Join Us For A “Guided Prayer Retreat”!

Hi, this is Eric Elder with a special announcement! In conjunction with a new series on prayer that I’ll be sharing online, I’d also like to invite you to join Greg Potzer and me for a “guided prayer retreat”–a time when we can come together and pray, but not just alone in silence. Greg and I, along with some strong praying friends, will be taking 3 days to share with you some of the ways we’ve found to make our times of prayer as effective as possible. Then we’ll spend some time in together in prayer and worship, sharing meals, and making new friends along the way. I believe it will be a powerful time, a healing time, a learning time, a prayerful time.

You can watch the event live online for free at this link: live.theranch.org

live.theranch.org

We’ll be hosting the event at the Billy Graham Retreat Center called “The Cove” in Asheville, North Carolina. We’ll start with dinner on Wednesday, December 7, then continue all day Thursday, December 8, and finish up by noon on Friday, December 9. The cost to use the center is $325 per person, which includes 2 nights of lodging in a double room ($405 for a single room), 5 meals, and full use of the center and their meeting space. Greg and I are not charging anything extra for the retreat itself…we’re paying our own way to get to The Cove and offer this retreat to you–and we’re so looking forward it as well. Your registration fee goes directly towards the lodging, meals, and use of the center.

Christmastime at The Cove

The Cove at Christmastime.

the-cove-dining-room

The Dining Room.

the-cove-board-room

A Meeting Room.

the-cove-shepherds-inn

A Guest Room.

We have booked this event to take place at the end of the week to make it more economical for those attending and to allow each of you who are involved in ministries at your own churches to attend the retreat and still serve back at your local church on the weekend.

We will be broadcasting this event live online (and saving the videos for viewing later) so anyone, anywhere in the world, can take part in this special event as well. We believe that by having the event both online and in-person, it will enhance the experience for everyone. So whichever way you join us, we believe you’ll be blessed abundantly! Here’s the link again to watch it live online: live.theranch.org

live.theranch.org

To reserve your spot, please use the links below. (Please review The Cove’s “Statement of Faith” and “Our Group’s Agreement with BGEA Guidelines” before registering, especially in regard to age restrictions and honoring The Cove’s Guidelines.)

Click here or click the “Pay Here!” button below to reserve your spot with the full registration amount per person. After you make your payment, we’ll send you a follow-up email to collect the rest of your registration information.

pay-here
OR you can also send your deposit by cash or check to the address below. Please write in the memo line that this is for the “Guided Prayer Retreat at The Cove.” Please make sure we receive your registration and your cash or check by Wednesday, October 26!



The Ranch Fellowship

25615 E 3000 North Road

Chenoa, IL 61726  USA

Complete pricing, location and schedule of events follows…

PRICING

The cost is $325 per person in a shared room (2 queen-size beds), or $405 for a single room. After October 15, please contact us first before registering to check if we have any extra space available. If space is available, your full registration fee will be due when you reserve your spot.

A private shuttle service between the airport in Asheville and The Cove is available for $40 each way. Contact GrandyCo at 828-273-3214 to make a shuttle reservation.

Please note for tax purposes that your registration fee is not tax-deductible as you will be receiving a service in exchange for your gift. Any donations made beyond your registration fee, however, are fully-deductible and will go directly into helping us continue to share the good news of Christ worldwide.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

— ALL TIMES ARE Eastern Standard Time (-5 GMT) —

Wednesday, December 7
3:00-6:00 p.m. – Check-in and registration at The Cove
6:00-7:00 p.m. – Dinner
7:15-10:00 p.m. – Worship, Prayer and Messages

Thursday, December 8
8:00-9:00 a.m. – Breakfast
9:15-12:00 noon – Worship, Prayer and Messages
12:30-1:30 p.m. – Lunch
1:00-6:00 p.m. – Time for personal prayer, fellowship, exploring The Cove, or visiting the recently opened Ruth Graham Prayer Garden.
6:00-7:00 p.m. – Dinner
7:15-10:00 p.m. – Worship, Prayer and Messages

Friday, December 9
8:00-9:00 a.m. – Breakfast
9:15-12:00 noon – Worship, Prayer and Messages

(Room check-out is from 9:00-10:00 a.m. on Friday (just drop off the key at the lobby), but our program will go from 9:15 until 12:00 noon.)

ABOUT US!

Here’s a little more information about us…

About Eric Elder and The Ranch

About Greg Potzer and This Day’s Thought

About The Cove (video)

About The Cove (website)

For more information, please use our Contact Form!

This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

GOD IS THE HERO IN OUR STORIES, ALWAYS
Psalm 145:6-7

by Eric Elder
theranch.org

I spoke to a group this week about God’s goodness. I’ve been through various things in my life, but I’m still utterly amazed at how good God really is. I’d like to share that message with you today. You can listen to the message at this link (10 minutes), or read the text of the message below.

Click to listen to “God is the Hero in Our Stories, Always”

The message today is based on Psalm 145, verses 6 and 7, which says:

“Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of Your greatness. The fame of your goodness spreads across the country; Your righteousness is on everyone’s lips” (Psalm 145:6-7, MSG).

This is a particularly meaningful passage to me right now because I’ve just finished writing a book of my testimony about how God has worked in my life. I’ve been working on this book for a year, and I’ve just finished and launched it last week. I’m really excited about it because I feel it’s going to spread the goodness of God and how great He is.

Fifty Shades of Grace (Cover)

The book is called, “Fifty Shades of Grace,” and I’ve written it under a pseudonym, Nicholas Deere. (If you look for it on Amazon, make sure you type in “Fifty Shades of Grace,” not something else! Or just look for “Nicholas Deere.”) The book talks about my story: my life before Christ, my life after Christ, and how I came to Christ right in the center.

The book focuses on how God has changed and transformed my life in one particular area, and that’s in the area of my sexuality. As one reviewer said, “It’s not your traditional ‘boy meets girl’ kind of story. It’s more like ‘boy meets boy, boy meets girl, boy meets God.'” So it’s a little bit different, and I would caution you, if you’re highly sensitive to sexual things,  then you might not want to take a look at this. But I love the book, because it shows God’s amazing grace in my life, and how He gave me a wife and six kids and worked all things for good in my life. I love spreading God’s goodness.

But as I was writing it, I made a mistake. You know how, if you’ve ever taken a storytelling class, you have the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is sort of the good guy, and the antagonist is trying to stop the good guy.

My mistake was that I saw myself as the good guy in the story and how God was helping me work through obstacles in my life. I wasn’t very far into the book when I realized I was no “good guy.” There’s another protagonist in this story, and that’s God. In fact, He’s the ONLY protagonist in my story. He’s the “good guy.” He’s the ultimate “Good Guy.”

God created me good, but because of sin, and my sinful choices, I was headed on a path that was going to kill me. And God took me, changed me, and put me on another path. I was my own antagonist. I was the one throwing all those obstacles out in front of myself and tripping over them. But God turned me into someone who eventually was good, bringing out all the goodness that God had put in me from the beginning.

And it’s the same in all of our stories. God is the ultimate “Good Guy.”  God is the Hero in our stories, always. He’s the One who came to rescue us, to redeem us, to restore what was lost. He is SO GOOD!

Sometimes we think that the word “good” is not a very exciting word. I had a high school physics teacher who would write on my paper, whenever I would get 100% right, and he would say, “Good.” To me and to some of the other people in the class, we would say, “‘Good’? That’s a little disappointing, isn’t it? It should be something like ‘Outstanding,” ‘Excellent’ or ‘Simply Amazing!'”

And our teacher said, “No, Eric,” and then he told me and the rest of the class–back when it was okay for teachers to say things like this to their students–he said, “God, when He created the world, said it was ‘good.’ When He created light, He said it was ‘good.’ When He created the land, He said it was ‘good.’ When He created plants and animals He said it was ‘good.’ When He created humans, He said it was ‘good.’ And when He sat back and looked at everything He had created, He said it was ‘very good'” (see Genesis chapter 1). And my teacher said, “‘Good’ is a very good word.” And if GOD is good, then ‘good’ is certainly one of the most astounding words we could use.

Now how do you get that goodness into your life, though? That’s what I want to touch on for a little bit here.

My call to you, and the call of God to me for my life, is to invite His goodness into our lives. My wife had written in one of her journals something she had heard one time that said, “If God is bigger than us, and He comes to live inside of us, then shouldn’t some of Him show through us, so others can see Him, too?”

And it’s true. When we invite God’s Holy Spirit to come into our lives, if we say, “God, we invite You, Your Holy Spirit, to come in,” then the Holy Spirit, who is the essence of God Himself, will come into us, and the Holy Spirit is going to show through us. Any good that you see in my life, or any good that you see in other Christians’ lives, is usually the Spirit of God living in us, working and acting and bringing out the best in us. It’s God’s goodness, that has come into us, and is shining through us.

My call to you is the same as my call to myself, and it’s something that we can do over and over again, and that’s to say, “God, I invite Your Holy Spirit to come into every area of my life. Push all of me out, and fill me with all of You. Every area of my life, take it over God. Fill me with all Your goodness, all Your righteousness, because I want to do what’s good. I want to do what’s right. But I know I can’t do it on my own.  I need Your help.”

There’s a great verse in Romans chapter 8 which gives me encouragement about God living within us. In Romans 8, verses 10 and 11, it says:

“But for you who welcome Him, in whom He dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He’ll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and He does, as surely as He did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:10-11, MSG).

So if the Holy Spirit came into Christ’s body when He was dead and raised Him back to life, and if that same Holy Spirit lives in us, then He can bring us back to life, too. Anything that’s broken in your life, He can restore it. Anything that’s been damaged, He can redeem it. Anything that’s been lost, He can find it.

I wasn’t planning to share this, but back when I was growing up, I loved to tap dance. I watched my sister do it, and I thought, “I could do that! I’d love to do that!” It sounded so fun to dance. And I went and I danced for several years at a studio here in town. I loved my teacher. I loved dancing. It was so much fun. I would get up and just dance and dance and dance. It just made me smile.

Then, of course, in junior high, a lot of people started making fun of me that I would tap dance. But I pictured Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. These were some great heroes, not sissy guys. But I let some of those comments in, and it made me not want to dance anymore.

A few weeks ago, I was at my daughter’s dance studio. The same teacher who taught me back then is teaching my daughter now. And as she was teaching the class, she said, “Eric, you don’t have to just sit out here, you can come in the class with us!”

And I thought, Oh gosh! Do I want to go back to that in my 50’s? But I also thought, It was really fun. The teacher didn’t have many students for that particular class, so she said, “Just take off your shoes and come dance with us.” And I did. And I smiled the whole time.

It was so fun. It was fun to dance with my teacher and fun to dance with my daughter. And it put a smile on my face. I said, “I think I’ll do this.” So I got some tap shoes and tonight, after this, I’m heading over to “hoof it” a little bit. And I’m going to say, “God, I just want to smile with You for a little while. I need You in my life.”

God can take those things that have been lost–long gone from your life–and He can bring them back. He can help put a smile on your face again.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You so much for being so good. We love You, God. We worship You. We praise You. And I pray that You would fill each one of us with Your Holy Spirit. Push all of us out, and fill us completely with Jesus Christ. Fill us with all Your goodness, all Your mercy, all Your grace, all Your love. Help us, God, to do the things that put a smile on Your face, because that will then put a smile on our faces. Lord, thank You for redeeming what was lost, restoring what was broken. Lord, I pray that we would go forward today as changed people, a little bit better, a little bit more filled with Your goodness, and that the light of Your glory would spill out to everyone around us, making Your name known across the face of the earth. We thank You, Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. If you’d like a copy of my new book, you can get a copy on Amazon at either of these links:
Fifty Shades of Grace (Paperback)
Fifty Shades of Grace (Kindle edition)

P.P.S. I’ll also be sharing more of my testimony at our 3rd Annual Ranch retreat next month. I’d love for you to come! I’ll be leading worship from the piano for the weekend, and I’ve invited several others to share their testimonies, too, about how God has worked in wonderful ways in their lives. So I hope you’ll join me, along with Greg Potzer of This Day’s Thought from The Ranch and several other special guests, here in Central Illinois on Columbus Day Weekend. (It’s free!)  Here’s a link to learn more:
The 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat


Come join us for our 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat, October 9-11, 2015!

If you need a boost in your faith, join us  in Central Illinois in October for a weekend of inspirational music, messages and time with new friends. It’s free! To learn more, visit The 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat.


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Fifty Shades of Grace

A Special Message from Eric Elder of “This Day’s Thought from the Ranch”


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

 

Dear Friends and Subscribers of “This Day’s Thought from The Ranch,”

I’ve just finished writing the first book I hope no one ever reads! At the same time, I hope everyone will read it, because it describes how I went into homosexuality and how I came out of it through the power of Christ and with the help of the woman who later became my wife.

Fifty Shades of Grace - Cover

It’s called “Fifty Shades of Grace,” and it’s an epic, yet intimate story, spanning thirty years of my life, from my first sexual encounter with a man to my last intimate moments with my wife just before she died of breast cancer nearly three years ago.

Since many of you prayed for my wife and me during that last year of her life, I think you’ll be especially interested in the last five chapters of the book. Even though those were some of the darkest days of our lives, they were also some of the most precious. For I’ve found that when life gets darker, God’s grace shines brighter.

If you’re a regular reader of my weekly messages on The Ranch and wondered if I had stopped writing, I haven’t! I’ve been writing more in the past year than I’ve ever written in my life. But I just wasn’t sure if I would ever publish what I was writing.

Why? Because I’ve shared so many intimate stories in this book that I’ve never shared with anyone before that I wasn’t sure if I ever should publish it.

But a friend of mine encouraged me one day by telling me what his mother had told him, which she had learned from her English teacher many years ago. Her teacher said:

“Everyone has a million dollar book inside of them. They just have to tell their own story–but they have to be brutally honest when they tell it.”  

When I finished writing the last chapter of the first draft of this book earlier this year, I called my friend and said, “I’ve just written my million dollar book.” It was definitely “brutally honest.”

While my goal isn’t to make a million dollars on the book, I have no doubt, based on the response of those who have read preview copies, that MANY will be touched by it, especially with the national and international discussions about homosexuality at an all-time high. As I’ve prayed about what I can do to help people as they try to navigate through these difficult waters, I felt the best thing I could do is to simply share my own story about how God has worked in my life in this area, offering hope to others who may have homosexual attractions but who feel God has something else in store for their lives.

And yet, at its heart, this book isn’t about sex. It’s about going for what’s best in your life, those deepest longings and desires which God Himself has put in your heart.  If you need faith that God can do anything, absolutely anything, then this could be the book for you.

I’ve written this book to appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, as the story offers hope to ANYONE who wants to see ANY kind of transformation in their life. That’s why I’d love for EVERYONE to read this book! We could all use a little more hope to get through whatever we’re going through right now.

But after writing the first draft of the book, I still wasn’t sure if I should ever publish it.

As I began writing the final version, I nervously sent the book, chapter by chapter, to two friends who said they would be glad to preview it for me and give me their honest thoughts.  After reading the first few chapters, both friends gave me their whole-hearted “thumbs up,” saying things like this:

“I really do think you have something special on your hands here. The story is compelling, but I think what takes it to an even higher level is your writing, which really draws the reader in, and which is crafted so well.”

“Wow, I read the first five chapters, and you are an excellent writer. Very well done. It’s not a topic I would normally pick up and read, but you had me hooked with the story line.  I don’t think that I could be so honest and open. That’s probably why it is so riveting. All I can say is ‘Wow!'”

I then began asking others to read the story as I completed each chapter, and I began getting similar responses:

“You really are a GREAT story teller. And, oh, what a story to tell! Do you know how many and various ways those chapters affect me?!?!”

“A fascinating story. I’m completely blown away by your life experiences! Your candor and transparency truly elevate the storytelling. I envy how smooth and easy your storytelling is. It is simple to slip into the story and imagine myself right along with you. There is so much damage and hurt right now in this area, and your story is filled with hope and love and caring. You aren’t harsh or condemning or preachy. I cried and cried and cried. All the way through. I’m ready to buy several copies to give to people I know who are hurting.”

But then I heard from a few people who were concerned about the story and the content. They said things like these:

“I had planned to read your book, but my husband warned me that it may not be right for me. When he read a few of the scenes to me, I agreed. You see, I am very sensitive to sexual content.  It just seems to affect me more deeply than it does for others.  Stuff that may cause some people to say, “Wow,” would break my heart.  He also explained to me that the whole book isn’t like that and that there is a ton of really amazing stuff in there about you finding God and your journey to following Him.  I’m sure it is an amazing book, but I know I couldn’t handle all the sexual stuff.” 

“Can’t believe I’ve been reading all day! Gotta tell ya – I had to reach for a glass of ice water a few times (wink). But what I’ve read is a wonderful candid story of struggle, consequences, confusion, searching in all the wrong places – then finding the road to the right place…. in the Hands of God.”

“While several parts were arousing and might cause people to stumble, after reading the book a second time, it’s not so arousing and it gets across the idea very well of what your life was like both before and after. What a beautiful, sweet, intimate portrait of God’s grace in your life.”

Because of my respect for these people, and my concern for readers who might stumble as they read the book, I had to pause and consider once again if I should publish the story at all. But with so many positive comments coming in, I decided to expand my base of test readers to over 100. And as those responses started pouring in, I realized that while this book may not be for everyone, it could bring unprecedented hope and healing to those who do need to hear the details I share.

So far, 86% of those 100+ early readers have given the book their whole-hearted “thumbs up!” While some of them agreed that the book was indeed candid and sensual, they also said they felt this was essential for the telling of this particular story. As one reader said, “Every word felt exactly right.”

So I kept writing until I completed my final manuscript, trying to keep my descriptions as tasteful as possible, and trying to choose my words as carefully as possible. In the end, I hope I’ve captured the essence of the story in a way that is compelling, revealing and fully glorifying to the God who created sex and who changed my life in regards to it.

Yet I still realize that some readers may be more sensitive to the subject matter than others.

For that reason, I’ve posted the Introduction and Chapter 1 on the book’s website so you can read for yourself and see if this is a book for you, as those chapters set the tone for the rest of the book.  If you like the Introduction and Chapter 1, then this might be a book for you. If you don’t, then this probably isn’t a book for you, as the rest of the book is just like it! No problem! I just want to make sure it gets into the hands of those who could benefit from it the most. (I also created a less sensual version of the book, but readers who had trouble reading the first version also had trouble reading the second, more so it seems because of their sensitivity to the subject matter than to the particular words I chose, so I abandoned that version for the one I felt might touch the most people.)

By the way, while writing the story, I wrote it under a pen name, Nicholas J. Deere. While I don’t mind people knowing that I’m the author of the book (or I wouldn’t be writing this post to you), I found that using a pen name allowed me to be more open and honest while writing the story than I might otherwise have been, worrying as I wrote it about what other people might think of me. Now that it’s time to publish the book, I’ve grown so attached to the pen name that I’d like to keep it, as I’ve changed the names of the other people mentioned in the book, too. For all the talk in the world about sex, and even in this book, sex is still a very private thing. Using pseudonyms for myself and my wife just feels right. As another friend of mine said, “It’s like a blanket of grace covering you both.”

In case you’re still undecided whether to get this book or not, I’d like to close with a comment from Debbie Macomber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of dozens of romance novels, with over 170 million copies in print. Debbie has become an encouraging friend in recent years, and she asked me to send her a copy of this book when I was finished. I did, and she loved it! In one of her emails to me (which she graciously gave me permission to share), Debbie wrote:

“This is a vital message the church needs to hear. And you tell such a powerful story. One that needs to be heard.”

So while I know this book isn’t for everyone, I DO believe it will bring hope and healing to the hearts of those who DO need it.  Please join me in praying that it reaches those hearts! Without further adieu, I’d like to present to you “Fifty Shades of Grace,” by Nicholas Deere…

Click this link to read the Introduction and Chapter 1:
http://nicholasdeere.com/chapter-1/

Click this link to read more reviews from early readers to see if this is a book for you:
http://nicholasdeere.com/reviews/

And click this link to get a copy of the book from Amazon.com! (Also available on Amazon’s online stores in other countries):
http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Shades-of-Grace/dp/1512385751/

(For those who can’t buy the book on Amazon for some reason, I’ll be glad to send you a copy of the book, anywhere in the world, for a donation of any size. Just click this link to make a donation and place an order.)
http://theranch.org/fifty-shades-of-grace/

Sincerely,
Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

P.S. Just like the first weekend for movies, the first week of a book’s sales creates the momentum for the future of the book. If a book reaches enough sales in the first week (in fact, in the first DAY), then Amazon will begin promoting the book themselves in their Top 100 lists for that book’s category, raising the visibility of the book so other readers will be more likely to find it. If you’re considering buying the book, would you consider buying it TODAY or THIS WEEK, and perhaps buying 2-3 (or 10-12!) copies of the book if you think others might like it, too? Every sale of the book TODAY and THIS WEEK could help someone in the future find the book who might otherwise never see it and never receive the blessing they could have received from it. Thanks!


The 2nd Annual Ranch Retreat!

The 2nd Annual Ranch Retreat!  October 10-12, 2014 - Come Join Us!!!

If you’d like a boost in your faith, I hope you’ll join us for a weekend of worship and inspiration here in the heart of the Great Midwest on Columbus Day Weekend, October 10-12th, 2014.

We’ll start off with a sumptuous dinner on Friday night, followed by some inspirational worship led by Alan Lowry of Saddleback’s GIG Music Ministry and a faith-boosting message by Greg Potzer of This Day’s Thought and myself, Eric Elder.  (Al’s coming in from Orange County, California and Greg’s coming in from Denver, Colorado, so if you’re coming from out of state or out of the country, you’ll be in good company!)

We’ll continue on Saturday morning with a light and refreshing breakfast, followed by another session of inspirational worship and messages.  We’ll take a break for lunch on your own and some free time in the afternoon to just relax, pray or chat with some new friends.

We’ll have an optional prayer walk on Saturday afternoon at the site of my late wife Lana’s memorial bench at a cemetery nearby where you’ll have time to consider what God wants you to do with the rest of your “dash” here on earth.

Then we’ll gather again on Saturday night for another great meal, more inspirational worship and another faith-boosting message.  (If the weather’s nice, we may even have a bonfire and cookout here at our home, complete with a sky full of stars and some good old s’mores for dessert…you’ll like ’em so much, you’ll want “s’more”!)

If you stay over till Sunday, we’d love to have you join us for worship at our local church in Normal, Illinois (you can tell people you were “close to Normal” for a whole weekend!), followed by lunch at the church café (dutch treat) for some extra time of relaxed fellowship.

If all that sounds good to you (I know it sounds good to me!), I hope you’ll join us here in Illinois on Columbus Day Weekend, October 10-12, 2014.  We’re asking for a donation of $150 per person for the whole weekend of activities, which includes a refreshing breakfast, 2 wonderful dinners and 3 sets of inspirational worship and messages.

Even if we didn’t provide any delicious meals or inspirational worship and messages, just getting out of your usual routine for a few days might be just what you need to hear from God more clearly and give you a boost in your faith.  So I hope save the date and join us in October!  Just click “Register” below to sign up!

(As much as I wish I could host you all in my home, I think you’d find it a little crowded here with my kids at home!  So here’s a link to some hotels near Lexington, Illinois where the activities will be held.)

For more information about housing, locations or any other details, please call Shelly at (214) 597-4872 or send us a note on our Contact Form.

REGISTER HERE!!!

Click here to register for the whole weekend ($150 donation per person.  For multiple registrations, click the link, then increase the number of registrations needed.)

