Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:3-5)

And Jesus answering them said, "Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?" And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Luke 6:3-5 NASB)

In legal defense, I am told, precedent is critical. If something was deemed lawful in the past, that decision can be used to justify a present act as lawful, too. Jesus uses the principle of precedent masterfully in this passage. When the Pharisees complained that the disciples were breaking the law by picking and eating the grain, Jesus referred them back to the actions of David. 

The story is told in 1 Samuel 21. Jonathan had warned David that King Saul was determined to execute him, and David ran for his life. The men who fought with him were safely hidden, but there was no food. In desperation, David went in search of something for his men to eat. He turned to the priest at Nob, Ahimelech, and asked for prayer and for bread. (In a later passage, we learn that Ahimelech had been "inquiring of the Lord" for David for years, and was David's personal intercessor.) The only bread the priest had was the bread that had been the bread of the Presence before The Lord. This bread was replaced daily, but the bread that had been removed was still considered consecrated. It was supposed to be used for the priests' consumption. This bread, the removed but consecrated bread, was what the priest gave David to feed his men. 

Jesus established two principles that day. First, his reference to David and the bread reminded them that the things of God are not to be hoarded when there are those in need. 
Second, Jesus made it clear that HE was equal with God. He referred to Himself as the Son of Man (a subject for another day) and equated the Son of Man with God as The Lord of the Sabbath. 

Imagine the Pharisees' surprise! They thought they had caught Jesus and His disciples breaking the law and Jesus told them, "No, I made the law and I'm the boss of the Sabbath. What they did was fine with Me." Their response was not recorded, but you can be sure they were fuming!

The Pharisees thought they were the protectors of the law. In a way, they considered themselves in charge of compliance. Jesus clarified that without any confusion at all. "Nope," He was saying, "I'm in charge here."  We would do well to remember that Jesus is still in charge, and He still wants thing done a certain way. Oh that our greatest concern would be doing things His way! What a difference that would make in our lives and in our world!

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would be more concerned about pleasing Jesus than about complying with the Pharisees of the world. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mamie Speaks Out by Mamie Hollis, Apprentice Wonder Puppy

My name is Mamie and I am ten weeks old.  I am really just a baby, but my new mama 'dopted me a few days ago, and she asked me to be an apprentice Wonder Puppy.  I was so e'cited about being an apprentice Wonder Puppy!  I don't know what any of those words mean, but it sounds good, doesn't it? Well, I do know about puppy, because I am a puppy.  I know all about that!

Being a puppy means you have some brothers and sisters, too.  You all play together and eat together and sleep in a jumbledy pile.  It's lots of fun being a puppy!  When I got 'dopted and came to my new house, it was really e'citing because there was another big, big puppy there.  My new mama said it was not really a puppy, it's a Wonder Dog! I don't know what Wonder Dogs usually do, but this one is not as nice as I thought she would be.  She won't play chase, and she won't eat with me, and she won't feed me either (because she looks like mother did, and I thought, well, maybe... but nope.  Nothing doing there!) She won't snuggle, either!  

It is very hard being an apprentice Wonder Puppy.  I kinda wish I hadn't taken this job.  My new mama told me that God had given me to her and her to me, and we are gonna be just fine.  It sure don't look like it though.  Oh sorry.  Mama said that was s'posed to be doesn't look like it.  Anyway, no fine here.

This is what my mama told me when I was sad.  She said that people have problems with other people who don't like them for no good reason.  Sometimes, people don't like other people because their skin or hair or clothes or thoughts are different!  Can you believe that?  How dumb is that?  They should take a lesson from puppies.  We don't care about any of that silly stuff!  We just care about eating, and sleeping, and playing, and snuggling!  She said when people are not nice to her, she is supposed to pray for them and bless them.  I asked, "Does that mean you would let them play with you anyway?" and she said, "Oh, yes."  I think my mama might be part puppy.  That's what we would do, too.  

