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A Story of a Changed Life

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
September 5, 2022 7:00 am

A Story of a Changed Life

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Well, good morning.

Thanks, guys. Good morning. How's everybody? All right, good.

Well, we're going to have some fun together this morning for the next few minutes, and I really appreciate you guys coming, so I have somebody to talk to, because this would be an awful lonely opportunity to talk if you weren't here, so thanks for getting up and coming and being with us. You know, if you're Jewish, you can only grow up to be one of three things, and I'm Jewish. Those are a doctor, a lawyer, or failure.

And a preacher definitely falls in category number three, if you understand what I'm saying. Now, how did a nice Jewish boy like me end up doing what I do for a living? That's what I want to tell you all about today, and I hope that as we talk about this, that maybe some little piece of my life will connect with some piece of your life, and that God will use what we're going to talk about today to really make a difference in your life. I was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, as was already said this morning. Both my parents were Jewish. We were conservative Jews.

You know, there are three major branches of Judaism, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. We were conservative Jews. My mom lit Sabbath candles every Sabbath.

You know, if you saw the movie Fiddler on the Roof, you saw the mother in that movie do that. My mom did that. We would go to synagogue on Sundays. I would go to Sunday school at the synagogue. My father would usually go to the men's breakfast and men's fellowship that they had every Sunday at the synagogue. I went to Hebrew school twice a week when I was in elementary school and junior high school. Two days a week after school, we would all go to the synagogue and go to Hebrew school.

And I was bar mitzvahed at age 13, the way every good Jewish boy ought to be. But you know, in terms of the real presence of God in our home, it really wasn't there. We didn't own a Bible. I'd never read a Bible. We didn't sit down and pray before meals.

We never prayed at all in my home. We were just, we were run of the mill standard Jewish people who went through the things that you're supposed to go through as Jewish people. We went to high holiday services. We went to Yom Kippur.

We had a Passover Seder at our home. But really the presence of God himself was just simply not a reality in our life. I can remember as a little boy praying a few times. I can remember laying in bed as a little boy, trying to talk to God. I can even remember a few prayers that I believe as a young child God answered for me. And I kind of grew up believing that God probably existed. I mean, I had a sense that God was out there somewhere, but I didn't know him. I didn't know anything about him.

I had no connection with him at all. And this is how I grew up. Well, when I was 13, I was bar mitzvahed. And then immediately after that, I would help reading the Torah and the synagogue. Sometimes I would go over for daily services, which happened.

And I would read the Torah a little bit because I was pretty good at that. And, but when I got to high school, my whole relationship with the synagogue began to change. I got involved in, I got interested in other things, girls and partying and drinking and, and let's face it, guys, the synagogue just didn't hold much of a candle compared to that stuff, you know? And so I began to trail off in terms of going to synagogue and the real coup de grace came when I was about 16, maybe just approaching 17.

I was involved in the acting group at high school in the Thespian troop. And when we would practice plays, if you weren't particularly on stage and your lines weren't, you know, up, we would just sit and talk. And so I was sitting and talking one day with a girl that was also in the play and she began asking me about whether or not I knew for sure I was going to go to heaven. She began asking me about my personal relationship with God. Well, I'd never even heard of a personal relationship with God, never really talked or, or, or thought much about heaven or hell because you just don't talk about that in the synagogue.

And she kind of shook me up a little bit. So I, the very next time I was at the synagogue, I asked the rabbi if I could talk to him and I asked him a question. I said, rabbi, I need to know, do Jews go to heaven or hell? And he went, excuse me. And I went, well, no, did Jews go to heaven or hell?

I need to know this because I've got a girl at my school who keeps telling me that, that I'm going to hell. And he said, no, he said, he said, here's what I need to tell you. He said, all Jewish people go to heaven. And I said, really? He said, yeah, hell, he said, is a Gentile problem. Wonderful. I said, that's wonderful.

But just so I can defend myself, explain to me why this is so I can tell this girl. He said, well, we were all Abraham's descendants and as Abraham's descendants, we have a kind of a different arrangement with God than the rest of the world does. And I said, you mean to tell me that I could do all kinds of stuff, you know, and I could lie and I could be nasty and I'm still going to heaven because I'm Abraham's descendant. And he said, yeah. And actually, you know, there is a passage that I ran into many years later while I was doing graduate work at Johns Hopkins University from the Mishnah, from the Jewish rabbinic writings that actually says that very same thing. It's in the tractate Sanhedrin. And it says that very thing that except for a couple of real bums, every Jewish person's going to heaven. So I was like, wow, this is fabulous. And I thought to myself, you mean even if I never come to synagogue again, I'm still going to heaven?

And the answer is yes. And so that was pretty much the end of my relationship with synagogue. Well, I took him seriously, you know. Anyway, I went off to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill as an 18 year old young man, confident that I was going to heaven because I was Jewish and that that was pretty much the end of the story. But I went off to the University of North Carolina excited about being out from under my parents' roof, excited about having those constraints removed and excited now about being able to do everything I'd always fantasized about doing.

But, you know, when you're living at home, you can't pull it off, you know. So I joined a social fraternity when I got to Chapel Hill. And if you saw the movie Animal House, my fraternity made Animal House look like, you know, a Christian day school. I mean, you just cannot imagine what went on. And I began getting deeply involved in drinking and partying and women and gambling. We would gamble all night. We'd start playing cards around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon. We'd play all night long.

Then we'd, you know, about 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock in the morning go to bed, wake up and, you know, eat some lunch and about 3, 4 o'clock start again. And this was life in the fraternity house. You say, well, what about classes? What classes? We weren't there for classes.

We were there for fun. And all you had to do was take enough classes to stay out of the Vietnam War in those days and everything was fine and get a 2.0 and everything was copacetic. Well, I did a couple of years of that. But by the beginning of my junior year, all of that was starting to get old.

I don't know if any of you guys have been down that road. But, you know, a lot of things that start off like that being exciting and very tentilating, they wear out. And after a while it's like getting drunk one more time, having one more woman. I mean, it's, you know, you just, it's just not, not all that exciting anymore. It's kind of been there, done that, got the t-shirt type of thing, you know what I'm saying?

