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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He Must Become Greater – a Resolution

happy new year

Being New Years Eve morning, I found myself thinking about resolutions for 2015. I’ve been big on creating long lists of resolutions in the past. This year, just one item is on my list…

As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30)

My resolution, my hope and trust for 2015 is that the Holy Spirit of Jesus will become greater within me, and my “self” will become less. As Jesus continues to fill me with His Spirit, my selfish and self-centered self will become less of who CJ Penn is. And I’m so grateful.

I wish you all a great New Year, and hope that you too will find yourself filled with the Holy Spirit of our savior, Jesus.


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Christmas didn’t feel special, but that was okay

I love all the gifts, the receiving, and the giving. I love the time with family, even though it’s often too brief. I love all the food and the drinks. But ever since I became Christian, I looked for something more in my Christmas. I looked for some special sense of Jesus’ presence. Sometimes I would find it during Christmas Eve service at church. Sometimes I would find the sense of closeness in the middle of a conversation, or a quiet time late at night. Sometimes I wouldn’t find it, but I always looked for that feeling of something different.

This year, I didn’t find a new or different sense of Jesus’ presence in my life. But that’s because I feel His presence all the time. Oh yes, I’m often not thinking about Jesus’ Spirit within me. But the sense of His close presence is just a thought away, and He’s always there, waiting for me to turn to Him. I turned to Him a lot this Christmas, and it felt the same as every other day. But that’s okay.

It’s a cliché, but for me, maybe every day is like Christmas day. And I’m so grateful.


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Christmas Day – Happy Birthday

happy birthday

Christmas day – I believe there’s more to celebrate than the 2000-plus year anniversary of Jesus’ birth. For Jesus is born again, every time someone opens their heart with faith, and lets the Holy Spirit of Jesus in their life. If you look to God and ask Him to live with you, within your body and with your soul, Jesus is re-born as human, as you.

And when you open the door of your heart to let the Spirit of Jesus into your life, you are re-born as a new person. No longer just you, but you and Jesus, in one.

Christmas day – there’s a lot to celebrate. Happy Birthday all.


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Jim – Loving the Hard to Love

I was 500 miles away when my phone rang at 4:00am. My brothers girlfriend, weeping and hysterical, was telling me something, though I couldn’t understand a word she said between the gasps. Yet I knew. No more pain for my brother.

He had called me seven months earlier. We hadn’t seen each other for over 25 years, mainly because we didn’t hang out in the same places. He spent most of his time in prison.

He called to tell me he had lung cancer, and he needed me. I didn’t want to go, but he had no one else, and something inside me said… go.

During the next seven months, I spent a lot of time with my brother. Right after the first surgery, when they removed the tumors, the nurse called me into the recovery room to help calm my brother. He was sitting up in the bed, tubes and wires hanging off his tattoo-covered body, and loudly complaining about pain. I was amazed to see him actually sitting, just minutes after waking up from lung surgery. I went to the side of the bed, he looked up at me, leaned his head on my chest, and he fell asleep. I put my arm around his shoulder and just stood there, holding him steady. The nurse was grateful. I was uncomfortable.

I never wanted to get involved. Every time I went to see him, it was with reluctance. I’m not a natural at the nurturing and compassion thing. As the chemo cocktail dripped into his veins, I’d sit there, stealing glances at my watch, looking for a chance to excuse myself and leave. My hugs were not always sincere.

But this is what I learned: how I felt didn’t matter. It wasn’t about me. I may have been reluctant with each visit and phone call, but it was all for my brother. Even though my love was not true, my brother still felt loved. And it was good for him. He never hesitated to say “I love you.” Maybe he felt compassion from me that he hadn’t felt for a long time – you don’t get much in prison.

Here’s another thought that just hit me: maybe the love my brother felt wasn’t really from me, but was from Jesus within me. When I can’t bring myself to sincerely love, Jesus can love through me. And I’m so grateful.


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The Epidemic

epidemic

Pride, self-centeredness, arrogance, selfishness;

different names for the same thing.

These are the root of all evil.

All a part of our human nature.

Or is this human nature?

Pride is more a disease infecting all humanity,

some suffering this disease more than others.

Human history is the story of the epidemic of pride.

Look upon your pride-filled enemy

as a victim of the epidemic,

and they will be your enemy no more.

When we see pride as an illness,

we give ourselves permission to feel compassion,

instead of anger.

And we can love our ailing enemies.

 

Jesus came to heal the sick.

He can free our souls of the cancer of pride,

and fill us with the love of His Spirit.

And I’m so grateful.


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Faith and Love… from Hope

faith hope love

Typical morning. Groggy. Coffee mug warming my cold hands. Trying to waken my reluctant mind and focus my every thought onto the Holy Spirit within me. In my quiet time before going off to work, my writing time, I again ask the Spirit of my dearly loved Jesus what He would like to do through me this morning. It seems to take a long time – maybe the coffee just needed to kick in a bit. Finally an answer: read my bible. I haven’t done that for a while. The pages opened to Colossians.

Paul said, “We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope…” (Colossians 1:5) I stopped there.

Faith and love, from hope; these words grabbed my mind and made their meaning clear, for me anyway.

