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Blog: God-in-a-Box—Your Inbox

 

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We hope this becomes a dependency. Strange thing for a therapist to say. But we are dependent on God for life and peace and joy. Spending time with Him every day (imagining these vignettes) will enhance your life and growth as nothing else can.

 

Misinformation about God is rampant out there today. This is good stuff--agreeing with the best interpretation you can put on Scripture.

 

  Below, Love's Playbook, Arla's new series, is the first interpretive version of the Bible -- it's God's love story like you've never read it--written to keep you reading! (Images are Amazon linked )

 

By Arla, Oct 22 2019 01:00AM

The thing is, the Pharisees and Sadducees have been given many signs that Jesus is who he claims to be--their Messiah.


First, they have had signs in the heavens: They are aware that angels had announced and celebrated his birth to shepherds. They have heard about the special star that guided the Magi to him. They have known about the dove of light and the voice from heaven at his baptism.


Second, they know the scriptures, that Jesus is doing the very work prophesied of Messiah: healing disease, casting out demons, raising the dead, preaching hope and God's love to the poor. He is setting God's oppressed people free.*


But the catch is Jesus' miracles call them out because they are so indifferent to human suffering--often causing it. He won't give a sign at the demand of pride and unbelief.


Again and again, they have seen the prisoners of Satan set free. They witness the change in hearts as well as bodies, the transformation of character. But they miss the sign--the highest evidence that he is here as Messiah--the presence of the Holy Spirit empowering everything he says and does, revealing the character of God.


Their hypocrisy comes from their self-glorifying spirit. Exalting self is their purpose. Wanting an easier way than submission to God, they pretend holiness! (Truely not easier!)


The religion of Jesus is authenticity. He lived on earth to show us what God is like. The keynote of His life was, "Father, glorify Your name. Make Your character shine."


Matthew 16:1,4,12 Mark 8:11,12,21, *Isaiah 60:1


By Arla, Oct 21 2019 01:00AM

Jesus and company cross the lake to Magdala. Back in Galilee, where his greatest miracles were done, he is met by a deputation of Pharisees and Sadducees who have joined forces against him.


Typically, these groups hate each other: the Pharisees foster hatred for Romans; the wealthy Sadducees "kiss-up" to their Roman rulers. But as often happens, a common enemy unifies them.


"Master," one speaks for them, "show us a sign in the heavens."


The disciples are excited. Maybe this will convince them. But Jesus reads them, and knows that no sign will make any difference to their scripture-filled minds. Their hearts need makeovers.


So he answers, "If the sky is red at evening you say, 'Tomorrow will be fair weather.' If it's red in the morning, you say, 'Bad weather today'. You pretenders! You can read the weather. Why can't you read the signs of your times? No sign will be given this perverse generation but the sign of Jonah."


There is only one more sign for them--crucifixion and resurrection. An Assyrian king and people, known for their violence, repented for Jonah who had spent parts of three days inside a whale to bring them God's message. Jesus is on a parallel mission.


At that, Jesus, and his, get back in the boat and leave for the north shore. The disciples are silent--disappointed. Finally Jesus says, "Beware of Pharisee yeast." (Yeast symbolized sin and evil.)


The disciples worry--they didn't bring bread.


"Really?" says Jesus, "You don't know yet that I can provide bread? I'm talking about their arrogant attitudes. Their closed minds. Their influence."


Matthew 15:39-16:12 Mark 8:10-21



By Arla, Oct 18 2019 01:00AM

After needed rest, Jesus and the twelve leave Phoenicia and sail across the lake to Decapolis between Gergesa and Gadara, where the demoniacs had been healed, and the people were afraid of him. This time, word gets out that Jesus is back, and the people come looking for him.


Jesus heals a man who can't hear or speak. Taking him aside, Jesus touches his tongue and his ears and sighs. Longing to open all ears who won't hear him, he says, "Be opened."


He climbs up a mountain to a wide level space, and the people bring their sick. He heals them all--heathen Gentiles!


For days they come and stay, eagerly taking in his words, sleeping under the stars at night. After three days their food is gone--4,000 men plus women and children. Jesus calls his disciples saying, "I can't send them home hungry. Some are far from home."


Again he hears, "Where would we get bread...? It's impossible," from his disciples. (These are Gentile pagans! Surely God won't feed them!)


But they follow Jesus' directions to bring what they have, and find seven loaves and two fish. Again, Jesus blesses it, and the disciples distribute, and everyone eats until satisfied. Again, he has them pick up the fragments so nothing is wasted--seven baskets!


