Announcing: The Dirty Campaign

IMG_2207Raul Sanchez pastors the 3rd Street Baptist Church in Sunset, Kansas. Senator Jonathan Moreland, a conservative who has served multiple terms in Washington D.C., has a particularly prickly problem. Talking to Pastor Sanchez seems like the perfect thing to do…

Until it all blows up, threatening to hurt Raul’s standing in the town and the Senator’s reelection bid. Will Raul and his friends find a way through it? Or is it too late? Will Sunset recover? Most importantly…is there a chance for the gospel message to shine through?

The Dirty Campaign: Political Intrigue in Sunset, releases in September! A few advance copies are available now. Email (dan@navychristian.org) for details!

Sign up here to learn more about Sunset and learn about the release of The Dirty Campaign and other Sunset works!

My Multisite Church Problem

This post is a companion piece for an article I wrote for Evangelical Free Church of America. You can read it here.

I thought they were all egotistical megalomaniacs bent on making Outreach’s 100 fastest growing churches list, to be quite honest. I didn’t think there could be any way that a pastor at a multisite church could possibly be interested in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Surely they had to water down the gospel in order to have more than one site!

This became a problem for me in 2017. When my family moved back to San Diego to take a new position in the Navy, I tried to focus on churches that only had one location. I was bound and determined to avoid multisite churches like the plague.c56772_dd97dfecd68f4d7aa4d67d22dc37278f

One by one, the churches we visited just didn’t seem to quite fit. While checking around, I did begrudgingly go to two multisite churches in my neighborhood. One of these visits was to Legacy Church in Tierrasanta. Much to my dismay, both of them were very good.

I went back to other single-site churches, hoping that one of them would be our match. They weren’t. Instead, the multisite churches were great, meaning that they preached the true gospel. I started to change my thinking on the issue. Could multisite churches be more than just ego boosts for their pastors?

As I learned more about Legacy Church, I came to realize that the pastor usually travels from the first location to the second location and back to cover all three services. In many ways, Legacy Church was emulating the Methodist circuit riders of old. Instead of covering miles of a frontier or a set of rural communities, however, Legacy covers La Mesa, CA and the Tierrasanta neighborhood of San Diego.

Then I thought: “This is not how I thought multisite churches worked. I wonder if there are other models as well.”

That thought officially launched my research into multisite churches, followed quickly by a query to the editor of EFCA Today, Diane McDougal. She ok’d the project on the understanding that final approval would come after it was complete. I began my research with Dr. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church in San Diego. Dr. Osborne was great to work with, as was his administrative assistant, Amanda Hoffman. She worked out a schedule that met both Dr. Osborne’s needs and mine as the writer. Our talk lasted about a half hour.

First question: What is the Gospel? I figured…hey, if they weren’t about the gospel, then I’d know my research could end. The gospel is the most important thing, as far as I can tell, so I started my questions with that.

He answered with I Corinthians 15, which encompasses the death, burial, and resurrection. When I asked him why he started there, he replied, “I figured that what the apostle Paul describes as his gospel is good enough for me as a working description.”

Ok, so far so good. Turns out one of the site pastors for North Coast also had a solid definition. Jay Foulk, who oversees the San Marcos/Escondido campus, said the gospel was, “the good news that through Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can be saved from our sins through faith in Him.”

Wow. So maybe this is not only, not bad, but maybe good. My shell was beginning to crack. I still didn’t want to go full bore, but around this time, Alicia and I were regularly attending a multisite church (Legacy), so I figured I needed to get to the bottom of it soon.

I reached out to Nathan Miller, who oversees the site pastors for Christ Community Church in the Kansas City metro area. Nathan was likewise easy to talk to and a gracious subject. As we talked about the definition for the gospel, he added, “No matter what we’re preaching, we ask, ‘How do we get to Jesus?’”

Whereas North Coast Church utilizes a single preacher each week who preaches to all locations via video, Christ Community Church utilizes a model wherein each site’s pastor preaches each week on an agreed topic with agreed-upon points. They meet each week to talk about the upcoming sermon in order to provide a consistent gospel message. In both models, local worship leaders provide the musical leadership to their respective sites.

The rest of the interviews went very well. I was more than satisfied by the answers given. By the time I had finished my first draft of the article, I had become comfortable with joining Legacy Church.

