GoodlifeNews!

Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 11 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “A Pocketful of Paradox.” Click HERE to listen to the audio version.

The Bible is the most-read book in the history of humanity. Even today, the Bible outsells every other book many times over, to the extent that it is never included on any list of bestsellers (e.g. New York Times). If it were included, it would always, without exception, top every list everywhere. Everyone in the industry already knows that, so it isn’t considered “news.”

What drives this phenomenon? For certain, there are many factors at work here, but not one of them can provide a complete answer alone. However, neither the number of Bibles sold, nor the reasons behind the number, are the most important thing for our consideration today.

Can we trust the Bible? Are there irreconcilable inconsistencies in it? If there are inconsistencies, how important are they? How much weight should they carry to influence our understanding one way or another?

Let’s briefly explore a few of these questions today.


First, as we get started, let’s note that there are many “paradoxes” we can find throughout the pages of the Bible.

(A dictionary definition of “paradox” is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.”)

Here’s a great line from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, an example of a paradox:

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa

A contradiction, on the other hand, consists of two statements, or assertions, which purport to define the same thing, but are, in fact, diametrically opposed to each other.

For instance, if I say, “The sky is always blue,” but someone counters by saying, “No, the sky is always red,” those two statements contradict each other. If the other person and I become defensive, digging in and insisting that “I’m right, and you’re wrong!” a massive argument could blow up in our faces and do serious, perhaps irretrievable damage to our relationship.

An objective, cool-headed third party, however, looks at that silly exchange and knows instantly that neither is 100% correct. The sky is normally blue, but there are times when the sunlight, clouds, and other factors cause the sky to appear flaming red.


Many times, critics who reject the Bible do so on the basis of what appears to them as irreconcilable contradictions and inconsistencies, but which, if understood correctly, are perfectly harmonious.

Here are a couple of examples:

The Bible pictures God both as (1) thundering from Sinai, and (2) being born as a helpless human child of poverty.

The gospel story about Jesus reports him (1) planning to meet with his disciples after the resurrection, and (2) crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

While on the surface these may appear as contradictory, a student of Scripture knows that, in fact, both statements in both examples are true.

Sometimes, what is cited as a glaring inconsistency is simply a matter of education. A few months ago I read an anti-Bible article which cited an event which in one passage was said to take place at Mt. Sinai, while another Bible writer in another book said the same event happened at Mt. Horeb. The author of the article presented this as evidence that the Bible story was unreliable and couldn’t be “inspired.” It was obviously just a made-up folk-tale that changed from telling to telling.

What the person apparently didn’t know is that “Sinai” and “Horeb” are simply different names for the same mountain. There’s no contradiction at all.


Scripture does, however, contain some very legitimate paradoxes. Here are a few examples.

  1. Strength from Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT) — I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from being proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2. Finding Rest by Taking a Yoke

Matthew 11:28-30 — Jesus said, “Come unto me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

3. Becoming Great Through Servanthood and Slavery

Matthew 20:26-28 — Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

4. Finding Life by Losing It

Matthew 10:39 — If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

5. Victory Through Death

Philippians 2:8 — [Jesus] humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.


It’s obvious from these examples that, yes, the Bible does have some contradictions, and paradoxes. Certainly, many more can be found beyond these few I have cited. However, the more serious concern lurking behind the question of contradictions and paradoxes is What, or Who embodies reliable source(s) for ultimate moral authority. Where can we find the bedrock standards for human behavior? Is there any anchor available, or must we drift through life like a ship without anchor, sail, or rudder?

These are serious questions deserving serious answers.

In today’s world, codes of personal conduct often boil down to every individual deciding “what’s right for me.” Feelings and emotions become the governing factors of how people relate to one another. Hasty political policies spring up from the soil of unrest, riots, and anger, producing an “emotionocracy” subject only to the whims of an aroused public. The “rule of law” idea becomes a hopeless artifact from past generations. The French Revolution in 1789-1799 shows the terrible results of discarding all authority in favor of personal, unanchored “do whatever feels right, right now” ideas.

Every culture, every society throughout history has always had standards of “right and wrong.” The moral codes of conduct varied somewhat from culture to culture, but they were always there, nonetheless. In each culture, these codes provided the secure moral environment needed for both individuals and the wider community to survive and thrive.

Under the influence of the ancient Hebrews, and then Christians, a body of literature evolved—through a period of 1500+ years—providing the solid foundation we humans need for living moral, productive, and fulfilled lives. The Ten Commandments found in the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—set the gold standard for relating to both God and fellow human beings.

For over a millennium and a half, prophets, patriarchs, kings, and commoners composed stories, poetry, drama, history, and more, documenting the arc of God’s dealing with sinful people, from the beginning of creation to re-creation and restoration of a new heavens and a new earth filled with righteousness. Forty authors representing widely varying times, cultures, social strata, and even languages, all wrote amazingly cohesive messages with one overriding mega-theme: God’s love for humanity.

With that great length of time, and that body of authors—most of whom were completely disconnected from all the others—it is not surprising to find a few apparent “contradictions” or “paradoxes” cropping up in the overall text. Yet, when examined closely, those differences become insignificant when placed within the time and place of writing, the intended audience, social conditions, etc. The entire Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, provides a cohesive standard for the best way to live.


In fact, we can say with full assurance, that even though there are paradoxes and passages that may seem to be contradictions, not one of these—even if they could prove to be true—carries enough weight to invalidate the message of the Bible:

To tell the story of God’s unconditional, unending love for mankind—from the original story of Creation, through the temptation and Fall in Eden, through the centuries of humanity’s wanderings, wars, and lustful living—all the way through the crisis at Calvary where Jesus, the Son of God, won the moral victory for all of Adam’s race, and on to the very end of sin and rebellion in the promised Earth Made New.

For anyone and everyone who is willing, there is more than ample evidence that we can trust the Bible. If you, or anyone else you know, might have serious questions about this, I highly recommend the ministry of Lee Strobel, specifically his first book, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Zondervan, 1998; Updated and expanded edition, 2016). (Click on the picture for a link to the book on amazon.com.)

There is also a great movie telling the story of Lee Strobel’s journey of faith from atheism to belief, also under the title “The Case for Christ.” You can find this movie to watch, rent, or purchase on YouTube.com. If you are reading this on the GoodlifeNews.life blog post of this episode, you can click on the YouTube link for a direct connection. If you are listening to the podcast, I highly recommend that you open YouTube.com in your Internet browser, then do a search for Lee Strobel — L-e-e-S-t-r-o-b-e-l–or do the search for his books on amazon.

I am confident you will be blessed and inspired by his story, AND in the assurance that our Holy Bible is absolutely authentic in telling the story of God’s love and the redemption of human beings.


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 be sharing some thoughts about security in times of chaos under the title, “Five Things that Never Change.”

Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!

God bless.

Author Jan Karon
Photo: http://www.charlotteobserver.com

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 10 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Jan Karon: Beloved Creator of ‘Mitford, North Carolina.’” Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast.

Also, to access more information about Jan Karon or any of her books, simply click on any picture in this post.

In the schedule for GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog, I’ve designated the first episode of each month to feature a favorite author and/or book that I have found uplifting, entertaining, and inspiring.

Reading has always been a huge part of my life since before I started formal schooling as a child. I have literally read hundreds—if not thousands—of books over my lifetime. Not a few have had a profound influence in my life–how I think, broadening my horizons, giving me new perspectives, and teaching powerful principles for living.

I’m anxious to share some of those books, as well as favorite authors, with our GoodlifeNews! Podcast Villagers! So, as we move along from week to week, each month I’ll choose another author or book to highlight and share with you.

I hope you will be inspired to pick up a book and read it for yourself. It doesn’t have to be one I talk about, but reading itself is so important I want to do whatever I can to encourage everyone to make a regular habit of reading great books.


Today I want to tell you about Jan Karon, one of the most prolific writers of Christian fiction of the last 30 years.

Jan’s story is a beautiful example of what God can do with a redeemed life. She is beloved by millions of fans all over the world. Her writing is certainly her own style—simple, direct, engaging, at times hilarious, and other times emotional and profound. But underneath it all there runs a vein of authenticity rarely seen in any but the best of the best. Her characters come to life on the printed page. The reader can’t help but love them.

One of the reasons Jan’s writing carries so much compelling power is that she draws from her own deep well of raw experience. Many of her characters struggle with constant challenges just trying to make sense of their world. The author knows their struggle. She’s been through a lot of that herself.

Jan Karon writes of life in small-town, USA. Her fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina is patterned roughly on the village of Blowing Rock, NC where she lived for many of her “writing years.” The characters populating her Mitford stories could have stepped directly out of real life into her novels. They are each painted with painstaking brush strokes in wonderful word pictures. Personalities, attitudes, values, relationships—all come to life for the reader as the pages turn.

As a little girl, Jan dreamed of becoming a writer and a pastor. One day at age six, she stood on the front porch of her grandmother’s porch and began preaching. Her ambitions were short-lived, however, when her grandmother interrupted her with a gruff, “Girls can’t be preachers!”

That was the end of her preaching career. But, she still dreamed of writing stories.


