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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Morning Coffee With God

coffee cupFor many years now, I’ve gotten up early each morning so I could have some quiet prayer time with God before heading off to work. Of course, since early 2020 heading off to work means closing my home laptop and opening my work laptop.

The nature of my time with God has varied over the years, often frequently interrupted by random, worldly, pinball thoughts bouncing my attention around to everything but God. Yet I’ve usually been able to wrestle my thoughts back to God long enough to have some quality alone time with Him.

Anyway, this morning I saw something new in my time with God. Shortly before He returned to heaven, Jesus said to His apostles, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me talk about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. … You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).

I believe that message applies to us as well, in our morning time with God. I believe that Jesus is telling me to not leave my time alone with God until His Spirit has fully come upon me. Don’t work on my writing, don’t interact with others, don’t open my work laptop, until I’ve escaped captivity to all those worldly pinball thoughts and felt the Spirit take control. Yes, control. For as Paul said in Romans, “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. … You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature (e.g., many of my worldly thoughts) but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:6, 9).

For me, there’s no better way to start my day than hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus. He in me, and me in Him, with Him in control. He will lead, and I will follow.

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Invincible

Jesus was under attack from the beginning. When He walked the roads of ancient Israel, His enemies constantly challenged Him, and even had Him killed. But that couldn’t stop Him. For Jesus then sent the Holy Spirit to keep His way—what we now call Christianity—alive.

Yet as His followers increased, so did His enemies, who soon included Roman Emperors. They tried to kill the movement Jesus had started by feeding His followers to the lions. Oops, it didn’t work. I suspect over the centuries, many others have tried to harm Christianity. They all failed.

Today, many Christians in the US feel under attack from the left and liberal media—they have for years. Some of them live in fear that their rights to worship God and Jesus as they chose will be taken away by their enemies. They take their fear and vote for people they believe will help protect them and their Christianity.

However, have God and Jesus needed any help in the past?

Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18, NASB)

If Hades can’t overpower Jesus’ Christianity, some measly group of liberal politicians or media outlets certainly aren’t going to make a dent. So why are so many Christians afraid?


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Finding Hope When So Much Can Feel Hopeless

It can be hard to find hope these days. Too many things fight against it. The ongoing pandemic, a new virus, climate change, wars, political and social chaos— Stop CJ, we get the point. Okay. Anyway, I found some hope, without even looking for it. Or, maybe I was looking.

I’ve been thinking about something Jesus once said, when He began to teach His disciples how to pray. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’” (Matthew 6:9-12).

Well, since Jesus told us to pray for that stuff, it must be important. But it’s that first part that kept pulling me deeper into my thoughts. I think Jesus is asking us to pray that God be glorified—that’s how I interpret “hallowed be your name.” So I’ve been thinking a lot about God being glorified on earth as He is in heaven. Though I’m not sure what that would look like, I don’t think we see much of it in the world these days.

Also, I noticed that Jesus taught us to pray first for God’s glory, kingdom, and will. The priority is God, which I think is as it should be. And in speaking about prayer, Jesus also said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Again, our prayers should be for God’s glory, not only for our needs. And Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But again, what would such glory look like?

Well, something that happened recently gave me an image to visualize. With the death of Queen Elizabeth, it seems like much of the world is thinking of her with fondness and even love. What if most of the world thought of God in the same way? I’ve been picturing that, where it’s God who’s getting all the attention. Can you conjure up an image in your mind? How might such glory for God influence our experiences here on earth? I mean, could we experience a life on earth as it is in heaven?

This morning I again found myself thinking about a world where God is glorified, where His kingdom reigns, and His will is done. I found myself imagining a worldwide revival of God’s love, truth, His kingdom, and His glory. And I got excited. And I found hope, a deep, energizing, love-infused, tear-inducing hope.

Maybe you can find the same hope too.Romans 15_13


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Getting His Image Back

God created humanity in His image. It wasn’t physical attributes or personality, but the presence of God within them that made those first humans little images of God. But then, tempted by Satan, they ignored God, perhaps in a way denied His image within them, and took on something of the image of Satan. I know that last bit may sound harsh, but I can’t ignore the fact that humanity currently shares some of those devilish traits, such as pride and self-centeredness. Instead of worshipping God, I guess Adam and Eve began to worship Self. And with that, they lost God’s presence and His image.

Colossians 3_9-10But we can get His image back. That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit when He returned to heaven. The Holy Spirit can lead us to deny our Self, and worship only God. The Holy Spirit can enter our lives and fill us with His presence. Jesus came to free us from the penalty of our pride-influenced sins. His Spirit then came to free us from captivity to Self, and make us once again an image of God, as it was in the beginning.

Here’s some Bible backup, to show I’m not imagining any of this:

“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)


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Jesus Wants His Christianity Back

Christianity appears to be dying in the US, the war is nearly lost. The manmade (per)version has nearly won. Yet with its rise, it will soon fall, for it hasn’t the strength to stand as Jesus’ Christianity has stood for the last 2000 years. And with the looming death of manmade Christianity and the void left behind, maybe there can be a revival of Jesus’ true Christianity.

Yes, what is often seen and experienced is not true Christianity, but rather the 2000-year accumulation of human influence and human nature. I’ve felt the weight of those 2000 years of manmade baggage. I first noticed it at the so-called Christian church I was once a member of. I now see it in my news feed almost every day.

Colossians 2-8But I escaped captivity to false Christianity. I quit that church I’d attended, and found freedom in the truth. Yet like I once was, many people are prisoners in this war for Christianity, mostly unaware of their confinement. They’re held captive to false ideas about what it means to be Christian.

It’s time for a truth revival. For a long time, Christianity has relied on worldly methods and manmade doctrine. It’s time to rely on God and His truth. Then, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

So, until I’m reassigned, I’m on a mission to help Jesus in His efforts to win His Christianity back. Anyone want to join me? My future posts will all be in support of the mission. Until next time …

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)


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What Does Worship Mean to You?

“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.”


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Does God Seem Missing?

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:

  1. It starts with faith.
  2. A growing craving for God’s presence.
  3. Prayer
  4. Keep praying, and wait for God to reveal Himself to you.

9-24-21 Does God seem missingFirst, 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.”


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Awakening

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?

Life below the surface - sphere of light 2Okay, 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.


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Fantasy or Possibility?

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.


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Invasion of the Body Snatcher?

Invasion of the Body SnatcherOkay, 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?


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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)


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Discovering the Spirit of Jesus Within You

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).

(Link to Amazon book page)

 

 


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We Called Him Yeshua

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.

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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.

What readers have said (from Amazon reviews):

  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “I appreciate how the author shows you the compassion, humbleness and gentleness of Jesus as he interacted lovingly with messy people.”
  • “Great talent this writer has to put you in the story.”
  • “I think this book is a great read for people curious about God and Jesus, and offers a glimpse into Jesus’ true nature.”
  • We Called Him Yeshua is subtle and deep at the same time, making for a truly enjoyable and enlightening experience.”

(Link to Amazon page)


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Never Alone, or The Best Christmas Ever

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)


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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)


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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.


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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/