GoodlifeNews!

Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 45 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual attitude of “Gratitude.” I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your loved ones. If not, I pray that you will find encouragement and hope in fellowship with others—and most importantly, with the Lord himself through presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

(Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.)



Memories

Every year, Thanksgiving Day brings forth a host of memories for me.

Tables overladen with traditional foods like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, candied yams, green bean casserole, homemade bread and Mom’s special recipe of prune conserve jam.

Of course, then there were the people gathered around those tables—extended family members from near and far, plus our own immediate family, of course. There were uncles, aunties, and cousins. Family stories flowed like cranberry juice back and forth across the feast. The adults generally talked. The kids laughed and listened and learned some of the family lore and legends.

Thanksgiving Day was a gathering of the tribe around our communal campfire.

The elders told family fables of laughter and tragedy, joyful memories, and bitter tears for lost loved ones. Younger generations let these conversations swirl around them like wind in the walnut trees outside. They wouldn’t remember the details then, but decades later they would wish they’d paid closer attention. When the “old folks” are gone, the stories die with them.

But, today I’ve taken a look beyond the curtain to the greatest Thanksgiving Day of them all – the great Resurrection Day when Jesus returns.

Yes, I believe. And because I believe, I cherish the heritage of faith and hope delivered to me across the centuries through generations upon generations of Pilgrims in this world. So, yes, I am filled with gratitude for yesterday, today, and as many tomorrows the Lord sees fit to give me. I pray that I can live each day, every day, as a continuous Thanksgiving Day.


Heritage of Family, Friends, and Faith

Family

As you can tell from these Thanksgiving Day memories from yesteryear, my family has always been extremely important to me. I truly am thankful for my family of origin, my wife, my children, and grandchildren.

And, of course, the extended family, branching back to generations long forgotten—all played a role in delivering customs, traditions, and various folkways that characterize our family culture.

My ancestors in every known generation past have been country folk—people of the land. They lived simple, often very rough lives scratching out a living from the soil, raising their children, burying their dead, fighting the wars of their time, and doing their best to survive. There were a few “black sheep” of course. Some murderers, a couple of suicides, but mostly decent people trying to live positively with their neighbors, and make a good contribution to their society.

I cherish the knowledge of their struggle. I am thankful—not that they had troubles, but that through it all they prevailed! They successfully delivered life and love to us in unbroken lines, generation to generation.

What more could we ask?

Friends

The New Testament has a word for friendship. It’s phileo—brotherly love. This doesn’t mean just love for our family siblings, but extends along the lines of comradery and belonging.

I am genuinely thankful for the phileo love I have experienced from life-long friends. I could name names here, but I don’t want to embarrass anybody! Nevertheless, just knowing that I have friends who love me enough that if I ever have a significant serious crisis, they will be there for me is gratifying beyond words.

I only pray that I can return that kind of love and loyalty to them if it is ever needed.

Faith

The Holy Scriptures

I am thankful for the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. I believe the maxim coined during the Protestant Reformation, that the Bible is “the only rule for faith and practice for Christians.”

My mother was my earliest teacher of Bible truth. She prayed over my siblings and me from our cradle days until she slipped into eternity at age 85. She received her faith from her own mother—my grandmother Pearl Wilson. Grandma Wilson was also a woman of great faith and integrity, who wanted nothing more than for her children and grandchildren to love and serve God faithfully.

In truth, I have been greatly blessed to receive an incredible education in religious studies. After graduating from high school, I enrolled at Walla Walla College (now University) in the School of Theology where I studied for my bachelor’s degree. Later I acquired an MDiv (Master of Divinity) and a DMin (Doctor of Ministry) from Andrews University. I could not possibly have reached these milestones without a heritage of godly people making it possible. My heart is filled with gratitude for choices made by earlier generations which—in time—brought their influence to me. I also pray that I may be a faithful carrier of God’s love and grace to my own children, grandchildren, and other subsequent generations.

Living in Our Time of World History

Never in the entire history of human civilization has there been a time such as ours.

Right now—at this very moment—our world population stands at roughly 8 billion people! Teeming cities exist on every continent except Antarctica. In past decades it could take days, weeks, or even months to communicate across the globe. Today, we have the technology to connect with nearly anyone, anywhere, at the touch of a few buttons on a device held in the palm of our hands!

Information technology can deliver nearly every scrap of trivial news or skills training instantly via the Internet.

Now we can travel in a few hours distances which previously might take months. We are probing deep space, as well as peering into the nano-world of tiny realities. Knowledge is increasing at record-setting, ever-increasing paces.

This is to say nothing about medical and scientific breakthroughs, and a host of other inventions, tools, insights, and discoveries.

The angel’s words to the prophet Daniel are truer now than ever before: “[At the time of the end] many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4 NLT).
I glad to be alive right now!


The Healing Power of Gratitude

I want to finish this episode with a story I just recently read which speaks volumes about the power of gratitude and generosity.

John D. Rockefeller was once the richest man in the world. The first billionaire in the world. By age 25, he controlled one of the largest oil refineries in the US. By age 31, he had become the world’s largest oil refiner. By age 38, he commanded 90% of the oil refined in the U.S.

By 50, he was the richest man in the country. As a young man, every decision, attitude, and relationship was tailored to create his personal power and wealth.

But at the age of 53, he became ill. His entire body became racked with pain and he lost all of his hair. In complete agony, the world’s only billionaire could buy anything he wanted, but he could only digest soup and crackers. An associate wrote that he could not sleep, would not smile and nothing in life meant anything to him. His personal, highly skilled physicians predicted he would die within a year. That year passed agonizingly slowly.

As he approached death he awoke one morning with the vague realization of not being able to take any of his wealth with him into the next world. The man who could control the business world suddenly realized he was not in control of his own life. He was left with a choice.

He called his attorneys, accountants, and managers and announced that he wanted to channel his assets to hospitals, research, and charity work. John D. Rockefeller established his Foundation.

This new direction eventually led to the discovery of Penicillin, cures for malaria, tuberculosis and diphtheria.

But perhaps the most amazing part of Rockefeller’s story is that the moment he began to give back a portion of all that he had earned, his body’s chemistry was altered so significantly that he got better. It looked as if he would die at 53 but he lived to be 98.

Rockefeller learned gratitude and gave back the vast majority of his wealth. Doing so made him whole. It is one thing to be healed. It is another to be made whole.
Before his death, he wrote this in his diary…

“God taught me, that everything belongs to Him, and I am only a channel to comply with His wishes. My life has been one long, happy holiday thereafter; Full of work and full of play, I dropped the worry, on the way, and God was good to me every day.”

John Davison Rockefeller, (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937), Founder of Standard Oil.

Well, we’ve come to that time again.

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on “Salvation.” Watch for it on December 26—just after Christmas Day!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 44 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual quality of “Righteousness.”

The content of today’s episode is taken directly from my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers, Chapter 2, “Righteousness in My Heart.” Here’s a link to it at amazon.com

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


There is Hope for Hopeless Sinners!

Right in the middle of the beatitudes in Matthew, Chapter 5 I found these beautiful words: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled (v 6).

I read those words and I realized how hungry I am. Not just hungry—I’m starving! I’m totally empty. My natural spiritual heart is weak and fainting. I can’t even stand up on my own. If I don’t get revived, I’ll die for sure.

Revelation 3:17 says that we are all wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Quite a picture, isn’t it? And sadly, oh so true.

In the book of Romans we read, The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (14:17).
A few verses later Paul adds, Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Hope! What a powerful word—especially when we’re hungry! Jesus promises us in the 4th beatitude that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled . His assurance truly gives us hope, even in our hopelessness.

Here are three keys that—for me—help unlock the door of God’s storehouse filled with abundant grace for our aching needs for personal righteousness:


Key #1; Recognize and Embrace the Source of Spiritual Hunger

When I was thirteen years old, I entered my freshman year of high school.

Along with nearly all the other boys in our farming community, I enrolled in Vocational Agriculture and became a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). A major portion of the VoAg class was spent in shop activities, where we learned various practical skills needed for successful farming—things like welding, carpentry, machinery operation and repair, etc. The shop was well equipped with tools, workstations, and everything needed for us to learn the best practices for modern agriculture through hands-on experience.

One wall of the shop held a large panel displaying all the hand tools anyone would need for a project. Pliers, wrenches, various screwdrivers, hammers and such hung on the board, each with its spot marked by a painted silhouette showing the outline of the tool. Our VoAg teacher, Mr. Chevy Chase, very strictly enforced a rule that every tool must be in its place when the bell rang at the end of class. We were all supposed to return every tool we were using to the board, then we could be dismissed.

