GOD LOVES U

​     If you’re facing a difficult situation in your life--a physical illness, financial stress, a broken relationship—some tough circumstance that’s making you wonder, Can’t anyone help me? Isn’t there something that can be done? If that’s you, read on. I’m going to give you concrete proof that Almighty God exists and wants to give your life peace and joy and purpose. I’m going to give you tangible evidence that the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe loves you and will rescue you from your present trouble. He will lift you out of the quicksand and place you on solid ground. He did that for me, and He’ll do the same for you.              

 

 

 

     As you read this, keep in mind that I was not always a believing Christian. Far from it! Until the age of thirty-five, I led a hedonistic life, indulging in drugs and alcohol and women. I wasn’t interested in going to church. I certainly wasn’t interested in living a Christian life. Are you kidding me? Who needs that wimpy, goody-two-shoes stuff! I learned the hard way that a life without God’s Truth as the foundation, is like building a house on shifting sand. That house looks good on the outside, but the foundation is weak. When gale force winds and pounding surf beat upon it, that house is going to crumble. That’s what happened to me in 1986. In July of that year, at the age of thirty-four, the world I had built suddenly collapsed. Alcohol and Drugs had crept into my life and had now destroyed me.  

     My sudden downfall shocked those who knew me, particularly my childhood friends with whom I had grown up with and graduated high school in St. Albans, West Virginia. Five hundred St. Albans classmates had voted me their Senior Class President in high school. I was also the co-captain on a high school football team that I had helped lead to the State Championship the year before. I was the Sports Editor of the school newspaper, and the Student Director of the high school class play.

     In high school, I was a good athlete, a good student, had genuine friends, and dated the girl of my dreams. My parents loved me and I loved them. Life was good! It soon got better. After my senior year, I attended Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia for one semester, specifically to play football. During my senior year of high school, I had missed the entire football season due to a broken bone in my left foot.

     The previous year, as a junior, several colleges had expressed interest in my playing football for them on scholarship. These schools now suggested that I play football at Fork Union Military Academy, in order to determine whether the broken bone in my foot had mended properly and whether it could withstand further stress.

     During my one semester stay at the academy, I was the captain and right offensive end on an extremely talented post-graduate team. Each of our starters received football scholarships to major universities. That season, we went undefeated in eleven games against other military schools and area college freshmen teams.

To this day, our 1970 team picture hangs in the entrance hallway of Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia.

     At the conclusion of that season, I received several scholarship offers to play college football. But also let me make this clear: I was not the best that ever played the game. Not by a long shot! But I was a good player, a solid player. And I did receive full athletic scholarships from Virginia Tech, the Universityof North Carolina, and North Carolina State, among others. I signed on with the University of Virginia, planning to attend their Law School following my undergraduate studies.

     I stayed at Fork Union Military Academy for one semester, specifically to play football, FUMA wasa positive influence in my life. As a cadet, I rose each morning at six, prepared myself and my room for inspection, paid attention in class, participated in a well-organized athletic program, and had study hall every evening. And every Sunday morning, I marched to Chapel with all the other cadets, where, for sixty minutes, I heard the Word of God.

     Though I was not a believing Christian, seeds of the Gospel were planted in my heart, as they had been by my mother as a child. Lessons in life that I learned as a cadet at Fork Union Military Academy serve me well to this day. I highly recommend this school, and the positive life-lessons Fork Union Military Academy instills in a young man. 

     In August 1971, I packed my bags for college. I had helped lead St. Albans to the State Championship in football. I had received a full athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Virginia. I was a people person, and was considered the life of the party. I could tell the funniest dirty jokes you ever heard, loved to drink beer, and played guitar and sang. Everyone who knew me agreed that my star was bright, and success was certain. The only thing I lacked was a foundation in God’s Truth. And that didn’t interest me. I wanted to party!

     So I have no tragic, heart-wrenching excuse to give you, no I-was-repeatedly-beaten-as-a-child-by-an-alcoholic-father horror story that could possibly justify why, fifteen years later, drug and alcohol problems had reduced me to where I was barely able to function, barely able to earn an income, barely able to keep my life afloat.

     In the summer of 1971, I was a happy young man with an extremely bright future. In the summer of 1986, I was holding onto Life by my fingernails, lost in a dark, soundproof maze. Then something extraordinary happened. Something I didn’t believe possible.

 

     During the first week of July 1986, around midnight, as I lay sprawled on my living room floor, drunk on Tequila and high on marijuana, surrounded by a bunch of empty Dominos Pizza boxes (three weeks prior I had lost the desire to fix a meal or clean my house, so I simply ordered delivery), I whispered, “God…if you’re real…please help me.”

 

     And Almighty God, the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, set in motion a chain of events that seemed unrelated at the time, but which led to my deliverance! It wasn’t Coincidence or Luck that rescued me. It wasn’t Positive Thinking or Hard Work. It was Almighty God.

     You might say, “All you had was an emotional experience during a tough time in your life. Then you worked hard and got a few lucky breaks. There’s really no such thing as an all-powerful God, especially one who wants to help us.”

     I used to think the very same thing. I used to think that Christians were simply nice folks who needed some kind of crutch to get them through the day. I used to think that if Christians would only be more proactive, if they would just grab Life by the horns, they’d achieve the same or better results than they were claiming to receive from their so-called answered prayer.

     On the whole, I viewed Christians as being weak-minded, slightly confused people who picked a crutch called Christianity, which gave them a book of guidelines for moral living and provided them with a place where they could meet once or twice a week to receive encouragement.

     I was sure there was no actual Divine Power attached to the doctrine, certain there was no all-powerful Creator God watching over Christians and helping them. I was wrong! Wow! Was I ever wrong! Christianity is for real, and it’s supernatural, and it’s life-changing!

      I hope you’ll settle in for the next few minutes and continue reading this testimony. I have been where many of you are--in a terrible situation with no hope of escape.

     If you’re facing a tough circumstance, I’m going to give you irrefutable evidence that Almighty God is eager to come to your aid. If you are already a Christian, my testimony will confirm what you know to be true: Almighty God exists; He is the God of the Bible; and He loves us more than we can ever imagine.

 

    My entire adult life, friends and co-workers considered me the Life of the Party. If you were having a party, you wanted me there. I was a people person and very entertaining to be around. I told the funniest dirty jokes you ever heard, played guitar and sang, loved to guzzle beer, and always had a good-looking girl on my arm. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was a party animal. And I excelled at it. There was always enough money, always a pretty girl, always a party. Though I was smiling and laughing on the outside, I was filled with loneliness and emptiness on the inside. Privately, I wondered, How can plenty of everything leave me feeling so empty? So unfulfilled?  