Anyway, now I have a Wonder Dog who is not nice to me, and I'm gonna do what my mama said.  I'm gonna pray for her and ask Jesus to change her heart.  (It would be really nice if you would help me pray, too.  I'm new at this, and I can use all the help I can get!) I'm gonna bless her, too.  She can even have some of my puppy food if she wants it.  

Now, my mama told me that I should help you know what to do.  Apprentice Wonder Puppies need to learn how to help with lessons.  

We should be more concerned about eating, sleeping, playing and snuggling than we are about what color someone is or their clothes, or how different they think than us.  That stuff is just dumb.  I don't think Jesus cares about what color you are, anyway.  Look at how many different colors He made. Really, the kind of thinking and doing He cares about is the kind that is like Him.  He wants us to act like Him and think like Him.  If you aren't doing that, you should get started quick.

Here's the short lesson:
Be nice to everyone.  No matter what.
Pray for Wonder Dogs.  And all the mean people, too.
We need more snuggling and more playing.  (My mama said it's okay to say that since I'm just a puppy, but it's true!)

The end.  By Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy

Rules versus Relationship (Luke 6:2)

But some of the Pharisees said, "Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" (Luke 6:2 NASB)

The Pharisees were experts in the law. They not only knew the law, they interpreted the law, and they happily dispensed their interpretation of the law as law itself. In a way, it wasn't just God's Law, it was their Law, too, and they fiercely defended what they saw as their territory. 

The disciples were hungry and they grazed as they walked through the grain fields. Technically, it could be said that picking the handful or two of grain they ate was harvesting, and rubbing it between their hands to separate the wheat from the chaff was threshing, both of which were "work". How foolish it would be, though, for the Pharisees to complain about the disciples harvesting and threshing a few handfuls of grain in violation of the Sabbath when they were walking with The Lord of the Sabbath!

Jesus does not call us to a set of unbending rules but to a dynamic relationship with God Himself. That relationship (like the new wine from Luke 5) is one of change, growth, and steady maturity, not just a list of tasks to be accomplished. The disciples walked out that relationship for all the world to see. While the Pharisees were steadily checking off tasks on the "must-do" list and carefully avoiding the "do-nots", yet trying to sneak a few "do-nots" to the "can-do" list, in hopes of obtaining righteousness, the motley crew of disciples were laughing and eating with the One who WAS their Righteousness. 

It's easy to be a rule-checking Pharisee, especially when we are looking at someone else's actions! As we pray for our loved ones today, be sure to focus on their need for relationship, not on their need for another list to check and do. 

Pray first of all that we would live out our dynamic relationship with Christ in the same joyful way the disciples did, and that our loved ones would recognize the relationship as infinitely desirable. Pray that they will embrace a relationship with Jesus for themselves. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maggie has an eventful ride home by Maggie the Wonder Dog Hollis

Today is my second favoritest day of the week!  It's PLAY DAY!!  My favoritest day is when my mama is off work and home with me, but play day is wonderful, too. We wake up early and I get to wear my pajamas to the barn.  After everyone is fed, I get to snuggle back in my bed for an extra snooze. You have to get up early to have time for that little second nap! When my mama is ready, she takes me to my vet's office where my friends and I meet to play. He is so nice to let us play there! We have the best time. We play inside and then we go outside and we play some more. One time, we all played so hard and got so dirty that we had to have baths before we went home! 

It was really cold when we went to the barn this morning! It was 16 degrees! My mama said, "Maggie, it is too cold to ride to play day without a coat!" Sometimes I have to wear my parka, but today my mama let me wear my pink satin housecoat! Can you believe it? I just love how it feels, so shiny and so pretty! I look like a diva dog in it, too! Don't you like looking like a diva sometimes?

