Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The dusty, rusty "pen"...

Often times in life we go through seasons where we are engaged in something that we enjoy to do and we find satisfaction in those endeavors. We may take up a new hobby that we are passionate about, but after some period of time, our interest fades and we stop for a variety of reasons. Time passes but suddenly that passion is rekindled and we pick it back up again. I kind of feel that way when it comes to writing because for about 5 years, several years ago, I needed to do a newsletter every couple of weeks so I wrote in this space called "Ralph's Corner." I don't know how regularly I'll write but I hope it will be more often than it has been, maybe not as much as it was in days gone by. I'll leave it to the Lord to guide me and we'll see how it goes. I do find great satisfaction in sharing my heart and I enjoy sharing words of encouragement the Lord gives me in written form if anyone cares to read it. There have been some things going on in my life that kind of dried up that desire to write but recently my desire and need to write have been rekindled. So I'm dusting off, cleaning off the rusty "pen" and refilling the ink so to speak through the aid of modern technology and computers.
In 1998 in McAllen, Texas, on a hot summer afternoon driving home from work, God clearly confirmed His call to me to vocational ministry as a pastor. It wasn't something I wanted in my younger days growing up in a pastors home. But as I walked with God and grew in my faith as a disciple through the ministries of FBC McAllen and under the preaching and teaching ministry of Dr. Bill Sutton, God began grooming me for pastoral ministry. That call of God began a journey and as Cheryl and I walked with God; that walk led us to North Carolina to seminary to prepare for ministry. We bloomed for a season there of 3 years and sunk roots even though we knew God would someday move us to a field of full time service. We joined Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, got plugged in and I began teaching Sunday School; Cheryl worked in AWANAS and we loved and ministered to people while preparing for full time ministry. We established friendships there that last to this day. We loved our Pastor, Bill Bowyer, who loved on us and encouraged us. He modeled tremendous Pastoral leadership and a passion for missions that still impacts me today. It was sad for us and hard to say good bye to our brothers and sisters to go plant a church in Littleton, New Hampshire. But we had to obey God who once again came calling in the summer of 2001.
Our walk with Christ landed us far from family and friends in a pioneer area for the Gospel in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire with the express purpose of planting a church to the glory of God. By the grace of God we planted Crossroads Baptist Church or "Crossroads Church" as it's known locally. We bloomed where God planted us in Littleton and loved serving the Lord there and reaching people with the Gospel. What was awesome about it was that our brothers and sisters from Wake Cross Roads in North Carolina came on mission trips way up there to help us. What joy they brought us and what a blessing and encouragement they were in those early days. Brothers and sisters from FBC McAllen came in force several times nearly 2500 miles across the country to join God in the work He was doing through us. We saw God do miracle after miracle in New Hampshire changing life after life for the glory of God. I went there to pastor and my dream and my plan was to start and pastor the same church for 40 years or something like that. But God had other plans! It was hard for me when God found me and once again clearly called me to pack up my family another time and move, this time in 2006 to serve as an Associate Pastor with Pastor David Lino in Houston, Texas. 
Oh the heartache and gut wrenching goodbyes we had leaving Littleton and it was brutally hard for the saints there we left behind. But we had no choice! God called with another assignment and we knew it was His will for us so we moved. The new season of assignment lasted 2 1/2 years helping a new church plant get from the 2 1/2 year mark to the 5 year mark. We bloomed in Houston and loved our church family at Faith Family Baptist Church in Kingwood. We still have warm relationships and love those saints dearly as we served the Lord together. Again, we saw God do miracle after miracle reaching people as He birthed and grew a new church. It was a surprise to me in some ways but not in others when God started calling my number again. At the end of 2008 God called me to another assignment; this time to serve as the senior pastor of a growing church called Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air, Maryland. The Green family circus packed up again and moved back across the country and sunk roots in Maryland because home is where you hang your hat and where God puts you. I'm still a Ravens fan and Orioles fan. You can bet one of the first things I did this morning was check the score from last nights game as the O's beat the Angels 6-2 on the west coast! For 5 years we labored, served and loved that church and community. Again God blessed and the impact for the kingdom of God from our time in Maryland will last for eternity. We continue warm friendships with many of the saints there as we’ve done every place we've been. We pray for one another and share life together. Thankfully through the aid of cell phones and social media platforms we have stayed connected. God drew my ministry in Maryland to a close at the end of 2013 and for a season we didn't know where God was going to place us next. 
God was preparing us but gave us time to rest as we'd been in a full ministry sprint by that point for 12 years in full time pastorates and really 15 years if you count the 3 years of sleepless work, study and ministry while in seminary. Cheryl and I were exhausted. Rachel & Ginny were married and having grandkids (whew hoo!), Beth was finishing college and Ralph and Garrett were in High School with Ralph about to graduate and enter the military. It was hard to be patient and wait on God, not knowing what the next chapter would bring. Looking back on that season, I am truly thankful God allowed us to rest. I realized I was so tired from the riggers and deep stress of pastoral ministry having been through some deep waters. So tired in fact I was seriously considering leaving the pastorate and taking a job in the secular world. The thought of being a faithful Sunday School teacher, supporting and encouraging a pastor had a degree of appeal to me. I know in my heart that you can never go backwards with God; but I remembered how much fun ministry was when I served as a volunteer. That may not sound very spiritual but it's true. Of course Satan would have loved to lead me down that path so the spiritual warfare going on in my heart was intense. Questions of doubt; questions of my leadership ability (or lack of it) rolled around in my head as I wrestled with the fact that I had no job, no ministry prospects and after 5 years still hadn’t sold our home in Texas. The corporate world was something I knew before God called me to ministry; I thought if I went back to selling something we could survive. I really didn’t want to uproot Garrett yet again. While this spiritual wrangling was going on; God blessed me with a season where Cheryl and I spent nearly every moment together, interrupted briefly by her continued work part time then as a nurse. Every day was a date day even if the “date" was going to Sonic for happy hour - let’s just say that the Route 44 Diet Coke with lime was consumed a little too much… Cheryl and I drew even more close - something I didn’t think was possible. 
Thankfully God doesn’t ever quit on us! While I felt like a worn out old tool in a forgotten tool box buried in an old garage; God knew exactly where I was and what my skills are and how to use me. As the “Master Craftsman”, He didn’t need to use me at that point and just allowed me to rest; think and pray. The great thing about God is that His Word speaks to us daily if we’ll just open it, read it, study it, listen to God and obey God as He speaks. While I persevered in my quiet time and Bible Study, even though I was in a difficult place in my spirit and Satan was beating me up; I read one morning Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” 9 words, a simple but profound word from God to my battered and bruised spirit. I felt the warmth of Jesus’ love envelope me; like a warm spring sun that warms your back and knocks the chill off. I knew the corporate world was not what God had for me. I knew He’d called me as a pastor - something that took two careers, one in law enforcement and another in business as part of God’s growing process in my case for pastoral ministry. I knew none of that experience would be wasted by God. While I didn’t know where God would put me; I had confidence He’d get around to it when He was good and ready, when He knew I was ready.
