God I promise Ill commit my life to you, if you will bring my mother back. The prayer was answered instantly! The first thing the following morning I got up, washed, shaved, and had breakfast. I was ready! I could feel it in the air - something had happened the previous night. Then the phone rang. It was my sister, Rosemary. Mum walked into the New Zealand embassy last night! She will be flying out tomorrow! The arrangements have all been made and they will allow her to travel unescorted.
She will be in New Zealand in about three days.
I tried to tell Rosemary what I had done the previous night but she wasnt listening, so I stopped. She continued with the other arrangements of her picking Mum up and taking her straight to hospital and then she hung up.
Praise you Lord. Praise, praise you Lord! I said out loud, and then thought, I am yours now!
I can totally understand where my sister was coming from to write this off as a coincidence; any normal, thinking person would do so, not knowing God or the circumstances leading up to this.
It sure took a bit to bring me to this stage. In fact, since fifteen or sixteen years old, I can clearly remember praying to God to show Himself. In the following years He did so, placing His hand over my life - how else did I survive? But I was looking in the other direction. When I was sixteen, I was in the process of lowering a bucket over a thirty foot cliff collecting shell fish off the rock bellow when the strap on my sandal broke, causing me to loose my balance and fall over the cliff. I can remember grabbing at various objects as I went down, missing everything. I braced myself hands forward, as I slammed face down into the rocks below. My only injuries were a dislocated left shoulder and a bone chipped in that elbow, now requiring a pin.
I had just started my apprenticeship, and while test-running a refrigeration system, my hand slipped off the screw driver and into the contacts. I can clearly remember electrical power running all the way up my arm and into my chest just before I was thrown off. Any further and it would have been into my heart.
Around that same time, I was a passenger in the back of a van after a social club binge. These were the days when most vehicles didnt have seatbelts. The driver misjudged a corner and slid into a powerpole, hitting the pole exactly where I was sitting. I was thrown across the interior of the van, smashing a wooden crate filled with bottles with my head. I woke up, getting pulled out of the wreck by an ambulance crew.
When I was eighteen, my boss asked me to pressurize an old Norge fridge with a dangerous gas, as he looked on. The Norge fridge had double layers of steel panel on the back. As I was pressurizing the fridge, I had my hand on the top of the motor (compressor). The motor exploded, peeling open like a banana, throwing shrapnel in all directions. The top of the motor that I had been holding was blown straight through the top of the fridge like it didnt exist, and into the ceiling of the building. I in turn was thrown several feet, landing under the workshop bench, with the two panels of steel blown off the fridge and wrapped around me. Shrapnel tore through the first layer of steel, and dented the second layer, with only one piece of shrapnel striking me, causing a minor cut to my ankle. I had skin blown off my face and hands and both eardrums were perforated, but with time it all healed.
When I was 23, I worked in Papua New Guinea. Only twice in my life have I missed flights and both times they ended up a major blessing. On one occasion I had a job I needed to get to in the Highlands of PNG. Due to various reasons I was half an hour late, missing the flight. The next flight, several hours later, took us over the wreckage of the first flight - no one had survived.
Through all this, I still turned a blind eye, saying I had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I had never acknowledged or recognized the Lord in my life and had reached the point of writing Him off, even though as kids, my two sisters and I had been sent to an Anglican Sunday school.
We were brought up by our mother, our father having left us when I was four. Mum had many interests, most connected to her main interest, yoga. This is based upon the Hindu religion, and like many people, Mum was drawn into an interest in this as well as other eastern religions, and their connected philosophies. Through mums influence, I tried to see if God was real by searching through various eastern religions along with the Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, etc. But their views werent mine, and I saw things that just didnt add up.
During the period of 1979-80 I got involved with a man named Mike from a local church, but all it meant to me was a filler-in of time, easing some of the loneliness I felt. Unfortunately, I disagreed with some of their views, left their church and went seeking God elsewhere.
By the beginning of 1985, my life, my business (refrigeration),
everything I felt secure in had come crashing down around me.
Totally isolated from my family, with five workshop shifts in
two and a half months and a smashed vehicle, I ended up owing
over forty thousand dollars, had an apprentice under contract
and no work. Also, my mother had a serious breakdown and was lost
in England for over six months.
It all began when I lost the lease on my workshop. I had to shift back to my mothers home unit where I was also living, and set up a workshop in her garage and home! We lost a substantial number of our customers. I stayed at my mothers place for about ten months. She then decided to take a trip overseas, at which time I located a shop out of town at a place called Papamoa, and began negotiations for the lease. I shifted into the shop before the lease was drawn up, paying a weeks rent in advance. I had to build an office straight away as temporary accommodation with the landlords agreement.
