Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh Give Thanks to the Lord...

I love Thanksgiving.  My sweet wife was frustrated with me the other day because I never want to Christmas shop until after Thanksgiving is over and even then it may be the middle of December before she’s able to get me to the mall. She is right that she can get such better deals by shopping for Christmas early. I guess in the little box I live in it is hard for me because I feel like I’m ignoring a wonderful holiday called Thanksgiving. Part of me rebels at the constant onslaught of retailers and advertising that drives us toward Christmas and completely ignores Thanksgiving.

The Psalmist said in Psalm 106:1 “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” I was talking with a preacher friend of mine the other day who has been such a blessing to so many pastors; but He was talking about how there is a lack of gratitude even among pastors and how sad this is that they don’t take time to say thanks. Well I’m not going to be one of those guys. As I write a few days before Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share four concepts for which to be thankful that I believe summarize the blessing of Thanksgiving.

First, I am thankful for the grace of God. The most fundamental definition of grace is unmerited favor. Part of our problem in our lack of thanksgiving is we have come to believe we’re owed what we have. When you realize God owes you nothing, and yet He’s given you everything by His grace and the mercy that flows out of His grace – not giving us what we deserve; you’ll be a thankful person. Paul expressed this concept this way in Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Paul’s logic is profoundly simple, if God was willing to give sinful humans His only Son as payment for our sins, it stands to reason He’s going to be gracious in all other areas of life. Out of the grace of God flow all the blessings we normally think of, our families, our health, our homes, food, clothing and shelter. All of those things are completely undeserved and there is nothing we could ever do to earn God’s favor to deserve any of it because our sin nature makes us rotten to the core. In God’s grace we find an endless ocean of God’s capacity to forgive human rebellion and bless them in spite of their rebellion against God. Let me challenge you to reflect on God’s grace, His unmerited favor that has been showered on you; and you’ll find more stuff to be thankful for than imaginable.

Secondly, I’m thankful for the Word of God. I never cease to be amazed at how the truth of God’s word feeds my soul with exactly what I need for today. Like the manna from heaven God gave the Children of Israel every morning for breakfast as they wandered through the wilderness, God’s Word supplies exactly what I need every day. Oh sure many times it is painful to me because God’s Word tells me the truth about who I am and it challenges me and corrects me but I need it. I’m surrounded by a world of lies and a world system that seeks to destroy me and my family, I’m confronted with evil no matter where I turn, living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God in the realm of Satan and his evil forces that want to grind me up and destroy my existence. Yet in the midst of all that, God has given me the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). It truly is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path (Ps. 119:105) that guides me through the minefield of life Satan has placed in front of me. I have found as Psalm 1:1-6 affirms those who walk in delight of the law of the Lord are so blessed. I have found that God’s Word makes me like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in its season and whatever I do prospers! Oh how I am thankful for the Word of God.

Thirdly, I’m thankful for the family of God. The local church is God’s gift to us as we do life together. It is a place of encouragement, blessing support, and a place to use my gifts and talents for Jesus to be a blessing to others. It is a place to be fed the Word of God, like my physical earthly family, God’s intentions for this institution is that it be a place of joy and blessing and shelter from the challenging storms of life. Oh sure there are dysfunctional families and there are dysfunctional churches because we humans that make up these institutions are fallen and sinful creatures. But again, God’s grace overcomes all that. A body of believers who are sold out and committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, where God’s Word is correctly preached and taught, and where the love of God abides; is a happy, healthy and vibrant family that people cannot stay away from. The “one another” passages in the New Testament picture the family God intends for us to enjoy and I’m here to tell you I love the local church family of God that He has given me and I’m profoundly thankful for it. If you aren’t connected to a local church family, you are missing out!

Finally, I’m thankful for the mission of God or the purposes of God for His church and individual believers. You see God’s mission or purposes for us is an amazing and exciting adventure of faith that gives purpose and meaning to life. It answers the questions like who am I and why am I here on planet earth. When a Christian finds the calling God has placed upon their lives, they find immeasurable blessing and joy. It is what fuels your passion to get out of bed in the morning to where you can’t wait to tackle the new day. When you learn to embrace the journey of the life of faith God has for you and you pursue His purposes and mission, you’ll find immense pleasure and blessing. Be thankful that Almighty God has seen fit to use little old you in some way to further His kingdom. Satan has convinced people the key to happiness is being self absorbed and pursuing “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” but those who pursue that worldly system find heartache, pain and terrible disappointment. Is it any wonder our society needs more counseling, drugs and alcohol to somehow anesthetize our pain? How thankful I am that living within the boundaries God has set for me and pursuing His purpose for my life gives me tremendous freedom and blessing. I’m free to pursue life the way Paul expressed in Col. 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men.” He also said in Romans 11:29 “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God has graciously gifted you and called you to do something for Him and in that you’ll bring Him glory. How thankful I am for His mission/purpose He’s called me to join Him in. What an honor to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In these four broad categories, I find more to be thankful for than I can really comprehend. I will be reflecting on these blessings and giving thanks to the Lord for He is in fact good and His mercy endures forever upon a simple preacher named Ralph Green. I hope these thoughts will help you enjoy this Thanksgiving season, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lord teach us to pray...

I’m writing to you the day after an historic election with a record turnout of voters in our national election for President. For serious disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the aftermath of the result of the election for President and for us here in Maryland where so called “same sex marriage” is now law in our state by a margin of 93,849 votes; there is profound sadness. The nation we knew and loved, a nation founded on Biblical truth, principleand fear of God does not seem to exist anymore. Maryland and Maine voters have now voted to affirm “same sex marriage”, Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment effort to prevent “same sex marriage”; other states are legalizing marijuana drug use and assisted suicide. I’ve spoken with many of you today and the heartache and grief over the moral condition of our country, this land that we love is evident. This pattern of close elections and deep division in our country seemsto have reached a crescendo last night with the announcement the most liberal, pro-abortion President in American history was re-elected to a second term. What we await and worry about now is the storm surge that will be coming knowing the policies and views of our President having watched him the last four years. I’m literally sick at the thought of it!


In dealing with my own emotions on my morning walk and time in prayer with the Lord, I thought of the simple request of one of Jesus’ disciples in Luke 11:1 “Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.” Last night while here at the church for my one hour commitment to pray as part of our church-wideElection Day prayer vigil, in our semi-darkened sanctuary, I prayed this house would become a house of prayer. I prayed for spiritual awakening and revival among our church and the churches of our land. I prayed for God to reorient our families to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I prayed that God would pour out His Spirit upon this nation and that His Word would be taught and people would fall in love with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Maybe God has in fact begun to answer my prayer as I’ve been praying through our revival prayer guide. God is in fact teaching us to pray! He’s inviting us to have a conversation with Him about our spiritual ambivalence, our personal commitments to holy living, representing Jesus faithfully as salt and light, sharing His love with a world that is desperately and hopelessly lost apart from faith in Christ. Had Mitt Romney won how committed to prayer would Christians be as a whole regarding the moral decay in our society? How urgently would we be seeking God’s face and asking Him to heal our land?


While I’m greatly disappointed with these results, I am encouraged in that God’s people here at Calvary turned out to pray during our prayer vigil. I know many prayed at home but all day during Election Day there was a steady stream of individuals and whole families who came to the church during our 15 hour prayer vigil. I know a large number of you signed up for our 22 day prayer vigil leading up to Election Day. What a blessing to see God’s house and God’s people interceding and asking God to work in our families, our church and our nation! I can assure you He is at work and He will do “great and mighty things which we don’t know” (Jer. 33:3) because we have been calling out to Him. We must continue and we cannot quit.


