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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, Jun 3 2019 01:00AM

The critical decade for identity is considered to be age 16-26, the latter age being when human brains have finished developing, built on the all-important foundation of birth to 7 years.


Did Jesus identity form his religion? Or did his religion form his identity? Hard to say; he was connected to God from birth, forming both his identity and religion.


Connected from birth? Yes, he was the one man on whom was the Spirit without measure. The one man who wasn't broken, who didn't battle with darkness inside.*


He loved people and didn't overlook anyone, even those losing a fight with evil. He was cheerful and joyful, and encouraged people to see themselves as God did--full of His gifts which they could use now and in eternity.


But his integrity and conscience were often made fun of and ridiculed. No one understood him. He wouldn't retaliate or defend himself. He respected his parents even when he didn't agree with them. And he waited on God to signal the beginning of his ministry until he was 30!


We can do hard things. We are hard-wired for struggle!


Imagine learning at 12 that you are the Messiah and understanding the suffering and death ahead! Or discovering that you existed before and have all power within you, but you can't use it unless your Father directs or agrees! Your whole ministry is waiting on God's direction!**


Jesus knew who He was. It gave him tremendous strength and freedom. Plus an incredible requirement for staying in submission to God, and an awful responsibility for waking us up.***


*Psalm 22:9-10, John 1:9,16 John 3:34, 1 John 1:5, Colossians 1:15; **Isaiah 50:4-7, John 5;19-20; ***John 4:10, 13:1-10




By Arla, May 31 2019 01:00AM

Even as a child, Jesus ideas about religion dared to be different than those of the rabbis and priests. At that time, religion had become rules. But his whole approach to life and religion was to bless others as he understood God blessing everyone, regardless of their class, job, or situation. He seemed continually aware of God's presence, and his happiest hours were spent alone, outdoors.


As he developed, he continually found in nature new ways to relieve suffering. His miracles hadn't started yet, but his presence carried an energy and a peace that uplifted people and even animals. He knew God personally, and he had no use for rules or rulers that forced people into strict observance of man-made regulations and called it obedience.


His understanding was clear, yet this made his life painful. It often brought him into conflict with the religious authorities because he thought for himself and forged his own beliefs from Scripture and his understanding of God. He seemed to know the scriptures from end to end.


His parents questioned his beliefs, while his brothers cited tradition and accused him of stubbornness.


Friends and relatives thought him narrow and yet were jealous of his generous, loving spirit. If his brothers were mean-spirited, Jesus would go to the very ones they had distressed with kind attention. He taught everyone to look at themselves as precious to God with gifts He delighted to see them use.


His intimacy with God, his strength of identity, and his pain over injustice and evil set him apart. His religion was a relationship with God that spilled over onto others.


Mark 3:20-21


By Arla, May 30 2019 01:00AM

Joseph and Mary are frantic when they finally find Jesus on the third day. Why didn't they think of the temple?


They find him sitting in the classroom conversing with the rabbis, opening their minds with his revealing questions, and they are amazed.


The priests and rabbis are caught off-guard by His innocence and authenticity. Unconsciously their minds open, and all hearing him "are amazed at his knowledge and understanding." God is trying to open their minds to a new paradigm.


God had been teaching Jesus as he had watched the rituals, and he wanted to see if the priests and rabbis knew what he had learned.


What parent, relieved at finding a lost child, doesn't after embracing him, scold him? And so does Mary.


But Jesus' response, "Didn't you know I'd be in my Father's house?" is a startling question that implies they should have known where he would be and that he knows who he is--Israel's Messiah, the Son of God.


Jesus' words, at 12, hint that he had done what he was supposed to while they had not. A parallel is here: our main work is to notice when we are going about our lives without Him.


What transformation would come to us, and into our lives, if we spent an hour meditating on His life everyday! Our hearts are softened and lifted as we are drawn to the character of complete love in our God who is wild about us. From this time, well-spent in awe, we would do less but accomplish more. There is no fear here.


Luke 2:45-51


By Arla, May 29 2019 01:00AM

The events of this story make it easy to see what kind of child Jesus was.


I doubt Mary and Joseph are negligent parents, but how can they not notice that Jesus isn't with them? They obviously don't worry about him sneaking off, or getting distracted and wandering away. It almost sounds like they take him for granted, until needed. Or think of him as an adult.


