- Keep a food log & count calories.
- Lower your caloric intake. Calculate what you need to maintain your present weight and reduce that by 500/day. Be aware you will need fewer calories as your weight decreases, and your body will learn to maintain on fewer calories as well, which is why the rest of this list is important.
- Count carbs and keep them at no more than 10-15% of your overall caloric intake. One carb = 4.5 calories
- Stop drinking sugar water! That means drop the soda, sweet tea, Monsters, Red Bulls and any other drink that is primarily sugar and water.
- Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol inhibits the liver’s ability to convert fat to blood glucose.
- Lose the starch and bread. No pasta, no potatoes, no tortillas, no sandwiches with bread. Substitute lettuce wraps for bread/tortillas.
- Track your activity, and increase it. Various devices will do this: your phone, Fit Bit, Apple or Samsung watches etc.
- Exercise 30 minutes per day 5-6 days per week. Run, brisk walk, swim, karate’, bike riding, weightlifting etc.
- Practice intermittent fasting. Stop eating at sundown, or no later than 8pm. Don’t eat anything (NOTHING) until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary between this and 16, 18, up to 20 hours of fasting.
- NO CHEAT DAYS. One cheat day can easily destroy an entire week’s worth of work.
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From Sunday, January 3rd until Sunday February 13th I’m running a motivational contest to help folks drop some excess body fat. The person who loses the highest percentage of their body fat will win. So, not raw body fat, but as the amount lost compares to your overall. For example, I’ve balooned to around 16%. If I lose down to 12%, that reflects a 25% drop in my body fat. Someone with 28% body fat would have to drop 7% to equal my loss, while a person with 12% would need to lose 3%. This makes the playing field level, and makes the competition primarily with the individual.
Here’s my plan to drop down to 12% in six weeks, with an eventual goal of hitting 10.
1) Count calories. No matter what diet you’re on, your body requires a certain amount of energy to maintain. Calories are not perfect, but they are a measure of the energy I’m ingesting. At my age and current weight I need around 2400 calories per day to maintain. I use a free app called MyPlate to enter my food & drink. It also estimates my caloric needs based on the goal entered. I’ve overestimated the number of pounds I want to lose per week by entering two (rather than my goal of 1.5). This should help cover for entry and miscalculation errors. At this point I must not exceed 1692 calories per 24 hours.
2) Don’t drink alcohol. I like craft beer and a good margarita. Alcohol inhibits fat loss by keeping the liver peoccupied with transforming it from its toxic state into (potentially) beneficial blood sugar.
3) Don’t cheat. One cheat day will EASILY undo a week of hard work.
4) Intermittent fasting. This makes the lower calorie intake easier and reduces or eliminates insulin resistance. This means as my baseline I stop ingesting calories at 6pm and don’t eat or drink anything but water, herbal tea (night) and black coffee (morning) until noon the next day. That’s an 18 hour fast. To keep it intermittent (somewhat random) I’ll drink a protein drink before morning weight workouts at around 10am, which equals a 16 hour fast. Occasionally (once a week or so) I’ll go until 2pm or 4pm before I take in calories.
6) Keep carbs below 20-25% of overall calories, which equals 85-100 per day.
7) Work out 30-45 minutes per day, six days a week. For me this breaks down as three weight workouts and three cardio workouts. I lift, practice karate, run the treadmill.
This works. I’ve done it. In 2017 I dropped to 5.3% Now, you set some goals and get to work too!
- Ignore it, and get on with your life. Sadly, this will not work for long. The culture, government, and corporations are all part of the world you’re trying to ignore. They are advocating for a particular position and demanding you support it. Additionally, as the world worsens, good people become complicit in its demise by refusing to take a stand. “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” This also applies to the next option.
- Withdraw. Also called the Benedict (monastic) Option. Take your kids out of school, move to the country, grow your own food, drop off of the grid. Gather with only like-minded people. Will you be able to fulfill the Great Commission this way? Should we just let the world go to hell?
