Sometimes We Fail One Another

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by tara gibson

Have you ever had those moments that you heard news that was so shocking that you remember every detail about where you were and what you were doing when you heard it?

In 2003 when I was on maternity leave with my first born, very colicky son, I was sitting on my new $20 thrift store couch, that smelled like someone else’s bad habits. I got a phone call from my best soul-mate sister, which was also the wife of one of the pastors of my beloved church. Her words still sting as she said “Troy has been arrested for child molestation”. I was shocked, disturbed, sickened and terrified all at the same time.

Troy was our lead pastor, the founder of our church. The entire time I was asking the typical questions…”Who? When? Where? my mind was reeling back to my childhood when another highly respected, very spiritually gifted man of God was doing the same thing to children that are now scarred up grown-ups with trust issues, low self worth, and a string of bad choices that stem from the innocents that was stolen from them. Many years have passed since then, years that have been served in prison, or for the victims in therapy or in what God only knows what else.

The news that broke this past week in our city about 32 arrested, including 2 church leaders, in connection with human trafficking and prostitution took me right back to these moments. Moments where my church family was devastated. Moments when we all questioned how we didn’t know this was part of his character…this was the man that collectively married us, buried our loved ones, dedicated our babies, baptized us! Did his sinful nature make all of that null and void? Was everything we had learned about Jesus while under his teaching now questionable? How could this happen from such a “good Christian”?

I moved from that state shortly after that. I left that church where I was once so involved that it was part of my identity. I was broken. It took me a very long time to even want to go to church again. When I did I spent years in the background of a giant church where I didn’t want to know anyone, or get close to any of the pastors, because up until this point in my life preachers have been the men that have shattered everything I understood about God’s love and protection.

I was keeping myself “safe”, but in all honesty I isolated myself from the very people that I would need. I didn’t form the relationships that I needed when my life fell apart due to my first husbands addictions, depression and ultimately his death. Because I allowed fear to take over I was completely alone in a giant church full of people.

Now, 13 years later, I have had to overcome the after effects of my lack of faith and fear of man disappointing me. I am a very active part of my church family at Ridge Church. I have learned that we are all flawed and apart from Jesus we are all capable of hurting others. Even as believers we will fail each other.

I also know that sexual sin is alive and thriving in this broken world we live in, Christians are not immune to the draw of sexual desires. I am in no way excusing the actions of anyone! I’m simply stating that God’s word gives us specific instruction on how to guard ourselves from attack of the enemy.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/eph.6.11.niv

Non-believers will never comprehend that spiritual battle we are in EVERYDAY as Christians. They will never understand that we are probably tempted more than anyone because the enemy knows he can destroy the character of the men and women that are spreading the gospel by luring them into his traps.

So I say this to my friends and family that attend the churches effected by this disgusting crime that was revealed yesterday, stand firm in your faith, stand firm in your trust in God. Don’t let another mans actions draw you away from the community that God has called you into. Pray for discernment, pray for wisdom! Don’t read all the articles that come across and if you do don’t read the comments. If you read the comments, don’t react to them in an un-Godly way that will further damage what non-believers understand about our Jesus!

Let God fight for you!

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.””

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/exo.14.14.niv

It is no surprise to God what happened in our community yesterday. Another thing non-believers can’t comprehend. It was NOT His will, but I can promise you He has a plan and His plans are always good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.8.28.niv

Young people, Apologists and Jesus

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by rob purdie

One of my favorite teachers – and by far my favorite living Christian apologist – is Ravi Zacharias, pictured above. I try to listen to his teachings on a daily basis.

Recently, I listened to one of his earlier messages that addressed the receding influence of Christian standards in Western culture.

I think that it resonated with me for several reasons, not the least of which is because he referenced the greatest Christian apologist of the modern era, C.S. Lewis.

Lewis was brilliant beyond measure. His transition from atheism to Christianity is probably a defining moment of 20th century Christianity. In addition to Lewis’ apologetics, his contribution to literature through his Chronicles of Narnia series is towering.

But Ravi’s point of focus in the current message was that God’s position as “a tiger,” a cosmic force to change the hearts and actions of men and women was past. Our culture now considers Christians and those who adhere to God as irreverent.

I see the tragedy in this. And I truly empathize with Ravi’s point. The world has changed in this paradigm. And the change is not inherently for the better. We, in America and in Western culture, have thrown off the anchors. We’re adrift in a sea of new-agey relativism that leaves us ungrounded.

In fact, on the temporal scale, this change is dangerous. Frightening even.

But, on the other hand . . .

The hallmark of youth is rebellion.

