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)


1 Comment

Governments Legislating Morals. And Other Twisted Stuff.

Governments creating laws dictating moral behavior—it’s happening in Texas with the newly passed anti-abortion law. Oh, I know there’s more than morals at stake. And part of the trouble with legislation like the Texas law is that it does nothing to address the real problem. Such laws try to halt the outcome of problems while ignoring the root cause. As with making prostitution illegal, these laws are doomed to failure.

But to my main reason for writing this post, the other twisted stuff the title refers to. This is neither an anti-abortion nor pro-abortion post. If anything, it’s an anti-the-way-some-Christians-behave-these-days kind of post. Confused? Sorry—I’ll clarify.

First consider this: Jesus didn’t force His morals, His Christianity, upon anyone. He just showed the truth and let each person decide. Yet it seems like some of today’s Christians get things twisted around, ignoring truth and forcing their morals upon others. But Jesus didn’t model that behavior; it’s not very Christ-like.

Now consider this: if Jesus was a leader in a Texas church, I suspect He’d do what He always did. He’d preach the truth and let the people decide. And I think the truth He’d preach, the truth not often heard in today’s churches, would be the truth of the presence of His Spirit in the lives of those who believe and accept Him. It’s Jesus’ Holy Spirit who will show us how He wants us to behave—He will show us His morals. And only His Spirit can fill us with His power that will propel us to live by those morals. It’s the Spirit of God and Jesus who will bring about morality, not manmade laws.

With respect to Christians who support things like anti-abortion laws, this is another case of Christians relying more on their elected leaders and their governments than on Jesus and God. It seems like Jesus is confronted here with the same problems He had to face when He walked the roads of ancient Israel. Back then, He was dealing with religious leaders who put their manmade rules above God’s laws, and far above having a personal relationship with God. It’s happening still—manmade laws appear more important to some Christians than a personal relationship with Jesus. And again, moral behavior doesn’t come from following a law; it comes from following Jesus.

If Christians want to reduce the occurrence of abortions, instead of lobbying for laws, perhaps they should do a better job of spreading the truth of Jesus’ Christianity (emphasis on truth). This reminds me of something Paul said: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word (truth) of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Do you want to save the lives of unborn babies? Rather than enforcing laws, try promoting the truth of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.

The formula’s simple. 1) Don’t rely on manmade/church-made rules and laws; 2) spread the truthful word of Christ; 3) support people in the grow of their faith and their personal relationship with the Spirit of God; 4) step aside and let God do the rest. God can do a lot, if we get out of His way.

Gee, I wonder what He could do with the overall and overwhelming moral decay of our society, and I’m not just talking about abortion.


Leave a comment

A Good Distraction for These Times

Are you looking for a distraction from all the chaos surrounding you? Would you like to tear your mind away from what’s going on outside and take it for a walk someplace else? To my friends in the US, could you use a distraction from the craziness and stress of the presidential election? And of course, there’s the pandemic.

Please consider checking out We Called Him Yeshua, a historical fiction story about Jesus, told through the eyes of some of the people who were drawn to him as he walked the roads of ancient Israel. That might be a nice place for you to visit and get away from the present-day chaos for a bit. And as one of the Amazon reviewers has said,

“I could read this book again and again. It made the people of that time so real. Really made me realize the difficulty of just surviving. The hardships of day to day living that we don’t have in today’s world. But the hardships of today’s society makes me think which would I choose? Great talent this writer has to put you in the story. I could almost feel the heat, taste the dust and feel the hardships these people lived. As well as the joy of being in the presence of our Lord. Oh how well he wrote of the personal closeness He had with each person. Highly recommend this book. It’s a keeper. One I will read again and again.” (Peggy Amend, Amazon review)

Click here to go to Amazon book page.


