This Week’s Sermon From Bruce Ball; The Golden Rule

This Day's Thought

 

The Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12

by Bruce Ball

I am sure that all of us have shopped at J.C. Penney at some time or other, but I want to tell you something that you probably did not know about Penney’s. It used to be known as “the Golden Rule store”. In fact, when Mr. Penney first started, his first several stores were called that.
Mr. Penney did not like to use the word “employee.” He called those that worked for him, “Associates”. He treated them just as well as he would like to be treated, too. He was able to take a general store in 1902, and build it into a multi-billion dollar business, because he actually lived the Golden Rule.
Mr. Penny tried his best to always treat people like he wanted to be treated. He treated them with love, respect, kindness, understanding and encouragement.
Do you try to treat others in your life like this – or not? Our normal instinct is to think that we would be nicer to others if they would show these attributes to us, isn’t it? But, that’s the Problem. Jesus didn’t say, “Treat people with the same Respect that they treat you.” He said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do to them.”
And for us to be able to do that, we must love our fellow man. And that is impossible unless Jesus Christ is at the center of our hearts, as it is only through Him that we find enough love to love other people.
MATTHEW 5:43-44 tells us,
“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ I tell you, ‘Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”
We are commanded to love everyone. That is how Jesus lived on this earth, and if we are Christians, we must strive to be like Christ. How will the world know that we are Christians?
They will not know that by reading a sign over our doors. They will only know that by the love we have in our hearts for other people.

 

Andrew Murray said,

“My relationship with God is part of my relationship with men. Failure in one will cause failure in the other.”

 

“The most important thing my dad taught me is that there are more important things than me.”

 

There is an old saying that goes,

“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae away from a kick in the pants, but the results are much better.”
1. HAS YOUR ATTITUDE BEEN GOLDEN LATELY?

 

Have you been able to show the Golden Rule in your attitude lately? Many people will say they can do that with ease, “if only” –

 

· If only they measure up to my standards

· If only they do things my way
· If only, if only, if only

Jesus did not say to do these things “if only” they do something for you first. He commanded us to love people, even when they didn’t meet any of our high and mighty criteria.

 

There was a man once sitting by a tree near a creek, reading his Bible. Something caught his eye and he looked to see a scorpion caught between two roots of the tree.

 

The man reached over to help the scorpion loose, but each time he tried to grab it, the scorpion tried to sting him. A man who was standing nearby watching this said, “Don’t you know it is the scorpion’s nature to sting? Why don’t you just forget it and let it die there?”

 

The man smiled and looked up and replied, “Should it be necessary that I change my nature to accommodate someone else’s nature? The scorpion may sting, but I help, that is my nature.” When God’s love fills your heart, you cannot help but share it – with all things.

 

Jesus knew there are two ways of giving. One way is to give in hopes that you will get something out of it. That is like the man who bought his wife a ping-pong table for her birthday.

 

He knew she wanted it, but he expected to use it as much as she did. In effect, he didn’t just give to her, he gave to her with the expectation that he would have it, too. When we give with expectations of getting something back, we aren’t really giving in the first place.

 

The other way is to give with absolutely no expectation of getting anything back. That is what Jesus is talking about. That is the best way to show your love is to freely give, just because you want someone else to be fulfilled in some way. You sacrifice your own feelings for someone else’s feelings.

 

What you feel on the inside of your heart determines what you show on the outside of your attitude.

 

In PHILIPPIANS 2:5, it says

 

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Has your attitude towards others been golden lately?
2. DO YOU HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF SUCCESS?

 

Jesus made a statement that is perhaps the most important Key to Success that you will ever encounter. It is so basic that even a child can understand it, yet it is so profound that none of us can live up to it without the power of Jesus.

 

What is the statement that Jesus made? It is the one that most of us learned as children. It is in MATTHEW 7:12.

 

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sum’s up the law and the Prophets.”

 

Jesus’ whole ministry was one of seeking the blessings of God. But right in the middle of it, He seems to have thrown us a curve ball. Now, not only do we have to live in right standing with Him, but we also have to live in right standing with other people. He is basically telling us that if we treat others as good as we want to be treated, we will receive God’s blessings for doing that.

 

We are evaluated by God, and rewarded in direct proportion to the way we treat and feel about other people. That is scary, isn’t it? But to be successful as Christians, we must do this.

 

There is a story of a young boy who had been invited to attend a friend’s birthday party and was eagerly awaiting the day he could go. On that day, however, there was a near blizzard outside, and his father thought it was too dangerous for him to walk the short 3 blocks to his friends house, and it was much too dangerous to drive the boy.

 

The little boy reacted tearfully and begged his father to let him go. Finally, the father recanted and gave his permission. The boy bundled himself up started walking down the street. The wind and snow blew so hard against him that what should have only taken 10 minutes took nearly an hour.

 

Finally, the boy got to the house. As he rang the doorbell, he looked back to see the shadowy figure of his father disappearing into the snow. His father had followed every footstep to make sure the boy was safe.

 

It is all about sacrifice, isn’t it? When we are able to sacrifice what we want; what we need; what we think; so that we can freely give to someone else what they want or need, we have proven ourselves successful as a Christian.

 

Has your attitude been one of success in Christ lately?
3. HOW DO YOU NORMALLY TREAT OTHERS?

 

A brother and sister were in the attic looking through the letters their parents had written to each other many years ago. The boy asked, “Are you sure these belong to mom and dad?” The sister assured him that they did. He then told her, “That’s not the names they call each other now!”

Did you know that each time you talk negative to your spouse, you are actually robbing him or her of some of their self-worth? Yet, how many times do we come home very tired or get busy concentrating on something just to snap at the other?

 

In those situations, we would never think about saying that we didn’t love them, so why are we talking to them in such a way that says it to them?

The marriage counselor told the husband to start being more attentive to the wife and start treating her with more love. So, one day he comes home a little early with a dozen roses in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other.

 

His wife opens the door, sees him and burst into tears. In between sobs, she says, “Little Johnny threw up, your parents called and said they were coming over for dinner, and to top it all off, you come home drunk!”

This describes too many people today. Now, if we cannot treat our families better than that, how are we going to be able to treat other people better than that?

 

In PHILIPPIANS 2:4-5, we are told how our attitudes are supposed to be.

‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.’

 

IN CONCLUSION
A farmer must sow his seeds before he is able to reap a crop. Likewise, we must sow our seeds before we can reap our crops. The difference is the seed a farmer uses might be corn or wheat. The seeds we sow are the seeds of love from our hearts, and the crop we reap are the rewards of God’s love for us.

 

It is a process that begins in our thoughts. What we think about becomes our primary focus. Our primary focus will soon seep into our words and very quickly, our words reinforces that focus into our actions.

 

There is a quicker way of saying it: Garbage in – Garbage out. And, it works every single time.

 

Someone once said, “If you will cheat in practice, you will cheat in the game. If you cheat other people, you will cheat God. And when you cheat God, you really cheat yourself.”

 

Another person said, “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap your eternity.”

The farmer cannot expect to reap a crop of corn if he plants the seed of wheat. You reap what you sow. What have you been sowing for the Lord lately?

 

Little Chad was in 2nd grade. He was a little slower than the other children and that made them shun Chad.

 

A couple of weeks before Valentines’ Day, Chad came home and told his mother that he wanted to make cards for everyone in his class. She knew how they treated her son, but she helped him make 35 cards.

 

On Valentine’s Day, she waited by the curb for the school bus to bring him home. When it got there, she saw all the kids laughing and getting off the bus, and then she saw Chad walking by himself near the back of the bus.

When he got off the bus, he was very happy, and told his mother that he didn’t forget a single classmate, that he remembered them all. They still shunned Chad, but he remembered each one of them with a card.

 

Will the VICTORY SINGERS please come back on stage?

 

We have shunned Jesus Christ from the very beginning, too, but He has remembered each one of us in His love. And He wants us to show that love to other people, too, just like Chad did – for the sake of loving, not for the purpose of receiving anything back.

 

Obedience is not always easy. His classmates were not treating that little boy very well. But he treated them the way he wanted to be treated, no the way he was being treated. That little boy was living the Golden Rule. How many of us can say the same thing?

 

If this lost and hurting world is going to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it will not be from some epiphany of sorts. It will be from people like you and me showing the love of Christ to others from our hearts.

 

I spoke this morning about the necessity of being in church. We must be careful, though, because there is a lie sweeping our nation that says,

“I accepted Jesus years ago and was baptized, so I am still saved today.” Let us be very careful with how we choose to believe that lie. And, let us be just as careful with having the absolute knowledge that we are saved rather than thinking we are.

 

Do you remember the man I told you about who tried to free that scorpion so it could live? Jesus came to earth in hopes of freeing us so that we might also live.

This Week’s Sermon From Tom Fuller; How Do I Get To Heaven?

This Day's Thought

 

How Do You Get To Heaven?