Although we hope you can stay for the whole weekend, we know some of you might only be able to join us for Friday or Saturday.  Use the links below to register for just one day at $75 per day.

Click here to register for Friday only  ($75 donation per person.)
Click here to register for Saturday only ($75 donation per person.)

Please note that for tax purposes only the amount you donate above the suggested donation will be considered tax-deductible.  Your extra donations go directly into the ministry to help us keep sharing Christ with others, so thanks for your extra help, too!

LOCATION

The retreat will be held at the Lexington Community Center, located at 207 West Main Street in Lexington, Illinois.  Lexington is about 2 hours south of Chicago and 25 minutes north of Bloomington/Normal.  The closest airport is in Bloomington, Illinois (BMI), with flights to many major cities daily.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10
5:00-6:30 Check-in at the Lexington Community Center in Lexington, Illinois
6:30 Appetizers and Fellowship
7:00 Dinner
7:45 Worship with Al Lowry
8:15 Message by Greg Potzer and Eric Elder
9:15-10:00 Q & A, Prayer and Wrap Up

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11
9:00-10:00 Gather and enjoy a casual breakfast at the Lexington Community Center
10:00 Worship with Al Lowry
10:30 Message by Eric Elder
11:30-12:00 Q & A, Prayer and Wrap Up
12:00 Break for lunch on your own at local restaurants

12:00-6:00 Free time for relaxed fellowship and prayer, with an optional prayer walk at Lana Elder’s memorial bench at the Lexington Cemetery

6:00 Gather again at the Lexington Community Center
6:30 Dinner
7:15 Worship with Al Lowry
7:45 Message by Eric Elder
8:45-10:00 Q & A, Prayer and Wrap Up

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12
11:30 Worship together at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois
1:00-3:00 Lunch (dutch treat) at the church café, with extra time for relaxed fellowship and prayer

 ABOUT US

Here’s a little more about us!

About Eric Elder and The Ranch

About Greg Potzer and This Day’s Thought

About Al Lowry and Saddleback’s GIG Ministry

For more information about the retreat, housing or any other details, please call Shelly at (214) 597-4872 or just send us a note on our Contact Form!

This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Special Note


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Dear Subscribers to This Day’s Thought from The Ranch,

We enter this month of November where we are excited to share our ministry vision and offer an opportunity to help support our ministry efforts.

As in years past, we have chosen this month of thanksgiving to address our needs in operating these ministries, The Ranch and This Day’s Thought, now working in unison to more effectively reach and ministry to our many members from all corners of the world.

Our joint ministry now offers even more in the way of prayer group interaction, printed and audio resources, archived Christian content and materials, variety of receiving methods for each day’s messages and other improvements & enhancements, all of which are dedicated to helping in people’s individual and community walks with the Lord.

In order to maintain these various aspects our ministry work, we require the financial resources to administer and operate as we do. Thus, we would like to share this day and a few additional times this month, the opportunity to assist the ministry with your financial support. If you feel so led, you may visit the link below in order to make a donation.

We always prayerfully strive to remain proper stewards of all resources we are blessed with. Eric and Greg endeavor to work as effectively and wisely as possible in the management of our time and monetary resources, so we march forward in our mission to touch as many people as we can, with our Christian “seeds for the day,” our weekly Sermons, and all our other available materials, but to do so in a way that pleases the Lord and is honoring to you, our supporting membership, in our thriftiness and proper allocation of such donations.

Your giving here allows us to spend more needed time and energy to all this work and also to meet our needs for equipment and such other requirements needed to operate on a daily, monthly and annual basis. One such example is Greg’s need for a new computer to replace the aging one he is currently using. All donations are helpful and so appreciated, particularly those monthly commitments and pledges as they help so much in our overall planning and ministry execution.

Thank you for your time and consideration, including all your past support over these many years together, and we look forward to entering this next new year together, as we celebrate our commitment and worship and joy, in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Most Sincerely, Greg and Eric for This Day’s Thought and The Ranch

To Make a Donation, please visit:
http://theranch.org/make-a-donation/

(And, as a thank-you for your donation of any amount, we’d be glad to send you a gift of your choice from our bookstore, which features dozens of inspirational books, CD’s and DVD’s produced and created right here at The Ranch.)

The Ranch Bookstore



Night of Worship at The Ranch!

Hi, this is Eric Elder with a special invitation for you to join us for a Night of Worship here at my home in Illinois this coming weekend.  Since I launched The Ranch website for the first time 15 years ago, I’ve wanted to host an annual retreat for anyone who wanted to come join us live, in person, for a time of worship, prayer and inspiration.

As a step in that direction, Greg Potzer and I are going to host a “Night of Worship at The Ranch” here this Saturday night, October 12th.  Greg runs This Day’s Thought and selects our daily thoughts, Bible verses and occasional smiles that keep us all going every day, and he’ll be driving here from his home in Colorado.  My good friend and worship leader, Kent Sanders (www.artistssuitcase.com), will be coming up from Saint Louis to lead us in a time of worship, and Greg and I will be sharing some thoughts from our hearts with you during the night as well.

We’d love to have you join us!  This will be an intimate night of worship and right now it looks like the weather will be perfect for a bonfire outside.  Bring your own lawn chairs with you and, optionally, a snack to share if you’d like (not necessary at all… just come!)

It’s beautiful here in Illinois in the fall, with wide open spaces, and a view of the sky in every direction for miles and miles.  All of the pictures on our new Ranch website were taken right here at our home.

We’ll be gathering here for snacks and light refreshments anytime after 5 pm, with our time of worship starting at 7.  Again, that’s this Saturday, October 12th (Columbus Day Weekend here in the U.S., giving you perhaps a little extra travel time to get here and home again!)

Our address is 25615 E 3000 North Rd, Chenoa, IL 61726, and there’s a Super 8 hotel just 3 miles away in our little town of Chenoa (or there are many other hotels, and things to do for the weekend, about 25 miles away in the much larger twin cities of Bloomington/Normal).

If you’re flying, you can fly into the Bloomington (Illinois) airport (BMI) which is closest to us, or into Chicago O’Hare or Midway airports (ORD or MDW), which are about two hours north of us.

Although I’m sorry that Lana won’t be here in person to meet you, too, her spirit is still alive and well in our home. I know she would be happy for us to meet and share and worship together the God and Savior whom she’s still worshipping every day, in a brand new way.  Join us if you can!

Special Message from Eric of This Day’s Thought from The Ranch


This Day's Thought from The Ranch Logo

3 Special Announcements!
by Eric Elder

Dear Friends,

Hi, this is Eric Elder, and I have 3 Special Announcements I’d like to share with you today!

#1) I’m back!

It’s been 10 months now since my dear wife Lana passed away on November 15, 2012.  Of course, after 28 years of knowing her and 23 years of marriage, I still miss her and think about her every hour of every day.

But I can honestly say that over the past several weeks, I’ve been able to think about her without the searing pain that accompanied my grief for so many of the past 10 months.

What was heart-wrenching for so long has gradually become heart-warming instead, and I’ve been able to truly savor the memories of our life together, without feeling like my heart is being torn apart, over and over again.  God is truly healing and restoring me in ways I never would have thought possible just a few months ago.

In the weeks ahead I’d like to continue the series I began at the beginning of the year called, “How to Keep Trusting God Even in the Face of Significant Loss.”  We all face losses of all kinds, all the time–whether it’s the loss of a job, the loss of health, the loss of finances, or, as in my case, the loss of a loved one–and there are some practical steps we can take to help ourselves get through those losses without losing our faith.

If you missed the first three parts, you can read them herehere and here.  I’m looking forward to sharing a few more parts with you in the weeks ahead, as they sum up some of the most significant lessons God has taught me over my lifetime of trusting Him.

#2) We have a new website! (And with it, a new way of sending out our daily messages.) 

This is not just a cosmetic change, as we’ve given The Ranch more than just a facelift.  We’ve rebuilt it from the ground up, merging the websites for both This Day’s Thought and The Ranch together, so we can reach out and minister to even more people every day.

You may not know this, but in addition to creating much of the content on The Ranch, I’m also the “webmaster” of the website, having built one of the first corporate websites for a Fortune 10 corporation prior to going into full-time ministry 17 years ago.  So over the years, I’ve always designed and built my own websites for ministry as well.

As Lana was going through her final weeks of cancer, the computers that run our websites began to fail, too, and there was nothing I could do to fix them.  On the day of her funeral, our computers crashed entirely.  For the next week, we were completely offline.

Our silence that week was more than just for mourning, but we were simply unable to get any messages out at all.  In the weeks that followed, I was able to repair the computers enough so Greg Potzer–who selects the daily quotes, Bible verses and smiles that you read each day–could keep sending out the daily messages, and then selecting sermons on the weekends when I was unable to share.

(I’d like to commend Greg on so many fronts!  He has been a tremendous partner in ministry and a terrific support through all of this, keeping the public side of our ministry running every day, 6 days a week, for the past 10 months–which is no small feat as we now reach over 40,000 subscribers from over 160 countries!)

We’ll be sharing more with you about some of the unique features of our new website in the days ahead, but you can take a sneak peak at it now at theranch.org.  You can listen to music, read a message, watch a video, ask for prayer, and all kinds of neat ways to give you a boost in your faith.

We’ll also be asking you to do something we’ve never had to ask you to do before, and that’s to resubscribe to our mailing list so that you can continue receiving these messages.  You don’t have to do it today, as we’ll be still using our old mailing system for a few more weeks.

But I wanted to let you know today, because you can go ahead and sign up today if you want when you visit the new website.  Just click the link on the new website (or click the link right here) that says “Click here to subscribe to This Day’s Thought from The Ranch by e-mail,” then follow the prompts to complete your new subscription.

I’m very excited about the new site, and hope you love it as much as I do!  Let us know what you think!  (And if you notice anything that’s not working, let us know that, too, as we’d like to fix it right away.)

#3) For our third announcement, I’d like to invite you to come join us for a “Night of Worship at The Ranch!”

Since I launched The Ranch website for the first time 15 years ago, I’ve always wanted to host an annual retreat for anyone who wanted to come join us live, in person, for a time of worship, prayer and inspiration.

As a step in that direction, Greg and I are going to host a Night of Worship here in Illinois on the night of Saturday, October 12th (Columbus Day Weekend).  Greg will be driving here from his home in Colorado, and we’d love to have you join us, too.  My good friend and worship leader, Kent Sanders, will be coming up from Saint Louis to lead us in worship, and Greg and I will be sharing some thoughts with you during the night as well.

We’d love to have you join us and, if we haven’t met you yet, to have the chance to meet you in person.  This will be an intimate night of worship here in my own home, and if the weather’s nice, we’ll have a bonfire outside.

It’s beautiful here in Illinois in the fall, with wide open spaces, and a view of the sky in every direction for miles and miles, right in the heart of the great midwest.  All of the pictures on our new Ranch website were taken right here at our home.

We’ll be gathering here on October 12th for snacks and light refreshments anytime after 5 pm, with worship starting at 7.

Our address is 25615 E 3000 North Rd, Chenoa, IL 61726, and there’s a Super 8 hotel just 3 miles away in our little town of Chenoa (or there are many other hotels and things to do about 25 miles away in the much larger twin cities of Bloomington/Normal.)

If you’re flying, you can fly into the Bloomington (Illinois) airport (BMI), or into Chicago O’Hare or Midway airports (ORD or MDW), which are about two hours north of us.

Although I’m sorry that Lana won’t be here in person to meet you, too, her spirit is still alive and well in our home.  I know she would be happy for us to meet and share and worship together the God and Savior whom she’s still worshipping every day, in a brand new way.

Before I close, I’d like to draw your attention to one more thing.

Another good friend and filmmaker, Russell Pond, filmed the memorial service held in Lana’s honor on November 20, 2012.

While I wouldn’t normally think of encouraging someone to watch a funeral service to find inspiration and hope for their lives, I’ve had so many people tell me that’s just what happened for them when they watched it, that I wanted to make it available to anyone who wants to see it.

You can watch it online here, but I know some people can’t watch it online because of the cost or bandwidth constraints of their Internet connection, and I know others who would simply like to have a copy for their own memories of Lana.

So with Russ’s kind permission, I’ve put the entire 90-minute service onto a DVD called, “To Lana, With Love.”  I’d be glad to send it to you for a donation of any size to our ministry (both to help us in our work and to help offset the costs of printing and shipping it to you).  This video also features the short film, “Eric’s Hope,” made by our new friends at Neuvelle Vie (New Life), a project to give hope to others facing loss.  (Click here to request a copy.)

I’ve even heard from one couple who said they were so inspired by watching the service online that they made it required viewing for another couple they were counseling who were having trouble in their marriage, to give them hope for what God can do in our lives and relationships if we let Him.

It’s amazing to me that God can use even our greatest tragedies to bring hope and healing to others.  Thank You, Jesus!

And thank YOU again for your prayers, your notes of encouragement, and your support in so many practical ways.  You have sustained me when I needed it, and I hope to be able to return the favor in the days ahead.

So check out our new website–and come visit us if you can on October 12th!

With Love,
Eric Elder
www.theranch.org


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As a thank-you for your donation of any size to our ministry, we’d be glad to send you our DVD, “To Lana, With Love,” featuring the Celebration of the Life of Lana Elder, who passed away on November 15th, 2012.  Lana was the wife of Eric Elder and co-founder of The Ranch. “To Lana, With Love” also includes the short inspirational video, “Eric’s Hope,” to give hope and encouragement to others facing loss.
Click here to learn more or to make a donation.

To Lana, With Love

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, 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.”  Every weekday we’ll send you an inspirational Christian quote, Bible verse, and occasional smile.  Then every weekend, we’ll send you an inspirational message to give you a boost in your faith.

Through it all, we hope to encourage 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 Elder, Greg Potzer, and the volunteers here at The Ranch

Having Faith in the Resurrection, by Eric Elder…

Part 3 of “How To Keep Trusting God, Even In The Face Of Significant Loss”

Happy Easter from our house to yours!  We could all use a dose of faith, and Easter Sunday is a great day to get one.  If you’re struggling with trusting God, even in the face of significant loss, this message is for you.  (If you missed the first two parts, you can read them here and here.)

It’s been almost five months since we took this picture of me and my six kids, not knowing that just two weeks later my wife Lana would pass on to be with the Lord (she was inside resting when this picture was taken, as we were in the middle of a 10-hour filming session for a project to give hope to families facing loss).  Since that day, we’ve had to celebrate seven major holidays without our beloved Lana:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, two birthdays, and now Easter.

Each of these “firsts” without her this year could have easily overwhelmed me with grief if it weren’t for my faith in Jesus Christ and the prayers of people like you.

But when Christmas rolled around, God reminded me why we celebrate the holiday at all:  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the baby who would one day defeat death forever!  While celebrating Christmas was still hard without Lana, God’s reminder of the reason we were celebrating helped me keep a balanced perspective on her life and death…and her new life with Him.

The same holds true for Easter.  While there’s no doubt it’s been hard to go through our Easter traditions this year without Lana, God keeps reminding me of the purpose of this holiday, too.  Easter is the day we remember that Jesus rose from the dead, and because He rose from the dead, we can be assured that all of us who have put our faith in Him will be raised from the dead, too, including my dear wife Lana.  Without Lana here with me this week, it’s already been a different kind of holiday.  I found myself videotaping the kids during an Easter egg hunt so that I could come home and show her the tape, only to remember that she wouldn’t be home when I got there.  But then God reminded me that it’s quite likely that Lana’s not missing a thing.  The Bible says that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” witnesses who have kept their faith to the end, and remind us to do the same.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

As sad as it is that I’m having to celebrate Easter without Lana here with me in the flesh, the truth is that without Jesus, there would be no holiday to celebrate at all, and there would be no hope of Lana being raised from the dead either.  So in the midst of my heartache, God keeps reminding me of the whole truth:  not just the truth that she’s gone, but the truth that she’s gone to be with Jesus, and has been raised to a new life in spectacular glory.  And having that whole truth in mind brings His peace to my heart.  As the Bible says:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We do have hope.  True hope.  Not a desperate clinging to the mere idea that maybe there’s some kind of life after this life, but a firm faith in the reality that there really is a heaven, and that Jesus is really there, with my beloved Lana right alongside Him.

I don’t want to try to prove to you today that Jesus rose from the dead, but I would like to remind you of the fact that He did rise from the dead and that His resurrection was witnessed by many here on earth.  Not only that, but there were others in the Bible who were once dead who were resurrected to new life, as well, and even they have appeared to people here on earth, too!

As for Jesus’ resurrection, and His appearance to people on earth, listen to some of these verses from the Bible:

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons” (Mark 16:9).

“Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country” (Mark 16:12).

“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).

“Afterward, Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias” (John 21:1).

“This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).

“After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me [Paul]…” (1 Corinthians 15:6-8a).

What’s even more amazing to me, since Lana passed on to be with Jesus, is that I keep reading verses that I’ve read before, but that strike me now in a new light:  that Jesus wasn’t the only one who died and rose again and appeared to people here on earth.  Listen to this!

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.  At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:50-53).

Not only had Jesus been raised from the dead, but many others had also been raised as well who appeared to many people in Jerusalem.  Even Peter, James and John saw people raised from the dead while Jesus was still living, when they saw Moses and Elijah standing on the mountaintop, talking with Jesus:

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:1-3).

Moses and Elijah were so real to Peter that Peter asked Jesus if he should build a shelter for each one of them, even though they had been dead for thousands of years!  It was a reminder to them, and to me, that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, as Jesus once told the Saducees, the religious leaders who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus said:

“Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:26-28).

I share all this as a preface to what I’m about to share next.  As with some of the other stories I’ve shared with you recently, I do so with hesitancy as I don’t want you to think I’ve lost my mind.  I’m also not sure what to think of them myself, for I realize I’m still in the midst of grief, and perhaps the grief is clouding how I think and see spiritual things right now.  Then again, perhaps it’s during our most difficult times, when we’re apt to be the closest to God, that we’re best able to see what’s really true!

On New Year’s Eve, I was praying on my knees during a time of worship at a large Christian conference, celebrating the New Year with over 20,000 other believers.  As I knelt there on the floor, I felt as if Lana were leaning down next to me.  She whispered in my ear, as she had done many times before in life:  “I love you, Eric Elder.”   Her voice was as clear and soft and sweet as any time I’d ever heard her say that to me before.  I could almost feel her breath on the side of my face.

The next night I felt her presence again, this time as I lay in bed.  I wrote in my journal the following morning:

“Father, thank You for Lana’s love for me and mine for her.  I miss her Lord.  But how can I be anything but grateful to You for giving her to me to be my wife for so many years.  This morning I woke up and literally felt her arms around me and heard her voice talking to me.  I couldn’t move for several minutes, it was so real, her touch and her words.  I even thought I saw her when I turned my head.  Thank You, Lord, for her continued presence, even if it is in my dreams, or in that state between dreams and wakefulness.  Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.”

I’ve reached up to heaven many times in the last few months and have taken hold of Lana’s arm, only to find the arm of Jesus taking hold of both of us, as He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us.  He promised us that death would not separate us, for we had put our faith in Him.  He promised us that we would live forever, not just at the end of time, but right now, in abundant life.

As Jesus told Martha in the Bible, after her brother Lazarus died

“Your brother will be raised up.”

To which Martha replied:

“I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

To which Jesus replied:

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in Me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” (John 11:23-26, MSG).

Martha said she believed it.  Lana said she believed it.  And I can say I believe it, too.

As I shared at the celebration of Lana’s life back in November, a good friend of mine sent me this text that helped me to see the reality of Lana’s new life in heaven:

“It is so hard to be in this place, but it is good to know Lana is seeing our Father and Jesus face to face.  She is touching them and hearing their voices, and talking to them about anything and everything she wants to.  Somehow you, because you are one, are part of that.  It takes my breath away.

When I think about it, really think about it, it takes my breath away, too.

This is the great hope that we have in the resurrection, not only that Jesus was raised from the dead, but that all of us who have put our faith in Him will be raised from the dead as well.

As Jonathan Edwards, the great evangelist, said at the funeral of David Brainerd, the great missionary:

“True saints, when absent from the body, are present with the Lord” (quoting the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8).

As Jesus Himself said to the thief on the cross who was dying next to Him and who had just put his faith in Jesus:

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus really did rise from the dead.  And those who put their faith in Him really will rise from the dead, too.

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, let me encourage you, as Lana would encourage you, as Jesus Himself encouraged you:  put your faith in Jesus Christ today.  Believe that He died for your sins.  Believe that He’s forgiven you of your sins.  And believe that He will raise you to begin a new life with Him, starting right now and forever.  As the Bible says:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

As we close, let me share one more picture with you.  This is one that we took later on the same day as the picture above, when Lana came out to join us again for the filming session.  Although her body was weak, her spirit was as strong as ever.

At Christmastime I had a hard time deciding which picture to send out with our Christmas letters.  I couldn’t imagine sending out a Christmas picture from now on without Lana in it.  But when I looked at the picture of just me and the kids, I couldn’t help but be thankful for all the blessings I have in my life because Lana’s been a part of it.  So I eventually decided to send out both.

I share these two pictures today because they remind me that I have a choice to make every day.  I can either look at what I’ve lost and be sad, or I can look at what I’ve been given because Lana’s been a part of my life, and be glad.  It’s the same choice we all have to make, every day.

It’s not a matter of looking at the glass as half-full or half-empty, but trusting God that He will provide us with just what we need when we need it.  Zig Ziglar says He teaches advanced math when he says:

You + God = Enough

As the Bible says:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

The last few weeks of Lana’s life she was still helping me edit a book that we had been working on together on the life of Saint Nicholas.  After Lana died, I looked at the edits she had made in the margins of the book.  I used a quote in the book that others have used before that says:

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it was beautiful.”

In the margin of the book, Lana had written:  “Amen!”

It was another reminder to me that we really are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” including Lana, who are cheering us on.

Yes, I still cry.  But I can smile, too.  That’s the great hope we have because of the resurrection.

I pray the Lord will bless you richly this Easter and in the days ahead.  He really has risen!  He has risen indeed!

Keeping Your Eyes Open, by Eric Elder…

Part 2 of “How to Keep Trusting God, Even in the Face of Significant Loss”

Last week I shared two stories and a conclusion with you about how God has been helping me to keep the hardest parts of life from overshadowing the best parts about it.  (If you missed the message, you can still read it here, as it may have been, based on the responses I’ve gotten, one of the most significant messages I’ve shared.)

This week, I’d like  to follow up on that message and share a few more stories to help you keep trusting God, even in the face of significant loss.  I know you may not have lost a spouse like I have, but you may be facing something just as challenging in your own life, whether it’s a divorce, a broken relationship, a wayward son or daughter, a job loss, a change in health, or the loss of a dream that meant the world to you.

In any case, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open to what God is doing all around you.  Even though you may not see God doing what you expect Him to do in one particular area, if you can see God at work in other ways, it can help you to keep putting your trust in Him.

I believe this is what Jesus did for John the Baptist when John was in prison and facing the very real possibility of death.  Up to this point, John had thought that Jesus was the one who was going to save God’s people.  But something about being in prison seemed to have made John wonder if what he had previously thought was true.  John sent his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)  After all, didn’t Jesus come to “set the captives free” (Luke 4:18)?  And wasn’t John a captive, in need of freedom?

But Jesus sent a message back to John, saying,

“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

It’s as if Jesus was reminding John of all the things that God was doing all around him, and even if God didn’t do what John may have thought He should do, John could still trust Him to do what was right.  When Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me,” it’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of what they think I should or should not be doing.”  Sometimes we’re so focused on one area of our lives that we miss what God is doing in other areas.

