|June 15, 2011|
|The Ultimate Father|
As we prepare for Father’ Day 2011, we give praise and glory to Almighty GOD as THE ULTIMATE FATHER OF THE UNIVERSE. The genealogy of JESUS, THE CHRIST in (Matt. 1) and (Lk. 3) teaches us that there is hope for the future, and the future of all our families. We all have our shortcomings and issues, and we have family members with the same. Yet ALMIGHTY GOD, our Father, can and will intervene. Although this is a Father’s Day message, today we will address all members of the family.
What state is your family in right now? Men, are you being the spiritual leader in your family that GOD has called you to be? GOD has called you to be a leader to your wife, to love her as CHRIST loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). He has called you (Earthly Father) to be a representative of Himself to your children, a model for them to look to.
A wife is to love her husband (Titus 2:4) and respect him (Eph. 5:33). When was the last time you told your husband that you loved him? He needs encouragement too. He needs to be affirmed. He needs to know that you appreciate him. Show how special he is in your life.
Parents, are you setting an example for your children to follow? It is so tragic when we see the bad behavior that Mothers and Fathers practice, being simulated by their children—and even by their grandchildren. But GOD, our FATHER can and will intervene and change things.
No matter where we are in life, we need to be faithful to our HEAVENLY FATHER. And if you have made a mess of things, the good news is; that JESUS, our FATHER’S only Begotten Son, can and will clean up messes. He can untangle things. He can sort out things. If you will commit your life to Him, He will forgive and transform you, no matter what you’ve done up to this point. But by all means go to our HEAVENLY FATHER through His Son JESUS, THE CHRIST.
To all Dads, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, and to all, may ALMIGHTY GOD, bless and keep you forever. PASTOR I. L. WILLIAMS
APRIL 6, 2011
Honoring "The Religions Other"
Have you ever wondered about folks whose religious faith is different from yours? It’s really OK to do that. Even if you don’t find yourself within a community of faith, it’s really important to think about this question. Every religious community teaches that it holds the key to God’s Truth. Indeed, there would be no religious traditions without such commitment, belief, and faith. Would there?
Our world shrinks daily. As a result of that shrinkage every one of us comes into some contact with religious faith every bit as strong as our own – on the internet, cable, newspapers, radio, or in our work settings or leisure interactions. One must live in a hermetically sealed environment these days to escape contact with religious faith different in origin, expression, and tradition from one’s own.
In my own tradition of Christianity … Judeo-Christianity to be more precise … both Jewish scriptures and Jesus Christ himself show hospitality to the religious other. While we may debate the meaning of this hospitality to the religious stranger, and certainly history is filled with such debates and conflicts, the response of hosopitality arises from the broadly shared understanding that God has created everyone and everything and pronounced that creation "good," thus providing an initial foundation for relationship and regard.
One of the creeds of my Christian faith proclaims, among many other rich theological affirmations, that "we live in God’s world" and that "we are not alone." There are others, as Jesus proclaimed, "not of my fold." What a marvelous invitation to honor, protect, and pray for those with whom and from whom we may differ, differ even profoundly.
Indeed, ours is a world of many distinct and separate faith communities. In such a world hospitality toward the "religious other" is not a one-way back-street but a broad community commons! We are NOT alone!
This affirmation does not imply that there are not significant and dividing differences between faith traditions. Certainly there are. Part of every tradition involves elements of seemingly absolute exclusivity that cannot and should not be glossed over or denied for the sake of superficial harmony or feigned "unity."
On the other hand, when I as a Christian, believing that Jesus Christ opens the door to eternal life and salvation to all who come to him, extend my hand and enter into conversation with a person of non-Christian belief and practice, I do so with the certain faith that God has created both of us and that we are both God’s children.
We see this perspective on living peaceably together globally in the proposed constitutional provisions in Egypt today where Islamic leaders seek to include protective provisions that will ensure the right of full participation of minority Christians, notably Coptic Christians, in Egypt’s emerging democracy. This is a sign of hope in the midst of conflict.
