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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, Jan 1 2021 02:00AM

Jesus knows Judas. He knows his need for approval, and that any confrontation would slam shut the door to his heart. This is the strongest he has spoken to him and it is directed to them all.


But Judas chooses to take offense and to ferment wounded pride into wanting revenge. After dinner, he goes straight to the palace of the high priest, and surprised at finding the council convened, offers to betray Jesus. The priests are overjoyed at the ease this gives them.


Judas had let greed grow inside until it had taken over every good trait. He envies and begrudges Jesus a gift appropriate for kings. For far less than it cost, he sells him out.


The eleven aren't like Judas. They truly love Jesus; they just don't fully appreciate who he is, distracted as they are by their own desires. Mary's gift of love is a lesson they need. After his death, they blamed themselves instead of her.


Simon is embarrassed, perhaps his father-pride wounded. His ignorance of God leads him to worry, What are my guests thinking? If Jesus were a prophet he wouldn't let Mary touch him, he would know she is a prostitute and not allow her such freedom with him.


But Jesus knows even more--that Mary had been deeply wronged by Simon, who had started her down the path he now condemns her for. And yet not wanting to expose him, Jesus tells Simon a story.


(continued tomorrow)


Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 7:39-40

By Arla, Dec 31 2020 02:00AM

(Continued from yesterday)


Judas begins audibly whispering to the others, "What a waste! All that money could have been given to the poor!"


He's the money-keeper of the disciples and often dips into their funds for his own use. But he is crafty, and to cover himself, he often remarks on what he terms "wasteful spending." Seeing a year's wages poured onto Jesus out of gratitude and love is a huge contrast with his own hard heart, and causes a seismic reaction.


The disciples, ever impressed with Judas, pick it up and continue it; not realizing they are criticizing Jesus along with Mary who suddenly becomes conscious of the murmur around the table.


She becomes embarrassed, flustered, and begins to shrink, just wanting to get away. Does Jesus think she's wasteful? Surely Martha will have something to say! What if she says it in front of everyone! If only she'd thought this through!


Jesus sees her distress and embarrassment, and raising his voice above the murmuring says, "Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing for me. You'll always have the poor, you can do for them anytime you want, but you won't always have me. Mary has anointed me for burial ahead of time. And wherever my story is shared, her story will be told also--because of her love."


Jesus could have justly unmasked and revealed Judas' true character as a thief, but he wouldn't give the slightest reason for Judas' betrayal by calling him out or confronting him.


Matthew 26:8-13, Mark 14:4-9, Luke 7:36-38, John 12:3-8

By Arla, Dec 30 2020 02:00AM

Jesus is coming from Jericho to spend Sabbath with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Simon, an uncle and a Pharisee, also lives in Bethany and learns this. Jesus had healed him of the living death of leprosy, and he wants to show his gratitude.

His healing allowed him to support Jesus and keep his position; no doubt, agreeing that his son, Judas Iscariot, should become a disciple making him look grateful. But while Simon hopes Jesus is the Messiah, he's not convinced; and now physically well, he feels no spiritual need.


Nevertheless, he decides to honor Jesus with a dinner and asks Martha to cater it.


Curiosity brings many to see Lazarus, recently raised from the dead. However, not all who come want to honor Jesus.


Mary has often heard Jesus speak of his approaching death, and has saved to buy an alabaster jar of spikenard to anoint his body for burial. But lately she has heard talk that he will soon be crowned king.


Ruach uses her excitement to awaken a desire to be the first to honor him by pouring it on him now in gratitude. She thinks she can pull it off unnoticed. Forgetting that the fragrance will fill the room, she enters and puts some on his head. Then she kneels and pours it on his feet.


She forgets the others are there, her tears of gratitude fall on his feet, their bond secluding them. Having forgotten a towel, she unfastens her long hair, another suggestive intimacy, and uses it to dry his feet.


Judas is embarrassed. Cousin! How inappropriate at his father's dinner!


(continued Monday)


Matthew 26:6-7, Mark 14:3, Luke 7:36-38, John 12:1-3





By Arla, Dec 29 2020 02:00AM

From his seat on a tree limb, Zacchaeus scans the crowd for the face of Jesus as he passes below. Suddenly, amid shouts and clamor, the crowd stops, and one truly peaceful face looks up into the leafy branches where Zacchaeus sits.


Is he dreaming? He can hardly believe his ears! This peaceful man who must be Jesus is calling his name!


"Zacchaeus, come down quickly! Today I must stay at your house."


The people are shocked. Scribes and Pharisees murmur their disapproval.


Zacchaeus jumps down, overwhelmed at the honor. Full of emotion, love, and loyalty to his new friend, he stands beside Jesus and says "Lord, I will give half of everything I own to the poor, and anything I have taken unjustly I will repay four times."


Jesus joyfully affirms him, "Today, acceptance has come to this house, for he also is a son of Abraham." (All who have faith in God's goodness are sons and daughters of Abraham.)*


The work Ruach started, that seemed so difficult when Zacchaeus first began to respond, now becomes easy, motivated by love. Repentance, the desire to change, becomes real as love produces it. Love brings integrity into every aspect of business, and change comes into every relationship of his whole life. Holiness = wholeness.


Zaachaeus' family had been excluded from the synagogue by the priests, but now they are blessed beyond belief to have the Messiah himself as a guest in their house. In a few minutes they have gone from outcasts to the most favored home in Jericho!


God loves to give sweet surprises.


Luke 19:5-10




By Arla, Dec 28 2020 02:00AM

Jericho sat like an emerald in the limestone cliffs and ravines surrounding it on the way to Jerusalem. With its palm trees and gardens watered by natural springs, it was an oasis of life, a beautiful green center for business. Many caravans passed through it; and many Roman officials, priests, and government workers lived there.


Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector living there. He's a Jew and hated by his own because he works for Rome, and he's wealthy and known for extortion. But he hears John preach at the Jordan, not far from Jericho, and his heart opens.


When he hears that one of Jesus' followers is a tax collector, hope that he can change takes hold, and he begins to make restitution following Spirit's promptings. However, he is discouraged by the suspicion that meets his efforts to improve.


Caravans enroute to Passover are going through Jericho. The word on the street is that Jesus and company will be passing through Jericho as he returns to Jerusalem. Hearing this, Zacchaeus determines to see him, at least to look at Jesus whose reported words had given hope.


But the streets are packed with people; and being short he can't see over them. And no one will let him through! What can he do?


An idea comes--and running ahead of the crowd, he climbs up a fig tree with low wide branches, then called a sycamore,* and scans the crowd looking for Jesus. He feels sure he will know him.


Luke 19:1-4 *An Egyptian fig was called a sycamore tree--Cambridge Bible note

By Arla, Dec 25 2020 02:00AM

Competition is at its peak among his disciples when Jesus says, "You know that those who rule the world, do it by control and authority, but it won't be that way with you."


Most kings believed that the lower classes existed for benefit of the ruling class. Money, education and influence were means to control the masses who served them. Religious leaders were no different. The right of man to think and act for himself was completely unrecognized. This was the norm.


Jesus is introducing a new paradigm with the principle of love at its foundation. Love respects the rights and freedom of all. Every person must be free to think and follow his own convictions. In matters of conscience, all minds must decide for themselves.*


No one has the right to control another. Strength, gifts, education, or money put you under a greater responsibility to serve well those under you. The leaders who serve in love are greatest in God's kingdom.


Conversely, no one has the right to merge his individuality into another. Weakness, timidity or confusion is not an excuse to have others make your choices. God gives every man and woman the freedom and the responsibility to choose. Spirit is available to everyone who wants help. Tell Him your dilemma, and expect Him to supply wisdom.


We are judged by Love alone. Our motives spread life or death to others. In God's kingdom, the highest recognition is for serving in love, or suffering injustice for defending His character.


Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45 *Romans 14:5,12



By Arla, Dec 24 2020 02:00AM

The disciples are still fighting over position, and the mother of James and John urges her sons to ask a favor of Jesus. She is a follower of his and has supported him financially. (Her sons were two of his first followers--probably cousins). John takes every opportunity to be next to Jesus, and James wants to be as close. So she accompanies them to ask for preferential treatment, kneeling to make a request.


"What is it you want?" Jesus asks.


"That you give my sons the positions on your right and your left in your kingdom," she asks.


He knows the love of these two is genuine, and rather than reprove their ambition, he will deepen their attachment, "Are you able to fill the positions on my right and my left in my baptism of suffering?" he asks.


They remember his mysterious words about suffering, but confidently assert, "We are."


Ruach shows Jesus that one will be his first martyr, the other endure persecution the longest, and he responds, "You will, indeed. But positions of honor aren't mine to give, they are assigned by my Father." Honors from God are given to those who drink most deeply of His love. Closest to Jesus in heaven will be those who fought the hardest battles with Satan, won by living in Jesus' presence.


When the other ten hear of this request, they are angry, supposing James and John are gaining an advantage.


Jesus gathers them again, praying they can hear him. It's time to teach them the laws of his kingdom.


Matthew 20:20-25 , Mark 10:35-42

By Arla, Dec 23 2020 02:00AM

Satan has been pressing Jesus with the need to continue his ministry. Why should he die now when he is in his prime? With so much suffering around, so much healing and grace to give? How can he leave his work to his bumbling few who don't get it?


If the enemy can't get him one way, he'll try the opposite.


But now Jesus, in the perfect peace of oneness with the Father, chooses to turn toward Jerusalem and the Passover when he will replace the symbolic lamb and end the whole sacrificial system.


The disciples feel a mysterious fear and doubt. Again Jesus gathers them and outlines with definite clarity and detail that all the prophecies of a suffering Messiah are about to be fulfilled, that he will be put to death and rise again the third day.


But they still can't hear him! Satan has so closed and clouded their minds that they prefer to think of prophecies on the glory of Messiah's reign. They are sure that whatever he is talking about now, his kingdom will soon be set up.


Haven't we just been preaching that the kingdom of God has come? Didn't he promise us to sit on thrones? He said he'd restore to us a hundred times what we have given up to follow him!


It's hard for Jesus to lead them forward to the pain and despair that await them, but his one purpose is the same as always: doing his Father's will.


Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34


By Arla, Dec 22 2020 02:00AM

The council is in confusion and fear--everyone talking at once. Caiaphas, the haughty and calculating high priest, stands and says condescendingly, "You all know nothing. It is better that one man die for the people, than we lose our nation."


Blindly he twists his limited knowledge of scripture into the heathen practice of human sacrifice, yet unknowingly acknowledging Jesus' fulfillment of prophecy.


Caiaphas is cruel, proud, and intolerant. "Even if Jesus is innocent" he urges, "he has weakened the people's confidence in us. His followers will now likely revolt, and Rome will crush the uprising and destroy our temple and our culture."


Satan whispers, You must put Jesus to death to maintain authority. He works hard to regain control of their minds recently convicted by Ruach. He reminds them, Jesus set you aside, teaching the people to go directly to God, exposing you as evil and pretentious.


With the exception of a few, the Sanhedrin hears Caiaphas as if God speaks through him, locking themselves into darkness. But they feel pleased with their deceived decision and relief replaces the discord.


Yet they aren't anxious to carry out the sentence and turn the tide of feeling into violence against them.


Jesus takes his disciples to Ephraim to avoid controversy. He who has always worked for the uplifting and healing of all around him, can't reach the hearts of those blind from prejudice and hatred--those religion-closed minds.


Three years is as long as broken humanity will tolerate Jesus' active compassion among them--God's presence of love on earth.


John 11:46-54




By Arla, Dec 21 2020 02:00AM

Lazarus is unwrapped as the crowd watches, spellbound, in awe. He hugs Mary, Martha, and Jesus, and then the celebrating and thanksgiving break out--whoops of joy, laughter, even tears!


Many now believe in Jesus, who slips away unnoticed. But the priests are too overcome to try to take him, they rush back to Jerusalem; beside themselves with facts and fury. The news spreads with the speed of a wind-driven fire. God's crowning evidence that Jesus is Messiah produces rage among Pharisees.


Even the Sadducees are upset. Normally they advocate moderation, preferring good relations with Rome. But their "science" claims it is impossible to bring a dead body back to life, and Jesus has just blown their theories, showing that they don't know God's power or the scriptures, just as he had said. Their haughty condescension is suddenly fanned into hate.


Now Sadducees and Pharisees unite, in alarm calling a special council of the Sanhedrin to which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are not summoned. They have prevented taking action against Jesus in the past. There are others who believe in Jesus, but their influence is as nothing against the hatred of the assembly.


However, there is One who restrains. Ruach is there bringing scenes from the past to their minds with amazing clarity, all the way back to Jesus' first Passover, when at 12 he taught scripture to them. The true meaning of these scriptures now flashes into their minds, and they are convicted of their fulfillment, that they are fighting against God. The council becomes divided, and pandemonium reigns.


John 11:45-48



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

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