But this time, the people leave, grateful; Gentiles "glorifying the God of Israel." Jesus himself is refreshed in spirit. "Pagans" have received him with gladness and faith.


Crossing the lake, he returns to those given the most, his own people, supposedly "believers" in God--and their unbelief. As he gets close a cloud of sadness settles.


Matthew 15:29-38, Mark 7:31-8:9



By Arla, Oct 17 2019 01:00AM

Jesus wants more than simply healing the Phoenician woman's daughter. He wants to tear down the walls that exist between Israel and all others. He wants to teach them that God loves everyone. All are heirs to His gifts and blessings, along with the Jews.


But the disciples are slow learners.


Their prejudice is long-standing and deep; so Jesus gives them lesson after lesson. In their minds, the Samaritans know about God, and the Centurion has been kind to the Jews, so these have some claim to Jesus' gifts.


Now Jesus shows them how he wants them to regard a "total heathen" who has no claim at all on his gift of healing. They believe he is too generous dispensing his gifts. So he takes them to the borders of Tyre and Sidon to show that his love is for everyone, not for only one race or nation.


This woman is one of "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." It is Israel's God-appointed work--which they had neglected, in fact rejected--that Jesus is doing. Healing the heathen woman's daughter begins to show the disciples that others are also longing for a touch from God, hungering for what has been so generously given the Jews.


Pride and prejudice have built huge walls between different classes and nations. Jesus desires us to trust him as the woman of Phoenicia dared to, regardless of appearances and discouragement.


Nothing but your own personal choice prevents you from participating in God's promises and living in His loving presence.


Acts 17:26,27, Galatians 3:28, Proverbs 22:2, Romans 10:11-13



By Arla, Oct 16 2019 01:00AM

After the confrontation in Capernaum, Jesus takes his disciples to the hills bordering Phoenicia for the rest he had hoped for on the north shore.


But more importantly, he is putting himself in the path of a Greek Canaanite woman who is seeking him for her possessed daughter--creating another template for his disciples of God's all-inclusive love. They think he is too free in healing those outside of Israel. But he wants to teach them that God hates prejudice. His love sees all men as equals, no matter their country or social standing.


This discouraged, heart-broken mother hears of the teacher who heals everything imaginable. Hope revives and she determines to take her need to Jesus.


Recognizing him on the road, she falls down, "Lord, have mercy on me, my daughter is tormented by a devil."


Jesus pretends not to hear her, giving the typical response of the religious leaders at home, for benefit of his disciples.


She continues to ask and the disciples say, "Send her away!"


Jesus stops, addressing her, "Let the children eat their fill; it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to their dogs."


Not discouraged, she sees a compassion he cannot hide, and answers, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the master's table."


Jesus' response is full of grateful joy, as if he's been holding his breath--praying for her, hoping she wouldn't give up, "O woman, great is your faith! Your daughter is well. Go home and see!"


Matthew 15:21-28 Mark 7:24-30



By Arla, Oct 15 2019 01:00AM

The Pharisees taught that the fifth commandment could be set aside if children devoted their property to the temple. It was a tradition called "Corban" and considered more sacred than their duty to take care of aging parents.


A son could pronounce "Corban"--meaning devoted to God--over his property, and this would allow him to use it during his lifetime, and turn it over to the temple upon his death. This pretense of devotion to God released him from providing for his parents. And it padded the pockets of the priests.


"You hypocrites!" says Jesus, "Well did Isaiah describe you, saying, 'This people draws near Me with their mouths, and honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commands of men.'"


Jesus answers their question, ("Why don't your disciples wash...) by revealing their true spirit in asking. His words free the people from the load of tradition heaped on them, especially those who really want to serve God-- hearts open to him.


The disciples see the Pharisees' angry looks and words, and later ask Jesus if he had noticed. It bothers them that he doesn't make nice with them.


"Leave them." He says, "They are blind guides."


Knowing their confusion, Jesus continues teaching, "Defilement doesn't come from outside us but from inside"--it's our evil thoughts, words, and actions that change us, creating negative thought and behavior patterns. These create false beliefs leading to a false self--defiling us.


In other words, Jesus says, "You've got religion backwards! Refusing to observe man-made rules may help you find God!"


Matthew 15:5-20, Mark 7:6-23




By Arla, Oct 14 2019 01:00AM

It is the third Passover since Jesus began his ministry. The Pharisees and scribes have carefully thought out a trap for him.


Knowing this, Jesus avoids them, but they seek him out asking, "Why don't your disciples observe the traditions of the elders?"


Necessary background is the traditions, added to the law to "help" people observe it, have become more honored than the actual law itself. If the two are in question, tradition is considered more sacred.


