From Kingdom Hall to Kingdom Call
"And surely I am with you always" to the very end of the age "- Matthew 28:20
Love is the defining characteristic for true Christianity. It has no stipulations no
prejudice, and it thrives in the Christian when things are at its worst. When I first arrived at the Lutheran Church 0f Our Savior there was a glaring blaze of love here. We saw it in the pews; we saw it from the pulpit, genuine Christian love. I am grateful for the journey the Lord has brought our family through to the church that was just around the corner. It was just a short time ago; when my wife and I were knocking on doors preaching a false gospel in a false religion and everyday we just say, "WOW!"
Sitting in the church we are in, listening to the message, reciting ancient liturgy of the faith that we once fought against and at times with tears we weep with thanks! Thank you Lord, for bringing us through to the church that was just right around the comer. Let me share a little about our journey and I hope it will give you a deep appreciation for the church we all gather together at every Sunday.
My grandfather was a nominal Catholic who gambled on the sidewalks of Brooklyn, New York where the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society (the Jehovah' s Witness) are headquartered and owns 12 blocks of property in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Until one day a Bethel resident dropped the Watchtower magazines on his dice while he was gambling. Bethel which biblically means "house of God" is the nickname Jehovah's Witnesses (JW's) give to their headquarters which houses, feeds, and clothes over 5,000 volunteers responsible for the global printing of the JW's literature and bibles. My grandfather who is a congregation Overseer in the JW's was responsible for the conversion of three generations-of his family to this cultic religion
I was raised and baptized a JW at the age of fourteen devoted to my religion and to its god. Since I was a small child I have felt a calling to serve and please my God. Though I was raised in this pseudo-Christian group it was always my desire to love the lord Jehovah with all my heart and to give him my utmost in His service. It was this desire and thirst to please the Lord my God that led me out of the cultic bondage of the Watchtower and Tract Society. I was married to a wonderful God fearing- wife who also was a Jehovah's Witness.
I adamantly told my wife who was then a believing JW that I would believe in anything save for the false trinity doctrine. It is clear to me now that the Spirit of God had awakened me early in the morning to the reading of John 20:28 in my then JW Interlinear.
(Westcott and Hort's -text) which read in its transliteration the words of Thomas with the definite article, "'The Lord of Me and the God of Me" (litera1ly: ho kurious mou kai ho theos mou). This revealed to me that Thomas words were no mere exclamation of blasphemy but had the intentions of a worshipful reverence to Christ as the one true God of scripture. These words pierced my heart but I remained obstinate and defied this belief. The second morn I awoke early and began a reading of Hebrews in an eight translation NT I had; which read at verse eight of the first chapter, "'Thy throne 0 God is forever and ever" (literally: ho thronos sou ho theos eis ho aion ho aion). It was clear once again the definite article "ho" was used to describe Christ as "The God" and exclaimed such by his Father! I was seriously disturbed at this and on that evening after work I went to bed early only to awake at about one in the morning. I was drawn to a reading of the Watchtower Society's own printed Bible in the book of Revelation, which in chapter one verse eight described the Alpha and Omega as Jehovah in its own translation. Yet I was drawn to continue my reading in verses 9-13 which revealed that John had turned to the one who was speaking (Jehovah in the JW Bible). What John saw next brought me to my knees in deep repentance and conviction. John turns to the voice described as Jehovah in their Bible and sees the voice as belonging to the Son of Man standing amidst seven golden lamp-stands; I gave my life to "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28) that day and promised I would always serve Him as I wept stretched out on the floor in worshipful reverence of his magnificent grace to me; a sinner. A year later the Lord blessed me by bringing my wife to salvation and preserving my marriage.
From this time onward I always felt the pressing need to learn as much about my Lord and his truths. I always wanted to be used but knew that I needed time to mature. God brought me into a small Southern Baptist church (1st Baptist of Welcome) close to our home" and I learned the importance of prayer and repentance there in powerful prayer meetings held at that church. My wife and I went there for two years and I was baptized there. Prior I had put in my letter of disassociation and in time my wife placed hers in as well. We both knew that our disassociation would have severe repercussions but we knew that the Lord would want us to be separated from any affiliation with such a demonic organization. As JW's our worship was very conservative, stoic, and closed but in time, we grew in our reverence for worship.
