God IS Good

“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)

“That tastes good!” 

“Oh, I feel so good!”

“That was a good movie.”

“She is a good person.”

What is the primary meaning of good? Am I saying the same thing whenever I use the word? Is good an essential concept, or merely a word I use to show I have a positive feeling about something?

Widely used definitions of the term good include: beneficial, pleasurable, successful, and happy. All of these are both subjective and selfish. Without an objective basis for good there is merely what is good for me and mine. However, in this subjective, selfish sense, what is good for me could be harmful to you. My good, (like “my truth”) could well be your idea of evil. Take a hot button issue like abortion. There are those who consider “a woman’s right to chose” to terminate her pregnancy good. However, preserving unborn human life is good to those who are against abortion. So, who is right? What is good?

Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume said the concept of good and evil is nothing more than “positive and negative approbation,” meaning the terms are another (perhaps stronger) way of expressing subjective likes and dislikes. This is a disastrous view. If good is only in the eye of the beholder, then what is to keep a nation from upholding racism and genocide as good, as was the case with Nazi Germany? What is to stop a culture from embracing pedophilia or rape as good? Who can say that sadism or masochism is bad to someone who genuinely believes one or both to be good? These may seem to be extreme examples to you, but there are already groups who would support such ideas. And it may not be long until the culture shifts to support some or all of them, unless there is a consensus for recognizing an objective basis for good and evil.

What is the objective basis for good? What can we all look to as a standard and agree, “yes that is what good means”?

Human Flourishing

There are philosophers who have pointed to the idea of human flourishing as an objective basis for good, This means whatever promotes happiness and growth for the human population is the standard for determining good. The question is, how do we define happiness for an entire population? Some might ask about animals. What of their flourishing? Eating meat makes many people happy, and it is arguably healthy. However, that is certainly at odds with the interests of the animal being eaten! What if I am only concerned with my own happiness and/or that of my family and friends? On what basis would I concern myself with happiness and growth for billions of other people, all of whom are competing for resources. From this perspective one could well support extreme measures in population control in order to ensure that there is enough to go around. For many years the Chinese Communist Party only permitted the citizens of China to have one child per family. If a woman became pregnant with a second child, she was forced to have an abortion. They believe this is good because it promotes human flourishing by ensuring China doesn’t become overpopulated. Is that really what good is?

 What is good for me and mine may deprive others of life. Is it right to be forced to sacrifice your life or happiness for the “good of humanity”? For some that is noble, but is it good? Human flourishing may be a good aim, but it cannot be the objective basis for good.

It is ironic to observe that some who refuse to believe in a good God base their concept of good on what Christians attribute to God: love, justice, righteousness, patience and the like. Recently, several high profile Christian leaders have left the faith, but seek to maintain their status as “influencers.” These celebrities are now influencing others to be atheists. Where they were once passionate in their proclamation of Christianity, they’re now equally zealous about disbelief.  The moral advice of many of these erstwhile Christians, however, sounds quite familiar: be forgiving, love people, be compassionate. Sounds like, well, Jesus. Why promote Jesus’ teachings? All it got him (and most of his closest disciples) was an excruciating death. If there is no good God, one could hold (as Ayn Rand famously promoted in her philosophy of Objectivism) that selfishness is the supreme virtue. Many agree with this. Why should I care about anybody else? Why in the world should I listen to “influencers” who once persuaded their followers to believe what they now repudiate? Who is to say they’re right now. All they’ve proven is their own instability, while affirming an objective good, but without any basis beyond an emotional appeal.

The Form of the Good

The Greek philosopher Plato believed in a world of perfect forms above our own, and at the highest level of this theoretical world exists what he called “the form of the good.” Plato’s concept affirms the need for an impeccable, objective standard for good beyond subjective human feeling and evaluation. Some have observed that Plato’s world of flawless forms could be realized within the mind of the perfect God, Creator of everything. 

Apart from a good God there is no objective good. Apart from objective good, there is no evil. As philosopher William Lane Craig frames it:

If God does not exist, then objective good does not exist.

Evil exists.

Therefore, good exists.

Therefore, God exists.

Amazingly, this syllogism uses the existence of real evil as reason to believe there is objective good, and a real God. God defines what good is.

