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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Which Tree Will You Eat From?

The decision that tempted Adam and Eve is the same decision we all must make. Which tree shall we eat from—the tree of Life or the tree of Knowledge? Of course, many of us make no decision at all between Life with Jesus verses Knowledge of Jesus. And maybe that’s because we don’t realize there’s a decision to make.

Those who choose the tree of Knowledge includes people like me, who love reading books about Christianity, always chasing after new insight. It can also include people who go to seminary and get a divinity degree, with their heads now crammed full of Biblical and theological facts, histories, and commentaries.

But what about those who choose Life? This choice is always available to us, even to those who first choose the tree of Knowledge. I’m so grateful we can always change our minds. In choosing Life, we’ll find what we seek in only one place, the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus. The fruit of the tree of Life is the fruit of the Spirit, for the Spirit is life.

The way of the Spirit does not rely on knowledge, but rather on love and surrender to the leading of the Spirit. True Christianity is not about knowledge, but rather about an intimate relationship with the Spirit of Jesus.

We find true life when we put down the book, quiet our minds, close our eyes and heart to the world, and look inside for Jesus who lives within us. And He will help us sweep away the clutter of life and knowledge so we can more clearly see Him.

Oh, books and sermons and such sources of knowledge are good, but only when they lead us to the Holy Spirit. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is meaningless, a mere chasing after the wind.

I don’t mean to demean reading the Bible or any other form of Christian study. But the value won’t come while trying to understand with our own human wisdom. The real value in learning comes when we read and listen through the Spirit within us. And only then will the Spirit open our eyes and minds to the true meaning and value in the printed and spoken words. The Spirit of Truth will guide us into the truth. Let me give you an example.

I just finished reading a chapter in the book “Abide in Christ,” by Andrew Murray. I’ve read this book three times before, and never saw the truth that I saw today. And the truth I’m referring to isn’t solely in this one book, for it’s also clearly spelled out in the Gospels. Jesus himself states this truth, in words that could not be any clearer. But I’d never see that truth, it never sunk into my thick head, until today (I’ll probably write a post about this particular truth sometime soon).

Anyway, I believe I finally saw that truth because the Spirit of Jesus opened my mind to it. And it left me wondering—what other clearly defined truths have I been blind to in the Bible?

Are you looking for something more than head-knowledge of Jesus? Just look inside yourself, and let the Spirit of Jesus open your mind and show you the way. As he said: “I praise you, Father, … because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.” (Matthew 11:25) And, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (v. 29)

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)


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The Human Side of Jesus

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you will see a brief glimpse of the human side of Jesus from the perspective of a man whom Jesus cured of leprosy. We call him Jesus; they called him Yeshua.

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– Neri –

“I’ve never felt this way before,” I muttered. “I mean, the way Ruth makes me feel. When I look at her, like now, my heart pounds and … oh, camel dung.”

“I understand,” Yeshua said.

“You do?”

“Neri, I may be the Son of God, but I’m also the son of man … fully human.”

“God and human, all at the same time? I thought it was some kind of metaphor.”

“It’s no metaphor. Just try to accept it as truth.”

“Okay. I guess. But, do you ever feel more like one, than the other?”

“Oh sure. Like tonight. I love moments like this, when to all of them,” he waived his arm out to the dancing crowd, “I can be just another person. When people treat me as God, they distance themselves from me—out of fear or awe. But tonight, I’m just another man celebrating a wedding, having fun, dancing, playing … being human.”

He took a bite of bread and glanced around.

“Listen Neri, being human provides an intimacy that’s hard to find when people only see my divinity. And it’s intimacy I long for. My strongest desire is not to be above anyone, but to be with everyone, in close communion. Like most people, I have a strong desire to be loved.”

He took a slow sip of wine. “Neri, it’s hard for people to fall in love with a God. But it’s easy for them to fall in love with a person.”

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Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), and see what you think. And if you’d like, the book is currently priced as low as Amazon will allow, but only for a limited time.


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.


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Resurrection

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. In it, you can witness the emotions of the resurrection through the feelings of someone who loved Jesus very much. She called him Yeshua. We call him Jesus.

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– Anna –

The crowds had grown thinner. How long had it been? The passing time felt like a numb blur. He had said something to me, the night he was taken: After I’m gone, don’t go looking for me. Instead, wait, be patient. Then three days from now, look for me.

