Ch. 2 Maybe Marriage Will Stop the Chaos

Chapter 2

Maybe Marriage Will Stop the Chaos

I had met Jennifer one year earlier in the Summer of 1992, while we were both working at Ron Jon surf shop in Cocoa Beach, FL.  That was the Summer break I had taken off from college because of the injury to my drawing finger.  She was quiet, calm, and aloof and I was attracted to her almost immediately.  I tried a few times unsuccessfully to approach her about going on a date, even leaving a note on her car one time at work, but she was just not interested in me.  The end of the summer came and I left to go back to college at George Wallace State Community College in a small town just outside of Cullman, AL. 

One year later in September of 1993, I had already dropped out of college due to that second injury on the construction site and I was now making my monthly trips back to Florida, since I was making all that money selling vacuum cleaners door to door.  I had also recently been re-united with my long-time family friend John Barber and his wife, and we both wanted to get back into dirt bike riding. 

John and Shelva Barber had lived next to my grandparents’ house in Huntsville, AL since I was a small child, and I regularly spent time with them when I went to visit my grandparents.  I loved them both like family and they would take me out with them to dinner and even buy me toys.  Now that my parents were divorced and I was essentially a fatherless latch key kid, being chased home by bullies most days, my mother was anxious to find a male role model for me.  She tried the Big brothers, Big Sisters program for a while, and then allowed John to begin fulfilling that role in my life. 

On the Christmas of 1986, he and his wife, with my mom’s permission, surprised me with a brand new 1987 Yamaha YZ 80 dirt bike.  I was only 13 years old at the time and my mother and I were so poor that I was qualified for free school lunches and wearing off brand generic clothing which the other kids made fun of me for.  Now, I had just received a brand-new dirt bike and it was a life changing event for me.  John indeed became like a father figure and he started teaching me how to ride and work on the motorcycles.  He also taught me discipline and the importance of working and saving up money by moving lawns, so I could pay my race fees, and buy my own parts for the dirt bike. 

It was like a dream come true and a second chance to re-capture the lost happiness and freedom from my childhood.  The dirt biking gave me something to sink my teeth into at such a vulnerable time in my life, and my self-confidence began to increase.  It also gave me relief from the bullies as some of the kids started respecting me now that I had a dirt bike and I had started racing.  Racing motocross is certainly not for wimps.  It is one of the toughest sports on the planet.

I was quite fearful and timid regarding things like this and I was given to be a quitter on things I wasn’t good at right away.  When I was first learning to how ride the dirt bike, I was following John down the trail and over various types of terrain.  We came up to a very steep hill near this pit we had been riding in.  It looked so intimidating to me, but since he went up it, so did I.  About three quarters of the way up the hill, my dirt bike wheelied up and over and right back on top of me and I fell all the way back down the hill.  I was scared to death and I felt like maybe this dirt biking thing just wasn’t for me.  I immediately wanted to quit.  John came over and said, “no we’re not quitting…it’s just like getting bucked off a horse…you have to just get right back up and do it again.”  I nervously made another attempt and this time I made it.  I was so relieved and felt so accomplished in that moment.  My courage came back and it was a big life lesson for me actually.  I did the thing I feared and the death of fear was the result.

Nevertheless, all this new life change and hope was about to end abruptly.  One day, John and I were out riding on our trail near the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL.  My motorcycle was only an 80cc engine whereas he had a much larger 250cc engine.  I complained to him that he was throwing up a bunch of roost (rocks and dirt) on my fingers and into my face from the back wheel of his motorcycle when we came around this one corner.  Roost from a dirt bike tire can be very painful, even leaving welts and bruises. 

I honestly don’t recall how bad my complaining was, but I don’t remember it being worthy of him losing it like he did.  He got so mad at me, likening me to a sissy, telling me that what he threw on me was nothing compared to what I was going to experience as I moved up in the ranks racing with faster kids out on the motocross track.  Unlike the last incident, where he gently encouraged me to try again, this time he snapped and became a different person.  He yelled at me saying, “That’s it…we are done riding you little S!%*#.  Get your a$# back on that dirt bike and take it to the house.” 

I remember feeling so hurt following him all the way back to the house on a ride of shame.  I watched him sitting straight up on his motorcycle with his left hand on his hip just shaking his head almost the whole way back home.  I leaned my dirt bike up against the wall in his carport and he told me to just go home.  I was so confused and so hurt by all of this.  It made me feel like there was something terribly wrong with me.

Just a few days after this incident, I heard my mother tell John on the phone, “Michael is my son. If you want a son, have one of your own,.” and then she told me that I could not see him ever again until I was 18.  I asked her why she was doing this and she would never give me an answer.  Even though I was hurt by what John said and did, I was even more hurt that I was no longer going to be able to see him or go riding together any more.  To me, that dirt bike had been a source of salvation in my life. 

Six years later, when I was 19 years old I found John and Shelva and reconnected with them again.  John and I both wanted to get back into riding and since I was earning a good bit of money selling vacuums I started looking to buy one.  I found a great deal on one in Florida, so I went down to stay with my dad and step-mom again in Cape Canaveral, FL, while I made arrangements to pick up the motorcycle. 

Jennifer had lived on the same street as my dad, so when I drove down the street, I saw that her car was still at the same apartments.  I stopped and knocked on her door and she didn’t even seem to remember me.  I then saw her and her family at the beach a few times and finally I invited her to join my friend and I to go to the National Kidney Foundation Surfing Contest in Cocoa Beach, FL.  She agreed to go and within one week, we were in love with each other.

Then I had to leave to go back to work in Alabama.  I went by the public library where she was studying for school to tell her good bye and to assure her I’d be back soon and often.  Since I had purchased a dirt bike and didn’t want my mother to know about it, I made arrangements to leave it at John and Shelva’s house on my return trip home.   

I dropped off the dirt bike and spent the night with them.  I received a call the next morning from my mother saying, “Michael, there is a girl sitting on my couch named Jennifer and she is looking for you…is she pregnant son?” I was shocked and a little afraid all at the same time.  This almost felt like something a stalker would do.  I assured my mother that Jennifer and I had just fallen in love the previous week but we had no sexual relations.  With nothing more than the address of my grandparents’ house in Grant, AL, Jennifer had decided to take some time off school and follow after me, some 650 miles away in Alabama.  She stayed with my mom and I for a few days and then returned home to school.

I thought I could go back to Florida once a month to see her, but I soon lost that job selling vacuums and was now working in a car stereo electronics store.  I no longer had the money or the freedom to go back and forth to Florida and I started making more and more unwise financial decisions.  My mom found out about the dirt bike and we got into fights about money and she eventually kicked me out of the house.  She started telling me that it seemed like I had a black cloud always flying over my head.  I started moving around from house to house with several friends until I ended up having to live with my boss because I had nowhere else to go. 

I was still spending money like I was making as much as I did when I sold the vacuums. It seemed like I was spending about $1.50 for every dollar I earned.  I was blowing it all on car stereo electronics and motorcycle stuff, even borrowing money from others to keep my head afloat.  I couldn’t see how sick it was at the time, but I just couldn’t stop spending money.  It was like a drug addiction perhaps.  I had a very blindly optimistic and foolish attitude and I just kept justifying it all by saying that things would all work out somehow in the future.

This tendency to overspend had been there for several years.  I remember when I was in college there was a time when I only had $10 left for food and gas to get me through the rest of the week.  I ended up at the music store and I couldn’t stop myself from buying a $7 tape that I just had to have, which left me only $3 for food for several days.  I would regularly make these kinds of terrible risky choices, throwing caution and prudence to the wind.  I always counted on someone bailing me out, especially my mom, or on my being able to somehow work out a deliverance for myself.        

I was still avoiding the obvious external evils and sins throughout this time, but I kept making these foolish decisions regarding my finances.  One time during a long stay with John and Shelva, they approached me and asked me if they could share something they saw in me that was similar to something John was experiencing.  That’s when they began to tell me that John had been diagnosed with something called manic-depression or bipolar disorder and that he was taking medicine for it.

As they started explaining this was perhaps a medical condition I might have, they asked me if I was willing to visit John’s Psychiatrist for an interview and possible diagnosis.  Immediately, I felt some sick sense of relief that perhaps all my foolish choices were not really my fault.  I agreed to go to the Psychiatrist and  realized that if I could just answer the questions properly, I could indeed be diagnosed as bipolar and then be able to say, “All these foolish choices aren’t really my fault.  I have a chemical imbalance that is making me live like this.”  

My friend, I wish to make a strong point here.  I’m not dismissing all mental illness as spiritual issues, but I am dismissing 90% of it after having contact personally with thousands of people.  As the rest of my testimony will clearly show, my problem was no more of a chemical imbalance than a drunk’s problem is his supposed disease of alcoholism.  These are the lies and excuses we make up to justify living in our real problem which is called SIN and rebellion against God.  We are liars and we hate calling sin, sin and we hate taking personal responsibility for our foolish and sinful choices.  We refuse to come into the light of God’s word admitting our sinfulness, or forgiving those who have sinned against us.  Instead we remain in the darkness and we lie to ourselves and say things like, “I’m gay, or I have multiple affairs, or I’m attracted to children, because I was just born this way, or I have a chemical imbalance which makes me unable to keep a job, or to stop making outrageous purchases, or it causes me to suffer terrible anxiety or depression and that’s the reason I can’t live a normal life, or I have a disease called alcoholism which is why I can’t stop drinking and I inherited it from my father who was also a drunk.”

In spite of the fact that the Bible clearly tells us in Deuteronomy 24:16, 1 Kings 8:32, Jeremiah 31:29-30, Ezekiel 18:3-4, 19-20, Mat 16:27, and John 9:2, God no longer passes on the sins of the Father’s to their children, so many still believe this generational curse lie.  It too is an excuse to absolve someone from taking personal responsibility for their own choice to sin.

John 3:19-21  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20)  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21)  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

I am not a doctor or a Psychiatrist, but I have been in contact with and heard the raw personal stories of thousands of people from around the world about the darkest of their problems, torments and anxieties in their life.  I have not spoken to a single person yet where I thought, wow, perhaps this person really needs to try medicine. 

Out of probably more than two thousand stories and emails I have personally responded to with recordings over the last three years, there has not been one person who was in depression, anxiety, being tormented in their mind, or who had been diagnosed as bi-polar where it didn’t become obvious that there was some root of rebellion and sin in their heart. 

