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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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.


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Finding Help in These Crisis Times

CoronaVirus spreading, stock market crashing—these are just a couple of the headline-grabbers that can make our life feel hellish.

Though most Christians believe that when they die they will go to heaven—none of us is there yet. We’re still inhabitants of earth, though sometimes we may feel more like prisoners. And at times like these, heaven can feel so very far away.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we could escape to heaven while still stuck on earth? You can, you always could, and you don’t need to look far. Just look inside yourself, for Jesus promised that’s where we would find his Holy Spirit.

But this can be intimidating, and even scary, simply because you may not really know who you’re looking for. Or, even if you know Jesus, maybe you know him only by his divinity. You know him as the Son of God. That alone can be rather intimidating.

But what if you could know Jesus by his humanity, as the son of man, as he liked to call himself? What might happen to your relationship with Jesus if you really knew his human side? Maybe in seeing more of Jesus’ humanity, you’d be able to feel closer to him. For as someone has said, “It may be hard to feel close to God, but it’s easy to feel close to a person.”

Who said that? It was Anna, one of the characters in my soon-to-be-published novel, We Called Him Yeshua. I wrote this novel because I wanted to know Jesus more intimately. I wanted to feel closer to him. And I felt that a good way to do that would be to ask those who lived with him while he walked the dusty roads of ancient Israel.

We Called Him Yeshua is their story, and the story of their relationships with Jesus. Sure, it’s all just fiction, from my imagination and I hope a lot of inspiration. Yet it’s all based on stories from the Gospels. And maybe it would be worth a minute or two of your time to check it out.

Leading up to the launch of this novel on Amazon, I’ve been posting chapters on my author website. The first third of the book is now there for everyone to read. And it might not take too many of those chapters for you to start to feel Jesus more intimately than you ever have before.

While on my website, please consider signing up to get a FREE Kindle version when the book is published. I’ll also notify you when the paperback will be on sale at cost. I’m currently shooting to publish the Kindle version on March 25th. The paperback will follow about a week later.

And please remember: Jesus sent his Spirit to bring us heaven on earth. But more than that, to live with us, to share our lives, and guide us through the morass of what goes on in this world of crisis.

 

(Click here to access more information and the sample chapters.)


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Independence Day – Are We All Celebrating the Same Thing?

As I begin to celebrate the independence of the United States of American, I wonder… how many of us really know what we’re celebrating? What does this day mean to the different people I see in the store or on the street? For some of us who enjoy the rights and privileges of being US citizens, has this day morphed into just another excuse for a party?

Also, as a nation, how does our condition today compare with what was envisioned 241 years ago, and then codified in our Constitution several years later? What has sociatial evolution, along with the strife that currently chokes many aspects of our lives, done to our countries original values? How far have we drifted from some of the things we should probably be celebrating?

Here are a two things that are different today from what the founders fought for, and died for:

  • Free speech is under attack. 241 years ago, we fought for free speech, not against it.
  • The United States is far from being united—with division, conflicts, and even hate being the norm. Well, there was indeed division 241 years ago, but there were also common goals and ideals that helped keep us together. Maybe we’ve lost that common vision of “United States.”

The shackles on speech, along with our fractured unity has fed the plague of dysfunctional government, fear, mistrust, and more hate. And this all continues feeding upon itself.

So, what’s behind all this? Well, I’ll tell you my opinion. And if you disagree, please, please, please… speak out. Express your opinion, allow my opinion, and in that small way, allow free speech to have a small victory.

Anyway, here it is: at the heart of these problems is arrogance and selfishness. Arrogance is not willing to listen to an opinion different from its own. Arrogance demands that everyone agrees with it, and if you don’t agree, then arrogance will declare you a bigoted idiot. And such idiots should not be allowed to speak—so demands arrogance.

Selfishness is all about self (duh), at the expense of others. This is at the core of the division within the United States. Selfishness, being a sibling of arrogance, abhors the same things that arrogance does, but selfishness suffers in a different way. Selfishness is very weak and fragile. Selfishness cannot listen to opinions other than its own because selfishness is easily offended. Selfishness is the little toddler who has a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Selfishness demands safe zones on college campuses so it has a place to be insulated from different ideas that it does not want to hear.

To give strength to those who suffer from selfishness, soothe the angst of those who are arrogant, and re-unite our country, we need humility. Humility will heal the wounds, ease our fears, nourish trust, and give us the courage to let go of “me” and wrap our arms around “us”. And we will again be united.

Humility accepts the rights and opinions of others, whether it agrees with them or not. Humility is willing to listen to other opinions, without getting offended and throwing a tantrum.

Humility does not always require its way. Humility is willing to compromise. In fact, true humility desires compromise. For humility sees that with compromise, all sides win something—there are no losers with compromise, there are no losers with humility. Humility is kind and compassionate and desires that others do not feel the pain of losing. In this way, the only path to civility is walked in the shoes of humility.

Again, please, what do you think? Speech is free… use it. Let us at least be united in this—to willingly allow each other to express our opinions.

On this 241st anniversary of what may be the most amazing event in democratic history, I will humbly pray for humility.

 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire (or maybe his biographer)


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Politics From the Pulpit

Churches are now free to speak out on political issues. What do you think of this? Is it good, bad, or are you indifferent to it? In addition to being very curious about your opinion, of course I’d like to share my opinion.

I think as time goes on, this new freedom for churches will produce more harm than good. It gives churches one more excuse to preach something other than what they should be preaching. Many churches have already drifted away from the purpose intended by their founder. Yes, that would be Jesus.

Did Jesus talk politics? Nope. He preached about higher things, things that touch the human soul. I think churches should follow their leader, not politics.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Please share, if you like.


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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.