The Privilege of Vacation Bible School

In just a few short weeks, Vacation Bible School begins on The Ridge. (June 10-14, 9-noon). Are you excited about it? Is VBS a passion for you? How do you plan to be involved?
Do you view VBS as a privilege?

What a privilege to be a part of God’s plan to reach our communities with the gospel through VBS. Whether or not we have VBS aged children, it is God’s purpose and our privilege to labor together with God in this annual event.

There are many ways everyone can enjoy the privilege of involvement in this year’s VBS.

  • Volunteer to be a VBS worker during VBS
  • Begin right now to invite VBS aged children to VBS.
  • Volunteer to provide transportation for those needing a ride to VBS.
  • Join us Sunday, June 9, at 6 p.m. as the deacons lead us on a prayer walk through the rooms and areas where VBS will take place.
  • Attend the VBS Celebration night on Thursday, June 13, at 6 p.m.
  • Pray before, during and after VBS for the children, their parents, and VBS workers.
  • Provide financial resources to purchase snacks and refreshments for the week
  • Volunteer to follow up after VBS with families that are reached through VBS. Contact Lisa Hottensen for more information.
  • Be an encourager! Be available!

VBS is the largest outreach event of The Ridge Church. It is the greatest single tool God has given The Ridge Church to reach out and share God’s love and the gospel with others.

Everybody loves VBS. 60% of American adults have attended VBS and 90% of them had a positive experience. In addition, 80% of them claim that it was a highlight of their childhood.

There’s more! 95% of parents whose children have attended VBS agree that VBS was one of their child’s most meaningful church experiences. However, like any other tool, it is only effective when used.

Will you join me as an active participant in this year’s VBS? Will you pray with me this Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. for our VBS and all the others that will happen all over the country?

Stats provided by “It’s Worth It” Landry Holmes, Lifeway Christian Resources, 2018

Personal Reflections on Mother’s Day 2019

As I reflect on Mother’s Day 2019 several random thoughts come to mind.

I think of how much I miss my mom. The older I get the more I miss her. In addition to being a full time mom at home, she also had a full time job outside the home. That she was able to balance and excel at the two is something that would have been beyond my ability.

I connect with my mom most when I am cooking. She was a great cook. Her dishes were never fancy but always tasty and comforting. As I cook, I find myself channeling her thoughts, questions, and comments through the preparation process. Believe me, her comments were one of a kind. For Easter, I attempted to recreate her potato salad. According to my brother Dave, it was close but not quite. The debate was whether mustard was included. He said, yes. My other brother Tim, said, no. There was also a discussion about the proper amount of celery seed. So, I started to call her to find out …

Debbie and I are so blessed with five grandchildren. Two of them born within the
last two months. Brittany with four children is a wizard at managing chaos. She is able to focus on each child individually while simultaneously directing the whole household (including Brad) in their duties and responsibilities. How does she do that?
(Moms are like that, yes they are!)

Courtney is a brand new mom. She and Bradley have had some experience at parenthood with the raising of Luna. However, the arrival of Landry Gray presents a new set of challenges. Courtney methodically and tenderly assesses Landry’s moment-by-moment needs. Her quiet patience is quite calming.

My daughters are great moms! I whole-heartedly confess that their gifts and abilities of momhood did not genetically transfer from my DNA. I am confident they are mirroring the examples their mom has lived out. As I observe the gestures, actions, and reactions of both Brittany and Courtney, I realize they have Debbie’s mothering DNA. Debbie continues to provide a Godly example of mothering skills and abilities
to her children and grandchildren. What a great legacy she is developing for generations to come.

OutReach is ReachingOut

Tuesday we completed our spring after school ministry in Gorham.
Let me tell you about it.

First, let’s back up a little bit. In November, we returned to Gorham and held 6 sessions on Tuesdays, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. from November 13 through December 18. We paused for a few weeks for the holidays and winter. We returned in February and held 11 sessions through the end of April.

In the fall session, we averaged 22 each week, including 15 students and 7 assistants. Our spring session averaged 18, including 12 students and 6 assistants.

While we initially prepared for children in grades 1–6, we had children from preschool through 9th grade attend. As you might imagine this scenario resulted in many challenges. However, our team met and exceeded each challenge and our love for the children and their families has grown.

Our Gorham team this year included, Avis Barrett, Wes Henson, Lisa Hottensen, Allie Hottensen, Dennis Howell, Angie James, and Matt Phillips.

Join me in thanking them for their weekly commitment to sharing God’s love and Gospel in Gorham. Also, I would like to thank everyone who provided snacks each week. They were an essential part of our weekly plan.

Our next scheduled Gorham event is for Vacation Bible School July 8- 12, 6-8 p.m. with dinner served at 5:30.

We are in need of happy volunteers to assist in this ministry for VBS and in reaching this community. As you pray for happy volunteers, will you be an answer to your prayer and volunteer? Let me know how the Lord is leading you to ReachOut.

