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  • # 152 Does God Force us to Believe?

    Jesus tours Galilee for the last time. Setting out for Samaria, he sends James and John ahead for lodging. His final destination is Jerusalem for Passover and somehow the Samaritans discover this. They are offended thinking Jesus prefers Jews, and won't accommodate them. Rivalry!

    James and John are angry! Samaritans have welcomed him before, and should be honored with his presence!

    They want punishment and rant to Jesus, "Shall we command fire to come down and burn them up as Elijah did?"* They're surprised at Jesus answer,

    "You don't realize where your attitude comes from, Messiah has come to save men's lives, not destroy them."

    Jesus has shown God's way, but humans are slow to understand that God never forces cooperation, never insists men receive Him. Jesus never compelled men.

    It is Satan, and humans inspired by him, who force conscience, who want to hurt and destroy those who don't appreciate us, our work and ideas. (Evidently Satan inspired Elijah's fear and reaction?)

    God is repulsed when people, pretending holiness, bring suffering on those He loves--especially when trying to "convert" them! Every human being is God's by creation. Jesus came for all. He must surely have suffered watching Elijah react from fear, but honored his prophet's words and choice.*

    God wins us by showing His love, as Jesus shows the Samaritans by understanding, leaving, and speaking well of them.

    The Samaritans' bigotry cost them the tremendous blessing of Jesus' life-giving presence. "...And he went to Perea, on the other side of the Jordan."

    Luke 9:51-56 *2Kings 1:15

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  • # 151 Choose Abundant Life

    Did you know God doesn't motivate through fear? Not even fear of hell or punishment! He doesn't use force. And fear would be force.

     

    And if you make God sound harsh and severe, demanding submission, you're "a thief coming to kill and destroy." That's what Jesus tells the people!

     

    Satan was the first thief, stealing God's good name. And anyone who turns people away from him is robbing them of their true self and the true abundance of life.

     

    Jesus contrasts himself with restrictive Pharisees, calling himself "the shepherd and the door." Jesus' character attracts us, drawing us to choose the safety of acceptance and relationship with God, to believe that God is gracious like Jesus. Contemplating the love of God shown in Jesus will strengthen your mind and heart as nothing else can.

     

    He teaches, "My sheep won't follow a stranger, they know my voice. I AM come here to give them abundant life. The good shepherd risks his life for the sheep. I'm giving my life. No one takes it from me. I have power to lay it down and take it up again."

    You didn't cause Jesus' death. He chose the rescue--Spirit and Father consenting. Don't go to unworthiness. He loves you! God's love stirs your heart; you awaken and respond. His call to relationship makes you truly you.

     

    So the teachers discount him, "He has a devil, why listen to him?"

     

    The people become divided, some saying, "These are not the words of a mad man!".

     

    Again the rulers try to take him, but he walks away, leaving Jerusalem.

     

    John 10:7-20

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  • # 150 God Loves You like You're the Only One!!!

    The Pharisees have just driven from the synagogue one coming to God through another doorway than theirs.

     

    Compare that with Jesus saying he is our shepherd and the door to the sheepfold. He has described his effect on us as refreshing water, and life-giving sunlight. He has also compared himself to a shepherd for his disciples. Now he enlarges on this powerful shepherd metaphor for all the crowd gathered.

     

    Eastern shepherds developed strong bonds with their sheep. They didn't drive them forcefully or treat them cruelly, but went ahead, leading them, naming each one, even when flocks were large. Often they spent frosty nights as well as long hot days with their sheep.* To be a shepherd then was to risk your life with lions, bears, or robbers--always lurking to steal sheep.

    The sheep loved their shepherd and knew his voice, coming when he called. It created a picture of a strong, tender attachment the people understood and would always remember.

     

    David, Isaiah, and Ezekiel had used this metaphor to describe Messiah's mission.** Jesus loves this picture of God's tender care for each one of us individually. He says, "I am the good shepherd. My sheep know my voice and follow me."

     

    There is no fear or force. He loves you as though you are the only person on earth! God has that ability!

     

    The pain too deep to share with anyone touches His heart. Unless you choose to leave, He will hold you securely; no one can take you away. He will never abandon you.***

     

    John 10:1-6    *Genesis 31:40, Luke 2:8    **Psalm 23 etc., Isaiah 40:10-11, Ezekiel 34:11-16   ***Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5

     

     

     

     

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  • # 149 Those who Think they See

    Trying to discredit him, Pharisees again interrogate the formerly-blind man, "Exactly what did he do?"

