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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A Deeper Relationship with Jesus

Are you looking for a deeper relationship with Jesus? Are you looking for the fulfillment and peace that comes with such a relationship, the peace Jesus promised us, the peace that’s bigger than we can imagine?

Where the accounts in the Gospels tell the history of Jesus, the novel “We Called Him Yeshua” will bring Jesus’ story more to life, making Him more real to you, and bringing you closer to Him. The closer you come to Jesus, the more you will love Him, and the more you will feel His love for you.

Please, if you’re looking for a closer relationship with Jesus, check out “We Called Him Yeshua,” while the price is as low as Amazon will allow.

 

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


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The Parasite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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To Have the Son of God Living Within You

What was it like for pregnant Mary to know the Son of God lived in her womb, drawing nourishment from her body, growing stronger and bigger every day? We know a little from “Mary’s Song,” in Luke 1:46-56. Drawing from that, and a fair amount of imagination, maybe Mary’s story looked something like this.

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She woke from a fitful night’s sleep. It had been five months since the angel told her she would be with child, God’s child. She rose from her straw bed, her back sore and her feet swollen. Suddenly she felt a flutter somewhere just below her stomach, sending a chill running up her spine.

She’d never doubted the angel, and she’d known she was indeed with child, by the days of stomach sickness, thankfully now passed. And she so easily grew tired. But until that morning, those were the only signs. And then the baby moved within her.

A thrill of nervousness filled her stomach and chest. There was an actual child growing within her, but not wholly her child. It felt somehow foreign. As the days continued striding forward, she felt moments of fear, wonder, and bewilderment. She even wondered if the child would be partly her, as a normal child is part of its mother and father. Or was her body purely a vessel.

The weeks passed. The child was growing bigger and stronger, and oh so active. It woke her in the middle of the night, pushing a foot against a rib, or leaning on her bladder, forcing her out of bed and to the privy, yet again.

Later that day, as she sat in the shade of the house and rubbed her lower back, she was suddenly filled with profound faith, peace, and comfort, excited for every new day being so close to God, so honored by His presence. For how else should she feel, with the true Son of God living within her very body?

She’d believed she felt God’s presence the entire time she was pregnant. She’d often pondered it ever since the angel spoke to her. But for some reason, this day it struck her as much more that belief, but as a certain reality. Her soul wanted to shout out her joy to God, and her excitement and gratitude were beyond her ability to put into words. She felt so truly blessed by God, honored above other people. And that honor filled her with a sweet humility. God had chosen her, a lowly young woman. Why? What love God must have for her to give her such an honor.

As the days continued to go by, some slowly, some quickly, she would find herself suddenly feeling a moment of extreme thrill. Yet most of the time she was simply filled with limitless peace. And she felt that the peace came from the pure, unblemished holiness growing within her.

Then one day, when she knew the time of birth was getting near, she suddenly saw herself torn in how she felt. For as much as she anxiously desired to see the baby with her eyes and hold him in her arms, she dreaded the separation birth would bring. While pregnant, she had always felt as close to God as she thought anyone could possibly feel. She now feared losing that intimacy. But also, because of a premonition that had been lurking in the depths of her mind, she felt a growing dread for what would happen to the child as he grew into a man.

She hid those dark thoughts, for now was not their time. Now was the time to relish in the presence of the Son of God within her, filling her with peace, and love, and grace. She closed her eyes and smiled, looking again to the light of God within her that overpowered all other thoughts.

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We can share in Mary’s experience, in a way. If we believe Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we too can have the Son of God living within us, not as a fetus, but as Spirit.


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A Love Without End

Would you like to know Jesus more intimately? Would you like to meet the man who loves you without end, who is willing to suffer for you again, and again?

I’ve studied a bit of the physiology of the physical torture Jesus endured when he was flogged and then nailed to the cross. The idea that he would be willing to go through that again is too much for me to comprehend. How does this idea touch you? If it gives you a desire to show gratitude in some way, based on everything he said in the Bible, I think the best way for us to show our gratitude is with our love for Jesus.

To truly love Jesus, it can help to truly know Jesus. We know about him by what we read in the Bible, hear in sermons, and feel in prayer. We may know a lot about his divinity. It can help to know more about his humanity. For as Jesus is fully God, he was also fully human (and maybe still is—that’s a bit of theology I’m not sure about).

