2019 – Changed Lives Archives – Jul/Aug
John Newton: Author of “Amazing Grace”
Though some today wonder if using the word “wretch” is a bit overly dramatic, there was a man to whom the word fit perfectly. His mother taught him Bible in his early years but she died of tuberculosis when he was seven. From then on, John Newton was raised in the deplorable image of his father, a Captain in the Merchant Navy.
When John was eleven, he went on his first sea voyage with his Dad but he lost that first job because of rebelliousness, which continued for many years. During his teen years he was forced into the Royal Navy but he rebelled there also and became a deserter. He was caught, put into irons and flogged. He was then discharged to a slave-trader ship.
John continued in his arrogance and was as immoral as he could possibly be. By his own words he said, “I sinned with a high hand, and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others.” It didn’t help that he was later hired to work with a slave-trader named Clow. Clow treated him cruelly which made him even more hateful. Leaving the ship, he soon found himself in rags, begging for food. He finally transferred to Pegasus, a ship that carried goods to West Africa in exchange for slaves bound for North America.
During a voyage to England in 1748, the ship was damaged in an enormous storm off the coast of Ireland; it almost sank. John awoke in the middle of the night. While the ship filled with water he called out to God. To his amazement, the cargo shifted and stopped up a large hole which allowed the ship to drift to safety. John marked this experience as the beginning of his conversion to evangelical Christianity.
Another year had passed before he reached Britain. But during that time, he studied the Bible and other religious literature and he came to accept Christian doctrine as truth. From that point forward, having accepted the Lord, John avoided profanity, gambling, and drinking. It was a true life change for him
He left the sea for an office job in 1755, and held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. He was greatly influenced by the teachings of the Wesleys and George Whitefield. He also became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He quit the field altogether and was ordained into the Anglican ministry. He then took a parish in 1764 in Olney, Buckinghamshire. Three years later, poet William Cowper moved to Olney. Cowper, a skilled poet who experienced bouts of depression became a lay helper in the small congregation.
In 1769, John began a weekly evening prayer service; he wrote a hymn to go with a popular melody for each service. John challenged Cowper to do the same, which he did until falling seriously ill in 1773. John later combined 280 of his own hymns with 68 of Cowper’s into the popular Olney Hymns, including such songs as Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, O For a Closer Walk With God, and There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood.
John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace
is a fascinating, colorful, and historically significant portrait of slave trader turned Christ follower, John Newton. Master biographer Aitken brings us into one of the most sensational sagas of the 18th century.
(Click Image to Purchase)
John Newton’s life was miraculously saved by Jesus and he dedicated himself to the Lord. To help end the practice of slave-trading which he regretted being a part of, Newton wrote “it is a business at which my heart now shudders.”
He became increasingly feeble near the end of his life. Some suggested he should retire. He replied, “What? Retire? I cannot stop. Shall the old African slave trader be silent?” This was one wretch that God truly saved. The truth is, we all fall short of the glory of God. Have you received Him into your heart and life? If not, do it today!
He Kept His Eye On The Goal
McKinley “Deacon” Davis
McKinley “Deacon” Davis was a poor kid from a small Illinois town but became a well known and dearly beloved man. He was known world wide for one who made Jesus the mark of his high calling; he kept his eye on the “spiritual goal” even more than on the basketball goal.
Davis was born in Freeport, Illinois in 1932. He grew up developing his love for basketball and played on his high school team. He made the State Championship team in 1951 and was named “All State Center”.
“Deac” went on to the University of Iowa and majored in political science. He also played basketball on the college team until he graduated in 1955. After college, Deacon became a major contributing member of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters until 1957.
While traveling around the country with the team, Davis became interested in the condition of American high schools. It was in these years that his vision originated for a program he hoped to start one day called “CHANCE”. The word stands for “College Help and Assistance Necessary for College Education”.
