January 20 Devotional

Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 22:36-39

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lordʼs feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, donʼt you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.””
Luke 10:38-42 NIV

There are so many things in our lives today that distract us from what’s important. This passage tells a story of two sisters, one that is task driven and one that is relationally driven.
Martha, the task driven sister was honorable in her preparations, after all, who wouldn’t want their house to look nice and the meal they are preparing to be scrumptious? It takes a lot to make sure everything is on point.  The problem with that is when your main focus is on your presentation and not the one your serving, you’re missing out on so much.
Mary was relationally driven, she wanted to spend as much time with Jesus as possible.  The home preparations were “good enough”. As soon as Jesus got there her attention shifted completely to Him.  Jesus says this is the way it should be.  He didn’t go there to inspect her home, or to critique the meal that was prepared. He went there to love them and spend time with them. Jesus would rather have the quality time with us than to walk into a perfectly prepared home.
It is the same with the people in our lives.  God designed us to be relational, His greatest desires and command is that we love Him and we love others. If we are too busy making sure everything is perfect, or worrying about every little thing  there is little time left to spend with the people in our lives.

““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22:36-39 NIV


Tara Gibson

January 9 Devotional

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27
I can remember being afraid since I was a little girl. I was afraid of the dark, loud noises, and big
dogs. I once ran so erratically from a German Shepherd that I managed to slip down the hill on
our street, cutting my forehead open and having to get stitches. I was terrified of Darth Vader
when I saw Star Wars for the first time. I had nightmares afterwards, waking up unable to
breathe after getting swooped up in his black cloak in my dreams. I was always shy and timid in
school, and I didn’t really have any friends because I was afraid to talk to people.
I still struggle a lot with fear. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to
sleep, and the panic feels like a dark thing sitting on my chest, pressing down until I can’t
breathe. During these times, it’s all I can do to pray, but I can’t really do anything else at 3 a.m.
So I lie there, trying to think of something to say to God, some way to ask for His help, and bits
and pieces of scriptures illuminate like light bulbs my mind:
“Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.”
(Psalm 91:5)
“The Lord is my keeper: the Lord is the shade on my right hand.”
(Psalm 121:5)
“Fear not, fear not, fear not…”
(Isaiah 41:10, Luke 2:10, and, according to Rick Warren, 365 places in the
I keep repeating these verses like a mantra, until I can breathe again.
Jesus said that He left us with peace. If you look around the world or even your own
neighborhood, it’s hard to see that peace, and it’s easy to be afraid. Hardly a day goes by that I
don’t see a Facebook status about a sickness, a death, an accident, a job loss, a war, another
political battle. It feels never-ending. Yet in John 14:27, Jesus assured us that His legacy is
peace, and He says that it’s unlike anything the world has ever given us before.
What has the world given me? I have blessings: a great husband, awesome kids, a terrific
church, a good job. But I think that, while these gifts exist in this world, they’re not of it. James
1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of
heavenly lights.” God gave me these blessings. The world’s gift to me has been fear, because
who knows what could happen in an instant on this planet?
But this fear is not the gift that Jesus gives. He says He doesn’t give as the world does, so the
peace He gives is nothing like what we’ve received from life on this planet. Life on Earth
conditions us to be afraid of what we’re going to get—the things that chase us or envelop us
around every turn, each and every long and endless night—but that’s not His legacy to us.
That’s not the gift He’s offering. It’s peace.
What does this peace entail? There are lots of things that I want it to be: the monsters to be
vanquished, the wars to end, death to be overcome. And He promises all that, too. But right
now, I live in a world that is marked by uncertainty and instability. Yes, that knowledge at times
threatens to suffocate me. But in the middle of the fear, there He is, saying what He gives is so
much more. It’s peace, perfect peace, that He promises to keep us in.
I don’t know what the next day will bring when I’m awake in the middle of the night, but I do
know that all I have to do is whisper His name and He is there. He promises us, over and over
and over, that I don’t have to be afraid, that He’s got me, that “in peace I can lie down and sleep,
for He alone, makes me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). And in those moments, that gift is more
than enough.

