Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living

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

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

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

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.

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 . . . .)

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.
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

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

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

This looks nothing at all like the farm of my childhood, but I really like the painting!
Photo Credit:

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.]


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!

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 31 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Eric Metaxas: Conservative Christian Author.”

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at

Eric Metaxas was born June 27, 1963 in Queens, New York, New York. He attended Yale University, and graduated in 1984 with a B.A. in English. Although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, he has most recently attended the Central Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Metaxas is a prolific author, with publications written for children as well as adults. Unfortunately–in my view–he seems to have also taken a hard-right political stance in recent years. Since I am a dedicated centrist, both in political and religious ideas, I was quite disappointed to learn of his forceful positions in some of the current controversial issues of our day.

That being said, however, I have been greatly edified by several of his major books. I’ll share some thoughts about that as we work our way through the podcast today.

I first became acquainted with Mr. Metaxas’ work through a subscription I had several years ago with I was searching for a good biography when I came across his book Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. I thought it looked pretty interesting, so I used part of my bank of Audible credits to purchase the audio edition. I could only listen 15-20 minutes a day, so it took me a long time to finish! However, as I listened I knew I needed a hard copy of this book on my library shelf so I could easily refer to the contents later. I gladly headed over to Amazon to place my order.

Later, I also downloaded and listened to two more of Metaxas’ biographies: Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, plus several of his smaller publications.

Most recently I saw an advertisement for his newest book—Is Atheism Dead—and ordered a hard copy. I’m currently about a fourth of the way through it. I’ll say more about that in a bit.

But now, what I want to do is take you on a quick survey of those larger books I mentioned. I’ll talk about each of them, one at a time, in the order I read them originally, although the publication order is different.

(BTW, if you click on the pictures of the individual books the link will take you directly to that book’s info page on Amazon.)

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World

This book was released in 2017 in the 500th anniversary year of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Because I grew up in a Protestant church I was very aware of Martin Luther’s story at an early age. The preachers in our pulpit often talked about his “Here I stand” appearance before the Diet at Worms, extolling his courage, integrity, and faithfulness to the Bible as the only legitimate “rule of faith and practice” for Christians. Staying true to one’s conscience was high on our church family’s list of core values.

After graduating from high school, I chose a path in education that would prepare me for Christian ministry. Subsequently, over many years I accumulated a B.A. in Theology, a Master of Divinity (MDiv), and a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree. All of those courses included requisite classes in church history—and specifically people and events surrounding the Protestant Reformation.

However, listening to Metaxas’ audio book on Luther I discovered fascinating details about the great Reformer, and the Reformation itself, that I had never known previously. The author is a master of pulling together a universe of data, anecdotes, historical records, personalities, and myriads of other details, weaving everything together into what I found to be a compelling telling of a most pivotal moment in history.

If you—like me—enjoy a long book with a powerful true story which literally changed the course of history for millions of people, you owe it to yourself to check out Metaxas’ biography of Martin Luther. Yes, it is long—451 pages, not including the endnotes, detailed bibliography, and complete index.

And, there is an Appendix with the story of a prophetic dream (supposedly) experienced by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, on the morning of October 31, 1517 the very day Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door. I don’t have space to tell you the story here, but it is truly amazing if it actually happened. Do an Internet search for “Frederick of Saxony’s Dream,” and you can find it easily. The story of the dream is not long, but—if true—very significant!

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

If it were not for William Wilberforce, a Member of the British Parliament who lived from 1759-1833, the scourge of legal slavery could still be a reality—even to our time today.

Slavery was an ever-present fact of life in every culture throughout human history. The ancient Wonders of the World—places like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Great Wall of China, Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, and the Roman roads extending from one end of the Empire to the other—all were built on the backs of slaves.

Wilberforce began life as a nominal Christian, but in 1785 at age 26 he experienced a personal conversion which changed his life forever. He had been elected to Parliament five years earlier in 1780, but after his spiritual awakening he became an evangelical Christian which precipitated many changes to the way he lived. His newfound faith drove him to seek and institute social reforms that were desperately needed in late-18th century England.