In the mean time, Davis held several positions that would serve to round out his foundational experiences for ministry. He was a recreation supervisor with the Rockford Park District in Rockford, Illinois. He directed the Booker Washington Center on South Main street in Rockford. He spent ten years as Director of Special Programs at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and then founded the NIU CHANCE programs. He then became executive director of NIU Intercollegiate Athletics.
He expanded his opportunities into the early 80s by joining the corporate world and became national sales director for Primerica Financial Services/Citigroup with offices in Rockford, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Deacon Davis was successful in many walks of life, but his athletic talents were not forgotten. In 1981, he was selected to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. And he earned the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000.
This author had the privilege of knowing Deacon Davis personally. He is very special to me because we grew up in the same town, went to the same high school, and all my older brothers knew him very well. Beyond that, he has had a true heart for ministry and was always willing to help where there was a need.
More than 880,000 books from Kay Arthur’s life–changing New Inductive Study Series have been sold! This exciting series brings individual readers and groups face–to–face with the truth of God’s precepts, promises, and purposes,
in just minutes a day.
Beloved Bible teacher Kay Arthur highlights the striking similarities between the twenty–first century and the times of Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah. In the midst of the crumbling moral foundations of society, the attacks of foreign nations, and the need for a revival among the people of God, the message of God
then and now is this:
The day of the Lord is coming; whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; seek the Lord and live!
(Click Image to Purchase)
In 2001, my wife Kathy and I were on our way to Freeport from Georgia; it was on the day the Twin Towers were hit by the planes on 9-11. We had been planning a six day area wide Christian Crusade during that time. The next to last night of the crusade Deacon Davis came to speak for us and gave his testimony of when he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He shared his life story and told us of his street ministry in Rockford. Someone took a picture of my wife and I with Deacon standing between us; he’s very tall! But I would add that he was very “tall in spirit” as well. I’ll always have the deepest appreciation and respect for him for being willing to add to the crusade. But that’s exactly the kind of Christian man he was.
He could have been the “boy next door” who grew up in a gang, or found lots of trouble and desperate for help. But instead he became the helper, the instructor of the right pathways, the director of kids’ programs, and the one who gave opportunities to all.
The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Deacon certainly hit that mark.
Yes, God changes lives that are yielded to Him. And Deacon Davis was a true example of how God uses people in meaningful ways. He passed away on March 20, 2003. Some time later we received this obituary by mail, summarizing his life as follows: McKinley “Deacon” Davis will always be remembered for his total commitment to God, his family, and support of his fellow man.”
Walking On The Moon
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong
Fifty years ago the Moon Lander touched down at 3:17 Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, July 20, 1969. It was an epic moment to be remembered for all time. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon followed by Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins, a third member of the group, was in charge of the command module which circled the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed. The module was also used to return the crew to Earth.
Aldrin had brought something very special with him on his trip. He had received a small communion kit from his church that included a silver chalice and wine vial about the size of the tip of his finger. That historic day he radioed, “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the Lunar Module pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in–whoever or wherever he may be–to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.”
Later he wrote about his moment of silence. He said, “I poured the wine into the chalice and in the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly and gracefully curled up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.”
Aldrin celebrated communion on the moon in spite of the fact that NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with the opponent of religion, Madelyn Murray O’Hare; she had protested the reading from Genesis by the Apollo Eight crew while orbiting the moon at Christmas.
None-the-less, Aldrin said, “The Eagle’s metal body creaked. I ate the tiny bread and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.” Aldrin praised God regardless of what others said or thought.
Marking the forty-fifth anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing, First Man by James Hansen offers the only authorized glimpse into the life of America’s most famous astronaut, Neil Armstrong—the man whose “one small step” changed history.
(Click Image to Purchase)
Beloved American hero and astronaut Buzz Aldrin reflects on the wisdom, guiding principles, and irreverent anecdotes he’s gathered—both in outer space and on earth—through his event-filled life, in this inspiring work.
