On my way to the Philippines for work. Eleven hours, middle seat in coach. At least an exit row. But there’s a pungent odor seeping out of the apparently un-bathed guy next to me. Time for a breather. Strolling the aisle, a sea of faces, none familiar.
Finally, Tokyo. Three-hour layover, and grateful to give achy legs a good stretch. Wandering the airport corridors, travelers everywhere. Sure would be fun to see someone I know. But nope.
Next plane. Five more hours to Manila. Plane packed, but at least I have an aisle seat. Still no familiar faces. Manila airport, I’m drowning in another sea of people. And the midnight humidity—clinging my tired clothes to tired skin. Dark outside, fluorescent gloom inside. I feel like an alien, all alone.
But not truly alone. Cramped in a middle seat next to my stinky neighbor, the Holy Spirit was with me. Walking through Tokyo airport, the Holy Spirit was with me. The entire trip, the Holy Spirit was within me. Whenever I felt alone, I looked to the Spirit of Jesus. And He’s always there. I’m never alone.
As Christmas approaches, especially this 2020 Christmas, I find myself spending more and more time thinking of those who may end up being more alone this Christmas than ever before. Christmas is traditionally a hard time for a lot of people. And with all the suffering of 2020, and all the loss of family and friends, I suspect that this Christmas will be harder than most. But maybe people can turn their loneliness and despair into an opportunity to form or revitalize a new relationship … with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.
My trip to Manila took place about seven years ago. During those seven years, my relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me has grown stronger. Even when I drift away for days or weeks, He’s still right there when I look back at Him. Looking hasn’t always been easy, with my often-scattered mind and spiritual attention deficit disorder. But for what it’s worth, here’s what has worked for me, and maybe it will work for you:
As often as you can, go to a quiet place, away from the noise and distractions of your world. Close your eyes. Quiet your thoughts. Leave the cares and concerns of your life outside. Focus just on your breathing, each breath in, each breath out. Once you’ve quieted your mind enough, try to visualize the Spirit of Jesus within you. Not up in heaven, not sitting beside you, but inside you, sharing your body with your soul. And just be with Him.
This may be hard at first—it certainly was for me. You may feel you failed, at first. But don’t give up. As often as you can throughout your day, practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. Start each day this way. At some point, you will feel His presence. Then you will know that from that day on, you will never be alone.
And by sharing your life with Jesus, maybe this Christmas could be your best Christmas ever.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17)
It’s not much, but it’s all I have to give you. And this Christmas, more than any other in my life, I think giving is more important than ever, much more important than receiving.
All I have to give you is an ebook—not much really. But I think the most important gifts anyone can give this year are more than books or anything else we can hold in our hands. The most important gifts are things like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
My hope is that my little gift of this book may blossom into a more intimate relationship with Jesus, where you truly feel His love. My hope is that I’m giving you love.
And for reasons maybe none of us can anticipate, I hope you have a Christmas that, though maybe stained with sorrow, is also filled with unexpected joy, a joy you can carry with you as we all stumble into the next year.
To receive the gift I give to you, please go to the Amazon page and download the Kindle book. It will remain free only through the end of today.
In honor of Christmas, a Christmas in which we all need as much peace and joy as we can get, I’d like to give you a copy of my book. This weekend, December 12th and 13th, the ebook of my novel “We Called Him Yeshua” is FREE on Amazon.
So why should you get this book, other than the fact that it’s a free gift? Well, from Amazon customer reviews:
“It seemed like I was reading personal diaries of some of the people that Jesus lived with and miraculously changed.”
“I found myself really enjoying this because it was real. It wasn’t preaching at me, it was telling me story in a very real and human way.”
“C.J. Penn walks us through what it might be like to meet Jesus in our everyday lives.”
“I appreciate how the author shows you the compassion, humbleness and gentleness of Jesus as he interacted lovingly with messy people.”
And hey, this book might make a good Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December. Plus, the ebook is FREE this weekend.
The house is brightly decorated: nutcrackers, wreaths, red ribbons, mistletoe, a goofy looking reindeer made from a sock, memories brought back to life by tree ornaments once made by child hands, and the glistening lights with the colorful ornaments bringing life to the tree. The gifts encircle it all. Cheery wrapping paper and gift bags brighten the floor around the Christmas tree.
