Thanksgiving, Christmas, Shoe boxes, and Grateful Hearts

I am looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner, Sunday at 6 p.m. I hope that you will be there and bring your whole family and all your friends. What a great opportunity to see everyone together. There is always so much great tasting food. It
is at meals like this that I wish I could eat more! Nevertheless, I will be content with a second helping of everything.

Contentment: Thanksgiving is a time to pause and contemplate on all that we have and joyfully give God thanks. Oh, life does not have to be perfect; it never is, for us to be content and thankful. In fact, contentment, thanksgiving, and joy are not found in a perfect life, or in wealth, or in our many accumulations. Rather contentment is the overflow of a grateful heart.

Grateful: Even in the midst of many of life’s challenges and struggles, we can live grateful and gracious lives. I am grateful for the people of The Ridge who so often rise to the occasion to provide for others.

For example, the postage money for sending 67 shoe-boxes at $9/each has been raised ($588). The funds for filling 20 Thanksgiving Food baskets has been received ($745). These baskets will be distributed in Gorham and to clients of Centerstone.

We were set to receive an offering for food baskets Sunday night. However, with our goal met, we will instead receive food items for the Murphysboro Food pantry. (The list of items needed is located in the newsletter).

There are still 18 Spirit of Christmas names to be claimed and the Week of Prayer for International missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas offering is just a few weeks away. I am confident that contented and grateful hearts will once again rise to the occasion to meet these Kingdom needs.


Never too early for VBS

Saturday Debbie and I, along with Lisa and Allie Hottensen attended the VBS Preview and Children’s Ministry Conference in Springfield.

First, I once again commend all of our Sunday School and Small Group leaders who attended training in Marion or Springfield. Thank you for your commitment and passion for learning and discovering new ways to reach and teach, as we journey together in our spiritual walk.

I certainly realize the challenge of committing time to training with so many other good activities competing for attention and priority. Therefore, we strive to offer only “top of the line” training opportunities that are worth your time.

Second, the VBS preview was a great introduction to this year’s VBS theme, “In The Wild.” The focus this year is on real-life encounters with Jesus. As we engage exotic animals, we will also find snapshots of Jesus in Scripture. Each snapshot will offer an opportunity to respond to the gospel. The adventure of a lifetime awaits!

It is not too early to make a commitment and volunteer in VBS. We need more volunteers this year. “Top of the line” VBS training will be at First Baptist Church, Carterville February 22, so save the date.

Third, LifeWay Research discovered in a recent study that 69% of American parents (churched AND unchurched) would encourage their children to attend VBS if they were invited by a friend. Let that sink in a minute—IF they were INVITED.

All it takes is an invitation. Wow, that’s easy! What are we waiting for? Let’s get started! Here are some quick tips to harness the power of a simple invitation.

  • Start with Relationship – Begin with your friends.
  • Extend a personal invitation –A personal invitation is a beautiful simple thing.
  • Get parents involved – Plugging parents into VBS gets them involved.
  • Know the goal – The reason we want kids (and parents) in VBS is that the message of the gospel is too important to miss.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

2019 Vision

This week’s edition of Rambling On … The Ridge includes a fair amount of eclectic information, which will certainly brighten up your day.

Copies of the completed 2019 Budget will be available Sunday morning by the Welcome Center. Please pick one up. The budget review and presentation will take place on Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30 and we will vote to approve the budget on Sunday, October 28, following the morning worship service.

Our Gorham ministry will resume on Wednesday, October 31 as we participate in the community’s “Trunk or Treat” event from 5-8 pm. There is a sign-up sheet near the welcome center if you would like to donate candy and/or decorate your “trunk”. Everyone, whether you provide candy or a trunk or not, is welcome to attend and enjoy the evening in Gorham.

This will be an easy time to become better acquainted with our Gorham friends.

Beginning Tuesday November 13 Team Kids in Gorham will resume from 4:30-5:30 p.m. for children through grade 6. We need volunteers to lead in the Tuesday sessions. There will be group training each week to go over each week’s lesson and plan. We will also need snacks and refreshments donated.

This Sunday afternoon (October 21) at 2:00 p.m. there will be an introductory meeting to go over the new material and answer questions you may have about the work in Gorham.

Please remember generously and prayerfully our end of year mission projects and offerings. In November, we are collecting for food baskets and postage for shoeboxes. In December, we support “Spirit of Christmas” and receive the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.

