Anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution?

Is anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution? I’ve got one for you. If you have the nerve to accept it. Many people love to play video games that simulate battles between good and evil. Simulate life and death. But hey – this one’s for real.

Anyone looking for a New Year's resolution?

I wrote it, in large part, to challenge myself eleven years ago. I’ve looked for it many times since then. Couldn’t find it. But now, December 31, 2021 – I finally found it.

So here it is, no doubt with some updates as I prepare it for publishing here on God versus religion. Since I don’t really plan ahead, but go “where the Spirit leads me” when I write, I can’t wait to see what comes out.

It’s an interesting resolution. You can use it over and over. Every year. Whether you meet the challenge or not, you can always use it again.

Maybe you’ll ask questions. What if I Have a massive failure with it? No problem. Just try again. In fact, we don’t even have to wait for another new year to start over. But hey, if that New Year resolution helps us restart, use the momentum to try again!

What if I have success? Again, no problem. No matter how much success we might have, there’s always room for improvement. New challenges within the challenge. It’s the ultimate “never-ending story”. As long as we’re still breathing, there’s more!

Anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution? Here’s mine. Feel free to use it.

Ready? Here’s an updated version of the original December 31, 2010 New Year’s resolution.


Well, the year is about to draw to a close. Time to make resolutions.  Things we want to do next year. Maybe we keep them. Maybe not. Depends on how important they are to us, I guess.

For me, this has been a mostly good year. This site is growing. I pray that at least some of the readers are also growing in their relationship with God. I know that doing the research for it, and taking the time to write it, certainly grows my relationship with Him.

That was in 2010. It’s been a tough year in many ways. Below are just a few of them.

Prostate cancer – an operation that didn’t remove all the cancerous cells. Will have treatment throughout the coming year to try to eradicate it.

Donnie, our four-legged Havanese (we think) canine variety kid, passed away after a ten month battle with kidney failure. He suffered very little. He quickly adapted to the fluid treatments. The meds were calculated to have minimal impact on his quality of life. When he reached the point where we had to put him to sleep, every person working in the hospital stopped in to say goodbye first. Many were crying because Donnie had really touched them over those ten months. Neighbors sent flowers. We still miss Donnie.

After several months, we adopted Mikey. He’s a combo plate of unknown origin. We do know he spent quite a bit of time on the streets, had two foster homes for a total of nine months. He needs so much special care that the rescue agency rejected everyone before us because they didn’t think the people could handle Mikey and give him a good home. We did a long questionnaire and a two hour interview before bringing Mikey home. He was, and still is, a challenge. We’ve had abandoned dogs before, but Mikey’s far more traumatized by his first couple years of life than anyone we’ve had so far. It’s been three and a half months now. Mikey’s got a long way to go – but he’s already come so far. The dog that would “probably never be a lap dog” loves to climb up on my lap.

One good thing about all that is it’s brought me closer to God. Christians say that trials and difficulties will bring that closeness. But how often do we actually allow it to happen? It’s not easy. But it’s awesome when it does. For another example with more details, I invite you to check out God – is it time for me to go home?

There’s a few things I considered for this last article of 2010 – or for the 1st of 2011 as far as reading it. I decided on one related to something my wife and I were talking about the other day.

Of course, now it’s 2021 with 2022 coming up.

It’s not an easy topic.
It can be scary at times.
But it’s certainly important enough that it should matter.
And it definitely fits in with the theme of this site.

The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.

If you’re a regular reader, you recognize the format of the text. You know where it’s from. If not, it’s from the Bible. Specifically from Ezekiel 47:1-5.


A river. But a river of what?

Since I like to include the entire passage, here it is, with the verses from above underlined. Please note, the text above uses the King James Bible, whereas the one below is from the 1984 NIV, so there are some wording differences because of the translations.

The River From the Temple

Eze 47:1 The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.

Eze 47:3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. 10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”


In my case, it was also quoted in a book I’m currently reading – Deeper Water: A Tides of Truth Novel, by Robert Whitlow. In the book, the author used the King James Version – and only used a portion of the segment above – starting in the middle of the third verse. Here’s the portion that was used in the book:

he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.

Anyway – this is a Bible reference being used by a preacher in the book – as he speaks to his congregation. Apparently this particular congregation is, shall we say, what many people would consider “old fashioned”. I’m still reading the book – so don’t know if any more will be revealed about them – so let’s just say they take their relationship with God very seriously.

A New Year’s resolution challenge to swim in “unswimmable” water

In any case, this particular passage, like so many in the Old Testament is foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Jesus. Ezekiel is being led into deeper and deeper water.  Water which he cannot navigate by himself. The water also represents the “Water of Life”, from Jesus, without whom people cannot have eternal life.  Cannot navigate to Heaven without Him, so to speak.

On one level, we have a bit of a challenge here. Especially for those of us that can’t swim much beyond staying alive for a couple minutes in the water. But this is about Jesus. That takes us to a whole new level. It’s that good versus evil thing. And the life or death stuff. And just like physical water, the Eater of Life from Jesus, while free, doesn’t come without a cost. For more on that thought, please check out How can it cost me nothing but ask me for everything?

Then, the book continues with the pastor’s sermon:

Pastor Vick then described the apostate condition of the Israelites in a way that left no doubt as to the parallel for the present. That part of his sermon was always easy to hear. But then he turned his attention to the people sitting in the pews. Rhetorical questions were his most deadly bullets.

This could get interesting.

However, it’s also getting scary. As promised. Rhetorical questions. Questions usually asked when you know very well that no one wants to answer out loud. But you want an answer nonetheless, in the minds of the people listening. But also comparing them to deadly bullets. These must be some very difficult questions indeed! Do you think you’re ready to answer? Even t yourself?

But, before I continue with Deeper Water, let me switch to another author. This time, C. S. Lewis. As soon as I read these 2 paragraphs, I was reminded of something from Mere Christianity.

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’

Are you up for this New Year’s resolution?

Pastor Vick then continues:

“That was their abominable condition, but what about you? Are you satisfied with dipping your toe into the river of God’s glory and pretending you’ve sold out to the gospel? Do you believe you’re righteous because the water laps around your waist?” Pastor Vick let his eyes scan the entire congregation. “Are any of you willing to cast yourself into the river of God where only Jesus can hold you up? Who will go into deeper water?”

Ouch!!

C. S. Lewis is pretty direct – like with Jesus not wanting to cut a branch here and there, but to cut down the whole tree.

But jumping into the river of God! Jumping into water at all. I guess if one is a strong swimmer, maybe that’s not so bad. Not being one, this presents a rather scary proposition in the physical sense, jumping into water where I’d have to swim a long way through a great current. I can’t do it. At least not do it and live to tell about it. Not on my own.

But then – isn’t that the point?

We can’t get through life without Jesus either. At least not and live to tell about it in Heaven. Not without Him.

And so we get to the life or death part in no uncertain terms. There is life after death. Although, it’s in one of two different forms. One is described as eternal life. That’s the one with Jesus. And the other one? The one without Jesus? That’s called eternal death. Life without God. Eternity in Hell.

Interestingly enough, I have also just read another book that quotes this same paragraph from Mere Christianity. This one is Finding the Real Jesus: A Guide for Curious Christians and Skeptical Seekers, by Lee Strobel. He writes:

That kind of surrender can sound scary. But if Jesus really is God — if he really did sacrifice himself so that we could be forgiven and set free to experience his love forever — then why should we hesitate to give all of ourselves to him? Who could be more trustworthy than someone who lays down his life so that others might live?

This is what Jesus has done. He is without a doubt one of a kind. “Jesus,” said author Don Everts, “was entirely different and new and stunning.”