We are now a part of Legacy’s Tierrasanta campus, growing as a family under the leadership of Curt, Todd, Troy, and the rest. And I’ve come to learn just how impacting multisite churches can be in the multiple communities they serve in. I’m probably not ready to go to a service where the only interaction I have with the pastor is on a video screen, but I am comfortable with the model we have at Legacy, and I’m comfortable with telling people about North Coast Church (for my San Diego friends who aren’t in my neighborhood). For those I know in Kansas City, I highly recommend Christ Community Church as well.

As a final note, I turned in my final draft to the new editor, Abby Farson Pratt, at 750 words. Diane liked the articles tight and economic. Abby, while appreciating tight writing, also wanted to explore the issue more, giving me a set of questions she wanted answered for the next draft. I went back to the pastors I had worked with on the project and, ever gracious, they answered the new round of questions. I turned in the new article at approximately 1200 words. That just goes to show that it’s vital to know what your editor wants when he or she wants it.

I would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Praying for the North Korean Summit

I’ll be honest, I want a peace deal with North Korea. I think it’s in our best interest as a country and I think it’s definitely in the best interest for the gospel moving forward in the North. As an American, I’m not at all for giving in to Kim Jong Un. But I am for praying that peace actually happens.

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate my feelings for America and my feelings for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if you have that problem, but I do. Sometimes I equate the two, sadly, and I have to remember that the two are not the same. The gospel should always trump loyalty to my country.

In this case, however, what is good for the gospel is good for the country. An agreement between the United States and North Korea would signal the eventual end to the saber rattling that distracts American service men and women, provides some stability in that region of the world, and would encourage the North to join the region’s trading partners. While I suspect that they would never become the former foe-turned-trading-friend like Japan or Germany, I do believe we could at least get to an Iran type situation. Yes, still rattling sabers and making threats, but not a belief that all-out war may break out at some point.

It would also allow America the opportunity to press upon the North the importance of religious freedom. Even if this never got more real than what happens in China, I believe that it would be good for the gospel message. Christianity could stop looking like an American religion to the leaders in the North, which would hopefully equal less persecution and more freedom of expression for Christians and would-be Christians in that country.

Do I think that either of these things is a sure bet? Not at all! We have a very self-assured leader in America who is honestly liable to say anything at any time, and often that equals saying the very thing that upsets a particular partner (in this case, the North). We are facing a leader who believes that he is an equal because of his nuclear arsenal (an inaccurate and inflated belief). This understanding doesn’t even account for the fact that an accord between the North and America wouldn’t automatically equal freedom of religion.

So we pray. We pray for the very reason that this is still a long-shot. We pray because we’ve been down this road before, and North Korea balked when it last had a chance to do the right thing. We pray because this would be another way for the Lord to get the glory (as long as we evangelicals don’t give the glory to Trump if it’s successful). We pray because the gospel is more important than any national barrier; the salvation of souls more important than any patriotic position.

Some ways to pray:

  1. Pray that the summit will happen, and that it will be successful. Both of those things are far from guaranteed as of this writing.
  2. Pray for an official end to hostilities on the Korean peninsula.
  3. Pray for people on both sides of the table. Pray that their egos are softened, and their hearts open to change.
  4. Pray for Christians currently living in North Korea. Pray for an end to their suffering and for freedom for them to live as Christians in the open.
  5. Pray for a revival in both North Korea and America.

If you pray for one thing each day this week, then by Saturday morning, you’ll have prayed solidly for North Korea all week! Join me in this effort, and we will all see great things happen.

I would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Sailors in trouble for the Bible

Navy Investigates Sailors Imposing Christianity

IMG_0024In case you missed it, our old friends at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint on April 6 alleging that Sailors are proselytizing in Japan by having a Bible on the POW/MIA memorial table. According to the MRFF, that amounts to pushing Christian beliefs onto unsuspecting persons. The seven-page complaint was filed on behalf of 26 service members and DoD civilian employees who were offended by the display. They suggest that the Bible present (representing the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded one nation under God) forces people to agree with the display.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported on the story. This is probably a slam dunk. While I found several instances of the Bible being present in the display, including the Navy Live website, I doubt it will remain that way for long. Makes me wonder if anyone from the MRFF will come hunting for my rank because my daughter put a Bible on our display in Navy housing (the irony here is that my daughter used an “Apologetics” version of the Bible). I don’t know the legal ramifications for that, and I’m not particularly interested to learn them. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll learn soon that the Navy has decided to officially remove the Bible from this display and update the protocol.

