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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Book Review: “The Power of the Spirit, Extracts From The Writings of W. Law,” selected by Andrew Murray

Available on Amazon. Yet you can likely find it other places as well.

First of all, this review is not for the other book called The Power of the Spirit, by William Law, the one that was edited for modern readers. This review is for a book that Andrew Murray pulled together in the late 1800’s as a collection of Law’s writings that Murray found particularly powerful in conveying the truth of the Holy Spirit.

Second: it appears to me that all of Law’s observations of the state of the Christian church are as relevant today as they were back in the early 1700’s, when he wrote them.

It may feel like a harsh reality, but I think one of the most effective ways to help someone who’s seeking the fruits of Christianity is to show them the flaws of the church. The flaws show a Christianity that isn’t truthful. The flaws cause deception. The flaws paint an image of Christianity that just isn’t real. William Law helps clean away the smudges and deceptions of the church in a way that will help the reader see the power in the one true church of Jesus Christ. For when you see the flaws and compare them to the truth, the power of the truth stands out bright and vivid.

Law himself said he wasn’t necessarily out to demean any particular church. He was just driven to advance the truth, and he very effectively shows how the truth of Christianity is not always found in a human-managed church. The reason is simple—humans, all humans, are flawed. We are plagued by our natural human pride, that same pride that is at the root of all sins. And it’s that human pride that distorts the truth and defaces Jesus’ church.

What Law clearly shows, even in his 18th century language and writing style*, is that the one true church of Jesus Christ is centered on a relationship with the Holy Spirit. The church is not an external thing, like a build with human-managed committees. The church is internal. The church is the relationship of the Holy Spirit with your soul.

This book will alienate some, and piss off others. They may call Law a hieratic. They may call me the same thing for endorsing the book. But that’s the hard reality of the Bible—some people just don’t want to believe some of the Bible’s seemingly harder truths. Those hard truths are the ones that challenge our natural prideful and selfish personalities.

So as I’ve done in other book reviews, I offer you a word of caution. Don’t read this book unless you feel you’re ready for some hard teaching. But if you’re ready, you’ll be so grateful you read it. The truth of Christianity looks so much better than the image painted by many modern churches.

 

*(Note: this book might be written in the style of the late 1800’s, when Andrew Murray compiled it. Maybe Murray edited the writing to match the style of his day.)


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Are You Content With Too Little?

Is there an ever-present, gnawing hunger in your soul? Hunger for a sense of peace, and maybe something more, that you believe is achievable, but never within your grasp? I’m referring to the peace that Jesus promised us, the peace that is so deep and all consuming that its power is beyond our ability to understand. But, it’s not beyond our ability to possess.

Yet, based on my own experience, I think we can fall into a trap of being content with too little. And I sense that Satan baits the trap.

I urge you … don’t take the bait. BELIEVE that the peace Jesus promises is for you too. And then go look for it. The best part is that you don’t have to look far, because the peace and fulfillment you seek are right inside you. That is, the peace comes from your own intimate relationship with the Spirit of Jesus, where as He prayed, you are in Him, and He is in you.

So where are you on your journey to find the Spirit of Jesus within you? Are you where I lingered for more years than I want to admit? Are you teetering on the edge of belief? If you don’t yet have the faith that has crossed over into a deep feeling of certainty, maybe what you need is to get to know Jesus better. After all, it’s hard to believe someone if you don’t know them very well.

If this is you, then you are one of the many people for whom I wrote We Called Him Yeshua. Please check it out, for in the personal stories told by some of the people who walked with Jesus, you can come to know Him as intimately at they did.

Available on Amazon, currently priced as low as Amazon will allow.

 

Now then, for those of you who are past your struggles with unbelief, I’d like to refer you to other books that have helped me find the Spirit of Jesus within my soul (book recommendations). And I’ll continue adding to this list of books as I write more reviews.