(Click Image to Purchase)
Armstrong was also a Christian believer. Perhaps the most under-reported story about Neil Armstrong was his visit to Israel after his historic trip to the moon, where he made his one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. He went on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem with Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov.
When they arrived at the Hulda Gate–at the top of the stairs before the Temple Mount–Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there. Ben-Dov told him, “These are the steps that lead to the temple, so Jesus must have walked here many times.” Then Armstrong asked if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed. “So Jesus stepped right here?” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov. to which Armstrong, the devout Christian, replied, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”
Armstrong died Augusta 25, 2012. Of course you wouldn’t know about Armstrong’s Christian faith from the obituaries published by such liberal journalists as the New York Times and Washington Post. They didn’t consider it worthy of comment. Nor would you know that Neil truly loved the Lord. That fact was not revealed in the minimal tribute offered by President Obama. Yet Armstrong’s life story cannot be told without mentioning his walk with Christ.
The secular world remembers Armstrong as an aerospace engineer, a university professor, a Navy fighter pilot and the first man in history to peer back at Earth from the surface of the moon.
Those who were closest to the famous astronaut, his widow, Carol, his two sons, Eric and Mark, his brother and sister, and other survivors, remember Neil Armstrong as a man of faith.
Glory Be To The Good Lord
So how does a guy get a name like “Dabo”? Well his parents gave him the nick-name because his then-18-month-old brother couldn’t pronounce the words, “that boy”. His actual name is William Christopher Swinney; he was born in 1969 and grew up in Pelham, Alabama.
In an article by David French in The National Review (2016), Dabo explained that he had come out of a broken home. His father was an alcoholic, and his family lost their home when he was in his teens. That left them very unsettled as they moved from place to place. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his family then fell apart and life’s struggles became overwhelming.
In spite of his personal losses, Dabo was accepted at the University of Alabama, where he joined the Crimson Tide football program. He was twenty years old. At the same time, he was sharing a room with his mother because she had no where else to go.
How did Dabo cope with his hardships? He talks about a decision he made when he was sixteen years old. He said it was a “game changer” for him. It was then that he accepted Christ and began a personal relationship with Him. And that’s when God was able to bless Dabo with a future and a hope!
Dabo has blossomed with numerous successes: from scholarships to assistant coaching opportunities, to completing his master’s degree in business administration, to working his way up to becoming head coach for the Clemson Tigers, to earning over nine million dollars a year, it is clear that Dabo Swinney is truly blessed.
But for Dabo, what matters most to him is his faith. In an interview posted in 2018 by The State Newspaper on Facebook’s Sports Spectrum, captured at the ACC Media Day event, Swinney shared the following comments about his faith: (The Atlantic Coast Conference or ACC is an athletic membership of 15 universities in the south-eastern U.S.)
“It’s hard to survive and to thrive in this world if you don’t have a spiritual foundation . . . In my relationship with Christ, He’s given me hope and peace. I love Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . to give you a hope and a future” . . . that’s kind of been a life verse for me; I have applied that to my life along my journey.
“You know, everybody sees me now and I’m the head coach for Clemson and all this and that, but my life has not always been this way . . . to me, if there’s really hope in the future, then there’s power in the present to deal with what ever mess your dealing with in your life. That’s what a relationship with Christ did for me . . . it gave me the ability to have a hope and a belief beyond my circumstances . . .
“It’s how I choose to live my life . . . [and] trust me, people that know me, know that I ain’t perfect, but I do try to live my life in a way that hopefully, can be pleasing to my maker, because I know I’m going to meet Him one day, and He’s not going to pat me on the back and talk about how many ‘wins’ I had, or how many Coach-of-the-Year trophies we got, or how much money I made. I really think He’s gonna hold me accountable to how I took advantage of the opportunities and the blessings that He gave; the impact that I had on young people; [and] the type of men that we developed through the game.”