There was just something so clear and beautiful and true and unique and powerful about Jesus that old rabbis would marvel at his teaching, young children would run and sit in his lap. ashamed prostitutes would find themselves weeping at his feet, whole villages would gather to hear him speak, experts in the law would find themselves speechless, and people from the poor to the rugged working class to the unbelievably wealthy would leave everything… . to follow him.

This is the real Jesus, who all along has been alive and well — and fully available to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.”

OK, yet another author saying this kind of thing. Giving ourselves to Jesus can be scary. Actually, I’m not sure there’s much “can be” about it. It is!!

We’re already involved. Why not go all in?

But then, don’t we all give ourselves over to something already? Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s drugs. Maybe it’s alcohol. Maybe it’s science. Maybe it’s some other religion. Almost certainly, it’s something.

If nothing else, maybe it’s just ourselves and we’re just plain too selfish to even care about anything else.

Or, maybe it’s that we’ve been burned, and are too scared to even want to try anything else. I’ve been there. But even then, we’ve still given ourselves to something.

That’s why I really like Lee Strobel’s question:

But if Jesus really is God — if he really did sacrifice himself so that we could be forgiven and set free to experience his love forever — then why should we hesitate to give all of ourselves to him? Who could be more trustworthy than someone who lays down his life so that others might live?

And that’s the real issue, isn’t it?

Is Jesus really God?

And if we believe that, why is it still so hard?

I’m not going to answer either of those questions tonight.

Questions like that are what this site is all about.

Questions like that are part of what life is all about.

For tonight, and it’s now midnight, it’s now 2011, just a suggestion.

If you’re looking for a new year’s resolution that really matters and is worth keeping:

If you’re not sure that Jesus really is God, investigate it.

If you are sure that Jesus is God, ask yourself, how deep is the water you’re in? And try going deeper.

I don’t like swimming in real water.

But swimming in God’s water? That’s a different story.

It is scary at first. But then it’s not. And then it actually starts to be enjoyable. And then you just want more.

Can we end on a positive note?

It would be nice to end here, on a happy note, letting you think life will be great and wonderful at this point. But, that wouldn’t be right – because that’s not what I’m saying. Or experiencing.

From yet another book (I’ve been doing a lot of research for this class I’m doing), Has Christianity Failed You?, by Ravi Zacharias – in a section of the book about when Satan tempted Jesus:

The seduction of the lie that God makes everything comfortable for us is precisely the reason many have been unable to face the tensions they experience in living the Christian life. Further, because the church has not always lived out the truths it claims to believe, doubt has been cast on the unchanging character of God. It is interesting that Jesus does not challenge the assumption of the appeal that many would have been drawn to him if he had promised to provide for their short-term needs. And it is important to note that he placed what was written (and that which Satan was trying to distort) in the larger context of the truth. In short, sound bites are not the story. If we do injustice to what is written, we end up making an unjust conclusion.

No, God didn’t say He’d make everything comfortable for us. In fact, Jesus said this:

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

He said He would always be with us.

And should we think that’s no big deal, or it doesn’t help, or even so what, then consider the case of the Apostle Paul. Yes, Paul, who literally risked his life every time he preached the gospel. And ended up giving up his life for it.

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

2Co 12:1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

2Co 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Jesus told Paul that His grace was enough for Paul. Enough to get Paul through whatever he was experiencing. And that was way more than most of us will ever go through.

But beyond that, these things, whether we understand them or not, make perfect God’s power.

Not that we can even begin to truly understand this. But if we are going to give ourselves over to someone or something, what better choice can there be?

A positive conclusion – Anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution?

My resolution is to keep working on this.

My prayer is that you will do the same. Or to start working on this.

I already know at least some of the challenges coming this year. We saw a couple at the top of this article. I’m sure there will be more. But if I truly believe what I claim to believe, then I can end on a happy note. Knowing that Jesus said:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

 

Happy New Year


Image by Christine Aubé from Pixabay


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