I’m a First Year Teacher

This week Fellowship Baptist Academy opened its’ doors for another year of training young people.  As the pastor, I am so thankful for the people whom God has sent us to work with our students.  I believe that He has given us some of His most choice servants for this task.

Each year, new teachers join our teaching staff here at FBA.  My heart always goes out to these young men and young ladies who have placed so much trust in our ministry by relocating here to serve.  It is always our hope that these teachers will choose to serve with us for many years, but even those with long tenure had to start.

I was recently speaking with a pastor about the joy of longevity on a school staff.  His response was, “Longevity can be good or it can be bad.”  His comment turned my attention to first year teachers, the challenges they face and the potential they possess.  I penned the following thoughts about first year teachers.

I’m a First Year Teacher

I hope that you will pray for me.  Right now, my life is just a little bit overwhelming.  I have recently gone through more transitions than I have at any other time in my life.  Just a few months ago I graduated from college and went home to spend my last college summer with my family.  The last several weeks have involved trying to make memories with those I love the most before I relocate to spend all of my time with people I’ve never met before.  It’s a bit unnerving.

Right now, I hope I never have to look at a heavy-duty plastic tub again!  I’ve spent the past three months putting all of my belongings into one of those things, and just in the past few days, I’ve emptied them all out, placing my stuff in my new home.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  It’s not like I have a lot of stuff.  Remember, I’m just getting started.

Then, there is Teacher Orientation.  I’ve never tried to absorb so much information in such a short period of time in my life!  I’m learning the procedures and policies of my new school, while trying to understand the hearts of those who lead me.  You see, my desire is not to be just a good employee; I want to be an extension of my pastor’s ministry in my classroom.  I’m trying to observe those who have much more experience than I have.  Sometimes, it’s a bit intimidating.  Sitting in meetings with people who have taught five, ten or twenty years can make me feel so inadequate.  I hope that someday I will be able to boast of that kind of tenure, but right now, I bear the title of first year teacher.

20800068_10213817124047509_8306696148164684777_nIn the past, when I have gone through these types of unsettling experiences, church has been my refuge.  Don’t get me wrong, it still is.  However, I’m in a new church.  I like it, but it’s not exactly what I’m used to.   While trying to find strength from the pastor’s sermon, I’m trying to remember the names of that couple that I just met during the handshaking time a few moments ago.

On top of all of that, I’m learning a new community.  Where is the post office, the library and the most affordable grocery store near my home?  Which areas of town do I need to avoid?  Where do I choose to bank?  If I am under the weather, which doctor’s office do I call?  It seems like my life is one big question mark right now.

Just when I begin to question whether or not I made the right decision in coming here, everything changes.  It’s opening day at our school.  Today, I realized my dream!  I walked into a room of children whom I had envisioned long before I ever met them.  I looked into their eyes and saw their potential.  It was instantaneous.  God gave me a love for these kids that I never thought I could have.  No matter how long I teach, these kids will always hold a special place in my heart because they will always be my first class.

As a parent, you probably raised your eyebrows when you found out that I was your child’s teacher.  I can understand that.  I don’t have a track record.  All you know about me is what you heard from our pastor, and all he knows about me is what he read on my resume or learned from one of my references.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you just a little bit about myself.

Teaching your child is something that I’ve dreamed about since I surrendered my life to the Lord as a young person.  It’s why I left my parents and moved into a college dormitory four years ago.  It’s why I worked long hours to help pay my school bill; studying into the wee hours of the morning so that I would be ready for this task that God has placed before me, teaching your child.   It’s why I spent holidays away from my family, and if my birthdays were even celebrated, the celebrations were with a few college roommates who couldn’t afford a cake or decorations.   I am so excited that I can hardly go to sleep at night, even though I’m exhausted from the events of the past few months.  Maybe when I’ve gotten a few years under my belt, I won’t be so nervous. I’ve noticed that some of my coworkers seem much more calm.  Obviously they’ve been there and done that.  Right now, all I can think about is that teaching your child is the biggest job and the greatest privilege in the world!

