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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Thank You

Another morning, at first indifferent.

And maybe a bit of reluctant dread.

Then quiet time alone, coffee cup warming my hands.

Silence my mind, look inside, and away from my “self.”

No, not alone. Never alone.

Thank You.

My attitude adjustment hour.

Perspective heightened. Life is good.

 

Time for a walk, before it’s too hot.

Mask in my pocket, always at the ready.

A crispness lingers in the air.

So refreshing. Another thing to be grateful for.

But the air is not only crispness.

Ash sprinkles down, like cursed snowflakes.

From overhead to the western horizon, the brown “fog bank” of smoke.

Sirens wail off in the distance. On the highway, heading north?

The wildfire season … again.

 

The “new normal.” “It is what it is.” So tired of those phrases.

Yet I admit their accuracy, and simple clarity.

I feel the struggle, trying not to let it all get me down.

A near-constant struggle … these days.

Some days I lose.

But today … today I’m winning.

Yet, not alone.

Thank You.


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The One True Christian Church — Reply to a Comment

Hello,

Yesterday I posted something about how I believe that we can be the “one true Christian church.” (see it here). I shared it on Facebook and received a comment that showed me I wasn’t all that clear in spelling out my beliefs. Now I think that a lot of you who follow my blog already have a good handle on my beliefs, so you were able to see past the red flags that got in the way of letting others see my true meaning.

Anyway, here’s the comment that the person left, which I’m grateful for:

Per the article – “As He was God-as-human, you can be Jesus-as-human. You too can be fully human and fully God.” – “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) So, are we fully God or His temple … fully God means to possess and utilizes at will His total abilities and characteristics; do you /have you, ever been fully omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent? You may be a written epistle, even erroneously considered “a god” , BUT FULLY GOD???? If that is not what was meant, it was poorly communicated. YOU WILL NEVER BE FULLY GOD …even thinking about approaching that kind of bogus mentality had satan driven/cast OUT of heaven… rethink the “Ye are gods” teaching and movements…

And here’s my reply:

I think I wasn’t clear in what I believe. For example, to be “fully God” to me means that I don’t possess anything. It means that God possesses me, completely. I have none of God’s abilities. Without God, I’m just a wretched mess.

I believe we can be fully God, as I believe Jesus has promised. But it requires that we deny “self” and absolutely surrender to God so that His Holy Spirit can enter into us and live through us, as God lived through the Son of Man. But as is the case with our inherently prideful human nature, denying “self” is really hard, and it often feels impossible. Yet as with all things, what’s impossible for me is possible for God. And I trust in God and Jesus to make my desire for complete denial of self to become a reality.

Again, I have none of God’s abilities, and I never will. But that’s doesn’t mean that God can’t exercise His abilities through me. In the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater and I must become less. I think true holiness and joy comes when the Spirit of Jesus becomes ALL within me, and I (i.e., my prideful “self”) become nothing. And that’s what I believe.

I just hope I was more clear in my response than in the original post. But my problem is, it’s all really clear in my head, and my heart. It’s just sometimes hard to type that up into accurate words. Oh well.


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Record Unemployment – My Feeble Effort to Help Out

I just saw the headline, “April Unemployment Rate Rose to a Record 14.7%.” Unprecedented 20.5 million jobs lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The headline is huge, but what follows feels so little. Anyway, I don’t know if it will help anyone, but because of that headline, I’m dropping the price of “We Called Him Yeshua” down to as low as Amazon will allow. It feels like nothing. But if it helps one person get the book, who may not otherwise, and if it helps them find comfort and escape within the pages of the book, then to me it’s well worth it.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7/


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A Gift for Frequent Blog Followers

I know who you are, well, kind of. I smile when I recognize your name and avatar as they pop up in my email, alerting me of another “like” to a recent blog post. I’m grateful for your kind recognition.

I want to thank as many of you as I can. So, if you’d like, please follow this link to my author website where you can sign up to receive a signed paperback of my recently published novel, We Called Him Yeshua. If you already have a paperback copy of the book, maybe you could keep the signed one and give the other one to a friend.

Thank you so much for all the “virtual” time we’ve had together.

All the best,

CJ


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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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An Unexpected Power of Prayer

Be prepared for what answered prayer might do to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

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

 

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


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Death to the Little Devil Within Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think about all this?