Nevertheless, the forces of religious bigotry seem alive today. Just look toward Gainesville. Still, even in that setting positive hope arises for the mutual recognition of God’s activity in banishing hate and crafting a hate-free inter-religious haven. As I write, the Gainesville Inter-faith Forum brings together persons of broadly different faith traditions that in other global settings seem to be irreconcilably divided and mutually hostile.
Here in Suwannee County, authentic respect for the religious other often takes practical form in the thousands of daily interactions, friendships, and mutual concerns shared between persons of differing Christian traditions, communities, and denominations.
In the shrinking world of the 21st Century, religious differences will become increasingly evident in the global marketplace of ideas and cultures. Assuredly, Suwannee County will see increasing diversity of religious faith. Both our faith experiences and the theological perspectives arising from them can validate the risk of openness to the religious other. I count it a sign of God’s unlimited grace to be open and respectful of all in God’s creation.
Such respect, mutually confirmed, does not violate but indeed validates our deepest religious. I hold to that very possibility. It’s a thought, I believe – reflective, inquisitive, curious, sustained, critical and expansive, and faithful to my Christian tradition – a thought that merits serious and sustained consideration.
What do you think?
William M. Finnin, Jr., Th. D.
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of
February 9, 2011
Perspectives on a Revolution ... with Accompanying Memories
William M. Finnin, Jr., Th. D.
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of
During most of my life and certainly before, revolutions have most often highlighted humankind’s
most violent emotional states and behaviors to express them -- hate, retribution, revenge, and a quest
to acquire political power. With few exceptions violence has accompanied a people’s yearning for an
end of various forms of oppressive social order and the initiation of systemic change.
During the past two weeks the world witnessed an epic alternative to the clarion call for bloodshed and "the gun"
as a relatively peaceful revolution has emerged in Egypt. Some would liken the massive protests in Cairo
and Alexandria and Suez today to the peaceful revolution in the Philippines in 1986 which brought Corazon Aquino
democracy movement in that Pacific nation. While the outcomes are
yet uncertain, the aspirations for participatory change in Egypt are clearly evident.
My interest in Egypt’s recent political history galvanized during the Camp David negotiations President Carter
hosted between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Began: could Jews and
Palestinian Muslims and Christians live together on hotly contested real estate? Those days at Camp David led to an uneasy
but durable treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel. That treaty didn’t sit well with members of an emerging extremist group
in Sadat’s own military. The Egyptian-Israeli Accord led to Sadat’s assassination and the rise of Hosni Mubarak.
Population pressure, intra- and inter-religious tensions, advancing poverty, increasingly strident but politically fragmented
Islamic movements and a faltering economy leveraged with billions of US foreign aid directed to "security," has left Egypt
a powerkeg of pandemic discontent. When dictators declare themselves "Presidents for Life," red flags arise across the horizon.
As the events of the past week have shown, masses of Egyptians -- professionals, laborers, skilled workers, students, young and old,
Muslims and Coptic Christian -- have linked arms and stood tall for democratic change in recent days. Their voices have been strident,
but their behaviors non-violent. Animated and energetic to be certain, their shouts for President Mubarak’s departure
have been of one accord AND without violence.
Images of the Civil Rights Movement across the South in our own nation during the 1960s come to mind. But there are significant differences.
As the world watched pro-government "thugs" attempt to provoke violent responses from non-violent Egyptian protestors, the Egyptian military
adopted a "wait and see" stance, lately creating barriers and safe areas so peaceful protests might continue. Our own "freedom riders"
marchers in Selma and Birmingham, Jackson and Oxford initially had no such mediating institutions of law and order to guard their lives.
Citizen marchers were regularly beaten, burned, and shot in the exercise of peaceful protest to affect often-feared but needed change.