     My life had been out of control for years. For example, when I was twenty-two, I owned a motorcycle. It was not unusual for me to get drunk at a party or a bar, and then race my Honda ninety miles an hour up and down the Interstate until I sobered up and came to my senses.

     Many times, I’d get behind the wheel of my car drunk, close one eye to reduce double vision, and weave my way home. Other times, in the parking lot of a nightclub, I’d pass out in the front seat of my car for several hours before waking up and driving home with a hangover.

     There were times I’d go to the movie theater with my friends, and I’d be so stoned from smoking marijuana that I didn’t remember seeing the movie. At the end of the picture, I couldn’t even get out of my seat. As my friends helped me to my feet, I’d stare at the screen and mumble, “Pretty colors.”

     One-night-stands with good-looking women happened frequently. I’d meet them at parties or in bars and take them home, or spend the night at their place. The next morning, I’d wake up beside them and often couldn’t recall their name.      

     I continued this hedonistic lifestyle with zeal. Then, between 1980 and 1985, several traumatic events hit me hard, one of them being that my wife and I divorced, which separated me from my three year old son. I loved Drew very much—and still do--and to be without him sent me into a deep depression. The other traumatic event was that my best childhood friend died in a jeep accident. The gale force winds and pounding surf of Life were beating upon me. I had no answers.

I sought escape by increasing my alcohol and marijuana usage.      

     In 1986, my downward spiral from substance abuse reached rock bottom. Each evening after work (I was a financial planner for American Express) I’d sit on the front steps of my house in the West End of Richmond, Virginia, and drink Tequila straight from the bottle until I became drunk. And, at the same time, I’d smoke marijuana until I got high. In between swigs and tokes, I’d chain smoke Marlboro reds. I’d blast rock music through my headphones, stare at the grass in my front yard, and think, I really need to cut the grass.

     But the thought of mowing it overwhelmed me. The small front yard seemed like acres of tall grass. So I’d take another swig of vodka and a drag off my cigarette and tell myself, I’ll cut it tomorrow.

     At midnight, I’d fall backward through my front door and onto the living room floor, and haphazardly kick the door shut. The next morning, I’d have a pot of coffee and half a pack of cigarettes for breakfast, and go to work with a severe hangover. That evening, I’d repeat the process.

     The first week of July 1986, around midnight, as I lay sprawled on my living room floor, drunk and stoned, I whispered, “God…if you’re real…please help me.”      

     The next day I received a telephone call. It was my older brother, Lee, who lived in Orlando, Florida. At the time, he was working for the Electrolux Corporation, the Vacuum Sales and Service Company. He had just been promoted to Branch Manager of their store in Ocala, Florida, a town of sixty thousand people located near the center of the state.

     Although Lee enjoyed having a couple of beers, he was a very responsible, hard working person. He wasn’t even close to being a party animal.

       “The family’s worried about you,” he said, concern in his voice. “I want you to come visit me for a couple of weeks.”  My family is a close family. And you would have to search far and wide to find two brothers who are closer than Lee and me. “I think it would do you good to get away from what’s going on up there. Maybe I can help you get your head together.” 

     “All right.”

     “When can you get here?”

     “I can drive down tomorrow morning.”

     “Good. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

     Three days later, I was still in Virginia. It was seven in the evening, and I was sitting on the steps of my front porch. I had my headphones on, getting stoned, getting drunk, staring at the grass. The telephone rang. It was Lee.

     “Are you all right? I’ve been waiting for you for three days!”

     “I’m OK. I’m just trying to get my grass cut.”

     “Forget about cutting the grass! Are you sober enough to drive?”

     “Yeah, I can do that.”

     “When we hang up, I want you to get in your car and start driving down here.”

     “OK.”

     “Don’t do any dishes. Don’t empty the trash. When we hang up, just get in your car and start heading down here. OK?”

     “OK.”

     As I backed my Ford Taurus out of the driveway to begin the fourteen hour trip to Orlando, I thought I was going to Florida for two weeks. Had you had told me that I would not return for eight years, and that I would come back a completely different man, a Christian, I would have said, “Whatever it is you’re smoking, can I have a hit?”

     Four days after my arrival in Orlando, I helped Lee pack his things, and we moved him ninety minutes due east into a two bedroom apartment in Ocala. The next evening, I began to look for places and people who liked to party.

     In 1986, there was a popular nightclub in Ocala called Bumpers. It was the local hot spot for those who liked to drink and dance. I took my brother to Bumpers nearly every night, usually arriving at Happy Hour at four in the afternoon. Lee and I became regulars there.

     We even won a citywide lip-synch contest hosted by Bumpers. We won First Place as the Righteous Brothers, performing You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling from the movie Top Gun, which had been recently released in theaters.       

     When Bumpers would close for the night, it was not unusual for me to invite several bar friends to my brother’s apartment and continue the party until dawn. That was the lifestyle I had been leading for years, and I was now introducing it to my brother.

     When a person guzzles beer from four in the afternoon until late at night, and smokes marijuana throughout the day, he begins to lose all concept of time. That’s what happened to me. My two week visit to Florida had suddenly turned into three and a half months.

     One morning in September, I received a phone call in the Electrolux office from my younger sister, Mindy, who lived in Richmond, Virginia.

     “I went by your house this morning to get your mail. I thought you might want to know…your landlord has loaded everything you own onto a couple of trucks. He’s hauled everything away and re-rented your house.” 

     “Really?” I said calmly, as if it were no big deal.

     “He says you haven’t paid your rent the last three months. What in the world are you doing down there?”

     “Having a good time. I think.”

     “Well, you need to stop! How long do you think you’ve been down there?”

     I honestly didn’t know. “Five or six weeks?”

     “Try three and a half months!  Whatever it is you’re doing, you had better get a grip!” 

     “Don’t worry,” I said, trying to sound calm, as if all this was no big deal. “I’ll be OK.”

     I reacted to the news by deciding to get high on pot. I hung up the phone and drove to my brother’s place. When I got out of my car, two men I had never seen were standing in front of the apartment on the sidewalk.

     “Are you Lou Painter?” 

     “Yes.”

     “We’re with Ford Motor Credit.” 

     “Let me guess,” I said, with sarcasm. “I’m behind on my car payment.”

