Before I begin my story, I’d like to share a few thoughts that will only take a moment. This is the basic gospel of Jesus Christ. God loves you. He loves all who labor and are burdened down (Matt 11:28). He knows your every care, every pain, every heartache, along with every blessing. He knows all your sins. He knows all your abilities, too, because He gave you every good thing you possess. He knows because He is your Creator and your God.
All of us born in this world are the children of Adam who fell from perfection into sin, and so we have corrupted natures, prone to sin and selfishness. We cannot please God in this state and are so bad, we could never go to heaven where everything is perfect. We who are of age, deserve punishment: eternity in hell (Luke 16:23). But God made a way of escape for all of us. He gave His only Son, Jesus, (John 3:16) who came to this earth, born of a virgin (Matt. 1:23), to show God to men and to tell us the good news. Then he gave his life as a ransom on the cross to save us from our sins.
But salvation is not automatic. God requires that men hear the good news and then repent or turn around from their known sins and believe on His Son, Jesus. By his grace (His divine assistance) we turn from our sins, receive faith in Jesus as God’s Son, and receive the gift of eternal life and are ‘born again’ (John 3:7). God gives this mighty gift of a new life within, a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). He bestows this by His Holy Spirit on all who will believe (John 3:8) or trust in Jesus as God’s only Son (John 3:36). He also promises the gift of the Holy Ghost to all who will believe and follow Jesus with all their heart (Acts 2:38). This is almost beyond description, but read my story and find out how God brought this sinner in great darkness into His marvelous light.
Although God forces no one to believe in Him or His Son Jesus, you can be assured that He is in the business of calling all men to look at His Son, to see who this Jesus is, and revealing to men the utter vanity of living a sinful, selfish life without God or His Son in this world. The reality of eternity and the coming judgment approaches all of us, some more quickly than others, but none escape.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
Peter also stated in the book of Acts, after he and John were arrested by the ruling council of Jews, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” For these reasons I want to relate just a bit of my story.
Being a hockey player, I was always a pretty wild and crazy sort of guy when I was a teen. It seemed most hockey players I knew were that way. I remember riding with our goalie to a scrimmage one winter morning. His name was ‘Crazy’ McNeil. He drove like a maniac! Exhilarating but terrifying!
I, along with most players, cursed or used profanity of some sort every other sentence. I played tricks on people for the fun of it and acted goofy. I had been raised a Methodist, but as far as I knew, God was way out there, but not known personally by any individua, at least I hadn’t met anyone who claimed such a thing.
I went into the Air Force out of high school, attempting to get into the Air Force Academy through their Preparatory School. I would have made it, but dropped out, not thinking myself officer material, being such a prankster. I starting shaving cream wars and squirt gun fights in our dorm. More than once I was hung-over on a Saturday morning due to a drinking fest Friday night, yes, with other Minnesota hockey players who happened to be there also, one of which poured some awful apple beer or something over my face and in my nose as I lay on the bathroom floor. Such friends.
I left in April of ’71 to go back to MN and the U of MN, living with a high school buddy near campus. Though I had done well at the Prep School, there were few distractions, but in my own apartment near campus with two other fellows…well, you can guess – girls, drinking, carousing.
But something unusual started happening in my mind and heart. I started thinking strange thoughts about the meaning of life, having a college education, getting a job, marrying, having children, growing old, and dying at 70…what was that? There had to be more to life than that. I told my close friend, Scott, I was looking for real love.
My date with a former high school sweetheart was a disaster and finding real love in a girl looked bleak. My wild dancing as an outlet failed me, too, as now I was seeing it as boys and girls using each other for their own gratification and it turned me off.
What was happening to my thinking? This wasn’t like me. I contemplated joining a Frat w/ jocks and went to a party…er…orgy of sorts in which I drank their beer but couldn’t get drunk no matter how I tried. I stayed sober having drunk many beers, and saw the orgy for what it was and I was turned off.
I shrugged off that “non-drunk” drinking binge and had my last beer at my apartment a few days later and got a horrible sick headache. I vowed to never drink again! I’d been sick with hangovers so many beautiful mornings and the pluses of losing myself with a high began to pale with the “after” price.
A few days later my friend, Scott, and I had a fight over cupboard space. We had never found time to talk or have fun together anymore. My jealousy over his girl friend was the underlying cause. The next day after school, I returned to the apartment to find he’d moved out, and I was left with his friend from work who was gone much of the time. It was a blow as he was my best friend.
My normal cocky self had disappeared and a troubled young man, forced to face life soberly, was left. Another hockey friend from 8th grade dropped by in a couple days. We were on the MN Gophers freshman team and I’d given him my address, but we had not been close for years. He picked me up for school on a whim, it seemed. We agreed to meet after classes (around 1pm) to talk and catch up.
