Throwback Thursday:What A First Year In Christ!
This once straight-A student had been arrested around ten-years old for doing something I was horribly ashamed of and felt that I had gravely disappointed my parents, whom I loved. The law saw to it I was punished and controlled, but I punished myself even more and still carried the guilt of it and the many other wrong things I had done into 1970. My hopes of being a scientist were smashed.
No one knew it but God, but I was no longer Roman Catholic. It would not have helped either because each one of us would go to confession, say and do our penance, receive the eucharist, and return to the same level of sinning – or even worse. I turned to satanism, and then pantheism. However, there are some flaws in pantheism so by January 1970 I was "somewhat a pantheist."
I wanted God, but raw God. I did not want Jesus because I equated Him with other human religious figures like Muhammad, Buddha, and whoever else. I wanted God but slowly I was realizing that I was not right with God if He did exist. A few months before, my friend Bob Wittik indicated I was on my way to Hell. Billy Graham indicated the same thing. I had started listening to Billy Graham at the suggestion of Bob Wittik. Billy Graham would often have thematic Holy Bible messages based upon current events, and much of it made sense. After he referenced Revelation numerous times I started reading that Book and by January 1970 I had read through four times. I thought if this Book was true I was in grave danger of judgment. It, too, indicated I would go to Hell.
Hooked on Billy Graham, I again snapped on the radio at 10 PM. It was Sunday, January 25, 1970 as How Great Thou Art, the theme song for The Hour Of Decision, flowed through the radio. I forget what his topic was and I am still looking for the copy of the recording (he might have preached it months or years before, but the station aired that particular one that Sunday night). However, during the course of that message he said something like this:
That made sense, and the Holy Spirit saw to it that it touched a number of points in me. Hitler would be dealt with, as well as all the murderers, thieves, and more that never got caught. And no one could point a finger at God on Judgment Day and tell Him He did not personally know what it meant to be a human (as I thought I could some months back). So, while I had already agreed God ought to judge Hitler and the rest, I would also have to be included! Graham, Wittik, the Word of God all indicated that sin is sin and had to be judged, and I still had my sins. But Graham also said Jesus Christ, while all God, was all man, and that made Him the only perfect Savior. He took our full punishment upon the cross and offers us Eternal Life.
As usual, Billy Graham closed his message with an invitation for his hearers to come to Christ by faith. He prayed the sinner's prayer, but I did not pray with him. Instead, I snapped the radio off.
For almost an hour I kept thinking of what he said. And, he insisted Jesus was the only way. Oh, why did it have to be a human figure? Oh, yes, because that would make Jesus the perfect Judge and Savior. And I surely needed a Savior. Over and over again I heard that He would fully forgive, cleanse a person from sin, remove all the guilt, and give a person a new life. They could become born again.
But I did not want to go back to Christianity as I knew it, loaded with pictures of a spaced-out Jesus, a morbid sacred heart, agony, death here and there, and more. Then, I remembered what that Gospel tract from Transworld Radio indicated – religion is one thing, a relationship with God through Christ was something else. I thought to myself that if I would believe in Jesus it would not be the spaced-out Jesus.
It was getting late and I had to go to bed, so I went back to my room. I opened my desk drawer and found the "Chicken" tract by Dave Wilkerson. Yep, at the end it had the same thing: the sinner's prayer. I put it back in the drawer.
I wanted God and needed a Savior. I decided I would commit my life to Christ. The last words I said to myself as an unsaved person were, "Well, it can't kill me," not knowing about Galatians 2:20, lol!
I felt that I should kneel so I knelt beside my bed, asking God to forgive me and cleanse me. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and make me new. I confessed Him as my Savior and Lord.
As I opened my eyes at 11:25 PM I felt nothing at first. I had heard a number of sermons from Rev. Billy Graham, enough to realize that if one does become a true Christian, they must walk by faith and not by sight. If one becomes born-again, they accept the fact of their salvation by faith regardless of any lack of emotion they might feel.
However, because of my turbulent years before that point of time, full of despair, sin, and self-hatred, I asked one more thing of God. More on that next time! God willing, I will post that next time! And, there is a lot more to come in the coming weeks! Many of the negative things I had documented in the previous page would be absolutely flipped by God! There would also be a number of challenges and tests during that first year. The real Christian life is NOT boring at all!
And, if Christ is really not King in your life you can have these same things and more. Please surrender to Him now.
Pow! No, I mean . . .
An overwhelming sense of peace then hit me! It was very heavy and pleasant. The love of God was very strong. The heavy guilt about my first arrest that I had carried for years was gone, completely gone! There was no guilt over the multitude of other things that had been wrong for me to do! My guiltiness was gone! I felt clean!
I sensed hope! It did not matter anymore about not going to a college after graduation. I was not overly concerned with what I was supposed to "do for a living."
The Holy Bible started to "light up." I realized I was connected with God, and I could always go to Him through Christ. If I sinned I could confess it IMMEDIATELY to Him. I did not have to wait for a confessional booth to open. 1 John 1:9 indicated that upon sincere confession to Him I was truly absolved – there was no need for a human priest. Nor did I have to say prayer after prayer for the sin or sins I committed, because nothing that we do can ever make up for transgressing the commandments of God.
That is part of TRUE Christianity. A few days ago there was post on Facebook by a local "evangelical" minister which gave the impression that one could be a real Christian while at the same time continue to participate in religious rituals and adhere to beliefs that indicate the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was insufficient – that it needs to be done again and again – in that the bread / wafer, called by some as the eucharist, is the actual body and blood of Christ (aka, transubstantiation). However, the Word of God states (Hebrews 9:24-26), "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another --- 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
I also add that the same God and Savior that showered me with true peace on January 25, 1970 was the same God and Savior Who told me to pray only to Him while those around me prayed to Mary when I was in Catholic grade school. Praying ONLY to God is also in the Word of God. Some "evangelicals" need to get back into the Word of God, if some were ever in it. Think now I bring disunity? So be it when it comes to false unity! Some might just want to read Revelation 17. Some ought see what all "good king" Jehoshaphat went through when, out love (but not the love he should have had), he got in league with the house of Ahab. True unity comes with true unity with God through Christ alone.
In the days that followed I privately worshiped with great emotion the One Whom I once had mocked. The awesome presence of peace was something I needed. It might be said – young person style – that I was in "party mode." However, I knew very well one ought to "party" with others. So, a new question came to my mind: What church should I attend? The answer to that would come . . . (to be posted next week, God willing).
Returning to the church I was raised in was out of the question. I fully realized if one is born again they ought to only worship the Godhead and not Mary and the rest. Those that really know Christ ought not to trust in Purgatory. They ought to cling to the Holy Bible as the supreme authority -- not a pope.
I was so glad to see this posted on Facebook last week by Jeffrey Ley: “As a former Roman Catholic I want to thank God for a Christian that shared his faith and through that I actually pick[ed] up a Bible and began to READ IT! If a Roman Catholic actually reads the Bible (Without the RC glasses on) they can no longer be a Roman Catholic.”
I presented this for two reasons: Everyone needs to be truly saved, truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and fully committed to God through Jesus Christ. Secondly, I am still concerned by some ministers that in recent days have given credence to the RCC. No one will really get saved and stay saved if we cause them to think they are fine and do not encourage to examine by the light of God's Word what they believe and how they are living.
Well, diagonally across the street from Saint Stephen's was a Presbyterian church. I had no idea what they believed and I did not feel that I should go there. There were some Calvanistic churches in Kearny and I knew they felt that once a person got saved they could never be lost again. I did not think that was correct. There were numerous other churches in town, but I was not too sure what they believed. What they believed was important to me, and it ought to be important to everyone.
