Flo has been a source of inspiration and wisdom in my life for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I would often see her picture and maybe read a story of her in our church’s monthly “missionary update” – inspiring! Through my 20s and 30s, she has been influential in my growing prayer journey – teaching me to get down on my knees and actively listen to God. We at Sequoia feel so cared for and spurred on by her. We are thankful for the extra time “retirement” gives her to write and share her heart! Here’s something for us to ponder today – be encouraged and spurred on as you continue to study new wineskins. -Terrilee Friesen
– Transformation by guest blogger Flo Friesen –
For years I wondered about this passage on new wineskins. Possibly because I grew up in a family of teetotallers, I really had no clue about the process of wine-making. I don’t know if I ever heard a message on these verses, growing up. I wondered why new wine couldn’t be put into old wineskins. After all, my mother reused Mason quart jars when canning fruit, a second, third or tenth time! But glass is not goatskin! And why was this an important spiritual teaching of Jesus?
I understood when Jesus explained that the old goatskins would rupture if new wine was put inside to age. I knew something must be happening, possibly expansion, because it would cause the old wineskins to burst. But why was this significant? No one ever explained to me the significance of new wine requiringnew wineskins. I did understand Jesus’ first illustration in Matthew 9:16, about not sewing new unshrunk material (must have been cotton) onto an old shirt. When you wash it, the new material would shrink, causing a bigger tear. To me the illustration was clear, but as with the wineskins, the teaching eluded me. What was the point?
This blog series is on transformation, in the context of New Year’s resolutions. I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions anymore, mostly because in my younger years I made too many, making them too unachievable, and then giving up in a few weeks if I wasn’t sticking to my resolutions. Believe me, I did it many times. But as January 1st is the beginning of a new year, it seems like a really good time to re-evaluate life. I love to do that on New Year’s Eve, and have many stimulating journal entries on that date to prove it. In fact, part of each New Year’s Eve I read the last month’s entries of the previous year. How was I feeling? What was I happy about? What was accomplished? It gives me perspective.
Yes, I love to go to a good party on New Year’s Eve or go watch fireworks at the Forks with family or friends, but I always find time, sometime during the day or way into the night, to evaluate and set goals for the coming year. Eating fresh ‘portzelki’ (raisin fritters) dunked in powdered sugar helps the contemplative process, too, so it becomes a joyful exercise each year. Where did I fail last year? Where did I win? What helped me to win? I call them goals, not resolutions.
For example, last year a goal was to go to the gym three times a week instead of only two. Sometimes it helps to set goals in increments, instead of coming up with something brand new. Then I like to look at how I can make that goal possible given the busy schedule that always seems to be the deterrent. With age, I have also learned not to beat myself up if I don’t reach my goals. It’s good to evaluate during the year whether a set goal is realistic, needful, or simply some euphoric desire to be something that I’m not. And I do sometimes abandon a new goal, or simply tweak it to make it more achievable. I have learned over the years to make the journey a joyful pilgrimage, rather than focusing merely on the end results. If going to the gym a third time each week brings no joy, but brings incredible physical pain, then I must contemplate an alternative way of losing weight or being physically fit. One solution last year was for me to buy a recumbent bike that gave me the same amount of exercise, was less painful, and was less time consuming than going to and from the gym. It turned out to be a good solution.
But, back to the question of transformation. How do Jesus’ illustrations speak to that? How is transformation a key component of setting new goals for the year ahead? Terrilee ended her blog by asking, ‘how do we get a hold of these new wineskins?’ If the new wine is our goals, and the new wineskins are our attitudes or means to achieving renewed character, how do we enter into transformation to make these goals a reality?
Romans 12:2 is my go-to verse on transformation and has always been a life verse for me:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
This transformation happened first when we chose to become a follower of Jesus. We use the term ‘born again’ which comes from Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus on how to become spiritually new (John 3). Spiritual rebirth is a transformation of our spirit and soul, and often also our body as we come at life from a new perspective. We no longer pattern our life after the ‘world’s’ model which is characterized by what Paul calls the old nature, evidenced by things such as deceit, envy, discord, selfish ambition, anger, slander—the list is lengthy in Galatians 5:19 and Colossians 3:5. The reason we have changed and continue to change (yes, transformation is a process) is that we now have the Holy Spirit residing in our spirit. He makes all things new.
But that was our initial spiritual rebirth. How do we continue the transformation process as it applies to daily living, and to mundane things like making new goals or resolutions for the coming year? By a continued renewing of the mind. How do I renew my mind? How do I get rid of old patterns of behaviour—habits—that I dislike but can’t seem to change? By renewing my mind.
Our pastor recently challenged us to keep learning to listen to the Lord speak to us in our daily life. He called it learning to ‘wonder with God.’ As I wonder with God about what is happening, can I open my mind and heart to allow the Lord to transform my thinking, and subsequently my actions? Can I identify my old thinking processes, and ask the Lord to show me a new way of looking at that issue? Can I ask for new wine?
I love to garden! It’s my one hobby and a big passion. This last year I have struggled with considerable disability because of arthritic pain. The fact is, physically, I cannot garden anymore. But my whole being screams, “I have to; I can’t NOT garden! It’s where I derive so much pleasure, so much joy, so much satisfaction in creating my mini-paradise in my own backyard. It’s my identity. People expect it of me.” As I ponder those thoughts I recognize some lies. Oh yes, I love gardening. But it’s not my identity; it’s not the only thing that brings me pleasure. And, does it matter what people think? The truth is I simply cannot do it. So, I’m asking the Lord to transform my mind on gardening. I feel I bring a lot of glory to the Lord through my gardening. But what might be another way of
creating beauty than outdoor gardening? I’m waiting on the Lord for answers. I’m ‘wondering’ with the Lord, and He is speaking. Gardening might be my ‘old wine’, and learning to create beauty in a new way might be my ‘new wineskin.’ I believe God will give me a new wine.
I can’t wait to get a fuller revelation as God renews my mind.
You might insert your own example of your old wine and the desire for new wine as we start this year. Be prepared to use new wineskins! I’ll be praying that God will continue the transformation process of mind renewal in you. Take the time to sit and listen… and to wonder with God. This is just a stylistic choice on my part for emphasis (to drop down the last line). Up to you!