CHARGED WITH GUILT

download (11)I will be merciful when they fail, and I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory as though they had never existed.” (Heb. 8:12 The Voice).

As I have said, I prayed a lot. I read the scripture a lot. God was answering my prayers. But I still struggled with terrible guilt and remorse for breaking God’s laws. I knew of God’s forgiveness but in my own mind and conscience I saw myself as doing so many things wrong and making so many mistakes and if I did not confess them God would not answer my prayers and not fellowship with me.  At that time I also believed I could lose my salvation. I knew this would happen if I continued in unconfessed sin but I lived as if it was just one sin. So I based God’s forgiveness on my incessant confession of sins.

I was told keep “short accounts” with God, to repent right away and I was good at that. This made me believe God was cataloging my sins against me and that he would refuse to listen to me unless I confessed each one. I heard much about, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.”  (Psa. 66:18) and especially, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” (James 4:3). While I was taught there was a difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit (showing you some sin) and the condemnation of the devil (accusing you of past sin) I confused this two unknowingly.

As ridiculous as it sounds I remember going to church to pray one time and I crossed the street when it said, “Do not Cross” I felt I broke the law and wondered if I should go to the police station to confess my crime. I was haunted by guilt despite the fact God was blessing me and using me to win others to him through the gospel. I was melting under the white hot flames of I what I perceived as God’s holiness and righteousness. My mind was charged with guilt.

I wanted God to hear my prayers so badly. I needed him to answer me because I believed the souls of people to whom I was preaching were depending on my prayers. This was good and bad. It was good because I think people diminish the quintessential aspect of prayer as the agency through which God works in this world. But it was bad because somehow I thought I had to earn God’s favor through praying a certain amount of time or expending much energy in prayer.

I was sincere. A friend of mine heard me stop worshiping during a service and I thought I might be attracting too much attention to myself (I was not).  So I would say to God, “Lord I don’t want to be a Pharisee and worship you to be seen of men.” My friend Kevin standing next to me must have overheard me and after worship patted me on the back and said, “Steve you are a good man.” But guilt had caged my heart and it was frustrating. It was draining my prayers of life and joy until it was hard to pray. I would have to worship 45 minutes before I could pray.

I felt condemned by the criticism of the elders and pastor. Someone from the Port Authority called the church and told them we needed a permit to pass out literature. We were handing out tracts near the train station with a Christian man we just met from the navy.  It was exciting. It was the first time I ever passed out tracts publicly (brief literature about the Bible and Jesus). The tracts had our churches name on it and so they called the church. The pastor bawled us out!  I cried. It was confusing. I was knowledgeable, I prayed, but after all I was just fifteen. I was a fiery young convert and I had a blazing fire in me that they could have turned into a focused laser, making me more effective but they did not.

In fact, when the Pastor asked my brother where I was one time, Mike said, “He is praying in the sanctuary.”

The pastor replied, “What a nerd!”

Another time my knees would hurt from praying so I brought a sleeping bag for a cushion. While praying, I heard the back door unlock and it was dark in the sanctuary and  an elder  came in. He never came before this time for prayer, so I was happy to see him but then he accused me of sleeping in the church and told me about the sleeping Levites, a story from the Talmud not even the scripture! If they slept on duty their clothes were burned (they used their overcoats for a cushion) and they were left naked. Here I was praying and I never saw this elder come once to prayer. I was amazed at his insensitivity. I wish just once, just once, a brother, a Pastor, or an elder just would have put their arm around me and explained to me the things of God, or encouraged me and trained me in love. I know God used the negative experience in my life to harden me against the opinion of man, but no one wanted to take the time just to say, “Brother Steve, I think I can help you with this.”

The Lord’s Supper made me afraid because of the possibility of partaking unworthily. What did scripture mean, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  (1 Cor 11:29)? We were given a moment of silence to examine ourselves and see unconfessed sin or not being right in relationships and then partake. I loved taking the Lord’s supper-why did it seem people portrayed God as keeping me at arms length when I was his disciple.  No one ever explained it or they did not do it well.  Once again, it seemed that people were misinforming me that Christ died to make me feel guilt for how rotten as sinner I was rather than removing my guilt.

All my experiences up to this point, salvation, baptism in water and the Spirit contradicted these feelings of guilt, but my mind was being held captive in a constant maze of attempting to unburden myself of guilt.  I would attempt to show the Lord my sincerity by weeping or yelling to let him know I meant my repentance but it was more like penance. I was back in the state of mind that I was when I was a Roman Catholic! I was still afraid I might go to hell if I did things wrong. The message of God’s love was not a topic for me, it was a lifeline that I desperately needed and was being strangled by a sense of being rejected by him. My life was charged with guilt and I was living in misery even though I was saved.

