How Many Days until Christmas!?

As I took my daily stroll into Walmart on Tuesday, an extremely large barrier confronted me. It was a countdown calendar announcing the number of days until Christmas. “Days until Christmas 50”. There it was in BIG DIGITS –50

I’m sure it was intended as a public service announcement. After all, who wants to get caught up in all that last minute Christmas shopping? Thank you Walmart for being so considerate of my mental health! Although, I’m sure the case could be made that any merchant might use this ploy to jolt procrastinating shoppers into action. After all the bottom line for any so-called business PSA, is to increase sales.

I’m not sure how effective this ploy was. Rather than shopping, perhaps panic, terror, anxiety, melt down mode, and depression, are the more likely actions of viewing such information. For me, rather than stay and shop I wanted to run to my safe place.  

This emotional encounter caused me to ponder the daily moments we spend focused on some future event rather than appreciating the value of the moment. For example, the last seconds of the year are a total loss. As the big ball in Times Square makes its descent, rather than embracing the very last moments of the present year, we have already dismissed it as we join the “Final Countdown.” What a waste of time ….  

Oh, I know we have to plan and we have to look ahead and that where we are today reflects past choices and decisions. I also know that the decisions and choices we make in the present will determine results in the future. 

However, there is something precious and valuable in participating in the present moment and embracing all that it holds, rather than wishing our lives away. 

What would happen if we made a conscious determination to accept the present moment not as a stepping-stone for some future glory but to enjoy it as a gracious gift from God? The Psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord as made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (118:24) OR, as The Message renders it, “This is the very day God acted—let’s celebrate and be festive!”

Thank You For Your Kindness

Debbie and I wish to thank you for your kind expressions of grace presented to us Sunday morning.  We enjoyed opening and reading your cards. They certainly were encouraging. We are grateful for the privilege and opportunity of ministry and service at The Ridge Church. Your acts of kindness are not limited to just one Sunday of the year and are appreciated all throughout the year. 

Our history together goes back quite a few years. We began attending Walnut Street Baptist Church in the fall of 1980, newly married and fresh out of college. I was Food Service Director at one of the off campus dorms in Carbondale. We moved away in 1985, to accept the pastorate at Cutler First Baptist Church. In 1994, I accepted a position as Hospice chaplain for Hospice of Southern Illinois. We moved to Carterville December 30, 1994. 

In September of 1998, Debbie was enlisted to lead music at Walnut Street. Soon after that, Pastor Bill Carter retired and I was asked to serve as Interim pastor. Over the course of time and prayer, the call to pastor was extended to me and I accepted God’s call to serve this congregation on January 1, 2000.  

So here we are almost 20 years later. God has been present and faithful all this time. God has enriched our lives as we have “labored together” in God’s Kingdom. I am continually amazed and humbled that God has called and included ALL the people of The Ridge Church to be part of God’s plan for reaching our communities with the good news of God’s love through Jesus. 

Since we are ALL part of God’s plan in reaching our communities, I invite you to physically join me in participating in The Ridge’s ministry in the village of Gorham. 

Here are three simple opportunities1) Sign up for Trunk or Treat. We still need a few more Trunks.  2) Attend the community Chili Supper on November 2. 3) Contribute to the Thanksgiving food drive and assist with the delivery of food baskets in Gorham. Contact Dennis Howell for information. 

Without Relationship, It’s Just Passing Information

Once again, the folks of The Ridge Church will be in Gorham on Halloween for their annual Trunk or Treat celebration. The Gorham Fire Department will grill hotdogs for everyone and it will be a great opportunity to get better acquainted and build relationships. I’m hoping that we have a good representation of #RidgeFolks present. If you would like to join us, there is a sign-up sheet at the Welcome Center. If you need more information, see Lisa Hottensen. 

Tuesday will be our last afternoon for TeamKids for a few weeks. We will resume November 12 and finish out the year on December 18. We have a great TeamKid team committed to sharing Jesus with the community. Thank you, Avis Barrett, Lisa Hottensen, Allie Hottensen, Dennis Howell, Angie James, Matt Phillips, and Pam White. One of the blessings of being in Gorham each week is the ability to connect not only with the children but with their parents as well. 

I encourage you to participate physically in the ministry in Gorham. I appreciate your prayers and contributions but I invite you to Gorham. There are several upcoming opportunities: 1) Sign up for Trunk or Treat 2) Attend the community Chili Supper on November 2. 3) Contribute to the Thanksgiving food drive and assist with the delivery of food baskets in Gorham. Contact Dennis Howell for information. 

In a recent workshop I attended, I read this quote by Bobby Harrington, “Without relationship there is no discipleship, just the passing of information.” We minister in Gorham not to pass information but to build relationships and share Jesus. 