January 5 Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This prayer has a special meaning for me. I had sat under an amazing pastor who introduced me to Jesus. It was after my sister had taken her life and I was at my lowest point in my life. He showed me who Jesus really was, not religion or Christianity, but really introduced me to Jesus.  Fast forward to 2015 when (after searching for a church literally for years and finding unkind people, backbiting, and frankly uncaring souls) we walked in to The Ridge. First, I knew so many people from there who had always been kind to me in daily life. That was a plus!  Everyone I met was so kind. They were happy to see us, they reached out to us on Sunday and throughout the week. They embraced my boys, even when they were noisy.

On January 5, 2016 I was sitting at my desk at The Arc and got a call from Loni, my daughter-in-law. She said that I needed to come to her house right away because Branden had “done something.” I asked if he was dead and she said, “Just come.” I remember telling another lady in my building that I had to go and I feared that my son was dead, but I don’t remember walking there or back nor locking my office. I talked to 2 different people on my way to Branden’s house. They kept me on the line until I arrived in the driveway. I saw the ambulance coming from there and asked if they had my son. He replied that they had nobody inside. I knew then that my son was gone. Now, I want to go back to October when we first came to The Ridge. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that our lives were lead by the Lord between October and January. People reached out to us and He put things in place that I needed to just survive this devastation.

Now, that day, I remember (in slow motion) pulling into the driveway and seeing the love of my life bending over from the waist and screaming. There were police officers guarding the camper and talking to the many family members that had already arrived. Family continued to come and hug me. I was numb and had no idea what to do or where to turn. Jerry said,”Don’t go to the dark place like you did with Pam (my sister) because I will not be able to save you this time.” I knew I had to lean on others to make it through this. My sons and daughter had lost their brother, Jerry had lost his son, Loni had lost her husband, and my grand babies had lost their daddy.

The coroner’s van came to take Branden away. Nothing would ever be the same again. I would see his smile only in photographs and in his children.

I wanted  to be there when they took him away. The clergy from the sheriff’s department stood with us and asked what he could do. I said help me say the Lord’s prayer. We called Bobby and he came. I hardly knew him, but he came.

I could hardly move or think from being numb with shock, but I asked him to help me say the Lord’s prayer because I knew that it covered everything. I screamed it to God as they took Branden out of the camper and slid him into the back of the van. It was that simple physically to do their job. For me it was shutting a door on my favorite chapter of my life, when I became a mom and we became a family.  I knew that this prayer would cover all of our needs.  It was the only thing I could think of to pray.

There was praise to The Father who would be receiving my son; Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

There was perspective to ask for His will to be done;

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

There was a plea for provision as we all missed work and traveled to say our final goodbyes:

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

There was a plea for forgiveness (Branden and ourselves):

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

There was a plea for covering all my family from slipping back into complacency and worldly “comforts”;

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

And then there was trust, praise and a reminder that He had this under control before it even played out;

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.


I know that God led me to the Ridge. I love you all. When I think of the time and words and hugs that you all have shared…it is why I was able to survive this year. I want to time to pass so that it doesn’t hurt so bad-people tell me time is all that changes it. But on the other hand I do not want time to pass. I worry that I will forget his smile and his humor and that his children will not know the good that he did and the real man he was.


Hope is what I have and I am so thankful.


Hard typing through tears.

Anyway, I am going to get my kiddos up and head for The Ridge, where I will be accepted, loved on and embraced by the loving hands of Jesus. And I thank you. AMEN




Most Viewed Blog Posts from 2016

By AJ Underwood:

Hello all Ridge Church Blog readers!! We wanted to send a quick thank you to everyone who has followed and read the Ridge Church Blog over the last year. We also want to give a big thank you to all of those that contributed to the blog over the past year. In the upcoming year we hope to continue to give you great content that not only informs you about the happenings at the Ridge Church, but can be used to enrich your lives and grow your faith.

As we close out 2016 we wanted to share with you some of the most viewed writing from the last year. Maybe you didn’t catch them the first time around or possibly you did and just want to revisit them or know someone that could use those words in their life today.

How Do You Move On?

Behind The Song: No Longer Slaves

21 Days of Prayer | Day 1

A Weekend In Orlando

The God That Grieves With Us

What Does Ridge Kids Mean To Me?

