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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Governments Legislating Morals. And Other Twisted Stuff.

Governments creating laws dictating moral behavior—it’s happening in Texas with the newly passed anti-abortion law. Oh, I know there’s more than morals at stake. And part of the trouble with legislation like the Texas law is that it does nothing to address the real problem. Such laws try to halt the outcome of problems while ignoring the root cause. As with making prostitution illegal, these laws are doomed to failure.

But to my main reason for writing this post, the other twisted stuff the title refers to. This is neither an anti-abortion nor pro-abortion post. If anything, it’s an anti-the-way-some-Christians-behave-these-days kind of post. Confused? Sorry—I’ll clarify.

First consider this: Jesus didn’t force His morals, His Christianity, upon anyone. He just showed the truth and let each person decide. Yet it seems like some of today’s Christians get things twisted around, ignoring truth and forcing their morals upon others. But Jesus didn’t model that behavior; it’s not very Christ-like.

Now consider this: if Jesus was a leader in a Texas church, I suspect He’d do what He always did. He’d preach the truth and let the people decide. And I think the truth He’d preach, the truth not often heard in today’s churches, would be the truth of the presence of His Spirit in the lives of those who believe and accept Him. It’s Jesus’ Holy Spirit who will show us how He wants us to behave—He will show us His morals. And only His Spirit can fill us with His power that will propel us to live by those morals. It’s the Spirit of God and Jesus who will bring about morality, not manmade laws.

With respect to Christians who support things like anti-abortion laws, this is another case of Christians relying more on their elected leaders and their governments than on Jesus and God. It seems like Jesus is confronted here with the same problems He had to face when He walked the roads of ancient Israel. Back then, He was dealing with religious leaders who put their manmade rules above God’s laws, and far above having a personal relationship with God. It’s happening still—manmade laws appear more important to some Christians than a personal relationship with Jesus. And again, moral behavior doesn’t come from following a law; it comes from following Jesus.

If Christians want to reduce the occurrence of abortions, instead of lobbying for laws, perhaps they should do a better job of spreading the truth of Jesus’ Christianity (emphasis on truth). This reminds me of something Paul said: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word (truth) of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Do you want to save the lives of unborn babies? Rather than enforcing laws, try promoting the truth of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.

The formula’s simple. 1) Don’t rely on manmade/church-made rules and laws; 2) spread the truthful word of Christ; 3) support people in the grow of their faith and their personal relationship with the Spirit of God; 4) step aside and let God do the rest. God can do a lot, if we get out of His way.

Gee, I wonder what He could do with the overall and overwhelming moral decay of our society, and I’m not just talking about abortion.


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Awakening

Everything appeared normal and in focus, the low cubicle walls, cluttered offices and desks, fluorescent lights overhead, worn-out carpet below. All that stuff was unchanged. But the people, what happened to the people? They were gone.

He jumped up and scanned the field of cramped cubicles. In the places where all his co-workers usually sat, spheres of light hovered over the desk chairs, all about the same size, beach ball size. Most were a bit dim, a few were shades of gray, and one or two were brilliantly white. On some of the spheres, the light flickered and changed. But they all seemed to hum, as if filled with a pulsating energy. Yet the magnitude of that energy also varied from one sphere to the next. Were they alive; if alive is even the right word? They almost seemed alive. The brightest ones seemed the most alive, as if they were throbbing with excitement and anticipation. Well, that’s how it seemed to him.

But then he noticed his feelings for these possibly living spheres of light. They didn’t frighten nor mystify him, though he believed they should have. He felt close to them, related to them, as if he and they were somehow connected. Then he noticed the other emotions, the mix of compassion, sorrow, joy, and love that he felt. Compassion and sorrow for the dimmest spheres of light, joy for the brightest ones, and love for all of them. Oh, this just kept getting weirder. Why’d he feel that way? After all, they were just spheres of light, not people. Right?

Life below the surface - sphere of light 2Okay, this had to be a dream, like something he remembered from an old Star Trek episode. But, it didn’t feel like a dream, it felt like more than a dream, and somehow more than imagination. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate, tried to figure this out. But when he opened his eyes again, they were back, not the spheres but all the people, the people he knew so well, along with the office racket. That’s when he realized it had been peacefully quiet in his dream, or whatever it was.

