This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy.  But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated.  Where there is pain, there is healing.  Where there is mourning, there is dancing.  Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.

Henri Nouwen


This Day's Verse

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

Ephesians 1:7-8
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Faith and obedience are inescapably related.  There is no saving faith in God apart from obedience to God, and there can be no godly obedience without godly faith.

John MacArthur


This Day's Verse

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:23-24
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Reach boldly for the miracle.  God knows your gifts, your hindrances, and the condition you’re in at every moment.

Bruce Wilkinson


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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

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


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Our lives will always be full if our hearts are always giving.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Hebrews 3:14
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Once in an age, God sends to some of us a friend who loves in us…not the man that we are, but the angel we may be.

Harriet Beecher Stowe


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If a person repents out of love for God, he needs no cure. If from fear, she much be healed.

Babylonian Talmud


This Day's Verse

Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And do everything with love.

1 Corinthians 16:13
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

Fifteen words that can change a marriage:

I love you.
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I need you.
I was wrong.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Giving is not an economic decision–it’s a spiritual one!  The need to give out of our substance rather than our surplus–from our hearts and not our heads.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

How soon a smile of God can change the world.

Robert Browning


This Day's Verse

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Friends are angels who lift our feet when our own wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

Unknown


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

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

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

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

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

King Solomon put it like this in Psalm 127:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

You can count on this–the past ended one second ago.  From this point onward, you can be clean, filled with His Spirit, and used in many different ways for His honor.

Charles R. Swindoll


This Day's Verse

“If they listen and obey God, they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives.  All their years will be pleasant.”

Job 36:11
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

Unknown


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

You are infinitely dear to the Father, unspeakably precious to Him.  You are never, not for one second, alone.

Norma Dowty


This Day's Verse

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Lord, you come to us in the storm, the fire, and even in the stillness of a quiet moment.  Sometimes your message is strong, carried on bustling angelic wings; sometimes our spirits are nudged, our hearts lightened by the gentle whisper of spirit voices.  However you approach us, your message is always one of tender love and compassion.  Thank you for the certainty–and the surprise–of your holy voice.

Anna Trimiew


This Day's Verse

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.

Walt Whitman


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Seek not abroad, turn back into thy self for in the inner man dwells the truth.

Augustine


This Day's Verse

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

Isaiah 49:13
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Everyone can trust God with every outcome.  We don’t have to manipulate situations.  We don’t have to be defiant or try and figure out how to always win.  Our responsibility is to trust God and leave all the consequences to Him.

Andy Stanley


This Day's Verse

In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God, but his love for us, when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.

1 John 4:10
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

People ask God why He doesn’t do something about the homeless and starving peoples of the world.  Don’t they realize that God is asking them the same question?

Robert Ross


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

Eric Elder

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

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


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience.

Martin Luther


This Day's Verse

“For I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:44
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

The love of people is at the same time a love for God, for when we love one, we necessarily love one’s handiwork.

Judah Loew of Prague


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If you learn to trust God with a child-like dependence on Him as your loving heavenly Father, no trouble can destroy you.

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:19-20
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Follow the path of serenity.  Why lose your temper if by losing it you offend God, trouble your neighbor, give yourself a bad time, and in the end have to set things aright anyway.

Mother Teresa


This Day's Verse

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Everyone is required to recite at least one hundred blessings a day.

The Shulchan Aruch


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When we depend on organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend on education, we get what education can do, when we depend on man, we get what man can do; but when we depend on prayer, we get what God can do.

A. C. Dixon


This Day's Verse

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

1 John 5:1
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

It ought to be as habitual to us to thank as to ask.

Charles Spurgeon


This Day's Verse

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

A lot of Christians are going to get to heaven and find out that God offered so much more than they experienced.

Steve Brown


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will return with his sermons next week)

Anger

by Joseph Rodgers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger unresolved gives the devil access to your life.

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

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

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

The ROOT of Anger

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

ANXIETY (Fear)

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

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

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

Anxiety should not trigger anger – it should trigger trust.

NUISANCE (Frustration)

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

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

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

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

GRIEF (Pain)

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

EMBARRASSMENT (Humiliation)

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

RESENTMENT (Animosity)

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

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

The REALITY of ANGER

FRUITLESS

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

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

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame! Ben Franklin

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

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

The TOXIC WASTE Approach

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

The VOLCANO Approach

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

The SNOCONE Approach

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

The MICROWAVE Approach

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

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

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

FOOLISH

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

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

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

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

FORBIDDEN

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

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

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

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

Thumos wrath; sudden outburst of combative anger.

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

Three things occur when you fly off the handle:

• You say and do foolish things you will regret later

• You do things that cause problems for others

You do things that have a hefty penalty

Orge an angry indignant temperament or mood

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

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

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

The REMEDY of Anger

Commit to CONTROL Anger

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

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

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

ADMIT your tendency to take anger personally

CONFESS your need for accountability

TARGET the situation and not the person.

Consider the CONSEQUENCES

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

Anger Fosters Disagreement and Disunity

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

Anger Leaves You Vulnerable to Attack

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

Anger Invites Trouble

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

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

Correctly COMMUNICATE Anger

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

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

Think Before You Speak (Measure your words carefully)

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

Never Speak Out In Anger

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

CHOOSE Quality Company

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

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

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

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

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

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


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer.

Richard Sibbes


This Day's Verse

The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

Exodus 15:2
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Step away from your life to look at it.  Life is like a painting–messy close up, but blending into a harmonious whole from a distance.

Lisa Engelhardt


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I am to become a Christ to my neighbor and need to be for him what Christ is for me.

Martin Luther


This Day's Verse

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Numbers 6:24-26
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Oh, how great peace and quietness would he possess who should cut off all vain anxiety and place all his confidence in God.

Thomas a Kempis


This Day's Verse

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

To be a witness means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.

Dorothy Day


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To have the undivided attention of God can be disconcerting until one realizes that his gaze is tender and full of love and compassion.

Christine A. Dallman


This Day's Verse

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!  For praise from the upright is beautiful.  Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

Psalm 33:1-3
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

That is true prayer: being all ear for God.

Henri Nouwen


This Day's Verse

Fight on for God.  Hold tightly to the eternal life which God has given you, and which you have confessed with such a ringing confession before many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.

Bernard of Clairvaux


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


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

(Eric will return with his sermons in two weeks)

Faith

by Tony Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tillich and Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

This is a wise, sane Christian faith: that a man commit himself, his life and his hopes to God; that God undertakes the special protection of that man; that therefore that man ought not to be afraid of anything!

George McDonald


This Day's Verse

Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD, O my soul!  I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Psalm 146:1-2
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

God commands you to pray but forbids you to worry.

John Vianney


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Your unhappiness is due not to a want of something outside of you, but to a want of something inside you.  You were made for perfect happiness.  No wonder everything short of God disappoints you.

Fulton Sheen


This Day's Verse

“Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah 3:15
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

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

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

2 Corinthians 2:14
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

We die daily.  Happy are those who daily come to life as well.

George MacDonald


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