If you know God loves you, but don’t feel it in your heart, then this is a message for you.
Many people write to me asking for help to be free from a sin that has plagued them for a long, long time. Although they want to be free from sin, they feel defeated. They’re worn out from the fight. They’re about ready to give up hope of ever changing. If you feel the same way, I hope this message will give you new hope. Not only that, but I pray it will help you to break free from the sins that plague you as well. (Recorded March 29, 2002)
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Hi this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.
Many people write to me asking for help to be free from a sin that has plagued them for a long, long time. Although they want to be free from sin, they feel defeated. They’re worn out from the fight. They’re about ready to give up hope of ever changing. If you feel the same way, I hope this message will give you new hope. Not only that, but I pray it will help you to break free from the sins that plague you as well.
Would you believe that God wants you to be free from sin even more than you want to be free from it? You see, sin damages our relationship with God. And there’s nothing more important to God than His relationship with You. That’s why He created you. So God has gone to extreme lengths to help us live sin-free lives. And even when we do sin, God has gone to even greater lengths to restore our relationships with Him.
I want to give you three steps to help you restore your relationship with God. You can actually take these steps in a matter of minutes, but many people are reluctant to take them for a variety of reasons.
One of the reasons people are reluctant to take these steps is because sin is fun (at least initially) or else we never would have sinned in the first place. But Jesus didn’t come to take away your fun. He came to take away your sin. And when you’re free from sin, that’s when you’ll begin to experience true happiness, true joy, true peace, and true fun.
If you’ve been holding back from dealing with a sin in your life, I want to encourage you to deal with it today, right now, in our time together. Don’t put it off any longer. God can’t wait to spend every day with you for the rest of your life. He’s already sent you an invitation. Now He’s just waiting for you to respond.
Before we go on, I want you to read a passage from the Bible. I’ve printed the text on your screen below this video so that you can read it on your own, while I play the piano. As you read, pay close attention to what Jesus tells the woman at the end of the story. I believe Jesus wants to speak those same words to you.
Scripture and Music (“You are My All in All” written by Dennis Jernigan)
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)
1) Look at sin the way God looks at it
One of the things I love about that story is that Jesus wouldn’t have told the woman to “go and sin no more” if it weren’t possible. But it IS possible. So Jesus told her to do it.
In another story in John chapter 5, verse 14, Jesus healed a paralyzed man. Then Jesus told the man,
“Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you.”
It IS possible to “stop sinning.” It IS possible to “go and sin no more.” If it weren’t, Jesus wouldn’t have told us to do it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. That doesn’t mean we may not have issues to work through. That doesn’t mean we won’t have to work hard to break bad patterns of thinking and acting. But it IS possible.
I’m sure the woman caught in adultery had some things to work through, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she left her life of sin THAT VERY DAY. There’s something about staring death in the face, a death that we rightfully deserve and could have prevented, that makes us think twice about doing the same thing again.
I have a friend whose family had a history of heart disease. He went in for a checkup and the doctor told him: “If you don’t change the way you eat and start exercising you will die.” Since that day he’s changed the way he eats and he exercises.
Sometimes I think we don’t take our sin seriously because we haven’t thought deeply about the consequences or our choices. We don’t think they are as serious as God says they are.
So the first step is just to look at sin the way God looks at it. If you don’t know how God looks at your particular sin, I encourage you to look it up in your Bible. Look closely and see what the consequences will be. And if God tells you what the penalty will be for your sin, BELIEVE HIM!
So step one is to look at sin the way God looks at it and realize that you do have a choice. You really can “go and sin no more.” And God will be glad to help you if you’ll let him, which brings us to step two.
2) Look for the way of escape
God has provided us a way of escape from EVERY moment of temptation. EVERY ONE. Listen to what Paul says in the book of First Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV)
The King James Version says it this way: when you are tempted, God “will make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it.”
Wow, what love God has for us! God is so interested in keeping our relationship with Him in tact that He will ALWAYS provide a way of escape from EVERY tempting situation. ALWAYS.
I used to love to play a computer game called “Dark Castle.” You may not like computer games, but this one was great! You were trapped in a castle and you had to find your way out. Every room had a new challenge. But every room also had a way to overcome the challenge in it. In one room, you’d find a bag of rocks to throw and protect yourself as you ran through. In another room, you’d find a secret switch that opened a secret door. In another room, you’d find a new way to jump over obstacles in your way.
Even though each room had its own challenge, each room also had its own way of escape. The key to the game was to find the way of escape that had already been provided for you.
I can’t count how many times I died in the process of looking for the way out. But I kept coming back again and again, hour after hour for more. Why? Because I KNEW there was a way out, and I wanted to find it. I KNEW there was a way of escape, and I wanted to discover it. I KNEW that this wouldn’t be one of the best-selling computer games if the programmers forgot to provide a way out of one of the rooms. No one would buy a game if there was a chance you’d get stuck at one level with no chance of going further. The reason I continued to come back is because I KNEW that victory was possible and I wanted it.
Now sin is no game, but God HAS promised us that He will always provide a way out when we’re tempted.