I cannot think of a single person in thousands where I was not able to identify either a pornography or drug addiction, love of money, fear of man, dependence on man, or the most popular one unforgiveness either of someone else or themselves, or an outright unbelief and lack of trust in God.  That’s why I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t doubt that 90% of so called “mental illness” has its root in spiritual problems and not in a chemical imbalance that needs to be mitigated by manmade trial and error medicines.  Many professing Christians experiencing the symptoms of mental illness or anxiety have turned to these drugs.   Rather than doing honest business with God about their sin and trusting Him for His grace and deliverance, they have turned to a manmade idol to have their needs met.

Jonah 2:8 – Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

In Deuteronomy 28:28 and 28:65 God pronounced a curse of mental illness and mental anxiety on the Jews if they disobeyed him.  In 1 Samuel 16, King Saul was mentally tormented by an evil spirit from God over and over for his disobedience.  In Daniel 4:33, King Nebuchadnezzar was struck by God with such a terrible mental illness that he was given the mind of animal and became like cattle, eating the grass of the field.  In Matthew 18:34 Jesus said anyone who doesn’t forgive his brother from his heart will be turned over to tormenters.  In Mark 5 the Gerasene man was driven to such madness of mind by an evil spirit that he would cry out loud and cut himself with sharp stones.  In Galatians 6:7, it says men reap what they sow; if they sow to the flesh they reap destruction.  In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul pronounced a curse on all who do not love the Lord, and even though many think they love the Lord, God defines love as obedience to His commands (John 14:21-23, 1 John 5:3).  The majority of mental illness, anxieties, and tormenting thoughts in the Bible are all connected to disobedience or not trusting God.  True peace comes from getting our heart right with God, not from manmade pills and it takes faith to believe this.  Let God be true and every man a liar.

Isa 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Joh 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

In rare exceptions, I can see God uses things like a messenger of Satan for Paul which was sent to torment him in 2 Corinthians 12:7, or Charles Spurgeon’s battles with depression, as thorns in the flesh to keep his servants humble.  However, it must be pointed out that these thorns in the flesh are not what characterized their lives.  Their lives were characterized by steadfast faith, godliness, and an abundance of fruitfulness for the kingdom of God.  Their thorns were used to keep them low, not to keep them ineffective. 

Back to the story.  That day at the Psychiatrist’s office I answered all the all the questions successfully, do you have racing thoughts…do you have trouble sleeping at night…do you often feel unstoppable…do you spend money you shouldn’t, etc.  The correct answers were very predictable and he diagnosed me on the first visit as being bipolar.  They prescribed a medicine and I started taking it. 

It’s been so long that I cannot remember how the medicine made me feel or exactly how long I kept taking it but I think it was less than three months.  I never took medicine or went back to a Psychiatrist ever again.

I remember also around this time, I was indeed searching for answers about how to fix up my life.  Somehow or another I came into possession of an audio tape by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  I became so intrigued by how he spoke about God and the things he taught about how to live a life worth living.  I kept listening to this tape series repeatedly, having no idea that this was all very anti-Christian dangerous New Age teaching.  Indeed, God can use all things together for the good because through this tape series I at least started thinking more about God. 

Jennifer and I had maintained a long-distance phone relationship for about 6 months and only saw each other one time when she came back to Alabama on a bus for a few days.  Finally, I decided I needed to go to Florida to see if she was the one I was supposed to marry.

When I told my mother, I was leaving to move back to Florida, she told me she needed to meet me and tell me something first.  We met at a Shoney’s restaurant off Memorial Parkway in Huntsville, AL.  She sat me down and then explained to me that she had been waiting until I turned twenty-one to tell me something but since I was leaving, she needed to tell me now.  She told me that my father was not really my father and that John Barber was my father.  I was shocked!  It’s one thing to find out your father is not your father, it’s a whole other thing to find out one of your best friends who you ride dirt bikes with is really your father.

My mom and John had agreed to wait until I was twenty-one to tell me but since I was leaving AL they wanted me to know because John was interested in having that father and son relationship with me now.  He had wanted to tell me for years but didn’t want to hurt my relationship with my dad Michael Chriswell, who raised me.  This was such a bitter sweet moment for me.  I found myself in a gigantic triangle of confusion and being pulled in three different directions towards my biological father, the father who raised me and now Jennifer.

In the end, I decided to stay with my decision to move to Florida.  This crushed John so much that he rejected any type of a relationship with me from then on but it was a price I was willing to pay.  I was so drawn to Jennifer amidst all this chaos in my life, because from the outside she appeared to be the righteousness and stability I was missing.  As far as legalistic righteousness goes, she was faultless.  She was a virgin, she didn’t drink, didn’t smoke or do drugs, didn’t party, was a hard worker, and she stayed away from trouble.

Like Eve to the attractive fruit in the garden of Eden, I was being drawn into a trap because of what I saw with my eyes.  I saw the sweet and clean looking nectar on the outside only to be lured into a caged prison like a Venus fly trap that would capture me and hold me until all the life was sucked out of me.

Our dating life was a complete disaster, but the fool in me naturally just kept going forward.  There were car chases, yelling and screaming, throwing things, and multiple break ups.  One time we had such a big fight that she broke up with me and threw all my clothes over the balcony and kicked me out of her apartment. 

Within a few weeks of being gone, I began thinking that since things weren’t working out with Jennifer, maybe it was because I was supposed to be back with my old high school girlfriend named Kristy from Alabama.  She was my first real love and the one I had always thought I was going to marry.  John and Shelva had also become friends with her and they had told me before I left for Florida that they thought she was the one I was supposed to marry, not Jennifer.  Kristy got engaged a few years after high school but she never married the guy.  When I asked her why, she said that she was afraid that five years into the marriage, she would still be thinking about me.  That set off those sparks in me again and so we decided to meet each other half-way at a hotel in Georgia to see if we should be back together.  Of course, one thing one thing led to another and the flesh had its way. 

However, upon departing we both realized that we really had nothing else in common anymore and we had both moved on in different directions in our lives.  We decided not to pursue the relationship again.  Sometime later, Jennifer and I got back together, but she didn’t know that I had gone back and had this encounter with Kristy while we were broken up. 

We moved back in together and eventually Jennifer got pregnant.  Regretfully, in our spiritual ignorance and fear we opted for an abortion through Family Planning counseling.  In my opinion, there was already a root of bitterness in Jennifer’s heart from something in her past before I ever met her, but she would use these two events, my ex-girlfriend and the abortion, to justify her anger and resentment towards me throughout the rest of our marriage.  There would be no forgiveness in her heart towards me ever, just a sweeping of it all under the rug.

Heb 12:15  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

About a year after our marriage, she found a note Kristy had left in my glove box which I never knew was there.  Indeed, my sin had found me out (Num 32:23).  She drove up to my retail store work place and started yelling and pounding on the store glass while I was in a meeting with all of my associates.  I was in shock and could not believe the rage she was displaying in front of everyone, as if there was no one around.  When I got into the truck, she went into a rage screaming at me about the note.  She turned sideways and started kicking me with all of her strength like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum.  At one point, I noticed she had a kitchen knife behind the seat.  I was so afraid of her out of control behavior that I lied and told her that Kristy and I had only just met with each other but there had been no sex.

There was no way I could keep this lie.  I have never been able to do so, thank you God.  When I was five years old, I went to the local store with my friends.  We were all supposed to steal some candy.  I joined in with them and stole a tootsie roll.  As we left the store, I walked around the corner and I just couldn’t do it.  At five years old, all by myself, I walked back in that store and walked straight up to the counter and told the man I had stolen the candy and I was very sorry.   

My mother says she only knows of one time I lied to her in my whole life.  I stole her VCR and pawned it while I was in college because I was desperate for money.  When she asked about it, I lied hoping I could get it out of pawn before she found out.  Now, this lie about my ex-girlfriend was eating me up inside.  My conscious was screaming for relief such that even though I knew she was going to flip out, I needed the relief of being freed from the lie.  I worked with a guy for years who I knew had cheated on his wife one time and as far I know he has never told her.  I often wondered how in the world he could sleep at night with that lie for so many years.  He must have seared his conscience as with a hot iron.

We were in our third-floor apartment when I finally told Jennifer the truth one day and apologized.  She again went into a rage, throwing the ironing board down the hall at me and into the wall.  She ran downstairs and kicked over my $6,000 motorcycle right off its kickstand and onto the pavement.  She was screaming so loud that the neighbors called the police thinking someone was killing someone.

No matter how many times I apologized and no matter how many times I reminded her that she had broken up with me and kicked me out of her apartment when this happened, it did not matter to her.  No matter what I did or said, she would never forgive me for this for the rest of our marriage.  It came up over and over in many arguments.  The devil had outwitted us both and this unforgiveness in her became a bitterness that destroyed her and our marriage. 

Just like Saul’s disobedience brought the torment of evil spirits in 1 Sam 16, who were then used to torment David, this bitterness in her heart invited the torment of devils into her life which would torment me for the next fourteen and half years. 

Jesus warned about this very thing happening in the following passage.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  (22)  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (23)  "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. (24)  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. (25)  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. (26)  "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' (27)  The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. (28)  "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. (29)  "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' (30)  "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. (31)  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. (32)  "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. (33)  Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' (34)  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers (KJV – tormenters) to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (35)  "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." - Mat 18:21-35  NIV

This is one of the reasons why forgiveness is so crucial for Christians.  We all hurt each other and we all make terrible mistakes, but the greater sin is not to forgive those who sin against us.  That brings death and torment to our hearts and invites the demons of hell into our life as fair game.

2Corinthians 2:10-11  If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. ….  in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

I had become convinced that if I just married Jennifer all the problems and fighting would finally stop.  It was a marriage made in hell, but allowed by God for very good reasons.  He had indeed let me put the rope around my own neck, which He was now going to use to oppress and control me for a decade and a half. 

I was a good-hearted fool who wouldn’t be tamed and she was a stone hearted Pharisee who had to be the ruler.  I was zealous, careless, foolish, ignorant and driven.  She was judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, unyielding, and unbreakable.  She never forgave me from her heart for any of my mistakes and she would do anything to control me, even lie and falsely accuse me. 

After many years of marriage, the only way for me to keep the peace was to always be the one to say, “I’m sorry” and even to take responsibility for things I never did.  She had a snake in her heart, but just as Christ said of the Pharisees, you couldn’t see it from the outside.  She grew up in a family that had mastered image management but at the forsaking of true internal righteousness.