Leave a comment

What Jesus Wants to See

What do people see when they look at Christians? For most of those on the outside of the Christian establishment in the US, they see such things as:

  • Hypocrisy and judgment, fear and bigotry
  • A movement intent on forcing themselves and their values on others
  • A group more interested in politics than following the call of their leader, a group where policies are more important than faith, hope, and love
  • A religion that embraces a man who is the antithesis of the values that Jesus promoted (yes, I’m referring to Trump)

Of course, not all Christians display these characteristics. But the most visible ones do. Like the insurrections storming the US capital waving Jesus flags, shouting His name, or even kneeling in prayer before they attacked (though I’m not sure who they were praying to).

As another example, yesterday I shared an article about the reaction of many white evangelicals to Barack Obama as compared to their reaction to Donald Trump (you can read it here). You may not agree with Obama’s policies and political position on things, but he really did appear to be a decent person. Oh sure, he has character flaws, like all of us. But nothing like Trump. You may agree with Trump’s policies, but his character is toxic, his morals are despicable—all very visible for all to see.

In trying to understand why so many white evangelicals and other Christians seem to ignore character and support Trump, here are a few things I’ve discovered:

  • He’s apparently against abortion
  • Some Christians fear attack of their religious freedoms from the left, the supposed war on Christmas and all that—a very valid concern. And they see Trump as a defender of their right to practice their chosen religion. Look, Christianity’s been under attack from the beginning. The Pharisees who pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion tried to kill it, Roman emperors tried, and I suspect many others over the centuries have tried. But God and Jesus defended their Christianity just fine on their own—no need for the support of an elected official.
  • And of course, money money money. The value of Christian 401k’s was often cited as an excuse for supporting Trump. VERY often cited.

Regarding the fear of attacks from the left, Jesus might say, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

Or, He might say, “I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-29, 31)

And regarding money, most people know what the Bible says about having too much interest in money, like obsessing about our 401k. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) And as Paul warned Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Wow, isn’t that the truth!

All of these reasons for Christians supporting Trump, and likely others I haven’t mentioned, boil down to an exhibition of profound hypocrisy, all because these people are more concerned about their wants than what Jesus wants. To this, Jesus might say: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)

 

So, what does Jesus want to see when He looks at followers of His Christianity? He gave us the answer quite clearly:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Imagine how outsiders might react if, when they looked at Christians, all they saw was love—no hypocrisy, judgment or other ugly stuff. Imagine the influence that visible love would have on those outsiders. Might some of them even be motivated to turn to Jesus for help? Might they want to experience the same love themselves? Imagine the Island of Love Christianity could become, being a paradise and refuge in these days of turmoil, anger, violence, and of course, COVID-19. Please, try to imagine it.

And if you can conjure up an image in your mind, now consider that that is what Jesus wants to see too.


Leave a comment

What we see, verses Jesus’ Christianity

I invite you to read the attached article with caution. Though some of you may read it and absolutely agree, others will vehemently disagree. The words are harsh, but unfortunately, I see them as accurate. Too many people have drifted away from Jesus’ Christianity.
Note, this article was written a few years ago, but the message is maybe more relevant today that back when it was written.

John Pavlovitz: An Open Letter to White Evangelicals


Leave a comment

Kindness to the Victims

Coffee in hand, looking out the window at the early morning sky grey and cloudy, I try to quiet my thoughts and look down at the devotional sitting in my lap. But I fail. My mind just can’t pry itself away from the world. New Covid-19 variant exploding. Case and death counts rising fast. And then just to distract us from all that, what looks like an attempted coup in the US capitol. An insurrection they call it.

As my coffee was brewing this morning, I read an account by one of the people who stormed into the capitol building. And I began to see their point of view, and the view of some of the people that person was with. I started to see them as victims.

Lots of people in the US are frustrated with the federal government. That’s a big reason why Trump won in 2016. And I suspect it’s a reason why so many people still support him. As long as the feds remain as they are, I also suspect such chaos may continue.

Look, I think at least some of the “insurrectionists” see themselves as victims of our failed, dysfunctional federal government, as we all are. We’ve all watched the fractured, broken, uncompromising, self-serving, arrogant government representatives for years, as they effectively fail to serve those who voted them into office. I guess some people just couldn’t take it any longer, and decided to make a statement by breaking into the capitol building, encouraged as they were by you-know-who. Well, statement clearly made—I hope. (By the way, I don’t support their methods for statement-making).