Bill and I met on the way to the Architecture building and began talking in the hallway. He told me of a summer Bible camp experience where he had met Jesus in a real way. I’d never heard of such a thing. I remember commenting many months earlier to a Prep school buddy how “religion and God was just a crutch for weak and old people,” being a full-fledged agnostic at that time. But this guy, Bill, had something…a joy I’d never seen in anyone. With a big smile on his face he said to me, “Doug, Jesus loves you!” But it wasn’t just a trite phrase uttered by some do-gooder, because at that moment I felt love pour over my being with such power that I began to weep in that public hall with scores of kids milling around on their way to classes.
My tears were dropping on the floor and I was ashamed to be crying in public, but the love felt so good that I didn’t want it to stop. I thought for a moment, “how could this guy (Bill) love me so much?” We went and sat down in the display area for a prayer and light began to shine into my mind and heart. “This was Jesus loving me,” I thought, “no man has this kind of love!” He was right there showing me that He was indeed real and alive. “All those stories from Sunday school were true! He was risen from the dead!” I thought. I can’t explain exactly how it felt, but suffice it to say that this was real, powerful love and this Jesus knew everything about me. Nothing was hid, including my sins.
My cursing and using God and Christ’s name in vain countless times came to mind and I was ashamed. Here was Christ loving me, showing me He was truly alive and I had such a foul mouth and had cursed His name. I thought or prayed in my mind, “Lord, how can you love me seeing how I’ve cursed you and used your name in vain so much?” Yet that love continued and somehow I knew I was forgiven. All this happened while my friend, Bill, prayed with me. I didn’t hear his prayer, only what I just described.
The Lord revealed something else to me moments after that as Bill and I talked. He showed me how people on the campus were in great darkness, and there was like a huge heavy cloud or barrier hanging over the entire campus. There were many churches and such but they did not know this real, living Christ that I had just met. They preached about Jesus but didn’t know Him. Like talking about some great man who lived long ago, compared to talking about a man whom you know and love.
That night I went back to my apartment, dug out my Gideon Bible I’d received in the 7th grade from my “junk box,” and started reading. I kept reading, day after day, till I literally wore that little New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs out and the pages were falling out. The book had come alive to me…or I to the book.
I also remember that first night, alone in the apartment, but not alone. For the first time in my life, I no longer felt alone. God was with me.
I was so busy either reading my Bible or going to classes, I no longer had time for hockey. I’d lost interest in hitting people on the ice as a defenseman, so I turned in my freshman jersey.
In a couple weeks I went to “The Greatest Story Ever Told” which had just come out at the movie theater, with Bill and his friend, Steve. I’d never met anyone like Steve Brown. This guy was on fire with a passion for Jesus Christ. He explained things to me about the Christian life that I never knew or understood. He told how Jesus wanted to do what he did for me (reveal his powerful love) to thousands of people, but so few that talked about Jesus had real faith. He also told me how Jesus wanted to heal folks and do miracles just like he did in Bible times, to help people believe.
In the next few months and years I saw and experienced some of those things, including his mother saved from death by heart attack on her living room couch, and healed completely within a week (her condition verified by Mercy Hospital a couple days after the attack that nearly killed her). My pilonidal cyst was healed, and many other things too numerous to tell in this short version.
Greater than all these was the presence of Jesus Christ with me, a profane sinner saved by His great mercy, along with His inspiration and guidance and help with so many things in my life.
Then there was the persecution, another story entirely, but very real. Ask me about it if you want to know some things that happened.
By the way, one night at The Lord’s House (what we called the house we met in weekly for Bible study and prayer) while we were praying for other people, God revealed to me that those strange thoughts and experiences I had before talking to Bill were the workings of the Holy Spirit in my life and answers to the prayers that were ascending to heaven from these meetings. Before any man had talked with me, God was showing me truth and giving light to my situation and helping me to turn away from my alcohol binging and lusting after girls and wild partying (some of my main sins).
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John6:44)Fortunately, Jesus also said for the likes of me, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
Over the years I’ve encountered so many things, true and false. False Christianity (Churchianity – Pastor Steve calls it) was on the rise back then and has nearly overcome the entire nation today. Televangelists filched money from countless people and still do. Mega churches preaching a false gospel are continually popping up. The way of truth has been so distorted that many have either turned away from God or settled into a false churchianity that promises them life without true repentance and living faith in Christ. A few have met the Lord as did I.
I really don’t know where you stand, friend, but I’d like to find out. Anyway, I wanted to share a portion of what happened to me long ago and continues through this day. That was only the start of my salvation and a great adventure along a path with many hills and valleys and rough places. Maybe we can talk sometime and discuss this more.