F.M. Riley (28 May 2017)
"Faith in Christ and Christian Maturity"

My Road to
Faith in Christ and
Christian Maturity
Part Two
                                                                                         By Pastor F. M. Riley
                                                                                         May 24, 2017
     "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake,"  Philippians 1:29.
     I began writing this article as my personal testimony of salvation and my walk with the Lord.  I brought Part 1 of this article to a close with an account of the Power of Almighty God as demonstrated in the tornado that struck my little home town when I was thirteen years old.
      In this second part of my testimony, my purpose is to share with our readers a little of what the Lord has done with my life, since that tornado struck my home town when I was thirteen years old.....
My Call to the Lord's Ministry
     Four years after the tornado, at the age of seventeen, I left home to go into public work, and earn my own living.  I was employed by the Santa Fe railroad as a telegrapher and relief agent.  I  moved about from place to place.  Being all alone for the first time in my life, and having to make every decision and manage for myself, was quite a learning experience for a young man of seventeen.   However, the Lord graciously looked after me, and directed my life.  
     In moving about,  I spent some time in Amarillo, Texas, the "big city" in the Panhandle of Texas.  My older sister had moved there and taken a job, after graduating from high school and leaving home.  She was attending a church there in Amarillo, and I started attending church with her.  Attending services at that church literally changed my life.  I look back today, and can see how the hand of God was directing in everything.  
     Our church was the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, at that time located just a half block off of Northeast Eighth Street in Amarillo. The  pastor back then [1951] was Roy B. Flippo.  From the first time I attended services there, I knew that church was different than any church I had ever previously attended.  That church was truly concerned with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, with the building up of the faith of God's people, and with the salvation of the lost, and it showed in every service!  I began attending the services regularly, and soon joined the church.  And my whole spiritual life deepened under the preaching of Pastor Flippo.
     NE Eighth street in Amarillo, back in those days, was where all the bars, honky tonks, dance halls, and houses of prostitution were located.  Our church sanctuary set just a half block off of NE eighth.  Due to our location, quite often some drunk would come staggering into our church from off the street, thinking they were entering another bar.  
     This was the case one Sunday night, when our pastor had just preached a powerful message about the believers devotion and service to the Lord.  Just as our pastor was about to conclude his message a  drunk came staggering through the door of the church.  Suddenly realizing that he was in a church, rather than in a bar, that drunk went forward to the old fashioned mourner's bench at the front of the church, fell upon his knees, and begin to cry out to God for forgiveness, confessing his sin to God and begging for God's mercy upon his soul.  I hadn't the slightest idea who that drunk was, but it was obvious that he knew that God was real, and that he needed the Lord's salvation.  
      The effect that incident had on me was also real and profound.  As I watched that drunk make his way to the mourner's bench, and cry out to God for mercy,  the Lord spoke to my heart loud and clear.  Right there, right then, the Holy Spirit of our living God convicted me, that I was to spend the rest of my life helping people like that drunk, and others, come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It seemed like, in an almost audible voice, the Lord was calling me into His ministry.  
My Immediate Response
     I was absolutely overwhelmed with the call of the Lord upon my life.   I loved listening to the messages preached by Pastor Flippo,  but becoming a preacher of the word myself, was definitely not in my plans for my life.  I was just an average modern day "Christian" [?] at that time, and wanted to stay that way.  I had a good job, making good money, and had no desire to give it up.  I smoked, I drank on occasion, and sometimes went to bars and dance halls where I knew Christian people should not be going.  My intention for my life was to make a lot of money, buy a fine home, someday get married and have a family, and live to a ripe old age in comfort.  None of my plans included becoming a preacher.  
       Even though I had been saved when I was 11 years of age, I knew very little about God's Word, for I never bothered to study it.  For instance, I had never read Romans 11:29, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."  This Scripture says what it means, and means what it says!  If the Lord God has truly called a man into His ministry, that man will preach God's Word, or will die in his rebellion, 1 John 5:16.  God will never repent of His call.  Never!
