Do you feel the two aspects of yourself? The image of God is in you, even if you don’t sense Him.
“Hey, how ya doin? Haven’t seen you for a while?”
“Me? I’m good. All’s good. How about you?”
“Oh, fine. You know how it is. So, haven’t seen you at church for a long time. Heard you checked out for good.”
“Ah, yep. Just felt like the right thing for me to do. I’d rather not get into it … please.”
“Oh sure. So, where do you go to church now? Where do you worship?”
“Me?” Where do I worship? Well, will he understand? Lord, if this conversation starts to get sticky, I rely on You to give me the words that’ll help him. “To be truthful, I worship everywhere.”
“Everywhere? Really? How do you do that? And when do you do this everywhere worship?”
“For me, worship is when I turn my mind away from the world and focus on God and Jesus in heaven and their Spirit within me. Whenever I can wrestle my mind away from this noisy world and look to Jesus within me, that’s when I worship, no matter where I am.”
“So, for you worship isn’t singing praise songs and the others things we do in church?”
“Well, maybe that is what I’m doing? But I’m singing praises to God and Jesus within my mind, and heart, rather than in a building.”
“Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.”
Many Christians no longer attend a church, though they still believe in God and Jesus. I’ve seen the survey results.* Those surveys also found than many of the de-churched, as well as some who still attend a church, feel that God was missing from their experience of church. Maybe that’s why so many people leave—they go to church looking for God, but don’t find Him there.
Have you gone to a church looking for God? I think you needed to look somewhere else, for as Jesus said:
“On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20, emphasis added)
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, emphasis added)
You’ll find God by looking within yourself. Want more assurance? How about this:
“And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, … declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:14, emphasis added)
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:15, emphasis added)
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Convinced? So how do you find God and get a sense of His presence? How can you feel God within you? Here’s the path that worked for me:
First, you need to believe you can feel God’s presence within you. You need to believe in the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promises about He being in you, and you being in Him. As Jesus and God are one, so can you and Jesus be one. And like all things, to experience it you must first believe it.
Faith will automatically lead to an ever-growing hunger for God’s presence. And, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Hunger will lead you to prayer. I’m talking about an unceasing and silent prayer, not an asking-for-favors prayer, but a prayer where you’re listening and looking for the Spirit of God and Jesus within you. The more you pray and look, the sooner you’ll find God. And,“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)
So keep praying, and waiting. This part, the waiting part, requires patience, the hardest part for me—I hope your wait is shorter than mine was. But while you wait, read the Bible and look for where God and Jesus promise their presence. Let their promises encourage you and strengthen your belief. For me, waiting was where I grew the most. So I think waiting is as critical a step on this path to God as the others. “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
* You can see the survey results for yourself in two very interesting books, both by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group. “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” and “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.”
Everything appeared normal and in focus, the low cubicle walls, cluttered offices and desks, fluorescent lights overhead, worn-out carpet below. All that stuff was unchanged. But the people, what happened to the people? They were gone.
He jumped up and scanned the field of cramped cubicles. In the places where all his co-workers usually sat, spheres of light hovered over the desk chairs, all about the same size, beach ball size. Most were a bit dim, a few were shades of gray, and one or two were brilliantly white. On some of the spheres, the light flickered and changed. But they all seemed to hum, as if filled with a pulsating energy. Yet the magnitude of that energy also varied from one sphere to the next. Were they alive; if alive is even the right word? They almost seemed alive. The brightest ones seemed the most alive, as if they were throbbing with excitement and anticipation. Well, that’s how it seemed to him.
But then he noticed his feelings for these possibly living spheres of light. They didn’t frighten nor mystify him, though he believed they should have. He felt close to them, related to them, as if he and they were somehow connected. Then he noticed the other emotions, the mix of compassion, sorrow, joy, and love that he felt. Compassion and sorrow for the dimmest spheres of light, joy for the brightest ones, and love for all of them. Oh, this just kept getting weirder. Why’d he feel that way? After all, they were just spheres of light, not people. Right?
Okay, this had to be a dream, like something he remembered from an old Star Trek episode. But, it didn’t feel like a dream, it felt like more than a dream, and somehow more than imagination. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate, tried to figure this out. But when he opened his eyes again, they were back, not the spheres but all the people, the people he knew so well, along with the office racket. That’s when he realized it had been peacefully quiet in his dream, or whatever it was.
