This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We are ever being born, or dying, and the thrill of choosing which is ours.  Only once must we be born without our own consent.  Only once must we die without our own permission.

Calvin Miller


This Day's Verse

Plans go wrong with too few counselors; many counselors bring success.

Proverbs 15:22
The Living Bible


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Two things there are which man has no arithmetic to reckon, and no lie to measure.  One of these things is the extent of that man’s loss who loses his own soul.  The other is the extent of God’s gift when he gave Christ to sinners.

J. C. Ryle


This Day's Verse

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching?  With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!”  And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Luke 4:36-37
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Which Disturbs You Most?
A soul lost in hell–or a scratch on your new car?
You’re missing the worship service–or missing a day’s work?
A sermon 10 minutes too long–or lunch a half hour late?
A church not growing–or your garden not growing?
Your Bible unopened–or your newspaper unread?
The church work being neglected–or housework neglected?
Missing a good Bible study–or your favorite TV program?
The millions who do not know Christ–or your inability to keep up with the neighbors?
Your contribution decreasing–or your income decreasing?
Your children late for Sunday school–or late for public school?

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- 3 Stories And A Conclusion


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

3 STORIES AND A CONCLUSION

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

 
About seven weeks ago, I saw God work in some remarkable ways. I’ve not shared them until today, because part of me wanted to do like Mary did when she saw God work in some remarkable ways. The Bible says that Mary, “… treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, ESV). 

But I’d like to share these three stories with you today to give you three encouragements: 1) that God is really here, 2) that He really does care about us, and 3) that sometimes He blows our minds with the way He works things out. All three stories took place the first weekend in December.

I had flown out to meet my daughter, Makari, in Vancouver, Canada, as a producer friend of mine had invited her to film a brief background scene for an upcoming episode of When Calls the Heart, a beautiful series on the Hallmark channel which is about to start its 4th season on Sunday, February 19th.

emmajean-mittelberg-erin-krakow-makari-elder

Makari (right), on set with Emma Jean Mittelberg (left) and Erin Krakow (center)

Makari and I had met the cast and crew last year on the set, but this time Makari was going to be in front of the cameras, not just watching from behind the scenes. We were excited and looking forward to whatever God had in mind.

To my surprise, my producer friend, Brian Bird, and his wife, Patty, invited us to sit with them and their family for various events over the weekend, giving us an amazing view of the events as they unfolded. I was hoping for just a few minutes with Brian sometime over the weekend, as I knew he would be extremely busy with other activities, and here we were able to spend several extended periods of time, not only with him, but also with his family and a few of their friends.

makari-elder-brian-bird-eric-elder

Eric (right) and Makari Elder (left) with Brian Bird (center) in front of his production trailer on the set

Still, with all of the time we spent together, there was a particular project I have been working on that I wanted to talk to him about. At one point during the weekend, I asked him if maybe we could talk for five minutes about it, so I could give him an update on where it stood. We talked right then, for just a minute or two, but it turned out to be just the minute or two that I needed: a shot in the arm to keep moving forward with my project in the direction I was heading.

I went to bed that night thankful that we had been able to talk about this project, even ever-so-briefly, and for all the other amazing opportunities we had had so far in the weekend. But God was just getting started. I haven’t even gotten to the three stories yet!

The next day, Makari and I ducked out of the activities in Vancouver and took a three-hour bus ride south to Seattle, where another friend had invited us to visit her and see a Seattle Seahawks game with her  the next time we were in the area. She has a special suite in the stadium where she and her family watch the home games, and Makari and I were excited to see her and to see the game from her suite, something neither of us had ever done before.

makari-elder-debbie-macomber-eric-elder

Eric and Makari with Debbie Macomber (center) in her suite at a Seattle Seahawks game

When we got to the stadium, we were greeted graciously by my friend, Debbie Macomber, and her family. Although I had corresponded with Debbie various times over the past five years, this was the first time we were ever able to meet in person. She was as delightful in person as she was in her correspondence and on television interviews I had seen of her. (For those who may not recognize her name, Debbie Macomber is a New York Times bestselling novelist with over 200 million copies of her books in print. Her recent book, Sweet Tomorrows, is currently a #1 NYT bestseller, too! I normally wouldn’t point out these things, but it’s important to the story!)

As we were watching the game with Debbie and her family in the suite, a few of other people happened to come into the suite with us to say hello, including Steve Largent and Jim Zorn. (For those who may not recognize their names, Steve Largent was a receiver and Jim Zorn was a quarterback back in the early day of the Seattle Seahawks.)

makari-elder-steve-largent-eric-elder

Eric and Makari with Steve Largent (center), watching the Seahawks play the Panthers

eric-elder-jim-zorn-makari-elder

Eric and Makari with Jim Zorn (center)

They, too, were gracious and kind to Makari and me, and Debbie asked if we’d like our pictures with them. I texted the pictures to a few of my family and friends back home, two of whom, independently, said, “They’re treating you like royalty,” and “It’s like you’re with royalty.” I felt that way, too, especially when I looked out into the stadium and saw, all around it, a “ring” of words marked “Ring of Honor,” which listed the names of ten Seahawks. The first two names on the ring were Steve Largent and Jim Zorn! And here we were watching the game with both of them on one side of us and  Debbie Macomber on the other!

ring-of-honor

The “Ring of Honor,” as seen from the suite where we were watching the game

It was like being with royalty! As I tried to take it all in, I felt like everything around me began to fade away, and God spoke clearly to my heart:

“Eric, if you could see yourself the way I see you, you would know that I see you as royalty. You are my child, and I love you so very much.”

It’s one thing to be in awe of the people around you. It’s another to have the God of the universe single you out and say: “I see you as royalty, too.” But the truth is, that’s the way God sees every one of us. There is an aspect to being a child of His that lifts and elevates us in a way that goes beyond anything people could do to lift or elevate us. And if we can just take that in, that the God of the universe not only knows us, but loves us dearly, and thinks that we’re precious children of His–the King of kings and Lord of lords–it changes everything. It changes the way we see ourselves, our worth, our value–even if our only claim to fame is being one of His children. That alone is amazing enough to warrant being listed on God’s own “Ring of Honor.”

