This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Quieting Prayers- Psalm 131


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

QUIETING PRAYERS – PSALM 131
Lesson 27 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 131, read by Lana Elder, with Frederic Chopin’s “Prelude in A,” played by Josiah Elder

Susanna Wesley had 19 children, two of whom went on to found the Methodist church. How did she ever find a place to spend quiet time with God?

Easy! She sat in a chair and threw her apron over her head! Her children knew not to disturb her during her prayer time.

My  late wife Lana and I had six children. Lana was so encouraged when she heard that story about Susanna Wesley that she decided she could make a quiet place in our home to meet with God, too (she didn’t have an apron). She cleaned out a 2-1/2 by 2-1/2 square foot space in our closet and laid some blankets on the floor to make it soft. She added a box of tissues, some worship music, and a bag of Nestle Caramel Treasures.

Whenever she needed some quiet time, she would go into her prayer closet, close the door, and put on her music. She read her Bible, sang, prayed, laughed, cried and even danced in that little space. She found it quieted her soul and gave her strength to go on with the day. If you’d like to hear a message she recorded on why she created this special space and how it helped her in her walk with God, click here: My Prayer Closet.

Today’s Psalm contains a similar theme. In Psalm 131, David says that he “stilled and quieted his soul.” Listen to his words in this, one of the shortest psalms in the Bible:

“My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore” (Psalm 131:1-3).

Although this is a short psalm, it packs a lot of wisdom into those three short verses about quieting your soul.

David begins by saying, “my heart is not proud” and “my eyes are not haughty.” It’s amazing how pride can cause our souls to become stressed or distressed.

When we worry about how we’ll look in the eyes of others, we can quickly lose our peace. Our minds become preoccupied with how to avoid being thought of as “less than” or “a failure” or “dumb.” We spend money we don’t have or eat more than we should to either impress others or make ourselves feel better. We often end up on losing more than we gain, digging ourselves into even deeper difficulties.

If we can take a cue from David instead, we would pray that our hearts would not be proud and our eyes would not be haughty. With nothing to lose in terms of trying to impress others, we can save ourselves from a great deal of grief. By embracing who we are, and not who we aren’t, we can find peace and contentment that can’t be found in any other way.

David goes on to say, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” This may sound anathema in today’s culture, but sometimes we need to lay down our striving for “great things,” in order to gain something even greater: our peace. With so much to do and so much to accomplish, we sometimes miss the joy of doing those things along the way. I’m all for trying to make the most out of life, but that also means stopping from time to time and asking God what His agenda is for you each day.

I’ve sometimes been stunned, when praying through my list of things to do, that God will highlight only one of them for me to work on for that particular day. “Just do this one thing,” God seems to be saying, “and you can have the rest of the day to do whatever else you want.” I’ve found it incredibly freeing, both mentally and physically, to let God set my agenda for the day.

Then David says those words I love the most in this psalm: “But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

One of the most peaceful things I’ve ever witnessed in my life is my wife nursing our children. She would often nurse them for months and even years until they no longer felt the need to nurse. They knew they could come to their mother any time for the peace and comfort of being held in her arms, even after they had been weaned. That calm and peaceful feeling they had while resting in their mother’s arms was available to them long after the nursing was over. There is, perhaps, no picture in my mind that is more peaceful.

How can we have that kind of peace with God? By saying “quieting” prayers. By coming to Him not only when we have a great need, but even at those times when we simply want to rest in His arms, to let Him hold onto us, to let Him pull us in close. Even as I write this, I’m encouraging myself to just let God hold onto me, calming me with His peace. I encourage you to do the same, just like David encouraged his fellow Israelites to do with God in the last words of this psalm:

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”

Where are you putting your hope today? If you’re putting it in yourself, and your ambitions, and your appearance or accomplishments or achievements, you’ll find your peace will be elusive and can falter as quickly as any of those things can falter. But if you’ll put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore, you can find peace, no matter what else happens to you in life.

Like Susanna Wesley, who found peace in the midst of a houseful of children by simply putting her apron over her head, you and I can find peace by coming to God anytime in prayer.

Ask God to quiet your soul today. Ask Him to give you His peace. Keep putting your hope in Him, both now and forevermore.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for David’s example of quieting his soul in the midst of his building, ruling, and defending a great nation. Lord, thank You for the examples of people like Susanna Wesley and my wife Lana who were able to carve out spaces and places to find peace in the midst of their own busy lives. Help each one of us to do the same, starting today. Quiet our souls and help us find peace even now as we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Again, here’s the link to Lana’s message: My Prayer Closet.

And here’s a link to her reading of today’s psalm, set to music this week by our son, Josiah:
Psalm 131, read by Lana Elder, with Frederic Chopin’s “Prelude in A,” played by Josiah Elder

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Building Prayers- Psalm 127


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

BUILDING PRAYERS – PSALM 127
Lesson 26 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 127, read by Lana Elder, with Kirnberger’s “Lullaby,” played by Kaleo Elder

I am a futurist. By that, I mean I spend a good deal of time thinking about the future. In fact, I was employed by a Fortune 10 corporation for about 10 years with the specific purpose of advising them on the future of various computer technologies and how those technologies would impact their corporation.

I worked with researchers at Apple and IBM, MIT and NASA. I read papers, went to conferences, and subscribed to dozens of magazines and mailing lists devoted to the study of the future. In many ways, I am now living in the world that I foresaw 30 years ago when I first began doing this type of research.

The funny thing about the future, though, is that we can only predict so much. We’re not omniscient–or all knowing–like God is. Without Him, our predictions about the future are only best guesses based on what we can see and the trends that are taking shape.

If we’re going to have any success at predicting the future–and making the most of those predictions–we need God to guide us. There’s nothing sadder, as others have wisely said, than to spend your whole life climbing the ladder of success only to find, once you reach the top, that your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

King Solomon put it like this in Psalm 127:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat…” (Psalm 127:1-2a).

How can we know if our ladder is up against the right wall? How can we know if the Lord is in our building projects, or if we’re just spinning our wheels needlessly? As Stephen Covey says:

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the wrong place faster! I don’t want to get to the top of the ladder only to realize my ladder is up against the wrong wall! I want every step I take to to move me forward, not backward.

But how can I know if the things I’m doing are really what God wants me to do?

That’s where “building” prayers come in: prayers to God to show me if the house I’m working on is the house God wants me to work on–or if it’s time to move on.

By staying in touch with the Father on a regular and consistent basis, He can guide our steps. He can show us if we’re headed down the right path, and He can turn us around if we find we’re on the wrong one.

I’ve worked on many houses over my lifetime–literal houses–cleaning, restoring, remodeling, and renovating them. None of them for pay. All of them for love. I’ve worked on houses for my own family, for my extended family, and for others to enjoy. Each and every time, I have to ask God, “Is this a project You really want me to take on?” Because it’s way too much work to spin my wheels endlessly.

And I can say that each time, I have reached various points where I have seriously questioned if God has really asked me to work on it or not. Each and every time, I’ve reached points where I’ve had to return to God, again and again, asking for His guidance, His wisdom, and His strength, because it takes way too much time, effort, and resources if He’s not in it.

I’d like to say I’ve never wasted one minute, never wasted one penny, never wasted one ounce of strength. I’d like to say those things, but I can’t. I’ve had to regroup and backtrack too many times for that to be the case.

But what I can say is this: there’s not one minute I’ve spent in prayer that hasn’t been well-invested. There’s not one penny for God’s thoughts that hasn’t made a return. There’s not one ounce of effort on my knees before God that hasn’t given me strength. Even though I’ve made mistakes along the way, and even though I’ve begun to climb some ladders God hasn’t wanted me to climb, He has always helped to redirect me to the ladders He has wanted me to climb.

Sometimes God redirects me in ways that are subtle and gentle, other times in ways that are abrupt and painful. But always, He redirects me in ways that keep moving me forward in the right direction for my life–His direction.

There are times when I’ve been tempted to think that I’ve just wasted months of energy–mental, physical, and spiritual energy. But at those times, God has reminded me of this:

Time spent seeking My will with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is never wasted. It’s always invested, and it will pay huge rewards for years to come.

What about you? What kinds of “houses” are you building where you need God’s guidance?  Are you building your job? Your career? Your house? Your health? Are you building a relationship? A friendship? A mentorship? A family? Are there some ladders you’re climbing where it would be helpful to know if they’re up against the right walls or not?

If so, let me encourage you to pray. Pray some “building” prayers of your own. Ask God for His wisdom, His strength, and His resources to either keep you moving forward or to show if it’s time to start climbing another ladder.

One of the most beautiful promises God offers in this psalm comes at the end of the verses I quoted from King Solomon earlier. Here are those verses again, this time with God’s promise included at the end of them:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those He loves” (Psalm 127:1-2).

There have been a few times, even this week, where I have been working on a project and God has simply said, “Now’s the time to rest.” I’ve protested: “But I’ve got so much more to do!” And God has said, “Sometimes the best next thing you can do is to get some rest.” And I’ve literally gone back to to bed for a while.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be building anything in vain. I don’t want to rise early and stay up late in vain. I want every moment to count. And sometimes that means getting some rest so you’ll be fresh to start “building” again.

God has reminded me this past week again that if I’ll keep bringing my projects to Him in prayer– keep putting my efforts into His hands–He’ll make the most of every one. He’ll guide me when I need guidance. He’ll redirect my steps when I need redirecting. And He will give me rest when I need rest, too.

Keep coming to God in prayer. Keep asking Him for His direction. And keep trusting that the time you spend seeking God’s will is never wasted. It’s always invested, and it will pay huge rewards for years to come.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for promising to never leave us alone. Thank You for walking with us every step of the way. We pray that You would guide us today as we move forward with the projects that are on on our hearts. Show us which ones are on Your heart, too, and help us to work on them, with You, together. Father, we look forward to the future, knowing that we won’t be alone there, either, knowing that You will be with us always, even to the end of the age. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

You can to listen to today’s psalm again at this link:
Psalm 127, read by Lana Elder, with Kirnberger’s “Lullaby,” played by Kaleo Elder

And you can see our 2017 reading plan for the book of psalms at this link:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Peaceful Prayers- Psalm 122


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PEACEFUL PRAYERS – PSALM 122
Lesson 25 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 122, read by Lana Elder, with Mozart’s “Minuet in F,” played by Eric Elder

 

We have six more weeks in the book of Psalms, where we’re learning about prayer and how to make our prayer lives more effective. As we pull into this final stretch, I think today is a good time to talk about recognizing God’s answers to our prayers when they come.

Sometimes we’re praying for something intensely, expecting the answer to come in a certain way. But when the answer does come, we sometimes don’t recognize it, because it comes in a way we hadn’t expected.

Today’s lesson highlights this point, as the topic is praying for peace. “Peace” is a funny thing. I’ve seen people who are in the midst of chaos, with pandemonium all around them, yet who are experiencing true peace. But I’ve also seen people who are in the midst of extreme calm, with utter stillness all around them, yet who are experiencing true turmoil.

When we pray for peace, we sometimes miss God’s answer when it comes, because God makes His peace available to us in ways we don’t always grasp.

First, I want to look at the importance of praying for peace in our circumstances and how God can truly answers those prayers. But second, I want to look at the importance of praying for peace regardless of our circumstances and how God can truly answer those prayers, too.

In Psalm 122, David encourages people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. For a man who had lived most of his life fighting battles against his enemies, I’m sure his prayers for peace were heartfelt. In Psalm 122, David says:

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (vv. 6-8).

What I love about David’s prayer for peace is that God answered those prayers! After years of fighting war after war after war, David did experience peace in Jerusalem. As it says in the book of 2 Samuel:

“…the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him” (2 Samuel 7:1b).

And the peace that David prayed for and experienced lasted into the next generation, as his son, Solomon, later said this after he had become king:

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4).

Praise God that He answers our prayers for peace in very physical and tangible ways!

I’d also like to point out, however, that God answers our prayers for peace in ways we sometimes miss because we’re expecting that peace to come in another form.

One night, my family was invited by a Jewish man to take part in his family’s Seder Meal, the traditional Passover Meal which is celebrated by Jewish people every year.

At the end of the meal, the man who had invited us asked if we had any questions. Since so many of the traditions he talked about referred to the long-awaited Messiah, I asked him what he thought of Jesus–and why he didn’t think Jesus is that long-awaited Messiah.

He answered, “When the Messiah comes, he will bring peace. As I look around, I don’t see peace. So clearly Jesus can’t be the Messiah we’re looking for.”

While I appreciated his answer, I couldn’t help thinking that he had missed the fact that was so apparent to me: Jesus did bring peace! But the kind of peace this man was expecting wasn’t the kind of peace that Jesus brought.

Here’s how Jesus described the peace He has offered to each one of us:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid … I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 14:27, 16:33).

The peace Jesus describes is the same peace I experienced when I first put my faith in Him–and which I’ve continued to experience still, over 30 years later. Had I not experienced this miraculous peace of Christ in my heart, I might still be waiting for another Messiah, too–one who could give me peace as the world gives peace.