I prayed about it, and around this time in February I got something in the mail. Upon opening the envelope there was a card inside. It was an invitation to a party, a Valentines Day party! It was to be held at Kearny Assembly of God on Elm Street. Bob Wittik, who had heavily witnessed to me about Christ, attended Kearny Assembly of God.
Me? Mr. Nobody at Kearny High School or anywhere else? I got an invitation? I'm going! (And there would be much more than a party ahead!)
I cannot recall if I went to the party with the Bob Wittik, the main tool God had used to witnessed to me, but I do remember he was the one to introduce me to Pastor Jerry and Jeanne Bricker at the party.
Of course I checked him out when I greeted him. Neat, but no religious collar. That was a plus mark in my mind, as was the fact that he was married. I figured that was superior to the way the Catholic Church had it, where priests could not be married. It seemed, though, that something was on his mind that night. Brother Bricker, what was on your mind that night?
The party was in the church basement. I was in evaluation mode. Some would call that judging, but the Word of God is clear we have to evaluate and develop a judgment based upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. I had probably already read 1 John 4:1 and similar passages. Though I sensed in my spirit just one or two were weak in, or lacked, their commitment to God, the Lord told me not to mind that for now. I was to ignore that and concentrate on Him.
Near the end of the party someone, I think it might have been Wittik, said there was a youth rally at another AOG church the next night. Many of the Kearny AOG youth group would be going and other youth groups in the area would be going. It was called a "CA" rally, CA being short for "Christ Ambassadors." I believe it was from sister Bricker that "other young people" would be going. I never heard that term before. I was a young people! They asked if I wanted to go and I said yes.
New sights and sounds awaited me at the first Christian youth rally I had ever attended. Scores, if not a hundred or so, of teens packed the church. It sure was different than any other church service I had been in. Not knowing what to expect, I mostly observed the leaders of the service and the other attendees.
The music was different in that there was a variety ranging from worshipful measure to bouncing joyful meter. Concerning the latter, I was a bit surprised when those around me began to clap on the beats of the chorus of those songs.
At one point, testimonies were called for. I did not know what a "testimony" was but I soon found out as youth after youth stood up and stated something that God had done for them or in them through Jesus Christ.
There was one or two "specials in song" where a young person sang a selection that specifically glorified God in some way. Occasionally I heard people say "praise God," "thank you Jesus," "hallelujah," and similar words as the musical selection continued.
The "hallelujah" raised a concern within since, before that time, I had always associated the term with "religious basket cases." Nonetheless I remained and watched, not knowing I would also be saying "hallelujah" a few weeks after that.
I also heard people speaking in "other tongues," another thing I questioned until May of that year. I thought it was odd and did not understand what the purpose of it was, but I stayed at the rally.
Then there was the sermon or message. I heard those in other churches, but in this case some of the hearers would occasionally say, "amen!" Also, the speaker aimed to achieve a specific set of responses from some of those attending.
And, they certainly did respond. Numerous young people came up to the altar and knelt, stood, or sat praying. They prayed simple, straightforward prayers. Nothing was memorized.
Then, looking to the side of me I will never forget what I saw. A young man with blonde hair, standing, lifting his hands, and with tears rolling down from his eyes loudly saying, "I love you Jesus!" ♥ ♥ ♥
"That's it! This is what God really wants from people," I thought to myself. From the congregational singing to the altar calls, the rally impressed upon my mind that our communication with God should be simple, sincere and, often spontaneous. May we endeavor to follow the principle of Psalm 17:1, "Hear the right, O YHVH, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips." God foundationally desires our unconditional love. I was so impressed with that young man that I wrote a poem about it.
Today, as a minister of the Gospel I teach new converts that one's relationship with God should be one of love. It is initiated by being born-again, where Christ, the very Word of God, is placed within us upon our confession of sin and commitment to Him. Thus, by the Holy Spirit, John (14:21) writes, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
At the end of the rally I was asked, "You want to join us for church tomorrow?" At that point I was somewhat hooked on what was going so I said yes. When I showed up on Sunday, still in evaluation mode, I saw people of all ages were there from very young children to seniors. Unlike how it is today in many churches where certain age groups were focused upon, there was a sense of oneness. No contemporary music was needed. No basketball court. Most of the people there showed the love Christ.
The pastor was not "stiff shirted," but somewhat "laid back," yet highly reverential toward God. I was a little surprised he did not stay in the pulpit when speaking. He moved around. Sister Bricker added to the service as led by the Holy Spirit.
I went to three church meetings in a row! And, after that, I kept going to Kearny AOG. However, being an introvert, shy, cautious, and still evaluating things, I told no one, at that point, I had come to Christ. They would soon find out though. And my parents started to sense something new was going on with me. A few tests would come my way from Mom in coming weeks.
If you have read the previous TBT page, the one where I describe how and what I was before I came to Christ, you will recall that my Mom was Roman Catholic and my Dad was Russian Orthodox. I do not recall either of them going to any church on a regular basis. And, we sure did not pray at home. There was a lot of cussing at times, but no prayer.
But at some point, and now having Jesus Christ within, I knew I had to somehow share Christ in some way. Supper time stayed the same: 5 PM. It was just my parents and I, my sister was married and lived a number of blocks away. So, I do not know what day it was, but I remember sitting down for supper, bowing my head, and silently praying. I had my eyes shut, but I could feel Mom and Dad staring at me. I never did THAT before! It was like they had movie cameras and filming this very odd event!
There were two other things that were probably inroads into their hearts. One was that as of February 1970 I started going to church, bringing a Holy Bible with me. The other was I am sure they overheard some of the messages I was listening to from Billy Graham – before I came to Christ and after I came to Christ. Yes, I was still listening to that evangelist and even ordered "The Hour Of Decision Magazine." So I guess that was three things, really.
As I said last time, there would be some challenges from Mom in 1970. A lot would happen that year including what could have been the near-death of Bob Wittik
Devotional times were spent reading the Holy Bible, writing poems to Jesus, listening to Christian radio. The roster at Kearny High School with the names of students who were going to college or elsewhere, along with the place they were going to, no longer bothered me. I had heard, and had read, that God would direct the steps of those who would trust Him. I was still on "cloud nine." And little did I know what would happen in my private time with Him sometime during the last week of February 1970. And, that will be the main gist of next week's post for the last week of February 2020.
As mentioned last time, the "Who Is Going Where After Graduation" roster no longer bothered me nor was I worried about what I would do upon graduation, which was just under four months away. I did not worry, but I did wonder. I even wrote a poem along that line, "What's Up?"
I do not know what day or night it was, but I was in my bedroom and, if I recall correctly, marveling at my first month in Christ. It probably was February 25 or 26, since I like to note anniversaries.
My habit was to rest in bed and just talk to God. No doubt I recounted to Him all the wonderful and interesting things I came across in my first month as well as noting the spiritual and emotional healing in my life. Then, at some point, my thoughts turned to graduation. I thanked God for saving me and all the blessings I had received so far. Considering graduation was close at hand, I asked Him what does He want me to do for my life.
God: "I am calling you to the full-time Gospel ministry."
Me: ! "I accept."
God: "You are commissioned."
Except for my reply, I heard no voice, but that was what was strongly impressed upon me. It was just like the time years before when we were in the school yard and told to pray the Hail Mary, but I sensed / heard God say to me, "Pray to no one but Me."
God called me to the ministry! Whoa! Wow!
But being the "scientific minded" and analytical chap God designed me to be I questioned if I did hear from Him. In later weeks it would be confirmed to me that was the case. In the meantime, I told no one.
