Love Believes All Things

What do you believe? Let’s say someone told you something and it sounded true. You believed it. But you later find out this person may have been lying to you.

You think about this. Who can you believe? Who is trustworthy. There are lies told but there must be truth as well.

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So, we live in a world where some people are trustworthy and some are not. But let us go further. Some would deceive us for their own benefit. But a few want good for us. We expand our thought. The world has evil people in it. Friends and family that we can love and trust are few. And even they might be mistaken.

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Now, we are wiser but do we believe all things? Not at all. We discover that only one is completely good, always trustworthy, and is very wise and also quite powerful. We believe in God. Is that enough? Do we now believe all things? No. Why not? Because love believes all things. Do we love?

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Believing is not enough. Faith works through love. Do we love God? Why should we love him? Well, God is only motivated by love. He acts because he loves. He wants the best for us. His power and wisdom guide his acting in love toward us. He is the source of all love. And he made us to be able to love.

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Love is the foundation of any relationship with God. He knows no other relationship. And how do we know about God’s great love for us? Because of Jesus. He revealed the nature of the Father in his human life. He showed us that God loved us. First, by loving people and doing good to them and then by walking directly into certain death for our benefit. God loved us so much, he sent his son to us knowing that he would be treated badly in his life and condemned to a torturous death by evil men in the end.

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Why would he send the one he loved to the people of earth? Because he believed he would win some of them back. Yes, he would restore them and give them life beyond the physical. He would enable them to become what he created them to be.

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Now, let us return to our original statement: Love believes all things. This starts with God. God believes all things and is not deceived. He knew people would fail. He knew they would go against him when he created them. He knew they would do terrible things. Yet, he went ahead and created them. Why? Because he believed he could love them back to himself and rescue them by his love. Yes, we can return to our real Father.

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Now, how do we have faith in God? We have faith because of our loving relation to him. We could believe God is powerful. And that he made everything. We could also believe we should respect him and honor him. We could do all this without loving him. And it would be meaningless.

Worse, we would probably find some stuff to do that we think meets a minimum requirement like religion tells us. Again, worthless. Without love for him and believing he loves us, it would all be a waste of time.

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Love believes all things. Do some people want to hurt us? Yes. Do they want to take advantage of us? Sure. We can believe those things but love believes all things. Love believes God overrides all that. He is working things out for us beyond all that. He is working all things together for our good. We believe all things and are not deceived because we believe in our God who is our Father. He is a powerful caring father who has us in his hand at all times.

You are in his hand. You are not in his pocket. You are not on his shelf. You are not in his safe. You are in his hand. If you want to care for something, protect it and not forget about it, you hold it in your hand. That is what God does with you. He holds you in his hand. He will never let go of you. And you don’t want to leave that hand because you love and trust him. You know of no better place to be than in the hand of your loving father.

Love Believes More

I Corinthians 13

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The Naked Soul

I was afraid
because I was naked.

We all have a sense of right and wrong. How did we get it? Our parents ate from the wrong tree according to Genesis. You might think their first experience of this reluctant gift of God would be positive. It wasn’t. It says their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. It was uncomfortable. They wanted to cover themselves. This extreme self-awareness moved them to make some sort of clothing out of leaves.

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They wanted something between them and everything else. Like a baby separated from their mother’s womb, they cried out in discomfort. The shock of their new ability brought responsibility and a feeling of separateness from everything else. As they felt the nakedness of their bodies, we eventually feel the nakedness of our soul. The small child shows all their feelings with their body and face. But what if those feeling are not good?

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Instead of happiness for your friend’s gain, you feel jealousy. Or you want to hide your wrongdoing. You train your body and face not to reveal your thoughts and feelings.

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How far do we go? Don’t show your fear. Don’t show your delight in your enemies downfall. Don’t show your disappointment at losing and don’t show the anger at the unfairness you feel. Don’t show your raw emotions at all. Soon our soul is hidden from others. Or so we think.

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Now we know one thing about life after death: we don’t take our bodies with us. The body we trained to hide our soul is left behind. What you are is plain to all. All sophistication and fashion are of no use. Your soul is revealed. Does this frighten you? To be unmasked.

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Or will you be like a butterfly that casts off it’s covering and reveals it’s colorful wings and marvelous new shape ready for new experiences.