     “Three months. You need to write us a check for seven hundred dollars or we’ll have to repossess your car.”

     I tossed him the keys to my car and began walking up a flight of stairs to the apartment.     

     “Doesn’t this bother you?”

     “No. I can buy a lot of dope with seven hundred dollars.”

     I entered the apartment and lit up a joint. As I inhaled that first toke and held it deep in my lungs, I remember thinking, I’m in a lot of trouble.

     On that morning, in less than an hour, I learned that I had lost everything I owned: my car, my furniture, my clothes, my scrapbooks, everything. Though it bothered me, it didn’t bother me enough to make me want to change my lifestyle. That’s how messed up I was!

     For the next four months, I continued to party to excess. Every day, I would go to Bumpers at Happy Hour (believe me, I was not too happy!) and guzzle beer late into the night. The next morning, I’d smoke marijuana for breakfast and tell myself, Tomorrow, I’m going to go out and sell a vacuum. I can’t face it today, but tomorrow, I’m going to sell a vacuum.

     When tomorrow came, I’d get high and tell myself the same lie as the day before. Tomorrow, I’m going to go out and sell a vacuum. I can’t face it today, but tomorrow, I’m going to sell a vacuum.   

     With each passing day, I was becoming increasingly dysfunctional. And I was growing more and more dependent on my brother to take care of me financially, which he did without complaining. The following is indicative of how dysfunctional I had become.

     Shortly after I had arrived in Ocala, I had won a sales contest for selling three vacuums in a single week. (I was helping my brother hire and train the salesmen.) Electrolux had awarded me a beautifully framed, uncut sheet of one dollar bills from the U.S. Treasury. One afternoon, when I had smoked the last of my marijuana and had no more money, I took the framed print off the living room wall and drove to a nearby bank. 

     “I’d like to cash this in,” I said to the teller, placing the framed sheet of dollar bills on the counter.  

     “I’ve never had a request quite like this.”

     “All I’m asking for is the thirty-two dollars that are inside the glass.”

     “I don’t know if that’s possible,” she said politely. “I think we’d have to actually purchase it, and the bank doesn’t do things like that.”

     “If you don’t want to give me the cash, that’s OK.” I pointed to a table by the wall. “I’ll just go over there and separate the bills with a pair of scissors.”

     “Give me a minute,” she said, hoping to stop me from destroying the print. “Let me speak with my manager.”

     Two minutes later, the manager of the bank explained to me that my contest prize was probably worth several hundred dollars, and pleaded with me not to sell it or damage it for thirty-two. I told him that I didn’t care and just wanted my money. Reluctantly, he gave me the cash.

     I walked out of the bank, and waiting for me in the parking lot, at my request, was a local drug dealer. I handed him the thirty-two dollars and the young man handed me a small bag of marijuana.

     You may be thinking, Alot of people fall victim to drugs and alcohol. And many of them get their lives straightened out. So your story can’t be that unusual.

     Read on. You’ll discover that my rescue was supernatural, orchestrated by the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe.           

     One of the sales representatives in the Ocala Electrolux office was a Christian named Debby Kral. Debby had sold one hundred vacuums door-to-door in a single month several times in her career, an achievement that’s nearly impossible to accomplish. Most of us in the office, including me, were happy to sell ten vacuums a month. Because Debby could outsell me, I had great respect for her. When she spoke, I paid attention.

     Debby made a point to befriend me at the morning sales meetings, which were daily. Many times she made this offer: if I ever wanted to get off drugs and alcohol, I was welcome to stay with her and her husband, Gene, on their farm. I would be welcome to stay for as long as it took. That’s quite an offer to make to a stranger, especially when it’s obvious that that stranger’s life is an absolute mess.

     “Thanks, Debby, but no thanks. I’ll be OK.” 

     But I wasn’t OK. I was becoming increasingly frightened of reality, withdrawing further and deeper into the temporary panacea of drugs and alcohol.

     The first week of January 1987, in the afternoon, I was lying on my back, high on pot, in a grass field that was adjacent to my brother’s apartment complex. I was gazing up at the clear, blue Florida sky, reeling from the embarrassing news I had received that morning from my brother: six months of canvassing door-to-door with a vacuum in my hand had netted me twenty-one hundred dollars.

     As I stared at the sky, I thought, I knew things were bad, but I had no idea they were this bad. What in the world am I going to do?

     At that very moment, an Air Force fighter jet streaked across the sky, east to west, leaving behind a wide belt of white exhaust. Seconds later, another fighter jet raced from north to south, also spewing a wide band of exhaust. I remember thinking, Wow! That looks like a gigantic white cross!  

     As I stared at this huge cross, my mind flashed back to when I had been in high school, and had walked into my living room to watch television. Though no one was in the room, the TV was on. And there was the evangelist Billy Graham, wearing a suit and tie, standing behind a podium on a platform stage in a football stadium in some city, preaching the Gospel with an open Bible in his hand.

     No one in my family had intentionally turned on the crusade. The television had simply been left on after someone had left the room to go do something else. But three or four times during my senior year in high school, I had bumped into Billy Graham on the television in my living room.

     There was something about the guy that grabbed my attention, something that kept me listening to him for a minute or two. This guy’s an excellent salesman. Handsome, well groomed, enthusiastic delivery. He just happens to be selling Christianity. Then I’d change the channel.

     As I lay on my back in that field in Ocala, staring at this huge, white cross that spanned the sky, I remembered Billy Graham calling out, “God loves you. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for your sins so that you can be free. You can have a new life in Christ today.”

     Looking up at the cross, I finally realized that drugs and alcohol were destroying my life. I wasn’t interested in becoming a Christian, but I did decide at that moment to stop using drugs and alcohol. I rose to my feet, walked to the apartment, and telephoned Debby. In less than an hour, she picked me up in her red Chevy Blazer and took me to her farm. I stayed with Gene and Debby Kral for five weeks.

     Every single day of that five weeks, as my body detoxified, I wept. At the dinner table, I’d sob whenever I asked Gene or Debby to “Please…pass the…butter.” And I’d continue to cry as I buttered my bread. One evening, a television commercial for an upcoming National Geographic special showed a polar bear frolicking in the snow with her two baby cubs. I pointed at the screen and wept, “Have you…ever seen…anything…so… cute?”

     Each morning, as I sipped my coffee, I’d weep. As I read the morning newspaper, I’d cry. As the drugs and alcohol left my system, I became frightened of reality, increasingly aware of what a complete mess I had made of my life.  

