Welcome To The Ranch!

Welcome to The Ranch, a spiritual retreat center, right here on the Internet.

If you’re tired, worn out, or need a boost in your faith, then you’ve come to the right place. This is a place where you can unwind, relax, and spend some time with God.

You can listen to music to clear your mind, read a message to stir your soul, watch a video to lighten your load, or ask for prayer to touch your life.

And for a daily dose of encouragement, we hope you’ll sign up for This Day’s Thought from The Ranch.  Each weekday we’ll send you an inspirational Christian quote, Bible verse, and occasional smile.  Then on Sundays, we’ll send you an inspirational message to give you a boost in your faith.

Through it all, we hope to remind you that God is still here, He’s still alive and He hasn’t forgotten you.

We’re glad you came to The Ranch.  We think you will be, too.

Most sincerely,
Eric ElderGreg Potzer, and the volunteers here at The Ranch

P.S. To see our most recent Daily Inspirational Quotes, click here.  To see our most recent Sunday Sermons, click here.


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

TAKING A FULL SWING
Joshua 1:9

by Eric Elder
http://www.theranch.org

 

If you’re like me, you might tend to second guess yourself at times, wondering if you’re doing the right thing or if you’ve heard right from God.  I think each of us go through seasons of doubt about the decisions we’ve made, especially when life around us starts to look like it’s about to fall apart.

What do you do when you reach those critical moments and you have to decide if you’re going to keep moving forward, or if you need to regroup and retreat and perhaps go in a different direction entirely?

When I reach that point, it’s helpful for me to look at the words that God spoke to Joshua as he was about to enter into the Promised Land.  God said:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

There are 3 aspects of these words that I find especially helpful.  The first is to remind myself why I made the decision I did in the first place.

In Joshua’s case, God reminded him that He, God, was the one who had called Joshua to enter into the Promised Land.  “Have I not commanded you?”  God had actually called Joshua and his people to enter the Promised Land 40 years earlier, but they didn’t do it.  When they reached the border the first time, they were afraid to go in, so they turned around and headed back into the desert for another 40 years.

Now, 40 years later, Joshua had reached the same crossroad again, and God reminded him: “Have I not commanded you?”  Joshua, of course, would have remembered what God had said to him in the past, and the price that he and all the others had to pay for not doing what God had called them to do.  They may have still been afraid to move forward, and the price of doing so might still be costly, but the price of turning back again would cost even more.

For me, it’s helpful to refresh my memory of why I decided to do what I did in the first place.  If, after reviewing that initial decision, it still seems sound and reasonable, then I look at the second part of God’s words to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged…”

This part is helpful because we don’t usually know what really lies ahead, and venturing into the unknown often strikes fear in our hearts.  The very fact that God had to tell Joshua to be strong and courageous indicates to me that there were very real fears that could have overtaken his heart, and that there was probably a good reason they needed to be strong and courageous.  What they were about to face would require strength and courage; it would require internal fortitude and resolve.

God wouldn’t have needed to tell Joshua, “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged” if, in fact, there was nothing to be terrified or discouraged about.  The truth was, what they were about to face was terrifying and it could have discouraged them, just as it did 40 years earlier.  Then why did God tell them this?  If there were really and truly terrifying dangers ahead, why would God tell them not to be afraid or discouraged?  Because of what he tells them next in the third part of this significant verse:  “for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I try to imagine walking through a mine field ahead of me.  If I had to do it on my own, I know I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t be able to see or even to guess where the mines might be.  But if God was with me, walking with me every step of the way, and I held on tight to Him, I have no doubt that He would be able to walk me through that field of mines just fine.  I would just need to make sure I was staying as close to Him as possible, and stepping only where He stepped.

When I look at these three things–why I made the decision I made in the first place, why I might need to be strong and courageous, and how God will be with me every step of the way–it helps me to make my next move.  Many times that means I need to keep moving forward and finish what I started, no matter how difficult the circumstances might become as I do so.

I reached this point a few weeks ago with our “2nd Annual Ranch Retreat.”  I put a stake in the ground 3 months ago by naming it our “2nd Annual” retreat, after having done our first the year before.  But was I really ready to commit to doing this on an annual basis?  And was I really ready to announce to the world that I should call it an annual event?  I felt a little bit like George Lucas must have felt when he put the subtitle on his first Star Wars movie and called it “Episode IV.”  The very name itself implied that there were someday going to be Episodes I, II and III, even though it would be another 20 years before he filmed the first of these “prequels.”

But I felt strongly enough about the retreat that I went ahead and named it the “2nd Annual Ranch Retreat” 3 months before it took place.  But after we were 2 months into advertising and promoting it and we still didn’t have even one person signed up, I started to wonder if I had made the wrong decision.  Even with just 2 weeks to go before the event took place, we had only a handful of people registered.  I had to decide if we were going to cancel the whole event all together, ending our run of “annual” retreats before we even got to the 2nd one!

I don’t mind being wrong, but I don’t like to back out of something just because I’m afraid of how it might turn out–especially if God has called me to do it and He wants to accomplish something through it.  So I called my friends who were putting it together with me and we talked it through again.  We could have easily cancelled at that point, but I had to remind myself why we were doing it in the first place, and if God had really called us to do it.

About that time I was also reading a book with my son by Ted Dekker and he was talking about the process he went through in creating the book and getting it published.  He pitched the idea to several publishers, all of whom turned it down.  Years went by and he pitched it again and again, only to be turned down again and again.  Publishers told him that nobody read this kind of story.

After years of having no success, Ted finally found someone, Allen Arnold, who believed in his idea enough to take a risk and publish his story.  They found out that not only were people interested in reading this kind of story, but soon 50,000 soon joined in on the discussion of the book and its ideas at teddekker.com.  The book, and the series it spawned, had struck a chord in the hearts of thousands who wanted to talk about everything that it had stirred up within them, including my own kids.  Ted wrote this in the afterward of the book we were reading:

“I once told Allen that I was born to write these chronicles.  Admittedly, their writing is only a small part of my life.  But if I was born to write them, then in a small, small way, you may have been born to read them.  We, like the stories themselves, find ourselves interconnected in this wonderful thing called the story of life.  You are part of my history, and I am part of yours.  And this, my friend, is what it means to come full circle” (Ted Dekker, Red, pg 385).

I decided to finish what I had started, and give it the best possible chance of success as I could.  As I stood in front of the group last weekend at our “2nd Annual Ranch Retreat,” I couldn’t help but think of Ted’s words and the challenges he faced in order to do what he felt he should do.  40 people had gathered with me here in Illinois from all across the country, from places like California, Colorado, Michigan, Kansas, Indiana and Georgia.  We sang and praised God, we opened His Word, and we opened our hearts and lives to Him and to each other.

As I looked around the room on the final night, I read Ted Dekker’s quote to those who had gathered, saying that if God had called me to do this, then perhaps, in a some small, small way, they were meant to be there, too.

And as you read these words today, if I was called to write them, then perhaps in some small, small way, you were meant to read them, too.

The decisions you make are important, and it’s important to make the best decisions that we can up front.  Sometimes we need to regroup along the way or retreat and go in a different direction entirely, admitting that we’re fallible and that there are times when it’s best to cut our losses before they take us down completely.  But many times we simply need to remind ourselves of why we decided to do what we’re doing in the first place, then going forward with full strength and courage to see it through to the end.

I was reading through a physics book with another son a few weeks ago as part of his schooling.  We were studying momentum and read that the difference between good and bad baseball players is “follow through.”  According to the laws of physics, there are two things that determine how far a ball will travel when its hit by a bat.  The first is how hard the bat strikes the ball.  But a second factor is also significant, and that’s how long the bat and the ball stay in contact with each other.  The longer the connection, the stronger the momentum.  That’s why batters need to take a “full” swing, following through with the swing that was started and not stopping the moment the bat hits the ball.

Sometimes we stop mid-swing when we hit an obstacle, stunned and wondering if we should have even stepped up to the plate.  But if we’ve stepped up to the plate with God, and if we can remember why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place, then we can take a full swing and knock the ball out of the park.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Let’s pray…

Father, thank You for giving each of us a purpose here on earth and the gifts and resources to carry out those purposes.  Help us to make wise decision not only at the start of a project, but all the way through it.  Give us Your wisdom as we take each step, showing us where to walk, where not to walk, and how to keep moving forward despite the obstacles in front of us.  Remind us of what You’ve called us to do and give us the strength and courage to do it.  Help us to take a full swing, so we can fulfill our purposes, and perhaps in some small, small way, help others fulfill theirs, too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. You can still watch all 3 sessions right now from the Ranch Retreat online at www.theranch.org/retreat



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