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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The Power of Easter

There is so much power in the events surrounding Easter, with Jesus’ death and resurrection. And Jesus didn’t take it all with him when he ascended to heaven. He left his power, in the form of his Spirit, here, with us.

As Jesus said to his disciples, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

I’d been searching for the Holy Spirit of Jesus for years, craving a strong sense of His presence in my life. I eventually found him, but only after I finally knew who I was looking for.

In my search, I felt I knew Jesus the Son of God, having read the Gospels several times, listened to lots of sermons and read many books. But the sense of knowing the person Jesus was still missing. And for whatever reason, as hard as I prayed and looked, I still couldn’t find and feel the Spirit of Jesus within me. But he kept telling me that he and I would be one, as he and his Father are one—he in me, and me in Him.

Then, I decided to write a novel about Jesus, showing him from the perspective of people he had healed in some way. I was just trying to capture how those people felt, having been so close to Jesus, witnessing his power and love. But then, as the book evolved, I saw that it was more than about those people’s experiences of Jesus. It became about the whole person of Jesus—his humanity as well as his divinity. As Jesus called himself, he was the son of man, not just the Son of God.

Anyway, it was on that writing journey of having Jesus the man open up before me that I finally felt his presence in my life, in my very body. Now, more than ever, Jesus and I feel as one. And whenever I pause from the distractions of life and look inside, he’s right there, waiting for me.

I got there by writing this book. It was in the writing that I think I came to know the whole Jesus—God and man. My hope is that many other people can get there by reading the book. Maybe this book could help you too.

If you’re curious, click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. And right now, it’s priced as low as Amazon will allow.


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Resurrection

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you can witness the emotions of the resurrection through the feelings of someone who loved Jesus very much. She called him Yeshua. We call him Jesus.

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– Anna –

The crowds had grown thinner. How long had it been? The passing time felt like a numb blur. He had said something to me, the night he was taken: After I’m gone, don’t go looking for me. Instead, wait, be patient. Then three days from now, look for me.

Had it been three days? I couldn’t be sure. I gazed up the hill at the rising sun. Tuning back to face the city—where should I look? Where might I find him? He hadn’t told me that. Or … had he? I couldn’t remember.

I started walking down the hill, heading for the tomb. At least I would be closer to him there. My problem was, I didn’t know where to find it. I had been at the tomb the day he died. I had helped wrap his body in a shroud and watched as they laid him inside. But it had all been in such a tearful haze. I decided to let my legs move and see where’d they’d take me—hopefully they remembered.

I followed the path down to the main road, turned right, away from the city, and walked up the hill until I came to another path that lead me around the outside of the cities northern wall. I eventually entered a natural garden, with trees starting to blossom in the early spring sunshine. It was so peaceful, and quiet. But from there, I didn’t know where to go next.

I heard voices coming from up ahead. I crouched behind a tree and peered down the path. It was the sister of Lazarus, the pretty one called Mary. With her was Miriam, the woman from Magdala. What were they doing there?

I stepped out from behind the tree.

They looked up, startled, and then relaxed when they recognized me. I walked forward. We stood silently looking at one another, trying to smile, but each failing. Miriam reached out, touched my hand, and nodded as she and Mary turned onto a faint path leading farther up into the rocky hill. Though nothing looked familiar, I knew they were going to the tomb.

Suddenly we stopped. The cave stood open before us, with the tombstone rolled to the side. Miriam crept forward and peered into the blackness. A moment later she looked back, her face white, her mouth gaping. I pushed passed Mary, ran to the tomb and looked inside. As my eyes adjusted, I saw a shallow cave, with a rumbled, blood stained shroud laying the floor. But … no body.

I jumped up, stared at the shocked faces of Miriam and Mary, then ran, feeling as if I’d run this path before. Where was he? Had someone stolen his body. Maybe those Pharisees. With his body gone, how could he come back to life, as he had promised?

Almost like the evening of his death, I found myself back in the grove, panicking and not certain how I had gotten there. I fell onto the well-worn spot under my tree and lost my thoughts on the only piece of him I had left.

“Anna!” I looked up from my bloodstained dress to see Neri running into the olive grove. “They saw him! He’s alive!”

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Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), see what you think.


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” Easter Sale

I sometimes fret over the sales of my recently published book, We Called Him Yeshua. But the other day, while praying, I think Jesus gave me something more important to think about. My primary desire now is to write and post things that can hopefully help people deal with the crisis we are all currently in. I like that new purpose. It feels good to me, and right. And to be honest, I think it helps me deal with the crisis—by trying to help others and not be just another victim.

