This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To pretend to explore the depths of God is such a challenge that places the wise man at the same level of the insane.

Juan Antonio Monroy

This Day's Verse

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10
The King James Version

This Day's Smile

Mirth is God’s medicine.

Henry Ward Beecher

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

Booker T. Washington

This Day's Verse

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:11
The English Standard Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

You can’t know, you can only believe—or not.

C. S. Lewis

This Day's Verse

Therefore I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:24
The New International Version

This Day's Smile

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

This Day's Verse

“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to him so he can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord and send Jesus your Messiah back to you again.”

Acts 3:19-20
The Living Bible

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The only purpose of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God.

Leo Tolstoy

This Day's Verse

Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him!  Let all the upright in heart exult!

Psalm 64:10
The English Standard Version

This Day's Smile

In our home we have a rule: You can disagree with a man’s position as much as you want—after you have been able to state it to his satisfaction.

J. Irwin Miller

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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Glory And Majesty!

by Melvin Newland

I want to read a passage of Scripture that I imagine is familiar to most of you. It is where Matthew tells about the transfiguration of Jesus, & it is found in Matthew 17:1-8.

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James & John the brother of James, & led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, & His clothes became as white as the light.

“Just then there appeared before them Moses & Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, `Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses & one for Elijah.’

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, & a voice from the cloud said, `This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came & touched them. `Get up,’ He said. `Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”

This Transfiguration scene must have been one of the most exciting events in the life of Peter, James, & John – & maybe even for Moses & Elijah as well. And I am convinced that it can mean a great deal to us, too.

The Greek word translated as “transfiguration” is the word “metamor-phothe,” from which we get “metamorphosis.” As any student of biology knows, a “metamorphosis” is “a transformation, a complete change of appearance & form.” (Example: Caterpillar into a butterfly.)

Jesus certainly went through a metamorphosis – & more than once. First, He left the glories of heaven to come to earth in human form – to live with us – to share our pain & suffering, our hungers & temptations. For 33 & 1/2 years He lived upon the face of this earth in human form.

But at the time of this scripture that we have read, Jesus coming to the end of His ministry upon this earth, & for a few minutes on a mountainside in Galilee, Peter, James, & John are privileged to see another metamorphosis, as Jesus is once again clothed in His glory, the glory of Almighty God.

This morning I want us to look at the transfiguration through the eyes of the apostle John, & behold what he beheld. So what did John see? As John stood on that mountain & saw the transfiguration of Jesus, what did he see?


Years later, in the 1st chapter of his Gospel, vs. 14, John says, “The Word became flesh, & made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One & Only, who came from the Father, full of grace & truth.”

John knew what he was talking about, for on that mountainside they had seen Jesus transfigured, His appearance changing dramatically, His face & clothing shining like the light of the sun. And just as that happened, Moses & Elijah appeared & began talking with Jesus. So awed was Peter by this sight that he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses & one for Elijah.”

But that obviously wasn’t God’s plan, for “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, & a voice from the cloud said, `This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’”

About a week before the transfiguration Jesus had asked His apostles this question, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some think that you are Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Some even think that you might be John the Baptist come back from the dead.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But what about you?…Who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” [Matthew 16:16].

I have always wondered how the other apostles reacted when Peter said that. Did they all join in, saying, “He’s right, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter is absolutely right!” Or did they look at one another in confusion? Did they turn to Peter & ask, “Why did you say that? Are you really convinced that He is the Messiah?”

I think that there must have been some late conversations around the campfire as they discussed what Jesus had said. They re-examined His miracles, & talked about the people who had come to Him. “Is He really the Christ, the Messiah we long for, whose coming we have prayed for again & again?” There must have been many lingering questions until, on this mountainside, Peter & James & John saw the glory of God.

Suddenly, like the rushing of a mighty river, John was convinced that what Peter had said is true. “Jesus is the Christ!” And that is important.

You see, it is one thing to recognize that there is a God who has put the sun & the moon & the stars in place. It is one thing to recognize that there is a God who made us & who appreciates beauty, & who gives us morality & helps us feel bad when we are bad, & good when we are good.

It is one thing to recognize that there is a God of order who is in control, but it is another thing to recognize that God became one of us.

To John that must have been an overwhelming revelation. “This Jesus who patted me on the shoulder when I was discouraged – this Jesus who prayed with me – this Jesus who dried my tears – this Jesus who is concerned about my family – this Jesus who is concerned about my feelings when I am lonely & tired – this Jesus is God! He is actually God in human flesh!”

Years ago I visited an old & very famous church & was able to attend one of its Sunday morning services. The minister was an orator. He preached a masterpiece of a sermon about the philosophy, the teachings, of Jesus, & he showed how to apply them to our lives.

But as I listened to him, I became more & more aware that he evidently considered Jesus just a master teacher, much like some other master teachers of ages gone by. Not once did he suggest, or even hint, that Jesus was more than a man – that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Do you realize how blessed we are week after week to be able to come & share our faith together that Jesus is the Christ? I pray that you will never grow tired of that. I pray that you will proclaim it with all your power. He is the Christ, the Lord of all. John realized that as he saw the glory of Almighty God, & we need to realize that too.


You know, I think most of us are very much like the apostle Philip. Do you remember? After 3 years of being with Jesus, seeing all the miracles, listening to His teachings – & just a short time before His crucifixion – Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, & that will be enough for us.”

“Jesus answered: `Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14:8-9]. When we see Jesus we know what God is like, for Jesus came to reflect & reveal God to us.

We need to see God. We need to listen to His word. When we don’t, there are frantic attempts, I think, to reach out & find something to believe in.

A few years ago a housewife in New Mexico was frying tortillas on her stove. One of them burned, & it just so happened that the burn formed the shape of a face. She decided that the image was the face of Jesus.

She took it to her priest & asked him, “Do you think it looks like Jesus?” He thought that it looked like Jesus, too. And he blessed it. He had never blessed a tortilla before, but he blessed that tortilla.

She took it home & put it in a little box, surrounded with white cotton so that it would look like it was floating on a cloud. Then she & her husband built an altar & began to pray before it. The news spread, & soon thousands of people were coming to see & pray before this burned tortilla.

Well, it has happened here, too, hasn’t it? In the past few years crowds of people have seen what they believe to be sacred images on tree trunks & car fenders. And they have prayed devoutly before them.

Several years ago, some people in Poland discovered a tree with a strange shape in the bark. The one who discovered it was a crippled man & he decided that it was an image of the Virgin Mary. Later he claimed that he was healed while there, & he tied his crutches to the tree.

Sixty miles away another tree was discovered that seemingly had the same image on it.

So, in Poland, thousands of people are buying train tickets to go out to the countryside & kneel before two trees – to leave their money at the foot of the trees – to ask the blessing of the Virgin Mary on their lives. Why? Because they want so desperately to see & feel the glory & power of God.

We all want that in our lives. We search for it & when it is not there, somehow we try to create it. We try to put it there in one way or another.

When Ethel & I were in Israel, & then again in Greece, we visited some magnificent church buildings, hundreds of years old. We saw stained glass windows, & statues. I think of all the years of labor put in to build these wonderful monuments to God, but none of them even touch the hem of the garment of what John saw on the Mt. of Transfiguration when he beheld the glory of Jesus. We need to see that glory too.


In John 17, Jesus prays that very wonderful prayer which he prayed just before Judas betrayed Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed for Himself, & for the apostles, & for all who would believe on Him because of the witness of the apostles.

In that prayer He mentions the glory of God 8 times. His prayer goes something like this, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” [John 17:1,4,5].

Then, a little bit later on, He prays for us, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

It is a shared glory. That glory is something that we share because we are Christians – because we are born anew – because God works a change in each of our lives. Then we can share in the glory that John saw on that mountain.

But we need to watch out. There is a danger that the change might be a counterfeit change – not a transfiguration – not a transformation – but simply a masquerade that fools most of the world & maybe even ourselves.

I know that most of you know who Erma Bombeck was. In one article she wrote these words:

“Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything? My answer was `No.’ But then I thought about it & I’ve changed my mind. If I had my life to live over again I would wax less & listen more. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased & sprayed.

“I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained & the sofa faded. I would have eaten popcorn in the good living room & worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

“I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have sat cross legged on the lawn with my children & never worried about the grass stains. I would have cried & laughed less while watching TV, & more while watching real life.

“I would have eaten less cottage cheese & more ice cream. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, or would not show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

“When my child kissed me impetuously I would never have said, `Later. Now go & wash up for dinner.’ There would have been more `I love you’s; more `I’m sorry’s; more `I’m listening’s.

“But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it. Look at it & really see. Try it on. Live it. Exhaust it. And never give the minute back until there was nothing more left of it.”

It is not with great trumpets – or magnificent choirs – but in simple acts of service that we reflect & reveal the glory of God. Maybe it is while washing dishes at home, or vacuuming the carpet, or changing diapers, or caring for crying babies.

Maybe it is while driving on the highway, or when you display a different attitude than any of your coworkers at work. Maybe it is out there in a world that seems so alienated from God that you can just consistently day after day witness, share, reflect, & reveal the glory of God.

When Peter blurted out, “Let’s stay here on the mountain & build 3 tabernacles,” Jesus answered, “No, we’re not going to stay on the mountain. Down at the foot of the mountain there is a boy possessed with a demon, & a concerned father who has brought him. The boy is sick, & we need to be there more than we need to be here.”

So they went down from the mountain to heal a sick boy. They went out into the world to feed the hungry, save the lost, & bring the sheep back into the fold again, & to reveal His glory. We who are His disciples are called to do the same thing.

Maybe there are people here who need to make a decision for Jesus this morning. We would have you behold His glory & know that He wants to be your savior. We invite you to accept Him as Lord & master of your life, too.

