News From The Ranch – August 2005

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Finding God is like finding four-leaf clovers, once you recognize the telltale signs of their presence, it’s easier to see them everywhere you look.

4-Leaf Clovers

Maybe you’ve never found a four-leaf clover, but God promises that if you seek Him with all your heart, you WILL find HIM (Jeremiah 29:13).

Dear Friends,

A few months ago, I was thinking about those “reminder bands” that people wear on their wrists. You know, the rubberized “LiveStrong” type wristbands that people wear that say things like, “Pray For Our Troops,” “Fight Cancer,” or “WWJD”? I was thinking about what I would want to remind you of, if I could remind you of just one thing.

A phrase immediately came to mind:

“GOD IS HERE”

I’d want you to remember that no matter where you are, what you’re going through, who you’re interracting with, whatever your situation, that God is there, at this very moment, right there with you. Knowing this one Truth can make all the difference in a situation. And this is a Truth with a capital “T”. GOD IS HERE. The Bible says in Acts 17:27 that He’s not far from each one of us:

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

God is so close to each one of us that He wants us to simply reach out for Him and find Him. I know that when I remember that He’s really right here with me, every moment of every day, it relieves much of the pressure, the struggle and the doubt that I’m facing. I can think more clearly, I breathe more easily, I can know with more certainty that when I ask Him for wisdom, He’ll answer me.

The Truth is that GOD IS HERE. Jesus said,

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

But even when we’re by ourselves, God is right there with us, too. Jesus said He would send His Spirit to live within each one of us who have put our faith in Him:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18).

And then He promised that He would never leave us alone. Here are His parting words to the disciples after His resurrection:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”(Matthew 28:20).

5-Leaf CloversGod is still here with us. I was trying to get this idea across to a group that had gathered for devotions one day at the Cornerstone music festival here in Illinois. When I got to the festival, I had found a four-leaf clover in the grass where we were camping, so I held it up to the group. (For those who may not know, most clover have only three leaves, but it’s a rare find, and some say “lucky,” to find a four-leaf clover.)

As I held up the clover that I’d found earlier that day, I explained that some people might think I was lucky to have found it, and maybe I was. But that’s not the whole truth.The whole truth is that I’ve found more than a hundred four-leaf clovers in my lifetime. When I was a kid, I was so thrilled when I discovered my first one that I began looking for four-leaf clovers everywhere. I would look through the grass when I mowed it on our farm. I would look in the grass when I played outfield in Little League baseball.

And I began to find four-leaf clovers everywhere I looked. Pretty soon, my eye was trained to easily recognize the disctintive four-leaf pattern. I would run across four-leaf clovers even when I wasn’t looking. I would just be walking along with some friends and then, out of the corner of my eye, notice the pattern on the ground, reach down and pick up another four-leaf clover. My friends would be amazed, and even I thought I was pretty lucky. But the truth is that over time, and with practice, I had simply learned how to recognize four-leaf clovers when I encountered them. Even though they were all around us, not everyone could “see” them.

I’ve found the same is true in my relationship with God: over time, and with practice, I’ve been able to recognize God in the midst of my daily life. I see God’s hand at work in the plans I make. I hear His voice telling me whether to go to the right or the left. I often recognize His prompting when He wants me to say or do something.

I remember reading a story in the devotional, “Our Daily Bread” about a boy who was fishing with his Grandfather. The boy asked, “Grandpa, have you ever seen God?” The Granpda took a look at the scene around him and said, “Sonny, the older I get, the more I see Him everywhere I look.”

The good news is that you don’t have to be unusually “lucky” or “special” to have this kind of relationship with God. God makes Himself available to each one of us, and as Paul says in Acts 17, He’s actually very close to each one of us. And He promises us this:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13).

I know it’s easy for people to question this, but I also know that those who press on seeking God eventually do find Him. Just last week I got an email from a woman who finally found Him, even though she was about to give up her search just a few months ago. In April she wrote me this note:

Hi, My name is Renee and I was sitting at my computer feeling disturbed and having doubt about God and my level of belief. I typed in “having trouble believing in God” and your site was top of the list. … I understand the message of Jesus on an intellectual level but can’t quite make the connection with my heart and soul. It seems every time I make a little progress, doubt comes flooding back in and pushes any hope of connection away. I am at the point that walking away from any further attempts seems the best way for me right now. I guess this is my way of making one last attempt at some kind of connection. I guess what I am trying to relate here is that God doesn’t seem real to me. Just a bunch of stories. It all seems so far fetched…

We wrote back and forth a few times, and she picked up a book I recommended called “The Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel and it began to break down some barriers to her faith. Then she wrote last week to say that she had started attending a small church and the pastor’s wife and a friend prayed for her:

…Saturday morning I woke up and started to have one memory after another of years ago. Situations that were bad, but could have gone horribly bad, except something happened to change the outcome. More and more I realized that God did have a hand in my life. Times I should have been dead but was saved by the smallest of interruptions. I realized it was God’s hand, fell to my knees, wept like a baby, asked God for forgiveness, and promised to give the rest of my life to Him. That was July 2, 2005… I was baptized on July 7th. … You have a great ministry. You helped me to pursue my questions, and pray for a change in heart…. I thank God for your site…. I have to wonder if I hadn’t fallen upon it, would I have given up? Blessings, Renee

I’m thrilled for Renee that God kept His promise. I knew He would, because He is always faithful to His Word. This promise isn’t just for “unbelievers” who need to be reminded of the Truth that GOD IS HERE. It’s also for believers who need to be reminded that GOD IS HERE, very close to each one of us, regardless of the situation or place we find ourselves.

God IS here, and He’s very close to you, too, even right this minute. He’s so close, and He wants you to reach out to Him, to find Him, and to know that He’s with you in your current situation, too. As Paul says, He’s “not far from each one of us.”

I’d like to pray for you that this reality will sink deep into your soul right now.

Father, there are so many times when we feel like You are so far away. We wonder if You hear us, if You care about us, if You realize that we’re sinking. Lord, I pray that You would instill in each of our hearts right now, every person that is reading these words, that You are indeed right here with us. That You do care about what happens to us, what choices we make, what decisions we have before us. That You will reward those who earnestly seek You, who sincerely desire to follow You and honor You. And that You will never, never, never, never, never, never leave us alone. Lord, speak into our hearts right now, send Your Holy Spirit to comfort us, guide us, and speak Your words to us. Lord, we’re listening, and we will keep listening, keep seeking, keep praying, keep calling out to You, until we find You. Thank You for Your promises. We’re holding onto them and we know that You’re holding onto us. We know that You will never let us go. Thank You Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

By the way, I was telling this story about the four-leaf clovers again a few weeks later at a Junior High Camp at Rock River. As if God was confirming the message again, one morning I happened to find 5 more four-leaf clovers and a couple five-leaf clovers, an even more rare find! In the past few weeks I’ve found more than a dozen more! Keep seeking God and you will find Him. Remember Jeremiah 29:13:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

P.S. I also went ahead and ordered some of those reminder bands for those of you who might want one and had them imprinted with the words “GOD IS HERE.” Check out the “Update On African Missions Trip” update below if you’d like to get one.


Update On African Missions Trip

Reminder BandsWhen I thought of putting the phrase “GOD IS HERE” on a reminder band for people to remember that God was with them, I didn’t have anything in particular in mind to do with them except to encourage people that God is always right here with us. But now I do!

Lana and I, along with our two oldest kids, Karis and Lucas, are in the process of raising money to go to Africa next spring. The purpose is to help plant thousands of individual gardens for families and orphans in South Africa as part of Bruce Wilkinson’s “Never Ending Gardens” project. Bruce (author of “The Prayer of Jabez) describes this project in his most recent book “Beyond Jabez” and is looking for 10,000 volunteers to help in this effort over the next year.

For any donation to our trip to Africa, we’d be glad to send you a “GOD IS HERE” reminder band. We hope it will remind you to pray for our trip, and alsoremind you that God is always right there with you, too. While we’d be grateful for donations of any amount, could I suggest you consider a gift of $25, $50, $75, or $100 or more? Each of us need to raise $3,500 for this trip (which is up sightly from what I mentioned in our last newsletter because of some airfare changes). So to reach our total goal for all 4 of us, it would take a combination of 40 people giving $100 each, 60 people giving $75, 60 people giving $50, and 100 people giving $25. Again, any gift is great, but if you can, would you consider sending one of the larger amounts?

Maybe you know someone else who needs to be reminded that God is with them, too? A daughter, son, friend, co-worker, hair dresser, in-laws, out-laws? 🙂 You might want to order a few reminder bands for them, too.

Maybe you’d even like to come with us? It’s open to anyone age 13 or older. There are several 10 day trips planned for March and April of 2006. You can find out more at the Dream For Africa website (now Heart For Africa) at:
www.heartforafrica.com

(As an update from the last newsletter, we’ve received $200 in cash and pledges for the deposits for 2 of us to reserve a spot on the trip. We still need another $200 for the deposits for the remaining two of us to reserve a spot.)


New Discussion Groups Start In September

Exodus StudyStarting the week of September 11th, we’ll be starting three new discussion groups each week in the Chat Room of The Ranch.

We’ll have a discussion group for men on Sunday nights (6:30-8:00 pm Central), for men and women on Wednesday mornings (7:00-8:30 am Central), and for women on Saturday mornings (9:00-10:30 am Central).

This is a “re-launch” of our new, weekly, half-hour, online video Bible study of the book of Exodus that we began a few months ago. We had a great start for a few weeks, then discovered a technical problem on our web server that needed to be fixed before going any further. I’ve finished reinstalling everything now on an updated system, and we’re ready to kick off again. We’re going to start the discussions again at Lesson 1, so now’s a great time to join this study.

The first dozen or so videos are online already, and future studies will be posted every Friday. For those who can’t make it to a discussion group, you can still interact with others day or night by posting messages on the Discussion Board at The Ranch.

Like everything else on The Ranch website, there’s no charge to watch or to participate in this study. Take a look at the overview, the first several lessons, and the dates and times of the discussion groups at this link.


Closing Prayer

Thanks for everyone who expressed an interest in coming to a Ranch Retreat if we held one. We’re still hoping to put one together soon, but it won’t be this fall yet. We’ll let you know as our plans come together.

I’d love if you could take a minute right now to pray with us.

Father,

  • Thank You for being near each one of us, and for promising that if we seek You we will find You,
  • Thank You for helping us with our plans to go to Africa,
  • And thank You for helping us to recover the website and to “re-launch” the Exodus video study.

Father,

  • We ask that You would help us gather the funds we need to get all 4 of us to Africa next spring,
  • That You would would draw many to take part in our new online study of the book of Exodus, that they would be able to get free, stay free, and set others free,
  • And that You would help even more people to find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Live strong in your faith!
Eric Elder

Don’t forget to order a reminder band if you want one! They come in lots of cool colors, including glow-in-the-dark!

Reminder Band Colors

To order and make a donation, click here.

The Ranch Fellowship is a non-profit 501(c)(3) religious organization whose purpose is to share the message of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Click here to read more about our ministry.

To give a gift to The Ranch and to yourself, please visit The Ranch Giftshop.
To make a donation without ordering, just click Make A Donation.

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