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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 13:26:20 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Our email server was down Saturday and Sunday for
software updates, so Mike's article didn't get to
you on the scheduled day. It's worth a careful
read, below, and dovetails well with the editor's
article today.

COLUMN: Final Phase

by J. Randal Matheny

   "Then they asked Jesus to leave their
   region" (Mark 5:17 NET).

Artists often present pictures of Jesus as an
effeminate and delicate person. Nothing that would
frighten anyone.

But in the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus restores
a wild man possessed by a legion of demons. "No
one was strong enough to subdue him" (verse 4).
But Jesus puts him right. And the Lord is
indirectly responsible for the death of two
thousand pigs when he permits the demons to leave
the man and enter the animals.

Frightened, the people of the region ask Jesus to
leave their area. Jesus' activity scared them,
even though it was for good. Maybe he even hit
their pocketbook by the loss of the pigs.

When Jesus enters our life, he makes a mess. To
bring order and peace, he must tear down walls,
rip up flooring, sweep away trash. To restore a
building, workers must raise a cloud of dust
tearing out what cannot stay. To restore a life
requires no less.

But some won't accept Jesus tinkering in their
life. They ask him kindly to leave -- and leave
them alone. They prefer the status quo, the tilt
of the unbalanced life, the dips of a sunken
foundation, the faded wallpaper of waning hopes.

What do you want Jesus to do today, leave you in
"peace" or stay to clean up your life?

On today's page, a link to pictures of an
effeminate Jesus and a painting of the pigs rush
to death:

COLUMN: Field Notes

Separating Wheat from Chaff
by Michael E. Brooks

   "His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he
   will thoroughly clean out his threshing
   floor, and gather the wheat into his barn;
   but the chaff he will burn with
   unquenchable fire" (Luke 3:17).

I have a vivid memory from a trip into Rasuwa
District in Nepal's Himalayas. It is of a young
girl standing on the stone "patio" of her home,
tossing grain into the air from a flat woven
bamboo tray. The wind off the mountains blew the
husks of the grain out into the deep gorge
overlooked by the house while the heavier grain
settled back into the tray.

Agricultural methods and overall lifestyle have
not changed much in many hundreds of years in the
remote areas of third world nations. Nepal's
fields are still plowed with yokes of oxen or
buffalo. Most people walk wherever they go; in
many areas there is no other transportation. Homes
are without electricity, running water, or other
amenities. Yet the needs and desires are much the
same as those of more developed cultures.

One need is to thresh grain. Put simply this is
the process of separating the useful from the
worthless. Husks or chaff are inedible. Once it
has protected the kernel of seed from the elements
during growth, its usefulness is finished. It has
no value as food -– in fact it is a liability or
even a hazard. After picking the grain, the first
essential process is to get the grain away from
the husk.

There is obvious symbolic potential in this
process. John the Baptist uses it to describe the
justice of Christ. In his ministry as the Christ,
Jesus will separate the wheat (righteous people)
from the chaff (wicked), preserving the one and
destroying the other. One has great value before
God; the other is hindrance and hazard.

We might see the same symbolism in many aspects of
life. Wherever we look there is the intermingling
of valuable and worthless things. Often it is
difficult or even impossible to benefit from the
good until it has been completely disassociated
from the bad. It may be companions, recreational
activities, entertainment media, or many other
fields. The need of "threshing" is the same.

There is also a lesson in the method of separation
used by the girl in my memory. The wind blew the
light husks, but allowed the heavier grain to fall
back into the tray. Useless things are of light
weight and little substance. In fact, that can be
used in most cases as a diagnostic test. If there
is no weight, if wind blows it easily, it is
probably worthless. This may be true of people. We
sometimes say of someone, "He (or she) is a
lightweight," meaning that he is unimportant, of
no consequence. It is equally true of concepts,
philosophies, activities, and other such matters.

Things that make a difference in life have real
substance to them. They impact people and cause
improvement and progress. Meaningless activities
or ideas may look or sound nice but have no real
effect. They are blown away by the wind, leaving
that of real meaning behind.

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