The Nail; A Joke From My Brother

The nail
A blonde city girl named Amy marries a Canadian rancher.

One morning, on his way out to check on the cows, the rancher says to Amy:
‘The insemination man is coming over to impregnate one of our cows today,
So I drove a nail into the 2 by 4 just above where the cow’s stall is in
The barn. Please show him where the cow is when he gets here, OK?’

The rancher leaves for the fields. After a while, the artificial
Insemination man arrives and knocks on the front door.

Amy takes him down to the barn. They walk along the row of cows, and when
Amy sees the nail, she tells him, ‘This is the one right here.’

The man, assuming he is dealing with an airhead blonde, asks, ‘Tell me
Lady, ’cause I’m dying to know how would YOU know that this is the right
Cow to be bred?’

‘That’s simple,” she said. “by the nail that’s over its stall,’ she
Explains very confidently.

Laughing rudely at her, the man says, ‘And what, pray tell, is the nail
For?’

The blonde turns to walk away and says sweetly over her shoulder, ‘I guess
it’s to hang your pants on.’

( It’s nice to see a blonde winning once in a while.)

     

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Thinking About Sinful Desires

(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
 

Thinking About Sinful Desires

Lesson 31 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

 By Eric Elder

 

My kids and I were window shopping in downtown Chicago last week (window shopping is where you look, but don’t buy).  We were looking at all the cool things in the Apple store on Michigan Avenue when my wife came up after finishing a doctor’s appointment.  She said she had seen a man outside in a wheelchair who was asking for money and who wasn’t looking too good.

She didn’t have much to give him, but she gave him what she had, a little pocket change and a prayer.  When she asked if she could pray for him, he said:

“Yes!  Pray that God will give me a girl.  I think about making love (he used another word for it) with a girl all day long and I can’t get the thoughts out of my mind.  I’m just so lonely and I can’t stop thinking about making love with someone.”

After getting her thoughts back together, and refraining from trying to immediately cast something evil out of him, she began to pray for him, asking God to give him what he needed, even if it wasn’t the thing that he was asking for.

What was going on in that man’s mind reminded us of the verse that we’re looking at today in the book of Romans.  The verse says:

“… do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:14b).

Paul knew that even just thinking about gratifying the desires of the sinful nature could lead to doing them eventually.  As the apostle James said in his book:

“… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

Just as good thoughts can lead to good actions, sinful thoughts can lead to sinful actions.  And sinful actions, when pursued in full, can lead to all kinds of destruction, even death.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think about what could happen if this man in the wheelchair did get a girl and was able to do with her whatever he wanted.  But the truth is, the thoughts that he expressed are not so far removed from the thoughts any of us have from time to time.  And if we don’t keep them in check, all kinds of things could happen if we were to follow-up on our thoughts as well.

I was talking to another man this week who said he was having similar thoughts, although he said them in more palatable words.  He said he was just standing there admiring the beautiful curves of a woman he had seen when he realized what he was doing.  Before he let those thoughts overtake him, he reminded himself that he had died to his old sinful nature when he was baptized into Christ.  He was lonely, too, and longed for a lifetime companion but he knew he couldn’t gratify the desires of his sinful nature in the way that he was thinking.  So he took control of his thoughts, brought them back under the authority of Christ, and was able to walk away with a victory in his mind instead of a defeat.  What a blessing that was for himself, and for others he spared from potential destruction.

What he was doing was “putting on the armor of light” and “clothing himself with the Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul described in the following words.  Paul said:

“So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in org – – – and drunkenness, not in se – – al immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:12b-14. Note: I’ve deleted a few letters from some of the words in this passage so this whole message won’t get stopped by certain spam filters).

 

It really is possible to take control of your thoughts.  When you do, you’ll be blessed and so will those around you.

And if you look back even further in this passage, you’ll see why Paul was so passionate about helping people get control over their thoughts:

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12a).

Paul wants us to wake up from our slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  For years, people have been saying that Jesus is coming soon, just as Jesus said Himself almost 2,000 years ago.  And the truth is, His coming is closer now that it’s ever been!  As Paul said, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here!”  What a great thought, and what a great motivator to do what’s right!

Don’t let the darkness overtake you.  Don’t give in to dwelling on thoughts that could lead to your destruction.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jesus isn’t coming back soon, because He is.  As Jesus said to the Apostle John:

“Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  

Jesus wants you to live your life to the fullest, and the best way to do that is to live your life in the light.  This isn’t to say that it’s easy to overcome temptation.  But it is possible, and more than that, God will help you to do it.  As Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

You may have tried various ways to overcome your temptations.  But Paul mentions something in this passage that we’re looking at today that may give you some extra help as you try to break free.  If you look back just a little further in the passage, you’ll see that Paul says instead of focusing on our sinful desires, we should focus on how we can express God’s love to others instead:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”

There’s a big difference between lust and love.  Lust, at its core, is all about selfishness and doing whatever you want to others.  Love, at its core, is all about selflessness, and doing for others what you would want them to do for you.  Instead of thinking about how we can gratify our own sinful desires, Paul says we’re to put on the armor of light, and think about how we can express God’s love to others.

I’ve shared before about my aunt who got some great advice from her doctor when she was going through some days filled with dark depression:  he suggested to her that she think about ways she could help other people.  By focusing on blessing others instead of wallowing in her own thoughts of despair, she was able to pull herself out of the darkness by focusing on others.  She began to bake food for friends, bringing them cakes, cookies, pies, or anything she thought they might enjoy.  She was able to get out of the pit she was in, and to this day, she continues to bless those around her, now from a place of victory rather than near defeat.

The same can happen for those who struggle with sinful desires, which can bring on the same kind of darkness.  When tempted to dwell on thoughts that are potentially destructive to yourself or to those around you, you can take those thoughts captive and replace them with other thoughts.  Reach out and put on God’s armor of light, and let the light of Christ shine through you instead.  Replace your selfish thoughts with selfless thoughts, and you’ll see God begin to turn around situations that you may have thought were hopeless.

Take a meal to a friend.  Write a letter to someone who needs some encouragement.  Put a check in the mail to someone who could use a financial boost.  Call a parent or an aunt or an uncle or a brother or a cousin or a friend who you may not have talked to in a long time.  It may seem like hard work at first, but soon you’ll find that the darkness is fleeing and the light of Christ is flooding into your soul.

Clothe yourself with Christ this week.  Let His light shine through you.  Let Him use your hands and feet, your words and actions, to those around you who could use a touch from Him.  Let your mind wander about ways you can love your neighbor as yourself, instead of ways that you can gratify the desires of your sinful nature.  If you need some extra encouragement to do this, just remember the words of Paul, who said:

“And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now that when we first believed.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for promising that You will come for us soon.  Help us to keep that at the forefront of our minds as we consider how to bless those around us instead of how to gratify our own sinful desires. Help us to take our eyes off ourselves and to focus on those things that You want us to do in the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What God Says CDP.S. If you struggle with temptation, I’d like to point you to some passages in the Bible that could help.  I’ve listed several below, and I’ve also included a link to a recording on our website where you can listen to each of these scriptures, read by my wife Lana to some beautiful music.  If you’d like to get this recording on a CD, which includes over half an hour of readings from the Bible six other topics as well, I’d be glad to send you the whole CD for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  Your gifts truly help us get the word out about Christ every week to over 35,000 people around the world, and we’re glad to send you this beautiful recording of God’s Word set to music as our way of saying thanks.  To read these verses for yourself, just click the links below:

– Hebrews 4:13-16
– Matthew 4:1-4 and 11
– 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
– Hebrews 2:18
– Psalm 119:9
– 1 Corinthians 10:13
– Proverbs 1:10
– James 1:13-15
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
– Matthew 6:9-13

To listen to Lana’s recording of these verses online, please visit:
What God Says About Temptation (MP3)

To make a donation and get a CD that includes these verses and many others set to beautiful music, please visit:
Make A Donation

 

To follow Lana’s blog about her own walk of faith during difficult times, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

Questions for Reflection

1.  Read Romans 13:8-14.  Why does Paul say that we should let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another?

2.  How can loving others help us to overcome sinful thoughts and actions in our lives?

3.  What are some practical that you could show your love to others, instead of dwelling on how you could gratify the desires of your sinful nature?

4. What are some other ways that you might “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”?

 

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 invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, 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.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch; Doing What’s Right

(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
Doing What’s Right

Lesson 30 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

 By Eric Elder

 

As we continue to look at ways to renew your mind, I’d like to look with you today at the way you view those in authority over you, whether they’re a boss, a parent, or even a government authority.  If you view authority with contempt, distrust, and disrespect, you’ll often find that same contempt, distrust and disrespect coming back to you.  But if you view authority with God‘s perspective, trusting that even ungodly authorities can have a place in God’s plan in the world, then you can have much more peace of mind in the midst of struggles.

 

I remember working for a boss for whom I didn’t have much respect.  He often asked me to do things that seemed pretty pointless.  We were friendly towards each other, but neither of us had much trust or respect for the other.

 

One day he asked me to fill out a survey that the company said was voluntary and anonymous.  But my boss required that each of us that worked for him fill it out, and because I was out of town at the time, I was going to have to fax my survey to him, making it clear that it came from me.  When I voiced these objections to him, he still said he wanted to see my survey by the next morning.  I was furious.  While it may not have seemed like a big deal to him, I was afraid if I gave my honest responses on the survey, it could jeopardize my future standing in the company.  And if I didn’t answer honestly, I was afraid I was jeopardizing my own standards of integrity.  So I was just going to refuse to turn it in.

 

But as the day went on, God began to work on my heart, and the biblical view of authority came to my mind.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote about this to the Christians living in Rome.  And from what I know about the way the Romans treated Christians at the time, I’m sure the Roman Christians had more difficult struggles with their bosses than being asked to fill out inane surveys!  They obviously had it way worse than me, and yet here’s what Paul said:

 

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:1-7).

 

Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to “do what’s right.”  He knew that if Christians could respect those in authority over them, benefits would abound all around, both to those they serve, and to themselves.

 

Any parent knows that when a child is obedient and respectful, the child can often ask for most anything and the parent is happy to oblige.  Yet when a child is disobedient and disrespectful, the parent is often unwilling to give in to any type of request, for fear that the child might abuse whatever is given to them.  When a child shows respect and honor to a parent, that same respect and honor often returns back to them.

 

Going back to my earlier story with my own boss, I remember finally coming to the conclusion that it was more important to respect and honor my boss-even though I disagreed with him-because God had called me to respect and honor those in authority over me.  My boss wasn’t asking me to do anything immoral or illegal.  I just disagreed with him.  After expressing that disagreement, he still persisted in what he wanted me to do, so I knew what I had to do.

 

I filled out the survey honestly and faxed it to him the next morning.  My heart felt at peace for I knew I had done what was right, even if it cost me something down the road. To my amazement, my relationship with my boss changed starting that very day. I don’t know if it was something that changed within me, or something that changed within him-or a combination of the two-but over the few months, he became my biggest supporter and my strongest advocate for every project took on.  He knew he could count on me to do what he asked me to do, and because of this trust, he gave me greater leeway in how I carried out my project than he had ever given me before.

 

Like a horse that was finally broken, I felt I could now be useful to him in all kinds of ways.

 

This doesn’t mean that those in authority over us are always right, just as any parent knows full well!  Any parent can and will make mistakes, and the same goes for bosses and governments.  But just because those in authority over us don’t do the right thing doesn’t mean that we can’t do the right thing.  As Paul said, “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

 

Even men in the Bible like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel found ways to serve those in authority over them even though those over them were often ungodly and did the wrong things.

 

Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, yet he still treated his masters with respect and honor, doing what was right, and earning a place of respect and honor in their households, their prisons, and eventually in service to the king himself, being placed second in command over all the land.

 

Nehemiah was captured and put into the service of an ungodly king, yet he became the king’s cupbearer, a trusted position to ensure that no one poisoned the king’s wine.  When Nehemiah needed time and money to go rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, the king honored his request, because Nehemiah had honored the king.

Daniel was taken as a slave to Babylon, yet he served the king with integrity of heart and attitude, earning the king’s respect and becoming one of his top officials.

 

I’m sure each of these men wanted to rebel against the authorities God had put over them at many points in their lives.  And on some occasions, they did have to disobey the ungodly and immoral commands of those in authority over them, rightly claiming that God had a higher authority in each of those instances.  When Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to go to bed with her, Joseph refused, and when Nebuchadnezzar’s officials asked Daniel and his friends to bow down and worship the king, they refused. In both cases, Joseph and Daniel paid a significant price for their insubordination, but they were willing to do so because they realized that in some cases, it was more important to submit to the authority of God than the authority of men.  So there do seem to be times when God’s authority trumps earthly authorities.  But those times are much fewer than most of us might like to admit.

The principle remains:  when we submit to those in authority over us, whether it’s the authorities on earth, or the Authority in heaven, we’ll have peace of mind, because we’ll know we’ve done what’s right.

If you’re wrestling in your mind with something that someone in authority has asked you to do, bring it to God.  Ask Him to help you to know what the right thing is to do.  Paul says that those in authority over you will commend you if you do what’s right.

Do what’s right, and God will reward you.  Those in authority over you will commend you, you’ll be freed from fear, and your conscience will be clear.  As Paul concluded:

“…submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:4b-7).

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us of the importance of submitting to those in authority over us.  Lord, give us Your wisdom as we weigh how to do that to the best of our ability, not only to avoid punishment, but because of conscience.  Help us to renew our minds in the way we think about those in authority over us, changing our hearts and minds and even our relationships with others as we do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joshua 1:9 T-ShirtP.S. Our friend Jeanette is still offering T-Shirts for those who would like one as a reminder to pray for my wife Lana, who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  The T-Shirts have a verse on the front from the book of Joshua that says, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.”  Jeanette created these shirts as a way to gather prayer and to bless our ministry.   She would be glad to send you one for a donation of any size to our ministry, anywhere in the world.  We sincerely need and appreciate your prayers, and your gifts also help us in a very practical way to continue taking the message of Christ all around the world.  To make a donation and get a T-Shirt, just visit:

Make A Donation

 

You can keep up with Lana’s updates on her blog at:
Lana’s Blog

 

Questions for Reflection

1.  Read Romans 13:1-7.  Why do you think Paul wanted the Christians in Rome to respect those in authority over them?  What possible benefits could result from this type of submission?

2.  In what areas of your life could you benefit from putting Paul’s words into action?

3.  How could changing the way you view those in authority over you bring you more peace of mind?

4. How could changing the way you interact with those in authority over you bring about a change in your relationships with 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 invite Eric to speak to your group of any size, 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.

This Week’s Sermon From the Ranch – Thinking Of Others

Thinking Of Others

Lesson 29 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder

 

The story’s told of two friends who were walking through a desert together when one of the friends slapped the other in the face.  The one who was slapped wrote a note in the sand saying:

 

Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

 

But as they walked further along, the one who had been slapped fell into a pool of water and began to drown.  This time, his best friend reached down and pulled him out of the water, saving his life.  This time, the friend who was rescued etched a note on a stone saying:

 

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

 

When asked why he wrote one note in the sand and the other note in stone, the one who had been slapped and then later rescued replied:

 

“When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away.  But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can ever erase it.”

 

Too often, we get this backwards:  we write people’s offenses in stone rather than sand, perhaps because they’ve hurt us so much, or perhaps to protect ourselves from being hurt again.  Then we write the good deeds that people have done for us in sand, forgetting over time just how significant those good deeds have been in our lives.

But according to the Bible, true love keeps no record of people’s offenses at all.  As Paul said to the Corinthians:

 

“Love… keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5b).

 

Last week, we looked at the importance of thinking of ourselves properly, without falling into the traps of pride or low self-esteem.  This week, we’re looking at the importance of thinking of others properly, without falling into the traps of conceit or comparison.

 

When Paul wrote about love to the Romans, he wrote a simple yet profound statement:

 

“Love must be sincere” (Romans 12:9a).

 

While this may seem obvious-that if we love someone we should love them sincerely-it’s not so easy to do.  For some people, it’s easy to fake love.

 

I know a man who seemed like he was a friend to everyone, describing himself as having “great people skills.”  Yet in private conversations with him, I discovered that he viewed others with various degrees of disdain, resentment and frustration, often thinking of himself as better than those around him.  The love he showed to others was based on keeping up his image in public more so than holding those around him in true esteem.

 

This is just a shallow imitation of what real love looks like.  Real love is sincere.  In Latin, the word “sincere” literally means “without wax,” (sine meaning without, and cera meaning wax).  Apparently, if a craftsman carved a statue in stone and accidentally nicked or chipped the carving along the way, they would fill those spots with wax.  For all appearances, the statue looked pure and faultless.  But after a while in the hot sun, the wax would melt and the truth would be known:  that which appeared pure and faultless at first was in fact quite flawed.

 

When Paul said that love must be sincere, or without wax, he was saying that love shouldn’t be just for show, but for real.

 

In the past, I used to think that the word “sincerely” was just a formal way of signing off on a business letter, as I learned in business school back in college.  But in recent years, and knowing the meaning of the word sincere, I find myself using it more and more often.  When I write a note from the depths of my heart, I sign it, “Sincerely, Eric Elder.”  To me, it’s no longer just a formal closing, but a heartfelt statement saying, “I really mean this from the depths of my heart.”  It’s much closer to meaning “Love, Eric Elder” than I ever would have thought.  And that’s just what Paul said:  Love must be sincere.

 

I find that it’s helpful for me to check how sincere I am in my love for others by substituting the words “true affection” for love.  I might be able to say that I love someone, whether a friend or a co-worker, or even someone with whom I disagree or who I’m tempted to consider an enemy.  But when I ask myself if I have true affection for them, then the flaws in my love for them are revealed.

 

When this happens, I have to regroup my thinking, and try to see them as God sees them:  as beloved children of His, whom He has created for specific plans and purposes here on earth.  When I change my thinking, it changes how I view them, and subsequently how I love and interact with them.  It doesn’t always happen in an instant, but I recognize it much quicker now when I do the “true affection” test!

