Category Archives: Editorial

From Fatness to Fitness, a Journey

It started on November 8th, and today is February 26th. I was sick and tired of my gut and my “snowman body,” which had accumulated over four years. In early November I weighed around 170 with 19% body fat (according to my smart scale, which may not measure body fat with great accuracy but was my gauge all along). My last weigh-in showed 147.4 pounds. I used calipers and found between 8.38% to 10.12% body fat, depending on the method of calculating. I dropped from a 33” to a 30” waist.

Previous to this I had worked hard and effectively to arrive at the same point. However, everything accumulates over time: fatness or fitness. It all depends on what you’re doing, or not doing in the case of decreasing levels of discipline and activity. I didn’t decide to start being unhealthy one day; in fact, I never stopped going to the gym. Everything happened gradually.

I think I did make a decision to gain some weight, but I wanted it to be muscle. However, I broke my clavicle and was unable to perform any bench presses. This is demoralizing for a guy. I continued to work out, but not very hard, and finally averaged only once or twice a week. I continued to eat a fairly healthy diet, and I didn’t overeat. In spite of this, I gained fat and lost muscle mass. Four years ago I weighed 149, so I gained 21 pounds, or five pounds per year. Had I continued on this gradual increase I would have eventually become obese, and likely struggled with type-two diabetes, which runs on my father’s side of the family.

My vanity kicked in when I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Coinciding with this was my decision to return to teaching karate’. I have been an instructor for over 30 years, but had quit teaching or even practicing. I didn’t realize how out of condition I had become. We deceive ourselves when we get older, thinking that everything is pretty much the same this year as it was last, or five or ten years ago. Unlike young people, who naturally grow, when we hit about the mid-twenties we begin to decline, slowly at first, but everything accumulates over time. If you’ve not chosen a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating you may be in your late twenties (even younger) and already show significant signs of decreasing fitness.

The last time I started, it was a more difficult journey out of the slough of fitness despondency in which I had found myself. I am happy I didn’t wait any longer to get back into shape. It could have been significantly more difficult to do at this point if I had not already built a fitness foundation. As we get older we have decreased physical capabilities and increased liabilities. In spite of this, we may not realize how far removed we are from the halcyon days of our youth. The result? I go to the gym and attempt to do what I used to 10 or 20 years ago, and discover I cannot. Disappointment may stop me there, or soreness and injury may slow me to a stop later. Then I quit, become depressed, eat more, care less, and put myself at risk for serious physical problems. I learned to meet myself where I am (as opposed to expecting I will be where I used to), and keep moving forward. This motivational strategy has worked to keep me going each time.

I really like being skinny! I have more energy. I look better in my clothes. Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’m stronger. Since I’ve been running my cardio-vascular system is healthier and I have more energy. I have more self-discipline in other areas of my life too. Temptation is tough. I was at a birthday celebration at an Asian buffet two days ago and our room was right next to the dessert section. All those beautiful little cakes, cookies and tiramisus were calling to me. I resisted! Why? I’d just purchased new jeans and pants a few hours earlier with waist sizes between 29 and 30. I’m not going to keep myself from fitting into those new clothes! I want to be lean, look good, feel good, have energy and have no self-consciousness about a pooching belly. Half of that is vain, but it’s honest.

In the end, I’m a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m called to offer my body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable and spiritual offering in worship. God is worth more than a feeble sacrifice. I want to present a clean, healthy body for him to use. If I am going to serve the Lord by teaching karate’, then I need to be in top condition. If I’m going to keep away from sickness, and disease like Alzheimer’s, then I have to discipline myself to exercise, eat healthy, as well as reading and writing regularly. If I’m going to defend myself or my congregation against the attack of some violent individual, then I want to be as trained and fit as possible to do so. My body belongs to God; it is his temple. I want him to be pleased. That’s worship. That’s the best motive of all.

Advertisements

Build the Lord’s House

(Originally preached in March of 2017)

Not a building, a Church

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

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

The people of Israel sinned against their God and worshiped idols, so the Lord disciplined them by sending Nebuchadnezzar to destroy their temple and take them as captives to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:15-21).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Remnant gave up building.

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

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

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

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

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

To Z & J: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to build the House of the Lord.’ (Hag. 1:2)

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

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

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

To the Remnant: “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood to build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified.” (Hag 1:7b-8)

The response:

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

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

That’s 18 years… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hag 1:5–6, 9 NLT).