    Satan assists them in thinking they can confuse and control him--he's uneducated-- so they suggest, "Maybe this is from the devil..."

    But Spirit gives him words, "I've told you what happened, why do you ask again? Do you want to follow him?"

    "We follow Moses! We know God spoke to him. We don't know this man."

    "Why this is truly amazing!" he responds, "a man opened my eyes, something never done for one born blind, and you don't know if he's from God! But we know God doesn't hear sinners, so he must be."

    For moments there is stunned silence.

    Then in contempt, they gather their robes as if to avoid contact, "Do you teach us? You were born in sin!" and they throw him out of the synagogue.

    Hearing what he has gone through, Jesus finds him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?"

    "Who is he, lord?" he has defended Jesus character, so more light is given him. For the first time he looks on the loving, peaceful face of Jesus and contrasts the rabbis' frowns, the worried faces of his parents and he knows...

    "It is I, who healed you," says Jesus.

    He falls at Jesus feet in gratitude and worship.

    "I have come to give sight to the blind, and to blind those who think they see."

    Some Pharisees have gathered, "Are we blind?" they ask, catching the inference.

    "You refuse to see the one God sent. Because of this, you are blind." Jesus answers.

    John 9:24-41

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  • # 148 The Power of Closed Minds

    When the formerly-blind man goes back to his neighborhood, people say, "Is this the blind guy that begged? He looks so different!"

    "It's me." He assures them, and tells how Jesus healed him.

    "You've gotta have the Priests certify this!" they say, and they all accompany him.

    The Pharisees are amazed at his story, but ask, "How can this 'healer' be from God when he doesn't keep the Sabbath?"

    Their reaction causes so much excitement around town that they keep hearing, "How can a sinner do such miracles?" So the Priests call the man again and ask "What do you say of this man?"

    "He's a prophet," he assumes.

    Next they call his parents to verify that he was born blind.

    His parents have heard that anyone believing Jesus is the Messiah, will be thrown out of the synagogue for 30 days. At that time this meant you were totally ostracized--no services of any kind--even medical. So they deflected, "He is our son, and he was born blind, but as to his sight, ask him what happened. He's an adult; he can speak for himself."

    The Pharisees bring the son in and try to silence him, seeing the publicity their opposition is creating. "Don't say this man healed you; give God credit; we know Jesus is a sinner."

    "I don't know if he's a sinner, but I know I was blind and now I see," the man responds.

    Interrogating him more, the Pharisees try to confuse him, discounting his memory with many explanations and suppositions. False leaders steal joy.

    John 9:8-26

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  • # 147 Does Suffering come from God?

    Leaving the temple, Jesus and company walk past a man who was born blind.

    His disciples, nervous over Jesus' near stoning and wanting to talk about anything else, ask, "Master, who caused this man's blindness? His own sin or his parents' sin?"

    They have grown up steeped in a culture that believes suffering is judgment from God, so Spirit sets up this particular encounter with one born suffering...(because illness could come from cause and effect--poor choices).

    "Neither," responds Jesus, "it's for God's glory to be shown in him."

    Even though it is Sabbath, Jesus makes clay with his spit, rubs it on the man's eyes, and tells him to go to the pool of Siloam to wash it off.

    The man didn't even ask!

    But Jesus knows his disciples believe suffering is punishment for wrong-doing. And he is ready to destroy this doctrine of the devil--at least for them.

    This is important, because in six months time they will see him suffer crucifixion. And many people will say (or think) God is doing it to him!

    While it's true that all suffering comes from living outside of God's law, Satan had twisted that truth into "God brings suffering as punishment." Nothing could be further from the truth!

    So Jesus prepares them to understand his death: God won't be killing him; He will be empowering Jesus to choose our natural future (death), so we can choose his natural future (life).

    God gives good. Opening your mind to God, brings desire for Him, naturally, as flowers turn to sunlight. Knowing Jesus, experientially, makes you crave His life-giving love-energy.

    John 9:1-7

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  • # 146 Ability to See Truth

    The Pharisees have again attempted to discredit Jesus to the people by bringing up his questionable birth. saying, "God is our father."

    Jesus doesn't give their insinuation any attention. "If God were your father you would love me because I came from Him. You act like your father, the devil--a liar and a murderer--and the father of them. If I said I didn't know God, I would be a liar like you."

    They won't admit they're wrong. For nearly three years they've been looking to destroy him because he didn't come in power and glory as they thought Messiah should. They don't love the truth, won't even investigate it, but close their minds to it, close their ears to God's voice. Jesus says this proves they have no connection with God.