Mr. Chase’s system worked exceptionally well in preserving the shop’s supply of tools and equipment. One day, however, a small pair of pliers slipped into the leg pocket of my coveralls, walked with me right out the door, and found a new home on our farm. No one at school seemed to miss it. Not even Mr. Chase. I felt quite smug because I “got away with it.”


Fast forward a couple of years to the night under the stars when I walked and talked with God, giving my life to Him, and heard Him calling me to a lifetime of Christian ministry.

Not long after that life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit my father, my brother, and I were working on a project in our home shop shed. My dad went looking for something in his toolbox and came across a pair of pliers he didn’t recognize.

“What are these pliers?” he asked. “I never put them in here. Where’d they come from?”

I didn’t say a word, but my brother glared at me with an accusing stare. He didn’t tell Dad either, but later he confronted me.

“You stole those pliers from the Ag shop, didn’t you!” His tone carried more accusations than a question.

I still wouldn’t admit it, but he continued, “I know you did. I recognize those pliers from school. You stole them and brought them home!”

I didn’t say anything, and the conversation was dropped. I honestly don’t remember all the exact details of what happened next, but the pliers stayed in their new home. And, other than my brother, I don’t think anyone else ever knew. Except there was that little whispering voice in my head that popped up at the most unexpected times telling me, Thief! You know you stole those pliers. You’re as guilty as sin!


Fast forward again. This time about six more years.

Life was good in the Spring of 1967. I was getting ready to graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree in theology. The woman of my dreams—a newly minted Registered Nurse—had agreed to marry me(!), and we were getting excited as our big day in early June grew closer and closer. Immediately after my graduation in August, I would begin pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon. We had a beautiful brand-new car that we both loved. We were young and alive with hopes and dreams for our future. We both had great jobs—and we both loved Jesus. I don’t think life could get any better. Love is grand.

One night we parked under the stars and talked about the life we were entering together, and about the Second Coming of Christ. The greatest event of all ages seemed so near. We both wanted to be ready for Jesus to come soon so we could live eternally with Him in the Earth made new. Our hearts beat as one that evening, swelling with love and hope.

Thief! You know you stole those pliers. You’re as guilty as sin!

There was that pesky voice reminding me again of such a little transgression from years before. Why wouldn’t it just go away!

Not only that. You also lifted a can of pop from the grocery store that same year. What makes you think you’re good enough to go to Heaven?

I took Ruth’s hand in mine. “Sweetheart,” I began, “There’s something I need to do. Years ago, when I was just starting high school, I stole a pair of pliers and a can of pop. I need to go home and make those things right. I don’t want to miss out on Heaven for a pair of pliers and a can of pop.”

The next day we looked at the calendar and chose an early upcoming date when we could visit my old home 100 miles to the west.

My parents were delighted to see us. Ruth stayed and visited with them while I drove into town. It was a weekday, so I knew school would be in session. I drove into the high school parking lot and found a spot near the VoAg shop and classroom. It seemed like my heart was beating 100 miles per hour.

Mr. Chase was still teaching the same classes all these years later. I saw him sitting at his desk as I entered the classroom and glanced through his office window. A quick knock on the open door brought an instant surprised grin of delight to his face.

“Loren Fenton? What a surprise! Come in and have a seat!” He motioned toward a chair across the desk from his. “What brings you here? It’s good to see you!”

“Well,” I began, “I came to bring you something.” I pulled a new pair of pliers from the bag in my hands and handed them to him. “This is to replace some pliers I took out of the shop when I was here as a student. This has been weighing on my conscience for the last eight years, and I decided I’d better come and make it right.”
He shook his head in disbelief.

“Really? That’s hard to believe. I never knew. I would never suspect you for doing something like that. But I appreciate you coming. It is encouraging when these things happen.”

“I’m sure you’ve probably had others come with similar confessions,” I said.

“Yes, I have,” he answered. “But not after eight years!”

The folks at the grocery store were equally as gracious. And I felt a great weight leave my spirit. It wasn’t the value of the items themselves. It was knowing I had done the right thing making restitution for a couple of stupid actions from my youth. That condemning voice in my head was silenced forever about those pliers and that can of pop. I was free!

I also learned a great four-part truth: (A) Sin creates “Spiritual Anxiety,” aka “guilt.” (B) This Holy Spirit-inspired guilt convicts me of my wrongness, which (C) creates remorse, and (D) leads to repentance and restitution.

Owning the guilt is the first step toward receiving the fullness of God’s promises and power to live a life of righteousness.


Key #2; Personally Accept (by faith) Christ’s Righteousness as Your Own

I relate that story above, not to say or imply that two little incidents from my early high school experience are the worst things I ever did, or that we gain God’s forgiveness by our works of restitution.

Far from it, on both fronts! Sadly, I’ve had to own and confess far more serious sins more times than I can count. It breaks my heart that my heart still wanders away from God.

But I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. The Apostle Paul exclaims in Romans, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Paul doesn’t stop there, however. He immediately answers his question, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
The central theme of Paul’s entire ministry was that the only hope for sinners lies in the righteousness of Christ and that as we put our faith and trust in Him, he exchanges His righteousness for our filthy rags of sin. “God made him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[ See 2 Corinthians 5:21]

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Such a simple truth. Righteousness comes to us not by our efforts, but as a gift from a loving God who cares for each of us personally.

All we must do is accept His gift with thanksgiving and praise. As we trust His promise, He fulfills His promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).


Key #3; Choose Every Day to Live Righteously

Nevertheless, we have choices to make every day.

“Do not be deceived; ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:33, 34).

In other words, we can—and must—choose to live for Jesus, and that choosing positive, godly people as our primary friends can help reinforce our decision. We must realize and live by the truth that on our own we are helpless and doomed to failure. Even so, the righteousness of Christ is our all in all.


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts “Gratitude.” Watch for it on November 28—just after Thanksgiving Day !

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 43 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Self-Control,” the last of the nine fruits of the Spirit.

As I’ve said in several of the most recent posts, the nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:

  • Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a Spiritual Heart).
  • Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of Spiritual Relationships).
  • Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a Godly Character).

So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #9, Self-Control.

Of course, as I’ve said before, I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


“Temperance”—An Old-fashioned Word for “Self-control”

(The following thoughts are taken from my book, My Seven Essential Daily Prayers, pp.113-116, in the chapter, “Strength for My Body.” MSEDP is available in both Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.)

Sometime along in my teen years, our church youth leaders handed out a “Temperance Pledge” and encouraged all of us to sign it so we could then carry it with us as a ready reminder of our commitment to sobriety and healthful living.

Along with all the other young people, I gladly and willingly signed the pledge. I had a little card in my wallet for many years, until somewhere along the way it disappeared. But I didn’t need it in my pocket. The message was written deep in my heart.

Part of my family heritage is anything but pretty. In the very early 20th century my father’s family moved from Missouri/Kansas to northern Idaho for work in the silver-lead ore mines. Orofino was a rough town, filled with hardscrabble miners and loggers. In those days, alcohol flowed like water in the saloons and bars.

After only a few short years my biological grandfather, Arthur C. Fenton, became a severe alcoholic. One tragic day in 1907, he ran away from his family and didn’t return. It was decades before his family saw him again. My dad was 11 years old.

That one act created chaos in the Fenton family for generations. Its echoes still rumble through our family system relationships more than a century later!

My father and his three sisters—mere children at the time—were each “farmed out” to foster families. Grandma did the best she could, but simply could not support them alone. The girls became very bitter and resentful toward their father. My father struggled with abandonment issues for years. Because of alcohol’s evil effects on his family and himself, he refused to drink it in any form, ever. He cursed it until the day he died.

I was never tempted to drink. I knew the generational history. I knew it wasn’t good. I wanted no part of it.

Another sad spin-off of that abandonment, however, was that my father started smoking almost immediately afterward. From age 11 until he died at age 75, King Nicotine owned his lungs. Throughout my childhood and growing-up years, nearly every night a nasty “smoker’s cough” racked my dad’s body until he could clear the mucus and phlegm. Emphysema eventually took his life. I saw first-hand the bitter fruit of smoking, up-front and personal. No way did I want that for myself.

So, signing the Temperance Pledge was a no-brainer for me. I had neither need nor desire to travel those roads of destruction.


Traditionally, “temperance” was defined as “total abstinence from that which is harmful; moderation in that which is good.” But, I recently made what I considered to be a thrilling discovery—at least for me.

The biblical Greek word egkrateia (pronounced “eng-kra-TIA) is rendered as “moderation” in most English translations, carrying a rather “milquetoast” implication of “balance,” or “just a little bit is okay.” (Remember the story of Caspar Milquetoast from last month’s episode?)

