Living in Van Nuys, California, my life was completely preoccupied with airplanes and flying. Working as a young flight instructor and charter pilot at the Van Nuys Airport, I would open the school’s doors at 6:00 a.m., and then I would close them at 10:00 p.m. I was thoroughly enjoying my life, and enjoying all that I was doing.
During this time, my younger brother, John, had just graduated from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, and due to his language skills, was promptly hired by the original Pan American World Airways as a flight attendant. His training classes were scheduled to take place in Hawaii, so on his way out to Hawaii he stopped in Los Angeles for a week to visit. He and I shared my apartment which allowed us to get acquainted again. During his four years at Syracuse he was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, and I noticed an incredible change in his life. Being only 14 months younger than me, he and I had been involved in plenty of childhood mischief together; then, loose and immoral lifestyles as young adults. I was expecting to see the good old John which I had known for years. As it turns out, I met a different John; one who had changed into an honorable, godly young man. He caught me off guard, and I wasn’t sure how to handle myself around him. All I could do was observe his lifestyle and watch him operate.
Within three days of arriving in Los Angeles, my brother had found a church, was attending a Bible study, had made dozens of friends, and his new Bible study was already praying for me.
For the previous five years I had been working every day at the airport, and my entire social network included three other pilots, one secretary, and a couple of my students. Within three days of arriving in Los Angeles, my brother had found a church, was attending a Bible study, had made dozens of friends, and his new Bible study was already praying for me. All I could do was sit back and observe this family of total strangers welcome my brother in and treat him with love and kindness as one of theirs, from day one. I can’t help but admit that I was impressed with everything I saw in his life, but the draw of my three times weekly trips to Las Vegas with my students was still far more interesting.
Within a few days of John moving in with me, Pan American called to tell him that his training class in Hawaii had been cancelled, and that there was no new date scheduled. They would get back to him. His heart sank. Unbeknownst to either one of us, the hand of God had just moved.
Rather than sit around my apartment and be depressed over this news, he decided to put pen to paper and document an incredible trip he took overland to India, resulting in his coming to know Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Even though his life was not going the way he had planned, the Lord was providing for his every need; church, Bible study, fellowship, task, transportation, and free housing. He accepted all of it, from the bad news from Pan Am to his predicament in Los Angeles with joy in his heart, a smile on his face, and total peace about everything. I observed it all.
Within a couple of weeks of his arrival, my brother invited me to attend his church, which I did. Conviction began to set in that very first Sunday. The pastor was standing behind his pulpit preaching away when he made a point during his sermon. Using his index finger, he pointed to the crowd and quoted 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many pangs.” I knew in my heart that the riches of this world were something that I wanted too; and that I was setting out to pursue.
My brother and I know each other very well. He knew that if he took his Bible and began waving it in my face and pointing his righteous finger at me condemning me of my rebellious ways, I would probably ask him to leave. So he didn’t; instead, he showed me his life. Every morning, before he began writing, he would read his Bible and pray while kneeling beside the cot I had rented him, and placed in the living room. I knew my brother, the old John, and that was not normal for him, something was different about him, something had changed – big time! I knew my brother well enough to know that he was not faking it, this was genuine.
For God So Loved…
A few weeks later, when my brother felt the time was right, he asked me to read one verse from the Bible with him. It was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
He didn’t stop there. He then asked me to personalize that same verse from the Bible, and he asked me read it again; For God so loved Jeff, that He gave His only begotten Son, that if Jeff believes in Him, then Jeff shall not perish, but Jeff shall have everlasting life.
Reading John 3:16 the second time while personalizing it was the first time in my life that I realized God was real, that He knew me, that He loved me, that He cared for me, and that He was willing to die for me; a total stranger who couldn’t care less about Him or His love for me. Guilt began to fill my heart.
My brother then asked me if I believed in Heaven. I said yes I did. He asked me if I knew who created heaven. I said that God created heaven. Then my brother asked me who determines the entrance requirements into my apartment. I said I did, because it is my apartment. Then he quietly said, “Doesn’t God have the right to determine the entrance requirements into His heaven?” Without knowing any theology, and without knowing anything about the Bible, I knew right then that if God owned the keys to heaven, and if He were considering me right now for entrance into His heaven, then I was in big trouble. My conscience told me, in no uncertain terms, based on my life, my eternity in God’s heaven was extremely doubtful.
