Archive for January, 2008
I always think it is interesting to read all the end of year obituaries. You know what they are… the lists in newspapers and magazines about all the famous people that died. I wonder how many of them I’ll remember in a year. I suspect if I could go back and get a list from twenty years ago I wouldn’t even know who some of them are. And what about one hundred years ago? Or one thousand?
What about the “not so famous”? I conduct several funerals each year, and attend several others. It all just reminds me that this life is not forever. Famous people don’t stay famous for long. Rich people don’t take it with them, and don’t control what happens to their wealth after they are gone.
So what is the point of this life? For me personally, it is to give myself to something that will matter long after I am gone. I want to make a difference forever. And I have done that, and I am doing that. I have meaning and purpose in my life that will last forever. Someone will know who I am one thousand years from now.
And it really has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with what Jesus did. Not only will I live forever, but the things I am doing now will help others to live forever. Because they will know Jesus.
So what do you think? Does your life matter? Do you want to ask questions about this?
Let me hear from you.
I wish I was better at documenting my life. As much as I like to think my memory is strong and full of detail, there is so much that has slipped away. There are many solutions to this problem; some people are journal writers and have years of memorable moments locked away safely in the pages of their diary. Others choose to take lots of pictures and have boxes of old photos that chronicle special events. And still others have turned to blogging as a source of remembrance. These methods are diverse in nature, but the goal is inherently the same. We all strive to tell our story. We long for opportunities to relive the moments of our lives and without a record these moments are lost forever.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book (John 20:30).
Ever wonder how many miracles of Jesus are unknown to the world?
How many blind were given sight by His loving touch?
How many of the dead were brought back to life?
The stories of Jesus’ life here on earth are precious to us because, for believers, it gives a glimpse of what is to come. The unconditional love combined with boundless mercy and infinite power set the stage for the most beautiful collection of stories. If only the disciples had a better memory. Perhaps they could have added more stories to the book, but now it’s too late. These stories have fallen into the past.
But wait, look what the next verse says:
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).
We will never know the details of every miracle performed by Jesus, but we can still tell our story. The miracles of Jesus are alive and with us today. Everyone that accepts “Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name,” has taken part in a miracle.
I’ll continue to lose certain memories over the years, but I will never forget the miracle of God’s grace. The proof is documented in my heart and written in the journal of my mind. God’s miracle of grace is new each day.
It’s called rappelling. It’s the means by which you walk down a near-vertical surface with the aid of a rope around your body. I was fifteen when I did it. I don’t think I’ll do it again.
Let me state up front that I have some fear of heights. Not like the lady I knew in Argentina that couldn’t stand up when she was on the ninth floor of an apartment building. But if I’m in a situation where I can picture myself falling, I definitely experience heightened anxiety.
My rappelling episode started off with me having to walk off the top of a cliff. Backwards. Slowly but surely I made my way down the rock face, with an ever-growing appreciation of the power of prayer. About halfway down, I saw one of the staff members from the camp that I was participating in; he was perched on a nearby ledge. “You need to go to your left,” he told me.
“That’s easy for you to say,” I thought to myself. I was near a protrusion; going to my left meant stepping out in space for a moment or two. Going to my right kept my feet on the solid face of the mountain. You guessed it: I went to my right. Later, when I was about fifteen feet from the bottom, I ran out of rope. By not following the staff member’s instructions, I had gotten the rope snagged on a rock and could no longer reach my destination.
The ending to the story is less than dramatic; within five minutes or so, the rope was freed and I was able to get down. But I often think back to that moment of decision, when I had to choose between the uncertainty of stepping out in space and the safety of what I could see and feel. It helps me to sympathize with people who face that same decision in their spiritual lives. How much easier it would be if we could take God to the laboratory, place Him under a microscope and prove His existence once and for all. How comforting it would be to have an undeniable certificate of authenticity from God showing that the Bible is true in every way. How convenient it would be if faith were not required, if we could operate only on what we can see and feel. But it’s not that way; to find God we have to step out in faith.
Let me, like that camp staffer years ago, encourage you to step out in space. Go beyond what our senses perceive and step out in faith. I and many others can tell you that God is there, that He is real and He is waiting for you. Take a chance, reach out and find Him; don’t wait until you reach the end of your rope!
Grace and peace,
Just a few weeks ago I welcomed my fourth grandchild into this world. Now you think this is another article about grandkids, family, and a heritage of faith. That would be a good article, but not this time. Actually, this child is my only son’s first son. So now you may think I am going to talk about fathers and family blood lines. Those are good points, but this child has an even better story.
His name is Andrew Joel Ridgell. What makes that special is that his father is Joel Don Ridgell, I am Stephen Joel Ridgell, and my father is Joel Wesley Ridgell. He is the fourth generation Joel Ridgell. He will grow up hearing stories of the three men he is named after. He will hear of the great things the Lord has done in our lives and in the lives of others through us. By virtue of his name he will have blessings, legacy, and responsibilities. It will be easy to identify his family. He will have lots to live up to, and some things to live down.
I like this Joel tradition. It is my second favorite name. I have a name that I cherish even more. It was given me when I was adopted into the family of God. I am called a child of God. I am sometimes called Christian, the name of my older brother…Jesus Christ. This family has nothing to live down. In fact, I am in no way worthy of belonging to this family. It is a holy family, and I committed far too many sins to be called holy. Except, God the Father sent his only son to die for those sins. He invited me into his family. Then when I was born again, he forgave those sins, and gave me his name.
Someday Andrew Joel will choose to join the family of God. Then we will be part of the only family that lives forever. He will no longer be just my grandson, but my brother.
So what do you think? Is it too good to be true?
I am a problem solver. I enjoy the challenge involved with identifying a problem and then creating a solution. The process of problem solving is not easy. The most difficult part of solving a problem is creating a solution using only your available resources. If anything were possible, money were no object and everyone agreed with me, then most problems would be pretty easy to solve. Unfortunately, money is always a factor, only certain things are possible and hardly anyone agrees with me.
This is what constantly amazes me about the efficiency with which God is able to solve our problems. It’s not that I have any doubt concerning his power to create solutions; it’s just amazing that he completes His plans using us! God is a master at solving problems using the small resources we bring to the table.
One story that shows God’s desire to empower us is when Jesus took five small loaves of bread and two fish to feed a large crowd. As thousands of people gathered near Jesus, he began to question his disciples about how the crowd would eat. One of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, answered him explaining that “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Then another disciple came forward; Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
How foolish Andrew must have felt with this suggestion. The problem has been defined; five thousand people need food to eat. Jesus must find a solution and the best idea that comes up is five small loaves and two fish. Jesus could have easily made bread fall from heaven or fish fall from the sky, but instead he empowered the resources around him. He took Andrew’s suggestion and made it work.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:10-14).
In the same way, God continues to solve our problems today. We come to the table offering very little, but the power of God solves the greatest problems. We are empowered through the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will for our lives.