The Self Improvement Plan 
for Christians

Copyright 2007 
by Lin Stone 

The three biggest lies this side of heaven are:
One time won't hurt.
One more time won't hurt.
and
This is the Last Time!"

The most fundamental truth I know is:
God is love.
Bones can melt with love from just standing in his spiritual presence.

The most important thing we can give our family is love.
Kindness, charity, love, a smile
can take those you love
through the longest mile.

In spite of all the pain, misery and hatred in this world
Jesus had peace.
So can you.

Be ye therefore peaceful,
Knowing peace, shew forth smiles
that are loving, generous and kind.

Because Jesus was so gentle with the sinner many don't realize how serious he was when he said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." 

Christ knows we aren't perfect yet but He also knows that we can be if we keep trying. He challenges us to change, to improve, to get better, to do better, and to be more than we have ever been. He is always there, waiting to help us any time we will let him.

As Christians we are quite different from the rest of the world. In many cases we are the world's exact opposite. The rest of the world desires changes to please themselves and/or to make more money -- have more power. 

A Christian's desire for change originates from wanting to please God. 

To be a Christian requires conscious effort. To become a Christian WE must consciously and voluntarily adopt HIM as our Savior, The Example we want our lives to follow.

Someone asks, what do YOU mean by a Christian?  A Christian is someone who can say by the power of the Holy Ghost, "I know Jesus is the Son of God. I love Him so much I want to be like Him."

*

Because of our eternal perspective, the goals we choose to achieve are also quite different from the goals of non-Christians.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son." 

Therefore, if we accept God then we must also adopt his love for the world.  This includes accepting the powers that be.  Romans 13:1 reads: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Consequently, we will be looking for ways to contribute and show our love for the world by establishing peace and promoting righteousness.  Our desires will expand to include asking Him for goodwill for our neighbors while the goals we seek are usually centered on improving the attributes of our own behavior. We will work diligently to remove the beams from our own eye -- I say "beams" because there are many, many layers of beams -- before searching for the mote in the eye of our brother.

Therefore, what I want  to do in this treatise is remind us of some of the more powerful tools we have available to us as Christians to make these important changes more effectively in our lives. 

*

The very first step in becoming more like Christ is to learn more of what Christ is like.

The Scriptures testify of Christ.  Therefore we should be studying the Scriptures.  It used to be in my weatherbeaten days that I thought reading a few verses per week was good enough.  As more time came my way I insisted on reading one whole chapter daily, and thinking that was a lot.  Then I became a missionary and was introduced to the concept that TWO HOURS OF STUDY PER DAY was the MINIMUM. 

You might think that two hours of study per day is totally out of the question, even as I did at first!  But I ask you to bring a set of balancing scales out.  Put your "light" reading time on one side of the scale along with your "television entertainment" time and then start adding scripture studying time to the other side of the scale until your conscience is comfortably balanced.  Where your desires are there will be your heart also.  

Is Heavenly Father
proud of you?

In Matthew 3:17 we read: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Heavenly Father was very proud of Jesus, wasn't he?
Yes. Yes we have to admit He was proud of His Son Jesus.

So, let's ask this question of ourselves: if Heavenly Father was going to introduce you to a multitude of believers today, could He say He was proud of you?  What good things would he be able to say about you? What good points would he be able to bring up? What sour points do you know he would have to gloss over?

Have your efforts to bring forth the Kingdom of God been bright enough that Heavenly Father will have a personal knowledge of your good qualities? Or have your efforts been so few and so far between that He will have to consult his notes to remember them? Have you done so little in His behalf that Heavenly Father will have to rely on notes taken by those angels assigned to record your every act and every thought?

You may have noticed that people who are to give talks before large audiences will usually send their biographies on ahead of them so that they are more likely to be introduced in glowing terms. Basing your biography entirely on truth what would you be able to write in it so that you will glow with righteous pride when you are introduced to audiences across the world?

No, let's make this question even more specific, what would YOU want Heavenly Father to be able to say about you to introduce you to the multitude of people who love Him? Would you want Him to say that you have studied the Scriptures diligently, and pondered on them night and day? Or do you love Him so little that you would be content to have Him say that you were one of the fans that cheered the Hogs home?

Take the time to study on this introduction that you want to be true.  If it isn't already true, what must you do now to make it come true?  How can you make those changes happen?  Are you willing to make the effort?

If there are changes to be made in your life so your introduction is more to you liking, this is the time to make them. I would ask you this day to resolve to be a better Saint, a better servant, a better tool in the hand of the Lord, to put His Kingdom first in your life, to do your part in establishing Zion in the world around you.

*

As Christians all of us want to be happier and more effective servants of Christ. Unfortunately, we seem to be overpowered occasionally by the Natural Man that invites trouble by listening to the plans and teachings of men. Then we are tempted to say: "I'll just use this little shortcut and cut a few miles off my trip to success.."

In Romans 14 there is a key to the vault of great good health for your body and soul.  Paul's admonition is for us to eat and drink those things we trust to make us healthy.  It therefore makes good sense to eat with praise, and drink with gratitude. 

What do I mean?  Eat and drink to make thine flesh whole and every organ in thine body to vibrate with good health.  If you KNOW that water is good for you, praise the Lord for that knowledge before the water touches your lips, and drink it with the purpose of improving your health and well-being.  Aloud or in your mind, come right out and say: I am (eating or drinking) this (food or substance) to improve my health. 