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The word which you keep inside of you is your slave; the one that you let escape is your master.

Persian proverb

This Day's Verse

We love, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19
The Revised Standard Version

This Day's Smile

I have sought everywhere for peace, but I have found it not, save in a little corner with a little book.

Francis de Sales

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Belief in, and dependence on God, is absolutely essential.  It will be an integral part of our public life as long as I am governor.

Ronald Reagan

This Day's Verse

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9
The English Standard Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Few know how to count among God’s gifts the brevity of life.

Francisco de Quevedo

This Day's Verse

Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

1 Peter 1:21
The King James Version

This Day's Smile

Fortune lost, nothing lost; courage lost, much lost; honor lost, most lost; soul lost, all lost.

Dutch proverb

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

It is within my power either to serve God, or not to serve Him.  Serving Him I add to my own good and the good of the whole world.  Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good, which was in my power to create.

Leo Tolstoy

This Day's Verse

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.  But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

2 Corinthians 7:10
The New Living Translation

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There is no stopping place in this life—no, nor is there ever one for any man, no matter how far along his way he’s gone.

Meister Eckhart

This Day's Verse

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.

2 Peter 3:18
The English Standard Version

This Day's Smile

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.

Theodore Rubin

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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Surrender It

by Jim Twamley

There was a Church where the preacher and the song leader were not getting along. This began to spill over into the worship service. One week the preacher preached on commitment, and how we should dedicate ourselves to service. The song leader then led the song, “I shall Not Be Moved.”

The next Sunday, the preacher preached on giving and how we should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The song leader then led the song, “Jesus Paid It All.”

The next Sunday, the preacher preached on gossiping and how we should watch our tongues. The song leader then led the song, “I love To Tell The Story.”

The preacher became very disgusted over the situation, and the next Sunday he told the congregation he was considering resigning. The song leader then led the song, “Oh, Why Not Tonight.”

As it came to pass, the preacher resigned and the next week informed the church that it was Jesus that led him there and it was Jesus that was taking him away. The song leader then led the song, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Matt 16:24-26

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Ex 1:6-2:10

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

Exodus 2

2:1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

This is a story of a mother desperate to save her child from certain death. She struggled to figure out a way to save her infant son. She took a huge risk and set him adrift in the Nile river – hoping against hope for a miracle. God intervened and brought life when death was knocking at the door.

Many people struggle to find themselves.  They think they are full of life and vitality yet they keep searching for meaning for their lives.

They try careers, toys, vacations, physical fitness, new age hocus pokus, volunteerism, Eastern religions, drugs and alcohol, pornography, anything – anything that will bring them temporary satisfaction. They look alive on the outside but they are dead on the inside.

You and I know they won’t find joy until they surrender their lives to Jesus.  It’s a God thing – I call it the “surrender principle.”  It’s only when they lose their lives and surrender to Christ that they find eternal life.  But the “surrender principle” isn’t just for new Christians. It’s for mature Christians as well.

Our enemy, the Devil, works overtime to provide Christians with new opportunities to get distracted. Satan knows your weaknesses and will exploit them. He will set you up and take you down.

Most Christians are on their guard for obvious temptations. So the Devil doesn’t need to tempt you with the big sins. No, he is more subtle than that. He is crafty and sneaks up on you. He doesn’t just call you over to the trap and push you in. No, he leads you there one crumb at a time.

Most Christians have sin in their lives that they are unaware of. It’s like dirt on the bottom of your shoes.

The altar is the place to clean your shoes – leave your dirt at the altar.  We need to have a season of prayer and ask God to reveal to us the dirt on our feet. Then we need to repent and surrender to Him.  What are the things that are hindering your walk with God?  What kind of mess have you tracked into God’s house today?  We can’t stand before God with muddy feet.

You’ve got to lose whatever you’re hanging onto that stands between you and God. It must be surrendered. Otherwise you run the risk of losing everything.

What are some of the things that stand between Christians and God?

Jobs – Some Christians allow greed to creep into their lives. They work more and more hours, including when they should be in church, just so they can have more money to buy more things. They’re often too tired to even attend, much less help out.

Unwholesome Entertainment – What kind of filth do you bring into your home in the form of music, video games, movie rentals, romance novels, and soap operas? What kind of filth do you allow your children to see, read, or play?

Wholesome Entertainment – Entertainment can be good for the soul, but it becomes destructive when it takes center stage in your life. We must be careful that we don’t make an idol out of our entertainment interests. Too much time spent on even wholesome entertainment squeezes out God.

Relationships – Some Christians allow their relationships with other people, including family members, to interfere with their walk with God.

Laziness – Some Christians choose to be “Sunday only” Christians. They come to Church and are “spiritual consumers.” They don’t spend time in the Word or in prayer during the week. They only attend on Sunday morning unless there’s something in it for them… like food.

Do you ever wonder why it is that so many more people show up for a Sunday night potluck than a regular Sunday night service?

Lazy Christians don’t help out at the church. What’s your excuse for not helping? Is it your age? My 87 year old grandmother helps with Missionettes and my wife’s 91 year old grandfather helps with rest home ministries twice a month and is a greeter at his church. They both have lost their spouses, both are hard of hearing, and one no longer drives, yet they continue working for the Lord.

What’s your excuse for not helping? Is it that you work and don’t have time to spare? We have Sunday School teachers, youth workers and others who work full time, yet have made time in their busy schedules to serve the Lord here at this Church.

What’s your excuse for not helping? Is it that you help with your kid’s basketball team, you attend PTA and go on all your child’s field trips and are just too busy with school activities to help out at church?

Being involved with your children IS important but it’s also important that they see you involved in working for the Lord. If you’re too busy to work for the Lord, you’re just plain too busy.

Let me tell you about the needs here at our church. Right now we need a Children’s Church teacher, a Children’s Church assistant, a Missionette leader and two Royal Ranger leaders.

We shouldn’t have to beg to fill these jobs. We have enough adults that these positions should be easily filled. Instead, we have no program at all available for the young boys of this church. We have families who have attended on Wednesday night with their sons, who haven’t returned. We have boys who ride the van with their older siblings, who are attending youth group instead of Royal Rangers, because we don’t have an age appropriate class for them. We have another boy who rides the van who is in the Rainbows class – he’s too old for Rainbows but we don’t have anyone to teach the Royal Rangers class he should be in. We have a Missionettes class to offer one child on Wednesday night, but nothing for her brother. We have a class for one child on Wednesday night, but nothing for her cousin. Next year one child will be old enough for Royal Rangers, but we don’t have a class for him to graduate into.

Listen, if we’re going to minister to kids who come here on the church van, we are all going to have to pitch in to provide Christian education for them. They don’t have parents attending – WE have to fill those roles. Yes, even if you were involved ten or 20 years ago when your kids were young. Let’s put the excuses aside, and figure out where God wants us to be involved! Surrender your time and talents to God.

Money – Some Christians don’t tithe. Their hard-earned money is more important than obedience to God. Money has a choke hold on them and they can’t let go. It hurts them to give. They can’t give with a cheerful heart because they have no joy. If that’s you, then you need to surrender your money to God. Don’t lose your soul over money!

Pride and Dignity – Some Christians can’t worship God with exuberant praise and worship. Many of us can’t dance before the Lord because we’re hung up on dignity. Some of us can’t raise our hands to the Lord or kneel before the Lord because of what others might think. Does it really matter what anybody else thinks? They aren’t the audience … God is! If your pride is standing between you and God, you need to surrender it.

Anger and Bitterness – If you are angry with another person, you need to surrender it. If bitterness keeps you up at night, then you need to surrender it.

Fear – You can’t share Jesus with your neighbor because you’re afraid of rejection and ridicule. You can’t go to the altar because you’re afraid people might think you’re less than perfect. You need to surrender your fear and need for perfection!

Hurt and Pain – Past hurts and emotional scars keep you from getting close to God. You’re afraid of being hurt. Feelings of abandonment and panic haunt your soul. Surrender it!

The name Moses means “drew him out of the water.” God has a purpose in everything He does, and your life is no different. God drew Moses out because He had a purpose for his life. We know that Moses was to be the instrument through which God brought deliverance to His people.

Listen Church, WHATEVER stands between you and God –

Surrender it!

Many of us don’t even realize we have dirty feet. We don’t know what it is that separates us from a closer walk with God. It’s time we find out and take care of business.

I want each of us to get on our knees before God and ask, “God, what is it that separates me from a closer walk with You?” That’s an honest prayer. That’s a prayer that God will answer.

I don’t want anyone to leave today before you know what it is God wants you to surrender. Once you know what it is, I want you to write it on a piece of paper. It is symbolic of surrender. This is a private matter between you and God.

Let the Holy Spirit search your heart this morning and show you what it is He wants you to surrender to Him.

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If the work of God would be comprehended by reason, it would be no longer wonderful, and faith would have no merit if reason provided proof.

Gregory the Great

This Day's Verse

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11
The New International Version

This Day's Smile

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Spencer Johnson

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

He rather likes people who fight Him.  Fighting God, fighting Judaism, means that you are active, not passive, within it.  If I don’t care about it, then I have no questions, and if I have no questions, then I have no problems.  If I do care about it, then I’ll be questioning it, and I’ll definitely have more problems with it because the questions lead to problems, not answers.  In a certain way the difference between a saint and someone who is surely not a saint is not that the saint has no problems, but that he has more, and more elaborate, problems.  It is an incessant struggle.

Adin Steinsaltz

This Day's Verse

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

1 Corinthians 10:24
The New King James Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

As the grave grows nearer my theology is growing strangely simple, and it begins and ends with Christ as the only Savior of the lost.

