FC TRUE FELLOWSHIP STORIES
March 18, 2001
It’s amazing to look at all the documentary shows out there. You know those shows that go behind the scenes and lift out the facts among all of the fiction. We are drawn to them: reality, nothing contrived, nothing made up, no smoking mirrors, the real deal. We want to watch real people wrestle real animals. We want to watch real cops arrest real bad guys. We like reality. I guess that is why a show like “The Crocodile Hunter” is so popular. That is why a show like “Headlines and Legends” are really the rave, or shows like MTV Cribs, and you can go on and on. But I have to say my most favorite of all the documentary type reality based shows has to be “E: True Hollywood Story.” I mean, that is real journalism, isn’t it? No smoking mirrors, nothing contrived, the real deal. I love to watch that.
A couple of months ago, I was thinking you know, wouldn’t it be cool if we could do the “E, Hollywood Story” thing here at Fellowship? I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could take people who attend Fellowship and do brief biographies on their lives and to see what has occurred over their spiritual pilgrimage. Then my mind rushed to the Bible. I thought to myself that the Bible has been doing this for thousands and thousands of years. You want the real deal? Here it is, nothing contrived, nothing manipulated, no smoke and mirrors.
I want to ask you just for a second to do something for me. I want to ask you to close your eyes and to use your imagination. Imagine your life if you could live a no-holds barred existence. Imagine if you could try and taste and test every vice and venue this whole world has to offer. Just think about that. You got a picture of it? Now look at me. Over the next few moments that remain during this worship service hour, we are going to rub shoulders with a couple of people who had that ability. One, in a limited sense, the other, in an unlimited manner. We are going to follow their pursuit of pleasure. Basically, we are going to see where it ends.
I know all of us here are in a search. Some of us are just beginning a search, a few here are in the midst of a search, and it has been our prayer, as we have been preparing for this series, that many during the course of this series would end their search. For there are people out there who are searching, who are looking for the meaning of life.
Years ago, my wife and I met a young woman and her children who began attending Fellowship. Little did we realize, though, how intense and how focused this woman’s search was. Let’s look behind the scenes at her true story.
Video of Roxanne Phillips
Ed: Roxanne, tell me about your spiritual pilgrimage in your life.
Roxanne: Well, Ed, I was raised in a Christian home and my dad died when I was very young, when I was seven. At seven, I used to have conversations with God and say, “Well, I guess you are my father now.” I had a real close relationship as a youngster. After awhile, after a series of real difficult things in my life, I was filled with a void, I was lost, I was trying to do it on my own. I didn’t think I was important enough for Him to deal with. I was just a little nothing in His life. So I tried all solutions, drugs, alcohol, men, you name it. None of it worked. In fact, that hole was getting worse and worse. You know, I met Gene on Valentine’s Day, and Gene seemed to be a solution, a financial security. Gene lived in Dallas, and that is what brought me to Dallas.
Ed: So you moved to Dallas in what?
Ed: ’86. Here, your new husband is an extremely successful businessman and you are living at this time, Roxanne, a life that every woman would dream to live.
Roxanne: Oh, yes. We were living in this incredible house, driving a Rolls Royce with more diamonds than a girl could have any use for, closets full of designer clothes and there was a vacuous, just emptiness inside of me, and I was just full of despair. I didn’t know why I was unhappy. I started using drugs and alcohol again, one for courage because I was very insecure still, that insecure little girl who was seven and lost her dad, was still insecure.
Ed: So, you turned to the drugs and alcohol to try and fill that vacuum, you are telling me.
Roxanne: I couldn’t fill that vacuum. There weren’t enough clothes at Neiman Marcus. There weren’t enough jewels. There was nothing. I was so empty and Gene and I ended up getting divorced. We remarried again. I just couldn’t get it right. I just didn’t know what. All this time, God was still working in my life doing amazing things. One day, at Fellowship, when I came in really hung over, and on the stage for the drama, you had the Vietnam Memorial Wall. My dad’s name was on that because he was one of the first men to be killed over there in ’65. I knew in that sermon, it was as if God were talking just to me in that room. I raised my hand to be baptized and was baptized, but still was relying on my own solutions after that, for a couple of years after that.
