SwissMiss Reflection: God is at Work, and Working In Me

SwissMiss Reflection: God is at Work, and Working In Me

Missions Word in Season

March 4-14th, a group of 12 volunteers, mostly from Ridgeview, visited the Movida campus in Walzenhausen Switzerland to help with the work being completed by Scott & Mani Langemeier and the team of PRISMA students (all from the Spanish speaking world), missionaries, and volunteers from around the world.

We affectionately named them the SwissMiss team.

The team engaged in four days of practical work on the campus along with four days of travel and ministry to regional churches in Germany and Switzerland. We are so grateful to God for the work He did. He provided safe travels, health, energy, joy, and wisdom throughout each day. Each volunteer joined in the fruitful work as God worked in them by His grace.

The following are short reflections on the trip and God’s work from each of the volunteers.

Soli Deo gloria!

“The mission trip to Switzerland was so awesome! God humbled me this week. I expected that the language barriers wouldn’t be an issue. I thought that everyone would be able to speak English. God humbled me. He showed me that English isn’t superior. I am not exceptional. But God is! No matter the language barrier, we have a commonality of Jesus. It was eye-opening to see that the same God we worship is the same God they worship. God also humbled me through work. I thought that the way I did things was better. I was shown this week that everybody works differently, and that is okay. It is more about the intercultural experience of working with others than getting the job done.
One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with the Latinos singing, “I Saw the Light.”
Praise the Lord. I saw the Light!”
Emily Hansen

“I grew a lot during our trip to Switzerland. I learned what it means to serve, what it is like communicating and working with people across cultural and language barriers, and what Movida is doing with their PRISMA program in Switzerland. Trying to work with people whose language I don’t speak was humbling and made me rely on God’s strength and patience and flexibility. I was moved by seeing Ukrainian refugees in the flesh. I experienced the beautiful thing that is Christian hospitality towards traveling missionaries. Praise be to God for his wondrous grace.”
David Johnson

“The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much. I was surprised that most of the time we were there we did physical work, like shoveling dirt, planting trees, and picking up sticks. There were a lot of lessons learned. I never would’ve considered moving truckloads of dirt with a shovel as missionary work. But whatever the leaders at the campus told me what to do, I did it because that was my mission. Scrubbing potatoes and planting trees was my mission. I learned that being a missionary doesn’t just mean going to different churches, it’s also laying yourself down and serving God with whatever mission He puts before you.”
Hannah Johnson

“It was such an amazing trip – seeing God at work in such a multicultural context. There was amazing unity in the team and such joy in serving together on the campus and other places.
I saw Him at work at Walzenhausen among the students from Latin America whose hearts are on fire for the Lord. I saw him at work in the hearts of Movida leaders who responded with such compassion and determination to the refugee crisis.
I saw Him at work through the hands of Polish and German people that greeted refugees with soup, free sim-card and transportation options every step of the way once they crossed the border.
In the prayer of a young mama, who was grateful for quietness and the roof.
In the wide and cheerful smile of a 19 year old student who volunteers at the shelter till midnight every day.
In the quiet conversation of an older couple who decided to take in a refugee in their home.”
Maya Johnson

“Passion. Patience. Flexibility. These are recurring words that only our group will truly understand… or anyone who has shoveled a mountain of dirt in one day! The days were filled with hard work, relationship building, exposure to various cultures, and being pushed out of my comfort zone; this trip has given me more than I could have imagined. Seeing a true passion for the Lord and the spread of the gospel by people from around the world was encouraging. Patience was displayed by all involved with language barriers and games of charades. Most importantly, this trip taught me that flexibility is where your faith shines brightest. Did we have no idea what was going on some days? Did we question the methods of how to complete tasks? Was I scared to spend the night in a German woman’s home alone? With flexibility, prayer, and the grace of God and others, none of these questions mattered. The opportunity to serve and be a witness towers over these questions. And for that I will be forever grateful.”
JoAnn Neel

