His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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A Hug for Halloween

hugs

I came across a blog post that asks; if my blog site could hand out treats, what would it be? I’d like to hand out hugs; nice, warm, sincere, compassionate, and gentle hugs. There is power in a gentle touch.

In the gospel of Luke, there is a story about a man suffering from leprosy. “While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (Luke 5:12)

Who knows how long he had the disease, but we know those stricken with leprosy were outcasts. Everyone avoided them. So this man, covered with the soars of the nerve-killing illness, had not touched or been touched by another human being for possibly many years. No one had hugged him, no hand had touched his, and no arm had gone around his shoulders in a moment of comfort – until Jesus came along.

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” he said to Jesus. The man had the faith, yet his sense of kindness in others had been lost in the years of isolation. He doubted not Jesus’ ability, only His willingness to be kind. It had been that long since this man had felt compassion from another. What did Jesus do next? We know from other stories that He could have healed him right off. Yet Jesus did something better. He first gave the man what he needed most. Out of love and compassion, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” (verse 13) For the first time in perhaps years, another person reached out and touched this lonely, leprous human being.

In the midst of the emotion that may have begun to swell within the man, Jesus then said, “I am willing. Be clean.” And the leprosy left him.

 

So now I’d like to give you a virtual hug … nope, just doesn’t cute it. Oh well. I hope you have a great Halloween Friday.


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Truth is Freedom

truth will set you free

We make our decisions based on what we know and believe. If what you believe to be true is a lie, then that lie becomes the foundation for your decisions.

We all have the chance to decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it be nice to be free to make that decision based on truth?

Yet some people aren’t interested in the truth, as Paul said, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Some may be more interested in their self-made delusions than the truth. So before someone can decide how they will respond to Jesus, they first must decide how they will respond to the truth.

The truth is freedom – from worry, fear, doubt, uncertainty, stress, guilt, and the control of lies. As Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) Yet, is there a dungeon door that separates you from the truth? Jesus is knocking on your door… and His truth will set you free.


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Empty and Ready for More

Yesterday I finished rev 10 of the book I’m writing. And like most times when I finish a revision, I feel weird. This morning I feel this question pestering my mind: “Okay, what do I do now?”

But I also felt like I’m at a place of emptiness with God. I don’t mean negative emptiness. I mean good emptiness, like an empty jar ready to have something new poured into me. I like this feeling, just sitting here, opening my heart to God, waiting for Him to fill me with the next thing He wants me to do. It’s actually a little scary, but, “Dear Lord, bring it on.”


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Look for the Beauty

Beauty

War, school shootings, terrorism around the globe, ebola, killings over parking spaces, blog posts predicting these as signs the end is just around the corner. No matter how hard I try to not worry and leave it all in Gods hands, it all wears on me, darkening my mood. Then this morning, while blog surfing, I came across several blog posts where the topic was beauty.

Like a shot of espresso, opening my mind and soul to things of beauty brightened my mood and gave me a shot of energy. And I realized that much of the beauty in our lives (maybe all of it), is truly a gift from God. And I want to spread the gift around.

So today I’d like to encourage all of you who stumble across this post to leave the dark behind and really look at the beauty in your life. Open your mind and soul, and let the beauty sink in. Let it flood into your being, washing out any darkness and filling you with lightness and peace. And while looking at whatever you see as beautiful, maybe say thank you to God.


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I Forgot to Trust

Forgot to trust

 

I’ve been feeling really funky the past few days. Our recent long weekend away gave me a break from writing. But it also felt like I had taken a break from God. Not a total break, but with all the activity going on during our brief trip, it was hard for me to focus on God. It felt like the distance between us grew.

So after getting back home, back to work, and back to my writing, I set my sights on God… the Holy Spirit within me. Yet, though I got my focus back on God, I still felt funky. Work was stressful. The writing was hard. My best writing comes when I relax and let the Holy Spirit take my hands and write through me. Though I felt His presence, I didn’t feel His hands on mine. I didn’t feel Him directing my words and actions. It sucked.