An Awakening Conscience
John explained to me that before God could deal with my sin, I had to believe that I was a sinner. Well, that caused some resistance because I had never been a murderer, nor had I ever been a thief, nor a rapist. I had always been a nice, upstanding citizen with only two, or maybe three traffic violations on my entire record. I thought that was pretty good! That is when he explained to me that God has a standard for entrance into His heaven, and that standard is absolute perfection and obedience to His whole law. In fact, it is even a command. In Mathew 5:48 Jesus says,”Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect,” and James writes in his second chapter and tenth verse, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
I felt I was being let off the hook because the Law was in the Old Testament and must have been for people 3,500 years ago, not for people living in the twentieth century. Then my brother brought me right back to the reality of my sin: he asked me if I had ever lied before; not at some point this week, but at any time in my entire life. Well, I had to say yes. He told me that is a violation of God’s ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” making me a liar! Then he asked me if I have ever stolen anything in my entire life. Again, going all the way back to my childhood, I would have to say yes again. So, he explained that I was in violation of God’s seventh commandment, “You shall not steal,” making me a thief! John then asked me a third, and final question, “Have you ever looked upon a woman with a lustful thought in your mind?” Unfortunately I would have to say yes there as well, making me a violator of God’s tenth commandment, and therefore making me a fornicator!
In about 90 seconds, he established that in the Lord’s eyes I was a liar, a thief, and a fornicator. As he walked me through the rest of the commandments it was clear that I was in violation and guilty of all Ten Commandments and unable to reason my way out of any judgment that may bring. My heart began to quicken as I realized the world of hurt I was in should I have had to stand before the Lord and give an account then. My thoughts now began to turn to a simple question, “What do I do now to get myself out of this mess?”
My brother continued to explain to me that the penalty for sin is death; physical death which we are all suffering from, and spiritual death, eternal separation form God in hell. The Apostle Paul writes in the Book of Romans:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He also writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” found in chapter 5, verse 8. My heart was now racing with the correlation between sin, death, and Jesus Christ. God demands perfection in thought, word, and deed. I had failed miserably on all counts and was deserving of death, both physical and spiritual. It was at this point that my brother explained to me the grace and mercy of God. Despite our continuous desire to turn from God and run the other way, He is still there, loving us, waiting for us, and willing to pay the penalty required of our sin for us. God has done that by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross as payment in full for our sin. He now offers this free gift of salvation to all people who are willing to repent of their sins, and believe in who Jesus is, and what He has done for us on the cross, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). At this point my brother stopped, knowing that I have heard the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the good news of Jesus Christ, that God has sent His Son Jesus Christ to save sinners who are destined to be punished for their sin. This gift of salvation is offered free, and is received by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Within a couple of days, Pan Am called John back and told him to report to Hawaii to resume training classes. He was ecstatic! On his day of departure I dropped him off at the airport, then drove back to my apartment, alone again. During my drive home I couldn’t stop thinking about everything he had told me and all the verses of scripture I had read. What pierced my heart to the quick was when I opened the door to my apartment, I saw his cot made, everything cleaned up perfectly, and a small gift left on his cot for me. I simply stood in the doorway and looked at that small gift. It was at that moment that I understood the love of Christ for a sinful and rebellious man. I was the rebellious sinner who longed for the lifestyle found in Las Vegas, and the like. Despite my sin, my brother had the love and compassion to keep praying for me, wait for the best time, then share the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ with me, and to also give me a gift, which he placed on the cot.
The next morning, March 14, 1980, the Lord opened my heart to the love and mercy of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and I have been walking with Him ever since.
This is my personal testimony of how the Lord Jesus Christ opened my heart, and transformed my heart to seek Him, rather than to flee Him. Testimonies such as this one happen every day, all around the world. The Lord calls men and women to Himself every day from every country, language, and culture. You may have read my testimony today and feel the Lord pulling on your heart. My prayer for you is that you would not resist his calling, but simply realize your sin, repent of your sin, and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord, as your Savior, as your Messiah.
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