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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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Luke 15:11-32
by Andy Huette

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I invite you to open to Luke chapter 15.

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

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

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

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

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

None of them had heard this story before.

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

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

(PRAY)

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

Let’s stop and consider the situation.

A. Journey to the Far Country

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

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

The story begins with

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

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

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

2.) Selfishness Takes Us Away From Loving Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.) Deceptive Power of Sin

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

It promises fullness, and it leads to emptiness.

It promises freedom, and it leads to captivity.

It promises pleasure, and it leads to pain.

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

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

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

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

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

The UNTHINKABLE, had become thinkable.

The UNDESIRABLE, had become desirable.

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

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

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

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

In verse 17, the story continues:

B. He Came to His Senses.

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

1.) He came to himself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.) Repentance

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

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

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

1. Confession

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

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

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

2. Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’d seem to be plenty gracious.

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

GRACE offends our sense of justice.

GRACE—true GRACE—is scandalous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is GOOD news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APPLICATION:

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

1.) (Heading Toward the Far Country)

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

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

2.) (Sons Acting like Servants)

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

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

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

The Gospel of GRACE is that NONE OF US CAN PAY OFF OUR DEBT.

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

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

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

CONCLUSION:

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

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


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

Bernard of Clairvaux


This Day's Verse

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

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


This Day's Smile

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

George Herbert


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

Simone Weil


This Day's Verse

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

John 13:34-35
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

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

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

Leo Tolstoy


This Day's Verse

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

Proverbs 14:30
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

Andrew Bonar


This Day's Verse

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

Matthew 6:14-15
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

I have problems flown in fresh daily wherever I am.

Richard Lewis


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Peace

by Tim Zingale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Pastor Paul Scheidt says in Preaching Helps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Christ knew His Father and offered Himself unreservedly into His hands.  If we let ourselves be lost for His sake, trusting the same God as Lord of all, we shall find safety where Christ found His, in the arms of the Father.

Elisabeth Elliot


This Day's Verse

Wait patiently for the LORD.  Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

Psalm 27:14
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

One of the mysteries of human conduct is why adult men and women are ready to sign documents they do not read, at the behest of salesmen they do not know, binding them to pay for articles they do not want, with money they do not have.

Gerald Hurst


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Lift up your eyes.  Your heavenly Father waits to bless you—in inconceivable ways to make your life what you never dreamed it could be.

Anne Ortlund


This Day's Verse

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.

Proverbs 23:17
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Today I give it all to Jesus: my precious children, my mate, my hopes, my plans and dreams and schemes, my fears and failures—all.  Peace and contentment come when the struggle ceases.

Gloria Gaither


This Day's Verse
Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you.

Ephesians 6:10
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

A man without mirth is like a wagon without springs.  He is jolted disagreeably by every pebble in the road.

Henry Ward Beecher


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I am not what I ought to be,
I am not what I wish to be,
I am not what I hope to be;
but, by the grace of God,
I am not what I was.

John Newton


This Day's Verse

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We are of such value to God that He came to live among us…and to guide us home.  He will go to any length to seek us, even to being lifted high upon the cross to draw us back to Himself.

Catherine of Siena


This Day's Verse

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

Luke 17:6
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

Fault is one of the easiest things to find, and yet many people keep on looking for it.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Rest in this-it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.

Jim Elliot


This Day's Verse

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Revelation 3:20
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

The greatest remedy for anger is delay.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A stiff apology is a second insult.  The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.

G. K. Chesterton


This Day's Verse

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7
The New Living Translation


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The greatest tragedy in the world is that the church doesn’t love the world the way God does.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121:7-8
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

When you realize that everything you buy is purchased with a portion of your life, it should make you more careful with the use of money.

James Dobson


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do.  When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.  The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means, or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means.  Never run before God’s guidance.  If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding.  Whenever there is doubt-don’t.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Death cannot kill what never dies.

Thomas Traherne


This Day's Verse

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.”

Mark 11:25
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

I hope you will find a few folks who walk with God to also walk with you through the seasons of your life.