    "You can't hear me because you don't know God. Abraham asked to see my day; he saw it, and was glad." ( Abraham was the only man God asked to give his son as God was going to. He saw and completely understood God's suffering in giving up Jesus.)

    "What! You aren't 50 years old, and you've seen Abraham?" they scoff.

    "Seriously, before Abraham was, I AM."

    Gasps escape many, then shocked silence. This poor, unassuming Galilean rabbi has just announced himself to be the Eternal Presence! He used the name given Moses to identify himself as the Self-existent One!

    Now many of the people side with the rabbis, and being led by them, pick up stones to stone Him.

    But Jesus, hidden from their sight, passes on.

    John 8:36-59

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  • # 145 The Truth Makes You Free

    Jesus isn't played by Pharisees to announce he is their Messiah. He goes beyond that, claiming oneness with God.

    "If you follow me, you will know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free."

    "We are Abraham's descendents and aren't enslaved to anyone." The teachers are talking about spiritual freedom--Romans are all around reminding them of their occupation by Rome.

    So Jesus picks it up, telling them they are in the worst kind of slavery--the unconscious kind. "If anyone sins, he is the slave of sin. If the Son makes you free, you are truly free. Abraham's children would be like him, and would recognize the one God sent. They wouldn't try to kill me." Again revealing he knows their hatred and plans for his death--instigated by Satan.

    Now they get ugly and sneer, "We weren't born to an unmarried mother!" (Implying that he was.)

    Satan controls the minds of those who refuse God. And God will not force our wills.

    However, when we desire to be set free of Satan's control, when we understand that separation from God kills us, and ask God to free us from Satan's curse, the Holy Spirit empowers our choice with divine energy, restoring us.

    Satan can only keep us captive by weakening our minds and destroying our freedom through mindlessness, confusion, and lack of choice. But in the change that happens when you choose surrender to God, there is the highest sense of freedom.

    Submission to God restores your true self--your true glory and dignity.*

    John 8:30-41, *Psalm 8

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  • # 144 The Light

    Later, after forgiving the adulteress, Jesus is teaching as the morning sun comes over Mt. Olivet and hits the gold and the white marble of the temple. Pointing to the dazzling reflection of sunlight he says, "I am the light of the world," a powerful declaration of his identity, recorded later by John.*

    The night before had been the last ceremony of the week--the Festival of Light--when the temple courts were filled with dancing, and ablaze with lamps and lanterns commemorating the pillar of fire in the wilderness wandering of their ancestors.

    Light had always been a symbol of God's presence--in the cloud, on Sinai, covering the sanctuary and then the temple.

    Jesus continues, "If you follow me, you will have the light of life; you won't walk in darkness," his words are confident, convincing.

    The forgiven woman, now in the back, held there by a love she has never known, feels like he's talking straight to her. It's the best promise she's ever heard.

    But in saying this, Jesus claims unity with God, and the Pharisees who stayed are ready to challenge. "You can't testify for yourself."

    "My witness is true because I know who I am. Your law requires two witnesses. I am one and my Father is the other."

    "Where is your father?"

    "If you knew me, you would know Him," answers Jesus. If their hearts were open to God's love they would have recognized him.

    "Who are you?" They're pushing him to declare himself, thinking the people will reject a poor, homeless Messiah.

    John 8:12-19 *John 1:1-5

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  • #143 A New Beginning

    The woman cowers before Jesus, eyes to the ground, waiting for rocks to start hitting her. His words, "The one who hasn't sinned may cast the first stone," sounded like a death sentence.

    Eyes to the ground, she is amazed when feet turn and walk away.

    Jesus stands up and says, "Where are your accusers? No one has condemned you?"

    A small voice answers, "No one."

    "Neither do I," says Jesus. "Go and live with God."

    Her heart melts and she falls sobbing at his feet. She can't believe what she has just heard.

    A moment ago she was sure her life was over, but now it seems it's just beginning. Peace, love, and joy flood her as sobs release all the shame, guilt, and sadness of her life.

    And never has Jesus looked better to those watching.

    He has just performed a greater miracle than healing the worst disease. He hasn't set aside the law of Moses or infringed on the authority of Rome. Rather he has shown the love and forgiveness of God to one who is considered weak and worthless, an outcast.

    She becomes an ardent follower of Jesus from that day on.

    What a difference from the attitude of the Pharisees! They hated the sinner but loved the sin. While Jesus hates the sin but loves the sinner.

    Jesus' attitude towards her--slow to censure, quick to discern repentance, ready to forgive and encourage--is naturally experienced and develops in all those who follow him.

    John 8:7-11

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