But sometimes we want to give up. Sometimes we think we’re stuck in our sins forever, with no hope of ever getting out. Sometimes we think since we’ve failed before we’ll never win.
The Designer of your life has provided a way out of every temptation. Every challenge you face is accompanied by a way to overcome that challenge.
The Bible says:
“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, a way of escape, so that you will be able to stand up under it.”
If you’re asking “Is there really a way out?”, you’re asking the wrong question. You’ll be frustrated and give up the first time you hit a wall. But if you’re asking, “God, what’s the way out? Please show it to me,” then you’re asking the right question.
These are two very different questions. One WONDERS if there’s hope, the other KNOWS there’s hope, it’s just a matter of finding it. I want to assure you THERE IS HOPE. THERE IS a way out. THERE IS a way of escape. And God puts that way of escape at every single point of temptation we face. EVERY SINGLE ONE. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But unlike the computer game I described earlier, God’s way of escape isn’t hidden at all. It’s usually very clear. The way of escape is usually straight ahead of us. Fix your eyes on Jesus and don’t turn back. Don’t turn to the side. Keep going straight towards Him. The Bible says:
“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)
God wants you to overcome your sin and He will help you do it. Whenever you are tempted, look for the way of escape. But God doesn’t stop there. He loves you so much and cares so much about His relationship with you, He even goes further. Here’s step number three:
3) Look for the way back
Even if we fail to choose the way of escape, God still provides a way for us to come back! It’s called CONFESSION. When we give in to temptation, God says that he will still forgive us of our sins if we’re willing to confess them.
First John chapter 1, verse 9 says:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession means “to agree with.” When we confess to God, we’re telling Him that we finally agree with Him. We agree that what we’ve done has hurt us and it’s hurt our relationship with Him.
You might “stew” over your sins. You might feel sorry about your sins. You might agree that your sins have caused damage. But until you confess your sins, agreeing with God that what you’ve done was wrong, you will never get out.
True confession sounds like this: “God, you’re right, I was wrong. What I did was against your will, and it hurt my relationship with you. It hurt my relationship with others.” At this point, you’re confessing your sins. You’re bringing your them to God in a way that you agree with Him about what you’ve done. You wish you had never done it. You wish you could take it back.
But you can’t take it back. You can’t undo the past. When you sin, you have forever violated the purity and holiness that God intended for you, and there’s nothing you can do about it, except for one thing.
Now if that were the end of it, I’d say, “Give up, go home, shut off the computer, and stop playing the game. Give up on life because there’s no reason to go on. If breaking one rule is enough to damn us eternally to hell, and it is, then why carry on?”
But that’s not the end of it. God LOVES US TOO MUCH to not allow us to come back. The thing He cares about most is His relationship with you. So what good would it do to kill the very person He wants a relationship with in the first place? How does God solve this dilemma?
He solved it by sending Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins, taking the penalty upon himself that we rightly deserved, so that we could be free and come back to Him again.
When you put your faith in Christ, believing that He died for you, confessing your sins and turning away from them, God promises He will forgive you. And instantly your relationship with God will be restored. INSTANTLY!
If you don’t put your faith in Christ, you will have to pay the penalty yourself. Some people think that’s unfair. But it’s not unfair. Christ didn’t come to condemn you. He came to save you. What you’ve done, the sins you’ve committed, are enough to condemn you for eternity. But Christ offers you eternal life instead, if you’ll just turn from your sins and put your trust in Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18, NIV)
If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, I encourage you to do it today, right now, and I’ll prayer with you in a minute to help you come to God and restore your relationship with Him.
But for those of you who have already put your faith in Christ, but continue to fall into sin again and again, I want to give you these words of hope: the same forgiveness and restoration that was available to you when you were first saved is still available to you today. The same process that gave you eternal life will restore your relationship with God right now.
You may already have certainty of your eternal life because you trust in Christ for your salvation. But you can also be free from the sin that is plaguing you. And that freedom comes through confession.
Confess your sins to God right now, and I want to encourage you to do something else: confess your sins to someone else here on this earth. When you bring your sin into the light, it deals a DEATH BLOW to that sin in your life. Satan works in darkness, so as long as you keep your sin in the dark, that sin will have power over you.
I cannot count the number of people who have written to me and said they’ve prayed for years to be free from a certain sin and can’t break it. But when I encourage them to confess their sins to someone else, whether it’s me, or their spouse, or the person they’ve hurt, they experience a whole new level of freedom, if not total freedom, almost immediately. And by confessing to those they’ve hurt, they not only restore their relationship with God, but they restore their relationship with the person they’ve hurt as well. James 5:16 says
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
Confession and prayer really will bring the healing you’ve wanted for so long.
Returning to God
ear friend, God loves you, and He doesn’t want anything to stand between you and Him. He wants a terrific relationship with you. But it’s up to you to return to Him. Here are the three steps again:
1) Look at sin the way God looks at it. You really do have a choice. You can choose sin, or you can choose life.
2) Look for the way of escape. God provides a way of escape at EVERY point of temptation.
3) Look for the way back. Confessing your sin and putting your faith in Christ is the only way that I’ve found in the Bible that God promises will bring us back into a right relationship with Him.
I want to give you a chance right now to get right with God, to restore your relationship with Him. You can do it in a matter of minutes. When you do, you’ll unload a bundle of guilt and shame. And you’ll replace it with the incredible lightness of peace that surpasses understanding.
As I play the piano, take a few minutes to pray on your own. Think about what you want to say to God. Then I’ll join you and help lead you in a prayer together.
Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery: GO AND SIN NO MORE. He wouldn’t have said it if it weren’t possible.
Music (“I’m Forever Grateful,” written by Mark Altrogge)
Father, I pray for those who need to find a way of escape right now. If they’re involved in something too deep for them, I pray you would show them the way of escape. Show them the way out, then help them take it. Show them that You are answering their prayers, let them see you clearly, and show them how to walk out of their situation. Father, for those who are considering going down the path of temptation, show them that the way of escape is straight ahead. Help them fix their eyes on You, focus on You.
Father, for those who have fallen into sin and don’t see a way out. Show them that you have provided the way out. Help them to not take it for granted, but to take hold of it so You can help them out of their pit. Father, help them see that confession to You, and confession to others, will bring healing, and will deal a death blow to their sin. Father, I ask that they would pray with me right now, asking you to forgive them of their sins:
Pray in your heart with me:
Father, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that have hurt my relationship with You. I love you, and want to restore my relationship with You. Father, I agree with You that the mistakes I have made are not just mistakes, but they are sin, they have broken Your law, they have gone against what You want for me, and I’m sorry.
Father, I know I don’t deserve to be forgiven, but I realize that You sent Your Son Jesus into this world specifically so that I could be forgiven if I would just believe in Him. Father, I confess my sins to You now, and I confess my love for Jesus to You now. I do believe in Him. I believe He died for me on the cross so that I could be free from sin, and so I could restore my relationship with You. Father, thank You for forgiving me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit to will help me do the things I want to do and that You want me to do. Fill me from head to toe until I overflow so that I may live the life Jesus wants me to live, and so Jesus can live through me and reach out to others as well. Father, I thank You for this new life You’re giving me, and I thank You that You love me so much that You went to such lengths to restore my relationship with you. I love You, Lord, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with You, here on earth, and in heaven forever. I pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN!!
Remember, Jesus didn’t come to take away your fun, he came to take away your sin. He’s got plenty of fun for you in this life. But fun is only truly fun when you engage in it in His way, in His timing. Don’t miss a day of spending time with God from now on. Read your Bible every day. Talk to God in prayer every day and let Him talk to you. Find some other Christians that you can spend time with to encourage each other in your faith until Jesus returns.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you and I hope you’ll join me here again at The Ranch.
Have you ever considered using the Internet to help others? In this broadcast, I’ll give you several examples of how God has been working on the Internet. I specifically want to encourage YOU to think about ways you might help bring the love of Christ to others as well. I hope you’ll join me, not only for this broadcast, but also in loving your neighbor…over the Internet. (Recorded March 15, 2002)
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Read The Transcript
Hi, this is Eric Elder and welcome to The Ranch.
I talked with a pastor Friday night who shared with me that he didn’t like the idea of an “Internet Ministry.” That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that he told me this five minutes before we were supposed to go on the air on a local radio station for him to interview me on, well, my Internet Ministry! They had another guest scheduled, but when that fell through they called me in to do the show. So neither of us were exactly sure what we were getting into.
But during the hour-long conversation, he was able to share his concerns and I was able to share what God has done through our own ministry. By the end of the program, he was eager to get his own church on the Internet and wanted to order a copy of the class that I’ve just developed for that purpose called “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry.”
I felt that it would be helpful to share with you some of the thoughts I shared with him about how God is using the Internet to help reach out to people all over the world. Ultimately, I’d like to encourage you to consider if God might want to use you to reach out to others as well. Even though we currently have several thousand visitors a month here at The Ranch, it hardly touches the millions of people who are searching for answers to life’s questions. So one of my desires is to help flood the Internet with the Words of God as found in the Bible, and how those words have touched real-life people like me, and like you.
Since you’re watching this on the Internet, I probably don’t need to convince you of God’s ability to use the Internet to help others. But I do want to spark your thinking about ways you might use the Internet to reach others as well. In the examples I’m about to give you, I think you’ll be encouraged to know that God can use you, regardless of what you’ve been through or what you might be going through right now, and you’ll be a blessing to others.
Before we go on, I’d like to give you a minute to pray and ask God to speak to your heart during our time together. I’ve put a verse in the text of this message below that I’d like you to read from Matthew, chapter 5, verses 14 through 16. I hope you’ll consider that verse carefully right now as you pray, then we’ll continue with the message.
(Music: “I Just Want to Praise You” written by Arthur Tannous)
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Can God really use the Internet?
One of the reasons the pastor who interviewed me was skeptical of doing ministry over the Internet was because it wasn’t a “face-to-face” ministry. Although I love face-to-face ministry, my life has been forever changed from reading the writings of men who lived over 2000 years ago. God has spoken volumes to me through the writings of people like Paul, and John, and Moses, and a host of others whom I’ve never seen and won’t ever see until we meet them in heaven. I believe this is because distance and time are immaterial to God. He says clearly that He will never send out His Word without accomplishing the work He sent it to do.
Isaiah chapter 55, verses 10 and 11 say:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
God is not limited to speaking through people thousands of years ago either. He still speaks through people today, and He even does it over the Internet. Here are a few examples.
When I first published my testimony on the Internet in December of 1995, I remember clearly the first email that came to me as a result. It was from a man in Athens, Greece. I was astounded. He needed prayer for a situation in his life, but didn’t have a local church at the time. We were able to pray through his situation and we still keep in touch years later. He was the first of many, many people who have written us searching for God’s help in their lives, but didn’t know where to turn next.
Another email came from a man in Egypt who was being threatened with his life. He had become a Christian but the pastor who lead him to the Lord had since been killed. This man was told that he had thirty days to leave the country or he too would be killed. He wrote to me, not asking for money, not asking for a visa to leave the country, but to ask for prayer as he had no one there to pray with him. We prayed and shared many tears via emails over the next thirty days. After that, I never heard from him again. I wish I could tell you what happened to him, but I do know this: he was able to pray with another Christian when he was at the point of his deepest need.
We’ve since had so many people write in to our website that we’ve enlisted 20 volunteers from around the world to help us correspond with and encourage them in their faith.
Just last summer, a man from Latvia watched one of these broadcasts recorded right here in this living room by a friend of mine, Bill Allison. After watching the broadcast, this man said he wept for an hour as he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ. He went to his local church and was baptized, a church where his brother happened to be the pastor. Although he had a local church nearby and even relatives in the ministry, God used an Internet broadcast from half-way around the world to help him to make his final decision to surrender completely to Christ. He now runs the website for his church, which has been responsible for drawing others into the church and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
What about you?
Are there things God has put on your heart that you would like to share with others, (or that God is prompting you to share with others even if you haven’t agreed yet to do it yet?) If so, I want to encourage you to use the Internet to reach out to those around you, whether in your own country or half-way around the world.
You can start as simply as sending you testimony to us here at The Ranch and let us share it with our visitors. Or you can send me a note if you’d like to be one of our volunteers to help us answer one or two emails each month. Or maybe you’d be available to talk to people in a chat room about their questions about their faith.
If you’d like to start something on your own, maybe you’d like to start with a simple mailing list to people who share a common interest with you, or struggle, like my friend did who shares a mailing list with others who struggle with panic attacks. He writes 7-10 paragraphs each week, including a scripture and a prayer. He started sending it to a few people and over the years, the list has just continued to grow. He now has several thousand people who receive his weekly emails…some are Christians, some are Hindus, Buddhists and some are Atheists.
But each week they receive a scripture from the Bible, a prayer and a word of encouragement to help them through their situation. And whenever my friend shares a gospel message on the list, several people respond saying they have put their faith in Christ as a result. And this is from a man who is a gifted writer, but would be nervous if he had to share the gospel face-to-face. But when he shares on the Internet, he sees incredible results. He now has a book he’s about to publish from all of his writings over the years. If you want to visit his website, it’s called http://www.season.org. My encouragement to you is to start small, but be ready to watch God use you in a big way.
Or maybe you want to create your own website for your ministry. You see the potential of the Internet and are willing to let God use you, but you don’t know where to start. If that’s the case, I’ve put together a class to show others step-by-step how to create their own website for their ministry. I taught this three-hour class at a Sunday School convention here in Illinois. It went over so well that I put the full text of the class on CD-ROM to make it available to others who would like make a website step-by-step. You can find out more about the class at http://www.ericelder.com/training.
These are just a few of the many ways that God might want to use you to reach out to others over the Internet. The nice thing is that you don’t have to start big to have an impact. The main thing is to just start.
I remember an article I read a few years ago about the importance of exercise. I’ve never made exercise a priority in my life, but when I read this article, it freed me to realize that I don’t have to start a big exercise program to see results. Whether it’s taking a walk, or swimming a few laps, or playing a sport from time to time, the important thing is to just start. So I started swimming at the local YMCA and I try to do it twice a week. It’s not a rigorous training schedule, but it was enough to get me started and begin to see some results.
What’s the future of ministry over the Internet?
After doing this type of ministry for many years now, I’m fully convinced of it’s value. But I was surprised last summer to see two leaders of two of the most influential churches in the world coming to similar conclusions about the Internet.
Listen to these words from a conversation between David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of one of the largest churches in America. David Yonggi Cho said:
“We couldn’t handle the situation without computers. We computerized everything in the church – every facet! We also make use of the Internet. Right now we are offering an Internet church where people participate in services through the Internet. I want to take people to the Internet.
“Korea is very small – not like in America with a lot of space, so we can’t enlarge our church buildings. Besides, every year we have 20,000 new converts in our churches, and we can’t put them all in our church building or even our branch churches. So now we have an Internet church and many of the young generation participate in the services at home. They send in their offerings on the Internet. They can do on-line giving…And they also give us feedback about sermons and services. It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings. It is silly to spend more money on (branch church) buildings! You’ll never have enough.
“I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings.”
Rick Warren replied to this by saying:
“Well, no matter how much land you have it eventually fills up. We have 120 acres and in the first 20 years my goal was to bring them in to our campus. But now, in the next 20 years, our goal is to Decentralize — to send them out.”
Then Warren added:
“Just think of that money and how you could be using it for missions!”
(You can read the full interview of this interesting interview at: http://www.pastors.com/pcom/specials/ChoInterview.asp)
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1452, he had a vision for how the technology could be used to spread the gospel. The first book he printed was the Bible. Listen to what he said about this invention…this was over 500 years ago:
“Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow, in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men! Through it, God will spread His word. A spring of pure truth shall flow from it; like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”
“God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His holy word cannot reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books, which confine instead of spreading the public treasure. Let us break the seal which seals up holy things, and give wings to truth, in order that she may go and win every soul that comes into this world, by her word, no longer written at great expense by a hand easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.”
(from Alphonse De Lamartine, Memories of Celebrated Characters, Vol. 2, 2nd ed. (London: Richard Bentley, 1854), 323, 324.)
Gutenberg not only had the vision, but he was RIGHT! The Bible was not only the first book published, but continues to be the most published book in the world, year after year, over 500 years later!
Just like the printing press, the Internet offers a similar leap in technology to “give wings to truth.” I hope you’ll get over any hurdles you feel you may have in your own situation and get started sharing God’s truth on the Internet. You don’t have to start big to make a big difference. You just have to start.
Before we conclude, I want to give you a few minutes to pray and ask God what He might want you to do. As I play the piano and you pray, remember the final words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven. These are from Mark chapter 16, verses 15 and 16:
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”
Take a few minutes to pray and then I’ll conclude with a prayer together.
Prayer (Music “Go Into All the World” by Eric Elder)
Lord, I pray that you would use this message to spark the hearts of those you’ve called to reach out to others over the Internet. Give them your wisdom where to go next, and how to get to where you want them to go. Lord, if there’s anyone watching or reading this who has never experienced your life-giving, life-saving power, I pray they would put their trust in Jesus Christ today, asking Him right now to forgive them of their sins. Help them, Lord, to turn away from the things that are killing them, so they can experience Your abundant life, both here on earth and in heaven with You forever. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Well, the pastor who skeptical at the beginning of our interview was convinced by the end of it that God could use him to reach out over the Internet as well. If you want to be a part of what God’s doing, let us know how we can help. Whether you want to send us your testimony for use on The Ranch, be a volunteer to help answer emails, or you want to request our CD-ROM on “How to Create a Website for Your Ministry,” just let me know. You can write to me or visit http://www.ericelder.com/training for more information about the class.
God IS using the Internet. Will you let him use you?
Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.
Do you ever wish you could get away from everything for awhile? Head off to the mountains or a beach or a beautiful resort? There’s actually a place you can go that’s even better than those places – and you can go there as often as you want. That place is in the presence of God. I hope you’ll listen as my wife, Lana, describes how she enters God’s presence by going to her “prayer closet.” We hope it will encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend time with God, too. (Recorded February 15, 2002)
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Hi this is Lana Elder and welcome to The Ranch.
It’s not easy to find a quiet place in our house with five small children. But I’m always encouraged when I think of Susanna Wesley who had 19 children. When she needed time with God she would sit in a chair and throw her apron over her head. Her children knew not to disturb her during her prayer time.
We’re told that she seldom spent less than an hour each day in prayer. Her sons John and Charles Wesley founded the Methodist church and wrote many of the hymns that are sung throughout the world. John, her fifteenth child, said this about his mother:
“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.”
What an encouragement to any of us who think we are too busy to find time to pray!
I don’t know if it would work for me to put an apron over my head First of all, I don’t have an apron. Even if I did, my youngest would think I was playing a game of peek-a-boo. But I do believe each of us should have a special place where we can go and meet with God.
In our time today I’d like to encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend time with God uninterrupted from the distractions of this world.
Let’s just pause for a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, I pray that you would use this time and this message to speak to us about different ways we can spend time with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Place to Meet with God
One of the best things about God is that He is always with us…wherever we are. So you can meet with God anywhere – in a closet, in your room, or in a special chair.
Let’s take a look at a few of the places where people in the Bible met regularly with God.
The book of Daniel records in Daniel chapter 6, verse 10:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Moses made it a habit of meeting with God, too. In Exodus chapter 33, verse 7, it says:
Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
Both of these Godly men made it a habit to pray daily to God and they both had a special place where they felt most comfortable meeting with God. Daniel’s place was his room. For Moses, it was a tent.
You may have a special place where you sense God’s presence. It may be a beautiful park or a quiet spot along a creek. The beauty of His creation is an easy place to recognize the reality of God and feel His presence. Usually though, we are so desperate for God that we don’t have the time or the money to go to those places. Or maybe the weather keeps you from taking that walk with God that you wish you could take. For me, I need Him everyday! So I need to have a place where I can go and meet with Him daily.
Jesus set an example for us as he often retreated to a solitary place to pray. The first chapter in the Gospel of Mark tells us that just after he called the first disciples and healed many people He got up very early in the morning and went to a solitary place to pray.
Mark chapter 1, verses 35 says:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Matthew chapter 14, verse 23 records another example just after Jesus fed 5,000 people and dismissed the crowd:
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
Now I know that if the Son of God himself needed to spend time with His Father in a solitary place, I do too.
Not only did Jesus make it a habit to pray in a solitary place, but He also taught us in His Sermon on the Mount of Olives that praying in private is a good habit for us as well. He says in Matthew chapter 6, verse 6:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Wow! Jesus even tells us to go into our room, close the door and pray to God. For me, I used to just go into my bedroom and sit either on the bed or in the chair at my husband’s desk. But, being easily distracted, I would see that the bed needs to be made. Then I would decide to check my email or I’d notice a toy wedged between the dresser and the wall. Of course, I’d have to retrieve the toy, which would lead to another discovery….large dust balls behind the dresser. I would then be totally off track and would have wasted precious time that I was supposed to be with God in prayer or worship!
The Prayer Closet
That’s when I decided to try praying in my closet.
I remember one time hearing someone talk about going to their prayer closet. When I first heard them talk about it, I wasn’t sure if they were really talking about going into a closet to pray or if they were just saying that as a figure of speech. Most of the time we hear people talking about bringing something out of the closet, like a hidden sin, but not going into a closet. But I was desperate for a quiet place where I could focus on God, so I decided to try it for myself. I’ve found it to be immeasurably helpful in the time I spend with God.
My prayer closet really is just a closet! We homeschool our kids and my husband works at home, so there’s not much extra space in the house. So first, I had to clean out a section of a closet. It would probably be helpful to know that the closet in our bedroom is 6 1/2 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide. Less than a third of the closet is where my husband puts his clothes. Another third is where we store office supplies for the ministry. I moved my clothes out of the last third of the closet into a hallway closet. This last third is what I have made into my prayer closet. The area where I sit on the floor and pray is little square about 2 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet.
It has plain beige walls and we put a few blankets on the ground for comfort. I have also stored a box of tissues in there, along with a paper and a pencil to write down what God is speaking to me. Each day I bring in my Bible and my devotional. When I want to worship, I also bring in a CD Walkman and a worship CD.
My goal is to make the place I meet with God free from distractions and as comfortable as possible so I can focus on Him.
Now, based on my own personal experience, I don’t recommend you store chocolates in your prayer closet. I was hiding a bag of Nestle Carmel Treasures from my kids and I ate six of them while working on this message for you. It could end up being a distraction as well as a health hazard.
The only difficulty of my closet is that it’s hard to get out. Not only is it physically hard to stand up in such a small area. But I also don’t want to leave the presence of my Father. I could spend a long time worshipping and praying and just sitting in His presence.
I was telling Eric the other day that one of my favorite times of the week is on Sunday mornings during worship. I love being totally focused on worshipping Him! At home in my prayer closet, I can do the same thing. I love to listen to worship CD’s. When I’m in my closet and put my favorite CD in my Walkman, I’m there – in His presence – worshipping Him. (Right now, two of my favorite worship CD’s are Kim Hill’s Live CD called For Such a Time as This and Michael W. Smith’s CD called Worship.)
Probably my favorite aspect of being in my closet is the freedom I feel to just be myself. I have the freedom to raise my hands and dance (although it’s a small closet). I can cry when I’m overcome with my own sinfulness or I can cry out of complete gratitude for all He’s done for me, without embarrassment that my nose is running and I look like a mess. (That is why I have a box of tissues nearby.) I’m totally free – I have total freedom to make a fool of myself.
I have also noticed that when I pray silently to God my thoughts can be easily distracted. But when I pray out loud, my thoughts and prayers stay more focused. So in my closet, I can pray out loud and not worry about anyone hearing me. The clothes and walls muffle the sound! My prayer is that someday I’ll be as bold outside my closet as I am inside it during my worship and prayer time.
It has been such a blessing in my prayer and quiet time to have a place to go to. I come out of the closet and I feel great! I feel refreshed and ready to take on the responsibilities of my day. Your prayer closet can be a great place to really feel connected to God, free from distractions and free to be the child of His that you are.
Jesus Makes it Possible
Of course, the reason any of us can come to God in prayer is because Jesus has made a way for us. Because of our sins, we are separated from God. But when Jesus died on the cross, He offered us the chance to be forgiven of our sins by putting our faith in Him. If you’ve never trusted in Christ for your eternal salvation, I pray you would do that right now. All you need to do is admit that you have sinned, believe that Jesus died for your sins and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
If you’ve already put your faith in Christ, but you’d like a stronger relationship with Him, I’d like to encourage you to find a place where you can go and spend some time with Him. After trying it for a few days, I hope you’ll find yourself running to your prayer closet each day like I do, wanting to spend more time with your Daddy! He loves you. He created you. And He’ll love it as much as you do.
I’d like to close with a word of prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to let others know what a difference it has made in my life to have that special meeting place with you. I pray that everyone who hears this message would also find a place where they can go and meet with You, whether it’s a closet, a tent, a bathroom or a special chair. Help them to meet with you each day.
And I want to pray for those of you who would like to make Jesus the Lord of your life. If that is you, would you just repeat after me.
Lord, I admit that I am a sinner and that you died as the sacrifice for my sins. I believe you are the Lord and want to make you the Lord of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join us again here at the Ranch.
Even though our tombstone will mark the date of our birth and the date of our death, with a dash in between, that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Your life is more than just a dash. You were alive long before you took your first breath. And, if you believe in Christ, you will live long after you take your last. Join me for a new perspective on just how precious you are to God. (Recorded January 26, 2002)
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Hi this is Eric Elder and Welcome to The Ranch.
You are precious to God.
You aren’t here by accident. You aren’t here just because your Mother and Father wanted you to be here. You’re here because God wanted you to be here. He loves you. He created you. And He has a purpose for your life.
Some of you may think that your life began the day you took your first breath. But it didn’t. It began long before that. Some of you may think that your life will end the day you take your last breath. But it won’t. It will last long after that.
Even though our tombstone will mark the date of our birth and the date of our death, with a dash in between, that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Your life is more than just a dash. You were alive long before you took your first breath. And, if you believe in Christ, you will live long after you take your last.
In our time together, I want to give you a new perspective on your life. I hope it will give you a renewed sense of purpose for your life. You may even discover the meaning of life itself.
Before we go on, let’s take a minute to pray.
Lord, I pray that You would speak to our hearts during this time together. I pray You would let each of us know how precious we are to You. I pray You would show us that the choices we make in this life really do matter. And Lord, I pray that You help us all to make the most important choice every day: to put our faith You. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When do you think your life began?
When you took your first breath? When your heart started beating? When your blood started flowing? When your arms and legs began to take shape and you started to look like a person? When you were first conceived in the womb?
I believe that your life began at conception, but not just the moment your Mother and Father conceived you. I believe your life began the moment God conceived you. And that could have happened a long time ago.
Take a look with me at Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 4 and 5:
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ ”
I love that passage. For me, it lets me know that we aren’t here by accident, that God gave us a purpose for our lives even before we were born. And even more amazing, that God knew us even before we were formed in the womb.
As I’ve read through the Bible, I’ve found that many of the people mentioned on its pages were conceived in the mind of God before they were ever conceived in their mother’s womb. Before they were born, God had already given them names and purposes for their lives.
Jesus, of course, is one of the most obvious examples. God sent an angel to Mary to tell her she was going to conceive a Son, and that she was to give Him the name Jesus, and he would save the people from their sins. Luke 2:21 says that this is exactly what happened:
“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”
But Jesus isn’t unique in that respect.
God spoke to Abraham 25 years before the birth of Isaac, telling Abraham that he would have a son from whom would come many kings and many nations. God told Abraham to name him Isaac a year before he was even born. Genesis 17:19, and 18:10 says:
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”… “Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’ ”
And that’s exactly what happened. Sarah did have a son, they named him Isaac, and his descendents include a long list of kings, including King David, King Solomon, and even Jesus, the king of kings. All of which God knew before Isaac was even conceived in his mother’s womb.
God sent an angel to Zechariah and Elizabeth before they conceived John the Baptist. Luke 1:13, 16 and 24 says:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. … Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.” … “After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant…”
How did the angel know about John even before Elizabeth even became pregnant? The angel tells us in verse 19:
“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”
Gabriel knew because he stood in the presence of God, and God knew because He is the one who first conceived of John, gave him his name, and the purpose for his life.
These are just a few of the people who were conceived in the mind of God before they ever took their first breath. David (Psalm 139:13-16), Paul (Galatians 1:15-17), Adam (Genesis 2:4-7), Eve (Genesis 2:18-22), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11-12), Josiah (1 Kings 13:2); God had given all of them a special purpose for their lives before they took their first breath.
I like the way David puts it in Psalm 139, verse 16:
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
I do believe that your life began at conception, but not just at the moment your Mother and Father conceived you. I believe your life began the moment God conceived you. And He has a purpose for your life, too.
I think one of the tragedies of abortion, miscarriage and experiments on human embryos is not just that these things deprive a person of their life, but they also deprive God of the purpose for which He created that life.
God’s given us all something to do, we’re all precious to Him, and what we do with our lives really does make a difference.
Your life is more than just a dash.
Take a look with me at Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God has created us for a reason, and he’s already prepared good works for each one of us to do.
The question now is this: will you walk in the calling God has on your life, or will you walk away from it? Will you choose to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, or will you choose to walk away from Him? Will you seek Him until you find Him, or will you give up before you’ve even given Him a chance to show you what your purpose is?
Maybe you think you don’t have a purpose because of the way you were born. Maybe you think the only reason you’re here is because of an “accident.” Maybe you think you’re here because of someone’s lust but not because of their love.
Maybe you think you’re here because someone thought having you would save their marriage, or give them a purpose, or fulfill their dream. And when you didn’t save their marriage or give them a purpose or fulfill their dream, you felt like you were unwanted.
But I love the words of Mother Theresa. When people would tell her that it was better to abort an unwanted child than to bring them into this world, she said:
“There is no such thing as an unwanted child. If you don’t want them, give them to me, I want them.”
