Category Archives: Editorial

Free or Not Free?

There are two types of people in the world when it concerns the subject of human freedom: 1) those who believe it is an absolute God given right, and 2) those who believe freedom to be granted by the governing authorities. In the United States we have a Constitution, which guarantees what our Declaration of Independence states clearly. “All men (people) are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable (absolute and unchallengeable) rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, choice number one above is guaranteed by God and the U.S. Constitution. Yet, increasing numbers of citizens have become convinced—many by a corrupt educational system—that our rights are not absolute. For these people, government is god, regardless of their personal profession to the contrary. The government has the right to force you to stay inside your home, to determine what form of employment is “necessary,” and what is not, to force you to wear a face mask, and now to force you to be vaccinated. Many have surrendered their absolute rights in favor of promises from the government that this is necessary for everyone’s safety. You are not permitted to make up your own mind; these people have made the decision for you. This is wrong. This is the reason the United States fought the Revolutionary War. A new revolution is under way, and it favors totalitarian lockdowns, forced vaccinations, and soon will determine every aspect of your personal freedom. Population control is the object of this “progressive” revolution. Travel will be limited and the means of transportation determined in the purported interest of climate change. Already we see freedom of expression (guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution) limited because the Leftist gatekeepers want to control the message. The rationale often given is: “That is hate speech.” Translation, we hate your free speech. You’ve contradicted our effort to brainwash the populous. We will shut you down. Recently Twitter suspended the press secretary for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida because she called out the Associate Press for publishing a story with claims which DeSantis disagreed. So, we cannot make up our own minds about the AP story or DeSantis disagreement. Twitter has decreed disagreement with AP is cause for being silenced. This is what Marxist nations have done since the beginning of that monstrous movement: silence dissent. Disseminate disinformation. Punish critical thought. Push the narrative and broker no compromise. 

There are two types of people in the world and they treat others according to their understanding of human freedom: 1) those who feel the need to control others, or tell others what to do and how to live, and 2) those who—although they may offer advice—choose to live and let live. These two types occupy both the Left and the Right on the political spectrum. The Left has one agenda and the Right another, but those who are of type one want to force you to do what they and their Tribe says you must. There is an editorial on CNN today (although, the case can be made that all CNN publishes is Progressive editorializing) the title of which is: No You Don’t Have a Constitutional Right to Refuse Vaccination. Really. I’d hazard a guess that the same Progressive who wrote this would stand up for abortion rights. So, the government should not be permitted to stop an abortion in favor of saving an unborn baby’s life—my body, my choice—but the government can force you to accept something in your body with which you disagree. Before you pin me to the anti-vax tribe, let me state clearly: I have been vaccinated and I strongly encourage adults to see their doctor and get the vaccine if their doctor agrees it is the healthy choice for them. So, vaccine good; please get it. However, I strongly disagree with the government forcing the matter. It..Is..Your..Choice. This is still the United States of America, a Constitutional Republic founded on the ideal of God given absolute freedom. The only time that freedom should be limited is when it can clearly be shown to inhibit  the freedom of others or endanger the lives of others. Careful when and how you apply that. The present pandemic, although deadly for about 1.5% of those infected, disproportionately the elderly and those with co-morbidities doesn’t qualify as rationale to force people not to work, to limit their freedom to leave their homes, to enforce mask mandates across the board, or to enforce universal vaccination. Covid-19 is not Ebola, friends. Freedom is an amazing gift from God and it is your right. Your rights are not granted by government, rather government exists at the consent of the governed. Learn not to consent to the removal of your freedom for the hollow promise of a little safety.

Addiction!

An addiction is anything that gets ahold of your “want to” and won’t let go. It will have increasingly destructive consequences, but you excuse or overlook them in favor of what you want. Examples are myriad: alcohol, gambling, porn, sex, eating, fasting, exercising, adrenaline. An addiction may be to something healthy or unhealthy. 