- Fight. Debate. Get into politics. Protest. Try to change the system. We’ve seen too many years of this. What is the result? Deep division. Prejudice. Contempt. The trouble with wrestling with pigs is, you both get muddy, but the pig likes it (variation on quote by George Bernard Shaw). Do you like living in the mud? Hopefully not. Might be a reason to adjust your social media interaction.
- Shine! Remember, if you belong to Jesus, you reflect His light. “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 10:12) Christ is the light to guide the nations (Isaiah 42:6). That is what our world needs to see! And Jesus will open their blind eyes (42:7). We receive Christ’s ministry and become agents and ambassadors, reflecting his light upon a dark world.
“Let your light so shine before people so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2 ESV)
Be the change! Do good. Love people. Live a positive life of faith in the face of a dark, negative world. Live in such a way that people will want what you have. This gives you the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. The LORD will encourage you! That’s what the Holy Spirit is, an Encourager. He will give you courage and strength and confidence in the face of the darkening world.
“Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous…He will not fear bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear….” (Psalm 112:4:7-8)
A) Love people instead of ignoring them or showing contempt and hatred.
““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43–45, ESV)
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, ESV)
B) Speak the Truth in love, rather than accepting or repeating lies. This includes unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, rumors and gossip.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV)
Those who traffic in lies are doing business for the Father of Lies.
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, ESV)
Those who live and speak the Truth are of the one who called Himself Truth.
“I am the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus prayed that we would be set apart by the Truth.
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
C) Focus on the Good News and share it with anyone who will listen.
When you hear bad news, pray. Trust God. Now turn back to the Good News of the grace of God and share it with others! That’s our mission (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8)
Nothing else matters as much as this.
Paul didn’t consider even his life of any value, except as it might be used to share the Gospel.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24, ESV)
D) Pray often and offer to pray for other people. Tell people: I will remember you in my prayers. What would you like me to pray for?”
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
E) Believe God for healing, deliverance and salvation in your life and the lives of others. Do you expect God to do great things when you ask?
“Ask and you will receive…” (Matt. 7:7)
“Whatever you ask in faith, believing you shall receive” (Matt. 21:22).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12–13, ESV)
F) Openly testify and give God glory for the miracles He works in your life and in the world. This requires as much faith as it did to ask in the first place. If we fail to give God glory for what he has done and is doing, he may stop working until we do!
“He who has, more will be given, but he who has not, even what he has will be taken from him.”
This is God’s revelation in the life of a believer. Do you receive what the Lord is doing? Are you willing to confess that it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure? (Phil 2:13)
Don’t be ashamed to speak of the Lord and what He is doing in your life and ministry!
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).
“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32–33, ESV)
The word for “acknowledge” in Greek means “to express openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person.”
Don’t throw your pearls to pigs. If they mock you, move to a new person or audience, who will respect what you have to say. But don’t be intimidated, and don’t stop testifying of the truth!
Forget BMI. What you need to know if you want to lose fat is your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals. You can do the math under #4 below to get that number. First, let’s understand some other important considerations for losing fat.
- Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories. Counting calories is much maligned by many today, but it is still the best way to determine the amount of energy your body needs.
- Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories. There are three of these.
- Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
- Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
- Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
- Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
- Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
- Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
- Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone. Many of these automatically calculate the number of calories you should take in per day in order to meet your goal, be that weight loss or weight gain.
- BMR- Below is the math to figure your Basal Metabolic Rate
Multiply your weight by 10.
Now, add your weight.
Next subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.
Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8, 1320 – 52.8 =1267.2
Multiply your weight by 10,
Now add twice your weight.
Next subtract 2% for every ten years of life.
Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man- 150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728
Activity Adjustment for Both Males and females:
Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.
Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36
- Lose fat.
- If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
- There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
- This means once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
- Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
- Do more! Exercise 30-45 minutes 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
- Intermittent Fasting- Stop eating between Sundown and 8:00 P. M. Don’t eat again until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary this: some days go 16hrs, then 18hrs, then 20 up to 24.
- Gain muscle.
- If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
- Add 500 calories to your BMR.
- Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds, up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight.
- Consume your largest meal of the day an hour after a hard workout.
- Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.
These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.
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.
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?
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?
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,
until Easter Sunday.
Breakthrough is coming!
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.
“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.
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!
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