And she took in thousands during her lifetime. If Mother Theresa had that kind of love for children regardless of how they came into the world, imagine what kind of love God has for you, regardless of how you came into the world.
King Solomon didn’t come into the world under the best circumstances. His father had an affair with a another man’s wife. After killing the woman’s husband, his father then took the woman as his own. This wasn’t God’s plan, as is clearly recorded in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. But God was able to use that situation to still bring about His purposes. The second child of that relationship was King Solomon, who went on to become one of the wisest and wealthiest kings in the history of the world. Not only that, but Solomon is listed as one of the forefathers of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1).
When you think about it, none of us had control over how we came into the world. But all of us have control over how we live in the world.
You are not just defined by your parent’s genes. Who you are is not defined by the color of your hair, or the color of your eyes, or the shape of your mouth. Who you are is primarily defined by the choices you make, what you choose to do with the gifts God has given you.
Suppose we were to take a skin cell from someone like Billy Graham, and through the process of cloning, created an exact genetic replica of Billy Graham. This new person would look just like Billy Graham, from the hair on his head to the shape of his toes. If scientists were to create such an embryo, place him into a woman’s womb until he was born, would we have another Billy Graham?
Not at all. Why? Because this new person would have his own choices to make, having grown up in an entirely different environment, with different parents, and different influences. He may choose to turn away from God, instead of following God like Billy did. That one choice alone would make him a drastically different person than the Billy Graham we know.
Or suppose we cloned Adolph Hitler from a strand of his hair, and this new child were to be born today? Would he be another Adolph Hitler? Not necessarily. If this new child chose to follow Christ at a young age, loving the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving his neighbor as himself, he would be a totally different person. Even though he shared the same exact genetic code.
If we cloned Madonna, or Michael Jordan, or Mother Theresa, would we have exact replicas of those people? It all depends on the choices they make, and how they choose to use their gifts.
More than anything else, the choices you make today will define who you will be tomorrow.
And the most important choice is what we’ll do about following Christ.
When does life end?
We talked about when life begins, but when does life end? Does it end when you take your last breath? When your heart stops beating? When you’re no longer recognizable as a person? When does life end?
I believe that if you believe in Christ, your life never will end.
A French priest named Teilhard de Chardin said,
“We are not just human beings having a temporary spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.”
Jesus was dead on the cross by all measures, except one: God’s. Three days later he appeared again, alive, and still appears to people today, 2,000 years later. Lazarus was dead in the tomb by all measures, except one: God’s. Four days later Christ raised him to life again. Tabitha was dead in her bed by all measures except one: God’s. That afternoon Christ raised her to life.
How can we live forever? Jesus says in John 11:25-26:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
I love Christianity!
Get this: If you don’t feel precious because of the way you were born, there’s good news: you can be born again.
Even none of us have a choice about when we’re born or to whom we’re born physically, God gives each of us a choice as to when we’re born spiritually.
In fact, Jesus told Nicodemus how he could have eternal life. In John chapter 3, Jesus said:
“You must be born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”… “How can this be?” (verses 4 and 9)
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (verses 14 through 16).
Although none of us had control over our physical birth, we all have control over our spiritual birth.
John 1:12-13 says this about Jesus:
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
When you’re born again, or become a child of God, doesn’t depend on anyone but you.
Of all the choices you’ll face in your life, this one is the most important because it will determine where you will live forever. Jesus said if you want to live with God forever, you must be born again (John 3:3, 7). And the day you take your last breath here on earth won’t be the end of your life. If you believe in Christ, you will live forever, even though your body doesn’t.
When the famous preacher D.L. Moody realized he would soon be gone from this world he said:
“Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now…. I was born of the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1855. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit shall live forever.”
Let me summarize what I’ve been saying with this:
God has a purpose for every life, including yours. You are extremely precious to Him. So precious He was willing to let His Son die in your place. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do for you.
The question is what will you do in response? What choices will you make that will define who you are? And what choice will you make that will determine where you’ll spend eternity?
Before we close, I’d like to give you a few minutes of quiet time to respond right now to what God is speaking to your heart. While I play the piano, I hope you’ll talk to God in prayer. When I’m done playing, I’ll close our time with a final word and a prayer for you.
Music and Closing Prayer
(Music: “As the Deer” written by Martin Nystrom)
Lord, I pray that you would show each one of us just how precious we are to you. I pray that you would help us know that we’re here because you wanted us to be here, and that you have something special for each of us to do. Lord , I pray you would help us all to make the choices you want us to make, to do the things you want us to do, and to turn away from the things that are killing us. Lord, I pray for those who need to put their faith in You for the very first time, that you would help them to make that decision to be born again, even right now.
You might say some words like this:
I love you Lord, and I’m sorry for the sins I’ve committed. I believe that You died in my place so I would not have to die, but have eternal life with You. Please forgive me of my sins, help me to turn away from them, and let me live with You forever. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
God has a purpose for your life and He’d love to help you fulfill that purpose, your destiny. 2 Chronicles 16:9a says this:
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
My hope and prayer is that you will choose to follow Him today and every day for the rest of your lives. And if you believe in Christ, that will be forever.
Thanks for coming and I hope you’ll join me again here at The Ranch.