“God was so kind to us throughout this trip. He provided our every need, even staying off jet lag so we could work effectively. It was a blessing to see our team of volunteers work without complaint. When some of the Latino students were questioned regarding what unique qualities they see in our group of Americans, their response was shock a how willing we all were to help and to serve. I was greatly encouraged to hear that Christ was working in us to encourage those around us.”
Sam Parker

“This trip showed me there are whole cultures I haven’t even learned enough to communicate with, let alone understand. This terrifies me, because I really value knowing what’s going on and understanding the why and how of everything. So, going on a trip planned by others, on a continent I’ve never been to, with people speaking languages I don’t know challenged me to trust God both in the big and in the small decisions. More than that, I saw that God is the same God in Switzerland, Germany, and America. I may not have known the details of the next day or the eccentricities of a second language, but I could still have spiritual conversations with the Latino students, the volunteers at Movida, or the Germans we met. Our God is the ultimate common ground in a world of infinite diversity and the ultimate rock in uncertainty.”
Abigail Swanson

“During this trip, God taught me that you can encourage others in Christ without speaking their language perfectly. I was encouraged often by non-native English speakers:
Oso’s (a Movida volunteer) exhortation to trust God even when we don’t have all the information we might want.
Debbie’s (a Prisma student from Chile) smile, chocolate, and good questions asked through Google Translate.
Miqueas (a volunteer from Argentina) sharing his testimony in Spanish of how God touched his life.
Jessica (our German host during a visit to the churches) welcoming us into her home
Spending time with others who have different languages and cultures while knowing that we share Christ. Examples: Praying and devotions together, jamming out in the car to Christian music, taking a walk outside and conversing in mixed Spanish and English, playing Spicy UNO.
I loved being part of this trip. Please pray for me to keep growing in Christ and to find more opportunities for evangelism and discipleship in my daily life.”
Hannah Swanson (Hannah is sister to Abigail and currently lives in Omaha)

“For me (Jayde), our mission trip was a sweet time of fellowship with the body of Christ as We worked, worshiped, and served with brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the globe. Despite the fact that we often struggled to speak each other’s language, the simple fact that we shared Christ turned strangers into family, even in the short period of time we got to know each other.
In addition, My eyes were opened to the reality of what being a “missionary” truly means. A missionary is not just someone who goes to Foreign Country to tell people about Jesus. Rather , a missionary is a person wholeheartedly on mission to do the Lord’s work, wherever they are, and whose passion that ALL may know Christ is evident in their everyday life, words, and relationships.”
Cody & Jayde Trump

“This trip has impacted me in many ways. It has shown me how difficult it is to go into a different country where you don’t know the language or the culture. You have to find ways to get your meaning across to others. But what was cool is that even through all of the trip, our group and the people there could connect because we were all from the same family; the family of Jesus. We worked for the Lord. We fellowshipped for the Lord. And, as we got to know each other more, we saw the love of Christ. We were able to help out with many things there. We scooped dirt, planted trees, plowed fields, and pulled out tree roots. Everyone had an amazing work ethic and we got it done so fast it was amazing. You could see God’s hand in all of it; keeping everyone safe and keeping us going day after day. God worked in this trip to impact our hearts and theirs all for the glory of his name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11”
Lily Varpness (Lily is daughter of Zach and Kendra Varpness (former members of Ridgeview) and currently lives in Orange City, Iowa)

“While on this trip, I learned to not underestimate what God has given us to do. Too often I get caught up in what I have to give or contribute is too small. Yet, God is asking us to follow and obey Him. Each part of what is happening is contributing to bringing God glory. Those behind the scenes actions are helping make what seems like something so much more important get done. I’m so thankful that as a team we were able to come together and serve our missionaries in Switzerland. Knowing that no matter the personalities, language barriers and cultural differences we all are like minded with a heart that wants to honor God. My prayer request going forward is that I continue to be open to ways God is asking me to help and serve. Getting out of my comfort zone is a good thing.”
Heather Wing

Dispatch from the Front of the Refugee Crisis

Dispatch from the Front of the Refugee Crisis

Word in Season

Editor’s Note: The following are some reflections Maya Johnson has posted online as she works with war refugees fleeing from Ukraine into Poland. Today is her final day on the ground in Poland. Please keep praying for her and those with her (the Movida team).