Does that mean whatever God says is good becomes so? What if he decides murder is good? Could he simply reverse the 10 Commandments because he feels like it? If you find that problematic, then is God accountable to a law outside himself? Going back to Plato once again, we find that he and his students wrestled with this problem and stated it in what is known as the Euthyphryo Dilemma

A) Is it good because God wills it?

B) Does God will it because it is good?

If “A” then God could call evil good and it would be so.

If “B” then God is subject to something higher, which would mean something rules over God, which would make him less than the supreme being. Are we stuck on the horns of this dilemma? Let’s go to the teaching of Jesus to resolve it.

Only God Is Good

“A certain ruler asked him,  ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 

Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.'” (Luke 18:18-19, NRSV)

God is Good. Good is essential to His nature. “God works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God wills what is good because He is intrinsically good. Therefore, God’s nature is the objective standard for good.

God is great. God is good.

God established a moral law, which is revealed through the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, but good is perfectly realized in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17, CSB). Whoever believes in the Only Begotten Son of God walks in the light of perfect good. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1st John 1:5). “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12). 

God promised to write his law on the minds of his people (Jeremiah 31:33), so they will always know what is good. He promised to give them a new heart, so they will always be willing to do what is good (Ezekiel 36:26-27). These promises are realized when a person believes in Jesus and receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t come to earth to show us the right way to live, then leave us on our own to do it. Rather, he came to make us new people with a new nature that seeks  to do what is good and right. 

God is good. Jesus is God. Jesus Christ is the perfect objective standard of good.

God Is Great

Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, 

whose power is in the heavens. 

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; 

the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  

Praise be to God! 

(Psalm 68:34-35)

What does it mean to say God is “great”?

I have already affirmed Anselm’s definition of God as the being that no greater can be conceived.  The term omnipotent may be used,which means that God is all powerful. Only an omnipotent being could have created the universe from nothing beyond his own resources. This alone qualifies God as great. We could also say that God is great means his glory is above all else. He is worthy because of what he has done, and for who and what he is. We are wise to recognize him and revere him and praise him. 

So, we could stop right there. God is great. However, as you are aware, there is a problem. What about the evil and apparent imperfections of our world. If God is all powerful, then why couldn’t he create a better world? If God is good, then why wouldn’t he create a perfect world? Why is there so much suffering and evil? This why some have said God is not great, and others have said God must not exist at all.

What Omnipotence Cannot Do

The title above may seem contradictory, but we need to understand what is meant by “all powerful.” Let’s look at some quotes concerning God’s omnipotence.

“Omnipotence means to be able to do all that is intrinsically possible.” (C. S. Lewis in The Problem with Pain)

“Nothing that implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.”  (Thomas of Aquinas)

“But I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible.” 

“You may attribute miracles to him (God) but not nonsense…. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities.” (C. S. Lewis)

The word intrinsic (used by C. S. Lewis above) means what is related to the essential nature of something or someone. God can do what is humanly impossible, but some things are intrinsically impossible, which means they are “in themselves” impossible. God cannot make a red green thing. Since color is actually the reflection of a certain band of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, permit me to to clarify: God cannot make an infra-red ultra-violet thing. Why? Infra-red and ultra-violet exist at opposite extremes on the electromagnetic spectrum. One cannot be the same as the other.

In a world of genuinely free creatures it would seem to be intrinsically impossible for God to force persons to do what he wills when they choose to do otherwise. Thus, it is intrinsically impossible for God to force free people to love him. Forced love would not be love at all, but a monstrous mockery of it. Love is intrinsically free, so it must come from a person with free will. This opens up a very complex subject: Determinism vs. Freedom.

Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?

If you answer yes to the question above, then you agree implicitly that God may be limited by his creation. If you answer in the negative, then you affirm God is not omnipotent, since there is indeed something His power is incapable of. This dilemma is intended to stump those of us who affirm that God is all powerful. The resolution I offer will serve to prove both God’s omnipotence and give insight into his character.

My answer to the question is, yes God can—and has—created such a “rock.” The rock in this case is the human will. You and I can resist the will of God for our lives. We are even capable of choosing not to believe in His existence! God’s power is such that he is capable of limiting himself for a greater good. His character is such that he has created beings in his image, persons with a free will who may choose to love and live with Him forever, or reject Him and go their own way. The former is heaven, the latter is hell. Without human free will in rebellion against God there would be no hell.

The capability and willingness (courage!) to create beings with free will who inhabit a world where that will may be genuinely actualized demonstrates God’s greatness. Systems of theology or thought that downgrade or eliminate human free will in an effort to elevate the sovereignty of God ultimately fail to give God the glory he is due. The world is imperfect because of human rebellion against God. The world remains in its fallen state (for now) in order that rebellious humans may experience life without God, and its consequences.

The Incarnation

The pre-eminent example of God’s capacity and willingness to limit himself is the incarnation of His one and only Son. Jesus of Nazareth affirmed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Apostle Paul proclaimed “For in him all the fullness of deity lives bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus continued to be God and to have the nature of God, but chose to lay aside his divine power and privileges to take on the limitations of a human nature. The baby born in a manger “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man,” and remained in unbroken communion with, and dependence upon, God the Father, throughout his time on earth. This Jesus was and is one with the God of the universe. However, the Son of God didn’t just pretend to be human, he became one of us. A popular songwriter from a previous decade asked:

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home? 

Jesus Christ became just that. He took every bit of our humanity upon himself. As one early theologian put it, “What is is un-assumed is unhealed” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus). This means the Son of God had to take on the fullness of humanity in order to take away all of our sin. On the cross Jesus assumed all of our sin and selfishness and sickness and then died the death we deserve. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He came and died and rose from death so that we may be saved from this corrupt world, and have the hope of eternal life in a new and perfect world. 

That is the epitome of love, and it required self limitation.

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”  (Philippians 2:6–9, ESV).

“He who knew no sin became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, Christ didn’t remain dead. “Ain’t no grave can hold my body down!” The Author of Life rose from the grave on the third day, and now He always lives to provide salvation for any who will put their faith in Him. 

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul would write a paean to this Great God:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV).

God’s true greatness is about more than possession of raw power and incomprehensible intellect to make things and people as he wants them to be. The limitless God can limit himself if he chooses. God has created beings in his image with free will. God has limited himself by permitting the independent exercise of free will, even when it opposes his own. God also limited himself by becoming one of us, so that the destructive exercise of human free will may be atoned for and corrected. God has chosen to limit himself in order to achieve the ultimate purpose of his glorious will to raise up a people who have freely chosen to love him, and who have decided to follow their Lord, who said, “not my will, but thy will be done.” He is in the process of calling people to be his own, who will freely align their wills with God’s without coercion or fear of punishment.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

God is very great indeed.

God Is.

Let’s begin with a little thought experiment. When you reach the end of this sentence close your eyes and think of nothing for a moment or two…

How did it go? Did you really think of nothing? What was your “nothing” like: darkness, static, silence? Each of those experiences is actually something. I’d argue that it’s actually impossible think of nothing. Sure, you can try to blank your mind and refuse to allow images or words to be there, but something is still there: you, the perceiver of this supposed nothing. If you think about it, even the concept nothing is something! Yet I asked you to think of nothing, NO THING at all. The human mind has as difficult a time grasping nothing as it does infinity. 

Something Has Always Existed

Nothing means non-existence. Nothing cannot produce something. Non-existence cannot produce existence of any kind. Some thinkers have stated it like this: “From nothing, nothing comes.” Therefore, something has always existed

Some ancient Greek philosophers believed matter to be eternal. For much of recorded history it was widely accepted that the universe always existed. However, beginning early in the 20th century, theory and mounting evidence contradicted this belief. At the time of this writing scientific consensus holds that our universe began to exist around 14 billion years ago with an event called the Big Bang. The universe had a beginning. Everything that has a beginning, has a cause for its existence. So, where did the universe come from? What caused the cosmos? 

There are both scientists and theologians who hold that the universe came from nothing, but each group has its own set of assumptions about the nature of that nothing. For the scientist nothing is actually something. It has been called a “spontaneous fluctuation of the energy contained in the sub-atomic vacuum.” Now that is something! The theologian who affirms that God created the universe ex-nihilo (Latin for “from nothing”) is not saying it came into existence from nothing on it’s own, but that it was created from the infinite resources of an omnipotent God.

