You know Jesus loved to tell stories. And people like to hear stories of other people. We like stories where someone rises out of the ashes like the phoenix and somehow things turn out better in the end. But most of our lives don't really work that way.
There are highs and lows and there are ups and downs. Well that's a perfect setup for what we have for you today on Focus on the Family. We're gonna hear one of those stories with all the twists and turns that are common to this life.
Your host is Focus President Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. John, our guest is Greg Laurie and he's going to share a fascinating testimony today and next time. And let me just say, if you're having a hard time dealing with a difficult childhood, man, I understand. I've been there. Stay with us because Greg's story is going to illustrate the fact that God can help you overcome any type of upbringing. And I tell you what, this is a message of hope, not despair.
It really is. And here's Greg Laurie speaking at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California on today's episode of Focus on the Family. I was born in the 50's. And I have to tell you, that was kind of a cool time to be alive. Elvis was king before he got fat. James Dean was a movie star. Kennedy. John Kennedy was still a senator.
Ike was the president. You could buy a handful of candy for a penny and for 25 cents you could get yourself a killer burger with all of the trimmings. And we would watch shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver and I Love Lucy. And not having a father around I kind of looked to those television fathers for wisdom. I would listen very carefully to what Beaver's dad would tell him when he took him into the den, you know, and gave him a little lecture.
Or what the dad on the Father Knows Best show would say. But there was to be trouble in paradise. My mom Charlene McDaniel was a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. And men beat a quick path to her and she ended up getting married seven different times.
And five of those men ended up being my stepfathers. It was the early 50s. Long Beach California was filled with sailors. And Charlene had no problem attracting them with her platinum blonde hair and come hither look.
And one day a particular sailor who was originally from Canada. He was supposedly good on the dance floor. Had strawberry blonde hair.
He and Charlene had some fun. Apparently fell into bed that night. And a child was conceived. And my mom ultimately decided to name that child Gregory.
This child was conceived out of wedlock. This child was me. So I was illegitimate.
And I have to tell you something. When you find out you are illegitimate that you weren't planned that is kind of disconcerting. Because you ask yourself the question was I even meant to be? Was I a mistake? Is my life an accident?
Or does God have a plan for me despite my rather inauspicious beginnings? Well my mom was in full party mode at this point in her life. And her beauty was at full wattage. And what I remember most about my childhood is always having to say goodbye to my mother. Because she was always leaving. I just couldn't understand why she didn't ever want to be around me.
And I just think my mom was thinking about finding her own personal happiness and chasing her own dreams. And so I got passed around a lot. I live with an aunt here and I live with my grandparents quite a bit. My grandparents Stella and Charles McDaniel were from Friendship, Arkansas. My grandfather he was a harsh disciplinarian.
You did not want to cross them because you knew when you did you were going to pay a dear price. My grandmother wasn't really big on giving a lot of hugs but boy she really knew how to cook comfort food. Then my mom decided that I should spend some time with her and I would spend a little time with her. Then I would go back to my grandmother's house again. Then she put me in military school two times in my life.
And I can tell you honestly I didn't like that one bit. And I would spend time with my mom. And when she was in party mode it was pretty scary. She would usually come home late at night. It would be two or three in the morning. There would be a little talking. A few more drinks. Some loud arguing.
Some things crashing. Fighting starting. And it would always escalate. And that pretty much was my normal childhood that I grew up with for my early years. My mom always seemed to draw the wrong kind of guys. Guys who smoked and cussed and reeked of bad cologne. Guys who drove fancy sports cars and talked big.
She always drew these guys to herself. And I remember not really liking any of them. Guys that would tell me to disappear so they could spend some time with my mom. And I have to tell you I saw things a child should never see. And I won't tell you what those things were.
But there were things no child should be exposed to. But I learned how to be independent. I learned how to take care of myself. I had to grow up fast because not only did I have to care for myself I had to care for my mom. Because sometimes she would pass out drunk and I would have to get her to bed for the night. I felt I was there to protect her. I had to care for her. And the thing that was hardest for me when I was with my grandparents or someone else is I would think, who is going to take care of my mother? Who is going to watch out for her?
