Well, I guess that my story begins over 25 years ago. I was a typical teenager and the only thing that I knew of religion was what I learned from a church I went to as a small boy. My mother died in a car accident when I was eight years-old and of course it was very difficult for all of us, particularly my father. We were not from a religious home by any means, in fact my mother was an up and coming Country Music singer and my father was at the horse track at least once a week. My parents, like most, were well-intentioned in raising us, but not once was Jesus ever brought up in our home and to my recollection, the Bible was never opened. It is not my intention to dishonor either my mother or my father in sharing these things, but to let the reader know some of my family background. My parents always provided and cared for my twin brother, Sam and I, despite some difficult times financially. I never doubted their love for either of us and I appreciate especially, that after my mother died, my father decided to keep both of us boys with him in a day that a man caring for children alone was uncommon.
So when the tragedy occurred in 1969, my father’s recourse to assist Sam and I with the loss of my mother, was to send us to a small Baptist Church in Malta, N.Y. near famous Saratoga Springs. The Sunday School bus would bring us to and fro and occasionally my dad would show up for the worship service. I do not remember much about our time there, but two things I will never forget. The first is a simple object and that was the pulpit. More specifically, I recall that there was a Bible verse on the front of it and I believe it was John 3:16. And though I have absolutely no recollection of the Pastor, I remember well my Sunday School Teacher. He was probably in his late forties at the time, was fairly tall with very dark hair and wore black eyeglasses. As I look back, this man cared much for his students. Here this was, over 30 years ago, and I can still remember that he would come and visit my dad and my brother and I. Now of course I cannot be sure, but it would be a good guess that he was witnessing to my father about Christ those many times he was in our home. So no, I had no spectacular childhood conversion, but I can’t help but wonder if some seeds of the gospel were planted during that year or so that we attended that little Baptist Church with the faithful worker that I have never been able to forget.
Back to being a teenager. I did have a sense of righteousness, of right and wrong. Perhaps it was that influence that I had as a youth in Sunday School but I despised certain sins, especially stealing. Except of course, a short time later when I began stealing. As a young teen, I vowed that I would never drink alcohol, just because I thought it was a stupid thing to do. But as I got a little older and got under some peer pressure, I started that too, and I did it with all my might. At the same time I took up weightlifting and soon I was bench-pressing over 300 pounds while only weighing about 130. My pride soared and I would drink to excess to prove that I could handle it better than those around me. I cursed constantly, mainly to shock others and to prove my “manliness.” I often would challenge people to fight because it gave me a thrill to see them back down in fear. One of my best friends stole a siren from an unmarked fireman’s car and I placed on my vehicle and would use it to pull over innocent people and threaten them with a ticket. I did many crazy and wicked things that I am now completely ashamed of. Inside I was very insecure and these activities and habits gave me the feeling of being somebody. One time, I was in a grocery store with friends purchasing alcohol for our night out and we saw two men carrying Bibles. I do not know if they were Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists or from some other group, but my response was to laugh. How could they believe some book that was written so long ago. Didn’t they see all the fun they were missing in life. Boy, doesn’t God have a sense of humor?
During this time, my brother Sam, became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as the LDS or the Mormons. He became very devout very quickly and my dad began encouraging me to join so that would be a better person. After all, my brother was in early every night while I was constantly breaking curfew. He listened to soft rock, while I was involved with the middle-ground rock and attending concerts when I could. He was more moral and more obedient to my father, while I was getting worse. No, I was not in jail or anything (though I certainly deserved it) but I was bad enough that my dad would ask his police officer friends what to do with me as I was beginning to get out of hand. So, after listening to the LDS missionaries that Sam had begged me to hear, I went through the steps and joined the Mormon church. Now here opens up much controversy with the Mormons. I joined because I believed what they told me, about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon etc. and for a couple of other reasons. After all, why should I believe they would lie to me. They were religious people and certainly better than me. Of course they were telling me the truth. The second reason is surely it couldn’t hurt me. Maybe there was a better way than the life that I was living. Thirdly, and I know that this is so spiritual it will awe you, but I was interested in a couple of the girls in the Church. There you have it, three honest reasons, though I am not sure what order of importance I would have placed each reason at the time.