I’m also encouraged in that all those who are loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ first and as American citizens second should no longer live under the delusion that America is a “Christian nation”. We are not. We are a pagan nation that has no regard for God or His Word. Our American society has systematically booted God out of our government, schools, public lives and families. We have told Him “You are not welcome here. You say “Pastor Ralph, how is that encouraging?” I’m encouraged in that our mandate and mission from the Lord Jesus Christ of preaching the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ has not and will not change. If anything these results should be a warning sign the Lord’s return is very soon which means there is great urgency to our task of reaching every tribe, every tongue and every nation with the Gospel.


I’m encouraged in what the Apostle Paul said to the Roman believers laboring under the brutal regimes of various “Caesar’s” in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. “Hope and Change” doesn’t come from political leaders nor does that idea originate in their political strategy rooms. True hope and change comes through faith in Jesus Christ and the transformation of lives. The Gospel message and power of God to transform lives transcends all socio-economic, race and class barriers and Jesus promised to be with us always to the end of the age!


I’m also encouraged that God’s Word teaches in several placesthat no leader takes office without God’s permission. For example, Daniel 4:17 says “…the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will and sets over it the lowest of men.” For whatever reason, even though I don’t understand it and as painful as it is for me to admit, God has placed President Obama in office for a second term. I take great comfort in the Biblical principle of Proverbs 21:1:  “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. God is able to direct our President’s heart just like He did King Cyrus of Persia to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem using a pagan king’s treasury to pay for the project! (Ezra 6:3-4). What if God’s people earnestly prayed for President Obama’s salvation and for him to repent and place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ?


I’m encouraged that God wants to do just that and He challenges His people to pray to that end. Paul told Timothy in his 2nd letter to the young pastor: “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2nd Tim.2:1-4). I’m encouraged that Jesus Christ died to save President Obama and all his advisors and desires for them to come to the knowledge of the truth. In the Southern Baptist Convention alone, there are an estimated 16 million members as of 2010.  We’re just one of how many Christian denominations? What if the Christians of the United States all cried out to God to save our President? Talk about “Hope and Change” that would take place in our nation with that!


Finally, I’m encouraged in that even though our efforts to defend traditional God given marriage failed in Maryland, of Maryland’s 24 counties, 18 of those 24 counties voted against Question 6 and we lost by a margin of 93,849 votes. 1 county, primarily Montgomery just north of DC made the big difference with a 119,910 vote margin in favor of Question 6. How is that encouraging? Because all told, over 1.1 million people in Maryland stood for God’s definition of marriage at the ballot box in a pagan culture; and that encourages me to recognize our primary mission field is right next door…from my little corner of the world to yours…

Pastor Ralph Green
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Family of God...

“I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,

I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood.

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family, the family of God.”

We sing that little chorus many times as part of our welcome and greeting time in worship. It is not just a catchy little chorus designed to give us the warm fuzzies like a child’s teddy bear or a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. There is profound theological truth in that simple chorus. Because we’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus and cleansed from sin by faith in Christ, we’ve been adopted into God’s family and we are in fact joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ! If that doesn’t make you glad to be part of the family of God; I’m not sure anything else could. Being chosen to be part of a family through adoption is so special and I’m so proud of families who’ve done just that. I know of many people who have adopted children and brought them into their families, giving unconditional love as they have their biological children.  That’s what the Lord has done for us and it makes me so glad to be part of a local church family of God. I honestly have a hard time understanding why people would not want to be part of a church family like Calvary, commit their lives to membership and serving the Lord but I suppose that is a discussion for another day.

I am proud of our Calvary family in how you have been responding to the recent crisis we’ve had thrust upon us. So many of you have affirmed to Pastor Mike, Pastor Ken and myself your love, support, encouragement and you’ve told us clearly you are praying for us! You all have no idea how much that means to all of us and I know you’ve been reaching out to people directly affected by these recent events with cards and other expressions of love. I can assure you your prayers are being heard by our Heavenly Father and they are needed so much! Last Friday night I was so pleased to have a number of parents and others who have a genuine interest in our youth ministry come enjoy pizza and to hang out with our teens for a little bit; then spend an hour in prayer for our youth while they were having youth night. Seeing faithful leaders step up and take leadership roles and other volunteers offering to help in any capacity needed has absolutely been wonderful. I am so glad I’m a part of the family of God! I do not deserve the blessing of being called the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. While no church is ever perfect and we certainly have much to do and work on for the glory of and expansion of the Kingdom of God; Calvary is a unique and special church family and it is my joy to lead you as one of God’s under-shepherds here. Thank you for seeing this whole thing through spiritual eyes and responding through the lens of Scripture in how we are to deal with crisis in the body. I must urge you to continue to pray for everyone affected by this awful tragedy and the lives that Satan has tried to destroy.

I want to reiterate to you my door is always open for you if you want to talk to me or there is something I can do to minister to you. Obviously I need to continue to pray and study God’s Word in order to feed you the meat of Scripture; generally I devote my mornings to study and am trying to be disciplined to that regimen simply because I have nothing to say but God certainly does and we desperately need to hear from Him! Having 5 kids however; I’m well groomed to be able to stop briefly to visit with one of my sheep in order to pray with you and then get back into mining for gold in God’s Word. If you need longer time; it’s best to call for an appointment generally in the afternoons before the office closes at 4:30.

The new school year is off and running and suddenly we all find ourselves instantly over scheduled and scrambling with the “shock and awe” that goes with the start of school. Putting sports games on the calendar, concerts our kids and grandkids will be involved in and the pressing requests to be part of the PTA, boosters, serve in the concession stand etc. It beats anything I’ve ever seen! We need to pray for our students, teachers and school staff but specifically those who are part of our church family as they go to school daily; that they would represent Jesus well. I would also caution all of us to remember that God wants us to minister and serve the body of Christ. We still have a number of needs for volunteers in ministry. I promise you God has ways of multiplying time back to you as you prioritize to put Him first in service. While volunteering in school activities is important and gives us opportunities to connect with a lost world; we need to be careful at how we do that. I personally will pick school volunteer opportunities like working a concession stand for a varsity football game because I know it won’t interfere with my church responsibilities. I also know there are things I just have to say no to which is hard having 2 sons in high school.

Wednesday September 12th, our new Wednesday schedule and time frame begins from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. After much experimenting with two full hours from 6:15-8:15 p.m.; we believe an hour and half will allow us to balance our efforts to make disciples and help families get home on a school night at reasonable hour. We’re offering a number of discipleship classes that we believe will be of great help to you to grow spiritually. We also want to encourage you to help even if for a brief period of time to listen to kids say verses in AWANA before you head off to choir or your class. The first 30 minutes or so will be time for prayer before the study or rehearsal begins and we are hoping to balance all the needs for everyone. I ask that you’ll be patient as we work through these initial weeks of change on Wednesday nights. I want to encourage us all to remember to be flexible. In this issue of “The Way” you should see a list of class offerings and we need you to RSVP the office so we can order your study guide. If you’re able to help at all with AWANA, we need you to go to the homepage of our church website and fill out the form for SMART and a background check before you can work with our children. If you did this for VBS, or have completed this recently, you don’t need to do it again. Even if you’ve been SMART approved previously (before VBS 2012), we now require all children and youth volunteers to complete the online SMART application, which includes consent to criminal background check and identity verification.   It only takes a few minutes and if you have any questions or difficulty with it, please call the office.

