My Personal Testimony
For all my friends and acquaintances
Class of ‘75’ T.F. North High School
My personal testimony is a witness of myself, a typical American-born kid that was brought up in a nominal Greek Orthodox, middle class home.
As a young boy and through my high school days I had many desires. I was involved in many sports: football, basketball, cross-country, baseball, track and field, weightlifting, etc. I was basically an average student. I was never involved with any crimes or had any run-ins with the law. Another interest of mine throughout my school days was music. My older sisters and brother also played various instruments. I took up drumming. I played in the Hoover-Schrum grade school band and later in pop groups. By the time I graduated High School (‘75’) I sought music more seriously. So off to Thornton Jr. College (South Holland) I went for a couple years, then to Roosevelt University downtown Chicago for further formal education. By then I was quite serious as a percussionist, playing various instruments, working in a wide variety of musical situations with orchestras and also in clubs, dance halls, at weddings, supper club bands, etc. I played drums also in jazz duets, trios, quartets, and big bands enjoying a pretty lucrative income.
One night at a club on the south side of Chicago, a saxophonist introduced me to the practice of NSA Buddhism. Being a musician, after having studied various musics I thought what this man introduced to me would be something to look into. So I tried it. After a week or so of chanting a particular Buddhist chant I was convinced that that was “it.” Of course, in America during the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, eastern religions along with experimenting with eastern music were becoming more and more popular. Well, I was so determined to pursue this branch of Buddhism that I became a regular member of a group in the greater Calumet region. There was certain paraphernalia that went along with this form of Buddhism, like a small wooden box with some Chinese Sanskrit inside it to which you were to chant. This I practiced for about a year from ‘82’ to ’83.’ So by then, I was really “into it” as they say; a serious drummer, percussionist, and practicing Buddhism.
But one day, in September of ‘83’ I was sitting in our back yard where I was raised in Calumet City on Williams Street, that my sister-in-law, a born-again Christian sat down with me and began talking to me about how I could know for sure I would go to heaven when I died. That was not the first time that I ever heard that. There was a time before that, when a couple of men came to our house and mentioned that also to me. Back then I was an Orthodox and I didn’t want anything to do with these men. But when my sister-in-law discussed these things with me I gave the usual answer, something like, “Well, you have your religion and I have mine.” Now I was a Buddhist, a professional musician, enjoying “life,” so I thought. But her witness gave me some things to think about. Her witness was sincere and real to her, and for some reason, what she told me, I could never shake that off.
“Day of salvation”
So that lasted for about a month when one day in October I was invited by some friends to go to another friends’ house in Hammond, IN., which is right next to Cal City. I didn’t decide to go there until I finished my morning discipline which consisted of chanting that I was to do every day as often as I could. That morning, while upstairs in my room my father called from down stairs and asked me if I wanted to go hunting with him. I turned him down simply because I knew that after I finished chanting I would go to Hammond to this friend’s house. We were going to just ‘hang out.’ But something was bugging me. My dad wanted a little company. I always respected him. For some odd reason I felt really bad that I didn’t go with him. It was probably simply because of the lust for sin that was drawing me to go with my friends that I turned my father down. Another thing that was stuck in my “crawl” was the witness of my sister-in-law concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. So I was dealing with some issues in my own personal life. It was kind of like a tug of war going on for my heart and soul between two powers; darkness and light. Well, after my father left for hunting, and I finished the morning discipline of this new found religion, I left for Hammond. My friends were playing pool. MTV was on; there was music, beer, etc.
