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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Church for the Dechurched

Dechurched

Are you a dechurched Christian? I am. Survey’s show that there are millions of us American adults who once were active in a church, but attend no more. We are called the “dechurched.”

Yet there is a church for us. Though I don’t attend church on Sundays, every day can be a church day. Every day can be a day with God.

Jesus founded the church and then passed it onto the apostles. The apostle Paul defined the new church as follows: referring to Jesus, Paul declared, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23, emphasis added)

The church is the collection of believers in which the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives… the body of Jesus Christ. As Paul also said, “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 together are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Church is not a building or manmade organization. Intimate and quiet time with the Spirit of God within you is what real church is about. As long as we look to the Spirit within us, we are not “dechurched.” We ARE the church.


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The Spirit Speaks – of the Wall of Lies, and the Truth That Will Bring it Down

wall of lies

Yesterday I spoke with you about the wall – the wall of false ideas that stands between you and me. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, see this wall clearly. I can bring down this wall. But first you need to see it for yourself; you need to experience its reality. Then you will be able to feel the true magnitude of my love as I bring the wall to ruin.

How can you see a spiritual wall? Well, first you need to see each stone for what it truly is. Everything you’ve ever heard about me and the church I built, that is false – it’s these lies which are the stones in the wall, blocking your view of the truth. To see the stones of lies, you need to first know the truth.

You will find the truth in my written word… the Bible. And in prayer, for prayer is where you will find me. I will open your mind to the truth, for I am the Spirit of truth. And my truth will set you free from imprisonment behind the wall of lies.

“And 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)

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


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The Spirit Speaks – of the Church

One true church

What is the one true Church? What is the Church that I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ created? The Church of which I am the cornerstone, is not an organization run by people. The Church is not a collection of buildings.

My true Church is the collection of God’s children who let me live through them. Look inside yourself; look for me there. I am within you. The Church is within you.

Do you believe this? If you do, then YOU are the Church, the one true Church of Jesus Christ. For the Church is the body in which I live, and if you believe, then I live within you too.

 

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

“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)

“For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)


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The Spirit Speaks – of the One True Church

One true church

When I walked the earth as Jesus Christ, space and time trapped me by their physical limits. You know how this feels. Yet I now have no limits. I can be everywhere, within everyone, all at the same time.

In this way, I can bring unity to humanity. With me within you, and if I’m also within your neighbor, then you and your neighbor are firmly connected to each other, through me.

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ… all Spirit-filled believers, united by their common bond with me. The true church is not a building or an organization run by men. The church is you, if you believe in me and recognize my presence within you.

“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)


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Catholic vs. Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Baptist vs. Presbyterian

[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]

comparing churches

My friend had just been to a potluck dinner, the house filled with good food and great friends. Everyone attended the same church. As the evening progressed, little discussion groups started forming. As my friend later told me, the discussions in each group all followed a similar theme.

One group was comparing Roman Catholicism to Anglican Catholicism. The second group was comparing Catholicism to Protestantism. The third group was comparing the Baptist Church to the Presbyterian Church. Heavy stuff, especially compared to things I usually talk about at a dinner party.

Each discussion was comparing different forms of the Christian Church. But no one was talking about the real Church. No one was talking about Jesus. No one was talking about the Spirit of Jesus living within those who believe. That’s the real Church… the Holy Spirit within you. And no one was talking about that.

My reaction is sadness. I think Jesus and His true Church deserve more attention. Am I making too big a deal out of this? Maybe. What do you think?


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Hell Within the Church

hell within the church

I just checked the dictionary definitions of hell, and they all amount to the same thing… separation from God. Hell is a void, a vacuum, emptiness, loneliness. This is life without God.

The Barna Group conducted a survey of Christians who no longer attend church, looking for possible reasons why these people left the church. The survey found that 20% of these de-churched Christians said, “God seems missing from their experience of church.” *

God seems missing… this is hell, within the church.

Unfortunately, the hell within is driving Christians out. That’s partly why I no longer attend church. Yet maybe the solution is not to leave the church, but to bring God back in. We can all find God within our selves, in our own intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit within us. Then we can bring Him with us when we go to church. When enough people do this, God will fill the sanctuary again. And the vacuum of hell will be filled with the presence of God.

 

* “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” George Barna and David Kinnaman (The Barna Group), Tyndale House, 2014, page 99, www.barna.org (used by permission)


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The Wall

prison wall 2

All the surveys find the same thing: Christians are leaving church. Some surveys report that millions of Christians stop attending church each year. These people aren’t leaving Christianity; they’re just leaving whatever church they used to attend.

Yet something is driving people away. The surveys speak to that as well, giving several reasons why people leave the church. But it all simmers down to this: people are leaving because of a lack of truth within the church. The messages in some churches have drifted away from the truth of Jesus Christ. And what is preached is either a false Christianity, or no Christianity at all.