It got to point in my life, I was in such despair, even though I was baptized, I was still drinking. I got to a point where I knew my life was empty, just so empty. There was nothing I couldn’t buy, not a drug, not a dress; there was nothing I couldn’t obtain materially. I had beautiful children. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I attempted suicide. I was in this house. People driving by, I was thinking how ironic. They must drive by, look at this house, and see the Rolls Royce and think these people are the happiest people in the world. They have everything. And there I was in my bowling alley length closet, curled up in a ball wanting to die.
I wrote a suicide letter, had all these pills lined up, and Alicia, one of the nannies who was working part time for us, who brought us and all the nannies to Fellowship was on the third floor practicing a dance routine. She had asked if she could borrow the third floor because we have plenty of room. I had my door double-bolted. No one in thirteen years has knocked on my door when I have a “Do not disturb” sign on it. She was crying and carrying on, and I had already laid out the pills and written the suicide letter and she was sobbing. Of course, as messed up as I was, I was still kind-hearted. I always cared about others. So I thought and I go, “Alicia, I don’t feel well. Can you come back tomorrow?”
She was like, “No, no, Mrs. Phillips, please open the door.” She threw her little body, she is this tiny little like eight-nine pound tiny thing, and so I thought, “Okay, I’ll open the door and let her in, see what she wants, fix up whatever the problem is and then I will finish whatever I was going to do.” She threw herself against me, threw me on the bed, was sobbing, she goes, “I feel you are in danger and Satan is present. I have to pray. We have to pray.” She prayed and I guess I went to sleep. The next morning, things always look different in the morning light. I looked at the pills on my countertop and the suicide note and I was like stunned. I knew then. I just knew without a doubt that God did still care. All these years, I thought I was insignificant. But that was truly His letting me know that He cared about me.
(end of video)
Obviously, Roxanne Phillips searched in a spectacular way. However, her way was limited. You might be saying, “Limited? Limited?” Yes, limited. There has only been one person on the planet who has ever been given a blank check to search and search like no one could ever search. God granted this man an amazing amount of gifts, a skill set like few have ever obtained here on this planet. This person was a powerbroker, a leader of a nation at the peak and pinnacle of its existence.
The person I am describing wrote three books of the Bible. The first book is called “The Song of Songs.” It’s basically a story about a husband’s love for his wife. It tells married couples how to make love to one another. I see some guys going, “Now, where is that?” During his midlife years, this person penned the book of Proverbs, a very practical text. It is almost as if he took his palm pilot around with him and recorded life and wrote it down inspired by the spirit of God. He had it going on. But as he got older and kind of crusty, and sort of jaded, and bitter, he penned the book of Ecclesiastes. Some of you know who I am describing. Some of you don’t. I am talking about Solomon, a man who had so much, yet he also had his PH.D. in pursuit. He tried to find the meaning of life away from God.
I want to go behind the scenes right now and do a quick true story about the life of this engaging personality. Let’s look at his search, a search that Roxanne was on, and if we are honest with ourselves, a search that many of us are on as well. Before we do so though, I am going to tell you a story.
A Danish philosopher talks about a spider who spun a single strand on a rafter in the top of this old barn and the strand kind of hung down. On the strand, this spider constructed this magnificent web. This web was so awesome that it was the envy of the rest of the spiders in the barn. They would say, “Wow, I wish I could have a web that beautiful, that big, that neat, that intricate.” This web served the big time spider well. It caught him all these insects. He would chow down on the insects. He was big and bad, the man.
One day, this philosopher writes, this spider was cruising across his web, admiring his handiwork, and he came upon this single strand. He looked up and it went up into the rafters. He said to himself, “Why is this single strand here? It doesn’t catch any food. What is up with the single strand?” So the spider climbed a little bit and snipped that single strand. With that one snip, his web and the spider came tumbling down to the floor of the old barn.