Anyway, I’d like to invite you to get to know more about the person who is willing to suffer for us yet again, whose love is without end. I’d like to invite you to see how Jesus’ love manifested itself when he walked the roads of ancient Israel. Read We Called Him Yeshua, where you will see Jesus through the eyes of those who felt first-hand the endless love, and saw with their own eyes how he suffered for them. And you too may then feel as close to Jesus as they did.

 

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


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The Power of Jesus’ Forgiveness

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you will see a brief glimpse of the power of Jesus’ forgiveness, from the perspective of a woman who, after years of judgment and scorn, needed forgiveness more than she could have imagined. We call him Jesus; they called him Yeshua.

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– Lydia –

When we reached the square, vomit tried to push its way up my throat. I nearly collapsed as the men flung me against the mud-brick wall next to the synagogue. I hit hard and tried to stifle a yelp of pain. The mob spread out in front of me, some bouncing stones in their hands. They were waiting for something. Who would be the first to throw? How much would it hurt? How would it feel to die? How much longer did I have to live?

A ray of sunlight shot out through a gap in the clouds as a man strolled casually across the square. At first, I thought he was going to join the stone-throwers. But he walked past, never giving them notice, and stood against the synagogue wall next to me. Then I realized—it was the prophet who had brought Zach to life.

“Teacher,” the lead Pharisee said in obvious mock respect, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery.” Right, but that was two years ago. “The law commands us to stone such women. What do you say?”

So, this was what the mob had been waiting for. They weren’t out to punish me. But the prophet just stood there, looking at the mob, his gaze roving from one to the next. Each man shuffled his feet and looked away whenever the prophets’ eyes landed on him. The prophet then knelt down and began writing something in the dirt with his finger. The sun burst out full from behind the clouds.

“The law commands us to stone this woman!” the Pharisee shouted. “Now what do you say!?”

Still, the man didn’t respond. Didn’t even seem interested.

As I stared at his finger tracing in the dust, sweat dripped down my forehead and into my eyes. I whispered, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I really didn’t think God was listening, but … I was desperate.

Then, the prophet rose to his feet, again glanced from man to man, and declared, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bent back down to the ground and continued writing.

If anyone were without sin? Well, that would be the Pharisees. They obsessed over God’s law and the hundreds of manmade rules. They wouldn’t dare sin.

Then, I heard it. A dull thud. I looked up to see a man from our village, his stone lying on the ground. Several heartbeats later, another thud, followed by another. Soon, the only men holding stones were the Pharisees. As I’d feared.

But they weren’t looking at me. They were staring at the man still writing in the dirt. Their faces blazed with an intense hatred, the kind of hatred that kills. But whether he realized his own danger or not, the prophet seemed focused only on his writing.

I don’t know what those zealots were waiting for. They weren’t going to back away now. What chance did—

I jumped at the sound. Slowly, I lifted my eyes from the writing to discover the youngest looking Pharisee had dropped his stone. His eyes were on the patch of ground before his feet. Time slowed. And then, another stone fell to the ground.

After what felt like several minutes, the last stone still remained tight in the hand of the head Pharisee, the one who’d done all the talking. My eyes locked on that hand, its veins bulging, its knuckles white. And then, as if in slow motion, the fingers relaxed and opened. The stone rolled free and slowly tumbled through the air, raising a tiny cloud of dust as it hit the ground. The early morning sun glistened off the dust as it drifted back down.

The mob silently broke up, with the village hypocrites’ guild leaving first. The Pharisees hesitated. Then, they too shuffled out of the square.

When the last one rounded the corner of the synagogue and disappeared, the man at my feet lifted his head, looked up to me, and smiled. I felt that smile, so warm and full of kindness.

He glanced around the square and brushed his hands together as he stood. “Woman, where are they? Is there no one who condemns you?”

“No one.” My voice trembled.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I collapsed to the ground as tears poured down my dusty face. “Sir!” It came out as a hoarse whisper. “Why?”

Kneeling down, he cupped my chin in his hand and lifted until my eyes met his. “Please, call me Yeshua.”

He took my hands, lifted me to my feet, and folded his arms around me in a warm hug. I nearly collapsed again, but he held me steady. And then I realized something. He touched me! This man, more righteous than all those religious leaders, more godly than all the rest, had touched me. An adulterous woman like me and he didn’t seem afraid my sins might make him unclean.

