His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

The Self Deception

Self-reliant, self-control, self-sufficient. Society, our upbringing, and maybe even our DNA, programs us to be able to take care of ourselves and not rely on others. And I’m grateful. If it were opposite, society and humanity would fade away, for there would be no one with enough self-ability for the rest of us to rely on. (Maybe we acquired these self “gifts” when our ancestors Adam and Eve chose to no longer rely on God).

Though self-abilities are a key ingredient in society and humanity, it damages deeper elements of our existence. Our self-sufficient nature is the final hindrance to us having the best of relationships with God and Jesus.

I’ve read many books on how to find and feel the most joyful of relationships we could imagine, the relationship that Jesus offered us with His Holy Spirit. I vividly remember the first time I read many of these books, balking at the declarations that we must surrender our entire lives to God and subject ourselves to His will, and none other. “Nope. That’s not for me,” is the thought that would fill my mind and devour any hope of freedom.

I suffered from “Self” Deception. Still do, sometimes.

There are two creatures that make up our personalities— non-self and Self. The part of you that is not consumed by Self, the non-self, is the true child of God. Self is the seed planted by Satan. So, I’ll call the two creatures Child and Self. You could also call them Good and Evil.

Self is the troubled one that causes all the problems of life. Self is overbearing in most people, in that it’s stronger than Child is, and it calls all the shots, leaving Child penned up in a corner. Where Child is the victim of Self, Self is the victim of Deception.

The Deception keeps us from seeing and accepting the truth. Though the truth applies to all of us—such is the nature of anything that’s an actual truth—that truth only has a chance of survival in those who believe in Jesus Christ and are willing to rely on Him, rather than Self.

And the truth is, the peace and joy we crave requires the denial of Self, a growing hunger for the complete death of Self, absolute reliance on and surrender to God and Jesus, and the filling of our Child-self with the Spirit of Jesus. He in us, we in Him. Only then can our Child be set free to truly live, and love.


Leave a comment

The Parasite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Leave a comment

To Know the Spirit, First Know the Man

Does God feel distant, and maybe intimidating? How about Jesus? When you think of Jesus, does he feel close or far away, familiar or foreign? And what about the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to send to us?

To get the know and feel close to the Spirit of Jesus, I think you first need to get to know and feel close to the man Jesus.

If you would like to feel closer to Jesus, or are interested in seeing more of his human side, please check out the book, “We Called Him Yeshua.”

 

Today (Sunday, April 26) is the last day the price will be as low as Amazon will allow. So if you’re interested, now’s a good time to get the book.

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


Leave a comment

Jesus Is Now

My thoughts and feelings often fluctuate like shifting breezes. And I can’t seem to control where they will go next, especially my feelings.

But there is one thing I can control—where my thoughts are right now. Maybe “now” is a very brief period of time, but I still have control there. And I suspect you do too. The moment after this one should not be our concern, for we often have little influence over it. We should try not to worry about what comes next. But, we can still control our now.

With all the distractions going on in the world around us these days, all the attention-grabbers, all the stress-inducers, all the anxiety-amplifiers, I’d like to invite you to wrest your thoughts away from those for a moment. And if you believe in Jesus Christ and his promises, I invite you to say to yourself right now:

“The Holy Spirit of Jesus is within me now.”

“I rest in Jesus’ presence now.”

“Jesus forgives me now.”

“Jesus saves me now.”

“Jesus is my life now.”

“Jesus is my strength now.”

“Jesus is my protection now.”

“Jesus is my peace now.”

“I am surrendered to Jesus now.”

“I abide in Jesus now.”

Oh sure, shortly after you finish reading this your thoughts may be pulled off in another direction. But, for that moment, as you read the affirmations above, you and Jesus were one, as he and his Father are one—He in you, and you in him. And whenever you want, you can go back there.

Yes, being mindful of Jesus’ presence within you for long stretches of time can be really hard (for me, it sure is). But it’s easy to be with him now.

And think about this: each moment, each now, may influence the next.


Leave a comment

The Power of Easter

There is so much power in the events surrounding Easter, with Jesus’ death and resurrection. And Jesus didn’t take it all with him when he ascended to heaven. He left his power, in the form of his Spirit, here, with us.

As Jesus said to his disciples, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

I’d been searching for the Holy Spirit of Jesus for years, craving a strong sense of His presence in my life. I eventually found him, but only after I finally knew who I was looking for.

In my search, I felt I knew Jesus the Son of God, having read the Gospels several times, listened to lots of sermons and read many books. But the sense of knowing the person Jesus was still missing. And for whatever reason, as hard as I prayed and looked, I still couldn’t find and feel the Spirit of Jesus within me. But he kept telling me that he and I would be one, as he and his Father are one—he in me, and me in Him.

Then, I decided to write a novel about Jesus, showing him from the perspective of people he had healed in some way. I was just trying to capture how those people felt, having been so close to Jesus, witnessing his power and love. But then, as the book evolved, I saw that it was more than about those people’s experiences of Jesus. It became about the whole person of Jesus—his humanity as well as his divinity. As Jesus called himself, he was the son of man, not just the Son of God.

