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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

The Church, the World, Homosexuality, and Marriage

The world accuses us Christians of being judgmental and unloving.  They think we are more concerned about our religion than people.  They label as haters, narrow, and unloving.

We respond with our Bibles.  We are taking a stand for God's plan for marriage.  The Bible identifies homosexuality as a sin.  We love the sinner, hate the sin.

You know how it goes.

And I think I understand what we are saying.

And I think I understand why the world does not always believe us.

We are inconsistent.  We want to be sure same sex marriages are not legal because they do not fit God's design for marriage.

But our churches are full of divorced people.  God hates divorce.  Divorce is not part of God's design for marriage.

We encourage our preachers to preach against homosexuality.  We tell them to be sensitive if they even mention divorce because it might hurt someone.

Because there are lots of divorced people in our churches.  Not many gay people.  At least that we know about.

Gays are told to live celibate, but I don't hear that counsel given to many divorced people.

I know Jesus made allowances for divorce, and he does not for same sex relationships.  But that allowance is clearly an exception for a specific reason.  And our churches are full of divorced and remarried people who do not fall under the exception.  And the world knows it.

We even celebrate marriages between believers and non-believers.  I don't think that is God's plan either.

I think our practice may cost us credibility.  I do not believe that the answer is to soften the Biblical message about marriage.  Not for same sex couples, or adulterers, or pornographers,or those seeking divorce, or those wanting to marry non-believers.

Marriage:  where a Christian man and woman leave their parents and become one flesh.  Faith, love, kids, sex, and living testimony to God's love in this world.  

Preach truth.  In love.  And practice it.

But to select one abuse of God's plan for marriage and make it the centerpiece of our defense of marriage --  well, it sure would confuse an outsider.  Might even make them think we are prejudiced, hateful, and hypocritical.  Might even confuse people about our message.

So let's be courageous ... about all of God's message.

Sex outside of God's design for marriage is sinful and cannot be condoned in our faith communities.

Sex inside God's design for marriage is wonderful and to be celebrated.

So God.  Please bless our marriages so that our families reflect your love for us.  Help us to be faithful to you and to our marriages.  Help us to repent when we are not.  Take care of those whose mates abandoned you and them.  Help those struggling with lust for anyone other than their mate.  Let our marriages be beacons of love, hope, joy, peace, and purpose in a fallen world.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

 

ACU is dropping the Ag Department

I love Abilene Christian University.  I graduated from there.  So did my wife and both kids.  I have spoken there countless times.  I am friends with many faculty and administrators.  Many of them are part of my flock at Southern Hills.  

And I am sad today because they are dropping the Ag department.

I understand why.  It cannot pay for itself.  Money is hard to raise for any Christian college.  And hard decisions have to made.  I am not really questioning the need to make cuts and this is one of them.  Might be exactly the right move.

And I was not an Ag major.  This is not because Marsha's family has owned and operated their farm for 115 years.  

But I am sad because I think there was something special about a Christian university and a Department of Agriculture and Environment.

Christians are to be stewards of God's creation.  There is something special about Christian farmers and ranchers.  They really do care about the environment.

I just thought it was really special that one of our colleges recognized that.  I liked the combo of Jesus, God, Christians, the environment, livestock, and crops.  

And now they cannot afford to keep doing it.

I think there is now a void in Christian education. 

I hope it gets filled.







Thursday, October 23, 2014

 

Christian parents, kids, and sports

It was much more intense for my children than it was when I was growing up.  It is even worse for my grandkids.  Youth sports have exploded.  There are two issues that I hear over and over again among Christian parents about youth sports.

One is the whole investment of time and money in super traveling teams.  Will my child be deprived of a chance to get better if we opt out of the hyper competitive level?  Am I robbing them of their childhood?  How do I know how good my child well be?  Will they burn out or get hurt if they play at a high level?  (And the answer to this one is yes... some do).  Will they get bored and quit if the skill level is not high enough?  (And the answer here is yes, some do).

I do not claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas that might ease your mind.  Most of your kids are not going to be professional athletes.  Of all the kids playing Little League in your area, only one or two of them will play professionally.  In fact, less than one in ten will play in college.  Most of them will not even play in high school.

And if they are that good, trust me... they will make it, no matter what level they have played at.  But that is not to say I am against competitive sports.  I think they are fine if you use common sense.  Some kids like competition.  Many enjoy the experience.  And some kids do enhance their skills and become better high school athletes.  Nothing wrong with that.

But whatever you decide for your child, be supportive of your Christian friends who make other choices.  Choosing to play at a higher competitive level does not have to mean parents are choosing sports over Jesus, church, and family.  Nor does opting out mean that you value the right things more.  Each family must do what they feel is best for their child.  Support each other.

Which leads to the other thing I hear from Christian parents.  How do they maintain a focus on Jesus when they travel so much?

So here are a couple of suggestions for that.  Make it family time.  Some of our best family memories were made on tennis trips.  And I encourage families to worship on their travel.  Have family church.  It is rich and meaningful.  Have worship with other Christian families on your team.  Have worship at your hotel or at the field and invite other families to join you.  You may find a whole new way to make disciples.

Being a parent is hard.  But don't get overly stressed.  Think, pray, get advice from successful parents (meaning those whose kids are faithful Christians), talk it out, and make a decision.

And whatever that decision is, it will work out.

Go God.  And go whatever team your kids are playing on.  At whatever level.    

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