by tara gibson
by rusty sampson
I once watched a pirate movie (arghhhh!!!!!!) in which a pirate ship became involved in a battle with a much bigger and heavier gunned ship. To make matters worse there was a hurricane force storm bearing down on them from the opposite direction. The captain of the pirate ship was faced with certain death for him and his crew if he stood and fought, and near certain death if he fled into the storm, counting on the other ship to not follow. Deciding that some chance, no matter how small, was better than no chance, he directed his crew to turn the ship and plunge into the storm. A day later, the captain and his crew emerged from the other side of the storm. The enemy had fled the storm. They were battered and bruised, but saved.
However, the story did not end there. As the celebration began to die down, the captain noticed something different in the air. It was easy to miss at first. It was…..nothing. There was not even a hint of a breeze. The wind, which the ship depended on for moving through the water, was calm. Lulls in the wind were certainly not unusual on the ocean, but this seemed different. And different it was. The “nothing” lasted for days, then for weeks. The wind was “dead calm.”
As the calm persisted, food and water rations were cut, then cut again and again. What had seemed like a blessing of escaping death not once but twice, had turned into another, albeit different type of fight for survival. One in which the foe was invisible and seemingly impossible to fight. The captain and crew, who had trained for years and fought countless battles now clung to life by a thread. Isolated. Helpless.
After weeks of dead calm, the breeze slowly returned and the crew (most of them) were spared. Thanks to the script writers, the pirates lived to battle another day. Arghhhh!!!!!
I share this story, because I have recently realized that I am in the middle of a “dead calm” period in my life. In the last ten years I have seen my share of battles. First, a five year battle that my late wife Kay waged with breast cancer. (God rewarded her faithfulness with calling her to spend eternity with him in heaven, where I’m sure she is rocking it out singing and dancing and praising Jesus!) Then I battled through adjusting to a “new normal.” Fighting through depression and loneliness and isolation. Then a year and half ago, my doctor informed me that I had cancer. Another battle, which I emerged from, battered and bruised but I survived. It was then that the “dead calm” started. I wasn’t as weary or observant as the captain in the movie. You see, I didn’t notice the nothing. It didn’t get my attention. It wasn’t a ship bearing down on me with bigger guns. It wasn’t a storm with howling winds and lashing waves. It was….nothing. And for the last year, it has quietly sucked the life out of me.
I don’t know how long I would have gone without recognizing the situation if it had not been for Pastor Bobby asking a question. He asked the lead team members a simple question – “What have you learned this week?” This is the kind of question that I love, because I love learning!!! But I suddenly realized that my answer was – nothing. I had gone from reading 26 books a year to having only completed one or two books this year. I wasn’t currently reading books, blog posts, or anything. I wasn’t listening to podcasts to try to learn. I wasn’t even listening to a lot of the messages at the Ridge. (Sorry Bobby!) But it didn’t stop there. As I took a look at my daily life, I wasn’t spending ANY real time with the Father. When I looked at my days, I realized I had just one goal in mind. Get through the day. Survive. I was in a state of…nothing….a dead calm.
What makes this even more baffling is this all happened while I am living a blessed life. I have a great job (actually 3 great jobs). I am far from being monetarily wealthy, but my needs and a good deal of my wants are met. I have an amazing daughter. I am dating a wonderful lady. I am blessed with amazing friends. I have good health. I absolutely love my church family and love serving at the Ridge.
So this brings us to two questions. 1. How did this happen? And, 2. What now?
- How did this happen? It happened because I turned my attention to me instead of the Father. I got so wrapped up in my own circumstances, that I lost focus on what is important. God did not create me to focus on me, he created me to focus on my relationship with him, and to serve him and to love others.
- What now? Just like the writers of the pirate movie decided to spare the captain and his crew by sending a gentle breeze, the Father has decided to send me a breeze. A nudge in form of a simple question, that set me back in motion.
I have a long way to go. Just like the pirate ship, I have drifted way off course and it won’t be a quick way back. I know it will take time. A lot of time with the Father. Seeking the direction He wants me to go as he breathes his breath into the sails of my life. I am ready to be out of the “dead calm.” You are welcome to join me on this part of my journey.
by bobby williams
Not sure if you know this, but statistics prove that PEOPLE WILL COME TO CHURCH WHEN INVITED! All you have to do is ask- you never know who might be waiting for you to just invite them. In fact, you may not be aware of what hangs in the balance of a simple invite.
Sunday we asked you to stop by Ridge Central and pick up a few invite cards to give out over the next few weeks. If you missed that opportunity, there’s still plenty to grab this week.
We always want to help you with this. That’s why we always have multiple invite cards for you to pick up at Ridge Central each week and why we put together this list. Here are 4 ways you can invite someone to church.
How To Use a Ridge Invite Card
I (Bobby) always keep a few handy in my pocket or wallet. You never know when you need to give one away.
Invite cards are great conversations starters. And to be truthful, it’s really about getting an opportunity to share your story more than it is about you handing out an invite card.
When you hand someone an invite card, most people will ask, “what is this?” That’s your chance! You can then say to them something like, “it’s an invite to my church. God has really used this place to help me heal, change my heart and have a real relationship with Jesus. I just want you to experience the same thing because it’s awesome.” Something like that.
Here’s a few more things you can do:
Buy a drink or lunch | If you hit up the local Starbucks in Oak Ridge (and you should) then pay for the order of the person behind you and ask the Barista to give them an invite card when they come to pick up their order. You might start a chain reaction. You never know what the Holy Spirit will do with that. I once was in line doing this and saw 8 people pay it forward.
Post a picture of the invite on social media | Take a quick photo of the invite card, post it on Facebook or Instagram, and then share your story in the comments.
Leave it on a co-workers desk with a note | This is important; make sure you leave a note or Post-It that says something like, “Be sure to ask me about this!” That gives you a chance to share your story with them. Let’s not just do drive-by invites.
These are just 4 really simple ways you can use an inviter card. Be bold. Be creative.
We would love to see you have those you care about the most with us at the Ridge on August 21st for the last week of #bestdayever series. We really believe it will be a life changing kind of day.
You never know what hangs in the balance of an invite.
by bobby williams
We all have expectations. But sometimes there is a disconnect between the expectation and the next step that will be the catalyst for the expectation to happen.
In spiritual terms, I have often said that faith requires action.
William Carey, who many consider the father of the modern missionary movement, as JD Greear points out, once famously declared to an English church resistant to send missionaries to foreign lands,
“Expect great things of God and then attempt great things FOR God.”
JD points out that great expectations come first and great attempts grow out of great expectations.
I have no doubt that sometimes I don’t expect much and so therefore I don’t attempt much. But every time I realize I have not expected much, it always comes back to the fact that somehow, I’ve made God small in my mind.
But when I properly see God has the God who created the universe and everything in it, the God on the pages of the bible that did all that it says He did, and the God that could save even me, I begin to see God as one who can do amazing things. Sometimes I just need reminded to expect amazing things and out of those expectations, take the necessary risks to catalyze those amazing things, then get out of God’s way as He works them.
Never stop expecting amazing things of God and attempting great for God.
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
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
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