A few weeks ago, Audra came into TeamKids excited. She took it upon herself to surf the internet to find this Bible verse and comment; “No matter what you are facing, remember Deuteronomy 20:4 ‘The Lord your God is with you to fight against your enemies to give you victory.’”  She recited the verse to everyone by memory. 

Yeah, we are building relationships in Gorham. God is moving! Will you be a part of what God is doing in this community?  

Enjoy the Main Course

Tuesday’s Bible lesson for TeamKIds in Gorham centered on Jesus’ arrival in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. (Luke 10:38-42)

As you might remember, Martha was scurrying around preparing dinner while Mary sat and listened to Jesus. Martha perturbed with the slothfulness of her sister admonished Jesus to command Mary’s assistance. 

Jesus response was comforting and challenging. “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:42 MSG)

I am amazed at how much the Lord desires time with us. He’s the main course!  When we worship together in adoration and humility how it must warm the heart of God! 

Sunday as part of their class activities #RidgeYouth composed raps focusing on the importance of weekly Sunday worship (time with God). I share (with permission) this one with you; 

Sabbath Day Rap #RidgeYouth

Remember the Sabbath day keep it holy

It’s so much better than guacamole

Take a break move a little slowly

Pack everything up like a ravioli

You don’t want to have to use Albendazole

Don’t hide like a roley poley

This rhyme may be a little drolly

But keep the Sabbath day holy.  — Molly Carrington, Allie Hottensen

Come let us worship together in the presence of the Lord this Sunday. 
Remember the Sabbath day keep it holy.W

What Autumn Activities Are on Your Schedule?

The first day of autumn has arrived and even the temperatures are heralding its appearance, if only for a few short days. Temps back into the 90’s are forecasted for the first part of next week.  

If you notice, this time of year is full of activities. Fall festivals of all kinds, family reunions, weddings, camping outings, and the list goes on and on. Personally, I have two weddings a family reunion, church wiener roast, and outside family pictures, all scheduled before the middle of October. 

What autumn activities are on your schedule?

All these activities sure make it difficult to put this week’s small group lesson into personal practice. The call for weekly rest and a slower pace is easy to pontificate about, much more difficult to put into a weekly routine.

Even though we do not practice the law of the Old Testament and the penalty for NOT observing a day of rest is no longer applied (Thank you, Jesus!). Nonetheless, the Lord is serious about a day of rest.  “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.”  (Exodus 31:12-13). WOW! 

Jesus who fulfilled all of the law (because we could not) also put great emphasis on the need for rest.  (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  

The call of the scripture is not just for physical rest. Specifically it is prioritizing a weekly time to find rest in the presence of God and one another. Hebrews 4:10 calls it “God’s rest.” A Sabbath rest. One day in seven where we rest from our daily routines and enjoy delightful communion with God and one another.  

Let’s talk about it Sunday. A day of rest and worship … together! 

Three Powerful Reasons to Attend Church

Church attendance can change your life 

Much has been pondered and discussed about the value and necessity of going to church. The topic was discussed in a scene of the TV sit-com, “Mama’s Family”

Vin Harper remarks to “Mama” “Now Mama, you don’t have to go to church to go to heaven!” Mama responds, “Well, you don’t have to wear a parachute to jump out of an airplane either, but it certainly helps.

It’s true attending church is not a requirement of heaven, but it helps. Further, the scripture instructs those who are going to heaven, to go to church. Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  

Allow me to encourage you to attend church with three good reasons to go to church

Reason #1: Church helps you focus on God

 The trials of life can cause us to focus so intently on our situation that we lose focus on God and God’s goodness. Attending church can bring God back into the focus of our life.

Reason #2: Church helps you find encouragement in life

 The church is not a building, its people, believers, Jesus followers, the people of God, gathered to focus on God. Our presence together gives one another support and encouragement. Further, we receive strength as we worship God together. 

Reason #3 Church helps you fulfill God’s mission.

 God is holy, sovereign, and able to do all things. Yet, God has chosen to love the church, die for the church, and accomplish God’s purpose for this world through the church. Our presence in church allows us to have a part in what God is doing in the world  

I look forward to worship this Sunday at The Ridge Church I pray you are as well!

Prioritizing Physical Needs of The Ridge Church

I am sure everyone noticed how magnificent the parking lot looks now that it has been oiled and striped. I thank our trustees for their attentiveness and commitment in caring for the physical needs of our campus. 

You may have also noticed some footings near the building entrance. They are part of the installation process for a canopy. This will make drop offs/pickups in the rain a little less challenging. 

There are several other physical needs of The Ridge campus. Personally, in addition to a prominently displayed cross inside the building, I would like to see an illuminated cross attached to the outside of the building. It is because of the empty cross that we who believe have confidence of our salvation and assurance of life that lasts forever. 

A finished floor in the Multi-Purpose area also needs to be addressed at some point. It is necessary not only to deal with the spreading crack in the concrete but also for appeal. Our worship area is indicative to guests (and to the Lord) of the quality and priority of our worship. What would you do if this were in your home? Exactly, me too!