Caught up in the excitement and the company of their friends, quite probably rushing to leave, they don't realize that Jesus has stayed behind. They trust him; he has never given them cause to worry, and they assume he is with the other kids in their group.


When they begin to set up camp that evening, he isn't there helping as usual, and they begin looking for him.


Imagine how they berate themselves, and perhaps each other, for not noticing, not checking, for assuming he would take care of himself.


Evil whisperings from the dark side remind them of how Herod had tried to kill him as an infant. Fear and failure grab Mary's heart. I've let God down! How could I do this?


Loaded with guilt and fear they turn back to Jerusalem. Praying, they retrace a whole days steps, much of it in the dark. Poor parents! I don't suppose they sleep much that night or the next.


Through inattention they lose Jesus in one day, and it takes three days of anxious searching to find him again.


That can happen to us, too; discouragement and anxiety come from inattention; assuming, or not desiring God's presence. Angels can't stay where they aren't wanted. Choice is the universal permission.


Luke 2:43-45



By Arla, May 28 2019 01:00AM

In Jewish culture, twelve was when a boy was perceived to leave childhood and become "a son of the law" and "a son of God."


And so as expected, Jesus at twelve, accompanies Mary and Joseph on their annual journey. This is the only Biblical story of Jesus' childhood, his trip to Jerusalem for Passover--the highest celebration of the year.


Passover had its beginning the night of the exodus from Egypt, and it is the most sacred and best attended of the three annual feasts. Large caravans travel through the green and flowering countryside. This festive Spring celebration is meant to revive joy and focus the people on God's protection and restoration.


While Jesus knows the story, this is the first time he has seen the temple and the impressive rites in Jerusalem. His independent thinking causes Joseph and Mary concern, and they hope he will be impressed to reverence the priests.


All the ceremonies are representations of the Messiah and his work. Spirit speaks to Jesus as the symbols come alive telling him about His life, His purpose, His death. Afterwards, deep in contemplation, he wants to be alone. This realization is heavy.


So he lingers in the temple when the others leave.


Then needing to see if anyone understands what he has just learned, he goes to the school room off of the temple and sits down with the rabbis' students. Presenting himself as seeking knowledge, every question he asks puts truth in new perspective. God is trying to give light to these leaders of Israel.


Luke 2:41-51



By Arla, May 27 2019 01:00AM

We know from the remarks of the rabbis that Jesus did not attend their schools. Yet they were amazed at his knowledge and understanding of the scriptures. The story of his first Passover in Jerusalem gives evidence of his original mind and independent thinking.


Jesus was homeschooled by his parents and God. His mother was his first teacher, the Holy Spirit and Joseph her aids. From them and God he learned the lessons He himself had written in nature and inspired in scripture. He studied the life of plants, animals, and man, always trying to understand the way things worked; and always with the desire to help others, especially relieving their suffering.


We don't know how his parents decided to by-pass the rabbis' schools, but we know we can teach our children to seek God, and Spirit and their angels will help. We know Jesus loved being outside alone with God.


God had asked parents to teach children about Him, the great I AM, from infancy, helping them establish their own relationship with Him.*


In Jesus' day, the town that neglected religious education of children was regarded by the religious authoritiesas cursed. But the schools of the prophets had become focused on behavior. Students were kept so busy that they had no time to pursue a personal experience with God in Scripture--there was no teaching them to get alone with God and experience His Presence.


So His chosen people missed the most important education--the one coming from connecting with the Source of Life. Their religious training actually took them away from God!



Luke 2:41-52, John 7:15-17, *Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 11:18-20



By Arla, May 24 2019 01:00AM

After Herod's death, Joseph was directed to return home to Nazareth. In this poor mountain village, Jesus developed according to the natural stages of childhood, learning who he was.


Significant is the brief account of His early years. "The child grew...strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and...in favor with God and man."


Two statements that speak of the simplicity and balance and human development of His life, and ten verses about the Passover trip when he was 12, are all there is on his early years. But we know from his character as a man that he learned patience, courtesy, and kindness. His thinking developed a depth and a breadth beyond his years, a firmness and an unshakable identity.


He didn't choose to come to a home of wealth where privilege and insulation would have made His life easier. He showed that ease and plenty are not the best environment for a child.