That is my job. Well one day she meets this guy that is different than all of the others. He doesn't smoke. He doesn't really drink.
He doesn't drive a sports car. And he wears a tie and all of his buttons are fastened properly. His name was Oscar Laurie. He was the finest man I had ever met. And Oscar took an interest in me unlike all these other guys my mom got involved with. And he even gave me his name. That is why I am named Oscar.
No. My last name Laurie. And he did what a dad should do. He taught me things. And he helped me to be responsible. And he gave me an allowance. And I had to do my chores for my allowance. And one day he took me down to the local jail there in Summit, New Jersey where we were living and introduced me to all the prisoners trying to scare me off from a life of crime.
I loved Oscar. And I happily called him Dad without any hesitation. Well one day I was getting out of school on a cold New Jersey afternoon and my mom had the Cadillac loaded up with all of our luggage. And I met her after school. I said, where are we going? She said, we are going to Hawaii. Well I had never been to Hawaii before. My heart leapt. I was so excited. Hawaii.
That is wonderful. Where is Dad? She said, he is not coming. And I didn't see Oscar again. I land in Hawaii and waiting for us at the airport is a guy I have never laid eyes on before. I will call him Eddie. Eddie owned a bar in Waikiki Beach underneath a hotel. And he was a big man.
He was a man who did a lot of drinking and a lot of cussing. And he was kind of the guy my mom had been drawn to in the past. And you know at first I kind of liked it because after all it was Hawaii. But what was weird was when they took me to Eddie's house and I was introduced to my room it was an exact replication of the room that I had in New Jersey. They had even taken the time to put toys in it that were like the ones I had back there. It is like they were saying, here is your new facsimile home and your new facsimile Dad.
Forget about Oscar. This is your new Dad. I couldn't call Eddie Dad. Something snapped at me at that point.
I thought, I can't do this anymore. So I had a nickname. I think I called him Diddley or something like that is my compromise. And I hung around in that bar a lot. And at nighttime as everyone got more inebriated it would become more frightening because Eddie had an explosive temper. And he was quick to fly off the handle at the littlest thing. And my mom and him would fight many times and sometimes they would break lamps. And one time they broke the plate glass window of the house and the police were called.
This was my normal life. But one night it went even further. I was in bed asleep and I heard the fighting and the screaming and a loud thump and I went out into the front room to find my mom laying on the floor unconscious with a pool of blood coming out of her head.
Eddie was standing over her six foot plus of him holding a heavy wooden statue with blood on it. I looked at him. I looked at my mom and he said, you go back to bed. It is just ketchup.
Well even a little kid knew that wasn't ketchup. Terrified I ran into my room and then I went out of my window and ran to a neighbor's house and I pounded on the door and they called a paramedic. And thankfully my mom did not die.
She left Eddie. And we came back to Southern California again. And my mom continued to be involved with this guy and that guy. And somewhere along the line I started developing this ability to draw. It was sort of like my escape from the crazy world I was living in. So I would create these little cartoon characters and they would have their little adventures. I even did a drawing of an amusement park and I called it Lori Land. Guess where I got that idea. And I just thought you know in Lori Land there is no fighting. There is no screaming.
There is no cussing. But I determined at that point that that is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a cartoonist. Now my older cousin Wayne was a psychologist. And as part of his schooling back at that point he did some tests on me and later told me, and this is a quote from cousin Wayne, it says, There was a lot of anger in Greg. A lot of rebellion. Although I don't know if it was the most doesn't have to be dependent on your past.
There are no foregone conclusions. Because when God breaks into your story everything changes. I was going to Corona No More High School. And I had become rather popular. I climbed a little social ladder. I was hanging out with all the cool football players and the cheerleaders.
I was a school cartoonist. And I am hanging out with these other kids. And you know at this point I am beginning to think, you know, life is pretty good and pretty soon we are going to parties on Palm Springs. And next thing I know there I am with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other partying with the gang.
And I am thinking, wait a second. Isn't this my mom's life? Isn't this a life I said I never wanted to live.