To be continued…

© 2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due.

RIOT FOR BREAKFAST

Animal-House-Food-fight“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21).

I went back to High School and found it was easier to preach to unsaved people about Christ. As a fiery young convert I would reprimand the youth group in my church for their worldliness and met up with resistance. So, fellowship was slim. But God opened up the hearts of people from all different Christian backgrounds to be our fellowship.

We met a group of teens who were from various evangelical backgrounds and got hooked up with a group called the High School Born Againer’s or Hi BA’s. Rod Burnett and Rick Kirschman sacrificed their time and energy to equip us to be missionaries in our High School. They were a huge encouragement and resource to this group of teenagers in Staten Island and in fact, had influence in all five borough’s.

It was agreed by the group in our High School that we would meet in the cafeteria for Bible study in the morning before classes. We started meeting during breakfast. I know that several different people were leading Bible study and we had every intention of keeping it a public witness. I arrived one morning at the end of that week and the cafeteria was full of rowdy teenagers. I had the feeling they were waiting for our group. Teenagers can be so obvious. We had a good crowd for Bible study. I was elected to teach Bible study that day for some reason.

None of the things that followed were my intention but they still took place in reaction to my preaching.

I guess how things got started was there were no chairs left at our table so I decided I would stand. At this point in time, I cannot remember what text I used, but I as I began to teach, some kid behind me starts mocking. The crowd started laughing like patients in an asylum for the deranged. I realized that I would not be able to teach Bible study without addressing them with the only defense I had, the Word of God.

I continued to speak and tell the kids about how Christ died for them and their need of salvation. Some of the kids were listening intently others were just acting nuts. I felt the Holy Spirit guiding my words. I looked and saw another kid walking around and yelling saying, ‘Hallelujah, pass the offering plate!” Then they started proving the inevitable result of the school’s policy of teaching the theory of evolution: they were making baboon like noises, banging garbage cans and then the food started flying-bagels were on the menu that day-it figures. One got real close to my face and hit one of my friends.

The Bible group was shocked. Everyone in the cafeteria went crazy.

Out of no where four of the school police surrounded me. I thought, “OK I am suspended.” I asked them why they taking me away. I had done nothing wrong. They said it was for my protection. They asked me to grab my books and follow them and I complied. My friends were deeply concerned for me and wanted to go with me but the school police would not let them. The escorted me through the teachers lounge and up the stairs to the deans office.

The guards explained the situation to the Dean and he contorted his neck as he looked out of his office.  I sat there waiting. Later he came over to me he looked at me and asked me, “You will make sure this does not happen again, right?”

I said to him, “We will talk about it later.” He looked at me surprised because he did not expect that reply.

I realized now the chutzpah it took to say that. I would not agree to stop preaching the gospel even if it meant my suspension.

Their solution at that time was send me to our very eccentric guidance counselor. She pulled out my records of course and there was no instance of misbehavior. She called my home and my mother answered and she explained to her that I was proselytizing in the cafeteria and we had caused a riot. My Mom was the wrong person to tell that, “What’s wrong with that we have freedom of speech.” The guidance counselor had to listen to my Mom for a while, and attempted to stutter her replies, so it was not a pleasant experience for her.

It was almost 3rd period and asked me to wait in study hall so I went to library. Everyone who I passed on my way there saw me knew what happened.  Everyone in the library looked up and knew what had happened. It seemed as the entire school knew. I was excited because the gospel was getting noticed! I sat down and opened up my Bible and I began to read this passage Paul wrote while under house arrest:

“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places. And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:12-21).

I was allowed to go into my bookkeeping class and everyone looked at me there as well. They knew all about what happened. The expected some response from me so I told them,  “We have them heaven!” I said.

The teacher smiled,  but had a nervous look on their face like he really wanted me to sit down-who knows what he thought I would do in class and the kids shook their heads and I continued on with my day.

Later we ended up meeting the principal, my Pastor and parents. They agreed to let us have a classroom room before curriculum time.  When I left that high school the Bible study continued until they stopped it because of politics- only to have to reinstate them because of the Equal Access Act passed in 1984.

It is amazing how God can use anyone in his service-even a person like me. The news of God’s exploits in my life were getting around. I was now a radical Christian for sure and I liked it.

©2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due

I SAW HELL ONE FRIDAY NIGHT

angry-god“Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” (Jude 1:23NLT).

This is something I am leery to talk about especially with the popularity of visions and myths abut heaven and hell that sell books and movies in the last few years. I believe the Bible has spoken on the subject of eternal hell and we need nothing else, yet I had to include this in my testimony.