I had forgotten that my mama had a surprise in the car. I have a new booster seat! It was really fun to sit in the booster seat and look out. When we were coming home, I was looking out the window and saw a sign that said, "tomatoes here".  I think tomatoes are gross, but my mama likes them, so we slowed down to see those tomatoes. You are not going to believe this, but there was the grouchiest person in the whole world in a car behind us. She started honking her horn at us! I guess she does not like tomatoes! That didn't bother us a bit. When you are looking for tomatoes for your mama, you have to keep a sharp eye out and keep looking. That lady must have gotten her horn stuck, because it just kept on honking. When she went around us, she rolled down her window and yelled at my mama! My mama said, "Maggie, don't you listen to that. She is using ugly words."  My mama doesn't like using those ugly words. I did not like her hollering at my mama one bit! I am Maggie the Wonder Dog and I am a Shih Tzu. I am not putting up with someone yelling at my mama. She must have known I was about to straighten her out, because she took off, and it's a good thing she did! She was not nice! Not nice at all. 

The rest of our ride was really nice though. I had played so hard that I was so very tired. Booster seats are great for taking naps in, so I was rested and ready for my supper when I got in. I went straight to my bowl and started eating. I was hungry! I kept hearing the squeakiest noise, and that's when I remembered. The THING! Yep. It's still here and that's all I'm saying! Otherwise I have had a lovely day, as Wonder Dogs usually do! 

Here's the Wonder Dog Lesson of the Day:
Slow down when you are looking for tomatoes. 
Do not honk. 
Do not yell ugly words at my mama! 
(My mama says don't yell ugly words at anybody, but I'm saying you better not be yelling at my mama anymore!) 
Talk nice. That's what Jesus likes you to do. Be nice. He likes that, too. 

The end. 
By Maggie the Wonder Dog Hollis 

Content in any circumstances (Luke 6:1)

Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. (Luke 6:1 NASB)

An interesting thing happened one Sabbath day. Jesus and His disciples were walking from here to there. Their route took them through a grain field. His disciples were hungry, so they broke some of the grain heads off and began to eat them. We don't know the conversation surrounding this quick repast, but there is no evidence that these men whined or grumbled about eating the grain. They were hungry, so they ate what Jesus had provided along the way. These were the very men who had enjoyed a sumptuous feast with Matthew and his friends just a few verses earlier. In fact, Matthew was probably in the midst of the group. They did not, apparently, require elaborate and delicious meals as part of their discipleship. Comfort was not one of their requirements for following Jesus. 

I don't know about you, but I like comfort and I especially like delicious, perfectly seasoned and well-cooked meals. I like air conditioning and central heat, silk comforters, and pillow top mattresses. I like seat warmers in my car, warm coats when it's cold, and leather gloves to keep my hands warm. I suspect you do, too, or at least have your own list of comforts that you prefer. Jesus, however, did not promise us comfort. 

It's easy to be a disciple when we are comfortable. The question we all must answer is whether or not we would follow in a difficult and uncertain situation. Discipleship that is contingent upon favorable circumstances is not discipleship at all. Serving Christ should be done because of Who He is and not what He gives. Just as important, serving Christ should include accepting what He provides without grumbling or complaining.

Are you content with what God has given you, or do you complain and continually ask for more? 

Today, pray for a heart that is content with what God provides, and grateful for whatever circumstances He allows. Pray that our loved ones would not hold back from Christ from fear of having less than they want, but would embrace the life He planned for them. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Friends Help Out by Maggie the Wonder Dog

Thank you to all my friends who have been so concerned about my troubles. For those who don't know, four very long days ago, my mama went to run errands and came back with a surprise. It was supposed to be jerky or a toy, but it was not. It was a supposed 'dopted sister that looks like a guinea pig. It squeaks a lot and it poohs in the floor, which is not at all nice. I do not like squeaking and my mama doesn't even allow poohing except outside. (My mama says I have to tell you that the THING is doing much better and that she goes potty on command much faster than me, but you can believe that if you want to!)

This has been an exhausting week. This THING keeps chasing me. What is up with that? It is squeaking and running and I do not know what to do. Sometimes, I go hide in mama's room. The THING can't climb stairs, so I'm safe!