     During those five weeks with the Krals, I was too screwed up physically and emotionally to work. However, on the mornings that I felt fairly stable, I would accompany Debby as she canvassed the neighborhoods to sell vacuums. She did all of the talking with the prospects at the door. Whenever she gave a demonstration, I would sit quietly in the room and pay attention, hoping to learn a few of her sales techniques.

     Occasionally, Debby and I would split up so that I could run personal errands. On those days, I would hitchhike around town. I’d go to the barbershop, the grocery store, places like that. It didn’t take long for me to notice that every time I hitched a ride, those who picked me up were Christian. (Talk about Coincidence!) They either had a Bible on the console, or a cross dangling from their rear view mirror, or Christian music playing on the radio. This didn’t happen just now and then when I hitched a ride—it happened every time I hitched a ride. Everywhere I went, I kept bumping into Christians.     

     After five weeks of eating nutritious food, getting a good night’s sleep, and more importantly, detoxifying, I decided I was ready to go back to work. Though I was free from drugs and alcohol, my bad decisions had left a long trail of bad consequences. I was shell-shocked from losing everything I had owned, including my credit and good name. My smile was missing, and I had zero confidence that I would ever climb out of the deep hole I had dug for myself.     

     Debby suggested a simple plan. Since I didn’t own a car, I would ride with her to a neighborhood she wanted to canvass. I would take my vacuum out of the back of her Blazer and knock on doors and sell a lot of vacuums, like she did every week, and make enough money to replace everything I had lost. For lack of a better plan, I agreed to follow hers.  

     The next morning I returned to work. After the sales meeting, the office telephone rang. Though several salesmen were standing around the phone, none of them made an attempt to answer it. After the fourth or fifth ring, Debby hurried from the back room and picked up the receiver.

     “King Street. Yes, I’m familiar with it,” she said. “Give me your address and I can be there in ten minutes.”  She hung up the phone and said to me, “Come on. I’ve got to show a shampoo machine on King Street.”

     Ten minutes later, Debby pulled her Chevy Blazer into the driveway of a ranch-style house on King Street. “I’ll be in there for the next hour showing a shampooer.”

     “OK.”

     She pointed up the street. “Take your vacuum and go that way and knock on doors.” 

     “OK.”

     Debby could have sent me in the opposite direction, for the number of houses either way was pretty much the same. But she pointed up the street. So up the street I went, vacuum in hand. And I began knocking on doors.

     No one would let me in to demonstrate the vacuum. It wasn’t even close. No matter how hard I tried, all I heard was “No, thanks, not today.” After about twenty rejections, frustration set in. I decided that I would knock on one more door. If I didn’t get in, I would return to the Blazer and wait for Debby. I took a deep breath, sighed, and rang the doorbell.

     The stranger who answered the door was the spitting image of my best friend, Bob Brooks, who had died in a jeep accident in 1980! I stared at this man for several seconds, thinking, Bob? Is that you? I almost rubbed my eyes and looked again, the similarities between my best friend and this stranger were so close.      

     Bob Brooks and I had met as ten-year olds in St. Albans, West Virginia during Little League Baseball. We had become best friends instantly. Growing up as kids, we had hung out together constantly. We played on the same sports teams, double dated—you name it. We were nearly inseparable. Bob was a gifted athlete (he had played middle guard at North Carolina State University), and he was a natural comedian. He and I spent our time together laughing, often laughing so hard that we couldn’t catch our breath. He died in a jeep accident the night of our ten year high school reunion.

     Yet standing right in front of me was his identical twin! (Talk about Coincidence!) This man looked exactly like him! Same face, height, build, age--everything!

     This stranger was wearing a black and white striped referee’s shirt, had a silver whistle hanging around his neck, and had on a lightweight jacket. It was obvious that he had just returned from refereeing some sort of game or that he was on his way to referee one. I stood there staring at him, speechless, not believing what I was seeing.   

     He gave me a friendly smile and asked, “May I help you?”

     “My name is Lou Painter,” I said, staring at him as if I were seeing a ghost. “I’m with Electrolux. If I can show you our new upright, the company will pay me ten dollars.”  

     “Come on in.”

     I remember thinking, Wow! That was easy!

     “Go on in the living room and make yourself at home. I’ll be right with you. I just have to make a quick phone call.”

     As I plugged my vacuum into a wall socket, I heard him on the phone saying, “This is Tom. I won’t be able to referee the basketball game. Something’s come up. If you’ll call John, he’ll be able to substitute for me.” 

     He hung up the phone and joined me in the living room. For the next thirty minutes, Tom Wells listened patiently as I demonstrated my vacuum.

     At the end of my presentation, he said, “If you’ll come by the office tomorrow and the janitor likes it, we’ll buy one for the office.”

     “Great! Where do you work?”

     “First Baptist Church.”

     With door-to-door sales, you never know who’s waiting on the other side of the door. Tom Wells was the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ocala. What a Coincidence that he looked exactly like my best friend! What Luck that when no one else on King Street would let me in their house, this man invited me in! The first thought I had was, The church will probably pay cash. I make more when they pay cash.

     He asked, “Do you know where the church is?”

     “Yes, I’ve passed by it before. It’s not far from the Electrolux office.”

     “Can you meet me there tomorrow at ten?”

     “Sure can.”

     “Good. I’m sure the janitor will like it.”  Then he asked me a question, as a friend would ask another friend. “This doesn’t have anything to do with the vacuum, but would you mind if I asked you something?”

     “Go ahead.”   

     “Are you doing OK? Is everything going all right with your life?”

     Normally, I would have answered, Yeah, everything’s fine. But because I was so drawn to this man, I thought, Why not tell this guy the truth. “Actually…No.”

     “I know someone who can help you. He certainly helped me.”

     “Who?”

     “The Lord Jesus Christ.”

     “Really?” I said, not in a sarcastic way, because I could tell this man was sincerely interested in helping me.

     “God has a great plan for your life.”

     “You think so, huh?”

     “Absolutely! He sure changed my life, and He’ll help you, too. Have you ever accepted His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Savior?”

     “No.”

     “Would you like to today?”

     “No.”

     “Well, come by the office tomorrow at ten and we’ll show this to the janitor.”

     “Great! See you in the morning.”

     As I was leaving, he asked, “After you show the janitor the vacuum, would you like to have lunch together and talk some more? My treat.”