However, egkrateia carries much more force than that! What it really means is true mastery from within! Genuine egkrateia embodies concepts of self-control, self-discipline, self-mastery, and self-restraint. It could be defined as “true personal righteousness.”

The trouble with this, however, is that reaching this state of personal mastery is completely impossible, even in the strength of our most resolute determinations or efforts. If egkrateia equates to personal righteousness—which it does— the Bible is clear: we don’t have it and can’t get it on our own. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” In other words, even the good things we attempt are all tainted with the poison of self-centeredness and sin.

Enkrateia is a spiritual fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling in our heart. Praying for strength for our body, then, is to pray for the Holy Spirit’s gift of true mastery from within, enabling us to chose—and live—a healthy life of energy and vitality for the glory of God.


Honoring God

Here is a quotation from The Desire of Ages, one of my all-time favorite books on the life of Christ.

The highest evidence of nobility in a Christian is self-control. He who under abuse or cruelty fails to maintain a calm and trustful spirit robs God of His right to reveal in him His own perfection of character. Lowliness of heart is the strength that gives victory to the followers of Christ; it is the token of their connection with the courts above.


(DA 301)

Let’s work with that thought for a bit.

In an earlier episode of the podcast/blog, I shared a quotation allegedly from C. S. Lewis that read, “Pride is the mother hen under which all other sins are hatched.” I was somewhat suspicious that this wasn’t an actual C. S. Lewis statement, so I posted a question about it on a Facebook page specifically for authenticating or debunking supposed Lewis quotations–https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConfirmLewisQuotes.

Here’s one of the responses/comments from a reader named Christina Cannon:

I think it may be a paraphrase of this quotation from book 3, chapter 8 of Mere Christianity: “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”


If I may be so bold, let me add my own paraphrase to Lewis’s statement as it relates to the Holy Spirit fruit of self-control, and to the quotation from the Desire of Ages I just shared a moment ago.

Here it is:

“Self-centeredness is the heart of all sins. It is the very essence of Babylonianism, producing self-glorifying Pride and all its ugly offspring. Even self-willed self-control—i.e. “personal willpower”—often disguises its real motive of ‘I-did-it-my-way’ productivity. Babylonian Pride is the adulterated, polluted fountainhead of rebellion against God and everything that’s good.”

Here is an inconvenient, unavoidable truth: We are ALL naturally born into Babylonian self-centeredness. We come from the womb “looking for love [and sadly] in all the wrong places.”

If only we can stop long enough to take a good, long look at ourselves, it becomes painfully obvious we are all congenital self-worshipers bent on getting (and holding) everyone else’s attention and approval. Glen Campbell’s iconic song says it all: I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me, like a rhinestone cowboy riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo.


Our Only Hope

The Apostle Paul knew this painful reality all too well! In Romans 7 he bears his frustration in trying to do the right thing, but utterly failing no matter how intense his efforts.

Finally he cries out in desperation, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (v. 24). Paul then answers his own cry for help, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 25). AMEN!

So, here it is. Jesus Christ—our great High Priest in heaven—requests the Father to send the Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. Subsequently, the Spirit manifests and displays all the fruits of godliness we have considered over the last nine months. These fruits touch other people through every word and action of our lives—every relationship and every communication.

All nine of the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (i.e. temperance)—are given for one overriding purpose:

To empower us for faithful and effective service as ambassadors for heaven!

All nine are direct antidotes for the overwhelming problems in this world: hate, sadness, anxiety, anger, meanness, evil, betrayals, violence, and toxic indulgences. For each of these negative realities, God has an answer in the Holy Spirit’s presence. He sends us—as we are willing—to be carriers of these gifts, delivering the healing so desperately needed in the lives of people everywhere.

Graphic posted on Twitter by @MoneyUncensored

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts “Righteousness.” Watch for it on October 31–Halloween!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 42 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Gentleness,” the eighth of the nine fruits of the Spirit.

As I’ve said in the previous two posts, the nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:

  • Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a Spiritual Heart).
  • Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of Spiritual Relationships).
  • Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a Godly Character).

So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #8, Gentleness, the second of the three fruits listed in the third triad “Godly Character.” (Just one more to go next month when we will finish this series. I’ll mention that again later at the end of this post.)

Of course, I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


Recently, when I saw the short video clip below I knew immediately I needed to share it with all of you to introduce this study about “gentleness.”

Take a look: (If you are reading this in an automatically generated email which does not show the clip, here’s a link to the blogpost: . You can see it here.)

This is “Kongo,” a huge silverback gorilla at the Detroit Zoo.

A few months ago–back in early May–a visitor to the zoo caught this incredible moment on video and shared it online.

Watch as Kongo gently pets the head of a groundhog he found in his enclosure.

This clip has since had over 97,000 views!


A Common Misunderstanding

The English language is very versatile in it’s capacity for conveying many, many concepts.

Sometimes, however, there just is not an adequate word to express the depth of meaning found in the original text. This happens to be the case with the biblical Greek word translated here in Galatians 5 as “gentleness.” Other English versions—including the beloved King James—often use “meekness,” or “humility” in this verse, and other places where it is used in the New Testament, including Jesus’ beatitude in Matthew 5:5 where he says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (NKJV).

Greek: “Praetes

When we think of “meekness” or “gentleness,” we generally have a mental picture of a somewhat weak person with a timid personality.

Caspar Milquetoast was a popular cartoon character back in the 1920s-1940s. He was the main focus of a daily newspaper feature called “The Timid Soul.” Artist/creator H. T. Webster portrayed Caspar in countless situations where the hero (if you can call him that) “speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” Caspar always comes out on the losing end of every situation—not because of bad luck or negative circumstances, but because he simply doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to his world. Poor guy! What a sad reality!

But, that concept is miles away from the Holy Spirit-produced character quality of gentleness!

The Greek word is praetes (pronounced “prah-oó-tace”).

Praetes (according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament (word #4240) has a “fuller, deeper significance” than when it is found in non-scriptural writings . . . . It consists not in a person’s ‘outward behavior only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God’” (Strong’s, #4240).

Translating that somewhat scholarly language into today’s way of speaking, this tells me that biblical “gentleness,” or “meekness” is more about our relationship with God than how we relate to our fellow humans. IOW, attitude is everything—especially (and primarily) as to how we see God.

I recently read a statement attributed to C. S. Lewis that said, “Pride is the mother hen under which all other sins are hatched.”

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am still researching the authenticity of that quote. Nevertheless, whether C. S. Lewis ever said this or not, I believe it is patently true!)

Nevertheless, it is only a small jump from our attitude toward God to how we treat/relate to our world and the people in it. Let’s be crystal-clear: in our assigned role as ambassadors for God’s eternal kingdom of agape love and grace, there is no room for arrogance, self-worship, or any form of un-grace. If we truly have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, this fruit of gentleness/meekness will be manifested and evident in all our relationships and communications. It will be seen in patience and kindness, integrity, and compassion.


The Example of Jesus

The greatest example of praetes meekness is the Master himself!

In prophetic, tragic beauty, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah pours out the following description of the coming Messiah.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.

lsaiah 53:7

The Holy Spirit’s fruit of godly meekness provided the ultimate strength Jesus needed for the agony of Gethsemane, Pilate’s judgment hall, the Via Dolorosa, and Calvary. It brought him forth from the grave victorious over all temptations, sinful inclinations, and even death itself!

Consider this: Jesus could “meekly” (i.e. “calmly”) face the most foreboding future immediately before him because he had a far more powerful, overriding purpose, namely, the salvation and restoration of human beings from utter destruction due to sin and disobedience! He knew exactly why he had come from heaven to earth, and by the power of the indwelling grace—the fruit of the Holy Spirit—he could face the torture, pain, and ultimate death with complete with unfazed resolve.

The Butterfly Effect

I think it is important to note, however, that the ability of Jesus to remain true to his purpose didn’t just spring to life during those last traumatic days.

His entire life was composed of uncompromised fidelity to truth and righteousness. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “He faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

Galatians 6:7 tells us, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (NLT). This was a truth Jesus understood at the very core of his being, even from earliest days of his childhood. Had he indulged in even the tiniest seed tempting him to gratify any self-centered desire, he would have utterly failed when that seed demanded harvest in the moment of crisis and impending doom.

Little things count! There is no such thing as a “little white lie,” or a minor indiscretion.


A favorite author of mine, Andy Andrews, often refers to the “butterfly effect” in his popular writings.

In fact, he wrote an entire little book about it. (If you’d like more information about his book, click on the picture on the left.)

And oh, BTW, you might want to look up Episode 6 of this podcast/blog to read more about Andy’s work.

(For those of you who are listening to the audio podcast, you can go to https:goodlifenews.life, then find Episode 6 at June 7, 2021.)