Struggling Against God's Call  
     When I left church that night, I stopped attending church for over a year.  I somehow associated church attendance with the Lord's calling, and I didn't want that inward feeling of conviction to come upon me again, so I just stopped attending church.  Instead, I went in the other direction.  But my plan didn't work!  No one can ever run away from God, and escape from the convicting power of His Holy Spirit.    
     I am deeply ashamed of the sins I engaged in over the next two years as I was running from the Lord, and fighting God's call to preach.  But in my carnal human mind, I reasoned that if I sinned deeply enough, the Lord would be ashamed of me, and wouldn't want me to be one of His preachers.  How very ignorant I was of the ways of God!    
     Dear readers, never forget that the purpose of the Lord's death at Calvary was to save sinners; not good people, SINNERS!  God loves people in spite of their sin, not because of it, for God hates sin!  All of these years later, I am ashamed to tell my readers that even when I was so drunk that I could hardly stand, the Holy Spirit of God, in His still small voice, would say to me, "You don't belong here!  This is not the Lord's calling for your life."  
     I continued to sin and run from the Lord, yet a little over a year later, I made the decision to start attending church services again.  Folks,  even while I was running from God, sinning,  and fighting God's call to the ministry, I was inwardly starving for spiritual truth.  I was a true believer, and I realized that I needed spiritual food for my soul.   I had  always been spiritually "fed," when  hearing the messages preached by Pastor Flippo.  So I started back to attending church again.  
     As soon as I started back to church, the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit reminded me that the Lord wanted my life as a preacher of His Word.  Nevertheless,  I did what I could to shrug off the conviction, and kept going to church, for I sure had a hunger in my soul for the  Word of God.  
Marriage and a Home
     Shortly after starting back to church, the Lord heard and answered one of my earnest prayers.   I had been alone since I left home at seventeen, and I had become so lonely that I could hardly stand facing each day alone.  I wanted someone to share my life.  But not just anyone would do.  I wanted a woman who would truly love me, and whom I could truly love, and the two of us could have a good life together.  So I prayed earnestly for the Lord to bring such a woman into my life.       
      While running from the Lord's call to His ministry, I had dated a few girls from time to time, but  nothing serious ever came of it.  In my loneliness, I cried out to God in prayer to bring "the right person" into my life, to be my wife and my life's companion.  In spite of the fact that I was in rebellion to God's calling, the Lord heard and answered my prayer.  Very shortly, I met a lovely Christian girl, who I knew immediately was God's answer to my prayers.  Within only a few days of seeing each other, I ask her to marry me, and she consented.  We were married just a few days later.  My pastor, Brother Flippo, performed our marriage ceremony.  By that time it was 1953, and I had become 19 years of age.  My bride was only 16.  Nevertheless, our marriage "worked."  We  spent the next 28 years together, and the Lord blessed our marriage with three lovely daughters.  But the call of God for my life was still there!  
My Surrender to the Lord's Ministry    
     I mentioned my marriage for a specific reason.  My new wife did not know that I was fighting God's call to preach, for I hadn't mentioned it to her, or to anyone else.   We attended church services together, and she too began growing in the Lord.  Right after we were married, we began studying God's Word together, and having prayer in our home.  I wanted our home to be built upon the sure foundation of Christ, even though I was still fighting God's call to the ministry, Psalm 127:1.  
     Several months after we had married, one Sunday night in church service, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit again came upon me to surrender my life to the Lord's ministry, this time so strongly, that I could hardly stand it. When our pastor gave the invitation that night, I stood beside my wife, and shook all over and wept like a baby.  Of course, she didn't know what was bothering me, and was quite concerned about me.  That night, standing by my precious wife, I told the Lord once again that I had no intention of being a preacher.  Immediately, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to my heart, and told me that I would obey His will for my life, or there would be serious consequences.  
The Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart right there that night, that He had brought my precious wife into my life, in answer to my prayers,  and He could take her away.     