And it's like, nah. So by the time I was beginning my junior year and all that started getting stale, I had begun, you know, to think a little more seriously about the issues of life. You know, where was I going and what was my life all about and what am I doing here?

And, and you know, those questions were beginning to plague me and I didn't have any answers for them. And so I ended up that summer up in the Borscht Belt, up in the Catskills Mountains. A couple of friends of mine and I, we had hitchhiked up there and we were looking for a job.

And we finally found a job working in one of the restaurants, one of the resort hotels up there, working in the restaurant and serving people. And we made a lot of money that summer. But this was the summer of 1969. And although when I went up there I'd never heard the word Woodstock and had no idea what the word Woodstock represented, the Woodstock Music Festival was happening not too very far from where we were working. And some friends of mine that I made up there who were from New York said, hey, we need to go to Woodstock.

And I'm like, that's cool, what is it? And they explained to me it's this big music festival and I was like, that's wonderful. So we all bought tickets. I may be one of the very few people in the world who actually bought a ticket to Woodstock. They did sell them, honestly. They expected 50,000 people, that was it, and they sold tickets. I wish I had kept it.

I mean, it would be worth a lot today. I didn't. But I actually bought a ticket.

And then 500,000 people showed up without tickets and tickets, you know, just didn't matter. But I went to Woodstock, spent the entire weekend there, and as a part of this whole New York experience began to get very deeply involved in drugs. I had dabbled with drugs in Chapel Hill before I had gone up to New York.

But when I got up to New York, it was the first time I ever dropped LSD. I had some friends who said, you know, if you're looking for answers to questions about the universe, you need to take this stuff. This stuff will enlighten you. This stuff will expand your mind. This stuff will help put you in touch with real expanded consciousness. And I was like, that sounds cool.

Let's do it. And so the first time I ever took LSD was up in New York that summer. And I, as I began taking LSD, we had done a lot of grass and we had smoked a lot of hash, but this was the first time I ever did psychedelics. I came back to North Carolina to Chapel Hill to start the next year of school convinced that I had gotten into the pathway to expand my mind, into the pathway that would help me find answers to the universe. And I came back as a very strong advocate of drugs. As a matter of fact, about 50 or 60 percent of the people in my fraternity who have ended up using drugs, I was the one who initially talked them into it, initially encouraged them to do it, and the one who initially provided the drugs for them to get involved.

I was an advocate of this. And we began doing drugs all the time. I mean, we would smoke dope many times a day. I grew hair out to my shoulders, a big old afro. See, my hair doesn't grow on, it grows out. And so I had this huge afro, almost out to my shoulders, and I wore, you know, bell bottoms and tank top and motorcycle boots and love beads and really looked apart. And the nice thing about hair like that is I could hide joints behind my ears and pull my hair over them, and the police would never think to look behind my ears, I figure. And so a normal day in Chapel Hill would start off with six or eight joints, four behind each ear, and as the day went on, we would smoke them.

That was a normal day in Chapel Hill. We dropped LSD three, four, five times a week, sometimes more. You say, well, Lon, if you're taking LSD three, four, five times a week and smoking dope every day, how in the world did you ever maintain any presence in class? The answer is we didn't. It was much more fun to sit up in a tree and smoke dope than it was to go to class.

And so we just didn't go. As a matter of fact, I brought a copy of the yearbook from Chapel Hill that year, 1969, 1970, because there's a picture right in the front, a full page picture of me and several fraternity brothers sitting up in a tree smoking dope. And I'll never forget the day it happened.

I remember very well the day it happened. We were sitting in this tree right in the middle of campus smoking dope. As I recall, my math class was happening at that moment, or some class anyway. And I remember hearing that down below us about 10 feet down, this click, click, click, click. And we looked down, and here's this guy down there looking up, snapping pictures of us. And you say, well, didn't it worry you? Didn't it occur to you that it might be somebody with the police? Well, yeah, that occurred to us.

But frankly, it was just too much trouble to get down. And so we were just like, hey, what are you doing down there, man? And he said, well, I'm taking pictures for the yearbook. And we were like, oh, OK, that's cool.

Go ahead. And then when the yearbook came out, here we are right on the inside front cover of the yearbook, this huge picture of us sitting up in this tree blowing dope. I brought it for you to see. It's up here in the front.

You can come up afterwards and see it. But that was life in Chapel Hill. And I'm not telling you this because I'm proud of those days and proud of my lifestyle. I'm telling you this because I want you to get a sense of who I was at age 21 when Jesus Christ reached down and grabbed a hold of my life. I was not some nice run of the mill everyday person who just went about my business and suddenly I decided I wanted to get religious.

That's not what happened here. I was living a lifestyle that was about as separated from Jesus Christ and Christianity as you could possibly imagine. I may be the only person in the history of the University of North Carolina to have flunked honors chemistry. I got into honors chemistry because my chemistry grades the first two years weren't too bad. But then I never went to class. I took it my senior year, never went to class, never showed up except for the first day. At the end of the semester, the guy gave me an F. I thought, how dare he give me an F. So I went to see him and I pleaded for a D. And he said, are you kidding?

You were never here. And he flunked me. I had to stay and go to summer school because I flunked honors chemistry. I doubt if there's another student in the history of Chapel Hill that ever flunked honors chemistry.

All you do is show up and you get an A. I got an F. I also became well known in the city of Chapel Hill as a dope pusher. We would get dope from New York City. We would travel up there, buy large shipments of dope, bring it back to Chapel Hill, cut it and sell it. We had a friend who went to Amsterdam several times a year and would bring hash backs sewn into the inside lining of his overcoat. Large amounts of it from Amsterdam.

And these were the days before the dogs and all of the modern equipment that they have now to stop these folks. And he generally had no problem whatsoever getting huge amounts of dope in from Europe. Then we would sell it and we would go. I would put myself through my last two years of school selling dope. That's how I made my money.

I wouldn't want to go out and get a regular job. You could make a lot more money and it was a whole lot easier work just selling dope to people and that's what we did. You say, well how in the world did you stay out of the grasp of the law? I mean how is it that you didn't get yourself arrested?

Well the truth is I almost did. In the spring of 1971, just before I became a Christian, a matter of a couple of weeks before I made a decision for Christ, there was a knock one morning at the door at the house where I was staying and it was the police. And there was a guy sleeping out in the living room and the police said we have a warrant, this is a totally true story, for the arrest of Lon Solomon on dope charges.