In The Butterfly Effect Andy Andrews shows how even the smallest of actions or comments can create incredible results as the influence of those moments passes on from person to person, generation after generation.

The concept was first presented to the New York Academy of Science in 1963 by a theorist named Edward Lorenz. He postulated that a butterfly’s wings might cause a slight disturbance in the air as the insect flitted from flower to flower. The initial disturbance of molecules would then bump into other molecules, which would bump into other molecules, until eventually it could grow into a huge storm at some distant location.

Picture a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Hong Kong and the subsequent cascading of ripples would create a hurricane hitting New Orleans on America’s gulf coast!

Well, as far fetched and ridiculous as that may sound, after 30 years the idea was tested by various physics professors working around the world in various colleges and universities. Together they discovered that this wild theory was actually true! They even gave it a name: “The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.”

The Power of Gentleness

So, what does all this have to do with gentleness—the focus of this episode?

Simply this: The gentle touch in all relationships is far more powerful than any heavy-handed physical force or strong words used in anger or argument.

Because of this great truth, the Holy Spirit produces this fruit in our hearts so we can most effectively represent the eternal kingdom of love and grace.

No, we must not be know as a “Caspar Milquetoast,” but also we must not have the reputation of being a “loose cannon”—unpredictable, uncontrollable, and dangerous to be around. By the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, this fruit of a gentle spirit will draw souls to God and godliness.

I pray that every one of us can live up to that ideal every day—by the power of God’s amazing grace.


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of Self-control.” Watch for it on September 26!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 41 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Faithfulness.” Faithfulness is the seventh of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and then Faithfulness.

I mentioned last month that the nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:

  • Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a Spiritual Heart).
  • Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of Spiritual Relationships).
  • Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a Godly Character).

So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #7, Faithfulness, the first of the three fruits listed in the third triad “Godly Character.”

Of course, I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


Promises

Vows

Trust

Integrity

Reliability


A Doggie’s Tale

In Edinburgh, Scotland there is a statue of a “wee little doggie,” famous for guarding his master’s grave for 14 years—from February 15, 1858 to the day of his own death, January 14, 1872.

“Greyfriars Bobby” as he was known, became a legend in his own lifetime. Bobby was a Skye Terrier, a breed that grows to only about 10 inches tall, yet weighs in at 35-45 lbs. Skye Terriers generally live for 12-14 years, so Bobby’s 14-year watch near his master’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard was, quite literally, his entire life.

Statue of “Greyfriars Bobby” in Edinburgh, Scotland

As legends often go, a few discrepancies in Bobby’s story crept in as it was told and re-told for over 200 years. He was known to be the constant companion for a man named “Auld John,” a nightwatchman working with the Edinburgh City Police.

Some versions of Bobby’s story, however, say John was a farmer who came into town regularly—with his “wee little doggie” trotting along behind him. Actually, Old John’s occupation is irrelevant to the wonderful example of love and loyalty this story provides. But, since the “nightwatchman” version is the more popular account, I’m going with that in our post today.

It seems there was a requirement that every nightwatchman have a dog with him at all times while on duty. Skye Terriers are known to be courageous, extremely loyal, and “canny”—the Scottish expression for highly intelligent. Night after night, Bobby followed along as Old John made his rounds. He provides us with a wonderful example of “faithfulness.” His 14-year vigil at Old John’s grave is an incredible story of love, loyalty, and undivided purpose—all essential elements of faithfulness. Greyfriars Bobby’s story was eventually published as a children’s book, and even made into a popular movie. Several of these are available on amazon.com. It is a classic for the ages.


Faithfulness of God

When we read or hear a story like Greyfriars Bobby, our hearts are stirred with wonder and amazement.

Something deep within us rises to the surface in recognition of the moral value we see—or perhaps project into the behaviors or relationships of others, even animals. It may be somewhat murky water to suppose that non-human animals might choose to act in moral responses to their circumstances, but regardless, we who are human can certainly make moral applications for our own lives from what we observe in nature.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. From that we can realize that faithfulness itself is an attribute of God. God’s gifts are drawn from the storehouse of spiritual qualities of His own existence.

Let’s note a few Bible references.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

1 John 1:9 (NLT)

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”

Psalm 36:5 (NIV)

Please note–“faithfulness” is a spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. We cannot effectively or consistently produce these fruits in our own natural strength.

In fact, all the fruits in the list we are studying in Galatians 5:22-23 are spiritual in nature–meaning they are manifested within our spirit and become evident in all our outward relationships and communications. Every one of these fruits are part of the very nature of God, and they are produced naturally within us by the Holy Spirit living within us.
Paul stated this so clearly in his letter to the believers in Rome. He said, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. . . . Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).


Faithfulness of Christ

With those thoughts in mind, let’s move now to the quality of faithfulness in our human lives.

Jesus, of course, is the greatest example of faithfulness ever. He was perfect in every way. The book of Hebrews says that he was “tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Certainly, Jesus was “faithful” all through his life—from Bethlehem to Calvary—but perhaps the strongest temptation of all came in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” The mental anguish combined with physical stress and exhaustion—so much so that he sweat great drops of blood! Jesus was able to endure the torture of Gethsemane and the Cross because through all his life here on earth he was filled with the Holy Spirit—and all the fruits of the Spirit were manifested in his life.

Now, although we cannot claim to be sinless, when we are “in Christ” and filled with the same Holy Spirit, our lives will exhibit the same graces in our relationship with other people as did Christ.

Faithfulness to God’s Calling

You see, God has a purpose for our lives! He created us—brought us into existence—so we could use the innate talents and abilities of our being to co-create with him an eternal Kingdom of Love and Grace.

We have all sinned of course (Romans 3:23), but by turning the blessings of God inward to consume them by satisfying our own self-indulgent desires (which is the very definition of sin) we corrupt the beauty of the Kingdom, replacing love with fear, grace with disdain, and hope with anger. The healing balm of peace is soured with selfishness. The pure water of life is polluted with the bitterness of gall.

Even so, God’s beautiful purpose for us is unchanged. His love for us is unconditional, constant, and eternal. So, even though we disobeyed his will and messed up our lives, he still calls us forward. He makes our complete restoration possible by giving us the pure life of Jesus in exchange for our old messed-up one. Paul writes, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). God’s purpose for us is exactly the same as it was originally before sin. Paul continues, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors. God is making his appeal through us” (vv. 20-21).

Can you imagine!? What incredible love! Unimaginable grace! Total forgiveness and restoration! God has recalled, re-created, and re-commissioned us as ambassadors for heaven’s greatest cause—eternal peace throughout all creation, both here on this earth and in the new heavens and new earth.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, trusting in his grace and moving forward in faith, we can faithfully serve God’s ultimate purpose by sharing his love and inviting (recruiting) anyone willing to “come on board” for the greatest of all adventures–personally representing the King of kings, the Lord of love, and the Master of grace. Forever and ever, amen!


Faithfulness to Vows/Promises

Now, before we leave this short study on Holy Spirit-empowered faithfulness, I want to spend a few moments talking about promises and vows.

Just a few days ago (as I write this) my wife and I attended a beautiful wedding. Our granddaughter and her fiancé stood facing each other, holding hands, and “in the presence of God and these witnesses” declared their love and loyalty “Til death do us part.”

Vows are good. They are the promises upon which most of our society is based. Not just marriage vows, but also promises to pay back a loan, provide a service, recognize achievements (e.g. graduations), honor a building contract, show up on time for appointments, and a host of other things. We make promises all the time—sometimes more formally, sometimes just in casual conversations.

The question for us now is, How reliable is your word?

A couple generations ago most people lived by a code of conduct and relationships that said, “Your word is your bond.” In other words, a person’s promises must be absolutely reliable. A handshake was as good as a signed, written contract. If two parties came to an agreement about anything—a business deal or whatever—a handshake sealed the deal, and both parties could rely on the promises made.

The Bible’s King David wrote a psalm about this very thing—with a very pithy message. In Psalm 15, after asking a pointed question about who could stand in the presence of the Lord, he answered his own question with a list of several qualifications. One of these was, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (verse 4).

Some of you who are reading/listening to this message today will probably think I’m a little bit crazy, but because of some very stupid decisions I made in the past this teaching has cost me (literally) tens-of-thousands of dollars! Even when I could have legally declared bankruptcy and gained relief from heavy indebtedness, I refused to go that route. I had made promises—even signed written, legal contracts—and I determined to faithfully honor those commitments.

Indeed, God’s spiritual gift of faithfulness in all things brings peace of heart, a clear conscience, and a good reputation for being an honest, dependable person. I absolutely believe this is the only way we can bring honor to God as we go through life representing him to our world.


