“My Brother John”

This salvation story isn't about my brother John, but my daughter-in-law's. In an upcoming story, I hope to share about one of The Most Amazing Salvation TESTIMONIES I have ever witnessed, who was their father, who was saved at the Final Hour— just weeks before he died from pancreatic cancer.

Let me begin by sharing when I first met John, who was at my son's wedding. John is who walked the bride (halfway) down the aisle at her wedding. John escorted his sister and then met their father (who was only able to make it) halfway down the aisle. From there, while her father finished the walk slowly and put his daughter's hand into my son's hand because he was so ill.

At the reception, I felt very close to this young man, John, like a unique love He'd given me for all four children who would soon (basically) be orphaned. Their mother wasn't at the wedding, since she'd been far too ill for years, and is currently being cared for in a nursing home.

Needless to say, without parents, being a young man, John succumbed to every sort of evil. There wasn't much anyone could do, though many tried to help him with his loss and to help him navigate his young adult years. In the end, like so many, he simply needed to hit rock bottom.

But isn't that where all of us have to be before we cry out and are ready for Him to do a makeover on our lives? Isn't that how far Matt, in Heroin Addict, needed to get before he was ready?

Then, suddenly, the appointed time came when—everything changed in John's life. As radically as John had lived in sin and for sin, he suddenly and completely began to live radically for the Lord! John soon got involved with a men's group of former drug addicts and even began sharing his testimony in local churches!

John said later that he'd gone down to the altar many times before, but nothing ever stuck. So remember, getting your loved one to church, dragging them to the altar or any effort on our part means you won't see any change because they don't meet Him the way a true encounter happens and a real relationship begins.

At the time, I believe all of John's sisters were Christians by the time their father passed away, which also included some of his sister's husbands—some were even in full-time ministry. As far as I know, none of their direct help or influence ever played a deciding factor in John making the decision to seek the Lord personally. He simply came to the place in his life, at the appointed time, to turn his life around.

Like the Modern Day John the Baptists when someone goes down a wicked road, for a time, God can use these special individuals as evangelists! One of the most powerful evangelists I knew who changed more lives was when we were members of a church after a worldwide revival broke out. This man, a former drug addict, and a dealer were so relatable, so on-fire for the Lord, that was changed after he was "court-ordered" to go to Teen Challenge, which I mentioned in Heroin Addict.

So, if you have a loved one who is someone you could never imagine becoming on-fire for the Lord, then these precious individuals can become a catalyst for the lost and desperate souls who need His love. Each time their lives seem to get worst, believe what He says in Ephesians 3:20

TLB—
“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”

The Message—
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

True, there are pastors whom God uses, which are the stable individuals, who are the solid rock, who live a (basically) good life and then they are called to ministry to shepherd a flock of believers. But to ignite and attract the truly lost, God uses those men and women who have strayed far off the path, those who have been forgiven MUCH. These are the individuals who are the most outspoken and in many ways, bring more souls to know the Lord due to their passion for the Lord—and especially by their testimony of a life transformed due to His love!

As Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” Many faced death due to their reckless lifestyles and came through these times—with a testimony beyond what any of us could ever have imagined.

UPDATE on John: Due to not knowing all the details of his transformation, but hearing a few of the particulars from my son and my daughter-in-law, I decided to simply ask the Lord to allow me to see John and listen to him personally share what the Lord had done.

Not surprisingly (yet I'm forever in awe), an opportunity came up. He led me to offer a beach house retreat my HH had given to me. The morning John flew in, I packed up and left the beach house and stayed with my daughter while John and my son, his brother-in-law, moved in. Near the end of his stay, I was able to treat him to a steak dinner and hear first-hand the amazing and wondrous exploits of a life completely and totally transformed!

Thankfully, the "details" God had always intended to use to help other young men who are stuck in this same pitiful pit of sin and also give HOPE to the families. John, led by His Spirit without a doubt, left many "drug-related" details out since there were not necessary to the story.

First, the overall physical transformation was so drastic that had John not been sitting with my son I would never have known him! He looked healthy, strong but it was his face, his smile, that glowed!! I asked for a hug right away, and after our embrace, he just began thanking me for my generosity, which of course we immediately turned to thank Him!