“Sir. I mean, Yeshua,” my voice still trembling, “why do you forgive me? Why are you so kind?”

“Because of love. I live by a higher level of love, God’s love. By his love, God keeps no record of wrongs. Neither do I.”

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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), and see what you think. And if you’d like, the book is currently priced as low as Amazon will allow, but only until this Sunday, as the price will increase starting Monday, April 27.


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How to Introduce Jesus to a Friend

Do you have friends or family you’d like to introduce to Jesus? If you’re like me, the idea of doing such a thing can be almost terrifying. I have plenty of memories from before I became Christian of pushy evangelists who did more to drive me away from Jesus than pull me to Him. They had only the greatest intentions, but their excessive boldness just turned me off. Maybe that’s why I’m definitely not a pushy evangelist myself—not my style.

Anyway, I have an idea for a possibly less pushy way to introduce someone to Jesus. Give them a book about Jesus. What I’ve found is letting someone else speak to my friend through the pages of a book is far easier than me trying to find the words myself. And based on my experience with this particular book, I think this approach might work for lots of people.

Of course I’m talking about the novel I recently published, We Called Him Yeshua. After all, a big reason I wrote this book was to provide a way to easily introduce people to Jesus. And I wrote it as a novel because it’s far easier for many of us to follow a story, than some kind of preachy sermon in a Christian non-fiction style (though, those are some of my favorite Christian books).

The story in We Called Him Yeshua shows Jesus not only as the Son of God, but also as the son of man, as he liked to call himself. The characters in the story (along with those who read it), see Jesus as another person, though of course a person with incredible power.

Look, it’s easier to understand and relate to a person, than to a God. For those who don’t know Jesus, maybe first getting to know him as a man will give them the desire to get to know him more fully. Maybe after reading We Called Him Yeshua, they will then want to read about Jesus in the Bible.

If you’re interested, please check out the book now, while the price is still as low as Amazon will allow. This coming Monday, April 27th, the price will increase. Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.


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The Human Side of Jesus

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you will see a brief glimpse of the human side of Jesus from the perspective of a man whom Jesus cured of leprosy. We call him Jesus; they called him Yeshua.

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– Neri –

“I’ve never felt this way before,” I muttered. “I mean, the way Ruth makes me feel. When I look at her, like now, my heart pounds and … oh, camel dung.”

“I understand,” Yeshua said.

“You do?”

“Neri, I may be the Son of God, but I’m also the son of man … fully human.”

“God and human, all at the same time? I thought it was some kind of metaphor.”

“It’s no metaphor. Just try to accept it as truth.”

“Okay. I guess. But, do you ever feel more like one, than the other?”

“Oh sure. Like tonight. I love moments like this, when to all of them,” he waived his arm out to the dancing crowd, “I can be just another person. When people treat me as God, they distance themselves from me—out of fear or awe. But tonight, I’m just another man celebrating a wedding, having fun, dancing, playing … being human.”

He took a bite of bread and glanced around.

“Listen Neri, being human provides an intimacy that’s hard to find when people only see my divinity. And it’s intimacy I long for. My strongest desire is not to be above anyone, but to be with everyone, in close communion. Like most people, I have a strong desire to be loved.”

He took a slow sip of wine. “Neri, it’s hard for people to fall in love with a God. But it’s easy for them to fall in love with a person.”

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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), and see what you think. And if you’d like, the book is currently priced as low as Amazon will allow, but only for a limited time.


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Check out “We Called Him Yeshua”

“Finally! This is the vehicle Christians need for winning others to Christ and Christianity, the true Christianity… not the modern day “I will mold Christianity to my liking Christianity.” “We Called Him Yeshua” is subtle and deep at the same time, making for a truly enjoyable and enlightening experience. Penn’s writing is clever, intelligent, and easy to read. Make this one your next book club focus (honestly, whole churches should pick this up).”

(Amazon review)

 

For a limited time, the paperback and ebook are priced as low as Amazon will allow. So click on the image to go to the Amazon book page and check it out.


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You Can be the Holy of Holies

In the days of the ancient Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, the part of the temple called the Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a curtain, or maybe some kind of wall. This was to keep sinful men, in the front part of the temple, away from the Spirit of God, who resided in the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest, once a year, could go back into the Holy of Holies to offer a special sacrifice.

