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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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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Mom, Dad, God

[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]

Are you a parent? Tricky business, that. Not for the faint of heart, they say—that’s a classic understatement.

I’m a father of two sons, who thankfully have survived to be respectable, honorable adults, despite all the mistakes I made in trying to help get them there. But looking back on that journey, though sometimes painful, can also be really interesting.

With only a few minutes of thought, here are some of the traits I think are important to being a parent:

  • Knowing when to let them fall down and skin their knee.
  • Knowing when to let the child lose. Falsely giving a child the impression they can always be a winner by making sure everyone gets a soccer trophy is just setting them up for major problems later, when the truth of life smacks them in the face.
  • Knowing when to hold back and let the child make a mistake. Cliché warning: we learn from our mistakes, hopefully.
  • Knowing when to let the child get a bad grade in a class by not doing their homework for them. That is, knowing when to let the child learn about the consequences of their action, or inaction.
  • Knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
  • And the list goes on.

Few of us parents have all these skills, and the others I can’t think of. But there is one, the only one, who is the perfect parent.

Well, yah, sure … I mean God. But I now ask you to take a look at God with these questions in mind:

  • Is life sometimes really hard for you?
  • Do you wonder why some of your prayers go unanswered?
  • Do you wonder why good people, even God-loving people, die young?
  • Do you wonder, if there is a God, how can he allow all the evil and mayhem that’s consuming the world?

Maybe the answer is partly because God is the perfect parent. He knows when to hold back and not step into our lives, allowing us to make our own mistakes. He knows not to butt in where He’s not invited.

And why would He do this, anyway? Maybe because He’s hoping we will finally realize we just can’t handle this mortal life on our own, and the only way we can cope is to give up trying and turn to Him to help us … turn to Him to love us.

What do you think?


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The Manmade Church – a Prison?

The manmade church; a building, the establishment,

rules, traditions, obligations, deceptions, false ideas about Christianity.

A prison?

Many are prisoners of a manmade church,

fastened to the church by a heavy chain of lies.

Picture in your mind… the church, the prisoner, and the heavy chain,

shackled to her ankle, holding her fast to the manmade church.

Now here comes Jesus,

with His love, and grace, and forgiveness, and truth.

And with His sword of truth Jesus shatters the chain, and sets the prisoners free.

His truth will set you free!


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Same-sex Marriage – Allowed by God

Supreme court gay marriage

My opinion about same-sex marriage has no meaning and doesn’t matter. But since I’ve posted some thoughts that attracted a little attention (see it here), I feel the need to add some clarification about my beliefs and opinion.

First: God’s opinion is what counts in my life, far more than my opinion. And God’s opinion is that same-sex marriage, and homosexuality, is wrong. Just like all sins. In God’s eyes, the only difference between a homosexual and me is the nature of our sins.

Second: no matter what God thinks about homosexuality as a life style, He still loves homosexuals as people. Just like all sinners.

Third: just because God loves homosexuals, doesn’t mean that God will save homosexuals and bring them to heaven in the end. Like all us sinners, salvation requires we have true faith in God and Jesus and that we repent of our sins (i.e., express sincere sorrow for our sins and ask for forgiveness). And homosexuals have the same ability to have faith and repent as I do. For just because we believe and repent does not mean that we magically stop sinning. My life is proof of that.

Finally: regarding the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, though I don’t think it is the Supreme Court’s responsibility to make such decisions, I also don’t think it’s any of our responsibilities to deny freedom of choice. God has given us all the freedom to make our own decisions about how we will live our lives. If someone decides that they are in their heart a homosexual, and they fall in love with someone of the same sex and, like most people truly in love, they want to get married – well, I don’t think any of us other sinners have the right to take that freedom of choice away from them.

Yet again, though God gives us freedom of choice, allowing for things like same-sex marriage, He still does not condone such acts. This tells us a lot about God – our compassionate and understanding parent.


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God Loves Homosexuals

Supreme court gay marriage

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.

 

(First posted 4/1/15, but I felt like posting it again)


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What is God’s purpose in His relationship with you?

I never understood the sadness until my own children were grown and out on their own. Yet my mom gave me a preview of coming emotions. She showed me how sad she could get every time I left her after a weekend visit. I thought she was being overly emotional. But I now share her feelings whenever my sons leave after a weekend home.

