Friday, January 20, 2017

He Waits

*Ignore the background music from the event going on downstairs in the hall.* 
Here are some thoughts on prayer and "keeping Jesus waiting" for your consideration.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Wine Needs New Wineskins.. What's a Wineskin??

Today's Gospel ends with one of my favorite verses (which, coincidentally, sums up the whole Bible),

"New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" - Jesus (in Mark 2:22)

In biblical times people drank a lot of wine.  Not because they were running away from their problems but because they were trying to prevent digestive ones.  Wine was generally made to be much weaker than we are familiar with today however the alcohol kept the beverage safe to drink.  Water wasn't always safe to drink.  People died a lot more back then than they do today.


I mean, death came earlier in ancient times for many reasons but, to sum it up, the modern world has advanced medicine and knowledge of all the things.  So, today we know how to survive better because we know of the existence of things like bacteria.  

So, people in Jesus' day drank wine and they stored it in things called "wineskins" which was usually made of animal skins.  Newly made wine would need to be stored in a big ol' jar or a wineskin and it would begin fermenting which would stretch the wineskin.  If the wineskin was used before then that means it would have been stretched already by the previous fermentation of wine.  HENCE, the need for NEW wine to be poured into a NEW wineskin.  The new wine expanded the new wineskin, it didn't burst, and everyone was happy.

In the Old Testament God gave the wine of His grace through the Law and the Prophets.  The people's hearts became used to this wine.  Jesus came on the scene, though, and had a new wine for the Israelites and the world.  For the people to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit into their lives they would need new wineskins, new hearts, in order to stretch with the "fermentation" process of conversion which God calls us to.  Hence, "New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" is really a summary of the Bible because in Christ not only are we given something new but we are made new.  

So that's the general meaning of the verse.  But, God's Word doesn't just speak in general, informative, and interesting messages for us.  God's Word speaks directly to each heart.  The problem can happen, however, that even though God may be trying to communicate something intensely and uniquely personal to an individual that person may not be open or listening.  That person (i.e. you and me) needs to be open to what God wants to give.  We need to let go of our old wineskins and give God new hearts to which He can pour Himself into.

Life application?  God is laboring, trying to give you something new.  "Behold, I am doing something new.  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" - God (Isaiah 43:19)  You (and me) are very good at resisting His gifts.  For various reasons we as human beings struggled to let God love us while He struggles to love us.  Remember when Jacob wrestled with God (via His angel) in the Old Testament?  Yeah, that's all of us.  Our mission in the spiritual life (and in life in general) is to let God has His way; to let God win; to let God give us the new wine of His grace.  In every moment He has a new grace or blessing for you.  What is He trying to give you in this moment?  

In your prayer time try to come to God in a posture of receptivity and be intentional about it.  Read a Scripture passage (perhaps the one above about the wineskins) and ask God what it is He is trying to give to you.  He ALWAYS wants to give us His grace. Don't resist.  Otherwise, our hearts will remain pretty much as they are right now. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

When will you have your epiphany?

What is an epiphany?  A great awakening or realization? Some type of discovery of earth-shattering import? A new perspective on some previously known idea?

Well, if you're Catholic, the word "Epiphany" should conjure memories of Magi in motion towards the Messiah with Mary His mother.  Alliteration altogether aside, the feast of the Epiphany is a time when we rediscover the greatest discovery the world has ever known - Jesus the Christ.

And they probably found him by way of camel.

This weekend the Catholic Church around the world (and the Orthodox Churches, as well) recall the great feast of the Epiphany when the Magi traversed land and sand to meet the Lord Jesus.  The star in the east guided them and acted as God's messenger.  Perhaps it was an Angel.  Perhaps God's providential design of the universe anticipated these historic moments and planned for a particular star to guide their way even from the beginning of time.  Regardless, God guided the magi to His Son and "No one comes to [the Son] unless the Father draws him." (So says Jesus Himself in John 6:44)  

So where is the Father drawing you?  Of course, to His Son but let's ask a further question for reflection.  How is the Father drawing you to His Son?  

And are you following the way He has traced out?  Are you following the guiding star of His providence?  Are you even moving?

A wise man from the east once said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Wise men from the east made a long, arduous journey by taking one step after another (whether their own or their camels'.)  And you?  Will you allow your heart to be drawn by the Father towards His Risen Sun from the east?  We have much to discover.  We have an epiphany awaiting us!  Let's no longer stay comfortable in our own homes that we've made for ourselves but let's instead venture out onto the adventure traced out for us by the Father. 

I've always wondered if there were supposed to be more than just three wise men.  Perhaps some decided to stay home... What a terrible mistake that was now wasn't it?

Monday, January 2, 2017

He Makes All Things New...Including You

One of my favorite passages from Scripture comes from Revelation 21:5 And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He really does make things new.  In fact, everything Jesus touches becomes new.  Is there a part of your heart that you still need to allow the Lord to touch?  What part of your life is He reaching out towards?  His words are trustworthy and true.  He really does make all things new.

Where do you need renewal during this New Year?  In the wake of the calendar moving forward what needs to change in your life?  Have you resolved to let the Jesus make all things new in your life?  

Take 20 or 30 seconds (or more) of silence - right now.  As awkward as that may seem you really do have the freedom not to move on to the next bit of internet information just yet. You really can take a moment - whenever you like - to let the Lord approach you in peace.   What is He looking at in your life right now?  What is He wanting to give you?  What would an infinitely loving and powerful God have to offer you?  Where is your greatest need?  Be there with Christ and let Him make it new.