Thursday, September 15, 2011

Prone to Wander....

Robert Robinson was a Pastor in England from 1759 till his death in 1790. Most likely, you have not heard of him but I bet you know one of the two hymns he wrote: “Come thou fount of every blessing.” Pastor Robinson got it right with that great hymn of the faith. There are a couple of lines in that hymn that speak volumes about a daily challenge for all believers, including us preacher types. “Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness like a fetter; bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” Surely Pastor Robinson didn’t have that kind of issue in his life! Surely Pastor Ralph doesn’t struggle with what I’m struggling with! People may think that they are the only ones who have that struggle in their lives but the reality is, we are all prone to wander and drift away from God. It’s much like being out on a boat in the Chesapeake and you want to fish or swim so you throw an anchor overboard to hold the boat in place – there’s just one problem, the anchor didn’t get firmly connected to the bottom and before long, you realize you’ve drifted away or worse, you look up to find your boat is floating away while you enjoy a swim! 

What I’ve noticed is that the more pressure and stress I’m under, whether personally, some issue in family or finances, or professionally in church life, the more quickly I’m prone to wander and drift away from God! Make no mistake about it either, God is not the one who has moved on, it is me who has left Him. I fully understand Pastor Robinson’s poignant words because he’s describing a need we all have to be tethered to the Lord in intimate fellowship. That tether or anchor has several components and strands of the rope. One is your personal quiet time of Bible study and prayer. It is vital everyday to keep you connected. Corporate worship is another strand as we gather in worship with soul stirring songs that prepare us to hear the Word of God preached. One of the things I have to ensure I do is to listen to sermons regularly so I feed my spirit also. You might be surprised at how hard that actually is for a pastor to do because we’re laboring so much on what we’re preaching; it is hard to take time to listen to someone else. Another critical strand in that rope to keep us from wandering is personal accountability to a small group and beyond that to an accountability partner. I have men who have complete permission to ask me whatever they want and I communicate with and meet with these men often.

In spite of all that, I know in my spirit I’m still prone to wander! It’s frustrating for sure but I’m in good company. Paul wrote about this struggle extensively in Romans 7 making a point about how the law of God points out our need for the grace of God. The short summary of Paul’s struggle is found in vs. 19 and I paraphrase: “The good that I want to do, I do not do; yet the evil I don’t want to do and what I hate, that’s what I do!” WOW! I find encouragement in that the great Apostle Paul was not that much different than I am in regard to that inward struggle to keep from wandering from God. Happily, there is a solution as it means we have to stay close to God. When you’re out on boat in the middle of the bay and you realize you’re drifting, you take immediate action. When you sense you’re drifting in your spirit from God, you better take immediate corrective action. You also need to heed the Holy Spirit’s promptings in your heart that you’re off course and you need to correct it.

This fall, let me encourage you men to come to the men’s Bible Study we’ll be doing on Tuesday nights at church beginning Oct. 11th. There is information about this study being promoted in the Way and your weekend bulletins. Ladies, the women’s ministry has a couple of choices for you to get plugged in to I believe during the day and one in the evening also. These studies are practical and help you with the real issues of life. Our regular adult Bible Study classes on Sunday mornings are working through the Book of Romans. Don’t miss this rich study through one of the greatest books God inspired Paul to write.

While we’re prone to wander, it doesn't have to happen if you’ll constantly check to make sure that you’re anchored to Christ. That anchor holds no matter how much pressure you’re under. So here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, bind my wandering heart to thee! I want to encourage you to stay connected to Jesus and I’m confident He’ll keep you from wandering. Something to think about, from my little corner of the world to yours…

  Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church  

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I have learned to be content....

"...I have learned in whatever state I am to be content, I know how to have a lot or a little, to suffer or not suffer, to be full or hungry; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...."(Phil.4:11-13 in the RGV - Ralph Green Version). We humans are funny creatures. I never ceased to be amazed at how we can adapt to just about anything and everything that comes our way and how our “creature comforts” or lack of them bring out the best and the worst in people. This week in particular on the east coast, I've been able to witness this first hand having an earthquake rock our region last Tuesday, then with hurricane Irene wreaking havoc through the weekend. Here in Maryland from what I can tell with the limited access I've had to news, we fared quite well compared to  places like the coast of North Carolina, flooded New Jersey and particularly Vermont where whole towns are cut off because of massive flooding. Some people take it in stride with a good attitude, others adapt but they are mad and are determined to be miserable.

