Witness is more of the personal side of Bible Basics... Layers of Understanding.
Everything I have achieved;
God has given me.
Apart from God I can do nothing.
Witness is not about me!
(Purpose Driven Life)
It is not about what I have accomplished or achieved. Witness is about God! Witness is about how God’s love transforms us; dead to our old selves and born anew into a new creation through God’s Love, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness.
Witness is about a closer, personal relationship with God, growing in Christ; trying to be more Christ-like. Witness is about loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. Witness is about serving God by serving his people.
God is an awesome God.
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I hesitate to use the word “author” but I did write these pages. I come from a middle class family but I have a modest education. If it were not for “spell check” on the computer you would realize just how modest my education has been! Remember that I have not gone to church for over 40 years. I am not some kind of theological expert on the Bible, nor do I pretend to be; in fact I have not even read the entire Bible from cover to cover. 04/04/04 But I plan to read the entire Bible in just one year by using the daily Bible reading plan by Rick Warren:
But I am an expert on how God changed my life and have made me into a “New Creation” dead to my former self. This Palm Sunday, April 4, 2004 will be only my fourth anniversary of my Triumphant Entry into being baptized and becoming a member of
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church.
The purpose of this writing is not to endorse any particular church nor does any particular church endorse me. Of course I can highly recommend Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, which I am a member and Northgate United Methodist Church,
which I a regular visitor (associate member), but not everyone can live near and visit these two churches.
The purpose of this writing is to help encourage people who do not have a church home, or looking for a new church home to find one. If you already have a church home, you are blessed, but I encourage you to visit and explore other churches, especially of other denominations. If you belong to a big church; visit a small church. If you belong to a small church; visit a large church.
When I mention a minister/pastor etc. I am most often paraphrasing; not their exact words. One pastor’s beliefs may be minutely or fundamentally different from the others. Example: The Presbyterian and the Methodist Apostle’s Creed, The Lord’s Prayer are slightly different; but each included in these writings. Unfortunately, there is no way that I can repeat their words as effectively and with the power that they do. This book does not want to emphasize our differences, but to emphasize what we have in common; Jesus Christ.
I have no special training or education, but I come with an open heart. Much of these writing are of my personal walk with God, but as eloquently written by Rick Warren author (a real author) of The Purpose Driven Life says, “It’s not about you.” (“or me”) it’s all about God. I am really not so much the author, as just the delivery boy. These writings are not for my glory, but for the glory of God.
Grant to us such piety of heart and strength of purpose
that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will,
and no weakness from doing it.
Book of Worship
Moses and myself have two things in common:
1.) Moses stuttered and had a hard time speaking, and so do I.
2.) Moses spent forty years in the wilderness, and figuratively so have I. Forty years of not going to church.
I’m not sure why my parents never took me to church. When my father was young, his little sister was kidnapped, murdered, and her body was never found. My father blamed God for letting this tragedy to occur. Except for my father never going to church, he led his life better than most people who did go to church. He was a man who did much for others. My grandparents (mothers’ side) often took my cousins (grandparents were my cousins guardians) to church but they never took me.
(I do not blame anyone except for myself for not going to church.)
– You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
My only real regret in life is if I had gone to church, I would have been a better son to my parents, a better husband to my wife, a better father to my children, and would have been much happier with my life. When my daughters were young my wife tried to get me to go to church with them, but I never did. What a great opportunity I missed.
40 years goes by and I never went to church. Even our wedding was held at my mother-in-law’s house. I would give thanks and pray occasionally to God but I never went to church. I became very unhappy with my life and I had a bad, quick temper.
I would be seething with anger just because of being stopped in traffic with a red light. Family life and work were just filled with stress and strife. I despised myself and how I was hurting the ones I loved. I knew I couldn’t keep going on like this something had to give.
Coach Tom Landry
On February 12, 2000 Coach Tom Landry died. Coach Landry was a great man and it had nothing to do with football and super bowl rings. Coach Landry’s memorial was broadcast on television. Close friends and colleagues praised Coach Landry for his being a good Christian rather than for being an award winning football coach. I realized, Tom Landry’s happiness, peace, and faith were just what I was looking for and decided (I made the commitment) that night to go to church! Just two months after the death of Tom Landry on Palm Sunday I was baptized and became a member of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church.
