Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Community, pain, and healing...

I just don't get the people who think they do not need church. Maybe they think they will never need anyone's help to survive spiritually. Maybe they believe that they have absolutely nothing of value to offer anyone else. But I believe church is community and we need each other. And I am 100% convinced the most important time of need is when tough times come.

When the pain seems overwhelming, when you have no idea what to do next, when it seems nothing will ever be right in your world again... that is when you need community. But not for the reason we sometimes think. Most of the time we speak in terms of people to hug us, pray for us, and give us spiritual advice and counsel. And those things are important.

But sometimes we need to see someone who has lived thru the same pain... and was healed. They may cry with you because they understand more than anyone else what you are going thru. They may hug in a deeper way because they have been there. They may give wonderful advice and guidance that they learned by living the same experience you are in.

Or it may be the best thing they do is give a living example that you will get thru it, that God does redeem and restore, that healing is possible. Living proof of God's work.

I often tell people that the best thing Marsha and I do for wounded couples is to have them look at us. We are happy and healthy. I tell people in spiritual battles that if God can make me a preacher and an elder, then imagine what he can do with them. Living proof.

So I love people who re-live their pain to help others. I love couples who remember the hard times in their life in order to help someone else rebuild a marriage.

I love people who re-visit the pain of losing a spouse, a child, or a parent in order to help someone else thru that journey.

I love recovered addicts who recall the life they now hate in order to give hope to someone else.

I love cancer survivors who go back to the hospital to sit with someone going thru chemo.

So we have to share our stories, our healings, our recoveries. You need it. You may need to share it.

That's what community is -- being willing to remember my pain to help you get thru yours. Helping and being helped.

After all, isn't that what Jesus did for us. The difference is that he saw the pain before it happened and lived thru it so I could be healed.

So share your story. Someone in your community of faith needs you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The cost of raising Christian kids...

I am so thankful that my kids are faithful Christians. But I think we sometimes overlook something very important when talking about wanting our kids to be faithful. We made an intentional choice to raise them to be Christians, but it was not as easy as we sometimes make it out to be. As great as the Christian life is, and as much as I wanted them to choose that life ... I also knew it would come at great cost.

By choosing to be Christians, I knew my children would always be at odds with their culture. They would live different and the world would not understand. That makes it hard growing up different. And when they did not live up to the Christian life they had chosen, they would be miserable until they got their focus back on Jesus. That is painful.

I knew that we were raising them to be people that might not be successful by the world's standards. God could chose to bless them, but they would live in a world that is selfish and hard. They would be in a culture that would hurt them and use them. People would betray them, take advantage of them, and well ... not be like Jesus.

Kingdom business would be more important to them than the world's business. They would grow up and choose to deny themselves, take up the cross daily and follow Jesus.

And they would be persecuted. Because that is what the world does to Christians. And they would never be at home in this world. Because it would not be home.

But it is a life that brings joy, peace, hope, and purpose. It is a life of love. It is a life lived for something bigger than us. And it is a life lived forever.

It is the life that their grandparents chose. It is the life Marsha and I chose. It is the life they chose. As did their spouses. And now they are raising my grandkids in a way that they will someday choose that life.

And I couldn't be prouder. Or happier.

Or more thankful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Andrew Joel Ridgell is turning 4...

Yes it is another birthday for one of my grandkids so this is my tribute to Andrew Joel who turns 4 Saturday. Maybe it is because he is Joe Don's son, maybe it is because he is the 4th generation Joel Ridgell -- or maybe it is because he absolutely makes my heart happy -- but I love this kid so much.

He is the happiest guy I know. He is always smiling, laughing, grinning. He loves ball, swords, the zoo, and his Pops.

He is a natural athlete just like his Daddy was (oops. sorry JD, I meant "is").

But here are the things that steal my heart.

Saying a prayer with him and having him say "I like that prayer Pops."

Having his cousin Jake say that Jesus is God's Son and Andrew saying that he died on the cross for our sins.

Hearing his sister tell Pops to quit being silly and act like a normal man and Andrew saying "Mimi, what is a normal man?"

Sweet, happy, fun, and loves Jesus. Andrew don't ever change.

Pops loves you so much.

Thanks God for Andrew Joel.