When she was 10 she wrote her first novel. That one didn’t go very far, though. As soon as she finished it, she hid it under the vanity in her bedroom because she didn’t want anyone to discover that she had included a “bad” word! Nevertheless, her sister told their grandmother, who promptly gave young Jan a whipping for using that word.

I’m not sure if that experience carried over into later years and Jan’s writing content, but all of her stories, while staying true to life, are clean, uplifting, and wholesome. If you don’t like wading through a cesspool of sleaze, bad language, and gratuitous violence, you don’t need to worry about that with Jan Karon’s writing. Just enjoy the stories.

Her early years were pretty rough. Her parents divorced when she was 4 years old. She and her sister were sent to be raised by their maternal grandmother. Eight years later at age 12, Jan went to live with her mother and step-father in South Carolina. Two years after that, she dropped out of 9th grade and got married, which was legal in South Carolina at that time. When she was 15, she gave birth to her only child, a daughter she named Candace.

Sadly, that first marriage ended in divorce, and by the time Jan was 18 she was out on her own with a 3-year-old daughter. With only 8 years of formal education, the future looked pretty bleak for this young woman.

After searching for work, she got hired as a receptionist in an advertising agency in Charlotte. To pass the time when she wasn’t answering the phone, Jan began writing advertising copy to show her boss. He was impressed with her writing skills, and put her to work as a writer for the agency.

Over the next decade and a half, Jan worked for several different advertising companies, winning major awards in the industry. But, despite her great success in the field, it all felt empty. Through three marriages and three divorces, life seemed to her like a hollow shell void of any meaning or significance.

One night when she was 42, feeling at the very end of her desperation, she lay on her bed and asked Jesus Christ to come into her life. That was the turning point that started her on a completely new path.

Eventually, 8 years later, at age 50, Jan quit her job in advertising and took a leap of faith to fulfill her childhood dream of writing novels. Now, 34 years later, she has written an astounding 30 books! I personally own copies of about half of them.


Jan’s first book that became an instant blockbuster on the New York Times list of best selling books was At Home in Mitford, published in 1994 in the hardback edition, with the paperback version arriving in 1996.

For several years after she left the advertising industry, Jan struggled with various with attempts to make a go of her writing career. One evening, as she closed her eyes to go to sleep, she saw in her mind the picture of an Episcopal priest walking down a small-town street. In that moment she knew she had found the answer.

Father Tim Kavanaugh becomes the central figure for the entire Mitford series. “Father Tim,” as he is known to everyone in town, is a beloved pastor to his flock, and is himself somewhat of an institution in the territory around Mitford as well as in the village itself.


Here’s the description of the story on the back cover of the paperback book:

“Enter the world of Mitford, and you won’t want to leave.

“It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable.

“Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won’t go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge.

Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mysterious jewel thief, and a secret that’s sixty years old.

“Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich, provincial comedy in which mysteries and miracles abound.”

Publishers Weekly adds, “For readers yearning for a cozy, neighborly read, the town created by Karon’s fine descriptive style has much to recommend it.”

And, of course, I wouldn’t be telling you about this author and her outstanding body of work if I didn’t find it of great value for our GoodlifeNews! Podcast listeners and readers. Subsequent volumes in the Mitford series, and additional books by Jan, provide an incredible treasure chest filled with examples of healthy relationships, working out problems, learning to forgive, learning to celebrate victories, discovering one’s own emotional and spiritual needs, and growing in grace.


I was first introduced to Jan Karon’s “Mitford” books by my sister Beulah Fern. Her husband, Jim had passed away a few years earlier.

Jim graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in theology many years before he and Beulah Fern met. However, he had never married—and because he didn’t have a wife he never received a call to pastoral ministry—that was the rule in our denomination back in those days. As a result, he spent most of his working years teaching high-school shop classes in the public school system.

However, he never lost his heart for ministry, and after his retirement, he and Beulah Fern moved from Southern California to Irrigon, Oregon—a tiny community on the banks of the Columbia River in Morrow County. There they served a small congregation as the pastoral couple for about three years. Jim and Beulah Fern were much loved by the members of their church, and even today they are remembered with great fondness.

When Beulah Fern handed me a copy of At Home in Mitford, she said, “This is such a wonderful story. The main character, Father Tim, reminds me so much of Jim!”

After becoming acquainted with Father Tim in Jan Karon’s story, I couldn’t agree more. It was a fun read. But, more than that, the solidly serious foundation of faith and hope that is the heart of Christian life permeates every anecdote, setting, and dialog conversation. That was very true in my brother-in-law Jim’s life. He loved life, had a great sense of humor, and even had a huge dog! The parallels we saw in Father Tim’s life in Mitford with our real-life, much loved family member were uncanny. And, they made us love the Mitford stories all the more.

At Home in Mitford was followed by a seemingly unending parade of Mitford books. Jan Karon’s millions of fans couldn’t get enough, and anxiously waited the 18-24 months for the next book in the series. I even found myself checking the location of her books at Barnes & Noble whenever we stopped there, just to see if a new book was out yet. I had to learn patience like all her other fans, of course.

One year, I was delighted to discover The Mitford Bedside Companion: A Treasury of Favorite Mitford Moments. I immediately knew this was the perfect Christmas gift for both my sisters who loved the Mitford stories. When they removed the wrapping paper their eyes brightened with delight. It’s always nice to give a gift that will be a blessing to the receiver!

I’m sure you have the idea by now that I’m a fan. But, more important than that, I am a firm believer in this biblical principle for living an abundant life in Christ. King Solomon—the “wise man” of the Bible—advised his son:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Proverbs 4:23

What you choose to put into your mind—regardless of how large or small that input might be—will inevitably bear fruit. Choosing the good will empower you to live a productive, God-honoring life that will be a powerful witness for Jesus in your circles of influence.

Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart . . . . What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT).

And, let’s finish today with this from the Apostle Paul: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

A great book with a well-crafted, well-told story can help you do that.

I heartily endorse Jan Karon’s works to that end.


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 be sharing some thoughts about the purpose and power of the Bible, which I’ve entitled, “A Pocketful of Paradox.”

Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!

God bless.

 

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode Nine of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Personal Practices of Prayer.”

This is a follow-up to the two-part series focusing on the meaning of several key expressions in The Lord’s Prayer—the prayer Jesus taught his disciples—which were the focus for our time together last week and the week before.

A Little Background

The bulk of this chapter is taken from a book I wrote and published in 1977. Thirteen Weeks tor Riches: (Which Could Be Glory) was my first attempt at writing and self-publishing a book. The last chapter in Thirteen Weeks was titled “Daily Growth.” I have adapted and updated some of the content for My Seven Essential Daily Prayers

(As an aside, here are the seven prayers I write about in the book:

  • Purity in My Mind
  • Righteousness in My Heart
  • Integrity in My Life
  • Joy in My Spirit
  • Strength for My Body
  • Wisdom for My Counsel
  • To Be a Godly Influence in the World

The eighth—and final—chapter in the book acts as a summary where I shared some thoughts about “What’s next? Where do I go from here?” The title/subtitle of the chapter is . . . “Building The Firewall: Establishing a Daily Habit of Essential Prayers.”

The following stories and thoughts are adapted from that chapter.


If you would like to have more information about the book, you can look it up on amazon.com or click on the picture above.)


During the early to mid-1970s my wife and I—together with our two young children—lived in Taiwan as missionaries. The first two years of our residence there were spent learning Mandarin Chinese. We were part of a small group of other young couples who had been asked by the denomination to prepare for ministry among the millions of Chinese people scattered throughout Asia, including—possibly—the Chinese mainland.

Taiwan provided a base for us to learn the language, become acquainted with—and adapted to—the Chinese culture.

Quite frankly, those early months spent in learning the language were often challenging, even discouraging. It seemed all of us desperately need a spiritual lift. Learning how to pray effectively seemed to hold the promise for answers to what we were feeling. We needed encouragement and inspiration.

Well, God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. Several of our fellow language students joined us in praying for God to send someone who could guide our understanding and practice of personal prayer.

Very soon, after we began sharing our need with each other and with God, we received notice that a well-known minister from America was scheduled to hold a prayer conference in Taipei! Praise the Lord! We were excited to know God was answering our need.


Pastor Glenn Coon

The speaker was a retired minister about seventy years old. He had more spark and energy than I’ve seen in many men much younger! His secret was a daily connection with God, giving him a divine enthusiasm for life.

Pastor Glenn Coon told of his experience when he left home to attend college. His father, a godly man, took him to the railroad station. Before they parted they had prayer together, then his father gave him this advice: Spend at least one hour every day with the Lord—no matter what.

When Glenn arrived at the college he got a job milking cows on the college farm. He had to leave for work at 4:00 a.m. A busy school program kept him quite busy with classes and study until quite late at night, so to get his “hour with the Lord” he had to get up at 3:00 a.m.! He did this faithfully every morning all during his college years.

At the prayer conference Pastor Coon told me, “I have continued the habit of spending an hour with God every morning. Not always at 3:00 a.m., but every morning before anything else has a chance to interrupt, my time with the Lord has always had the highest priority. It is this habit—more than anything else—that has energized my life and given me the strength I need every day.”


