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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Diving into His arms

cliff diving

Here I am again, at the edge of the cliff.

Not a high cliff – it’s a short drop into His arms.

Jesus is waiting for me, with His arms open wide.

Just a brief fall away.

I come here every day, to the edge of this cliff,

this cliff of absolute trust and surrender.

I remember the first few times I came here.

Something would bring me to the very edge,

a prayer, a flood of emotion, the gentle hand of God on my shoulder.

Yet for reasons I’m unsure of, I would back away.

Falling into Jesus scared me back then.

But no more, for His love is more powerful than my fear.

So this morning, filled with the passion He’s given me,

I leap off the cliff.

I so love you dear Jesus.

Let me back up and get a running start.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee

Floating into His arms of love and compassion,

those arms again spread out for me,

those arms first spread out on the cross, for me,

and you.

Today I’m diving into Jesus’ arms, with absolute trust and surrender.

Dive on in… the Holy water is great.


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Religion verses Christianity

Pinocchio

Religion is complicated; Christianity is simple.

Religion is often burdensome; Christianity is freedom.

Religion is often false; Christianity is the truth.

Religion is manmade; Christianity is God-made.

Where religion is rules, Christianity is a relationship, built on a foundation of love.

Religion should be considered as a set of tools, not rules. Religion should work for you, not you for it. Yet sadly, man’s prideful ways have turned the table and created a religion that oversees the followers.

A “religious” Christian is like Pinocchio, a puppet manipulated by strings. The strings are all the rules, traditions, and obligations. Yet, God can cut your strings, and the Holy Spirit will fill you with His presence, making you truly alive and free.


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Our Father’s Love

His child

I was a bit trouble-prone as a young boy. Like the time in my bedroom when I nailed my blankets and sheets to my dresser, the walls, and anything that would hold a nail. It was the most awesome tent ever. Then, several years later, there was the New Years Eve when I blew up the neighbor’s mailbox with a barrel bomb. It was so cool how all the rivets blew out, but the swollen shell still stood on the post. Though my mom was always disappointed and usually angry about my fun-filled pranks, I never doubted her love for me.

The most loving parents feel love for their child no matter what. Such is God’s love for His children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)


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There Is No Greater Love

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

love on cross

The night before Jesus was nailed to the cross, as he prepared himself for death, He looked to His disciples and… “He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Matthew 26:38)

While praying for strength, just moments before His arrest, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) There is a medical condition called Hematidrosis, where blood vessels can pop due to extreme stress, and the blood will mix with sweat. Jesus was in such stress.

Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. It’s important for us to know that what Jesus did for us was not easy. Yet Jesus was overwhelmed by more than the anticipation of torturous pain and death. What was crushing Jesus was the promise of what waited on the other side of death.

Shortly before His death, while praying to His Father, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) Even as He prayed these words, Father and Son both knew that very soon, they would not be together. They would not be one.

The death penalty for sins includes separation from God – this is the definition of hell. For the first time in eternity, Father and Son would not be spiritually together. Following His mortal death, Jesus descended into hell.

The sins of humanity kidnapped the Son from His adoring Father. Picture a weeping mother handing over her baby to kidnappers. God and His Son endured this heart-wrenching pain voluntarily. The Father shared the sacrifice of the Son. There is no greater pain for a parent than to loose their child to death.

There is no greater love in all of history than the mutual love God and Jesus showed for us. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added) God held out His Son, and sin ripped Jesus from His Fathers arms, and killed Him.

Once, when I was helping with our church youth group, one of the kids shared a saying he had heard: “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross – love did.” We see the truth of the cross in the mutual love of God and Jesus, for us. That’s what kept Jesus on the cross.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)


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Catholic Catechism vs. the Bible

Catechism vs Bible

This morning I looked up to see the Catechism of the Catholic Church sitting on my book shelf. It came from my parents house, after my father and stepmother had passed away. It had been my stepmothers. The thicknesses are almost the same. But I believe the contents are different.


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The Power of “And”

AND

I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to those in Rome. This morning I was in chapter 3, where I read this: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, AND are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)

I sin AND I’m justified, that is, I’m declared righteous by God, by my faith in Jesus. I’ve read Romans many times over the years, and at first I didn’t see the “and”; I didn’t recognize it’s power. I sin and I’m righteous, in God’s eyes. My sin does not affect God’s opinion of me. Where sin will not harm me, it’s faith that saves me. Instead of worrying about sin, I should focus on faith.

By the way, it’s my faith in God and Jesus that feeds my love for them. And it’s my ever-growing love for them that feeds my desire to not sin. Avoiding sin is therefore motivated by love, rather than fear.

AND, God loves you no matter your sins.


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Are You a De-Churched Christian?