20841870_10214018774731465_5926928484627167922_nI cannot rely upon my experience, so I must rely upon my Lord.  I’ve never prayed so much in my life!  Maybe when I’ve taught several years, I won’t feel so dependent upon Him, but right now, He is my hope, my refuge and my strength.  I refuse to walk into the classroom to teach your child without Him and trust that I will always feel this way.

Obviously I’m not married, and I have no children of my own.  Although I’m hoping that one day, the Lord will bring someone into my life, right now your child is my family.  Some of the other teachers have husbands or wives and children to care for, but at least for now, I can pour most of my time and attention into my students.

I’m sure I’ll make mistakes.  I want to thank you in advance for being gracious towards me.  Please know that my lack of experience doesn’t mean that I lack enthusiasm, passion or desire.  Neither do I lack qualification.  I have worked hard to prepare for this particular moment in my life, and my preparation does give me a bit of confidence.  I am here because I believe God led me here.  I believe that same God placed your child in my classroom.  I also believe that same God will enable me to be the teacher that your child needs.  I covet your prayers.

 

Rick Finley

Our Children and Authority

The past few weeks we have reposted several blog articles that specifically address the ministry of working with young people.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love spending time with young people.  My first position after Bible college was to work with the youth at our church.  A job I enjoyed for years before I became the pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church.

Summer is a time where many activities are focused on young people through camps, conferences, VBS, etc.  I trust this article will encourage and inspire you in working with your own children or those to whom you minister.

The original blog post from January 2016:

 

I have been privileged to work with young people since surrendering to the ministry in 1978.  Since then I have served as a bus captain, a junior church worker, a youth pastor, a schoolteacher, a principal, a pastor and a father.  I must admit one of the great joys of my life has been investing in future generations.  I love it!

There are many challenges facing those who work with youth today.  One of the greatest challenges is working with parents who, in my opinion, confuse their children by challenging the godly authority figures the Lord has placed in their children’s lives.  This is not a new problem, but one that seems to have grown more complicated in recent years.

In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John approaches the Lord and asks a favor.   In verse 21 we read of her request:  “…Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”  If this conversation were to take place today, that mother may have asked, “Why wasn’t my daughter chosen as Queen for the Day” or, “Why did my son sit on the bench more than the other player” or, “Would you consider allowing my child to be an exception to this rule?”

I get it; we all love our kids and only want the best for them.  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.  However, I think it is important that we understand the biblical concept of authority and how it relates to our children.

GOD ALLOWS US TO CHOOSE AUTHORITIES FOR OUR CHILDREN

When God entrusts us with children, He also entrusts us with the responsibility of choosing the authorities in their lives.  For instance, we choose where they attend church and who their pastor will be.  That is a huge choice!  Once that choice is made, the pastor chooses whom their Sunday school teachers, junior church workers and youth workers will be.  As parents, we choose where our children will be educated.  We may choose to enroll them in a public school; a Christian school or we may choose to educate them at home.  In each case, the choice of where they will be trained will dictate who their authorities will be.

WE SHOULD TRUST THOSE AUTHORITIES

As a parent, if I have prayerfully chosen my pastor or if I have prayerfully chosen where my children attend school, I should have confidence in the authorities that God has placed in my child’s life.  No authority is perfect and authority is not always right, but God places certain authority figures in the lives of our children.  There was a reason why Minnie Mundy was my first grade teacher and Frances Blalock was my second grade teacher when I enrolled at Holt Elementary School.  There was a reason why people like Virginia Bryant, Frankie Murray, James Carlyle, George Russell and others were my Sunday school teachers when I was growing up here at Fellowship Baptist Church.  None of those people were perfect, but God’s plan included them having influence in my life as a young person.

WE SHOULD ALLOW THOSE AUTHORITIES TO LEAD OUR CHILDREN

Salome, the mother of James and John, should never have approached Jesus in order to ask that her sons receive preferential treatment.  She should have allowed the Son of God to make decisions involving her sons, rather than interfering with what the Lord was doing. Likewise, as parents, we should allow the authorities in our children’s lives to lead.

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Gathered with some of our younger children at the annual Christmas Eve service.