When the addiction is to a healthy thing, it became an addiction when you couldn’t do without it, at the point when it got out of balance. Let’s take food for example. Obviously, we need to eat. However, when I self-medicate by eating, when I continue to eat too much and too often, when I cannot do without a meal, snack or drink without feeling deprived or uneasy, then I may well be addicted to eating. Relationships are healthy. We need to be connected to other people. However, when I cannot go a moment without someone, when I feel the constant need to know where they are and what they are doing, when I become jealous of other people who may take the person’s attention for any period of time, then I’ve got a problem. So does the person to whom I am addicted. 

Then there are addictions to dangerous things. This is usually where we identify addiction. The physiological attachment to something that destroys health. Why would someone do heroin, a sober person asks? Well, they may have been tempted to try it, then it got ahold of them, caused chemical changes in their body and made them need it.

Interestingly, a chemical doesn’t have to be physiologically addictive to gain a hold on you. Many people enjoy marijuana, and they will tell you that it is not an addictive chemical. Yet, the telltale signs of addiction may still occur: constant need for the high, continuous use of the drug even when it is obvious to those who are sober that negative consequences are occurring, escalation of usage, and/or an unwillingness to cut back. I’ve watched people over the years who have brought negative consequences into their lives as the result of smoking weed, but they will not slow down or stop. As an example, several years ago a young adult I was seeking to mentor got into some trouble with the law and was given probation. As a condition of his probation he was prohibited from using any illegal drug. He was required to meet with his probation officer weekly, and would receive random drug tests. He loved smoking weed so much that he stopped meeting with his p. o. in order to avoid being tested. He tried to hide. He got busted and is now serving an extended sentence for the original crime. Why? He needed marijuana.

Alcohol is a well known addiction. Those who recognize that they are addicted may call themselves “alcoholic” and see it as a disease. In fact, that is the dominant model for alcohol addiction. However, it has the same characteristics and consequences as any addiction. What alcohol has in its favor is social acceptance (marijuana is catching up). My father was an alcoholic. It is believed by some that alcoholism is hereditary (again the disease model in effect). As the result of this, and coming to faith in a baptist church that opposed drinking, I didn’t touch alcohol until I was 37 years old. For many years after that I enjoyed an occasional glass of wine or beer, or perhaps a margarita. I could do with it or without it. Recently that has changed.

I don’t want to stop drinking alcohol. I’ve done a number of fasts over the past few years, but it has been difficult to give up alcohol for more than a few days. Drinking too much gives me a headache. You’d think that this would be enough to stop me. All it does is slow me down. I’m careful. But I don’t want to quit. I like the feeling it gives me, until I don’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m addicted, if not to alcohol, then to the reward, the feeling I get as the result of drinking. So, I need to stop. Is it a disease? I don’t believe so (check out the book The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease by Marc Lewis). Is it an addiction? Yes, and I need to not need or want it, or I need to end it altogether.

The Bible teaches “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). That last phrase is very important. An addiction becomes the master of a person. I begin by enjoying something, but when it takes hold, it starts running my life—and ruining it. However, as a Christian, I have professed Jesus Christ as my Lord, which means I’ve given him control of my life. How dare I, or worse some chemical or thing, take control from Christ.

So, what to do? Well, during Lent I’ve been fasting alcohol, then my birthday came up and I started drinking occasionally again. Today is Monday of  Holy Week and I’ve chosen to (following a fellow minster and friend) do a complete fast until Easter. No food. No alcohol. I want nothing in control of my desires but Christ. 

I hope my little confession has helped you to evaluate your life, and maybe encouraged you to make some changes. I am not a clinician, psychologist or certified addiction counselor. You may need to get help from someone like that. I am a minster of the Gospel, and I will try to live up to that as well as I am able, with God’s help.

Science or Superstition?

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas just announced that he will be rescinding his executive order mandating the wearing of masks. This has reignited the ongoing debate concerning the wearing of these masks and their capability of restraining the virus. I would like to examine this and then apply it to our overall perspective on health and safety.