Bless not only those things that you eat or drink for health, but also bless your body and mind that they be prepared to receive the nutrients and fiber these foods and drink contain.  Bless my body where it needs strength most, where this nourishment will do my body the most good.  That which you consecrate unto the Lord shall be for thine good.

Before you eat or drink anything, pause, and ask the Lord if this be good for you, and ask if it be good for you to partake of it at this time.

As we take care for the body, so take care of the mind and spirit.  Indeed, take even more care what goes into the mind and what shapes the spirit.  That which you feed the mind and that which you give the spirit shall have power to guide and direct all the rest of your life.

Before you go in to buy any books, tapes, or motivation courses of this nature, remember that as a Christian you are settling for something far less than best.  What is now known as The Sermon on the Mount was not a pep talk. It was a call to action. You won't find a chant of any kind in it. 

Do we believe the power of Christ is stronger than a chant? Or must you imagine in your mind a picture of Jesus rising in the morning determined to get his day off to a good start and having to chant: "I think I can. I think I can, WOAEIE! I think I can. I think I can, WOAEIE!" before he can achieve it?

Where is the most power, in Christ who is perfect, or in a chant that some mind of man made up?  is there any man, or any group of men wiser than our God?  Or, if there truly was a short cut don't you think an all wise God would have revealed it to us through His Son? God can move mountains; why are you listening to anyone else who can only move an occasional grain of sand, and do that only with difficulty?

*

The Other Source claims to have found a short cut to success. "You don't have to be a good guy, all you need is a good attitude."

Because the rest of the world accepts something besides Christ as their savior, it is only natural that they will put their faith in man made plans or philosophies to change their lives and circumstances. Some of those people go so far as trying to influence a part of their subconscious minds, or some mystical part of the "collective consciousness."  They are relying on the arm of flesh to make their changes for them.  

In the secular world Tony Robbins gives about the best advice for making changes in our behavior that I am aware of. He points out two very strong motivators for change that we can use in our personal lives. 

The first one is pleasure 
and the other one is pain.

It is his theory that if we threaten ourselves with enough pain for failing to make the change we intended to Tony says we will succeed. If we promise ourselves a reward big enough to make the change we intended to then Tony says we will succeed. If we do both, threaten ourselves and promise a reward to ourselves then our chances of success are tripled.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Tony's plans (or any of his competitors for that matter) for self-improvement.  He is an engaging author and his books are very uplifting. Check out your local library for samples or stop in at any major book store. 

It is when Tony's kind of teachings get imported into the gospel by ministers of little faith in Christ that Christians in the congregation should become edgy. These teachings usually arrive in church packaged and gift wrapped under the guise of "Inspirational Talks"  Instead of letting God speak for himself they fill our minds with little pep talks derived from the secular world.

Here's a little pep talk you won't see very often. Back in the thirties there was a team in eastern Oklahoma that hadn't won a football game in six years. The boys were big enough and everyone put their losing streak down to a bad attitude that kept them from listening to their coaches or parents.

One Friday night an oil tycoon got fed up with the losing streak and he pulled the whole team to one side and invited the coaches over. "You guys win the game next week and I'll buy each and everyone of you a brand new Chevrolet, and that includes the coaches and the waterboy."

Well, he had the money and they believed he would deliver the cars so that team went to work with vigor and determination. "We've got motivation now!" they cried as they pounded each other on the back.

They listened hard, they practiced harder and they screamed more vicious insults at the other team than ever before in history. The scent of victory swept from group to group and soon it was the talk of the whole state. That next Friday night the press was there and the whole town was out to cheer their team on to victory. The cheerleaders danced sky high and the crowd roared with enthusiasm when their team trotted out onto the field looking fierce and grim.
Oh, it was a wonderful game. Touchdown followed touchdown and the announcers captured it all. When the game ended the score was 38 to nothing, but all those points had been won by the other team. The team that had all that motivation had not scored a single point.

Why was that? After all that chanting, grunting, and groaning why couldn't they win? They had all that reward motivation staring them in the face, just begging them to yank it away and zoom off down the highway. 

Well, the fact is: motivation can never take the place of practice. One week of frantic practice will never make up for the years you did not practice, especially if the rest of the world that was already working better and harder than you ever were and keeps right on working.

I'm sure everybody needs a little pep talk once in a while; my point is, the ones that keep showing up in church seldom have nothing to do with gospel principles and therefore should not be delivered in church.  

Take this 80 yard story I heard in a recent meeting.. This young man is out in front in the 80 yard dash when he pulls a hamstring and collapses on the side of the arena.

Everyone else dashes across the finish line and the young man rises painfully to his feet and struggles and gasps his way towards the finish line. His father comes down from the stands and adds his support so that the finish line is at last crossed amidst the cheering of 60,000 frenetic people.

Sure it is a wonderful story, inspiring as all get out. But, first ask yourself this question before you bring it to church with you. Jesus, all knowing and all wise, author of the gospel, must have known thousands of stories like this, why doesn't he have even one in the Bible? 

With His oratory skills a good old inspirational story like the 80 yard dash would have had more than 60,000 people cheering him on -- instead of pushing him to Calvary.

If it was room he lacked he could surely have deleted that story from the Bible where he praised the widow for casting her last mite into the temple treasury, or he could have deleted the story of a father loving the Prodigal Son who returns. The world would rather cheer the 80 yard dasher, do you?

Secondly, ask yourself: if Jesus had made room in the Bible to tell a story like this, would he have changed anything in it? 

