Tuesday, February 19, 2019

 

Elders, Anointing, and Healing

During the time I served as an elder, one of my favorite shepherding activities was to anoint the sick.  I still remember when the church where I was an elder started doing it.  It started because several of us kept reading about it in James 5.  Now I had read that passage many times.  I even remember it being discussed some as I was growing up.  But I never saw it practiced.  In fact, most classes I ever heard about it was why we should not do it.

Here was the reasoning.  It was a cultural practice and not intended for Christians today.  The equivalent today would be to get the very best medical care possible (which would have been anointing with oil in the first century) and then get the elders to pray.  So in the first century they would be anointed and prayed over.  Today we would go to the Doctor and be prayed over.

Sounded right except it didn't.  Not really.  And of course, we shouldn't do it today because there were no instructions and the specific type of oil was not listed so it was not for today.

Except there it was right in James 5.  Several elders started kept talking about it and it seemed to us that if we were going to be a people that followed Scripture, we ought to figure out how to do it.  As to the instructions, we figured if God did not have the Holy Spirit be any more specific then maybe we were overthinking it.

So we started anointing sick members.  And praying over them.  We started letting our church know we were willing to do it.  To be honest, some members really wanted the praying but not the anointing.  OK.  We were never going to refuse to pray over a sick member.

So what kind of oil did we use?  Mostly virgin olive oil.  One time a deacon, I think, mixed some up using spices listed in the Bible. 

How did we anoint?  Some elders poured it on the head.  Some a little.  Some a lot.  I led a lot of those anointings and I usually put some on the forehead and used my thumb to make a cross.

We gathered around, laid hands on the sick one (and often members of their family) and we always read James 5.  Usually said something to the effect of the power being in God and not just the oil as we anointed. Did it in the name of Jesus.  And we prayed.

Our oil is held in small vials.  We give the vial with the remaining oil to the sick and tell them that every time they look at it they should remember the day that God healed them.  I look at mine every day. 

So was everyone healed?  Yes.  And no. We have had some amazing stories of physical healings.  Cancer gone.  Or surgeries that went exceedingly well.  Sometimes the physical healing did not occur the way we asked.

But without fail, every person we have ever anointed expressed a deeper faith in God, a willingness for his will to be done, and a peace for what was to come in the days ahead. I do believe some of that may be connected to whole forgiveness of sins mentioned in that passage. 

So I am suggesting you elders start anointing your flock.  Ask your elders to anoint you.  Because God said to and it works.  Of course.

I had led many anointings, been a part of others.  My wife has been to many.  All my kids and grands have even been to and been a part of anointings. 

And I have been anointed when I had a melanoma cut out of my chest.  My daughter Julie has been.  And one of my grands.  All healed. 

Powerful stuff. 

Thank you God for righteous men who listen to you and who pray for your healing in the lives of your flock. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

 

Thinking about being led by the Holy Spirit

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be led by the Spirit.  That is what I want in my life.  That is what I want for my family.  It is what I want for the church.  But what does that mean and how do you know if you  are being led by the Spirit?

So here are a few things I think so far.

Being led by the Spirit is not going to put you in conflict with Scripture.  The Bible is inspired by the Spirit so he is not going to contradict himself.

Led by the Spirit seems to refer often to becoming holy.  The Spirit leads us a different way of living.  Living by the Spirit is to put to death our sinful desires.  That is why so many of us are better people than we used to be.  The Spirit is helping us to be ... well, holy.

Jesus said the Spirit is like the wind.  I can't see wind but I can sure tell where it is.  Same with the Spirit.  I may not see it but I recognize where it is.  And here is how.

Wherever the Spirit is you will see the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

You want to know if you are led by the Spirit?  Do a check of the fruit in your life.

Same thing for you family. 

And the same for your church.  If your church is led by the Spirit you will see this fruit.

So when you want to know if a person or a church -- or you -- are being led by the Spirit, check the fruit being produced.

So glad for the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in me and in the church. 

Changes everything. 

For the better. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

 

Jesus, the Ethiopian, Phillip, the Holy Spirit, Devon, Alicia, and ...

Image may contain: Stephen Joel Ridgell, Devon Sargent and Marsha Ridgell, people smiling, people standing, shoes and beard
I love the story of the Ethiopian in Acts 8.  He wanted to know God, showed up to worship, read his Bible, didn't quite understand everything.

So the Holy Spirit connected him with a believer.  Philip explained Jesus to him and helped him with his decision to to follow him.

Same thing happened with Devon.  And Alicia, and Marsha, and Alison.  And a bunch of varmint hunting farmers.  And a church that invites people into life together.

Devon and Justin didn't really go to church much growing up.  but when they married and started their family together Justin suggested they start going and Devon agreed.  Visited several but found a home at the church of Christ in Winters.

Justin ended up working with some of the members in their farming operation.  Several of them are into varmint hunting together.  Attending worship, taking their three kids to class.  Doing life together.  Being a part of something that matters.  Getting more and more hungry to know God.  Got invited into some Bible studies with Alicia, Alison, and some other young Moms.

So I have gotten to preach for Winters the past several months.  Marsha and I got to know Devon. I kept reminding people that we are always available to talk about becoming a follower of Jesus.

So Devon called one day and came to see us in Abilene.  Marsha played with her littles while we talked about life, Jesus, and what it means to buy in completely with Jesus.  Devon went and talked to Alicia about it. 

So last Sunday during Bible class, Marsha and Devon went over some verses in the Bible about following Jesus.  Looked at some stories of people that decided to make that commitment.  And I preached on the Ethiopian.  Already planned.  Not just for Devon.  But clearly a God/Holy Spirit thing. 

Winters doesn't have services on Sunday night, but last Sunday at 5 most of the church came back to watch Devon be crucified with Christ in baptism. 

Alicia and Alison put together a celebration party for afterward. 

Chili, hot dogs, Jesus, family, and new life.

Go God.

Thank you Devon for being like the Ethiopian and seeking God.

Thank you Alicia, Alison, Marsha, and the Winters family of God for being Philip.

And thank you God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

 

How to pray for lost people

We often talk about praying for the lost, but what does that mean in practical terms for your prayer life?

Here are a few things I specifically pray about when I pray for those who are not followers of Jesus.

I pray specifically by name for those I know who are not believers.  I ask God to provide opportunities for me to speak a word for Jesus. 

I ask God to help me recognize those opportunities to talk about why Jesus matters.  I try to listen to stories and pay attention to conversation.  And I listen for openings to say a word for my faith. 

I constantly ask God to help me know the right words to say, the right invitation to extend, the right story to share.

I ask God for the courage to speak. 

And I pray for me to recognize the other people God might put in my life that need Jesus.

Some worry that it seems as if all I do is look for openings and opportunities to speak about Jesus. 

Correct.

After all, if I make a friend and never talk about Jesus -- then either I am not really their friend.  Or I am not really a friend of Jesus.

Make disciples. 

So God please put people that do not know you into my life.  Help me see the opportunities you give me, help me know what to say, and give me the courage to speak up.

 

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