And, to my recollection, by the end of February I still had not told anyone that I had been born again by God. Wittik did not know. Kearny Assembly of God did not know. But, soon, sister Bricker would about fall out of her chair!
Side note: After February 29 2020 any dates that I can mention will coincide with the precise day of the week fifty years ago.
As you recall, I committed my life to Christ in my bedroom at home but did not start going to any church until just over two and a half weeks later. I kept going to church, but never told anyone I had made a commitment to Christ.
And, as you might remember, Bob and Bill Wittik attended Kearny AG. Both also worked where I did, at Tulley's Shop Rite on Beech Street of Kearny. I also shopped there. I remember there was one time I was going through the check out area and Bill was bagging groceries. He started singing the chorus to Honey In The Rock: "Oh, there's honey in the rock my brother, there's honey in the rock for you. Leave your sins for the blood to cover. There's honey in the rock for you."
Huh? I had been a Christian only for about a month or more so I never heard that song before. I thought it was weird. How can honey be in a rock? Well, that song is based on Deuteronomy 32:13 and Psalm 81:6, but I was just reading the New Testament at that time.
I was going to church week after week both Sunday mornings and evenings. Kearny AG called the evening service the "evangelistic service." One of the things that would often occur would be people giving testimonies of salvation, healing, guidance, protection and whatever else they felt God had done in their life. Both brother and sister Bricker would be on the platform for these services. If I remember correctly, sister Bricker would conduct the testimony session.
However, I started noticing something in some services. There would be times Pastor Bricker would give an altar call for salvation when it seemed to me everyone present was already saved. And, there was at least one message that it seemed he was really preaching strong on salvation and seemed a tad disappointed no one responded.
Then, it dawned on me. No one knew I had become born again. I never said anything to anyone. So, at the next service sister Bricker was conducting the testimony session. One or two spoke, then I raised my hand. Sister Bricker nodded the okay for me to speak.
I stood up and said something to the affect that I thanked God for saving me, that I had given my life to Christ on January 25 in my bedroom and had blessed me in a number of ways.
As soon as I said I had given my life to Christ sister Bricker got wide-eyed and her jaw dropped down! I do not remember if she said it after my testimony or later, but she said, "You got saved right out from underneath our noses!"
Ah! I surprised her, and others I guess! But Bob Wittik was about to give me a shock a few days later.
Most often when someone comes to Christ, even though we think our dedication is complete there are some things a lot of us miss for various reasons – and excuses. It is like when the Israelites entered the Promised Land – many enemies were defeated but some were left to conquer. It is true Christ gained the victory over all sin, but living faith that pleases God requires us to agree to it in action through the grace of God through Christ. We are not saved by good works, but if we are truly saved we will develop good works and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
One day when we were heading home we started to pass by some people on a porch arguing. To that point, and for a few years after my salvation, at times I would imitate the wrong things that I had seen in people. In this case, some of my teenage friends would jokingly meddle in arguments just for fun. That is what I did in this case. Bob Wittik said that was not a good idea, and quoted Proverbs 26:17 "He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears." Me: "Oh! OK Bob." And since it was Holy Scripture, I meant it.
That foible of immaturity was nipped in the bud, but there was a character flaw that I still at times wrestle with today. Over the years, the grace of God through Christ has helped me become stronger in Him so, unless you are within earshot of me when I have a weariness that affects my mental acuity and I am perturbed, you would not know.
If you read the previous series of the weeks before I came to Christ you will see that the Macintas of Chestnut Street did not mind vulgarity, especially when Mom and Dad were at each other. Going to Catholic grade school did not make much of a dent because no one truly knew Christ and a lot of the guys I hung around with would curse, as did much of society. So, believe it or not, when I came Christ I thought cursing was normal.
Huh? Well, yes. And now, after being in the ministry for around fifty years I have seen a lot of Christians carry on with various sins because they think it is normal. Well, the Word of God shows all of us sin is NOT normal for one birthed by the Spirit in Christ. One thing it is is an indicator of territory we have not agreed to conquer through Christ.
So, again one beautiful day Wittik and I were walking home from school. I was still in one of those flippant moods. I started to use curse words in my conversation.
Wittik: "Pete! I thought you said you were a Christian!" Me: "I am, Bob!"
Wittik: "Then why are you cursing?" Me: "Everyone else does it."
That does not "cut it." It does not make it OK. And though I am much stronger in Christ today, my occasional weariness is not an excuse. God calls His children to victory for His glory.
Anyhow, Wittik immediately gave me a passage to look up. There is more than one, but I think it was Colossians 3:8, "But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth." After reading that home I prayed, "God help me." That is a great thing to pray if we really truly love Christ Who became sin for us.
Hey! That was fifty years ago. Today, sadly, very sadly, some respond “Do not judge me. Only God can judge me.” That, my friend, is satanically twisting Holy Scripture and ignoring the numerous COMMANDS to judge (analytically, diagnostically, etc, but not condemn), to admonish, to rebuke, to reprove (even with a sense of SHAME as indicated by the Greek in Ephesians 5:11), and whatever else the Word of God says.
Keep in mind it was Wittik that, before I came to Christ, indicated I was going hell. That is not judging, but loving a sinner unto real life, and life Eternal. And now, as brother in Christ, he was lovingly watching over my spiritual well being.
If you are a Christian with a spiritual struggle or two or three, keep going to Him for forgiveness but beseech Him to make you stronger and then take action by getting deeper into His Word and closer into His presence by worship. Make no excuses, but press on by His grace to victory.
If you have not been born again I encourage you to surrender your life to God through Christ. He will change you and help you to grow in Him as you remain in Him.
Reading back you will see I received the call to the Gospel ministry at the end of February 1970 and I accepted it, and then commissioned by God (No, that does not make me better than anyone else). I knew that answering the call to the ministry would mean training and eventually I would look into it. However, what I did not know was it would bring about a complete reversal of many (if not all) negative conditions I had before I came to Christ.
I kept quiet about my call to the ministry. I wanted to make sure. Nonetheless, sometime after I gave my testimony at Kearny AG, Pastor or sister Bricker invited me to come along on their trip to Orchard Street Missions in Newark. It was an outreach ministry to children. Hey, I needed training so I went.
As soon as we entered the mission the "aroma" of human staleness due to lack of hygiene reached my nostrils. I knew this was part of my training and I felt God gave me a very small introduction into certain aspects ministry. By the end of the year I would learn that foreign missionaries encounter far worse situations than that.
Fifty years ago there were no portable computers like we have today, and the only thing available to project words on a wall were overhead projectors. There were no projectors at Orchard Street Missions so when it came time to sing children's Gospel songs someone had to hold a sign. I was asked to do so for one song at least, so I did. It was something simple, but it was a start.
I think it is a good practice today to get new converts doing something whenever possible. It is a great way to help shape their character.
Another thing about fifty years ago, I do not recall churches and fellowships being concerned about about copyright usage, nor did any authors and publishers. On the other hand, authors and publishers have to eat too.
A week or so after our trip to Orchard Street Missions I would be attending, for the first time, a yearly church observance and experience something I never experienced before!
It was Resurrection Day (2024 will be the next time it occurs in March), aka "Easter." The term "Easter" does not occur in the ancient texts, but somehow wormed its way into English versions and translations, to the best of my knowledge, in the 1500s. Sadly, the Authorized Version (often referred to as the KJV) seemingly left Acts 12:4 as it was in another version instead of correctly translating "paschal" as "Passover." The AV commission translated paschal everywhere else as Passover. There is no way one can squeeze out Easter from paschal. Methinks it was an oversight on their part.
