This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

It is one of the ironies of the ministry that the very man who works in God’s name is often hardest put to find time for God.  The parents of Jesus lost him at church, and they were not the last ones to lose him there.

Vance Havner


This Day's Verse

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

1 Timothy 1:15
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

We are God’s tenants here, and yet here he, our landlord, pays us rents–not yearly, nor quarterly, but hourly and quarterly; every minute he renews his mercy.

John Donne


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Easter

by Dale Martin

 
There is a picture, drawn by Clive Chislett which is mounted on one of the original Norman pillars of our Church here in New Romney. It is on the pillar closest to the war memorial. In the picture, Faust is engaged in a competitive game of chess against the Devil. And at first glance, it looks like Faust is losing. His opponent stands there grinning smugly. Satan thinks he has won. He is gloating. You can almost hear the devil thinking: “Checkmate! Game’s over! I win!” However, a person with a keen eye – and who knows the game of chess well- will see that the match is over – but not in the way the Devil envisaged. Because Faust has one move and one move only – that will give him the victory!

The picture has a very real meaning to us as Christians because it is a parable of the good news of Easter.

Think of it. When we look at the Cross on Good Friday, it looks (at first glance) like evil has won.

It looks like the defeat of righteousness.
It looks like goodness is dead and buried forever.
It looks like Jesus has been silenced and conquered.
But then, Easter Sunday morning reveals God’s greatest “checkmate” move of all time.

Christ comes out of the grave and into our lives with power and victory.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The Russian Orthodox Church has this wonderful acclamation made three times on Easter Sunday The Priest says: “He is risen” And the congregation reply: “He is risen, indeed”

But how do we know it true?

Professor Charlie Moule, the famous NT theologian once said:
“the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church … remains an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself – the resurrection.” (C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament).

Most Sundays we profess our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead when we say the words of the Creed: ” I believe ……in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord who was Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried He descended into Hell, The third day he rose again from the dead” (The Apostles Prayer – BCP)

The Resurrection is a major pillar of our faith

Paul put it like this: “..if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is futile” (I Cor. 15: 17)

Paul, a first Century witness, records the importance of the Easter story.

He wrote this in 1 Corinthians “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
i) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
ii) that he was buried,
iii) that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and
iv) that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

Paul records 513 (five hundred and thirteen) men as having seen the risen Lord.  Have you ever therefore wondered why?

John mentions only four post Resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus.

In this Chapter, John 20 we read of three of these.

He appeared
i) to Mary Magdalene
ii) to all the disciples except Thomas and finally
iii) to Thomas

And in the following Chapter, John 21 we read of Jesus appearing to seven disciples including Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathaniel and two unnamed disciples and his having breakfast with them.

Surely if the resurrection is such a big deal, why didn’t John add many more of the stories of these encounters?

At the very least – why didn’t he simply catalogue when, where and who had seen the risen Christ.

Surely that would make interesting reading.
1. Have you ever wondered what the reaction of James -Jesus’ brother – was – when the risen Jesus appeared to him.
And what did he say?
2. I wonder if Jesus appeared to Nicodemus – the Jewish rabbi who had sought him out that night as recorded in Jn 3.
It was the same Nicodemus who had helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus

The reason John doesn’t record more post Resurrection encounters is because it didn’t fit in with the aim of his book. What do I mean?
John summed up the aim of his Gospel as follows: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name.” In other words, John is not writing a history book as we know history books but a book to awaken faith.

And so these three post resurrection stories of John 20 have been recorded to awake faith in us.

For John, I believe, is saying: “You are either going to believe or you are not going to believe – and I have given you enough evidence to believe.

Further stories, however interesting, aren’t going to bring you to convince you, if these stories – that I record – don’t.”

So what is so special about these three stories?

I would like to suggest that each story shows a barrier to faith – which can be overcome by the presence of Jesus.  And they are all barriers that we as Christians will experience at some time in our lives.

1. The first of these barriers to faith was GRIEF and this was overcome by hearing the voice of Jesus Mary Magdalene, in last week’s Gospel reading, couldn’t see Jesus for her grief. It was only when she heard him call her name that she realises that He was risen. Jesus spoke to her – and by speaking released her from her grief. There are going to be times when we suffer from grief. We may grieve for the loss of loved ones.
And it is at times like this that we need to listen for Jesus’ voice calling us.