Finally, here’s a quote from a book I’m reading for the 7th time, where I’ll be posting a review sometime soon.

“He (God) often calls men blind, complaining that we are content with too little. God has infinite treasures to give us, he says. Why should we be satisfied with a brief moment of worship? With such meager devotion, we restrain the flow of God’s abundant grace. If God can find a soul filled with a lively faith, He pours His grace into it in a torrent that, having found an open channel, gushes out exuberantly.”

The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.


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Books For the Next Step of Your Journey

A critical and sometime treacherous milestone on our journey to get closer to God and Jesus is when we come to the fork in the road where straight ahead is just a continuation of the road we’ve been on. But the path that splits off from this takes us away from the maps we’ve always relied on—the written word and spoken sermon—and leads us down the path of the Spirit of Jesus. If we choose the path of the Spirit, Jesus will take our hand and lead us the rest of the way.

But we need the maps to find this fork in the road. We need written or spoken words to lead us to an indwelling relationship with the Holy Spirit. Other than the Bible, the books I recommend are ones I found to help me the most in my journey, and that led me to my own relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me.

At some point while on your own journey, you may find that there are no written words that can continue to satisfy the hunger that burns within you. You may find that the only food that fills you can come from the Spirit Himself, where it’s His presence that fills you. The presence of Jesus will satisfy you even more than the Bible.

You may discover the best moments in life are when you sit quietly, empty your mind of the world and your “self,” and let the Spirit fill your mind, heart, and your very soul. And that’s where you will find the peace that goes beyond human understanding.

Oh, we can always draw satisfaction from books and sermons, but those will only serve as appetizers. Our real spiritual meal can only come from the Holy Spirit.

As William Law said in one of the books* I will recommend:

“But as Christ’s teaching in the flesh was only preparatory to His future vital teaching by the Spirit, so the teaching of Scripture by words written with ink and paper is only preparatory, or introductory to all that inward essential teaching of God, which is by His Spirit and truth within us.”

* “The Power of the Spirit, Extracts From the Writings of W. Law,” selected by Andrew Murray.

So, if you’re interested in more, please follow this link to my new book recommendation page on my cjpenn.com website.


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Which Tree Will You Eat From?

The decision that tempted Adam and Eve is the same decision we all must make. Which tree shall we eat from—the tree of Life or the tree of Knowledge? Of course, many of us make no decision at all between Life with Jesus verses Knowledge of Jesus. And maybe that’s because we don’t realize there’s a decision to make.

Those who choose the tree of Knowledge includes people like me, who love reading books about Christianity, always chasing after new insight. It can also include people who go to seminary and get a divinity degree, with their heads now crammed full of Biblical and theological facts, histories, and commentaries.

But what about those who choose Life? This choice is always available to us, even to those who first choose the tree of Knowledge. I’m so grateful we can always change our minds. In choosing Life, we’ll find what we seek in only one place, the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus. The fruit of the tree of Life is the fruit of the Spirit, for the Spirit is life.

The way of the Spirit does not rely on knowledge, but rather on love and surrender to the leading of the Spirit. True Christianity is not about knowledge, but rather about an intimate relationship with the Spirit of Jesus.

We find true life when we put down the book, quiet our minds, close our eyes and heart to the world, and look inside for Jesus who lives within us. And He will help us sweep away the clutter of life and knowledge so we can more clearly see Him.

Oh, books and sermons and such sources of knowledge are good, but only when they lead us to the Holy Spirit. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is meaningless, a mere chasing after the wind.

I don’t mean to demean reading the Bible or any other form of Christian study. But the value won’t come while trying to understand with our own human wisdom. The real value in learning comes when we read and listen through the Spirit within us. And only then will the Spirit open our eyes and minds to the true meaning and value in the printed and spoken words. The Spirit of Truth will guide us into the truth. Let me give you an example.