And then, all that colorful wrapping ends up in the trash. And the decorations are all packed away, forgotten until next year. The gifts are soon absorbed into our everyday life and just become another possession. Or they are totally forgotten in the back of a drawer, or the top of a dusty shelf.
But there’s one piece of Christmas that lingers. There’s one bright and lively Christmas gift that remains, and is not forgotten.
When all else is packed away or is put on the curb in the trash can, the Spirit of Jesus can still fill the house, and your heart, with His life and love and joy.
Are you looking for the meaning of Christmas? Are you looking for a feeling and a true sense of the presence of the meaning of Christmas in your life? Well, as you may know, all you need do is look inside of you. Look deep inside, to your soul, your spirit; that’s where I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, live.
Find a quiet place, tune out the world’s noise about Christmas, and look inside to me within you. And we will have a Merry Christmas together. And the joy and peace that comes from finding Christmas (that is, me) inside of you, will bubble to the surface and begin to splash out on the people around you. And in this way, we – you and me – can share the true meaning of Christmas with others.
Give yourself a present this Christmas, the most precious present of all. Give yourself time … quiet time … with me, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the true Spirit of Christmas. Fill your mind with me, and I will fill your heart with the peace and joy of Christmas.
Does Christmas stir up feelings of excitement, anticipation, generosity, and love? Does Christmas give you a chance to show people in your life how much you care for them? And as you get closer to Christmas day, are you looking forward to being with friends and family, to eat good food, share gifts, and celebrate? Even with the usual family dynamics? Hey, maybe Christmas can be a chance to forgive unresolved grievances.
I hope so. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, hope that my children come together this Christmas and share their love for each other. Maybe with a plate of cookies. Or a colorfully wrapped gift. Or a card with a sincere note inside. Or a hug. Or a “sorry.”
Of course I hope you include me in your time with friends and family. But my desire goes beyond me, to others. Please, make the most of this Christmas by looking beyond yourself, looking beyond me, and look to each other. And love each other. It’s love that makes a Merry Christmas.
Are you newly dechurched? Have you decided that the institutional church isn’t for you, at least for now? And will this Christmas be the first one in a long time where you will not be celebrating with a church? Or is this just one more year of a churchless Christmas?
However your answers make you feel, I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, wish no guilt be upon you. I know what you’re going through. And it’s okay.
If you can’t bring yourself to enter a church during this annual time of celebration, then bring yourself to enter into me. If you can’t walk through the doors of the church sanctuary, then walk through the door of the sanctuary of your heart. That’s where I worship. Join me within the depths of your heart this Christmas, and we will worship and celebrate together.
All those people filling the stores, shopping for Christmas presents. Movie theaters packed with fans excitedly watching the new Star Wars movie. Families and friends coming together to feast and celebrate Christmas.
Yet, do you feel alone? Are you surrounded by people, yet still by yourself? Do you have no one to buy a gift for? Is there no one who will give you a gift?
Well, you have me, the Spirit of Jesus Christ. You always have me, right here below the surface of you. You may not feel my presence, but I’m here.
If you have no one else to celebrate Christmas with, please celebrate with me. If you have no one else to exchange gifts with, please exchange a gift with me. Let’s give each other our time, and our love. Let’s have a Merry Christmas together, you and me.
Long ago I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, gave the first Christmas gift – I gave myself for you. And now, about 2000 years later, with every moment of every day, I give myself to you. I give you salvation, love, peace, and myself – my Spirit.
I offer my gift to everyone. My love and generosity have no conditions. The only conditions live within those who don’t accept my gift.
Please, look inside yourself to me, and accept my gift given to you. And Merry Christmas.
I’m the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the true Spirit of Christmas. Sadly, many of my children find little to celebrate during this season of my birth. The burdens of their lives darken their thoughts – it’s hard to see the light of Christmas when your mind and heart are dark with suffering. Christmas only reminds them of what they no longer have: loved ones who are gone, relationships that are wounded beyond healing, comforting traditions far in the past and no longer reachable. The list goes on.