My heart goes out to those women and men of courage, young and old, who have risked lives, jobs, and family security
to seek democratic change in Egypt today. My prayers ascend to God on behalf of all God’s children. These are prayers of hope
that their energies will yield healthy institutions of democracy and bring the promise of constructive social change that guarantee the exercise of
freedom, ... and that the collegiality between Muslims and Christians, united in the common cause of freedom from dictatorial oppression
and control, will emerge as yet a new norm for Middle East futures.
William M. Finnin, Jr., Th. D. -Senior Minister
The First United Methodist Church of Live Oak
MAY 18, 2011
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
Johnny Rivers’ version of Where Have All The Flowers Gone reached
the top 40 in 1965, during the Viet Nam war era. As a kid it was one of my favorites, but I didn’t know that it was an anti-war song written by Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson.
Here are some of the words:
...Where have all the husbands gone? Gone for soldiers everyone. Oh, when will they ever learn?... Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing? ...... Gone to graveyards, everyone. Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn? The message: war will eventually kill our young men, husbands and fathers and therefore have a destructive effect on society.
I was thinking about this song recently and it reminded me of a
message I preached where I asked, "Where Have All The Preachers
The point is that the future of our society requires young men,
husbands, and fathers, and the future of the church depends on
preachers–but not just full time preachers. The success of Christianity
requires that regular, ordinary, every day Christians understand that they too are preachers of the gospel.
Obviously there are those who are called to be in the full time
ministry as put forth in Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some evangelists and teachers. But v. 12 gives the purpose of the "full time" preacher, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." His job is to prepare, equip, and train the saint (Christian) to do the work of the ministry. That means that the person in the pew is just as called to preach to, pray for, minister to, and visit those who are in need of the good news.
A man visited the village of some very famous leaders. He asked one of the elders of the town, "How many leaders were born here?" The old man replied, "No leaders were born here, only babies."
When you are born again you qualify to become a minister of the
gospel, but it is up to you whether you will take on this awesome
responsibility and how effective you become.
March 9, 2011
"Storms in Parenting"
During my years of ministry as a student pastor, I routinely scoured the media for illustrations and information related to teenagers. I had journals and periodicals devoted to assisting those in my position. One of the concerns often expressed by parents was, "How do I help my teenager deal with the cultural influences in his life?" I came to learn what they were really asking was, "Can you fix this thing living in my house called a teenager?"
Complicating the role of parenting teenagers are the images of teens & parents in pop culture. A recent article detailed an adolescent TV star-turned-musician who was now venturing out on her own. The only problem was that her parents (at least her dad) appeared none too pleased by her decisions. He expressed disgust towards her publicist and handlers of going too far in attempting to promote her image while wanting him to be the fall guy.
What I found interesting was this dad’s ease of placing blame on others for his daughter’s actions. His admittance to being lax (I presume in discipline) was overshadowed by his accusations towards others for his daughter’s actions.
The reality is that parenting is hard work. While parents can navigate the waters of infancy and childhood with some ease, the storms of adolescence can be overwhelming. One of my seminary professors called it the "valley of the shadow of adolescence."
With the unending waves buffeting a teen’s life and seeking to swallow their allegiance, what is a parent to do? Parents have fallen prey to the motto "they don’t matter in a teen’s life", while the truth is that God has given parents the most influence in a teenager’s life. Parents who seek to navigate their son or daughter through these rough waters must understand those waters, know the desired result, model, and pray. Understanding communicates to your student that you realize they are facing a battle, and that you care about them. Looking ahead gives you a plan to guide them in growth. Every good leader is constantly looking ahead for the best route for his organization. Parents cannot afford to "fly by the seat of their pants" in guiding teens. The next two may be the most important. Parents must model the life they desire of their student. Ask yourself, "As she watches me, what does she see?" Believe it or not, she does model much of what she sees in your life. Lastly, as you live each day, prayer is essential. You won’t understand teenagers, where they need to go, or your life as a parent without direction from the Heavenly Father. The effective parent will be the one guided daily in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
These don’t equate to storm-free parenting. But they are buoys to buffer you in a blame-tossed sea called parenting teens. You can do it-God has equipped you and your teenager believes in you!