I just finished reading a chapter in the book “Abide in Christ,” by Andrew Murray. I’ve read this book three times before, and never saw the truth that I saw today. And the truth I’m referring to isn’t solely in this one book, for it’s also clearly spelled out in the Gospels. Jesus himself states this truth, in words that could not be any clearer. But I’d never see that truth, it never sunk into my thick head, until today (I’ll probably write a post about this particular truth sometime soon).

Anyway, I believe I finally saw that truth because the Spirit of Jesus opened my mind to it. And it left me wondering—what other clearly defined truths have I been blind to in the Bible?

Are you looking for something more than head-knowledge of Jesus? Just look inside yourself, and let the Spirit of Jesus open your mind and show you the way. As he said: “I praise you, Father, … because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.” (Matthew 11:25) And, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (v. 29)

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)


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To Have the Son of God Living Within You

What was it like for pregnant Mary to know the Son of God lived in her womb, drawing nourishment from her body, growing stronger and bigger every day? We know a little from “Mary’s Song,” in Luke 1:46-56. Drawing from that, and a fair amount of imagination, maybe Mary’s story looked something like this.

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She woke from a fitful night’s sleep. It had been five months since the angel told her she would be with child, God’s child. She rose from her straw bed, her back sore and her feet swollen. Suddenly she felt a flutter somewhere just below her stomach, sending a chill running up her spine.

She’d never doubted the angel, and she’d known she was indeed with child, by the days of stomach sickness, thankfully now passed. And she so easily grew tired. But until that morning, those were the only signs. And then the baby moved within her.

A thrill of nervousness filled her stomach and chest. There was an actual child growing within her, but not wholly her child. It felt somehow foreign. As the days continued striding forward, she felt moments of fear, wonder, and bewilderment. She even wondered if the child would be partly her, as a normal child is part of its mother and father. Or was her body purely a vessel.

The weeks passed. The child was growing bigger and stronger, and oh so active. It woke her in the middle of the night, pushing a foot against a rib, or leaning on her bladder, forcing her out of bed and to the privy, yet again.

Later that day, as she sat in the shade of the house and rubbed her lower back, she was suddenly filled with profound faith, peace, and comfort, excited for every new day being so close to God, so honored by His presence. For how else should she feel, with the true Son of God living within her very body?

She’d believed she felt God’s presence the entire time she was pregnant. She’d often pondered it ever since the angel spoke to her. But for some reason, this day it struck her as much more that belief, but as a certain reality. Her soul wanted to shout out her joy to God, and her excitement and gratitude were beyond her ability to put into words. She felt so truly blessed by God, honored above other people. And that honor filled her with a sweet humility. God had chosen her, a lowly young woman. Why? What love God must have for her to give her such an honor.

As the days continued to go by, some slowly, some quickly, she would find herself suddenly feeling a moment of extreme thrill. Yet most of the time she was simply filled with limitless peace. And she felt that the peace came from the pure, unblemished holiness growing within her.

Then one day, when she knew the time of birth was getting near, she suddenly saw herself torn in how she felt. For as much as she anxiously desired to see the baby with her eyes and hold him in her arms, she dreaded the separation birth would bring. While pregnant, she had always felt as close to God as she thought anyone could possibly feel. She now feared losing that intimacy. But also, because of a premonition that had been lurking in the depths of her mind, she felt a growing dread for what would happen to the child as he grew into a man.

She hid those dark thoughts, for now was not their time. Now was the time to relish in the presence of the Son of God within her, filling her with peace, and love, and grace. She closed her eyes and smiled, looking again to the light of God within her that overpowered all other thoughts.

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We can share in Mary’s experience, in a way. If we believe Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we too can have the Son of God living within us, not as a fetus, but as Spirit.