When I heard Pastor Coon give this testimony I was inspired to follow his example. I set my alarm clock for 6:00 a.m.—a half hour earlier than my normal wake-up time. The following morning I headed downstairs to my den. I was ready to begin this new adventure in prayer. I closed and locked the door behind me and sat down at my desk.

It was only then that I felt the enormity of my ignorance. I realized at that moment I had no idea how I could ever spend a full hour in communion with God.

I sat at my desk and bowed my head.

“Lord,” I prayed, “teach me what I should do here now. I admit, I don’t know what to do or what to say.”

As I prayed those words the thought flashed through my mind that part of prayer is Bible study—and good Christian reading material. So I decided to try dividing the hour into three 20-minute segments: the first twenty minutes for reading; the second period for Bible study; and the third for prayer.

Behind me on the wall was a whole library of books and other miscellaneous materials for reading. I selected a book I’d been wanting to read for some time, opened it, and began.

At the end of 20 minutes I put in a bookmark, and set the book in a special place on my desk and turned my attention to the Bible.

How to study it?

I had read the Bible through from cover to cover a couple of times already. I didn’t want to do the same thing over again. I wanted variety.

I couldn’t think of any special way to study the Bible that morning, so I decided I would read the New Testament in a modern translation. That would be a change. I picked out Today’s English Version. I’d been wanting to read it for a long time.

Now came the real trial. How could I spend an entire twenty minutes on my knees? Twenty minutes! That block of time seemed as formidable as a fortress. Previously, I had never been able to spend even five minutes in prayer without getting bored.

But now, here I was. The time had come.

I pushed my chair back and knelt before my desk.

Lord,” I prayed again, “I don’t know how to pray like this. Help me know—and help me to pray the way you want me to.”

I didn’t hear any trumpets or audible voices, but once again I heard in my spirit the same voice I had heard before in moments of spiritual awakening. I recognized his voice immediately. The Holy Spirit directed my thoughts to Jesus teaching his disciples to pray.

Still on my knees I reached over and got my Bible, and turned to the Lord’s Prayer.[ Matthew 6:9-13] As I studied this model prayer I saw that it was divided into three major parts:

  1. Praise
  2. Petition
  3. Honor

So, that’s my trouble! I thought. All I’ve ever done in prayer is make requests. What I need to do is begin and end my prayer with praise!

I closed my eyes again and started to praise the Lord.

But, the thought crossed my mind, What should I praise him for? What has he done for me?

You know, we usually do just that. Our center is not God, but ourselves! “What has he done for me?” is the question we’re always asking. It’s as self-centered as can be!


Suddenly it flashed into my mind that our praise of God—our worship of him—doesn’t depend on whether he has done anything for us or not. We should worship him and praise him because he is worthy of worship. He is worthy of praise!

After a few moments I remembered some requests I needed to present to the Lord. I spoke them aloud and then thanked him for answering these needs according to his wisdom and love. I ended my prayer time with another session of praise and worship.

I looked at my watch. My twenty minutes were just finishing. I hadn’t been bored at all!

But, before closing this story, I must sound one note of caution. If you are looking for a thrilling experience with God, you must not make the experience primary. You must make God himself the object of your adoration and praise. We must not worship the experience we seek. Instead we must worship our great Creator God. He—and he alone—is worthy of worship.


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 be sharing some thoughts more thoughts with you.

Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever!

God bless.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode Eight of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “The Lord’s Prayer, Part II.”
This is the second of a two-part series focusing on the meaning of several key expressions in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Click HERE for a link to the audio podcast.

Jesus teaching his disciples.

Introduction to the Episode

In Episode 7 last week, we considered four phrases Jesus used in his model prayer.

  1. “Our Father, which art in heaven” — Our Father God is worthy of our love, loyalty, devotion, and worship.
  2. “Hallowed be Thy Name” God’s Name is holy, and must be spoken only in context of reverence and respect.
  3. “Thy Kingdom Come” The Kingdom God is a kingdom of both Grace and Glory. The Kingdom of Grace begins in the here and now. The Kingdom of Glory will be established after the return of Jesus.
  4. “Thy Will be Done” God’s will is revealed in His Word—the Holy Bible.


Today, in Part II of our study, we will examine four more of those key phrases.

  1. “Our Daily bread”
  2. “Forgive Us as We Forgive Others”
  3. “Deliver Us from Evil”
  4. “The Kingdom, Power, and Glory”

It is interesting to note that The Lord’s Prayer has a specific structure that is helpful to understand. It is naturally divided into three sections:

  • Praise
  • Petition
  • Honor

The first three of the four phrases we are looking at today constitute the “Petition” portion of the prayer.

The fourth finishes the prayer with the highest expression of honor to God the Father to whom the prayer is directed.


“Our Daily Bread”

The “Petition” portion of this model prayer begins with “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I want to look at what in included in the “bread” Jesus says we should pray for, but first, let’s note that God the Father loves to hear our prayer requests—and loves to grant them!

Here are a couple texts to reinforce our understanding about that:

  • Philippians 4:6 — “Let your requests be made known to God.”
  • Matthew 7:11 — “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (NLT).

With those promises in mind, what is meant by “Our Daily Bread?”

It seems reasonable to believe that the “bread” Jesus is talking about includes anything related to our basic needs in life. Things like food, of course, but also shelter, clothing, etc. I believe it also includes the many blessings God has in store for us—and for others—such as the needs of family members, friends, even government officials, and church leaders.

In other words, Jesus teaches us that it’s okay to ask for and receive the answers to our everyday needs. Every day is a different day with different needs. Daily requests form daily relationships with the Father who loves us and truly wants to connect with us.


“Forgiveness as We Forgive Others”

Verse 12 of Matthew chapter 6 says, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (KJV).

I find it significant that this prayer is central to both the “Petition” section—and to the entire prayer itself.

The very idea—the core concept—of forgiveness is the heart of the gospel! It is the essence of the “everlasting gospel” shouted by the first angel of Revelation 14:6-7. Forgiveness is the single, most basic ingredient needed for healthy, life-giving relationships in this world. Forgiveness is the antidote to bitterness and anger.

I’m not sure who said it first, although I’ve used the statement many times:

“Bitterness is a poison you drink hoping your enemy will die.”

When someone wrongs us, it is our natural human nature to strike back. The only way we can “get even” is to hurt that person back with equal or more force than what we received. Does that bring healing to the relationship? No. Not at all. In fact, the most probable result will be a deepening of resentment, an intensifying of anger, and stronger fortification of entrenched alienation! When will enough be enough?

“Getting even” literally means “to justify.” A perfect example is on nearly every page of every book, article, or other printed material you can name. The vast majority of our reading matter, regardless of the medium, is “justified” on the left margin of the text. Many times, both margins are justified, e.g. most newspaper columns.
To be justified spiritually means that our spiritual record is brought into perfect alignment with God’s standard—the Ten Commandments.

The problem confronting us, however, is that because of sin we are out of alignment! We need to be restored to God’s standard: namely, sinlessness. And, we are totally helpless to get to that state on our own. No amount of strict, flawless obedience on our part now or in the future can erase our past record of sinfulness.

Our only hope is forgiveness. God’s forgiveness. God’s making us all over again into a new creation—perfect in Christ.

Here’s an incredible truth penned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Colosse:

“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 the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 NLT).

So then, we must forgive others, even as God has already forgiven us. If we harbor unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, or resentment against those who wronged us, we block the channel, so to speak, for receiving God’s gift of justification by his amazing grace. Thus, the admonition of Jesus in the model prayer, that we must forgive the sins which others have committed against us in order to open the doors to forgiveness—justification—from our Father God


Let’s go on now to the next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer:

“Deliver Us from Evil”

I really like the way several different translations present the message of this phrase.

The traditional King James Version, of course, says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The NKJV expands that to, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

And, one of the popular paraphrase editions of the Bible—The Message—says, “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

But, my most recent “favorite” Bible translation says, “Don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 NLT).

I presume that most listeners/readers of GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog have read, memorized, and repeated the Lord’s Prayer many times—probably even hundreds of times. All the phrases and expressions are so familiar that they are easily spoken from rote repetition without ever stopping to actually think about a deeper meaning.

And, that seems especially true with this one—“lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.” However, as we dig down into this teaching of Jesus, we discover some wonderful truths hidden just below the surface.

For instance . . .

What is the nature of “temptation?”

Have you ever been traveling and running late? You’re speeding along doing the best you can to make up for lost time. Then you see what looks like a great shortcut.

“Excellent!” you think. “This will save me a lot of miles!”

You wish!

What you thought was a shortcut turned out to be “the scenic route,” and you lost more precious minutes than if you had just stayed on the main road.
How many times I have been there and done that!

Simply put, a temptation is what appears to be a faster, easier way to reach your destination. Except, in reality, shortcuts rarely work out as expected. Especially in realms of the spirit.

Now, consider this: The very idea of “temptation” presumes a moral nature of human beings.

