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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Never Alone, or The Best Christmas Ever

On my way to the Philippines for work. Eleven hours, middle seat in coach. At least an exit row. But there’s a pungent odor seeping out of the apparently un-bathed guy next to me. Time for a breather. Strolling the aisle, a sea of faces, none familiar.

Finally, Tokyo. Three-hour layover, and grateful to give achy legs a good stretch. Wandering the airport corridors, travelers everywhere. Sure would be fun to see someone I know. But nope.

Next plane. Five more hours to Manila. Plane packed, but at least I have an aisle seat. Still no familiar faces. Manila airport, I’m drowning in another sea of people. And the midnight humidity—clinging my tired clothes to tired skin. Dark outside, fluorescent gloom inside. I feel like an alien, all alone.

But not truly alone. Cramped in a middle seat next to my stinky neighbor, the Holy Spirit was with me. Walking through Tokyo airport, the Holy Spirit was with me. The entire trip, the Holy Spirit was within me. Whenever I felt alone, I looked to the Spirit of Jesus. And He’s always there. I’m never alone.

As Christmas approaches, especially this 2020 Christmas, I find myself spending more and more time thinking of those who may end up being more alone this Christmas than ever before. Christmas is traditionally a hard time for a lot of people. And with all the suffering of 2020, and all the loss of family and friends, I suspect that this Christmas will be harder than most. But maybe people can turn their loneliness and despair into an opportunity to form or revitalize a new relationship … with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

My trip to Manila took place about seven years ago. During those seven years, my relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me has grown stronger. Even when I drift away for days or weeks, He’s still right there when I look back at Him. Looking hasn’t always been easy, with my often-scattered mind and spiritual attention deficit disorder. But for what it’s worth, here’s what has worked for me, and maybe it will work for you:

As often as you can, go to a quiet place, away from the noise and distractions of your world. Close your eyes. Quiet your thoughts. Leave the cares and concerns of your life outside. Focus just on your breathing, each breath in, each breath out. Once you’ve quieted your mind enough, try to visualize the Spirit of Jesus within you. Not up in heaven, not sitting beside you, but inside you, sharing your body with your soul. And just be with Him.

This may be hard at first—it certainly was for me. You may feel you failed, at first. But don’t give up. As often as you can throughout your day, practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. Start each day this way. At some point, you will feel His presence. Then you will know that from that day on, you will never be alone.

And by sharing your life with Jesus, maybe this Christmas could be your best Christmas ever.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17)


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Shelter From Attack

Do you sometimes feel under attack? It can come from anywhere—the spiritual or the worldly realm. Are your emotions under attack? Your feelings? Your sense of peace and well-being? Covid 19, elections, racism, divisiveness, family, your job (or lack of a job), enemies of all kinds—there’s plenty out there to make us feel under attack.

But there is a way to shield yourself from such attacks, no matter where they come from. Jesus said:

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:4, 7)

Though it took me a while, I didn’t have much trouble visualizing Jesus in me. Even now, I feel His Holy Spirit living within me, sharing this body with me. And I’m so grateful for His presence. But it took me much longer to get a sense of what it means for me to be in Jesus. Yet now, Jesus’ Spirit is within me, and my soul rests within Him.

When I feel my presence within Jesus, I’m free, and safe. Also, being in Jesus I feel protected from sinning. Living within Jesus, I’m shielded from things outside, things that want to attack me. Being in Jesus, I’m untouchable.

Of course, as my day ventures on, I often fall away from Jesus, into the muck and mire of the world. Yet even those times, when I don’t feel my presence in Jesus, I still feel the presence of His Spirit within me. But I don’t feel shielded from attack until I return to Jesus, and again enter into Him.