But the story picks up from there. The next morning was the day we were to be on the set back in Vancouver. So Makari and I took a late night bus back to Vancouver after the game, got a quick night’s sleep, and woke up early the next day to meet Brian and a few others to head out to the set where they would be filming When Calls the Heart.

eric-elder-janette-oke

Eric on the set of When Calls the Heart with Janette Oke, author of the book by the same name which inspired the show

When I got to the lobby, I had a chance to sit with Janette Oke, who was also going out to the set with us. (For those who don’t recognize her name, Janette Oke is the author of over 70 books, including, Love Comes Softly and When Calls the Heart, the book on which the new television series is based which we were shooting. Again, I normally wouldn’t mention these things except that it is relevant to the story!)

I had met Janette a year ago, and at that time was so stunned to meet her in person that I asked her if she would pray for me and sign a notebook that I had with me, both of which she did so sweetly. I was astounded. This time around, I was able to sit with her on several occasions over the weekend, and we were able to talk about a wide range of topics. When I met her in the lobby, we sat down together again, and I told her about a project I was currently working on, pulling out a copy of the book I had written which was the basis of the project. As I was telling her about it, she asked several more questions and was keenly interested. I asked if she’d like to take a copy of the book with her, which she very much wanted to do! Awkwardly, I then asked if she would like me to sign it for her, which she also wanted me to do! As I sat there in the lobby of the hotel, I was stunned once again, this time not because I had met Janette Oke and she had signed a book for me, but because it felt like somehow she had met me! And now I was signing a copy of my book for her!  In that moment, I felt like God was speaking to me again, saying:

“Eric, I know you’re aware of the impact others have on you. But don’t underestimate the impact you have on others.”

And God was right. I often underestimate my own impact on others, even though I can so often see the impact others have on me. And it isn’t because I’m particularly special. My message for you with this story is to not underestimate the impact you can have on others, too.  We all have gifts and talents and a purpose on earth, and if we could only see ourselves as God sees us, we would see how He weaves and uses those gifts and talents and purposes for our benefit and for the benefit of others.

But the next story was the most surprising of all. As we went to get into our cars to go to the set, it was snowing heavily. We were trying to figure out who would ride with who, and it looked like there may not be room for me to ride with someone else, so I was about to look for a way to get to the set on my own, when my friend, Brian, who is one of the executive producers of the show, asked me to sit in the front seat of his car with him! (For those who don’t recognize his name, Brian has written and produced hundreds of episodes for television, including five seasons of Touched by an Angel, and has written and produced an upcoming movie for the same people who produced God’s Not Dead, this one based on the life of Lee Strobel, called The Case for Christ, which will be showing in theaters starting April 7th.)

As I stood there, just before getting into Brian’s car, Brian looked over the top of the car at me and said, “This is really unusual. It hardly ever snows on the coast.”

To anyone else, those words might have been just casual words about the weather. But to me, they were nearly identical to some words I had written a few months earlier and had put in the book I wanted to talk to Brian about, and the book I had just signed and given to Janette Oke! In my story, however, I had written about a snow scene that takes place half a world away from where we were standing. I had written: “It hardly ever snows on the coast. And if it did, that would be a very special day.” In my story, the snow scene that follows becomes one of the key climaxes of the story where the main character is desperately needing to know that God is still there, that He really cares, and that He has a purpose for this character’s life on earth. When Brian spoke those words, it was as if God were magnifying them in my heart, saying:

“Eric, it hardly ever snows on the coast. And that makes this a very special day for you.”

And a special day it turned out to be! I got in the car and began to talk to Brian, and, because of the snow, what should have been a 45-minute drive to the set turned out to be a three-hour drive! It was a delay that could have been problematic for all kinds of reasons, but because of the kind of day that it was, it turned out to be incredible–for me, at least! While I was hoping to get five minutes with my friend that weekend, and we suddenly got three hours–three hours in which we shared stories from each other’s lives, at some points laughing, at other points crying, and at many points noting to each other how God was working through each of them. Because of the weather, the scenes we were going to shoot for the show had to be altered, so our time on set wasn’t as long as we had expected. Afterward, we went out to lunch and I got to talk to Brian for another two hours. Then, because the snow was still falling, the drive back to the hotel took another two hours, instead of the expected 45 minutes. By the end of the day, I had spent seven full hours talking with Brian in the front seat of the car or at lunch, when I had been hoping to get just five minutes for the whole weekend, and just a few days earlier had actually been happy to get just one or two minutes with him! It was a special day indeed!

I felt like the woman in the Bible who told Jesus she would be happy with just a crumb off the table of a king, when Jesus went overboard and miraculously healed her daughter! I would have been happy with a crumb that weekend, when God had in mind a full-day feast! As it says in the Bible, God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV). I sometimes wonder how that can be, because I can ask or imagine quite a bit! But that day, and over the whole weekend, God certainly went way beyond what I was ever asking or imagining.

Let me close with this. You are like royalty to God. You have no idea the impact you have on those around you. And, if you’ll keep your eyes and ears open, God has some truly special days in mind for you, wherein He will do more for you than all you can ask or imagine. Let these truths sink deep into your heart. And let God speak to you again today. He has so much that He wants to say. 


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln


This Day's Verse

“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.”

Matthew 10:8
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not to envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.

William Arthur Ward


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people!  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.  Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.  Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life with has come to you by the grace of God.

Phillips Brooks


This Day's Verse

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

John 10:10
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God does not stifle our tears; He turns them into joy.

Janette Oke


This Day's Verse

Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us?  Who will know?”

Isaiah 29:15
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Many parents work hard and save money so their children won’t have the same problems that made mature adults of their parents.

John Raydell


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

In baptism we are initiated, crowned, chosen, embraced, washed, adopted, gifted, reborn, killed, and thereby sent forth and redeemed.  We are identified as one of God’s own, then assigned our place and our job within the kingdom of God.