This Resurrection Day 1970 was unique to me, because I now had the resurrected Messiah within me. It was probably during that worship service of Kearny AOG that I first heard, and sung "He Lives."
"I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today. I know that He is living whatever men may say."
YES! I knew, not just by teaching, not just by doctrine, not by religion, but this was the first Resurrection Day I personally knew Him, knew He dwelt within me (when I received Him into my life), and He was in the world working in various ways.
"I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him He's always near."
Yes! He was very merciful to me! Yes! Being in daily* communication with Him I often did sense His encouragement. Yes! By faith, and now by practice, I knew He is near all the time.
"He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and He talks with me along the narrow way!"
Oh so true! Even before a person gets saved, born again, God in His abundant mercy talks to each of us in various ways. I actually felt sad for Joy Behar when sometime back she ripped into the truth that God talks to real Christians. Oh the joy that Joy is missing!
"He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!"
Definitely! Seventeen years of sin and transgression wiped way! No guilt about my past! Instant forgiveness and cleansing upon confession to Him (alone) of any sin! No ungodly fear of death! Despite the fact I still had nowhere to go after graduation and was a prime candidate for the draft, no worries about the future! I can go on and on!
"You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!"And, I will tell you the same today. I can give even more proof by pointing to prophetic passages in the Holy Bible and then pointing to the UN and Israel**. I can give more proof by pointing to many other people who have come to know personally know Christ and have been miraculously changed to the glory of God by Him.
What a resurrection day! Sister Cataffi at the piano, most everyone there really worshiping God in loving praise, Pastor Bricker delivering a great message, and, above all, the presence of Christ! And, a just the Sunday before, a friend, Robert Graham, came to the evening evangelistic service and surrendered his life to Christ! I now had another brother in Jesus!
I remember walking home, Holy Bible in hand, with Ackley's "He Lives" going through my heart and mind. Despite what some in the world would say, I KNOW He lives, because He lives within me.
If you have not been born again I ask you to consider making Christ King in your life. Confess your sinful state, ask for His forgiveness, and truly surrender your life – every aspect of it – to Him. If you do that please listen to "Seven Roots For Growth In Christ" at https://archive.org/details/sevenrootsforgrowthinchrist . God has also helped me to produce lessons for new Christians at http://sapphirestreams.com/bec/ . It is around one third complete.
* = I now confidently state each and every disciple ought to be in CONSTANT FELLOWSHIP with Him on some level. Always be in "listening mode." Always be very aware He is right with you. Trust His sovereignty.
** = Is it not a little odd that of all the nations that have disappeared over a thousand years that only Israel came back on the map, and, at that, three and half years after the UN was established? Now, please check the first few verses of Joel 3.
If I did have the call, I would need training. I was mainly thinking about academic and experiential training. I had little idea that the Lord would include a very hefty dose of spiritual training. And all three aspects of training continue to this day for me.
Bob Wittik had switched from evangelism mode to edification mode and would occasionally walk home from school with me. So, I ran my thought by him on one of the walks.
"Bob, I think God is calling me into the ministry."
Without missing a beat, he replied that he knew it. That was a confirmation to me. I think he encouraged me at that point to look into the existing Assemblies Of God (AG) colleges and schools.
Hmmm. Considering my terrible grades I wondered if an AG college would even accept me. However, he also said "schools." Looking at my first year outline, for some odd reason I did not do anything about applying until after April 1970!
Perhaps that was in part due to what would happen to Bob Wittik later in April 1970. God willing I will post about it just after the 50th anniversary of its occurrence. In my opinion, brother Bob almost got killed! Nevertheless, something else dawned on me the spring of 1970.
Becoming born again by God not only makes one a new creation in Him, but ushers in numerous blessings and new realizations. As previously mentioned, an initial realization was the fact I could go to God immediately for forgiveness of sins without going to another person (which is also a blessing).
Another realization that occurred to me was I had always wanted a brother. I had one sibling, an older sister. I guess when I came along Dad and Mom figured they had better stop! But, now being born again by God through Christ I realized I had millions of brothers – and sisters too! Anyone who was truly born again and remaining in Christ was my true brother and sister in Christ. They did not have to be Assemblies of God (the church I was going to was Assemblies of God), but they did have to be truly united with God being born again through Christ, trusting in Him alone.
And another realization was that God wants each disciple to reach out to the lost to bring them into the Kingdom. Then, I realized I only had a few months before graduation. I only had a short space of time to be a constant ambassador for Christ at Kearny High School.
But this a bit of challenge for someone that was somewhat an introvert. However, I realized I had to go against that and try to start "witnessing" – telling others about the great gift of salvation provided for everyone in Christ Jesus. One thing I did was to try to start using "study hall" time for that purpose. I cannot recall how far I got with that.
In regard to evangelism (witnessing) that had been going on at home right after I came to Christ. While I do not recall saying anything specific about the Way of salvation, my behavior had changed. I was going to a Protestant church more than I ever did a Roman Catholic church. Kearny AG had three services on Sunday, viz., Sunday School, Morning Worship, and the Evening Evangelistic Service. It had a midweek Holy Bible study. The there were the once-a-month sectional youth rallies.
My cranky attitude was much less cranky. I was no longer gloomy. After Bob Wittik admonished me my filthy language was eliminated in front of others (See a previous post on that point in regard to struggling with that). I was praying at meals. I was happier.
I am sure that my parents appreciated much of that. However, my Roman Catholic mother might have been concerned that I was not attending Saint Stephens but was going to a Protestant church. Looking back, perhaps Dad, being a Protestant, Russian Orthodox, might have been a little pleased. If he was, he kept that to himself.
She was also very skeptical of a lot of things, and I am sure my conversion became one of them. At some point in the spring of 1970 a little war ensued in regard to my change. Check in next week for the first wave of resistance.
If I recall correctly it was at my cousin Sandy's home in Freehold, NJ. Someone had arranged for a photographer to be there so we all gathered in the living room. Unlike previous Macinta gatherings, I was at peace, I had godly self-esteem, and I felt alive in God. I decided that when the picture was snapped I would have something like the following in my mind: "I am born again in Christ! I am truly alive! I am saved!" The picture included in this post has been cropped from the entire family picture taken on that day. I have been using that family picture for genealogical purpose and really did not look at it enlarged. So, looking at the icons and regular size images I thought I had a smug look on my face. When I cropped the current section and enlarged it I saw I was exuding not smugness but joyful life. Indeed, I knew I was completely alive. From your left to right, in that image from left to right are my dad, my uncle Eugene, then me. Unknown to any of us, uncle Eugene would die September of that year.
Of course, my mom was at the gathering, but elsewhere in the picture. My godfather was also there. He knew nothing of my salvation in Christ and still thought I was Roman Catholic. He would know differently by Thanksgiving 1970.
Now, about that little war, the first war, with my mom. Dad and mom knew almost everything I had done wrong before I came to Christ. After I came to Christ my behavior began to change. I mentioned I had been praying at meals, attending church, I was less cranky, more respectful, and a number of other things. In the early first half of 1970 Mom was skeptical of my conversion and one of the first indicators of that was The Owl Bank War.
Considering my future graduation in 1970, for Christmas 1969 someone had given me an owl bank as a gift. The owl wore a mortar board cap on its head and the body of the bank had wise sayings all around it, like "A penny saved is a penny earned," "Half a loaf is better than none." I placed the bank on top of my dresser in my bedroom.
One day when I came home from school I went up to my room and laid my books on my desk. When I went over to my dresser I noticed the owl bank was turned in such a way so I would see the saying, "A leopard cannot change its spots."
