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Open Letter to Lifewell Church from Pastor D

Dear Lifewell,

Peace and truth to you!

I am writing to encourage and challenge you during the present crisis. The prophet Isaiah said to Israel, and so to those of us who have been grafted into the olive tree and adopted into his family, “Rise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord will shine upon you. Though darkness, even deep darkness cover the earth, the light of the LORD will shine upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you” (60:1-2). The Lord Jesus told his disciples, and so you and me, not to hide their light beneath a basket but to put it up on the table so everyone can see. The Lord said we are a city set on a hill. Our church was once known as Zion because we wanted to be like Jerusalem, the city of God’s people sitting on a hill. The change to Lifewell is was not a change in that hope, or mission.

Now is our time to shine, Lifewell! All around you people are in fear. Why? It is being stirred up by the Great Fear-monger himself, the enemy of our souls, Satan. He is using many tools, but I want you to understand, to realize fully, that we have nothing to fear! I spoke to those gathered yesterday about this. Many of you were absent, so I would encourage you to view that message (if you haven’t already). It’s up on our website right now, and will be archived on my youtube.com/deorl. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus offers hope, and that’s what people need to see coming from us. 

In order to shine you need to come out from beneath the bed or the table. Put the light of Jesus up where everyone can see it. What does that mean? Trust God and encourage your family, friends and co-workers to do the same. Tell everyone that God is in control, even when the world seems out of control. Share the good news about Jesus, and the hope of eternal life with everyone. If you’re on social media, refuse to be negative, refuse to be hostile or hateful. People need to see that we are confident and courageous. The very idea of Lifewell is for us to live in such a way that others recognize us as different, positive, life-giving.

It is imperative that we live under the inspiration of the indwelling Holy Spirit, moment by moment, all day long. Don’t do anything, don’t post anything, don’t say anything, until and unless you sense the Holy Spirit leading. If you never have that sense, you don’t have relationship with Jesus! “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9, CSB) How do you make decisions? What made you stay home yesterday, or go to church? Why did you worship with us, or fail to? It’s possible to be at church and not enter in to worship! We must make these decisions on the basis of faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Where do you think that assurance and conviction comes from? It is the Holy Spirit seeking to convict your spirit. Are you paying attention? If the Holy Spirit convicts you to avoid a certain place, or take a different route home, or not to be around someone, or to share with someone, or not to say what you really want to, you must obey.

God will protect us, Lifewell, but we have to pay attention to his leading, not the speculation and prognostication of politicians and the media. Faith follows facts and truth. Faith is the organ of spiritual sight. Faith must be your response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). We must abide in Christ, remain in Him, stay close to Him, and that equals being filled with the Holy Spirit and following His lead as He moves on your spirit. “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh…If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 & 25).

The present crisis is a test of your faith and faithfulness. Will you pass? Are you failing? We are guaranteed victory, so raise your hands and the Lord will lift you out of your depression, doubt and fear! “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!” (Romans 8:37). Everything will be ok, friends, so long as you love God and pursue His purpose. In fact, everything will be better than ok, we will come out stronger, better and more like our Lord! “All things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

I love you, and pray for you. I hope you will pray for me, and I hope to see you soon!

In Truth;

Pastor Darryl

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Vindication Part 3: Dirty Cops

This is the third installment in a series about 21 years of overcoming conflict and opposition as I’ve tried to learn how to minister and speak the truth in Garland, Texas. You can read the first two chapters in the series in my notes on Facebook.

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I’ve been accused of being negative. Sorry, I’m trying to be more positive. I think faith is positive. It just seems I’m always fighting some kind of adversity. Maybe that’s the case with everyone. Probably that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If everything is going well, if I’m not fighting anything, I become comfortable and I don’t grow. Of course, if growth is predicated on conflict, I should be a spiritual giant by now! There’s more to it than just dealing with affliction, offense and opposition. I have to overcome, and that won’t happen apart from Christ working through me.

House of Judgement 1998 was the most difficult project for which I had been responsible, until I started a church. How the church got started is a story all it’s own, and I’ve written about it previously.

My church was founded under unique circumstances. I didn’t just come up with the idea one day. Really, my hand was forced. It became readily apparent that I could no longer be part of the status quo in youth ministry (as if I ever was!). A vocal but influential minority at the church where I served previously were unhappy with my unorthodox methods of reaching teenagers. I made this worse by doing stuff like bleaching my hair and doing our youth meetings at a place called the ROC (instead of at the church– as if the church is a building, but that’s another discussion).

Everything came to a head on February 15, 1999 when I was pulled over by the police at 2:00 A.M. with a car full of young adults. When asked why, the officer in charge told me I had made an illegal u-turn. Okay. We had just returned from… Dunkin Donuts. Pretty shady place to take young people, I know. When the police officer asked the ages of the people in the car, one young person was about a month short of his 17th birthday, so he was technically in violation of curfew. I should have checked before I let him go with us, I know.

It was cold outside. The 16 year old in question was not dressed for winter weather, but the officers took him out of the car, searched him and kept him shivering out there. I was frustrated and made the comment under my breath (I thought) that they’d see me in court over this. That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Promptly, the senior policeman, who we will just call “Officer Lurch,” appeared at my window like a quantum particle. “What did you say?” he demanded. I repeated myself. That may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

“Step out of the car,” commanded Officer Lurch. He then made me spread eagle on the hood of his cruiser where he searched me. For what, I didn’t know. He put me in the back of the police car. No handcuffs. He and his partner spoke to the young adults in my car, and continued to keep the 16 year old out in the cold. Officer Lurch got into the front passenger seat of his warm police car and lectured me through the screen. He told me that they had the right to pull anybody over for anything they pleased at any time. At this point I had become wise enough to remain silent. The lecture about putative police rights lasted about 15 minutes.

At some point I was made aware that they had called the 16, nearly 17, year old passenger’s parents to come and get him. Since I wasn’t being charged with anything, –in fact, they never wrote me a ticket for the allegedly illegal u-turn– I asked if they’d let me out of the back of the police car before the young man’s father arrived. I didn’t need the guy thinking I’d done something wrong. Officer Lurch said, “We’ll see.” I could only watch helplessly when the young man’s father arrived and stared at me sitting like a criminal in the back of a police car. The man left with his son, then things got really interesting.

