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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An Island of Peace … and Love

A third Covid 19 wave is surging in the United States (where I live), and elsewhere. The world is crying … still. And in the US, on top of the surge, some of us are drowning in presidential election anxiety. I’ve voted in over eleven such elections. None of the others came close to the stress level of this one.

This morning while praying, I had a hard time wresting my mind off the election and focusing on God and Jesus. I then found myself thinking about the novel I published earlier this year—We Called Him Yeshuajust as the pandemic was sinking its teeth into the world. Great time for publishing a book, right? Well, this morning I wanted to see if the experiences of the characters in the story might give me clues for how to better respond to the convulsing world around me. It didn’t take long to find an answer.

In my mind, I slid back into that world, with the characters I had grown so close to as I’d recorded their stories. Again, I followed them as they followed Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem. And again, I could see Jesus through their eyes, the eyes of those whom He healed and showed unconditional compassion. I felt their feelings, I relived their experiences, and like them, I briefly felt my eyes, mind, and heart drawn to Jesus. At times, all they saw was Jesus, all they knew was Jesus, and they where oblivious to the chaos going on around them.

My mind then rushed ahead over 2000 years (my thoughts tend to jump around a lot while waiting for the morning coffee to take hold). I was back in that restaurant kitchen, getting ready for the Sunday brunch rush. It was the morning after my second date with the young woman who later agreed to marry me. Only two dates and I was already crazy in love. And that Sunday morning, as I did the last-minute food prep, I couldn’t get my mind off her, nor the grin off my face.

All through the Sunday morning brunch storm, my co-workers wondered why I looked so happy. I didn’t get sucked into the brunch chaos, like they did. In the midst of that storm, I was a little island of peace, immersed in love for my new girlfriend.

So, how can that memory help me today? And what does it have to do with my detour back into the world of my novel? Though I crave that kind of love for Jesus, where I have to make an effort to pull my thoughts away from Him in order to focus on worldly stuff—well, I’ve rarely experienced it. But I believe in it. And even just that belief and memories of past experiences help me cope.

In the midst of the storms raging around me—the pandemic, the election—I want to be a little island of peace, held steady by my love for Jesus. And kept safe by His love for me. What makes that possible and real (not just wishful thinking), is His Holy Spirit who lives inside me, sharing this body with me.

Look, it’s easier to ride out a storm when we’re not alone. And when you accept the reality and presence of Jesus’ Spirit within you, you’re never alone. I’m doing it. You can too.

I wish for you today a day where you stay safe on your own island of peace and love, holding tight to the rock of Jesus.


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United We Stand

What an unprecedented moment in human history we live in, where most of us on this planet are experiencing similar restrictions, similar concerns, and many of the same feelings.

Our past is littered with fighting, fighting against each other. We’re still fighting, but now aligned together against a common enemy, a worldwide pandemic. I think it’s possible that this has never happened before in the history of humanity—I mean, how we so quickly formed a worldwide alliance.

Consider that the last pandemic, in the early 1900’s, infected the earth before there was rapid transportation from one continent to the next, and before there was instantly shared communication throughout the world. I haven’t seen any data, but I suspect this new pandemic has spread faster than any in history. The fear and panic have spread just as quickly.

But still, we are all now united in the fight against the Coronavirus. Has the entire world ever been this united before? I don’t really know. What might our unity lead to? I can’t even imagine. But, I have a growing hope that something amazing will emerge. I believe all this presents the possibility for a turning point in the human race, in the midst of the chaos. And I strongly feel that, though the pandemic will bring death and severe pain, our unity can only bring good.

What form will that good take? How long will it last? Of course, I don’t know and I can’t even guess. But as a Christian, I really believe that Jesus will make something good out of all this bad. And with Jesus involved, I’m excited. I hope you can be excited too.

I think the best thing we can do is pray, hope, and trust. And excitedly wait to see what God does with our trust and unity.


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United by a Common Enemy

Walking through the near-empty streets, he waives at people he never waived at before. He even pauses and chats with strangers who no longer feel like strangers. Somewhere in the shadowed corners of his mind, he feels that none of us are strangers. Not now. Not anymore. The Enemy is bringing us together (with a safe social distance, that is).

He smiles at the irony.

He’s beginning to feel that at some level, we all know each other. Maybe it’s because of our common enemy. The common fight. The fight against fear, anxiety, and the Enemy itself. The Enemy has a name. COVID-19. Coronavirus we call it. It fights us. We fight back.

He sees the thing all such enemies have in common. Whether a pandemic-spreading virus, or a man, a notorious dictator, a tyrant—they bring all their victims together in the common cause. But this time is different. For all humanity is united like never before.

Today he feels that humanity is one. Humanity is whole.

He feels a shiver of excitement race through his chest, tickling its way up his neck and into his mind. Could it be that because of how humanity has been brought together, could it be that when we emerge from this battle, something will have changed in the human relationship? He can’t imagine what form the change might take, but he feels a thrill at the idea of it. And his hope swells.


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Does Jesus Christ Feel Like a Stranger?

Does Jesus Christ feel like a stranger to you? Or, is he a stranger to someone you care about?