Mom! I figured Mom had turned that bank that way when she brought up clothes she washed to put into my dresser. As I recall, I was a bit perturbed at that. So I turned it to so it showed the saying, "Let bygones be bygones." A few days later it was back to the leopard's spots. I turned it back to the bygones. I might have prayed for her then, but I do not remember. But this continued for a few weeks until the bank remained in the "Let bygones be bygones" position.
Perhaps she was being bothered by my conversion to Christ. Whatever was going on, a few more challenges would come up before December 1970. The next one would be about what happened to Bob Wittik, the young man who witnessed about Christ to me. God willing, next week you will read about how he almost was killed.
As we headed north along a Kearny street, the young man notice his car had a miss to it. He said he would like to take it to Belleville Pike (NJ 7) and run it pretty well through the swamp (aka, The Meadow Land). OK. Either Bob Wittik or I had to go to work at Shop Rite later on. I do not recall if we mentioned that or not, but we figured there would be ample time for this little jaunt. I cannot recall if our friend's car had seat belts. If it did, we did not wear them.
"The Pike," NJ 7 from the top of the ridge of Kearny until you arrive at the swamp is all downhill. We reached Belleville Pike somewhere well below the ridge and turned right onto NJ 7. If you have read last year's TBT accounts you might remember this road heads towards Jersey City. One would go over about two little bridges and you would go past the transmitter sites of WOR, WNEW, WMCA radio stations. However, before all of that one would have to navigate the curvy road along Arlington Cemetery.
It started to rain a little as the car went east just past Schuyler Avenue. The vehicle picked up speed. I felt impressed by God to “lay down” in back, so I did. The vehicle headed downhill eastbound, and at the notorious curve I sensed it was losing traction. It veered left.
As I was thrown against the two front seats I heard the windshield shatter – everything in a fraction of a second – then silence. The doors were not jammed so I got out to see how everyone was in front.
WITTIK! Wittik was a bloody mess! Apparently, upon impact Bob went through the windshield then bounced back into his seat. Much of his clothing had blood and small pieces of glass were on him. He seemed to have a deep gash in his nose.
"Bob! Are you OK?," I asked.
"Yes Pete. Get an ambulance," he weakly replied.
Looking around I saw a maintenance building within the cemetery and ran to it. I have marked off in a yellow-green section where I think the building was in the image below, as well as the probable area of impact on NJ 7. The base image is from Google Maps.
I started to limp a little as I ran toward the building. I thank God there was a man inside and a telephone.
Absolutely scared I told the man there was a bad car accident and asked him to call for ambulance. He picked up the phone and started calling – and all I could think of was a bloody Bob Wittik with a gash in his nose. I knelt and prayed God would spare him. The man's eyes grew big when he saw me praying. After he hung up I limped-ran back to the accident scene.
Police and ambulances soon arrived and sprung into action. By this time my left leg was really hurting. So I approached an officer and asked if I could also go to the hospital. He asked if I was in the accident. I said I was and he told me to go sit in his police car. About five minutes later he asked me to get out and sit in another police car. I did. He drove off to somewhere. If I recall correctly it happened one more time. I was asked to go sit in another car. I finally got to West Hudson hospital.
I was treated at the hospital for leg contusions. They wrapped it up and told me not to walk on it. I had to use a crutch. They said it would bother me for the rest of my life. However, though there was some touchiness at first and then a level of discomfort for a few weeks, apparently God said differently, because after the first few months it has never bothered me!
Though I was released, the driver was still at the hospital, at least for a short time. According to the newspaper report, the driver of the other vehicle had sustained a head injury but was released the same day. However, Wittik remained in the hospital in serious condition.
And it just so happened our pastor, brother Jerry Bricker, was slated for Prayer Time on WFME in West Orange, NJ that week. At this time, going through my tapes I could find only two occurrences that I was able to record him praying on the radio for us and others. You may listen to it here. He accidentally said Sunday for Monday at one point about the accident.
To be continued next week with a few chuckles, but then my mom had a complaint.
I do not recall the first time I saw him in the hospital unless it was what I am about to relate. I remember visiting him but there were other young men visiting him too. Bob, being the "soul winner" he was and do doubt still is, made an effort to make friends with the lost. One of those guys brought in a piece of hot ice and … placed it in Bob's urinal! We cracked up as the CO2 vapors flowed out of it. One of us joked and said we should quickly find a nurse and tell them something is wrong with Bob. Bob and the rest of us were laughing so hard that I am sure it probably hurt him to laugh with all of his stitches and more.
A few days after the accident, while Bob was still in the hospital, a number of us gathered at the driver's home. The driver had been released, probably the same day as the accident and if I recall correctly his arm was broken. My left leg was tender but wrapped up pretty well. Using crutches I made it down to his house which was just a few blocks away.
Almost the whole "gang" was there. I was sitting in a comforter and had my left leg raised up on a foot rest. One of our friends came in and after chatting a bit with the driver he turns to me and says, "Pete! I heard your foot got hurt. Let me see!." And, immediately he reaches down to check out the heavy and bandage on my leg:
But it was probably around this time fifty years ago I got a call from someone, probably Bob's parents. "Bob is being released from the hospital. Do you want to go with us to get him?" Yes, indeed!
Upon leaving the hospital it was suggested we drive to Pastor and Sister Bricker's house on Schuyler Avenue. Upon stopping there, to the best of my knowledge someone got out of the car to let the Brickers know. They were elated when they heard Bob was out. As I recall, Pastor Bricker did not even put his shoes on. They were so happy he was released.
I was going to continue with some reactions that were not so happy in regard to the car accident itself, but actually, as I recall, that happened a couple of weeks later and I will save that for another post.
By this time fifty years ago it was over two months since I had been called by God to the ministry. However, to this point fifty years ago I did not take action. It was time to take action. Would I be too late?
During the spring months there were often ads on the back page of an edition from an AOG college or Holy Bible school. It had been over two months since I had heard from God that I was to be in the ministry. For some odd reason I did not take action until the first week in May. I imagine that perhaps for the first month I wanted to make sure about the call. Not sure what I was thinking about in the first half of April, but the second half was interrupted with the car accident.
There were at least six options on the back page of one PE. I forget where most were located, but there were two colleges in Missouri. Missouri was about nine hundred miles away and, besides, my grades were not good. But then I saw there was something in Pennsylvania: Northeast Bible Institute (NBI) in Green Lane. That was fairly close, it might not bother my Mom too much, and it was not a college. So that was it. I would apply to NBI. Unlike nine or so months before when I applied to three colleges and was rejected, I was just going to apply to only one school.
I was now definitely venturing into some unknowns, but knowing that God knows all. I had some money saved up, but where would the rest come to pay for my education? Since my Mom was somewhat a "strong" Roman Catholic, would she try to stop me from going? Would even Green Lane be too far away that it would bother Mom? How would I get to Green Lane? Would she let Dad take me?
My concern about my Mom's reaction had been elevated due to something that occurred a few days after Bob Wittik was released from the hospital. Please check back next week for that account.
As I was getting ready for the day I kept thinking about that nightmare and the car crash. Then Mom confronted me about Bob. Was he going to sue the driver of the car we were in or not? Bob's nose had a deep gash in it. What type of a friend was he if he was not going to sue? I am guessing she wanted Bob Wittik to sue the driver so she and dad could sue the driver.
"He just got out of the hospital, Mom," I said. It had been over a week that Bob had been released from the hospital but I figured he was still recuperating. Suing the driver had never come across my mind, but my parents were not born again yet. I probably did not know what else to say to my mom.
