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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, Nov 14 2019 02:00AM

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--develops naturally and is experienced in all those who follow him.


John 8:7-11

By Arla, Nov 13 2019 02:00AM

The Sanhedrin, frustrated in their plans and silenced by Nicodemus, leave and go to their homes.


Jesus turns to the quiet of the olive orchards on Olivet needing time alone with God. Spies have dogged his steps every day of the festival looking to trap him in a word or action. He's exhausted.


Early the next morning he is back in the temple. People gather around him and he teaches them. But before long he is interrupted by a commotion.


"We caught this woman in the very act of adultery" says the hard, triumphant voice of one Pharisee.


"Moses says we should stone her." Adds another. "What do you say?"


Seeing through their disguise, and knowing they set her up themselves, Jesus gives no sign he has heard them, but kneels and begins to write in the dust on the marble.


Impatiently they move closer, urging him to respond. But as their eyes follow his finger, their faces pale, seeing he has written how they got her there, who set her up, and that according to Moses, her husband should have accused and brought her.


Then rising, he fixes his gaze on the posers who know the law--that the one wronged begins the stoning. Jesus knows they have wronged her, and he says, "The one who hasn't sinned may throw the first stone."


Hoping against hope that he won't expose them, one by one they slink away, defeated again.


Religion was not intended for condemning. If you want to know what God is like, read tomorrow's blog...


John 8:1-9


By Arla, Nov 12 2019 02:00AM

On the morning of the last day of their Thanksgiving festival is the ceremony symbolizing the water that flowed when Moses struck the rock in the wilderness. A beautiful and impressive feast of color and sound, it teaches that God provides.


Afterwards, Jesus' heart aches for the people, weary from festivities that dazzle them but do nothing to satisfy their thirsty hearts, longing for assurance of God's love and care.


Standing up, his voice ringing through the temple, he cries, "If any of you is thirsty, come to me and drink. If you believe in me, living water will flow from you!"


The people are startled. It's as if he reads their minds, his words reach into their sad, dissatisfied, tired hearts, stirring hope again. Ruach impresses their minds with the connection between him and what they have just watched, and many believe he is the Messiah.


Even the temple guards, sent by the Pharisees to bring Jesus to the Sanhedrin, are awed and return without him.


"Why didn't you bring him?" the "authorities" ask.


"We've never heard anyone talk like him," they reply simply--slightly embarrassed.


"You're just like these cursed people! Have any of our leaders believed?" Enraged, the priests are ready to go fetch him themselves.


Then a voice of reason speaks, "Does our law condemn anyone before hearing him?" It's Nicodemus.


The whole assembly is checked and silent. Surprised by him, they react with sarcasm, "Are you a Galilean? Go search scripture; no prophet comes from Galilee!"


They act ignorant of prophecy, but it is enough to stop the madness.


John 7:30-53


By Arla, Nov 11 2019 02:00AM

Jesus' words hold the people spellbound. His knowledge of the sacrificial service, the law, and the prophets far exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees--his understanding brings the true meaning alive. As they were in Capernaum, the people at Jerusalem are enthralled.


The priests observing this, try to discredit him, "You haven't attended our schools; what authority do you have to teach in the temple?"


"My teaching is from Him who sent me," answers Jesus. "If you want to do God's will, you will know whether it is from Him."


Jesus says that receiving truth depends on your heart's openness to God. They are hiding from God because ever since Jesus healed on the Sabbath at the Pool of Bethesda, they have been plotting his death.


"Moses gave the law you accuse me of breaking by making a man whole on Sabbath, but you break it by wanting to kill me." He confronts them, showing he knows their hearts.


For an instant terror fills them, they see they are fighting Infinite power. Somehow they must disparage him. "You have a demon! Who wants to kill you?" they scoff.


Many believe Jesus; others are mislead by the pretense of the Pharisees. If the people would study the prophecies for themselves they wouldn't be fooled. Ruach would help them understand. Abba wants them to recognize His son.*


But God won't force us to believe. He leaves us free to choose between light and darkness; He desires us to investigate the evidence and decide. He will open the minds of those seeking truth.**


John 7:16-30 *The Pharisees know Isaiah 53, 59 and 61 which give a clear picture of Jesus life, work and death **John 7:17,




By Arla, Nov 8 2019 02:00AM

The Feast of Tabernacles was the harvest festival, celebrating God's gifts throughout the year.


Three times a year there were major feasts when people crowded Jerusalem. Many of them had become ritual, but this occasion was joyful, everyone bringing a gift. People built booths from branches, and stayed in them. Everything pretty was brought from the woods, decorating the city until it looked like a beautiful forest.


Jesus is in Nazareth, home for a visit in Nazareth. His brothers urge him to go to Jerusalem and declare himself to the world. "You haven't even been to Jerusalem for a year and a half!" they say.


They aren't ready to acknowledge him as Messiah, but are now impressed by his works. Still, they are bothered that he does nothing to lessen the antagonism of the priests and rabbis, who are surely right.


"It's not time yet," answers Jesus, trying to help them understand, "our world doesn't hate you because you agree with it. But it hates me because I confront it's evil. You go ahead."


Every event of his life has an appointed time, and he waits patiently. After they leave, God directs him to go down alone, avoiding the crowds, and any possible demonstration to stir the jealousy of the leaders.


In Jerusalem, everyone is talking about him. "Where is he?" people are quietly asking everywhere.


Suddenly, in the middle of the festival, he appears in the temple courts, teaching. His bearing is dignity and courage, silencing gossip that he was late because he is afraid of the priests.


John 7:1-14



By Arla, Nov 7 2019 02:00AM

Jesus teaches on humility.


It isn't feeling bad about yourself. It is realizing you don't know everything--letting God be God and teach you.


Jesus explains the way things work here, saying we should treat others as we want them to treat us, or better--as we want God to treat us. What you give others comes back to you--you turn into what you do.


About defensiveness he says, "Don't hide or justify your behavior. Admit it, face consequences, and trust Me. Let Me protect you, turn your fear into joy, your doubt into hope. Deal drastically with anything that comes between us."


He tells them the story of the shepherd who is missing one sheep; "leaves 99 in the fold, and goes looking until he finds that one." That's how God feels about us! He doesn't want to lose even one of us!


But he is realistic. He speaks of sad choices that come because of offenses (evil). Pain will come, but it is sadder for the person who gives it than for the receiver. Why would that be?


Because those giving evil are becoming what they give--developing habits--character scripts. They become evil.

Jesus also gives a detailed plan for dealing with defiance: Clear, personal, direct and respectful. Confront privately; don't expose unless necessary. In matters of the heart, a delicate touch is needed.


Finally he reminds them that our choices are honored and powerful, some lasting forever. He assures that if two of us agree on asking anything good, our heavenly Father will do it. We aren't alone. We are loved.


Matthew 18:7-20


By Arla, Nov 6 2019 02:00AM

Even the watching universe is learning, as Jesus instructs that the characteristics of greatness aren't power and authority, as the disciples believe.


Jesus, holding a child, explains that heaven values the characteristics of simplicity, sincerity, and the trusting love of a little child. He says unless they become like that, they can't even be in his kingdom, let alone hold high positions.


Heavenly intelligences can cooperate with those who know God enough to trust Him, depending on Him confidently, as a well-loved child depends on a parent.


John, with the spirit of a child, confides, "Master we stopped someone who was casting out devils in your name, because he wasn't one of us."


Grateful for his risk-taking confidence, Jesus responds gently, "Anyone doing miracles in my name won't easily speak evil of me, so you don't want to stop him."


We don't read people's hearts or motives, and can so easily discourage people from doing good. Everyone Jesus has drawn is a conduit for God's love. We have no ability to judge one who doesn't think like us, who isn't part of our group.


Jesus uses intense metaphors to impress them with God's value of children and the weak, including those weak in faith. Those who misrepresent God's attitude and character by harshness and coldness, and yet claim to know Him, are especially offensive.


All of us are broken, needing God's tenderness and love. Time with Jesus pours God's love into us. Love brings wisdom (recognizing what you don't know) before honor.