For those who see Jesus this way, maybe it would help to look at him from a human perspective. What I mean is, maybe it would help to see Jesus’ human side, and not just his God side. And maybe this just-published novel, “We called Him Yeshua,” is a good way to do that—get to know the “man” first, and then know God.

The paperback was just released on Amazon and it, along with the ebook, are both on sale for 50% off.

Please consider sharing this with a friend. Or, you could even give them this book as a gift.

Since the paperback and ebook are not yet linked on Amazon:

Go here for the paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578664070?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

Go here for the ebook: https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7

 


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Escape

Fog oozed into the grove of trees, dripping off the leaves, filling the air with the pungent smell of eucalyptus. Dead skin-like bark littered the ground, making it hard to creep silently through the old cemetery. But creep I did, hiding behind a head stone, looking for my chance.

He lurked out in the open part of the hillside cluster of graves, looking behind each head stone, statue, and crypt, determined to find me, and the others. But, could any of us get away?

My only chance was with the granite statue in the middle of the cemetery, the tallest statue there. That’s where my freedom lay, waiting for me to grab it. I just had to get there without him seeing me. For if he spotted me, I was dead, just another resident of that fog shrouded cemetery.

He was getting closer. My heart raced. I tried not to breathe. Then, a noise, farther up the hill, one of the others most likely. A careless step, that’s all it took. Too bad for them, but it gave me the opening I needed.

He changed course and headed for the noise. I crept to another hiding spot, just a bit closer to the statue. He took a few more steps up the hill. Then, as he stepped behind a crypt, out of sight, I made my move. Running low, from one head stone to the next, I dashed for the statue, stealing glances toward the crypt. Closer. Closer. Then …

“Base!” I yelled, touching the statue and screaming out my freedom. Oh, I loved a good game of hide and seek.

I miss those days, so long ago. Though the Vietnam War was raging, we were oblivious. Our grammar school lives revolved around fun, and we had lots of it. I sometimes wish I could get that feeling back.

Many years later, maybe forty, I saw more meaning in our games of hide and seek. The cemetery was our favorite place, and that same statue was always the base. But then I remembered; it was a statue of Jesus Christ, holding out his hands in a very welcoming gesture. I now see Jesus as my “base,” my source of freedom—freedom from fear, from worry, from anxiety, from depression. And my source of escape from the world—whenever I need a break, he’s there, arms out, welcoming me.

 

And now a thought for anyone who feels they don’t know Jesus, but currently know too well feelings of anxiety, etc..

Look, there’s a lot of s#*t going on in the world right now. I don’t need to elaborate. But, without sounding like some Bible-thumping evangelist, I encourage you to look for help. And maybe the help you need can’t come from the world. After all, it’s the world and all the s#*t that’s the source of our worries. Please consider looking outside the world.

Maybe Jesus isn’t the kind of help you want. But if you think he might be, and you’d like to learn something about him, please check this out (link to cjpenn.com). Maybe it could be a good place to start.


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A “Good” Book for These Times

Yesterday I posted something encouraging people stressed about the COVID-19 virus to check out the novel I will be publishing soon. I truly feel the story in the novel can help people not only escape reality for a bit, but also find some “tools” to help them cope with world-inducing stress. But I was hesitant, because I’m concerned that some might think I’m taking advantage of a worldwide scare to promote my novel.

Look, at times like these, I’m convinced that the absolute best book to help people cope is the Bible. The Bible points us to what we all need to deal with the toughest times of our lives. Yet for some, especially those where Christianity feels foreign, the Bible is more confusing than help. The authors of the Bible often wrote from a spiritual perspective, and the language can be difficult to understand.

The novel I mentioned is all about Jesus Christ, and is based heavily on events recorded in the Gospels. Yet it looks at him from a purely human perspective, a perspective we all can understand. The story focuses mainly on Jesus’ humanity, in addition to his divinity. For this reason, I think the story can help people more easily relate to Jesus, understand him, feel closer to him, and maybe even discover an intimate relationship with him. Also, I believe the story can help motivate those who have never opened a Bible, to take a look for themselves.

Strong Christians already have what they need to cope with stressful times: a solid knowledge of God’s word and an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. But what about “weak” Christians, and those who have no idea of who Jesus really is? I care about all of them.

If some want to accuse me of trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis to promote my book … well, that’s the price I’m willingly pay for trying to help people find peace and freedom in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.


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The Face of COVID-19

I got to the grocery store this morning a few minutes before they opened. A flock of people were already waiting outside the doors. Once inside, it seemed like a normal sized crowd of shoppers, for late afternoon that is, but not for 6 am. Yet what didn’t seem normal was the look on some people’s faces. I smiled and greeted everyone I passed in the aisles, but only a few responded. Most had that look that seems to be spreading, like the COVID-19 virus that’s spawning the look. People looked frightened as they passed by me, hugging their side of the aisle as if I had leprosy.

Back home, while unpacking groceries, I got to thinking about the novel I’ll be publishing within a week. I think for some people, a novel like this is just what they need. Not only will it distract them from the world around us and take them back to another place and time, but it will show them a side of Jesus Christ they may never have seen before. And that’s my biggest hope for this novel.

Do you feel a need for distraction? Are you interested in getting to know Jesus on a much more intimate level? If so, please follow this link and check out my book. And when it’s published, you’ll be able to get the ebook for FREE.