Jesus is the Reason… for Everything Good

My message for Christmas Eve 2017 as delivered at Lifewell Church in historic downtown Garland.

Six Symbols of Christmas

Christmas is all about Jesus. He is the reason for the season,
and for everything good in the world.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
(Colossians 1:15-17).
And we who believe should live our lives for him.
“Whatever you do in word or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him.”
(Colossians 3:17)
Tonight I want to tell you about the Symbols of Christmas.

You see, they’re all about Jesus.

1. Christmas Carols
What is a /Carol/? “a song, especially of joy.”
May have begun with St. Francis of Assisi a 12th century monk who established the Franciscan order. Pope Francis is named after this saint.
However, long before Saint Francis believers are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to “Let the message of Christ live in you richly. Sing songs hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord, with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). We’re also told not to get drunk but to be filled with the Spirit, “speak to one another with songs, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19).
The best Christmas carols are worship songs.
O, Come Emanuel captures the longing of advent and our desire for the Lord Jesus to return and save us from this fallen world.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is about the magi who came t see Jesus. Listen to this line
God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray
O, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
O, tidings of comfort and joy.
/*Christmas carols were my first praise and worship songs.*/
I memorized that long before I became a Christian, but after I gave my heart to Jesus the words jumped out at me.

2. Christmas Tree
Garland, wreaths = evergreen, eternal life.
During his ministry Jesus was in the Temple during Hanukkah and said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28).
Greenery was used for celebrations in winter as early as the Roman times. Like many pagan symbols and celebrations Christians converted the evergreen understanding it to represent the eternal life the Son of God gives. Martin Luther brought boughs into his house and placed candles in them, believing it looked like the starry night sky. He had a Christmas tree and sang carols to his children.

The evergreen also reminds me of something that never grows old. In the Psalms we are promised that the Lord, “fills all your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (103:5). The eagle is used as an analogy because it is strong, lively and soars above the mundane earth.
Give your life to Jesus and you’ll be youthful and ever green!

3. Creche or Nativity Scene
Of course Jesus was born in Bethlehem and there wasn’t any room for him at the Inn or in the guest room of any home. That’s why Jesus’ cradle was a manger, or feeding trough. But the Nativity Scene with animals, shepherds and wise men is actually another creation of Francis of Assisi! He loved animals and they used live ones in the first Manger Scene.
“On Christmas Eve 1223, in order to ‘Set before our bodily eyes … how he [Jesus] lay in a manger,’ Francis and his companions worshiped in a cave near Greccio, Italy, surrounded by the traditional oxen, sheep, and donkeys.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/christmas-traditions.html

4. Santa Claus
His original name is Nicholas, and a long time ago he was actually the Bishop, or Senior Pastor of a church in a city called Myra, which is in modern Turkey. Nicholas loved Jesus and he loved to give. The first gifts he gave were gold coins. He wanted to help three poor young girls get married, so he secretly slipped bags of gold through their window at night. One story says that some of the coins fell into their stockings as they dried above the fireplace.
Now you know why children sometimes get gifts in their stockings.
There have been many churches and cathedrals named after Nicholas, and the Catholic church recognized him as a saint. When you say “Saint Nicholas” really fast you can see how his name got changed to Santa Claus! What you need to remember is, Saint Nicholas really loves Jesus!

5. Christmas Presents
Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
It’s simple, really, God gave his son, and that inspires people to give.
The three Wise Men travelled 900 miles from Persia, modern Iraq, just to honor the newborn king. They gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Saint Nicholas gave those three young ladies the money to get married and has been known as a gift-giver since.
There’s just something about grace that prompts us to give.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

6. Christmas Lights
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12).
Jesus is not like a spotlight blinding you, but a beautiful light leading you to heaven. We follow Jesus and live our lives like he lived his: unselfish, giving, and caring for other people. If we follow his example we can’t go wrong. But we don’t always follow Jesus, do we? That’s why we have to believe in him and receive him in our hearts.

We put our faith in Jesus and his love for us. We believe he was born in a stable, grew up and lived the perfect life we’re supposed to but don’t. He is the perfect Savior who took our sins upon him. The Bible says: “He who knew no sin became our sin,” then he died on the cross to pay their price because “the wages of sin is death.” And as a result we who are believers “become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus conquered sin and death and rose on the third day. That’s what Easter is about. Without the resurrection of Easter we probably wouldn’t want to celebrate Christmas. You and I would still be slaves to sin, subject to death. But Jesus is alive, so we can say, “Death where is your victory, where is your sting!? Jesus offers you the greatest gif of all: eternal life! He will come and live in your heart. All you have to do is believe in him, call out to him, invite him. Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock, if anyone will open the door, I will come into him and we will dine together. Invite Jesus into your heart, then follow the light of the world, who lives in your heart.

What are you all about?
Is your Christmas celebration really about Jesus, or something else? Is your life all about Jesus, or someone else? Why don’t you make a change tonight, and really put your faith in Jesus. Start living your life, so that: “Whatever you do in word or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him” (Colossians 3:17)?

Advertisements

Modified Juice Fast

Today is day nine of my fast. That’s farther than I’ve ever gone before on a fast. I’ve lost about eight pounds. I don’t know that my scale is accurate in determinig body fat, because it would seem from what it calculated previously I should be lower, but according to this scale, I’ve cracked into the 15% range.