Jesus also said, “Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

I feel a voice inside telling me not to tell you how I visualize myself being in Jesus. I guess you need to figure out what works for you. But Jesus will help you. All you have to do is knock and He will let you in. It’s in the quiet moments of your prayers where you will find Jesus showing you the way and welcoming you into Him. Just knock, ask, and seek.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


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A Prayer for Today, Friday the 13th

Please try praying this prayer for yourself, from your heart. First, get an image of Jesus in your mind’s eye, maybe from a movie you’ve seen or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter. Then, with that image, picture the Spirit of Jesus within you, inside your body, there with your soul and personality. Like the two of you are sharing the same body. Now …

 

Dear Spirit of Jesus, here within me,

Help me feel the fruits of your presence.

Help me feel your love, your joy, your peace, your patience,

Help me feel your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness,

And help me feel your gentleness and self-control.

With you within me dear Jesus, I can feel protected from the chaos of the world around me.

I can feel isolated, separated from the world.

Yes, I feel safe, and calm.

I feel your peace, and freedom.

The world is still there, always there, noisy, painful, angry.

But at least for this moment, I’m free of it all, here with you.

I know the world will suck me back out as soon as I look away from you.

But whenever I look back inside, to you, I will find you there, always waiting for me.

With you, I’m never alone.

Dear Jesus, when I leave this time of prayer and return to the world, as I must, please help me bring the fruits of your presence with me.

Please help me bring a bit of you with me.

Come with me back into the world.

It’s hard for me alone.

But with you, I can glorify you and our Father with what I do and how I live.

Dear Jesus, dear Lord God, your Spirit here within me,

I love you.


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Freedom from the Prison of Pride

This morning, while praying for a very well-known political person who exhibits extreme pride, arrogance, and apparent narcissism, the title for this post popped into my head. Realizing that a lot of people suffer from being trapped in our own prison of pride—actually, all of us, to some degree or another—I’m motivated to write about it. Also, I remain concerned for that well-known person who’s bound with more chains than most.

To me it’s sad, the pain pride inflicts upon people. It can bind us up with chains of anger, hatred, lies, bigotry, intolerance, self-righteousness, paranoia, and other such things that make people miserable. Most of us aren’t even aware of the chains that bind us. Therefore, we don’t realize we can be free of those chains.

Yesterday I posted about the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus in our lives. It’s interesting to compare the rotten fruits of pride listed above with the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (aka, humility), and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Which fruits would you rather live with?

It’s the Spirit of Jesus, present in our lives, who will set us free from the chains that bind us. It’s a truth promised by Jesus: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The question we all answer, whether we know it or not, is this: do we want to live with the chains of pride, or the fruits of the Spirit?


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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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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


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The Mind Controlled by the Spirit

I recall seeing mention of it only once in the entire Bible. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) And, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (verse 9) *

Maybe when Paul wrote this, he didn’t mean what I hope he meant. Maybe he just means the mind “influenced” by the Spirit. Well, I feel the presence of the Spirit of God in my life, and I feel His influence. But often I desire so much more. And since David once wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4), I still hope that God will give me what I desire.

Oh how I wish the Spirit of Jesus would take control over my scattered, out of control mind. So often—too often—my mind goes places I really don’t want it to go. And that’s when the feeling of His presence leaves me, though I believe His Spirit never leaves—just my awareness of Him fades away.

Well, anyway, I’ll keep hoping and desiring and trusting and doing all I can to glorify God and Jesus. For without them, life would be hell.

I hope you have a great, Spirit-filled day.

 

* If you know of other places in the Bible that speak of this kind of control, please point me to them.


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Split Between Two Worlds

Whether we realize it or not, we divide our lives between two different worlds. We live in both the earthly, material world, and the spiritual world. Yet many people don’t realize there is a spiritual world. For them, the material world consumes and completely controls their lives, and there is no escape from it.

The material world consists of such things as daily work, stress from outside pressure and strained relationships, worldwide pandemics, divisive and stomach-acid-churning presidential elections, aches, pains, anxiety, fear, anger, hatred, lies, injustice, bigotry … well, I’m sure you can think of more descriptions of the world you live in.

Yet, the spiritual world is the absolute opposite of the material world. The spiritual world is peace beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s love that’s bigger than we can imagine. It’s intimate companionship with God. No pain, no fear, no anxiety. No need for antacid pills, calming cocktails, or anxiety numbing drugs. The spiritual world is freedom.

But how do we cross over to this world of freedom? Well, as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The truth that takes our hand and leads us into the freedom and peace of the spiritual world is the presence in our lives of the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. We can’t cross over to the spiritual world without help. Yet the Spirit of Jesus can enter into our very bodies, the two in one flesh, and lead us into His world where we will find the freedom we seek. The truth of this is clearly spelled out in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels.

Yet, as long as we occupy our human bodies, our life is bound to the two different worlds. The material world is unavoidable. Sometimes it demands our full attention. But not always.

I’d like to offer you a suggestion. The next time you find yourself being drawn to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the television, or whatever other worldly distraction that tends to fill up your discretionary time, try this: put down that phone, tablet, or remote control. Step away from the keyboard and step toward the Spirit of Jesus. Look for the Spirit in the words of the Bible, and get to know Him. Ask the Spirit of Jesus to guide you into His world, and experience that break you so desperately need from the material world.

The more time you spend in the spiritual world of Jesus, the easier it will be to cope with the strain of the material world. And the more you practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus within you, the easier you will find it to enter His world at almost any time, no matter what’s going on around you in the material world.

Also, the more time you spend with Jesus in the spiritual world, the more you will be able to bring His peace with you when you have to be fully involved in the material world. With the presence of Jesus’ Spirit, you will greatly lighten your material world experiences. I encourage you to not settle for dividing your life between the two opposite worlds. Rather, bring the spiritual world with you as you live in the material world.

Could it be that while Jesus walked the roads of ancient Israel, He lived fully in the spiritual and fully in the material at the same time? Can you imagine if you could do the same thing, and how that would affect your experience of life?

You have a choice. Which world do you want to spend more time in, the world of anxiety and anger, or the world of peace and love?

One final thought. Books about heaven, about the reality of heaven and some peoples personal early glimpses of heaven (like via near-death experiences), these books appear to be widely popular. The popularity of such books tells me that a lot of people are very interested in heaven. But do they know that they can experience heaven right now, heaven on earth. That’s what it is to live in the spiritual world with Jesus?


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Looking For Freedom? Look Inside Yourself

The truth will set you free. That’s what Jesus said.

What truth Lord, I need to know?

The truth of love, the truth of faith, the truth of My presence in your life.

Yet free from what? Will you tell me that?

Yes my child. Everything.

What? I don’t understand.

Tell Me child, what burdens you?

Well, I guess, especially this year, almost everything.

Exactly.

But how Lord? Where does freedom come from?

The truth laid out for all to see, the truth hidden in plain sight is this: Me in you and you in Me. My Spirit living with your spirit, with your soul, within your body. The two will become one flesh.

But how?

Just quiet your mind, open your heart, let go of your “self,” and let Me in. By My presence within you, and your surrender to Me, you will be free. I’m already there, just waiting for you to look at Me.


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FREE Book = FREE Distraction

The angry news comes at us from all directions. It feels especially so in the United States right now (no need to say more about that).

At times like these, I need a distraction. And figuring you might need a good distraciton too, I’ve made the ebook of my novel, “We Called Him Yeshua,” FREE for this weekend. I also dropped the price of the paperback 20% from its already reduced price.

So go to Amazon now, get your free distraction, and take a break from what’s happening outside your door.

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7/

 


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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


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Thank You

Another morning, at first indifferent.

And maybe a bit of reluctant dread.

Then quiet time alone, coffee cup warming my hands.

Silence my mind, look inside, and away from my “self.”

No, not alone. Never alone.

Thank You.

My attitude adjustment hour.

Perspective heightened. Life is good.

 

Time for a walk, before it’s too hot.

