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

Young Frankenstein and Jesus

In the movie “Young Frankenstein,” Doctor Frankenstein strapped his deranged monster and himself to medieval-looking laboratory tables. Igor then threw a series of switches, electricity crackled, sparks flew, and the agitated machinery transferred a portion of the doctors’ goodness into his delinquent creation.

We are God’s delinquent creation. Jesus—God as the perfect, sinless, all-righteous human—nailed himself to the cross for the great exchange. Jesus took our sin, and gave us His righteousness, making us as acceptable in God’s eyes as he is Himself. Our righteousness had to come from God, for there is no one other than God who is righteous.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22)


Leave a comment

One With Jesus, or One With the World

Jesus once prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.” (John 17:20-21)

Jesus 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) “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:4-5, 7)

And finally, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

As I see it, we each have a choice—to be one with Jesus, or one with the world. I can be driven by my relationship with Jesus, by my love for Him, or driven by my love for the world. Well, I know what my preference is.

What do you think?


Leave a comment

The Dominion of … Take Your Pick

In addition to being the dominion of God, heaven is the dominion of love, forgiveness, grace, and humility. The world, on the other hand, though there is still love and the rest, is mainly the dominion of pride, selfishness, and other such aspects of our fallen human nature.

So this morning, while holding that image in my mind of the world as the dominion of pride, I read these words of Jesus:

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19)

“In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

“—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him no knows him.” (John 14:17)

We can be in the world, but not off the world—a common phrase I’ve often heard. We physically live in the dominion of pride, but our heart and soul can reside in the dominion of love, forgiveness, and especially humility. For it’s humility that opens the door for love and forgiveness.

And that brings me to the last verse I quoted above. The world cannot accept the Holy Spirit because Pride will not allow it, pride cannot see the Spirit of Jesus, nor know Him. So, if we want to come to know the Spirit of Jesus, I think we first need to let humility be dominant over pride in our lives. I wish we could be free of pride and the harm it brings. But we can at least nurture our humility so that it becomes stronger than pride. And then, we will be able to see, and know, the Spirit of Jesus within us.


Leave a comment

“We Called Him Yeshua” FREE on Amazon

Hello there everyone,

It’s been almost a year since I published my first novel, We Called Him Yeshua. To celebrate that, I’m having a promotion where the Kindle version is FREE on Amazon from today until midnight Wednesday, March 10th.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to follow Jesus as he traveled the roads of ancient Israel, this might be a great story for you. In it, you will see Jesus through the eyes of people who followed him on his final journey to Jerusalem.

Also, if you know anyone who might enjoy this book, now would be a great time to refer them to it. Maybe you could share this post on your social-media-of-choice, or even email this to a friend (see buttons below).

Finally, if you would like to leave a review or just a star rating on Amazon, that would be terrific. I’m especially grateful to hear what readers think of the book. Feedback can help me make my next book better.

(Click here to go to Amazon page)

Thank you and I hope you have a great weekend.

All the best,

CJ


Leave a comment

A Cure for Cabin Fever

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

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

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

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

So what exactly is this piece of historical fiction about?

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

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

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

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

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

(Link to Amazon book page)


Leave a comment

WWJD 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leave a comment

What Jesus Wants to See

What do people see when they look at Christians? For most of those on the outside of the Christian establishment in the US, they see such things as:

  • Hypocrisy and judgment, fear and bigotry
  • A movement intent on forcing themselves and their values on others
  • A group more interested in politics than following the call of their leader, a group where policies are more important than faith, hope, and love
  • A religion that embraces a man who is the antithesis of the values that Jesus promoted (yes, I’m referring to Trump)

Of course, not all Christians display these characteristics. But the most visible ones do. Like the insurrections storming the US capital waving Jesus flags, shouting His name, or even kneeling in prayer before they attacked (though I’m not sure who they were praying to).

As another example, yesterday I shared an article about the reaction of many white evangelicals to Barack Obama as compared to their reaction to Donald Trump (you can read it here). You may not agree with Obama’s policies and political position on things, but he really did appear to be a decent person. Oh sure, he has character flaws, like all of us. But nothing like Trump. You may agree with Trump’s policies, but his character is toxic, his morals are despicable—all very visible for all to see.

In trying to understand why so many white evangelicals and other Christians seem to ignore character and support Trump, here are a few things I’ve discovered:

  • He’s apparently against abortion
  • Some Christians fear attack of their religious freedoms from the left, the supposed war on Christmas and all that—a very valid concern. And they see Trump as a defender of their right to practice their chosen religion. Look, Christianity’s been under attack from the beginning. The Pharisees who pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion tried to kill it, Roman emperors tried, and I suspect many others over the centuries have tried. But God and Jesus defended their Christianity just fine on their own—no need for the support of an elected official.
  • And of course, money money money. The value of Christian 401k’s was often cited as an excuse for supporting Trump. VERY often cited.