Henry Benjamin Whipple

This Day's Verse

I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.

Leviticus 26:6
The English Standard Version

This Day's Smile

In a child’s lunch basket, a mother’s thoughts.

Japanese proverb

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There are joys which long to be ours.  God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.

Henry Ward Beecher

This Day's Verse

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Jeremiah 31:25
The Revised Standard Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The love of the Father is like a sudden rain shower that will pour forth when you least expect it, catching you up into wonder and praise.

Richard Foster

This Day's Verse

I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all thy marvellous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psalm 9:1-2
The King James Version

This Day's Smile

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.  Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Luke 15

by Grant Stauter

Click here to LISTEN to this message: “Just As Lost”

Today we are going to continue to look at the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, in particular the elder brother.

Last week, we heard about the reckless-living younger brother, and now this week, I am preaching on the elder brother, who turns out was “just as lost,” but in a different way–a more subtle and even more dangerous way, according to Jesus.

To remind you where we are within Luke 15, we need to look at verse 1, where the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to Jesus.

Jesus is beginning to attract a crowd, and the Pharisees and scribes (the religious teachers of their day) grumble against Jesus saying that this man eats with sinners, receives them, and hangs out with them.  This has been the case all throughout Luke.

In response, Jesus then tells them three parables. The first one is about the lost sheep, where the shepherd leaves the 99 to go find the one. The second is about a woman who searches all over to find a lost coin. The third is about a son who leaves his Father’s, house but then comes back and is found.

So you see the pattern: lost then found, followed by joy; lost then found, followed by joy; lost then found, followed by joy. What a powerful picture this third parable gives us.  And if you missed last week’s sermon, I highly recommend you read or listen to it at this link, called “Welcome Home.”

A verse that I thought of last week as I was listening to the sermon was Luke 10:22:

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

I rejoiced, that of all they ways God could relate to us, of all the different voices in the world telling us what God is like, no one knows God the Father like God the Son, and here Jesus is telling us that He is like a Father who goes running to son when he returns home.  He is telling us here that the Father receives sinners and all of heaven celebrates.  It’s a celebration of extravagant, over-the-top unprecendented grace.  Grace beyond what any of us can imagine.  Grace that shocked the prodigal, the father’s servants, and the tax collectors and sinners who were listening.

But that grace also infuriated others because it violated their sense of justice.  For some who were listening in the crowd, the Pharisees couldn’t imagine how such a holy God would show such grace to wretches.  Law-breakers.  That is what we are going to see today in the elder brother.

Let’s read verses 25-32:

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.

” ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 

“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

Now this story shifts all of a sudden, and the pattern of “lost then found, followed by joy” stops.  The older son comes in from the field and hears music playing, people are busting out their best moves, and they bring out the finest meat in all the land. I imagine there is probably some nice wine flowing, and one of the servants tells the older brother that his little brother is back safe and sound.  This infuriates him.  It’s the first time there is anger in this chapter, except for the Pharisees in the beginning.

Many of you here have been in this situation as the father, maybe at a birthday party or a Christmas celebration.  Friends and family are gathering and you are at the dinner table and a seat is visibly empty.  Everyone knows who it is. It’s one of your children.   He is upstairs in his room and refuses to come down. What do you do?  Do you go up to his room and say, “What do you think you are doing?  You get downstairs right now.”  Do you grab his arm and pull him into the party, saying, “You better change your attitude right now.”  Do you send a messenger up there to tell him that if he doesn’t come downstairs there is going to be a consequence that he won’t like or do you just leave him up there and say, “I don’t care”?

Look at verse 28.  His father came out and entreated him.  It means the father pleaded, begged, and appealed to him.  Again, what a picture that Jesus is giving us here of God the Father.  Again, at great expense to himself the father is the one who is being humiliated, who is leaving the party, and who is going to his other son.  He pursues him.  This is one of the most wonderful truths in all the Bible. We see it after the very first sin in Genesis 3. Did Adam seek out God? No, God came and sought Adam.  In the Old Testament we see it over and over that God continually pursued his people, as in Malachi 3:7:

“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.”

And then finally, at just the right time, God sends His very own Son to invite us to come back home to God.  Our God is a pursuing God.  Hence, why we as a church body and as individuals should imitate God in this way and pursue those who refuse to come into the Father’s party.

Now what does the elder bother say in response to the father’s gracious request (verses 29 and 30)?  There are three characteristics that I want to point out in the elder brother.

1) His first characteristic is that he has a distorted view of the father-son relationship. Even though he shared the last name and lived in the same house as the father, he viewed himself as a slave.  He didn’t view his father as the provider, protector, nurturer, mentor, and friend that his father was. No, he saw himself as more of a employee and his dad as the boss.  It was a work relationship and that’s it.  He says it there in the beginning.  “Look, here I have slaved, I have served you all these years.  I have never disobeyed you. I have worked and worked and worked.”

In the church it can be very easy for elder-brother types to appear like they are flourishing. Elder brothers thrive on the fact that the homework is always done, they’ve never gotten a detention, they always have work projects done, they show up to meetings 5 minutes early; they are accomplishers, do it yourselfers, go getters, hard workers; they have good reputations in the community, they serve on every team in the church, and they have only missed a few Sundays in the past 20 years. They are, by all outward appearances, in the faith.  But to be a Christian is more than just following the laws of God and keeping your nose out of the dirt. The Christian faith is one of being a son or daughter of God and having that father-child relationship with Him.

J.I. Packer asks the question in his book Knowing God: “What is a Christian?  The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who knows God as Father… If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. “

Amen.  It’s possible to have your life put together and do many spiritual disciplines and fool everyone in the church and the community for years and still not know God as Father.  That is exactly what this parable is teaching us, but we also have testimonies throughout church history of this exact situation.

John Wesley, an influential preacher in the 18th century, was probably most well known for starting a movement that ended up becoming the Methodist denomination.  He grew up in Christian home, was an honor graduate at Oxford University, an ordained pastor, visited prisoners, gave generously to orphans, fasted for up to 40 days at a time, went to multiple worship services on Sunday and throughout the week, and even served as a missionary to the colony of Georgia to the native Americans there.

Yet on his way home from the trip, he wrote in his journal:

“I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. I had, even then, the faith of a servant, though not of a son.”

I don’t want to ask if you are connected in the church or what fruit have can you show in your life, but do you have a real relationship with God?  Is He your Father where it’s a joy to be able to serve Dad?

You want people to see and know how great your Father is.  Does the thought of being a son or daughter make you want to worship?  Does it affect your prayer life and Bible reading, or are all those disciplines just something you have to do?  To a son, those disciplines are something that, yes, we may not always feel like doing, but we know this is how we learn about our Father more than the one who has a slave’s faith and thinks, “This is what I have to do to be good in the faith.”  Do you find in your heart crying out to God saying, “Abba Father”?  This elder brother doesn’t understand the father-son relationship, and it’s the first clue that he is just as lost as the younger brother was.

2) The second characteristic with this elder brother is that he has an “I” problem.  Look at verse 29 with me.

“I have always done everything right.  I have never disobeyed you.”  You can just hear the self-righteous prideful arrogance coming out of this brother’s mouth.  Throughout the book of Luke, Luke has shown us how the Pharisees are continually grumbling against Jesus for being around younger brother types.  They couldn’t understand why Jesus would want to hang out with these sinners when they were the ones who followed God’s law.  Blamelessly.   In Luke, chapter 7, we read that they rejected John the Baptist’s baptism. Why?  Because it was a baptism of repentance. They believed that they had nothing to repent of. They are good.  They meticulously followed the law.  They dotted the I’s and crossed the t’s. The only problem was that they misspelled the word.  They didn’t understand grace.

Pride is absolutely one of the most dangerous and deadly sins out there.  It’s in a class by itself.  It makes God oppose you. James 4:6 says that God opposes the proud.  It blinds us and causes us to see a distorted reality and is particularly disgusting to the Lord. Because pride contends for supremacy with God.  While the prodigal’s sins may have led him farther away from the father, pride elevates the elder brother over the father.  You can see it in his response.  It is accusatory that the father doesn’t know what he is doing.  On the surface, we would just say that it is a sin of the mouth, but it comes from pride of the heart.  Pride is a mother sin, and it gives birth to other sins.  Pride is what’s at the root of so many of our sins.

Pride gives us the amazing ability to find faults in everyone else, but is often blind to our own faults.  We may never go as far as the elder brother and say, “I have never disobeyed,” but when we can more easily find other’s faults than our own, then you know that pride is blinding you somewhat.  How often do you confess and repent after hearing a sermon compared to how often you think that so and so really needs to hear this sermon?

Pride will give us a harsh spirit and a feeling of superiority.  The elder brother even refuses to acknowledge that his younger brother is his brother.  In Luke 18, Jesus tells another parable very similar to the prodigal son.  It says that He told it to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.  Of course, it’s the parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector.  They go up to the temple and pray and the Pharisee says, “God I thank you, that I am not like those sinners. I tithe, I fast” and yada yada.  His prayer is all about what he does.  What kind of maniac goes to the Lord in prayer and just recites how awesome he is?  Then the tax collector doesn’t even look up, but says, “God, be merciful to me.”