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Gentleness.” Watch for it on August 29!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 40 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Goodness.” Goodness is the sixth of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness and then Goodness.

These nine fruits are naturally divided into three groups of three each:

  1. Love, Joy, Peace (The fruit of a spiritual heart).
  2. Patience, Kindness, Goodness (The fruit of spiritual relationships).
  3. Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control (The fruit of a godly character).

As I mentioned last month, each of these individual “fruits” build on each of the other fruits preceding it. For instance, the fruit of Love—agápe love—serves as the foundation for all the rest. Agápe love then produces Joy, which in turn provides us with Peace. When we have Peace, we can experience Patience, Kindness, and Goodness. From there, we can move on in our spiritual journey to Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.


So today, let’s spend a few minutes thinking about #6 —

Goodness“.

I pray that you will experience all the fruits of the Spirit in your life today—and know the power they provide to live in positive witness for Jesus in every relationship of your life!


Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


For a couple of weeks in the summer I turned 25, I had the privilege of camping high in the Colorado Rockies to participate in a wilderness survival training experience. The scenery was spectacular, our group was friendly and congenial, and the instructors obviously knew what they were doing. They had many years of experience to share with all of us students.

I’ve never forgotten the first night around the campfire. The skies were ablaze with a million stars, the cool mountain air pushed us close to the crackling fire, and we enjoyed sharing our names and a few details about ourselves as we began getting acquainted.

When everyone had finished sharing, the leader/teacher of our class spoke.

“We’ll be teaching you several vital skills this week so if you ever find yourself stranded and isolated in the wilderness—for whatever reason—you will have some important knowledge that can save your life. But, there is one thing you must always remember: The Wilderness Doesn’t Care.”


So, why would I start an episode of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast/Blog focusing on “Goodness” with this story?

Simply this:

Caring comes from love, and love can only come from a Persona GOOD Person. Not from rocks or rivers, mountains or mist, majestic trees or buried treasure.

The wilderness doesn’t care. It can’t because it doesn’t have the capacity to love. The wilderness is neither good nor evil, although both good outcomes and evil outcomes can result from engagement with the wilderness. Looking at the wider universe of outer space, or the micro-universe of microscopy, we see nothing anywhere that contains within itself the quality of “person-hood” needed for love, joy, peace, patience, or any of the other fruits of the Spirit.

Nonetheless, we have all experienced caring from other people, even if we only count the cuddling, feeding, and caressing we received as newborn babies. But, as life goes on, the vast, vast majority of human beings live in community that cares about them. “Caring’ exists! We all know it from life. The most tragic condition is for someone to feel he/she is in a situation where “no one cares.” Thousands of suicides occur every year for this simple reason.

But there is Someone who does care! The same God who created the wilderness created you—and He cares about YOU!

God cares because He is good.

Please think carefully about this and make the connection.

“Goodness” MUST come from a Person–because it is a spiritual, moral quality non-existent in bare nature alone.


Let’s talk about that for a bit.

In the ancient world, the concept of a “good” deity was unknown. Pagan Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods were basically magnified versions of human beings—anthropomorphic super-beings with super-powers who cared nothing about mere people. Their existence was in an imagined, fantastic universe, the stories of which were repeated generation after generation. The belief in these so-called deities was so strong that great temples were built to honor them. People made long pilgrimages to gain approval or find personal peace.

The gods of the ancient Canaanites were particularly evil! Their “blessings” (better described as “condescentions”) could be obtained by humans only at great cost. Unthinkable sacrifices (e.g. children burned alive to appease the god Marduk) were demanded by the local and national deities. The people lived in constant fear because of the evil threats from their “gods.”

But, the God of Abraham was altogether different!

Yahweh (Jehovah) was known to be the Great Creator of all the Universe, yet was also a God of compassion, patience, and love. The peoples of the ancient Levant knew of Yahweh through Abram whose reputation was as a “friend of Yahweh.”

This idea of a divine Being who could be a personal friend of individual humans was an entirely new concept for them. Abram was a nomad dwelling in tents, and everywhere he pitched his camp he built an altar to Yahweh. After Abram moved on, the altars remained as mute testimonies to a God who cares, and who wants to bless human beings with hope, healing, and kindness.


Now, here’s a thought:

The God of Abraham is still the very same God we worship today! And, just as Yahweh related as Abraham’s divine Friend, He wants to have the same relationship with you! He wants to be YOUR Friend. He created you for a purpose—to be an ambassador for His kingdom of agápe love and grace. God wants you to be a carrier of his goodness to your world—a world filled with angst and evil.

But, how can we convey God’s goodness—both adequately and faithfully—when we ourselves wrestle with both good and evil in our own hearts?

The Apostle Paul had the same problem. He detailed his spiritual struggle in Romans 7. Toward the end of that chapter he cries out in utter desperation, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24, 25 NLT).

Paul then launches the most powerful passage detailing the gospel message in all the Holy Scriptures.

“So now,” he says, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1, 2 NLT).


I would encourage you to spend a significant amount of time reading and meditating on Paul’s teaching here in Romans 8. The book of Romans is the heart of New Testament theology. Chapter 8 is the heart of Romans! My wife Ruth and I have recently begun memorizing this entire chapter in the New Living Translation. These words are sweet and powerful! They fill our hearts with joy and celebration!


About 3 years after Paul addressed his letter to the believers in Rome, he penned a letter to the church at Ephesus. His letter to the Ephesians is—again—one of the core messages of God’s love and grace found in the New Testament.

I want to share with you chapter 2, verse 10, but I really urge you to spend some quality time with this book. Understanding Paul’s theology of the gospel will fire your soul like nothing else!

Here’s Paul’s message to the believers in Ephesus—and to us:

“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

So, let’s think of it this way: God not only saves us by his grace, but restores us to the spiritual standing we need to faithfully and accurately represent him with our lives. This was God’s purpose for us from the beginning, but by sinning we spoiled our witness and corrupted our influence, so when other people see us in our unsaved condition—even though we may claim to be Christians—they get a distorted, negative view of God’s character.

But consider those words I just shared with you from Paul: “[God] has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

God brought us into existence for a very specific purpose, just as he created the angels to be an essential part of his kingdom of love and grace. We each were designed to be filled with the goodness of God, and live that goodness every day of our existence—in all of our relationships, communications, thoughts, words, and deeds!

I don’t know about you, but I find that idea both inspirational and impossible!

I know very well that in my own strength I cannot possibly live up to that high standard. Nevertheless, that’s the very reason the promise of God to produce in us the fruits of the Spirit is so very precious. Since God is the source of “goodness,” he produces the fruit of “goodness” in every soul accepting his calling.

To Summarize

In our world there is both good and evil. Many anecdotes illustrate the kindness of thoughtful people. Many others report the evil actions of the power-hungry or self-centered.

Frankly, to live a balanced life we must recognize and acknowledge the reality of both good and evil — and choose which pattern we follow. Choosing good does not deny the reality of evil, but empowers agápe love to live above it. Choosing evil may feed self-righteousness with temporary good feelings, but in the end it destroys everything it touches–including the very one who indulges evil/hateful/lustful thoughts and/or actions.

The choice is yours. Where will you focus your heart today? Look well to this day. Yesterday is only a memory. Tomorrow is only a dream. Today, well lived, makes every yesterday a fountain of joy, and ever tomorrow a vision of hope.

The choice you make–whether large or small–will carry an irretrievable influence into the world around you.

Choose well, therefore. You are creating your own legacy today.


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Faithfulness.” Watch for it on July 25!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 39 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Kindness.” Kindness is the fifth of the nine fruits of the Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, and then Kindness.



As I was thinking about developing the content of this post a few days ago, for the first time I became aware of a natural progression in this list. I had never realized this before, so it was like opening a new window of understanding for me in my own spiritual journey.

What became suddenly apparent to me is that each of these individual “fruits” build on each of the other fruits preceding it.

For instance, the fruit of Love—agápe love—serves as the foundation for all the rest. Agápe love then produces Joy, which in turn provides us with Peace. When we have Peace, we can then have Patience, and Patience allows us to practice Kindness!

In fact, all of these first five fruits combine their influence to nurture the final four: Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. We will explore these in due time in this series of podcast/blog posts.

So today, may God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality: Kindness. I pray that you will experience the “patience of the saints” in your life today—and know the power it provides to live in kindness and mercy in every relationship of your life!

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


I was so moved by this meme I had to share it with you. May we never forget that *everyone* carries a heavy load of one kind or another. A simple word of care may make all the difference in someone’s life. A smile, or a friendly wave may just give the lift someone needs.

Our study today focuses on Kindness. It is something we can CHOOSE to do.