2. The second barrier to faith was FEAR – and this was overcome by experiencing the presence of Jesus The disciples in today’s Gospel reading were gathered behind closed doors in fear. Jesus had been crucified – and were they next on the list? And so Jesus comes to them and speaks words of peace. He showed them his crucified hands and St. John records: “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20) Fear can cripple us at times. It can make us irrational. And at those times, we need to seek Jesus’ presence in our lives- and it is His Presence that will bring us peace. When I get stressed out with worry and fear – I find wonderful comfort in the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn form me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

3. The third barrier to faith was DOUBT and this was overcome by the touch of Jesus. Thomas seems rather unfairly to have had a bad press for the last 2000 years. His name has even entered into the English language. (You might call someone who doesn’t believe something a “Doubting Thomas”) But you have to remember that Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when they saw Jesus. He didn’t have the benefit of what they had seen. He couldn’t believe that Jesus was risen – it was something outside his experience. Our faith is not an unreasonable faith. St Peter tells us for example “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15) God has given us minds and wants us to use them. Thomas in rather flowery language says: “I’m not going to believe until I can stuff my hand actually into his side.” That’s the force of what he is saying.
Our faith has to be based on a firm foundation – and Jesus realized that Thomas needed that confirmation. Once Thomas got the evidence he needed he simply said: “My Lord and my God” What Thomas asked for was very reasonable and so Jesus gave him what he needed for his faith. There are times when we need a special touch from God. It is not a sin to be skeptical. What is sin is to go on disbelieving when you are given the evidence.

Conclusion

Jesus deals with each person’s needs differently. He treats us as individuals.

Mary simply needed to hear Jesus’ voice and her grief was healed.
The disciples needed to receive the peace of Jesus into their lives to release them from their fear.

Thomas needed to see the Risen Christ. He wanted to put his hand in Jesus’ side before he would believe (Actually there is no evidence that he actually did so).

Each of us has different needs – we all ask different questions – but there is only one solution – a touch from the risen Lord.

May this Easter Sunday morning be a time when we look for and receive a touch from the risen Jesus – a touch that will transform us into his true loving disciples.  It did in AD 29 that first Easter Sunday morning and it can still do – if we are willing to come to him

Let us pray:
Heavenly Father , we all come this morning to Church with different needs, with our different agendas. We ask that we can deposit this all at the foot of the Cross and receive a touch from you today so that we can take up your Agenda for the world around us Give us a love for one another through which our town will be attracted to you. We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name Amen


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Seven last sayings of Jesus:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”  Luke 23:34
“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”  Luke 23:43
“Woman, behold thy Son”  John 19:26
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Mark 15:34
“I thirst”  John 19:28
“It is finished”  John 19:30
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”  Luke 23:46

Unknown


This Day's Verse

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And having said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

He came to pay a debt he did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The stone was rolled away from the tomb not so Jesus could get out, but so that the world could look in.  His resurrection assures yours.  Because He lives, you will live forever.

Charles Stanley


This Day's Verse

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

John 19:16-18
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Jesus’ resurrection makes it impossible for man’s story to end in chaos–it has to move inexorably towards light, towards life, towards love.

Carlo Carretto


This Day's Verse

Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

Luke 23:1-5
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and Hope triumphant say
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

Phillips Brooks


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Jesus Christ’s claim of divinity is the most serious claim anyone ever made.  Everything about Christianity hinges on His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.  That’s what Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter are all about.

Luis Palau


This Day's Verse

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.  Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”  Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.  The men seized Jesus and arrested him.  Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?  Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”  Then everyone deserted him and fled.

Mark 14:43-50
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The resurrection of Jesus, the whole alphabet of human hope, the certificate of our Lord’s mission from heaven, is the heart of the gospel in all ages.

R. G. Lee


This Day's Verse

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”  And they were greatly distressed.

Matthew 17:22-23
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Nails could not have kept Jesus on the cross had love not held Him there.

Unknown


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

Today and next Sunday we will be blessed by sermons from two “visiting” pastors.  The following Sunday thereafter, Eric will return with his special series from Psalms.


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The Pathway of Palm Sunday

by Dennis Lawrence

Read Matthew 21.1-11

If we ask people to describe life, most will depict it in the same way- as a path or a road. The reason is simple: life is like a journey. It’s a voyage from one experience to the next – from one tribulation to triumph and back again. It’s a journey from birth to death and beyond.

Once again, we have gathered together and have been granted the privilege to travel down the road of our Savior’s life. We traverse a specific street today because we’re in a special weekend in the annual celebration cycle of the Christian church. We can call today’s street THE PATHWAY OF PALM SUNDAY. As we walk with our Savior we can see that this is 1) A Familiar Road; it’s one we’ve walked before. Yet, our traveling companion is Jesus, which means this is always 2) A Unique Journey.

A Familiar Road

It was a familiar road the disciples found themselves on that first Palm Sunday. It was the road to Jerusalem and they had walked it many times before. They knew, as they reached the town of Bethany, they would soon turn round the Mount of Olives, and see the city of Jerusalem suddenly sprawl out before them. They had traveled this way with Jesus before. They would again come to the city, which, at this time, would be swelling with millions ready to celebrate the Passover.

Jesus knew the road as well. He’d traveled it before, from very young to now. Mary and Joseph brought him to Jerusalem for the feast every year. It was a magnificent road, a wonderful road to the pilgrims who traveled it. It was especially breathtaking, when, after not seeing the city for the whole journey, you came around that mountain, and there it was! You would see the temple glistening in the afternoon sunlight, and you’d see the magnificent, towering gates; you’d remember the great history of it all: how King David first took that parcel of land as God’s city, and how Solomon first built a glorious temple there. Then you’d recall years of sorrow, when it lay in ruin during seventy years of captivity, until Nehemiah rebuilt its walls.

The road itself was known and loved. But the journey of that Palm Sunday was completely different. The road would not change, but the things along the way, and the end result, would be different than any other trip ever made to Jerusalem.

Today, a donkey’s colt would be found tied up outside, and used as a mount for Jesus to enter Jerusalem. Today, throngs of people would go ahead and behind Jesus saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The road was familiar. The road did not change; but the journey was unique. The disciples knew the road; Jesus knew the journey. He knew what lay along the road, telling them, “You will find a colt, untie it.” He knew what answer they needed to give: “the lord has need of it, and will bring it back shortly.”

Have you ever ridden a donkey? Most of us haven’t. Let’s think about what he rode that day. It was a young donkey colt, which had never been ridden before. This was a beast of burden, not a riding beast. This animal offered a good ride for baggage, not for people. The Gospel writer, Mark, records one important fact.

Mark 11.2- this animal had never been ridden. It wasn’t ever used. This is in line with Old Testament Law. Anything offered to God for a sacred purpose was to be new, never used for labor. The Lord only uses the new, the fresh, and the untarnished. He uses things that have never really been used for anything else. He accepts and uses the little, the small, even the insignificant, but He doesn’t like leftovers or second hand offerings. Note well that if we really want to put something to the Lord’s use, let’s remember little things, small things, fine things — but used, left over things? — Don’t expect he’ll do much with it.

The disciples went and found things exactly as Jesus said. They answered the owner just how he said to answer, and came back with the donkey. Then they put their cloaks on it, and Jesus rode it. Now this sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially if you’ve ever tried riding an unbroken horse. Most of us haven’t, I’m sure, but we’ve seen movies often enough to know what happens, at first. Donkeys are more stubborn than horses. Here Jesus had an unbroken colt, with a crowd of onlookers shouting “hosanna!” And now, Jesus was going to ride this thing through that crowd? This appeared to be a recipe for disaster, indeed! But there’s not even a hint of trouble as Jesus rides this humble animal into Jerusalem. He enters the city as the Lord and King and sacrifice. This small animal must have known: “this is my creator, the Savior of the World, the Son of God, upon my back…I’ll let him have an easy ride!”

As He rode, Jesus knew where the journey would end: today, crowds shouting Hosanna! By the end of the week, crowds would be yelling, “crucify.” Today, we see crowds laying palm branches before him. By Friday, women follow behind him with tears, his blood and sweat dripping as he toils under the cross. Jesus knew the journey. Still, he went forward. The crowds also went before and they followed behind him. They called him the One who comes in the Name of the Lord. They knew Jesus brought God’s Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom promised to King David. They believed he came as the promised Messiah, or deliverer. They called out “Hosanna,” which means, “Lord, save us!” And they knew that he would.

So what does this have to do with us today? First and foremost, we have another opportunity to see our Savior and King in action. He did all this for us. He walked this road and endured the journey for our salvation. We see Scripture fulfilled- the King comes gently, and riding on a donkey, just as Zechariah foretold (Zech.9.9). We see Jesus’ gentle nature as a king. We see his humility: He’s the Lord! The earth and everything in it is his by divine right, and yet he rides in humility on a tiny, lowly beast of burden.

2) A Unique Journey

We learn more as we travel this pathway this morning. As we walk the pathway of Palm Sunday we realize that all of us walk down a road in this life. Each path may be a bit different, and although we know the roads of our lives, Jesus knows the journey- we don’t.

Let me repeat that: We may know the roads, but Jesus knows the journey. And it’s really HIS journey; it’s his journey into our hearts, and into the hearts and lives of others. It’s a matter of his Kingdom coming, not ours.

There are too many people in this world who think that their life is all about themselves. “It’s my life,” the teenager screams at her parents, “I don’t care what you say. I’m going to do what I want!” A patient diagnosed with cancer cries, “Why is this happening to ME?” We often forget that our lives are not just about ourselves. Our lives have something to do with our friends, our family, our wives, our husbands, our children, our parents, our neighbors, our coworkers, our acquaintances, and yes, even our enemies. No one’s life is all about me, or you, or him, or her.

