His Word in Principle, His Methods in Practice

(Since I’m posting more than once tonight, check out The INYPS post if you missed it.)

Selected Scripture:

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’””

-Luke 5:37-39

Observation and Application:

In the past, I’ve struggled with this particular parable and very much related to the confusion of various characters in the New Testament who wished Jesus would just come out and say what He means, already. I feel sort of dumb about it, now, but then, I always thought those people were dumb, too. There you have it.

In this scripture, Jesus addresses the various (and sundry) Pharisees and teachers of The Law who are needling Him to death about the way Jesus conducts His ministry and social life. They criticize His willingness to spend time with the more unsavory characters that they themselves wouldn’t be caught with, citing The Law (capital T, capital L) as sufficient reason to shun said characters.

What they don’t realize is that they were talking to The Law and The Word Made Flesh and The Creator (whole lotta capitals in there). Not only was he in no need of their clarification of the scriptures, but He was intimately aware of The Spirit of The Law, and the fact that these so-called religious men had sullied His Father’s commandments by “clarifying” and “elaborating upon” the law that was intended to reveal His heart. The most important thing, these men claimed, was to avoid the contamination of their own characters by proximity to those they considered sinful and unclean. They didn’t know that God’s heart, first and foremost, was to draw the lost to Himself.

So, what does that have to do with wine skins?

I confess that I know little about the wine skins themselves. They were made of leather or animal stomachs, I think, and new wine was poured into a new skin. As the wine aged and fermented, it would expand, thereby stretching the material of the bag in the process. Pouring new wine into an old skin was something akin to pouring the wine straight into the gutter, since the old skin no longer possessed the capacity to stretch and accommodate the volume of the expanding wine.

Jesus is here comparing the Pharisees and their cronies to old skins. They’re incapable of growing to accept the full measure of The Spirit necessary to do The Father’s will, namely, shepherding lost souls to their salvation through the Gospel of Christ. They’re shackled by the rituals they perceive it is God’s will they maintain, and I feel it’s pretty safe to say that few came to know the love of God by their legalistic methods. They were unwilling to see Christ as the fulfillment of The Law, and so, as it moved from a series of guidelines to the physical expression and manifestation of God with us, they ruptured—rejecting the one true God.

Alternatively, as we yield to The Spirit, His power and efficacy in our lives grows, and we grow along with it.

Prayer:

Father, I long to live as the expression of The Spirit within me, to do Your will as He directs, and to live/work/minister according to The Spirit, not my own notions of how things are to be done. I want to live by Your word in principal, and by Your methods (whatever they are) in practice. Don’t let me get so set in my ways that I can’t be used by You.

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The IPNYS

I’m feeling it— the IPNYS. The Inevitable Post New Year’s Slump (and I apostrophized [do you like that? I think just made it up…or maybe it already exists] that because it’s a reference to New Year’s Eve, not bad grammar, thankyouverymuch).

I feel melancholy. I don’t know if it’s because my depression pops up for short stints on days that I least expect it for no discernible reason, or if it’s just that I’m missing the holidays and want them back. It’s frustrating, because when I feel like this, I want quiet and solitude and it feels as though I’d crawl out of my own skin to get it—through sarcastic, mean, nasty, and violent means, if necessary. It’s not a happy way to be for anyone involved. I just want to be left alone—something that is not conducive to a happy marriage when my happy spouse loves to whistle and sing and cuddle and watch TV. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s wonderful, and I know this. I do. On any other day, I’d welcome and cherish it.

It’s just that today, I’ve just got my bitch eyeliner on. It’s the makeup I wear when I want to surreptitiously communicate that I’m not in the mood to deal with people’s…happiness. It’s like a blinking neon sign that floats over my head if you see it for what it is. I’ve never really mentioned the causality of that before, so…there you go. Now you can run for cover when necessary.

On days like this, I’ve got a startlingly low level of self-control when it comes to what proceeds from my mouth, and I hate it. I want to be kind. I want to make Joel laugh and just enjoy life. Instead, I feel frustrated with the futility of everything. I become a dog-kicker. Not literally, of course.

I don’t have a dog.

Not many of you are aware that I experience this regularly—or perhaps, if I am worse at controlling myself than I think, all of you know. I’m disinclined to care at the moment, which I know for a fact is temporary(ephemeral). I do care. Just…ignore me and file all of this away in your “things I’ve learned about Keri that I’d rather not think about” file. In the meantime, I’ll make a concerted effort to feel comforted by getting this all out on “paper” and move on.

Which brings us to my Life Journal.

I’m a few days behind, which I am, at present, attempting to rectify. I’ve just finished Wednesday’s reading and I wanted to post this before I move on to the rest. I’m determined to catch up before today becomes Sunday.

The Weakness of Another

Selected Scripture:

“Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.”