So I’ll let Jesus deal with the sales of my book. If he wants a lot of people to read it, he can do a far better job of promoting than I ever could. But there’s one thing I can do (and feel called to do), that can help.

I’ve again reduced the price of the book. Both the ebook and paperback are now priced as low as they can go. My hope is that this will make it easier for people to get a book that just might be helpful during this unprecedented time where almost everyone on this planet is experiencing the same struggles.

Curious? Click on the image to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), see what you think.


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Seeing the Crucifixion Through New Eyes

See the crucifixion of Jesus Christ from a new perspective, through the eyes of someone who followed him not because he was called, but because he couldn’t help it. What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. They called him Yeshua, we call him Jesus.

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– Neri –

I turned to find Lydia standing next to me. She grabbed my arm and rested her head against my shoulder. “Neri,” she whispered, not taking her eyes from the top of the hill.

“Lydia, what are you doing here?” My words sounded so much louder than I’d intended.

“Chased Anna. Lost her. Been searching all over this lousy hillside, and here …” Her voice trailed off as she looked at Anna on my other side, still collapsed on the ground, her arm wrapped around my leg, her head hugging my thigh. Lydia then looked back at the top of the hill and took a slow, shuddering breath. “He looks … almost hollow.”

“Death will do that.”

“So, he’s dead already.”

“No. Close.”

It was almost noon. He’d been up there since mid-morning. The stale and stagnant air hung heavy around us, filled with the tang of sweat and dust. People covered the hillside, most of them silent. Except for the mockers, jeering him still. The vultures.

A wave of disgust, terror, and confusion rose up in my chest. I wanted to collapse next to Anna and let the tears flow. But I couldn’t—had to be strong, for them.

I glanced back up the hill, over the heads of those in front me. There he hung, the cross perched high for all eyes to see, even from the city walls. His chin quivered as he struggled to breathe—I could almost hear the rattling gasps. Then, with great strain, he pushed up with his legs and his breathing seemed to ease, just a bit.

Without taking my eyes from him, I whispered, “Lydia, how’s Ruth? Is she safe?”

“Yes. With Timaeus and—”

Lydia froze as night suddenly started filling the sky. Beginning over our heads it spewed out in all directions, turning the grey clouds coal black. The only light came from the edge of the western horizon, where the dark blanket ended. A rooster crowed. I looked toward the Temple and its golden spires—faint outlines in the thickening sky.

The darkness seemed to suck up all life and sound. I felt locked in a dungeon: nothing to see, stale air to breathe, nowhere to move. From the top of the hill scattered words drifted down. Yeshua was speaking.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl, the unchanging dim light making me feel as if time had actually stopped. It fed my growing agony. The silence again was broken as his enemies tried still to taunt him, though their voices now betrayed their fear.

About the third hour past noon, a sudden loud noise cracked from the direction of the Temple, followed by a cry from the top of the hill. Then, just for an instant, I felt weightless and dizzy. The ground trembled. Anna screamed. Yeshua died.

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Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), see what you think.

The story might start to pull you back to another time, and another place. And maybe, just for a moment, you can find escape from the time and place we are all currently stuck in. The story might do more than distract you, do more than temporarily pull you free of the pandemic stress-pit we’ve all fallen into. Maybe the story will open your mind’s eye to see the Holy Spirit of Jesus, waiting within you. He’s there, waiting to take your hand, lift you free of the pit, and help you walk the path we are all currently on, the path through the minefield of this coronavirus pandemic.

Since I think it’s more important during this historic situation to help people than to make money off this book, I’ve reduced the price again. Both the ebook and paperback are now priced as low as they can go. My hope is that this will make it easier for people to get a book that just might be helpful during this unprecedented time where almost everyone on this planet is experiencing the same things.


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Father, Your Will be Done

What might it have been like to be with Jesus in the final hours before his arrest? What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you will see one persons experience during those hours. What she saw was this: the more someone loved Yeshua, the more those final hours hurt.

They called him Yeshua; we call him Jesus.


– Anna –

“Anna, let’s go.” Neri took up my limp hands and lifted me to my feet. The late afternoon sun had fallen behind the Temple, casting Solomon’s Porch in shadow. How long had we been sitting there listening to Yeshua preach? The priests had stayed away, which gave Yeshua a chance to talk of other things. But I hadn’t heard a word he said. Worries had sucked my thoughts too deep inside to even notice what my eyes had seen.

Neri guided me out of the Temple and through a maze of streets. Everything around me felt wrapped in a fog. The world felt distant and fuzzy. We walked through a doorway and into a courtyard. Above was a covered terrace, where people were placing cushions around a table.