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Has your soul grown up into something good? What did you do in your lifetime that prepared you for the next life. Just because the door is closed to the living doesn’t mean there is nothing behind it.

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Time has stopped and change has become more difficult. What can you do? You must be yourself as you really are. Some said to enjoy yourself but can you? Can you enjoy yourself as you really are?

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Let’s look at a strange story Jesus told. Strange because it names the beggar.

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A rich man lived in luxury. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores and longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs would come and lick his sores. The beggar dies and angels carry him to Abraham’s side. The rich man dies and is buried.

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In hades, in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus at his side. “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I am in agony.”

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“Remember, in life, you received good things while Lazarus received bad. Now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides this, there is a great chasm between us. We cannot cross over it nor can you.” “Then, send Lazarus to warn my brothers of this place.” “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.”

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The rich man had taken little notice of Lazarus as he went in and out of his gate. Yet, he knows his name and identifies him in the afterlife. He did nothing for Lazarus in life. But now, in the afterlife, he wants Lazarus to do for him. He still sees Lazarus as lower than himself and has elevated him from beggar to his servant.

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This shows us how nothing has changed in the man’s character. He still thinks he should be served. What does not enter his thoughts is that Lazarus was there at his gate to help the rich man change. If he had shown mercy on the beggar, his character may have changed and he might have become generous to those in need. Every time he passed Lazarus, he hardened his heart toward him. He probably justified himself by thinking this was somehow God’s will for himself and Lazarus. He was to enjoy life while Lazarus was to suffer.

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What of Lazarus? He is silent. He accepted his lot in life. He does not cry out against the rich man. He was carried to the rich man’s gate. He was carried by angels to be near Abraham. And what is his comfort? He is together with Abraham.

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What is the torment of the rich man? First, he is alone with himself. All his relationships have failed him. He was not grateful for his good life. He deserved it. He never laid hold on the Giver of all good things. Who torments him? No one. His agony is internal. He has no relationship to help him. He is a son of Abraham but never grew in faith. He is not like Abraham at all. His dryness is lack of the water of life given freely by God.

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The most terrible thing is that the rich man has not changed at all. He cares nothing for Abraham or Lazarus. He only is aware of himself. His soul is dry. He took no care for it’s condition in his life. He is simply a man alone without the gifts of God. He does not even acknowledge the one who gives to men that they might ask for more.

If you knew the gift of God
and who asks you for a drink,
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

– Jesus

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Can a Person Become Good?

Blessed are those that hunger and thirst
after righteousness for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

– Jesus

Let us define being good as doing good naturally from an unselfish heart. Now we can look at the two possible conditions of man in relation to morality or personal goodness.

Everyone born on this earth is a child of Adam. As such they inherit the knowing of good and evil. They know right from wrong. This reluctant gift of God was chosen by the first people. It meant the end of their innocent state.

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Harmony turned to a separation which Adam and Eve felt as nakedness. They became independent of God, alienated from nature, and even in disharmony with each other as was soon shown by blame and accusation.

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A person may try to follow this internal direction, now called your ‘moral compass’. If reinforced by society and family, you may act as a ‘good’ person in your life.

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Does this mean you are now good? Not really. As Jesus said, “You, being evil, are able to give good gifts…” Even though you may act good, it doesn’t mean you are good. Motivation may be fear or pride or even cunning calculation to get what you want. Or it may even be weakness in that you just go along with what is expected of you.

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Before Jesus, people were considered either Jews or gentiles. The gentiles did sometimes hold up virtue and some reached to attain it. But all this is still the state of men without God. Made in the image of God, they retain the impression of the Good.

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And the Jews had a clear definition of good behavior from God. The Law contained clear commands regarding living right. Sure, this helped the society function but did not make the individual good. Sacrifices were offered all the time for sin or wrongdoing. Big sacrifices once a year and personal sacrifices quite often.

In both cases, personal goodness did not result in the sense that good actions came naturally from a pure heart.

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The idea of an ideal person lives in each one of us. The Jews were also given a hope in a coming savior who would be that ideal person. Jesus is the only one who fits this ideal. Jesus did not emphasize that keeping the Law of Moses was the way to eternal life. The fact was that even if you tried your best to do them, you would discover your heart did not match them.