Self-centered and selfish- it’s part of the sinful human nature. And it can easily turn us in on ourselves, and turn us from each other and from the truth of the matter. The truth is that my life is not about me, but it’s about Jesus Christ. Your life is not about you. It’s about the one who died for you. It’s about what he will do in your life, for your life, and through life. Now, we’re often the main characters in the life God has given us, but let’s face it, what is your life or my life? As sinners who were condemned to hell, we had thrown true life away. But Christ redeemed us- each one of us. He bought us back. As the Bible says, “You are not your own, you were bought at a price,” (1 Cor.6.19-20). The life you live right now, Jesus paid for it. He paid for its sins; he earned its blessings. That’s what it means to be a disciple, a follower, a Christian, a lamb, a sheep of the Good shepherd. That’s a perspective that’s important to maintain.

Often, we’ll talk about life as a journey or a road. There are roads we may well know. We walk them day after day, year after year. There’s the road of a student: you know where you’ll go on Monday. You’ll get on the school bus, or get a ride from mom or dad, or carpool, to school. You’ll be there for several hours, go to this class, that class, recess, maybe softball, football, or track practice, and then its back home at night. There’s the road of someone’s daily life: you get up, get ready for work, drive the highway, punch in for eight hours, and head back home. Most of those roads we’ve traveled again and again, and will continue to travel. Jesus has gone with you every step of the way, though. Tomorrow and the next day it’ll probably be the same road, but who knows about the journey? What strange thing will appear along that road? When will a detour take place? We know the roads; Jesus knows the journey.

He gives us the right answers to all our questions and complaints in his Word. Oh, that we’d trust those answers more, and pay more attention to them! And as odd and confusing, as his words may seem to us, let’s not say: “I don’t understand you Jesus, so I won’t accept what you say. I can’t repeat it. You’re too hard to follow!”

When we put God’s Word aside, to come up with our own answers to challenges, and when we look for things that sound better to us than the Scriptures, then we end up losing hold of the little donkey he sent us to fetch. Then his whole intended ride into another heart, another life, is put off for another time. Let’s not be ashamed of the Scriptures, and the simple answers of faith. Jesus taught them to us. He knows the journey, and knew it ahead of time, before we ever walked the road.

Our lives, the roads we walk, lead us to either follow behind Christ, singing his praises, or to go before him, laying palm branches and cloaks. Missionaries go ahead, paving the way as Jesus rides into hearts by His gospel. Then pastors, teachers, and congregations follow behind, praising God for his kingdom that has come. As a congregation, we have our part, too, in cutting down palm branches, and laying down our cloaks. That’s what our offerings are about. God certainly doesn’t need our money, our time, or talents, but those are things that we give to honor Christ, to provide him a smooth path into other lands, other towns, and into the hearts and lives of other people.

Jesus may have taken you down a familiar road, but does something different. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? You think it’s just another journey to work, but he’s got in mind a humble ride into the heart of one of your coworkers, with you to going ahead, or following behind. You think it’s just another family get together or reunion. Jesus has a humble ride in mind for you; a humble ride through a simple conversation about church, faith, and forgiveness. Maybe it’s a conversation that’s happened before, but who knows? The road is the same: but today, the journey may be different. Jesus knows it, and will well provide the answers. Christ knows where and when to send us to fetch the humble never-before used gentle answer, which he will ride into another heart.

At the heart of Palm Sunday is a path. It’s the path our humble Savior rode on in majesty, and lowly pomp, as he went on to suffer and die for our sins. It’s about the path Christ humbly rides into our hearts today through His Word. Let’s share that Word daily, and remember that our roads, our journeys, really aren’t just about us. They are about Christ Jesus, and his salvation. Our lives are about his Kingdom- his rule in our hearts and in the hearts of others through faith. You may not be the main character of your life, but you and I and all believers are the ones who benefit from Christ’s work and from his journeys. So, ride On, Lord! Be with us always on your journey to save!


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When a little child becomes conscious of being a little child, the child-likeness is gone; and when a saint becomes conscious of being a saint, something has gone wrong.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

A lie is like a snowball.  The longer it is rolled on the ground the larger it becomes.

Martin Luther


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There is no relief so sweet as the relief of coming clean to God and living again in the truth.

Christine Dallman


This Day's Verse

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you.  Such sins have no place among God’s people.

Ephesians 5:3
The New Living Translation


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.

J. Sidlow Baxter


This Day's Verse

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

James 3:16
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Most Christians know what they are saved from.  Very few know what they are saved for.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.

William Barclay


This Day's Verse

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips!

Psalm 141:3
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If you see another stumble or fall, let your first thought be that, of all men, you are most likely to stumble or fall in that same manner.

Thomas Kempis


This Day's Verse

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

The situation today is:
Lots of knowledge, but little understanding.
Lots of means, but little meaning.
Lots of know-how, but little know-why.
Lots of sight, but little insight.

Robert Short


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Rejoicing Prayers- Psalm 30


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

REJOICING PRAYERS – PSALM 30
Lesson 6 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 30, read by Lana Elder, with music by Franz Joseph Haydn played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes

Today’s psalm reminds me that there are seasons for everything. Here in Illinois, summers are hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit many days. Winters are cold, often below 32 F for many days, with snowstorms that block us in our homes for hours.  Spring and fall are beautiful, with budding flowers and blossoming trees in the spring, and changing leaves and crisp, cool nights in the fall.

As George Carlin says (in what is probably the most accurate weather forecast of all time):

 “The weather will continue to change on and off for a long, long time.”

The seasons in our life change, too. And as much as I sometimes wish things would never change, there are definitely times when I wish they would: like living through the pain of losing my wife to cancer, for instance. Thankfully, God promises that the hard times we go through won’t last forever, that the pain we may be facing now can one day be behind us.

As King David said in Psalm 30:

Sing to the Lord , you saints of His; praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”  (Psalm 30:5).

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but it’s true: “Rejoicing comes in the morning.”

When I first went through the book of psalms five years ago, looking for ways to pray more effectively, my wife was going through her cancer treatments. Things looked bleak, and they turned out even bleaker, as she passed away just nine months after her initial diagnosis. I couldn’t see anything in the future other than blank, gray days of nothingness. There was nothing that I could imagine ahead for me if she were to die.

As I read this psalm back then, I wrote some notes to myself:

“God says that weeping lasts for but a moment, and in light of eternity He’s right, even if it seems longer than a moment here.  Rejoicing comes in the morning. Wailing turns into dancing.”

I couldn’t see far enough ahead at the time to know what was going to happen or to know if that would ever be true for me. But it’s been five years now since I first took those notes, and I can look back now and see how true those words were. God was right. He really did bring back my joy. He eventually turned my wailing into dancing.

But in the midst of that painful season, I didn’t even want to think about rejoicing some day. I didn’t want to think about dancing some day in the future, or any time in the future. I just wanted things to go back to the way they were before tragedy hit, before our lives were turned upside down.

At that time, I was asked if I would be willing to film an interview to give people hope who were facing terminal illness. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I frankly didn’t know what I could say. Saying anything was like admitting that the prognosis in our case was, in fact, terminal. But I felt God wanted me to do it, so I did, and the film team called the short interview Eric’s Hope. A few months later, and two weeks before my wife died, a couple more people from the team came to our house to film another interview, this time with our whole family. They called it Lana’s Hope. (You can watch both interviews online by clicking their links).

One of the things I remember distinctly at that time was a conversation with the woman who asked me to do the interviews. She was writing a screenplay for a feature film they were going to be making in Hollywood based on a fictional story of a woman facing terminal cancer. She asked me if I wanted to know what happens at the end of the movie. I said, “No, I really don’t.”

She said, “It’s good. You might want to hear it.”

I said, again, “No, I really don’t.”

I didn’t want to hear that someday everything would get better for the husband in the movie, or that he got married again or something, and that somehow, some way, everything turned out to be okay. I didn’t know how the movie was going to end, but I didn’t want to know, because whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly be better than it was for me and our family before my wife got sick. I couldn’t imagine having to live in this world without her, and I didn’t want to have to think about it.

But you know what? That Hollywood movie came out last fall in theaters, and online just a few weeks ago, so I watched it Friday night. There were still moments that were hard, but you know what? I realized I no longer had that stabbing pain I once had. And the ending was touching, sweet, and hopeful, even if things would never be the same as they were before. (The movie is called New Life, and you can stream it from iTunes or Amazon by clicking on their links, or you can get the disc from a variety of stores.)

My life isn’t the same as it was before our lives took that turn. And it never will be. But I have seen God turn my weeping into rejoicing, my wailing into dancing. Things do change, and sometimes, very thankfully so. As Mark Twain is credited as saying:

“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

I sometimes wish things would never change. But that’s as unlikely as wishing the weather would never change.

When praying, keep in mind there are seasons in life, too. Too hot? Just wait. Too cold? Hang on a bit. Weeping?  Rejoicing comes in the morning.  Wailing? God can turn it into dancing.

No, things may not go back to the way they were before. But the truth is that as much as I sometimes wish things would never change, there are definitely times when I am thankful that they do.

Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”  (Psalm 30:5).

Will you pray with me?

Father God, thank You for the changing seasons, and thank You for the changing seasons in our lives. I pray that You would give us hope today in the fact that some things DO change, that things WON’T always be the same as they are now, and that there are times when that is the BEST way for You to work in and through our lives the way that You want to. Help us to keep putting our trust and faith in You, for as much as things here on earth may change, You never do  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. We’ll be taking a break from the Psalms for the next two weeks, then we’ll return to them again after Easter. Now’s a great time to catch up if you’re behind in reading along through the Psalm with us! Here’s the reading plan for the year:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms

And here’s the link once more to today’s scripture reading:
Psalm 30, read by Lana Elder, with Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Country Minuet” played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own.

G. Campbell Morgan


This Day's Verse

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more.  You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.  You can pray for anything and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

Matthew 21:21-22
The New Living Transaction


This Day's Smile

All the holy men seem to have gone off and died.  There’s no one left but us sinners to carry on the ministry.

Jamie Buckingham


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Attention to detail is the secret of success in every sphere of life, and little kindnesses, little acts of considerateness, little appreciations, little confidences…they are all that are needed to keep the friendship sweet.

Hugh Black


This Day's Verse

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

John 18:36
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Am I becoming more and more in love with God as a holy God, or with the conception of an amiable being who says, “Oh, well, sin doesn’t matter much”?

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan good have joy.

Proverbs 12:20
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

The Impact of One

One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.
One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal.
One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room.
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.
One step must start each journey,
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.
One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what’s true.
One life can make the difference,
And may that one be you, and me, too!

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Having a sense of nearness to God gives me the sense of being exactly where I belong.

Christine Dallman


This Day's Verse

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

1 Peter 2:20-21
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This Day's Verse

O house of David, this is what the LORD says: “Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it.”

Jeremiah 21:12
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

If you have the Spirit without the Word, you blow up.  If you have the Word without the Spirit, you dry up.  If you have both the Word and the Spirit, you grow up.

Don Lyon


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Comforting Prayers- Psalm 23


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

COMFORTING PRAYERS – PSALM 23
Lesson 5 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 23, read by Lana Elder, with music by Leopold Mozart played by Kaleo Elder

There are many ways to look at today’s psalm, Psalm 23, which is perhaps the most famous psalm in the book of Psalms, and perhaps the most famous passage in the whole Bible.  Today, I’m looking at what we can learn from Psalm 23 about praying more effectively.

While prayer often involves asking for God’s help or wisdom, struggling to know what to do or how things will work out in a situation, the beauty of this prayer is that it simply invites God into your life to let Him comfort you–to put your whole faith and trust in Him; to let Him take full control of your life and your situations; to allow Him to lead you beside still waters, to lie down in green grass, and to restore your soul; to trust Him that no matter what comes your way, He’ll be with you.

Listen to the words David wrote:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:1-4, NIV).

David was a shepherd, and he knew that good shepherds watch out for their sheep. When David was a shepherd, he had attacked and killed a lion one day and a bear another, all to protect his precious sheep. He knew the care that shepherds take of their sheep. So when he faced troubles of his own, it’s not surprising that he talked to God in terms that he understood well: “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Sometimes we just need to let God’s comfort pour over us–to slow down long enough to let Him speak His soothing words to our hearts.

One way I’ve found to do this–to slow down and let God speak deeply to my heart–is to take time and savor not just every thought in a portion of Scripture, but every word.

Take the first sentence of Psalm 23, for instance. It has only five words: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” But if you’ll focus on each and every word, you’ll see how God can use a simple sentence to speak volumes to your heart.

Think about the first word: THE. THE Lord is my Shepherd. Not “a” Lord or “some” Lord or “any” Lord, but THE Lord, THE One and Only God, THE Lord of all creation, THE Author and Perfecter of your life. THAT’S your Shepherd. THAT’S the One you’re talking to. THAT’S your Lord. “THE Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

Think about the second word: LORD. The LORD is my Shepherd. What’s a lord? A lord is a master, a ruler, a caller of the shots. And if God is your lord, that means that you’re not! He’s got this. And He’s not just ANY lord, He’s THE Lord, THE Ruler over all, THE One Who’s got the whole world in His hands, including you.  He’s totally trustworthy, because He’s THE LORD.

Then think about the third word: IS. The Lord IS my Shepherd. It’s not “The Lord WAS my Shepherd, years ago, when I needed Him to save me, or when He showed up that one time in a special way.” It’s not “The Lord WILL BE my Shepherd, some day in the future when I get my act together or clean things up a bit.” But it’s “The Lord IS my Shepherd, right now, today in the midst of everything I’m going through.” The Lord IS your Shepherd, if He really is. And if He’s not, then there’s no reason to wait even one more minute–you can make Him your Lord today, right now! Then you’ll be you’ll be able to say, like David did, “The Lord IS my Shepherd! I shall not want!”

