This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Talk about what you believe and you have disunity,
Talk about who you believe in and you have unity.

E. Stanley Jones


This Day's Verse

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.

Proverbs 20:27
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance; yonder palace was raised by single stones, yet you see its height and spaciousness.  He that shall walk with vigor three hours a day, will pass in seven years a space equal to the circumference of the globe.

Samuel Johnson


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, desire to have pleasure in nothing.

John of the Cross


This Day's Verse

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.

Psalm 86:5-7
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Gratitude is the memory of the heart; therefore forget not to say often, I have all I ever enjoyed.

Lydia M. Child


This Day's Verse

For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.  For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

Lamentations 3:31-33
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

Every mother is like Moses.  She does not enter the promised land.  She prepares a world she will not see.

Pope Paul VI


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Praising Prayers- Psalm 103


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PRAISING PRAYERS – PSALM 103
Lesson 21 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 103, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” played by Lucas Elder

We’re looking through the psalms to find ways to make our prayer lives more effective. One of the most powerful ways is to include “praise” in our prayers, to include some words of acknowledgement that God is worthy of our praise. Doing so has benefits for us and for God.

If you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone that has not included any kind of praise and has not included any thoughts or words of thankfulness or gratefulness on any level, you know how hard such conversations can be.

But a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins sings. More than that, your words of praise will help to recapture the best of your relationship with God, a relationship built on trust that He is worthy of your praise, and that you are the apple of His eye–no matter what your circumstances may be.

Psalm 103 gives us an example of a prayer filled with praise, a prayer that opens and closes with the words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.” This psalm of David begins like this:

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits–
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

One thing I especially love about this psalm is that David’s words of praise seem to be truly flowing from the depths of his being. His words aren’t simply in the category of saying something just to “fake it till you make it.” His words are true words of praise, words of faith. “Faith it till you make it” might be more like it, as David truly puts his trust in God’s goodness and God’s benefits.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name,” David says.  Then he begins to list God’s benefits specifically:

– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
– who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
– who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

David had seen God do each of these things. He had seen God forgive his sins. He had seen God heal his diseases. He had seen God redeem his life from the pit, crown him with love and compassion, and satisfy his desires with good things. David remembered what God had done in the past, and trusted God to do so again in the future.

If you’ve noticed my prayers at the end of these messages, you’ll see that I often start with the words “Father, thank You…” and then go on to list some of the things for which I am truly grateful to God. I have journals filled with these types of prayers. Not because my days are always so rosy and cheery, but because I’ve made a commitment to myself to try to begin my prayers with words of thanks to God, no matter what else might be going on in my life.

Sometimes I have to push aside the things that are pressing down on me so I can find some words of praise. I know they’re within me. I just have to bring them out. So I’ll start by writing the words, “Father, thank You…” and think of something that has happened in the past 24 or 48 hours for which I am truly thankful.

This morning, my prayer would go something like this: “Father, thank you for my daughter coming home for this weekend. Thank You for my family gathering together and eating and laughing and crying and watching movies. Thank You for the sunny days when we could be outside and for the rainy ones when everything was watered well.”

If this was all you were to read in my journal, you would think I had a most blissful weekend. All in all, it was quite pleasant. But if you read further, you’d find that there were multiple concerns that were on my heart: accidents and injuries, bills that need to be paid, and relationships that need to be ironed out.

If your life is like mine, it’s usually a mixed bag of things which are praiseworthy and things which are difficult. By praising God on the front end, however, and praising God again at the end of the conversation, I find it brings balance to my prayers, encouragement to my soul, and blessings to both God’s heart and my own.

If you need some ideas to prime the pump of praise in your prayer life, read through Psalm 103. See if you can say any of the words of that psalm with true praise from the depths of your being. Then let your faith begin to flow, putting your trust in God once again for everything in your life.

