The Best Ever New Year’s Resolution

 

Regardless of whether you are a new year’s resolution person, everyone needs to take some time at the threshold of a new year to self-evaluate just where you are in life. Then consider what changes might be in order to attain greater quality of life and sense of purpose. Resolutions are usually in categories such as health, finances, family, and personal habits. However, there is another category of resolution that will reap more rewards than anything you have probably thought of.

Most of us need to be more fit and in better shape. We should quit some bad habits. Some family relationships should be strengthened. And who doesn’t need to spend less and save more in the coming year? However, almost all areas of life change are linked to the one most important adjustment we can make–a spiritual renewal. If our spiritual condition is not in shape, it affects everything else in our lives. Here are some suggested initiatives for making 2019 the year of spiritual renewal.

First, if you don’t have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you are in critical condition spiritually and in dire need of getting that most important aspect of your life settled once and for all. I invite you to visit my “Eternity” page on this website: http://terrythompson.org/eternity. Start 2019 right by making it the year you turn your life over to the Lord and begin growing in your understanding of His best for you.

If you are just not sure of where you stand with God and have doubts about your eternal destiny, you need to have that absolute assurance in order to live life to its fullest. I invite you to start 2019 by reading the Book of First John (not the Gospel of John, but the short book near the end of your Bible). Read it several times pausing at each statement that describes the actions and thoughts of those who truly belong to the Lord. Evaluate your life according to those descriptions. If you can’t identify yourself in this reading, your condition is that of the previous paragraph.

If you are convinced of your salvation according to First John, the best resolution you can make for 2019 may be to devote more time to Bible reading and prayer. Nothing conditions you spiritually more than time spent with Him in reading His Word and communicating with Him. I encourage you to read the entire Bible through in 2019. It only requires about three or four chapters a day. There are several Apps that help and motivate you to do this. Just search the App Store for “read the Bible in a year” and choose one you like. Yes, it takes some extra time each day, but anything worthwhile has to be given priority over something less important.

It is obvious that consistent church attendance in America has been trending downward in recent years. Yet, the Bible is very clear that Jesus established the church and works through it to relate to His people and minister to others. The church is His stated strategy for changing the world. Christians worshiping, praying, fellowshipping, and ministering together within the church is the only way to experience the fullness of what God desires to give us. The Bible teaches that each of us is given special capabilities to be used for Christ particularly through the church. Recommit yourself to serving in your church in 2019.

Finally, even if you are comfortable in your level of spiritual maturity, you spend ample time with the Lord daily, and you are active in church, God will always desire a more abundant life for you and to prepare you even more for eternity with Him. Invite Him to delve more deeply into your life in 2019 showing you little pockets of needed improvement and refining. Let Him cleanse you even more thoroughly for greater works in His kingdom. Allow Him to reveal shortcomings you may not even be aware of, but that need to be confessed and corrected.

There are many ways to improve your life through resolutions in 2019. But, the resolution to renew your life spiritually will improve everything.

Please “like” and “share” this post to wish many others a more abundant life in 2019.

 

 

The Christmas Star of the Magi: What Was It?

The Christmas star, or Star of Bethlehem, that drew the Magi, or Wise Men, to the birthplace of Jesus has long been debated. Was the star created just for that event? Was it a natural celestial occurrence? Did it really even happen? Recent advances in knowledge of the stars and planets have given us a new outlook on this topic. Here’s what modern astronomers are saying about this elusive star.

Unfortunately, songs, poems, paintings, and other sources of tradition have almost made a mockery of many truths of the Bible. Traditions have often embellished or even replaced the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of the three wise men who followed a star to Jerusalem and ultimately to Bethlehem to find the newborn Jesus. I italicized those three words, because they are likely untrue and certainly are not in the Bible. Although the song says, “We three kings…,” The Bible simply uses a plural noun which only means there were more than one, but there could have been a a caravan of many. And, they were not likely kings, but rather magi, or astronomers/astrologers. Some translations call them wise men. They didn’t likely “follow” a star, but rather set out on their journey after observing a celestial phenomenon, probably a conjugation of the planets Venus and Jupiter. Finally, Jesus was not likely a “newborn,” but rather a toddler by the time they reached his birthplace. Therefore, those Christmas cards showing the baby Jesus in a barn under a star surrounded by shepherds, wise men, and animals are all messed up. Let’s look specifically at the star.

Most historians and biblical scholars believe these magi were from a legendary line of students and interpreters of the stars and planets. They lived in ancient Chaldea of which Babylon was the dominant city. This is now the general region of Iraq. The pre-first-century Magi would have been familiar with the prophesied Messiah being anticipated by the Jews. Many Jews remained in and around Babylon after Babylonia conquered Judah and took the entire nation captive 400 years prior. Also, Daniel of the Bible, a Jew, was appointed leader of the Babylonian Magi during the Jewish exile and, no doubt, taught them about the future Messiah and even the approximate time and location of His coming. So, the Magi also anticipated the Messiah, a king, knew his birth was imminent, and that He would be born in Judea.