The speculation of cosmologists (those who theorize about the origin of the cosmos) as to what existed prior to our universe cannot be grounded in the same hard science which has continued to validate the Big Bang. Science is inherently naturalistic because the scientific method only works when applied to the study of the natural world. There must be matter and energy to measure, and causation and the consistency of the nature must be established, or objective scientific inquiry is rendered powerless. Prior to the Big Bang, there was no space or time that anyone can measure or verify. There was no natural order to be observed or measured, no laws of physics and no way of knowing if causation operated as we trust it does in nature. So, cosmologists rely on speculation about reality without hard evidence. Their theories are dependent upon their own philosophies and beliefs concerning nature and what might exist beyond the material universe.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the multiverse in popular movies, broadcast programs and literature. This is a theoretical notion, which does not have hard evidence to back it up. The multiverse is the speculation of naturalists (those who reject the supernatural) who wish to revive or reinforce the belief that the cosmos in some form is eternal. Carl Sagan famously stated at the beginning of his television show Cosmos, “The cosmos is all that was, and all that is, and all that ever will be.” If the universe has always existed in some form, then we aren’t forced to grapple with where it came from, even if we might still ask why it exists. It has been observed that belief in the multiverse only moves the question of origin back. Where did the multiverse come from? What caused these myriad universes?

If a cosmologist is a materialist and/or a naturalist, then she looks for answers that conform to her expectations that there can be nothing supernatural—or perhaps we could say supra-natural (above nature). This is a limiting bias, especially when studying phenomena that are by definition beyond the natural order and outside our material universe. 

In an interview with NPR, philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who authored a book about science and religion titled Where the Conflict Really Lies, said: “Science is absolutely wonderful but it’s a limited endeavor. It doesn’t cover the whole of the knowledge enterprise, you might say.” One must employ methods and tools that fit the field of inquiry. When seeking answers beyond the natural order it would seem wise to enlist the ancient disciplines of philosophy and theology.

Something has always existed. If not the universe in some form (ie. matter and energy), then what? Throughout recorded history, most human beings have believed that the world was created by a divine being or beings. The Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of an Uncaused Cause. This Cause must have existed prior to the universe and be itself uncaused. Could such a causal force or entity be God? 

Perhaps we should pause and ask what is meant, or to whom to we think we refer, when using the term God? Without getting into a great theological or philosophical debate, I will simply agree with St. Anselm, the Medieval scholar who formulated the Ontological Argument for God’s existence. Anselm famously stated that what we mean by God is “a being that which nothing greater can be thought.” Anselm reasoned that something which does not exist cannot fit the definition because what exists is self-evidently greater than a mere idea. Therefore, if God really is a being that which no greater can be conceived he must possess the quality of existence. This may or may not be a persuasive argument, but I think we can agree with Anselm’s basic definition of God, which I will clarify further. God is the Being above which nothing greater may be conceived. God is indeed the Supreme Being.

As the cause of the universe God would have to be powerful, but also intelligent. As an uncaused cause, it stands to reason that God could be personal. In fact, personal beings possess a will to freely choose apart from prior causes. So, God is the Supreme Being: personal, powerful and intelligent.

Another Medieval scholar, St. Thomas of Aquinas called God the Necessary Being, meaning God is not dependent upon anything else. God is self-existent, unlike the universe, which is caused by and dependent upon something else for its existence. The universe is contingent, not necessary, not self-existent. . St. Thomas also taught that God is “the ground of all being.” In other words, God is the basis for all existence. God is the Necessary Being upon whom all contingent beings rely for their existence

Perhaps you’ve heard the question (or perhaps even asked it yourself): “Where did God come from?” Or, similarly, “Who created God?” These questions equate God with the material universe, and thereby misunderstand even the idea of God altogether. A self-existent being is uncreated, and by definition has no cause. Something has to fit that description because nothing cannot produce something: non-existence cannot cause existence. Something has always existed. The material universe, by nature, cannot fit that description. God by definition can.

The Bible begins with the following words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The existence of a powerful, intelligent, personal creator for the universe is assumed. In the Bible’s book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses on Mount Sinai and reveals his personal name for the first time.

“Moses said to God, ‘If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?”—what should I say to them? God said to Moses, ‘I am that I am.’ And he said, ‘You must say this to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.””” (Exodus 3:13–14, NET)

The God of the Bible has a personal name that refers both to self-existence and eternal existence. God simply is. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). 

Something has always existed, and that something is a Someone who created the universe ex-nihilo (from nothing but his own supernatural resources). God is. If there were no God, there would be nothing else: not you, not me, and not the universe. Absolutely nothing. 

There are good reasons and evidence for such a belief, but it is also what philosopher Alvin Plantinga calls “properly basic” or self-evident. Belief in God is instinctive and intuitive for most people. Such a belief is the first step to knowledge and wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).