I prayed alone most of the time in church. I even tried calling for prayer meetings and only Sister Dorothy would show up. She was a dear soul who came to Christ in her later years. I can still see her how she would walk briskly from her house down the street to the church. What I remember most was when she would repeatedly cry out in prayer, “I love you Jesus. I want to walk with you Jesus. I want to touch the hem of your garment.” People criticized her sometimes for her crying out the same phrase repeatedly in services over time. Maybe she was simple or maybe she was more in touch with God than the rest of us.  I kept thinking of one who said, “Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38). I think she was wonderful and I miss her.

One night our Pastor called for an all night prayer meeting. This was my first. They were not like the prayer meetings of today. There was no music, videos or anything just prayer. When you strip all the makeup off the the face of the modern day church service you would not have much left. I wonder if we had no music and technology in our churches if we would see how spiritually poor, even bankrupt some churches are in the area of true, unvarnished prayer.

We began to pray and we started with a nice crowd and during the hours people began to slowly leave until a few of us were left.

I remember I was up front completely absorbed in prayer and unaware of those around me. It was at this time that the whole idea of my unsaved family, friends, neighbors and schoolmates going to hell overwhelmed me. I began to see dark, long caverns going down as far as the eye could see and I began to see people I knew falling into them. My heart broke and I wept and wept at the thought of it. My heart was full of compassion and it poured out of me as I pleaded with God repeatedly saying, “Save the lost, oh God, save the lost!”

I heard later the Pastor said that I was groaning and he told my brother that he had not seen such a “spirit of intercession” upon a person. I later discovered that the classical Pentecostals called this “travailing in prayer.” (Isa. 66:8). I think it was unnerving for them. Later in life I heard of men of God who prayed and it was hard to be around them because of the agony they felt. Christ agony alone secures the salvation of people, but I believe he allows at times us to feel his broken heart for the lost. I do not know how long I that I was in that state but the reality of people going to hell for me was unbearable. That time in prayer was but a couple of hours then I stopped and I went down to the bathroom to wash my face and gain my composure. I was shaken. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. All I knew I was determined to stop people from going there. This was a wake up call.

Originally, hell was made for the devil and his angels but it also will be the eventual destination of all who die without Christ. Satan knows his end and he wants to drag people to hell with him. He can do this because people follow his ways and he influences their rebellion against God. God is offended by sin. Sin is infinite. His hatred and war with sin is never ending. Thus hell is everlasting.  But God has given us Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life. ” (John 14:6). This is why Christ had to satisfy the wrath of God by his cruel death on the cross. As the Bible says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8). 

I realized the real problem that I faced beyond the symptoms of sin. My friends were dying and going to hell and I was supposed to get in their way and make them listen to the warnings of God and the good news of Christ. It gave me love and at the same time some grit to my preaching. I need not worry about man’s opinion, “but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28). I saw my high school, my neighborhood, my WORLD as a battleground  for the souls of men and women.

Now geared for battle, I go back to High School ready to challenge the devil for the souls that belonged to Jesus.

©2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due

WIRELESS CONNECTION

lion“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28:1).

I could not in my own strength and power reach my High School. I needed to accomplish God’s will, God’s way. At 15 years old God chose two weapons out of his arsenal for me: prophesying scripture and praying scripture.

One day while cleaning the church I went up a long passage of stairs to the attic and some of the folks were cleaning it out. I was wondering what treasures I would be able to plunder. I saw books! There were two books there. One was called They Teach us To Pray by Reginald E.O. White and the other The Gifts of the Spirit by Harold Horton. They let me have them. It was gold to me. The one prayer book was about the ABC’s of prayer. My favorite chapter was about Moses and the Benefits of prayer and how his face shined with the presence of God, along with Stephen the martyr and most of all, Christ. I wanted people to see Jesus in me. The prospect of having my face shine after I was done with prayer to let people see the reality of Jesus thrilled my soul. I knew prayer was going to be the key in my life. God saved me for his glory, so I could pray and have communion with Him through the Holy Spirit. Prayer was my wireless connection to God through the scriptures.

I was reading The Gifts of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy kept being placed on my heart. I knew the Holy Spirit gave gifts according to his will but since the Bible spoke of, “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31)  I asked God for that gift. I loved preaching and the thought of prophesying, “to edify, exhort and comfort” excited me (1 Cor. 14:3). I did not want it to be me speaking but the Father, Son and the Spirit speaking through me. I began to pray about this gift and God’s will for me. It was then while I prayed it felt like God dropped a large coin in my Spirit. Something happened-and as all of God’s dealings with me anytime he did something big it was at first quiet, like a gentle soft breeze. Then later the results were huge. Prophecy was my wireless connection with God through scripture,“The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).