Many of our guests comment that they learn about us as they drive by and observe the information on the sign.  A digital sign that can be easily updated and viewable as vehicles drive by is an essential part of our outreach.  While the financial cost is great, the ability to connect with over 5,300 daily drivers is greater.  

I have asked the Trustees to make a list of the physical needs of the property, prioritize them, and present them to the Congregation. Then, as you give your tithes and offerings, when money becomes available, these projects can begin. 

I want to thank you in advance for sharing the resources God has provided you to meet the ongoing physical needs of The Ridge Church.    

Back to Church Sunday – September 15, 2019

 Step Up Sunday was a great event at The Ridge Church. Outside worship is a wonderful way to connect with our creator and experience firsthand the beauty of God’s creation. Also, the weather was gorgeous and enhanced the worship experience as well.

I was happy to recognize all of our Sunday School Classes and Small Groups. We place great emphasis on these units, for they help facilitate personal spiritual growth.  However, none of these classes/groups would exist were it not for the dedication and commitment of those who step up to lead and facilitate each week. They study hard and are prepared each week. In addition, your consistent preparation, attendance and participation makes for a meaningful and encouraging classroom experience for everyone. 

Of course, to top the day off we shared a meal together. Please take time and share your gratitude to those who stepped up and prepared the meal for us. Linda Garlinghouse, Karen Dover, Lisa Hottensen, and Debbie Henson were busy Saturday morning making the potato salad and baked beans. The tasty desserts were provided by Sunday School/ Small Group members. The chicken was prepared by Walmart. It was a sumptuous meal

Thank you all for being present, joyfully participating, and lending a hand with clean up.

I want to prayerfully share another event on the calendar, “Back to Church Sunday” September 15, 10:15 a.m. Unlike Step Up Sunday this event is not for us. This event is designed for those who are not attending church. Your efforts are crucial in getting the word out. There will be some promotion in the media but the number one best way for people to come back to church is through your personal invitation. Specifically, the Holy Spirit has placed upon your heart one person that needs your invitation and encouragement. Who’s your one? Will you invite them? Will you encourage them to attend with you?

Following worship, we will enjoy a “Bring Your Own Brown Bag Picnic Lunch”. If at all possible, I ask you to stay, join in, and personally welcome our guests.  What a simple and easy way to share God’s love with our community and friends.      

Back to Church Sunday

September 15, 2019, 10:15 a.m. 

Lunch Following

Several months ago I shared a statistic compiled by LifeWay Research80% of those attending church at least once a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. Yet, almost half (48%) stated that they have not invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or program in the last six months. 

Last week in my article I mentioned that according to 82% of the unchurched would be interested in coming to church if invited by a friend.

Reflecting on both statistics leads me to two conclusions. 1) If we would invite an unchurched friend or family member to attend church with us there is a very high probability that we would be successful. 2) Statistics are helpful in organizing 
and interpreting information, identifying trends, and measuring performance. The greatest value of statistics however is that they help us to plan better. 

With that in mind, the plan is to challenge everyone to invite an unchurched friend or family member to attend worship with you on Sunday, September 15 at 10:15 a.m. In fact, please invite several folks to join you. Also, pack their lunch along with yours and invite them to stay as we share a meal together.    

Back to Church Sunday is about four weeks away. That gives us time to pray, invite and encourage the individuals the Lord is leading us to contact. It is also a great time to reconnect with and invite those who have been out of church for a long time. 

Let me remind you of another event at The Ridge Church:

Next Sunday, August 25 10:15 a.m. is Step Up Sunday. We will bid summer a fond farewell as we worship outside, recognize our Sunday school/Small group leaders and classes, and enjoy a meal together. This is another opportunity to invite our friends and family to attend. 

You’ll Get Through This

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naïve.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

“You fear you won’t make it through. We all do. We fear that the depression will never lift, the yelling will never stop, the pain will never leave. In the pits, surrounded by steep walls and aching reminders, we wonder: Will this gray sky ever brighten? This load ever lighten?

 God doesn’t promise that getting through trials will be quick or painless. It wasn’t for Joseph–tossed in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully imprisoned, forgotten and dismissed–but his Old Testament story is in the Bible for this reason: to teach us to trust God to trump evil.”

Our fall Bible study begins with a six-week series developed by Max Lucado titled, You’ll Get Through This. The study explores the story of Joseph and the truth of Genesis 50:20. What Satan intends for evil, God redeems for good.

The first session begins 6:30 p.m. Wednesday September 11, and includes a video, Bible study and discussion. There will be handouts each week. 
Go to for a short introduction. 

The book “You’ll Get Through This” is available on Amazon in paperback and kindle format. However, it is not necessary for the study.

 I hope you will make plans to attend and bring someone with you. 
Come for dinner (RSVP) 5:30, Bible study 6:30, on your way home 7:30.