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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Just as I am

Okay, full disclosure time. As you may know, I’m a devout Christian, a Jesus freak. I love Jesus and God intensely, and they are top on my list of priorities in life. My greatest desire is to surrender my entire self to God and let Jesus live through me. Deny myself, surrender to God—a phrase that used to scare me, yet now it’s my greatest craving.

BUT, I’m also just a typical person, whatever that is. My life is full of problems. I don’t like work. I wish I had more money. My relationships are plagued with typical flaws, most minor, others not so.

I like to drink, alcohol that is. I’m not picky—wine, beer, and I haven’t yet tasted a hard liquor I don’t like. Sometimes I drink too much, and later, I’m not too sorry for it. Oh, and yes, I sometimes have impure thoughts (I’ll leave the nature of those to your imagination). I don’t think I would trust someone who claims they never have impure thoughts. Hey, we’re all broken, even those who pretend to be more holy than human.

Oh, and my mind tends to wander far from God at times. Well, most of the time actually. Every day I try to keep my mind more on Jesus and less on the world around me, but I fail. Every day I try to “do as Jesus would do,” but I fail. Every day I try to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and body, but it feels like I fail there too. I guess I’m just a messy Christian.

After knowing the totally human me, and later learning how much I love Jesus, new friends often look at me funny, like I’m a science project gone wrong, or a schizophrenic odd couple. On the outside, I don’t look like what they would expect from a Jesus freak.

BUT #2, all of my faults don’t seem to get in the way of my relationship with God and Jesus. I’m so grateful that God is in the forgiving business. No matter what I do, or how far my mind drifts away, God is always there, waiting for me to look back at Him. Oh, I tend to sense His displeasure with my behavior sometimes. But I also sense He’s more pleased with the fact I return my attention to Him, than He is unhappy with my thoughts or actions.

It all boils down to this: God and Jesus accept me just as I am, no matter what. And I love them all the more because of it. God also loves you just the way you are.


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The Wild Child and the Unusual Parent

One day God bought himself a huge ranch, with a massive house, several barns, and lots of rich, fertile land. It was like a garden. And then God invited his adopted children to move into the ranch house with him.

One of the adopted sons eventually got bored with ranch life. He craved something more exciting. Now being an adopted child of God, this son knew that when God died, he would inherit his portion of God’s wealth (okay, God can’t really die, but this is a made-up story, so please stick with me). Anyway, this son went into God’s study where he found God looking at the newspaper, frowning at what he was reading. The son then demanded his share of the inheritance.

Okay, at this point it helps to understand something about the country where God’s ranch was. The people there had strong beliefs about family. Families were powered by mutual respect and love. And to ask a parent for your inheritance, before the parent was actually dead, was the same as telling the parent you wished they were dead. The society there even had laws intended to punish people who showed such intense disrespect. This greedy son now faced the death penalty. All God had to do was call the police, and the son would be hauled away. But God didn’t do that. Instead, God gave the son what he asked for (yep, I don’t get it either).

So with a backpack full of money, the son took off for the big city – Las Vegas. Many parties, prostitutes, and wild nights later, the son was broke. Unable to pay his bill, he was kicked out of his lavish hotel room. Now he was on the streets, learning what it was like to be homeless… in Vegas.

Eventually, he overcame his resistance to admit his mistakes, and decided to go home, back to the ranch. He figured he wasn’t worthy to be treated like a son (got that right), and decided to ask God if he could just be one of the ranch workers. At least he’d have a place to sleep and regular meals.

He begged enough money to get a bus ticket to a town near the ranch, but not enough for an Uber ride from the bus stop to the ranch. So he had to walk the final 15 miles. Now that was a long, humiliating hike. He really dreaded seeing God again. But his empty stomach pushed him on.

He came up over a rise and entered the long, shallow, grass-covered valley where the ranch house was, still about three miles away. Within a minute or two, he noticed someone coming toward him – it looked like they were running. He was scared. Was this person sent to chase him off God’s land? He was so hungry, and tired, and as he imagined being turned away, he started to cry. He almost fell to the ground, but the little pride remaining kept him on his feet.

