Josh McDowell - Part 1
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I want to ask you a question. Just answer to yourself. You ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt all alone in life, like it wouldn't matter to anyone if you lived or died? Have you ever felt abandoned?
I want to tell you a story about an 11-year-old boy who woke up one morning and felt that way and didn't want to live. It's my story. I was born in Union City, MI, a little town of about 2,000 people, 1,500, and my father was the town drunk, the town alcoholic. I hardly even knew him sober until I was 20 years old. I'd go to high school with my friends and make jokes about my father, downtown in the gutter making a fool of himself. They didn't think it bothered me, cause I'm like some of you right here. You know, when you can laugh on the outside, when you're hurting on the inside. Every time they told a joke about my dad, it hurt, but I never, ever let anyone know. That's a secret I carried with me all the way through junior high, high school.
We lived on a farm. I'd go out to the barn and see my mother, whom I loved very much, lying in the manure, in the gutter behind the cows, where my father had yanked the air hose off the air pipes for the milking machines and used it to beat her to a bloody pulp, until she was so weak and bloody she couldn't stand up. And I was, eight, nine, ten, eleven years old and I remember just pounding on my dad and kicking him and screaming at him, "When I am strong enough, I'll kill you."
We'd have friends over, and my father would be drunk. Any of you, and there's a number of you, who have or who have had an alcoholic parent, or a drug related parent, then you know what I'm talking about. Trust me. If you don't have an alcoholic parent, you don't know what I'm talking about. You don't know the shame that every kid of an alcoholic parent carries with him every day of their life. Especially, when friends come over and your dad or mom is drunk. That's when that shame just totally captivates your life.
And so when friends would come over and my dad would be drunk, just a little kid, I'd grab him around the neck and I would pull him out through the dirt or the snow to the barn and I'd drag him into the pen where the cows would have their calves and I would just drop him on the straw. Then you learn to drive young on a farm. As a little kid you learn to drive. So I'd take the car and I'd back in out of the garage and I'd park it up around behind the silo on the other side of the barn, so it couldn't be seen.
And then when the friends would come we'd tell them he had to go away. Just so we wouldn't be shamed. And in case he woke up before the friends left, I'd go back out to the barn, my dad was just, probably only about 5'8" and a very slender man. So I'd get down under him and I'd prop him up against the boards. Then I'd put his arms through the boards like this and I'd tie a rope from one arm to the other arm. And then I'd go around behind him and I'd make a noose, and I'd put it around his neck and tighten it and then I'd put it around his feet and as much as I could as a little kid, I'd pull that rope until his head would go all the way over that top board. Then I'd wrap it around his feet and knot it. And I'd leave him there from seven o'clock at night until six, seven o'clock the next morning. Often, I remember as a kid, going out there and he would still be alive. I just wanted him dead. I just wanted him to quit hurting my mother. I just wanted him out of my life.
Two months before I graduated from high school, I came home from a date on a Saturday night, about midnight, walked through the house and I heard my mother through the entire house just profusely crying, weeping. "Mom! What's wrong? What's wrong?" And I ran into her bedroom and she sat up in bed crying, saying, "Your father has broken my heart." And then she reached out, put her arms around me, pulled me to her and said, "Son, I've lost the will to live. All I want to do is live until you graduate. Then I just want to die."
Boy that was hard to hear as a kid. You know the irony? Two months later, 61 days later, I graduated from high school, and then next Friday, the 13th, my mother up and died. Don't tell me you can't die of a broken heart. My mother did. My father broke it, and I hated him. I despised him for it.
And at that moment, I started slamming the door on God. I damned God. I cursed God. I called God every name in the book. And I cursed my dad, and I damned my father. And for seven years I slammed that door.
I enrolled in university, college. I went to college and the first two weeks in college, I saw a small group of people. There weren't very many. There were eight students and two professors; one of sociology and one of history. And their lives were different.
They kind of, for example, they seemed to know where they were going in life. They seemed to have direction. They had something else that I admire in people. They seemed to have convictions. I don't know about you all here, but I like to be around people that have convictions. But what really got my attention, is something you see everywhere. You have it here and all. But it was a different dimension that I saw. It's called love.
But this is what was different. They also loved and cared for people outside their group. The way I was raised up, that was weird, and I wanted it. So I made friends with these students and professors, and after a couple weeks, we're sitting around a table in the student union and the conversation started to get to God. So I looked over at this one lady, and oh she was a good looking woman. I used to think all Christians were ugly. I did! I figured if you couldn't make it anywhere else in life, you became a Christian. But she was really cute.
Now, I had a problem. This was my problem. I wanted what they had, but I didn't want them to know that I wanted what they had. But all the time, they knew that I wanted what they had and that I didn't want them to know that I wanted what they had. So I leaned back in my chair and I just tried to act totally nonchalant, totally disinterested. And I looked over at this young lady and I said, "Tell me, what changed your lives? Why are you so different from the other professors, the students, the leaders on campus? Why? What happened?"
She looked back at me with a little smile, and that can be irritating, and she said two words that I never thought I would hear in the university as part of the solution. She looked back at me and said, "Jesus Christ." And I said, "Oh for God's sake don't give me that garbage. I'm tired of that," and I won't share the words here that I used. And I lost my temper. Only three times in my life have I lost my temper and this was the first time, and I came unglued, and I lit into them. I got calmed down.
Finally the one young lady said to me, she challenged me to intellectually, now get this, to use my mind to examine the claims of Jesus Christ as God's son. I thought that was a joke. I literally thought Christians had two brains. One was lost and the other was out looking for it. I'm serious. I figured if a Christian had one brain, it would die in isolation. But they kept challenging me. No, they irritated me. In simple language, they ticked me off.
So I accepted their challenge, and I didn't do it to prove anything. I did it to refute them. In fact the background on my first book that I am really known for in places around the world, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, the whole background of that huge book was to write a book against Christianity; to show it was intellectually stupid and to refute these students and professors.
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