This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- December Update from Greg


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Dear Ministry Members…As we come closer to the end of our joint ministry fundraising campaign, we first wish to thank you sincerely for so many years of prayer and support. Without all of you, we would not have been able to minister in these many ways. Eric, of The Ranch, with his sermon series, his books, his music, his plays…all the resources that he has shared and made available for over 20 years! And he has strived to continue making all of these blessings available to all of us through his blessed technical wherewithal.

He was one of the earliest pastors to understand the potential of this “thing” we call the Internet so long ago, and he still remains on the forefront of understanding the use of this technology, much as Billy Graham and his associates did first with radio and then TV so very long before.

We all now take the Internet and this worldwide connectivity for granted, but if we take a moment just to reflect not only how it has changed all of our lives, but just how powerful of a tool it really is in our work for the Lord, to reach out and touch people in such significant and life-changing ways.

I thank God for Eric each and every day…for the blessing of “randomly” sitting next to him at a conference some 18 or so years ago…that began a friendship and a collaboration that has been a joy and a reward from the Lord, in the work we have attempted ever since.

And your support has made all the difference to my area of devotion, in sharing a daily Christian seed with you each and every morning. It has been just 20 years now that This Day’s Thought has broadcast out, and, at my upcoming age of 65, I do hope and pray that I might continue for even another 20 years, if that is what the Lord has in his plans for me.

So, thank you all for your diligent and pervasive prayers and for all your past financial support. Eric and I remain prayerful that we can still end this year with the desired resources to enter into 2019 on a firm financial foundation, as we both go forward to share our love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And thank you for considering helping us yet again in these efforts.

To make a donation, click here.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Imagine being in this glorious world with grateful hearts—and no one to thank.

Christina Georgina Rossetti


This Day's Verse

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

John 14:26
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Is your Christianity ancient history or current events?

Samuel M. Shoemaker 


Dear Readers, Thank you for your gracious and generous response to our year-end fundraising efforts, as we have been inviting you, our ministry members, to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we prayerfully go forward in our efforts to simply remain centered in the Lord’s will as we all minister together. Thank you sincerely!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When the divine owner takes possession of a property, he has a twofold objective: intense cultivation and abounding fruitfulness.

Norman P. Grubb


This Day's Verse

“And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 12:53
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

When Jesus went back to heaven, all He left behind was a prayer meeting.

Armin Gesswein


Dear Readers, Thank you for your gracious and generous response to our year-end fundraising efforts, as we have been inviting you, our ministry members, to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we prayerfully go forward in our efforts to simply remain centered in the Lord’s will as we all minister together. Thank you sincerely!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.

Charles G. Finney


This Day's Verse

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might; the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2
The Living Bible


Dear Readers, Thank you for your gracious and generous response to our year-end fundraising efforts, as we have been inviting you, our ministry members, to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we prayerfully go forward in our efforts to simply remain centered in the Lord’s will as we all minister together. Thank you sincerely!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The center of God’s will is our only safety.

Betsie ten Boom


This Day's Verse

The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

Proverbs 10:22
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

I went to a theological book and crammed my brains with sentences long enough to make the jaw of a Greek professor squeak for a week.  It didn’t amount to shucks.  So I went and loaded up the old gun with rough-on-rats, ipecac, saltpeter, rock salt, dynamite and every other kind of explosive, and I pulled the trigger, and that Pharisee gang has been on the run ever since.

Billy Sunday


Dear Readers, Thank you for your gracious and generous response to our year-end fundraising efforts, as we have been inviting you, our ministry members, to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we prayerfully go forward in our efforts to simply remain centered in the Lord’s will as we all minister together. Thank you sincerely!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; never tell even that unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary—and that God is listening while you tell it.

Henry van Dyke


This Day's Verse

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Oh, beware!  Do not seek to be something!  Let me be nothing, and Christ be all in all.

John Wesley


This Day's Verse

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

Prayer—the best wireless connection.

Unknown


Dear Ministry Members…Thank you for over 20 years of prayer and support, as we have sought to reach people throughout the world with our daily Christian messages of inspiration and encouragement.  We wish to once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your continued prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

That God is more near, more real and mighty, more full of love, and more ready to help every one of us than any one of us realizes, is the undying message of the Gospels.

David S. Cairns


This Day's Verse

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Mark 4:40
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

I do not find God hard to live with.

A. W. Tozer


Dear Ministry Members…Thank you for over 20 years of prayer and support, as we have sought to reach people throughout the world with our daily Christian messages of inspiration and encouragement.  We wish to once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your continued prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday and Greg’s Update

Dear Subscribers, This month of December serves as not only the close to the year, but also the last of our joint fundraising efforts.  Eric and I have been so very blessed to work so closely together for these many years, but we are even more excited and grateful for the prospects that lie ahead for the two ministries The Ranch and This Day’s Thought.  The Lord has blessed us with many new opportunities for ministry as we begin 2019, and we now prayerfully prepare to have a firm foundation from which to begin the next year with all of you.

Our year-end fundraising efforts are accordingly so important to us, more than any time in the past, to provide for a smooth transition forward.  We thank you for your prayerful consideration of helping us financially at this time, and are so appreciative for your continued prayers as well of all your past support.

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them.  I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.

F. B. Meyer


This Day's Verse

With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come, I will praise thy righteousness, thine alone.

Psalm 71:16
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

The Christian who has the smile of God needs no status symbols.

Leonard Ravenhill


Dear Ministry Members…Thank you for over 20 years of prayer and support, as we have sought to reach people throughout the world with our daily Christian messages of inspiration and encouragement.  We wish to once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your continued prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When we are praying, the thought will often cross our minds that (if only we knew it) the event is already decided one way or the other.  I believe this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers.  The event certainly has been decided—in a sense it was decided “before all worlds.”  But one of the things that really cause it to happen may be this very prayer that we are now offering.

C. S. Lewis


This Day's Verse

And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”

Judges 18:6
The English Standard Version


 

Dear Ministry Members…Thank you for over 20 years of prayer and support, as we have sought to reach people throughout the world with our daily Christian messages of inspiration and encouragement.  We wish to once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your continued prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Lord, send me where Thou wilt, only go with me; lay on me what Thou wilt, only sustain me.  Cut any cord but the one that binds me to Thy cause, to Thy heart.

Titus Coan


This Day's Verse

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

God created this game of life; and only when we play it his way can we find meaning, purpose and happiness.

Lane Adams


 

Dear Ministry Members…Thank you for over 20 years of prayer and support, as we have sought to reach people throughout the world with our daily Christian messages of inspiration and encouragement.  We wish to once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your continued prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- St. Nicholas: The Believer, Part 4 of 7


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

ST. NICHOLAS: THE BELIEVER
Part 4 of 7

by Eric & Lana Elder

 
I’m in Columbia, South Carolina this weekend for the opening of “One Life,” the new Christmas ballet based on my story, “St. Nicholas: The Believer.” The show is a WONDER-FILLED adaptation of the book. I would love for all of you to be able to see it someday!

Today I’m posting Part 4 of the book so you can read or listen along and enjoy. I am hearing from so many people how the book is touching them this holiday season. Even if you haven’t read any parts up to now, you can read today’s Part and be touched by it as it contains one of the most famous stories from Nicholas’s real life.

I pray you’ll have a renewed love for Jesus this Christmas.

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

Click here to listen to Part 4 of the Audiobook, St. Nicholas: The Believer

PART 4

CHAPTER 18

Nicholas’ next step in life was about to be determined by a dream. But it wasn’t a dream that Nicholas had conceived–it was a dream that God had conceived and had put in the mind of a man, a priest in the city of Myra.

In the weeks leading up to Nicholas’ arrival in Myra, a tragedy had befallen the church there. Their aging bishop, the head of their church, had died. The tragedy that had fallen upon the church wasn’t the bishop’s death, for he had lived a long and fruitful life and had simply succumbed to the effects of old age. The tragedy arose out of the debate that ensued regarding who should take his place as the next bishop.

While it would seem that such things could be resolved amicably, especially within a church, when people’s hearts are involved, their loyalties and personal desires can sometimes muddy their thoughts so much that they can’t see what God’s will is in a particular situation. It can be hard for anyone, even for people of faith, to keep their minds free from preconceived ideas and personal preferences regarding what God may, or may not, want to do at any given time.

This debate was the storm that had been brewing for a week now, and which had reached its apex the night before Nicholas’ arrival.

That night one of the priests had a dream that startled him awake. In his dream he saw a man whom he had never seen before who was clearly to take up the responsibilities of their dearly departed bishop. When he woke from his dream, he remembered nothing about what the man looked like, but only remembered his name: Nicholas.

“Nicholas?” asked one of the other priests when he heard his fellow priest’s dream. “None of us have ever gone by that name, nor is there anyone in the whole city by that name.”

Nicholas was, to be sure, not a popular name at the time. It was only mentioned once in passing in one of Luke’s writings about the early church, along with other names which were just as uncommon in those days in Myra like Procorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas. It seemed ridiculous to the other priests that this dream could possibly be from God. But the old priest reminded them, “Even the name of Jesus was given to His father by an angel in a dream.”

Perhaps it was this testimony from the gospels, or perhaps it was the unlikelihood that it would ever happen, that the priests all agreed that they would strongly consider the next person who walked through their door who answered to the name of Nicholas. It would certainly help to break the deadlock in which they found themselves.

What a surprise then, when they opened their doors for their morning prayers, when an entire shipload of men started to stream into the church!

The priests greeted each of the men at the door as they entered, welcoming them into the church. The last two to enter were the captain and Nicholas, as they had allowed all of the others to enter first. The captain thanked the priests for opening their doors to them for their morning prayers, then turned to Nicholas and said, “And thanks to Nicholas for having this brilliant idea to come here today.”

The astonished priests looked at one another in disbelief. Perhaps God had answered their prayers after all.

CHAPTER 19

The captain’s concern about what to do with the grain on his ship dissipated when they arrived at the church as fast as the storm had dissipated when they arrived on shore.

Within moments of beginning their morning prayers, he was convinced that it could only have been the mighty hand of God that had held their rudder straight and true. He knew now for sure he wanted to make an offering of the grain to the people who lived there. God spoke to him about both the plan and the amount. It was as if the captain were playing the role of Abraham in the old, old story when Abraham offered a portion of his riches to Melchizedek the priest.

The captain was willing to take his chances with his superiors in Rome rather than take any chances with the God who had delivered them all. He knew that without God’s guidance and direction so far on this journey, neither he nor his men nor the ship nor its grain would have ever made it to Rome at all.