William Willimon


This Day's Verse

O come, let us sing unto the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

Psalm 95:1
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When you concern yourself only with Jesus’ opinion of you, life suddenly becomes far less complicated, emptied of fears and regrets, and filled up with honesty and love.

Christine Dallman


This Day's Verse

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:18
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Because I know the Who I don’t have to fear the What even though I don’t understand the Why.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- The Value of Vision (Part 2)


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

THE VALUE OF VISION (PART 2)

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

 
Last week, I shared with you about the difference it made in my life to picture myself one year in the future, trying to envision what I could be doing or enjoying differently at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year. This week, I’d like to share about the difference that approach made to my goal setting in the lives of other people as well. Reaching our goals is for more than just getting what we want out of life. As the Bible says:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).  

One of the goals I set at the beginning of last year was to write the complete script and score for a new musical I’m writing called “St. Nick: The Musical.” I pictured myself holding a draft of a completed script and score. As I pictured in my mind what that would look like,  I wrote down this goal:

“I’d like to be holding a copy of a completed script and score for St. Nick: The Musical.

It was an ambitious goal, but one I really wanted to try. By the end of the year, I had completed one-third of the script and one-third of the score! Even though I hadn’t completely finished, this was phenomenal for me!

So I took a picture of myself at the end of the year holding a copy of both the script and score.

eric-holding-one-third-script-and-score

What I had envisioned at the beginning of the year had, at least in part, come to pass by the end, at least.

But what I also wanted to do at the beginning of the year was to help some other people write their own books this year, books that they had just been thinking about, but had never actually written. So at the beginning of the year, I wrote out another goal:

“I’d like to be looking at 3-5 others, whom I have encouraged to write, holding copies of their own stories in their hands.”

I didn’t set this goal for profit or gain for myself in any way. I set it because God has poured into me so much insight and wisdom into the writing and publishing process over the last twenty years–to the point where I’ve written and published nearly twenty books during that time. I wanted to pour out some of that insight and wisdom to others.

So I prayed. I prayed that God would show me 3-5 others that I could encourage to write their own books. And God answered that prayer! I asked several of them this past week if they would send me a picture of themselves holding their own books in their hands, whether they had rough drafts, finished drafts or published books. And here’s the result!

jeanette-eric-manuscript-b

Jeanette wrote a draft of a book about how God helped her through a health crisis in her family.

Kent wrote a draft of a book on creativity for people wanting to reach their potential.

al-holding-manuscript

Al wrote a draft of a book about his father’s service to our country in the 2nd World War, (which he has been able to work on and share with his father along the way).

shelly-holding-manuscript

Shelly wrote a draft of a book about her intimate walk with God.

laurie-holding-final-book-3

And Laurie wrote a children’s book about trusting in God, even  when “the lights go out.” (And she got it published on Amazon by January 2nd!)

How did this all work? After talking to God about my goal of helping others in this way, God started bringing people to mind, or bringing people to me in person, each of whom expressed their interest in writing and publishing a book. Whenever the topic came up in our conversations, rather than just saying a few encouraging words or letting those comments go by, I asked if there was anything I could do to help them achieve their goal.

In some cases, it was as simple as pointing them to a 90-minute online class I had taught and recorded a few years ago to show people how I create and self-publish my own books on Amazon. (You can watch it here for free!) Then I would make myself available to answer any questions or help them in any other way I could.

In other cases, I offered some ideas for how they could start their book–by writing down the main point they were wanting to make, coming up with a simple outline of the chapters their book could contain, and offering to read each of their chapters each week or whenever they wrote them. Several of the people found that simply having someone else involved and eager to read their work each week was just the incentive they needed to not only start, but to keep on writing.

And I loved reading what they wrote! Each story was magnificent as it unfolded. I was inspired in my faith, and I learned more about my friends than I had ever known before. It never felt like a chore to help others–it was a true joy.

I share all of this with you as we’re still at the beginning of 2017. We have nearly a whole year ahead of us. Maybe God has poured something into your life that He wants you to share with others–whether it’s a skill, a gift or a talent; an understanding or insight into a topic; a way of working, a way of thinking, or a way of living. Maybe there’s a goal you could put on your own list this year that could help someone else–or several “someone else’s”–by the end of it?

Why not take a few minutes to picture what that would look like at the end of 2017 to see that goal accomplished, then jot it down. Ask God to help you achieve that goal, not only for your sake, but for the sake of others, too. Remember that your vision might be just what others need to help them accomplish theirs.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). 


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God is in our past; He has brought us through it.
God is in our present, walking beside us even now.
God is in our future; He will lead us safely there.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Isaiah 66:2
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend.

Robert Louis Stevenson


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

O God, who art the truth, make me one with Thee in continual love!  I am weary often to read and hear many things.  In Thee is all that I desire and long for.  Let all teachers hold their peace; let all creatures be silent in Thy sight; speak to me alone.

Thomas Kempis


This Day's Verse

A man’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

Proverbs 29:23
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

No matter how discouraged you are about your Christian life–today, you are the best Christian many are ever going to meet!

Unknown


This Day's Verse

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.”

1 Chronicles 28:9
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

If Satan brings up your past–bring up his future.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The world is sleeping in darkness while Christians are asleep in the light!

Unknown


This Day's Verse

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations–

Revelation 2:26
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Lord of the resurrection, I cannot begin to comprehend what it means to, one day, be clothed with the imperishable, to put on immortality as if it were a garment.  But I want to prepare for that glorious day as I demonstrate compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to all those around me.  Prepare me for heaven.  Fit me for eternity.  Fashion me into the person You want me to be so that I will be ready for my eternal clothes of righteousness.

Joni Eareckson Tada


This Day's Verse

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Bless to me, O God, the earth beneath my feet,
Bless to me, O God, the path whereon I go,
Bless to me, O God, the people whom I meet,
Today, tonight and tomorrow.  Amen.

