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)


Leave a comment

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.”


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


Leave a comment

Just do it

So much violence… so much hatred… too much. Seems like the world is falling apart. Lots of people, like me, are trying to help by recommending we all look to God and Jesus for comfort and answers, and peace. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So with regard to what all compassionate folk are recommending, enough writing. I’m just gonna go do it. “Dear Jesus, I’m hurting and I need your help…”


2 Comments

It is Finished

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

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

“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

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

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

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

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

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


5 Comments

Being a WWJD Christian

WWJD

Do you want to be an imitator of God? “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Do you want to be a WWJD Christian, every moment doing what Jesus would do? You can’t… on your own.

The only way you can is to let Jesus live within you, doing what He would do through you. You can be a WWJD Christian if you let Him. But it’s not “What Would Jesus Do,” as if you are trying to imitate Him. It’s “What Will Jesus Do,” as He lives and acts and speaks from within you – His Holy Spirit sharing your body, mind, and soul. We can be more than imitators of God. And I’m so grateful.


8 Comments

There Is No Greater Love

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

love on cross

The night before Jesus was nailed to the cross, as he prepared himself for death, He looked to His disciples and… “He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Matthew 26:38)

While praying for strength, just moments before His arrest, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) There is a medical condition called Hematidrosis, where blood vessels can pop due to extreme stress, and the blood will mix with sweat. Jesus was in such stress.

Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. It’s important for us to know that what Jesus did for us was not easy. Yet Jesus was overwhelmed by more than the anticipation of torturous pain and death. What was crushing Jesus was the promise of what waited on the other side of death.

Shortly before His death, while praying to His Father, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) Even as He prayed these words, Father and Son both knew that very soon, they would not be together. They would not be one.

The death penalty for sins includes separation from God – this is the definition of hell. For the first time in eternity, Father and Son would not be spiritually together. Following His mortal death, Jesus descended into hell.

The sins of humanity kidnapped the Son from His adoring Father. Picture a weeping mother handing over her baby to kidnappers. God and His Son endured this heart-wrenching pain voluntarily. The Father shared the sacrifice of the Son. There is no greater pain for a parent than to loose their child to death.

There is no greater love in all of history than the mutual love God and Jesus showed for us. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added) God held out His Son, and sin ripped Jesus from His Fathers arms, and killed Him.

Once, when I was helping with our church youth group, one of the kids shared a saying he had heard: “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross – love did.” We see the truth of the cross in the mutual love of God and Jesus, for us. That’s what kept Jesus on the cross.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)


2 Comments

Jesus on the Edge

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

 Jesus magazine

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

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

I hope you all have a great Easter. CJ


1 Comment

Gift Exchange

Today, Good Friday, we recognize the sacrifice Jesus took upon Himself for all of us. He gave His life for us. Because I’m so grateful, I’d like to give Jesus something in return. As He did for me, I’d like to do for Him – I’d like to give Jesus my life.

To surrender my life to Jesus – how can I do that today? What does this look like? How about this: I’ll give Jesus my thoughts today, as often as I am able.

Are you grateful for what Jesus did for you? Give Him your thoughts today. Focus your mind on Jesus as often as you are able.


Leave a comment

Coffee With Jesus

coffee with Jesus

One of my favorite times of the day is early morning, when it’s still dark outside, with my cold hands warming around a hot cup of coffee. My mind starts out wandering, never stopping long in one spot. My thoughts are looking for Jesus, within me, yet my spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD), keeps scattering my thoughts, hindering my efforts to find Jesus.

But soon the coffee gives my wandering mind the strength to wrest control of my thoughts and focus on my search for Jesus. And He’s always there waiting for me, in the midst of my thoughts.

We sit there together, while I sip my coffee. Closing my eyes to block out the distractions of the world, I look inside, to Jesus. And we just hang out together. Sometimes I talk. Often I try to just quiet my mind and listen. This quiet time with Jesus is my favorite time of the day. And I’m so grateful.


8 Comments

Finding Jesus in My Writing

ghost writer

I recently got some great advice from an editor friend of mine, and now I’m totally re-writing the first chapter of the book I’m working on. As for the rest of the book – I don’t know yet. Revision 11 is looking meaty. What revision will be the final one, 22?