Officer Lurch came to the back of the police cruiser and commanded, “Step out of the car, please.” I complied. “Step around to the front of the car please.” I complied. As I was escorted to the front of the car by Officer Lurch, his rookie partner, who we’ll call Officer Buzz, circled around behind me, pushed me down on the hood of the cruiser and snapped handcuffs tightly on my wrists. Next–as in after I was cuffed–Officer Lurch circled back to the open door of the police car (not my car), and in one fluid movement appeared to reach into the back seat to remove a small plastic baggy with a dark substance in it. He walked up to me and shook the baggy in my face. “You’re under arrest for possession of marijuana!”

Officer Lurch, then turned toward the shocked passengers in my car and waved the baggy. Taunting with a smirk, he said: “See, your youth minister is a doper!”

I thought, ‘This can’t be happening!”  It was like I’d been dropped into the middle of some B-rated cop show.  I didn’t know what to say, so I shouted, “I’m being framed!”  as the dirty cops put me back (now handcuffed) into the police car. I was being framed. I guess they figured if I was going to see them in court, they’d give me a reason.

The officers then took charge of my car to have it towed, and made the remaining young adult passengers walk back to my apartment in the cold. I spent several hours in jail before I could post bail. I didn’t sleep, I assure you.

That week I spent money getting my car out of the impound, more money on a drug test within 24 hours, which proved I was clean. I even paid for at polygraph by a respected operator used by smaller police departments. The results? I was telling the truth when I stated: “The marijuana taken from the back of that police car was not mine.” I had to hire an attorney to present all of this. Once the Dallas County prosecutors office was confronted with the evidence, along with my clean record, they declined to pursue the case. The charges were dropped even before my arraignment.

Sadly, the information about my arrest got out, and there were those intent on ruining my reputation in the community. Gossip and rumor spread. “Did you hear about the youth minister who got arrested?” A member of our church heard the news from a police officer in line at the grocery story, another member heard it from someone at the bank. I had already informed our pastor of the incident, Next I held a meeting of all the youth parents and presented my case and the evidence of my innocense. The great majority of them believed me. I had spent seven years in that church as an honest, upright (and health conscious) associate pastor and youth minister. Later the same night I made the presentation to the rest of our congregation. Most of them believed my story, but not everyone.

Apparently, the disbelieving were vocal enough to have an impact. I was told by the pastor that my position would be reduced to part-time by the onset of summer. I was called to minister full-time. I had worked hard. I had done many good things at that church. What to do? I prayed.

I determined that God was calling me to start a church where people who felt unwanted, rejected and judged could come and find grace. I presented this idea to the pastor, and he was enthusiastic and supportive. We went to the local officials of the church’s denomination and they chose to sponsor the launch of a new church. On July 4th, 1999 City of Refuge was born in Richardson, Texas. We started with about 30-40 young people and a few adults. There was no model for this church, just the philosophy found in Jesus statement:

“It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. But go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13, NIV).

Everyone who attended received Christ’s unconditional acceptance. Many allowed his mercy and grace change there lives. There were also people who used this grace as a license to justify their bad behavior. It was a rough start. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In fact, I could write an essay on how not to start a church.

In February of 2002 we determined that God wanted us to change the name of the church. Jesus taught that his followers are to be a light to the world like a city set on a hill. Zion is a name for Jerusalem in the Old Testament. It appears many times in connection with promises that God has made to his people. We are his people. His promises are for us. I don’t mean to say this about my church alone. All people who put their faith in Jesus have access to God’s “very great and precious promises” (see 2 Peter 2:2-4). Zion is a name that we hoped would remind the people of our church of this truth.

12 years later I started to notice that some people misunderstood the name Zion. Some thought it was Jewish, others associated it with Rastafarianism. Zion has a great biblical history, but too many organizations, good and bad, use it.  So, at the risk of appearing unstable, I proposed that we change the name one last time. I looked at the passage of Scripture from which we got our motto, “Spirit and Truth.” It is from the story about Jesus and the woman at the well. He promised a hurting outcast that if she asked, he would give her living water, water that would become a spring inside her, “welling up to eternal life.” Life Well. I want to live a Spirit filled, Christ focused life, and I want to receive the overflow of rich and satisfying life that Jesus offers to those who believe.  I want to help people to live life well. Now our church is called Lifewell and our new motto is “living life well.”

Along the way I’ve prayed that I would be vindicated, that my name would be cleared and my reputation restored. I had hoped one of those police officers somehow would have the conscience to come forward and tell the truth by now. Not yet, but I still have hope because I still believe the promises I received when I first came to Garland.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

All who rage against you

will surely be ashamed and disgraced;

those who oppose you

will be as nothing and perish.

Though you search for your enemies,

you will not find them.

Those who wage war against you

will be as nothing at all.

For I am the Lord, your God,

who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, Do not fear;

I will help you.”

(Isaiah 41:10-13, NIV)

I suppose I could just forget about this terrible incident and move on, but the church I pastor is right around the corner from the church where I was youth minister when all of this occurred. We still do ministry at the ROC, a community center owned by that church. I have to believe that what happened to me was for a reason. God’s providence ensures that nothing takes place in the lives of any of his children apart from his approval. “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I do love God. I have been called. He has and will use this incident for good. I may not have had the courage to start City of Refuge if it wasn’t for what happened to me that cold February night in ’99.

Cats, Rats and a Pandemic

Cats Rats and Sheltering

A study was conducted regarding the fear rats have of cats. Even the scent of a cat drives a rat into panic. In the presence of a cat near a rat burrow a sentry rat will stick its nose out and scream ultrasonically for upwards of 48 hours, which keeps the other rats sheltering in fear, deep in the burrow.