Let’s keep praying for our church family and lets all work together for the glory of God. We refuse to give Satan the victory and we’re going to see God do incredible things here at Calvary. Our best days are ahead of us and God is going to make His name great in spite of Satan’s opposition. To God be the glory! I love you and thank God for you. I am so glad to be part of the family of God, from my little corner of the world to yours…


Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church       

Posted via email from Pastor Ralph

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The family God gave me...

This past weekend I had an opportunity to that rolls around once every three years. It was a family reunion on my mom’s side of the family. Mom is one of 13 children, born into the home of William and Anna Wegner who lived way back in what they call “a holler” in Pikeville Kentucky. Mom’s parents were humble home missionaries in eastern Kentucky and my grandpa invested his life laboring in small churches teaching Sunday School, preaching, doing children’s ministry or whatever was needed to get the gospel to the people in that region. We have pictures of my grandpa and grandma with all 13 children and in grandpa’s handwriting across the bottom of the picture is part of the verse from Joshua 24:15 “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” They were dirt poor in the days of the depression and experienced much hardship. Twice the family home burned down, and I believe the 2nd time was the day one of my uncles was born. I remember my mom describing seeing my grandpa sitting on a tree stump with his head in his hands as the remains of their burned home smoldered in the background. My grandpa died in his early 50’s leaving my grandma to raise and provide for those children on her own. While they were poor and supplies were scarce, my aunts and uncles affirmed that grandpa and grandma always made sure they had plenty to eat as they provided their food with what they could grow in the family garden. 9 of those children as adults became pastors, pastor’s wives or missionaries. The other 4 almost without exception were involved in their local churches as faithful members who serve their church family. Many of the grandkids, your pastor included, are involved in full time ministry and a number of great grandchildren are preparing for ministry. What an amazing heritage I have by the grace of God to be born into the Wegner family.

I tell you the story about my family because once again at this family reunion, I was in awe of the blessing of being a part of a family that loves, cares for and serves one another in the joy of the Lord. I watched one of my sweet aunts keep the coffee pot full for the host of family present. I saw them sharing their food provisions, my uncles cooking on the grill to feed all of us, emptying the mountain of trash that seemed materialize from drinks cups and plates about every 15 minutes. We enjoyed talking together, playing games, watching the Olympics and cheering for team USA. We reflected on the passing of my Uncle Harold last year, the first of 13 to step into Heaven. We learned how a misunderstood boy with what we’d call autism today carved out a life for himself and when he passed at age 78, he left his beloved church family a sizeable nest egg to further the kingdom of God after he paid for his own arrangements. We enjoyed family worship on Sunday morning with one of my cousins leading us in worship “a cappella style” and one of my uncles brought a great challenge from the Word of God.

As I reflected on my amazing family, the family God gave me; I was reminded the Lord has given me an amazing church family called Calvary Baptist Church. We’re a fairly large family like the Wegner clan has grown to become and it creates lots of work. A large family means that people need to serve when they are together and when they are not. They need to provide for one another’s needs and esteem others more highly than themselves. They follow up with one another and check on each other to see how they are doing in general and when in distress they care for each other. At the reunion, I overheard people asking about family situations they had been faithfully praying about in intercessory prayer.  A large family cares for the children of the family like my aunts and uncles were doing for some of my younger cousins – their great nieces and nephews and great grandkids of my grandparents. I saw beaming smiles on the faces of my own sons as they joked around with my ever fun-loving and mischievous uncles. All of these things mirror life in a church family; the family God gave me and you; the family known as Calvary Baptist Church.

The reality is we all as members of this church family have a great responsibility to each other. We must feed one another spiritual food; we must challenge one another, edify, exhort and encourage one another. I love what Paul says to his church family known as the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). It was precious to hear the Wegner family singing in worship “I’m in right, out right, up right, down right happy all the time since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin; I’m in right out right up right down right happy all the time!” People in their 70’s and 80’s down to kids in preschool singing that silly little song and having a ball doing it with the hand motions too! There was no thought “that’s just for kids and not for me.” Hearing testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness in overcoming cancer and hearing preschoolers share how much they love Jesus was so awesome.

All of this points to the fact that God has given each of us our Calvary church family and we each have a responsibility and a place to serve the Lord here. I want to encourage you if you’re simply on the fringe, an attender who’s not plugged in; get plugged in by joining this church family and begin serving. If you’re a long time member; stay plugged in and keep serving. This fall in particular we have many needs for serving and caring for the needs of our young families. We need people who’ll serve in our AWANA ministry each Wednesday; even if you can only commit to a 30 minute time slot to listen to verses or help children memorize God’s word and hide it away in their hearts, we need you. We need to mingle across generational lines and worship services because we’re family; even if the music “may not be your cup of tea” in that particular service. Faithful servants from years gone by need to groom, mentor and train others to carry the baton of Christian service so their labors will continue to expand God’s kingdom through the next generation. They need to invest in their spiritual nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grand children for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.

We know statistically many kids who grew up in church leave church as adults. I’m determined that will not happen here at Calvary. How did the godly heritage of service get passed down from grandma and grandpa Wegner to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Each generation took responsibility to pass the baton to the next generation. Did they do it perfectly? Of course the answer is no. But they did do it faithfully the best way they knew how and God is blessing because of it. He will bless Calvary’s effort as we determine corporately as a church family: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We’re all busy; we’re all worried if we have enough time in our crowded schedules. Serving the Lord may mean we have to prioritize and reprioritize what’s most important. Where are you serving this fall? Will you jump in the game and serve your church family? Will you view your relationship with your church family as a great privilege but a great responsibility as well? Seeing those serving hearts at our family reunion; made my desire to serve the Lord with joy that much stronger; it made me thankful for the family God gave me…a church family God has given me to serve; from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guarding the sacred trust...

When I went to seminary, Dr. Paige Patterson my seminary president challenged all of us studying for pastoral ministry to always be vigilant against doctrinal error and remain faithful to the Word of God. Dr. Patterson of course has many battle scars from the war in the Southern Baptist Convention over the inerrancy of Scripture in the 1970’s and 80’s. He and others who labored with him are heroes to me for keeping our denomination from staying on the liberal theological course it was headed. In his tutelage of us preacher types, Dr. Patterson knows well the dangers, pitfalls and ramifications of doctrinal error and the high cost of ensuring our denomination would stay true to our Lord Jesus Christ and His inspired, inerrant and infallible word. Dr. Patterson assembled a team of professors at SEBTS who faithfully taught myself and  many others like me that we must take seriously our responsibilities before the Lord to guard the sacred trust of Scripture and to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  Dr. Patterson and the faithful professors I learned under were following through with what the great Apostle Paul challenged Timothy, his young son in the faith to do.

Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote to him; giving Timothy instructions for his ministry in Ephesus. Those letters (Epistles) God preserved in the New Testament and are identified as 1st & 2nd Timothy. In 1st Timothy 6:20-21, Paul concluded his first letter to the young pastor with this prophetical warning: “Oh Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you, Amen.” What Paul was referring to primarily was the Gospel message but also the truth of Scripture that was entrusted to Timothy by the Apostle Paul himself. Timothy had to stand against false teachers roaming around claiming to have more knowledge, teaching salvation was obtained through intellectual and philosophical means, not by faith in Christ. This heresy was known as Gnosticism after the Greek word for knowledge called gnosis.