Matthew 19:13-19:28

by Tom Fuller

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat is very small. A little girl in class stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, ”When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked, ”What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, ”Then you ask him”.
Kids have some wild ideas about heaven and how to get there – but when it really comes down to it, they possess a secret that we all need. When it really comes down to it – this is the most basic question of all – how to get to heaven – or, really, how to live forever.
Men have searched for thousands of years for the fountain of youth – today we think that we’ve found it in cloning. Of course, cloning isn’t creating life, it’s just playing around with it once its created and scientists are finding some disturbing things about cloning that make it not so much the fountain of youth that it was once thought to be.
But we know that if we get to heaven we will live forever. Despite lots of evidence to the contrary, many people have some strange ideas about how to get there. Today we’re going to meet one – but before that happens, Matthew shares a short story of kids coming to Jesus – and its very instructive when compared to the encounter with the man who wants to know the way to live forever.
13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Children were thought of as very incidental in that society – and Jesus’ disciples apparently thought their Master’s time was worth more. You are probably aware that this part of the world was at that time a patriarchal society – men ruled the roost. Women were secondary – a distant second – and children were way way below that.
Who do you suppose brought these kids to the Lord? Probably their parents, perhaps. The word “children” here can mean anyone from babies to pre-teens. Imagine you are one of these parents – perhaps hoping that Jesus will bless your child – laying hands of blessing wasn’t uncommon – but children? The disciples, whose heads were at times still too big for their hat size – rebuked them. Now look at Jesus’ response.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Notice that this is a double command – “let … [them] come” and “do not hinder them.” Kids are sometimes a bother – demanding, impatient, scattered – ever try to have a prolonged conversation with a three year old? So even though we don’t treat children like they did in the 1st century – we still sometimes dismiss them – we have more important things to do than follow their scattered attentions. Not that we should just do whatever a child tells us – but we should take time to spend time with them – and learn from them.
Jesus wants them to come to Him and look what He says: “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” There is something in these kids that reveals the way to heaven. We’ll look at what it is in a moment – but first another encounter – with someone who is not a child – but, as verse 22 tells us – was a “young man.” This could mean anyone under 40 – folks – but was probably a youth who thought he had lots of assets, but really had nothing at all.
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Notice this guy’s approach – he’s looking at heaven as something he can purchase, and as we’re going to see, was looking not so much for information but confirmation. Jesus, as usual, bears right in on the heart of the matter.
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good.
Jesus is here referring to God – He is saying so much in that one little phrase “There is only One who is good.”
Jesus is telling the man that goodness doesn’t come from him but from God.
He’s forcing the man to confront just who God is – if Jesus is the source of goodness then Jesus is from God – a vital core thing to understand and embrace in the quest for human life.
Jesus is also changing the focus – from works to relationship. He’s trying to get the man to think about God, not just about himself.
This probably went right over the guy’s big head – so Jesus goes on to engage him in a philosophical discussion.
If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
This is true, of course – live up to all of the requirements of the law and you will go to heaven. There is only one problem – none of us can do it.
Paul says in Romans 3:10 “There are none that are righteous, no not one.”
We’ve all failed – in verse 23 he says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Hebrews 7:19 says the law has made nothing perfect.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
But this is a smart guy Jesus is dealing with here – he hears Jesus say obey the commandments – but he wants a more specific list. It’s like he’s a contract administrator or a lawyer trying to box God in.
18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.
I can just picture Jesus turning his head towards this guy, raising one eyebrow and sort of shaking His head gently.
Maybe He was tempted to say “you don’t know what you’re asking.” How many times do we play “let’s make a deal” with God. We say: “well if I go to church every Sunday and pay my tithes, then I can earn the right to sin a little bit and it won’t count so much against me.” Or we tell God that if He gives us what we want we’ll be sooooo obedient. Or we say to ourselves – if I steal but don’t murder then I’m not as bad as some …. Its ridiculous. And watch how Jesus answers.
Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus just answers him – five of the ten commandments – numbers 5 through 9 – and then he adds Leviticus 19:18 about loving your neighbor, which the Jews believed summed up the last five commandments. Again, all of these have to do with relationships – relationship is the key. But look how the guy reacts:
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
The guy is obviously mistaken but believes he has kept all of the commands – yet realizes that there is something missing. “What do I still lack?” he asks. Is that not the central question that we all face? When we’ve done it all – had all the riches and glory and fun, or when we’ve obeyed God and been so good we’ve got a halo over our heads – we realize that it’s simply not enough. That’s because what we lost in the Garden of Eden was a relationship with God.
After Adam and Eve obeyed Satan rather than God they hid from the Lord – fellowship was broken and man was driven out of the garden. At that time God promised that He Himself would repair the relationship – the law serving to point us to Jesus Christ who gave up His life in order to return us to fellowship with God – but it comes in relationship to how perfectly we obey the law but whether we have a relationship with a perfect Savior.
The guy asks “what do I lack?” and so Jesus answers – no more playing around, this is the real nut of the issue.
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the word “perfect” here – and in chapter 5 where He says “Be perfect, even as you heavenly Father is perfect.” It can also be translated mature, or full grown.
This guy thought he had come pretty far and was obedient to God – but Jesus is bursting his bubble and showing him just how far from God he really is. We do this – we don’t fall into a temptation or we do some good deed and we think – “man, I’m something special.” But it’s like giving a guy a toy camcorder and telling him he’s a film director.
God says His worst is better than our best. Our good deeds are like oil rags to God. And that’s the point – not to put us down or drive us away – but to show us that the standard for eternal life is God – NOT us.
Jesus tells the guy to sell your possessions and give to the poor – and I think that’s all the guy heard.
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The real deal – the real core of the issue were in the last three words: “come follow Me.” That’s all Jesus wants – that is the way to eternal life. Its not through external obedience to a set of rules, it’s not through having a bunch of money – in fact, having possessions can actually keep you from God. It’s a relationship – it’s a realization that are nothing special but that God is something special.
Selling his possessions wouldn’t give the guy eternal life – but it was what was standing in the way of his relationship. The question all of us must answer is: what is standing in the way of our coming to Jesus? Is it riches, or the promise of riches? Is it popularity or a favorite sin or fear of rejection or self righteousness? We all have to give up something – not that we’re earning our way – but for all of us there is something that stands in the way – sometimes its just pride.
“I don’t need a savior,” we say. Let it go – it’s not worth it for what you stand to gain – and what you stand to lose by NOT coming to Jesus. Whatever God tells us to give up we need to give that up and come to Him. Repent and believe – it’s the gospel – leave the past behind and go to Him.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
“Hard,” Jesus said – not impossible. Riches make it hard because they engender self sufficiency. If we don’t see any needs we don’t see our need for God. Our physical comfort masks our spiritual poverty.
Jesus wrote to the church at Laodicea:
Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
With the camel thing – Jesus is talking in hyperbole – the point is: if you’re not willing to give up that thing that keeps you from God you aren’t going to be able or willing, really, to come to God. Riches was an idol for the young man – what is your idol? What is that thing that you serve or bow down your life to?
The disciples were understandably concerned:
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Notice the contrast – man=impossible, God=possible. No matter what we try to do to earn God’s favor it will not get us to heaven or earn us eternal life. Period. But when God reached down to us – initiated the relationship, gave His Son for US – it becomes possible. It’s still the same point – self reliance is self deception. We must rely on God for it all – our forgiveness, our salvation, our righteousness.
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Peter and the boys did what the rich young ruler was not willing to do – give up all and follow Jesus. So he was naturally curious – what do we get, anyway?
28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Jesus is really saying quite a bit here – much of which the disciples wouldn’t have understood at the time. He’s talking about at the second coming, when the disciples – and the church, really – will help Christ rule the earth.
But I like what He says next – everything you leave behind here, will be repaid a hundred fold in heaven. Wow – what a promise. Now, that doesn’t mean as the Quoran mistakenly asserts – that in heaven martyrs will get 70 virgins to themselves. We as humans can sometimes only see things in human terms. Jesus is talking about spiritual blessings – and even though we can’t understand them – when we are in heaven we will realize how totally appropriate and totally wonderful the gifts God gives are.
Conclusion
In conclusion I want to point out two very simple contrasts between the children at the beginning of this section – and the rich young ruler – and how this paints a picture for us as we decide how radically we want to follow Jesus Christ.
The difference between children and this young man are two-fold.
Your image of yourself
Your image of your stuff
If you’ve ever noticed, children tend to get their self image from their parents – they depend on them to feed them, clothe them, keep them safe, and nurture them. If they are abused they pull into themselves, if they are nourished they flourish – but it is up to the parents to give the child their sense of self.
For the rich young ruler – his image of himself was blown up and was plain wrong. He thought he was something when he was nothing. Who do you get your self image from – how great you think you are, how intelligent or powerful or popular or good? We need to get our self image from our Father – relying on Him to provide for everything we need including our sense of self.
Secondly, children really don’t have anything to hold them back from following the Lord. Now, I’m not talking about toys that they selfishly hold on to – but as we grow up we have a tendency to collect things – possessions, degrees, property, careers, friends – and then when it comes time to decide whether we’re going to give it all up if necessary – it’s hard.

My encouragement to those of you who have not yet made a decision to follow Jesus – give it up – it’s worth it. Everything you give up He will replenish. Don’t let stuff cause you miss out on the greatest treasure of all: Jesus. For the rest of us, the stuff of this world can still choke out our real reward – don’t let it happen to you.
You know – in the end it’s all about relationships – that’s what we’re really going to care about in heaven – first a relationship with Jesus, and then relationships with our brothers and sisters – showing love and kindness and caring now, that will build lasting relationships that will bear fruit into eternity.

 

This Week’s Sermon By Dennis Davidson; God’s Hidden Treasure

This Day's Thought

 

God‘s Hidden Treasure

By Dennis Davidson

Colossians 2:1-2:5

A British TREASURE HUNTER discovered a huge stash of Roman coins buried in a field in southwest England. Using a metal detector, Dave Crisp located a large pot holding 52,000 coins. These ancient silver and bronze coins dated from the third century AD weigh more than 350 pounds. They were valued at $5 million.

While Crisp’s treasure may cause us to dream about somehow finding similar riches, we as Christians should be on a different kind of treasure hunt. What we seek does not consist of silver and gold. Rather our quest is to gather the precious gems or wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).

The Bible is God’s Word to the world. It is God’s treasure chest. If we are to find God’s treasure we must find Jesus. The surest place to find Jesus is in the Bible. As we get to know Jesus we discover the hidden treasure of God. If we truly are to get to know Jesus we must be immersed in His Word, and be led His Spirit.

God’s truths must be sought earnestly with all the attention of someone seeking hidden treasure. The psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure” (Ps. 119:162). Are you eager to discover the treasures of truth stored in God’s Word? Then lets start digging into the treasure chest of God’s eternal Word!