But because I’ve experienced the peace of Christ, I am fully convinced He is the Messiah–because no one else could give me the kind of peace that He has given to me.

The Apostle Paul describes this inner peace–and how to get it–like this:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

This peace has carried me through sickness and job loss, anger and fear. It has carried me through tornadoes and hurricanes, mishaps and miscarriages. It has carried me through grief and despair, sorrow and sadness.

Praise God that He answers our prayers for peace in ways that transcend understanding, no matter what is going on in the world around us!

If you need peace today, let me encourage you to pray for it. Put your faith in Christ for everything in your life, from the forgiveness of your sins to the circumstances that you’re facing today. Pray for God to bring peace into your heart. Pray for God to bring peace to the world around you. And like David, pray for the peace of Jerusalem, even today.

Know that God can and will answer each and every prayer you pray. Then don’t miss His answer when it does come–as it may come in a way you never expected!

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for offering us Your peace–a peace that passes understanding–and for making it available to each and every one of us. Help us to know and to experience Your peace in our hearts. Help us to know and experience Your peace in the world around us. And help us to see Your peace come upon the city of Jerusalem, the city where Jesus the Messiah lived and died and rose again from the dead. We pray all of this in His precious name, Amen.

Eric Elder

You can to listen to today’s psalm again at this link:
Psalm 122, read by Lana Elder, with Mozart’s “Minuet in F,” played by Eric Elder

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


Watch Here! | Listen Here! | Ask for Prayer | Contact Us | Visit Our Website | Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Bookstore


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will return with his sermons next week)

Anger

by Joseph Rodgers

 

Two men are talking about anger one night. One said, “I’ll show you the difference. At 1 am, he goes to the phone and dials a number. He asked, “Is Jones there?” The man says “No!” The men continue until the same guy says, “Now I’ll show you frustration.” At 2 am, he goes to the phone and dials the same number. The man picks up, “What?” The guy asks, “Is Jones there?” Frustrated, he says “NO!” Then at 3 am, the guy says now I’ll show you rage. He returns to the phone and dials the number a 3rd time and says, “Hey I’m Jones. Have I gotten any calls tonight?

People do the craziest things when they lose their tempers. Have you ever seen a toddler throw a temper tantrum? They scream and yell and hurl their bodies to the ground with their stubby little arms and legs flailing in all directions.

How about a teenager who loses his cool? In high school I watched as a friend got so mad he put his fist through a wall destroying his chance at a scholarship.

Have you ever seen a young mother of preschoolers lose her cool? It’s not a pretty sight when pots and pans are slammed, toys are thrown, and the kids are being screamed at for doing things that little children do.

Or how about the man driving to work who gets cut off and in a fit of rage slams his fist, shouts a few expletives, and then attempts to hunt down the culprit with every intent to give them a piece of his mind – if not more.

I was tested this weekend when my family went to the mall shopping. While Meg was trying on clothes, I was attempting to corral the kids. Now mind you it wasn’t their fault. It was after bedtime and they were just being kids, yet I was about to lose my mind – especially when they tipped over a rack of clothes. Listen, I understood irritation and frustration, and had it not been for the accountability of 25 women shopping, I might have experienced rage.

Anger – we all struggle to manage it and keep it under control, and yet, we all feel as if it is a right and privilege to express it as we wish without consequence. But it has become an infectious disease that is everywhere – in our homes, our cars, on freeways, at sporting events, at work, and even at church. It’s so bad that some social commentators have said we live in the “Age of Rage.”

What is it? Anger is a legitimate emotion often expressed illegitimately. Instead of serving as a warning light that something isn’t right (like warning lights on car dash) it usually becomes an action resulting in sin because we seek to bring harm to another.

Of the 7 deadly sins, anger is the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel of the pain you’re given and the pain you’re giving back – in many ways it’s a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is what you’re wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

How can I know if I have an anger problem? When you get angry do you hurt yourself? Do you hurt others? Do you damage property?

Did you know the Bible speaks of the perils of anger 262 times in 256 verses. It says anger is an emotion we must learn how to control or else it’ll control us.

If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Do not give the devil a chance. Eph. 4:26 (GNB)

Angry as an emotion isn’t sin, but it can lead to sin if it is not controlled.

Anger unresolved gives the devil access to your life.

It’s not – how can I be good and mad, but how can I be good when mad?

Our example of course is Jesus. On more than one occasion He got angry, yet He never allowed His anger to become sin. (read Mk. 11:12-18)

Jesus had every right to be angry, but he didn’t take it personally and He never allowed it to control Him. Yes there was injustice and a reason to retaliate, but Jesus never took matters in His own hands – instead of fuming He forgave.

The ROOT of Anger

Anger is a secondary emotion requiring an emotional trigger – we aren’t born angry something has to happen to ignite it. Anger a choice we make and a habit we break.

ANXIETY (Fear)

When people are anxious about something it tends to put them on edge. They allow worry and fear to overtake them and send them over the side into anger.

Anxiety reveals what we think and understand about God. He promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Ph. 4:19) and to never leave us or forsake us (Hb. 13:5). Thus we have nothing to fret over.

Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Ph. 4:6-8

Anxiety should not trigger anger – it should trigger trust.

NUISANCE (Frustration)

This is when things don’t go as planned. We get flustered and frustrated – flustrated – instead of adjusting we explode. It doesn’t matter if it is a work issue, a spouse issue, or a kid issue – frustration gets the best of us and we feel compelled to yell.

Pastor who traded his bike with a frustrated boy with a lawnmower. The pastor caught up with the boy few days later dissatisfied because the lawnmower wouldn’t crank. The boy told the pastor that he had to cuss at it. The pastor said, I’m a pastor – I don’t cuss, besides I haven’t said a cuss words in years. The boy responded, “Pull on that handle a few times and it will come back to you.”

Of all of the triggers, this one might be the most pervasive.

Insert: Psychiatrists call this problem LFT – Low Frustration Tolerance. It claims that most people are walking time bombs just waiting to explode because they’ve allowed circumstances, situations, and people to crowd out their ability to tolerate frustration. Thus they’re living on the edge just waiting to erupt.

GRIEF (Pain)

This is when people experience pain. It doesn’t matter if it’s physical, emotional, or social, we’d rather be angry at someone/thing than be in pain. (Grief Process)

EMBARRASSMENT (Humiliation)

No one enjoys being made fun of or being laughed at. No one enjoys being made a fool or the butt of a joke. No matter how much we laugh at the silly things we might do, we don’t enjoy having other people laugh at our expense. Thus, while we might be laughing on the outside, we’re seething on the inside.

RESENTMENT (Animosity)

Resentment is pent up animosity we have towards others because of something they said or did against us that resulted in loss. The trigger is simple – someone harms me and I’ll get them back. It invokes the idea, “Do unto other before they do unto you.”

No matter the trigger we all must recognize that we own our anger whether we like it or not. No matter how much we rationalize it, it’s real and it’s ours.

The REALITY of ANGER

FRUITLESS

Bridle your anger, trash your wrath, and cool your pipes – it only makes things worse. Ps. 37:8 (MSG)

In other words, losing your cool seldom makes things better – it’s fruitless.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame! Ben Franklin

Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose. Jm. 1:19-20

Unless a person learns to manage their anger correctly they only suffer loss as a result of losing their cool. Why? Because most people only know how to handle their hostility through inappropriate channels.

The TOXIC WASTE Approach

Toxic waste people bury anger deep w/in presenting A-OK outward appearance. Problem is that over the years it begins to leak out and contaminate.

The VOLCANO Approach

Volcano people talk and rumble for years but finally get to the point where they say, “I’m not going to take this anymore,” and they EXPLODE.

The SNOCONE Approach

Snocone people go silent and put on the Big Chill. They put you on ice.

The MICROWAVE Approach

Microwave people confront the situation that bothers them with an instantaneous response. You hear: beep, beep, beep and BAM!!!

In Forrest Gump, there is a scene where Jenny returns to her home after her abusive father has died. The farm is dilapidated and abandoned, but as she reflects on the abuse she endured as a child, she’s overcome with rage and begins to violently throw rocks at the house only to fall to the ground in exhaustion. As the scene closes Forrest says, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Mishandled anger is futile and we have to learn to manage it or it’ll manage us.

FOOLISH

A patient man has great insight, but a quick tempered man displays folly. Pr. 14:29

A quick tempered man does foolish things. Pr. 14:17

Annually in the U.S. 14 men are killed by vending machines. After not receiving a drink or due change, these men shook the machines until they tipped over and crushed them to death. Each man became the victim of his own anger.

Anger defines a fool as it demonstrates who is really in control of me.

FORBIDDEN

But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, rage, malice and filthy language from your lips. Col. 3:8 (see Eph. 4:31)

Don’t nurse it, rehearse it, or disburse it – but curse it – get rid of it.

Rid yourselves (apotithemi) to put to the side; to change one’s clothes.

Just as a person takes off his dirty clothes at the end of the day, so is a Christian to discard the filthy rags of their old life once they’ve placed their faith in Christ.

Thumos wrath; sudden outburst of combative anger.

People who fly into rage seldom make a safe landing. Will Rogers

Three things occur when you fly off the handle:

• You say and do foolish things you will regret later

• You do things that cause problems for others

You do things that have a hefty penalty

Orge an angry indignant temperament or mood

Paul is talking about people with a negative and sour disposition – people who look like they’ve been weaned on pickle juice or like they’ve got a lemon IV.

Bumper Sticker – I have an attitude and I know how to use it.

We are to GET RID of them. Anger is to be abandoned by believers. Why? Because when anger is taken personally and acted upon it becomes sin. Why? Because when you’re angry you’re no longer under God’s control but under the control of the flesh – and that is sin.

The REMEDY of Anger

Commit to CONTROL Anger

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Pr. 29:11

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Pr. 16:32

Sometimes it takes more strength and courage to control our emotions than it does to capture a fortified city.

ADMIT your tendency to take anger personally

CONFESS your need for accountability

TARGET the situation and not the person.

Consider the CONSEQUENCES

Will expressing my anger resolve the issue or make matters worse?

Anger Fosters Disagreement and Disunity

An angry man stirs up dissension, a hot tempered man commits many sins. Pr. 29:22

Anger Leaves You Vulnerable to Attack

If you can’t control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls, open to attack. Pr. 25:28 (GNB)

Anger Invites Trouble

If you churn milk, you get butter. If you hit someone’s nose, it bleeds. If you stir up anger, you get into trouble. Pr. 30:33 (GNB)

Whenever you lose your temper – YOU LOSE! So consider the consequences.

Correctly COMMUNICATE Anger

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Pr. 15:1

What we say in the heat of the moment can either extinguish or ignite a situation. Our words can be either a bucket of water or a can of gas.

Think Before You Speak (Measure your words carefully)

He who guards his lips guards his life, but the man who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Pr. 13:3

Never Speak Out In Anger

A hot tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel. Pr. 15:18

CHOOSE Quality Company

Do not make friends with a hot tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Pr. 22:24

Let angry people endure the backlash of their own anger; if you try to make it better, you’ll only make it worse. Pr. 19:19 (MSG)

If you hang with angry people you’ll become an angry person. It is contagious.

Bad company corrupts good morals. 1 Cr. 15:33

Don’t hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with God and with goodness.

Anger is indeed a troublesome emotion. It is an equal opportunity destroyer. It doesn’t distinguish between gender or race or issue – it only invites us to lose control of our faculties to indulge in the perceived gratification of a lost temper. Yet in the end, it leaves us separated from our friends, colleagues, and family, holding the hatchet of guilt that has been buried in someone else’s back. Truthfully, the time has come for us to learn how to be good when mad – and it begins at the cross where Jesus gave His life for us.


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will return with his sermons in two weeks)

Faith

by Tony Grant

1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.

5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Harrington University has other names: the University of San Moritz, the University of Palmer’s Green, and the University of Devonshire. At Harrington, the campus is small; the class schedule is convenient (In fact, there are no classes at all), and a Ph.D. will only take you 27 days and a few thousand dollars to earn. No transcript from a previous institution is necessary. Instead, you get full credit for what Harrington calls “life experience.”

Harrington University is (or was, until it was shut down in 2003 by the authorities) a “diploma mill.” It was an online “university” selling bogus bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Rather than classrooms and a campus, Harrington University was the residence of an American living in Romania with mail drops in the United Kingdom, printing services in Jerusalem, and banking options in Cyprus. By 2002, some 70,000 Harrington-Palmer’s Green-Devonshire degrees had been “granted” to online applicants, earning the operator more than $100 million.

Using e-mail spam, online advertising and even print advertising in major US magazines, diploma mills like Harrington are a growing phenomenon in our wired world. As jobs become more scarce and competition for them more fierce, many people are turning to quick, albeit illegitimate, ways to pad their rèsumès without the cost or hassle of actually going to class.

A May 2004 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office found 28 senior federal executives who claimed degrees from diploma mills, and 463 federal employees with bogus college degrees were hired or advanced in their jobs. Sham scholars with fake degrees have held jobs as sex-abuse counselors, college vice presidents, child psychologists, athletic coaches, engineers and even physicians. Counterfeit colleges and universities make it easier to pull off the rèsumè charade because they provide fake diplomas and transcripts that often seem legitimate.

With all this academic fakery going on, it is becoming harder for legitimate institutions to maintain their reputations, and it is also more dangerous for people in need of professional services.

Take the case of Marion Kolitwenzew, who found out her daughter was diabetic and took her to a specialist for treatment. He seemed like the real deal, with a wall full of diplomas and an office stocked with medical supplies. When Marion followed the “doctor’s” advice and took her daughter off insulin, the daughter quickly became violently ill and died. Later, the “doctor” was sentenced to 15 months in prison for manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license. His wall was adorned with counterfeit credentials.

How do so many people get away with this stuff? The answer is simple: No one seems to check them out, No one calls the references, No one asks for the paperwork. Thus, it can be fairly easy to fake who you are.

The church is not proof against this kind of fraud. A few years ago, right here in York, we had a minister in one of our local churches who did much the same. He had been in his denomination for several years and claimed to have a couple of degrees. No one actually investigated his resume until he became involved in some bitter strife in his church, and someone became angry enough to check up on him, and found that his degrees were fake.

By the way, I do not post diplomas on office walls, but if you want to go down to Erskine Theological Seminary and check on my degrees you are welcome to do so. But in church, the real problem is not fake diplomas, it is fake faith.

In Romans 4, Paul is using Abraham the Patriarch as a primary case in a study of God’s dealing with people. Abraham was a hard-driving businessman and a devoted man of God. If anyone had a rèsumè of solid credentials to “boast” about, says the Apostle Paul, it was Abraham. But it was not his righteous rèsumè that made Abraham a prime candidate for the job of Patriarch of the faith. “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God,” says Paul in verse 2.

In other words, even Abraham’s best work could not match the standard of holiness set by God. No human rèsumè is impressive enough. Earlier in Romans, Paul puts it more clearly: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Instead, it was faith itself that was Abraham’s one and only true rèsumè builder. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (4:3).

Thus, we Christians are famous for saying that all our attempts to approach God by doing stuff are bogus. That whole way of thinking, which is called “works righteousness,” is counterfeit. The only way to come to God is by faith, by real faith, Abrahamic faith.

Which leads us to the next question then: What is real faith? What is Abrahamic faith? Strangely enough in over 30 years in the ministry, I have never been asked that question. I have often said to people you must be saved by faith. But no one has ever responded by asking, What is faith? But it seems to me a very apt question.

Tillich and Faith

Philosopher and Theologian Paul Tillich wrestled with this question. Tillich said, “There is hardly a word in the religious language, both theological and popular, which is subject to more misunderstandings, distortions, and questionable definitions than the word ‘faith’.” [Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, Introductory Remarks].

Tillich offers us a definition: Faith is “the state of being ultimately concerned” [Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper & Row, 1957), 1]. If we have faith in something, we are dead serious about it. We are not only concerned about it. We are concerned to the nth degree .

Now, we all met people who claimed to have faith in Jesus, but whom we suspected did not. How can I make a statement like that? What grounds do we have for such suspicions? Because they are not much concerned about Jesus. Ask them if they believe in Jesus, and they will say that they do, but what are they really serious about?

The Masters takes place in Augusta, so let me use golf for an example. If you are always thinking about golf, if every scrap of your time is devoted to playing or watching golf, if you mortgage your house to buy that new set of titanium golf clubs, then golf is your ultimate concern, not Jesus. Your faith is in golf, not Jesus.

Most Americans who claim to believe in Jesus attend church only occasionally, give to the church only occasionally, pray seldom if ever. Do they actually believe in Jesus? If we accept Tillich’s definition of faith as that which we are “ultimately concerned” about, then we suspect that they do not, that they are not really serious about Jesus.

That is a question for us today: How serious are we about Jesus? Or to put the question another way, What is our ultimate concern? To what do we give our highest priority? What are our most cherished goals? That is where we put our faith.

Faith is an attitude that involves our entire personality. Tillich says, “It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements” [Dynamics, 4]. Our faith is expressed by our whole being. Our faith determines, to a large extent, what we are. Thus, when faith is misplaced, our lifestyle becomes confused and disoriented. If we believe the wrong things, trust the wrong things, we will be screwed-up people. That explains much of what is wrong with the world today. Most people have faith, most people are ultimately concerned, about the wrong things. For example, they are ultimately concerned about a nation, or, they are ultimately concerned about my job or my way of living. But countries rise and fall–witness the rise of China right now. And Jobs come and go–where have all the textile jobs gone? And lifestyles change every few years. So those things are nothing to be much worried about. Ultimately, we are concerned about only God.

The problem people have always had from the very beginning of recorded history is that we become “ultimately concerned” about something other than God. Whenever we elevate something other than God to a level of ultimate concern, we commit idolatry. We put something in God’s place. We have faith in something that is not worth our faith.

This was what happened to Israel during the Exodus in what we might call the Golden Calf Episode. They had received the Law at Mount Sinai. They had all expressed their willingness to obey the Law. They had ratified a covenant with God. Then, when Moses was away for awhile on the mountain, they forgot about Moses, forgot about the law and the covenant, forgot about God and began to worship instead a Canaanite idol. They put their faith in something that was not worth their faith. They elevated a golden image to the level of God and made it their ultimate concern. Thus they broke their covenant with God and brought down God’s wrath upon them.

The question is what is faith? Faith is a way of answering life’s really important questions. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Everyone asks these questions. I have sometimes been stunned when a person that I did not think had a serious bone in their body begin asking serious questions; What happens when I die? How do I know God’s will for my life? That is an humbling experience because you realize that all of us are pretty much alike in that all of us are trying to make sense of the world around us. But the only way the world makes sense is through faith in God.

And notice what this faith is. It is not only a faith that God exists. We always mean far more than that when we speak of faith in God, we mean that God accepts us and loves us. That is what Jesus taught and proved. Through Jesus, we are made “righteous” before God, to use the Apostle Paul’s terminology. Nothing we do makes us righteous, but by faith in Jesus, by making Jesus our ultimate concern, we are accepted as citizens of the kingdom of God.

The question was, What is faith? My faith is not about me at all. Faith is not about what I have done or not done. Faith moves me out of the picture and focuses on Christ. That sounds so easy, yet it is probably the hardest thing in the world for any human being to do. Even as we say Christ is our ultimate concern, we resort to little stratagems to make ourselves the center of attention.

A few weeks ago, I was over in Easley and my wife and her mother were shopping, so I was given the task of taking my father-in-law’s car to the carwash. I took the car to the Easley Deluxe Carwash, paid my money, and was standing there watching them wash the car. I noticed a little old man nearby and I started up a conversation just out of boredom. After we had exchanged a few words, he launched into a loud monologue about how he loved Jesus. He said that he had started a church and he had raised all this money, and he had talked to so many people and driven so many miles. The little man expounded on how they got contractors for the church, and they ran out of money and he told the people that they had to give more and so on. He had led so many people to Christ and he had done this and done that.

This speech went on and on, and I was a little embarrassed because we were standing in a car wash with other people all around, and this little man just got louder. Finally, I blurted out, “My car is done; I have to go,” and bolted out the door.

But as I reflected on this later, I could not help but observe that though the man said he loved Jesus, the speech was not about Jesus at all. It was about him. You know he never even asked my name. He never asked anything about me. He was too focused on himself.

Under the disguise of loving Jesus, he was talking about himself. It was pathetic really. Here was a little man trying to gain some esteem from a stranger in a car wash by bragging about what he had done for Jesus. But that little man was not so different from the rest of us. Even when we talk about Jesus, we are always trying to somehow slide the focus back on me. That is the great human error, the great idolatry. Most people really have faith only in themselves. The Apostle Paul says we must break that idol, and put our faith in Jesus. That is the only real faith. Any other faith is just a counterfeit diploma.

Amen.


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Daily Prayers- Psalm 118


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

DAILY PRAYERS – PSALM 118
Lesson 24 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 118, read by Lana Elder, with Jacques Offenbach’s “Barcorelle,” played by Eric Elder

 

There are many famous quotes in the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms. But there’s one quote in Psalm 118 that helps keep me going each day. The quote is this:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24).

I’ve talked several times in these messages about special prayers you can say to God when you’re facing special problems. But today I’d like to focus on the value of daily prayers, thanking God for each day you’re alive.

Thanking God for each day is not only important when things are going good, but also when things are going bad.

I’ve mentioned in one of my earlier messages that a few months before my wife died, a film team asked if I would be willing to record a short message to offer hope to others facing terminal illness. I didn’t think I could do it, as I was still trying to find my own reason for hope in the face of the most significant loss in my life.

But I agreed to do the interview, and at one point during the filming, God filled me with incredible hope for myself, too. I was finally able to say that even if the unthinkable happened to my wife, I knew God would still have a reason for me to live.

“My role,” I said, “is to find that reason, fulfill that reason, and walk in that reason.”

While it was a struggle for me to finally get to that point, trying to imagine living life without her, I truly believed those words were true. And here I am, five years later, having found that reason again, fulfilling that reason, and walking in that reason. God has continued to call me to purposeful living, day after day after day.

I know there’s a reason that I’m here. And I know there’s a reason you’re here, too. This really is “the day the Lord has made.” I am so thankful for today, and I am continuing to rejoice and be glad in it.

What about you? What kind of day are you facing today? What is God speaking to you, calling you to do and think and be? I know it can be hard some days to believe that God has a calling on your life, but God really does want you to know your purpose for living even more than you want to know it. And He really does wants you to live THIS day to the fullest, too.

Let me encourage you to say a fresh prayer to God again today, committing THIS day to live for Him and saying, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Then say it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, so that you can keep making the most of every day the Lord your God gives to you.

If you need some help in your heart to do this, here are a few cues from the writer of Psalm 118 for how he was able to do it, even when life had him on the ropes at times.

He remembered God’s love endures forever:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’
Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’
Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever'” (vv. 1-4). 

He remembered how God had set him free:

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (vv. 5-6).

He remembered that God is God and not anyone else:

“The Lord is with me; He is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me” (vv. 7-13).

He remembered who gave Him his voice to sing and to praise:

“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.
Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death” (vv. 14-18).

He remembered the Lord with thankfulness:

“Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.
I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation” (vv. 19-21).

He remembered the Lord for doing miracles:

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (vv. 22-23).

And he remembered that THIS is the day the Lord has made:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24).

If you need to get your mojo back, do what this psalmist did, and do it daily.  Remember that God’s love endures forever. Remember that He has set you free. Remember that He is God and not anyone else. Remember that He is the one who gave you your voice to sing and to praise.

Remember the Lord with thankfulness. Remember the Lord for His miracles. And remember that THIS is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for giving us another day of life. Thank You for giving us a purpose and meaning for today and hope for our future. Thank You for Your eagerness to reveal that purpose and meaning and hope to each one of us. Help us to walk out the calling that You have in mind for us, living each day to the fullest and fulfilling every single thing You want us to fulfill. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. Last week I shared with you a brief, 8-minute interview I filmed at our church how God set me free from living a life I knew He didn’t want me to live. If you’re looking for freedom, or know someone who is, I’d like to also recommend a film that you can watch this week for one day only in theaters across the country called The Heart of Man. The film was produced by my friend and Hollywood producer, Brian Bird, who also produced Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. I was able to watch The Heart of Man and found it to be full of hope for anyone who is struggling with anything in their life to which they might be addicted. The film also contains godly wisdom from real-life people whom God has set free and have gone on to impact the world for good. The Heart of Man is showing in theaters for one day only, this Thursday, September 14th. Click here to learn more.

Eric Elder

You can watch my own brief, 8-minute testimony that I shared with you last week at this link:
Eric’s interview at Eastview

You can to listen to today’s psalm at this link:
Psalm 118, read by Lana Elder, with Jacques Offenbach’s “Barcorelle,” played by Eric Elder

And you can see our weekly reading plan for the book of psalms at this link:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Fearless Prayers- Psalm 112

Special note from Eric: Before sharing today’s message with you, I wanted to let you know that I’ve just finished writing a new book called Loving God & Loving Gays: What’s A Christian To Do? I think you’ll find this book to be a thoughtful look at a delicate subject, borne out of my own personal experience and my ministry to hundreds of others in this area for the past 30 years. This book also includes a study guide for every chapter, which you can use for personal reflection or to study the book together with a small group. I’d be glad to send you the paperback edition for a donation of any size to our ministry at this link ($15 is suggested to help us cover the cost of printing and shipping the book anywhere in the world), or you can get the paperback or Kindle editions directly from Amazon at this link. To learn more, you can watch a brief, 8-minute interview at this link, which was recorded live last weekend during a special service at Eastview Christian Church. Even if you’re not interested in the book, I hope you’ll watch my brief interview to give you a boost in your faith no matter what you might be facing today.