Obviously, I am not talking about situations where authorities may be hurting our children.  No one in their right mind would condone physical abuse that is committed by those to whom our children have been entrusted.  I am not talking about situations where someone in authority may be teaching things contrary to scripture.  I am talking about situations where someone in authority may be making decisions that we would not make if we were in their shoes.

If a child isn’t chosen for the lead part in the kindergarten play, even though you think he should be, it probably won’t scar him for life.  If your son isn’t in the starting lineup, it probably won’t prevent him from reaching his potential as a husband or father.  If your daughter isn’t chosen to sing the solo in the Christmas musical, (even though it is quite obvious to you that she has the best voice in the children’s choir), she will probably go on to lead a quite normal life.  God can use those judgment calls that are made by our children’s authorities to help prepare them for challenges they will face even into adulthood.

MISTAKES BY THOSE AUTHORITIES CAN BE USED BY GOD

Suppose your son should be the starting center on the team.  Suppose your child should have been given the lead part and suppose that it was made obvious when his counterpart forgot all his lines on the night of the play.  Suppose the person who was chosen over your daughter for the solo totally botched her performance and ran off the platform in tears.  Suppose your opinions concerning your child are validated and you have the self-satisfaction in your heart that you were right all along and that your kid really is head and shoulders above his or her peers.

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Teaching life lessons through sports is a priority.

All is not lost.  God may be using poor judgment by your child’s authority to prepare him for something later on in life.  In all likelihood, the teacher who chose someone else over your child will not be the last authority to make a mistake in your child’s life.  He may have a boss who will one day make a poor decision.  He may be passed over for a well-deserved promotion for someone less qualified.  She may be incorrectly disciplined for something that she really didn’t do by a supervisor.  As long as God gives authority to human beings, human error will be involved as authority leads.  Mistakes will be made and judgment will be flawed.  It’s a part of life.  Our kids are going to have to learn how to deal with it.

As parents, we have more confidence in our children than anyone else in the world.  It should be that way.  Sometimes, our estimation of our own children’s gifts, abilities, talents, etc., is flawed by our love for our own.  It’s not easy to admit that our kid isn’t the brightest student in the class or the most gifted athlete on the team.  Sometimes, the Lord can use the brutal honesty of a pastor, teacher, principal or coach to temper our lofty opinions of our child.

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God has blessed my wife and I to have five children, pictured here with their spouses, our grandchildren, and my mom.

My wife and I raised five children.  There were many times when we had to bite our lips.  There were times when we had to shake our heads in wonder as we watched other people, whom we had chosen, make decisions with which we strongly disagreed.  I’m sure we made mistakes, but we sincerely tried to let those leaders lead.  Although our children have never been perfect, I believe they are better adults because we tried to refrain from doing what Salome did for her boys.  I’m not saying that it was always easy, but I am saying that it was the right thing to do.

Rick Finley

The Hope of Our Youth

This post was originally written and appeared two years ago but my mind was brought back to it as once again we find ourselves in the midst of a summer filled with youth camps, conferences, and other activities focused on providing spiritual training geared specifically to our young people.  This week we have 250 teens gathered at a camp, surrounded by mountains and free of technological distractions as we attempt to spend time investing in their lives and reminding them of God’s love for them.

Growing up in 2017 is filled with challenges that many of us adults will never fully understand.  Times are different.  Society operates differently for the youth of today.  Now, more than ever, we need to emphasize Biblical principles and training in the hearts of our youth.  They will lead our churches and our families in the near future.

Here are the thoughts I shared back then that are still relevant today…

 

The summer of 2015 will be remembered as one of the most traumatic in history for those who believe and attempt to practice Bible principles in daily living.  It seemed that every Sunday I was trying to use the Word of God to encourage people who had been shaken by news and media stories featuring Bruce Jenner, the Supreme Court and Planned Parenthood.  To say that the news was unsettling would be an understatement.

