Do you feel the two aspects of yourself? The image of God is in you, even if you don’t sense Him.
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)
All I have to give you is an ebook—not much really. But I think the most important gifts anyone can give this year are more than books or anything else we can hold in our hands. The most important gifts are things like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
My hope is that my little gift of this book may blossom into a more intimate relationship with Jesus, where you truly feel His love. My hope is that I’m giving you love.
And for reasons maybe none of us can anticipate, I hope you have a Christmas that, though maybe stained with sorrow, is also filled with unexpected joy, a joy you can carry with you as we all stumble into the next year.
To receive the gift I give to you, please go to the Amazon page and download the Kindle book. It will remain free only through the end of today.
And maybe you too can give this book as a Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December.
My relationship with Jesus Christ has changed, and I’m grateful. For me, our friendship is more real, more intimate. Why?
I published my first novel earlier this year, a story about Jesus told from the perspective of people who followed Him as He traveled the roads of ancient Israel. In this story, I saw Jesus through the eyes of the healed leper, the blind man who now sees, or the prostitute who feels truly accepted and loved.
Now, I don’t know how that story has affected those who have read it. Oh, I’ve seen their review comments, and gotten some feedback from family and friends. But I think those all reflect surface reactions. What I can’t know is how that story affected them more deeply. I hope the story affected them as much as it did me.
But my experience was much different than reading it. During the four years that I worked on writing that story, each day I tried to leave our world behind and go back in time. I envisioned Jesus healing the sick. I felt Him loving the unlovable. I heard Him speak words of profound compassion. By the end of my writing journey, I believe I may have grown as truly close to Jesus as those people who I was writing about. I felt the love and gratitude of the leper who was healed, or the blind man who was given his sight, or even the prostitute who was shown profound compassion.
I wrote this story (yes, We Called Him Yeshua) for other people, but I suspect I’ve benefited far more than anyone who’s read it. Interesting, how God sometimes works that way. He asks us to do something for others, yet we benefit too. Thinking back over my life as a Christian, I believe it always works that way. And I’m so grateful.
So why am I writing about this? I just want to thank Jesus for His love, compassion, and friendship. And I want to express my love for Him, though right now I can’t think of words that are adequate to convey the depth of my love.
Dear God. Dear Jesus. There is so much pain in our world, so much suffering. I try to pray for it all. It’s too much for me. Too overwhelming. I start to pray, I try to bring it all within my mind to then offer to You, and I soon find myself drowning deep in the depths of all that pain. Crushed. I can’t do this. I can’t handle it. I can’t wrap my mind around the world’s pain and suffering.
CJ, don’t try. Let go. Don’t focus on the pain. Look only to Me.
Oh Lord. My dear Jesus. You know the pains. You can handle it. Since all that pain is too much for me to begin to pray for, I offer you my self. I give you me. Please, as always, I pray that your Spirit dear Jesus will live through me, love through me, heal through me. In whatever way You will, help ease the pains of the world, through me. Your will be done, in me.
Your will be done in me. Oh Lord, that thought makes me smile. A moment of true peace, and even joy, in the midst of the world’s misery. Wow. I love you.
A third Covid 19 wave is surging in the United States (where I live), and elsewhere. The world is crying … still. And in the US, on top of the surge, some of us are drowning in presidential election anxiety. I’ve voted in over eleven such elections. None of the others came close to the stress level of this one.
This morning while praying, I had a hard time wresting my mind off the election and focusing on God and Jesus. I then found myself thinking about the novel I published earlier this year—We Called Him Yeshua—just as the pandemic was sinking its teeth into the world. Great time for publishing a book, right? Well, this morning I wanted to see if the experiences of the characters in the story might give me clues for how to better respond to the convulsing world around me. It didn’t take long to find an answer.
In my mind, I slid back into that world, with the characters I had grown so close to as I’d recorded their stories. Again, I followed them as they followed Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem. And again, I could see Jesus through their eyes, the eyes of those whom He healed and showed unconditional compassion. I felt their feelings, I relived their experiences, and like them, I briefly felt my eyes, mind, and heart drawn to Jesus. At times, all they saw was Jesus, all they knew was Jesus, and they where oblivious to the chaos going on around them.
My mind then rushed ahead over 2000 years (my thoughts tend to jump around a lot while waiting for the morning coffee to take hold). I was back in that restaurant kitchen, getting ready for the Sunday brunch rush. It was the morning after my second date with the young woman who later agreed to marry me. Only two dates and I was already crazy in love. And that Sunday morning, as I did the last-minute food prep, I couldn’t get my mind off her, nor the grin off my face.
All through the Sunday morning brunch storm, my co-workers wondered why I looked so happy. I didn’t get sucked into the brunch chaos, like they did. In the midst of that storm, I was a little island of peace, immersed in love for my new girlfriend.
So, how can that memory help me today? And what does it have to do with my detour back into the world of my novel? Though I crave that kind of love for Jesus, where I have to make an effort to pull my thoughts away from Him in order to focus on worldly stuff—well, I’ve rarely experienced it. But I believe in it. And even just that belief and memories of past experiences help me cope.
In the midst of the storms raging around me—the pandemic, the election—I want to be a little island of peace, held steady by my love for Jesus. And kept safe by His love for me. What makes that possible and real (not just wishful thinking), is His Holy Spirit who lives inside me, sharing this body with me.
Look, it’s easier to ride out a storm when we’re not alone. And when you accept the reality and presence of Jesus’ Spirit within you, you’re never alone. I’m doing it. You can too.
I wish for you today a day where you stay safe on your own island of peace and love, holding tight to the rock of Jesus.
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 (email@example.com ). I have plenty of other books I’d be happy to recommend.
Here’s hoping you have a really good day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
Referring to Jesus, John the Baptist said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
Oh, how true it is that, every day is a sweet day when the Spirit of Jesus within me becomes greater, and my prideful self becomes less.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.