My mind and heart cannot yet find all the words needed to untangle the many layers of pain. How does one explain and process what is happening on all sides of this madness?

But, in a way, I am gaining a fuller understanding of the biblical narrative. There has been a lot of refugees and people who faced great injustice in God’s story and I see that God’s hand – and his Word – was true in those lives. This gives me hope today.

When David ran from Saul, Jonathan stood up for him. He investigated his case, advocated for him, and helped him flee. Jonathan sent David away with much weeping and prayers, sought him out, and strengthened his soul in the Lord.

Will we be Jonathans?

There was also the priest who gave David both bread and Goliath’s sword. And there was Abigail who stopped David from sinning.

And David, on his side, did not just hide in the caves. He hid in God! In those caves, he poured out his heart in Psalms of lament that we can now read and use for processing our pain. David actively helped his people and protected their cities and sheep from the Philistines. He took under his wing those who were abused by Saul. David’s heart stayed soft towards God and people, even in the midst of his hardship.

He knew that one day he will sing and praise God among the nations and tribes because God’s mercy is great to the heavens, and his faithfulness to the clouds (Ps. 57).

#refugeeCrisisEurope #StandwithUkraine #lament

The SwissMiss Team and Poland

The SwissMiss Team and Poland

Missions Word in Season

Dear Church Family,

As you may know, Ridgeview is sending a missions team to Switzerland to help our missionaries there with various ministries. The team leaves tomorrow morning from Chadron. I am writing this to ask you to consider doing two things to support this effort.

First, please commit to praying for the team and the various ministries they will be doing. Pray for safety and for fruitfulness and that the Lord will work in the team as well as through them. The team will participate in many ministries, including serving with a church in Germany, working with missionary students from Latin America, completing some projects on the Movida campus, and helping respond to the Ukraine refugee crisis in Poland.

That last point is a new development. The Swiss Movida team is seeking the Lord’s wisdom as to how they can respond to the crisis in a way that shows the love of Christ to people who are downtrodden and in great need. The plan as it stands now is that a few will split off from the rest of the team and travel with Movida staff to a border town in Poland and work with a local church providing humanitarian aid to the refugees who are pouring over the border from Ukraine. Maya, my wife, will be going with them as a translator. Please pray fervently that the Lord bring much fruit from this, and provide safety for the team.

The second thing is to consider helping financially – if you are able – both with the extra expenses needed for travel and lodging and the humanitarian aid/supplies that the team will be distributing in Poland. Obviously, these things were not considered when the team planned its original budget, so Movida and our team need additional funds for this. You can give online by going to our giving page (click here). Please be sure to note that it is for the Ukrainian refugee crisis (or just write “SwissMiss” in the notes).

May the Lord be glorified, and many people helped, through these efforts.

In Christ,
Pastor Mike

Three Reasons to Pray for Ukraine

Three Reasons to Pray for Ukraine

Word in Season

You probably have heard by now that the President of the Russian Federation has declared war on its smaller and peaceful neighbor, Ukraine. What had been building for months – cloaked in sinister euphemisms and deceit – has given way to open war as Russian missiles and artillery bombard cities, and invading troops pour across the border.

As I write this, Ukraine is feeling the full brunt of the Russian armed forces (against which Ukrainian forces are no match). With this post, I’d like to call on American Christians to pray, especially the Christians of Ridgeview Bible Church.

Here are three reasons.

First, this war will surely bring about massive destruction and suffering for the people of Ukraine. In a war like this, it is not only soldiers who will die. Cities will be destroyed and villages will be wiped from the earth and law and order in this normally peaceful country will be massively disrupted. Refugees and displaced persons will flee across the borders into the countries that neighbor Ukraine to the West, and we are seeing this even now. Homelessness will abound, and many will likely freeze. As I preached in a sermon a few weeks ago, Christians care about this kind of suffering, so we should pray for Ukraine.

Second, pray because the world is much smaller than it sometimes feels. Ukraine is a long way away from Nebraska and many of us have never been there. Some would have difficulty finding it on a map. But history teaches us that wars like this in Europe seldom stay a long way away. Pray to the Lord, the One who is sovereign over nations, that this war does not lead to a much greater war, involving many more countries, and bringing about catastrophic suffering and loss of life in the world.

Third, pray for Ukraine because our brothers and sisters are there. The church in Ukraine will surely suffer during this war. Pray for the believers and for their families. Pray for ex-pat missionaries who have decided to remain (I know a few personally!), and for the witness of Christ in the region. Pray for those who will soon enter a season of persecution, that they might have strength and that they remain faithful to Jesus, and that many others will “become much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Phil 1:14)” on account of their faithfulness.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you to pray for Ukraine.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9

On the Importance of Training

On the Importance of Training

Word in Season

**Guest Post by Joshua Kuhn, missionary en route to Brazil with Ethnos360**

In 2014, I left the USA and hit the mission field without pursuing education in missions or the Bible. God used my testimony in incredible ways. I do believe that it was very productive. I was able to share what God did for me and what he could do for them. I could show them by example how a person should live, and I would not trade that time for anything. But God also used that time to show me how much I didn’t know. I feel like I could have been more impactful, convincing, and efficient if I had gone through training first. My Bible education was lacking, and therefore, the depths of my conversations and teachings were lacking. Relating real-life stories back to the Bible was impossible because I had not spent the time needed studying it.

The life-changing truths of the Bible should not be explained only on a surface level.

That would be like trying to teach the Bible and the significance of who God is and what Jesus accomplished to a tribal group with only a second-grade language level. Like trying to reach a people group with the Dr. Suess Bible.

I did not realize how much Bible I was missing until I came back to the US and studied the Ethnos360 Bible Institute. After graduating, I could not even imagine trying to teach without it. The stories and the truths that God communicates through those stories are crucial to understanding the Bible. And how can you teach about a book that you don’t understand? Sure, we are not going to fully understand the Bible until we are with the Author; but if I am going to teach the Bible, I’d much rather have a college-level understanding compared to that of a second-grader.

Then, I went to the Mission Training Center where I learned so much more about how to communicate the gospel while taking into consideration things such as culture, language, history, previous religion, cast systems, etc. If these things are not carefully taken into consideration, you might be doing more damage than good. I’m guessing that before training, in certain cases I might even have turned people away from the gospel because of my ignorance of these types of things.

There is so much more that goes into communicating the gospel than we initially think.

Maybe our entire goal is merely the salvation of the people. The Bible calls new believers “babies,” and that is just what they are. Are you going to just get to the point that the baby is born and then leave it? NOOOOOO. You will mess up the rest of its life! New Christians need nurturing as much as babies do. They need to be brought up and fed Spiritual meat as they grow to maturity. If all you can feed them is milk then they will never grow.

A missionary is not only someone that can lead a person to Christ but can help them grow into maturity. How can a missionary do that if he is not mature himself?

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in missionary training or other issues related to global missions, be sure to attend the Ridgeview Conference for Global Missions, on March 19-20. Our keynote speaker is Brooks Buser, the President of Radius International, one of the best missionary-training organizations in North America.

When Your Child is Struggling with Fear

When Your Child is Struggling with Fear

Word in Season

What do you do when your child is struggling with fear? When a scary story is being replayed by the mind and a sticky, frightful image won’t stop haunting?

As parents, we have walked with our kids through many a sleepless night, wiped many tears, looked under beds a gazillion times, held them in our arms while praying over them. Answers seem so easy and so obvious, and yet it is a struggle to guide a child through the battle in his or her mind.

A good starting point when working with fear is what the Bible says about it. It doesn’t just tell us not to fear, it also provides multiple reasons for why we are not to fear. And the Bible calls those who are around fearful people to “encourage the faint-hearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)”. We know that Christ, as he walked among imperfect people, often said, fear not. We know that his presence was gentle, as Isaiah had prophesied about him: “A bruised reed He will not break.” (Isaiah 42:3).

