Monday, September 7, 2020


Back in the day, before glass bottles and wine cellars, wine was kept in wine skins, animal hides.   When the wine skin was empty, it usually was hung in a corner to dry out.  The wine skins at one point held happiness in it, but now it was emptied, all used up, no longer representing glad tidings.  So, it's left hanging in a corner, forgotten, useless to man.  It's best day is over, or is it? When is the last time you have felt as if you were useless wine skins, hanging in the corner with no one paying any attention to you, as if you did not exist anymore?  Maybe right now? Your heart used to be so filled with the love of Jesus, so much so, that it spilled over and you shared it by pouring into other people.

Eventually, having poured out all the love you had in your heart, with no one is filling it back up with reciprocal love, it becomes a dried out, emptied.  Those you poured all the wine of your heart all over, gladly received it, but none wanted to return it.  Some even abused you because of it. You brought gladness, now, you have no more to give. We are left to ourselves, so alone, so isolated that we even start to think that GOD has also abandoned us.  We did as we were told.  We gave when we weren't asked to give.  We loved those who did not love us, but GOD had commanded us to love.  We did not strike back when struck by those we gave love to, we just assumed, like GOD's Word says, "It is mine to avenge."  So, we sat back and  waited, and we waited, and waited, and then we waited some more.  Time passed, more time passed, so much time that we gave up any hope of getting love back from those whom we so freely gave.  Days, weeks, months and in some cases years go by; no vengeance, no change of heart.
Next step is the obvious, that we  must have got it wrong.  GOD didn't really tell us to give love to that person, it must have been the enemy of GOD.  He must have set a trap for us, knowing a fall was imminent.  Total confusion sets in. We can't seem to hear correctly from GOD.  We question everything we did for the last few years, until we come to the conclusion that our purpose, our dream, our goal was completely wrong, all this time. We just wasted six years doing what we thought GOD led us to do, and now we have no goal, no dream, no real purpose, and definitely are of no use in the Kingdom of GOD, because we can't discern GOD's instructions from the devil's traps.
Now we have two choices, bolt and turn away from GOD, or cower in the corner, hoping GOD will see our bruises and heal them. Bolting is not an option, because we know that there is no life outside of GOD.  We cower, we cry, we plead, we beg, so much so that our eyes sting and become so swollen it changes our appearance, not just for a few minutes, but for days at a time.  GOD still hasn't noticed or healed our bruises, and we are bewildered. Sometimes, even reading the Bible is like pouring salt on our wounds.  We've read all the promises. We’ve written them, memorized them, taken them to heart, but yet to have seen them fulfilled. Now, they are just words, words that actually hurt, now, because you waited and waited and waited.
You know every crevice and corner and every promise that reside in the safe places of those beloved pages. Still, after a while, those familiar words are just that, just words. They don't carry any weight, anymore, because you never saw them come to pass as you hoped.  Now, that hope which used to bring joy, now just brings pain, because that hope, you now realize only led to disappointment, night after night after pillow-soaking night.   
No healing comes. Now what? Stop breathing? That's not an option.  Stop living? That's not an option. Start hating back? That's not an option.  Ah, numb the pain with some authentic mind-numbing medicinal wine of our own.  That works, for a while, until GOD says, "That wasn't an option, either, so Stop!"  Getting angry at GOD didn't work, and you surely did shake your fist way too many times. Then guilt sets in, especially when someone lays that You-have-no-right-to-be-angry-at-GOD, guilt trip on you. 
With no warning, when you aren't expecting it, when you've decided in your mind to give up, walk away from everything and everyone, after you've erased all your social media and decided to accept your fate as is, hoping the few years you may have left will pass quickly, one moment in time, one thing leads to another, and suddenly, you just happen upon a sermon on You Tube, and you discover that there is a corner you missed.  Even though you have read that Bible from cover to cover several dozens of times, GOD still has a surprise for you. There is a corner you missed, a stanza, a plea from a psalmist who has just lived your life, and is dying inside just like you are, right now.  You're exhausted, and you think you've exhausted the Word of GOD, until you realize, refreshment is where you weren't looking. Psalm 119 and Psalm 88 both have what I call a “Job’s Princess life.”  It’s a life of sorrow from start to what we think will be finish.
That's all it took.  Someone, knows what you feel like. GOD made sure that someone made it into His Word, because of this day.  He was going to refresh you and refill your wine skin with new wine.  It's just enough to draw you back to His Word to find more corners you didn't know were there. Then you realize, GOD not only saw your bruises, but He felt them, and He was just waiting for you to stop doing that mind-numbing activity that blocked His work in your life, and you are back.  At least until the next time, and you know there will be a next time, but like this time, next time He will again, bring you to a corner in His Word you didn't know existed.  Each time you learn to trust more and more, until such a time that you are ready to help those other dried out wine skins who feel left abandoned in the corners of their lives. 
Psalm 88
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

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Dear Church of Ephesus: