A Testimony of His Grace
May 1993, Bowling Green, KY
I remember sitting in a small, two-bedroom dorm in Bowling Green, KY listening to Harry Chapin sing his sad songs of lost love. As the smoke from my cigarette filled the room, the dismal reality of hopelessness filled my heart. I felt alone and lost. It was at these times I would look up into a gray sky—a sky that seemed to sing a sadder song than Harry’s—and weep. Was there really a God in heaven? Did He care about us? Little did I know that God would answer that prayer in a few short weeks…
I grew up in a good home. My Dad worked hard to provide for the family, and when he began to get promoted in his job, we moved wherever the work took him. My father is a very successful businessman. His story is the embodiment of the American dream. His life is like looking at an original of Old Glory flying in her innocent American beauty. He was raised in a place where the fiery sermon on the Old Rugged Cross at the Baptist church would still be ringin’ in your ears while you sip on an RC cola and munch on a Moonpie.
My dad carried these American hometown values over to my brother and me. We were raised in the Lutheran denomination where I was taught to believe in Jesus and the Bible. Yet, somehow the concept of a personal and loving God eluded me. I can remember times of God’s presence when I was small—I suppose all children know His presence—but I didn’t have a clear understanding of what to believe. My dad gave me the option at age 13 to continue going to church, or leave. I chose to leave. I felt no connection with God there. I did, however, find time to talk to the Lord often when I was alone. Sometimes it was high up in a tree, or swinging on my childhood swing-set making up songs that only the angels heard.
I never fit in with the popular kids in school. In fact, I was almost always the object of their ridicule. Always feeling rejected and left out, I found comfort in believing that Jesus cared for me. I felt that He would protect me. One day, several kids from school were picking on me. I warned them to leave me alone because Jesus would protect me. When they laughed me to scorn, I swore to never confess Jesus again. In this way I turned my back on the Lord. This was during my middle school years, and high school was fast approaching. I never knew how terrible high school could get without God.
Once again, my Dad was transferred for a promotion, this time to the Chicago area, and things took a turn for the worse. I became more rebellious at school, started smoking and using drugs, and began to drink heavily. I was in constant trouble at my high school. I was perpetually in detention, in fights often, and even put in a special class for “bad” kids. It was a very dark time in my family’s life. My brother was in a lot of trouble as well. My parents no longer attended church, and when my Dad transferred to Canada for yet another promotion, I began to think about ways to get out on my own.
In Canada, my drinking worsened and my drug usage got worse. When it came time for me to graduate High School, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. I had found my way out. The Army was tough, and for the most part I could deal with it. But when I arrived at my advanced training station and found that they would still treat me bad, I couldn’t take it anymore. Too many years of mistreatment and ridicule rendered me intolerant of the military’s harshness. I spoke to my company commander and got out.
Throughout my life I experienced brief encounters with the Lord. When I passed a church as I child something inside of me would yearn for God. When I was in basic training I picked up a pocket New Testament the Army provided. One day, while reading it, two men from my company came and started to make fun of me for reading the Bible. I happened to be reading where Jesus said that a man’s words could defile him. Looking up at the men, I said, “Your words defile you.” To my amazement they could say nothing more and just walked away. To me, it was God’s demonstration that I should trust Him. This was the first time I truly realized that the Lord was at work in my life.
Arriving home from the Army, I began making plans to attend college. I was accepted to Western Kentucky University, and got a job at a local restaurant the summer prior to classes beginning. There I met young lady whose father was the pastor of a local Baptist church. I started attending the services in order to win her affections. It worked, and during the services, the pastor would preach strait from the Bible.
Never before had I heard the Bible taught so openly!
In the Lutheran church the Scriptures are quoted in the liturgy, but not necessarily expounded on. I was amazed as I listened to the Bible being read and explained! Many times my heart was filled with joy as I left the services. By this time I had ended my drug usage, but only temporarily. The pastor of the church seemed to be “on to me” about the fact that I wasn’t really committed to the Lord. I had even been baptized in this church and prayed a prayer to receive Christ, but deep in my heart I knew that I was only pretending. When my first semester at college began, I met another young lady. She wasn’t as pious as my Baptist girlfriend, and something caused me to fall for her. So, I broke up with my girlfriend. For some reason, this marked a downward spiral that eventually led to the darkest time in my life.
As I pursued a degree in Psychology, my hunger to know truth began to grow. I started to really question my traditional beliefs. By this time, I had rejected the Bible as a book that was missing some important pages. I felt it was devoid of power and that Jesus was only a good teacher. During this time I started to feel very lonely. I thought joining a fraternity could give me a place to belong and something to believe in.
My new girlfriend disagreed with my decision for the fraternity and left me, but I didn’t care. I once again began to enjoy the heavy drinking, and smoking pot. When a few friends reintroduced me to LSD, things got crazy. My best friend at the time was into black magic, and it fascinated me. I tried spells, but they didn’t seem to work. My involvement in sexual immorality grew in juxtaposition with my drug usage.
Without even realizing it, I was spiraling downward thinking I was on the path to enlightenment. My beliefs at the time were a mixture of the new age, Buddhism, the occult, and Satanism. I felt that psychedelic drugs were God’s way to open the mind to spiritual realities.
One day I was caught stealing and expelled from the fraternity. I moved in with some friends who had an apartment they named the “Psychedelic Kindergarten.” Several people joined with us, and we all began to embark on a spiritual journey together. We all experimented with the use of psychedelic drugs for religious purposes, as well as the occult and various religions. We started having a sense that we were somehow being strangely “led” by spirits. We always talked about what we learned or thought, trying to discover the truth. Through my experiences I began to form a concept of God. This god allowed me to do the things I wished. I wore jewelry that symbolized things I was learning through my reading and drug use. I was to soon find out that such “gods” are mere illusions.