Eric Elder and Mike Baker - Interview at Eastview

Eric Elder and Mike Baker – Interview at Eastview


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

FEARLESS PRAYERS – PSALM 112
Lesson 23 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 112, read by Lana Elder, with Daquin’s “Nöel,” played by Eric Elder

Last weekend, I shared my testimony with the largest live audience I’ve ever shared with before. Needless to say, I was more than a little bit nervous.

But I took comfort from two things that I’d like to share with you today: 1) that a healthy fear of God is more important than an unhealthy fear of people and 2) that fearless prayers lead to incredible blessings.

You’ll find these same principles at work in Psalm 112, which begins with these words:

“Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who finds great delight in His commands.
His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed” (vv. 1-2).

A healthy fear of God leads to all kinds of blessings. Why? Because following God and His ways inevitably leads to an abundant life, both here on earth and in heaven forever. God doesn’t give us His wisdom–His commands–to hold us back from the fullest life possible, but to bless us with the fullest life possible.

Listen to the blessings that Psalm 112 says will follow when we fear God and take delight in His commands:

“Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.

Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn will be lifted high in honor” (vv 3-9).

And listen to what happens when we don’t take delight in God’s ways:

“The wicked man will see and be vexed,
he will gnash his teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing” (v. 10).

Does this mean that only good will come to those who follow God, and only bad will come to those who don’t? Of course not. A simple look at anyone who has committed their life wholeheartedly to their Father in heaven shows that sometimes bad things happen to the best of people, Jesus being the prime example. But listen to what Jesus has to say about a healthy fear of God:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).

When I told a friend a few months ago that I was asked to share my testimony in front of this live audience, my friend said, “Aren’t you afraid?” I said that I was, but that I loved talking about Jesus more than anything else, for it is in Him that I’ve found my hope–and I couldn’t wait to share that hope with others.

I said, “If telling people about the most closely held secret of my life means that I can also tell people about how Jesus has worked in my life, then it’s worth it. It’s not that I’m not afraid. I am. I’m just compelled to push through my fears to share what Jesus has done for me.”

The truth is, there’s coming a day when everyone’s secrets will be made known. Everyone’s sins will be revealed. My hope is that by revealing now how Jesus has helped me to deal with my secrets, others will put their faith in Him so they can deal with theirs.

As Jesus said in the same passage I referenced above:

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs…. Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven” (vv. 26-27, 32-33).

Just listening to Jesus’ words reminds me that the words I speak, and the words I don’t speak, are massively important and eternally significant. We can be afraid of those who can kill our bodies, or we can be afraid of the One who can send both body and soul to hell.

As the days got closer for me to share my testimony last week, my fear factor kept increasing. But I took great comfort in the two truths I shared with you at the beginning of this message: 1) that a healthy fear of God is more important than an unhealthy fear of people and 2) that fearless prayers lead to incredible blessings, both for us and for all those around us.

Are there some fearless prayers you need to say today?

And if so, will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us that we can come to You with our fears, and that as we pray boldly, You can reduce our fears immeasurably, knowing that You will bless those who walk in Your ways. Father, help us to be bold in our witness to You. Help us to share with others the hope we have found in You. Help us to pray fearless prayers, knowing that You will answer those prayers with incredible blessings, both for us and for all those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. You can watch my brief, 8-minute testimony at this link:
Interview at Eastview

You can to listen to today’s psalm at this link:
Psalm 112, read by Lana Elder, with Daquin’s “Nöel,” played by Eric Elder

And you can see our weekly reading plan for the book of psalms at this link:
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


Watch Here! | Listen Here! | Ask for Prayer | Contact Us | Visit Our Website | Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Bookstore


This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Avenging Prayers- Psalm 109

Special note from Eric: I’ll be sharing a brief (5-minute) version of my testimony today during a special hour-long message at our church. I’d love for you to watch the whole service live online at 9 am, 11 am, or 5 pm (Central Daylight Time) at this link: live.eastview.church


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

AVENGING PRAYERS – PSALM 109
Lesson 22 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 109, read by Lana Elder, with Handel’s “Sarabande,” played by Eric Elder

Is it ever okay to ask God to bring vengeance on someone who is acting maliciously toward us? If David’s prayers are any indication of what we can or can’t ask of God, then the answer is “Yes.”

It’s not an easy answer, though, as God’s viewpoint on our troubles is not always the same as our own. We can sometimes be wrong in our assessment of others, and we can sometimes minimize our own guilt while magnifying the guilt of others.

Still, there are times when the malice of others is so evil, so awful, and so clear, that it is altogether fitting and proper to ask God to intervene on our behalf, to spare us from further harm, and to bring about justice on those who are acting contemptuously.

Listen to David’s prayer in Psalm 109, and see what you think. David begins by explaining the problem as he sees it:

“O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent,
for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (vv. 1-4).

So far, so good. The harder part for me to read is what David says next, when he begins to ask God about very specific ways he wants God to intervene! Listen to David’s boldness:

“Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse- may it come on him; he found no pleasure in blessing- may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him.
May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me” (vv. 5-20).

Those are some pretty strong words! But there have been occasions in my life where I have felt like saying some strong words like that to God in prayer, too. And if we’re going to be honest in our conversations with God, part of being honest means saying things that might not sound as holy or as pious as we think we should sound.

And the truth is, calling on God to bring a stop to wickedness IS holy and pious. Jesus didn’t hold back from calling a spade a spade when He said things like, “You snakes! You brood of vipers!” or “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:33 and 23:15).

There are times when we might need to call a spade a spade, too, asking God to intervene to bring an end to wickedness.

I like calling prayers like these “avenging prayers” because asking God to bring about vengeance is different than taking revenge on someone ourselves. God is the ultimate judge, and calling on Him for justice is calling on Him to do one of the things He is fully qualified and fully capable of doing.

Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, said this about the difference between the words avenge and revenge: “To avenge and revenge, radically, are synonymous. But modern usage inclines to make a valuable distinction in the use of these words, restricting avenge to the taking of just punishment, and revenge to the infliction of pain or evil, maliciously, in an illegal manner.”

Calling on God to take action to do what is right and just is very different than asking someone to do something underhanded and equally evil or malicious in return for what they’ve done to us.

Like David, when I’ve come to the place where I’ve had to call on God to bring an end to something evil or wicked that is happening around me, I’ve taken careful stock of the situation and the people involved first, then I’ve asked God to bring about justice on His terms. And, at times, I have seen Him act surprisingly swiftly in response.

In one situation, a man was repeatedly abusing those around him, including me. The man refused to respond to civil requests to cease and desist, and refused to back down from his destructive tirades. When I finally got the courage to call on God to bring and end to his swath of destruction, two days later the man resigned from his position and left town. It was as if God had answered my prayer in a way that David wanted God to answer his, when David said: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.”

God is gracious. God is loving. God is kind. Yet, He does not leave the guilty unpunished. As the Bible says:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6b-7a).

I sat in a courtroom one day when a friend of mine was on trial. I was there to testify to his good traits, but I was also there to admit that he had made some really bad decisions that were very harmful to others. While I wanted the judge to be lenient in some ways, I also didn’t want the judge to ignore the harmful things that had been done.

In reading the verdict, the judge commended my friend for the good he had done, and the judge offered the court’s help to turn my friend’s life around. Yet the judge also said, wisely: “The people in this room who have come to support you think you’re a good person, and frankly, I believe you’re a good person, too, but one who’s made some bad decisions. And this court and our society and those you have wronged are not going to tolerate the commission of crimes. There may have been issues in your life that contributed to those decisions, but there are always going to be issues. This verdict is to get your attention, to require you to make restitution for the wrongs you’ve done, and to help you to turn your life around.”

I felt the judge’s sentence was extremely fair, well-reasoned, and compassionate, yet he did not leave the guilty unpunished.

I am thankful that God, being the best judge, is willing to step in and intervene in situations where it would be dangerous and potentially even more destructive for us to try to take matters into our own hands. That’s when avenging prayers come in, calling on God to bring about justice. As the Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You that You are a good Father and a good judge. Lord, for those who have wronged us, help us to call on You for help in bringing about justice and bringing about a change in their hearts. Help us to step out of harm’s way and let You step in to take up our cause. We pray that You would bring an end to the wickedness of those who are acting maliciously against us, and that You would cause Your light to drive out any remaining darkness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

P.S. Here’s a link to listen to today’s psalm again:
Psalm 109, read by Lana Elder, with Handel’s “Sarabande,” played by Eric Elder

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


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

Psalm 96 begins with these words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The psalmist says as much as he continues:

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

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

(Psalm 91:8-16)

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will continue with his series next Sunday)

The Discipline of Prayer

by Kerry Bauman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Yearning Prayers- Psalm 84


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

YEARNING PRAYERS – PSALM 84
Lesson 17 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 84, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique,” played by Bo Elder

Have you ever felt your heart lunging out of your chest towards something or someone–that feeling that you’re being pulled forward by some kind of invisible heartstrings? That’s what it means to yearn: “to have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.”

If you’ve ever prayed for something with an intensity of heart like that, you know what a yearning prayer feels like. One of the best examples of a prayer like this is found in Psalm 84:

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! 
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God” (vv. 1-2).

In this case, the psalmist’s heart is lunging towards God–specifically towards God’s dwelling place, that place where the psalmist knew he could meet with God.

I wrote a song one day about my own longing to be with God, to be in His dwelling place, just to know that He was right there with me. The song is called “My Sanctuary,” and the words begin like this:

All I want, All I need,
Is to be with You and to know You’re near.
All I want, All I need, 
Is to talk to You, and to know You’ll hear.
And I know There’s a place
I can go to feel You presence,
Oh, Lord, bring me there; bring me home.

At that moment, as I was writing that song, I felt like God had answered my prayer. Suddenly I was right there with Him; in His presence; in His sanctuary. At that moment, it became my sanctuary, too.

I sang:

This is my sanctuary, Oh Lord!
This is the place that I call my home!
This is my sanctuary, Oh Lord!
And I know when I’m here I’m not alone!

God answered that “yearning” prayer on my heart, that intense desire to be near Him; with Him; close to Him. I can hardly explain the immense satisfaction that I felt in the moments that followed–to be in His presence; to enjoy His peace; to experience His relaxing calm.

Sometimes our hearts long for something or someone, when what we’re really longing for is what God alone can provide: His immense satisfaction.

I think it’s critical, in those moments when we’re yearning for something or someone with a heartache that can’t be fulfilled, to turn those yearnings towards God. Why? Because sometimes our deepest longings can only be fulfilled by being in His presence–by being so close to Him that we can truly hear His heart about all of the other things for which we’re longing.

I spent a few hours of intense prayer one night at a church in Houston. I was praying to know God’s will in regards to a particular woman I was seriously considering marrying. I didn’t know what God might want, and I didn’t want to make a mistake. All I knew was that I deeply wanted to marry this woman–if that’s what God would want and what she would want as well.

I took a friend along with me to pray in a small chapel at my church. We knelt on the steps at the front of the sanctuary, pleading with God for His answer.

A few verses from the Bible came to mind about how the Holy Spirit can search out the deep things of God and reveal them to us. The verses say:

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

So we leaned into our prayers, asking God’s Holy Spirit to search out the deep things of God to see what He might have in store regarding my relationship with this woman. In my mind’s eye, I could picture the Holy Spirit taking off from the place where we were praying, then zooming towards the throne room of God. I felt as if my prayers were getting so close to the heart of God that at any minute His Spirit would return to reveal to me His answer.

But just as I thought that answer was about to come, something else happened. It felt as if the Holy Spirit had finally arrived and entered into God’s dwelling place, but as soon as He did, an invisible door shut fast behind Him. All of our prayers stopped. Our seeking ended. That yearning feeling that had been so intense on my heart was gone. Somehow I knew that our prayers had touched the very heart of God. Even though I didn’t know the answer, I knew that everything was going to be okay.

A complete stillness–a complete calm–overwhelmed us. Although this wasn’t the answer I was expecting, it brought a peace to my heart that passed all understanding; a peace that was worth more to me than any other answer I could have been given. I simply knew that God had heard my prayers, and that He had it all under control.

A few months later, God did reveal His answer to my prayers, both to me and to this woman I was hoping to marry,  with a clear and resounding “Yes!” A year later, we were walking down the aisle in the same church, in a larger sanctuary just around the corner from that chapel where I had been praying.

I tell you this story not as a formula for how to get whatever you want from God in prayer. It just doesn’t work like that, for all kinds of reasons.  I tell you this story to encourage you to bring your intense longings to God–whatever those intense desires may be that are on your heart. By bringing them to Him and spending time in His presence, you can find a peace and a satisfaction that you won’t be able to find anywhere else on earth.

The bottom line is that  you’ll be blessed! That’s exactly what the writer of Psalm 84 says will happen:

“Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are ever praising You.
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (vv. 4-5, 7).