Times have changed, all thanks to Jesus. The holy of holies still exists, but not in the back room of a temple. It’s within the temple of your body, as Jesus himself declared. If you believe, the Spirit of God can live within you, within the temple of your body. And you’re not limited to once a year visits. Jesus invites us to commune with His Spirit every day.

After Jesus rose from the dead, he sent his Spirit to live with us. And maybe you’ve already let him in. But if not, if you feel you don’t really know the Holy Spirit, know this: He’s knocking on the door of your heart, and He’d like to be invited in. I know it can be difficult and may take a long time, (it was for me), but you too can come to believe in the truth of the Holy Spirit. Let Him into the temple of your body, not for a brief visit, but to live. And surely, he will be with you always, to the very end of the age.

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If this idea of letting the Spirit of Jesus into the temple of your body feels strange, or even frightening, it could be because you feel you don’t know Jesus well enough. Or maybe you feel too sinful, as I used to feel. But for Jesus, I don’t think anyone is “too sinful.”

Think of it like welcoming a new friend into your life. Before you can welcome them and let them get close, you first need to get to know them. You first need to be able to call them “friend.” I’d like to offer you a way to do that, to get to know Jesus in an intimate and friendship kind of way.

The novel We Called Him Yeshua is the story of Jesus as told by such people, those who could truly call Jesus friend. Maybe by reading their story and seeing the nature of their friendships, you too can more easily call Jesus your friend.

If you’re curious, please 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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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.

************************

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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Jesus, the Man

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. Though they called him Yeshua, most of us call him Jesus.


– Anna –

Rounding a bend in the road, we came to a cluster of buildings near the top of the pass. As our caravan slowed, a man ran out from one of houses and rushed to Yeshua. “Lord, the one you love is sick,” he panted.

Yeshua cast a concerned glance toward one of the houses. “This sickness will not end in death,” he said. “No, it is for God’s glory.” He then continued walking toward Jerusalem. We silently followed.

The road curved down the other side of the mountains, hugging the steep hillside. The city gradually came into view, shining in the light of the afternoon sun. I peeked over the edge of the road—the hill fell sharply into the valley below. At the sight, my head grew dizzy and I lurched back. My stomach felt like a squirming snake, trying to escape up my throat.

 

An hour after leaving the pass, we suddenly stopped. Yeshua, just a few paces ahead, stood completely rigid, staring at something on the side of the road. Then, his cheek twitched, his knees trembled and … he grabbed Simon’s arm as his legs began to give way.

I looked up, past Yeshua. Terror swept over me. My breath came in rapid gasps, my heart pounded, color faded, everything turned black … then …

 

“Anna, come back.”

I woke to Yeshua’s face, weakly smiling down at me, his eyes moist. He caressed my hand. I stirred and felt someone holding me. I looked down to see Matthias’ hands on my hips. My head rested against his chest. Neri, Ruth, and Jared gazed down, all with deep concern in their eyes.

I pushed away from Matthias—he didn’t want to let go. Yeshua quickly took both my hands in his and lifted me to my feet.

Before me, across a narrow valley, sat the city on top of a hill, shockingly large, with the Temple spires towering above it all. Turning, I saw him again, grisly and sickening, nailed to a tree on the other side of the road. The man just hung there, not moving, guarded by two Roman soldiers.

Dried blood stained his feet, hands, and the underside of his stretched-out arms. The skin on his feet and hands was bluish-black. His shoulders looked severely bruised. Yet the man was alive—withered, dry, drained, like an empty shell, but alive. He stared down at me through half-opened eyes.

Yeshua turned me away, pulled me forward a few paces, and placed my hand in Ruth’s. We continued down the road, Yeshua in the lead. He seemed to be walking slower than ever.

**********************************

– Neri –

To the left, the slope climbed behind the crucified man to the peaks above. To the right, the hill fell to the valley below. And beyond that—

“Neri,” Jared whispered, “Did you see Yeshua, when he first saw that crucified man?”

“Yes,” I said. “Looked terrified.”

Jared’s brow furrowed. “His reaction surprised me. I mean, he’s the son of God. What does he have to fear?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s more human in him than we realize.”

Jared looked thoughtful for a moment. “And maybe we’d rather think of him more as the Son of God, than as a man.”


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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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