Coach Tom Landry lived his life as a good Christian and in balance: God, family, country, work; his example was the turning point that prompted me to go to church.
I had heard that once Mrs. Landry was asked, “What is it like for her husband to have God first and herself second?” She replied, “HEAVENLY.”
Coach Tom Landry’s tombstone reads:
Well done, good and faithful servant.
Enter into the joy of the Lord.
I am sure that I am not the only one influenced by Tom Landry to seek out God. Coach Landry sowed many seeds of faith and many of these seeds are still producing fruit, years after his death.
First Day at Church
Since I had often listened to PHPC’s Worship Service on WRR radio and the church wasn’t very far away from my home, I easily chose to visit to PHPC.
My wife Jo went into shock when I wanted to go to church and she accompanied me to PHPC. I actually know whom I sat next to on my first visit to PHPC. Stewart and Betty Place. (Stewart Place died in 2001 and is interned in the columbarium here at PHPC.) They were more than just cordial and polite, they were sincere and a great comfort to an uncomfortable newcomer/outsider. Betty and Stewart were very influential on my returning to PHPC.
I cannot emphasize how important it is for members of a congregation to be “aware” of visitors visiting their church and to sincerely welcome them. Betty and Stewart made a real difference in my life and I will always be grateful.
On my first visit to PHPC I was really wondering if I really had to be there. Did I really have to go to church to be a good person/Christian? Of course Blair’s entire sermon was on the Body of Christ, Communion, love your neighbor, part of being a good Christian isn’t just acknowledging God, but proclaiming God to others, and service to God; what you do for others. You can’t do these living on an island by yourself. Praising the Lord needs to be done in community. It takes two or more people to be a holy church in God’s eyes. To say the least Blair shot down my idea that I could be a good Christian all by myself without going to church!
Being a good Christian is more than just believing.
It is in the doing that we can be good Christians.
You have to do more than just talk the talk on Sunday.
You have to walk the walk everyday.
A children’s’ book title says it well.Every Day and Sunday, too
By Gail Ramshaw and art by Judy Jarrett
I had originally planned to visit several churches just to check them out, but after a couple of visits I decided to join PHPC. I went to the required Inquirers class; part of the class involved putting scrambled books of the bible in order. I knew that there were an Old and a New Testament and that Genesis was the first book and Revelation was the last book but I didn’t have any ideas on all of the others.
I really enjoyed the sermons but I was biblically ignorant. I decided to take a Disciple One Class taught by Audrey Romasco, an exceptionally gifted teacher and person. Disciple One was a 34-week class! This seemed unimaginable to me but I signed up.
Taking the Disciple One Class is one the most spiritually significant things I have ever done in my life.
“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked
“How can I,” he said,
“unless someone explains it to me?”
Reading and understanding the Bible can be intimidating and difficult at first! “Do you understand what you are reading?” If you don’t understand what you are reading join a Bible Study Group, go to Sunday School, listen to the sermon, ask someone!
Do not be embarrassed to ask a question! Many long time members will readily admit to their shortcomings of knowing scripture. Going to church for years is not to make you look smart or to impress others with being able to rattle off scripture!
Another amazing thing is you can read the same scripture more than once and get a different significant meaning from it each time you read it! You can see yourself and your problems in the Bible just like a mirror! The Bible is timeless! Some people feel that the Bible is irrelevant to their life; they just haven’t looked deep enough.
God loves you just the way you are!
God loves you even as a sinner!
God is not content to leave you this way.
God is molding you into a new creation.
I believe that going to church and turning to God makes you a better person, a better son or daughter, a better husband or wife, a better parent. God seems to intensify and magnify many emotions. If you love your wife – you love her even more through God. No matter how much you love your children – you love them even more through Christ. In Christ you have more patience, respect, and compassion for all people.
Faith in Motion
My faith is in motion. It is not still or stagnant. I feel like my faith is gaining momentum. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always in motion. (Depression can sure slow you down!) My faith is strong enough to avoid most potholes in the road ahead. There are many street signs showing the way, posting the speed limits, and warning of dangers. Detours, dead ends, too many choices, and distractions try to get me lost. There are speed bumps and road hazards that slow my faith down. But not even tragedy can wreck and stop my faith! Even death will not slow me down, it will just be a new beginning.