But, those statement-makers are also victims of lies, conspiracy theories, and fake news. And maybe that’s partly because those lies support their already-strong sense of a broken system.

Looking beyond what happened in Washington DC this week, I now see that we are all victims. It’s not just the federal government that’s broken. The entire world is broken, and we’re all victims of it. Victims of bad relationships, miserable jobs, no jobs at all, illness, depression, anxiety, fear, unfulfilled dreams, heartbreak, abuse. No point in me continuing with the list—you can do that on your own.

But thankfully, a new thought drifted into my mind while my coffee cup warmed my hands. You see, as the events of this week kept yanking at my thoughts, another part of my mind kept trying to get back to the devotional in my lap. And right there on that page was something Jesus had said that was influencing how I was looking at the insurrectionists: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34)

I think it’s easier to love one another when we realize that those other people, no matter how much they might irritate us or how much we disagree with them, are also victims of something. As Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Okay, I’m going to wrap this up with another thought that popped into my mind. Yes, our world is full of victims. We all suffer from something. But, there are NO victims in heaven. Think about that one for a bit.


Leave a comment

Peace so Close

Emergency lockdowns, stay home, stay away!

Christmas plans cancelled.

Overflowing hospital ICUs.

Numbers climbing … fast,

Cases, deaths, unemployed, overstressed.

So much pain, so much suffering.

I fear for the hospital workers.

I fear for everyone.

What to do? Want to do something.

I know the answer, but how to convey it, that’s the hard part.

Peace is right there, freedom from stress is so close.

But we too often look the wrong way.

It’s not out there somewhere, not waiting around a corner.

It’s inside, or rather, the Spirit of Jesus is inside, if we believe.

As Paul said, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Oh dear Jesus, if only more people could feel Your presence within them.

To feel You inside is to feel the magnitude of your love, a love that brings tears.

Not an imagined thing, but real, as real as the tears.

If only they could quiet their worries enough to calm their thoughts and look inside, to You.

Dear Jesus please, so many hungry and hurting souls out there, looking, not finding.

Please dear Spirit, take them in your arms and pull them to you.

If only they will believe.


Leave a comment

Hope—Just What We Need Right Now

There is hope, always hope.

We need hope, some more than others.

Many feel the grip, the fear, the anxiety.

We feel under attack.

Who’s the enemy? The answer may surprise you.

It’s Pride. The plague of Pride.

In the USA, where I live, Pride grips the nation right now.

Pride is tearing our country apart.

Pride—caring more for Self, and maybe not at all for others.

Pride—no concern for how our words and actions affect others.

Pride—ears and minds closed, mouth open.

Pride—angry, vengeful.

Pride possesses, Pride consumes, Pride takes but never gives.

Pride never gives up, Pride never surrenders.

Self … only Self.

But, we live with others.

God spoke out against Pride in the Bible.

Jesus spoke against Pride … a lot.

We can’t save ourselves from the attack of Pride.

We all suffer from our own prideful nature, so we can’t fight Pride, we can’t fight against our Self.

Our hope, our only hope needs to come from outside.

Our only hope is in God.

The Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, living on this infected planted with us, living within us.

He can save us from the enemy.

If we ask.

There is hope.


Leave a comment

My Prayer for Today

Dear God. Dear Jesus. There is so much pain in our world, so much suffering. I try to pray for it all. It’s too much for me. Too overwhelming. I start to pray, I try to bring it all within my mind to then offer to You, and I soon find myself drowning deep in the depths of all that pain. Crushed. I can’t do this. I can’t handle it. I can’t wrap my mind around the world’s pain and suffering.

CJ, don’t try. Let go. Don’t focus on the pain. Look only to Me.