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By the Power the Holy Spirit

“Every minister of the gospel is called to rest content with nothing less than the indwelling life and power of the Holy Spirit. This is to be his only preparation for preaching the gospel in power. Nothing less than having Christ speaking through us in the power of His omnipotence will make us able ministers of the New Testament, bringing salvation to all who hear us.”     Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray, an 18th century minister in South Africa, is one of my favorite authors of Christian nonfiction. Over the years, I’ve read lots of his books, along with other similar books by equally great authors, such as A.W. Tozer, William Law, Brother Lawrence, and many more. For some reason, most of my favorite Christian authors are long dead—something they share with the authors of my ultimate favorite book, the Bible.

Anyway, if I were to pursue a theology education with the goal of becoming an ordained minister, I would be sure to include my favorite authors in my studies. But all that reading and effort, though valuable and helpful for me, would not adequately equip me to help others, for I would lack the most important trait for being an effective minister. I think Andrew Murray expressed it far better than I ever could.


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Driven by Passion

Someone recently asked me what passions fuel my writing. What drives me to get up around 4:00am each morning to write before I leave for work? Well, there are two primary passions underlying everything I write, and these passions are fueled by my relationship with God and Jesus.

First, I’m passionate about truth, as I sometimes don’t see the truth in messages coming from some of today’s churches. Also, I’m passionate about a personal, intimate relationship with God and Jesus, through their Holy Spirit. I believe what Jesus said and promised, about the Spirit living within us. I believe He said this as more than something symbolic, but as a vivid reality, something available to all who chose to believe. Yet, I see so little mention of the truth of the Holy Spirit in today’s churches.

Because of these passions, my current book, We Called Him Yeshua, is at its core, about having a very personal, one-on-one relationship with the Spirit of Jesus who lives inside each of us who believe. My hope is that by coming to see the human side of Jesus, which is a major theme of the book, people will more easily relate to Him, and feel closer to Him. And in feeling this way, my hope is they will then look for Jesus inside themselves, and find His Spirit waiting for them there.


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Another Day, Another … ah Hell

I don’t want to write about it … but I am, compelled by something, maybe someone. Another day, another mass shooting(s). I could probably post this on any random day and it would apply. But today, it feels like the fabric of humanity is ripping apart, or that’s how it feels to me, whatever the fabric of humanity is. In El Paso. And Dayton.

What do I want? Answers? Escape. Escape from the tragedy, the torment, the pain of it all. Today I feel helpless to help—I can’t even help myself. I can’t free myself from that ripping feeling in my gut.

So, quiet place, close eyes, breathe, slowly. Go inside, and look. There’s Jesus—his Spirit within me, always here, always waiting. He smiles—a sad, compassionate smile. He holds out his arms, I fall in, and my soul weeps, his arms wrapping around me, comforting me. And we mourn together. And I feel it—His love that heals wounds, and his peace.

Oh Lord, please help. So many people, so much pain, so many out there, in Texas, in Ohio, hurting, wailing, shattered.

If you’re reading this and you too are hurting, maybe look inside yourself, to your soul, living just below the surface. And more than your soul, you may see His Spirit there, waiting, smiling, maybe even crying, for this hurts him too. And maybe the two of you can hold each other, and cry together, just below the surface, His Spirit and your soul.

And no matter what’s going on elsewhere in the world, in your little world you can have some peace, and love. And if enough of us surround ourselves with the love that comes from Jesus living inside us, it may spread to others. I think that would help.

Will the mass shootings stop? I doubt it. Humanity is too broken. But maybe we aren’t helpless to help, for the help just might already live inside of each of us, waiting for us to look His way.

 

The ways of the world aren’t helping, so maybe it’s time to look beyond the world.


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To Church, or Not to Church, That is the Question

“So, where do you go to church?” I use to hate that question. It’s been ten years since I attended the Presbyterian Church in town, and still, I run across people I sat next to in those pews, but haven’t seen since then. We bump into each other in the grocery store or coffee shop, and they always ask, “So CJ, where do you go to church now?”

I always felt awkward replying to the question, for I haven’t attended a regular church since leaving Presby. Oh, in my early days as a de-churched orphan, I test-drove other churches in town, but for reasons I don’t totally understand, I never felt like going back.