· When Coach Tom Landry died in 2000 after watching his memorial service I felt compelled to go to church after 40 years of not going to church.
· On the first day of going to church I met Betty and Stewart Place. They cordially introduced themselves to my wife and I on our first visit to PHPC. Betty and Stewart’s warm welcome was very influential on my returning to church. *Stewart died in February 2001.
· I enrolled for DISCIPLE: Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study, a 34 week Bible Study taught by Audrey Romasco a gifted teacher and person. Taking the Bible study group class is one of the most significant things I have ever done in my life.
· Teresa and Gary White were also in my Disciple One Class. Gary had cancer and toward the end of our class he turned for the worst and had to go to Baylor Hospital. We all knew he had cancer but it still caught us by surprise. I remember wanting to rush to Baylor Hospital when I realized, that after almost a year I didn’t know Gary’s last name! *Gary died in April 2001.
· Mr. Clyde Shaw was a long time member of PHPC. Mr. Clyde always needed assistance because of failing health, in his wheel chair he had to be rolled into the Sanctuary on the west side toward the front of the sanctuary every Sunday. – All I know is he was there every time I went to church and I assume he was always there worshipping on the Sundays that I didn’t make it. It took great devotion and effort for Mr. Clyde to make it to church.
Mr. Clyde was an inspiration to me because as hard as it was for him to go to church, he was ever faithful. Much more faithful than myself, a well bodied person who often couldn’t make it because I was too sleepy. (Fortunately I would wake up in time to listen to the worship sermon on WRR 101.1 Radio live at 11:00 am.) After the sermon I would often shake his hand. I imagine that sometimes he must’ve wondered who the heck I was anyway!
· Mr. Clyde’s faithfulness has and ever will be a great inspiration to me. *Mr. Clyde died in April 2002.
* Interred at the Columbarium at PHPC
· Carolyn Moore was the same role model as Mr. Clyde Shaw. Elderly, needed assistance, a nurse from her nursing home facility helped her every Sunday. Such devotion! (Both of them, Mrs. Moore and the caregiver.) After she was not present for several Sundays I became concerned and was able to visit her on Palm Sunday 04/04/04. The visit was wonderful. I don’t know who enjoyed it most her or me!
· I had the honor of participating in Disciple One and Disciple Three Class taught by Audrey Romasco. The class would meet at her home for the Wednesday night classes for a couple of hours. We met at her house for 34 weeks for two years. Audrey was present when my wife and I were remarried at PHPC for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. At the end of the second year she and her husband moved to Philadelphia.
I repeat myself again, taking the Bible study group class is one of the most significant things I have ever done in my life.
What do all of these people have in common?
They were all Strangers! Acquaintances?
They are all people who have been very significant, of extreme importance, a great inspiration to me,
helping me to discover and to have a closer relationship to God.
They are all people who have been very significant,
of extreme importance, a great inspiration to me,
helping me to discover and to have a closer relationship to God.
· I never met Coach Tom Landry.
· I only met Stewart Place at church.
· I didn’t even remember Gary’s last name when I needed to visit him at the hospital.
· I don’t know if Mr. Clyde ever knew who I was!
· I never really saw Audrey outside of Disciple Class and church; she has moved across the country.
· I have many brothers and sisters in Christ. Carolyn Moore is my mother in Christ.
THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
IS THAT I MET THEM ALL IN CHURCH
“Strangers are family you haven’t met yet."
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
By Mark Albom
There may be people I don’t know. But there are no people that I do not care about. There is no difference in a stranger and my neighbor! I have gained much strength from weak people!
(They may be physically weak, but superheroes of faith.)
How many times in the Gospels did
Jesus Christ stop to help strangers?
WE ARE ALL ONE IN JESUS CHRIST
You don’t know Beauty
if you don’t know ugly!