     “OK. Sounds good.” And I remember thinking, I can’t believe I just said I’d meet this guy for lunch and talk about God. But Tom Wells reminded me so much of Bob Brooks that I wanted to spend more time with him, even if it meant discussing something that I knew couldn’t possibly exist.   

     The next morning, the janitor did like the vacuum. He also liked the shampooer. First Baptist Church wrote a check for two uprights and two shampoo machines, my largest Electrolux sale. Tom then treated me to lunch at Ryan’s Steak House, an all you can eat buffet. Being broke (and being a big eater!), I filled my plate several times.

     During lunch, I learned that Tom had been living in South Korea the past two years as a Christian missionary. He had returned to Ocala only six weeks prior to my knocking on his door. (What a Coincidence!) Instead of going to the church office that morning, he had decided to stay home and work on his Sunday sermon.

     He also explained that he didn’t consider our bumping into each other to be Coincidence. He felt that our meeting was a divine appointment from God. I didn’t mention to him that I thought he looked exactly like my best friend. I didn’t tell him on purpose. I didn’t want to lend credibility to his belief that a caring, Sovereign God had brought us together.

     Silently, however, I thought that our meeting had been unique--in fact, a mathematical impossibility. I thought, What are the odds that I’d bump into this guy? Especially randomly knocking on doors. A million to one? A billion to one? That spurred me to ask Tom questions about God and the Bible.    

     “How do you know you can trust the Bible? How did Adam and Eve get here? If God put Adam and Eve here, how did God get here? What’s He done for you? You say that God will answer my prayers. Tell me some of the prayers you’ve prayed that He’s answered.” 

     Tom Wells always gave me good answers. He never answered me with, “Because God said so.” He also explained to me one of the greatest love stories I had ever heard, a plan God had set in motion since the beginning of time. In a nutshell, this is what he shared with me…

     God is Holy. Therefore, He cannot embrace sin. Because I had committed at least one sin in my life, it caused a great chasm between God and me. My sin was keeping me from having fellowship with my Heavenly Father, fellowship that He desired to have with me, His creation. To bridge that gap, God had established this rule: a penalty had to be paid, an atoning sacrifice that would cleanse me of my sin. That penalty was death. In other words, my sin was going to cost me my life.

     You might be thinking, Not me! Not my life! I’m outta here! And if that were the end of the matter, I’d be out of here, too. But keep reading. God has this all worked out for our benefit. I promise you—better yet, God promises you--It’s all Good News!               

     Rather than have me pay that penalty with my own life, Tom explained that God loves me so much that He provided a willing sacrifice to die in my stead. God had sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross in a place called Calvary. Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. He died for my sins. And he died for your sins, too. God’s sacrifice paid my debt for sin in full.

     All that God required from me was for me to acknowledge what His Son had done for me on the cross. If I was willing to do that, God would forgive my sins, and I would be set free from eternal death. I would become a child of God by adoption, and God would bless me with a life of peace and joy and purpose.  

     “But aren’t there many roads that lead to Heaven?”

     Tom showed me in the Book of John, chapter fourteen, verse six: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

     I asked, “Assuming there actually is a Heaven and a Hell, couldn’t I just do some good deeds? Wouldn’t that get me into Heaven?”

     He showed me in the Book of Ephesians, chapter two, verses eight and nine: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

     To my surprise, I learned I couldn’t earn my way into Heaven with good deeds. Even being a kind-hearted, nice person wouldn’t be enough to get me through the Pearly Gates. My sin was going to keep me out. The only way to gain entrance into Heaven was to acknowledge what Jesus had done for me on the cross. According to the Bible, there wasn’t any other way.

     The information Tom was sharing with me was very sobering, like splashing cold water on my face first thing in the morning. His theory was a far cry from the doctrine the Public School System had shoved down my throat for twelve years.

     I was in the second grade in 1962, when the Federal Supreme Court made Christianity illegal in public school. The year before, my grade school teacher had begun each morning’s class with a brief prayer. It was generally understood throughout the school--and by our Principal and teachers--that God had created us, and that He loved us, and that He would answer our prayers, and always be there to help us.

     Now, suddenly, the Public School System started teaching me that Christianity was a cruel myth, forbidden in the classroom. They assured me that this was for my own good, to protect me from being deceived by a book of fables that had been written by a bunch of uneducated fishermen. In 1962, the Supreme Court of the United States promised my parents that I would be thankful someday that they had outlawed that book of lies, the Bible. 

     In 1962, the Public School System began to teach me that I was the miracle of Evolution, that I had evolved from apes over millions of years, or possibly from amoebas that had once existed in a primordial ooze. These amoebas had developed lungs and sprouted legs and had climbed onto dry land to become my great, great grandfather.

     And instead of being taught that a Creator God created and rules the universe with love and mercy, Public School began to teach me that the earth and the sun and the moon and the planets, the animals and fish--everything in the universe--functioned in perfect harmony because the violent kinks had somehow worked themselves out over billions of years.

     And Lucky me! Because my great, great ancestors had survived the Natural Selection Process, I had evolved a little higher than the rodent. That’s why I had the power of speech and the ability to reason.                  

     But here was this guy, Tom Wells, telling me that God had created me and loved me and had a plan for my life. I began to think, Maybe the Supreme Court is wrong.

     The information Tom shared with me gave me a lot to think about, especially when he showed me verse one in the Book of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And also verse twenty-seven: God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.   

     At the end of that lunch, Tom said, “God has a great plan for your life. Would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior?”

     “No thanks.” That’s how hardheaded I was! Though I had lost everything I owned and hated my current situation, I didn’t want to submit to God’s authority!  

     He asked, “Would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow and talk some more?”

     “OK.”  And I remember thinking, I can’t believe I’m going to meet this guy again and talk some more about God. All I knew was this guy reminded me of Bob Brooks and I wanted to spend more time with him.  

     The next day, Tom picked me up for lunch and we returned to Ryan’s Steak House.  As we had done the day before, I asked him questions about God and the Bible, and he gave me good answers.

     He explained to me that, as a believer, I would one day live with God forever in Heaven. But eternal life wasn’t what interested me. I viewed eternal life as being a great side benefit of Christianity. What interested me was this: if Almighty God actually did exist, Tom said that God was willing to help me in this present life. I knew my life was an absolute mess. I was interested in hearing how God could help me right now.    

     During our conversations, Tom never pounded on me to accept Jesus as my Savior. He never pestered me every thirty seconds to acknowledge the Lord. And not once did he try to scare me into God’s Kingdom, stressing that I needed to avoid the tormenting flames of Hell at all costs.