So my answer to the question usually starts with, “Well, um, you see. I don’t go to church. Haven’t since leaving Presby.”

My inquisitor usually gets that look, maybe you’ve seen it. Their face fills with concern and fear for my soul. They immediately believe I’ve left Christianity and jumped into the black pit of heathendom.

“However,” I truthfully add, “I feel closer to Jesus and God now than I ever have before.”

The look changes from concern and fear to confusion. How could that be, how could someone find closeness to God and Jesus without attending church? My fellow pew-sitter from the past and I usually part ways, with them still wondering about my soul (I suspect), and me felling I didn’t get my message across.

But now I have a better answer to the question.

Where do I go to church? Well, my Church doesn’t have a name, and there is no building. For me, Church is not a place—it’s a belief. When do I go to church? Whenever I want, and it’s not just Sunday. I go to church every day, any time of the day, whenever I can wrestle my thoughts away from the outside world and look inside, to Jesus within me.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that Church, the one true Church, is wherever His Spirit lives. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit of God resided in the Temple, in the back room called the Holy of Holies. But Jesus changed all that.

As He said, His Spirit now lives within all who believe in Him and believe what He promised. He promised that His Spirit would be IN us, and we IN Him. You’ve heard the phrase, you body is a Temple. So true, if you believe.

Look inside, to the Spirit of Jesus within you, and you will find the one true Church.

 

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses on the subject:

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

He also said, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)

As Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)


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Instead of Looking Forward, Look Inside

Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, I’m thinking about what I’ll do once I get home. While putting away groceries, I’m thinking about that broken garbage disposal I need to replace – I hate plumbing jobs. And I’ve never installed a garbage disposal. I’ll put that off until tomorrow, though I’m sure I’ll think more about it today.

But my problem is not the garbage disposal, or other chores, or the book I wish I had time to read, or the writing I’d rather be doing. My problem is where my mind tends to live … in the future. Most of the time my mind is thinking about what comes next. My body is in the present, but my mind is somewhere else.

Then this morning it occurred to me: I’m missing out on life. By choosing to let my mind live in the future, it’s leaving behind the true life that is now. It’s like I’m stepping out of reality to live in another dimension of fantasy (sounds like I’m on drugs). This train of thought is quickly becoming a bit deep for me. But I like where it’s taking me.

“Now” is where real people live. Now is where the truth lives. Now is where reality lives. Now is where peace lives, for the future is often full of worry. And most importantly for me, now is where God lives. Now and here within me is where the Spirit of Jesus lives.

When my mind runs to the future, I usually leave Jesus behind. I think that’s a reason I often feel stressed – the future is full of stress, yet I leave the peace of Jesus back in my present.

But I now see more clearly the power of living in the present. When my mind begins to drift off to what comes next, I can remind myself to pull it back and instead focus on this present moment. The tick of the clock. The whistling bird outside. The gentle rain. This blog post I’m writing. The cozy feel of the turtleneck sweater on my neck. And the peaceful feel of the Spirit of Jesus within me.

Where does your mind tend to live? Do you leave behind good times so your mind can focus on uncertain times? If you’re like me, I encourage you to tackle that mind of yours and pull it back to now. And then, instead of looking forward, look inside. That’s where Jesus lives.


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Imagination – It’s Feeding Me – It’s Killing Me

Oh, my imagination helps me in my job, and it often feeds my writing. It’s my minds eye, conjuring up images within my thoughts. Yet it also leads me down paths of worry, and pulls me back into the stress pit.

My imagination hungers for my attention. It often devours hours of time. Precious time which can never be regained, wasted thinking about things that will never happen, or have already happened. What my imagination gives in return is stress.

And my imagination distracts me from Jesus and God. Yet when steered in the right direction, my imagination sees Jesus’ Spirit within me, sharing my life with me.

