Author Archives: deorl

About deorl

Pastor of Lifewell Church. lifewellchurch.com

Lent & Fasting

Today is Fat Tuesday. That’s the day before Lent starts. The season of Lent is a time many Christians choose to fast. In 2017 Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1st (Ash Wednesday) and extends until Easter Sunday, which is April 16th this year.

 The following are some reasons for fasting, and not just for Lent. Fasting may be beneficial at any time.

1. DEDICATION. Fast as an Act of Dedication-  After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. He did this as preparation for entering into his ministry. Perhaps fasting gave him clarity as he intensely focused on the Father. This 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 Discipline-  Learn to say no to “me.” All of the temptations were for Jesus to act expediently and egotistically. If Jesus had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but, rather, the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption. Our consumer culture is about self-indulgence, not self-discipline. It is about pursuing 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. Lent is a good time to discipline yourself in one or more of these areas.

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 keep my commitment. 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 you’re to overcome a particularly stubborn habit or addiction.

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

5. DESPERATION.  Fast as an Act of Desperation-  We must come to an end of ourselves 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 (Joel & Israel, Jonah and Ninevah). “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NIV). I need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel 10 & 21 days of prayer, David seeking the healing of his 1st child by Bathsheba).

6. DETOXIFICATION. Fast as a means of Detoxification- 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 the result. A vegan or even vegetarian diet that allows only organic foods can be 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 Diet- 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 off, so we gain unneeded fat. Periodic fasting if done in moderation and balanced with a healthy, calorie controlled diet, is an effective tool in losing fat and maintaining a lean body.

Whatever you decide to do, remember the following principles.

  • Choose something that will really require discipline to give up.
  • Be consistent. Discipline requires consistency to take hold and be effective.
  • Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.
  • If you make a commitment to God, keep it. Better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.
  • It is not a good idea to make promises to God, better to rely on his promises for you. So, you aren’t fasting to get God to do something for you. Trust him to help you through.
Dpraying

Soon Enough You Will See

Soon enough, sons and daughters,

You will see with your own eyes

What the Lord has done.

The true will believe.

Mere seeing is not believing,

But believing is seeing,

And I see and say to you who have hears:

Listen!

When testing comes, the false scatter,

An invading nation takes captive,

those who long for the world.

Yet a remnant remains

True to the Truth,

And faithful to the faithful.

We have been weary:

Beaten down,

But not defeated.

Now, the time has come

to favor Zion!

Today is the day of salvation;

Now is the time of God’s favor,

For those who will believe.

Build the House!

Build up, build up,

the road my people!

Clear away the stones,

And fill in the pits.

Clear the way,

Then Shear-Jashub will come.

The called out are called together

To Be and Build the Temple.

And the desired of all nations will come,

Then the Desired of nations above them.

The latter glory of this House

will be far greater,

And the latter rain will come.

We will shout: Glory! Glory!

To the God of glory

Who will fill the House!

Soon enough you will see,

And believers will realize:

It is the Lord who has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes!

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You Won’t Get It Until It Happens to You

Inspired by an incident 18 years ago today…

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

Shake your head at the perp being led

from the cop car in cuffs.

Just shrug off the one shot dead.

After all, he deserved it.

Validate the stereotypes of your set.

Identify with your race, your income, your politics.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

It was cold that night back in ’99,

2AM when the police pulled us over,

four friends ironically

on the way back from a donut run.

Why? I asked the officer.

“For changing lanes and making u-turns.”

But I never got a ticket.

No, something worse went down.

The big cop was a bully

and I was incensed at the injustice,

What I said was,

(and under my breath):

“You’ll see me in court.”

The bully had good ears

and appeared at my window,

“What did you say?”

I should have said nothing more,

but my wounded pride repeated

my powerless threat.

The bully changed that.

Made me get out of my car,

searched me spread eagle on his hood,

then sat me like a criminal

in the back of the police car.

Then the big cop

gave me a long talk.