The widow -- and the loving father of the prodigal son -- were pleasing God -- our daring young man with the crippled ham was pleasing the crowd. Don't you think there is a vast difference in the focus there?

Again I want to emphasize there is nothing inherently wrong with a good old inspirational story. Just remember that a thousand of them will never do as much good in this world as choosing to live one of the least gospel principles.

The Sermon on the Mount was not a pep talk.
It was a call to action.
Christ wants us to BE a Christian,
not just SAY we believe in Him.

*

Too many people confuse purpose and, or resolutions with goals, so I want to clear that distinction up first.
Resolutions are spiritual in nature.
Goals are mechanical.
Resolutions establish identity or purpose.
Goals establish method and rote.
Resolutions are decisions about your character, purpose, integrity; the things people will probably see clearly only after knowing you a while.

But goals are pretty things you can hold up for friends and neighbors to admire before anything changes.
Goals are lists of the baubles, wants and desires in your life.

***

"I am going to absorb the Scriptures and become more like Christ." is a resolution.
"I am going to read three chapters a day." is a goal.

"I am going to be a better father," is a resolution.
"I am going to take the kids out for a night of fun every week," is a goal.

"I am going to be a wealthy man," is a resolution.
"I am going to double my income in 90 days ," is a goal.

There is nothing wrong with setting goals
as long as you don't let them interfere with your resolutions.

The first thing to realize is that as Christians we are quite different from the rest of the world.  In many cases we are the world's exact opposite.  The rest of the world desires changes to please themselves -- A Christian's desire for change originates from wanting to please God. 

Please call 888 537 3377 toll free and ask for the
FREE VIDEO, Lamb of God and Mr. Krueger's Christmas. 
Mr. Krueger's Christmas stars Jimmy Stewart and is really nice. 
The Lamb of God is quite powerful.

Oh, and tell your friends how to get them too.

There is an eternal significance to the gospel.  That is why Paul walked so many miles, sailed so many seas, and preached so many sermons. 
That is the reason so many early Christians were willing to give up their lives rather than give up their religion. 
If we are truly their spiritual descendants, why should we water our religion down now with man made philosophies, goals or plans?

It is through the Holy Ghost that the Body of Christ is led... "Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen" as we read in Acts 1:2  

Is this promise of guidance and direction reserved just for the apostles?  God forbid.  In Acts 2:17-19 we read:  "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy  
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath."

Acts 4:31 continues.. "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

By the power of the Holy Ghost all of us may be comforted.  The gift of the Holy Ghost is the first gift we should seek with all earnestness of heart, and this gift is promised to all:  "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."  Acts 9:31  

We first learn what Christ is like by studying and pondering the Scriptures.  Studying and pondering the Scriptures engage us longer than the span of a commercial on television.  Is ten minutes of reading too little?  Is an hour too long?  Remember that reading is only your springboard.  It is only when your mind lifts off the page and ponders the things of God that you are successful.  When your spirit has savored that point to the fullest then let your eyes fall once more to the page and move on.

If your eyes raise from the page to ponder how wonderful God is then you are probably on the right course.  If your eyes raise from the page to ponder changes that should be made in your life then you are probably still on the right course.  If your eyes raise from the page to ponder changes you feel other people should make in their lives then you are probably on the wrong course, or at least on slippery ground.

In John 5:39 Jesus says, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."  Therefore, as we study and ponder the Scriptures we should be listening for the testimony of the Holy Ghost telling us again that Jesus is the Christ and the Scriptures are true.  

As we study the Scriptures we should be asking the Holy Ghost to reveal an answer to the question: "How can I be more like Christ?  How can I apply this teaching in my life, at work, at home, in the community?"

After receiving witness from the Holy Ghost we can learn to rely on the Word of God to guide us in making changes in our lives.

There are many ways of keeping your resolutions. One mother I knew asked her son: "Have you made any new resolutions this year?" 

"As a matter of fact, I have," answered Ricky. "But, I am keeping them a secret."

"If you keep your resolutions a secret," said his mother. "how will I know if you are keeping them?"

"Oh, you'll know," Ricky answered. "I have made five resolutions and you are supposed to guess what they are -- by watching what I do."

Now, that is a marvelous idea, isn't it? After all, a resolution is only as good as the actions it brings about. 
Ricky's plan has all the elements needed for success:

  1. He made some important resolutions he had every intention of keeping. 
  2. He knows his mother will be watching his behavior for changes so she can guess what those resolutions are. 

When Christ came to earth he was perfect. 
Unlike us, he was strong enough spiritually to resist all temptation
and remain perfect.  Not even Satan himself was strong enough
to contaminate him.  Most of the changes we are led to make will
be to remove contaminations and impurities from our lives so that
we can become more like Christ.

  The Power of Prayer  *

There is an old joke that goes like this: Once upon a time there was a man on a cruise ship that went down in a storm.  He was the only survivor and he floated for days in a row boat, all alone.  No planes came, no ships hove into view and worst of all, no rain fell.  At last he kneeled down in the boat and began to pray.  "God," he said.  "I ain't ever bothered you before and if you'll just get me out of this I'll never bother you again." 

Now I agree that is a wonderful joke, but it is not teaching true gospel principles.  In Luke 21:36 Jesus says: "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."

So how are we going to escape all these things?  By praying always.

There is one part of prayer that most of us forget.  For most of us prayer goes like this -- Step 1) Father I want some bread.  On the next day we come to Step 2) Father, I want some potatoes to go with the bread you sent yesterday.

