Chapter 20: Popcorn Preaching and New Year’s Resolutions

12/30/2021

PART 1:

I’ve been staring at this blank page for almost twenty minutes, trying to decide where to begin. As I am writing this, I’m at the table in my parents’ dining room, a thoroughly beautiful world of white lays outside (with snow continuing to fall as I speak), and a fireplace is crackling and popping on the flat screen in the nearby living room. I’d like to say something clever and witty here, something besides the usual, “Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. We reflect on 2021 and make our resolutions for 2022.” In my old life, before I was saved, I didn’t care about making new year’s resolutions. I had no personal goals, no ambitions, no desires to do anything, really, beyond staying caught up with the latest episodes of all my favorite TV shows or re-conquering classic Super Mario Bros games. Life was good, I had no complaints, and each year was pretty much the same as the last.

But now, of course, in my new life as a child of God everything has changed. I’ve spent most of 2021 trying to better myself and my life in all kinds of ways. To be honest, this blog post is going to be fairly mundane and not terribly riveting. All I wanted to do was reflect on the old year and jot down my resolutions for the new one. I was curious to look back on Chapter 7 and see just how many of my 2021 resolutions I would able to check off as accomplished.

To save you time, I’m going to re-list them here:

#1: I want to be a better Christian.

#2: Join a church.

#3: Resolve the issue of homosexuality, the Bible, and my faith.

#4: Be more compassionate & understanding with the people that I meet in the course of my daily work.

#5: Get a boyfriend.

All in all, I’d say I did pretty good! #1 is, obviously, an ongoing process and, actually, is progressing quite well, I think. Most of that progress is due to regular Bible study on my own, church attendance, and discipleship classes with my new pastor. I have also had sporadic periods of daily devotions with my dad during our in-person visits a few times in the latter half of this year, as well as long distance Bible study with an old friend from grade school (whom, I learned a few months ago, had been praying for me for many years to get saved.) So, all in all, I feel like I’m well on track for where I should be in the normal stage of spiritual development as a new believer one year out of the gate.

Numbers 2 & 3 were accomplished and resolved before the end of the 1st quarter of 2021. God was especially good to me in that regard, answering my prayers swiftly and giving me more than I had asked for! (See chapters 12, 15 & 19 for all the details on this.)

#4 was a little more difficult. I started out pretty well, but over the last couple months, as life at work became busier and more hectic the closer we got to Christmas, I found myself slipping back into my old, grumpy, short-tempered ways. More often than not I’ve had to ask God for forgiveness because of my frustrated, sarcastic and/or condescending internal monologue that I would spout while trying my best to smile and pretend to be nice to the exceptionally rude or annoying person on the other side of my bullet-proof window who was wasting my time in the middle of the afternoon rush. (See part 2 below for further detail on this resolution.)

And, as for #5, well, that pretty much got taken care of with the resolution of #3.

There was also some things that I accomplished this year that weren’t even on my list. Chief among them was improving my health. Quite by accident I ended up working out 3–4 times a week in the home gym of my best friend Gama. As a result, my overall health — as well as my exterior physique — has improved dramatically. I’ve lost weight, bulked up and turned heads whenever I’m out and about among the general population of North Las Vegas. At my last doctor’s appointment three weeks ago, I was told that my A1C (that’s the meter by which they determine whether or not a person is diabetic) finally dropped to 5.5. (Last year at this time it was 6.5.) Anything below 5.7 is considered non-diabetic. That means I can finally start weaning myself off the medication as I am able to control my type 2 diabetes with just diet and exercise. God has blessed me immensely in this regard, and I’m very grateful to Him for my good health! Hopefully, by His will, I will be off all diabetic medication completely in six months!

So, with all that in mind, here’s my list of resolutions for 2022:

1. Continue growing in my faith and my walk with the Lord. I will be continuing my own personal Bible study and devotions, along with regular church attendance and discipleship classes with Pastor Serviss.

2. Along with #1, my second goal is to be more active in church ministry. Right now, friendship seems to be what God has been calling me to as I become more involved with my new church family. Because I am not married and have no family of my own, I have had plenty of free time in the last 6 months to cultivate many different friendships with many different people — some within the church and some without. (My best friend, Gama, and the time spent with him in the gym in his garage multiple times each week is a perfect example.) All of these new relationships have been a huge blessing to me and, I have been told, have been a blessing to my new friends as well. I have also had the opportunity to go soul-winning a few times this year with various other men in the church, and that has been a major blessing as well. Although, as an introvert, walking up to complete strangers at Craig Ranch Park and striking up a conversation has been VERY intimidating, but it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone, and that’s a good thing! Part of this resolution is to do soul-winning more often in 2022.

