Thursday, June 28, 2012


Joe Don's birthday...

My son has a birthday tomorrow and, as you know, I use family birthdays as a chance to tell everyone how proud I am.  And it is a chance for you to maybe see something helpful in your family journey.  So today is about Joe Don.  But I am going to start with the things I worked really hard at ... that did not happen.

For years, I hit him 100 grounders every day.  It was a great time and I knew he would be a really good baseball player.  And he became a really good tennis player.

I was sure he would be an outstanding preacher.  He is a very successful lawyer.

Everything doesn't turn out like you expect.

But some do.  So here are a few of the things that haven't surprised me one bit.

He loves Jesus and passionately follows his call.  Now he is instilling that same passion in his three kids.

He loves people.  It shows and they respond to it.  Even as a teenager, people would come to him for advice and counsel.  They still do.  I do.  He will be the Dad all the teenagers come to for advice.  

Life doesn't turn out the way you think, but God is in charge.  He didn't play tennis in college.  Couldn't.  He blew an elbow.  Twice.  But he had a great college experience.  And his life is really good.  Not how he thought college would be... but maybe better than it would have been.

He is a gifted Bible teacher and leader at his church.  For free.  Because he loves Jesus and wants to.

Bonus features:  he loves sports, hunting, and fishing.  So do his boys.  Nice.

But I am proud of him because he loves Jesus, Jamie, his kids, his family, his church family, and people.  In that order  And I love the way he doesn't just talk that way.  He lives that way.

So JD... every moment of your life I have been proud to be your Dad.  You honor me by your life.  But more important, you honor God.  And as you raise Andrew and Austin to be men of God you will understand this more and more.

Love you,  Pops

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Bad Dads

Every time I teach on fathers, I can count on a couple of painful reactions.  There is always someone who did not have a Dad when they were growing up.  Or they had a Dad who was not kind, gentle, and loving.  Some were abused physically and emotionally by their Dads.  It is painful and emotional to hear all this talk of what a good Dad is.

The other reaction is from the men who failed as Dads.  They may not have known the Lord when their kids were growing up.  Or they were not faithful to him.  Or they struggled to live out their faith. Or they left their family.

With some, the pain is that they could have done better.  For others, the pain is in knowing that their children are not faithful to the Lord and they learned that at home.  It is painful to see the guilt etched on the faces of Dads who wish they could do it all over again.

So how do you speak to those that hurt over their Dads?  Or how do you speak to those who would give anything to have another shot at raising their kids.

I John 5:1-5

     Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God:  by loving God and carrying out his commands.  This is love for God:  to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcome the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

If your Dad failed you, you are still God's child.  If your Dad gave you baggage that makes it hard to function in this life, you real Father will see that you overcome this world.

If you wish you had done better, but your kids are children of God, don't worry.  They will overcome the world.

If you truly failed as a father, remember that you are now a child of God.  Pray every day for your kids to come to know Jesus.  Live your faith now in front of them.  Give your testimony.  Ask forgiveness.  Die with faith.  Be the father now you wish you had been then.  It is never too late to teach your children about Jesus.
Dads aren't perfect.  It is a hard world.  We all grew up with baggage.  We all gave our kids baggage.

But here's the thing I have learned.  I gave my kids all sorts of baggage I wish they didn't have.  Lots of suitcases to haul around the rest of their life.  But I gave them one big suitcase:  Jesus.  And I have found that all the other baggage fits in that one.  And they will overcome the world because they are children of God.

Just like me.

Blessings on your kids.    

Thursday, June 21, 2012


How should a Dad give advice?

One of the things Dads do is give advice.  Once your kids start to think and act independently, you move from telling them what to do and begin giving advice. Some of us Dads have a hard time with the shift, even after our kids are grown.  But we do have a certain amount of wisdom.  We only want the best for our kids, and we love them more every day.  And we do see problems.

So how should a Dad give advice?

Read Exodus 18 about Moses and his father-in-law Jethro.  It is a great story and will teach you how to do this.  It will work for Dads, family patriarchs, elders, and spiritual Dads of all kinds.  Without retelling the whole story, here are the lessons I learned about giving advice.

It starts by talking about God.  They had a spiritual relationship (vs. 8-9)
     I believe this is what brings credibility to the relationship.  Jethro listened to Moses.

They worshiped together. (vs. 10-12)
     This is the most important thing you can do together.
Jethro spent time with Moses and saw him in action  (11-14)
     Watch before you speak.