Solomon, at the peak and pinnacle of his life, Solomon, with his days before him, cruised across his web and said, “Look at what I have. Look at what I have done.” And he took that single strand that tethered him to God and Solomon snipped it, and began a four-decade free-fall into the pursuit of pleasure, sin and rebellion.
Well, let’s check him out. I am in Ecclesiastes 2:1. This first verse sounds like an interview on VH-I, all of the personal pronouns. Have you ever watched VH-I, Behind the Music? I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my, I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my. Look at Solo-man. I call him Solo-man because he did it his way. He clipped the strand that tethered him to God and said, “I’ll do it my way.”
Verse One: “I said to myself, come now, I will test you with pleasure so enjoy yourself.” Can’t you see Solo-man cruising across his web, forgetting that God built it, forgetting that God blessed him, forgetting that God had given him this skill set. Can’t you see him; can’t you hear him just clipping that strand? I guess he had forgotten that he had written years earlier Proverbs 19:20 which says, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction that you may be wise in your latter days.” Solomon, pay attention to your own words, I want to say. Where is your accountability? Where are people who love you enough to tell you the truth? Solomon, think about your dad, David. This is what messed him up. Don’t do it. But he did.
See, this is going to shock a lot of people, especially the women here, you see Solomon had the first case of PMS. He had true PMS Distress. He chased after power, money and sex. A lot of people who are hearing my voice right now have PMS. We are trying to chase power, money and sex. We think it can give us the answer to life. We have clipped the strand that has tethered us to God and we say, “You know what? I am going to do life my way.”
Let’s look at PMS. How about Solomon’s power trip? The Bible says this, Ecclesiastes 2, Solo-man talking, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure.” What was he doing here? He was making himself God. I’ll run the show. I’ll call the shots. I’ll determine my own destiny. I’ll carve my own course. Thank you very much, God. I know what’s best for me. “So enjoy yourself,” he said, “and behold it too was futility. I said of laughter,” this is Solomon speaking, “it’s madness and of pleasure, what does it accomplish?”
He was calling the shots for the most powerful place and the most powerful land around. Kings and queens were converging upon Jerusalem just to hear this guy talk. He wrote over 3,000 proverbs, over 1,000 songs. The Queen of Sheba said, “Not even the half of the story has been told about Solo-man.” He was the toast of the town, the man of the hour. He had it all. Talk about a powerbroker. This guy was it. Yet it didn’t bring him what he thought it would. See the word “laughter” I read? He was so wealthy, he brought in the best magicians, the best acrobats, the best comedians of the day, the Seinfelds, the Chris Rocks, but it didn’t do it for him.
So after power, he thought, “You know what? I’m just going to try money.” I mean, money is out there. A lot of us chase money. We think money will satisfy. Let’s see what Solo-man did. Verse 7, and you can feel his search engines really start to get stoked here, “I bought male and female slaves, and had other slaves who were born in my house.” This guy’s search was so skewed that he began to make his own people slaves. Some of the slaves’ sole responsibility in life was to hike up mountains, collect ice, and bring the ice back to Solo-man just to chill his adult beverages. That was their agenda.
Verse 4, “I undertook great projects,” Solomon said. Boy, that’s an understatement, “I built houses for myself.” If they built Solomon’s house today, it would cost over two hundred billion dollars. Bill Gates couldn’t carry this guy’s wallet, friends. Solomon’s residence was sixty feet wider and eighty feet longer than the temple. The precious stones in this puppy, I am talking about his house, were over twenty feet tall. The whole thing was covered in gold. We are not talking about a tract home here.
I think it’s funny. You read the book of Ecclesiastes, and Solomon talks about all of his great projects, the one hundred foot long moats with the exotic fish that needed 16,000 gallons of water a day. And all of this sadly, though, never mentioned his greatest architectural accomplishment, the building of the Temple. Do you know why? Solomon’s house was built for the glory of Solomon and the Temple was built for the glory of God. He had clipped the strand that tethered him to God.