Right now we hear relentless screaming about the pandemic by politicians and their  media allies: STAY INSIDE, STAY SAFE! Daily the pandemic is proving to be far less deadly than was originally forecast, but the fearful sentries continue to scream as though we’re all going to die unless we do what the government says. There’s a cat out there, to be sure, but we’re being led to believe it is crouched in front of the burrow ready to strike anyone who comes outside. The truth is far different. The cat is out there. However, it is further from the burrow than we’ve been led to believe. Perhaps we could say the smell of it is being driven toward the fearful screamers by political fans. The reality is, cats have always been a threat. If the healthy go out and are careful, the overwhelming majority will escape, and can bring food back to the weak. However, we cannot all remain in the burrow, friends. We cannot. Recent estimates are that upwards of 500 million people in the world will soon descend into abject poverty, and many millions will starve. The screaming needs to stop.

COVID-19 as Constitutional Crisis

My friends,

Could we be witnessing the  attempted deconstruction of the United States as a Constitutional Republic, and destruction of democracy in the West, all under the guise of safety from the bogeyman COVID-19?

I ask you, where did this virus come from? How did it come about? Is it an accident? It came from Wuhan province in China. Evidence is mounting that it came from a laboratory there, which is near a wet market where the virus is believed to have first spread. This means it is engineered, which explains why it is a novel coronavirus (it is new, unprecedented). Now, the most important question: is its release an intentional act by the Chinese Communist Party as an experiment or outright effort in exercising control? The mechanism of control has been the World Health Organization. It is clear that the WHO is being manipulated, if not outright controlled by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Chinese Communists have lied and sown disinformation since the beginning regarding COVID-19, which the WHO simply accepted.

If what I am asserting here is in any wise accurate, we are witnessing an act of war by China on a global scale. If it is merely an accident that was covered up while millions of people left the Wuhan province and travelled around the world to spread the virus, then the Chinese Communist Party and the WHO are guilty of crimes against humanity. This action has caused death, sickness and loss of income for a large number of people. As of this writing there are over three million who have been infected (likely a very small percentage of the actual number, since a relative few have been tested), and 212,522 have died. The United States alone has gone at least two trillion dollars more in debt by sending stimulus payments to its citizens. The amount of lost income due to unemployment is a large and growing number.

Why are many of our elected officials in the United States refusing to hold China responsible for this? Why isn’t it being investigated? Why are Democrats more concerned about assigning blame to President Trump or their political opponents, than in protecting this country from further threats? Could they be complicit in an effort to deconstruct our democracy to fit their Socialist aims? Bare minimum they are opportunists who are using this to further their policy agenda. Nancy Pelosi has proven she will stuff every stimulus package with agenda items having nothing whatever to do with economic relief for workers. It is Democrat governors like Northam in Virginia and Whitmer of Michigan who have used their power in the both draconian and arbitrary ways. 

In a recent video Dennis Prager observes that the current shutdown sets a dangerous precedent for the future, wherein Democrats may use a shutdown mandate to push policies like limiting climate change, if given power in the White House and both houses of Congress Democrats could simply make the case that we need to shut down or have government take over of certain industries to combat climate change. The idea of a government takeover of industry is a Socialist policy move already floated by some Democrats at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

I’m not a political analyst. I’m an observer. I’m asking questions that need answers. I am the pastor of a small church, and a citizen who appreciates deeply the freedom to live, work, speak freely, and worship my God openly. My congregation has not been permitted to meet together for over a month. We’ve made do with online services, certainly. However, I question the Constitutional authority of our government to do what they’ve done. The 1st Amendment is not superseded and should not get suspended by orders purportedly made to keep us safe. In fact, the 1st Amendment protections of freedom of speech are being assailed daily by the very platform we use to put our worship service online. As of last night YouTube removed two journalist interviews of doctors in California who factually and with great respect disagreed with our current mitigation protocols. YouTube cited the videos as being in violation of their “community guidelines”. I’ve seen terrible, disrespectful, tirades that YouTube has no problem with, but these videos were by experts who simply disagreed with the prevailing wisdom, which, I make the case here, is politically motivated manipulation from the Left. YouTube has proven to be an ally of the Left often. 

Again, friends, what we are witnessing is a chilling violation of our Constitutional protections. I am not marching in protest, yet. However, I have fasted and prayed, and I will continue to pray and speak out. Will you join me?

Who Controls You?

The Spirit tries to console you

While the Government seeks to control you.

Fear is a motivator;

Your heart needs a Navigator.

The Spirit seeks to guide you;

will you follow?

Or will you fall?

Your faith is stalled,

if it ever was at all.

Now why is that?

You’re being tested.

Are you getting bested?

Are you fasting and praying,

Or crying and complaining?

Two voices speak;

only one speaks truth,

Which one do you hear?

Me?

Confident in the face of evil.

I fear no disease.

My God is the Healer!

I shelter with the Savior.

When I go out walking

through the valley of the Death Shadow

I fear no evil,

because the Good Shepherd walks with me.

Bad news can’t faze me.

I believe the Lord’s report.

He’s got plans for me

to give me hope and a future.

O, I’m serious about this pandemic.

I fast and pray every day,

Every Day, 

until Easter Sunday.

Breakthrough is coming!

I’m asking,

I’ve set my face like flint.

I am determined.

I am desperate.

I’m pressing in on the Lord to act.

God is at work.

I believe!

Preaching Into the Air?

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”  

(Matthew 11:16–17, NIV)

I have been preaching God’s Word for a long time, over 30 years. I sensed the call to do this when I was 17 (over 40 years ago). Didn’t preach my first official “sermon” until I was 27. Always felt unworthy. Still do. Still am. “Woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel.”

“If I hold it in it becomes like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary to let it out.”

Lately, well for some time now, I am disappointed in the attentiveness of those who hear me preach and teach.

“For him who has ears to hear, let him listen.”

I wonder who is actually paying attention. Whose listening? People play on their phones during worship. They get up during the sermon and head for the restroom. Is that necessary, or is it just boredom?

Last night I asked a team of our leaders what and whether they got anything out of the messages I’ve been delivering during the present Covid crisis. (This is what prompts me to write today.) The response was largely silent. So, why? I worked hard and prayed sincerely over those messages. I am imperfect. I am a sinful human being. Am I a failure as a preacher, or is there some other issue? 

