Everything to Gain but Nothing to Lose

What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:36, KJV

 

Today is December 31, the last day of the year. It has been traditional on this day for men and women everywhere to make resolutions as to what they would like to accomplish. These resolutions are usually of a physical nature. Having just finished the "feasting season" which runs from Thanksgiving up until the time the last of the Christmas goodies are consumed, many will resolve to diet and exercise. Nothing wrong with that, for we all need to be in better shape.

 

Many will resolve to improve their financial circumstances. From getting out of debt to saving more money to getting a better paying job, all people could stand to be healthier from a financial perspective. Again, there are many benefits from such resolves, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself financially. Then there are the more noble resolutions. These usually run along the lines of spending more time with family and being more considerate of one's spouse and children. Clearly, such goals are beneficial and important.

 

The problem with all such resolutions is that they are nearly all made with little thought as to the actual cost or the amount of time and effort they will require. Probably 90% of the people who make resolutions fail in the first week, because they did not really want to do something that would be hard or expensive. The offer that I have for you today is both difficult and costly. It will involve a change of habit and a great deal of thought and effort. But..

 

for those who will do it, for those who are honest enough to understand that you cannot have quality results without quality effort, I have an offer that cannot be matched. For this resolve involves your eternal soul. We all know that we should be worshipping on Sunday mornings, but where? We may have tried as many churches as Baskin Robbins has flavors of ice cream, only to never find one to our particular taste. We all know that we should pray more, but have usually limited such activity to prayers like, "Lord, if you are out there and can here me, please help". Such a weak prayer is as useless as it is faithless.

 

We also know that we should read the Bible more often. But we have children who need taken care of, work to be done, and constant interruptions that take up most of our time. With what little time we do have left, we want to relax so we can recharge our batteries for the next round of chaos. And besides, no one can really understand the Bible, otherwise there wouldn't be so many people disagreeing on it's message. And as for going to church, that place is filled with hypocrites. The preacher is usually boring and always asking for money. Besides all that, the people are unfriendly...

 

I could go on and on (and usually do) but you get the point. When it comes to our immortal souls, we would all like to go to Heaven, but we would prefer to do so on the cheap. "Just a little house in the corner somewhere will be fine", we might say. That shouldn't require too much time. For now, there are ballgames and parades and Hallmark specials that we could be watching.

 

Can we see it? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and the promise of little effort. But the narrow road that leads to life is paved with hard, but satisfying work. So here is the offer I have for you: For your most important resolution this year, make a commitment to read the Word of God. And to pray. And to worship.

 

For the next thirty days we will be posting a schedule that will get you through the entire New Testament. It will take about thirty minutes a day. For the next thirty days, worship with the church every first day of the week. Which church? You can get a clear and accurate description of that church as you are reading the New Testament. Look for it first in the Scriptures, and then go find it. If you can't find it at first, keep looking.

 

And pray! For the next thirty days make an effort to restore your relationship with God. Pray that God will help you to find His will so that you can serve Him. "But serving is not for me", you might be thinking. Then neither is Heaven! So we must stop the fairy tale notions we may have about what Christianity and religion are, and find out the truth about these vital subjects from the only reliable source available.

 

All this will take time and effort. Why not take thirty days to give it a try? A wise person once said when you have everything to gain by doing something, but nothing to lose, by all means do it.

 

You have nothing to lose over the next thirty days by resolving to do these three simple things: Read the Bible as much as you can, pray as much as you can, and worship with the church every time the doors are open. "But I do have a lot to lose", you may be thinking. "I could lose a whole month!" But let's face reality. You were going to be a month older at the end of the next thirty days anyway. Why not be thirty days wiser as well? Why not be thirty days closer to Heaven, rather than just being thirty days older?

 

You see, you really have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Why not do it? The 30 Day Bible Challenge begins tomorrow!

A Fresh Start

The heavens declare the glory of God

Psalms 19:1, NKJV

 

It is a brand new day. As I look out my window, a brilliant red sky is lighting up the sky as if to herald the coming of this new day. On days like this it seems that nothing is impossible. We can change what needs to be changed and we can devote ourselves to the things of true importance. It's not the sunrise, though, that I want to tell you about today, but a day that occurred when I was a young man nearly 40 years ago.