Is he here? Well I was there. I was back in my bedroom. And my friend at the front door had enough presence of mind to say could I please see the search warrant. They had a search warrant for the house. And the search warrant had the wrong address. It had the address of the house next door on it. And he picked this up and he said you can't come in here. This search warrant is not for this house. It's the house next door.

You got the wrong address on here. And he wouldn't let them in. If they'd have come in, there was dope all over the house.

I'd have been in jail. And they actually went next door, went into that house. The people living next door were friends of ours, fraternity brothers of ours. We had sold them the dope that was in their house. They found the dope, went to class, arrested my fraternity brother right out of his class, put handcuffs on him and took him to jail. He got arrested, but it wasn't him they were looking for. It was me. So that's how close it was. I like to, back in those days, I like to say to my friends don't get near me.

I'm so hot the air crinkles when I walk around. Because we were well known. I mean the police knew who we were. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. All the time I was doing dope like this, I want to tell you I actually thought that I was making spiritual progress. And I actually thought that spiritually I was moving towards a place where I was going to get all these answers to the universe that I cared about. And again, I'm telling you all that because I want you to understand where I was in 1970 when Jesus Christ began to make an impact on my life. Now the real turning point in my life, as I look back, came in the very early spring of 1971. I was sitting on a wall in downtown Chapel Hill.

There's a little wall right there, if you've ever been there, right on the edge of campus. It was about two o'clock in the morning. My friend and I, a good friend, a good friend and fraternity brother that I did a lot of dope with, he and I were sitting there tripped out on LSD. And we were talking and I said to him as part of this conversation, I said, you know, David, I said, it's something really, it's really bothering me. I said, you know, here we are, we're doing all these drugs and we're the flower people, you know, we're the love children. But instead of getting better, instead of getting more loving and more caring and more kind, you know, I really, I feel like I'm getting worse.

I feel like I'm getting not better, but I'm going in the other direction. And he turned to me and he said, and I don't know that, you know, he wasn't a Christian and I don't know he had any sense of the impact he was about to make on my life, but he turned to me and he said, Lon, he said, maybe you're not getting worse. He said, maybe you're just getting more honest about what you've really been all the time.

I was like, Whoa, dude, that's heavy, man. And to him, it was a passing comment. To me, it was like a sledgehammer had hit my life because, you know, I had grown up believing my own PR. I had grown up believing I was a good person, a nice person, a kind person, a giving person, an unselfish person and a person that was going to heaven.

That's what my rabbi told me. And all of a sudden I was faced with the fact that maybe I wasn't all of that. All of a sudden I was confronted with the fact that maybe the truth is that that was all a bunch of PR that I'd blown out and that the real me was a very different person. And the more I thought about what he said to me, the more I began to realize that he was right. And as I began coming to grips with this, really taking a hard, honest look at myself, I want to tell you what I saw I didn't like.

I didn't like what I saw. And all of a sudden my perspective on myself totally began to change. Suddenly I began to see myself as a person in need, not a person that was fine and doing all right, but a person in deep and desperate need. Suddenly I began to see myself as being selfish and self-centered and self-engratiating, a person who was immoral, a person who was unethical, a person who was profane. And I had to finally admit to myself, you know Lon, to see yourself any other way, you are kidding yourself friend.

You are deceiving yourself and it's a big game. You are not the person you always projected that you were. This is what you really were and it was not, not a pretty picture. Well, I began to realize as a result of this that I needed help. I needed some change. I needed someone or something that could change me from the inside out. And that was a major turning point in my life because up to that point I didn't really feel I needed any outside help. But now I did and it began to grip me. Drugs began to become passe at that point in my life because I realized I've been doing them for years now. I realized they could not change me from the inside out and I decided I needed religion.

I needed God in some form or another. So the first form I got into was Eastern Religions. I went down and bought all these books on Eastern Religions. Taoism, which is spelled with a T by the way. Taoism, I read a lot of that. Confucianism, read a lot of that. Got a lot of books following Zen Buddhism by Alan Watts and other writers and read a lot of those books. And you know what was interesting about these Eastern Religions, they sounded wonderful on paper but I just couldn't make them work in real life. I mean I would go out and read Zen Buddhism for the first three hours of the morning sitting in the woods with my legs crossed under a tree and then I would get up and say to my friend, hey, what's for lunch? And blow my holes in for the day. You understand what I'm saying?

Zen's gone. And I couldn't make this work. I really tried. I mean I wanted to cut my hair in a ponytail and go dance around on the street with the Hare Krishnas and do all this stuff except I hated their food. Have you ever eaten that food?

It's awful. So you know I couldn't be a Hare Krishna because I knew I'd starve to death. I couldn't eat the food. So I gave up on being a Hare Krishna because of that. But I was trying to make the rest of this work and I couldn't. So I decided alright, you know, I'm not going to be an Eastern Religion person and I decided maybe what I need to do is I need to go back to Judaism.

You know that's kind of my ace in the hole. Maybe I need to go get deeply involved in Judaism and maybe I can find in Orthodox Judaism the answers that I need for life. So there was a campus rabbi and I went to visit the campus rabbi. I walked into his office with my hair and my bell bottoms and everything and I plopped down in his chair and I said to him, I said, uh, rabbi.

Yeah. I said, I think God wants me to be a rabbi. And he looked at me and he said, no, I don't think so. I said, but rabbi, listen, I have some deep seated needs in my life.

I've got some questions I really need answers for. And I began sharing with him about the hunger of my heart, sharing with him about the needs that I had. And he, I mean, I don't even think he had a clue what I was talking about. He gave me a couple of books to read. I didn't want books. I wanted somebody to come up and sit down next to me and look me in the eyes and say, I know the answers to the questions you're asking.

I know how you can get changed on the inside and not be the ugly person that you've realized you are and I can help you. He didn't do that for me. I don't think he even had a clue how to do that. And I walked out of his office and said, man, that's, that's nothing there for me. Now that was pretty depressing because Judaism, going back to Judaism had kind of always been my one ace in the hole. You know, I figure if everything else fails, I'll go back to Judaism.