Ancient Celtic Prayer


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- The Value of Vision


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

THE VALUE OF VISION

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

Last year I tried something new in my annual goal-setting. I like the way it turned out, so I thought I’d share it with you today as you look ahead to your own new year. As the Bible says:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).  

This applies to our personal lives as well. Vision is what gives us hope. Vision is what gives us something to “go for.” Vision is what keeps us on track when we’re in danger of veering off.

Last year, my friend, Kent Sanders, in his book, The Artist’s Suitcase, encouraged me to envision myself one year in the future. He wrote:

“Imagine what your life could be like one year from today. How could it be different? Would you look different? Would you have more energy or a better income? What about that book, blog, music, or other project you’re working on? What would it feel like to have it finished? … Write down what you see–your appearance, energy level, success, and the other items that are important to you. This is what your life could be like a year from now.”

I took Kent’s challenge to heart and asked God to help me envision what my future might look like if He and I were to work on it together. I came up with about 15 goals for the year. That was more than I had planned to write down, but not all of them were huge, and not all of them were vastly different from what I was already doing. But by writing them down, I was able to keep them in front of me all year long, which helped me realize all along that I was actually accomplishing my goals for the year, even by doing some of the seemingly ordinary, every day things I was doing.

For instance, this was one of my goals related to my family:

“I’d like to be enjoying rich conversations with my kids (during school, meals, and other activities).”

As I sat with my kids during the year, whether we were talking about their lives, or their schoolwork, or whatever else was on their hearts, I was able to feel good about the conversations at hand, and this was actually one of my goals: to be enjoying rich conversations with my kids! This really helped me as I went through my days, and ensured that I took the time to enjoy those conversations, not just rush through them and onto whatever was “next.”

This goal also helped me, in both small and big ways, to take advantage of the opportunities that arose to spend time with my kids which I might have missed otherwise.

This goal helped me in a small way, when after a dance class one night with my youngest daughter, she asked if we could stop to get something to eat on our way home. She wondered if we could sit down and eat at a particular restaurant. Normally, by that hour of the night, all I could manage was a quick stop at a drive-through so we could get back home because of all the other things that needed to be done. But because one of my goals was “to enjoy rich conversations with my kids,” we decided to stop and order from the menu at a sit-down restaurant–where a waitress actually brought our food to us!  While it might seem like a small thing, when you’re shuttling kids from one activity to another and trying to squeeze as much as possible into every day, taking an hour to just sit and enjoy a meal and a conversation seems costly, time-wise, but is so heavenly, in every other way.

And this goal helped me in some big ways, too. When my oldest daughter mentioned her interest in taking a cruise somewhere, someday, I didn’t give it much thought. Since we normally do things with our whole family, a cruise for a family of seven seemed out of the question. But because of my goal of “enjoying rich conversations with my kids,” I thought about her desire again when her birthday was coming up. I thought, “Maybe I could take just her, and we could go on a cruise together as something special to do, just the two of us.” She happened to call me soon after I had had this thought, telling me about her week, which had been particularly hard. I decided to tell her what I was thinking about the cruise and asked what she thought of just the two of us going. She loved the idea! We found a cruise that we could afford, and we went! And we would have missed it, had I not had this goal of spending time with my kids, and had she not expressed to me one of her own desires.

karis-eric-cozumel

I had similar experiences with my other kids. Because one of my daughters is going into acting, I asked a producer friend if it would be possible for her to be in a background scene in one of his shows. To my delight, he said, “Yes!” So we flew to Vancouver for the taping and she was able to be on camera in a background scene. Even if her screen time turns out to be only a few seconds, the extended time we were able to spend with each other on the trip was priceless. I was able to accomplish my goal while also helping her to accomplish hers. It was a win-win for us both.

makari-eric-wcth-filming

The goal continued to take on a life of its own as my youngest kids and I had been planning and saving for a trip to Israel someday, but we had never done it. It, too, seemed like it wouldn’t happen again this year. But because I had made it a goal, I made it a priority to find a way to do it, and we found one! And on the trip, I was able baptize both of them in the Jordan River–what a blessing for them and for me!

bo-kaleo-eric-baptisms-in-jordan-river-c

Not all of my goals with my kids involved going places. I was able to do some of them right at home. My oldest son knew that one of my goals was to finish a space in my attic that I wanted to use for reading and writing and praying. I had worked on it several years ago, but when my wife got cancer and passed away a few years ago, I stopped nearly completely. But I put that goal back on my list this year:

“I’d like to be enjoying my fully finished attic.”

So my son offered to help me out each week for much of the year, driving an hour each way to come to my house so we could finish all of the tiling and insulating and drywalling. With his offer, and the help of my other kids, too, we were able to get things almost finished! While we’re not quite done yet, I never would have pressed forward to get to this point had I not had this goal, and have the help along the way. And, by having my kids involved, I was able to spend more time with them, even through the work of it all, meeting my other goal of “enjoying rich conversations with my kids.”

lucas-attic-project

Not all of these goals were fun and games, and each of them had its own set of challenges, difficulties, and costs. But in the end, anything worth doing takes effort.

While I didn’t accomplish all 15 of my goals for 2016, by having those goals in mind at the beginning of the year–and at the forefront of my mind throughout the year–I was able to stay focused and stay on track as much as possible for the rest of the year.

I’m looking forward now to writing out my goals for 2017. What about you? What are your hopes and dreams and visions for the new year? It’s not too late to sit down and give it some thought. We have a whole new year ahead of us. Why not write down your goals, keep them at the forefront of your mind, and see what God and you can do together?


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A real Christian is an odd number, anyway.  He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see; expects to go to Heaven on the virtue of Another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels the worst.  He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible; hears the inaudible; and knows that which passeth knowledge.

A. W. Tozer


This Day's Verse

For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:10-12
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

God writes straight with crooked lines.

James Martin


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Every person with whom I interact today will be affected to some degree by me.  I can persuade them, however slightly or significantly, to be kinder, happier, and more serene.  And if I happen to succeed in tipping the scales in the right direction, then I have made a positive difference in the world.