Maybe it had been a hallucination. Or … hmm. He’s not sure why the thought slid into his mind, but maybe the dream was God showing him a side of people he’d never seen before, the inside. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres of light was a vision of the life force, the entire life and essence of each person. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres, the ones bright and thriving, and those dim, struggling, and barely alive, was … their souls.
Then he remembered the almost profound love he’d felt for all of those spheres. But, if they were really the souls of his co-workers, how could he feel such love for them, especially for the souls that hovered over the chairs of people he despised?
Then another memory slid in, something Philo of Alexandria—whoever he was—once said, something like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” He now believed he’d seen it. The dim and weak spheres of light were souls struggling in their own great battle.
Suddenly he remembered something else, something Jesus had said, about loving others as Jesus loved him. Now why’d his mind go there? He’d always struggled with that one. Some people were so despicable, so unlovable, with their bigotry, selfishness, insensitiveness, and downright arrogance. He’d always figured it was impossible for him to love such people, even if they are fellow Christians.
He knew in his gut that he just couldn’t love others as Jesus loves him—impossible. But, as Jesus also said, what’s impossible for him is possible for God. He long believed the only way he could truly love others, especially the despicable ones, was for Jesus to love those people through him—the whole surrender to God and let the Holy Spirit live within and through him thing he’d often prayed about.
He sat back in his chair and smiled. He really liked the idea of loving the souls below the surface. That felt somehow more doable, even if his love for them would initially be his normal flawed love he gave to everyone else. The perfect stuff would just have to come from Jesus. But at least maybe he’d found a way to no longer despise the despicable. After all, in his vision he’d noticed that it was the most despicable people who had the dimmest spheres of light, the souls that struggled the most and looked the least alive.
For the rest of the day, these thoughts simmered in his mind. It’s not about loving the people you see on the surface, the sometimes ugly, mean, angry, arrogant surface. It’s about loving what’s below the surface, the soul below the all-to-human exterior. Also, it’s easier to love what he can see with his mind, than what he could see with his eyes.
One more thought slipped in. During the vision, that love he’d felt for all those spheres of light—was it from him, or from Jesus? Whichever, it sure felt good.
How do you think it would be if Jesus walked the earth again, in a human body? As man or woman, it doesn’t matter. Take your pick. Just picture Jesus as human, creating an image in your mind, making Jesus look however you like. Now let’s say this Jesus person lived near you and sometimes hung out with you and your family and friends. How do you think this Jesus person would interact with everyone, what would Jesus say and do, and how might Jesus’ presence affect your lives?
Since God has no limits, now imagine Jesus walking the earth in hundreds of human bodies, or thousands, even millions! How would that be? What kind of impact do you think Jesus could have on the well-being of humanity? Image the power of the truth and love Jesus could spread.
Okay, so is all this talk just fantasy? Please consider that what you’ve just imagined is also what Jesus hopes for. It’s why He sent His Holy Spirit to reside in those who believe and accept His presence in their lives. Fantasy? Not at all.
Okay, this might at first sound weird, but please stay with me to the end. Maybe you’ve seen movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where people’s bodies get taken over by some other creature. Now, with that bizarre and maybe scary image in your mind, please consider this …
When Jesus walked the earth, back in the days of ancient Israel, His Spirit lived within His body, naturally. Then, Jesus died and went to heaven. But, as He had promised, he has sent His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to be with us.
Well, maybe this could be somewhat like a heavenly version of those dark movies. Jesus’ Spirit wants to live in our bodies. Jesus wants to walk the earth again, in our bodies. But of course, Jesus won’t do this unless we open up and let Him in.
An invasion? No. Not at all.
Rather, Jesus is giving us an invitation. An invitation to live with Him and never be alone. He’s not looking to take over, like in those B-rated movies. He’s looking to share, and take care.
So, what do you think about this image I’ve tried to paint for you?
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.
It seems the Spirit of Jesus is often ignored in many Christian churches and individual lives. Because of that, I’ve become passionate about spreading the truth of the reality of the Spirit. I’ve frequently let that passion spill into my blog posts.
But I now wonder if I leave people with an annoying question. They may come to accept the reality of the Holy Spirit, but how do they experience the Spirit in their own life? How do they come to actually feel His presence?
I think we sometimes believe there’s a mystery behind such things, some puzzle to solve where the clues are scattered throughout the Bible. Only when we uncover the hidden clues and solve that puzzle, will the secret door be opened and through it will walk the Spirit of Jesus.