John and my son began by sharing how John got up to meet with the Lord early each morning (where I'd been meeting with Him) while watching GOD's glorious creation awaken. All I could do was smile tearfully as I listened and his face light up.

Yet, as soon as I could, not wanting to miss this unique opportunity, I asked John to please share his testimony. That's when his face really lit up and his passion began to permeate and ignite the air around us. If there is one thing I absolutely love and seek out are those who, like Mary Magdalene, are forgiven so much and now sit at his feet, washing them with their tears. I love it because it reignites my passion for Him anew and recharges my energy to help me in my lifelong quest—that everyone experiences His LOVE.

Probably the most surprising part of what John shared was the influence my son had on him. I knew my son had often met with him, befriending him. Then John said, referring to my son, "He never condemned or challenged or preached, but when I had a question, he answered it with what it said in the Bible. Simply as fact, not to challenge the way I was living." Witnessing this steadfastness in my son is something John said helped when he was ready to change his life.

Due to the wisdom that the Lord has instilled in John, though I know there was much of his story that dealt with his promiscuity and meeting his need for love by being with many women, he only referenced this slightly. I believe when he shares his testimony with men who are living as he did, he does share more because they can relate. What he did share more of was the deep drug use that led to him dealing drugs. He and his drug friends actually rented a duplex and on one side was where they sold the drugs and the other where they slept—which was on the floor and in horrible filth.

Another part I didn't know was that at one point John was doing quite well. Please be sure to notice what he told us, John was "blessed" with a brand new car, a respectable, very well-paying job, yet he was still involved with the drug scene and was with many women.

I'm sure family saw this and wondered at this change in his life as puzzling. If your loved one has an upswing, just keep your eyes on the Lord to finish His plan and complete what He started. Don't get in His way, don't try to steer a loved-one one way or the other. Just look for opportunities to love them with HIS Love. John 3:17 NIV “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

Soon after God had blessed him, which ultimately led him to repentance, he lost a big account he needed and that's when John asked God to help him.... to be continued....by John.

My Story

Growing up, I don’t remember much exposure to God. There was a time when we went to church every Sunday, and I remember a couple of services, but after some issues with the church, our family left and never went back.

My parents were too busy chasing the dream. To most, it would have seemed that we found it.  We had a beautiful house in a perfect neighborhood. We were a family of a successful father, a caring mother, three beautiful girls, and one boy. Mother was very active in our lives, and we just looked like we had it all together, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Our home lives were chaotic at best. Our parents would consistently fight, and one day it came to a point where it was too much. I was 9 when my parents decided to get a divorce and from that point on my life would be spent living for short periods of time in random houses, each belonging to my mother’s new boyfriends.

My sisters were old enough to choose who to live with, but me being so young I was forced to live with my mother. As I understand it, that is why one of my sisters stayed with me, so that I wouldn’t have to go through that experience alone. My mother put us through a lot in those next years, though we later found out it wasn’t exactly her fault. My mom was suffering from a horrible disease, which had severely affected her mental state and she was on a downward spiral from there. She would make up stories of my dad trying to kill her and completely believed them to be true. She would drag my sister and me into her room and tell us these stories for hours upon hours. It was a daily routine we had become accustomed too.

So, after years of struggle, it finally came to an end when my father won custody of me. For the first time in years, my sister and I had some stability. As we reunited with my older sisters, I noticed something interesting happening in their lives. One of my sisters was getting heavily involved in her church, and it started to change the dynamic of our house. She quickly became the “spiritual one” of the family.

The years went by and I started playing guitar, got into a band and naturally before I knew it, I was drinking and smoking weed; not regularly, but when I could. All the “rock legends” I looked up to did drugs, and I wanted to find out why it was so appealing.  I remember a few times going to church with my sister and every time I went I was confronted with the truth that I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. I just really didn’t want to give up my life. There was a time that I can say I truly was sorry for the way I was living my life. It happened on one Sunday morning during service when they had called me out, and I went forward and made a profession of faith. But, it wasn’t Godly sorrow because there was no repentance. I left and went right back out, and that’s when it slowly got worse.