Behind it I sort of think she wanted to make Wittik look bad to me, so I would stop being his friend, and stop being "religious." Perhaps she was trying to stop me from attending Kearny Assembly of God. Regardless, my conversion to true Christianity was bothering her, and now this encounter would be an upgrade from the owl bank war (see a previous post). I cannot remember what happened the rest of the day, whether she kept hounding me about it or not, but I do remember I was in tears that night and cried as I listened to Nightwatch that aired on WFME.
Sometime later my sister, who was also Roman Catholic, mentioned the accident and said, "See what happens when you leave the Roman Catholic Church?" I told her Roman Catholics have car accidents too. I think lady who drove the vehicle we collided with was Roman Catholic but I did not say that to my sister.
My questions about being able to go to Northeast Bible Institute (if accepted by them, NBI) grew into concerns. It was now evident to me Mom did not like my going to a Protestant church. If accepted to NBI I might have use some of the money I had saved to get some type of transportation to go there.
Christian music and soothing programming from WFME was a blessing during those days, but the main source of blessing was fellowship with God through Christ and feasting on the Holy Bible. I found the Word of God to be loaded with treasures – and a few “shockers.” More next week, God willing.
Regardless of conditions around the world or right at home, it was always a pleasure since January 1970, and still is, to feast on the Holy Bible. It was an added blessing to get a lawn chair and read it in our backyard when possible. And that is where I was when I just about fell out of the chair when I came across something in it.
I remembering sitting in the back yard one day and reading 1 Timothy in the King James Version. When I got to chapter four, I found . . .
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Wow! That sounded a little spooky. There were a lot of cults and strange teachings – and there is even more today.
Verse 2: Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
There were quite a few people like that, but there are a whole lot more now
Verse 3: Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
What? WHAT?! If you recall, I was raised Roman Catholic. At that time one could not be a priest if they were married. I knew a little about early Church history and knew that before some of the Church became "The Church," bishops (pastors) and others were permitted to marry. However, a few short centuries later this was not permitted in the established Catholic Church, which 1 Timothy 4:3 seemed to predict.
And right next to that was "and commanding to abstain from meats." When I was a Roman Catholic we were not allowed to eat meat on any Friday. Two things in that one verse that appeared to point to the church I had left a few years before. Wow!
I had already heard about the theory that Revelation 17 pointed to Catholic Church and any pope was considered an antichrist if not The Antichrist, but reading the double prediction in 1 Timothy 4 was a real surprise to me. I did not know it at the time, but the Greek word for "meats" could be translated as "foods." However, it would still be a match.
Also, I would later learn that both statements pointed to teachings that were beginning to surface back then and Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit to warn Timothy about their increase in the future. However, as it is with much of prophecy, the primary meaning does come to pass, but along with it are its, what I call, "prophetic harmonics." For example, consider The Antichrist. 1 John 2:18 points out there are many antichrists. Similarly, while there is The Beast, there have been and will be many Beasts.
Regardless, God has stated in His Word what will come to pass, and when someone comes to God through Christ alone, making a true commitment to Him, their spiritual eyes are opened. And, they are opened not just to the prophecies, but they are opened to the blessings God desires His children to have. God willing, more on that next time.
Oddly, one thing that was new to me was that the pews were not bolted to floor. Sometimes if I held on to the pew in front of me when I got up, the pew moved a little. I was not used to that because all the pews in St. Stephens were bolted to the floor. I was raised by my parents to have a level of concern for safety. After a service one day I said, "Bob, the pews move." To my surprise he got a chuckle out of that, and then I realized he was thinking of the fact that the Assemblies of God was Pentecostal.
Over the weeks I heard some teaching and preaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby the initial evidence of someone receiving it was supernaturally speaking in another language as directed by the Holy Spirit. Bob Wittik told me he received it when younger and that someone who heard him said he was speaking in high or higher class Italian.
A number of attendees would speak in tongues in a church assembly (youth rallies too) and usually according to the conditions of Acts 10 or 1 Corinthians 12 to 14. If anything was out of Scriptural order Pastor and sister Bricker would intervene as directed by God.
As I researched the topic I saw that it was for every true disciple of Christ and that it was still for today. Those that disagree often point to 1 Corinthians 12:10 and say it meant when the Holy Bible fully came to us (which, along that line of thinking, would be by the close of the 1st Century). There is no indication that the experience completely stopped by 100 AD. What diminished the outpouring was sin entering into the Church. Also, if we keep reading, the conditions of the last part of verse 12 have not yet been met: "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." And there is much more to show that it is relevant for today. So, I concluded it was something I ought to have and, unknown to me, I would be needing the added spiritual strength for what awaited me that summer, and beyond, and even to the present. If you would like more Holy Bible information on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, please see http://sapphirestreams.com/bec/bec18HS2.html .
Back at home, it was about this time fifty years ago I received a letter from Northeast Bible Institute (NBI). It was probably about my application to the school. Upon opening it, I saw they were still waiting for two people I placed on the application as references. They had not yet responded. So I asked Pastor Bricker to look into the matter.
Also, Mom wanted me to do something I did not want to do. God willing you will hear about that next week.
But Mom thought otherwise."Pete, why don't you take Gail Anderson to the prom?"
"Mom, I don't want to go."
Gail lived across the street and the Andersons were good friends. Her brother Howie and I would play together over the years. Gail was a fine young lady. Still, no prom for me.
But Mom kept at it and at it and at it. I think my last effort against it was to say I needed to save my money for Holy Bible institute. And, I think Mom said they would take care of the costs. I finally said alright.
When I told Bob Wittik he said I should have said no and I would be sorry if I would go. I did not understand that at first, but then I was not even a half year old in Christ and there was a lot to learn. To me, not much could go wrong and it was a pleasure to Gail to the prom.
The evening soon arrived and Dad was letting me use his car to go to the prom, and Mom had bought a new purse for Gail to take to the prom. I do not remember where it was at, but off to the prom we went. And I soon found out why Bob raised his concerns.
Some of the music we danced to seemed OK, but then there were a couple of songs where, as a born again Christian, I had to wonder about the lyrics. Then, a few guys, just a few not a lot, weren't keeping their hands where they belonged while dancing.
At some point, if I recall correctly, we had some type of a dinner. If I recall correctly for dessert there were scoops of from various melons that had been saturated with syrup and those were yummers.
The dinner was going fine but then some at our table seemed to be getting tipsy. A few began to take a pinch of the colored sugar crystals at our table and started to toss them at each other. Soon, I saw a bottle of some type of alcohol being passed toward us.
I refused. This was embarrassing. Some of these students knew I was slated to go to Holy Bible institute. What might they think or even say? (See passages like Titus 1:6-9.)
As far as I was concerned Gail and I would return home the same way we left – sober! And, we did, lol!
The prom occurred on Thursday, June 11, 1970, but I wanted to write about it now because next week, God willing, I will be writing about a DOUBLE BLESSING that occurred that weekend fifty years ago!
Upon opening it I read, "It gives us pleasure to inform you that your application for admission to Northeast Bible Institute has been approved, pending receipt of an acceptable medical report, forms for which are enclosed." Here is the entire letter.
Overwhelmed with joy I knelt down and praised God over and over again: "Thank you Jesus! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord. Praise God! Something not in English!" What? What did I say? All of a sudden I said something that was not in English. Did I just speak in tongues? Huh?
Anyhow, what a blessing! Before I came to Christ I sent out three applications to colleges and all three were rejected. I sent only one out in May and just over a month I was accepted! Wow!
Though very happy, I remember being a bit angry over the fact the letter took five days to get to me. Well, enough of that. I needed to rejoice.