In the story of Genesis 3:6, Eve “saw” [understood] that the tree was good—for food, for beauty, for wisdom. All those things were good within themselves. The arch-deceiver knew that. He knew that the Creator God would provide all those good things to Adam and Eve. What he offered was a shortcut—an easier, quicker, more direct route—but to take this new, supposedly “better” way, they had to make the choice to trust him more than they trusted God.

Sadly, they yielded. They ate the forbidden fruit. Their moral integrity was shattered by their disobedience. And the world still reels in the consequences.

Temptations are a natural part of life for all free-moral agents. Temptations themselves are not sin. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Then, the next verse—Hebrews 4:16—encourages us by saying,

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

In next week’s episode, I will be sharing some thoughts about our personal practices—habits—of prayer. I believe God wants us to grow ever deeper in our prayer life as our spiritual journey advances. I pray that as I share some of my thoughts and experience, that it will bring encouragement to you to “come boldly to the throne of grace.”


“The Kingdom, Power, and Glory”

This last expression in The Lord’s Prayer completes the structural trio of Praise, Petition, and Honor.

Perhaps this would be a good place to note that this phrase is missing from the very earliest New Testament manuscripts. It was apparently added later as a “doxology” at the end of the prayer—maybe as early as the 2nd century AD. Some have suggested it may have been a musical ending to the prayer added by devout followers of Jesus.

Whatever the case, the thoughts expressed in this phrase are indeed a fitting example for how to finish our personal devotionals. I love the words, and, frankly, my heart soars when I direct them heavenward to my Father.

There’s a lot more that can—and should—be said here. But with limited space and time I’ll need to condense my thoughts as much as possible.

Let’s briefly take each of the three words in this doxology one-by-one.


“Kingdom”

In last week’s episode, we looked at several aspects of the “Kingdom of God.” We noted that there are two manifestations—the Kingdom of Grace, and the Kingdom of Glory.

Here, in this summary statement honoring God at the end of his model prayer, Jesus helps us stay in the right relationship with the Father. He is God. We are not. The Kingdom belongs to Him—not to us (although we have the supreme privilege of being part of His Kingdom—both the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of Glory).

Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (NKJV).


Which brings us to the next word,

“Power”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

And to the believers in Corinth he wrote,

“Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

Two words in Greek are both translated into English as “power.”

One type of power is authority. Jesus used this word when he told his disciples after the resurrection, “All power (authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18 KJV).

The other word “dunamis” means the power of moral or physical strength. That’s the word that is used in both of the texts above. It is the same word used in the doxology phrase at the end of The Lord’s Prayer.

To use this expression at the end of the prayer—or even at the end of our own, personal prayers following the model taught by Jesus—is to acknowledge that even whatever moral or physical strength we may believe to be our own, actually belongs to God the Father, who bestows it upon us as another gift of his grace.


“Glory”

And, of course, all the “glory” of the Universe belongs to the Great Creator God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 NKJV).

“It is God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV).

As a final thought, here is a beautiful description of our calling, written by Peter, the Lord’s disciple and powerful preacher of grace:

“You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).


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 be sharing some thoughts about our personal practices of prayer in today’s busy world.
Be sure to tune in, and if you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please share with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance! God bless.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode Seven of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “The Lord’s Prayer, Part I.” This is the first of a two-part series focusing on the meaning of several key expressions in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Click HERE to listen to the audio podcast.

First, a word about the series:

You may have noticed the sub-title on the masthead of the GoodlifeNews! blog website, which reads, “Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living.” A parallel line on the Podcast home page says, “A Weekly Podcast of Biblical Themes and Abundant Christian Living.”

In one of Jesus’ parables in which he identifies himself as “the Good Shepherd,” he says,

“I have come that they [his “sheep” i.e. his “followers”] may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

There are very few truly vital components to “abundant” Christian living, but one of these “indispensables” is daily connecting with God in prayer.

A well-known Christian author, writing back in the 19th century, expressed it this way:

“Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” (Steps to Christ, 94-95, by Ellen G. White).

Think about that phrase: “Unlock heaven’s storehouse!” What an awesome concept is that! It inspires me to believe we could do well to spend some time studying the “Model Prayer” that Jesus taught the disciples. So, this week and next week I’ll be sharing several significant highlights which have blessed my own prayer experience.

I trust these thoughts may also be an encouragement to you.


In Luke’s Gospel, the story is introduced this way:

“Now it came to pass, as [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life and teachings, the model prayer Jesus shared with the people that day is included in a longer passage found within the “Sermon on the Mount,” where he also gave some other rich instructions about prayer practices and attitudes. You can read those in Matthew 6:5-8.

Our study focus for these two weeks will be on Matthew 6, verses 9-13, and—because of the rich traditions and poetic power of these verses in the King James Version—I will be using that version.

Here are those familiar words:


Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Amen.


So, let’s take a closer look at a few of those significant phrases. We begin with . . . .

Our Father

The Greek expression translated here is pater hemon. Literally, it means “Father of us all.” It is notable that before Jesus told them what the content of their prayers should include, he first directed their focus to the Heavenly Father to whom they should direct their prayers.

The “Father” is the Source of all being, and the Fountain of all existence. He is El Shaddai, the Hebrew term meaning the One from whom comes every good and perfect gift. He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and He is more ready to give than they are ready to receive.

The Apostle James (a half-brother of Jesus) writes,

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

And, here’s what Dr. Luke recorded from Jesus,

“If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded his teaching about prayer and trust with these words,

“Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).


Hallowed be Thy Name

Directly related to Jesus’ injunction that our first spiritual pursuit should be focused on the kingdom of God and his righteousness, is this expression of respect and reverence for our Father-god.

To “hallow” something is to regard it as holy—sacred. The name of God is HOLY, and should be spoken or used only in reverence and respect.

When I was young, the casual, or non-spiritual use of God’s name was considered “out-of-bounds” for general, or just common conversation. Expressions we often hear today such as “OMG!” (verbal shorthand for “Oh, My God!”), or “For God’s sake!” probably are not usually said with a sense of God’s holiness.

Now, I want to be clear. I count myself as no one’s moral judge. Every person’s words and actions are judged by the only One who can look into every mind and heart, and know the spirit behind them. However, as a minister of God’s grace, it is important for me to bring things like this to your attention. I would only encourage you to think carefully and prayerfully about your own daily conversations and conduct.

And, as I constantly say, the choice is yours. As for me, I can honestly tell you that when I invited the Lord into my heart for the first time at age 16, He began the process of cleaning up my language, and for that I am truly grateful. That process has continued throughout my entire life since then—and still continues every day, even now. I can, in all honesty say, I want nothing more than for my life and influence to only count for his kingdom.

There is much yet to be said, but before we go on to the next expression in The Lord’s Prayer, here are a few truths I want to share with you about our Father in Heaven.

  • God loves you.
  • In Christ, the Father forgives ALL your sins and declares you innocent. (See 1 John 1:9).
  • The Father adopts you into his Family and gives you his Name.
  • The Father invites you today, “Come home!”

Thy Kingdom Come

With those thoughts in mind, lets take a look at the next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come.”

To understand what Jesus was talking about here in this instruction, we need to notice something else he said about the kingdom.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 NIV).

Now, it’s true, the Bible is clear: Jesus’ eternal kingdom (ref. Daniel 2:44) will be established here on earth only after his Second Coming when he returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, the Scripture is also very clear that, in point of fact, his true kingdom—the kingdom of the heart—begins in the here and now.
His kingdom, however, is not the same as the current earthly kingdoms. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight . . . . But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

So, what we’re seeing here is that Jesus’ kingdom—the kingdom of God—is of an entirely different nature from the political kingdoms and nations we are all familiar with. Jesus’ kingdom—the one that begins for us now in this life and continues into our eternal experience in the Earth Made New—is not a kingdom established and defended by the force of arms, but instead is a kingdom of agápe love, grace, forgiveness, and joy.

And, Jesus very pointedly instructs his disciples—and we who are also his disciples today—to pray for that kingdom of love and grace to begin even now, before his return in the clouds of heaven. As we hear and respond to his invitation to follow him as our Lord (i.e. “King”) we are to become ambassadors for the kingdom to all who have not yet heard the good news of the Father’s love (the gospel). We, in fact, have a role to play in God’s answer to the prayer, “thy kingdom come.”

John the Revelator declares, “[Jesus] has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).

Peter writes, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).


Thy Will be Done

Before we go on, let’s do a quick review of the ground we’ve covered here.

  • God the Father resides in a place called heaven.
  • He is the source of our being, the fountain of our existence.
  • His Name is to be reverenced and held in awe—it must never be spoken in vain.
  • God loves you and has already forgiven you of ALL your sins.
  • He invites you to put your complete trust in Him today.
  • The Kingdom of Glory will come when Jesus comes again.
  • The Kingdom of Grace has already begun.
  • We cannot enter the Kingdom of Glory unless we first live the Kingdom of Grace—i.e. extending grace to others as we ourselves have received grace from God.

Now, let’s look at the last phrase for our study today: “Thy Will be Done.”


How do we know God’s will? There are several ways we see as examples, both from Scripture and from personal experiences.

The most basic way to discover God’s will is to read the Bible.

