Thursday, February 17, 2011

Experiencing God...

Henry Blackaby’s study “Experiencing God”  is a study that has impacted literally thousands of Christians including many of us here at Calvary. One of the principles of that study is to see where God is at work and then prayerfully ask God if you can join Him where He is working. On Sunday February 20th, I shared with the church my experiences on my West Africa vision trip with two other pastors from our association and state convention. I can honestly tell you it was an amazing experience to see God working in the hearts and lives of people who had never heard any truth of Scripture before. It was almost unreal to me to be sitting on a mat in thatched roof hut or gazebo sharing Bible stories with people who cannot read or write in an oral format, with a picture book and a cassette tape player telling the stories of Scripture in their language. Seeing Jehovah God stirring in their hearts the desire to know this God of love and grace or at least to begin to wonder about this God these white men had spoken about. To see smiles of gratitude as we bid farewell and then having a man who raises chickens go to his flock of maybe 25 birds and pick out two chickens to give us a gift of appreciation for sitting in the desert heat with him for 4 hours telling these stories from God’s Holy Word the Bible; that’s a humbling experience from God! Those chickens represent a reproducible asset from a man with less than the poorest person in our county! I sat in our missionary’s truck and cried at the thought that God would allow me the high privilege to be part of sharing Biblical truth with a man who’d never heard it before and that the man would want to honor us with a gift that cost him dearly.  

Getting to meet International Mission Board personnel I consider real life heroes of faith who serve the Lord in obscurity in difficult places because God has called them to it and the real dangers and difficulties they face daily even in the simplicity of having enough safe drinking water is something I’ll never forget. I was able to get reacquainted with a friend Cheryl and I know from college who serves in this part of the world with her husband and 3 young daughters. My heart ached for her as she shared that they’ve been serving in Africa for 10 years and she’s had malaria something like 50 times, yet they continue to serve because our Savior Jesus Christ and the Gospel are worth it; challenges me to the core of my soul and causes me to wonder what price I’m willing to pay for Jesus. I understand what God calls these heroes to do and endure for His sake may not be the calling He’s placed on me directly but I do know He wants me to be engaged with this great big world full of people He has created and that He loves dearly.  It was evident to me God is at work in that region and He’s inviting us to be involved in what He’s doing because these heroes need help to engage people groups who’ve not heard the good news. I’ve already begun working with our missions committee to discuss how we can be involved in this corner of God’s kingdom and labor in this field of harvest.

On the home front, I know God is at work in our community and here at Calvary. Right before I left on the trip, we had a meeting to discuss some ministerial staff positions. I owe my church family an apology because I don’t believe I appropriately communicated or clearly articulated the vision I believe the Lord has for our future. I thought I was on the right track having begun to develop these job descriptions with the personnel committee going back to last July. We discussed these proposed positions with the deacon body, church council, and vision team; but it was evident in our CIC that there remained much confusion and misunderstanding. For that I’m very sorry because to me that is my failure to communicate and clearly explain what I believe the Lord has for us. I’ve told my church family before that “I’m often wrong but never in doubt about it.” So as your pastor and spiritual leader, I take full responsibility for that and I commit that I will sit back down with the personnel committee and we’ll work to clarify and simplify these positions and I’ll work to communicate vision and direction clearly. I realized after going back over everything, it feels as though we’re taking a giant step to hire two new ministers and in uncertain economic times, that is a scary thing. The reality is we have a vacant position we’ve already budgeted for in 2011 and for long-term ministry needs, the personnel committee sees the need to add one more position as we engage in the work God has for us to do here in Bel Air and around the world. I believe as a church family, our hearts desire God’s will and as we pray together, we fast and we seek the Lord’s face in sincerity and truth; He will direct our steps in the whole process. I also know God’s timing and not ours will be perfect and we all need to be committed to walking with God as quickly or as slowly as He leads. I recognize for some of us, we perceive God moves way too slowly, for others of us, we perceive God moves way too fast. God’s work and the plans He has for us as His church often test our patience and comfort levels but I’m thankful the Lord is in control and He’s walking along with us.  Experiencing God…what an exciting adventure, whether in West Africa or in my little corner of the world or yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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