If Christmas is a hard time for you, then please, don’t face it alone. Let me in. Let me be with you this Christmas. And together, we’ll find something to celebrate. You have me, and I have you… friends to the end of the age, and beyond. No one can take that away from us. Now that’s something to celebrate.
When I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, walked the earth as man, I tried convincing people that the kingdom of heaven is near. My hearts desire was to give my children a sense of urgency, a real feeling that heaven is coming and they should be prepared.
Well, I now wish to tell you that the kingdom of heaven is here, within your very soul, if you believe. For I am heaven returned to earth. And my hearts desire today is to live within you, sharing your soul and life with you. This is the gift I offer you. And like any gift, it becomes real only when you believe in it and accept it. So please, accept my gift, my presence given to you. It’s my Christmas gift to you. And then we can celebrate this Christmas together.
Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
Of course his prediction was true. Christians are persecuted. But why? Why do so many people attack Christianity and Christians? Why do so many people attack Christmas, and try to take “Christ” out of Christmas? You can’t call it Christmas anymore; instead call it the holidays. Can’t call it a Christmas tree; instead call it a holiday tree. It all seems silly to me, and I don’t understand what’s going on.
Yet, people usually attack something because they feel threatened by it. Could that be why Christianity is under attack, because some people feel threatened by Jesus? But if that’s the case, what’s so threatening about Jesus? If he’s a legend, as a lot of people claim, where’s the threat in a legend? Something that’s false can’t hurt you.
Maybe, and this is where I’m really using my imagination, people attack Christianity because deep inside themselves, something is telling them that Jesus is real and true.
I am the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and Christmas is coming soon – the celebration of my human birth. Would you like to give me a present this year? I have only one present on my wish list. And it’s a simple thing really. What I want more than anything is quiet time with you… just the two of us. There is no greater gift that you could give to me.
I love all the gifts, the receiving, and the giving. I love the time with family, even though it’s often too brief. I love all the food and the drinks. But ever since I became Christian, I looked for something more in my Christmas. I looked for some special sense of Jesus’ presence. Sometimes I would find it during Christmas Eve service at church. Sometimes I would find the sense of closeness in the middle of a conversation, or a quiet time late at night. Sometimes I wouldn’t find it, but I always looked for that feeling of something different.
This year, I didn’t find a new or different sense of Jesus’ presence in my life. But that’s because I feel His presence all the time. Oh yes, I’m often not thinking about Jesus’ Spirit within me. But the sense of His close presence is just a thought away, and He’s always there, waiting for me to turn to Him. I turned to Him a lot this Christmas, and it felt the same as every other day. But that’s okay.
It’s a cliché, but for me, maybe every day is like Christmas day. And I’m so grateful.
Christmas day – I believe there’s more to celebrate than the 2000-plus year anniversary of Jesus’ birth. For Jesus is born again, every time someone opens their heart with faith, and lets the Holy Spirit of Jesus in their life. If you look to God and ask Him to live with you, within your body and with your soul, Jesus is re-born as human, as you.
And when you open the door of your heart to let the Spirit of Jesus into your life, you are re-born as a new person. No longer just you, but you and Jesus, in one.
Christmas day – there’s a lot to celebrate. Happy Birthday all.
A basic principle in life is that if you follow the rules, you will benefit in some way. If you follow the rules at your job, doing what’s expected of you, then you will continue to get a paycheck. If you follow the rules at school, diligently studying and doing all the assignments, then you’ll get good grades. If you follow the rules within society, obeying the civil laws, than you can enjoy some level of freedom, protection and rights. If you follow the rules in your relationships, being kind and considerate to others, than family, friends and co-workers will be kind and considerate to you. If you follow the rules of whatever religion you choose, then you will gain whatever benefits that religion advertises.
Of course all these examples first require that we believe in the rules and be willing to follow them. We need to first trust that following the rules will provide the expected benefit. If I don’t trust my employer, if I believe they might not actually pay me, then I’m outta there.
So the means to life’s benefits is to first trust, then follow and obey, and then collect the prize; whether it’s a paycheck, or continued civil freedoms, or whatever. Trust, obey, then benefits; always in that order. Your “obedience” comes from a desire to gain the “benefits.”