Christine Dallman


This Day's Verse

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30
The New Living Translation


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

He that is down, needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

John Bunyan


This Day's Verse

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Isaiah 10:1-2
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Have you counted the things that went right today?

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

O God, we thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills and the never-resting winds, for trees and the common grass underfoot.  We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendour of the summer fields, and taste of the autumn fruits, and rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of the spring.  Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty; and save our souls from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with your glory, O God our creator.

Walter Rauschenbusch


This Day's Verse

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

Psalm 119:2
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I put the Scriptures above all the saying of the fathers, angels, men and devils!  Here I take my stand.

Martin Luther


This Day's Verse

Yes, I am the gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.

John 10:9
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

Dear God, Be good to me.  The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.

The Breton Fisherman’s Prayer


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- 2017 Daily Bible Reading Plan


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

2017 DAILY BIBLE READING PLAN
by Al Lowry

Note from Eric Elder: If you’d like to join us in reading through the Bible in a year, you can start today with this “guilt-free” reading plan! Al Lowry describes it below, and there are links at the bottom of this message where you can view, print, and sign up for our “2017 Daily Bible Reading” plan. I hope you will! Here’s Al’s message…

With so many great devotionals out there to consider, how does one choose a good one to kick off the year?

I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve begun dozens, but have often fallen short of completing these New Year’s resolutions.

More times than I like to think about, especially at the beginning of the year, I’ve voraciously dug into some new study and fallen off way too quickly. It’s been a vicious cycle of failures to me, and once again I’d end up getting down on myself for such incessant lack of discipline.

Then, 2 years ago, my friend, Eric, reset my course with a rather unique challenge: to read through the Bible in a year. I almost laughed when he suggested it, as I’ve desired to–and tried–many times before.  I’ll confess to you that my results would have most likely had me discovering my bookmark buried somewhere in Genesis by year’s end.

So why would this reading plan succeed where so many others did not?  Eric handed me a golden egg that gave the project hope where I had not seen it before.

The unique challenge of this yearly Bible read-through was preceded by 2 intriguing words: “guilt free.”

It was hard to grasp the concept when I already felt like a failure, believing that I’d just fall behind and drop out like other times.  Then, he kindly elaborated to me how this “no-guilt” factor actually set the course for a no-fail agenda.

The idea was to break the yearly Bible readings into the usual bite-sized daily diet (no surprise there).  The saving grace was not to be concerned with falling behind and getting frustrated and giving up. Technically, one could not fall behind, for even if that happened, the reader could resume on the appropriate day, and not worry or feel guilty about unread days. Of course, one would have the option of catching up on the missed text, but only if and when desired.

Initially, it seemed a little absurd to my type-A, overachievement gene to leave blocks of text behind, especially from such an important book. But eventually through careful thought, prayer and counsel from my friend, I began to realize that any devotional or even a topical church message could not thoroughly cover every biblical word every single time, and by taking this approach, I was likely to read more of the Bible by the end of the year than I would have ever read otherwise. All spiritual food we take in nourishes us as does the physical food we ingest. We would only starve if we failed to eat at all.

Logically, wouldn’t God reveal what I needed, and when I needed, it through even tiny mustard-sized efforts I offered up?

And so, exactly 2 years ago, I began my first guilt-free sojourn through the Bible, followed by a second year in 2016. Yes, I confess to missing or not focusing on many of the readings. But making it through at all was a major accomplishment in my life…and twice. 😉

What I found along the way for myself, and I suspect would be helpful for some of you, are a few tricks that stack the deck toward really getting into the game–and finishing.

I’d like to share some with you:

1. Listen to the word:

The Bible tells us to do just that, and with so many audible versions available and devices to listen on, it’s pretty darn easy.

That is not to say reading it shouldn’t be done as well, or in lieu of listening, but just try to have a listenable Bible version to help carry you through. Sometimes I would turn it on when I couldn’t sleep and would then doze off.  (Guilty me would accuse myself of cheating and feel the need to listen again. Guilt-free me would praise God in the morning for breaking my insomnia and allowing me much needed sleep.)

2. Write it down:

Jot down some thoughts along the way, and you’ll be as surprised as I was at the clarity it will bring. You may even find times when these thoughts can help others.

Sometimes days or even a week would go by without writing. But then, I would have some inspiration and these reflections, or devotionals, became ways to capture God’s voice. I offered them to others, and I have them still to reflect on.

I actually had no idea how much I had written until I started looking back through my notes. No need to be excellent authors in order to capture and help clarify an idea God gives to us. Rather, simply surrender ourselves to be willing conduits.

3. Don’t go it alone: 

The Bible states that two are stronger than one, and three are like the wrapped cords of a rope, not easily broken.  I found this to be so true, and I can’t state it enough. Before I started, I invited everyone I knew, and strangers alike, to join me on a special Facebook page.

This community became a small group that listened to my thoughts on passages and my prayer requests, and they shared theirs.  We shared a passage that touched us, or frustrations that we were having in our readings or in our lives.

This group need not be a replacement for church or a small group, but I just have to tell you that walking with others and being accountable is how this worked for me. Maybe it could for you too.

That being said, I’m ready to take the plunge again and would like to invite you to come along. Thank you old friends, who have said you’ll join me again. It is through your encouragement and inspiration that I feel confident to give it another go. And I would certainly love it if new readers join our adventure.

So, if you’ve felt God’s nudging to read the Bible in 2017, please feel free to come on board. We’d love to have you.

This year, I’m going to try something new and go straight through the Bible in book order–from cover to cover–from Genesis to Revelation.

Here’s a link to our “2017 Daily Bible Reading” plan (you can click any passage from this link to read it or listen to it in MP3 Audio, OR you can sign up to receive each passage by email every day at about the same time of day that you sign up):
2017 Daily Bible Reading Plan

And here’s a PDF of the same plan which you can print on one piece of paper (if you print it on both sides) to keep in your Bible. You can also click the links to each passage in this PDF if you want to read it online):
PDF of the 2017 Daily Bible Reading Plan

To join our Facebook group and encourage each other as we read along, click this link and request to join:
Facebook Group for 2017 Daily Bible Reading

And if you’d like to sign up for my emails (usually weekly) to encourage you along the way, just visit my website (which I’ve set up specifically for this purpose) and click “Follow”:
Visit Al’s website and click “Follow” for encouragement along the way

May God bless you and your families in the upcoming year. And if it falls onto your heart, let Him bless you in a special way through this Daily Bible Reading… GUILT-FREE!!!


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

ATTITUDES TO LIVE BY

Compliment three people every day.
Watch a sunrise at least once a year.
Be the first to say hello.
Live beneath your means.
Be kinder than necessary.
Keep your promises.
Treat everyone like you would want to be treated.
Never give up on anybody; miracles happen!
Never deprive someone of hope; it may be all they have.
Pray not for things, but for wisdom and courage.
Be tough-minded, but tenderhearted.
Learn to show cheerfulness, even when you don’t feel like it.
Remember that overnight success usually takes about 15 years.
Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds.  His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!

Psalm 98:1
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

In Rome many people maintain the custom of throwing something out the window on New Year’s Eve.  What a relief to get rid of every old resentment, every old fear, old prejudices, old notions, old ways of doing things.

Norman Vincent Peale


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

From the cowardice that dare not face new truth
From the laziness that is contented with half truth
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me.

Kenyan Prayer


This Day's Verse

For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy: yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:13
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Year-End Gifts and Wednesday’s Thought

Just a reminder, as we approach the final days of 2016, that every donation to The Ranch is fully tax-deductible. Thanks to 125 of you, we raised $10,422 during our annual November fundraiser, putting us within striking distance of our goal of $12,000 for the year. If you’d like to help us reach our goal–and you want your gift to count towards your 2016 taxes–just make a donation online by midnight, December 31st at the link below, or send a check, postmarked by December 31st to: Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Rd, Chenoa, IL. Thank you!

Click here to make a year-end donation online.


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I’ve never met anyone who became instantly mature.  It’s a painstaking process that God takes us through, and it includes such things as waiting, failing, losing, and being misunderstood–each calling for extra doses of perseverance.

Charles Swindoll


This Day's Verse

Finally, brethren, farewell.  Become complete.  Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.

Wilbur Wright


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Grant me, O Lord, to know what is worth knowing, to love what is worth loving, to praise what delights you most, to value what is precious in your sight, to hate what is offensive to you.  Do not let me judge by what I see, nor pass sentence according to what I hear, but to judge rightly between things that differ, and above all to search out and to do what pleases you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thomas Kempis


This Day's Verse

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour:  for we are members one of another.

Ephesians 4:25
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go–let me preach you without preaching not by words but by my example–by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you.

John Henry Newman


This Day's Verse

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

2 John 1:6
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Too many folks spend their lives aging rather than maturing.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- St. Nicholas: The Believer, Part 7 of 7

Wishing you all a most joyous and blessed Christmas celebration!

Greg and Eric for This Day’s Thought from The Ranch


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

ST. NICHOLAS: THE BELIEVER
Part 7 of 7

by Eric & Lana Elder

 
On this Christmas day, I’m posting the conclusion (Part 7) of St. Nicholas: The Believer, a new book for Christmas based on the old story of St. Nicholas. As I mention in the conclusion of today’s message, St. Nicholas would have never wanted his story to replace the story of Jesus in the manger, but he would have loved to have his story point to Jesus in the manger. And that’s why this book was written.

You can read Part 7 below, or listen to Part 7 at this link, or order the paperback, eBook or audiobook from Amazon at this link. (If you missed them, you can follow these links to read Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4Part 5 or Part 6.)

Enjoy!
Eric

St. Nicholas: The Believer, by Eric & Lana Elder, A new story for Christmas based on the old story of St. Nicholas

ST. NICHOLAS: THE BELIEVER
A new story for Christmas based on the old story of St. Nicholas

by Eric & Lana Elder

PART 7

CHAPTER 37

Nicholas stood at his favorite spot in the world one last time: by the sea. Eighteen years had passed since he had retuned to Myra from the council in Nicaea. In the days since coming home, he continued to serve the Lord as he had always done: with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

Nicholas had come to the shore with Dimitri and Anna Maria, who had brought with them one of their grandchildren, a young girl seven years oldnamed Ruthie.

Ruthie had been running back and forth in the waves, as Dimitri and Anna Maria tried to keep up with her. Nicholas had plenty of time to look out over the sea and as he often did, look out over eternity as well.

Looking back on his life, Nicholas never knew if he really accomplished what he wanted to in life: to make a difference in the world. He had seen glimpses along the way, of course, in the lives of people like Dimitri, Samuel, Ruthie, Sophia, Cecilia and Anna Maria.

He had also learned from people like the ship’s captain that when the captain arrived in Rome, his ship miraculously weighed exactly the same as before he had set sail from Alexandriaeven after giving the people of Myra several years’ worth of grain from it. Reminders like these encouraged Nicholas that God really had been guiding him in his decisions.

He still had questions though. He never quite knew if he had done the right thing at the council in Nicaea. He never quite knew if his later private conversations with Constantine might have impacted the emperor’s personal faith in Christ.

He was encouraged, however, to learn that Constantine’s mother had also made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land just as Nicholas had done. And after her visit, she persuaded Constantine to build churches over the holy sites she had seen. She had recently completed building a church in Bethlehem over the spot where Jesus was born, as well as a church in Jerusalem over the spot where Jesus had died and risen from the dead.

Nicholas knew he had had both successes and mistakes in his life. But looking back over it, he couldn’t always tell which was which! Those times that he thought were the valleys turned out to be the mountaintops, and the mountaintops turned out to be valleys. But the most important thing, he reminded himself, was that he trusted God in all things, knowing that God could work anything for good for those who loved Him, who were called according to His purpose.