1 Samuel 16:7  The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Ch. 1 From “Myselfianity” to Christianity

PART 1

 

The Carnal Christian Years

 Chapter 1

From “Myselfianity” to Christianity

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. – 1 Cor 3:1 NASB

In 2012, long before my divorce trial was finalized, God asked me to begin the work of telling the story of what He had done in my life through the story you may have already watched on YouTube called “Trusting God in the Storm.”  Ironically, but not surprisingly, He asked me to do this before that amazing and victorious ending had come.  I simply did it by faith in His words to me.  Walking in faith is always risky, but this is the only way to please God.  He has to see our faith in action and many times He asks us to move forward on something, or to stop doing something long before we can see the result, or in the face of circumstances which contradict what He is asking of us.  This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. 

John 11:38-41  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  (39)  "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."  (40)  Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (41)  So they took away the stone.

And we know the rest of this story don’t we.  Indeed, in response to their faith to roll that stone away, they saw the glory of God in spite of something that was absolutely humanly impossible.  Lazarus came walking out in his grave clothes.  How incredible!

Incidentally, at the very moment I am editing this part of the story, there are very difficult circumstances arising which could seriously contradict one of the stories which Father has asked me to share in this book.  Just like my divorce story, if Father does not act, it will be a tragic failure and embarrassment for me to have included that part of the story.  If I was still being led by sight and my circumstances, I should indeed not include this part of the story in the book, but I know better now.  I have seen Father do this now, many, many times and He has established a track record of faithfulness with me.  He has already given me a promise to remove the obstacles that are standing in my way and He has asked me to keep moving forward on this project in faith.  So, as you can see, even as I write this story about faith, I am indeed walking by faith despite the storm I see coming at me.  I will share what happened at the end of the book, but since you are reading this you can know God once again came through for me in answer to my faith in His direction and promise.

After a few “false starts” with “Trusting God in the Storm”, I put it on YouTube permanently in November of 2015.  It highlighted my difficult childhood and how I eventually achieved the so called “good life” only to then lose it twice, once to a catastrophic business failure and the second time through a terrible betrayal by the wife of my youth. 

The story ended with a dramatic fulfillment of a promise from God, to deliver me in divorce court after He told me to risk everything by firing my attorney and to trust Him alone for my defense.  But at the beginning of that story I posed a question that I never actually answered.  It was the question of “Why did this happen and what was the purpose of all this suffering in my life?”  With Father’s help, I came to see and understand His hand in all my afflictions and to see the very good purposes for them. 

For 19 years, I had been calling myself a follower of Jesus Christ, yet it was a powerless shell of the walk I have with God today.  All those years, I certainly had a sincere love for God and I held my Christian beliefs with great zeal, but in daily living and action, I was the true ruler of my life not God.  I was the boss and I was calling the shots.  I was the master.  I was the king of my life.  Looking back on it, I see it would have been more appropriate to describe my religion as, “MySelfianity” rather than “Christianity”.  I was actually following myself, but doing it all in the name of Jesus Christ.

After all those years of zealous effort, the results I ended up with were spiritual bondage and failure.  I loved God and I wanted to live like Jesus Christ, but I remained in bondage to my pride, the opinions of men, earning money, idolatry, worldly success and pleasures, and ignorance.  As Paul describes in Galatians 4, I was growing up in the house of the slave woman (Hagar), not the free woman (Sarah). 

I didn’t have eyes to see it yet, but I wasn’t living in full submission to God, or under the New Covenant blessing.  I was living as if I was under the Old Covenant where everything in my relationship with Christ and my righteousness before God was largely dependent on me.  This powerless “Myselfianity” was the result of trying to live righteous before God according to my own designs and by the strength of my flesh, exactly like the Israelites in the Old Covenant.  I avoided the obvious evils and I was zealous for God, but I was living without that righteousness in my heart, which is the only place righteousness counts in the New Covenant.

Mat 5:20  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the place of fullness in Christ, and spiritual power from the Holy Spirit to live like Jesus Christ, I settled for the watered down hyper-grace gospel.  Rather than actually living like Christ and taking up my cross in obedience unto death, instead I was using my “Christianity” and the cross of Christ, like spiritual good luck charms to hang on all of my plans, my ambitions, and my problems.  My hopes were that by doing so God would make my plans successful and then I would give him credit, and thus we all would be happy.  I was foolishly trying to use spirituality and Biblical principles to build and improve my temporary earthly life, rather than using my temporary earthly life to build and improve my eternal spiritual life.

John 6:27 Do not work for food which spoils, but for food which endures to eternal life.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

God mercifully intervened in my ignorance, thoroughly frustrated and crushed my self-life, and then graciously made Himself and His true ways known to me.  And finally, He brought me into the life of fullness in Christ, such that even after losing everything in this world I was soon able to say, “I am now among the richest people I know.”  I am shocked to see how much these next two sentences in the Bible seem to have been written specifically for me.

Revelation 3:17 –18 (Jesus speaking) You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Indeed, I too was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Just as Jesus warned those in the Church of Laodicea, I realize that if I would have continued living in what I was calling “Christianity”, I would have never made it into the Promised Land I am now enjoying in God’s kingdom, or into heaven when I died. I was among the fruitless, immature, half-hearted, lukewarm, weighed down, professing “Christians” who are taking up valuable soil and in danger of being cut off.  (See Matthew 3:10, Luke 8:13-15, 13:7, 14:34-35, 21:34, John 15:2, 6, Hebrews 6:7-8)

I now know that at the end of my life, my train would be found running right off the cliff and into the abyss.  But God, in His indescribable mercy, came after me and never gave up on me.  He watched me hijack His name for all those years while running all the hills as an untamed, unbroken, unsubmissive, wild horse.  It was going to take many years, but Father had a plan to one day finally and fully break me.  He was going to take me on the only path to spiritual abundance which is in the following Psalm. 

Psa 66:10-12  For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.  (11)  You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.  (12)  You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

At the age of 43, I can look back on my life so far and see that even from childhood, next to love and acceptance, freedom was always the greatest desire of my heart. 

I grew up in a very small but very famous beachside town called Cape Canaveral, FL, where my best friend Joel Reinhart and I were allowed to explore nearly every square foot of the city, unsupervised.  We played on every street, every empty lot, and every patch of woods on the river and on the beachside.  I loved the freedom of being able to go anywhere, even to run miles down the beach, all by ourselves with no restrictions and no fear of harm. 

Until the age of nine, with only a few exceptions, I enjoyed a safe and comfortable life.  I was free and I felt very loved by all of my family.  Then came the day my childhood dream life was turned upside down. It was the day my parents sat me down and told me they didn’t love each other anymore and that mommy and daddy were getting something called a divorce.  Within days, all my freedom and comfort was replaced by a prison of fear and uncertainty.

Throughout the next decade I experienced some very difficult things beyond just my parent’s divorce.  There was being lied to about moving away from my Dad, being abandoned by one grandfather and rejected by the other, sexual abuses by both sexes, being terrorized and chased home by bullies for about three years, being held under water one time till I almost drowned, being beat to a bloody mess by the bullies in front of my mother, finding her one day on the verge of suicide, saving one of my best friends from suicide only to have him later succeed, being chased around the house and tormented by my cocaine addicted step-mother, being falsely accused and kicked out the house by my father, my mother and I both being emotionally abused and kicked out of our home twice by my step-father, having to drop out of college because of two physical injuries, then at age 20 being told my father wasn’t actually my father, then being rejected by my blood father twice, almost dying in a collision with an 18-wheeler, getting thrown in jail for running from a police officer on my motorcycle, etc.

Even though no one in my family knew Christ, by His mercy, I became a believer in Jesus in the 10th grade.  I was riding home from school one day with my friend Matthew Eldridge who had been telling me and my mother about Jesus for several weeks.  I had been resistant to his evangelism, thinking Christianity was only for weak people.   But that day I stepped out of his car and onto a piece of paper that read, "If you died in a car accident today, would you go to heaven or hell?"  I became afraid because I couldn't answer the question and I started reading the Bible voraciously for the next week or so. Unfortunately, I can't remember much of it because I have many black spots in my memory where I simply cannot remember things that happened.  For the writing of this book, I had to look back on journal entries and through thousands of emails to recall many of the details I have included. 

Unlike many, I don't remember the exact day I became a believer but I remember it happened in my bedroom.  I don't remember saying the "sinners prayer" or recall having any special experience, but I do remember I became so excited and amazed by what I read about Jesus in the Gospels all alone in my bedroom for hours.  I became a believer and was hungry to read the Bible but the Word of God was quickly choked off by the worries of my life and the pursuit of other things.  Within just a few months of my becoming a believer in Christ, my mother and I were kicked out of my alcoholic step-father's house a second time.  This time it was permanent and they divorced.  My mom and I moved to a very small country town called Grant, AL, where my grandparents, my mom's mom and step-father, Jerry and Bonnie Smith lived.  My mother and I attended the small Baptist church in town a few times, just long enough for both of us to get baptized. After that my mom quit taking us because she thought that was all we needed to do to be good with God and go to heaven.

From the time I graduated high-school in 1991, through my late thirties, my life can best be described as a series of self-made desperate attempts to regain the lost comfort and freedom I had known as a child. Because of an experience I had years earlier, I was driven to find my freedom through money.

In Money I Trust

When I was fifteen years old, my wealthy grandfather, who had just been through his fourth divorce, took me with him to the post office to pick up all his cashed out mutual funds.  I think I probably opened checks by myself totaling over a million dollars in just a few minutes.  The sight of that much money, after all the trouble I had seen in my young life, gave me feelings of hope and euphoria.

When I was 19, I dropped out of George Wallace State Community college just short of an associate’s degree due to an injury.  My major was mechanical and architectural drafting and I broke my drawing finger in an accident.  That prevented me from taking enough credit hours for my scholarship to kick in over the summer quarter, plus I could no longer work at my job with UPS, United Parcel Service loading the trucks early in the morning.  Then, when I tried to come back to school after Summer, I took a construction job and had all the bones in my right foot crushed under the bucket of a front-end loader. They paid my medical bills but because they were paying me cash, I had no way of getting workers compensation, so I ended up losing that job as well.

I could no longer afford to keep going to school, so I decided to drop out and move back home with my mother.  Soon after, I found a job selling Filter Queen vacuum cleaners door to door in Huntsville, AL.  I set a first week sales record and earned $2,700 in commission in just a few days.  I remember thinking that $9/hr loading UPS trucks was great money and now I was consistently earning about $1200 a week and maintaining my own schedule!   The was a large amount of money for me at the time and it gave me a sense of power and freedom from all the troubles and people that had afflicted me through my childhood.  Those are the days I started subconsciously making money my god. 

In my own eyes and in the eyes of the world, I wouldn’t have been seen as an evil person.  I was guilty of pre-marital sex with girlfriends in my teens, but I wasn’t out drinking and drugging or trying to hurt others for my own gain.  I had no idea that people doing those kinds of things were better off than me because people won’t encourage you to stay in those obvious sins, but people, even professing Christians, were going to encourage me for many years to pursue and earn lots of money to find my life and happiness.