The Magi would have been familiar with the fact that the planets Venus and Jupiter appeared to almost align with each other every year or so. These were and are the brightest objects in the night sky besides the moon and commanded major interest. In that day, Jupiter was known as the king of planets, and Venus was called the mother of planets. Astronomy software can now track the movement of planets infinitely back in time. Joe Rao, astronomer at the New York Hayden Planetarium, wrote that on August 12 of 3 BC, a Venus-Jupiter conjugation was prominent in the eastern sky of the Chaldea region. This brought each of the two planets virtually in line with each other to form the brightest light in the night sky. They were probably never more closely aligned than this particular year in history. It would have gotten the Magi’s attention. The Magi likely assumed this uniting of the “king” planet and the “mother” planet signaled the birth of the Messiah king. They didn’t need to “follow” the heavenly sign, knowing they would find the child in Judea. They journeyed to the Judea capital of Jerusalem.

Think about this. For this closest alignment in history of these two planets to have happened at precisely this time by natural movement of the planets, God had to have set up the exact movement sequence during the creation of the universe!

Once the Magi were in Jerusalem, Herod, king of Judea, heard they were looking for the future king of the Jews. Herod’s religious leaders shared that the Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. When the magi headed to Bethlehem, the planet Jupiter was moving south in the night sky. According to computer analysis, this was about a year after the first sign. Jupiter moved into the constellation, Leo, which was considered a symbol of power. Planets occasionally appear to stop moving temporarily in what is termed “retrograde” as they seem to reverse course from earth’s perspective. This probably happened with Jupiter which is referenced in the Book of Matthew as having “stood over the place where the child was.” According to historical analyses of people and events during that time, most historians believe this visit by the Magi was a year or more after the actual birth of Jesus.

Of course, this is all theory, albeit highly researched theory and very plausible. All we know for absolutely certain is that prominent men from far away were alerted about Jesus’ birth by a star-like body in the sky. It prodded them to pay homage to the child that would usher in the greatest change in the history of mankind. He would have the most powerful impact on human destiny of anyone before or after His life on earth. He deserves at least the same level of attention from us that He got from the Magi. But, thankfully, you don’t have to travel for hundreds of miles and for weeks over desert and mountains to find Him. He is as near as your humble prayer, and the Bible is your Christmas star. How could God make it any easier to respond to Him?

By the way, the next conjugation of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in America on January 22, 2019, just a few weeks away. But, it won’t be as closely aligned as it was 2021 years ago.

I urge you to read Matthew, chapter two, and Luke, chapter two, this Christmas season. Do this not while following a sermon at church or on TV, but in private just between you and the Lord. Let Him speak to you through the magnificent story of His arrival that we celebrate this week. Merry Christmas!

Seeking a Return to Goodness

This December, the passing of President George H. W. Bush seems to have created even more nation-wide nostalgia than what is normally experienced through Hallmark movies. Does America’s infatuation with icons of the past, old movies, and cheesy Hallmark TV shows reflect our yearning for a kinder, gentler country? I believe it does, and here’s why.

My wife, Linda, and I were in Washington, DC, by coincidence when the body of former President Bush was lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. We are volunteers for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) and were invited by that organization to lobby Congress for one of their senior adult legislative initiatives. We arrived four hours prior to a working dinner and decided to pay our respects to the president and war hero we admired greatly. After standing in line for a cold hour, we learned the wait would be over three-and-a-half hours, so we had to depart to be on time for the dinner. Why were thousands of people from all over the country braving the frigid temperatures for up to four hours to spend a couple of minutes with a former president’s remains in a closed casket? Mostly because they needed to reconnect with the more peaceful, more civil, and simpler times when America was, well, just better.

People are also turning to more traditional entertainment from the past. Apparently, I’m not the only one who rejects the tripe that passes for TV series and reality shows opting instead for network classic movies. Every year, more people tune into the TCM network, and the average age of the movie fans is getting younger. Again, the evidence is that our society is yearning for the values of days gone by.

But, the most telling display of America’s desire for traditional morals and family has to be the Hallmark Christmas movie craze. Why else would millions of people opt for a poorly written, low-budget movie with amateur actors in totally predictable plots. It’s always about someone from the big city who goes to a small town and falls in love with someone who already has a love interest. The screen writers just change the names and venues. Yet, people are driven to these movies because of the void in their hearts that longs for the authenticity, simplicity, and unconditional love characterized by the stories.