Cheryl was praying in her quiet time that God wouldn’t make it a multiple choice test; like we’d experienced before moving to Maryland from Texas. (I had three churches, all named Calvary Baptist Church in three parts of the country who were having discussions with me. I jokingly told Cheryl I didn’t know where we were going but I was pretty sure it was going to be to Calvary!) God answered Cheryl’s prayer with one option and called me to Moundsville Baptist Church in the northern panhandle of West Virginia to follow a pastor who served here for 47 years. A crazy assignment from a human point of view - like Joshua following Moses. Besides they are Steelers fans around here and I’m a Ravens fan but that didn’t scare them away. God called me to serve here and that ministry began on our 29th wedding anniversary - Sunday June 8th, 2014. We have loved the people, God has blessed us with a great house that has been a great gathering place for the church and for our now grown family. We’ve seen God do some great things and some lives impacted I believe for His honor and glory. 
Everywhere God has moved me I’ve always gone with a long term view and have planned to stay till Jesus comes. I’ve led our family to “bloom where we’re planted.” So why am I sharing all of this history of God’s working, moving and calling in our lives? Because I need to demonstrate how God has consistently and patiently worked in life of the Green family. You see God has in fact called me yet again to move. This time to serve as the first pastor of a large church plant in the Corpus Christi Texas area at ChristCentral Baptist Church. For those who know us from previous ministry and church fields we’ve served; you probably don’t find this news shocking at all. You’ve kept up with us and continued to love and pray for us. You may even have a bit of excitement stirring in your hearts to hear the Green family circus is on the move again and you are looking forward to seeing what God will do in this next chapter. (I’m not arrogant enough to believe that’s the case but one might hope so. 😀)
For my current Moundsville Baptist Church family; this news has crushed many of you and for that I am profoundly saddened and sorry. Here in Marshall County, we are a stable close-knit community. A small town where everyone knows everyone, is related to someone and where people are born, raised and spend their entire lives. Sons follow in their father’s footsteps in the coal mine industry or the plant - whichever one it is and the name it goes by today. You’ve never had a pastor leave you before. You are used to a 47 year tenured pastor who is still a member of our church, faithfully teaches Sunday School weekly and is in church every Sunday. That is your “normal.” You are used to the stability of family and long-term friend relationships that living in this corner of the world affords and it is a good thing. The local papers routinely advertise family reunions happening all over our community and everyone in your family will be there because they are all close by.
I’ve never really known that. I followed my dad in his ministry roles being born in Indiana while dad was in seminary; to Piney View WV, to Ravenna Ohio, to Elkview WV and then on to Richmond Virginia for my junior high and high school years. The longest place Cheryl and I have ever lived together in our marriage was for the first 13 years in McAllen before God called me into the ministry. So to my current MBC church family; please understand I truly was not looking for this. God found me and has called me to a new place of service. 
The best analogy I can give you is in the plant situations you all are familiar with. The industrial plants here are huge! Miles and miles of piping; electrical lines; mechanical structures, conveyor belts, cogs, gears, machinery and most importantly teams of people with different jobs, skills and areas of expertise and responsibility. You are very familiar with a foreman coming to get a team of welders or steel workers to go repair a break or build on in a different section of the plant. You are used to being laid off for a season while a shutdown takes place and the union shop gets you on in a different plant. You need to view this change God is making in our lives in that same fashion. 
God has a need to use me and my meager skills elsewhere and I have no choice but to obey Him. Not only does God have the right to make this change; He has all the authority to make this call as the Head of the church! If I ignore God’s call; it will not go well for me or Moundsville Baptist Church! Some of you feel like I betrayed you by not telling you ahead of time. You can’t believe you were hearing of this for the very first time this past Sunday when I announced my resignation. You’re in shock, some of you are angry, a very real stage of the grieving process. I get it. That’s why I’m writing this very long article because I love you and I deeply care for how you are feeling, your emotions and distress this is causing you. I am deeply sorry if you feel that way. I literally did not know for sure this would be a reality until the church in Corpus affirmed God’s call to become their first pastor when they voted to call me with a 99% vote on July 30th. I shared the news with you the very next Sunday. The Scriptures tell us we are not to put a stumbling block in our brother or sisters way. So how can I tell you I’m moving if I don’t know for sure? Why would I unsettle you and put doubt in your heart that I might be moving before it is a done deal in case the thing completely fell apart and never came to reality? I could never do that to you! Yes, I kept this possibility close to my chest with my family, a few very close ministry friends and believers I asked to pray with me about God’s leading. I did this precisely because we live in a small community and I know from experience the rumor mill can cause much damage with speculation and questions. Misunderstandings often take on a life of their own. My intentions were to protect you from unnecessary heartache and difficulty; but you all know as I’ve told you for weeks now, that I’ve always given God a blank check with my life.
A word of caution and encouragement is in order. First, be careful in your grieving process that your anger does not become sinful by hanging on to it. If you do, in reality you are not angry with me; you are angry with God. God has confirmed His call for me to this new field of service directly from His word using Hebrews 11:11-16 during my quiet time. I have no doubt I’m to be the first pastor of this new church plant. I’ve known we’d be involved in church planting again someday I have supported the church planting process in other ministry locations; but it’s taken 11 years for God prepare me to do it again personally. Please come talk to me in the next week or so and I’ll be happy to share the story of what God has done if it will help you understand. My door is open, my phone is always on if you care to chat. 
Secondly be encouraged! Everywhere I’ve pastored I still consider those saints, sheep God has entrusted to me. A change of ministry location doesn’t mean I can’t still care for you, pray for you if you call me with a need; message me on Facebook, send me an email or a text message. I faithfully pray for the needs my bothers and sisters share with me. I want that to continue with my MBC family but that’s up to you to pursue. You can also be encouraged that God may grant us the joy of working on mission partnerships and projects together possibly with RUHU or other places as we serve the Lord. Who knows how our great God will direct our paths? Maybe God will send a mission team from MBC to Corpus to join God in reaching the lost people there? Please know of my love for all of you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, He is your Savior, not a field hand named Ralph Green. Pray for us in transition & encourage us as we step out in faith once again in response to God’s call. Hoping I’ve knocked the dust off my “pen” & it won’t rust to encourage you; from my little corner of the world to yours…