William became most focused and passionate about the innate cruelty and abhorrent realities of the then-current slave trade. He labored intensely for many years in Parliament to get slavery outlawed in Britain. It didn’t come easily. All the momentum of many millennia in which slavery was just a fact of life everywhere pushed hard against his efforts.

To illustrate the horrors of the slave trade, Wilberforce commissioned and published drawings of actual conditions aboard British ships.

Diagram of the Cargo Deck
of a
Sixteenth-century Slave Ship

Previously, those who defended slavery contended that life for the slaves was much improved over life in the jungles of Africa. When these drawings appeared in publications read by the general public, the outcry was so great that Parliament was forced to act. They passed the “Slave Trade Act of 1807,” but it was another 26 years before the “Slavery Abolition Act of 1833” was passed. Wilberforce died just 3 days after seeing the success of his life-long crusade against slavery become a reality.

It took another 32 years, but the United States eventually followed Britain’s lead. In 1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and in 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was passed and signed into law, forever abolishing the institution of slavery as a legal practice in America.

The godly influence of one man’s life changed the world forever. William Wilberforce truly made a difference for millions of people in his lifetime. The world is a better place because he was here.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

In my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers, I included a chapter for the third prayer, “Integrity in My Life.” Toward the end of that chapter I wrote about choosing a life’s motto which, in addition to providing a theme for day-to-day living, could also be used as an epitaph for my grave marker–assuming my family would deem it appropriate.

What I eventually came up with was Vivere Cum Integritas, a Latin phrase meaning “To Live With Integrity.”

Reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I got the feeling that here was a man for whom integrity was an absolute core life value. He lived by his conscience, and in the end it cost him his life.

Bonhoeffer was extremely gifted intellectually. He saw through the weaselly hypocrisy of German Christians supporting Hitler, and helped form a “Confessing Church” in opposition to the “official” German Christian church.

During the war years he taught underground seminary classes, and worked tirelessly to both oppose the excesses of the regime and still preserve the true faith of German believers as they had received it from Martin Luther and other Reformers.

At one point when it seemed he was in the greatest danger, he fled to New York where he had briefly studied several years earlier. However, he felt so anxious for the condition of things back in Germany he only stayed in the States for a short time. He went back to minister to those who needed him in the middle of the Nazi terror.

Things were so bad that their only hope was the removal of Der Fuhrer. A bombing attempt to assassinate Hitler failed, and the individuals involved in the plot were tracked down and imprisoned. Bonhoeffer was one of the conspirators. He spent a year and a half in prison, and was executed by hanging on April 9, 1945 by order of Hitler himself.

Three days later, the prison where he died was liberated by Allied forces. Germany surrendered, ending WWII in the European theater May 8, 1945.

But it was too late for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He died a martyr’s death, yet the influence of his life lives on. His book The Cost of Discipleship has become one of the greatest classics of Christian literature.

Is Atheism Dead?

This is Metaxas’ most recent book. As I write/record this, I am about halfway through reading it.

(BTW, I discontinued my Audible account several months ago. I discovered I get far more pleasure out of holding a physical book, turning pages as I read. Listening works just fine for many people. But, I seem to be a reader more than a listener. If listening works for you, go for it! The important thing is consuming information—in whatever way is best for your needs.)

Quite frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with the first section of this book where he talks about the “fine-tuning” of nature, from the entire Universe to molecular phenomena here on Earth. My objection wasn’t so much about the data he described as it was his (to me) seemingly flippant attitude toward scientists who see things differently. Metaxas often presents as “scientific fact” information or ideas that are only at the hypothetical stage of exploration. And, beyond that, he uses a very casual writing style—including some colloquialisms that don’t reflect the importance of the subject matter. At least, that was my impression.

Nevertheless, he does present some astounding thoughts very few people have even considered. These are very valuable to his overall argument. I just wish he would have written them in a more professional tone.

That being said, as I have progressed further in the book, I’ve found it much improved—to my way of thinking! The second section on archeology is fascinating. The stories of “accidental” discoveries and coincidences are amazing. I especially enjoyed the accounts of how the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Silver Ketef Hinnom Scrolls came to light. If you’re not familiar with these stories I’d encourage you to do an Internet search and read about them. There are many others as well.