Oh Lord. My dear Jesus. You know the pains. You can handle it. Since all that pain is too much for me to begin to pray for, I offer you my self. I give you me. Please, as always, I pray that your Spirit dear Jesus will live through me, love through me, heal through me. In whatever way You will, help ease the pains of the world, through me. Your will be done, in me.

Your will be done in me. Oh Lord, that thought makes me smile. A moment of true peace, and even joy, in the midst of the world’s misery. Wow. I love you.


1 Comment

US Election Day #4 — What We Need Now

Day #4 and tensions are high. We don’t need more tension this year. We don’t need more anger. What we need is the Spirit of Jesus to fill us with His Presence.

If you are inclined, please pray for the fruits of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus to be poured out into the over-stressed hearts of the people of the United States.

And why stop there? It’s a good time to pray for the entire world.


Leave a comment

Feeling Crushed? Seeking Escape? Craving Peace?

I spent some time this weekend with a close friend whose life is in the midst of extremes. There’s cause for extreme joy. There’s cause for extreme worry. And, there’s all the other crap going on in our world of 2020. My friend’s day is a roller coaster, to the peak of joy, then falling down to the pit of depression. He wakes each day with no energy or desire to do anything but make it through the day.

There have been times this year when I’ve been on a similar roller coaster. But I had help getting off. And this morning I felt the desire to share that help. It’s simple, really.

Now, if you’re like my friend, you may be something of a fringe Christian. You wouldn’t call yourself an atheist. Maybe more agnostic, not sure what you believe. Yet, you feel you may be open to learning more about Jesus.

Or, maybe you believe Jesus is who he said he was, but that belief doesn’t really mean much to you. Or, maybe you’re more like me, where you believe in and love Jesus, but you still sometimes find yourself on that emotional roller coaster with the unavoidable belly-drops into depression.

Well, here’s a way that might help you climb out of that roller coaster. First, get a Bible. If you don’t have a hold-in-your-hands-paper Bible, there are plenty of online versions available, and there are even Bible apps for your mobile device.

Then, in the New Testament, read the Gospel of John. While reading it, look for the relationship that Jesus wants to have with you. Also, get to know Jesus as the human he was. Try to feel his humanity; try to feel what the two of you have in common. And maybe most importantly, get to know something about the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Spirit, and the promise of His Spirit.

Then, still in the New Testament, read Romans, especially chapters 7 and 8. The end of chapter 7 may have you screaming, “That’s me!” But chapter 8 can set you free. Read chapter 8 more than once—let the truth of it sink in. Don’t just read it. Feel it. Pray it. Listen to the Spirit of Jesus inside your head read it to you. Oh, and when you get to chapter 12, that’s pretty good too.

If you aren’t yet free of your own emotional roller coaster, start all over again, with the Gospel of John. And hold on tight to what you will read in chapter 8 of that Gospel:

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

And what is the foundational truth that will set you free? Surrender. Surrender your cares to the Spirit of Jesus within you. Surrender your worries. Surrender your Self. And really think about what it means to surrender your Self. Let Jesus take over, let Him lead you, follow Him. And repeat your surrender each morning—the best way to start your day.

One more thing: if you find yourself wanting to know more about the humanity of Jesus, or maybe this thing I call surrender, please leave a comment here or send me an email (seejay@cjpenn.com ). I have plenty of other books I’d be happy to recommend.

Here’s hoping you have a really good day.

CJ


Leave a comment

Character vs. Hypocrisy

How can a “Christian” call themselves a “Christian” if they support character and values that are non-Christian? Is this just another form of Christian hypocrisy, the hypocrisy we’re well-known for? The hypocrisy that’s just a part of our natural human nature that everyone suffers from in a variety of forms? But character matters.


Leave a comment

Looking For A Distraction From You-Know-What/Who?

For many of us in the USA, this election season is the most stress-filled ever. And I think many of us could use a distraction. I know I could. As a way to promote a peaceful distraction from the chaos all around us, I’ve decided to make my novel, “We Called Him Yeshua,” FREE on Amazon for this weekend.