And by the way, Andrew, I know you are really smart, but you may need to get Mom or Dad to read this to you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I spent the weekend with some life changers...

I got to spend last weekend with several people I love and admire because they are life changers -- both in their own lives but in the lives of others. Did a seminar at Shiloh Road in Tyler and here are some of the people I got to see.

Joe and Juanita Ridgell. My folks. Spent the night with them on the way to Tyler. My dad is battling early dementia but still love seeing them. Appreciate my Mom and the way she patiently takes care of my Dad. Loved hearing my Dad talk about how elders and churches should pray more. I have such a great heritage.

Lou and Eppie Elmore. Saw them on the way to Tyler, then they came to Shiloh to hear me preach. Lou is a cancer survivor and Ep just had part of one leg amputated. They both have a great attitude. They have spent their life serving people and sharing Jesus with everyone they know. Great servants.

Shiloh Road elders and wives. I love elders who wrestle with radically buying into reaching people for Jesus. And what it means for them, their staff, and their flock.

Tim and Denise Henderson. Been a youth minister at Shiloh for almost 20 years. Tim was in my youth group a long, long time ago and I baptized her. Always knew he would do great things in the kingdom. Priviledged to present them an award from ACU camps. Watched their congregation give them a standing ovation.

Charles and Deanne Smith. I have known Charlie for over 50 years. Baptized her. Love Charles for what he has meant to the kingdom and to Shiloh, but even more because he is willing to do whatever it takes in his life to follow Jesus faithfully.

Mark and Judy Edge. Love people who live to bring others to Jesus. Not just preach about it. Years in Argentina as church planters. Adopted two precious kids so they could have a different life. Now at Shiloh preaching as much with his life and family as he does with his mouth. Awesome.

Marsha Ridgell. She went with me on this trip. More popular than I am. Still the most fun person to hang out with and still my best friend. Still likes my preaching. Still loves me.

I went to inspire, motivate, encourage, and equip people to share Jesus by telling stories. I got more out of it than they did. Hanging out with people who have great stories.

Thanks God. It doesn't get much better than last weekend.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Yes I do love Southern Hills...

Two things got me thinking about why I love my church. One was a comment someone made about preachers working at churches they don't like and wouldn't attend if they weren't on staff. So it made me start thinking about elders loving their church. The other was someone asking me about my weekend.

I can get real frustrated about things in church. I hate church politics. I despise hidden agendas. And if you read this blog regularly you know I have all sorts of odd quirks and hangups. I realize there are congregations I would not want to be a part of, but there are lots of congregations that I like. I like several other congregations right here in Abilene. I like my kid's church in Fort Worth. I have preached in several churches recently that I would be happy to call home.

The churches I like have a couple of things in common: they love Jesus and they are passionate about reaching the lost. I am pretty much going to love any church that has these two things. But I got to thinking about things this weekend that make me love Southern Hills.

I was amazed how many of the ACU people ministering to the students after the horrific crash Friday were our people. Everywhere I looked I saw Southern Hills. ACU staff and hospital staff. Pretty neat. And we had a lot of our campus ministry team there, many of whom are not connected to ACU. Just love Jesus and people and were there to help.

Sunday's service was about mission and making disciples. We give, we pray, we go, we care. I love that.

I had a great conversation with a member we did an annointing for recently. We talked about his health issues and the struggle to be faithful when God doesn't answer exactly like we want. Love that we could have that kind of conversation. Love that we could commit to love Him and praise Him for the good. And that we could commit to love Him and praise Him in the hard times. Loved that we could pray about it.

Marsha and I had a couple come to church Sunday we have been trying to reach. Baptized two of their family members a couple of years ago. Loved watching people go over and meet them and welcome them.

Love that people showed up for a shower at our house for someone that needs to be shown love and community.

We had a baptisimal blessing for one of our new Bhutanese brothers. I love the way Southern Hills has invested in that ministry.

And I love a church where elders pray with people in the foyer, in the auditorium, and in the parking lot.

How could I not love a church that loves Jesus and loves the lost so much? Great people that care about being Jesus in a lost world. And they sell out for Jesus.

So for my flock that is reading this... I love you.

So why do l0ve your church?

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