We regularly attended a retreat for ex-JW's where worship seemed whole-souled and open. We began attending a non-denominational church in Waldorf, MD that had this type of worship. It was here that I had the honor and privilege of seeing my wife finally baptized. My wife soon became pregnant which was significant for us since as JW's we were told to hold off on having children. My beautiful daughter Amber was born and I learned so much about God's love through her eyes. In this church we grew out of the box of our severe conservative notions in worship from our Watchtower origins into learning to worship God with the whole man. We truly believe that as we lift our arms to our God we are in our very motions as little children crying for our Father to bring us to Him, we cry Abba in our worshipful activity.
We served in the nursery ministry at South Potomac Church but I always felt that my gifts were not being properly used. I saw the word of God as secondary to social attachment here and through a controversy in the counter-cult ministries that I had become associated with I began to examine the teachings of the reformation. We felt the need to seek a more historic church that would link us to the ancient teachings of the Christian church.
Through several friends I have in the counter-cult Para-church ministries I met Pastor Tony Arnold of Gaithersburg Community Church. Though this church was some 55 miles from my home after visiting it we felt we belonged. This church was a unique Evangelical Free church that was multi-cultural, Reformed, and paedo-baptistic [paedo = infant]. It was here that I learned about the ancient teaching of infant baptism which is known as Covenant baptism and grew in my understanding of historic Christianity. After struggling with the issue of infant-baptism, a fuller examination opened my eyes wider to the teachings of the reformation. Pastor Arnold baptized my daughter Amber at two years of age in June of 2003. The Pastor and I remain very good friends and he mentored and prepared me for elder training. The trip though became too much for us to bear on our Sundays, since the trip added to about three hours of road time for us. We also felt that it was important for us to have a church family in our area since we have been shunned by both of our families. It was difficult for us to leave but even a move to Gaithersburg was out of the question since the area is a very expensive community: We went to this church for two and a half years. After a tearful exit, I began to look at several Presbyterian churches in the area believing I would fit in rightly with these types of churches. We also tried the Lutheran church right around the corner from us, just five minutes from our home. Pastor Chris gave the message and a contemporary service was set up in the church. I could not resist the warmth at this church, the convenience of its proximity and last but certainly not least the edifying and yet practical messages given by the Pastor.
We felt energy here at this church, a contagious glee. It did not take long for me to ask the Pastor, what can we do to become members? And in a very short span of time I have found myself becoming distinctly, Lutheran doctrinally. The blessing of receiving the Lord in the sacrament of communion is awe-inspiring! A God who loves us so much that he still reaches down to his people with his grace present in the Lord's Supper! The beauty of the liturgy knowing its essence is grounded in scripture. The antiquity of the creeds which remind us of the holy gospel passed down to us by the very apostles of Christ. The church here was so supportive and with the blessing of the church and pastor I soon entered into the LAP/DELTO programs. I long one day to follow in the footsteps that others have aided me towards. To love God's people whole-souled with a pastor's heart and to be a good steward over the gifts God has graciously granted to me.
I am here truly feeling at home at the church just right around the comer. Who would have thought it was so close but I believe God was preparing me through the long journey. It is my passion to equip the saints to expose error and be used of God as dispensers of his awesome grace to others. Christ has always been there through the ages guiding his people and I feel He has been there for me guiding me through this wonderful journey to just around the comer.
Do you hear weeping in the garden of Gethsemane?
The sight of the Son of God in petition on bended knee.
He is impaled over a rock in great gloom alone over there.
Pleading before the Father for the load is great that he bears!
Who can comfort the Holy One, the unblemished Lamb of God?
His tears reaching throughout all creation as he wept on the garden's sod.
Is he weeping over the words he stated upon Jerusalem's hills?
His pain over the people who would reject Him and serve a bitter pill.
Christ lamented, "0' Jerusalem, Jerusalem how.I wanted to gather your children as a hen does her chicks."
But the suffering servant had come to be accursed and impaled betwixt two sticks.
The pain of those who shouted. "'Praise Ye 0 Son of David" and sang Hosanna's in hypocrisy!