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

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

  1. If you have not yet been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ as he commanded, commit to do it today.
  2. If you have yet to join this church, takes steps to do so now.
  3. If you’re not a regular giver to the ministry of this church, start today, or the next time you receive income.
  4. If you’re not meeting in one of our small groups, choose one today and commit to meet with them beginning next weekend.
  5. If your attendance is inconsistent, even erratic, make a change this year. Show up to grow up!
  6. When we’re in worship or Bible study and your attention is diverted to your phone, the coffee machine, kids, FOCUS on the Lord. Take worship seriously!
  7. If you do not invite people to come to Jesus and our church, start doing so now.

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

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

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

There are blessings for our church promised when we obey the Lord. I have always wanted this church to grow according to God’s promises rather than human methods.

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

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

(Hag 2:6–9).

The glory is the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hag. 2:19).

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

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

Do you receive it?

Then prove it.

Get to work!

BMR. Want to Lose Some Fat?

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories.
  • Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
  • Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
  1. Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
  • Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
  • Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone.
  1. BMR- You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals.
    1. Females:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add your weight. Now subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.
      1. Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8,  1320 – 52.8 =1267.2
    2. Males:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add twice your weight. Now subtract 2% for every ten years of life.
      1. Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man-  150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728
    3. Males and females:  Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level.
      1. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.
      2. Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36
  1. Lose fat.
  • If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
  • There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
  • Once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
  • Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
  • Exercise more! Do a 30-45 minute workout 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
  • Eat more often! You should eat 5-6 small, healthy, balanced meals per day equal to your BMR, minus 300-500. This will keep your metabolism from slowing down and storing fat in spite of your calorie cutting efforts. Watch the carbs! No more than 30-40% of your diet should consist of carbohydrates.
  1. Gain muscle.
  • If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
  • Add 500 calories to your BMR.
  • Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds.
  • Eat every three hours throughout the day to feed your muscles.
  • Consume your largest meal of the day within one hour after a workout, composed mainly of carbohydrates and proteins like: pasta, potatoes, corn, bread, lean meat.
  • Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.

These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before  starting a diet or exercise program. 

Push through the Disappointments

It’s been nearly a month since I determined to lose 16 lbs by the end of 2017. I’m happy to say that I am on track. There have been some disappointments along the way, however. On two occasions I was on target mid-week and magically picked up a pound the next day. My body doesn’t want to lose fat. It is not easy to make the transition from burning carbs to burning fat. I’ve cut both calories and carbs. I’ve increased my activity level. I’ve been working out more often. In spite of all that, there were those two disappointments.

If I see progress, it is much easier to stay motivated. When it appears that what I am doing is not helping, I am tempted to go to one of two extremes: quit or eat nothing. Either extreme is unhealthy. Fasting for a short period, even fasting a day or two per week may be healthy. However, fasting slows the metabolism and inhibits muscle growth. Yes, I did try it, and yes I will continue to include it in my regimen. There are spiritual reasons for this as well, which are contained in another article I posted here.

Whatever I do it must be sustainable. If I lose this fat, then go back to old habits, I’ll gain it right back. I know I can do this because I’ve done it before. In 2012 I got down to 7.5% body fat and stayed there for over a year. Even after that I stayed under 10% for two more years. What caused the weight gain? Disappointment. I inujured myself and couldn’t do the intense weight training I was accustomed to, so I gradually gave up. Not completely, but enough to gain 20lbs over 4 years.

I will face disappointments. I will miss a workout. I will have a day where I eat more than my allotted 1750 calories. My body will, inexplicably, gain a pound. I’ll injure myself, or be so sore that I cannot work out. What I have to do–what I have done, and will keep doing–is to persevere. Tenacity is important. I must keep moving forward, even if it appears (or feels) as though I’m not going as fast or as far as I expected or planned.

So, I pressed on toward my goal, and I’m over halfway there. My determination remains strong. I don’t want the things I did before because I have a higher prize in front of me. Saturday was a big temptation. The micro-brewery down the street from me had its anniversary with special beers. I considered taking a cheat day and going in there. However, I was 1.4 lbs away from my weekly goal as of Thursday, so I couldn’t afford to cheat. I resisted temptation. I met my goal this morning.

This all has spiritual application as well. There are many things I’m tempted to do that I resist, not because I’m afraid, but because I am pressing on toward a higher prize: becoming like Jesus in his resurrection. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Keeping my eyes on the ultimate prize keeps me from doing many foolish, worthless and destructive things. It keeps me from believing lies like, “Oh, that’s not so bad.” Or, “Everybody does it.” And the most damaging, “This isn’t really wrong.” Christ’s character and commandments determine what is right and wrong. If I am going to be like him in my character, and follow him in his resurrection, I must have faith first. Then I have to follow that faith with obedience. That will make me different than many people in my culture. That’s ok. A 55 year old man with less than 10% body fat is rare too. I don’t want to be obese, and I don’t want to be un-Christlike or immoral either.

