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.

Crisis #1 and #2

Crisis #1
According to the latest statistics compiled by Lifeway Research, 80% of regular church attenders believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. However, the reality is shockingly different. 61% state they have not shared how to become a Christian with anyone in the last six months. In addition, 48% (almost half) have not even invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or program in the last six months. The church is suffering from an Evangelism Crisis.

Crisis #2
Increasingly we are living in a digitally connected world. Generation Z (B.1995-2014) have not known the world without internet and smart phones. Presently 46% of adults report “sometimes” or “always” feeling lonely and 47% of us feel “left out” at times. We are moving toward a culture where loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions. We are connected digitally but not personally and we are lonelier than ever.

How can we fulfill our personal responsibility to share our faith and connect with a culture that is increasingly isolated and lonely?

God has given us the time-tested tool of Vacation Bible School. VBS has a brand awareness that Fortune 500 companies covet. 60% of Americans have attended VBS. 90% report VBS as a positive experience and 81% consider it a highlight of their childhood. WOW!! In addition, 69% of parents say they would encourage their child to attend a VBS at a church they don’t attend IF their child was personally invited by a friend. Take away: Children will attend our VBS if we personally invite them.

Here’s the challenge:
If we believe that, we are all sinners and sin separates us eternally from God, if we believe that Jesus life, death, and resurrection is the only solution to our sin problem, If we believe that we have a personal responsibility to share our faith, then, let us commit ourselves to making this year’s VBS our best one ever!

Will you join me and accept the challenge?

See You Sunday!

The Journey to happiness begins in church. At least that is the finding from
a survey just released by Pew Research (Article: www.tinyurl.com/TRC-PewHappy).

After analyzing surveys from the U.S. and 25 other countries, Pew Research
published their results January 31 with this conclusion, “Church participation
leads to more happiness and civic engagement.”

Further, “This analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement.”

Interestingly, they further note, “Religious affiliation without participation does
not lead to the same positive outcomes.” In other words, having your name
on the roll without attending is of little value to you or the congregation.

One conclusion from the study is that, “Societies with declining levels of
religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal
and societal well-being,”

Pew defines active religious engagement as, “Those who identify with a religious group and attend church services at least monthly.”

In the U.S. 36% of actively religious people state, they are VERY happy
compared to 25% of inactive religious people and 25% of those unaffiliated
with any religious group.

The research also found that those who attend services are also more engaged
in their communities and more likely to volunteer than those who do not regularly
attend services.

This research provides evidence that being in small groups and worship
on a regular basis not only makes the Lord happy, but the individual as well.

This gives me even more reason to say, “See you Sunday!”

Super Bowl XX

I’m not a Chicago Bears fan, especially since Super Bowl XX when “Da Bears” schooled the Patriots 46-10. However, watching Codey Parkey’s missed (later ruled “blocked”) field goal attempt for the potential win in last week’s NFL playoff game, I hesitantly admit to some compassion for him. He made it once but had to re-kick it due to a last second time out called by the visiting Eagles team. Compassion is not how one would describe the die-hard Bear fans. Oh my! Such hostility!

Of course, Parkey isn’t the only one who ever messed up big time. In a 2011 AFC Championship game Billy Cundiff of the Baltimore Ravens missed a game-tying field goal with 15 seconds remaining, sending the Patriots to the Super Bowl, again.

Oh yeah, who could forget October 26, 1986, when in the wee hours of the morning Red Sox 1st baseman, Bill Buckner let a routine ground ball dribble between his legs allowing the Mets to score the winning run and forcing a game seven of the World Series, in which the Mets also won. Needless to say, the Boston anger and rage did not soon subside.

Then there was the “Steve Bartman Incident” of October 14, 2003. You have a vivid memory of it if you are a Cubs fan. It was the 8th inning of game six of the playoffs The Cubs were leading the Marlins 3-0. A pop foul sailed toward left field; Bartman, in the stands, reached for the ball, deflected it, and disrupted the potential catch. If it had been caught in play, it would have been the second out in the inning and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning their first National League pennant since 1945. Only recently have amends been made and the aggression eased as the Cubs awarded Bartman a 2016 World Series ring.

If messing up was just an isolated incident by an awkward few, we might have a reason for hostility, anger, and outrage. Pointing them out with derision might even be a worthy hobby. However, we all mess up. There was only one perfect person who walked this planet and he was crucified. When our team loses, we aren’t happy and we are tempted to assign fault. Remember to go easy on the poor soul who messes up, express some compassion, and offer some encouragement. Next time we might be the one who chokes with the game on the line.

Merry Christmas

This is the last edition of the Newsletter emailed or delivered by the USPS for theyear, 2018. We will publish again on January 3, 2019.

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of Debbie and myself to wish youall a very Merry Christmas as you remember and celebrate the birth of our Lordand Savior, Jesus.

Again, I say thank you to everyone who contributed to the many giving opportunities this time of year: The Thanksgiving baskets, The Spirit you all, Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, the Debt Retirement 5th Sunday Offering, and to Pregnancy Matters.

In addition, I thank you for your financial support which keeps the building open, salaries, paid, provides ministries, materials, and opportunities to do missions. None of these items or activities would be possible without the Lord and the generous giving of the people of The Ridge Church.

Being a member of The Ridge Church includes the responsibility of the year support. Recognizing that responsibility is a sign of spiritual maturity. Fulfilling that responsibility is a sign of spiritual growth.

When John announced the advent of Jesus the people asked, “What should we do?” John told them to, share with those in need, keep no more than you must, and be satisfied with what you have (Luke 3:7—18).

This is the season of the year to renew our commitments to the Lord and to The Ridge Church. The financial cost of ministry never remains the same, it never costs less, and the increase is always beyond our ability. This is why, “We labor together with God” when we do our best, the Lord is able to do the Lord’s best!

Will you commit to the Lord to give your best financially through The RidgeChurch this year?

Again, enjoy a great Christmas with family and friends, and safe travels.

Christmas

I have a few annual Christmas TV traditions. One is watching “A Christmas Story” on Christmas Eve. TBS airs the story for 24 hours, so no matter where you start you always get to see a complete showing. My other Christmas TV tradition is re- watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Since its first airing in 1965, (53 years ago)

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become a “must see” classic. Lead character, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the beginning of a
cheerful holiday season. He rants over the commercialism. Lucy suggests that the answer to his holiday doldrums is involvement, and she enlists him to direct the Christmas play. Willing to give it a go, he attempts to take charge, but with his leadership ignored and confronted with a list of complaints from the cast, his depression only worsens.

Determined to discover the meaning of the holiday and fend off his intensifying despair he concludes that what is lacking is a Christmas tree to set the mood. Off he goes, only to bring back the sorriest looking “Charlie Brown” tree on the lot. Of
course, he is scorned, mocked, laughed at, and humiliated. It is at this time he explodes in desperation and loudly asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus says he does, walks to center stage, and recites Luke 2:8-14. After he completes his reading, upbeat music resumes, a smile fills Charlies Brown face, and he picks up his tree to give it a proper decorating.

For me, this symbolizes the lifting of Charlie Brown’s heavy burden of depression in response to the gospel reading, leading to the discovery of the real meaning of Christmas. Even Linus lets go of his infamous security blanket as he reads. I realize life is not a cartoon and issues of depression are not as easily resolved. However, there is joy and celebration and praise when one discovers what Christmas is really all about.

My Christmas prayer is that we would all make that same discovery and make it an annual tradition!