I’m going to do this myself today as well. If you’d like, you can pray though the rest of Psalm 103 with me here, as I look through the words of David and turn each line that resonates with my heart into a prayer of praise to God. As I often start in my journal, I’ll just start with the words, “Father, thank You…” then I’ll begin to list those things from this psalm which I can truly say with words of praise from my heart.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You…
– that You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
– that You will not always accuse, nor will You hold Your anger against us forever.
– that You don’t treat us as our sins deserve.
– that as far as the east is from the west, so far have You removed our sins from us.
– that You have compassion on us, as a father has compassion on his children.
– that even though our days are like grass and quickly forgotten, Your love is everlasting.

Thank You for being so worthy of our praise. We praise You Lord, from the depths of our souls. We praise Your holy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. If you haven’t listened to today’s psalm yet, you can listen to it here:
Psalm 103, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” played by Lucas Elder

You can also follow along with our weekly reading plan for the book of psalms here:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A man who gives into temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

C. S. Lewis


This Day's Verse

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

In times of darkness love sees,
In times of silence love hears,
In times of doubt love hopes,
In times of sorrow love heals.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The ministry of kindness is a ministry which may be achieved by all men, rich and poor, learned and illiterate.  Brilliance of mind and capacity for deep thinking have rendered great service to humanity, but by themselves they are impotent to dry a tear or mend a broken heart.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

Having such great promises as these, dear friends, let us turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves, living in the wholesome fear of God, giving ourselves to him alone.

2 Corinthians 7:1
The Living Bible


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The giving of love is an education in itself.

Eleanor Roosevelt


This Day's Verse

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.

Proverbs 28:19
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.

Henry Ward Beecher


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

As a mother, my job is to take care of the possible and trust God with the impossible.

Ruth Bell Graham


This Day's Verse

“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14
The Living Bible


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I shall never cease to give all I can to those in need until I find myself reduced to such a state of poverty that there will scarcely remain to me five feet of earth for my grave or a penny for my funeral.

Cajetan of Thiene


This Day's Verse

The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Ecclesiastes 9:17
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

What happens when we praise the Father?  We reestablish the proper chain of command.

Max Lucado


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Singing Prayers- Psalm 96


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

SINGING PRAYERS – PSALM 96
Lesson 20 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 96, read by Lana Elder, with Johann Pachelbel’s “Fughetta,” played by Eric Elder

Sometimes you have to sing your prayers. Music gives your prayers an added dimension, an added lift.

As Hans Christian Andersen said: “Where words fail, music speaks.”

When we combine our words with music, it takes our words to a whole new level.

Psalm 96 begins with these words:

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth” (v. 1).

Then it goes on to list a number of things about which we can sing to Him:

“Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns'” (vv. 2-10a).

The psalms were originally songs, as the word psalm means “song.”

Even more specifically, the word psalm comes from the Greek word “psallein,” which means “to pluck,” or to play a stringed instrument, such as a harp.

When we sing songs to God today accompanied by the piano or guitar, we’re actually doing what people have done for thousands of years: putting words to music to give them an added dimension, an added lift.

How can singing lift your prayer life? How can music make your prayer life more effective?

For starters, it can make your prayers more memorable. I have a friend who had trouble remembering anything. But she said that when she was a child, if someone put an idea to music, she remembered it for life.

There’s something about a melody that makes ideas more memorable.

Here in the U.S., when I was a kid, I learned the entire preamble to our constitution because School House Rock set those words to music. Most kids in the U.S. in my generation can sing it by memory still to this day: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility…”

We also learned about English in the same way, singing songs like “Conjunction Junction”: “Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”

Advertisers, of course, use music to make their products more memorable, and again, here in the U.S., most people in my generation can fill in the blanks in a song like this:

“Oh, I wish I were an _________ __________ _________,
That is what I truly want to be.
For if I were an _________ __________ _________,
Everyone would be in love with me!”

(For those not from the U.S. or not from my generation, the answer is “Oscar Meyer Wiener,” a famous brand of hot dogs here.)