When will this book be finished? I’m three months away from the seven year anniversary of the day I started working on this book. Whether I ever publish it or not, I sure would like to finish it someday. I’m getting impatient. I want to be done with it. Here I am, still getting up each morning way before sunrise, just so I can have an hour or two to write before going to work. Seven years now of the same routine, and the end still looks far off and blurry.

This morning I was praying about all this, again. And thank you Jesus for reminding me what’s important.

It’s not finishing the book that’s important, at least right now. The focus may shift to finishing at some time, but right now it’s all about writing. What gets me out of bed each morning is the joy of finding Jesus in my writing. When my words are His words – this is what I chase after each morning. And when I’m able to empty myself enough to let Him write through me, those are the best moments of my day. Well worth getting out of bed before the crows. And I’ll keep at it until Jesus says it’s done.


Leave a comment

Hugging Jesus

forest trail

We were on vacation up in the mountains, having rented a cabin on the edge of a pine forest. Early each morning, before my wife and children awoke, I would sneak outside for a quiet walk in the woods. I prayed for most of my walk, sometimes stopping, standing still in the middle of the trail with my eyes closed, just so I could focus more on Jesus.

I was so hungry for Jesus. I was craving His presence in my life. I ached with the overpowering desire to see Him in human form. As I stood still on that trail, I hoped with all my heart to open my eyes to find Jesus standing in front of me. My love for Him ached to reach out and hug Him.

“If you want to hug me, hug someone else. For within them, you will be hugging me too.” At that moment of intense desire, these words came into my mind. Was Jesus speaking to me? Was He answering my prayers? I believe so.

Do you love Jesus? Then show Him your love, by loving others. Next time you hug someone, picture Jesus within them. And maybe give Jesus an extra squeeze to show Him how much you care.


7 Comments

Studying my way to God?

books

I have read the bible many times, especially the New Testament. I’ve read great books by Andrew Murray, William Law, and A.W. Tozer. I’ve read sermons and devotionals by Charles Spurgeon. And then there’s “The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence – my most well-worn non-bible book. All of my studying has helped me develop a close relationship with God, or so it appears.

Is diligent study really the secret to an intimate relationship with God and Jesus? I don’t think so, because based on what Jesus said and how He lived, it doesn’t make sense.

What came into my mind as I puzzled over this was what Paul frequently mentioned about faith, hope, and love. As he said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

A relationship with God obviously starts with faith. But it’s love that makes that relationship grow. Though study may help, in my case anyway, without love the study is meaningless.

Reading about food will not ease your hunger. Are you hungry for closeness with God? Then love Him. Let His Spirit into your life. Taste His presence in your soul. And you will be filled, to overflowing.


2 Comments

Twice Saved

Holy Spirit

By His death on the cross, Jesus saved me from the penalties of my sinful life. By His Spirit living within me, Jesus daily saves me from myself.

The Holy Spirit living within you… it’s not just words in the bible. It’s not just Christian doctrine. It’s truth and it’s life. There is no truth more powerful than that of sharing your mortal life with the immortal Spirit of Jesus Christ, within you.

He’s knocking on the door of your heart. Open up and let Him in. Look inside yourself… He’s there. Feel His love, inside you. The Holy Spirit loves you, from the inside, out. Let His love loose, spilling over your walls and splashing onto nearby souls hungry for love.


Leave a comment

A new You

butterfly

I recently wrote a post where I used the movie “Young Frankenstein” to illustrate how Jesus exchanged His goodness for our sinfulness when He died on the cross (see it here). Jesus did more than exchange goodness for sinfulness on the cross. He transferred His Spirit into us.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus promises us the presence of the Holy Spirit within our lives. By His death, He made this promise real. And He made us new. When we open the door of our heart and let the Spirit in, we are changed… a new creation. As Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul was talking about the Holy Spirit, within you.

 

And as today is Veterans Day, I would like to send out my sincere thanks to all of the very giving people who have devoted part of their lives to serving in the military, and providing protection for our country. I am so grateful.


1 Comment

Empty and Ready for More

Yesterday I finished rev 10 of the book I’m writing. And like most times when I finish a revision, I feel weird. This morning I feel this question pestering my mind: “Okay, what do I do now?”