I want to thank Dennis Howell, Lisa Hottensen, Mallorie Little, and Diana Andrews for investing their time attending the Training Night in Marion. I believe that continuing training is the key to a vibrant, effective, and enthusiastic church ministry.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Update on Illinois Disaster Relief Efforts

Karissa Howell

Since September 16th, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief has sent over 90 volunteers to help people in North Carolina. Sent out were eight Chainsaw/Mudout teams, four Shower/Laundry teams, two Feeding teams, one Assessor/Chaplain team, and one Incident Command team to Wallace, Lumberton, and Franklin, North Carolina.

These teams prepare meals for Red Cross workers to pass out to flood victims and maintain shower units so volunteers can have warm showers and clean laundry after long days in the field. In addition, the assessors and chaplains check the houses to make sure the volunteers are able to complete the requests. They also talk with the homeowners to assess any spiritual needs.

The National Disaster Relief director reported 3,000 work orders, with about 2,000 left to complete. They anticipate the work in NC continuing into December.

One of the biggest tasks undertaken is “Recovery” or Chainsaw/Mudout. These workers spend a day or more with the homeowners cutting down and removing trees or clearing out the flooded homes. They often have the most time to make ministry contacts and hand out tracts. At the end of the assignment, each homeowner is presented with a new Bible signed by all the workers.

With Hurricane Michael making landfall in the Florida panhandle, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are on stand-by and ready to respond to the states affected. This is in addition to already being on call for Hurricane Florence. Please pray for the people affected by these storms.

If you are interested in being a part of Illinois Disaster Relief, there is a training on October 19-20 at Lake Sallateeska. Volunteers are needed to respond to local as well as national disasters. See Dennis or Karissa Howell for more information. To donate visit www.OnTheRidge.org/Give; “Give to:” Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Teach Us to Pray

How often do you pray? Do you pray with your eyes closed? Do you pray before meals? What about when you order a meal from a restaurant, or when dining alone? Do you pray before consuming a snack? Do you pray when you get up in the morning? When you go to bed at night? Do you pray when you hear the siren of an emergency vehicle? Then, there are the questions of how and what do you pray?

My questions about prayer have no end. Which reminds me, Paul instructs that it is God’s will for us to, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). There is a connection between joy, praying, and being thankful.

Pastor Alan Rhein, First United Methodist, Carbondale recently wrote about prayer. Allow me to share a few of his insights. There is no “magic” or “extra special power” when a pastor prays for a person. God hears and answers prayers with the same urgency when any of us pray. Prayer is not a “trick” we work out with God to get what we want. Instead, prayer should be a conversation with God, which provides inner strength to deal with the trial at hand. Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. It is a relationship builder. The most important aspect we often forget about God is that God is listening! Just to know that God hears me and cares about me is often enough to get me through the immediate challenge.

I am inviting you to join me in a 7-week Bible study on “How to Pray” beginning 9 a.m. Sunday, October 14. All nine adult and two youth small groups will study this topic.

Our Small group leaders are passionate about teaching and facilitating the discussion each week. They are prepared and arrive by 8:45 a.m. each Sunday. You may choose almost any adult group to attend. The list of classes is available at the Hospitality Center or just call the office. If you are unsure about which class is for you, attend several.

Prayer tip:  If you are praying and driving, please keep your eyes OPEN!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Time Marches On

As of today anyway, it appears as if the autumnal equinox and the weather forecast are in-sync. Yes, it is autumn and yes, we have experienced some autumn type temperatures. The low for Friday will dip to about 51. Just about right for me. Whether the weather cooperates or not seasonal changes are in the future.

God has provided markers to help us remember the changes that take place in our lives. Things don’t stay the same. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 which begins, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”

We often take for granted the wonder and the workings of our world. We don’t even think about how intricate and fragile this world is and yet how enduring and magnificent it is as well.

We focus so much energy on the present that we ignore the world around us, the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. We appear insulated from the changes that surround us. We watch our favorite programs on our own schedule. We don’t have to fret about above or below average temperatures. Just move the dial a few degrees up or down. So much technology at our fingertips persuades
us that we are in control and are indeed masters of our own fate.

The reality of Ecclesiastes reminds us that this is God’s world, God created it all, God is in control, and we are his creation.

Yes, like the seasons, life is changing for us all, and we are not in control.
Nevertheless, rest easy, we belong to God and everything is under God’s control.

“Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Sleepless in Carterville

For some reason, I have been having difficulty sleeping this past week. I would fall asleep fast but wake up in a few hours and then lay wide-awake for several hours. Sometimes I would get up and read or work on a project. In fact, I worked on this Sunday’s sermon and almost finished it one night this week. Remember that Sunday morning when I bring the morning message.

Someone posted on Facebook the reason for all this sleeplessness. Evidently, I wasn’t the only nocturnal individual roaming around aimlessly. The culprit was “solar storms” erupting in the atmosphere causing lack of sleep, nightmares, fatigue, restlessness and a litany of other maelstroms.