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


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Driven by Passion

Someone recently asked me what passions fuel my writing. What drives me to get up around 4:00am each morning to write before I leave for work? Well, there are two primary passions underlying everything I write, and these passions are fueled by my relationship with God and Jesus.

First, I’m passionate about truth, as I sometimes don’t see the truth in messages coming from some of today’s churches. Also, I’m passionate about a personal, intimate relationship with God and Jesus, through their Holy Spirit. I believe what Jesus said and promised, about the Spirit living within us. I believe He said this as more than something symbolic, but as a vivid reality, something available to all who chose to believe. Yet, I see so little mention of the truth of the Holy Spirit in today’s churches.

Because of these passions, my current book, We Called Him Yeshua, is at its core, about having a very personal, one-on-one relationship with the Spirit of Jesus who lives inside each of us who believe. My hope is that by coming to see the human side of Jesus, which is a major theme of the book, people will more easily relate to Him, and feel closer to Him. And in feeling this way, my hope is they will then look for Jesus inside themselves, and find His Spirit waiting for them there.


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We Called Him Yeshua – Final Lap

Last Sunday my editor gave me the first 80 edited pages of my novel We Called Him Yeshua, cheerily marked up with red and blue ink, with a few post-it notes where more explanation was needed. Well, it was a bit of a strange feeling realizing I was about to delve into the world of my novel for maybe the last time.

My hope has been that We Called Him Yeshua will not only prove to be a gripping story, but also show people a side of Jesus they may not have fully understood before—his human side. And in coming to know his humanity, I believe people will naturally feel closer to him. For it’s easier to feel close to the human, than to the divine.

Anyway, Monday morning, 5:00-ish am, work began on the FINAL draft. Wow, hard to believe I’m using that word “final” after working on this book for over four years. How’s it feel? Well, my innards are filled with a mixture of excitement, fear, and a bit of sadness.

To me, writing sometimes feels the way carving marble felt to Michelangelo—he said carving was just a process of removing the extraneous marble until the image that slept inside the block was revealed. And believe me, I’ve piled on lots of extra words and garbage that has been gradually chipped away. And now I’m down to the final polishing.

I can’t express how exciting it is to have the final draft of this book slowly reveal itself as I go through my editor’s mark-ups and do the polishing. And the more revising I do, the more excited I get, for my editor is a gem and she’s come up with improvements that, I think, are taking this book to a whole new level.

But yes, there’s fear. Maybe fear of all the work still to do, in finishing the book as well as all the marketing and self-publishing and navigating Amazon, and on and on and on. Lots of unknowns along the path ahead, this being my first novel. But I think there’s also fear of the day when I set the book free, and let it go out alone into the world. Almost feels like those painful days each time my wife and I drove off and left one of our sons to go forth alone into their first days of college. A weird feeling when applied to something like a book.

And I think that’s where the sadness comes in. I will soon say goodbye to the characters I’ve lived with these past four years. At least in my head, they’ve taken on their own unique personalities, and I’ve grown to really care about some of them, and also despise a few of them. Have you ever felt this way about characters you’ve written?

Anyway, my journalist niece continues to spin out gold as she edits her way through the rest of the book. And my artistic niece will soon produce some sketches of her cover design ideas. I love the family project feel of this. My hope is to have a final draft ready to launch a paperback and Kindle version on Amazon around the middle of March, 2020. In some ways, I’m not looking forward to that.

If you want to know more about the book, or sign up to be notified when I post sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site, please go here. And by signing up, you’ll receive a link to any chapters that have already been posted.


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New Novel, New Website

In support of publishing my first novel in a couple of months, I’m now launching my new author website, at cjpenn.com. The site went live late yesterday. This is a big step on my writing path, and I’m a bit nervous about it.

Working cover – final cover in design

Regarding my novel, I had previously posted a little something (link), and now I’d like to tell you a bit more.

We Called Him Yeshua

You know him by his Greek name, Jesus Christ. We see a lot in the Bible about Jesus’ story and his messages, as written by some of His closest disciples. But we rarely see the point of view of those outside the inner circle, whose lives Jesus changed with his acts of love and compassion. This soon-to-be-published novel tries to see Jesus and those times through the eyes of such people.

They knew Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. (read more on my new website)

In the weeks leading up to the book launch, I’ll be posting sample chapters on my cjpenn.com site. Once the book is live on Amazon, I’ll post a notice for a promo week, where the Kindle version will be free, and the paperback will be priced as low as Amazon will allow. If you’d like me to notify you about these upcoming events, please follow the link (cjpenn.com) and sign up to receive book launch email notices.