Our text contains a warning against the subtle mixing of Christian thought with the false philosophies of the world. Knowledge is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is foundational for the Christian life.
I. GOD’S MYSTERY, 1-2.
II. GOD’S TREASURE, 3.
III. GOD’S STABILIZING, 4-5.
We Christians are the channel through which the presence and power of the indwelling Christ flows into the life of others and into the world. This happens in two ways: through our prayers and our presence. Verse 1 elaborates the importance of intercessor prayer. “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,”
The Greek word translated “conflict” or struggle in verse 1 is agôna, from which we get our word “agony”(struggling; 1:29; 4:12). It denotes strenuous activity, here indicating deep and earnest intercession. The spiritual powers that Paul wrestled to keep the work from defeat were real and resolved therefore he had to come against them with the power of prayer. He was strenuously exerting himself in prolonged, penetrating intercession and attentive receptive listening for God’s answer concerning what he should be praying.

Paul’s labor of love was not limited to those he personally knew; it extended to those who had not met him personally. He might be confined in a roman prison, but his love and prayers were not confide in a small, selfish, dark heart.
In verse 2 we have the stated purpose of Paul’s intercession. He agonize in prayer that the church would be knit together in their love for Jesus Christ and each other. “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the riches that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,”
Though Paul could not be with them he could still minister to them by prayer and by the written word. He prays that the Colossians will be “encouraged,” that they will be “knit together in love,” that they will experience the “assurance of understanding.” Who needs our intercession to these ends?

Love is what united this congregation. It was what encouraged them to oppose those leading them astray. This unifying love for Christ gave them confidence and strength of conviction that yielded a fuller understanding of the truth. Do you realize that there is no full knowledge apart from commitment to Christ? Complete understanding results from complete yielding.

Understanding or insight (syneseôs) refers to applying biblical principles to everyday life. Only Christians can live a life based on true understanding because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Because “those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5), they are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18).

When the believer begins to live in light of spiritual truth, it becomes truly understood and leads to assurance of his or her faith. Here the New Testament concludes that knowing the truth and acting on it leads to full assurance of understanding.

[People often express doubts about their salvation, even though they have been to church regularly. Their primary problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a failure to apply the truths they know. Truth that finds solid footing in a strong heart and works itself out to fellow believers in love results in deep conviction. That is the basis for assurance. [MacArthur, NT Com. Colossians. 90.]]

This rich understanding is Christ centered. For Christ, is the mystery of God, who reveals God to man (John 1:18; Heb. 1:2-3). Knowledge is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is foundational for the Christian life. And true insight into God’s ways enables believers to know (epignôsin) Christ fully.

The Bible say that we find our completeness in Christ. If you possess Him, then you are completed or fulfilled by being possessed by Him. Having Him, you have all you need. We are called upon to appropriate God’s fullness for ourselves by yielding ourselves to the indwelling Christ.
II. GOD’S TREASURE, 3.
The supreme reality of God is revealed in Jesus Christ in whom are all the treasures of existence both now and eternal. Verse 3 is the bottom line. “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
True treasure, eternal treasure, is found only in Christ. The word “treasure” is the Greek word “thesauros,” from which we get our word thesaurus which refers to a treasury of words. In the original the word referred to a treasure chest or storehouse where a great treasure was kept.

Spiritual truth is often hidden. The treasure of the kingdom is unrecognized, unknown, and walked over by millions of people. People can be standing close to it and not know it’s there. While those who follow Christ know how valuable a relationship with Him is, most of the world has no clue. The bulk of unbelievers are caught up in other pursuits, oblivious to the true treasure that could be theirs. If you’re serious about spiritual matters, you must be willing to go below the surface.

I want to help you to discover the treasure that you have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many years ago, the SPANISH ARMADA was sailing off the coast of Florida. A hurricane struck, and those ships that were laden with millions of dollars in gold and silver ingots went to the bottom, in shallow water. People knew the treasure had been lost, but they didn’t know where the ships had gone down. One ship went down near Vero Beach, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Many have been in that water there by the Sebastian Inlet. Many have been in that water, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, spear fishing right around that area but didn’t come up with any millions. They didn’t come up with any silver or any gold. Many ships have been there in shallow water. Fisherman, doubtless, fished over that spot. They would hang a hook, perhaps, on a lump of gold, and curse their luck, because they had hung a hook down beneath the water on something they could not see.

Then one day, some explorers decided, “The ship must be here.” They went out, and they made the surveys; they tested, and they went under. And, there it was, in shallow water-so shallow that any of us who could swim normally could have gone to the bottom. They brought up millions of dollars. There it was, but they didn’t know it was there.

I believe that many of us are yet to discover the full treasure we have in Jesus Christ. Oh, dear friend, in Him-in Jesus Christ-“are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Think of that-all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And it’s all in Jesus. [Illustration by Adrian Rodgers]

For in Him are hidden (Col. 1:26) all the treasures of wisdom (sophia, 1:9) and knowledge. Knowledge is the apprehension of truth; wisdom is its application to life. Knowledge is the data of truth, whereas wisdom is the ability to apply what truth has been learned. Both are found in Christ (Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 12:8) [whose wisdom is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:21-25), but who is the power of God by which a believer receives “righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30)].

Now, how can those treasures be yours? Neither knowledge or wisdom is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation for the Christian life is where knowledge and wisdom begin.

All wisdom, all knowledge is in-not from-Jesus. Whoever desires wisdom to navigate life successfully must come to the realization that there is nothing more, nothing less, nothing else than Jesus. All treasures of wisdom are in Him.

[It is vitally important to understand Christ’s deity. No person can be a Christian at all without this true knowledge of Jesus Christ as the incarnate God. Yet so many Christians who affirm the deity of Christ live as if He were not the One in whom all spiritual sufficiency resides.

Jesus is the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He alone is sufficient. [Hidden is from apokruphos, from which we get our English word apocrypha. It was used by the false leaders to refer to the writings containing their secret knowledge. But] there is no hidden spiritual knowledge needed for salvation and sanctification outside of Christ. These treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ are hidden from all but maturing Christians.]

[Because Christ is sufficient, there is no need for the writings of any cult, philosophy, or psychology to supplement the Bible. He is the source of all true spiritual knowledge. That knowledge is also crucial to assurance because doubts about Christ’s sufficiency bring doubts about His ability to do what He promised.]
The story is told that one day WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST was looking through a book of famous artwork when a painting caught his eye. “I want this painting for my collection,” he said to his aides. But after making some inquiries, they reported that they were unable to locate the particular work.
“If you value your jobs,” Hearst said, “do whatever it takes to find that treasure, and secure it for me immediately.”

Three and a half months later, the aides returned to Hearst. “Did you find the treasure?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied. “After much searching and painstaking research, we found it.”
“Did you purchase it?” he asked.
“No.”
“Why not?” Hearst asked.
“Because we found it in your warehouse.”

If you have Christ you already have all the wisdom and knowledge you will ever need to live life successfully. For it’s all in Christ. When you got Him, you got it all. So stop searching the world for what you already have in Christ.
Most of the problems we face and about which we pray for other are related to a lack of understanding of Christ -what He did, what it means for us, and what is available to us through Him. Everything you need or should want are offered to us in Christ. They are in Christ, but they are hidden in Christ from the eyes of natural man. Do you see them? Or are they and their eternal worth hidden from you?

[The treasures of truth in God’s Word are best mined with the spade of meditation. If we read the Word of God hurriedly or carelessly, we will miss its deep insights.]
III. GOD’S STABILIZING, 4-5.
Verse 4 is a warning against the subtle mixing of Christian thought with the false philosophies of the world. “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
Only this full knowledge and wisdom of Christ can keep a believer from being deceived by fine-sounding arguments [pithanologia, occurring only here in NT, is lit. “persuasive speech” that uses plausible but false arguments]. Truth and persuasion do not always correlate. Error can persuade, and truth can be uncompelling at times. It all depends on whether one has the full truth and a complete commitment to it. [Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy; The Bible Knowledge Commentary.Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, S. 676]

Why is this understanding so important? Because it is the only way to keep from being sucked into “enticing words,” cults, and other dead-end pursuits of pseudo-spirituality. That’s what was happening in Colosse. People were coming on the scene, saying, “What Paul is preaching is fine, but there’s much more.”

“No,” Paul says. “Be steadfast in your pursue of Christ. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.”

Karl Valletin of Munich, Germany, was a master among that rare group of PERFORMING ARTISTS we call clowns. The scene for which he is best remembered took place on a darkened stage illumined only by a solitary circle of light thrown by a street lamp. Valletin, with long-drawn face and deeply worried expression, walks around and around this circle of light, desperately looking for something. A policeman enters the scene and asks, “What have you lost?” “The key to my house,” replies the clown. The policeman then joins the search, but they find nothing. After a while the policeman inquires, “Are you sure that you lost it here?” “No,” says the clown, pointing to a dark corner of the stage, “over there.” “Then why on earth are you looking for it here?” asks the policeman. The reply, “There is no light over there.”

Valletin’s performance is a picture of the snare in which we become entangled. We go to whatever promise of light is available. Not unlike the Colossians, we respond to explanations that appeal to rational thought, to offers of insight that put us and our efforts in the center, to any philosophy that puts us at the center of the mystery. So Paul warned: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (v. 8).

Our present generation is inundated, especially through the persuasive medium of television, with offers to fill our emptiness-from toothpaste and deodorants to where we live and what cars to drive. All of this media manipulation is an expression of overarching philosophies that attempt to offer us meaning. One is hedonism-anything that feels good must be good, so “if it feels good do it.” It is seen in the self-realization philosophy which says that “I am number one,” and in the philosophy of materialism that reduces us to consumers and producers or what we are is what we acquire, and our worth is in our productivity. Then there is astrology, scientific determinism, situational ethics, multiculturalism, values education, moral relativism [voided moral boundaries], escapism, and it goes on and on.

There is no need to look beyond Christ. There is no purpose in pursuing other systems of thought. There is no eternal value in fine sounding arguments and the reasonings of man. There is no value in initiations, secret rites, and mysteries. In Christ is all God’s wisdom and knowledge.

In verse 5 Paul rejoices that the believers are standing firm in their faith in Christ. “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”
Even though Paul was absent from the Colossians, he delighted in how orderly (1 Cor. 14:40) and how firm (steadfast, solid, stable) was their faith in Christ. Like a well disciplined band of soldiers they were growing strong and wise in their faith. They did so through an unshaken reliance on Christ.

