Author Archives: deorl

About deorl

Pastor of Lifewell Church. lifewellchurch.com

via Why Fast?

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No Fear!

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:3–7, ESV)

The word translated fear may mean cowardice, and it is the opposite of faith (ie. confidence).

It is possible that this was Timothy’s weakness. In the natural he was a timid soul. The Apostle was reminding his son in the faith that he was not alone (even apart from Paul’s presence) the Spirit of Almighty God lived within the young man.

There may a tendency to think of Christians as weak, fearful of conflict, having Father Mulcahey (MASH) or Ned Flanders (Simpsons) temperaments. What my natural temperament is, is irrelevant when I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. He makes me confident.

Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Things were not going smoothly in Ephesus, where Timothy pastored. There was opposition to the Gospel, false teaching, persecution from the pagans and the Jews. If Timothy was to survive, he needed to be filled with the Spirit to have the courage to face all of that stress and difficulty. 

When we’re overwhelmed we don’t feel as though we will overcome. I feel like giving in and giving up. Yet I’m called to conquer (Revelation 2-3). In fact, we are promised that we will “overwhelmingly overcome through Christ who loved us” (Romans 8:37)!

The Holy Spirit makes me secure as a child of the Father. A good earthly father imparts strength and confidence to his children. Security and confidence makes me bold and drives away all fear. I know who has my back, He has given me the right to call him Dad.

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, TNIV)

Many are afraid today. The media and those in political power are stirring up hostility and fear. Panic attacks have become commonplace. Many are on medication, use alcohol, or marijuana to keep from being overwhelmed by fear and dread. This is not what a Spirit filled Christian needs or does. 

The devil is the original terrorist. Realize, Satan is a paper tiger, a toothless lion, a defeated foe. Like the defeated Saruman standing in the window of his lofty tower before Gandalf in Tolkien’s LOTR, so our enemy has been defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet the devil may still speak with an alluring voice and employ enticing lies. We must recognize his schemes and send him away in the name of Jesus Christ.

We are facing an increasingly hostile world. People are rejecting the Bible, and seeking to stop biblical Christians from speaking out. Sharing the Gospel is not seen as Good News by increasing numbers of people in this country. In the midst of this God is calling you and I to be bold: to grow up and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), then deal with the consequences. When the Holy Spirit has control you will be courageous. Fear God and you will not fear anything or anyone else (Isaiah 8:13).

Don’t be a coward when you are called upon to defend the truth or the name of Jesus. Don’t go along with the crowd: they are moved by the spirit of anti-Christ. You are not of the same sort, not if you genuinely believe and call on Jesus as your Lord. You are not alone, friend. Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” That is a reality when you are indwelt and endowed with the Holy Spirit of Christ.

Power, love, self-control.

These are not natural attributes that I work up: the Holy Spirit infuses me with all three when He fills me. 

Power.

I need power to resist temptation, which weakens me. power to persevere through personal suffering and through persecution from a world that has turned from Christ, power to maintain sanity and stability in a dark, dangerous, unpredictable world.  Much of what we see today is people seeking power through money, politics and popularity.

People are insecure, and this may be true even though someone is arrogant (the latter is a mask for the former). There’s too much big talk in an effort to gain support, to win, to get money. Yet there is no real power behind the constant boasting and bickering. We want to see something really. Also, I must have power to do the work of ministry effectively. I cannot perform miracles or change people’s lives on my own.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). 

I need power to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit must anoint and ordain and speak through me or I waste my time and yours. This is why we always give people the opportunity to respond to the message on Sunday. Don’t just sit there and evaluate. Decide. Move. Do.

Love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear” (1 John 4:18). When I know I’m loved, I am secure. When I know that God will not allow anything to happen to destroy me, even though I may hurt at times, then I can stand up against anything.

We all need love. Self-love is a surrogate. Love extends away from the self; it doesn’t bend inward. In order to have love I must receive love. Most importantly, I must trust the Father’s love for me. This is the love “God has poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). Jesus new command gives a new basis for loving others: His sacrificial love for us.

“A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Christ’s love gives us the example, motivation and strength to love others rather than ignore or fight them.

Self-control. 

This is a special word in Greek, and a much needed character trait.

Barclay writes:

“There was self-discipline. The word is sōphronismos, one of these great untranslatable Greek words. It has been defined as ‘the sanity of saintliness’. In his book on The Pastorals, Sir Robert Falconer defines it as ‘control of oneself in face of panic or of passion’. It is Christ alone who can give us that command of self which will keep us both from being swept away and from running away.

