:22-38

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

which I have reserved for the time of trouble,

for the day of battle and war?

What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,

or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,

and a way for the thunderbolt,

to bring rain on a land where no one lives,

on the desert, which is empty of human life,

to satisfy the waste and desolate land,

and to make the ground put forth grass?

Has the rain a father,

or who has begotten the drops of dew?

From whose womb did the ice come forth,

and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?

The waters become hard like stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen.

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,

or loose the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,

or can you guide the Bear with its children?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

Can you establish their rule on the earth?

Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

so that a flood of waters may cover you?

Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go

and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,

or given understanding to the mind?

Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?

Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

when the dust runs into a mass

and the clods cling together?

John 14:15-17

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

The Gospels tell two stories of spiritual warfare between the disciples and evil spirits that I believe should be considered together to show us the power of God in us. The first story is in Luke 10 where Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach, pray, heal, and cast out evil spirits in His name. They return exhilarated by the experience, ready to take on the world. Jesus gently reminds them that He saw Satan himself cast out of heaven, but that was not a thing to be excited about. What was more important was that they got to enter Heaven themselves.

The second story is from Luke 9 (conveniently). In this story, just before the 72 disciples are sent out, the main 12 disciples fail to dispel an evil spirit that causes seizures in a young boy. Obviously, the disciples thought they had the power to do this, but they were wrong. Some might argue that this was because the event happened before Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, Luke, the author did not think so since they are casting out demons and performing miracles just one chapter later. Where then do we get answer for what changed in between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10? In the middle.

Luke 9:46-50

True Greatness1

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

Another Exorcist2

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Two more stories depicting greatness and power. One word to describe them both: Help. Children are great in the kingdom because they ask for help. They do not fall under the delusion of power and invincibility until those teenage hormones begin to kick in. In God’s kingdom, His people ask for help, and they receive it. The disciples questioned help from an outside source (Imagine what they would think of 60 more exorcists to join the work in Chapter 10!). Jesus did not question it. He, like the little children accepted and rejoiced in it. Even He was not too good to ask for help as He prayed that God would raise up more disciples. Here God answered that prayer.

God blasted Job with rhetorical questions about His power and Job’s weakness, not to humiliate him, but to remind him that help was there for the asking. One thing I notice in Job’s story is a (perhaps) feigned sense of modesty i- accepting his losses without complaint. While refusing to complain may be taking a more noble road, it is still more prideful than being truly humble and asking for help. Prior to the disaster, Job was trying to maintain success and prosperity by his own work. He would ask for forgiveness, but not help. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that the Holy Spirit’s job is to be our Advocate – on- Helper. He is our power. Not just the source of our power… the Holy Spirit is our power. Whatever comes our way, we have someone we can ask for help.

What do you need help with today?

How are you allowing God’s Spirit to help you?

  1. (Mt 18:1–5; Mk 9:33–37)
  2. (Mk 9:38–41)