At my home, we've not had conventional electricity for about 108 hours - starting our 5th day. Now before you feel all sorry for us, you are reading this from what I typed on my little laptop while I sit on my deck with an extension cord running through the kitchen, down the steps to the basement, through the garage & plugged into a generator God gave us shortly after we moved to Houston Texas to serve the Lord with my friend David Lino. God knew we needed that generator because in the aftermath of hurricane Ike, we were without conventional electricity for 11 days. We used that generator to be a blessing to our neighbors and provide for our meager needs. We are enjoying the blessings of that provision from the Lord even today, a gorgeous sunny day with low humidity. The semi-lack of electricity has forced me out on the deck for my morning devotional time where its cooler and I have sunlight to read by though dodging the shells dropped from the trees above me while the squirrels enjoy their morning breakfast - man they eat a lot and make a mess! 

This time has allowed me to reflect on Paul's inspired statements in Philippians 4 this week and I have had to re-learn what it means to be content. I have to admit when I was preparing for the hurricane and couldn't get my generator to start beforehand and even shortly after the power went out and the storm passed, my attitude was not very good. But as I worked to get that generator to start, doing it all with my limited knowledge of engines, taking the thing apart and putting it back together, sweating like a pig as we say in Texas, skinned knuckles and all; it still wouldn’t start. I finally gave up and prayed a quick prayer and just said "Lord, would you help me get this thing started?" I admit my motives were pretty selfish with that prayer because I wanted desperately to be a hero to my family. I had enough energy to give it two more pulls to start it and I was going to forget it. First pull, nothing. Prayed again and the noise of that generator filled the air as it roared to life. "Praise the Lord!" was my quick response. After figuring out what I needed to do to get us functional, I finally spoke to my neighbor and we ran some extension cords over to power his fridge and freezer. As far as I can tell, they do not know the Lord so once again, it was a chance for me to testify to them of God's provision and be a witness for Jesus. I have another neighbor who brought groceries from their house to store in our freezer. In talking to these two neighbors, their responses to the grace of God stand in stark contrast, neighbor couple 1: extremely grateful with thanksgiving - directed at us but the subject gets changed pretty quickly when I talk about the Lord. Neighbor couple 2: Flat out angry that "the powers that be" did not put all of our power lines underground…but our neighborhood was built over 30 years ago! He's got signs in his driveway reaming on BGE that we're out of power; he calls them daily to complain. Since I’ve had two church members call offering the use of their generators, I offered to get this guy a generator so he can get going; he refuses. Offered for him to come to the house with his laptop so he can connect to the internet, enjoy some lighting though it is limited. Again he refuses. You see to accept these offers of grace would remove his reasons to be angry at whoever he’s mad at. I’ve confronted him repeatedly with the truth that it could always be so much worse, tree on his house, basement full of water & mud; being cut off like folks in Vermont having to have groceries airlifted to them – all of it just dismissed so he can pout and the bottom line is so he can continue to be angry at God.

Seeing God orchestrating events in this man’s life to get his attention and show him grace, to help him count his blessings and maybe, come to know Christ; all to be rejected and dismissed saddens me greatly. He’s so lost and yet he has no idea. I’ve resigned myself that we may be out of power for a while (even though I know linemen are working 18 hour days to restore power) to force me to interact with my neighbor and I pray God’s grace will soften his heart while God continues to teach me how to be content and reflect on the ridiculous blessings He has supplied to me.  What astounds me further is Paul wrote those words from a Roman dungeon and yet he said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”  The truth is, I got all the power I need because the Lord is with me, and yes He gives me patience in dealing with a crotchety neighbor to demonstrate the love, grace and mercy of God in a practical way. What a blessing to think that the Almighty God of the universe might just use our simple kindness with a generator He gave us to reach a lost man and his wife for Christ! Oh Lord may it be so!

I’ve spoken to so many of you in these last few days and over and over you’ve shared of God’s provision for you. I trust we’ve all learned more of how to count our blessings and name them one by one; that we’ve learned more how to be content no matter what; and that we have and will continue to take advantage of opportunities to share Jesus with people around us. Learning to be content, from my little corner of the world to yours…oh boy, time to run and refill the generator before it goes dark again in my little corner…

Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church  

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph