GoodlifeNews!

Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living

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.

Well, greetings once again friends—and Happy New Year! This is Episode 35 of the podcast.

As I announced in the last episode at the end of 2021, this year I’ll be following a monthly schedule instead of a weekly one as I was doing before. I found that the weekly routine just stretched me too thin trying to keep up with the deadlines, in addition to many other activities. Something had to change—and one of those changes was the reduced schedule for the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.

I am looking forward to our monthly visits this year! I’ll post each episode on the last Monday of each month. For the first nine episodes I’ll be sharing some thoughts about the nine fruits of the Spirit listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.


The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Love.” May God bless you as we take a look into this important character quality. I pray it might set the tone for your walk with Jesus throughout every day in 2022.

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


Agápe Love; The Heart of God

Agápe love is eternal, unconditional, uncompromised, and completely centered in caring for—and caring about—the needs of others. Agápe is outwardly focused and self-sacrificing—all for the benefit of someone else.

(See Philippians 2:5-8)

It’s no surprise that “love” is the very first “fruit of the Spirit” listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22. Agápe love flows from the heart of God, and is the central theme of the Bible from beginning to end—Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Both Testaments, Old and New, tell the central story of God’s eternal love for His creation and the power of sacrificial, redemptive love for wandering sinners.

One of my all-time favorite hymns is The Love of God, a song that has been popular for centuries. Some reports indicate that the last verse was written by an elderly Jewish Rabbi, sometime around the 7th or 8th century A.D. Others say it may even be older than that! Whatever the case, I learned this song in church as a young person, and it has been precious to me all through the years.

The Love of God

(1)
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair bowed down with care
God gave his Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his Sin.

(Chorus)
O love of God, how rich and pure,
How measureless and strong;
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels’ song.

(Now, just imagine that elderly Jewish rabbi standing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, gazing at the vast expanse of ocean before him, the limitless sky above, perhaps some trees or shrubs nearby, and a village not far away. As he allows his mind to be immersed and overwhelmed in the awesome presence of God’s love, he begins to pen these immortal words . . . .)

(2)
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
And every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.
(Chorus)
O love of God, how rich and pure,
How measureless and strong;
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Thinking Deeply About God’s Love

If we dig a little deeper into God’s love, we discover there is much more to it than a simple expression of a warm, fuzzy sense of happiness. Much, much more! As the song indicates, God’s love is inexhaustible in both understanding and experience.

In fact, the Bible is abundantly clear that agápe love is the one most central essential element of vivifying life in the universe. Agápe is the connecting, unifying presence in the heart of the Godhead, binding together the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Together, with omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, they are able to create the material universe as we know it.

Agápe love is eternal, unconditional, and completely centered in caring for—and caring about—the needs of others. Agápe is outwardly focused, self-sacrificing for the benefit of someone else.

However, for agápe to work it must stand on two other eternal principles—laws of relationships (with clearly defined, inviolable consequences for disobedience) and complete freedom of choice for individuals to obey or disobey.

(BTW, the purpose of ANY law—natural or legislated—is either to define or control a relationship. Traffic laws, for example, both define and control appropriate/acceptable relationships to other vehicles on the roadway. A driver may choose to drive 100 mph in a 65 mph zone, but—if caught—that person will no doubt suffer some serious consequences!)

Mark Finley, an international evangelist who has preached to hundreds-of-thousands of people around the world, recently said, “To take away the power of choice is to destroy the ability to love, and to destroy the ability to love is to take away life’s true happiness.”[Finley, Mark. “When I Met God.” Signs of the Times, February 2022, p.10.]

Now, before moving away from this important concept of freedom of choice, I need to make one other key observation.

If, and when, a person voluntarily and freely chooses to disobey a law, that person is—in effect—also choosing the consequences of disobedience. It isn’t as if God discovers some indiscretion or moral failure on our part and then says, “Oops! You messed up! Now I’m going to punish you severely because you did a bad thing!”

No! God is agápe love in person! (See 1 John 4:8.) To help us truly understand this, “The Word (the pre-incarnate Christ) became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14 NLT).

Jesus became God-in-human-flesh! He came as the physical embodiment of the heart of God—agápe love—to bear the consequences of our willful disobedience of God’s law, thus securing our salvation from eternal death. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT).


I want to finish today’s post by sharing with you the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13—the Apostle Paul’s inspired statement about agápe love. Please listen carefully. This is from the New Living Translation.

1 Corinthians 13

Paul writes,

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way . It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought about and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NLT

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 from my book, “My Seven Essential Daily Prayers” on the spiritual gift of “Joy.” Watch for it on February 28!

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! My many thanks—in advance!

God bless.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 34 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “New Year Coming!

Also, be sure to scroll/listen all the way to the end of today’s episode for a special announcement about the posting schedule for the next year. I’ve sensed the need for several weeks to make a few changes, which I explain below.

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


In just a few days the calendar pages will turn to January, 2022. A new year inevitably brings opportunities to reflect on experiences of the quickly-fading “old year,” and maybe even some of those infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” as we look ahead.

Many years ago I discovered that the first month of our calendar—January—was named for the pagan Roman god Janus. Statues of Janus depict a human-like figure with two faces—one looking forward, the other looking backwards.



A quick review of our individual and corporate experiences through the course of 2021 will reveal many events—both positive and negative.

Personally, I’ve learned new things that have helped me face the daily challenges of life, but I’ve also encountered some situations I’d just as soon never see again! I suspect your journey might be quite similar. So, I won’t load you down with my story, but I will encourage you to open the door to memory’s hall to consider God’s blessings, His providence, and presence on YOUR walk to the Kingdom.

I’m sure the Holy Spirit will be your guide, opening your mind to insight and growth in grace each step of the way into and through the new year, 2022.

So, instead of making a list of incidents and observations I’ve gleaned from the year just passed, I’ve decided to share with you some words I find wise and instructive. These words come from a woman author who wrote in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The influence of her books, magazine articles, personal letters, and Christian counsel continues even today. Some of her work has been translated into well over 100 languages around the world! Her insights have inspired the establishment of hospitals, schools, churches, clinics and a myriad of other ministries.

I’m speaking, of course, of Ellen G. White, one of the early founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Here are the few paragraphs from her pen I want to share with you today as we near the end of 2021, published in the flagship journal of the SDA church—Review and Herald—on December 11, 1888.


We are nearing the close of another year. Christmas and New Year’s will soon be here. Let us candidly and carefully review our life during the year that is about to pass, with its burden of history, into eternity, and consider the many tokens we have had of the favor of God in the blessings He has bestowed upon us. The most unspeakable gift which God could bestow upon the world was the Gift of His beloved Son.

We do not half appreciate the grandeur of the plan of salvation. He who was one with the Father stepped down from the glorious throne in heaven, laid aside His royal robe and crown, and clothed His divinity with humanity, thus bringing Himself to the level of man’s feeble faculties. “For your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” Infinite was the sacrifice on the part of the Father; infinite the sacrifice of the Son! The highest gift that Heaven could bestow was given to ransom fallen humanity. O, what divine benevolence! It would have been far easier to crush the world out of existence than to reform it. But Christ declares, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” The Son of God understood the desperate situation, and Himself came to our world, that humanity through Him might have eternal life. Son of the Most High though He was, He submitted Himself to insult, mockery, and a cruel death because He loved human beings, and would save them from ruin. But, as if determined to cut themselves off from all communication with Heaven, as if scorning God’s mercy and defying Omnipotence, the world whom He came to save, crucified the Lord of glory. Can we, my dear brethren and sisters, behold such love, such infinite sacrifice, unmoved? O, what abundant resources divine power has provided for the fallen race!

Let us look to Jesus, and see the amazing love for fallen humanity of which the cross of Calvary gives evidence. The great sacrifice has been made, and Christ has purchased men and women at an infinite cost. ‘Ye are bought with a price,’ even the precious blood of the Son of God. And now Jesus says, ‘I have claims upon the human heart . . . .’ Thus He asserts His ownership of the consciences of human beings.


2022 Arrives This Week

So, it’s just a few more days and 2021 drops into that historical dustbin forever. The few paragraphs I just shared with you were written over 134 years ago. Time keeps marching on, and a lot of us never imagined we would live to the age we have now reached—whatever that number might be for you!

As I close out this last episode of the podcast/blog for 2021, I decided to share a memorable New Year’s Eve story from about 40 years ago. Ruth and I were the pastoral couple for a little congregation on the banks of the Columbia River, where great waterway flows past a small town, Irrigon, Oregon.