Well, over the years I’ve come to realize that the puzzle is only in our imagination (if we choose to imagine such things, that is). As I’ve discovered with many other aspects of Christianity, the answer is clear and simple, and right out front for all to see. God didn’t create puzzles for us to solve, Jesus didn’t create a mysterious and complicated Christianity. It’s humans that have made Christianity complicated.
Okay, enough of my whining—I’m getting off track. I want to answer the question about how people can experience a very real presence of the Spirit of Jesus in their own lives. My explanation is clear and simple. Here goes …
First, get to know the human side of Jesus. Come to know the man. Don’t just look at his divinity. Get to know him by his human love, kindness, compassion, courage, strength, and humility. And begin to see in your mind’s eye how Jesus showed his love for other people when he walked the earth as a man. Like with all your experiences with people, the more you get to know him, the more certain your feelings for him will become. And you may find yourself falling in love with Jesus.
Next, now that you love the human Jesus, you will likely begin to crave to know more of the Spirit side of Jesus. And you’ll start looking for Him.
Finally, as God first promised, “‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declared the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)
And Jesus made it clear and simple—if we love him, He will show Himself to us: “Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21)
There is a door, though not a secret one. It stands between you and the Spirit of Jesus. But as 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)
So as I see it, and as I’ve experienced, finding and knowing the Spirit of Jesus in your life begins with getting to know the human Jesus. And that’s the only part I can help you with. The next stage, the love for Jesus stage, will have to come from you. And the final step on this short journey will be taken by Jesus, as His Spirit steps through that door and into your life.
To help with my small contribution to this journey, I wrote the novel, We Called Him Yeshua. The stories will introduce you to a human side of Jesus you may never have seen before. These stories are also told from a perspective you may not have seen before—through the eyes of people who knew the man Jesus in their own very personal ways.
Would you like to know more of the human side of Jesus? If so, please check out We Called Him Yeshua. It’s priced as low as Amazon will allow because I want it to be affordable to as many people as possible (especially during these tough times).
I’ve just revised my book description on Amazon. I think it’s better than it used to be. I’ve copied it below. Also, I’m keeping the price of the ebook and paperback as low as Amazon will allow. I’m not looking to make money with this book–I just want to make it available to as many people as possible. Especially during these tough times when so many people are out of work, I wish I could give these away for free. Anyway, please let me know what you think of the revised book description and my pricing strategy. Thank you, and I hope you have a really nice day.
Oh, she’d heard about him. The name Yeshua had dominated many whispered conversations in the towns and villages around the Galilee. And if the rumors were true, Anna knew to stay away from him, far away. She knew his type, and she didn’t need the scorn. But then it happened, she couldn’t stop it, and Anna’s life changed forever. She saw the change coming, and worried—was it change for better, or worse?
Listen to Anna and others tell you about their experiences with Yeshua as they all follow him down that dusty road to Jerusalem. Hear Neri describe what it was like when Yeshua 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 Yeshua. She doesn’t care about his divinity—all she cares for is his humanity. Yet as her love grows, so grows her fear.
You know him by his Greek name, as Jesus Christ. They knew him by his Hebrew name. Read their stories and experience what it was like to walk with Yeshua, to talk with him, and to feel his love, courage, and humility.
On my way to the Philippines for work. Eleven hours, middle seat in coach. At least an exit row. But there’s a pungent odor seeping out of the apparently un-bathed guy next to me. Time for a breather. Strolling the aisle, a sea of faces, none familiar.
Finally, Tokyo. Three-hour layover, and grateful to give achy legs a good stretch. Wandering the airport corridors, travelers everywhere. Sure would be fun to see someone I know. But nope.
Next plane. Five more hours to Manila. Plane packed, but at least I have an aisle seat. Still no familiar faces. Manila airport, I’m drowning in another sea of people. And the midnight humidity—clinging my tired clothes to tired skin. Dark outside, fluorescent gloom inside. I feel like an alien, all alone.
But not truly alone. Cramped in a middle seat next to my stinky neighbor, the Holy Spirit was with me. Walking through Tokyo airport, the Holy Spirit was with me. The entire trip, the Holy Spirit was within me. Whenever I felt alone, I looked to the Spirit of Jesus. And He’s always there. I’m never alone.