Mask in my pocket, always at the ready.

A crispness lingers in the air.

So refreshing. Another thing to be grateful for.

But the air is not only crispness.

Ash sprinkles down, like cursed snowflakes.

From overhead to the western horizon, the brown “fog bank” of smoke.

Sirens wail off in the distance. On the highway, heading north?

The wildfire season … again.

 

The “new normal.” “It is what it is.” So tired of those phrases.

Yet I admit their accuracy, and simple clarity.

I feel the struggle, trying not to let it all get me down.

A near-constant struggle … these days.

Some days I lose.

But today … today I’m winning.

Yet, not alone.

Thank You.


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The Other Side of the Wall

Coronavirus, roller coaster stock market, rising infection rates, increasing death tolls, extended restrictions and growing fears, financial worries, angst over not being able to see and hug my adult children (other than on Zoom, which just doesn’t cut it). These and more are the stones in my wall, my wall of distraction. It’s the wall that blocks my view of Jesus, who’s always there, waiting for me on the other side. But, given quiet time and a chance to empty my mind, the stones of jumbled thoughts disappear, and there’s Jesus smiling at me.

Yet it helps so much to know who I’m looking for, to know whom I’ll find on the other side of that wall. It was harder before … before I’d gotten to know him. But now, I know him as more than Jesus the Son of God. I also know Jesus the son of man.

Would you like to more easily look beyond your own wall, clear your mind of the “world,” and see the Spirit of Jesus within you? Would you like to have a clearer image of who you’re looking for? Would you like to see Jesus as his closest followers saw him, as a fellow human … the son of man?

I wrote the novel We Called Him Yeshua to help people better know the human side of Jesus. Why? Well, because I think it’s easier to fall in love with another person than with a God. I believe the more someone knows the human side of Jesus, the easier it will be for them to love him and be devoted to him. Yet I believe that most people see Jesus as God, and therefore, out of intimidation or whatever, they hold him at arm’s length. So I wrote a story I hope will help them see Jesus the man, and instead of keeping him at arm’s length, pull him into a loving hug.

In an effort to make this book available to more people, I’ve arranged for the ebook to be free this weekend. So, from Friday (July 31) to Sunday (August 2) you can get We Called Him Yeshua for free on Amazon. I’ll be sure to post a reminder on Friday.

Finally, if you’ve already read the book and you’d like to leave a review on Amazon, now would be a good time as your comments might help others decide if they want to grab a free ebook or not. Plus, I’d be grateful to see what you think. Thanks.


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The Parasite

On some days, the parasite seems to slumber, not stirring up trouble. But other days, it squirms in his stomach, making him nervous and tense. When awake, the damn thing is always hungry, eating at him from the inside. Oh, it’s not killing him, but it’s not good for his health, that’s for sure. And people often see the impact of the parasite’s presence, though they don’t realize where the negative behavior is coming from. They just think it’s part of his personality. Besides, he doesn’t appear much different than other folk. Actually, he’s not.

But lately, he’s very aware of the parasite. Though he now knows it’s always been there, for much of his life, he didn’t recognize it. But the past several years, he’s spent a lot of time dwelling on his constant companion, studying it, learning about it, even reading books about it. After all, it’s good to know your enemies.

He’s learned how the parasite affects his life too, always in negative ways. Mostly, it affects his mood and feelings and how he reacts to other people. Today, he’s pondering how the presence of the parasite affects his ability to love. Maybe a strange thing to think about, but it was just an idea that popped into his head. And he hadn’t thought before of how the ever-hungry parasite might also have a taste for devouring love.

Speaking of love, this latest round of musings began when he started thinking about his ability to generate and express love for others. He sees and feels something of a love speed limit, like there’s only so much love he can give. If he’s able to stir up more love, the parasite is there to consume it and keep any extra from wrestling free and escaping out to others in his life.