Then last night it hit me. I had forgotten to truly trust God. It only took the few days of our long weekend trip for me to forget what it feels like to really trust God, to trust Him with not only my writing, but with my entire day.

Trusting God is so peaceful. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to say or do. God will take care of that. I just sit back and let Him direct my life, and my hands as I type.

Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me to trust you. And thank you for being here within me, having the patience to wait for me to come around to you. I learn so slowly, and I seem to need the same lessons repeated – thanks for not giving up on me, always waiting for me to turn back to you.


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Hide ‘n Seek

hide n seek

One of our favorite places to play hide and seek was the old cemetery up on the hill, amid the forest of eucalyptus trees. The best days were when the fog came rolling densely over the coastal hills and spilled amongst the trees. The fright-level was fantastic, especially as evening approached and it started to get dark.

We always used the same statue as our base. I would hide behind a tree or gravestone, far from the statue but still within sight. When the kid who was “it” went searching in the other direction, I would scamper from one gravestone to the next, working my way toward the statue. Maybe I looked like John Belushi in “Animal House,” sneaking up to the girls’ dorm in the middle of the night. Anyway, if I got to the statue before “it” spotted me, I was safe.

I didn’t see the symbolism in what we were doing until a few decades later, when I remembered that our base was a statue of Jesus. When we make it to Jesus, we are safe.

jesus statue


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My Mind Adrift

mind adrift

Routine – it brings me peace. I have certain times of the day when I can break away from the chaos of life and quietly focus my mind of the Holy Spirit within me. And there I find peace. But when my routine is broken, it’s hard to find those quiet times, and it can feel like my connection with God is broken as my mind drifts away.

The past six days were filled with travel, visits with old friends, my wife’s college homecoming, sleeping in five different beds in five different cities, great food, good wine and beer, and even some tasty scotch. Though I grabbed many brief moments to say hi to God, I felt like we were drifting apart. I didn’t like the feeling. I worried that it might be difficult to gain the close connection again.

God reminded me of something on the five-hour drive home yesterday. He never intended to let the two of us drift apart. He patiently waited for me to look again to Him. And He was right there where I last saw Him, within my heart and with my soul. Nothing was lost, the connection was not broken. God’s love is too strong to let me drift away. And I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord for always being here, within me.


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Trusting God with the Future

trust God

I want to live more in the present, with my focus on the Holy Spirit of God within me, sharing my present with me. The other day I wrote about my tendency to live in the future (see it here). Right after posting that, it occurred to me that living in the present, and not trying to pre-plan my future, is a way of trusting God with my future.

Trusting God has been frequently on my mind lately. Now I’ve found another way to show my trust – leave the future to Him. Live in the present, with Him. And He continues to open my mind to the simple truths that make such a difference to my life. I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord.


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When God went Quiet

God went quiet

This morning, while letting the coffee cup warm my hands as my mind chatted with God, I thought about how I need His presence in my life. I depend on His presence, and I found myself again wondering how lost I would be without a sense of His presence. The other day I wrote about what happens when God goes quiet in my life (see it here).

It’s been a long time since I felt no sense of God, and in that time I’ve grown to lean on Him more. Imagining what it might be like to lose Him, I felt like curling up on the floor and shutting down. Life is just too hard to try to deal with on my own.

All of this negative thinking then reminded me of a powerful, yet sometimes lost truth. The sense of dread I feel around the idea of losing Gods presence is nothing compared to what Jesus felt that night in the olive grove, just hours before His arrest, torture and death.

As Jesus hung on the cross, moments away from death, with the sins of the entire world piling onto his bloody back, God went quiet. Jesus paid the ultimate penalty for sin – separation from God. For the first time in eternity, the Son was alone, without the presence of His Father. The physical pain may have been nothing compared to the emotional and spiritual pain.