Now I'd gone back having tried everything else I can think of women drinking, partying, drugs, Eastern religions, now Judaism. And I still have no answers as to how to change myself. And remember guys, the issue for me at this point was not so much that I was concerned about going to hell.

I still believe what the rabbi told me at that point that I was going to heaven. That wasn't my issue. My issue was I couldn't find the resources I needed to live life. I couldn't find the answers I needed to make life make sense and make me into the kind of person I was proud to be.

I couldn't find that. Those were my issues. Well, I would sit and talk to my fraternity brothers about these things.

They thought I completely lost my mind. We would sit around and smoked dope. And then I would say to them, you know, guys, why are we here? And why did God, why are we on the earth? And what's our purpose in life? And where are we going? And, and, and, you know, and, and what's the meaning of life?

And they would all go to me. Oh man, you know, you are bumming us out, man. You know, what is wrong with you, man? Why have you got to ask questions like this? Why don't you just be like a normal person? You know, why don't we just graduate from college and get a job and get married and have kids and raise them up and be a grandfather and die like normal people? Why have you got to have answers to all these stupid questions? My friends began to think I'd flipped out, began to wonder whether I'd lost my mind.

And you know what? I began to wonder whether maybe I'd lost my mind. I mean, you read about all these guys who go trip out on LSD and they never come back. And I thought, well, maybe I'm on one of these trips and I never came back. I mean, I didn't think that I'd never come back, but then who never, that never comes back thinks that they never came back.

You know, does that make any sense? So I'm like, well, maybe I've never come back and I'm just don't know. I maybe I'm really in some psychiatric hospital and I'm going under shock therapy and I'm thinking I'm an orange and hiding under the bed or something. You know, reality was really messed up for me in those days. I mean, that's where I really was. And I was so confused. I didn't even know where reality was anymore.

And I began to plan suicide. I said, no, this is stupid. It's absolutely stupid for me to grow up and live that kind of life and go through all the heartache and the pain of living life.

If I don't even know what I'm doing here and I don't even know what my purpose in life is and I hate the person I am on the inside. This is stupid. Why don't I just go ahead and take my life? And I was really planning on it, but I procrastinated so many things that I was going to. I just hadn't gotten around to it, but I, but I had every intent.

I had every intent of doing this. And, and in the spring of 1971, all of that changed one spring day in Chapel Hill. I was walking on the streets of Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill is only about two blocks. And I was walking down Chapel Hill, this nice warm spring day, very crowded day with my dog. I had a German shepherd, about an 80 pound German shepherd, 85 pound German shepherd named Noah.

I don't know why I named him Noah, but God had him since he was a pup. And, and he got into a fight, a little dog fight right in front of the weirdest man in the universe. Let me tell you about the weirdest man in the universe. The weirdest man in the universe was a man named Bob Eckhart. Bob Eckhart was a man in his forties at the time who worked in Durham about eight miles away from Chapel Hill. But he would come to Chapel Hill every Saturday with his Econoline van, his white Econoline van. He had scripture verses written all over the side of his white Econoline van. He had two big megaphone speakers mounted on the roof of his van connected up to a record player where he would play scratchy old 78 hymns and blast them down the street out of these two megaphones. He would stand out on the street corner of Chapel Hill handing out pamphlets about Jesus Christ.

And he would do that along with his wife all day every Saturday. Now, he was not well received in Chapel Hill. People spit on him. People threw the tracks back at him. People cursed him out. People were incredibly nasty to this guy. But week after week after week that spring, I saw him down there. I avoided him. I didn't want to get near the man.

I mean, you know, this is like out of a circus or something. But anyway, that day my dog got into a fight right in front of where he was standing. And I pulled my dog apart from the dog that he was mangling at the time.

And this other guy, Bob Eckhart, helped me a little bit. And so here I am now eyeball to eyeball with the weirdest man in the world. Well, what do you say to the weirdest man in the world?

I mean, I didn't want to say something wrong. So I looked at him and I said, hi. And he went, hello. Well, now what do you say? So I said, got to go. And he said, OK, see you.

And I went, OK. And off I went. The whole encounter could not have lasted 30 seconds. But I have to tell you, in those 30 seconds of being eyeball to eyeball about two feet away from this man and looking in his eyes, I walked away and something inside of me said to me, Lon, this guy has what you're looking for. You say, how do you know that? Friends, I can't tell you how I knew it.

I don't have any empirical evidence. I can't put it in a test tube what I was feeling. But I'm telling you, I walked away and something inside of me said, Lon, this guy's got what you're looking for, the peace, the contentment, the wholeness, the healthiness that you're looking for.

He's got it. Man, that plagued me. I mean, that plagued me.

But it also gave me some hope because I have to tell you, folks, I had begun to wonder if anybody in the whole world had what I was looking for. I'd never met anybody who had answers to the questions that I was asking. My fraternities brothers didn't.

My drug buddies didn't. I didn't know anybody who had answers. I'd begun to think there are no answers to these questions. And suddenly I met a man who gave me some hope.

Maybe there really were some answers to these things. Well, for the next few weeks, I would wander by him and take his tracks. I wouldn't talk to him. I was too scared to talk to him. But I would take his little pamphlets that he was handing out.

In fact, I developed a nice little stack of pamphlets home on my dresser. I didn't read them. But I took them because I felt bad for the guy. I mean, I felt like he's a sincere guy and people are treating him nasty and sincerity is at a premium and somebody ought to at least be nice to him and take what he's given out. So I would take him and go home and stack him up. But I really wanted to talk to him. I just couldn't get up enough guts to do it.

Finally, I decided this is stupid. You just need to go talk to this guy. So I walked up to him one Saturday morning, spring of 1971, and I said, Hey, I'd like to come talk to you sometime. And he said, Well, that would be wonderful. He said, How about three o'clock this afternoon? Now, I wasn't ready for that.

You know, it's kind of like when you see somebody at church and you say, Why don't you come over for lunch sometime and they go fine. How about today? That's not what you meant. And I didn't expect him to say today. I expected him to go okay in a month or so and give me enough courage to, you know, time to work up some courage. He said, Well, how about three o'clock this afternoon? And I'm like, Um, well, no, I can't do it this afternoon. I got I got something else to do. I got another appointment.

Now, what kind of an appointment does a hippie have at three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? I was lying through my teeth, friends, but I was scared. And now I was totally freaked out. And I said to him, Look, I gotta go. Gotta go. Maybe some other time. We'll talk another time. And I started walking down the street.

I got maybe 10, 12 yards down the street with my dog turned to crowded day streets packed in this warm spring day in Chapel Hill. And this guy cups his hands around his mouth and he screams at me. I said, I said to him, Well, maybe I'll see you next week. And he screams at me.

You may not be here next week. And I'm like, Oh, my goodness. I'm looking around trying to pretend like I don't know who he's talking to either. I don't want all these people knowing the weirdest man in the world yelling at me.

I don't even want him to know I've talked to him. So I hurried down the street. I ducked around the corner. I leaned up against the brick wall and I went, Oh, that was the worst experience of my whole life. I can't believe I did that. But I began walking around that day.

You know, I began thinking, Well, that guy's right. I've got no guarantee I'll be here next week. I'd already lost several high school friends. One had died in a motorcycle accident.

One had died of a kidney infection. And I thought, Well, you know, he's right. I might not be here next week.

I should go talk to him. So three o'clock I showed up. He was gone. I mean, he didn't know I was coming.

So he finished up and he had left. This was awful because I felt like now this guy had laid a prophecy on me that I wasn't going to live for another week. Now, I know that sounds silly, but it's not silly. I mean, I was terrified that this guy had predicted my death. And the next week was the most horrible week of my entire life up to that point. You know, a good friend of mine owned a motorcycle.

Let me ride it all the time. Didn't ride it that week. I didn't walk under ladders that week.

You know, I mean, God help me if a black cat walked in front of me. I looked both ways before I crossed the street deliberately. I climbed steps one at a time holding on to the handrail.

I was terrified. And the week finally went by and next Saturday came and I got up at the crack of dawn, which in those days about 10 o'clock in the morning, and I went down. I went downtown to see this guy. I don't know what would have happened if he hadn't come to town that day. But sure enough, faithful as ever, about 10.30, he came putting into town in this white econoline circus van. And he got out of the van and I walked over to him.

I'd been sitting down waiting for him and I walked over to him and I said, look, because of you, I have just lived the worst week of my entire life. Now, we need to talk. And I said, there's got to be a sales pitch that goes with this thing you do here.

I didn't know what to call it. I said, so give me the sales pitch. I'm willing to listen.

Now, I should drop back and tell you one quick thing. During the middle of the week, I was so scared, I thought, I'm going to go buy a Bible. You got to understand, friends, adult pushers don't own Bibles.

You understand? None of my dope pushing buddies own Bibles. None of my fraternity brothers own Bibles. You know, the lifestyle we lived did not fit with owning a Bible. And so I thought, well, if I have a Bible, maybe I'll make it through the week, kind of like a talisman or something. So I went down to the bookstore in town to buy a Bible. I did not know how expensive Bibles were.

I couldn't believe it. I was like, wow, that's an awful lot of money for a Bible. I only had about $5 to my name then. We were between dope shipments and $5 was about all I had. I was eating scraps out of my fraternity house kitchen. I would serve the dinner and then as my payment, they would let me eat the leftovers. I ate a lot of broccoli and a lot of cauliflower, not much steak.

You understand what I'm saying? And so that's how I was surviving. Well, the cheapest Bible I could find was $3, a little tiny paperback. And I was standing in line to pay for it. And my friend, the one who had said to me, you know, maybe you're just getting more honest with you all the time, came by and saw me in line and came into the bookstore there, the university bookstore, and said, what are you doing? I said, I'm buying a Bible. He said, you what? I said, I'm buying a Bible. He said, what in the world would you do something like that for? And I told him a little bit about the kind of week I was having. And so as we're standing in line, he says to me, Lon, he says, now stop for a second thing. He said, if this God that you're worried about is so real, he said, don't you think he could give you a Bible without you having to spend 50% of your life savings on it? And I was standing there and I went, yeah, that sounds spiritual.

Um, that sounds real spiritual. I went, all right, that sounds good. And so I went and put the Bible back.

Now you need to know that because of what's going to happen now. Well, the next Saturday I'm talking to, uh, to this man. And so, uh, he, he takes out a Bible and he starts reading from it. He reads from the Old Testament.

He reads from the New Testament. He began telling me Bible stories that most of you probably know, but I didn't know them. And he read me about Elijah and the prophets of Baal up on Mount Carmel. I thought that was the greatest story I'd ever heard in my whole life.

I was like, this is a great story. He read me other things. We talked for about two hours.

It was like water on a dry sponge. And at the end of two hours, he said to me, okay, now are you ready to receive Jesus? And I'm like, excuse me, are you ready to receive Jesus? He said, well, I didn't even have a clue what that meant, but even a little bit, I could kind of figure out what I thought it meant. I said to him, no, no, no, no.

I said, Hey, it's been fun talking to you got man. And this has been wonderful, but I'm Jewish. Jewish people don't do this. You know, Jewish people, we just don't do this.

He said, well, sure. Jesus was Jewish. He said, do you realize that all the early followers of Jesus were Jewish? The whole early church was Jewish.

Everybody who wrote the Bible with the exception of Luke was Jewish. I said, nah, come on. He went, yeah. He said, did you really know Peter was Jewish? I was like, you gotta be kidding. He's like, no. I was like, really?

Yeah. Well, I never knew this. Nobody ever told me Peter was Jewish. I figured he was, you know, white Aryan wasp Gentile. Who knows? I didn't know what he was.

We don't study Peter in the synagogue. You understand? So I was like, really?

He's like, yeah. I said, no. Well, look, Peter. Yeah, but Peter doesn't have to go face my parents. You understand what I'm saying?

No, I'm not. I don't really think so. He said, well, look, would you do me one favor?

I said, maybe. He said, would you, would you be willing to promise me that at least you'll, you'll, you'll read the Bible and let God speak to you from the Bible. And here is this huge box of brand new Bibles.

I mean, cellophane wrapping and all. And he takes one of these Bibles and he says to me here, and I said, well, I don't have any money. I can't pay for this. He said, well, I don't want you to pay me anything for this. He said, if you promise me you'll read it, I'll give it to you.

