New Wineskins

A few years ago, my husband and I visited one of the oldest wine cellars in Germany.  The tour included an underground maze of Roman cellars.  At one point we stopped to look down at ancient cellars that had been dug out seven floors below us, deep into the earth, frightening, winding staircases lost in the dark, now roped off across a not-so-sturdy looking metal railing.  The damp, moldy stench stuck to our clothing as we meandered back to daylight. The guide gave us free time to browse the cellar’s museum that included vats and glasses from several centuries.  As I gazed through the protective glass at Roman goblets and wine sacks, I could not help but feel the rush of time’s wind.  Who had put their lips to these goblets?  Who had carried the vats?  And then I thought of new wineskins, the home of fresh wine.

As I was talking and praying with a dear friend Monday morning, she spoke passionately about a book she is reading at her church and how she is being called to new wine.  Now, I can’t imagine this merciful and godly woman being any more merciful than she already is but God is doing a new work in her life.

He is doing a new work in my life.  And I couldn’t get the imagery she shared with me out of my mind. New wine.  And new wine cannot be put into old wineskins.  So.  Then.  New. Fresh wineskins.

In ancient Israel,  grapes were pressed in the winepress and then left in the collection vats for a few days. Fermentation started immediately on pressing, which allowed the first “tumultuous” (gassy) phase to pass. Then the must (fermenting juice) was put in clay jars to be stored or into wineskins if it was to be transported some distance.  It was these clay jars and old hardened wine skins that the museum so carefully displayed.

The wineskins were made of partially tanned goat skins, sewn at the holes where the leg and tail had been. The skins were filled with must (partially fermented wine) in the opening at the neck and then tied it off.

If the workers poured freshly pressed must directly into the skin and closed it off, the tumultuous stage of fermentation would burst the wineskins. After this stage, however, the skins stretched enough to handle the rest of the fermentation process. Skins that had already been used and stretched out (“old wineskins”) could not be used again since they could not stretch again. If they were used again for holding wine that was still in the process of fermenting (“new wine”), they would burst.

New wine needs time to become the perfect end result.  A true vintner (winemaker) schools himself in the art of winemaking.

But a vigneron cultivates the vineyard for winemaking.  A vigneron’s care and placement and tender care of the vines and fruit ensure grapes that produce the best wine.

And so God is The Vigneron, the Vinedresser.  Jesus, the Vine that produces good fruit.  (John 15:1)

Is God calling you to new wine?  It could be a new ministry, a reshaping of who you are.

For me, it is a deepening of this realization that Jesus died on that cross for the ugly in life.  He resurrected to defeat the ugly and replace it with grace.  All around us are people with messy lives, even those who seem to have it all together – and yes, maybe, especially those who seem to have it all together.

I don’t yet know what the new wineskin will be made of or what the new wine will taste like.  But God knows.  And so I trust the One who loves and wait expectantly for His tender shaping.

 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:17

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What Are You Waiting For?

A twenty-something star-crossed beauty, decked out with a scarf around her neck and sweater UGGS over her jeans, craning her neck for a sighting of her fiance.  A busy 2 year old boy, blowing frosty impressions on the glass as he watches the planes, holding a sign “Welcome Grandma and Grandpa!”   Parents anxiously checking their watches, then the arrival board, wondering aloud if their college student remembered to pack enough clothes for the 5 week break between semesters. Soldiers in uniform, burying their heads in the shoulders of wives and babies and parents as spontaneous applause erupts around them.

Airports.  I love airports, especially around Christmas.  There is an excitement, a buzz of emotions that can’t help but catch me and wrap me up as I join the throng of humanity in advent of homecoming.  I usually end up shedding a tear or two as I happily wait to hug family that I haven’t been able to touch in months, except through the virtual world of Facetime.

We enter the season of waiting.  Waiting for packages to arrive from UPS or the Postal Service.  Waiting for Christmas music 24/7.  Waiting for A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph and Frosty and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town to be available on Netflix or aired on TV.  We prepare grocery lists and menus.  We decorate the house and wrap presents, all in preparation for The Big Day.  Christmas.

Advent.  The dictionary defines advent as “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”  But for something important to come, we must wait first.  Waiting isn’t always easy, and sometimes we don’t know what we are waiting for. You may be waiting for a toddler to reach a developmental milestone or a teenager to pick up their room or a prodigal to come home. You may be waiting on a friend to forgive you or a husband to notice you.  Maybe you wait for the overwhelming torrent of grief to be replaced by just a heartstring pull and sweet memories.

Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus wait, in Luke 11:1-43.  I used to think of the story of Lazarus as mostly an account of resurrection.Which it is. But it is also a story about waiting. I love this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It teaches us so much about our own humanity. I love the disciples. We see their human side.

When Jesus tells the disciples that he is going back to Bethany, they immediately start trying to talk him out of it. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

When Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, but He’s going back to wake him up, the disciples then think they’ll give Jesus advice.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”

Clearly, the disciples don’t want to make this journey back to Bethany.  Dear Thomas, who probably wasn’t the most naturally brave of them all says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Can’t you just see Thomas? Squaring his shoulders, sitting up straight and, realist that he was, determining already in his mind that Jesus was going to die if he went to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

And Jesus doesn’t just wait a day or two after Lazarus died. No, he waits 4 days after Lazarus died.  What was He doing?  God, what are you doing?  Do you hear me?  Don’t you understand the situation?  Why do I have to do this?  How long do I have to WAIT?