For most of Susan’s and my lives in ministry, we have focused on children and young people’s ministries. We wanted our children to have Christ-centered guidance. But, after a while, I came to relish the energy and a newness of perspective that came with working with young people.

And the church frequently needs to be reminded of how Scripture speaks of the critical contributions of youth.

Beyond all that, however, the element of hope in the future rest not only with God’s love being transmitted, but with a generation of people willing to transmit that to a needing and broken world.

Tonight, Refuge Student Ministries – the young people’s group at Ridge Church – are celebrating graduations and transitions with Memorial United Methodist Church in Clinton. In this celebration, they are lifting up God and what He’s doing in their lives and the lives of other people their age.

That’s why children and young people are SO very important to God. They aren’t just here to be the “someday” future.

They are here to be Jesus to a new culture – right now.

Behind The Song: No Longer Slaves

Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser bring a powerful message of freedom and restoration through “No Longer Slaves.” Here’s the full video from “We Will Not Be Shaken." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E
Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser bring a powerful message of freedom and restoration through “No Longer Slaves.” Here’s the full video from “We Will Not Be Shaken.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E

 

by julie bradford

“ You split the sea so I can walk right through it,

My fears are drowned in perfect love,

You rescue me so I can stand and say,

I am a child of God!”

The Ridge Band introduced the song “No Longer Slaves” a few weeks ago and it has quickly become one of my favorite songs. The song talks about how we are children of God and we are free from sin. My favorite part is the bridge, which is written above. Fear has been something I have struggled with often, so this song really spoke to me.

Fear is something which haunts each and every one of us at some point. Before January 2014, my fears were pretty trivial. I was scared of scary movies, roller coasters, and tornadoes. After I lost my husband, John Monday, my fears changed. I was afraid of sickness. I was terrified that my boys were going to get some crazy illness and they would be taken from me too. The fear began to control different aspects of my life.

I didn’t want to take the boys places where they could get sick.

I didn’t want to take them to places with a lot of children.

I would go to the gym at 4am so my kids wouldn’t have to go to the gym with me and potentially get sick.

I was blessed at this time to have someone come to my house and watch the boys, which helped ease my nerves.

But it still controlled and consumed me.

One Sunday, during the Recovering RedemptIon series, Bobby preached on fear and anxiety. It was at this point that I realized what the root issue of my fears was…..

I didn’t trust God.

I didn’t trust God to keep my boys safe. I didn’t trust God to keep me safe. I was just waiting on the other shoe to drop. I was waiting to lose someone else. Yet my perspective was completely out of whack.

  • In my head I knew God did not make John pass away. I knew biblically he doesn’t do that. I knew it was because of the fall of mankind, when sin entered the world, brought with it pain and sickness. So in my head I knew all of that was true, but I didn’t truly believe it.
  • My priorities were also jacked up. I was elevating my boys over God. I thought I would take better care of them than the one who created them.
  • I wasn’t thinking with an eternal perspective. Ultimately, my life’s goal should be to bring glory to God. I love being a mom and a wife, but that’s not the “endgame” for me. That’s not my purpose.

Once I finally trusted my boys to God and realized he has their best interest in mind and he is their Father, I was able to let go of those irrational fears I held onto. It was like there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. That’s where the second part of the song comes in.

“You rescued me so I can stand and say, 

I am a child of God!”

God has brought me through this struggle with fear so I can proclaim I am His. He has brought me through so I can help others who are going through the same thing to see that, regardless of how awful life might be, we can still trust God. God loves us and, even when it seems like he is a million miles away, he is right there in the midst of the despair. He is taking care of us, maybe not in the way we think we should be taken care of, but in the way we need to be taken care of. Our God is a great and mighty God who loves us with a love we can’t even comprehend.

How Do You Move On?

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by courtney hicks

I’m often told that I’m so strong to overcome everything that I have been through.  It’s often said, I don’t know how you get up every morning. That’s when I start to question myself.  Should I feel more hurt?  Should I still feel the sting that I felt on those horrible days?

Let me just give you a backstory…

In 2012 I married my best friend, the one I know God hand-picked just for me.  Just a couple months later we found out that we were pregnant, it was a girl.  We couldn’t hide the excitement. On December 26th, I woke up with a horrible pain in my neck.  After being checked in at the ER and having my vitals taken, I was sent to Labor & Delivery.  My blood pressure was so high that it was required that I be seen by the doctor on call.