Whoa. I mean, this was getting too close to home now because on Wednesday I had said to God, if you're really real God, you prove to me you're real by giving me a Bible. But folks, where was I going to get a Bible from? The people I hung out with did not walk around handing out Bibles. The odds of somebody giving me a Bible were less than zero.

Four days later, this guy opens his truck and hands me this brand new Bible. And I mean, it was like, I was like, oh man, this is, this is getting too scary here. So I took the Bible. I said, look, I got to go.

And I left. And as I walked away, I remember saying to myself, you know, this is freaky. I mean, this is really freaky.

Do you really think this could be right? I mean, could this really be what he said it is? Could Jesus Christ really be the Messiah of Israel? I mean, could you have backed into the God of the universe here? That's what I walked away thinking. Well, I was pretty skeptical, but I kept my promise. I took the Bible home, put it on my nightstand and I began reading it every night a little bit before I went to bed because I love to read before I go to bed. So I started reading in the Old Testament.

I didn't know where to start. I mean, who knows what the Bible's like? So I started in the Old Testament and I Adam and Eve and all this good stuff. I mean, I'd heard their name.

I never knew what the Bible said about them. And I thought, that's a pretty interesting story there. But then I got to that section where so and so begat, so and so begat, so and so begat, so and so.

I didn't know how long that went on. And I thought, well, man, this ain't getting me nowhere. Maybe I should switch to the New Testament because that's what talks about Jesus. So I didn't know whether the New Testament went introduction, main body, conclusion, anticlimax. I didn't know whether it was a collection of short stories, whether it was an anthology of poetry. I didn't know what the thing was.

So you figure, if you don't know, you start at the beginning, right? So I turned to the Gospel of Matthew and I started reading. Man, I couldn't believe some of the stuff that was in there. I must have read the Sermon on the Mount seven or eight times in a row before I could go on. What I could not get over, the thing that impressed me the most was how Jesus used words to cut right to the heart of things. I mean, he could say more in one sentence than professors I had had could say in a whole semester it seemed. Man, he cut right to the core with one sentence. I couldn't get over it. I kept on reading and I finally got to Matthew chapter 11 where Jesus said, come to me, all you who are heavy laden and who are burdened down, who are overwhelmed, and I will give you rest. You will find peace for your soul. And when I read that, I'll never forget.

I never forget looking up and saying, bingo, bingo. This is exactly what I'm looking for. I couldn't have even put it in words that good myself.

I remember thinking heavy laden, burdened down. That's exactly how I feel. And what I'm looking for is peace and rest for my soul. This is it.

This is exactly what I'm looking for. And here Jesus is promising if I'll come to him, he'll give it to me. Well, I thought, you know what? I gave drugs a fair shot in my life. I gave Zen Buddhism a fair shot in my life. I gave Judaism a fair shot in my life. I gave women and partying and drinking a fair shot in my life. It's only fair I give Jesus Christ a fair shot in my life.

So I decided I was going to do that, but I didn't know how. I mean, this guy had said to me, receive Jesus. I do not have one clue what that means.

Not one. I mean, if the guy had said to me, stand on your head and spit nickels, I would have at least known what position to get in. You follow what I'm saying?

Receive Jesus means absolutely nothing to me. So I figure, okay, I'm on my own. You say, why didn't you call him? I didn't have his phone number.

I had no way to get in touch with this man. So I'm on my own. So I got down on my knees because I don't know, just seemed appropriate. And here's what I prayed. I prayed, okay, God, I said, I don't even know if you're real.

And this Jesus character, I am really confused about, but God, I'm empty on the inside and I, and I'm hurting on the inside and I'm lonely on the inside and I'm scared on the inside and I need some help. And here's Jesus promising me that he can give me rest and he can give me joy. So, so God, here's what I want to do. I want to give you my life for one month, one month. And, and, and you, I'll do anything you asked me to do. I'll go anywhere you asked me to go. I didn't know how he was going to ask me or tell me, but I mean, I was sincere about it. And I said, look, if at the end of that one month, God, you haven't given me this joy and this rest that you're talking about, I reserve the right to take my life back and cancel the deal. How about that? But if you really give it to me, this rest in this joy, then you can have my life for good.

A deal's a deal. Amen. You say, Lon, that is the worst salvation prayer I have ever heard in my entire life. Well, I'm flying on my own here, guys.

I'm going by the seat of my pants. You weren't there to tell me how to pray a salvation prayer. I didn't know how to pray to God. I'm just, I just got a sincere heart and I just want to do business with God. And I figured a month ought to be long enough if you're God, you know, I'm so glad for a verse of scripture in the Bible that says this first Samuel 16, seven man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. I'm so glad that God up in heaven said, Solomon, you, that, that is the most awful prayer for salvation I ever heard.

But you know what? I'm going to look past that prayer, son, and I'm gonna look at your heart and I see in your heart, you mean business. So I'm gonna forget about the prayer and I'm going to deal with your heart.

I'm so glad God sees the heart. And I got up off my knees and I said, okay, well now we'll see what happens. I was very skeptical. I got to tell you, I was very skeptical. I really didn't, didn't think this was going to work, but I thought, well, who knows? But then I thought, you know, I need more than this.

I mean, just, I mean, you know, some kind of ethereal feeling that God's going to give me. That's not enough. So I got back down on my knees and I said, God, one more thing. My dog has the mange. Now, if you know what the mange is, the mange is when the hair, your hair, the hair starts falling off the dog. And I'd been putting this salve on it that the vet gave me and it wasn't helping.

It was getting worse. I said, God, one more thing here. My dog has the mange. And I said, I need more than just some feeling you're going to give me. I need to know you're real.

So here's what I want you to do. I said, God, I'm going to stop using the medicine on my dog. I want you to heal my dog. And then I got up and I thought, well, maybe that's not fair to the dog, you know, because maybe you should have asked God to levitate the bed or something else, you know, but I said, no, no, no. A prayer is a prayer and we'll see what happens because I figured I wanted a God who was at least powerful enough that he could handle a case of mange.