The Bible also has a solution to fear: trusting the Lord. There may be dangerous and frightening things out there, but we belong to someone who holds our very existence in his hands by the power of his word (Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3). The reason why we need not be afraid when we walk through valleys of the shadow of death is that the Shepherd has gone through those himself. He took the punishment for our sins, including our tendency to seek refuge in things other than him, and he defeated death. Death and resurrection of Christ apply to big things in our life – like terrible dysfunction of this world – and the little ones, like a night terror.

Here is what not to do when helping someone to work through fear:

  • Become frustrated and resort to manipulating the fearfulness out of their fear.
  • Call the child only to use logic. Fear is often not based on or tied to reality and it is hard to explain it away and make the feelings go away.

What we do need to do and say:

  • Speak openly about it. Help the child put his feelings into words; it looks to me that you are feeling ____, is this right?
  • Turn to the Lord” – help the child turn to the Lord with these feelings. Help her see how big God is. Fear makes real things around us, including God, seem small and insignificant. As a parent, my role is to help the child keep the right perspective. And by the way: talking Big God theology with kids is important on calm days so that in the day of crisis we have something to call to mind and lean on.
  • You are not alone” – we say this all the time. Another lie of fear is that you are all alone facing danger and that it is up to you alone to overcome.
  • And here is what my husband says all the time in times of crisis and in times of calm: “Trust me”. A child needs to learn to trust the parent. That is how he learns to put his trust in something other than himself. On a very basic level, that starts with trusting his parents.
  • Do not let fear control you. Fear wants to be your master, but you already have one – the Lord – who also calls himself a Good Shepherd! Fear lies; it says that it can make you its slave to obey its commands: “retreat, play ___thoughts over and over in your mind, feel ___, hide”.

As parents who are called to raise our children in the Lord, we wanted to put this struggle with fear in the context of his or her life with the Lord. Here is a simple exercise we did with one of them recently to root her confidence in Christ. This is by no means a formula to follow, but an example of how to engage a child in the life-giving Word. We read Psalm 23 with her and asked her to do some simple things, and all of it took about 15 minutes:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Let’s take turns dictating the verses to each other and writing them down. You read, and I write and then we switch. What do these words mean?

Can you circle three things that stand out to you about God and us? And I will circle mine. Can you explain why you picked these things?
Let’s pick a couple of things from this Psalm to draw. Can you explain what you drew? And here is my drawing! Can you bring this picture to mind – yours and mine – when you feel afraid? We can hang it up in your bedroom if you wish.

Let’s pray together about this Psalm.

What can we learn about Jesus in this Psalm?

Here are some truths we dwelled on as we read the Psalm together:

  • God is the Lord of all. We do not have to let fear control us, but instead, can be led by the new master, the Lord.
  • God is a good shepherd who knows all of our paths. Sometimes they lead to the still waters, and sometimes they cut through valleys of the shadow of death.
  • He not only knows them but takes care of us every step of the way.
  • He is always near; the rod and staff are symbols of his guidance and protection.
  • He is the God who grants peace and victory in the midst of war.
  • His love is inseparable from us.

What was important to me as I worked with her:

  • That the child had a maximum engagement with the Word, not me talking at her. That she would absorb it through different channels: writing, hearing, drawing, talking about it, picturing/imagining it, meditating on it.
  • That the child had some initiative in this: I gave her a choice in what to draw and which concepts to talk about.
  • That she saw me actively engaging with the Word and me being affected by it as well.
  • That she had an image in her head that could solidify the truth for herself.
  • That ultimately, she could get to know God’s character through this, because it is easier to trust someone you know!

All of the above is just an example of how we as parents can turn to the Lord in any situation and lean on him, and guide our children to him. It may not bring about desirable results immediately, but engaging with the Word of God will certainly bear the good fruits of trust and rest.

And last, but not least; besides working with the child through these points, as a parent, I also must depend on Christ. I must rely on him to help me be patient and gentle as he is with those who are afraid. My child is not the only one who needs to learn these truths and grow more into Christ!

End-of-the-Year Members’ Meeting

End-of-the-Year Members’ Meeting

Word in Season

Dear Church Family,

Thank you for participating in the members’ meeting last night (December 5). We enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship and thoughtful conversation about the church; our ministries, vision, finances and the church’s constitution. I’m thankful to the Lord for the atmosphere of unity and humility and the deep love that was present for the Bride of Christ.