Sometimes people might believe that what they feel, or a dream they have had, or impressions they receive are valid ways to determine God’s will for their lives. All of those might indeed be valid, but there is one standard by which all of them must be measured. That is simply: Do they conform to the written Word of God?

The only way to know the answer to that question is to read and study the Bible for yourself. This is where learning to use study tools such as Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and multiple translations becomes very valuable. These tools will not tell you WHAT to believe, but they will aid in providing legitimate insight into the background language(s) and expressions used by the Bible writers.

However, it is not enough just to know what the Bible says—or even to believe what it says! As an old saying goes, “Attitude is everything.”

In the Old Testament, King David wrote, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).

God’s law is a transcript of His will. The law is not to be kept as a legalistic requirement, but as the joyful expression of a heart renewed by His grace!
God himself told the Prophet Jeremiah, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel . . . ,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

The Apostle Paul explains how this works: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

To pray “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” is to ask God to take over your life and live His will both in and through you.
Then, let’s conclude today’s study with this:


May it be our sincere goal to live as we pray, and pray as we live.


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

Next week’s episode will be Part 2 of “The Lord’s Prayer.” We’ll be looking at four remaining thoughts Jesus included in his model prayer:

  • “Deliver us from evil”
  • “Forgiveness”
  • “Our daily bread”
  • “The kingdom, power, and glory”

I hope you can join me for that.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode six of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Andy Andrews: One of the Great Story-tellers of Our Time.” Click here to listen to the audio version.

Stock Photo of Author Andy Andrews

He’s been called “the Mark Twain of our era.” He’s an author, public speaker, inspirational coach, family man, philosopher, and—besides that—he’s really funny and interesting, and sometimes even profound.

Andy Andrews has been invited to speak by four different US Presidents. His books regularly hit the NYT list of bestsellers. They have been translated into over 40 different languages, and are popular around the world.

The dean of motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar, is reported to have commented, “Andy Andrews is the best speaker I have ever seen.”

Strangely enough, in many circles Andy is still largely unknown. I’m not just sure why that is, but it seems to be true. I only learned of Andy’s work a few years ago when I discovered his first book, The Traveler’s Gift. Turning the first few pages I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve purchased several more of Andy’s books, and have even ordered several autographed copies of his book The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff from his website to give as Christmas gifts to my grandchildren.

Now, just to be clear, my favorite of Andy’s books are officially classified as fiction, or even fantasy. He has also written some very perceptive non-fiction books, as well. Some of my friends—maybe even some of you who are listening—may question the value of reading fantasy or fiction of any sort. I understand that. But, let me explain.

What Andy does is illustrate powerful life lessons using the settings of major historical events. He tells the stories in such a way that readers are drawn into the action to experience first-hand what the actual people in those stories must have felt. Then, he uses that moment to bring practical—even godly, common-sense principles of relationships, attitudes, and wholesome thinking alive in the heart and mind of a reader. And, he’s a master at what he does!

So, let’s take a quick look at a few of my favorites.

(Bear in mind, however, that I rarely agree 100% with any author. It’s the same with Andy Andrews, although I still find his books do stimulate my thinking, and I enjoy the story for the story itself.

The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success

The Traveler’s Gift was Andy’s first major breakthrough as an author. He submitted the manuscript to 42 different publishers before it was finally accepted! When Thomas Nelson launched the book in 2002 it became an instant bestseller, and it brought rave reviews from readers across the board. Since then, Amazon.com readers alone have provided over 3,2oo reviews with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of five.

The core teaching of The Traveler’s Gift is contained in what Andy calls “The Seven Decisions.” Here’s the list:

  1. The Buck Stops Here
  2. I Will Seek Wisdom
  3. I Am A Person Of Action
  4. I Have A Decided Heart
  5. Today I Will Choose To Be Happy
  6. I Will Greet This Day With A Forgiving Spirit
  7. I Will Persist Without Exception

Well, that may seem like a rather dry list all by itself, but I assure you The Traveler’s Gift is anything but boring. If you enjoy a story that has action, mystery, suspense, and keeps you turning pages, you will definitely like this one!

Now I want to tell you about . . . .

“The Noticer” Series

The Noticer series is basically a continued story presented through a sequence of three volumes. I’m going to give you a quick look at each book, but frankly, it’s almost impossible to do them justice in our limited time and space here in the podcast and blog. Even so, I wanted to highlight them for you because I enjoyed them so much myself.

The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective

The back cover of The Noticer book has a pull-quote from LPGA Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez:

“The Noticer is completely absorbing. Anything less than stunning would be an understatement. This is not just one of the best books I have read . . . . It is the best book I have read in my life.”

Well, as a dedicated, committed Christian I have to just say for the record that the Bible is the best Book I have ever read, especially because it tells the “greatest story ever told.”

However, I do share Nancy Lopez’s enthusiasm for The Noticer.

Throughout the series, a somewhat mysterious character—identified only as “Jones”—plays a key role in bringing perspective to some otherwise dead-end situations.

Jones pops up unexpectedly just when circumstances seem beyond hope. His depth of wisdom, observations, and challenges bring “outside-the-box” solutions, not only to the struggling characters in the story, but—more importantly—to the readers who may be looking for answers themselves.
Here’s how this character Jones introduces himself to Andy (who, BTW, writes in the first person in all of his stories. He includes himself as one of the players in the drama):

“I am a noticer,” he [Jones] said. “I notice things that other people overlook. And you know, most of them are in plain sight.” The old man leaned back on his hands and cocked his head. “I notice things about situations and people that produce perspective. That’s what most people lack—perspective—a broader view. So I give them a broader view . . . and it allows them to regroup, take a deep breath, and begin their lives again.”

Several years after The Noticer was published, Andy came out with a sequel which he titled

The Noticer Returns: Sometimes you find perspective, and sometimes perspective finds you

Perspective is a powerful thing, and that’s why Andy writes about it so much. I think the best way for me to tell you about The Noticer Returns is to share a paragraph from the blurb on the front flyleaf of the dust cover.

“As the story unfolds, Jones uses his unique talent of noticing the little things that make a big difference. And these little things grant the people of Fairhope, Alabama, a life-changing gift—perspective. Along the way families are united and financial opportunities created, leaving us with powerfully simple solutions to the everyday problems we all face.”

This follow-up volume to The Noticer expands the horizons opened in the previous book, and as always, Andy’s writing is compelling and entertaining.

Robert Mayes, President of Columbia Southern University said this,

“Andy Andrews is America’s greatest storyteller since Mark Twain and perhaps our most interesting teacher since Robin Williams played John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society. The Noticer Returns is another in his long line of winners.”

The third book in The Noticer series is titled

Just Jones: Sometimes a thing is impossible . . . . until it is actually done

The Noticer series is not really what we might call at “trilogy,” but Just Jones is, in fact, the third and final book in the set—unless, of course, Andy Andrews decides to write a fourth tale about his mysterious character he calls “Jones.”

Many storytellers surprise readers with an unexpected twist at the end of a book. In Just Jones, Andy throws a left curve at fans at the very beginning. After an absence of seven years, Jones is back—but he’s in jail! You’ll have to read the book to find out why. I’d be doing you a serious disservice if I spoiled the story for you, now wouldn’t I!

But I will tell you this: In Just Jones you will find great principles how communities can flourish, families can find healing, and lives can change for the better. You’ll find examples of love, respect, transparency, and healthy relationships. You’ll also find some keys to helping others grow through protecting them from premature censure and judgmentalism by uninformed or angry critics.

And, as with all Andy Andrews’ other books, Just Jones is anything but stodgy, yet provides powerful insights for positive living in a negative world.

Summary

Again, however, as I said at the beginning, although I thoroughly enjoyed reading these books, I still need to express a small disclaimer. I do highly recommend them. They are very entertaining, and the author uses his skill in storytelling to illustrate valuable lessons for healthy living and wholesome relationships.

That being said, you may find parts of these stories that don’t seem to fit with your personal outlook on life, or your spiritual belief system. That’s okay. Nevertheless, I found them of immense value by opening windows of understanding in the rooms of my mind. I’ve shared my thoughts with you today, so if you choose to read Andy’s books, you can also find the benefit and blessing that I enjoyed.

I hope you do read them. I’m confident you will be a better person for the journey.

For the record, if you would like to know more about Andy Andrews books, services, and other writings, I encourage you to visit his website at https://andyandrews.com. You can also find his books at Amazon.com, or anywhere books are sold. I’m sharing this information here because I have personally enjoyed Andy’s stories over the last few years. I have not received, nor do I solicit, any compensation for telling my readers about his materials.

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

Next week I’m going to begin a two-episode study on the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples, recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.”
I hope you can join me for that.

Greetings once again friends!

This is Episode five of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Some Gave All.”

Today’s episode is a special recognition of Memorial Day, 2021. Click here to listen to the audio podcast.


Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia


Today, also, I am thinking about two of my great-grandfathers whom I know were Civil War veterans, and my father who was a veteran of the United States Marine Corp during WWI.