As Christmas approaches, especially this 2020 Christmas, I find myself spending more and more time thinking of those who may end up being more alone this Christmas than ever before. Christmas is traditionally a hard time for a lot of people. And with all the suffering of 2020, and all the loss of family and friends, I suspect that this Christmas will be harder than most. But maybe people can turn their loneliness and despair into an opportunity to form or revitalize a new relationship … with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.
My trip to Manila took place about seven years ago. During those seven years, my relationship with the Spirit of Jesus within me has grown stronger. Even when I drift away for days or weeks, He’s still right there when I look back at Him. Looking hasn’t always been easy, with my often-scattered mind and spiritual attention deficit disorder. But for what it’s worth, here’s what has worked for me, and maybe it will work for you:
As often as you can, go to a quiet place, away from the noise and distractions of your world. Close your eyes. Quiet your thoughts. Leave the cares and concerns of your life outside. Focus just on your breathing, each breath in, each breath out. Once you’ve quieted your mind enough, try to visualize the Spirit of Jesus within you. Not up in heaven, not sitting beside you, but inside you, sharing your body with your soul. And just be with Him.
This may be hard at first—it certainly was for me. You may feel you failed, at first. But don’t give up. As often as you can throughout your day, practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. Start each day this way. At some point, you will feel His presence. Then you will know that from that day on, you will never be alone.
And by sharing your life with Jesus, maybe this Christmas could be your best Christmas ever.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17)
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)
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.
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/
This morning, while praying for a very well-known political person who exhibits extreme pride, arrogance, and apparent narcissism, the title for this post popped into my head. Realizing that a lot of people suffer from being trapped in our own prison of pride—actually, all of us, to some degree or another—I’m motivated to write about it. Also, I remain concerned for that well-known person who’s bound with more chains than most.
To me it’s sad, the pain pride inflicts upon people. It can bind us up with chains of anger, hatred, lies, bigotry, intolerance, self-righteousness, paranoia, and other such things that make people miserable. Most of us aren’t even aware of the chains that bind us. Therefore, we don’t realize we can be free of those chains.
Yesterday I posted about the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus in our lives. It’s interesting to compare the rotten fruits of pride listed above with the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (aka, humility), and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Which fruits would you rather live with?
It’s the Spirit of Jesus, present in our lives, who will set us free from the chains that bind us. It’s a truth promised by Jesus: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The question we all answer, whether we know it or not, is this: do we want to live with the chains of pride, or the fruits of the Spirit?
“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? … It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:5-6, 14)
A third Covid 19 wave is surging in the United States (where I live), and elsewhere. The world is crying … still. And in the US, on top of the surge, some of us are drowning in presidential election anxiety. I’ve voted in over eleven such elections. None of the others came close to the stress level of this one.
This morning while praying, I had a hard time wresting my mind off the election and focusing on God and Jesus. I then found myself thinking about the novel I published earlier this year—We Called Him Yeshua—just as the pandemic was sinking its teeth into the world. Great time for publishing a book, right? Well, this morning I wanted to see if the experiences of the characters in the story might give me clues for how to better respond to the convulsing world around me. It didn’t take long to find an answer.
In my mind, I slid back into that world, with the characters I had grown so close to as I’d recorded their stories. Again, I followed them as they followed Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem. And again, I could see Jesus through their eyes, the eyes of those whom He healed and showed unconditional compassion. I felt their feelings, I relived their experiences, and like them, I briefly felt my eyes, mind, and heart drawn to Jesus. At times, all they saw was Jesus, all they knew was Jesus, and they where oblivious to the chaos going on around them.
My mind then rushed ahead over 2000 years (my thoughts tend to jump around a lot while waiting for the morning coffee to take hold). I was back in that restaurant kitchen, getting ready for the Sunday brunch rush. It was the morning after my second date with the young woman who later agreed to marry me. Only two dates and I was already crazy in love. And that Sunday morning, as I did the last-minute food prep, I couldn’t get my mind off her, nor the grin off my face.
All through the Sunday morning brunch storm, my co-workers wondered why I looked so happy. I didn’t get sucked into the brunch chaos, like they did. In the midst of that storm, I was a little island of peace, immersed in love for my new girlfriend.
So, how can that memory help me today? And what does it have to do with my detour back into the world of my novel? Though I crave that kind of love for Jesus, where I have to make an effort to pull my thoughts away from Him in order to focus on worldly stuff—well, I’ve rarely experienced it. But I believe in it. And even just that belief and memories of past experiences help me cope.