I’m willing to be reproved by the wise and spiritually discerning. I’m not seeking to justify myself or my gift. I believe God has called me. I’ve spent my life dedicated to preaching and to the Lord’s church. Lately I wonder how much good I’ve done, especially over the past 20 years of devotion to one church. I struggle with disappointment, discouragement. Why isn’t there more enthusiasm? Why don’t we grow? Why don’t more people come to church? Why do so few respond during our invitation to pray and commit at the end of every worship service. Why the bored faces? Why are so few interested in my Wednesday Bible study, and those who do attend are in and out week by week. Are the people tired of listening to me? Who’s paying attention when I preach and teach after all? Am I a failure as a preacher? Is my teaching impractical? Have I not met their needs, or just fallen short of their expectations? Am I too old? Past my prime? Do I not look good enough, sound good enough? Those are human concerns, but I am preaching to human beings, and I do seek to meet their genuine needs. 

Really, all I want to know, is whether I’m doing what God has called me to do right now. I seek to remain encouraged. I have hope in God’s promises. If I didn’t I would have given this up for something more lucrative a decade ago. In fact, I keep telling the Lord if He doesn’t want me in ministry any more to call me away. Give me another job. I don’t care as long as I’m doing what He wants. He keeps me here, keeps me preaching and teaching in spite of my flaws. So, is there a lack of faith on the part of the people? A lack of the Holy Spirit’s anointing and filling?

Right now I’m fasting and praying every day.

  • I pray for protection for my people, for their health and finances.

I pray for a breakthrough in the pandemic. I’m asking God to do something obvious by Easter Sunday.

  • I am denying myself many things in order to deny self altogether. All too often my discouragement leads to self-pity and self-medication in a variety of peccadillos and pleasures, most of which are harmless but could become harmful if they got out of control. Sometimes I just don’t feel appreciated or loved, so even though I believe self-love to be inordinate, I turn to it for comfort. Then I’m convicted and turn to the Holy Spirit. God pours his love into my heart and I receive real comfort. Then I become disappointed over small crowds and limited response and the cycle starts all over again. I am exhausted by my own foolishness, and in the lack of growth I see both spiritually and evangelistically in our church.
  • I am fasting and praying for direction for myself and for our church. What needs to change? What more can we do to reach and retain people? How can I encourage personal spiritual growth? We need revival. The world needs awakening.
  • I am fasting because I am desperate. I am destitute. I seek change, and that means repentance. I preached on that last Sunday. Not sure many people took it seriously. We have a pandemic staring us down, and folks just go on with life as usual?! Do purported Christians really think Almighty God is not involved in this? God is at work! Don’t they realize the Lord is the one who is protecting them and their finances? Don’t they realize God’s discipline could reverse this in an instant. I believe God is protecting us because I’ve been praying and fasting for it. I refuse and reject this virus completely. I will not let the devil bring it into this church! Do the people give God the credit for their provision and protection, or do they just presume they’re lucky?

Is this us? How about you and the people of your church. Is this something the Lord wants us to learn now that we cannot gather?

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 33:31–33, NIV)

In the end, I’ll do what needs to be done, and change whet needs to change, so long as the Lord is the one leading me to do it. I’m not an entertainer. I’m not funny. Not cool. But I do seek to be God’s man. I’m trying to get back to that. Sadly, I’ve fallen short. “Stir up the gift of God which is within you.” I don’t preach for “10 shekels and a shirt” (for money) but because that’s what God created and called me to do. I don’t make up lessons and sermons like an entertainer seeking to promote myself and my brand. I promote Jesus and His Gospel. I am a preacher. It’s my identity, my gift, and I want to exercise it well. I hope that if you are a believer and read this, you won’t feel sorry for me (or judge me), but identify with me and seek the Lord for your calling (whatever that may be, God has called you to some ministry). And pray for me and my church, please.

 

God’s Purpose for the Pandemic

I know many of you think it’s bad. Certainly this virus is bad for some who catch it, very bad for a few. Can good come out of bad? Did God send this? Is it judgment for our sins? Does God have a purpose for the pandemic?

First of all, God is omnipotent and sovereign. That means He may do whatever He pleases, and He is powerful enough to do it. Therefore, whether God sent this virus, He is certainly powerful enough to stop it. God is also good, and His purposes, although often inscrutable (beyond our understanding), are ultimately good. God is love, but at times His love is what we might call “tough love.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). 

This ain’t heaven. We live in a fallen world, and it is filled with hardship and suffering. Even those of us who believe in Jesus and try to follow Him suffer, sometimes more because of our faith. We’re not going to make our world into heaven, but heaven is coming. This is bootcamp for eternity! God has a purpose for our suffering and difficulty down here: to make us more like His Son, Jesus.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28–29, NIV)

God can make good come out of a bad situation. God has a purpose for the pandemic we are currently experiencing. What is it? Let’s look at something Jesus said when confronted with the suffering of his countrymen. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and many of the people, believed that when something bad happened to someone it was God’s judgment on them. They deserved it because of their sin. Now, we can certainly bring suffering upon ourselves as a consequence of our bad decisions and evil actions, but that doesn’t mean that every time something bad happens to someone, it is some kind of punishment from God for a particular sin.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5, NIV)

Unless you repent, you too will perish… We all sin. Sin is falling short of God’s purpose for you. It is rebellion. It is breaking the moral law. Sin is failure or refusal to believe that God exists and rewards those who seek Him. It is refusing to believe that God is, and is good and loving. Sin is self-centered idolatry. Sin is Pride. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

We all sin, and we must all turn away from sin and toward God. We must put our faith in the one who can and will save us, Jesus Christ.  If you don’t, then you’ll eventually be destroyed by your sin. “The price for sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). This is eternal death, separation from God, total destruction in hell. The reason for death and hell is sin. The reason the world is fallen is because of our sin. “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 

“….but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Jesus came to save us from eternal destruction. Jesus was raised from death on the third day, Easter Sunday. All of those who are in Christ will overcome death too. In fact, He promised those who believed in him would not see death. “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51, NIV) Those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him because of our faith will not die forever. In fact, we’ll not really perceive death, only a transition into the presence of God. We will not perish. We have received His gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though He dies” (John 11:25).