Many years ago, at the end of my agnostic phase, I started reading the bible for the first time. Curiosity may have been one reason. But I now believe the main reason I turned to God was hope. Something inside me HOPED that the stories of the bible were true, especially the stories about Jesus. It was hope that turned me to Jesus. And Jesus took my hope and nourished it, until it blossomed into true faith and love. And I’m so grateful.

Hope is such a powerful beginning.


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The Churchless

churchless

I was reading some results from a Barna Group study of “churchless” in the USA. In the past decade, the number of churchless people has increased 30%. About 75% of the churchless attended church at one time… Barna calls them “de-churched.”

I have a theory: people are leaving churches because of a lack of truth. Many churches replace Jesus’ truth with their own ideas. Yet manmade theology does not have the power to affect people’s lives in a positive way. Only the truth of Jesus and the presence of His Spirit can do that. Without the truth and Holy Spirit, people give up and leave.

It’s just my theory… what do you think?


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The Wall Comes Crashing Down

wall

I put up barriers. Stress, anxiety, fretting about tomorrow, fretting about days after tomorrow, fretting about my fretting. These are my barriers, self-made walls of worry and self-centered distraction, rising up between me and the Holy Spirit within. Yet my barriers do more that separate me from God; they also barricade me from people I love. All my relationships suffer from my barriers.

I got up early this morning (early for a Sunday anyway). It was still dark outside. I went to bed early last night, after falling asleep in front of the TV… around 8 o’clock. No longer the Saturday night partier I once was.

All quiet in the pre-dawn house, with hot coffee warming my hands – I sat on my napping-couch, closed my eyes, and poured out my frets to God, within me. I felt the wall, tall and seemingly strong. Yet not strong enough.

With every thought that touched upon the Holy Spirit within, another block fell from the wall. And soon it was gone. The Holy Spirit and I are now fully face-to-face, within this soul of mine.

I’ll build the wall again. Happens every day. And I’m so grateful that God is always happy to help me tear it down.


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Grateful for the Flaws

flawed

By reading my complaints about my flawed humanity in many of my blog posts, you might think I’m a miserable person. Well, I’m not.

It seems that most of the time, my life is dominated by my relationship with God, Jesus, and their Spirit who shares my life with me. By the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I have found true meaning, peace, excitement, and love. Life has never been better.

Yet I’m grateful for the flaws of my human nature: my pride and selfishness, my anxiety and worry, my anger, my natural temptations. For whenever my flaws capture my present, they remind me of how much I need God. Yes, my flaws may make me miserable while in the midst of them. But God has taught me to use my flaws, to steer my mind back to Him. And I’m grateful.


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Lifting me out of this pit

Out-of-the-Slimy-Pit

This writing gig gets me all confused and stressed out. To self-publish my book, or chase after a traditional publisher? To try to lure an agent, or not? Should I even bother trying to publish? How to attract followers to this blog? How to increase page hits? Should I even bother trying to attract followers, or instead focus on a simpler motive for writing blog posts?

Today is a typical morning for me; my mind is a jumble of random thoughts and questions, all in search of a purpose and direction. And in the middle of this mess is my selfish beast, wanting it all MY way.

Some mornings I get bogged down in the muck of my own self-centeredness. But today I was lifted out of this muddy pit and set down on the higher ground of solid humility. Of course, the Holy Spirit within me did the lifting.

Now, the stress and confusion are gone. My only desire is to be hands and feet for God.

Dear Lord, dear Spirit who shares this body of mine, I am yours. These hands are yours, resting on this keyboard. This mind is yours. My heart and soul are yours. Why? Because of love. I love you so much dear Spirit of Jesus. You’ve given me life. You’ve given me purpose. You’ve given me love beyond understanding. Please help me to not waste your gift of love. You came for me… I’m here for you.

Amen


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My Prison of Pride

prisoner of fallacy

Pride is my self-imposed prison. Pride ties me up with strict rules and expectations. Pride wraps me in a straightjacket of stress when things don’t go MY way. Pride pushes my heart, soul, and mind to me, rather than God.

Pride is misery.

Yet Jesus has set me free from my prison. He has opened the door and shown me the path to humility… and love… and others… and our Father. There are still traces of pride clinging to me, but it’s not the prison it once was.

And the Holy Spirit within holds onto me, stopping me from returning to my familiar prison cell. And I’m so grateful.


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A Big Step for Me

big step

Six years! That’s how long, so far, I’ve been working on writing my first book. And finally, it’s about ready to publish. Friends ask me if it’s finished. I say yes, but it never feels finished. I feel I could forever tinker with it. But for now, the tinkering is over. I believe God is telling me to jump out of my boat and take the next big step in this journey with Him… start submitting the book to publishers.

I could self-publish of course. That would be easy. But there’s not much about this six year journey that has been easy for me, so why start now. And besides, something tells me God wants me to first try traditional publishing.

So the first thing I’m going to do is submit a proposal through the Christian Manuscript Submission (CMS) website. It seems like a cool way to get the book proposal in front of many different publishers.

Do any of you have experience with CMS? I could really use some advice.

