Like many families, as children, our parents wanted us to attend Sunday school. We went a couple of times, but I do not recall ever hearing the true gospel of the grace of God until much later in life.
As a youth, I rejected and wanted no part of religion. Instead, I looked for the excitement and passing pleasures this life could give. Smoking, drinking and parties. I didn’t do the drug thing, and most of my drinking was in bars or at parties, I didn’t like drinking at home by myself.
Persistent Thoughts of God
My thoughts from time to time would stray toward God. I would find a place outside where I could be alone and just gaze up at the sky, looking for God in the clouds in the daytime, and in the night at the stars. I always believed that someone had to have made all of this, and the Earth and life. I thought about who, what, and where is He, and then I would wonder if He really existed at all. It just didn’t make sense to me: if there is a God, then why are such things taking place, like wars, riots, murders, and adulteries committed openly without any judgment from God?
Searching for Bible Answers to My Questions
I remember when President John F. Kennedy was shot. I loved him as a president and yet, God allowed him to be assassinated. And then, within a few years, his brother Senator Robert Kennedy died by an assassin’s bullet – why God? This was puzzling to me. My grandparents had a book case and I would often lift out the Bible and search for answers to my questions; but I only became more confused. In time, I lost interest in these things; and yet, I lived with a hidden fear that there could possibly be a real God.
Joining the Marines
I joined the Marine Corps. When I arrived at boot camp in the wee hours of the morning, I remember standing at attention up against the wall. The deep bellow of the Drill Instructor had me shaking – no kidding! My knees were literally knocking, and I sent a quick prayer up to God — if He even existed: “Oh God, what have I done now!” I don’t recall any other pleas to God. Although I never went to Vietnam, I did escort the bodies of my fellow Marines killed in Vietnam, back home to their families. When alone, at the casket, I would ask God to remember them.
I do remember another occasion in the Marine Corps, when God was presented to me. My friends and I went into San Francisco one evening. When we got off the bus, a group of young people invited us to what we thought was a party. Instead, it was some sort of a gospel outreach effort to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with us. We were polite but at the first chance, two of us got out of there. We went back to the city and did some serious drinking. One guy stayed and yes, we teased him the next day.
Discussing God at the Bar
On another occasion I remember my buddies and I sitting around the table at a bar and the subject of God came up. The big topic for discussion was: what must one do to get to Heaven? Baptism loomed big in the discussion. I argued that it was not needed, since I never was. The importance of good works was brought up, and yes – sin was mentioned; yet not one of us was convicted of sin. We were all comforted by our varying beliefs about God as to who He is, and how or what we needed to do to satisfy Him about allowing us into His Heaven. In all that discussion, I don’t recall anything being mentioned about Christ dying on the Cross for our sins. If it came up, it definitely never registered with me.
Returning to the Bar Hopping Scene – Is This Life?
After we got out of the service, my brother and my best friend and I returned to our bar hopping again. We had some great times – wild and fun. I remember talking to an old high school acquaintance at a bar. We observed how all the smart kids in high school ended up burned-out on drugs and we, all the average students, were doing well. And then, an old friend’s name came up. We both heard that he had became a Jesus freak. Of course, I don’t like that term now; but back then, that’s what we called him – but never to his face because he was one tough dude. We had heard that he got religion down in Florida and was living down there. Of all the people to get religion, it seemed unbelievable to us that he did.
It was not until I spent a night in jail for driving while intoxicated that I really began to take a closer look at my life. I was embarrassed. I felt like I was just an animal in the zoo. What a waste of time and so inhumane! I began to realize I was wasting my life and that I was living a life without meaning. I needed something of value in my life. Life itself needed meaning. I asked God again for help.
28 Years Old and Frightened by My Heart Palpitations
As I thought about God and the purpose of my life, I wondered: “What value am I to the Creator?” I went back to reading the Bible. There was also another book I found in the bedroom I shared with my brother. He had purchased it when he was in the service. It was entitled: “Good News for Modern Man.” So I used it as a reference, I found myself to be a sinner on the way to hell. This matter now became a very personal concern between God and myself. All things appeared hopeless which caused me much grief and tears. At 28 years of age the reality of death and what lies beyond it, entered into my life and I spent sleepless nights feeling, and listening to the loud palpitations of my heartbeat. At times it felt like it was going to explode.