In planning his path through our world, he chose a simple life. He learned from his mother, his father, and from God in nature. Loving, honest parents modeled dependence on God, and daily connection to God, as well as necessary, useful work--indicating the elements most needed for child development.


Simple, free and joyful, yes, but not easy, Jesus' childhood days were shadowed by every scheme Satan could devise to trap him in conflict and make his life hard. Satan took offense that even one life on this planet should be free from evil on the inside, so he worked his worst, instigating others to make him miserable on the outside.


Luke 2:40 Luke 2:52



By Arla, May 23 2019 01:00AM

Unlike the shepherds, the Magi haven't been prepared for Jesus' poverty. They still expect, at the least, a royal entourage.


Arriving in Bethlehem, they again wonder at the absence of any sign of preparation for this awesome event or any guard for this baby king. This is highly irregular for the birth of royalty. He's a descendent of the great King David--so yes, David's hometown for his birthplace makes sense, but why doesn't anybody know?


They are open to the Spirit of God and when they see Jesus, their hearts are melted and moved. They know Him. Spirit enlightens them to recognize divinity. They worship Him and delightedly give Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Once again God provides. These gifts will finance Joseph and Mary's stay in Egypt. Through a dream, God directs Joseph to go there because Herod will soon try to kill the child.


The Magi are also directed in a dream to not return to Herod, but to go home another way.


This gives the baby and his parents time to leave Bethlehem before Herod's fear and anger sends soldiers to tiny Bethlehem to destroy all babies and toddlers under two. The "slaughter of the innocents" in Bethlehem was the first of Satan's attempts to take Jesus' life.


The point is made, that had the people in Bethlehem been walking with God and looking for their Messiah, God could have, and would have, protected them from Herod's wrath, ignited by Satan in this cosmic war.


We are still in that war.


Matthew 2:10-18



By Arla, May 22 2019 01:00AM

These Magi entering Jerusalem on their camels, decked out for royalty, look spectacular and make the news of their questions and their mission spread like fire. They are scholars, honest-hearted men, but the priests in Jerusalem cannot concede that God would pass by them and tell these "heathen." They won't be taught by them! They won't even go to Bethlehem to investigate!


The vivid account of the shepherd's angelic vision had also reached them and was discounted. The priests label it "fanaticism," feeling slighted and unwilling to believe, forgetting that God had given them the first sign in Zacharias' son, John, (the Messiah's forerunner.)


But Herod is not derailed by the priests' dismissive attitude. His road to the throne was paved with the blood of murder. He takes every threat to his rule seriously. When he questions the priests, he thinks they are purposely hiding information and goes straight to the Magi.


"Messiah is born?" he questions eagerly, "How wonderful! Please find him and come and tell me so I can worship him too!" Pretending to be truly seeking and joyful like they are, his act fools even these wise men.


Disappointed, and questions growing, they leave Jerusalem at evening. This is not at all what they expected.


Little do they know what kind of king they seek. Then as the sky darkens, they see the star and their joy and confidence revive. The stars they know. They are being guided by God!


Sometimes God's guidance doesn't bring what we expect.


Matthew 2:1-10


By Arla, May 21 2019 01:00AM

One night three students of the stars see an explosion of light in the far sky that seems to leave a new star. They know it isn't anything fixed or familiar. And the conviction that it is special begins to grow. Have we seen it for a reason? They wonder.


God is always looking for people in every nation whose hearts are in synch with His. Such are the magi of the East who study the stars with a desire to know their Creator. They are wealthy, educated, men of character.


They know from tradition that a Messiah is coming who will fill the world with a knowledge of God. With excitement they discover the Hebrew prophecies pointing to their time. Their delight explodes as they read Balaam's prophecy of a star rising in Israel,* and that night dream they are supposed to follow it!


Quickly they prepare and leave. Traveling at night, towards the star, their conviction of guidance deepens.


So imagine their surprise when they arrive in Jerusalem to ignorance of the Messiah's birth! Where are the guards we expected to contend with? Why are there no celebrations? How can we be the only ones to know? The more they ask, the more mystified they become.


Could we have been wrong in our calculations? They ask themselves. No one, not even among the religious leaders of this king's own country, seems to know anything about his birth! How can this be? Gratefully they sleep.


A few hours later Herod hears of their arrival and summons them.


Matthew 2:1-2, * Numbers 24:17



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

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