How did I end up here so I decided I should change my life? And drugs were becoming popular at this point were in the mid 60s. And I remember watching the Ed Sullivan Show one night when these four mysterious lads from Liverpool showed up called the Beatles. They played their guitars and sang their songs. And my grandparents thought they were horrible. And I thought they were totally cool. Well now fast forward a number of years and those lads from Liverpool that once sang, I Want to Hold Your Hand are now singing, I Would Love to Churn You On. But I saw a film that we had to watch in class called Reefer Madness.
It was made in the 50s. And it showed these kids smoking marijuana and they became raving lunatics. And I kind of believed it. So the first time I smoked pot and didn't go completely nuts I thought they were lying to me.
They were trying to keep something back from me. And pretty soon I was doing that more and more. And I heard about something called LSD. So now I am into drugs. And I am thinking, you know I have got to get out of this school.
I am tired of this life at Corona Del Mar where I know everybody. Because over at Harbor High School, which was only a few miles away, there was a full blown drug scene going on there. And I thought I am going to transfer to Harbor High and I am going to become a hippie. And then I was starting to see the effects of drugs.
No. I didn't lose my mind like they said I would in Reefer Madness. But another thing started happening as I smoked pot pretty much every day.
I just became a completely apathetic person. All my creative juices were going down the tubes. And instead of drawing my little adventures and cartoon people and all the things going on I just kept drawing mushrooms. Mushrooms. More mushrooms. And marijuana leaves.
You know. I remember one night we were down on Laguna Beach. We were going down to buy a trunk load of marijuana. Not to sell. I was never a dealer.
I was just a user. We were going to smoke it all ourselves. And I was in the back seat and one of my loaded friends, that 60s vernacular for under the influence, was driving and the car started to careen out of control because it was a rainy night and we were near one of the cliffs there on Laguna. And I thought, we are going to go right over the side and I am going to die and the newspaper headline tomorrow is going to be, Drug Dealers Die in Solo Spin Out.
And there will be Warden June Cleaver having their morning coffee and chomping on their toes saying, serves them right the deviants. See I didn't want to die this way. I said, God if you are real make yourself real to me. And God caused that car to get straightened out. We didn't get into a wreck. We didn't go off any cliff. And I said, thanks God.
See you next crisis. See I always believed there was a Jesus. I had seen all of his movies.
I like them. He had an interesting story. But I always thought someone should rewrite the end because my feeling was I don't like this whole part about Jesus dying.
I like him doing miracles and teaching and doing wonderful things. Why do they have to kill him? Someone should rewrite that script.
It is a really bad idea. Well now I am just going deeper now into this pit of drugs. I am taking LSD pretty much on the weekends and one weekend I have a bad trip. That is sixties vernacular for I lost my mind basically under the influence of it. I looked in a mirror and my face was melting. I saw a skeleton. I heard a voice saying to me over and over again, you are going to die. You are going to die.
And I thought, Ok. I have got to get out of this drug thing. But where do I go now? I mean what is life about?
I am just a 17 year old kid. I was searching. I just didn't know what I was searching for.
I used to hang around down in Newport Beach and I remember watching Jesus freaks down there hand out their religious literature and I would give them a scowl and they would hand little tracts out to everybody and they would come up to me and not want to actually make contact. Just sort of toss it at me almost and I would take it like I didn't care and stuff it in my pocket. But deep inside I was saying, will you please talk to me. Will you break this down for me.
I need someone to tell me what this all means. And I saved all that religious literature they gave me and I took it home and I had a drawer at home in my bedroom and I kept it all there. And every now and then I would pull the drawer out and empty it on my bed and try to make rhyme or reason out of all this stuff.
Well I am at Harbor High School now. I pretty much decided that the answer is not in the things I have chased after. It was like process of elimination.
But what is the answer in? Well my friends had warned me about the Jesus freaks. They said, Greg whatever you do be careful. Don't go near the Jesus freaks.
They said, as if I am going to become a Jesus freak. I mean it is like a joke. Are you serious. Me. No way. And I would watch them. And I thought they were collectively nuts.