“We can pull over anybody we want,

whenever we want.”

I stayed quiet,

but it was too late.

They turned a deserted street

into a stage that night.

Pulled me from the cop car,

and marched me out but not far.

The rookie cop cuffs me in front of my friends,

while the bully who gave the speech pretends

to find something

in the back seat of his own cop car.

With a fast sweep of a long arm,

he reaches down and then,

like a magician produces

into the cold thin

air of a February night

a charred plastic baggy.

“Your youth minister’s a doper!”

he slandered loudly

to the gape-mouthed young men

in my car.

It sounded like a joke

or a B movie line,

but he waved his charred baggy

to prove the lie.

The cops made my passengers walk

in the middle of a cold night,

even though one offered to drive

my car.

The cops maced him

and took the two of us jail.

For what?

Possession of what the officer

actually had in his own possession.

My life changed after that night:

even though I was innocent,

even though my first and only drug screen

was clean,

even though I passed

a police polygraph,

even though the DA dismissed the case

without me having to plead.

For too many people an arrest is enough.

Innocent until proven guilty?

A reputation can be ruined by an accusation.

You won’t get it until it happens to you.

So don’t jump so fast

to those conclusions

Sometimes the “guilty” are not.

Sometimes the good guys are not.

But you won’t get it until it happens to you.

A Meditation On Mattering

Everybody needs to mean something 

To somebody. 

We all want to matter:

To our parents when we’re young;

Daddy, watch this!

Teens want to be liked,

By those who are alike. 

Then many seek a mate,

Settle down and procreate,

To find meaning for a time

In family matters. 

Others strive

to be recognized

For their money and success. 

We all want to matter

In this ephemeral life. 

However, until I realize

I matter to the eternal God,

Nothing really matters.

Meaningless, meaningless,

Saith the Preacher,

All is meaningless. 

No Longer

I’m no longer young, 

And not too pretty;

Not much fun

Or terribly witty.

I would smile more, 

But my smile is crooked, 

And my heart is torn.

Often overlooked, 

Better to be with those who mourn.

Don’t much appeal

To a post-truth world. 

But I try to be real.

A banner unfurled,

Blowing in the Spirit-wind,

But not the spirit of the age.

Build the House

Build the Lord’s House
Not a building, a Church

“Do you not know that you (all) are God’s temple and that God’s Sprit dwells in (among) you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Pe 2:5, NLT).
The people of Israel sinned against their God and worshiped idols, so the Lord disciplined them by sending Nebuchadnezzar to destroy their temple and take them as captives to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:15-21).

The LORD promised through His prophets that a Remnant would return, however (Isaiah 10:20-22, 11:11, Jer. 23:3).

A Remnant of Israel returned from Babylonian exile to their land under a command from Cyrus of Persia (Ez. 1:1-4).

The purpose for this Remnant’s return to Jerusalem was to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:3-5)

Zerubbabel and Jeshua led the return (Ez. 2:2).

Cyrus gave the temple articles back, and many people offered gifts for its rebuilding (Ez. 1:6, 2:68)

Shortly after they arrived the Remnant rebuilt the altar of “Israel’s God” and offered sacrifices according to the Law (Ez. 3:2-3).

Then they bought materials for the temple and laid its foundation (Ez. 3:7) 

There was a great celebration when the foundation was completed (Ez. 3:11-13)

Then the people who worshiped false gods alongside YHWH (2 Kings 17:24-28) offered to help build the temple but the builders rejected such help (Ez. 4:3). 

These people who been transplanted into the land of Israel by the Assyrians many years earlier (Ez. 4:2) are called “enemies of Judah and Benjamin” (Ez. 4:1).

So, the idolators and their leaders began to vigorously oppose the rebuilding of the temple (Ez. 4:4).

The Remnant gave up building the temple.

The priests continued offering sacrifices on the altar, even though the temple was still in ruins.

The Remnant was not bothered by this, for they had turned their attention to their own homes.