A Little Mission Story

Has God ever spoken to you through a friend’s comment—and the friend never knew the importance (to you) of what he/she said? It has happened to me several times, but one specific incident from long ago really made a long-term impact on my attitude.

It was sometime around 1972 or 1973. My wife Ruth and I—along with several other young couples—were invited as missionaries to Taiwan. Our first assignment was to spend two years in language school studying Mandarin Chinese. Three of these young families—including Ruth and myself—lived in Taichung, a large city about 100 miles south of Taipei. Our classes were held at a branch of the Taipei Language Institute there, and outside of language study itself we often shared common experiences of living in a foreign culture, worship, shared meals, and just life in general.

During that time we weren’t really engaged in the administrative—or any other functions of the church mission. None-the-less we held some strong opinions of how the mission aught to be run, what policies were antiquated and needed to be replaced, and just a lot of general criticism of the leaders.

The regional union mission headquarters for Taiwan and Hong Kong was in Taipei. We three “young Turks” decided to write a letter to the union president. Our purpose was basically to tell him what we thought about things and how bad we thought he was doing his job.

That was a stellar idea, right?

The three of us gathered in my living room. I brought out my portable typewriter, sat down, and typed in the president’s name and address.

“Dear Elder __,” I wrote on the salutation line.

I paused and asked, “Okay guys, how do we want to say this?”

That’s where my friend said to me these eight unforgettable words:

“Well, whatever we write, we must be kind.”

(Long pause)

I guess it finally dawned on us at that moment that maybe our idea of writing that letter wasn’t such a good plan after all.

Thank God for friends who can sometimes speak truth to misguided friends and bring us back to our better selves! We decided to join in prayer about our concerns—taking them to the Lord alone, and much to our joy, He worked out His solutions in His own way and His own time!

Hallelujah! What a God we serve!


Kindness Comes from Love

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the Apostle Paul writes, “Love is kind.”

As I thought about the little story I just shared, I realized that we three “conspirators” actually cared more about our own ideas than we did about the administrators of the Mission. We didn’t really love the people, we were far more in love with how we thought things aught to be done. Everything would work a lot better if we ever got a chance to be in charge!

Oh, my. Wasn’t that the same sentiment voiced by Absolom against his father David? And wasn’t that the same claim Lucifer made against God?

I’m afraid we didn’t realize the seriousness of our misplaced judgments.

Jesus called out the Pharisees for the same sinful attitudes. Twice. In Matthew 9:13, and again in 12:7, Jesus told them, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (NIV).

“Mercy, not sacrifice!”

These words of Jesus are a quotation from the Old Testament, Hosea 6:6. They apply directly to our focus today on the Spiritual fruit of Kindness.

Here’s the thing: If you do not care about someone—or his/her needs—you really cannot show mercy when a situation requires it. Caring comes from agápe love. And “love is kind,” as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.


This level of caring—having a kind, compassionate, empathic heart—is at the very heart of true Christianity. Jesus modeled God’s love as a perfect example of how his followers should act. He taught that they should pray for their enemies, feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, visit prisoners, care for widows and orphans, and on, and on.

In his early years, Saul of Tarsus was anything but kind! All that mattered to him was perfection by his own obedience to the law, and his reputation with the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin. To gain their approval, Saul had no hesitation in persecuting the nascent Christian church. He gladly threw believers in jail, caused them to be punished unmercifully, and even participated in putting some to death!

But then, he met the glorified Christ on the Damascus road. You can read about it in Acts 9. That encounter changed everything for Saul—later to be know as Paul, the great Apostle who wrote much of the New Testament.

Without doubt, Paul went through several years of growing in grace, but following God’s lead he went on to establish churches, inspire thousands, write letters of encouragement and instruction, and eventually died a martyr for the cause of Christ. The influence of this one man is truly beyond calculation!

Paul’s letters are filled with messages of God’s love and every fruit of Spirit.

Repeatedly, Paul urges his readers to practice kindness. Here are just a few:

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is kind.”
  2. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate.”
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “Always try to be kind to each other.”
  4. 2 Timothy 2:24, “The Lord’s servant . . . must be kind to everyone.”

There’s an old hymn we used to sing that beautifully captures the true spirit of love and kindness. It goes like this:

“God is love; we’re His little children.
God is love; we would be like Him.
’Tis love that makes us happy,
’Tis love that smooths the way;
It helps us mind, it makes us kind
To others every day.”

So, here’s a question—the answer to which reveals real insight into our character:

“How do you treat your animals?”

The answer to this question is important because the spiritual gift of kindness does not limit itself to our human relationships, but actually extends to everything around us! I’ll explain more in just a moment, but first I want to share a glimpse into my own mother’s heart. This story might seem a little quaint, but to me it is quite precious.

After my father died in 1972, Mother continued living in the old family farmhouse for the next 13 years, except for a 10-month break when she visited Taiwan where my family and I were living.

While she lived at home, she continued to plant and tend a vegetable garden just as she had done for many years.

When I asked above, “How do you treat your animals,” I imagine most of us would think of our pets, like dogs, cats, birds, etc. As a farm kid my mind immediately goes to our cows, horses, lambs, and chickens.

But my mother was one-of-a-kind.

She loved growing tomatoes—big red beautiful delicious fruit you could eat right out in the garden or bring into the kitchen for a wonderful fresh tomato sandwich.

The problem was that there were some garden pests that loved her tomato vines, too. We called them “tomato worms,” but the actual name was “tomato hornworms.” That’s because a large horn-like spike stuck nearly straight up on the creature’s tail end.

A Tomato Hornworm

These were BIG worms! They were probably 3 inches long and as big around as a grown man’s thumb. They were bright green (the same color as the tomato vines) and had several pairs of legs they used for crawling around on the tomato vines—which they loved to eat.

To say the least, Mother did not want these pests to destroy her tomato vines. She would pick each one she saw off the vines and put it into a metal can along with several others she had already collected. Later, she would destroy the worms with her garden hoe, but until she could finish her other work in the garden she would place the metal can of worms in a shady spot (these are her words), “so they won’t suffer with the heat from the sun.”

“Oh, Mother! They’re just worms!”

“Yes, I know,” she would answer, “but even though I’m going to kill them later I don’t want them to suffer. I don’t know if they have feelings or not, but God want’s us to treat everything with kindness. I think they’re happier in the shade than out in the hot sun.”

Then she would add, “But, also know I don’t want them in my garden!”


Kindness Reveals God to the World

Well, again, that may be just a quaint little story of my mother’s way of thinking, but as I said, to me it is precious. I truly believe she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and desired nothing more than to let her life in every relationship—human or otherwise—be a testimony of God’s love.

The following two quotations rather nicely sum up the purposes God has for us as believers and subjects of His Kingdom. They come from a little book (written in the 19th century) which has impacted literally millions of people in their spiritual journeys.

“In every one of his children, Jesus sends a letter to the world. If you are Christ’s follower He sends in you a letter to the family, the village, the street, where you live. Jesus, dwelling in you, desires to speak to the hearts of those who are not acquainted with him.”

(Steps to Christ, p. 115)

“The children of God are called to be representatives of Christ, showing forth the goodness and mercy of the Lord. As Jesus has revealed to us the true character of the father, so we are to reveal Christ to a world that does not know his tender, pitying love.”

(Steps to Christ, p. 115)

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Goodness.” Watch for it on June 27!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. This is Episode 38 of the podcast. The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Patience.”


May God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality. I pray that you may enjoy the “patience of the saints” in your life today!


Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


There’s a good chance you probably have heard the somewhat comical prayer, “Lord, give me patience—and I need it right now!”

I think that resonates with most of us from time to time!


Several months ago I had a conversation with an acquaintance who expressed some quite irritated impatience about a current situation.

This individual knew the Bible well and was a long-time professed Christian.

At what seemed to be an appropriate time I asked, “What is the fourth fruit of the Spirit?”

Without hesitation he began reciting the list from Galatians 5:22-23, “Love, joy, peace, patience . . . .”

His voice trailed off, and without ever finishing the list he blurted, “But, I don’t want to be patient!”

I’m sure we can all identify with my friend! There are times we simply want to express our frustration about some issue and just get on with the program! So today, before I share some thoughts specifically about patience, I’d like to reflect back on the “why” of these spiritual gifts from God. Why do we need them, and what purpose do they fill in our walk with God?


In my personal spiritual journey the last few years I have sensed a constant deepening heart-wonder amazement at God’s profound grace “that saved a wretch like me.”

Not long back, I was struck by an expression used by the Apostle Paul in one of his early letters found in the New Testament. That’s why I chose to schedule the first nine months in this year’s podcast/blog for digging a little deeper into each of the fruits.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

In truth, I have preached on this text dozens of times. I have written about it and quoted it more times than I can remember. I have taught lessons from it in Bible studies and SS classes.