One afternoon I was arrested for stealing cigarettes from a local grocery store. While in jail I cried out to my god, but I received no answer and no comfort. The god I invented did not seem to exist! This scarred me, but not enough to stop me from my lifestyle. I was released with fines, community service, and 30 days of home incarceration, and went right back to using drugs—and searching for God.
One morning I was let off early from my job. Since the police expected me to be at work, I snuck over to the mall to get a book. I thought a book about Satanism would help me get money and drugs. I came across a book entitled, “Satan Is Alive and Well On Planet Earth,” and thought it would teach me how to get the devil to do things for me. To my surprise, it taught me how get rid of the devil! Hal Lindsay, a born-again Christian, wrote the book. I realized that it was about Jesus and the Bible—but I couldn’t put it down! Something about it gripped my heart.
In everything he said, he had a Bible passage to back it up. As was our custom, I started to share it with the other people in our group. Yet, they didn’t share my excitement. In fact, they hated everything about Jesus and the Bible.
One morning I was sitting at the kitchen table with Jennifer, a girl that lived with us. She claimed to have psychic powers and said she had “bad vibes” from the book (by this time the book had “mysteriously” disappeared). She argued vehemently against the authority of the Bible and about Jesus being the only way to God. I told her I could prove it. (I didn’t believe in Jesus had the time, but someone had to play devil’s advocate…is that an oxymoron or what!)
Hal’s book spoke of demons trying to keep us from God, and especially from turning to Jesus. Her boyfriend was an atheist, and I figured that he must have some demons if all this were true. Having read about Jesus’ disciples casting out demons by using the name of Jesus, I thought I could at least provoke a demon with the name of Jesus.
I called her boyfriend from the back room, and when he came out I asked him what he thought about JESUS! To our surprise he exploded with anger and stormed back to his room. Turning to Jennifer, I half-heartedly gave her a smirk of victory on my and said, “See, demons!” For some reason, she didn’t take it as lightly as I did. She ran from the apartment in tears.
As I sat there stunned trying to figure out why they behaved this way, I wondered in amazement how the name of Jesus could cause such reactions in people. Yet, I was still unsure why it upset her so much. After all, I didn’t really believe in Jesus. Nevertheless, I went outside to see where she was, and found her kneeling in the grass sobbing like a child. When I approached her, I suddenly felt a comforting warmth in my heart. I felt compassion. Maybe it seems strange that I would mention this, but somehow it was different from human compassion. When I put my hand on her shoulder and asked what was the matter, something wonderful happened to me.
Suddenly I felt something inside me “break” and release. Then I felt as if I was being filled with pure Love, and Joy, and Peace. I felt something physically wash over my eyes, and I began to see a brilliant golden glorious light filling me. My whole being seemed to be filling with this Light and cried out to God. Somehow I knew that this was God Himself filling me! I was overwhelmed with an absolute sense of belonging. This was God, and I knew that I belonged with Him forever.
But I suddenly realized that I didn’t know who He was. Just as soon as the question came to my mind, I heard Him say, “I am Jesus.” When I heard Him say this, I realized that Jesus is the God of the universe. I asked Him what I was supposed to do, and felt impressed to pray with my friend. I took her hands and prayed, “Oh God, if we have been deceived all this time, please open our eyes to see.” Since that very moment I have never been the same (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The next thing the Lord instructed me to do was to read the Bible. There, I learned about God’s wisdom and how to pray. I also learned about what had happened to me. I had been filled with the Holy Spirit! The Spirit of God had come to live in my heart, and He glorified the name of Jesus to me, just as the Scriptures say He does! (John 16:14). From the moment that the Lord filled me, I was delivered from the desire for drugs and the evil lifestyle I was living. My friends did not understand this change that had taken place in me. I began to face ridicule and persecution from them, but Jesus strengthened my heart to overcome. I began to testify about God’s grace in my life to everyone I knew. When asked what happened to me, I would simply say that I had given my life to Jesus. Some listened, and some did not.
A person does not have to have an experience like mine to give their life to Jesus, but God gave me this experience so I could tell you about his marvelous love that He has demonstrated to the whole world through crucifixion, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says, “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” Jesus is speaking to us today to turn from our sinful and self-centered way of life, change our minds about God, and ourselves and turn to Jesus. If we will recognize that Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is God’s salvation for all people, and put our trust only in Him, He will receive us and forgive us of our sins.
Millions of people from around the world have come to recognize this awesome truth. My story is but one sentence etched into God’s history of His grace and love toward sinful mankind. Therefore, I say to you along with God’s word: “Do not harden your heart.” Give your life to Jesus. You do not have to go to a confessional or wait for someday in the future to ask Jesus to forgive your sins and to give Him your life. You can do this by praying a simple prayer like this one:
“Jesus, I know that I have done some bad things in my life. I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died on the cross and paid my penalty for my sins. I believe that you have been raised from the dead. Thank you, Jesus! Please forgive me for the wrong things that I have done. I ask You to be my Lord and Savior. I give you my whole life. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer just now, please email or call me and let me know. The Bible says that there is great joy in heaven when just one person comes to Jesus, and I would love to rejoice with you and help you in any way possible to follow Jesus.
~yours in Christ
Email Geoff or call him at 678-467-2721