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spiritual lessons from the Cicadas...

May 31, 2016

As I type this, there is a distinct and some would say obnoxious sound going on outside. I can hear this sound from inside my office, with music playing on my computer. It’s those strange little bugs called Cicadas; the Brood V 17 year Cicada to be exact. These unusual and curious creatures haven’t made an appearance for 17 years and they last time this Valley was introduced to them was in 1999. In 1999, Bill Clinton was President and was impeached by the US Senate (I’ll resist commenting further); Michael Jordan announced his retirement only to return a year or so later; a professional wrestler named Jesse Ventura became Governor of Minnesota, the horrific and tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado took place where several Christian students were killed, the Space Shuttle Discovery completed the first docking at the international space station. In 1999 the average price of gas was about $1.14 a gallon and Cecil H. Underwood was Governor of West Virginia! All that to say a lot has happened since these Cicadas came on the scene.

They seem to be the topic of conversation and curiosity and I’ve been interested in them myself. I’ve heard a number of people question their purpose and comment they have pitiful lives. After all, they are buried in the soil for 17 years and when the ground temperature reaches 65 degrees 8 inches below the surface and the rain loosens the soil, they emerge by the millions crawling up trees, shedding their outer shell and for 6 weeks they produce an ear splitting cacophony of noise that gets louder as the day goes on. Their dead bodies litter our sidewalks, driveways and yards to where you can’t walk without stepping on them and we wonder what in the world God had in mind when He created these things? Here are some quick spiritual lessons we can learn from the Cicada.

1. They draw our attention to our Creator God. In this area we’re surrounded by natural beauty but we get immune to it and stop paying attention to the magnificent Creation our Creator and Maker God Almighty has made. You can’t ignore the presence of these Cicadas and so you cannot ignore the Creator who made them. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” I think one simple lesson from these insects that show up once every 17 years is to draw our attention to the Creative handiwork of Almighty God. 

2. Cicadas play an important role in God’s Creative plan. They help prune trees and underbrush by the cuts they make in the wood to lay their eggs. Weaker and dead limbs will often fall off the tree allowing new growth to take place. They are a tremendous food supply for birds and all manner of creatures who find them rich in protein. The robin population that stayed at my house nearly all winter long are a testimony to that! When Cicadas emerge after 17 years, as they burrow up to the surface, they create a pencil sized hole that goes down about 8 inches and so they aerate soil very effectively, better than any machine I have access too. After they breed and die often at the base of those very same trees, their nutrient rich bodies decay and fertilize the tree roots below and their offspring burrow down into the soil for 17 years. These are only the things I’ve been able to learn in my research and yet they speak to me that God’s wisdom and Creative design are infinitely greater than I can comprehend.

3. Cicadas teach me that God’s resources are limitless. I couldn’t even begin to count the numbers of these things I see on the ground at my house and certainly I could not guess how many million there are in the trees singing their hearts out with their mating calls around me. In their simple way they remind me that God doesn’t need my help, my wisdom, my power, ability or lack there-of. God is self contained like these strange bugs and His power and might have no limit just like there seems to be no limit to the numbers of these creatures.

4. Cicadas teach me that God can use anything to bring glory to Himself. These 17 year Cicadas help me learn that if God can use a bug like the Cicada to bring glory to Himself; how much more could He glorify Himself through me, someone He created in His own image, one to whom He gave a mind, a body and most importantly a soul that has a choice to enter into a relationship with Him. Paul said in 1st Cor. 10:31 “Therefore whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatever you do, live your life in such a way as to bring glory to God with all of what God has given you and don’t let some bug that shows up once every 17 years do a better job of bringing glory to God than you do.