Had it been three days? I couldn’t be sure. I gazed up the hill at the rising sun. Tuning back to face the city—where should I look? Where might I find him? He hadn’t told me that. Or … had he? I couldn’t remember.

I started walking down the hill, heading for the tomb. At least I would be closer to him there. My problem was, I didn’t know where to find it. I had been at the tomb the day he died. I had helped wrap his body in a shroud and watched as they laid him inside. But it had all been in such a tearful haze. I decided to let my legs move and see where’d they’d take me—hopefully they remembered.

I followed the path down to the main road, turned right, away from the city, and walked up the hill until I came to another path that lead me around the outside of the cities northern wall. I eventually entered a natural garden, with trees starting to blossom in the early spring sunshine. It was so peaceful, and quiet. But from there, I didn’t know where to go next.

I heard voices coming from up ahead. I crouched behind a tree and peered down the path. It was the sister of Lazarus, the pretty one called Mary. With her was Miriam, the woman from Magdala. What were they doing there?

I stepped out from behind the tree.

They looked up, startled, and then relaxed when they recognized me. I walked forward. We stood silently looking at one another, trying to smile, but each failing. Miriam reached out, touched my hand, and nodded as she and Mary turned onto a faint path leading farther up into the rocky hill. Though nothing looked familiar, I knew they were going to the tomb.

Suddenly we stopped. The cave stood open before us, with the tombstone rolled to the side. Miriam crept forward and peered into the blackness. A moment later she looked back, her face white, her mouth gaping. I pushed passed Mary, ran to the tomb and looked inside. As my eyes adjusted, I saw a shallow cave, with a rumbled, blood stained shroud laying the floor. But … no body.

I jumped up, stared at the shocked faces of Miriam and Mary, then ran, feeling as if I’d run this path before. Where was he? Had someone stolen his body. Maybe those Pharisees. With his body gone, how could he come back to life, as he had promised?

Almost like the evening of his death, I found myself back in the grove, panicking and not certain how I had gotten there. I fell onto the well-worn spot under my tree and lost my thoughts on the only piece of him I had left.

“Anna!” I looked up from my bloodstained dress to see Neri running into the olive grove. “They saw him! He’s alive!”

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Would you like to read more? Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page. Then look inside (with Amazon “Look inside” feature), see what you think.


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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.


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Jesus, the Man

What follows is an excerpt from the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. Though they called him Yeshua, most of us call him Jesus.


– Anna –

Rounding a bend in the road, we came to a cluster of buildings near the top of the pass. As our caravan slowed, a man ran out from one of houses and rushed to Yeshua. “Lord, the one you love is sick,” he panted.

Yeshua cast a concerned glance toward one of the houses. “This sickness will not end in death,” he said. “No, it is for God’s glory.” He then continued walking toward Jerusalem. We silently followed.

The road curved down the other side of the mountains, hugging the steep hillside. The city gradually came into view, shining in the light of the afternoon sun. I peeked over the edge of the road—the hill fell sharply into the valley below. At the sight, my head grew dizzy and I lurched back. My stomach felt like a squirming snake, trying to escape up my throat.

 

An hour after leaving the pass, we suddenly stopped. Yeshua, just a few paces ahead, stood completely rigid, staring at something on the side of the road. Then, his cheek twitched, his knees trembled and … he grabbed Simon’s arm as his legs began to give way.

I looked up, past Yeshua. Terror swept over me. My breath came in rapid gasps, my heart pounded, color faded, everything turned black … then …

 

“Anna, come back.”

I woke to Yeshua’s face, weakly smiling down at me, his eyes moist. He caressed my hand. I stirred and felt someone holding me. I looked down to see Matthias’ hands on my hips. My head rested against his chest. Neri, Ruth, and Jared gazed down, all with deep concern in their eyes.

I pushed away from Matthias—he didn’t want to let go. Yeshua quickly took both my hands in his and lifted me to my feet.

Before me, across a narrow valley, sat the city on top of a hill, shockingly large, with the Temple spires towering above it all. Turning, I saw him again, grisly and sickening, nailed to a tree on the other side of the road. The man just hung there, not moving, guarded by two Roman soldiers.

Dried blood stained his feet, hands, and the underside of his stretched-out arms. The skin on his feet and hands was bluish-black. His shoulders looked severely bruised. Yet the man was alive—withered, dry, drained, like an empty shell, but alive. He stared down at me through half-opened eyes.

