A Weekend In Orlando

praying cop

by rob purdie

This past weekend, I’ve thought about my old home of Central Florida a lot. More so than anytime since we’ve moved to Oak Ridge.

On Friday night, June 13, following a live performance, 22-year-old singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs at The Plaza Live in Orlando. Her killer allegedly targeted her because of her openness in sharing her Christian faith.

The very next night, June 14, a Muslim gunman killed 50 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. He called 911 after killing some civilians in the building in an effort to draw in police so he could attempt to kill them also.

The two locations in downtown Orlando are less than four miles apart.

Orlando is to Central Florida as Knoxville is to Eastern Tennessee. It’s usually where we go if we need that one particular item. It’s where we go to see concerts and sporting events. It’s the anchor to which all our smaller towns and communities are tethered.

So, as I watched and listened to this past weekend’s reports of death and hatred emanate from Central Florida, I couldn’t help but feel the ripples trip a wire in my memory that led directly to our old little city.

I had lived in Central Florida for about three years. Then, one day in the spring of 1987, my town of Palm Bay became the site of a mass murder. A man who would later die in prison killed six people, including two police officers. Palm Bay was our town. But the city changed that day.

I like to hope that Orlando, being a larger town and having more global connections than a smaller city, will be able to recover more of its heart and do it quicker than perhaps a smaller town might.

But hope is all I have at the moment to give Orlando.

I spoke to a local police officer from here in east Tennessee late Sunday afternoon. He has been suffering from health problems recently. He’s very muscular, but he’s a smaller guy. Seems he’s developed lower back and orthopedic issues. I asked him if anything has changed in his work environment.

“Yes,” he explained, “at one time we wore tactical gear only in very specific circumstances. Now, I wear a ballistic vest all the time and tactical equipment including a full tac weapons belt about 80% of the time.

“You and I grew up in a Mayberry world,” he said wistfully. “But, now . . . I mean, just look at what happened last night in Orlando. It’s a different world we’re living in today. We don’t have to like it. But God’s called us to live in it and make it better.”

As I prayed this weekend, I wondered to God about making it better. How God? It’s been so bad lately. How?

This is what He said to me.

“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;.” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:44-45.

In moments like these when that seems easier said than done, I just remember Who said it. And suddenly it doesn’t matter how hard it is to do. I just have to follow and do it.

Gospel-Driven Generosity

Gospel-Driven Generosity

by bobby williams

 

The biggest argument I hear from people towards generosity is that “I have nothing to be generous with. I am already tapped out of time, money and energy.”

I get that argument because sometimes I feel it to.

One of things I love most about God is his ability to always turn a little into a lot; his ability to take a little and turn it into enough.

Got a little bit of faith? God can turn it into a lot.

A little bit of hope? He can give us just enough to get through.

A little bit of change? He can turn that into enough to give and to get by on.

The key is taking what we already have in our house and putting it into the hands of God. It’s us doing the natural and letting God do the supernatural so that we experience the supernatural things. (Dang that’s good! Someone sing a song and let’s take up an offering. I’m preaching now!)

In John 6, Jesus does something supernatural, but it starts with a natural act that had to be put into God’s hands.

Jesus had a large crowd following him, listening to him teach and they were hungry. Jesus wanted to feed them, so he asked Phillip where they could pick up some bread.

Now, we give Phillip a bad rap for his response to Jesus, but I think most of us would had answered the same way. Phillip responds to Jesus by saying it would take a lot of money, more than they had to feed all of these people.

A few moments later, Andrew comes to the rescue and tells them he saw a boy there who had a Long John’s value meal on him (you know, 5 loaves of bread and two fish). Jesus took the meal, blessed it and asked his disciples to pass it out. When all was said and done, the people were full and there were 12 baskets of leftovers.

I wish I could do that with my Olive Garden meals.

Or, we could talk about how Jesus took the water (already in the house) and when put into his hands he turned it into more than enough wine for the wedding (John 2:1-11).

That is just a few example of many.

Here’s the simple, yet profound point. What Jesus needed to do what he wanted to do, was already in the house. The boy had what was needed with him and own it’s own, it wasn’t enough. But in the hands of God, it became more than enough.

I believe with all my heart that for you and I to be generous, it is not a matter of being without. I believe it comes down to whether or not we have the faith to put it into God’s hands and trust him with it. Again, that leads us right back to our hearts. Because all we need is already in the house. But do we have enough faith to put it into the hands of God?

I love the principle of the steps; you step out and God steps in. I believe that to be true especially when it comes to our generosity and faith. You see, you can’t be generous without faith because if you’re not exercising faith when you give, you’re not really being generous. Generosity should stretch us a bit.

Will you take a step this summer to be generous? Will you step out to see God step in?

One way to take a step this summer is to sign up for recurring giving. It’s what we call “automating the important.” This allows us all to still be generous, even when we’re on vacation, at the lake, or riding our favorite roller coasters.

To sign up for recurring giving, visit RidgeGive.com

What Does Ridge Kids Mean To Me?