Thanks, and I hope you all have a great day. CJ


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Better than Books

books

Recently, several people have asked me for recommendations of good books that may help strengthen their relationship with Jesus. Here are some of my favorite books, which have really helped me:

“The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence

“Humility,” by Andrew Murray

“Absolute Surrender,” by Andrew Murray

(almost anything by Andrew Murray)

“The Knowledge of the Holy,” by AW Tozer

But what’s helped me more than reading is devoting as much time as I can to praying. While praying, I try to visualize the Holy Spirit within me. It’s taken me a long time to truly believe in the presence of the Spirit of God within me. But now I believe, and that’s more powerful than any book I’ve read. For with the Spirit, I FEEL God’s love, which is far more powerful than just knowing about God’s love.


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Wounded, but Healing

wounds healed

The Facebook group For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing, has me thinking about my wounds lately. What do my scars look like?

Up to my mid-thirties, I believed what most churches had been telling me, that I had to earn my way into heaven with good behavior. For some reason, this turned me off from Christianity. I don’t know why.

Then, someone gave me a book by Billy Graham. I don’t remember who gave me the book. I don’t remember the title of the book. I think I long ago lost the book. But for the first time in my life I read something in that book that shocked me. Billy Graham told me WHY Jesus died on the cross. Billy told me that Jesus paid the price for all my bad behavior. Billy told me that I didn’t have to earn my way into heaven – all I had to do was believe in the truth of what Jesus did for me, and accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers me.

This truly shocked me. It was in direct conflict with all I had heard up to that point in my life. Salvation isn’t a reward for good behavior, but rather a gift, generously offered to all who have the faith to simply accept it.

I still remember that feeling of shock. It was then that my wounds started to heal.


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More is Less

Over the past several months, many people have commented on the brevity of my posts. It seems that they find fewer words are more powerful and helpful. So I thought I’d share with you two things that inspire my pithy writing.

First is the book “On Writing Well,” by William Zinsser, where he stresses the benefits of brevity.

Yet for me, my most important inspiration comes from God… “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11)


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A New Look

cropped-wound-group-cover-photo2.jpg

If you’re wondering, this is the right place. Actually, the “right” place is a matter of opinion, which I leave to you. But this is likely the place you were expecting to land with your last mouse click. I just decided to change the look of the blog site.

It’s been over six years since I started this blog, and I felt it was time for a wardrobe change. And in a way, it’s symbolic of some changes in me…

When I first starting writing in this blog, those six years ago, I believe I still held onto anger towards churches that abuse the truth of Jesus Christ, and I let that anger spill onto the keyboard. Well, maybe wisdom comes with age, for I no longer want to fill my posts with acquisitions, even if based on absolute truth.

All I want to do now is write about the truth of Jesus Christ, and that means letting His love spill onto the keyboard while I write. For me, it’s a new look, and I like it.


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Healing my Wounds

wounded heart

This morning while praying, it became clear and obvious to me that I too am a wounded Christian. Why else would I sometimes be angry at certain churches and their behavior? My anger has it roots somewhere, and it must be in past wounds.

This morning I was wondering how the Holy Spirit within me feels about all this. Also, how can I let go of my anger?

I suspect God may also get angry at certain church behavior. But God’s anger does not affect His love. Like any good parent, no matter how bad the behavior, God still loves His children. That sense of God’s love for churches that cause me anger actually helps me begin to let go of the anger and take hold of the love. With the Spirit of God within me, He can love through me. I now know that I can feel sincere love for those who had hurt and angered me. For me, it may just take a little more time, to let go of my anger, and take hold of God’s love.

Are you a wounded Christian, carrying scars inflicted by churches or other Christians? Please consider joining the Facebook Group, For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing, where you can share your feelings, your stories, your healing.

May God bless us all with His overflowing love, which washes away all bad feelings.


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Studying my way to God?

books

I have read the bible many times, especially the New Testament. I’ve read great books by Andrew Murray, William Law, and A.W. Tozer. I’ve read sermons and devotionals by Charles Spurgeon. And then there’s “The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence – my most well-worn non-bible book. All of my studying has helped me develop a close relationship with God, or so it appears.

Is diligent study really the secret to an intimate relationship with God and Jesus? I don’t think so, because based on what Jesus said and how He lived, it doesn’t make sense.

What came into my mind as I puzzled over this was what Paul frequently mentioned about faith, hope, and love. As he said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

A relationship with God obviously starts with faith. But it’s love that makes that relationship grow. Though study may help, in my case anyway, without love the study is meaningless.

Reading about food will not ease your hunger. Are you hungry for closeness with God? Then love Him. Let His Spirit into your life. Taste His presence in your soul. And you will be filled, to overflowing.


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To be a Child

child in lap

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

There are days, most days,

when I just want to curl up in my Father’s lap,

hiding my face from this chaotic world,

safe behind the hugs of His loving arms.

Peace, quiet, soft love.

He’s waiting for me today,

waiting for me to come to Him in my prayers

and climb up into His lap.

Always waiting, arms outstretched to lift me to Him.

Lord, here I am.

So nice to be home again.

 

I hope you have a great day, in the arms of your Father.