I was taken to Labor & Delivery triage and they couldn’t locate a heartbeat on the Doppler so they called the doctor to come in and do an ultrasound.  I’ll never forget what happened next.  He stood in front of the machine so I couldn’t see… then turned to me and said, “See right there. That’s where the heartbeat should be.”  Did I really just hear him right?  He just checked me out one week before and she was perfect.  After those words, I don’t recall anything that was said.  He told my husband that there was nothing they could do for the baby, but now they had to focus on saving my life. My kidneys were starting to shut down.  My blood pressure was so high they were worried I would start having seizures or possibly die if they didn’t act quickly.

I was immediately moved into a room and given medication to start the delivery process.  I recall telling my husband that I wanted to go home, that I couldn’t do this.  My family came to lend support and I remember seeing my dad cry for the 2nd time in my life.  The first time involved me too, but that’s another story for another day. Roughly 12 hours later, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I had ever laid eyes on, Farrah Adin, all 1 pound 3 ounces of her.  Four days later I was released from the hospital to attend my daughter’s funeral.  I don’t recall a lot about the funeral.  I remember the church being packed with family and friends, people hugging me and telling me they were so sorry.  I remember my husband speaking and some music being played.  I remember my mom holding me and sobbing.  But what I remember most of all was a burden being lifted.  I felt peace.  I knew that she was safe.  I knew where she was.  She was sitting at the feet of Jesus.

After the loss of Farrah, Cristian came to us and wanted to be loved.  Not only wanted to be loved, but he wanted to be loved by us.  He has an amazing birth father that loves him more than life, and now he has 2 more people that love him more than they could ever tell him.

Fast forward to March 2014 and I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl, Mercy Kaye.  She is a ball of energy and reminds me every day what life is about.

Press fast forward again to August 2015, when we found out that we were pregnant again.  But not just pregnant, pregnant with twin boys!  After talking to my doctor, we agreed that I should transfer to a high risk OBGYN.  On my second routine visit to the doctor, they decided to do an ultrasound.  When you’re pregnant with twins, it’s hard to get both heartbeats on the Doppler so they often opt for an ultrasound. As the ultrasound tech is doing the ultrasound, I notice that she is very quiet and scans over Baby A very quick.  My gut is telling me something is wrong, so I ask her very bluntly, “Is he okay?”  She puts the wand down and tells me that Baby A doesn’t have a heartbeat and she’s going to get the doctor.   With tears streaming down my face, I call my husband.  “We lost Asher” were the only words out of my mouth.  Within what seems like minutes my husband is by my side grieving another loss with me.  I’m kept overnight for observation and placed on moderate bed rest until delivery of both babies.  On February 4th I notice that what I assumed were Braxton Hicks contractions were happening more frequently than normal. After laboring all day, I had an emergency C-section and gave birth to a handsome baby boy, Hudson William Judah, at 4 pounds 12.8 ounces.  He was 8 weeks early and spent the first 15 days of his life in the NICU.   After a few days of recovering we had a burial for Asher William, our 2nd stillborn child.  No mother should ever have to bury a child, let alone 2 of them that never took a breath of air.  

So back to how am I so strong?  I’ll tell you…Jesus.  Without Him, I wouldn’t have made it.  Without Him, I would be lost.  A friend shared this verse with me after we lost Farrah.

Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. – Psalm 94:17-19  

Did you just read those words?  Your unfailing love supported me.  Your consolation brought me joy.  How amazing is that?  I looked up the meaning to unfailing… it means reliable or constant.  

So how do I wake up every morning?  I wake up the same way you do. I hit the alarm clock, my feet touch the floor and I immediately start praying. I thank Him for another day.  I thank Him for giving me the opportunity to share my story.  I thank Him for the 2 healthy children I gave birth to and the one that chose me (Cristian).   I thank Him for the supporting people He’s placed in my life.  I thank Him for the family that supports me during the hard times.  Although I experienced two tragic losses, I also received three amazing blessings.   Three times Jesus gave me hope for another day.  Three times He showed me grace after I cursed Him.

You see one day, my story will help someone.  My story will help them open up and feel that burden being lifted.  They will come to me and say, “Thank You.”  And I will walk this hard walk with them.  I will tell them about my Heavenly Father, how He loves them with unfailing love.

Want More, Get More

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by wesley hicks

Sometimes we can be creatures of habit. For me, there are a few quirky things I do repetitively that stand out the most and for the most part they revolve around sports. I used to play baseball in high school and some in college.

Typically I pitched or played middle infield. When it was time to take the field I would go through a routine of grabbing my glove and I would work it with a little spit and begin my route to the field. Once I make it to the foul line I jump over the line and land with my feet in a specific way. If my feet didn’t feel right, or I touch the line I would turn around and go back to the dug out and start over. Once I felt like I had done this correctly I would then put my glove on my glove hand and I was then set. After all 3 outs were secured I would wear my glove until I get to the line, and gently step over without touching the line and then take the glove off and begin to be normal for a moment.