What the future held for the world, Nicholas had no idea. But he knew that he had done what he could with the time that he had. He tried to love God and love others as Jesus had called him to do. And where he had failed along the way, he trusted that Jesus could cover those failures, too, just as Jesus had covered his sins by dying on the cross.

As Nicholas’ father had done before him, Nicholas looked out over the sea again, too. Then closing his eyes, he asked God for strength for the next journey he was about to take.

He let the sun warm his face, then he opened the palms of his hands and let the breeze lift them into the air. He praised God as the warm breeze floated gently through his fingertips.

Little Ruthie returned from splashing in the water, followed closely by Dimitri and Anna Maria. Ruthie looked up at Nicholas, with his eyes closed and his hands raised towards heaven. Reaching out to him, she tugged at his clothes and asked, “Nicholas, have you ever seen God?”

Nicholas opened his eyes and looked down at Ruthie, then smiled up at Dimitri and Anna Maria. He looked out at the sunshine and the waves and the miles and miles of shoreline that stretched out in both directions before him. Turning his face back towards Ruthie, Nicholas said, “Yes, Ruthie, I have seen God. And the older I get, the more I see Him everywhere I look.”

Ruthie smiled, and Nicholas gave her a warm hug. Then just as quickly as she had run up to him, she ran off again to play.

Nicholas exchanged smiles with Dimitri and Anna Maria, then they, too, were off again, chasing Ruthie down the beach.

Nicholas looked one last time at the beautiful sea, then turned and headed towards home.

EPILOGUE

So now you know a little bit more about me–Dimitri Alexander–and my good friend, Nicholas. That was the last time I saw him, until this morning. He had asked if he could spend a few days alone, just him and the Lord that he loved. He said he had one more journey to prepare for. Anna Maria and I guessed, of course, just what he meant.

We knew he was probably getting ready to go home, to his real home, the one that Jesus had said He was going to prepare for each of us who believe in Him.

Nicholas had been looking forward to this trip his whole life. Not that he wanted to shortchange a single moment of the life that God that had given him here on earth, for he knew that this life had a uniquely important purpose as well, or else God would never have created it with such beauty and precision and marvelous mystery.

But as Nicholas’ life here on earth wound down, he said he was ready. He was ready to go, and he looked forward to everything that God had in store for him next.

So when Nicholas sent word this morning for Anna Maria and me and a few other friends to come and see him, we knew that the time had come.

As we came into this room, we found him lying on his bed, just as he is right now. He was breathing quietly and he motioned for us to come close. We couldn’t hold back our tears, and he didn’t try to stop us. He knew how hard it was to say goodbye to those we love. But he also made it easier for us. He smiled one more time and spoke softly, saying the same words that he had spoken when Ruthie had died many years before: “Either way we win,” he said. “Either way we win.”

“Yes, Nicholas,” I said. “Either way we win.” Then the room became quiet again. Nicholas closed his eyes and fell asleep for the last time. No one moved. No one said a word.

This man who lay before us slept as if it were just another night in his life. But we knew this was a holy moment. Nicholas had just entered into the presence of the Lord. As Nicholas had done throughout his life, we were sure he was doing right now in heaven, walking and talking and laughing with Jesus, but now they were face to face.

We could only imagine what Nicholas might be saying to Jesus. But we knew for certain what Jesus was saying to him: “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Well done. Come and share your Master’s happiness.”

I have no idea how history might remember Nicholas, if it will remember him at all. He was no emperor like Constantine. He was no tyrant like Diocletian. He was no orator like Arius. He was simply a Christian trying to live out his faith, touching one life at a time as best he knew how.

Nicholas may have wondered if his life made any difference. I know my answer, and now that you know his story, I’ll let you decide for yourself. In the end, I suppose only God really knows just how many lives were touched by this remarkable man.

But what I do know this: each of us has just one life to live. But if we live it right, as Nicholas did, one life is all we need.

CONCLUSION

by Eric Elder

What Nicholas didn’t know, and what no one who knew him could have possibly imagined, was just how far and wide this one life would reach–not only throughout the world, but also throughout the ages.

He was known to his parents as their beloved son, and to those in his city as their beloved bishop. But he has become known to us by another name: Saint Nicholas.

The biblical word for “saint” literally means “believer.” The Bible talks about the saints in Ephesus, the saints in Rome, the saints in Philippi and the saints in Jerusalem. Each time the word saints refers to the believers who were in those cities. So Nicholas rightly became known as “Saint Nicholas,” or to say it another way, “Nicholas, The Believer.” The Latin translation is “Santa Nicholas,” and in Dutch “Sinterklaas,” from which we get the name “Santa Claus.”

His good name and his good deeds have been an inspiration to so many, that the day he passed from this life to the next, on December 6th, 343 A.D., is still celebrated by people throughout the world.

Many legends have been told about Nicholas over the years, some giving him qualities that make him seem larger than life. But the reason that so many legends of any kind grow, including those told about Saint Nicholas, is often because the people about whom they’re told were larger than life themselves. They were people who were so good or so well-respected that every good deed becomes attributed to them, as if they had done them themselves.

While not all the stories attributed to Nicholas can be traced to the earliest records of his life, the histories that were recorded closest to the time period in which he lived do record many of the stories found in this book. To help you sort through them, here’s what we do know:

  • Nicholas was born sometime between 260-280 A.D. in the city of Patara, a city you can still visit today in modern-day Turkey, on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Nicholas’ parents were devout Christians who died in a plague when Nicholas was young, leaving him with a sizable inheritance.
  • Nicholas made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and lived there for a number of years before returning to his home province of Lycia.
  • Nicholas traveled across the Mediterranean Sea in a ship that was caught in a storm. After praying, his ship reached its destination as if someone was miraculously holding the rudder steady. The rudder of a ship is also called a tiller, and sailors on the Mediterranean Sea today still wish each other luck by saying, “May Nicholas hold the tiller!”
  • When Nicholas returned from the Holy Land, he took up residence in the city of Myra, about 30 miles from his hometown of Patara. Nicholas became the bishop of Myra and lived there the rest of his life.
  • Nicholas secretly gave three gifts of gold on three separate occasions to a man whose daughters were to be sold into slavery because he had no money to offer to potential husbands as a dowry. The family discovered Nicholas was the mysterious donor on one of his attempts, which is why we know the story today. In this version of the story, we’ve added the twist of having Nicholas deliver the first two gifts, and Dimitri deliver the third, to capture the idea that many gifts were given back then, and are still given today, in the name of Saint Nicholas, who was known for such deeds. The theme of redemption is also so closely associated with this story from Saint Nicholas’ life, that if you pass by a pawn shop today, you will often see three golden balls in their logo, representing the three bags of gold that Nicholas gave to spare these girls from their unfortunate fate.
  • Nicholas pled for the lives of three innocent men who were unjustly condemned to death by a magistrate in Myra, taking the sword directly from the executioner’s hand.
  • “Nicholas, Bishop of Myra” is listed on some, but not all, of the historical documents which record those who attended the real Council of Nicaea, which was convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. One of the council’s main decisions addressed the divinity of Christ, resulting in the writing of the Nicene Creed–a creed which is still recited in many churches today. Some historians say that Nicholas’ name does not appear on all the record books of this council because of his banishment from the proceedings after striking Arius for denying that Christ was divine. Nicholas is, however, listed on at least five of these ancient record books, including the earliest known Greek manuscript of the event.
  • The Nicene Creed was adopted at the Council of Nicaea and has become one of the most widely used, brief statements of the Christian faith. The original version reads, in part, as translated from the Greek: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day He rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead…” Subsequent versions, beginning as early as 381 A.D., have altered and clarified some of the original statements, resulting in a few similar, but not quite identical statements that are now in use.
  • Nicholas is recorded as having done much for the people of Myra, including securing grain from a ship traveling from Alexandria to Rome, which saved the people in that region from a famine.
  • Constantine’s mother, Helen, did visit the Holy Land and encouraged Constantine to build churches over the sites that she felt were most important to the Christian faith. The churches were built on the locations she had been shown by local believers where Jesus was born, and where Jesus died and rose again. Those churches, The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years, but still in the same locations that Constantine’s mother, and likely Nicholas himself, had seen.
  • The date of Nicholas’ death has been established as December 6th, 343 A.D., and you can still visit his tomb in the modern city of Demre, Turkey, formerly known as Myra, in the province of Lycia. Nicholas’ bones were removed from the tomb in 1087 A.D. by men from Italy who feared that they might be destroyed or stolen, as the country was being invaded by others. The bones of Saint Nicholas were taken to the city of Bari, Italy, where they are still entombed today.

Of the many other stories told about or attributed to Nicholas, it’s hard to know with certainty which ones actually took place and which were simply attributed to him because of his already good and popular name. For instance, in the 12th century, stories began to surface of how Nicholas had brought three children back to life who had been brutally murdered. Even though the first recorded accounts of this story didn’t appear until more than 800 years after Nicholas’ death, this story is one of the most frequently associated with Saint Nicholas in religious artwork, featuring three young children being raised to life and standing next to Nicholas. We have included the essence of this story in this novel in the form of the three orphans who Nicholas met in the Holy Land and whom he helped to bring back to life–at least spiritually.

While all of these additional stories can’t be attributed to Nicholas with certainty, we can say that his life and his memory had such a profound effect throughout history that more churches throughout the world now bear the name of “Saint Nicholas” than any other figure, outside of the original disciples themselves.

Some people wonder if they can believe in Saint Nicholas or not. Nicholas probably wouldn’t care so much if you believed in him or not, but that you believed in the One in whom He believed, Jesus Christ.

A popular image today shows Saint Nicholas bowing down, his hat at his side, kneeling in front of baby Jesus in the manger. Although that scene could never have taken place in real life, for Saint Nicholas was born almost 300 years after the birth of Christ, the heart of that scene couldn’t be more accurate. Nicholas was a true believer in Jesus and he did worship, adore and live his life in service to the Christ.

Saint Nicholas would have never wanted his story to replace the story of Jesus in the manger, but he would have loved to have his story point to Jesus in the manger. And that’s why this book was written.

While the stories told here were selected from the many that have been told about Saint Nicholas over the years, these were told so that you might believe–not just in Nicholas, but in Jesus Christ, his Savior. These stories were written down for the same reason the Apostle John wrote down the stories he recorded about Jesus in the Bible. John said he wrote his stories:

“…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Nicholas would want the same for you. He would want you to become what he was: a Believer.

If you’ve never done so, put your faith in Jesus Christ today, asking Him to forgive you of your sins and giving you the assurance that you will live with Him forever.

If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, let this story remind you just how precious your faith really is. Renew your commitment today to serve Christ as Nicholas served Him: with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. God really will work all things together for good. As the Bible says:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Thanks for reading this special book about this special man, and I pray that your Christmas may be truly merry and bright. As Clement Moore said in his now famous poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas:

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Eric Elder

(If you enjoyed this story and want a copy for yourself or for others, just follow this link to order the paperback, eBook or audiobook from Amazon.)

St. Nicholas: The Believer, by Eric & Lana Elder, A new story for Christmas based on the old story of St. Nicholas


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all the galaxies into being, limited all power, and for the love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby.

Madeline L’Engle


This Day's Verse

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

More light than we can learn,
More wealth than we can treasure,
More love than we can earn,
More peace than we can measure,
Because one Child is born.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

‘Twas love divine that Holy night
That came to make this dark world light.
He came to us from Heav’n above
To teach us how to live with love.
I’ll serve Him till the end of time.
I’ll tell the world of love divine;
True peace is mine–let come what may;
O!  I’m so happy for Christmas Day.

Wanda Royer


This Day's Verse

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Micah 5:2
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

At  the moment when the Word was made flesh, the divine virtue was carried in some way into the very heart of the material Universe, to restore it, transform it, and sanctify it.

Charles Journet


This Day's Verse

A SHOOT will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Christmas is a time when you get homesick, even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson


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