You understand what I'm saying? Well, all I can tell you folks is within three or four days, the mange had completely cleared up on my dog. You can explain it any way you want to explain it, but I'm telling you, I knew it wasn't that medicine because I'd been using the medicine on the dog and the dog been getting worse. I stopped using the medicine and the dog got better and the mange went away and I knew you can pay, you can attribute it to anything you want, but I knew what I prayed and I knew God had done something for me and God began doing some other things for me on the inside that, that I couldn't outwardly prove to anybody, but I knew things are beginning to happen on the inside of me that had never happened before. And about a week later, about a week later, I got back down on my knees and I said, God, I'm convinced. I mean, you have changed not only, not only did you do that thing for my dog, but on the inside, man, there are things happening inside of me.

There's a joy and a peace and a contentment I have never felt. And frankly, there's also a sensitivity to sin that I've never experienced before in my life. Things I used to be able to do without the slightest pang of conscience, suddenly they were bothering me. And suddenly the only way I could deal with them was when, was when I asked God to forgive me, I would feel fine, but, but I'd never been through that before.

They never bothered me before. So all of this was happening on the inside of me. And I knew I didn't create it. And I knew I didn't generate it. And I had no explanation for all, for all of this, except that something supernatural was going on.

And I got back down on my knees a week later and I said, God, I'm convinced. I made a deal with you and a deal is a deal. I told you I would give you my life for good. And I don't know what you can do with a hippie with a hair out to his shoulders and love beads and bell bottoms on who blows dope, but whatever you can do with me, a deal is a deal, God.

I give you my life for sure. And that was in the spring of 1971. Well, the next time this man came to town, I went up to him and told him this whole story, just laid this whole story on Bob Eckhart. Bob Eckhart grabbed me, hugged me. He called his wife out the back of the van. He said, Amy, Amy, come here quick. You got to hear this. And he said, tell her, tell her. So I told her the whole story. She said, praise the Lord. She's dancing around and I'm looking at these people and they're hugging each other. And I'm like, what in the world have I gotten myself into?

I hope I'm not going to act like this, but you know, when I'm a Christian for awhile, they were so excited. You know what? Bob Eckhart's still living today as I record this. And we talk on the phone every once in a while. And he has said to me in all the time, he came to Chapel Hill all that summer, the spring and summer of 1971, every single Saturday. And as far as we know, I'm the only person that came to Jesus Christ as a direct result of him being here.

Now, there may have been others that we don't know about, but you know, I like to think that God sent Bob Eckhart to Chapel Hill just for me, just for me. Well, couple other things and we're done. The next thing he said to me is he said, Lon, you need to go get baptized. I said, what? Baptized? I'm Jewish, man. Jewish people don't get baptized.

He said, well, Jewish people don't believe in Jesus either. And you said you do that. I'm like, good point.

Okay. So I went home and began thinking about it. And I thought, well, you know, if I mean business here, then I need to mean business here.

I mean, you don't, you know, you don't get half pregnant and you don't become half a Christian. So if I'm serious about my relationship with Jesus Christ, then I read in the Bible where Jesus said you need to be baptized. And I said, okay, let's do it. He baptized me in a pond down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And then I decided it was time to go tell my relatives. Well, um, that was a very interesting experience. Uh, I don't have the time to go deeply into it right now, but just let me say I was not, everybody was not excited when I came home telling them that I'd given my life to Jesus Christ. They would have rather had me come home and say, you know, I've been using LSD five times a week, smuggling dope in from Amsterdam and almost got arrested. Okay.

Law, no problem. I believe in Jesus Christ. You what? That's kind of how the reaction went. But you know, over the years since then I've had the privilege of leading my dad to Christ. Uh, my, uh, my mother came to Jesus Christ before she passed away and my only brother, my only sibling is now an active Christian living for Jesus Christ today. So my entire nuclear family came to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, although it took 22 years of praying and sharing to see that happen.

It was 22 years before my mom, the last of the group came to know Jesus Christ. I want to just tell you two quick vignettes and then I'm done. The first is about my, my housekeeper. Back then the politic, there was no politically correct language. We called her a maid. She was an African American lady, wonderful woman. Her name was Coralee Goodman and she, she looked, if you want a visual of Coralee Goodman, think of mammy on gone with the wind. And that's what she looked like. And she was just one of the most precious women in my whole life.

She came to work for my family when I was two months old and worked for my family all the way through the time I went to a way to college. Now Coralee Goodman was not an educated woman. She could not write her own name. She could not read. She could not drive a car.

She was not an educated woman. But this woman, when I was a brand new Christian and I began hearing Christian songs, you know, like Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine, and some of these very familiar songs, I remember thinking, wow, you know, I've heard that song somewhere before. Where have I heard that song? I mean, I knew they didn't sing it in the synagogue.

So I thought, where have I heard that song? And I could remember when I was just a little thing, as Cora would be ironing or she would be fixing meals and as I would be tootling around her, that I could hear her humming these melodies. So I said, you know, I'll bet she's a Christian. So I hitchhiked up to Portsmouth, Virginia to find her. And I found her house.

Remember, I got hair, a big old afro out to my shoulder. She hadn't seen me in three or four years. And I knocked on her door and she pulled back the little curtain and closed the curtain right back up. And I knocked on the door again. She pulled the curtain back. And I said, Cora, let me in.

It's Lonnie. That's what they called me back then. And she opened the door, still had the little chain on it, you know how they do and looking out. And she said, what are you doing here? I said, Cora, I came up here to tell you that I've given my life to Jesus Christ. And she said, good God almighty, honey. She said, come on in here. So I went on in and we sat down and I told her the whole story about how I'd come to Christ.

And and it was just a wonderful time. She's with the Lord now and has been for many years. But she said this to me. She said, Lon, I want you to know something. She said, I have been praying for you and your family since I came to work for you when you were two months old. Now, I'm 21 now as we're sitting having this conversation. She said, I have been praying for you and your family for now.

Twenty one years, she said. But honey, I never thought I'd see today you become a Christian. I said, well, here I am. We had such a wonderful time together. You know, Cora went on to be with the Lord in nineteen seventy five. But my mother, my father and my brother all became Christians. And I'm convinced the reason my entire family came to Jesus Christ is because of this woman, this godly woman who took us under her prayer wing and prayed for us faithfully until she died, which would then have been twenty five years. And and all of my nuclear family as a result came to Jesus Christ. As far as I know, this is the only Christian who was praying for me all those years. And friends, I don't believe that anybody becomes a Christian, but that somebody is not praying for you. And I attribute my being a Christian today and my family being a Christian today to the prayer life of this dear African-American woman couldn't read, couldn't write, couldn't drive a car, but she could pray.