John Eldredge


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Tithing

by Dean Morgan

Malachi 3:6-12

Let me begin by making three statements about tithing:

1. Tithe means “a tenth” – Genesis 28:22 – “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” The word tithe in the Hebrew means “a tenth.”

2. The Lord claims the tithe as His – Leviticus 27:30 – “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S, It is holy to the LORD.”

3. Obedience in tithing carries a promise read Malachi 3:10.

I don’t believe for one minute that tithing buys God’s blessing. But I do believe that it opens a door – or better, a “window” – of release for God to bless continually and mightily. The concept underlying this practice and promise is found throughout the Bible, but in the book of Malachi, God most pointedly deals with tithing. There he faces his people with the charge of neglect in the “covenant” practice.

In this passage, the Lord calls for the return of his people. But when they ask, “In what way shall we return” (v. 7), the Lord says something completely foreign to our way of thinking.

• He doesn’t tell them to get on their knees & pray.

• He doesn’t instruct them to read the Bible.

  • He doesn’t demand they go to the temple more often.

Rather, He starts by talking to them about their money – about tithing. Notice that it’s His starting place.

First, the Lord contrasts His own changelessness with the unfaithfulness of their fathers.

Though God created us and promised to sustain us, it is a great difficulty for many of us to give God His portion.

Consider this: before the fall of man, God gave Adam and his wife stewardship over all creation. Genesis 1:27, 28 – “(27) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (28) Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

After this, God said, in effect, “I only ask one thing of you: that you honor the fact that a certain portion of creation is Mine and Mine alone.” That’s essentially what God said when He told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17 – “(16) And the LORD commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”

We usually think of that prohibition as only being “to eat or not to eat.” But the issue was deeper. It was an issue of recognized rights. It involved man understanding and accepting that a small portion of all he had within his reach was reserved – it belonged to the Lord. The Lord said, “Everything else is yours, but this is Mine.”

We are dealing with exactly the same issue when we discuss the tithe – God’s claim on 10% of our income. Again let’s read Leviticus 27:30 – “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.”

Of course, we know so well the events at the beginning. Satan came, tempting the man and woman and saying, in effect, “God knows that if you ever get hold of His portion, too, you’ll be so much better off than you are now” (see Genesis 3:5).

How easily we’re persuaded by the supposition that if we can just have what God says is His, we’ll be better off! And the tempter succeeded, with the bottom line being that man tried to take God’s job into his own hands.

“You will be like God,” the serpent hissed, and man fell for it. The tragedy is that all of God’s likeness that they needed was already theirs, for God had created them marvelously and miraculously, fully in His image. They didn’t need God’s power, only the blessing of His Person imprinted in their nature. They didn’t need God’s position, only the promise of His provision to sustain their every need. But in Adam and Eve’s pursuit of “acquiring,” they took God’s portion, thereby not only losing what they thought they would gain, but what they already had as well.

To see the divine claim on 10% of our income and to surrender it in worship, faithfully, is to find life’s financial starting place and life’s essential beginning point of blessing once we’re in Christ.

His Pattern and Blueprint

All of us understand the concept of a pattern or blueprint. The tailor who designed the clothes you’re wearing had to follow a pattern or the clothing would not fit. It would be too tight in some places, or it would be too loose and would feel uncomfortable in other places if it were not made according to pattern. A building would not be safe, nor would an engine run, if not made according to the blueprint.

It is the same thing with life. We have to start right. His commandments and precepts are blueprints–designs provided so we can build lives that stand strong and tall.

The pattern for godliness that God gave Adam included directions on how mankind is to relate to any portion that God says is His.

Rob God? How?

Malachi’s message pointed back to the beginning–“your fathers.” And so we’ve seen how early the issue of man taking God’s portion became a problem. Then the prophet asks a strange question: “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8).

It’s important here to say the obvious: God doesn’t have a cash-flow problem! So how is it that the prophet says that the people’s not tithing had “robbed” him? A look at the whole text answers the question: God had been robbed of his opportunity to bless his people! God has been robbed of his opportunity not just to bless you but to bless others since you aren’t paying the tithe.

That’s His heart–his desire. God wants to bless! Notice that when He says that if we’ll return, He’ll open the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing we won’t be able to contain, the Lord isn’t merely talking about financial benefit. He’s talking about all His blessings. The “windows of heaven” aren’t a bank, but they are the openings from which all life’s benedictions flow.

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)–“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

• When the windows of heaven are open over your home, there is joy and happiness.

• When the windows of heaven are open over your business, there is fruitfulness and prosperity

• When the windows of heaven are open over your mind, there is peace and confidence.

  • When the windows of heaven are open over your body and soul, there is health and contentment.

“The windows of heaven” are the Bible’s words to describe the source from which God blesses, and that’s what God delights to bring about. God’s request for our tithe isn’t an appeal from a hard-pressed deity suffering for cash. It’s a request that we not deprive Him of blessing us in very real ways. It’s also a request that we not deprive Him of blessing others with the money we give. He’s calling us to order our finances on the earth side of things in a way that lines up with the release of special graces waiting to be poured out from the heaven side of things. Tithing starts right–by aligning us under the place where the blessings of God are released: heaven’s windows.

But the decision to tithe is ours.

Just as surely as the Lord Jesus Christ knocks at the doors of our hearts & says, “If you’ll open the door, I’ll come in, and you’ll be saved,” we have that choice. And having received Him as Savior, we can stop there or move ahead as His disciples. The wisest & most sensitive of us choose growing in him, making Him Lord in our life’s daily matters. And nothing says, “Yes, Lord,” any clearer than our obedience and our worship with our tithe.

When I let go, when I give, when I release, I make room for life and abundance to flow into my life according to God’s order.

If I hesitate to start tithing because I’m worried about how I’m going to make it, and in my effort to make ends meet I violate the Lord’s first principle of giving, am I succumbing to a deception luring me to put myself in God’s place? Am I saying that I am better able to make things work out than God is?

I believe I need to mention something here before we go on. Some still raise a tired question: “Isn’t tithing only in the Old Testament?”

The idea in this expressed doubt is that tithing is part of the law and therefore has no meaning to NT believers. This resistance usually projects the notion that teaching tithing will deprive a Christian of his “liberty” or move a believer “into law and out of grace.”

Jesus Himself addressed the issue of tithing. It’s recorded in two NT books – Matthew & Luke.

Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees – a tough breed of religionists who were looking for every way they could to attend to the letter of the law without attending to its spiritual demands.

Read Matthew 23:23 (Also is found in Luke 11:42).

The “woe” on these religious hypocrites was not for their tithing, but for their neglect of “weightier matters”–justice, mercy and faith. Now, the Pharisees were attending to the letter of the law in the presenting of their tithes, and it wasn’t just a matter of bringing one bushel of wheat out of every ten. They were even weighing out the tithe of the tiniest spices – mint & cummin!

If tithing was unimportant to the Savior, if it was meaningless to maintain within the new order He was bringing, then as a part of emphasizing that new order He could well have said, “Take care of justice and mercy, and quit bothering with tithing – mint, cummin or anything else!” But instead Jesus says, “These you ought to have done” – referring to their tithing– “without leaving the others undone”–referring to their attitudes.

He uses the word “ought”. When we acknowledge that something ought to be, we are appealing to a higher order – to the divine will. We are saying, “There are certain laws that should not be violated.” With this “ought,” Jesus is saying of the practice of tithing, “This is a precept that ought not to be violated.” By the affirmation of Jesus our Lord Himself, tithing is thereby made a timeless practice, as important to New Testament believers as to Old.

In tracing the footsteps of Abraham, we find that Scripture says of him: “And he gave him [Melchizedek] a tithe of all” (Genesis 14:20). Abraham is revealed as a man who learned the pathway to promise before the law was ever given! Tithing was established in the Scripture before the Law of Moses. It precedes and transcends the Mosaic code as a principle built into the fabric of the human order of things.

Rebuking the Devourer

To cap off the grand truth of the tithe, God makes an incredible promise. As a part of His response to our worshipping him through the faith-exercise of tithes and offerings, He says, “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes” (Malachi 3:11). It’s another evidence of the fact that how we deal with our money is a spiritual issue touching all of life. These words reveal that when we obey in the material realm, it impacts the spiritual realm.

Who is “the devourer”?

Jesus taught us that we have a common enemy whose animosity is leveled toward all mankind.

John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”

1 Peter 5:8 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The thief advances with viciousness and in terms of our finances, devours in some of the most obvious ways. Breakdowns. Repairs needed. An unexplainable onslaught of illness. The dishwasher or the garbage disposal goes “pop,” and there goes $79.50 out the window or $123.52 down the drain. Investments go sour. Money owed us isn’t paid. The devourer often comes in any or all such things that eat up – or devour–our resources.

Now God doesn’t promise that we’ll never have a car breakdown or that mechanical things will never wear out if we tithe. Neither is tithing a formula guarantee that we’ll never have to get flu shots. But the Lord does say, “These things aren’t going to eat you up!”

As we learn the liberty of full, free, let-go obedience to the Lord and His ways, we have an overcoming promise. God says He sill make it His mission to rebuke the oppressive forces that chew up our finances and cause reversal in our situations. Tithing holds no magic promise of trial-free living, but tithing does have a share in the promise that when we face trials of any kind, we have reason to expect God to come against the advances of our adversary.

Cursed?

There is a devourer seeking to curse, to swallow up, to eat through and spit out, if you please. And whether we like it or not, choosing not to tithe is to choose to step out from under God’s umbrella of blessing. Without His protection, you and I are far more vulnerable to life’s “rain” of circumstances–however mild or fierce.

So the Lord calls us to “prove Him,” to give him the opportunity to pour out blessings on us that we cannot contain. He says that He will open the windows of heaven and rebuke the devourer (vv. 10-11). The first is a promise of abundance, and the other is a promise of victory over the adversary.

Money and the Miraculous

When I voluntarily give at least 10% of my budget into His kingdom enterprise, I’m saying, “I can ‘see’ His ability to create enough to make my budget run with less than the unbeliever claims he needs.”


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.

John Witherspoon


This Day's Verse

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.

Bill Watterson


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken.  But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless.  Even in the wilderness-especially in the wilderness-you shall love Him.

Frederick Buechner


This Day's Verse

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.

Psalm 49:15
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.

Henry Ward Beecher


This Day's Verse

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

If your prayers were always answered, you’d have a reason to doubt the wisdom of God.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

He Reminded Us Of You (A Prayer For A Friend)

You are a great God.
Your character is holy.
Your truth is absolute.
Your strength is unending.
Your discipline is fair…
Your provisions are abundant for our needs.
Your light is adequate for our path.
Your grace is sufficient for our sins…
You are never early, never late…
You sent your Son in the fullness of time and
will return at the consummation of time.
Your plan is perfect.
Bewildering.  Puzzling.  Troubling.
But perfect.

Max Lucado


This Day's Verse

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:7
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?
And do the wishes of my heart, go with the words I say?
I might as well kneel down, and worship gods of stone,
As offer to the living God, a prayer of words alone.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:6
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Say something to make at least three people really happy in one day.

Bret Nicholaus


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

KINDNESS

by D. Greg Ebie

Galatians 5:16-25 (NIV)

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

Tony Campolo tells about an incident that happened to him on his way into work. Walking the sidewalk pathways of downtown, Tony would often pass by a number of homeless and transient people. From time to time, they would make requests for money; generally, he ignored them.

One day a bag lady, whom he had seen before in his mad dash to get from point A to B, shuffled out of a donut shop with a steaming hot cup of coffee. Their eyes met and Tony forced a smile. Putting down her coat and bags she called out, “Hey mister, would you like a sip of my coffee?”

Now if you were Tony how would you respond? Keep waking and ignore her? That’s what Tony did, or at least he started to. A half a block away, he turned back around and said, “Hey lady! Yes, yes I would like a taste of your coffee.” She held out the cup with her dirty hand; he took the cup and swallowed what had to be the most delicious cup of coffee he had tasted in a long time.

“Isn’t it good,” she said.

“Yes it IS GOOD! and thank you. By the way, why did you offer me your coffee?”

“Because it was so good, I thought someone might like to share it with me and enjoy it too.”

A small, yet simple act of kindness from a stranger interrupted Tony Campolo’s walk to the office. Kindness comes in all shapes and sizes, yet regardless of how big or small we all appreciate a kind act. This morning we are going to focus on “THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS . . . KINDNESS.”

The fruit of the Spirit is OF THE SPIRIT and not the saints. Kindness is born of the Spirit; human energy or effort does not naturally produced kindness; it comes from God. Yes, people can be kind apart from God, but their kindness is impure and incomplete.

The Kindness of God – What is God’s kindness like?

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

Who is it that God is drawing to Him with loving-kindness, the righteous? No! God’s loving kindness is given to those who have rebelled against the Lord and turned away from Him. God is kind to the wicked.

Luke 6:35 (NIV)

Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back . . . because [God] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to love our friends and treat them nicely. He says love your enemies! Why? Because that is what God is like; we are to follow His example. God is kind to the ungrateful—those who take God’s kindness for granted and don’t give it a second thought—and the wicked—those who turn their back upon God and despise Him.

Notice how Matthew expresses the kindness of God in the parallel passage of Jesus’ teaching.

Matthew 5:45 (NIV)

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The kindness of God does not discriminate! God does not treat His enemies differently than He does His friends. God shows His enemies kindness in order to win their friendship, as Paul told the Romans, “God’s kindness leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4 NIV).

God’s kindness is without limit. Kindness breaks down barriers and boundaries. Kindness opens the door to the fullness of God’s love and fellowship. Kindness takes in the objectionable and critical; it welcome those filled with bitterness and resentment. Kindness even takes in us!

Ephesians 2:7 (NLT)

God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus.

We who believe show others the riches of God’s incredible kindness. God offers His kindness to those who do not deserve it and us regardless of how the recipients of His kindness respond.

The fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Jesus said as we are connected to Him we would bear much fruit. Remember that apart from Christ we can do nothing! Separated from Jesus there is no fruit (See John 15:5).

Kindness Illustrated – The Good Samaritan

Jesus show us what the kindness of God looks like as it is expressed in our lives. THE FRUIT OF KINDNESS DEVELOPS AND MATURES TO BE GIVEN TO OTHERS.

Luke 10:30-35 (NIV)

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

The story of the Good Samaritan shows us four different types of people. We encounter people like this everyday; however, today we are not called to be FRUIT INSPECTORS, but FRUIT PRODUCERS. In other words we need to take a look in the mirror and see which of these types of people look back at us. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the condition of our hearts to us so we can be transformed to be the person God would have us to become and produce much fruit.

1. The Selfish and Hostile

The robbers represent the selfish and hostile. These people are only interested in what they want. They will climb the latter of success regardless of whom they have to step on doing what ever it takes to get what they want. Their motto is simply “The end justifies the means.” If I want money and wealth then I can do what ever I want to have it, including taking it from you.

James 4:1 (MsgB)

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.

The priest and the Levite represent the next two types of people. Jesus does not tell us why the priest or Levite crossed over to the other side of the road. While one would expect both of these to have offered to help because of their religious standing, they passed by.

2. The Indifferent

The priest and Levite may have just been indifferent. Perhaps they are just overwhelmed by the need and feel that they have nothing to offer those in need. The indifferent lack a heart of compassion.

The indifferent won’t kick you when your down, but they won’t offer you a hand to get up either. They ignore you and just pass by minding their own business.

3. The Legalistic

The priest and Levite may also be legalistic. They justify their lack of compassion in order to remain holy in the eyes of their peers. The legalistic follow their man made rules and ignore God’s higher law to love your neighbor as yourself.

If I stop to get involved, I’ll be late for work.

I can’t give because we have made a commitment to get out of debt.

If I say something nice, then my friends will make fun of me.

4. The Kind and Compassionate

The Samaritan is kind and compassionate. Jesus shows us what Godly kindness is like through the Samaritan. The Holy Spirit will help to bring about these things in our lives so kindness fully develops and matures.

1. Kindness will take action.

The Samaritan did not pass by or ignore the one in need. The Samaritan took action to do what he could to help meet the need.

Kindness is love in action. Kindness is not an attitude we develop in our heart; it is not a new way of thinking about the situations we encounter. Kindness has to get out; kindness held in is not kindness at all.

Remember we have said we are talking about THE FRUIT of the Spirit and not the fruits. Love is the blossom; without love it is impossible for the fruit to be produced in our lives. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “Love is kind;” in other words, love takes action and finds expression through kindness.

Kindness is love serving. To serve others requires action!

Kindness will give; it will share.

Kindness will provide for others; it supplies what is lacking or needed.

Sometimes all that is needed is a kind word. An elderly lady always went to the local post office because the employees were so friendly. Once she was waiting in a long line to buy stamps just prior to Christmas. The man in line behind her said, “Mamma there’s no need for you to wait in line; you can buy your stamps at the machine in the lobby.” The old woman said, “I know, but the machine won’t smile or ask about my arthritis.” The only action the machine could provide was to dispense stamps, but the action of the employees dispensed stamps and kindness!

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people . . . clothe yourselves with . . . kindness.

2. Kindness will take a risk.

The Samaritan did not stop to consider if the robbers were still lurking behind the rocks. Or what if it is all a trap and the Samaritan becomes the victim? The Samaritan was willing to put his possessions and even his life in jeopardy to offer kindness to the one who was in need.

What if Jesus had wanted to play it safe? What if He didn’t want to take any chances? We would still be lost in our sin without any hope for salvation.

Philippians 2:6-8 (MsgB)

He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! . . . He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

Jesus was willing to take a chance and risk everything so He could meet our need. The wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23); Jesus was not worried about the price. He determined to provide what we needed no matter what. That’s what kindness does; it will take a risk.

3. Kindness will pay the price.

The Good Samaritan didn’t examine the man’s wounds and then calculate the cost. The Samaritan was willing to pay the price and do whatever to took to help the man in need. Wine was poured on the wounds to purify and prevent infection; oil was added to comfort and soothe. The Samaritan paid for the man’s care at the inn; he paid the price!

The price was paid even without the guarantee that the man would recover from his wounds or even that the man would be thankful for his assistance! Jews hated Samaritans, but the Samaritan didn’t let this prejudice keep him from giving to meet a need. Kindness pays the price regardless of the outcome. Paying the price means you assume the risk.

Jesus assures us that while paying the price may come with no guarantees in this world, God will assure us of a surefire dividend that we can’t lose! In other words, paying the price of kindness has its rewards!

Luke 12:33 (MsgB)

Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.

Luke 6:38 (MsgB)

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

Kindness will take action; it takes risk and will pay the price.

4. Kindness will put others first.

The Samaritan didn’t worry about his schedule for the day. He didn’t think about himself but put the needs of the wounded man ahead of himself. Not only did the Samaritan give of his resources, but he also gave of his time. Putting others first often means being willing to give of our time.

Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)

If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.

Perhaps we could paraphrase what Paul tells us like this: “Have you been living only for yourself? Stop it! Think of others and share with those in need.” Kindness will put others first.

5. Kindness will finish what it starts.

The Samaritan didn’t just bandage the man’s wounds. He didn’t just take the man to a safe place where he could receive more help. He even did more than pay for room and board the man would receive. He also promised to pay whatever else was needed to nurse the man back to health. THE SAMARITAN FINISTHED WHAT HE STARTED!

Philippians 1:6 (GW)

I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.

Quaker, Stephen Grellet wrote: “I expect to pass through this world but once, any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now, let me not defer to neglect it, FOR I SHALL NOT PASS THIS WAY AGAIN.” [quoted in Winward, The Fruit of the Spirit page 136]

Kindness will take ACTION. Kindness takes a risk and is willing to pay the price. Kindness puts others first, it finishes what it starts. And finally:

6. Kindness does not seek recognition.

What was the Good Samaritan’s name? Jesus doesn’t tell us. The Good Samaritan does not seek out the priest and the Levite to promote himself over them. The Samaritan is content to remain unknown.

Likewise, our kindness is not to elevate our reputation, or make us look good in the eyes of other people. Real kindness does not seek to find glory for oneself; instead, kindness gives glory to God.

Corinthians 10:31 (MsgB)

As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory.

KINDNESS DOES NOT SEEK RECOGNITION, INSTEAD THE RECOGNITION AND GLORY GOES TO GOD. The fruit of the Spirit expressed in our lives is like electricity. When you plug something into an outlet it makes a connection to the source, but the electricity will not flow through wires or do anything until the circuit is complete. When you turn on the switch the circuit is then closed; in this way the current runs through your electrical appliance to do the work it is designed to do, and then the power continues to flow back to the source. The electricity that is generated at a power-plant completes a circle through all the electrical things you use in your home and back to where it all started.

Are you going to allow God’s Spirit to produce kindness in your life?

Will you take action?

Are you willing to take a risk?

Will you pay the price?

Are you ready to put others first in your life?

Will you finish what you start?

Are you willing to give the glory back to God and not seek recognition for yourself?


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.

Ravi Zacharias


This Day's Verse

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Hebrews 13:15
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

What the mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin.

Henry Ward Beecher


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

All men naturally desire to know, but what does knowledge avail without the fear of God?

Thomas Kempis


This Day's Verse

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  How gracious he will be when you cry for help!  As soon as he hears, he will answer you.

Isaiah 30:19
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When God crowns our merits, it is nothing other than his own gifts that he crowns.

Augustine of Hippo


This Day's Verse

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

Psalm 32:8
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Ah, many a heart is longing
For words that are never said,
And many a heart goes hungry
For something better than bread.

Josephine Pollard


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation.  Things that might trouble us such as the way we look, the way others treat us, or where we live or work can actually be sources of strength, not weakness.

John MacArthur


This Day's Verse

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.

1 John 5:3
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God blesses us in spite of our lives and not because of our lives.

Max Lucado


This Day's Verse

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Every true friend is a glimpse of God.

Lucy Larcom


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PEACE

by Russell Brownworth

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:19 – 31 (NRSV)

I‘m definitely a Thomas kind of guy. Thomas didn’t want to believe what seemed too good to believe until he had seen Jesus like the other disciples had seen Jesus. It’s not that he didn’t have faith; Thomas had stronger faith than the other disciples earlier–before Jesus was arrested. The Pharisees had threatened to stone Jesus to death, and Jesus announced he was going to Jerusalem to confront them. The other disciples protested loudly that it was too dangerous. But Thomas just said, well, let’s go and die with him. That’s faith!

Thomas was no doubter, but he also had no sense of timing. When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of resurrection day Thomas was the only one of the bunch to miss church.

I’ve often wondered just why Thomas missed meeting with the group on that evening. My best guess is that he was pretty resigned to the fact that it was “game-over”. The Pharisees had won, Jesus was dead, and there was nothing left to do but start figuring-out a life beyond following Jesus, because there was no more Jesus to follow.

And then there’s the other wonderment–why did Thomas come back to the group a week later. It had to be that some of the other disciples went and got Thomas…brought him back into the fold. They had seen the resurrected Lord, and they shared the good news with him. Thomas’ faith had flickered, and his friends brought him back. Somewhere in that there’s a sermon for any church with as many inactive members as active ones!

We are waiting like the disciples, door shut, Thomas, the backslider has been reclaimed, and we’re remembering the last time we saw Jesus enter the room. We recall his first words, “Peace be with you”. Jesus said those words three times in our text, and each time they brought a different kind of peace…

I. Saving Peace

There is a peace that rescues. The disciples had shut the doors for fear that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them. When suddenly Jesus was present with them, that fear vanished with the realization of victory.

My family watched the movie “The Passion” with its two grueling and graphic hours depicting the arrest, beating, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Afterwards, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, he had the marks of his suffering, but it was obvious those marks didn’t have him anymore.