     Instead, he gently explained to me that God loved me more than I could ever imagine, and that the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe had a wonderful plan for my life and was willing to help me achieve it. To his great credit, Tom Wells was a Light for the Gospel, not a hammer. Had he been a hammer, I would have never let him take me to that first lunch. 

     At the end of our second lunch, he said,  “God’s got a great plan for your life. Would you like to accept Jesus today as your Savior?”

     “No thanks.”

     “Would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow and talk some more?”

     “OK.”

     We repeated this sequence of events every day for two straight weeks! Everyday, he’d pick me up and treat me to lunch. And I’d ask him more questions. And each day, I’d refuse his offer to accept Jesus as my savior.

     After two weeks of asking Tom Wells every question I could think of about God and the Bible and Jesus and angels and the Holy Spirit and the disciples and you name it, we went to Ryan’s to eat lunch, and I asked him my final question.

     “I like to laugh and have a good time. If I become a Christian, will I have to walk around like a monk? You know, with a serious look on my face all the time?”

     “No!” he said, laughing. “You’re going to have more fun being a Christian than you ever had hanging out in the world!”

     “I am?”

     “Absolutely! First of all, God is going to surround you with Christian friends. He’s going to get you settled in a church where you can learn more about Him. And He’s going to use the talents He’s blessed you with to make a difference for His Kingdom.”

     “Really?”

     “Yes. You’re Christian life is going to have meaning and purpose.  God has a great plan for your life. Would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior?”

     It was at that moment that I remembered the many Christians God had placed in my path over the years--men and women and sometimes even little children who had told me, “God loves you. Jesus loves you.”  The memories of these Christians flashed on and off in my mind like a rapid slide show.

     I saw a man saying, “Before I came to know the Lord, I was miserable. Now my life is filled with joy.” The next second, I’d see another Christian. She was saying, “My life was empty. Then I met Jesus. Now my life has purpose.”  Then I saw another Christian, and another, and yet another, each testifying to the love and mercy of God.        

     And I remember thinking, If I’m the power in the universe, why is my life in such a mess? As the navigator of my life, I had made bad choices. I was now mired down in the consequences of those choices. If the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe existed, if He had a plan for me and was willing to guide me, I could certainly use His help.

     “Yes. What do I have to do?”

     “Ask God to forgive you of your sins.” 

     “All right.”

     “Let’s go back to my office and we’ll pray.”

     Ten minutes later we were standing in Tom Wells’ office at First Baptist Church.

     He said, “Let’s get on our knees.”

     We got on our knees.

     “Let’s bow our heads.”

     We bowed our heads.

     “Just repeat after me.”

     “All right.”

     “Almighty God, please forgive me for my sins.”

     I repeated, “Almighty God, please forgive me for my sins.”

     And, repeating after Tom, I said, “Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross at Calvary for my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying in my place so that I can be free. I ask that You be Lord of my life. Make my life useful to Your Kingdom. I ask that Your Holy Spirit dwell in me and teach me Your Truth. Father, please fulfill the plan You have for my life. Please help me, Lord. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

     It was a simple prayer. It was a quiet prayer. It may have lasted sixty seconds. But the very instant I said, “In Jesus’ name,” it was as if someone had turned on the lights in a very dark room! I immediately went from darkness into bright light! And I knew!—right then I knew!—that God is real! Jesus is alive! There is a Heaven and there is a Hell! And I knew my purpose! I was an evangelist!

     I rose to my feet and shouted, “Jesus is alive! He’s alive!” Tom hugged me and we jumped up and down in his office, rejoicing. “What do I do now?” I asked excitedly. He gave me the best advice I’ve ever received.

     “Start reading the Bible. If you don’t have one, I’ll get you one.”

     “I will, right away, as soon as I leave here I’ll go buy one.”

     He went to the bookcase and grabbed a Bible off the shelf. “I want to bless you with this,” he said, handing the Bible to me. “Start reading it so you can discover the many promises God has for you.”

     “I will. Right away.”

     “And start praying about everything! Big things, small things! God wants to help you with all aspects of your life.”

     “I will! I’ll start praying about everything!”

     “Start attending a Bible believing church, one that teaches the Bible, so you can learn about God and His ways. Each sermon you hear will give you practical lessons that you can apply to your life.”

     “I will. Right away!” I figured that since Tom was an associate pastor for First Baptist Church, it must be a Bible-believing church. “I’ll start going here.”

     “That’s great, but it doesn’t have to be this church. As long as it’s based on the Bible.” 

     “You’re here. And I trust you. I’ll go here.”

     “Good. And the other thing I’d recommend you do is to start hanging out with Christians, those who already know the Lord. There’s a lot you can learn from them.”

     “I will.”

     “God is going to rebuild your life. He’s going to take the stress off of you, piece by piece.”

     “My life is so messed up, I don’t see how even God can fix it.”

     “Don’t worry,” he said, opening the Bible he had given me. “God knows the things you’re in need of.”  He turned a few pages.

     “I want to read a verse of scripture that will be the key for your life--anybody’s life, actually.” He read Matthew 6: 33: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

     I remember thinking, I’ll apply that verse to my life and hope that I’m a textbook example.

     Debby Kral was scheduled to pick me up at the church in an hour. Tom suggested that while I waited, I begin reading the Book of John. When I read that Jesus was arrested by religious leaders for crimes He didn’t commit, and that He was then given a mock trial and crucified on a cross for my sins, I wept, “I can’t believe we killed Him.” 

     The two secretaries in the adjacent office heard me weeping. And they began to cry tears of joy, rejoicing in my salvation. Seconds later, they entered Tom’s office to tell me that Heaven was, at that very moment, throwing a big party in my honor because I had come to know the Lord.

     They showed me chapter fifteen, verse ten in the Book of Luke: Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. I had been to countless parties in my life, but none of them compared with knowing that all of Heaven was celebrating because I had repented of my sin.

     When Debby arrived to pick me up, she was thrilled to hear the news. As we walked to her Blazer, I saw several people across the street at a shopping center getting in and out of their cars. I remember thinking, I wonder if he’s going to Heaven or Hell? I wonder if she’s going to Heaven or Hell?

     I had her take me to my brother’s apartment. I ran up the two flights of steps, and burst into my brother’s living room. “Lee! You won’t believe what happened to me today!”