Maybe it had been a hallucination. Or … hmm. He’s not sure why the thought slid into his mind, but maybe the dream was God showing him a side of people he’d never seen before, the inside. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres of light was a vision of the life force, the entire life and essence of each person. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres, the ones bright and thriving, and those dim, struggling, and barely alive, was … their souls.

Then he remembered the almost profound love he’d felt for all of those spheres. But, if they were really the souls of his co-workers, how could he feel such love for them, especially for the souls that hovered over the chairs of people he despised?

Then another memory slid in, something Philo of Alexandria—whoever he was—once said, something like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” He now believed he’d seen it. The dim and weak spheres of light were souls struggling in their own great battle.

Suddenly he remembered something else, something Jesus had said, about loving others as Jesus loved him. Now why’d his mind go there? He’d always struggled with that one. Some people were so despicable, so unlovable, with their bigotry, selfishness, insensitiveness, and downright arrogance. He’d always figured it was impossible for him to love such people, even if they are fellow Christians.

He knew in his gut that he just couldn’t love others as Jesus loves him—impossible. But, as Jesus also said, what’s impossible for him is possible for God. He long believed the only way he could truly love others, especially the despicable ones, was for Jesus to love those people through him—the whole surrender to God and let the Holy Spirit live within and through him thing he’d often prayed about.

He sat back in his chair and smiled. He really liked the idea of loving the souls below the surface. That felt somehow more doable, even if his love for them would initially be his normal flawed love he gave to everyone else. The perfect stuff would just have to come from Jesus. But at least maybe he’d found a way to no longer despise the despicable. After all, in his vision he’d noticed that it was the most despicable people who had the dimmest spheres of light, the souls that struggled the most and looked the least alive.

For the rest of the day, these thoughts simmered in his mind. It’s not about loving the people you see on the surface, the sometimes ugly, mean, angry, arrogant surface. It’s about loving what’s below the surface, the soul below the all-to-human exterior. Also, it’s easier to love what he can see with his mind, than what he could see with his eyes.

One more thought slipped in. During the vision, that love he’d felt for all those spheres of light—was it from him, or from Jesus? Whichever, it sure felt good.


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If it’s God’s Will. Really?

RIP - If its Gods will - reallyThey’re devoted to Christianity and their church, and for those who’ve decided to not get vaccinated against COVID 19, some may have a familiar response when asked if they’re concerned about the risks of getting sick and possibly dying. “If it’s God’s will,” they reply. I’ve heard that response before, with respect to an impending threat or otherwise avoidable problem.

Could it really be God’s will for good people to suffer a lonely and painful suffocating death? Is God really that mean; if mean is even the right word? Is it God’s will for all the COVID collateral damage surrounding the sick and dying, like the other people who may get infected, the grieving loved ones left behind, and the overworked and exhausted hospital staff dealing with suffering and death almost every day until they burn out from it? Is all that really God’s will?

Just so I don’t unfairly focus on one topic, look at all the other suffering consuming our world, the other diseases, and the evil, murder, death, hate, anger, abuse, anxiety, and depression. Is all that God’s will too?

Now back to COVID. I’ve also heard some Christians say that putting all their trust in God, rather than a vaccine, will glorify God. As Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And yes, history’s full of people glorifying God by their death, most notably Jesus. But, I wonder if the only other people who truly glorified God this way did so when, by their death, others were saved, just as Jesus did. Well, death by COVID doesn’t save anyone.

Also, if someone contracts COVID 19, ends up in the hospital and dies, all along saying, “If it’s God’s will,” how does that glorify God? As I see it, dying that way and saying its God’s will just feeds the misconception that God is mean. No glory for God there, that’s for sure. Plus, how does causing severe grief for the loved ones left behind, and the additional strain on already overworked hospital staff who’ve battled this war for over a year and a half—how does any of that glorify God? I don’t see it. I think we can glorify God more in how we live, than in how we die.

Okay, so here’s what I believe God’s will is, as shown throughout the Bible, beginning in the first pages. God’s original intention was that humanity live with Him in paradise, no toil, no pain, no suffering. Just love, peace, and companionship with God. That was, is, and will always be God’s will. Yet we live under the will of people, because by their own willful decision to listen to Satan rather than God, humanity got kicked out of paradise.

