Monday, November 23, 2015


Andrew Joel Ridgell is 8

Andrew, Joe Don and Jamie's middle child, turned 8 last Thursday.  Here are just a few of the reasons I love him and am so proud of him.

He has a big heart.  He loves people.  He wants everyone to be happy, to be included, and to get along.  He already has great people skills.

He hates injustice and he cannot stand it when things are not fair.  He will be the one who takes up for the underdog.

He is happy.  He wakes up happy.  He is content with who he is and with his life.

He loves to worship.  Sings with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Loves to pray.  I love to hear him pray.  Deep, sensitive, loving.

He talks about God and Jesus.

He loves God and he loves Jesus.  Already very passionate about doing what they want him to do.

Loves his family.  He loves his Dad.  And his Mom, sister, and brother.  Loves his cousins, aunts, uncles.  His grands.  Loves Mimi.

He loves me.  We have a special bond and connection.  Fishing, sports, talking about God, telling Jesus stories.

And he does love sports. Good thing he is already a good athlete.

My life is blessed by Andrew Joel.  I am happier and closer to Jesus because he is my grandson.

So thanks God for a happy and healthy Andrew.  I cannot wait to see what his faith and your power will accomplish in his life.  And I am confident great things will be done by him in your name and for your Kingdom.  Thanks for letting me be part of it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


We are missing the real question about Christians and refugees

I get the emotions surrounding the recent questions about the United States and refugees.

But I think Christians are missing the point.

I understand the concern for safety, but we Christians are always in danger because we are living in a fallen world.  Our history is to be persecuted because we are at war and we live in the land of the enemy.  Christians rise above our fear every day.

I appreciate the concern for what Jesus would do, but that has not one thing to do with what America should or should not do.  America is not a Christian nation so do not argue about what Jesus would do in a political context.  There is no political system that is Christian.  Nor will there be.

But here is the question I really think Christians must be asking.

What am I going to do personally as a follower of Jesus when I encounter refugees?

I live in Abilene and we get a lot of refugees.  I assume that will continue.  At Southern Hills we have really tried to reach out to them.  We have especially been involved with the Bhutanese refugees.  We have done some things well and some not so well.  But somewhere around 60 of these refugees have become my brothers and sisters over the past few years.

But having said that, most of my congregation have never interacted with them.  Not served them, not been in their homes or had them in their homes, not shared Jesus.  It has been a radical commitment from a small group of a couple of dozen and then some involvement from maybe another 100 or so of us.

Here is what I want for Christians and refugees.

That faith will overcome fear.  That if refugees come to your community (your world), that you will go among them to make disciples.  It will be scary and might prove to be dangerous.  And it will be what Jesus called you to do.

That actions will match rhetoric.  That we will not just worry about what a government should or should not do, but that we will have an opportunity to put our faith into action. Making friends, serving in the name of Jesus, witness by our lives, testifying by teaching.

Who knows but that God's plan to evangelize Syrians -- and many others -- is to bring them right into our world.

And then trust us to do what He asks us to do.

So God help us to be your ambassadors to the strangers among us.  Let them see you in action by our lives.  Give us courage to speak about your son.  Let our faith conquer our fear.  We believe there is a great harvest waiting.  Send us into the field.  Or bring the field to us.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Thinking about heroes today

I have been reading a lot on social media today about heroes.  It got me to thinking about some of my heroes.

My heroes are Christians.  Kingdom people.  They are the ones I want to be like, the ones I want my kids to be, and the ones I want my grandkids to grow up watching.

Here are some...

The couples who have been married 50, 60, and 70 years and still love each other.  Living witness.

The mate who loving cares for their spouse who is suffering from debilitating illness:  cancer, Alzhiemer's, strokes.

Single Moms.

Foster parents and couples who adopt.

Those who buy a cup of coffee for a friend and share the story of Jesus.

Those who fight their addictions.  Who are sorry when they fail, who do something about it, and who will never quit trying to be more like Jesus and less like their old self.

Kingdom soldiers.  Those who go where the enemy is strong and share the story of Jesus.  In their neighborhood, among their friends, where they work and go to school.

Those who care enough to ask what they can do to help... and then do it.

Prayer warriors.

Nurses, Doctors, teachers, preachers, and counselors who see their professions as doing the work of Jesus.

Plumbers, roofers, farmers, salesmen, and janitors who are truly vocational ministers.

Bible class teachers.

Elders and their wives.

Those who by faith risk their lives every day for the Kingdom.

Those who die for their faith.

My heroes.

Thursday, November 05, 2015


So is being an elder worth it?

Southern Hills did ask me to lead them again as one of their shepherds.  There are 23 men who agreed to move forward to the affirmation stage of elder selection.  There were more than this who were asked to serve but decided not to go to the next stage.

Marsha and I are going through this next stage.  It is the one where the congregation prays, asks questions, visits with us... and then decides if they are willing to follow us.  So Marsha and I spent some thinking about this question:  is being an elder worth it?

It takes a lot of time.  Because I am out most weekends preaching, we have to spend most weeknights trying to shepherd.  Hospital visits, crisis shepherding, crisis management, prayer times, annointings, meetings, teaching ...

It is hard to manage the guilt sometimes.  You always feel like you could -- and should -- do more.  You worry about that nagging sense that you ought to talk to someone but you get busy and don't get around to it.  Then later find out you missed an opportunity.

It is painful to lose sheep.  And sometimes we do.  People leave Jesus.  They abandon mates and children.  Marriages fail.  People chase what they believe will make them happy rather than being obedient to God.  And even though you warn them, and even though it is ultimately their choice ... it hurts.  Sometimes the addictions win.  Satan does steal some sheep.

It hurts to see your sheep wounded.  Even when repentance is real there is still horrible consequences to sin.  It hurts to see your people hurt.

And we have feelings.  Sometimes those feelings get hurt.  And of course we want people to like us.  People leave because they don't get their way.  Sometimes they say hurtful things.  You make decisions and people say cruel things because they do not agree.  Even well meaning people say things that hurt when their needs have not been met.  Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are unrealistic, but it hurts.

So why in the world would anyone serve as an elder?

Because of the people that want to follow Jesus.

Because broken marriages get healed.  Addictions get broken.  Because prayers and annointings lead to healing.  And when they do not ... you help your sheep keep their feet on the road to heaven.

Because your flock grows.  Because they become more like Jesus.

Because you become more like the Great Shepherd.

Because God called you.  Because your people asked you.

Because some day I will get my crown.

So I don't do this to be an elder of a church.

I do this to be a shepherd of my sheep.

People not power or prestige.

So sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we lose sleep, sometimes fall to our knees.  We get to witness God do amazing things.

We commit to getting home.  And we bring as many of our flock as we can.

It is who we are.  It is what we do.

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