The Resurrection Changes Everything

What a gorgeous weekend we had to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There were several activities at The Ridge Church leading up to our Easter celebration. I hope you were available to take part and ponder the meaning of each activity.

The Maundy Thursday service reminded us, once again of the great price that God paid in our behalf. As we recounted the agony, pain, and shameful torture that Jesus endured, we were more than humbled. The sound of the bread breaking was an apt reminder of the brokenness of Jesus’ body. The juice splashing in the cup visualized his blood spilling out for our redemption.

Saturday was a windy cold biting day on The Ridge. However, the weather did not keep the children from enjoying their Easter Egg Hunt. Over a hundred children attended the Easter Egg Hunts in Gorham and on The Ridge. We connected with many unchurched families.

Sunday morning Sunrise celebration filled with songs of praise and a message of hope reinforced our belief that the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because He lives, we too shall live, and because He lives, life today is worth living to its fullest!

After a hearty breakfast prepared by Mike and Linda Garlinghouse and our small group Bible Study, The Ridge Choir led us in worship as they presented the cantata, “Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Passover lamb who was able to accomplish through his death and resurrection what no other Passover lamb was ever able to do, fully provide forgiveness of sin.
Thank you, Jesus!

Let me invite you to join me on Thursday, May 2, for the National Day of Prayer celebration, at Smysor Plaza, Murphysboro from 10:30 – 11 a.m., followed by lunch at noon at The McCann Davis Center. These events are free and open to the public.

How to Have Hope in Life

Easter: The Holiday of Hope

“In a pitch-black room, a room swallowed up in darkness, even a small pin point of light glows brightly. And when light enters, darkness exits.” So begins Pastor Gregg Laurie’s message to those trapped in the lonely darkness of their own hopelessness.

Trapped in the darkness of lonely hopelessness is an apt description of the two individuals who are making their way home from Jerusalem after the Passover. In Luke’s gospel (Ch. 24), they are described as having “sadness written across their faces.” Hopelessness and sadness go together. They were sad that Jesus had died.

In addition, they were disillusioned. Jesus had let them down. Everything they heard about him and saw him do confirmed to them that he was the promised Messiah that would restore Israel to its former glory. “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” (V. 21). It had been three days and they spoke of Jesus in the past tense.

On their way home, they encounter the risen Jesus, whose identity is hidden from them. They openly vent their sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, and disillusionment. As the conversation progresses there is also a restlessness. Perhaps it can be best described as an uneasiness, for in spite of their reality that Jesus had been crucified and is dead, there were reports of angels announcing that he is alive. It was all so confusing and mysterious.

Upon reaching their destination, they invite the traveler to stay the night and join them in a meal. As the bread is shared, they recognize the resurrected Jesus.

The resurrected Jesus changes everything. Sadness becomes excitement. Their uneasiness becomes assurance. Hopelessness gives way to promise. The promise of a new beginning, a new life, and a new outlook.

Truly Easter is the holiday of hope. The resurrected Jesus changes everything!

Easter Outreach

In 1953, the Southern Baptist Convention set a goal of enrolling one million new people in Sunday School the following year. It was titled, “Million More in ’54”. It was a crazy big goal, and even though they didn’t reach one million, they were able to get six hundred thousand people involved—way more than were previously going. Many of those people trusted Christ for the first time.

That’s what happens when you paint a vision of the possible: Let me present a vision of the possible to you.

In the next few weeks there are several outreach events planned specifically focusing on reaching the unchurched in our communities. Many people have invested a lot of time and treasure to make these events possible. I hope you will support them with your presence.

  • April 7 – Easter Egg Hunt, Gorham
  • April 14 – Easter Egg Hunt On The Ridge
  • April 21 – 7 a.m. Easter Sunrise Service, 10:15 a.m. Easter Cantata “Lamb of God”

Author and theologian Henri Nouwen once said, “Pay attention to the people God puts in your path if you want to see what God is up to in your life.” There is at least one person that God has placed in your path right now that you can invite to be with us at each of these events.

Look and listen for the right time to invite a family member or friend. Pay attention to the people God puts in your path. Who is your one?

Daylight Savings Time

This: It was sure great to be in worship with everyone on Sunday, even if we all appeared a little sleep deprived (some appeared more deprived than others). Perhaps you have heard there is a movement underway to make Daylight Saving Time a year round event. This idea is rather alarming to me for several reasons.

One reason is that I enjoy the daylight of the morning with the cooler temperatures to complete my outside chores. That is reason enough to abolish D.S.T. all together. How pleasant it would be to get those obligations complete by 9 a.m. each day.

Another reason why year round D.S.T is not a good idea is that the extra hour of sunlight in the afternoon increases the risk of skin cancer. Even if the extra sunlight doesn’t turn into skin cancer, it still ages the skin with increased wrinkles and lines. I already look old; I don’t need any help.