I looked about the courtyard, pushed Neri away, and rushed over to Yeshua, where he stood at the base of the stairs. I gazed numbly up into his face.

“Master,” someone called from above, “the Passover meal is almost ready.”

Yeshua ignored him, and looked sweetly into my face. “Anna …” He reached over and pushed the hair out of my eyes. “As I promised, I will return soon. Don’t fear. Be strong.”

“But … how will I find you?”

“You’ll find me when you seek me with all of your heart. Just look inside yourself. It won’t be easy—too many distractions battle for your mind. The world wants control, but you must resist. Quiet your mind, look inside, and give your thoughts to me.”

“I … I don’t know if I can.”

“I understand. But I’ll be there to help you. At first, you’ll remain in the world and merely look below the surface—you may get glimpses of me from there. But slip deeper, under the surface, and leave the clamor of the world behind. Yes, your mind may still try to control your thoughts and keep you from seeing me. But,” he took my hand, “remember. I’ll be there to help you.”

He let go my hand and turned to the stairs. With a foot on the bottom step, he paused. “Anna, don’t worry. You have what you need.”

Then he started up the stairs. To his back, I silently whispered, I love you.

I snuck out of the courtyard and into the dark streets of Jerusalem.

 

Sitting in the shadow of my olive tree, I looked up at the half-full moon as it dimly lit the grove. Dying campfires dotted the hillside. All was quiet. Though wrapped in my heavy cloak, an ominous chill slithered up my spine.

Our camp was empty and, even though the hillside was crowded with other pilgrims, I felt so alone. Then, I heard murmurings and looked up to see gray shapes of people coming up the hill toward the camp. Yeshua and most of the others silently walked into the grove. When they spotted me, Neri and Ruth rush over.

“Why did you leave the house?” Neri whispered.

“Where’s Ben?”

“I told him to stay at the house with Abigail. Jonathan and Abi’s son are there too.” Neri put his hand on my shoulder. “She’ll keep them safe.”

Yeshua and The Twelve walked to one side of the clearing and sat huddled in a tight circle. Yeshua began speaking to them in hushed whispers. Everyone else who had followed from the city went to their tents, though none crawled inside. Neri and Ruth stayed with me. And we all quietly waited.

I watched the moon slide toward the hills on the far side of the city. The sounds of sleep gradually grew. I looked over—Ruth lay curled up next to Neri, his hand resting on her shoulder. He was wide-awake, frequently peering into the shadows, like he was looking for something, or someone. His hammer sat in his lap.

Suddenly, Yeshua left The Twelve and walked toward me. “Anna,” he knelt down and softly took my hand. “Whatever happens, don’t follow, don’t watch. Promise me. After I’m gone, don’t go looking for me. Instead, wait, be patient. Then three days from now, look for me.” He squeezed my hand and stood. “You know where you’ll find me.”

“But—”

He put his fingers to my lips, “Just believe.” He wandered off by himself, the sound of his footsteps stopping somewhere up the hill.

Within the black shadows of the trees, I crept after him, slipping so close I heard his labored breathing. He was kneeling, his face in his hands. Pale moonlight painted him a dull gray. “Father, everything is possible for you,” he whispered. “Please, take this burden from me. Yet not what I will, but your will be done.”

He lifted his face from his hands and raised his arms to the sky. In the dim moonlight, he looked almost like a little boy, reaching for his father to pick him up and hold him.


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“Jesus wept”—A Different View of the Story of Lazarus

“Jesus wept”—so the Gospels tell us. The grief of the sisters of dead Lazarus stirred the compassion of Jesus, and what followed were his tears. Experience this historical moment, and see for yourself the compassion and power of God.

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. They called him Yeshua; we call him Jesus.


 

– Anna –

We rounded a corner and the cluster of houses slid into view. It had been several days since we first passed through and a man ran out saying someone was sick. The same man appeared as we approached.

“Where is he?” Yeshua asked.

“Lord, we laid him in the tomb three days past.”

“The sisters?”

“They’re in the house. They haven’t come out all morning.”

Several people milled around the houses, probably family and friends come to mourn. Some huddled together, some stood off by themselves. Many of them were crying. The air felt heavy with grief—not what I needed. A woman ducked through the low doorway of one of the houses and walked straight to Yeshua.

“Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

“Your brother will rise again.”

The woman said something I couldn’t hear. I think Yeshua asked about someone called Mary. The woman turned and walked back to the house.

She came back with another woman behind her, a younger woman, a pretty woman. They looked like sisters. But where the older one looked motherly and strong, the younger one looked sweet, pure … and weak. She hadn’t been used, as I had been—I could see it in her face.

