The First Resolution of the New Year

I read an article entitled “Top 10 Most Common New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Follow Through on Them)” by Brad Zomick in which he identified the most common New Year’s Resolutions and then laid out practical things that you can do to help you keep those resolutions. You can click on the title of the article or the link below to read for yourself his recommendations. He is very thorough and very realistic in laying out a plan of action to attain any resolution or any goal for that matter. Check it out and see for yourself.

However, I would like to propose a foundation on which to build a successful New Year no matter what New Year’s Resolutions you feel the need to set forth. It’s found in the Bible in Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” When Jesus was asked what He believed to be the greatest commandment He responded, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) So, there it is – love God and love others. In the Old Testament and the New Testament this must be where it all begins.

Easier said than done? Yes! If you need help you can always go the plan given by Zimick in the article referenced above. After reading it I realized that anything you want to do to draw closer to God you can do following his steps. However, I would like to recommend the following steps for building the foundation you need to begin a year of loving God and loving others.

1. Set aside a time and place each day to spend time alone with God.

During that time, read the bible. (YouVersion – has some excellent reading plans if you want a systematic approach to reading the Bible.)

During that time, pray. Pray for yourself, your family, your friends and associates, and items of concern; and always pray for people you don’t get along with – people who rub you the wrong way – people who don’t like you.

2. Set aside a time and place weekly to spend time with fellow believers.

An obvious opportunity for this exists in Bible study and worship at a local church.

To supplement worship and Bible study attendance find a friend or neighbor that you can spend time with on a weekly basis to discuss life and pray together.

These two steps are NOT the fulfillment of the Christian life, but just a start. From there God will open opportunities to deepen your faith as well as opportunities to minister in His name. More importantly, as you do these things you will begin to gain the perspective to see which New Year’s Resolutions are worthy of your time and effort – those that will enable you to better advance the Kingdom of Christ.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34) Jesus said these things in the Sermon on the Mount. He was referring to the things people worry about – the things we need to physically exist in this world. However, He could just as well have said in verse 31, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” or ‘What shall we do to improve ourselves in thee coming year?’” If we seek God first – His Kingdom and His righteousness – all these things will fall in line.

Happy New Year and Godspeed into the Future.

Naughty or Nice?

It hangs over us all year long, but the magnitude of “The List” grows as Christmas Day approaches. And so it has been for our entire lives. We joke about it as adults, but the meaning behind it remains firmly entrenched in our moral code – a moral code that seems to tap dance its way through and around the very Word of God. While the Bible is full of instances where justice reigned down on those who did evil in the sight of God (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira) and while the Bible admonishes us to choose good over evil, it seems that without careful thought we can step into a belief system where we determine our destiny by our own actions and, in so doing, ignore the way God loves those who are naughty AND nice.

In something of a playful way, we use the naughty and nice concept to control the behavior of children. In a much more serious sense, we use the naughty and nice concept to control our own behaviors and the behaviors of those in our society. Unfortunately, most religions rely heavily on the concept of naughty and nice to sustain their moral code – a practice that is ultimately futile since all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. No one can measure up but the belief system (religion) continues with the never-ending pursuit of perfection. If you will just do enough “do’s” and avoid enough “don’ts” then you will end up on the nice list and go to Heaven, but if you fail to do the do’s and you are very adept at doing the don’ts then it’s the naughty list for you and a one-way, expense paid trip to Hell. That’s the way religion works – always has and always will because we as humans want to control our own destiny and most religions provide just such a tool for us to do that. It’s a win-win. We get to control our lives and religion profits by helping us do it.

However, God laid out a different plan through His Son, Jesus. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For it is by grace we are saved and not because we are on the nice list. Otherwise, we would tend to boast about being on the nice list instead of rejoicing that we know the One Who put us there in the first place. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Naughty or Nice? God declares us righteous through the blood of Jesus. (Romans 5:9) God declares that we are on the Nice List because of Him. And not only that – He takes the list of the bad things we have done and drops them into the Sea of Forgetfulness and remembers them no more. (Micah 7:19) Again, it’s not because of what we have done or haven’t done, but it’s solely because of Who He Is.

I enjoy the fun of Santa and I don’t have a problem with teasing folks about the naughty or nice list. However, if you’re talking naughty or nice – you’re naughty. God said so and your actions back Him up. But because of Jesus you can be on the Nice List. How sweet is that? Sweeter than any Christmas candy or any sugar plum you can imagine.

The difference between Hell and Heaven is not Naughty or Nice. The difference between Hell and Heaven is a Savior – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

One Solitary Life

I developed this version of the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr James Allan Francis by using his words and other phrases that I have heard and used in stating the significance of Jesus Christ. It is a powerful statement that is true in its content and will strike true in the heart of anyone who considers it with an open mind and searching soul. In this video I added a visual hint of the nativity to help us focus our attention on the true meaning of Christmas.

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Beauty from Ashes

I read this article and listened to this man play “Something About That Name’ and immediately thought of Isaiah 61:1-4. This message was given to the people of Israel but it is a Messianic prophecy that Jesus used as His first “sermon” so the proclamation is the same for all believers. Thank you, Jordan Baize, for reminding us of this truth.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,Because the Lord has anointed MeTo preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captives,And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,And the day of vengeance of our God;To comfort all who mourn,

3To console those who mourn in Zion,To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for mourning,The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;That they may be called trees of righteousness,The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4And they shall rebuild the old ruins,They shall raise up the former desolations,And they shall repair the ruined cities,The desolations of many generations.”

What Does “Noel” Mean? And Other Christmas Queries

What Does “Noel” Mean? And Other Christmas Queries

Was Jesus born on December 25? Did Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem? Were there 3 kings who visited the baby Jesus and did they ride camels? What does “Noel” mean? What does “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” mean? What is the difference between Immanuel and Emmanuel? Were Mary and Joseph married when they went to Bethlehem? Did Mary give birth to Jesus in a barn or stable or a cave or none of the above? All of these questions and many others were answered in this Agape Life Bible Study. Some of the answers might surprise you.

When we consider the facts surrounding the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, it is important to remember the facts about the birth and life of Jesus that are truly important – that in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of a virgin and that He lived a perfect life so that He could be offered up on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sin and that 3 days later He rose from the grave – victorious over death – and is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf and waiting for the day when He will return once again in power and in glory.

In short – Jesus was born to die so that we might be born again to live. Hallelujah!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, December 12, 2021. Handouts with slide content can be requested at:

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Assisted Suicide Pod Approved for Use in Switzerland

This concept was troubling to me simply based on the headline. However, when I read that Philip Nitschke is the founder of Exit International, I had an immediate shift of thought to the nihilist Friedrich Nietzsche (different spelling – no relation) who often repeated and discussed his belief that God is dead and that absolute truth and morality itself are no longer valid. More and more we are headed down the path of meaninglessness that Nietzsche embraced. While I understand the human sentimentality of both euthanasia and assisted suicide, I cannot applaud the callousness with which we view the sanctity of God-given life.

Assisted Suicide Pod Approved for Use in Switzerland

The Valley of Tears

As I was reading Psalm 84 today I was drawn to the way God turns tears into refreshing springs for those who live in God’s presence and who find their strength in Him. It doesn’t say that there won’t be tears, but that those tears can be transformed and can transform us when we put our faith and trust in Jehovah-Shalom – the LORD, our peace.

Blessed are those who dwell with God, in His holy presence,

who continually praise Him from sunrise to sunset.

Blessed are those whose strength is in the Lord,

whose hearts are set on a journey toward Him.

As they pass through the Valley of Tears,

it will become a place of refreshing springs

the autumn rains also will cover it with pools of refreshing waters.

They move from strength to strength

till each of them appears before God in glory.

Psalm 84:4-7 – Paraphrased

The Day Jackie Died . . . . . Or At Least We Thought He Did!

As a kid I did a lot of things that today would be considered dangerous. I rode a bike without a helmet. What?!?!? How stupid was I? I had countless wrecks on that bicycle that led to countless skinned knees, legs, arms, and hands, but somehow I lived to tell the tales of my escapades. I played tackle football without a helmet, or pads for that matter. And I suffered no brain trauma – a fact disputed by those who know me best. However, it was not without danger.

I remember one of the many football games played on the Junior High practice field (later moved to the High School Band practice field) by the Sunday Afternoon Ragknots. Jackie had the ball. In the process of being tackled one of us came in to make sure he was down. In so doing, the diligent player hit Jackie in the chest with his knee. For just a couple of seconds Jackie looked dead and then he went into seizures with the accompanying foam in the mouth. Stanley, my best friend, and the competent football team trainer, sprang into action. He told us what not to do – stick our finger in his mouth, because Jackie could bite our finger off. We obeyed. Stanley’s efforts to stop the seizure were unfruitful, so he got his car and drove over to where Jackie lay writhing.

Three of us managed to get into the back seat of the car with the convulsing Jackie on our laps. (BTW, Stanley drove a large Pontiac which allowed room for all three of us and Jackie with room to spare. No, such a rescue attempt would not be possible in today’s cars, but I digress.) Stanley was never known to drive slowly and, in an emergency, he figured he had the moral imperative to speed. As we were flying to the hospital Stanley hit a dip in the road which caused us to actually fly. We went airborne. Jackie flew up and hit the roof of the car and fell back in our laps – totally still, non-responsive and non-convulsive.

We screamed at Stanley, but not to slow down, but rather speed up because Jackie was dead. He looked dead, acted dead, and certainly felt dead in our laps. Stanley was yelling at us to check his pulse, an action that was truly impossible in a car traveling at highway speed on city streets. We didn’t find a pulse but we did get to the Emergency Room in record time. The nurses and orderlies took him into the exam room to check him out. It was a blessing that we grew up in a relatively small town. We were the only ones there besides the medical staff who I think we woke up from their Sunday afternoon naps.

