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Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Wine Skins

EXPAND:  To increase in extent, size, volume, or scope; to unfold; to express in fuller form or detail; to enlarge.  PUNY:  Of less than normal strength or size; weak; unimportant; insignificant.  

Not sure which side of the fence you are on today, but I know I would prefer the "expanded" version of life vs. the "puny" version.  In fact, in examining the steps I have taken over the last year (something I do in the first part of each new year), I can see some steps I have taken to "position" myself for growth in a number of ways in my life.  First and foremost, I find myself enjoying the times I have with my Lord - long or short.  There are times in my day when I just get quiet for a few brief moments - settling my spirit and emotions into the presence of God.  Others don't know about this, but it is what keeps me centered and on task in my life.  If someone comes across me at that moment, they might think I am deep in thought, but in actuality I am just deep into his presence!  An awesome place to be, huh?  "Where" we find ourselves often determines "what" we find developing or withering in our lives.

The Fear-of-God expands your life; a wicked life is a puny life. (Proverbs 10:27 MSG)


Our writer points out the differences between a God-centered life and that of a man/woman choosing to make their own decisions in life.  The differences become the plainest when we look at the "outflow" of each.  You see, it is almost impossible to "expand" without also "overflowing" - there has to be an outlet or outflow for the "expansion" going on inside.  Isn't this the parable Jesus taught one day about old wine skins and the new?  You don't put new wine in the old because they incapable of expanding any further - you put them new into the new.  I think there are times when Jesus is ready to pour into us something quite new, but if we don't take time to prepare the new "skins" to accommodate the "in-pouring", we will miss out on so much of what he desires to give.

In looking back at our two definitions, there are a couple of points I'd like us to consider:

* There is an increase of some kind God wants to give into each of our lives.  If you have ever had the experience of having a bumper crop from your garden of some type of fruit or vegetable, you probably understand how hard it is to find spaces to store all you see being produced.  One of the things you often do when you experience this type of increase is reach out to others to share what you have been blessed with.  Perhaps this is he basis of God increasing us - to cause us to be in a position to have something to give out to others who will be equally blessed by the "bumper crop" of his goodness.

* As God expands us, there is a process of unfolding which occurs.  I remember the nurse bringing my daughter and son into me for the first time after delivery.  They had been cleaned up, wrapped securely in a little blanket, snug as a bug in a rug.  I couldn't see their toes, their fingers were secured in the confines of those folds.  So, the natural thing each mother does is to "unfold" the "package".  The blankets are slowly unfolded, revealing first one little hand, then the other, until you find yourself down to the tiny toes.  In the process, what are you doing?  You are discovering the intricacies of this tiny life before you - things hidden from view, but now plainly revealed because of the "unfolding" process.  The same is true in our spiritual lives - sometimes things come to us in neatly prepared packages - promise of great things just below the surface.  The thing we need to do is engage in the unfolding process in order to discover what those things are.  God's gifts come in many forms - each requiring some unfolding in our lives.  The degree of eagerness we express in seeing revealed what is contained in the "package" of God's new graces in our lives is often an estimate of how much expansion we are ready for!

* God's intent is to see the expression of him in us in some greater detail.  No good thing comes our way without an express purpose.  The same is true of those things which don't immediately seem to reveal a blessing.  Our writer points to the idea of God "giving into" our lives something which would be missing otherwise.  The thing he gives is really a person - Christ.  The thing he accomplishes in the gift is an exchange of character - from the puniness of life on our own terms to the expansiveness of life filled with his graces, promises, and power.  There is no limit to the discovery of God in us - we just have to allow the unfolding and expansion process to occur.

By contrast, the life which limits the "inflow" of God's graces is marked by minimal strength and a "bare bones" existence.  Now, this doesn't just capture my interest that well, how about you?  No one steps up one day and says, "I wanna live a life marked by weakness, insignificance, and meaninglessness."  In fact, it something which comes upon us because we don't go about the process of "changing the skins" in our lives.  I am not suggesting we need a literal change of skin, but more of a spiritual change of skin.  We need the laying aside of old habits - things we have come to rely upon as "steady" and "certain" in our lives.  When the wine-maker poured off the new wine, he had been through a process of preparing the vessels which would hold the new long before he had the harvest of the new ready for pouring.  We sometimes don't think there is much benefit in the preparations God puts us through - not understanding why we go through the same lessons time and again.  What we probably don't see is that each time we go through that lesson, we are making new skins.  There is something "fresh" which comes - making us capable of the expansion which occurs a little later when God is ready to fill us with his new wine.

The space between puny and expansive is really one tiny step.  It is a matter of choice to be involved in the process of preparing the skins - obedience is the first step toward new skins.  In time, the new wine will be ready - once poured in, we need to be ready for the expansion which will occur.  God's delay today may just be his willingness to wait for us to get our "skins" ready for his infilling!  Just sayin!