-Genesis 9:20-23

Observation and Application:

Ham (maybe he was mean because of his terrible name) was happy to capitalize upon his father’s weakness by making a joke of his (sinful)condition and exploiting it. Maybe he was hoping to garner his brothers’ favor by making them laugh, probably hoping they’d agree with him since he (Ham) was the youngest and likely to hold the least esteem. Maybe Ham had suffered some insult or injury at the hand of his father and simply wanted revenge by making him look bad (Noah certainly demonstrated an ability to do that on his own).

Whatever it was, Ham’s decision did more to show the quality of his own character than that of Noah’s, which is something I need to remember when faced with the unsavory behavior of those close to me.

It isn’t that Shem and Japheth did the right thing by simply covering up their father’s problem; certainly, no good comes of ignoring sin or counting a man sinless just because they’re your elder. For the purposes of this entry, I’ll set that issue aside; I don’t intend to conjecture upon what should be done in the aftermath of such shameful behavior, rather, what I need to focus on today is that it’s never okay to openly expose the weakness of a person for the sake of elevating your own status. In protecting their father from disgrace, the two righteous brothers went so far as to protect Noah’s disgrace even from their own eyes. They could have gone barging into the tent; they could have thrown a blanket over him and beat a hasty retreat. That’s probably what I would have done, and I don’t think there would have been any sin in that. The point, I think, is that they went to extreme measures to keep Noah’s fall from grace on the down-low. The respect they held for their father was clearly evidenced, and what they had to gain from his fall entered nowhere into the equation.

I was talking to Joel yesterday, just before dinner, about a mild conflict I had experienced with a member of my team at work. I shared in lengthy detail about the nature of this person’s failings related to the particular conflict, how I was frustrated about various aspects of this person’s character and personality…you know, generally ranting and venting about things I’d no right to think or feel, let alone say.

Just as I had run out of steam, Joel had finished washing his hands so that we could have dinner. We were standing in the kitchen, holding hands, and he began to say grace. I honestly have no idea whatsoever what he said beyond giving thanks for the food because I was immediately struck with the truth of what I had done. Here I was, literally standing before the Father, and it occurred to me that I would never have possessed the courage to say to Him what I had just vomited all over my husband. Just like the Accuser of the Brethren, I had exercised what I perceived to be my right to expose the weaknesses of this person just because I had been annoyed and frustrated with how his mistakes (and subsequent denial of those mistakes) had affected me. Oughtn’t I to have more grace than the Accuser?

It’s humbling (and terrifying) to see one’s self in that sort of light, and to realize that you’re like the enemy of God on any level. Suffice it to say: I’m learning my lesson. Next time you hear me complaining about the failings of someone, just give me a little slap. Well, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

Israel’s consolation

So, I did read my assigned reading, but I don’t really have the time to do a traditional journal because it’s ridiculously late. I did learn something new and interesting, though, and I wanted to share it.

In Genesis 4, we learned that Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain murdered his brother and was subsequently banished, leaving Adam and Eve without any surviving children. The Lord blessed them with another son, though, and called him Seth. They considered him a gift from God because of the children they’d lost.

Then, when I was reading Luke three today, I learned that Joseph, the acting father of Jesus, was descended from Seth. I think it’s so interesting that Jesus’ heritage is that of God’s kindness and consolation to the fallen Adam and Eve, since Jesus is known as “Israel’s consolation.”

And the name Seth means, “appointed.” Jesus was appointed to be Israel’s consolation, and the one to remove our sin.

I love how God tells the end of the story at the beginning!

Crouching at the Door

Today’s been long, but good, I think. First day back to work after our week-long break, and even though getting up at this morning at 5:30 was pretty much impossible, I managed to get to work at 7:01(ish) and didn’t sleep through a single minute of the day. Thank God. Meeting with Renee to plan for group was a joy (and not at all a burden), too, and now that I’ve finally finished my Life Journal reading, I feel like I can go to bed having accomplished good things.

Well. I did have cereal for dinner. Probably could have done better on that.

Today’s reading assignment was Genesis 3, 4, and 5, along with Luke 2. We’ve got the fall of man (watch out for that serpent), Cain killed Able (and a lot of begats afterward that I’ll admit to skimming through)…all the way through Jesus ditching his parents to hang out in His Father’s house. Woot!

Crouching at the Door (sort of spooky and suspenseful, don’t you think?)

Selected Scripture:

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

-Genesis 4:7

Observation and Application:

I love the very visceral image the Lord presents here: sin is like a living thing (perhaps is a living thing: Satan himself) waiting to catch us unaware, hiding where we can’t see behind the door or on the other side of the wall, unbeknownst to us. He/it/sin is lying in wait and means to capture us before we even leave the house. Seeing as it’s next to impossible for me to manage being sinless much beyond opening my eyes in the morning, this isn’t a comforting thought.