Anyway, it was on that writing journey of having Jesus the man open up before me that I finally felt his presence in my life, in my very body. Now, more than ever, Jesus and I feel as one. And whenever I pause from the distractions of life and look inside, he’s right there, waiting for me.

I got there by writing this book. It was in the writing that I think I came to know the whole Jesus—God and man. My hope is that many other people can get there by reading the book. Maybe this book could help you too.

If you’re curious, click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. And right now, it’s priced as low as Amazon will allow.


Leave a comment

You Can be the Holy of Holies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re curious, please click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. And right now, it’s priced as low as Amazon will allow.


Leave a comment

United by a Common Enemy

Walking through the near-empty streets, he waives at people he never waived at before. He even pauses and chats with strangers who no longer feel like strangers. Somewhere in the shadowed corners of his mind, he feels that none of us are strangers. Not now. Not anymore. The Enemy is bringing us together (with a safe social distance, that is).

He smiles at the irony.

He’s beginning to feel that at some level, we all know each other. Maybe it’s because of our common enemy. The common fight. The fight against fear, anxiety, and the Enemy itself. The Enemy has a name. COVID-19. Coronavirus we call it. It fights us. We fight back.

He sees the thing all such enemies have in common. Whether a pandemic-spreading virus, or a man, a notorious dictator, a tyrant—they bring all their victims together in the common cause. But this time is different. For all humanity is united like never before.

Today he feels that humanity is one. Humanity is whole.

He feels a shiver of excitement race through his chest, tickling its way up his neck and into his mind. Could it be that because of how humanity has been brought together, could it be that when we emerge from this battle, something will have changed in the human relationship? He can’t imagine what form the change might take, but he feels a thrill at the idea of it. And his hope swells.


Leave a comment

Escape

Fog oozed into the grove of trees, dripping off the leaves, filling the air with the pungent smell of eucalyptus. Dead skin-like bark littered the ground, making it hard to creep silently through the old cemetery. But creep I did, hiding behind a head stone, looking for my chance.

He lurked out in the open part of the hillside cluster of graves, looking behind each head stone, statue, and crypt, determined to find me, and the others. But, could any of us get away?

My only chance was with the granite statue in the middle of the cemetery, the tallest statue there. That’s where my freedom lay, waiting for me to grab it. I just had to get there without him seeing me. For if he spotted me, I was dead, just another resident of that fog shrouded cemetery.

He was getting closer. My heart raced. I tried not to breathe. Then, a noise, farther up the hill, one of the others most likely. A careless step, that’s all it took. Too bad for them, but it gave me the opening I needed.

He changed course and headed for the noise. I crept to another hiding spot, just a bit closer to the statue. He took a few more steps up the hill. Then, as he stepped behind a crypt, out of sight, I made my move. Running low, from one head stone to the next, I dashed for the statue, stealing glances toward the crypt. Closer. Closer. Then …

“Base!” I yelled, touching the statue and screaming out my freedom. Oh, I loved a good game of hide and seek.

I miss those days, so long ago. Though the Vietnam War was raging, we were oblivious. Our grammar school lives revolved around fun, and we had lots of it. I sometimes wish I could get that feeling back.

Many years later, maybe forty, I saw more meaning in our games of hide and seek. The cemetery was our favorite place, and that same statue was always the base. But then I remembered; it was a statue of Jesus Christ, holding out his hands in a very welcoming gesture. I now see Jesus as my “base,” my source of freedom—freedom from fear, from worry, from anxiety, from depression. And my source of escape from the world—whenever I need a break, he’s there, arms out, welcoming me.

 

And now a thought for anyone who feels they don’t know Jesus, but currently know too well feelings of anxiety, etc..

Look, there’s a lot of s#*t going on in the world right now. I don’t need to elaborate. But, without sounding like some Bible-thumping evangelist, I encourage you to look for help. And maybe the help you need can’t come from the world. After all, it’s the world and all the s#*t that’s the source of our worries. Please consider looking outside the world.

Maybe Jesus isn’t the kind of help you want. But if you think he might be, and you’d like to learn something about him, please check this out (link to cjpenn.com). Maybe it could be a good place to start.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.


3 Comments

Beware the Word

I had a weird experience this morning. I haven’t spent much time reading the Bible for the past several years. But during my typical predawn praying, with my cup of coffee—trying to wake up my soul and mind at the same time—the thought popped into my head to start reading the gospels again.

So, I grabbed my Bible and turned to Matthew. But just as I started, another thought popped in:

      Beware.

      “Beware of what?”

      Beware of the Bible.

      “What!?”

Beware of worshipping the written Word more than God and Jesus. Beware of spending more time in the written word than you spend with the Holy Spirit of Jesus within you.

Wow! Not what I’d expected as I thumbed through the well-worn pages to find the words Matthew had written. But was that God speaking to me, or just my inner thoughts?