We had purchased a couple of acres a few miles out of town where we lived with our two young children. A three-bedroom, two-bath double-wide mobile home provided comfortable housing for us.

The Irrigon church building in town was very small, and very old. There was no room at the church for me to use as a functional office/study, so I had blocked off the end of our living room in the double-wide as a place for my desk, bookshelves, and other office needs. This reduced the living room to about half of what it normally would have been otherwise.

Our Irrigon church was warm and friendly. The congregation included several families with school-age children, and the predominant spirit of the church family was upbeat and very positive.

Ruth and I decided to invite the whole church out to our “farm” to spend the evening together and welcome in the New Year at midnight. It was pretty cold that night, so everyone crowded into our diminished living room, visiting, laughing together, and sharing stories. Most of the kids were outside playing in the snow. The cold didn’t seem to bother them much.

We had a tall grandfather clock standing in a corner of the living room. As the time drew near we called all the young people in to get warmed up, so we could all be together when the clock began chiming at midnight. We stood together, holding hands while we waited the last few minutes. During the last remaining minute of the old year, I picked up my guitar, and strumming quietly I began to sing. The others blended their voices with mine. It was a moment to be remembered forever.

“The chimes of time ring out the news, another YEAR is through. Someone slipped and fell. Was that someone you? You may have longed for added strength, your courage to renew. Do not be disheartened, for I bring hope to you.

“It is no secret what God can do. What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you. With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do!”

And, here we are at the end of another 365 days, finishing another trip around the sun on this planet called “Earth.” Just to state the obvious, we’re all older now than we were just one year ago. We have learned some new things, lost some dear friends and family, gained some experience—both positive, some negative—and we’re different now than then.

The message of that song, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” might be speaking to your heart right now as midnight, December 31 approaches. It’s a perfect opportunity to renew your faith in God’s promise of forgiveness, pardon, and grace.

Why wait? Now is the perfect moment. Remember, what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you! May you know His presence and power as you step across this annual threshold into a brand new year ahead!


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

Now, before I sign off for today I need to let you know what’s coming for the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog beginning in January. I’ve followed a weekly schedule for each episode ever since I launched the podcast on May 2, 2021, with the one exception when a two-day hospital stay delayed me for a week.

This schedule has proved to be quite challenging. I love communicating with each of you in this forum, but I’ve found it necessary to make some changes as we enter the new year. So, I have dialed back to publication schedule from once weekly to once monthly. In 2022, each episode will drop on the last Monday of each month now, instead of every weekly Monday as we have done through 2021 since May.

On a related personal note, I truly appreciate those of you who have followed/listened to the GoodlifeNews! in 2021. Your numbers are not large, but each one of you is treasured! Thank you everyone for your faithfulness and encouragement in this ministry!

Here’s to a great spiritual journey in 2022 as we travel the highway to the Kingdom! I hope you can join me for next month’s episode which will post on Monday, January 31.

Be sure to watch for the announcement in your email or online. Mark your calendar, and invite someone else to listen with you!

Are you ready? Let’s go!!

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 33 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “What We Really Need For Christmas.”

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


Christmas Lights

Millions of people love this time of year. Christmas lights adorn streets and homes. The darkest time of the winter becomes—in some places—a beautiful winter wonderland.

I didn’t know how attached I was to Christmas lights until I’d lived in Taiwan for several months. We arrived there in May, 1971. By December, I was beginning to feel definite effects of “culture shock,” although I didn’t recognize it for what it was until several weeks later. Now, however, as I reflect back on my experience 50 years ago, it’s clear to me that six months of total immersion in Chinese culture including a “new-to-me” language, traffic, local customs, architecture, and even cars and clothing styles had resulted in an ever-increasing emotional hunger for something—anything—familiar!

Then I saw the lights!

One evening, our language school provided a Christmas party for us students. We came from a wide cross-section of mostly English-speaking places—the USA, of course, but also places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain. We represented a potpourri of Christian denominations, business people, military, and others, brought together by our common need to learn Mandarin or Taiwanese. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and broadening horizons for all of us.

At the Christmas party I stepped outside for a few minutes to catch some fresh air. It was then I noticed a building all decked out with what looked like Christmas lights from back home in America. Another gentleman I only knew from the language school had come outside with me.

“Wow! Look at the Christmas lights!” I said.

“Well,” he replied, “I see lights. But, I’m not sure they’re Christmas lights. Probably just a temple or something else.”

Oh, well. I had hoped.


What do we really need from Christmas?

Maybe we can take a clue from the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flock in the fields around Bethlehem.


Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:8-14 NKJV).


There are a number of observations I want to share with you that occur to me as I read these verses.

First, it seems that all heaven considers the birth of the Christ child an event worthy of great celebration! And, why not? Thousands of years had passed since God promised Adam and Eve a Redeemer would come—a Savior—One who would destroy the nefarious work of the evil serpent who had deceived them into disobedience and sin. Now He has come—not in power and glory, but as a helpless, naked human baby, born to peasant parents in a shelter for animals because there was “no place in the Inn.”

And still the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

There was excitement in heaven–the redemption of Adam’s race had begun!

So, here’s a question for us: If the angels of heaven celebrated the birth of Jesus, is it not right that we should follow their example? I believe so.

True, we do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but that is unimportant. What IS important is that most of the Christian world designates December 25 as the date of his birth. Others—the Eastern Orthodox churches for instance, celebrate his birth on January 7.

Some Christians contend that because some practices from pagan religions crept into the early church we should have nothing to do with Christmas today. I totally disagree. While we certainly DO NOT need all the commercialization and common fanciful stories and legends, we most desperately DO NEED to join the shepherds, the Magi, and the heavenly angels in worshiping the newborn King of love, grace, and glory.

Of course, we need to worship our King every day, not just on Christmas, or our weekly day of rest, or on other special occasions only. We need to live a life of worship EVERY day. Our words and actions and all our communications in every relationship should carry the light of His love and grace to our world, helping dispel the darkness of superstition, disbelief, and toxic forces.


Another thought that comes to mind as we see the many Christmas lights on rooftops, trees, seasonal displays in shops and churches, and other places, let them remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.

The Apostle John begins his gospel with an introduction to Jesus as the creative “Word” of God, then says,

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:4-5 NLT

Then, as we go over to Matthew’s gospel where Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded, we read these words:

You are the light of the world—like a city set on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:14-16 NLT

Here we can understand that the “light” Jesus brings into the world, and which he gives to everyone, he intends for us to share wherever spiritual darkness prevails.

Right now the song we teach to little church children comes to mind . . . .

🎹🎹🎹🎹🎹

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

🎹🎹🎹🎹🎹

So, when we see all those displays of Christmas lights, let’s remember that each light can symbolize every believer carrying God’s promise of life, love, and salvation to all the world around them. May they inspire us to BE the light seen by our family, neighbors, and friends–not just at Christmastime, but every day all year long.


A couple of other things we need from the Bible story of Jesus’ birth are the “peace on earth” and the “goodwill to men” included in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds.

Let’s realize that “peace on earth” can only come with the presence of Jesus, the “Prince of Peace.”

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NLT

Isaiah’s prophecy points forward centuries in time to the birth of Jesus, then reaches into eternity when Jesus will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords forever.


Then, there’s the other part of the angels’ song—goodwill.

An actual, more literal translation of this phrase might read, “Glory to God in highest places, and on earth peace among men of goodwill.”

O that today we might know the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) among all the nations, tribes, languages, and people groups of the world! As a popular Christmas hymn says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!”

That prayer—sung so beautifully by Vince Gill and others—can be the experience of every Christian, regardless of social status, gender, ethnicity, skin color, economic standing, physical location, or any other identifying mark. God’s peace—found in the very heart of the Prince of Peace—is available to you and me right now, today. The Apostle Paul includes it as one of the fruits the Spirit produced in our spiritual heart. (See Galatians 5:22-23).

In vision the Apostle John recorded a message from the glorified Christ, “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).

With “Jesus in my heart,” the peace of heaven on earth can indeed “begin with me.”

May that be your prayer, and your experience this week—and always—as Christmas day 2021 approaches.

Merry Christmas!!

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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode — “New Year Coming!.”

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! My many thanks—in advance!

God bless.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 32 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Some Favorite Christmas Stories.”

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


This looks nothing at all like the farm of my childhood, but I really like the painting!
Photo Credit: Crazy-Frankenstein.com/free-wallpapers

Well, here we are, right in the middle of the annual Christmas season. This time of year is always fraught with many intense feelings—memories, hopes, and joy—but also pain, loneliness, and even despair.

It’s a time of stories like no other season of the year.

Human beings live for stories! Every culture under heaven has stories that shape and guide the ideas, values, and practices of those who live in and are part of those cultures. Stories live through the telling and retelling generation after generation. Grandparents spin tales of yesteryear, hoping—perhaps—that the young will understand life from long ago. Preachers choose story illustrations for their sermons, attempting to shed light on the lesson of the day. Every novel, movie, or television program is a story. We never get tired of stories. In many ways they really are the stuff of life.

The “Greatest Story Ever Told,” of course, is the story of Jesus. I’ll say more about His story in next week’s episode. For today, however, I want to share some personal memories of Christmas that are very precious to me.


Thinking of Christmas stories common in our culture, several personal favorites come immediately to mind.

“A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens is one of the greatest. My favorite telling of this classic is a movie version starring George C. Scott as Scrooge.

“It’s a Wonderful Life,” the movie starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, is a perennial favorite. It carries a great lesson that every person’s influence goes far beyond their own awareness. The angel character “Clarence,” however, stretches the imagination—and is far from the true biblical concept of angels. Even so, the film is entertaining and important. Some other great lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the value of community, respect for other people, faithfulness, and integrity. Definitely values we need in our society today!

“The Story of the Other Wise Man,” by Henry Van Dyke is an entirely “made-up” story first published over a hundred years ago. Well-written, compelling, and inspirational are three thoughts generated by this long, short story. It’s only 58 pages of easy reading. But Van Dyke is a master storyteller couching his lessons in the experience of Artabán, a fourth “wise man” journeying to find and worship the Christ Child.

(Of course, we do not know how many Magi followed the Star, traveling from the East to bring gifts to the newborn King. The Bible doesn’t specify, but tradition says there were three—based on the three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) which the Magi presented to Jesus. (See Matthew 2:11)).

There are many, many other great Christmas stories we could mention, but here I want to share a personal story that happened many years ago on a cold, snowy Christmas morning in the Yakima Valley.


“The Unforgettable Christmas Gift”

[ This story was first published in Whoa!” I Yelled, “Whoa! a collection of stories from my childhood and youth. Pacific Press. 1978.]

Br-r-r-r-r!”

I reached up and pulled the covers closer around my face. My nose felt like a chunk of ice sticking out into the air. The wind whistled outside and blew against the window. Snow sifted through the cracks around the window frame in a fine powder. B-o-o-o-o, it was cold! The last thing I wanted to do just then was get out of my nice warm bed into the freezing icebox that was supposed to be my bedroom! Br-r-r-r!

“Loren! Beryl! Come on! It’s time to get up!” I heard Dad call from the kitchen. “It’s six o’clock. Time to do chores.”

“Uhnnnh!” I thought. “Why do we always have to get up so early? Even during Christmas vacation, and the day before Christmas at that!”

With about as much enthusiasm as a frozen mud slide, I sneaked my hand from under the covers and pulled my pants and shirt into bed with me. Br-r-r-r! They were cold! I pressed them close to my body, trying to keep myself warm and warm the clothes at the same time. I lay still for several minutes, savoring the warmth of the bed. Gradually the sludge of sleep started to clear from my mind.

“Hey, you guys! What’s keeping you in there?” Dad yelled again. He had a fire going in the kitchen stove.

I wiggled into my clothes under the covers and then stood up on the ice-cold floor. I grabbed my shoes and socks, and bolted for the kitchen. Beryl was already there, huddled against the cook stove, warming his hands. I sat down on a nearby chair and started pulling on my socks.

“Good morning, everyone!” Mom came through the door from the living room, closing it behind her. “How’s my family this morning?”

“Cold!” Beryl and I both said at the same time.

“Yes, it’s pretty wintry out this morning.” She peered out the kitchen window into the darkness on the back porch. “I wonder what the temperature is?”

“It’s about 18 degrees above zero,” Dad said. “I looked at the thermometer just a bit ago.”

“That isn’t so cold. It must be the wind and the snow that makes it seem colder.”