It turns out that John wasn’t set free the way others in the Bible were, like Daniel when he was rescued from the lions’ den (Daniel 6), or Peter when an angel led him out of jail (Acts 12), or Paul and Silas when an earthquake loosened their chains and caused the prison doors to fly open (Acts 16).  In John’s case, he only lived long enough to hear back from Jesus that God was indeed still on the job and working in the world.

I believe it was just what John needed to hear in order to face what he had to face: his own imminent death.

It may have seemed like John had lost his faith there at the end.  But coming to Jesus with his doubts didn’t mean he lost his faith.  It was an expression of his faith.  It showed that John still looked to Jesus for answers, even in the face of circumstances he couldn’t understand.  If this was a test of John’s faith, I believe he passed with flying colors, as Jesus said of him:

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11a).

I don’t know if the trial that my wife Lana just went through was a test, or simply the result of living in a world that’s been subjected to sin and sickness and decay.  But if it was a test, I believe she passed with flying colors, keeping her faith in Christ to the end.  Now I’m praying that I’ll be able to pass with flying colors, too.

One of the ways I’m trying to do that is by doing what Jesus told John to do:  to keep his eyes open to the work that Jesus was still doing in the world and not to base his conclusions on what he thought Jesus should or should not be doing.

Let me share just a few brief stories of what I’ve seen God doing lately, some of which may seem trivial, but in the face of the loss that I’ve had, even the smallest glimpses of God are worth more than gold to me.

A few weeks ago I was helping my kids do some late-night craft projects:  tie-dying a dress with my daughter and making rubber squishy bugs with my son.  I was already worn out from the day, and going back and forth on these two projects was wearing me down further.  I wanted to help them, but I was definitely missing Lana and the help that she would have been in moments like these.

At one point, I went upstairs to take a break, and as I passed a mirror, I noticed the temporary reading glasses I was wearing, as I had lost my usual ones a few weeks earlier.  As I looked in the mirror I decided it was time to order a new pair, as I hadn’t been able to find my old pair.  On the way back down the stairs to the basement where my daughter was tie-dying her dress, I paused on the steps, reached my hand up to heaven, and said, “Lana, help me!”  (I know it’s God that helps us, but I still find myself talking to Lana in heaven, especially at times like this.)  Then I continued on down the stairs.

As I got down on my hands and knees on the cold cement floor of the basement to help with the tie-dying project, I happened to look to my left and there, hanging on some bottles of soap and shampoo under the basement sink, were my glasses that had been missing for weeks!  Had I not been doing these projects with the kids, down on my hands and knees on the cold cement floor of the basement, I never would have found them!  And had I not remembered the conversation with myself in the mirror upstairs just a few minutes earlier, and my quick call for help from heaven as I walked down the steps again, I wouldn’t have put my prayer and the answer together either.  My whole outlook on helping the kids for the rest of the night changed in that instant.  It was as if a little reward had been dropped out of heaven and was dangling on the bottles of soap in front of me.

That might not seem like a God-moment to you, and it may not have seemed like one to me, either, if this was the first time something like this had happened.  But just a few weeks earlier, when I was recovering from the flu and getting ready to start back into homeschooling our three youngest kids again for the first time since Lana died, I had reached up to heaven as well.  After gathering up literally dozens of books from around the house that the kids use for school, we were still missing two book.  Again, in an act of desperation more than anything else, I looked up to heaven and said, “Lana, help me!”  Within minutes we found the two missing books.  They had appeared practically out of thin air.

But more than that, after we found those two missing books, one of my sons wanted to take a break and do some kind of “outside project.”  Even though the temperature was literally below freezing outside, I said, “OK, let’s fix that broken pole on the trampoline.”  It wasn’t a very practical idea, as it was too cold to actually jump on the trampoline, but it was the first thing that came to mind that would be quick and easy enough to get us back inside before we froze, too.

So we went out into the freezing cold to start working on the trampoline pole and I happened to look up into the net above us.  There, hanging at the top of the net, were my daughter’s prescription glasses that had been missing since Lana’s funeral more than two months earlier!  It was as if they had been dropped down from heaven and got caught in the net for us to find!  How they had survived the cold and the wind and the snow for two months, I didn’t know.  But what I did know was that within minutes of calling out to heaven for help, I had found two missing schoolbooks AND a pair of missing glasses!  All the while trying to help my kids, which was something I needed to do and wanted to do, but was having trouble working up the strength to do.  But the moment I saw those glasses in the net, my whole perspective on the day changed.  I knew God was at work and I was able to find the strength to go on.

And just this past week, as the weather has started to get nicer here in Illinois, I was walking around the yard with a friend who’s spent years in the landscaping business, asking his advice about where and what kind of trees we could plant around the house.  This was a project that Lana and I had been wanting to do for some time.  To be honest, it was hard to even think about planting trees, as sometimes it feels like the dreams and plans I had with Lana died when she died.  But I have to remember that I didn’t die, and that God may still want me to keep some of those shared dreams and plans alive, too.

So there we were, walking around the yard and sharing ideas, when my daughter reached down and found a charm on the ground for a charm bracelet.  Then she found another a few feet away, and then a third a few feet from that.  They still had the tags on them, as we had bought them for her birthday party the month before, but we had lost them somewhere between the store and the house during a snowstorm that night.  Now here they were, out in the middle of the yard, hundreds of feet from the house, as we were trying to plan and continue the dream of planting more trees in the yard!

Again, it may seem trivial to you (and perhaps it makes you wonder why we keep losing so many things!)  But to me, it was as if God was saying, “Yes, this is exactly what I want you to be doing, walking around the yard and planning where to put trees for the future!  Keep moving forward on the dreams that you and Lana shared, and keep going on all that I have called you to do in your life!  You’ll be blessed as you do these things, as will others when you’re done doing them!”

It’s like Jesus keeps telling me, like He seemed to be telling John the Baptist, to keep my eyes open to the things that He’s doing in the world, and to keep on trusting Him, even in the face of all that I’ve lost.

I could share a dozen more stories from the past four months since Lana died where I’ve seen God at work in such small ways that it’s changed my outlook on everything else going on around me, but I’ll let these suffice to encourage you to keep your eyes open to the things God is doing in your life, and the lives of those around you.

Someday I hope to be like the grandfather who was out fishing with his grandson when at one point the grandson asked his grandfather if he had ever seen God.  The grandfather gazed out across the lake where they were sitting and answered, “The older I get, the more I see Him everywhere I look.”

Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see God at work in your life the way you think He should be working.  Don’t give up on Him because things don’t always go your way.  Don’t think for a minute that He doesn’t love you because you’ve lost something precious in your life.  As the Bible says,

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

As we head into Passion Week, this week before Easter when Jesus experienced some of the most intense pain and suffering that this world has to offer, remember that you’re not alone.  Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer and die.  He knows what it’s like to lose people who are close to you, like He did when He lost Lazarus and John the Baptist.  In the case of Lazarus, Jesus raised him back to life.  In the case of John the Baptist, Jesus spoke words of encouragement so he could face his death with faith.

And in all things, remember that God really does love you and has a unique calling and purpose for your life.  Keep your eyes open.  The more you do, the more you’ll see Him everywhere you look.

Two Stories and a Conclusion, by Eric Elder…

Part 1 of “How to Keep Trusting God, Even in the Face of Significant Loss”

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers and kindnesses since my sweet wife Lana passed away on November 15th.  It’s been four months now and I wanted to share some thoughts with you on Lana, healing, and God’s will.  I apologize in advance for the length of this message, but if you’ve been discouraged or having trouble trusting God, especially in the face of significant loss, I hope you’ll read this message.  This message is really just two stories, with some follow-up comments to help you bring them together and apply them to your lives.

I haven’t shared these stories publicly until this week, as they are so personal and intimate that I’ve just been treasuring them in my own heart.  But I feel they’re important to share as a way of testifying to what God is doing in my life, and hopefully encouraging you at the same time.

The first story started on the day of Lana’s funeral, on November 20th, 2012.  Before she died, Lana had asked me to preach at her funeral if it ever came to that.  She said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t think I could, but if I could, she wanted me to be the one to do it.  I did get up and preach, but not without seriously considering backing out several times, even a few times during the service just before I was about to speak.  I just wasn’t sure if I could do it.

One of the reasons I felt so unsure, apart from the sadness I felt in my heart from already missing her, was that I felt like I had lost so much in the days leading up to her death.  I had not only lost my best friend, my encourager, my partner in ministry, and apart from Jesus, the greatest source of joy and delight in my life, but we had also depleted all of the money in our bank account during those final months of her battle with cancer.  On the morning of her funeral, we had $26.45 in the bank.  I felt like I had lost everything.  (I hadn’t, but I felt like it.)

The morning of the funeral, I prayed that God would give me the strength to do what I wanted to do and needed to do.  I also prayed, more as a wish than anything else, that God would give the kids some kind of inheritance from Lana from the gifts that came in.  I knew that no amount of money would make up to them for losing their mother, but I wished I had something I could give them as an inheritance from her.  $26.45 wasn’t going to go very far among the six kids.

So I prayed that God would provide enough from the memorial gifts to pay for the funeral and still have some left over for the kids.  From past funerals, I knew that the gifts that come in are sometimes just enough to pay for the funeral and that’s it, so I wasn’t expecting much.  But then in my heart, I prayed, “God, if there’s any way to give the kids $1,000 each as an inheritance, that would be great.”  But then from deeper still in my heart, I thought that what I would really like for them is if I could put $5,000 into each of their bank accounts.  I quickly did the math and $5,000 times 6 kids would be $30,000.  There’s no way, I thought.  With $26.45 in the bank, I knew it was an outlandish request.  But I laid it out before God anyway.  Later that day, I got up to preach at Lana’s funeral.  (If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d encourage you to watch it online on Lana’s blog.  It was like no other service I’ve been to before, and I think you’ll find it inspiring and helpful more than anything else, so please watch it if you can!)

Starting that day and the days that followed, people did begin sending in memorial gifts for our family in honor of Lana.  Some gave $5, some gave $15, and some gave $20 or $100.  A few gave $1,000 and some even gave $5,000.  By December 4th, just two weeks and a day after the funeral, we had received just over $30,000 from over 200 different people, none of whom knew about my private prayer to God!

Now keep that date and that astounding answer to prayer in mind as I tell you the second story.  For it was on December 4th, just one year earlier, that we had first found the lump in Lana’s breast, our first indicator that anything was even wrong at all.

It was on that day that we had heard a missionary talk about their work in Kenya teaching women how to do self-exams for breast cancer.  Later that night we checked and discovered the lump.  We thought it was probably nothing serious, as is often the case.  But over the next few weeks, after a mammogram and then an ultrasound and finally a biopsy, the doctors confirmed that the lump really was cancerous.  At that time, the doctors had no reason to think that the cancer had already spread.  They felt that with treatment, they could remove it and all would be fine.  We were shocked but felt this was beatable.

A few days later, Lana was listening to a podcast on her phone of a sermon that gave her some encouragement, so when she was done listening, she handed me her phone so that I could listen to it, too.  But as she handed it to me, I felt God speak to me as loud and clear as any time I’d ever heard Him speak in my life.  Although He didn’t speak in audible words, the effect of what He was saying was, “This is a good message, Eric.  But it’s not My message for you in this situation.  This time I have something else in mind.”

As I listened to the message, I realized it was all about praying “bold prayers,” that we shouldn’t just pray for a “C” on a test, but for an “A.”  That we shouldn’t just pray that we would survive a difficult marriage, but that it would thrive.  That we shouldn’t just pray for a sickness to go away, but for a long and healthy and abundant life instead.  It was the kind of message I would normally believe and receive and be encouraged to pray with all my heart for every difficult situation I faced.

But if God really had spoken to me, then what was He saying in regards to Lana’s healing?  With a great sadness in my heart, I felt He was saying, “Eric, I know you have the faith to ask for the moon and get it.  But not this time.  This time I have something else in mind.”  God brought to my mind Psalm 23, reminding me that He would be with me, even in the face of death:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).

I felt this was a little extreme.  This cancer was beatable.  It didn’t have to end in death.  Then why was God telling me this?  But the next week I found out why.

Just a few days later, Lana went in for a few more tests.  She had started to have some other symptoms, some unexplainable bleeding and intense lower back pain.  The tests showed that it was worse than the doctors initially thought.  The cancer had already spread to her lungs and liver and spine.  In addition, the cancer was in a special category called “triple negative,” which meant that it wouldn’t respond to normal treatments that worked for other breast cancers.  There was no cure, the doctors said.  The best they could do was to treat the symptoms and try to keep her as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, but that the cancer would eventually take her life.  Statistically, the doctors said she had about one 1 to 3 years to live, depending on how she responded to treatment.  The majority of women with Stage 4, triple negative breast cancer don’t make it past 5 years.  And only one in a hundred ever make it to 10 years.

We were devastated.  But having heard God speak to me the week before, even before the doctors told us what was going on, somehow gave me great faith.  Not faith that Lana would be healed, although I believed God could still heal her in an instant, too, but faith that He would be with us through it all.  This was no news to God.  He had already revealed it to me before we, or even the doctors, had an inkling what was coming.

Knowing that God was with us gave me great peace in my heart.  But as comforting as this was, I still didn’t know how to walk forward in a practical way, given what I felt God was saying to me.  If God had told me that Lana was going to be healed, and to walk in faith and stand on the promise of the word He had spoken to my heart, I knew how to walk that out:  read and reread the Scriptures, fast and pray, gather others to fast and pray, and look for answers from any doctor or person of faith who could help us beat this disease.  But if I had really heard right, and God was really saying, “I know you have the faith to ask for the moon and get it, Eric, but not this time,” how could I walk that out?  How could I stand on something that I didn’t want to believe and didn’t want to be true?

Was I supposed to just give up on the possibility of healing?  Not bother praying at all for her?  Not ask others to join us in fasting and prayer?  Not go to doctors to try to get whatever help we could?  I felt that taking any of those paths would be utterly wrong.  Lana wanted to live and I wanted her to live!  And who knows?  Maybe I heard wrong.  Maybe the doctors were wrong.  And even if I had heard right, and the doctors were right, maybe God would still heal her miraculously!  God’s default position on healing is that we should be healed, as evidenced by the many ways He has created our bodies to heal themselves, to automatically seal up cuts, fight off infections, and repair damaged tissue.  God has demonstrated His desire for our healing throughout the Bible, performing miraculous healings from cover to cover.  God loves healing and wants us to be healed!  There’s no doubt that God is a healing God!

So I tried to remember what others did in the Bible when they received a word from God that they didn’t want to believe either.

I thought of Hezekiah, who was sick and dying when God spoke to him through the prophet Isaiah saying that Hezekiah’s sickness would end in death.  Hezekiah wept bitterly and pleaded with God for a different outcome.

“Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in Your eyes” (2 Kings 20:3a).

God heard Hezekiah’s prayers, healed him, and gave him an extra 15 years of life.

I thought of King David, who got a word from God through Nathan the prophet saying that the child born to David and Bathsheba would die.  But David didn’t give up and didn’t give in.  He fasted and prayed and wept before God every night saying:

“Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live,” (2 Samuel 12:22).

In David’s case, however, his child died after seven days, but not without David pleading with God for a different outcome.

Then I thought of Jesus, who, when faced with his own imminent death, knelt down and prayed so earnestly that His sweat fell like drops of blood:

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus knew what His Father was asking of Him, yet still He pleaded for another way, that the cup He was about to drink would somehow be taken from Him.  Yet Jesus yielded to His Father’s will, even over His own.

From these three stories of Hezekiah and David and Jesus, I felt I was in good company that even if I had heard right from God, I could still plead with Him, in fasting and prayer and tears, pouring out my heart to Him for what Lana and I both wanted: that she would be healed completely and gloriously, and continue to live a long, healthy and abundant life.

So we fasted and prayed and called others to join us in fasting and prayer.  We talked to doctors and nurses and researchers and nutritionists, both locally and globally, to see if God had an answer through them.  We called the elders of our church, and several of our former churches, to anoint us with oil and pray for Lana’s healing.  We held prayer meetings in our living room and drove and flew to get prayer from some of the most faith-filled men and women of God we knew.

But as time marched on, the tests continued to come back blacker and bleaker.  Either what God had spoken to me at the beginning was true, or God was preparing the way for one of the most miraculous turnarounds of all time.  Either way, we felt good about the steps we were taking, about doing everything we possibly could to bring about her healing, and about trusting in God completely whatever the outcome.

As much as Lana and I, and many of you, wished that the outcome had been different, I can say that when it came time to say our final goodbyes, we had no regrets.  We had done everything we could think of doing to keep her alive, and God kept His promise to be with us through it all.

Let me tie these two stories together for you by sharing my journal entries from December 4th, 2012, the first written early in the morning as I was remembering the one-year anniversary of finding the lump that took Lana’s life, and the second written at midnight that night, after we received the checks in the mail that put us over $30,000 in memorial gifts in her honor.

“12/4/12 – Father, thank You for revealing to me and Lana the lump in her right breast one year ago today…  Lord, any thoughts about this being the one-year anniversary of the day You revealed this lump?  ‘I’ve given you a great gift, Eric.  A chance to see into the future, and to make your plans accordingly.   I have not hidden what is to happen from My prophets.  I warned Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah before it happened, just as I told him and Sarah they would have a child in a year, and just as I told you, Eric, that your friends would have a child in a year.  Although I didn’t tell you an exact date [regarding Lana], I did tell you what the outcome would be, both by showing you the lump, and by confirming that while you could pray for healing, this wasn’t My will in this case.  I wanted you to know, Eric, because I wanted you to have time to plan, prepare, and say goodbye properly.  And you have done marvelously.  Your kids, your friends, your family, are all living testaments to that fact.  I also gave you test after test, and doctor after doctor, to confirm this to you, for you wanted the truth, and you knew the truth would set you free.  They were hard truths to hear, and hard to watch you hear, but they were necessary to help you absorb and understand what I was saying.  I’ve given you a gift Eric, both in what I revealed, and in the fact that I do reveal My knowledge to My children.  Lana wanted to live and not die, and she was right to do so, for that’s My will [He wants all of us to live forever!].  But I wanted you to know so you could plan, prepare, and say goodbye properly.  I wanted you to care for her and love her and be with her to the fullest extent possible, so when she passed through the veil, you would have no regrets, nothing left undone, nothing more you could have done, but love her thoroughly.  I did this for you, yes, but also for Me, for I wanted you to be able to care for her on earth as I cared for her from heaven.  You were, and still are, My hands and feet and voice to many on earth.  You will be sad, no doubt, for to lose the one you love, when you have loved so deeply, is sad.  But you will rejoice as well, for you have been given a great and wonderful gift.'”

“12 midnight – Father, thank You for helping us reach the $30,000 mark that I had asked You for, to give $5,000 to each of the kids as an inheritance from Lana.  Lord, we only had $26.45 in our bank account the day of the funeral.  It was an outlandish prayer, and within a few weeks, You’ve brought the full amount I extravagantly asked for.  ‘Open your mouth wide, Eric, and I will fill it.’  Thank You, Lord!  I love You.  By the way, the sunset looked delicious tonight, like rainbow sherbet, and I wanted to lick it.  ‘Thank You.’  Thank You, Lord.”

Yes, life can be extremely hard.  But it also offers sunsets that look like rainbow sherbet!  The trick is to not let the hardest parts of life overshadow the best parts about it.  God is at work in both.  The Bible says:

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner… So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll keep on doing it” (1 Peter 4:12-13, 19, The Message).

Friends, God loves you and has a unique calling and purpose for your life, just as He had a unique calling and purpose for Lana’s life.  Don’t be discouraged when life doesn’t work out the way you think it should. God is still on the job.  Keep putting your trust in Him.  He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll keep on doing it.

Thanks for reading these two stories, and thanks again for your prayers and kindnesses you’ve shown to me and my family, especially during this past year.  It means so much, and is yet one more reminder of all that’s good in life.  May God bless you and keep you as you keep putting your trust in Him!

How to Self-Publish Your Books on Amazon (Including how to create paperbacks and ebooks on Createspace, iBooks, Nook and Kindle)

by Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

Don’t know how to publish that book that’s on your heart (or on your computer)?  This session is for you!  Now you can directly upload text you’ve written, or songs or videos you’ve recorded, to Amazon.com and they’ll publish them for you, handling all of the printing, shipping and billing, with no up-front costs to you.  This is a fast, cost-effective way to get God’s Word out without having to find a big publisher to back your project.  It’s also a great way to raise awareness for your cause and help support your ministry.  Read on, or watch the video below, to find out more.

1) Why would you want to self-publish your work on Amazon?

Just because your project may not attract a big publisher doesn’t mean God can’t use it mightily!  Whether it’s a Bible study in a niche language, a sermon series on a narrow but important topic, or a training session for local believers, you can use new print-on-demand services from companies like Amazon.com to publish it for you. (Other companies offer similar services, such as Lulu.com or Blurb.com, but this workshop focuses on Amazon.com just to keep it simple.)

It’s cost-effective:  There are no up-front fees, and the printing and handling costs are only deducted when a customer pays for an order, resulting in no cash outlay…just net profits.  Example costs:  If you want to order your own book, the cost for a 100 page book is $3.66 per book, and you can order as few as 1 copy.  And if you sign up for the pro plan for a one-time cost of $39.99, you get each book for only $2.15 each, and you can order as few or as many as you like. (Note: since I made this video, the prices have gone down, and there is no longer a pro plan since the prices for everyone have been reduced.)

It’s fast:  As soon as you’re finished writing or recording your work, you can upload it and make it available worldwide.  I write a weekly devotional and send it out by email to my readers.  As soon as I’m done writing a series (after 15, or 20, or 30 weeks), I copy and paste all of the articles into one long document, format and upload it to Amazon, and within a week after I’ve finished writing, I can hold a finished paperback book in my hands!

It’s always available:  There’s no need to stockpile books/CD’s/DVD’s and you never run out.  It used to be that you’d have to print 500 or 1,000 books to get anywhere close to $5 a copy (more like $15-$20 if you printed just one).  Then you have a closet full of books, and if you notice an error, you have a closet full of mistakes, too!

It’s hassle-free:  They take care of all shipping, handling and expediting of orders.  I’ve tried printing my own booklets, photocopying pages, or taking them to a copy shop.  Then each time someone wants one, it would take an hour or two just to find a mailer, get to the post office, and ship it out.  Now it’s all done transparently.

It’s easy to make changes:  If you want to change, add or delete something in your materials, just make the changes and upload a new file.  I used to proof read my books over and over, asking others to proof read it, too, taking months before I finally published it so that it would be just right.  Now I proof it once, upload it and if someone finds a mistake or has a suggestion, I revise it and the next copy that goes out contains the revision.

2) How do you get your materials to Amazon?

You just upload your content from your computer.  For publishing directly on Amazon, you’ll need to create a free account at www.createspace.com (CreateSpace is an Amazon company and handles the self-publishing for them).  Companies like Lulu.com also have arrangements with Amazon, so books and music you upload to Lulu can also be made available on Amazon.  To create a free account on Lulu or Blurb, just go to www.lulu.com or www.blurb.com.

Once logged into your account on CreateSpace, just click “Add New Title” to begin uploading your project, whether it’s a book, CD, or DVD (you can also make them available as downloadable ebooks, or MP3 or video downloads).

You’ll be asked for several pieces of information about the project, a description that will appear on Amazon’s website, the list price you want to set, the category that will help people find the item, etc.

You’ll then be able to upload the content for your project, whether it’s a PDF file of the text within your book, or a JPG image of your cover art.  Some services also offer a cover creator where you can choose from a collection of pre-designed covers, and substitute your title and author information to appear on the front and back.

Once your project is uploaded, you can order a “proof” copy of your book or CD or DVD to make sure it prints exactly as you want it to print.  If you need to make changes, just upload them and order another proof.  When you’re satisfied with the way it looks, just log back in to your account and click the “approve proof” button.  You can now order as many copies of your project as you want, and your item will appear within a few days on Amazon.com so others can find it and order it, too.

3) How do you create your content? 

You can create your book, music or video using any word processor, or music or video editing software, then save it in a standard format, such as PDF for books, MP3 or AIFF for music, or a physical DVD for video.

You’ll need to check if your software can create the right final format.  If you find you don’t have the ability to create a PDF file from your word processor, there’s a free word processor you can download to do it, called OpenOffice, from www.openoffice.org (it’s similar to Microsoft Office with a word processor, graphics program, database, and  spreadsheet all in one, but for free!)

Here are some tips when setting up your pages for books:  format your entire document to be in the final “trim size” you want for your book (options vary from Amazon to Lulu to Blurb, such as 6″x9″, or 5.06″x7.81″, and so on; when setting up margins,  use “mirrored” margins and then set your inner margins a little wider than the outer margins to allow for the fold of the book, such as .75″ for the inner margins and .5″ for the outer margins;  to make it look like a “real” book, you can add headers and footers that run throughout the book, including the author name, title or chapter names at the top, and page numbers at the bottom.

For a professional look, find other books that look appealing and try to emulate them.  For instance, try a Garamond or Times New Roman font for the text rather than Arial or Helvetica to make it easier to read (the “serif” style fonts, with little feet along the bottoms of most of the letters, draw your eye across the page and make it easier to read…”san serif” fonts, those without little feet, work better for bold headlines, like the title and headings of this outline).

You can also use the advanced features of your software to create a polished look by using “small caps” (large initial letters for words in titles and smaller capital letters for the remainder of each word) for things like chapter headings, or “drop-caps” (a large initial letter) for the first paragraph of each chapter.  Adjust the final layout by checking your hyphenation settings if you find some words are breaking in the wrong places, or to specify how to handle things like widow & orphan lines, those lines that happen to be left all alone at the top or bottom of a page by themselves.  (Here’s a PDF CONVERTER ONLINE from ADOBE – https://www.acrobat.com/createpdf/ )

4) How do you create your cover art?

You can use any graphics program to create your cover artwork, then save it in a standard PDF or JPG format.  If you don’t have graphics software, you can download the OpenOffice software for free, which includes a drawing program.  Then you can import photographs, or draw shapes or create titles or subtitles right there.  Usually you create the entire front and back of artwork in one file.  After you upload the inside content of your book, you’ll be given the exact dimensions for this file, and even a template to help you create it.

When creating cover art, allow a margin around the outer edge for the graphic to “bleed” off the edge, as this will be trimmed off in the final printing and cutting process.  Usually .125″  bleed is suggested.

Some companies offer cover creation software for you so you don’t have to create the artwork yourself.  Just fill in the title and author information, and choose from their collection of graphics and pre-designed themes.

Here are some tips when creating your own artwork:  Focus on one dominant theme for your cover that draws the person’s eye to it, whether it’s a striking graphic, a bold type style, or a pleasing title placement; then choose complimentary colors that go with, or are also used within the graphic.

When choosing fonts, only use a few complimentary fonts, or vary one font style in only a few different ways, such as using italics, larger or smaller fonts, small caps, or expanded text (increasing the spacing between letters).  For the text along the side of the book (the spine), make sure the text is right-side-up by imagining the book laying on a table and still being able to read the spine text.

5) Questions? 

To see an example of how I’ve setup the book and CD ordering process on my website for my ministry, visit “The Bookstore at The Ranch” at www.theranch.org or “InspiringBooks.com” at www.inspiringbooks.com.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.  (The Apostle John, on why he wrote his gospel, John 20:30-31).

Quotes on Writing and Perseverance 

Persistence – Ernest Hemingway often worked for hours to perfect one paragraph.

A poem is never finished, only abandoned. Paul Valery

Of the making of books there is no end.  King Solomon

If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought. Dennis Roch

I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.  Blaise Pascal

From my first experience of writing a screenplay, I had learned something about the process of revision. You can always make something better, and if you make it worse, you’ll know it. I had learned to have no fear of rewriting. All writers should be so lucky.  John Irving

You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.  Carl Gauss

The story is told of an accomplished artist who was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing, scraping, and polishing every little surface of his masterpiece. “When will it be done?” asked an observer. “Never,” came the reply. “I just keep working and working until they come and take it away.”

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  Thomas Edison

If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.  Michelangelo

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.  Mother Teresa

All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.  Walt Disney

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.  Henry David Thoreau

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.  Dr. Seuss

Quit now, you’ll never make it.  If you disregard this advice, you’ll be halfway there.  David Zucker

There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though every thing is a miracle.  Albert Einstein

Most of my friends who are novelists have told me that they never know the end of their novels when they start writing them; they find it peculiar that for my novels I need to know, and I need to know not just the ending, but every significant event in the main characters’ lives. When I finally write the first sentence, I want to know everything that happens, so that I am not inventing the story as I write it; rather, I am remembering a story that has already happened. The invention is over by the time I begin. All I want to be thinking of is the language- the sentence I am writing, and the sentence that follows it. Just the language.  John Irving

Do not write so that you can be understood, write so that you cannot be misunderstood. Epictetus

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  Robert Frost

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.  Rudyard Kipling

When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue- you sell him a whole new life.  Christopher Morley

Update On Eric Elder Ministries – June 8, 2011

Here’s an update on our ministry, including some of my favorite cartoons!

Watch “Update On Eric Elder Ministries”

Notes of Thanks – 2010

A few thank you notes from The Ranch visitors…

1/2/2010 – Thank you for your lessons on Nehemiah and Clearing Your Mind. Vanessa
1/8/2010 – I am an international student from Nepal just finishend my bible college from Hillsong college. I would love to read the newsletter and I hope it will bless me and I could bless others by its contents. thanks, Gopal – AUSTRALIA
1/14/2010 – Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I’ve tremendously being blessed by your contributions to the body of Christ through the ranch. Please I wish to know how i can make donation to the project at the ranch from Nigeria. Thanks. Oyebade – NIGERIA
1/15/2020 – I thank God that He is using you and your family and this beautiful ministry to minister to a world of hurting people. You are in my prayers! Beth – ILLINOIS
1/15/2010 – Dear Eric, thank you for all of your help it really has given me different views of how things work and for for all of the bible verses this talk has really helped! thank u for praying with me i always feel better after a prayer with someone. Meghan – ILLINOIS
1/21/2010 – We are enjoying your devotional book that you wrote. With Love and May God Bless, Bonnie – ILLINOIS
1/22/2010 – I want to get close to God this year! To know Him fully, to serve Him obediently. Am seeing this site will help me and the ministry of reaching children that am involved will help me further. Thank you. Kenneth – KENYA
1/22/2010 – I enjoy your preachings a lot as I do Bible study on them. Benita – SOUTH AFRICA
1/25/2010 – I just wanted to thank you for the CD you sent me. I really appreciated that you even thought of me and took the time and expense to send it to me. It was a powerful message for me and really touched my heart. Thank you. I’ve also listened to your talk on CD and read your book and they have helped a great deal as well. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate you and Lana and your ministry. … I just wanted to thank you for your kindness and generosity. I will keep your family in my prayers. Sincerely, Jan – ILLINOIS
1/26/2010 – Glory to God for all that He continues to do through your ministry! May He forever bless you, your family and your ministry! Halleluyah!Blessings, Dwan – TENNESSEE
1/26/2010 – I actually thought your website was not real. I thank you for your prayers. I am staying by Him all the way. Just to know that you were praying for me helps me alot. Thank you so much. Lea.
1/26/2010 – I can’t explain how happy I am that I came across this site. I was very near an emotional breakdown about an hour ago, and even simply sitting here and spending time on this site has helped. It’s put some things in check for me. Mainly that God knows what He’s doing, and whatever happens only happens because it’s supposed to, and things are going to turn out exactly how He intends. And even though things are very hard for me right now, I know I can get through it with God’s help, and any help I can find along the way will just make it that much easier. I also apologize for the small novel written above. Lots of pain translated to lots of words. Thank you for taking time out of your day to listen to a broken nineteen-year-old’s rambling. And thank you in advance for any and all prayers that may be said on my behalf. They are greatly appreciated. God bless.
1/27/2010 – Thank you so much for praying for my situation. …You have no idea how big of a part your website was in helping me grow in my faith and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
1/28/2010 – Thanks so much for the emails over the last couple of days. About 10 minutes ago and I was thinking to myself, “I really have the urge to get back into old habits.” Then I saw your short note and was greatly encouraged.
1/29/2010 – First of all, thank you so much. I’m not entirely sure you understand how much the response means to me. Even if you personally respond to all prayers sent to the Ranch, it still means a lot to me. And I appreciate any and all prayers that have been said on my behalf. I’m completely amazed at what you’re willing to do for people. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares that much for anyone and everyone can make a huge difference. Thank you so much, Daniel – OHIO
1/29/2010 – Many, many thanks for your prayers and for your email. I was really touched. Thank you. God bless you, and thank you. Malcolm – SWEDEN
1/29/2010 – Thank you for your prayers,may God bless you make his face shine upon you lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace.I am really encouraged and strengthened by your prayers and I know that the Lord is drawing me and speaking to me and I FEEL CLOSER TO HIM. THANK YOU GOD BLESS. Kuldip.
1/30/2010 – Hi Eric, I can’t believe you emailed me! I discovered The Ranch awhile back and I LOVE VISITING! Your email has been so encouraging…Thank you for praying for me. I will continue to pray for you and your family. Heather
1/30/2010 – Dear Eric, Thanks for your valuable prayers and your kind emails. I trust in God. He will difinitely will show me the ways to come out. Especially with the prayers of Godly people like you. Thanking you, With Prayers, Abraham – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
2/2/2010 – Eric: Thank you so much. So many times I feel as if no one is praying for me and I suppose that sounds selfish. To know that you took the time to pray for me touches me deeply. Thank you. I pray God blesses you and all at The Ranch. Francine.
2/9/2010 – I came across you website www.theranch.org for the first time and loved it. I appreciated your summarized statement of faith and I found very startling your disposition to “provide copies of our current financial statements upon request”. Can you send me one financial statement? Yours, Jobson
2/12/2010 – GOD BLESS IN ALL YOU DO. Janepher – UGANDA
2/16/2010 – Eric, Thank you so much dear friend. 🙂 I began feeling God’s peace come in last night and it is just increasing as friends like you pray. Laura
2/17/2010 – Thank you very much, Eric! Take care and keep up running your great site. Alexander – RUSSIA
3/4/2010 – Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Eric. I have received the Lesson: “Bring your friend to Jesus”, thanks a lot. Please do send me these lesson because they help me teaching the Church of the Lord. God Bless you Eric, Buti – SOUTH AFRICA
3/15/2010 – nica site for our child to play (kidsranch.org), Nice games , nice view ….succes to ranch Taufik – INDONESIA
3/31/2010 – What a wonderful retreat. I have been praying for 2 days because I was so lonely with a loneliness that other people can’t fill~searching for connections. But today I stumbled onto the ranch. Thank you. Veronica – NEW HAMPSHIRE
3/31/2010 – many thanks. El Kafa – MOROCCO
3/31/2010 – God has really blessed my heart through the Ranch and I thank you so much for how you allow Him to use you. Keep it up!!! Beverly – GEORGIA
4/1/2010 – I’m so happy to hear of your move to Clover Ranch and looking forward to reading your devotionals. I am really interested in coming out to the ranch for worship and prayer when its ready. Please keep me posted. Thank you so much for being such and inspiration in my life. God Bless you and your family. Debbie – ILLINOIS
4/1/2010 – Dear Eric… I read your email . I hope you are very well and “The Ranch” is doing well too. As always, forget my English and remember that I am traying my best. I pray for you and I hope you will be doing the same for me and my country. We need it . Really. My best to you, my love and my thanks for writing me …. Mela – ARGENTINA
4/1/2010 – So nice to hear from you. God bless! Mitsuyasu – JAPAN
4/2/2010 – I’d lyk to know more about God n i also thnk u fr the wonderful messages that u offer n may God b with u. Mukundamago – SOUTH AFRICA
4/4/2010 – Great message… thanks for reminding us that new beginnings are there for us. i’m lifting my eyes right now…i lift my eyes to the hills that’s where my help comes from… Al – CALIFORNIA
4/5/2010 – AWESOME…very cool! The YouTube clip was great! I love this because it brings a visual experience to learning instead of just reading it and not really having a full perspective on what the area looked like. Thank you for this experience…Chad, TENNESSEE
4/5/2010 – Thanks Eric. Your prayer brought tears. A wave of them. Lynn
4/6/2010 – I find your site really inspirational and captivating. Bravo! Josephine – KENYA
4/9/2010 – A FRIEND FORWARDED TO ME ONE OF YOUR NEWSLETTER.. I FEEL IT IS VERY ENCOURAGING AND SPIRITUALLY COMFORTING TO READ. MAY GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU REACH TO THE MILLIONS… THAT GOD’S RETURN WILL BE HASTEN. JOVITA – MALAYSIA
4/21/2010 – Dear Eric, At the very outset, thank you so much for your prayers – they worked. … Thank you again for your support through some very difficult days. It meant a lot to me. God bless your ministry, Eric. Sincerely, Amar – INDIA
4/23/2010 – CHE BELLO!!!!! Annalisa – ITALIA
4/29/2010 – I received an email from a friend and discover the encouraging messages. I am very interested to be in connect with this ministry. Please make me a member. Thanks. James – INDIA
4/30/2010 – I believe that the Lord led me here to The Ranch. Vicky – OHIO
5/2/2010 – Good and Sound Biblical writing with credible theological view of the teachings of Christ & His Apostles on the Doctrine of Christ and His Gospel. Keep up the godly work to the praise and glory to His Name! Amen. Shalom. Timothy – MALAYSIA
5/11/2010 – I really enjoy your Sunday messages which are inspiring & are an assistance as a lay preacher! Peter – SOUTH AFRICA
5/15/2010 – Thisdaysthought & weekly sermons have together helped to improve my spiritual life. Keep up the good work. Benjamin – UK
5/15/2010 – Thank you so much for a touching and very meaningful sermon. You input is, as always, inspiring. Eddie
5/18/2010 – I am blessed by your ministry. God bless you. Nyaradzo – ZIMBABWE
5/23/2010 – I am very encouraged by your family and the work you are doing for the Lord. I would like to learn more and be encouraged daily by hearing from all of you. God Bless. Kaur – MALAYSIA
5/25/2010 – I was sent your site by accident, and have been reading the stories and the one about Capernaum has me confused even more. The more I read the more questions I have. I’ve never seen Jesus portrayed as this site does. I should tell you that I’m Jewish and I believe in the one true G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’ve read some the stories on your site and have to wonder how they could be true, but I can’t stop reading them either, something just feels right about them. My heritage has ingrained in me that Jesus isn’t for my people. I can’t explain why, but I find some of the stories making me cry and I’m not one that cries easily. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know why I’m writing. I’m just really confused. How can this G-d of yours, be the G-d I’ve grown up with? Would Jesus love someone who hasn’t been faithfully reading the Torah for a long time? I’m sorry, I know this doesn’t make any sense, and I’ve always been told that Jesus doesn’t love Jews. But after reading some of the stories I just don’t know what to believe. Is it possible he might love a Jew?
5/30/2010 – God Bles u. Masabata – SOUTH AFRICA
5/31/2010 – Good day,thanks so much for the inspiration words!! Regards, Masande – SOUTH AFRICA
6/2/2010 – good messages. Edwin – MALAWI
6/4/2010 – Hi Eric, Thanks for your kind email. Do keep up the good work – it provides great inspiration for me and doubtless many others too. God bless, Russell
6/12/2010 – your messages so so soooooooooooooooooooo move me……i pray that Christ will bless you with this ministry of yours. Bishalt
6/20/2010 – Hey, Eric. This was great, as always. I have learned so many things from you. My trust is in the Lord. Love, Sue – ILLINOIS
6/28/2010 – Eric, This was a great article – very inspiring and motivating! Just what I needed also. Kent – MISSOURI
6/28/2010 – Bless you Eric and thank you. I have tears in my eyes from praying those beautiful words you have written which I will keep. God is and will continue to bless your work. Thank you again and please stay in touch. Philip – UK
6/29/2010 – hello , im very impressed. thank you very much .God bless you.and i will also teach what i learnt. i am from ethiopia,now there is strong revival here.please pray for us. Yonatan – ETHIOPIA
7/7/2010 – Eric: I have so enjoyed reading the weekly sermons and all about the trip to Israel. Your weekly sermons are very meaningful. You have wonderful insight and your love for God is a blessing to all who receive “the ranch” material. You have enriched my life very much and I look forward to spending more time with God through your devotional. I ordered 2 because – I am going to send one to my niece. I am very proud of her walk with Christ and I think she will also enjoy spending more devotional time with God. Peace to you my friend: Carol
7/7/2010 – Looking forward to reading the book and as always your Sunday devotionals are amazing! I thank the Lord for bringing you and Lana and The Ranch into my life. Debbie
8/17/2010 – Your story of how God has helped your situation is very encouraging, I’ve been going through depression also; pray for me. Konti – NORTH CAROLINA
8/21/2010 – Hi Eric. Through this last while I have had an on and off relationship with god, and in the last while come across your website. While I was looking through it, I found a lesson on Nehemiah and rebuilding. I have decided to make this, and hopefully more of your lessons a part of my life, and hopefully a part of others. I would like to thank you for making these free,and I hope that god blesses you and your online ministry. I really can’t tell you in words how thankful I am for this. Nick – CANADA
8/22/2010 – Hi, I really enjoy reading and listening to the Israel series. One day maybe I might make the trip myself. God bless, Sarah
8/23/2010 – Hi Eric! I love the website. Hope I get to meet your family some day! Blessings, Naomi – CALIFORNIA
8/23/2010 – I watched your broadcast tonight and would like to thank you and Lucas for bringing the broadcast to me and everyone else who watches. I really appreciate your service to the Lord and thanks for the song Lucas! You did a great job! I have tried to picture in my mind the Holy Land and your videos bring it all to life and make it so much more real. Harriet – ILLINOIS
9/7/2010 – I really thank God for the good things He is using your team at ‘The Ranch’. May God continue to strengthen you as you spread the gospel all over the earth. God bless, Fagbohun – NIGERIA
9/11/2010 – Its great i got the ranch. Greg – NIGERIA
9/12/2010 – Hi, Eric! Wanted to let you know that a young woman you ministered to awhile back accepted the Lord and was baptized today. Please keep her in prayer, she has a lot to deal with. Nancy – ILLINOIS
9/21/2010 – This is one of my special sites. Betty – GEORGIA
9/29/2010 – I love hearing about Jesus and knowing what he can do and what to do to make him perfect all things. Prince – NIGERIA
10/12/2010 – Hey Eric, Once again your words and timing were just what I needed. I’m continuously amazed how God gives us just what we need when we need it. Thank you for letting Him use you as an instrument. Thank you again for your prayers and words of wisdom. B.
10/15/2010 – Eric, I’ve been meaning to write you and tell you what a blessing this idea of 1 min. utubes and teaching from the different sights from your trip to Israel! This is definitely a God idea!!! Jeri – CALIFORNIA
10/26/2010 – I am the child of God and was so blessed to read your testimony regarding your trip to Jerusalem. Joyce – SOUTH AFRICA
11/10/2010 – GOD BLESS YOU. Rajasekaran – INDIA
11/10/2010 – Dear Elder Eric, Greetings in the sweetest JESUS name!Your present format is easily loaded by poor impoverisshed dial up lines.Thanks your have not discarded the under-privileged.GOD bless you,your family & Ministry.AMEN. John – PAKISTAN
11/14/2010 – Saw your newsletter & was impress by the message & the stories i read. would like to receive your newsletter thru my email. Thank you Mary – SINGAPORE
11/15/2010 – I really find these material inspiring and leading one to God´s Love and surrender one to God´s wonderful ways. May many be inspired. Manoj – GERMANY
11/16/2010 – I just want you to know that I came across your sight this evening while looking for something on prayer closets. and I have found it to be like streams in the desert. I have been so very thirsty for the fellowship of Christ and His words as you teach and explain Him. Your Ranch is so very relaxing. I love your music! I’m coming back every day to read…God Bless You and your family. Susie – TEXAS
11/17/2010 – May God Bless you richly. Engida – ETHIOPIA
11/21/2010 – Thank you and God bless you! Vilma – PHILIPPINES
11/21/2010 – Love to read your devotions and thoughts. Wendy – ILLINOIS
11/23/2010 – I really like to be in your virtual ranch to experience His presence at the point of my needs. Fe – PHILIPPINES
11/25/2010 – El-Shandei-Almight God richly Bless you for the great work you are doing for His Kingdom. Amen. Wamongo – UGANDA
11/25/2010 – I love God,so I want to be connected to your site. Dan – MALAWI
11/27/2010 – I love the way how you people explain in the messages…!!! Tarango – INDIA
12/6/2010 – Thank you very much for the book on Israel. It arrived at a very opportune time. The courier came – just at the beginning of a Bible study I lead. The
others could tell by my reaction that I was very excited to receive it. But I refused to open it until the Bible study was over. You can be sure they reminded me;so I was able to share the book with them over a cup of tea! Helen – AUSTRALIA
12/7/2010 – I’ve been visiting you site for a few days and just love it, very inspirational! Great Job! Jeannie – OKLAHOMA
12/11/2010 – thanks for devoting your time and resource to the things of the lord, i pray that he will reward you richly.amen! Oluwasey – NIGERIA
12/12/2010 – Hi Eric, In just a day or two I will be going to Israel! I have read your stories and messages from Israel and I’m so much more excited now that I know the meaningful things about these places. In particular, Nehemiah’s lessons on rebuilding – I intend to go and see the wall, or at least the site if possible, because the lessons you put up apply to me very deeply. When I go to Jerusalem I will pray for your ministry as a lot of your lessons have really helped me and they have come at crucial points in my life, and it’s so obvious to me that God has given me direction through your lessons. God Bless, Jude – UK
12/16/2010 – really enjoy the web site. very very encouraging. bless this web site in Jesus Name. Mallory
12/16/2010 – May the Lord richly bless you till we meet Him in the air. Jeff – MISSISSIPPI
If you’d like to help support our work that helps make this ministry possible, just click here to make a donation.

News From The Ranch – March 2010

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Moving to Clover Ranch, a new weekly series starting called “Israel: Lessons from the Holy Land,” and a new name for the ministry, “The Ranch Fellowship.”

Dear Friends,

It’s been a few months since I’ve sent you an update–not because nothing has been happening–but because so much has been happening! Here are three thingsI thought you’d like to know about.

Taking A Break At Clover Ranch

First, we’re moving to Clover Ranch! From the beginning of our ministry, we’ve envisioned having a place in the country where we could invite people for times of worship, prayer and personal ministry. Four years ago, our ministry purchased the farmhouse where I grew up in Central Illinois to use for such a purpose, renovating it as time and money allowed and giving it the name Clover Ranch.

We’ve now fixed it up enough to the point where we can move in and finish up the final pieces while living there! So we’re going to start moving over the next few weeks, and we’re hoping to be completely moved in by May. Here’s a picture of our family piled into one of the bedrooms at Clover Ranch, taking a break after painting walls and plastering ceilings in the other rooms to get them ready.

Israel Devotional

Second, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be starting a new series of weekly devotionals on Easter Sunday called “Israel: Lessons from the Holy Land.” I’ll be sending you these messages each week by email as a way to take you on a “devotional tour” of the land where Jesus walked. I’m praying that these messages will help bring the Bible to life, not only giving you an idea for the land where so many of the famous stories in the Bible took place, but also giving you a boost in your faith wherever you might live in the world today.

Along with this new series, we’re also going to start our live Internet broadcasts again.You’ll be able to join me online for some live worship, an encouraging word, and a personal prayer if you’d like one. The first live broadcast will be this coming Sunday night, Easter Sunday, at 8 p.m. Central Time (5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time). Here’s the link if you’d like to join me for the live broadcast on Sunday night at 8 p.m..

The Ranch Fellowship

Third, as excited as we are about moving to Clover Ranch, we’re also entering into it with a certain amount of uncertainty! There are still a number of projects that need to be completed before, and soon after, we move in, and both time and money are short. But I take comfort from the words that David wrote in Psalm 86, that the God who provided for David will provide for us, too, just as I trust He will provide for you. Here’s what David said at the beginning of his prayer:

“Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and distressed, needy and desiring. Preserve my life, for I am godly and dedicated; O my God, save Your servant, for I trust in You, leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, without fear or doubt” (Psalm 86:1-2, Amplified Bible).

Although David was going through some uncertain times, he trusted in God. He continued to come to God with his needs and desires, committing everything to the One who gave him life. David even used the phrase, “O My God!” which many today translate as “OMG!” (While it may seem like a new phrase, it’s been around for over 3,000 years!) May we all be like David, saying “OMG!” and calling out to God when we’re feeling poor and distressed, needy and desiring. And in the end may we see a sign from Him of His goodwill and favor, His help, and His comfort.

One more thing…it’s small, but important. As we enter into this new season of ministry, we’ve also adopted a new name for our ministry, calling it “The Ranch Fellowship.” We’ll still use the name “Eric Elder Ministries” from time to time for some of our ministry activities, but know that both “Eric Elder Ministries” and “The Ranch Fellowship” still refer to the same “non-profit, 501(c)(3) religious organization.” (All donations given in either name are still fully tax-deductible. If you’d like to make a donation towards our move or to the continuing renovation of Clover Ranch, please use the links at the end of this email.) The thing I love most about the new name is that it reflects the very real fellowship aspect of this ministry that involves so many of you from all around the world. Just this month, new subscribers have signed up to be a part of our ministry from places likeKentucky, Ohio, Texas and Florida to as far away as Indonesia, Myanmar, Ghana, and Papua New Guinea.

So welcome to all of you to The Ranch Fellowship! As always, we appreciate so much your notes, your prayers and your financial contributions to our ministry. They really keep us going! We pray also for you that God will meet your needs in a way that you’ll know He is real, alive and active in your lives.

Sincerely,
Eric Elder

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.

News From The Ranch – January 2010

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

2009 Year-End Update, Letters from Readers, Clover Ranch progress, Trip to Israel, Speaking and a Christmas Novel

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!!! As we head into 2010, I thought you might be interested to see how God was working through your gifts and prayers during 2009 to reach people around the world with the message of Christ.

Our newsletter list continues to grow, reaching people in over 100 countries every week to encourage them in their faith in Christ. Let me quote just two of the hundreds of comments that people have sent in.

Here’s a letter from a subscriber in Thessalonika, Greece:

Letter from Thessalonika, Greece

“I really do not remember how I chose to view your website. What I do remember, though, is that I was searching for “prayer and faith” in the Internet. It was a really hard time for me then, and I needed to know if there was actually Anybody up there, listening. Some months later, now, I can say that I have grown in faith so that I can fight to direct my own life towards its primitive purpose: to resemble our Lord in our lives, by loving others. In this letter I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart, because your online ministry was a real blessing for my life. I have read almost all of your lessons’ series and I can say they are overwhelming. I enclose a part of my first salary, hoping it could help your work.”

And here’s a note from a 19-year-old college student who just found our website a few days ago:

“I can’t explain how happy I am that I came across this site. I was very near an emotional breakdown about an hour ago, and even simply sitting here and spending time on this site has helped. It’s put some things in check for me. Mainly that God knows what He’s doing, and whatever happens only happens because it’s supposed to, and things are going to turn out exactly how He intends. And even though things are very hard for me right now, I know I can get through it with God’s help, and any help I can find along the way will just make it that much easier. I also apologize for the small novel written above [in his prayer request]. Lots of pain translated to lots of words. Thank you for taking time out of your day to listen to a broken nineteen-year-old’s rambling. And thank you in advance for any and all prayers that may be said on my behalf. They are greatly appreciated. God bless.”

Article in Estonian

The weekly messages have been reprinted in newspapers, blogs, and in the case pictured here, translated for a magazine in Estonia (the headline reads: “According to your faith will it be done to you.”)

Our renovation of Clover Ranch continues, turning the farm where I grew up into a spiritual retreat for people wanting to get closer to God. This year’s repairs focused on upgrading the water-well system, removing and planting trees, and continued renovation of the interior rooms.

A number of volunteers have helped again this year with their time and efforts, and even with all the work going on, it still serves as a retreat for those who come to help. One man wrote:

“Thanks very much for letting us work with you, for sharing your stories, for your insights, and for praying for us! We are taking one day at a time and trying to follow His lead. When you come to the farm again let us know…the time and experience was worth it, and we would do it again:-)!”

crb

In October, Lana and I led a group of fifteen on an inspirational tour of the Holy Land. Even though Lana and I had been to some of the sites before, we found that the Bible really came to life again before our eyes, as it seemed to do for the whole group.

One of the women wrote afterwards:

Israel Study Tour

“Thank you for taking me on the most life changing journey of my life this far…I see my Bible in color and have a new found love for HIS word. I can’t wait to get lost in HIS word and it seems as if every time I hear a sermon I go “Lord, thank you for allowing me the privilege of seeing this place.” I can’t tell you the new thing HE is beginning to do in my life as if I did not think it could be better, HE is taking me to the next level.”

My plan is to start writing a series of devotionals in 2010 based on our trip to Israel as a way to help bring the Bible to life for those who aren’t able to travel there in person. I’ll be sharing more of those stories, pictures and short videos in the weeks ahead.

Throughout the year I was able to speak at several churches and conferences, including the Exodus International Freedom Conference held at Wheaton College where I talked about my book What God Says About Sex. It seems that the attendees of this conference are some of the most open I’ve ever seen to hearing about the life-changing power of Christ.

My final project of 2009 was writing a first draft of a new Christmas novelthat Lana and I hope will inspire many to put their faith in Christ. I’ll share more about the project as we get further into it, but I love the way it’s shaping up already! I look forward to working on it more during 2010.

Thanks again for all your gifts and prayers. They’re really making a difference in the world. I pray your New Year is more blessed than any year you’ve ever had before!

Sincerely,
Eric Elder

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.

Notes of Thanks – November 2008

A few thank you notes from The Ranch visitors…

11/1/08 – I just feel the presence of God as I read through your website. I could not hold back my tears saying: “God, thank you for The Ranch..I did not imagine there is such a ministry in the web such as this. I have been a Christian for 28 years…serving the Lord for many years in different capacities…yet there are times when I feel I need some encouragements. Thank you for your ministry. God bless you! M.S. / Bulacan, Philippines
11/2/08 – Amen & Amen!!! This was used of God this morning to strongly confirm some preceding proddings by the Holy Spirit to pray about our current circumstances. You’re a blessing brother! Keep up the good work. In Jesus precious name, L.C. / Canada
11/2/08 – Eric, Just now read this lesson – what an encouragement. Just 30 min. ago I was sitting here feeling uncertain about my leadership in some college-related things. Your words are really timely. K.S. / St. Louis, MO
11/2/08 – My daughter (13 years old) donated $2.55. My son (15 years old) donated $10. My wife donated $10. And I was able to gather $28.03. For a total of $50.58. I wish it could be more. We will make another effort next month. Hang in there brother! God bless you. S.E. / CA
11/3/08 – I don’t know why or how I received your email, Lessons in Rebuilding, but what a blessing. I’ve been needing to get back on the path that Christ has chosen for me, but it seems impossible to be free again. With the help of Nehemiah and God I am sure that I can win the battle. Thank you for this blessing and new chance to walk with my FATHER again. B.H. / Silver Creek, GA
11/3/08 – Very inspiring message that builds and encourages me as I walk in obedience to the scripture. R.A. / Uganda
11/5/08 – Keep it up Theranch! GOD BLESS. O.O. / Ondo, Nigeria
11/7/08 – God is calling me to minister to those who are hurt and damaged within. I would like to have fellowship with you to equip myself for the special calling i have. J.C. / Tamilnadu, South India
11/7/08 – Thank you for this wonderful ministry. S.S. / Charlotte, NC
11/9/08 – Thank you so much for this time for prayer and also for your wonderful sermons. I hang on to these in my busy life where I don’t seem to be getting to church as much as I would like. Thank you for helping me “learn to pray and how to pray”. Thank you for the beautiful music and your creativity with God’s Word and using your talents to change the world one person at a time! J.G.
11/10/08 – Thank you very much. J.
11/10/08 – I like your your work because it builds my spiritual life. S.W. / Kenya
11/12/08 – Eric, I put your Nehemiah Lesson 3 on our web page as people will regularly go to that. L.A. / UK
11/15/08 – Thank you so very much. I think I am finally finding a little peace due to your e-mail. It’s funny how we complain about technology but look how it can help. God Bless You. D.A.
11/18/08 – Dear Eric, Thank you for the website and the teachings. I have been profoundly blessed. Warmest regards A.N. / Cape Town, South Africa
11/21/08 – You and your family are in my prayers often. God bless you and your family. M.D. / Robesonia, PA
11/23/08 – Thank you very much for your very encouraging sermon. Have a good week. P.G / Nassau, Bahamas
11/23/08 – new to this, just 2 weeks ago, i asked God to come in to my life and need all the encouragement i can get!! C.M. / Ireland
11/24/08 – Love your weekly thoughts! Thanks. G.J. / Polokwane, South Africa
11/29/08 – I read one of your newsletters thru an email from a friend and it truly blessed me. M.P. / Benguet, Philippines
11/30/08 – A WONDERFUL MESSAGE. READ and REJOICE…GOD ALWAYS CARES ABOUT EACH OF US. AMEN. F.G.
11/30/08 – inspiring indeed. J.T. / Nairobi, Kenya
11/30/08 – Dear Eric, You dont know how much your sermon has helped me today. I had a difficult week and I’ve been praying to Jesus to show me the right thing to do. I wasn’t finding any answer until I read your sermon. Thank you, you have been an instrument of God, (do you use the word ‘instrument’ in English?). As we say in the school where I work: ‘May Jesus live in your heart, forever’ S. / Argentina

If you’d like to help support our work that helps make this ministry possible, just click here to make a donation.

News From The Ranch – August 2008

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

New prayer request page, update on the Dominican Republic missions trip, painting at Clover Ranch, and donation update.

This Day's Thought Logo
Dear Friends,

I’d like to take a break today from the book of Acts to give you a personal update on our lives and ministry.

Many of you know that we moved to Peru, Illinois last December. The move has gone great in many ways. But if you’re like me, it seems like it’s often after we’ve taken a step of faith into unknown territory that the doubts and second-guesses really kick in. Over the past few weeks, I feel like a skier who has taken off from the end of the high jump ramp and is now sailing through the air. I haven’t landed yet, and I’m not sure exactly how the landing’s going to go, but I also know that I can’t go back!

When I was asking God about this unsettling sensation this week, I wondered how to get that “settled” feeling back, even though it may be some time before we’re actually settled. I then listened to a podcast from Mosaic Church on the topic of “Courage” (you can listen to it yourself from www.mosaic.org). The speaker talked about how to overcome our doubts and fears when God has called you into unknown territory. The speaker suggested we heed the most frequent command found in Scripture: “Fear Not!”

But how can we “fear not” when there’s so much to be afraid of? By trusting in God every step of the way, by that He is with us every step of the way. As God says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you…” (NKJV).

God wouldn’t have told us to “fear not” if it weren’t possible. I decided to put my trust in God again that morning, and God has given me His peace again knowing that He’s with us. He reminded me of why we made the move in the first place and helped me to get my focus back on Him purposes instead of my fears. What a way to get that “settled” feeling back again!

If you’ve stepped out in faith and into some unknown territory, I want to encourage you with the words God spoke to Joshua when God called Joshua into his own unknown territory. Even though the land was full of giants and other obstacles, 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).

Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers for us as we continue to get “settled” here in our new town. Here are a number of other updates I thought you’d like to hear about…

Need Prayer?

If you need prayer–or if you’d like to pray for others–I’d like to invite you to visit the new Prayer Request page I designed for an online ministry called “This Day’s Thought.” I’ve been working together with “This Day’s Thought” for several years now, and the new prayer request system is the latest addition.

This Day's Thought Logo

Since launching this new system earlier this month, the prayer page is getting about 10 prayer requests a day from people all over the world. If you ever need prayer, you can post your request on this page and it will be seen by a team of people who will immediately pray for your request. If you’d like to join the team to pray for others, you can sign up on the same prayer page where people post their request. You will be notified by email with each new request, then you can pray for–and even personally respond–to those requests that particularly touch you.

The Internet is such a great way to get requests out to people who are willing and able to pray, so I’m glad this new system can harness the power of the Internet for good, for God, and for you! Remember, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16, NLT).

To post a request or to pray for others who have posted theirs, visit: This Day’s Thought Prayer Page

Back From The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic and Elder Family

Lana and our three oldest kids are now back from their missions trip to the Dominican Republic. They went for a week in July to help a new congregation there build a church and parsonage.

It was hot, sweaty and hard work, but they enjoyed being able to encourage the members of this new church, as well as the new local pastor and his family (pictured here with Lana and our older kids).

The missionaries who helped to establish this church and hosted our team on the trip said that they simply couldn’t have been able to get so much done without the team’s help. For those of you who prayed for and supported our family on this trip, you’re part of that team! So thanks to you as well!

Work Days At Clover Ranch!

Gallon of Paint

The next few months we’ll be having several work days at Clover Ranch here in Illinois. We’re continuing to transform the property into a personal retreat center.

If you’d like to help out in person, we’ve love to have you join us. We’ll be doing all kinds of projects: scraping, painting, dry walling, mudding, sanding, staining, varnishing, installing garage doors, weeding and planting trees and grass. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll be sure to let you know which days we’ll be working there.

Even if you can’t come, you can still help out! We need to buy several dozen gallons of paint over the next few weeks, and each gallon costs about $30. If you’d like to donate a gallon or two (or more!), just click the link below and you can donate online or get mailing instructions for sending a check. Thanks!

Make A Donation

Financial Update

While our trust is always in the Lord for the funds to do this work, we also know that He often provides for His work through His people. So from time to time, I know it’s important to let you know our needs so you can help out if you can.

While our donations have remained steady this year at about $3,000 a month, our expenses have continued to increase. Between our move to Peru and the various projects we have going on with our ministry, we could really use an infusion of cash right now! Everything we do is funded entirely by donations from people like you, not by any one church or organization. From this amount we pay all the costs of running our ministry including our salary and housing expenses, our computer and Internet expenses, our publication expenses, and our Clover Ranch expenses of mortgage payments, gas, electricity and renovation. As you can see, we do a lot with what we get!

If you could make a one-time donation to our ministry right now, that would really help us as we head into the fall. Whether it’s $10, $100, or $1,000 or more, know that we’ll put it to good use for the kingdom. As a registered non-profit organization, all of our work is overseen by a board of directors and all of our financial reports are publicly available. This means you donations are also fully tax-deductible!

We could also use some additional monthly donors. If every person reading this note gave a monthly gift of just $10, we’d be able to meet–and even exceed–our budget for the entire year. I know that not everyone reading this note is able to give to support this work, but if you do, know that your gifts will not only be a blessing to us, they will be a blessing to those we are able to minister to each week. Our monthly donors currently give anywhere from $10 a month to $400 a month. Would you be able to join them with a monthly gift of any amount?

Hymns, by Marilyn Byrnes

Another way you can help us on the financial front is by ordering any of the inspiring books and CD’s our ministry has produced over the years. I know many of you like to get a jump on the Christmas shopping season, and some of these books and CD’s will make great gifts to encourage your friends and family in their faith.

The piano CD’s are especially great for introducing people to God in a non-threatening way. The titles set the tone for each CD, with titles like “Clear My Mind,” “Simply Relaxing,” “Hymns,” “Eden,” “Still Waters,” and “Christmas.” Our devotional books are also great ways to get people into the Word of God, written in a simple, easy to read style with lots of personal stories that apply to everyday life. Titles include, “Two Weeks With God,” “Jesus: Lessons In Love,” “Exodus: Lessons In Freedom,” and “What God Says About Sex.” Know that when you order any of these resources, you’re also helping us reach even more people with the message of Christ.

So if you’d like to make a one-time donation, or to sign up to make a monthly donation, just click the link below for instructions.

Make A Donation

To order books or CD’s, visit The Ranch Giftshop at this link:

The Ranch Giftshop

Reader’s Comments

Before I close, I’d like to share just a few comments from readers of my weekly devotionals. I especially love to hear from those who tell me they’re putting these biblical principles into practice in their lives. Here are a few comments I received after writing a message on fasting:

From Illinois: “I did a 3-day fast last week–I had never done one that long before. It was a great experience, and your lesson came at just the right moment and encouraged me to do it.”

From Texas: “Thanks, Eric, as always for an apt word. I am praying fervently (and fasting)…Perhaps you can pray with me for God’s will to become apparent and/or his storehouses to open on our behalf.”

From Arkansas: “Your note followed up on my prayers and makes me believe that the Lord is calling me to take hold of fasting alongside my prayer life in a meaningful way.”

Look for more devotions from the book of Acts as we finish up in the book in the weeks ahead. If you’ve missed any of the series or would like to reread them, you can read them online at this link:

Acts: Lessons In Faith

Please Pray With Us

Father,

  • Thank You for helping us get the Prayer Request system up and running for This Day’s Thought,
  • Thank You for the work You did in the Dominican Republic,
  • And thank You for the opportunity to reach many people through The Ranch website and the upcoming Clover Ranch.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would provide the funding to continue with each of these projects,
  • That You would provide safety for those who are working to restore Clover Ranch,
  • And for more people find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love,
Eric Elder

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.

News From The Ranch – May 2008

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Our move to Peru, IL, Missions Trip to the Dominican Republic, Clover Ranch update, and emails from the series in Acts.

Makari, Lucas, Lana and Karis will be heading to the Dominican Republic in July to help a new congregation build a church where they can meet and grow.

Makari, Lucas, Lana and Karis will be heading to the Dominican Republic in July to help a new congregation build a church where they can meet and grow.

Dear Friends,

I’d like to take a short break from our look at the book of Acts to give you an update of news from The Ranch. It’s a chance for me to share with you some of the cool things God is doing in our personal lives and ministry, and also let you know how you can be involved in what we’re doing. Starting with a personal story…

We’ve Moved!

(Picture: Moving boxes at our new house still waiting to be unpacked.)

(Picture: Moving boxes at our new house still waiting to be unpacked.)

Just before Christmas last year, we moved back to Lana’s hometown of Peru, Illinois. When her parents moved out of their big house (they had nine kids) into a smaller house a few minutes away, her family asked if we’d want to move into their bigger house. It would give us more room for our growing family (we have six kids) and would get us closer to her family to spend more time with them and help take care of her parents.

After much prayer, we felt we should move and I felt strongly that God wanted us to move “by the end of the year.” As the year went on, I didn’t see how we could undertake such a big move with so little time left till the end, so I asked God for some kind of confirming word from the Bible if He really wanted us to move that quickly. I racked my brain trying to think of any verses that talked about doing something by the end of the year, but none came to mind.

So I went to read another verse in the Bible I had been thinking about that week from 2nd Timothy 3:15. It says, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way” (from The Message). I was thinking about how powerful the Word of God is, and how God can breath life into any of the words whenever He wants to speak to us, if we’re willing to listen.

I kept on reading through 2nd Timothy when all of the sudden the words seemed to jump off the page. I read: “Try hard to come to me before winter.” Winter here in the U.S. was on December 22nd, less than ten days from the end of the year! I felt like God was speaking directly to me calling to me from Peru and saying, “I mean it! Try hard to come to Me before winter!” So we began to pack and clean in earnest, and by December 21st had finally gotten our beds moved over. We’re still not fully unpacked, but it’s been great to be here and we’ve already felt God’s hand in our move in so many ways. The Word of God really is “God-breathed”!

Missions Trip To The Dominican Republic

Lana and our three oldest kids are heading to the Dominican Republic in July to help to build a church for a new congregation there, giving them a place to meet and grow. They’re excited about this opportunity to help and have been praying, planning and working towards this for the past 6 months.

They’ve worked and raised over half of the money they need to go on this trip ($1,000 each including supplies to build the church). But with just a couple of months left to go, a donation of any size would really help them reach their goal. Know that your gifts will be greatly appreciated and put to good use. I’m thrilled that they’ll be able to serve together as a family in this way, and will be glad for your prayers for me as I’m home with the three younger kids! Just click here to send a donation by mail or online by PayPal or credit card. Please mention that your gift is for the “DR Mission Trip”.

Clover Ranch Update

(Picture: A pair of 4-leaf clovers I found this week while working at Clover Ranch)

(Picture: A pair of 4-leaf clovers I found this week while working at Clover Ranch)

We made tremendous progress last year on getting our Clover Ranch retreat property ready for guests, but still have a ways to go. If you’d like to help us this summer, we’ll be doing a number of jobs, from finishing the rewiring of the house, to drywalling, painting and landscaping.

We’re still in need of donations for each of these projects, and in particular could use a good, reliable riding lawn mower to cut the almost 2 acres of grass. If you know of someone who has a good mower, or could donate towards the $3,500 cost of a new one, please let us know. Even while the house is under renovation we’ve been able to make use of it for prayer and ministry, so thanks for all your help and prayers to get it this far.

Back To Acts

Back at The Ranch website, I’m in the midst of writing a weekly devotional series called “Acts: Lessons In Faith.” The weekly messages go out to 1,200 subscribers to The Ranch newsletter, and another 18,000 subscribers of a partner ministry called This Day’s Thought.

I’ve enjoyed writing it, and even got to preach the first six messages at our church during February and March while we search for a new senior pastor.

I thought you might like to read a few comments from readers from around the world.

Betty from the UK writes: “Praise be to Jesus, the message u sent me strengthened my faith.”

Chris from the UK writes: “Thanks as ever – time and time again your thoughts for the day hit home. God speed, Chris”

Phil from Colorado writes: “I got your article called “Faith Waits.” It was exceptional and I am asking permission to reprint it and use it, with your permission and showing that it is yours, in our ministry.”

Ley from the UK writes: “What I have had from The Ranch has been a tremendous inspiration from God Himself. Many thanks for all your hard work in this ministry.”

David from Oregon writes: “Your “Acts: Lessons In Faith” message was fantastic. Of course, I loved the quote from The Incredibles. The next time I watch it with our two youngest kids, I’ll still be thinking about what you wrote.”

Many others have written in to express their appreciation for this series. If you’ve missed part of it, or want to reread any of the short devotionals or full length versions, just click here.

Our Personal Needs

Many of you know that this is our full-time ministry and we rely fully on gifts from people like you for all we do, including our personal expenditures like moving to a new home. We need so little to reach so many, but we need that little so much! As the summer approaches and income to many ministries including ours, takes a dip, we could really use some extra financial support. We certainly understand if you are unable to give. For those that can contribute a little extra this month or substantially, please know that we would certainly appreciate your generosity. So if you’ve been blessed by what we’re doing, or if you’d like to help us keep it going and expand it so others can be blessed by it, please click the link below to send us a one-time or monthly donation of any size.

If you’d like a gift in appreciation of your donation (which we’d be glad to send you), you can click the second link to request any of our several books and CD’s that we’ve produced though this ministry and you’ll be able to choose a donation amount and we’ll send you a gift as a thank you for your donation.

To make donations to Clover Ranch, the Dominican Republic Missions Trip, or just our personal support, click here.

Please Pray With Us

Father,

  • Thank You for the move to Peru going well,
  • Thank You for so many being encouraged in their faith through the weekly messages,
  • And thank You for the opportunity to reach many others through missions trips and projects like Clover Ranch.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would use each of these projects to draw people closer to You,
  • That You would provide funding for this ministry to keep going forward and expanding,
  • And for more people find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love,
Eric Elder

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.

News From The Ranch – December 2007

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Missions Trip Update, “Jesus: Lessons In Love” now in paperback, New Hymns CD, and a move!

Jean Barling (left) and Lana Elder at Clover Ranch. Jean is a former interior designer who came from England this fall to help us redesign Clover Ranch, a new retreat center we're renovating in Central Illinois.

Jean Barling (left) and Lana Elder at Clover Ranch. Jean is a former interior designer who came from England this fall to help us redesign Clover Ranch, a new retreat center we’re renovating in Central Illinois.

Dear Friends,

It’s been awhile since I’ve sent any news from The Ranch — not because there hasn’t been any, but because there’s been so much! Here’s a brief look at what’s been going on this year.

Missions Trip

We had a great missions trip to England in February, a country where surprisingly only about 8% of the population attends church regularly. Thanks to your prayers and gifts, our team of eight was able to spend a week with a church in Tunbridge Wells, giving their building a face lift, and giving us all a “faith lift.” We continue to pray that their church will be a light in their community, reaching the many who still need to put their full trust and faith in Christ.

Clover Ranch Renovation

Besides getting the repairs done at the church in England, we were blessed in return in August when one of their members came to live here in the States for two months at Clover Ranch, a retreat Center we’re renovating. Jean Barling (pictured above on the left with Lana) is a former interior designer and helped us completely remodel the kitchen and bathroom, as well as get us started on many other projects around the house. With the help of dozens of volunteers and a few hired hands, we’ve been able to clean out the whole house, put on a new roof, replace all the windows, redo the plumbing, and start replacing some old wiring. We’re not done yet, but we’re well on our way to towards getting it open for guests to come and grow in their relationship with Christ. Thanks to all who came and helped!

New Devotional!

Jesus: Lessons In Love Front CoverBack at The Ranch website, I’ve finished a new book this year called Jesus: Lessons In Love. It’s a compilation of thirty devotionals I’ve written, based on the book of Matthew, and designed to help people read their Bibles and apply what they’re reading to their everyday lives.

These devotionals were sent out each week to over 17,000 people, some who signed up for the devotionals after visiting The Ranch website, and others who subscribed from another Internet ministry that I help run called This Day’s Thought (www.thisdaysthought.org). It was great to hear back from people each week from various parts of the world about how these messages touched their lives, like these…

“I just had to let you know your article ‘Love is Prepared’ is absolutely beautiful. I found my eyes welling with tears. May I share this with our readers in an upcoming edition of the paper?” Susan in Virginia

“What a wonderful message I really needed to read this morning.” Carol in New Mexico

“This is truly a blessing. I really need to know more about giving my all to God and serving him honestly and completely!” Suzan in South Africa

“Thank you. Very encouraging” Muleba

“…Thank you Eric. All day today I’ve been trying to figure out how I could manage things better so that I can get just the basic things done. But now that I’ve read this I know what the problem is. I’ve been trying to manage things, I need to spend more time with God and let him worry about how I get things done. I knew this before but for some reason I wasn’t doing it. God bless you and your family!” Misty in Illinois

“Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Your have quoted some of my favorite Bible verses that share my beliefs about what Christians should be more like.” Leng in Texas

“Hey Eric, Always a blessing to receive your messages brother! Keep up the good work.” Len in Canada

“Thank you so much for the message of forgiveness.” Simeon

“Hi Eric, Thank you for your reminder of some of the ways we can bring our friends to Jesus . . . blessings in your ministry.” Judi

“Eric, This is an EXCELLENT summary of the Book of Matthew and a vital guide at living our lives. I’m printing this out and keeping it in my Bible as reference point for checking my motives. Thank you so much for your anointed wisdom throughout this series.” Al in California

If you missed reading the devotionals, or want to re-read them or give them to a friend, you can order copies of this book in paperback for less than $10 each, or as a downloadable book to read on your computer for just $2.50. It makes a great devotional to help you — or your friends — get started with reading the Bible again in the New Year. To request a copy of the book, or any of our other devotionals, just visit:
http://inspiringbooks.com

New Hymns CD!

Hymns Front CoverI’ve also just finished uploading a new CD to The Ranch website. It’s a collection of classic hymns that I helped produce and record for my sister, Marilyn Byrnes. The Hymns CD includes beautiful versions of your favorite hymns like “The Lord’s Prayer,” “What a Friend We Have In Jesus,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Immortal, Invisible” (my favorite song on the CD). You can listen to it anytime day or night on The Ranch website at this link.

And if you’d like to get the music on CD for yourself or your friends, you can still order copies in time for Christmas up until December 12th. The CD’s are only $10.50 each, and can be ordered from the link below. (And if you need more gift ideas, you’ll find about 15 gift ideas from The Ranch at this link, too, all in the form of an inspirational book or CD…and all for less than $15 each!):
http://nspiringbooks.com

We’re Moving!

Lastly, we’ve been praying for some time now about possibly moving back to Lana’s hometown of Peru, Illinois (about 40 minutes northwest of where we live now). Lana’s parents have moved into a smaller house, so we would be able to move into their larger house. This move would give us more room as well as get us closer to them so we could help take care of them both. We’ve been working on the house and getting it ready for the move, which we hope to make by the end of the year. We’d appreciate your prayers during this transition.

Thanks again for all your prayers, encouragement and support for our ministry this year, not only on behalf of Lana and myself, but also on behalf of the visitors who are touched daily by it…like this one who wrote:

“I just ran across your web site about ‘how to know you’re going to heaven’ (a video message recorded for us by Bill Allison). I said your prayer and truthfully meant it with all my heart. My prayers have been answered. Thank you for that prayer to God. Now I know I will go to heaven. Thank you.” Mark

We truly appreciate all of you whose hearts are joined with us in this work. If you’d like to make a year-end donation, you can use this link:

PLEASE PRAY WITH US

Father,

  • Thank You for allowing us to work on building Your kingdom through missions trips and projects like Clover Ranch,
  • Thank You for teaching us so much in the Word of God that is helpful to us and others,
  • And thank You for the blessing of music that helps bring us peace in our frequently chaotic world.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would use each of these projects to draw people closer to You,
  • That You would smooth over all the things that need to happen before and during our move to Peru
  • And we pray that still more people find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Merry Christmas!
Love,
Eric Elder

To request copies of the Hymns CD, or the devotional Jesus: Lessons In Love,please visit:
http://inspiringbooks.com
To make a one-time or monthly donation, visit:
Make a Donation
To read about our ministry, visit:
About Eric Elder Ministries

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.

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.

News From The Ranch – February 2007

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

A missions trip to the UK, “What God Says About Sex” now in paperback, more worship possibly coming to The Ranch website.

The Elder family dressed up for our church's annual Christmas production, "Bethlehem Walk," in December 2006. The back four, from left to right are: Karis, Lucas, Lana, Eric. The front row includes: Kaleo, Bo, Makari and Josiah. Click the picture if you'd like to print it to use as a prayer reminder for us. Thanks!

The Elder family dressed up for our church’s annual Christmas production, “Bethlehem Walk,” in December 2006. The back four, from left to right are: Karis, Lucas, Lana, Eric. The front row includes: Kaleo, Bo, Makari and Josiah. Click the picture if you’d like to print it to use as a prayer reminder for us. Thanks!

Dear Friends,

February 9th marks my 20th anniversary of when I put my faith in Christ. I knew on that day that this was going to be a significant decision, probably the most important decision I would ever make in my life. How true that has turned out to be!

I’ve thought several times over the years of what a difference it has made in my life to put my faith in Christ. Not just in giving me assurance that I knew I would be with God in heaven when I died, but also in giving me direction for my life here on earth. Although I woke up and went to work in much the same way the day after I put my faith in Christ as the day before, on the inside, everything had been rearranged. I felt like I was on a whole new course for my life. My goals were different, my worldview was different, and my heart was set in a new direction.

Over time, those changes in my goals, my worldview, and my heart played out in my external life as well as my internal life. I’ve since gotten married, had six kids, and gone into full-time ministry. Those things didn’t all happen in a day, but the stage was set for those things to happen from the first day I put my faith in Christ.

I’ve come to love the Christian life, and Christianity itself, so much that even if only for the practical advantages of this kind of life, let alone the spiritual ones, I would encourage others to follow the way of Christ. But I am also convinced that it is our faith, our complete trust in God in all things, that breathes life into Christianity. It is our faith in God that pleases Him more than anything. In fact, the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

I know that faith isn’t easy to come by some days. I know that life gets in the way of our faith sometimes. I know that it’s hard to trust Him completely when so much is riding on the outcome of our daily decisions. But it is our faith that will see us through. It is our faith that will carry us along. It is our faith that will bring a smile to the face of God, a faith that believes that He exists, a faith that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, I want to encourage you to put your faith in Him today. If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, I want to encourage you to put your faith in Him again today for everything in your life…everything. He is trustworthy. He loves you. He cares for you. And He is so pleased, so totally pleased, when you put your faith in Him.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I also have a number of updates I’d like to share with you, including offering you a new paperback version of my book on sex, asking for your prayers for a missions trip to England, and an update on on our funding requests from last time.


Now In Paperback!

What God Says About Sex CoverIf you’ve wondered what God has to say about sex, or if you know someone who could use a godly perspective on sex, I hope you’ll get a copy (or two or three or ten!) of my new book: “What God Says About Sex.” While I’m still working on finding a publisher for the book, I’ve had a number of requests for it in paperback, so I’ve gone ahead and printed up 200 copies of the book for those who would like copies of the book now.

Jill Savage, Founder and Executive Director of an organization for moms called “Hearts at Home,” is one of the people who read a preview copy of the book and has asked if she could carry it on her personal book table as she goes around the country speaking to moms and other groups. She’ll be speaking at a purity conference this month, and I’m praying that many will pick up a copy at the conference and that it will make a real and lifelong difference in the way they look at, and engage in, sex.

Jill has also agreed to personally endorse the book! In her endorsement, she writes:

“Eric Elder has the ability to take a complicated subject and simplify it for the everyday reader. He talks about truth in such a way that the reader can’t help but to be drawn in.”

I’d love to get a copy of the book to you, too. You can order it from the Giftshop at The Ranch in a variety of affordable formats and gift-packs:

  • – an electronic version, emailed to you ($5 suggested donation)
  • – a paperback version ($10 suggested donation, shipping included)
  • – a set of 3 paperbacks to share ($25 suggested donation, shipping included)
  • – a set of 5 paperbacks to share ($40 suggested donation, shipping included)
  • – a set of 10 paperbacks to share ($75 suggested donation, shipping included)
  • – a signed copy of the book ($100 suggested donation…well, OK, I’ll sign it for free, but the $100 would really help us to print more books for others in the future!)

To order, just click this link to visit The Ranch Giftshop.


Headed to England!

UK TeamLast year on our missions trip to Africa, we stopped in England and visited a church that our church here in Illinois has helped to support over the years. As we toured the church, Lana noticed a number of repair projects that needed to be done that she thought of several people back home who would be great at doing them. So when we returned from Africa, we began to make plans for a return trip to England some day. That day has come!

We’ll be heading out to Tunbridge Wells, England, with a team of 8 people from our church, including Lana, Karis, and me, on Friday, February 9th, for 11 days. Our team will be doing a variety of projects, from plumbing and painting, to cleaning and laying carpet. We’re excited about being able to help out in this way, as attendance at churches in England has become quite low over the years, with only about 8% of the population attending regularly. We’re proud of the work this church in Tunbridge Wells is doing for their community, and we’re glad to come alongside and lend a hand.

We’d appreciate your prayers for this trip, that our efforts would be fruitful in many ways, for our team, for this church, and for the work God is doing in England.

UPDATE MARCH 3, 2007: We had a great trip to England, accomplishing all we set out to do and more. It was a face-lift for the church, and faith-lift for all of us involved. 


FUNDING UPDATE

Thermometer 51In my last newsletter, I laid out our funding goals for the new year and wanted to give you an update. We’ve had 15 families and individuals either increase their monthly donations or join us for the first time making monthly donations, for a total increase of $480 per month.

This has already helped us as we begin the new year, taking us from 44% of the way towards our monthly goal, to 51%. Our goal is to raise $6,310 in monthly commitments by the end of the year, so we’re just over half way there. We also had another 7 families and individuals contribute a total of $3,000 in one-time gifts. So thank you for all who have contributed so far. This is our most pressing need, so if you would like to partner with us in this ministry with a monthly gift, you can sign up easily online by clicking this link.

Click here to watch a short 5-minute video about our ministry and how you can get involved.


Thanks to all of you who have given and prayed for our ministry. I get comments regularly from people who are touched and thankful for the Word of God that they’ve read or heard or seen on The Ranch website, like this one from Kevin in California:

“My first visit here was an emotional and heartfelt experience. The peace, tranquility and serenity of this site is overwhelming. Thank you and I pray for you a Blessed New Year.”

And this one from Esther in Kenya:

“I wish to start my day by reading inspiring messages and sermons from you. God has bless you with wisdom and its good you are an inspiration to others. When we get to heaven God will ask each and every one us what did you do with the talents I gave you. Continue and know that your crown will be more beautiful for the good work you do. God do you good.”

CLOSING PRAYER

Your prayers really do help us to touch people. I’d appreciate if you’d pray with us again right now…

Father,

  • Thank You for giving us the chance to keep putting our faith in Jesus for everything in our lives,
  • Thank You for helping us put together a team of people to go to England to help those who are bringing the gospel to their community,
  • And thank You for the monthly and one-time donations that have come in to help us reach more people around the world with the message of Christ.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would use this trip to England as a blessing to many, both now and in the future,
  • We pray that You would use this book on sex to help many people make commitments to following Your ways regarding their sexual lives,
  • And we pray that still 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.

Thanks for your prayers!

Sincerely,
Eric Elder

Click here to order “What God Says About Sex”

Click here to sign up for monthly donations to The Ranch website

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.

News From The Ranch – December 2006

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Our three most pressing needs; Major Accomplishments from 2006; and Notes of Thanks

Eric at Clover Ranch

One of the highlights of our year: our purchase of Clover Ranch as a spiritual retreat center for individuals, families and small groups who want to get closer to God.

Dear Friends,

It’s been a great year here at The Ranch! We’ve been able to accomplish a lot this year, thanks to your gifts, prayers and notes of encouragement.

But we also need your help to go forward. I had a dream last weekend that Lana and I were talking with a rich couple who had decided to give away everything that they had…and they had a lot! Then they looked at us and said, “Now you guys are rich, too, right? You don’t need anything, do you?”

I woke up from my dream in a stupor — I couldn’t believe they had just given away everything they had, and that they didn’t realize how much we could have really used their help! Back to reality, the very next day Lana was talking to one of our friends who said, “I had no idea you guys needed more monthly support.” I realized then that I needed to put this appeal at the top of my newsletter, not at the end!

Three Ways You Can Help

Here are three ways you can help…

First, our most pressing need is for ongoing, monthly support.

Our donations during 2006 have averaged $2,765 per month, from which we pay all of our ministry expenses, travel expenses, Internet costs, computer costs, office supplies and our salary. These monthly donations help us continue to devote our full time efforts to ministering to the 5,000 – 10,000 visitors who come to the website each month. While our ministry has expanded dramatically over the past 10 years, our monthly donations haven’t kept pace. Our goal is to raise our monthly commitments to $6,310 by the end of 2007.

Would you consider making a monthly donation to our ministry to help us reach our monthly goal? Our current monthly donors give anywhere from $10 a month to $350 a month. We’d love for you to join us with whatever monthly amount you would be willing and able to give.

We could also use some immediate, one-time donations as our summer giving dipped below $2,500 several months, and even under $2,000 one month. While this is normal for many ministries in the summertime, it has made things especially tight as we head into the fall and winter.

Second, we need to put a new roof on Clover Ranch.

We’ve purchased this property earlier this year to serve as a real, physical “Ranch” where we can invite guests to spend time getting closer to God in a personal or family retreat setting. We’re in the process of renovating the property at a cost of nearly $20,000 during the coming year. This renovation includes a number of projects, but our first priority is to put on a new roof at a cost of approximately $7,000 so we can then begin the interior renovations.

I know that people sometimes like to give special one-time gifts to capital campaigns such as this, so I wanted to ask: Would you consider a capital gift of $100, $500, or $1,000…or maybe $2,500, $5,000, or $7,000 towards this project? This will help us to begin the needed renovations as soon as possible so we can start inviting people to Clover Ranch, helping them get closer to God.

I’ve created two 5-minute video clips that describe a little more about our Current Monthly Needs and our project at Clover Ranch. You can watch these clips online at these links:
Invest in The Ranch Website
Invest in Clover Ranch

(My thanks to Russell Pond of Top Pup Media for helping with these videos. Look for his new movie coming out next summer, called Fissure!)

Also, if you haven’t yet seen our 5-minute video from our trip to Swaziland earlier this year, you can still watch it at this link:
Planting Hope In Swaziland

I’ve put all three of these videos on a DVD, and would be glad to send you a copy at no cost to you, just in case you can’t see them online, or in case you want to share them with others, which brings me to the third way you can help…

Third, do you know of others who might be interested in hearing about, and possibly supporting, our ministry?

If so, would you be willing to recommend our ministry to them, letting them know how you’ve been involved with it, or touched by it, and asking if they would consider supporting it, too? In addition to individuals and families, our Internet outreach might also be of interest to your church Missions Committee, a Sunday School class, or a small group in which you participate. Feel free to forward this email to them, or request a DVD and info packet, and we can mail you one to give to them personally. Any of these contacts would really help us tremendously!

And if you know of some rich couples who are thinking of giving away everything they’ve got, please let them know about us before it’s all gone! 🙂

Major Accomplishments in 2006!

Planting Hope in SwazilandIn addition to our daily work on the website, which is now reaching between 5,000 and 10,000 people each month, from 150 countries, here are a few of the other things we’ve been able to accomplish so far this year, thanks to your help…

– Lana, Karis, Lucas and I traveled to Swaziland, South Africa with a team of 80 people from around the U.S. to plant and distribute over 8,000 backyard vegetable gardens for the beautiful Swazi people.

What God Says About Sex Cover– I finished writing a new, inspirational book called “What God Says About Sex,” to help people discover and put into practice what God says about sex. I just got a note last week from an 18 year old guy who started reading the book and wrote:

“Eric! I’m so glad I started reading your book today! I rarely get very emotional over much of anything but while reading your book, at various points, I found myself filled with intrigue, sadness, regret, but especially joy! Thank you so much for listening to God and writing this book, it’s wonderful! While reading the sections about your proposal story and how you followed the Lord in that, and also the part about God healing you of whatever physical ailments you might have had from your sins, I felt so happy and very inspired! That’s the first time in a long time I have cried about anything. =) now I am laughing again! With joy that is. I’ve read only half of your book and I am feeling all of this! Wow! Thanks again Eric. I really needed to read this book. Well, I am going to get back to reading, I just really felt I should e-mail you.”

– If you’d like to order a copy of this downloadable e-book, please visit The Ranch Giftshop.

Eric, Lucas, & Karis, with James Dobson– I presented a workshop on this book in June at the Annual Conference for Exodus International, the largest network of ministries for helping people overcome homosexuality.

– Karis, Lucas and I were able to briefly meet James Dobson (Focus on the Family – pictured here), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), and Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) at a conference in Washington, DC in September.

Eric at Clover Ranch– We finalized the purchase of Clover Ranch, a house on 2.5 acres here in Central Illinois that we are starting to renovate and convert into a spiritual retreat center for individuals, families and small groups.

– I spoke at the National Missionary Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in November to encourage people to look for creative ways to use their natural and God-given gifts to share Christ with others.

Exodus Cover– And just a few weeks ago, I finished writing a second book called “Exodus: Lessons in Freedom,” based on the 50-week video series we’ve been filming and uploading to The Ranch website for the past year. This new, faith-building book contains some of my favorite personal stories of how God has spoken into my life. If you’re looking for a devotional book for the new year, for yourself or for a friend, this has great, short entries to read each day, and will take you through one of the most powerful and dramatic books of the Bible, the book of Exodus. This book is available as a downloadable e-book from The Ranch Giftshop.

My sincere thanks for all you’ve helped us to accomplish so far this year!

Notes of Thanks

I thought I would end this letter with some thank you notes from people who have visited The Ranch website in the past few months. Everytime I get notes like these, I want to pass them on to you as a thank you to you for all you’ve done to help with our ministry, in your prayers, gifts and thoughts.

“Found your site a month ago…you are a great source of encouragement which I can access anytime. May God continue to bless your work.” – Peter, CHEMSFORD, UK

“Wow — I found your website after reading your weekly sermon on “This Day’s Thought.” What a true message that touched my heart! God Bless You!!” – Barbara, IOWA CITY, IOWA, USA

“I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE, It is AWESOME!!!” – Joey, DEER PARK, NY, USA

“This is a really helpful website. A friend introduced me and I have been uplifted spiritually and would like to keep in touch with you. God bless you so much.” – Nyaradzo, HARARE, ZIMBABWE

“I just found your website. It’s inspiring and a real sanctuary to go to…Thank you” – Kelly, Issaquah, WA, USA

“God Bless you. I know God has led me to your site.” – Yvonne, SMYRNA, DE, USA

“Wow, I’m so glad I found you! I feel like I’ve really been to “the ranch.” God bless your ministry!” Rebecca, HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA

“I loved paging through the website…it was very interesting. Would love to hear from you soon.” – Monique, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

“God is good, for having this kind of website which gives us encouragement in our daily life.” – Lory, LAGUNA, PHILIPPINES

“I like your website so much that I made it my homepage!” Johnny, CHARLES TOWN, WV, USA

“Your Lesson 44 – “Our Role and God’s Role” was meant exactly for me, and most timely. Thank you, Praise God” – Jerry, JOHOR, MALAYSIA

“I love this website thanks so much for helping me. It’s so awesome.” Jen, FLUSHING, MI, USA

“First and foremost I think The Ranch is an excellent site and that you guys are doing an excellent job. I have been going through the Exodus series and am growing through it.” – Noel, UK

“Thank you so much for the message that you sent me from The Ranch. I am so grateful to God for that. It makes me feel happy and blessed when brethren like you are able to share with others about Christ.” Asiimwe, UGANDA

And I don’t have space to list all the prayers that people post on The Ranch for us to agree in prayer with them, but thought you might like to read this one…

“Dear GOD, forgive me for all the sins I’ve committed. Ever since my friend Susan told me about you, I’ve been putting my faith on you. I’ve started praying, too. God, you know I’m not a Christian. My parents follow Hinduism and are strong believer of Sai Baba. I, too, used to pray to SaiBaba. But now hearing all your stories, going to church, reading bible….I can feel my faith towards you. Deep within me there’s some kind of strong belief on you. GOD!!! I want to be your child, PLEASE show me the right path…” – S.

(S.’s prayer continued on for several more paragraphs, then she concluded by checking the box on the prayer page that says this: “I am putting my faith in Christ for the first time to forgive me of my sins and to be my Lord.” Praise God and thank you for helping her find Christ!)

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this update, and especially for helping us so much up to this point as we work together to share Christ with others. Thanks for considering these special requests, too.

Sincerely,
Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

P.S. Again, our most pressing need is for ongoing, monthly support. To sign up to make a monthly donation, or to make a one-time donation to our ministry or to Clover Ranch, please visit:
Make A Donation

To order the new e-books What God Says About Sex or Exodus: Lessons in Freedom, please visit:
The Ranch Giftshop

To watch any of our three 5-minute videos, please click these links:
Invest in The Ranch Website
Invest in Clover Ranch
Planting Hope In Swaziland

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.

News From The Ranch – September 2006

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

New E-Book: “What God Says About Sex”; New Website: www.InspiringBooks.com

What God Says About Sex

A new e-book by Eric Elder! To order, visit www.InspiringBooks.com

Dear Friends,

I’m thrilled to let you know that you can now order my new e-book online called “What God Says About Sex.”

The book contains a number of true and inspirational stories to help you discover and put into practice what God says about sex.

I’d like to share with you a little bit about why I wrote this book, and who I wrote it for, as I mentioned in the preface of my book…

FROM THE PREFACE

I began this book as a way to summarize hundreds of letters I’ve written and conversations I’ve had regarding what God says about sex. But before I wrote the first word, I asked God who the readers of this book might be. I wanted to be able to picture them in my mind as I wrote these words.

Without hesitation, God spoke to my heart: “Write it for your children.”

My children?!? I thought. That’s not who I had in mind at all!

When I realized that God was serious, my passion and diligence for this project increased a hundredfold. I realized that the readers of this book would not just be people on the far side of the globe who could take or leave these words as they wished. The readers would be my own precious children, the ones I most wanted to see enjoy the fullness of sex without experiencing the pain that has fallen upon so many.

Then God nudged my heart again.

I realized that this would be the same audience He wanted to reach through this book: You, His own precious child, the one He most wants to see enjoy the fullness of sex without experiencing the pain that has fallen upon so many.

With that in mind, I invite you to read these words that I’ve written from the depths of my heart. For they’re not only my impassioned words to my beloved children, they’re also God’s impassioned words to you — His beloved child.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

I’d also like to share with you some of the things others have been saying about the book. One of my goals in writing the book was to limit it to 100 pages, a tough task for such a broad topic, but something I felt was important so people to be able to start AND finish it!

When one friend saw it, he said, “That’s a perfect size…short enough for my attention span, but long enough to have some good content!”

After a 16-year old guy read a copy I had with me at camp this summer, he later told me that it was probably only the second book he’d ever read in his life from cover to cover. Although that may not be saying much for his reading habits, it helped me to know that I had accomplished at least one of my goals! I then asked him what he thought about the book itself, wondering what a 16-year old might think. He said, “I totally agree with what you said in the book! You just spoke the truth. It felt as if you were talking right to me.” About a dozen other teens picked it up and passed it around that week, all with similar comments.

But it’s not just a book for teens. Here are a few more comments from people recommending the book for a variety of backgrounds and ages…

– John Smid, Executive Director of Love In Action in Memphis, Tennessee, (the oldest and largest ministry in the Exodus network dealing exclusively with sexual brokenness) writes:

“‘What God Says About Sex’ is heart warming, honest, insightful, simple, and quite provocative! It is a great book for study purposes as the principles are deep, rich, and incredibly challenging to think about much less to discuss in a committed group. Eric’s honesty lets the reader know that he is not preaching from ‘on high’ rather, from the point of understanding God’s grace for his own life.”

– Dan Mountney, Campus Pastor for Kensington Community Church in Troy, Michigan and a former television journalist for NBC News in Detroit writes:

“Finally, a book that explains a godly perspective on the topic of sex, in a way that any child — or adult — can understand! ‘What God Says About Sex’ is every parent’s new best friend.”

– Al Lowry, leader of GIG, a music ministry at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California writes:

“I always appreciate Eric’s writings, and although this new work may be short, it speaks volumes. The subject is treated firmly, yet lovingly; not an easy task in handling the ‘untouchables’ suggested in the title. I won’t reveal the surprise ending, but guarantee it will rock your boat. I look forward to the next in the ‘What God Says’ series.”

– Tim Wilkins, Executive Director of Cross Ministry in Wake Forest, North Carolina and a frequent speaker at conferences and colleges on the topic of sexuality writes:

“Eric Elder’s approach is as refreshing as is his testimony. The mass of reports and research purporting to be ‘authoritative’ on human sexuality pale into oblivion when you read ‘What God Says About Sex.'”

– Bridgette Booth, homeschooling mother and author of ‘Layla’s Faith,’ in Tyler, Texas writes:

“For me, sex is an awkward subject to discuss with my children. After only a few pages, I knew I could trust this book in the hands of my daughters because Eric combined the sweetness of setting high standards during courtship and marriage with candid, matter-of-fact explanations of sexual intercourse. This book is perfect for parents like me!”

– Russell Pond, homeschooling father and author of the ‘Season of Peace Devotional,’ in Dallas, Texas writes:

“This powerful, much-needed message on the topic of sex was artfully and delicately communicated through Biblical truths and anecdotes. It’s the kind of book I could read to my son and not be ashamed.”

– and Sue Bohlin, Associate Speaker for Probe Ministries, in Richardson, Texas writes:

“I wish we’d had Eric’s little gem of a book when it was time to tell our sons about God’s magnificent invention of sex! His direct but not prurient explanation of the technical aspects of sex is illuminated by his grace-filled sense of wonder and awe at God’s brilliance and goodness. That alone is worth the price of the book!”

From what I’m hearing, adults seem to appreciate the helpful insights and practical wisdom of this book, parents appreciate the tasteful approach to a delicate subject, and teens and pre-teens appreciate the openness, honesty, and humor which are woven throughout the pages of the book.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS!

One of my favorite things people tell me about the book is that it has touched them in ways that aren’t even directly related to sex, helping them to think through their relationships with God, their relationships with others, and their own view of themselves.

One friend commented that he wanted to give it to his friends because, “it’s more than just a sex manual, it’s an evangelistic tool.” I share in the book ways that God has used the issue of sex to bring people closer to Him, from the biblical story of the woman caught in adultery, to my own story of how God turned my life around when I put my faith in Christ.

If you’re like me, you probably know a number of people who could use a book like this: people who are struggling with some aspect or another of sexuality, people who want to do the right thing but may not know what the right thing is, or people who know what the right thing is, but need some practical help to just do it. I hope you’ll pass the announcement of this book on to your friends as well. Just forward this newsletter to them or point them to the website below.

INSPIRINGBOOKS.COM

To order a copy of this new e-book for yourself or your friends, you can go to a new website I’ve set up for this purpose called:

www.InspiringBooks.com

SUMMER GIVING

Lastly, like many ministries at the end of the summer months, any reserves we may have had during the year are typically used up by now. Although we always operate on a tight budget, right now it’s quite tight! Our total donations during June, July and August averaged $2,500 per month, from which we run all aspects of this full-time ministry.

If our ministry has been helpful to you, would you prayerfully consider making a donation sometime within the next two weeks? It would give us a tremendous boost personally as well financially! Thanks! Here’s the link for ways to make your donation:

Make A Donation

PLEASE PRAY WITH US

Thanks for your prayers already over the last few months and years for this book and for our ministry. We really appreciate it!

I’d love if you would pray with me again today…

Father, thank You…

  • for teaching us in Your Word how to have the best sex life possible,
  • for helping me to complete this book and make it available to others,
  • and for promising us that Your word will not return to You empty, but will accomplish what You desire and achieve the purpose for which You sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Now, Lord, we ask…

  • that You would take this word around the world
  • put it in the hands of those who need to hear it
  • and draw more people to The Ranch so they can draw closer to You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks and have a good week!

Sincerely,
Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

Here’s the link again to order the book:
www.InspiringBooks.com

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.

News From The Ranch – July 2006

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Persevering to finish God’s work, summer speaking, Clover Ranch update

The result of perseverance: Thomas Edison's 1880 light bulb that finally succeeded after thousands of failed attempts.

The result of perseverance: Thomas Edison’s 1880 light bulb that finally succeeded after thousands of failed attempts.

Dear Friends,

If you’ve been waiting for answers to your prayers, you’re not alone! I want to encourage you today to persevere…God will honor your persistent prayers.

I’ve been working on and off for the past seven years writing a little book called“What God Says about Sex.” It’s only about 100 pages long, but I’ve found, like many others, that condensing a book into as few words as possible is often harder than writing everything we could possibly write on a topic.

Every time I’ve felt like I was getting close to completing it, I just didn’t feel like it conveyed what I was trying to convey. Many times I’ve felt like giving up, but I knew that I needed to press on. When working on other projects, I usually finally reach a point where I think, “That’s it! That’s just what I wanted it to look like!”

But after seven years, I just couldn’t get to that point, and I wondered if this time I might not get there. I didn’t know if it was still years away from finishing it, or if the end was just around the corner. A few months ago, I was at that point of questioning again if I’d ever be able to finish it when I was encouraged by a quote by Thomas Edison.

Edison had worked non-stop for several years trying to perfect the light bulb, experimenting with literally thousands of ideas for a filament that would burn bright enough to give off light, but last long enough to be practical in a common home.After testing more than 6,000 ideas for filaments, from bamboo to cedar to hickory, he finally landed on something that burned bright enough and long enough to work: carbonized cotton.

He finally patented his idea on January 27, 1880. The picture above is of one of his bulbs from 1880, and shows that it is almost identical to the bulbs used in millions of homes today, every day. Edison’s perseverance paid off, not only for him, but for all of us who have benefited from his perseverance (otherwise I’d have to type this email by candlelight!)

Edison’s quote that kept me going was this:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

I wondered if I was closer to being finished than I thought, so I pressed on. Within a few weeks, I finally finished the book, and I’m thrilled with the way it’s turned out.

I’ll share more with you about the book in the future, as I’m still praying about the best way to publish it. But for today, I just wanted to share my story and Edison’s story with you to encourage you to persevere in whatever God has called you to do.

Maybe you’re needing to persevere in praying for a family member, or co-worker, or friend to turn their life over to Christ. Maybe you’re needing to persevere in your in ministry or in your business. Maybe you’re needing to persevere in a relationship that God has ordained but that is currently struggling. Or maybe you’re needing to persevere in breaking off a relationship that God hasn’t ordained but that you’re struggling to give up.

Whatever God has put on your heart to do, do it! It’s the most loving thing you can do for yourself, for God and for others. Love and perseverance go together, as the Bible tells us in one of the most famous passages about love:

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Take heart from Thomas Edison! Take heart from my story! Take heart from the words of God in the Bible! You may be closer to success than you think!

Eric Elder


Summer Speaking

I was able to finish my book on “What God Says about Sex” in time to give a workshop on the topic at the national conference for Exodus International in June. The conference is specifically for those struggling with various sexual issues in their lives, including homosexuality and lesbianism, and for those who minister to others regarding their sexuality. Although the conference is over, you can still get a copy of my talk on CD for yourself, or for someone you know who might benefit from it. The CD’s are available from the company that taped the conference at this link (mine is the first workshop listed on the page):
http://www.catapes.com

Lana and I also got to speak several times in the past few months. Lana led the devotionals one morning for the youth from our church at a youth conference she attended in Tennessee with Karis and Lucas. Then Lana and I led several of the morning devotionals for a group of about 85 of us from Streator who spent 9 days camping together at the Cornerstone Music Festival. And Karis and Lucas joined us for speaking at two churches about our missions trip to Africa last March. It’s been a busy couple of months, but has been a great way to combine ministry time and family time!


Back at The Ranch

Clover Ranch LevelingBack at The Ranch website, we’re continuing with the final 15 lessons of a 50 lesson study through the book of Exodus. You can watch these half-hour videos which I upload each week to the website, or you can read a condensed text version which I send out to over 12,000 people weekly as part of the ministry of This Day’s Thought (www.thisdaysthought.org). If you’re not yet receiving these weekly devotionals but would like to, you can sign up for them.

Back at the “real” ranch, our newly purchased Clover Ranch in central Illinois, we’re continuing to work on the house and the grounds. We’ll have a list in the future of special needs that you might want to help out with, and/or opportunities for you to come and visit yourself! But for now, we’d appreciate your prayers that God will give us His wisdom and vision for how best to develop the property into a place where people can seek God…and find Him.


Please Pray With Us

Father, thank You

  • for encouraging each of us to persevere and finish what You’ve put on our hearts,
  • for the chances we all have to speak about you to our friends, family, and those seeking Your answers to life’s questions,
  • And for helping the ministry of The Ranch reach out to people in person and over the Internet.

Father, we pray

  • for the perseverance to finish all that You’ve put on each of our hearts to do, including getting this book published to reach as many people as possible,
  • for wisdom as we convert Clover Ranch into a place that can draw people to You,
  • And that You would continue to help people find their way to The Ranch on the Internet so they can find their way to You.

We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks for your prayers!
Eric Elder

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.

Planting Hope In Swaziland

A five-minute summary of our garden-planting trip to Swaziland in March, 2006. As told by Eric & Lana Elder, Karis and Lucas Elder, and Felicia Lamb. This trip was organized by Heart for Africa, also known as Dream for Africa, which was founded by Bruce Wilkinson, author of the Prayer of Jabez.

Watch The Video

Read The Video Transcript

(Lana) After planning and praying for more than a year, the day finally came when we were packed and ready to go on our missions trip to Africa. We were headed to the Kingdom of Swaziland, a small country nestled in the mountains of South Africa. Our goal was to plant hundreds of backyard vegetable gardens for the beautiful Swazi people. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

(Lucas) After landing in South Africa, we still had a five hour bus ride to get to our hotel in Swaziland. But it was fun because we got to meet some of the other people who came on the trip. There were a total of 80 of us, including a small group of kids. It turned out that we would spend a lot of our time in Swaziland driving…and driving…and driving…

(Eric) We were told that the region we’d be planting in was one of the hardest to reach in the country, and I’m sure it was. You wouldn’t have found any of these roads on MapQuest! We had split up into 13 smaller teams and each day our team would drive about two hours through the mountains on winding dirt roads to reach our area. The first day, our task was to meet with the chiefs of the chiefdoms where we would be planting. Since our chief had recently died, we met with some other leaders of the area in their community building. After our host pastor explained the planting process and we all exchanged greetings (Sanibonani, yeabo), we were ready to plant our first gardens.

(Felicia) The gardens we were planting were small, backyard gardens with tomatoes, onions, cabbage and spinach. The Swazi’s already grow a lot of corn, and that’s typically what they eat throughout the year…corn meal, corn bread, roasted corn, corn everything! But because the Swazi’s have the highest rate of HIV infections in the world — 42% — they need more nutrition in their diet to help them fight off diseases. So by planting other kinds of vegetables right near their homes, they’ll have a better chance of living a longer life.

(Karis) When we were done with one garden, we’d get back into the van, or we’d take a long walk to the next home. Because we were trying to reach as many homes as possible, the people were told to go and prepare a small piece of land near their home, digging up the ground and putting up a fence to keep animals out. Depending on the number of people in the household, we would give them a different number of these small gardens, each about the size of a door. Even though we weren’t there long, we were glad that we got to spend a our lot of time in Swaziland planting…and planting…and planting.

(Lana) We also spent a lot of time praying. We would pray for every garden when we were finished, and we would pray for anyone who was sick or in need in their homes, like the family whose father and mother and two children who were all HIV positive, or the woman who had been struck by lighting, or the family where a seventeen year old boy had recently died. When we were rained out from planting one day, we went on a prayer-walk in the city of Manzini, sharing about Jesus with people on the street and praying for the sick at a medical clinic.

(Karis) One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend some time with the orphans and other kids at the El Shaddai orphanage and the Moneni Care Point. We got to worship with the kids at the orphanage, and planted a large garden at the care point. We had so much fun making balloon animals for the kids and giving out gifts. We were able to give them dolls and blankets and hats that some friends had donated for our trip.

(Lucas) The people at El Shaddai made a big lunch for everyone. I even tried the chicken heads. They tasted like, uh, chicken. The kids sang a lot of songs for us … and then we sang some songs for them.

(Lana) To everyone who helped out with this trip, through your gifts and prayers, please know that each one of you really did make a difference. The people were so thankful that we had come. They were thankful for the prayers, for the seedlings and most of all for the hope that God still cares for them.

By the end of the trip, it felt like what we were doing for the people of Swaziland was just a drop in the bucket for what they needed. But all of our drops added up.Because of your help, eighty of us were able to plant and distribute over 8,000 gardens; we were able to pray and spend time with hundreds of people along the way; and we were able to be the hands of Christ to people who truly needed a hand.

From all of us, to all of you, thank you.

(Thank You in Siswati) Translation: What she is saying now is thank you very much for giving her seedlings, because she knows that those seedlings belong to her, and now they are coming up alright, she’s going to eat and have a very good meal.

Note: To find out more about future missions trips to Africa, visit Heart for Africa at www.heartforafrica.org.

News From The Ranch – March 2006

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Heading to Africa, New Music, and plans for a new place for spiritual renewal: Clover Ranch.

Eric Elder Family 2004

If you’d like a simple prayer reminder while we’re gone, you can click the picture of our family above and print it out. Tuck it in a book or your Bible or put it up on your fridge and please pray for us especially between March 17th – April 5th.

SPECIAL AFRICAN UPDATE (April 24th)

We’re just back from Africa and have put together a video and slideshow…you can take a look at this link:  Planting Hope In Swaziland

Dear Friends,

We’re just a week away from leaving on our missions trip to Africa!

Thanks to your prayers and support, we’ve reached our fundraising goal so that my wife Lana and I — along with our two oldest children, Karis and Lucas — are all able to go on this trip together.

We’ll be leaving on Friday, March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day here in the U.S.) and will meet over 100 others from around the U.S. in Johannesburg, South Africa. We’ll then travel by bus to Swaziland to plant hundreds of individual vegetable gardens along with the local families in Swaziland.

Thermometer at 100%Over 250 people have donated to our trip to make this possible, and we truly appreciate your help, through your prayers and gifts. They remind me of the Bible verse:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

I appreciate that so many of you are sending your hearts along with us to Africa. We’ll be there for almost 3 weeks, returning on April 5th.

We’d appreciate your continued prayers for the PEOPLE we will be ministering to:

  • that the gardens we plant would give them long life
  • and that the words we speak would give them eternal life.

You can find out more about our trip at the Heart for Africa website (recently renamed from Dream for Africa as the dream is becoming a reality).

I’ve also included some important announcements below about some great new music on The Ranch website, as well as our recent purchase of a farmhouse to convert into a “real” ranch as a place for spiritual renewal. Thanks again for your prayers and support!


“Sweet Dreams” and “Life”

Sweet Dreams, by Marilyn ByrnesI’ve added several collections of new music to The Ranch over the past few months. They range from the soft and luxurious sounds of 100% pure piano performed by Marilyn Byrnes on her new Sweet Dreams CD, to the driving rhythms of a CD called Life from a band in Texas with a heart for missions called Mission TenForty.

Through special arrangement with these artists, you can listen to their entire CD’s anytime for free streamed from The Ranch website. You’ll also find links to their own websites if you’d like to find out more about them or their music.

Sweet Dreams is the perfect music to give you just that: sweet dreams! Songs include classics like “Brahms’ Lullaby” and “Moonlight Sonata, to contemporary versions of movie themes like “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella, “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas and the theme song from Somewhere in Time.

Life features the full-on sound of the Mission TenForty band and the heart-felt lyrics of Aaron Williams in ten new worship songs. The sound of their music alone was enough to catch my interest, but the words drew me in even further. I’ve added these songs to The Ranch website in hopes that they will inspire you in your own personal worship time and also encourage you to reach out to the world with the message of Christ.


Exodus Study Continues

Join us for our new online Bible study, Exodus: Lessons In Freedom, which focuses on how to get free, stay free and set others free.

You can continue to watch as we study through the book of Exodus. We’re currently half-way through this year-long study, having just finished Lesson 25 out of 50.

I also write a short devotional version of this study for those who aren’t able to watch the full half-hour webcast. To receive these weekly devotoinals, make sure you’re signed up for our Webcast Reminders.

To watch the half-hour videos each week, just visit the Exodus study home page.


Clover Ranch

Clover RanchIn answer to many years of praying for a “real” ranch, our ministry has just completed the purchase of the farmhouse where I grew up here in Central Illinois.

Having grown up in the country, I’ve always appreciated the way wide-open spaces can create a sense of rest and renewal. I’d love to share that experience with others.

It’s going to take some time and effort to develop this project, but I wanted to let you know how your prayers are being answered! We’re calling it “Clover Ranch,” because of the abundance of clovers on the property — in particular the number of 4-leaf clovers I’ve sought and found there over the years. My prayer is that others who visit will do some seeking and finding on their own, not of clovers, but of God!

I’ll be sharing more in the coming months about this project and some of the ways you can be involved with it. In the mean time, we’re hoping to have a Prayer/Dedication service on the property on Saturday, May 13th. If you’d like to join us in Chenoa, Illinois for this special time of prayer, let me know and I’ll send you details when they’re ready.


Please Pray With Us

Father,

  • Thank You for providing all the funds needed for our trip to Africa — and for those whose hearts are going with us through their prayers and gifts,
  • Thank You for the talented musicians who have created music to lift our souls and encourage us in our faith,
  • And thank You for working out the details so we could purchase Clover Ranch as a place for spiritual renewal.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would keep our family safe, both at home and on our trip as we travel to Swaziland, and for the people that we will be ministering to, that the gardens we plant would give them a long life and that the words we speak would give them eternal life.
  • We pray that You would help us to convert Clover Ranch into a place that can bring spiritual renewal to those who visit there in the future.
  • And we pray that You would continue to help people find their way to The Ranch website so they can find their way to You.

We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks!

Eric Elder

P.S. You can also request a copy of the “Sweet Dreams” piano CD for a donation of any size to our ministry ($15 suggested). Just visit The Ranch Giftshop.

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.

News From The Ranch – December 2005

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

New Christmas Stories, Africa update, and prayers for a new book about sex.

For a boost in your faith this Christmas, take a look at three of the Christmas Stories I've written for our church's annual "Bethlehem Walk."

For a boost in your faith this Christmas, take a look at three of the Christmas Stories I’ve written for our church’s annual “Bethlehem Walk.”

Dear Friends,

This weekend, Lana and I are going to be two of the storytellers in our church’s “Bethlehem Walk.” For the last few years, I’ve written the story for this event to encourage people in their faith. Since most of you reading this newsletter live too far away to come see it in person, I’ve posted these short Christmas stories on the Internet to encourage you in your faith, too.

