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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 23 2020 01:00AM

Jesus knows his time is limited. By the next Passover he will be crucified. But his disciples still have no true understanding of his mission. So he takes them up to the area of Caesarea Philippi where they would be away from Judaism and the large crowds. He wants to devote himself to preparing the twelve for the crisis ahead.


After spending time alone praying that their hearts would be receptive, he begins with, "Who do men say I am?"


"Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah..." Sadly they admit that Israel did not accept their Messiah.


"But who do you say I am?"


Peter again speaks for them, "You are the Messiah, the Son of God."


Jesus responds, "You are favored, Simon, for God has revealed this to you," strengthening their faith in Him. "Upon this rock I will build my church. And the kingdom of hell shall not prevail against it."


Some read this to mean Peter is the foundation of the church. However, Jesus is called the foundation, the Rock, and the Cornerstone.* And the disciples did not teach or recognize that anyone had been set above the others. (Would they always have been arguing about who would be first, if he had?) He and they taught the opposite--position yourself to serve.


Jesus never taught men to dictate what other men should believe.** He, himself, spent two years knowing his disciples were in total denial of the outcome of his true mission. He was clear but not demanding.


Matthew 16:13-23, Mark 8:27-33, Luke 9:18-22 *1Corinthians 3:11, Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 62:7, Isaiah 28:16 **Matthew 23:8,10, Jeremiah 17:5



By Arla, Oct 21 2020 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 think he's upset 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 20 2020 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 on him.


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



By Arla, Oct 16 2020 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 picture 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 2020 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, Dec 13 2019 02:00AM

The wealthy young official walks away and Jesus remarks, "How hard it is for those who trust in wealth to enter God's kingdom! It is easier for a camel to go through the Eye of a Needle than for a rich man to enter God's kingdom."


I saw a PBS program showing a gate near Jerusalem that was so narrow it was called "Eye of a Needle." It was very difficult for a loaded camel to pass through. Jesus compares: The young man had to unload baggage, to choose between stuff and having his heart healed.


The young official couldn't give up his lifestyle to surrender to God, even though his heart pulled him to. For a moment in Jesus presence he had felt truly loved, felt the acceptance and freedom of living in love, loving others. That's why the sorrow as he walked away.


He really wanted love, but the price was too high, his life was too good. Only one thing was missing, but it was vital: without God's love, selfishness would strengthen, ruining him.


It frequently happens that loving the outward life of fame and acclaim conflicts with getting your heart needs satisfied. Or perhaps the conflict is in waiting--having your wealth in the next life vs. having it now.


After one parable Jesus said, "Where you put your time and attention, is where your heart is." After another he said, "It isn't possible to serve both God and money." Often after teaching the crowds he ended with, "Be careful how you see, ...how you hear."


Our perceptions create our reality.



Matthew 19:22-26, Mark 10:22-31, Luke 18:23-30



By Arla, Dec 9 2019 02:00AM

Lazarus is a man of strong faith and love. The first time Jesus met him there was instant connection.


Jesus often visits him in his home, shared with his sisters, Mary and Martha. Here he finds the tenderness and affection of a surrogate family where he can relax and speak openly--basking in the warmth of their love.


God's incredible father-love for humans is Jesus' favorite topic. And here he always finds attentive listeners--Mary will drop everything to sit and listen to him. It has, at times, gotten her into trouble with Martha.


One of those times Jesus and his disciples had just walked from Jericho. Martha barely greeted Jesus, she is so busy seeing to their comfort. But Mary sits down with him immediately, giving him her full attention.


Seeing them, Martha asks, "Lord, don't you care that Mary has let me do all the work? Tell her to help me." She feels sure of his support--she knows she's right.


Jesus smiles and gently answers, "My Martha, you are a great hostess; anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen that best thing, and I won't take it from her."


Imagine Mary's delight, and Martha's surprise.


But Martha doesn't feel criticized, she knows he loves her. She understands his direction to the things that last forever--building a relationship with God.


Connection with Him comes before everything else we have to do. Jesus craved it. We all crave it, but we don't all recognize it. And according to Jesus, it's the one tnecessity in life.


Luke10:38-42



By Arla, Dec 6 2019 02:00AM

Many have wondered why Jesus didn't address the corruption, oppression, and cruelty in the governments of his day. He didn't even work to change inequities in his culture!


He didn't correct the cruelty of Rome, although he addressed it. He didn't talk about the oppression of women, but he treated them with dignity and respect. He didn't interfere with those in power because he wanted us to know that the remedy for our problems wasn't in external fixes. The power to change our world wasn't in power.


The reforms he came to set up had to start with the heart. Our regeneration must be individual and internal. He came to give spiritual heart transplants to everyone who realized they needed one and asked for it.


The only power that will work to bring about his kingdom is his Spirit healing and restoring the minds and hearts of broken humanity, bringing us back into oneness with God. All we have to do is want it and choose it.


To everyone who asks, he gives power to become truly you--a son or daughter of the God of the universe. This is our glory--to become fully alive in Him--fully our true selves.*


The glory of God is Their character of love. The power that heals our brokenness is from Them. Ruach's presence and His words change our characters into wholeness and love.


Meditating on Jesus life (imagining yourself there) allows you to know God, believe, and experience Love in yourself. In the process you become truly you.


John 1:12-13, *1John 3:1-2



By Arla, Dec 5 2019 02:00AM

"When is the kingdom of God coming?" some Pharisees demand of Jesus. "John preached its arrival three years ago..." They could see nothing to indicate the kingdom had come, and were insinuating that he had failed.


"You won't see it, because God's kingdom is within you," Jesus answers, implying that neither of them had come to overthrow established authorities. They came to change hearts, not governments, to bring the transfomation of opening to God.


Turning to his followers he says, "The days will come when you'll long to see one of these days and won't see it." They simply couldn't appreciate his methods or who he was.


Fast forward a few months, Jesus has returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit has been given to them, they realize what they've been blessed with, how they'd had God hidden in humanity walking and talking with them. Now they really get it--Jesus came from God to reach the broken sons and daughters of Adam, and individually offer them new hearts.* Government can't do that.


How they wish to have his presence again for just a day, asking him questions, having him explain Scriptures--just be with them!


They grieve at their self-centeredness and self-absorption, fighting over position, when they'd had the King of the universe physically in their presence for three years! Now they would listen!


Filled with remorse that they had doubted him, they exclaim over their dullness and confusion that had allowed the prevailing opinions to influence them. They never get tired of rehearsing his words, and often repeat his conversations.


Luke 17:20-22, *John 1:14





By Arla, Nov 22 2019 02:00AM

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 Ruach 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!" They spit out.


"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?" he asks.


"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 insinuation.


"You refuse to see the one God sent. Because of this, you are blind." Jesus answers, honest and direct as usual.


John 9:24-41




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

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