In addition to the ebook being FREE, I’ve dropped the price of the paperback by 20%. The paperback price drop has already taken effect. The ebook being free will take effect midnight tonight (Friday, Oct. 9th). My hope is that people will find the story in “We Called Him Yeshua” a nice distraction from all the stuff we’re currently living through.

So stay tuned. I’ll post a reminder of the free ebook tomorrow morning, once I’ve confirmed Amazon has changed its status to free. And no matter what, I hope you have a great weekend that’s free from all the things that bring you stress.

Cheerio, CJ


1 Comment

Trump Saved Christianity … Really?

Eric Trump claims his father Donald saved Christianity. So says an article I just read at Huffpost. And there was the answer to a question I posted yesterday. So THAT’s why so many Christians support Donald Trump, because he single handedly saved their religion. Really?

Look, ignoring Trump for a minute (which is really hard to do), I have a few thoughts on this idea of someone “saving” Christianity. For decades, it’s been a very political issue with many Christians. They vote for whoever better supports their Christian values … sometimes. It’s as if they believe a President can help, and maybe even save, their religion and promote their values throughout the country.

Hey, do you really think God and Jesus need help?

The leaders of Jesus’ day, while he walked the roads of ancient Israel, well, they tried to kill Christianity. No go. They killed the man, but couldn’t kill the faith.

After Jesus died on the cross and rose to heaven, the leaders still conspired to kill the spreading faith. At least one of them was wise enough to see the futility in such an effort. In referring to Christians, the wise one said, “If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

And we know the Romans tried, and failed, to kill early Christianity.

Worrying about a person doing harm to Christianity is just showing how weak our faith in God is. Some Christians put too much faith in other people, and not enough faith in God.

Look, Christians don’t need to worry about the safety of our faith or our values, unless we put more trust in men than in God. But if we just ignore politics and focus only on God and Jesus, then anti-Christian politicians will only find themselves fighting against God. Who do you think will win?

If Christians would spend less time worrying about the positions of politicians and more quiet time with God and Jesus, I think we all would be better off. What was it Jesus said? Ask and you shall receive. Time to put more faith in what Jesus said rather than what politicians say.


3 Comments

Baffled

I don’t get it. And maybe someone out there can help me understand. I just finished reading the New Testament in a week. Yes, I have plenty of time on my hands. I’ve read the NT many times, but this time I read it from the perspective of wanting to glean what it means to be a Christian. That is, according to the Bible, what is the true character of a Christian?

I didn’t learn anything new—there were no surprises. But the experience lit a fire under a question that’s been nagging me for a long time.

How? How can someone who’s a Christian, someone who accepts Jesus and the words in the New Testament, someone who at least tries to live up to the character description of a Christian—well, how can someone like that support a person whose character is the polar opposite of the Christian character? How can someone who calls themselves Christian support a person like Donald Trump?

I’d love to hear a better answer than the one I came up with. For I believe such a person is not really a Christian. You’ve heard of RINO’s, Republicans In Name Only? Well, it appears to me that this country has a bunch of CINO’s, Christians in name only.

I wonder what Jesus thinks of all this. And I’d really like to hear what you think.


Leave a comment

Standing at the Crossroads

With all that’s going on in the world right now, it feels like humanity is standing at a crossroads. And it’s there, at the fork in the road, where a battle is raging. The battle is against some nasty forces—racism and bigotry, arrogance and oppression. And of course, a worldwide pandemic. Sometimes it feels like there’s a war against the wellbeing of humanity. The weapons of the enemy include the hate, ignorance, arrogance, and these days … that dreaded virus.

But what’s the deal with this crossroads? What choices do the two paths present? And which way will help us most to win the battle?

One path is the way of the world, using the same tools we use in all of humanities endeavors to fight for what we want. Against certain nasty forces, things like peaceful protests can win the day. As a race, humanity typically tries to get what it wants by its own power, following this first path. But is that enough? Maybe it’s time to give up, and look somewhere else for the power that’s needed to overcome the forces fighting against the survival of humanity.