No one can ever rule others without having complete self-control. Sōphronismos is that divinely given control of self which makes people great rulers of others because they are first of all the servants of Christ and in complete control of themselves.”

I really need self-control. Too often I fly off the handle, become enraged on the road, show impatience with my own apparent incompetence and inadequacy. Holy Spirit fill me and grant me this quality! If I cannot or will not lead myself, I cannot lead anyone else. Pray for your pastor in this regard. I need peace and patience, calm confidence and selfless forbearance toward people and situations that irritate and annoy my flesh. I must account the flesh dead and myself reborn in Christ.

Which brings us to today, Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This is the perfect time to practice self-control, which fundamentally is the ability to say no to my natural self and yes to the Holy Spirit’s leadership

Why Fast?

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, some of which I’ve listed below. 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.

Jesus fasted. The Lord expected that his followers would fast (Matt. 6:16-18, Mark 2;20). There is no law that tells is we must fast. It is rather an impulse, a response to great need. Our bodies will naturally fast when we are sick. Spiritually, the response is similar….

 The following are eight reasons for fasting.

1. DEMONSTRATION of Repentance- In the prophetic book of Joel—an important quotation from which is contained in Peter’s first Gospel sermon (see Acts 2:17-21)—God warns the people of impending judgment due to their sin and consequently calls them to repentance. The primary demonstration of this repentance is fasting. ““Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning….’” “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” (Joel 2:12, 15 TNIV). Jonah the prophet preaches (unwillingly) to Ninevah about God’s imminent judgment for their wickedness. The response of their king is to call the entire city to an absolute fast for three days. God’s response to their sincerity is to withhold his intended destruction. 

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? I must repent and come to an end of myself 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 helpI’ve got to take my sin seriously & cry out to God in repentance.

2. DESPERATION. Fast as an Act of Desperation- When my world is falling apart, when I need to hear from God at all costs I fast and pray. Daniel 10 spent 21 days of prayer for his nation (Daniel 10). David cried out desperately for the healing of his 1st child by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16). Our nation and is 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? Are you desperate for change to occur? Is there an overwhelming need in your life. Fast and pray.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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, many 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. 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. This is the parable of the importunate widow, who kept coming to the judge until he gave here justice (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.

7. 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. Additional benefits have been discovered recently. I recommend author Jason Fung, an MD who claims that Type 2 Diabetes can be cured using a fasting regimen. The Diabetes Code and the Obesity Code are the two books I recommend.

The detoxification principle 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.

8. 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, 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. Increasingly, medical and dietary professionals are recommending a practice known as intermittent fasting, wherein you schedule eating in shorter windows of time. It is intermittent because you only do it several times per week. Common intermittent fasts are the 13 hour sundown to sunrise fast, which I’d recommend we all practice consistently, the 16-8 fast, the 18-6, and the OMAD (one meal a day). All of these may be used as a way to control your weight and become healthier. What is important with intermittent fasting is to eat nothing, and drink nothing other than water, black coffee or unsweetened tea. Almost everything you put in your mouth will cause an insulin response, which ruins the benefit of the fast. So, don’t snack. Don’t even chew gum during the fasting period. Additionally, dietary fasting is easier and works better if you are on a low carb diet. Many people are seeing significant fat loss by coupling intermittent fasting with a keto diet. My purpose here is not to describe these diets and practices in detail, but to motivate you to seriously consider fasting.

Suggested fasts

A) Fast and pray for a day.

Rise before 6 AM and eat a light breakfast.
From 6 AM until 6 PM drink only water. Drink at least 8 oz. every hour.
After 6 PM eat a healthy dinner with plenty of vegetables.

B) Intermittent fast over a period of time

Schedule eating and fasting several days per week.
Minimally, stop eating at sunset and fast until sunrise (12-13 hour fast)
Narrow your eating window by pushing the first meal of the day until noon (18 hour fast).
Do a 24 hour fast by eating shortly before sunset, then waiting until the next day at sunset to eat again. You’ll only skip two meals, by fast an entire day.

C) Daniel Fast for 10 days.

Eat only vegetables and a little fruit for 10 days. Focus on leafy greens and cruciferous (broccoli & cauliflower) vegetables, prefer organic.
Drink only water for 10 days. No soda, coffee, or tea. Vegetable or fruit juice is acceptable if it is 100% pure.
NO SUGAR
Once the 10 day test is done, you may decide to go to 21 or even 40 days. For longer fasts be sure to include beans, brown rice, pea or other vegan protein sources. Pastor D supplemented using Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein powder in water or almond milk.

