I have often read and re-read the parable of the wineskins, it’s one that serves as a reminder for me to renew my thoughts daily, to keep aligned with the mind of Christ, and not with that of the world. This parable is taught by Jesus in 3 of the 4 gospels, however I had not paid as much attention to the passage which immediately precedes this. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.” Matt 9:16
I find it funny, as someone who sews regularly, that this point didn’t pop out to me first. As a young girl learning to sew with my mother, the first thing we had to do after bringing home our fabric treasure hoard, (and it was often a hoard) was wash it. You should never create your masterpiece out of unwashed fabric, or after washing a completed garment, it may shrink, tearing the stitches, pulling away from the zipper or, even worse, end up smaller than you’d planned. The point being made here, is if you try to patch something old with new, unshrunk fabric, it doesn’t work. It’s the same with trying to patch holes in old ideas, legalistic views, or worldly habits, with Christ, they don’t fit. One will pull away at the other until the whole garment is destroyed.
This concept of not patching the old along with the new is woven throughout the scriptures. We read that we must loose the old dead self, we can’t fill old wineskins with new wine, unshrunk cloth to old garments. We can’t continue to live our old life once we become a new creation in Christ.
There is a level of dissonance that will keep us from enjoying all the fullness that is our inheritance with Christ. When we have an encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and give him our lives, we can’t continue to live as we did. That is the whole point! Why would we reach out for Christ to free us from the death trap of our lives, then chose to live a life unchanged. We’re robbing ourselves of Christ’s promises. That kind of life, isn’t really a life at all, in constant battle with one’s self. This is what Christ meant when He spoke about being hot or cold, cause lukewarm He’ll spit you out (Revelation 3:15-16).
This internal warring can only lead to corruption and death. When we continue in our old ways not only are we missing out on God’s best for our lives, we aren’t being a good witness to those around us, we will not live in peace, we will not grow in Christ and eventually get discouraged and fall prey to the pulls of the flesh. Jesus, when responding to the Pharisees claim that He had cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposed himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.” Mark 3:23-26
If we, as followers of Chris,t continue to pursue our fleshly desires, our end will come. We can not survive in a state of division against ourselves. We will either chose to give Christ our all or chose to follow the world, there is no in between. Also, if we are indeed all members of one body (as we are told in scripture) and you are still choosing to live as part of the world, what effect will that have on the body? How can we perform the function God created for us, if we are still choosing to live in world?
Unshrunk cloth destroys old garments, old wineskins burst from new wine, a house divided against itself can not stand. We have a daily choice, to design our garments with new fabric woven from threads of scripture, stitched together with prayer and cleansed by the blood of Christ.
We can’t continue to try and cover the old with the new, the old must be completely thrown away, that is the only way we can walk anew with Christ.
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What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?
Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.
Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love. “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”
God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.
Jeremiah 32:27 – “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.
The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?
The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.
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This has been one of those weeks that leaves me thinking about a lot. Now thinking generally is not something I have trouble with, unfortunately I’m one of those people who has a very difficult time turning off my brain…even when I want to.
This week I hosted a luncheon of women leaders who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. I wanted to give us an opportunity to hear an incredible speaker, enjoy a healthy lunch and forge a deeper understanding of one another. Yes it was quite the women’s power hour and I LOVED it! Hearing their stories of adversity, challenges, struggles, success and set-backs inspired me; however, there was one question that I’m still pondering? What is my purpose and am I happy where I am right now?
I spent a good part of the evening and the next day with those questions still in my head. What IS my purpose and AM I happy where I am right now? My answer at the time was, “Yes I’m happy with where I am right now however, I’m not done yet.” As for my purpose, well that’s a harder one. I have always been an incredibly mission driven person, I want to make the world better. How I have lived that out through the years has morphed; whether its working in education, non-profit organizations of all sizes, employment services or in the media; if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference I am not happy.
Today I attended a panel discussion composed of female leaders from across different industries. They shared their trials, tribulations and successes, what got them there, what lessons they’ve learned and the pitfalls they wished they had avoided. Again the topic came up…live your purpose. I was sitting with a friend of mine who is a source of inspiration, she lives her purpose every day. She knows exactly what impact she wants to make and how she’s going to make it, she has laser focus in her career choices.