He’s able to give love to his wife and children, and most of his family (except for the strange cousin and the wacko nephew), and a few select friends. Yet he realizes that the amount of love he gives each person varies, depending upon his relationship to them. And after all, he has only so much love to give—the parasite sees to that.

Yet even his more powerful love, which he reserves for his wife and two children, feels weakened upon reflection. Oh, there are times he feels if he loved them any more, his heart would burst. But that’s always triggered by some event, like when they do something that makes him proud, or touch his heart with a tender expression of their own love for him. But that white-hot feeling of love he infrequently feels is momentary, and soon cools back down. And he wonders why. Why does it sometimes feel like he’s holding back love from the ones he loves the most?

Days go by and he forgets about all this love stuff, slipping back to his usual, seemingly carefree life. But his thoughts on love return to haunt him, bringing a deep feeling of failure, failure to give total love to those he loves, especially his wife and children.

Then one day, early in the morning with a cup of coffee in his hand and a good book in his lap, he closes his eyes and meditates on this uneasy feeling about love, that feeling that he’s not loving as much as he could. And in a flash of recognition, he sees it, and knows it.

He sees himself. He has sometimes felt the dual forms of his personality, like the little angel on one shoulder, and the devil on his other shoulder, each trying to influence him. And what he sees, sucking up his limited supply of love, is his little devil, his Self … the parasite. Yes, the parasite has a name, and that name is Self. The selfish, prideful, self-centered, self-seeking side of him that is a fundamental part of the person he is.

The Self is always hungry for attention. And the delight that is its favorite dessert is love. For the more love it can suck up from its host, as well as those around him, the stronger grows its self-worth. And the sweetness of love provides it the most nourishment. Damn parasite.

He wrests his mind free from the parasite, looks down, and reads further in the book sitting in his lap. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Love never fails. But he doesn’t feel it, for his love fails often, and his efforts to give a greater love always fail. He flips several pages in the book, glances down and reads some more. “God is love.”

And then it hits him. God’s love never fails. It’s God’s love that always perseveres. And believing that God is infinite, he now sees that God’s love must also be infinite. So unlike his own limited love. And since God doesn’t suffer from the presence of His own self-seeking little devil always sitting on His shoulder, sucking up gulps of love for itself, there is no limit to the love God pours out upon His children.

Though he feels the familiar gratitude for God’s love, this new insight doesn’t make him feel any better. In a way, it just makes him feel more wretched, as he sees in a brighter light how pitiful his own capacity to love really is.

So he prays, asking God to show him how to love more. And in a flash, the answer comes to him, feeling like the answer was always there, like the book sitting in his lap, just waiting for him to open his eyes and look.

He quickly flips back many pages in the book, looking for the words he remembers and has long craved. And there it is, as John the Baptist speaks of his cousin Jesus by saying, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

And the answer he’s long known becomes sharp and clear in his mind. The more his Self becomes less, the more Jesus’ Spirit within him will become greater. And the more Jesus takes over, the more the love of God and Jesus will push out his Self, his devilish parasite, and fill him with love. All that love pouring into him will then be available for him to pour out to others. And maybe someday he too will be able to love his wife and children, his family and friends with the unlimited love of God, a love that will never fail.

He sees also the answer to being rid of the parasite of pride. He’d often wondered about a cure, or some kind of spiritual surgery to cut it out. Now he sees his freedom comes from letting the Spirit of Jesus in, and Jesus will then push out his parasite of pride.

 

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)


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My Remedy for Social Distance Induced Stress

I just survived another trek to the grocery store. The experience usually leaves me tense, breathing rapidly, heart pounding, chest tightening.

You see, I take the social distancing thing seriously. I take all the warnings and all the data seriously. But not everyone else does. Clearly, many of my fellow shoppers didn’t give a damn about social distancing. Or they’re just not thinking, as in the case of the person talking on their cell phone while shopping and not paying attention to anyone else around them.