Elder brothers will base their image on being hardworking, or moral, or members of the elite, or smart, which inevitably leads to feeling superior over those who don’t possess those qualities.  The elder brother liked it that his younger brother struggled because it made him look better.  It made him feel superior.  How many of you like it when someone tries to do something you do, but just doesn’t do it quite as well or you get somewhat adjitated when they do it better?  Here is one for you: what about when your child does better than other people’s kids and so you think, “I am such a good parent. If only other parents would work with their kids like I have.” Or how many of you parents get defensive when other kids perform better than your child and the thoughts just start coming into your head, “Well, of course their child is better at volleyball. They devote their lives to it.  Our family keeps it in its proper place.”  We get defensive when our pride is hurt.  I am willing to bet that the elder brother thought to himself, “Pffff! I bet you he’ll go and pawn that ring that dad just gave him and run off again.”  Would people describe you as a compassionate person?  You should probably ask someone else if you are compassionate, because of course you will say, “I am a compassionate person.”

Or would people say that you have an unforgiving and judgmental spirit?   Elder brothers lack compassion because they would NEVER do such a thing as that younger brother.  Elder brothers lack the ability to forgive because they think that they have never been forgiven of that much.  Even though I personally resonate with the younger brother, I think that if we are all being honest, it seems like the older you get, the easier it is to say, “You need to lie in the bed you made.  You reap what you sow,” and just have a crusty, hard heart towards people and not have any compassion.  Remember verse 20. The father felt compassion.

I love what Jonathan Edwards says about the way we should treat each other:

“Christians who are but fellow-worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ treats them.” 

3) The third and final characteristic of the elder brother is that there is no love for the father.  Why does he want a young goat?  To celebrate with his friends.  He doesn’t care if his father is there.  He doesn’t care about his father’s joy of a lost son returning home.  He doesn’t care that he has been able to work alongside his father for all these years. That’s no reward to him.

In 2007, there was a movie that came out called American Gangster. It was about a guy by the name of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington in the movie).  He was a drug lord who ruled the streets of Harlem.  He would brag that he was making a million dollars a day and this was in the 1970’s.  They could never catch him, but one day, when they raided his apartment, they couldn’t find anything. But his wife panicked and started dumping cash out the window–over 500,000 dollars.  After he got arrested, he then gave up the names of all the people that he paid off and worked with to get his sentencing reduced.  Which resulted in three quarters of the New York drug enforcement agency that he had paid off.  Now isn’t that an interesting picture, that on the outside, you have two completely different people: one is a drug lord and the other is a police officer.  One says he is going to live however he wants and the other says he will uphold the law, and yet greed corrupted both of them.  Their hearts were exactly the same.

BOTH of these sons were lost, and both wanted the same thing: the father’s inheritance.  One decides he is just going to ask for it and live however he wants, and the other decides that he is going to follow all the rules so that the father owes him.  Both of them are forgetting the most obvious command to LOVE their father. Jesus says something interesting about the Pharisees’ hearts in Luke 11:29. He says that their hearts were full of greed.  They were filled with worldliness.  They wanted the fattened calves and parties and glory and power and wealth.

Let me ask you this: if you could go to heaven and there was no sickness, no death, all sin would be gone and you would live with friends and family for all of eternity, but God would not be there, would you be ok with that?  What gets you excited about heaven?  An eternity of pleasure or finally seeing the One who suffered and died in your place so that you could be cleansed from your sin and live with God for all of eternity?

Just this past Tuesday, I was reading Exodus 33 and Moses was asked a similar question by God.  God was upset:

“Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

And Moses said to Him:

“If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not in Your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and Your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Moses doesn’t want anything to do with the promised land if God is not going to be with them.  It’s easy for us to fall into a state where we just want the good life, the American dream, an enjoyable retirement of just travelling and good health, or maybe it’s just good friends, or that significant other, more than a relationship with the Father.  Even in the church world, I wonder how many would prefer growing numbers or success in our ministry over the presence of God.

Jesus is teaching us here that there is a more subtle and even more dangerous way to be lost than the prodigal younger brother.  All throughout the gospels we see that there are people whose lives are externally put together, and yet they are lost.  This is one of the ways that the Christian faith is distinct from all other faiths.  Everyone in the world who has any kind of moral fiber would say that the younger brother is living in sin and is lost. But Jesus is saying, no, even those who live a good moral life and have all the appearances of being a good person need to repent and accept the grace of God.  That is offensive to elder brothers to have to say, “God I am just like my younger brother. I am in need of your saving grace.”  How many, though, will refuse to repent of their pride and all of their good works and refuse to accept the grace that is found in Jesus Christ.

You see at the end of this parable again the tender heart of the father.  Even after this other son has spoken so disrespectfully to him, he says to him, “Son.”  I imagine Jesus is looking at the Pharisees at this point.  “Son, you are always with me and all that I have is yours.  We had to celebrate for your brother was dead and is now alive.”  Then the story just ends.  Jesus stops the parable. We don’t know whether the elder brother came to himself and went in to the party of grace and celebrated his brother’s repentance or if he continued to stay outside in his bitterness refusing to embrace his brother.  Jesus is leaving the door open to the elder brother to come and join the party.

The offer still stands for us today.  If you are in here and the Lord has convicted you and you are thinking, “I am that elder brother,” then remember that God is entreating you to come on in.  To repent of your pride, of your righteousness that you find in yourself.   Humble yourself and say to God, “Be merciful to me, a sinner in need of grace.”  If you have done that, come talk to one of the elders after the worship service.  God can do miraculous transformations with elder brothers, for the apostle Paul an author of most of the New Testament was a typical elder brother.

This parable also  leaves us wanting and wishing for an elder brother who embraces his younger brother.

It’s in our hearts. We yearn for stories where families are reconciled, forgiveness is given, and in the end, they live happily ever after. But in reality, we are part of a story that is far greater than if the elder brother goes into this party.

Which leads us to Jesus.  In Romans 8, it says that Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers.  Jesus is our true Elder Brother who cares for us.  Jesus is not just the brother who will travel to the far country to come and find us, but He travels all the way from heaven to earth to bring us home.

Jesus doesn’t just pay for a fattened calf and an expensive party, so that we would be welcomed into the family.  Our debt is greater.  He is the Elder Brother who is willing to be stripped naked on the cross so that we would be clothed in His robe of righteousness.

Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we would be welcomed into God’s family. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we could drink the cup of God’s grace.  For it is only by our Elder Brother, Jesus, that we can come home to our heavenly Father–and be embraced as a son who was lost and is now found.

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The man who lives for himself is a failure.  Even if he gains much wealth, position or power he is still a failure.  The man who lives for others has achieved true success.  A rich man who consecrates his wealth and his position to the good of humanity is a success.  A poor man who gives of his service and his sympathy to others has achieved true success even though material prosperity or outward honors never came to him.

Norman Vincent Peale

This Day's Verse

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Revelation 3:21
The New King James Version

This Day's Smile

No university can take away the religion a child gets at its mother’s knees.


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Prayer covers the whole of man’s life.  There is no thought, feeling, yearning or desire, however low, trifling, or vulgar we may deem it, which, if it affects our real interest or happiness, we may not lay before God and be sure of sympathy.  His nature is such that our often coming does not tire him.  The whole burden of the whole life of every man may be rolled on to God and not weary him, though it has wearied the man.

Henry Ward Beecher

This Day's Verse

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.

Proverbs 15:33
The Revised Standard Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

What we need in religion is not new light, but new sight; not new paths, but new strength to walk in the old ones; not new duties, but new strength from on high to fulfill those that are plain before us.

Tyron Edwards

This Day's Verse

In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:4-6
The New International Version

This Day's Smile

Our great-grandfathers called it the holy Sabbath; our grandfathers, the Sabbath; our fathers, Sunday, but today we call it the week end.  We have substituted a holiday for the holy day.

Wesleyan Methodist

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Getters generally don’t get happiness; givers get it.  You simply give to others a bit of yourself—a thoughtful act, a helpful idea, a word of appreciation, a lift over a rough spot, a sense of understanding, a timely suggestion.  You take something out of your mind, garnished in kindness out of your heart, and put it into the other fellow’s mind and heart.

Charles H. Burr

This Day's Verse

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Luke 10:27
The New International Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.  To know is not to be wise.  Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it.  There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool.  But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.

Charles H. Spurgeon

This Day's Verse

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people.

Psalm 125:1-2
The English Standard Version

This Day's Smile

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light.  Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.

Glenn Clark

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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Luke 15:11-32
by Andy Huette

Click here to LISTEN to this message: “Welcome Home”

I invite you to open to Luke chapter 15.

The first words that Luke records of Jesus in his Gospel are in Luke chapter 4 when he visits a synagogue.  Jesus picks the scroll of Isaiah, and he reads Isaiah 61 which says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor: he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And with these words, Jesus gives us his mission for the rest of Luke.  He’s going to preach good news, and give hope to the poor, and deliverance to captives, liberty to the oppressed.  Jesus is the BRINGER OF GOOD NEWS.  We see this all throughout Luke’s Gospel:  In Luke 5 he’s good news when he touches a leper and makes him clean, In Luke 7 he brings good news to a prostitute who is ashamed and weeping at his feet but he pardons her sin, in Luke 8 he gives liberty to a demon-possessed man by freeing him from oppression, Jesus is the bringer of GOOD NEWS.

And in Luke 15, Jesus tells a story that is INDEED very GOOD NEWS.  In fact, out of the whole entire Bible, Luke 15 may be the most vivid picture of the Good NEWS of God’s Love.   It’s the story that has become known as the Prodigal Son.  Prodigal means “lavish”—it’s a story about a son who wastes his father’s money on “lavish living” but as we will see, the story is not so much about Son’s lavish life, as it is about the Lavish Love of God.

If you’ve been raised in church, you’ve likely heard this story before, and as a result, you may have lost some of your awe for just how astonishingly Good this story is.  I was reminded of the beauty of this story last Sunday.