But more than just making words more memorable, by putting our words to music, we can make our words more precise, more specific. By adding rhythm and rhyme to our melodies, we can take deep spiritual truths and turn them into “sound bites” which can speak volumes into people’s hearts.

John Newton was a former slave trader who renounced his ways when he put his faith in Christ. When he wrote out his testimony, he did so by combining rhythm and rhyme and setting his words to music. By doing this, people all over the world now know his “testimony in a nutshell,” which begins like this:

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

When you take time to turn your prayers into songs, you can make your prayers more precise, more specific, and more memorable, too.

Has God put a song in your heart? Is there a way you combine that song with a prayer that’s on your heart and sing it out to Him?

My encouragement to you today is to try singing out your prayers to God. Try putting a melody to the thoughts that are within you. Try adding some rhythm and rhyme to make them more precise, specific and memorable.

Try singing a new song to God, as the first line of Psalm 96 encourages us to do:

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth”

If you need some ideas for topics, you could use some of the topics that are listed in the rest of the psalm. Sing about His salvation, His glory, or His marvelous deeds. Sing about His creation, the heavens, or His glory and strength. Sing about His splendor, or about what it means to you that “The Lord reigns.”

Maybe you play an instrument, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a melody that is uniquely your own, or maybe you can borrow a melody from somewhere else. But if you want to take your prayer life farther and deeper–and help others go farther and deeper in their prayer lives, too–consider “singing a new song to the Lord.”

When you do, you’ll find that the words you speak to God will be more precise, specific and memorable, maybe even being repeated and sung by others to help take their prayer lives farther and deeper as well.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for giving us music and rhythm and rhyme. Thank You for putting songs in our hearts that others have written to take our own prayer lives deeper and farther than we could on our own. Help us to bring out new songs from our hearts as well, so that we can give expression to our thoughts in a way that  goes beyond the words themselves. When our words fail or seem to fall short, help us to put them to music to give them an added dimension, a lift. Speak to us, as we consider new ways to speak to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. One of the reasons I’ve been setting the psalms to classical music this year is to give them an added dimension, an added lift, too. If you haven’t listened to today’s psalm, you can listen to it at the link below. I’ve simply combined the reading of Psalm 96 with a classical piece by Johann Pachelbel in the background. I love the result!
Psalm 96, read by Lana Elder, with Johann Pachelbel’s “Fughetta,” played by Eric Elder

And here’s the link to our reading plan for the book of psalms:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Christ hungers now, my brethren; it is he who deigns to hunger and thirst in the persons of the poor.

Caesarius of Arles


This Day's Verse

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isaiah 26:3
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

All kids are scientists, and all kids are artists.  They all read.  How is it that we give up such big things?

Janna Levin


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Having a doctrine pass before the mind is not what the Bible means by knowing the truth.  It’s only when it reaches down deep into the heart that the truth begins to set us free, just as a key must penetrate a lock to turn it, or as rainfall must saturate the earth down to the roots in order for your garden to grow.

John Eldredge


This Day's Verse

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

2 Timothy 2:16
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A heart out of tune, out of sync with God’s heart, will produce a life of spiritual barrenness and missed opportunities.

Jim Cymbala


This Day's Verse

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.

Chinese proverb


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Jesus gives us the ultimate rest, the confidence we need, to escape the frustration and chaos of the world around us.

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Struggling with God over the issues of life doesn’t show a lack of faith–that is faith.

Lee Strobel


This Day's Verse

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

The things which are not measurable are more important than those which are measurable.

Alexis Carrel


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Protective Prayers- Psalm 91


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PROTECTIVE PRAYERS – PSALM 91
Lesson 19 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 91, read by Lana Elder, with Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” played by Bo Elder

If you or someone you love needs God’s protection today, I hope you’ll read this message.

One of the most frequent types of prayers I pray are prayers for God’s protection–for myself and for those I love. While Jesus tells us not to worry, one of the reasons He has to do so is because there’s so much to worry about!

