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Our “New Wine” Reformation Heritage

“No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for
the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the
skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. 

But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved”

(Matthew 9:16-17 ESV).

This parable is a practical example of taking good care of household items.

Patching an old garment with unshrunk cloth would make no sense—as soon as you would wash it, the patch would shrink and you would be worse off than you were before. Putting new wine (which is still expanding) into stiff old wineskins would only result in a wasteful mess.

What was Jesus’ point with this parable?

The religion practiced by the self-righteous Pharisees was an old wineskin. “Follow our rules, be as holy as we claim to be, and God will reward you” was their message. This old wineskin was all works and pride, but the new wine that Jesus brought was the opposite. It was confession of sin, and trust in Christ for forgiveness of that sin. Jesus’ point was that works and grace are incompatible. You can’t “patch up” a religion of works. You can’t pour  the Gospel of grace into a heart that claims its own righteousness. It’s one or the other, as St. Paul makes plain: “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6).Read More »Our “New Wine” Reformation Heritage

Wedding Address

Dear family and friends of the bride and groom, and especially today, dear Jackie and Mac:

The text you’ve chosen is a most appropriate one for your wedding day. The setting is Old Testament Israel, where the people had recently conquered the Canaanites under the leadership of Joshua. The Lord, going before them, had won the battles. He had kept all of His promises to His people, to the last word.

Then the aging Joshua, after all the military campaigns, was about to retire from his post as commander in chief. They had reached a milestone, and they faced a fork in the road for their future. Joshua presented them with a choice—one of two options. They could choose to blend in with unbelieving world around them, OR they could resolve to remain faithful to the true LORD, their Deliverer.

Read More »Wedding Address

Christian Service to One Another

(first written for the pastor’s column of a local newspaper)

When someone speaks of menial labor, he’s probably talking about the kind of work that hardly anybody wants to do.

The word menial originally meant household, which brings to mind all the chores that get done because, well, somebody has to do them. Who, after all, really wants to wash the dishes after a meal? Isn’t it better to have someone else do that while you turn on your favorite TV program? Who really wants to mow the lawn and rake the leaves?

I once met a man who really did want to. The lawn on the property of the church I served as pastor was a lot bigger than it looked and involved some pretty steep hills. One hot summer Sunday as he was leaving church, this volunteer told me how he couldn’t wait to get started on the lawn that afternoon. “You’re joking, right?” I asked him.Read More »Christian Service to One Another

Firstfruits for Life

A drive through the countryside shows that this year’s long harvest season is finally drawing to a close. After a very wet October and long backups at the grain elevators in November, the crops are finally in.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that our annual Thanksgiving celebration comes at this time of year, at the close of the harvest, when we can clearly see how the Lord has blessed the land and us.

In Bible times it was different. Their thanksgiving came at the beginning of the harvest. The farmers would take the very first of their produce, put it in a basket, and present it before the Lord as their offering of “firstfruits,” as it is described in Deuteronomy chapter 26. In this way they gave honor to God. It was their way of saying “This is just the beginning, O Lord, and it all belongs to You, for it is You who made the soil and the sun. You are the one who brings the rains, and causes the seeds to grow.”

Our annual in gathering of crops should be a reminder to us all of a greater harvest day that is coming. It will be a harvest of all people, on the day that our Lord Jesus will return and raise all the dead. He will gather all His believers to His right hand side and invite them to enter with Him into eternal life. The Bible says that there will be a great many others who will not be a part of this harvest that leads to life, but will instead be condemned for eternity.

Will you and I be at the Lord’s right hand side on that day? How can we know?Read More »Firstfruits for Life