Each month, on the first Sunday of the month, our church gets to lead the church service at the Livingston County jail.  And last week, it was our turn, and I was scheduled to lead the teaching, and the first group that came in the room was a group of six women.  And they came in the room and sat down and I invited them to open to Luke 15, and I said, “I have a question for you: Have you ever done something stupid in your life that you really, really regret?” And they all kind of smirked, looked at me and were like “HELLO!  We’re in jail!  Of course we have!” and I said, “Well, today we’re going to look at a story in the Bible about a man who did something stupid, it was shameful and he regretted it, it’s the story of that’s called the Prodigal Son—have you ever heard of it?”  And the six women sitting there all shook their heads.

None of them had heard this story before.

And I’m telling you, I saw with my own eyes, that these words of Jesus from Luke 15—this story of God’s love that they heard for the FIRST TIME was and is TRULY GOOD NEWS.  I saw, right in front my eyes, Luke 4 happening.  That Jesus Christ, has good news for Captives.  Jesus Christ has good news for the poor in spirit. I saw that this message, right here in Luke 15, the message of God’s Love is the best message there is.  And as we walked through this story together, one woman in particular would begin to cry, and then she’d gather herself, and then she’d begin to cry some more as we kept unpacking the story.  For the first time in her life, she heard the story of the Prodigal Son, and it was Good News—it showed her a picture of God, who is a Father, who rejoices, REJOICES, CELEBRATES SHAMELESSLY, when sinners turn and come home to him in repentance.

I share that because this morning, as we dive into Luke 15, I know that many of you have heard it before, but I’d ask you—as far as you able, to consider this story anew, fresh, as though you’re hearing about what God is like for the very first time.


Beginning in Luke 15:11, we read, “11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”

Let’s stop and consider the situation.

A. Journey to the Far Country

Jesus is telling a parable, which is a fictional story shared to illustrate a point.  This is a story of a Father, who represents God, and two sons.  While all of us have traits of both sons, in general, most of us will relate to one of the sons more than the other.  So we’re actually going to spend this week on the younger son, and another week on the older son we read about in v. 25-32.

The younger son leaves his father.  So the younger son is a metaphor, for a sinner a person who walks away from God the Father. This younger son represents a person who rejects relationship with God and goes off to do his own thing.

The story begins with

1.) Freedom:  The son coming his Father and asks him for his “share of the property.”  The son wants his inheritance early.  His dad is evidently well off, by other indicators we’ll read later in the story, and the son says, “I don’t want to wait until you die to get my share of the inheritance, I want it now.”   And many commentators talk about how offensive this would have been in the first century Patriarchal culture of honor toward the Father of the household.  But my take is that it doesn’t really matter what culture you’re in, this is offensive to any father, at any time.   It’s the son saying, “I wish you were dead.  I just want your money.”  I don’t value our relationship, I don’t really care about living here and being near to you.  You’re rich, I want your money and I want to leave and do my own thing.  I want to do what I want to do, and I don’t even care if that means that I never see you again.” That’s universally hurtful to a Father.

And as audacious as the son’s request is, what is perhaps more astonishing that the Father says, “O.k., you can have your inheritance.”   The Father permits this ridiculous request.  The father, though hurt and ashamed by his son’s request, GRANTS him what he asks for.

And there’s a point to be made here.  In Scripture, we see that God often PERMITS US to have what we want, even when what we want is sin.  Romans 1, talks about how when people worshipped and served, God gave them over to their lusts.  It’s the idea that God, sometimes, perhaps often times, says to us, “O.k. that’s what you want.  I’ll let you have that.  You want to ignore me? You want to ignore my word?  You want to walk away?  Then I’ll give you over to that.  I’ll let you walk down that path.”   That is the case here.  The Son wants to leave, and the Father say,s “O.k., I’m going to honor that—I’m going to give you over to your folly and your sin.”

2.) Selfishness Takes Us Away From Loving Community

A second truth that we see in these verses is one that is often overlooked.  But it is that Selfishness draws us out of loving community. Sin—which is selfishness at the core—fractures our relationship with community.  This parable is about a father and two sons, but it was spoken in a day when most Jewish communities lived inside a walled city, with farmland outside the walls. The average size for a Jewish settlement in the first century was 6 acres.  That’s not very big, that’s the size of our church property perhaps, if you count the spare lots next to the parking lot. And, families lived together in multigenerational housing.  Every family, was like Everybody Loves Raymond.  Everyone’s living all smooshed together; everyone is in everyone else’s business; it’s a community.

And here this guy takes his money, and he leaves to go party—where?  In a FAR COUNTRY.  He abandons his people.  His selfish desires, take him away from the people that know him, and love him.

It’s been like this from the very beginning in Genesis.  Our sin fractures our relationships.  All sin is in some way selfish.  It’s us saying, “ME FIRST.”  Sin is when we say, “I want to do what I want to do.  It’s assertion of our freedom, outside the confines of God’s authority.   And when we say ME FIRST through any sin in our lives, we are not able to love others because love is saying, “You first. Not me, but you first.”  Our selfishness TAKES AWAY FROM LOVING COMMUNITY.

And here’s the other thing about sin—is that when we sin, we love DARKNESS, so the reality is WE DON’T WANT COMMUNITY when we are in sin.  There’s a reason this guy goes to a FAR OFF COUNTRY to party with prostitutes. He doesn’t want anyone in his hometown knowing. When we walk in sin, we love darkness.  Jesus says this in John 3: He says people “loved darkness because their works were evil.”  This is why he goes to a far off country—he exchanges his loving community with God and others, a community who will hold him accountable and speak truth in love to him—he exchanges that for a new group of people in the far country who are walking in darkness with him. Right, I want to be clear on that it’s not that everyone in the far country or everyone in darkness is lonely, they might just be in darkness together.  But the point is, the FAR COUNTRY is where people love to go when they are sin.

I think of a friend of mine back in college, who had an ongoing dating relationship that was Suuuper unhealthy.  It was just bad in a lot of ways, and he knew it was bad, and he’d tell us how bad it was when they broke up, but then a few weeks would go by and he’d start talking on the phone away from us, (this was in ancient times, before texting), and I’d see him on the phone shutting the door, and standing outside away from everyone talking on the phone, and if you asked about the girl, he’d change subject, and he’d just get real shifty and shady—and guess what?  They were back together.  This whole thing happened like 6 times.  On again, off again, and finally he came to me and he said, “Hey man, I know I shouldn’t be with this girl, we’re bad for each other, and I’m not going to get back together with her and I want you to hold me accountable.” And said, “No you don’t.  You don’t want me to hold you accountable.  Because you’ve asked me that before, but every time I try to ask you something about her, you hide, you dodge, you lie, you cover up your relationship.  You don’t want accountability, you want to hide from me.”

When we are in sin, we LOVE the far country.  We love hiding. We love being anonymous.

The Far Country is an appealing place, when we want to live ME FIRST.  But the far country comes at the price of loving community.

3.) Deceptive Power of Sin

There’s a third truth we see here about our sin.  Sin is so DECEPTIVE.  Our selfish desires, our me-first actions, the path of walking away from the Father is SO DECEPTIVE.

It promises fullness, and it leads to emptiness.

It promises freedom, and it leads to captivity.

It promises pleasure, and it leads to pain.

This young son runs off to the far country, and in anonymity, he lives it up.  The text says that he “squandered his property in reckless living.”   Reckless—he was seeking temporary highs.  He sold his father’s land, he had a pocket full of cash, no one to tell him how to live, and lived it up.  He partied hard.  Later in verse 30 his older brother says that he devoured his father’s money by spending it on prostitutes.  This guy went off the deep end.  He just lived for the moment, for temporary pleasure.  Who knows exactly what this guy did with his money, but in two millennia human nature hasn’t changed much.  In the first century they had brothels, they had booze, and they had fine food and fancy possessions.  This guy goes out and parties hard, and he gets his hits of dopamine, he gets the thrill of the moment.  We gotta be honest here that sin is MOMENTARILY thrilling.  Adam and Eve weren’t tempted with leftover Brussels sprouts.  They were tempted with fruit that was “a delight to the eyes.”  Don’t think that every prodigal hates his/her life.  There are a lot of prodigal sons in the far country that would tell you in the moment: “I’m happy.”  Children rebel against their parents all the time while their laughing and smiling, and it’s no different with the prodigal.  Sin is so DECEPTIVE that You can actually feel like you’re having fun, while you trash your life and rebel against God.

Maybe there were some moments when he was in the far country, and he rolled out of bed late with a headache after a hard night of partying, and he wondered, “What am I doing here?”, but away from his community, away from the people who could help him, the thought didn’t last long, and he kept walking the lonely road, and ended up back at the bar, the brothel, or both later that night.

And one night, when he went to close out his tab at the bar, the bartender handed him his VISA card back and said, “the card has been rejected.”  His money had run out.   Verse 14 says he “had spent everything” and “began to be in need.”   Uh oh.  He’s in the far country.  He doesn’t have any connections there.  All his so-called “friends” from the bar—all those tabs he picked up, all those people are no where to be found. Verse 16 says “no one gave him anything.”  He’s looked for help, but he finds himself all alone.  Times get tough, there’s a famine in the land, and people are not in a very generous mood.  He’s stuck.  He needs money, he needs to eat, but there’s no good solution.  He doesn’t have connections in the far country, and he certainly can’t go back home.  After what he’s done, he dead to them.  There’s no way his family, his community would take him back, he thinks.  That’s not an option.  He’s gotta make something work in the far country, and it turns out that his best option is to work for a pig farmer.