He started walking again, rehearsing his apology speech. He really didn’t need more rehearsal – he’d been working on it for over a week. But he felt he needed to keep his mind busy, or he’d start crying again.

He’d practiced all kinds of excuses, but now decided to give them up. It had to be easier to just admit how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness, and a job.

Within a few minutes it became clear that the approaching runner was actually God. Wow, he runs pretty fast for such an old man. But at the sight of God, the sons dread turned to absolute despair. How could he face God again, after telling him he wished God was dead? This was too much. The son collapsed to the ground and began sobbing – any remaining pride left him, running down his cheeks, mixed with tears. In an instant, God was upon him.

God dropped to his knees in front of the son. With one hand, he reached out and gently squeezed the sons shoulder. With the other hand, God lifted the sons quivering chin and looked into his tear-filled eyes. There was no anger in God’s gaze – only love. God then pulled the son to him and hugged him. With tears in his own voice, God said, “My son, you’re alive! I had given you up for dead.”

There were no questions. There was not condemnation, no blame, no guilt-trip. Only love, and forgiveness, and joy. And then, God threw a big party for his lost child who had come back home.

 

(Blatantly lifted from a story Jesus once told. Yep, the Prodigal Son.)

 


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The Question Is…

How do you feel about forgiveness? Is it hard for you too? Is it hard for you to forgive other people? What about yourself – is it hard to forgive your own mistakes? For me, my mistakes can ruin a good day.

Okay, now what about God? How do you feel about His forgiveness of your sins? Do you believe all your sins will be forgiven? Well, all the mistakes you’ve ever made have already been forgiven by God. God’s forgiveness is immediate and unconditional.

So the real question is not about what God’s reaction will be when we make mistakes (His reaction is a given), but what will our reaction be? Knowing about God’s forgiveness is one step; accepting it is a bigger step. That’s where faith comes in.

So let’s say you have the faith to accept God’s forgiveness of every mistake and sin that has infected your life – past and future. What will be your reaction to that vast amount of unconditional forgiveness? God hasn’t asked anything of you, except that you believe in and accept His unconditional gift. God accepts you just as you are. Will you accept Him, and His forgiveness? And by accepting, how will that make you feel? (Okay, I’m trying to lead you down a path to overwhelming gratitude. Please forgive my awkwardness.)

Oh, and when you accept God’s forgiveness, you’ll finally be able to forgive yourself, and others. Isn’t it a bit ironic that one of the biggest burdens in our life can be our lack of ability to forgive? God wants to free each of us of this burden.

Final thought: Our sins were forgiven a long time ago, by Jesus dying on that cross and paying the penalty for all sins. How do you feel about that? (Okay, looking for profound gratitude again.)

 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

 


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More Than a Holiday

In the USA, this weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. In addition to devoting some thought to all those people who sacrificed their lives for our country, how about if we devote some thought to the one person who sacrificed His life for humanity. Memorial Day … let’s make it more than a US holiday this weekend. And for me, I want to make remembering Jesus’ sacrifice more than a holiday thing; I want to make it a way of life.


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The Heaviest Load

A grudge is a heavy thing. You can sometimes recognize people who have been carrying a grudge for a long time – they look weary. But our natural human pride resists efforts to forgive. Pride likes to show off its bulging muscles by carrying heavy grudges all day.

Yet forgiveness comes from humility, the enemy of pride. And humility, not being a natural human trait, comes from outside ourselves. True humility is the humility of the Spirit of Jesus, shinning out from within you. It’s not your humility people would see, but His. And maybe Jesus’ humility can spill out of you and shine on those around you – those who carry heavy grudges. Maybe His humility can lighten their load.

Is there someone in your life who cannot forgive you for something you did or said? I wonder how heavy their grudge is. Do they look weary to you? For anyone who cannot forgive you, consider for a moment the weight of the un-forgiveness they carry.