Now I am the first to admit that my career path has not be planned. In each of my career moves, I was scared to death that I might not be able to do the job, which is ultimately what inspired me to make the jump, I LOVE a challenge.
The BIG question is, what do I want to do now? Is it time to have a more purposeful direction? Is it time for me to pick a career field and stick to it? Do I finally need to decide what I want to do when I grow up? Answer: NO! Not just no but heck NO!
I’ve had a wonderful roller coaster ride of a career path. In each of my fields I learned new skills, honed my talents and grew exponentially. I grew in ways needed to take my next leap. Not only that, but as I have been promoted, I look to hire people with similar paths. Individuals who have a varied background that bring new perspectives to what we do, challenge the norms and me. I love where I am and what I’ve become both personally and professionally, which wouldn’t have happened without my roller coaster career path. No I’m not done, I have LOTS left to do and I’m not the type of person to confine myself to one box, one purpose or one direction, where’s the fun in that?
My mother and father both worked for the same employer for 35+ years. I’ve seen their ups and downs and I’ll admit there were times that I actually thought, “that will not be me.” Don’t get me wrong they loved what they did, my parents taught me professional & familial responsibility, extremely high work ethic and integrity. All of which are incredibly important but, you don’t need to stay in the same job to exemplify those traits.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Only time, opportunity, bravery and passion will tell. One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be fun and I will make the world better in whatever way i’m able.
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For a highly motivated and driven individual, not hitting a goal hard and leaving it dying in the dust is never an option. However, sometimes it is a very painful reality. Finding a way through the complex range of emotions can be difficult…the key is not to be defeated. Yes, this sounds like the opening few sentences of the next “How To” business book or motivational “You Can Do Anything” article. Well it’s not. I missed a goal for the very first time in my professional career and it totally SUCKS.
I have felt defeated, bruised, my confidence is shaken and I have a hard time looking people in the face when they ask me how work is going. Especially those who have been friends for years and often talk of our various professional successes as if they are badges of honor. No, we don’t ever compare our successes like others do their cars, kids or paychecks. Believe it or not we do revel in each other’s triumphs.
Over the past weeks, it became painfully clear that although we had a bang-up year (in the best sense), my team was not going to achieve what we set out to achieve. I have been uncertain how to accept my defeat. In my mountaintop moments I often looked to my mentors, heroes and idols; could that be me some day? I want to make that kind of impact. How can I follow in their footsteps? Well the truth of the matter…I am.
Before Nelson Mandela united a nation, he was in prison for over two decades. How many setbacks did Abraham Lincoln suffer before he achieved the level of success that captures our imagination over one hundred and fifty years later. Did Steve Jobs achieve total world domination after building his first Mac…NO! Our leaders, heroes and idols are so often defined by their successes, it is after all, what they are remembered for. We strive to be like them, read books and articles about them listen to endless TED Talks and quote them whenever we can. We don’t sit around thinking, “gosh I sure hope that I have to suffer the failures, humiliation, and persecution that they did“. GET REAL!!! Who wants to go through that, isn’t there a fast track, a short cut, a pill or “Get Out of Jail Free Card“, that can alleviate all that nastiness? No, my friend, there is not.
Yes, thinking through this, I do have a slightly better perspective. No, I am not back on my mountaintop, I’m still frustrated and a bit disillusioned. What I can say is this, knowing that the incredible people that I have looked up to all these years are indeed human and have also suffered failures and defeat does give me hope. I choose to move forward, learn where I need to adjust, how can I approach differently, rethink my box (not that I ever really worked in one) and go at it again.
We are not defined by our circumstances or what happens to us, anything that happens to us. We are defined by how we respond to, and through those circumstances. I may never change the world in the way some of my heroes have, but I will change it, and I will change it for the better. I will change it because I know I can and I will get up each day, no matter how difficult it may be, and go at it again.
Humility is a key characteristic of successful people. They have been knocked down, walked in others shoes and chosen to lead through that experience. Without humility, we can never truly understand or appreciate what we have and how hard we had to work to get there.
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