I will be honest with you. This is all an act. You just get together in the morning and you pretend to love one another. See because they were living the reality of what the whole hippie culture promised. The whole hippie thing. The sixties thing, which was such a bunch of baloney, was about brotherhood and peace and love. It is just you know it was the same old same old. People ripping each other off.
Everyone thinking about themselves. And but in the Christians I saw what I was supposed to find in the whole sixties counterculture. They really did love each other. They really did have something that was different. But I still thought they were weird.
And the last thing I would ever do was become one of them. Then I met a girl. There was something about her countenance for lack of a better word. Almost like she glowed from the inside. She wasn't like the other girls. She wasn't sleazy. She wasn't like acting like they were and saying the things they were saying.
She was different. And I thought, who was that girl? I want to meet that girl.
And one day she was talking with one of my friends. I thought, this is my moment. I am going to walk up there. I am going to turn on the charm. I am going to meet this girl. I am going to ask her out. So I went walking right up and they are in mid-conversation.
I am just kind of standing waiting for a break and I am kind of looking at her and looking at him. And I look down and she has her textbook for class and she has her notebook. And then she has, oh no. Oh no.
One of those books with black leather covers and ribbons coming out of the bottom and gold pages. She is a Jesus freak. What a waste of a perfectly cute girl. That was my thought. So it was a very short conversation.
I don't remember even what I said. And I walked away. But I was intrigued. Because for some reason I thought, if that girl is a Jesus freak maybe it is not as bad as I thought it was. Maybe there is something to it. So one day.
It is lunchtime. And out on the front lawn as they always would do there were the Christians singing their little songs about God. They would have a beat up little acoustic guitar and their songs had about three chords.
All of them had three chords. I would watch them and say, they are just so weird. But I walked out and she was sitting with them singing. So I said, Ok. I am going to sit down and I am going to just kind of check this out. I am going to find out why I don't like this.
Why it is wrong so I have to no longer be bugged by it any longer. So I sat down. Now I am far enough away where people won't think I have joined up with them because that is social suicide. But I am close enough where I can hear what is being said. I am watching them.
I am looking around as they are singing. And one of the guys there I used to know from elementary school. I used to get loaded with them as a matter of fact. And he is a Jesus freak now. I know he is not that weird. In fact he is a pretty good guy.
Wow. He is one of them. And there is that girl and she seems pretty normal. And then a guy stands up and opens up the Bible and he looks like he walked out of the pages of the Bible himself. In fact his image reminded me of that picture that used to hang on my grandmother's wall of Jesus. He has hair parted down the middle. A long beard.
Kind of these flowing type sleeves. And he is giving a message from the Bible. And I am like, Whoa.
What is this? And for the first time it connected. Now listen. I had heard the gospel before. I had heard Billy Graham present it on the old black and white television set in my grandparents' house.
I had read little snippets of it when the Jesus freaks gave me their little booklets and tracts and so forth. But for some reason, and it is really just God's timing, it made sense to me. And the one thing I remember him saying was Jesus said, You are either for me or against me. You are with me or you are opposed to me. And I thought, Well I am definitely not one of these Christians. Does that mean I am against them? Then I thought, I don't want to be against Jesus. I have always believed in Him.
I have just never known that much about Him. And the guy said, You can accept Christ right now. Just get up and walk forward. And some kids get up and walk forward. And I thought, There is no way I am going to do that.
Next thing I know I am up there with the kids. And I remember I didn't feel anything really emotionally. In fact a person on one side of me was laughing with joy.
A person on another side was weeping with sorrow. And I felt nothing. And I thought, It figures. God said no to me.
But I do remember one thing. Right after I prayed that prayer that girl that I was interested in she came up and threw her arms around me and said, God bless you brother. And I said, Christianity is good.
But what now? Am I going to become a Jesus freak? Am I going to carry a Bible publicly? No.
I can't do that. Greg Laurie is a cool guy. You see. Now I am going to become a Christian.