Think of someone you feel you cannot live without. Now take them away. How does it feel now? Jesus felt so much worse. So did His Father. And they willingly endured the pain, all for their love for us.


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His Child

His child

It’s taken me a long time to understand the nature of my relationship with God. Yet when the truth of it finally opened my eyes, it overwhelmed me. God wants to be a Father to me! The parent-child relationship is so nurturing and intimate, and that’s what the creator of all that exists wants for me. And you. Wow!

As Paul stated, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)


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When God goes Quiet

God quiet

There have been times in my past, where God seemed to go quiet, where I had no sense of His presence in my life. Those are the worst of times.

I now realize that when God went quiet, that was when I sought Him more earnestly. Maybe God goes quiet in my life on purpose. Because every time that happens, and every time I seek Him more earnestly, He seems to come back into my life more fully, and He always feels closer than before. The quiet times are always followed by stronger times, where our relationship feels more solid and certain.

My sense is that God is coaching me along in our relationship, in a personalized way that He knows will work with me. He may interact differently with you.

It seems like it’s been a long time since God felt quiet in my life. I’m now at a point where I cannot imagine living without a sense of His presence. I’ve come to rely on God so much that I can’t handle living without Him. I now feel like He will never go quiet again. And I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord.


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Living in the Future

living in the future

I live too much in the future. My mind spends too much time imagining where I would like to be someday and what I would like to be doing. Or, I rehearse a confrontation with someone at work, a confrontation that will likely never happen. I’ve noticed I spend a lot of time rehearsing future interactions with people. And almost all of those never take place.

Yesterday my mind left work, which has been miserable lately, and went on one of its trips to fantasyland, to my dream job somewhere in the future. Maybe my mind was trying to escape the junk that was going on at work. But I didn’t escape the stress. I brought the stress right along with me. And I noticed that thinking about what I don’t have – my dream job – added to my sense of stress.

Then this thought hit me (which I certainly believe came from God)… instead of thinking about what I don’t have, think about what I DO have. What do I have? I have the constant presence of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus within me. And I had a great day yesterday, frequently turning my mind toward what I do have.

So I’m trying to start this morning by keeping my mind in the present, on what I do have – my constant companion. And no matter where my mind might wander during the day, I know He will be waiting for me to come back to Him. And I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord.


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Practicing Trust

practice trust

I’ve been working a lot lately on trusting God, with my writing (book and blog), with work, with all my relationships. And I’ve seen that like everything in our lives, with practice, trusting God becomes easier.

It’s becoming easier for me to just relax and let Him guide my steps, guide my hand as I write, guide my words as I speak. And it’s a blast! This sense of real, sincere trust and what I see as He guides me – it’s really fun. This is joy, the joy of trust.

Oh, dear Jesus, thank you so much. As your peace and joy is beyond understanding, so is my gratitude beyond my ability to express. I am yours. Now let’s go have some fun and work on the book.


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Playing with God

Watch a group of young children at play sometime. Made-up games, with few rules. One game may morph into another game. Full of fun and giggles. Spontaneous, out of control and unpredictable.

I just started reading the book, “The Good and Beautiful Life,” by James Bryan Smith. Just a little ways into it, he introduced the idea of play and how it relates to our life with God.

I think I’ve had times of playing with God, without realizing it. Spontaneous, out of control and unpredictable. Like the mornings where He and I get together in thought, and I just relax my mind and ask Him what He wants to do. In a way, maybe I’m letting God choose the game. And it’s in these moments of giving control to God where some of my best writing has sprouted. It’s a blast!

Playing with God: what does this mean to me? Just relax, trust Him as a child would trust, and have fun. Humbly let go of the desire to control and happily follow the Leader, wherever He may lead. And I believe that when you’ve found the fun, the joy, of playing with God – then you have found the true presence of God within you.