     Folks, you talk about the "fear of the Lord" coming upon a person!  I know what "the fear of the Lord" is, for I have experienced it a number of times in my life.  That next moment, I was almost running out of the church pew and up the church aisle, going forward to take our pastor by the hand, to tell him and the entire church, that I was surrendering my life to the Lord's ministry.  And as I spoke, every word out of my mouth, was coming from my heart and soul.  The Lord had won, and I was giving Him everything.  
     I have often told people over the years, that the Lord didn't get much that night, but He got all I knew how to give Him.  When I finally surrendered to the Lord's will for my life, I surrendered with all of my heart, mind, strength, soul, and spirit.  I held nothing back!  That night I surrendered my whole life and being to my Lord!  
     I do not recall the date,  for I never recorded it.  But the month was the month of May, and the year was 1954.  I was 20 years old.
     That was 63 years ago this present month.   Dear readers, I have never had any reason to regret my decision to surrender to the Lord's calling and will for my life.  After these now 63 years in the Lord's ministry, I would not swap positions in life with anyone.  Glory to God!  Being in the will of God is the most wonderful place any true believer can ever be.  
Spiritual Growth and Maturity
     The very next morning, I was up early and eager to go see my pastor.  I wanted to know what I was supposed to do next.  I knew He would give me good counsel.   And he did!
     Folks, it is to my shame, being brought up in a Christian home, and attending church services most of my life, that when I surrendered to preach, all I really knew about God's Word, was that the Bible contained an Old Testament and a New Testament.   I didn't have a clue about the great spiritual truths to be found in either testament, for I had never seriously studied the Word.  But, now that I had surrendered my life to the Lord  I was eager to get into His Word and learn all I could.  So I went to my pastor that morning, thinking that he would tell me where I should go to a Bible School to learn God's Word.  But he didn't!    
       Contrary to what many pastors advise today, my beloved old pastor counseled me not to rush off into some Bible School.  Rather, he counseled me to seriously study the word and pray, and wait for the leadership of the Lord, and that is what I did!  
     My beloved pastor had been in the Lord's ministry long enough, to know that most Bible Schools either have, or aquire, a Biblical "position," which they pass on to their students, drilling their position into the minds of the students that attend their school.  By "position," I mean Pre-millennial, Post-millennial, or Amillennial, or Arminian or Calvinist, and so forth.  Many of the Bible Schools today have also now taken a "position" for or against the teaching of Bible prophecy.  Can our readers even imagine a "Christian Bible School" that refuses to emphasize "the blessed hope" [Titus 2:11-15] of God's people?   
      A Bible School's "position" can be either good, or very bad, depending on the position the school adopts.  My beloved pastor wanted me to just study the Word and develop my Biblical position right from the Scriptures under the Lord's leadership.   That was my pastor's counsel to me, and that is what I did!  To this day I thank God for my pastor's good counsel.
My Biblical Education
     I stayed right there in our home church, studying with and under my pastor, and preaching here and there in churches around the Panhandle of Texas for some three years.  Then.....
     I made the decision that I wanted to go to a Bible School, and "round out" what I had learned just studying the Word for myself.  That was my plans, but it wasn't the Lord's plans for me.  At least three times over these past 63 years, I have tried to go to a Bible School, and have been unable to attend one right to this present day.  Something always interfered with my going to Bible School.  I finally came to the conviction that it simply was not the Lord's will for my life, and for the ministry into which He had called me.  
     So dear readers,  I have no D.D., no PhD, not even a Bachelor's degree, given to me by any man or school, for having completed their prescribed course of instruction.  
     Oh, but by the grace of God, I do have some degrees.  [Tongue in cheek!]  By the grace of God I have a B.A. degree.  In my life, this stands for "born again," and yes I am!   Again, by God's grace, I also have two PhD's.  
     The Lord has graciously showed me how to "Preach Heaven sweet, and Deliverance certain; PhD," for all who will place their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior, John 5:24.
     And He has also graciously  showed me how to "Preach Hell hot and Damnation certain; PhD," for all who refuse to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and reject Him as their Savior, John 3:18; Hebrews 2:3.