I believe that if an unvaccinated person catches COVID 19 and dies, that is not God’s will. If anything, it’s Satan’s will. We live under the influence of the will of our selves, Satan, other prideful people, and the world—that too is not God’s will.

God’s will is for us to live as originally intended, with Him in paradise, in peace, love, and companionship as His dearly loved children. Just like it was in the beginning. That’s why Jesus died for us and then sent His Spirit to live in us, taking our hand, and guiding us back to paradise.

Like in the story Jesus told of the prodigal son, God just wants us to return home to Him. Oh sure, we can return home by dying. But I believe God would rather have us first live for Him, than die for Him, by letting His Spirit live in us and through us, just as Jesus promised:

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)

“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. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. … Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-21, 25-26)

That’s how to live in accordance with God’s will and glorify Him.


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Truth? Really? Where?

truthTruth is hard to find these days. It keeps getting run over and buried by fake news, theories, and lies. I search for truth, but it seems in vain. Even when I think I’ve found it, well, is what I’ve found really the truth?

Cynical? Me? Sure, I guess so. Maybe it’s just the scars from being lied to so many times. Politicians, biased “news” sources–they’re the biggest liars in my life, they’re the breeders’ of my cynicism.

But there’s one source of truth I can believe in, one truth that feels like a solid anchor in the nightmare of this stormy life. For me, Jesus is the truth, the one and only truth I can actually rely on.

I started reading the Gospel of John this morning. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only (Jesus), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (verse 17)

And of course, there’s freedom in truth. Wow! Freedom? Really? Freedom seems about as rare as truth these days. But as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Oh sure, I’ll keep searching for the truth of worldly goings-on, always skeptical of any source of “news” I land on. But I know that when I get tired of futile searching, I can rest in the truth of my relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me. He is my truth.


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A Cure for Cabin Fever

Are you suffering from winter COVID cabin fever? Locked down. Shut in. Alone. Or, nearly alone. Zoom calls don’t help much anymore. Tired of watching TV. Definitely tired of surfing news websites. Tired of it all. All I can offer is this—it may not seem like much, but I believe it has the potential to help in unexpected ways:

A good story, a good book that will take you away to another time and place—maybe that would help. Oh, you’ve tried that already? Yes I now, there are lots of great books out there. But the problem is, once you close the book, especially for the last time, you’re still stuck in today. Well, I’d like to recommend a book that along with taking you to another time and place, might also help you bring some of it back when you return to here and now.

We Called Him Yeshua introduces you to someone who can come back with you once you close the book and return to today. This someone can help you cope with today, and even thrive.

How is that possible? Well, the story introduces you to Jesus Christ in a way more intimate than maybe you’ve ever felt. And by the time you finish the story, close the book for the last time, and return to the here and now, you’ll be able to bring Jesus with you. And I don’t mean that figuratively. I’m talking about the actual and real presence of the Spirit of Jesus. You need never be alone again.

So what exactly is this piece of historical fiction about?

The story shows you the human side of Jesus as seen through the eyes of people who lived with him during his final weeks on earth. They’ll tell you what they saw and felt, and how they grew closer to Jesus. They’ll tell you of his love, courage, compassion, strength, and humility.

Listen to Anna and others tell you about their experiences with Jesus as they all follow him down that dusty road to Jerusalem. Hear Neri describe what it was like when Jesus healed him of leprosy, or Timaeus tell you about being able to see for the first time in his life, and then Anna, as she falls deeper in love with Jesus. She doesn’t care about his divinity—all she cares for is his humanity.

We call him by his Greek name, Jesus. They called him by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. They knew him not just as a prophet, not just as the Son of God, but they knew him as a friend. As you read their stories, maybe you too will come to know Jesus as your friend.

And if you ask Him, He will come back with you when you close the book and return to today. Get to know Jesus the man—that’s where this book will help—and then let Jesus the Holy Spirit come and live with you in the here and now.

By the way, I’m keeping the price as low as Amazon will allow. Why? Because I want to make the book available to as many people as possible. And these days, money is scarce for many of us.