The year was 2009 or so. I’m in my room, my dad opens my door and waits for me to pause my video game. The words hit me hard, “I have pancreatic cancer, and the doctor told me I have about a year to live.” “ok...” is all I could say. I was in shock. The next 6 months were devastating. Day by day I watched as my father, the pillar upon which my family stood, was deteriorating in front of my eyes. The one who I would run to in tears I was now holding while he was in tears as we discussed all the things he was hoping to teach me over to help us through rest of our lives.

Then it all changed one day when I walked out of my room, and there was the pastor of a local church in the living room talking to my dad. Obviously confused, I told my dad I was going to a friend’s, and he just looked at me with a big smile and said “ok.” Obviously, what he said wasn’t weird, it was the way he said it—my dad was different. It weirded me out, so I left. For the last six months as my dad approached the day he’d die, I watched something peculiar happened. He became almost happier as time went on! The peace that my dad now had confused me but I was too angry at the time to consider why.

When my dad died, my life really started to turn for the worse. With a mixture of depression and a lack of an authority figure in my life, I moved out into a duplex with some bandmates of mine. The partying started off with alcohol, but after finding out that the neighbors in our duplex were drug dealers, it quickly went from bad to worse soon after I lost my job, my band dissolved and depression was setting in. Unable to pay the bills, the power was cut off in the middle of winter. Yet all that mattered to me was getting high. I would sleep curled up under my father’s old coat in a room with busted windows where the icy breeze would blow on my face as I tried to sleep. When I woke up, all that mattered to me was going over to the neighbor’s house hoping they would be waking up as well so that I could catch a hit as they prepared to go through their day high. I had become a vulture. Scraping change to buy a pack of ramen a day if I was lucky.

One of the guy’s grandma heard about this and would buy trash bags of Hostess snacks. Grocery stores would take their expired snacks and cut the bags so that no one could resell them. You could get a bag for $5 to feed your pigs as a farmer. For that period of my life, that is what I lived off of. You might ask, “How can you get to that point?” “Wouldn’t that get to you?” The truth is, yes, it does. But, when I did drugs, the world stopped at that front door. Nothing seemed to matter other than the person in front of me or the video game in front of me. I was free from guilt, free from shame. I didn’t have responsibilities nor cares. As long as I stayed high, I could handle my life and where I had ended up. As I look back at my life, it seems so unreal. I never intended to get to that point.

My family did care and wanted to help, like when we went to Florida to spread my dad’s ashes, and while we were there, my “spiritual” sister confronted me. Unfortunately, when you live in the drug world, you get good at manipulating. That is your primary source of survival. Manipulate to get what you want, so if people like me, they would get me high. If they didn’t, I would make them pity me, and they would feed me. It was a win-win. There was no shame nor pride. It was survival pure and simple. That was how I viewed that encounter with my sister. I made her feel ashamed for accusing me when I said, “How dare you accuse me of being on drugs.” “How could you say that!?” I can’t imagine what I put my family through in those years.

I still remember coming home after that Florida trip. I had been sober for a week because I was with my family— I hadn’t been sober for more than an hour within many months. I walk into the duplex. Nothing had changed. Ten or so guys were passing around a pipe. Another friend had died. The air wreaked of body odor and weed with a failing attempt to cover it with incense. It finally hit me. How had I gotten here?

Sure enough, you would expect this to be where I get saved right? Well, I’m stubborn, and it’s not. My thoughts at the time being if I just do better and get out of this situation, I might finally be happy. I moved in with my step-mother and got a good job. Things went well for a year or so and with minor incidence; I’m holding an apartment and doing ok. But I notice that no matter how much I get or how well I do, there is always this aching for more. No matter how nice the car, I need a nicer one. No matter how beautiful the girl I date is, I need a better-looking one. Bigger parties, bigger better everything. Nothing would satisfy. So, I started smoking again, and in no time, I’m in and out of jail, again. Then I went to get a sales job that promised six-figure paychecks, and it didn’t work out. When everything started to fall apart, I turned yet again to drugs.

Then my life began to change...

I had made a new friend at the place I was working selling timeshare. We would smoke and party together, but after a while and my situation got worse when he started to give me rides to work. We quickly became friends and every day we would leave work, go to his house and smoke weed. Never once did we consider what the coming months had in store or what was in motion.

The time comes, and I’m out of money. My BMW gets repossessed, my apartment is unpaid, and even my furniture was due to be taken. For the second time, I was standing in a room I couldn’t pay for, a failure. I finally accepted the fact that I couldn’t do this on my own.