I was ready to accept this explanation. In fact, I was even tempted to get my telescope out and see if I could track one down.

However, rather than trust my fate to the sun and the stars, I examined the scriptures for some comfort and insight. What else is there to do at 2 a.m.?

Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 127: 2 … for he gives sleep to his beloved

Psalm 4:8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Of course, there is also this, How long will you lie there, you sluggard? Proverbs 6:9

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Where is your place in ministry?

One of the basic understandings of the word church is that the church is not the buildings and the grounds. It is not an object. The church is the people! We, the redeemed, are the church. Another basic understanding of the church is that the church does not exist for us to be served. The church exists for us to serve others.

At times folks wonder whether they fit in when it comes to the church. Some feel left out. Others wonder how they can serve through the church. And, still, others feel that the church exists for their benefit. These are all legitimate questions and issues. Perhaps all of us have pondered them at some point in our life.

This topic got me to thinking, which can be dangerous for all of us at times. However, I pray that this time it will be beneficial and edifying for all of us. For those who feel disconnected, wondering where they fit in, what could they do, and whether there is a place for them at The Ridge Church, let me suggest a few areas of on-going ministry where you can easily find a connection.

  • Sunday School/Small groups ministry
  • Vacation Bible School ministry
  • Children’s ministry Music ministry
  • Parking lot ministry
  • Audio/Visual ministry
  • Welcome ministry
  • Security ministry
  • Bus/Van ministry
  • Youth ministry
  • Missions ministry
  • Gorham ministry
  • Social Media ministry
  • Outreach ministry

You can be a part of these ministries. Call the church office and get connected. There is a place for everyone at The Ridge Church. Step up and get involved!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Opportunities to Give: Mission Illinois Offering and 5th Sunday Debt retirement

As a follower of Jesus, blessed beyond measure, it is a joyful privilege to give for the cause of the gospel! This month we have two extra opportunities to give financially above and beyond our regular giving.

The 5th Sunday Offering for Debt Retirement is September 29 and September is the month we support Missions in Illinois through the Mission Illinois offering.

The Mission Illinois Offering is an opportunity for us to focus on state missions. I truly believe that the focused mission field for The Ridge Church lies outside the four walls of our building and in our local communities.

While the command Jesus gave to “Tell as you go” (Matthew 28:19-20) begins locally, it does not end at the borders of our communities. There is an overwhelming need for the heralding of the gospel message throughout our state as well.

The need is great all across Illinois, but especially in the cities and Northwest Illinois. Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association reports, “In many parts of Illinois, Baptists offer by Muslims, Mormons, eastern religions, and people with no faith at all, In fact, at least 8-million of our 13- million neighbors in Illinois do not know Jesus Christ.”

Our giving through the Mission Illinois Offering, provides supplies for VBS training and children’s camps, sends expertise to churches in need of stronger leadership, recruits and equips church planters to start congregations where they are desperately needed. And the list goes on and on.

All gifts given through the Mission Illinois Offering stay here in Illinois: teaching students, equipping leaders, planting churches, and always, advancing the gospel.

Won’t you give through the Mission Illinois Offering? Your partnership in advancing the gospel in Illinois is needed now, more than ever.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Step Up Sunday, Sunday Nights, & the Annex

Step Up Sunday was a great day in the life of The Ridge Church. What a privilege to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ outside in God’s Creation. Much planning and preparation makes this annual celebration a success. I specifically want to thank the food preparers for this year’s meal. While the fried chicken was purchased at Kroger (the best chicken we’ve had), the potato salad and baked beans were “homemade” and OHHHH so good!

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With the new church year, there are a few changes. One change is the dismissal of evening services. The deacons and church council will revisit this decision before the beginning of the next church year. It is our hope that rather than filling this time with other activities, that it will be used for refreshing and renewal and preparation for the week ahead. All of us are already busy enough.

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The annex building has been sided and painted. A ramp is being installed and the flooring has been ordered. A few Sunday School classes are already meeting in the building. Within a few weeks, we hope to have several more classes moved to the annex from the multi-purpose building

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If you are interested in any of the pictures on the bulletin board, please take them. First come first served.

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As we move into the fall, I encourage you to get involved in a Sunday morning small group. These small groups provide a great opportunity to get to know people and grow in your faith. A whole lot of learning and sharing is happening!

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Finally, I encourage you to invite new persons to small groups and worship. So many do not attend church anywhere. We have so much to offer that will assist folks in their daily life. Why would we hesitate?

We Labor Together with God, Wes