There were other stories that never made the headlines, so most believers wouldn’t have heard them.  In spite of the unnerving news that monopolized the 6:00 evening hour and blew up social media, I got wind of story after story that brought great encouragement to my heart and hope for the future.  It seemed that every day I heard or read about some church having hundreds of children attend a Vacation Bible School or a Backyard Bible Club.  I read about churches holding youth conferences or youth revivals with many coming to know Christ or drawing closer to the Saviour.  I read about young men yielding their lives to God at Friday night youth rallies.  I saw videos of services from various teen camps across the nation.  I read Tweets from preachers who were preaching in these meetings and seeing God fan the flames of revival amongst young people who will, in the not too distant future, make up the next generation.  Personally, I was privileged to preach in a few of those camps or rallies, and I too saw the Holy Ghost at work.

11896264_10207508690220606_5195547876947802653_oNo, the churches that hosted these meetings did not all think alike.  They didn’t all run in the same “circles” nor have the exact same worship styles.  They might not all agree on specific standards of dress.  Their preferences might not line up with mine, nor mine with theirs.  However, they all agreed on one thing.  They all agreed that, by investing in our youth, we could make a difference in our future.  They agreed that our kids are worth it.  They agreed that sleeping in rickety bunks at camp, or breaking down on bus trips, or waiting in line to get a shower in a motel room crammed with five teenage guys was a small price to pay for the chance to impact a young life.

1045067_510917728961428_1197708930_nWhat about the kids?  Their hearts were open to the Word and Spirit of God.  They weren’t overly concerned with whether it was Bruce or Kaitlyn Jenner.  They didn’t really care who in fundamentalism was mad at who or who was left off the platform at some major conference, nor why.  They hadn’t read the latest blog post attacking a man who was doing his best to propagate the gospel, even if he did it a little differently than the author.   They hadn’t figured out yet that some folks believe that growing up in a church that considers itself to be fundamental could damage their psyche or cause them to rebel.

They were just kids who hoped that their world could be a better place, and hoped maybe they could have a part in making it so.  Their hearts were tender and open.  They had not yet made up their minds about a lot of things.  They believed the Word of God as it was preached and were willing to yield themselves to its truths.

11713732_10207128962847659_4149576141248908438_oI don’t know what the future holds for America, my community or my church, but I am greatly encouraged by much of what I see and hear.  There is a generation of young people coming behind us who have a heart for God.  There are teenagers and junior boys and girls who still have child-like faith that their God can do big things!  Their hope has not been diminished like the hope of so many of their elders.

As we prepare our children for their annual return to the classrooms across our land, let’s be careful that we don’t throw water on the fires that have been lit in their hearts this summer.  Let’s help them grow their faith.  Let’s encourage them to pursue their God-given visions.  Let’s pray that if He won’t turn our nation around in our lifetimes, maybe He will in theirs.

Rick Finley

A Blessing of Summertime

This post originally appeared on July 11, 2011.  Each summer finds us facing the same situations: college students coming home, young people attending camps and conferences, families enjoying vacation time and many others things that bring a change to our routine.  Here are some thoughts I have shared before but bear repeating.

968908_618920774794941_779608258_n(1)If you’ve been around me much at all you know that Summer isn’t my favorite season of the year.  I love Spring and Fall, and I tolerate Summer.  It’s not that I hate the hot weather and the high humidity.  It’s not that I don’t like the longer days.  It’s not that I abhor the “critters” that creep and crawl at this particular time of the year.  (Yes, I did kill a Copperhead in my driveway last week).  The thing that I don’t like about summer is the mindset that so many people have about their Christian service.  It’s like the months of June, July and August are one, big vacation from Christian responsibility! There isn’t a service during the summertime when we don’t have many of our folks out of town.  There is hardly a day during the summertime when our entire staff is at work.  It seems that every day someone is somewhere other than in the office.  I hate it!

However, there is one thing that I really like about Summer.  I love the fact that many of our college kids are at home.  As I sat on the platform last night and scanned the congregation, I saw more than a dozen young adults who will only be here for about another month.  In late August or early September they will return to college somewhere in America to pursue their dreams and follow the will of God.

I love it when our college “kids” are home!  God has given us some outstanding young men and women in our church, and many of those folks are somewhere else nine months out of the year.  During the summertime when they are at home, I love having them actively involved in church.  They have such a fervent spirit and for the most part, they’re pretty excited about life.  They are a blessing to their pastor.