When the pretty one reached Yeshua, she fell at his feet, weeping. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Her tears dripped onto his dust-covered feet, and I remembered. That was me … all those days ago. My knees trembled and my stomach squirmed, and the jealousy rose again in my chest.

“Mary,” Yeshua said, his voice shaking. He leaned down and placed a hand on the young woman’s shoulder. Without lifting her head, she reached up and clasped his hand in hers. My knees began to collapse.

Someone grabbed my shoulders and held me steady. Jared. His soft smile eased some of the burden. I looked back as Yeshua took the young one’s hands in his and lifted her to her feet. Glancing at the older sister, he asked, “Where have you laid him?”

The older woman pointed to the rocky hill on the other side of the road. Yeshua let go of the pretty one and turned around. Sunlight sparkled off tears streaming down his cheeks. “The Son of God is weeping,” Jared gasped.

The Son of God? But, to me Yeshua had always been a man, the son of man, as he often called himself. A man full of love, compassion … and passion. A man who weeps—I’d seen those tears before. Yet Jared’s words woke me to the reality that he was also God. I’d forgotten—maybe I’d wanted to. Oh, how could I, a whore, love such a man? I tried to turn and run, but Jared held me tight.

Yeshua faced the tomb, and whispered, “Take away the stone.”

Led by Simon, several of The Twelve walked toward the hillside. I looked back at the sisters—the pretty one’s eyes never left Yeshua. He glanced back at her as the men walked up the hill. She pulled her hair to one side, exposing her soft, white neck. Her fingertips touched her mouth, and a tear slid down her quivering cheek. My stomach trembled.

“But Lord,” the older sister said, “by this time there will be a bad odor, for he has been there several days.”

Yeshua turned to her and tenderly said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

The men approaching the tomb suddenly stopped and clasped their hands over their noses. They hastily pulled up the edge of their cloaks to mask the smell of decay. They crept up to the tomb slowly, nervously glancing at each other. Then, each with his free hand, they struggled and grunted, and soon broke the stone free from its resting place and wrestled it off to the side, exposing the small, dark entrance. They dashed back to the road, gasping for breath.

Yeshua dropped to his knees and stretched his arms to the sky. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I say this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me, and that all power comes from you.”

Then, with a loud voice, Yeshua called, “Lazarus, come out!”

A chill shook my body as I stared at the black mouth of the tomb entrance. Suddenly, a brilliantly white flash burst out of the tomb, brighter than the sun, driving away the darkness. It immediately faded to a soft glow, flickered, and went out. Then … movement. Something, someone, was crawling out of the tomb. The person stood and swayed on trembling legs. “Take off the grave cloths and let him go,” Yeshua said.

The sisters ran to the man and began un-wrapping the cloth strips, tears streaming down their faces. As the sisters worked feverishly and the man’s face emerged, we saw his confused and tired expression.

“Take him home,” Yeshua said, “give him some food and let him rest. He has had a long journey.”

The sisters each took an arm and helped Lazarus toward the house. Yeshua watched them a moment, then turned to face the tomb. He walked to the dark entrance, stopping a few paces away. He just stood there, staring into the blackness. Suddenly he fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands.

I took a frantic step toward him, but Jared pulled me back. “Leave him be.”

After several minutes, Yeshua slowly stood and turned his back on the tomb. When he reached the road, he turned toward Jericho, away from Jerusalem. He took several steps down that road, then stopped, his arms hanging limp at his sides, his fists clenched. He stood rigid, staring straight ahead. A moment later, he turned and walked back to where the rest of us waited.

The pretty sister, Mary, suddenly ran from the house, back to Yeshua and wrapped her arms around him. “Don’t go,” she wept.

Yeshua softly took her head in his hands, tilted it back to look into her face, and smoothed her hair away from her moist eyes. They just looked at each other. A few moments later, he unwrapped her arms from his waist, clasped her small hands within his, and kissed her fingertips.

“It is nearly time for me to make the same journey Lazarus has made,” he whispered. “I must go back to Jerusalem, one last time.”


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Setting the Stage for Good Friday

What was it like during that final week leading to the first Good Friday, the first Easter? What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. Though they called him Yeshua, most of us call him Jesus. Go back and see how Jesus stirred the pot that led to Good Friday.


Yeshua had been healing people in the Temple courts most of the afternoon, but as the sun slid closer to the horizon, he climbed the steps of Solomon’s Porch, quieted us all down, and began speaking.

A gang of Pharisees suddenly plowed their way through the crowd. Draped in their colorful robes, they looked more like a flock of angry peacocks. They stopped and stood at the base of the steps, glaring up at Yeshua as he continued speaking.