One summer I met Rev. Loren Wooten. He came for our first revival. I did not know what a revival was but it sounded good. He was an older, seasoned man and they called him an evangelist. He preached different than my Pastor Ken Forincola (some called him Pastor Coca-Cola™) who was an excellent teacher. Brother Wooten seemed to be able to communicate the gospel in another capacity. Watching this man in his late sixties preach with the animation of a young man blew my mind. One night he said something about the account of David and Goliath that I can still recall to this day. He was illustrating how David confronted the Philistine, “He calls him an uncircumcised Philistine. You see what he is saying? I’m a little boy and I have a covenant. You’re a big giant and you don’t have a covenant. I am coming in the name of the God of the covenant and God will give me the victory-I can’t lose!” I had never heard about a covenant before-but it I found it was God’s commitment to us because we belong to Jesus.

He was big on the topic of prayer. He gave us prayer journal loose-leaf and every day of the week had a specific theme which would have a great influence in my prayer time. Brother Wooten would hear me pray and all I would do is quote scripture in prayer and pray in the Spirit. He liked that so much he made me quote 2 Corinthians 10:6 in front of those people. He told the church he had not seen young men like Mike and I so on fire for God in a long time. To God be the glory.

The only time I heard a prophetic Word, or interpretation on tongues was when Brother Chris Olsen would do it. He looked like he was seven feet tall as he reached up with one arm to the ceiling and rocked on his feet to his toes. I remember would say something like, “Yea, the Lord the God is in the midst of thee this morning!” He would weep and I was in awe.  Not long after that during Bro. Wooten’s meetings I prophesied the first time. It was a few short biblical sentences that came to my mind and I thought my heart would explode. I gave the forth telling prophecy taken I believe from John chapter 10 and my Pastor was saying, “Praise God, praise God.” It was both wonderful and frightening. I learned to how speak out the Scriptures in prayer and prophecy by the leading of the Spirit. I was learning to speak the right thing at the right time-a skillful word in season. This would prove to be  invaluable (Prov 15:23; Isa. 50:4).

After that I drove our pastor crazy because I would ask him if I could use to church to pray. I liked being alone in church because I could let out my heart to God in private. He eventually surrendered and made a key for me to get in church. Oh God was so good to me! He gave me the key to his house! We had an altar railing back in those days and I would slump over it and weep. I would pace around the church sanctuary and worship until I felt to pray for others. I began to prayer two or three hours a night. Wednesday nights was intercession night I would get to church early before Bible study. I had a list of 168 people.

Friday night was supposed to be prayer night-but no one ever came, except one night, at one all night prayer meeting.

© 2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due.

GOD AND GOD’S BROTHER

BoldPictures“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31).

After the night of the tent meeting, when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, something changed in me, it was what I called holy boldness. I was a quiet kid and the Holy Spirit gave me a lion like quality when I talked about Jesus. I was gaining more confidence in God’s Word and was studying and learning that as a believer God sent me to preach the gospel, heal the sick and evict devils.

When I went back to school the nutty kids were all making out-kissing near the lockers all the way down the hall to my homeroom it was like they were having an orgy with their clothes on. Drugs were for sale on the side of the school and the type drug was signified by the color bandanna the dealer was wearing. I remember feeling angry and sad at the condition of my friends whom I saw as living on the precipice of hell and did not know it. 

Although the occult has more influence now than ever, I did not realize the influence of witchcraft over teenagers and teachers even back in the 80’s. I remembered a substitute teacher who could hold articles of clothing or jewelry and employed a spirit of divination or clairvoyance. Somehow toward the middle of class they got on the subject. He was telling their fortunes with great accuracy. I was indignant in the Spirit.

He was holding someones ring and about to use his demons powers when under my breath I kept repeating, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.” 

He said, “I don’t know why but for some reason I cannot tell you anything.” I quietly praised God. I learned that day by experience that I had authority over demons.

You have to remember I was a young convert and I was still new at conveying the gospel. I remember one girl, who smoked incessantly arguing with me, saying she did not believe in God. I was shocked and not sure how to answer her.

So, I pointed at her pack of cigarettes and said, “There’s your god.”

She was surprised at my response and said, “You’re right.” 

Well at least she was going to think about quitting smoking.

I was witnessing to everyone at arm’s length. So was my brother. We attended different classes but we had one thing in common we had had rooms with satanists in them. They even brought their satanic bible with them to school written by Anton LaVey. You can’t even get the wimpy christian kids to do that today. They loved listening to anything they saw as satanic like Iron Maiden or Ozzie Osbourn.

I remember that they would see us and say things like, “Praise Satan!” and we would respond “Praise God!”

Sometimes they would see us and snicker saying, “There goes God and God’s brother.”

Or they would call us, “The Jesus Brother’s”

Man, I felt like Elijah on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and Asherah all around us.