Thomas W. Fenton, 1832-1901
My father’s paternal grandfather
Wounded in the Battle of Marks’ Mill
Cleveland County, Arkansas, April 25, 1864
Prisoner of War, Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas
My Father
Claude C. Fenton, 1896-1972
USMC, WWI
Adolphus A. Stuckey, 1838-1915
My father’s maternal grandfather
Emigrated to America from England, 1857, age 19
Enlisted in Illinois to serve in the Union Army
Honorably Discharged
Naturalized as a United States Citizen, August 24, 1865

I’ve put together a few thoughts to share with you today related to this holiday. I hope they will be meaningful for you as we remember loved ones who are no longer with us—plus toward the end of today’s episode I’ve included some important lessons we can consider.


Quite frankly, I don’t think I became aware of Memorial Day until I was about 13. That’s when I discovered that the Indianapolis 500 race was always held on Memorial Day. When we turned on the radio that morning in 1959, we discovered that the opening ceremonies were underway — and being broadcast live on our little local station KREW in Sunnyside, Washington.

Our family wasn’t really very race car oriented, but the Indy 500 was a pretty exciting event. We listened until the the race got underway. The announcers brought everything alive with their descriptions, and we could hear the sound of those powerful engines screaming around the 2.5 mile track.

But, we had other things to do that day, so we turned off the radio and headed out the door. When we returned a few hours later, I was amazed that the race was still on—although they were nearing the end.

I have no recollection of who the winner was—I suppose I could look it up—but somehow, listening to the Indy 500 back then brought an awareness of Memorial Day to me which I didn’t have up until that time.

And, even after that, it wasn’t until quite a few years later that the Memorial Day holiday began to take on a deeper, far more important meaning for me.
Eventually, I looked up the history to understand the reason it was part of our annual national calendar of events.


It seems there are several versions of how the holiday began. But, all historians agree that the movement to recognize a “day of remembrance” was an outgrowth of the American Civil War. In that terrible conflict over 620,000 Americans lost their lives. There was no community—large or small—that was not affected by the war, and fallen soldiers were buried in cemeteries from tiny church yards to huge tracts of land.

Suffice it to say, great grief touched nearly every home, every family, every city, town, and village in America.

Following the war, a movement sprang up—led largely by women, war widows and mothers who had lost their sons, daughters left without a father, and others who also sensed a deep loss of loved ones.

This movement was originally called “Decoration Day.” The graves of the fallen were decorated with flowers as symbols of love and appreciation for their efforts and sacrifice.


Out of all the stories telling how “Decoration Day” began, my favorite comes out of Charleston, South Carolina. Near the end of of the war, thousands of Union POWs were herded into makeshift camps near the city. Living conditions rapidly deteriorated, making life truly miserable for the prisoners.
One of these camps was on a former racetrack, where things got so bad that over 250 prisoners died from exposure. They were buried in a mass grave located behind the grandstand.

The end of the war began on April 9, 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Army of the Potomac.
Just three weeks later, on May 1 of that year, more than 1000 people—the vast majority of whom were recently liberated slaves—gathered at the Charleston racetrack to consecrate a new, proper burial site for the fallen. The assembled group sang hymns, gave readings, and placed flowers around the cemetery, which they designated for the “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

“Martyrs of the Race Course”
Charleston, South Carolina
May 1, 1865
Recently liberated slaves gathered to honor Union soldiers
who died as Prisoners of War in Charleston.

Three years later, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of Union Civil War veterans, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nation-wide day of commemoration for all soldiers killed in the conflict. General Logan was the one who gave the name “Decoration Day” to the holiday. Following the 1880s, the day was also often called “Memorial Day.”


May 30 then became the designated date for each annual “Memorial Day” for remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their military service. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect, which moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the “last Monday in May.”

Over the years, observance practices have expanded to not only to remember casualties of the Civil War, but to further include those lost in all American wars. Plus, many families now also decorate the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day—regardless of whether the deceased individual had any military experience or not.

Our Memorial Day holiday today has become a special time to pause for reflection, honor, and appreciation for the legacy of those we loved, and must not forget. I’d invite you to meditate for a few moments now, by listening to this simple bugle solo of “Taps.”

(P.S. Listen carefully to hear the birds also singing in the background. (Love it!)

USMC Bugle – “Taps”

So, let us consider a few lessons we must plant deep into the soil of our hearts.

  1. Freedom is not free.

The cost is dear—literally millions of lives have been lost to gain—and then preserve—our freedom. Rivers of blood have been shed for this sacred cause. The sacrifices have brought unspeakable pain and suffering. We stand today in the shadow of their wings. We must never forget:

“Some gave all, for Freedom is not free.”

2. The cost of our spiritual freedom is also beyond measure.

One of the early Christian “fathers,” Tertullian (c.155-c.AD 220) famously said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of [of the church].”

In the Christian era, hundreds of millions of believers who stood firm, unwavering in their faith in Christ, paid the ultimate price with torture, persecution, and death.
Our heritage of faith has been delivered to us at the cost of immeasurable personal sacrifice by our spiritual forebears.

Our freedom in Christ must never be taken for granted. Let us resolve therefore—in the power of God’s grace and the risen Christ—

  • To never forget the cost of our freedom (both spiritual and political);
  • To live with integrity, dignity, and honor, regardless of challenges, persecutions, or personal pain;
  • To cherish the ultimate promise found in Revelation 2:10 —

“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”


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

Next week I’m going to tell you about a hugely popular author I’ve come to enjoy over the last few years, and share some glimpses into several of his books that I have found quite profound and thought provoking. I think you will enjoy knowing about them, too.
I hope you can join me for that.

God bless.

Greetings once again friends! This is Episode four of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “My Life-long Friends.”
This is the third of a three-part series focusing on and exploring our understanding of God—including thoughts about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


In the Fall of 1951, my parents enrolled me in First Grade at Outlook Grade School, which was located less than a mile from our house. I was pretty excited to start school. My older siblings were already in school, and I was anxious to join them. During the two years after my brother Beryl started, Mother “home-schooled” me, teaching me to read, so by the time my turn came I was primed and ready to go!

Outlook Grade School
Near Outlook, Washington, USA
Circa 1940s-1980s

I’ve always been an outgoing, social person, so I loved being with the other first-graders. Other kids my age from around our farming community were there, and we quickly formed bonds of friendship—some of which still continue to this day.

There were other boys, like Billy, Alonzo, Robert, Larry, Paul, and Leon. Some of the girls were Linda, Judy, Lois, and Renee. A lot of our first-grade classmates are no longer with us. Others I’ve lost all contact for them and have no idea if they are even still living. But, there are a few others with whom I’m still friends all these years later.

Plus, we added some classmates during those early elementary school years, too—kids like Raymond, Phil, and Tony.

Quite a few years back, Ruth and I were living in Ohio, and I got a letter announcing a planned reunion for my Outlook class. I was excited! I really wanted to go, but it was on too short of a notice, and I was unable to change my schedule.

I decided, however, that although I couldn’t be there in person, I could record a video and send my greetings to all of them that way. It worked! And I was delighted a few weeks later to get a return tape from the group with a personal greeting from each one present. That was pretty cool!

The next year, however, when the class planned another gathering, I determined to go. I did, and it was wonderful connecting in person with each of those friends from our childhood days.

There’s just nothing quite like being there!


I have to digress here for a moment to share a story about the value of “being there.”

Back in the 1960s, Dan Hanna, Sr. was a legend in his own time in and around Portland, Oregon. Dan was the person who developed the idea of a drive-through car wash. He began in 1955 with one unit in Milwaukie, Oregon—a suburb of Portland. Four years later by 1959, Dan Hanna’s “Rub-a-Dub” Carwash locations had expanded to 31 in and around Portland.

Dan began to get national attention and was able to start marketing his systems to other places. In record time his company was selling and installing “Rub-a-Dub” equipment nationwide. He far outsold and outpaced every other competitor in the field.

Although there were many reasons someone would want to by “Rub-a-Dub” equipment, Dan Hanna had one winning factor his competitors lacked.

He owned a Learjet.

An early-model Learjet 23, similar to the one in the story.

When a phone call would come in with someone inquiring about purchasing a “Rub-Dub” carwash system, Mr. Hanna would take the call himself. A typical conversation might go something like this:

Hanna: “Where did you say you are located?”

Caller: “Fargo, North Dakota.” (It could have been anywhere in the country.)

Hanna: “Great! Let me see . . . I see your main airport there is Hector International. I could meet you there in about three hours. Would that work for you?”

Caller: “Sure! I can do that.”

Hanna: “Okay. I’ll see you at the airport this afternoon!”

With that, Mr. Hanna would take off in the Learjet and head for Fargo. He’d meet with the prospective customer, maybe even take him for a ride in his super-impressive plane, and return to Portland with another signed-and-sealed deal to deliver and install a “Rub-a-Dub” system, this time in Fargo, North Dakota.

There’s just nothing quite like “being there.”


So, what’s all this have to do with “life-long friends,” and our understanding of God?

It’s all in that one sentence: “There’s nothing quite like being there.”

If you want to have the greatest and best connection with friends—whether from recent times or from long ago—there’s nothing quite like being with them in person!