Without anybody knowing what was going on, my mind and conscience started to really bother me about what I was doing. I felt as if everything was caving in on me. There was this sense of panic inside of me as if I was trying to grab hold of something but I was slipping. It was like the bottom was being pulled out from under my feet and I was falling as if I was walking on thin ice and the ice was slowly but surely breaking and I was about to fall in. Mind you, I didn’t let anybody know what was happening. At that moment, I went out of that house, got on my knees and began chanting but to no avail. Then I began calling out to God. Again it was as if there was a tug-a-war going on between darkness and light to see who would have me. Well, looking back on that moment, I must honestly say that I was under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit reproving me of my guilt. For example when a bandit knows that he has been caught and there is no escape he has no choice but to ‘give in.’ Well, all I can say was at that moment I was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit of God convicting me as to who I was before a Holy God - a sinner on his way to hell. It was as if for the first time I knew that I was bitten and stung with sin. What happened next was I grabbed my keys to the car and headed for home. Shaken up, I was trying to figure out what was happening with me. I walked into my house. My mother asked me what the matter was. I really thought something was happening with my heart. I tried to seek comfort but I found none, still under conviction trying to shake off a guilty conscience, but to no avail. Next I headed up the stairs to my room. I called my sister-in-law and told her what was happening. She said to ask the Lord Jesus into my heart.
Moment of salvation
I got on my knees beside my bed and simply prayed to God. I was not before a priest in some church but home beside my bed. For the first time in my life I saw myself as God saw me, a wretched sinner that needed the Saviour. I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my own personal Saviour to save me from hell. At that moment I received eternal life just like the Bible promises and was miraculously born-again. Light broke in. I was so glad. I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. For a week after that I had tears of joy. I never knew as an Orthodox (which is supposedly, Christianity), having religion or as a practicing Buddhist chanting what it was to have eternal life. You see, they can’t offer that to you. Before I had religion; icons, crosses, baptism, a godfather, godmother, etc., but I did not know the Lord personally. There is a BIG difference. Religion is one thing. That’s what man does. But salvation is something totally different. Salvation is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ PERSONALLY. It is not some mental assent to the facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Many know of those facts but never have applied Him, or received Him as their personal Saviour, therefore they are on their way to hell, while still retaining some traditions of men. Salvation is not tradition but a matter of personal application upon knowing your need to be saved and believing from the heart and receiving Him to save you. It is no joke, but a reality. He is real, a living PERSON, who hears all, sees all and KNOWS of your sinful condition and is ready to save YOU.
Difference between knowing about God and knowing Him
It’s kind of like this, you may know about someone whom you’ve never personally met, like the president. There is a big difference between knowing about the president and knowing him personally. Bill Gates, the rich owner of Microsoft is a rather well known person. But have you met him personally? Like me, probably not. And so it is with the Lord. As a young, Greek Orthodox man, I knew about the Lord. I believed somewhat in God but I didn’t know Him PERSONALLY. I didn’t even know that you could know Him personally. I didn’t know that my entire youth until I got saved at 26 years of age in 1983. Now, you might be asking, “Before that happened to you were you a “dopehead?” No! “Were you a drunkard?” No, just a plain ‘ole sinner that was guilty before God. Yeah, you are probably thinking, “Well, if you just took a drink once in awhile and tried a little marijuana once in awhile, or ‘partied’ once in awhile, then that is normal. Most of us have experimented with that some time in their life. There is ‘nothing’ wrong with that!” That is absolutely wrong. But more importantly it isn’t just the fact that you are wrong for doing those things or thinking that way. You have to do what I did and that is, come to grips with yourself as to WHO you are before God – A GUILTY HELL-BOUND SINNER. The Bible says, “For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” “…that EVERY mouth may be stopped, and ALL the world may become GUILTY before God.” The fact that your very nature is sinful makes you guilty before God; you simply may not have come to grips with that yet. So your problem is, how are you going to settle the sin issue in your life? Traditions will never erase your sins from you. They never have. The law, the Ten Commandments were not written to save you but only to show you that you ARE a sinner, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” If you’ve even said but a lie you are guilty before God and guilty of all of the Ten Commandments, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, HE IS GUILTY OF ALL.” That means you are guilty of adultery, murder, stealing, disobeying your parents, etc. Those are listed in the Ten Commandments. So you’ve got to deal with a bad heart and a bad record before God.
You see, in Buddhism they don’t call sin “sin” like God does. I was absolutely totally blind and didn’t even know it. That’s what makes the Bible so true. It is God’s revelation about us. He tells it like it IS, and not how you would like it said.