One time the Satanist head honcho came into my home room and he had his satanic literature with him. A kid named Scott was in my homeroom and he was being influenced by him. They were wondering if I was afraid of their devil bible and was scared of touching it-I was not. I took it and paged through it non nonchalantly. Then as I handed the it back to them I looked at them and said, “The highest reward Satan can give you is hell.”

Scott was freaked out and said to the devil worshiper, “Man, I don’t wanna go to no hell.” God had his way. Sometime after graduation, I led Scott to the Lord in front of a church I was visiting. It was exhilarating.

We would do all kinds of things to get the gospel message out. We would buy Chick Tracts and one time I “accidentally” dumped them on a table with kids sitting in the library.

They were like, “What are these?

I said, “Cartoons about the Bible and Jesus.”

Many of the kids took them and read them. Some were asking for more each day I saw them. I heard that one kid took bunch of them and read them in his basement all day. I was getting excited. I saw this as sowing the seed of the Word.

My science teacher passed by my desk one day and saw the symbols for Alpha and Omega written on my jean loose leaf cover and said playfully, “Gibney, you’re weird.”

One time another science teacher was teaching and to make her point she said, “Hey, this is gospel truth, just ask Gibney!” God had allowed my testimony to reach the teachers. Even my homeroom teacher called my family at home one night and was wondering why were were so “into Jesus.”

Health Class was interesting.  I boldly protested unbiblical teaching. The kids thought I was crazy or a fanatic. One time we had to do oral reports. I decided to do mine on depression. You should have seen the look on their faces and their disgruntled sighing when I said, “Now the only solution to depression is Jesus Christ.” They had to listen to the gospel in class and they could not do anything about it and I knew it.  Later on the teacher got saved.

One of those kids saw me on the bus and called me a Jesus freak. 

I touted back, “God doesn’t turn people into freaks he turns freaks into people.”

He was stunned and left stuttering. Hey man, don’t rumble with the gospel.

I remember one kid who they used to call “Peach Fuzz.” He was short and well he was very blonde. He would debate with me about evolution, prophecy and Jesus all the time. I felt he was hopeless and like I was beating my head against the wall. 

Then one day he stops me in the library and says, “Stephen, I believe I am born again!” I was shocked.

He said, “After you would talk all I could think about was God and the devil. Creation versus evolution. Heaven and hell.” I would go back to my classes and go home and it is all I could think about.”

He told me he got hold of a Bible and as he opened it in bed one night, God opened his heart to Christ. I was amazed and thrilled and learned not to judge by people outward rejection to the gospel. the Holy Spirit could be working on them and we not know it. I learned to tell people, “After we are done talking, my friend the Holy Spirit will be showing you the truth and you cannot hide from him.”

I had opportunity to witness and lead people to the Lord. God was on the move in my school.

Soon, God was going to get the entire schools attention. But he first he was going to teach me some things.

© 2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due.

DAD GOT SHOT THROUGH THE HEART

5388_10201059674069971_110574333_nI wanted to skip ahead to talk about my My father before I continued with the personal accounts after my experience with the Holy Spirit. If you will bear with me it will be worth your while. Mike Gibney was a good father, very frugal and extremely clean. He looked like the actor Glenn Ford  and had mannerisms like Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly.

The things I remember most about him was teaching us to swim in our pool and coaching us about baseball, waffle ball, stick ball, and football. He had a wicked curve in baseball and taught us how to run patterns in football. I loved when we would take to the S.I. ferry to Manhattan, then the subway and travel to Yankee stadium in the Bronx. We would always end the night with a large pizza at Victoria’s and playing the jukebox with crazy songs. He loved us, despite the fact we really provoked him at times with our antics. He loved us and was proud of his twin boys.

Dad had a sardonic sense of humor and a Irish temper and knew how to use them. He also drank a lot on the weekends. I can recall when I was very young after we went to bed, he would ritualistically play records, pace the floors and smoke and drink. He had been drinking booze since he was ten and he was a bartender in his twenties. He worked for thirty years at Twin County.

My Dad like us grew up in Roman Catholicism and later on I found out as rumor had it, he lied in confession so out of guilt he never returned. He sent us to church, of course. He wanted us to believe in God. After we got saved and started going to church the Lord started dealing with him. He fought the drawing of the Holy Spirit and he was getting more and more angry because of the guilt for sin he felt. This is what we call a “convicted sinner.” Why he would come to church with us I do not know. He liked the friendly people at Calvary Assembly yet he would come home angry he did not understand the worship, preaching and the speaking in tongues. He would get mad when we would leave him to go to church. He would get irritated when we would change the station in the car to a Christian station and leave tracts in the bathroom for him.

