Summary: When a poker player says "I am all in," he commits all his chips. We commit all our faith chips on Jesus, because he has the words of eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when was the last time you heard the phrase, “Going all out for something”? Last week our mayor and council members went all out to welcome the Governor into Kingman. People will go all out to celebrate a wedding. And, we can go all out to celebrate our new life in Christ.

Well, this message is not so much about going all out, as it is about going all in. I hope you won’t mind if I borrow this phrase from the game of poker. How come poker has become so popular these days? It seems every sports channel follows the World Poker Tour or something similar. You don’t have to raise your hand if you watch that. These professional poker players are becoming household names, almost like golfers. I guess that’s because poker is not just a game of chance but also involves the art of reading your opponents, and betting the right amount at the right time.

Now, what does it mean when a player says, “I’m all in”? It means that he is committing all his chips to that hand. He may be bluffing, or he may really have something. It is up to the other players to figure out whether to fold or accept the challenge. Sometimes during the breaks the pros explain their strategy and teach others the skills of the game, but not too much. After all, that’s how they make their living.

If you like to listen to experts and people with interesting life stories, you can find plenty of talk shows on other channels too. There are hosts who interview famous people and people with infamous dilemmas. There are good talk shows and some not so good. There is a talk show where people yell and scream and exchange punches. You don’t have to watch that.

There are talk shows that can help you make money – or lose it in a hurry. I used to watch the Wall Street Week. It never ceased to amaze me. One week all the experts on the show gave you the impression the stock market had nowhere to go but up. Two days later the market took a plunge. On the next show, the same people who had been so bullish the previous week, were making comments like “We have been advising our clients that the market was due for a correction.” Huh? Where did that come from? “The market was due for a correction” – that’s a sophisticated way of saying “You just lost your shirt, boy!”

It is obvious that while there are people whose words are wise, reliable, and worth listening to, there are others who have a lot to say but their words don’t amount to a hill of beans. In order to determine which is which, we need wisdom, understanding, and discernment. The same is true for the spiritual side of life. There too are many words coming at us from all directions and we must discern whose words to follow. There is one voice that stands out above any other. It is the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who said, My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; and no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Jesus is the One who has the words of eternal life, and His words are true. He went all in for us and He wasn’t bluffing! Jesus has proven the worth of His words by the testimony of His deeds. He walked the talk. He said He would suffer for our sins and He did. He said He would be killed and in three days rise again from the dead, and He did. So when He said that whoever believes in Him will not be condemned but have eternal life, you can take that to the bank!

A few decades ago, before I returned to faith in Jesus, I was wandering in the vastness of spirituality and religious philosophies. Pantheism and Zen Buddhism were in the forefront of my interest. I sort of got into it through the study of Japanese gardens. There is more to it than moss, rocks, and a lantern. I learned about order and balance, meditation, and rising above the troubles of this life through discipline and creativity. I also had some artist friends who were into Zen, and I thought it sounded wonderful.

I remember one artist who lived on the windward side of Oahu sharing about an experience he had while observing birds that were flying higher and higher in a spiral ascent using the air currents. Then, at a precise moment when the conditions were just right, they stopped, just hanging in the air, balancing themselves in the wind, defying the laws of gravity. To him, this was the very moment when the birds entered into one-ness with God. And for the observer, this was a moment of enlightenment. And he had other wonderful-sounding stories to offer.

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