I hope that you’ll enjoy the time that we have with our college kids.  Let them know that you’re glad they’re home.  Convey to them that you are proud of their accomplishments.  Pray that God will provide the much needed finances that will be necessary for them to return to school in the fall. Enjoy them while you can because in just a matter of weeks, they’ll be gone.

Rick Finley

 

What I Have Learned From MY MILLENNIALS

Unless you just landed on our planet last week, you’ve probably heard the term Millennial.  It’s a term used to describe those who were born between the early ’80’s and the early 2000’s which means that they are currently people between the ages of 17 and 37.

As a pastor, I’ve had scores of Millennials come through our church.  As parents, my wife and I have five children who are Millennials.  IMG_2308

I am by no means an expert, but I have learned much about this oftentimes misunderstood group of people.  Here are a few of my observations.

1.  They received more than I thought they did.

While watching these young adults pass through their teenage years I often wondered why they were not getting it.  One of my greatest frustrations as a parent was that I questioned the spiritual appetites of my own children.  Sure, they went through the motions of their Christianity, but from the outside looking in it appeared that they were very shallow.

What I have found, now that those teens have grown into adults, is that many of them were getting a lot more than I thought they were getting.  The Word of God was rooted deeper in their hearts than I thought it was.  Their convictions were developing.  The time they invested in ministry wasn’t just religious ritual; the Lord was actually fostering in their hearts a love for people that many of them still manifest today as adults.

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2.  I need them.

As a 57 year old baby boomer, I want to go on record as stating that I need the Millennials that are a part of my life.  My own children are a great blessing to me, both personally and in ministry.  The Millennials who are a part of our church family are vital members.  Too often, I’m afraid that those of us, who are a little older, are so prideful that we only see how much our Millennials need us, while totally ignoring how much we need them.

Millennials are leaving our churches at record numbers.  Sometimes there is nothing that we can do to prevent that, short of completely compromising what we believe to be true and right.  However, sometimes I’m afraid they are like the sheep that were driven away.  We can rant and rave about those compromising Millennials.  We can tell them, “Bless God, there are five exits out of this auditorium and you can use any one of them if you don’t like what I’m saying.”  Oftentimes they will do so.  When they do, I lose the opportunity to influence them.  I lose the opportunity to influence their children.  I lose their influence in the lives of others whom they could influence for Christ if they remained in our church.

3.  I can learn from them.

Say what you want to say, but I’m trying to learn all that I can from my Millennials.  They have new and fresh ideas.  They see things from a different perspective than I do, and their perspective is not always wrong.  A large portion of our staff is made up of Millennials.  I want to know what they think about things.  I value their input.  I honor their opinions.

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A couple of years ago we installed projectors and projection screens in our auditorium.  To be honest, one reason we did that was because it appeals to Millennials.  The younger guys on our staff are the ones who make this happen for us.  We live in a technology-driven age, and media is everywhere, whether we want to accept it or not.  We use PowerPoint to project our main sermon points.  We also project the words to our hymns and spiritual songs on the screens.

At first, it was a little different because “we ain’t never done it that way before.”  A couple of the older folks voiced some concern.  However, after a few weeks, guess who the people were who were most complimentary of the projection screens?  It was the older folks!  Many of them said that for the first time in years they could actually see the words to the songs and the Bible verses.

4.  I need not be offended nor threatened by their questions.

I was brought up in a different day and age.  I never questioned authority.  My parents, my pastor and my teachers told me what to do and how to do it.  To be quite honest, in many cases, they told me what I was to believe and my only responsibility was to believe it.

Culture has changed.  Millennials ask questions.  They want to know why we do things the way that we do them.  They are developing their own convictions rather than simply accepting those of others who came before them. (By the way, they oftentimes develop the same convictions but they are more secure in their positions because they know why they have them.)

When a Millennial asks me a question, I try and take note of his spirit.  How does he ask?  Does he ask in a disrespectful tone?  Does he ask with a smirk on his face, insinuating that the position of his elders is foolish?  Does he ask mockingly?  Obviously, there are those who have this spirit.  Yet, I have found that many Millennials are sincere and genuine.  They simply want to know why.  If I am offended by those sincere questions that is a greater indictment on me than it is the one who is asking the question.