My brother and I would frequently visit the elders in church like brother Edgar Carlson. One time he would suddenly said to us, “Let’s go see your Dad.” It was only one mile but Edgar was a very old man and he did not walk he shuffled slowly. But this man of God wanted to witness about Christ to my Dad. My father told us how touched he was when he saw Edgar walking down the street. It broke his indecisive heart.

He would talk to my Dad and tell him, “Michael, you need to give your heart to the Lord.”

He would say something to the effect, “I know Edgar, I know.”

A big turn around began when after one night of drinking when he was able to get up and eat breakfast with us. He had a hangover and we were watching a very animated southern preacher on television while eating.

He told us to “Turn the rebel off.”

We somehow escaped without incident to get to church. But once again God in his own special way must have piqued his interest and he turned the television back on and started listening to the preacher.

At one point the preacher stopped, and pointed at the television.

He said, “You sir! Your wife and children have been praying for you and have just left for church.  You have been out all night drinking! You need to repent and get your heart right with God sir!”

He told us later it was like he had been shot. God wounded my father with an injury only HE could heal.

Dad got very drunk one night. He was lying on the couch telling my brother, “I want to get saved, Mikey. I want to get saved.” Later, he went into his bedroom and the smell from alcohol was so dense my mom could not sleep with him.

Later we heard him screaming saying, “Get it out of here! Get it out of here!” Mom went in and found the mattress upturned against the wall and she claimed that he saw a demon and it terrified him. Was it a hallucination or demon? It does not matter. He never drank again after that. And people still ask me why I don’t drink?

After one awesome service, to which my Father again for some reason came, I was sitting at the table and my Dad was washing a glass out.  I asked him, “Dad did you feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit in service today? He was stunned by the question and shook his head, “No.” but in his heart it looked like he wanted to say, “Should I have? Did I miss something?”

It took three years, but my father got saved after an the invitation to come to Christ that was made at church. He was baptized with the Holy Spirit and I watched him progressively face the challenges of his life.  By the power of the Word and Spirit he overcame life long addictions to nicotine and alcohol. He was penitent when he sinned. He loved the Bible and prayer. I watched him pray with Mom in the back room every night at eight. He would read his Bible during lunch at work. His temper began to disappear. I have never seen a man so completely changed by God’s grace.

I have to mention one time when my Dad was putting together a Hibachi grill. It was not going well. The old way of thinking came up in his mind and he said, “I need a drink.”

Then he remembered some one had bought him a nice bottle of scotch for the holidays and it was in the trunk. He got the bottle, poured it into a Styrofoam cup pursed his lips and stopped.

He looked at it and said, “Oh God, forgive me! He poured the cup and bottle into the sink. Not but a couple of minutes passed when the phone rang.

The voice on the other side said, “Hello Mike, this Pastor Elstad from Christ Assembly.”

“How are you brother Elstad?”

“Mike, I know it’s short notice, but would it be possible that you could come tonight and talk to our men about how you overcame alcohol?”

My father at that moment was keenly aware of what just happened. He passed a test. He also realized Satan had his eyes on him. The devil must have had a fit that day.

My father through the years became a teacher of the scripture. I have all his notes. He spoke at my church in Pennsylvania several times. I was so proud of him.

I was there the day he died of heart complications at only 55 years of age. I caressed his face still warm and I cried out, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

At his funeral my brother Mike and I got to sing and preach and testify to my unsaved family of God’s work in his life. I look forward to seeing him again in glory.

Now, back to High School and how I learned to preach in hell.

THE NIGHT I MET THE HOLY SPIRIT

201002_112_HSBaptism_art“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)

High School was not like I expected, there was almost 4000 kids in one school. You try to look cool, like you know what you are doing but I got lost so many times trying to find my classes, I needed a GPS to get around. They had initiations the first day and they would egg and paint the Freshman with makeup. It was ugly. But my brother and I were so tall they thought we were Sophomores so no one bothered us. We got through it, I was saved now and I knew God protected us.

Not long after my family was invited to hear preaching in huge tent on the other side of Staten Island. It rained earlier that day, and it stopped by night time but I was amazed at hundreds of people walking through the mud to get inside. I sat with my church and I did not know who Morris Cerullo was but he and some other guy R.W. Shambach were preaching there. I don’t remember the message that night, the only night we came but he talked a lot about youth. I was a young convert so I did not know much. He called for people to come up front, he actually encouraged us to run up front and the church people were smiling and saying to me, “Go ahead, go ahead.” So we ran up front and Rev. Cerullo prayed over the crowd and then he asked us to go to a side tent where people would pray for us.