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The journey of my first novel, step # … um, I lost count

[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]

After four years and a visit to the local copy store, my first novel is now printed and ready to send to my editor. How does it feel? Well, I’m excited, terrified, wondering if I have any idea how to write fiction, filled with doubts and thinking maybe I should shelve rev 10 and give it one more good going-over before letting anyone else see it, and on and on. But in the midst of all these confused emotions and thoughts, I’ve decided to grab some courage and just let it go. I think maybe this experience is a small foretaste of what it will be like when I actually publish this thing–now that will be terrifying.


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How Does God Feel About You?

How does God feel about you? How does Jesus feel about you?

In my quiet time this morning, while trying to empty my chaotic mind of the usual crap that steals my thoughts, I found myself thinking of someone I dearly love, and imploring God to help them as they go through a tough time right now. My friend really needs Gods help, because they don’t know God or Jesus, and they’re trying to deal with life alone. Then I felt something. And I think it was God, showing me how He feels about the person I was praying for. I’ll try to show you.

How does a parent feel about their newborn baby? For me, it was a long time ago, but the memories remain vivid. My arms ached to hold my son, to gently squeeze him to my chest, and pour all the love I could muster into him, somehow filling him with my love. The words escape me still. I can’t find a good way to express the love I felt for my newborn son, and the magnitude of love I wanted to give to him. I never wanted to let him go.

I still don’t. Both my sons are now several years on their own, both leading their own lives. And my arms still ache for them. My love hasn’t diminished—only been calmed a bit by the years. But I miss the days when they were small enough to lay on my chest and drool onto my ever-smiling face, as my arms squeezed them close.

Can God love less? I don’t think so.

Maybe what I felt this morning is true. Maybe more than anything God wants to wrap His arms around you, protect you, care for you, and pour His love into you, with a love that words cannot express. And like any true-loving parent, Gods love for you does not depend on how you feel about Him. Try picturing that in your mind. How does it make you feel?


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Feel Like Giving Up? Good

Based on a very unscientific poll—okay, I only talked with one person—I think I see one reason why some people end up leaving the Christian church. A very close friend of mine left the church many years ago because, “I just felt it didn’t have any impact on my life. It made no difference. Whether I went or not, I felt unchanged.”

I’ve pondered that response for many years, and it just triggered a new thought in my ever-wandering mind. Consider the general message that flows out of most Christian churches: sin no more, love your neighbor as God loves you, God gives grace to the humble, forgive as God forgives you, etc. It all sounds great, and most Christians aspire to live up to these ideals.

But, we fail. We try, we struggle, we pray for help, we may succeed a little at times, but then we fall back into our natural ways, and fail. Maybe we try some more, and again we fail. Finally, after continuous failure, many give up. And some leave Christianity, or just the church.

Think about it this way: The church tells me to live these ideals, and I embrace the idea. But the church didn’t help me achieve these ideals. So forget it. If the church can’t help me do what they’ve told me to do, then I’m outta there.

In this way, the church may seem no different than the diet “doctor” who promises I’ll lose this volley ball of belly fat simply by following his exercise plan for 8 minutes a day, plus an eating plan that would starve a hamster. Though the exercise is easy and practical, the eating plan is impossible, for me anyway. Much like me trying to be humble by my own strength.

Back to Christianity, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the church to take my hand and walk me down the path that leads to love, humility, forgiveness, and holiness. I believe all the church can do is show me the path.

But how can I walk the path alone? I’ve tried, a lot. And of course, I always fail. I wonder off the path and fall into the pit that lines both sides—the pit of pride, envy, selfishness, greed, hate, worry, fear… the pit of human nature. I think it’s impossible for me to stay on the path to holiness, for my human nature keeps grabbing my legs and pulling me down into the pit. So what am I to do?

Well, as Jesus said, what’s impossible with man is possible with God.

The only way to follow the path is to walk it with the Holy Spirit. Yet what does that mean? I think the answer is clear, yet hard (very hard for me). We need to recognize our faults and weaknesses and HUMBLY accept we cannot do this on our own. We need to give up. Along with that, we need to feed our relationship with Jesus, getting to know Him more and more, growing ever closer to Him, until our love for Him, and our hate for our human nature, overflows and drives us to our knees. Then, and this is the best part, we need to surrender to Jesus.