My dad had a card he kept on the window sill by the kitchen sink in our home growing up. It said, “Worrying must work. 90% of the things I worry about never happen.”

I’m sure that card was a reminder to him, as it often was to me, that many of the things we worry about are not worth worrying about, as they will simply never happen. As the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said over 400 years ago: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

The truth is, however, that there are still plenty of things that can and do happen to us and to those we love. What do we do about those? God gives us His answer in Psalm 91, a prayer that is filled with words of trust in God’s protection, no matter what might come against us.

Listen to the psalmist’s opening words, as he puts his complete trust in God:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
(Psalm 91:1-7)

I love the imagery of this psalm, which pictures God as a refuge and a fortress, a safe place in the midst of trouble.

The psalmist imagines himself coming to God as a fledgling bird would come to his father, taking refuge under his father’s wings. The psalmist says things like these: “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge,” “Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence,” and “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”

There is great protection when we put our trust in God. Even though “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,” this psalm continues by saying, “but it will not come near you.”

I would never be able to count the number of times I have prayed a prayer of protection over myself and those I love. Every time I turn on the car and back out of the driveway, I pause to pray out loud that God would be with us, that He would protect us, and that we would be able to bless His name as we go about our day, and that He would bless us as we do. Every time my kids are out late, or someone I know is sick or hurting, or one of my friends is going to be home alone, I pray God’s hand of protection over them.

I don’t take these prayers for granted, and I don’t say them superstitiously, as if somehow by uttering the words versus not uttering the words they are going to act like a magic charm to protect those I love. I say these prayers because I truly believe that prayer works, that when we put our trust in God, we are putting our trust in the One who can truly protect us and dispatch His angels to guard us in all our ways.

The psalmist says as much as he continues:

“You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the Lord, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.'”

(Psalm 91:8-16)

I don’t know about you, but as I read these words, a great peace washes over me. A great comfort and calm comes into my heart. A great trust rises within me. I can breathe a little easier, knowing that God’s got this. He’s got it all under control. Even when life seems out of control, I can rest in the fact that God is bigger than anything else that can come against me. Nothing can touch me or those I love unless there is some greater purpose He has in mind.

A friend of mine describes God’s protection like the guardrails along the far edges of the road on each side to keep us (our lives) from careening off the edge. While there are plenty of obstacles, pitfalls, breakdowns, tickets for speeding, flat tires–multiple things that can and will happen on our journey–ultimately the providential protection of God will indeed keep us on the road He has designed for us.

If you’re needing God’s protection today, don’t worry. As Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Instead, put your trust in God. Put your trust in Him for everything in your life, as well as the lives of those you love.

Pray that God’s hand of protection would be with you as you face the terrors of the night or the arrows that fly by day. Trust that He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways. Know that when you call upon Him, He will answer you. Though a thousand may fall at your side, or ten thousand at your right hand, it will not come near you.

God is worthy of your trust. Keep praying, and keep putting your full faith and trust in Him.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for being a refuge and a fortress, a God in whom we can trust. Thank You for walking with us through the craziness of life, promising that when we put our trust in You, You will protect us when we do. Father, help us to keep trusting in You, even when we face terrors at night or arrows during the day, knowing that You are our shield and our rampart, a strong wall that protects everyone who take shelter within. Lord, help us not to worry about tomorrow. Help us not to fear what we face today. Instead, help us to pray, and to keep putting our trust in You, all along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. If you haven’t listened to today’s psalm, I hope that you will, as I believe the words and the music can bring you a peace that will go beyond any message I could ever give:
Psalm 91, read by Lana Elder, with Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” played by Bo Elder

And here’s the link to our reading plan for the book of psalms:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If your hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 2:11-12
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

We must not only educate the mind, but also the heart.

Kobi Yamada


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The most powerful life is the most simple life.  The most powerful life is the life that knows where it’s going, that knows where the source of strength is; it is the life that stays free of clutter and happenstance and hurriedness.