There is a peace that is surreal when the darkness of disaster and defeat are replaced by the morning light of victory. When Jesus said, “peace be with you” he was saying, “I am with you–your victory, your peace…I am here to save.” Even the name “Jesus” means “God saves”. Saving Peace, and…

II. Sending Peace

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

This second kind of peace Jesus brought with him is sending peace. The Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost–us! He told the disciples, and he also tells us, that in the same way the Father sent him to the mission of reconciling all people to him, Jesus sends us to that same mission.

A story is told of a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart, but was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the papers and get depressed.

One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She finally got up her nerve and asked, Excuse me, are you Jesus?

I am.

Do you work here? No, I own the store.

Oh, what do you sell here?

Just about everything, Jesus said. Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is you want and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.

She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was [for sale] peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up at her and smiled. No problem. And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up and laid out the packets.

She asked, What are these?

Seed packets, Jesus said. This is a catalog store.

She said, You mean I don’t get the finished product?

No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.

Oh, she said. And she left the store without buying anything.

Sometimes it is easier to dwell on saving peace than on the peace which compels us to “go into all the world” with the good news.

But he said “peace” to them once more…

III. Symbiotic Peace

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

This was the eighth day…a whole week later than the first time Jesus said, “peace” to them. This time he came back when Thomas was there. Thomas may have felt pretty second-class as a disciple. But Jesus came back and spoke the same wonderful word to him…. “Peace”!

We all come to Jesus at different times and in different walk–but his peace is still his peace. Symbiosis is: a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship between two people or groups. [4] To be “symbiotically-peaceful” is to get along with each other in the kind of love God planned for us.

Three times Jesus said “peace” to his followers–

• Saving peace that covers our sins and saves us from hell

• Sending peace that commissions us to go bring people to the fold

  • Symbiotic peace that conjoins us and holds us together in a bond of brotherhood and the selfless love of God.

Together this saving, sending and symbiosis-making peace is the whole point of the resurrection. It is what Paul meant when he told us that God was in Christ to reconcile the whole world to himself– and has given us that very same mission.

Peace is the work of reconciliation–first I am reconciled to God with his saving peace, having been rescued from my sins. Then I take part in rescuing others because of his sending peace. And I am taught to live in symbiotic God-love, the peace that passes all understanding.

It is a matter of living in peace.

In Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s little book, The Gift of Peace….there is a gripping and moving account of his meeting with Steven Cook, the young man who had accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual abuse….In 1993, the accusation became public, and Cardinal Bernardin had to live in the blare of public curiosity, constant media attention and the deep pain of experiencing his credibility and integrity questioned by many people who simply assume that an accusation is the equivalent of guilt. And then, over time, Mr. Cook acknowledged that the charges were false, and the case was dropped. The Cardinal plunged back into his busy schedule but he kept thinking about Steven Cook, his accuser, now critically ill with AIDS, living alone.

So Cardinal Bernardin did the most remarkable thing. He located Mr. Cook and invited him to meet at a seminary outside Philadelphia.

Cardinal Bernardin explained that his only reason for wanting to see Mr. Cook was to tell him that he, Cardinal Bernardin, harbored no ill feelings. He wanted to pray with Mr. Cook.

Steven Cook accepted that invitation and said that he wanted to apologize for the hurt and embarrassment he had caused. When the meeting happened, Mr. Cook told his story, including his alienation from the church. They talked for awhile. The cardinal said what he had come to say, and he gave Mr. Cook an inscribed Bible and offered to celebrate Mass. Mr. Cook hesitated at first. Cardinal Bernardin took a 100-year-old chalice out of his case. Steven, this is a gift from a man I don’t even know. He asked me to use it to say Mass for you some day. Please, Steven responded tearfully, let’s celebrate Mass now.

Afterward, Steven Cook said, a big burden has been lifted from me today. I feel healed and very much at peace.

Cardinal Bernardin reflected, as we flew back to Chicago that evening, Father Donohue and I felt the lightness of spirit that an afternoon of grace brings to one’s life.

This is the sum total of what saving, sending and symbiotic peace means in the human family.

And so…brothers and sisters….take a moment and pass the peace; take this lifetime and pass the peace!


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