The word “guard” in that text means to watch closely and keep secure. A Roman guard was typically four squads of four soldiers, a total of 16 highly skilled and trained warriors who would lay down their lives to protect what they were guarding! The phrase “Committed to your trust” is all one word in Greek. The word means a deposit, similar to a bank deposit and the person responsible for watching/guarding/keeping secure the deposit – in this case the truths of Scripture. The guard was none other than this young pastor named Timothy. Paul was expecting Timothy to be a spiritual Navy Seal, a spiritual warrior committed to guarding the truth of the Word of God. Safeguarding the truths of Scripture continues to be a sacred trust this pastor is committed to.

I’m sharing this with you because our church was about to implement the use of a Sunday School curriculum from Lifeway Christian Resources called “The Gospel Project.” This is the flagship new curriculum Lifeway has been advertising for months. It is a curriculum that would provide Bible Study resources for preschool, children, and youth, all the way through senior adults in our Sunday School/Bible Study classes. Upon hearing of this new curriculum, Pastor Mike and I were encouraged and excited about it as the advertised aim of the curriculum was to show that the message of the Gospel is woven throughout the Scriptures. Dr. W. A. Criswell, the great long time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas called it “The Scarlet Thread of Redemption” in a famous sermon he preached through the entire Bible. We were under the impression this curriculum would take a systematic theological approach, would tackle tough issues and give Christians tools to use in sharing the Gospel in everyday life.  The concept as we understood the aim of The Gospel Project is a great one. However, we’ve uncovered a big problem with this curriculum. The advisory council, many of the writers and much of the supplemental sources cited throughout are from people who are Calvinists or Reformed Theologians who teach at reformed seminaries.

In short, Calvinism or Reformed Theology is a theological system that elevates the Sovereignty of God and His grace to a point that the free will of man is of no consequence. On the other end of the spectrum is what is called Arminianism; which elevates the free will of man and espouses among other things that you can actually lose your salvation. Those adhering to these theological systems have been arguing about these ideas since the 1600’s! Yet the Scriptures teach that God is sovereign, a God of grace, as well as the truth man has a choice to make to accept or reject the grace of God and His provision for salvation. This understanding of Scripture is one among many reasons we exist as Baptists. Historically, we are happily in the middle of these polar extremes as we consider ourselves to be “people of the Book”; embracing both Biblical truths of God’s sovereignty and grace along with man’s choice. As Baptists, we have historically seen problems with both extremes and the dangers of using a theological system of belief as the lens to interpret Scripture. Many Calvinists and Arminians use their systems as a filter of Scripture. However, Scripture should be the filter for the system of belief one adheres to. Typically this debate has been mostly confined to seminary campuses and is not something the average person in a Baptist church hears much about.

After we were made aware of this Calvinistic/Reformed theological approach of the curriculum; Pastor Mike and I have spent literally hours and days digging through this curriculum once we received the shipment to see for ourselves. We found it to be biased in how it explains and interprets the study themes. There are numerous subtle seeds of the Calvinistic approach to Scripture and many that are overtly obvious. The more we read and studied the curriculum, the more convinced we have become that this curriculum is not suitable for use here at Calvary. I am greatly disappointed because there is nothing wrong with healthy dialogue and wrestling with theological issues. But when a curriculum is designed to teach only one side of the issue; it is no longer a healthy debate but indoctrination and we cannot allow that indoctrination to take place here at Calvary. I do not believe extreme Calvinism accurately represents the truth of Scripture. We are not Calvinistic or reformed in our theology, something Presbyterians would be more comfortable with. I don’t appreciate Lifeway producing curriculum that promotes a flawed theological system to interpret Scripture. My biggest problem with extreme Calvinism is that it views salvation as deterministic where God divinely chooses who will be saved and who will not. It follows then that God is going to save some; He can and will do so without my personal involvement so there is no need for me to be a witness for Christ. This idea clearly violates the commandment to be witnesses in our Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The Great Commission then becomes more of a Great Suggestion and only whosoever God chooses may come and have everlasting life! Yes there is a doctrine of election taught in Scripture, but God’s desire is that no one would perish but that all would come to repentance.

Honestly, I was in shock for several days as I wrestled with this curriculum. I feel as though the sacred trust has been violated because the publishing arm of my convention seems to be embracing reformed Calvinistic theology. You should know Lifeway does not depend on cooperative program dollars and they are a for profit organization based on what they sell. They are guided by a President and Trustees who’ve been duly elected by our convention so there is accountability there. We are sending this curriculum back to Lifeway and I’ll be writing letters to President Thom Rainer and the board of trustees expressing my disappointment over this curriculum and explaining why we’ve pulled the proverbial plug on “The Gospel Project” curriculum. I encourage all SBC pastors I know to examine this for yourself and see the agenda within The Gospel Project curriculum. I hope you’ll send it back to Lifeway as well with your observations.

I want you to know as your Pastor, I will do my best to guard the sacred trust of Scripture and the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The Bible is our primary curriculum and any supplemental material we use must be faithful to interpret Scripture without imposing upon Scripture a flawed theological system of any kind. If you’d like to discuss this with me further; please call or email me for an appointment. Committed to guarding the sacred trust, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Reflections...

I like to drive to a certain extent. Since we have 5 children and when they were all still home with us, air fare was typically not something we could consider, driving was our only option. My family has made numerous cross country trips from the east coast or the far north east back to see family and friends in Texas. From New Hampshire, it was a hard 3 day drive just to get to Texas and then another full day of driving to the Rio Grande Valley to see Cheryl’s parents. I have to admit there were times in that season of life I didn’t look forward to those brutal drives because of the stress on the kids which in turn would test the patience of us as parents. But there were lots of times of adventure and fun along the way. Attempting to find two hotel rooms side by side late in the night at a safe hotel with a tired family in the car always seemed to be a formidable challenge and adventure as well. Well this year Cheryl and I and our boys drove to Fort Worth Texas to be there with our daughter Rachel as she gave birth to our 4th grandchild Cameron Tate Miller (I’ll show you pictures if you ask me). This particular drive was still as long as I remember but we had a nice time.  I enjoy looking at the different states and a 3,158 round trip road trip provides you lots of time to reflect on some things.

One thing I reflected on as we drove mile after mile on interstate highways was the freedoms we take for granted. Crossing state and county borders without meeting armed guards and having to produce papers that give you the right to enter the state or county is something every American should appreciate. Having been overseas now several times, much of the world doesn’t live that way. Routinely being stopped and questioned as to where you have been and where you intend to go is something many citizens of other countries believe is normal. Being secure in your person and your effects against search and seizure is something we take for granted. At many a checkpoint I’ve passed through, it was nerve wracking even though innocent, to have a soldier there with a machine gun looking through your luggage and examining your papers. We speak English (well at least variations of it) in every state, we don’t have to try and remember a phrase in a different language to express what we’re doing to a soldier with a machine gun. Watching fireworks last night here in Bel Air in celebration of the freedoms we enjoy caused me to be thankful for the men and women who have fought and died to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. Folks, we need to guard our freedoms and the liberty we have. We are rapidly heading toward giving up those freedoms because of our apathy. If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t use the power we have in the voting booth, those liberties and freedoms will vanish.