Max Lucado


This Day's Verse

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew 16:25
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.

C. S. Lewis


This Day's Verse

In heaven a crown is waiting for me which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return.  And not just to me, but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again.

2 Timothy 4:8
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

We need to think of ourselves as gifts to be given and to think of others as gifts offered to us.

John Powell


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the window which hope has opened.

Charles H. Spurgeon


This Day's Verse

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone.

Psalm 32:5
The New Living Translation


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Christ is like a river that is continually flowing.  There are always fresh supplies of water coming from the fountainhead, so that a man may live by it and be supplied with water all his life.  So Christ is an every-flowing fountain; he is continually supplying his people, and the fountain is not spent.  They who live upon Christ may have fresh supplies from him for all eternity; they may have an increase of blessedness that is new, and new still, and which never will come to an end.

Jonathan Edwards


This Day's Verse

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit?  there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Proverbs 26:12
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.

Robert Kennedy


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will continue with his series next Sunday)

The Discipline of Prayer

by Kerry Bauman

This morning I want to address the discipline of prayer. I doubt very much if I have to convince many of you of God’s eagerness to grant our requests when they are in keeping with His will (See 1 John 5:14-15). On the other hand, it probably won’t hurt as we all know that there are times when we wonder if God is listening when we pray. So here’s an encouraging story to add fuel to your prayer life. We are told in Ephesians 6:4 that parents are to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is clearly God’s prescription for parenting throughout the ages. George McCluskey took this verse seriously. As soon as he and his wife started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted to raise his girls to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11AM and noon, he prayed for the next three generations. As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into vocational ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls eventually married a pastor, and the boy became one! The first two children born to this generation, were boys. Upon graduation from graduation from high school, the two (cousins) chose the same college and became roommates. During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn’t. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology. He stayed in school, earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man’s name, of course, is James Dobson. Oh, the power of prayer to influence the destiny of our lives!

There is great power in prayer. Few will deny it. But have you ever considered the purpose of prayer? Is it all about getting what we want when we want it? Is God kind of like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp that was compelled to grant him three wishes? I would like to propose to you this morning that the purpose of prayer is not so much about us getting what we desire as it is about God being glorified. Give me just a few moments to state my case. First of all I know this because the purpose of everything we do in life is to glorify God according to 1 Corinthians 10:31. As a matter of fact, the prophet Isaiah tells us that we were created for God’s glory (See Isaiah 43:7). Further, when we look at the four verses that precede the text we’re studying this morning we see further proof. Here Christ cautions us against using prayer to glorify ourselves. In Matthew 6:5 He says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full.” Obviously Jesus is not prohibiting public prayer. He, Himself, prayed in public often (See Matthew 14:19 for an example). Rather, Jesus is opposed to the kind of public prayer that draws attention to the one who is praying. It is far better to pray in private than to pray in public for the purpose of seeking the praise of men.

He goes on to point out another form of malpractice when it comes to prayer in Matthew 6:7. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them…” One might ask, “How does repetitious prayer rob God of glory? Isn’t the widow in Luke 18 commended for persevering in her request for justice before an unrighteous judge?” Yes, this is true, however, here in Matthew 6, Jesus addresses the person who prays believing that God will be manipulated into answering based on the length of his prayers. This was a commonly held belief among pagans (See 1 Kings 18:26-29). Our Lord is opposed to this kind of prayer because it provides an opportunity for the individual to say to his friends, “If you knew how to pray like I do, you’d get answers too.” God is not interested in sharing His glory with another (See Isaiah 42:8) and His glory is fully on display as we draw near to Him in prayer and watch as He responds.

This brings us to the model prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples and to all believers throughout human history. Though it can and often is prayed verbatim, or word for word, more likely Christ gave it to us as an example of how we should approach God in prayer. This morning I’m going to attempt to convince you that in giving us this prayer, Jesus was once again doing what He always did…seeking to glorify His Father, this time through the prayers of His saints.

