Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jesus - The New Wineskin

For many years, I have read about new wineskins in the Church being described as new and creative models of ministry. There is nothing wrong with those teachings as metaphors as long as we understand the original intent of what Jesus was saying. Jesus was telling His listeners in Luke 5 that He was the new wineskin. He came to replace the wineskin of an old and expired covenant.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” Luke 5: 37-39

The teachers of the Law were demanding that Jesus and His disciples fit into an old wineskin that was passing away. They were saying by their life and theology that, “The old is good enough.” Jesus was illustrating the point that the structure of the old covenant would not be able to contain the freshness of the new. A new spiritual container was required to hold a new covenant, not a refurbished wineskin.

We understand at the moment of our salvation we became a new creation – a completely new wineskin – capable of containing the expanding effects of the wine of a new Kingdom. We now walk through culture as living containers of God’s increasing grace not as some tired and brittle old wineskin of law that does not have the ability to contain new life.

The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians regarding leaving behind the old wineskin of the Law, “For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him.” (3:8-9) In the context of that chapter Paul first listed his significant Jewish pedigree in the law then he said he threw it all away for Christ. He was discarding the former wineskin to become one with the new wineskin - Jesus.

If we describe our life and ministry as something new and culturally expressive and then call it “a new wineskin” there is nothing wrong with that as long as our model was first formed by the life of Christ expressed in our unique context. Keep that order of progression in mind as you create new expressions of Jesus in culture. Once that understanding is in place you are free to enjoy the journey and drink the new wine of a new covenant poured freely from the Wineskin of Heaven – Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Flower of Forgiveness

As a young teenager, I heard Richard Wurmbrand speak at a church in my home town. Wurmbrand was a pastor who had been incarcerated in a Romanian Communist prison for 14 years during the 1950’s and early 60’s. He underwent unimaginable torture and depravation during those years for his faith in Jesus. He was so broken in his mind and body that he was reduced to two realities – he knew there was a God and love was a better way. Everything else had been stripped away.

When he was released from prison and began his journey to the West to inform the world of the horrors of Communism, he stopped by the cemetery where the military officer was buried who had ordered him to prison and torture 14 years earlier. While standing over the grave of the man who subjected him to so many years of horror, Wurmbrand bent down and placed a single flower on the man’s grave. The flower was a personal tribute to the power of God’s love and the ability to forgive the perpetrators of the most terrible forms of human abuse.

This morning, as I read the story of Richard Wurmbrand, I heard the Lord ask, “On whose memory are you willing to leave a flower of forgiveness?” One of the worst forms of torture is the kind that takes place outside the confines of an actual prison by those who try to carry something they need to release. Forgiveness is giving up our right to see our offender punished. Only forgiveness can open that prison door.                                                                                                                              

Today, make the choice to place a flower of forgiveness on the memory of your worst enemy. You will walk away from that emotional graveyard a free person with a testimony that will reveal God’s love and the truth that love is truly a better way.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

What Moves You?

There are certain songs that pull deeply on my emotional cords. This time of year one of those songs is, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. I think I like that song because of the hope it releases of a promised reconnection with loved ones.  We all have these responses to certain things in life – a song, the soulful cry of a violin, an image of something beautiful or being the unsuspecting recipient of a tender act of love.

There is one song, not a Christmas song, that when it is played, I begin to weep. On one occasion the soundtrack of this song was played when we had guests in our home. I had to leave the room because of my response to the words and melody the song released. At another time, while driving in my car, I found myself switching radio stations because I was simply not in a place to process the emotion I was experiencing and safely drive my car.

I have followed my emotional response to the song to a place I never knew existed. Once I arrived at the place where the song led me I found a beautiful revelation waiting for my arrival – a revelation hidden deep in the folds of the emotion it stirred.

Follow what you are feeling. God made you a feeling being and He will use your emotions to show you the deeper mysteries of this life. In that journey of discovery you will be led to places where you will discover how God wired you and why you so uniquely respond to the stimuli of life the way you do. It is a good journey. Many times its pathway will cause you to travel through a veil of tears to a deep and previously unknown destination you would have never discovered had you run away from what you were feeling.

Old School Cool

If you are a timid soul you might not like this story. I love it.

It has been almost forty years since I was a cop. It was a different world back then. Some things have remained the same in police work and so much has changed. As a young cop, I loved the old timers. These are the guys who were cops in the 1950’s and 60’s. One such old timer was Pappy. Pappy was a quiet presence. Nothing ever bothered him. Nobody ever messed with him if they had any wisdom. I met Pappy when he was in his 50’s. He was in good physical shape and tough as nails. Everybody liked having Pappy close by when the stuff of life hit the fan.