Seriously Reading the Bible
I realized I needed help. Once more I went to the Bible, even though I was very hesitant due to the conviction it brought upon me. While in a state of desperation, I found hope in one word. The word was “awake” in Romans 13:11. In Romans 13 there is this list of sinfulness, that’s me but then this WORD AWAKE pops up, “Hey” God is saying to me, “WAKE UP SINNER” I realized that God knows that I have committed these horrible sins and is saying to me change your ways, or a better word would be repent. God was telling me there was a way out of my sinful state.
An Old Friend Finds What I Need
I determined to attend a church where they taught directly from the Word of God – the Bible. As I prayed for guidance, God answered by bringing me into contact with that old friend who had received Christ down in Florida. He shared his story with me, and I told him what I was experiencing. He said: “We will have to get together and talk.”
Well, it had been over a month since I had talked to him and so I went out with my brother and my best friend and some other friends, to the bar. I went up to order a round of beers, when sitting at the bar was another old friend from school days. Another tough guy, but a good friend in those days. He and I got on the subject of the Bible and talked until the bar closed. My brother and friends gave up on me as I refused to leave the bar and come back to the table. The conversation about the Bible and Jesus was too good to leave. We went from the bar to his house; he woke his wife and the three of us talked about the Scriptures until I had to leave for work.
The Dreaded Trip and the Most Important Yes
I left with a desire to call my old friend that I had run into at the mall a month or so earlier. I called and he came over to my house and explained, from the Scriptures, God’s wonderful plan of salvation. He asked me to accompany him on a short trip to New Philadelphia to visit his brother who had recently come to know Christ. Although I said I would, I really hoped, when the time came, that he wouldn’t call me and ask me if I still wanted to go. That was February 26, 1977.
My friend did call the night before we were to go and asked me that dreaded question, “Do you still want to go?” I felt like I had mustered up every ounce of strength in me, and I shouted into the phone “YES!”. At that time, I felt it was the most important ‘yes’ I had ever made in my life. We arrived Saturday February 26 around 3:00 pm.
A Glaring Absence in My Story
We were in my friend’s brother’s home. I also knew him well from my childhood. He and his wife had some other Christian friends over. As we visited, everyone told their personal story of how they were saved; and I noticed that all were saved through Christ dying on the Cross. Then came my turn. I shared how I had become convicted of my sins and talked about that word ‘awake’ in Romans 13:11; but my story ended there. Needless to say, everyone had a strange look on their face, but no one went on to tell me I wasn’t saved.
Later after dinner, his brother showed me a chart, based on the words of Jesus, called Two Roads and Two Destinies. It was like a road-map to eternity. I was fascinated by it but didn’t say anything. It was getting late and so we all went to bed. The next morning, the two brothers were up early reading their Bibles and sharing their thoughts.
Sunday at Church
I went with them to church and what a surprise! They just sat in a circle and the men, (men only) got up one by one and prayed. I never saw anything like this before.
After the morning service was over, we went to Bill and Donna Snyder’s home for an awesome dinner around a long table – lots of good food and a conversation about God. Then we returned to the home where we were staying to relax until their evening church service. They called it a Gospel service which I now understand to simply mean a ‘good news’ meeting.
While we relaxed in their living room, I picked up the book with the chart, Two Roads and Two Destinies. I stared at that same chart for a long time. Craig, my friend’s brother, noticing my interest, came over to sit beside me and he started explaining it to me. I then saw Jesus Christ for who He is, the Saviour of sinners. As I looked at the ‘door’ on the chart, illustrating that Christ is the only door to heaven, I trusted Him as my own personal Saviour.
John 10:9 (Bible)
Although I knew very little about Bible things, there was one thing I knew for sure: going home that evening, I knew I was saved.
My Life and Eternal Destiny Changed
The next day, coming out of work, I lit up a cigar. I was thrilled to be saved. In my car, I had a half a carton of cigarettes on my seat. But as I lit up my cigar, it was like a voice inside me said: “You don’t need that anymore.” And I didn’t! I put it out and threw away all my cigarettes. Actually, since that date, February 27, 1977, I have never had an interest in smoking another one.
I am happy now to be able to tell you that God, indeed, is a reality to my soul. I have enjoyed peace, contentment and fulfilment for forty years. My future is bright and ultimately, heaven is my destination. I am and have been in happy fellowship with the Christians who gather to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Monticello Gospel Hall, Cleveland, Ohio. Forty years have come and gone and I love meeting with other Christians to honour the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear reader, I hope you will find Jesus Christ in your life. Truer words than these were never spoken: Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man, comes to the Father, but by Me.” John 14:6. If you have any questions click here.