Out With The Old…

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” ~ Luke 5:36-39

Jesus was very specific and intentional in His reference to the old vs. the new.  As this passage has been on my heart and in my spirit the last few weeks, I am seeing it from several different facets. The last verse, especially, has arrested me.

“And no one after drinking the old wine desires new, for he says, ’The old is good.’” ~ v. 39

Let’s start with the common denominator, wine. Wine in the scriptures refers to God’s presence, His Spirit. From the beginning God’s desire was to dwell with man; have intimate fellowship and relationship. God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. We are created for this very purpose…to be in God’s presence eternally.

Even after the fall and separation of man, God continued to make His presence known and dwell with man. We see this in Cain and Abel’s sacrifice, Noah’s ark, Abraham’s covenant, Moses and the burning bush, the pillars of fire and the cloud, the tent of meeting, the Law, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, and all the way to the incarnation of Christ.

Even Christ spoke more on the Spirit than He did about salvation. There’s a reason he only spent 33 years on earth and only 3 1/2 on mission. He fulfilled in 3+ years what the law failed to do in 1000’s of years.

In John 14, Jesus declares we have seen the Father face to face, in Him, in Christ. The Father’s presence dwelled in the person Jesus. However, that was only temporary because the real reason Christ came was to send the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Father, to indwell and infill us, but that could not happen as long as Jesus was on the earth. Also, it would not happen as long as we continue to hold on to the old ways, traditions and laws.

The OLD Wine refers to the law, traditions of men, and separation of man from God, lack of satisfying and death. Even Isaiah, who was the OT herald of Christ imminent incarnation, declared something new was coming in Isaiah 42:9 and 43:18-19:

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

The WINESKIN is our flesh, physical nature, our emotions, intellect, and heart. Ezekiel 11:19-20 states, I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Our wineskin must be properly prepared to receive God’s presence, His new wine. It must be soft and pliable

According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Therefore, the NEW WINE accomplishes everything the old wine & wineskin could not. It restores relationship, fellowship and communion with Father God. It dwells in us, infilling and empowering us from on high. It’s eternal, always present and comforting. It stirs us to be bold witnesses of Christ in love, grace and mercy by faith. It is living and reveals the fullness of Christ, His authority and power. It is the evidentiary proof of Christ in us, our hope of glory, manifested and on display for the entire world to encounter.

We can’t move forward in anything new as long as we cling to the old. As when Christ came on the scene, the new was upon the people, but they had not properly prepared to receive Him. Don’t be the one in your church, business or relationship who clings to the old, rejects the new and refuses to grow. John Maxwell says, “change is inevitable, growth is optional.” So out with the old, embrace the new and watch what God will do to grow you to new levels in every area of your life.

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

“What If…?”

What IfDo you remember playing the “What If” game? I actually love this game…even now. It is a great way to start conversations, break the ice, incite thought and imagination, challenge the status quo or just irritate the heck out of someone. Sounds like fun, right?

Even Paul played the “What If” game in the book of Romans. Consider these passages in Romans 3:3-4 & 9:22-24 respectively:

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Here’s the great thing about the “What If” game…most of the “What If” scenarios will never come to pass. The main purpose and intent of the process is to get people to think outside their little myopic, self serving, content and complacent bubble. We get comfortable in the “status quo”. Sometimes we even get comfortable in the things we want so desperately to change, but we either won’t or are unwilling to take the necessary actions to be or make the change we want to experience.

Therefore, the “What If” process is to incite a response to action. The first action is to consider the investment and sacrifice others make to insure our needs are met, our comfort is achieved, and position us with the most opportunities and possibilities for success. The second is to reflect on how we are either part of the problems or solutions; or better stated am “am I consumer or producer”? Finally, what is the proper response for each of us at an individual, team or corporate level to contribute to everything we benefit from?

The “What If” game is great to play at home with your spouse and children, at work with your employees, peers and boss, and especially at church with your congregation. Since this is a “Pastor’s Pen” article, I’ll leave the first two items for another time. For the next few moments we have left, let’s play the “What If” game, local church style.

Ever wonder who cleans the bathrooms, takes care of the grounds, prints the bulletins, cares for the children, pays the bills, vacuums the sanctuary, straightens the chairs, restocks the paper supplies, runs the sound, presentations or burns the CD’s, manages the website, sets up and tears down the fellowship hall or multi-purpose rooms, gets the pastor’s water, and the list goes on and on. In many medium to large churches, there may be some paid staff who take care of much of this; however, volunteers cover the majority. Most volunteers take time out of their evening family time, weekend time off and invest much of their own resources without ever expecting to be reimbursed. This is a very different story in smaller churches. The pastor, and maybe one other person who has been a permanent fixture in the church for a long time cover the majority of the above list.