Heb 13:5  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Learning to Trust in Myself

Most of the freedom I had lost in my early life was at the hands of those around me who were supposed to love me.  Now, like a wild horse that had been free at one time, later taken into captivity, and then freed again, I wasn’t about to let anyone put me back into the fence.  I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do or control me, not even employers.

In 1993, at 19 years old, I was earning enough money selling the vacuums that I was only working 3 weeks a month and I was going back down to FL every month on vacation.  The owner had hired me as an independent contractor but the more money I earned, the more he wanted to throw the ropes on me.  I was not going back inside the fence, so I rebelled against him and soon lost my job.

This pattern continued in like manner for the next decade.  I always resisted being controlled by someone and I always found a way to deliver myself from the troubles I was in.  It was easy for me to win other people over and to make things happen in my life.  Of all the people in the Bible this part of me is most like Jacob.  The more I succeeded the better I got, and over the years I developed a very high self-confidence and a strong faith in myself.

Pro 28:26  He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

Habakkuk 1:11  Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty men, whose own strength is their god."

 Resisting God’s Brokenness

I had a good heart, and Father knew it, but I was filled with the fear of being controlled and losing my freedom.  Like a wild stallion I just kept running so no one could ever throw the ropes on me again or fence me in.  But, because I was in need and because I was naïve and without wisdom to discern the good or evil in people, I stopped running a few times and trusted others who appeared to be sincere about helping me, only to be betrayed or badly taken advantage of.

Father tried using many difficult people and employers like that to break me along the way, but I just wouldn’t be broken.  I was too strong and too stiff necked so I would simply manipulate the situations, rebel, or run away.  I even had one boss who changed my pay plan ten times, exactly like Laban did to Jacob.  My life circumstances were broken many times, but my heart always remained obstinate and unbroken.  All I seemed to learn was to distrust others and instead to trust in myself even more. 

Psalm 32:9 “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”  

In my haste, I was missing His way (Pro 19:2). As a loving Father who disciplines his true children, he had almost a twenty-year plan to tie me up, enslave me, oppress me, and one day to completely break me and tear down everything I had built.  In his loving foresight he had an iron cage waiting for me that I was never going to get out of until He got me out.  This was the only way I was ever going to recognize my own limitations and humble myself enough to see and admit my deep need for Him and His deliverance. 

It’s the same principle behind why God allowed the Israelites to be enslaved and brutally treated by the Pharaoh, and it’s the same reason he allows us to be enslaved by sins or by other people.  Most of us have to be broken from our own self-will and self-sufficiency, and we all have to have a reason for deliverance before we can humbly cry out for the Deliverer.

Rom 11:32  “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

It was going to take many years and lots of trials and pain and suffering, but one day I was going to know Him, not just as God Almighty who holds the stars in hands, but as my loving Father who holds my very life in His hands.

Gen 15:13-14 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Know for certain that your descendants will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years…and afterward they will come out with great possessions.

Astonishing Grace to the Chief of All Fools - Introduction

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And his sovereignty rules over all. Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. "I choose the appointed time…Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” Psa 103:19 Job 25:2 Psa 75:2 Isa 14:24

Indeed, our God and Father has shown His marvelous power and Sovereignty in my life in ways that are beyond human comprehension. In my divorce story alone, He did something so amazing that even after hundreds of thousands of views, I’ve never heard from anyone who has ever heard anything like it.

And yet, no one has heard the unbelievable, heaven touching earth details, of how I ended up 8,720 miles away in Hyderabad, India on March 24th 2016, to marry wife Persis. It is even more incredible than the 777-day divorce story! Standing in between this promise from God for Persis to be my wife, were over 30 major obstacles which neither of us had the resources or power to get around. Just like the divorce, Father did not permit me to ask anyone else for help or to make known my needs to anyone but Him. If this marriage was going to happen it could only be by God’s power, in response to our walking by faith into His promises. Without His guidance and help, at every point, this was going to be impossible! It indeed became a marriage of miracles as God guided us moment by moment through it all and we responded with risky faith. I am so excited about finally being able to tell this story. It’s almost as if, somewhere inside of me, there is a 14-year-old teenage girl who screaming like she’s on the front row at a Justin Bieber concert.

I have discovered that God has been designing my life with such a mathematical precision that it can hardly be believed even after you hear it, which is why I thank God Almighty that he moved me to record all of it digitally in audio, video and pictures. Can you imagine discovering that the top three most significant events in your life were all completed in the exact same number of days? What if you then discovered that every single step in your top most significant life event, were all done without exception, with back to back alternating sequences of time, in increments of the two most popular numbers in the Bible?

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, my personal story has so many mathematically precise events in it that it brings total death to the atheist’s faith in a completely random universe. It will be easier for an atheist to believe he doesn’t really exist, than it will be for him to hear my story and then try to tell himself, nothing happens on purpose or by design. I cannot wait to tell you this story my friend, but please remember this is a learning journey to better understand God’s ways so you can walk in them in your own life, not just a showcase of God’s incredible power.

The story is written in two dramatically different parts. Part one is called “The Carnal Christian Years” and Part two is called “The Spiritual Christian Years.” They show the difference between a “Christian” life and ministry built by me, versus a Christian life and ministry built by God. Part one represents the best results I was able to generate in my own strength as I lived zealously for Christ, even with some supernatural supply from above. What I built was a life and ministry full of Ishmaels or things built entirely from the will, plans, and efforts of man. The result was a life which appeared successful to the world but spiritually it was a fruitless life of bondage, slavery and failure, a life that God was going to have to tear down before He could begin building up.

Part two represents the results Father is now producing in my life, after tearing down my building, by His Spirit and grace, as I live by faith, from Christ, in full humble submission to His will. This is resulting in a new life and new ministry of Isaacs, or things birthed from Father’s will, Father’s promises, and Father’s power. Now, a fruit which lasts is being produced (John 15:16). I am amazed and grateful to Father for Him even allowing there to be a part two of my story, especially after how bad part one was.

You will read about much suffering in both parts. In part one I am suffering for doing wrong or making foolish decisions. In part two I am still suffering and sometimes even more, but now I am suffering for doing good, partaking in the death, persecutions, and sufferings of Christ. I get no rewards for the suffering I faced in the first half of my life, but Father commends the suffering I now participate in as I obey Christ.

1 Peter 2:20-21 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Someone once told me that my life story was helping the Word of God to become “flesh” for them. It was like putting clothes on naked truth and making it real to them. Indeed, there is much to be gleaned from the details of testimonies like this about how God works and thinks, and about how God does not work and does not think. My desire is that those who have been given eyes to see will recognize some of their own mistakes or some of God’s dealings with me in their own journey. And afterwards, by His grace may they make the necessary corrections towards becoming a true spiritual man or woman of God. I pray you receive new spiritual wisdom and understanding from the spoils of war I have won on this journey.

A Hard Bone to Swallow

My prayer is that God’s clear Sovereign signature and powerful providence in this story will encourage many who are seeking fullness in Him, as they listen more intently to my pleadings for them to give all in absolute surrender to Christ. However, I am also praying that these stories shake up the false ground or unbelief some readers may be currently standing on.

There are atheists who say I’m having a “god delusion”, Seventh day Adventists who believe I am hell bound because I do not honor the “Sabbath”, Catholics who believe I cannot be saved because I do not submit to the authority of the pope, Mormons who are convinced I’m missing out on Christ’s new revelation to America, the “earth is flat” group who claims the devil has deceived me with a globe, Charismatics who think I’m still not filled with the Spirit because I don’t speak in tongues, Baptist ministers who think I’m under God’s curse because I not only don’t tithe but I teach against it, the “church man” who thinks I’m deceived because I don’t belong to a building he calls “church”, Torah observant “Christians” who wish to inform me that if I really want to please God I must abstain from certain unclean foods, observe special feasts and days, and divorce Persis because I am living every single day in adultery. There are many more who have accused me of seeking honor for myself, being an anti-Christ, selling the gospel, abandoning my children, doing witchcraft, being a heretic, leading others astray, twisting the word of God for my own benefit, or being unChristlike.

To borrow an Indian saying from my wife Persis, this story, for many of those people who have the courage to read it, is going to be a very hard bone to swallow. May there be much hard swallowing in the name of Jesus and may there be much truth and life which result!

Luke 7:33-35 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' (34) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."' (35) But wisdom is proved right by all her children (actions)."

Mat 12:33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

Disclaimer

If you have listened to many of my messages, you know how transparently I have shared my worst sins and failures against God. In order to tell this part of my story, it requires that I expose some of the evil and sins God permitted others to commit against me, especially my ex-wife. However, some Christians are sensitive to this and seem to believe all exposure of sin or evil is slander or unloving. I don’t want anyone to stumble over this, so please let me show the Biblical precedent for doing so and let me assure you that by the end of the story you will rest confident I have done all of this in submission to His will.

John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will.

The Bible itself, penned by men, as moved by the Spirit of God, openly reveals the evils committed by and against some of God’s most notable servants. We know the evil committed against Joseph by his brothers, the hatred and oppression of Pharaoh to the Israelites and Moses, Miriam’s dishonoring of Moses, the persecution of Isaac by Ishmael, the mocking and ridiculing of Nehemiah by Sanballat, the torments from King Saul against David, David’s betrayal of Uriah and Bathsheba, Delilah’s betrayal of Samson, Haman’s betrayal of Mordecai, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, Peter’s denial of Jesus and His hypocrisy against the Gentiles and Paul, the Jews stoning of Stephen, Alexander the metal worker’s harm of Paul. Also, we know of the malicious gossiping Diotrephes was doing against the apostle John in 3 John and that the apostle was going to expose him by telling the whole church.

In God’s time, and by His will, there is good in exposing sin, hypocrisy and the evil committed by others. Our victory over the evil’s committed against us, comforts others who are still suffering. This produces perseverance in the saints which results in glory to God. I am not able to bring God the full glory He deserves in my life, for the light He gave me, until I tell how dark the darkness was from which He saved me.

There is a big difference between exposing the sin of a repentant sinner or someone who stumbled into sin vs. exposing the sin of the unrepentant or the hypocrisy of the self-righteous. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather to expose them because everything exposed by the light becomes visible. In Matthew 18, Jesus even told us to publicly tell the church about our brother or sister who has sinned against us, if they would not listen to us or other witnesses. He also taught there is nothing hidden that will not be brought out into the open (Luke 8:17) and Paul taught Timothy to rebuke leaders who sinned publicly so that others may take warning (1 Tim 5:20).