When the captain stood up from his prayers, he quickly found Nicholas to share the answer with him as well. Nicholas agreed both to the plan and to the amount. The captain asked, “Do you think it will be enough for all these people?”

Nicholas replied, “Jesus was able to feed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fishand what you want to give to this city is much more than what Jesus had to start with!”

“How did He do it?” asked the captainalmost to himself as much as to Nicholas.

“All I know,” answered Nicholas, “is that He looked up to heaven, gave thanks and began passing out the food with His disciples. In the end everyone was satisfied and they still had twelve baskets full of food left over!”

“That’s exactly what we’ll do then, too,” said the captain.

And the story would be told for years to come how the captain of the ship looked up to heaven, gave thanks and began passing out the grain with his crew. It was enough to satisfy the people of that city for two whole years and to plant and reap even more in the third year.

As the priests said goodbye to the captain and crew, they asked Nicholas if he would be able to stay behind for a time. The winds of confusion that had whipped up and then subsided inside the captain’s mind were about to pale in comparison to the storm that was about to break open inside the mind of Nicholas.

CHAPTER 20

When the priests told Nicholas about their dream and that he just might be the answer to their prayers, Nicholas was dumbfounded and amazed, excited and perplexed. He had often longed to be used by God in a powerful way, and it was unmistakable that God had already brought him straight across the Great Sea to this very spot at this very hour!

But to become a priest, let alone a bishop, would be a decision that would last a lifetime. He had oftentimes considered taking up his earthly father’s business. His father had been highly successful at it, and Nicholas felt he could do the same. But even more important to him than doing the work of his father was to have a family like his father.

Nicholas’ memories of his parents were so fond that he longed to create more memories of his own with a family of his own. The custom of all the priests Nicholas knew, however, was to abstain from marriage and child-bearing so they could more fully devote themselves to the needs of the community around them.

Nicholas pulled back mentally at the thought of having to give up his desire for a family of his own. It wasn’t that having a family was a conscious dream that often filled his thoughts, but it was one of those assumptions in the back of his mind that he took for granted would come at some point in his future.

The shock of having to give up on the idea of a family, even before he had fully considered having one yet, was like a jolt to his system. Following God’s will shouldn’t be so difficult, he thought! But he had learned from his parents that laying down your will for the sake of God’s will wasn’t always so easy, another lesson they had learned from Jesus.

So just because it was a difficult decision wasn’t enough to rule it out. An image also floated through his mind of those three smiling faces he had met when he first landed in the Holy Land, with their heads bowed down and their hands outstretched. Hadn’t they seemed like family to him? And weren’t there hundredseven thousandsof children just like them, children who had no family of their own, no one to care for them, no one to look after their needs?

And weren’t there countless others in the worldwidows and widowers and those who had families in name but not in their actual relationshipswho still needed the strength and encouragement and sense of family around them? And weren’t there still other families as well, like Nicholas and his parents, who had been happy on their own but found additional happiness when they came together as the family of believers in their city? Giving up on the idea of a family of his own didn’t mean he had to give up on the idea of having a family altogether. In fact, it may even be possible that he could have an even larger “family” in this way.

The more Nicholas thought about what he might give up in order to serve God in the church, the more he thought about how God might use this new position in ways that went beyond Nicholas’ own thoughts and desires. And if God was indeed in this decision, perhaps it had its own special rewards in the end.

The fury of the storm that swept through his mind began to abate. In its place, God’s peace began to flow over both his mind and his heart. Nicholas recognized this as the peace of God’s divine will being clearly revealed to him. It only took another moment for Nicholas to know what his answer would be.

The storms that had once seemed so threatening–whether the storm at sea or the storm in the church or the storms in the minds of both the captain and Nicholas–now turned out to be blessings of God instead. They were blessings that proved to Nicholas once again that no matter what happened, God really could work all things for good for those who loved Him and who were called according to His purpose.

Yes, if the priests would have him, Nicholas would become the next bishop of Myra.

CHAPTER 21

Nicholas didn’t suddenly become another man when he became a bishop. He became a bishop because of the man he already was. As he had done before with his father so many years earlier, Nicholas continued to do now, here in the city of Myra and the surrounding towns: walking and praying and asking God where he could be of most help.

It was on one of these prayerful walks that Nicholas met Anna Maria. She was a beautiful girl only eleven years old, but her beauty was disguised to most others by the poverty she wore. Nicholas found her one day trying to sell flowers that she had made out of braided blades of grass. But the beauty of the flowers also seemed to be disguised to everyone but Nicholas, for no one would buy her simple creations.

As Nicholas stepped towards her, she reminded him instantly of little Ruthie, whom he had left behind in the Holy Land, with the golden flowers in her hand on the hillsides of Bethlehem.

When he stopped for a closer look, God spoke to his heart. It seemed to Nicholas that this must have been what Moses felt when he stopped to look at the burning bush in the desert, a moment when his natural curiosity turned into a supernatural encounter with the Living God.

“Your flowers are beautiful,” said Nicholas. “May I hold one?”

The young girl handed him one of her creations. As he looked at it, he looked at her. The beauty he saw in both the flower and the girl was stunning. Somehow Nicholas had the ability to see what others could not see, or did not see, as Nicholas always tried to see people and things and life the way God saw them, as if God were looking through his eyes.

“I’d like to buy this one, if I could,” he said.

Delighted, she smiled for the first time. She told him the price, and he gave her a coin.

“Tell me,” said Nicholas, “what will you do with the money you make from selling these beautiful flowers?”

What Nicholas heard next broke his heart.

Anna Maria was the youngest of three sisters: Sophia, Cecilia and Anna Maria. Although their father loved them deeply, he had been plunged into despair when his once-successful business had failed, and then his wife passed away shortly thereafter. Lacking the strength and the resources to pick himself up out of the darkness, the situation for his family grew bleaker and bleaker.

Anna Maria’s oldest sister, Sophia, had just turned 18, and she turned a number of heads as well. But no one would marry her because her father had no dowry to offer to any potential suitor. And with no dowry, there was little likelihood that she, nor any of the three girls, would ever be married.

The choices facing their father were grim. He knew he must act soon or risk the possibility of Cecilia and Anna Maria never getting married in the future, either. With no way to raise a suitable dowry for her, and being too proud to take charity from others, even if someone had had the funds to offer to him, her father was about to do the unthinkable: he was going to sell his oldest daughter into slavery to help make ends meet.

How their father could think this was the best solution available to him, Nicholas couldn’t imagine. But he also knew that desperation often impaired even the best-intentioned men. By sacrificing his oldest daughter in this way, the father reasoned that perhaps he could somehow spare the younger two from a similar fate.

Anna Maria, for her part, had come up with the idea of making and selling flowers as a way to spare her sister from this fate that was to her worse than death. Nicholas held back his tears out of respect for Anna Maria and the noble effort she was making to save her sister.

He also refrained from buying Anna Maria’s whole basket of flowers right there on the spot, for Nicholas knew it would take more than a basket full of flowers to save Sophia. It would take a miracle. And as God spoke to his heart that day, Nicholas knew that God just might use him to deliver it.

CHAPTER 22

Without show and without fanfare, Nicholas offered a prayer for Anna Maria, along with his thanks for the flower, and encouraged her to keep doing what she could to help her family–and to keep trusting in God to do what she couldn’t.

Nicholas knew he could help this family. He knew he had the resources to make a difference in their lives, for he still had a great deal of his parents’ wealth hidden in the cliffs near the coast for occasions such as this. But he also knew that Anna Maria’s proud father would never accept charity from any man, even at this bleakest hour.

Her father’s humiliation at losing his business, along with his own personal loss, had blinded him to the reality of what was about to happen to his daughter. Nicholas wanted to help, but how? How could he step into the situation without further humiliating Anna Maria’s father, possibly causing him to refuse the very help that Nicholas could extend to him. Nicholas did what he always did when he needed wisdom. He prayed. And before the day was out, he had his answer.

Nicholas put his plan into action–and none too soon! It just so happened that the next day was the day when Sophia’s fate would be sealed.

Taking a fair amount of gold coins from his savings, Nicholas placed them into a small bag. It was small enough to fit in one hand, but heavy enough to be sure that it would adequately supply the need.

Hiding under the cover of night, he crossed the city of Myra to the home where Anna Maria, her father and her two older sisters lived.

He could hear them talking inside as he quietly approached the house. Their mood was understandably downcast as they discussed what they thought was their inevitable next step. They asked God to give them the strength to do whatever they needed to do.

For years, Sophia and her sisters had dreamed of the day when they would each meet the man of their dreams. They had even written love songs to these men, trusting that God would bring each of them the perfect man at the perfect time.

Now it seemed like all their songs, all their prayers and all their dreams had been in vain. Sophia wasn’t the only one who felt the impact of this new reality, for her two younger sisters knew that the same fate might one day await each of them.

The girls wanted to trust God, but no matter how hard they thought about their situation, each of them felt like their dreams were about to be shattered.

At Anna Maria’s prompting, they tried to sing their favorite love song one more time, but their sadness simply deepened at the words. It was no longer a song of hope, but a song of despair, and the words now seemed so impossible to them.

It was not just a song, but a prayer, and one of the deepest prayers Nicholas had ever heard uttered by human tongue. His heart went out to each of them, while at the same time it pounded with fear. He had a plan, and he hoped it would work, but he had no way of knowing for sure. He wasn’t worried about what might happen to him if he were discovered, but he was worried that their father would reject his gift if he knew where it had come from. That would certainly seal the girls’ doom. As Sophia and Cecilia and Anna Maria said their goodnights–and their father had put out the lights–Nicholas knew that his time had come.

Inching closer to the open window of the room where they had been singing, Nicholas bent down low to his knees. He lobbed the bag of coins into the air and through the window. It arced gracefully above him and seemed to hang in the air for a moment before landing with a soft thud in the center of the room. A few coins bounced loose, clinking faintly on the ground, rolling and then coming to a stop. Nicholas turned quickly and hid in the darkness nearby as the girls and their father awoke at the sound.

They called out to see if anyone was there, but when they heard no answer, they entered the room from both directions. As their father lit the light, Anna Maria was the first to see it–and gasped.

There, in the center of the room, lay a small round bag, shimmering with golden coins at the top. The girls gathered around their father as he carefully picked up the bag and opened it.

It was more than enough gold to provide a suitable dowry for Sophia, with more to spare to take care of the rest of the family for some time to come!

But where could such a gift have come from? The girls were sure it had come from God Himself in answer to their prayers! But their father wanted to know more. Who had God used to deliver it? Certainly no one they knew. He sprinted out of the house, followed by his daughters, to see if he could find any trace of the deliverer, but none could be found.