Or . . . here’s a thought–you might even have to order this book! Of course, you don’t have to buy it from Amazon. Any other outlet—online or local—can get it for you, as well as any of the other books I’ve shared in this post.

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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode — “Favorite Christmas Stories.”

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 30 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “What Was Nailed to the Cross?”

This is an important question worthy of our attention for a few minutes.

In the history of the Christian church, some have taught that it was the Old Testament law—including Ten Commandments— that was nailed to the Cross, while others have said, “No, it was only the Old Testament ceremonial laws that were nailed to the Cross, because Jesus fulfilled all of those as the sacrificial ‘Lamb of God.’”

We’ll answer that question in today’s Bible study. But, first we need to set the background to give our understanding some depth and perspective.

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at

The idea of something being “nailed to the cross” is an expression Paul used in his letter to the church at Colossae, written around AD 60-62 while he was a prisoner in Rome.

Colossae was a metropolis in the Roman province of Asia (not to be confused with continent of Asia we know today). It was about 1300 miles away from Rome in what is now modern-day Turkey. There is no indication in the New Testament that Paul ever personally visited Colossae, however the church there was probably planted as fruit of his ministry all through Asia Minor—or Anatolia, as the region was also known.

Paul was greatly concerned that the church—regardless of location or history—would maintain purity of the gospel message—the supremacy of Christ, salvation by grace through faith in him, with no mixture of pagan or outside philosophies or theologies.

Word arrived to Paul in Rome that some dangerous false teachings were invading the church at Colossae. The content of these false doctrines seems to be a mixture of old-line Judaistic legalism with a type of oriental paganism. The teachers of these heresies believed in an organization of angels who brought human beings to salvation through merits earned by strictly following correct worship forms.

In Judaistic legalism, salvation was based on strict obedience to all the Judaic laws. God’s favor, they believed, could only be obtained by human works of righteousness. IOW, the forms of religion were more important than faith and the fruit of the Spirit.

In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To those Jews who also claimed to be followers of Christ, obeying all the rules was paramount. Having the fruit of the Spirit present and manifested in one’s life was beside the point.

Also, some of these Colossian believers were teaching that Christ (as God) could not have come to earth as a true human being in bodily form because, they believed, that matter is evil. Based on that erroneous idea, they taught that God did not create the world because he would not have created evil. In their mistaken views, they saw Christ as just one of many intermediaries between God and the people.

Paul knew that these ideas of earning salvation by human efforts had to be stopped immediately. He lifted his pen—so to speak—and began drafting his letter.

The first thing Paul addressed was the true identity and nature of Jesus.

He wrote:

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

Colossians 1:15-20

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah made it abundantly clear that human (so-called) “good” works are worthless as credit for our moral fitness for heaven. He writes, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

Now notice the context of Paul’s statement in Colossians about what was nailed to the cross:

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

So, here’s a quick “Q & A”:

  • Q: What was nailed to the cross?
  • A: The “handwriting of requirements that was against us.”
  • Q: What is this “handwriting?”
  • A: The documentation of our “trespasses,” i.e. the record of our sins!

Let’s remember that both Colossae and Jerusalem were cities in the Roman Empire. The laws of the Empire governed all society throughout the entire territory. The courts were conducted according to Roman law. We get a glimpse of that in the gospel story of Jesus’s trial, conviction, and crucifixion.

With this in mind, it is helpful to know the practices and processes of Roman jurisprudence in the trial of an accused criminal.

Paul wrote his letter in koine Greek, of course—the common language of the entire territory previously occupied by the Grecian Empire. The Greek word for “document” is “dogmasin,” which is rendered in the New Living Translation as “the record of charges against us.”

In the Roman court system, when a person was charged and convicted of an offense, a “dogmasin” was prepared to document the outcome, including the verdict and the sentence for punishment.

This “dogmasin”—a legal document—contained four pieces of information:

  1. The criminal’s name
  2. The offense
  3. The punishment
  4. The name of the presiding judge

At the end of the trial, the judge would sign his name to the “dogmasin,” then give it to the court guards. The guards escorted the prisoner—now a convicted criminal—to the public square, where the “dogmasin” was nailed to a designated post. The prisoner was tied to the post for punishment—e.g. “forty lashes”—as specified in the “dogmasin.”