I want to make three points about the complaint.

  1. The MRFF is a nuisance. I’ve written elsewhere about how they file complaints on behalf of non-Christians who have gotten their feelings hurt. The only thing I’m wrong about in that statement is that apparently, “Christians” also get their feelings hurt. Everyone’s opinion counts but the Bible-believing Christian, in the MRFF’s eyes.
  2. I don’t think they’ll be a nuisance for long. By saying that, I don’t think they’ll go away. Instead, I think they’re going to become a bigger tool used by the adversary to hinder Christianity in the military. I think this because, in this complaint, one of the things they want is for the Navy to investigate the situation and to, “assign appropriate disciplinary measures to those responsible.”
  3. The founder of MRFF states that 16 of the 26 persons in the complaint self-identify as Christian. I’d be curious to know more about this Christianity of theirs. I’m very disturbed that they handed the leadership of the Okinawa hospital over to the wolves. While I don’t know if they tried to get the Bible removed from the desk and felt they had no alternative (which they did…plenty of alternatives), or why they would have wanted it removed in the first place, but complaining to an unbeliever, who will make a spectacle of the Bible instead of treat it with respect, is a bad move.

To be perfectly clear, the MRFF is about removing Christianity from America’s military. Just like China’s decision to prevent the online sales of Bibles, the MRFF should not scare true believers. God understands fully what has happened here, knows the ramifications, and is at least one step ahead, at least eternally speaking.

For additional research, look at the following locations that include the Bible in the presentation:

Navy Live

American Legion

VFW

Wikipedia

Would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Pray for North Korean Athletes!

342px-Olympic_rings_without_rims.svgThe Winter Olympics, hosted this year in South Korea, suddenly provide American Christians an opportunity to do personally what we’ve only been able to do in abstract for years: Pray for North Korean people’s salvation.

Plenty of intrigue surrounds the North delegation to the South Korean-hosted games. Everything from the history of their involvement (last time Seoul held the games, the North blew up a plane and tried to one-up their neighbor), to Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to stand for the North Korean delegation (not intended to spite the North), to the grim reality that North Korean athletes will be tackled if they attempt to defect weight heavily on the games. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to see with the North’s involvement in the games.

All gamesmanship aside, these olympics present a unique opportunity. While it isn’t the first games that the North has participated in, it is the first time the North and South have integrated on this scale. Just think about a Christian on the South Korean women’s hockey team and her ability to give short snippets of the gospel to her North Korean partners! Their minders (government officials who are specifically designated to translate, provide security, and keep the athletes in check), cannot be with them on the ice, BUT THE GOSPEL CAN!

Christians in the free world have a responsibility to pray for the lost, and reach them when we can. Here’s a very unique opportunity, both to pray and to witness, for those who are given the glorious opportunity!

We should also pray for Vice President Mike Pence, a professed believer, who has an amazing opportunity to calm the rhetoric of our two nations and instead, as a Christian, present the gospel to the North Korean delegation. What an opportunity!

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Expendable Christians

People are dying for their faith around the world. Over 3000 of our brothers and sisters are dead now because of their bold faith in Jesus Christ and their unwillingness to balk at his obedience, according to the annual Open Doors Report. They are the expendables in the kingdom. Sadly, If you’re anything like most western Christians, you glossed right over that number.

So let me say it again:

Over 3000 Christians are dead because of persecution.

Something that has bothered me for a long time is the simple fact that people are dying for their faith around the world and I rarely face any trouble for my faith. More to the point: 3000 people died for their faith last year while I live in almost serene comfort.

We live a sheltered spiritual life in America. I don’t know of many people who don’t accept that fact, but it doesn’t matter. It’s fact: We live in spiritual comfort compared to those who face real persecution for their faith.

Jesus was clear in Matthew 5:10-12 when he said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is what it means to be an expendable. For the cause of the Kingdom, I accept being subjected to ridicule, pain, hardship, and persecution for God’s gain. And yet, because we are likewise blessed beyond measure in the Western world, we live in relative peace and comfort. Reconciling this is sometimes difficult for me.

As a freelance writer with a career outside of writing, I get the opportunity to pursue projects that I feel are important. This is one of those projects. The end product is still taking shape, but it will have a lot to do with foreign aid from Washington and what our role, if any, is as Christians supporting persecuted believers in hazardous countries.

