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

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

Being Wise And Innocent

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.

 

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

 

“Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ… 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Will you pray with me?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Romans Study

 

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

The Ranch Giftshop

 

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

 

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

Make a Donation

 

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

Booking Information

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Enlisting Others To Pray For You

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Will you pray with me?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Romans Study

 

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

The Ranch Giftshop

 

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

 

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

Make a Donation

 

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

Booking Information

 

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

 

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

Yesterday’s Sermon From The Ranch – Instructing One Another

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

Instructing One Another

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

 

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

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

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

“Drum Lessons For Beginners”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Jesus told His first disciples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

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

Make A Donation and Get the song on CD

 

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

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

  

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

  

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

  

There is no life – no life without its hunger; 

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

  

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

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

  

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

  

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

The Romans Study

 

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

The Ranch Giftshop

 

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

 

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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:

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

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Holding The Rope

(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


Holding The Rope

Lesson 23 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

 

When William Carey was raising funds in England to support his missionary work in India, he told people he felt as if there was a man drowning in a well and calling out for help.  Carey said he was willing to go down into the well to save the man, but he needed some people to hold the rope for him while he went.  

Several men volunteered to help Carey in his work, “holding the rope” for him back home, raising funds and praying so he could do the part God had called him to do.  

While the way people do missions has varied throughout the years, the idea of “goers” and “senders” has not.  God continues to call people to go and preach His message to people throughout the world, and He continues to call others to help send people on their way.

The Apostle Paul talked about this idea in his letter to the Christians in Rome, written almost 2,000 years ago.  Paul wrote:

“…for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:13-15).

In the past, these verses have conjured up in my mind a vision of missionaries climbing over the top of a mountain in some remote jungle, bringing the good news of Christ to the people in the valley below.  As the villagers would hear this good news being proclaimed to them—news that they had been longing to hear for years—they would exclaim, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Today I read that passage with a different vision in mind.  Why?  Because, in many ways, I’m now a missionary myself, writing to people all over the world to encourage them to put their faith in Christ for everything in their lives.  The scenery has changed, but the principle is the same.  

Instead of climbing a misty mountaintop, I’m sitting at my desk in my bedroom, looking out over miles and miles of wide open spaces.  I’m on the second floor of a two-story, traditional American farmhouse in the heart of the great midwest.  There are no mountains to block my view, and only a few other farmhouses dotting the ground in the distance.  The corn and soybean fields have been harvested for the year, so all that’s left is a clear view of the horizon in every direction.  

Yet when I push the “send” button on my computer, I realize that this message I’m writing will make its way over the plains, across the country, under oceans, into the sky and back down to the earth again.  

Within an a instant, this message will show up in places like Papua New Guinea, an island half-way around the world in the South Pacific, where someone just signed up to receive these messages on Monday, saying, 

“I will be very much excited to receive the news & also pray to strengthen each others faith.”  

Almost simultaneously, this message will also show up in an inbox in Nigeria, a country in western Africa where someone wrote to me last week saying, 

“I have been far from God.  Most times I start and end my day without praising or praying to God.  My bible is always beside me and most times I don’t open it. How do I strengthen my walk with God, how do I make him priority, and how do I become consistent with my maker????  Please advise me on what steps to take.”

At the same time, it will appear on someone’s cell phone in the UK, where a woman wrote to me this week saying, 

“You are so right about thinking of Jesus as a saviour and sometimes not having Him as Lord of our lives too. Today’s reading made me take stock of what you said, and I recommitted and surrendered my life afresh and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life also as well as being my saviour.”

Missions is changing, but the message stays the same.  When Jesus told His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation,” (Mark 16:15) He didn’t put any limits on where to go, how to go, or who to go to.  He just said to, “Go!”  He wanted them to take the message as far as they could, starting in Jerusalem, spreading out to Judea and finally to the ends of the earth.    

As we’ve been looking at the book of Romans for ways to renew our minds, I want to remind you that the goal of a renewed mind is not simply to renew your thinking but to renew your actions, too.  Jumping into God’s plan regarding missions is one of those actions that God wants you to take, whether it’s as a goer or a sender or both.  God wants you to be one of those people about whom it is said:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

For some of you, this may be a reminder of what God has already called you to do.  For others of  you this may be a confirmation of what God has been stirring in your heart in recent weeks or months.  And for some of you, this may be a totally new thought—a totally new direction that God wants you to take in your life.  Whatever the case, I want to encourage each of you to get involved in whatever mission God has put in front of you.

I was privileged to see an evangelist this fall named Reinhard Bonnke, as he was speaking at a youth conference in Chicago.  He’s ministered to millions on the African continent, with crowds so large that in just one meeting, his team saw over 1 million people fill out decision cards to put their faith in Christ.  

Yet, at age 71, he recently got onto FaceBook.  At first, he wasn’t sure he was interested.  But when someone showed him a demonstration of how it worked, the connections he could make with people around the world and the ease with which he could get a message out, it dawned on him.   He looked at the screen and said, “It’s a pulpit!”  

Now he personally posts several short thoughts each day on Facebook.  Over 381,000 have “liked” his page and several hundred people now comment and interact with him and his ideas on a daily basis.  His mission is the same as it’s been his whole life, it’s just taken on a whole new dimension!

A few years ago I read a conversation between David Yongii Cho, the pastor of the largest church in the world—located in Seoul, Korea—and Rick Warren, the pastor of one of the largest churches in America.  As they were talking about their next steps for future growth, they both pointed to the same thing:  the Internet.  Pastor Cho, who had over 750,000 members in his congregation at that time, said “we are so jammed that we have no way to keep growing except by going into cyberspace!”  

Pastor Warren responded, saying, “No matter how much land you have it eventually fills up.  We were running over 10,000 in attendance before we built our first building. So we know how to grow and minister without buildings. But what we are trying to learn now is how to do it through the Internet into the homes.”

Now, several years later, both churches now have strong and vibrant Internet ministries, providing spiritual support and encouragement to members in home groups around the world.

As the world grows, God wants to use every means possible to reach as many as possible before the end comes.  Considering that the world has added another billion people in the last twelve years, and is expected to add another billion in the next ten to twenty years, it’s no surprise that God is using all kinds of new technologies to reach more people in an instant than ever before.

Amazingly, you don’t have to be a famous evangelist or the pastor of a huge church to have an impact on people all over the globe.  I’m surprised some days to think of just how many people I reach from my little bedroom office here in central Illinois.  To put it in perspective, consider that Reinhard Bonnke once had a tent built for his crusades in Africa that could hold 34,000 people.  It was the largest tent ever built in the world.  

Yet when I finish writing this message tonight and push the “send” button, God will take these words and send them out to more than 35,000 people in more than 160 countries who have signed up for these messages over the years—that’s more people than can fit in the world’s largest tent!  That’s amazing!  

It’s more possible today than ever before to fulfill Jesus’ command to “Go into all world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  And if you’re a follower of Christ, God wants you to be part of the process.

Whether you’re a goer, a sender, or both, God wants you to be involved in His mission.  God doesn’t just want to renew your mind—He wants to put your faith into action.  As the Apostle James said:

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

Let me encourage you to get involved with God’s mission, whether it’s going, or sending, or both.  Try starting a spiritual conversation with a friend on FaceBook.  Look into missions trips with your church or with other groups who are taking the gospel to others.  Consider supporting a missionary or two or three or more with your prayers and financial gifts.  

Without trying to sound self-serving, I’d love to have your help with our ministry as well!  We’ve been richly blessed over the years to have many people come alongside us and support our work so that we can do the part God has called us to do:  encouraging as many people as possible to put their faith in Christ for everything in their lives.  In many ways, I feel like William Carey as he was going off to India.  I’m willing to go down into the well to save as many as I can, but I need some rope-holders to help me as I go.

If you’d like to help “hold the rope” for us, I’ve posted a video on YouTube that will give you an update on our ministry and an idea of what goes on behind-the-scenes.  I think you’ll enjoy the update, whether you decide to get involved in our work or not.  

But whatever God puts on your heart to do, let me encourage you to do it.  When you do, people will say of you:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15b).

Will you pray with me?  

Father, thank You for making it more possible than ever before to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  Show us how we can be involved in Your mission in the world, today and in the days ahead, and give us the faith to do what You’ve called us to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eric Elder Ministries UpdateP.S.  Whether you’re able to help with our mission here at The Ranch website or not, I’d still love for you to watch the update on our ministry that I’ve posted on YouTube.  I pray it will encourage you to step out and do whatever God is calling you to do in the world.  I also ask that you would keep us and our ministry in your prayers.  We’re currently trying to increase the number of monthly donors to our ministry to help keep us going strong in the upcoming year.  If you would be willing to send a monthly gift to our ministry, or even a one-time donation by the end of this year, that would help us greatly.  In appreciation of gift of any size, I’d be glad to send you your choice of one of the books from our giftshop as our way of saying thanks.  Just use the links below to watch the video or to make a donation.

To watch the YouTube update on our ministry, click here:
Eric Elder Ministries Update

To make a donation or pledge to our ministry, whether online or by mail, click here:
Make a Donation

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 10:13-21.  In verses 13-15, what steps does Paul say are involved for someone to put their faith in Christ?
2.  If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, can you see how each of those steps might have been involved in your own decision-making?  If you haven’t yet put your faith in Christ, which step do you think might be needed next?
3. What steps could you take in your life right now to get more involved with God’s mission in the world?
4. Read Philippians 4:19.  Ask God to give you the faith, strength and resources to be involved in His global mission in ways that go beyond whatever you’ve done so far.

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:
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Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Encouraging One Another

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new series of sermons on the book of Romans.  Eric also has a special CD called, “Hymns” that he’d be glad to send you–anywhere in the world–for a donation of any size to The Ranch ministry this month.  Please see his note in the P.S. after today’s message.) 
 
 
 
 
Encouraging One AnotherLesson 2 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 
 
In our first lesson in this study on renewing your mind, we talked about the importance of belonging to Jesus—of finding your identity in Him.  He is our All in All and the ultimate source of our strength.  But God has also given us something more.  He’s given us one another.
 
One of the best ways to renew your mind is to fellowship with other believers, to encourage one another in your faith, so you can give one another a fresh perspective on your life and the situations that you face.  
 
This is what the Apostle Paul longed to do with the Christians living in Rome when he wrote his letter to them in about the year 57 A.D.  If you know anything about this time period in Roman history, you’ll know that these were the days of the gladiators, the colosseums, and the fights-to-the-death in those huge arenas.  
 
It was only seven years after Paul’s letter to the Romans—in 64 A.D.—that the mad Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for setting Rome on fire, a fire that many historians believed that Emperor Nero himself set so that he could rebuild the city more to his liking.  This newly emerging group of Christians were an easy scapegoat.  They were already looked down upon by the people because they chose to follow Christ rather than pay honor to the official Roman gods—one of which included Emperor Nero himself.
 
The Roman historian Tacitus—who lived in Rome at the time—says that after the fire, Nero arrested a vast number of Christians and had them tortured in the most heinous ways.  Tacitus writes:
 
“In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and torn to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle…”  (Tacitus, Annals 15.44, circa 100 A.D.)
 
Just in case you missed what Tacitus was saying in that last statement, he was saying that Christians were set on fire to serve as human torches to light Nero’s gardens after the sun had gone down.
 
It is into this setting, just seven years earlier, that the Apostle Paul wrote his letter.  For quite some time, he had wanted to visit the Roman Christians in person so that they could encourage one another in their faith.  But being prevented once again, he wrote them a letter instead, a letter that has survived almost 2,000 years and still encourages us today.  
 
Listen to Paul’s heartfelt love for the Christians in Rome:
 
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
 
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles (Romans 8:8-13).
 
Life is hard for all of us at times.  And it’s in those times that we need one another even more than ever.  We need one another’s perspectives on the situations that we face, just as Paul gave his perspective to the Roman Christians.  Although they were being ridiculed and persecuted—and they could have felt that God was treating them unfairly—Paul helped them to see their situation in another light.  He thanked God for them, because their faith was being reported throughout the world.
 
Rather than seeing their situation as lowly and humiliating, Paul saw their stars of faith shining brightly—stars that illuminated the darkness around them.  
 
