Tuesday, December 16, 2014

 

Communion was different at Southern Hills Sunday

I had a unique experience last Sunday.  I got to lead our communion time both in our morning assembly and then again at our Candlelight service.  Both times we did things a little different.

At our morning assembly we combined a baptismal blessing with our Communion time.  We are following the Advent tradition this year and Sunday's theme was joy.  So we rejoiced with one of our young high schoolers, Gabby Soria.  Gabby is one of ours, part of one of our Southern Hills families.  A few weeks ago, she was baptized.  We make a big deal out of our first generation converts, but we also think it is important to make it a big deal when one of our own decides to follow Jesus,  It is a time of great celebration when our kids move from family faith to personal faith.  We had her birth family on stage with her as we welcomed her into her "new birth" family.  We thanked youth ministry leaders and the elders and wives.


We talked about what it meant to celebrate the family meal together.  We smiled at each other, we hugged each other, we celebrated Gabby's salvation and we celebrated our salvation.  We stood together as family and prayed for God to bless Gabby, to protect her, and to use her.  We thanked God for the gift of his Son.  And we ate together.  Homemade bread made with love.  Grape juice.  Body and blood of Jesus.  Our one body sharing again in his death.  Declaring our belief in the gospel.  Gabby, her family, and her now really big family.

Our Candlelight service was what you would expect in many ways.  Kids sang.  Adult groups sang.  Congregation sang.  Kids and adults sang.  A manger story.  Scripture reading.  Candles lit.  Prayers.  Precious children involved.  Grandparents too.  Celebrating the birth of the Christ.

And right in the middle of it, we shared communion.  Partly because we have an evening assembly every week and they were there.  But also because that is what God's people do when they are together.  So we talked about the gift of God in baby Jesus.  And we celebrated the good news that baby Jesus grew up to die for our sins.  And that he was raised from the dead.  And that he is coming back.

But we also believe communion is not just about me and God.  It is about us and God.  That's why we do it together.  And we believe we receive that gift so we can be givers in our world.  So there were various tables set up were we could go do communion together.  Lots of hugging, smiling, sharing.

But we also invited everyone to make their way to two other tables where there were ribbons and markers.  Everyone was encouraged to write gifts they wanted to give someone and tie them onto the trees nearby.  I saw some of the gifts listed:  sing a song, cook a meal, free plumbing service call, tell a neighbor the good news, live forgiven, give a smile.

Experiencing the gift of God's love.  Committing to give gifts of love in the name of Jesus.  It was loud, sweet, loving... and holy.

Different but in many ways the same as it has been since Pentecost.

God, Jesus, their people, Holy Spirit, joy, praise, thanksgiving, and commitment.

Thanks God for letting me be a part.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

 

Grandpa turns 87 tomorrow

Marsha's Dad, Don Herttenberger, turns 87 tomorrow.  Here is why I love him.

He has taught me so much about how to love the church.  And by church, I mean the people in our fellowship.  For years he was the Southern Hills greeter.  So many people have told me he was the first one to meet them when they visited.  He was one of the great hospital visitors.  He carried food to lots of shut-ins.

He can't do all that anymore.  But it so amazing to see the line of people before church around his wheelchair who want to say hi.  He really loves his church family.

He is a true farmer.  I don't mean a play at it farmer, but one who has loved the land, worked the land, ran cattle, raised crops.  The farm actually came from Granny's side of the family but for the last thirty or so years it has been Grandpa that runs it.  He is the one who helped me understand the spiritual nature of farming and ranching.  Praying for rain, praying for a good crop, trusting God whatever happens.  He loves the land.

He can't really work at the farm anymore.  I am the one that gets the blessing of driving him up there every week or so.  But he still manages it, still handles the farm business, still plans for the future.

But here is the reason I most love Grandpa -- well, giving me Marsha is number 1, but this is next.

For the past several years, my Dad had Alzheime'rs.  I couldn't really ask him for eldering advice.  Couldn't use him as a sounding board.  Couldn't talk thru things anymore.  My Dad went home to heaven a few months ago, and it was shortly after that I figured out what Grandpa meant to me.

He had become my Dad.  Not my father-in-law.    But my Dad.  I ask him for advice on church problems.  I complain to him about the frustrations of eldering and preaching.  We talk sports, farming, cattle, and family.  But we talk a lot about Jesus.  And about reaching people with the good news.  We talk about how to help those fighting spiritual battles.

So Grandpa, I owe you more than you will ever know.  Thanks for helping me see Jesus.  Thanks for your example.  Thanks for being my Dad.  I still need one you know.

So God... thank you for Grandpa.      

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

 

Mom's Birthday...

My Mom, Juanita Ridgell, had her 84th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.  Yes I do know you are not supposed to mention a woman's age.  But in Mam-ma's case she has earned the right to celebrate every one of those years.  And here is why I love her and am proud of her.

I will be forever grateful for the way she took care of my Dad for all those years he had Alzheimers.  She did not complain.  She gave up her life, her time, her needs. She did it because she loved Jesus and she loved her husband.  For better or worse.  In sickness and in health.  Living example.  I don't know who in our family will travel that same road, but some of us will.  And she showed us how.

She wears her grief well.  She misses my Dad.  He's been home in heaven for several months now and it is still hard.  But she lives.  I admire the way she has rebuilt her life.  She is active in church.  Volunteers in the clothing room.  Visits shut-ins and the sick.  Gives advice and counsel to others traveling the same road.

Still talks to her friends and family about following Jesus.  Love that.

Refuses to give in to fear.  It is hard for a widow.  What about finances?  The future?  Her own health?  But she trusts God and she knows everything will work out in the end.

So I am thankful for her example.  I am thankful her church has a I Timothy widow working among them.  I am thankful she lives her faith.  I am thankful she is a role model for the generations behind her.

So Mom, I'm proud of you.

I love you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

 

Andrew is 7 tomorrow

My grandson, Andrew Joel Ridgell, turns 7 tomorrow.  But since I will be on my way to Honduras I thought I would share today why I love him and am so proud of him.

He loves life.  He has fun.  He laughs.  He enjoys whatever is going on.

He loves people.  He loves his family.  He loves his friends. He loves the children his family supports.

He is deeply and passionately in love with God and Jesus.  Loves reading and memorizing Bible verses.  Loves praise singing.  Would do anything God called him to do.  No matter the cost.

He loves to wake up early and have special time with Pops.  I love it.  When I am at their house, he wakes up at 6:30 or 7 so we can hang out together.

Loves to fish.  Loves sports.  Good at both.

This past weekend I heard him quote Joshua 1:9 to Mimi.  That was our memory verse from 2013.  I heard him cheering on his sister at her softball game.  Encouraging her.

He already prays with absolute faith.  His prayers are thoughtful, deep, and sincere.

I do not know what the future holds for Andrew.  But I do know this.  God is going to do amazing things in him and through him.

God, let Andrew keep the pure heart, the faith, the joy, and the love he has for you.  Protect him from the evil one and do great things for the Kingdom thru him.

Andrew, Pops loves you and is so proud of you.  Love fishing with you, playing catch with you, telling stories together, and praying together.

You make me happy.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

 

What I learned from my two new sisters in Christ

Every time I am involved in helping someone become a Christian, I learn something.  So here are my thoughts from two recent new sisters.

Joan grew up around church and learned early to love Jesus but never understood fully how that love translated into real life.  Life for her, as for many of us, was hard.  And one day she decided God and Jesus were not real.  Just could not believe it any more.  She went several years thinking it was not true.

But when life is hard you begin to wonder if there is not something better.  Joan started questioning her non-belief.  So she carefully reached out to a few trusted friends and relatives looking for help.  What she wanted was for someone to explain the whole Jesus thing to her as if she had never heard it. She was not interested in a bunch of church politics or religious rules.  And she really did not think she would believe.  She just wanted to learn about it.

Leigh Ann responded to her.  Didn't preach, did not question her.  Just loved her, talked to her, prayed for her, and promised to find someone who would tell the Jesus story.  Marsha and I go to church with Leigh Ann.  She knew we liked to talk about Jesus, so she connected us.  For several weeks we just told stories:  her story, our story, Jesus stories.  Talked about why it made sense to us.  Helped her see a God that is real and a Jesus who cared about her.  A real God loving real people living real life.

And one day Joan realized she believed it.  So she decided to die with Jesus and be raised to a new life.  Because God never quit loving her or pursuing her.  Because someone cared about her and loved her. Because someone liked to share Jesus.

Now she is my sister.  And I wonder how many more Joans are out there, carefully reaching out, wanting to hear without any strings attached.

Gabriela is being raised in a Christian family.  She is a part of a family that is passionate about Jesus and about sharing her faith.  Gabby has seen her parents share Jesus with other people.  She is part of a holy family because of their faith.  And over the past year or so she has been exploring making that faith hers and not her parents.  Teenagers learn to be their own person.  To transition from dependent child to independent adult.  Most parents are intentional about that transition.  And Christian families must be intentional about helping teenagers like Gabby transition to an independent faith.