I’ve been accused of being “unChristlike” for doing this. Jesus Christ was not being “unChristlike” when He spoke the harshest public rebukes ever heard to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Paul was not being “unChristlike” when He confronted Peter’s hypocrisy publicly, or when he wrote a letter about it, making a record of it for thousands of years and millions of people to read about it in Gal 2:11-13. Martin Luther was not being “unChristlike” when he publicly exposed the evil hypocrisy of named leaders in the Roman Catholic church, all the way up to and including the pope. John Bunyan was not being “unChristlike” when he published the names, statements, and false accusations of the justices and others who stood against him in court to sentence him to jail for not submitting to the church of England. Madame Guyon was not being “unChristlike” when she revealed in her biography the incessant and ruthless antagonism of her mother-in-law and their servants, or when she exposed the names of the church leaders which so horribly slandered and persecuted her and then threw her into jail.

Nor, am I being “unChristlike” when I expose the evil committed against me by others when I began desiring to truly give up this world and follow hard after Christ. My motive is not to try to payback or punish anyone, but rather to expose the discipline God brought into my life through them. I leave all the correction and justice to God. In fact, where it seemed appropriate to do so, I have concealed identities by leaving off last names or using a fictitious name, such as the name Jennifer for my ex-wife.

Also, none of the sins against me were worse than my own sins against God in this story, where I was calling myself a Christian for 19 years and denying Him by my actions. The sins committed against me were either caused by or allowed by God because of the greater sins I had committed. The sins of others against me were being used of God to break me, to discipline me, to save me, and to strengthen me.

Our real enemy is not the people who do the evil to us, but as A.W. Tozer taught, our real first enemy is our self. You will see in this story, once I got my spiritual problem with God taken care of, my other battles were taken care of. When we submit to Father and get our hearts right before him, the devil can no longer do any lasting harm (James 4:6-7, 1 John 5:18).

There are no sins in this story which God could not or would not forgive, upon true confession and repentance through Jesus Christ. I hold no unforgiveness in my heart towards anyone and I thank God for using them to help me to get right with Him.

Like John Bunyan desired to do with his life, I too desire to share the spiritual plunder which I have taken in these battles and share it here for the repair and building up on the body of Christ, his temple. 1 Chro 26:27

Please do not imitate my faith in doing this, unless you have received clear guidance and direction from the Lord and unless you have been walking as a spiritually mature Christian for some time. Anything not done in faith or with pure motives is sin, and if you have any doubts about doing so, you will be condemning yourself as Paul taught in Rom 14:23.

God gave me the promise of Isaiah 14:4 years ago, that I indeed would one day take up this taunt against my oppressor, “How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended.”

Ecc 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Mat 10:26-27 "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. (27) What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

Astonishing Grace to the Chief of All Fools - Author's Notes

I did not make this book available online for free because I had to, or because no one would buy it. Clearly, there are thousands now who would gladly pay for this book, allowing me to reap a material harvest for sowing spiritual seed among them (1 Cor 9:12). God willing, I would like to see this in a printed book format one day, which could be held in the hands, but the book will always be available online for free.

I make it available for free for the same reason I made the John 7:17 Challenge available for free, both in text and audio, in three different ways and two different places. I do not want money to prevent someone from hearing the truth, either by their lack of it, or by their weak conscience which causes them to think anytime a Christian writes a book, the motive is money. While ministers of the gospel have this right (See 1 Cor 9), many do misuse this right in their love of money. My life has already proven before God and men, to be a sacrificial life which is free from the love of money. Therefore, my intent is to join Paul in preventing anything from being a stumbling block to you my reader. I wish to silence those who look so desperately for a good excuse to not listen to the truth, or to turn others from it, simply by making it free. I truly understand now why Paul said what he did in 1 Corinthians 9:15, about him desiring to die before he would desire to give up this boast.

However, historically men do not value what is free. I cannot convince you of the value of this book, until you read it, but perhaps if you could see how many devils, even now, are fighting against me to not finish this book, you would indeed find a great perceived value. Please accept this by faith and rest assured, that not only did I pay a hefty spiritual price to live this story and then to write it, but you also will pay a spiritual price to read it and to follow my example as I follow the Lord Jesus Christ. However, if you are willing to pay this cost, you are also willing to receive God’s very best spiritual treasures and glory in your life!

Please forgive my style, length and format in this book. I am not at all a gifted writer or editor and this should not be read as, or considered as traditionally published book. Father has asked me to tell what He has done in my life. I cannot allow my weaknesses in writing to hinder the glory due our Father nor a traditionally acceptable word count. Instead, I just ask you to give me the freedom to sit down and talk to you as my friend, from my heart, on paper. I want to be Spirit led, not book format or publisher led.

Lord willing, this story will be to the great encouragement and faith strengthening of true brothers and sisters in Christ, who perhaps discover more about the Father’s ways and His loving but often mysterious and painful dealings in their own life. My hope is to showcase the principles in His Word, as reflected in my life. I want you to desire and receive more of God’s astonishing grace in your own life.

Every single thing you need in order to become a spiritually abundant follower of Christ comes down to one thing, grace. If you are looking and living like Jesus right now, it is because you have grace. If you are not looking and living like Jesus it is because you do not have grace. You will look and live like Jesus in direct proportion to the grace He has given you. This entire story is about how I found and received this abundance of God’s amazing and indescribable grace in my life, and then in my ministry.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power [grace] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace [power] abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

My friend, these two wonderful promises from God, which I have taken possession of, are waiting to be claimed by you through faith and patience. Notice the first promise deals with personal grace and the second promise deals with the grace needed to be a fruitful worker for Christ. We truly cannot do anything apart from His grace (John 15:5).

The way I see it, there are two types of God’s grace (or undeserved power) that can be administered in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ, external grace and internal grace. An example of external grace is me driving down I-75 in February of 2012, coming back from my divorce trial in Orlando, Florida, yelling into my voice recorder, “Oh, my goodness…I cannot believe it…this is freaking me out God!!!” He showed me the number 777 sixteen times that day and was showing me in advance that my divorce crisis would miraculously end on the 777th day after my ex-wife had filed for it.

Exodus 14:31, 15:11 – Deu 4:35 “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him.” Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you---majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

Then there is internal grace where you can hear me exclaiming in other recordings, “I cannot believe how much my heart has changed Father…this is incredible…I am a totally different person.” These graces can also be thought of us as visible and invisible grace. For Jesus Christ to heal a blind man of his physical sight is external visible grace. For Jesus Christ to heal that same man of his spiritual blindness is internal invisible grace.

To me, the internal grace, albeit less exciting and less provable to others is the most important for several reasons. First, the devil can counterfeit much of God’s external grace (2 Thes 2:9-12). He can heal and can do wondrous supernatural signs and miracles. He can bring people, careers, and material possessions into your life and he can even counterfeit the fruits of the Spirit. But, the one thing he cannot bring, which is the highest blessing of the New Covenant, is the holiness and the peace and rest of the living God into your heart by the Holy Spirit. He cannot counterfeit that internal grace of the heart which conforms a man or woman into the image and character of Jesus Christ. He cannot counterfeit fullness in Christ which gives you a victory over the world, yourself, and him. All Christians are supposed to attain to the full measure of Christ.

Ephesians 3:19 I pray that you may have power to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 4:13 - until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

The second reason that internal grace is superior is the reason why I do not like all these supernatural healing documentaries that are being made and shown on Netflix where people go out on the street and heal people. Persis and I watched a movie called HOLY GHOST and I got so upset watching it. I don’t recall seeing anywhere in this movie where any of these people being healed or given words of knowledge were told about their sin or the need for repentance.

One rich lady was given a word about her wounded childhood and she was moved to tears at a bar, but Jesus did not come to save people from their troubled childhoods. He came to save them from their troublesome sins against God. This lady was being emotionally moved and led by a false gospel. I can practically guarantee you she walked away from that encounter feeling God had touched her and now she was good with God to go on and continue living her rich life.

Without the preaching of sin and repentance there is no true Gospel and no true Jesus. Not only that, but I never heard anyone mention obedience to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is by far the most important and neglected part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20. If I led someone to the Lord today in this coffee shop, there is no way I could leave them without telling them the importance of repentance and obedience to the words of Christ. That’s the only way I could be assured they have a chance of really knowing Him and really being saved. If I spoke less than the full gospel, I rob them of eternal life no matter how Charismatic I might be or what word of knowledge I might have given them.

In the film Holy Ghost, you get the impression that if someone can tell you something vague about your past life, or if you get a physical healing or tingling sensation in your body when they hold on to you yelling, “more Lord…more Lord…more power Lord…more Lord…more Lord”, then you are instantly a part of God’s family and saved for eternity. I am sorry, but this is spiritual insanity!

How was the Gospel preached to people in the early church? The first public words about the Gospel from John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and Peter and Paul after Pentecost all call for repentance from sin.

John Baptist - Mat 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Jesus - Mar 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Peter - Act 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

Paul - Act 26:20 I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

Now look what Paul warned us about regarding sharing the Gospel.

Gal 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (9) As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

If a person is healed externally in the name of Jesus Christ or begins to believe because you gave him a “word”, but he is left internally and spiritually sick because he never heard the true Gospel, what good will come from this at the end of his life? How many people have fallen over at a Benny Hinn miracle conference under the supposed great power of the Holy Spirit, and yet upon returning home they continue falling over powerlessly into their same old sins? We need power for living up to the righteousness of Christ, not for falling down at some meeting. From this we can see why the person who preaches a false gospel is headed to eternal condemnation. By doing so, they have robbed countless others of eternal life in Christ.

A person with internal grace in the heart, who has little or no external visible grace in their life, is far better off than the person who has external grace, but who doesn’t have the internal power to change their heart. Being healed of sin is far more important than being healed of physical sickness. Most believers have this reversed and are desperately fascinated with physical healing. How many people would watch a documentary about God miraculously setting people free from sin vs a movie about watching a guy’s leg grow on camera? You can go to heaven with a leg that doesn’t measure up, but you cannot go to heaven with a heart that doesn’t measure up. - Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Maybe one day, God will make a way for me to fly around the world with a camera guy and interview some of the many people like Kim who are taking the John 7:17 Challenge and have seen their hearts completely changed by obedience to Jesus Christ. We don’t need more physical healing stories. We need spiritual healing from sin stories, the one thing the devil hates the most!