Pappy worked a lot of over time to save his money to buy his first motorcycle. Over the years, he worked his way up in the quality of the bikes he owned to finally have enough money saved to buy a full-dress Harley. The Harley was his pride and joy.

One day after his shift was over Pappy fired up his new bike to head home. On the ride home a group of outlaw bikers thought they would mess with the old man on a new Harley. The bikers pulled up and circled Pappy at a traffic light. The leader pulled up on Pappy’s left side. The leader, in a cocky and sneering tone said, “Hey old man – we like your bike. I think we will take it.”  At that moment old school cool took over.

Pappy slowly turned his head to the left like he was being annoyed by the sound of a buzzing little insect. As he was turning his head, Pappy reached through an opening in the front of his leather jacket where he retrieved the snub-nosed .38 he carried in a shoulder rig under his left arm. Pappy pulled out the revolver and shoved it in the bikers face and said in a calm voice, “Watch the hammer. It will be the last thing you ever see.”

At that moment the biker fainted and fell over along with his chopper. Pappy quietly re-holstered his .38, put his bike in gear and rumbled off to his home.

I share this story because it speaks volumes to me about how we should handle the conflicts of life. There is something in an old school approach to a challenge that can actually dial down the stress. Pappy was a confident man because he was a prepared man. I imagine his heart rate only rose a beat or two when confronted by a gang of overly-confident outlaw bikers who thought the old man was easy prey.

Someone who is easy prey in spiritual matters is someone who has not prepared themselves for the challenges of life. They failed to pack the hope and faith needed to face the uncertainties of life. Pappy did not arrive at his place of personal confidence that day on his ride home when he was surrounded by a threat. His cool and confidence was the result of a life of discipline and training for the “what ifs” of life.

If you live long enough hell will eventually pull up alongside your life and threaten to take away your peace and rest. When that happens, learn a lesson from Pappy. Pack the heat of heaven – hope and faith – just in case. Train with what you carry in the course of everyday life. Someday, when you need to negotiate a spiritually life-threatening situation, you will have something to reach for in order to turn the tables on hell. I would love to see the look on the devil’s face when he threatens you and you draw down on him with hope and faith. That level of confidence and preparedness really messes with his plans.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Recovering a Lost Promise

The Spirit of God is about to unearth, in the rubble of your personal history, promises that have been forgotten and considered lost. The unearthing of these parts of your history will provide the guidance and direction needed to help you find your place in the coming reformation of the Church.

I follow a Facebook site called Secrets of the Ice. Due to the receding of glaciers around the world teams of glacial archaeologists are being sent out to recover what is being revealed. They are discovering previously unknown archaeological treasures that would have remained a secret unless revealed by the receding ice field of a glacier.

In one episode an archaeologist held a very well preserved arrow that was just discovered. It was thousands of years old and fully intact. The point, shaft and feathers were all present. It had somehow survived under the weight of the ice after all these years. The arrow was alone and not in a quiver. It was most likely shot and lost in the snow during a hunt.

As I wrote these words, I was drawn to II Kings 13 when the prophet, Elisa, was getting ready to die. The king of Israel came to visit the old prophet. Elisa told the king to shoot an arrow through an open window to the east as a prophetic act signifying his victory in battle over the Arameans. Then Elisa told the king to strike the ground with his remaining handful of arrows. The king only hit the ground three times. Elisa became upset telling the king he should have kept hitting the ground. The three strikes of the arrows indicated a limited faith. It was a contradiction to the king’s willingness to shoot the first arrow through the window. This faithless act would limit the scope of victory in future battles.

Some of you are like the king. You shot your arrow through a window of faith creating an image of what you wanted to see God do, but you did not match that prophetic act with a continued measure of faith. Like the king, you limited God’s ability to assist you by a faithless response. You went into your future and experienced a victory limited in scope to what God had originally intended. He had plans for a much larger victory that would have been revealed by an expanded boundary line defining the partnership between your faith and God’s supernatural intervention. 

God is about to give you another chance to shoot your arrow and strike the ground in faith. Like an archaeologist who discovered a hidden arrow, you will see again the arrow you first shot through your window of faith. It has been buried and preserved under the intensity of the last season. It was never lost – just hidden in a place of disbelief. Pick it up and shoot it again. Take all the arrows out of your quiver of promise and begin to beat the ground in faith and do not stop. Your rediscovery of this promise from the past is critical because its discovery will help you reengage your destiny and move forward in God’s Kingdom.