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So, life on earth after Jesus came cannot be just following rules of good behavior. It must be something quite different. And knowing good from evil had a fatal flaw; people don’t have the power to do good all the time. They can live somewhat good lives but they cannot bear up to an examination of their heart.

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The heart is not pure. To be pure means to be only one thing. A pure heart does not contain two but only one desire. The heart of a man has never been pure. Even Adam easily desired something wrong. But Jesus said that the pure in heart are blessed. They will see God! So that one desire of the pure heart must be toward God.

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How do you get there? There are three ways, I think. First, to try and be good. Eventually, you discover your heart is not good. You want God to change it. Second, you pursue evil and eventually your heart is so full of evil, you desire relief. Third, the injustice and deception around you moves you to call on God for relief.

In all three cases, the conclusion is the same. The heart of men is somehow wrong. In the first two, you see it in your own heart. In the third, you see it in others.

You have come to the right conclusion! Your heart begins to desire the one remedy that will work. God. Only he can change a heart. There is a promise made by God: ‘I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.’

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This is repeated later with more detail: ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This is a big change. Maybe the biggest change of all. Those that heard Jesus speak were expecting an external change of circumstances from God. But he was always talking about internal change. The earth was fine in the garden of Eden. In that good environment, the two people chose to do the wrong thing. Good circumstances do not produce good people.

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Let’s go back and look at the promise. Cleansing comes first. All the accumulated wrongness is removed by God. Some would call this forgiveness. But it also results in a clean conscience. God will change our heart from hardness to the kind we were meant to have: one that matches us as humans. More than this, he will put his Spirit in us. This will incline us toward good and motivate the best actions. We will become the kind of people we were created to become.

Maybe you are a Bible expert and say: this promise was to the Jewish people, decreed by their prophet, Ezekiel! That is true. But in The Acts of the Apostles, we learn that this is for all people because gentiles experience the very same transformation. Those Jewish people who would have doubted that this could happen were convinced by what they saw.

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So we may be confident of two things: this promise is for all people and it is for right now. Better circumstances await us in the future. But our immediate concern is our heart. If our heart becomes right and pure, we may have all confidence in God to arrange everything else by his power.

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Blessed are those that hunger and thirst
after righteousness for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

– Jesus

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The Sickness That Ends in Death

They told Jesus that his friend Lazarus was sick, real sick. He said that this sickness would not end with death. Lazarus did die. But it was not the end because Jesus brought him back. Back from the dead.

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But there is a sickness that ends in death. And just as Jesus showed that physical death was not the end of existence, he also offered the cure for the malady of sin. Sin is the sickness that leads to death.

Sin is wrongness and the wrong actions that result from that internal wrongness. The wrongness grows in us until there is no more hope. And our guilt comes from knowing some actions we have done are wrong. But we are wrong which is why we do wrong.

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Some point to God’s forgiveness as the cure for sin. Sure, forgiveness is part of the cure. A big part. It covers the wrong things done in the past (and future really) but there is more to it. The cure for sin is to hate it. But you can’t live by a negative. But we can embrace the new spirit that wants newness over wrongness.

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I said newness. Why? Because we don’t know what rightness looks like. And the Life from God is all new. New to us but not to God. Humans have gone their own way since they first walked the planet.

And now, we cannot figure ourselves out. We are a paradox. Our best attempts at goodness are like a light bulb trying to illuminate itself. The paradox is that we know we are something great. We just know it. And we are something really great. But we are unable to attain to that greatness.

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In time, we find ourselves incapable of internal goodness. This eventually leads to despair. We cannot become good. Sure, we can do good things. But we are unable to become the people we would like to be. The truth is: We cannot change our nature without following Christ.

Now why is this? It’s because we don’t know what a good person looks like. No one knew until Jesus showed us that good person who behaves well in all circumstances. That is the positive. He is just the opposite of sin. He does what God wants all the time.

Did you know Jesus did not consider himself good? Someone called him good. He asked them why. “No one is good but God,” he said. He was in a live relationship with God, his Father. The Father. That’s where his goodness came from. He loved God and did what the Father wanted. And he seems to believe that we can be like him in this.

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He wants to share himself with us. I am the Method, he said. Not just as a model but something more. The Life of God has no measure and cannot be exhausted. He is not diminished in the least by giving all of himself to each of us. This is the great difference between God and us. We are limited but he is not. We can run out of patience, love, endurance. He never runs out of Goodness and Love.