Returning back inside, and with no one to return the money to, the girls and their father got down on their knees and thanked God for His deliverance.

As Nicholas listened in the darkness, he too gave thanks to God, for this was the very thing Nicholas hoped they would do. He knew that the gift truly was from God, provided by God and given through Nicholas by God’s prompting in answer to their prayers. Nicholas had only given to them what God had given to him in the first place. Nicholas neither wanted nor needed any thanks nor recognition for the gift. God alone deserved their praise.

But by allowing Nicholas to be involved, using Nicholas’ own hands and his own inheritance to bless others, Nicholas felt a joy that he could hardly contain. By delivering the gift himself, Nicholas was able to ensure that the gift was properly given. And by giving the gift anonymously, he was able to ensure that the true Giver of the gift was properly credited.

The gift was delivered and God got the credit. Nicholas had achieved both of his goals.

CHAPTER 23

While Nicholas preferred to do his acts of goodwill in secret, there were times when, out of sheer necessity, he had to act in broad daylight. And while it was his secret acts that gained him favor with God, it was his public acts that gained him favor with men.

Many people rightly appreciate a knight in shining armor, but not everyone wants to be rescued from evil–especially those who profit from it.

One such man was a magistrate in Myra, a leader in the city who disliked Nicholas intensely–or anyone who stood in the way of what he wanted.

This particular magistrate was both corrupt and corruptible. He was willing to do anything to get what he wanted, no matter what it cost to others. Although Nicholas had already been at odds with him several times in the past, their conflict escalated to a boiling point when news reached Nicholas that the magistrate had sentenced three men to death–for a crime Nicholas was sure they did not commit. Nicholas couldn’t wait this time for the cover of darkness. He knew he needed to act immediately to save these men from death.

Nicholas had been entertaining some generals from Rome that afternoon whose ship had docked in Myra’s port the night before. Nicholas had invited the generals to his home to hear news about some changes that had been taking place in Rome. A new emperor was about to take power, they said, and the implications might be serious for Nicholas and his flock of Christ-followers.

It was during their luncheon that Nicholas heard about the unjust sentencing and the impending execution. Immediately he set out for the site where the execution was to take place. The three generals, sensing more trouble might ensue once Nicholas arrived, set out after him.

When Nicholas burst onto the execution site, the condemned men were already on the platform. They were bound and bent over with their heads and necks ready for the executioner’s sword.

Without a thought for his own safety, Nicholas leapt onto the platform and tore the sword from the executioner’s hands. Although Nicholas was not a fighter himself, Nicholas made his move so unexpectedly that the executioner made little attempt to try to wrestle the sword back out of the bishop’s hands.

Nicholas knew these men were as innocent as the magistrate was guilty. He was certain that it must have been the men’s good deeds, not their bad ones, that had offended the magistrate. Nicholas untied the ropes of the innocent men in full view of the onlookers, defying both the executioner and the magistrate.

The magistrate came forward to face Nicholas squarely. But as he did so, the three generals who had been having lunch with Nicholas also stepped forward. One took his place on Nicholas’ left, another on Nicholas’ right and the third stood directly in front of him. Prudently, the magistrate took a step back. Nicholas knew that this was the time to press the magistrate for the truth.

Although the magistrate tried to defend himself, his pleas of fell on deaf ears. No one would believe his lies anymore. He tried to convince the people that it was not he who wanted to condemn these innocent men, but two other businessmen in town who had given him a bribe in order to have these men condemned. But by trying to shift the blame to others, the magistrate condemned himself for the greed that was in his heart.

Nicholas declared: “It seems that it was not these two men who have corrupted you, sir, but two others–whose names are Gold and Silver!”

Cut to the quick, the magistrate broke down and made a full confession in front of all the people for this and for all the other wrongs he had done, even for speaking ill of Nicholas, who had done nothing but good for the people. Nicholas set more than three prisoners free that day, as even the magistrate was finally set free from his greed by his honest confession. Seeing the heartfelt change in the magistrate, Nicholas pardoned him, forever winning the magistrate’s favor–and the people’s favor–from that moment on.

When Nicholas was born, his parents had named him Nicholas, which means in Greek “the people’s victor.” Through acts like these, Nicholas became “the people’s victor” both in name and in deed.

Nicholas was already becoming an icon–even in his own time.

CHAPTER 24

Within three months of receiving her unexpected dowry from Nicholas, Sophia had received a visit from a suitor–one who “suited her” just fine. He truly was the answer to her prayers, and she was thankfully, happily and finally married.

Two years later, however, Sophia’s younger sister Cecilia found herself in dire straights as well. Although Cecilia was ready to be married now, her father’s business had not improved, no matter how hard he tried. As the money that Nicholas had given to the family began to run out, their despair began to set in. Pride and sorrow had once again blinded Cecilia’s father to the truth, and he felt his only option was to commit Cecilia to a life of slavery, hoping to save his third and final daughter from a similar fate.

While they were confident that God had answered their prayers once, their circumstances had caused them to doubt that He could do it again. A second rescue at this point was more than they could have asked for or imagined.

Nicholas, however, knowing their situation by this time much more intimately, knew that God was prompting him again to intercede. It had been two years since his earlier rescue, but in all that time the family never suspected nor discovered that he was the deliverer of God’s gift.

As the time came closer to a decision on what they should do next, Nicholas knew his time to act had come as well. And in order to make it clear that his gift was to be used first and foremost for Cecilia’s dowry, and then after that for any other needs the family might have, he waited until the night before she was to be sold into slavery to make his move.

Once again waiting for the cover of darkness, Nicholas approached their house. Cecilia and Anna Maria had already gone to bed early that night, sent there by their father who had told them not to expect any similar miracle to what happened for Sophia. But somewhere in the depths of his despair, their father still had a glimmer of hope in his heart, a wish perhaps, more than anything else, that Someone really was watching out for him and that his prayers just might still be answered. With that hope, he decided to stay awake and stay close to the window, just in case some angel did appear–whether an earthly one or a heavenly one.

Nicholas knew this might happen, and he knew that Cecilia’s father might still reject his gift if he found out that Nicholas had given it. But he also hoped that perhaps her father’s proud heart had softened a bit and he would accept the gift even if Nicholas was discovered.

Seeing that the house was perfectly quiet, Nicholas knelt down beside the open window. He tossed the second bag of gold into the room.

The bag had barely hit the ground when the girls’ father leapt out of the window through which it had come and overtook Nicholas as he tried to flee. You might have thought that Nicholas had taken a bag of gold rather than given a bag of gold the way the girls’ father chased him down!

Fearing that all his efforts had been wasted, Nicholas’ heart was eased as the man didn’t rebuke Nicholas but thanked him without even looking at who he had caught.

“Please hear me out,” he said. “I just want to thank you. You’ve done so much already for me and my family that I couldn’t have expected such a gift again. But your generosity has opened my eyes to the pride in my heart–a pride that almost cost me the lives of two daughters now.”

The girls’ father had spoken both breathlessly and quickly to be sure that the stranger would hear him before trying to escape again. But when he looked up to see who he was talking to–Nicholas the priest–the shock on their father’s face was evident. How could a priest afford to give such an incredible gift?

In answer to this unasked question, Nicholas spoke: “Yes, it was I who delivered this gift to you, but it was God who gave it to me to give to you. It is not from the church and not from the charity of my own hand. It came from my father who earned it fairly by the work of his hands. He was a businessman like you. And if he were alive today, he would have wanted to give it to you himself. I’m sure of it. He, of all people, knew how difficult it was to run a business, just as you do. He also loved his family, just as you do, too.”

Nicholas paused to let his words sink in, then continued, “But please, for my sake and for God’s sake, please know that it was God Himself who has answered your prayers–for He has. I am simply a messenger for Him, a deliverer, a tool in His hands, allowing Him to do through me what I know He wants done. As for me, I prefer to do my giving in secret, not even letting my right hand know what my left hand is doing.”

The look on Nicholas’ face was so sincere and he conveyed his intentions with such love and devotion for the One whom he served, that the girls’ father could not help but to accept Nicholas’ gift as if it had truly come from the hand of God Himself.

But as they said their goodbyes, the girls and their father could hardly contain their thankfulness to Nicholas, too, for letting God use him in such a remarkable way.

As much as Nicholas tried to deflect their praise back to God, he also knew he did have a role to play in their lives. Although God prompts many to be generous in their hearts, not everyone responds to those promptings as Nicholas did.

Nicholas would wait to see how the family fared over the next few years to see if they would need any help for Anna Maria, too.

But Nicholas never got the chance. The new emperor had finally come into power, and the course of Nicholas’ life was about to change again. Even though Nicholas often came to the rescue of others, there were times when, like the Savior he followed, it seemed he was unable to rescue himself.

To be continued…next week!

(Or if you can’t wait, here’s a link to keep reading the rest of the story online OR you can get the paperback or eBook as a gift for yourself or others in our online bookstore.)

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

Here are a few pictures inside the St. Nicholas Church in Myra (present-day Demre), Turkey, which was has been built and rebuilt over the spot where St Nicholas’ bones were first entombed. The pictures here show an archway with a mosaic floor, light streaming into the main sanctuary, a tomb which has been broken into (Nicholas’ bones were removed in a nighttime raid in A.D. 1087 when they were under threat of destruction by invaders, then taken to Bari, Italy, where they remain today), and a fresco on a domed ceiling featuring Jesus and His disciples.

And here’s a 90-second video I shot of the church itself and how it impacted me when I first walked into it.

Click here to see a 90-second video of the Church of St. Nicholas in Myra, Turkey


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Here is Christian identity: I know my past, where I came from.  I came from God.  I know what went wrong.  I tried to play God instead of being satisfied to be a real man.  I know my future.  My destiny is Christ.  And I know the present.  I can face myself now—my problems, my hang-ups, my assets, my faults—because I have turned myself over to God.

Leighton Ford


This Day's Verse

O Lord, your discipline is good and leads to life and health. Oh, heal me and make me live!

Isaiah 38:16
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.

Augustine


We end this month of November, so very thankful for you, our ministry members. Thank you for your prayers and support for so many years as we once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The self-centered suffer when others disappoint them.  The Christ-centered suffer when they disappoint others.

Leonard Ravenhill


This Day's Verse

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:14-17
The English Standard Version


We end this month of November, so very thankful for you, our ministry members. Thank you for your prayers and support for so many years as we once again share our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Success is neither fame, wealth nor power; rather it is seeking, knowing, loving and obeying God.  If you seek, you will know; if you know, you will love; if you love, you will obey.

Charles Malik


This Day's Verse

When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.

Luke 9:11
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.