Prayer glorifies God by reminding us of our special relationship with Him (See Matthew 6:9). He is “our Father in heaven.” This is significant for at least two reasons. Permit me to take them in the opposite order in which they come in the text.

God is found in heaven. While He is God of heaven and earth (See Deuteronomy 4:39), Jesus refers to the Father as being found in heaven. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that the earth is but His footstool (See Isaiah 66:1). The Jews of that day tended to think of God. He was viewed as the “Holy Other,” who existence extends far beyond the universe as we know it. He is so unlike us that if we were to see Him for but a moment we would die (See Exodus 33:20). The thought that anyone could have a personal relationship with Him was almost impossible to imagine. This is the God of Heaven! Application: Perhaps we’ve lost a little bit of this today. We sometimes treat God as if He were a big wonderful teddy bear that we can hug when we need some encouragement. We might do well to recapture some of the majesty and grandeur of God that the Jews seem to appreciate so much.

God is our Father. The word is “Abba” and the closest word we have for it in English is “daddy.” It was used only on rare occasions by Jews in the 1st century. They preferred titles like “Sovereign Lord,” “King of the Universe,” and “Self-Existent One” when speaking of God. For Jesus to have used it in reference to the way that His disciples can approach God must have been shocking to them. He was in effect was saying that His followers are children of God. They share a special relationship with God that not all people were privileged to share (See John 1:11-12). Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that because of this special relationship, they had the same access to the Father that He had! Illustration: I’m a pretty nice guy when it comes to the children in our neighborhood. They like me. They laugh at my jokes and think I’m cool, but they all call me Mr. Bauman or Mr. Kerry. Only my children get to call me “Dad.” And while the other kids on the street have access to me when I’m outside or invite them into my home, my children have access to me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. After all, I am their father. The same is every bit as true with our Heavenly Father.

Prayer glorifies God by reminding us of our unique calling in Him. International Bible Teacher Os Guinness defines calling as “the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with special devotion, dynamism and direction as a response to His summons and service.” In short, what he’s saying is that our calling, our very purpose for existence is to glorify God with everything we are or ever hope to be. Jesus breaks this down for us in the first three requests of His model prayer.

“Hallowed be Thy name…” The word “hallow” means to ‘make or consider something holy.’ In this case, it is the name of God which represents who He is and what He stands for. When we pray this we are asking the Lord to work in us in such a way that others will catch a glimpse of the holiness of God by watching those who lay claim to Him as our Father. So in a very real sense, to pray “hallowed be Thy name” is to pray “make me holy so that everyone will know you’re holy.”

“Thy kingdom come…” The kingdom of God has already come (See Matthew 12:28), but is not yet in its completed form (See Matthew 16:28). When we pray for God’s kingdom to come we are making two requests: (1) That His kingdom will be expanded as God draws men, women and children to Himself; and (2) That Christ will return and right the wrongs and establish a new heaven and new earth. In fact, the last book of the Bible concludes with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” (See Revelation 22:20).

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God reigns in heaven absolutely. Everyone does his will there! This is not the case, however, on earth where people frequently live in disobedience to His will. So we join with our Lord in praying, “not my will, but thy will be done.” Application: Be careful when you praying that you don’t confuse God’s will and your own. We all possess the amazing capacity to rationalize anything so that it appears to us to be God’s will. In effect, we pray something like, “Not Thy will, but my will be done.” I’m reminded of an overweight man who decided it was time to shed some pounds. He informed his coworkers that he was going on a diet and would no longer be bringing donuts to the office. He knew it would be hard to resist stopping at the bakery on the way to work, but he committed himself to remaining strong and resisting temptation. His coworkers were surprised one morning to see him arrive at the office with a big box of donuts. When they reminded him of his diet, he just smiled. “These are very special donuts,” he explained. “When I left for the office this morning, I knew I was going to drive by the bakery, and I wondered if maybe the Lord might want me to have some donuts today. I wasn’t sure, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to stop and buy some donuts, let there be an open parking place directly in front of the bakery.’ As you know, parking places in front of that bakery are hard to get!” “So the parking place was there?” one of his coworkers asked. “It was a miracle,” the man replied. “After just the eighth time around the block, there it was!”