In a very real sense, everything bad that happens down here, including and especially death, is God’s judgment, which is the consequence of our sin. So, I’m not sure the distinction is all that important between God causing a particular thing and it happening due to nature. The world we have inherited is separated from God. That’s the judgment. What you and I must do is turn our lives over to God by putting complete trust in Jesus. We must repent of our sin, which means change our thinking and our ways.

I believe God’s purpose for the pandemic is to bring about repentance, especially repentance from idols. It is a reason for you to turn from worthless things, and turn (or return) to Jesus. The world is filled with idols, and we have set our hearts on those idols. Now, some of them have been taken from us, albeit temporarily. No sports, no eating out, no parties, loss of money, loss of precious freedom. These are not necessarily bad in themselves, but we value them too highly. Too often we look to them rather than God. As author and pastor Tim Keller put it: “Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense of acceptability, joy, significance, hope, and security is by definition our god.” Now, you may say, “Well, I don’t really value sports, my gym, or favorite restaurant that much.” Here’s the test of whether something or someone is an idol. Once again from Keller, “A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted. So, if we lose a good thing, it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us.” 

You and I are forced to stay at home right now so we might focus on what is really important: our souls, our homes and families, and our relationship with God. So, what are you doing with the time you’ve been given? As for me, I’ve been thinking and praying about making some changes in my life for quite some time, but I never seem to quite do what I want to do.I begin but don’t carry it out to the end. I’ve asked God to help me, and He has, but I return to the same old patterns. The pandemic is a wake up call. It has given me perspective. It has laser-focused me. It’s like chemotherapy for my soul. It’s killing some things that needed to die. But it can’t last forever, or it will kill what is good too.

I could lose everything if God doesn’t step in and do something powerful and  miraculous. Lifewell Church is my life’s work. For some who attend our church, it may just another activity, something to do on Sunday, a place to gather with friends, hear some music, maybe listen to a nice message, some teaching from the Bible. For me, well, If I lose this church I lose everything. I lose what I’ve worked for for more than 20 years. What happens if the shutdown lasts for months? Will people lose interest? What happens if they lose their income and stop giving? We can’t pay our bills. Would the church dissolve, and I fade into the light of common day? If I didn’t believe God would protect us and hold us together, I would be in despair right now. I’d be living in panic and fear. 

This leads me to realize that according to Keller’s evaluation, even Lifewell Church might be an idol to me. So, I’ve made it clear to the Lord that as long as I have Him, nothing else matters. I need His presence, His protection, and His direction for my life. “Whom do I have in heaven but You, and I desire nothing on earth beside You” (Psalm 73:25). Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, the child God promised him. Abraham was willing to give up his son, and God gave Isaac back, along with affirmation that Abraham’s descendants would be a multitude and become all that God had promised. 

“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”” (Genesis 22:16–18, NIV)

Sometimes you have to give something up to keep it from becoming an idol, and if it is God’s will you’ll receive it back. Only then it will become what God intended it to be in your life. This works with anything, or anyone, we value too much. I have given Lifewell Church over to the Lord completely. God has given me confidence that our church will be well. I am at peace. I am not afraid. I am waiting on the Lord to act miraculously. I still believe we will become all that God established us to be. In fact, I believe we will actually grow during the pandemic! We’ll come back stronger than ever. I believe.

Here’s something you desperately need to realize during this potentially dangerous time: God can and will protect you if you trust and rely on Him. If you turn from your self-seeking ways toward God’s perfect plan for your life. then you and your family will be protected. This is true of all who will remain “in Christ.” You may suffer, but you will not be destroyed. That is not the case when you think like the world and wander around doing your own thing. That’s living like a practical atheist, even if you say you believe in God. 

I cling to Psalm 91 in times like these. 

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1, 5–7, NIV). 

We’re under an emergency order to “shelter inside your home” right now. Well, Almighty God is my home, and He will protect me because I am sheltered in Him. You can count on God to keep you safe from destruction if you are in Christ, because God promised to do so and He keeps His promises.

So, I have been fasting and praying daily for the past week, and I plan on continuing to do that until Easter Sunday. I am praying for the protection and prosperity of my Lifewell Church family. That’s what they are to me, family, not followers, parishioners or attenders. I am praying daily that none of us gets sick. I am believing we will not. I am praying for a miraculous breakthrough in this pandemic by Easter Sunday. I am praying and fasting and praying for our nation and our world! I do not receive sickness, hospitalization or death. I believe the report God gives in His Word, not the fear-mongering media, and not the unbelieving masses online.

I am desperate. I am determined. I am in the process of making changes in my own heart and life. I confess this with the hope that you will look closely and carefully at your life too. Let the Spirit of God encourage you and grant you a change of heart, friend. Decide. Change your thinking; change your ways. “Don’t be conformed to this world any longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may test and approve God’s perfect and pleasing will for your lives” (Romans 12:2).

Will you join me? Will you repent? God can, and I believe God will, stop the pandemic, but not until his purpose is accomplished. That purpose is not punishment, or I’d be sick already. God is warning us. Our repentance may well be what God is waiting on to shut this down.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

In the end God will accomplish his purpose, and he is working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called to that purpose, which is to make us like Jesus. So, have faith, be confident. Faith is inherently positive when it is invested in the all powerful, good and loving God. This is the One we may call Father because of Jesus. 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15, NIV)

Remember, fear is the opposite of faith, and Jesus’ followers have the Holy Spirit, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Seek the Lord and make the necessary changes to your life. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:6). This pandemic will result in good for those who follow Jesus to God’s glory. I am believing God that this will end soon. Make it so, Lord, amen!

Letter 2 to Lifewell Church from Pastor D

Dear Lifewell family,

These are challenging times. I am not worried. In fact, I am constantly encouraged by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. I want to pass that along to you. I am your pastor, so I am trying to watch over you, even though I don’t get to see you (many of you anyhow). You can make that easier by paying attention online. I realize there are many distractions, many voices, many choices. Please pay attention to several avenues of contact from me to you:

1) Mass texts. If you’re not on our list for some reason, text the word LIFEWELL to 940 00. Also, I’ve started a regular Bible verse group. Those in the group will receive about a text per day with encouraging or challenging Bible passages that I believe are God’s message for us right now. To join that group text THEWORD to 940 00.

