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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Christians For Trump? Really?

10-6-21 image trump-supporting Christians paint-smallerDuring the chaotic days surrounding the last US presidential election, I just couldn’t understand why so many Christians supported a candidate who seems to be so un-Christian. It didn’t make sense to me. Yes, I’m referring to the candidate who considers truth as whatever comes out of his mouth—if he can imagine it, it must be true. And many Christians believed, and continue to believe, his self-defined versions of “truth.”

Oh sure, I’ve heard that some Christians voted for Trump because he’s supposedly anti-abortion and promises to protect Christianity from left-wing anti-Christians and the cancel culture. First, I don’t think God and Jesus need help protecting Christianity—They’ve done just fine on their own the past 2000 years. And, as I’ve written before, I don’t think legislation is the right way to address abortion and morality.

I’m sure there are other reasons Christians voted for Trump. But for me, a candidate’s character is more important than whatever those reasons could be. I wish I’d heard God’s voice telling me who to vote for in that last election—I didn’t, I think. But since the character of that particular candidate is the antithesis of everything the Bible tells me about how we should live, well, you know how I voted.

Here’s another thought: Some Christians will believe someone like Trump when he spouts made-up stuff about election results, but they won’t believe God when He gives them the promise that His Spirit wants to live within them and guide them through this turbulent world. They’ll believe every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, but won’t believe the Words of God in the Bible. Well, that’s how it looks from my perspective. I hope I’m wrong.

Also, I believe Christians should look only to God for the truth, look only to God for protection, look only to God for guidance in how to best deal with issues like abortion and the decay of morality in our society. And, to roughly paraphrase something Peter and John said in reply to challenges from the leaders of their day: Judge whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to a very un-Christian, un-truthful, dishonorable, self-centered politician, rather than God.

I know what I’ve said will upset some people. I’m sorry, sincerely. But, I’m more concerned with how God feels about what I’m saying. And, I’m concerned about the image of Christianity others see in Christians.

Finally, I’m curious. Am I alone in my sense of confusion regarding all the Christians who supported, and continue to support, that particular politician? Am I alone on my side of the chasm that separates Christian Trump supporters from confused Christians like me?


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Are Some Christian Churches Prisoners of Pride?

As the dominant religion in many countries, has Christianity become prideful and arrogant, like a cocky big kid on the block? For some reason, this idea seeped into my mind this morning as I waited for the coffee to sweep away the nightly fog. Though this idea of arrogant Christianity may sound odd, for me it explains a lot.

It explains why many Christian churches are shrinking, and why there are more de-churched Christians every year. It explains why many Christians and churches behave in ways that appear very un-Christian. It explains why many churches try to exercise their imagined power by pushing their opinions upon others, opinions, such as political preferences, that are completely worldly. It explains why, as some surveys indicate, many de-churched Christians as well as current churchgoers never felt the presence of God in church. Maybe there was so much pride, there was no room for God.

You see, arrogance and pride are exclusively human characteristics, not from God but from Satan. Because of what I see on the surface, yes, I believe modern Christianity has become infected and sometimes dominated by pride and arrogance. And many Christians and their churches are suffering because of it.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of relying on self and worldly things such as organizational structure, politicians, traditions, how nice your church building is, or other such pride-driven things, we just need to rely on God, Jesus, and their Spirit—yes, the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, the Spirit who’s often missing from sermons. It’s the Spirit of Jesus living and breathing within the bodies of believers who will set Christianity free from pride and the damage pride causes.

Many churches are prisoners of pride. I pray it’s time for the Spirit of God to set them free.


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What Does Worship Mean to You?

“Hey, how ya doin? Haven’t seen you for a while?”

“Me? I’m good. All’s good. How about you?”

“Oh, fine. You know how it is. So, haven’t seen you at church for a long time. Heard you checked out for good.”

“Ah, yep. Just felt like the right thing for me to do. I’d rather not get into it … please.”