Verse 7, he goes on, “I also own more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.” Twice in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “You know what? I have more than Daddy had.” Sounds like a lot of modern day men, doesn’t it? “I’ve got more than my Dad. Man, I’ve got a lot more than him.” Insecurity, poor self-esteem, it goes on. Verse 8, Solomon says, “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasures of kings and providences.” I love this last one. Don’t miss it. “I acquired men and women singers.” Man, check this one out. Solomon had the best musicians of his day to serenade him. By the snap of his fingers, they were singing to wake him up in the morning, to put him to bed. Can’t you imagine Solomon rolling over and saying, “Honey, how about tonight, what do you want? N Sync?” “Oh, it’s a beautiful day. That reminds me of U2’s song. Bono, hit it! It’s a Beautiful Day.” Power didn’t do it. He had ultimate power. Money didn’t do it.
He tried sex. Verse 8, “I acquired a harem as well, the delight of the heart of men.” Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, the most beautiful women in the world. Can you imagine his dealings with his in-laws? That is the only thing I thought about when I read that verse was the in-laws. That didn’t do it for him. One of the saddest verses in this text is verse 9, “I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.” Solomon was experiencing PMS Distress.
Let me say something. You will never have the bank account or the power base to search like Solomon did. You will never have it. Furthermore, you don’t have the bank or the power base to search like Roxanne. It’s not going to happen for you. You will not search like those people. It’s not going to happen. So, why are you wasting your time, “If I get this position, if I am really a powerful person, if people know me, if people recognize me, that will do it. If I get this money in my portfolio, if I can stack it up, that will do it. If I can sleep with this and have this, that will do it. Surely that buzz, that fix, that high, that accomplishment, that deal, that will do it. But it always takes one more, doesn’t it? That is the way it is when you pursue pleasure the way Solomon did and the way Roxanne did.
Verse 11, Solomon said, “Yet when I survey all that my hands had done,” and this lasted for forty years, friends, “and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Solo-man was flying solo, and he hit a wind sheer, didn’t he? Then he said, “Nothing was gained,” let’s say this together this last phrase, “under the sun.” One more time, “Under the sun.” This little phrase is the key to the book of Ecclesiastes, “under the sun.” Solomon clipped the single strand that tethered him to God above the sun, and because he clipped that strand he tried to find the meaning of life under the sun. It is mentioned twenty-nine times, under the sun.
That is the problem with a lot of our lives. We are trying to live out life under the sun. We are searching under the sun. When you search under the sun, you have got a space limitation. You are just looking at your little finite world, your little deal, this limited perspective. Conversely, when you are connected and tethered to God, what happens? You can rise above the sun, and you have a different and unique perspective. Then you understand what life is all about. You have the wisdom, the power and the intelligence of God. Also, when you try to search for things under the sun, you have a time limitation.
Poor old Solo-man, just looking at his little life from birth to death. That was it for him, just his life experiences, just what he could see, what he could observe. I laugh, people who think they are so wise and so intelligent, scripture says, are really dumb. At the end of time one day, we will think all these wise people, all these brilliant people; they really had it going on. Oh, really? They are going to look stupid. Why? They are doing life under the sun and they are getting sunburned. We need to be tethered to the Son, S-O-N, who is above the sun, s-u-n, don’t we? That’s the meaning of life. That’s what it is all about.
PMS Distress. Do you have it? As you scroll through your life, can you say, “You know, I am not searching like Solomon did, or Roxanne did, but I am feeling some PMS distress.” Well, Solomon did not leave us hanging. He didn’t say, “Well, that’s it. It’s all vanity. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s meaningless.” No, no, no. Solomon tells us what to do. I want you to remember something. Anytime you ever hear an effective message, it should answer two questions. What do I need to know and what do I need to do? Too many times we hear messages and talks and they are just about knowing. The Bible is not a book of knowledge. It’s not a book of just knowing. The Bible is a book of doing. Most of us don’t need to attend another Bible study. We need to apply what we already know. I am all for studying the Bible. We have got to know it. But let’s do it. Solo-man says, “Don’t waste your time on what I did. Don’t burn up this precious life. Don’t waste four decades. You will never search like I did so here you go. Here is what you need to do.”
Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember,” Solo-man says, “your creator in the days of your youth.” This word “remember” is not like saying, “Okay, tip your hat to God. Okay, God, I remember you. Thank you, God.” No, no, no. It means to actively pursue God. Remember, the Christian life is a decision followed by a process. You don’t just say, “I’m going to actively pursue.” No, you have got to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You have got to have that strand that tethers you to God and that strand is through Christ. Then the process begins. “Remember the creator in the days of your youth,” when you are young.
Over spring break, I had the privilege of being with someone at the peak and pinnacle of their life when they committed their heart to Christ. I cannot tell you how fired up I was and am today just to be a part of that experience. I am thrilled because this guy made this decision at the ultimate time. His life is before him. He can do so many wonderful and mighty things for the Lord. Don’t put it off. Do it now. We have a young church. People ask us, “Why do you put so many resources and manpower behind the children’s ministry and the youth ministry?” It’s right here. “Remember the creator in the days of your youth.”
How many of you work out? How many of you are a member of some sort of health club? Have you ever noticed that these body builder guys don’t call it “health club,” they call it “the gym.” “I go to the gym to train, man.” Women call it the “health club.” Whenever you walk into a gym or a health club, there is always a bunch of treadmills there. Treadmills are wild. When I walk in the place I workout and see all the treadmills lined up, I see some people like running on the treadmill, others walking, some talking, a few trying to figure out how to work the crazy thing, you know? Treadmills are weird because we get on them and burn up all this energy, perspiring, out of breath. But when we get off the treadmills, we haven’t gone anywhere. We are at the same place we started.
We burn up all that energy and all that effort and a lot of us become tread militant. We say, “You know what? I am not going to get off the treadmill. I am going to seek power. I am going to seek money. I am going to seek sex. That will do it for me. Surely it will.” If, and I pray when, you finally get off, you are going to realize you are in the same place you started. That is what Solo-man did. That is what so many people are doing right now. “Remember the creator in the days of your youth.” We only have a limited amount of time. Only when we are wired to God, only through his intelligence do we know what life is all about.
Soloman tells us something else to do. Ecclesiastes 12:13, he says, “Now all has been heard.” He is saying, “You won’t be able to top this. Just give it up.” “Now that all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God.” This word “fear” is not, “Oh, God is a cosmic killjoy.” It is not that. Fear means to reverence God, to allow God to be God. “Fear God and keep his commandments. This is the whole duty of man.” It’s about obedience. We are to reverence God, to let God be God. Then that is to segue out into everything we touch. Worship is not something we do in this little confined place on a weekend service or a First Wednesday. It is part of it but it is just a little bitty slice. Everything we do should be an act of worship. Everything. Because ultimately, we are doing it for the glory of God.
PMS is weird, though, because PMS is about sin. Sin carries with it a bunch of myths. I will just hit two because we are limited. The first myth is, people say this sometimes, “You know sin is not really enjoyable. Sin is not really fun. It is bad.” That is not true. Sin is fun. If sin was not fun, we would not participate in it so enthusiastically. Don’t ever think sin is not fun. Sin does not satisfy. If sin satisfied, we would just sin one time and go, “Oh, that’s it. I am satisfied. One time, you know.” The consequences of sin, this is what will mess you up, are not always immediate, but they are always inevitable. We will go, “Okay, that person is messed up but I don’t see anything bad happening to them. I don’t see them really reaping the consequences.” They are always inevitable.
Here is another myth going around. People say this, “You know, I can do whatever I want with my body as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody, I can do whatever I want.” We have all heard that before. “I can just do whatever I want.” That is a joke because whenever you sin, whenever you miss the mark, you are always hurting several people. You are hurting yourself, innocent bystanders and you are also hurting God, every single time.
