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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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)