Kay, the cleaning lady struggling with unforgiveness had chronic COPD when I met her. She can die with COPD and still go to heaven. She cannot die with sin, rebellion, or unforgiveness in her heart and still go to heaven. Do you see the difference my friend? Suppose she was running to these miracle healers and got her COPD cured, but then she was left with that bitterness in her heart because no one told her about the true requirements of the gospel because it’s just so offensive.

According to Jesus in Mark 9:38-40 and Matthew 12:27, even people that don’t belong to Christ, and even the Pharisees and their disciples were capable of casting out demons. Indeed, they had the power to do these miracles. What they didn’t have was the far superior internal grace in the heart to become anything more than a child of the devil. This is why Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21-23 that there would be many who would indeed do visible external miracles, signs, and wonders in his name, but who would one day hear, “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.”

So, why then, if I am saying that internal grace is superior to external grace, am I now going to share some of the stories in my life which showcase the external grace? Simple, because Father asked me to proclaim the wonderful deeds He has done in my life and I cannot do that without also sharing the visible parts of what He did.

Someone might say, but why is that necessary if we are all to live by faith and not by sight, and didn’t Jesus say, “it is a wicked and adulterous generation who asks for a sign”? I believe one of the main reasons Father asks us to do this is because of His mercy to help sincere Christians who really want to believe Him, but who may be struggling with unbelief. These are extraordinarily difficult days to be a Christian, however where sin and darkness abound, His grace abounds all the more when He can find a wholehearted servant (2 Chronicles 16:9).

God is willing to help us believe Him when He sees we have that mustard seed of faith. The great faith I have in Him today came from Him, not me, and it started out as little faith. When God told me many things that would happen in my life before they actually did, it helped me to believe Him even more when what He said came true. I gave Him my little mustard seed and He made it grow into a large tree!

Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

John 14:29 “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”

The wicked and adulterous generation Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:39 were not people like you and I who are sincerely struggling in our desire to believe and follow Jesus Christ. They despised Him and hated him and their asking for a miracle was done in a mocking attitude. It was more like them asking, “Oh yeah, well let me see your magic show Mr. Messiah…let’s see what kind of power you’ve got if you’re really the big shot Son of God.” Please read Luke 4:23 and Mat 27:42-44 for examples.

God’s visible external grace helps many of us to believe Him in these very dark days, but it only comes after we have some level of sincere mustard seed faith to bring to Him. How amazing is His loving kindness to help those of us with a humble heart and a mustard seed of faith!

Jas 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Also, God validates His messages through His servants. Exo 4:30 And Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed.

Joh 14:11-14 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (12) I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (13) And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. (14) You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

My friend, I am not lying and God will prove it in this story for those who have ears to hear. I am indeed in possession of the fullness of Christ and it is gloriously beyond the explanation of human words. I walk daily in the seven things Christ promised to all true followers of His, divine provision (Mat 6:31-34), rest (Mat 11:28-30), contentment (John 4:13-14), freedom from sin (John 8:31-36), peace (John 14:27), answered prayers and fruitfulness (John 15:5-8), and with the joy of the Lord made complete in my heart (John 15:9-11), even when I am suffering. Indeed, I was thirsty and now rivers of living water flow from my belly to others, thanks be to the Lord! (John 7:37)

Two thousand years of exceptional Christian testimonials have proved that an abundant spiritual life in Christ is available to all who will come to Him on his terms, regardless of the rocky path they have been on. I hate to be cliché but, if God will do it for me, he will do it for any one! I am not worthy of Father’s astonishing grace in my life, but I will not despise it or Him, by hiding it either. Our God is Amazing!

Mark 2:12 This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Without fear of overhyping the story, I can say to you with confidence, “You have never seen anything like this!” In 27 years of being a Christian, I’ve never heard of anything this amazing or complex. A person being raised from the dead is a piece of cake for God compared to what I have witnessed Him do in my own life over and over. One pastor when he heard only one part of the story said, “Michael God is doing something historical here…I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years of ministry.” That man, has no idea about the most incredible parts of my story! I think after you hear what God has done, you will understand why I feel like Father wrote Exodus 34:10 for me.

Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. – Psalm 111:2

I know you are anxious to hear it all, but please be patient with me. As your loving brother in Christ, I first must warn you that supernatural signs and wonders are not remotely a guarantee that the work is from God. In fact, today, far more often than not they are from the devil.

Jesus warned us to be very careful that we are not deceived by false prophets and false teachers (Mat 24:24) and the apostle John warned us to test every spirit (1 John 4:1). I’ve seen incredible videos of gold fillings in people’s teeth, gold dust covering pastors, manna showing up in Bibles, “glory clouds” flying in a church, crying statues of the virgin Mary, moving heads on Jesus statues, Stigmata, jewels appearing on the ground in churches, and many more things like this that we must discern and test! The devil is doing all kinds of things around the world and in churches where people can say, “We have never seen anything like this!”. See (2 Thes 2:9-12) So, how can we know what things are from the Lord?

False teachers also preach boldly in the name of Jesus, they do many charitable deeds, and share many true teachings and principles in the word of God. However, their teaching will always be off in some very significant way which strongly appeals to your flesh. As Dave Hunt used to say, even rat poison is 98% delicious and nutritious (truth). It is the 2% of poison (error) that kills the rat.

With a false teacher, typically your flesh will find itself being enticed and saying, “amen…amen” to things that a spiritual person will not say amen to (like the promise of material blessing or how graceful God is even though you are still living in sin.). Some of these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up and convince you that God wants to bless you with temporal abundance. This is the “prosperity gospel” which claims God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy now, and if you aren’t it’s because you don’t have enough faith, or you have unconfessed sin in your life.

Prosperity preachers aren’t the only false teachers. There are also legalists and cult groups that may not be promising prosperity but instead they seek to control the people with a, “we are the only ones who have it right and therefore the only one’s going to heaven” type of a message. There were apparently even miraculous answers to prayer in the deadliest cult of all time, the People’s Temple under Jim Jones. Who was it that was answering those prayers?

My wife Persis is from India and just from a few of her own stories I can say with confidence that there are far more supernatural things going on in the Hindu temples in India than there are in all the churches in North America. Who is doing them? It is the same one who gave the Egyptian magicians their power to counterfeit Moses’ miracles in Exodus 7:22 and the same one we find speaking with Jesus here.

Luke 4:5-7 The devil led him (Jesus) up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. (6) And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. (7) So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

Until a Christian has strong discernment, any of these types of messages can strongly appeal to the desires or fears of the flesh and they are exceptionally effective at deceiving people when they are accompanied by the supernatural. When a Christian has a strong desire to hear from God or to see the supernatural, this is ground for the devil’s deception.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the supernatural and we shouldn’t despise God’s power, but we should be wise and test it all. The bible says the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power (1 Cor 4:20). It has the power to change your life and the power to influence others for Christ. I have seen this power in several ways, but there is authentic power and counterfeit power. Let me give you a few other basic examples.

There have been a few times where the Lord blessed me with very specific insight no one else had into a person’s life. One day I was in prayer and the Lord moved me to call and warn a very godly and well-respected business man whom I hadn’t spoken with or heard from in two years. I was reluctant to do it because he was an older brother in the Lord and very well respected for his faith and work in Christ, but in obedience to the Spirit I made a message for him saying that He had fallen into a sin which was robbing Him of God’s favor in his business. Two days later he replied in shock and admitted that he had turned back to pornography the week before I messaged him.

On another occasion, a gentleman contacted me who was facing 20 years of prison and having to register as a sex-offender in a very unfortunate case against him. He was scared to death and having dreams about killing himself. By the Lord’s power, I was able to tell him emphatically that he was not going to have to do either. My telling him this was the grace of the Lord to keep him from sinking. In fact, the Lord was so gracious that he only went to jail for one year, and was blessed of the Lord with favor from a guard during his time.

I’ll share one more of these so you will believe. Just this past week as I’m editing this document, the Lord had me warn a very zealous brother who reached out to me in a recording with his wife, to tell me about their testimonies and love for the Lord. While listening, I discerned Father was going to let this man fall hard and that I was supposed to warn him just like Jesus did Peter in Matthew 26:34. Two days after he replied to my warning assuring me he was good, he had an affair. In His love for Him, God warned him in advance, just like he did me when I fell into sexual sin as a single person, to break him from pride and self-confidence. There is power in the kingdom of God. Remember, Jesus said those who have faith in Him will do the same things He did.

However, false teachers and false prophets can also sometimes accurately share unknown past or future events in people’s lives also. The late Dave Hunt got off a plane in India to speak at a conference and a man who was not supposed to pick him up came up to him to give him a ride to the event. When Dave questioned him, the man was able to tell Dave his full name, where he lived in CA, and what he was doing in India. Think about it. Was that the power of God? No, it was the power and divination of an evil spirit and he stayed away from that man. The devil indeed has power. He is a brilliant counterfeiter. Don’t think you can’t be fooled! I even test all the things that I experience in my life by the following method.

So, how can we know if a pastor is a false teacher, or if the signs and wonders or prophecies are coming from God or Satan? How do you know if the power and signs in my life are coming from God or if I am false teacher? There are several ways but Jesus Christ gave us a solid test. He told us we will “recognize a tree by its fruit.” The fruit on a tree shows us the type of tree it is, and it reveals the outcome or result of the tree’s health and production. First, as we grow in discernment we can see the false teacher will reveal his heart through his words or some part of his temperament which consistently contradicts the Spirit of Christ. Let me give you a few personal examples that I’ve seen as a spiritual man making judgments of all things just at Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:15.

And by the way, if you have problems with me naming names, please see Luke 13:32, Acts 13:8, 2 Timothy 2:16-17, 2 Timothy 4:10, 4:14-15, and 3 John 1:9.

When I see T.D. Jakes haughtily strutting across that stage like a proud rooster with his head held back and yelling out, “Yall ain’t listening…let me try this side over here.” or when I see him sitting on the Oprah Winfrey show talking to a secular and New Age thinking audience about how you can live your dream, I cannot reconcile that spirit with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who is in me.

I wasn’t able to reconcile Ted Haggard, the former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado, standing in front of an interviewer zealously saying evangelicals have the best sex lives and then asking right on camera two of his own church leaders how often they have sex with their wives and how often their wives have an orgasm. Can you possibly imagine the Holy Spirit asking anyone this?

I am unable to reconcile Joel Osteen telling jokes at the beginning of each sermon when people are going to hell from hyper grace teaching, or to reconcile his find your best life now message with Christ’s lose your life now to find it message. I’m not able to reconcile the ten-million-dollar home of a Joyce Meyer, or her husband’s apparent golf addiction with the true Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us to say no to worldly pleasures and wealth. And they go on saying, “Well, God has blessed us!”.