If you are a business person or in sales, regardless of your product, there’s nothing quite like meeting your prospective customer directly.

There’s just nothing quite like being there!

And, our God, the Great God of heaven and earth, knows that.


In the Garden of Eden the Creator came “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8) because He wanted to be with Adam and Eve in person.

Following the entrance of sin, Adam and Eve had to be separated from God because sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God. They were expelled from the Garden in order to preserve their lives—and to make it possible for God’s already-in-place Plan B—the Plan of Redemption and Salvation—to go into effect.

Even so, the Creator still wanted to be with them, to fellowship with them, and to teach them so many things He wanted them to know.

To that end, God preserved Noah and his family from destruction in the Flood. He continued His presence in the human experience through the line of Noah’s son Shem. Centuries later, God entered into a covenant with Abram—whose name was later changed to Abraham. Abraham became known as “the friend of God,” and everywhere Abraham journeyed he built an altar to Yahweh.

Then, a few more centuries pass until some of Abraham’s descendants (through Isaac and Jacob—aka “Israel”) are led by God out of Egypt in the Exodus.
At Mt. Sinai, God instructs Moses, “Let them make me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

God wanted to be with His chosen people.

At the dedication of Wilderness Tabernacle—and later at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem—The Shekinah glory of God’s presence literally moved in and took up residence!

The very real presence of God was right where He wanted to be—living just next door to them, first in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, then in the Temple.

It was God’s great desire to be and become Israel’s “Resident God.” There He could live in their “neighborhood,” and help them grow into His design that they should be “a nation of priests” to represent Him and His love, mercy, and grace to all the rest of the world.

Eventually, of course, the “Resident God” came to Earth in the person of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. He lived as a man among men—one of US—not only living “next door” in the presence of the Shekinah glory, but actually walking in human flesh, fully God, but also fully man.

After Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, He ascended back to Heaven where, as the Book of Hebrews tells us, He serves as our Great High Priest, representing Adam’s race to the Father, and sending the gifts of the Father’s love back to us.

Before Jesus left to go back to the Father’s side, He promised to send “another Counselor, the Holy Spirit,” to live—not only with us, but in us! For all who willingly open their spiritual heart, the Resident God will come and take up residence.

What an incredible prospect! The “Friend” who sticks “closer than a brother” knows full well, there’s nothing quite like being there!” And, through the Person of the Holy Spirit, the God who loves you, saves you, guides you with wisdom, and gives you strength, also gives you His promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about this: “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law” (Galatians 5:22, 23).

And, writing to the Colossians, Paul says, “It has pleased God to tell his people (the Jews) that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory” (Colossians 1:27).

So, we see through the Bible’s testimony that the work of the Holy Spirit is to make the presence of God known at all times and places.

  1. At the time of Creation, the Spirit moved upon the face of the waters.
  2. At the time of the Incarnation, the Spirit moved upon Mary to bring forth her Holy Son.
  3. And, at the time of a “new birth,” the Spirit moves upon the sinner’s heart to bring forth new life.
  4. It was the Spirit who inspired the ancient prophets to write the messages of Scripture.
  5. It is the Spirit that gives energizing power for ministry and service in God’s Name.

Yes, God knows.

There’s just nothing quite like “being there.”


And, that’s really where we come into the picture. In the Name of God, and moved by the Holy Spirit, we are sent as ambassadors of grace to a world of ungrace. We are to be carriers of hope to a world without hope.

In the words of Jesus’s prayer, we are to be “in the world, but not of the world.”

For what purpose? Why are we to be “in the world?”

Because,

there’s just nothing quite like being there

accompanied by our life-long Friend, and carrying Him with us into a world He longs to redeem and save.


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

Next week’s episode is scheduled to post on Monday, May 31—a day set aside to remember and honor the memory of deceased American military personnel. I will be sharing a special Memorial Day message in that post. Be sure you are subscribed to the podcast, then watch your email or text messages letting you know when it’s ready.

I hope you can join me for that.

This is Episode three of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “My Brother’s Love.” This is the second of a three-episode series focusing on and exploring our understanding of God—including thoughts about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


On the campus of Father Flanagan’s Boys Home near Omaha, Nebraska, there stands a small statue of one young boy carrying another on his back. It’s not entirely clear from the statue, but the reason for the one boy carrying the other is that the smaller one is crippled. His legs didn’t function well, and he had difficulty walking.

“He ain’t heavy, Father . . . he’s m’ brother!”
Located at Father Flanagan’s Boys Home
Boys Town, Nebraska, USA

One day, as Father Flanagan was walking across the campus, he saw this scene in real life with the older, stronger boy carrying his friend. The priest stopped and chatted with the two for a few minutes.

In the course of the short conversation, Father Flanagan remarked to the older boy that it must be difficult to carry someone else around on his back like that.

The young man answered, “He ain’t heavy, Father. He’s m’ brother!”

Those words are inscribed on the base of the statue commemorating that momentary, but profound statement.
Father Flanagan was so struck with the wisdom and attitude of this student, and his cheerful love for the younger boy, that he shared the story far and wide to illustrate the mission of Boys Town, USA. Eventually, that little encounter grew into a major theme for the ministry.

I have personally visited Boys Town and have seen that statue with my own eyes. Such a beautiful concept—expressed in real life for one young man for another!

“He ain’t heavy, Father! He’s m’ brother!”


Last week I shared a bit about my childhood home—a big old house in the farming community near Outlook, Washington. I mentioned that I was the fourth of four children born to Claude and Oral Fenton. I had two older sisters and a brother that was about 28 months older than me.

Beryl Dean Fenton, 1943-1986
Senior Photo, Sunnyside High School
Sunnyside, Washington, USA

I guess we had a fairly normal brother-to-brother relationship. We were totally loyal to each other, but between the two of us, we were pretty fierce, struggling competitors. We did “carry” each other—as brothers will—but we also had some pretty horrific fights!
Beryl was more athletic than me. He did much better in active sports, for instance, than I ever could. He loved basketball. I was more of a football lineman type.

He was also a much superior musician. He played the 120 bass, piano keyboard accordion very well, and he could tell instantly if I played a wrong chord on my guitar after I learned to play it in later years.
When he got married, Beryl asked me to be his best man. And, when my turn came a few years later I was proud for him to stand with me at my wedding, as well.

When I finished Seminary training with my Master of Divinity degree, I can still hear the admiration in his voice as he said, “Loren, I am proud of you!” You can’t imagine how much that meant to me then, and still means to me now.

Sadly, Beryl’s life ended far too soon. He died at the early age of 43 from liver failure. We never found the cause for his condition. It was a sad day for our family and his many friends when he breathed his last.

His life impacted the lives of people from all levels of society in the Yakima Valley, from bankers and businessmen, to fellow farmers and hired hands, to his Native American neighbors of the Yakama Indian tribe, to his high school classmates, as well as extended circles of family, friends, and loved ones.

My brother Beryl was well loved. And I know he loved me. If it would ever have been necessary for him to carry me for whatever reason, I know I could have heard him gladly say, “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother!”


And, yet, the Bible tells us that we have a “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). That “friend” is Jesus. He even calls us his brothers and sisters!”

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11 NLT).

The Old Testament Isaiah’s prophetic pen recorded these immortal words nearly 700 years before the birth of Jesus:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The child of Isaiah’s prophecy was Jesus, who is also called Immanuel, “God with us.”

He was, in fact, the One who created the heavens and the earth. Colossians 1:16-17 says, By Him [Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible . . . And He is before all things and in Him all things consist.
Jesus was the “Word” of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).

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

Let’s pause just a moment and consider what it means for Jesus to be called “the only begotten of the Father.”
This expression is translated from a Greek word, monogenes, which, literally translated, means “the only one of a kind.”
In other words, because Jesus is both fully human—and fully God—he is totally unique. There is no one else in heaven or earth that is like him. He is completely “like us” in his humanity, but he is also completely “like God” in his divinity.

As a human, standing in for Adam, Jesus won the victory over temptation and sin where Adam failed, gave up his life as the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and ascended to heaven as our “Elder Brother” where he serves as our Great High Priest in the Heavenly Sanctuary.

The writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews says this:

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christian believers in Ephesus, [God the Father] seated Him [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Ephesians 1:20).

Then, a few verses later, Paul writes, [God] raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)

And Jesus himself told the disciples after his resurrection, All authority [power] has been given to me in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).


So, let’s summarize and review these few thoughts about Jesus:

  • Jesus is completely at peace calling you and me his brothers and sisters.
  • The child of Isaiah’s prophecy was Jesus, who is also called Immanuel, “God with us.”
  • He is the “Word” of God—the One through whom all things were created and are sustained.
  • He is the “monogenes”—the “only one of a kind”—the “only begotten Son” of the Eternal Father.
  • He is the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • He is our great High Priest in heaven today, representing our needs to the Father of grace and truth, and delivering the gifts of the Father’s love to us through the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.

I can almost imagine Jesus telling the Father about me, “He ain’t heavy, Father. He’s my brother!”