5. Cicadas teach me about God’s character and nature. Who creates an insect that you have to wait 17 years to see? God does. God is so patient, patient with 17 year Cicadas to develop to maturity and He’s patient with sinners who desperately need to repent of their sin. These creatures teach us of God’s faithfulness, I have forgotten what was going on in my life 17 years ago in 1999 - oh yeah, I was in seminary preparing for ministry and my soon to be graduate son Garrett was only 2 years old! God hasn’t forgotten and is faithful to these little creatures and if He is faithful to them; He’s always going to be faithful to me. Cicadas remind me that time is in God’s hands and no one else’s and they help me see part of His eternal nature. We look at these bugs and marvel at their sad little lives that last 6 weeks or less top-side. Yet beneath the surface, they are there for 17 years! God’s eternal nature is like that because we don’t see it. The brevity of the life of Cicada highlights the eternal nature of God but also reminds me of the brevity of my life. Scripture says our life is like a vapor that quickly vanishes away (James 4:14). Cicadas don’t have much time to do what they do and neither do we. Paul’s exhortation to believers in Ephesians 5:15-16 is appropriate: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Cicadas also demonstrate the Holiness of God. How is that possible? God is holy which is His most unique character trait. God’s holiness drives everything else He does. What that means is He is “wholly other” - there is no one like Him in the universe and He operates according to His own plan, schedule and agenda which I see in the life of the Cicada. These are just a few of the character traits we can learn about God from the Cicada. I challenge you to think of other traits about God and His nature on your own.

6. Cicadas teach me of my glorious hope in Christ. Yesterday, while peering out my second floor window in my home office, I could see these Cicadas taking flight up to the trees, being drawn like a magnet to the call of their future mate somewhere in the wooded tree line. They know there is someone waiting for them and they will be together shortly...I won’t go further with my description. Seeing those bugs taking flight up to those trees encourages me that someday I’m going to hear my Savior’s call to come home to glory and I will go! It may be when I close my eyes here in death and my brief life comes to a close when I breathe my last; or it may be when the Lord returns and raptures His Bride, the church, home to be with Him. Either way, that will be glory for me. “Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.” (Charles Gabriel 1900). The Lord used these 17 year bugs to remind me that I have great hope because He’s going to call me someday to be with Him. I only have that hope because I’ve placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

These are just a few, quick simple spiritual lessons from the 17 year Cicada. When you hear their “noise” view it as praise to God and thank your Creator for the Cicada and praise Him for His infinite wisdom in making these creatures. Take time to reflect on some lessons the Holy Spirit might reveal to you before these creatures disappear beneath the surface in a few short weeks and apply those lessons to your own life. Remember that God loves you and has a plan for your life as you reflect on the simple Cicada; from my little corner of the world to yours... 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Day of Prayer

Today I was able to participate in our community National Day of prayer in Moundsville. I don't write out my prayers but today I did. I was asked to prayer for our nation. Below is the text of my prayer today.

National Day of Prayer – Moundsville WV, May 7, 2015

 1st Tim. 2:1-4 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, nd giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Father we thank you for today and the privilege we have to come to this public place
and pray for our nation. We thank you Lord for giving us the great blessing of being
citizens of the greatest country on earth, the United States of America. Lord, we thank
you for the blessings and freedoms we enjoy because of our men and women who serve
in the greatest military in the world. We thank you for our first responders, our law
enforcement officers, our fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. Lord, please
keep our military & first responders safe & encourage them in their work as they have
incredibly hard jobs to do.

Lord, we are gathered in prayer today because we are broken-hearted at what we see
taking place in our beloved country. It seems the very fabric of our society is being
ripped to shreds in front of our very eyes. Mayhem and chaos is too often found in the
streets of our cities. It appears we live in a day like the book of Judges tells us that
“everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Oh God please forgive us for our
wickedness. Forgive us Lord for the scourge of abortion & the resulting devaluation of
human life at every stage. Lord please forgive us for kicking you out of every public
institution and for our rebellion against your commands. Lord please forgive us as
Christians for not representing you well in front of a lost world that desperately needs
the purpose, peace and hope found in Jesus Christ. Lord forgive us for allowing our
society to become a sex-saturated and filthy society. Lord we need to be cleansed and
purified by your truth. Oh Lord God; we pray that you would guard the institution of
marriage, the first institution you created even before the church and the government
was created. As our Supreme Court is deliberating even now on the issue of so-called
same sex marriage, Lord we affirm here today publicly that your definition of
marriage is still the only correct one that matters. Lord would you please reveal this
truth to the Supreme Court and that marriage between one man & one woman for one
lifetime will prevail?

Now Lord Jesus, I pray that you would encourage all of us gathered here today that
there is always hope regardless of what is happening in our society because you are the
King of Kings and Lord of Lords! You reign over Heaven & earth and no human can
overthrow your plans. We bow before you today Lord Jesus and ask you to be gracious
and merciful to the USA even though we do not deserve it. We pray this in the name
that is above every name, the ame of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Constitutional or Biblical Church...

I love sports, especially football, baseball & golf though not necessarily in that order. Every sport has rules the players have to play by and in all professional sports there are rules officials who make sure the game is played according to the rule-book. Here at Moundsville Baptist Church, we have two rule-books: First & foremost, our rule-book is God’s Holy Word the Bible. We believe the Word of God has complete authority over our lives. We also have a church constitution which spells out some practical guidelines on how we’re organized and how we conduct the business of the church. The constitution is important to help us ensure that we adhere to the admonition from 1st Cor.14:40 “Let all things be done decently and in order.” I am committed to “playing by the rules” when it comes to our church constitution.

Sometimes however I find myself in a quandary because I believe the Lord has spoken to me through His Word or through the “still small voice” of God’s Holy Spirit to act and obey. The Holy Spirit’s leadership and call to obey always trumps the constitutional requirements set forth by the church. Such an occurrence happened this past Sunday on “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” so I’d like to tell you what happened.