Jesus Is…..Strength

Thank you again to all of those that wrote a post for us in 2016 and if you are interested in writing something in 2017 please email to aj@ridgechurchonline.com!!

See ya in 2017 Ridge Church…..Happy New Year!!

Don’t Make Resolutions…..Instead Set Goals for 2017

By AJ Underwood:

It’s that wonderful time of the year again…the Holidays are over and we can look back on the year that was and remember, but we also look forward to the upcoming year and we make our dreaded New Year’s Resolutions. This year I want to encourage you to do something a little different, instead of making resolutions for 2017 let’s set some goals. Goal setting at the beginning of the year is a great way to start your year off on track, and writing them down somewhere visible will help to keep you accountable.

So, let’s talk about setting goals!! Most people when they set a goal, set what is called an outcome goal such as, “I want to lose 15 pounds” or “I want to get closer to God”. Which are both great goals to set and two that I believe most of us would love to accomplish!! However, the goal focuses on the outcome, which is to lose the weight or get closer to God. Instead when you are setting goals try and focus more on input goals. Don’t say “I want to lose 15 pounds”, instead say “I am going to stop drinking soda”. That allows you to focus on one physical input step that you can take toward reaching the outcome of losing 15 pounds.

I want to share with you 4 Input Goals I have made for myself and in turn share the hoped outcome from accomplishing those goals.

  1. Start my Year, my Week, and my Day with God

I am starting my year with God by making the decision to read through the Bible this year. There are many ways you can go about doing this, just pick it up and read or if you have the YouVersion Bible App there are a number of different reading plans for the whole Bible. Just remember if you are going to read through it make sure you have a specific strategy to achieve the outcome.

I am going to start every week with God by being at the Ridge church on Sunday mornings. Am I the only one that is just missing a bit or a recharge when I don’t go to church on Sunday and worship, hear God’s word, and spend time in that community of people that I love?

Then I want to be sure to start every day with God. What a perfect time to spend with God, then when you first wake up. Take that time to read a devotional, pray, listen to worship music, or whatever your quiet time with the Lord may look like. If you are going to be reading through the Bible in the year this is a great time to read that scripture and pray that God would show you something through it, besides it is just a great positive way to start the day.

When I keep myself to these simple input goals daily, weekly, and over the course of the year it will allow me to grow in my relationship and get closer to God.

“Successful people do consistently what other people do occasionally.” Craig Groeschel

  1. Read a Book a Month

I was recently moving my office in my home to another room and I noticed something odd. I have an entire bookshelf FULL of books that I have never read. Books on leadership, books on Student Ministry, books on faith, books on marriage, and even books on cooking!! After moving a bookshelf worth of unread books, I decided that all that book-weight was just going to waste if I didn’t crack them open and read them. So, I have made the goal of reading one book a month for the next 12 months, and through that input goal I hope to achieve the outcome of being a better follower of Christ, husband, father, leader, and Pastor.

  1. Pray with and for my Spouse daily

I know some of you may be thinking….”uh, duh”, but this is something my wife and I don’t do on a consistent enough basis, other than over a meal. To aid in this goal for Christmas I got us books 31 Prayers for my Wife/Husband, and for the month of January we are going to commit to praying through these books daily. I also want to encourage you to not just pray with, but to pray out loud with your spouse daily and through praying for/with your spouse, you are inviting God to be a part of your marriage and the envisioned outcome is a better marriage.

  1. Once a Week Family Night


Our family does our very best to make sure that we eat dinner together at the table (phone free – house rule) every night. Rather, I am more referring to an intentional night together doing an activity. Whether that be a board game, a puzzle, a Nerf battle, watch a movie, or go out and do something together. This will also be a great time to break out the Bible and read and discuss with your kids what you have read. Spending this consistent time with my family will be one of the best steps towards the outcome of my family growing closer together.


These are some of the input goals I have made for myself and my family for the year 2017. I challenge you to make some goals for yourself as well, and when doing so be sure that you make realistic goals that focus on the input versus just the outcome. Proverbs 16:9 says; The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Be sure that as you set your goals for 2017 that you always leave room for God to move, because with the combination of realistic input goals and God guiding you’re steps the outcome will be immeasurably better then you could ever plan for anyway. Happy New Year Ridge Church!!