Don’t let those unfulfilled longings on your heart frustrate you forever. Instead, turn those longings into prayers to God. Bring them before Him–and keep bringing them before Him. Let your heart yearn for God Himself, for His presence, for His sanctuary.

Then, as you come into His presence, recognize that you’re in the presence of your Almighty Father, the One Who loves you more than anyone in the world.

Let His peace overwhelm you. Let His wisdom pour out upon you. Let Him solve the puzzles that you can’t solve on your own. Let His comfort, His courage, and His confidence overtake you so that you can stand up once again knowing that “God’s got this.”

As you do this, I pray you’ll come to the same conclusion as the writer of Psalm 84:

“Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
O Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in You”
 (vv. 10-12).

Will you pray with me?

Almighty Father, bring us into Your presence today. Bring us into Your dwelling place. Help us turn our yearnings to You, so You can solve the puzzles we can’t solve on our own. Help us to know anything You want us to do or not do. Help us to know what’s right and what’s wrong in every situation. All we want is what You want, God, for we know and believe that whatever You want for us will be best. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 84, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique,” played by Bo Elder

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- “Remembering” Prayers- Psalm 77


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

“REMEMBERING” PRAYERS – PSALM 77
Lesson 16 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 77, read by Lana Elder, with Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” played by Eric Elder

Some of you might feel like you’re hanging on by a thread today. But I want to remind you that God’s got a hold of you with His strong arms, and that the ground beneath your feet is much more solid than you think.

I remember as a kid watching an interview about the filming of the movie Huckleberry Finn. The actor who played Tom Sawyer said that when they filmed a scene out on a lake, the boat he was in accidentally tipped over, throwing him into the water.

Not knowing how to swim, he struggled for air and began screaming for help. He truly believed he was going to drown. But in the midst of all this, he could hear people screaming back to him from the shore. What were they saying? Why weren’t they coming to help him? Didn’t they realize he was drowning?

But when their screams finally broke through his own, he cold hear them yelling: “Stand up!” He took their advice. He reached his feet for the ground beneath his feet–ground that he thought wasn’t there, but it was! He shifted his body and finally stood straight up. He was surprised to see that he was “drowning” in only three feet of water!

The ground beneath his feet was much more solid than he thought.

I’m not saying that the problems you’re facing are trivial. I’m not saying that the waters may not be truly deep. They may be. But what I am saying is don’t let the water fool you. The ground beneath your feet is much more solid than you think. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, then you’ve put your faith in the most solid rock available to any of us. He is THE ROCK on which we stand.

Reach out your feet for the ground beneath your feet, the ground that you think might not be there. Shift your body and try to stand upright again. Let God reach down with His strong arms and help you do it. Then know that He’s got a hold of you, and that the ground beneath your feet is much more solid than you think.

In Psalm 77, we find that the writer, a man named Asaph, was in serious distress, too. He was crying out to God for help, stretching out his hands to God, but he still couldn’t find relief:

“I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.”
(Psalm 77:1-3)

But by the end of the psalm, Asaph had found his footing again. He was able to stand again on THE ROCK beneath his feet. How did he do it? How was he finally able to stand again?

As best I can tell, he did it by “remembering.” He prayed to God, remembering what God had done for His people in the past. Four times in this psalm, Asaph uses some form of the word “remember”:

“I remembered You, O God, and I groaned” (v. 3).
“I remembered my songs in the night” (v. 6).
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
Yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago” (v. 11).

And what did he remember? In his case, he thought back to the times when the Israelites thought they were going to drown, too, yet God saved them from doing so. The armies of Egypt were hot in pursuit of them, and only the waters of the Red Sea stood before them. They had nowhere else to go but to run straight into the sea.

And by God’s Spirit–by His very breath, the Bible says–the waters convulsed. They parted to the right and to the left. God’s breath dried up the floor of the sea beneath their feet and they were able to walk right through it, on solid ground.

Asaph pictures the scene in his mind as he remembers what God had done:

“The waters saw You, O God,
the waters saw You and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.

“The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
Your arrows flashed back and forth.

“Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
Your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

“Your path led through the sea,
Your way through the mighty waters,
though Your footprints were not seen.

“You led Your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
(Psalm 77:11-20).

I hope you can listen to this psalm in the recording I’ve posted to go along with it. The music I’ve recorded is exactly the same in both the first half and the second half of this psalm, but because the words are different in those two halves, the music in those two halves have an entirely different feel. As the psalm begins, it sounds like one of the saddest, most mournful songs of all time. But by the end of the psalm, Asaph’s words of remembrance makes the music sound exultant! Triumphant! Victorious! It’s the exact same music, but it has an entirely different feel!

What’s the difference? The difference is that Asaph remembers what he knows to be true of God: God is strong, God can save, and even God’s breath can make solid ground appear beneath our feet!

What about you? What can you remember today that God has done for you in the past? Was there ever a time when you felt like you were drowning, but God reached down and saved you? When God helped you as you were in distress? When God made a way for you where there was no way?

As you look back over your life, can you remember any times when it seemed like you couldn’t go on, but God helped you through it? When you couldn’t see a solution, but God made one appear, as if out of thin air? When it looked like everything around you was conspiring to be your end, but it turned out to be just a beginning of something even better than you could have ever imagined?

If so, think about such things! Picture them in your mind! Let those images flow of God’s past victories in your life, and let them encourage you now as you face whatever struggle you might be facing now. Let God reach down with His strong arm and lift you up, shift your position, and help you stand again on solid ground.

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ before, do it today. And if you’ve already put your faith in Christ, put your faith in Him again today for what you’re facing right now, too. Let Him be the SOLID ROCK on which you stand.

Will you pray with me?

God, help us to remember You! Help us to look to You! Help us remember what You’ve done in the past so we can put our faith and trust in You again today. Jesus, we know that You’re our SOLID ROCK. We know You have saved us in the past and you can save us from this, too. Help us when we’re drowning. Help us to get our feet back on solid footing once again. Help us to know that You will work in our lives again today as You’ve worked in our lives in the past. And Lord, let this day be one that we can look back on again in the future, remembering how You saved us in this trial, this struggle, this time of distress, too. In Jesus’ mighty name–the SOLID ROCK on which we stand–Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 77, read by Lana Elder, with Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” played by Eric Elder

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Priming Prayers- Psalm 100


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PRIMING PRAYERS – PSALM 100
Lesson 15 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 100, read by Lana Elder, with Haydn’s “Arietta In A,” played by Eric Elder

I live on a farm that has an old hand pump on it. We seldom use it anymore, so to get the water to come out the well, you have to “prime the pump”–meaning you pour a cupful of water down inside the pipe, which moisturizes a leather ring on a cylinder, which creates the suction needed to draw out more water. Just a cupful of water can release a fairly unlimited supply of water!

Sometimes we need to do the same thing in our prayer times with God. Sometimes we’re able to come to Him with a song that’s already in our hearts; a song we’re just bursting to sing to Him. At other times we come to Him with barely a cupful of water, and we need Him to pour out a song into our hearts.

Thankfully, He can do that, too! All we need to do is to pour out a cupful of praise, thereby “priming the pump,” which then can release a fairly unlimited supply of praise in return!

Psalm 100 is one of those psalms that always seems to help me prime my pump, bringing me quickly into an atmosphere of praise. It’s a short psalm, just 5 verses long, and it takes just 30-40 seconds to read. Yet for those who take its words to heart, it can release a strong and steady stream of praise .

Listen to the words of Psalm 100, which is subtitled in the Bible as, “A psalm. For giving thanks.”

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.

“Know that the Lord is God.
It is He Who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(Psalm 100:1-5)

Lana and I put this psalm on the cover of our “Order of Service” for the day we got married, so a copy of this psalm was handed to everyone as they entered the doors of the sanctuary. We felt it was a fitting psalm for a day when we were naturally bursting with praise–and it was! There was no need for priming the pump that day! Our hearts were already overflowing with praise!

But there have been other days that I have pulled up this psalm when my heart wasn’t naturally bursting with praise, and I’ve found there’s at least a cupful of praise in this psalm to get things going again. A few of the reasons why we can praise God, even on rainy days, are contained within the psalm itself. It begins with a shout! In my last message, I talked about shouting to God when you’re angry or upset. But in this message, I’d like to encourage you to shout out a word of praise to God, joining the rest of the earth in its praise of God as well.

Shout out the word “Hallelujah!” for instance, which simply means “Praise God!” in Hebrew (originally “Halal Yah!”). For some reason, I really love saying it in the original Hebrew! And when I do, it becomes more than just a “Woo-Hoo!” to God; it’s a “Halal Yah!” to Him, a praise to the Almighty God Who created me, Who loves me and Who gives me every breath I take. It’s a “breathy” word of praise, with no hard consonants, like p’s or k’s, to interrupt the flow. Just pure praise. Pure breath. Pure worship from my spirit to His. And in return, God has often poured out a good dose of His Spirit back into me–and a fairly unlimited supply at that!

It also helps when I say it with a smile–with gladness, as Psalm 5 says in verse 2. There’s something about saying “Halal Yah!” that just makes me smile naturally, too. It’s a “whoop-de-doo!” kind of a word to me. “Halal Yah!” It’s joyous. It’s victorious. And it brings out the true gladness that I know is down in my heart. All of this is from just the first two verses of this worshipful psalm:

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.”

The next verse gives me a few reasons for praising God. They speak about how He is ours, and we are His:

“Know that the Lord is God.
It is He Who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”

Now there’s a reason to praise God! He’s our God! He’s the One Who made us, and we are His. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture! He cares for us, because we belong to Him.

The next verse continues, telling us how we can come to Him, with thanksgiving and praise, knowing that He is ours and we are His:

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.”

Come to Him with a thankful heart. Come to Him with praise. Then, as you enter His courts, give your thanks to Him; give your praise to His name.

Lastly, this psalm reminds me about some of God’s best attributes, as listed in the last verse: His goodness, His enduring love, and His faithfulness which continues through all generations.

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

I’ve been contemplating rainbows lately, and the powerful imagery they convey. They’re more than something for little kids to have on their stickers, or for big movements to have on their flags. They’re signs of God’s promises to the world He loves.

I saw a rainbow on my way home from Trinidad this week, and it came at a perfect time. Because of a delay at the airport, I missed one of my connecting flights…which meant I would miss my bus later in the day, which meant my plans for the rest of the night would change, too. As everything was getting backed up in my mind, I was tempted to get upset with the airlines and the agents and officials at customs.

I decided to praise God instead, trusting Him in the midst of it. I had done everything I could do, and I had to trust Him to do everything He could do. After running to one of my gates and watching the door close as the agent said, “We’re sorry, Mr. Elder, we’ve just filled the last seat on the plane,” I was tempted to be dejected again. Instead, I took a few moments to relax and praise God as I began the long walk to the customer service desk, where I was told I could standby for another flight on the other side of the airport, and I took another deep breath and began another long walk to get there.

When I finally arrived at that next gate, I sat down and saw, out the window in front of me, one of the most beautiful rainbows I’ve ever seen. It was coming down through the clouds and practically touched the plane that was sitting outside the window in front of me. I walked over to the window, and pointing it out to the others around me, we all looked at it in wonder.

About 45 minutes later, the rainbow was still there! I’ve never seen a rainbow last so long! They called my name, and told me there was one more seat on the plane… THAT plane, the one that we had been looking at for so long! It was that plane that had one more seat on it; a seat with my name on it; a seat with a rainbow of God’s promise practically touching it.

Sometimes you come to God with a song of praise that’s already on your heart. Other times you need to prime the pump with a cupful of praise to get things going, changing the atmosphere in your heart as well as the atmosphere all around you. Either way, always know that there’s an unlimited stream of praise ready and waiting for you to tap into at any moment. Just turn to God. Give Him a shout of praise. Give Him your best “Halal Yah!” Then let Him do the rest.

Will you pray with me?

Father, we praise you! We worship You with thanksgiving in our hearts! Halal Yah! Help us to bring forth the fullness of the praise that we know is deep within us–and even more, that we know is deep within You. Help us to pour out a song of praise from our spirit to Yours, then give us a good dose of Your Holy Ghost in return! Help us to praise You from the depths of our beings, knowing that You are good, that Your loves endures forever, and that Your faithfulness continues through all generations. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 100, read by Lana Elder, with Haydn’s “Arietta In A,” played by Eric Elder

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Saving Prayers- Psalm 69


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

SAVING PRAYERS – PSALM 69
Lesson 14 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 69, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes

I’m writing to you this weekend from the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where earlier this week a tropical storm swept through and threatened to cancel the men’s retreat where I was scheduled to speak. But late Friday night, we finally made it to the retreat center, and even at that late hour, the other men arrived, also, eager to hear about the power of God to rescue and save us when we put our faith in Him.