My imagination – I love it and I hate it. Dear Jesus, please help me keep my minds eye focused on You.


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The Last Prayer

I’ve been reading the gospel of John, again. It’s my favorite of the four gospels. This morning I read chapter 17. And a reality that I’ve seen before hit me in a fresh way – I love it when Jesus does that to me.

In the last section, Jesus is praying for all “those who will believe in me (Jesus) through their (Apostles) message.” (verse 20) He’s praying for all Christians, including me. Well, that reality began to stir my emotions. And then the last verse in chapter 17 knocked me over…

“Righteous Father, … I have made you know to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (verse 26)

My first though was that this was Jesus’ final prayer before He was arrested, chained, tortured, and dragged to His death. But then I remembered that He prayed again in the olive grove just before His arrest, and then again while hanging on the cross.

Though verse 26 isn’t Jesus’ final prayer, it still amazes me that even so close to the torture that awaited Him, Jesus could care so much about all Christians who would come after Him. And His prayer was that He Himself would be in us… His Holy Spirit living in all who believe!

So close to death and Jesus thinks of those who would follow 2000 years later. I’m humbly grateful and I want to honor Jesus and His prayer by opening myself to His Spirit.

Dear Jesus, come on in.


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Want Truth?

Are you looking for truth? Does your life feel full of confusion, delusion, and deception? Does truth seem hard to find? You will find truth in a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit… the Spirit of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)

And… “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)


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More Than a Thought

“The presence of God” – what does it mean? Is it keeping God in our thoughts, thinking of Him as often as we are able? Focusing my mind on God and Jesus throughout my day – is that my goal?

NO… that’s not good enough for me. And it’s not what Jesus promised.

Jesus prayed for and promised that we would remain “in” Him and He would remain “in” us (e.g., John 15:4). And Jesus made it clear throughout His teachings that He’s talking about His actual Spirit being in us; His Holy Spirit.

“The presence of God” is more than a thought. It’s the Holy Spirit living within you, sharing space with your soul. And I’m so grateful.


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A Constant Inner Joy

“His soul has been filled with a constant inner joy that is sometimes so overwhelming, he feels compelled to do what may seem to some as childish things, in order to prevent the feeling from becoming too intense.”

A constant inner joy – that’s what I crave. And I’m not alone in my hunger. There’s such an emptiness and need in this world for peace and joy. And it’s only found in an inner relationship with the Spirit of Jesus, living within us.

I’m re-reading The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence (for about the sixth time). That’s where the quote above comes from. Brother Lawrence knew the constant inner joy of the presence of God.

I’m on a journey to feel that same overwhelming, constant inner joy. I want to act goofy and dance for joy, simply because I can’t help myself. And I hope that somehow, I can help others find their own constant inner joy. Would you like to come along on this journey?


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It’s Love…

… His love for you, and your love for Him.

That’s what connects you to the Spirit of Jesus, living within you.

It’s not your mind… too many distractions in this life God gave you.

But where there’s love, true love… when you mind turns away from distractions and looks inside to Jesus, He’s always there, waiting for you, holding fast to your love.

And you will truly feel Him – no more doubts.

It’s love, true love, unconditional and humble love that surrenders you heart and life to Him.

Do you crave His presence?

Then look to your love.

With a dedicated and humble heart, love grows, and true love will blossom.

And you will never feel alone again.


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Re-designing my Purpose, and Website

God is still chipping away at me, gradually changing me. And He has a way of making the most out of this flawed block of raw material called CJ.

Anyway, since God has been making changes in my life, I figure it’s time for me to make some changes to this website. After all, this site is a reflection of who I am, and who I’m becoming.

And thanks to God, I now passionately believe that living with the Spirit of Jesus is the solution to all of life’s problems. My desire to share this truth is driving the changes I’ve started making to this website.

If you’ve been here before, you’ll notice a difference. One is a new Home page, with a special invitation. Check it out if you like.