Let me ask you a series of questions.

1. Do you wear a mask when you are by yourself?

2. Do you wear a mask when you are out of doors?

3. Do you wear a mask when you’re in your car alone or with family members?

If you answered yes to any of those three questions, then why? Is your response scientific, or superstitious?

The science of the spread of coronavirus indicates that the only way it spreads is via droplets coming from the mouth or nose of an infected person this explains the constant caution regarding social distancing. The virus may also spread, although less prevalent, when infected droplets land on a surface, with which you make contact, then touch your nose or mouth soon after. If you’re paying attention you will realize that wearing a mask outside wearing a mask by yourself wearing a mask inside your car does absolutely nothing to stop the spread of the virus or to keep you any healthier. In fact wearing a mask could make a someone falsely confident, which could, in turn, result in less consciousness of social distancing. Coming into close contact with an infected person regardless of wearing a mask, may result in infection. In fact a recent study indicated that the coronavirus may live for days on fabric, which means droplets landing on your mask could remain there throughout the day as you constantly breathe them in.

I am not opposed to masks. If in an environment where I may come in contact with strangers, I’d prefer we wear them until community immunity is reached. However, if I’m the only one wearing a cheap cloth mask, I’d likely be better off without it, my vigilence to remain six feet or more from others is heightened. If I’m seated somewhere and a stranger sits close by, I will move to facilitate distancing. My mask will not protect me.

Next let’s look at the vaccines.

1. Do you believe that a vaccine stops you from getting COVID-19?

2. If you’ve already had COVID-19 do you believe you should be vaccinated?

If you responded affirmatively either of those questions, why?

Let’s begin with how a vaccine works. If you have a healthy immune system, infection with a virus causes an immune response within your body, which will then result in you being able to fight off future infections of the same virus. We call this immunity. A vaccine does not stop you from getting an sick, your body does. A vaccine stimulates your body’s natural immune system, so that you will be able to fight off an infection. There are four approved vaccines for Covid-19 currently available. All do the same thing, prepare your immune system to fight the virus.

The healthiest thing you can do to avoid a debilitating infection with the coronavirus (or any other illness) is to be healthy. A vaccine is far less effective, and in fact may be ineffective, in a person with a weak immune system. So, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking, cut down on your alcohol, or eliminate it altogether, work out regularly. In short, be healthy and you are far more likely to experience a less severe infection of any virus or bacterial infection.

Be scientific and smart. Avoid close contact with those outside your family. Sanitize your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stop adjusting your mask. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already had Covid-19. Don’t fear and don’t stress. An unhealthy mental state may result in an unhealthy body.

Covid-19 may become endemic. In other words it may always be out there in some mutated form, just as influeza is. We will have to continue to be vigilant, smart and scientific, not superstitious.

Walking On the Right Path

“There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” -Morpheus (The Matrix).

I initiated a fat loss competition at my church on the first Sunday in January. The purpose was (and is) to motivate people who enter to become more healthy, not just by losing pounds, or even inches, but by losing excess(ive) body fat. According to the Diabesity Institute (diabesityinstitute.org) 60% of Americans suffer from a combination of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diabesity is the major factor behind heart disease. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine people with type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack. Obesity has long been known to increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore, this is not merely an issue of looking better, or even feeling better, but of living healthier and longer. Our church is called Lifewell and our motto is Live Life Well, This fits our mission.

I haven’t lost any fat, in spite of the fact that I have the knowledge and experience to do so. I could be a trainer if I had time and inclination to get certified. However, as Morpheus says in the first Matrix movie, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” See, I decided to take a different route. I wanted to know if I could gain muscle at the same time as losing body fat. Others have done this, but I have not. I followed a six week weightlifting protocol known as German Volume Training. I gained muscle, and strength. However, the reason I didn’t lose body fat likely had more to do with my unwillingness to give up a daily craft beer reward, and being lax in keeping up with my daily food log. The result was too many calories, and a daily interference of alcohol in my liver. The latter inhibits the liver’s ability to burn fat (at least, while it is dealing with filtering the alcohol).

What to do? Be happy with my muscle gain? Buy bigger pants? Wear all of my shirts untucked to hide a burgeoning gut? No, I’m going to re-start. Turns out virtually everyone in our competition voted to do the same. The original plan was to weigh-out on Valentine’s Day. Yeah, there were very few people who left their houses that morning. We live in Texas. February 14th was the start of a very rough week of freezing temperatures and power outages.  Prior to that we had folks dealing with Covid-19. It’s been a difficult 2021 so far. However, as the Bible promises, God’s grace is new every morning. God’s grace is my inspiration to start over, and over, and over. So, I’m not giving up, or giving in. 

The season of Lent is a time of fasting. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose body fat. It’s also a time of self-denial. Many Christians give something up for Lent. This teaches us to say no to self and yes to God. Life is about seasons. our bodies are designed for intermittent feasting and fasting. The holiday season is for feasting. Lent is for fasting. My plan is to give up alcohol, and to fast periodically, particularly every Friday. This will help spiritually and physically. Health involves the whole person.

This re-start is an opportunity to walk the path I that know: keep a food log, count calories and keep them at around 1700 per day, avoid sugar, starch and generally keep carbs low (around 100gm/day), continue to lift weights, add cardio, and NO ALCOHOL. I’ve done this several times in the past decade and dropped my body fat below 10%, and sustained it for years. 

Today is Day One… again. Easter is 40 days away, and that is our new weigh-out date for the fat loss competition at my church. My goal is to get back below 10% body fat. I am convinced I can do it, but only if I do what I know. That really applies to all of life.

Jesus said something to his followers that is the best summation: “You know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). Do what you know to be right and true. If not, well, Jesus’ half-brother James said, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17).

Do what is right, always: in health, in relationships, in your thinking, in life.

COVID-19 as Constitutional Crisis

My friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preaching Into the Air?

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

(Matthew 11:16–17, NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now I’m fasting and praying every day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

God’s Purpose for the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cling to Psalm 91 in times like these. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare and Personal Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road to a Lean Body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deliver Us From Evil

In the Bible’s Old Testament book of Judges, the leaders for whom the book is named were actually deliverers who saved Israel from foreign domination. There were 12 Judges. They were imperfect, sometimes immoral, leaders, but each one was used by God to save the people of Israel during a period of lawlessness and idolatry. The theme of Judges could be the theme of our nation today: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (17:6, 21:25). The leadership of Donald Trump parallels that of the Judges: imperfect, insecure, offensive, yet chosen by God for a purpose. Here are some examples of the Judges.

Ehud, the second Judge, delivered Israel by subterfuge and murder. He went to meet with Eglon the king of Moab under guise of peace. Ehud requested a private audience with the king, then stabbed him in the stomach with a concealed short sword.

Deborah was a respected judge who rendered decisions for Israel, and she was an unexpected deliverer during a period of patriarchal leadership.  Deborah encouraged and advised Barak in his march against the Canaanite king, Jabin. However, Barak didn’t get the glory for his defeat, nor did Deborah. Instead a woman named Jael decieved Jabin and shrewdly murdered him by driving a tent peg through is skull.

Gideon was visited by an angel as he threshed wheat while hiding in a wine press. During this time Midianite raiders would enter Israel during harvest and steal their grain, as well as their livestock. The angel complemented and encouraged Gideon: “The LORD is with you, valiant warrior!” Gideon’s response was not one of faith, however. “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his miracles…” Nonetheless Gideon was willing and obedient, even though he showed fear and doubt, needing to see signs, then requiring even further confirmation after that. God chose Gideon and used him to miraculously deliver Israel with only 300 men.