Deception has always been part of MILITARY STRATEGY. The British put it to good use during World War II in North Africa against German forces led by General Erwin Rommel.

The Brits constructed pasteboard look-a-likes of tanks and airplanes to deceive the Germans. From the air this fake equipment looked real enough to fool reconnaissance personnel, and it could he easily moved.
Satan, whom Jesus referred to as “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 16:11), is a master deceiver. He was the driving force behind the false leaders who were trying to persuade the Colossians to accept deception as truth.
Followers of Christ today are in a similar battle. How do we defend ourselves against deceivers? Paul used military terms in his comments to the Colossians that can help us to know what to do. First, he commended them for their “good order” which refers to being battle-ready, disciplined soldiers. Second, he spoke of the “steadfastness” of their faith in Christ, which refers to as having a solid front. They had an unshaken commitment to their Lord and to advancing His kingdom.

Don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies. Know the truth of God’s Word, and be battle ready through a disciplined life and an unswerving commitment to Jesus Christ. God’s truth is the best protection against Satan’s lies.
[Ever try to lose weight or get in better shape? Dumb question. Most guys want a fitter physique. Many of us have even purchased some sort of workout equipment. Sales for the home fitness industry totaled $4.3 billion in 2008. But now most of those treadmills and weight machines gather dust.

While a majority of guys fail, some accomplish their goal of body transformation. Their not-so-secret tip for success: Get a workout partner-somebody committed to giving encouragement and getting stronger together.

The same principle works in building spiritual muscle. Many men want to become more Christlike. We join a church but slip into the service on Sunday morning and slip out when it’s over. We don’t connect and don’t experience significant life change. What we need is a spiritual workout partner. Even better might be a group of Christians with similar goals and interests. Paul writes in Colossians 2:2, “I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding.” Believers have always grown stronger in small groups. Small groups provide a place to firm up our faith where we can question, share struggles, build friendships, and help each other through life’s journey.]
CONCLUSION
In this section Paul contends that the mystery of life is in a person, not in philosophy. His argument is against all those who would “deceive you with persuasive words” (v. 4). The mystery of life is in the person of Jesus Christ. True treasure, eternal treasure, is found only in Christ.

The story is told that in the days of the ROMAN EMPIRE, a certain wealthy senator became estranged from his son. When he died unexpectedly, his will was opened. “Because my son does not appreciate what I’ve done, I leave all of my worldly possessions to my loyal slave, Marcellus,” the will read. “However, because I am a man of grace, I bequeath to my son one of my possessions of his choosing.”

“Sorry,” said the testator to the son. “You can only take one of your dad’s possessions. Which will it be?”
“I take Marcellus,” said the son.

Brilliant! That’s the idea. When you take Jesus Christ, you get all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When you open your heart to Him, you find everything you need. It’s all in Him.

Why don’t you wise up today and take Jesus to be your only and all-sufficient Lord and Savior?

This Week’s Sermon From Kelly Randolph

This Day's Thought

The Sweet Fruit of Bitter Times

John 3:1-3:16

by Kelly Randolph

Krispy Kreme donuts are all the rage right now. Many of us have tasted them. Some people will line up and wait for hours to purchase these sweet delights. Let me tell you about the process that leads to a Krispy Kreme donut.

First the little balls of dough are shot through with a piercing blast of air to create a hole. Then they go into the proof box where they ride up and down an elevator in an atmosphere of heat and humidity. This causes the dough to rise. After this, they are dropped into hot oil and boiled thoroughly. After surviving this ordeal, the donuts pass through a cascading waterfall of icing.

Does anyone here today feel like a Krispy Kreme? Do you feel like you have been blasted with air? Do you feel like you have been boiled in oil? Well, remember that these experiences precede the sweet delight that follows. None of us look forward to trials. None of us love hardship. But without them, we will never enjoy the sweet fruit of maturity. A Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.”

Today, as we begin our study of James, we are going to look at the sweet fruit of bitter times.

James introduces his letter.
A. James, the author.
1. He refers to himself as a servant of God and of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
2. His identity is almost surely James, the half brother
of Jesus.
a. He was a leader in the early church of
Jerusalem (Acts 15, 27).
b. He was the brother of Jesus (Mk. 6:3).
c. He was an eyewitness of the resurrection (1
Cor. 15:7).
B. His readers.
1. He refers to them as the “twelve tribes scattered
among the nations.”
a. Christian churches of a predominantly Jewish
character.
b. Christians who were scattered (diaspora)
among Gentile nations.
C. His letter.
1. It is much like OT wisdom literature. It deals with a
variety of subjects which describe how to live an
upright life.
3. It has much in common with the Sermon on the
Mount, i.e. oaths, the tongue, peacemakers.

I. A Proper Attitude Toward Trials (v. 2).
A. What are trials?
1. The term is used to speak of afflictions and
adversities that we encounter in life.
2. These trials are of various kinds. It could be illness, financial reverses, problems at work, persecution for
our faith, etc. They come in all shapes and sizes.
B. Our attitude toward trials.
1. Consider it pure joy. Not part joy and part something
else, but pure joy.
2. It seems quite unnatural for our attitude toward trials
to be pure joy.
3. However, this is a categorical biblical command. We
are commanded to have an attitude of joy in trials.

We must be careful to understand what James is calling for here. He is not suggesting some kind of masochistic happiness in the hurts and losses of life. He is not saying that we are to enjoy being sick, losing a loved one, getting laid off from our job, being persecuted, etc. This is not some weird kind of denial that life often hurts. Some of us here today are hurting. We are suffering. James does not suggest that we manufacture some kind of other-worldly, phony sense of happiness about our troubles. So, what is he suggesting?

There is a reason to be joyful in the midst of trials. It is not being happy about the trouble. It is finding joy in what the trouble produces. It is enjoying the sweet fruit produced only by bitter times.

II. The Powerful Outcome of Trials (vv. 3-4)
A. Consider it all joy…because you know…
1. We know that the testing of our faith produces
perseverance.
a. Testing of your faith. Trials test faith.
1) Not a test to find if faith is there.
2) A test to strengthen faith (1 Pet. 1:7).

In the LXX, this word is used to describe the process of refining silver. It is put into the flames to burn off the impurities and strengthen the quality of the silver. God does not test us to destroy us but to purify and strengthen us.

b. Testing leads to perseverance. The Gk. term
hupomone means to abide under. It refers to
the ability to bear up under a burden. It is the
staying power of the Christian life.

I love this little parable of endurance. It seems that an old dog fell into a farmers well. After considering the situation, the farmer decided that neither the dog nor the well were worth saving. So, he decided to bury the old dog and put him out of his misery. When the farmer began shoveling, the dog was hysterical. But as the farmer kept on shoveling, and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck the old dog. Each time a shovel full of dirt hit his back, the dog would shake off the dirt and step up. So, blow after blow, the dog would shake it off and step up. No matter how painful those shovels of dirt were, the old dog fought panic, he just kept shaking it off and stepping up. Finally, the dog, battered and exhausted stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What he thought would bury him actually benefited him because of the way he handled his adversity.
Perseverance is the ability to shake it off and step up when a load of trials are dumped on you.

B. Perseverance produces maturity.
1. The Greek term is teleion. It speaks of something that
has reached its intended end. Here is refers to the
maturity that perseverance produces.

2. This maturity is further described as “not lacking
anything. The Gk. term speaks of a thing which has
all its necessary parts.
3. A process is implied here. Trials – Perseverance –
Maturity. This is not automatic. It takes time.

Every person here today can think of a trial which he or she has gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.”

But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”

That is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the end result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is through hard times.

The mature Christian life is the sweet fruit of bitter times.

CONCLUSION:

John Eldredge tells the story of a Scottish discus thrower from the 19th century. He lived days before professional trainers and developed his skills alone in the highlands. He made his own discus from the description he read in a book. What he didn’t know was that the competition discus was made of wood with an outer rim of iron. His discus was made of pure metal, four times heavier than the ones used by his would-be challengers. This committed Scotsman trained day after day, laboring under the burden of extra weight. He marked the record distance and kept working until he could throw that far.

Of course, when he arrived at the competition, he was handed the official wooden discus. He threw it like a tea saucer. He set new records and for many years, none of his competitors could touch him.

As Eldredge reflected on this story, he said, “So that’s how you do it – train under a great burden.

Some of us here today are training under a great burden. It hurts. It is unpleasant. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are angry at the burden. But we must always take heart. We must always have a deep sense of joy. Why? Because the burden is producing perseverance. Perseverance is producing maturity. Neither of these virtues so prized by God would ever be ours without the burden.

Dear brother, dear sister, Count it all joy.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – “Brain Washing” In The Best Possible Way!

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
Brain Washing” In The Best Possible Way!

The Conclusion of Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

Romans Cover…….

 

Special note:  Today’s the last day of this seriesRomans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.  But that doesn’t mean it has to be over!  You can now order all 40 lessons from this series in a beautiful paperback book that you can use to review what you’ve learned or to share it with others.  Copies are available simply for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.

 

Also, I’d like to invite you to a special night of “Praise and Feasting” here at Clover Ranch this weekend!  See the two P.S.’s at the end of today’s message for details.  Now here’s the conclusion of our study together…

 

…….

 

My son came home from Bible college a few weeks ago and said some people in his town think that all the kids who go to his school are brainwashed.  My son said, “They’re right!  We are!”

 

Their brains are washed in the best possible way, washed by God Himself, cleansed by His Holy Spirit, and renewed to look more and more like the mind of Christ every day.

 

As we wrap up this study of Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, I wanted to give you some final thoughts on how to keep your “brain washed” in the best possible way, too.

 

First, I want to encourage you to keep reading the Word of God.

 

My wife has been going through chemotherapy the last few months and spending a lot of time reading and memorizing God’s Word.  Once in awhile she’ll read a newspaper or magazine article about cancer and its devastating effects.  It always reminds her how much more hope and joy she has whenever she reads the Bible!  So she picks up her Bible again and starts reading it instead.  We could all do more of that!

 

As God said to the Israelites:

 

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).

 

Some people might think that reading the Bible all the time is like burying your head in the sand and ignoring the problems in your life.  But there’s a difference between burying your head in the sand and burying your head in God’s Word!  Sand leads to suffocation and death, whereas the Bible leads to fresh air and life!

 

If you want to keep your mind as fresh and clean as possible, keep reading God’s Word as much as possible, every day, many times a day.  A pastor was once asked which version of the Bible was the best.  His answer?  “The one you read the most.”  Amen!

 

Second, I want to encourage you to keep surrounding yourself with other Christ-minded believers so they can “re-mind” you of God’s Word, too.

 

I know that there may be times when you may not feel like going to church.  I know that you may not feel like going to Bible studies and getting to know complete strangers.  I know that once you’ve gotten to know those complete strangers, they may do things that annoy you, or irritate you, or make you wonder why you ever bothered going at all.

 

But for all the potential pitfalls of interacting with others, there’s nothing more powerful than having a Christian brother or sister encourage you in your faith and life.

 

As the writer of Ecclesiastes said:

 

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

 

Renewing your mind is hard work, but God doesn’t want you to do it alone.  He wants you to rely on Him, and He wants you to rely on His people, the body of Christ, who all share the same head, Jesus Christ.

 

We got a package in the mail last week that made us cry.  It came from a church we used to attend about 20 years ago.  In the package were a stack of cards from the church members and a check from the church.  We were so overwhelmed by this expression of love and care that we couldn’t even open the stack of cards.

 

When we finally did open them, our tears began to flow again-tears of joy and thankfulness for their thoughts and prayers for us during this time in our lives.  It was such a reminder to us of how the body of Christ works to lift us up in our time of need.

 

While it can be hard at times to invest your time in getting to know other Christ-minded believers, it’s an investment that will pay dividends for you and for them for years to come… for all eternity, in fact!

 

So first, if you want to keep renewing your mind, keep reading God’s Word.  Second, keep surrounding yourself with other Christ-minded believers so they can remind you of God’s Word, too.  And third, always remember that God LOVES you, He is FOR you, and He can work ALL THINGS for good in your life!

 

When I started writing this study almost a year ago, I had no idea what the year might hold.  I had no idea how my life was about to change as my wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Yet, as I’ve been rereading the whole book of Romans again this week, and rereading each of my messages from this past year, I’ve been reminded again just how much God loves me, is for me, and can work all things for good in my life, too.

 

And I’m positive that God loves you, is for you, and can work all things for good in your life.  How can I be so sure?  You don’t take my word for it!  You can take His!  Here are just a few reminders again of what Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

 

“But God demonstrates HIS OWN LOVE FOR US in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:3).

 

“If God is FOR us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).

 

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

 

If you’ve read with me this far, I’m sure that you love God and are called according to His purpose, too, so these words apply to you just as much as they applied to the Romans to whom Paul was writing!  Let God’s Word sink deep into your mind today.  Let Him speak words of love, words of support, and words of encouragement to you every day.

 

If you need a good “brain washing,” I’d encourage you to take some time to read and reread the whole book of Romans again (then take some more time to read and reread the whole Bible again!)  There’s nothing better to help you renew your mind than to wash it with the Word of God.  Surround yourself with other Christ-minded believers who can speak God’s Word into your life as well.  And always remember that God LOVES you, is FOR you, and can work ALL THINGS for your good.

 

As I said at the beginning of this study, one of the most powerful forces in the world in an idea.  Revolutions of all kinds have been sparked by mere ideas and even the smallest ideas can grow to either define… or destroy you.  That’s why it’s so important to make sure your ideas are in line with God’s ideas.

 

As Paul encouraged the Romans, let me encourage you:

 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for speaking to us through this amazing book called Romans.  Thank You for Paul’s faithfulness to write down what he learned from You so he could share it with others.  Help us to be faithful with what we’ve learned so we can apply it to our own lives and to help others apply it to theirs as well.  Wash our minds, cleanse our hearts, and fill us with Your peace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Romans CoverP.S. I hope you’ve enjoyed studying the book of Romans with me through these messages this past year.  If you’d like to get a copy of all 40 of these messages (38 lessons plus the introduction and conclusion), I’ve put them all in an 8×10 paperback book that you can get through our ministry simply for a donation of any size.  Reading and rereading these lessons can be a great way to renew your mind, as each lesson points you back to the Word of God.  Each lesson also comes with a set of “Questions for Reflection” that you can use  renew your mind, or to go through them with a small group to help others renew their minds, too.  As I’ve been rereading these messages myself as I’ve been putting together this book, I’ve been amazed how each lesson continues to speak to me again and again as I’m now going through a whole new set of circumstances in my life.  The As Hebrews 4:12 says, the Word of God really is “living and active,” and God can use it to speak to us in fresh ways every time we read it.  To make a donation to our ministry and get a copy of the book as our way of saying thanks, just click the link below.

Make A Donation and Get A Book! 

P.P.S.  I’d also like to invite you to a special night of “Praise and Feasting” here at Clover Ranch this coming Friday, June 1st at 6 pm Central Time.  Ever since our day of “Prayer and Fasting” for Lana and her health, we’ve wanted to have a night of “Praise and Feasting,” to celebrate all that God is doing in our lives.  There’s no charge, and all you have to do is bring yourself, a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on, and a dish to pass (if you’d like to add it to our feast!)  We’ll be spending our time in praise and worship and encouraging one another in our faith.  There are hotels nearby if you’re coming from out of town.  We’d love to see you if you can make it!  Just send me an email at eric@theranch.org and I’d be glad to send you more details and directions.

 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read  Romans 12:1-2.  The term “brainwashing” is often used in a negative way, referring to someone who has been convinced of something that is untrue.  But in light of today’s study, how can “washing your brain” with God’s Word work in your favor?
2. Who are some people in your life who are so filled with God’s Word that it seems to flow out of them whenever they speak?  What could you do to spend more time learning from and growing together with them?
3. Read Romans 8:28-39.  What verses from this passage stick out in your mind that are particularly helpful to you in your life right now?
4. Skim through the book of Romans again, or take an hour or so to read the whole book again.  Write down any words or phrases that God may be wanting to speak to you.  Hold onto those words and let God use them in the days ahead to continually renew your mind.

 

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Believing And Obeying God

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Believing And Obeying God

Lesson 38 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

Today we’ve reached the conclusion of the book of Romans, the final words of Paul’s letter that punctuate his goal for writing it.  These words also underscore the purpose for which God wants to renew your mind:  so that you might believe and obey Him.  Here’s what Paul said:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

 

Paul often concluded his letters by giving praise to God, just as he did in his letter to the Romans.  Sandwiched in between his words of praise, he also mentions the purpose for which the mystery of Jesus Christ has been revealed:  so that all nations might believe and obey Him.  This is God’s desire for all people in all nations, including you and me-that we would believe and obey Him.

 

As I’ve mentioned in earlier devotionals, there’s a difference between believing inGod, and believing God.  You can believe in God, yet still not believe Him–still not be convinced about who He is and what He can do in and through your life.  God wants you to believe in Him, for sure.  But He also wants you to believe Himwhen He tells you something regarding your life, and He wants you to take action based on that belief.

 

This is a major part of renewing your mind as well.  God wants you to renew your mind so that you can bring your thinking in line with His.  When you do this, you’ll be better able to believe and obey Him, regardless of whatever life may throw your way.

 

I’ve been praying quite a bit this week for my wife Lana, who as many of you know, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer a few months ago.  Apart from a miracle, the doctors say that this type of cancer is incurable and will shorten her life considerably.  As you can imagine, our faith has been put to the test on a daily basis regarding what we believe about God and what He is doing through all of this.  Yet with all that’s going on, we continue to find God’s peace in the midst of it.

 

How?  Because God has spent considerable time and effort over the years filling our minds with His thoughts about us, that He is for us, not against us, and that He will work all things for good, even in this.

At the risk of being extra-vulnerable, I’d like to share one of my journal entries with you from earlier this week.  I often write down my questions for God in my journal, and then listen for what He might be saying in response.  While I’m not always sure if the thoughts I attribute to God are really mine or His, they do give me a starting point for helping me think through what He might be trying to say to me.  With that disclaimer, here’s what I felt God was saying to me earlier this week regarding His will for Lana and her healing, most of which are based firmly in what He’s already written in His Word:

 

“Eric, you know my will is that she be healed, that she have no more pain, and that she never be separated from you.  You also know that in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.  Peace I give you, peace I leave with you, not as the world gives, but My peace I give you.  I know you believe I could heal her in an instant.  But I also know that you believe I can work all things for good, ALL THINGS, no matter what happens.  Eric, I have prayed for you that your faith may not waver.  Yes, I do give, and yes, I do take away, but I know and I trust that you will still praise Me.  Your faith is, of course, more precious to Me than gold.  Yes, pray for her healing, but also pray for her heart to be at peace.  Pray that she will continue to know that I am walking through this with her every step of the way.”

 

At that point, I asked God for a verse that might help me express this dichotomy I feel inside me, that while I trust in God fully for Lana’s healing, I also trust Him whatever the outcome may be. The verse that came to mind was from Job 1:20-22.

 

While I sometimes think it’s cliche to think of Job when things are going bad in life, I also realize there’s a reason people turn to Job when things go awry:  because no matter what happened to Job, he still gave praise to God!

 

The Bible says that Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East.  He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a large number of servants.

 

He was upright and blameless in all he did, even praying for his sons and daughters on a regular basis, offering sacrifices on their behalf in the early morning, just in case they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.

 

Yet for all his faith, and all the good that he had done, tragedy struck.  In a single day, he lost almost everything with which God had previously blessed him:  from his sons and daughters to all of his livestock and servants.  Overwhelmed with grief, Job tore his robe and shaved his head.

 

But what encourages me about this passage is that through it all, Job still trusted God.  The Bible says:

 

“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

 

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’

 

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22).

 

Job still gave glory to God, even when life turned against him.  I can see why people might lose their faith when tragedy strikes.  But I can also see, from this story of Job, that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Job had no guarantees of what the future held, but he knew who held his future, and he trusted Him implicitly.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he didn’t know what his future held either.  As we learn from the book of Acts, it had a fair share of tragedy as well.  But through it all, Paul trusted God implicitly.   He knew that God was able to strengthen him through Jesus Christ for whatever he might face, and that God would be glorified through it, no matter what happened.  As Paul said in his closing to the Romans:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you [to strengthen you] by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen”

 

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but whatever it is, don’t let fear and doubt overtake you.  Take it all to Christ instead.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

 

“…take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).

 

No matter what comes your way, take it to Christ.  No matter what people say, take it to Christ.  No matter what life throws at you, take it to Christ. Let Christ speak to you in all situations, overriding anything that anyone might say that is contrary to His Word.

 

The truth is that God loves you.  He is for you.  And He will work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Whenever a thought comes your way that goes against what God says in His Word, ask Him to establish you, to strengthen you, through Jesus Christ.  Ask God to renew your mind, to fill your thoughts with His thoughts, to give you faith to believe His Words, and to walk in obedience to whatever He calls you to do.

 

Through it all, trust that it will bring glory to God, and help you to enjoy Him more fully.  This is, according to the historic Westminster Confession of Faith, the chief end of man:

 

“To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

 

As Paul said to the Romans, let me say to you:

 

“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ… so that all nations might believe and obey Him-to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for being able to establish us in our faith and help us to be obedient to You.  Renew our minds again this week, and help us to take every thought captive that sets itself up against You.  Fill us with faith, help us to walk in obedience, and may your name be praised through it all.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Elder Family Picture, Mother's Day 2012P.S.  Next week, I’ll be sharing some final thoughts on the book of Romans as we bring this series to a close on Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind. Then, in the months ahead, I’m looking forward to starting a new study with you focusing on how to make your prayer life more effective called Psalms: Lessons In Prayer.  In the mean time, I’d like to ask you for prayers again for me and my family in the days ahead, that God would be glorified in all that we do.  I’ve included a picture of our whole crew from Mother’s Day last weekend that you can click and print to use as a reminder to pray for us.  And if you’re ever needing prayer, please know that you can always post your requests on a special prayer page on our website.  Although we’re not able to respond to every prayer request personally, please know that a team of volunteers is praying for every prayer request that is posted, by name and by need.  To post a request, or to view and pray for the requests of others, just use the link below.

Prayer Requests 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 16:25-27.  What is God’s goal for the nations, according to this passage of Scripture?
2. Why is it so important to God that we believe and obey Him?  What difference can it make to Him, to us, and to others?
3. In what areas of your life could you use some strengthening in your faith today?
4. Is there a particular act of obedience that God might be calling you to do this week?  Ask Him to give you the strength and faith to do it.

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

The Ranch Giftshop

 

To read Lana’s blog, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

To make a donation to our ever-growing ministry, please visit:

Make a Donation

 

To invite Eric or Lana to speak to your group, by Skype or in person, please visit:

Booking Information

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
Find us on Facebook

 

If you’d like to invite your friends to join us in receiving these regular messages directly, just forward this email and invite them to sign up at the link below.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Wise And Innocent

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Being Wise And Innocent

Lesson 37 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

Once you’ve worked hard to renew your mind, God wants you to keep it renewed.  And one of the best ways to keep it renewed is to be careful of the company you keep.

 

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t have your best interests in mind.  They’ll use smooth talk and flattery to try to lead you astray from the teaching you’ve learned-teaching that has helped you in many ways in your life.

 

In the final chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul warns about such people.  Paul says:

 

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:17-19).

 

If you look at this paragraph closely, you’ll find some secrets for how to detect when people are trying to lead you astray for the wrong reason.

 

First, Paul urged the Romans “to watch out for those who those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.”

 

God had taken a great deal of time to teach the Christians in Rome good solid truths about Himself and the Bible, and Paul wanted them to hold onto those truths.  In the same way, God may have taken a great deal of time to teach you some good solid truths about Himself and the Bible, and God wants you to hold onto those truths, too.

 

If someone comes along and tries to teach you about a “new” truth, or “higher” way of looking at God and the Bible, be wise about how you listen to them.  Take what they say back to God and the Bible to see what He says about it in His Word.  While there’s value in keeping an “open mind,” you don’t want keep it so open that all the good teaching you’ve already learned falls out!

 

Be a good student of the Bible, like the people in the city of Berea, who took even what Paul said and examined it carefully according to what they had already learned.  The Bible says:

 

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).

 

Second, Paul gave the Romans some simple advice about what to do when they came across people who were teaching them things that were contrary to what they had learned:  “Keep away from them.”

 

Why?  Because the company you keep matters.  If you don’t choose your friends wisely, Satan will be glad to choose some for you.  Satan knows that one of the best ways to lead you astray is to put people in your life who will pull you over to his side.

 

Paul gave a similar warning in his letter to the Corinthians when he said:

 

“Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33b).

 

How can you know who’s “bad company”?  By studying not just what they’re teaching, but by studying their character as well.  Paul alludes to this when he talked about the motives of those who might try to lead the Romans astray.  Paul said:  “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

 

Although it’s not always apparent right away, a little study can go a long way in determining someone’s true motives, whether they’re doing what they’re doing to serve the Lord Christ, or to serve their own appetites.

 

It makes me think of a girl who falls in love with a boy just because he tells her, “You’re beautiful.  I love you.  And I want to do something special to make you happy.”  All his smooth talk and flattery may work in his favor, but it may not work in hers.  If the girl were wise, she would study not only the words that were being spoken, but the motives of the person who is speaking those words.

 

If we’re wise, we’ll do the same: anytime someone tries to speak something into our lives that runs contrary to what we’ve already learned, we need to study not only the words that are being spoken, but the motives of the person who is speaking those words.

 

I think it’s interesting to note that leading up to this warning about “bad characters,” Paul begins the chapter by listing some good ones, people that Paul knew personally in Rome, and what made them noteworthy or admirable. For instance, he said:

 

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe… for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

 

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them… 

 

“Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

 

“Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you” (Romans 16:1a,2b,5b,6).

 

The list goes on and on, as Paul commends to them person after person:

 

“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

 

“Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.

 

“Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

 

“Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ… 

 

“Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord… 

 

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:7-10a,12a,13).

 

If you want to learn something about a person, a personal recommendation like this goes a long way.

 

In choosing a doctor one time, Lana and I talked with a friend who worked for a doctor.  Our friend told us that when the doctor she worked for needed a doctor, he chose a particular man in town, having seen his practice long enough and knowing his character was strong enough that he trusted this other doctor with his own life.  Now that was a recommendation that was worth following.

 

Contrast this with another doctor we went to visit who, with his smooth talk and flattery, almost convinced us to come to him.  But  when we went home and looked into his life and practice a little more, we found out that his credentials weren’t quite as good as what he made us believe and that the number of complaints against him by others convinced us to go elsewhere.

 

This isn’t to say that we might not be led astray at times by a personal recommendation, too, but many times, if we’ll take the extra effort to study the person as well as what they’re trying to teach us, we can save ourselves from being led astray.

 

Third, Paul concludes his warning with these words: “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

 

Paul was full of joy over the obedience of the Romans.  Everyone had heard about it, he said, and he didn’t want anyone to take that away from them.  “Be wise about what is good,” he said, “and innocent about what is evil.”

 

Again, these are similar to words he wrote in his letter to the Corinthians:

 

“In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20b).

 

Paul wanted the Romans, and the Corinthians, to put their minds to work, being wise about what was good.  At the same time, he wanted them to be like children in regards to evil, having nothing to do with it, and being as innocent as possible.

 

What’s the end result of all of this?  As Paul said at the end of his warning:  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

 

With all the work that goes into renewing your mind, be sure to keep it renewed by being wise about what is good, and innocent of evil.  Study the teaching of those around you-and the character of those teaching it-before allowing their teachings into your mind.  As you protect your mind, God will protect you, and keep Satan at bay.

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for reminding us to stay true to what we’ve been taught about You and Your Word.  Help us to study deeply any ideas, and the people behind those ideas, that are presented to us that conflict with what we’ve already heard from You.  Help us be wise and innocent so we can keep our minds pure.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

P.S.  Last week, I mentioned the importance of enlisting others in praying for you.  I wanted to remind you again this week that if you don’t have someone to pray with you, or if you’d just like to get some additional prayers from believers who love to pray, we have a special prayer page set up on our website where you can post your prayer.  Although we’re not able to respond in person to all of the prayer requests that come in, we do have about 275 volunteers who have signed up to receive these prayer requests each day and who are glad to pray for you and your needs.  To post a prayer request, or to read the requests of others and pray for them, too, please visit:
Prayer Requests

 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 16:1-20.  What are some of the words that Paul uses to describe those whom he trusts in Rome, compared to the words he uses to describe those who might be trying to deceive their minds?
2. Can you think of some times when you’ve been led astray by smooth talkers who’ve been serving their own selfish interests?
3. Can you think of other times when you’ve been blessed by the wisdom and personal recommendations of true friends?
4. What are some ways this week that you can “be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil”?

 

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

The Ranch Giftshop

 

To read Lana’s blog, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

To make a donation to our ever-growing ministry, please visit:

Make a Donation

 

To invite Eric or Lana to speak to your group, by Skype or in person, please visit:

Booking Information

 

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
Find us on Facebook

 

If you’d like to invite your friends to join us in receiving these regular messages directly, just forward this email and invite them to sign up at the link below.

Last Sunday’s Sermon From The Ranch – Enlisting Others To Pray For You

***Sorry this is so late!***

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Enlisting Others To Pray For You

Lesson 36 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

Are you struggling with something in your life today?  If so, I’d like to encourage you to do something special:  enlist others to pray for you.

If you think asking for prayer is a sign of weakness, you might want to think again!  Asking for prayer is one of the smartest things you could ever do-and one of the best ways to keep you strong.

 

The Apostle Paul knew this secret and often called on others to pray for him, as he did near the end of his letter to the Romans.  Paul said:

 

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed” (Romans 15:30-32).

 

Paul asked for prayer with boldness.  He urged the Romans to pray for him, “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit.”  And he didn’t just ask for a blanket prayer to cover him in all ways at all times.  He asked them to pray for him specifically, particularly in those areas where he struggled most.  He asked that he would be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that his service in Jerusalem would be acceptable to the saints there, and that he would be able to come to them in Rome with joy and together with them be refreshed.

 

These struggles were real, as the dangers that faced Paul on his trip to Jerusalem-and then on to Rome-were significant.  If you read about this trip in the book of Acts (chapters 21-28), you’ll see that Paul was captured, imprisoned, and threatened with death on several occasions, not counting the shipwreck that obliterated his ship along the way. Paul needed prayer, and I have no doubt that the prayers of the Christians in Rome helped to sustain him all along the way.

 

But it’s not easy to ask others to pray for you.  I know.  Just last week I was celebrating my 23rd wedding anniversary in New York City with my superb wife, Lana.  We had an awesome time, filled with fun, romance and a wonderful walk through Central Park.  But on the last day of the trip, I got sick-and not just a little sick, but a violent, wrenching sickness like I haven’t experienced in a long time.

 

At one point, Lana asked if she should call a few people and ask them to pray for me.  I said, “No, I’ll be all right.”  I hoped it would just pass quickly, and I didn’t want to worry anyone, as they knew we were on our anniversary trip together.  But as the hours passed, and I was just getting worse and not better, I finally agreed and Lana made a few calls.

 

Although the sickness persisted throughout the night and on into the next few days, I felt different immediately, just knowing that others were praying for me and checking in on me from time to time.  I was also able to see the fact that I was sick in a new way, realizing that my body was doing just what it should do in trying to forcefully expel whatever had maliciously entered into it.

 

It turned out I had the flu and the healing process that God had begun on that first day finally prevailed.  Thankfully, I’m almost back to full strength again.  Unfortunately for Lana, she got what I had a few days later, so you can still pray for her!

 

The reason I bring this up today is to let you know that I understand what it’s like to need prayer, but not want to ask for it-especially at those times when we feel the weakest.  But the truth is, without prayer, we’ll just get weaker and weaker.  With prayer, God can give us the strength we need to go on.

 

I also wanted to tell you this story because prayer not only changes things, it changes the way you look at things.  Even though I still had to walk through the rest of my sickness, I was able to realize that the very thing that was making me feel sick was the very thing that was bringing my healing.  By being able to look at what I was feeling differently, I was able to better endure the rest of what I had to go through.

 

Prayer really can renew your mind, and by enlisting others to pray for you can help you to renew your mind even faster.

 

If there’s an area in your life where you’re struggling today, I want to encourage you to do as Paul did and enlist others to join you in your struggle-through prayer.  As Paul said,

 

“I urge you… to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”

 

There are all kinds of struggles you might be facing right now:  whether they’re struggles with lust or secret sins, fear or doubts, real dangers or imaginary dangers, hardships, relationships or bothersome thoughts.  The list is endless.  The beauty of prayer is that it can address every single struggle you could possibly face.

 

One of my friends and mentors says that everyone needs a prayer team.  You don’t have to be in full-time ministry, or going through a particular crisis, to ask people to pray for you on a regular basis.  You could be an expectant mother or a struggling student, a successful architect or an aspiring teacher.  You could be married or single, with kids or without.  You could be needing money or managing your money.  You could be traveling full-time or at home full-time.  Whatever you’re doing or going through, you can benefit by enlisting others to pray for you.

 

Not sure who to ask?  You might ask a friend, or a co-worker, or a neighbor.  You might ask a pastor or a priest.  You might ask someone you don’t even know, like Lana and I did last week in New York.  We were blessed to visit a couple of different churches, and at one church, I sensed the man sitting next to me was a truly “a believer.”  I could tell from his “Amens” that he not only believed in God, he believed in the power of God.  So after the service, I asked if he could pray for us.  He was not only glad to pray, but he invited us to dinner, which we unfortunately had to decline because of our schedule.

 

At another church, we were talking to a man outside the church before the service, and afterward, we connected again.  This time we asked if we could pray for him, and then he returned the favor and prayed for us.

 

For years now, we’ve been asking for and benefiting from the prayers of others.  We’ve asked for prayer from family and friends, small groups and Sunday School classes.  We asked for prayer back when we were single, when we were dating, when we got married, and when we started having children.

 

When Lana was diagnosed with cancer this year, she set up a blog to keep others updated and let them know how they could pray for us.  The effects have been tremendous already, as the prayers of others have given us both an abundance of strength, wisdom, healing and encouragement.

 

If you’re going through a struggle in life, you don’t have to go through it alone.  Enlist others to join you in your struggle by praying to God for you.  (If you’re not sure who to ask for prayer, or just want to get some additional prayers from believers who love to pray, I’ve included a link in the P.S. below where you can post your prayers on our website and enlist others to pray for you.)

 

By the way, the Apostle Paul did eventually make it to Rome, just as he had asked the Romans to pray for him.

 

It may not have been exactly the way he expected, or the timing he expected, but he did get there, through God’s strength-and the prayers of others.  As the last chapter of the book of Acts records:

 

“When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him… For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30-31).

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for showing us the value of enlisting others to pray for us.  Help us to reach out to others when we’re struggling so that we won’t become weaker and weaker, but grow stronger and stronger each day through Your strength.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

P.S.  If you don’t have someone to pray with you, or if you’d just like to get some additional prayers from believers who love to pray, we have a special prayer page set up on our website where you can post your prayer.  Although we’re not able to respond in person to all of the prayer requests that come in, we do have about 275 volunteers who have signed up to receive these prayer requests each day and who are glad to pray for you and your needs.  To post a prayer request, or to read the requests of others and pray for them, too, please visit:
Prayer Requests

 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 15:30-33 .  What are some reasons people might be hesitant to ask for prayer?
2. What difference could it make if you enlisted others to pray for you?
3. In what areas are you struggling right now where you could ask others to pray for you?
4. Who are some specific people that might be willing to pray for you?

 

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

The Ranch Giftshop

 

To read Lana’s blog, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

To make a donation to our ever-growing ministry, please visit:

Make a Donation

 

To invite Eric or Lana to speak to your group, by Skype or in person, please visit:

Booking Information

 

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
Find us on Facebook

 

If you’d like to invite your friends to join us in receiving these regular messages directly, just forward this email and invite them to sign up at the link below.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Assisting Others On Their Journey

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Assisting Others On Their Journey

Lesson 35 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

One of the things I love about the human heart is that it’s wired to help others when they’re in need.  I see this repeated over and over:  when a natural disaster strikes a town, or when a terrible wrong is committed against someone who’s done right, or when a beloved friend passes away.  When people see a need, they often respond with caring hearts.

 

But even though our hearts are wired to help others in need, sometimes we need a little prompting.  Sometimes we need to remind our minds of the blessings we’ve received from others, and then our minds can nudge our hearts to respond as we should.

 

The Apostle Paul gives two such reminders in his letter to the Romans.  The first comes when he tells them that he’s planning to visit them in the future when he passes through Rome on his way to Spain.  Paul says:

 

“But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Romans 15:23-24).

 

While mentioning that he is looking forward to enjoying their company for a while, Paul also mentions that he hopes to have them assist him on his journey to Spain.  I don’t think Paul was trying to “guilt” them into helping him on the next leg of his missionary journey.  From what I’ve read about Paul in his other writings, I believe he simply knew that their hearts would want to help on his journey.  After all, his own heart was wired in the same way.

 

In the very next paragraph, Paul mentions that he’s on his way to deliver a gift to the Jewish brothers and sisters who were in need in Jerusalem, gifts which he had collected from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia.  Paul says:

 

“Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:25-29).

 

Paul understood this blessing of giving and receiving, that when someone blesses you in your life, it is good and right and appropriate to share your blessings with them at some point in return, freely and voluntarily.

 

On a personal level, I know that my heart is often moved to help others on their journey,  especially those who have been a blessing to me.

 

When I first became a Christian, I remember hearing about “tithes and offerings,” giving ten percent and more of your income to the work of God in the world.  I hadn’t tithed before, not because I was against it, but because I simply didn’t have this principle in my mind yet.  But once I understood this principle in my mind, my heart was glad to respond–thrilled to respond, in fact.

 

I remember some of the first “big” checks I wrote to support the work of God in the lives of missionary friends I knew (at least they were big to me, as I had never done this before).  I was thrilled to be able to help my friends in a significant way each month.  I didn’t feel obligated or guilted into it in any way.  I just knew the blessing of hearing about Christ in my own life, and I was glad to help my friends share about Christ with others.  It’s all part of this idea of giving and receiving–sharing with others the blessings that God has given to us.

 

Now that I’m in full-time ministry myself, I sometimes have to remind myself that when I share a need, God is often prompting others to respond at the same time.  I have to remember that it’s not an obligation or a burden to others to hear about and respond to needs.  It’s the way God has wired our hearts.  Knowing this has helped me to be more open about my own needs in life, and I’ve been thankful to see how people have responded to those needs.

 

In the past few months, I’ve been amazed again at the generosity of others, including many of you, who have stepped in and helped my wife and I as we walk through my wife’s journey with cancer.

 

I have been humbled and reminded frequently just how good and kind and caring the human heart really is.  Sometimes we miss this truth, especially when we are bombarded with such bad news about the wicked things that people have done in the world.

 

Of course there’s bad in the world.  Of course, there’s wickedness, greed, evil, and depravity. But all of this stems from good hearts that have been corrupted by sin–usually related to some kind of selfishness.  But when our hearts are right with God, something else takes over–something called selflessness; doing to others what you would have them do to you, and giving your life for the sake of others, just as Jesus gave His life for us.