But, then–somehow–this awareness dawned on my understanding:

The primary purpose for the fruit is to reveal the truth about God through our connections and relationships.

That is to say, the gift of these fruits is not just to make us better people and get us ready for heaven! The gift is not just about the transformation of our character.

Instead, the fruits are to equip us for truthful, faithful witness about God’s love and grace, enabling us to be loving and gracious as we discourse with others.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen.”

Isaiah 43:10

To be a “witness” is to be an ambassador for God’s eternal kingdom of love and grace. Our every word and action, our every relationship and communication represents what the Kingdom of God is all about!

Do our daily lives reveal the truth about the God we serve? Definitely a thought worth some serious contemplation!


So now, with that in mind, let’s get back to some thoughts specifically about patience. There are many texts in the New Testament where “patience” is found—actually 34 times! This was a core teaching of Jesus himself, as well as the other NT writers.

The very last occurrence is Revelation 14:12, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

This text is particularly important to us in our time, because it applies directly to every believer’s spiritual journey. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring, so it is TODAY when we need this essential gift of the Holy Spirit to live “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12 NIV).

Revelation 14:12 is the summary of all three angel’s messages in this passage, verses 6-12. These messages are given for the people living in the end times just before the literal Second Coming of Christ. Verse 12 links directly to Jesus’ strongest end-time prophecy in Matthew 24, where He promised, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).

The words translated in Revelation as “patience,” and as “endures” in Matthew, both stem from a single root word in the Greek New Testament: hupomeno. The original base meaning of hupomeno is “to carry on courageously” (my paraphrase), or “to persevere.” A more colloquial expression might be to “Keep on keeping on!”

In Matthew 24, verse 13 is sandwiched between two other very significant verses:

“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:12-14

These verses bear a powerful message of hope and promise for believers living in the end-times, and reveal an even deeper meaning for the third angel’s words in Revelation.

Let’s unpack this passage in Matthew 24.

Note 1:
Love is the abiding theme.

In verse 12, Jesus says “the love of many will grow cold.” Agápe love is unconditional, unending, godly love. It is a “fruit” of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person’s life, as listed in Galatians 5:22. Some who have enjoyed the Spirit’s love previously have lost the flame of faith.

Note 2:
Lawlessness creates increasing chaos.

“Lawlessness” is translated in other places as “iniquity,” or “sinfulness.” The context of this entire chapter prophesies increasing chaos in nature, human suffering, rampant unrest, and fear.

Note 3:
A message for all the world.

Immediately following His statement about enduring to the end, Jesus adds this prophetic conclusion: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Note 4:
Patient, enduring love defines the “saints” of God.

The “gospel” Jesus speaks of in verse 14 is the incredible “good news” in verse 13 that the person who “keeps on keeping on” living God’s love will be—in fact—the person who is saved in the end!

Any individual who is thus filled with God’s agápe love, and keeps on living that love even in times of total conflict and chaos, will truly be identified as one of His end-time “saints.” They know the joy of God’s salvation. They will live out the “everlasting gospel” forever in the Earth Made New.


There is no better counsel for us than the writer of Hebrews shares in chapter 12, verse 1:

“Let us run with perseverance (“patience”) the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Kindness.” Watch for it on May 30!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. This is Episode 37 of the podcast. The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Peace.”

May God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality. I pray that you may enjoy the “peace that passes understanding” in your life today!

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


I am going to begin today’s episode by sharing a short meditation my daughter Kimberly Holback posted recently on social media. I asked her permission to share it, and she gladly said, “Yes.”

I’ve edited it slightly for presentation. Here are her thoughts:

“Peace”
A Meditation by Kimberly Holback
Kimberly Holback

“Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about peace… and the world. Everyone has.

It’s easy to get caught up in the anxiety of it all. We feel like our feet are slipping on rolling sand, we are thrashing around trying to find direction and looking desperately for something, anything to grab onto.

It’s so easy to lose our footing.

Just when we feel like we are balancing things again, another wave of personal challenge or world crisis knocks us off our feet.

But there is peace in the midst of it all.

‘Keeping your peace’ does not mean you don’t care.

It does not mean you don’t see.

It means we keep calm and centered despite it all.

We hold to faith and beauty.

We steady ourselves with routine and connection.

If we get so distracted and paralyzed with anxiety about the things we cannot control, we will miss the people within our reach that we can affect. A kind word or helpful hand goes a long way in bringing peace.

To help ourselves, we need to reach out.

Not with hands that take, but with hands that give, and arms that hold.

I challenge you to see the needs of the people close to you. Be genuine and kind with those you love (and even those you don’t).

The human phenomenon is that when we help others it lifts our spirit too.

Wishing you peace, love, & beauty today.”

Kimberly Holback, via Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/kimberly.holback

Thank you, Kimberly for those beautiful, encouraging thoughts! I appreciate your willingness to share with our GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog friends.

The Bible has a lot to say about peace. In fact, Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance (2010) lists 430 separate texts speaking of “peace”!

One of the many names of God in the Old Testament is “Yahweh-Shalom” — “God is My Peace” (Judges 6:24). This is found in the story of Gideon’s call to raise up an army to defeat the occupying army of the Midianites. He was terrified when he realized the identity of the divine personage who appeared to him.

The New Living Translation says, “When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, ‘O, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’” (Judges 6:22).

The angel assured him he would not die, so Gideon built an altar and gave it the name, “Yahweh-Shalom”—“God is Peace.”

Turning back even further in the Old Testament, we read in Numbers,

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.”

Numbers 6:22-27 (NLT)

If we fast-forward to the New Testament, we read the words of Jesus as he gave some final assurances to his disciples just before his crucifixion and death. He told them, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 NLT).

And, one more text from the New Testament—The Apostle Paul, writing to the believers in Philippi said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).


The Bible has many more texts about peace, of course. As I said earlier, there are well over 400 different occasions where “peace” is mentioned.

If we carefully consider the Bible’s messages about peace—as exemplified by the four texts I just shared—we can see an important truth: Although there are different aspects of peace, such as personal spiritual peace within, peaceful relationships with other people, and being at peace with God, ALL genuine peace begins with God himself. The writer of Hebrews speaks of him as “the God of all peace” (Hebrews 13:29).

Personal Spiritual Peace

With that in mind, let’s consider our personal spiritual peace for a moment.

In this world we all experience times of disruption. Some of these incidents are so trivial they shouldn’t bother us at all, but often they cause distractions that get in the way of other more important things. I’m thinking of things like a tiny, nearly invisible sliver that bothers you so much you can’t get anything else done until you GET IT OUT. It’s hard to have any peace at all until that irritation is removed!

On the other end of the scale, I’m sure most of us have experienced major disruptive events that knocked us for an emotional loop and sent us spinning for a long time afterwards. Sometimes we never completely recover from experiences like this. They change our lives forever.

So, when things like this happen, how do we settle our hearts so life can continue and we can be at peace? Here’s a little story from my life many years ago.

My family and I were living in Taichung, Taiwan. I was asked to lead some congregational singing at the start of several religious meetings. Another missionary, Mrs. Smith played the piano for the singing time.

Mrs. Smith asked me to hand her a list of songs ahead of time each evening so she would have time to practice—a perfectly reasonable request. Except, it was not unusual that I would hand her the list just minutes before going to the podium to welcome the people. That meant Mrs. Smith had no time to review the music before the meeting began. She was not happy about that—and rightly so!

On one particular evening the hall was filling with people, and Mrs. Smith was already at the piano providing some music as they found their seats. I had not yet provided her with my list. I hurried down the aisle and held it to her when she finished the piece she was playing.

Frankly, I don’t remember the exact words of the ensuing exchange, but suffice it to say she let me know in no uncertain terms how frustrated she was with me. I voiced some sort of defensive response, but she was quite angry. The time for the meeting to begin was only minutes away, and I felt terrible for causing her to be so distressed. Neither she nor I were “at peace” in that moment!

But, I had to go on the platform immediately. I turned and walked to the door into the backstage area, but I was still emotionally upset by all that had just happened. I knew I couldn’t go in front of that audience and do my job without God’s peace in my heart.

Beside the steps leading up to the stage I noticed a small closet. Quickly I ducked inside that closet and closed the door. There in the dark I prayed a quick prayer.

“Lord,” I said, “I can’t go out there feeling like I do right now. Please remove this angry spirit from me and give my your spirit.”

I am not exaggerating at all when I tell you that I felt God’s peace enter my heart. He took away my bad emotions, and replaced them with himself. It was a moment of divine joy I have never forgotten.