D) Juice Fast for anywhere from one to ten days.

Do not do this for more than one day until you have done “A” above and prayed.
Try it for one day, then break, then three before you go longer.
Drink 90% vegetable juices made with a juice extractor ($50 – 100 appliance).
Drink juice every two hours and water in the hours between.
Again, no coffee or tea, and NO SUGAR or other sweeteners.
Organic vegetables are preferred.

Whatever you decide to do, remember the following principles.
• 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.

The Call

“But I do not count 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).

Forty years ago March 4th fell on a Sunday. It was the first day of an eight day series of televised meetings held by evangelist James Robison at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. I was in attendance every day. I don’t remember what Robison preached on at every meeting, but the first night stands out: that’s when I responded to God’s call to preach the Gospel.

The message was on apathy. It affected me so strongly that I crafted my own oratory speech on the topic for my high school forensics team the following year. It was a speech that won the largest tournament in the Soutwestern U.S. that year at Arizona State University.

I was a junior in high school when James Robison came to our church. I would turn 17 on the final day of the crusade. The preivious Easter Sunday, not quite one year earlier, I had committed my life to Jesus Christ. I was baptized the Sunday after Easter and attended church each week from that point forward. In fact, I became immersed. I went to youth choir on Sunday nights, Monday night outreach, Wednesday prayer meeting. I was at every youth activity and went to youth camp the following summer. I wanted to be whatever a Christian was supposed to. This went further or deeper for me, though.

The pastor of my church was Richard Jackson, a passionate Gospel preacher. Many times when he preached I felt compelled, not just to do what he urged, but to run up to the pulpit and preach! When Robison came, the fever grew stronger. I wanted to do what these men were doing. On the first night of the Robison crusade I responded to the invitation to recommit my life, to stop being apathetic. I spoke to a crusade counselor, I believe his name was Mike, who was just a few years older than me. I think we prayed first, then I said, seemingly as an afterthought, “I believe God is calling me to preach.” It wasn’t an emotional decision. I had come to the realization, perhaps admitted to myself for the first time, that this would be my life.

Interestingly, my grandmother called it when I was only five years old. She told me I’d be a preacher. I never gave it another thought, until I came to the same conclusion at age 17.

For 40 years I’ve pursued and practiced preaching the Gospel. I don’t know that I’ve been that successful, and I’m certainly not worthy, but I remain committed. So long as the Lord Jesus has a place for me to serve, I’ll keep it up. I don’t intend to retire. Maybe I’ll go on another 20, 30 or 40 years. Who knows? I just want to finish the race and hear the Lord say, “Well done, faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

Pro Choice and Pro Life

I support a woman’s right to choose.

I support a woman’s right to choose her sexual partner, to choose whether and when to have sex.

I support a woman’s right to choose any kind of preventative contraception.

I support a woman’s right to choose to keep or put a baby up for adoption.

I support the right of an unborn human being to live, regardless of the choice of any other human being.

You and I may argue about when an unborn baby should be considered a person, an individual with rights of her or his own, it cannot be argued that a viable baby may be legally killed by its mother, a doctor or anybody else. Currently there are laws in New York and Virginia that will permit a woman and her doctor to murder a viable human being for any reason. In fact, Virginia’s law even permits the murder of the baby after it has been born and begins breathing! This is evil. Even Roe v. Wade recognizes viability has giving status to the fetus.

What is driving these barbarous laws? Money. Big Abortion is a big profit industry. Planned Parenthood earned a quarter of a billion dollars and performed 332,757 abortions in fiscal 2017-18.

Additionally, the Progressive agenda for population control forms a basis for these laws. Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood in order to promote eugenics and population control.

Is it possible for pro life and pro choice supporters to compromise? It is. I believe that human life begins at conception. However, I recognize a woman’s right to control her own body. I would urge every woman (and every man) to use contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In the even of a pregnancy I would strongly encourage a woman to carry the baby to term, then offer it for adoption if she is not in a position to raise a child. All of that said, I am willing to compromise to save as many babies as possible. This is as simple as following the original Roe guidelines: 1st trimester, the state cannot interfere with a woman’s choice to have an abortion, 2nd trimester, the state can legislate to protect the woman’s health, 3rd trimester, the state can legislate to protect a viable fetus, who may survive on its own outside the woman’s body.