The message Paul writes to the Colossian believers saying we were [as good as] “dead in our trespasses” i.e. “sins,” is that both figurative and literally Christ took our “dogmasin” away from our post of punishment and nailed it TO HIS OWN CROSS. Christ “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us . . . having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14).

Paul then summarizes his teaching with this admonition:

“So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or [ceremonial] sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”

Colossians 2:16-17

Note: There is no substance in a shadow. Eternal life is in Christ, NOT in the FORM or PRACTICE of religion.

Now, before I leave this subject I want to steer your thoughts to the biblical prophetic symbol for compromise, exalted human accomplishments, and outright rebellion against God’s rule of light, love, mercy, and grace. That symbol is the antithesis of godliness. It is embodied in “Babylon the Great”—the powerful harlot of Revelation—who has seduced every nation, indeed every descendant of Adam and Eve since the beginning of sin’s presence on Earth.

We start with the message of the Second Angel in Revelation 14.

“Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

Revelation 14:8

For context, let me note that this message follows directly after the First Angel—who has “the everlasting gospel,” and proclaims a clarion call to worship the Creator of everything.

Babylonianism compromises and corrupts that principle of true godliness. Human achievements are mixed in with gospel grace to somehow supplement our qualifications for salvation. But the Scriptures are abundantly clear: Sinners are saved by grace alone through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary’s cross.

Period. Full stop. End of story.

The Second Angel announces, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen,” repeating the expression twice.

In the Old Testament we find two incidents of Babylon’s destruction—both times by God’s intervention.

The first was at the Tower of Babel. You can find that story in Genesis 10, where post-Flood people attempted to “build a tower” on the Plain of Shinar to “make a name for themselves,” and to reach heaven using their own skills, and resources.

Then, centuries later under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Neo-Babylonian Empire flourished and grew to immense size. The capitol city—Babylon, with its incredible hanging gardens—was even listed as one of the ancient “Seven Wonders of the World.” Don’t miss the fact that both the city and the empire were built on Babylonianism—glorifying human pride and accomplishment.

When we examine foundations of Mystic Babylon, “Babylon the Great” in Revelation, we discover that same mixture in the realm of the spirit. She—Babylon the Great—inspires human beings to think they can, or must, contribute something in order to be saved for heaven.

But, listen again to Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:8.

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Colossians 2:8

Then notice that only a few verses later where Paul refers to the “handwriting of requirements that was against us.” He says that Christ “has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (v.14).

I’ll conclude with what I said earlier. Eternal life is in Christ, not in the form or practice of religion, nor in any action, obedience, or our feeble attempts at law-keeping.

The FRUIT of righteousness is produced by the NATURE of each person re-created into the image of Christ. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus has claimed our incriminating “dogmasin” as his own, removing the entire record of our sinfulness—along with the guilt it carries—and “in his own body” nailed it to his cross.

And, we are free!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’m going to share about another author I have enjoyed recently. Eric Metaxas has written several large biographies of historic influential people, plus other smaller books, articles, and stories. If you are not already acquainted with his writing, I think you will enjoy learning about his life and ministry.

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!

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 29 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “The Kingdom of God.”

Today’s episode is Part VI of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”

Last week I built on the central theme of our last few episodes:

“The purpose of a temple is to glorify the deity that dwells within.”

Our bodies, Paul says, become a temple for God’s residence through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the core concepts of his writing all through the New Testament. As a “temple” for God’s Spirit, we must choose—as Paul instructs—to “present our body as a living sacrifice,” and to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (See Romans 12:1-2)

In his second general letter to all believers, the Apostle Peter underscores what Paul has said, then ends his epistle with these words:

“[Keep on] grow[ing] in grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

2 Peter 3:18 NIV

Today we’ll explore some thoughts about growing in grace and what it means to be citizens of God’s holy people—a spiritual nation governed by the law of agápe love.

To listen to the audio podcast, click HERE.

As citizens of God’s Kingdom—transformed into the likeness of Christ—we move from being “shame-based” to “grace-based.”

Let’s look at that idea for a bit.