Do you really want your prayers to be heard and answered by God? Do you want to be sure your prayer time isn’t wasted by going through a wishful, whimsical exercise with the hope that something “might” happen? Do you really want to know what happens when you pray? If your answer to these questions is yes, then allow Powerful Prayers That Open Heaven to unlock the secrets of prayer for you. “This book will change your prayer life.” –Dabo Swinney, National Championship-winning Clemson football coach.
(Click Image to Purchase)
Dabo goes on to say–in light of all of his success–that his greatest accomplishment has been to see his three sons come to know Christ and to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
Swinney was interviewed by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in 2018. “How do you describe the joy of the moment?” Rinaldi asked. Here’s how Swinney replied:
“ . . . For me personally, joy comes from focusing on Jesus, others and yourself.
There’s so many great coaches that are so deserving of a moment like this that never get the chance to experience it, and to get to do it once and now to get to do it again, it’s a blessing. And, it’s just simply the grace of the good Lord to let us experience something like this . . . All the credit, all the glory, goes to the good Lord!”
Up, Up, And Away
Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.
Listening to the radio has changed over the years. Today we have Sirius FM and Pandora. And we find ourselves downloading MP3s instead of buying CDs, tapes, or vinyl. But back in 1967, radio was big. Remember the song, Up, Up and Away? It won four Grammys! What about Stoned Soul Picnic, or Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In, or Wedding Bell Blues? Who were the artists? You guessed it: The Fifth Dimension featuring Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. They went from singing groups to solo careers through the last four decades, but have also remained a dedicated married couple.
The question was posed as to whether they had any romantic interests toward each other in those early days. Billy said, “Oh, no, it took a couple of years . . .” Marilyn says there was no interest at all. But they did have a common interest and that was their passion for music. So they stuck together because of their careers.
In time, it was Marilyn that began drawing closer to Billy. Finally, the subject of marriage came up. But Marilyn did not want to go down that road. She had seen so many couples divorce including her parents. So she was afraid to mess up her relationship to Billy with a marriage. In spite of that, the couple did decide to marry in 1969.
Marilyn and Billy parted company with The Fifth Dimension in 1975. That’s when things really began to slow down, career wise. It gave Marilyn some time for reflection. She began looking at her life and her vocation in a fresh new way. She explored who she was and what it all meant and realized, “something was missing.”
One day her girlfriend shed some light on the matter. She said to Marilyn, “If you ever feel like there’s a void in your life, that’s because the Lord is telling you that you need Him.” She continued to call Marilyn daily, encouraging her to read the Bible and seek God. While Marilyn had explored spiritual things like life after death and the world beyond, she had never journeyed through the Scriptures before. Doing so led her to pray to receive Jesus, but admits she really didn’t understand it all at first.
Now Billy–on the other hand–had grown up in church, but said he knew he was lacking a spiritual life. And all of a sudden, here’s Marilyn running around the house with a Bible in her hand. When Billy saw that, he said, “The Holy Spirit convicted me . . . because I should have been the one to say, ‘Hey, come on, let’s go to church . . . let’s deal with the spiritual part of our lives’ . . .”
So one day, they were driving around Los Angeles and saw a sign up on the Roxy Club advertising a revival. Billy got excited and said to Marilyn, “Why don’t we go!” So they did, and Marilyn said to herself, “Tonight, Billy’s going to find out that I’m born-again.”
For those who don’t believe that Hollywood marriages can last, meet Marilyn and Billy. Amidst the Hollywood glamor and lifestyle, they fell in love and got married, but their marriage was far from bliss. Polar opposite backgrounds and clashing personalities made the journey difficult for a couple whose career success had come so easily. This book goes behind the closed doors of pain and emptiness to the dawning of the truth in their lives.
(Click Image to Purchase)
As of this writing, Billy and Marilyn have been married 50 years. They are an outstanding example of two people that know how to make a marriage work. But their foundation is rooted in Jesus Christ. Billy says, “We have to realize that we’re two different people and we have to learn how to deal with each other’s stuff.”
