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

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

Believing And Obeying God

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Will you pray with me?

 

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

 

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

Prayer Requests 

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

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

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A Thought For Your Wednesday From Albert Schweitzer

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.
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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:
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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:
The Ranch on Facebook

 

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

 

If Tomorrow Starts Without Me – An E-Mail Forwarded by My 80 Year Old Mother

Fwd:  IF TOMORROW STARTS WITHOUT ME
 

A few weeks ago a woman was killed in an auto


accident. She was very well liked, so the office shut

down for her funeral and it was on the news and so on.
On the day the workers came back to work, they found
this poem in their e-mail that the deceased woman had

sent on Friday before she left for home.

 
If tomorrow starts without me,

And I’m not there to see,


If the sun should rise and find your eyes

All filled with tears for me;

I wish so much you wouldn’t cry

The way you did today,

While thinking of the many things,

We didn’t get to say.

 

I know how much you love me,

As much as I love you,


And each time that you think of me,

I know you’ll miss me too;

 

But when tomorrow starts without me,

Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name,

And took me by the hand,

And said my place was ready,

In heaven far above,


And that I’d have to leave behind

All those I dearly love.

 

But as I turned to walk away,

A tear fell from my eye,


For all my life, I’d always thought,

I didn’t want to die.

 

I had so much to live for,

So much left yet to do,


It seemed almost impossible,

That I was leaving you.

 

I thought of all the yesterdays,

The good ones and the bad,


I thought of all that we shared,

And all the fun we had.

 

If I could relive yesterday,

Just even for a while,


I’d say good-bye and hug you

And maybe see you smile.

 

But then I fully realized,

That this could never be,


For emptiness and memories,

Would take the place of me.

 

And when I thought of worldly things
I might miss some tomorrow,

I thought of you, and when I did,


My heart was filled with sorrow.

 

But when I walked through heaven’s gates,
I felt so much at home.

When God looked down and smiled at me,


From His great golden throne,

 

He said, “This is eternity,

And all I’ve promised you.
Today your life on earth is past,


But here life starts anew.

 

I promise no tomorrow,

But today will always last,


And since each day is the same way,

There’s no longing for the past.

 

So when tomorrow starts without me,


Don’t think we’re far apart,

For every time you think of me,

I’m right there, in your heart.

 
Send this to all those you care about…you never knowwhat’s going tohappen tomorrow…Show them how you care,before it’stoo late…May God watch over you and your familynowand always.There is no right time to do the wrong thing….
There is no wrong time to tell someone you care!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
 
 
Happiness keeps You Sweet, Trials keep You Strong,
Sorrows keep You Human, Failures keep You Humble,
Success keeps You Glowing, But Only God keeps You Going.

Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Bearing Fruit To God

(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


Bearing Fruit To God

Lesson 15 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

Is it OK to sin—at least a little bit every once in awhile?  After all, if we’ve already put our faith in Christ, He’s already forgiven us of our sins.  So He’ll forgive us again, won’t He?

While this is actually a reasonable idea on the surface—at least in terms of being forgiven of your sins by Christ—when you look at it at a deeper level, grasping what happens to your relationship with God and those around you every time you do sin, you’ll see that your best bet is to stay as far away from sin as you can, as often as you can, and for as much of your life as you can!  

It’s like a kid saying, “My dad says not to run out in the road.  But I know he’ll still love me even if I do run out in the road, so what’s the big deal if I do it once in awhile?”  A kid like that would be missing the point entirely.  The point isn’t whether or not the dad would love him just as much if he ran out in the road.  The point is that the dad doesn’t want him to get hit by a truck!

If the only reason you shouldn’t sin is because Jesus might be mad at you if you do, then you need to re-adjust your thinking!  It’s not that Jesus won’t love you just as much if you sin—it’s that He wants you to live!  He wants to protect you from engaging in things that could be dangerous to you and to those around you.  Sure, He’ll still love you.  But that’s the reason He doesn’t want you to sin…because He loves you.

The Apostle Paul addresses this issue very clearly in his letter to the Romans, who, having been convinced that Jesus has forgiven them of all their sins, could be tempted to fall back into sin again, thinking that it no longer matters, because they can be assured of Christ’s love for them.  Paul says:

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means! … What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:15,21-23).

Sin leads to death, but Christ gives you life!  If the choice is to sin or to follow Christ, Paul says to follow Christ!

But there’s an even greater reason to drop your life of sin and follow Christ.  Paul says that it’s because God wants you to bear fruit—good fruit.  When you follow sin, you bear fruit that leads to death.  But when you follow Christ you bear fruit to God.  Here’s how Paul says it in his letter to the Romans.

“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6).

God didn’t abandon His laws when Christ came.  His laws are still good and will protect you from sin.  What God did was to make an offering on your behalf to pay the penalty for your sins so you wouldn’t have to.  Now, when you put your faith in Christ, you receive forgiveness of your sins.  If you continue to sin, there will still be other consequences—for sin still always has consequences—but the good news is that you will no longer be separated from your eternal relationship with Him because of your sin.  

Whenever you sin, even if it’s “just a little,” it puts a wedge between you and God, as well as between those around you.  God doesn’t want that wedge, and neither do you.  He loves you too much for anything to come between you.  And I believe, if you’ve read this far into the message already, that you love Him too much to put that wedge between the two of you, too.

I was once teaching a class of adults how to use computers.  One of the students had been using very colorful words throughout the class, not necessarily swearing, but they were certainly “off” color.  I had introduced myself as a technology expert, which I was in my role as their teacher.  But it wasn’t until later in the day that I mentioned that I was also an ordained pastor.  Immediately, this man who had been so colorful with his words all day turned red in his face, too!  He quickly began to apologize for his language in front of me and the rest of the class.

In my attempt to be honest, for I truly wasn’t bothered by it, I said something that made him turn red even further.  I said, “That’s OK.  You don’t have to apologize to me.  I’m not the one who’s been watching over you every day of your life.”  The whole class turned to him as if to say he was really in trouble now!

The truth was that his language really didn’t affect his relationship with much at all.  But by his reaction, it seems like it may have affected his relationship with God quite a bit.  It may have seemed like a “little sin” to him, but the fact that he was embarrassed about it in front of me gave me an indication that it may have been a much bigger deal in his relationship with God.

I didn’t say this to the man to make him feel more guilty than he already did for saying those things in front of me.  Just like I’m not saying these things to make you feel more guilty of the things you may be doing in your own life.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to keep from sinning, even though I’ve been trying to follow Christ with my whole heart for 24 years.  I’m still not by any means “sin-free.”  I wish I were though, because whenever I realize that I’ve sinned, I see the damage it causes.  This, in turn, makes me want to stay away from it as much as humanly possible.

And in the bigger picture, I not only see the damage that sin causes, but I also see that it hinders my ability to bear fruit for God.  And that is perhaps the biggest damage of all.

God has created you to do good works.  He has things He wants you to do in this life.  When you sin, you hinder those good works, sometimes more than you can possibly imagine.  Believe me when I say that God has good works for you to do.  He has created you uniquely, with special gifts and abilities.  He’s poured talents into your life.  He’s trained you up to be an asset to Him.  He wants to use you to reach out into your world, both large and small ways.

Don’t let Satan hinder you from accomplishing all that God has created you to do.  Don’t follow the path of sin that would keep you from the path God has lined out for you.  Don’t let yourself become a slave again to those things which you’re now ashamed of, things which bore fruit for death.  Serve God fully instead, bearing good fruit to Him.

How do you do that?  By keeping away from sin as much as possible, and by staying close to Jesus as much is possible.  As Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:5-8).

God wants you to bear fruit—much fruit, as Jesus said.  Keep away from sin, even “little sins,” as much as possible.  Not because God will love you less if you do sin, but because He loves you so much He doesn’t want you to leave His side even for a minute.  When you stay close to Him, you will bear fruit to Him.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for loving us so much that You gave us rules for how to live the best possible lives here on earth.  Thank You for saving us from what we have earned because of our sins, and giving us the gift of eternal life instead, if we’ve put our faith in Christ.  Help us to stay as close as possible to Him so that we can bear as much fruit as possible for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Laura's StoryP.S.  If you can spare another 3-1/2 minutes, I’d love for you to watch a video testimony of a friend of mine who discovered the value of leaving her life of sin and following Christ completely.  Her name is Laura, and she co-leads a group with me that focuses on helping set people free from their sins so they can live more fully for Christ.  I’d love for you to hear this brief version of her story in her own words.  You can watch it at the link below:
Watch Laura’s Story

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 6:11-7:6.  What does Paul say we should offer to God in verses 11-14?  How might offering these things to sin lead to death, whereas offering them to God leads to life?
2.  In verses 15-18, Paul says that just because we’re free from the law, it doesn’t mean that we’re not still slaves to something else.  What is that other thing, and why is it so much better than being a slave to sin?
3.  In chapter 7, verses 1-3, what illustration does Paul use to talk about being set free from the law?  What does being freed from the law allow us to do?
4.  Is anything specific hindering you from bearing as much fruit as possible for God?  Is there an action step you can take this week to help you drop whatever is hindering you, and get any closer to Jesus?  Ask God, and perhaps a few trusted friends, to help you do it so that you can bear as much fruit for Him as possible.

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

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

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

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

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.


Subscribe to This Day’s Thought

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

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


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were

Lesson 11 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

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

In talking about God, Paul described Him as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God has been doing the same throughout eternity.  

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

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

Let me tell you just one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you pray with me?

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

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Fully Persuaded

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

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Being Fully Persuaded

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

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

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

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

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

4.  What are some steps you can take this week to help you become “more fully persuaded” that God can do what He has promised to do, whether they are steps suggested by this lesson, or other steps that might not have been mentioned?  Consider committing to doing one or two of those things.
 
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
 
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Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – To Renew Your Mind

God Would Love To Renew Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org
 

Good morning!  And welcome to this introductory message to our new series called, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.  
 
I believe that God would love to renew your mind.  He would love to replace any thoughts you may be having that are pulling you down with thoughts that will pull you up.  He would love to give you new thoughts.  He would love to give you His thoughts.  He would love to give you thoughts that will change the trajectory of the rest of your life.
 
How do I know this?  Because God has changed the trajectory of my life by renewing my mind!  It all began when I first started reading the book of Romans for myself, as an adult, almost twenty-five years ago.
 
I wasn’t in the pit of despair.  I didn’t hate myself or my life.  I didn’t even know I was headed in a direction that was about to destroy me.  But as I began reading the book of Romans, starting with chapter 1, God began answering questions that I had had on my heart for a long time.  He began speaking to me through the words on the pages in such a clear and convincing way that I knew it had to be God that was speaking to me.
 
The things I read caused me to reevaluate my life, what I had been doing so far, and what I wanted to do in the future.  In the weeks that followed, God so changed my thinking that I finally came to the point where I was willing to put my faith and trust in His Son Jesus Christ for everything in my life:  for the forgiveness of my sins, for the direction of my life, for my job, my body, my finances, my future—everything that was a part of me.  I gave it all to Him.
 
Now, almost twenty-five years later, I am in an entirely different place than I would have been had I stayed on the path I was on.  Even though I didn’t realize at the time the direction my life could have taken, God knew—and He wanted to spare me from it.  He picked me up, turned me around, and put me on a new path—a path that was headed towards an abundant and eternal life.
 
And how did this life-change all get started?  It started with an idea.  A thought.  A thought that maybe God was right and I was wrong.  A thought that maybe if I were to truly follow God with my whole heart, that no matter where He led me, He would take me places that I could never have gone on my own.  A thought that if I trusted Him completely, if He really loved me, if He cared for me deeply, and if He knew what was best for me, then He would always lead me down a path that was in my best interest and His—even if I didn’t understand it at the time.
 
Ideas are powerful.  In the Academy Award-nominated movie, Inception, the main character asks an intriguing question to a guest who has joined him for dinner.  He asks:  “What is the most resilient parasite?  A bacteria?  A virus?  An intestinal worm?”  
 
As his guests chokes on his food after hearing that last statement, the main character then answers his own question by saying:  
 
“An idea.  An idea is like a virus.  Resilient, highly contagious.  Once an idea’s taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”  
 
Later on in the movie, he states this premise once again, and then adds this powerful statement:  
 
“And the smallest seed of an idea can grow.  It can grow to define…or destroy you.”  
 
Ideas have started revolutions of all kinds—both good and bad.  The U.S. was started with a revolutionary idea back in 1776.  But so were the terrorist attacks that killed so many of our people back in 2001.  
 
Some of the ideas that have been planted in our minds are great.  They should be be nourished and fed.  But other ideas that have taken root in there aren’t so great.  They probably need to be rooted out and destroyed, before they destroy us.
 
I’ve been talking with some friends who grew up having had seeds of faith planted deep within them when they were young—seeds which were watered regularly as they got older.  But somewhere along the way, other people have planted doubts in their minds, doubts that have cropped up and overshadowed their faith.  Doubts that have grown so large that you can hardly tell that they ever had a seed of faith at all.  Unfortunately, they have taken to watering and nurturing these doubts—by the books they read, the shows they watch, and the people around which they have surrounded themselves.  
 
And yet I know those seeds of faith were once there, and I believe they are still are!  I was there when some of those seeds were planted.  I was there as they were being watered.  I even did some of the watering myself.  
 
But sometimes things happen to us along the way, things that happen to us and things that we do to ourselves, that cause those good seeds within us to get crowded out and wither, letting the bad seeds grow wild and unhindered.
 
It might seem like there’s no way out once this cycle begins to happen.  It  might seem like people have gone too far down the wrong path—that they’ll never be able to change.  But that’s a lie!  
 