And the Life Power is only Good. There is no room for wrongness with him. He is not part good. Like the sun, he has no dark side.

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He knows wrongness is really against our nature. And that human nature was made to be energized by the Divine Nature. That is why Christ came: to show us the way to live that is full of Life and empty of all else.

Only God Goodness will enliven us. There is no other Good, only God.

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The Paradox


You keep yourself, you lose yourself.

You give up, you gain all.

You hold tight and you end up with nothing.

You throw your life away and you get it all back and then some.

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Jesus threw his life away. He wasted it on common people. After all he had done, no one spoke up for him at his trial. He stood alone. And then he was tortured until he died.

It seemed a miserable end to another good man. Evil had won, again. But he turned it all around by returning from the dead. He convinced his friends he was back and better than ever.

He changed everything. People can’t forget what he said. They may not believe but they are still impacted by that one human life. And why? Because he brought New Life. Sure, to him, it was old as The Tree of Life, even older. But that Life is new to us because we never experienced it before. And again, he thinks we can be like him. He says Follow Me. If we receive him, we can begin to live like he did. Like he does.

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Opposites

Jesus makes these opposite statements.

The first will be last.

He who takes care to preserve his life, will lose it.

Those who have nothing right now, they own the kingdom of heaven.

Those who make no claim on anything, will inherit the earth.

He who gives away what he has, will have more than he can imagine.

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These statements are the opposite of what we think.

Why does Jesus make such statements?

Jesus believes in God. I know, you heard that Jesus is God. But he didn’t say exactly that. He called himself the son of God. He spoke of his Father. God is different than us. There is The Father and there is The Son.

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But let’s talk about Jesus. He loves God. He has a mother but he is different from other people. He sees a much bigger picture than we do. He takes the long view. He takes the longest view. He looks right past this life, and right into the next. He even calls death, sleep.

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He looks at what a man is, more than what he does.
He doesn’t like things done for show.
He says you can do something that no one knows about and it has value, to God.
He says everyone can say that you are doing just great, when you are wasting your time.
He says that you can appear to be completely wrong, and yet be doing something good.

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He, himself, seemed a complete failure. The idea of sacrificing something of value, to gain something much bigger than anyone could see was acted out by him.

Jesus brought the idea of self-sacrifice. But not just the idea. He sacrificed himself. It wasn’t an accident. He did it with purpose. He didn’t want to die. No one wants to die. No one should want to die. But he did allow evil men to kill him in the worst way they could think up. He didn’t resist them.

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He always did the right thing to do. How did he know what that was? He said he enjoyed doing the will of his Father. He knew what to do because he set aside his own will and did his Father’s will.

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So, why would Jesus allow himself to be killed? Why? Because it revealed what men had become. Political men. Religious men. Men who were supposed to lead everybody else. They were the ones who pushed it. And a crowd chanted, ‘crucify him!’ And the governor says, Okay, you can kill him. I don’t approve but I really don’t care. And government workers carry out the killing without normal human feeling. But Jesus believes in God. He goes through it because something good will come out of it. Everyone knows it’s a terrible injustice and nobody understands it. Nobody. It doesn’t make any sense. No one could best him in an argument. No one could touch him. He was so powerful. And now he is dead. Dead.

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It’s a couple days later. It’s over. He is dead and buried. But something happens that no one expects. He comes back. Yeah, he comes back. He shows up and scares his friends. He sits down and asks for some food. Why? Because ghosts don’t sit and eat food. He talks to them. He calls them by name. They believe it’s him. It is not a séance. He doesn’t knock once for yes and twice for no. Just when they start to relax, he’s gone. A guy named Thomas comes in and they tell him what happened. “I’m not buyin’ it. I need to be convinced,” he says.

Then, later, he shows up again and this time Thomas is there. He sees him. And the guy says something like this: I heard you wanted more proof, Thomas. That’s fine. Look here, scars, where they hammered nails into me. You want to see my side? There is a big scar there. They stuck a spear in me to see if I was dead.

Thomas is convinced. I mean, he sees him there, standing in front of him. He says, you are my lord and my God.