I had invited Brother Phil Chatting who serves as the Treasurer and is on the Board of Directors for Women’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center in Charleston to come speak about what God is doing through this crisis pregnancy center. As Phil shared the statistics of the numbers of abortions performed in the 2 abortion clinics in West Virginia and shared about how the Lord used a gift of $10,000 from MBC several years ago to help them purchase a building right next door to one of these abortion clinics; the Lord started speaking to me about giving this center a large gift. Phil shared that the center had been given an ultrasound machine and they were trying to raise money for a medical director and a nurse to operate the machine that would help women see the life of the baby inside them. Studies have repeatedly shown this equipment is highly effective to help people choose life. Then Phil showed the video testimony of a young woman who planned to terminate her pregnancy as a single mom and through the Providence of God, she contacted Women’s Choice and through their ministry she chose life!

As I wrestled with how to go about doing this, I have to tell you I was in great turmoil as your new pastor. I know the constitution requires certain things in terms of calling a business meeting and we have a finance board who oversees our finances. But I clearly sensed the Lord wanted us to give the center another $10,000.00 in response to Phil’s presentation but I hadn’t talked to anyone on the board of finance, the deacons, or any of the staff. In my spirit, I was a bit concerned because of the amount involved and I don’t like to manipulate or back people into a corner. However, the Lord wouldn’t let that figure out of my mind and I remembered Samuel’s challenge to King Saul from 1st Sam.15:22-23 “…Behold to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams, for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…” I have to tell you I thought “Lord I can take care of this by talking to them later and trying push this through”; yet the Lord was prompting me to obey. When we began the invitation, I made an appeal for people to come and pray that we’d create a culture of life. Our Pastor Emeritus, Reverend Tom Steele, came forward and was visibly moved, as I greeted him. The first thing Brother Tom said to me was “I want to give testimony about that $10,000.00 if you’ll give me two minutes.” It was like the Lord was saying “You see Ralph, that figure I gave you is correct and you need to obey me now and ask for it.” So after Brother Tom spoke, I put my arm around him and called the church into a business session and asked if we could give another $10,000.00 to the center. I had two men affirm the motion and by voice vote the congregation said yes unanimously!

Here it is Tuesday and I’m still overwhelmed by that hallelujah moment and thankful for God’s prompting and teaching us a valuable lesson. I believe this past Sunday we had what Dr. Henry Blackaby called a “Crisis of Belief” in his study “Experiencing God.” The principle at work is to see where God is at work and ask to join Him in that work. God is clearly at work through Woman’s Choice and He invited us to be involved in that work in a profound way. The rest of the story is that I went to our finance board as they were counting our morning offering; kind of expecting to be taken to task for my procedural error relating to our constitutional way of doing things. Instead I was met with smiles and gentle encouragement that they would have said yes if I’d have asked ahead of time but they told me they would cover it and would cut a check for me to give to Brother Phil immediately! Oh how they encouraged me! I was half way expecting a “tar & feathering” but received a great blessing in supportive members who want to follow the Lord Jesus in humble submission and obedience to God’s call.

After reflection however, I didn't ask ahead of time because the Lord didn't speak to me ahead of time! He spoke to me in corporate worship and not in my prayer closet. I’m reminded of what God said through the prophet Isaiah in 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” That’s how God works and I’m thankful He works in ways that often don’t make sense from a human point of view but in a way that brings Him the most praise when His people obey Him by faith.

You need to know I’m not in the habit of setting aside our church constitution. But I can also assure you I intend to obey God with my whole heart when I discern He’s calling us to respond. If I have to choose between being a constitutional church or a Biblical church, I will lead us to be a Biblical church. You all encourage me in ways I can’t even express. Your love for Jesus and each other shines through constantly and I am profoundly humbled to serve as your Senior Pastor. God has great plans for a congregation committed to the Lordship & leadership of Jesus Christ so be encouraged by the working of God among us. Oh by the way, Brother Phil was moved to tears and said the board of directors has already committed extra gifts they receive like ours to fund those staff positions to man that ultrasound machine. Our giving will encourage other churches to step up to the old plate and swing for life!

I love you and I rejoice over our commitment to being a Biblical church, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Come into His presence with Thanksgiving…

Psalm 95:1-2 says “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” The psalmist is right target with his call to all of us to thank the Lord for the many blessings God has so graciously given to us.
I hate to admit it but it seems the older I get the faster holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas sneak up on me. I’m kind of in shock that Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is right on its heels a few weeks later. The retail world and the advertisers want you to focus on Christmas and forget all about Thanksgiving; but I think the admonition of the psalmist is of critical importance for all of us. I hope that at this season of Thanksgiving, you will pause, reflect and truly give thanks to Almighty God for His incredible blessings to you and your family.
I’m thankful for many things this year, not just every year, but every day of the year. When I wake up I thank the Lord for the night’s rest He gave me. I thank him for the blessing of my family, especially my amazing wife Cheryl. If it is blistering cold outside like it was this morning when I awakened from my slumber; I’m thankful for the home He provided me with heat and indoor plumbing! The point is we don’t need to step too far away from where we lay our head at night in the morning to give thanks. When I lay down to sleep, I thank the Lord for guiding me through the day and allowing me to labor for Him. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians in 1st Thessalonians 4:18 “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Oh dear friends, would you be vigilant to give God thanks?
I’m thankful for this church family and your outpouring of love, concern and prayers for my family with the promotion of my father to Heaven. I’m thankful for our many friends across the country that have cared for us and prayed for us in these days of sorrow. I’m grateful to God for giving me the opportunity spend a lot of time with Dad over the last year of his life here on earth. As the Psalmist said earlier, the Lord is the Rock of our Salvation. For believers, oh how we can thank God for the assurance of salvation so when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can rejoice and be glad our loved ones are safe in the arms of God!
The rock of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ, is why we exist here at Moundsville Baptist Church. I want to encourage you to take careful note of the holiday schedule you’ll find in this newsletter. Begin to plan now to invite a lost family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or just an acquaintance to church at this season of year. They will come if you invite them particularly to the Christmas Eve service, or the Sundays before or after Christmas. I promise I’ll clearly share the Gospel message and we’ll pray that your invited friend will come to know the Rock of Salvation, Jesus Christ…and that would be something to shout joyfully to the Lord with thanksgiving that because of your invitation, a precious soul trusted Christ!
At this wonderful time of year, don’t miss out on the blessing of giving thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m coming into His presence with thanksgiving, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A long honeymoon...