Marilyn adds, “. . . People think that compromise is a dirty word today . . . don’t try to win every battle . . . you have to learn how to give and take . . . and we couldn’t have done it without the Lord because we have truly had our struggles . . . One of the major struggles that we’ve had is Billy’s problem with alcohol. Praise God, Billy has been dry now for 31 years!”
Today, Marilyn and Billy are still going strong. And they want to encourage people in their marriages. Marilyn says, “Long term marriages do work; they are relevant in today’s world . . . hang in there; it’s worth it; it gets better with time.”
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. are a tremendous Christian couple. They’re wonderfully gifted, they’re beautiful in Spirit, they love the Lord Jesus, and they’re an example to follow, indeed. We need more people like these, especially in the entertainment world. God bless them! We hope they have inspired you today.
Journey Of Faith
Did you watch The Love Boat, back in the 80s? What about The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 70s? If you did then you must remember Gavin MacLeod. He played Murray on “Mary” and the Captain on “Love Boat”. In fact, MacLeod has been in show business for six decades! So what’s his story? With all that success, what has his personal life been like?
MacLeod was born in 1931 and began his acting career in films, in 1957. He’s headlined with numerous stars like Susan Hayward, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby, Peter Sellers, and Dick Van Dyke to name a few. And he appeared in many television shows like Hawaii Five-O, The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, Rawhide, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Man from U.N.C.L.E., My Favorite Martian, Hogan’s Heroes, Combat!, The Big Valley, The Andy Griffith Show, It Takes a Thief, The Flying Nun, The King of Queens, and That ’70s Show. The list goes on!
Like many Hollywood stars, Gavin went through at least one marriage and divorce in his life time. His second marriage to Patti lasted about seven years. They divorced in the 1980s, but this is where the story gets interesting.
Gavin was doing so well in Hollywood that he wasn’t paying attention to his marriage anymore. He cast it aside, left Patti, and went on to things he thought were more important. He ran in the world, so-to-speak, for the next three years, never giving Patti a second thought. But in time he discovered that life was becoming painfully lonely without her. The days ahead became dark and difficult even though he was seemingly “on top of the world”.
During this same time, Patti had learned about the Lord, Jesus Christ through her friend Patti Lewis, (wife of Jerry Lewis). Because of that she dedicated her heart to Him. And then, she started to pray for Gavin.
Sometimes God uses afflictions to get our attention. You see, Gavin’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor at about that same time. And that’s when he turned to the Lord. In a story about Gavin’s life, posted by CBN’s The 700 Club, it was said that Gavin prayed that if God would give his mother more time on this earth, he would turn his life over to Him and become a child again in His hands.
Gavin also decided to call his wife, Patti and tell her about the situation. They began to spend a lot of time together and through their prayers, Gavin’s mother recovered. What a victory!
Patti was interested in another recovery as well: she wanted to get back together with her husband. So, she invited him to a conference for distressed marriages. Gavin really just wanted to remain as friends, but he went to the meeting anyway.
Before the night was out, Gavin found himself praying to God and rededicating his life to Him. During the second night of the conference, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit! His life went in a brand new direction; the power of God had changed his life’s course as he was cleansed and made whole. The following year, Gavin and Patti were remarried. What a miracle!
From his humble theatrical beginnings in upstate New York, to Radio City Music Hall and on to Hollywood, Gavin MacLeod was on the fast track to success. However, a few hard life lessons—like dealing with a divorce—taught Gavin that the key to happiness was only through a deep faith in God, and he feels his work for Christ is more important than any award. Three years later his remarriage proved that a great struggle can culminate in a happy ending. Read about Gavin MacLeod’s remarkable life, career, and faith journey.
(Click Image to Purchase)
Since then, Gavin has continued on with film and television. For example, he appeared in Rich Christiano’s Time Changer, a movie about time travel and how the morals of society have moved away from the Bible. He’s also appeared on several religious programs. As well he and his wife have been hosts on the Trinity Broadcasting Network for 17 years, primarily hosting a show about marriage called Back on Course.