And Paul was eager to join them in this dark place.  While Paul could have been hesitant for many reasons to go to Rome, he wasn’t.  As a natural-born citizen of Rome and one of the greatest intellectual thinkers of his day, he could have been embarrassed to align himself with those who followed Christ—a man who was mocked by the Roman leaders and crucified under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
 
But Paul wasn’t ashamed.  He didn’t flinch at the possibility that he could be ridiculed, beaten, jailed, or killed for his faith.  Why?  Because Paul knew the life-changing power of the gospel that he preached—the “good news” of Christ.  
 
Paul knew that the gospel had the power to save those who responded to it.  He was eager to go to Rome and to have a harvest among those who were yet to believe.  Paul said:
 
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).
  
We could all use a few more Pauls in our lives, people who believe so much in the power of the gospel that their faith rubs off on us.  
 
If you need a new perspective on your life—and the situations you’re facing in it—can I encourage you to find some other believers and to be honest with them about the struggles you’re facing?  You can’t go it alone, and God doesn’t want you to.  Even though Jesus may be all you need, that’s because He’s the One who can provide you with all you need—like believing friends who can be like family to you.
 
Seek them out and engage with them in heartfelt conversations.  It’s risky.  It’s hard.  But it’s so worth it.  Ask them if they see anything in your life that you might not be able to see.  Ask them what God may be doing in and through the situations you’re facing.  Open up the Word of God with them, and see how God has brought others through situations like the ones you’re facing.  And if you think your situation is so unique that God’s Word doesn’t address it, that’s most likely because you haven’t read enough of God’s Word!  
 
God has so much to say to you, but sometimes it takes another believer to help you to see it.  If you don’t have church home, find one that strongly believes that the Bible is God’s Word.  Get involved with a small group of other Christians.  Join a chat room or a forum on the Internet where you can lift up one another with your prayers and concerns.  
 
Or if you want, just forward this message to a Christian you respect and ask them to join you in this study of the book of Romans along with you, whether you get together in person or you share with each other electronically, half-way across the world.  
 
One of my own kids is in Sydney, Australia, right now and I’m thankful that we’re still able to encourage one another in our faith from literally half-way around the world!  He shares with me what he’s learning, and I share with him what I’m learning, and we both encourage one another with the new things we’re learning about life from God’s Word.  The same thing happens with my wife and our other kids here in the house, and with our church and small group that we attend regularly.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
 
God wants to renew your mind, and one of the best ways you can do that is to fellowship with other believers.  Seek them out.  Share your story with them.  Ask them to give you a boost in your faith, and give them a boost in their faith while you’re at it.  
 
And if you’re the one who’s feeling particularly strong right now, can I encourage you to take some time to write or call, email or text, or just stop by and visit someone who could use your perspective on their life today?  As Paul longed to do with the Romans—to be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”—God wants you to do the same with those around you.  You’ll be glad you did.
 
Will you pray with me?
 
Father, thank You for reminding us that even though Jesus is all we need, that we still need each other, and that our fellowship with other believers is one of the great blessings that Jesus wants to give us.  Lord, for those who have such a fellowship, thank You.  For those who need such a fellowship, I pray that You would answer their prayers.  Help them to reach out to those around them and share honestly the struggles they’re going through in life.  And then provide them with the fresh perspective and practical help they need to help them through this time with a faith that shines brightly for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
P.S. The song, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, reminds us that we can take everything to Him in prayer. The author of the words, Joseph Scriven who lived back in the 1800’s wrote:
 

“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear, 
all because we do not carry 
everything to God in prayer.”
 
Jesus is the best place to start in finding answers to your questions, but He often leads you to others who can help you with the answers.  If you need some reminders throughout the week of the help that God can give you in various ways in life, I’d be glad to send you a copy of a beautiful piano CD that features this song, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, and 10 others.  Although it is just an instrumental CD, the moving melodies serve as stirring reminders of all that Christ can do for you.  I’d be glad to send you a copy of the CD, or the downloadable MP3’s of all 11 songs, for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  Your gifts really do help us to keep these messages coming to you—and to over 35,000 others every week!—and we’d be glad to send you this music as our way of saying thanks.  They make great gifts for friends, too!  Just click the link below to make a donation and get the music:
 
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 1:8-17.  Why was Paul thankful for the Romans?
2.  What was he praying for them constantly?
3.  Why did he long to see them?
4.  Why was Paul not ashamed of the gospel?
 
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