So I went and found a place to sit in the sand of that side tent and I prayed. As a young convert, I only knew to quote scripture in my prayers. That night it felt like a door closed and it was just me and the Lord. I did not even notice anyone around me, everything was tuned out.  The only thing I felt was the hand of someone who came over and prayed quietly for me for just a moment. I did not see who they were because my eyes were closed.  All of a sudden I began to speak in a foreign language. It was amazing! I did not expect this. No one told me about it. I was flooded both with a bubbling joy and peace and it flowed out of me. I did not know what was happening then but I was being introduced to my Friend, the Holy Spirit. More people came by and prayed and in the mind of this young convert thought I was getting more of the Holy Spirit.

I was thrilled but I had questions. I told my brother what happened. He was still new at this as well but he took a crack at it.

He said, “That language is so you can talk directly to the Father.”

I did not say anything it just made me think of the possibilities when I would pray. I thought that was incredible. Direct access to God in prayer. Going home I felt God’s presence-it was bubbling in my soul. I was excited and refreshed. Again like when I was saved, this was a quiet experience but it had wonderful results.

But my unsaved Father who for some strange reason came with us, was unnerved and was what the old saints called, “under conviction.” He was next in line for God’s incredible grace.

This is part six of my testimony.

©2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due

SALVATION BROUGHT AN ALIEN APPETITE

bible read“When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” (Prov. 6:22).

It was the spring of the year 1979 which would be end up being my first year of High School. Mike and I were still altar boys and we had grown a few inches so we looked like the priest’s bodyguards. I will never forget when the priest gave us the sacramental wine to sip from during Mass. I do not know why he did it and did not realize the significance of it at that time, but it was a great honor, since they only give you the bread in the Roman Church. I believe it was truly a sign of change and God’s providence. Eventually due to our new-found faith we were not allowed to serve the altar.

That year during Easter we watched movies about God. There was one movie about the crucifixion of Christ. Something strange happened. My mother, brother and I started weeping like our hearts were broken. My father was shocked and felt terrible and kept asking, “What happened? What’s the matter?” We did not know. We just could not stop crying. This again was I believe the Spirit of God working repentance in our hearts.

On Richmond Avenue there was a church, Calvary Assembly of God. My brother in passing saw the words evangelistic service. He went that church because unbeknownst to me he was watching evangelists on television. He connected the word evangelist to evangelistic. How God uses such simple things to draw people to his Son Jesus! He was responsible for winning my whole family to Christ by that simple act. My brother told the Sunday School superintendent at that time something to the effect, “I have got to get my brother to come, he will be a great preacher.” He must have remembered me yelling out the words of that Bible on that hill so many years ago.

Through a succession of events over years God was patiently orchestrating everything that would lead to the salvation of my entire family. We were baptized in water that year. While I was in the water, although I was quiet most of the time, I started preaching to everyone. It just would bubble in me. My conversion to Christ was not full of fireworks but the results would be lasting.

The thing that had the most effective impact on me is when we started attending Sunday School and began learning about the Bible. I loved it. I would borrow my brother’s King James Bible (the only one we had besides a huge Catholic family Bible) and I got the idea that I should memorize scripture. When I did not have that one I would carry around that big one and read it too.

I thought, “If I am going to know the Bible I should know it by heart.”

What should I memorize?

I turned through the Bible pages and my eyes fell on these large print words for the first time, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). I figured I was part Italian and it was written to the Romans so that was a good place to start-right? So I memorized that chapter.

Afterwards, I memorized Psalm 139. “Oh Lord you have searched me and known me!” I loved saying the verses.

The verses of scripture were like food to my soul. I could not get enough. I loved going to church and hearing preaching. I would listen to the Word on TV and the radio and I would read books and listened to music that taught the Bible. I had a voracious, heaven birthed, alien appetite for the Word of the living God.

But now I would be introduced to something, someone unexpected, someone I overlooked. The Holy Ghost.

This is the fifth installment of my testimony.

© 2015 Soul Health Care, just give credit where credit is due

DEATH AND JUNIOR HELLSCHOOL

images (12)“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” (Eccl. 3:2).

My brother and I loved my Grandma Gibney. My father was the youngest of seven children and he loved his mother, so he made sure we would go and see her. I still can see her face, remember her laugh and hear her voice. She always had hard candy, not too bad. She would call us “her boys”  She had an uncanny way of treating us and our cousins with equal love.

In March of 1976 she died at 74 years of age. It was the first time that I faced death. It was traumatizing. The funeral the casket and perhaps even the flowers. Then we came to the graveyard where they buried her, hearing my mother crying and her Mom, trying to comfort her.