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and who—“

“Teacher,” a peacock squawked, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.” Ouch, spiky sarcasm. “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Without thinking, my hand slipped into my tool bag and gripped my hammer.

Yeshua frowned. “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.”

The peacock strutted up the steps and held out a coin. I wanted to grab that coin and shove it—

“Whose image is this?” Yeshua asked. “And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” the Pharisee replied.

“Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Yeshua kept his gaze on the Pharisee, who sheepishly slinked back down to the base of the steps.

Yeshua then scrutinized the hypocrites as they grumbled amongst themselves. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” he called out. “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

A murmur spread through the crowd. Anna reached over and grabbed my arm. The Pharisees stood rigid, faces turning red, hate burning in their eyes.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Yeshua’s stare never wavered. “You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

The Temple guards looked nervous. Who should they believe? Their Pharisee masters, or Yeshua?

Yeshua then looked out over the whole crowd. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Anna dug her fingers into my arm. Yeshua wasn’t being careless with his words—he knew what he was doing, and so did Anna.


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Seeing Easter Through New Eyes

This Easter, consider looking at the crucifixion and resurrection through the eyes of those who followed Jesus as he walked that ancient road to Jerusalem, one last time. In “We Called Him Yeshua,” it’s not the Apostles who will tell you this story, but those whom Jesus healed with his power, compassion, and forgiveness.

And while there’s still time, you can get the ebook for FREE (until midnight tonight, Pacific standard time, USA). The paperback remains priced as low as Amazon will allow ($6.99, cost).

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The First Palm Sunday

What would it have been like to be one of the crowd watching Jesus riding on a donkey, down the road from Bethany to the gate into the city of Jerusalem?


You’ve heard of this prophet from God, and maybe even caught a glimpse of him. You haven’t witnessed a miracle yourself, but you know someone who was there, not too many days ago, when he called a dead man out of a tomb. And the man came out … alive! After being dead three or four days!

With that kind of power from God, this prophet could certainly drive out the occupying Romans. And he may not even need an army. Just call on God to force them out. Easy. And then, finally, we’ll all be free. No more taxes to Caesar. No more soldiers forcing their way into our houses. No more death for speaking our minds. No more of the Roman’s favorite form of execution—no more crucifixions.

And then, with the Romans finally gone, how might our new king rule? That too was exciting to think about. For in addition to hearing about the miracles, you’ve heard about his love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility. To no longer be under the thumb of those Pharisees and other leaders, who pretend to be Godly men, but are ruled themselves more by their own selfishness and pride, than by God. Just imagine. To instead be ruled by a man who is finally and truly a man sent by God. That will be so sweet.

Your voice goes hoarse cheering for our new king, as he approaches the gate and slips off the donkey. The trail of palms branches scattered on the road behind him, marking forever in your mind his path to your freedom.

You feel so light. You want to go skipping across the hillside as our new king walks through the gate into the city. You’ve never felt this excited. You can’t hold still—your legs feel springy, and you want to jump around and scream out your joy. The prophesies are true! Our king, our savior from Roman oppression has finally arrived, and on the back of a donkey, just as scripture foretells!

Oh, you can’t wait to see what happens next. This will be the most exciting, the most joyous, the most life-changing Passover week ever.


So what do you think? Would you like to be one of the crowd witnessing history? You can. In We Called Him Yeshua, you can see all these things and more through the eyes of people who followed Jesus. They followed not because he called them. They followed because they couldn’t help it. Their love for Jesus and gratitude for what he’d done for them drove them to follow. Go with them, and see for yourself.

This Easter is already going to be different from any other, for obvious reasons. But, maybe we can counter negative differences with some positive ones. This story can help you do that. Experience Easter through the eyes of those who followed Jesus to the cross. And through their eyes, you may see things you’ve never seen before.

In honor of Palm Sunday, the ebook is free until midnight tonight (Pacific standard time, USA). The paperback remains priced as low as Amazon will allow ($6.99, cost). Get yours now. And maybe get another one for a friend.

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An Easter Gift for a Friend

As a way to celebrate Palm Sunday, consider giving “We Called Him Yeshua” to a friend. This weekend only, the ebook is FREE. The paperback remains priced as low as Amazon will allow ($6.99, cost). So what do you think? Would you like to introduce Jesus to a friend?

And what about you? Would you like to know Jesus more intimately? You can. And the story in this book just might help.

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Feel the Joy of Easter

The characters in this story follow Jesus all the way to the end. They sensed what was coming, and dreaded it. But then, Jesus surprised them. And the events that we now call Easter left them filled with joy. You too can see the impact Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection had on those closest to him. And maybe through their experience, you will find new meaning in Easter … and a joy and peace that will not be shaken by the problems of the world.