Another reflection I had on my drive was an appreciation for my family. I am grateful to God for the wife, the children and the grandchildren God has given me. Riding a roller coaster with my sons or sitting in my daughter’s living room drinking coffee, watching her interact with one of my grandsons, listening to her teaching him, talking to him about Jesus as she feeds him breakfast was so special. Remembering how that daughter in particular used to test me to my wits end made me marvel at the grace of God and how His word sown into the lives of our children and grandchildren will produce men and women of character who honor the Lord Jesus Christ. The tears I’ve shed and the prayers I’ve prayed for my family are worth every drop as my children grow into maturity. I was also reminded because of something that happened while I was away that I still have a long way to go as dad and my children still need me to be faithful to correct, discipline and teach them to honor the Lord with their life choices. Whether they are 15 or 25, I am in a unique position to influence them for Christ.  I reflected that as my role changes with them and they leave the nest and begin life on their own, I can still set a faithful example for them and encourage them to honor Jesus. As parents and grandparents, you have the same encouragement and opportunity I have with your children and grandchildren, no matter if they are currently honoring the Lord or not.

I reflected on God’s provision for us with thanksgiving. Even though it was going to add mileage of another 300 miles to our already long trip, I felt as though we needed to go to Houston to see our home that I’ve not seen in person since we moved to Maryland. For reasons God alone seems to know, He has allowed us to carry that home for nearly 43 full months without it selling. While there was definite work Cheryl and I needed to do and it set us back from intended travel time and arrival back to Bel Air, the home was not in as bad a shape as I thought it would be having now had two families rent from us. Our house is vacant and actively for sale once again so we invested 6 or 7 hours cleaning up and fixing things and are praying it will sell. Stopping there allowed me once again to connect with our kind neighbors who’ve been picking up the circulars, junk mail, and phone books that make it unsightly. What a privilege to pray God’s blessings upon this sweet couple in their living room before we left town.  I believe they were moved and so pleased we came by to thank them. I still don’t know God’s purposes for that house that He owns. Our neighbors, real estate agents and anyone familiar with it are buffaloed as to why God has not allowed it to sell. As much as I’d love to sell it today, I’d rather ask you to pray for God to show me what His intentions are for it and that I’ll continue to have the patience needed to continue with it. I don’t mind telling you at this point I am weary with the stress of it; but I marvel that we’ve not lost it and God continues to provide for us and I am truly thankful.

Upon returning home much later than we planned, I have reflected that the work of the kingdom of God is not just the pastor’s and staff, it is the work for all believers to engage in and be committed to. I was pleased to learn of the ministry taking place with our supper summer of service, our youth mission trip to Philadelphia we’ll hear about soon, our summer mission trip to Maine and even as you read this, we have a team of high school seniors and leaders in Haiti sharing the greatest news ever that Jesus saves. I am so proud of you my church family and I marvel at the great church the Lord allows me to pastor. Seeing other ministries as we went to worship was wonderful and going to church just to worship and not lead was a blessing. It made me reflect on the blessings of being part of God’s work right here at Calvary.

Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth where my married children are members is a great church. Each Sunday, their call to worship is that wonderful hymn of the faith “Jesus Saves.” I am reminded as I saw the host of Harford County gather yesterday to watch our 4th of July parade and see the fireworks, that Jesus saves. He wants to save every man, woman, boy and girl right here where we serve Him. He’s placed us here for such a time as this and we must be faithful to engage our community with that wonderful news that Jesus Saves! I’m glad to be able to share some summer reflections, safe at home, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The best & worst of times...

June 7, 2012

The best & worst of times...

One of the first big novels that I remember reading was by Charles Dickens called "A Tale of Two Cities". It depicts the difficulties of peasants and the events leading up to French Revolution. The beginning of the novel has some of the most famous literary lines ever penned: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." It seems to me from a pastoral point of view, those lines are always appropriate as it's always the best of times and the worst of times depending on who I'm visiting with. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." This time of year as the school year draws to a close, there is much rejoicing as students, teachers and parents are giddy with excitment that school is nearly over, graduation celebrations and summer vacation plans are being made. It usually starts in mid-May with college & seminary students finishing their final exams. They begin to see the light of day with joy instead of dread having burned the mid-night oil to cram for that last exam or write that last paper. College & seminary semesters concluding are the first wave that spreads to local schools and you can sense this anticipation building all around you and the count down begins as your children tell you how many days are left as you take them to school. On May 27th we recognized both our college and high school graduating seniors for this milestone in their lives and expressed our pride in them. It is a great time of year seeing caps and gowns and school colors on display. It's a great opportunity for ministry with baccalaureate services hosted by students and parents to honor God and be reminded of His grace to these graduating seniors. Last year I had the priviledge of speaking at C. Milton Wright's baccalaureate service and challenging the graduates on their future and sharing the Gospel with them. For several years our student minister Wally Yocum has been involved with the baccalaureate at Bel Air High School and this year was the primary speaker & I know he honored the Lord as he challenged those at that service.

It is this time of year when one begins to hear of wedding plans and I've recent occasion to discuss wedding plans with a couple seeking guidance as they prepare to start their new life together. What a joy to share God's designs and plans for marriage and to reflect on the blessings of my own marriage anniversary and my rich life with Cheryl. Hearing of the joy of couples in their engagements, seeing people propose in inventive ways like when the "kiss cam" is panning the stadium at Camden Yards; it is truly the best of times and it is appropriate to rejoice with those who rejoice. Sunday May 27th was also Memorial Day weekend to remember those who’ve paid for freedom with their lives. On the other hand for many others, it is the worst of times. Recent cancer diagnosis, phone calls jarring friends and family awake in the night with news of a calamity where someone fell and was injured, planning funerals for those who've had loved ones pass whether it was expected or suddenly never gets easier. Learning of new financial crises both nationally and in our own families seems to be more and more common place. I'm ministering to a man near death's door who as far as I know does not know Christ. I am broken for him and desiring fervently that he give his life to Christ before he steps into eternity. I covet your prayers for this man who faces an eternity in Hell apart from repentance and faith in Christ. Truly, it is the worst of times for many as well and we are to weep with those who weep.

Such is the nature of life with the good, bad and downright ugly. How do we deal with the roller coaster of life? First I would say we need to remember "on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand." Good times come and go, hardships come and go but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2)! Secondly lean on your church family. The family of faith, the family of God here at Calvary continues to amaze me as part of God's provision for His saints to minister and care for one another. In that same Romans 12 passage I mentioned earlier, Paul quickly outlines in verses 9-21 a number of practical ways for Christians to care for one another. Jesus said to His disciples the love we show for one another is a powerful tool to witness to the lost world around us. Last week I saw two excellent examples as people volunteered to cook for and feed a family after a funeral service. I also saw another group of people cook for and care for the pastors of our Susquehanna Association when Calvary hosted the monthly meeting for pastors and their wives. That little song with the phrase "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God" rolls in my soul seeing the people of God who make up the family of God caring for one another. I called one of our precious widows and asked her to reach out to another widow and her reply was one of gratitude that I would trust her with that assignment! Deacons are caring for sick, ministering to widows, helping folks in financial distress; Christians are intentionally acting with kindness.

