My testimony wouldn’t be complete without some background history so let me begin back in the 1980 time frame. I was employed by GTE when I attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Tampa Florida. Several of my employees had been witnessing to me and loaning me tapes but I rarely listened to them. I had attended Sunday school when I was young but my parents didn’t attend church or claim to be Christians. I believed there was a God, knew about Jesus, but was far from the Lord. When Billy Graham came to town, my Christian friends were so insistent that I go with them that I eventually agreed. I rationalized that they would finally agree to leave me alone if I went along this one time. The sermon was pointed directly at my lifestyle, and my procrastination in accepting Jesus. When the altar call was given, the tremendous flow of people triggered my response and I went down on the field, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and thought I was OK with God. I started attending a small community church in Tampa where the pastor regularly asked for a show of hands of all those who were sure that they were going to go to heaven when they died. I always raised mine. But my life was still centered around my career with GTE, my family came second, and the Lord came last. My lifestyle never changed and I thought that was OK.
Four years later, in 1984 I left GTE taking a position with Northern. My goals were still based on my and my wife’s materialism so my career was still the most important thing in my life. Five years later I found myself divorced, the sole parent of two young sons aged 6 and 9. I was forced to tend to family matters, raise two sons, and spend less time with my career. For the first two years, I didn’t date or have any social life. Then I went overboard, moving from one bad situation to another, finally having a woman move in with me and my two children. Although we intended to get married, the relationship seemed to deteriorate as time went on.
Several of my employees at Northern, who had known me before I divorced, saw a difference in me and had the boldness to express concern for me and the situation I had created for myself and my children. They constantly talked about the Toronto and Brownsville Revivals, about all of the people in their church that had gone there and how God was pouring out his Spirit on the church. Again, when they invited me to church, I gave in to their request thinking I could get them to leave me alone if I agreed.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The second I walked into the foyer of Woodland Hills AG that Sunday morning, I felt something I had never experienced before. I felt God’s awesome presence, warmth and love. I felt like weeping but I didn’t know why. When the service started, the praise and worship brought more tears to my eyes and the message seemed to be directed right at me. For the first time in my life I felt a burning conviction and urgent need to get my life in order and get right with God, but my pride kept me from going to the altar that morning. I then agonized all week waiting for the next Sunday. When the altar call was given I immediately found myself down in front on my knees. It was then that I truly became a born again Christian for the first time. I didn’t just know who Jesus was, I accepted His Lordship. Now that I knew what true salvation was, I had to admit to myself that I was never really saved before and I felt a tremendous burden for others like me. It was clear to me that without repentance there is no salvation. I prayed for the Lord’s forgiveness and received additional prayer from the altar team. Instead of going home after church, I hiked up a local mountain and prayed until sunset asking the Lord to lead me in the right direction to resolve my unbelievably complex situation. He took His time but, because I waited, He was faithful to provide the funds, new employment for the woman I was living with, a place for her to live, and leading both of us through what could have been a mentally disastrous situation.
My life immediately and completely changed. My live-in friend, her daughter and my two sons were all saved at Woodland Hills shortly after I was. One Sunday night my oldest son astounded me by bringing all of his heavy metal music, years of artwork and clothes to church where he publicly threw it away and gave his testimony. The tears sure flowed that night! A few months later, after returning from a trip to Brownsville AG in Pensacola, he refused to sell a front row center Metallica ticket he had, instead burning it in front of his friends. Within a few weeks, my younger son followed suit, destroying and throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of CDs, videos, T-shirts and posters. Thanks to the current revival and a group of Christians who are faithful, bold, and listen to the Lord, God has RADICALLY changed and delivered my family. There are occasions when we have had to drive our van and our car to church to handle the overflow of kids that ask to come with us.
God is pouring out His Spirit on the people and churches that will ALLOW HIM TO DO SO. Sadly, many people and whole churches are putting themselves in a box, only allowing God to work within their narrow framework of tradition. They say they’ve found God, but He’s never been lost! He’s still here waiting patiently for them to come to Him in repentance. Knowing about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will not save you. Surrendering to His Lordship in repentance will.