Not only that, afterwards I apologized to Mrs. Smith for causing her distress. She was gracious—as always—and we continued working together until the series of meetings ended.

Peace With Other People

Now, let me extend the point of that little story to our relationships with other people. Living at peace with our neighbors, friends, family members, church family, or anyone else begins with opening our heart for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our heart, he begins producing the “fruit of the Spirit” in all of our relationships.

Paul lists nine “fruits” of the Spirit—the focus of our study here in the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog for the first nine episodes of 2022. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The third “fruit”—peace—is our focus today, of course. Our experience of personal inner peace, and peace with other people, both come as the result of finding peace with God.

Peace With God

Searching for peace with God is a universal quest for every person. Someone voiced the idea that inside every individual is a God-shaped space that can only be filled by Him. Money, lifestyle, advanced education, prestige, status, human relationships, or anything else other than God himself cannot fill this void adequately.

St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in [God].”

The good news about this, however, is that God is ready and willing to move into and occupy that empty space inside of us, and fill it completely with his presence. There is no greater joy than allowing the Great Creator of the entire Universe to take up residence in our heart!

Jesus says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20 NLT).

Just imagine! Sitting down at a kitchen table, sharing a meal with the King of the entire Universe, chatting about anything and everything just like any two long-time friends might do. What incredible peace would fill that room! Nothing—absolutely nothing—could intrude to disturb this sacred moment!

Hallelujah! I want that experience. And it is the prayer of my heart that you also, friend, will hunger and thirst for Jesus and the things of God. I assure you, God’s promise is sure. When he does enter your heart he will bring the peace and joy that only he can provide.


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Patience.” Watch for it on April 28!
Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

Well, greetings once again friends. This is Episode 36 of the podcast.

As I announced in the last episode at the end of 2021, this year I’m following a monthly schedule instead of a weekly one. I’ll post each episode on the last Monday of each month. The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Joy.”

My prayer for you today is that God will bless you as we take a look into this important Christian character quality. I pray it may set the tone for your walk with Jesus today.

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at https://anchor.fm/goodlifenews.


Nehemiah’s Message

“Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” . . . This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

You may have heard a funny little story that’s been circulating for a long time. In fact, I heard it when I was quite young—and that was a long time ago!

It seems—according to the story as I remember it—a child asked his grandfather if the grandfather’s donkey was a “Christian.”

“Well,” Grandfather replied, “I’m not sure about that, but what makes you think he might be one?”

The boy replied, “Because he has such a long face!”

Ha Ha! We chuckle at this supposed incident, but not just because it’s kinda cute. It also makes an important point. If we who claim to be Christians go around all the time with a sour look on our face, it doesn’t reveal the happiness or joy followers of Jesus are supposed to have in their hearts. And, it certainly doesn’t attract others to Him, either.

If we are to be ambassadors of the kingdom of love and grace—which we are—our faces—and our actions need to communicate that to everyone around us!

Here’s a story I love to tell about a lady whom I knew personally.


Clarissa Archer always had a beautiful smile on her face. She simply glowed with peace and happiness. Not that she had escaped the difficulties and trials coming from 80+ years of life. But despite all that, Clarissa was like a bright ray of sunshine everywhere she showed up.

That wasn’t always the case. At times in the past she grumbled and complained loudly about her old-age infirmities and inconveniences. She didn’t like being old, and she didn’t mind letting everyone around her know it. The “golden years” were not good, and she wasn’t shy about complaining about the way things were.

But then, one day all that changed.

Clarissa lived in a retirement home for elderly people. Her son often came to take his mother into town for shopping and a sit-down restaurant meal. After she was buckled in, Clarissa waited for her son to walk to the other side of the car and get into the driver’s seat.

In those few moments, she pulled the sun visor down to see the mirror on the backside. She sat gazing at her reflection as her son fastened his seatbelt and started the engine. A look of genuine concern crossed her face.

“I don’t look happy,” she said. “Christians are supposed to be happy. I’m going to practice being happy!”

It was more of a proclamation than a statement. Her voice carried the determination of a person making a much-needed and long-contemplated life adjustment. There was no mistaking her resolve. She was totally serious.

And she stuck to it!

That day marked the beginning of the last chapter in this precious lady’s earthly life. From that time on, Clarissa could not be seen without a smile on her face. Even now, many years after her death, the people who knew her still remember her as “the lady who was always smiling, always happy.”

What an incredible testimony!


What was Clarissa’s secret? She chose to be happy. That’s right. Clarissa discovered that happiness is a choice we make regardless of the circumstances in our life. Simply put, we can choose to be happy, even in the middle of a miserable mess.

Under normal circumstances—even unpleasant ones—we have freewill choice. We can choose to be happy. Or, we can choose to be upset, angry, resentful, bitter, or any other of similar negative emotions.

Many years ago, I came to realize that regardless of how many or how bad negative events might be which unfold around you, if you turn them over to God he can, and does, redeem them for good.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

So mark this down:

When we choose happiness, God gives us joy.

Joy is a gift from God. He sends it with the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the believer’s heart. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Holy Spirit’s presence is a gift directly from Jesus to believers everywhere. He promised, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Choosing happiness in the face of hardship, or misfortune, or grief is to follow the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in your mind.

I’m not saying we should pretend that bad things and bad experiences don’t exist. They do, and no one enjoys them, but we don’t need to be mentally and spiritually destroyed by evil events.

We can choose—by the enabling power of God’s grace—to overcome them. We can choose to survive. We can choose forgiveness and personal happiness. The choice is always ours, even though making that choice may be extremely difficult in the moment of anguish and stress.


Near the end of the 5th century B.C., many Jews were allowed to return from exile in Babylon. Jerusalem lay in ruins from the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar’s army 70 years earlier. The protective wall was destroyed. All that remained were heaps of rubble scattered chaotically around the once-thriving center of Israel’s glory days. The splendor of Solomon’s once-upon-a-time magnificent empire had been reduced to dust and ashes by Babylonian soldiers. Centuries of Israel’s and Judah’s feckless kings and faithless priests bore the fruit of neglected holiness. The scene of ruined walls and burned-out buildings was enough to make even the stoutest heart tremble.

Political winds had shifted dramatically in the seventy years of exile. The Babylonians had fallen to the power of the Medes and Persians. The Persian King Artaxerxes I now sat on the throne of the new empire. History indicates that Artaxerxes I ruled with a tolerant hand, allowing conquered peoples to retain and practice their traditional religions and customs. He was sympathetic to the needs of the Jews, permitting them to return to their homeland, and even authorizing the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its surrounding wall.

Artaxerxes appointed his personal cup bearer—a Jew named Nehemiah—as governor of Jerusalem. Nehemiah and a priest named Ezra let the overwhelming task of reestablishing the city and reconstructing the wall.

Beyond the physical structures, they also had to lay the philosophical and religious foundations for an entirely new populace. At least two, maybe three generations had come and gone during the seven decades of exile. The vast majority of the returned exiles had never seen their ancestral homeland. Living as “chosen people” representing the Living God was strangely unfamiliar to them. They knew little or nothing of the culture, rituals, or fundamentals of their religious heritage. Growing up under the influence of pagan Persian beliefs and practices, they needed a comprehensive crash course in how they were supposed to live, the temple services, and what it all meant for them as individuals and a distinct people.

A day was set for a great assembly. A speaking platform was built for the occasion. In the morning of the appointed day, Ezra the priest stood on the platform and read to the people all the words of the Law of Moses—what we now call the “Pentateuch,” the first five books of our Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It took a long time to read it all. And it was heavy stuff. When the people heard what Ezra was reading, they broke down and wept.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”

Nehemiah 8:9-10 NKJV.

Now, pay close attention to those last eight words!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Specifically, it is the joy in the Lord’s heart—because of His love for you—which becomes YOUR strength when His Spirit lives in you.

“The kingdom of God is . . . Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).


So, what are a few “take-aways” we can note from todays post?

  1. Practice (choose) an attitude of gratitude!
  2. Choose happiness. Choose to forgive anyone who has wronged you. Reject the temptation to indulge in a victimhood mentality.
  3. Look for things to celebrate, like beauty in nature, gracious acts of kindness by other people, Bible promises, or the gifts of life, health, and understanding.
  4. Focus on positive things of life. Set a time every day for personal Bible reading, memorization, reflection, and meditation. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.
  5. There is power in praise! Psalm 22:3 says, “[God is] enthroned in the praises of Israel” (NKJV). The KJV says that God dwells in our praise. What that teaches me is if we want to experience more of God’s power, we should express more praise to Him. If God is present in our praises, so is His power.
  6. Power for joy comes from living a life of praise.

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Peace.” Watch for it on March 28!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

God bless.