Prayer glorifies God by reminding us of our absolute dependence upon Him.

“Give us this day our daily bread…” In Jesus’ day laborers were paid each day for their work. It was frequently so low that it was almost impossible to save any. A day’s wage paid for a day’s amount of food. This request, then, became very important as they literally had to trust God for the next meal. Times are a little different for us, yet the point is still the same. In asking God for our daily bread we are acknowledging that He is the source of every material blessing, whether food, clothing or shelter. This is the reason why we give thanks when we sit down to eat! God has demonstrated His grace by answering our prayer.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” Sin is pictured in this prayer as a debt. This verse goes hand in hand with verses 14 and 15. If we are unwilling to forgive the debt (sin) of others as it has affected our lives, then we cannot expect to experience forgiveness from God. For the Christian, this is absolutely unacceptable position to be in.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One…” Just as we depend upon God for our physical and relational needs, so we depend upon Him for our moral and spiritual victories. Application: The temptation here may very well related to the bitterness that we can harbor when we fail to forgive those who are our debtors. This can give the enemy an upper hand and begin a chain of events that will ultimately lead to great pain and misfortune.

Consider a little boy named Julian who fell down while chasing butterflies in a field of tall grass. Soon afterward, the boy’s left eye started hurting, so he was taken to a doctor. The doctor couldn’t find the source of the irritation, so he just gave the boy some ointment and sent him home. Eventually Julian’s eye problem went away. About a year later, though, the boy started complaining of cloudy vision. His parents took him to an eye specialist, who was stunned by what he discovered. Apparently when Julian had fallen a year earlier, a tiny grass seed had implanted itself in his cornea. Slowly the seed had grown and had actually sprouted two little leaves in Julian’s eye. The seed had to be removed immediately in order to save the boy’s vision. So it is with the sin of unforgiveness. It may seem to be a small thing at first, but left untreated, it can yield devastating results in our lives.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Let’s conclude by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure, there your heart; where your heart, there your happiness.

Augustine


This Day's Verse

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

1 John 3:22
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Person to person, moment to moment, as we love, we change the world.

Samahria Lyte Kaufman


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Anger is the noise of the soul; the unseen irritant of the heart; the relentless invader of silence.

Max Lucado


This Day's Verse

“How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”

2 Samuel 1:27
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The aim and final reason of all music should be nothing else but the Glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.

Johann Sebastian Bach


This Day's Verse

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 47:8
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Life is complex.
God is not.

Derek Rishmawy


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

How beautiful it is to learn that grace isn’t fragile, and that in the family of God we can fail and not be a failure.

Gloria Gaither


This Day's Verse

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:7
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There is not only fear, but terrible danger, for the life unguarded by God.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.  They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.

Jeremiah 20:11
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Give of your hands to serve and your hearts to love.

Mother Teresa


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Tearful Prayers- Psalm 88


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

TEARFUL PRAYERS – PSALM 88
Lesson 18 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 88, read by Lana Elder, with Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” played by Josiah Elder

I was asking a friend one day why the Book of Psalms seemed to be so appealing to so many people worldwide. I asked him, “Of all the Scriptures, what is it about the psalms that make them so especially beloved?”

He described to me the incredible range of emotions which are expressed in the psalms, then he pointed to Psalm 88 as being one of the deepest, most sorrow-filled passages in the whole Bible. When I read it, I was astounded.

I had read the Book of Psalms several times before as part of my regular readings through the entire Bible. But to me, after reading through just a few of them, they all began to blur together. Now, however, after hearing my friend say this, I began to see them in a different light.