And God bless her for that. One more story. Can I tell you in closing about how my dad came to Christ? I had the privilege of leading my dad to Christ just before he died.

He was in the hospital down in Charlottesville, Virginia. My dad had a very serious heart condition. He had already had three heart attacks.

The fourth one had killed him. And I'm already older today today than my father was when he had his first heart attack. My mother had called me and said, your dad's in the hospital. He has hepatitis.

He's very ill. You need to come see him. And she had made it sound very serious. So I rushed down to see my dad praying all the way. I'd been a Christian now about seven years. And I walked in the hospital room and my dad was sitting up eating a banana in this, in the bed. And my first response was anger.

You know, my mom did it to me again, you know, but I had a Jewish mom and you know how that goes. And so anyway, then we started talking and my dad said, how's the weather? Fine.

How's your wife? Fine. How's this fine. And I knew something was on his mind. You know, I just knew. So we, we had, we exchanged a few pleasantries and then he said, you know, Lon, he said, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. And I said, well, dad, I said, you know, thinking's good.

It's good to think. He said, yeah, I've been thinking a lot about all this stuff you've been telling me about Jesus Christ. And I'm like, oh my goodness, you know, and I'm holding my breath.

And he said, you know, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe everything you're telling me isn't right. And I'm like, oh God, I don't believe this. I mean, you know how you pray for something and pray for something and pray for something.

I was praying for my dad every day, sometimes twice a day, because I knew how sick he was. And you know, I could get a call any minute that he had died unexpectedly from heart trouble. And suddenly here he is saying that I felt like calling the nurse and saying, nurse, you know, clear the next bed here in the room.

I need it. But I, you know, I said, oh Lord, please don't let me say something wrong now. And I said, dad, there is no doubt in my mind that I'm right. I said, but I'm what, why, why would, I mean, you've never been interested. You've never wanted to talk about this.

You've always ignored all my conversations. Why all of a sudden are you saying you think I'm right? He said, well, Lon, I got to tell you. He said, I know I'm a sick man. He said, and I decided that I could find in Orthodox Judaism everything you found that you said you found in Jesus. So he said, I went and started going back to synagogue. He said, I started going back religiously. He said, I went to the holy day services.

I went to Rosh Hashanah. I fasted all of Yom Kippur, looking to find some assurance about what was going to happen to me after I died. See, for him, the issue was death. He was terrified of dying. And he said, I finally walked out of the synagogue after Yom Kippur services, the day of atonement. He said, I stood on the front steps of the synagogue. He said, he said, and I said to myself, you know, he said, I don't have any more assurance of what's going to happen to me after I die now than I did before I went through all that ritual. The ritual is nice, but I don't have any assurance whatsoever. Maybe Lon's right. And I said, Dad, I am so sure I'm right.

It's not even funny. And the next morning I had the privilege of getting down on my knees next to my father's bed in the hospital. He got out of his hospital bed and got down on his knees. And the two of us prayed as he asked Jesus Christ into his life. He died one week later to the day, never left the hospital, had a heart attack in the hospital and died in the hospital.

And the last time I saw him, I went down and saw him one more time before he passed. And he was hooked up to a trach and everything in intensive care. He couldn't talk, but he frantically wanted me to give him the little, this little piece of paper, you know, with plastic over where you can spell words out.

And when you're in intensive care, it has the alphabet on it. And I gave it to him and he spelled this out because see his number one issue was he wanted the assurance Jesus gave, but he didn't want to stop being Jewish. And we had to talk about that. And I had to say, dad, you don't become a Gentile when you believe in Jesus. You're always Jewish.

You complete everything that being Jewish is all about. So he got this sheet and here he was, this is the last time my dad and I ever saw each other on the earth. He got this sheet and he spelled out to me, L O R D, Lord, A N D and J E W, Jew. And I knew exactly what he was telling me. He was telling me, Lon, I've got the Lord in my life, but I'm still a Jew. And what a wonderful confirmation that even under the sedatives and even in intensive care, he still had enough presence of mind to spell that out to me and say, I know exactly where I am, Lon, and I've got Jesus Christ as part of my life. Well, folks, that's really about all I've got time to talk to you about.

But let me just close by saying this. I'm convinced that the only solution to life's mysteries and the only way to have the assurance of eternal life and the only way to have the deep seated joy and peace and contentment that we're all looking for in life. And I'm not saying that we don't have problems. You know, Christians have problems, but we have a joy and a peace that supersedes the problems. And the only way to live a life that's full of meaning and purpose, I am convinced, is to have a personal relationship with the God of Israel. And the only way to get a personal relationship with the God of Israel is through Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel. Jesus himself said, John chapter 14 verse 6, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to God unless they come by way of me. Jesus said that. And if he's right, and I believe that he is, then the only way to get that personal connectedness with God is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The only way to get answers to the universe and that deep seated peace and the assurance of eternal life is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Folks, I tried everything else. I tried them with equal commitment, equal passion, and equal openness to the idea that they were going to work. And you can go try them all if you want to.

I tried them all. And I'm here to tell you that the reason those things didn't work is because none of them were the true way to God. I found the true way to God, and I found it in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I believe, from my experience and from the truth of the Bible, that this is right.

Any person who will give Jesus Christ a sincere chance to prove himself to them, Jesus will do it. I mean, as we mentioned earlier, my salvation prayer wasn't the greatest. My whole approach to God, making this deal for a month, you know, God doesn't take kindly to making deals with him. But, you know, my heart was right. And if your heart's right, God will deal with you because man looks on the outward appearance, but thank God, God looks on the heart. If you're here today and in your heart you haven't been able to find the things that I've talked about that I was looking for and you've looked in many of the places I've looked, my invitation to you is to give Jesus Christ a sincere chance to prove himself to you. Just give him a chance. And if you're sincere, he will take you up on the opportunity and he will prove himself to you just like he did to me.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 01:13:56 / 2023-03-02 01:40:40 / 27

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