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Monday, March 17, 2014

Building Strong Bodies...

Trials, temptations, disappointments - all these are helps instead of hindrances,
if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of character but strengthen it.
Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. 
James Buckham

A stunning, golden field of wheat has the potential nutrition to feed a multitude.

Convert (verb) - In all of its defined uses, the meaning is essentially the same: transform. I tend to think in terms of Uncle Ben’s converted rice television commercials from my childhood. 

Converted rice, I now discover, is prepared from brown rice that has been soaked and pressure steamed to force water-soluble nutrients into the starchy endosperm. Then it is dried and milled. It means less cooking time and more nutrition. 

It doesn’t just happen spontaneously. Rice (or wheat) is subjected to a process, money is exchanged for a different value, ownership is transferred, character is changed, and form is transformed. All of the original properties are given up for a new constitution. 

Although these all denote a process, every process has a first step.

Some religious folks think conversion means something else. Their definition seems to be: “To cause to adopt a different religion, political doctrine, opinion, etc.” Yet, what is transformed in this case seems only to be allegiance. Is that all Jesus was referring to when He said, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:33)? Or when he told Peter, “Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, AKJV)?

Most modern translations use a different verbal phrase to describe the second part of the process Peter was about to go through: repented and turned again (NLT), turned back (NIV, HCSB), come back (ISV), restored (Aramaic BPE, Darby), recover (GW). The result of the process was to be Peter’s mission: to strengthen and establish his fellow believers.

It now becomes clear that Peter's first step was a choice to be made. 

Gill’s Exposition explains Satan’s desire to have Peter and the others under his power, not to separate the chaff from the wheat, but to make them look like all chaff, by covering the wheat of grace with the chaff of sin and corruption… to toss them to and fro as wheat is in a sieve… to afflict and distress them… by scattering them both from Christ, and one another; by filling them with doubts about Jesus being the Messiah and Redeemer; and by frightening them with the fears of enemies and of death. 

Fear is one of those sneaky little things within us that is all but involuntary. Yet, it must be conquered if we are ever to be of any nutritious value to anyone. And the conquest will very likely be in a situation we are unable to control. It was Peter’s fear that surfaced when he denied knowing Jesus that same night. Peter’s choice was what or whom to fear -- which process to subject himself to.

The pressure, the heat, the discomfort are all part of the conversion process, when the husk breaks open. We can avoid it, of course; we have the same choice Peter had. But without this real conversion, we can only appear to be real wheat. 

Isaiah 35:3
"With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees" The Message.

Isaiah 41:10
"Don't be afraid, because I'm with you; don't be anxious, because I am your God. I keep on strengthening you; I'm truly helping you. I'm surely upholding you with my victorious right hand" ISV.

Luke 22:31-32 
"Satan has pursued you, that he might make you part of his harvest. But I have prayed for you. I have prayed that your faith will hold firm and that you will recover from your failure and become a source of strength for your brothers here" The Voice. 

John 16:33
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" The Message. 

1 Thessalonians 5:14
"We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone" NASB.

Excerpt from:  
While it is Called Today - a 30-day photo devotional for living well 
by Dee Marvin Emeigh

(c) 2014 Dee Marvin Emeigh
all rights reserved


Sunday, March 9, 2014

What to Wear

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Luke 12:27 NIV).

The unexpected beauty of the pink wild flower so completely
captured my attention that I didn't even notice the ladybug
until I looked at the resulting photo.

How is it that the wild flowers are dressed? Jesus reminds us of their beauty, but in typical Jesus form, He really doesn’t give us the answer. We really don’t know how it happens, but He reminds us they don’t sweat and toil to look beautiful. They just are. “Life,” He said, “is more than food and clothes.”  

Yeah, but… 

I remember times when the question of ‘what to wear’ set me in turmoil. With far more time than money, I resorted to making clothes; some of them simple things I could produce in only a few hours. They weren’t the latest fashion, but they held together. They didn’t meet the standards of my fashion-conscious family and friends, but they were the best I could do. I wasn’t able to conform to their standards of approval. 

As time became shorter and I could afford steps toward more stylish dressing, the turmoil didn’t abate. I’m not sure exactly when the balance was reached, but it had something to do with realizing all this was just another way of seeking approval from others, so I could be one of them. The pressure to conform to an external standard of acceptance was robbing me of the peace of God’s presence.  

It’s a subtle, snake-like thing, but nevertheless, quite real. Maybe this is why Jesus spoke about it saying not to seek for what you shall wear, or what you shall eat, but to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. 

Some seekers of holiness have even gone so far as to eschew fashion altogether and stick to plain, gender-specific (of course) garments that mark them as ‘different’ from the world. Yet, woven through the very fabric of it all remains this attention to appearance. Even dressed in the holiest rags, it’s still called ‘pride.’ 

It is not specific to any generation. Jesus saw it and wanted His followers to recognize it. Paul noticed it in the “foolish” Galatians (Chapter 3): “Are you that stupid? Did you begin in a spiritual way only to end up doing things in a human way?” (God’s Word translation). 

He asked the Colossians (2:20-23) why they still submitted to external rules. “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (NIV). 

Andrew Murray cautioned his generation in the late 19th century, “Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard lest unconsciously what was begun in the spirit is perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where it is least expected."

Avoiding the need for clothes would be a great solution, but that ended with the fall. Now we have to deal with it daily, choice by choice, in the knowledge of good and evil. And the dividing line has nothing to do with the clothes line, hemline, bust-line or butt-line, but the bottom line. We must die. Daily. There is nothing more we can add to what Jesus has already done, except to die to our right to ourselves and allow Him to live in us and clothe us. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still love a good bargain and hate paying retail price for anything. But, instead of being a slave to the sales flyer, I've learned to live in the freedom of His leading. I’ve discovered it’s far more rewarding to find the $150 new coat for a tenth of its price, or the pants I have prayed for at half their original price, with an extra discount for being in the right place at the right time. It reassures me of God’s love and attention to the details of my life. 

Wanting God’s way so much that we are ready to risk the disapproval of friends, family, and fellowship allows Him to clothe us. It doesn’t mean we stop shopping for food or looking for clothes. It just means we yield to the Spirit of God in it and through it all. 

It means letting the shepherd lead us and that might be a very different direction than what we thought we understood. Asking Him for the things we need and want, and trusting that He cares and wants us to look like His royal children is an important part of abiding in Him… and considering the beauty of the wild flowers is a good place to start.  

Deuteronomy 29:5
“For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out.” NLT 

Proverbs 3:5-7 
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!” The Message 

Luke 12:31
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” NLT

Luke 12:32
“Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” ESV

Colossians 3:12-13a
“You are the product of God’s love; he restored you to his original thought.  You belong to him exclusively. It is like changing garments. Now that you have gotten rid of the old, clothe yourselves with inner compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, upholding one another in positive expectation…” Mirror Word

Excerpt from:

While it is Called Today - a 30-day photo devotional for living well 

by Dee Marvin Emeigh

(c) 2014 Dee Marvin Emeigh

all rights reserved