 

It was on that day that my life changed. It was a pretty ordinary day for a young real estate appraiser. As I recall, it was a rather slow time of year and I was looking for something to do. We recently had a guest speaker at the church I attended, and he was a gifted speaker. It wasn't that he had flowery speech or a dramatic oratory style, he just preached the truth in love. At this particular meeting, he encouraged us to begin reading the Bible every day. He indicated that it would change our lives if we did, and I thought I would give it a try.

 

So on that day, in an empty office, I sat down on a couch and just opened the Bible at random. As it turned out it opened at the book of Zephaniah, and I began to read. I got caught up in the word and read the next short book as well, and then next one and then another. Before I knew it I was reading in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew. After a while, I put up the Bible and went back to work, but something changed within me that day. I realized that though I had been a Christian for nearly ten years, I was like so many others who had just adopted the faith of their parents. If I was honest with myself I would have had to admit that I really wasn't all that serious about God and Christ.

 

I made a commitment that day to become a daily Bible reader. Not so that I could boast to others that I had done so, for this was not what motivated me. If anything, I kept this new habit to myself, sharing it with no one at the time except my wife. Not long after making that new commitment, I can remember going to bed after a particularly long day, only to have my eyes snap open at the realization that I had not yet read my Bible. I turned on the light and read a verse or two, and then turned it off again and went to sleep. No big deal, perhaps, and I'm sure I didn't get much from my reading that day, but I had begun a new habit that I didn't want to break.

 

And those simple events in my early years changed my life!

 

The more I read the more I found the things that God wanted me to know that I didn't. My wife started the practice shortly thereafter, and she found the same. It took a while, but our lives began to change. We stopped going to movies that we knew really weren't all that wholesome, and we turned off our television or switched the channel when something came on that we would not be comfortable with God knowing that we were watching. I put away books with bad language and bad content. We continued to worship with the church, but now we had something worthwhile to add to the Bible classes, for we were slowly gaining a knowledge from the Word, rather than from our own thoughts. We both taught Bible classes, and I started to fill in preaching when it was needed.

 

Time marched on, like it always does, We had three children, moved 700 miles away and changed professions during that time. But the one thing we never changed was our habit of reading and studying the Word each day. I even became a preacher (much to the amazement of friends from my earlier days) and have done my best to simply encourage people to read the Bible and to do the things that God commands within His Word. 

 

I know this is not a dramatic, earth-shaking story, but it is my story and I want you to know that my life has changed. I had a fresh start that day, some forty years ago. And though I did not know (nor could I have known) how that simple opening of the Bible would change my life and the lives of my family and friends, it did change it in a remarkable way. I know that I am going to heaven if I will just do the simple and pleasant things that God has for me to do. I am not going to heaven because of my own goodness - I know that. But, because of God's grace and Christ's sacrifice for me on the cross, I have the opportunity to serve Them, and the deal They have offered is eternal life if I will just do my small part.

 

I have found that small part within the pages of the Bible, and you will too if you will just give it a chance. You may feel as if you are drowning right now with the pressures of life that go hand in hand with this hectic world. You may be "good enough" in your own eyes, but that is not enough, and you can see that it is not enough when you slow down and honestly assess where you are in life. If you are feeling overwhelmed on this day, welcome to the club! But don't wallow in self-pity: Do something about it!

 

A new day is dawning for those who will meet the challenges that God has in store for them. You can have a fresh start. You can have your own faith - the very faith that God wants you to have. The instructions for these incredible changes are contained within the pages of God's holy Word. Why not open them up and embrace the blessings of this wonderful life that you have been missing out on for the simple fact that you have never started really started your search.

 

In a few days, we will be starting the 30 Day Challenge to read through the New Testament. It is a simple thing, but it has the power to change the direction of your life and the lives of those you love. I hope you will join us! I pray that you will, for it will give you the fresh start that you need to live the abundant life that God has in store for all those who will serve Him according to His Word. 