Gavin and Patti Macleod have a new mission in life now, since those uncertain days of the past. Their focus is Jesus! In fact, Gavin has written a book about his life story called This Is your Captain Speaking. As Gavin says, “My greatest wish, though, is that whoever reads my story will walk away at the end with a smile. And maybe, just maybe, there’s something to be found in my journey–especially in my journey of faith–that will help give someone a little bit of hope. Maybe even change someone’s life for the better.”
Mighty For God
Paul Anderson backlifting 6,270 lbs; the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being. Toccoa, Georgia, 1957.
Imagine being the strongest man in the world! When he was just a teenager, Paul Anderson began training on his own to become the world’s strongest man. He worked out in his humble backyard and used special homemade weights that his father created out of concrete poured into wooden forms. His story is amazing.
Born in Toccoa, Georgia, Paul Anderson was raised by Christian parents. As he grew into his teenaged years he was somewhat tall but remained small in his build, so he was encouraged by his brother-in-law to begin lifting weights. Later, he was introduced to Bob Peoples, who would greatly influence him in squat training and introduce him into weightlifting circles.
It was clear right from the start that Paul was gifted with strength. He proved he could lift a lot of weight. For example, Bob Peoples could lift 725 pounds in the “dead-lift” competition, but Anderson could already lift 600 pounds. He blew his peers away! Paul’s parents wanted him to pursue college but Paul insisted that weightlifting was what he was meant to do.
While Paul’s career was moving forward, his spiritual life–not so much. The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21; NIV). In a dramatized broadcast released by Unshakled.org, Paul admits that he treasured weightlifting above everything. So when setbacks came, like a car wreck in 1954 that left him with broken ribs and a damaged hip, Paul was all the more determined to get back on track so he could compete.
At 21 years old, Paul weighed over 300 pounds, had 36 inch thighs, and a 24 inch neck. Looking back he stated at that time, “I knew I could beat anybody”. His persevering attitude opened the way for him to compete in an international weightlifting competition in Russia. The best competitor matched a previous Olympic record of 330.3 lb (149.8 kg), but Anderson lifted the heaviest weight overhead of any human in history: 402.41 lb (182.53 kg) in the two-hand press. God had truly blessed Paul Anderson, but Paul had not yet found a relationship with Him.
Then the turning point came. Eighteen days before an Olympic competition in Melbourne, Australia, Anderson developed a fever due to an ear infection. Against the advice of his doctor he competed anyway with a temperature of 104 degrees. He was allotted three attempts to perform a challenging lift, but blew the first two tries because he was so sick and weak. He said he was desperate and lifted his first ever truly sincere prayer to God: “I know you’ve made me special and I’ve not given you credit. I want to be part of your kingdom and from here on out, I’m making a real commitment. I’m not trying to make a deal, God, but I need Your help to get this weight up.” God heard that prayer and answered it. That day, in 1956, Paul Anderson won the gold medal. Paul returned home a hero.
Read this inspiring story of a strong man who became even stronger in the
(Click Image to Purchase)
As great as that was, God was calling Paul higher. He had ministry plans for Paul that would soon unfold. Through demonstrating his weightlifting talents in various places including prisons, he began to have a heart for young boys who were incarcerated in the prison system. In 1961, Anderson and his wife Glenda founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a home for troubled youth in Vidalia, Georgia. The four strategic priorities of the program included: 1) Planting God’s word and discipling students through mentoring and modeling, 2) Providing therapeutic counseling and substance abuse treatment, 3) Supplying a fully-accredited college preparatory high school and vocational training, 4) Supporting graduates long-term through a transition program. Visit https://www.payh.org/our-program/ for more information.