Then what is He doing for me according to their definition of blessing, since I’m now the poorest person financially in my entire circle, or what has He done for my wife Persis since she grew up literally the poorest person I’ve ever met? Is God not blessing us? On the contrary, we enjoy the true riches…the great spiritual treasures. Perhaps you’ve seen my first story video. I know how to earn a large income. Even now, I could do all kinds of things to make money even in this ministry and say, “Look, the Lord is blessing me…come follow me to blessings and treasures on earth.” (If I ever start preaching that by the way, you can know the devil has won me over and I say run) I could start by allowing advertising on my YouTube videos, taking away all three free versions of the John 7:17 Challenge, selling this book instead of giving it away for free, asking a fee for the thousands of personal recordings I’ve made for people around the world, etc. I don’t do these things, because I’m not interested in seeking temporary earthly riches. I am seeking spiritual riches and this is why I could never work with or have a relationship with any of those or a multitude of other false teachers. I have nothing in common with them spiritually even though they have the name of Christ on their lips and a Bible on their podium.

I’m following a very different Jesus because I can’t possibly imagine Christ, the disciples, or any of the greatest true servants of God that have ever lived, doing things like this. Seriously, can you see Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, John Bunyan, Madame Guyon, Hudson Taylor, George Muller, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, D.L. Moody, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, or an A.W. Tozer, strutting across a stage like a proud rooster, asking about other’s sex lives and orgasms on camera, going on the Oprah show, or living in a ten-million-dollar house from the profits of their ministry? I will refrain from what I would like to write next and simply defer to Paul…

1 Timothy 6:5 They are…men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

People that follow these teachers, even me for a time, will find that they are being enticed by the desires of their flesh not the Holy Spirit. The love of money and material prosperity is one of the greatest barriers to the true treasure and presence of Christ in your heart. As you will clearly see in my story, you cannot have two loves or two Masters.

Heb 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Another visible part of the fruit of false teachers is their congregation or followers. When we look at the lives of those he is preaching to, we can ask questions like this to ascertain more about his fruit?

As we look at the character of the congregation or followers do we see increasing holiness and faithfulness? Christian history has shown that if the Holy Spirit is the one doing the preaching and teaching, there will be increasing holiness. There will be people moving from sinful carnal and worldly Christianity to true spiritual Christ followers. There will be people surrendering at the heart level, and not just the lip level. There will be people taking up their cross and denying their flesh in sacrificial ways, gaining freedom from sin, losing their life to find it, obeying the words of Christ unto death, abandoning their will and coming in full submission to the will of Christ in their life regardless of the cost? By the way, I know this all sounds scary if are just starting to take Christ seriously, but please don’t panic. God will help you and give you strength in ways you do not yet understand or possess. Just keep reading the story…don’t cliff jump yet please!

With true believers, it will be clear that God is their master, not money. The Father will become increasingly their magnificent obsession. They will chase holiness and godliness, not the supernatural. They will love God and not more of His stuff? Most importantly, we can see the fruit of the Holy Spirit increasing in their everyday life. Just think back on Mr. Kim’s testimony. Perhaps go back and re-read it and look at the type of fruit coming from him now. Look at what he sees as important now. He is a piece of fruit which God is producing through His work in my ministry. Remember, a tree produces after its own kind. Kim is a reflection of the type of Spirit at work in me, and now in him, which is the Holy Spirit. A worldly, money loving preacher will produce worldly, money loving followers. A spiritual, God loving preacher will produce spiritual, God loving Christians.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Gal 5:24

Those are not all, but some of the major characteristics of a spiritual man or woman. Even with the presence of signs and wonders which are believed to be from God, a false teacher will characteristically produce worldly and carnal Christians who often stay stuck in sin. They will not be producing holy and spiritual Christians. They can be among the most zealous and charming or charismatic believers and honor God much with their lips, but their hearts and actions give them away.

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Mat 7:17-20

Fifteen minutes after writing past this part of the book, I took a break to check my email and received this email, which is another perfect example of the point I am making. Let’s read and see if we can discern the type of fruit that is being produced here.

Message: Hey Mike , my name is Daniel I'm 24 years old, I surrendered my life to Christ and his will about June 3-4. I been living like a fake follower wanting God but doing my own will. Following the ways of men, there's a lot more that I can say about what I’ve been through as a kid, but now I can say I see that God has allowed all this to happen in order for me to be broken and fixed by him and to truly see who I am before God. The day I truly surrendered I was so frustrated with the way I was, so a thought came across my mind to type in the words on google search "how do I surrender to God when I don't want to". At this point in my life I was enjoying sin and at the same time hating it because I felt I was under Gods wrath and it was a sucky way to live every day. Then one of your videos was recommended so I listened to it and the Holy Spirit started to give me understanding and a revelation that came to me such that I fully surrendered the next day. I am now completely free from all addictions that I was in. I'm on about day 44 on your john 7:17 challenge. It's been really helping me. Thank you so much.

Unlike the visible parlor tricks of the devil, all external visible grace from the Father has its aim, under the New Covenant, to produce that which is most pleasing to God, an internal faith and righteousness in the heart called Holiness. Any external visible grace in a believer’s life which does not lead to the changing of the heart, is either a counterfeit of Satan, or a true grace which has been squandered or trampled.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. (12) It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, - Tit 2:11-12

It is good that we ponder and marvel at God’s wondrous deeds but please remember this important principle. The most important part of my story to God, is not the astonishing wonders and visible outcomes. Those are only the visible proof of a greater internal grace. They are the rewards, the stamps of approval from Father, on the steadfast faith that was walked out in private, in my heart, along the way.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

And remember, do not covet the experiences of others. God knows what each of us need, and apportions His grace just as He sees fit (Ephesians 4:7). There are people everywhere who are walking in the same amount of His internal grace, if not more, than I am, yet they may have never seen the amount of visible grace you will see in this story. They are loved just the same if they are humbling obeying His words!

His incredible grace in my life is primarily in direct proportion to the massive amount of weakness I faced in my journey to fullness in Christ. Indeed, where the enemy came in like a flood, God raised up a standard against Him and where weakness and sin abounded in my life, you will see that grace abounded all the more. We serve a powerful, faithful, merciful, and loving Father. Thank you so much Abba!

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (10) That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Astonishing Grace to the Chief of All Fools - Preface

Preface

Romans 15:17-19 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.  For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,  in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit;

 It was a Sunday morning in early 2001, at Northland Community church in Longwood, FL, where I was about to have a very bizarre experience.  My first wife and I had just opened our franchise of the Lord’s Gym health club in Orlando, FL.  I was so blessed by all that the Lord had done to make this happen.  Both the club and we as the owners, had been received with wonderful enthusiasm by the community. 

We were just finishing up the worship service and the sermon was about to begin when I was tapped on my left shoulder.  I turned my head as far left as possible, still only able to see the lady from my peripheral vision in the dimly lit sanctuary.  She leaned in and said, “The Lord will be magnified and glorified through your obedience.”  Those were the only words she said; I was stunned.  I sat down and went through feelings of wonder, joy, and then even some indignation.  At one point I thought, “Who says something like that to a complete stranger… she doesn’t even know me…why would she say that?”  I was barely able to listen to the sermon because I was so struck by her words.  I couldn’t wait for the service to end so I could inquire of her motive.  When the message ended, I promptly turned around and saw a family sitting in all the seats.  There were no other empty seats and no one had seen the woman I had just described. 

Hebrews 1:14, 13:2  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

 Three months later on May 22nd 2002, at the age of 28 years old, the entire thing collapsed in a very tragic and public scandal.  The story ran each night on the evening news with me being slandered in front of hundreds of thousands in Central Florida.  The dream was shattered and were left with some half-a-million dollars in business debt.  I was so humiliated and afraid that we wouldn’t go to a grocery store within 5 miles of my home for at least six months.  I had failed terribly in a business with the Lord’s name on it, bringing much disgrace to His name.  Reflecting back on the words of that woman, I remember thinking how in the world will God ever be magnified and glorified through my life now…I’m finished!

 Fifteen years later in 2017, despite years of failure, brokenness, and spiritual ignorance on my part, that woman/angel’s words have indeed come true.  God has redeemed it all and magnified and glorified himself much through my life.  As I write this, without depending on any man for help and without doing anything to promote myself or the ministry, I currently have tens of thousands of subscribers on YouTube and several million video views.  I receive incredible testimonials from around the world to the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Father is using RelentlessHeart.com, the John 7:17 Challenge, and my YouTube Channel to impact people’s lives in transformative ways for Christ all over the world.  The stories coming in are often so amazing that perhaps they one day need their own book, but let me share just a few examples here. 

There are stories like Kim, a 70-year-old man sitting in his RV, so lonely and discouraged about his faith and life that he found himself for the third time sitting with a 357-magnum pointed under his chin.

December 31st, 2016

My name is Kim John Curtis and I’m 70 yrs old. I was listening to one of your videos only because I opened the page by mistake, on YouTube.  I was sitting here in my RV with a 357 mag in my hand and aimed right under my chin. I am not sure what actually happened but the gun went off and fell to the floor. I just sort of sat there wondering why my eyes were still open and I could still hear your video. I couldn't figure out what went wrong, I'm a good shot, and at close range how could I miss?

Kim had been a professing Christian for 17 years.  He had attended three different churches and had been kicked out of all three after questioning what he called the greasy grace teaching.  He continues…

I gave up on God, Jesus, and reading the bible. I went back to my old lifestyle of booze, pot, cussing, but never cursed God.  I didn't chase women but I did pursue porno and masturbation.  I had and still have an intense hatred of those people.  After all they are Gods chosen righteous people, aren't they? I can't say that I hated God or Jesus, I just hated his chosen people. It has taken me about four months to get to where I am now. Even 48 hrs. from Bang! Ooops.. Missed, I still hate them mostly because they have convinced me that I am evil, no good, and unsalvageable.

When I read his email, I knew the Lord was after Kim.  I sent him a few personal recordings to encourage him and answered a few questions he had and then directed him to take the John 7:17 Challenge.  The John 7:17 Challenge is a step-by-step discipleship journey to help people experience God and find Life to the Full.  It is a 90-day hand-held journey through the top 90 actionable teachings of Jesus Christ.  The Challenge is available in a printed workbook, or it may be read and taken all online for free at RelentlessHeart.com or the John 7:17 Playlist on my YouTube channel

 Kim started taking the Challenge and within just a few weeks of him starting, I received this beautiful and glorious email from the very man who had pulled the trigger to end his life just five weeks earlier.  God is to be praised!