So, I press on…

BMR. Want to Lose Some Fat?

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories.
  • Carbohydrate 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Protein 1 gram = 4.5 calories
  • Fat 1 gram = 9 calories
  • Alcohol (not a macronutrient) 1 gram = 7 calories
  1. Count Calories. Each person burns a different number of calories depending upon their metabolism and activity level. Count your calories.
  • Write down everything you eat in a normal day and add up the calories.
  • Go online or get a calorie counting app for your smart phone.
  1. BMR- You can determine the number of calories your body needs each day by determining your Basal Metabolic Rate, then adding or subtracting from that depending upon your goals.
    1. Females:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add your weight. Now subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.
      1. Example of 120 lbs 20 year old woman: 120 x 10 = 1200, 1200 + 120 = 1320, 1320 x .04 = 52.8,  1320 – 52.8 =1267.2
    2. Males:  Multiply your weight by 10, and add twice your weight. Now subtract 2% for every ten years of life.
      1. Example of a 150 lbs 20 year old man-  150 x 10 = 1500, 150 x 2 = 300, 1500 = 300 = 1800, .04 x 1800 = 72, 1800 – 72 =1728
    3. Males and females:  Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level.
      1. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.
      2. Example of the female above with an average activity level: 1267.2 x .30 = 380.16, 380.16 + 1267.2 = 1647.36
  1. Lose fat.
  • If you want to lose fat, you must burn more calories than you eat!
  • There are 3,500 calories contained in one pound of fat.
  • Once you accumulate 3,500 more calories than you need, you will gain a pound of fat.
  • Eat less! Cut between 250-500 (no more!) calories per day.
  • Exercise more! Do a 30-45 minute workout 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
  • Eat more often! You should eat 5-6 small, healthy, low fat meals per day equal to your BMR, minus 300-500. This will keep your metabolism from slowing down and storing fat in spite of your calorie cutting efforts.
  1. Gain muscle.
  • If you want to gain muscle, work out with weights 3-4 times per week and take in more calories than you burn.
  • Add 500 calories to your BMR.
  • Eat an amount of protein equal in grams to your body weight in pounds.
  • Eat every three hours throughout the day to feed your muscles.
  • Consume your largest meal of the day within one hour after a workout, composed mainly of carbohydrates and proteins like: pasta, potatoes, corn, bread, lean meat.
  • Drink a whey protein shake within one hour before and after your weight workout.

These statements have not been evaluated by a physician. Always consult your doctor before  starting a diet or exercise program. 

Return to Fitness: Day 1

It’s actually the 3rd day, but this is the first entry on WordPress. My purpose is to encourage some of you to get fit and healthy.
On Sunday I finally made the decision to quit something I’ve enjoyed over the last several years because it has become unhealthy: drinking alcohol. Now, when I say quit, I don’t mean to say I’ll not have another craft beer on an occasion, but for now I will not drink any alcohol. Lest you think I’ve been a secret drunk, let me assure you I have one beer, and that’s it. When I go to Intrinsic (local micro-brewery and bbq) I don’t start a tab. I order only one beer off the wall. Trouble is, it’s become a daily reward that I simply don’t want to give up. For years I’ve taught that addiction means you cannot quit because you don’t want to. If it’s not an addiction, just give it up for 40 days or longer. My intention is to give up alcohol until I don’t want a beer every day.
The other reason I’m doing this has to do with fat loss, or the inability to lose. I’ve gained 20 pounds since 2012 when I was at the pinnacle of fitness. My goal for my 50th birthday was to get fit and healthy, and by March of that year I had dropped down to 7.5% body fat and a size 29 waist. I lifted weights regularly–something I’ve done on and off for most of my life. I ran my first 5k that year (I have always hated running), and I kept entering races through early 2015. A series of physical challenges put the brakes on my gym workouts, and the subsequent disappointment reduced my commitment level. So, I didn’t get totally out of shape, but I certainly changed shapes! I went from lean and muscular in 2013 to snowman in 2017. That’s what I look like in the mirror, a pudgy snowman. I am determined to melt that flab and get back to where I was. I started running again a couple of months ago, but my daily beer has inhibited weight loss. I’ve dropped about .5% bodyfat since I quit alcohol a few days ago. I started karate’ workouts again yesterday, and in January I’ll re-start the karate’ club I’ve led for almost 30 years. I to expect gain fitness and lose fat as a result. My goal? Lose 16 lbs by the end of this year, and be back where I was in 2012 by February 12, 2018. I’m counting calories. I’ve put my weekly weight loss goal on my calendar. I’ll check in periodically to challenge and encourage you with progress.
So, you can learn two things from what I’ve posted today. 1) alcohol consumption, even in modest amounts, is an enemy to weight (fat) loss. 2) You’re addicted if you don’t want to quit doing something, even when you see potential side effects and negative results from the habit. Not addicted? Then stop and prove it.