I don’t know where those thoughts came from, but I know this: the words of God and Jesus recorded in the Bible are great and nothing will diminish their greatness. But for me, quiet time with the Spirit of Jesus is greater; surrendering my time, thoughts, and “self” to God is greater; feeling the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit is greater; feeling the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises within me is greater.

The Bible is great, but Jesus is greater.

What do you think?


Leave a comment

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.


3 Comments

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)


Leave a comment

Nothing Never Felt So Good

If I empty myself of pride and selfishness, and fill myself with humility; if I deny my Self and let Jesus fill me with His Spirit; if I am nothing, and Jesus is all within me, then there is nothing for Satan to fight for.

And with no spiritual battle raging for my soul, with Satan defeated and the battle over, there is peace. And with Self no longer striving to have everything it’s way, Stress is defeated and its battle is over, and there is peace. Being nothing never felt so good.

As John the Baptist once said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Dear God, I pray for the peace of becoming nothing, and the Spirit of Jesus becoming all within me.


Leave a comment

Cooking With God

God is like the dad about to fix dinner. If he does it by himself, it will turn out perfect. But God takes the harder route, by asking for help from his children. The kitchen will get real messy, and the food will be somewhere between barely edible and mediocre. Yet the child will not only learn how to cook, but be excited to help dad in the kitchen.

God could achieve His mission without our help. Yet He seeks our help not for him, but for us. It’s all for us.

 


1 Comment

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?


Leave a comment

Looking at Love Through a Cardboard Tube

Under weird circumstances I stumbled across these verses in Ephesians: “I pray that you may grasp the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, abbreviated)

I found myself wondering about the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us. Why does His love “surpass knowledge?” Why is it hard to comprehend the truth and scope of Jesus’ love? This is what I believe:

First, Jesus loves like no other human. For example, my love (being solely human), is marred by my natural human flaws. My love is polluted by my pride and selfishness. Why do I love someone? Well, there is always a reason, such as they are funny, friendly, attractive in some other way, etc. I need a reason… it’s just how my emotions and mind work. It seems harsh to me, but my love is motivated by “what’s in it for me?”

Yet for Jesus, He needs no reason to love. He has no flaws to mar His love for others. He loves because He is the Son of God, and He can do no less than the same as His Father.

Also, Jesus’ love comes from a mixture of his humanity and his divinity. As God, He unconditionally loves. But as human, He loves us other humans with a human intimacy. He’s one of us, without the natural flaws that is. But He knows what it’s like to face our temptations, weaknesses, flaws and problems. He loves with a sympathy that comes from intimacy.

The final reason I can’t comprehend Jesus’ love is that I can only consider His love through the lens of my own humanity. I am only able to see love through my own pride and selfishness. It’s like I’m looking through a cardboard tube of gift wrapping paper at a broad panoramic scene. All I see is what comes through my pretend telescope. I miss everything else in the scene. I think it’s this way when I try to look at and comprehend Jesus’ love. I only see a small piece of a wide and long and high and deep vastness of love.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 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)

Maybe we can’t see the extensiveness of Jesus’ love for us, but I pray that we all can at least accept the truth of it.


2 Comments

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)


Leave a comment

Instead of Looking Forward, Look Inside

Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, I’m thinking about what I’ll do once I get home. While putting away groceries, I’m thinking about that broken garbage disposal I need to replace – I hate plumbing jobs. And I’ve never installed a garbage disposal. I’ll put that off until tomorrow, though I’m sure I’ll think more about it today.

But my problem is not the garbage disposal, or other chores, or the book I wish I had time to read, or the writing I’d rather be doing. My problem is where my mind tends to live … in the future. Most of the time my mind is thinking about what comes next. My body is in the present, but my mind is somewhere else.

Then this morning it occurred to me: I’m missing out on life. By choosing to let my mind live in the future, it’s leaving behind the true life that is now. It’s like I’m stepping out of reality to live in another dimension of fantasy (sounds like I’m on drugs). This train of thought is quickly becoming a bit deep for me. But I like where it’s taking me.

“Now” is where real people live. Now is where the truth lives. Now is where reality lives. Now is where peace lives, for the future is often full of worry. And most importantly for me, now is where God lives. Now and here within me is where the Spirit of Jesus lives.

When my mind runs to the future, I usually leave Jesus behind. I think that’s a reason I often feel stressed – the future is full of stress, yet I leave the peace of Jesus back in my present.

But I now see more clearly the power of living in the present. When my mind begins to drift off to what comes next, I can remind myself to pull it back and instead focus on this present moment. The tick of the clock. The whistling bird outside. The gentle rain. This blog post I’m writing. The cozy feel of the turtleneck sweater on my neck. And the peaceful feel of the Spirit of Jesus within me.

Where does your mind tend to live? Do you leave behind good times so your mind can focus on uncertain times? If you’re like me, I encourage you to tackle that mind of yours and pull it back to now. And then, instead of looking forward, look inside. That’s where Jesus lives.