Now Mormons love to attack me for my testimony. I got them so stirred up years later, when I was teaching on the errors of Mormonism, that someone from the LDS church interviewed me concerning my time of membership in the Church. When he heard about my interest in the girls, he attacked me verbally. He had found his proof! According to him, I never really believed and therefore that was my problem. The truth of the matter is, for a time I was seeking after the truth! I was yearning for an answer to that emptiness that I was feeling. My brother had goals, he had friends that apparently had fun without drinking etc. I desired peace with God and I became very involved in the Mormon Church for some time. I went to the youth activities, the dances, the trips to Disney with the friends from the Church. I lived with a Mormon family for many months and even went with LDS missionaries as they went door-to-door! I wanted the answers, I wanted peace, I wanted that void in my life to be filled, but the truth is-as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I NEVER found it! I discovered religion, I discovered many sincere people, I discovered a system, but I NEVER found peace or contentment or the answers to life. I never found change! Outside of the above-mentioned things and church attendance, I was still the same person, even though at times I was more subdued! I wanted desperately spiritual truth, but to no avail with the Mormons; that is my testimony.
It was 1979 and High School was over. Due to my dad’s health problems, he decided to move to Florida and despite some hesitation, I went with him. I was really in the dark; I had no goals and college did not interest me. So after arriving in New Port Richey, Florida, I found a job and went to work. I was still a member of the LDS Church and began attending the Ward there.
After just a short time, a friend of my father’s, named Ward, invited Sam and I over to dinner with him and his wife. They were a nice couple but I found out that they had an ulterior motive. When the meal was finished, this older man opened his Bible and began quizzing us on Mormonism. For the next hour or so, he tactfully revealed to us many contradictions between Mormonism itself and between Mormonism and the Bible. If my memory serves me correctly, by the time the conversation was over, he let us know that we were believing a lie and that if we died in that belief, we would end up in a real literal place called Hell. We both listened, but my brother afterwards stated that he would never return to their home. I however did go back and eventually went to a meeting with them at a small non-denominational church. This Pastor explained that salvation was found only when one trusted Christ as their personal Saviour and at the end of the service he gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to be saved. Christ dying for my sins made sense to me, so I raised my hand. Well, according to everyone there, I was now saved. I continued going there, but for those of you reading this; my life did not change, other than the fact that I was now going to Church! In fact soon after, I went into the Army Reserves Basic training and frankly, I was as wicked as ever! I did go to the base chapel Baptist services, but again, my everyday life was basically the same as before. Now here opens a great Christian controversy! Does someone become a Christian when they acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Saviour, when they believe the facts of the gospel, or is there something more? The majority today will side with the “just believe” theology and state that I was a Christian but I was not “dedicated”. But friend, I tell you that the majority is WRONG! I fully believe that if I had died during that time, though I had a profession of belief in Christ, that I would have went straight to hell-without passing heaven!
Months later I returned from basic training and really did some soul-searching. I went more regularly to the Bible church in Hudson, FL and became more active in the youth group, etc. Sad to say that what I saw from the youth there revealed to me that something was wrong. They cursed, they told the filthy jokes, they were immoral. This was both sexes and out of about a dozen teenagers, I remember not even one that left me with the impression that they were a “Christian”, though each and every one had made this “profession” equal to myself. I did not judge for I did not know any better, I just made an observation. Within a couple of months I understood, but as of yet, I still was not any different than I was before I made this profession, excepting again, that I was becoming a regular in the church house.
Well, after this as I continued my soul-searching I began to sense a real lack in my life. I knew no theology and as far as everyone was telling me at that time, I was a Christian because I knew “Jesus died for my sins”. I was in my car one evening and I sensed a presence, an influence so to speak. A leading, a drawing. No audible voice, no Oral Roberts baloney about seeing a 70 foot Jesus. But it was a very strong impression that I needed to give my life to the LORD JESUS CHRIST. My emptiness had met it’s match. For this power, this overshadowing was nothing less than the Holy Spirit of God! You see friend, it was not enough for me to believe the facts of the gospel, nor is it enough to believe in Jesus as your Saviour. One must yield to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of the True and Living God and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ! This was my conversion, this was my new birth. It was not dedication...it was salvation! I turned to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour while bowing my heart in my car. Jesus Christ died for me, saved me, and desired that I surrender to Him and live for Him. Hallelujah! A wonderful peace indwelt me, something had happened!