William Makepeace Thackeray


We are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday and Update from Eric and Greg


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We have the best subscribers in the world! Thank you so much for your support. We’ve raised just over $8,000 from just over 100 people.

Would you like to join them? Gifts of any size are welcomed! $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000… Some could write a check for $10,000 or $20,000. We would very much appreciate it! Our goal is $60,000 by the end of the year. Every gift helps.

Thank you! Eric and Greg

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Wherever God dwells he hides himself.  Men expect the Kingdom of God to come with observation; they know not that it is a hidden mystery, to be received only as God makes himself known in hearts surrendered and prepared for him.  Even when I cannot see the least evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working, I am quietly and reverently to believe that he dwells in me.

Andrew Murray


This Day's Verse

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Stewardship is your commitment: the asking of God to take you back to himself—all that you have and all that you are.

Lawrence L. Durgin


This Day's Verse

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.”

Psalm 91:14
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of God’s grace.

Ole Hallesby


We are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- St. Nicholas: The Believer, Part 3 of 7


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

ST. NICHOLAS: THE BELIEVER
Part 3 of 7

by Eric & Lana Elder

 
Today I’m posting Part 3 of 7 of St. Nicholas: The Believer, a new story for Christmas based on the old story of St. Nicholas! If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, you can still read (or listen for free!) at this link.

Next weekend is the PREMIERE of “ONE LIFE,” a new ballet based on this book. I’ve just finished recording the final narrations that will tell the story between the scenes of the ballet. I’m so excited to see the book come to life. If you want to take a road trip/plane trip to South Carolina, I’ll be there!

And if you’re looking for a Sunday morning church service online, you can watch one live at 9 or 11 a.m. (CST) at live.eastview.church and recorded for playback anytime the same link.

Click here to listen to Part 3 of St. Nicholas: The Believer, or read the full text of Part 3 below!

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 3

CHAPTER 12

Once again, Nicholas was standing on a beach, alone. This time, however, it was on the shores of the Holy Land, looking back across the Great Sea towards his home.

In the months following his visit to Bethlehem, Nicholas, along with his young guide and bodyguards, had searched for every holy place that they could find that related to Jesus. They had retraced Jesus’ steps from His boyhood village in Nazareth to the fishing town of Capernaum, where Jesus had spent most of His adult years.

They had waded into the Jordan River where Jesus had been baptized and they swam in the Sea of Galilee where He had walked on the water and calmed the storm.

They had visited the hillside where Jesus had taught about the kingdom of heaven, and they had marveled at the spot where He had multiplied the five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd of over 5,000 people.

While it was in Bethlehem that Nicholas was filled with wonder and awe, it was in Jerusalem where he was filled with mission and purpose. Walking through the streets where Jesus had carried His cross to His own execution, Nicholas felt the weight on his shoulders as if he were carrying a cross as well. Then seeing the hill where Jesus had died, and the empty tomb nearby where Jesus had risen from the dead, Nicholas felt the weight on his shoulders lifting off, as Jesus must have felt when He emerged from the tomb in which He had been sealed.

It was in that moment that Nicholas knew what his mission and purpose in life would be: to point others to the One who would lift their burdens off as well. He wanted to show them that they no longer had to carry the burdens of their sin, pain, sickness and need all alone. He wanted to show them that they could cast all their cares on Jesus, knowing that Jesus cared for them. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus had said, “and I will give you rest.”

The stories Nicholas had heard as a child were no longer vague and distant images of things that might have been. They were stories that had taken on new life for him, stories that were now three dimensional and in living color. It wasn’t just the fact that he was seeing these places with his own eyes. Others had done that, and some were even living there in the land themselves, but they had still never felt what Nicholas was feeling. What made the difference for Nicholas was that he was seeing these stories through the eyes of faith, through the eyes of a Believer, as one who now truly believed all that had taken place.

As his adventures of traveling to each of the holy sites came to an end, Nicholas returned to the spot where he had first felt the presence of God so strongly: to Bethlehem. He felt that in order to prepare himself better for his new calling in life, he should spend as much time as he could living and learning in this special land. While exploring the city of Bethlehem and its surroundings, he found another cave nearby, in the city of Beit Jala, that was similar to the cave in which Jesus had been born. He took up residence there in the cave, planning to spend as much time as he could living and learning how to live in this land where His Savior had lived.

Dimitri, Samuel and Ruthie had gained a new sense of mission and purpose for their lives as well. As much as they wanted to stay with Nicholas, they felt even more compelled to continue their important work of bringing more people to see these holy places. It was no longer just a way for them to provide a living for themselves, but they found it to be a holy calling, a calling to help others experience what they had experienced.

It had been four full years now since Nicholas had first arrived on this side of the Sea. During that time, he often saw his young friends as they brought more and more pilgrims to see what they had shown to Nicholas. In those few short years, he watched each of them grow up “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” just as Jesus had done in His youth in Nazareth.

Nicholas would have been very happy to stay here even longer, but the same Spirit of God that had drawn him to come was now drawing him back home. He knew that he couldn’t stay on this mountaintop forever. There were people who needed him, and a life that was waiting for him back home, back in the province of Lycia. What that life held for him, he wasn’t sure. With his parents gone, there was little to pull him back home, but it was simply the Spirit of God Himself, propelling him forward on the next leg of his journey.

Making arrangements for a ship home was harder than it was to find a ship to come here, for the calm seas of summer were nearing their end and the first storms of winter were fast approaching. But Nicholas was convinced that this was the time, and he knew that if he waited any longer, he might not make it home again until spring–and the Spirit’s pull was too strong for that kind of delay.

So when he heard that a ship was expected to arrive any day now, one of the last of the season to sail through here on its way from Alexandria to Rome, he quickly arranged for passage. The ship was to arrive the next morning, and he knew he couldn’t miss it.

He had sent word, through a shopkeeper, to try to find his three best friends to let them know that he would be sailing in the morning. But as the night sky closed in, he had still not heard a word from them.

So he stood there on the beach alone, contemplating all that had taken place and all that had changed in his life since coming to the Holy Land–and all that was about to change as he left it. The thoughts filled him with excitement, anticipation and, to be honest, just a little bit of fear.

CHAPTER 13

Although Nicholas’ ship arrived the following morning just as expected, the children didn’t.

Later that afternoon, when the time came for him to board and the three still hadn’t shown up, Nicholas sadly resigned himself to the possibility that they just might miss each other entirely. He had started walking toward the ship when he felt a familiar tug at his sleeve.

“You a Christian?” came the voice once again, but this time with more depth as about four years were added to his life. It was Dimitri, of course. Nicholas turned on the spot and smiled his broadest smile.

“Am I a Christian? Without a doubt!” he said as he saw all three of them offering smiles to him in return. “And you?” he added, speaking to all three of them at once.

“Without a doubt!” they replied, almost in unison. It was the way they had spoken about their faith ever since their shared experience in Bethlehem, an experience when their doubts about God had faded away.

As Nicholas tried to take in all three of their faces just one more time, he wondered which was more difficult: to leave this precious land, or to leave these three precious youth whom he had met there. They all knew that God had called them together for a purpose, and they all trusted that God must now be calling them apart for another purpose, too, just as Nicholas had previously felt he was to move to Bethlehem and they were to continue their work taking pilgrims from city to city.

But just because they knew what God’s will was, it didn’t mean it was always easy to follow it. As Nicholas had often reminded them, tears were one of the strongest signs of love in the world. Without tears at the loss of those things that matter most, it would be hard to tell if those things really mattered at all.

A lack of tears wouldn’t be a problem today. Once again, Nicholas asked them all to hold out their right hands in front of them. As he reached into his pocket to find three of his largest coins to place into each of their outstretched hands, he found he wasn’t fast enough. Within an instant, all three children had wrapped their arms completely around Nicholas’ neck, his back and his waist, depending on their height. They all held on as tightly as possible, and as long as possible, before one of the ship’s crewmen signaled to Nicholas that the time had come.

As Nicholas gave each of them one last squeeze, he secretly slipped a coin into each of their pockets. Throughout their time together, Nicholas’ gifts had helped the children immeasurably. But it wasn’t Nicholas’ presents that blessed them so much as it was his presence–his willingness to spend so much time with them. Still, Nicholas wanted to give them a final blessing that they could discover later when he was gone, as he often did his best giving in secret.

Nicholas wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry at the thought of this final gift to them, so he did a little of both. Under his breath, he also offered a prayer of thanks for each of their lives, then bid them farewell, one by one. The children’s hugs were the perfect send-off as he stepped onto the ship and headed for home–not knowing that their hugs and kind words would also help to carry him through the dark days that he was about to face ahead.

CHAPTER 14

The wind whipped up as soon as Nicholas’ ship left the shore. The ship’s captain had hoped to get a head start on the coming storm, sailing for a few hours along the coast to the harbor in the next city before docking again for the night. It was always a longer trip to go around the edges of the Great Sea, docking in city after city along the way, instead of going directly across to their destination. But going straight across was also more perilous, especially at this time of year. So to beat the approaching winter, and the more quickly approaching storm, they wanted to gain as many hours as they could along the way.

Keeping on schedule, Nicholas found out, was more than just a matter of a captain wanting to make good on his contract with his clients. It was also soon to become a matter of life and death for the families of the crew on board, including the family of the captain. Nicholas found out that a famine had begun to spread across the empire, now affecting the crew’s home city back in Rome. The famine had begun in the countryside as rain had been sparse in the outlying areas, but now the shortages in the country were starting to deplete the reserves in Rome as well. Prices were rising and even families who could afford to pay for food were quickly depleting their resources to get it.

The ship’s captain was not a foolish man, having sailed on these seas for almost 30 years. But he also knew that the risk of holding back on their voyage at a time like this could mean they would be grounded for the rest of the winter. If that happened, his cargo of grain might perish by spring, as well as his family. So the ship pressed on.

It looked to Nicholas like they had made the right decision to set sail. He, too, felt under pressure to get this voyage underway, although it wasn’t family or cargo that motivated him. It was the Spirit of God Himself. He wouldn’t have been able to explain it to anyone except to those who had already experienced it. All he knew was that it was imperative that they start moving.

He had thought he might spend still more time in the Holy Land, perhaps even his entire life. It felt like home to him from the very beginning, as he had heard so many stories about it when he was growing up. He had little family waiting for him elsewhere, and up to this point, he was content to stay right where he was, except for the Spirit’s prompting that it was time to go.

The feeling started as a restlessness at first, a feeling that he was suddenly no longer content to stay where he was. He couldn’t trace the feeling to anything particular that was wrong with where he was, just that it was time to go. But where? Where did God want him to go? Did God have another site for him to see? Another part of the country in which he was supposed to live? Perhaps another country altogether that he was supposed to visit?