The truth is, God can change people’s hearts and minds in an instant.  He can turn any life around on a dime.  He can restore the years that have been taken away and put people back on the right path—His path—the path that leads to an abundant and eternal life.
 
But how?  How can God do it?  How can He transform us into the people He wants us to be—and into the people that we truly want to be, too?
 
The Apostle Paul gives us an idea in the book of Romans—several, in fact!  He wrote this letter to those who believed in Jesus in the city of Rome, about 25 years after Jesus died and rose again from the dead.  After spending over half the letter describing the difference between a godly life and an ungodly one, Paul said:
 
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
 
What Paul said to the Romans is the same thing God is saying to us today:  we’re not to conform to the pattern of this world—the worldly way in which things are done, but which inevitably lead towards death and destruction.  Instead, God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Why?  Because then we’ll be able to know God’s will for our lives—to test and approve it for ourselves—His good, pleasing and perfect will!  What a blessing that would be in any of our lives—to know God’s will!
 
In the weeks ahead, I’ll be exploring with you several of Paul’s many ideas for how to renew your mind, from how you think about yourself, to how you think about God and the people and situations God has placed in your life.
 
For some of you, this will be a new and exciting adventure into territory you’ve never explored before.  For others of you, you may feel like you’ve tried so many things to change the direction of your life—and not yet found the secret to successfully doing it—that you may be skeptical that this will help either.  But take courage:  God would still love to renew your mind, too!
 
I remember seeing some flowers that our friend and neighbor Mary Lou planted in her front yard.  They were called impatiens, and they grew into these huge bushes, bursting with color.  My wife and I decided to plant some in our own yard.  We planted them in the right spot and we watered them regularly, just like the instructions said to do.  But no matter what we did, our impatiens hardly got more than a few inches tall, while Mary Lou’s were flowing over and out of her planter boxes.  
 
We couldn’t figure out what was wrong until we asked her if she had a secret.  It wasn’t a secret, she said, but she did use Miracle Grow, a type of fertilizer that would help the plants grow to their fullest potential!  
 
My goal in this study is to give you a little bit of Miracle Grow from time to time—in the form of faith—a burst of faith that you can use to grow to your fullest potential, too.  Oftentimes we try to do things all by ourselves.  We may be doing the exact same things as other people around us, but you would hardly know it by the results.  While sometimes it may just be the season that God has for us, oftentimes it’s because we’re missing out on the key ingredient—faith!  Faith to believe that God can really do all that He says He can do in our lives!  And as Jesus said, even just a little bit of that stuff has the power to move mountains!
 
For some of you, moving a mountain is just about what you need right now.  As we go through this study, I’ll be sharing some stories from my own life, as well as some stories from the Bible and from Christians throughout the ages that I pray will boost your faith.  I pray they’ll give you a burst of energy that will help you to keep pressing forward and keep moving in the direction that God has in mind for you.
 
For today, let me encourage you to simply begin seeking the Lord for His wisdom.  As you do, you’ll find that He’ll be glad to pour out His thoughts into your mind.  As God says in the book of Isaiah:
 
Seek the LORD while He may be found; 
  
   call on Him while He is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way 
  
   and the evil man his thoughts. 

Let him turn to the LORD,
   and He will have mercy on him, 
  
and to our God, for He will freely pardon.
 
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
   
   neither are your ways My ways,” 
            
       declares the LORD. 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
  
   so are My ways higher than your ways 
  
   and My thoughts than your thoughts. 

As the rain and the snow 
  
   come down from heaven, 

and do not return to it 
  
   without watering the earth 

and making it bud and flourish, 
  
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: 
  
   It will not return to Me empty, 

but will accomplish what I desire 
  
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
   (Isaiah 55:6-11)
 
God would love to renew your mind.  He would love to pour out His wisdom upon you like rain from heaven, refreshing your soul as He does.  He would love to feed and nourish those ideas that will come to define you, and root out and destroy those that could possibly destroy you.
 
In the weeks ahead, I pray that God will transform your life by renewing your mind.  For those of you who are interested, I’ve also included some additional scripture readings below, along with some questions that you can use for personal reflection or group discussion, if you’d like to invite some friends to study this material along with you.
 
Either way, I pray that God will use this time to renew your mind in powerful ways, transforming your life along the way.  I’m looking forward to it myself, and I hope you are, too!  
 
Will you pray with me?
 
Father, thank You for giving us ways to transform our lives by renewing our minds.  Thank You for the seeds of ideas that You’ve planted within us, those that are good and godly.  Help us to feed and nurture them so that we can grow to our fullest potential.  At the same time, we pray that You would help us to root out any ideas that have been planted in our minds that could be destroying us, even without our knowledge, so that we can live the life that You desire for us to live.  We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.