So I really like the way she, her parents, and her church helped her transition.  She had Bible school teachers and life group leaders who modeled Christ and let her ask questions.  When she began to talk to her parents about the decision, they prayed with her, with each other, and even got some of her church family to pray about it.  They had long conversations about what it means to follow Jesus personally and not because of family.  They studied Scripture together and they gave her passages to study on her own.  They had "their elder" come over and talk and pray with Gabby and with them.

It was intentional, it was prayerful, it was Bible based.  It was a mature process.  They let her take her time.  And she decided to follow Jesus on her own.  Not just because her parents follow him, but because it was her choice.  So with many of her church family, life group leaders, and her birth family watching... Gabby died and was raised with Jesus.  Her Mom read Scripture, her Dad baptized her, her elder prayed over her.

It was holy.  And it gave me a really good blueprint to share with parents who want to do exactly what Gabby's parents did.  Teach your child to not follow Jesus because of family, but start following because it is personal.

God, bless Joan and Gabby.  Thank you for friends and family that help us know Jesus... and who lead us to make him our own.

Raise your kids to follow Jesus.  Look for the seekers and the questioners God puts in your life.

And tell the story.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

 

Random kingdom thoughts

Thought I would just take a minute and share thoughts about random people and churches doing kingdom business.

Sanger church of Christ. This church near Fresno, CA. is serious about reaching people for Jesus.  Recently did one of my Can I Tell You a Story seminars and they had about half of their congregation there to learn how to share Jesus.  Teenagers thru 70-somethings.  That many people taking it that seriously will make a difference.

Bob Black.  I've known Bob all my life.  We grew up together.  Recently got to hang out together in Fort Collins, CO.  They are part of the Dayspring Christian Church there and Bob helps lead their men's ministry and invited me to speak at their annual retreat.  Bob and his wife Dorry have been active church planters and leaders in that area.  Best part of the weekend was when the three of us got to talking to a waiter at our restaurant about Jesus.  So good to see how God has worked in believers you grew up with.  Well done Bob.

Collegeside church of Christ.  In Cookeville, TN, and another place I recently did the seminar.  Great campus ministry reaching students at Tennessee Tech.  Passionate ministers and elders committed to reaching their community.  Members wanting to share Jesus with friends and family.  They are going to change their town.

Mark Hanner.  I serve with Mark as one of the elders at Southern Hills and many of you know that his son Hunter is seriously ill with a very rare blood disorder.  His other son, Chase, has a newborn twin in NICU.  She was premature, but is here.  Her twin is in heaven.  I love this family, but here is why I am thinking of Mark especially today.  Christian men lead.  Mark leads his church and his family.  And it is hard to lead when your heart is breaking and your world is falling apart.  But Mark is a man of faith.  He will lead his family faithfully.  They are praying for miracles and Mark will make sure God gets the glory for healing.  And if the answer to prayer is not what the wish,.. Mark will still see that God gets the glory.  But it is hard.

I just realized I could go on and on about people and churches doing real kingdom life in a fallen world.  Light, love, and hope in a dark world.  But maybe these will remind you to share the stories you know of churches making a difference, of friends still faithful, of Christians clinging to God in the midst of pain and hurt.

Thank you God for letting us share stories of lives lived for you.  Thank you for communities of faith making a difference in your world.  And for people who never quit following you.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

 

Some days it is good to be a shepherd...

The last 24 hours have reminded me why being an elder is just fun some days.

Sat with a group of brothers committed to helping one of them battle his addiction.  Confession, tears, prayer, love, forgiveness.  God words spoken into a life.

Heard today that someone I shared Jesus with almost 2 years ago is now thinking seriously about becoming a Christian.

Working with a sweet couple in trouble.  He now wants to come home and she wants him to.

Had a funeral for one of our sweet saints.  Lost her husband three years ago.  I think she was ready to go home.  It was sweet.  Added bonus:  my son-in-law was one of the Pallbearers.

Lunch with two of my fellow elders.  Reminded what good men they are and much they love their flock.

Sometimes I think God just knows you need to hear that He still moves mountains in the lives of his people.

So to all my fellow elders, shepherds, pastors:  what you do matters.  Lives change.  Souls are saved.  Work hard, love lots, share Jesus, speak God words, put your life into your flock.

And smile at the happy days.

Thank you God for taking a day when I was tired and struggling and reminding me of what you are doing.

Go God.

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