Belief in God’s existence is not “blind faith.” It is reasonable and necessary to hold that the universe has been created by an omnipotent, personal intelligence. This still requires faith. However, so does any other alternative. 

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.

How to Respond to a World Out of Control

  1. Ignore it, and get on with your life. Sadly, this will not work for long. The culture, government, and corporations are all part of the world you’re trying to ignore. They are advocating for a particular position and demanding you support it. Additionally, as the world worsens, good people become complicit in its demise by refusing to take a stand. “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” This also applies to the next option. 
  2. Withdraw. Also called the Benedict (monastic) Option. Take your kids out of school, move to the country, grow your own food, drop off of the grid. Gather with only like-minded people. Will you be able to fulfill the Great Commission this way? Should we just let the world go to hell?
  3. Fight. Debate. Get into politics. Protest. Try to change the system. We’ve seen too many years of this. What is the result? Deep division. Prejudice. Contempt. The trouble with wrestling with pigs is, you both get muddy, but the pig likes it (variation on quote by George Bernard Shaw). Do you like living in the mud? Hopefully not. Might be a reason to adjust your social media interaction. 
  4. Shine! Remember, if you belong to Jesus, you reflect His light. “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 10:12) Christ is the light to guide the nations (Isaiah 42:6). That is what our world needs to see! And Jesus will open their blind eyes (42:7). We receive Christ’s ministry and become agents and ambassadors, reflecting his light upon a dark world.

“Let your light so shine before people so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2 ESV)

Be the change!  Do good. Love people. Live a positive life of faith in the face of a dark, negative world. Live in such a way that people will want what you have. This gives you the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus.  The LORD will encourage you! That’s what the Holy Spirit is, an Encourager. He will give you courage and strength and confidence in the face of the darkening world.

“Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous…He will not fear bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear….” (Psalm 112:4:7-8)

A) Love people instead of ignoring them or showing contempt and hatred.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43–45, ESV)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, ESV)

B) Speak the Truth in love, rather than accepting or repeating lies. This includes unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, rumors and gossip.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV)

Those who traffic in lies are doing business for the Father of Lies.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, ESV)

Those who live and speak the Truth are of the one who called Himself Truth.

“I am the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus prayed that we would be set apart by the Truth.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

C) Focus on the Good News and share it with anyone who will listen.

When you hear bad news, pray. Trust God. Now turn back to the Good News of the grace of God and share it with others! That’s our mission (Matt. 28:19-20, Acts 1:8)

Nothing else matters as much as this.

Paul didn’t consider even his life of any value, except as it might be used to share the Gospel.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24, ESV)

D) Pray often and offer to pray for other people. Tell people: I will remember you in my prayers. What would you like me to pray for?”

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

E) Believe God for healing, deliverance and salvation in your life and the lives of others. Do you expect God to do great things when you ask?

“Ask and you will receive…” (Matt. 7:7)

“Whatever you ask in faith, believing you shall receive” (Matt. 21:22).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12–13, ESV)

F) Openly testify and give God glory for the miracles He works in your life and in the world. This requires as much faith as it did to ask in the first place. If we fail to give God glory for what he has done and is doing, he may stop working until we do! 

“He who has, more will be given, but he who has not, even what he has will be taken from him.”

This is God’s revelation in the life of a believer. Do you receive what the Lord is doing? Are you willing to confess that it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure? (Phil 2:13)

Don’t be ashamed to speak of the Lord and what He is doing in your life and ministry!

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).

which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV)

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32–33, ESV)

The word for “acknowledge” in Greek means “to express openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person.”

Don’t throw your pearls to pigs. If they mock you, move to a new person or audience, who will respect what you have to say. But don’t be intimidated, and don’t stop testifying of the truth!

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Forget BMI. What you need to know if you want to lose fat is your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. 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. You can do the math under #4 below to get that number. First, let’s understand some other important considerations for losing fat.

  1. Calories. Your body burns energy measured in calories. Counting calories is much maligned by many today, but it is still the best way to determine the amount of energy your body needs.
  2. Macronutrients contain different numbers of calories. There are three of these.
    • 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
  3. 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. Many of these automatically calculate the number of calories you should take in per day in order to meet your goal, be that weight loss or weight gain.
  4. BMR- Below is the math to figure your Basal Metabolic Rate

A) Females:

Multiply your weight by 10.