Everyone laughs at Christians. So I thought, No. I am just going to kind of do this thing on my own. I am going to be like a solo Christian I thought. Well that weekend we had planned to go out and use some drugs. In fact we had planned on taking some LSD and tripping nature man.
So we went out to the Ortega Mountains and my friends were taking tabs of orange sunshine LSD and they offered me one. And for some reason I said, Nah. I don't want that.
Come on Greg. Nah. I don't want it. Why not?
I don't know. I don't want it. I need to be by myself. See I was thinking about what I had done. I prayed this prayer. But I didn't know what it meant. See no one came up to me and said, Greg. Now that you have prayed this prayer you need to start reading the Bible and going to church. No one said anything to me. The school bell rang and I went back to class.
That is all. So I am out there in the woods walking around. I did take a little pipe with me. A little bag of marijuana. I was going to smoke it and sort of you know groove on nature and think about God. And I was sitting on a rock and I was packing my little pipe up and that same still small voice that I had heard just hours before.
Lunch time on my high school. Spoke to me again. And it wasn't audible but I heard I believe the Lord say to me, You don't need that anymore. I said, All right God. I will make you a deal. I am cynical. I am hard. I am having a hard time believing all this but if you are real you are going to have to make yourself real to me.
OK. So I took that pipe and I pitched it and I took that marijuana and I dumped it and turned my back on it and never looked back again. That's Greg Laurie on today's episode of Focus on the Family and we'll hear the conclusion of his personal testimony next time. We will John and I can't wait for our listeners to hear some of the challenges Greg had to overcome as a new believer.
It's really good stuff. It's what you go through. And you know I can really relate to Greg's story in so many ways. My parents actually met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but they couldn't seem to stay sober in those early years. In fact before I was born they lost custody of my four siblings I think at least four times and we moved around a lot.
I actually sat down and counted and throughout my childhood I lived in twenty three different houses or apartments and by the time I was 17 I was totally on my own. My mom had been dead for eight years my dad for five and we had no extended family nowhere to go. I'll never forget Joe and Ramona Campbell my high school girlfriend's grandparents who let me live in a six by twelve custom trailer that he had built and in the evenings I would come in and watch the Tonight Show. I'll never forget that those memories you have and I felt like I was part of their family. They were so kind to me.
Well thank the Lord for good people and great grandparents like that even other people's grandparents. Were you a Christian at that point Jim? I was I accepted the Lord at a fellowship of Christian athletes football camp when I was 15 so it had been a couple of years and you know all the struggles were there even though I was trying to follow the Lord and I was trying to learn more about what it meant to be a Christian and to live for Christ. Like Greg Laurie I didn't grow up in a Christian home so I really had no idea what that Christian marriage or family should look like and you really need a lot of mentoring when you first become a believer no matter what your age is and there's just simply so much to learn and if you are fascinated or intrigued by Greg Laurie's message go out and see the movie.
It was just released in theaters this week. It's called Jesus Revolution. It's based on Greg's book of the same name about his involvement with the rise of the Jesus movement in the late 1960s. We have copies of that book here at Focus on the Family. When you get the book from us we'll include a free audio download of Greg's presentation with quite a bit of extra content. Get a copy to share with a friend or family member who might be able to relate to Greg's story. We'll send the book and audio download out to you for a donation of any amount as you partner with Focus on the Family to equip new believers in their relationship with the Lord and in their marriage and parenting roles as well. So join us in ministry today and you can do that when you call 800 the letter A in the word family 800-232-6459. We're stopped by the show notes to donate to the work of Focus on the Family and request your copy of the book Jesus Revolution.
By the way I think you're going to appreciate the extra content that we're including in the audio download that comes with the book when you request that from us. Next time Greg Laurie shares how his friends reacted to his newfound faith. Greg Laurie shares how his friends reacted to his newfound faith. So they started to mock me and give me a hard time and harass me. And I thought, well isn't this interesting. These are my buddies man.
These are the guys I hang around with and they're giving me a hard time because I'm a Christian now. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team thanks for listening to this Focus on the Family podcast. Take a moment if you would please and share about this episode with a friend and leave a rating for us in your podcast app. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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