“Oh sure. So, where do you go to church now? Where do you worship?”

“Me?” Where do I worship? Well, will he understand? Lord, if this conversation starts to get sticky, I rely on You to give me the words that’ll help him. “To be truthful, I worship everywhere.”

“Everywhere? Really? How do you do that? And when do you do this everywhere worship?”

“For me, worship is when I turn my mind away from the world and focus on God and Jesus in heaven and their Spirit within me. Whenever I can wrestle my mind away from this noisy world and look to Jesus within me, that’s when I worship, no matter where I am.”

“So, for you worship isn’t singing praise songs and the others things we do in church?”

“Well, maybe that is what I’m doing? But I’m singing praises to God and Jesus within my mind, and heart, rather than in a building.”

“Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.”


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Does God Seem Missing?

Many Christians no longer attend a church, though they still believe in God and Jesus. I’ve seen the survey results.* Those surveys also found than many of the de-churched, as well as some who still attend a church, feel that God was missing from their experience of church. Maybe that’s why so many people leave—they go to church looking for God, but don’t find Him there.

Have you gone to a church looking for God? I think you needed to look somewhere else, for as Jesus said:

“On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20, emphasis added)

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, emphasis added)

You’ll find God by looking within yourself. Want more assurance? How about this:

“And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, … declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:14, emphasis added)

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:15, emphasis added)

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Convinced? So how do you find God and get a sense of His presence? How can you feel God within you? Here’s the path that worked for me:

  1. It starts with faith.
  2. A growing craving for God’s presence.
  3. Prayer
  4. Keep praying, and wait for God to reveal Himself to you.

9-24-21 Does God seem missingFirst, you need to believe you can feel God’s presence within you. You need to believe in the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promises about He being in you, and you being in Him. As Jesus and God are one, so can you and Jesus be one. And like all things, to experience it you must first believe it.

Faith will automatically lead to an ever-growing hunger for God’s presence. And, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

Hunger will lead you to prayer. I’m talking about an unceasing and silent prayer, not an asking-for-favors prayer, but a prayer where you’re listening and looking for the Spirit of God and Jesus within you. The more you pray and look, the sooner you’ll find God. And,“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

So keep praying, and waiting. This part, the waiting part, requires patience, the hardest part for me—I hope your wait is shorter than mine was. But while you wait, read the Bible and look for where God and Jesus promise their presence. Let their promises encourage you and strengthen your belief. For me, waiting was where I grew the most. So I think waiting is as critical a step on this path to God as the others. “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

* You can see the survey results for yourself in two very interesting books, both by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group. “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” and “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.”


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Fantasy or Possibility?

How do you think it would be if Jesus walked the earth again, in a human body? As man or woman, it doesn’t matter. Take your pick. Just picture Jesus as human, creating an image in your mind, making Jesus look however you like. Now let’s say this Jesus person lived near you and sometimes hung out with you and your family and friends. How do you think this Jesus person would interact with everyone, what would Jesus say and do, and how might Jesus’ presence affect your lives?

Since God has no limits, now imagine Jesus walking the earth in hundreds of human bodies, or thousands, even millions! How would that be? What kind of impact do you think Jesus could have on the well-being of humanity? Image the power of the truth and love Jesus could spread.

Okay, so is all this talk just fantasy? Please consider that what you’ve just imagined is also what Jesus hopes for. It’s why He sent His Holy Spirit to reside in those who believe and accept His presence in their lives. Fantasy? Not at all.


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WWJD 2.0

What Would Jesus Do? Somewhere around here I think I still have a colorful wristband with WWJD on it, and even a necktie. I don’t know if it’s still a popular slogan, but I remember using it many years ago when I helped lead a church youth group. The problem was, WWJD became so widespread and so popular that I think it sometimes lost its meaning, which is, if Jesus found himself in my situation, what would He do.

I reminded myself of the WWJD thing this morning, as I was reading something in my Bible. Lots of messages in there that basically encourage us to do as Jesus would do. Good advice. But with us, it’s doomed to failure.

For me to do as Jesus would do is simply impossible. I know. I’ve tried. Whenever Jesus told us to do as He would do, He knew exactly how futile our efforts would be. He knew it would be impossible for us to always do as he would do. Yet as he also told us, what’s impossible for us is possible for God (Luke 18:27).

So, why did Jesus tell us to do the impossible? Because he wants to bring us to a state of despair over our own weak and failing efforts so that we will finally surrender to him and let His Spirit live through us. By His Spirit, Jesus can do what only He can do, what’s impossible for me to do.

WWJD is still a good slogan, but it needs a redefinition, a reboot. Instead of What Would Jesus Do, how about What Will Jesus Do? Instead of being a statement of reflection and struggling for impossibilities, it could be a statement of anticipation of certainties. Instead of being a question of what I might do under my own power, it becomes a question of what Jesus will do within me by His power.

How you choose to ask this WWJD question may indicate how you choose to consider Jesus. Do you see Him as a passive influence in your life? Or, do you see Him as alive, God’s Son actively involved? If you believe, you can live looking forward to what the Spirit of Jesus might do next in your life.


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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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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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A DeChurched Christian Searching for Christianity

I hung in there for as long as I could. Eventually, the hypocrisy was too much for me. The behavior felt so un-Christian. Just normal, natural human behavior, as ugly as that can sometimes be.

I prayed … a lot. I asked God if He wanted me to stay. Maybe I could do something that might help the deteriorating situation. I wrote a letter to the board of elders, the Session, as they called it. I’m not sure if the idea was God’s or mine, but I took a lot of time with that letter, praying my way through it, even including some Bible quotes from Jesus. No response. No visible result. I prayed some more. But no clear direction.

So I left that church behind. As I walked away, I carried with me questions, the most all-encompassing question being: if what I saw at that church isn’t true Christianity, what is? I may have given up on church, but I wasn’t about to give up on Jesus.

Have you had a similar experience? Do you have similar questions?


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A Question for De-Churched Christians

Are you a de-churched Christian? You know, you used to go to church, you don’t any longer, but you still believe in Jesus and care about your relationship with Him, even a little.

Look, I’m a de-churched Christian. I left a church that started behaving in a way that I believed was way off target. I test-drove several other churches, but never landed in one that felt right to me. Something always felt off, and maybe slightly un-Christian. I know there are some great Christian churches out there—I just haven’t found one near where I live, though I’ve long given up looking. Besides, Church has come to mean something different for me (but that’s not why I’m writing today).

Anyway, when I first left church many years, I stepped off on a journey to find true Christianity, the Christianity I felt I wasn’t seeing in churches I’d attended. Didn’t have to look far—it was right there on my bedside table, in my Bible. I’m now in the middle of writing a book about my journey to find the truth.

Anyway #2: if you’re a de-churched Christian, please consider letting me know why you left. Was there anything specific that turned you away? Did it feel like something was missing? Did you have a sense that you were seeing true Christianity?

Though your answers may be helpful for other de-churched Christians, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment to this post, please consider sending me an email instead.

Thank you so much for considering this. All the best to you, and may you enjoy the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in your life.

CJ Penn

cjpenn@gmail.com


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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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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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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.


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Please Consider a Review

I’ve been thinking back to several weeks ago, when I sponsored a free ebook promotion of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua. I’m grateful for how many people took advantage of that promotion and got their own free copy. And lately I’ve been wondering how many of those people have finished reading the book. If you’ve read this book, I’d like to ask you a favor: please consider leaving a review on Amazon. Your review can help others who might be considering getting the book for themselves.

And if you or someone you know is interested in checking this book out, I just lowered the ebook price down to as low as Amazon will allow: $0.99. And the paperback version remains discounted at $9.95. Please check it out at the Amazon book page.