In this time I still hadnt written God off. When a pair of Mormon missionaries turned up at my shop, I again opened myself up to their religion and became involved. I was now genuinely seeking the Truth, but not through Christianity. One of the things that interested me with the Mormons was the way they looked after each family within their church, and generally supported each other. They showed more love and sensitivity than do many so-called Christians.
But things just did not add up in their theology. Three times, as I started reading the Book of Mormon, I found things that I felt werent right. Each time, when I pointed these out to their missionaries, they couldnt answer me straight away but had to go away and pray for an answer.1 They would return several days later with an answer, but finally said the best thing for me to do was to pray that the truth of the book would be revealed to me. And so that night, I prayed to God to put me on to the right religion.
Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you Matthew 7:7.
Within a week of that prayer, instead of Mormons turning up, Mike showed up, along with Kelly - a friend I had know since we were five years old. Kelly had brought me a Bible. I genuinely started reading the Bible for the first time, and this time I started in the New Testament, which I had never read previously. Unlike what I had just been reading in the The Book of Mormon, I found what I read to be accurate to known history. In the weeks that followed I continued reading the Bible most nights.
Circumstances forced me to shift again - twice!. During this time, I took my truck to a garage for repairs. During a test run, my truck was smashed, costing over $2,500 for repairs. Although the truck was covered by insurance, I had to hire a van for more than a month, and the cheque for the rental was lost. (Later on it was found, but at the time it added to everything else.)
Without my knowledge, Kelly started praying for some proper
accommodation and a decent business location for me. Within a
week, I had a cheap house to rent and a shop in a perfect position
- on the main road, with amazingly cheap rent. In a period of
two and a half months, the workshop had gone through five complete
shifts, until I was able to get this permanent location.
Work started to pick up. Several weeks later, Kelly arrived and told me about the prayer, and asked me when I got the shop and house - if I had gotten them at the same time as he had prayed. I lied and said it wasnt, and again went ahead and did my own thing. I allowed pride to get in the way. I wanted to show that I was capable of providing for myself with no one elses help including Gods. Work totally dried up again, to such a degree that I couldnt afford the low rent on the house I had been renting ($60 a week), and ended up living illegally in the back of my shop. All the time, I was reading the Bible but not making any commitments or recognition of God.
I was working till two or three in the morning, trying to set the shop up and straighten out the books. After each nights work, I would leave my truck at my Mothers place and bike back to work, because if the vehicle was left overnight at work it would be too obvious what I was doing. This continued for a couple of months and there was very little financial work. Eventually, my business got to the stage of owing over $40,000.
Quarter to six one night, I received a call from an uncle. He informed me that mum was missing in England with a nervous breakdown and hadnt been heard from for several months, except for once, when she was found in Nottingham but had disappeared again.
Since the time I had left my mothers house, I had been completely isolated from the family, except for the uncle who secretly informed of my mothers condition. Everyone had lost touch with her for over 3 months in England, and had placed her on the missing persons list. It reached the stage where we had almost written her off as dead. I was drinking heavily and smoking pot. Everything was coming apart at the seams (the consequences of doing things my way, instead of Gods). I was desperate, with no one to turn to except Jesus and a bunch of Christians I had come to know.
One evening several weeks later, Kelly bounced into my new shop, his normal joyful self. He inquired How are things going?
I uttered, Works dead.
Before I could reply, Kelly slapped a hand on my shoulder. He prayed a brief, almost childlike prayer, asking for work for me.
Usually, after working late into the night, I would get up and start business around 8.30 in the following morning. But the following morning - 7.30 to be precise, there was a scraping, banging noise outside the shop and then a knocking on the door. Before I had opened up, people were dropping off fridges to be serviced outside the shop! And that was just the start of the day.
Being a bit slow on the uptake, I wrote the whole thing off as coincidence, and two weeks later I was back to the same stage with the work dead and me into heavy duty escapism from reality.
Again Kelly turned up at the shop, and again he prayed for more work. The following day a person phoned who gave me enough work for two and a half months - a man I had never met, who had no connections with any of us. Plus other work came in that day.
Things started to come together and I began to consider seriously the possibilities of God. I returned to Mikes house group that week and asked the group to pray for mum. That night, as a non-Christian, I felt the Lord speak to me and say that mum was alive, but I had to get things right with my family (two sisters), before He would bring her back. I was so convinced, that I phoned my sisters - who hadnt spoken to me for about four months. I told them that if there was any way I could be of assistance I was there and available. They were wondering what my motives were, but I didnt mention anything about the previous night and just left it at that. I also felt that the Lord had shown me that when mum came back, her garden would be full of flowers. With mum having been away now for four months the gardens were overgrown, with no flowers whatsoever. I started mowing her lawns and looking after the place every weekend. I also began attending church every Sunday and even got involved with Mikes group who were organizing a Christian float to enter the citys annual Orange Festival Parade.