In Romans thus far, we’ve seen that all human beings are sinners by nature—Adam’s fallen nature—but all are also justified by God’s forgiveness and grace expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul clearly teaches here in Romans that “the just shall live by faith,” and that “nothing can separate us from God’s love.” To enter into this saving, life-giving relationship with the Source of life and love, we willingly present our bodies and minds for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In our person, then, we serve as living temples for the glory of God—our Creator and King. With God’s residence in our heart as his temple, we continuously grow in grace, gaining victory power to overcome evil with good. Our spiritual base is changed from shame to grace.

We had no control or choice about our physical birth. We were all born into Adam’s flesh.

Pause for a moment and look at your hands. Consider their appearance and how they feel as you put them together. Then, realize that this flesh is Adam’s flesh. If we believe the biblical story of Creation—which I do—then we understand that through the miracles of procreation, generation after generation, Adam’s flesh—his nature—has been passed down across all the centuries to us.

Jesus told Nicodemus,

“I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 3:5-8 NLT

When we are “born again” of the Spirit, we move from shame-based life to grace-based life. Since agápe love and grace are the hallmarks of God’s Kingdom—along with perfect justice—the entire orientation of living changes. Our very nature is changed by the Resident God!

Paul writes,

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve God with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.”

Romans 14:17-18 NLT

And from the Gospel of Luke:

“When [Jesus] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Luke 17:20-21

From these verses we catch a hint that the Kingdom of God is entirely different than the kingdoms and governments of the world. Every worldly government from time immemorial has been about dominance, protectionism, human achievement, and economic prosperity gained at the expense of the weak.

In direct opposition to the nature and goals of the the world stands the Kingdom of God—a nation of priests, a kingdom of love and service, and a foundational philosophy of sacrificial giving.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is recorded as teaching,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

At the end of this passage, Jesus summarizes the lesson, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Let’s go back for a moment to Paul’s statement I referenced a bit ago, found in Romans 14:17-18.

Paul describes the essence of God’s kingdom as being “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” He continues, declaring that a person who serves Christ in this way is “acceptable to God and approved by men.”

Paul then follows with this admonition: “Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
He continues in this vein through the concluding chapters of the book. Here are several examples:

Romans 15:5-6 — “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:13, 33 — “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. . . . Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

And as a final benediction:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

All this that we see in Romans is echoed in the writings of all the other New Testament writers. In the series, I’ve already referenced Peter, for example. Another is the Apostle John.

In his advanced years, John lived in Ephesus, the coastal town on the shores of the Aegean Sea in what is now modern-day Turkey. Around AD 85-90, John probably would have been very close to 80 years old then. In his elder years he was held in great esteem by all the Christian believers. He was, after all, probably the only living survivor of the 12 original disciples of Jesus. A full generation of new people had joined the church by then.

Many errant ideas had begun floating around among the body of believers, including speculative falsehoods about the nature of Jesus. Some said he was God, but not really a human being like everyone else. Others said he was just a man whose followers had elevated to the status of deity.

To counteract these heresies, John prepared a letter to send to all the churches. We have that letter preserved in our New Testament as “1 John.” It was followed later with a second, then a third letter from the ancient disciple.

(BTW, all three letters were written before John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the vision of the Revelation.)

In 1 John, the author asserts his authority as an eye-witness to testify about Jesus, whom he personally knew, followed as a disciple, saw die on the cross of Calvary, and ate fish with him even after the resurrection. John’s message established that the kingdom of God was unlike any other kingdom on earth. Instead of being a kingdom of power and force, John described God’s kingdom being founded on light, love, and life.

In chapter 1, verse 7 he writes, “If we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

In chapter 4, verse 16, he says, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

And, in chapter 5, verses 11-12, we read, “This is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s son does not have life.”

The Holy Spirit invites us today to take our place as citizens of the heavenly kingdom. If we are followers/disciples of Christ, then our very life must be a testimony of his character—governed by the eternal principles of light, love, and life. The lesson couldn’t be any more clear: from the perspective of eternity, affairs of this life which sometimes threaten to overwhelm us, are, in fact, pretty unimportant. Instead of becoming embroiled in the controversies swirling around us on every side, God offers his “peace that passes all understanding.”