     As I explained to him what had happened, I was so excited that I nearly stumbled over my words.

     “Calm down, man! Calm down.”

     But I couldn’t calm down! It was if I had been injected with adrenaline! I told him everything that had happened to me since meeting Tom Wells, especially the revelation I had received in the church office that afternoon. And I told him what I had read in the Bible, particularly about Jesus dying on the cross for me.

     My brother listened attentively. Though he was surprised that I had become a Christian, he was very happy for me. He viewed my embracing Christianity as a much better alternative than embracing drugs and alcohol. About that time, several friends knocked on the door.

     “Lou! How are you, man? We haven’t seen you for weeks! Let’s go have a few beers.”

     “Thanks, but no thanks.”

     “But you always go.”

     “Not today.”

     “Why not?”

     “I’m going to stay home and read this Bible.”

     They laughed at me. Out loud. They thought I had lost my mind!

     “Well, if you change your mind, you know where we’ll be.”

     I stayed home that night and read the Bible Tom had given me. And I started praying about everything. Immediately, God began putting people and cars and jobs and everything in my path to help me. He didn’t waste any time in taking the stress off of me, financially and emotionally.

     During the next eight weeks, God surrounded me with Christian friends, and also provided me with a car, a better job, and a place to live, a cottage overlooking a lake. In addition, He gave my life meaning and purpose.

     You could say, “Oh, come on! You simply got off drugs and worked harder. And you got some lucky breaks along the way.”

     No, Hard Work isn’t what turned my life around. When I knocked on Tom Wells’ front door, I was in no condition physically, mentally, or emotionally to go out and make things happen. It wasn’t Hard Work that rebuilt my life. And it wasn’t Luck or Coincidence that rescued me from quicksand and placed me on solid ground. It was Almighty God, the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe. And I can prove it.

     I’m going to share with you the result of the very first prayer I ever prayed after accepting Jesus as my Savior. I’m going to present the facts to you and let your common sense tell you who or what answered my specific request for a car. Was it Luck? Coincidence? Positive Thinking? Or was it Almighty God? (For additional proof that it was the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, I encourage you to read the section that follows this testimony entitled, Irrefutable Proof that Almighty God Exists.)      

     After I prayed with Tom Wells to repent of my sin, I stayed home that evening and began reading the Bible he had given me. I also prayed my first prayer as a Christian.

     “Father, I haven’t any money. And my credit is ruined. But I need a car. Please help me, Father. I know You’re real. And I believe that You want to help me. I don’t know how You’re going to do it, but Father… somehow… please help me get a car. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

     That was it, that short and that simple. Then I went back to reading my Bible.

     Three days later, on a Friday evening, there was a knock on my front door. When I opened it, standing there was a woman I had never met before.

     “Do you have a cork screw I could borrow? I’ve heard your parties. I knew if anyone had a corkscrew, you would.”

     “As a matter of fact, I do have one.” I walked to the kitchen and grabbed the corkscrew from the drawer. “You can keep it,” I said, handing the corkscrew to the stranger. “I don’t need it anymore.”

     “Are you sure you don’t want it back?”

     “I’m sure.”

     “If you don’t mind my asking, what are you doing home on a Friday night? Aren’t you usually out partying?”

     “Well, I used to party, but I don’t anymore. In fact, I was supposed to go across town tonight and shampoo a man’s carpets. But my brother’s out with the car and won’t be back in time.” 

     At the time, I was selling Electrolux vacuums door-to-door. Since I hadn’t been selling many vacuums, whenever someone didn’t want to listen to my product demonstration, I had begun to offer to clean their carpets for a reasonable price.    

     “If you shampoo that man’s carpets, will you make some money?”

     “Yeah, about fifty dollars.”  

     When you’re broke, fifty dollars seems like a million.  

     “If it will make you some money, why not use my car?”

     Her offer surprised me, even stunned me. “I couldn’t let you do that. You don’t even know me.”

     “Yes I do, sort of. I’m the manager of the apartment complex. I know you live here. If it will make you some money, you’re welcome to use my car.”

     Five minutes later, I was sitting behind the wheel of the cutest white MG convertible you’ve ever seen. The black canvass top was down and it seemed as if all the stars in the universe were on display.

     As I turned the key to start the motor, the woman asked, “By the way, do you need a car?”

     “Actually, yes. I do.”

     “This one’s for sale. Want to buy it?”

     “I’d like to, sure. But I can’t. I don’t have the money, and I couldn’t get financed.”

     “Could you pay me something on it each week? Nothing that would stress you out, but a little something each week? ”

     “Yeah, I could do that.”

     “When you get back from shampooing the carpet, come see me in 12-B. We’ll work out a payment plan. As of now, consider this your car.”

     I couldn’t thank her enough, and promised her I’d be back in a couple of hours. Before I had driven out of the complex, it dawned on me that I owned a car again. I slammed on the brakes, looked up at Heaven, and shouted, “You just got me a car, didn’t you? You just got me a car!”

     And that is the God I know. The God I know is a God who cares deeply about His children. The God I know is a God who wants to bless us. The God I know is more than able to bring all circumstances under His control to demonstrate His love for us.

     When I returned to this stranger’s apartment to work out a payment plan, a portrait of Jesus was hanging over the mantle in her living room. The woman was a Christian.      After I had been a Christian for six weeks, my brother, having seen a huge transformation in my life, asked me, “This is real for you, isn’t it?”

     “Oh yeah! It doesn’t get any more real than Heaven and Hell.”

     “I was wondering…can you arrange for me to meet that same guy you talked to?”

      “I sure can!”

     The next afternoon, my brother met with Tom Wells and they had a long visit. Two days later, they met a second time, and Tom led my brother in a prayer of salvation.

     Lee and I were baptized together on Palm Sunday in 1987, at the First Baptist Church in Ocala, Florida. Remember me telling you about the lip-synch contest my brother and I had won at Bumpers? Well, God had truly made us the Righteous Brothers!                 

     So my testimony is this: Jesus is alive! And He loves me! And He loves you! Almighty God, the God of the Bible, is who He says He is! The Bible actually is the written Word of God! God did send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for my sins! And for your sins! And because of that sacrifice, I’m able to stand before you a free man! 

     God has answered every prayer I’ve ever prayed! The big ones, the small ones, and everything in between! God always shows He cares for me. And He cares for you. He’s interested in every aspect of our lives and desires to help us. His constant love for me healed me of loneliness, emptiness, confusion, and depression. God also has replaced the material possessions I had lost. And He has given my life peace and joy and purpose. God always shows He cares for me. And He cares for you.   