God tried to get their attention by keeping them from succeeding at their selfish pursuits, but they continued to divert their limited resources to building their own homes and lives.

The Remnant was failing in their personal lives because they had failed to fulfill the purpose that brought them back to Zion.

Enter Haggai, the first authentic prophet to speak since the exile.

To Z & J: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord.’ (v. 2)

The people had taken opposition to be a sign that it was not yet time to build the temple.

To the Remnant: “Is it time for you to live in nice houses while my House lies in ruins?”

These were not bad people. They had not returned to idolatry… yet. Although, later some of them began to marry idolators, which is a major compromise leading to unfaithfulness to the Lord.

To the Remnant: “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood to build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified.”

Hag 1:7b-8

The response: “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” Hag 1:12.

The foundation was laid in 538, but opposition followed by apathy and indifference caused building to cease until 520. 

That’s 18 years… 

Do you see our church in this story yet? Have you seen yourself?

The Temple is not a building any more. It is people; it is the church of Jesus. “Do you not know that you all are the temple?” 

The church is not an ambiguous entity. It is local groups of believers called out from the world and called together to worship, fellowship, become like Jesus in discipleship, minister to one another and preach the Gospel to the poor.

18 years ago the Lord sent me out of the traditional, institutional church to build a people for his great Name. I started with high hopes.

Only four individuals remain who were members in 1999. Several more are here who joined a year later, and a few more of you who came when we called ourselves Zion.

We came together all those years ago and offered the sacrifice of praise. And we came together to fellowship. I’ve always tried to call people to discipleship.

I led us to lay the only foundation that can be laid to build an authentic church: Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

However, there were idolators and doubters and even a few who wanted to build something else on that foundation. They all left. We’ve encountered opposition, at times even from former members and supposed supporters. 

What began as a fellowship of friends who loved hanging out together has become The Church That Will Not Grow.

Why?

Perhaps our small membership is not consciously stating: “The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord,” but we are not, in fact, building this church. We simply occupy what little we’ve built. Most of us feel no more need for fellowship because we have families and friends, often times outside this church. We do not grow, friends, because we refuse to reach out. Now, I know that some of us invite people to church on occasion. Yet I wonder, have we left our first love (Rev. 2:4? Has your love for Jesus grown cold? The result is that your passion for his church and his Gospel has disappeared. You’re just going through the motions. Some of you have been attending this church for years, but your level of commitment is exactly the same as it was a year ago, five years ago, maybe a decade ago. 

You see, you are the material the Lord is using to build his church.

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Pet. 2:5).

However, some of you won’t to take your place in the walls of this temple. You’re like stones that refuse to be mortared and set. You just want to sit on top of the foundation wherever you please.

As a result, we’re effectively saying, “The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord.”

In addition to the obvious fact that our church never grows numerically, I wonder if some of you are experiencing the same issues as the Remnant when Haggai preached.

“Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!”

You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.” Hag 1:5–6, 9 NLT.

So, people of Lifewell, I am preaching to you today with the message of Haggai, and I pray the Holy Spirit will speak it to your hearts: “Build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified” says the LORD of Hosts.

What do you need to do in order to obey the LORD’s command?

 1.  If you have not yet been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ as he commanded, commit to do it today.

 2. If you have yet to join this church, takes steps to do so now.

 3.  If you’re not a regular giver to the ministry of this church, start today, or the next time you receive income.

 4.  If you’re not meeting in one of our small groups, choose one today and commit to meet with them beginning next weekend.

 5. If you’ve not committed to participate in our Teaching Emphasis starting next weekend, do so today:

 A. Get the Purpose Driven Life and read a chapter a day for 42 days.

 B. Partake of our worship service every week for the next 7 weeks.

 C. Participate in a small group for 6 weeks.

It will require the strength of discipline to follow through with this commitment, and it will require energy and strength for us to build this church as the Lord wills. 

What is the goal?