Indeed, friend. Jesus is our heavenly brother who loves us more than any cost or any trial. The Son of God came to Earth and became the Son of Man so he could take our place on the cross of sin and shame. In exchange for our record of sin, he gives us his own record of righteousness.

All we have to do is accept his invitation to join the family.

I’d invite you to do that right now, right where you are. Just say to him, “Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I need your forgiveness, and I accept your gift of purity, righteousness, and your promise of eternal life. Please, come into my heart as you have promised. Amen.”

And I can almost hear the Savior say, “Welcome home, my brother! Welcome home, my sister! Welcome home!


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

Next week we’ll conclude this short series focused on understanding more about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Our study next week will be about God the Holy Spirit. I hope you can join me for that.

Greetings once again friends!

This is Episode two of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “My Father’s House.”

This is the first of a three-episode series focusing on and exploring our understanding of God—including thoughts about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I thought I’d begin today by sharing a little bit about my childhood home.

As some of you already know, I was the youngest of four children growing up on our family farm near Outlook, Washington, located east of the Cascade Mountains in the farmlands of the Lower Yakima Valley.

Our house was a big, old farmhouse with a distinctive, almost classic structure.

Some of you might like to see a photo of the old house, although this shot is from a later time after our family no longer lived there. But, you can get a good idea of what it looked like.

Historic Fenton Family Home
North Outlook Road
Outlook, Washington, USA
1945-1985

Our family lived there for forty years! My parents and three older siblings moved in about two months or so before I was born. I grew up in that house and lived there until leaving for college when I was 18. My mother continued living there after my father passed away until she could no longer live alone. At that time the house was sold, and the Fentons no longer had a presence there.

In the minds of many community old-timers, however, the old house on North Outlook Road is still “the Fenton house.”
I’ve driven by it a number of times through the years, primarily just to take a little trip down memory lane. That house holds a truckload of childhood memories for me.

(A poem by Edgar A. Guest from a generation ago comes to mind—“It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house to make it a home.” And that certainly was true for our house.)

It provided shelter from the storms of life, both literal and social.

We experienced times of great laughter, and many tears.

That place quite literally became the Center of my World! It was a base for all the dreams of my childhood and teenage years.
In later years, wherever I was in some distant place—even overseas— I always figured out how far it was back home to Outlook. And, still today, whenever I chance to drive past, there is a tug at my heart because my roots grew so deeply there. Recently someone has begun some repair and restoration on it. I’m looking forward to how that turns out!

But, enough of nostalgia, let’s move on.

Truth be told—as much as I loved the place where I lived all during my growing-up years, from those early days of life until this very moment right now, I’ve been learning about another “home” waiting for me “just over the hilltop.”
Our Heavenly Father has a place prepared just for me — and for you, too(!) — in the beautiful Earth Made New that John wrote about in the Book of Revelation, chapter 21.

Here’s another wonderful promise I dearly love, found in the Old Testament:

1He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV).

In this verse, an unknown ancient song writer identifies the “dwelling place” of the person who believes in and puts his/her trust in God. That “home”—that “abiding place”— is in the “secret place of the Almighty.”

The word “Almighty” here is translated from the Hebrew language expression El Shaddai.

According to Strong’s Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary, the title Shadday (sic) really indicates the fullness and riches of God’s grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from God comes every good and perfect gift—that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and He is more ready to give than they are ready to receive.

(That quotation is from Strong’s word listing #7706, for all you Bible students who may be into dictionaries and concordances and similar reference materials.)

All I can say is, “Wow!”

I’ve always understood “El Shaddai” to simply mean “The Almighty,” indicating the great Creator God’s ability to accomplish anything and everything He wanted or decided to do.

Okay, all that might be well and good, but here Strong’s dictionary expands that basic idea with the focus on God’s limitless mercy and grace!

The “secret place of the Most High”—the very heart of God—is our spiritual home!

That “place” is the unquenchable fountainhead of everlasting agape love—the inexhaustible source of Creation, forgiveness of sin, restoration, and renewal.

No wonder the Apostle Paul exclaimed, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).

And, again, By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).

So, let’s explore a few more verses in the Bible that help us know even more about our heavenly home, and even more specifically, truths we can discover about our Heavenly Father.

Luke 15:11-31 records Jesus’ parable about a lost son—commonly referred to as “The Prodigal Son.” Much of the story focuses on the arc of the son’s life—from restless farm kid to party animal in a “far country” to his tearful, repentant return to his father’s house.

However, I’m thinking this story should be labeled “A Father’s Unconditional Love.” My guess is that most of you listening to this podcast are already familiar with this story. It’s one of the most repeated stories of the New Testament.
If you happen to NOT know the story—and even if you HAVE heard it countless times—I’d encourage you to get your Bible, look up Luke, chapter 15, and read it again.

In my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers I speculate in one place about the possibility that a young Jesus working with his earthly father Joseph may have become acquainted with the family of the two boys in his story.

Right during the time when Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, the regional so-called “king” of Galilee undertook the rebuilding of a city called Sepphoris as the capital city. It was a project that took many years from start to finish.

Sepphoris was only about five miles north of Nazareth, the home of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. A great construction project like this would certainly need skilled workmen—including carpenters and other tradesmen. If, in fact, Joseph worked to help build Sepphoris, it is not unlikely that his young son Jesus might accompany him to the job sites to help with the work and, in the process, learn the carpenter’s trade.

With the swelling population, there would also be a critical need for farm produce to supply the food markets in town.
We know from Jesus’ story about the young prodigal that his family were farm people. They had hired workers, servants, some cattle, and undoubtedly grew some food crops as well. We actually don’t know the location of their farm, but Galilee around the area of Nazareth and Sepphoris was rural, farm country.

And again, it’s only speculation on my part, but I like to think that perhaps the young Jesus working with Joseph, and the two boys of his parable accompanying their parents to deliver food to the markets in Sepphoris, may have become acquainted there—perhaps even counting each other as friends.

But, back to the story itself—and what it says about our Father God.

First, the father never gave up hope for his son’s return. When he saw the boy coming down the road—starving, filthy, and dressed in rags—he RAN to gather him into his arms.

Love and grace won the day, and lavish gifts poured from the father’s rejoicing heart. His own robe. His own ring. His own sandals for the barefoot boy. Strike up the band! It’s time to sing and dance. “This my son,” he cries, “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (vs. 32).

What a beautiful illustration of our Heavenly Father!

The Apostle Paul writes, Because you are [adopted] sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:6-7 NKJV).

And, Jesus instructed his followers, When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8 NKJV).

A few chapters later Jesus says, Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV).

Are you beginning to get the picture of how much your Heavenly Father loves you? I don’t know about you, friend, but as I think seriously and deeply about God’s immeasurable love and grace He has for me, I am just blown away!

“Wide, wide as the ocean,
High as the heavens above,
Deep, deep as the deepest sea
Is my Savior’s love.
I, though so unworthy,
Still am a child of His care,
And His love teaches me
That His love reaches me
Everywhere!

Now, there’s one more thing we need to look at before we close out this little study about our Father God.
Reading through the Bible you will find many names for God. Twelve of these names in the Old Testament begin with “Yahweh” (or “Jehovah” in the old KJV). Then, each of these twelve names are hyphenated with another word which expands our understanding of God’s nature.

Being the curious person I am, I wondered—what might be the underlying root meaning of “Yahweh.” Again, Bible dictionaries and concordance prove their worth!

The ancient Hebrew word for God’s name is known as “the Tetragrammaton.” IT contains only four letters—all consonants. If you speak with someone well-versed in biblical languages, and mention the “Tetragrammaton” that person will know immediately what you are talking about.

The Tetragrammaton is often translated simply as “LORD” (using all caps) in our English-language Bibles. The purpose of using all caps is to indicate that the Hebrew source-word is the Tetragrammaton, rather than other commonly used words which are also translated “lord,” but are based on other Hebrew words.

In the English alphabet, letter for letter, the word is spelled “YHWH.”

Checking a Bible dictionary that indicates root words for individual listings, I discovered this: One of the underlying roots of YHWH carries the implication of finishing a task, or a job.

The very first time this name is used in the Bible is at the end of Creation week following the statement that God “finished” all the work of Creation, and then declared it “very good.”

So, for me, it makes perfect sense to paraphrase God’s name Yahweh into “The God Who Finishes What He Starts.”
God not only finished the work of Creation, but at Calvary Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” indicating that the divine plan of redemption for Adam’s fallen race was now completed. Christ had won the victory over sin, and the way of salvation was now permanently open.

That’s truly wonderful, but there’s one more thing we also have to know.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi these encouraging words: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t know about you, friend, but that promise brings me great courage! I love the string of letters that goes “PBPGINFWMY!” Which means, “ Please be patient. God is not finished with me yet!”

I’m so glad God continues to work with each one of us. The Father’s amazing grace, agape love, and unfailing providence truly declare to us that He is worthy of worship.

Once again, thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

The title of next week’s episode is “My Brother’s Love.” The focus will be on Jesus as the Word of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, and Savior for all of Adam’s race.

I hope you can join me for that.

Also, a reminder, the regular schedule for posting each weekly episode of the podcast is now every Monday.