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he includes more than a dozen statements about what love looks like when it’s sincere.  Here are a few of those statements:

 

– Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
– Honor one another above yourselves.  
– Share with God’s people who are in need.  
– Practice hospitality. 
– Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  
– Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  
– Live in harmony with one another.  
– Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. 
– Do not be conceited. 
– Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  
– Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  
– If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  
– Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath 
– Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

If you reframe each of these as a question, you’ll get some good ideas for what you might do this week, this month, or this year to show more love to those around you.  For instance:

 

– What can you do to show your devotion to another brother or sister in Christ?
– What can you do to honor someone else above yourself?  
– What can you do to share with other Christians who are in need?  
– What can you do to practice hospitality towards someone you know?
– What can you do to bless someone who is persecuting you?  
– What can you do to rejoice with someone as they rejoice, or to mourn with someone as they mourn?
– What can you do to live in harmony with others, rather than provoking continual discord? 
– What can you do to be humble instead of proud, and to associate with people of low position?
– What can you do to avoid being conceited?
– What can you do to refrain from repaying anyone evil for evil?
– What can you do to do what is right in the eyes of everybody?
– What can you do to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on you?
– What can you do to not take revenge on someone else, but leave room for God’s wrath?
– What can you do to avoid being overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good? 

 

I know that I want to keep my love for others sincere, without wax, as pure and flawless as possible.  I want to have true affection for others, whether they’re close friends and family or just casual acquaintances or strangers or even enemies.

 

I want to think of others as God thinks of them:  as children of His, created by Him for specific plans and purposes here on earth.

 

I don’t want to be the kind of person who etches in stone those things that others have done wrong.  I don’t even want to write them in sand.  I want to be able to keep no record of wrongs, recalling instead only the good that others have done for me in my life.

 

But I know that to do all of this it will take more than what I can do on my own.  It will take the love of Christ, living in me and working through me, to think of others the way God wants me to think of them.  If you want that, too, I hope you’ll pray with me today.  Pray that God will help you to love others in ways you could never have done on your own.  With His help, you’ll be able to express love to others as the Apostle Paul encouraged the Romans to do, saying:

 

“Love must be sincere.”

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for loving each one of us and giving each one of us a purpose and a plan for our lives.  Help us to think of others in the same way that You think of them.  And help us to treat them with the love and honor that is due them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Jesus: Lessons In LoveP.S.  If you’d like some more ideas about how to be more loving towards those around you, I’d be glad to send you a copy of a devotional book I’ve written called “Jesus: Lessons In Love.”  The book expands on this theme by looking at the life of Jesus through the gospel of Matthew, seeing how Jesus loved those around Him, even those who were bent on taking His life.  I’d be glad to send you a copy in paperback, anywhere in the world, for a donation of any size to our ministry.  You’re gifts help us to continue sending these messages freely around the world each week, and we’re glad to send you a gift in return.  To make a donation and get a book, just click the link below.
Get A Book!

 

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 12:9-21.  What would it look like for someone to be devoted to someone else in brotherly love?
2.  How can you honor one another above yourself, truly honoring them for who they are and who God created them to be?
3. What are some ways you could “share with God’s people who are in need,” or “practice hospitality” towards those around you?  How can doing these things express your love in ways that words alone may not express?
4.  What are some reasons God wouldn’t want you to take revenge on someone, but to leave it in His hands instead?  What are some ways you can bless your enemies or those who may be persecuting you, and what might be the result when you do?

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

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Thinking Of Yourself – This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch

(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
Thinking Of Yourself

Lesson 28 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder

 

The way you think of yourself is often affected by what others say about you.  One of my favorite stories that shows the power that other people’s words can have over us is a true story by a woman named Eddie Ogan.

 

Eddie tells the story about how the pastor at their church challenged everyone in the congregation to prepare for a special offering to be taken up at the end of the month for a poor family.  Eddie, her two sisters and their mother were so excited about what they could do to help that they went home that night and came up with a plan:  if they were to eat only potatoes, turn off the lights, not listen to the radio, get odd jobs and sell what they could, they could help out with this special offering.

 

Eddie says that was one of the best months of their lives.  When the time came for the special offering, they put in all the money they had saved: $70, made up of three crisp twenties and a ten.  They  felt rich.

 

Later that afternoon, the pastor of the church stopped by for a visit.  He left an envelope with their mother.  When they opened it, out fell 3 crisp twenties, a ten, and seventeen one dollar bills.   Their hearts sank as they realized that they werethe poor family.  They never thought of themselves as poor before, but at that moment, they felt they were and felt that everyone else must see them that way, too.

 

The next week, they didn’t want to go back to church again, but their mother made them.  A missionary was speaking about needing $100 to put a roof on a church building in another country.  The pastor asked his congregation if they could take up an offering to help these poor people.  Eddie and her family smiled for the first time in a week.  They put the contents of their envelope back in the offering, and when the money was counted, it was just over $100.  The missionary was surprised and said that the church must have some rich people in it to take up such an offering!

 

When Eddie and her family realized they had put in $87 of that offering, they realized that they were the rich family in the church!  “Hadn’t the missionary said so?”  Eddie says that from that day on, she’s never been poor again.  (It’s worth reading the whole story if you want, at this link.)

 

The way you look at yourself can often be shaped by what others say about you…whether for good or bad.  But God wants you to look at yourself for who you truly are:  a child of His, created to fulfill a purpose here on earth.  He doesn’t want you to think of yourself either too highly, nor too lowly than you really are.  Pride can ensnare you, but low self-esteem can keep you from reaching your fullest potential.

 

How can you think of yourself properly?  Thankfully, the Apostle Paul gives us some perspective in his letter to the Romans.  In chapter 12, Paul says:

 

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:3-8).

 

When you realize that God has created you for a specific purpose, you can better see how you fit into the scheme of things here on earth.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:

 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

 

God doesn’t compare you to those around you.  He compares you to the potential that He has put within you.  And that potential is often defined by how you act, or don’t act, “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

 

If God has created you to prophesy, then prophesy in proportion to your faith.  If God has created you to serve, then serve in accordance with the amount of faith God has given you.  If teaching, teach, if encouraging, encourage, if giving, give generously, if leading, govern diligently, if showing mercy, show it cheerfully.

 

By living your life in this way, it releases you from comparing yourself with others, and from the pitfalls of both pride and low self-esteem.

 

But living this way is easier said than done.

 

I recently finished reading a series of books called The Hunger Games.  It’s a gripping story about what might happen in a post-war America, in which the leaders of the country pit children against one another in a fight to the death for the entertainment of the rest of the country.  As these gruesome games go on year after year, one girl stands up to the games, and finds herself at the center of a revolution.

 

But throughout the book, this girl, Katniss Everdeen, thinks she’s not the right person for the job.  She doesn’t want to be the face of the revolution.  She doesn’t see how she could possibly lead the charge.  Yet everything about her screams out to those around her that she’s exactly the person who can spearhead this effort to make things right again.

 

At one point in the story, she struggles with a decision about a particular strategy they’re considering, so she asks a friend what he thinks.  He says:

 

“I think… you still have no idea.  The effect you can have.”

 

When I read that line, I was considering fasting and praying about some situations in my own life, and the lives of some people close to me.  But I was wondering if it would make any difference anyway.  Just then, I felt God was speaking to me and saying, “Eric, I think you still have no idea, either, the effect you can have.”  God was right.  I had no idea.  But I was willing to give it a try.  I stepped up in faith, began fasting and praying, and over the next few days watched as God unfolded the answers to those prayers.

 

I felt like Katniss Everdeen, the girl who had no idea the effect she had on those around her, yet who sparked a revolution to change the course of history.  I felt no pride, and I felt no lack of self-esteem.  I felt like I was simply acting “in accordance with the measure of faith God had given me.”

 

Sometimes we’re unable to see ourselves for who we really are, and it takes others to point it out to us.  But we have to be careful whose judgments we take into account. As Eddie Ogan found out, she had to choose whose words she was going to believe:  the words of the one who said her family was poor, or the words of the one who said her family was rich.  Either statement could have been true, depending on how she looked at it.  In the end, she chose to believe what God said about her:  that her family had acted in faith to help someone else in need, and in doing so, were considered rich.

 

Sometimes we have to let the words of others sink deep into our hearts so that we believe them.  Other times, we have to do as Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes and let them just pass on by:

 

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you-for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).

 

Not every word someone says about you is true, nor is it the whole truth.  Only God has that perspective.  Don’t think you’re stupid if you can’t climb a tree if God created you to swim!

 

Renew your mind today in the way you think of yourself.  Take what others say about you with a grain of salt, then take it to God for His perspective.  Let God tell you exactly what He thinks of you, without getting puffed up and without getting down on yourself, but with sober judgment.  Then do what God has created you to do, “in accordance with the measure of faith that He has given you.”

 

Who knows?  Perhaps you’re like Katniss Everdeen, too.  You have no idea…the effect you can have.

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for giving us a purpose for our lives, and thank You for giving us gifts to carry out that purpose.  Help us to put the gifts You’ve given us into use this week to a degree that we may have never used them before-according to the measure of faith that You’ve given us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Get A BookP.S.  If you’ve enjoyed today’s message, and would like to read more like it on a daily basis, I wanted to remind you that many of my past messages and series are online for free, and in paperback for a donation of any size to our ministry, at the links below.  Sometimes a message like this can last all week, but other times I know how helpful it is to get a dose of God’s Word into our lives on a daily basis.  If you’d like to read more, just visit the Messages section of The Ranch website to find several series online.

Or, if you’d like a copy in paperback to carry around with you or to give to a friend, you can request a copy of any of our books simply for a donation of any size to help us offset the costs of printing, and to expand our reach to even more people around the world.  Just use the link below to make a donation and pick a book.

Get A Book 

 

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 12:3-8.

How have words spoken to you through others either boosted you up or pulled you down?  Take those words to God and ask Him to give you His perspective on them.

2.  Looking through this short list of gifts in the book of Romans, are there any that stand out that you feel God might have given to you?  Is there a way you could step out in faith and use one or two of those gifts in your life this week, this month, or this year?

3. Paul lists some specific adjectives to describe how we are to use our gifts:  generously, diligently, and cheerfully.  If you were to use those words to measure how well you’re doing in using your gifts, how are you doing?

4.  How could changing the way you think about your gifts change your approach to using 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:

 

To make a donation of any size and choose a book as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Make A Donation/Get A Book!

 

To find us on Facebook, please visit:
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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.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Transformed – Part 1

(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 Transformed – Part 1

Lesson 26 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

 

By Eric Elder
The Ranch
I’d like to give you three practical ideas today for how to transform your life.  These ideas have been passed on to me over the years, and I’m glad to pass them onto you.  They’re based in part on the verse in Romans 12 for which this entire study of the book of Romans is named, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.  The verse says this:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).

This verse contains two distinct thoughts for how you can transform your life, like two sides of the same coin.  On one side of the coin, it says:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…”  And on the other side it says:  “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Two different thoughts, but the same goal.  Don’t conform.  Be transformed.

Today I’d like to focus on the first side of the coin, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”  Next week, we’ll look at the other side of the coin, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

When Paul talks about “the pattern of this world,” he’s talking about what might seem “normal” in the world around us.  But the truth is that what’s normal in the world around us are thoughts and ideas that pull us in the exact opposite direction that God wants for us.  This is why Paul didn’t want the Romans to conform to the world around them, and why God doesn’t want us to conform to the world around us.

But how do you break out of what may seem “normal”?  How do you break out of “the pattern of this world”?

Here are a few ideas that others have passed on to me over the years, and I’m glad to pass them onto you.  These aren’t meant to be legalistic “do’s and don’t’s” for your life, but they’re good ideas that I’ve tested out in my own life and found to be extremely helpful.  So in that light, here are three ideas that might help you to avoid being conformed to the world around you.  And all three have to do with the media that we consume:   the TV shows, movies, and material we read.

I’m not a TV basher, but before my wife and I got married twenty-two years ago, we read a book that encouraged us not to have a TV in our house for the first year of our marriage.  The author suggested that having a TV in your house is like having a third partner in your marriage.  It’s always sitting there, always available for a bit of entertainment or distraction, and could take away significant time from simply enjoying each other’s company during the first year of your marriage.  The author also suggested that the first year of marriage is perhaps the most important, for in the first year couple’s start patterns that can become habits for the rest of their married life.

So we gave it a try.  It was radical idea among the people we knew.  I remember a family that came over one night and the first thing one of the kids did when he walked in the house was to started running around in circles, looking for the TV.  When he couldn’t find one, he started shouting with a bit of desperation in his voice, saying, “This is a house with no TV!  This is a house with no TV!”

But for us, we were so excited about getting married and spending as much time as we could together that it didn’t seem like we were giving up that much.  It was great to just spend our hours talking together, cooking together, and doing dishes together.

When we finally did get a TV again, we were shocked at how much the programming seemed to have changed in the time that we weren’t watching.  Looking back, it’s hard to know if the programming had gotten so much worse, or if we had just been away from it for long enough to realize that the shows on TV were no longer “normal” for us.  It was easy to turn it off and keep it off.

Over the years, we’ve gone through various seasons where we’ve watched more TV than others, but in general, that first year of marriage set a pattern for us that has held for more than two decades.  We’ve recently moved out into the country where we only get three or four channels at most, and those are dependent on the weather.  And for the most part, neither my wife nor I, nor or six kids, seem to miss it too much.  Our family has grown up with TV on the “side burner” of our lives, not at its center, an idea that started for us over twenty-two years ago, and has continued to help us avoid being conformed to the pattern of this world.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” Paul said.  And by intentionally limiting the amount and type of TV shows that we’ve watched, we’ve been better able to keep God’s view of what’s “normal” in plain sight, rather than the world’s view of life.

The second type of media that people have suggested I limit over the years are the types of movies I watch.  Prior to becoming a Christian, I would watch all kinds of movies, regardless of their ratings.  Someone challenged me, however, on the idea of not watching any movie that was rated R or above, an idea that again seemed radical to me at the time.  I was over 17, after all, and why cut out what might be good movies, just because they contained more adult content?  But I respected the person who told me, and began to look more closely at the movies I watched.

I noticed that whenever I would watch an R-rated movie, the images that stayed in my head the longest seemed to be those images that gave the movie it’s R-rating.  There may have been other redeeming qualities to the movies, but those that stuck with me the most were those that were most questionable, whether violence, or cursing, or strong sensuality.    I began to realize that if the people in Hollywood, whose morals and values were often much more loose than my own, felt that a movie had questionable content for the general public, then perhaps there was a reason for me to stay away from it, too!