However, for me the most persuasive reason not to observe D.S.T. year round is that I will never get that hour of sleep back. Be warned, studies have shown that the single hour of sleep lost during D.S.T. can actually prompt a pattern of total sleep deprivation, which can make one crankier and reduce mental sharpness. Believe me I don’t need “crankier” and my current mental sharpness is challenging enough.

I hope my reasons for abolishing Daylight Saving Time are persuasive and will lead you to action.

That: On a much more pleasant note: Sunday is the Fundraiser for FUGE camp. The spaghetti will be amazing and the talent of The Ridge people is unparalleled. In addition, our generosity toward our youth is legendary.

The Other: Please join me Sunday morning in worship and then later as together we achieve our goal of $3,795.28 to complete the tuition for this year’s camp.

What is Lent

For some, it is a time to draw closer to God through fasting, moderation, repentance, and the practice of certain spiritual disciplines in preparation for Easter. For others, it is a painful religious memory of forced rituals.

Should you and your family observe Lent?

Some fail to observe lent from a lack of understanding of what it encompasses. Many evangelicals are not familiar with any of the tenets of Lent. Others, view Lent almost as a heresy because it is viewed as a rejection of the Cross. In the cross, our sins are covered, and grace is bestowed on us because of God’s benevolence alone, not due to any activity on our part.

Can we celebrate Lent in a good way?

Celebrating Lent is an opportunity to highlight and encourage elements of the Christian faith that are often undervalued and forgotten.

Fasting, moderation, repentance and the practice of the spiritual disciplines are things we need more of, not less. For the average Christian, these things rarely, if ever, seem to happen. Observing Lent by practicing these things, in an effort to remind us of the cross and push us toward it, can be a great thing.

Can we celebrate Lent in a wrong way?

If the purpose of observing Lent is to garner special favor with God then it is of no value. God does not impart grace based on actions or rituals. Nothing we do could cause God to love us any more than God already does!

Also, the observance of Lent is meaningless if it is done for the sake of heritage, habit, or public/divine acceptance.

Should I observe Lent?

That’s your decision. The value in observing Lent is to motivate us on to spiritual growth. Lent is a tool – an observance – to point us to Jesus.

The Wildest Criticisms of Pastors

Wednesday the topic of our Men’s Bible Study was on rejection. Zephaniah made the point that God delights in accepting rejects and outcasts. The opening illustration of the devotion [StandFirm] recounted the adverse effects of criticism and rejection.

Everyone, including pastors, have heard from those who are quick to critique.

I recently listened to a podcast from Thom Rainer, and the group chatted on the topic of pastoral criticisms. Part of the discussion centered on “The Wildest Criticisms of Pastors.” It was a survey conducted by ChurchAnswers.Com.

Here are the top 10 results

  1. “You should not wear a pink shirt to the pulpit.”
  2. “Pastors are not allowed to use hand-held mics.”
  3. “You cannot preach with power unless you wear a flag lapel pin.”
  4. “There are too many new Christians in our church.”
  5. “You don’t trust God since you go to board meetings.”
  6. “The Holy Spirit cannot use you if you plan your sermons ahead of time.”
  7. “You are lazy since we sang consecutive hymns from the hymnal.”
  8. “A pastor should not have a dog as pet.”
  9. “Your wife should work no more than 15 hours a week outside the home.”
  10. “Your wife should not be pregnant.”

Reading these gave me a good chuckle. I hope they did you as well. However, I have become even more mindful of the effect my words have on others. The gift of criticism and critique is not a spiritual gift. In fact, the Bible encourages using words that uplift, encourage and edify instead. (I Thessalonians 5:11)

I confess, sometimes I do better at edifying than at other times. It’s just one more piece of evidence that I am not perfect and God is still working with me.

I believe this is true for all of us, even the critic, don’t you?

The best time to begin attending Small Group/Sunday School is Sunday, March 3

I am serious about that! This Sunday, February 24, we conclude our series on “Engaging Culture In An Ever-Changing World” with the topic of how false religions corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ. I look forward to Sunday’s study.

However, if you are considering attending a small group Bible Study at the beginning of a series I invite you to wait until March 3, and join me as we begin a very relevant series on finding meaning in life. Our focus will be on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes written by the son of David.

Finding Meaning:
Wisdom from Ecclesiastes
March 3- April 7

  • When Life feels Empty
  • The Problem with Pleasure
  • The Problem with Wisdom
  • The Problem with Work
  • The Problem with Wealth
  • Full Contentment

The Ridge Church offers nine adult classes on campus plus two off campus. I am sure that you will find just the right small group for you. I encourage you to try out a few. We have the best facilitators anywhere. You won’t be disappointed.

Join us Sundays at 9 a.m.. Arrive a little early for breakfast. There is a small group Bible study class for everyone.