There are a few people in the church family who know what it’s like to work with pigs.  In the past or currently, you raise pigs, and you know—your nostrils testify—to the reality that pig farming can be a pretty nasty job.  There are some rough days out there in the pig pen.   There’s a reason that I tell my kids their bedrooms look like a pigsty.  Pigs live in filthy conditions.  And more to the point of this story, Jesus is telling this to a largely Jewish audience.  So here, this Son is in a far away country—GENTILE TERRITORY—and he’s working with PIGS, animals that are unclean by Jewish law, and on top of all that, verse 16 tells us that he was so hungry that he “was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate.”

Think about that.  One afternoon when he was out filling up the feeding trough with pods, pig food, pig slop, his stomach growled.  It had been a few days since he had eaten, and he looked over his shoulder; didn’t see one around, and he reached down, and—he didn’t have any other choice.  He had to, he was hungry.

The UNTHINKABLE, had become thinkable.

The UNDESIRABLE, had become desirable.

The foul, the dirty, the disgusting, the abhorrent, all of a sudden didn’t seem so bad anymore.  That’s the definition of PERVERSION. When a bad thing, doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  Sin perverts, distorts, twists our perspective.  Jesus calls it “blindness.” We don’t see how bad things are.

-People who love their families, really truly love them, walk down a road of sin, and before long they’re telling lies and more lies, and unthinkable lies that they never thought they’d tell to people they love.

-Or here’s one: There was a stat that came out a few years back—maybe 6-7 years ago, that something like 90% of home burglaries in Bloomington/Normal were drug related.  The people broke in to get money for drugs.   Do you think that the first time those people ever took a hit to get a temporary high—do you think that they ever imagined that in a few years they’d be breaking into someone’s house to pay for their addiction?   When we walk in sin, the UNTHINKABLE becomes THINKABLE.

We could go on a list a hundred more examples, but we don’t need to because you know from own life or the life of loved ones that THE FAR COUNTRY IS a DANGEROUS PLACE.  It promises one thing, but the promise fades, the fun is temporary, the satisfaction fizzles, and sooner or later, we find ourselves in a pigsty of consequences.  Sooner or later it’s all a lie.  Sin is so DECEPTIVE. Sooner a later, we reap what we sow.

In verse 17, the story continues:

B. He Came to His Senses.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.  And he arose and came to his father.”

1.) He came to himself

It’s a powerful line.  Jesus says, “He came to himself.” He came to his senses. He woke up, he wised up, he came to himself.” He had a moment of clarity, a moment when he realized what he had walked away from and how bitter his life had become.  We don’t know what God used to give him this clarity.  Maybe he woke and remembered it was his dad’s birthday and started about home.  Maybe he was walking down the street and saw a family sitting together at a table, and thought about some of the good times he had had with his family sitting at a table.  Maybe he couldn’t sleep, and he was lying there staring at the ceiling, and the aftertaste of pig pods in his mouth, and he remembered the favorite food that his mom used to make.  Maybe one of his friends from the bar tried to hit him up for money, and he realized, “This guy’s not my friend.  He’s just using me,” and he longed his old community.

We don’t know how, but somehow or another, this guy WOKE UP.  He came to his senses.  His eyes were opened, and I would submit to you that this was God PURSUING HIM.  10 weeks ago, we saw that Luke 15 contains three stories, and each story makes the same point.  The first story is of a shepherd.  One of his sheep is lost, and he leaves 99 behind and goes out and searches for the lost sheep and rescues it.  The next story is a woman who has 10 coins, each worth about a day’s wages, and she loses one coin, and she sweeps all over the house and then find the coin and rejoices, celebrates and has party when she finds it.   This story—the story of the son is the third, climactic story of the three, and the point is the same—God is a God who pursues the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

He is not indifferent to our lostness.  He does not look at this wayward son, and say, “Told him so.”  No, he pursues.  In the words of C.S. Lewis that I mentioned 10 weeks ago, he continues to “Woo” us, to pursue.   And often, the way that God gets our attention, gives us clarity, makes us wake up and come to our senses, often it is through Pain, Suffering, and Despair.  It’s what some have called God’s “violent mercy.”

This guy finds himself in a pigsty longing to eat pig slop, and life is terrible, but from heaven’s perspective that pig slop is God’s violent mercy.  It’s God saying, “Wake up!”

God uses pain to draw us to repentance.   Throughout the prophetic books, time and time again, we read that the Lord sends judgment. He says, “I sent famine to you, “YET, even then you did not repent.”  What was the Lord’s purpose in the famine?  Violent mercy.  To wake people up. To beckon them to return to him.

Here the man came to his senses, and what I’m suggesting is that the famine, the pigsty, the growling stomach, are all demonstrations of violent mercy.  God’s gracious means of drawing this man to repentance.   Sometimes it’s these worst moments in our lives that actually turn out to be some of the best, defining moments of our lives from the perspective of heaven.

This guy is at his worst, and he comes to his senses. He returns to his father.  This return to the Father is a picture of REPENTANCE.

2.) Repentance

Some Bible commentators have questioned whether or not this guy is really, truly repentant or if he’s just plain hungry and wants some food.   There’s not enough information in the parable to tell the motives in this guy’s heart, but given that verse 7 and verse 10 in the previous two parables about the sheep and the coin talk about the God’s response to repentance, it seems that we are supposed to read this third story as one of sincere repentance.

The word “Repent” means to turn away from one thing and to turn toward another.  It’s to do a U-turn.  To turn away from self and sin and turn to him and righteousness.  And from the outset of the Gospels, Jesus calls people to repent and believe the good news.  He’s calling people to turn away from something and turn towards him.  To turn away from self and sin, and turn to him and righteousness.

Notice two aspects of the young son’s repentance.  There is CONFESSION and there is ACTION.

1. Confession

When he comes to his senses, he thinks about what he will say to his father.  Which is that he has sinned against both heaven (God) and his father.  There’s a vertical, or Godward confession, and a horizontal confession to his father.   This is key to confession, because sometimes when a person is in a bad situation in life, they hit proverbial rock bottom and they realize they’ve hurt other people, they may try to mend things with those who they’ve hurt, which is a good thing to do, but it’s not the ultimate problem.

Our sin is first and foremost against our creator.  We hurt others with our sin in this world, but ultimately, our sin separates from God and our primary need for all eternity is to be made right with God.  So repentance is acknowledging sin as transgressing, violating, rebelling against God’s plan for our lives.  We’ve lived independently from him. The Far country is not just far from our family and friends, it’s far from our relationship to God.

And often when we think of repentance, we think of renouncing the bad things we’ve done.  So for this guy, it’s him renouncing sleeping with prostitutes.  And that’s true, certainly he should renounce that, but repentance is EVEN DEEPER THAN THAT.  It’s not just having sorrow for the bad things we’ve done, it’s actually acknowledging that we’ve lived completely for the wrong purpose.  We’ve lived for the kingdom of self, we’ve worshipped the idol of self, of self glory, self fulfillment, self anything, we’ve been all about me, myself and I, and it’s not just that we’ve done a few bad things, it’s that our lives were completely lived for the wrong purpose. We wanted nothing of God.  We had no room for him, we only wanted to fulfill self.  Repentance is confessing these core truths, heart-level realities, that we worshiped self over God.

2. Action

But repentance doesn’t stop with just a few words.  The second half of repentance is ACTION.  The text says that “he arose and went to his father.”  This would not be a story of repentance if he remained in the far country.  In order for repentance to occur, he had to walk away from darkness, he had to act.

And this is where repentance gets really tough because the action of repentance is humbling.  I suppose that many people know they’ve sinned against God and others, but they never arose from their sin, they never owned it and acted because to do so would be humiliating.  Consider this young man.  He is going to travel back home, and walk into a community where everyone knows that he’s the kid who basically told his dad that he wishes he were dead, he cashed out his inheritance—something that you never do—and now here he is walking back into town empty handed after squandering it on prostitutes and booze.

The SHAME of that act—of walking back into town in humility—keeps people from repenting.  There are people drinking alone all over this country who know they’ve done something wrong, that they’ve sinned, but their shame is too great, their pride keeps them from humbly turning and returning to God, to the Church, and to those they’ve hurt.

We can see this guy’s shame right here in verse 18—he’s already rehearsing his speech.  He says that he’ll go to his father and say to him, “Father I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

Imagine you’re this young son—you’re heading back home, you have a speech in your head about how you’re not worthy and you just want to work as a servant.  You’re going to walk into town, probably you’re going to find the time of day when the least amount of people are going to see you, you’re going to go to your home, and knock on the door, and YOU HAVE NO IDEA what your dad is going to say.  He could literally shut the door in your face.   He could say, “Don’t say a word to me, unless you have every penny that I gave you.”  Keep in mind this is a first century middle eastern culture based on honor and shame. It would not be strange at all for a Father in to open the door and see this prodigal son, and say, “Who do you think you are?  Do you know how many people you’ve hurt?  Don’t you know that the second you walked out of this door, our family disowned you.  You are dead to us.  Get out.  Get out, and don’t you ever show your face in this town again.”

This guy is traveling home, and he doesn’t know what to expect.  He’s only hoping that he can beg for his father to allow him to work as a servant, to make some small little repayment of all that he has lost.

But in verse 20, we begin to see, that this young man, DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HIS FATHER IS LIKE.  HE DID NOT KNOW HIS FATHER’S CHARACTER.

C. Father

Verse 20 “20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c]22 But the father said to his servants,[d]‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

If you’re confused about what Christianity is, this is it. This is the filet of Scripture.

Consider what Jesus is saying here.  A son who walked away from his father, his family, his community, he lived it up in reckless partying, squandered everything, who lost a massive amount of money, he is a disgrace to his family, who is full of shame and embarrassment and SHOULD BE, walks back into town absolutely humiliated, but the most humiliating character in the story is no longer this son . . . it’s the FATHER.