It isn't just the "thanks" that is missing.  I am convinced that we should be reporting back to Heavenly Father every day on how well or how poorly we are doing in following His inspirations and keeping his commandments:

"Father, the bank approved my loan today and I thank Thee for helping me with the confidence and poise I needed to get that loan approved.  Janet and I spent three hours counseling together over our plans for adding onto the house.  I felt Thine Spirit there strongly, Father and I know Janet did too.  The children rejoiced with us this evening and Janet and I both bore witness to them that it was through Thine help that the loan was approved.  They became quite solemn, and proud.  Help me to recognize the best lumber when I see it tomorrow, and show me where to buy the particle board I need."

Now remember that any public prayers you are asked to give should be short and serve the purpose intended while your personal prayers -- done in secret -- can last all the day long if need be.

And this is life eternal,
that they might know thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

  Pray for the Impossible! 

Several months ago my mother came to live with us. She is very weak and needs lots of care.  Most days she can't even get out of bed at all. One of the things I have to do for her was just more than my olfactory senses could endure. I just flat out could not do it. I tried chemicals and that didn't work. Then I thought about trying a long stick, and discovered there aren't any sticks long enough. 

Finally I realized there was nothing I could do to make it any easier to do and I kneeled down to ask the Lord to change ME so that I could do the work without revulsion.  The next day even I was amazed at how easy that task had become. Nor has it become any harder on me since then.

My mother should have died many years ago but every time the doctors said she would not live to see night fall we would yank her out of the hospitals and bring her home.  But after my father died even I honestly did not believe she would live through the 200 mile long trip to my home.  Her weight was already down to about 65 pounds.  She quit eating.  The only liquid she would drink at all was good old Dr. Pepper.  

Sleep, sleep and more sleep was all she ever wanted to do.  

Her weight plunged to 55 pounds in spite of everything we could do.  Every morning I would creep into her room, wondering if this was the day I would find her dead.  I struggled hard against what that constant thought was costing me.  The slow, lingering death of my mother was dragging me down physically, mentally and spiritually.  

I had to deal with that, 
learn to accept it, absorb it, 
and learn to live with it.

Then one morning I came into my office and after I had completed my work prayers it suddenly came to me that I was praying for her to have enough strength to endure for one more day.  "But Heavenly Father is stronger than the evidence of my eyes.  He is stronger than the knowledge and the skill of all the physicians here who say she is dying."

I didn't know if God would heal her, but I knew with absolute certainty that He COULD heal her.  No matter how impossible it looked to me, no matter how certain the good doctors were, I KNEW that God could not only extend her life a few days or weeks, but that He could extend it by years and make them GOOD years which the both of us could enjoy.

At that point I realized that I was cheating God, myself, and my mother, by not praying for what I wanted, instead of feebly praying for her to have the strength to accept what my eyes saw and believed.  It was my desire to ask Heavenly Father for the impossible, not in desperation, but in full faith that He was a God of miracles fully capable of delivering the impossible.  Even though I didn't know that He would, I knew that he could.

With that firm faith I kneeled once more in prayer and poured out my soul to Heavenly Father, telling him in my own voice how much I wanted to share the good times He had given me with my mother.  "Let her get well enough to go riding with me, talk with me, get lost on strange trails with me."

About noon of that very day my mother awoke and the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm hungry!"  

Since then she has been eating more each day, her mind is returning ever more sharply -- and best of all  when  mornings come I now go into her room so I can hug her, not to see if she is dead.  Better than that, far better than that -- if I ever do go in there and she is dead, that is okay.  I can live with it now.  Heavenly Father has answered my prayers for the impossible with blessings I didn't even suspect were available. 

No matter how impossible our goals and desires might seem, God is able to deliver on his promise to help.  He may in His infinite wisdom decide not to deliver, but I know that He can.  

  Ask For His Help 

When I was investigating the Church someone laughed at me for taking the lessons. "You can't join that Church. You can't quit drinking."

Well yes, I was drinking myself to sleep almost every night and stopping cold turkey might have created a problem except that I knew I was going to be a new man after baptism, and I realized the Lord would remove that temptation if I needed his help to make that change. So I kneeled down in prayer and asked for help, full of faith. 

Then the next day I went down to have one last beer before I quit forever.   Since it was going to be my last drink I asked Frankie to serve my favorite beer, a long cold one with frost clinging to the bottle. I was going to drink it slow and savor each sip so I gently tilted the bottle up to let that cold, amber liquid dribble into my mouth like raw honey tumbling out of the jar, and it was the awfulest tasting stuff I have ever had in my mouth. I spit everything back into the bottle and said: "I guess I have already quit." 

And I have never wanted a drink since then.

Now, that total amputation of desire works fine when we are joining Christ's Church and about to take on a whole new identity, but can the Lord answer our prayers that quick and easy after we join the Church? Yes. He can. He won't do it every time, not even most of the time, in fact hardly any of the time because we came to this earth so we could learn to do these things for ourselves.

Does that mean that after we accept him the Lord will leave us in the lurch?  No, but it does mean he will not keep handing out cures to us on a silver platter when we take no thought except to ask.  He wants us to be a partner in the process of actively striving for more perfection. 

The Lord expects us to develop our powers to recognize sin and eliminate it from our hearts.  He expects us to pray more fervently for help.  He expects us to exercise all the powers of our faculties to do the best we can while asking him for help. 