We have Jesus who seems to have taken his time and arrived too late. We have disciples who are trying to give the Son of God advice and talk him out of his plans. We have sisters, dear friends of Jesus, who are grieving.

What does God teach us about waiting?

1) Waiting teaches us that God understands us and grieves with us even though He already knows the outcome. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead. Yet, when he came to Bethany and saw the sorrow of Mary and the others, he wept with them. God knows our frailty.

2) Waiting teaches us who is in control. It might seem sometimes like our circumstances are in control, or governments are in control, or any number of things (even our emotions!) but ultimately, the God of the Universe is the one in control. This is one of the foundations of my faith.I  can trust a God who has an ultimate purpose for my life and that purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What did Thomas do?  He assumed the worst, didn’t he?  He thought about the “What if?” and assumed that they would all die. How often do we get way ahead of God’s purposes and assume the worst?  We need to wait expectantly for all of the amazing things God will do so that we can say, “God’s hand has surely done this!”

3) Waiting teaches us to go on with life.  This is one of the hardest of life’s lessons. Mary and Martha had to go on with life while they waited for Jesus to come. They had to go through the ritual of preparing their brother’s body and burying him. There was more to the grief than just that Jesus didn’t come “in time.” Jesus was a dear friend. They wanted to see him in person.

4) Waiting teaches us that God is purposeful in every thing He does, even when He seems to delay.

From the very beginning, Jesus stated His purpose: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

When Martha and Mary both say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” I used to think they were reproaching Jesus for not coming. However, read what Martha says next : “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Luke 11:21, 22 What an acknowledgement of who Jesus was and is!

Where are you today? Are you waiting on circumstances to change? Be encouraged! God knows, he empathizes with you, and he has a plan. Just as His plan for our salvation through the advent of Emmanuel carried through time, even before it was time.  He spoke hope into the darkness, the void, the nothingness.

He is WITH YOU.  Emmanuel.  God WITH US.

It is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it!  Luke 11:4

 

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Four Days Waiting in Line

“This sickness will not end in death.No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

We spend a lot of time waiting. I’m an information junkie and went online to get some statistics…

The average person spends 6 years waiting for …lights to turn green, a person rather than a machine to answer their phone call, lines to move forward. We are in the military. Imagine soldiers who wait a half an hour every morning to get to work on a military post.I figured out that if you have to wait a half an hour five days a week, 4 weeks a month and 12 months a year and take out 2 weeks for vacation, you will spend FOUR DAYS out of ONE YEAR waiting in line at a military gate. That’s a lot of waiting.

In the military, spouses wait. We wait on orders, we wait on promotions, we wait for household goods, we wait for our husbands to deploy and we wait for them to return.We waited 4 months for our unaccompanied baggage to get to the States from Germany.

You may be waiting for a baby to sleep through the night or a toddler to stop throwing tantrums or a teenager to pick up their room.Day to day things that may not seem like much but that wear on you.

I just finished a novel about waiting, a novel about Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, based on Luke 11:1-43. I used to think of the story of Lazarus as mostly an account of resurrection.Which it is.But it is also a story about waiting. I love this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.It teaches us so much about our own humanity.I love the disciples.We see their human side.

When Jesus told the disciples that he was going back to Bethany, they immediately started trying to talk him out of it. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

When Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, but He’s going back to wake him up, the disciples then think they’ll give Jesus advice.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”

Clearly, the disciples did NOT want to go back to Bethany.So, finally dear Thomas, who probably wasn’t the most naturally brave of them all says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Can’t you just see Thomas? Squaring his shoulders, sitting up straight and, realist that he was, determining already in his mind that Jesus was going to die if he went to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus doesn’t just wait a day or two after Lazarus died.No, he waits 4 days after Lazarus died.

So, we have Jesus who seems to have taken his time and arrived too late.We have disciples who are trying to give the Son of God advice and talk him out of his plans.We have sisters, dear friends of Jesus, who are grieving.

What does God teach us about waiting?

1) Waiting teaches us that God understands us and grieves with us even though He already knows the outcome. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead.Yet, when he came to Bethany and saw the sorrow of Mary and the others, he wept with them.God knows our frailty.

2) Waiting teaches us who is in control. It might seem sometimes like our circumstances are in control, or governments are in control, or any number of things (even our emotions!) but ultimately, the God of the Universe is the one in control.This is one of the foundations of my faith.I can trust a God who has an ultimate purpose for my life and that purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Look at ThomasWhat did he do? He assumed the worst, didn’t he? He thought about the “What if?” and assumed that they would all die. How often do we get way ahead of God’s purposes and assume the worst? We need to wait expectantly for all of the amazing things God will do so that we can say, “God’s hand has surely done this!”

3) Waiting teaches us to go on with life. This is one of the hardest of life’s lessons.Mary and Martha had to go on with life while they waited for Jesus to come. They had to go through the ritual of preparing their brother’s body and burying him.There was more to the grief than just that Jesus didn’t come “in time.” Jesus was a dear friend. They wanted to see him in person.

4) Waiting teaches us that God is purposeful in every thing He does, even when He seems to delay.

From the very beginning, Jesus stated His purpose: “This sickness will not end in death.No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

When Martha and Mary both say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” I used to think they were reproaching Jesus for not coming. However, read what Martha says next : “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Luke 11:21, 22 What an acknowledgement of who Jesus was and is!

Where are you today? Are you waiting on circumstances to change? Be encouraged! God knows, he empathizes with you, and he has a plan. It is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it!


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