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by jessica duncan

My daughter Avery (age 4) and I love Ridge Kids!

At only 4 years old, she has had to deal with so much change and craziness in her life that I thought it would be impossible for me to help her cope. She lost her daddy 8 months ago, which rocked both of our worlds. I had to explain to her every day that her daddy would not be coming home. At only 4 years old, you can imagine, she could not understand.

I tried reading her books about heaven, but she had never even heard of heaven before. I beat myself up because I hadn’t even told her about Jesus. As soon as I was able to get the energy to make it out of the house, we went to the Ridge one Sunday and have been there ever since.

Avery came out of her first class in love with her teacher and telling me all about Jesus. It was very hard for me to talk to her about God, because honestly, I was still a little mad at Him, but I didn’t want her to be. The teachers there have helped me break the ice in talking to Avery about Jesus. She is learning so much, and she is learning in a way that she can understand.

She is putting the pieces together in her own time in a way that she can understand. She now knows that God loves her and loved her daddy. She knows that her daddy is in Heaven with Jesus and that Heaven is an amazing place.

The excitement that the teachers at the Ridge have towards teaching the kids about Jesus makes Avery excited to tell me and everyone we know about Jesus. This excitement and childlike view of the world has also helped me cope. The simple lessons that Avery is learning at Ridge Kids are good reminders for me as well.

I am so thankful for Ridge Kids and the love and support they have shown to us.

What Is Your Next Step?

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by kevin bradford

What’s in a next step?

Do you remember the process you had to go through to graduate high school? You had to take this math class and that science, and don’t forget the electives! The amount of effort you put into each class was determined by what you wanted to do after high school. From there, you worked through a plan set by guidance counselors and teachers, designed to help you know which steps to take next.

The same idea applies to your spiritual growth. Let’s face it. Following Jesus is not an easy thing to understand. I look back on times in my journey where I felt dazed and confused, wondering what I was supposed to do next. Thankfully, God placed the right people at the right time in my life to help me navigate those uncertain seasons of life. I learned how to read the Bible, pray, serve, and live my life by watching those men and women, as well as by asking questions. They were patient as they showed me the next steps I needed to take to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Jesus constantly invited people to take next steps. He told Peter to toss his fishing nets aside and become a fisher of men. He challenged a guy named Matthew, who was a tax collector (probably the most hated profession at the time) to leave behind his crooked ways and follow him. And don’t forget about the woman Mary he encountered after she discovered the empty tomb. “Go tell my brothers.” Every next step he presented was intentionally designed to help them grow.

At Ridge Church, we want to help you take next steps. Regardless of where you are on the journey, we will help you discover where to go next as you follow Jesus and walk with you along the way. The steps you take are critical to seeing transformation happen in your heart.

Here are some next steps you can take:

* Start a Bible reading plan. It can be hard to know where to start reading or what to read next. Bible plans can guide you so you can spend less time wondering what to read next and more time understanding what you’re reading! Visit http://ridgechurch.cc/next-steps/read-the-bible for some ideas to get you going.

* Join a Life Group. The goal of joining a group is to grow in your walk with Jesus around people that can support you in taking your next steps. We believe life is better when you live in community. Visithttp://www.nowsprouting.com/ridgechurch/form.php?pageID=65&loadDraft=1 to sign up for a group.

* Give to the Dollar Club. Once a month, we do the Dollar Club. It’s an offering we collect to benefit an immediate need in our community. As the title says, we ask that you give $1 (or more if you choose to) on the firstSunday of every month. The church matches the total given and then we help someone who could benefit from it.

* Join a Serving Team. When you serve on a team, you get the benefit of connecting with others and being a part of something bigger than yourself. We have a lot of opportunities to plug in. It’s all about helping you find the right fit for you that will help you continue growing in Christ. Visithttp://ridgechurch.cc/next-steps/serving for more information!

Life Change Is Infectious

by bobby williams

Each Sunday that we have baptisms at Ridge Church, it becomes my new favorite Sunday. I love seeing people take their next step in their journey as a follower of Jesus.

This past Sunday we baptized three people with more this coming Sunday!

Every baptism is a person with a story. And every story is someone’s life being changed forever.

Sunday we heard the story of Evageline who thought she had given her life to Jesus early in life but realized later that she only went through the motions but never truly committed her life to Jesus. After coming to Ridge, she said she repented of her sin, gave her whole life to following Christ and took her next step in baptism this past Sunday.

There was Aiden, who as a young boy, knew Jesus was calling him to be His. Sunday when he was baptized, he shot up out of the water like a man who knew all that he had been forgiven of.

Then there is John. John came to the Ridge reluctantly as all-out atheist. But as John would soon find out, when the Holy Spirit draws you into God, you just can not resist. John gave his life to Christ and baptized.

We had a chance to sit down with John to hear his story. His story is a reminder to us that God can literally save anyone. And when he does, it’s hard to keep that kind of good news to yourself.

“It’s time to take a stand and show the world, my faith has changed and my heart has been opened.”

John Miller Story from Chris Hill on Vimeo.