2) Facebook. Most of you are on Facebook. Most of you likely just scroll, rather than being intentional about what you view or where you visit. Make a choice to regularly visit our church Facebook Page. If you’re not following it yet, it’s Lifewell Church. Go there and follow it. Visit the Lifewell Members group. If you’re not in that group, do a search, request to be one, or just message me personally. Are you one of my friends on Facebook. If not, request me. Do you follow my Facebook page? If not, do so now. I’m not interested in winning a popularity contest, but I need to be able to communicate with you regularly.

Facebook is also a great place for you to share GOOD NEWS, not doom and gloom, not hatred, anger and fear-mongering rumors. We are the city set on a hill, let’s shine!

3) YouTube. This is VERY important right now. You need to find my YouTube.com/deorl channel and Subscribe. Our worship will happen live on YouTube every Sunday at 11 AM. You really need to be able to watch on a larger screen. In all likelihood that’s your TV. If you have a smart TV, then you should have YouTube access. The least expensive way to get access if you don’t is to buy a Roku stick. This device costs about $35. I set one up for Vernon to watch our services when he was no longer able to attend personally, and he was able to navigate to us each week once I subscribed to my channel.

Recruit some family, friends, other members of Lifewell, or neighbors to come to your house and watch the service with you! We can meet with 10 people at a time (actually, it would be legal to meet with up to 50, but 10 is the current recommendation). So, put 10 people in front of your TV and actually worship together! The service will be shorter online than it is live. I estimate under an hour. It is likely it will be closer to 50-55 minutes. 

If 10 of you each had 10 people in their house, that would be more folks than we usually see downstairs on Sunday. I think more of you can do this. Our church could actually grow during this time! Please take this seriously. Really make the effort to reach out, in person and online.

Pastor Craig had a great idea concerning our online worship. If ALL OF US SHARED THAT THE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE, then we could reach out to more people than we ever have on Sunday! Will you do this? Start at about 10AM Sunday, and text, message, post that people can join us at YouTube.com/deorl at 11AM, Then remind them when it starts. This was Craig’s idea. If you have a better strategy in mind, USE IT. Can you imagine if we saw hundreds or even a thousand or more people watching with us! We need you, Lifewell people, to have faith and make this effort!

I realize our live webcast has suffered at times due to internet dropouts. That’s why I have had a separate dedicated service installed downstairs and I am not relying on wifi access to it. The Streamer is wired in. That should result in HD quality and great audio without buffering and pausing, or generally unwatchable video. Please pray this works!

4) lifewellchurch.com Our website will be updated regularly. You may give from there, the worship is streamed live there (YouTube is embedded, so it’s the same as going directly to my channel), and the latest worship info will always be available. I may make other tools available there too. I used to podcast my teaching. If that would be helpful to you, please let me know; I’ll be happy to do so again.

5) deorl.com That’s my blog, which you’re reading right now, by the way! I will be writing longer messages and posting them there. Follow me on WordPress and you’ll get emails notifying you when I post something.

I love you. I pray for you. Please make it easier for me to help you and teach you and encourage you. Follow the steps above now.You are always welcome to call me. If you don’t have my number, message me on Facebook or get it from another member. God bless. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of your God!” (Exodus 14:13).

Peace and Truth;

Pastor Darryl Hall

Lifewell Church

Healthcare and Personal Responsibility

Nobody else is responsible for your choices but you. This applies to your health, your finances, your relationships and any other area you’d like to include. Most people want freedom, but fewer want to take responsibility for irresponsible choices.

Let’s look at the health question as an example. If you smoke (tobacco or marijuana) there are associated health risks. If you eat SAD (Standard American Diet), and don’t take time daily to exercise (walk, jog, swim, bike, train with weights, etc.), then you are a candidate for Type II diabetes and may be dealing with some degree of obesity. The newest term for this dangerous combination is diabesity. If you are dealing with health challenges related to your choices, you are responsible to make changes. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Sadly many of us are unwilling to see it this way. I want to eat whatever I please. Don’t want to exercise. And when I have a health problem I want to take a pill to solve it, but I’d rather not pay for that. I need free medical care. In reality, nothing is free. In countries with socialized medicine the average tax rate is around 55%. That’s about double what a working adult is paying in the United States right now. Your health insurance may seem expensive, but will a system like this be cheaper for you? For me the answer is no. Since I never go to the hospital and rarely to the doctor, it is grossly unfair for the government take half my salary to pay for others who haven’t taken care of their health.

In addition to this a government run health system would be like, the VA (Veteran’s Administration). Ask a veteran how happy they are with the quality of care they receive. The government would decide whether you deserve treatment. The government would decide whether or not to pay for the birth of a child that they deem unworthy (those with physical challenges like down syndrome). The government would decide whether to provide expensive care to someone a medical board determined not worth the expense. A recent well publicized incident in Great Britain comes to mind, wherein the British government refused to prolong a baby’s life, and then prohibited the parents from taking their own sick child to another country willing to treat it. They went as far as posting armed officers at the doors of the hospital! Why? Because the British government determined the baby would, and therefore should, die. I am not willing to give life and death decisions about my health to any government. Then there is the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions, which I (and others like me) oppose.

In the event all of this talk about personal responsibility would cause you to think I don’t care about those who are sick. You would be wrong. I believe affordable healthcare should be available to everyone. I believe those who cannot afford to go to the doctor should receive help when they are genuinely in need of it. I would give money to make this possible. That doesn’t equate to me going to the ER because I have a head cold, or seasonal allergies. When I was a child my parents took me to the hospital to get my tonsils out, and to the ER because I accidentally stuck a knife through my hand. Now, there is an increasing tendency to run to the emergency room for most anything. If you can afford it, then that’s your choice, but don’t expect others to subsidize such an expensive trip when you could have gone to a primary care doctor.

