Once a gambling man

The testimony of Bro. John Lowery

For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

        As a family when we grew up we didn't go to church only Easter and Christmas. Mother was Roman Catholic and dad was a Presbyterian. When I graduated in 1973, that was it for me, no religious instruction and no Easter and Christmas. I got beat up as a kid, bad marks in school, father was mean and strict, he whacked around my mother and sister too. They finally got divorced.

When I turned 18 I had to get out of that place myself I never looked at it as leaving my mother alone with 2 sisters, but I guess I did. I felt I needed to get out and as they say find myself. I was a prisoner for 18 years, used to get grounded from report card to report card, 13 weeks at a crack. I never did any wrong as a kid, I was too afraid of my dad, even when I turned 18. I never went out with my friends who were going to the bars. If my dad would find out he would kill me, and believe me he meant it.

Around when I was 21 was the start of my downfall. My friends got into the bars and [I] had an apartment with 3 others.....party, party, party....sex, drugs and rock and roll. I got a job at the steel mill, making big bucks. I also worked part time job, setting up drums for a local band, it was heaven, and I got all the women I wanted. Then I hit a bad streak, got involved with a girl and we had a baby. Four months later I was out the door...deservingly I went to Florida came back, went to Houston, came back. I was lost without them. She got involved with somebody else and had twins, but I still wanted her back.

Well, things didn't get better in 1984 and I hit bottom. I was into gambling and I lost my pants. I was about two grand out with no job and no money. My dad bailed me out if I joined the service and I did, at age 28. The army straightened me out, somewhat. I still searching to find myself, even tried that church thing in Fort Dix, didn't get it. I went to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma...tried the church thing again...didn't get it. I had to live by the laws or go to hell...well I guess that's where I was going...I couldn't do it. I reenlisted for 3 more years, because I asked for Hawaii and it was a go, wow, this is paradise. But still no real God in my life and certainly no relationship with Jesus. I knew He was that Baby in the manger and He preached on earth. The only time I ever prayed to whoever I was praying to was when something bad happened. I would ask why, why, what is going on? I'm a good person, I never would hurt anybody, I always help others. I would give my shirt off my back to anyone. I didn't get the God or church thing.

One day I was having one of those cries at night of total loneliness, I had many of those nights. I went out for a walk, laid in the middle of a golf coarse in Hawaii, and cried out to the Lord to lead me to the girl of my dreams. I went on my merry way and went home on leave. My baby sister was getting married, first of the family. My older sister and I were still single and lost. I met at the wedding, that girl of my dreams, my mother said she was a good girl and I found out a lot about her that night. She was the one to straighten me out. She was a good catholic girl, went to church on Sundays, and her best friend was the priest. I had the long distance thing and I got out of the army in 1988. We got married in 1989 and had our daughter in 1991.

She dragged me to church a few times and I went with good intentions, but it was the same. I just didn't get it and the money thing always has bothered me. Then when my daughter was getting older, they were both off and asking me to join, no way. However, it hurt my feelings, so I tried again and it was no go. I just knew it wasn't right, they didn't make any sense, it didn't feel real, the people were cold and like robots. I still had trouble with the job thing and I started betting again and I kept it very quiet. We were in a financial mess but we finally got out of that apartment hole and moved into a lot better place.

My wife was led to another church, to get my preschool daughter in class. My wife loved this place, she couldn't stop talking about it. She then started going to the church, she was glowing like I never seen a person. She started teaching summer Bible school for the age my daughter would be in. She came home every day that summer in 1996 with a glow I still remember today. She kept on asking me to join her and Tina, but it was not for me. You hypocrite people. Go to church on Sunday and be bad the rest of the week. It was not for me.

I got so far in debt I had Two jobs at 40 hours each. I was gonna die soon and I was trying to pay off all those credit cards from my gambling. I just couldn't do it anymore. I was 20 grand out and paying 600 a month in debts on the card, for only about 240 off the card. At this pace I could never pay it off and I would die working 80 hours a week. I came clean with my wife and I even promised God, if he got me out of this mess, I would never bet again.