I urge you to join me in protecting viable human life. If you’re pro-life, compromise in order to save as many as possible. If you’re pro-choice, admit that a viable fetus has the right to live, and recognize that an abortion at this late stage is no less (and may be more) dangerous than birth.

Audacious Declaration of Restoration

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lordshines over you. For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lordwill shine over you, and his glory will appear over you.” (Isaiah 60:1–2, CSB)

What I believe I’ve received from the Lord I hereby affirm and declare: 2019 is our year Lifewell Church!

It will be a year when we will live out our original creed to be like Zion, the city set on a hill, shining God’s light for everyone to see. The world may get darker; the news will be bad, politics more divisive and hate filled. We will become brighter. I will proclaim, and Lifewell will share, radically positive news, the Good News of Jesus, which saves from death, heals from sickness and disease, and delivers from demonically inspired irrational insanity.

2019 will be a year of restoration.

For 19 years I’ve worked continually and received promises for phenomenal growth, and although we’ve seen periodic growth, none of it has been overwhelming. And in the past it was accompanied by struggle, then more growth, followed by lean years and leaders who left. Where was our faith, people of God? Where was our receptivity to the Holy Spirit’s anointing and urging? Where was my positive faith? “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) Perhaps you’ve heard that at the beginning of numerous years. You’ve heard me or another preacher quote it in hope. Do you believe. I do. I do.

Let us repent of our sin and unbelief. Clear away the obstacle that stand in the way of people receiving the positive message of God’s love. My sin has been complaining and frustration, turning to comfort rather than the Comforter, not believing that God loves me fully and personally. Yes, I’ve always believed “God so loved the world,” but only recently have I fully embraced his individual attention and love toward me, his mercy in spite of my sin, his grace in permitting me the privilege of ministering all these years. Where do you need to change? What do you need to confess to the Lord. What are you holding onto that is little more than a surrogate, a substitute for the real thing that your loving Heavenly Father will give. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits… who fills all your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1 & 5).

I’ve received promises for restoration of what I’ve lost. Lost love. Lost friends. Lost family. Lost years. I pass these on because they are not for me alone, but for the church I pastor, and for any believer whom the Lord will quicken to receive these words.

“Return to a stronghold, you prisoners who have hope; today I declare that I will restore double to you.” (Zechariah 9:12)

Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity. Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands— establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:15–17, CSB)

Children of Zion, rejoice and be glad in the Lord your God, because he gives you the autumn rain for your vindication. He sends showers for you, both autumn and spring rain as before. The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with new wine and fresh oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust ate, the young locust, the destroying locust, and the devouring locust— my great army that I sent against you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied. You will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. My people will never again be put to shame. You will know that I am present in Israel and that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:23–27, CSB)

For those of you with ears to hear. Are you paying attention? Do you receive. Don’t wait and see. Believe and see it now. No more financial struggles. No more anger and depression. No more loneliness. No more hopeless, purposeless, boring life. Jesus promised, “I have come to give a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10, NLT). Receive it if you are able. Repent if you are not!

For Lifewell Church this means no more empty seats. No more planning events that few attend. No more striving to get your attention. No more cajoling you to greet and love new people. No more complaining about limited growth. No more visitors who don’t return because people didn’t pay attention to them. Lost leaders have been replaced and more are being raised up! Lost years and lost money will be restored. I believe. It will be.

1969-2019 Auspicious Events for Ministry

It is appropriate for me that I started this article at 11:11 on 1-1-19. 1111 has had significance for me for some time, and it is the first day of a new year. Not just any new year, however. I’ve considered it, and during my lifetime significant events have happened at the end of each decade. Now, I suppose I could attempt a similar exercise with any year, but during each year ending in nine, something life changing has occurred, and/or something new has been inaugurated.

I wrote a blog yesterday and took it all the way back to ’79, but as I was thinking just now, I can even find a life changing event that occurred in ’69, when I was only seven years old. 1969 was the year my parents divorced. My biological father was an alcoholic and his irresponsible, sometimes violent, behavior precipitated that permanent separation. I never had a good relationship with my dad beyond that time. Early on he was a dangerous person to be avoided. Later he was distant and I had limited communication with him until several years before he passed away in 2008. This left a painful wound on my heart that didn’t heal until I fully accepted the reality that through Jesus, God is my Father, and He has not abandoned me. I will admit there is still a scar, but that has served to glorify my Heavenly Father. I am also thankful that my biological dad eventually put his faith in Jesus, so I’ll see him again one day.

