Freedom to Change
By Mark Landrum
Everyone wants love, joy and peace . . . and that’s why we are bombarded with ads for self-help programs, resorts, retreats and all kinds of practices and products that promise the most basic things that everyone wants. Sometimes people buy into something that seems to deliver fleeting feelings of love, joy and peace, but what about the real thing? How do you get that?
A young Jewish man named Toby* had been asking these questions. For years, my wife Rahel and I have joined his mother (an Israeli believer in Jesus) in praying for Toby’s salvation. He had been a troubled teen and grew to be a troubled young man. One day when Toby was extremely down, he asked us to pray for him to be freed from depression. Rahel explained that we were happy to pray for him, but that he would not be able to experience real freedom or peace without coming to the cross.
She went on to show how the Bible teaches that love, joy and peace are part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So, she explained, Toby needed to repent of his sins, accept the atonement Jesus made on the cross for him, and then God’s Spirit would come into his life to fill him with the power to experience true healing and a brand new life. That’s how he would find the freedom he wanted from depression, and the love, joy and peace he was seeking. Many people want to receive the benefits of salvation without acknowledging the Savior.
Toby had heard the gospel before; he knew he was a sinner. At this point he felt he had nothing to lose and was finally ready to surrender to Jesus. He prayed with us to receive the Lord and soon I had the privilege of baptizing him.
We saw the fruit of the Spirit in Toby’s life almost instantly. He’s very creative – he paints. His previous paintings had been dark and disturbing, but once he came to faith he lit up, became full of joy, and his paintings reflect that. I have been continuing to disciple him, but Toby now also attends a church regularly and participates in a home group with people his age. He has shared the gospel with His father and one of his brothers.
If asked, Toby will tell with a sweet smile what the Lord did for him. He freed him from darkness, bringing him into His light. He freed him from depression, bringing him hope, and delivered him from a lost state to a future with Him.
Toby knows he has experienced the love of his heavenly Father who keeps changing his life for the better, and this is only the beginning. When some friends from his past turned up at his door, Toby kindly explained that he wants nothing to do with his previous habits and way of life. What a joy it is to see his commitment to Yeshua!
Please pray for Toby’s spiritual protection, and that he continues to grow. Please for pray Rahel and me to have many more “Tobys” in our ministry.
*not his real name
Mark Landrum is a missionary with our branch in Sydney, Australia. For more information about Mark, click here.
By Stan Meyer
“I want to find out about this Jesus stuff,” Mike announced when we first met.
“What do you want to find out?” I asked.
“If He can really change my life.”
Mike found us on the Internet. He figured, “I’m Jewish. And I want to find out about Jesus. So shouldn’t I be talking to those ‘Jews for Jesus?'”
Michael was born in Baltimore, the son of Jewish parents who were active in their synagogue, but didn’t really believe much. They celebrated the Jewish holidays as a way of expressing their culture rather than any faith. Mike’s dad, a medical doctor, thought that science explained all that was necessary to know.
They tried sending Mike to Hebrew school, but early on he got kicked out for bad behavior. He graduated high school and did not pursue further education or training. He struggled with substance abuse and went from job to job. He knew that he was Jewish, and while he had not found help through his own religion, he knew that seeking help from any other religion would make his father angry. His vices seemed to be all he had for comfort.
One day when Mike was on the street feeling cold and weak, he ran into some former friends from high school who told him they had been “born again.” Mike didn’t know what that meant. But they took him in, fed him, housed him and prayed for him. Each morning they studied something out of the Bible—a book he had always been afraid to touch. If his dad learned that he was hanging with Christians it’d be the end of their relationship, he thought. But these old friends were so different from those he’d hung out with on the streets. They were obviously “not of this world,” but he didn’t know what world they were of!
Meanwhile, his buddies had to take him to the hospital because he was running a fever and getting sicker. His eyes had turned yellow. A doctor diagnosed him with hepatitis and assured him and his friends that they had saved his life by bringing him for medical attention.
As he was lying in the hospital, Mike knew he needed to change, but didn’t know how. He remembered the power, love, and purpose his friends had, and wanted it for his own life.
Not long after being discharged he enrolled in tech school to study heating and air conditioning. After he earned his certificate he joined some friends working for a large corporation. A number of co-workers told him they were Christians and had a real experience with the God of Israel. “That’s my God, I think,” he said to himself.
He found himself at the company’s annual sales conference, listening to various motivational speakers. But then one speaker stood up and laid out the gospel. He unequivocally explained that when a person dies he goes to one of two places, concluding, “You can wear a suit of glory or an asbestos suit!”
Mike slunk down. The asbestos suit imagery had hit him like a baseball bat! He pictured someone on the stage wearing a silvery white suit from head to toe. He could see, even feel. huge red flames licking him. Mike experienced a panic attack right there in a crowd of hundreds as the speaker continued.
The following year, Mike once again attended the company’s conference. Another speaker came to explain the gospel. This man seemed calmer and kinder. He carefully explained that God wanted everyone to have a personal relationship with Him, and that He provided a way to go to heaven. It was through Jesus. The speaker invited anyone who wanted to receive Jesus to come to the front. Mike’s legs seemed to propel him out of his seat, down the aisle and to the front of the auditorium, where a man led him in a prayer.
Mike had no idea what he’d prayed or why. He just knew that he needed to understand more about Jesus. That’s when he found Jews for Jesus on the Internet and reached out. We met at Starbucks. I opened the Scriptures with him. After reading a passage, I pulled out a pad of paper and did a rough sketch of three figures in three separate circles. The first circle showed a figure inside the circle on top of a throne. Outside the circle was a cross. In the second circle the figure was on the throne but the cross was also in the circle. In the third circle the figure was beside the throne, and the cross was on top of the throne.
“Mike,” I explained, “these are three types of people. The first one is the ‘natural’ man. He does not have Jesus in his life. He is on the throne of his life; he determines his priorities and he has no divine purpose or direction he gives himself. The second circle is ‘carnal’ man. This man has invited Jesus into his life, but not to his throne. Or maybe he did, but somewhere along the way he put himself back on the throne. The last circle is the ‘spiritual’ man. He not only invited Jesus into his life, but has continued looking to Jesus for direction and purpose. Which of these do you think you are?”
Mike told me his story. Then he pointed to the second circle. “I think I have Jesus in my life, but,” he said, pointing to the third circle, “I want Jesus to be on the throne of my life.”
“Would you like to pray with me and ask Jesus to take back that place in your life?”
“I would.” We bowed our heads and he prayed with me, asking Jesus to be the Lord of his life.
We continued to get together until my wife Holly and I moved to Florida in 2000. When we returned to Southern California in 2007, I was happy to see Mike at our Rosh Hashanah service. He had been baptized and was walking with the Lord. He’d met and married a wonderful woman, and they have done their best to share the gospel with both of their families. It was clear that God had answered the question Mike posed on the day we first met. Jesus can and does change lives!