More to follow on that, obviously.

I want to encourage everyone to go to Open Doors USA and download the annual report. Yes, you have to give them your email address to get it, but it’s worth it. And, if you can, donate a little bit of change to support the work of Open Doors. The organization took in over 20million dollars in 2016 (latest information I have) and only 4million was used for expenses, meaning over 16 million USD went to support the persecuted church.

I’m just bothered that I live in relative safety while 1 in 12 of my brothers and sisters are in danger.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

A White Guy Visits a Black Church

My visit to Bayview Baptist Church started on a whim. It came about after black football players began protesting the National Anthem in greater numbers, to include entire teams after President Trump issued his disruptive comments on September 22, 2017. My heart sank and I started thinking that maybe the American racial problem had no fix.

Furthermore, I had a sneaking suspicion that we were just as divided in the church as Americans were outside the walls of our sanctuaries. On Martin Luther King Jr day, I think it’s fitting to look at our continued racial problem from a spiritual context. I will begin with a statement: We are just as segregated in the church as we are in the rest of the country. MLK said as much in 1958: “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Sadly, this is still the case for the majority of churches.

Now, let me be clear, no one is forcing our churches to be segregated (to my knowledge). There is no great conspiracy here, like there have been in many times in our history. Instead, we are struggling with the sin of comfort and a resolute desire not to rock the boat or have ours rocked.

I had another reason for wanting to visit a black church. I wanted to know what it would be like to stick out like a sore thumb. While Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego claimed to be a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic church, I had my suspicions that they were just like the churches in which I’ve held membership. I believed I would find myself one of the only white people in the church. I’m not saying that because I want to make them out to be liars. Like white churches, the goal is multi-ethnic makeup. I don’t think anyone is trying to keep white people out of that church any more than I think that my last church tried to keep black people out.

Another thing to keep in mind when considering what “multi-ethnic” means is that our racial categories contain many ethnicities. So, while the church might be mostly black, or even all black, it may include ethnicities such as Hispanic (from the Caribbean and South America), Africa (and the ethnicities contained therein), as well as ethnicities contained in America itself. The Root website lists 46 ethnic groups in Africa alone, from which American slaves took their original ethnicity. Modern advances in DNA research have shed a lot of light on this, but I digress.

Still Segregated

Simply put, my understanding that the American church was as segregated as ever was reinforced with my visit to Bayview. Please don’t read into this statement that Bayview is doing something wrong or should be trying harder to include other races. I cannot know that answer based on one visit. What I’m trying to say is this: All of our churches are still struggling with the issue of integration. We’ve separated ourselves along race and, to at least a slightly lesser degree, ethnic lines.

I don’t know that we can expect this to change wholesale. The fact is that, regarding worship styles, everyone has a style (or range of styles) that they are comfortable with. This is something that will be very difficult to overcome, even if it should be overcome.

However, a more problematic issue revolves around the birds of a feather concept. If I go to a predominantly white church because I like that style of worship, then maybe that’s ok (although I have some doubts). However, if I only go to white churches because that’s the TYPE OF PERSON I FEEL COMFORTABLE AROUND, then I’ve got a lot of changing to do. It is up to each person to seek the answer to their situation and deal with it, because God will deal with you when judgement comes. Part of visiting Bayview was to help answer that question for myself.

The short and long of it is that I learned that I have some work to do.

Parting Thoughts

It didn’t occur to me until after I was back on Interstate 15 North headed home that I may have caused the members of Bayview Baptist Church some consternation. Here was a large white man walking into church while all around the country, race issues were reaching cataclysmic stages. Did anyone wonder if I had a gun? Should I…could I…have been more sensitive to their situation? Am I completely overthinking the entire episode? Does anyone even remember that I existed?

As you might suspect, I’ve settled nicely into a mostly white church in my mostly white neighborhood in San Diego. I feel comfortable there because the preaching style is what I enjoy and the music is what I want to sing and hear. I will happily welcome any person of any race into our church and defend them should I discover any inappropriateness, but I doubt we’ll see many of them for the same two reasons I listed for my being there. My visit to Bayview and my membership at Legacy all point to the same simple fact: We’ve got some work to do in America’s church.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

My NFL Protest

I would appreciate it if you’d read this to the end. It won’t take you long, I promise!