So far, I can only think of one advantage of not knowing God for forty years. Forty years of not knowing God is very ugly. When you have known ugliness most of your life, when you find Beauty/ God, you recognize how ugly your life has been and how beautiful is the love, grace, and forgiveness of God. The promises of hope and faith in God is eternally beautiful. The uglier your life has been, the more beautiful is the following of Jesus Christ.
You also have a deeper understanding of “GRACE.” You truly understand that you did NOTHING to deserve, NOTHING to warrant, you did NOTHING to earn God’s love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. For me it was God’s GRACE that God brought this lost sheep, this lost coin, this lost son, and this lost soul to Him. God sought me out and when He called I finally listened! I am sure that God had called me before. I know that in the past in my self-centered world I was too busy to listen to God, I was too busy chasing money. God called Samuel three times before Samuel realized it was God calling him. When God calls we need to follow Samuel’s example and say, “Here I am.” 1 Samuel 3:1-21 The Lord Calls Samuel.
You also realize that even though you have turned to God you are still very imperfect, you are still a sinner! You are grateful that “Good Deeds” do atone for sin, BUT you are not fooling yourself. You review your “Ledger of Sins” in life and you clearly understand that there is “NO WAY” you can atone for all of your sins. It is humanly impossible for man to atone for all of his sins! The only way we can approach God is through God’s love and forgiveness. You also find that once God has forgiven you, it makes it much simpler and easier to forgive others. When the Lord fills your heart with “Love” there just isn’t any room in your heart for hate and vengeance. When you are with God, EVERYTHING CHANGES, you are a new creation, you are born anew.
On our 30th Wedding Anniversary
we renewed our Wedding Vows
at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church.
A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice
in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer -
may her breast satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.
My Triumphant Entry
I was baptized and became a member of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church on Palm Sunday in the year 2000. This was my Triumphant Entry into Faith. This is very symbolic and important to me. Every year I light my baptism candle in remembrance and in reaffirmation. Two years later my wife and I remarried on our 30th wedding anniversary at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, before God. Through God I am a new creation, far from being perfect, but dead to my former self.
For me, my triumphant entry was just my first baby steps into Christ. My triumphant entry is not the means to an end; “I have not arrived,” it is simply a reference point; a place to begin, of when and where I started to follow Christ.
Think about it?
I did not go to church for over 40 years!
I missed 40 Easter Sundays!
I missed 40 Christmas Services!
I missed 2,080 Sunday services in 40 years!
Every Sunday is a mini-Easter celebration!
I have been going to church for only 4 years
and in that short time I have still missed too many Sunday services.
As much as I hate to admit it, I know that I will still miss
more Sunday services in the future.
Forgive me God for doing the evil I do not want to do
and forgive me for not doing the good I want to do.
This is a definition of imperfection.
Romans 7:19 describes myself very well.
When I first came to church I was like the country song sung by John Conlee, “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond some day.” When I first went to church I found a “CALM” that is hard to explain. Going to church really did “Restoreth My Soul.” The only problem is that the good effects were short lived; my impatience, anger, etc. would soon return before the next Sunday.
You must realize that when I first surrendered to go to church it was more like, “What the hell; I’ll go to church!” - You can probably see some room for improvement! At first I was just trying not to use the Lord’s name in vain. Time after time I would forget, blaspheme, ask God for forgiveness, promise I would never do it again, and immediately blaspheme again! This really was a vicious cycle. Slowly I did break the chain!
The other big thing was to Control My Anger! I was hurting the ones I loved and myself too much! Going to church would soothe my anger, but only for a day or two.
I was in the delivery business and traffic delays would really set me off!!! I could go into a rage over a red light. I would be angry if the car in front of me didn’t start to go the millisecond the light turned green. Red light/green light I wasn’t happy! But I was trying to control my anger. I kept repeating some bible verses to give me strength.
Only a fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.
I believe that anger is like a wild beast living right under your skin lurking, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. The headlines lately have been about the master illusionist Siegfried & Roy; when Roy was attacked and mauled onstage by a 380-pound Tiger, which was part of their show at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.
You can never tame the tiger or anger, but you can keep it under control, under lock and key. You can become Slow to Anger.
Driving making deliveries was constantly tempting me to anger.