We waited in a quiet yet panicked state – fully waiting for the doctor to come out with head down, uttering those fearful words, “We lost him.” But no – Jackie was going to be OK!

Later, in the room where Jackie was to spend the night for observation, he told us that the doctor wasn’t totally sure what happened, but that he figured that the knee to the chest caused Jackie’s heart to either speed up to 3 times the normal rate or to start skipping beats. Either way, he was going to be OK. I don’t remember Jackie playing with us on Sunday afternoons after that, although my memory may fail me at that point. However, like the NFL, we established a new rule in light of what happened. From that point on, knees were never to be used to make sure a ball carrier stayed down. Full body contact, of course, was still allowed – but no knees.

There is a saying that God watches over babies and fools. It’s not in the Bible and yet, I know that on that particular Sunday afternoon, God was watching over us and sent His angels to step in and help the poor fools who had exhausted all of their abilities to remedy the situation. We should always remember that God is willing to help in each and every difficulty we face – even those times when someone wants to make sure we’re down and that we stay down. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Forget Black Friday – Remember Black Tuesday

I know it’s Friday, but today is Black Tuesday – the 92nd Anniversary of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. Now, I don’t want to depress you, but at that time America had just gone through the end of World War 1 (1914-1918 although the USA didn’t get involved until 1917) and the Spanish Flu epidemic (1918-1919.) Those events were followed by a period of economic growth we know as the Roaring 20’s. From 1921 to 1929 the stock market grew by 539% from 72 points to 381 points. During this same time period the economy grew by 42%. While there are many political and financial events that had some impact on the 1929 crash, I think this cartoon, published in the Los Angeles Times in 1926, may give some insight into another problem of the Roaring 20’s that may have led to the Great Depression. God has a way of correcting things that we may not always see. I’m not saying that we are headed for such a correction 100 years later. However, as stated by George Santayana, an American philosopher, in his work, The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Who or What Do You Fear?

From the Back Porch

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

There is so much fear controlling our thoughts, actions, and relationships. And perhaps the greatest nexus of that fear is the corona virus. People run from one pundit to another, from one politician to another, and from one fact-checker to another hoping to find something that will put their minds at ease. Then, when people arrive at a perceived solution, they respond in fear to those who have arrived at a different solution. For example, consider the vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers. One group is fearful that the other group will help sustain the pandemic causing more people to die while one group is fearful that the other group will kill them with masks full of germs or the vaccines themselves. However, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the talking points of each group may be, because the ultimate issue is death.

The central focus of the COVID-19 story has been death. Death rates and daily death counts have been on every news station and the totals of cases and hospitalizations are given as precursors to death. Haven’t you heard the reports that death statistics lag behind case and hospitalization statistics? The only reason for making such a statement is to say, “Death is coming and coming soon.” Well, here’s some news – if you don’t die from COVID, you’re going to die from something else. Ain’t none of us getting out of this thing alive.

Taking precautions against the things that can sicken us or even kill us are good – no one wants to get sick, much less get sick and then die. No argument there. Even God instituted many laws for the Israelites that pertained only to their health and physical well being. We should be mindful to care for the bodies God has given us so that we can serve Him and honor Him more completely. My thoughts here are not about health practices, but perspective.

So whether you choose to vax or not vax, mask or not mask, distance yourself or crowd up at a sporting event, you need to consider this. How you die is not nearly as important as what happens after you die. God has established hell as a place for Satan and his followers. (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4) It’s real. Jesus talked about hell (yes, He believed in hell) in Matthew 10:28. Often we like to refer to “fear” in the Bible as reverence or respect, but here Jesus is saying, “Be afraid – be very afraid.” He goes on to talk about God’s love and care, but the point is made. We need to be afraid of what is truly fearful and trust God for our very lives both now and when we die. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. And for those who would say that He hasn’t done anything yet, I would encourage you to consider 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT) Failure to trust Him should fill us with a sense of impending doom because that is what our future holds without Christ.

I respect your decisions concerning how you will respond to the corona virus. Furthermore, I understand your desire to convince those you love of what you have found to be the best response. But while we’re at it, we should wake up to the real life or death question that we all face. There is a point in time when each of us will die. (Hebrews 9:27) We should take this opportunity to look honestly at that which we fear – death – in order to find peace. And peace can only be found in Jesus. “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4 NLT) “ For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (2 Corinthians 15:53-55 NLT) As excited as we were when the hope of a vaccine was declared on the news, how much more should we be excited when the scripture declares that Jesus offers the hope of eternal life? Jesus Himself said, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 HCS)

Is death a reality? Yes. Can we experience victory over death? Yes – in Jesus.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NAS)