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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Porn Addiction

Apparently it’s a big problem within our society – addiction to porn. And I learned from a good friend who has done some research, that the Christian community is not immune. Addictions lead to pain and suffering, and this porn plague is no different.

So I found myself wondering how people could kick this addiction, or any addiction. Well, I don’t think focusing on the addiction would help. All that does is keep what you want to avoid in the forefront of your mind, which would only draw you deeper into it. You naturally gravitate to what you think about. As some old philosopher type person once said, “We become what we think about” (wish I could remember who said that).

Anyway, I believe the cure for all such things as porn addictions is to rip your mind away from the addiction and focus instead on the Spirit of Jesus within you. The more you think of Jesus and the more you surrender your mind to Him, the more He will draw you closer – you become what you think about.

And with Jesus, there is no painful addiction; instead there’s freedom, and peace, and love.


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Political Nightmare

Does the future of the United States look crazy to you? Is this presidential election cycle twisting your mind into knots?

If you are a Trump supporter, is your enthusiasm for Trump at least partly a reaction to how messed up the current political establishment is? Is this your way of screaming into the face of the establishment and saying, “I’m tired, and I don’t want to take it any more.”?

If you are anti-Trump, are you growing fearful that a person with his qualities might actually end up being president of the United States?

No matter what side you’re on, are you looking for an escape from your uneasy feelings? Are you looking for a way to cope with the craziness that seems to surround you?

All I can offer is what works for me. The world is a messed up place, and the mess comes from our natural human ego, selfishness, greed, etc. I’ll lump these terms and more into the plague that infects all humanity – pride. Natural human pride is the muck that messes up the world we live in. And the only way to cope with this mess is by looking away from the world, and focusing more on Jesus.

Pry your thoughts away from this crazy world, and instead peer deep inside yourself, down into your soul. That’s where the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus lives. The more you stare at the Spirit of Jesus within you, the more peace you will feel. And the messiness will fad away.


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Finding Peace in the Face of Terror

San Berdo Terrorism

(Beware – Jesus Christ inside. If you are uncomfortable with Christianity… well, I’ve warned you.)

Does the terror in the world frighten you? Though others share your fears, do you feel alone in your fear? Does it feel like you are standing alone against the fear that darkens your mood? Does it feel like we are fighting the same enemy, but each of us is alone in our private battle?

I think these questions make sense, for since fear is an internal and individual emotion, we cannot band together to combat our private fear.

Look, I’m no preacher. I’m just a regular afraid person, maybe a lot like you. But I’m not alone in my battle against my fears. Yet, because of what’s going on in the world, I’m concerned for everyone who feels the knot in their stomach pull tighter with each terrorist attack. I wish I could help people deal with the terror. Yet, as I said above, you are alone in your battle. I can’t join you there.

But someone can. Yes, this is where Jesus enters in.

No matter what you see on the surface of Christianity, the truth is that Christianity is all about a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. He’s alive, as Spirit. His body died, but his soul lives. And he wants to live with you.

A relationship with Jesus gives you a real sense that you are never alone. Jesus can be with you, helping you battle your fears. And he can help you understand why the world seems to be falling apart. There are answers that make sense, once you see them.

Jesus can also show you how to escape your world, and enter his world, the inner-mind where his Spirit and your soul live. And that’s where you can find a peace that confounds the terror of the outer world.

Do you want to find a way to fight against the terrorists and their efforts to infect the world with an epidemic of fear? If so, look for Jesus in your inner-mind.

If Christianity is new to you, there are lots of great churches and Christians who can help you. But no matter what path you follow, what’s most important is your personal time with Jesus. Go to a quiet place, empty your mind of the distractions of the world, (this is the hardest part for me), and look inside your inner-mind. With practice, you may start to feel Jesus there. And together, the two of you can win the battle against your fear.


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We Are The Church!

church

I belong to several Facebook groups for Christians who no longer attend a church. We each have our own reasons for leaving what some call the “Institutional Church.” But this morning I was thinking about what we do in these groups. We share experiences, we share inspiration, we share our struggles, and we share support and encouragement. But what I think most of it boils down to is this – as a group, we praise and worship God and Jesus.
And then it struck me: We Are The Church! Each Facebook group is a type of church. And by “church” I mean God’s definition of church, which I believe is the collection of Spirit-filled believers. So though we’ve left the institutional church, I think we’re still in the true church.
What do you think?


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The Spirit Speaks – of Relationship with a Church vs. Him

Dechurched2

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, was browsing Facebook yesterday (yes, I cruise Facebook, even through your eyes). I was reading comments on a Group page for Christians who no longer attend church. Some call these people “dechurched” Christians.

I am sad, but not surprised. Not only because these people don’t go to church, but because of their personal feelings of guilt and shame. You see, some dechurched Christians feel so badly about no longer going to church that they don’t use their real names in the Facebook groups. They fear the judgment and potential wrath of church-going friends and family who may discover they no longer go to church.

Are you a dechurched Christian? Or are you devoted to a church and know a dechurched Christian, maybe a close friend or even a spouse? My desire for all of you is the same: that you have a personal and intimate relationship with me, Jesus Christ. For your relationship with me is more important than your relationship with a church. And your love for me and each other is also more important than your love of a church.

And know this: I won’t judge you by where you go, or don’t go, on Sunday morning.


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Divorced? No Communion for You

Pope Francis

You may have read about it in a newspaper or a news website. If you’re Catholic and have gotten a divorce and then became remarried, the church will not allow you to receive communion. The Pope wants to remove this rule, and allow such people to share in the sacrament of communion, but conservative bishops have successfully resisted him. The rule stands.