He asked questions.  (14)  and listened to the answer (15)
     Check it out before you raise the subject   Allow them to answer.

Point out what you see as the problem  (vs. 17-8)
     Jethro was worried about Moses.  There must be a reason you think there is a problem.  If you can't explain it, don't try.

Offer a solution (vs.19-22)
    If you don't have a constructive solution, you are just complaining.  Or pointing out the obvious.  But without a solution, you are just making everyone feel worse.  Your kids don't need that.

Point out the benefits (23)
     How will this help

Ask God's blessing (23)
     Pray before you bring it up, and make the advice dependent on God's blessing and will.

And as for Jethro and Moses ... it worked (24-26)

I believe the stories in the Bible are applicable today.  So this is for fathers.  But I also use this story in church leadership seminars, in my church consulting, and even when businesses ask me to speak or consult.

God's word is much smarter than I am.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The one thing you must teach your kids

Several asked if I would share some of my thoughts from last Sunday on Dads.  I had two main reasons for the material I shared in class.  One was to inspire, motivate, and equip Dads -- of whatever age.  The second was to equip us all with Scripture to use in counseling, encouraging, and helping Dads.  All of us from time to time have the opportunity to give advice and counsel.  I am convicted that as Christians, that advice should come out of God's Word.  So when you are helping a Dad, you will find that Scripture speaks to almost any situation where a Dad may find himself needing advice or help.

And remember that I believe Dads come in many forms.  There are birth Dads, Dads who adopt, "church" Dads, single Dads, Moms who have to be Dads, Dads who only get to parent every other weekend, and Granddads who have to be Dads.  There are men preparing to be Dads, and Dads who have grown kids and grandkids.

I won't share every point I made, but over the next few posts I will give a few of them.

The first is the goal and aim of every Dad is from Joshua 24:15 and there are two parts in this quote.

"... choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..."  

"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord".

Raising Godly children starts with a choice.  Dad's choice.  You must choose to serve God.  You will not be effective by telling your kids to to do something you have not.  You can't take them to somewhere you are not.  So make your choice first.  Then you are not pointing the way, you are showing the way.  Remember that you lead from the front.  Follow me.  

Then when you have made your choice to serve God, you lead your children to make that choice.  Your job as a Dad is to equip your kids to make a choice for God.  Ultimately it is their choice, not yours.  So your job is to teach them to choose God.  Just like you have done.

Get this one choice right and nothing else matters.  Not really.  Not who they marry, not what they do for a living, not what they accomplish academically, socially, or athletically.  If they make the one great choice for God, everything else will fall into place.

And by the way, for all the single women and girls growing up, pick a mate who has made that choice.  That is the one most important thing to look for in your husband and the father of your kids.  Has he chosen Jesus.

So Dads you only really have one thing to teach your kids:  choose God.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Father's Day blessings...

Here are the eight reasons I love Father's Day.

1.  Joe Ridgell, my Dad.  He's still with us at 84, tho it's tough for him now.  But I have been so blessed to learn about God from him.  His passion for the church to be totally committed to Jesus has influenced me in my preaching and shepherding.

2.  Don Herttenberger,  my other Dad.  I got him when I married Marsha.  What a blessing.  He has taught me so many practical things about leading God's people.  He always gives good advice and loves me like a son.

3.  Julie Gilbreth, my birth daughter.  How can you not love being a Dad when Jules is your daughter?  She is thoughtful, sweet, kind and cares more about others than herself.  Love the way she shares Jesus.  She makes me happy and she has had my heart from the day she was born.

4.  Bobby Gilbreth, my other son.  I got him when he married Julie.  Got to baptize him.  Get to enjoy his servant heart in our family.

5.  Mark Edge, a son in the faith.  Mark spent a lot of time at our house when Julie and Joe Don were little.  He has been part of the family for thirty years now.  Great preacher.  Honored that God put him in our home.

6.  Derran Reese, my other son in the faith.  I really got him because he was Joe Don's best friend growing up.  He spent a lot of time in our home.  Great missionary in Thailand.  Glad JD had a best friend like him because I got a 2 for 1 deal on sons.

7.  Jamie Ridgell, my other daughter.  I got her when she married JD.  Home run.  She is sweet, thoughtful, and fanatical aobut living out her faith in this world.  So glad she is now mine too.

8.  Joe Don Ridgell, my birth son.  There's something special on Father's Day knowing your son is a great Dad.  He is the Dad I wish I had been and the man I want to be if I ever  grow up.  I cannot imagine a son I would be more proud of, or how it could have been any more fun.

As I wrote this, I noticed the common themes:  God, love, laughter, faith, sharing Jesus in this world. 

So I am really going to be happy on Sunday.  My dads, my birth kids, my kids by marriage, and the two guys God let hang out in our home. 

I look at my kids and I am happy.

Thanks God.  I don't deserve them.  They are my greatest Father's Day gift. 

So glory to you. 

And a special thanks to Mimi.  Good Moms sure help you be a better Dad.      

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


A few last thoughts -- for now -- on women leading worship.

I may share some thoughts on men, women, and leadership/authority in the church later, but for now I want to share a few last thoughts -- for now anyway -- on men, women, and leadership in the worship assembly.

It is not a matter of spirituality.  I am fairly certain that no congregation selects the worship leaders based on who is the most spiritual.  Of course, you want those leading the assembly to be spiritual but that is hardly the only consideration.  So do not make who leads worship into a question of spirituality.  It is not.

Only a small fraction of most communities of faith will ever lead in worship.  Aside from whatever the Scripture teaches, practical considerations limit the number of those who will lead prayer, preach, or lead the singing in worship.

We should watch our terminology.  Not leading a prayer in worship is not the same as not praying in worship. 

I am convinced that small, intimate house gatherings do not have near the issues over some of these things as do large assemblies where everything is geared to an "up-front" leader and an audience.  We can argue all day long that we are not a performer/audience worship, but for most of us the reality is that we are.

I think there are men that want to cling to their percieved power and I think there are women who want power.  But not most... of either sex. 

I think there is a difference in preaching, singing, reading, prayer, announcing, reporting, and even a testimony.  And those on all sides of the women leading in worship discussion can sure "split hairs" to justify their position.

So I think that the whole discussion of who leads worship may be much deeper than a simple matter of gender.

And I think the real issue is deeper than who stands up front.  I think it really is about authority and leadership.

Well, feel free to disagree.  Or agree.  I am just thinking out loud and sharing.  At this point, I just really want to gather ideas and thoughts that will help me draw conclusions. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Why I love my son-in-law...

Today is Bobby's birthday and, as usual, I am going to write about why I love him.  I do that for every family member on their birthday and on anniversaries.  I do it so they know why I love them.  It reminds me why I love them.  And maybe it will remind you to tell your family why you love them.

So here are three quick reasons why I love Bobby.

He decided to follow Jesus because it was his choice.  Not because he was married to Julie or because I was a preacher.  And now he is teaching Jake and Avery to follow Jesus.  He will let it be their choice.

He's cooking 500 hot dogs for VBS Saturday.

He loves Rita.  Rita is a widow in our church family and she lives down the street from Julie and Bobby.  Bobby takes care of her yard.  He takes Jake and Avery down to visit.  Real religion is to care for widows.  He does.

Bobby coaches Jakes's little league team.  The team sponsor made booklets for all the kids for the season.  On the coach page she thanked Bobby for always asking the kids if they know Jesus.

He has a team prayer before every game.

And he helps me take care of Granny and Granpa's yard.  He helps me up at the family farm. 

And he loves my daughter and my grandkids.

I know if something happens to me, he will take care of Mimi. 

So happy birthday Bobby.

I look forward to watching what God will do in you and in our family in the coming years.

Love you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


More thoughts on spirituality and function

I sometimes hear someone say that it is absurd that spiritual women are not allowed to lead in worship since they are often more spiritual than the men who are leading.  This is used as the basis for advocating women's leadership in church or worship.  Of course there are women who are more spiritual than some of the men who do lead worship.  I just think it is the wrong arguement to use.

Spirituality is not the only factor in determining the various roles seen in church life.  There are many qualifications attached to various functions in the church that have nothing to do with spirituality.

For example, elders are to be spiritual, but they are also to be married.  So does that that a single man is not as spiritual as one that is married?  Enrolled widows are to be spiritual, but also must not have a living husband.  So are married women not as spiritual? 

Even in practical terms, I would suggest that someone leading praise worship needs to have musical ability.  I would not suggest that someone who is tone deaf lead worship based on the fact that they are more spiritual than someone who can carry a tune.   

So why do we use spirituality as a basis to try to decide function?  No one who reads Scripture would argue that there is an inherent spiritual depth based on marital status, gender, or race.  You just can't.  But all functions in church are not based solely on spirituality.

So when discussing women's role in leadership or worship, do not argue that the decision is about their inherent spirituality.  It is not.  It is about function.

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