Let me encourage you in these, the best of times & the worst of times to continue to be faithful to minister to and be sensitive to those who rejoice and those who mourn. Sometimes I’m so caught up in the distress of life that I don’t feel much like celebrating with those who rejoice but we are commanded to enjoy those times of celebration. One of the greatest things we can do is to pray earnestly for each other especially in those times that are the worst of times. Drop a card in the mail to someone struggling to encourage them. Take them a meal, clean house for them, serve them in some way. I’ve have seen and experienced how serving someone else in distress is a great cure for your soul as you walk through the worst of times in your life. God uses that to help you heal as you focus on the needs of others. I’ve often shared with my kids if we think we have it bad, just look around and we’ll find someone in much worse condition than we are to care for. Jesus showed us how to rejoice at the wedding of Cana Galilee, celebrating with those who celebrated. He also mourned and wept at the tomb of Lazarus. In both situations Jesus served others and expects us to follow His lead and do the same.

Finally, from a policeman’s point of view, be careful out there. The heightened activity of celebrations and vacations seems to cause people to throw caution to the wind in their haste to get to the celebration or get to the vacation spot. Just yesterday I saw two close calls of near accidents with cars and people in a hurry. We used to say in law enforcement: “It’s better to be late than turn up dead.” The lake, the beach, the pool, the mountains, wherever you are going will still be there so take your time and be safe. As we walk through the best of times and the worst of times, I want to encourage us to do it together as the family of faith; but reach out to those around us and maybe that will be what God uses to reach them for His kingdom. Living out the best of times and the worst of times, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Pastor Ralph Green
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our treasured past & triumphant future.

One of my favorite Old Testament books is the book of Joshua. After 40 years of wandering in the desert because of their hard hearted rebellion, Joshua records God’s blessing upon the children of Israel to inherit the Promised Land that God had promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.  The whole book is God’s encouragement to His people to obey Him with strength and courage and His promises to bless that obedience. In Chapter 3, there is a fascinating test of faith as close to two million people are lined up at the Jordan River to march into the promised land. The Jordan River floods its banks at harvest time and was impassable. Yet God commanded the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant to walk into the Jordan by faith. God promised when their feet touch the water, He’d dry up the river so they could cross and the water would pile up in a heap (Joshua 3:13). It mirrors what God did for the Children of Israel at the Red Sea escaping the pursuit of Pharaoh’s Egyptian army. That previous generation had died so God wanted to demonstrate to this younger, new generation that He would be faithful to them in the same way He had been to their parents and grandparents leaving Egypt. In chapter 4, God commanded that the Children of Israel retrieve 12 stones out of the dry river bed, one for each tribe as they crossed over. He told Joshua to take those stones and stack them up as a memorial to help their children remember what God did. 4:6-7 says when the children ask “What do these stones mean to you?” They were to answer that question: “That the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be a memorial to the Children of Israel forever.” Of course the rest of the story is of their triumphant future in possessing the land God gave them and a record of the battles along the way. Joshua pictures a treasured past and a triumphant future for God’s people.   

Over the last several days, I’ve been intently praying for and preparing for some exciting news to share with you in more detail on Sunday evening June 10th at 4:00 p.m. in a special called Church in Conference. In May/June of 2010, we formed a vision team to pray and seek God’s face related to our future ministry here at Calvary. That team met and prayed faithfully for over a year exploring our ministry needs, our facilities and what God wants to do in and through Calvary. After a year of praying, one of our church members in the construction business introduced us to an architect who has had extensive experience working with churches. After that initial meeting and sensing God’s leadership to work with this man, we began a running dialogue with him, our vision team, the trustees and our church council about developing our property with additional parking and space needs to prepare for the next 25 to 30 years of ministry here at Calvary. There have literally been hundreds of man hours from these church committees over the last two years to develop an updated master site plan on this campus the Lord brought us to and gave this church family back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s here on Courtland Place in the heart of Bel Air and Harford County. The church has had a master plan to initially construct our sanctuary and fellowship hall that was dedicated on March 19, 1972.  There were even at that time plans to build an education wing which was constructed and dedicated 22 years later in 1994. Here we are 18 years after our education wing was completed examining the next phase of ministry at Calvary.

As I’ve been digging through our church records, reading minutes and history highlights, seeing pictures and reading news accounts of the famous steeple move from Baltimore Pike to our current building, I’m overwhelmed. First I’m overwhelmed by the grace of God to plant a dream in the hearts of several vision minded pastors from our area to see a mission church in the heart of Harford County in the county seat of Bel Air as they met in April 1948. Rev. Walter Burcham and Rev. Finney Bragg played a major leadership role to get the mission work started with services in the Odd Fellows Hall on Sunday afternoons. I am overwhelmed by the grace of God to assemble a group of 66 committed believers who would become charter members of what would become Calvary Baptist Church and for the sacrifices these saints made to make what we enjoy today. The church rapidly outgrew that Odd Fellows Hall and a few weeks before constituting as a church in May of 1949, moved to the Bel Air Theater on Main Street for services. For 63 years, Calvary has been a lighthouse to a lost and dark world around us, sharing the wonderful message that Jesus saves and has been a faithful Gospel preaching and disciple making church family.

As I’ve looked through our archives, I marvel at how the Holy Spirit of God has directed this church to purchase property on Baltimore Pike, erect a fellowship hall basement and construct a worship sanctuary above it in 1952. How they were sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to move the church to our current location, a move that I’m sure did not make sense to some at the time in the 1960’s but looking back, it’s easy to see the Lord’s hand and how His favor has rested upon their obedience. We truly have a treasured past and every time you see our steeple spire pointing to the Heavens, you should thank God for the faithful labors of those who have gone before us.

In dreaming about the future of Calvary and what lay ahead, I am also overwhelmed and in awe of what the Lord wants to do through us. I believe the Lord desires for us to have a triumphant future as we obey His command to continue to make disciples until He returns or calls us home.  Joshua challenged that next generation of the Children of Israel to be obedient to the Lord and they did so for many generations. The question before us is will we obey? We must if we desire a triumphant future. It is that simple. As Joshua said in 24:14 “Choose you this day whom will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I want to invite you to come to our Church in Conference on June 10th, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. We need church approval to present a proposal to the Town and County to approve a concept of how we can continue to build on and develop the property God has given us so we can carry out our God-given mission of making disciples. We are not ready to enter a building campaign by any means. The first step is that we’re merely seeking for approval from the community, the town of Bel Air and Harford County that our concept will meet the requirements in place. Much of the requirements and codes have changed since we began phase one and two on this property in 1970 and 1993. Our work with our architect accounts for these new requirements and we’re excited to share with you the big picture concept. This concept was developed from our architect who has spent hours with our leaders from our various ministry teams and committees as we’ve dialogued about current space utilization and future expansion. Let us all continue to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have us to do to secure a triumphant future of obedient ministry for the glory of God and to expand God’s kingdom. Let us be in prayer that God’s hand of favor will rest upon us in seeking the appropriate approvals from the community, town and county assuming the church gives us permission to move forward. I’m treasuring our past and excited about a triumphant future, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Super Summer of Service...

