This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The more you have the less you can give, and the less you have the more you can give.

Mother Teresa


This Day's Verse

But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The man who knows his sins is greater than one who raises a dead man by his prayer.  He who sighs and grieves within himself for an hour is greater than one who teaches the entire universe.  He who follows Christ, alone and contrite, is greater than one who enjoys the favor of crowds in the churches.

Isaac the Syrian


This Day's Verse

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

He that serves God for money will serve the Devil for better wages.

Robert L’Estrange


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.

Marghanita Laski, secular humanist before her death


This Day's Verse

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

What we do in the crisis always depends on whether we see the difficulties in the light of God, or God in the shadow of the difficulties.

G. Campbell Morgan


This Day's Verse

That is why I am suffering here in jail and I am certainly not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return.

2 Timothy 1:12
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

We teach what we know; we reproduce what we are.

Robert Schmidgall


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Selah Prayers- Psalm 46


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

SELAH PRAYERS – PSALM 46
Lesson 10 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 46, read by Lana Elder, with Christian Petzold’s “Minuet in G,” played by Josiah Elder

If your life is chaotic and you need a little peace, listen to God’s advice from Psalm 46:

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

This is perhaps one of the most calming verses in the Bible–and it occurs in the middle of a very tumultuous psalm. So much is going on here that by the time you get near the end, those calming words are a welcome respite.

Here are a few of the verses that lead up to those climactic words:

“…we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (vv. 1-3).

“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts…”(v. 7).

“Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire” (vv. 8-9).

And then comes the verse everyone is waiting for:

“Be still, and know that I am God” (v. 10).

It’s almost like a scene from the musical Hamilton, as a whirlwind of chaos swirls around Alexander Hamilton at a critical point in his life. The rest of the actors circle around him, picking up chairs and desks and papers, twirling the objects around him and holding them high. Chaos abounds.  Then…everything stops.

Hamilton sings, “In the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet for just a moment…” And there is quiet all around as he sings the rest of the song for the next two and a half minutes.

I love the imagery of that scene. Unfortunately for Hamilton, in that quiet moment he looks inward, decides to put his trust in his own strength–and it destroys him.

The writers of Psalm 46, however, look upward, decide to put their trust in God’s strength–and it delivers them.

How can you “be still” with God in a moment like that? How can you experience His presence when life around you is so chaotic? For me, it comes by literally stopping what I’m doing–whether it’s for just a few seconds or just a few hours–but long enough to “Be still, and know that He is God.”

Ever since taking a typing class in high school almost 40 years ago, I’ve always been a fast typist. And I’ve just gotten faster since then as I’ve worked on computers my entire adult life.

But when I spend quiet time with God, I do it “the old fashioned way.” I take out a pen and a journal. I hand write my notes to God. I try to take notes on what I feel He’s impressing on my heart from His Word and from His Spirit.

I try to write slowly–but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I rush, and my letters and words become illegible. But the very act of taking out a pen and a journal to record my thoughts are one way for me to slow down–to “Be still, and know that He is God.”

There’s also a mysterious word that appears in the psalms which helps me, too. It’s mysterious because Bible scholars haven’t found a well-defined translation of it in the ancient world.  But from the context in which it is often used, as best as they can tell, the word means, “stop and listen.” It’s the word, “Selah.” It’s a beautiful word, even without any meaning attached. (It’s so beautiful that one of my friends named their daughter “Selah.”)

The word “selah” occurs 74 times in the psalms (and only 3 other times in the whole Bible, in the book of Habakuk), and it occurs 3 times in today’s psalm, Psalm 46. This psalm is clearly a song, for the Hebrew text at the top of it says, “For the director of music….A song.” The word “selah” then appears 3 times, at the end of verses 3, 7 and 11.

For me, whether it means, “Stop and listen,” or as the Amplified Bible translates it, “Pause, and think of that,” whenever I see it in the Bible, it causes me to take a few extra moments to reflect on the words that precede it.

I say all of this to encourage you in your own prayer time with God to “stop and listen,” to “pause, and think of that.” Or as verse 10 says in this psalm, without having to guess at the original meaning of the words, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I’d like to give you a chance to do this right now. I know you’re busy. I know you’re trying to get through the day and get on to whatever you have to do next. But if you’re able, take a few extra moments sometime today and read through Psalm 46.  Each time you see the word “selah,” stop and listen; pause and think of that; be still, and know that He is God.