     I am living proof that getting to know God through His Son, Jesus Christ, will change a person’s life for the better. Remember the party animal I used to be? The Bible says, in Second Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. In other words, knowing Jesus will change a person’s life. Let’s see if that’s true. I list the following as tangible evidence of a changed life in Christ.    

     Since becoming a Christian in 1987, I’ve preached the Gospel on city streets, in homeless shelters, and in juvenile detention centers in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina. I’ve also given my testimony in remote villages in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, and I’ve helped build churches in Mexico and Venezuela.

     I’ve been the guitar player and evangelist in two Christian rock bands. The first time was for twelve months in Ocala in 1987-1988. The second time was for two years in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1999-2000. Both times, our mission was to reach the lost on the city streets and parks and beaches. There were times when we gave our evangelistic concerts in front of two people, and times when we played in front of two thousand. Every time we gave our one-hour concerts, we preached the Gospel in between each song.           

     In 1988, for nine months, until the mission house closed due to lack of donations, I was the live-in manager of a Christian-based halfway house in Ocala, Florida. The program offered Christian counseling and a stable environment for prison parolees who were trying to transition back into society.

     These adult men, usually eight of them staying in the house at a time, had served hard time for heinous crimes: rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and grand larceny. I lived in the house with the men twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I provided Christian counseling, arranged the supply lines for food and clothing, cooked the meals, helped the men find jobs, shuttled them to and from work, held Bible studies in the evenings, and took the men to church.     

     For five years, from 1989 to 1994, it was my great honor to coach Physical Education in a Christian middle school in Ocala, Florida. It was my privilege to work in a school that offered a curriculum based on God’s Truth, rather than the Religion of Evolution mandated by our nation’s Public School System. The school met in a church, and consisted of two hundred students, grades first through eighth. These students were an absolute joy. And I’m quite sure that I learned more from them than they learned from me.

     In 1999, I founded a Christian teen club in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. The club was an outreach to the teenagers who lived in the Wilmington area. The Lighthouse was staffed by Christian volunteers, and provided young people with a fun place to go on Friday and Saturday nights that didn’t cost them any money.

     The Lighthouse never charged a cover charge. It offered free soda and popcorn, and furnished board games like Monopoly. For twenty-five cents, a teenager could play non-violent video games. The club played contemporary Christian music over the sound system. Twice a month, Christian rock bands from around the state traveled to The Lighthouse to volunteer their talents to give these teenagers a free concert.

     From 1999 to 2002, until we finally ran out of volunteers and money, The Lighthouse ministered to, on average, twenty-five teenagers every Friday and Saturday night. These were not church kids. Several of these teenagers were in trouble with the local police, and performed their Community Service with us. Many more came from broken homes. Most roamed the island night after night for lack of anything better to do.

     These teenagers didn’t attend church and wouldn’t go to church if you paid them. But they came to The Lighthouse week after week, because they knew we cared about them, and because they were drawn to the light of Jesus, which was openly promoted at the club. The Lighthouse was successful in leading many of these teenagers to a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.     

     In 2005, for seven months, I was the interim pastor of a Spanish-speaking church in Queens, New York. Queens is a borough in New York City that consists of five hundred thousand Latinos from various countries in South America.

     If you ever visit Queens, you’ll think that you are somewhere in South America. Every one of the signs on the thousands of storefronts is in Spanish. Every one of the employees in these businesses is Latino. Every one of the half a million people who are hurrying along the crowded sidewalks and boarding the many public buses is speaking Spanish. In Queens, everywhere you go, everywhere you look, you see only Latino people, only Latino businesses, and hear only Spanish spoken.      

     Here’s the great irony: I speak absolutely no Spanish! And I was not familiar with the culture of the Latino people! Yet Almighty God granted me favor with the one hundred-fifty member congregation of Canaan Baptist Church, and the entire Queens community. And He provided all of my needs, including excellent translators.

     My brief stay at Canaan Baptist Church in Queens, New York was one of the most enjoyable adventures of my life. The people of Queens, especially the congregation of Canaan Baptist Church, always treated me with genuine kindness and affection.  

     There you have it, my testimony. Now that I’m a Christian, do I still make mistakes? Yes! Everyday! But I’ve learned to repent of my sin and God forgives me. And I do my best go forward. It’s called grace, God’s grace, and it’s available to you.                       

     If you are facing a difficult situation, today can be the day you can come to know the unfailing love of Almighty God. If you want a fresh start in life, now can be that time. He rescued me from quicksand and placed me on solid ground, and He’ll do the same for you. If you ask Him, God will grant you a new beginning. He is the God of Second Chances. And He’s made it easy for you to receive His help.  

     You can telephone 1-877-247-2426 (in Canada, 1-800-293-3717) and a trained Christian counselor will pray with you concerning your needs. The phone lines are standing by twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you want, that counselor will lead you in a prayer of salvation. You will then be mailed free information on how to begin your new Christian life.

     Or perhaps you know a family member, co-worker, or neighbor who is Christian. Ask them how you can become a child of God. They will be happy to help you. You can also visit any Bible-believing church. The pastor of that church will be glad to answer your questions, and if you want, pray with you. If you prefer, you can simply repeat the prayer of salvation I prayed with Tom Wells, which is listed earlier in this testimony. Will praying those words with no one around connect you with Almighty God? You bet!  

     Should you decide to become a Christian, I strongly recommend that you follow the same four suggestions Tom Wells gave me: read the Bible, pray about everything, attend a Bible-believing church, and spend time with Christians who know the Lord. 

     If you are already a Christian, I want you to know that you are my hero. I know there were times in your life when you prayed, “Father, please bring home the lost today.” I want you to know that your prayers led me home. Before I became a Christian, I would observe your life to see if God was real to you.

     When you took a stand for the Gospel, even in a small way, your actions had an impact on me. Each time you said Grace in a restaurant, each time you helped someone in need, every time you got out of bed on Sunday morning and went to church—instead of sleeping in--your actions told me that God was real in your life. Your Christian witness helped me decide in 1987, in Ryan’s Steak House in Ocala, Florida, to repent of my sin and accept Jesus as my Savior.

     There are millions of Lou Painters in the world who do not know the Truth. They’re lost, confused, hurting. God’s Truth will change their life. I encourage you to venture beyond the walls of your church and touch lives for the Kingdom of God.        

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