On June 8th 2014, I had the joy of celebrating 29 years of marriage to my beloved bride Cheryl. After 5 children, 5 grandchildren, a lot of joy and the sorrows that life inevitably brings; I can tell you that my relationship with Cheryl is still fresh and exciting and there’s never a dull moment. We’ve always been adventuresome people who love to explore and try new stuff. We have a ball together and quite honestly we hate being away from each other. In many ways, I still feel like I’m on my honeymoon with Cheryl. Oh our honeymoon to Jamaica only lasted 7 days because we didn’t have the money to just stay and we had jobs to get back to in Texas. Our honeymoon didn’t end when our plane touched down in McAllen. Our honeymoon has continued through career changes for me from law enforcement to private business, and then to my being called by God serve Him as a pastor. Our honeymoon has continued through living in Texas, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Texas again, Maryland and now West Virginia. With every move I’ve said I hope my next one is to Heaven but God has had other plans for us. Someone here in West Virginia encouraged me that the Lord may in fact answer that prayer for me because now I’m in “Almost Heaven West Virginia.” Even though the scenery and the people involved have changed dramatically, my honeymoon status hasn’t changed because I’m in love with Cheryl. We love “doing life together” and we are confident God’s plans for our lives are good plans with our best interests and His glory at heart. Of course forging a new life together has come with lots of challenges, adjustments and changes as we’ve walked through the different seasons of life. Quite honestly, it has required a lot of work from both of us to make our relationship what it is today and one that still produces great joy for each of us.

On June 8th 2014, while celebrating my anniversary with Cheryl; I also began another honeymoon with my first Sunday at Moundsville Baptist Church as the Senior Pastor. We are a local church that is part of the Bride of Christ; and the honeymoon analogy is a solid picture of us “doing life together.” I have enjoyed getting to know you, learning names (which is an ongoing process), settling in and getting oriented over the summer. I have to say I love you and I am so humbled and am amazed the Lord has been so gracious to me to call me to serve Him as your Senior Pastor.

I want to encourage you by way of reminder that just like a successful marriage relationship requires commitment, energy and effort from both parties, our relationship together as a church family requires those same things. Commitment, energy and effort is not a chore to be endured, rather it is a blessing to be enjoyed. Cheryl and I have been serving one another for nearly 30 years and the things we do for each other are rooted in the love we have for each other. Sure there have been times of frustration for each of us as we had expectations that didn't get met; but I have never questioned whether Cheryl loves me or thought she doesn't care about me. We've learned that our relationship is something we each invest in as we live out our roles as husband and wife. Because we have differing roles, we also have differing responsibilities. Our faithful efforts in serving in those differing roles have made our family the joy and blessing it is today. We have worked through problems and challenges because we are committed to each other for a life-time. 
I want us as a church to enjoy a long honeymoon together. I want you to know I love you dearly and I am committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I’m committed to helping us carry out the mandate Jesus gave us to “make disciples” and teaching them to obey what God has commanded us. I know very well I am not perfect by any means so I’m going to make mistakes. When I make mistakes I say I’m sorry and I own my mistakes. I hope we’ll all do that and we’ll recognize the need to be patient and forgiving of one another. Cheryl and I have learned to do this and we've also learned how to talk about things in our marriage and work through challenges together. We've trusted the Lord as He’s directed our steps and have embraced the adventure we’re on together.

Just this past Sunday, we celebrated our 113 year history as a church with our Founder’s Day. I am so thankful for the long-tenured church membership we are blessed with here at MBC. Seeing the numbers of people who've been members of this church for over 20 years is astounding. Having a great number of members who've been a part of this church family for 30, 40 and even 50 years is mind-boggling. Having at least 3 members present this past Sunday who've been part of this church for 76, 83 and 90 years respectively is beyond incredible to me. It is a wonderful blessing to have this stability among our church family, but we can never allow our stability to become complacency because there is another generation of people we've been tasked with reaching for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Cheryl and I have learned to be flexible in how we do what we do, but our commitment to one another and to the Lord Jesus never wavers. I hope we’ll all be flexible as we make changes in how we go about our disciple making business recognizing we need to change some things but remain committed to one another in love and to the Lord as His children. As we do this and work through whatever comes our way while keeping the Lord Jesus Christ the very center of our relationship, we’ll enjoy a long honeymoon together. I’m so happy we’re on this adventure together, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A tribute to Dad Green on his 75th birthday...