As the restlessness grew, his heart and his mind began to explore the options in more detail. He had found in the past that the best way to hear from God was to let go of his own will so that he could fully embrace God’s will, whatever that may be. While letting go was always hard for him, he knew that God would always lead him in the ways that were best. So, finally letting go of his own will, Nicholas began to see God’s will much more clearly in this situation as well. As much as he felt like the Holy Land was his new home, it wasn’t really his home. He felt strongly that the time had come for him to return to the region where he had been born, to the province of Lycia on the northern coast of the Sea. There was something, he felt, that God wanted him to do there–something for which he had been specifically equipped and called to do, and was, in fact, the reason that God had chosen for him to grow up there when he was young. Just as Nicholas had felt drawn to come to the Holy Land, he now felt drawn to return home.

To home he was headed, and to home he must go. That inner drive that he felt was as strong–if not stronger–than the drive that now motivated the ship’s captain and crew to get their cargo home, safe and sound, to their precious families.

Storm or no storm, they had to get home.

CHAPTER 15

Nicholas’ ship never made it to the next harbor along the coast. Instead, the storm they were trying to outrun had outrun them. It caught hold of their ship, pulling it away from the coast within the first few hours at sea. It kept pulling them further and further away from the coast until, three hours later, they found themselves inescapably caught in its torrents.

The crew had already lowered the sails, abandoning their attempts to force the rudder in the opposite direction. They now hoped that by going with the storm rather than against it they would have a better chance of keeping the ship in one piece. But this plan, too, seemed only to drive them into the deepest and most dangerous waters, keeping them near the eye of the storm itself.

After another three hours had passed, the sea sickness that had initially overcome their bodies was no longer a concern, as the fear of death itself was now overtaking all but the most resilient of those on board.

Nicholas, although he had traveled by ship before, was not among those considered to be most resilient. He had never experienced pounding waves like this before. And he wasn’t the only one. To a man, as the storm worsened, each began to speak of this as the worst storm they had ever seen.

The next morning, when the storm still hadn’t let up, and then again on the next morning and the next, and as the waves were still pounding them, they were all wondering why they had been in such a hurry to set out to beat the storm. Now they just hoped and prayed that God would let them live to see one more day, one more hour. As wave after wave pummeled the ship, Nicholas was simply praying they would make it through even one more wave.

His thoughts and prayers were filled with images of what it must have been like for the Apostle Paul, that follower of Christ who had sailed back and forth across the Great Sea several times in similar ships. It was on Paul’s last trip to Rome that he had landed in Myra, only miles from Nicholas’ hometown. Then, as Paul continued on from Myra to Rome, he faced the most violent storm he had ever faced at sea, a raging fury that lasted more than fourteen days and ended with his ship being blasted to bits by the waves as it ran aground on a sandbar, just off the coast of the island of Malta.

Nicholas prayed that their battle with the wind wouldn’t last for fourteen days. He didn’t know if they could make it through even one more day. He tried to think if there was anything that Paul had done to help himself and the 276 men who were on his ship with him to stay alive, even though their ship and its cargo were eventually destroyed. But as hard as he tried to think, all he could remember was that an angel had appeared to Paul on the night before they ran aground. The angel told Paul to take heart–that even though the ship would be destroyed, not one of the men aboard would perish. When Paul told the men about this angelic visit, they all took courage, as Paul was convinced that it would happen just as the angel said it would. And it did.

But for Nicholas, no such angel had appeared. No outcome from heaven had been predicted and no guidance had come about what they should or shouldn’t do. All he felt was that inner compulsion that he had felt before they departed–that they needed to get home as soon as they could.

Not knowing what else to do, Nicholas recalled a phrase of his father’s: “standing orders are good orders.” If a soldier wasn’t sure what to do next, even if the battle around him seemed to change directions, if the commanding officer hadn’t changed the orders, then the soldier was to carry on with the most recent orders given. Standing orders are good orders. It was this piece of wisdom from his father, more than any other thought, that guided Nicholas and gave him the courage to do what he did next.

CHAPTER 16

When the storm seemed to be at its worst, Nicholas’ thoughts turned to the children he had just left. His thoughts of them didn’t fill him with sadness, but with hope.

He began to take courage from the stories they had all learned about how Jesus had calmed the storm, how Moses had split the Red Sea and how Joshua had made the Jordan River stop flowing. Nicholas and the children had often tried to imagine what it must have been like to be able to exercise control over the elements like that. Nicholas had even, on occasion, tried to do some of these things himself, right along with Dimitri, Samuel and Ruthie. When it rained, they lifted their hands and prayed to try to stop the rain from coming down. But it just kept raining on their heads. When they got to the Sea of Galilee, they tried to walk on top of the water, just like Jesus did–and even Peter did, if only for a few short moments. But Nicholas and the children assumed they must not have had enough faith or strength or whatever it might have taken for them to do such things.

As another wave crashed over the side of the ship on which Nicholas was now standing, he realized there was a common thread that ran through each of these stories. Maybe it wasn’t their faith that was the problem after all, but God’s timing. In each instance from the stories he could remember, God didn’t allow those miracles on a whim, just for the entertainment of the people who were trying to do them. God allowed them because God had places for them to go, people they needed to see and lives that needed to be spared. There was an urgency in each situation that required the people to accomplish not only what was on their heart, but what was on God’s heart as well.

It seemed that the miracles were provided not because of their attempts to try to reorder God’s world, but in God’s attempts to try to reorder their worlds. It seemed to Nicholas that it must be a combination of their prayers of faith, plus God’s divine will, that caused a spark between heaven and earth, ignited by their two wills working together, that burst into a power that could move mountains.

When Jesus needed to get across the lake, but His disciples had already taken off in the boat, He was able to ignite by faith the process that allowed Him to walk on water, and thereafter calm the storm that threatened to take their lives when He finally did catch up to them.

“Standing orders are good orders,” Nicholas recalled, and he believed with all his heart that if God hadn’t changed His orders, then somehow they needed to do whatever they could to get to the other side of the Sea. But it wasn’t enough for God to will it. God was looking for someone willing, here on earth to will it, too, thereby completing the divine connection and causing the miracle to burst forth. Like Moses when he lifted his staff into the air or Joshua’s priests who took the first steps into the Jordan River, God needed someone to agree with Him in faith that what He had willed to happen in heaven should happen here on earth. God had already told Nicholas what needed to happen. Now it was up to Nicholas to complete the divine connection.

“Men!” Nicholas yelled to get the crew’s attention. “The God whom I serve, and who Has given each one of us life, wants us to reach our destination even more than we want to reach it. We must agree in faith, here and now, that God not only can do it, but that He wills us to do it. If you love God, or even if you think you might want to love God, I want you to pray along with me, that we will indeed reach our destination, and that nothing will stand in the way of our journey!”

As soon as Nicholas had spoken these words, the unthinkable happened: not only did the wind not stop, but it picked up speed! Nicholas faltered for a moment as if he had made some sort of cosmic mistake, some sort of miscalculation about the way God worked and what God wanted him to do. But then he noticed that even though the wind had picked up speed, it had also shifted directions, ever so slightly, but in such a distinct and noticeable way that God had gotten the attention of every man on board. Now, instead of being pounded by the waves from both sides, they were sailing straight through them, as if a channel had been cut into the waves themselves. The ship was driven along like this, not only for the next several moments, but for the next several hours.

When the speed and direction of the ship continued to hold its steady but impressively fast course, the captain of the ship came to Nicholas. He said he had never seen anything like this in his whole life. It was as if an invisible hand was holding the rudder of the ship, steady and straight, even though the ropes that held the rudder were completely unmanned, as they had been abandoned long ago when the winds first reached gale force.

Nicholas knew, too–even though he was certainly not as well seasoned as the captain–that this was not a normal phenomenon on the seas. He felt something supernatural taking control the moment he first stood up to speak to the men, and he felt it still as they continued on their path straight ahead.

What lay before them he didn’t know. But what he did know was that the One who had brought them this far was not going to take His hand off that rudder until His mission was accomplished.

CHAPTER 17

The storm that they thought was going to take their lives turned out to be the storm that saved many more. Rather than going the long way around the sea, following the coastline in the process, the storm had driven them straight across it, straight into the most dangerous path that they never would have attempted on their own at that time of year.

When they sighted land early on the morning of the fifth day, they recognized it clearly. It was the city of Myra, just a few miles away from Nicholas’ hometown, and the same city where the Apostle Paul had changed ships on his famous journey to Rome.

It was close enough to home that Nicholas knew in his heart that he was about to land in the exact spot where God wanted him to be. God, without a doubt, had spared his life for a purpose, a purpose which would now begin the next chapter of his life.

As they sailed closer to the beach, they could see that the storm that raged at sea had hardly been felt on shore.

The rains that had flooded their ship for the past several days, and that should have been watering the land as well, hadn’t made it inland for several months. The drought that the captain and sailors had told him had come to Rome had already been here in Lycia for two and a half years. The cumulative effect was that the crops that were intended to supply their reserves for the coming winter and for next year’s seed had already been depleted. If the people of Lycia didn’t get grain to eat now, many would never make it through the winter, and still more would die the following spring, as they wouldn’t have seed to plant another crop. This ship was one of the last that had made it out of the fertile valleys of Egypt before the winter, and its arrival at this moment in time was like a miracle in the eyes of the people. It was certainly an answer to their prayers.

But that answer wasn’t so clear to the captain of the ship. He had been under strict orders from the keeper of the Imperial storehouses in Rome that not one kernel of grain could be missing when the ship arrived back in Rome. The ship had been weighed in Alexandria before it left Egypt and it would be weighed again in Rome–and the captain would be held personally responsible for any discrepancy. The famine had put increasing pressure on the emperor to bring any kind of relief to the people. Not only this, but the families of the captain and crew themselves were awaiting the arrival of this food. Their jobs, and the lives of their families, relied on the safe delivery of every bit of grain aboard.

Yet without the faith and encouragement of Nicholas, the captain knew that the ship and its cargo would have been lost at sea, along with all of their lives.

While it was clear to Nicholas that God had brought him back to his homeland, he too wasn’t entirely certain what to do about the grain. While it seemed that giving at least some of the grain to the people of Myra was in order, Nicholas still tried to see it from God’s perspective. Was this city, or any other city throughout the empire, any more in need of the grain than Rome, which had bought and paid for it to be delivered? But it also seemed to Nicholas that the ship had been driven specifically to this particular city, in a straight and steady line through the towering waves.