(Link to Amazon book page)


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WWJD 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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


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A Good Distraction for These Times

Are you looking for a distraction from all the chaos surrounding you? Would you like to tear your mind away from what’s going on outside and take it for a walk someplace else? To my friends in the US, could you use a distraction from the craziness and stress of the presidential election? And of course, there’s the pandemic.

Please consider checking out We Called Him Yeshua, a historical fiction story about Jesus, told through the eyes of some of the people who were drawn to him as he walked the roads of ancient Israel. That might be a nice place for you to visit and get away from the present-day chaos for a bit. And as one of the Amazon reviewers has said,

“I could read this book again and again. It made the people of that time so real. Really made me realize the difficulty of just surviving. The hardships of day to day living that we don’t have in today’s world. But the hardships of today’s society makes me think which would I choose? Great talent this writer has to put you in the story. I could almost feel the heat, taste the dust and feel the hardships these people lived. As well as the joy of being in the presence of our Lord. Oh how well he wrote of the personal closeness He had with each person. Highly recommend this book. It’s a keeper. One I will read again and again.” (Peggy Amend, Amazon review)

Click here to go to Amazon book page.


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Kindness to the Victims

Coffee in hand, looking out the window at the early morning sky grey and cloudy, I try to quiet my thoughts and look down at the devotional sitting in my lap. But I fail. My mind just can’t pry itself away from the world. New Covid-19 variant exploding. Case and death counts rising fast. And then just to distract us from all that, what looks like an attempted coup in the US capitol. An insurrection they call it.

As my coffee was brewing this morning, I read an account by one of the people who stormed into the capitol building. And I began to see their point of view, and the view of some of the people that person was with. I started to see them as victims.

Lots of people in the US are frustrated with the federal government. That’s a big reason why Trump won in 2016. And I suspect it’s a reason why so many people still support him. As long as the feds remain as they are, I also suspect such chaos may continue.

Look, I think at least some of the “insurrectionists” see themselves as victims of our failed, dysfunctional federal government, as we all are. We’ve all watched the fractured, broken, uncompromising, self-serving, arrogant government representatives for years, as they effectively fail to serve those who voted them into office. I guess some people just couldn’t take it any longer, and decided to make a statement by breaking into the capitol building, encouraged as they were by you-know-who. Well, statement clearly made—I hope. (By the way, I don’t support their methods for statement-making).

But, those statement-makers are also victims of lies, conspiracy theories, and fake news. And maybe that’s partly because those lies support their already-strong sense of a broken system.

Looking beyond what happened in Washington DC this week, I now see that we are all victims. It’s not just the federal government that’s broken. The entire world is broken, and we’re all victims of it. Victims of bad relationships, miserable jobs, no jobs at all, illness, depression, anxiety, fear, unfulfilled dreams, heartbreak, abuse. No point in me continuing with the list—you can do that on your own.

But thankfully, a new thought drifted into my mind while my coffee cup warmed my hands. You see, as the events of this week kept yanking at my thoughts, another part of my mind kept trying to get back to the devotional in my lap. And right there on that page was something Jesus had said that was influencing how I was looking at the insurrectionists: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34)

I think it’s easier to love one another when we realize that those other people, no matter how much they might irritate us or how much we disagree with them, are also victims of something. As Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Okay, I’m going to wrap this up with another thought that popped into my mind. Yes, our world is full of victims. We all suffer from something. But, there are NO victims in heaven. Think about that one for a bit.


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Never Alone, or The Best Christmas Ever

On my way to the Philippines for work. Eleven hours, middle seat in coach. At least an exit row. But there’s a pungent odor seeping out of the apparently un-bathed guy next to me. Time for a breather. Strolling the aisle, a sea of faces, none familiar.

Finally, Tokyo. Three-hour layover, and grateful to give achy legs a good stretch. Wandering the airport corridors, travelers everywhere. Sure would be fun to see someone I know. But nope.

Next plane. Five more hours to Manila. Plane packed, but at least I have an aisle seat. Still no familiar faces. Manila airport, I’m drowning in another sea of people. And the midnight humidity—clinging my tired clothes to tired skin. Dark outside, fluorescent gloom inside. I feel like an alien, all alone.