In honor of Palm Sunday, the ebook of “We Called Him Yeshua” is free all this weekend, ending midnight Sunday (Pacific standard time, USA). The paperback remains priced as low as Amazon will allow ($6.99, cost). So if you’d like a copy, now’s a great time to get one. And maybe one for a friend too.

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How to Make This Easter Different

Actually, with this pandemic situation and the sheltering in place, this Easter is guaranteed to be beyond different. But maybe you can compensate for some of the “negative” differences by adding a “positive” difference. Start reading this book and begin to see Jesus in a different way. Maybe this Easter could be the best you’ve ever experienced.

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The End, of Sin

It was nearly dawn when they dragged him out and took him to the Roman fortress. A growing crowd was now following, so I no longer needed to hide. I just became one of the many curious. The priests were talking to the Roman governor—very strange. I thought they hated that man. And then some Roman soldiers grabbed Jeshua and took him away.

Again I followed. They took him to the barracks, where I cringed when I saw the flogging post in the center of the courtyard. They chained his hands to the metal ring hanging from the top of the stone post. As they did this, other soldiers gathered around.

My eyes saw only broken glimpses of Jeshua, in between the shuffling frames of the leather-clad soldiers. But then I saw the whip, the whip of many tails, with the shards of bone and metal tied into the leather thongs.

And it began. And I watched. The whip struck, the bone dug into the flesh of his back, and then was ripped away, bringing flesh with it. The blood began to stream down his back. The whip struck again, and again. Every strike made my bowels quiver and seize. I felt sickness rising up in my throat. Yet I still watched. When his knees buckled, he hung from his arms, the blood now pooling at his splayed feet.

Finally they stopped. Professionals at torture, they whipped him near death, but not to death. The soldiers unchained him from the post and dragged him into the barracks. When they bought him back out, Jeshua had regained enough strength to walk, barely. The mob took him back to the waiting Roman Governor and the religious leaders. And then the final verdict was declared. Crucifixion.

By now it was approaching mid-morning. The entire city was awake and word had spread of Jeshua’s arrest. The crowd of curious was growing. I can’t tell you of the crowds’ mood—my concern was for Jeshua, and Anna, and all of us followers who were losing our source of hope and a man we dearly love. Those of us brave enough or gruesomely curious enough watched as he was agonizingly dragged to his death. The rest hid, I suppose. I’d hoped Anna was safe, and his mother.

Again, I was shocked out of my thoughts. The crowd began stirring as the soldiers pulled Jeshua to his feet and forced him to carry a heavy cross. The march to his death is not clear to me. My mind kept drifting in and out of my thoughts. Maybe I was trying to look at something other than Jeshua’s torment. I prayed almost the entire way through the city, out the northwest gate, and up the hill. I was guided along by the flow of the crowd, not really paying attention to where we were going.

Along the way someone else started carrying the cross, for when I approached the top of the hill, I noticed Jeshua lying on the ground, collapsed from weakness. Another man was still dragging the cross up the hill.

My mind cleared from the scattered thoughts and I stared at him, face to the ground, his blood-crusted back bare to the sky, and that crown of thorns jammed onto this skull. I found myself hoping he was already dead—he looked dead. I hoped he would be spared the ultimate torture of the cross. But he was still alive. I saw slight movement as he struggled to breathe.

When the man carrying the cross reached the top of the hill, two of the soldiers took the cross from him and dropped it on the ground next to Jeshua. As it crashed down, I saw him open his eyes, and look at his fate lying next to him. One of the soldiers kicked him in his side, but not very hard… curious.

That’s when my dry eyes started flowing. For looking like an obedient child, Jeshua crawled over to the cross, turned onto his back and lay on it, as if he were crawling into bed—his death bed, with his arms lying out on the cross beam. He was a picture of absolute surrender to his fate. I wept.

I didn’t watch them drive in the spikes; I couldn’t. But the strike of the mallet sent shudders through my guts. And the sound changed from soft to hard as the spike moved through his flesh and into wood. That sound I will never forget. And mixed in with the strikes of the mallet were Jeshua’s pain-racked groans. Finally it stopped.

I cleared the tears from my eyes and looked up as the guards strained to lift the cross and swing the base to the waiting hole in the ground. Then they rose the cross up vertically and its base slid into the hole. With a shudder and a groan from Jeshua, the cross slammed into place.

And then I heard him speak, for the first time since the torture began. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Oh my God! Even drowning in pain, nailed to a cross and on the edge of death, he forgives. Truly he is the Son of God!

I looked away and there, beside me, stood his mother.