But what’s surrender mean? Well, for me it means to deny my “self,” empty myself of me, and let the Holy Spirit of Jesus fill this person called CJ. Then the Spirit can propel me forward, down that path that leads to true life.

And it’s a daily effort. My typical day starts like this: “Jesus, I give up. I can’t do this on my own. My selfish Self keeps getting in the way. So forget it. I’m going to stop trying. Instead, I’m going to turn my back on my Self, and give me to you. I can’t do this stuff, so YOU do it. You take control. Fill me with Your Spirit and You walk the path, as me. You must become greater, I want to become nothing. But, I’d sure like to hang around and watch what you do through me. Thanks.”

Yet we all need to beware that our prideful nature will fight back. For me, there are two distinct personalities that make up this person called CJ: the me that loves God and Jesus with all my heart, and the “self” me who is concerned with only the desires of myself. I feel like the cartoon character with a little angle on one shoulder, and a little devil on the other, each trying their best to influence my actions. The little devil in me wins too often.

Look, I could go on for hours about this, but if you’re interested in this thing called surrender, I recommend you read a book called Absolute Surrender, by Andrew Murray. Other than the Bible, this has been the most impactful book in my life.

And I sincerely wish you success as you walk down that path that leads to true life.


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Just as I am

Okay, full disclosure time. As you may know, I’m a devout Christian, a Jesus freak. I love Jesus and God intensely, and they are top on my list of priorities in life. My greatest desire is to surrender my entire self to God and let Jesus live through me. Deny myself, surrender to God—a phrase that used to scare me, yet now it’s my greatest craving.

BUT, I’m also just a typical person, whatever that is. My life is full of problems. I don’t like work. I wish I had more money. My relationships are plagued with typical flaws, most minor, others not so.

I like to drink, alcohol that is. I’m not picky—wine, beer, and I haven’t yet tasted a hard liquor I don’t like. Sometimes I drink too much, and later, I’m not too sorry for it. Oh, and yes, I sometimes have impure thoughts (I’ll leave the nature of those to your imagination). I don’t think I would trust someone who claims they never have impure thoughts. Hey, we’re all broken, even those who pretend to be more holy than human.

Oh, and my mind tends to wander far from God at times. Well, most of the time actually. Every day I try to keep my mind more on Jesus and less on the world around me, but I fail. Every day I try to “do as Jesus would do,” but I fail. Every day I try to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and body, but it feels like I fail there too. I guess I’m just a messy Christian.

After knowing the totally human me, and later learning how much I love Jesus, new friends often look at me funny, like I’m a science project gone wrong, or a schizophrenic odd couple. On the outside, I don’t look like what they would expect from a Jesus freak.

BUT #2, all of my faults don’t seem to get in the way of my relationship with God and Jesus. I’m so grateful that God is in the forgiving business. No matter what I do, or how far my mind drifts away, God is always there, waiting for me to look back at Him. Oh, I tend to sense His displeasure with my behavior sometimes. But I also sense He’s more pleased with the fact I return my attention to Him, than He is unhappy with my thoughts or actions.

It all boils down to this: God and Jesus accept me just as I am, no matter what. And I love them all the more because of it. God also loves you just the way you are.


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To Church, or Not to Church, That is the Question

“So, where do you go to church?” I use to hate that question. It’s been ten years since I attended the Presbyterian Church in town, and still, I run across people I sat next to in those pews, but haven’t seen since then. We bump into each other in the grocery store or coffee shop, and they always ask, “So CJ, where do you go to church now?”

I always felt awkward replying to the question, for I haven’t attended a regular church since leaving Presby. Oh, in my early days as a de-churched orphan, I test-drove other churches in town, but for reasons I don’t totally understand, I never felt like going back.

So my answer to the question usually starts with, “Well, um, you see. I don’t go to church. Haven’t since leaving Presby.”

My inquisitor usually gets that look, maybe you’ve seen it. Their face fills with concern and fear for my soul. They immediately believe I’ve left Christianity and jumped into the black pit of heathendom.

“However,” I truthfully add, “I feel closer to Jesus and God now than I ever have before.”

The look changes from concern and fear to confusion. How could that be, how could someone find closeness to God and Jesus without attending church? My fellow pew-sitter from the past and I usually part ways, with them still wondering about my soul (I suspect), and me felling I didn’t get my message across.

But now I have a better answer to the question.

