Is it pointless to make New Year’s resolutions?


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TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, one thing’s for sure:We never run out of material on Today in Perspective as we try to give a commentary on the news through the lens of Scripture. Today, I’d like to look ahead to 2018 but, also, let’s focus on what about those New Year resolutions?

SHOULD WE MAKE RESOLUTIONS?

DR. REEDER: Of course, the accepted thing is to poo-poo resolutions, “Oh, that’s terrible,” – and, by the way, as a Christian, you ought to make a resolution every day to follow Jesus, absolutely – but I don’t have a problem with seasonal moments that you just build into your life to go back and evaluate, to consider, to make adjustments to move forward. I do this pretty regularly.

Every summer, I take a three-week sabbatical and do an evaluation of my life and my ministry. I create objectives for the coming year and, every five years, I have created five objectives for my life and ministry to govern me and direct me.

I just think, if you don’t establish goals, you don’t know how to score and you can’t score so take God’s Word, take the truth of the Gospel, take your love for Christ and just begin to work through things. “What do I need to put off? What do I need to put on?” I think those are valid things to do and I encourage people to do it.

Now, having said that, I also understand why people poo-poo this matter of resolutions. And I don’t know how scientific this is, but I just read a survey – do you know why January the 21st is important, Tom?

TOM LAMPRECHT: That’s probably how long the resolutions last?

DR. REEDER: Bingo. That’s what the sociologists that have done an analysis say, that 90 percent of resolutions do not last past January the 21st so that’s the shelf life of our yearly resolution. And this is the time of year that fitness and training industries, they love it, because they’ve got this deal for you – you come in and sign up, you pay them for the year and they know that they’re not even going to have to worry about you for about 11 months out of that year because this’ll last about until about January the 21st.

That may be true but I think, for a lot of people, this is a good time to do some self-analysis and some evaluation so let me just give some suggestions.

1. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT

No. 1, take some time, as you move into this new year, for a little bit of a prayer retreat. Even if you don’t go anywhere, just take some time, just sit down, and pray through and think through what’s happened this last year.

First of all, I’m going to count my blessings, see what things the Lord has done and praise His name. Secondly, where have I faltered? What weaknesses, what cracks have been exposed in my life? Are they foundational cracks? What do I need to take a look at in my life? It’s not simply what do I want to put off, but what do I want to put on?

2. LEARN THE SECRET TO RESISTING SIN

Tom, I have found in my Christian life, one of the great helps for me in my ability to consistently walk away from sin is to walk toward something else. If I can fix my eyes on Jesus and I don’t have my eyes on idols, if I can fill my life with that which is good and beautiful and true and following Christ, then there’s not so much room for Satan to get a toehold in my life and, when he gets a toehold, he gets a foothold, and the next thing you know, he’s got an armlock on me.

Early on, if I could fill my life up with a love for Christ and a love for my wife and a love for my children, that’s one of the best things to do to keep me faithful before the Lord in those things. And fill your life up with a love for God’s Word and those things pertaining to God’s Word. I think it takes about 30 days to make a good habit – I think it takes about three days to make a bad habit. I also think it takes about three days to break a good habit – it takes about 30 days to break a bad habit.

3. EMULATE 4 LIFE CATEGORIES JESUS “GREW IN”

May I encourage you to maybe use our Savior’s formation for your formation. Our Savior’s formation is given to us in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verse 52. It says that “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.”

He grew in wisdom – that’s your intellectual life affecting the way you live your life. He grew in stature – that’s your physical life. He grew in favor with God – that’s your spiritual life. He grew in favor with man – that’s your social, your relational life.

I take those four categories every year and work my way through them. What can I do this year that I can grow intellectually that will impact my life functionally?

4. READ THE BIBLE

How about a quiet time – do you have a quiet time? Hey, I’ve got a couple of ideas. At Briarwood, we’ve got a little booklet that we can make available to you through our webstore, a one year reading through the Bible. I encourage you to do that – read through the Bible in a year. Through expositional preaching, we look at the leaves on the tree but, when you read through the Bible, you get to step back and look at the forest. I think, about every five years, you ought to read through the Bible in a year. Now, we actually have a little booklet that gives you three different one-year Bible reading plans. I would encourage you take a look at that.

5. DO DEVOTIONAL READINGS

My favorite devotional is called “Morning Exercises” by William Jay, if you can get ahold of that. We’ve got some at our bookstore. They’re hard to find, but they are great. And then I would really encourage you to consider “Table Talk.” R.C. Sproul is home with the Lord, but “Table Talk” is continuing and you cannot know what a great personal or family dynamic to use.

Then, dare I say, either in place of all of the above or augmenting all of the above is a five-minute devotional put out by In Perspective called “Fresh Bread.” You just get our app and, every day for five minutes, we’ll take you through a passage of Scripture with some interesting insights and thoughts. We call it “Fresh Bread” – that’s something I have the privilege to provide – five-minute devotional, “Fresh Bread.”

And you might also include “Today in Perspective.” I actually do both of those – “Here’s my ‘Fresh Bread,’ here’s ‘Today in Perspective.’” And there’s about 15 minutes, in the car, on my way to work, coming home or wherever, get it on the app and that would be a great step forward.

Make sure you’re consistently under the preaching of God’s Word and assembling with God’s people so that you can grow in wisdom and you can grow in favor with God and favor with man. Try to put together a 5 to 15-minute devotional time for your family. Yes, the family that prays together, stays together – it does help to spend time in God’s Word together.

6. CHOOSE (AND STAY WITH) A CHURCH HOME

And then bring your family into the church and bring the church into your family. Unite your family with a solid church. Let me just quote R.C. Sproul if I can: “When you start looking for a church, the No. 1 thing you want to look for is what do they do with God’s Word?” Do they have a high view of God’s Word? Is their pastoral expository preaching each week that will give you a steady diet of God’s Word? Are there small group discipleship opportunities that you can be involved in? And is the church committed to the Great Commission and living out the Great Commandment? That’s what you want to look for in a spirit-filled, God-honoring, Christ-exalting church. Don’t play “drive-by church” if you’ve got time for church. Prioritize your life and your family to be engaged in the life and ministry of a church.

7. SHARE CHRIST WITH OTHERS

And then make a commitment this year to sharing Christ with other people. At Briarwood this year, we’re actually making that a commitment – we’re calling it “LEAD: Lifestyle of Evangelism And Disciple-making.” That’s what we’re encouraging people to consider this coming year. How can you make this a lifestyle?

8. DON’T NEGLECT PHYSICAL HEALTH

And, by the way, don’t forget the physical. The spiritual affects the physical and the physical affects the spiritual, so I don’t want to live to eat; I want to eat to live for Jesus. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I don’t want to live to drink; I want to drink to live for Jesus. That you bring every appetite under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to lubricate life with food and drink – our life can be oiled and lubricated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to be drunk with wine; we want to be drunk with the Spirit and we want to live for Him with all of our desire to honor Him.

HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT TO IMPROVE

Just spend some time in prayer: What are those things you want to put to death? Let’s put off the old mantle. What are those things that you want to put on? Have yourself anywhere from five to ten objectives this year, get some insight from other people on where they think you can make improvements in putting off and putting on. And then, by the way, get yourself some models for your life, get yourself some mentors for your life and get yourself a band of brothers or a circle of sisters to get around you that you can pray with, and hold each other accountable, be transparent and be engaged in each others’ lives.

There’s my encouragement for the coming new year, but let’s take this year. This is 2018, the year of our Lord. Let’s make it a year for the Lord and, Dear Jesus, make this the last year – come quickly.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

13 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

16 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

21 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

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The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

21 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.