The father sees him a long way off, and he takes off running.  Again this is the first century, where Patriarchs, the Fathers, wore robes and were respected and served, and it would be considered undignified to run, but this father starts running toward his son, and he gives him a huge bear hug and kisses him.  And we assume he’s weeping tears of joy and saying, “Son, how I’ve missed you.  Praise God, you are here, I’m so glad you’re here. Praise God.”

And the son begins his speech.  “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven, and against you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son, just let me be a servant.”  And the Father says, “SHHHHH.  None of that.  You’re my SON!  You were dead and now you’re alive!  You were lost; you’re found!  WELCOME HOME SON!!! Welcome home!  QUICK!” he shouts to his servant, “Tell everyone.  Invite the neighbors.  Slaughter the fattened calf. We are having a party!  Go get this son some clothes.  Give my credit card take him to get a suit, get him a haircut, make him a bedroom, and welcome him home.”

Don’t forget, this Father has reason to be ashamed.  This guy’s own son wished him dead.  This Father has heard neighbors whispering about his son at the coffee shop when his son was in the far country.  This Father sent out a family Christmas card last year and his son wasn’t in the photo.  This Father had to put up a for sale sign on his family land, this guy lived day in and day in the community with people wondering and asking and now: What are they going to think?

How would you handle this situation?  Even a loving, gracious father would at the very least say, “O.k. you’re my son, I’ll let you come home, but you gotta live in the servant’s quarters for a least a year or two until you earn back some of the money you lost.”

That’d seem to be plenty gracious.

But this Father is RIDICULOUSLY GRACIOUS.  I mean that in the most literal sense—his grace and love and acceptance of his son is son immense that he will certainly be ridiculed by others.  There will be people who go, “That guy’s insane.  He’s having a party for that kid?  Are you kidding me?  He gave him a new ring, a new robe, new shoes, and he slaughtered the fattened calf for that kid?  This is ridiculous.

GRACE offends our sense of justice.

GRACE—true GRACE—is scandalous.

Our ingrained sense of justice says people should get what they deserve. And we have a sense of what is deserved. Grace is when God does not treat us as we deserve. At best this guy deserves nothing, at worst he deserves to be rejected by the community he has already rejected.  But Grace is when the loving Father celebrates his return, throws a celebration, and doesn’t hang this over his son’s head.  What matters to the father is not what his son did, but that HIS SON IS HOME.  He was lost and now he is found.

And so he pours out his grace, and celebrates the return of his son.  And God’s grace is so lavish that it is offensive to our sense of justice.

And it’s in this celebration of the returning son that we see the VERY HEART OF GOD.  All throughout Scripture, God’s heart, his character, his nature is that of a Father who has his arms outstretched to those in sin.

-Zechariah 1:3, “Return to me,” says the Lord, “and I will return to you.”

-Isaiah 65, “All day long, I held out my arms to an obstinate and rebellious people.”

-Exodus 34, “The Lord, the LORD, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in             steadfast love.

-Lamentations 3, “The steadfast love of the LORD NEVER ceases.”

-Micah 7 “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression.  He does not               retain his anger forever because he DELIGHTS in steadfast love.”

We know this about God, for it’s his nature all over the pages of Scripture, but the shame of sin clouds out the character of God for the prodigal and the scandal of grace clouds out the true nature of God’s love for those who can’t believe the lavish love of the Father.

Many of the people who heard Jesus tell this story just couldn’t quite understand the fact that God welcomes sinners to come home.  They were scandalized by the thought.  You see, if you look at Luke 15:1 with me, we see that these religious folks are the very people to whom Jesus speaks this story of the Prodigal Son.  Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and scribes grumbled saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The religious people in Jesus’ day didn’t understand that God loves sinners.  He rejoices in repentance and that Jesus’ very mission was to seek and save sinners, the lost.

And this is the subtle twist in the story of the Prodigal Son.  The story is a story about God the Father, and his love for the wayward son, but at the end of the story—the Father is eating, feasting, and celebrating with the “sinner,” the returned son.   The twist is that Jesus is not merely talking about God the Father, he’s talking about himself.  Jesus is telling a story about his own heart, and his own mission.  He is the King, who receives sinners.

This is GOOD news.

When we go to the far away country in sin, Jesus is the King who leaves his home to go to the far country to redeem us from sin.

We feel the guilt and shame and humiliation of sin, and Jesus goes to the cross, bears our, rids us of our shame, and is humiliated in our place.

We reject the Father, Jesus is rejected by the Father on the cross in order that we might be received by him.

We hide in the darkness of sin, Jesus enters the darkness as the light of the world to beckon us home to the Father.

We who were dead in sin, are made alive in repentance and faith, because Jesus died for our sin, and rose from the grave, giving life to all who repent and believe.

The Good News is that our Father has sent his Son into this world on a mission to call sinners home to him by repentance and faith.

It doesn’t matter what far country you’ve visited.  The Father not only receives you in repentance, he CELEBRATES YOUR REPENTANCE! Verse 7 says there is “JOY IN HEAVEN” over repentance.  Verse 10 says there’s “Joy before the angels of God” when a sinner repents.  And here we see the image of God is not and image a Father at the door with a glare and his arms crossed, but a father who in his Joy is a foolish sight, a humiliated man as he runs down the road weeping, shouting, hugging, kissing, and declaring “WELCOME HOME MY SON.  Welcome home.”


This morning we all sit here with different stories and at different places in life.

1.) (Heading Toward the Far Country)

There may be some here right now, or perhaps someone listening or reading online, or someone who listens to or reads this 3 years down the road, and you know in your heart that you are LIVING IN THE FAR COUNTRY.  Right now, you know that your back is to God the Father, you’re dodging people who love you, you’re living for yourself.  You are me-first, you’re covering over your sin by finding people who celebrate sin with you, and you’re on the run.  You know it.  Maybe you’ve been on the run so long that you’re comfortable with the far country, or maybe you’re not even to the far country yet, but it’s where you want to go—you’re headed toward it.

If that’s you, know for certain today that the Far Country is a dangerous place.  It does not satisfy, it will not last, and you don’t have to go there or stay there.  There are dozens and dozens of people in our church family who have spent a long time in the far country, and every one of them today would stand up here and beg you to return home.  The broad path leads to destruction. The far country leads to pain, and worst of all, it’s away from the Presence of God the Father.  Today, if you are in the far country or headed that way, DO A U-TURN.  I plead with you, RETURN TO THE LORD.  Confess that you have sinned against God and man, and leave your place of sin, and RUN HOME.  Run home. Return to the Lord today.  Zechariah 1, says “Thus says the Lord, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

2.) (Sons Acting like Servants)

There are others here today—who PRAISE GOD—have fled the Far Country. By the gracious WOO of God, but the violent mercy of God, you’ve come to your senses, and you’ve turned home to God to others.  You’ve confessed your sin, you’ve taken action, you’ve burned bridges in the far country, and you’re rebuilding bridges at home.  Praise God.

And if that’s you today, I want to remind you of one simple truth:  By the grace of God, given to you in Jesus Christ, received by faith, YOU ARE A SON—You’re not a slave.  What I mean is this:  Because of your sin and your shame and pride, you’re not going to feel like you deserve the grace of God and so you’re going to live in the servant’s quarters in your soul and try to work really hard to pay back God and others.  And eventually you might think, “Ok, I’ve done my time, I’m good enough again, All is well.”

But that’s not the Gospel of Grace.  The Gospel of Grace is that WE NEVER DESERVE the FATHER’S   LOVE.


The Gospel of GRACE is that the Father RUNS TO US, we don’t crawl our way back to him.

Our Sins from the Far Country become WHITE AS SNOW, NOT because we log overtime in the servants’ house, but because the Father says to us, “Welcome Home” in the person of Jesus Christ.

By Grace we are Sons and Daughters, not servants, in the Father’s house.


For the past few months I’ve been listening to a song called “At the Table” by Josh Garrels, and it’s the story of the prodigal son.  A wayward son runs from home and the Father is saying “Return to me.  For you will always have a seat at my table.”

This morning before we sing our final song, we’re going to listen to the song At the Table and this is a time for all who are in the far country to hear the call of God saying, “Return home.  There’s a place for you.  Turn back and be received.”  And for everyone here to remember and rejoice in the Lavish Love of our Heavenly Father.

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Wherever you are, pray secretly within yourself.  If you are far from a house of prayer, give not yourself trouble to seek for one, for you yourself are a sanctuary designed for prayer.  If you are in bed, or in any other place, pray there; your temple is there.

Bernard of Clairvaux

This Day's Verse

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

1 John 4:20-21
The New King James Version

This Day's Smile

The best smell is bread, the best saver salt, the best love that of children.

George Herbert

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When an apprentice gets hurt, or complains of being tired, the workmen and peasants have this fine expression: “It is the trade entering his body.”  Each time that we have some pain to go through, we can say to ourselves quite truly that it is the universe, the order and beauty of the world, and the obedience of God that are entering our body.

Simone Weil

This Day's Verse

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35
The New King James Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

In God’s economy, you must go down into the shadow of grief before you can scale the heights of spiritual glory.  You must come to the end of self before you begin to live.


Some of the staunchest Christians I know are people who had periods in their life when they questioned the Bible, Christ, and God.  But as they continued to examine the matter, there was overwhelming evidence that only “the fool hath said in his heart, there is not God.”


It is strange that men will prepare for everything except death.


Some people have received Christ but have never reached spiritual maturity.  We should grow as Christians every day, and we are not completely mature until we live in the presence of Christ.


To know the will of God is the highest of all wisdom.


Think of the blessings we so easily take for granted: Life itself; preservation from danger; every bit of health we enjoy; every hour of liberty; the ability to see, to hear, to speak, to think, and to imagine all this comes from the hand of God.