Regarding the fear of attacks from the left, Jesus might say, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

Or, He might say, “I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-29, 31)

And regarding money, most people know what the Bible says about having too much interest in money, like obsessing about our 401k. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) And as Paul warned Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Wow, isn’t that the truth!

All of these reasons for Christians supporting Trump, and likely others I haven’t mentioned, boil down to an exhibition of profound hypocrisy, all because these people are more concerned about their wants than what Jesus wants. To this, Jesus might say: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)

 

So, what does Jesus want to see when He looks at followers of His Christianity? He gave us the answer quite clearly:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Imagine how outsiders might react if, when they looked at Christians, all they saw was love—no hypocrisy, judgment or other ugly stuff. Imagine the influence that visible love would have on those outsiders. Might some of them even be motivated to turn to Jesus for help? Might they want to experience the same love themselves? Imagine the Island of Love Christianity could become, being a paradise and refuge in these days of turmoil, anger, violence, and of course, COVID-19. Please, try to imagine it.

And if you can conjure up an image in your mind, now consider that that is what Jesus wants to see too.


Leave a comment

What we see, verses Jesus’ Christianity

I invite you to read the attached article with caution. Though some of you may read it and absolutely agree, others will vehemently disagree. The words are harsh, but unfortunately, I see them as accurate. Too many people have drifted away from Jesus’ Christianity.
Note, this article was written a few years ago, but the message is maybe more relevant today that back when it was written.

John Pavlovitz: An Open Letter to White Evangelicals


Leave a comment

FREE Book, My Christmas Gift to You

In honor of Christmas, a Christmas in which we all need as much peace and joy as we can get, I’d like to give you a copy of my book. This weekend, December 12th and 13th, the ebook of my novel “We Called Him Yeshua” is FREE on Amazon.

So why should you get this book, other than the fact that it’s a free gift? Well, from Amazon customer reviews:

  • “It seemed like I was reading personal diaries of some of the people that Jesus lived with and miraculously changed.”
  • “I found myself really enjoying this because it was real. It wasn’t preaching at me, it was telling me story in a very real and human way.”
  • “C.J. Penn walks us through what it might be like to meet Jesus in our everyday lives.”
  • “I appreciate how the author shows you the compassion, humbleness and gentleness of Jesus as he interacted lovingly with messy people.”

And hey, this book might make a good Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December. Plus, the ebook is FREE this weekend.

Please check it out. Click here to go to Amazon book page.


Leave a comment

More Than Just a “Christian” Novel

“I don’t often read books like this. Religious books. I found myself really enjoying this because it was real. It wasn’t preaching at me, it was telling me story in a very real and human way. I could relate to it. The writing style is easy to read and just descriptive enough for me. I learned and felt more than I expected.” (Sea Queen, Amazon “verified purchase” review)

Not religious? Turned off by preaching? Yet, a bit curious about that person at the center of Christianity? Or … maybe you’re Christian but you feel you’d like to know Jesus more intimately? Well, judging by the Amazon review quoted above, “We Called Him Yeshua” might be a good book for you. Or maybe for someone you know.

And hey, this book might make a good Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December. Please consider checking it out. Click here to go to Amazon book page.


Leave a comment

Shelter From Attack

Do you sometimes feel under attack? It can come from anywhere—the spiritual or the worldly realm. Are your emotions under attack? Your feelings? Your sense of peace and well-being? Covid 19, elections, racism, divisiveness, family, your job (or lack of a job), enemies of all kinds—there’s plenty out there to make us feel under attack.

But there is a way to shield yourself from such attacks, no matter where they come from. Jesus 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)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:4, 7)

Though it took me a while, I didn’t have much trouble visualizing Jesus in me. Even now, I feel His Holy Spirit living within me, sharing this body with me. And I’m so grateful for His presence. But it took me much longer to get a sense of what it means for me to be in Jesus. Yet now, Jesus’ Spirit is within me, and my soul rests within Him.

When I feel my presence within Jesus, I’m free, and safe. Also, being in Jesus I feel protected from sinning. Living within Jesus, I’m shielded from things outside, things that want to attack me. Being in Jesus, I’m untouchable.

Of course, as my day ventures on, I often fall away from Jesus, into the muck and mire of the world. Yet even those times, when I don’t feel my presence in Jesus, I still feel the presence of His Spirit within me. But I don’t feel shielded from attack until I return to Jesus, and again enter into Him.

Jesus also said, “Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

I feel a voice inside telling me not to tell you how I visualize myself being in Jesus. I guess you need to figure out what works for you. But Jesus will help you. All you have to do is knock and He will let you in. It’s in the quiet moments of your prayers where you will find Jesus showing you the way and welcoming you into Him. Just knock, ask, and seek.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


Leave a comment

A Message of Gratitude

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.