Many shared ministry reports. How encouraging it was to hear the joyful accounts of VBS and conferences and home groups and FCA and student ministries and Sunday School and missions and children’s church and AWANA and the many Bible studies in 2021 and more.

I delivered the elders’ report, sharing our thankfulness to God for many answered prayers in 2021, and our commitment to focus mainly on three areas in the coming year: evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship.

Evangelism because “it has pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).” Our world and our community need Jesus Christ, and the hope that comes only through him and his death on the cross and his triumphant resurrection. We want to spread that good news, and the fame of Christ’s name, in 2022!

Discipleship because, in God’s love and wisdom, he has designed us to grow together. So, in 2022 we will press into what it means to be a people committed to “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Colossians 3:16)” in both formal and informal ways.

And fellowship because we are a family, and families need to spend time together. If the last couple of years of pandemic craziness has taught us anything, it is that fellowship is vital. We sense that “all the more as we see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).”

I also shared that the elders are putting forward Cole Wyatt as the new elder candidate, believing him to be biblically qualified (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Cole plans to share his testimony during the gathering this coming Sunday, and the church will meet to vote on December 19, following the worship service. We are inviting members to share any concerns or questions they have about Cole’s candidacy with an elder before the meeting on December 19.

Sam Parker shared details about the church’s finances, and our thankfulness to the Lord for his provision in 2021. He also presented the 2022 budget proposal, and the church voted unanimously to approve it. We proposed two minor constitutional amendments. One passed unanimously. The second we tabled after a few members helpfully suggested wording changes. The elders agree with these suggestions and will present this for vote also on December 19.

We then adjourned the meeting and made our way to the RidgeRoom for a wonderful potluck dinner and a time of sweet fellowship. What an encouraging Sunday night this was!

As we come to the end of 2021, my heart is full of gratitude to God and I am so humbled at how merciful and gracious he is towards us. I am grateful to the Lord for his church, and this local church especially. I look forward to 2022 with hopeful anticipation. May the Lord Jesus Christ be made much of among us and by us, for his glory alone.

In Christ,
Pastor Mike, for the Elder Team

Total Inability & the Sweetness of the Gospel

Total Inability & the Sweetness of the Gospel

Word in Season

You tell someone you are a Christian and they in return ask you, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” How do you answer?

You ask someone if they are a Christian and they reply, “Well, I try really hard so I think so.” How do you answer?

I’ve been mulling over these two interactions in my brain for a while and I’ve come to the conclusion that I would start in the same place with the same concept: Inability.

in·a·bil·i·ty (/ˌinəˈbilədē/) noun, 1. the state of being unable to do something.

Most who hear this word tend to put a negative connotation along with it. When was the last time you told someone about your inabilities? Yet with the kingdom of God, inability equals supreme blessedness, happiness (Matthew 5:3).

Being a Christian means that I see my sins and my inability to pay for my sins. I’m unable to save myself from the judgement of a just God. I deserve eternal punishment and there is no way out. The paradox is that it is only when we see this inability that the gospel becomes glorious.

John Murray, a Scottish theologian, explains it in this way: “The only gospel there is is a gospel which rests upon the assumption of total inability. It is this truth that lays the basis for the glory of the gospel of grace.”

How dull grace becomes if you or I can achieve it ourselves. The grace offered to us in Christ only becomes amazing when we see how completely helpless we are.

This means that ability is the antithesis to the gospel. Murray continues, “The doctrine of ability makes men self-sufficient and that is the contradiction of the gospel and makes them immune to its appeal.” The doctrine of ability is most clearly seen in the Pharisees all over the gospels. The keeping of laws, the self justification, establishing their own righteousness, (Romans 10:3) and yet their utter blindness to who Jesus was. They were immune to the appeal of the gospel because they had already figured this righteousness thing out on their own.