5.  They need me.

I don’t say that pridefully or boastfully.  More than sixteen years ago, Dr. Jack Hyles went to Heaven.  Nineteen months ago, my Daddy transitioned from this earthly life to his eternal home in Glory.  A little over a year ago, I performed the funeral for my childhood pastor, Bro. Lonnie Graves.  Those three men impacted my life more than all of the other men in my life put together.  Since they’ve been gone, I have been made to realize how important they were to me.  If there were times when I ever tolerated them, shame on me!

In much the same way, my Millennials need me. Even when they don’t realize it, they need me.  There are times when I have to sit quietly in the shadows, waiting until they realize they need me.  If they don’t ask, I try to stay out of their business.  However, I need to be there if and when they realize how much they need me.

6. I must know when to say no.

I listen to my Millennials.  I receive their ideas.  I consider their questions and try to answer them.  I oftentimes implement their ideas, even if they are different than what I’m used to.  However, at the end of the day, I have to know when to simply say, “No.”  There ought to be some things that are non-negotiable, and with a right spirit, when those lines are about to be crossed, I must with a right spirit say no.

I won’t use any specific illustrations here, but there have been many times when my Millennials have presented an idea that was a little bit outside my box.  Maybe it was something that was contrary to our traditions in our home or in our church.  There have been times when I have acquiesced.  There have been other times when they have presented ideas that were way outside my box!  At those times, I have simply said, with a smile on my face, “No, we can’t do that.”

IMG_3880These are very challenging times.  They are times that demand that those who name the name of Christ stand unified, working together to further His cause.  I am growing a bit weary of those Millennials who, with tongue in cheek, speak of the Old Paths crowd being mired up in the ’60’s and totally out of touch with society today.  I am likewise growing weary of older Christians who paint with a very broad brush when condemning any younger preacher whose ideas or methods are a bit different than ours.

In closing, I want to thank my Millennials. You have enriched my life immensely.  Your inquisition has kept me on my toes.  Your passion has provoked me.  Your vision has challenged me. I hope that we will always realize just how much we need each other and how much this dying world needs all of us.

Rick Finley

Proud or Fulfilled?

The past week has been an amazing time of unusual blessing upon our church family.  Just over a week ago, we celebrated our Lord’s resurrection with a powerful program presented by our Music Department here at Fellowship Baptist Church.    The crowds were large, the spirit was wonderful and the services were such a blessing.  The Lord met with us and for that, we are most thankful.  Just a few days ago, we held the first service of our annual youth conference.  To try and describe what God did during those twenty-seven hours would be pointless.  He met with us. People were helped.

As I enjoyed these special days in the life of our church, and reveled in the blessing of God, my first thought was, “I’m so proud of our church.”  (Before you condemn me for the sin of pride, allow me to replace it with the word grateful.) Our musicians and singers were at their best.   They had diligently prepared and their presentation was superb.  Our media guys were on top of their game.  The videos, paired with the music, were extremely powerful.   The spirit was excellent.  There was nothing about these special services that disappointed me or caused me even a shade of embarrassment.  Oh yes, there have been times over the past 29 years when something would happen in a special service, when I would turn a shade or two of red.  Maybe someone would fail to do their job, or maybe a microphone would choose the most inopportune time to quit working.  (If you’ve been in church long at all you know exactly what I’m talking about.) That didn’t happen last week.  Not even once.

Today, as I think about these special services, I realize that I’m not just proud;   I am fulfilled because I had a part in what the Lord did in these services.  As I looked at the faces of our choir members I was thankful for how the Lord had used me in some of their lives.  Some I had led to Christ.  Others I had been privileged to counsel through some of the darkest moments of their lives.  Some of our choir members were in our youth group when I was a youth pastor.  A few of them I had dedicated to God as little babies.  Some who had a part in the service were there because the Lord had given me the wisdom to place them in positions of leadership.  As I looked across the auditorium at youth conference I saw fruit from our church’s labor over the years.  As I listened to our teens sing, I remembered when most of them were born and I held them for the first time.