The whole debate of what they were to do next took place within just a matter of minutes of their arrival on shore. And Nicholas and the captain had little time to think through what they were going to do, as the people of the city were already running out to see the ship for themselves, having been amazed at the way God had seemingly brought it to their famished port. They were gathering in larger and larger numbers to welcome the boat, and giving thanks and praise to God at the same time.

Both Nicholas and the captain knew that only God Himself could answer their dilemma. The two of them, along with the rest of the crew, had already agreed the night before–as they were so steadily and swiftly being carried along through the water–that the first thing they would do when they arrived on shore was to go to the nearest church and give thanks to God for His deliverance. Upon seeing where they had landed, Nicholas knew exactly where they could find that church. It was one that his family had visited from time to time as they traveled between these twin cities of Patara and Myra. Telling the people that their first order of duty was to give thanks to God for their safe passage, Nicholas and the captain and his crew headed to the church in Myra.

As they made their way across the city and up into the hills that cradled the church, they had no idea that the priests inside its walls had already been doing battle with a storm of their own.

To be continued…next week!

(Or if you can’t wait, here’s a link to keep reading the rest of the story online OR you can get the paperback or eBook as a gift for yourself or others in our online bookstore.)

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

And here are some pictures my daughter and I took of the actual city of Myra (today known as Demre) on the coast of Turkey where the real St. Nicholas lived and ministered in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. You can see here some rock tombs, an archway under a theater, and the entrances and exits of the same theater from behind the stage.

And here’s a 30-second video of the famous rock tombs of Myra, which were carved into the mountainside several hundred years before Nicholas’ arrival there.

rock-tombs-click-to-play

Click here to see the Rock Tombs in Myra, Turkey



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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done.  God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is to enter into it.

Dwight L. Moody


This Day's Verse

There is great gain in godliness with contentment;

1 Timothy 6:6
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

How easy is pen-and-paper piety!  I will not say it costs nothing; but it is far cheaper to work one’s head than one’s heart to goodness.  I can write a hundred meditations sooner than subdue the least sin in my soul.

Thomas Fuller


This particular week, we are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There is an imaginative story told of a day when the sun did not rise.  Six o’clock came and there was no sign of dawn.  At seven o’clock, there was still no ray of light.  At noon it was as black as midnight.  No birds sang and only the hoot of an owl broke the silence.  Then came the long black hours of the afternoon.  Finally evening arrived but no one slept at night,  Some wept, some wrung their hands in anguish.  Every church was thronged with people on their knees.  Thus they remained the whole night through.  After that long night of terror and agony, millions of eager, tear-streaked faces were turned toward the east.  When the sky began to grow red and the sun rose, there was a loud shout of joy.  Millions of lips said, “Bless the Lord O my soul!” because the sun had risen after one day of darkness.

The very consistency of God’s blessings sometimes seems to dull our  gratitude.  The wonderful thing about the mercies of God is that they are fresh every morning and new every evening.  Let us remember to be consistently thankful to our gracious God.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:11
The King James Version


This particular week, we are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

GRATITUDE

I thank You for these gifts, dear God,
Upon Thanksgiving Day—
For love and laughter and the faith
That bids me kneel to pray.

For life that lends me happiness,
And sleep that gives me rest;
These are the gifts that keep my heart
Serene within my breast.

Love, laughter, faith and life and sleep,
We cherish every one—
They carry us along the road
That leads from sun to sun.

Margaret E. Sangster


This Day's Verse

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 100:4
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

When we eat the good bread, we are eating months of sunlight, weeks of rain and snow from the sky, richness out of the earth.  We should be great, each of us radiant, full of music and full of stories.  Able to run the way clouds do, able to dance like the snow and the rain.  But nobody takes time to think that he eats all these things and that sun, rain, snow are all a part of himself.

Monica Shannon


This particular week, we are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.  The hard truth is that all people love poorly.  We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly.  That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.

Henri Nouwen


This Day's Verse

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 12:2
The English Standard Version


This particular week, we are so very thankful for you, our ministry members. We thank you for your prayers and support for so many years. Presently, during these months of November and December, we share once again our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting these ministries financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministries as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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


This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday and a Note from Greg


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Dear Ministry Members,

As we progress towards the end of this year, we wish to share our ministry’s goals and financial needs with you, so that we might begin our next year together on a firm financial foundation.

This is a particularly pivotal coming year in the life of our two ministries.

The Ranch was begun by Eric Elder and his wife Lana some 23 years ago and This Day’s thought was started by Greg Potzer 20 years ago. If you will recall, these were the very early years of the Internet…web sites and email communications, social media.

During the earliest of these years, both ministries were operated individually, but at the same time both Greg and Eric worked together on many of aspects of their respectful goals.

Then, in 2012, both ministries joined together in a more unified presentation & approach, and thus, for the last 9 years have worked seamlessly together.

We now are in the process of prayerful plans to both go forward into our next year, separated once again in order to maximize all our present opportunities, but still so very unified in our goal to serve the Lord.

You have always been so very generous and supportive of our ministry needs and at this time we would humbly ask that you might consider your financial support for this next year. You have always heard us share, “we need so very little but we need that little so very much,” and we must admit that has never been so true and important as it is now, as we approach this year end.

We currently reach over 40,000 people each and every day, from over 160 countries, with our Christian “seed-for-a-day,” offering encouragement & inspiration, and we hope to expand our reach even further with the blessing of your prayers and gifts.

So, if you might prayerfully consider donating to these efforts, and help us lay the very best foundation to be able to go forward, we thank you for all you past gracious support and hope you will find it in your hearts to do so even more so as we begin many more years together, in our praise and celebration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you dearly. Greg and Eric

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The happiest, sweetest, tenderest homes are not those where there has been no sorrow, but those which have been overshadowed with grief, and where Christ’s comfort was accepted.

J. R. Miller


This Day's Verse

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Acts 20:35
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

As in Paradise, God walks in the holy Scriptures, seeking man.

Ambrose of Milan


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- St. Nicholas: The Believer, Part 2 of 7


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

ST. NICHOLAS: THE BELIEVER
Part 2 of 7

by Eric & Lana Elder

As a way to help you keep Christ in Christmas, I’m posting the full version of a heartwarming Christmas story I’ve written called St. Nicholas: The Believer. Today, I’m posting Part 2 of 7. If you missed Part 1, you can still read it online at this link.)

I’m excited to tell you that in two weeks I’ll be in Columbia, South Carolina attending the premiere of “ONE LIFE: A CHRISTMAS STORY BALLET,” which is based on our book!

One Life, A Christmas Ballet Story based on the book, "St Nicholas: The Believer"

I’m can’t wait to see the characters from our story spring to life in 3D, whirling and twirling in this new Christmas spectacular! If you’re in the South Carolina area, I hope you’ll stop by, see the show and say “Hi!”  You can learn more at: https://scchristiandance.com/one-life/

(And if you’re looking for a Sunday morning church service online, you can watch one live at 9 or 11 a.m. (CST) at live.eastview.church and recorded for playback anytime the same link.)

For now, enjoy Part 2 of our special Christmas story…

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

Click here to listen to Part 2 of the Audiobook, St. Nicholas: The Believer.

PART 2

CHAPTER 6

Nicholas stood alone. He was on the same stretch of beach where his father had stood just ten years earlier, looking out at the sunrise and the waves on the seashore.

Nicholas’ father never made it out to look at the Great Sea again, having finally succumbed to the sickness himself. Nicholas’ mother passed away first, within two weeks of the first signs of illness. His father lasted another three days after that, as if holding on as long as he could to make sure his wife passed as peacefully as possible from this life to the next, and making sure Nicholas was as ready as possible to take the next steps in his own life.

Nicholas’ father didn’t shy away from tears, but he didn’t want them wasted on wrongful emotions either. “Don’t cry because it’s over,” his father had said to both his wife and his son. “Smile because it was beautiful.”

There was a time and place for anger and disappointment, but this wasn’t the time for either. If given the chance to do it all over again, his parents would have chosen to do exactly what they did. It was not foolishness, they said, to be willing to risk their lives for the sake of others, especially when there were no guarantees that they would have survived anyway.

As it turned out, the plague ended up taking the lives of almost a third of the people in Patara before it finally ran its course. The sickness seemed to have a mind of its own, affecting those who tried to shield themselves from it as well as those who, like his parents, had ventured out into the midst of it.

After the death of his parents, Nicholas felt a renewed sense of urgency to pick up where they had left off, visiting those who were sick and comforting the families of those who had died.

Then, almost as suddenly as it came to their city, the plague left. Nicholas had spent most of the next few weeks sleeping, trying to recover from the long daysand even longer nightsof ministering to those who were affected. When he was awake, he spent his time trying to process his own feelings and emotions in light of the loss of the family he loved. In so many ways, his parents were his life. His life was so intertwined with theirs, and having them taken so suddenly from him, he hardly knew what to do without them. He went to live with his uncle, a priest who lived in the monastery in Patara, until he was ready to venture out further into the world on his own. Now that time had come, and it was time for Nicholas to make his decision.

Unlike many others who had been orphaned by the plague, Nicholas had been left with a sizable inheritance. The question on his heart wasn’t what he would do to make a living, but what he would do to make a life. Through all that he had experienced, and now recognizing the brevity of life for himself, Nicholas now knew why his father had come so often to this shore to pray. Now it was Nicholas’ turn to consider his own future in light of eternity.

What should I do? Where should I go? How should I spend the rest of my days? The questions could have overwhelmed him, except that his father had prepared him well for moments like these, too.

His father, always a student of the writings of Scripture and of the life of Christ, had told him that Jesus taught that we needn’t worry so much about the trouble down the road as just the trouble for that day. Each day has enough trouble of its own, Jesus said.

As Nicholas thought about this, his burden lifted. He didn’t have to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life just yet. He only had to decide on his next step.

He had enough money to travel the length of the entire world back and forth three times and still have enough to live on for years to come. But that wasn’t really what he wanted to do. He had never had a desire to live wildly or lavishly, for the life he knew up to this point already gave him tremendous satisfaction. But there was one place he had always wanted to see with his own eyes.

As he looked out across the sea, to the south and to the west, he knew that somewhere in between lay the place he most wanted to visita land that seemed more precious in his mind than any other. It was the land where Jesus had lived, the land where He had walked and taught, the land where He was born and died, and the land where so many of the stories of His lifeand almost the entirety of Scripture itselfhad taken place.

Nicholas knew that some decisions in life were made only through the sweat and agony of prayer, trying desperately to decide between two seemingly good, but mutually exclusive paths. But this decision was not one of them. This was one of those decisions that, by the nature of the circumstances, was utterly simple to make. Apart from his uncle, there was little more to keep him in Patara, and nothing to stop him from following the desire that had been on his heart for so long.

He was glad his father had shown him this spot, and he was glad that he had come to it again today. He knew exactly what he was going to do next. His decision was as clear as the water in front of him.

CHAPTER 7

Nicholas’ arrival on the far shores of the Great Sea came sooner than he could have imagined. For so long he had wondered what it would be like to walk where Jesus walked, and now, at age 19, he was finally there.

Finding a boat to get there had been no problem, for his hometown of Patara was one of the main stopovers for ships traveling from Egypt to Rome, carrying people and cargo alike. Booking passage was as simple as showing that you had the money to pay, which Nicholas did.

But now that he had arrived, where would he go first? He wanted to see everything at once, but that was impossible. A tug at his sleeve provided the answer.

“You a Christian?” the small voice asked.

Nicholas looked down to see a boy not more than ten looking up at him. Two other children giggled nearby. To ask this question so directly, when it was dangerous in general to do so, showed that the boy was either a sincere follower of Christ looking for a fellow believer, or it showed that he had ulterior motives in mind. From the giggles of his little friends nearby, a boy and a girl just a bit younger than the one who had spoken, Nicholas knew it was probably the latter.

“You a Christian?” the boy asked again. “I show you holy places?”

Ah, that’s it, thought Nicholas. Enough pilgrims had obviously come here over the years that even the youngest inhabitants knew that pilgrims would need a guide once they arrived. Looking over the three children again, Nicholas felt they would suit him just fine. Nicholas had a trusting heart, and while he wasn’t naive enough to think that trouble wouldn’t find him here, he also trusted that the same God who had led him here would also provide the help he needed once he arrived. Even if these children were doing it just for the money, that was all right with Nicholas. Money he had. A map he didn’t. He would gladly hire them to be his living maps to the holy places.

“Yes, and yes,” Nicholas answered. “Yes, I am indeed a Christian. And if you would like to take me, then yes, I would be very interested to see the holy places. I would love for your friends to come along with us, too. That way, if we meet any trouble, they can defend us all!”

The boy’s mouth dropped open and his friends giggled again. It wasn’t the answer the boy had expected at all, at least not so fast and not without a great deal of pestering on his part. Pilgrims who arrived were usually much more skeptical when they stepped off their boats, shooing away anyone who approached themat least until they got their land legs back and their bearings straight. But the boy quickly recovered from his shock and immediately extended his right hand in front of him, palm upraised, with a slight bow of his head. It gave Nicholas the subtle impression as if to say that the boy was at Nicholas’ serviceand the not-so-subtle impression that the boy was ready for something to be deposited in his open hand. Nicholas, seeing another opportunity to throw the boy off guard, happily obliged.

He gently placed three of his smallest, but shiniest coins into the boy’s upraised palm and said, “My name is Nicholas. And I can see you’re a wise man. Now, if you’re able to keep your hand open even after I’ve set these coins in it, you’ll be even wiser still. For he who clenches his fist tightly around what he has received will find it hard to receive more. But he who opens his hand freely to heavenfreely giving in the same way that he has freely receivedwill find that his Father in heaven will usually not hold back in giving him more.”

Nicholas motioned with his hand that he intended for the boy to share what he had received with his friends, who had come closer at the appearance of the coins. The boy obviously was the spokesman for all three, but still he faltered for a moment as to what to do. This man was so different from anyone else the boy had ever approached. With others, the boy was always trying, usually without success, to coax even one such coin from their pockets, but here he had been given three in his very first attempt! The fact that the coins weren’t given grudgingly, but happily, did indeed throw him off balance. He had never heard such a thought like that of keeping his hands open to give and receive. His instinct would have been to instantly clench his fist tightly around the coins, not letting go until he got to the safest place he could find, and only then could he carefully inspect them and let their glimmers shine in his eyes. Yet he stood stock still, with his hand still outstretched and his palm facing upward. Almost against his own self-will, he found himself turning slightly and extending his hand to his friends.

Seizing the moment, the two others each quickly plucked a coin from his hand. Within an instant of realizing that they, too, were about to clench their fists around their newly acquired treasure, they slowly opened their fingers as well, looking up at the newly arrived pilgrim with a sense of bewilderment. They were bewildered not just that he had given them the coins, but that they were still standing there with their palms open, surprising even themselves that they were willing to follow this man’s peculiar advice.

The sight of it all made Nicholas burst out in a gracious laugh. He was delighted by their response and he quickly deposited two more of his smallest coins into each of their hands, now tripling their astonishment. It wasn’t the amount of the gifts that had astonished them, for they had seen bigger tips from wealthier pilgrims, but it was the generous and cheerful spirit that accompanied the gifts that gave them such a surprise.

The whole incident took place in less than a minute, but it set Nicholas and his new friends into such a state that each of them looked forward to the journey ahead.

“Now, you’d better close your hands again, because a wise manor woman–“ he nodded to the little girl, “also takes care of that which they have been given so that it doesn’t get lost or stolen.”

Then, turning to walk toward the city, Nicholas said, “How about you let me get some rest tonight, and then, first thing in the morning, you can start showing me those holy places?”

While holy places abounded in this holy land, in the magical moments that had just transpired, it seemed to the three childrenand even to Nicholas himself–that they had just stepped foot on their first.

CHAPTER 8

Nicholas woke with the sun the next morning. He had asked the children to meet him at the inn shortly after sunrise. His heart skipped a beat with excitement about the day ahead. Within a few minutes, he heard their knock–and their unmistakable giggles–at the door.

He found out that their names were Dimitri, Samuel and Ruthie. They were, to use the common term, “alumni,” children whose parents had left them at birth to fend for themselves. Orphans like these dotted the streets throughout the Roman Empire, byproducts of people who indulged their passions wherever and with whomever they wanted, with little thought for the outcome of their actions.

While Dimitri could have wallowed in self-pity for his situation, he didn’t. He realized early on that it didn’t help to get frustrated and angry about his circumstances. So he became an entrepreneur.

He began looking for ways he could help people do whatever they needed, especially those things which others couldn’t do, or wouldn’t do, for themselves. He wasn’t often rewarded for his efforts, but when he was, it was all worth it.

He wasn’t motivated by religion, for he wasn’t religious himself, and he wasn’t motivated by greed, for he never did anything that didn’t seem right if it were just for the money, as greedy people who only care about money often do. He simply believed that if he did something that other people valued, and if he did it good enough and long enough, then somehow he would make it in life. Some people, like Dimitri, stumble onto godly wisdom without even realizing it.

Samuel and Ruthie, on the other hand, were just along for the ride. Like bees drawn to honey, Samuel and Ruthie were drawn to Dimitri, as often happens when people find someone who is trying to do what’s right. Samuel was eight, and like Dimitri, wasn’t religious himself, but had chosen his own name when he heard someone tell the story of another little boy named Samuel who, when very young, had been given away by his parents to be raised by a priest. Samuel, the present-day one, loved to hear about all that the long-ago Samuel had done, even though the other one had lived over 1,000 years before. This new Samuel didn’t know if the stories about the old Samuel were true, but at the time he chose his name, he didn’t particularly care. It was only in the past few months, as he had been traveling to the holy sites with Dimitri, that he had begun to wonder if perhaps the stories really were true.

Now Ruthie, even though she was only seven, was as sharp as a tack. She always remembered people’s names and dates, what happened when and who did what to whom. Giggling was her trademark, but little though she was, her mind was eager to learn and she remembered everything she saw and everything she was taught. Questions filled her mind, and naturally spilled right out of her mouth.

Dimitri didn’t mind these little tag-alongs, for although it might have been easier for him to do what he did by himself, he also knew of the dangers of the streets and felt compelled to help these two like an older brother might help his younger siblings. And to be completely honest, he didn’t have anyone else to call family, so finding these two a few years earlier had filled a part of his heart in a way that he couldn’t describe, but somehow made him feel better.

Nicholas took in the sight of all three beaming faces at his door. “Where to first?” asked Dimitri.

“Let’s start at the beginning,” said Nicholas, “the place where Jesus was born.” And with that they began the three-day walk from the coast of Joppa to the hills of Bethlehem.

CHAPTER 9

After two days of walking and sleeping on hillsides, Nicholas and his new friends had just a half day left before they reached Bethlehem. For Nicholas, his excitement was building with every hill they passed, as he was getting closer and closer to the holy place he most wanted to see, the birthplace of Jesus.

“Why do you think He did it?” asked Dimitri. “I mean, why would Jesus want to come hereto earth? If I were already in heaven, I think I’d want to stay there.”

Even though Dimitri was supposed to be the guide, he didn’t mind asking as many questions as he could, especially when he was guiding someone like Nicholas, which didn’t happen very often.

Nicholas didn’t mind his asking, either, as Nicholas had done the same thing back home. His parents belonged to a community of believers that had been started about 250 years earlier by the Apostle Paul himself when Paul had visited their neighboring city of Myra on one of his missionary journeys, telling everyone who would listen about Jesus. Paul had lived at the same time as Jesus, although Paul didn’t become a believer himself until after Jesus died and rose again from the dead. Paul’s stories were always remarkable.

Nicholas got to hear all of the stories that Paul had told while he was in Myra, as they were written down and repeated by so many others over the years.

As a child, Nicholas thought that anything that happened 250 years ago sounded like ancient history. But as he started to get a little older, and now that his parents had passed away, too, it didn’t seem that long ago at all. The stories that Nicholas heard were the same stories his father and his grandfather and his great grandfather, back to six or seven generations, had heard, some for the very first time from the Apostle Paul in person. Nicholas loved to hear them over and over, and he asked many of the same questions that Dimitri was now asking himlike why would Jesus leave heaven to come down to earth in person.

“The simple answer is because He loved us,” said Nicholas. “But that alone probably doesn’t answer the question you’re really asking, because God has always loved us. The reason Jesus came to earth was, well, because there are some things that need to be done in person.”

Nicholas went on to explain the gospel–the good news–to the children of how Jesus came to pay the ultimate price with His life for anything we had ever done wrong, making a way for us to come back to God with a clean heart, plus live with Him in heaven forever.

Throughout the story, the children stared at Nicholas with rapt attention. Although they had been to Bethlehem many times before and had often taken people to the cave that was carved into the hillside where it was said that Jesus was born, they had never pictured it in their minds quite like this before. They had never understood the motivations behind why God did what He did. And they had never really considered that the stories they heard about Jesus being God in the flesh were true. How could He be?