When I believed from my heart the Lord Jesus Christ to save me, things really began to change in my life and I mean for the better. Jesus Christ says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY.” And that is exactly what I received – abundant eternal life. I gained more by receiving eternal life (through the One Who is eternal life), than all I had ever received. I received something that is real, true and PERMANENT. Let me stop here and simply say that where the Bible promises eternal life, that life is NOT a process. It is not something that you have to work for. You have been taught that “nothing is free.” That is basically how I was taught. But contrary to man’s traditions, salvation is a FREE GIFT that is given INSTANTANEOUSLY at the moment you trust the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one THE FREE GIFT came upon all men unto justification of life.” True, Biblical salvation is not by works; getting baptized, making the sign of the cross, going to church, giving money, helping out in your community and such like things that make people proud of what they are doing. That is a great deception. It is God giving you His only begotten Son, Who IS ETERNAL LIFE, “For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It was within a couple of weeks after I was saved, that I wanted to get the Buddhist stuff out of my house. That went. I got a call from those from the Buddhist cult and wanted to know why I wanted out. I simply told them my testimony that I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and knew that I was saved and had assurance of it. Of course they couldn’t understand that. There was the thought of warning me that something would happen to me if I did leave that cult but it didn’t “stick.” I had something that can never be replaced and I knew it. So time went by about four to five months. By then I had already read the Bible that my sister-in-law gave me. I read and read and read. I was hungry to know more of the truth. My thirst was quenched when I was saved, but I wanted to know the Lord better. It was ‘unbelievable.’ It wasn’t until after I was saved for about a year after having soaked up much of the Bible that my faith had increased that I gave up my music career. I know, you are probably thinking, “How could you give up such a lucrative career?” I’ll tell you why. The Lord led me gently but surely out of a way of ‘life’ that passes off as “normal” to something that is far better – the will of God. If you have a choice between one thing and another thing which is far better any wise person would choose that which is far better. Since God knows all, He knows what is best for us. But that again is a matter of faith. My faith had increased by His very own words, the Bible. When you are saved, God gives you purpose in life. You can have a lot of money, a good career, wife and family and be a spiritual mess, and have absolutely no direction. God gives you reason to live. He Himself is the meaning of life. Most of you are still wandering around asking in so many words, “What is it all about? Is that all there is to ‘life’? Eat, drink and be merry? Working like a dog from day to day, paying bills, getting married and having a family and then dying? Is that how ‘life’ is defined?” You know friend, I thought that too. But that is not what defines real life. Those things are all temporary. They come and go. You will never come to the main crux of life until you come to the very SOURCE of life, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was LIFE; and THE LIFE was the light of men.”
Because of the fact that I simply wanted to study the Bible more seriously I went to Bible school, first in Chicago, then in Schererville, IN., and eventually ended up in Florida at Pensacola Bible Institute. There I lived for about four years. It wasn’t until 1991 after I graduated Bible school that I gave my heart to missions and was called of God to the mission field of Former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine. I have been living in Ukraine since ‘92’ and take a furlough every so often and come back to the States. God had given me a beautiful wife and three girls who are all saved and serve the Lord also.
That is a real brief history as to what happened to me since my days at T.F.North. What is more important is that I wouldn’t trade the life God has given me “for ‘love’ nor money.” I wouldn’t trade what God has given me for anything in this world because there is absolutely nothing in this world that the devil, world, or flesh can offer you that could even come close to what God offers his creatures-ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ.
Dear friend, may I have your attention for just a minute further. I’ve got one question for you, “Do you know for sure you will go to heaven when you die? I know that seems like a pretty straight forward question, but you have to face it. You can’t brush off your sins and your guilty conscience that is chasing you all your life and run from that. You’ve got to stop and face a few facts –
That means that a payment was made to buy you back. It took the precious blood of Jesus Christ to pay the price for a sinner to get saved. Now here’s the thing. Just knowing about that in your head will NOT save you. You HAVE TO APPLY THAT BY FAITH TO YOUR OWN HEART by believing only in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you so that your soul will never burn in a dreadful hell forever. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he GAVE his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” So since God “gave…” having just a mental assent to that fact does not save you. You’ve got to RECEIVE Him, “But as many as RECEIVED him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Receiving Him illustrated
When playing tennis one serves the ball, and the other player answers. He answers by hitting the ball back. If he doesn’t hit the ball back he has not answered.