May 8, 2012

Super Summer of Service…

Summer is rapidly approaching as the warmer temperatures arrive and the school year is winding down, thoughts of summer vacation trips and opportunities to unwind and take a break are on everyone’s mind. Weekend trips to the beach, the lake or the mountains, going to see family and getting a change of scenery are wonderful things for our families to enjoy together. I really hope and pray your time off and away will be a refreshing encouragement to you. As the lead under-shepherd God has placed here at Calvary, I have some encouragement for you as we head into the summer months.

First of all, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the very Son of God, set an example for His followers after seasons of intense ministry, took time off to refresh and spend time by Himself or with His disciples. Jesus understood the rigors of ministry, He understood the reality that serving and investing in others is fulfilling and rewarding but it is exhausting work. Jesus also understood that life and ministry is a marathon and not a sprint. So to keep from burning out, Jesus regularly took time out to rest and to pray. For all of you who faithfully serve and labor for the Lord here at Calvary, let me encourage you that if the Son of God needed to rest and recharge, you and I most certainly do as well. God has built in a Sabbath Day of rest every seven days so I encourage you to rest. When Jesus rested, He didn’t take a break from God, He went places to pray and reconnect with His Father. You should too, go check out that church near where you are vacationing. Bring me a bulletin because I like to see what other churches are up to.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to plan ahead. It is important that if you have a Sunday responsibility and you are going to be out of town, make sure you have your responsibilities covered in your absence. That should be understood but sometimes it is not and when the summer breeze blows, the beach calls and off people go, so excited to go but they forget their responsibilities. On more than one occasion I have walked through our children’s or preschool departments on a Sunday in the summer and the volunteers are scrambling because people who were scheduled to work did not show up or make provision for their absence. Communicate and plan ahead if you are going to be absent.

This brings me to my third encouragement that many people don’t stop to realize. While you take a vacation and head out of town, your church is open 52 Sundays a year except this year we actually have 53 Sundays of ministry. People forget that our expenses continue even through the summer and many churches struggle during the summer months because giving declines. I know people don’t intend for that to happen, but in the hubbub and bustle to get loaded up and get out of Dodge, the tithe and offering is often forgotten. When I’m travelling, I plan my bill paying with my bank and I schedule out the payments that need to be made and I include Calvary in that process so I know my tithe and offering comes to God’s storehouse. Again, it’s a simple matter of planning ahead so let me encourage you make sure you don’t forget your tithes and offerings. I’d also caution you in these tough economic times not to take the money that belongs to the Lord to spend on your vacation. He will not bless that time of recreation if you rob from Him.

Fourth, for too many years, we’ve have slogged it out through the summer with a grueling schedule of activity in the summer that included trying to have services on Wednesday evenings. As a staff we’re challenging our leaders and ministries to have an intentional purpose for all we do. We’ve found that our Summer Wednesday schedule does not have the impact or reach the intended purpose. We made a recommendation at our last church in conference that was approved; that we cancel our Wednesday evening schedule for the summer except that choir and praise team will practice on Wednesday evenings.  What we’re proposing instead is what we are calling “Super Summer of Service”. We’d like to see families and Bible Study classes take on a servant evangelism project during the summer. It doesn’t have to happen on Wednesday or take place every week. We need to move church beyond the walls to engage our community and show God’s love in a practical way. These projects are fun and the only limitations are the extent of your imaginations. Here are some ideas to help stir the creative juices:

·         We’ll have access to a list of people who’ve recently moved to a 3.5 mile radius around Calvary. Put together a “Welcome bag” with an area map, coupons to local restaurants (your favorite places) or things to do, fresh baked goods and deliver this to the new family. Invite them to come to church with you. The church will supply the bags, maps and you all can organize putting the bag together and the delivery team. This is so effective! When we first moved to North Carolina to go to seminary, within a day, we’d met all our neighbors who brought pies or veggies from their garden and at least three of them invited us to their church. We have a mailing going to these homes and the list will be available the week of June 18th.

·         Families with young children can schedule a play night in Shamrock Park behind the church. The church will provide juice boxes, water and wrapped snacks. Your family goes to play and offers others free juice or water and a snack. It opens up conversations and an easy opportunity to invite them to VBS July 16-20. You’ll be shocked at how simple and effective this will be!

·         Bible Study classes could offer a free car wash to show God’s love in a practical way. Be creative to the location it’s hosted and we’ll pay for the water for the business owner and the supplies to wash cars. Talk with people while their car is being washed. They are shocked it’s free and very open to talk about spiritual matters. We’ll provide an invite card or brochure about Calvary.

·         Goodie baskets for our police or fire departments are always a hit. Tell them their neighbors at Calvary appreciate them and we want to care for them and their families.

·         Feed parking meters during the day downtown or at the parking garage and put a card on the windshield telling them Calvary is showing God’s love in a practical way. We’ll provide the cards and the buy the quarters.

These are just a few ideas and there are many more you could do to take the church to the streets. Find a need in our community and fill it. Our plan is to have a big picnic at the end of the summer to give you a chance to share what God did with these simple service projects. The impact of this for the Kingdom of God will be profound and there will be people who go to Heaven because you cared enough to engage in Super Summer of Service! Pastor Mike will be coordinating this effort so let us know what you’re doing so we can help you make your project a successful endeavor. Sure there may be things we try and fail at it, but that’s okay because you never know unless you try!

Finally, be in prayer for these projects that people will see and hear about Jesus in our service and come to trust Him by faith. Pray for our Maine Mission team at the end of June, our youth going to Philadelphia on mission at the end of June, our senior youth headed to Haiti on mission in July, our 4th of July musical and our VBS in mid July. All of these are great opportunities to see people come to Christ, not to mention our weekend worship services that happen every Sunday. Rest, refocus, renew your spirit, but let’s make Summer 2012 a super summer of service that expands God’s kingdom. I’m looking forward to some rest and refocus time, but also a super summer of service from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Letter to Addison

"This is the birthday song, it isn't very long, hey!" Happy birthday Addison! Two years ago today you were born on a Sunday morning in Fort Worth Texas. Your Mommy  and Daddy Ginny & Stephen, Aunt Rachel & Uncle Thomas and whole family were so excited you were coming into the world. We were concerned because both you & your mommy was having a lot of trouble as she was in labor. You started the journey into the world in the early morning hours of April 25th 2010. I'm your mommy's dad, grandpa "Pops" and a pastor in Maryland. The morning you were being born, your mommy's mom, your grandma "Nana" was on the phone with your aunt Rachel who was telling us that your mommy was having a hard time. In those early hours that morning, since we were so far away, Nana and I could only pray for the situation that was going on with you and mommy in Fort Worth. We had to trust the Lord would help you and mommy with this birth. I remember laying in bed praying while Nana who is a nurse was talking and sharing wisdom with Aunt Rachel about what all to do. I was scheduled to preach in a few hours and I was confident you and momma Ginny were in good hands. We went to church and held our morning worship services. I didn't know it while I was preaching but Aunt Rachel was sending Nana text messages telling her she needed to get on a plane to get down there as soon as possible because they needed help. Knowing you were having a hard time and mommy was too, our whole church prayed for you both during our morning prayer time that day and many people prayed for our family during those days. It was amazing! As a matter of fact, your home church, Birchman Baptist Church was an incredible blessing to our family. I am so thankful the Lord gives us tremendous church families who come alongside us in times of trouble. I'm sure you've figured out after almost two full earthly years in Heaven that Christian people are an amazing bunch of people. It's not really them so much as the grace of God and the Holy Spirit of God who lives in them that allows them to serve the Lord Jesus in such practical ways. It's crazy I know to think two years on earth have passed by but for you in Heaven, it probably seems like just a few seconds or even a minute.