Trusting fully in God’s salvation, the new creation of our lives, agápe love, and his amazing grace, let us stand tall as witnesses for him, living sober, righteous, and godly lives for his honor and glory. Let us live in such a way that we really do glorify the deity that dwells within our body temple!


Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed. I especially hope you have been blessed, encouraged, and perhaps even inspired by the thoughts I’ve shared on this little series of studies in the Book of Romans. I would really encourage you to find a New Living Translation of the New Testament and spend some serious study time going verse-by-verse through this letter from the Apostle Paul. It is his most important theological treatise, and is essentially the central core of New Testament doctrines. I guarantee your faith will grow as you prayerfully consider the truths contained in this book.

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’m going to take a look at the question “What was Nailed to the Cross?”

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 28 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Living Sacrifices.”

Today’s episode is Part V of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”

Last week I shared the concept of the “Resident God” moving from the Wilderness Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple to the re-built “Second” Temple to the Word in human flesh to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer. This provided the groundwork for understanding Paul’s teaching that followers of Jesus must live for his glory.

Today, we’ll move into the next few chapters where Paul talks about presenting our bodies as “living sacrifices” to God—which he says is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV).

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at

But, as we begin, let’s glance back at the road we’ve traveled since the beginning of this series

  • Man is a sinner, saved by grace.
  • The just shall live by faith.
  • There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
  • If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Here is our base text for this study:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

You might want to open your Bible to that passage as we continue. Also, as we work our way through this study, keep in mind the theme we are following that . . . .

“The purpose of a temple is to glorify the deity that dwells within.”

So, Paul’s appeal to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God” is directly related to the Holy Spirit dwelling within our spiritual heart. God—in the person of the Holy Spirit—lives in YOU, the temple of His presence in the world today. You are the carrier of divine love into the streets of chaos, confusion, conflict, and crying needs. To that end you are His ambassador to those who do not yet understand the Kingdom of grace. You reveal God to the world through your life and conduct. As someone once said, “You may be the only Jesus someone ever sees.”

The second item in Paul’s appeal is for believers to “not be conformed to this world,” but to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2).

Again, what is the purpose this counsel? Paul is clear: “That you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In other words, in order to rightly represent God (the Deity who dwells within our body temple) and His Kingdom, we need to experience an ongoing renewal of not only bodies, but also our mental abilities and our knowledge of His truth.

I’ll talk more about that in just a moment. Before we go there, however, we need to explore what Paul means when he says we need to be “transformed.”

To be “transformed” means we are changed from something we were previously into something new.

In electricity, for example, a transformer changes the voltage between an incoming circuit and an outgoing circuit. The power in lines servicing an entire region or community is far too strong for individual homes, or even industrial facilities. To be safe and useful it has to be reduced—changed—“transformed” into a lower energy level. At the appropriate strength for the local application the power can then be used as needed.

Paul says we must not be “conformed” to this world, but be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds.

To be “con-formed” to the world means we take on the ideas, attitudes, philosophies, and practices of social standards which often do not honor God.

Basically, what we could say is that conforming to the world is just doing what comes “naturally.” We are all born into Adam’s flesh. By nature we have a predisposition to self-centeredness—an orientation towards sinful thinking and sinful living.

But, when Christ comes into our lives—by our invitation and freewill choice—we become transformed over time more and more into the spiritual image of Jesus. Paul writes, We . . . are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

As we are transformed we become conformed to the be like Jesus. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be *conformed to the likeness of his Son*” (Romans 8:29).

The transformation of our character entails two parts—God’s part, and our part.

God’s part is His provision for salvation and redemption—the gift of eternal life—to every son and daughter of Adam.

Our part is (a) to believe His promise, (b) accept His gift, and (c) act on our belief in faith.

That is the beginning. Following our conversion we enter a life-long journey of growing in God’s grace through the renewal of our minds. To that end we need to study, learn, and expand our knowledge of God and His Kingdom of love and grace.

Here are some practical admonishments from Paul to the Roman believers to help them in their daily journey of growing in grace (See Romans 12:9-21):

  1. Really love others – don’t just pretend to love them.
  2. Hate what is wrong.
  3. Hold tightly to what is good.
  4. Love each other with genuine affection.
  5. Take delight in honoring each other.
  6. Don’t be lazy.
  7. Work hard.
  8. Serve the Lord enthusiastically.
  9. Rejoice in hope.
  10. Be patient in trouble.
  11. Keep on praying
  12. Be eager to practice hospitality
  13. Bless those who persecute you.
  14. Pray that God will bless your persecutors.
  15. Rejoice with those who rejoice.
  16. Weep with those who weep.
  17. Live in harmony with each other.
  18. Enjoy the company of ordinary people
  19. Never pay back evil for evil.
  20. Act honorably in everything you do or say.
  21. Live in peace with everyone as much as possible.
  22. Never take revenge.
  23. Feed your enemies if they are hungry.
  24. Give your enemies something to drink if they are thirsty.
  25. Don’t let evil conquer you.
  26. Conquer evil by doing good.

WOW! What an incredible list is that! At least 26 commands from Paul in 13 verses—I may possibly have missed a couple, too!

What we see here is Paul teaching the Roman believers—and us—how we need to conduct our lives so that the Deity who dwells within our body temple will be glorified!

I can’t help but think of the many, many stories of individuals through the centuries whose lives testify of God’s transforming power. Not only people whose lives are mentioned or detailed in the Bible, but also countless saints from the time of Christ until now.

In the New Testament story, Paul himself was changed from persecuting, self-righteous Pharisee to an ambassador of grace and God’s agápe love.

Peter was changed from the impetuous, rough fisherman to a powerful preacher of hope, and a humble counselor of faithful courage.

James and John were changed from “sons of thunder” to peaceful advocates for truth in loving relationships.

There are dozens of others, of course whose stories could be cited. In addition, over the course of 20 centuries since the time of Jesus, literally millions of lives around the world have been changed—transformed—by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

And, by the grace of God, I also can add my name to that list.

In my younger years my life was a stream of continuous hypocrisy. In Revelation 3:9 Jesus has a scathing rebuke for those who make a profession of being something they are not. That was me. I look back on those years now in shame. How grateful I am for the love, acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness of God!

God described Himself to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin” (Exodus 34:6).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence, we can move from shame-based living to grace-based living. In our body-temple, as priests of the new covenant, we can represent man to God through intercessory prayer, and we can represent God to man by living godly lives for His glory, and by serving the needs of others in the Name of Jesus.

And, that’s really no sacrifice at all.


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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part VI—the concluding episode—of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “The Kingdom of God.” In that study we’ll explore Paul’s teaching in Romans 14-16 as he finishes writing to the church in the heart of the empire.

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 27 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Romans, Part IV: Living for Jesus.”

Today’s episode is Part IV of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”

Last week we explored the Apostle Paul’s teaching on God as the Master Bridge-builder, spanning the gap between fallen man and himself. We also saw how we as believers are also called to build bridges of healthy relationships with others so we can bring unsaved people to Jesus.

Today, we’ll move into the next few chapters where Paul talks about living the Christian life as witnesses to the grace of God.

Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast at

In summary for our series to this point, here are a few notes:

All human beings are sinners—but are fully justified by God’s amazing grace.

Justification (i.e. “righteousness) is accounted to all who believe and receive God’s gift of new life in Christ.

Love builds bridges. Jesus is our “bridge” to God the Father. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God [the Father] made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

By accepting God’s gift of righteousness by faith, we are “born again” into God’s family. We become citizens of His heavenly Kingdom, and are commissioned as ambassadors for His Kingdom of love and grace.

With those basic truths in mind, let’s dive a little deeper into how all this works. To fulfill our incredible role as ambassadors—God’s witnesses—we must draw wisdom, power, and courage from His abiding presence in our very lives, empowering us to serve and accomplish His the purposes He ordains.

The Resident God

Consider the idea of a “Resident God.”

In the drama of the biblical Exodus, as God meets with Moses on Mt. Sinai, the Lord tells him, “Let them (the Israelites) make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

“Jeba Musa”
The Traditional Mt. Sinai
The Wilderness Tabernacle

Let’s stop for a moment and think about the enormity of that instruction. Here we have YHWH, the Great God of all Creation, instructing human beings to prepare a tent home for Him because He wants to live next door! Incredible! The Maker and Ruler of the entire Universe says He wants to camp right in the middle of all the tents in the Israelite campsite! He gives specific instructions for materials to be used, dimensions, visiting hours, and priestly responsibilities. There are specific—and rigid—requirements for the neighborhood like cleanliness, order, etc., but the message is clear: God wants to be near His chosen people, and the best way to do that in this moment is live in a tent with them in their city of tents.

Fast-forward a few hundred years. The wilderness tabernacle still serves as the meeting place between God and Israel. But, as with all material things, the 400-year-old tent is looking pretty tattered, simply because it’s been around for a long, long time.

King David gets an idea: Build a permanent temple as God’s house! Of course, as we read Old Testament history, we know that it was David’s son, King Solomon, who was able to fulfill his father’s dream. The scenes describing the dedication of “Solomon’s Temple” in 1 Kings 8 tell of God’s entrance into the holy place:

“And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.”

1 Kings 8:10-11

Now, instead of a tent-home the Lord has a permanent “house” in which to live among His people.

An Artist’s Rendition of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem

Sadly, over the next few centuries the people fell into apostasy, and YHWH abandoned the Jerusalem temple. He allowed the pagan Babylonians to attack and destroy the city—including the temple—and remove most of the population away from their “promised land.”

In God’s providence, however, Jerusalem was rebuilt, and another temple constructed. And, once again the “resident God” graciously recognized the heart’s desire of those who built it out of their love, dedication, and sacrifice. It wasn’t as ornate or physically more glorious than Solomon’s temple, but God promised this second temple would be more blessed than the first.

That promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus who walked in this temple and ministered in its precincts. But, in fact, as we look at Jesus we discover that God is moving ever closer to us.

John writes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, the Word—the Second Person of the Godhead—in human flesh. Now, instead of merely living in a tent next door, or in a temple built with hands, the I AM has moved into Adam’s flesh and blood. He has become one of us, not just a divine neighbor, but an actual member of our race!

But wait! There’s more!

In Romans 8:9 Paul indicates that the Spirit of God “dwells in you.” The “resident God” takes up residence—by the presence of the Holy Spirit—in the heart of every believer!

When writing to the Colossian church, Paul also speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Thus, we can witness the progression of God’s “residence” with Adam’s race—from the wilderness tabernacle, to the temples in Jerusalem, to the person of Jesus present among us, to the Holy Spirit living and dwelling in the heart of every believer.

Because of this, Paul accurately describes our bodies as temples.

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The Purpose of a Temple

From this teaching by Paul, we can understand a rather obvious truth:

The Purpose of a Temple
is to
Glorify the Deity
that dwells within

Peter elaborates on this metaphor in his first epistle: “You . . . as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

I really like the way this verse is rendered in the New Living Translation: “You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT).

The “spiritual sacrifices” Peter is talking about is the testimony/record of our life as followers of Jesus.

Back to Romans, Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

Let’s break down what Paul means.

The just shall live by faith.”

Who are “the just?” They are all who believe and receive God’s promise.

“The just shall live by faith.”

Paul’s message here is that believers will live pro-actively engaged with the world around them vs. reactively. They will touch the lives of others with God’s love whenever possible instead of allowing “the world” to control their thoughts, words, or actions.

“The just shall live by faith.

Faith is an integral part of life. You cannot NOT have faith. Where you place your faith determines your life.

Let’s talk some more about living for Jesus by faith. Paul has a lot to say about this in chapters 6-8.

(6:8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

(6:13-14) Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God, for sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

(8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

(8:11) If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

(8:31) If God is for us, who can be against us?

(8:38) I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The words of an old hymn seem to fit perfectly as we bring today’s episode to a close.

Living for Jesus
Thomas O. Chisolm (1917)

Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do,
Yielding allegiance glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me!

O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to Thee,
For Thou in Thine atonement,
Didst give Thyself for me.
I own no other master,
My heart shall be Thy throne!
My life I give henceforth to live
O Christ, for Thee alone.

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

I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part V of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “Living Sacrifices.” In that study we’ll explore Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:1 where he writes, “I beseech you therefore brethern, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

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.