A friend of recently told me that he, too, used to watch R-rated movies all the time, not thinking anything about it.  He could handle it, he thought.  It didn’t affect him, he said, to watch women in little or no clothing, or to watch gruesome violence, or to listen to people repeatedly take God’s name in vain.  But then he got married.  And when he brought home a stack of movies to watch with his wife, he saw it through new eyes:  hers.  After trying to watch a few movies together, his wife said, “Why are you watching that?”  She began to wonder what kind of man she had married, who thought that these kinds of shows were normal.  Now he chooses his movies more carefully, not just because of his wife, but because he realized that the movies he watched were affecting his view of life and what he considered to be “normal.”

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” Paul said.  By intentionally putting limits on the types of movies that we watch, whether it’s going by the rating systems that Hollywood has put in place, or checking out movie reviews first by people that we trust, such as “Plugged In”, we’ve found ourselves better able to focus on God’s pattern for our lives and less on the world’s.

The third type of media that I’ve had to take control over are the things I read-the newspapers and magazines, blogs and books.  Words have power, and a writer can steer a person’s emotions and thoughts and viewpoints in ways that can affect us for a lifetime, whether for good or for bad.

I remember a national newspaper that I used to love to read.  The stories were always interesting and educational.  When I read them, I learned so much about topics I never thought about, and I felt like the paper was keeping me “up” with current events, and helping me have the inside scoop on what was going on.  But over time, I realized that whenever the paper wrote about topics that I already knew something about in-depth, I found that the authors were surprisingly one-side in their views, leaving out opposing views or slanting the articles towards conclusions that were the exact opposite of mine.

I continued reading the paper because I was learning so much about other topics, but began to wonder: If the paper could take such a one-sided view of the topics that I did know about in-depth, what other ideas were they skewing in my mind on topics that I knew much less about? As much as I loved the paper-and my company at the time even paid for my subscription-I decided to cancel it.  I didn’t want my worldview to be shaped by an organization that held such different beliefs at their core than my own.

The same has carried over into the books I read and the blogs that I follow.  My goal isn’t just to surround myself with ideas that are only compatible with my own, but to consider carefully what I’m reading and why, rather than just consuming the material because it’s interesting or intriguing.  Books, newspapers, magazines, blogs all come with their own slant, no matter how much they say they are trying to remain neutral.  The important thing to find out is whether that slant is in line with God’s Word or not, and then choosing what we read based on that.

“Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world,” Paul said.  And by being careful about what I read, making sure it lines up with God’s view of life rather than than the world’s view of life, I find it much easier to resist the pull of the world on my heart and soul.

In all three of these areas-whether it’s TV show you watch, the movies you buy or download or rent, or the newspapers or magazines or books or blogs that you read-God wants you to be careful about what you take into your life.  You don’t have to be a prude, and you don’t have to be legalistic.  Each of these media can have good, useful and redeeming values.  But if you want to see your life transformed, you’ll find that the process will be easier when you take control over the media that you consume.  You’ll begin to get your life back, your time back, and be able to see the world with a set of fresh eyes.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” Paul said.  That’s not just good advice from a first-century apostle to the Romans of his day.  It’s good advice for you and me in regards to the world of our day, too.

Next week, I’ll share more about the flip side of this coin, with some practical ideas for how to you can “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In the mean time, I pray that God will use the ideas I’ve shared with you today to spark new ways that you can avoid being conformed to the pattern of this world.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for helping us realize that You don’t want us to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Help us to cut out or limit those things that are harmful to us, causing us to conform to the pattern of the world.  Give us ideas for how we can do this in practical ways in our lives and in our world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  Thanks to those of you who have been praying for us and our ministry.  It means so much.  Your prayers are powerful, and they’re helping us get God’s Word out to so many people around the world.  I’m still adding people to our prayer team who would like to get updates every month or so about our ministry so you can pray for us in specific ways.  If you’d like to join the team,  just send me a note at eric@theranch.org and I’ll keep you updated about our prayer needs on a regular basis.  I know that not only will we be blessed, but many others around the world will be blessed because of your prayers for us.  Thanks so much!

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 12:1-2.  What relationship is there between offering your body to God as a living sacrifice and not conforming to the pattern of this world?
2. What dangers can you see in your own life that might stem from conforming too much to the pattern of this world?
3. Are there any ideas from today’s message that you might want to put into practice in your own life, or has it sparked any other ideas that you might want to try?
4. At the end of verse 2, Paul say that if you don’t conform and be transformed you’ll be able to “test and approve” what God’s will is for your life.  What does Paul mean by this?
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 choose a book as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
Make A Donation/Get A Gift!

 

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