I’m a de-churched Christian. I’ve been reading the book “Churchless,” which contains lots of research data the Barna Group has collected about the various aspects of Christianity. Did you know there are about 18 million born-again Christians who no longer attend a church? The Barna study calls these people “de-churched.” It felt weird when I realized I’m one of the 18 million.

I haven’t attended church for almost five years. And what adds to the weirdness is, I can’t clearly tell you why. Oh, I could come up with surface answers easily enough. But none of them feel to me like they are the real, deep down reason I don’t go to church. And I want to know why.

It occurred to me; maybe some of these 18 million de-churched born-again Christians hang out online somewhere. So please help me if you know of any such hang-outs. Are there any Facebook groups? What other sites might the de-churched like to visit? Are there blogs for the de-churched?

My hope is that maybe by connecting with other de-churched people, I might learn why I have no desire to attend church. And if you too are a de-churched Christian, please share some of your story. It may help me, and it may help others. Thank you.


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Jesus is my Rock

Jesus rock

Sometimes. No, make that several times a day… I feel stressed out, especially at work. Even now, in the peace of the early morning, I can feel the stress, usually from anticipation of work. This stress feels like a liquid poison, poured into this vessel named CJ Penn. Sometimes it’s just a bit of poison; other times it feels like I’m overflowing.

Until I remember Jesus. He is like my Rock, dropped into this vessel CJ, pushing the poison of stress out. I feel Him enter into my thoughts, and the poison flows away. When Jesus fills me, there is no room for the poison of stress.

Stress is indeed a poison, for it can make our life sick. But even when surrounded by a stressful day, with Jesus on the inside, the stress remains on the outside, unable to poison my heart and mind and soul.

Thank you so much dear Jesus… my Rock.


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Jesus on the Edge

I just got back from the grocery store. Got my leg ‘o lamb for our Easter dinner. And, check out this picture of the magazine rack in the check-out line…

 Jesus magazine

At first I didn’t know what to think about it. Jesus, next to a wine tasting mag, and right across the little isle was another magazine rack, next to the candy and gum, filled with glamour model’s cleavage and movie stars cellulite. At first, it all seemed odd to me… a bit edgy.

But what would Jesus think about hanging out with wine lovers, glamour models and movie stars? I think He’d consider that tame, especially compared with some of the crowd He used to hang out with. While He walked the roads of Israel, Jesus seemed to spend more time with lowlife’s, prostitutes, hated tax collectors and other sinners. Jesus lived on the edge of “acceptable” society. So I think Jesus would be okay with the placement of His manmade image on a magazine in the grocery check-out isle.

I hope you all have a great Easter. CJ


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Gift Exchange

Today, Good Friday, we recognize the sacrifice Jesus took upon Himself for all of us. He gave His life for us. Because I’m so grateful, I’d like to give Jesus something in return. As He did for me, I’d like to do for Him – I’d like to give Jesus my life.

To surrender my life to Jesus – how can I do that today? What does this look like? How about this: I’ll give Jesus my thoughts today, as often as I am able.

Are you grateful for what Jesus did for you? Give Him your thoughts today. Focus your mind on Jesus as often as you are able.


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Dear Jesus

surrender

Dear Jesus, you gave your life for me,

you suffered for me, you died for me.

And then your Spirit came back to earth,

and now you live within me, sharing my life with me.

I’m not alone.

You’re always here, within.

Yet I fear I may be too accustomed to your presence.

Do I take you for granted? Oh, I hope not.

Dear Jesus, please help me feel the true meaning,

the true power and peace of living with You within me.

I long for a tear.

Those moments when my heart gets a clear glimpse of you within me –

those moments when an un-looked-for tear swells within my eye.

When my heart sees you clearly, my eyes become blurred.

Dear Jesus, oh how I long to see you more clearly;

oh how I long to see the true meaning of You within me;

oh how I long to weep a bucket of tears, for you.

Tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears of love.

Tears that soften my heart and open me up, to you.

Dear Jesus, I love you more than my dry eyes show.

I long for the moments when I see your true love,

and then my tears show you my true love.

Dear Jesus, thank you for this day, a good day, a Good Friday.


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God Loves Homosexuals

The Bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality as a life style – God despises all sins, including homosexuality. Yet the Bible also makes it abundantly clear what God thinks of sinners. Though God despises sin, He loves sinners… as His children. Though God despises homosexuality as a life style, God loves homosexuals… as His children.

Look, I’m a sinner. I happen not to be homosexual, but I have plenty of other sins that I seem to daily re-visit. These sins are just part of who I am as a person. But my sinful personal nature does not affect God’s love for me. Even in the midst of my sinning, God loves me just as I am.

Are you homosexual? God loves you just as you are. The pain comes from too many of us focusing all our attention on the sin, and forgetting about the love. Let’s all hold onto God’s love, a love that heals all pain.