This year’s story is called “Always Trust The Storyteller.” You can read it at the link below, along with the stories from previous years. You might even like to tell these stories to your own family or friends sometime during this Christmas season.
Click here to read the Christmas Stories!

Get a wristband!I also wanted to thank you for your prayers and gifts towards our upcoming missions trip to Africa that Lana, Karis, Lucas and I are planning to take next year. (Update: as of Feb 1st, 2006, we’ve had 175 people make donations to the trip totaling just over $14,000, which is 100% towards our goal for this trip! Thanks so much for all who’ve given. Please be in prayer for the people we will be working with in Swaziland. Our trip dates are March 17-April 5, 2006.)

I know that many of you have given sacrificially for us to go.We even had one donor, totally unknown to us, who just “happened” to come across our website on the Internet and wrote us a check for $5,000 towards the trip from an inheritance he had received! Only the hand of God could be directing people to give like they are…in ways that we KNOW He is answering all of our prayers.

Lana gave an excellent talk about our trip to our church’s “Young at Heart” group, sharing her thoughts about the trip and answering some of the questions that she herself has had about it, like, “Why don’t we just send the $14,000 directly to Africa instead of going ourselves?” Her answers are helpful for understanding why God does things the way He does. I thought you’d be interested to read Lana’s thoughts, so I’ve posted the notes from her talk on the website at the link below.
Click here to read Lana’s notes on Africa!

(Although we’ve raised all the funds we need, we still have a few wristbands left if you’d like to order one to remind you to pray for our trip. Any donations given for wristbands will help fund other projects we are undertaking.) For a donation of any size, we’d be glad to send you a reminder wristband that says “God is Here” on it, to remind you that God is always with you, and also to remind you to pray for our trip.
Make a Donation – Get a wristband!

Lastly, I’ve just finished writing a book that I’ve been working on for several years to encourage people to learn and apply to their lives what God says about sex. I’ve just sent it off to a publisher who is considering publishing it. I believe this book will be helpful to many, many people who need encouragement to “do the right thing” in this area. Would you pray with me this month that God would put the manuscript in the right hands so that it could be published and distributed to as many people as possible? I have been praying about this project for many years, and would ask that you please pray with me about it, too. I’ll let you know more about it as it gets closer to publication.

Thanks so much! We really appreciate all of your prayers, gifts, and words of encouragement!

I’d love it if you could pray with me right now.

Father,

  • Thank You for this Christmas time to remember all that You’ve done for us and to be able to give gifts in Your name to those who have touched our lives. Let those who receive our gifts receive Your love along with them.
  • Thank You for moving on people’s hearts to give towards our trip to Africa. It shows Your heart for the people who live there.
  • And thank You for helping me to finish the manuscript for this book project in order to bring Your Word to many more people.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would help us to raise the final funds for our missions trip.
  • That You would put the manuscript for this book into the hands of the people who can take it to the ends of the earth.
  • And that You would help still more people find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Merry Christmas!
Eric Elder

P.S. Remember, if you can make a donation of any size to our ministry, we’ll be glad to send you a reminder wristband! You can make a donation and get a wristband from this link

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.

News From The Ranch – October 2005

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

How can we know when God is speaking to us? Sometimes it’s a matter of connecting the prayers on our heart with the answers when they come.

Dream For Africa

Dear Friends,

I had a dream back in January that’s still on my mind 10 months later. I’m somewhat hesitant to share the dream with you, because I don’t want to look like a fool, and I don’t know how some of you might feel about God speaking through dreams. But as I’ve continued to pray through and see God’s hand at work since this dream, I feel it might be helpful to share as background for why Lana and I, and our two oldest kids, are planning to take a missions trip to Africa next March.

In the dream, someone was there in my bedroom and we were talking. He was standing by the corner of one end of the dresser and I was standing at the other. I was asking him question after question and he was answering me. I didn’t remember meeting him before, but he had a distinct face and build. He was polite and helpful. He was in ministry and answering as if a ministry consultant.

I can’t remember any of the questions I asked except the last two. I asked him, “What do you do when you’ve pursued all the avenues you can think of and still don’t have much money for ministry?” I told him, “Our assets outweigh our liabilities and we’re still in the black after 10 years. But I don’t know what to do next. Do you know anything about that?”

He said, “Yes, I do. Actually, we’re doing OK in that.” Then he looked down and said, “No, we’re not.” He added, “There’s something called ‘charitable giving.’ I have (something) in my garden.” I couldn’t make out what the “something” was, but I saw him walk over to it in his garden. It looked like a footlong thermometer with something green marking the temperature line, like green mercury. He thought for another few seconds and said, “Let me pray about it. I want to ask ‘How can I serve you?’ ”

I started to wake up from the dream and wanted to ask one more question, but kept waking up. So as if reaching back into the dream I shouted back, “What is your name?” I was fully awake now and his face changed to someone I recognized. He said, “My name is Bruce Wilkinson and I’m about to expand your borders.”

That last line made me sit up in bed and I wrote down everything I could remember about the dream, which I’ve just related to you.

I’ve never met Bruce Wilkinson, but he wrote a popular book a few years ago called “The Prayer of Jabez.” Like many others, I read that book and started praying for God to expand my borders, and before I even finished the book I saw a fairly miraculous answer! (You may remember that’s when USA Today contacted me to ask if they could write a feature story about our Internet ministry in their paper) My cousin happened to meet Bruce Wilkinson one day after he spoke at her church and she shared my story with him. Bruce told her to have me post it on his website for others to see, which I did.

Later, Bruce used a brief version of my story in a study guide he wrote called “The Prayer of Jabez Bible Study.” Then in October 2004, I got a letter from his publisher asking for permission to possibly print a longer version of the story in Bruce’s sequel to “The Prayer of Jabez.” They weren’t sure yet if they were going to use it, but said they wanted to send me a complimentary copy of the book when it came out either way when the book came out in February, 2005.

Back to my dream in January, 2005…

Beyond JabezWhen I woke up, I wondered if the upcoming book might be related to how Bruce was going to “expand my borders” (as the dream version of Bruce had told me!) I was excited to think that God might publish my story, and maybe include a mention of The Ranch website in his sequel, called “Beyond Jabez.” That would certainly be one way to quickly expand my borders!

Over the next few weeks, I kept checking the mail for a copy of the book and checking the bookstores in case it came there first, which it did. When I saw it in the bookstore, I quickly skimmed through the pages, looking to see if my story or my website address appeared anywhere. I was bummed for a minute when I got to the end and it wasn’t in there.

The reason I was only bummed for a minute was because even though the address of my website wasn’t there, I saw on the back pages the address of another website. It was the website for Bruce’s new project in Africa:www.dreamforafrica.com. Lana and I had just been talking — the very night before — about wanting to go to Africa to try to help with the overwhelming problems facing that continent, something Lana has wanted to do for several years…but we didn’t know where to start!

When I got home from the bookstore, I looked up the website and found that Bruce was calling for 10,000 volunteers to come to Africa in the next year to — guess what? — plant gardens! “Never Ending Gardens,” Bruce called them, gardens that would become a lasting source of food for hundreds of thousands of people in the years to come. Then I remembered my dream, in which the dream version of Bruce wanted to show me something — in his garden! As I began to read the book more closely, Bruce used one phrase over and over in the book, asking people: “How can I serve you?” — the very same question the dream version of Bruce said he wanted to pray about asking me as well!

Up to that point, Lana had been wondering what she could possibly do to help in Africa. When I told her that Bruce’s trip involved planting gardens for 10 days she said, “I can do that!” Bruce really was about to expand our borders — not by mentioning my website in his book, but by mentioning his!

So Lana and I and the kids have spent the last several months praying about if and when and who should go. The problems in Africa are so immense that we’d like to take as many as we can. Since you have to be 13 or older to go on the trip, that meant we could only take our oldest two kids with us, Karis (14) and Lucas (13), so we decided we could be at least 4 of those 10,000 volunteers.

So last month we finally booked our trip, making the deposit with gifts from several of you who have sent us funds for that purpose. We’re planning to go to Swaziland, a country nestled within South Africa, from March 23 through April 1, 2006.

During our 10 day trip, we’ll be planting small individual gardens alongside local Africans — each of us will be planting an average of 100+ gardens while we’re there. The plants are high in immune-building nutrients to help with the rampant problem of AIDS/HIV that has attacked the immune system of so many there. (I was stunned to find out that the average life expectancy for a man in Swaziland is only 37, and for a woman it’s only 34).

So that’s how God can move people from vivid dreams to practical action! It reminded me of the action-stirring dream the apostle Paul had one night,which Luke describes in the book of Acts:

“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:9-10)

I’ve still never met Bruce Wilkinson and don’t know if I ever will, but I’ve seen the need and heard the call, so I feel I need to respond.

Would you like to get involved, too?

We’re now in the process of raising the rest of the funds for the trip. It costs $3,395 for each of us to go, which includes everything — the starter plants themselves, gardening necessities, food, lodging and travel.

So far we’ve raised $9,054 from 82 people, which is enough for at least 2 of us to go on the trip and about 65% of the goal we need to raise by February 1st, 2006.If you could make a donation of any size to the trip, we’ll be glad to send you a reminder wristband that says “GOD IS HERE” on the front and “theranch.org” on the back — as a way to remind you to pray for our trip, and also as a reminder that God is always with you wherever you go.

You can make a donation to our trip to Africa and order a wristband here:
Make A Donation

You can find out more about Dream For Africa here:
www.heartforafrica.com

P.S. Would you believe I didn’t even catch the connection that it was a “dream” I had about Bruce Wilkinson and gardens in Africa and his organization’s name is called “Dream for Africa” until just this minute when I added their logo graphic to this page? That’s not just odd! That’s GOD!!!


Guy Grimstead’s Piano Music

MeditationThe music at The Ranch continues to be the most popular “draw” that brings people to the website. A woman wrote a few weeks ago:

“I have been here before and didn’t forget the peace that I found…..the music was what drew me and the peace is what brought me back…thanks and God Bless”

I’d like to point out one of the new CD’s added to The Ranch this year. Guy Grimstead’s beautifully rich piano music that has a quality that can make you “melt.” If you haven’t heard it yet, I hope you will soon. When I heard a few 30-second clips on his website, I played them over and over and couldn’t wait to hear the rest. I was thrilled that Guy not only sent me the CD, but allowed me to stream it to you from here at The Ranch.

As you listen, you’ll be able to hear his training in music shine through, but you’ll also hear his unique ability to spontaneously compose a song as he goes along.Would you believe that he created and recorded all of the songs on the CD on the spot? He hadn’t previously written or played any of them before! What a gift! I’m glad he shared it with us and I’m glad we’re able to share it with you. It’s perfect music for meditating, reading, working, or just relaxing and you can listen at The Ranch for free!

Click this link to listen to Guy Grimstead’s CD, “Meditation”:
Listen to the “Meditation” CD


Exodus Devotional

Join us for our new online Bible study, Exodus: Lessons In Freedom, which focuses on how to get free, stay free and set others free.

You can still join us every week for our new online Bible study of the book of Exodus. Watch or read the study at your convenience, then join us for a discussion and prayer time either on the discussion board or in the chat room at The Ranch. There’s no charge to watch or participate in this study.

Here’s a comment from a woman who has been going through the study with us, and even took communion with us in a special service over the Internet:

“I’ve just finished listening to the last Bible study with Eric and shared in the Lord’s Supper with them. I want you all to know that your starting this study was an answer to a plea to God for a Bible study….ou can only go so long without meat. And I was malnourished!!”

And this came just yesterday from a man in Singapore:

“The Ranch is like heaven to me already. I found comfort and solace with Eric’s Bible study on Exodus and others as well. Tears of joy and tears of understanding always comforted me every time I fellowship with You [God] and Eric and the guys in the Bible study room. Many a time I wish I was there with you guys. Guys, God’s presence is with you there, I can feel with my heart rained with joyful tears and comfort beyond words, though I am 1,000’s of miles away here in Singapore.”

You can join us anytime, too, at this link:
Exodus: Lessons In Freedom


CHRISTIANPODDER.COM

Christian PodderEver heard of podcasting? If not, you might take a look at christianpodder.com, which is launching a new website the week of October 24th to feature the teachings, music and inspiration of some of the best known names in Christianity today (and some of the least known, like me!)

It’s a project of LifeWay Christian Resources, a major Christian Publisher of books like Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” and Beth Moore’s online video Bible study, to name just a few.

I’m thrilled to take part in their launch and have uploaded some of my piano music already which is featured on their home page (at least for a few days anyway!) . I plan to upload a special condensed, audio version of the Exodus Bible Study (a less-than 5 minute audio program each week). You can sign up to receive these weekly studies automatically on your computer desktop in MP3 format (an audio file that you can listen to on your computer or put on your iPod music device…hence the name “podcasting.)

Check it out at: christianpodder.com

You can also sign up to get a text version of these short weekly devotionals via email from The Ranch website if you sign up for our Webcast Reminders at this link.


Closing Prayer

I’d love it if you could pray with me right now…and even drop me a note that you did!

Father,

  • Thank You for speaking to us and directing our steps, even through dreams! Thank You that You care about us and about others around the world enough to prompt us to get involved in what You’re doing.
  • Thank You for the talents of people like Guy Grimstead to bring joy and healing through their music.
  • And thank You for Your Word, which is so rich and helpful as we study it.

Father,

  • We now pray that You would equip us all to do Your work, whether it be in Africa or at any other spot on the planet. Raise up the people and the funds to truly make a difference.
  • That You would use these new technologies like “podcasting” to reach even more people with Your Word.
  • And that You would draw people from all parts of the world to find their way to The Ranch so they can find their way to You.

We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thanks!
Eric Elder

P.S. Remember, if you can make a donation of any size to our trip to Africa, we’ll be glad to send you a reminder wristband! You can make a donation and request one from here:
Make A Donation

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.

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.

News From The Ranch – May 2005

The Newsletter of Eric Elder Ministries

Using the Voice of Truth to overcome fear, anxiety and doubt; a new online Bible study of the book of Exodus; a possible ranch retreat, and a missions trip to Africa.

Join us for our new online Bible study, Exodus: Lessons In Freedom, which focuses on how to get free, stay free and set others free.

Join us for our new online Bible study, Exodus: Lessons In Freedom, which focuses on how to get free, stay free and set others free.

Dear Friends,

I got an email last week from a woman struggling with fear, anxiety and doubt. She is normally a strong Christian, someone who regularly encourages others to put their faith in Christ for all things. But a few weeks ago, a situation came up that triggered a huge storm in her heart and mind that has taken more than a week to even begin to calm.

She couldn’t understand why such a little thing, or so it seemed to her, would bother her so much. The sudden rush of fear, anxiety and doubt that came upon her was so strong that she couldn’t shake it off. She was bothered almost as much by the fact that she couldn’t figure out how to shake it off as she was by the triggering event itself. She felt it was silly to be so worked up about it; she knew what she would tell others to do, but she couldn’t seem to hear it when she told herself. For several days she couldn’t sleep or eat. The restlessness was tearing her apart from the inside out.

When she told me and a few others close to her about the intensity of her struggle, she finally started to see some peace return to her. She wrote:

One thing I want to mention while I’m thinking of it is WHEN I get through this (like that positive affirmation?), something that I have come more to know through this is that I AM NOT ALONE, even though Satan tries to make you think you are and your life is unraveling. But it’s something people don’t talk about and are very guarded about. But God put several people directly in my path and with different circumstances but so much similarity to the fear, anxiety, stress, feeling of lots of stuff, and especially the feeling like you can’t possibly share or tell anyone what is happening. Thankfully, I am plugged in to the ministry God designed for you, that even though I felt reluctant at first, probably because of my pride or something, yet I was comfortable enough reaching out to you. That’s why your ministry is so important and vital to a hurting world. I could go on, but you might get the gist of what I’m saying. I’M SUPPOSED TO TELL YOU THAT YOUR MINISTRY IS VITAL VITAL VITAL!

I appreciate her kind words about our ministry, but the bigger point I wanted to draw out of this is that pride often keeps us from getting the help we desperately need. We think we’re all alone in our struggles; we’re afraid to tell anyone, especially anyone who might possibly think less of us because of the struggle. We’re trying to hold it all together, but when we can’t, we’re afraid to tell anyone and risk feeling like even more of a failure. But the quickest way to get back on our feet is often to first get down on our knees. James 4:1 says:

“Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up.”

Chuck Swindoll writes about this in his book, “Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication”:

“Do you know who it is who keeps erecting all those unrealistic standards in your life? Do you know who keeps raising the bar beyond all hope of clearing it? It’s you. You do. And so do I. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t. The psalmist tells us, He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. We think we’re finished because of our failures, but God says, ‘No you’re just getting started. Press on!’ Our problem isn’t that we’ve failed. Our problem is that we haven’t failed enough. We haven’t been brought low enough to learn what God wants us to learn. We’re still trying to redeem Egypt single-handledly.”

The truth is that we still need God, even when we think we’re a strong Christian. We still can’t do anything without Him. And thankfully, He’s still there to help us. We may have to swallow our pride, but it’s OK, because the truth is, God is very much for us; not because He knows how good we are, but because He knows how much we need Him.

We need to stop listening to the lies of Satan and keep filling ourselves up with the “Voice of Truth.” Do you know that song sung by Casting Crowns? My friend Russell Pond, who ministers regularly to people struggling with fear, anxiety and doubt at his website season.org, told me about the background of that song. He said that this was the first song ever written by Mark Hall. It’s original name was “Fear.” Mark is dyslexic and didn’t see how or why God would use him to write or sing music. After Casting Crowns started to become known to the world, Steven Curtis Chapman helped Mark Hall finish the song and changed the name to what it is now, “Voice of Truth.”

I think it’s awesome that a song that started out with the title “Fear” was transformed into the the chart-topper called “Voice of Truth,” once again disproving Satan’s lies, in this case, that Mark would never be able to sing or write music, and once again giving faith to all of us who hear so that we can trust God to do the same in us, too.

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

CHORUS:
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

(from “The Voice of Truth,” by Mark Hall and Steven Curtis Chapman)

Don’t give in to the lies of Satan, keep filling yourself with the Voice of Truth!

If you’d like some encouragement on a regular basis to keep listening to God’s “Voice of Truth,” I hope you’ll check out our new online Bible study at The Ranch, which I describe below, along with some other cool new things we’re planning down the road.


New Online Bible Study

Exodus StudyI’d like to invite you to join me for a free, video-based Bible study here on The Ranch website. It’s called Exodus: Lessons In Freedom and the purpose is to help you to get free, stay free and set others free.

The beauty of this study is that you can be involved in this study as much or as little as you’d like. Every Friday morning, I’ll be posting a new, half-hour video on The Ranch website that you can watch anytime on your own, or just read the transcript if you don’t have the time or capability to watch the video. Then, if you’d like to go deeper and interact with me or others around the world who are also doing the study, you can join us on the Discussion Board at The Ranch, or join us for one of our live chats during the week. I’m leading a live discussion group for men on Sunday nights from 7-8:30 pm Central Time, Greg Potzer (creator of “This Day’s Thought” at thisdaysthought.org) will be leading a co-ed discussion group on Wednesday mornings from 7-8:30 am Central Time, and Dwan Avent (a ministry volunteer for The Ranch) will be leading a women’s discussion group on Saturday mornings from 9-10:30 am Central Time.

The study itself grew out of my own personal quiet time with the Lord during the 40-day fast I undertook to pray about the next steps for my own ministry. During this extended time of prayer and fasting, I was reading the book of Exodus, trying to learn from God’s interaction with Moses how He was able to free hundreds of thousands of people. Every day, God put a lesson on my heart that I could apply to my own situation. As I’ve put those lessons into practice over the past year, I’ve found that they worked for me just like they worked for Moses almost 3,000 years ago! God seems to have all the best ideas!

I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned, as I believe these truths apply to anyone who wants to learn how to get free, stay free and set others free. Each half-hour video contains a practical lesson from God’s Word, a time of worship, and a time of intimate discussions with others. I think you’ll find it a fun time of study, fellowship and worship.

Like everything else on The Ranch website, there is no charge to you to watch the lessons or take part in the discussions. Each lesson stands on its own, so you don’t have to watch every lesson to get something out of it (although I’d love for you to join us for the entire series).

You can watch the first lesson this week, which tells how we get into bondage in the first place, then hopefully you’ll join us for the rest! The live discussion groups start the week of May 15th, but feel free to drop in anytime. You can take a look at the first lesson here.

Hope you’ll join us for this cool new study!


A Ranch Retreat?

TrailsWould you be interested in coming to a Ranch Retreat this fall? We’re checking on the details of this possibility now, and it would be great to have your input before we get too far along. Mainly, we’d like to know if you, or maybe your family would like to come for a weekend getaway here in Illinois this coming September/October 2005. The fall leaves should be beautiful that time of year, and the weather should be great for hiking during the day and bonfires at night.

We’re thinking of reserving several rooms or cabins at a retreat setting for a Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning event. There would be time to hear encouraging messages from myself and other speakers, time for worshipping together with some inspiring worship leaders, and plenty of free time to take a walk, hear from God or interact with others.

I’d love to make this happen, but first I need to know if anyone would actually come! If you’re interested, would you mind sending me an email to let me know? Thanks!


Missions Trip to Africa

Map of AfricaLastly, I’d like to ask you if you could help us out.I’ve been praying for several years that God would raise up a missions opportunity for my family and our ministry to practically help others around the world, and Lana has had a lifelong dream of doing something to help with orphans in Africa.

I believe our opportunity has come. Lana and I, along with our two oldest children, Karis and Lucas, are planning to take a short-term missions trip to Africa sometime within the next year. We’re planning to go with a new organization called Dream For Africa, headed by Bruce Wilkinson (author of “The Prayer of Jabez,” among other things). Our trip would involve going with a team of people to help plant individual gardens for families and orphans throughout South Africa. They are trying to recruit 10,000 volunteers to help plant hundreds of thousands of these “Never Ending Gardens” in various African countries.

We would like to be at least 4 of those 10,000 volunteers. I’ll be talking more about this in the future (maybe it’s a trip you’d even consider taking with us?), but for now, we’d like to begin raising our funds to go. Would you consider making a special donation towards this trip for us? Initially, we need to make a $100 deposit for each of us in order to get the ball rolling. Would you like to help us make that first deposit for one, two, three or all four of us? Eventually we’ll need to raise $3,000 each for this trip. In some ways, that is a huge amount of money, but in other ways, I feel it is just the beginning of what God wants to do, and is doing, to mobilize people to help with this epidemic. The sooner we raise the money, the sooner we’ll be able to go, but our current target is to raise the funds in time for a trip scheduled for March of 2006.

If you’d like to help us with our initial deposit of $100 each, or give towards our total goal, you can see how to make a donation on our website.

Please specify that your donation is for us to go on our Africa trip. For more information about Dream for Africa (now Heart for Africa) and their trips, visit:

http://heartforafrica.org


Closing Prayer

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

Father,

  • Thank You for being for us, and for speaking into our lives with Your Voice of Truth,
  • Thank You for those who have helped us to create the new Exodus study to encourage people in their faith on a weekly basis,
  • And thank You for opportunities to serve You and make a difference in the world.

Father,

  • We ask that You would draw many to take part in our new online study of the book of Exodus, to help them join the study so they can get free, stay free and set others free.
  • That You would guide us as we plan for a possible fall retreat and a missions trip to Africa,
  • 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.

Thanks for your prayers!

Sincerely,
Eric Elder

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.

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