“Yes, that wind drives the cold right through everything.” Dad stood to his feet and started pulling on his coat. “Come on, boys. We’ve got to get those animals taken care of,” he said to Beryl and me.

We dressed in our heavy coats, hats, gloves, and overshoes, then went stomping out into the early morning cold and darkness. Mom would have a breakfast of hot oatmeal and fresh hot biscuits ready by the time we got back. Dad had a rule that the stock got to eat before we did.


I stumbled through my chores still half asleep. My fingers were numb from the cold as I broke open snow-crusted bales of hay and tossed them into the feed mangers for the cows. Water dripped from the end of my nose and formed into an icicle. The wind bit at my cheeks and the lobes of my ears where they weren’t covered by my hat. I would have liked nothing better than finding a nice warm spot somewhere to curl up and go back to sleep. But, that was impossible. There’s nothing worse than being miserably cold and half asleep at the same time, and not able to do anything about either!

“I wonder what it would be like to stay in bed and sleep till 8 o’clock,” I mused half aloud. “That would really be something!”

The sky was getting light, and the sun was almost ready to come over the horizon when we finished the chores and went to the house for breakfast.

“Just in time!” Mom said as we walked in the door. “Get washed up and come to the table. The biscuits are ready to come out of the oven right now!”

After the blessing, the biscuits and oatmeal disappeared with amazing speed. I was starting to shake off the drowsiness that plagued me. It was like this every morning. About halfway through breakfast I finally woke up.

“What time are the girls coming home today?” I asked.

“They’re scheduled to come on the 4:00 p.m. bus,” Mom answered. “They should be home in plenty of time to help trim the tree.”

“I hope they bring plenty of presents,” I said. “There aren’t very many on the table yet.”

“There you go again,” Beryl said, “Always worrying about what you’re going to get!”

“Whoa, whoa!” Mom cut us off. “Let’s not have any arguing now. The Bible says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’ It also says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. All of us need to do what we can to make the other fellow happy.”

“Well,” Dad spoke up, “it’s going to be a mighty slim Christmas this year. We can be thankful we have food on the table and a place to live and clothes to wear, and we can all be together, but there’s not much money for presents. It looks like we’ll have to be satisfied with what we can do for one another.”

“What do you have in mind?” Mom asked.

“I’ll think of something,” he said.

The girls came home from college on the bus that afternoon. They did bring a lot of presents, and when the tree was trimmed it looked as if Santa Claus had been there for sure. Packages of red and green were piled high around the base and spilled over onto the table beside the tree. After supper that night we all gathered around and started opening the gifts one by one. Everybody got something from everybody else. Except, no one received a gift from Dad.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for mine,” he said.

“That’s okay,” we all assured him. “We’re just happy that we can all be together.”

We all went to bed later than usual that night, but that was allowed on Christmas Eve. I went to sleep dreaming of the nuts and candies and apples and oranges and other goodies that Dad always bought as special treats at Christmastime. No one could say that he had given us nothing. And, after all, money was in rather short supply.


The next morning when I woke up I knew something unusual had happened. For one thing, the sun was already up. It was already light outside. For another, I couldn’t remember Dad calling us to get up to do the chores. The cows had to be fed even on Christmas morning, and no way would Dad let them go hungry.
I crawled out of bed with the mystery tugging at my mind. What was going on, anyway? I pulled on my clothes and headed out to the kitchen with my shoes in my hand. Dad was sitting beside the cook stove reading a magazine.

“Merry Christmas!” he boomed.

“Merry Christmas,” I said. I glanced at the clock on top of the refrigerator. It was already 8:15!

“Wow! I really slept in!”

“Well, you always walk around half asleep doing your chores anyway, and since I couldn’t buy you anything for Christmas I decided I’d do your chores for you on Christmas morning, and let you sleep. I thought you’d probably like that.”

“You mean everything’s already all done?”

“Yes, I fed the cows and milked them. The horses are all taken care of, and everything else is done. Merry Christmas!”

And, if the the truth must be known, I’ll have to admit that I’ve forgotten almost all the other Christmas gifts of all the other Christmases. But, that’s one I’ll never forget as long as we have Christmases!


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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode — “What We Really Need For Christmas.”

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! My many thanks—in advance!