Some of us have medical problems we didn’t do anything to cause or even contribute to. I am nearly deaf in my right ear. It happened in one day and has nothing to do with my choices. I’d like to be able to afford hearing aids. Currently I cannot. They run between $3,000-5,000 I don’t expect the government to provide them. I would like a more affordable option, however. Currently I don’t have medical insurance, and even when I did hearing aids were not covered. I know others who have serious health problems that they did not cause. I believe these folks should have access to medical care for whatever they can honestly afford. If that resulted in a modest increase in my tax rate, that is acceptable. However, it will also mean necessary reform to our medical industrial complex, especially in the prescription drug sector.

The question each of us needs to answer is, what can I do to improve my health situation? I can change my diet. I can exercise. I can rest. I can be healthy. I am responsible.

Why Fasting Is Important and Healthy

The truth is everyone has thoughts or desires, which, if acted upon, would be destructive to self and others. If we do not learn to say no to these inborn incessant urges when we are young, then we wind up dead, in debt or in prison before too long. We are conditioned to say yes to our whims from the time we are tiny via an array convincing consumer ads. Our economy surges when we splurge and buy what we are persuaded we want. In addition to this, we are taught that virtually nothing we do is really our fault. We are victims of time and chance and genetics, to say nothing of the people who have scarred us emotionally and psychologically. I need to eat comfort food to feel better; I need to buy myself something; I need to escape by playing my video games, trolling the internet for ever more interesting porn, watching countless hours of television or movies. Entitlement is a destructive mental illness because it is the excuse keeping us from saying no to ourselves.

Jesus said that unless we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow him we cannot be his disciples. Christianity in our time has followed the consumer culture by presenting a Jesus who wants to boost our sagging self-esteem, and enable our sense of entitlement by providing us with anything and everything we ask for in prayer. We are promised that we can receive whatever we ask for, but Jesus said, “if you abide in me and my word abides in you, then ask whatever you will and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He also instructed his followers to ask in His name, which means asking by proxy for the kinds of things and with the kind of faith Jesus himself would. This is not self-interested asking. The only way to get to the place where we are asking like the Son of God is to become like the Son of God, and the only way to get there is to deny ourselves and be filled with the Spirit of Christ.

This denial of self is a cognitive process that involves seeing ourselves differently. It involves realizing a mysterious metaphysical reality: I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). This cannot be a theoretical understanding only, or even a remarkable personal revelation into the teaching of Scripture. The Apostle said, “I die daily.” Thus, it is a daily, even moment-by-moment, recognition that the old person of mere flesh and blood is dead. 

Self-denial requires faith that results in self-discipline. Without faith we likely will fail to continue in the discipline. After all, why should I deny myself what I desire? Moreover, without assistance from outside myself I remain captive to the tyranny of “me,” even while seeking to deny certain desires or perceived needs. Therefore, faith in Christ is essential to self-denial, both as the reason and the power to deny the self. This is much stronger than so called “will-power.”

I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Lord has commanded that I deny self. In fact, he stated plainly that I couldn’t follow him until I do this (Mark 10:34, Luke 14:26-27).  To assist me in keeping this command Jesus has died on the cross, risen from the dead and sent His Spirit to live within me. The Holy Spirit connects me to Christ’s death and resurrection. Now the spiritual reality is: I have died; my old life is buried; a new creation has been resurrected. In order to make this truth a reality in my experience I must believe and continually discipline myself to act upon that faith. Certain spiritual disciplines may aid in this practice.

For thousands of years people in many different religious traditions have practiced fasting. Consider the following examples of people who fasted: Confucius, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates (father of medicine).  In the Bible we find Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel and Esther fasting in the Old Testament. In the Mosaic Law 

Israel is commanded to fast once per year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). In the New Testament Paul the apostle and Jesus fasted. Such eminent Christian leaders as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards also fasted. Why?

There are many reasons and benefits, but in keeping with the teaching above I have observed the following truth. Fasting teaches me to say, “no” to me. It is denying something that I need, usually food, in order to focus on what I need more: God and his truth. Jesus was tempted by the devil to end his 40 day inaugural fast miraculously by turning rocks into loaves of bread. The Lord quoted Deuteronomy: “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 & Deut. 8:3). There is something, or rather Someone, more important in life than me. 

Eating is essential for physical life to continue. Unlike air, or even water, food is something I can limit or go without for an extended period of time without serious health risks. In fact, if done correctly and not recklessly, fasting may actually be healthy for the body. For example, recent studies done with both animals and humans indicate that eating 30% fewer calories results in a longer and healthier life. 

Fasting doesn’t have to be limited to food, however. Scripture records this interesting fast of the prophet Daniel during a period of serious prayer and mourning: “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Daniel 10:3, ESV). So, Daniel kept himself from self indulgence during this time. Later in the passage we see that he had chosen this kind of fast as a way of humbling himself before God to seek understanding into the future plight of his people Israel (ibid. 10:12). The Apostle Paul observed that married couples might abstain from sexual activity in order to focus on prayer. However, he encourages such couples to come back together after a limited time to avoid temptations, which may result from a lack of self-control (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). During the Christian season of Lent some people come up with an activity or indulgence in their lives to give up, which is a kind of fasting.

The following are seven reasons for fasting.

1. DEDICATION. Fast as an Act of Dedication (Matthew 4:1-2) –  After his baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he fasted for 40 days to prepare for entry into his ministry. During this time Jesus was tested by the devil. Perhaps fasting gave Jesus clarity as he intensely focused on His Father. The time of testing provided confirmation that He was the Son of God who had come to save the world. You may fast as an act of dedication to the Lord, and to seek confirmation about his calling in your life.

2. DISCIPLINE. Fast as an Exercise of Self-Discipline (Matthew 4:3-4) –  Learn to say no to yourself. All of the temptations Jesus endured were aimed at getting him to act egotistically and expediently. If the Lord had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but an effort at overcoming self-doubt with presumption. Our consumer culture is about self-indulgence, not self-discipline. It is about pursuing passion, pleasure and satisfying desire. This is why we’re overweight and in debt. It is important to set limits for our time, money, eating and drinking. Fasting is a good tool to discipline yourself so that you may also say no in areas other than food.