Yeshua turned me away, pulled me forward a few paces, and placed my hand in Ruth’s. We continued down the road, Yeshua in the lead. He seemed to be walking slower than ever.

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– Neri –

To the left, the slope climbed behind the crucified man to the peaks above. To the right, the hill fell to the valley below. And beyond that—

“Neri,” Jared whispered, “Did you see Yeshua, when he first saw that crucified man?”

“Yes,” I said. “Looked terrified.”

Jared’s brow furrowed. “His reaction surprised me. I mean, he’s the son of God. What does he have to fear?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s more human in him than we realize.”

Jared looked thoughtful for a moment. “And maybe we’d rather think of him more as the Son of God, than as a man.”


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


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An Easter Gift for a Friend

As a way to celebrate Palm Sunday, consider giving “We Called Him Yeshua” to a friend. This weekend only, the ebook is FREE. The paperback remains priced as low as Amazon will allow ($6.99, cost). So what do you think? Would you like to introduce Jesus to a friend?

And what about you? Would you like to know Jesus more intimately? You can. And the story in this book just might help.

Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.


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A Best Friend

What comes to mind when you think of what makes someone a “best” friend? Perhaps words or phrases like trustworthy, easy to talk to, easy to rely upon for support, understanding, compassionate, forgiving.

For me, a best friend boils down to someone whom I know intimately, and I can trust that the friendship will always be there, no matter what happens.

I think it was around 20 years ago, while I was working out at a local gym early one morning. I was getting comfortable in a Nautilus machine, and thinking of taking a nap on the arm pad. Suddenly a young man sitting in a machine next to me looked over and asked, “Is Jesus your best friend?” Taken by surprise, I cop’d out and said yes, even though at the time, I didn’t feel it. But I wasn’t in the mood to be preached to at 6:00am.

Back then, I didn’t really know Jesus.

But now I know from my own experience that Jesus is trustworthy, easy to talk to, easy to rely upon for support, understanding, compassionate, forgiving, and most of all … loving. But to feel the reality of that, I first needed to get to know him. Intimately.

We Called Him Yeshua can help, by showing you the human side of Jesus, the Jesus who you can most easily relate to and feel close to.

(Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.)


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FREE Book, but time is running out

The ebook version of my new novel is still FREE on Amazon, but only about 8 hours more.

The free promotion ends at midnight tonight (Pacific Standard Time, USA).

Please get your free copy, while you can. And I hope you really enjoy it. Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.

By the way, if you’ve been reading the sample chapters I’ve posted, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. More reviews might help draw more people to the book, and therefore, more people might get their free copy. My goal is for as many people as possible to get the book for free. Thank you.


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“We Called Him Yeshua,” Chapter 8

In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Today I give you chapter 8, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like. Chapter 8 will get you about a third of the way through the book, and it’s the final chapter I’ll be posting on my website, as the book will soon be released on Amazon.

Amos

– Neri –

“Down, down,” Ben said, tugging on my hair.

“Okay you little dust dervish, here you go.”

As I dropped Ben onto the sandy road, he scurried back to Ruth and Anna, a tiny dust cloud in his wake. He collided into Anna’s legs, wrapped his pudgy arms around them, and squeezed. Anna, nearly falling, grabbed Ruth’s arm and steadied herself. Ben let go and headed for Ruth. But she was too quick for him. She bent down, shot her hands under his arms, and began tickling. Ben fell squirming to the ground, giggling wildly and kicking up even more dust. Ruth dropped to her knees and kept tickling.

I lost my thoughts on the silver star necklace resting within the soft recess at the base of Ruth’s neck. Her neck looked soft as camel cheese and white as goats milk.

A light blue sky hung high above the valley. Trees, bushes, and flowers thrived along the river’s edge. As far downriver as I could see there were red poppies, little yellow flower I didn’t know, date palm trees, and tall grasses—all in radiant color. The lush banks gave way to low grass bordering the road that followed the river. And on the other side of the road, soft meadows gently sloped toward the hills to the west.

The road felt good—it felt like freedom and adventure. I’d missed the feel of the road under my bare feet. Since sandals were for impressing people, and my tough feet didn’t need protecting, I’d tucked my sandals in my tool sack. I took in a slow, deep breath as I scanned the valley around me, and smiled.

Farther down river, as it bent west, buildings slid into view. Clusters of houses huddled between the river and the hills, with a few on the eastern shore. This side of the wall-less village, vegetables and grains sprouted in the fields on both sides of the road. A vineyard nestled on the slopes of the hills, with buds freshly breaking.