And the next day, Sunday, I had plenty of opportunity to rejoice, especially in the evening service. Most likely I stood up that night and thanked God I was accepted at NBI. Brother Bricker delivered the message for that evening, and many of us went up to the altar to pray and worship.
And, wow, I was still overjoyed and was rejoicing and praising God. Some probably laid hands on me as they prayed for me and as I kept praising God all of a sudden I switched from English to something else. And, it was not only one word, but numerous words! I had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as described in Acts!
Wow! Two blessings in one weekend! And surprise awaited me at Kearny High School.
My name was on it, showing I was going to go to Northeast Bible Institute! I sort of did not expect that because I assumed the list was about people going to colleges. Wow, so many blessings had occurred to me since I surrendered my life to Christ in January 1970! I had thought my name would never be there, but by God's grace it was.
Also, I think it was also during that week there was the awards ceremony. I actually got one, and I think it was called a "Service K Award." It was either for my being in a club to help new students acclimate to the school, or the two years I was Mr. Nasello's biology lab assistant or both. I forget when it happened, but either it was the end of my junior year or sometime during my senior year that I was summoned to the dean's office. The dean said usually when someone was sent to his office it was for something they had done wrong. In this case, however, Mr. Nasello nominated me for a commendation from the Dean's Office.
I say this to show the goodness of God. No one (except for God) back then ever knew how low I got. Going from straight A's to almost failing with the result of losing the future I wanted, load with guilt and shame for being arrested (twice), and other factors had edged me to the point of suicide in December 1969. See https://oasisofhope.neocities.org/TBT.html as how I got to that point.
And now, this time fifty years ago I was alive and, in fact, doubly alive thanks to the grace of God through Christ. On June 19 I received my diploma. I graduated in the lower half of my class, but by God's grace I graduated.
My parents gave me a watch for graduation. It was a pretty nice watch, but in a few weeks I would not have it. Stay tuned. Summer usually has thunderstorms, and there were some thunderstorms brewing in the spiritual realm for me before I would leave for Northeast Bible Institute.
I believe I was part time at the time at Shop Rite on Beech Street, but I could use more money. Searching the paper I found something I could do: overnight cleaning at Hudson Lamp on Elm Street. It was just a few blocks away. I applied and got the job. I forget what time my work started, whether I had to be there by 5 PM or later. It seems to me would be back home around midnight.
I walked with glee the few blocks to Hudson Lamp on the first night, did my work, and came home. I do not recall if it was the second night, or the third night – if there was a third night – but Mom was waiting for me – crying.
I cannot remember specifically why she wanted me to quit. It seemed to me she was concerned about me being out at night. Remember, my parents only had two children, and I am the baby boy. Mom was always protective of me.
I thought maybe Mom was going through a cycle. There were times she would hit a low in depression but then snap out of it. So, instead of quitting I tried talking to my supervisor, asking him if I could take a week off so Mom could settle down. No. He laid me off. To me that was not good for my record.
Was this the devil's way to prevent me from going to NBI? And again I had to wonder if Mom even try to stop me from going.
Even more important was that something had to be done in regard to Mom's loving, but hampering, protection of me. I had no idea of what specific area of ministry I would be in, though I leaned toward being an evangelist. Whatever area it would be I am sure I would encounter some type of danger and, at that, just for being a born again Christian. I knew very well a lot of bad things could happen, even physical death, and Jesus Himself pointed that out in the Word of God.
It seems to me I found another side job, but I do not recall if that is when I started working for the Hudson County Board of Education as part of a grounds keeping team. Nevertheless, this little thunderstorm with Mom probably helped to prepare me for the big spiritual thunderstorm that would come in August.
In the meantime the Lord saw to it to get me into evangelism work with fellow believers. Although in many denominations and fellowships there are people labeled as minsters, preachers, etc., every born again Christian is to be a minister at some level.
Telling other people about the good news of the salvation that Christ offers to all (aka, witnessing) was strongly encouraged. And, for introverts like me, there was plenty of help because one aspect of face to face witnessing includes doing it with at least one other person. Usually one Christian remains silent in prayer unless prompted by the Holy Spirit.
I cannot remember how I was introduced to it, and might have been at one of the church's youth meetings, but I was invited to go to the Kearny Town Hall Park between Chestnut Street and Kearny Avenue to "hangout" there in order to witness (see the image attached to this post).
Fifty years ago there was much less chance of getting someone angry than there is now. If I recall correctly, back then the Kearny Police Depart was in the same building as the Town Hall which was just north of the park, so the park was sort of a safe place – at that time – to witness.
A few good occurrences did take place although I cannot remember anyone coming to the Lord there. I might not remember because maybe some did but never followed through and did not remain walking in the Way.
While that was "safe," no Christian should depend upon "safe" or expect it all the time. All real Christians should expect danger. If you read back to the previous TBT series you will see I had a tendency to be nervous. I felt that had to be dealt with. And, lo and behold, God saw to it my early witnessing efforts were not just confined to Kearny, which is probably why an older sister in the church asked me to go with her somewhere. God willing I will cover that in the next post.
If I recall correctly, we took a bus, and I think we usually went to Sayre Street, getting there around 7PM. Elaine would do a “chalk talk” for children. Using colored chalk she would draw on a blackboard as she presented something from the Holy Bible. My job was to help the children to behave. They usually did. It is the “bigger” people we usually have to watch out for. Not many were around for the first few weeks. But a whopper of a spiritual thunderstorm would come our way in a matter of weeks. The streets of Newark were not very safe. Stay tuned.
That should be enough, right? Nah. Any godly pastor would be very pleased to hear a new convert was called to the Gospel ministry, and such was the case with Pastor Bricker. I really think it was the awesome hand of God that He led me to Kearny Assembly of God, and to be under Pastor Bricker's ministry from the start.
So, you have a young convert that feels the call of God to the ministry. What do you do? Invite him along in some of your ministerial duties, one of which was hospital visitation. Visiting the sick and disabled is part of ministering, especially if you are a pastor.
I forget when I was first asked, but I do remember being excited that I, a young person who had pretty well messed up eight or ten years of his life before coming to Christ and a near academic failure, was asked by brother Bricker to along with him to visit some people at West Hudson Hospital.
I forget who and how many we saw. I think I was pretty well concerned about leaning how to behave as a minister in a hospital. Conversation and prayer with a patient, as well as reading Holy Scripture, were elements of a visit. If there was any possibility that a person was not ready to me the Lord then, of course, as led by the Holy Spirit we would encourage them to come to the Lord.
I think I had opportunity to only go once or twice, but I do remember that as we were leaving one time I glanced into another room. The eye of an elderly lady sitting up in bed caught my eye as we passed by. That was sort of haunting. I had to wonder if we were supposed go pray for her. But, being a more timid person at that time, I said nothing and we left the hospital.
Was that enough to do? Nah. More next week, God willing.
Everyone has purpose in life, but when a person truly dedicates to God through Christ they even find more purpose – if they are open to it. In addition to what many of us young people, and others, of Kearny Assembly of God were doing in Lord there seemed to be always more opportunity. One time I remember was that some of us, at the request of Pastor Bricker, went over to his parsonage stamp and sort Gospel tracts.
Also, sometime before I went off to Holy Bible institute Pastor Bricker gave me a little more training in addition to hospital visitation. One thing he showed me was about writing an outline for a textual sermon (message). The outline of it is based upon certain words, phrases, or clauses within a relatively short portion of Holy Scripture. I was already marking and writing in my Holy Bible, but when he showed to me the basis of a textual message I really had a grand time finding sections and verses tended to present a possibility for a textual message.
