Lenten Journey Day 14; Mercy Won

*image source: google.com/images

 

6-Mar-12:  Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 19 He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

 

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/

 

Lenten Journey Day 12; Justified

*image source: google.com/images

4-Mar-12:  Romans 4:13-25

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/

Lenten Journey Day 10; Circumcision

*image source: google.com/images

2-Mar-12:  Romans 4:1-12

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

7          “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,

and whose sins are covered;

8          blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Trusting The Potter

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Trusting In The Potter

Lesson 21 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org


Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the three trees, where each one had a glorious dream for their future.  One wanted to be crafted into a beautiful treasure chest, covered with gold and filled with precious jewels.  Another wanted to be turned into boards for a mighty sailing ship, carrying kings and queens across the sea.  The third didn’t want to be cut down at all, but wanted to grow as tall as possible, pointing people towards God as they looked up into its branches.

A day came, however, when each of the trees were cut down and taken away.  The first was turned into a feeding trough, not a treasure chest.  The second was too weak to be used for a mighty ship and was was used for a common fishing boat instead.  The third was deemed too worthless for much of anything, and was cut into pieces and thrown into the scrap pile.

Rather than seeing their dreams fulfilled, each of the trees felt abandoned and without hope.  It’s a tragic story and one that has been repeated many times, in many lives, over the years.  It may even be part of your story.

Maybe you’ve had dreams of getting married, raising a family, and serving God with your whole heart, only to see your dreams dashed by divorce, adultery, and kids who have all but lost their faith.  Maybe you’ve had dreams of being wildly successful in business, giving generously to the poor and needy, only to find yourself being poor and needy instead.  Maybe you’ve stepped out in faith to start a new ministry, or a new job, or a new life in a place where you really felt God had called you to, only to find yourself far from home and wondering why you ever left in the first place.

Rather than seeing your dreams fulfilled, you may feel— like the trees in the story—abandoned and without hope.  

If so, I want to encourage you today to keep putting your faith and trust in God.  Remember that God is the Potter and you are the clay.  Keep trusting that He is molding and shaping you into exactly what He wants you to be.  As the Apostle Paul says in Romans chapter 9:

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did You make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21).

Sometimes we bristle at the thought that we don’t fully control our own destiny.  None of us wants to be like a puppet on a string, pulled this way or that by some unseen puppet master.  Yet when you put your faith in God and let Him take control of your life, you can trust that He will guide you and direct you in ways that are better than even you could have imagined.  

I had a friend this week who was wondering if she had been shortchanged when God passed out the BLT’s—the Brains, the Looks and the Talents.  She wondered why others seemed to have gotten so much more in some of those areas.  But the truth is, she wasn’t shortchanged at all.  First of all, she had actually been given huge amounts of each, but couldn’t see it for herself.  Secondly, I assured her that God had, in fact, given her everything she needed to fulfill His plan for her life.  As Paul said to the Ephesians:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

If God has prepared good works in advance for you to do, He will give you everything you need for the walk He’s called you to walk.  And He’ll continue to do so, even if it seems like you’re going in a direction you hadn’t planned.  The key is to keep putting your faith and trust in the Potter, remembering that He is FOR you and will work all things together for your good.  When you put your faith in God, you put a smile on His face.  As the writer of Hebrews says:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

God is pleased when you put your faith in Him, and He will reward you when you earnestly seek Him. 

This, after all, is what the whole book of Romans is about.  Paul is continually telling the Christians in Rome that it is their faith that matters most to God, not their righteous acts or their heritage—whether they were born Jewish or Gentile.  In chapter 9, Paul laments the fact that so many Jews have missed the fact that God wants them to come to Him by faith.  Paul begins by saying:

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:2-5).

Paul sees the noble heritage that the Jews had been given because of the faith of Abraham.  Yet Paul also says that just because someone is a descendant of Abraham doesn’t mean they are actually people of faith.   

“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6b-8).

Paul then goes on to describe how God raised up various people for various purposes, whether it was Isaac or Jacob or Moses or Pharaoh.  Some were for noble purposes, and some for common use, but all were for His glory.  

God wants you to keep putting your faith in Him.  And when you do, He’ll reward you!

Remember the story of the three trees?  It would have been tragic if their story had ended when all their dreams were dashed to pieces.  Thankfully, their story doesn’t end there.  Their dreams were eventually fulfilled—but in a way that went beyond all that they could have imagined.  

The first tree didn’t get to become a treasure chest that it had hoped, covered with gold and filled with precious stones.  It became a feeding trough for animals instead.  But one day, it was covered with golden straw and when the most precious treasure of all was laid inside it—the Son of God—the tree realized its dream had been fulfilled.  

The second tree didn’t get to become the mighty sailing ship that it had hoped, carrying kings and queens across the sea.  Instead, it was used for a common fishing boat.  But one day, that boat carried a group of men who were caught in a fierce storm on a lake.  One of the men stood up and said to the wind and the waves, “Be still,” and they obeyed Him.  As soon as the tree realized what had been done, it realized that it was carrying no ordinary man, but the King of all kings, the One who had created the whole universe.  

And the third tree, the one that didn’t want to be cut down at all, but point people to God when they looked up into its branches?  Eventually its boards were pulled from the scrap pile and used as the cross on which our Savior was crucified.  And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, that tree realized that from then on, whenever anyone thought of the cross, their thoughts would be pointed towards God.

You may feel like your life isn’t working out the way you had dreamed.  You may feel like you’re not in the place that you had hoped to be.  But don’t give up on God—and don’t give up on your dreams.  God has a way of fulfilling them beyond what you could imagine.

I know of families who have weathered the storms of divorce and adultery and have come out on the other side praising God and helping many others along the way.  I know of people who have lost their businesses and homes and things of this world who are now giving away more than anyone else around them, because they’ve learned what it means to give everything to God.  I know of people who have struggled in faith and sometimes wondered if they were doing the right thing, but eventually discovered that God was in it every step of the way.

Don’t give up on your dreams, and don’t get upset if things aren’t working out the way that you had hoped.  Keep trusting in the Potter.  Whether He wants to use your life for noble purposes or common use, it’s all for His glory.  Your Father really does know best.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us that You are in control, even when our lives seem out of control.  Thank You that You are the potter and we are the clay.  Help us to be moldable and shapable by You today.  Help us to continue to trust in You, that You will reward us when we believe that You exist and earnestly seek You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Tale of Three TreesP.S.  The Tale of Three Trees is a beautiful picture book written by Angela Elwell Hunt. There’s more to the story than what I’ve told you, and if you’d like to get a copy, you can get it from Amazon.com.  While you’re there, you might also want to pick up a few of my devotional books for yourself or your friends for Christmas.  These are inspiring books that will encourage you that God is continually working on your behalf, when you put your full faith and trust in Him.  To read more about these books, take a look at the links below:
The Tale of Three Trees
Eric Elder’s Devotionals

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 9:1-33.  How do you feel about letting God be the potter, and trusting Him to mold you and shape you as He sees fit?  What might be appealing or unappealing about this idea?
2. What is it that Paul wishes for his Jewish brothers and sisters in this passage?
3. Why does Paul say in verse 6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”?  What’s the difference?  Consider verses 30-32 in your response as well.
4. Read Hebrews 11:6.  What does God seem to want from you more than anything else right now, and what can you expect from Him as a result?

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 make a donation of any size and get a CD as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Get a CD

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
The Ranch on FaceBook

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Invite your friends!  We’d love to have them study along with us—and you!  Just forward this email and encourage them to sign up for themselves at the link below.


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Today’s Sermon From The Ranch (came late today) – Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were

Lesson 11 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

As we’re looking at ways to renew your mind from the book of Romans, I’d like to draw your attention to one more verse from Romans chapter 4 before moving on to chapter 5.  There’s a phrase in there that is not only extremely quotable and memorable, but it can also be a powerful force for defining your future, if you’ll take it to heart.

In talking about God, Paul described Him as:

“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17b).

I love that phrase:  the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  

If you can believe that God can give life to the dead, which He has proven over and over, and that He can call things into existence that have never existed before, which He has also proven over and over, then you can see God do miracles in your own life that will outshine anything you’ve ever seen before.

Some people bristle at the phrase “name it and claim it,” referring to the idea that we can have anything we want if we’ll just speak it forth, believe in it hard enough, and start walking in that direction.  While there’s incredible power in positive thinking, and it’s certainly much better than negative thinking, it can lead to problems if what we’re naming isn’t in line with what God wants us to claim.  Rather than being a blessing to us, what we’re wanting could actually harm us, as every parent knows who has given in to a poorly thought-out request by their child.

But when you get your thinking in line with God’s, and ask for things that He would love to give you, then it becomes a different story.  When God names it, He wants us to claim it!  When God puts a desire in your heart, He wants you to speak it forth, to believe in it fully, and to start walking in that direction.

This is exactly what God commended Abraham for.  Abraham was sad and dejected that he had no heirs to whom he could pass on all the blessings he had received in life.  He expressed this sadness to God, and God spoke to Abraham, giving him a promise that seemed unbelievable.  God changed Abraham’s name from Abram—which means “exalted father”—to Abraham, which means “father of many,” saying:

“You will be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).

Abraham’s first response was to fall down and laugh!  The Bible says:

“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” (Genesis 17:17).

But when God assured Abraham that what He had spoken He would bring to pass, Abraham believed God.  He acted on that belief, circumcising himself and his whole family, and God honored him for his faith and obedience.

Within a year of Abraham’s conversation with God, Abraham and Sarah had their promised son. They named him Isaac—which means “laughter”—as God had told them to do, and so began the passing on of Abraham’s inheritance from one generation to the next until this very day.

Even though Abraham’s body was as good as dead, in terms of its ability to bring forth life, and his wife had been barren for ninety years, God proved to them both that He is a God “who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

God has been doing the same throughout eternity.  

He spoke the world into existence with a word.  He called Gideon a “mighty warrior” when Gideon saw himself as the least in his family and the weakest family in his tribe.  He called David a “king” and a “man after My own heart” even though David was just a shepherd boy at the time and was described by his brother as having a wicked heart.

The Bible is full of stories of God giving life to the dead and calling things that are not as though they were, with the story of Jesus‘s death and resurrection being chief among them!  But the stories of God calling things that are not as though they were didn’t end in biblical days.  They still continue today!

Let me tell you just one.

About ten years ago I was invited to attend a Billy Graham conference on evangelism in Amsterdam.  My passport was about to expire, so I had to fill out an application for a new one.  On the application, it asked for my “occupation.”  I wasn’t sure exactly what to put in the blank, as the ministry I do on the Internet doesn’t fit into a neatly defined category.

Yet at the time I was feeling more and more that one of God’s callings on my life was to be an author.  I loved writing and had written extensively for my own website, filling up hundreds of electronic pages with digital ink.  Yet I never considered myself an author, since the only book I had published was a devotional booklet I had written the year before, and photocopied at home for people who asked for it.  

That hardly seemed to qualify my as an author, yet I felt that’s what God was calling me to be.  So as a statement of faith in what God wanted me to be, I filled in the “occupation” blank with just one word:  “Author.”  

When I arrived overseas at the airport, the customs official took a look at my passport, then took a look at me.  He said, “It says here you’re an author.  What kind of books do you write?”  

I thought about my little devotional booklet and said, “Devotional books to encourage people in their faith.”  

He asked where I was headed, and I told him about the Billy Graham conference.  He said, “With a last name like ‘Elder’ that fits.”  He smiled, stamped my passport, and waved me on through.

Something in my heart “fit,” too.  I realized that I wasn’t stretching the truth when I said I was an author.  I was believing the truth.  From that moment on, it changed both my outlook and my expectations for the future.

Since then, I’ve written and published over a dozen books.  My weekly messages, like this one that you’re reading right now, are being sent by email to over 35,000 subscribers around the world.  I’m not sure what the official qualifications would be for someone to be declared an “author.”  But for me, I believe I became an author the moment I believed it myself, came into alignment with God’s plan for my life in that area, and started walking in obedience to that calling.

God has a way of seeing our potential before we do and then speaking it into existence.  How?  Because God can see an oak tree in an acorn.  

And if you’re willing to open your eyes to see things as God sees them, you’ll start seeing oak trees in acorns, too.  You’ll be able to see the potential in yourself and in the lives of others that you may have never seen before.

I could tell you story after story of people who are alive today whose lives and situations have been changed dramatically because they put their faith in Christ.  I could tell you about marriages that have been dead for years and ended in divorce, but which God has brought back to life when both people put their faith in Christ.  I could tell you about couples who have been declared infertile by doctors, but whom God has said would bear a child within a year—like Abraham and Sarah—and have!  I could tell you about people involved in lifestyles that could literally kill them, lifestyles which some people would say are impossible to change, but which God has changed and given them new lives instead, 

“For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

When you get in line with God’s plans for your life, nothing will be impossible for you, either.

If God has spoken to you about your future, believe Him.  Put your faith into action and start walking in the direction He’s told you to walk.  If you’ve not sure what God has called you to do, keep seeking Him for His wisdom.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Ask others what they think about your future.  Then when God gives you the next step to take, take it!

Don’t be discouraged if what God says about your future doesn’t line up with your present.  Remember that God sees an oak tree in an acorn.  

Remember that God called Abraham “a father of many nations” before he and Sarah had even conceived their first child together.  Remember that God called Gideon a “mighty warrior” back when Gideon felt like he was the weakest of the weak.  Remember that God called David “a man after My own heart” even when others were saying otherwise.

Put your trust in God, and remember who He is.  He is:

“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us today of who You are and what You can do.  Give us the faith we need to see Your promises come to pass in our lives.  Fill us with Your wisdom, Your plans, Your purposes, and Your ways, so that we can take hold of them by faith, and begin walking in obedience to Your calling on our lives, starting even today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. As I mentioned in my message above, I’ve felt God has called me to write, and I know that God has called many of you to write as well.  I want to encourage you in your writing as much as I can.  There was a time when I felt God didn’t need one more writer, one more author.  I felt that everything that could be said had probably already been said.  But the truth is that God doesn’t tire of hearing people proclaim His name and the wonders that He has done in the world.  He doesn’t tire of people encouraging other people in their lives and faith, by telling them stories that bring glory to Him.  God loves to get his Word out through different voices and different languages.  While I can reach a certain segment of God’s people through my writings, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the oceans of messages that God wants to get out.  As someone has wisely said, “No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love.”  God wants to use your voice, your style, and your stories to reach as many people as possible around the world with His message.  

If you’d be interested in learning more about how I’ve gone about publishing my writings and books on places like Amazon.com and Apple’s iBookstore, I’d be glad to hear from you.  I’m thinking of teaching a class online sometime in the next few weeks, for a donation to our ministry of whatever size that you can afford, that will walk you through exactly how you can do this on your own, uploading you’re writings to Amazon and other websites to help you get what you have to say about God out to others, whether in print or as eBooks.  Just write me if you’re interested in such a class at eric@theranch.org, and I’ll give you more details as the class takes shape.  

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 4:16-25.  What reasons might Abraham have had for why it could have seemed impossible for God to fulfill what He had promised to him?
2. What reasons might you have for why it could seem impossible for God to fulfill what He has promised to you?  How might Abraham have overcome His doubts?  How might you overcome yours?
3. Read Judges 7:1-7.  In reading this part of Gideon’s story, what reason does God give for why He sometimes does what seems impossible through us?  What hope does this give you for your situation?
4. If God has given you a promise about your calling or your future, what next steps could you take to put your faith into action and start walking in the direction of that future?  If you don’t feel that God has spoken to you about your future, what next steps could you take to begin learning more about it from Him?

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 make a donation of any size and get a book as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Get a Book

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
The Ranch on FaceBook

To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:
Booking Information

Invite your friends!  We’d love to have them study along with us—and you!  Just forward this email and encourage them to sign up for themselves at the link below.


Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Fully Persuaded

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 
 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Being Fully Persuaded

Lesson 10 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 

 
I’d like to give you some hope today—hope that God has the power to do what He has promised.  
 
My daughter showed me a great picture a few weeks ago with the word HOPE written on the palm of someone’s hand.  What was unique about the picture was that the hand could be seen in the side mirror of a car, with more words written in small print on the bottom of the mirror that said: 
 
 
Objects in mirror are closer than you think.I thought it was a great picture of the hope you can have in God, too.  When God promises to do something, you can take it to the bank.  You can trust that He will bring it to pass.  And even if the answers to your prayers might look like they are far off, the truth is that the answers could really be much closer than you think!
 
After I saw this picture, my wife and daughter were looking for a new car on the Internet.  Our van had broken down and could no longer be repaired, so we’ve been looking for something to replace it.  My wife has had her eye on a particular little car that she’s really liked for several years.  It’s not like her to care much for cars at all, but this one seemed to be just right for her and my daughter.
 
As they looked, they found it:  the exact car they were looking for.  Everything was perfect about it:  the style, the color, even the design on the front.  The only thing wrong with it, from my perspective, was the price!  (It was the right price for the car, just the wrong price for us!)  
 
A friend of mine told me what he said to his daughter when she went off to a college that he couldn’t afford to send her to.  He said the only thing he sent her with were his prayers and these words:  “The same God who takes care of me will take care of you.”
 
Through prayer and hard work, his daughter was able to work it out.  God did take care of her.
 
So as I went to bed with my wife that night after looking at the cars, I told her about my friend’s words for his daughter.  I smiled and said, “I know you like that car, and you’ve got my prayers!  The same God who takes care of me will take care of you!”  We both laughed and went to bed. 
 
The next morning, I went to a men’s breakfast at 6:00 a.m.  As I pulled into the parking lot, someone pulled in right behind me, someone who was new to the group.  He just happened to be driving the very same car my wife and daughter had been looking at on the Internet:  the exact style, color, and even the design painted on the front.  
 
I couldn’t believe it!  It hadn’t even been 8 hours since I had prayed that prayer.  I got out and asked him how he liked his car.  He said he loved it.  I asked if he’d ever consider selling it.  He said, “Actually, I’m thinking about it.”  He said things had changed recently in his life, and he didn’t need this car anymore.  
 
We talked some more, and after breakfast, I asked if I could take a look at the car.  I started taking a few pictures for my wife, then I got inside.  As I looked around, my eyes landed on the mirror on the right-hand side.  There it was, the full length of the side of the car in the mirror, and these words at the bottom of the mirror:
 
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
 
I almost cried.  I didn’t know if this was God’s answer to our prayers or not, but I did see clearly that if He wanted to answer them, He could do it in an instant.  I took a picture of the car in the mirror, with the words displayed at the bottom, and I repented of my unbelief.  I told God I was sorry for being so flippant the night before, saying to my wife, “The same God who takes care of me will take care of you.”  I knew that God could do anything, absolutely anything.
 
Let me add that it’s been a few weeks now and we haven’t gotten the car yet.  The man’s not quite ready to sell and we’re not quite ready to buy.  We’re not even sure if this is God’s answer or if He has another one in the works.  But it gave me a boost in my faith, and was a vivid reminder of the hope we can have in God, even when it seems like the odds are against us.
 
That’s the kind of faith that Abraham had.  The Bible says:
 
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:18-21).
 
I love the way that starts:  “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…”  And then I love the way it ends:  “…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.”
 
Abraham was fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.  And that’s the kind of faith that God wants you to have.  But how can you do that?  How can you become fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised?
 
I’d like to give you two ideas today to help give you a boost in your faith.  By doing these, I hope that God will renew your mind and give you hope for your future, too.
 
The first is to take time to read the stories about how God has been faithful to people in the Bible.  Stories like Abraham’s in Genesis chapters 15-17.  Stories like Moses’ in Exodus chapter 1-4.  Stories like Joshua’s in the book of Joshua, or Esther’s in the book of Esther, or Ruth’s in the book of Ruth.  The Bible is filled with stories from cover to cover about how God worked in the lives of ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  As you read these stories, you’ll be filled with faith that God can do similar things for you.
 
The second is to look at stories from people living today who have been touched by the hand of God.  The same God who worked in the lives of men and women thousands of years ago is still at work in the lives of men and women today.  I’ve posted many such stories on our website (www.theranch.org) about people who are living today who have seen God work in their lives in astounding ways.  One of those stories is about a woman named Liesl Alexander, a woman who was locked in a mental institution for years, taking 36 medications a day, and was written off as one of the most hopeless cases in the institution.  
 
Yet when a group of people came from a local church and began to pray for her, her life took a turn in the opposite direction.  By the power of Christ, she was set free to live the life that God had created her to live.  For the past 20 years, she’s been sharing her testimony about how Christ has changed her life, and encouraging her listeners to be fully persuaded that “God can do anything, absolutely anything.” (I’ve included the links to Liesl’s testimony in the P.S. at the end).
 
God wants you to be fully persuaded that He can do what He has promised to do.  I’d encourage you to take some to time to read the Bible this week and look for stories of how God has touched people’s lives in powerful ways, then look at our website or at other Christian books to see how God has worked in people’s lives today, and you’ll be convinced, too, that God can do anything— absolutely anything.
 
Hope is closer than you might think.  Remember:
 
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
 
Will you pray with me?
 
Father, thank You for reminding us that You are always at work on our behalf, and that the answers to our prayers could be revealed in an instant. Help us to trust You fully—to be fully persuaded—that You can do anything, absolutely anything.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
P.S.  If you’d like to read more stories from people living today who have been touched in powerful ways by God, visit this link on our website:
If you’d like to read the text-version of Liesl Alexander’s story, click here:
And if you’d like to watch a longer, but powerful video of Liesl’s story, click here:
Liesl’s Story – Video

(Could I ask you to pray for Liesl as well, as she’s facing a new battle now, 20 years later…this time with cancer.  You can read more about it and post a comment on her website at the link below.)
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 4:13-25.  What does this passage have to say to us today about hope?

2.  While Abraham and Sarah’s story might seem unbelievable, for they were old and past the age of child-bearing, how can their story give you hope for any situation that you’re praying about right now? 

3.  What story does Paul refer to, in verses 23-25, to remind us about God’s ability to bring life out of death?

4.  What are some steps you can take this week to help you become “more fully persuaded” that God can do what He has promised to do, whether they are steps suggested by this lesson, or other steps that might not have been mentioned?  Consider committing to doing one or two of those things.
 
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
 
To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
 
To find us on Facebook, please visit:
 
To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:

Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Believing God

Sorry it’s late but we had some bad storms blow through and I shut down the computer.

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 
 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Believing God

Lesson 9 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 

 
I’d like to talk to you today about believing God.  Not just believing in God.  But believing God–believing that He will do what He says He will do.  The reason I want to talk to you about believing God is because what you believe influences what you do.  Or, to put it another way, you do what you believe.
 
If you believe that people are going to hell if they don’t put their faith in Jesus, then you’ll do something about it.  If you’re not doing something about it, then you’re just giving intellectual assent to an idea, but you’re not really believing it.
 
I have a friend who went to the doctor for a checkup.  The doctor told him, “Your Dad had a heart attack by the time he was forty-eight, and you’re going to have a heart attack by the time you’re forty-eight unless you make some changes in your life.”  My friend had known this was a possibility before, but it wasn’t until his doctor told him the truth so directly that my friend finally believed it.  He began that day to change the way he ate, the way he exercised, and the way he lived his life.  He’s still going strong today.  Why?  Because he believed what his doctor said.
 
How much more so, when we hear what God says about our lives, should be believe Him and do what He says?
 
Abraham is an excellent example for all of us of someone who believed God, who heard what God said and took it to heart, and then backed up what he believed with his actions.
 
If you remember the story, God told Abraham that he would have so many descendants they would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  This was a pretty lofty idea considering that Abraham was old and childless.  But the Bible says:
 
“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).
 
Several years later, when God called Abraham to become circumcised as a way of sealing God’s covenant with him, Abraham did what God said that very day, and within a year, he and his wife Sarah had their first child–the first of a long line of his promised descendants.
 
While Abraham’s obedience to be circumcised was important and necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plan for his life, the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to the Romans that it wasn’t after Abraham was circumcised that he was declared righteous in God’s sight, but before.  Abraham was declared righteous several years before his circumcision.  He was declared righteous the moment he believed.  (You can read more about this part of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 15-18.) 
 
Abraham’s circumcision was a natural outworking of the faith that Abraham had already expressed in his heart to God.  His actions were directly influenced by what he believed.
 
Dallas Willard is one of the spiritual giants of our generation.  When asked what he would advise someone to do who wanted to grow spiritually, he gave a surprising answer.  You might think he would say, “Read the Bible more,” or “Pray more,” or “Go to church more.”  But he didn’t.  He said the best course of action for someone who wants to grow spiritually is this:  
 
“Do the next right thing you know you ought to do.”
 
He expanded on this thought by saying that you’ll grow more when you do the next right thing that you know you ought to do because you’ll be doing the very thing that God wants you to do.  He said it may very well involve reading the Bible more so you can get clarity on what it is that God really wants you to do.  It may involve praying more because you’ll need God’s wisdom for how to do it.  It may involve going to church more because you’ll most likely need the help of others to do what God has put on your heart to do.  But in any case, you’ll grow tremendously when you do the next right thing you know you ought to do.
 
My question for you today is this:  what’s the next right thing you know you ought to do?  
 
What is it that God has called you to do that He is wanting you to take the next step in faith to get done?  Maybe it’s in something regarding your family, your job, your finances, or your health.  Maybe it’s something regarding your calling, your gifting, your relationships, or the way you use your time.  Maybe it’s something that is quiet and internal, or maybe it’s something that is out loud and vocal.  Maybe it’s something you need to start doing, or maybe it’s something you need to stop doing.
 
Although I don’t know what it might be that God is putting on your heart right now as you read these words, I imagine there are probably one or two things that may have already started coming to your mind as “the next right thing you know you ought to do.”  Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to do it.  Believe in your heart that God has called you to it, then step out in faith and let Him help you do it!
 
You may remember the story of the widow’s oil, back in the Old Testament.  This widow had lost her husband, and she and her two sons were struggling to live.  She was at a point of desperation because her husband’s creditors were coming to take away her boys as slaves.
 
She cried out to Elisha, a man of God that she knew, and asked him what to do.  Elisha asked what she had left in her house.  She said that she had nothing there at all, “except a little oil” (2 Kings 4:5).
 
So Elisha told her what to do next.  He told her to go around to all her neighbors and ask for their empty jars.  She and her sons did what Elisha said.  She went all over the neighborhood asking for empty jars and brought them home.  Elisha told her to fill them up with the little oil that she had.  By faith, she began pouring out the oil into the first jar, and it didn’t stop!  It just kept flowing and flowing as she poured it into jar after jar, until every jar she had collected was full.  Elisha told her:
 
“Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.  You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4:7b).
 
I love this story for several reasons, but one that stands out to me today is the fact that the widow believed what God was telling her to do through the prophet Elisha, then she went out and acted on that belief.  She did “the next right thing she knew she ought to do.”
 
One way to renew your mind today is to believe God–not just believe in Him–but really believe Him, because what you believe influences what you do.
 
Abraham wasn’t credited with righteousness after he was circumcised, but before, when he first believed God.  It was only afterwards that he stepped out in faith and acted on what he believed.  
 
The widow’s life didn’t start to turn around after she had sold all her jars of oil and got the money for them, but before, when she first believed what God told her to do through the prophet Elisha.  It was only afterwards that she stepped out in faith and acted on what she believed.  
 
God wants you to believe Him, too.  He wants you believe what He says and then to act on that belief, to do the next right thing that you know you ought to do.  For some of you, this might mean picking up a project that you’ve been putting off for years.  You might think, “Not that, Lord!  It’s been on the back burner for so long, I don’t think I’ll ever get around to it.”  For others of you, this might mean acting on something you heard just yesterday.  You might think, “Not that, Lord!  I just heard about it yesterday, I need a few more days, or months, or years to think about it.”  
 
We can think of all kinds of reasons not to do what we know we ought to do.  But I want to encourage you today to believe God, and then act on that belief.  Don’t let doubt and discouragement hold you back from doing “the next right thing” that God has called you to do.  
 
Believe God today, and then act on that belief!  Then one day, like Abraham and Sarah, and like the widow and her sons, people will be telling the story of what happened to you when you believed God, too.
 
Will you pray with me?
 
Father, thank You for creating each of us with special tasks to accomplish here on earth.  Help us to have the faith today to believe what You say when you speak to us, and then to act on that belief.  Help us today to step out in faith and do the next right thing we know we ought to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
Loving Thoughts

P.S. This is also the last week that we’ll be highlighting our new book called, “Loving Thoughts,” a short book of quotes and Bible verses to help those who are passing from this life to the next.  You can download this book in an eBook format for free from the link below, or you can order a beautiful, 24-page paperback version by simply sending a donation of any size to our ministry.  Your gifts help to offset the cost of printing and shipping, as well as help us to continue creating more resources like these, so thanks in advance for your gifts!  Here are the links to download the free eBook or to request a paperback:
To make a donation and get the paperback, please visit:
 
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 4:1-12.  Why do you think God credited Abraham with righteousness when he first believed God, rather than after he took his famous steps of obedience?
2.  Read James 2:18-20.  What are some of the differences between believing God and just believing in God, based on this passage?
3.  What is the relationship between faith and works, as described by the passage in James?
4.  What comes to your mind as “the next right thing you ought to do?”  What steps could you take to help clarify that those things really are from God, and then to step out in faith to begin doing them?
 
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
 
To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
 
To find us on Facebook, please visit:
 
To invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, whether by Skype or in person, please visit:

Covenants And Promises

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10
The New International Version

The other day I spoke of the covenant that God made with Israel, the Jewish people, the 12 tribes, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This morning, the above verse from Isaiah 54 was on my Today’s Thought e-mail.  I immediately felt that God was affirming what I stated.

We Christians believe that you must receive Jesus as the Messiah to receive salvation.  The Jews don’t accept Him as such.  Therein lies a dilemma.  How do we reconcile the two things, God’s Old Testament covenant and the New Testament (Christian) requirement?  I was talking to my mother about this very thing last night.  She had to agree with me because, if God were to break His covenant of old, how could we believe in any covenant that followed?

We tend to look at everything in human terms since, naturally, that’s all we know.  We cannot and will never know the mind of God until we meet Him face to face.  The Bible states “His ways are not our ways…” therefore, I will not show disdain toward Judaism or the Jewish people ever.

Human beings make and break promises every day.  It’s shameful of us and I’m just as guilty of having done it (more so in the past) as anyone else.  Please don’t think that I have a “holier than thou” attitude about this.  I am just stating my own thoughts and observations for your consideration.

I know that the Christian Old Testament is not the same as the Jewish Tanakh.  It is a Christian version of it.  I did not live in the time before Christ or during His ministry.  I didn’t learn the Jewish faith in grade school.  I went to Catholic school all 12 years and graduated there.  I recently learned, again, that the Catholics have their own version of the Bible.  With all of the different denominations there are within the Christian faith, I wonder just how different each one’s Bible is.  I guess we all must decide as individuals what we will believe as the truth and try our best to follow it.  Human beings are not perfect, I know that I’m far from it, but we can at least attempt to live together in this world by the one concept that I think is in every version, both Christian and Jewish, and that is loving compassion for one another.  Just a thought…

Always remember that Jesus died for us because He loves us!

Humbly yours,
Teresa Marie