Today, I had a great idea. Mama got home and announced we would all go outside for potty time. I do not think that is a good group activity at all, so I decided to take a little break and do what I wanted. I played with the cats and my friend Lou the outside dog. We ran and ran. I was really tired after all that running, but I surely felt better. When I came inside, I ate some jerky that my friend Lucky Barber sent me, and read a Facebook message from my friend Stella Hayden.  I have so many friends and they knew just what I needed!  Exercise, a healthy snack, and some encouragement!  Friends are the best, especially in a hard time! 

I hope you have some good friends, and that you are a good friend, too. It made me feel so much better to know that I am not alone in my trouble, and that my friends are there to help! Have your friends helped you when you were having a hard time? I hope you said thank you. That's what I want to say to Lou and Lucky and Stella! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Here's the Wonder Dog Lesson of the Day: 
Friends help friends! 
Be a friend! 
Send jerky when they are having troubles. Jerky always helps!

Oh, yeah. Mama said her best friend is Jesus and He's the greatest friend of all. If you need a friend, He will be glad to help!

The end. By Maggie the Wonder Dog. 

Part 25: Old and New Cloth (Luke 5:36)

And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. (Luke 5:36 NASB)

We skipped this verse when we started the wine series, so I'm going back to catch it's lesson, too. 

The new holds great attraction for us, doesn't it? Madison Avenue has done a wonderful job of training us to desire "new".  As I was reading this verse today, I realized that we have, to a frightening degree, lost the value of the old in our culture. 

I have a pair of wing-back chairs that were my mother's. She was so proud of those chairs when she bought them, but when she moved to my house they went into a storage building and deteriorated badly. I recently pulled them out, bought new fabric, and hired someone to recover them. I realize that I could shop around and buy new chairs for what I am going to spend, but (at least for me) the old has intrinsic value. 

Jesus taught the value of the old, as well. In this parable that precedes the parable about the old and new wine, Jesus clarified before he ever started with the wine story that, to him, OLD has value. He described an old, but perfectly serviceable garment that had a tear in it requiring a patch. The patch could be made with new (unshrunk) fabric or with old fabric. We might want to use new fabric, but in the first washing, the new fabric would shrink and both the new fabric and the old garment would be ruined. It would be a waste of time and resources. 

The way to repair a hole in an old garment is to use old fabric (already shrunken). The old fabric can go through the wash and remain intact. No tears. It restores the serviceability of the garment. 

Remember that this preceded the wine teaching. Jesus clarified before He ever began that there is value in the old, including the old wine. New wine mixed with old would ruin the old wine, but new wine, given time to mature, can be added and bring enhancement to the old. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17 NASB). He wasn't starting something new. He was expanding and completing the old. 

We, and our loved ones, have spent much of our lives in a consumer society that values the new. It influences our spending habits and the way we think about value in general. It is one of the reasons that we look for "new" rather than embrace the faith of our family. 

Pray today that our loved ones (as well as we ourselves) will recognize the value and the beauty of  this "old" faith and embrace it without reservation. Pray that our fascination with "new" will end and be replaced with a desire for truth and righteousness. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Old Wine Personified

This morning, as I was writing about old wine, there was one person visible in my mind's eye. Mrs. Frances Nash. She was the mother of a childhood friend, an active member of the church I attended as a child, and the nicest high school cafeteria worker I ever met. (When I became a mother myself, I realized she was likely there to keep an eye on her growing boys, but we had no idea at the time.) After her husband retired, they made their home in a Tupelo retirement community and, once again, attended the same church as I. 

Mrs. Nash always smiled. Lots of people smile with their mouths, but Mrs. Nash smiled with her heart. When her husband retired from his position as a college professor, she smiled happily at the change. When they downsized to a retirement cottage, she smiled and thanked God for their tiny home. As their health faded, she smiled and rejoiced in whatever God allowed, while tenderly caring for those around her. 

She clipped newspaper articles and mailed them with lovely notes to my son. When I complemented a cake she'd baked, she mailed me a hand-written copy of the recipe, along with a lovely note. When hard times came my way, there was a lovely note that assured me of her love and prayers. Those little notes flowed from her heart of love and touched me at a deep level. I have saved every one. 