Not only is inability important as we receive this saving grace, inability is part of our continued walk with Christ as His Spirit sanctifies us. Am I able on my own to say no to the things God asks me to, to persevere in this marathon life of a believer, to love like He has loved me, to give thanks in suffering, to die to myself daily, to speak kind words, to forebear with others as he has done so with me, to cast of idols…and on? If you have lived one day you know the answer to this question is an emphatic, “no!” I am fully dependent on the Lord to keep me, work in me, and to conform me to the image of Jesus.

As believers we can become immune to the gospel as self-sufficiency grows in our hearts. We want immunity to a lot of things, but the gospel most certainly isn’t one of them. The Lord was gracious recently in my own life to reveal how dependent I was becoming on myself. I want to end each day astonished that the Lord kept me following Him for another day. I see what my flesh is capable of if left to myself. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord who is the only one that can save me from this path of death! (Romans 7:24-25).

Being a Christian is about seeing my neediness time and time again and turning to Jesus with great dependence on Him and what He accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection.

Being a Christian is about us decreasing and Christ increasing (John 3:20).

Being a Christian is less about how hard we try and more about who we trust.

Being a Christian means that I am unable and Christ is the one who is able.

Being a Christian means that with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

“I’ll make up for it” becomes “Jesus paid for it.”
“I’ll try harder” becomes “Help me Jesus.”
“I can do it” becomes “Jesus did it.”

Do you want supreme happiness? This is what Jesus promises for those who are poor in spirit. The helpless, unable, powerless, inadequate, weak people who turn to Christ day in and day out are supremely happy. Why? Because we become free from trying to produce something ourselves that is impossible to produce. What sheer joy to release this burden onto Christ! Our inability becomes the pathway for our boasting all the more in Jesus.

May our hearts beat the drum of inability in our own lives and to others around us.

Water in the Desert

Water in the Desert

Word in Season

School is starting up. The college kids are back in town. New ideas, new hopes, new activities, new friends, new teachers, new schedules. Although it’s not January 1st, it still somewhat feels like a new year and a fresh start.

This time last year I was full of hope for this season that is upon us now. I had just celebrated my birthday with my church home group, took a little hiking trip with my kids, and sent my youngest off to kindergarten. Then, I was thrust into what I can now see was a desert. Hot, dry, stifling. An oppressive heat that is ready to kill all that tries to set up home there. My child got sick. Really, really sick. The type of sickness that sends you to specialty hospitals in a hurry. This time last year I was watching my child sleep in an ICU bed and writing notes so I was prepared for rounds the next day when a dozen or so doctors would flood the room and discuss what to do next. It was just the beginning and I’m not yet sure there will be an official end.

I should be parched, dried up, and left for dead. And yet somehow over this past year, I’ve been nourished. Sustenance where there should be starvation.

There is only one who can bring life from what should be dead. This is what he does. This is what he promises. He brings growth and life from barren and lifeless places. The Lord gives water in the desert. How does he do this? He speaks. His Words bring life.

Psalm 1 says blessed (happy) is the one who finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates on it. This person is like a “tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3 Delighting in the Word of God waters our souls in such a way it doesn’t matter what is happening around us, we will prosper. I have been blessed to watch him do this in my own life this past year in so many ways. What grace He has showered into my own desert.

A Psalm I had memorized became my sustenance as I found myself sitting in the hospital next to my child. The chaos of sickness, unknowns, and suffering was watered by these sweet words of Psalm 131. I remember reciting over and over again these three verses, thinking and praying: “Lord, I’m not going to think great thoughts right now or really any thoughts. I don’t know what is going on at this moment or the next. I’m not even going to go there Lord. What I will do, however, is to rest in the presence and comfort of the Lord. Like a child who has everything they need, content in the lap of their father.” Nourishment.

There were many believers who helped me bear these burdens yet I felt like I couldn’t adequately describe what I had experienced and was still experiencing. They weren’t there in the hospital or in my house or there after the kids were put to bed when I tried to process another day. I felt alone in the desert, isolated. The Lord spoke again through another Psalm. This time, Psalm 31:7, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction and you have known the distress of my soul.” My desire for someone to intimately know and be present in this desert was fulfilled, in Him. What a gift it is to be known and seen like this! Sustenance

I felt inadequate and overwhelmed about navigating this new world of insurance, medications, and hospital policies. James reminded me that if I lacked wisdom, that I should ask God who promises to not look down in irritation at this request but delights to give generously and He did just that (James 1:5). Strength.