The day before Easter I choose, that would be a good sign, that Jesus guy died on the cross for our sins right. I said for you on that day, what you did for me, I will quit betting if you get me out of this mess. We tried credit counseling and even they couldn't help. We got a lawyer and filed chapter 13, and it was all over, no more debts. I felt a big burden lifted off my shoulders. God came through and I was out of this mess. [Tracy's note: chapter 13 is not God's way of deliverance. God's way is restitution--paying back what you owe.]

Father's day was approaching and my wife without me knowing, had a plan. She asked if I would join her in church for Father's day. She said she would never ask me to go again and I complied. Well, I must say, she was right. It was different, and that day people were giving testimonies and getting baptized. I thought they were a little to old for that, heck I had that done when I was a baby!!! ha! ha! Well, I cried through the whole worship service. When we got home, my wife said "well, what do you think." I said it was good, it was different, but not for me.

The summer went by, she did the summer Bible school thing again. My daughter and wife were both off to church, but not me, they were wasting there time. One day they went to church and I was raising my hands up and down saying praise the Lord, hallelujah, and as they went out the door I laughed. I got on the old couch to watch some Sunday football. I was channel surfing passed a station. I heard him say Jesus Christ. I passed on by for a split second and I returned to hear what he had to say.

He was talking about tithing, giving 10% from the top to God and that you have been robbing him all your life. He said if you give you will get, you have a storehouse of treasures, he's waiting for you to tap into. Have you been lost, searching, changing job to job, wondering why you always have problems? Well, one reason is you have been robbing God, or maybe you don't have God in your life. Boy was he talking about me or what. This guy must know my life story or something. Everything he said that day was about me.

I watched the whole hour program. When he closed, he invited all that want to accept Jesus as there Lord and Savior. He said pray after me and I followed his prayer. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I invite Him into my life, I confess all of my sins before Him and now!!!! I did and was started to cry. I confessed all those sins that held me bondage for my whole life. I was crying out to the Lord to have mercy on me. I cried out that I'm sorry I'm a sinner and I turn my life over to You. I need you and can't do this anymore. Then the man said we pray in Jesus mighty name. Right then, right there, that second, I had chills from head to toe like no tomorrow.

I didn't know what happened? I looked around, was numb, I kept looking around. I felt somebody there, something happened. I felt a peace come over me. I felt no guilt, no pain, no suffering, no nothing, just peace. I know now, I was born again thru the grace of God. By grace through faith and not by works, and I was robbing God all these years, I finally got it!

I went to church for the rest of the fall and in Jan of 1998 and I promised God to tithe and go to church every week. Well, 70 weeks later I missed two services. Somebody praise the Lord. I started taking all the classes, courses and what ever they could throw my way. I listen to Christian radio every day for two hours. June hunt, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll and Focus on the Family, every day since Feb 1998. By the way it was Charles Stanley that I was watching that day. God used Charles Stanley to bring me home to the Lord. I have watched him every Sunday since that day.

Where am I today? I just finished the alpha course with Nicky Gumbel. I only signed up because after talking to the pastor and asst. pastor. After about 2 other classes I took and told people my story, they said this would be good for me. I joined with hope to pass on my story and what God has been doing in my life today. We watched a 45 min video and we broke off into groups and talked about the tape and what was on our hearts. Well, I must say the Lord was shining through me. We had an awesome group and when it was coming to an end, no body wanted to go. The asst. pastor said "maybe John will lead you in a small group if he wants to. He knew, like I did, from our talks that God had called! Everyone at that table looked to me for guidance and it was an awesome feeling. God was doing all the work, I was just telling everyone what the Holy Spirit is telling me. They have come every week.

God is great! I hope you enjoyed the life story. May the Holy Spirit keep on using you to send out the message.

Your brother in Christ,

John Lowry Jr.