The image in this post is from a Holy Bible I used around fifty years ago. As you see, I found several possibilities from chapters 2 and 3 of 1 Thessalonians, viz., 2, lots of 3, 4, and 5 point messages. In back of the same Holy Bible is a brief list of major events that occurred my first year in Christ – and really major one will be noted a couple of weeks from now, God willing.
One more thing I remember Pastor Bricker taught me was – how to tie a tie with a Windsor Knot! Up to that point I would tie a tie with just one loop. He saw that and said, "Let me deliver you from that!" LOL!
The Brickers were always supportive of the young people in the church. Our youth group had its own newsletter. I think it was called "The Ambassador." I have at least one copy somewhere. I cannot remember if I suggested a newsletter be started or not and I think I had helped to put it together. I did like journalism in high school.
There were a few senior citizens in the congregation and I do not think there was any barrier between them and the young people. There does not have to be if Christ is the center of the congregation. I think over the years many churches, fellowships, and denominations have gotten their eyes off of Christ and have fixed them on age gaps and distinction of groups and have created problems.
Anyhow, at some point a senior couple from Lyndhurst invited me to . . .
My mindset toward such believers at that time was, "Wow! I hope I spiritually grow too and be found spiritually mature and firm when older – if God permits me to live that long." So it was with delight to say "yes" to join them for a Sunday dinner.
As July rolled into August other opportunities arose as I neared the day I was supposed show up at Northeast Bible Institute. It was announced in church that new members would be received sometime in September. Some people reading that might not understand. Though each true Christian is part of the true universal Church, many fellowships desire an attendee to agree to a statement of faith and certain rules before granting membership status where one could vote, become a teacher, deacon, and more. Having read Kearny AG's statement of faith and rules I applied for membership.
Around the same time one more offer was made: new converts were invited to be baptized in water on the first Sunday in September. Kearny AG did not have a baptismal tank and since the waters of the Passaic River might eat our flesh away (just joking) Kearny AG would join other churches that had baptismal candidates at a church in Newark.
Of course I jumped at that opportunity too. Although no one can be saved by good works, if we are in Christ we will do His works out of love for Him. I do not understand why some Christians in the United States put off publicly identifying with Christ in this manner.
I had been baptized as an infant. My mother meant well and in her religious thinking that act would get me to by-pass limbo and permit me to make a stop in purgatory if need be before I was able to get to heaven if I were to die young. However, when someone is baptized as an infant they are baptized as an unregenerated sinner and remain condemned to hell. Each us must decide to turn away from sin, self, and the world and fully turn to Christ in order to be saved. And then we ought to follow Christ in His works, including, and especially, water baptism.
Well, church membership in a Protestant and water baptism would probably not be pleasant thoughts to some of my Catholic relatives. Nonetheless, it had to be and hopefully it would indicate to them the frailty of religion and the immense need to make peace with God through Jesus Christ.
Mama would not like that path. But things would happen in early August that Mom definitely would not like. Come back next week to read about a very dangerous encounter I had in August 1970.
I always had my wallet with me, thinking that in those days I needed to keep identification and information on me. So, inside my wallet was my draft card and the acceptance letter to Northeast Bible Institute (NBI), as well as six dollars. I also wore my graduation watch to know when we would have to catch the bus ride back to Kearny.
As usual, a number of children gathered to enjoy sister Elaine's Holy Bible talk chalk. If I recall correctly, we always invited the children to receive Christ as their Savior. There would be no invitation that evening.
Just below this paragraph is a picture of Sayre Street derived from Google Maps in 2020. The property on your left has been developed and an Autozone store is now located at the corner of Springfield Avenue and Sayre Street. Fifty years ago from 2020 there was no gentle embankment. Houses, and if I recall correctly they were row houses, lined much of that side of the street except for the fact there was a vacant lot just about across where we would be ministering, near perhaps the first or second post of the metal fence on a wall you see to your right is where we would stand that evening. In this image you are looking toward Springfield Avenue in the background.
And there we stood with over a dozen boys and girls. I was holding one of them mainly in my left arm while sister Elaine, to my right, spoke and drew great illustrations with colored chalk. My graduation watch was on my left wrist.
As I glanced toward Springfield Avenue I saw four African-American guys starting to walk in our direction. Sure enough, they walked right pass in front of us, with at least one taking special notice of my watch. "We are about to be mugged" I thought, but they went on down the street.
In less than ten minutes they came back: one coming down Sayre from Springfield, one coming up Sayre from the other direction, and two through the lot from across the street. The children scattered. Now I knew we were about to be mugged!
One confronted Elaine and the other three confronted me. My back was against the wall and fence. One took off my glasses while another held something sharp near my stomach. I think it was a piece of broken glass. They took my watch and got my wallet, dumping the contents on the ground. "Let me keep my papers please," I said. They agreed. I was quite worried about not having that draft card on me as well as my acceptance letter to NBI. Of course, they scooped up the six dollars and the guy at Elaine got whatever she had in her pocket book. Then they left. If I recall correctly I was relatively calm during the event (and I will give God the credit for that), but was very nervous after they left.
We somehow called the police, and I forget what happened after that and how we got home. I got home and told my parents. At some point I indicated Elaine and I wanted to go back the next week.
"You're not going back!," Mom sternly said. "I have to go back," I replied. Mom insisted I would not go back and was crying. I felt like I had to go back for a number of reasons. One reason was because I felt that if I shrunk back in fear from this ministry event I would be more inclined to do so with other occasions. Again, I was pitted against my mother and I felt like I must not back down. To be continued next week, God willing.
During this time I had to think of my Roman Catholic sister. If you recall, when I was involved in a car accident in April she said to me "See what happens when you leave the Catholic Church?" I hoped she would remember my reply that even Catholics have car accidents and apply it to my being mugged, realizing that Catholics get mugged too.
It was probably while we were at church that Elaine and I talked things over and decided we would return to Sayre Street. We felt like we had the duty to return. Personally I probably felt I needed more practice in regard to dangerous situations and squash any racial prejudice that might have rising up within me.
Understandably Mom, who was not a born again Christian at the time, was strongly against me going back and insisted that I do not go back. However, on my part, a number of things were going through my mind.
1. I might easily cave-in to fear in future outreaches if I did not return to Sayre Street.
2. I needed to get into the habit of obeying God. Now, on this, someone might counter and say I should obey my parents. However, Jesus said in Luke 14:26, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." "Hate" here, as it is in other cases, must be understood in relation to other Holy Scriptures. For example, Christ always did the will of God despite any influence from His family to do otherwise (Matthew 12:46-50), but He still showed love to His mother by making provision for her just before He died on the cross (John 9:26-27).
3. A signal had to be sent to Mom in regard to item #2, otherwise she might be prone to interfere in later years when I might be pastoring or even serving as a missionary.
4. A signal had to be sent to the residents of Sayre Street that the Body of Christ loves them more than any fear that man can muster.
I strongly felt I had to go back, so I called Pastor Bricker and explained the situation. I forgot what all was said when he came over, but I do remember him saying to my mother, "Mrs. Macinta, let him go back, and I promise you that I will pick him and Elaine up before sundown." I do not recall Mom replying, but I do remember the blank look in her face and a sense of resignation. I thanked brother Bricker as he left. Again, he was teaching me what a pastor ought to do as led by the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, when we went back to Sayre Street there seemed to less children. Pastor Bricker did pick us up before sunset.
In my next post, after I mention a couple of things we will go to a much lighter side. Hopefully you will find it to be a hoot and a half!
©2020 Peter Macinta, you may copy, store, redistribute, UNCHANGED in content and not for sale.