Today my Dad turns 75 and I had this plan to head down to Virginia to hang out with him and take him to lunch for his birthday; but the pending blizzard squelched that. So I thought I’d share 75 things about my dad that may be known or may not be common knowledge in honor of his birthday…

1.     First & foremost, Dad is a Godly man who loves Jesus. Dad has spent his life for the Savior and has taught his kids and granddads to do the same by his amazing example to us.
2.     Dad led me to the Lord at the age of 5 in the front seat of his car. Thanks for making sure I’ll be with you in Heaven Dad.
3.     Dad lost his mom when he was 6 and his dad passed when he was 8. Dad was an orphan and was raised at Boys Home in Covington, VA. This helps explain why family has always been & continues to be so important to Dad.
4.     Dad has been married to my mom for 53 years. He has never loved her more than he does today from my observations.
5.     Dad played football in high school with a leather helmet & he and mom love football to this day. Well they love just about any sport that has a ball involved J.
6.     I can’t recall my dad missing any of my ball games growing up. I know that he must have because he traveled so much across the State of Va. for WOL Clubs; but I don’t remember any. What I do remember was every time I looked off the field at some point in the game, Dad was there cheering me on.
7.     I’ll never forget the day I turned 16 and we got home from the Richmond DMV and I had my new license, we got out of the car to head into the house; dad tossed me the keys to the car and told me to feel free to take her out for a spin! Thanks dad for trusting me that day. That small gesture from my father spoke volumes to me and probably did more for my confidence than anything else my Dad did for me.
8.     My dad is a brave man and I learned that an early age. When I was about 5, dad chased off some burglars who were attempting break into the church he pastored in Ohio. That was a scary night and mom was worried sick. My dad became a hero to me that night and still is.
9.     My dad likes to have fun. His sense of humor is legendary. I've been listening to his jokes for almost 50 years and he still makes me laugh.
10.  Dad taught us how to have fun. I remember as a 5 or 6 year old boy in Ohio, dad pulled me in a snow sled saucer under a full moon for what seemed like a mile or more. I remember he and I slid down that hill under that brilliant moon until we were numb from cold. I will never forget that night.
11.  Dad has an incredible whistle just by pursing his lip and his tongue. I could go anywhere in my neighborhood or the woods behind our house as long as I could still hear dad’s whistle. When I heard that whistle, it was time to beat a path home!
12.  I learned from my dad how to be a Mr. Fixit. I have helped my dad tackle just about any project you can think of. My dad taught me even if you don’t exactly know how to fix something, you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle a project. Pay attention to how it comes apart, figure it out, and ask lots of questions of the guy at the hardware store…prayer always helps when trying to put it back together if it’s not working. I’ve heard dad breathe many a prayer and then watched God come to his aid in fixing stuff.
13.  Speaking of projects, my dad repaired the gap on the roof of my VW bug convertible by taking a piece of pressure treated wood that was bowed just right. I watched dad whittle and chisel that wood to a perfect fit, stretch that canvas back into place and my car was better than new!
14.  I’ve watched dad drop the engine out of a VW bug with one of his buddies and rebuild it, put it back and drive that car till the wheels fell off.
15.  Dad taught me how to drive back when cars had bench seats, he’d let me scoot over close to him and steer the car – of course his hands where there on the wheel to keep control but I used to love driving with dad.
16.  Dad bought my first gun for me because I loved hunting. It was a double barrel shotgun; a real beauty. I killed my first deer with that gun and I still own it today. It will belong to my boys someday.
17.  Dad taught me how to be tough and tender all rolled into one. I learned how to get hurt (working on a project) and not say something I shouldn't – I never heard Dad swear once when he hit his thumb…or when I hit his thumb with a hammer. I’ve also learned its okay for men to cry and share emotions.
18.  I learned how to top a tree and take it down in sections – to this day, I can see Dad with “his gear” and “safety harness” taking off limbs with a chain saw. And yes I can hear him telling me “whatever you do, don’t let go of that rope and pull this away from the house…”. I’m not sure I’ll ever top a tree like dad and I did, but I know howJ.
19.  I learned once you cut down a tree, you better properly cut, split, stack and cover that wood so you’ll have plenty to burn in your wood stove or fireplace on a cold winter night.
20.  I learned with Dad how to build storage sheds…we built lots of storage sheds…
21.  I learned from Dad to measure twice, or three or four times and try to only cut once…
22.  I learned how to talk to people because my dad has never met a stranger. It is flat embarrassing sometimes to go to Walmart or the hardware store with Dad. He will have 3 or 4 employees following him around to find the part he’s looking for. By the time the scavenger hunt is over, he’ll know all of them by at least first name, and most likely will have told them about Jesus.
23.  I’ve learned from Dad that by talking to people, you end up with lots with friends and acquaintances and you can make a huge difference in people’s lives just because you cared enough to speak to them.
24.  I’ve learned from Dad how to witness for Jesus. Always have a gospel tract handy and be ready to share Jesus with everyone you meet. I can’t wait to see all the people in Heaven someday because my Dad told them about Christ and invited them to meet the Savior.
25.  I learned that my when my Dad is with any of my mom’s brothers or brothers in law, there will be all sorts of fun and laughter.
26.  I have learned that Dad is capable of some pretty hysterical practical jokes and that a simple bucket or Saran Wrap have the potential to create gut busting laughter.
27.  I’ve learned that my Dad, my Uncle Jim and the bench front seat of a car are the perfect recipe for scaring my Uncle Jim to death. All you need is for Uncle Jim to be snoozing in the passenger seat, Dad driving up to a stop sign, slamming on the brake while holding the adjustment lever for the seat so it slides forward…Poor Uncle Jim thought he was being launched through the windshield…
28.  I’ve learned that Uncle Jim will make sure to pay Dad back in a hysterically funny wayJ.
29.  I’ve learned that my accidentally hurting Dad by splashing gasoline in his eyes while pouring it into the lawn mower will be fodder for a lifetime. “What have you done to me son?” is a question I hope I never hear again…