For hitting, I am more relaxed. I just need to walk behind the catcher and umpire before I step into the batter’s box. Aside from all that I am pretty normal when I comes to routines. Routines are not bad, and for the most part not as insane as what I do when I play ball. In fact, one that I would share with the hopes of seeing others incorporate it is both very simply and potentially very transformative.

I heard a pastor once say a prayer, that as soon as I heard it I began to use it regularly in my own life and I am so thankful that I do. It is this, “Lord, I don’t ask you for much today, I just ask that you give me your heart for those that don’t know you.” Now I don’t use that exact same prayer, but instead I use my own form of it, “Lord, I don’t ask you for much today, I just ask that you give me your heart for the people in our church, in my workplace, and the people you bring into my life today.” God has used this prayer to change my heart more and more each day. It has brought me more consistent joy and more meaning in my relationships with the people in my life. It has helped me to become more forgiving when my natural bend is to hold on to anger or hurt. It has given me a better perspective in caring for the people that I get to walk through life together with. It has opened my eyes and heart to a deeper sense of my own purpose in the lives of the people that God allows me to love and care for. Why has this prayer impacted me like this?

I believe that the answer to that question is as simple as it is also meaningful. I believe that when we pray for God to make us love people the way He loves people that He delights in answering that prayer because it creates in us a heart that glorifies Him. I also thing that it creates in us a desire to respond to people in the same way we have sensed God respond to us in any given situation. Here are just a few ways that I see this play out in my own life:

(Vertical = Me to God, Horizontal= Me to Others)

1. Conversations:

2. Service in the Church

a. Vertical – I have weird questions and thoughts sometimes, yet when I ask God the questions that maybe I feel aren’t appropriate to ask in church I always encounter a God that loves me and leads me in a direction that ultimately pulls me closer to Him.

b. Horizontal – When conversations with others leads me takes us to a point that may not line up with sound theology I am reminded that when I have moments that are cloudy God lovingly guides me toward truth at the pace in which I can handle it. So when those moments happen with others I try to remember that God wants me to focus on loving this person at the pace in which they can accept truth without destroying the trust and respect that the relationship is founded on. I don’t compromise on sharing the truth, but sometimes the answer I would want to share quickly is really aimed a question that the person isn’t even ready to ask yet.

a. Vertical – Ultimately, God in His loving grace served me through sending Jesus to die for me. While He walked with His disciples we saw so many interactions with people in which Jesus lovingly served them to see them experience hope, joy, and truth. Even now I see how often He serves me daily in that He has given me air in my lungs, food on my plate, and a roof over my head. None of those are guarantees or rights that I have earned in this life, but they are general gifts of His grace towards me.

3. Service in my family

b. Horizontal – I look at each time I am at our church as an opportunity to serve someone. On Sunday’s I am not assigned in any one ministry because I am normally floating around looking for our ministry leaders to see if I can help them in any way they need. I do this because I really believe that the people serving on Sunday have the largest potential to impact people for the Gospel than any sermon I may ever preach. I see so much potential in every volunteer that we have that it amazes me that I get to serve them. I just wish we had even more people stepping to serve and volunteer so that they would experience the joy in store for His people as we are intentional in service to reflect the Gospel.

a. Vertical – God loves me even when I am a turd. When I make bad decisions, continually say the wrong things, and even when I am worshipping self more than Him. God shows me so much grace.

b. Horizontal – As a husband, I am called to love my wife like Jesus loves the church. That’s pretty heavy, but when I am intentional to be patient, loving, and selfless in leading my wife and my kids I am also able to see why loving them this way should be much easier. I see the beauty and giftedness of my wife and wonder why I would ever be a jerk. I see the wonderment in my kids and the innocence in their eyes that make me want to protect and lead them better every day. God makes me want more out of myself as a husband and father when I seek to share His heart for my family.

“Lord, I don’t ask you for much today, I just ask that you give me your heart for the people in our church, in my workplace, and the people you bring into my life today.” This may just seem like a silly practice, and honestly maybe it is. I would just challenge you to this- Commit to praying this for 30 days. Every day, sincerely pray this prayer and from the deepest part of you mean it. Today it may seem silly, and in 30 days it may still seem silly, but if you will give this a shot I would love to know how you feel about this at the end of the 30 days. Good or bad, I want to hear about your experience with this challenge.

If you will give this serious effort email me @ wesley@ridgechurchonline.com and let me know you are up for this challenge. Keep me posted as you are doing this challenge and at the end I want to know all about your experience. Will you accept? I double dog dare you.