February 10th 2017

Hi Mike, I am really grateful for the book. I thank the Lord that he has given you such a terrific insight. Things are improving and I am very sensitive to the Holy Spirit now. It is not an emotional high, it is more like coming up for air after diving deep in the ocean. You know like when you aren't sure you're going to make it to the surface. And then you burst through and gasp for air. Suddenly you know you are going to be OK and you just float there sucking in air and then you relax for a few heartbeats and then you start swimming for shore. This may sound silly but I find myself reading the Psalms and then Later in the day I just close my eyes and make up my own Psalms and it’s like I can feel the heart of David as he prayed, praised and sang his own Psalms. All I know is that I don't want to stop and I know that there is the presence of the Holy Spirit all around me. I feel, I guess the word is INVOLVED. Not the spectator sense you get when just listening to some preacher or even music. This is well almost indescribable. All I know is peace and security and a real appetite for the red letters!!!!!!

As I was editing this part of the book, I sent Kim another email to check on him and ask Him if he was still clinging to the Lord.  I received the following reply, not from Kim, but clearly from the HOLY SPIRIT who is now alive and well inside of Him.  Hallelujah!

 July 22nd 2017

 YES !!!!. Things have changed for me so entirely that I can hardly keep up with them. I'm not getting rich or famous. I'm not getting younger and handsomer. I am getting free of my past and free to explore each day in the wonderment, the strength, and assurance that is in Jesus. I have been freed from the condemnation I have always felt because I knew religion but not JESUS. The Holy Spirit is reshaping my heart, my mind, and even my body. I am stronger and healthier. I have an insatiable hunger for truth that only found in prayer and worship or praise.  A relationship with Jesus is NOT about US. It is about Jesus. Obedience, that is our obedience to His Word, is our true expression of love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for us. "If you love me you will obey me. If you keep my words and obey me, then truly you are MY disciples." 

    How? Feed the poor. Visit and care for the sick, entreat and care for the widows and orphaned. In other words, do what He did. Do His works. It's not "What would Jesus do; but what DID He do? I believe that this is how we demonstrate our LOVE for Jesus. Seek His face instead of His hand. Our blessing is a closer relationship with Him and eventually eternal life. 

    I want to thank you for all the work you have done, and your steadfast obedience to Jesus. Because of your obedience and work, I am walking in faith in what Jesus has done for me. I am on the road to eternal life. I now know Love, true love and I am able to share that love with others. There are so many others out there just like me and you have the ministry and vehicle to reach them. I don't know how many other hurting hearts and souls are out here that will receive your message, but if it is only just one like me, then you must keep going on. I believe in my heart of hearts that a crown awaits its place on your head. Please be welcome to my testimony and use it as you will. I love you in the Lord and I praise God that He brought me to your video on that day. It saved my Life and restored my soul.     YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-SHUAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!  

 Oh, how amazing is our loving heavenly Father!   I wish I could tell you all the stories because they are just so incredible.  There’s the story from the young man in Ireland who was engaged and had two children with his fiancé.  He had gambled away 60,000 pounds which was all the money he needed for his marriage and their life together.  He lost all hope and wrote his suicide note while sitting in his car.  Before he got to the place where he was going to kill himself, he came across my story video “Trusting God in the Storm” and found hope in Christ.  Six months later he sent me the pictures of he and his beautiful bride on their wedding day.  I told him how impossible it was for me to try to imagine him not being in the picture and I just praised God.

 There are local stories of women like Kay an office cleaning lady, or Mary a music teacher, who I’ve had divine “forgiveness” encounters with.  Mary, in her late 50’s, was sitting outside of a Starbucks when I said hello.  Filled with pain and anger from the long-term abuse of a pastor, she was just days away from filing a very public lawsuit.  She had met with the attorney that morning and was convinced this was the right thing to do.  God did a miracle, and in one moment as I led her through the words of Christ on forgiveness, and into a prayer of forgiveness towards the pastor from her heart, she stepped into total freedom.  She came up from the prayer an entirely different person, literally exclaiming, “I’m free Michael…I’m free…I’ve never felt this weightless in my life…I never knew I could get to this place”.  For the next several years Mary was floating each time I ran into her at Starbucks. 

The story of Kay, the commercial cleaning lady is almost identical.  I saw Kay cleaning the office building I was actually living homeless in for four months (more on this story later) and I discerned something was wrong.  She opened up about her two sisters having stolen everything from her mother’s will and leaving her out.  Her heart was filled with hate for them.  Her life was changed in a moment of God’s grace and freedom, as she too agreed to obey the teachings of Christ on forgiveness.  I led her through the prayer while she was shaking like a leaf.  She came up sobbing in tears as a completely different woman, taking the biggest freshest breath of her life and giving me a huge hug.  Two weeks later, she came running in, “Michael, Michael…I helped someone else get free just like you helped me to get free…she was changed in an instant.”  There is power in the kingdom of God to change lives.

 There’s the story of the brother in Mexico who watched my videos and became so convicted by the Holy Spirit that he decided to sell his Tattoo business and give up all for Jesus.  There’s Mansan, the Christian businessman in India who had been struggling in his walk and business with Christ for years, never experiencing the joy and peace of the Lord.  Upon finding my videos and emailing me, He surrendered everything risking it all for the Lord.  One year after his surrender and a journey through the John 7:17 Challenge, he wrote to me about the peace of Christ in his heart and the miracles he had seen in his life and business since and how very thankful he had been for my obedience to Christ.

 There are stories of men and women finally leaving abusive unfaithful spouses who violently opposed their faith in Christ for years, people leaving watered down churches and false teaching who are now experiencing personal revival, people giving up ungodly careers, ungodly relationships, getting free from sins that had enslaved them for years, waiting patiently for God to act in their life, abandoning their will for God’s, starting ministries of their own, incredible stories of forgiveness, and countless believers finally discovering life to the full in Christ.

 God is doing miracle after miracle in the hearts of His chosen children through this tiny little one man ministry, even changing hardened hearts and opening the eyes of the spiritually blind and leading them into the light.  This is an email I received just last night as a timely example.

Name: Margaret Easey

Email Address:  easymargaret@

Subject: One more thing

Message: You might have seen my name written all over your videos in the comments because I hated you and what you had to say. It was so much truth and light at times that I had to call you a deceiver because I didn't want to hear it.  But there was a part of me that did and I kept listening and now I see I need to free fall and let go of all my life by His grace.  I see now it is the only way it can be done. In a small way thank you because this is a big step for me.

Father God is indeed being magnified and glorified through the once chief of all fools, Michael Chriswell.  He has done far too much for me to be able to tell it all, but in this book I want to share the astonishing story and the main events of how it all happened through God’s astonishing grace.  May God bless you as you read!

Psalm 67:7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. 

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. 

Psalm 75:1 We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds.

When Satan Tempts You To Look Back There is a Blessing AHEAD

In this recording I share a recorded journal entry from 4.5 years ago, when Satan came at an "opportune" time and did something extraordinary in order to tempt me to "look back" and return to my old life and career. The temptation was fierce and Father allowed it to test me and once again see what was in my heart. Of course I didn't realize the full importance of the test then, but just a few months after I passed this test, the Lord asked me to serve him full time in this ministry of RelentlessHeart.com

The Path to Becoming a SPIRITUAL Man or Woman of God

This is a discussion Persis and I share about the differences between church, religion, traditions of men, programs, external righteousness and that of becoming a true spiritual man or woman of God. They can often look the same on the outside, but on the inside the differences are life and death.

 

The Proof and Blessing of Tested FAITH

All true Christians will be tested by God, even the faithful ones. Jeremiah declared this truth in Jer 20:12 when he said, "You (LORD) who test the righteous". This video is a story about a time when God tested me in the ministry and it made NO sense at all. Looking back, I can see clearly now what I couldn't see then.

 

Freedom in Christ Over ALL Addictions and Ungodly Habits

Addictions are masters which enslave you and there are many masters: Cigarette smoking, food, drink, TV, movies, music, entertainment, drugs, pornography, lust, being angry, unforgiveness, shopping, earning money, spending money, cleaning house, maintaining your property, foul language, honoring yourself, looking down on others, and on and on and on. The Bible teaches we must have only One Master in order to receive what God has for us, the Lord Jesus Christ. But how can we serve the One true master when we aren't free from all the others? We can't! That's why we must be set free!

 

The REWARDS of Obeying God Even When it Doesn't Make Sense

I share these stories with you so you will BELIEVE God and patiently wait for Him.  This is another powerful and undeniable evidence in my life, from four years ago, that you can NEVER go wrong when you OBEY God!  Obeying God is always a sacrifice in the beginning.  This is what tests our faith in Him and proves to Him that we believe Him and want His will over ours.  God's blessings and promises are almost always hidden behind, long periods of waiting, darkness, circumstances in life or even guidance from Him that COMPLETELY contradicts the promises, and persecutions from others for believing the promise.  Today's video is a perfect example of the matchless FAITHFULNESS of our Father in Heaven to His children who follow Him wholeheartedly!

ME and My PERVERTED NIV and The Foolish KJV Only Message

What really is the Best Bible translation?  Is the KJV the ONLY Bible without mistakes and the only one we should be reading?  Is it true that the other translations, especially the NIV, have all been intentionally PERVERTED by the devil to deceive us and prevent us from being saved?  

DOWNLOAD (mentioned in recording) HERE:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/czy6gk22evqslo7/ME%20and%20My%20Perverted%20NIV.pdf?dl=0

ALSO RECOMMENDED:  Seven Things You May Not Know About the KJV Bible:  http://newlife.id.au/church-history/7-things-about-the-king-james-bible/

Here is my personal response against this absolutely FOOLISH controversy which has so many "straining out gnats and swallowing camels" and which also serves to distract so many away from the work of God which is by faith.  

After you listen, please download and read the document called "Me and My Perverted NIV"  In this article, you will see listed the main accusations the KJV ONLY Defenders make against the NIV and then you will see point by point how absolutely shameful and RIDICULOUS these arguments are.  You'll see it's quite embarrassing for the KJV Only Camp, really!  Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

DOWNLOAD HERE:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/czy6gk22evqslo7/ME%20and%20My%20Perverted%20NIV.pdf?dl=0

Royalty Free Music by Mattia Cupelli

How To Overcome Doubt and Discouragement

This is a very special video to me. I recorded it on April 20th 2013, when I was having a very tough time in my walk with Christ. I wanted to share it with others to encourage them that I too was struggling with them. Based on what has happened since, and the fact that this was the next video in line to be published and that TODAY is Persis and I's ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY, this video is SUCH a blessing to me and reminder of Father's A M A Z I N G Faithfulness. I know you will be encouraged by this video to keep going and to keep trusting Christ!