We are expected to take care of the car we have as if it were the car we want.  We are asked to take care of our homes as if they were the mansion we will have in heaven.  In this way we can show the Lord herewith that we will respect what he wants to give us and that we will indeed take care of it with the reverence that he hopes will become natural for us.

We owe it to God, and to ourselves, to
ask Him for the impossible. 
Give Him the chance to say Yes or No;
don't ever deny Him the choice
by deciding what YOU believe to be possible.

  Are You A Sissy? 

One of the barriers keeping us from becoming better Christians is the worldly opinion that following Christ is being a sissy, uncool, and generally WEAK.  Do not believe that for one second.  I concede that Christians are often numbered among the "uncool" of the world, but it is THEY who are the sissies, THEY who are weak; THEY gave in to temptation, not us.  

C.S. Lewis expressed this truth this way:
A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  (Inspirational writings of C. S. Lewis, p 337)

Let us be proud of ourselves when we are strong enough to live gospel principles, not ashamed of the strength we have.

  Man's Search for Strength 

Because they don't accept Christ as their savior, the rest of the world will put their faith in man made plans or philosophies to change their lives and circumstances.  Some of those people go so far as trying to influence a part of their subconscious minds, or some mystical part of the "collective consciousness."

They are relying on the arm of flesh.  
Christians will want to learn how they can best put their faith in the mercies of God.

When the changes in our behavior are good enough
for others to notice then we can feel proud of our efforts
and move on to the next challenge.

Surely the 80 yard dash is a wonderful story, inspiring as all get out.  But, first ask yourself this question before you bring it to Church with you. Jesus, all knowing and all wise, author of the gospel, must have known thousands of stories like this, why doesn't he have even one in the Bible?  
With His oratory skills a good old inspirational story like the 80 yard dash would have had more than 60,000 people cheering him on instead of leading him to Calvary. 

If it was room he lacked he could surely have deleted that story from the Bible where he praised the widow for casting her last mite into the temple treasury, or he could have threw out the story of a father loving the Prodigal Son who returns.  Don't you think the 80 yard dash is more appealing than these?

Secondly, ask yourself: if Jesus had made room in the Bible to tell a story like this, would he have changed anything in it to make it support gospel teachings? 

 That's the key there, 
isn't it?

The widow -- and the loving father of the prodigal son -- were pleasing God -- our daring young man with the crippled ham was pleasing the crowd.  There is a vast difference in the focus there.

Again I want to emphasize there is nothing inherently wrong with a good old inspirational story.  Just remember that a thousand of them will never do as much good in this world as choosing to live one of the least gospel principles.

The most effective way of all to keep our resolutions is through sincere prayer because if our desires are good for us and good for the gospel then our Heavenly Father wants us to have it. 

Whether our goal is losing weight or earning more money we can always count on having the Lord on our side when our desires are in congruence with his will.

But we must really pray and not just say our prayers. Do you know what I mean?  Like when you meet a tiger face to face in the jungle and you pray sincerely for help, "LORD?" 

Ah yes, it is so much easier to be sincere in our prayers when we are desperate.  It is up to us to learn how to pour out the real in-depth feelings of our hearts to our Heavenly Father, rather than just going through the motions of saying exactly the same words and phrases we are always using.

As a stake president Spencer W. Kimball was called to the home of a member and her inactive husband to pray for a sick child. It turned out the child was very ill. When President Kimball asked the father to assist in giving a blessing he replied that he was no longer worthy of his priesthood. 
"You have three minutes to make yourself worthy," President Kimball warned him. "Otherwise your son is going to die."

What an incentive to become worthy. 
Through sincere prayer and anguished repentance
the father became worthy in less than three minutes.
Can't we do it in thirty?

Our righteous prayers too can be very sincere and bring forth great results.
Let us therefore take our heroes from amongst the modern day missionaries like Paul who wanted to help the Lord save the whole world, not like some young men of today who won't even take a few minutes to haul out the garbage at home but who can play ball in front of the bar room crowd for hours at a time.

To become more like Christ we will want to remove swear words from our vocabulary.  We will want to remove the need to swear.  Any bad habit we have we will want to first curb, and then remove the need for it.
Why did we pick up the habit of (swearing, for example)?  Was it to express bitterness or to relieve frustration?  Was it to impress our peers, or to build a wall to keep our peers out?  Eliminating the reason for the bad habit will lead us to becoming more like Christ.

Keep the Commandments.  
Keep the Commandments
Words of a Prophet.  
KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS.

Yes, the power of deliverance for our sincere prayers will be staunchly reinforced by keeping the commandments.  I know that as members of the Lord's Church that many of us have made resolutions to keep the commandments high at the top of our lists. What I'm saying is that the more faithful we are in keeping the commandments the more successful we will be in keeping all of our righteous resolutions.

As we put God first in our lives blessings will flow back to us automatically.  For example: When we pray for understanding before we read and ponder Heavenly Father's words to man in our scriptures we will feel our souls expanding and gathering strength from the heavens. 

When we pay our tithing we will find it is easier to balance our checkbooks and easier to pay our bills.

When we keep the Word of Wisdom and keep our bodies clean, it is easier to be healthier and doesn't that always lead to being much happier?

When we love our neighbors as we love ourselves doesn't it becomes much easier to get along in society and in school?

I know that as we successfully apply more and more of the gospel to our lives we will be blessed more and more in every area of our lives.

