Author Spotlight: Rev. Sterling A. Penney
We are pleased to introduce author Rev. Sterling A. Penney. Sterling recently published My Father’s House, which is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Sterling to share a little bit about his writing and his new book. But first, a little bit about his.
Sterling Penny lives with his wife Thelma in Moncton, New Brunswick, where he has served as the lead pastor of Glad Tidings Church for more than twelve years. They have three children, two of whom are involved in pastoral ministry. Their oldest son is a missionary. They have ten grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a special sponsored child in Africa.
Sterling’s ministry began after a dramatic conversion experience in his early twenties. Almost immediately after, he was invited to speak at special youth events, keenly aware of the calling upon his life. While pursuing his dream, he moved to the town of Springdale.
With three children and a recently completed home, Sterling approached Thelma about whether to enter full-time ministry. She said, “Sterling, it’s about time you do what God wants you to do. Don’t you know that God talks with me as well as you?” The rest is history, as they say.
After three years, he was called to his homebase of Corner Brook, Newfoundland to pastor First Pentecostal, located across town from the church where he had accepted Christ.
After almost nine years, he accepted the call as lead pastor of Evangel Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Six years in, he was elected to serve as the director of church ministries for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, Maritime District, and went on to serve four terms.
His ministry in Moncton began when the church was recovering from a difficult and divisive period. Under his leadership, the congregation experienced steady growth and doubled its average attendance.
Sterling’s ministry has always reached outside his denomination. He served for several years as president of the Halifax Evangelical Ministerial, and later the Greater Moncton Evangelical Ministerial.
During his ministry at Glad Tidings Church, mission-giving peaked. This resulted in developing multiple ministries in Africa, where his son and daughter-in-law served for more than two decades. After retiring from the pulpit in 2007, Sterling and Thelma made several extended visits to Africa.
Q: What inspired you to write a book about the heavenly realm?
A: While most people expect some form of the afterlife in a place “up there,” very few Christians have anything but a vague idea of what heaven is. As an evangelical, I felt there was a need for a comprehensive overview of what the Bible says about the heavenly realm.
Secondly, during the pandemic we increased our home devotional times and experienced a deep awareness of God’s presence. I found myself repeatedly praying for wisdom relative to eschatology. Simultaneously, I felt the Holy Spirit illuminate Scripture in a fresh way. With this came the desire to write. The end result was My Father’s House.
Q: Sometimes in the book you refer to other truths relative to the subject of heaven. Could you comment on this?
A: In the process of writing about heaven, many relevant truths came into focus. For example, writing about the return of Jesus the Bridegroom brought the sanctity of marriage into focus, a truth that needs to be understood and reemphasized by the Church.
God instituted marriage and was the Father of both the bride and groom at the first wedding. He opened the side of Adam to create the first bride, and on the cross He opened the side of His Son, the Bridegroom, to create His Bride, the Church.
In both the Old and New Testaments, God portrays the marriage relationship as second only to our relationship with God, and heaven will be a holy consummation of that union. One of the great sins of our time is the desecration of marriage as ordained by God.
Another important reference is replacement theology. Christians need to pay more attention to the truth that Jesus came to be Israel’s Messiah and King, as well as Creator of the Church. The heavenly order soon to come will include God’s covenant people and fulfill His covenants to Israel as well as the Church. The Church comes from every tribe and nation, including Jews; all are made one in Christ. But the Church does not replace Israel now or in the heavenly realm.
Q: What process did you employ, if any, to authenticate your writing?
A: First of all, I prayerfully searched Scripture to ensure my commentary was substantiated by biblical truth as I understand it. I researched theological writings and commentaries, but I wanted the Bible to be my source. Therefore, I used limited citations from other materials. I also drew from several life experience, including a visit to the land of the Bible.
As I wrote each section of My Father’s House, I shared my writing with people whom I felt would be honest in their evaluation. When the initial manuscript was completed, it was shared with at least a dozen others: educators, a couple of authors, some ordinary readers, and people of theological expertise. I was humbled and grateful for their encouraging reviews and suggested changes.
Q: How long did it take to write the manuscript, and did you ever feel like quitting?
A: It took about ten months to write. However, I didn’t begin with the idea of writing a book. I say this honestly and sincerely. I don’t know why, but for most of my life God has surprised me by prompting me to do things which have turned out totally different than I anticipated.
I started My Father’s House with the intention of putting something in writing to share with friends. I never felt like quitting, but I was enlightened and sensed the Holy Spirit directing me as I sat at the keyboard. I enjoyed writing the manuscript. After it was completed, it took quite some time to seriously consider publishing.
Q: Who do you think of as possible readers, and how will your writing help or inform them?
A: After sixty years of ministry, I am aware of the many views and interpretations applied to eschatology. Common responses from those who read the manuscript include its comprehensive coverage of the big picture and its clarity in terms of subjects often seen as mysterious.
It is my prayer that the book will bring hope and peace to those nearing death, and that it will inspire confidence in them that God has a plan for the future. I hope it will cause readers to grasp the truth of the reality of God and heaven.
Q: How different is the final edited version from your original manuscript and why?
A: Actually, it’s not that much different. The professional work of the publishers has provided the polish it needed. We started with about 250 pages and the final release is close to that.
Q: If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
A: I would do some things differently, like being more prepared and consulting with other writers. Certainly I would be more patient with the editing process.
Q: How would you advise others who may want to write?
A: I’m no expert, but in the Christian context it is important to have a passion for truth. Know the One who personifies truth and let what you want to share with others first speak to you. The Bible is filled with history, symbolism, poetry, stories of real people, parables, and prophetic visions. In total, however, it is God’s Word and God’s truth. Whether it’s fiction or a real-life story, Christian writing should convey truth to the reader.
Meet Sterling at the following events:
Camp Evangeline: Debert, Nova Scotia, weekend of July 10.
First Pentecostal Church: Corner Brook, Newfoundland, July 17.
Burlington Pentecostal Church: Burlington, Newfoundland, July 24.
Springdale Pentecostal Church: Springdale, Newfoundland, July 31.