There are two things in this passage that I want to note and remember; the first being that sin is, primarily and foremost, of concern pertaining to God’s acceptance of us—whether He will or won’t. His warning to Cain serves also as a warning and promise: do what’s right and God will always accept you; give in to sin and you will(must be) rejected. Cain knew this before he killed his brother, so no one can say God was unfair in His judgement. Likewise, we know what is good, and must live by it lest we risk the consequences.

(Note: the Father isn’t promising that we will always be accepted by men for doing right—contrarily, it is right to expect opposition when we make a stand for what is good. Also, the fact that Cain makes a choice whether or not to do what is right clearly suggests premeditated sin in his case. I suspect this is a big deal to God.)

Next, I cannot hope to escape sin’s clutches if I am reactive rather than proactive. Sin lies in wait for me, and succumbing to it is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. I’ve got to know it’s there, waiting, and I’ve got to know what it is so I’m not surprised by it—its existence in my heart, its strength, and ultimate purpose: to distance me from God and make me an ineffective witness. I need to understand my weaknesses and fortify those places that accept sin too easily.

Prayer:

Father, show me my weaknesses and help me to grow beyond them. Give me the power to overrule the things that distance me from you. Thank you for your promise—that you will accept me when I do right, and that when I fail, your Son himself will make up the difference.

Trust in the Unfailing

I discovered a nifty little trick with BibleGateway, today. Wanna see?

That link, there, will take you to today’s LifeJournal reading. Not only so, but it’ll show you the day’s reading in three parallel translations: the English Standard Version, the New International Version, and the New American Standard. You can choose whatever translations you like to compare side by side, and it’s really pretty interesting. I tried out the Contemporary English Version, too. Interesting, but a little weird.

Anywhoo. Allons-y!

Trust in the Unfailing.

Selected Scripture:

“For no word from God will ever fail.”

-Luke 1:37

Observation:

Zechariah and Mary have similar, yet fundamentally different responses to the angel’s birth announcement. Upon hearing that his wife, Elizabeth, is to bear a son in her old age, Zechariah disbelievingly responds, “Why should I believe you?” He is so focused on his apparent reality that he is unable to see that God is bigger than circumstances or “common sense.” Mary, however, responds simply by saying, “How will God do what He promises?” From the angel’s positive response, we can infer that it wasn’t disbelief prompting Mary’s curiosity, but rather faithful acceptance and wonder. Gabriel explains some of God’s plan and reiterates what Mary already knows:

“…no word from God will ever fail.”

Application:

For the believer, for me, this verse is so loaded with implication. It implies that God is sovereign, that His plans are final, and that He is eternal in victory. It means, quite frankly, that God’s will is absolute and that my life is what He intends it to be in all my joy, my suffering, my wealth, and poverty. I don’t know this is what I’m meant to take from this lesson, but I do know that the angel is telling Mary—and all of us—that God is powerful enough to keep His promises whatever our circumstances. Can I be satisfied with that when I’m at my lowest? Can I believe in this aspect of God’s nature even when the Enemy uses my outward circumstances to suggest the Father has abandoned me?

Prayer:

You asked me once if I would love You…even if You never healed by body, never healed my family, never allowed me to finish school or do what I love for a living. With all my heart, God, I want my answer to be, “Yes,” always. Help me to trust in Your unfailing nature, to remember that You’ve promised to redeem my suffering, and that You are always good, whatever I experience.

He is worthy

I know! Two posts in one day! I can’t say this will be a regular thing, but I am on vacation, and I’ve got more time than I know what to do with.

Here’s my Life Journal for today.

(I was gonna write out how the LJ works, but it turned out really boring and really, I don’t need any help in that regard.)

He is Worthy.

Selected scripture:

“I wept and wept because no one was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

-Revelation 5:4-5

Observation:

I love John’s grief here—he grieves over our inability to see/hear God’s proclamation and purpose. The elder comforts and reassures Him that there is one who is worthy to be God’s mouthpiece, to speak for Him and with His authority. That all the beings in heaven (aside from Christ) were unworthy to do so despite their sinless state is astounding to me. How great Christ must be! I can’t even fathom it.

Application:

I want to be the kind of believer who grieves when I’m not hearing God. I want to be continually aware of His word and my need for it. I want to know what the multitudes of heaven know—that He, Christ, is eminent. He is worthy.

Practically, this entails a renewed commitment to daily reading and especially prayer.

Prayer:

God, You know me—how I’m lazy and selfish. You know how I fill my time, and how I use reading (among other things) as a mechanism to cope with stuff I don’t want to face instead of buckling down and depending on You. I haven’t been reading Your word, and I’ve neglected prayer. Help me to be diligent in seeking You, and let my spirit be grieved by the distance between You and I. I know you want that, Father, and I want it, too.