Pay Your Tithing
To Receive Financial Blessings

That old saying, Put your money where your mouth is, pretty much says it all.  God has asked for the money; if we believe in God we will pay him his due.  
Mal. 3: 8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

How much is a tithe?
A tithe is one tenth of your increase. 
Leviticus 27:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

33 He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

Does the Lord honor his promises?  I knew one prosperous Lutheran farmer who loved the Lord so much he paid NINE tenths of his increase to the Lord, not just one.  I was helping him wind up his affairs near the close of his life and watched as he gave a check to his pastor for millions of dollars, and that was only the cash portion of his donation.  His farm was over two thousand acres and every acre under cultivation.  He also had the equipment to run it.  "My tractors never wore out and the rain never failed."  All this was given to the Lord for distribution as he saw fit. 

Where to 
Pay Your Tithing

Here is how  the Lord says to pay him.
Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God -- and he was blessed.  

To whom should your tithing go? 
To your minister, to your church. 

I hear a lot of grumbling from people like, "S/he's already too rich!" 

Gee, it wouldn't do to have a wealthy minister, would it?  Melchizedek was not only the priest of the most high God, he was Prince of Salem and princes are notoriously wealthy, aren't they?  Did Abraham grumble because Melchizedek was already rich?  He did not.  He paid his tithing anyway and Abraham died in peace and quite wealthy.

"Well okay, maybe if my minister would just let me tell him where to put my money to use I would pay my tithing."

Does the IRS let you decide something that important? 
Not hardly. 

Not far from where I live there was once a thriving Baptist Church that launched a Church School that taught children from kindergarten through the sixth grade.  Beaming volunteers taught gospel principles with love.  Any day you passed there you would see happy, excited children playing and being taught. 

Then there rose a grumbling from some of the members about THEIR money being used to fund the school.  Now the lot stands empty during the week and the radiant smiles are gone as people pass the building by. 

This is not right.  
If we are really giving our tithing to God then it is HIS to spend.  When we insist it is our right to tell God where to spend our money we are trying to make him OUR employee -- a servant we expect to do our bidding with our money.

Which would you rather have, a full partner that does more than his share and only asks for 10% of the increase, or a hireling that only does what you are smart enough to ask him to?

If you believe your minister holds authority to preach the pleasing word of God then pay your tithe to him.  If you aren't willing to pay tithing to your minister then obviously you don't really believe your minister is preaching the pleasing word of God. 

Go into your closet.  Ask God to help you find the minister you should be paying your tithing to, and go there to pay your tithing, no matter how far you have to drive.

"-- and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

Does this mean that every time you put in $10 you will get a hundred back, like some celestial slot machine paying you off with a glory hole? 
As Paul was fond of saying, "God Forbid!"

In fact, it is the other way around.. If you expect God to be your partner then you must expect to be his partner too.  If you are just paying tithing to get more money back then you care more about money than you do building up the Kingdom of God.  The widow at the treasury who gave only two mites was "giving more than they all" because she loved God enough to give all her living.

Since she was paying into the treasure because she loved God she was being rewarded with the Love of God.  Your tithing will be rewarded in direct ratio to how much you love God and want to do HIS will.  Paying our tithes is the most direct way of acknowledging our love for God.

  Repentance 

The next step towards keeping our resolutions is to repent at least daily of our failures and forgive ourselves for them. And third is to express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father, and to those around us for the help they are to us in seeking to live more righteously. 

Luke 15: 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

When people of the world know your secrets they never forget them or forgive you.  "He never could leave the liquor alone," they will say seventy years after the last time you drank.  They want to condemn you forever to a life without change.  If you ever did something bad you will still be tagged with that by those who knew you then until the day you die.  Christ, on the other hand, expects you to repent, sincerely repent, His promise is that he will FORGET your sins.  He will wipe the slate clean and give you a fresh start.  With that fresh start he challenges you to change, to improve, to get better, to do better, and to be more than you have ever been. 

When we repent we are making God and all the angels in heaven happier.
What a wonderful feeling that is, to know we have made God happy.
When we help others to turn their lives to Christ we are in for a double blessing of happiness.

We had a son who rejected the gospel at an early stage.  After he was an adult with a family of his own, anytime someone approached him with gospel centered thoughts he would angrily ring us up to ask 
if we had sent them.

Our prayers continued over the years, and suddenly he accepted the gospel.  Days rolled into weeks as he eagerly sought to make up for lost time in studying the word of the Lord.  Again and again our phone rang, late at night, early in the morning.  "Why, why did you let me go so long?"

As he continues to embrace the gospel tenets and feels the love of God pouring over him and his family we too are blessed.  Love for God floods our souls, gratitude for his return expands our hearts so full we think to cry for we cannot contain it all.

Worship,
Together

Another way to fortify your desire to keep worthy resolutions is to participate with other believers in just as many meetings of worship as you can reach. The key word there is PARTICIPATE. 

Every meeting you should go to should have the primary purpose of worshipping God.  Don't go there to be entertained.  Go there to feel the full joy of participating in that worship.  When we join in to sing, to pray, to learn of God's will for us, and to acknowledge his goodness to us we help our hearts and souls become an open conduit for the witness of the Holy Ghost. When we choose to put ourselves in places where the spirit is strong around us it will always grow stronger within us.

When we are under the influence of those people with the same exalted goals we have we are inspired to make higher resolves. We will firmly determine to avoid past mistakes and to do better. So it is essential that we come again, and frequently, under those influences in our lives which kindles anew the warmth of spirit in which good resolutions are begotten, that we thus may go out fortified to withstand all the pressures of temptation which might lead us into being less than we are. 

Therefore let us refresh ourselves frequently under more ennobling influences so that the spirit of repentance will be at work more continuously in our hearts and mind, and we will thus find it far easier to soar above the temptations in our lives ? and advance thus far toward our final goal.

Put yourself often among the spiritual giants around you especially in the most trying times and you will grow stronger and more capable because of your associations. Read the words of the prophets. Pray for the Grace of God to enhance your every thought and action.  Read your Sunday School lessons and your priesthood or Relief Society messages. Go to every meeting you can possibly reach, perform every calling you are asked to take. Go to the temple as often as possible to put yourself in the presence of the Lord, and among those who are spiritually advanced. Be a stalwart in all the ways you serve the Lord. 

Forgive others their trespasses
if you would be forgiven too

All too many people want to be forgiven WITHOUT forgiving those who have trespassed against us.  They won't forgive anyone until they have seen them PAY for the mistake.  That won't work.  If we want to be forgiven unconditionally we must forgive those around us unconditionally.  Forgiving others is an essential step in living a Christ-Centered Life. 

Some of us make the mistake of associating FORGIVING with BACKING DOWN. 

When I think of forgiving I remember the old woman who caught us stealing her apples.  "Boys, bring those apples in your pockets to me and I'll bake an apple pie for you."

We were suspicious, but we brought them to her. 

She smiled and bade us bring them into the kitchen with us.  There she bade us peel them, and slice them up into a bowl.  She was smiling all the time.  We actually began to enjoy ourselves.  Granny rolled out the crust and had us roll in the apples.  

Then the apple pie was put into the oven and we joined her in the living room to wait while the pie cooked.  Granny pulled a Bible out and began reading the good word of God to us.  She must have known every Scripture in the Bible that resounds with the message THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.  

It was very uncomfortable hearing those words, but how could we leave with OUR apple pie bubbling to a brown delight in her oven?

When we left there we were filled with good old American Apple Pie, and with the pleasing word of God.  We knew we were forgiven, and we knew we were loved.  After that we picked her apples for free, and gave every one of them to her.  If we got an apple pie occasionally, that was a bonus, but we did not pick her apples in exchange for an apple pie.  We picked them because we loved her.

  Honor 
  The Sabbath Day 

When you really want to make top speed in keeping the resolutions you make, then "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy".

I realize that the temptations to break the Sabbath are greater now than they used to be. Television is a special challenge. Some of the best games are televised on Sunday, and the temptation to watch them is great. Yet we simply cannot afford to be like those who justify spending their hours on Sunday plastered in front of the tube watching those sports, shows, plays and games that are anything -- anything but spiritually uplifting.

But I have been assured by mechanical engineers that if you have a VCR you can use it to record the Sunday program you don't want to miss; then in a fraction of the time on another day at your own convenience, you can watch that program or special event, fast-forward through the commercials and time-outs, and not miss a thing.

Why is it that so many of us completely fail to keep our resolutions to do better at following Christ? Well, many people fail almost consistently because they don't know that THEY can succeed. There is no history of success in their hearts or in their minds. Consequently they quit before they start and they expect to fail if they ever do start.

Those people on the very bottom rung of the art of making successful changes in their lives are usually trying to make changes that are too big for them to accomplish. They need to shorten their marks and make only the easiest of New Year's resolutions they can actually keep. Instead of vowing to read the whole Book of Mormon over the weekend what they need to do is resolve to read just one verse of Scripture today. ANYONE here can succeed at reading one verse of Scripture today.

And tomorrow they can vow to read one more verse.

When they wake up Tuesday morning they will have two days of success to look back on. "I have read the Scriptures for two days in a row. I now know that I can read another verse today."

Yes, and then one more on Wednesday too. 

The secret here is to keep your enthusiasm in check. It is all too easy to take too big a challenge and thus guarantee your own failure. 

In fact, no matter where you are on the ladder of success in keeping your resolutions, always divide your big goals into smaller sections to achieve them more easily. If you want to save thousands of dollars this year and you have never saved a nickel in your life before then plan to save only a small amount in the first month. When you have done that then make the decision to save four times that much in the first quarter of the year. Reaching these smaller goals will keep you encouraged as you make progress as you take on bigger challenges.

To keep more of your resolutions constantly before you, make reminders for yourself of them. The old method of taping a sign on your mirror or somewhere where you will see it regularly will work for most of us. But if you know that usually you learn to ignore your signs, then try something different. 

  How to Recognize Your Blessings 

Sometimes we don't recognize our blessings until long after we have used them up.  Here is a series of situation examples:  
We know that natural gas prices will rise over the winter so we begin planning ahead.  "We will buy a heating stove," we decide.  Then we go shopping and discover the lowest retail price for one big enough to serve our home is $600.  Then we have to buy the fuel as well.  
You reveal your concern to a friend and s/he just happens to have an even better stove for only $100.  You have just been blessed with $500.

You buy a wood stove and one trash day morning you suddenly notice that 80% of your trash is paper.  "By baling my own paper into logs I will have FREE fuel."  You have just been blessed with inspiration.

You can't afford the stove this year and the winter is unexpectedly mild.  You have just been blessed with time. 

You can't afford the stove and the winter is worse than ever, but somehow no one in your family seems to notice.  Less heat is needed and your health is more robust than ever.  You have just been blessed with Protection.