Matthew 18:1-7, Mark 9:36-50, Luke 9:48-50



By Arla, Nov 5 2019 02:00AM

In his temporary home at Capernaum, Jesus calls his disciples to him. He so wants to prepare them for their greatest test. If they can receive it, they will suffer so much less when he dies. So he asks, "What were you discussing on the way here?"

 

Suddenly, it feels different in his presence, and they are embarrassed. Especially since he has said he's facing death. Afraid to ask him about it, they had dismissed it, and had gone back to their own ideas and wishes.

 

Finally one gets brave enough to ask, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 

"If you want to be first, become the servant of all," begins Jesus. They are shocked. They don't understand that their contention is the same as the one Satan started in heaven--the very attitude that brought Jesus here to silence Satan's accusations by showing God's heart.

 

Jesus is thinking of Lucifer. Spirit has shown him the former most beautiful of angels, who wanted to be like God--wanted the position and power, but not God's character.*Now Lucifer's (Satan's) kingdom is one of force and getting the highest position, whatever it takes, no matter who you have to step on.

 

They just have to get this! Jesus thinks. They are so full of Satan's spirit they can't even hear me!

 

He calls one of the children who live there, and taking him in his arms, says, "Unless you are changed and become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." They are stunned. What does he mean? they wonder.

 

Matthew 18:1-3,  Mark 9:30-37,  Luke 9:44-48   *Isaiah 14:12,14


By Arla, Nov 4 2019 02:00AM

As Jesus takes his disciples back to Capernaum he avoids the crowds. He wants to prepare them for what is ahead, and he continues to speak to them about his coming betrayal into enemy hands. He has said they're heading for Jerusalem, so they are thinking it's "kingdom" time.


They've been lagging behind, arguing about who should be greatest in his kingdom, even though they know what he has said... He longs to counsel them, but waits for a quiet time when they can relax and be open to his words.


As they walk to Peter's house, the treasurer for the temple approaches him asking, "Doesn't your master pay the temple tax?"


Peter, zealous for Jesus' reputation, says, "Of course," not realizing the trap they've set. The collector is implying that Jesus isn't a prophet and isn't exempt from the tax. If he pays it, he's admitting as much. Jesus ignores the controversy, knowing their intent.


He catches the teachable moment later, in the house, and says to Peter, "What do you think, Simon? Do kings tax their children or strangers?"


"Strangers," says Peter, wondering.


"Then the children are exempt," smiles Jesus, and Peter remembers declaring Jesus the son of God, and seeing it confirmed on the mountain a few days ago.


Suddenly Peter realizes the trap he was caught in.


Jesus continues, "But not to offend them, go to the lake, the first fish you catch will have a coin in its mouth. Take it and pay my tax and yours."


Peter "gets" it: Remember who I AM and be bold!


Matthew 17:22-27, Mark 9:30-32, Luke 9:44-46



By Arla, Nov 1 2019 01:00AM

When Satan sees Jesus, he throws the son to the ground. The giver of life and the giver of death stand face to face on the battlefield once again.

 

Jesus asks, " How long has he been like this?"

 

"Since childhood," says the father. "Often it has tried to kill him by throwing him into fire or water. If you can do anything, have compassion and help us."

 

"If I can? All things are possible if you believe," responds Jesus.

 

With a burst of tears, the desperate father cries, "Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" (You can never fail with this prayer--never.)

 

Jesus speaks to the devil, "Come out of him and don't return." The young man convulses violently, then stops, so that everyone whispers, "He is dead."

 

Jesus takes his hand and lifts him up alive and whole.

 

When Jesus is alone with the disciples, they ask, "Why couldn't we cast it out?" They are remembering how demons fled at their commands.

 

"Your unbelief," answers Jesus. "If your will catches onto God's will, a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains of obstacles that demons pile on your path. Nothing will be impossible for you. However, this one won't leave without prayer and fasting" (requires God-focus and complete connection).

 

The disciples had spent a week in doubt, questioning Jesus' identity. In their negativity, they had separated from God and weren't prepared in heart or mind to meet The power of darkness, Satan himself.

 

Matthew 17:18-21,  Mark 9:20-29,   Luke 9:42-43


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

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