INTRODUCTIONIn the late 1960s, I had an experience that changed my life. The family business I had recently joined encountered some major problems -- the sudden death of my father, who had founded the company, and shortly after that, a fire that did incredible damage to our manufacturing facility. Before these traumatic events, I thought I could handle even the toughest challenges without help -- including God's help. But this young, self-assured MIT engineering graduate was now not so confident. I didn't have answers to these crushing setbacks ... just lots of questions. That's when I became a committed follower of Jesus Christ. Later I discovered He had actually made me for companionship with Himself. I was simply "coming home" to One who deeply loved and cared for me.
That decision, when I yielded my life to Jesus, transformed me in ways I could not possibly have imagined. If I'm not mistaken, you have taken a similar step -- indicating a decision to follow Christ as a result of visiting one of several Internet websites that tell the message of God's love and present the way toward personal transformation.
You're not alone. In fact, in a remarkable and recent development, tens of thousands of people are becoming believers in much the same way. One site in particular, www.lifesgreatestquestion.com, tells my story. People have visited this site from all over the world, with over one in eight indicating a desire to follow Christ.
Now, it's my great desire to help you from lessons I've learned to take the next steps. So surprise! This little guide for the next 30 days is called Next Steps, and it's designed for your personal use. Unless you indicate otherwise, we'll be sending you one installment each day for the next month. Toward the conclusion you will be given links to other material should you desire further study.
I've observed this: While the Christian faith is being challenged from many directions, the search for reality and hunger for truth grow. You want to know the meaning of life. You want to understand who God is. You need hope. You're not content with "religion," but want to find a personal and fulfilling relationship -- an intimate bond with Jesus Christ Himself. So incredible is our Lord and the transformed life He offers that it is estimated there are more believers alive today than in all previous periods of human history combined! So welcome to a growing family!
NEXT STEPSWhy are these next steps so important? Think of it this way. A person who is newly born spiritually can be compared with a newborn baby. Both are at risk. Both need help. Both require protection, care and nurture. Just as the young baby needs natural food, the person born spiritually needs the right kind of spiritual food.
Jesus gave an illustration to help us understand the risks involved. He spoke about a farmer sowing seed -- an example that underscores the importance of the next 30 days. He said some seed is sown by the side of the road where it is consumed by birds before it ever takes root. Other seed falls where the soil is shallow. It has an initial burst of growth, but the roots never become well established. When the sun comes up, the seed is scorched and withers. Still other seed takes root, but soon thorns entangle and choke the life out of the new plant.
Fortunately the parable doesn't end there. Jesus described another kind of soil as "good ground." Seed sown into this soil took root, grew and eventually multiplied many times over. (See Matthew 13:1-23 for the full parable) Wouldn't you like your spiritual roots to go into that kind of soil?
The "seed" in the parable represents the "gospel" -- or literally the "good news" that Jesus died on our behalf in order that we might be restored in our relationship with God and receive eternal life. You should make it your goal to go beyond an initial experience of yielding to Christ, and press on toward sustained viability, productivity and dynamic change.
Studies indicate the critical importance of what happens in the days immediately following a new spiritual birth. If you get a good start, the benefits can sustain you the rest of your life. You want to understand what has happened and establish new ways of thinking and behaving in order to grow, become spiritually healthy and impact the lives of others.
THE CHALLENGEI firmly believe that if you will make a modest investment of time to study the key concepts in this 30-day guide, you will see your roots go deeply into the good ground Jesus spoke about. You may not find it easy. All kinds of distractions will compete for your time and attention. But stick with it! Let seeds of truth and life take hold. God wants this for you and will make it possible. The rewards are infinitely great, while the potential loss of missing the opportunity is beyond measure.
Your destiny is not to fail or see your vitality choked off by thorns, but rather to be a productive person who succeeds in every dimension of life. You were designed to be a joy-filled follower of Jesus Christ! This guide will help you become that person.Day 1: Personal Transformation