These false messages are like large stones in a prison wall, mortared together by pride, holding captive unwary believers. Yet as the surveys show, many climb over the wall and escape. But wounds remain.

Most church refugees I know, including me, carry wounds from their experience behind the prison wall of false Christianity. Healing comes from true Christianity, an intimate relationship with the One who heals all… Jesus Christ. A relationship given to us, and living with us, by His Spirit within us.

Did you crash into the wall and come away wounded? A while back I started a Facebook group with the hope that it would help provide healing for other wounded Christians … For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing. Yet I now realize that no Facebook group can provide the healing we need. Only a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit can do that.


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Catholicism and Christianity

I was watching the news last night and the commentator mentioned Catholicism and Christianity as if they are two different things. I found this odd, but I’ve heard people talk this way before. You’re either Catholic or you’re Christian. But Catholic’s are Christian, aren’t they?

What do you think?


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Christian Decline in US

PEW Chart

The PEW Research Center recently released the results of its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey. Since its first such survey in 2007, the number of Christian adults in the US has shrunk by an estimated 5 million people. Yet over that same time, the US adult population has increased by 18 million. Why is the Christian church shrinking in the US?

Jesus knew the answer: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

I believe that some churches have moved from a solid foundation of the truth of Jesus Christ, to a foundation of sand. Resting on manmade traditions and rules, and preaching popular opinion rather than the true essence of Christianity – this is the foundation of many of today’s churches. And they are crumbling. The PEW research shows the result.

Yet turning those survey results around is easy.


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Religion verses Christianity

Pinocchio

Religion is complicated; Christianity is simple.

Religion is often burdensome; Christianity is freedom.

Religion is often false; Christianity is the truth.

Religion is manmade; Christianity is God-made.

Where religion is rules, Christianity is a relationship, built on a foundation of love.

Religion should be considered as a set of tools, not rules. Religion should work for you, not you for it. Yet sadly, man’s prideful ways have turned the table and created a religion that oversees the followers.

A “religious” Christian is like Pinocchio, a puppet manipulated by strings. The strings are all the rules, traditions, and obligations. Yet, God can cut your strings, and the Holy Spirit will fill you with His presence, making you truly alive and free.


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Catholic Catechism vs. the Bible

Catechism vs Bible

This morning I looked up to see the Catechism of the Catholic Church sitting on my book shelf. It came from my parents house, after my father and stepmother had passed away. It had been my stepmothers. The thicknesses are almost the same. But I believe the contents are different.


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Are You a De-Churched Christian?

I’m a de-churched Christian. I’ve been reading the book “Churchless,” which contains lots of research data the Barna Group has collected about the various aspects of Christianity. Did you know there are about 18 million born-again Christians who no longer attend a church? The Barna study calls these people “de-churched.” It felt weird when I realized I’m one of the 18 million.

I haven’t attended church for almost five years. And what adds to the weirdness is, I can’t clearly tell you why. Oh, I could come up with surface answers easily enough. But none of them feel to me like they are the real, deep down reason I don’t go to church. And I want to know why.

It occurred to me; maybe some of these 18 million de-churched born-again Christians hang out online somewhere. So please help me if you know of any such hang-outs. Are there any Facebook groups? What other sites might the de-churched like to visit? Are there blogs for the de-churched?

My hope is that maybe by connecting with other de-churched people, I might learn why I have no desire to attend church. And if you too are a de-churched Christian, please share some of your story. It may help me, and it may help others. Thank you.


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Church for the Un-churched

churchless 2

Did you know that most of the people who don’t go to a Christian church had earlier in their life attended church? This is most apparent with the young adult generation, like from 18 to 30 years old. They attended as a kid, probably because their parents dragged them there, but they followed a different path when they gained their adult freedom.

I’m reading “Churchless,” by George Barna and David Kinnaman. It’s a book based on survey results of those who don’t go to a Christian church.

I just finished reading a chapter that describes the reasons young adults no longer go to church. And then this idea slipped into my mind: instead of the traditional brick-and-mortar church, what if there were an on-line church? Maybe it could be a Facebook group, where people go to talk about Jesus. Would this be more appealing than a traditional church? Might this type of church be able to avoid the turn-offs of a traditional church?

Please let me know if there is such an on-line church. What do you think of the idea? Thanks.


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Wounded Christian

wounded heart

“Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims—of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect! From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).” *

Are you one of these wounded Christians? Some wounds go unnoticed, for a while anyway. For the past four years, I haven’t gone to church – I have no desire. I had stopped attending church because I was disillusioned by the messages coming from the pulpit. As I step back and look at myself as an outsider might, it now clearly looks to me like I’m a wounded Christian.

Are you wounded? If so, consider checking out the Facebook group, “For Wounded Christians – a Place for Healing.”

 

* From an editorial in the July 2012 issue of Christian Computing Magazine, “Why the church is dying in America,” by Steve Hewitt


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Where to go to Church?

church

It’s Sunday morning – time to get ready to go to church. Do you have a church to go to? Do you have a way to get there? If not, maybe do as I’m doing on this Sunday. Instead of looking to others for “church,” look within yourself.

Find a quiet place to be alone, but not truly alone. As Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

The one true Church, the Church that Jesus built, is not a building or a manmade organization. The true Church is the body in which the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives… my body, your body, the collective bodies of all who choose to believe and accept the gift of Jesus’ salvation and presence.

Manmade church can be great – I’ve grown a lot by going to such a church. But it’s not the true Church that Jesus built.

Do you want to go to Church today? Then quiet your mind, close your eyes, and look inside yourself … to the Spirit of Jesus within you. That’s where you can truly worship and praise Him. And maybe even sing a song for Him. I bet He’d enjoy such a one-person choir.

“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)

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


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That’s My Book of Order!

book of order

Each of the church elders had already put in a full days work, with another workday less than ten hours away. Yet they were now in the third hour of a one-hour meeting, a little after 10:00 pm, and the pastor was again lecturing on the supremacy of the Presbyterian Book of Order. The elders had heard this message many times before, how important it is to make sure all their decisions are in accordance with the Presbyterian rulebook. Finally, my friend Chris couldn’t take any more. At a pause in the lecture, Chris slowly stood up, slammed his bible on the table, and declared, “THAT’s my Book of Order!”

Beware of those who put their rules above Gods rules. As Jesus warned, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:9)


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Good Morning Dear Friend

close to God

Good morning dear Jesus. I’m so grateful to be your friend. You said that there is no greater love than that of a friend who sacrifices his life for another friend and, that we are your friends, if we do as you command. And later you said that your command is to love each other. You then sacrificed yourself, for us. Yet you didn’t wait for our love. Your love came first, without conditions.

I admit that I don’t truly understand the magnitude of your love. Maybe your love goes beyond human love, like a dimension of love that we cannot see. Yet you’ve spilled your love (and your blood), into our human lives. I’m so grateful you didn’t wait for my love to come first. Thank you dear Jesus.


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My Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

I’ve been working on refining the description of the book I’m writing. I think it’s about time – I’ve been working on this thing for almost seven years, and I tend to awkwardly stumble to an answer when people ask what the book is about. Lately I’ve been working on the elevator pitch; the briefest of descriptions. Here’s what I have so far, maybe for an elevator ride of about five floors.

Book title: His Truth Will Set You Free; knocking down the prison walls of manmade religion.

Pitch: The manmade false ideas that pollute Christianity are like large stones in a prison wall, mortared together by pride and greed, holding captive unwary believers and barricading those seeking answers. This book demolishes the prison walls of false messages with the mighty truth of Jesus Christ.

I’m curious; based on that brief description, would you read such a book?


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Where is Your Church?

forest - scraggly

Behind the business park where I work is a ragged forest. Not much of a forest really. Mostly low brush, scraggly naked trees shivering against the winter cold, and scattered patches of mud.

And a homeless encampment. Peering through the trees, you can spot signs of life. A white plastic chair, a blue tarp tent, wooden pallet flooring to protect from the mud.

I believe if Jesus were here, rather than hang out at the church down the road, He’d go into the homeless encampment. I believe for Jesus, church is not a building, church is not a place. Church is hanging out with homeless people. Church is wherever you are. Church is the Spirit of Jesus within you. Church is you.

“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)


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Does God Love Only Good People?

Gods love

As usual, Tom sat quietly during the first part of our small group bible study, just listening and thinking. Eventually, Tom would start talking, and what he had to say was always well thought-out, inspiring, and intriguing. I looked forward to the moment when Tom decided to join the conversation. But on this night, he shocked me with, “I just know I’m not going to heaven. I’ve done too many bad things in my life. God can’t love me. I’m just not good enough.”

Tom is a victim of a scam of guilt promoted by some churches. Though Tom would accept that God doesn’t hate sinners, he and others like him have difficulty in believing that God can in fact love them; they just don’t feel good enough. Does God love only good people?

First, the “goodness” Tom believes he lacks does not come from behavior, but from faith: “This righteousness (goodness) from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) It’s not the amount of goodness or badness that matters – it’s what you believe.

God doesn’t care about our past; He cares about now. No matter how dark your past may be, where are you now? Do you feel distressed about past sins? Do you wish you could erase the sins of yesterday, and resist the sins of today? I know Tom does; he said so. To such a show of repentance Jesus would say, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)

(This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing)

Are you like my friend Tom? Have you been wounded by flawed messages? If so, maybe check out the Facebook group, For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing.