Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Bringing the prodigal home... and keeping him there

I do spend a lot of my shepherding time with believers who have blown up their lives.  Sometimes I get to work with those who have been away from the Lord for years.  Everyone rejoices when the prodigal repents/comes home.  We really do a good job most of the time in extending forgiveness and dealing with guilt and shame.

But when a prodigal comes home, that is only the beginning of their renewed spiritual journey.  It is not the end.  The goal is not just to bring them home, but to keep them home.

So here are a few tools I use in equipping prodigals to stay in the light and live as Jesus has called them to live.

Prayer and confession.  Read thru James 5.  There is a real connection between trouble, prayer, forgiveness, confession, and healing.  Help them process appropriate confession.  Pray with them, for them, and over them.  Use the model prayer:  pray for forgiveness and also for deliverance from the evil one.

Walk with them.  Remember Paul's admonition in Galatians that those of us who are spiritual should restore the fallen gently.  They are watching us to see how to resume their Christian life.  Walk beside them, be a living example, be sure they get their feet firmly moving on the Jesus road.

Use Scripture.  The Bible is good for rebuking and correcting.  You do not have to do that with them.  Let God speak into their life.  And Scripture will even train them in how to live righteous.  I know this is right because, well... I read it in the Bible.  Jesus used Scripture in the wilderness to battle Satan.  Our returning prodigals can use it the same way.

Remind them to use the Holy Spirit.  There is a reason David begged God not to remove his Holy Spirit after David's disaster with Bathsheba.  Remind them that the Holy Spirit will put to death the misdeeds of their body (Romans 8). 

Pray lots, walk beside, speak truth into their life, Holy Spirit. 

Lots of prodigals did not just come back.  We stayed.  Let's help others do the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Why Scripture is the one counseling tool I have to use...

I spend a lot of time talking to people about what God wants from them and for them.  I talk to non-believers about what it means to follow Jesus.  I talk to believers about how to live as a disciple.  I spend a lot of time helping Christians who find their lives in a mess.  I have initiated many of the conversations and other times I have had people approach me.  But I make one thing very clear from the beginning.  I think the Bible is true.  That is where you see God's will revealed. 

Even when I just tell a story from Scripture to a non-believer, I tell them it is from the Bible.  I even show them where to find it so they can read it for themselves.  Give them one if they do not own a Bible.

All of my spiritual counseling utilizes Scripture.  We read it, talk about it, and try and understand what it means in real life.

Here are just a few of the reasons that I think using Scripture must be a part of your spiritual counsel and advice.

God is smarter than we are.  I can share my opinion.  I can talk all day long about what I think is the answer to all their issues.  But I am not sure it really matters to most people what I think.  It might matter to them what God says.  And I might be wrong.  He is not.

The hard sayings need to come from God.  There will be times when truth is hard to hear.  It can be offensive, or emotionally upsetting.  I never want to hurt anyone by spouting off things that I think.  If something is going to be hard to hear, it better come from God not me.

Using the Bible keeps it from getting personal.  If someone wants to argue with what I say, let them argue with Scripture.  Hard spiritual discussions can get difficult.  "Who are you to tell me..."  "You do not know what you are asking me to do."  "You are hateful.  You are mean.  You are cruel.  You do not know what you are talking about."  "You are judgmental.  You are unloving." 

If you have done much spiritual counseling, you have heard things like this.  That is why I want to keep reading from Scripture.  It is between them and God, not them and me.  But if I am not using Scripture, they may actually be right about some of the things they say.

Using Scripture keeps me from taking it personally.  If they reject what I share with them, it is God's word they are rejecting.  Much like what God told Samuel when the people wanted a king like the other nations.  God reminded Samuel that the people were not rejecting Samuel, but rejecting God. 

I believe Scripture is living and active.  Just reading the Word of God works on people's mind and heart.

And the Bible is full of direct, practical advice that is relevant today.   

Thank you God for giving us your word.  I need to hear it.  I need it to work on me.  I need to use it to help others be what you want them to be.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Our granddaughter Avery Gilbreth is 11 tomorrow

So our Avery, Julie's daughter, turns 11 tomorrow.  Here is why I love her and am so very proud of her.