Next year at this time, I am praying for 500 people to be attending

with 40-50 Life groups helping to bring them to maturity and leading them to minister.

That sounds exciting, and exhausting, and it may sound impossible to you. I considered not sharing that goal because I will be ashamed if I cannot lead us to meet it. However, we will never grow beyond the vision we have.

Help me. I cannot do this alone. but I am not alone, am I? We have one another, and most importantly, we have the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance and encouragement. “

Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD” (Zech. 4:6)

“Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ Hag 2:4–5.

There are blessings for our church promised when we obey the Lord. I have always wanted this church to grow according to God’s promises, not mere methods of men.

“In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” Hag 2:6–9.

The glory is the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

The treasures of the nations are people of all races and ethnicities coming here, worshiping, fellowshipping, becoming disciples of Jesus, ministering and being sent out into all the world to preach the Gospel.

We will have the money to accomplish this goal because the silver and gold are the Lord’s.

We will not have to endure the division and strife that is on the increase in the world because we are promised peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jn. 14:27)

“I have told you this so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

There are also blessing that extend to your family when you have faith, obey and build this House of the Lord.

“I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  Hag 2:19.

I said this once in the year 2000 or 01, and those present were not ready to receive it by faith, so I say it to you again this day, Lifewell.

The Lord says, “From this day forth I will bless you.”

Do you receive it?

Then prove it.

Get to work!

Dpraying

Are You a Church Burn Out?

Are you bored with church? Do you feel like you’re spiritually dry? Everything seems to be the same; nothing really changes; nothing is moving? Here’s why. You are not moving toward God’s will and purpose for your life. You’re not spiritually healthy, so you’re not growing in your faith. You are not doing anything, or just doing the bare minimum. You’re in spiritual survival mode, instead of thriving and flourishing. You’re living more for the world than for God. Where is your supposed faith? Perhaps you’re doing things for God, serving at church, but you’re doing from your flesh. That means your doing it all by yourself, from your own limited resources, rather than in partnership with God.

The reality is: you have limited time, limited money, and, let’s face it, you may well have less and less interest in church or in pursuing God. Jesus said, “If you aibde in me, and I in you, then you’ll produce much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That means, even if you’re doing something for God, you’re accomplishing nothing significant because if you’re not doing it from the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence in you. Is the Holy Spirit filling you? I’m not talking theory here, friends. I’m not asking you to go back to some time in your past when you “accepted Christ,” or had an emotional experience with God. I mean, are you filled with the power and presence of God? No? Then why aren’t you asking, even crying out, for that? “How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the requirement for fruitful activity in the Lord. That’s the reason you’re burned out, friend. You’re full of your own effort, not the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who brings us into Christ and Christ into us. This is not something you work out in your head, or convince yourself of. When the Holy Spirit fills you and empowers you for God’s work, it is a real ongoing experience deep within. He perfects, affirms, strengthens and establishes you from the inside out. I’m not trying to get you to do more for God, although some of you need to do just that. I’m seeking to stir up a genuine spiritual interest. I hope you desire to be filled with God Himself.

Jesus had chosen the 12 apostles, and trained them to be his witnesses in the world. One betrayed him, so they were down to 11. Then he told them to “wait in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The entire Christian mission was on hold, until God poured out the Holy Spirit to empower His people. The apostles were scared, timid and focused on their own little community, until the Day of Pentecost. Suddenly, they were on fire! Now they boldly spread the news about Jesus’ resurrection, and God’s offer of forgiveness for sins and eternal life. The Holy Spirit was availble to everyone who would believe in Jesus. So, why are you still doing this on your own? Why are you satisfied with being bored? Why are you looking at other means of success,  or methods of getting high? If you have really, truly given your life to Jesus Christ, if you still have the least bit of faith, then you’ll never be satisfied until you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and going into all the world to make disciples for Jesus.

“Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life.”  The Holy Bible: The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Ephesians 5:17–18.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Acts 1:8.