At this point, I was telling everyone I was an atheist, but I was out of options and didn’t know what to do. So, I dropped to my knees and said, “God if You’re real, get me a sale at work. If you do, I’ll stop partying and doing these wrong things.” (I was more specific in the prayer, but it was a list.)

God didn’t have to, but just to prove to me who He was, I walked into work the very next day and got my first sale in the three months I had been working for the company. I even remember telling an old man at work, and his response was “John you can’t bargain with God, He wants all or nothing.” I ignored him. I dismissed it as coincidence and went home to celebrate and broke every promise I made to God. But God is not mocked, the very next day when I went back to work, they told me, “John your sale backed out. You better start looking for a new job.” I couldn’t believe it.

Riding home with my friend, I opened up about everything: Crying out to God, getting the deal, and then them backing out. After explaining everything I looked over and his jaw is on the floor. He couldn’t believe what I was saying for some reason. So, a little shocked by how he reacted I asked him, “Do you want to go to church with me?” “YES!” That was not the reply I expected. He then told me how he and our dealer had stayed up for hours the night before talking about God and how he had felt like he wanted to go to church, he just had no one to go with him. So, we decided there and then that we would find out who God was and what He wanted with our lives.

A month later, however, I’m back to smoking weed again, but Matt is over at our old dealer’s house reading his Bible still trying to figure out who God was. They call me to get over there, and at this point, I’m right down the street living at my stepmom's again.  They showed me a testimony on YouTube from a local outreach ministry called Freeway. I was shocked because the guy that was sharing his testimony was my weed dealer’s old dope dealer. After hearing stories about his former drug dealer, our dealer played the video. After ten minutes. I realized that if God could change that guy, He could change me. Convicted I tossed the weed I had aside and opened up a Bible—from that day on life was different. Not easy, but different.

We started a Bible study at the dealer’s house where we would play a sermon from that outreach ministry Freeway. We invited all our drug friends, and before we knew it, we had around 25 people coming faithfully to a former drug house to listen to sermons on a TV and to pray together. We even built an altar in front of the TV so that at the end of the message when they did an altar call, our friends had somewhere to go (it was a foldout plastic bench from Walmart lol). We were on fire. I would read the Bible and then go home.

During this time my step-mother had become my drinking and smoking buddy. But when my life changed and hers didn’t things got heated. I would come home and just say Hi. Every time I walked in the door my newly found conviction came with me. Though I never said a word against her, she would scream at me for judging her. My nights were spent pretending to be asleep while reading my Bible as she would beat on the door trying to get me to come out for her to confront me about who I thought I was and the terrible things I did.

Eventually, I moved back out and slowly God has built a life for me. I moved into what’s called a men’s discipleship house. It’s a place where men can go who are serious about learning how to walk with the Lord. It’s very strict, and every day you are doing some sort of Bible study or serving in some way. You learn how to cook, clean, hold a job, work hard. But, most importantly you wake up and read your Bible. You learn to pray and trust God. You learn what it looks like to be a man of God. I've been saved coming up on three years ago.

Since then, things have changed but not for the worse. I have led worship for the same outreach ministry where I was saved. I am disciplining men who are former addicts and helping them pursue a Godly responsible lifestyle. After helping teach for a year in a single young adult class at my local church, I am now on a preaching rotation with the youth pastor as he is mentoring me, as well as having the incredible opportunity to pour into a small group of middle schoolers weekly by teaching Sunday School.

A little over a year ago God gave me an incredibly vivid call into ministry, and my passion is youth. I teach a Bible study every week for men who come straight out of prison and into the discipleship house as well as some men from our church.

I don’t like to glorify my past life or talk up the bad I’ve done. Please don’t get that impression. What I hope is taken from this is that not only can anyone get saved who God gets ahold of, but God is worthy of our trust. All I’ve ever done is break one dream after the next. I shouldn’t be a success. But, when I got saved I took one verse very seriously. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all ways and He shall make straight your paths.”

After breaking every dream I’ve ever had, I would hope that my past is proof I can’t do this on my own. So, that fact that I am doing it I hope is a beacon to the world that this God is a worker of miracles. If He wasn’t, how do you explain what I just told you?