———————————————————

Searing, constant pain. I feel like I’m on an ocean, with waves of pain crashing over me. I lift up on my legs to breathe, but the waves crash into my feet and up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back and my dislocated shoulders and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood. There is no escape.

My friends, my family and my children all call me Jeshua—you know me as Jesus, the Christ.

Oh my poor children, so afraid as they still look to me for hope. My heart breaks to see them in such pain, such agony. Their pain is my pain. I feel the agony of all my Father’s children. I feel their suffering. I feel their sins. Their pain has been nailed with me to this cross. Yet the only way I can bare this mounting agony is knowing it’s for them, for all my Father’s children. Oh how I hope they believe.

I see them out there, scattered around my cross—my children, my friends. Some are trying not to be noticed, trying to act indifferent to my death. They are so afraid. I see below the surface to their weeping hearts. There’s Mary, with her heart so full of love, and misery. There’s Lazarus, alive again yet wondering about my fate. There’s John, the young one. Oh, there’s my mother, so strong yet so sad.

I see my accusers also, with those evil smirks on their faces. They seem delighted as they ridicule me and mock me. Yet in them too I see fear. Their souls know their error. But its God’s will.

I’m glad they are all here, for it reminds me why I’m here. If it were not for my love for all of them, I would not be on this cross. It’s not these spikes that hold me here; it’s my love for all my Father’s children, my love for all my friends.

But this pain is devouring me. Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing me. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But it’s being overpowered by the agony of aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me.

Until last night, my humanness has been so sweet. Yet it’s always contained a touch of pain—the pain of fear, the pain of temptation, and the pain of love. But now I feel more human than ever before. I feel fully human, and full of the sins of humanity. Oh, my humanness is being shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is now collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

I know; it’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me. I feel its weight pulling me down.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

As the light fades, the colors are turning grey. No more color. I still see those who are near. Beyond them, all is growing dark and fading into nothingness. Now those nearest are fading… oh, they are gone. All is black. I wish I could see my friends again, one more time. But the children are gone. My Father is gone. I’m all alone.

No, not alone, yet. I see him down there. I hear his evil laugh. I feel his dark breath drawing me closer. Lucifer, Satan, Devil. He knows what I see. He knows what I fear. His only hope is in my fear. He hopes my fear will call forth the waiting army of angels to save me and lift me free of this cross. That’s the only way he can keep the children in his prison.

But his laugh is filled with fear, for he also knows the truth, and he knows of my love. My love that holds me fast to this cross. He fears my love the most. For my love is more than the love of God. My love is also the love of a man, born of a woman.

It was a man, the man Adam, who took that first step on the path to hell, leading all humanity into the prison of sin. Generation after generation has followed. Enslavement became part of the human inheritance. Yet that slave master Satan knows well that only another man can break the pattern and shatter the chains that have held humanity in bondage. Only I, son of man and Son of God, can set the captives free. Not by war, but by death—my death, paying the penalty of the sentences for all humanity held in this worldly prison.

He laughs still. But his laugh is more fear than ever. He knows the end is near. Not my end, but the end of his reign. As I die, so does his power. Oh, he’s so close. His hot breath burns. Yet now… he too is gone.

There, opening up before me is the dark, lightless, pit. Empty. Alone. Devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. His creation is nowhere. But this pit before me—there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone. Oh Father, you have done it. You have fulfilled your promise. Thank you. I love you.

“It is finished.”
The End


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Opening Our Eyes for Easter

He was accused a sinner, then judged guilty of sin, and not just any sin… ALL sin. He was then sentenced to death—the ultimate penalty for all the crimes of humanity. Then, He was executed.

But who accused, and judged, and sentenced, and executed? It was humanity who executed the Son of God for the crimes of all humanity. Some of those who committed the crimes were the ones who did the accusing, judging, sentencing, and executing.

And Jesus humbly took the place of those who carried out His punishment. He took our place too.

Oh I know it was His fate. I know the justice of God had to be carried out somehow. And I understand why the penalty had to be laid on Jesus. But in thinking of the irony that Jesus suffered at the hands of people He was sacrificing Himself to save—well, it magnifies my gratitude.

Easter approaches, and maybe that’s why my mind is questioning the circumstances of Jesus’ death. I think my prayer for this Easter is that God opens our hearts and minds a little more to see how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Jesus. I hope you have an eye-opening Easter.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)


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It is Finished

The pain is constant. Searing. It feels like I’m on an ocean, and the waves of pain are crashing over me. When I lift up on my legs to breathe, the waves crash into my feet, up my legs and into my core. And then, when my legs give out and my full weight again falls on my arms, the waves crash into my chest and back, and my dislocated shoulders, and my arms and hands. And my skinless back rubs against the harsh wood of the cross. There is no escape.