This Sunday was a rough day in the Smith household. It also happens to be the day that I flippin’ lost my mind. It occurred at halftime of the Chargers/Chiefs game. I’m a Chiefs fan, so I was very interested in the game. During the halftime show, the host disclosed that the entire rosters of the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans stayed in their respective locker rooms during the National Anthem. I also learned that the Pittsburgh Stealers, with one lone exception (a military veteran), also stayed inside to protest.

I picked up the remote to my television and turned off the game. My wife looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m not watching the game,” was all I said. Then I started a fight on Facebook, because that’s what we do now days. It was a good fight too…over 50 comments! Here is the comment that started the fight: “Just turned off football. I’m not giving another dollar or minute of my time to that organization. Y’all do what you want. I’m out.”

This all occurred on the same day that I visited a black church just off Imperial Ave. in San Diego. I came home excited for the Word of God! I felt like I had worshiped with some real like-minded believers. While I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was one of the only white people there, I also enjoyed the service more than I’ve enjoyed church in a long time.

I could try to dress this pig up and make it seem reasonable, but the fact is that I sinned against God on Sunday. Since I sinned publically, I’m confessing publically.

First, I joined in useless arguments. “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:9).” I’ve tried to remain above the fray on this race problem in America. Sunday, I made it look like I’m on the wrong side of history. I’m not, by the way, I just lost my mind for a minute.

Second, I disregarded one way that my wife and I connect, and thereby sinned against her as well. Making such a strong move to the remote was not an act of leadership. It was done in selfish isolation. I did not put my wife above my personal well-being. I was not a very good leader in that moment.

Third, I failed to keep the doors open. The last thing I want to do is shut the door on the reality that minorities in this country are often mistreated. And I really do serve my country to allow for all ways of protected methods of free speech, which the anthem protests represent. I only pray I haven’t closed the doors to any future relationships.

I believe in preaching Christ Crucified. I believe that the gospel of Jesus crucified, buried, and risen is the only thing that matters. While I also know that I sin against God all the time, and that I blow my witness all the time, I feel like this Sunday was one of the worst things I’ve done in a long time.

Paul said in his first letter to the church in Corinth that, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

You know what? That verse is the answer to our race issues in America. Period. If anyone understood race relations, it was the Jewish Roman citizen named Paul. The religious Jews of that time period understood God’s law as pertaining only to them…that other races (collectively called Gentiles, or Greeks) were left out of God’s plan. Paul rejected this line of thought and, when he was soundly rejected by the Jews themselves, he became the preacher to the Gentiles.

I don’t know what this means for me and football. Knowing that this is one way my wife and I connect will mean that I won’t turn it off all the time, or forever. But it does mean that I don’t have to watch it all day on Sunday. I had planned to watch at least three games (I have DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket), another on Monday night, and start again on Thursday. Maybe I won’t be doing that anymore. Because the fact is that I still don’t agree with the form of protest. To be fair, I don’t like the riots in St. Louis either. I also don’t like the bigoted white supremists who launch cars into crowds. If you think I’m upset about the Anthem protests, ask me what I think about neo-nazis!

I’m worried for our country. I take some solace in thinking that God is in control, and will (if his followers let him) find a way to unite the races despite our best efforts to divide them. Yet I can’t help but be concerned. I don’t see this getting better any time soon. Only worse. But maybe that’s what we need. Maybe we really need to air the dirty laundry and figure out what’s wrong.

I’d like to be a part of that discussion if I can. I’m willing to meet with anyone to discuss in greater detail the overall situation and what role faith plays in finding a way out of this mess.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

A Job to Do

A Job to Do

By: S. Daniel Smith

Mark 1:15: “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

We read this quote from our savior today and know one crucial fact: We have a job to do. As the old hymn goes, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations!” In telling the nations, we are continuing to herald the same warning that Jesus proclaimed as he began his earthly ministry. Yes, the kingdom is delayed, but it is still at hand!

To put this into contrast, if I refuse to proclaim this message to those around me who need it, then I am telling my savior that I don’t believe his kingdom is at hand and while I’m grateful that I became a believer, I see no pressing need for anyone else to join me. How can this be? How could a Jesus follower possibly, after being redeemed from his own sin, then not want to help rescue others from their sin?

The eternal kingdom is at stake. When Jesus first said these words, he was telling unbelievers that they had to make a choice about what to do with him. They had to either accept that he was the promised one or reject him. Unbelievers today are also faced with that decision.