Now, add your weight.

Next subtract 2% for every 10 years of life.

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

B) Males:

Multiply your weight by 10,

Now add twice your weight.

Next subtract 2% for every ten years of life.

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

Activity Adjustment for Both Males and females: 

Add 20% – 40% depending upon your activity level. 20% = couch potato/sedentary job, 30% average, 40% active.

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.
    • This means 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.
    • Do more! Exercise 30-45 minutes 3-4 days per week, which will enable you to burn at least 250-350 calories per workout.
    • Intermittent Fasting- Stop eating between Sundown and 8:00 P. M. Don’t eat again until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary this: some days go 16hrs, then 18hrs, then 20 up to 24.
  2. 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, up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight.
    • Consume your largest meal of the day an hour after a hard workout.
    • 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.

10 Rules to Losing Fat

  1. Keep a food log & count calories. 
  2. Lower your caloric intake. Calculate what you need to maintain your present weight and reduce that by 500/day. Be aware you will need fewer calories as your weight decreases, and your body will learn to maintain on fewer calories as well, which is why the rest of this list is important.
  3. Count carbs and keep them at no more than 10-15% of your overall caloric intake. One carb = 4.5 calories
  4. Stop drinking sugar water! That means drop the soda, sweet tea, Monsters, Red Bulls and any other drink that is primarily sugar and water.
  5. Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol inhibits the liver’s ability to convert fat to blood glucose.
  6. Lose the starch and bread. No pasta, no potatoes, no tortillas, no sandwiches with bread. Substitute lettuce wraps for bread/tortillas.
  7. Track your activity, and increase it. Various devices will do this: your phone, Fit Bit, Apple or Samsung watches etc.
  8. Exercise 30 minutes per day 5-6 days per week. Run, brisk walk, swim, karate’, bike riding, weightlifting etc.
  9. Practice intermittent fasting. Stop eating at sundown, or no later than 8pm. Don’t eat anything (NOTHING) until at least 13 hours have passed. Vary between this and 16, 18, up to 20 hours of fasting.
  10. NO CHEAT DAYS. One cheat day can easily destroy an entire week’s worth of work.

Get Lean in 2021

From Sunday, January 3rd until Sunday February 13th I’m running a motivational contest to help folks drop some excess body fat. The person who loses the highest percentage of their body fat will win. So, not raw body fat, but as the amount lost compares to your overall. For example, I’ve balooned to around 16%. If I lose down to 12%, that reflects a 25% drop in my body fat. Someone with 28% body fat would have to drop 7% to equal my loss, while a person with 12% would need to lose 3%. This makes the playing field level, and makes the competition primarily with the individual.

Here’s my plan to drop down to 12% in six weeks, with an eventual goal of hitting 10.

1) Count calories. No matter what diet you’re on, your body requires a certain amount of energy to maintain. Calories are not perfect, but they are a measure of the energy I’m ingesting. At my age and current weight I need around 2400 calories per day to maintain. I use a free app called MyPlate to enter my food & drink. It also estimates my caloric needs based on the goal entered. I’ve overestimated the number of pounds I want to lose per week by entering two (rather than my goal of 1.5). This should help cover for entry and miscalculation errors. At this point I must not exceed 1692 calories per 24 hours.

2) Don’t drink alcohol. I like craft beer and a good margarita. Alcohol inhibits fat loss by keeping the liver peoccupied with transforming it from its toxic state into (potentially) beneficial blood sugar.

3) Don’t cheat. One cheat day will EASILY undo a week of hard work.

4) Intermittent fasting. This makes the lower calorie intake easier and reduces or eliminates insulin resistance. This means as my baseline I stop ingesting calories at 6pm and don’t eat or drink anything but water, herbal tea (night) and black coffee (morning) until noon the next day. That’s an 18 hour fast. To keep it intermittent (somewhat random) I’ll drink a protein drink before morning weight workouts at around 10am, which equals a 16 hour fast. Occasionally (once a week or so) I’ll go until 2pm or 4pm before I take in calories.

6) Keep carbs below 20-25% of overall calories, which equals 85-100 per day.

7) Work out 30-45 minutes per day, six days a week. For me this breaks down as three weight workouts and three cardio workouts. I lift, practice karate, run the treadmill.
This works. I’ve done it. In 2017 I dropped to 5.3% Now, you set some goals and get to work too!