But not truly alone. Cramped in a middle seat next to my stinky neighbor, the Holy Spirit was with me. Walking through Tokyo airport, the Holy Spirit was with me. The entire trip, the Holy Spirit was within me. Whenever I felt alone, I looked to the Spirit of Jesus. And He’s always there. I’m never alone.

As Christmas approaches, especially this 2020 Christmas, I find myself spending more and more time thinking of those who may end up being more alone this Christmas than ever before. Christmas is traditionally a hard time for a lot of people. And with all the suffering of 2020, and all the loss of family and friends, I suspect that this Christmas will be harder than most. But maybe people can turn their loneliness and despair into an opportunity to form or revitalize a new relationship … with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

My trip to Manila took place about seven years ago. During those seven years, my relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me has grown stronger. Even when I drift away for days or weeks, He’s still right there when I look back at Him. Looking hasn’t always been easy, with my often-scattered mind and spiritual attention deficit disorder. But for what it’s worth, here’s what has worked for me, and maybe it will work for you:

As often as you can, go to a quiet place, away from the noise and distractions of your world. Close your eyes. Quiet your thoughts. Leave the cares and concerns of your life outside. Focus just on your breathing, each breath in, each breath out. Once you’ve quieted your mind enough, try to visualize the Spirit of Jesus within you. Not up in heaven, not sitting beside you, but inside you, sharing your body with your soul. And just be with Him.

This may be hard at first—it certainly was for me. You may feel you failed, at first. But don’t give up. As often as you can throughout your day, practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. Start each day this way. At some point, you will feel His presence. Then you will know that from that day on, you will never be alone.

And by sharing your life with Jesus, maybe this Christmas could be your best Christmas ever.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17)


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Freedom from the Prison of Pride

This morning, while praying for a very well-known political person who exhibits extreme pride, arrogance, and apparent narcissism, the title for this post popped into my head. Realizing that a lot of people suffer from being trapped in our own prison of pride—actually, all of us, to some degree or another—I’m motivated to write about it. Also, I remain concerned for that well-known person who’s bound with more chains than most.

To me it’s sad, the pain pride inflicts upon people. It can bind us up with chains of anger, hatred, lies, bigotry, intolerance, self-righteousness, paranoia, and other such things that make people miserable. Most of us aren’t even aware of the chains that bind us. Therefore, we don’t realize we can be free of those chains.

Yesterday I posted about the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus in our lives. It’s interesting to compare the rotten fruits of pride listed above with the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (aka, humility), and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Which fruits would you rather live with?

It’s the Spirit of Jesus, present in our lives, who will set us free from the chains that bind us. It’s a truth promised by Jesus: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The question we all answer, whether we know it or not, is this: do we want to live with the chains of pride, or the fruits of the Spirit?


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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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The Mind Controlled by the Spirit

I recall seeing mention of it only once in the entire Bible. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) And, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (verse 9) *

Maybe when Paul wrote this, he didn’t mean what I hope he meant. Maybe he just means the mind “influenced” by the Spirit. Well, I feel the presence of the Spirit of God in my life, and I feel His influence. But often I desire so much more. And since David once wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4), I still hope that God will give me what I desire.

Oh how I wish the Spirit of Jesus would take control over my scattered, out of control mind. So often—too often—my mind goes places I really don’t want it to go. And that’s when the feeling of His presence leaves me, though I believe His Spirit never leaves—just my awareness of Him fades away.

Well, anyway, I’ll keep hoping and desiring and trusting and doing all I can to glorify God and Jesus. For without them, life would be hell.

I hope you have a great, Spirit-filled day.

 

* If you know of other places in the Bible that speak of this kind of control, please point me to them.


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Split Between Two Worlds

Whether we realize it or not, we divide our lives between two different worlds. We live in both the earthly, material world, and the spiritual world. Yet many people don’t realize there is a spiritual world. For them, the material world consumes and completely controls their lives, and there is no escape from it.

The material world consists of such things as daily work, stress from outside pressure and strained relationships, worldwide pandemics, divisive and stomach-acid-churning presidential elections, aches, pains, anxiety, fear, anger, hatred, lies, injustice, bigotry … well, I’m sure you can think of more descriptions of the world you live in.

Yet, the spiritual world is the absolute opposite of the material world. The spiritual world is peace beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s love that’s bigger than we can imagine. It’s intimate companionship with God. No pain, no fear, no anxiety. No need for antacid pills, calming cocktails, or anxiety numbing drugs. The spiritual world is freedom.

But how do we cross over to this world of freedom? Well, as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The truth that takes our hand and leads us into the freedom and peace of the spiritual world is the presence in our lives of the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. We can’t cross over to the spiritual world without help. Yet the Spirit of Jesus can enter into our very bodies, the two in one flesh, and lead us into His world where we will find the freedom we seek. The truth of this is clearly spelled out in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels.

Yet, as long as we occupy our human bodies, our life is bound to the two different worlds. The material world is unavoidable. Sometimes it demands our full attention. But not always.

I’d like to offer you a suggestion. The next time you find yourself being drawn to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the television, or whatever other worldly distraction that tends to fill up your discretionary time, try this: put down that phone, tablet, or remote control. Step away from the keyboard and step toward the Spirit of Jesus. Look for the Spirit in the words of the Bible, and get to know Him. Ask the Spirit of Jesus to guide you into His world, and experience that break you so desperately need from the material world.

The more time you spend in the spiritual world of Jesus, the easier it will be to cope with the strain of the material world. And the more you practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus within you, the easier you will find it to enter His world at almost any time, no matter what’s going on around you in the material world.

Also, the more time you spend with Jesus in the spiritual world, the more you will be able to bring His peace with you when you have to be fully involved in the material world. With the presence of Jesus’ Spirit, you will greatly lighten your material world experiences. I encourage you to not settle for dividing your life between the two opposite worlds. Rather, bring the spiritual world with you as you live in the material world.

Could it be that while Jesus walked the roads of ancient Israel, He lived fully in the spiritual and fully in the material at the same time? Can you imagine if you could do the same thing, and how that would affect your experience of life?

You have a choice. Which world do you want to spend more time in, the world of anxiety and anger, or the world of peace and love?

One final thought. Books about heaven, about the reality of heaven and some peoples personal early glimpses of heaven (like via near-death experiences), these books appear to be widely popular. The popularity of such books tells me that a lot of people are very interested in heaven. But do they know that they can experience heaven right now, heaven on earth. That’s what it is to live in the spiritual world with Jesus?


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Ignoring Fear, Stepping Out For God

Why was I feeling dull, almost empty, spiritually numb? It wasn’t because of this pandemic—that affects me in different ways. I’d started writing a new book, a book I believe can do great things to spread the truth of God and Jesus. But I still felt I wasn’t being useful for God. I had the sense He wanted me doing more.

Then it started to feel like God was sending me clear messages, in the varied way He sometimes does. In three different books I was reading, including the Bible, I was being told to not be afraid. One book that a friend had given me, “Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back,” by Ray Johnston, hit me in the gut with the directness of the challenge to just ignore my fears, step out and do new things for Jesus.

I didn’t have to look far to see the new things I felt God calling me to. The book I’m writing is on the right track, but I now felt God calling me to do more, to start spreading the word now and not wait to see if I actually finish writing the book. I have my blog, I’m on Facebook—I can use those to spread the word.

But I needed to be assertive. People don’t need more baby food. Many Christians have gotten nothing but baby food from the churches they attend. What they need, what some openly want, is spiritual meat, the deeper truths of Christianity that lay below the surface.

What we see from a lot of Christians and Christian churches is surface Christianity, that is, the Christianity many people put on and wear each Sunday. But real Christianity, true Christianity, goes much deeper. True Christianity is not just believing that Jesus is the Son of God, going to church regularly, trying to be “good,” and calling yourself Christian. True Christianity is even deeper than a relationship with God and Jesus. And get this: true Christianity is not some hidden, mysterious thing, for it’s clearly defined in the Bible.

True Christianity is a life-changing commitment. True Christianity is surrender to God—surrender of our self, our self-centered human nature. It’s the emptying of our selves so God can then fill us with His Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God and Jesus, and us, living in the same body, the two will become one flesh. THAT’s true Christianity. The more I re-read the Bible, and not just the New Testament, the more vivid that truth becomes.