My purpose in my relationship with my sons has evolved as they’ve grown from babies into men. But one thing that never changes is my overwhelming desire to be with them and to show my love for them. God shares this desire in His relationship with you.

God’s’ singular purpose is unconditional love. Love is why He sent His Son to fulfill justice, while rescuing you from your own mistakes, yet forgiving you when you fall and helping you get back on your feet again. Love is why God helps you stand in the face of life’s storms. God’s purpose is to be your loving Father and for you to be His child. God’s purpose is to be your ultimate parent and to fill your hungry soul.


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What Should I Believe?

confusion

A dear friend once said to me, “I see so many different Christian churches, which I’m okay with, but they all have different messages. What should I believe?”

What we see as Christianity today looks like a bicycle wheel. Jesus is the hub, the center. Each church is like a spoke, and by the time Jesus’ original message gets to the outside end of the spoke, it’s filled with manmade modifications. Traveling around the outside of this wheel called Christianity can be a bumpy ride, as my friend discovered.

I don’t want to criticize churches who customize Jesus’ message. I think it’s natural, given our pride-filled human nature. Pride drives people to put their personal mark on things. My purpose with this post is to point to the truth, which you will find only at the center of the wheel, at Jesus.

And Jesus is easy to find. You will find His truth in the bible, in your prayers, and in your heart – for that is where the Holy Spirit of God lives.


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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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For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing

Wound Group cover photo

In the years I’ve spent on this blog site, surfing other peoples blog sites, and in my life outside the cyber-world, I’ve met many wounded Christians. The wounds come from churches. The wounds may come from other Christians. Or the wounds may come from inside themselves, from false ideas they believe to be true. There is no blame or guilt in all this – it’s just a result of people being normal, broken, sinful & prideful human beings.

I recently stepped out of my boat and ventured into Facebook land. It’s an interesting place. I discovered Facebook groups. I have since been inspired to start a group for wounded Christians. I just hope the inspiration came from God and not me.

This group is for sharing personal stories of suffering and confusion. Sharing stories may help others; by showing them they are not alone. Most importantly, this group is for sharing stories of healing. And this group is about sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. For it is His truth that will answer questions. It is His truth that will heal wounds. It is His truth that will set you free from pain, suffering, confusion, guilt, and many other manmade maladies.

A friend of mine described this Facebook group as “A wonderful group for those of you who love God but have been wounded by His people.”

The name of the group is “For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing.”


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Parenting Class

parenting class

MANY years ago, when my first son was a toddler, my wife and I went to a parenting class at our church. Actually, we took turns each week, with one of us staying home with our son. Yet even with just attending sporadically, I learned things that became part of my foundation for how to be a good parent.

I’d now like to teach a parenting class, where we would look at God as our roll model of a truly good parent. Here are some aspects of God’s parenting style that would be helpful for all parents…

  • Always forgiving
  • Unconditional love for all His children
  • No favorites
  • Gives His all for His children – He even sacrificed His only natural Son for His adopted children.
  • Always there, willing to listen
  • He lets His children learn by their own mistakes.
  • No spoiled brats in God’s family. There are be consequences for bad behavior.
  • He’s always there to help us with our homework.
  • He looks out for His children’s future, even if they don’t.

What else can you think of?


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Ignore, Accept, or Seek … the Truth

truth

All of us have a choice for how to respond to Jesus Christ. We can ignore Him, accept Him, or seek Him. We can pretend that He is not who He claimed to be, the Son of God. Or, we can accept His claim as fact, and thereby claim for ourselves the title “Christian.” Or, we can go beyond accepting, and seek an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.

The purpose for this blog, and the book I’m co-authoring, is to seek and proclaim the truth about Jesus and His church. I hope to help give people a chance to make their own decision about Jesus based on truth, rather than misconceptions.

Look, there are lots of wrong ideas about Jesus and Christianity floating around in this world. I just want to scrape away the dross of deceptions so people can clearly see the truth that lies just below the surface.


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Truth is Freedom

truth will set you free

We make our decisions based on what we know and believe. If what you believe to be true is a lie, then that lie becomes the foundation for your decisions.