3. DEPENDENCE. Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence upon God-  Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation demonstrates this. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). When I give up something I truly want, I will need God’s help to persevere. The third affirmation of the AA 12 Steps recognizes our need to do this. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…” This is essential if I am to overcome a particularly stubborn habit or addiction. “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 12:29). We need a deep faith, which relies entirely upon God, and fasting may help promote such faith.

4. DETERMINATION. Fast to Establish Determination-  Faith is not a feeling. Belieiving is an act of the will. If I truly believe I am willing to do something about it. Faith must also endure or it’s worthless. Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. Not everything happens instantly. In fact, many issues require determination and tenacity to overcome. Jesus’ disciples encountered a boy whom they could not help. After Jesus cast out the spirit afflicting the child, his disciples asked him why they were powerless to do so. Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). 

Remember, although faith is an act of the will, it is not about willpower. It is about trust. I must be determined to continue to trust God, no matter the circumstances. This is fasting for a breakthrough. Nothing is helping. Nothing is changing. I can give up and give in, or I can resolve to focus all my attention on God and persevere in asking and seeking and knocking. Consider Jesus’ parable of the importunate widow: the woman kept coming to the judge for justice until he finally gave her fair relief (Luke 18:1-8). In the end I will find it is not God who is withholding my right, but a lack of faith on my part. Fasting helps me to break through.

5. DESPERATION/Destitution. Fast as an Act of Desperation (Joel 2:17-21) –  Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do I realize I have nothing to offer God? I must repent and come to an end of self if I want to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I must realize how truly sinful I am, and how depraved I will become without God’s help. I’ve got to take sin seriously. Cry out to God in repentance. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NIV). “God will hear the prayer of the destitute” (Psa. 102:17). I need to hear from God at all costs. Our nation and our lives are filled with rebellion, perversion and lawlessness. How many more tragedies must occur until we realize the need to return to the Lord in heart and mind and body? “for the LORD will rebuild Zion; he will appear in his glory” (Psa. 102:16).

6. DETOXIFICATION. Fast as a means of Detoxification (Daniel 1:8-16) – Because of constant exposure to an impure environment your body collects all sorts of toxic and destructive substances. Consider Daniel and his friends who would not eat the meat and rich food offered them by their Babylonian overlords. Instead they ate only vegetables and drank only water. They were healthier as a result. They asked to be tested for 10 days. You can do the same test on yourself: Eat only vegetables and drink only water for 10 days and discover a healthier you. A vegan or even vegetarian diet that allows only organic foods is a healthy way to rid your body of toxins. When you abstain from food altogether, drinking only water, especially for longer periods, the digestive system and liver and kidneys can be cleansed of accumulated poison.

The same applies to your mind. When you remove TV, movies, video games, godless music, social media, you give your mind the opportunity to rest. Replace these things with worship and saturation in Scripture.

7. DIET. Fast regularly to lose excess body fat- Limiting the amount of food you eat is a means of controlling calorie intake. Most of us eat too much. We take in more calories than we burn, so we gain unneeded fat. Periodic fasting, (ie. one day per week), if done in moderation and balanced with a healthy, calorie controlled diet, is an effective tool in losing fat and maintaining a lean body. Further, we eat too often, and this adversely affects health by raising insulin resistance. Intermittent fasting throughout the week will help resolve this health problem. Stop eating at sundown and don’t eat again until sunrise. Several days per week, don’t eat until lunchtime. Periods of at least 13 hours without food will help your body to reduce the amount of insulin it is releasing and help your cells to become more sensitive..

Here are some practical guidelines and suggestions for possible fasts. Remember the following principles. 1) If you make a vow, keep it.  2) Choose something that will really require discipline to give up. 3) Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.

Consider one several of the following fasts during Lent.

  1. Pick a legitimate pleasurable food or activity and deny yourself this.
    1. Why? You are learning to discipline yourself for the sake of Christ.
    2. For example eliminate: candy, soda, dessert, coffee, alcohol, TV, watching or listening to sports, secular music,  talk radio, movies, video games, Facebook, texting.
  2. Fast at least once per week from sundown to sundown. Eat a healthy dinner immediately before sundown on the first day, skip breakfast and lunch the next day, and break the fast right after sundown. Although, this is a 24 hour fast, you will have only skipped two meals.
  3. Juice fast for 24 hours. Drink only pure vegetable juice. 
  4. Eat no flesh. Abstain from eating meat during the entirety of Lent. 

Now, Lent is 46 days because Sunday is considered a feast day, and there are six Sundays in this period. Therefore, it is acceptable to “take Sunday off” during Lent.

Road to a Lean Body

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Translation: It’s not what you think or assume, but what you actually do that matters.

Today I return to the topic of health and fitness. Previously I reported a seven step plan to get lean again in 2020. So far, my progress has been limited because discipline has been sporadic in several areas. I lose some body fat, then fall prey to boredom, indifference, and/or entitlement and cheat on my diet. This has not been terrible, but any cheating inhibits progress, and enough cheating initiates regression.

I have remained rock solid on workouts, however. This has been my saving discipline. I continue to do strength training three days per week, and I’ve continued to run the other three days. The latter is a significant accomplishment for me due to my contempt for running.

I burned up 20 days and am currently behind my weight goal. I have lost some body fat, which is good, just not enough for this much effort. So, what must I do? Return to a stricter diet and more consistent intermittent fasting. My body doesn’t want to lose the weight, so I become voraciously hungry at night. I excuse eating after sundown by telling myself, “Well, it is intermittent fasting, so I can eat at night occasionally.” Or, “I’m working out with weights, my body needs the additional protein.” Most excuses contain a sprinkling of fact. The truth is, I cannot eat like that if I’m going to hit my goal.

I’m 40 days out and motivated to hit a goal weight of 149 by my birthday. When I’m there I’ll measure body fat and determine how much further down to go. Truth be told, I like being lean and skinny. When I’m fatter I become more lethargic. I also hate looking at my gut and love handles, especially when this can be seen through a tucked shirt. Here’s where vanity works in my favor. I WILL LOSE THIS FLAB.

Until next time, I hope you are busy achieving your fitness goals for the new year!