Psalm 46
For the director of music, Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth (also likely a musical term). A song.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
He burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for letting us be still and know that You are God. Help us to pause throughout our day and throughout our week–especially when things are so chaotic we can’t think straight. Help us to know what it means to “stop and listen,”  to “pause and think of that,” to experience those “selah” moments, even with all of the mystery that this word conveys. We love You, Lord, and we thank You for letting us be still and know that You are God again today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. I’ve received all I need to travel to Trinidad and speak at the men’s conference at the end of June on the topic of “Attacks on the Souls of Men.” Thanks to all who have helped and prayed for this event.  I’m hoping to record the messages and post them online after the event.

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you want to listen to it with music (the introductory text and the word “selah” is not spoken aloud in this reading):
Psalm 46, read by Lana Elder, with Christian Petzold’s “Minuet in G,” played by Josiah Elder

And here’s the link to the reading plan we’re using to go through the whole book of Psalms this year. There’s still plenty of time to read them all!
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Please make of my life what You would have it be.  Time and fate have twisted things I cannot straighten out alone.  Dear God, may I begin again.  My body, my mind, my spirit, my love, my hate, my pain, my sorrows, my joy, my questions, my fears, my hopes , my visions, I give them all to You.  Amen.

Marianne Williamson


This Day's Verse

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:3
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the handling of conflict without loss of balance.

Rami M. Shapiro


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshiped.

Augustine


This Day's Verse

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Preach to the suffering, and you will never lack a congregation.  There is a broken heart in every pew.

Joseph Parker


This Day's Verse

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD, “I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Psalm 12:5
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

The world is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of the earth.

Calvin Miller


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If worship is just one thing we do, everything becomes mundane.  If worship is the one thing we do, evening takes on eternal significance.

Timothy J. Christenson


This Day's Verse

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Ephesians 4:23-24
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

In prayer, we are aware that God is in action and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place, and when our hearts are prepared, he will call us into the action.  Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.

Eugene Peterson


This Day's Verse

Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

There is a danger of doing too much as well as of doing too little.  Life is not for work, but work for life, and when it is carried to the extent of undermining life or unduly absorbing it, work is not praiseworthy but blameworthy.

Ralph Turnbull


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Deep Prayers- Psalm 42


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

DEEP PRAYERS – PSALM 42
Lesson 9 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 42, read by Lana Elder, with music by George Frederic Handel, played by Bo Elder

Psalm 42 begins with the words of one of my favorite worship songs when I first became a Christian:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

The reason this was one of my favorite worship songs was because it spoke to the deep places of my heart. As a new Christian, I just wanted more and more of God. Thirty years later, I still do.

When you read Psalm 42, you can feel David’s deep hunger, his deep thirst for God.

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (vv. 2-3).

And as you continue reading, you find out that his deep thirst is borne out of the deep pain in his soul:

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar” (vv. 4-6).

The beauty of these verses is that it not only describes the problem David is facing, but also the solution he found to his problem: putting his hope in God; praising Him still; and remembering Him from the place where he had taken refuge.

It’s the same solution to the problems we’re facing. I heard from a friend yesterday morning whose week was filled with more than a few problems: a flooded basement, electrical issues, a tax problem, getting sick–all of which led to feelings of stress and loneliness. But like David, my friend found the solution in the simple act of turning to God, of actively hoping in Him and trusting in Him. He took away the feelings of despair. While the circumstances hadn’t entirely changed, my friend’s heart and mind changed–by trusting in Him.

Last year, I was able to visit the area in Israel where David most likely wrote this psalm, for he says in verse 5: “I will remember You from  the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon.” At one point, we stopped along the trail where we were walking, as we had come to a pool of water where it was easy to picture deer coming and quenching their thirst.

We sang, “As the deer panteth for the waters, so my soul longeth after Thee…” And we called out to God from the depths of our hearts to the depths of His. It was a sweet time of intimacy with our God who has the solutions to all of our problems.

At another point, we saw the raging headwaters of the Jordan River, one of the three tributaries which give birth to that significant river that travels the length of the country. As the water crashed in upon itself, it was easy to see how the waves turned into a metaphor for David’s song, describing both the tumult that was going on in his own heart, as well as the peace he found through prayer:

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:7-8).

I don’t know what problems you might be facing this week. I don’t know what troubles my be besetting your soul. I don’t know what waves and breakers are sweeping over you. But I do know what can help you through them. I do know Who can satisfy that deep thirst in your soul. I do know what can change your heart and your attitude so you can keep pressing forward, as it changed the heart and attitude of David 3,000 years ago, and of my friend yesterday morning. David summarized the problem–and the solution–in the final words of his psalm:

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

David spoke to his soul. He asked why it was so downcast and so disturbed. Then he spoke to it again, offering the solution that God is offering you today: Put your hope in God. Sing your praise to Him, your Savior and your God. Bring your deep prayers to the One who knows best how to answer them.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for letting us pour out our hearts to you, from the depths of our hearts to the depths of Yours. Thank You for providing the solutions to our problems, the answers to our prayers. Thank You for giving us Your peace even when the breakers and waves are sweeping over us. We pray that You would bring us that peace again today, right now, throughout the day, and in the days that follow. Help us to keeping putting our hope and trust and faith in You, for You are worthy of it all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. I’ve received $275 from several of you this week to go towards my $700 travel expense to speak at a men’s conference in Trinidad at the end of June. Thank you!  I’ll be speaking on the theme of “Attacks on the Souls of Men,” and am hoping to record the sessions and post them online for others to see after the conference. If you’d like to help offset the cost of this trip, or cover the remainder in full ($425), that would greatly help with this unplanned expense. Just use this link. Thanks!
Click here to make a donation

Here’s the link again to listen to today’s Psalm:
Psalm 42, read by Lana Elder, with George Frederic Handel’s “Rigaudon,” played by Bo Elder

And if you’d like to read through the entire book of Psalms this year with us, here’s the reading plan we’re using. It’s not too late to catch up!
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The world is not lacking in wonders, but in a sense of wonder.

G. K. Chesterton


This Day's Verse

Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.

Zephaniah 2:3
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

Ninety percent of the friction of daily life is caused by the wrong tone of voice.

Francois de la Rochefoucauld


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Lord, shine in me and so be in me that all with whom I come in contact may know thy presence in my soul.  Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus.

John Henry Newman


This Day's Verse

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,

Hebrews 6:10-11
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God is not hostile to sinners, but only to unbelievers.

Martin Luther


This Day's Verse

Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Matthew 5:44
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

The trouble with trouble is that it usually starts out as a whole lot of fun.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The management of time is the management of self; therefore, if you manage time with God, he will begin to manage you.

Jill Briscoe


This Day's Verse

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

John 15:9-11
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Perhaps the main task of the minister is to prevent people from suffering for the wrong reasons.

Henri Nouwen


This Day's Verse

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

I became my own only when I gave myself to Another.

C. S. Lewis


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Delighted Prayers- Psalm 37


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

DELIGHTED PRAYERS – PSALM 37
Lesson 8 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 37, read by Lana Elder, with music by Ludwig van Beethoven, played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes

Psalm 37 contains some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible, such as this one in verse 4:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

What I love about this verse, and about this psalm is that it talks about the benefits of delighting yourself in the Lord, of enjoying His presence, of enjoying your time with Him. A friend of mine says that when he spends time with the Lord, he often comes away with a smile on his face, even if he didn’t enter into his time with the Lord with one. It’s like spending time with a dear friend.

Changing a frown into a smile is just one of the benefits, though. God goes further and promises that if you’ll delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.

I was sharing with someone yesterday about the first time I fasted and prayed for a period of several days. On the second day of my fast, I was praying for a woman I had dated in college, but we were no longer dating. She was trying to make a decision about a job, and I told her I would pray for her during my time of fasting and prayer that week.

On the second day of my fast, as I was praying for her, I suddenly had an image of her, not in the job that she was praying about, but married and living a different life than the one she was currently living. It struck me that God didn’t want her to take that job, but He did have a man in mind for her to marry. I changed my prayers and said, “Yes, Lord, give her a husband.”

Before I had even finished saying that prayer, these words came into my mind as clear as any words I had ever heard from Him before: “Why don’t you marry her?”

I was stunned! That’s not what I was praying about at all! I was just praying for direction for her life–not mine!

I closed my journal and decided I must have been getting delirious from having not eaten. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her and didn’t love dating her. I did. But at the time, I just didn’t feel it was right for us to keep dating. It turned out that during our time apart, we both fell in love with Christ and gave our lives to Him, in separate cities, in separate ways. We were now both fully committed to Him first and foremost, and we were beginning to live new lives for the first time.

Maybe God really was speaking to me. Maybe He really did want me to consider that question: “Why don’t you marry her?” We lived over 1,000 miles apart and over four hours away by plane. It didn’t seem practical. But the question wouldn’t leave me for two weeks. I began to pray more intensely, setting aside the next three months to pray about the question, not telling her anything about it.

By the end of those three months, I could hardly think of anything else but marrying this woman! God had put such a love for her in my heart like I had never felt before.

At the end of the three months, I called her to see how she was doing. She said, “I feel like God wants me to quit my job, so I’m going to quit in the next few months. But I have no idea what I’m going to do next.”

I could hardly keep my heart from leaping out of my chest. “I have an idea,” I said. I told her what I felt God had spoken to me when I was praying for her three months earlier, and how much I would love to get back together with her again–for life. Now she was the one who went into shock!

She liked her new life in her new city. She liked the new friends she was making. She liked the church in which she had gotten involved.  And she liked me, but she wasn’t sure she was ready for getting married just yet. Over the course of the next few months, it began to look more and more doubtful that we would ever get together again. But then I read a verse in the Bible, a verse that gave me hope. It was from another Psalm, but with the same theme as the one I quoted above:

“May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests” (Psalm 20:4-5).

As I read those words, they became “living and active” within me, as the Bible says about itself in Hebrews 4:12. Those words filled me with faith that it was okay to ask God for something I wanted, and that if He did ever see fit to answer my request, I would shout for joy! I would lift up my banner in the name of my God! Although I was afraid it might sound a little childish, I prayed, “God, I know I don’t deserve it, and I know you won’t force someone to do anything against their own free will. But if there was only one gift I could ask from you in my life time, it would be to marry Lana.”

The prospect of marrying her still looked very bleak before I prayed, and my heart was still very heavy, but in that moment, it lifted. I knew I could trust God with the outcome, whatever that may be. And I knew I would indeed rejoice fully if it ever did come to pass.

As both of us prayed and sought the Lord more and more over the next few months while we were apart, God seemed to just keep bringing our hearts together, closer and closer. A year later we were married, on April 29th, 1989–28 years ago yesterday. (Here’s our engagement picture, in a field of Texas bluebonnets.)

As I read through Psalm 37 again this week, I was reminded of how true God’s Word really is.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

I had set aside time to fast and pray for the first time in my life, “delighting myself in the Lord,” and one of the results of that prayer was that God spoke to me: He put a desire in my heart that I wasn’t even considering. He literally “gave me the desire of my heart.” He put that desire within me, and then He fulfilled that desire on our wedding day.

I’m not saying that we will always get everything we want. I’m not saying that our lives won’t be filled with hard things and hard times. I lost my precious wife to cancer four and a half years ago. But I am so thankful that I delighted myself in the Lord that day when I was praying and fasting. I am so thankful that I asked Him to give me the desire of my heart. I am so thankful that God gave me the 23 years of marriage that we did have.

And that gives me renewed confidence to keep asking Him to give me the desires of my heart again today–whatever He desires and wants to put on my heart.

This is just one of the benefits of delighting yourself in the Lord, of spending time with Him. Others are listed all throughout this psalm:

– “He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun” (v. 6).
– “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (v. 9).
– “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous” (vv. 16-17).
– “In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty” (v. 19).
– “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed” (vv. 25-26).
– “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace” (v. 37).
– “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (vv. 39-40).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for giving me the desire of my heart, 28 years ago. Thank You for encouraging me again today to keep delighting myself in You, and to keep asking You to give me new desires of my heart, new answers to prayer for the days ahead. Help me to keep delighting in You in prayer, keep delighting in You throughout my days, keep delighting in you even when I’m having to wait patiently for Your answers. I ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. I’ve been asked to speak at a men’s conference in Trinidad at the end of June. The topic for the weekend will be “Attacks on the Souls of Men.” I’m hoping to record the sessions and post them online for others to see after the conference. Would you consider making a donation to help me offset the cost for this unplanned expense? The group that has invited me can cover my costs while I’m there, but I’ll need to cover the cost of my travel to get there (about $700). If you would like to help with part (or all!) of this special need, please use this link. Thanks!
Click here to make a donation

Also, here’s a link one more time to listen to today’s psalm:
Psalm 37, read by Lana Elder, with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Sonatina in G,” played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes

And here’s our reading plan for the book of Psalms this year, if you want to read through all of the psalms with us as we go through this series:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

People in general, Christian people in particular, tend to divide sins into two categories: their sins and our sins.  The Bible, of course, knows no such distinction.  Sin is sin, without partiality shown to the sins of God’s people–our sins.

Joe Bayly


This Day's Verse

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

O Lord, make the bad people good and the good people nice.

Prayer of a young girl


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I lay it down as a foundation principle…that God’s voice will always be in harmony with itself, no matter in how many different ways he may speak.  The voices may be many, the message can be but one.  If God tells me in one voice to do or to leave undone anything, he cannot possibly tell me the opposite in another voice.  Therefore my rule for distinguishing the voice of God would be to bring it to the test of this harmony.

Hannah Whitall Smith


This Day's Verse

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD you God.”

Leviticus 19:33-34
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To pray is the greatest thing we can do, and to do it well, there must be calmness, time, and deliberation.

E. M. Bounds


This Day's Verse

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt.

Dorothy Day


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I’ve heard a lot of sermons in the past ten years or so that made me want to get up and walk out.  They’re secular, psychological, self-help sermons.  Friendly, but of no use.  They didn’t make you straighten up.  They didn’t give you anything hard.  At some point and in some way, a sermon has to direct people toward the death of Christ and the campaign that God has waged over the centuries to get our attention.

Garrison Keillor


This Day's Verse

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

You must first be committed to Christ, then to one another in Christ, and finally to the work of Christ in the world.

Ray Ortlund


This Day's Verse

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide.

Psalm 119:98
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

The late Bishop Edwin Hughes once delivered a rousing sermon on “God’s Ownership” that offended a rich parishioner.  The wealthy man took the bishop off for lunch, and then walked him through his elaborate gardens, woodlands, and farm.  “Now are you going to tell me,” he demanded when the tour was completed, “that all this land does not belong to me?”  Bishop Hughes smiled and suggested, “Ask me that same question a hundred years from now.”

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Sweet Prayers- Psalm 34


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

SWEET PRAYERS – PSALM 34
Lesson 7 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 34, read by Lana Elder, with music by Christoph Graupner, played by Eric Elder

I love chocolate chip cookies. I especially love them when they’re fresh out of the oven, warm and chewy, with the chocolate melting into strands when you pull them apart.

But I know I wouldn’t like them as much if a few of the ingredients were missing. If there were no butter, they’d just be a clumpy mass of dough. If there were no baking soda, they’d flatten out on the tray. If there were no salt or vanilla or sugar, they’d be almost tasteless. It takes all of the ingredients, mixed together, to make that delicious, mouth-watering moment when they come out of the oven.

Life does have some very “tasty” moments, but to bring them about, it requires mixing all the right ingredients together. And to be honest, some of those ingredients don’t taste so great on their own. I wouldn’t want to eat a stick of butter. I wouldn’t want to eat a cup of  of flour. I wouldn’t want to eat a spoonful of salt or vanilla, or even a cup of sugar, as sweet as it is, without the other ingredients mixed in.

But sometimes that’s what life gives us; the ingredients come to us one by one, then we get frustrated and wonder what in the world is going on. “This isn’t what I asked for! This isn’t what I prayed about! This isn’t the way things were supposed to go!” The beautiful thing about God is this: He mixes all of it together for good. Notice the word “together” in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).

God takes all things and works them together for good. He’s a Master Chef, and that means  He can make something good out of anything that life throws our way, even those things that we might think are initially bitter or totally useless on their own.

In Psalm 34, David experiences one of those mouth-watering moments, when everything is mixed together just right. His cookies have just come out of the oven, and he can’t help himself from bursting into song, at one point singing:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

But what makes this moment so sweet, so mouth-wateringly delicious, are ALL the ingredients that went into it. David sings God’s praises because he realizes that only God could turn everything he had gone through into something good.

The heading of Psalm 34 tells us what had just happened:

“Psalm 34. Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.”

David had been on the run from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Then David found himself in the presence of another king–an enemy–who might have also tried to kill him.

Thinking quickly, David pretended to be insane:

“So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”

King Achish [his proper name, also called Abimelek as in Psalm 34, which is his title] said to his servants:

“Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:13-15, NIV).

And it worked! Abimelek sent him away. Then David burst into song. Victory never tasted so sweet–which is why he probably sang, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”

Individually, some of the ingredients that went into David’s song were pretty bitter. Facing death from one enemy only to find himself facing death from another. But God worked it all together for good, giving him a way of escape (and eventually making David king over all the kings in that land). David got a taste of the sweetness of God that day–and he savored every bite.

There are times in our lives when things come together just right, even for a moment, and we could burst into song as well. My encouragement to you today is this: go ahead and burst into song! Pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for working all things together for good.

Savor every bite. Sing a song of praise. Pour out your heart to Him in thanksgiving. You may not be totally out of the fire yet, as David still had obstacles in his way until he finally became king himself. But take time out along the way to give God praise for what He’s brought you through so far–for what He’s already worked out for good in your life.

I had one of those mouth-watering moments myself yesterday, where I had some time to sit and think before I picked up my kids from an activity. I decided to go to a nearby park, sit on the grass, and write in my journal.

As I sat on the grass, I read through this Psalm again. I began to thank God for all the things that He had worked out recently in my life: I had been driving a car that kept breaking down, but now I had another car that I had found at a reasonable price; I had been working on a new book that has been challenging for various reasons, but now I had already finished three-fourths of it so far; I had been going through a long winter here in Illinois, but now I was enjoying the spring breeze and the scent of blossoms in the trees; and I had been hungry for a little something right before I came to the park, and I had found a vending machine in the park which had a small packet of M&M candies in it–Dark Chocolate Mint M&M’s at that, a rare treat–and I was savoring them slowly, one or two at a time while I prayed.

That didn’t mean that everything in my life was going the way I wanted it to. It wasn’t. And it didn’t mean that I didn’t still have obstacles ahead that I would have to overcome. But in those moments, I was able to taste and see that the Lord was good. Yesterday, His goodness happened to taste like Dark Chocolate Mint M&M’s.

What are you going through today that God might be mixing together for your good? Maybe you’re still having to eat all of the ingredients one at a time, and they don’t taste so good. But maybe there are other parts of your life that have already been mixed together for good, and which could taste sweet if you took the time to stop and think about them for a few minutes. It wasn’t so sweet when I blew a tire on the freeway a few months ago on a cold winter morning, but somehow that experience made yesterday’s spring breeze feel even better as I rolled the windows down on my replacement car. What had been bitter a few months ago turned into something extra sweet on what might have been an otherwise “ordinary” day yesterday.

If you need help thinking through the things God may have done for you lately, take a closer look at David’s psalm of thanksgiving, Psalm 34. Take a look at some of the things in the second half of the sentences below that God saved David from that made the victories so sweet when they did come. Maybe you’ll find a few things about which you can burst out into song today, too.

I sought the Lord , and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (v. 4)
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (v. 5)
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. (v. 6)
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (v. 7)
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry… (v. 15)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (v. 18)
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all… (v. 19)

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for mixing ALL things together for good. Thank You for the victories You’ve given us, and for the ingredients we need to make those victories so sweet. I pray that You would help us to have Your perspective on our lives, not only the sweet times, but the bitter, so that we can enjoy them even more when they all come together.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. Here’s a link again to today’s psalm:
Psalm 34, read by Lana Elder, with Christoph Graupner’s “Intrada,” played by Eric Elder

And here’s our reading plan for the book of Psalms this year, if you want to read through all of the psalms with us as we go through this series:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer.

Henri Nouwen


This Day's Verse

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.

Jeremiah 17:7
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

God’s love is so real that He created you to prove it.

Nick Vujicic


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.

Richard Hendrix


This Day's Verse

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Matthew 7:13-14
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If God be God over us, we must yield him universal obedience in all things.  He must not be over us in one thing, and under us in another, but he must be over us in everything.

Peter Bulkeley


This Day's Verse

A man of crooked mind does not prosper, and one with a perverse tongue falls into calamity.

Proverbs 17:20
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

We have a whole Christ for our salvation, a whole Bible for our staff, a whole church for our fellowship, and a whole world for our parish.

John Chrysostom


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are ten that tell us the danger of wealth.

Haddon Robinson


This Day's Verse

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

Acts 10:38
The King James Version


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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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