When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.


Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.


My prayer for you today is that you will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around you.


The effective Christians of history have been men and women of great personal discipline–metal discipline, discipline of the body, discipline of the tongue, and discipline of the emotion.


Suppose that I understand the Bible.  And, suppose that I am the greatest preacher who ever lived!  The Apostle Paul wrote that unless I have love, “I am nothing.”


Prayer shouldn’t be casual or sporadic, dictated only by the needs of the moment.  Prayer should be as much a part of our lives as breathing.


Every day has exactly 1,440 minutes; can’t you find even ten of them to be with your heavenly Father?  Doesn’t God deserve the best minutes of your day?


What kind of place is heaven? First, heaven is home. The Bible takes the word “home,” with all its tender associations and with all of its sacred memories and tells us that heaven is home. Second, heaven is a home which is permanent. We have the promise of a home where Christ’s followers will remain forever. Third, the Bible teaches that heaven is a home which is beautiful beyond every imagination. Heaven could not help but be so, because God is a God of beauty. Fourth, the Bible teaches that heaven will be a home which is happy, because there will be nothing to make it sad. In heaven, families and friends will be reunited. God’s house will be a happy home because Christ will be there. He will be the center of heaven. To Him all hearts will turn, and upon Him as eyes will rest.


Wherever the Gospel is preached, no matter how crudely, there are bound to be results.


In obedience to discernment, more discernment will come. We need to be attentive and alert in order to hear and understand God’s call and then act, knowing that God blesses even our mistakes.


A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord. Thank God in the midst of trials and every persecution.


We have found that marriage should be made up of two forgivers. We need to learn to say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” And we also need to say, “That’s all right, I love you.”


Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.


We hurt people by being too busy.  Too busy to notice their needs.  Too busy to drop that note of comfort or encouragement or assurance of love.  Too busy to listen when someone needs to talk.  Too busy to care.


Life is a glorious opportunity, if it is used to condition us for eternity.  If we fail in this, though we succeed in everything else, our life will have been a failure.  There is no escape for the man who squanders his opportunity to prepare to meet God.


I try not to worry about life too much because I read the last page of THE book and it all turns out all right.

Billy Graham

This Day's Verse

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
The King James Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The legend about the wandering Jew who was suffering the punishment of eternal life is very true.  In the same way, there is a legend about a man who was punished by being given a life without any suffering.

Leo Tolstoy

This Day's Verse

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30
The New International Version

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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Brethren, why so many meetings with our fellow men and so few meetings with God?

Andrew Bonar

This Day's Verse

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15
The English Standard Version

This Day's Smile

I have problems flown in fresh daily wherever I am.

Richard Lewis

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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch


by Tim Zingale

Mark 4:35-41
Job 38:1-11

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

An artist was commissioned by a wealthy man to paint something that would depict peace. After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful country scene. There were green fields with cows standing in them, birds were flying in the blue sky and a lovely little village lay in a distant valley. The artist gave the picture to the man, but there was a look of disappointment on his face. The man said to the artist, “This isn’t a picture of true peace. It isn’t right. Go back and try again.”

The artist went back to his studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to his canvas and began to paint. When he was finished, there on the canvas was a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child. He thought, surely, this is true peace, and hurried to give the picture to the wealthy man. But again, the wealthy an refused the painting and asked the painter to try again.

The artist returned again to his studio. He was discouraged, he was tired and he was disappointed. Anger swelled inside him, he felt the rejection of this wealthy man. Again, he thought, he even prayed for inspiration to paint a picture of true peace. Then, all of a sudden an idea came, he rushed to the canvas and began to paint as he had never painted before. When he finished, he hurried to the wealthy man.

He gave the painting to the man. He studied it carefully for several minutes. The artist held his breath. Then the wealthy man said, “Now this is a picture of true peace.” He accepted the painting, paid the artist and everyone was happy.

And what was this picture of true peace?? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds which were laced with streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm. And in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace midst the storm that raged about her.”

Peace, tranquility, calmness, these are the emotions which each we seek as we experience the storms of life. We long, we search for peace. We search for the quiet, the calm, the contentment as we experience the storms, the chaos, the uncertainties of life.

As we live with all the brokenness of sin, with all the tension of this sinful world, we cry out, we long for some peace to somehow insulate, or protect us from all the fury around us. We are very much like that wealthy man, searching, dreaming, wanting peace in the middle of the fury of life. We search, we long, for that peace. We even call out as the disciples did to Jesus in that sinking boat, we call out to God for peace, for comfort. We call out to God,, wondering if He is around, wondering if He is sleeping while we are searching.

The question asked more often by human beings is always some variation on this theme,’Where are you, God?” Or “God, are you sleeping?” or “God, are you dead?” or God, do you hear me?” or “God, why don’t you. Answer me?”

And God’s answer, God’s ’s only answer, God’s answer that we can only understand is this: “I am in the midst of you through the crucified Christ” Yes, I am here, I am with you as I was with my Son on the cross of Calvary.”

Our Old Testament Lesson and our gospel lesson focus for us this morning on that question, “Where is God in the tumult of life?” Job asks that question of God as he is suffering, the disciples ask that question of Jesus as they are sinking with their boat into the Sea of Galilee.

“Don’t you care, aren’t you concerned with our plight, why am I suffering like this,” are the questions which beg for an answer in our lessons this morning.

Jesus and the disciples were crossing the sea when a sudden storm broke upon them. The disciples became afraid as the wind blew, and the fury of the storm began to fill the boat with water. These were seasoned fishermen, they had experienced these kinds of storms before, but this one was different, it was worse than they had ever experienced. They used their skills, but still they were sinking.

Then in the middle of the storm, they thought about Jesus, where was he. He was in the stern of the boat sleeping on a pillow. Jesus had that sure confidence in the peace of God which allowed Him to sleep even though the storms of life, even this storm of the sea as it was raging all about him.

But the disciples didn’t have that peace, they were afraid, they wondered if Jesus even cared for them as they awoke Him with this question “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”

They soon saw Jesus’ caring as He awoke and spoke to the wind and the sea saying: “Peace’ Be Still !”’ Then the sea calmed, the winds stopped there was peace.

Then Jesus asked the disciples a question: “Why are you afraid?? Have you no faith?”

Jesus had peace, he was not afraid because He had faith in the Father to protect and provide for Him.

He wanted His disciples to have that same peace. A peace that knows that no matter what circumstances in life we may find ourselves, God ifs in control, so there is peace. Peace does come, peace is equal to faith in the power of God to control, to provide. The disciples saw the power of God in nature as Jesus calmed the storm. That same power is present in all circumstances of life. There is peace to life when we believe in and trust in the power of God to be with us, to guide us, to save us from all the storms of life.

The disciples were afraid because they could only see the storm, their eyes we fixed on that storm. It was difficult for them to have any peace when they were focused on the storm. The problem for the disciples and our problem is not the storms of life but where our attention is placed. It’s hard to see the Christ in the boat when our attention is riveted on the waves outside the boat. When our attention is so consumed by the storms of life so that we cannot see Christ, or turn to Him, or trust in Him, then there is no peace, no contentment, but only worry and despair.

For example: “A story from the days of sailing ships, tell about a ship caught in a sudden and severe storm. The passengers became panicky, rushing here and there as the waves beat upon the ship. There was fear and dread on the faces of all the passengers except one little boy, who remained calm and cheerful. When asked why he was so calm, he said,”Why should I be afraid? My father is at the helm.” In order words, he was not afraid, because e his father was in control.

So, too, with us we face the storms of life. We need not be afraid, or full of despair, because God through His Son Jesus Christ is in control. God is at the helm of life. We need to believe and trust in His power to guide our lives.

Job, in our first lesson, learned of this power of God to be in control of life as God encountered Job in the whirlwind. Job comes to God with his questions of why. Why did he have to suffer? Was there something he did wrong that he deserved this suffering? He came to God, he, in a sense challenged God with his questions.

And what does God do? He comes to Job in a whirlwind and God asks Job questions. God asks if Job had been present at the beginning of time, was Job present at creation, did he have a hand in creating the world? God asked Job if he was the one to control the seas, if he was the one who created the rain and clouds? God came to Job in all of His power and reminded Job of that power, reminded him that humankind cannot understand the mind or the workings of God.

The text doesn’t say Job’s reply, but if we read further we see that the only reply Job had was to fall on his knees in humble subjection. When he finally saw and encountered God, Job saw his own helplessness and lack of wisdom. Job remained faithful to God in all of his trials, but he never came to a point where he didn’t trust or believe in God’s power to deliver or save him.

So, with us, as we face the unanswered questions, as we face the whys, the how comes, as we face suffering, as we face the tragedies of life.

It is not that we disbelieve God’s ability to do anything to save. We all too frequently fail to trust the power He has. We come to God with our human condition of sin. We come to God with our inability to really understand God, so we give up. We question, we ask, we search, but we don’t wait for an answer.

As Pastor Paul Scheidt says in Preaching Helps:

“God calls us to faith, but we prefer to hope for miracles.

“Surely we say, “Our Creator, who supports the earth’s foundations, can arrest the storm in a moment. He has before; perhaps he will again.”

But if our prayer is one-dimensional request for a miraculous calm, we may let ourselves in for a large helping of disappointment and despair if God’s plan dictates some thing different from our request.

The prayer of of faith will include a second dimension that God will help us, hear his voice in the storm. His voice which says loud and clear, I am with you, I am with you.”

As Job found out, as the disciples found out the only answer to our questions about life comes with a simple but powerful answer, “I am with you, period.”

That is all we need to know our God is with us as we face all the why questions of life.

40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”


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