Leave a comment

“We Called Him Yeshua,” A Way to Introduce Someone to Jesus Christ

“Finally! This is the vehicle Christians need for winning others to Christ and Christianity, the true Christianity … not the modern day “I will mold Christianity to my liking Christianity.” “We Called Him Yeshua” is subtle and deep at the same time, making for a truly enjoyable and enlightening experience. Penn’s writing is clever, intelligent, and easy to read. Make this one your next book club focus (honestly, whole churches should pick this up).” (Amazon “verified-customer” review)

Is there someone in your life you’d like to introduce to Jesus Christ? Do you know someone who’s expressed an interest in Christianity? The story in “We Called Him Yeshua” can help. This story shows Jesus through the eyes of everyday people who followed Him as He traveled the roads of ancient Israel. In this way, you can see and experience Jesus in a way that can feel deeply personal, as if you too were there.

What an easy way to introduce someone to the person Jesus Christ. Hey, and this book might make a great Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December. Please consider checking it out. You can learn more about the story and get a peek inside the book on the Amazon page (click here).


Leave a comment

“We Called Him Yeshua,” Bringing the Bible to Life

“I really enjoyed reading this book as it brought the characters of the Bible to life. It seemed like I was reading personal diaries of some of the people that Jesus lived with and miraculously changed. It really brought the Bible into a real life story of many of the people we read about, and how Jesus dealt with each of them as both man and Son of God.” (Amazon “verified” customer review)

We Called Him Yeshua is a story seen through the eyes of everyday people who followed Jesus as He traveled the roads of ancient Israel. Please consider checking it out. And right now, both the paperback and Kindle versions are priced as low as Amazon will allow.

Click here to go to Amazon book page.


Leave a comment

An Easy Way to Get to Know Jesus

We Called Him Yeshua, FREE on Amazon, today only.

If you have an interest in learning about the person Jesus Christ, or if you know a little about him but you’re curious to know more, or if you know him well and would like to know him more, the story in the novel We Called Him Yeshua will give you a good ground-level perspective of Jesus. You will see him through the eyes of people whom Jesus healed and showed compassion to.

Where some books about Jesus might feel dry to you and hard to read, We Called Him Yeshua is a novel, a story, not a history book. And like most novels, it might capture your interest in the characters and give you the desire to follow them and see what happens to them.

And hey! Today the Kindle version is FREE on Amazon. Also, the paperback is priced as low as Amazon will allow. But the FREE Kindle is for today only. So even if you’re not certain about the book, just get it while it’s free. You can decide later if you want to read it or not.

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


Leave a comment

A Prayer for Today, Friday the 13th

Please try praying this prayer for yourself, from your heart. First, get an image of Jesus in your mind’s eye, maybe from a movie you’ve seen or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter. Then, with that image, picture the Spirit of Jesus within you, inside your body, there with your soul and personality. Like the two of you are sharing the same body. Now …

 

Dear Spirit of Jesus, here within me,

Help me feel the fruits of your presence.

Help me feel your love, your joy, your peace, your patience,

Help me feel your kindness, your goodness, your faithfulness,

And help me feel your gentleness and self-control.

With you within me dear Jesus, I can feel protected from the chaos of the world around me.

I can feel isolated, separated from the world.

Yes, I feel safe, and calm.

I feel your peace, and freedom.

The world is still there, always there, noisy, painful, angry.

But at least for this moment, I’m free of it all, here with you.

I know the world will suck me back out as soon as I look away from you.

But whenever I look back inside, to you, I will find you there, always waiting for me.

With you, I’m never alone.

Dear Jesus, when I leave this time of prayer and return to the world, as I must, please help me bring the fruits of your presence with me.

Please help me bring a bit of you with me.

Come with me back into the world.

It’s hard for me alone.

But with you, I can glorify you and our Father with what I do and how I live.

Dear Jesus, dear Lord God, your Spirit here within me,

I love you.


Leave a comment

My Prayer for Today

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.


Leave a comment

Does Jesus Know You?

Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, emphasis added)

Do you believe Jesus knows you? Do you feel you know Jesus? Can Jesus really know you, if you don’t also know Him? A lot of people know about Jesus. They know Him as much as they would know any historical figure. Yet, we can know Jesus as an intimate friend, not as someone who lived in the past, but as someone who lives with us now?

The story in the novel We Called Him Yeshua can help you get to know Jesus as a fellow person, that intimate friend, someone you can feel close to and relate to. We Called Him Yeshua is told through the eyes of those who were touched most by Jesus’ love as He traveled the roads of ancient Israel. By seeing Jesus through their eyes, you will see Him as they did, as you’ve never seen Him before.

Please check it out. And right now, the Kindle version and paperback are both priced as low as Amazon will allow–hey, everyone needs a break these days. https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7/