There has never been a person who received as joyfully or gave as freely as Mrs. Nash. My son and I went caroling at their retirement cottage most years. We always planned to bless her and Dr. Nash, but we were the ones who received the greatest blessing. I can see her now, smiling that giant smile, holding her hands over her heart at she listened, clapping when we finished singing, and hurrying to get a gift she had for Ryan "just in case we came by". 

These are the words I wrote this morning: "Old wine is a word picture of the mature Christian, who should be so free of the sediment of immaturity that he has developed the goodness and kindness of God Himself." As I wrote those words, I thought to myself, old wine is a word picture of Mrs. Nash. She moved again a few days ago, this time to her heavenly home. At the visitation tonight, I very nearly told her son, "Your mother was old wine to me." I didn't, because I wasn't sure he would understand. 

Old wine. What a perfect picture of a dear woman who was not only filled with the Spirit of God but left the lingering fragrance of Christ everywhere she went!  

Part 24: Old Wine (luke 5:39)

And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:39 NASB)

The Greek word translated here as "good enough" is chr─ôstos. Vine's Expository Dictionary defines it as "useful" or "fit for use". When it is used in reference to God, it refers to His goodness and kindness. Old wine is a word picture of the mature Christian, who should be so free of the sediment of immaturity that he has developed the goodness and kindness of God Himself. Maturity should bring the character of God to our lives and it should be evident to those around us. Our harsh, rough edges should have been smoothed off in the process of transformation. 

What is the character of God? When God passed by in front of Moses, he proclaimed His attributes. 

"God passed in front of him and called out, “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin...” (Exodus 34:4-7 MSG)

NASB describes Him as "compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin..."  Those are the characteristics that should mark the life of a mature Christian. It's the way people should describe us! There is no room for harshness, bitterness, or unforgiveness, is there? Those unpleasant characteristics should have been removed during God's work of transformation. 

Just to be clear, this does not eliminate tough love in difficult circumstances, accountability, or the need for reparation when wronged. God has been tough with me on more than one occasion. He has not, however, been mean-spirited or unkind in his discipline, and He has always been gracious to a broken and contrite spirit. 

Are the attributes of God evident in our lives? Would those who know us best describe us as merciful, compassionate, endlessly patient, slow to anger, forgiving, and loyal? 

Pray today that God would complete the process of transformation in us and in our loved ones, removing harshness, bitterness, and unforgiveness and replacing them with those attributes that would make us most like Him. May we, and those around us, recognize the evidence of maturity and praise God for the work He has done. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Maggie the Wonder Dog is Confounded by Tragedy (part 3)

Being a wonder dog is full of exciting events. This morning was especially exciting because mama took the THING away when she went to work.  I had the whole day in my kitchen all to myself! I was hoping that she was taking it away for good, but no such luck. She took it to see Dr. Black for a check up and she was carrying that THING when she got home! Boo!

My mama keeps telling me this is my new 'dopted sister but it looks like a guinea pig to me. Why would I want a guinea pig for a sister? And it chases me! And poohs in the floor sometimes. My mama does not like that! I do not see how this is going to work at all. Poohing in the floor is not for us. Wonder Dogs do not pooh in the floor. We go outside!

Here's some good news, though. My mama is still my mama and she still loves me! I am so happy. She gave me two treats just like always when she had her supper! We have snuggled on her bed, just like always. Mama doesn't let poohing guinea pigs on her bed, so I had her all to myself! Fun! And belly rubs! I got belly rubs! After all those belly rubs, I can't stay mad at mama. She is too nice!

Well, if anyone wants a poohing guinea pig, come get it. Please!! Help a Wonder Dog! 

My mama said I should give a lesson and not just whine about my supposed new 'dopted sister (Which my mama says is not supposed but is for sure, but I am not convinced!) 

