Thursday, December 07, 2017


Well Done Tony Ash...

There were Bible professors that I learned a lot from, and there were professors that I liked.  Tony Ash was the rare teacher that both taught me a lot and that I really liked.  Everybody has great Tony stories, but here are two of my favorites.

I was in his office one day when the phone rang.  He told me it was his wife calling to thank him for the flowers.  He then told me to answer the phone.  I did and identified myself.  Barbara never missed a beat.  She just told me to tell Tony thanks for the flowers and hung up.  I thought that was pretty cool.  They were well suited.

I played a lot of basketball with Tony.  He told me one day that my jump shot was like a frog.  Great jumping ability but I had to squat too low to get it started.  So for the next forty or so years every time Tony saw me -- even if I was in the audience listening to him preach -- he would ask if my jump shot still looked like a frog. Kinda cool ... and kinda embarrassing.  But always said in a way that made me feel good.

So here a few things I learned from Tony.  Take care of your body.  Love your wife.  Read C.S. Lewis.  Read Scripture out loud.  Really good Bible students can be pretty cool.  Don't quit.  Don't give up.  Preaching is fun.  Never get old.

He was a good man who loved talking about Jesus.  He was always good to me.  He made a difference. 

Well done Tony.  Well done.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


No longer an elder, still your shepherd

For those that do not know, I did resign as an elder at Southern Hills.  This is the letter I submitted for the congregation.

Steve Resignation Statement

I am resigning today as an elder of Southern Hills.
However, just because I am no longer an elder does not mean that Marsha and I are not available to you.

If you still want to consider me as “your” shepherd, please know Marsha and I are available to pray with you, speak truth into your life, give spiritual advice and counsel, and walk with you through the hard times.  Just as we always have.

And above all, if you want to know more about Jesus, please let us know.  We love to share the story of the one who gives life.

We love you.

I think this is pretty much who we were before I was an elder, who we were while I was an elder, and who we still are now that I am not an elder.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Happy birthday to my Mom

My Mom, Juanita Ridgell, turned 87 yesterday.  Here are a few of the reasons I love her and am very proud of her. 

She moved to Abilene one year ago.   Made the decision herself.  Planned and executed the whole thing.  She wanted to make the decision so we would not have to. 

One of her biggest worries about moving here was whether she could find a ministry in her Retirement Center.  Love that.  And she has by the way.  Welcomes new move-ins.  Seeks out the lonely and the fringe people.  Reads the Bible to at least one resident.

She is still evangelistic.  She studies the Bible with people.  Talks about Jesus to people.  Looks for non-believers to connect with. 

She is still very independent.  We love having her close but she still functions very well on her on. 

She has adopted Marsha's sister Phyllis.  When Marsha's folks died, it left Phyllis with a void in her life.  My Mom has filled much of that.  Phyllis helps her and it has been a good thing for both.

She loves her kids, she is so proud of her grandkids, but she adores her great-grandkids.  Pretty special to see them all interact. 

She has taught me a lot about following Jesus.  Still does.

So thanks MamMa for all you do for us and for the Kingdom.  I love you.

Thanks God for the heritage of faith my family has received from MamMa.  Continue to bless her with health and ministry opportunities until she gets to go home to be with You and Pap.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Andrew Joel Ridgell turned 10

My grandson, Andrew, turned 10 last Sunday.  So as I always do, here are a few of the reasons I love him and am so proud of him.

Many of you know that Andrew had a pool accident last summer that left him with double vision for several months.  I know that it was scary and frustrating.  I watched him support his baseball team (that he couldn't play for), watched him shoot baskets with his cousins (even tho he had to turn his head sideways), and watched him go to movies, read with one eye, and have to turn to really see you.

And I saw him worship.  He always said it would be OK.  He loved everyone, tried to make others feel good about his situation, and kept encouraging everyone else. 

His eyes healed and I marvel that he was the exact same person before, during, and after that trauma.

Andrew loves people.  He loves doing things with his parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents.  He has lots of friends.  For his birthday, he invited the new kids at his school so they could feel a part  of the group.  He loves his Pops.  We have a real connection.  He makes me happy.

He loves sports and he loves to fish.  Oddly enough, so does his Dad.  And his Pops.  That sure lets us have a lot of fun together.

But most of all, Andrew loves God and Jesus.  He is a passionate, committed Christ follower.  He is generous, he treats others well, and he lives out his faith.

There has never been a day that I have not thanked God for letting me have the blessing of Andrew as my grandson, friend, and buddy.

So thanks Andrew for being you and for loving Pops.  You make me proud every day.  And I love you more than any words could ever express.

And thank you God for the gift of Andrew.  You have done amazing things in his life.  I cannot wait to see what you will do with him, and thru him, in the future.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Stop talking about reaching the marginalized, unless...

It starts about this time of year and continues right thru New Year's.  Our churches will be filled with talk of reaching the marginalized in our society.  We will talk about how that is where Jesus would be.  We will say that is the church we want to be.  A place for the poor, the lonely, the unchurched, the broken.

And we will roll out a number of quick, not too messy ways to do that.  Pray.  Give out turkeys to the poor.  Maybe even throw a meal in for the homeless.  Buy a few presents.  Give away socks down at a shelter.  Make a New Year's resolution to go somewhere for a week and come back changed.  Which is really odd because you would think it is their lives we might want to change.  Not ours.

But here's the deal.

Most of us don't mean it.

Because if we really start reaching out, we have to actually get our hands dirty.  Talking to bitter, lonely people.  Eating with them, not just fixing a meal.  Not flying home with a promise to see them next year, but driving away while they watch and wonder what we really wanted.

And what if we do reach out?  What if a single Mom shows up with her teenagers.  They can be loud and disruptive.  Don't know how to behave in church because they haven't been to church much.  Are we going to want them in our homes for small group?  Who is going to pay for their trip to Six Flags?  You really want them in your kid's cabin at camp?

What if I give out my cell number and they call needing something? 

These people are needy.  Physical and emotional needs.  And above all, needy for Jesus. 

So do you tell them the story of Jesus?  What if they hear us talk about the Good Samaritan?  What if they become part of our church family?  What if they tell their friends?

I have heard a lot of sermons over the years at my church about reaching the marginalized.  And some people take it to heart.  They are giving their lives to others.  Serving, teaching, and trying desperately to live in community.

And some complain about how they disrupt class.  And how our kids (whatever that means) don't get enough attention anymore.  And how we ought to have special classes for them. 

I don't know about your church or your city, but where I live there are lots of needy people.  And we talk about us, and them, and Jesus.  And not much changes.

But rather than be frustrated, I really want to thank those in my church who have poured the love of Jesus into our Bhutanese friends and family.  And those who work with our women's ministry to single Moms.  Those who use time, money, and energy to be Jesus.

You can talk about it all day long because you are doing it.

But for those that think talking and doing a few "arm's length away" projects is the same as loving like Jesus...

Maybe we ought to shut-up   oops, I mean be quiet.  At least until we are ready to put our lives where we say our faith is.

God, there are people all over for whom life has been hard.  Help us to see them and to invest in them.  Help us bring them into your Kingdom.  Because you love them.  Because your son died for them.  And truth be told,  because they are us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


How do you make the hard spiritual decisions...

Sometimes you have to make a decision.  And sometimes it is hard, especially when there are obvious spiritual consequences to what you decide.

You move to a new city and have to pick a church home.  How about deciding to change your church home?

Preachers who have to decide when it is time to move, or who have to decide when to listen to offers.

You get asked to be an elder.  You wonder when is the right time to resign as an elder.

What is the right major for the right job that will glorify God and make a Kingdom difference?  Relationship decisions.  Marriage.

What to do with aging parents. 

And on and on it goes.  Big decisions.  Small decisions with great consequences.

You start making them in your teens and -- trust me on this -- you are still making them when you are old.

So here are some things I have found very helpful in making hard spiritual decisions.

Pray lots.  Every day.  All day.  Ask God for wisdom.  Ask God for signs.  He will not get tired of you.  So ask lots.  After all, if you want to do what God wants... shouldn't you talk to him?

Read your Bible.  Read for specific issues and decisions.  What does God's Word say about preaching, or being an elder, or marriage, or work?  What does the Bible say about church?  If you want to know God's will, maybe you ought to read what he said. 

Ask spiritual people you trust.  I typically go to elders for advice.  Some are elders where I go to church.  Some are elders in other churches but I consider them a shepherd in my life.  Some are men that used to be elders.  Some should have been.  But they are people that have spiritual wisdom and insight.  People who know God's word.  People who love me.  Ask people you trust who have wrestled with the same kind of decision.  I really advise younger women to seek advice from older women (elder's wives are a good place to start).  After all, you are notthe first one to have to make hard decisions.  You are not that unique.  And you are not alone. 

I also remember that I really only have to answer to three people.  I have to look my wife in the eyes, I have to look at myself in the mirror, and someday I will look my God in the face.  It really helps to remember who I am trying to please. 

I have made a lot of hard spiritual decisions over the years.  Some worked out really well, others not quite like I thought.  Still making hard decisions.  Still using this blueprint to help me.

And I have given a lot of counsel and advice to people making hard decisions.  And this is how I help.  Pray lots, share lots of Scripture, try to share advice based on a lifetime of experience in following Jesus.

I actually think it works. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017


God at work in South Carolina

So a few weeks ago I was in Florence, South Carolina preaching in a Hope for Life event for churches in and around the Pee Dee region.  Here are a few of the things that really made me happy.

Lots of fellowship between congregations that don't always do things together.  I think they will now.  Didn't agree on everything but did come together on what was important for this event.  The good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised.  That we are crucified with Jesus in baptism and raised to new life.  And that we have to tell our family and friends that good news.

Loved that there were lots of different ages, colors, and economic status in the same place.

Met several that had recently been baptized and were their with friends they had invited.

The last night almost 1/4 of our crowd were visitors.

Since I left I have heard stories that inspire me. 

The lady who went to visit a friend in ICU and told her where she had been.  Got a chance to tell the story of Legion and Jesus.  The friend made her show where it was in the Bible so she could read it for herself.  Even asked her to pray with her. 

The homeless man who came every night.  He was first invited by a policeman he met when he was sleeping in a car.  The Christian cop fed him, listened to his story, and invited him to come.  And he did. 

Loved seeing the preachers of the participating congregations leading the effort.  Inviting their friends, setting up studies, preaching good news sermons. 

I don't know what all is going to happen over the next few weeks and months.  But I know this...

God is using his people to tell the good news of his son.  And he will give the harvest.

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