And if you like, please share you thoughts on this in the comments below. Thanks


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It is Finished

The pain is constant. Searing. It feels like I’m on an ocean, and the waves of pain are crashing over me. When I lift up on my legs to breathe, the waves crash into my feet, up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back, and my dislocated shoulders, and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood of the cross. There is no escape.

Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing my soul. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But its intensity is being overpowered by the agony of this aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me. Oh, my humanness is shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet I know why. It’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

There, opening up before me, is a dark, lightless pit. Empty. Alone. This devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. Over there, toward the city gate, I see people and earth and sky. I see God’s creation. But this pit before me – there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone.

“It is finished.”
(An excerpt from a book I’m writing. Copyright 2015, CJ Penn)


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The Last Guilty Man

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, am the last guilty man. For I became guilty of the sins of all humanity. I carried the burden of all sins through the streets of old Jerusalem and up that hill, where I paid the final penalty… the death sentence for my guilt.

Guilt died with me. There is no more guilt. It was my guilt that set you free of your guilt. I am the last guilty man. This is the truth.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

 

 

(Originally posted on Dec. 4, 2015)


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Thank You

I’m a sinner.

It’s who I am.

I try not to, but fail.

Just a typical, weak human being – that’s me.

But He forgives me.

And more than forgive, He picked up the penalties for my sins and carried that burden Himself…

… all the way to the cross.

Dear Jesus, you paid my debts.

And left me free.

And I’m so grateful.


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How Would You Feel If…?

What if you knew for certain that tomorrow you were going to be tortured and killed? How would you feel today, knowing what waits for you tomorrow?

A weird and disturbing question, I know. But your answer may help you feel some of what Jesus felt, as he waited for His fate.

I don’t ask this to stir up feelings of guilt. Instead I hope you will feel overwhelming love and gratitude. What Jesus did for all of us was not easy. He suffered so we won’t have to. So how do you feel?


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The Spirit Speaks – I Forgive & Forget

forgive & forget

Do you bring your past to the present, holding onto memories of bad things you’ve done? Many people do, feeding their inner monster of guilt, keeping alive festering wounds. And the natural human tendency is to think that like you, God holds onto the bad memories too. But I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and my Father, leave your past in the past; gone and forgotten. Whether five years or one minute ago, we don’t look there; we look to now.

Though I was once human, I don’t suffer from the natural human ways. I’m my Father… God. We forgive and forget. As we forgive, your sins vaporize, as if they never happened.

Please let go of your past, and instead, hold onto me, here with you, inside of you, sharing your body with you. I’m right here, living deep within, where you soul lives. Turn your back on your sins and look forward to me. And I will set you free from the pain of your past.

As my Father said, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

 


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The Spirit Speaks – of the Death of Sin

Sins dead

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, died on the cross because of sin. Yet my death was also the death of sin, all sin. The sins of all humanity were nailed to that torturous cross with me. So when I died, your sins died too.

If you accept this truth for your life, then in God’s eyes, it’s as if you have never sinned. This is how God’s forgiveness of your sins works. With God, forgiveness is truly forgetting. Oh, I know you still sin – it’s part of your human nature. But when you accept the truth of the death of your sins with me on that cross, the sins you commit today are dead as they happen… stillborn. They have no power over your soul.

That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sin. If you truly love me, would you want to sin? Oh, but that’s a question for another day. For today, please be at peace with yourself, knowing that your sins are dead… powerless. And feel the power that comes from me living within you.

Now let’s go have a great day together. Show me your life, include me in your conversations with your friends, feel my presence with you as you go about your day. Forget about sin for a while.

And remember what God said… “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)


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The Spirit Speaks – of Freedom from the Past

Past

Some of God’s children carry around a heavy burden… their past. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, weep over the children who cannot let go of painful memories. They believe God will not forgive their past. So their memories become a barrier between them and me. They cannot let me in because they believe they are just not good enough… because of their past.

Is your past a burden for you? Please, open your mind and hear this truth: your past is no longer real. It’s like a vapor, blown away by the winds of time. It’s gone. The only time that is real is now. That’s the time that matters.