Here's what you need to know: My mama still loves me even when I am not nice and am mad at her because I don't like this supposed sister business. My mama says that is how God is. He calls it unconditional love. That means He loves us no matter what! That's really good! I have never seen God, but if He loves us like my mama loves me, He's really nice. You should get to know Him. 

Here's the Wonder Dog Lesson of the day:
Guinea Pigs do not make good sisters. (My mama said not to write that but I am leaving it!)
Don't stay mad. 
Be nice to God. He loves you a lot. 

The end. By Maggie the Wonder Dog. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Maggie the Wonder Dog is Confounded by Tragedy (part2)

Being a Wonder Dog has been hard again today. That brown furry THING is still at my house. It is in MY kitchen. You might not believe this, but the THING actually got on my bed and snuggled in like it was it's bed and not mine. It has been snuggling with my mama! My mama said, "Come on Maggie. Snuggle with us!" Ha! I want to snuggle with my mama, not with my mama AND the THING! 

Last night, when bedtime came, my mama said, "Come on, Maggie. Let's go upstairs and get ready for bed." I hurried up the stairs. There are no furry things up there. Yet. She put my pajamas on for me and helped me up to her bed. I always sleep on the end of her bed. That way, if I wake up in the night and need to snuggle, she is right there. I love sleeping with my mama! Last night, though, I kept thinking about the THING and I couldn't stay. I had to just sleep on the chair all by myself. I was so alone. 

My mama came and sat in the chair with me. Mamas are really nice, aren't they? Even when you are mad at them. She said, "Sweet Maggie, I still love you. You would like Mamie if you got to know her. She is really nice." I couldn't say a thing. I don't want to get to know her. I want my mama to myself. 

Today, my mama said, "Come on Maggie. Ride with me to the barn to take the feed." At last! I hopped in the truck and the next thing I knew, she had put the THING on the seat next to me! I had to stand on the very edge of the window and keep looking out to keep from seeing it! Do you know how hard it is to stand on the edge of the truck window? It's terrible. 

I have not known what to do, but I know I do not want any more of those brown furry things coming in our house. I have been standing guard at the upstairs window. No more have come, but a Wonder Dog can't be too careful. I still don't know how my mama let this one in!

My mama came and sat by me at the window. She said, "Now Maggie, I know this feels like the worst thing in the world, but it's really not. There are lots worse things than having an apprentice wonder puppy!" She said she had some hard things in her life before, and she always thought it was the worst thing that could possibly happen, but it really wasn't. That was because she didn't get an apprentice wonder puppy. 

She told me, "Maggie, you can choose to make this better if you will. I have already asked Jesus to help you. He always answers prayers, so He is trying to help you, but you are going to have to take His help!" She told me that being angry and pouty is unbecoming for a young lady and for Wonder Dogs, and that Jesus doesn't like it either. 

She said sometimes people don't like what comes their way, but that the Bible said those trials (that's what people call them) are really gifts from God. She said they feel like getting slashed to pieces but, if we let them, all the stuff inside us that isn't like Jesus will leak out those slashes. After it's all over, we will be more like Jesus than we were before. My mama is really big on being like Jesus. She even thinks Wonder Dogs should act like Jesus. Sometimes I have to reminder her that I may be a Wonder Dog, but I am still just a dog. 

Tonight, I'm reminding myself that I am just a dog. I don't know if I want to be a wonder dog anymore. It's awful hard. I'm not sure I want to act like Jesus, either. If it's hard for people to do, it's worse for Wonder Dogs! 

I don't want to make friends with the THING.  Even if it's the right thing. 

I don't want to do right. 

Have you ever felt like that? 

To be continued...

Part 23: Back to the wineskin (Luke 5:37-39)

This entire series of lessons started as a way to understand these verses:

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 NASB)

The new wineskin is made of animal hide  with an animal bladder lining.  When the new wine (not yet fermented) is poured into the wineskin, the fermentation process gives off carbon dioxide gas and causes the bladder (and thus the hide) to expand. Only a new skin has the flexibility to expand as the gas is produced. An old skin is stiff and lacks "give".  The advantage to the old skin is that it is strong. It's less fragile and less likely to sustain damage from routine use. 