Yesterday I met my weight goal for this week, and I converted to a traditional no food fast, drinking only water. This part of the fast is for God, not me. I dropped coffee three days ago and all caffeine yesterday. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I don’t want to be addicted to anything. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Caffeine has a way of getting a hold that is not easily shaken. I detox on it periodically, usually for Lent. Normally, it takes two weeks before I can completely drop all caffeinated substances, reducing the amount gradually. If I go cold turkey, I get terrible migranes that no pain reliever will stop. When I stopped drinking coffee two days ago, I expected to drink green tea (less caffeine) in its place until the caffeine addiction ended. I drank two cups that day, and it was that night that I prayed and determined to do a full fast with no juice. I told God that if he was behind this he could show me by keeping  the headaches away. He did! I haven’t had any side effects from eliminating the caffeine altogether. This is a big deal for me.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of praying, and I’ve been reading the book God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis. There are many reasons for fasting, and many benefits as well. I’ve written about it, and have observed six. The first I’ll mention is the last in importantance, but the reason I began this one, Diet. I’ve benefitted by losing weight, ending caffeine addiction, increasing my water and micronutrient intake (the latter applies only to juice fasting), and there are many other benefits.

Here are five more reasons to fast.

Fast as an Act of Dedication–  Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted after his baptism and prior to entering into his ministry. Perhaps he did this to gain confirmation and clarity by intensely focusing on God.  By denying the body what it needs most I am saying that something else–in this case Someone–is more important than me.

Fast as an Exercise of Discipline–  Learn to say no to “me.” All of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness were for him to act expediently and egotistically. If the Lord had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption. My body cries out for food, but I say no. This teaches me to say no in other areas where my earthly nature (or “flesh”) cries out. It teaches me to resist temptation.

Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence– Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation. “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). I am dependent upon food for survival. I transfer my fundamental dependence from a substance to the Sustainer of life.

Fast to Establish Determination–  Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). I fast for a breakthrough, as Daniel did when he needed God to answer his prayer for this people (Daniel 9:3). I fast to prove I am serious, both to myself and to God. This has been the main purpose of converting my juice fast to water only at the end.

Fast as an Act of Desperation–  Cry out to God in repentance (Joel & Israel, Jonah & Ninevah). I have the need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel10:2-3 & 21 days of prayer). Repentance may be part of fasting. Joel called a fast for the people when disaster loomed (Joel 2:12, 15). This includes mourning for sin, and prayer for transformation. I have been doing some of this too.

Well, tomorrow will be the end of my fast. I’ll likely end the water portion earlier. As of this writing, that has lasted about 35 hours and has been a physical challenge. I’m praying and monitoring my body and the Lord’s response. Either way, I’ll end the juice fast sometime tomorrow. I’m praying for a big breakthrough in my life and in the life of my church. I am praying for both of our Christmas services to be filled with people who are seeking God and willing to respond to him. I’m praying that we will have Spirit filled worship. I am praying that our church will grow in the new year. Fasting and praying, and praying. Seeing that the Lord has responded obviously by ending my caffeine addiciton, I have encouragement that he will respond to these more significant requests.

Amen.

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!

Frustrated on a Plateau

Weighed in at the beginning of the week and barely made my goal (as recorded in the previous blog entry). Now it’s Friday, I’ve gained weight and it WILL NOT drop. I am frustrated and angry right now. I’ve confirmed, however, that even a small amount of alcohol consumption will interfere with fat loss. I had a margarita for lunch yesterday and a beer the night before. What to do? Channel the anger into determination. Change course to gain control and thereby eliminate the frustration.

The last time I got to the level of conditioning I am seeking I had to do something drastic to break through at this same weight: Juice Fast. I was introduced to the practice by watching the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, in which a man named Joe Cross drank only juice for 60 days and lost a huge amount of weight and was able to stop taking prescription meds in the process. I did an eight day juice fast and dropped eight pounds. I broke my pateau and stayed beneath it for years.

So, I’m writing this for accountability’s sake. I’ve been tempted to do a juice fast as a fast track to weight loss, but what I do must be sustainable, and one cannot go on a permanent diet of juice, even if that were enjoyable! However, I’ve gotten back on a path of healthy diet and exercise, which I will continue after this juice fast. I’ve got eight more pounds to lose by the end of the year, or roughly 7.5% body fat. I should be able to accomplish that by pulling out the big guns and drinking nothing but juice until, hmmmm, until when? How about Christmas Eve, which is nine days away, so that would be 10 days of juice fasting if you count both today and Christmas Eve day. I’ll eat again after our Christmas Eve candlelight service.

I’ll weigh in (pun intended) on what is happening along the journey, so stay tuned….

Fitness v. Fatness Update

Weighed in today, and I barely made my goal. I ate a brownie last night. This is more difficult during the holidays when almost everyone else is going the opposite direction. I want to lead people in January, so I’ve got to be ahead of the ones I propose to lead.

I started my diet and exercise plan on November 8th (check the blog from that date). I’ve been eating a healthy lower carb diet of around 1700 calories per day. I’ve ramped up my activity level, working out at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. This is not strenuous, I’m coming back from an injury I sustained several years ago. My muscle mass has increased and my gut has gotten smaller. I’ve now lost 10lbs and 2% body fat according to my smart scale.

I’ve also juice fasted several days in the midst of this. Well, not even a true vegetable juice fast, because I’ve added a protein meal replacement shake each day. However, it’s been part of my regimen. I’m watching and praying and may add regular fasting days, or more juice fasting before the end of the year.

I’ve dropped about 2lbs per week and  have six more pounds to lose to achieve my original end of year goal. I’m on target.

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…