It is this same power that King David called upon from God in Psalm 69, a time when the flood waters were rising in his own life. Listen to David’s cry for help at the beginning of this psalm:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.”
(Psalm 69:1-3)

David wasn’t just crying for help. He was screaming… screaming to the point where he had worn out his voice.

What can we learn about prayer from this psalm? For starters, it’s a reminder once again that prayer is not always polite and holy. As my friend who is on this trip with me, Jeff Williams, says, “Drowning men don’t whistle. They scream.”

If you’re going to be honest with God, you can’t pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not. If you’re fine, say so. But if you’re not fine, it’s okay to say that, too.

What also intrigues me about this prayer is that David knows Who to come to for help. He didn’t scream into thin air. He screamed to the God Whom he knew could save him. Listen to his cry as it continues:

“But I pray to You, O Lord, in the time of Your favor;
in Your great love, O God, answer me with Your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of Your love;
in Your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide Your face from Your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.”
(Psalm 69:13-17)

There’s something about David’s relationship with God that caused him to keep coming back to God over and over again–even when he felt that God was distant and not answering him. The beauty of this is summed up in the words of a new friend I’ve made here on the island, Pastor Mitchell John, who says, “When we call to someone and they don’t answer, we usually give up and try calling someone else. But David doesn’t change Who he’s calling, Who he’s crying out to, Who he is supplicating. He keeps calling out to God.”

Why would David call out to the God who he feels isn’t answering his prayers? There’s a clue in this psalm as to why. David talks to God in a way that calls on His favor, His love, His salvation ( v13). David knows what God is like. He knows from his previous interactions with God and from his previous experiences. So when David sees no tangible evidence of God in his present situation, he doesn’t give up and call someone else. He calls on the One Whom he knows is there–the only One Who is able to help.

So he keeps calling. He keeps crying out. Even when he’s losing hope, he knows that his God is a God of hope. So he continues to call, even after his voice gives out. He’s obviously wondering, crying and questioning, but in the end, he knows where to turn for help.

What about you? Who do you call for help? How do you pour out your requests when the waters have come up to your neck, when you’re sinking into the miry depths with no foothold, when you’re worn out from calling and your throat is parched? I’d like to encourage you to keep calling out to God. Keep calling the only One Who can truly save you. Don’t hang up and call someone else. Trust in God’s favor, God’s love, God’s salvation.

Maybe you feel like screaming, but you’re not sure if it’s okay to do so. But if you’re going to explore the width and the depth of prayer, take some queues from David and give it a try. If it was okay for David, I think it would be okay for you. You might even need to truly scream! You might want to close your doors first. Or take a walk. Or sit in your car. Or scream into your pillow. But however you do it, don’t cry out into thin air. Cry out to the One Who can truly help you best!

Sometimes you need to get really honest with God.

You don’t have to pretend with God. You can tell him how you really feel, remembering to thank Him for the good in your life that you do experience, but being honest about the hurts you feel as well.

I’ve been mulling over a statement lately from a book written by a woman who lost her husband, and how hard it was for her to make small talk with others while she was still dying inside. She said it’s like they were asking her:

“Aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

Thankfully, you don’t have to make small talk with God. If you’re in pain, you can say so. If you need help, you can say so. If you’re dying inside, you can say so.

Why? Because God already knows, and because He is the only One Who can truly save you. He is the One Who can rescue you. He is the One Who can reach down into your situation and pull you out of the pit.

Listen to David’s words, near the end of this psalm:

“I am in pain and distress; may Your salvation, O God, protect me” (v. 29).

Whether you’re drowning or in pain or lonely or heartbroken or suffering or in need of saving, cry out to God. If you’ve never put your faith in Christ for your salvation, do it today. If you’ve already trusted God for your eternal life, know that you can trust Him for your life here on earth, too.

Our God is a saving God. Call on Him to save you today.

Will you pray with me?

God, save us! Help us as the flood waters rise around us! Help us as we feel like we’re drowning and don’t know where else to turn. God, we trust in You, in Your favor, Your love, Your salvation. Help us to be honest with You today. Help us to keep putting our faith and trust in You. And help us to keep looking to You for our salvation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 69, read by Lana Elder, with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” played by Marilyn Elder Byrnes

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Earnest Prayers- Psalm 63


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

EARNEST PRAYERS – PSALM 63
Lesson 13 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 63, read by Lana Elder, with Petzold/Bach’s “Minuet in G Minor,” played by Eric Elder

In the play The Importance of Being Earnest, a man named Jack pretends to be a man named Earnest–a name he has chosen for himself whenever he wants to hide his real identity. Ironically, a woman falls in love with him and, believing his name to be Earnest, tells him that she loves his name so much she can’t imagine marrying a man who wasn’t named Earnest.

And so begins a journey of discovery for the man who is pretending to be Earnest, on his way to learning the importance of being Earnest (in more ways than one).

In our prayer lives, it seems that God is wanting us to do the same: not just pretending to be earnest, but truly being earnest, truly seeking Him from our hearts.

As I look through Psalm 63, I see David doing just that: earnestly seeking God from his heart:

“God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (v. 1).

In the heading for this psalm, it says that David wrote it when he was in the desert of Judah. For many of us, we speak of being in a desert figuratively, when times are tough or circumstances are dry. For David, he was literally thirsty and his body was literally longing for refreshment, for he was truly in a dry and weary land where there was no water.

How amazing then, that David came to God with his thirst and his longing, intentionally remembering from where his help would come. David lifted up his hands to God and sang:

“I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands” (vv. 2-4).

Here’s a man who knows the importance of being earnest. He lifts his hands to God, knowing that God is the one who can answer the prayers on his heart.

God wants us to do the same. He wants us to lift up our hands to God, intentionally remembering that He is the one who can answer the prayers on our hearts. He is the one to whom we can express our thoughts and desires, our hopes and our dreams, and our belief that He will answer us when we call to Him.

It takes great faith to come to God in this way, to pour out our hearts to Him. Yet great faith is what pleases God the most, when we come to Him believing that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. As it says in the book of Hebrews:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

What about you? Do you believe that God exists? Do you believe He rewards those who earnestly seek Him? It’s okay if you can’t answer those questions right away. It’s okay if it takes some time to think them through and come to your own conclusions. But in the end, know that it is your earnest prayers that God wants the most, your earnest seeking of Him, and your honest belief in Him.

I was reminded yesterday morning of God’s actual presence once again–not His far-off, distant, presence somewhere “out there,” but His manifest presence, right here with me in the very room where I’m writing this message.

I had been pondering a thought yesterday morning that I wanted to send to a friend. So I wrote it out and included a quote that was given to me by another friend 25 years ago. I sent it off.

When my friend wrote back, I had to get down on my knees and praise God. Why? Because my friend had been reading a book at that very moment which included the quote that I had just sent… a quote I had only heard in passing 25 years ago and have never seen in print before or since! To me, it was a sign of God’s manifest presence, a sign that He was right there, right then, right with me in my room. My only response was to drop down on my knees and say, “Thank You, Lord. Thank You for being right here with me, right now. Thank You for speaking to me, speaking through me, and speaking to yet another believer in the process.”

When David came to God, he came earnestly. He came full of faith. He came knowing that God was there, and that He was the Only one who could truly quench his deep thirst, truly satisfy the longings on his heart. David said:

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You. On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me” (vv. 5-8).

David held on tight to God, and God held on tight to him. What a rich picture of a very rich relationship! I long for that kind of relationship with God, too!

I was thinking of this idea again earlier this week, about the importance of being earnest, as I watched one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with my kids. There’s a point in the third movie where, in order to make something happen, someone must speak these words to a woman named Calypso: “Calypso, I release you from your human bonds.”

When one of the characters does so, nothing happens. Another character says, “He didn’t say it right. You have to say it right.” So this second character leans over to Calypso and whispers in her ear as if to a lover: “Calypso, I release you from your human bonds.” He used the same words, but with an entirely different tone. And when he did, all kinds of things began to happen!

I’m not saying that you have to say just the right thing in the just the right way to move the heart of God. But I am saying that God wants you to come to Him full of faith, truly believing that He’s there, that He cares, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Because He is there. He does care. And He does reward those who earnestly seek Him.

How do I know? Not only because the Bible tells me so, but because God Himself has confirmed it’s so–over and over and over again–as I’ve come to Him with my own earnest prayers.

I know He’d love to confirm it to you, too. Come to Him with your earnest prayers, and discover for yourself the importance of being Earnest.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for letting us come to You, anytime day or night, with those things that are our on hearts. I pray that You would hear our prayers today, answering them as You see fit, giving us a strong sense of Your presence as we do. Lord, we come to You today in faith, truly believing that You exist and that You reward those who earnestly seek You. And Lord, we  pray now that You would satisfy those longings on our heart, longings which perhaps only You truly know are deep within us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 63, read by Lana Elder, with Petzold/Bach’s “Minuet in G Minor,” played by Eric Elder

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


Watch Here! | Listen Here! | Ask for Prayer | Contact Us | Visit Our Website | Subscribe | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Bookstore


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will return next week as he continues his special series.)

The Superhero in You
The Truth about Your “Secret” Identity

by Nate Barbour

There was a man who owned a Great Dane. Now this Great Dane was an extremely large and ferocious dog–definitely not the kind of dog you want jumping up in your lap. One day, as the man was walking his Great Dane down the street, he saw another man across the street who was also walking his dog–a little bitty dog with short legs no tail and no hair. It was an ugly dog and, frankly, it looked terribly sick.

Suddenly the Great Dane saw the little ugly dog across the street and decided he hated that dog. He broke free from his owner’s leash and dashed across the street on the attack. The owner of the Great Dane yelled to the man, “Look out! My dog is on the loose and he’s liable to kill you and that dog of yours! You had better run!”

But the little ugly dog turned around, bared its teeth, and when the Great Dane attacked, that little dog proceeded to grab hold of the Great Dane at the foreleg and began to eat that big dog up. It ate right up the leg, right up the throat, ate its head, right down through its body, right across the tail, right down the back legs, spit out the bones, and smacked its lips-and that was the end of the Great Dane, just like that.

Well, the owner of the Great Dane was absolutely astonished by what he had just witnessed. “Man, what kind of dog is that?” the man exclaimed. “I’ve never in my life seen a little dog that could do something like that!”

“Dog? Dog?” the other man said. “Before he got his nose run over by a truck and his tail cut off by a train, this used to be an alligator!”

You may feel like a puppy dog on the outside, but inside, you’re an alligator. You have the power of God at your disposal to do mighty things. And tonight we’re going to talk about your superpowers and the Superhero in You, the truth about your secret identity. Can you leap tall buildings in a single bound? Are you faster than a speeding bullet? Are you more powerful than a locomotive? You may not have the abilities of Superman, but you possess the power above all powers, the power of God.

II. Your Secret Identity

1 John 4: 4 “4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

You’re a world overcomer. I love this. You’ve got something inside of you that makes you greater than any evil henchman or villain. You’ve got something inside of you that makes you stronger and more powerful. You have a “secret” identity. On one hand, you’re a mild mannered person, on the other, you’re Super So & So, with the capacity and power to defeat anything that comes your way.

Who is it that’s in you that gives you these super powers? What is your “secret” identity? The reality is that if you’ve made Christ your Lord, then He lives on the inside of you. Jesus Christ is the one pumping the power through your veins.

Before you accepted Him as Savior, you were just an ordinary Clark Kent, a regular Joe, and you got your nature from Adam, the first man, but when Jesus came inside of you, you were changed from being in Adam to the In-Christ man. So that’s your “secret” identity. The secret is that when Christ died on the cross, your old identity, the Adam man, died there, too. The only you that lives is the In Christ you. You are found in Christ and Christ is found in you.

The Distilled Bible says in Galatians 2:20 “I consider myself as having died and now I’m enjoying a new existence, which is simply Jesus using my body.”

Christ is your “secret” identity. He’s the one on the inside of you, giving you the power you need to face the day. What kind of powers are you talking about, Pastor Nate? You really do have SUPER POWERS. Let’s look at a few of them.

III. Your “Super” Powers

We’ve established that Jesus is on the inside of you providing the power. Well, wouldn’t it be true that you have the same power that He did? Yes. Let’s look at His power, that is now YOUR power.

Matthew 10:1 “1 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.”

You have the POWER to cast out demons.

You have the POWER to heal.

Jesus did. If he didn’t have the power to do it himself, he couldn’t have given it to the disciples. Look at Mark 5:1-8.

1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

8 For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

If you’ll read on, you’ll see that the spirit obeyed Jesus and went out of the man into a herd of pigs. Why did the spirit obey? Because he had the power to cast out demons. You’ve got the power to do that, too. That doesn’t mean you have to carry around your crucifix and bottle of holy water, looking for little girls who puke all over the place and spin their heads around. No, it means that should a demon or devil torment you or someone you know, you have the power to get rid of it. I’ve never had to do this, but I know that I can. I’ve heard stories upon stories of ministers meeting up with demon-possessed people, some are scary because the minister didn’t know what to do. Others define the Power to cast out demons because the minister knew about his power and used it.

You also have the POWER to heal.

Mark 1:40-42 “40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.”

Jesus had this power as was evident in His ministry. Everywhere He went, He was teaching, preaching and healing all who were oppressed of the devil. Everywhere He went, He was healing people. And everywhere you go, you can do the same thing. You have the POWER to heal. We’re not talking about the power of Wolverine. We’re talking about the Power of Jesus, the power that’s IN you!

We saw the power of God in demonstration last Tuesday when Dr. Dufresne was here. We saw person after person healed instantly because of Dr. Dufresne’s “super” powers. We can see that very same thing when you use your “super” powers.

Mark 16:17, 18 “And these signs will follow those who believe: they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

You have the power to heal.

A friend of mine had kidney stones about two years ago. I don’t know if you know what kidney stones are, but a kidney stone can develop when certain chemicals in your urine form crystals that stick together. The crystals can grow into a stone ranging in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Small stones can pass through the urinary system without causing problems. However, larger stones might block the flow of urine or irritate the lining of the urinary tract.

Well, my friend had stones that were about the size of a dime, and he had to wait for them to pass through his urinary system. Needless to say, it was extremely painful for him. He had these stones for well over three weeks. Well, during one of our band practices, I asked for prayer requests and his problem was one of them. We would split up the prayer request so each band member could pray and I asked my bro to pray for this particular deal. So when it was Gregg’s turn, he and another one of the band members got up and laid hands him. Within a matter of days, my friend had passed all of his kidney stones and had completely recovered. You have the power to heal.

You also have the POWER to create.

If you look at Genesis 1, you’ll see that God formed the earth with the Words He spoke. God is in you, right? If He has the power to create things with His words, don’t you have that same power? Yes.

Proverbs 18:21 “Life and death are in the POWER of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

You have the power to create. You create your world, you frame your world with the words that come out of your mouth.

If you talk power, you’ll have power. If you talk healing, you’ll be healthy. If you talk prosperity, you’ll never lack. If you talk love, you won’t be hating. If you can say it, you can have it.

Around this time last year, I was waiting on a job. It had a few days since I graduated from college and I had been looking for a job for about 3 weeks. The school I went to was a Baptist college so I would go the Baptist Student Union office and look through their lists of churches that were looking for youth pastors. I wrote a few down that I thought were interesting, but I kept saying I don’t want a job at a Baptist church and I would continually say out of my mouth, “I’m getting a job at a non-denominational church like Grace Christian Church,” which is the church I was a member at, and where I had interned the summer before.

Well, I didn’t know where to start. I decided to talk to our Pastor, Pastor Wyatt Brown, and see if he had any connections anywhere. I didn’t get the chance to talk to him, but the next week, Rev. Steve Morin, who is one of their Associate Pastors came up to me and asked me what I was doing after graduation. I told him my intentions of becoming a youth pastor and he said I know a church, and one thing led to another and I ended up at the right place, here at Good News Church, pastoring you guys.

The reason I got this job was because of the words of my mouth. If I would have said, “I’m never getting a job at a good church.” Well, I wouldn’t have. But I didn’t say that. I said what I wanted and I got it. You have that same power. The power to create. So create what you want with that power, not a world that’s full of depression and lack. Say what you want and use your power for good.

You also have the POWER to increase.

Luke 9:10-17 “10  And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. 12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men.

Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.”

Jesus took 5 pieces of bread and two fish and fed more than five thousand people. He didn’t break these pieces of bread and fish into five thousand itty bitty pieces so that each person could have just a nibble. No, he fed these people SO much that they had 12 baskets of leftovers. Jesus took the little bit that the disciples had and multiplied it. He increased it from a little to a lot just like that. And you know what? He lives in you. He’s using your body. He has the Power to increase. YOU have the power to increase.

There is power on the inside of you to take the little that you have and turn it into a lot. A couple of years ago, Kristen and I were a car accident with a friend of ours. Kristen had some minor neck and back pain, but I was banged up pretty bad. I was knocked unconscious and had to be taken to the Emergency Room because I had taken a pretty good hit to the head. After all was said and done, I had about $2,000 worth of hospital bills and I was violently sick for about 3 days. Well, a few days go by and I get a call from this insurance guy. He was from our friend’s insurance company and he wanted to meet up with us and give us some paperwork. So we met him and he said that our medical bills would be taken care of and that we could be compensated for our pain and suffering. I never thought I could get paid for being in a car accident, but after negotiating with this insurance company for 5 or 6 months, they wrote me a check for $10,000. I had never seen so much money in my life. I wrote my tithe. I paid the medical bills. And I put half of it in a Savings account, which eventually paid for the down payment on our house. You see, God wants to increase you. He put the power to increase on the inside of you. You have faith that when you give, God will give back to you pressed down, shaken together, and running over, so that you’ll have MORE THAN ENOUGH. You have the power to increase.

IV. A Hero or a Villain?

Galatians 6:9-10 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Use your “super” powers and go save your world. Go cast out demons. Go heal people. Go create your world. Go increase yourself and others.

You see, in you, is also the power to hurt, the power to tear down, the power to kill, the power to steal, the power to destroy, and the power to decrease. The choice is yours, will you use your powers for good or evil, will you be a hero or a villain?


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will continue with his series in two weeks)

Perseverance And Prayer

by Alan Perkins

God values perseverance very highly. Why?

 You and I live in an era of unprecedented speed. Technologically, the pace of change is almost beyond comprehension. A rule of thumb called “Moore’s Law” states that the speed of computer chips doubles every 18-24 months. My first PC, which I purchased in 1985 to write papers for seminary, was rated at six megahertz [never mind what a “megahertz” is]. The PC’s sold today operate at over a hundred times that speed. [Unfortunately, my mind still operates at the same speed as it did in 1985.] And the incredible speeds of those little semiconductors make possible all kinds of exotic applications, such as biometrics. For example, the police can now use video cameras to scan the faces of people walking through an airport, or sitting in the stands at a football game, and instantly compare those digitized images against thousands of photos of known terrorists. Or a computer can compare a fingerprint from a crime scene against the millions of fingerprints in the FBI database in a matter of seconds.

Not only that, but everyday activities which used to take days or weeks, we now expect to happen instantly. Federal Express delivers packages overnight. LensCrafters makes eyeglasses in an hour. At Walgreens, you can get film developed in an hour. Applying for a loan used to take several days; now banks are advertising loan approvals in thirty minutes or less. In fact, it’s difficult to identify any area of daily life that hasn’t been accelerated. Think about it. Microwaves. ATM machines. E-mail. On-line stock trading. America’s involvement in World War II lasted almost four years. Yet only a few days after we started bombing in Afghanistan, journalists were already referring to it as a “quagmire” and asking “how much longer is this war going to drag on?”

My point is that we’ve gotten used to having all our desires instantly gratified, and as a result we’ve become impatient. We’ve grown intolerant of any kind of delay. We expect to get what we want, when we want it. Now. Now. Now. Faster, faster, faster. Have you tried to use a rotary-dial phone lately? It’s torture! You’re waiting for that little dial to spin back around, and you want to yell, “hurry up, hurry up, hurry UP!” Or how about this one — what’s the smallest interval of time scientists have so far identified? No, it’s not a millisecond or a nanosecond. It’s a “honkisecond”. That’s the amount of time between when the light turns green and the driver behind you honks his horn. We have the attention span of a gnat. Have you ever noticed, when you watch an old movie, that they used to put the credits at the beginning? Not any more. These days, no one would sit through five minutes of credits before the movie. And have you ever noticed how much time the people in those old movies spent talking? Not doing anything, just talking? Not any more. We don’t have the patience for it.

Which explains why the Biblical virtue of perseverance is so rare today. Because perseverance runs directly counter to this mindset. Perseverance takes a long-term perspective. It focuses on the future, rather than the immediate present. Perseverance is patient. It keeps waiting, and believing and trusting, even when things take longer than expected. It keeps working, and seeking and striving, even when things turn out to be more difficult than anticipated. It remains faithful, even when there are ample opportunities to throw in the towel, to give up and move on. Perseverance means sticking with something for as long as God calls you to do so, no matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult or painful it becomes, no matter how many discouragements and disappointments and obstacles you encounter along the way.

Why is perseverance so important? Because it takes time to discover the true nature of things. As the old proverb states, “truth is the daughter of time.” For example, it takes time to know if a project or enterprise is going to succeed. Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, as we search the Scriptures, and study the history of God’s dealings with His people, we see that He has often been pleased to bring success and victory out of apparent failure and defeat. He likes to demonstrate his power and might by turning around seemingly hopeless situations. And so if we give up too soon, we may miss the blessing. The supreme example of this is the crucifixion of Christ. By all appearances, his mission had failed miserably. What could be more hopeless than a dead savior, a lifeless leader? But three days later came the resurrection. And that changed everything.

By the same token, it takes time and testing to reveal a person’s true character. Many people begin well, but relatively few finish well. In fact, when it comes to the issue of faith in Christ, perseverance is so important that only the one who finishes well, only the one who continues to the end, will be saved, because perseverance is of the essence of faith. John the apostle, referring to those in his day who had left the church and denied the gospel, writes,

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” — 1 John 2:19

In other words, these people had never been genuine believers, although for a while it must have seemed that they were. During the time they had been a part of the fellowship, they likely gave every evidence of possessing genuine faith in Christ. They were baptized. They knew all the religious terminology. They could give a convincing testimony of their “salvation” experience. But when they left, the truth was finally revealed. Their leaving showed, not that they had lost their faith, but that they never had true faith to begin with. Their failure to persevere revealed the emptiness of their profession. Listen to the words of Christ: “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

And listen to what the author of Hebrews teaches: “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. . .We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:6, 14) Notice that He doesn’t say, “We will share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end.” He says, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end.” In other words, if we hold on to the end, if we persevere in faith, it will prove that what we have now is real and genuine. Our remaining in the faith demonstrates the authenticity of our faith. And likewise, if a person abandons the faith, it shows that they never truly had it to begin with.

Not only does perseverance reveal the truth about situations and people, it also reveals the truth about God. It’s through perseverance that we come to know Him as He is. So if we abandon hope when trials come, we will never experience God’s power to sustain and strengthen us in the midst of suffering. If we yield to sin, we won’t experience God’s grace as sufficient for us to resist temptation. The only way to know God’s grace is to persevere in a situation in which we need his grace. If we flee, we may avoid the pain, but we will also be avoiding the chance to know God. If we give up on Christ too soon, then we will only see the tragedy of the crucifixion, and never the victory of the resurrection.

You may remember Joseph in the Old Testament. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was unjustly accused by his master’s wife and thrown into jail, he was betrayed and forgotten by one of his fellow inmates, Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Finally, through a series of unlikely events, he was made ruler over all Egypt; and he saved the whole nation from starvation, as well as his own family. But it was only by persevering in faith that he came to know God’s as good. In fact, God was good to Joseph all along; God was working out his good, and wise plan from the beginning. But if Joseph had given up, he would have never known that. He never would have seen how all his trials were working together for good. Joseph had to persevere in faith through years of what appeared to be God’s indifference and even hostility, before he could finally see that everything he had come through was a part of God’s good plan, for him and his people.

As Paul tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) If we continue in following Christ, we will reap a harvest. We will find his grace and mercy to be sufficient. We will find his rewards to be worth all the suffering, and sacrifice, and labor, and tears. But we must not become weary and turn aside from following Him, or else we will never know God as He truly is. Perseverance in the midst of trial reveals who we truly are. It also reveals to us who God really is.

Let’s take another example. Marriage. God insists that marriage is a lifetime commitment; that with a few exceptions, once a man and woman take their vows, they are obligated to persevere with one another. Why? Well, obviously God knew that there would be many difficulties, many disappointments, many reasons to quit, many opportunities for both the husband and wife to persuade themselves that a mistake had been made, and they would be better off starting over with someone else. He knew that without that lifetime commitment, we sinful people would be very unlikely to stick it out, very unlikely to voluntarily weather the storms and persevere through the pain. He knew that sometimes the vow is all that keeps people from taking the next bus out of town.

But I think there’s something else going on. I think God wants us to persevere with one another because that’s the only way to get past the garbage to the glory. You have to be willing to stay together through the revelation of your sin, through the process of learning to forgive and ask forgiveness, learning to repent, learning to serve instead of being served, learning to bear with one another’s weaknesses — you usually have to go through a lot of difficult, painful, unpleasant stuff in order to get to the really good stuff. To get to the place where you and your husband or wife, are loving one another as God intended, and serving Christ together, where you can truly appreciate one another, instead of just tolerating one another. As with most things in life, it’s only by persevering through the trials and troubles that you can enjoy the deepest blessings and pleasures of marriage.

Is perseverance easy? Of course not. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be perseverance. No one talks about “persevering” through a hot fudge Sundae. Sports fans don’t need “perseverance” to make it through Monday Night Football. We don’t need God’s grace to “persevere” in the things we enjoy. The Bible exhorts us to persevere because God knows there will be times we want to quit. Perseverance implies difficulty. But it’s difficulty with a purpose, and that purpose is godly character, and hope, and joy.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” — Romans 5:3-4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” — James 1:2-4

What’s the end result of persevering in faith? What’s the goal of continuing to follow and obey Christ? Spiritual maturity. Christlikeness.

I don’t want to give the impression that perseverance is a matter of grim determination; that following Christ means a lifetime of joyless toil and drudgery; that we get up every day and grit our teeth and clench our fists, trying somehow to brace ourselves for the misery and pain the day is certain to bring. If you’re approaching perseverance in that way, you will fail. You won’t be able to continue, because that’s not what God intended. We need to understand, first of all, that perseverance isn’t a matter of self-reliance. The power to persevere doesn’t come from ourselves, it comes from God.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” — Philippians 2:12-13

And second, remember that God intends the life of faith to be a life of joy and contentment. This is true even in the midst of difficult circumstances, even when we are struggling and suffering; because our joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. It comes from the Holy Spirit. What did Jesus say?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from 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 is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30

And Paul also reminds us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For the Christian, perseverance is not an unbearable burden. It’s not a matter of just trudging along, day after day, bowed down by grief and sorrow. On the contrary, by faith, our hearts can always be lifted up, because we’re not bearing our burdens alone; Christ is bearing them with us and for us. As Paul prays for the Roman Christians, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Now, I’d like to talk a bit about how these general observations on perseverance apply to prayer. I said that perseverance is important because it reveals the truth, about us and about God. And this is certainly true in prayer, because our perseverance, or lack of it, will reveal how much faith we have that God will answer. If we pray about something a few times, and then give up, it shows that we never really thought God would answer in the first place. It was worth giving prayer a shot — why not, after all? What’s the harm? But after a while, when we don’t receive what we’re seeking, if we have little or no faith, we abandon the effort as a waste of time. And God doesn’t answer that kind of half-hearted, faithless praying. As James tells us,

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — James 1:6-8

God answers the prayer of faith. And perseverance in prayer is a sign of faith. Perseverance says, “Lord, I know you can do this. And I’m going to keep asking until you do.” But when we give up praying, we’re saying, in effect, “Lord, I never thought you would do it anyway.” In fact, if you don’t have faith, I predict that you won’t be able to persist in prayer. Over time, you just won’t be able to discipline yourself to do something that, deep down, you think is useless.

By the same token, persistence in prayer reveals the truth about God. It reveals him to be a powerful, loving, wise, and good heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers. But we can only know and experience him as a prayer-answering God if we persevere in faith and persevere in prayer.

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You parents–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” — Matthew 7:7-11, NLT

Perseverance in prayer also shows that we value the things we’re asking for. God wants to give us the things we really desire, the things we’re serious about. God isn’t likely to answer prayers that are nothing more than passing fancies, just the idle musings of our minds. If we pray about something once or twice and then forget all about it, it probably isn’t something we really care about. If God were to grant that prayer, we might not even remember having asked for it. On the other hand, if we persevere; if we come to God over and over again with our request, it shows that this is something that really matters to us. And that’s the kind of “good thing” that God delights in providing. And one more thing: if there’s something good that we know we should want — like humility, or patience, or holiness — then praying for it with perseverance will help increase our desire for it. In other words, the more we want something, the more we will ask for it. And the more we ask for something good, the more we will desire it.

In closing, let me encourage you to persevere in faith. Remember, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Persevere in prayer. Keep praying when you’re discouraged; keep praying when it seems God isn’t listening; keep praying when your faith is weak; keep praying when you want to give up; keep praying when it seems that there’s no hope. But whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t stop believing and don’t stop praying. Remember that Joshua and the people of Israel had to walk around the walls of Jericho every day for seven days before the walls finally fell. And remember that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). The purchase price for all of God’s blessings has already been paid. All we have to do to receive them is to keep believing, and keep praying.


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Strong Prayers- Psalm 62


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

STRONG PRAYERS – PSALM 62
Lesson 12 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 62, read by Lana Elder, with J.C.F Bach’s “Anglaise,” played by Kaleo and Karis Elder

Sometimes you just need to lean on God’s shoulder; you just need to feel the strength of His power; you just need to rest in the fact that no matter what comes your way, everything’s going to be okay, because you know that God is holding you close.

When I read Psalm 62, it helps me to do just that: It helps me to lean on God’s shoulder; it helps me to feel the strength of His power; it helps me to rest in the fact that no matter what comes my way, everything’s going to be okay, because I know that God is holding me close.

I love the way David begins this psalm:

“My soul finds rest in God alone;
My salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
(Psalm 62:1-2, NIV).

God’s so strong that when we lean on Him, we can truly find rest. He’s our rock. He’s our salvation. He’s our fortress. We will never be shaken.

As a man, I love being independent: making a way where there is no way, leading the charge through life and helping others whom God has entrusted to my care. That’s how I’m wired. Yet, I also realize that I have limits, that I can’t do everything on my own, and that there are times when I need–and I want–someone else on whom I can rely, someone else to whom I can turn, someone else in whom I can place my trust. And that “someone else” is often the God who created me–the God who built the rocks on which I stand.

As one man said to another on a TV show called When Calls the Heart: 

“You’re a self-made man, Mr. Coulter, and you should be proud of that. But no one does it alone. We all need help at times.”

We do all need help at times. David was strong. David was a leader. David took hold of life with a passion. Yet, David realized his limits, too. And when he did, he knew where to turn to find someone stronger than himself. He turned to the God who created the rocks on which he was standing.

I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases David’s opening words in Psalm 62 in The Message version of the Bible:

“God, the one and only–
I’ll wait as long as He says.
Everything I need comes from Him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul.”
(Psalm 62:1-2, MSG)

I was reading these words three years ago while sitting on a beach in Cancun–a rare treat for me. I was there for just 48 hours, but they were 48 hours in which I knew I was going to need God’s help. It was my 25th wedding anniversary–and I was taking the trip alone.

My wife had passed away just over a year earlier. I didn’t know how I would handle it, being all alone–being afraid I might capsize under yet another wave of grief.

But sitting there on the beach, all alone on my anniversary, I came upon Psalm 62. I read David’s words, written at a time when he could have easily capsized, too. I took heart when I read how, at such a tenuous time in his life, David leaned on God.

“God, the one and only–
I’ll wait as long as He says.
Everything I need comes from Him,
so why not?”

In that moment, I realized that everything really did come from God–even my dear wife whom I had lost and was missing so much. I realized that if  God was able to provide a wife for me all those years ago–not to mention every other blessing I had ever enjoyed in my life–that I could trust Him to provide anything I might need now or ever in the future.

I wrote in the margin of my Bible:

“Father, thank You for reconnecting me with this truth; that You are the one and only; that everything I need comes from You–even Lana came from You. You are my source and my strength.”

Instead of the wave of grief I had feared, I was overwhelmed by a wave of peace; a wave of love; a wave of rest in the fact that I knew that I knew that I could trust God with this, too.

It’s hard to wait on God, I know. It’s hard to wait when there are bills to pay, people depending on you, or a doctor’s report that hasn’t yet come in. It’s hard to wait when a baby’s on the way, a life mate hasn’t appeared, or a job offer hasn’t been forthcoming. It’s hard to wait in a checkout lane, at a traffic light, or for dinner to get done. It’s just plain hard to wait when there’s so much living to do!

But David knew he could trust God still–“in the waiting.”

“I’ll wait as long as He says.
Everything I need comes from Him,
so why not?”

If you’re facing something today that you’re afraid might overwhelm you, I’d like to encourage you to say some “strong prayers” of your own to God, prayers where you truly lean on His strength, rest confidently in His love, and know that He is with you, for you, and is solid as a rock. Take heart from the words of David, which continue in Psalm 62, that what God was able to do for him, He is able to do for you:

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
My hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to Him,
For God is our refuge.”
(Psalm 62:6-8, NIV).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for having such strong shoulders upon which we can lean. Thank You for letting us come to You today and rest in Your arms once again. Thank You for being there for us when we come to the end of ourselves. Take over, Lord, and take us beyond where we could have taken ourselves on our own. Help us to trust in You, to wait on You, and to enjoy this time of waiting while we are with You. You are our rock, our fortress, and our salvation. Help us to never be afraid, knowing that You are for us and with us, now and until the end of the age. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to today’s psalm if you’d like to listen:
Psalm 62, read by Lana Elder, with J.C.F Bach’s “Anglaise,” played by Kaleo and Karis Elder

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


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Cleansing Prayers- Psalm 51


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

CLEANSING PRAYERS – PSALM 51
Lesson 11 of Psalms: Lessons in Prayer

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

You can listen to today’s psalm here:
Psalm 51, read by Lana Elder, with J.S. Bach’s “Prelude In C,” played by Lucas Elder

Sometimes we think our sins are too big for God to forgive.  But Jesus didn’t die for only the sins that we feel are “petty.” He died for all our sins, even those which we feel are the most grievous. A sin that leads to death might seem too hard for God to forgive, but if Jesus didn’t die for those, He wouldn’t have had to die at all.

In Psalm 51, David pours out His heart to God in prayer over what are perhaps the most grievous sins he had ever committed–his adultery with Bathsheba, who was another man’s wife, and the subsequent cover-up and murder of her husband.

The consequences David had to face from his actions were real, as the child born to him and Bathsheba died. But the cleansing that God poured out on him was real, too, as David poured out his confession to God. Listen to David’s heart as he begins his prayer:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge” (Psalm 51:1-4).

David pleads for God’s mercy. He acknowledges the evil of what he’s done. And he acknowledges God’s right to judge him accordingly. Yet he pleads for God’s mercy nonetheless.

One of the reasons I find the Bible to be so trustworthy is that it doesn’t gloss over or try to cover up the sins of some of the most heroic figures contained within it. If I think of some of my own sins that are most grievous to me, and if you think of some of your own sins that are most grievous to you, can you imagine having them recorded in a book for everyone to see? Yet I am so thankful that David’s sins were recorded in the pages of the Bible, giving me hope that the same God who forgave David can also forgive me. If I thought that God could only forgive sins that I thought were petty, or if the Bible only recorded sins that seemed trivial, I might think that I could somehow pay the price for my sins myself, doing a few more good deeds, or giving more generously, or in some other way. But David’s words remind me that this is not what God wants. He wants our hearts, broken and contrite:

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (vv. 16-17).

That is exactly what David offers to God. That is exactly what I offered to God on the night that I put my trust in Him for everything in my life. And that is exactly what every one of us can offer to God, whenever we sin, to whatever extent that we sin, even for those sins which we might feel are the most grievous.

As you pray to God, come to Him and ask for forgiveness for even your biggest of sins. Then let Him forgive you, since the price for those sins has already been paid when Jesus died on the cross in your place. To not accept God’s forgiveness–and the joy that is possible from that forgiveness–would be like leaving an Easter basket filled with candy on the counter at the store, a basket for which your father has already paid and which truly belongs to you.

But sometimes we leave our baskets of forgiveness sitting on the counter. We don’t pick them up and truly enjoy the healing that forgiveness can bring because we don’t feel like we deserve it. We don’t! But our Father didn’t buy it for us because we deserved it. He bought it for us because He loves us. He doesn’t want us to die. He knew we would need it one day, so we could once again feel loved and accepted, cleansed and forgiven– otherwise we might melt in a permanent puddle of shame and regret and guilt, never to rise up again.

None of us has a perfect moral scorecard. But God wants us to know that He will gladly forgive us of any and all of our sins if we will simply acknowledge those sins before Him; pour out our broken and contrite hearts to Him; and trust in Him, that He truly has bought our forgiveness at the price of His Son on the cross.

Don’t leave the basket of forgiveness and cleansing and true joy on the counter. That’s not why He bought it for you. He bought it because He loves you. He adores you. And He doesn’t want you to die. By faith, through prayer, God will give to you what He has already purchased for you: forgiveness, cleansing, and true joy.

When David came before God, he acknowledged God’s ability to forgive. David said:

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” (vv. 7-9).

Then David called out to God to do a mighty work in his heart; a work that he knew he couldn’t do on his own; a work that only God, the creator of his heart, could do:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You” (vv. 10-13).

If you need a clean heart today, whether it’s the first time you’ve asked God to do this mighty work in your life or the hundredth time, I’d like to lead you in a prayer of cleansing–a prayer straight from the words King David prayed after committing some of the most grievous sins of his life.

Will you pray with me?

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge… You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise… Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You” (Psalm 51:1-4, 16-17, 7-13). In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder

Here’s the link again to listen to today’s psalm:
Psalm 51, read by Lana Elder, with J.S. Bach’s “Prelude In C,” played by Lucas Elder

And here’s the link to follow along with our reading plan to read through all of the psalms this year.
2017 Reading Plan for Psalms


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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- 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- 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- 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- 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- 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- 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- 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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