In front of all the people, their trusted teachers ask Jesus, "Why don't your disciples wash before eating?" Can you hear the crowd gasping?


Ceremonial purification and hand-washing are strenuously enforced to the point of absurdity--considering it righteous to destroy those who ignore it! There are so many rules about washing and purification that you can barely learn them in a lifetime! Their practice of religion is an endless struggle against defilement.


All ears are tuned to his answer. This has been the burden of their lives: cleansing--getting it right.


This is always Satan's resistance to relationship with God. Get them so focused on trifling distinctions, not required by God, that they miss the main points of His law--love, fairness, and mercy. Focus them on themselves. Fill them with disputing some minor point so they miss the living reality of God's law right in front of them--Jesus.


"You reject the law of God instructing you to honor father and mother by teaching people to observe "Corban"-- tradition!" Jesus doesn't even dignify their question by addressing it, but cuts straight to exposing their hypocrisy.


(continued tomorrow)


Matthew 15:1-3, Mark 7:1-6



By Arla, Oct 11 2019 01:00AM

Why does Jesus push a choice now when he knows many will leave?


He knows the twelve are bound to him by love, but the influence of those only wanting glory for Israel or themselves will detract from their education. Strong ties will be formed that would make their defection during his passion even more confusing and painful. Now is the time for choosing. There is only one year left.


Jesus knows the severity of the test that is coming to his twelve closest disciples. He knows they really don't understand his mission either. Compassion drives him to separate the followers who are only there to serve their own interests from those who really want truth.


So here in the synagogue at Capernaum he drives home the message of spiritual change. Those who don't want to look at themselves, give up the false self, and learn from him, will not come to Him and become their true selves.


Many choose to disbelieve and leave him. So he says to the twelve, "Will you leave also?"


Peter, ever ready with an answer, says what they are all thinking, "Where would we go? We believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God; only you have words that make us feel loved and alive."


Jesus' response shows his pain over our human dilemma--the horrible battle being fought for our wills--the choice required of everyone, "I chose you, and even one of you is controlled by the devil."


We live in a war zone. It's important to know.


John 6:59-71



By Arla, Oct 10 2019 01:00AM

Jesus now pushes the metaphor further. He quotes their belief from Isaiah, "All shall be taught of God..."* and shows the law of attraction at work--only those attracted to the Father's love can learn from him.


"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna and are dead, but this bread a man eats and doesn't die." This had to be spiritually understood. Manna could only nourish physical life, but faith in Him would sustain spiritual life--a better gift.


He continues to challenge their thinking, "I am the living bread from heaven, if a man eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my body which I will give for the life of the world."


He refers to his death, offered to win the universal war. It will show God gives everything--holds back nothing. God is on trial before the universe for His character: Is He fit to rule? Satan had claimed He wasn't.


They know the death metaphor, but don't like it, and pretend to understand it only literally, using his words to turn the people against him.


But Jesus doesn't back down, "Unless you eat Messiah's flesh and drink his blood, you have no life in you. But if you do, you are one with me as I am with the Father," (atonement=at-one-ment). It is by drinking in God's love, by admiring his graciousness that we become like Him.


Then many of his followers said, "Who can accept this? What a hard saying! " and they left him. They wanted the easy way --power--more than the work of knowing God.


John 6:52-60, *Isaiah 54:13



By Arla, Oct 9 2019 01:00AM

Jesus clearly claims to be their Messiah, and then he adds, "You have seen Me, but don't believe."


They had seen him through the evidence of how he treated them, the Spirit's power accompanying his words and acts. If they refuse to believe this, further demonstration would be pointless. Unbelief can reason away proof, and always find excuses for doubt.


Again he attempts to reach their hearts, saying, "Everyone the Father draws, will come to me, and no one will be refused. It is the Father's will for all to see the Father's love in the Son, be resurrected on the last day, and live forever."


Jesus says, if you come, you can't be lost. None come unless drawn by the Father's love, but God's Spirit is drawing everyone--from every nation on earth, every religious persuasion! Only those who resist His love will not be drawn to Him.


The leaders are offended, and try to prejudice the people against him by speaking of his commonness. They know this lowly Galilean carpenter, of poor (and doubtful) parentage. He is not worthy of their time and consideration.


Jesus doesn't try to explain his birth or how he'd come from heaven. He has purposely become a servant, so that his words and actions will show his character, and that will be the only attraction. Those open to God will recognize him.*


God will conquer evil, sin and death. But "Conquering Hero" is not how He wants to be known. He wants to be known as our true Love first.


John 6:36-51 *John 1:14



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If you like this series, see Arla's new series on the Bible>

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