Well during the Sunday School hour after our first worship service, I went to my office and quickly purchased a plane ticket for Nana and she had little time to pack. One of our faithful deacons and his wife drove Nana to the airport in Baltimore. Your Aunt Beth, Mommy Ginny and Aunt Rachel's sister rode to the airport with Nana and Mr. & Mrs. Owens. Nana got to Fort Worth and was so excited to see you there in the hospital. It wasn't long until we heard that there were a number of complications. That's just a big word that means several things happened that mommy couldn't control, the doctors couldn't control, and sweetie you had no control over. It's okay that none of us humans could control those events because the God we love and serve as a family was in complete control. He was then and as you well know He is today also. I don't have to tell you that because the Lord Jesus has personally shared with you all about that. As a matter of fact, Pops probably needs to hurry and finish because Jesus has a special birthday bash planned for you today!

Anyway sweat pea, Nana told Pops it wasn't looking like you were going to be able to stay with us very long here on earth so I needed to get airline tickets for me, Aunt Beth, Uncle Ralphie, & Uncle Garrett to come down to Fort Worth as soon as we could. You remember your Aunts and Uncles, they all took turns playing with your hands, stroking your beautiful brown hair and reading stories to you while you were in the hospital after we got there. Pops got to read you a "Winnie the Pooh" book and your Daddy Stephen's family were all there too. Your Aunt Holly & Uncle Matt from Houston came up to see also as well as your Great Grandpa Green and Great Grandma Green. Great Grandma Wychopen, you call her "momo" came too. "Papa" Wychopen came later after you got to meet Jesus.

The day before you got to go meet Jesus, your whole family took turns holding you and playing "dress up". Your mommy brought a whole department store it seemed of clothes for you to wear. We took lots of pictures of you and mommy had a bag full of hair bows to put on your beautiful little head. It was an amazing time and we will never forget it. The nurses at Cook Children's Hospital, the doctors and all the staff helped our family so much and figured out a way for us to hold you on a pillow because there were lots of tubes and a machine helping you breath. One of their staff made a clay mold of your precious little hands and feet and gave it to your mommy and daddy. We all cried seeing that. A few minutes after we learned that you went to meet Jesus while mommy was holding you, I'm sure you were so busy and happy to meet the Lord face to face, you didn't know; but Pops has been taught all of life to be thankful by your great grandpa and grandma Green. I went back into the NICU unit to thank the nursing staff for their great care and kindness to our family for that week we got to have you. I thanked them for their wonderful care for you and for all they did to make our brief time with you so special. They allowed all of us to crowd around your bed on dressup/picture day, to sing to you, to laugh, pray, read Scripture and yes cry. Those nurses heard your special daddy pray an amazing prayer I bet they won't soon forget. Because of you Addison, you helped your family witness to those doctors, nurses and hospital staff and tell them about Jesus. Your brief little life here on planet earth made such a great impact for God's Kingdom and I can't wait till Jesus shows us all how far reaching your little life has made. I know a lot of people talked to Jesus because of you and it gave Jesus a chance to talk to them. Anyway, when Pops thanked those nurses, they began to cry. They couldn't believe in the middle of such a sad time I would come back to thank them. One nurse got up and came to hug me. They told me often times after a baby meets Jesus the parents are so angry they yell at those nurses and say mean things. She told it meant so much to them to see our family and to be able to care for you. They said you have a special family and it's true. It's not that we're so great, it's just that our Savior is so special which of course you know first hand now.

I know you are but I'll tell you that your mommy and daddy are the most amazing parents because of how they have stayed faithful to Jesus in all of this process of giving you back to the Lord. Because of you Addison, their relationship with Christ is much different than most Christians because they have had to lean on Jesus more as they have processed their grief and sorrow. Nana and I marvel at God's strength and power shown in the lives of your mommy and daddy. They are a testimony to anyone who cares to notice of how God is bigger than the heartache of life. I'd be lying if I said it has been easy for them. It has been so hard, yet they continue to shine as testimonies of the grace of God and they remain loyal to Jesus. As a matter of fact, on the marker at the place in babyland where we laid to rest your little body, they put the words of Mr. Job. I'm sure you've probably met him by now, but what he said after losing all of his children and everything he owns continues to encourage us: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." Mr. Job wrote that in his book that God included in His Bible in chapter 1 verse 21. Would you tell Mr. Job when you see him from your Pops that I am so thankful for those words the Holy Spirit inspired him to write and that he faithfully wrote down?

Addison, Pops is so proud of you and I'm so proud of your mommy and daddy. I've cried alot wishing somehow I could "fix it" for mommy and daddy. I wish I could wave a magic wand so you could come to play with your little brother Landon that God gave to mommy and daddy. You'd have a ball romping with Landon but watch out because he's a big boy! I'm sure you're faster than he is but I wish I could take you guys to the McDonald's playground and watch you play. Oh you'd also have a ball with your cousin John Thomas. He was born to Aunt Rachel and Uncle Thomas exactly one month before your brother Landon. They are a little over one year old. It's funny, John Thomas was born in February, Landon was born in March and you were born in April! One birthday right after another. I know the Lord scheduled John Thomas' and Landon's birthdays directly ahead of yours because He wanted to remind us His grace is bigger than our sadness of not having you here with us. Jesus wanted us to forever remember His joy and faithful provision is able to do "exceedingly abundtly beyond all we can ask or think." After you met Jesus, the doctors did some tests and learned about a rare problem both mommy Ginny and Aunt Rachel have. Because of you Addison, they were able to figure out how to care for mommy and Aunt Rachel in future pregnancies so that by the grace of God, John Thomas and Landon were born healthy. If you hadn't met Jesus, we would not have known and Landon or John Thomas might not have been born healthy. As we all celebrate their birthdays and yes even today as we observe your birthday without you being here, we know God's purposes and plans are greater than ours. I understand the hope Mr. Job expressed out of his sorrow and today on your birthday, I choose to say blessed be the name of the Lord.

Addison, I know you have to run because Jesus is waiting for you. What He has planned for you is much more important than anything old Pops could say. When you crawl up in Jesus' lap today and you see His warm smile. As He runs that nail scared hand through your precious brown hair, remember it's because of Jesus you are safe and secure at our true home in Heaven. Remember sweet pea it's because of Jesus you'll never have to suffer in this world of evil your family lives in now. Remember Addison that it's because of Jesus, your mommy and daddy whole family will see you again some day in Heaven when Jesus decides it's time. You need to pray to Jesus and ask Him to bring John Thomas and Landon to trust in Him by faith as soon as they are able to understand what Jesus did to save them. I know they are cute but they still have that sin problem that is going to have to be dealt with. That's what Aunt Rachel and Uncle Thomas, Momma Ginny and Daddy Stephen are praying for those boys, it's what Nana and Pops are praying for as well. We're all so thankful Jesus made a way for our sin problem to be cured and forgiven if people would just trust Him by faith.

One more thing Addison, would you give Jesus a hug from Pops today and tell Him I love Him?  Would you please thank Him for His grace and mercy to our family. I'm thankful that you are in His care and for all that He does for us. I can't really express it appropriately, but I'm confident He'll know what I'm trying to say.
Happy Birthday!


Posted via email from Pastor Ralph