Jephthah was recognized as a valiant warrior, but he the son of a prostitute. His brothers rejected him and ran him out of their territory. However, when Israel was oppressed by Ammon those same brothers begged Jephthah to return and lead an army to deliver them.  Jephthah made them promise to make him their leader upon the successful defeat of Ammon. They agreed. In order to secure favor from the Lord, Jephthah made a rash and tragic vow to God, “if You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon it shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (11:30-31). To prove how foolish this faithless vow was, the first thing to come out the door of Jephthah’s house was his daughter. In pride Jephthah carried out the vow.

The last judge we’ll look at is Samson. He was a miracle baby. His parents were infertile. An angel promised that God would give them a baby, but he must be a Nazirite from birth. This meant: 1) he was never to cut his hair, 2) never to drink wine or even touch grapes, 3) and never to touch a dead body. Samson is known, not for his great leadership, or wisdom, but for his physical strength. He was sexually promiscuous, a vindictive schemer, given to outbursts of rage, and he pushed the limits of his Nazirite vow by touching the carcass of a lion, and eventually telling his lover that his strength came from his long hair. Each time Samson defeated the Philistines it was for selfish reasons. This culminated in his final suicide mission wherein he literally brought the house down on his head by toppling the central pillars of a large structure, killing 3000 Philistines who were present to worship their god and mock Samson. “So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. Except for the fact that Samson achieved several minor victories against the Philistines it is difficult to understand why he is considered a Judge, until we recognize that God chose to use this imperfect strongman to achieve His purpose.

Donald Trump is a lightening rod; people either love him or hate him. Today the U.S. House of Representatives impeached him for abusing the power of his office, and obstructing congress. Predictably the vote followed party lines. The Senate will hold a trial, and if they concur he will be removed from office. Most people doubt this will happen because the Senate is controlled by Trump’s party. Whether one loves or hates him, I would make the case that God chose to put this imperfect leader in place for a purpose. In fact, I will be bold (and appear to be partisan) by stating unequivocally that God has used Trump to stave off the relentless march of godless social and political policy in the same way the Old Testament Judges delivered Israel from foreign oppression. For the time being God has used an imperfect leader to deliver this nation from the evil it is bringing upon itself.

I. The evil of religious intolerance. The United States is imperfect, but it was established by those who fled religious intolerance. Now we face a political party that rejects First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion if either of those freedoms threaten their agenda.

II. The evil of abortion on demand. The Democrat party has pushed abortion as a signature issue. At one time leadership in the party stated that abortions should be safe and rare. Now, they wholeheartedly support Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been caught trafficking in aborted baby body parts. They not only support late term abortions– taking the life of a fetus that is viable, a baby that could be born alive–but this political group supports letting a breathing baby die. This is evil.

III. The eventual evil of Socialism. I say eventual evil because Socialism is a step in the direction of Marxism, which is inherently atheistic and intolerant of any opinion that doesn’t align with its radical economic and social viewpoint. We often hear of the evil of Nazism. Under Hitler 11 million undesirables were exterminated. This pales in comparison to the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by Socialist and Communist leaders in the 20th Century. Russia’s Stalin starved and murdered over 20 million of his people. China’s Chairman Mau exterminated more than 45 million who disagreed, Pol Pot murdered nearly two million in Cambodia. Some estimates put the murders perpetrated by Marxist ideology at more than 100 million. Yes, Socialism may well result in great evil.

I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. I was almost deceived into voting for Hillary Clinton, but declined to do so. In the wake of the Trump Presidency what I feared has not come to pass. Trump is offensive, narcissistic, vindictive, but has proven to be a foil against those who will destroy our nation. He has supported the right of the unborn to life. He has supported religious liberty. He has opposed Socialism. I don’t agree with other positions he holds. However, he is not evil, nor is he bad for this country. However, his presidency has clearly shown us who is. I will vote Trump in 2020 if that is possible. I cannot in good conscience vote for any Democrat.

Thy Kingdom come, Lord Jesus,

Thy will be done, Father,

on earth as it is in heaven.