 

It's a brand new day! Why not commit to start a brand new life?

It's Coming!

In the neighborhood that I grew up the phrase, "it's coming" was enough to start a stampede. Usually this proclamation was followed by something wonderful. Maybe it was an ice cream truck, maybe it was a package we had been expecting. On a larger scale for a kid, it might be our grandparent's car, or the arrival of Santa's Sleigh in the long procession of a Christmas parade.

 

Whatever it was, a shout of "it's coming" was more than worth an immediate investigation.

 

This "It's coming" is just a reminder that in 21 days the Thirty-Day Bible Challenge will begin. This "challenge" is a simple method to help encourage us to do something that we all know we need to do, namely, to read the Bible. The reason that the challenge starts with the New Testament is because this is the covenant we are under. The word that is translated "testament" is literally a covenant. A covenant is a formal agreement - like a contract - in which the terms are strictly laid out so that both parties can know what to expect.

 

In this covenant, God has made the offer of eternal salvation. The New Testament is the only source of this contract for all who live during the time following Jesus' death burial and resurrection. For those who will familiarize themselves with this covenant, agreeing to its terms and then fulfilling the details of those terms, there is Heaven. Again, it must be stressed, that there is no other place to find out about the covenant and its conditions than the New Testament.

 

All decent people want to be pleasing to God, and all have the right to be rewarded for that desire. Just as fulfilling the terms of a sales contract for a house gives a person the right to owning that home, on a much larger scale the fulfilling of the terms of God's New Testament gives us the "right" to be called children of God and to be at home with Him and Jesus forever. We know that we do not deserve this right. It's like buying a million dollar home for a hundred dollars, but once the contract is accepted, you do have the right to that house. In a similar way, we do not deserve Heaven! But God's grace and Christ's sacrifice give us the right to accept the terms of the covenant, and that is what this thirty-day challenge is all about.

 

It's coming! I would encourage you to commit yourself now, and to get as many of those you care for to do the same - certainly not because this is the only way (or even the best way for everyone) to read through the New Testament. But it is a good way, and it's nice to have company when you are doing something as worthwhile as beginning (or continuing) your journey to Heaven.

 

I hope that you will join us! Be sure to like and share this article to get the word out to as many as possible. 

If You Could End a Drought, Would You?

We have been in a drought! For the last dozen years, the Panhandle has seen some of the driest weather on record. To be sure, we have had some nice "wet" years scattered in during those times, but it has still been a lot of dry weather and more than a few failed crops. Were it in our power to end the drought, we would do it, but the good Lord has never seen fit to entrust men with the power over sunshine and rain. So, we instead trust God and beseech Him for the rains that we so earnestly desire. Still, if we could just order the rain from a catalogue, we would probably do it. 

 

"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD."

Amos 8:11, RSV

 

The interesting thing is that we can in fact do something about cycles of drought and famine in a much more important area - namely, our hearts. We look around this mean old world and we see things that shock our sensibilities. We see God being denied and fairy tales in the name of "science" being embraced. But, since God is the creator of true science, we realize that the voodoo science of the modern world has very little to do with scientific pursuit at all. Further, we see perversion being normalized and normalcy being trivialized and even condemned. We pay more and more money to those who say they will provide for our peace and safety, only to find ourselves with more turmoil and a complete lack of security.

 

In short, we are in the middle of drought and famine. Not the garden variety, for it is a famine of the soul. We have abandoned the Infallible teachings of God for the ever changing doctrines of men. As a result, we are dying of spiritual thirst - our souls are starving to death! But what can we do?

 

In 28 days, on the first day of the new year, we are going to start a program to end our droughts and famines. We will begin with the challenge to read through the New Testament in 30 days. It will be harder than you think, as it will require at least half an hour a day. That means a half an hour away from our busy schedules. A half-hour away from our television and video games and social media. In other words, it will require a sacrifice, but the Word of God has the power to absolutely change the direction of your life. Did you think something as monumental as the salvation of your immortal soul would be easy?