It is not at all unusual for our blessings to go unrecognized and uncounted; vehicles that last twice as long, physical bodies that need far less medical care, bargains heaped before us that we were going to purchase anyway, inspiration that solves personal problems before they become mountains, an enhanced intellect that provides a higher paying career, increased social skills that shoot our wages upwards, spiritual well-being that keeps us happier even in times of stress, opportunities opening up when we faced a brick wall, people we meet accepting us and helping us -- and perhaps the most important blessing of all.. the trials we need to strengthen us for what is coming.

Quite often, instead of asking for more blessings, what we really need to ask for are the spiritual eyes to see the blessings already being poured out on us.

Spencer W. Kimball resolved to pray morning and night every day. When he got out of bed in the morning, the first thing his feet hit was a big rock.  It was like a big light bulb going on over his head. Rock = Prayer. 

He knelt to pray and after praying he put the rock under his pillow. When he fell on his bed to sleep that night, Bang! His head hit the rock under the pillow. That light bulb over his head surged to life again.  Rock = Prayer.  

He knelt to pray and then put the rock on the floor so his feet would hit it first thing in the morning when he rose from his bed. 

If your resolution is to read your scriptures every day you can place your scriptures on your pillow. It will be difficult to say you forgot when you have to move them before going to bed.

There are many other tricks of this nature which can spur you to keeping your resolutions. Missionaries sometimes favor the rubber band method, keeping one on their wrist and snapping it just before they make an appointment to remind themselves to start every meeting with a prayer, or whatever else they need to remember. Then they snap it again if they do forget something.

A friend of mine uses the car door to remind him to put the office behind him. When he arrives home and shuts the car door a switch is tripped and he puts a smile on his face before going inside to meet his family.

If you want to magnify your talents and skills 
Share them with the world.  
Give back to the world the best that is in you.  

I know it will take a lot of energy and effort to keep the resolutions we make. I pray that we will keep those resolutions so that we can, as Jesus did, increase in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man. In so doing, we will become happier, more successful, and more like the Savior and continue to keep our new resolutions every day for the rest of our lives. 

In conclusion I say: Pray about it; Ask the Lord for guidance. Rely on the Lord for your strength.  Trust in the word of the Lord for guidance.  Find out where God wants you to serve.  Find out what God wants you to achieve.  Bask in God's love and strive to share it with all the world.
If you are struggling, ask your visiting teacher for help. Ask your home teacher for a blessing. Ask your religious leader to give you real spiritual guidance instead of a pep talk. 

But never, ever give up hope. No matter how many times you fail, get up and go again. Heavenly Father may mean for you to fail in some enterprise and seek another goal in life, but He will NEVER mean for you to quit. 

Combine all of these basic steps with inspiration, courage and common sense and our strides toward improving ourselves will be taken in seven league boots.  Your family ties will be stronger. Your community will be strengthened.  You will be a better citizen.  You will vote for better government.  Your community will be strengthened.

What better time can there be to pick up the Scriptures and read than when nature howls and screams, not because we are frightened but because we know where our source of security comes from.  When lightning pounds close and claps of thunder shake the whole house I glory in that my house is safe and that even if my house were to be smashed flat and this body laid low that I would be only passing on to a far better place than this. 
As great and wonderful as my life has been, a delightful miracle to me, I do know of a surety that I shall go to a far better place than this.  When the storm rages its fiercest is when I feel my most secure.  And I know that long ere this storm fell upon us that had another place of refuge been required that my Heavenly Father would have let me know, in plenty of time to escape.
So, as the storm moves on I am tempted to call it back:  Master, let the tempest rage, I know that Thou art with me.

.

Time and again we have heard people blame God for letting something awful happen in their lives.  "My husband is a cripple now because God let an accident happen," one woman whimpered.
In my hearing someone finally challenged that statement with the true facts:  "The only reason that accident happened is because your husband turned completely loose of the steering wheel in the middle of traffic, turned all the way around in his seat, and began beating on your kids for making a racket."

We can not blame God for not taking over the steering wheels of our lives.
We can not expect God to pour knowledge of the gospel into our 
minds if we won't set time aside to study our Scriptures.

Remember this always:
We came to this earth to get on the right path 
and stay on it no matter what the cost. 

I know we can do it. 
I know that we should.

The End.

Lin Stone is an author, writer and photographer living in Noble Oklahoma

Don't cheat yourself.  
If you have appreciated this article you are sure to enjoy all the rest.  
.

The X-Files 

The Self Improvement Kit for Christians  
Glass Blowing Instructions 
Beware Your Blessings.    
An Alchemist's Techniques
  
Print Photos on ANY object  
Build your own web site  
How to Promise the Moon  
Credit Card Fraud on the web 
Free ScreenSavers
How to Install your ScreenSaver
Discover who your long distance carrier REALLY is. Use the Internet for Education   
Leadership in the new age  
office politics in turmoil  
password protection   
Are You Looking Good at Work?  
How many ways are there to die?  
When to Look Back 
How to help a needy family 
The A-Maizeing Corn Heater  
The Self-Contained Fireplace   
The Benefits of an Electric Stove 
Dowsing for buried treasure  
Cleaning with Kids
Magic Learning System
Living wills for women
Sure Shot Yogurt Instructions
75 Old Secret Formulas  
Instant Messenger  
Meet the Cookie Monster 
Last Look at Leap Year  
Learn to Groom Your Horse 
Violence at home and abroad  
How to Detect and Treat Ear Infections in Your Pet.  
Type faster, with less effort.  
Are Jigsaw Puzzles Educational?  

Find Out More About Everything Worth Insuring in Your Life