We all have the chance to decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it be nice to be free to make that decision based on truth?

Yet some people aren’t interested in the truth, as Paul said, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Some may be more interested in their self-made delusions than the truth. So before someone can decide how they will respond to Jesus, they first must decide how they will respond to the truth.

The truth is freedom – from worry, fear, doubt, uncertainty, stress, guilt, and the control of lies. As Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) Yet, is there a dungeon door that separates you from the truth? Jesus is knocking on your door… and His truth will set you free.


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Writing for Love of Family

writing love

Most of my family isn’t Christian. I’m the family Jesus freak. Whenever a sister, niece, nephew, or in-law is brave enough to mention anything Christian around me, it’s clear their perspective of Christianity has been polluted by false information.

That’s why I’m writing the book I’ve been working on for the past 6 years. I just realized that I spent the first 4 ½ years doing research. It’s only the past 1 ½ years that I’ve been doing real writing.

Anyway, what gets me up at 4:00am each morning so I can write before going to work is love for my family. It hurts me to see some of them hurting because of the false ideas they have about God and Jesus. If they only knew the truth… they still might not accept Jesus, but at least they could make their decision based on truth, rather than lies.

And so I write, with the hope that I put my “self” aside long enough to let Jesus speak His truth to my family, through the book. His truth can set them free from the pain of the troubles in their lives.


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Is Relevance Relevant?

relevance

Many Christians believe that making the gospel relevant for our times will attract people to the church. Trying to “meet people where they live” is just what Jesus did, so this should be a good approach. Yet, judging by the dwindling numbers of those attending church, there must be something wrong with the drive for relevance.

The flaw of the relevance approach is when they change the message to meet the needs of the day. This takes the focus off the truth of Jesus. His message is eternal, in that it always meets the needs of the day, no matter what day it is. We always need love, always need faith, and always need hope. This is what Jesus has to offer, and it’s always relevant.

What people need is not a customized message for the day, which will loose power as conditions change. It’s not relevance that’s needed, but truth.


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Opening Your Mind

open mind

After Jesus was crucified and came back to life, his disciples had a hard time believing what they were seeing. They thought he was a ghost, still dead. They saw with their eyes, yet still did not understand. Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty understanding what you read in the bible, for even eyewitnesses had trouble.

Yet, as Jesus did for His disciples, He can do for us…“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) Understanding does not come from our own intellect, cleverness, or imaginations. Understanding comes from only one source, the Holy Spirit. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

If you are willing, the Holy Spirit can open your mind and show you the truth. As Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12-13)


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Roots of Deception

Roots of deception

Why do some Christians distort the truth of Jesus? There are two reasons. First is ego – to gain honor for themselves. As Jesus said, “He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:18)

Ever since Jesus preached His gospel while walking the roads of ancient Israel, people have felt the need to put their own mark on the truths He had proclaimed. Perhaps they felt their own personal revisions would improve His message. Or, maybe they were unable to accept His message as-is, and they decided to reshape it into something they could agree with.

“Everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:21) Everyone suffers from the temptation of believing that they know more or know better than God does. This disease of pride moves some people to re-make God and His message into their image.

The second reason the truth gets distorted is that well-meaning everyday Christians portray false ideas about the truth of Christianity just by how we live. We are imperfect human beings, tasked with conveying the perfect message of Jesus Christ. Our imperfections are bound to smudge the message now and then. Our human hands too easily mar the heavenly masterpiece of Jesus.


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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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Under attack from within

Truth

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” It’s often Christians who push people away from Christianity. That’s why I stayed away for much of my life – what I saw didn’t appeal to me. I initially rejected Jesus because of Christians who were not a good reflection of His truth.

National surveys show Christianity declining in the United States. The published reasons are varied, but they all point to this: Christianity is crumbling because of a lack of truth. Truth is healthy and strong; untruth is sick and weak.


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My Father God

To me, God is my perfect parent. God, my Father, loves me unconditionally. He may not always like some of the things I do, and He may even get angry at me sometimes. But like all really good parents, there is nothing I can do that will affect the love He has for me. And like all loving parents, what He may desire most is a close, intimate relationship with His children. “Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

I am so grateful to be a child of God.