As I looked at the crowd for these special events, I was thankful that I had personally spent time trying to get people to join us.  I had invited people to attend.  My wife and I had knocked doors to pass out fliers, telling folks about the services.   As I sensed the Spirit of God moving in our midst, I was so grateful that I had spent time in prayer for that particular hour.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t just a spectator, watching what God was doing, but I was a participant, striving together with the Lord!

Before you accuse me of being prideful again, let me say that I am well aware that it’s God that gives the increase and that without Him, we can do nothing.  I am also aware that Almighty God has chosen to use people in His work.  I am reminded that He invites us to come unto Him and to enter into His yoke.  It is He who counts us faithful and puts us into His ministry.

I am grateful for those who enjoyed these special services at Fellowship Baptist as “proud” members of our church.  I am especially happy for those who were fulfilled, as they witnessed God taking their feeble efforts and doing something mighty with them.  There is vast difference.  Those who watch the Lord work are happy. Those who help the Lord in His work are joyful.  There is nothing like partnering with Christ to impact the lives of others.   For those in our church who are proud of your church, I believe you have reason to be.  For those of you who are fulfilled, I am most happy for you.  May God give us all a greater desire to serve with Him on a daily basis.

Rick Finley

Hold It As Close As You Can

It always happens at the most inopportune times.  It’s Monday morning and I’ve got a ton of work to do as I face a shorter than normal week due to our church’s couples’ retreat.  My wife and I are trying to leave the house a bit early in order to get a good start.  Normally, I would have two other vehicles in the driveway but they had both been borrowed by two of our sons.  I go out to start the car so that my wife’s seat can heat up and you guessed it.  The car won’t start!

Immediately I called my brother to see if we could catch a ride into church with him, only to find out that he’s already made the thirty minute commute into town.  Now I’m considering my options.  Do I take him up on his offer to drive back home to get us?  There is my other truck, which I seldom drive, underneath the car cover in the garage.  It’s there because I’m trying to keep the mileage down and it hasn’t been driven since it was last washed and wax.  What’s the weather you might ask?  It’s going to rain.

I told Bro. Ken that I’d just get the truck out and drive it, as much as I hated the thought.  As we were about to hang up on our call, he made a statement that captured my attention.  “Someone told me that if you hold the key as close as you can to the switch, the car will start.”  It sounded like a long shot to me, but I figured it was worth a try.

The reason my car wouldn’t start was not a mystery.  The battery in the key fob was dead.  How did I know that, you might ask.  The instrument panel had been telling me for days that I needed to get a new battery, but I had not made time to get it done.  I had ignored warning after warning, and now, at the one of the worst possible times, my car’s computer system’s prophecy had been fulfilled.  Reluctantly, I went back out to the car, held the key as close to the switch as possible, and pressed the switch button.  The car started!  As my wife and I drove into town I contemplated my dilemma and its solution.

There are times in our spiritual lives when we can become extremely weak.  Life comes at us at a frantic pace and we just keep going; trying to survive.  We ignore all the warnings.  People tell us, “Don’t get so busy serving the Lord that you don’t spend time with Him in worship.”  Scripture warns us about the danger of fighting spiritual battles in the power of the flesh.  We’ve all heard sermons about comparing ourselves with others and falling victim to spiritual peer pressure.  Yet, we just keep on driving as if the warning is meaningless and simply doesn’t apply to us.

Just like Monday morning, when we least expect it and can least afford it, it happens.  We are out of power.  We can’t get started.  All our wonderful plans become meaningless.  Thankfully, God has placed people in our lives that have gone through the same type of experiences.  Oftentimes, it’s a casual bit of advice that can make all the difference during these crucial times.

If you find yourself running low on spiritual energy, get as close as you possibly can to the source of your strength.  Resist the temptation to find another temporary fix.  James tells us in the epistle that bears his name, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…”  When I got to town that morning someone went and purchased a new battery for the key fob.  Hopefully it will be a long time before I have that problem again.  However, in the midst of my dilemma, I’m thankful that someone told me to simply hold that key as close as I can to the switch.  In much the same way, there have been many times in my life when I found the power to get things started by simply drawing nigh to my Savior.

Rick Finley