Yet hearing Nicholas’ explanation made so much sense to them, that they wondered why they had never considered it as true before. In those moments, their hearts and minds were finally opened to at least the possibility that it was true. And that open door turned out to be the turning point for each of them in their lives, just as it had been for Nicholas when he first heard the Truth. God really did love them, and God had demonstrated that love for them by coming to the earth to save them from their certain self-destruction.

For Nicholas, when he first heard about the love of the Father for him, the idea was fairly familiar to him because he had already had a good glimpse of what the love of a father looked like from the love of his own father. But to Dimitri, Samuel and Ruthie, who had never had a father, much less one like Nicholas had just described, it was simultaneously one of the most distantly incomprehensible, yet wonderfully alluring descriptions of love they had ever heard.

As they made their way through the hills toward Bethlehem, they began to skip ahead as fast as their hearts were already skipping, knowing that they would soon see again the place where God had, as a Man, first touched earth less than 300 years earlier. They would soon be stepping onto ground that was indeed holy.

CHAPTER 10

It was evening when they finally arrived at their destination. Dimitri led them through the city of Bethlehem to the spot where generations of pilgrims had already come to see the place where Jesus was born: a small cave cut into the hillside where animals could easily have been corralled so they wouldn’t wander off.

There were no signs to mark the spot, no monuments or buildings to indicate that you were now standing on the very spot where the God of the universe had arrived as a child. It was still dangerous anywhere in the Roman Empire to tell others you were a Christian, even though the laws against it were only sporadically enforced.

But that didn’t stop those who truly followed Christ from continuing to honor the One whom they served as their King. Although Jesus taught that His followers were to still respect their earthly rulers, if forced to choose between worshipping Christ or worshipping Caesar, both the Christians and Caesar knew who the Christians would worship. So the standoff continued.

The only indication that this was indeed a holy site was the well-worn path up the hill that made its way into and out of the cave. Tens of thousands of pilgrims had already made their way to this spot during the past 250 years. It was well known to those who lived in Bethlehem, for it was the same spot that had been shown to pilgrims from one generation to the next, going back to the days of Christ.

As Dimitri led the three others along the path to the cave, Nicholas laughed, a bit to himself, and a bit out loud. The others turned to see what had made him burst out so suddenly. He had even surprised himself! Here he was at the one holy site he most wanted to see, and he was laughing.

Nicholas said, “I was just thinking of the wise men who came to Bethlehem to see Jesus. They probably came up this very hill. How regal they must have looked, riding on their camels and bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. For a moment I pictured myself as one of those kings, riding on a camel myself. Then I stepped in some sheep dung by the side of the road. The smell brought me back in an instant to the reality that I’m hardly royalty at all!”

“Yes,” said Ruthie, “but didn’t you tell us that the angels spoke to the shepherds first, and that they were the first ones to go and see the baby? So smelling a little like sheep dung may not make you like the kings, but it does make you like those who God brought to the manger first!”

“Well said, Ruthie,” said Nicholas. “You’re absolutely right.”

Ruthie smiled at her insight, and then her face produced another thoughtful look. “But maybe we should still bring a gift with us, like the wise men did?” The thought seemed to overtake her, as if she was truly concerned that they had nothing to give to the King. He wasn’t there anymore to receive their gifts, of course, but still she had been captivated by the stories about Jesus that Nicholas had been telling them along the road. She thought that she should at least bring Him some kind of gift.

“Look!” she said, pointing to a spot on the hill a short distance away. She left the path and within a few minutes had returned with four small, delicate golden flowers, one for each of them. “They look just like gold to me!”

She smiled from ear to ear now, giving each one of them a gift to bring to Jesus. Nicholas smiled as well. There’s always something you can give, he thought to himself. Whether it’s gold from a mine or gold from a flower, we only bring to God that which is already His anyway, don’t we? 

So with their gifts in hand, they reached the entrance to the caveand stepped inside.

CHAPTER 11

Nothing could have prepared Nicholas for the strong emotion that overtook him as he entered the cave.

On the ground in front of him was a makeshift wooden manger, a feeding trough for animals probably very similar to the one in which Jesus had been laid the night of His birth. It had apparently been placed in the cave as a simple reminder of what had taken place there. But the effect on Nicholas was profound.

One moment he had been laughing at himself and watching Ruthie pick flowers on the hillside and the next moment, upon seeing the manger, he found himself on his knees, weeping uncontrollably at the thought of what had taken place on this very spot.

He thought about everything he had ever heard about Jesusabout how He had healed the sick, walked on water and raised the dead. He thought about the words Jesus had spokenwords that echoed with the weight of authority as He was the Author of life itself. He thought about his own parents who had put their lives on the line to serve this Man called Jesus, who had died for him just as He had died for them, giving up their very lives for those they loved.

The thoughts flooded his mind so fully that Nicholas couldn’t help sobbing with deep, heartfelt tears. They came from within his very soul. Somewhere else deep inside him, Nicholas felt stirred like he had never felt in his life. It was a sensation that called for some kind of response, some kind of action. It was a feeling so different from anything else he had ever experienced, yet it was unmistakably clear that there was a step he was now supposed to take, as if a door were opening before him and he knew he was supposed to walk through it. But how?

As if in answer to his question, Nicholas remembered the golden flower in his hand. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do, and he wanted more than anything to do it.

He took the flower and laid it gently on the ground in front of the wooden manger. The golden flower wasn’t just a flower anymore. It was a symbol of his very life, offered up now in service to his King.

Nicholas knelt there for several minutes, engulfed in this experience that he knew, even in the midst of it, would affect him for the rest of his life. He was oblivious to anything else that was going on around him. All he knew was that he wanted to serve this King, this Man who was clearly a man in every sense of the word, yet was clearly one and the same with God as well, the very essence of God Himself.

As if slowly waking from a dream, Nicholas began to become aware of his surroundings again. He noticed Dimitri and Samuel on his left and Ruthie on his right, also on their knees. Having watched Nicholas slip down to his knees, they had followed suit. Now they looked alternately, back and forth between him and the manger in front of him.

The waves of emotion that had washed over Nicholas were now washing over them as well. They couldn’t help but imagine what he was experiencing, knowing how devoted he was to Jesus and what it had willingly cost Nicholas’ parents to follow Him. Each of them, in their own way, began to experience for themselves what such love and devotion must feel like.

Having watched Nicholas place his flower in front of the manger, they found themselves wanting to do the same. If Jesus meant so much to Nicholas, then certainly they wanted to follow Jesus as well. They had never in their entire lives experienced the kind of love that Nicholas had shown them in the past three days. Yet somehow they knew that the love that Nicholas had for them didn’t originate with Nicholas alone, but from the God whom Nicholas served. If this was the kind of effect that Jesus had on His followers, then they wanted to follow Jesus, too.

Any doubts that Nicholas had had about his faith prior to that day were all washed away in those timeless moments. Nicholas had become, in the truest sense of the word, a Believer. 

And from those very first moments of putting his faith and trust fully in Jesus, he was already inspiring others to do the same.

To be continued…next week!

(Or if you can’t wait, here’s a link to keep reading the rest of the story online OR you can get the paperback or eBook as a gift for yourself or others in our online bookstore.)

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

 

Here are a few pictures of the Holy Land (taken by my daughter, Makari on a trip we took there a few years ago): a waterfall in the mountains of En Gedi where David fled from King Saul, an unmarked tomb by the side of a road, and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Jesus once walked, taught, and touched people’s lives 2,000 years ago.

And here’s a short video clip I took while visiting Bethlehem, showing the star on the ground which has been shown to believers since the days of St. Nicholas as the location of the stable where Jesus was born. A church was first built over this spot just a few dozen years after the real St. Nicholas visited there.

Click here to see inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Don’t be afraid to desire great mercies from the God of heaven.

John Bunyan


This Day's Verse

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Though weary, love is not tired;
Though pressed, it is not straitened;
Though alarmed, it is not confounded.
Love securely passes through all.

Thomas Kempis


We have begun our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting this ministry financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministry as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

If you check out the life of Jesus you will discover what made him perfect.  He did not attain a state of perfection by carrying around in his pocket a list of rules and regulations, or by seeking to conform to the cultural mores of his time.  He was perfect because he never made a move without his Father.

Tom Skinner


This Day's Verse

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23
The Revised Standard Version


We have begun our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting this ministry financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministry as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

No sorrow touches man until it has been filtered through the heart of God.

Joseph D. Blinco


This Day's Verse

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

The soul is not where it lives but where it loves.

Thomas Fuller 


We have begun our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting this ministry financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to strengthen and expand our ministry as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday and Update from Eric

Update from Eric Elder: Today’s “Thoughts” follow this brief update, but I wanted to let you know we’ve received $5,145.30 so far from 67 of our wonderful subscribers…

Donations as of 11-13-2018

As you can see from this chart, the donations have ranged from $5 to $1,000, and each one is significant in helping us to reach our goal.

Would you consider joining these others in our efforts to send these daily words of encouragement to over 40,000 people over 160 countries? Our goal is to raise $60,000 by the end of the year, and every donation gets us that much closer!

Thanks so much for your help and for your notes of encouragement like these:

“Your ministry has blessed me for many years and I’m in a better place because of it.”

“With love and gratitude for your ministry which has been of great support and joy to me in what has been a very difficult year.”

“Thanks again for the inspiration of this week’s sermon and daily thoughts. They are always a source of encouragement, a blessing, and a reminder of God’s love and interest in our lives. May God continue to bless your ministry.”

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


This Day's Thought from The RanchThe storm was raging.  The sea was beating against the rocks in huge, dashing waves.  The lightning was flashing, the thunder was roaring, the wind was blowing; but the little bird was sound asleep in the crevice of the rock, its head tucked serenely under its wing.  That is peace: to be able to sleep in the storm!  In Christ we are relaxed and at peace in the midst of the confusions, bewilderments and perplexities of this life.  The storm rages, but our hearts are at rest.  We have found peace—at last!

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

Galatians 3:2
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works.

Psalm 26:7
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Because of a friend, life is a little stronger, fuller, more gracious thing for the friend’s existence, whether he be near or far.  If the friend is close at hand, that is best; but if he is far away he still is there to think of, to wonder about, to hear from, to write to, to share life and experience with, to serve, to honor, to admire, to love.

Arthur Christopher Benson


We have begun our year-end fundraising efforts, where we invite our readers to participate in supporting this ministry financially. In preparation of our next year, we would so value and appreciate your prayers and your donations, as we seek to expand and strengthen our ministry as we go forward together. Thank you!

Click here to make a donation.

Or send your gift to:
Eric Elder Ministries, 25615 E 3000 North Road, Chenoa, IL 61726 USA


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