Pray, Then Act

26 people were murdered and others injured yesterday by another mass shooter. This time it was during services at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas when Devin Patrick Kelley stormed in and started killing. I’m a pastor. My Texas church is about the same size, although our community is larger than the tiny town where this occurred.

My first response to ensure the safety of my people. Posting shrill diatribes on social media won’t do that. Prayer will. You may think that is not a very practical solution. If you are an unbeliever, I understand. However, you may have an incomplete or incorrect understanding of prayer.

Prayer must always result in action. We talk to God. He moves, then we move. The Spirit of God gives wisdom to the heart or mind of the person who is engaged in prayer. Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue filled with requests, or complaints. I open my heart and mind to the Lord. I open the Bible. I ask God to speak to me. Then I get up off of my knees and act on what God has revealed.

Prayer is not an effort to get God to do what I want, but the means of discovering and aligning myself with His will. In his model prayer Jesus taught us to say: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s what we pray before we ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

How does that apply to a tragedy like this?

Let’s start with preparation. In the same model prayer, Jesus taught believers to say, “Lead us not into temptation (or testing), but deliver us from the Evil One.” We recognize that “the devil prowls around like the roaring lion seeking someone to devour,” and we need protection, and deliverance from his harmful intentions. We put our trust in the Lord, and then we prepare for the onslaught. To put it another way: Trust God and lock your doors. Pray, then get up off of your knees and take preventative action, as the Lord gives you wisdom, knowledge, skill and understanding.

Immediately upon learning of the incident in Sutherland Springs my instinct as a protector of my congregation lead me to take steps to further ensure their safety. We’ve already assigned some men in our church to watch the doors for potentially dangerous individuals. I texted those men and reminded them of our need of their vigilance. I continued to think, and pray, and act. I contacted our Teaching Pastor to update him. We’ve already installed auto-locking deadbolts to our children’s ministry doors. I updated the codes. We will also restrict access to our worship area more than we have previously.

I continued to pray this morning. We will start a men’s ministry and ask our men to be on alert and watch the doors. I have other training that may help us, and I am praying about how and what to do to teach others.

In most instances where a mass shooting takes place, the people are unarmed and no one opposes the shooter(s) at first. We are not told to run from the devil, but to oppose him. “Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee.” When these shooters are opposed with force, they stop shooting. Then they run and often shoot themselves. They rarely stop because someone stays, “Please, please, stop!”

What am I trying to say here? Pray, then act. If you have the ability to fight, then pray and fight. If you are trained and properly licensed, use your gun. Don’t rely on your gun; rely on God. But if you may legally carry a firearm and have trained to use it, then you may be the one God calls upon to stop a terrorist. Pray, then act. If you are not armed, you may at least be able to keep the murderer from killing more people by taking other action, perhaps action in concert with others.

Here are some examples where the outcome could have been as bad or worse than Sutherland Springs, but someone intervened.

In December of 2007 Matthew Murray shot several people at the YWAM missionary center in Colorado, then proceeded to New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Murray entered the church and fired, but he met with resistance, an armed security guard named Jeanne Assam. Assam shot Murray dead before he could carry out the massacre he likely had in mind. Murray had an assault rifle with 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Assam had law enforcement experience.

Two men arrived in my own town of Garland, Texas on May 3, of 2015 with the express purpose of carrying out a mass shooting at the Curtis Culwell Center. They immediately met with resistance from a Garland Police officer who shot both with his service weapon. Both men die, along with their intent to do harm. No one inside the conference center was hurt.

Finally, early reports indicate that Devin Kelley was kept from killing and injuring even more people at the church in Sutherland Springs when an armed citizen confronted him. Kelley fled in his vehicle, then crashed and apparently shot himself.

So, the lesson here? Pray, then act. Prayer is always an effort to gain an understanding of God’s will. Prayer proves that my trust is in God. Then I get up and DO SOMETHING to make a difference. People may ask why God didn’t do anything to stop the Sutherland Springs tragedy, but I see that he did interven. I don’t know why 26 people were killed, don’t know why it happened to the good folks of FBC Sutherland Springs, but I know this. We’ll be ready. We’ll be prayed up. We will act to keep our people safe. So help us, Almighty God.