Another illustration is as if someone is knocking at your door. You will either answer the door or leave it alone and pretend you are not home.
Now Jesus has come, and you know that He came to save sinners. You just knowing about it does NOT ANSWER that fact. You may have pretended that you have answered by your religion. But that is NOT ‘answering the door.’ You’re playing ‘hide and seek’ with God as if you are not at home. The fact of the matter is He’s got your NUMBER.
If you are not saved, then GET SAVED. If you are tired and have tried everything else; drugs, booze, partying, religion (Buddhism all the other “isms” i.e., Orthodoxism, Catholicism) and haven’t trusted Jesus Christ, then trust him today. Receiving a wafer from a priest or having been baptized will never save your soul. Mary cannot save your soul for she was a sinner just like you. Allah is not even in the ball park. Buddha did not die for the sins of mankind. Jesus Christ is the only ‘leader’ of any religion that came and shed His own pure, precious blood to atone for the sins of men. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Bible says, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of SALVATION.” If you think by going to church and participating in its traditions and at the same time have a head knowledge about God that, that is ‘good enough’ you are deceived as I was. That is why you and others say, “Well, nobody can know for sure whether he is going to heaven or not.” That is exactly what my former priest ‘father’ Georgecakes of the Orthodox Church in Hammond told me. What a fool. He, as a priest had no idea as to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If he would have known the Lord he would have known what the apostle John had written, “that ye may KNOW that ye HAVE [right now] eternal life.” The apostle Paul said, “I KNOW whom I have believed…” That priest thought just because he didn’t know of eternal life that nobody else could know it. That is deceptive, subjective thinking. Don’t be that foolish.
Dear friend, the Lord is waiting, knocking at your hearts’ door, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…”
He wants to give you eternal life, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ETERNAL LIFE.”
“And I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE; and they shall NEVER PERISH, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
If you want to be saved and know for sure you will go to heaven when you die, it is very simple to do.
The best way you know how, with a sincere heart of belief, just turn to God right this minute. Stop all that you are doing and pray to God. If you believe you are guilty before God, and know that your sins condemn you to hell, and you don’t want to go there, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he died for your sins, was buried and on the third day rose again, then simply call upon the name of the Lord and thou shalt be saved. Simply pray, talk to the Lord, He will listen. You don’t need a prayer book, or beads, or a priest, or anybody else. In your own words you might want to say something like this -
“Dear Lord, I know I’ve sinned against you and am guilty. I realize that I should pay for my sins in hell. I don’t want to go to there and burn forever. I believe with all my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose again to save me. Wash me clean by your precious blood. I want to receive the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart for salvation and eternal life. Amen!”
Dear friend, I really hope that your prayer was from the heart. Only God, the devil and you know if it was ‘lip service’ or a real heart felt prayer because you were under the conviction of the word of God that you were guilty in need of salvation. There are drunkards and junkies that still won’t get rehabilitated because they “don’t see the need to get help yet.” I hope that isn’t your case.
But on the other hand if your prayer was real, the Holy Spirit has entered into your body and there are a number of things that instantaneously and simultaneously transpired. Let me mention just a few of them –
1. You’ve been born-again. Jesus said to a religious man, “Ye must be born again.”
2. You have been saved. The apostle Paul has written, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
3. You have received eternal life, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:13)
4. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38:39).
Dear friend, if you have enjoyed reading this personal witness of mine and you’ve done something about it, like received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, please, I’d like to know about it.
I’ve got a list of high-school friends in my prayer book that I’ve been praying for, for all these years. Some of them have already been saved and have even found me through Facebook. Please e-mail me. I’d like to hear from you. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
In my site you’ll see my telephone numbers. You might even want to call me. Please, I’d like to hear from you and talk with you, and maybe further help you out with some particular needs or questions that you may have.
Well, thank you so much for spending the time to read this. Take care. May God bless you.