Going to church helped, but the good effects didn’t make it through the week. I needed reinforcements! I found that while I was making deliveries I would sometimes make a detour by my church PHPC. Just driving by it and looking at it calmed me and made me feel better.
I looked for HELP and I found it everywhere! How? I have always appreciated architecture and I started to notice other churches and how pretty they were. This would actually calm my anger. Noticing other churches was a calming of the storm. (Hey- it worked!) Just looking at the church steeple made me “CALM” and feel better; I felt like the church steeple was God’s antennae broadcasting to me! Now I could drive across town and get a spiritual lift just by driving by and looking at the churches and the cross. I received much comfort looking at the cross.
Looking at the different churches I also realized that these churches were full of good congregations. It made me feel better to know that these good people were all around me.
One Sunday on my way to the 11 am worship at PHPC I got stuck in the church traffic at St. Monica’s Catholic Church. Their Morning Prayers were just letting out. I was at a complete stop. The worshippers were walking to their cars and leaving; it was a mini-traffic jam! I was surrounded by people walking on either side of me to their cars; Christians! I was stuck in a traffic jam surrounded by good people! I was stuck in traffic and it was a good feeling. Later when I would be stuck on the freeway, I realized that the good people, from these good congregations, from all of these good churches were also stuck on the same freeway! On the freeway I was not surrounded by jerks in my way, I was surrounded by good Christians.
I didn’t learn an anger management trick or technique for controlling anger. But an understanding that I was loved, forgiven, and that I was a part of the Body of Christ; that collectively we are all part of the Body of Christ. We are all one in Jesus Christ.
Anger taught me a life lesson in
“THE BODY OF CHRIST.”
“We are all one in Jesus Christ.”
Love lifted me, love lifted me
when nothing else could help,
love lifted me.
Anger is like a small burning ember that grows into raging inferno. Anger is like a forest fire; it destroys everything and everyone in its’ path. Anger can strike suddenly, for no reason, just like lightening. Even after the fire is put out, the forest still smolders and burns. The forest is still in pain. The forest becomes barren and void of all life. The forest feels empty, forgotten, abandoned, and alone.
Love and forgiveness are like the gentle rains of blessings sent down from heaven, sent down from Gods’ steadfast everlasting love. With a desperate prayer to God, giving up your control to His will, for His direction, and intervention your prayer will be answered, and to your bewilderment and amazement you receive something far greater than you ever imagined or dreamed of.
With steady gentle rains of prayers to fill your heart with love, forgiveness, compassion, and understanding and with the warmth of the sun from a new day of hope and faith the grasses begin to grow. Slowly the grasses thrive, and the trees grow. Life returns to the forest. Eventually all of the scars of the forest fire are all gone… all is forgiven.
This is very cliché: I do not know a thing about ships or the ocean; just the troubled waters of my life. I come from a good line of ship builders. My grandparent’s generation lived through the Depression (Think of what the word “Depression” means today and what “Depression” meant in the 1930’s. Think of what they must have gone through). My parent’s generation lived through World War 2 (my father fought in WW2).
My grandparent’s and my parent’s ship were strong and weathered many storms. When my time came to be captain over the ship, I did a poor job as captain, a poor job as a husband, a poor job as a father, and today a poor job as a grandfather. My crew has mutinied and jumped overboard. The family is estranged and in turmoil.
I have navigated life’s stormy waters poorly. The ship or should I say my family has sunk to the bottom. The crew is divided and marooned on many solitary islands.
I am isolated in a lifeboat. A lifeboat called “Faith.” I am a speck in a huge ocean of dark, murky waters. My only hope of being Saved is in Jesus Christ. I pray desperately for my rescuer, my savior. I pray earnestly for the crew of the sunken ship. The crew is hopelessly lost. I pray that God will find them, and with His grace, He will gather them up, and bring them closer to His love.
I pray that God will bring this family and crew together to build a new ship called “Love & Forgiveness.” I pray that the ship can be salvaged and crew united and brought back together. I cannot imagine how this could ever actually happen. But everything is possible through Jesus Christ!
I am still in the lifeboat of “Faith.” I continue sending out my S.O.S. of a desperate prayer. I pray and wait for my only hope, for the Triune God to rescue and save me.