And what is it that they must do? Repent and believe! Jesus gave us no lists of things to accomplish to earn his forgiveness. We are given no commands to see this priest or take that pilgrimage. We are only ordered to repent and believe. Romans 10:9 tells us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Believers are also faced with a decision. Will we reject our job? Or will we tell others that the kingdom is at hand? It is a decision we must all make and we are all responsible to Christ Jesus for the answer.

I’m not saying it’ll be easy, only that it’s necessary. I struggle with rejection as much as the next person. And I certainly struggle with having a clean life just as much as the next guy. I regularly feel like I’ve blown my witness, or have no witness at all. We can’t be like Jesus completely, but we must continue to work at it, knowing that we believe the kingdom is at hand and that we can help others learn that fact.

To learn more, take a look at the following books:

Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman

Tell the Truth – Will Metzger

Share Jesus without Fear – William Fay

Recently, on a 6th and 5th Fleet deployment, I was privileged to see four young Sailors accept Christ on the USS Hue City (CG 66). All four accepted Christ during a modified altar call during my last sermon, where I presented the Romans Road. I built a relationship with all four of these Sailors (taking more than a year in some cases) in order to get to a point where they trusted me with the Gospel message. I’m grateful for the outcome, and so very glad that God gave me the opportunity to see my job of evangelism turn to one of gathering the harvest.

Now…will you do your part?

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The Only New Year’s Resolution that Matters

dscn0145The year 2017 is looming large in my sights. While the Christmas lights still twinkle on the tree and the kids haven’t even broken any of the toys yet, I know that I must start thinking seriously about the coming New Year. It isn’t all about football and parties, you know. There’s the goal setting and resolutions to think about too!

Do you have any? Resolutions I mean. Like me, I suppose (assume?) you’d like to finally lose that 20lbs you’ve been staring at in the mirror for the last several months. I know that this is a big one because my e-book “Gluttony” is selling faster now than any other time of the year. But not even this important resolution really matters.

Goals are important too. For example, I have a goal to write for some major publications this year. Christianity Today tops that list. In my opinion, it’s the gold standard for Christian journalism. But not even this major milestone goal matters.

The only thing that matters this year…the only resolution that bears us any benefit, is to get closer to God this year than we were in 2016.

II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Of course, this happens when a person accepts Christ. Maybe that happened for you at the New Year, but chances are, if you are reading this, then you’re already a Christian. Yet there is something we as humans, whether regenerated or not, have in common with every year as it ends. We know what it’s like to have the old pass away and the new arrive. And just like 2017, our lives carry the baggage of the previous life. You’ll deal with decisions you made in 2016 for some time in the New Year just like the New You continues to deal with the issues that came from the old you.

Which is why it’s so important to set the ultimate goal this year. Make your New Year’s resolution count…make a committment to know God better this year.

I’ll give you three realistic ways to accomplish this.

  1.  Get into the Bible. Read it consistently. As for me, I’m a horrible daily reader and my ship’s watch schedule often keeps me from setting aside a very specific time each day for scripture reading and prayers. Doesn’t matter. Just read. I’m more a believer of getting into the Bible than doing it at a specific time each day. We’re all busy. Just get into it. Put a little “x” on the calendar each day you do it. Just get started and over time you’ll develop the habit you need.
  2. Pray more. All the time. Every day. I have ideas on how to do this every day and you can read them here. The important thing, however, is simply to do it. Set a timer and talk to God for five minutes. It’s not that difficult. Five minutes. You can talk about the latest Hollywood gossip or your favorite sports team for hours. You can talk to God for five minutes. What do you talk about? How about the football team or your favorite actor? Do you think he isn’t interested in what you’re interested in? The important thing is to just start somewhere.
  3. Fellowship often. I put this last because the first two deal with God directly, and I’m an introvert. Extended time with other people wears me out. This is especially true if it’s time spent with people I don’t know. However, fellowship isn’t just the exhausting potlucks and parties. Find people who also follow Jesus and spend time with them. Even as an introvert, I find my soul rejuvenated when I do this with people I love and who love Jesus.

I want to encourage you to start 2017 with a strong, sensible, spiritual goal to get to know God better. It’s the only thing that really matters in eternity, and I am convinced that eternity is the only thing that matters for our lives.

May you have a blessed 2017!