In October of 2009 I was newly dedicated to Christ. I decided I was going to stop gambling and had been attending addictions classes for the past few weeks, when God put together his first fateful divine appointment in my life.
The story takes place on a Tuesday night, but the ball begins rolling for its apex on the preceding Friday. I had gone to Tc Hooligans with my sister and brother in law and paid with my debit card. Somehow the card was split in half. Whether or not that has anything to do with the fact the waitress never gave it back to me, I don't know.
Four days later, I found myself in the neighborhood of a girl whom had broken up with me a few days earlier. When I looked down her street , I saw her new boyfriends car in the driveway. The aggravation of this caused me to begin driving to the casino in Buffalo. I had been about three weeks or so "clean."
As I drove thru Greece on my way to Buffalo I had to pick up some cash to gamble with. I had a 3000 dollar check from a poker site and was going to cash it at my bank, Esl. Well, I couldn't find any Esl's in Greece but I did find an ATM machine. By now I was vascillating and could feel the spiritual warfare going on in this situation. I reached into my wallet and couldn't find my debit card anywhere. Then I remembered I must have left it at Hooligan's four days before. It's the first time I remember losing my debit card in a place other then the ATM machine.
So here was my problem: I couldn't gain any access to money to gamble with. I was a half hour from home and only had a few bucks in my pocket. At first I was angry in regards to my bad luck, but as I calmed down I knew it was not luck at all. God had started the ball rolling four days earlier, knowing I would be challenged to gamble on this day.
The story gets better. As I gripped reality I decided I wasn't going to go to the casino ( Doesn't sounds like I had much choice, does it?), but I would instead go to addictions counseling that night.
As I sat in group counseling, an African American man of about 45 years of age, began to share of his life as a drug addict. He shared a story of a time he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Yes, died. He said he was pronounced dead and subsuquently revived. What he described he saw in his instance of death was daunting and haunting.
He said when he died he was taken to hell. He said he remembers the fires and the screams. He remembered seeing people in chains and cages yelling for help. His most succint description was of the heat of it all; the raw, molten, heat.
This man whose name I do not know, was revived and came back to earth. He said upon learning of hell's fury that he hoped to never go back there again.
After I listened to this story I remember God speaking to me so clearly. When God speaks you don't hear a voice audibly, but you hear a voice in your head that you know is not yours. You know its not yours because it is so peaceful and overcoming and seperate from your own day to day mindful conscience.
What God was saying to me was " This man just shared of hell and how awful it was, but ask him if he has accepted me as his God since then." So in front of about 10 people and upon Jesus's instruction, I said this. " Sir, I don't want to put you on the spot. But I think God wants me to ask you if you have done anything since that day to ensure you don't go back there upon your final death?"
The man said he had not. He said he was not worthy to be a christian because he had done bad things. He even said he was unworthy because he smoked.Imagine that;there are people out there who have not been ministered to properly enough that they actually believe cigarettes can seperate you from the God who made you.
We as a group explained to him that is exactly why he was worthy. We all have done bad things. We all our sinners. Thats why we need the Lord. We fall short without him.
This mystery man accepted the Lord that night. We all applauded and told him he will assuredly never have to experience that pain or that heat again. It was something so obvious to some of us; I mean be honest, if you went to hell and came back, wouldn't you make sure you never go back again?
This man hadn't dealt with it in the years since his experience. Maybe nobody ever told him how to get to heaven. Maybe the lies of unworthiness were so binding that he thought he deserved hell.
When I think of all that happened that week it was so clearly God. He allowed me to lose my debit card,and while upset about my personal life, allowed me to see him so clearly in my moment of weakness. All because he needed me at that meeting that night to hear from him, and to speak to a man who had literally been to hell and back. I'll never forget that divine day;One that would have led me to a casino without God's graceful intervention.
I'll also never forget that day because it was the first time God had given me the privilege to be used in bringing someone to Christ....And undisputably enough, God knew he needed me there that night specifically. ....After that Tuesday night in October of 2009, I never saw that mystery man again.....