In defense of their position, one of the leaders of those opposing the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, was quoted in one article as saying, “Christ’s teaching on adultery and second marriages is very clear.” Very true. But so is His teaching on forgiveness and second chances.

The Bible is full of second chances and forgiveness. And God’s forgiveness of our sins is obviously more complete than human forgiveness. For as God said, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). For those who believe, God forgets the sin of adultery that results from divorce and remarriage. Too bad the Catholic bishops cannot forget as well.

And look at what these bishops are trying to do. Communion is sharing the symbolic body and blood of Christ. Communion signifies the most intimate relationship God’s children can experience… Jesus within us and us within Him. This is what Jesus prayed for, as He said to His Father, “I have made you known 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.” (John 17:26, emphasis added) It looks like the Catholic bishops are trying to deprive adulterers from having a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yet I feel sorry for those who oppose the Pope on this issue. They have surrounded themselves with so much manmade church doctrine and personal opinion that they cannot see Jesus themselves.

If I could contact the Pope, I would encourage him to respond to the bishops in the same way Peter responded to the stubborn religious leaders of his day, when he said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19)


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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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Oregon College Massacre – Ignoring the True Root Cause

oregon college shooting

I opened the paper this morning to the tragic news. You’ve probably seen it yourself. Ten people dead, shot by a lone gunman on a small college campus in Oregon. And the politicians are already blaming gun laws, lead by Obama.

oregon college shooting - 2

Oh how I wish gun availability were the root cause of the problem. If it truly were, that would be easy to fix. But people like Obama are ignoring the more difficult truth. The true root cause of these shootings is not gun availability, but the deterioration of our society.

Morals, compassion for others, integrity, humility, … Love. These things and more are fading away. Yet it’s these things that are the glue that holds humanity together. When the glue disintegrates, humanity falls apart. It is falling apart, as seen in these shooting tragedies.

Yet tackling our crumbling social glue is a lot more difficult than blaming gun laws. Ignoring the true cause of the problem will definitely not fix the problem. And the shootings will continue.


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The Spirit Speaks – of Living Through Hardship

cross 9-11

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, know that life is hard. After all, I lived my own life. I lived a human life, with all the pain, and the emotional trauma, and coming face-to-face with evil, and anger, and hypocrisy, and even friends who turn against you. I’ve faced hardships similar to what you’re facing. So I know how difficult life is.

And I’m here to say that you don’t have to go through this alone. I am with you. I am within you. All you need to do is believe this, and look within yourself and find me there. Faith will open the eyes of your heart to see me, within you. And you will realize that you are not alone on this journey through this valley of the shadow of death.

I am walking with you on this journey, sharing it all with you. And sharing myself with you.


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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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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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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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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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What Does it Mean to be Christian?

unChristian

I didn’t expect to start my Friday with a sad discovery. But that’s what I found as I again picked up the book I just started reading, “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Matters,” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book is based on extensive research by the Barna Group, where they conducted studies to find out what “outsiders” feel about Christians and Christianity.

I’m struggling to find the words to convey what I’m thinking, without coming across as judgmental. By the way, 87% of young adults see Christians as judgmental.

Anyway, the results of one particular survey question left me feeling sad… sad for Christians and Christian churches. The surveyors asked born-again Christians to describe what the most important priorities are for being a Christian. The top of the list was being good and not sinning, followed by discipleship, evangelism, worship, relationships with others, service and stewardship. What made me sad is that I don’t see the most important thing about being a Christian.

Yet who am I to say? I’m no expert. I’m just a flawed human like everyone else. How do I give my answer to this question about being Christian without sounding snotty and arrogant? I don’t know, so I’ll just go for it.

I believe the most important priority for being a Christian is a personal and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. I believe the most important good deed or form of worship is to give your life, to surrender your “self” to the Holy Spirit, to give control to the Spirit. As Paul said in his letter to those in Rome…

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

The entire Bible is about a personal relationship with God, especially the New Testament. But it looks like Christian churches have not made that clear. And Christians suffer because of that. This too makes me sad.


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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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Virus of Evil

Charlie Hebdo

The evil that is terrorism is like a virus. It’s always infected parts of humanity. The root of this evil is pride.

Why does the Islamic extremist murder innocent people? Because they are not willing to allow others to be different from them – agree with them or die. Such is the pride and arrogance of the Islamic extremist.

We all suffer from the virus of pride, some more than others. There are those where pride consumes their existence – pride extremists.

The Islamic extremists exhibit their extreme pride violently. Others may exhibit their extreme pride with acts of greed, lording financial power over us lesser beings. Other pride extremists exercise other forms of power and control. Thankfully, not all pride extremists feed their hunger with violence.

The cure for this virus is humility. But true humility can only come from a close personal relationship with God, from letting the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ into your inner-being. Jesus is the cure.


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He Must Become Greater – a Resolution

happy new year

Being New Years Eve morning, I found myself thinking about resolutions for 2015. I’ve been big on creating long lists of resolutions in the past. This year, just one item is on my list…

As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30)

My resolution, my hope and trust for 2015 is that the Holy Spirit of Jesus will become greater within me, and my “self” will become less. As Jesus continues to fill me with His Spirit, my selfish and self-centered self will become less of who CJ Penn is. And I’m so grateful.

I wish you all a great New Year, and hope that you too will find yourself filled with the Holy Spirit of our savior, Jesus.


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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?