     I might add, that, throughout the Lord's ministry of now 63 years of my life yielded to Him, I have tried to live for and serve Him faithfully, in order to one day obtain my Master's Degree, when I shall be called to stand before Him and give an account of my stewardship, 1 Corinthians 4:2.  I would rather hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," coming from the lips of my Lord, as I stand before Him and give account of my stewardship,  than to have the applause of the whole world.  Yes Lord, grant to me your grace!
The Extent of the Lord's Ministry in my Life    
      Across these past 63 years, I have pastored churches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and New Mexico.  Every church I have pastored, with only one exception, wanted me to stay with them, when I chose to resign and move on.  Over the years I have seen hundreds come to a saving knowledge of Christ under the preaching of the Word given to me by the Lord.  In this same span of time, three young men surrendered their lives to the Lord's ministry.  
     I received the blessing of being able to preach God's Word over the radio for some thirty years.  I even had the blessing of leading the manager of a radio station in Missouri to the Lord.   As these memories come back to me, I continue to rejoice and praise the Lord for what He has done with my life.  What a gracious and wonderful God and Savior we believers serve!   Praise the Lord!
     For some 45 years, I published a monthly newsletter called The Last Call.  Through that newsletter ministry, I was able to send out thousands of pieces of gospel literature, Christian books, and Bibles, to people all over this country, and in other countries of the world.  I finally ceased publication of the newsletter in 2006, after the Lord took home to glory the precious lady and sister in Christ, to whom I was married at the time.  After she went home to Jesus, the newsletter ministry was just too big for me to handle alone, so I shut it down.  
     However,  I learned many years ago, that when the Lord God removes a blessing from the hands of His people, it is only so He can replace it with something even better.   It took a while, but the Lord did graciously replace my newsletter ministry with an even greater ministry.   
My Massive Heart Attack
     The date was October 9, 2008.  I awakened from a sound sleep in the morning, and instantly knew that something had happened to me during the night.  When I got out of bed, I could hardly stand on my feet, and immediately I began having throbbing pains in my chest.  I managed to get dresse, and although I had a perfectly good car,  I called a beloved sister in Christ, and ask her if she would come and take me to the emergency room at the hospital, for I didn't feel I could drive myself there safely.  In just a few minutes she arrived, helped me to get into her car, and drove me to the emergency room of the hospital in Columbia, Missouri, where I was living at the time.
     As I entered the emergency room I told the receptionist that I had either had a bad heart attack, or was still having one. Without any more said, she pushed a button on her desk and the ER doors flew wide open, and a whole crew of people rushed out, placed me on a gurney and rushed me inside to give me an electrocardiogram.  As soon as they looked at that machine a nurse rushed to give me a shot to put me to sleep.  I awakened a few hours later in a recovery room.  The doctors told me that I had received open heart surgery, with five bypasses installed in my heart.   
     My immediate reaction was to pray.  I thanked the Lord for sparing my life, but I also questioned the Lord.  What in the world was the Lord doing with my life?  Surely my ministry was over!  Then why hadn't the Lord just taken me on home to glory?  
On to a Greater Ministry
     I remained in the hospital, and in recovery for 28 days after my surgery.  Then I was released and taken home.  I was so weak that I could hardly stand, and I remained that way for a long time.  The first week I was home, I wondered from day to day if I would live to see the dawning of the next day.   But the Lord wasn't through with my life.  
     A dear brother in Christ told me about Collodial Silver.  I began taking it and I began regaining my strength.  To this day, I have never regained the strength I had before my massive heart attack, but I have regained enough strength to get around and to take care of myself.  
     A year or so before my heart attack, a dear brother in Christ in California had packed up a computer and shipped it to me.  I had never done much with it but send and receive emails, for I wasn't very electronic minded.  But after my heart attack with not being physically  able to do much, I turned to writing on my computer.   
