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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Almost There

The book cover for my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, is finished! And I’m very excited. If all goes as scheduled, the ebook will go live on Amazon starting tomorrow. As soon as Amazon will allow, I’m going to change the ebook price to FREE. The paperback will go live sometime within the next week, I hope. I’m currently waiting for Amazon to ship a proof copy to me.

If you’d like to have a peek before tomorrow, please go to my author website, and check it out. While there, you can also read some sample chapters I’ve posted.

And if you sign up, I’ll send you an email when I’ve confirmed the ebook is FREE on Amazon. I’ll do the same once the paperback is live.

Thanks,

CJ Penn


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” Chapter 6

In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 5. Today I give you the sixth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.

Chapter 6: Ruth

-Ruth-

The morning fog had crept from the lake, slithered through the streets, poured into my hut, and seeped into my bones like poison. Dampness always made the pain worse. I groaned through clenched teeth as I pushed myself out of bed and stood shivering on frozen feet.

“Come on Ruth, unlock the door!” my sister called again, fear rising in her voice. By now, her imagination was probably painting her a picture of my withered corpse. A bittersweet smile crossed my lips. Me dead—if only.

“What?” I yelled, yanking the door open. The effort left me wheezing. I swayed on wobbly legs, nausea creeping up my chest, sweat chilling the back of my neck.

“Finally! Listen Ruth, you remember the man I told you about? The healer? Well he’s on his way to our town and I heard he healed a man of leprosy in the village up north and now he’s on his way here and I’m sure he can heal you so you can finally be healthy again and you won’t feel any more pain and you can leave your house when you want, isn’t that great!”

“Yes. Great.” I marveled less about her words, and more about how my squirrel of a sister could say so much in one breath. “Now. Let me go back to bed.” I tried to close the door.

“No!” She wedged her leg against the door jam, knowing I didn’t have the strength to resist. “You need to go to him, so he can heal you.”

“Okay, I will. After he gets here. Now leave me alone.”

 

(read the rest of Chapter 6 on my cjpenn.com website)

Copyright CJ Penn, 2020


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An Unexpected Power of Prayer

Be prepared for what answered prayer might do to you.

The text came in with bad news that caught us unprepared and threw my wife and me into shock. Later, more texts—the details that dribbled in just made us feel worse. Someone we know. Yet, there did seem to be room for hope. So I prayed. And what felt like a constricting snake in my stomach spent the day slowly rolling. That night, I fell asleep praying.

Next morning, on my knees, pouring my heart out to Jesus, begging, I mean intensely BEGGING him to step into the situation and do something that only He can do. Anything! All morning my heart was trembling. The snake rolled.

Noon, another text. NO! The outcome was certain, no more room for hope. The door had been slammed shut. The wave of shock returned and crashed over us.

We talked. “Just accept it. Stop hoping. It will be a bit easier that way.” Okay. So I let go of hope and started to try to accept the new reality. But no acceptance came. Just despair, and the feeling of the ever-present snake squirming in my stomach.

Later that evening, I puttered in the kitchen, struggling to get my mind to attach itself to something else … and trying to prepare dinner without cutting anything off an unwitting finger. And then another text. Oh crap. What now?

What!? The door was again open? There WAS still room for hope, much hope! The roller coaster started heading back up. But I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

The tremors began in my stomach as I rushed to my wife and we hugged. I quickly went back to turn off the stove so I wouldn’t burn dinner, for I sensed what was coming.

The tremors flowed up my esophagus, through my throat, and into my quivering chin. And then this internal volcanic wave of pure emotion exploded into a stream of tears and blubbering. I had no control. My nose sent a stream into my mustache. My eyes steamed hot with tears. Every muscle within seemed to tremble, every nerve seemed to fire. I felt wrapped in a soft blanket of joy. I clasped my hands over my face and leaned against the wall. I felt like a quivering mass of jelly.

And then the second wave hit—God DID answer the prayers! Jesus loves the people involved so much, that He stepped into the middle of the situation, wrap his arms around them, and did what only He can do! And the tears flowed stronger, and the blubbering grew louder. And my sense of being out of control of my emotions grew more intense. Good, I wanted to give control to God anyway.

To the heavens and any being that was listening, my heart screamed my love and praises for God and Jesus. Yet there was a layer of frustration on top of my joy, for the words of praise just didn’t feel like enough, not coming close to expressing my gratitude.

Since that day, the news has gotten better and the hope has grown more certain. But for someone who’s trying to put my faith into action with words, well, adequate words still won’t come to me. I don’t think there are words to express the magnitude of my gratitude and love for God and Jesus. Oh, how I wish I could.

By the way, I know God doesn’t answer all prayers as we hope He will. That’s not for me to understand right now. And I don’t want to think about unanswered prayers right now. I just want to tell you of one small example of how God’s love for us came alive, and showed itself in action.

I still want to shout out praises to God and Jesus … to the heavens and anyone who will hear me. That’s why I’m writing this now, in my feeble attempt to use written words to try to convey to you the magnitude of my gratitude and love for Jesus, and His love for us. As Paul said:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, 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)

Jesus’ love is so big, we can’t comprehend it. But we can feel it. I have.

 

Oh, and if you like, please check out my other website, my book website, where you can see something about my soon-to-be-published novel, We Called Him Yeshua. Yes, this novel is mainly about the love of Jesus, as expressed through his humanity while he walked the roads of first century Israel. Now there’s a great example of His love in action.


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” Chapter 5

In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 4. Today I give you the fifth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.

Jairus

-Anna-

“Neri, over here, I’m thirsty,” I tugged on his sleeve and pulled him toward an inn on the edge of the square. Several hours after leaving the village where I found Neri, we arrived at another town … a larger town.

“Good, I’m hungry,” Neri replied.

“Hungry? Again?”

We climbed a few steps to a collection of low tables scattered over a raised terrace. A canopy of different colored fabric provided shade, casting a faded rainbow shadow all around us. We selected a table near the edge of the terrace.

“Hungry Scamper?” Neri said, lifting Ben off his shoulders and dropping him on a cushion.

As I sat down, Ben crawled into my lap and fell asleep. I smiled as I caressed Ben’s soft brown hair, comforted by the idea I’d made the right decision bringing him with me. The town, on the south shore of the lake, was the farthest from home I’d ever been. The distance helped me feel safer.

The innkeeper walked over, knelt on a cushion, rested both hands on our table, and said, “Well?”

“Tea please,” I replied, as Neri gazed at the menu painted on the wall. He had the look of love in his eyes.

“Let’s see … I’ll have a large plate of fried locusts, the fish stew, goat milk cheese, some of the lentil with curry, barley bread, charoset, and Egyptian beer.”

“No charoset,” the innkeeper said, as he stood and left.

“A bit hungry Neri?”

“A little. But, no charoset!”

The crowd below us grew, all straining to see Yeshua as he worked his way toward the center of the square. There must have been hundreds of them. Yeshua was more popular than I’d thought. A strange feeling stirred my stomach and rose in my chest—I think I knew, but refused to admit what it was.

 

(read the rest of Chapter 5 on my cjpenn.com website–here)

Copyright CJ Penn, 2020


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” Chapter 4

In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Last week I posted chapter 3. Today I give you the fourth chapter, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like.

Neri

Neri

“Neri, you stink.”

“Oh, you like my perfume? I call it Essence of Pus. A subtle fragrance, yet I see you have a perceptive nose.”

Caleb and I sat at the mouth of the canyon, the walls behind us lined with caves, dug long ago in the limestone. The broad valley spread out below us. There, at the border of the leper colony, we stared at the outside world, off limits to us. Shepherds tended their sheep across the valley, on the other side of the stream weaving down its center.

“Hey Neri, where’s that sister of yours? Anna, right? I bet she smells good.”

I glared at Caleb, uglier than most with that hole in the middle of his face where his nose had once been. Well, at least leprosy had cured him of his nose-picking habit.

“Stay away from her Noseless,” I growled. “Hey, have you thought of an easy way for me to kill myself?”

(read the rest of Chapter 4 on my cjpenn.com website)


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By the Power the Holy Spirit

“Every minister of the gospel is called to rest content with nothing less than the indwelling life and power of the Holy Spirit. This is to be his only preparation for preaching the gospel in power. Nothing less than having Christ speaking through us in the power of His omnipotence will make us able ministers of the New Testament, bringing salvation to all who hear us.”     Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray, an 18th century minister in South Africa, is one of my favorite authors of Christian nonfiction. Over the years, I’ve read lots of his books, along with other similar books by equally great authors, such as A.W. Tozer, William Law, Brother Lawrence, and many more. For some reason, most of my favorite Christian authors are long dead—something they share with the authors of my ultimate favorite book, the Bible.

Anyway, if I were to pursue a theology education with the goal of becoming an ordained minister, I would be sure to include my favorite authors in my studies. But all that reading and effort, though valuable and helpful for me, would not adequately equip me to help others, for I would lack the most important trait for being an effective minister. I think Andrew Murray expressed it far better than I ever could.


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Death to the Little Devil Within Me

Often, I feel like my personality is split in two—the good me, and the bad me. I’m like a character in a Saturday morning cartoon, with a little angel on one shoulder encouraging me to do the right thing, and a little devil on the opposite shoulder tempting me to do the wrong thing. Sometimes my little devil screams so loudly I can’t hear anything else.

But this morning I realized something. The little devil part of me is actually dead, having died when all sins died, with Jesus on the cross. When Jesus died, he took with him the sins of the world—those sins died with him. Those sins were the collection of the sinful side of everyone who chooses to believe, the collective of our little devils.

So, the devil that seems to exert power over my words and actions is not actually real, but a phantom, or maybe more like a lingering shadow of the sinful me that once thrived. And that shadow fades the more I let the light of the Spirit of Jesus shine within me.

This morning, for the first time, I see and believe in the image of my little devil as dead, sent to the abyss where Jesus took all our sins. It feels so freeing to say that. I’ve prayed for the death of my sinful self for a long time.

I suspect I’ll backslide, and the phantom shadow will con me into believing it has real power over me. But now I feel armed with the reminder that the little sh*t-disturber is powerless and dead.

Here’s what Jesus and the apostle Paul had to say:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

 “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. … In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:6, 11)

What do you think about all this?

Oh, and if you’re interested, please check out my soon-to-be-published book, We Called Him Yeshua.