Thursday, February 28, 2013


Happy birthday Jamie Ridgell

It's Jamie's birthday.  So, as is my custom for all my family...

Here are some reasons I love Jamie.

She loves God with everything she has.  Her passion just feeds into Joe Don's love for God and it makes them a powerful family of faith.

She loves Joe Don.  I am amazed at how in love they are.  Jamie constantly works at making their relationship even stronger.  She has proved to be the perfect wife for him.  He chose well.  God did a great thing when He put them together.

She loves Anna, Andrew, and Austin -- their three kids..  She enjoys being a Mom.  She thrives on it.  It is very much her calling.

She loves the rest of the Ridgells.  She is one of us.  I have no doubt that Jamie would do anything for any of us.  And do it happily.  She is a true sister to Julie and a great aunt to Avery and Jake.

She loves her church family.  They are super involved with small group, class, and living in community at their church.

She loves people who do not yet know Jesus.  There are people in their neighborhood who are Christians today because Jamie made friends, asked them to church, and lived Jesus in front of them.

She loves those who are in need.  Jamie feels a strong call to help people and they do something about it.

I guess you can see the common theme:  Jamie loves.

And I love her.

Happy birthday daughter.

Thanks God for letting her be part of our family.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


So how does a church decide about music?

If Scripture is clear about singing, but not clear about instruments, how does a church decide how to praise God in the assembly?

Based on What Matters, I am certain God chose neither style of music.  He did not say to not use instruments.  He did not say to use instruments.  He just said sing.

So if it doesn't matter, can we all do what we want.  Well, yeah.... if we all want the same thing.  Instruments or not?  Acoustical guitar or full on praise band?  Praise team?  One leader?  Contemporary or traditional hymns?  Gregorian chant or four part harmony?  Or some of all?  Every service?

So how does a church decide?

We could take a vote.  Majority wins.  We do praise music the way the majority wants.  Except then you have to decide who gets to vote.  Everybody on the roll?  So the guy who comes once a year gets the same opinion as one who comes every week?

How about voting based on how much you give?

Or my favorite:  one vote for every person you talked to about Jesus.

Or let the weaker members decide.  Most mature members understand it doesn't matter that much.  But maybe mature members would make a better decision.  Then we have to decide who is mature enough to vote.

So voting may not be such a good idea.

How about a variety of services so everyone can choose the one they prefer.  Of course the list above requires 10 or 12 services.  Then you have to let everybody have a service for their preferred way to do communion:  with or without a meal, quietly or interactive fellowship.

Now we are up to 20 or 30 services.  OK.  That may not work either.

Southern Hills is lead by an eldership.  So our eldership decided.  So what did we do to decide this?

We studied.  But we did not start with the instrumental question.  We studied Core Values (What Matters).  We studied the whole issue of worship.  Then we studied music in worship.  Our eldership thinks studying Scripture together is important.  We study lots of things together.  We have studied baptism. We have studied the type of men God calls to lead as elders.  So we studied.

We have our ministers involved in these studies.  Phil Ware, our Minister of the Word, has led many of these.  I have  lead many of these.  Danny Minton, one of elders who is also on staff, helped lead some of these.  But all our ministers and elders are expected to participate in the study.  All are asked to share their thoughts.

Then we prayed.  We pray lots about things.  We try to listen to God.  We talk to God.  We try to hear His answer.

Then we made a decision.  You need to know this about our eldership.  Our votes are not always unanimous.  But our decisions are.  We have 19 elders.  Rarely do we agree about everything when it is a matter of opinion.  But once we decide, we are all on board.  Just like we expect our ministers to be.  And like we ask our members to be.

So that is how we decided.  It is how Southern Hills did it.  That may not be how other congregations do it.  That's OK.  We don't think we speak for anyone else but us.  Nor do we particularly care what other congregations do.  We think they do what they think is best for them.  Just like we do.

So next week I'll let you know what we decided.  Well, most of you probably know.  But if you don't, I'll share that next week.  And tell you what we expect of our people in view of What Matters.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


What about instrumental worship?

Because I have a long history in churches of Christ, the question of instrumental music in our communal worship has been an interesting discussion.  For years, almost all churches of Christ were non-instrumental.   Lately, many churches of Christ are instituting instrumental services.  It is an issue that can provoke strong feelings in those of my heritage.  (By the way, other fellowships fight over worship also -- just not this particular issue).  So we at Southern Hills church of Christ have just finished working through this.  Let me share some of what we studied.

There was instrumental worship in Old Testament settings.  Check out Psalm150.

Martyrs in heaven have harps given to them by God.  Revelation 15:3

But what about the church?  How about Acts and the Letters? What does the New Testament say to us about using the instrument in our assemblies today?

A review of all New Testament passages that talk about the use of instruments in worship assemblies.

Now I will list all the New Testament verses that condemn the use of instruments in worship.

And here are all the New Testament verses that commend the use of instruments in worship.

So what does the silence of Scripture mean for us today?

Some would argue that silence is prohibitive.  That is, if God does not specifically command it then we should not do it.

Some would argue that silence is permissive.  That is, if God does not specifically command it then we should do it.

But what if silence is what it is.  Silence.  What if silence is not intended to be prohibitive or permissive?  What if God was silent because it is just not that big a deal to Him?  

But what about inferences that might apply?  You can talk about inferences all day but they are not the same as what God has said.  And He was silent on this issue.

So be very careful about dogmatic positions based on what God did not say.

So how do you decide what to do?  And how does it fit into a church's conviction about What Matters?

In a future post, I will share the Southern Hills answer to that question.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


So what about singing?

Scripture is really pretty vague on the details of worship.  In talking about What Matters and how it applies to worship, Phil and I spent some time working thru what Scripture says about singing.  Let me share some of what is said about singing.

Christians sing songs of praise when happy.  This seems to be an individual discipline (James 5:13).

Christians sing in groups.  Paul and Silas did in prison and it served as a witness to the gospel when the other prisoners listened (Acts 16:25

Gentiles will hear Christians praising God and will get to join in (Romans 15:9,11).  This would appear to be an evangelism reference.

There are some communal worship references:

Jesus and the apostles sang together at the Passover meal.  Matt. 26:30

I Corinthians 14:15 singing mentioned.  the emphasis of the passage seems to be that it is to be with spirit and understanding, it is to edify each other, we all participate (everyone has a hymn), and it convicts the unbeliever.

Ephesians 5:19  it is a Spirit filled activity.  We speak to each other.  It must be from the heart.  It is done with thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:16  context of the kind of people we are to be:  forgiving grievances against each other (like God forgives us), putting on love witch binds us in unity, let peace rule from the heart.  Word of Christ in us as we teach each other in our singing.  Whatever we do must be done in the name of the Lord while giving thanks

We will sing in heaven.  Revelation 5:9, 5:12 (the Revelation song), 14:3, 15:3

Not a lot about the mechanics.  A lot about the attitude.  So a lot about loving God and loving each other.

Be glad you can't hear... but I just got happy and sang the Revelation song from Revelation 5:12.  :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


How old people celebrate Valentine's...

Everywhere I look, people are blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, etc. about Valentine's Day.  What they are doing for their special meal,  special gift, etc.

Well, we had a great Valentine's Day too.  Here is how Marsha made it special for us.

Remember we are around 60 years old, been married right at 40 years, and I'm a preach/elder and she is a retired school teacher.

Marsha really thinks we ought to eat healthy, so you understand why our meal was so special.  Last night she fixed roast, mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy.  Nice.  Oh, it wasn't for me.  It was for a family whose Mom had just gotten out of the hospital.  But because it was Valentines, she saved some out for me.  Happy boy.

This morning:  "Happy Valentines.  Get your butt out of bed.  Time for the gym."  I thought we should skip because it was Valentines.  She made me go anyway because she doesn't want me to stroke out or have a heart attack.  Because she loves me and thinks we have important things to do together still.

She goes to our kids house to help out our daughter's family.  Julie had to have one last test today at the hospital (it went well) so Mimi took care of the grandkids while Bobby got Julie to the hospital.  Then we sat in the waiting room for an hour or so.  Holding hands.  Thanked God when tests on Julie were good.

So we decided to go on our Valentine date.  At 10:00 in the morning.  AM Doughnuts.  Jalapeno Cheese Sausage Kolache for me with an Apple Fritter Chaser.  And she gave me half of her Cinnamon Roll.  Then told me we have to go to the gym again in the morning.

Then I went to work and she was off to Grandkid's school parties.  Brought me a Diet Coke afterward.

Oh yeah, we wore Valentine outfits too.  Her socks today had hearts on them.  So did my tie.

You are thinking that's not much of a Valentine Day.  But it really is.  Its how you celebrate over 40 of them together.

You do the little things for each other.  You take care of each other.  You do for others.  You take care of the family God blessed you with.  You hold hands and say "I love you".  Lots.  You pray in hospitals.

You are OK that now you are the "aren't they cute?" old couple.

And you write blogs when you realize that you would take 40 more years just like this one.  Love, prayer, holding hands.

And you thank God.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013


What matters in worship

One of the most visible ways we live out what matters is in our communal worship.  After all, that is where communion with our brothers and sisters takes place.

But as soon as we mention communal worship, we leap to a discussion of what and how.  Sometimes to the point where we forget what worship really is all about.  So before talking about communal worship, we have to get rid of the idea that worship is an exercise restricted to an hour or so on Sunday morning.

And I do not mean we should expand corporate worship to an all day affair as do some of our brothers and sisters in Africa.  Nor do I mean we should expect everyone to attend two services a day, or three per week.

But I do mean we need to understand what real worship is and how it fits into what matters.

Our lives are worship.  We are to be living sacrifices to God.  Read Romans 12:1-2.  We worship with our lives in response to God's mercy.  That is our core value.  Jesus died for our sins.  That is God's mercy.  Because of that we love him with all that we have.  That leads us to live out our lives in worship.  We live forgiven.  We practice forgiveness.  We proclaim God's forgiveness in this world.  Our worship is to live counter to the culture of this world.  We become the living sacrifices offered to God.  Every day.

Even the admonition in Hebrews 10 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together is rooted in this concept.  We are to encourage each other.  We are to spur one another on to love and good works.  That is living our lives as worship to God.  And it happens outside of our together worship.

That is not 60 or 90 minutes a week.  That is 24/7 worship.

Even Jesus' admonition to the woman at the well was about life worship, not worship at just a certain place.  It is worship that springs in truth and spirit from the living water found in Jesus.

So communal worship is about coming together in order to worship.  It is coming together to continue worshiping.  It is to come together to share in the death of Jesus in communion.  It is to praise God.  It is to be inspired and motivated to leave worshiping.

Christians do not come to worship, or leave worship.  We are worship.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Daily life with what matters...

What Matters is more than just a doctrine or a church motto.  It has to change the way we live every day of our lives.  Today I want to share what that means in terms of dealing with sin in my life.

Jesus died for our sins.  If that is our core doctrine, then you cannot continue wondering if you are forgiven.  Jesus handled sin when he died on the cross.  It is forgiven.

He was buried.  And when we were buried with him in baptism, our sins and our old life were buried with him.  Romans 6 is about living out that reality.  Making a choice to submit as slaves to holiness instead of the sinful nature.  Not obeying evil desires.  Offering ourselves to God as those brought from death to life.

He was raised.  so we are raised to a new life.  New life means it is not acceptable to stay in the old life.  Grace is not some cheap get out of jail free card.  It is the avenue to a new life.

Love God with all you have.  Staying in a life of sin is to love your sin more than God.  Loving God is to put to death the sin that wants to reclaim you.  It is to radically live out kingdom values in this world.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  That starts in your church family.  We must take care of each other first. No one in your community of faith should go without basic needs.  Treat everyone you interact with as Jesus would treat them.  Put others first.  And you cannot love your world neighbors and not try to share Jesus with them.  You can't.

To not live out what matters is to prove that we do not believe the good news.  To not live out what matters is to love yourself, or your sin, or your possessions instead of loving God and your neighbor.

Finally, the call to live out what matters is not about church budgets and programs.  It is not about what we think our church should or should not do.  It is about living radically in the world as an individual follower of Jesus.  It is easy to focus on what the church should be doing rather than focusing on what I should be doing.

Love radically.  Live faithfully.

Put your life where your mouth is.

Which is why my goal for this year, and the rest of my life, is to be more like Jesus, talk more about Jesus, and to give God the glory.  Every day.

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