30.  I’ve learned a rubber hose for a gas can nozzle is a terrible idea and should have never been invented…It should also never be in the hands of an 8 year old near his father.
31.  I’ve learned that when Dad is standing on a plank over a log and wants you to jump onto the other end to break it in half, Newton’s 3rd law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is sure to mean one of us is going to get hurt. Part of my lip 41 years later is proof of that lesson learnedJ.
32.  I learned from my Dad that a power nap either in the morning or the afternoon as needed is a wonderful blessing. 20 minutes of “resting my eyelids” as Dad calls it will help you have energy that has everyone in awe of your stamina.
33.  I learned from Dad the value of hard work and a strong work ethic. Every Saturday Dad and I worked on something together.
34.  I learned at an early age how to be the man of the house. I remember when Dad travelled; he made sure I knew it was my job to protect Mom and Rhonda.
35.  I learned to love my country and work to make a difference in our society. I learned that Dad is a Patriot and I must be too.
36.  I learned how to memorize Scripture because my Dad helped me memorize it. I learned it is important to help keep you from sin.
37.  I learned to love the Word of God from my Dad.
38.  I learned to love the Church and the importance of Church membership because of my Dad.
39.  I learned to be an involved and a committed, serving member of my church from my Dad.
40.  I learned how to sit still and behave in church. I learned there was severe discipline waiting for me if I miss behaved.
41.  I learned how to respect authority and to honor my father and mother by the way my Dad disciplined me.
42.  I learned that when Dad spanked me, he loved me because he would tell me he loved me. He would always make me pray to God and ask for forgiveness of God for doing something wrong. Dad made sure I knew what it meant to be forgiven and that God never quit loving me no matter what I did. Dad made sure I knew he would never quit loving me too.
43.  I learned to never back talk my mother or father, but especially my mother; and that if I chose to do so, Dad would ensure I would regret it for a long time.
44.  I’ve learned from Dad there are consequences for what you do wrong.
45.  I learned from Dad to take personal responsibility for what you do wrong and there is no one else to blame.
46.  I learned from Dad that the life of faith in God is an exciting adventure and to trust God no matter what He asks of you.
47.  I’ve learned that my Dad is proud of me and takes an interest in my careers and pursuits.
48.  I’ve learned that taking my Dad to work with me is a huge blessing. I remember taking him to the PD when I was police officer and every cop in my department wished their dads would take an interest in them the way my Dad did in me.
49.  I learned to love ice cream with my Dad and that keeping a freezer stocked full of it is a necessity of life. A little dab after dinner as a “chaser” is always special.
50.  I learned to never start a road trip without lots of snacks. Okay I might of gotten that one from my mother, but Dad taught me how to have a hand full of peanuts in one hand and drive with the other and how to consume the snacks in the car helps pass the time keep you awake.
51.  I learned from Dad that when sleepy while driving, rolling the window down and driving with your head out the window in the winter will help keep you awake the last 30 miles.
52.  I learned from Dad to always put stuff back where you found it so you never have to hunt for it when you need it.
53.  I learned from Dad to keep an assorted nut, bolt, screw and nail bin in the shop so you can fix stuff or finish a kit project because they didn’t include all the correct hardware needed.
54.  I learned from Dad the importance of prayer and how to talk to God about anything and everything on your heart.
55.  I learned from Dad that God is a God who answers prayer.
56.  I learned from Dad that gathering with other believers to pray about needs in church is a blessing and that it is important.
57.  I learned from Dad the importance of supporting, encouraging and loving on your pastor. I learned from Dad that Pastors need your support, encouragement, love and prayer.
58.  I learned from Dad that whatever I do with my life and career, I should do my very best to bring glory, honor and praise to God.
59.  I learned from Dad that chivalry is still important and that gentlemen should always open a door for a woman, particularly your wife. This is something Dad does for my mom every time they are getting into or out of a car.
60.  I’ve learned from Dad faithfulness and diligent work will be used greatly by God.
61.  I learned from Dad that good stewardship of the resources God has given you includes giving your tithes and offerings to your church.
62.  I learned from Dad you are never too old to love on, encourage and minister to teenagers.
63.  I learned from Dad that loving on teenagers, encouraging and ministering to teenagers will help keep you young yourself.
64.  I learned from Dad that when you are diagnosed with cancer, to keep trusting the Lord just like you have done all your life.
65.  I learned from Dad that your cancer or whatever life trauma comes your way, God will use you to be a witness for Him if you make yourself available to Him.
66.  I learned from Dad that it is important for us to talk every day on the phone no matter where you live and sometimes multiple times a day just because we can.
67.  I learned from Dad that you are never too old to join a “young marrieds” Sunday School class. It will help keep you young and you have lots of wisdom after 53 years of marriage to share with them.
68.  I’ve learned that when you are diagnosed with cancer, your young marrieds Sunday School class and your many church friends will feed you for a long time.
69.  I’ve learned from Dad that a life-time of investing in others and serving others is a life well spent for Jesus.
70.  I’ve learned that only Dad can get away with patting a stranger on his stomach and asking if he got enough turkey to eat on Thanksgiving Day while walking into Walmart.
71.  I’ve learned from Dad that when you get up in the wee hours of the morning, you can have incredible quality time with God but also this necessitates the need for a power nap (see #32 above).
72.  I’ve learned from Dad that if your kids and grandkids live in Texas or Korea and you live in Virginia, you are as close as a phone call and investing in plane tickets is always a good idea.
73.  I’ve learned when Dad is coming for a visit, have lots of coffee on hand and never throw out old coffee because Dad will microwave it and enjoy it.
74.  I’ve learned to have a list of several projects in mind for Dad when he comes for a visit. If you do not, he will dream up one.

75.  I’ve learned that my Dad is the most wonderful, awesome and amazing man I know. I’ve learned that I have been blessed far more than I deserve to have my father as my Dad. A man named Ralph Wilfred Green II. Happy Birthday Dad!