My friend said, “Maybe it’s because you hadn’t yet been through some of the things the writers of the psalms were describing.” I knew that he was right. It was only after experiencing some of the deepest pains of life did Psalm 88 really speak to me personally.

While this psalm begins like many of the others, with an appeal to God for help, it doesn’t end there. It ends with some of the most poignant words in all of Scripture. Maybe you’ve prayed a prayer like this before. Here’s how the psalmist begins:

“O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before You.
May my prayer come before You; turn Your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave” (vv. 1-3).

Whereas other psalms eventually lift us out of the darkness, this one just gets darker:

“I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom You remember no more, who are cut off from Your care” (vv 4-6).

Then, the psalmist begins to blame God for his troubles:

“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily upon me; You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them” (vv-6-8).

As unthinkable as blaming God may seem, it’s also natural. It’s natural to question God’s wisdom when things are going wrong. It’s natural to question His ways when we’re not getting ours. It’s natural to doubt His love when we don’t feel loved by those around us.

But as natural as all of those feelings may be, I’m thankful we serve a supernatural God. The truth is we serve a God Who truly loves us, Who truly helps us, and Who truly works on behalf of us–even when everything around us seems to be saying just the opposite.

I chose to highlight this psalm precisely because of the depths to which it goes. It’s not a rosy, cheery picture of life. It’s not even an appeal to a deeper faith. It’s simply a tearful cry of help. Sometimes we just need to cry in prayer. And sometimes we just need to know that someone else has been where we are.

I had another friend who always loved symbols of crosses which were empty, crosses which showed that Jesus was no longer on the cross, but rather has been raised to life and is still alive today.

But one time when my friend was in a hospital, laying in bed in excruciating pain, she looked up and saw a cross on the wall in front of her which pictured Jesus hanging on it. He was wearing a crown of thorns on his head and nails were driven through His hands and His feet. My friend said that in that moment, she was comforted in her own pain for the first time. Why? Because she knew there was Someone Who had experienced the depths of the pain and sorrow that she was experiencing.

Sometimes we need to focus on the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead and was victorious over death. But other times we may need to remember that He suffered immensely. Walking through His suffering with Him can help us as we walk through our own. As the Apostle Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Sometimes it’s important to know the power of Christ’s resurrection as well as sharing in His sufferings.

My friend who loves Psalm 88 finds comfort in knowing that there is someone else who understands his pain; someone else who has experienced his sorrow; someone else who doesn’t try to cheer him up or tell him everything’s going to be okay, but who simply walks through deep despair just as he has.

If you find yourself in a dark place today, remember that you’re not alone. Listen to the author of Psalm 88 as he pours out the final words of his prayer to God. Take heart that you’re not alone.

“Why, O Lord, do You reject me and hide Your face from me?
From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me; Your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (vv. 14-18).

Remember the suffering of the author of Psalm 88. Remember the suffering of Jesus. And remember the suffering of those who have read and have loved Psalm 88 throughout the centuries because it helps them to know they’re not alone.

Will you pray with me?

Father, we don’t like suffering. We just don’t like it.  But Father, we know that somehow we can experience a fellowship with You and a fellowship with Your Son through suffering in a way that we could never experience through any other means. Father, help us to keep turning to you, even with our tears. Help us to know that You understand our suffering more than anyone else could ever understand. Help us to take comfort in the fact that You’ve been where we are, and that You’ll walk with us through this, too. We love You, Lord, and we come again to You today in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 88, read by Lana Elder, with Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” played by Josiah Elder

And here’s the link to our reading plan for the book of psalms:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Fill the heart with the love of Christ so that only truth and purity can come out of the mouth.

Warren Wiersbe


This Day's Verse

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

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

Billy Graham


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We are Christians and strangers on this earth.  Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not this world.

Augustine of Hippo


This Day's Verse

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32
The New Living Translation


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