You’re getting how this works. Let’s do two more, and you can think through them with me.

Think about the fourth word: MY. The Lord is MY Shepherd. What does that say about you, that the Lord is your Shepherd? If He’s your Shepherd, that means He’s actually, truly concerned about you! Not just the world in general, or the people around you, but you! When Jesus told the parable about the good shepherd, what did He say about that shepherd’s heart for the one lost sheep–out of the hundred that He had? He said that the shepherd would go after that one sheep because He didn’t want even one of His sheep to be lost. God really cares about you, personally.  He is your Shepherd, just like He is mine. “The Lord is MY Shepherd, I shall not want.”

Now let’s finish with the last word: SHEPHERD. The Lord is my SHEPHERD. What’s a shepherd’s job? To look after the sheep. That’s their whole job! They take the sheep out to green pastures to get food. They lead them beside still waters to get water. They let them lie down to take a rest. They protect them from wild beasts. And they bring them back home again when the time is right, leading them through the gate when it’s time to sleep. “The Lord is my SHEPHERD, I shall not want.”

We’ve only looked at five simple words in this psalm, but you can see how those simple words can speak volumes when you slowly focus on each one, letting God speak to your heart. And perhaps you can see why David concluded this prayer to God with the words that he did, knowing that the Lord was his Shepherd:

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6, NIV).

If you ever need comfort from the Lord, take your time, and let Him speak to you. Don’t hurry through it. Come back to Him and His Word again and again, meditating on a few more words, and a few more until the comfort of God pours over your heart.  Let His goodness and love follow you today and tomorrow and all the days of your life.

I think God knew we could all use a bit of comfort now and then. No wonder this is the most famous passage in the Bible!

Will you pray with me?

Father God, thank You for being our Lord and our Shepherd. Thank You for David’s example of coming to You and receiving Your comfort and goodness and love. Help us today as we continue to spend time in Your presence, whatever we do next, to know that Your goodness and love will follow us throughout this day today, and all of our days ahead, if we’ll keep putting our faith and trust in You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

And here’s the link once more to today’s scripture reading:
Psalm 23, read by Lana Elder, with Leopold Mozart’s “Minuet,” played by Kaleo Elder

And here’s the link to our reading plan of all of the psalms in the Bible if you want to read along this year:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Spread out your petition before God, and then say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”  The sweetest lesson I have learned in God’s school is to let the Lord choose for me.

D. L. Moody


This Day's Verse

It was after he had proved himself perfect in this experience that Jesus became the Giver of eternal salvation to all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

If you can explain what God is doing in your ministry, then God is not really in it.

Warren Wiersbe


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If there are a thousand steps between us and God, he will take all but one.  He will leave the final one for us.  The choice is ours.

Max Lucado


This Day's Verse

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.

Proverbs 15:16
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Poverty is life without Jesus, but close friendship with Him is incalculable wealth.

Thomas Kempis


This Day's Verse

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

The beauty of the house is order;
The blessing of the house is contentment;
The glory of the house is hospitality;
The crown of house is godliness.

An old motto often placed above fireplaces


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Everywhere among Conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught.  They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.  If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith he is thought to possess divine truth.  But it does not follow.  There is no truth apart from the Spirit.

A. W. Tozer


This Day's Verse

If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.

James 2:8
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To fear God is to stand in awe of Him; to be afraid of God is to run away from Him.

Carroll E. Simcox


This Day's Verse

But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Christian charity is friendship to all the world…friendship expanded like the face of the sun, when it mounts above the eastern hills.

Jeremy Taylor


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Pleasing Prayers- Psalm 19


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PLEASING PRAYERS – PSALM 19
Lesson 4 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 19, read by Lana Elder, with music by Edward MacDowell played by Josiah Elder

In my previous message, I talked about the value of saying “raw prayers,” prayers that pour out to God exactly what’s on your heart, without regard for whether it sounds pretty, or religious, or even kind. God can take it–and He already knows what’s in your heart anyway. Sometimes you just have to say it.

But in today’s message, I want to talk about the value of saying “pleasing prayers,” prayers that are also honest, but which are intentional about being pleasing to God. As a parent, I’m glad when my kids feel the freedom to come to me and express their raw emotions that they’re feeling on their hearts, without holding back for fear of what I might think. While it might sting sometimes, and their perceptions may not always be right, it helps to know what they’re honestly thinking so we can work through their thoughts together. But I’m also glad when they intentionally take time to say things which they truly believe, and which they know will please me .