And please accept that God’s love is not conditional; He does not judge His children as being “good enough” for His love. There is no favoritism with Him. He’s not that kind of parent. God loves all His children equally because your behavior cannot influence His love. God’s love forgives, and God’s love forgets… your past.

Please, if your past weighs heavy on your heart, let go of it. And as it turns to vapor and drifts away, I can enter in.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

“He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:9)


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Welcomed Home… Every Time

prodigal son

Here I sit in my man-cave office – actually, mixture of storage room, cluttered desk, and dust. But it’s my quiet space, isolated from distractions, where I have some of my best one-on-one time with God. This morning is like every morning… coffee in hand and God on my mind, and in my heart. Today I look back over my shoulder at yesterday.

Reflection… looking back I see that yesterday was like most days. More than once, I turned my back on God and abandoned Him. It may seem like nothing, just a typical reaction to life. Like getting consumed by a project at work and venting a bit of frustration at a co-worker. But in that moment, I can’t see God, for my back is to Him.

Yet every time I turn around, there He is. And like the father of the prodigal son, God does more than patiently wait for me to come back to Him. As soon as He sees me turn around, He runs to me, wraps His arms around me, and welcomes me home. Every time. Such is His love for all of us. And I’m so grateful.


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Happy Birthday Dad

happy birthday

As I sat in front of my computer this morning, with coffee in hand, I looked at the date on the bottom-right of the monitor and remembered that today is my dad’s birthday. He died almost two years ago. Some tears quickly came to my eyes. Not many, just one tear actually. I didn’t cry the day he died, or since, until this morning. The tear surprised me.

I felt I should pray for dad, though at first I didn’t know what to pray for. I don’t know where he was in his relationship with Jesus, so I asked God to show him some mercy – that’s always a good prayer. Then my mind went back to the tear. Why was it so hard for me to feel emotion over my dad’s death? Look, he wasn’t a great dad, but he was my dad, and though I believe I’ve forgiven him for past hurts, my emotions just don’t reflect forgiveness.

Then I think God dropped this message into my mind: “If you want Me to show your dad mercy, won’t don’t you show Him mercy? Let go of the pain that’s holding back the tears. There is love behind the damned up tears. Let it all flow.”

I love how God sometimes steps into the middle of my thoughts and shakes me up a bit. Though my dad was only human, with normal human flaws, my heavenly Dad fills in all the empty places… with His love. And I’m so grateful.

Happy Birthday dad.


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My Apology to Catholics

About five years ago I wrote a post about my dad’s experience when he decided to join the Catholic Church of my stepmother. He first had to sign some Catholic documents resulting in the annulment of his marriage to my mom. From what I heard, the church had to erase the sin of his divorce before they would accept him into the church.

I admit I was a bit upset by the episode and I wasn’t very kind to the Catholic Church in the words I posted. Over the years, many people have commented on that post, and it’s clear that I caused them pain. Another such comment showed up today. And I’ve finally come to realize that it’s time I apologize.

So to all Catholics, I sincerely apologize for my harsh words of five years ago.

All I was trying to do was testify to the truth of Jesus. And the truth is, Jesus forgave my father’s sin of divorce. More than forgive, Jesus and God have effectively forgotten my father’s divorce.

As God said, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

And as Paul said in his definition of love, “Love … keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) As God is love, God keeps no record of wrongs.

Forgive and forget. What a great way to live, for all of us. It’s just not easy.


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Forgiveness or Misery

scale

It takes humility to really forgive, to take your eyes off your SELF long enough to waive goodbye to the hurt. I found myself thinking about forgiveness yesterday – don’t know why. I guess I was just struck with the thought that everyone needs forgiveness of something. And it seems like there’s not enough humility to counter the hurtful acts needing forgiveness.

Then this new thought crashed into my Sunday-slumbering mind: humanity, by our sinful and prideful human nature, is all messed up. It’s just part of who we are. Therefore, by our nature, we will all hurt others, intentionally or not. And we will all create a need for forgiveness.