Americans in general want to return to a time of goodness. Maybe it should be described as a time of godliness. We see our nation moving in a direction contrary to our ideology and we find consolation in retreating to more meaningful times. Realistically, those times were not as good as our memories of them, but they were heavenly compared to today’s social climate. So, how can we reverse the present political and societal mess and return to better times? Societies only change as individuals change, and we can only change one individual–ourselves. To borrow a concept of Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker, we can draw a circle around ourselves and change everyone in that circle.

I am very concerned about the scarcity of civility, respect, love for others, and personal sacrifice that characterizes America today. There is little I can do about it other than make sure I’m not contributing to it. So, with God’s help, I’m going to continue striving to be more like George H. W. Bush and the people of classical and Hallmark movies. I hope you will, too.

 

Will There Be a Third President Bush?

With the passing of one of America’s most loved presidents, George H. W. Bush, the question lingers: will there ever be another Bush in the White House? Since Jeb dropped out of the campaign for a potential trifecta in February, 2016, most pundits see no such Bush in the wings. However, in a recent interview, George H. W. said he would love to see one of his grandchildren become president. Take a quick look at his grandchildren and see whether you think one of them might someday sit in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush’s daughter, Barbara Pierce Bush, now 37, has pursued a career in the nonprofit sector. She co-founded the leadership development organization, Global Health Corps, in 2008, which operates in Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia, in addition to several cities stateside. In October 2018, Barbara wed screenwriter Craig Coyne.

George W. Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, also 37, chose a career in journalism. She’s currently a co-host for The Today Show, a correspondent for NBC News, and an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine. Jenna married Henry Hager, who worked in the Department of Commerce (and was an assistant in George W. Bush’s White House before that) in 2008. The couple have two daughters together, Mila and Poppy.

Jeb Bush’s son, George Prescott Bush, 42, has officially entered the political arena. In 2014, he was elected Texas Land Commissioner, and was recently re-elected for his second term. With his wife, former law school classmate Amanda Williams, he has two young sons, Prescott and John.

Jeb Bush’s daughter, Noelle Bush, 41, has struggled to find her footing. Her father has been candid about her ongoing issues with drug abuse.

Jeb Bush’s son, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Jr., 34, currently runs a real estate firm, Bush Realty, LLC, and serves as a Managing Partner of Jeb Bush & Associates, LLC, which provides business consulting services. During his father’s 2015 presidential primary run, Jeb Jr. served as a surrogate for the candidate on the campaign trail. With his wife, Sandra, he’s currently raising two young children, Georgia and Vivian.

Neil Bush’s daughter, Lauren Bush Lauren, 34, founded the nonprofit FEED in 2007, an organization that raises money to fight hunger by selling socially and environmentally sustainable products. With her husband David Lauren, son of designer Ralph Lauren, she has two children, Max Walker and James.

Neil Bush’s son, Pierce Bush, 32, is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, the organization’s Dallas outpost. He married Sarahbeth Melton in March of 2018.

Neil Bush’s daughter, Ashley Bush, 29, chose to pursue a career in the film industry. She’s produced, directed, and written numerous shorts. In December 2017, Ashley became engagement to fellow filmmaker Julian LeFevre.

Marvin Bush’s adopted daughter, Marshall Lloyd Bush, 32, worked on George W. Bush’s re-election campaign during school breaks in 2004. She married former Naval officer (and fellow University of Virginia alumni) Nick Rossi in 2015.

Marvin Bush’s adopted son, Charles Walker Bush, 28, has served in the Marine Corps.

Dorothy Bush’s son, Sam LeBlond, 34, has worked as a beer distributor in the D.C. area, among other jobs. He wed Lee Bobbitt, a legislative assistant in the Senate, in 2016.

Dorothy Bush’s daughter, Nancy Ellis “Ellie” LeBlond Sosa, 32, works for a Boston-based healthcare organization, and is a physical trainer in her spare time. She married Nick Sosa in 2014.

Dorothy Bush’s son, Robert Koch, 25, has kept a low profile. He is single.

Dorothy Bush’s daughter, Georgia Grace “Gigi” Koch, 22, is currently in college at the University of Southern California. She spent the summer of 2017 interning for the House Majority Whip—a clue that she might want to work in politics. She is single.

Of 14 grandchildren, none seems to be particularly interested in politics with the exception of George Prescott Bush, possibly Jeb Bush, Jr., and maybe Gigi Koch. George H. W. said in the aforementioned interview that his desire to have a grandchild as president wasn’t about the position, but rather about serving others. Several grandchildren are certainly doing that, but a Bush 46+ doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. Although anything can happen in presidential politics as we saw in 2016. Watch the Bushes!

Note: Some material from this post was sourced from http://www.townandcountrymag.com.

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