Yet what feels worse than the pain is this feeling of being alone. Surrounded by this growing crowd, yet I don’t feel His presence. My Father is gone. I’ve never known this before, this emptiness, this parched, vast void of emptiness. It’s crushing my soul. The pain of the whip and the cross becomes numb next to this feeling of being so alone. Yes, I still feel the pain. It’s still there, sharp and mean. But its intensity is being overpowered by the agony of this aloneness, the agony of my Father no longer here with me. Oh, my humanness is shattered by the pain of the torture they whipped and pounded into me. But my spirit is collapsing under the weight of this emptiness.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet I know why. It’s the sin. The sin of the world is upon me.

The pain is fading now, it’s becoming softer. It’s starting to feel more like a dream than real. And the light is fading; the sky darkens. The end must be near.

There, opening up before me, is a dark, lightless pit. Empty. Alone. This devouring emptiness is spewing from there… the very pit of hell. The presence of my Father is nowhere. Over there, toward the city gate, I see people and earth and sky. I see God’s creation. But this pit before me – there is nothing. No Father, no creation, just void. Hell; absolute emptiness, gaping wide, reaching for me. So dark, and hungry. It ravages me. It consumes me. It’s pulling on me, adding its dead weight to my dying arms. It’s rising up to grab me and pull me down, gripping me in its ravenous maw. With my death it will have me. It will swallow me. That inky, thick, black fog of dread and evil; it’s flowing over me. I’m drowning in the smothering dread of hell. I cannot breathe!

The pain is gone. The nails are gone. The cross is gone. I’m falling… into hell. All light and life are gone.

“It is finished.”
(An excerpt from a book I’m writing. Copyright 2015, CJ Penn)


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I am With You Always

Do you feel close to me, the Spirit of Jesus Christ living within you? Do you feel my presence? Have you grown to rely on me to be with you, always there when you need me? Do you feel the peace of our shared life together, our shared love together? Do you hunger and thirst for my presence, and do you feel a sting of panic if you don’t immediately sense me when you look my way?

One more question, a request really: imagine how you would feel if you looked for me and I was no longer there. Imagine what your life would be like without me.

If you feel a sense of utter, overpowering despair, then you have a small taste of how I felt when I died for you on that cross. For when I took the burden of the sins of humanity, my Father God and I were separated, no longer together, no longer one. His presence was gone. And I fell off that cross and into the black, empty void of despair… into hell.

But do not despair, for I will never leave you. I will always be with you.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)


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The Last Guilty Man

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, am the last guilty man. For I became guilty of the sins of all humanity. I carried the burden of all sins through the streets of old Jerusalem and up that hill, where I paid the final penalty… the death sentence for my guilt.

Guilt died with me. There is no more guilt. It was my guilt that set you free of your guilt. I am the last guilty man. This is the truth.

“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)

 

 

(Originally posted on Dec. 4, 2015)


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Thank You

I’m a sinner.

It’s who I am.

I try not to, but fail.

Just a typical, weak human being – that’s me.

But He forgives me.

And more than forgive, He picked up the penalties for my sins and carried that burden Himself…

… all the way to the cross.

Dear Jesus, you paid my debts.

And left me free.

And I’m so grateful.


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How Would You Feel If…?

What if you knew for certain that tomorrow you were going to be tortured and killed? How would you feel today, knowing what waits for you tomorrow?

A weird and disturbing question, I know. But your answer may help you feel some of what Jesus felt, as he waited for His fate.

I don’t ask this to stir up feelings of guilt. Instead I hope you will feel overwhelming love and gratitude. What Jesus did for all of us was not easy. He suffered so we won’t have to. So how do you feel?


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Jesus on the Edge

I just got back from the grocery store. Got my leg ‘o lamb for our Easter dinner. And, check out this picture of the magazine rack in the check-out line…

 Jesus magazine

At first I didn’t know what to think about it. Jesus, next to a wine tasting mag, and right across the little isle was another magazine rack, next to the candy and gum, filled with glamour model’s cleavage and movie stars cellulite. At first, it all seemed odd to me… a bit edgy.

But what would Jesus think about hanging out with wine lovers, glamour models and movie stars? I think He’d consider that tame, especially compared with some of the crowd He used to hang out with. While He walked the roads of Israel, Jesus seemed to spend more time with lowlife’s, prostitutes, hated tax collectors and other sinners. Jesus lived on the edge of “acceptable” society. So I think Jesus would be okay with the placement of His manmade image on a magazine in the grocery check-out isle.

I hope you all have a great Easter. CJ