So I come home after taking advantage of the early morning senior hour, barely past 9:00am, and I’m ready to pour myself a stiff whisky. But after unpacking the groceries and putting things away, I have a better idea. And it’s an idea I’d like to share, as it might help you find relief from those stress-filled moments.

Grab a hot cup of tea, or maybe a one-pound chunk of dark chocolate, and relax with a novel that will take you far away, to another time and place. And as some of you know by now, I have a particular book in mind.

We Called Him Yeshua is a story that can take you all the way to the villages and roads of ancient Israel, where you will become another one of the healed and hopeful, following Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem. You will see Jesus not through the lens of ancient biblical manuscripts, but through the eyes of your fellow travelers. These people felt Jesus’ love reach down to the depths of their souls. They saw his love in action, every day, in all kinds of ways. They called him Yeshua. Read this book, and maybe you will come to call him friend.

Would you like to see more of what this story is about? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then, use the Amazon “look inside” feature and get a taste for yourself.


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A “Groundhog Day” Moment

The early evening sun dropped behind the tree in the front yard, casting the lawn in speckled shadows. My wife sat in her usual spot for that time of day, on the couch, facing the large window looking out to the street, her latest favorite book in hand. I was in my usual spot, on the family room couch, scanning the articles in our local online newspaper (yes, it was all the same stuff—all coronavirus, all the time).

Suddenly my wife let out a chuckle.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I just had a ‘Groundhog Day’ moment,” she said, still chuckling.

“A what?”

“Well, I’m sitting here looking out the window, and I’m seeing the same people, walking past at the same time of day, in the same direction, and yet all keeping plenty of ‘social distance’ between them. But it’s just like yesterday—the same thing each day.”

And then we were both chuckling, feeling as if we too were stuck in the cycle Bill Murray fell into in the movie “Groundhog Day,” living the same day over and over again.

This sheltering in place has many of us falling into a routine as we try to make the best out of a difficult situation. Some, like the people my wife chuckled at, get outside when they can for a nice social-distanced walk in the fresh air. My wife and I do, usually at the same time of day, each and every day. Yet, we do sometimes change our route, being the thrill-seekers we are.

Are you living your own Groundhog Day? If it feels that way, you can always keep repeating what you enjoy, and change up what you don’t. And if possible, try to find some humor in our new reality.

By the way, I tried to figure out how to tie this into some kind of Christian message, since that’s what I usually write about. But I couldn’t think of anything. So I decided to share it just for the fun. During this era of tension and stress that so many of us feel, it’s important to have some fun, as often as we can.

Here’s hoping you have a great day today, even if it’s a lot like yesterday.


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Jesus Is Now

My thoughts and feelings often fluctuate like shifting breezes. And I can’t seem to control where they will go next, especially my feelings.

But there is one thing I can control—where my thoughts are right now. Maybe “now” is a very brief period of time, but I still have control there. And I suspect you do too. The moment after this one should not be our concern, for we often have little influence over it. We should try not to worry about what comes next. But, we can still control our now.

With all the distractions going on in the world around us these days, all the attention-grabbers, all the stress-inducers, all the anxiety-amplifiers, I’d like to invite you to wrest your thoughts away from those for a moment. And if you believe in Jesus Christ and his promises, I invite you to say to yourself right now:

“The Holy Spirit of Jesus is within me now.”

“I rest in Jesus’ presence now.”

“Jesus forgives me now.”

“Jesus saves me now.”

“Jesus is my life now.”

“Jesus is my strength now.”

“Jesus is my protection now.”

“Jesus is my peace now.”

“I am surrendered to Jesus now.”

“I abide in Jesus now.”

Oh sure, shortly after you finish reading this your thoughts may be pulled off in another direction. But, for that moment, as you read the affirmations above, you and Jesus were one, as he and his Father are one—He in you, and you in him. And whenever you want, you can go back there.

Yes, being mindful of Jesus’ presence within you for long stretches of time can be really hard (for me, it sure is). But it’s easy to be with him now.

And think about this: each moment, each now, may influence the next.


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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