I glanced again at Ruth and Anna. Behind them marched a growing band of followers. Some I recognized as those I’d helped in the meadow. I walked faster to catch up to Yeshua.

“You know, Yeshua,” I said as fell into pace beside him, “seeing you heal people is like eating a whole camel—milk, cheese, and all. It’s so filling, so overwhelming, so irresistible. But then I’m empty again, and hungry for more, like I can’t ever get enough.” I looked over my shoulder at the trailing newcomers, “I think they might feel the same way.” Yeshua just smiled, and gazed up into the sky. “How does it feel to have so many people following you?”

“Neri, I welcome everyone, no matter why they come to me. I will never turn them away. But I wish they would follow because of who I am, not because of what I can do for them.” He took in a slow breath. “You know. True friends are those that don’t expect anything from you, those that stay your friend no matter what. But for now, their love for me is conditional—they will love and they will follow as long as I have something to give them.”

Was that why I followed him? For the promise of something more? I felt shame seep into my gut. But I had always strived to be different. And I was determined not to be just another follower.

“Neri, for those following me—if they follow far enough—they will see with their eyes what true love really is.”

“True love?”

Yeshua put his hand on my shoulder and firmly squeezed. “No conditions.”

Looking up, the jackals were at the gate. Where the road entered the village, a pack of brightly colored Pharisees prowled, all staring our way, arms crossed as if trying to bar entry. Like jackals, I felt they were hungry for fresh meat. But there would be no meat for them, not while I was around.

(read the rest of Chapter 8 on my cjpenn.com website)


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Seeing Jesus as More Real

Several of my family and friends are reading a pre-edited draft of my soon-to-be-published novel. As I do every weekend, last Saturday I visited my 90+ year old mother. I hadn’t heard much of what mom thought about the book, and I was anxious to know.

So, as one topic died down, I asked, “How’s it going, reading the book?”

“I’m finished.” My mom may be slow on her feet, but she’s a quick reader.

“Oh, great. So, what do you think?”

With a serious look on her face, mom said, “Well, it’s odd. But the story made it all feel more real. Jesus’ story feels more real. He feels more real.”

My greatest desire for this novel is that, in addition to providing above average (hopefully) novel-reading entertainment, it will help people see the human side of Jesus, to see Jesus as more real. I believe that if we can see the truth of Jesus’ humanity, it will be easier for us to feel closer to Him, even when awed by his divinity.

How do you feel about the idea of seeing Jesus as more real, more human? If curious, you can see more about the book here. And please consider signing up to be notified when the ebook will be available for FREE on Amazon.


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Mom, Dad, God

[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]

Are you a parent? Tricky business, that. Not for the faint of heart, they say—that’s a classic understatement.

I’m a father of two sons, who thankfully have survived to be respectable, honorable adults, despite all the mistakes I made in trying to help get them there. But looking back on that journey, though sometimes painful, can also be really interesting.

With only a few minutes of thought, here are some of the traits I think are important to being a parent:

  • Knowing when to let them fall down and skin their knee.
  • Knowing when to let the child lose. Falsely giving a child the impression they can always be a winner by making sure everyone gets a soccer trophy is just setting them up for major problems later, when the truth of life smacks them in the face.
  • Knowing when to hold back and let the child make a mistake. Cliché warning: we learn from our mistakes, hopefully.
  • Knowing when to let the child get a bad grade in a class by not doing their homework for them. That is, knowing when to let the child learn about the consequences of their action, or inaction.
  • Knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
  • And the list goes on.

Few of us parents have all these skills, and the others I can’t think of. But there is one, the only one, who is the perfect parent.

Well, yah, sure … I mean God. But I now ask you to take a look at God with these questions in mind:

  • Is life sometimes really hard for you?
  • Do you wonder why some of your prayers go unanswered?
  • Do you wonder why good people, even God-loving people, die young?
  • Do you wonder, if there is a God, how can he allow all the evil and mayhem that’s consuming the world?

Maybe the answer is partly because God is the perfect parent. He knows when to hold back and not step into our lives, allowing us to make our own mistakes. He knows not to butt in where He’s not invited.

And why would He do this, anyway? Maybe because He’s hoping we will finally realize we just can’t handle this mortal life on our own, and the only way we can cope is to give up trying and turn to Him to help us … turn to Him to love us.

What do you think?


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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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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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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.