On a number of occasions, I asked the Lords forgiveness for the mess that I had created, - Believe me, I sure had created some. I now believed in God. About a month and a half after this, about two and a half months after I had first felt the Lord speak to me, I had been continuously reading the Bible every day and night and attending church. My sisters were now speaking to me and keeping me informed about mum, although there was little news. After a good days work, as I biked back to the workshop that morning, I was very depressed. I felt I had done everything God had requested, and I thought God had promised that when I did these things, Mum would come back to me. I had felt this way for several days, since I first noticed the garden now to be flowering, and then it came to me! I got down in the middle of my shop and offered to God my life for Mums. I had never, ever seriously given my life to God before this. The prayer was instantly answered, with Mum back in New Zealand in three days.
The Lord started instantly cutting away the things of my past, and one of the first things He started at was to teach me about His Father - my Heavenly Father. I was invited by Kelly that day to a mens camp that weekend. Unknown to me, it was all about fathers and one thing I never had was a father. Mine had left when I was four years old, and I didnt see him again until I was about fifteen. At the camp I found it to be a real breaking point. Its amazing how He knows way beforehand whats going to happen and how He arranges things to suit our needs.
I went through some testing times, much of it relating to my attitudes toward God, as He later revealed to me. I was treating my relationship with Him as simply a business deal that I had made with Him and was therefore following through with it. I still owed forty thousand dollars, and I was getting to a stage with the trials that, even after all the Lord had done, I was beginning to think it all a coincidence and I was just kidding myself.
After an exceptionally testing day, I went to see a member of our church who prayed for me for greater faith. The following day, I found out that ten air-conditioners that I had asked Kelly and his company to install on my behalf were actually different types - four of one type and six of another and it was critical where each was located. Due to various reasons, none of us had been aware of any differences. To top it all off, they had been thoroughly rearranged before installation To relocate them was a major job, and I could see the business owing up to seventy thousand dollars. To put it mildly, I was freaking out! I prayed that every one of the air-conditioners would be in the correct place, and as I entered the building I prayed again. I dont know how to describe the feeling of nervousness as I lifted each ceiling tile and checked each unit. Every one was perfect!
I also had to remove some refrigerant from one system due to it being slightly over charged and increase the charge in another. I found that the full gas bottle had been removed from the van, leaving me with no gas, so I prayed to the Lord that there would be enough gas in the overcharged system to top up the undercharged. You guessed it - perfect!. Praise the Lord! The problems we were having with the systems we found out later were due to the owner and the design engineers.
There were six months left in that year and I was able to pay the entire forty thousand dollars back during that period and even made a profit ! That doesnt mean that I ended up making heaps of money. The beginning of the following year I felt the Lord speak to me through my pastor when he said he felt the Lord was speaking to one member of the congregation where the Lord was going to supply this person all his needs and he was not to go and chase it as He is going to teach them about trusting in Him. This is fairly rare as the Lord usually expects us to do something about bringing in whats required. The next week at my house group (which was from a different church), we separated up into little prayer groups - three members in each one. The other two members in my group both prophesied, and came up with the same thing for me!. In the two years that I remained in business, I never advertised, except twice to let people know of a change in the phone number.
You dont need to believe anything that I have written
here; I know that it is easy to explain everything away as coincidence.
Look carefully, and bring the known facts together regarding the
life of Jesus Himself. The very basis of the New Testament is
the resurrection of Jesus and from this point, everything else
must fall together. I find that Robert D. Linder expresses my
thoughts perfectly in his introduction for Eerdmans Handbook
to the History of Christianity, when he describes the difficulty
he has believing that Christianity could have ever existed without
the early Church being certain beyond doubt of the bodily resurrection
of Christ. He goes on to say that this confidence alone could
have motivated a small band of frightened, disillusioned disciples
to boldly spread their faith throughout the world, regardless
of the consequences.
Indeed, Paul himself says in his first epistle to the Corinthians, If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:17) This immediately does away with religious groups that deny Jesus literal, physical resurrection from the dead. To believe in God, you have to believe in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and all that they entail as they shine the reality and true loving character of God forward.
It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. But God has shown us how much He loves us - it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8.
Each of the early apostles willingly gave up their lives furthering the spread of the gospel because of their complete confidence in the reality of these events. From recorded history, we learn that each of the twelve apostles except for John were martyred (often brutally) and John died in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
Is Jesus real? My experience, along with countless millions says, Yes, He has to be. But the choice to believe, and what you do with that belief, are yours to make!