She is as sweet and good natured a person as I have ever known.  She is kind and loving.  She wakes up happy. She rarely complains and she is a genuinely happy girl.

Loves animals.  She really loves animals.  Loves her pig, cat, and both dogs.  Loves our two dogs. 

Great athlete.  Two time state champion in gymnastics.  Moving up to higher and more difficult competition.  Loves it.

Has a lot of her Mom and her Mimi in her.  That's two good role models. 

Loves her family.  Her Mom and brother mean everything to her.  And Mimi and Pops.  Loves her cousins and her aunt and uncle.  And Mamma and Aunt Phyl. 

Has a lot of friends.  A lot of friends.

Loves Jesus.  She wants to do right and be right.  Loves people. 

Younger girls want to hang out with her.  They want to be like her.  And that's good because she is a great role model.

Loves her Pops.  I put that one in there just for me.  She makes me feel like I am special.  Just like she does everyone else.

So God thank you for Avery.  You are using her to make this world better.  Protect her from evil.  Use her to do amazing Kingdom things.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


This is how you make a disciple

I met Charlie in Princeton, NJ last Sunday and got to watch him become a disciple.  Here is how it happened and I think it is a great blueprint for us to follow.  And it a great reminder of how God works to bring people to him.

Charlie is married to a Christian. In fact, his father-in-law is a preacher.  So Charlie got to see up close how Christians live.

He attended church fairly often with his wife and even helped in a few church projects.  He made friends and formed connections. 

He made friends with John and Jhis family at church.  They got close and John would talk to Charlie about Jesus and what it meant to follow Jesus. 

Charlie got to know the preacher, Bruce.  He and Bruce would talk about his spiritual journey and next steps.

And that is when I got to play a small part.

I preached on Phillip the evangelist.  Talked about the Holy Spirit connecting believers and non-believers.  Told the story of Jesus.  Talked about the part Phillip played in changing the Ethiopian's life forever.  Shared how Phillip didn't just tell others about Jesus but his whole family were believers that talked about Jesus.

During the invitation time, I walked the aisles to pray with people about those they wanted to reach for Jesus.  John asked me to pray for two men he wanted to reach for Jesus.  So we prayed for them.  Though at the time, I did not know who he was... one of those men was Charlie.

After church, Charlie talked to me.  He was really struck by the Ethiopian deciding to commit to Jesus right away.  He pointed to John and said he had been helping him learn how to follow Jesus.  He pointed to the baptistery and said there is water.  He said that he should die and be raised with Jesus.

About that time Bruce shows up and Charlie tells him he is ready to take the next step so when it is convenient he was ready to be baptized.  Bruce said how about now.  Charlie said there is water and I am ready.

So I got to see John baptize his friend Charlie into Christ.

Because believers lived Jesus, prayed for him, welcomed him, talked about Jesus with him, encouraged him to stay on the journey, and a visiting preacher told just the right story to convict him.  Planting and watering and watching God give the increase.

Charlie, John, Bruce, Steve, and Jesus making followers.

Go God.

Thursday, July 05, 2018


JD and Jamie had an anniversary

My son Joe Don and his wife Jamie just celebrated 18 years of marriage.

Here are just a few of the reasons I am convinced God did an amazing thing when he put them together.  And why I love them as a couple.

They are still deeply in love.  You can see it when you are around them.  They still work hard at their relationship and that keeps it strong.

They really make a good team.  They are both passionate followers of Jesus and they are passing that down to their kids.  They work well together and are on the same page about the things that matter.

They are deeply involved in their church.  Teaching, hosting small group, counseling, sponsoring youth activities.

They have survived the hard times.  Moves, job changes, accidents, sickness.  Those are the things that make or break a marriage.  They get stronger.

Their family is so much bigger than just the five of them.  Parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends.  they are all part of the Ridgell extended family.

They intentionally build their home to be a Kingdom outpost wherever their house is. 

Watching them raise three of my grands gives me absolute confidence that there is going to Kingdom work done by the next generation also. 

Thanks God for putting Joe Don and Jamie together.  They are doing great things for you and thru you.  Give them many more years to serve you.

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