The new wine contains tannin, which will help to condition, or tan, the hides. Don't miss this point. New wine doesn't stay new. New wineskins don't stay new. In fact, new wine in a new wineskin allows the new wine to become transformed to old, and allows the new wineskin to become transformed to an old wineskin. New wine is limited to new wineskins. Old wine is at home in either an old wineskin or a new wineskin. No special concession is needed. 

This transformation is vital because new wine is not delicious. Old wine, however, has had time to develop a rich aroma and flavor. It is much more desirable than new wine. Jesus was not saying anything negative about old wine or old wineskins. 

Look at this chapter in its entirety. Simon the fisherman was transformed to Simon the disciple. The paralytic was transformed to a walking testimony of the healing power of Christ. Matthew was transformed from a money-obsessed tax collector to Matthew the Evangelist, introducing all his friends to Jesus. Even in the discussion about fasting, Jesus said His non-fasting disciples would be transformed to fasting disciples. 

The wine example was a word-picture everyone could understand. It was part of the vernacular. Fermentation was the only way available to preserve the fruit juice. There were no canning jars, refrigeration, or freezers. Their options were fermentation or wastage. Of course, fermentation was preferable, and that was the method used for preservation. 

Jesus was saying that, just as grapes are transformed by a very clear process that moves from grapes to must to new wine to old wine, disciples are transformed by a process, too. New disciples must experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives to cleanse and grow them into mature disciples. They cannot instantly fit the discipline and study of a mature disciple. An old wineskin would be confining. Being a mature disciple, however, is infinitely better than being a new one. Mature disciples can fit into any situation or challenge Christ presents them. They are at home in flexible new wineskin conditions or more structured (possibly confining or difficult) old wineskins, and they fill either with the aroma of Christ in such a way that the situation becomes infinitely more desirable. 

The only way to become a mature disciple is to begin as a new disciple, but no one should stay "new".  Maturity is the desirable state. Like the wine, that moves from being a grape on the vine all the way to vintage, well-aged and matured wine, our desire should be to move from the "baby Christian" stage to fully mature believer in a steady process. 

Where are you in your journey of transformation from new wine to old? What needs to be done to move you closer to maturity?

As we pray today, ask God to move us and our loved ones toward greater maturity. Pray that the process does not stop until we (and they) are as fully developed in our faith as our Lord planned and that the bouquet of Christ is recognizable to all we meet.


Part 22: Time in the Barrel (Luke 5:38)

But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5:38 NASB)

First fermentation, first racking, second fermentation, second racking. It's a long process and takes weeks. At the end of second racking, the wine is still not ready to drink. Some wine (particularly red wines) need further maturation. The wine cannot stay in the fermentation vat to be matured. It must be transferred again, this time to oak barrels where it will be allowed to remain until bottling. The maturing process requires that the wine sit. The winemaker is not obviously working on the wine. Everything appears quiet in this section of the winery. 

It may be quiet, but something vital is happening. Enfolded in the confines of the oak, the wine is nestled safely inside, where it gradually begins to acquire a change in flavor due to the oak itself. Its flavor deepens and expands. The wine is richer, has a deeper bouquet and taste due to its time in the barrel. At the end of its stay there, often as much as twenty years, the value of the wine has been greatly increased by the time of quiet. 

That principle is true for achieving maturity as believers, as well. It is in the quiet times, spent nestled in the loving arms of our Father, that we grow, and develop depth and richness of spirit. It is where He develops us and we begin to take on the flavor of our Lord. What a beautiful gift to be so infused by the presence of God that those around us can sense the aroma and taste the flavor of Christ! 

How strong is the aroma of Christ in you? Do you need more quiet "barrel time" with our Lord? 

Pray today that we will invest enough time with our Lord that the evidence of it is obvious to those around us, especially those we love. Pray, too, that the depth achieved will be so attractive that our loved ones will want it for themselves.