I will never forget how scared I was when I came home. I feared death. I KNEW WAS GOING TO DIE ONE DAY. It suddenly washed over me at 12 years of age that there was a heaven and there was a hell. I did not speak about it as usual, my brother told me years later he was having the same feelings at the same time. But my Mom had a gift Bible in a bedroom drawer and the print was so small it was hard to see. I desperately tried to find some hope. I was so afraid. I read a passage in the gospel of John that said, “He that believes in me has eternal life.” I drew some comfort from that but I still was not saved.

Then we went to I.S. 7 in Huguenot. Junior High school was where my sinful corruptions rose to the top like vomit in my soul. I learned to curse colorfully and lust after the opposite sex. I was an average sinner, a child of disobedience, a child of wrath. There is nothing special about being a sinner. The kids in my class were dumbfoundingly goofy and they loved to talk about body parts. One kid used to sneak up behind the other kids wave his hand like a cobra and slap them in the back. It was hilarious and painful all at once. The only good thing is: I learned to drive a moped. That was a good day. My brother had a lot of friends but I had none. I was that sibling that borrowed his brother friends by talking to them but that was it. I stayed to myself, listened to classical music and went to see Star Wars 11 times in the movies. I listened to the soundtrack of Star Wars until I wore it out. We had LP’s or vinyl records then. We even plastered a “EarthRise” mural in my bedroom.

When we moved into Eltingville there were older kids next to our home that were partying outside, eating and drinking and having sex in their cars.  Then they left garbage everywhere. My Irishman father asked them to leave several times, nicely but they ignored him. My father had enough of their trespassing and debauchery and went after them threatening them with a bat. They left that day, but they got us at the bus stop. My brother got beaten up by a bully who lived across from the bus stop. I was frozen in fear and disbelief while it happened. Then one day the entire school bus spit all over me, while the bus driver laughed. Another time, one of those guys tried to run me down with his car right on the front lawn and almost killed me. My parents were horrified and called the police. It all finally came to a screeching halt and developed into cold war of insults and face making for a while, after all this was Junior High School. I hated those bullies. I will never forget the day that a sink hole developed on Ridgecrest Avenue and he and his car plummeted into it. I have to say I was quite pleased seeing his car’s rear end sticking up from the ground (sorry I was not saved then either).

I tried to fit in but I never did. I felt rejected, ugly and alone.

I learned early in life the world never loved me.

God was making coming to him easier and  I would find out Christ loved me all the time.

This is the fourth part of my testimony.

©2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due.

 

 

TRAPPED BY THE DEVIL

download (8)“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26). 

I am reluctant to share some of these following experiences before I was drawn to Christ because they are alarming and controversial. All I can tell you that they were real. The reason my wife and I felt I should share these things is because there are so many people being seduced by Satan these days and we fear for them.

I began to see things no child should see, evil things-demonic things. Once again, let me state I am not laying the fault of this at anyone’s doorstep. Yet I have to say, that despite the fact that I still went to church and I was a confirmed Roman Catholic and an altar boy, I was still a slave to my sins. I needed the freedom only the Lord Jesus Christ could give. I needed a Savior!

My family was involved for a couple of generations in the occult, “card reading parties” astrology, face reading, palm reading, tarot cards, natal/star charts-dangerous stuff that allowed a satanic foothold in our lives! People paid good money to have their fortunes read at their homes not knowing that demonic powers were exploiting their ignorance. 

I did not know. My family did not know. We had no gospel witness. 

But what really alerted me to what was happening was when a couple of my family members went to a seance to supposedly to contact the dead. But you and I know that they were not talking to the dead but unclean, evil spirits.

The supposed woman leading the seance in the hotel meeting room called herself a Reverend but was a necromancer, a spiritualist, a medium, a psychic who allowed demonic entities that masqueraded as dead loved ones to speak through her! She was demon possessed. I will never forget the night of the seance, I woke up and even though all the lights were on in the house it was dark everywhere. There was a dark shroud on the walls. Something evil was in my house communicating with that demon possessed woman telling her everything they saw about us. I was almost 12 years old by now and I did not know what it was.  But I knew it was no dream. I did not know that my family and I were trapped by Satan.

There were other demonic manifestations, evils powers that I experienced, but you get the picture-the devil is real.

I am begging you to stop watching the vampirism, animism (e.g. werewolves), zombies, mediums and witchcraft the media is pimping these days. It brings strife, confusion, immorality and death with it. It is evil and Satan wants to enslave you by deception and get you to accept these things that are forbidden and cursed by God into your homes. 

Satan did not care if I was a child.  He did not care if I got hurt. He did not care how this could destroy my family. He is the most malevolent and dangerous being of all and what was worse we had no strength or power to escape.

But soon, the Lord God would come and save us from this pit of hell. This is the third part of my testimony.

©2015 Soul Health Care, give credit where credit is due