Do you know why we die? It is because of sin. The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” If we know Christ, if we meet him, if we are tethered to him with that single strand, we have peace that surpasses all understanding here, we will live forever and ever, and we will know the meaning of life under the sun because we are connected to the SON. But if we don’t, we don’t. I pray, I pray, folks, that many of you today will say, “You know what? I am going to end the search.” I pray that many of you today do what Roxanne did. Let’s look at Part Two.
Roxanne: I would say things started turning around. I had a DWI after that. I was still drinking, but I knew God cared about me and I was really trying to be a Christian. But on the bottom of a jail cell floor with my head on a cot, I prayed, really prayed, and I said, “God, my life is a mess. I am losing another marriage. I’m going to lose my kids. I am going to lose my life if you don’t help me. Please help.” Everything that happened from that moment on is a miracle, and my journey for the last seven years has been a miracle.
After that DWI, because it was in California, and because we have money and lawyers, I was able to get in-house arrest, which meant I had to wear this ankle bracelet around my ankle and it would buzz if I left the premises, the house. I only had written permission, I asked, to go to AA meetings and to go to Fellowship. But I had to have someone sign that that is where I was when I left. I remember walking in over there to the Irving Arts Center, and I was filled with a little bit of shame. But I knew that I was going somewhere that I always got comfort, when I heard you speak, and I always felt more whole. So with that bracelet on, and I had a long dress on to kind of disguise it, I walked up to Doris and explained to her, “Doris, I am under house arrest.” I showed her my ankle bracelet and I said, “I need to have someone endorse that I have actually been here to Fellowship.” She was as sweet, she didn’t even blink an eye and she just said, “Well, of course, sweetheart, or darling or honey,” or that Texas, whatever it was. I felt like I was totally accepted and not shamed at all.
I have to tell you that one gesture there made all the difference in my embracing that church, even more because I felt that no matter how embarrassing what I had done, or where I had come from, how broken I was, that it was okay, that they wanted me. I embraced Fellowship with all my heart, and I have to tell you my life since then has been a roller coaster ride. The joy and the just satisfaction God has given me I can’t even describe. It didn’t come from the things I have, but from having a personal relationship with Him.
Ed: But the life people, I mean, just even fantasize and dream about, like if I could live that life, people think, that would be the answer. I mean, to have all that.
Roxanne: They would. In fact, when I was pregnant with Ashley, I went to Monte Carlo to produce a movie for Princess Caroline on the Monte Carlo Ballet. So I was still I had my Beverly Hills movie star connections and money and glamour. You name it, royalty, everything was thrown into the pot. Of course, we lived in one of the nicest homes in Dallas, that was the old Hunt mansion. We flew around in our own DC9 with pilots and airlines hostesses–world travelers, Paris, Rome, full set of Louis Vuitton luggage. I guess that says you really arrived, and I still attempted suicide after that because it didn’t give me any sense of happiness or peace. There was no peace. Life was just empty, with all those….
Ed: With all of that.
Roxanne: I call them trappings, because once you have all those things, too, you are enslaved to your trappings. It is like you have a lot to take care of, a lot to worry about, a lot to protect.
Ed: It is amazing to hear that, Roxanne, because we hear so much of the opposite, you know. The media tells us if you have those things, then that equates to happiness. You are going, “Man, I had those things that a lot of the movie stars and Hollywood crowd do not have, yet I was still empty. I did not have peace.”
Roxanne: It is with anything you try to use as a solution, whether it be shopping, pills, alcohol, there is never enough. There won’t be. There isn’t enough out there for you to buy or use to fill that hole. Nothing can. There is no $8000 dress that can do it. It can’t. I know it’s easy to say because I have it all, but I had it all and I had nothing. There is no piece of jewelry. There is no fancy car. There is nothing that is going to fill your heart like God, and make you happy and make you whole.