Where do I go to church? Well, my Church doesn’t have a name, and there is no building. For me, Church is not a place—it’s a belief. When do I go to church? Whenever I want, and it’s not just Sunday. I go to church every day, any time of the day, whenever I can wrestle my thoughts away from the outside world and look inside, to Jesus within me.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that Church, the one true Church, is wherever His Spirit lives. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit of God resided in the Temple, in the back room called the Holy of Holies. But Jesus changed all that.

As He said, His Spirit now lives within all who believe in Him and believe what He promised. He promised that His Spirit would be IN us, and we IN Him. You’ve heard the phrase, you body is a Temple. So true, if you believe.

Look inside, to the Spirit of Jesus within you, and you will find the one true Church.

 

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses on the subject:

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

He also said, “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)

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)

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


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Paradise Aflame

Some of us have called it paradise. Why? Well…the weather, the small-feel towns scattered among the rolling hills, the wineries—lots of wineries. And just something you might label “environment.” It’s something that seems to be in the air (pardon the cliché).

Well, right now there’s smoke in the air. And many of the hills, wineries, and towns are now ash and black destruction. Homes that recently purred with lively families are now silent piles of dead ash.

But please believe me, it’s still paradise. Why? Because of the people. The hearts here are the biggest, the best. Firefighters, volunteers giving money, cloths, time, and hugs at evacuation shelters—it’s these people who breathe paradise back into our smoke-filled air.

Yet that’s part of what happens when things like this happen. The best sprouts out of the ash left by the worst, whether fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, whatever.

For those of us who have lived through, and died in, the wild fires of Sonoma County, California—may God bless us all.


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Trust? I Guess So

Trust is being able to predict and count on another persons response to things that happen. It’s knowing they will be there to hold your hand when a crisis consumes you. It’s knowing they will satisfy their promises and commitments to you. Trust is knowing they will do what you expect and need them to do.

So, whom can I rely on with absolute, pure, undiluted trust? Well, please don’t take this as cynical, but I don’t feel I can trust anyone, not with absolute trust.

Look, as humans we all have weaknesses and flaws. It’s nothing to fret about, it’s just a reality to accept. Our weaknesses and flaws are like pits along the road of our personal journey—sometimes we fall in and can’t get out in time to be there for someone who needs us. Sometimes the pit that holds us back is not a flaw or weakness, but our own personal crisis.

I certainly trust other people. I just accept their human nature and the fact that my trust will not always be supported by their actions. And that’s all okay with me. I try to remember, if someone in my life doesn’t respond as I need them to, as I trust they will, it’s just because they are a flawed human, like me.

Anyway, I then thought about my relationship with God. No flaws. No weaknesses. And His responses to me are predictable as far as my feeble mind can imagine He might respond. I can trust God completely, without any hesitation, and always. And I’m really grateful for that.

How do you feel about trust? What does it mean to you? How does it feel when you can’t trust someone?


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More Than a Battlefield

Do you ever feel like there is an ongoing battle raging within you? Do you feel two sides of your personality fighting it out? Each side has opposite purposes, and each is trying to win control over you—right? Does it feel like those old cartoons, with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, each trying to convince you to go their way?

Does it sometime feel like YOU are a battlefield?

I’m listening to an audio version of the book The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis. Have you ever read it? Great book. And fun, as well as a bit weird. But it definitely has gotten me thinking. I think I’ve believed in the reality of Satan for as long as I’ve believed in the reality of God. And at times I’ve believe in the battle between the two of them.

But now I’m convinced that I am one of their battlefields. And I’m tired of it. Oh, I know—it’s part of life. Whether we believe or not, the battle rages on. And I think not believing is the most dangerous policy, for it gives the advantage to Satan.

Anyway, I want to see if I can affect the game a bit. I want to be more than just the battlefield. I want to make more of an effort to join the fight, on the side of God.

What do you think about this battle idea?


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Life Without Jesus is a Heart Attack

Everyone deals with stress and anxiety in their own way. And as we all know, there’s plenty of stressful stuff polluting our lives these days. Some people are stronger than others and can deal with stress on their own. I once thought I was one of the strong people. Not anymore.

I now look at some of the crap going on in my life and think, “You know Jesus, if you weren’t here with me right now, I would probably take this stuff too seriously and give myself a heart attack.” One thing Jesus’ presence in my life does for me is, He helps keep my priorities focused on Him, rather than all that meaningless stressful stuff.

How do you handle stress? Alone, or with help?

I thought of this today while reading Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)