Such is the case in David’s prayer today, which he ends with these words:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

This entire Psalm is filled with “pleasing words,” words which David carefully and intentionally poured out to the God who gave him life.

He starts by talking about how glorious God is, and how His creation declares His glory to the ends of the earth:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4a)

I can see how those words would be pleasing to the God, the Creator, the One who created the earth and everything in it. Then he continues by speaking poetically about how magnificently the sun crosses the sky:

“In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat” (Psalm 19:4b-6).

Then he launches into a carefully worded anaphora, a grammatical technique of emphasizing an idea by repeating that same idea in different ways. The Psalms are some of the first writings in the world to use this technique which has been subsequently used by writers like Shakespeare and speechmakers like Churchill:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.”
(Psalm 19:7-9).

When I read this Psalm this week, I thought, “Imagine the care and thoughtfulness David must have put into crafting his words of praise to God in this way. He took a topic that was dear to him and dear to God’s heart, and then through repeating phrases, was able to express to God what he was feeling deep inside.”

I wondered what it would do for my prayer life if I could be as careful and thoughtful in my prayers to God as David was in this Psalm. It seemed like so much work, though, so I just continued writing in my journal as I normally do. But what came out of my pen next surprised me! It was a fully formed anaphora of my own!

“A desire for alcohol is not only for alcohol, but for relief from pain.
A desire for a person is not only for that person, but for relief from loneliness.
A desire for food is not only for food, but for relief from hunger….”

My poem went on for several more lines, describing the various things that people crave to bring relief from real pains. I was surprised at how easily the thoughts flowed from my mind to the paper in front of me. At the end of my thoughts, and my conversation with God, I wrote:

“Thank You for my mind and the ability You’ve given me to think. It’s remarkable. Thank You.”

And as I wrote those words, along with my thanks and praise to God for something I saw that He had created–my mind—I felt a touch of what David must have felt when he wrote his words, giving thanks and praise to God for something he saw that God had created–the heavens and His Word. Any father would be pleased to hear his children think and speak about those things in the world around him which the Father had a hand in creating. It shows honor and respect and true thankfulness.

There’s a time and place for “raw prayers,” prayers that just pour out whatever’s on our hearts to God, however they might sound. But there’s also a time and place for “pleasing prayers,” prayers that are carefully crafted to express other truths on our hearts that also bring pleasure and praise to the God who gave us life.

These aren’t words to butter up God to get what we want, but to honestly acknowledge Him for who He is, realizing how good and right and wise and perfect He is in all of His ways, and in all that He’s created–including us.

We can trust Him and trust His Word, even when He says things we don’t want to hear. We can trust Him that He really does know best.

What words could you speak today that would be pleasing to God? What insights has He given you into His ways or His Word or His creation that could bring out your praise for Him that is truly in your heart?

Why not take some time to voice those thoughts to Him, to write them out with a pen and paper, or type them out on a keyboard or keypad, or voice them out in a song or a poem?

Let the words within you flow out from your heart as a stream of praise to Him, as David’s words did when he said:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Will you pray with me?

Father God, thank You for letting us see that David not only poured out his pain, but also his praise, in ways that brought pleasure and glory to You. Help us to do the same, being honest and real with our problems and pains, but also with our praise and adoration. Help us to think carefully and intentionally about ways we can bring glory to You, both in our hearts and in our words that flow out of them. Let them be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

And here’s the link once again to today’s scripture reading:
Psalm 19, read by Lana Elder, with Edward MacDowell’s “To A Wild Rose,” played by Josiah Elder

And here’s the link to our reading plan of the Psalms. There’s plenty of time to catch up–even if you haven’t already started reading!
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

He is already half false who speculates on truth and does not do it.  Truth is given, not to be contemplated, but to be done.

F. W. Robertson


This Day's Verse

Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.

Romans 3:23-24
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Joys are always on the way to us.  They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night.  There is never a night when they are not coming.

Amy Carmichael


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If the veil of the world’s machinery were lifted off, how much we would find is done in answer to the prayers of God’s children.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne


This Day's Verse

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.  In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.

Psalm 89:15-16
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate.  It is an announcement.

Paul S. Rees


This Day's Verse

So be careful.  If you are thinking, “Oh, I would never behave like that”–let this be a warning to you.  For you too may fall into sin.

1 Corinthians 10:12
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Of your unspoken words, you are the master; of your spoken words, the servant; of your written words, the slave.

Quaker proverb


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I’m not afraid of the devil.  The devil can handle me–he’s got judo I never heard of.  But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the One to whom I’m united; he can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.

A. W. Tozer


This Day's Verse

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Acts 7:55
The New International Version


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