But I also felt like I’m at a place of emptiness with God. I don’t mean negative emptiness. I mean good emptiness, like an empty jar ready to have something new poured into me. I like this feeling, just sitting here, opening my heart to God, waiting for Him to fill me with the next thing He wants me to do. It’s actually a little scary, but, “Dear Lord, bring it on.”


4 Comments

Is Relevance Relevant?

relevance

Many Christians believe that making the gospel relevant for our times will attract people to the church. Trying to “meet people where they live” is just what Jesus did, so this should be a good approach. Yet, judging by the dwindling numbers of those attending church, there must be something wrong with the drive for relevance.

The flaw of the relevance approach is when they change the message to meet the needs of the day. This takes the focus off the truth of Jesus. His message is eternal, in that it always meets the needs of the day, no matter what day it is. We always need love, always need faith, and always need hope. This is what Jesus has to offer, and it’s always relevant.

What people need is not a customized message for the day, which will loose power as conditions change. It’s not relevance that’s needed, but truth.


Leave a comment

Under attack from within

Truth

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” It’s often Christians who push people away from Christianity. That’s why I stayed away for much of my life – what I saw didn’t appeal to me. I initially rejected Jesus because of Christians who were not a good reflection of His truth.

National surveys show Christianity declining in the United States. The published reasons are varied, but they all point to this: Christianity is crumbling because of a lack of truth. Truth is healthy and strong; untruth is sick and weak.


2 Comments

Healing the Pain of Sexual Abuse

healing the pain of sexual abuse

My first stepfather sexually abused me when I was 7 years old. A typical situation, I suppose – he threatened harm if I told anyone. Fortunately, there were other problems with the marriage, and my mom divorced him after only a year together. But we all had scars from that experience.

My scars fed my strong desire for revenge. As I grew older and came to understand what he had done to me, I grew angrier. In my late teens, I fantasized about running into him someday. I planned each move, the first being a fully energized kick square in the source of my suffering, sending him to his knees. There were times when I even dreamed of killing him. The hate was strong and painful.

About 20 years later, I met Jesus Christ and He started teaching me about love and forgiveness. It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson, but I finally let go of the hate. I wholeheartedly forgive my stepfather. I feel sorry for him, for he was a very troubled person. And I’m now free of my own troubles – free from the pain of hate and memories, freed by forgiveness. Thanks to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.


Leave a comment

My Father God

To me, God is my perfect parent. God, my Father, loves me unconditionally. He may not always like some of the things I do, and He may even get angry at me sometimes. But like all really good parents, there is nothing I can do that will affect the love He has for me. And like all loving parents, what He may desire most is a close, intimate relationship with His children. “Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

I am so grateful to be a child of God.


Leave a comment

Are you a wounded Catholic?

Healing wounded

Sometimes I rant about the dealings of the Catholic Church. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone. But I have seen the effects of the shortcomings of the Catholic Church up close. I know many wounded Catholics, those who had belonged to the Catholic Church, maybe even since birth, yet left with bad experiences. My stepfather, stepbrother, and many close friends are among them.

Yet in the case of my stepfather, he didn’t leave by choice; he was kicked out because of the sin of his divorce from his first wife. It distresses me that though Jesus has forgiven my stepfather, the Catholic Church cannot.

My heart breaks for those wounded Catholics, like my stepfather, who are not able to find their way to another church. All his life my stepfather was told that the Catholic Church is the only one, true church. And when that church failed him, where can he go? He has gone nowhere, and remains lost.

If you are a “wounded” Catholic, having given up on the Catholic Church, please don’t give up on Jesus. He still loves you, and always will. God, as our ultimate and perfect Father, loves all His children, no matter what church they may go to.

 


2 Comments

Catholic Rule #82

8-8-14 Catechism 82

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Catechism 82 of the Roman Catholic Church, emphasis added) The Catholic Church considers God’s word, as recorded in the Bible, and Catholic tradition, as equally valid and important.

Jesus might say in response, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8)

Moses might say, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

And the apostle Paul might add, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Catholic tradition verses the word of God – I’ll choose God.