I think it’s time to turn to God and Jesus. I’m not talking about religion, with all its man-inflicted warts and blemishes. I’m not talking church-ianity, with a focus on tradition and prescribed worship, etc. I’m not talking about a faith that still relies on human effort to get what we desire. I’m talking true Christianity, not following the dictates of some manmade church, but following the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus. This is not only a radical thought for the secular world, but also for many who call themselves Christian. For Christianity is polluted with the ways of humanity. It has been for centuries.

Oops, I’ve wandered away from the crossroads. Let’s get back to it.

Will humanity still rely on its own strength to overcome forces of evil? Or, will we rely on God? The crossroads I’m envisioning does not represent two different courses of action. Rather, I think it’s a crossroads of reliance. One way is the same path of relying on ourselves, on human effort. Standing at the entrance to the other path is the Spirit of Jesus, holding out his hand, inviting us to rely on him.

If we give up on our self-efforts, if we embrace the reality of the Spirit of Jesus as a person and not a thing, and if we stir up enough love for the Spirit of Jesus to crave his presence within our very selves, then …

Well, imagine what might result if more and more people relied on the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, rather than ourselves.


Leave a comment

Oh, To Be A Peacemaker

I can’t understand, as hard as I try.

I can’t understand the feelings and fears of the victims, victims of racism and ignorance.

I can’t know how it is to feel threatened and unsafe … almost every day.

I can’t guess at the pain, fear and anguish some people live with.

All I can know for sure is how much I despise racism and bigotry, hatred, arrogance and ignorance.

It almost makes me ashamed to be human.

I want to do something, I want to help. But I don’t know how. After all, I too suffer from my own human flaws.

I think all I can do for now is listen, and learn, and feel. And keep my heart and mind open.

But what more can I do? I want to know.

So I asked. And Jesus answered.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Jesus calls me—He calls all of us—to be peacemakers.

I may not yet know the best way to be a peacemaker, but I’ll try, and pray, and hope, and love, as best I can.

For now, I think that’s all I can do. Until He shows me more.

I can’t trust humanity to fix this.

So I’ll trust Jesus.


Leave a comment

A Lever for Change

Peaceful protests are a good lever for change. Unfortunately, as we have seen, criminals and anarchists who don’t care about change are hijacking peaceful protests. The criminals just see an easy opportunity to get away with looting. I don’t pretend to guess what motivates the anarchists—it looks to me like they just enjoy stirring up trouble.

But there is one lever for change that is not so easily hijacked—your vote. I don’t know if there’s much our federal elected officials can do to fix problems such as the one that’s shattering our nation right now. But I do know there is something state and local officials can do. So, along with our peaceful (hopefully) protests, we should tell our local elected officials that unless they implement tangible and effective change by this November, we’re going to vote them out of office. I bet that will help get something done.

The best legacy for George Floyd and all victims of such crimes should not be violence, looting, and division. I think the best legacy that we could honor them with is to have all of us, regardless of race, come together around effective and long lasting change that will ensure that crimes like this never happen again. And in keeping with what I normally post about, more powerful even than our vote would be all of us praying together.

And yes, this is not the typical type of thing I post. But like many of you, because of what’s happened, and the violence that has come on the heels of violence, well, it’s stirred up too much anguish for me to keep bottled up. So I’ve added my small voice to the cries of all those who are also saddened, along with the groans of our country and society that seems to be trembling on the knife edge of survival (maybe that’s what the anarchists want—to push us all over the edge).


Leave a comment

Record Unemployment – My Feeble Effort to Help Out

I just saw the headline, “April Unemployment Rate Rose to a Record 14.7%.” Unprecedented 20.5 million jobs lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The headline is huge, but what follows feels so little. Anyway, I don’t know if it will help anyone, but because of that headline, I’m dropping the price of “We Called Him Yeshua” down to as low as Amazon will allow. It feels like nothing. But if it helps one person get the book, who may not otherwise, and if it helps them find comfort and escape within the pages of the book, then to me it’s well worth it.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7/