     Folks, I had wrote and sent out my newsletter for 45 years, and over that time the Lord had blessed me with the skill of knowing how to write.  I prayed earnestly for the Lord's guidance and leadership, and begin to write out the messages from God's Word that I had once preached.  And I began sending the messages out to others of God's people and to Christian ministries on the Internet.  And my Bible Study ministry mushroomed from that simple beginning.  
     Since my heart attack, the Lord has graciously given me the greatest ministry I have ever experienced in all of my 63 years in the Lord's ministry.  I now have over 500 Bible Studies in print, which copies of them have been sent to God's people, and to lost seeking souls, all over  this country, and to many other countries all over the world.  My daily "work" is now my joy and blessing, and is about all I am physically able to do.  This may sound "crazy" to some readers, but I thank and praise the Lord for giving me that massive heart attack, resulting in the most wonderful ministry for my Lord and His people that I have could have ever imagined.  Souls have been saved!  God's people have been blessed!  I have had the joy and blessing of leading two entire families to leave Catholicism, and start attending Bible believing Christian churches.  
      Glory to His Name!  Praise the Lord!  Hallelujah!  Glory to God!  Thank you Lord Jesus!  
And now What is Next?
     Well, this time I think the ministry the Lord so graciously called me into, at least in this present evil world,  is about over.  For I do believe the Lord is soon to "appear" to resurrect and rapture His New Covenant believing people to glory, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; Titus 2:11-15; Colossians 2:20-21.  
     As a young man in the Lord's ministry, I studied the Word, and prayed earnestly that I might be permitted to still be alive when the rapture of God's people occurrs.  Okay, perhaps I am a wee bit selfish, but I have no desire to meet the angel of death, and I do desire to be one of God's people "which are alive and remain" when the Lord comes for us all, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.  I believe what Psalm 37:4 says, and I have "delighted myself in the Lord" ever since I surrendered my life to Him.  I cannot help but feel that the Lord has graciously granted my desire.  Praise His Holy Name!
      Folks, like many other serious Bible students today, I am looking for the Lord to come for His people on the Jewish Holy Day of Pentecost this very year.  As I write, that is just twelve more days from today.  No, I am not setting this as a dogmatic, absolutely certain, date, for the Lord's coming.   But I do "watch" the "signs of the times" exactly as the Lord told His people to do, and it sure looks to me like we are in the exact "time frame" of our Lord's coming.  
     If I, and many others of God's people, are wrong, no one will really have been harmed by the "date" we have chosen to believe.  But if we are right, and the Lord does come on Pentecost, June 4th, will YOU be ready?  Think about it!   If YOU are not ready when the Lord comes, YOU will be LEFT BEHIND to go into the most terrible time of trouble and Tribulation in the history of mankind.  And it is highly possible that you won't survive it!  Carefully STUDY Revelation 6 - 19.  
     The Lord God has graciously filled His Word with "the way" of salvation, because He does love people, and "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," 2 Peter 3:9.  If any reader of this article is not saved, or lacks assurance of salvation, won't you please read and believe these Scriptures and receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith as your own personal Saviour?  
     John 3:16, 3:18, 5:24, 14:6, Acts 4:12, 16:30-31, Romans 1:16, 10:8-13, Ephesians 2:8-10, and many other Scriptures in God's Word.
     Every reader has now read my own personal testimony of salvation in Christ, my surrender to the Lord's ministry, and my growth to spiritual maturity in Christ.  My prayer is that it has been a blessing to every reader.  Please meet me in Heaven when our Lord comes!  
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    Permission is granted to every reader to reproduce and share this article with others as the Lord may lead.  May God bless your efforts.
    I thank every person who has ever contributed to the ministry the Lord laid on my heart, in any way.  Thank you so much for helping make this ministry possible.  
     Please address all comments, questions, and correspondence to me at:  Pastor F. M. Riley, 14275 County Road 8120, Rolla, Missouri 65401. I am always glad to receive a phone call from any of my readers.  My phone number is still 573-201-0491.  
     God bless you all, until we meet in glory.   
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