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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Hope—Just What We Need Right Now

There is hope, always hope.

We need hope, some more than others.

Many feel the grip, the fear, the anxiety.

We feel under attack.

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

It’s Pride. The plague of Pride.

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

Pride is tearing our country apart.

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

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

Pride—ears and minds closed, mouth open.

Pride—angry, vengeful.

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

Pride never gives up, Pride never surrenders.

Self … only Self.

But, we live with others.

God spoke out against Pride in the Bible.

Jesus spoke against Pride … a lot.

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

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

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

Our only hope is in God.

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

He can save us from the enemy.

If we ask.

There is hope.


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My Prayer for Today

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

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

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

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


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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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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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Praying in the Name of Jesus—an Amazing Experience

I was just reading about what it means to pray in Jesus’ name, in the book, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. And I finally saw a deeper, clearer meaning.

To pray to God in Jesus’ name is as if Jesus Himself is asking Father God on my behalf. Yet instead of Jesus asking for me, Jesus has said I can go directly to God and use His name. It’s almost like he says, “You have my approval to ask the Father.”

I’ve known this before, but today I think Jesus opened my mind to the deeper meaning, which is: Before Jesus will give me his approval to use his name, he needs to be willing. What I need to do is first go to Jesus and ask Him to bless my request. And I completely believe that Jesus will bless all prayers that glorify Father God.

And Jesus will show me how prayers can glorify God, and how to change errant prayers so they will then glorify God. Then, I can go to the Father with Jesus’ blessing and say something like, “Father God, in Jesus’ name and with His blessing, I humbly ask you for (insert request here).”

So today, I did just that. And what a GREAT time of prayer it was! I’ve never felt so certain that a prayer will be smiled upon by God and granted in some way. And now I’m excited to see the outcome.

Give it a try. It’s great!!! And if at first it feels awkward to go to Jesus and ask for his blessing, well, maybe the two of you just need to become closer friends. And the beauty of going to him with requests like that is the more you meet him in this way, the closer you will become.


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Joy Can be Just a Prayer Away

Even when life pulls your mind in random directions and sometimes piles worry on top of worry; even when it seems like all the news is bad; even when the world is held hostage by a global pandemic … joy can be just a prayer away.

Jesus promised his Holy Spirit would be with us always, “to the very end of the age.” He also promised us a peace beyond our understanding. So, all we need to do to find the joy and peace we crave is look for Jesus’ Spirit. And thankfully, we don’t have to look far, for another promise is that Jesus will be IN us, as his Father is in him.

With the Spirit of Jesus abiding within you, always present, even if life pulls your attention away for a day, a week, or whatever … all you have to do is take some quiet time, push back on the distractions of life (that can be the hardest part), and look inside. And when all those thoughts and cares and worries in your mind quiet down enough so you can look past them, you will see the Spirit of Jesus waiting for you. And the moment you feel Him and forget the noise of life, you’ll feel the peace and joy that he promised. It’s just a prayer away.

But, what if you don’t know who you’re looking for? The Spirit of Jesus can feel like an alien to many people, more like an unfathomable heavenly being, than a person. But Jesus was more than the Son of God. He was also the son of man. Jesus was fully human, a person, in some ways like you and me. So, when you go looking for the Spirit of Jesus, it can really help to know the complete Jesus, the man as well as the God.

As a way to get to know Jesus the man, I’d like to recommend my recently published novel, We Called Him Yeshua. It’s the story of Jesus as told from the perspective of some people who followed him as he walked the roads of ancient Israel. You can see Jesus through their eyes, as a person. Then, when you look for the joy and peace waiting within you, you’ll know who you’re looking for.

They called him Yeshua. Maybe you can call him friend.

 

If you’re interested in checking out We Called Him Yeshua, click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. And for just a few more days, 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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United We Stand

What an unprecedented moment in human history we live in, where most of us on this planet are experiencing similar restrictions, similar concerns, and many of the same feelings.

Our past is littered with fighting, fighting against each other. We’re still fighting, but now aligned together against a common enemy, a worldwide pandemic. I think it’s possible that this has never happened before in the history of humanity—I mean, how we so quickly formed a worldwide alliance.

Consider that the last pandemic, in the early 1900’s, infected the earth before there was rapid transportation from one continent to the next, and before there was instantly shared communication throughout the world. I haven’t seen any data, but I suspect this new pandemic has spread faster than any in history. The fear and panic have spread just as quickly.

But still, we are all now united in the fight against the Coronavirus. Has the entire world ever been this united before? I don’t really know. What might our unity lead to? I can’t even imagine. But, I have a growing hope that something amazing will emerge. I believe all this presents the possibility for a turning point in the human race, in the midst of the chaos. And I strongly feel that, though the pandemic will bring death and severe pain, our unity can only bring good.

What form will that good take? How long will it last? Of course, I don’t know and I can’t even guess. But as a Christian, I really believe that Jesus will make something good out of all this bad. And with Jesus involved, I’m excited. I hope you can be excited too.

I think the best thing we can do is pray, hope, and trust. And excitedly wait to see what God does with our trust and unity.


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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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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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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.


Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.


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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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The Person on the Other Side of the Wall

Damn! Did it again. You’d think I’d learn by now, but everyday … the same old thing. I keep smacking my bruised and scared head into the wall. Some habits never change. Oh, but that wall changes. Almost every time I bang into it, it looks higher, and feels thicker, with fresh stones added daily.

Coronavirus, tanked stock market, extended shelter-in-place orders, rising infection rates, growing death tolls, dwindling supply of toilet paper—these and more are the stones in my wall. It’s the wall between Jesus and me—the wall of worldly worries and distractions.

Oh, I know Jesus is there, patiently waiting for me on the other side. And given time and quiet breathing, my mind clears, the wall disappears, and there’s Jesus smiling at me.

Yet it helps so much to know who I’m looking for while I struggle to clear my mind of other thoughts. It was harder before … before I’d gotten to know him. But now, I know more than Jesus the Son of God. I know Jesus the son of man. Now, when I clear my mind and the wall melts away, I know who I will see waiting for me each morning on the other side.

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? You can, and you’ll find him in the pages of this novel.

 

For a limited time, the paperback will remain priced as low as Amazon will allow. Plus, the ebook price was just reduced from $2.99 to $0.99. Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” ebook now reduced to $0.99

As long as this Coronavirus has so many of us sheltering in place, and so many millions now have little or no income, I’m going to drop the ebook price from the already-discounted $2.99 down to the new price of $0.99. The paperback will remain at $6.99 (as low as Amazon will allow, i.e., cost).

Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.