I publicly committed my life to Jesus Christ at the North Phoenix Baptist Church when I was sixteen. One year later, in 1979, I surrendered to God’s call to preach. During that first year as a follower of Jesus I attended church faithfully, and often when Pastor Jackson passionately delivered his message I would feel a strong compulsion to do the same thing. I didn’t really recognize this as a calling until, shortly before my 17th birthday, an evangelist named James Robison came to our church and conducted and eight day event (back then they were called crusades). On the first night he spoke on apathy, and I responded to the invitation to recommit my life to Christ. As I was talking to the crusade counselor I mentioned, almost casually, that I thought I was being called to preach. The next year I graduated high school and pursued a college education to prepare for the vocation I’ve pursued since that time.

My first staff position in a church began after my first semester at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. I became the youth minister at First Baptist Church, The Colony–about an hour’s drive from seminary. In January of 1989 something remarkable happened at that church. You see, when I started ministry there they had recently hired a new pastor due to a previous church split. Two-thirds of the original congregation were meeting in the high school cafeteria with the previous youth minister as their pastor. The other third, who called me to be their youth minister, maintained control over the church property and met in the original building. The remarkable thing that happened was this fractured congregation agreed to unite. There was serious resistance from the pastor who hired me, and he quit in protest. My youth group increased ten-fold immediately. It had dwindled to just nine people due to the contentious atmosphere created by our pastor, but the Sunday after our merger there were 90 teenagers in attendance!

That wasn’t the only significant thing that happened 1989. It was also the year I started producing House of Judgement in the DFW Metroplex. The idea of an alternative haunted house was not mine. The concept came from a church in Alabama, and they called it Judgment House. Pastor Bill Wilks of our church, who was from Alabama (and ministers there now) outlined the concept and asked if I’d consider getting our youth to do a Judgment House. Frankly, the whole thing sounded cheesy and exploitive. But I kept thinking about it. I came to the conclusion that we could do it in a way that was realistic and relevant. I introduced the idea to our youth group in the living room of the home where I stayed. There were 30 kids there that night, and they enthusiastically committed to make the event a reality at our church. In fact, that first youth group was responsible for us called it House of Judgement, rather than Judgment House. They thought that sounded much better, and I added to older spelling of the word judgement. The rest is history. I wrote my very first play, and we produced it in what I like to call a “mobile theatre format.” Instead of audiences sitting still and watching the set change between scenes in a traditional theater, we moved audiences from scene to scene. Each year I wrote a new play. I wrote and directed of House of Judgement and led in it’s production with three different churches from 1989 until 2006. During that time nearly 100,000 people attended, and over 10,000 made public professions of faith in Christ. 1989 was an auspicious year indeed.

By 1999 I had been serving for seven years as the associate pastor and youth minister with Freeman Heights Baptist Church. It became obvious that God wanted me to start a church. A series of events took place that forced me to take action sooner than I would have planned. However, I had strong support from the pastor I served with and from our denomination. On July 4th, 1999 (Independence Day was intentionally significant), City of Refuge launched at 111 Ranch in Garland, Tx. Our day to day operations were out of a house I leased, and we met in hotel ballrooms for worship. About a year and a half later we decided to change the name of the church to Zion–a city on a hill, the people of promise. Ten years later we changed the name again, largely due to a changing culture and persistent misunderstanding of the name by some. We are now Lifewell Church. On July 4th of this year we will celebrate 20 years of ministry in the Garland area.

In 2009 our church leased the building where we still meet on the downtown Garland Square. It is 122 years old, one of the oldest structures in our city. We’ve had a presence in the center of the city for 15 years, but getting this building established us. It is the launch point for what I believe God is going to do next…

Do you see the pattern? 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009: during each of these years something significant has happened that has shaped my ministry.

It is January 1, 2019 as I write this. What will God do next? That’s something about which I’ve prayed fervently for several years, asking and seeking and knocking. The watchword for me this year is GROW. I want to see our church grow significantly, as individuals mature spiritually, and as God exponentially adds new people to our community. However, this morning I came to the conclusion that the time has come for me to write consistently, and to finish the book I started several years ago. I am insecure about this. I don’t know who will read what I write, but I’m going to write. What you’ve just read is the result of that conviction.