Consider, if you will, “WHAT IF” this Sunday when you arrived at church there was no parking attendant, the parking lot was full of trash and debris, the church sign hadn’t been updated since the last major event, the windows were dirty, the chairs or pews were misaligned, cobwebs cascaded across the light fixtures, the last 2 months bulletins were stacked up in the seat trays in front of you, the bathrooms were disgusting, the fellowship hall still had food from the last fellowship on the floor, the trash in the cans were overflowing, the musicians were unprepared, there was no one to run the presentations or sound, there were no paper towels or toilet paper on the rolls, the church carpet and floors were dirty, and here’s the best one, the pastor decides he didn’t feel like coming to church and is a no show?

We often take for granted everything required to make a church function, a worship service meaningful and especially the pastor’s investment and sacrifice to lead a gathering of people. The majority of church attenders really don’t have the same level of commitment to Christ, the mission, the community or the church as the pastor does. “What If” all of this was gone this Sunday?

Maybe the better question is…”What If’ we called ourselves to action and responded to the needs of the community, the church and the pastor? “What If” instead of overlooking, passing by and waiting for someone else to respond to the needs, we responded? “What If” we committed, loved and invested to the same level our pastor does? “What If” this Sunday, the pastor showed up and absolutely everything was taken care of and all he had to do was be with his family, preach the message, greet the guest and fellowship with all the Christ followers and believers who stepped up to “BE THE CHURCH”.

“WHAT IF?”

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”

Past, Present & Future: Jesus Changes Everything

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14

Past Present FutureA new year presents us with a great opportunity to start fresh. For many we endeavor to bury the things of the past year, embrace the present moment and set goals for a successful future. However, without a change in our behavior this is all an exercise in futility. We attempt to put new wine in old wine skins, then stand perplexed when we fail in our efforts.

It’s human nature to resist change. We like things simple, uncomplicated, convenient, constant, comfortable and the way they’ve always been. Sadly, without change we would still be a bunch of big babies running around messing our diapers, nursing on milk and throwing temper tantrums when pushed to grow.

“The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” ~ Louis L’Amour

No other species rejects change more than humans. Every other species is nurtured to a point of preparedness, then left to complete the process to adulthood through struggle, perseverance and a relentless will to LIVE. Even the military, law enforcement, protective and emergency service members are constantly training in preparedness, but it’s not until the moment they have to put it all of into action do they actually grow, and transition from child to adulthood (metaphorically speaking).

Resisting change is evident all around us, and especially in the church among believers. We like to keep things the way they were when we got saved, had that Holy Ghost encounter, experienced growth, sang, prayed or worshipped a certain way. The irony of this is we would never have met Christ without change.

  • Isaiah 43:18-19Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
  • Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In the OT, the Hebrews wanted to cling to their perversion, idolatry and slavery. We see this in Lot’s wife looking back to a wicked & perverted Sodom & Gomorrah; also, in the golden calf & Egypt while in the desert. Even being delivered from evil & oppression, they kept looking back instead of embracing the change from their deliverance to their promised land.

The Jews in the NT were no different. They fought, debated and even killed to enforce conformity to the law and traditions of men. Jesus was constantly confronted with questions pertaining to His lack of adherence to the religious leaders traditions, but not once did He come against the Law. Christ didn’t come to abolish the law, but be the absolute fulfillment of it, according to Matthew 5:17. Likewise, even believers, of the early church and our modern expression of Christianity, fight to maintain the status quo.

Churches have been split over the color of the carpet, type of seating, loudness of the music, type & style of worship, etc., etc. Most of this was never a spiritual or ecclesiastical issue, but a preference of man to resist change. We would rather cling to the past like our lives depended on it, no matter how good or bad it really was. We are content with a diluted and deceived present that overlooks new opportunities, leaving us crippled and paralyzed with our future at risk than to embrace change by trusting in the fullness of Christ.

It’s time to remember… We wouldn’t be where or who we are in Christ without change. It’s time to put our past to rest, enjoy our present and embrace the changes of our future. It’s time to remember… “Jesus changes everything…”

James Miller Jr
“Missionary to a Generation”