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Trusting my Ghost Writer

trust

All I need do is show up – He’ll take it from there. I’m working on revision 10 of a book I’m writing, with help from my ghost writer, the Holy Spirit of God. I’ve written about my ghost writer before (here).

This past weekend, as I found a moment in-between to-do list chores, I sat at the dining room table and began to try to clear my mind of the distractions around me. This can be the hardest part of my writing – getting focused. It can be painful for me to concentrate on my editing, and find and fix the troubled spots in the latest draft. I feel the pressure of not wanting to miss anything.

The answer then became suddenly clear. All I need do is open the binder holding revision 10, grab a pencil, and read. The Spirit of Jesus within me will show me what needs changing. I can just relax and trust Him.

At that moment, I truly felt the trust – not just a promise of trust, but a true and tangible reality of trust. It felt great to relax, read, and wait on Jesus to point out the weak spots in my writing. I so love writing this way, with absolute trust in the Holy Spirit. Thank you dear Jesus.


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“Sorry” from the Holy Spirit within

Im sorry

“I’m sorry.” It’s maybe not too difficult to say, but often very hard to sincerely mean. There have been times when I’ve been able to force it out of my mouth, but something leaves a bitter feeling in my heart. I believe that’s the insincerity of my apology, irritating me like an itchy scab.

I came across a good blog post this morning about the difficulties some of us have with sincerely apologizing to God for our sins… repentance. (see it here). Why is it hard for Christians to sincerely repent?

For me, it takes true humility to admit our mistakes and repent, or tell a friend we are sorry. That’s why repentance is so difficult, because humility is not part of our prideful human nature. I believe the remedy for our lack of repentance is to focus our attention on the Holy Spirit, rather than on “self.” And if we can muster enough humility to let the Spirit into our lives, He will show us the path to true humility… and true repentance.

Yet, we shouldn’t stress about our lack of repentance. We should instead focus on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He will then lead us to repentance.


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Writing for Love of Family

writing love

Most of my family isn’t Christian. I’m the family Jesus freak. Whenever a sister, niece, nephew, or in-law is brave enough to mention anything Christian around me, it’s clear their perspective of Christianity has been polluted by false information.

That’s why I’m writing the book I’ve been working on for the past 6 years. I just realized that I spent the first 4 ½ years doing research. It’s only the past 1 ½ years that I’ve been doing real writing.

Anyway, what gets me up at 4:00am each morning so I can write before going to work is love for my family. It hurts me to see some of them hurting because of the false ideas they have about God and Jesus. If they only knew the truth… they still might not accept Jesus, but at least they could make their decision based on truth, rather than lies.

And so I write, with the hope that I put my “self” aside long enough to let Jesus speak His truth to my family, through the book. His truth can set them free from the pain of the troubles in their lives.


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A God we can feel close to

close to God

As the coffee finally began to take effect this morning, I more easily focused my mind in prayer. I tried to empty my thoughts and open myself up to God, asking Him to fill me with His wishes. Does He want me to write a blog post this morning, work on the book, go in search of other blog posts that have a message He wants me to see, or something else?

In my minds eye, I pictured all-mighty God, the creator of all that exists. And I believe what I felt was fear, fear of the Lord. Not a fear of harm. But getting so close to such immense power – there’s something a bit frightening about that. In a way, it’s like when my son gave us a tour of the nuclear power plant he works at – so much power it’s almost scary.

Anyway, in the midst of my sense of fear, my mind turned to Jesus. I can picture Jesus, with our shared humanity. And I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. God so loves us that He sent His Son to be one of us. Where God feels too immense for me to feel close to, I can feel close to Jesus, my fellow human.

Maybe this is another reason God sent Jesus to share our humanity – so there would be a piece of Him that His human children can more easily snuggle up to in prayer. Jesus knows what I’m going through. He’s lived through many of the same temptations. He knows what it’s like to be human. And I’m so grateful. Thank you Lord.