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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

James K. Bridges — A Faithful Servant

By George O. Wood
Aug. 22, 2010

For nearly 15 years we served side by side. Every once in a while someone would mix us up by calling him the general secretary and addressing me as the general treasurer. When I became general superintendent, Brother Bridges said he noticed I paid more attention to the financial reports. In the course of our service to the Lord and the General Council, we became more than colleagues. We became friends and brothers in the Lord.

James K. Bridges was one of the most gracious Christian gentlemen you could ever meet. His sense of humor, his love for his family, and his determination to stay the course set by those early pioneers of the Assemblies of God are all well known.

When I think of Brother Bridges, three things stand out.

He was a student of the Word. If you knew him well, you know that he never stopped studying and learning the Word. He credited an early professor at Southwestern Assemblies of God University — William Burton McCafferty, who had been at the founding convention of the Assemblies of God in 1914 in Hot Springs, Ark. — as having a great influence on him. “He taught me not just the Word, but an attitude toward the Word — a great sense of awe and respect for it being the eternal Word of God,” he said. A theologian in his own right, when you heard him preach you knew at once that James Bridges was a student of the Word.

He reminded us at the 1993 General Council, where the theme was “Live the Word,” that learning and obeying the Word of God is the answer to any crisis this Fellowship will ever face. During our 15 years together in national leadership, I never knew him to vary from the centrality of God’s Word in any decision we were facing or any discussion we had. It all went back to what Scripture taught.

He was a man of integrity. Throughout three years as a vice-president at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, 20 years as pastor, 16 years in district leadership for the North Texas District, and 15 years at the national office, James Bridges lived his life with great integrity and careful watchfulness. There was never a hint of unethical behavior about him or his life. And what you saw in public was what his family saw at home. His life was measured by the Book and lived based on its instructions and principles. He believed preachers who lived a dichotomous life would destroy any hope for their ministry because their conduct outside the pulpit didn’t square with their public message. Quoting John Owen, he said, “No man preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to his own heart.” That integrity and wholeness kept his life and ministry on an even keel through more than 55 years of preaching.

He was passionately Pentecostal. Brother Bridges knew the difference the power of Pentecost made in one’s life and ministry, and he jealously guarded that for this Fellowship. He often reminded us that if the baptism in the Holy Spirit with its initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues was lost, then this Movement would be Pentecostal in name only. He was all about keeping the flame of Pentecost burning brightly in the hearts and lives of believers.

He understood deeply the connection between the baptism in the Spirit and its empowerment for believers — that our experience in the Spirit is bedrock for our personal lives and the worldwide mission of the Assemblies of God. As a passionate Pentecostal, he strongly supported the missionaries of this Movement while also strongly investing in the next Pentecostal generation through his commitment to Assemblies of God higher education and Southwestern Assemblies of God University. If this Pentecostal experience and message is to endure, then the torch must continually be passed to the generation coming behind.

A man of the Word, a man of integrity and a man of Pentecost — James Bridges was all of these. But he was also my friend. Many times my wife, Jewel, and I would get a call from James and Joyce Bridges asking us to join them at some favorite restaurant for dinner, or we would call them on the spur of the moment. We cherished those impromptu times of fun and fellowship. We shared stories from our ministries — some humorous and others more serious. We talked about our Fellowship and what a wonderful group of people make up this Assemblies of God. We shared about our families. He was so proud of his three sons and eight grandchildren, so it was rare that they didn’t become the topic of his conversation.

Whatever James Bridges did, he did with great care and diligence. There was a sterling quality about him that characterized everything he did. He loved to preach the Word and traveled across this nation and around the world doing that. He loved the people who sat under his ministry, and in turn they loved him. He and Joyce are so highly esteemed across the Assemblies of God.

We shall miss his wise counsel and his Christlike character. But we know he is enjoying the glories of being in the presence of the Lord: Indeed, “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, NKJV).

I think of the apostle Paul’s stunning words about death in 2 Corinthians 5:4: “So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (NIV). Although James Bridges was quickly taken by acute leukemia, an opposite process was at work. From the physical point of view, he was being swallowed up by death, but in reality he has been swallowed up by life. Eternity has opened up before him. He is with Jesus now and forevermore. And we will meet again on the other side! We wait with eager expectation for that day when the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend and together we will be with Christ Jesus throughout eternity   (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

 GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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