Date of Salvation: 1986
Location: Church of God on McDowell Rd.
Saved from: Drug-binging party lifestyle
Age at time of salvation: 24
It was such an amazing thing the way God led me to The Church that I wanted to tell it. It's a blessing to think back on one's testimony. Those of you who have been in the Phoenix congregation for many years will remember how I just showed up on day as a visitor out of nowhere. I was not a door-knocking contact nor did I come in contact with anyone from the church.
In 1986, when I was 24 years old, I was living a life of nightclub hopping and recreational drug use. I smoked marijuana, snorted methamphetamines and drank alcohol every weekend in the nightclub life and party scene here in Phoenix. These "party binges" lasted all weekend and I would go to places like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico or New Orleans or anywhere party goers would gather from every part of the world for a week of debauchery. This, of course, included all the wicked and immoral activities that I became very shameful of after the excitement began to wear off.
I would look up at the sky at night and see the stars and know there is a God in heaven. I remember one night specifically; a friend was picking me up from the airport for a party weekend in Santa Fe at his place. As we were driving down the highway, I gazed out the window at the night sky. I looked up at the stars, and the moon was full and it lit up the sky so brightly, that I felt God was there and I knew He was real. I asked my friend if He believed in God. He said yes. "Do you ever think about Him?" I asked. "Sometimes,” he said.
The fact that God exists; that He lives and watches us, was something I would not be able to ignore. As time passed while in my 20's, I began to feel dissatisfied with the drug-binging party scene. I wanted something more out of life. The excitement of immoral activities, the adrenaline from the drugs and rubbing elbows with the affluent--all while holding down a good career during the week--wasn't satisfying me anymore. I wanted to be satisfied. I needed something more out of life than "fun". I wanted something deeper and more fulfilling. My life was feeling a bit shallow and I started seeking answers to questions about life: Why do we live just to die? Why do I sin even though I don't want to anymore?
One night, I was at one of my usual nightclubs, doing the usual weekend routine, and I
remember feeling so sick of it all. I thought, "I can't take one more night of this empty and vain activity". I was so sick of it. I began to get frustrated and angry as I looked at people coming in and out of the bar looking for the same thing I was. So I left the bar, walked outside, lit up a cigarette and leaned against someone's car in the parking lot. I said to myself, "I can't take another night of this."
I started walking. I took off from the bar and left my friends inside without saying a word to them and just started walking out of frustration. I didn't know where I was going; I didn't care at the moment. I just wanted to get away. I ended up heading to the house of one of the friends I left back at the nightclub. I went into his house and sat on the bed. I was alone; no one else was in his house. It was a small, one-room guest house. As I sat on the bed, my head was spinning with thoughts. “Why do we live just to die? Why do I do these evil things even though I don't want to anymore?”
I looked around the room and saw a bible on the shelf. I went over and picked it up and sat back down on the bed. When I opened up the bible, I had opened to Romans 10:8-10.
"8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
At the time, I didn't know what salvation meant but I felt that if I did that –confess with my mouth—God would hear me. Even though I didn't have much understanding on what this meant, nor what salvation was, nor what this "confession" was, I felt that if I spoke to God and told Him I believe He raised Jesus from the dead, He would hear me. So, as I got into the kneeling position on the bed, a gust of wind began to spin around outside and the little guest-house house began to creak from the wind at all four of its corners: first one corner, then the next corner of the ceiling, then the 3rd corner and then the 4th. Then complete silence. I prayed for the first time in my life, not knowing how or what I said. Nor do I remember what I said. I think I told God that I believed He raised Jesus from the dead. And when I finished, the wind picked up again outside and reversed direction because the little guest house creaked in all four corners again but in reverse direction. Then complete silence again.
From that time on, I began to search for God with all my heart. I started looking for Him in the only place I knew to go at the time. That was The Church of Christ where my grandmother would take me as a little boy when I would visit her and my relatives on summer visits. I never really attended church myself.
I went to my first service alone at a Church of Christ congregation here in Phoenix on 19th Avenue and Northern and sat in the back, hoping for answers. I wanted to know why I sinned even though I didn’t want to. I felt I wanted to quit doing the things I was doing but found myself heading back to the drugs and party scene, still dissatisfied. Why? I realized I couldn't quit doing some things even though I wanted to. I realized I was also being driven by excitement for lustful things and I wanted to stop doing them but couldn't. I sat and listened to a Church of Christ preacher and got nothing. His preaching was quite empty as I recall. I knew God had answers if anyone did, so church had to be the place I could find answers. I went back again to the Church of Christ and listened to yet another empty sermon that told me nothing. Even though I listened to the preacher, there was nothing that explained or answered, "Why do I sin even though I don't want to?"
Frustrated still, I turned on the TV one day to a religious channel and heard a man by the name of Harold Armstrong from the World Wide Church of God preach about the "true church" being kept in the name of the father, and that's the Church of God. When he said that, a huge Presence filled the room in my house and witnessed to me that "I need to go to the Church of God". It felt SO BIG, so LARGE that it filled the whole room. I was alone in the house.
So I immediately got out the phone book and started writing down addresses to all the Church of God locations in Phoenix. There were about five or six. I got in my car thinking I was going to drive by these locations and go to their service the next Sunday. I drove to the first address I had written down and it was a vacant lot. I drove to the next address I had written down and it was 3946 W. McDowell. I decided to go there on Sunday.
That next Sunday, I went in and sat in the very back, not wanting to talk to anyone— avoiding everyone—because I came for one purpose only: to hear the preaching. As I came in and sat down in the very back, I heard the minister say, "You don't have to sin anymore if you don't want to."
That was it. That was the moment in my life! I never heard such a thing!
It was a life-changing point in my life, a pivotal moment, because the Church of Christ tells people that they are forgiven for past, present and future sins when they get baptized. They teach that water baptism covers everything. I listened to my grandmother end her prayers with "and forgive us of our sins" all her life. But this great "hail stone" from heaven came down to me......and it broke apart that false doctrine. To be able to be free from sin was something I never heard in my life. It was so glorious!
There was a Witness to me from Heaven while I was in these Church of God services, that revealed to me I had come in contact with more than flesh and blood. I felt God speak to me as the preaching from the Church of God came forth. (And it still does.) There was a special "life-giving sound" that I never felt anywhere else that witnessed to me that I had come to the right place.
The life in the preaching—the way it spoke to me and made me feel—coupled with the response of the people in the pews, made me look at what the preacher was seemingly “throwing” into the pews. I would look at the saints rejoicing and say to myself, "I want some of that. What is that? What is he throwing out to you?" Things became very clear on the sin issue as I sat under more preaching and I sought my deliverance.
Needless to say, my search was over. I found God and His Church that day! No need to look anywhere else. I found Him and It! The Witness of God's Presence in The Church of God during the preaching and His outpouring on the worship has always been proof that I found The
Truth and where He is. I give God all the glory for having such mercy on me. Truly, God can be found by anyone who seeks Him with all their heart, no matter where they are or what they've done.