In the midst of the storms raging around me—the pandemic, the election—I want to be a little island of peace, held steady by my love for Jesus. And kept safe by His love for me. What makes that possible and real (not just wishful thinking), is His Holy Spirit who lives inside me, sharing this body with me.
Look, it’s easier to ride out a storm when we’re not alone. And when you accept the reality and presence of Jesus’ Spirit within you, you’re never alone. I’m doing it. You can too.
I wish for you today a day where you stay safe on your own island of peace and love, holding tight to the rock of Jesus.
I recall seeing mention of it only once in the entire Bible. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) And, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (verse 9) *
Maybe when Paul wrote this, he didn’t mean what I hope he meant. Maybe he just means the mind “influenced” by the Spirit. Well, I feel the presence of the Spirit of God in my life, and I feel His influence. But often I desire so much more. And since David once wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4), I still hope that God will give me what I desire.
Oh how I wish the Spirit of Jesus would take control over my scattered, out of control mind. So often—too often—my mind goes places I really don’t want it to go. And that’s when the feeling of His presence leaves me, though I believe His Spirit never leaves—just my awareness of Him fades away.
Well, anyway, I’ll keep hoping and desiring and trusting and doing all I can to glorify God and Jesus. For without them, life would be hell.
I hope you have a great, Spirit-filled day.
* If you know of other places in the Bible that speak of this kind of control, please point me to them.
Whether we realize it or not, we divide our lives between two different worlds. We live in both the earthly, material world, and the spiritual world. Yet many people don’t realize there is a spiritual world. For them, the material world consumes and completely controls their lives, and there is no escape from it.
The material world consists of such things as daily work, stress from outside pressure and strained relationships, worldwide pandemics, divisive and stomach-acid-churning presidential elections, aches, pains, anxiety, fear, anger, hatred, lies, injustice, bigotry … well, I’m sure you can think of more descriptions of the world you live in.
Yet, the spiritual world is the absolute opposite of the material world. The spiritual world is peace beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s love that’s bigger than we can imagine. It’s intimate companionship with God. No pain, no fear, no anxiety. No need for antacid pills, calming cocktails, or anxiety numbing drugs. The spiritual world is freedom.
But how do we cross over to this world of freedom? Well, as Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The truth that takes our hand and leads us into the freedom and peace of the spiritual world is the presence in our lives of the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. We can’t cross over to the spiritual world without help. Yet the Spirit of Jesus can enter into our very bodies, the two in one flesh, and lead us into His world where we will find the freedom we seek. The truth of this is clearly spelled out in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels.
Yet, as long as we occupy our human bodies, our life is bound to the two different worlds. The material world is unavoidable. Sometimes it demands our full attention. But not always.
I’d like to offer you a suggestion. The next time you find yourself being drawn to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the television, or whatever other worldly distraction that tends to fill up your discretionary time, try this: put down that phone, tablet, or remote control. Step away from the keyboard and step toward the Spirit of Jesus. Look for the Spirit in the words of the Bible, and get to know Him. Ask the Spirit of Jesus to guide you into His world, and experience that break you so desperately need from the material world.
The more time you spend in the spiritual world of Jesus, the easier it will be to cope with the strain of the material world. And the more you practice the presence of the Spirit of Jesus within you, the easier you will find it to enter His world at almost any time, no matter what’s going on around you in the material world.
Also, the more time you spend with Jesus in the spiritual world, the more you will be able to bring His peace with you when you have to be fully involved in the material world. With the presence of Jesus’ Spirit, you will greatly lighten your material world experiences. I encourage you to not settle for dividing your life between the two opposite worlds. Rather, bring the spiritual world with you as you live in the material world.
Could it be that while Jesus walked the roads of ancient Israel, He lived fully in the spiritual and fully in the material at the same time? Can you imagine if you could do the same thing, and how that would affect your experience of life?
You have a choice. Which world do you want to spend more time in, the world of anxiety and anger, or the world of peace and love?
One final thought. Books about heaven, about the reality of heaven and some peoples personal early glimpses of heaven (like via near-death experiences), these books appear to be widely popular. The popularity of such books tells me that a lot of people are very interested in heaven. But do they know that they can experience heaven right now, heaven on earth. That’s what it is to live in the spiritual world with Jesus?