"No one puts new wine into old wineskins.
For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.
New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
Mathew 9:17 (NLT)
"You are who You say You are;
That's different than I thought You'd be."
Andrea Marie (singer)
Have you ever wondered what went through Paul's head all day after he encountered Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus?
Or have you ever wondered the kinds of thoughts and emotions that rushed through Peter's head after God led him to the house of a Gentile?
Sometimes, we realize we need a new wineskin when God pours new wine in. And sometimes, we realize we need a new wineskin when our wineskin breaks, and all of the wine we thought we were holding onto so securely leaks out of us. In a sense, both of these things have happened to me this summer.
To be clear, what I see Jesus getting at with his wineskins analogy is essentially this: if wine is our actual knowledge and experience of God, then wineskins are the thought patterns, habits, and systems that we use day-to-day to make sense of that knowledge of God and live it out. This is visible throughout the Bible! God's punishment of the Egyptians through plagues and subsequent deliverance of His people presented the Israelite people with a lot of "new wine" to deal with, and their Egyptian wineskins of hard work, idol worship, and living in the shadow of the most powerful empire there was would have to go. In a lot of ways, the Tabernacle and the Laws are God's way of giving His people new wineskins. A lot of prophetic literature uses the Exodus as an image to remind Israel of how their day-to-day actions and attitudes didn't fit the wine of God's actions and presence in their midst. In the Gospels, you can see how some people come running to Jesus, seeking not only the new wine of his presence and miracles but also the new wineskins of following him and joining in his ministry. Unfortunately, other people would rather not have the new wine, since it would mean letting go of their current wineskins. For instance, after Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead, John writes in the 11th chapter of his gospel:
"...many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary [Lazarus' sister], and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.'”
In the last several months, my wineskins have cracked. The selfishness with which I approach being at home, the laziness with which I approach relationships with roommates, the uneasiness and doubt with which I react to uncertainty- these things have all burst open. I can always tell that my wineskins are breaking when I get anxious and disorganized. There have been a lot of tears and a lot of questions.
At the same time, I have seen God pour new wine in. He has shown me how willing He is to help me love Him. He has shown me all of the ways in which I really don't have faith in His willingness to step in and build His own Kingdom, and posed the question: "What if you trusted me here?"
I believe that FOCUS is going through a similar process right now. And why wouldn't we be? A global pandemic, an election year, political tensions, online schooling...the list goes on. Some of us are wiser and more experienced than others, but none of us has been through something like this before. Because of that, we are working to form new wineskins for our outreach, our discipleship, our teaching, our mentoring, and our worship. It's exciting and exhausting.
I'm certain that you've had the experience of a bursting wineskin before, and I know there's a fair chance that this year has brought that experience with it. If you feel like you're having that kind of experience right now and need someone to talk to about it, please email me, text me, call me, or message me on Facebook. I would love to listen.
I'm so grateful to everyone who has continued to pray for our ministry and to support us financially this year. Your generosity has been a stabilizing force for us, and it has not gone unnoticed.
- Please pray for wisdom, guidance, unity and pureness of heart for our staff as we plan for this year.
- Please pray for hope and joy for our students.
- Please pray for new students at UTD (and at all of our campuses) to find Christian community.