But for many of us, it’s a hard truth to embrace—the commitment feels too great. Yet I’d come to a point on my journey where I was worn out by life. Sometimes I sense I understand the feelings of those who commit suicide—life had become such a burden. But instead of giving myself to death, I want to give myself to God. I crave surrender. I no longer want to be in control—too stressful.

I feel the desire (and I hope a true calling from God, not just imagination) to preach to fellow Christians the deeper truths of surrender to the Holy Spirit. But in doing so, I’m not crazy about some direction I’ve received from the Bible, especially from Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus, as well as Jesus. He calls us to rebuke our fellow Christians who drift away from the truth. I’m not confrontational by nature, I don’t like the idea of rebuking anyone. Conflict makes my stomach churn. But that’s the fear that I now believe God is calling me to ignore. Jesus said we’d be persecuted for standing up for His truth. I hoped I was ready.

As some of you reading this may have noticed, I have become more vocal with respect to the truths of Christianity and how they apply to the upcoming presidential election. The things I’ve posted are things that came into my mind while praying—I sure hope that means they’re God’s ideas, not mine. I’m always afraid my “self” will step in and pollute the words I write, corrupting the message of God I’m trying to convey. Oh, and yes, I am being persecuted for what I’ve posted so far.

I posted something on a Facebook Christian group I’m a member of, and now I’m being personally attacked. But I’m grateful for the caustic comments. They’re giving me insight into the minds of fellow humans, though I’m not sure if I’d call them fellow Christians, as they call themselves. Whether they are true Christians or not is between them and God. But I feel sorry for them, for many of them seem filled with anger.

So why am I writing about this today? Well, I’m not sure. But I hope it’s because the idea for today’s post also came to me while praying, and I hope that means it’s God’s idea, not mine. And I’d like to say I don’t need to know His purpose to do His will.

Hey, maybe here’s why I’m writing this: do you have a sense that God is calling you to do something, but the idea scares you? Or, do you feel you have only a surface knowledge of Christianity? I hope God wanted me to write today’s post for you, to help you in whatever way He desires.


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Looking For Freedom? Look Inside Yourself

The truth will set you free. That’s what Jesus said.

What truth Lord, I need to know?

The truth of love, the truth of faith, the truth of My presence in your life.

Yet free from what? Will you tell me that?

Yes my child. Everything.

What? I don’t understand.

Tell Me child, what burdens you?

Well, I guess, especially this year, almost everything.

Exactly.

But how Lord? Where does freedom come from?

The truth laid out for all to see, the truth hidden in plain sight is this: Me in you and you in Me. My Spirit living with your spirit, with your soul, within your body. The two will become one flesh.

But how?

Just quiet your mind, open your heart, let go of your “self,” and let Me in. By My presence within you, and your surrender to Me, you will be free. I’m already there, just waiting for you to look at Me.


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Character vs. Hypocrisy

How can a “Christian” call themselves a “Christian” if they support character and values that are non-Christian? Is this just another form of Christian hypocrisy, the hypocrisy we’re well-known for? The hypocrisy that’s just a part of our natural human nature that everyone suffers from in a variety of forms? But character matters.


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Baffled

I don’t get it. And maybe someone out there can help me understand. I just finished reading the New Testament in a week. Yes, I have plenty of time on my hands. I’ve read the NT many times, but this time I read it from the perspective of wanting to glean what it means to be a Christian. That is, according to the Bible, what is the true character of a Christian?

I didn’t learn anything new—there were no surprises. But the experience lit a fire under a question that’s been nagging me for a long time.

How? How can someone who’s a Christian, someone who accepts Jesus and the words in the New Testament, someone who at least tries to live up to the character description of a Christian—well, how can someone like that support a person whose character is the polar opposite of the Christian character? How can someone who calls themselves Christian support a person like Donald Trump?

I’d love to hear a better answer than the one I came up with. For I believe such a person is not really a Christian. You’ve heard of RINO’s, Republicans In Name Only? Well, it appears to me that this country has a bunch of CINO’s, Christians in name only.

I wonder what Jesus thinks of all this. And I’d really like to hear what you think.


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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.