3. Continue to improve my physical health. My weight loss goal for 2022 is drop 5 lbs each quarter. Right now, I’m hovering consistently around 195. By March 31st, I plan to be at 190. By June 30th, 185. By December 31st, 175. My plan is to be more strict with my dieting: cut back on carbs, no sugar (or VERY little, i.e. the oat milk in my coffee every morning), more fruits and vegetables and more exercise and weight training.

4. Leadership skills. In both church and my job, opportunities have arisen to step forward and out of my comfort zone. At my job I am going to start training in 1st quarter of 2022 to be a branch manager. This means that, Lord willing, I will be running my own store at some point before the end of the year. At church, I have been given the opportunity to give a devotional at the New Year’s Eve service. (See part 2). My goal in this resolution is to start stepping up and taking on a more active leadership role in these two major areas of my life. I have not only felt the leading of the Holy Spirit in this, but I also feel this is the next logical step in my overall goal to be the best instrument I can for God’s use. This is the resolution I am most nervous about and it will be at the top of my prayer list every day this coming year.

5. And, finally, I am going to continue working on my people skills. Same as #4 from last year. I need to be more compassionate and understanding with the people that cross my path in my daily life — especially at work. I did okay with this goal in 2021, but not great. As I mentioned earlier, I failed many times, especially in the last few months. So I am resolving to do better with this in 2022.

* * * * *

PART 2:

At Bible Baptist Church we have a New Year’s Eve watch night service that starts at 6 pm and ends at midnight. Tomorrow night will be my first one, and I am excited to share in food, fellowship, various table games, and some popcorn preaching. That last item might have caused you to say, “Huh?” “Popcorn preaching” is when pastor calls on various men of the congregation to step up to the pulpit and give a five minute sermon. I think it’s less intimidating to call it a “devotional” rather than a “sermon”. For tomorrow’s service the pastor has assigned specific verses, and mine is Luke 6:46–48:

“[46] And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

[47] Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

[48] He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.”

Here’s my devotional:

Christ is saying that we, as believers and followers of Him, should be obeying His commandments and doing as He said. In this manner, we will ensure that our house — which represents our life — will be grounded in the Lord and, thus, we will be ready when God allows trials and tribulations to assail us in order to strengthen and grow our faith and trust in Him. James had a similar theme in mind with verse 22 or chapter 1 in his epistle:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

If we call ourselves Christians and yet we don’t follow Christ’s commandments, we are only deceiving ourselves and others around us. If we call ourselves Christians and yet behave like everyone else in the unsaved world, we are not only disobedient to our heavenly Father, but we are also severely damaging the cause of Christ. Therefore, our goal, as the adopted sons of God through Christ’s death on the cross, is to obey our Lord and Savior in ALL things — not just the big stuff (i.e. the ten commandments and the law of the Old Testament), but also the little things in our daily life.

For example, I talked earlier in this post about my attitudes towards the customers that I help as part of my job with Check City. Many times of late, I have been short tempered and just shy of outright rudeness when I’ve been stressed and under pressure during some of the busier days of this holiday season. Although I’ve tried to hide it with an outward show of forced smile and a — hopefully — congenial tone, my inner self is seething with frustration, sarcastic comments and/or a condescending, judgmental attitude. While other people can’t see my inner self, God can, and He’s let me know it many times via the Holy Spirit. More often than not, I’ve had to ask forgiveness during my regular prayer time on the car ride home from work that same night. This is the heart of Jesus’ words in those verses from Luke 6: we, as Christians, are to be Christ-like in ALL areas of our life, in EVERYTHING we do and say. This is how we demonstrate our love for God, our heavenly Father. “Be ye holy; for I am Holy,” says 1 Peter 1:16.

If we continually strive for holiness in our walk with God, we will be ready for the storms of life that He will bring our way. Our “house” will be built on the rock of our trust and faith in Him, and we will have peace and grace to make it through the trials that He uses to help us grow our faith and ensure a closer walk with Him!

* * * * *

That seems like a good lesson to end the year with and keep in mind for the new one. I hope that 2021 was as fruitful and rewarding for you as it was for me. And if not, I pray that 2022 will bring more blessings than trials, but remember also that trials are opportunities for growth and learning to trust in the Almighty, if you have accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you haven’t, please talk to me. I would love to show you how you can have the same peace, joy and contentment that I found!

Goodnight, and God bless!

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Me in a nutshell: sci-fi nerd, bookworm, self-published writer, Christian, Republican & coffee hound. Life is a journey. This is my travel log.

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Neal Jones

Neal Jones

Me in a nutshell: sci-fi nerd, bookworm, self-published writer, Christian, Republican & coffee hound. Life is a journey. This is my travel log.

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