 

Assisting others on their journey is not foreign to the human heart.  But sometimes it takes a little prompting from our minds and the Holy Spirit to get our hearts in gear.

 

This week, I heard about some friends who have been praying about buying a van and a mammogram machine so they can go back to their home villages in Kenya and do cancer screenings for the women their.  Perhaps because of my wife’s recent diagnosis, but my ears were especially attentive to their request, and my heart wanted to respond. I didn’t know what I could do or how I could help, but I was willing to find out.

 

I called my friends and listened as they talked about their hopes and dreams and prayers for this project.  I’m still not sure what I can do yet, but now my heart and mind are both engaged and attuned to the need.  As my friends move forward with their plans, perhaps we can find a way to take part along the way.

 

At the same time, I was surprised this week by a note from one of our readers overseas who asked if there was anything special Lana and I needed at this time.  He had been blessed by our ministry and wanted to do something in return.  Although I hesitated to share our personal needs with him, in the end I did share a few things that we had been praying about.  Within a few hours, he had responded by saying he wanted to send a gift that would not only cover those needs that I had shared, but that would double the amount of what I had shared!

 

To me, this was a living example of what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Romans, when those who had received spiritual blessings responded by sending a gift of material blessings.

 

The human heart really is wired to respond to the needs of others, and often the only thing holding us back is making our minds aware of the needs around us so our hearts can respond.

 

With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to be on the lookout for ways that God might want to use you to bless others, especially those who have been a blessing to you.  Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has gone out of their way to spend some time with you.  Perhaps you have a spiritual leader or mentor or ministry than has spoken into your life in a special way.  Perhaps you have a project or a school or an organization which has been a blessing to you, and now you can be a blessing to them.

 

I know your heart is good and eager to assist others on their journey, but sometimes it takes a little reminder like this to jog your memory and bring it to the forefront of your mind.

 

I pray that as God renews your mind in this way, that the natural response of your heart will follow.  Don’t ignore the promptings that God puts there. Don’t put them off until the feelings “go away.” Lean into those promptings and see what God may have in mind for you–and for those He wants to bless through you.

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for blessing us in various ways by the people around us.  Help us to be attentive to their needs as well, so that we can be a blessing to them.  Refresh our minds again today about practical ways that we can help them, then nudge our hearts to follow through on those thoughts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 15:23-29.  In what ways could the Christians in Rome have possibly assisted Paul on his journey to Spain?
2. Read Acts 28:7-10.  In what ways did the people of Malta respond to the blessings they received from Paul?

3. Who are some people in your life who have been a blessing to you?  In what ways might you be able to bless them in return?
4. In what ways could you open your mind still further to the needs around you in order to meet those needs yourself?  Consider praying that God would renew your mind in this area, so He can work His blessings through you.

 

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

The Ranch Giftshop

 

To read Lana’s blog, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

To make a donation to help support the work of The Ranch, please visit:

Make a Donation

 

To invite Eric to speak to your group, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:

Booking Information

 

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
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If you’d like to invite your friends to join us in receiving these regular messages directly, just forward this email and invite them to sign up at the link below.

Yesterday’s Sermon From The Ranch – Instructing One Another

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Instructing One Another

Lesson 34 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

One way to renew your mind is to teach others what you’ve been learning.  It’s a way to both review what you’ve learned, and to bless others at the same time.  So today, I’d like to encourage you to consider taking some time to teach others what you’ve learned in life.

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that we haven’t learned enough to be able to teach anyone else.  Sometimes we think we need more training, or that others may be more qualified to teach than we are…both of which may be true.  But this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to teach others who could benefit from what we’ve learned so far!

I’ve been praying for a drum teacher for some time now for my two younger sons.  They’ve been wanting to play the drums, and we have a drum set, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them.  A few months ago, I ran across a high schooler who played the drums for a worship team in town.  I asked if he happened to give drum lessons and he said he did.  He pulled out a business card with his name on it.  At the top, it said:

“Drum Lessons For Beginners”

That was just what I needed!  I signed the kids up and they’ve been learning and loving the drums ever since.  What I loved about this high schooler was that he told us up front exactly what he had to offer:  “Drum Lessons For Beginners.”  He made no claims that he was the best drummer in town, or that he’d be teaching them advanced music theory.   But he did have exactly what we needed:  a willingness to teach what he had learned so far.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he told them that he had wanted to come to them many times before, but had so far been hindered from doing so.  I’m sure Paul would have been a great teacher for them, and they could have learned a lot from his time with them.  But Paul pointed out that they already had people to teach them:  they had each other!  Paul said:

“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14).

Paul was convinced that they were already filled with enough goodness, knowledge and competence to “instruct one another.”  What a boost that must have been to the Roman Christians!  They didn’t have to be like Paul or wait for Paul to benefit from godly teaching about the Lord.  They had what it took to instruct one another!

Paul knew the power of an encounter with Jesus.  He had taken his own advice from the beginning of his ministry.  The book of Acts tells that within days after Paul had his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was already telling others what he had learned.  The Bible says:

“Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 9:19b-22).

Even as a brand new Christian, Paul had something to offer.  “Bible Lessons For Beginners,” so to speak.  Yes, he preached to anyone who would listen, including kings and the highest religious leaders in the land.  But his heart always beat for sharing the gospel with those who had never heard about Jesus before.  That is, in fact, why he was so often hindered from going to Rome, where there were already Christians capable of teaching one another.  Paul said:

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’ This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you” (Romans 15:20-22).

Several years ago, I was shopping for a new Bible.  I like to read the Bible over and over, and sometimes like to read it in different versions, because I learn something new when I do.  But as I was looking for a new Bible, I felt God was saying to me something like this: “You don’t need another Bible, Eric.  You need to be writing to others what you’ve learned from the Bible already.”

I had already begun writing devotional messages like the ones I send out now every week, like this one.  In each message, I simply share a passage from the Bible with others, and share how God has used it to speak into my own life, encouraging others to read their Bibles and let God speak into their lives, too.

I don’t make any claims that I’m better at reading the Bible than anyone else, or that there aren’t other people who may be way more qualified to teach the Bible than I am.  But what I do have, I’m willing to offer to others.  What I’ve learned from God through the Bible has so affected my life that I want to share it with anyone who will listen.

Although it’s good to learn as much as you can, and get as much training as you can, and check and recheck your theology and ideas so that you’re not leading people astray, the truth is that the best prerequisite for teaching others about Jesus is that you’ve been with Jesus yourself.

This is just what the Bible says about the first disciples.  After Peter and John healed a man, thousands of people heard their message and put their faith in Christ.  The rulers and elders of the people were astonished.  The Bible says:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Peter and John were ordinary and unschooled men, yet they had one thing that many of you reading these words today have:  they had been with Jesus.

If you’ve been with Jesus, spending time with Him, reading His words, praying and interacting and learning from Him, He wants you to share what you’ve learned with others.

As Jesus told His first disciples:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

One of the characteristics of being a disciple is making disciples.  It simply goes with the package!

Don’t let your training or lack of training stand in the way of sharing what you’ve learned with others.

When I first graduated from college, I spent five months in Bangladesh teaching some people at a disease research center how to use a computer program for their work.  I didn’t know much about the computer program myself, but I had a book about it and was able to read enough as I went along to test out the program and teach them what I learned along the way.

I imagine they might have learned more if they had taken a class from a professor in computer programming, or someone who had worked with the software for years already.  But there weren’t any professors in computer programming around, nor anyone else who had worked with the software before either!  But I was willing to go anywhere and work with anyone, so somehow God sent me.  The people I taught were grateful, and I was blessed to be able to use my skills, no matter how limited to help others.

I’d like to encourage you to consider sharing with others whatever God may have shared with you, whether it’s drum lessons, Bible lessons, or even these lessons on renewing your mind.

If you’ve been with Jesus, through the Spirit and through the Word, and have benefited from your time with Him, you can be sure that others can benefit from what you’ve learned, too!  I am convinced, as Paul was about the Christians in Rome, that you yourselves are “full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

Take what you’ve learned and share it with others.  You’ll be blessed as you review what you’ve learned, just as you’ll be a blessing to those who may be learning it for the very first time.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for teaching us so much about who You are and how You want us to live our lives.  Help us to share what we’ve learned with others so that we can pass on the blessings that You’ve passed on to us.  Help us to overcome our fears of speaking and writing, teaching and preaching, so that we can be like Paul, boldly going where no man may have gone before, proclaiming the good news about Christ to anyone who will listen.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  God wants to raise you up, not only for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others here on earth, too.  If you need a bit of a lift this week, I’ve posted a beautiful instrumental version of the song “You Raise Me Up” on my website that you listen to and enjoy.  I’d also be glad to send you a copy of the single on CD, that you can take with you anytime, day or night.  My sister, Marilyn Byrnes, is a gifted pianist, and has recorded this special song to encourage my wife and I as we walk through my wife’s battle with cancer.  Marilyn would be glad to send you a copy on CD as a thank you for your gift of any size to our ministry this month.  Just use the links below to listen to the song online, read the lyrics, or make a donation and get a copy for yourself on CD.
Listen to “You Raise Me Up” online

Make A Donation and Get the song on CD

 

Lyrics for “You Raise Me Up”
(Music by Rolf Løvland, with lyrics by Brendan Graham)

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

  

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

  

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

  

There is no life – no life without its hunger; 

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

  

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up… To more than I can be.

  

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

  

You raise me up… To more than I can be.

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 15:14-24.   What was the message that Paul said he had been preaching everywhere he went?  And to whom had he been preaching that message to?
2. With all of Paul’s learning, training and experience, why do you think he still loved preaching to those who were brand new to the message of Christ?
3. What kinds of things has God taught you from which you have greatly benefited?
4. Can you imagine anyone else who might benefit from learning what you’ve learned?  And if so, would you be willing to be the one to teach them?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

The Ranch Giftshop

 

To read Lana’s blog, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

To invite Eric to speak to your group, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:

Booking Information

 

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
Find us on Facebook

 

If you’d like to invite your friends to join us in receiving these regular messages directly, just forward this email and invite them to sign up at the link below.