I needed to find the right people to help me. Advocates on the inside of the insurance companies, hospital organizations, and drug companies to help me do things out of process that were necessary to care for my child. I was comforted that it is the Lord who controls the hearts of men, even the “kings” of the companies I was appealing to (Proverbs 21:1). He was in charge of this and I could ask and trust Him to do it. He provided so many people with hearts soft towards helping me: Megan, Morgan, Brittany, Abby, Stacy, Rachel, Nancy just to name a few. Grace.

My experience is not unique to me. We see many in the Bible in similar situations where they find themselves in the wilderness of life. David went through many wilderness experiences and all throughout the Psalms we see him clinging to God’s Word and trusting in him and in turn the Lord sustaining him. Job was ultimately comforted by God’s Words to him (not necessarily his friends’ words) in the midst of his great suffering. Habakkuk too was comforted by God’s Words (not his own thoughts) even knowing he was on the brink of experiencing great suffering. Jesus entered the wilderness and triumphed over temptation with the Words of God.

Let us also remember and be warned that the wilderness doesn’t guarantee that we will find nourishment in the Lord. The Israelites had 40 years in the wilderness, yet it became a place of great rebellion and death because they decided not to trust or delight in the Words of the Lord.

By God’s grace, I was nourished by His Word because I had been feasting on His Word for years. Day in, day out. Sunday after Sunday. Little by little.

There is little time to feast in the desert. In the desert you live off your reserves.

I had been feasting on God’s Word through my own time with him in the mornings but also through other very important means of God’s grace. Things like church where we go through books of the Bible verse by verse. Sunday school, where we do the same. Bible studies where we open the Word and wrestle to know Christ more. Home group where we discuss and apply the scripture preached on that Sunday morning.

In this season of new hopes, new plans, and maybe even fresh starts I want to encourage you to make it a priority to delight in the law of the Lord. Make space on your calendar for these things that will encourage and help you do this.

Make attending church a priority.
Commit to a Sunday school class, home group, or a Bible study.
Make his Word your delight and joy now so it will one day water you in your own desert that life inevitably brings.

Click here to see all of the ways you can feast on God’s Word at Ridgeview this fall.

An Open Letter to Parade Organizers

An Open Letter to Parade Organizers

Word in Season

Dear Community Leaders,

First off, I have to say that I love the 4th of July parade that is hosted by the Crawford Chamber of Commerce each year. My children love that parade. My friends love that wonderful parade. It has fast become a tradition for our family to make the short drive over from Chadron and set up folding chairs on a shady corner and watch the fire trucks, horse-drawn buggies, classic cars and those zippety go-carts pass by. When my children were small, they would come home with a bag of candy. Thank you for organizing this first-class parade year after year.

The reason I am writing to you now is because I just learned that the parade this year will be held on Sunday morning at 10AM. As you likely know, that presents an issue for churches, as that is precisely the time when most churches gather for weekly worship. For many – myself included – this is a sacred time, set aside each and every week to worship the Lord.

I love America and I love the 4th of July and I love parades. But if I have to choose between going to a parade and gathering with the church, I will choose the church every time. My point with this letter is that I am saddened that I have to make that choice this coming Sunday. My children are saddened. Many of the members of the church I serve as pastor are saddened.

But alas, there is a solution. You could, as a courtesy to churches and Christian worshippers and deference to this sacred time of worship on the Lord’s Day, reschedule the parade to 1PM on Sunday. That change would allow people like me to both attend worship on Sunday and also make it over to the parade to celebrate our independence as a nation. I’m sure that a change up at this late stage would create some difficulties, but I am just as sure that rescheduling will mean many more spectators for the parade. And I think it will be a welcomed kindness to churches in the surrounding community.

Also, the weather should be mild this coming Sunday, even at 1PM.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider this request. May the Lord continue to richly bless America.

Sincerely,

Pastor Mike Johnson
Ridgeview Bible Church