That was in 1981. And many things were changing and all I understood was that it was the Holy Spirit’s leading. My language changed immediately and I did not even try to change it! Since that time in my vehicle where I surrendered to the LORD I have never cussed again!! Thanks be to God! This was real! Just a couple of weeks after, I went back to New York state to visit with my dad. I was picked up by my best friend and went to his house. Two or three times this friend’s mother offered me an alcoholic drink and I refused. Well, each of them pressured me so I finally gave in. I think I took one sip, maybe two. But boy did I feel strange! Then afterwards, a small group of us went out as sort of a last goodbye to each other. Well, the place my friend chose was a bar, and why not, for that environment was normally what suited us.
We went in and after fifteen or twenty minutes of rock music, cigarette smoke and Budweiser I had enough. But I did not understand why. The Holy Spirit had so much control of me that I had to leave that place. I have not drank a drop since I entered there, and though I knew not even one scripture about alcohol or separation, I literally had to depart! Whereas I gave into peer pressure at Tom’s home only minutes before, I felt stronger now. It was like there were two opposing forces at work, but I could not explain it. Of course now I realize that it was the Holy Spirit of God resisting the forces of Satan that were so real in that bar. What kind of a “Christian”, what kind of a follower of Christ was I, to be in a place so contrary to righteousness? Now I speak to “Christians” who tell me that routinely they go to bars and sip a cola while “witnessing” to friends about Jesus. Sounds to me like a take-off on the sixty’s flower child movement. I sense that I am not too far off.
Well, I left and almost got into a fistfight with my tipsy best friend in doing so. But that evening God got the victory and my new nature was strengthened. That was over twenty years ago and the Lord has done much in my life since. Unfortunately I confess that I have not always followed the Holy Spirit’s leading as closely as I did in those early days. There are times when I have yielded to Him and times where I have failed. It is my express desire to be a better Christian, to be exactly what the Lord wants me to be and during this journey there have been many struggles and I have made many mistakes. Yet the Lord has used me in many ways, especially regarding evangelism and confronting false doctrine. I do not in any way seek to lift myself up, but it is my desire to share with some of God’s people some situations that many have found interesting. It is at the prompting of some Christian friends that I am writing these words. And regardless of whether you agree or disagree with some of my actions or words, please understand that in these cases my interest was in the furtherance of the gospel and the truth of the Word of God. The scripture states, “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”. The Bible is the standard. Not man’s opinions, not the theological professor, not the charismatic television evangelist, not Billy Graham, certainly not the pope, and not even the pastor in your church! And if they are anything remotely close to spiritual, they will acknowledge that the above words are true. We live in a day where the Bible is the most purchased book, but the least read. It is in tens of thousands of pulpits across America every Sunday, but it is not obeyed. The Holy Word of God is in the homes of numerous hordes of professing Christians throughout this land, yet most barely open it up, let alone study it. We are truly in a time where we have a famine of the Word of God, even though any Dollar Store carries them for just that price. Believers can pay outrageous prices for “Christian” concerts but do not know the roles for husbands and wives. Some profess the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” yet send their children to secular schools so all the family devotions and Sunday preaching they have received can be undermined. Most preachers will tell their congregations of godly men like George Muller and Hudson Taylor, yet dare not live sacrificially like any of these men. It is my prayer that this journal so to speak, will encourage some to stand for God when most are not, and that some will turn off the television and get on the streets with Bible and tracts in hand. If a handful of people, actually if one person, became a serving, working, discerning and spiritually-minded Christian, then this book was worth all of my effort and time. Also, I would like to mention that unfortunately as much as I will try to be chronological, I know that to write in such a manner would be too difficult. And also I say unashamedly that the only Bible that I ever quote from or refer to is the King James Bible, and I believe it to be the Word of God. And my doctrinal stance is Baptistic. I believe in all the fundamentals of the faith including salvation by grace through faith that leads to a changed life, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the trinity, and a literal punishment in the lake of fire for those that reject Christ. And I offer no apology for my stand on these issues. So on that note, I begin “Twenty Years Fighting The Devil”.