Then this thought hit me: for those who cannot learn to forgive others, they are doomed to a life of unforgiving misery, for there will ALWAYS be hurt needing forgiveness.

Maybe look at it this way: visualize an old-fashioned scale with the cross-arm and a bowl hanging off each end. In one bowl are all the hurtful acts that need forgiveness. In the other bowl is our capacity to forgive. The hurtful bowl is overflowing – again, it’s just who we are as humans. The forgiveness bowl is often nearly empty. Our life is out of balance, unless we are able to increase our capacity to forgive.

God can give us that capacity, if we desire. God can show us the futility of holding a grudge, since humanity will always create hurt. God can bring balance to our life.


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The Ugliness Scared Me Away

ugliness

They made me feel like they were constantly judging my behavior and actions, always looking for some weakness to shine their spotlight on. They projected an air of superiority. They rarely hung out with anyone who was not a member of their exclusive organization. Yet they always seemed to be pressuring me to leave my life behind and join their perfect club.

But they themselves weren’t perfect. In many ways, they weren’t much different than me. This hypocrisy and the judgment and the arrogance – these are the things that turned me away. Join their club? Forget it!

For much of my life, this was my response to Christians. But eventually I started learning the truth about Christianity, and how Jesus led by His example. Jesus hung out with sinners, like me. Jesus didn’t come to judge us. Jesus loved unconditionally. And He didn’t form some exclusive club. The more I learned about the truth of Jesus, the more I realized that the ugliness I had seen in some Christians came from human nature, not Jesus. My challenge is to keep my own ugly human nature from gaining the spotlight.


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Truth and Peace

truth and peace

 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: … love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)

Truth and peace – I have to admit that I sometimes find it hard to include peace with my blog posts about truth. I indeed love the truth. When I write about truth in a way that confronts some false message within Christianity, I tend to get passionate. Yet I am sometimes a bit harsh in my response to deception. I have a hard time including peace while I lash out at some religious doctrine that is contrary to the truth of Gods word. The truth is so important to me – I lose sight of the need for compassion. My prideful human nature often closes my eyes to the peaceful approach.

The peace I wish to bring doesn’t come from me – it comes from the Holy Spirit within me. So if you read a blog post of mine that includes just the right mix of truth and peace, then you will know that I stepped out of the way and let the Holy Spirit of God speak through me. And if the peace is missing from my message, I sincerely apologize to you, and God.


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Prisoner of Fallacy

prisoner of fallacy

I was twelve years old when my mom married my second stepfather. I still remember his mother telling him he was going to hell because he divorced his first wife. That was over 40 years ago and my stepfather, now in his 80’s, still carries around the guilt piled onto him by his devout Catholic mother. He is a prisoner of that guilt. He is a prisoner by holding onto falseness that he believes just might be true. Whether you call yourself Christian or not, you may be a prisoner of lies – for lies are like shackles on our hearts and minds, hindering us from truly experiencing life.

We are all prisoners of the lies we believe to be truth. The most dreadful prison is the one where you don’t realize you are a prisoner. Did you ever see the movie The Matrix? People were prisoners without knowing it. So it can be with us. We can only be free, free to make choices based on truth, when we know the truth.

As Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)


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Healing the Pain of Sexual Abuse

healing the pain of sexual abuse

My first stepfather sexually abused me when I was 7 years old. A typical situation, I suppose – he threatened harm if I told anyone. Fortunately, there were other problems with the marriage, and my mom divorced him after only a year together. But we all had scars from that experience.

My scars fed my strong desire for revenge. As I grew older and came to understand what he had done to me, I grew angrier. In my late teens, I fantasized about running into him someday. I planned each move, the first being a fully energized kick square in the source of my suffering, sending him to his knees. There were times when I even dreamed of killing him. The hate was strong and painful.

About 20 years later, I met Jesus Christ and He started teaching me about love and forgiveness. It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson, but I finally let go of the hate. I wholeheartedly forgive my stepfather. I feel sorry for him, for he was a very troubled person. And I’m now free of my own troubles – free from the pain of hate and memories, freed by forgiveness. Thanks to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.