 

If you end the drought... would you? Why not begin praying in earnest, right now, for the plans that you will be making to do so? 28 days will pass more quickly than you think, so begin planning and praying right now, for your commitment to end your spiritual drought forever!

 

By the way, if you know others who might benefit from such a commitment, why not share and like this article. It will get the message out on a much broader scale, and I would appreciate your kindness in doing so.

 

 

Do You See a Need for Change? Do Something!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work

Thomas Edison

 

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children... a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

Hosea 4:6, 14(b), RSV

 

Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other stars.

From Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living"

 

In thirty-one days, on the first day of the upcoming new year, you are invited to join us in a challenge to change the world. Seems rather optimistic, doesn't it?

 

Let me back up a little and ask you to explore for a moment something you have likely already been thinking about, namely, that this world we live in seems to be falling apart at the seams. Why is that?

 

I think it has a lot in common with the people that God was addressing in the passage above through the prophet Hosea. It was towards the end of the Kingdom of Israel, and only a bit longer for the Kingdom of Judah. These two kingdoms, once united but then divided through their own wickedness, were on the verge of destruction because they had rejected God. They had wicked leaders who were doing wicked things. Since these evil men were their leaders, the common men and women thought they could do nothing about it. So they watched the decline of their once powerful nation, at first with distress, then with resignation fueled by the lie that there was nothing they could do, and finally with acceptance as they took part in the very sins of their leaders.

 

Does this sound vaguely familiar? A wise man once said that history may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. We live in a time when we watch with distress the reckless path our leaders are on and we often just resign ourselves that there is nothing we can do so we eventually become comfortable in just going along with the crowd. How's that working out for you?

 

Well, it's one thing to just complain, but there is something far more excellent to be doing with our time: We can change the world!

 

How do we do that? By first changing ourselves! The challenge I have for you is something that approximately 100,000 people have already taken part in. Over 400 churches have taken part as a body of Christians in the challenge, and from all reports, have had very favorable outcomes. What is this challenge? I'm glad you asked! It is to begin the healing of this world in which we live by first beginning to heal ourselves or, more accurately, to allow God to heal us.

 

In the passage above, God told us that His people were destroyed by a lack of knowledge. We have the solution built-in to this very statement, for the cure for ignorance has always been knowledge. In this case, the knowledge we are speaking of has only one source - God, Himself! The only access to that "Source" is the Bible. So, here is what I would like to encourage you to do during the next thirty-one days: Prepare yourself to cure your lack of knowledge. Do so by beginning to pray. Pray for forgiveness - this means we first have to repent. Pray for wisdom to know what to do. Pray for perseverance, because you are going to need it in this challenge. Pray for healing, first for your own hard heart, then for the hearts of those in your circle of influence, then for the nation in which you live.

 

The challenge I'm asking you to join me in, beginning on January 1st, is this: To read through the New Testament in thirty days. Once you have accomplished that, there will be additional challenges to then study the New Testament, and then to tackle the Old Testament. It is a big challenge, but it comes with an incredible opportunity: To ensure your salvation by finding out what God wants you to do and then do it! Then by helping as many other people as you can to do the same.

 

A word of caution: Most will not do this. They will fail to see the opportunity because it looks too much like work and make no mistake, it is work! Many will feel trapped in the prison that this sin has built for our world and view it as does the majority: A filthy, muddy mess that cannot be cleaned up.

 

But for the visionary few whose eyes are lifted up past this mess we are in, the stars will be clearly seen. We have an opportunity to serve The Lord God Almighty and His Holy Son for all eternity. Did we think it would be easy?

 

I hope that you will join us in this challenge. Start praying now and making preparations to do just that. Be determined to begin and to never give up, for a person that just keeps on trying regardless of the obstacles that may arise cannot be defeated. With the Lord's help, we are going to Heaven! Do you think something so magnificent can be done without your best effort? Of course, it will not be easy, but I ask you to join us on that difficult path. Together, with the Lord's help, we cannot fail!

 

Do you see the opportunity?

 

By the way, you can help us get this message out by liking and sharing these articles. Please do as a challenge so monumental as to change the world will take every one of us doing the most that we can!