What about you? Are you convinced? Do you want to be? Ask him to prove he is real. Don’t demand proof. Just ask him to do for you what he did for Thomas. Because he will. He will convince you. And then what? What will you do then?

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By What Power?

The things we do every day, we do by the power of God. The power we have to live and do stuff is not from ourselves. Did you design your body? Maybe your parents did. Ask them. The first woman said at the birth of her son, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” This was the first birth of a human. The first humans were so well made, they lived for hundreds of years.

We have power to live, but we do not make that power.

It is hard to believe. But so is anything else. Why would someone create men and then not demand gratitude, at the least? Maybe he thinks, ‘They know they didn’t make themselves. Maybe they will wonder who did? Maybe they will try and find out.’ If God made man and he doesn’t demand obedience, that tells us something about him. We can live without ever acknowledging him. Free will?

Why is man creative? Why is he not satisfied? Why does he think there is more to life? These thoughts should not be. We value independence in America. But down deep, we know that we are not independent. We are very dependent. On air, on water, on warmth, on food and much more. We are like a computer that is marvelously made. It works until the battery runs out. But our computer tells us, “You need to plug me in. Then I won’t die. I’ll keep going.” It is that smart.

If you look on the bottom, it says, “Are you sure you want to open me? Maybe you need a professional.” The new ones don’t give you a choice. It doesn’t open. This is a jump, I know, but didn’t Jesus show himself uniquely qualified when he didn’t open people up but fixed something anyway. No, that arm is all wrong, it should work like this. This guy is not supposed to be like this. Wow. He is normal now. He is ordinary. Except he wasn’t a few minutes ago.

I had a surgeon once that fixed something that had gone wrong with me. He told me, “I just put the pieces near each other, God does the healing.”

What if we said, “I know I’m wonderful. But something is wrong with me. I can’t do things the way I would like. Can you make an adjustment? Can you fix me?”

And let’s talk about love. Yes. love. Why does it go wrong so often? Maybe we started on Chapter Four, like Star Wars did. We left out some stuff. Maybe we should go back and find out what we missed.

Somebody made you. And you can love. That means he can love better than you. We haven’t yet figured out everything. Somebody is wise. More wise than us. And we can be good sometimes. Someone is good all the time. Like Jesus said, “Why call me good? No one is good, except God.

Let’s practice loving. Let’s take an easy one. Let’s love the best person ever: God. Then we can work on loving those that are less perfect.

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How Else Would God Reveal Himself?

The Lord who had made the Universe — how should he show it but as the Healer did? He could not make the universe over again in the eyes of every man. 

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He must reveal himself as the God who set things, things that had gone wrong, right again. Now that could be done in the eyes of each person. Wouldn’t this reveal that God was here with us? Here we see him giving relief to the young son of a man who had given up on a cure. Now, the man has seen him heal his son from a distance. 

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No one saw it happen. It was not for show. What moved the man to faith? His love for his son. He who loves can believe what he who loves not, cannot believe; and he who loves most, can believe the most. The man returned home and was told that the boy got better at a certain time. Only this man knew that this was the exact time Jesus told him his son would live. 

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This is about a God who is not limited. He is not afar off. He may be unseen but is not uncaring. There is no distance with God, though it looks like it to us. When Jesus cured like this, it has the same appearance as God’s ordinary healing. Who heals you? My body heals itself, you might say. But why should it? 

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Now think of the son. He is told how he was healed by the word of Jesus. He never met him. But his father is a reliable fellow and tells him how God did this. How is that different than if someone tells us how God did this or that for them? Or how God changed everything in their life with a word. We have been healed many times. You looked down some time later and your injury was healed. 

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Just because the sun rises each day is no reason to think it’s not marvelous. We have been personally gifted by God. We received the gift of sight just like the man born blind. We just forgot. Are the eyes that see everyday less wonderful than the ones that opened on the world for that man who had never seen anything? Eyes are wonderful at any time. 

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And the God who gave us all gifts wants to give us more. Every good gift is from God whenever we receive it. We know there are things wrong in this world. And Jesus put things right as he found them wrong. But he didn’t force anything on anyone. If you think all is well with you, forget about God. You don’t need him. But the one that finds wrongness in this world sees something. The one that finds wrongness in themselves sees even more. And that person needs the Healer. They need something put right. 

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