Now please allow me to put you into a story that mixes up this three-step process…
Imagine you have lost your job and the bank is foreclosing on your mortgage – for some of you, this may come far too easily. As you sit in front of your TV, trying to find a moment’s distraction from your worries, there’s a knock at the door. You get up to find a man in a three-piece suit standing on your front step. What now? Someone from the bank perhaps, with more bad news. How much worse can it get?
Upon reluctantly opening the door, you discover he’s not from the bank, but he is a businessman and he claims to have a proposition for you. But first he’d just like to chat so you can get to know each other. What the heck; you have nothing else to do.
As the minutes slip by, you find yourself becoming more amazed with this stranger sitting across from you. For someone who at first appeared very intimidating in his clothing and manner, you find his personality quite enchanting. You cannot help but like him.
After chatting for an hour or so, he re-directs the subject back to his original purpose; the proposition. Without any fanfare, he states that he wishes to give you the money to pay off your mortgage.
“What? Why?” you ask (these are the only words you can muster, being a bit in shock as it were). His only response, “Do you believe that I would do this for you?” You don’t quite understand why; maybe it’s because of the sincerity, honesty, integrity, and even love that he conveyed while chatting to you, but after thinking for just a moment you say yes, you do believe. He immediately responds, “That’s why. That’s the reason I’m giving you this money. Just because you believe I will.”
Without a pause for effect, he pulls out of his inside coat pocket a certified cashier’s check, already made out in your name and for the exact amount of the balance on your mortgage. The state of shock intensifies as you stare at the check in your hands.
As the man now gets up to leave, you ask him, “What can I possibly do to thank you for this?” He smiles and quietly reaches into the same inside coat pocket and this time pulls out a business card. Handing the card to you he says, “I would like to give you a job. If you want it, be at my office next Monday, at 8:00. And by the way, your salary will be double what you got at your last job.”
When you look up from staring at the card, you find he is gone, but the personality that he exuded seems to remain.
Trust, benefits, and then obedience. In this story, obedience comes from gratitude for benefits already received, rather than a promise of benefits yet to be collected.
Most religions adhere to the more typical path; first trust and have faith, then obey the laws and rules, and then you will find the peace, joy, happiness, eternal life in heaven, 40 virgins in heaven, or whatever else the religion is offering to you. But Christianity, with the exception of some notorious denominations, follows the upside down path. To illustrate, here’s another story for you, this time not made up by me…
“‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:51-52)
In Jesus’ day, people believed that someone was blind as punishment for sins they had committed. Jesus didn’t first ask for obedience. He didn’t even ask for a commitment to obey. He just looked for faith in the blind man, and finding it in the certainty of the man’s desire to see, Jesus gave him sight. Having received the “benefit,” the man out of joyous gratitude, followed (i.e., obeyed) Jesus.
The truth of Christianity is contrary to the ways of our world. Jesus has turned the world upside down. All you need do is believe. And as your love for God grows, so will your obedience; obedience out of love and gratitude…
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)
And during this time of Christmas celebrations, when the distractions reach a peak, please remember that God gives first, and God loves first.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
…and Jesus died for us first…
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
…and Jesus was born FOR us…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
May this Christmas find you surrounded by the love of Jesus, the man who turned the world upside down. And more than surrounded; filled with His love, to where the love is spilling over and splashing onto others in your life.
Do you find yourself out of work this holiday season? Are you in despair and feeling like you don’t know where to turn for help? Maybe the idea of seeking help from God has crossed your mind, but you’ve ruled it out for some reason. Maybe you feel like your past is too dark for God to be willing to help you. Maybe you feel like you’re just not good enough. Or maybe you feel like you just don’t know God well enough for Him to be willing to help you. Do you feel like you need to be “special” before God will answer your prayers?
I may have news for you: God is more gracious and loving than that. Today I wish to give you a Christmas card of sorts. Today I give you God’s words, dedicated to you.
Please read these words as your prayer to God…
“Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:7)
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.” (Psalm 25:16-18)
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)
“Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,” (Psalm 25:2-3)
And please read these words as Jesus Christ responding directly to you…
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
“Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
My Christmas wish for everyone who reads this post is this: may you feel God’s presence and feel His love, more than ever before. And may you feel freedom from the things that cause you to worry; may you feel the un-wavering peace that can only come from Jesus Christ.