Here’s one more important fact yet to be mentioned. When Paul was five years old he was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease. This disorder would cause his kidneys to fail and at best, he was told he might live to age 18. Paul’s parents prayed fervently for their only son. And God honored that prayer. The Guinness Book of World Records did cite Anderson in its 1985 edition for a backlift of 6,270 pounds. This became the basis for his reputation as the “World’s Strongest Man”. He was that, and so much more! In addition to these amazing accomplishment, Paul lived to the age of 61. Isn’t God good?!
Rene “Level” Martinez
You may not have heard of Rene “Level” Martinez but he is very well known in Miami-Dade County. As a notorious gangster and drug runner he ran wild in the streets and considered gang members his family. He was a powerhouse; a force to be reckoned with. Would he ever find hope for his life and his future?
In a self-produced documentary called The Warrior Level, Martinez tells how he frequented jail even as a juvenile and how he was almost killed on many occasions. For instance, at age fourteen, he and his buddies stole a car and went to a party. On the way home they got into a high speed chase with cops. During the pursuit they crashed into a car doing 100 miles per hour. The driver was killed and Martinez was given a five percent chance of survival.
After waking from a three week coma and being in a body cast and then a wheel chair, Rene did learn to walk again, but he did not learn the “life-lesson” God had put before him. He went right back into street life and gang life, stealing cars, pulling home invasions, and dealing in weapons and drugs.
So where were his parents? Well Rene’s abusive dad was absent early on so Rene’s mother left him. Meanwhile, she was busy working and partying and practicing witchcraft as a religion. At five years of age, Rene remembers being chased around his apartment and stuck in the bathtub with the freshly cut off head of a goat; its blood was poured all over him. He said, “That’s the day I started seeing demons . . . [and] they haunted me my whole life . . . I don’t recall any happy childhood memories, straight up.”
Rene’s mom was a wreck. When she could no longer provide for her child, they became homeless and lived in the back of a video store; Rene had to steal to eat. At one point, she attempted to take her own life, but Rene found her in time and called 911. In the documentary she states, “I wrote a letter to Jesus Christ saying that I had failed as a human being and I had failed as a mom . . . Jesus Christ touched me and made me whole again.”
Rene’s mother was not aware of his gang involvement at first, but there in South Florida’s teenage war zone, Rene was gang initiated. She later said the terrible anger he carried was what created the monster he became, and ultimately a gang leader. He kept company with all sorts. Many of them ended up either serving decades in prison or just plain dead. Reflecting back, Rene said, “A lot of evil happened, a lot of people got shot, and a lot of people died . . . the devil was having a field day. None of my home boys are left from back in the day . . . probably like one or two . . . And that’s the life of a gangster, man. Straight up. Ain’t no future in it.”
AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE:
The Warrior Level is a documentary about the life of Rene “Level” Martinez, a true urban legend in the Miami scene, and now a hero to many. The Warrior Level depicts his life, his losses, his people, friends, foes, family, loved ones, and the divine intervention of his very personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
(Click Image to Watch Video For Free)
At about marker 1:11:45 in the film, Martinez begins to describe his redemption. He said, “I remember I was in the studio. I was doing gangster music . . . I was writing lyrics . . . I was writing all kinds of wickedness; there was a demon speaking to me. That night I had an encounter with Jesus Christ, man. He spoke to me, man, and He told me, ‘I spared you for such a time as this. Either you come to me now or I’m going to take my hedge of protection off of you and Satan’s gonna do what he gotta do with you.’
“And right then and there I knew . . . countless times I got shot at. So much happened in my life. And when I heard His voice that day, I knew, man, it was time to surrender. I gave it all up right then and there. I got on my knees and started crying out to God, man. And it’s like God started to work on me . . .” Soon, Rene was water baptized and at the same time received the gift of the Holy Ghost so that he became “on fire” for the Lord.
Today he goes from prison to prison and from project to project, doing street ministry, and preaching repentance and remission of sins in the mighty name of Jesus. His motto now is, “Pick up a Bible, not a gun! Guns down, Bibles open!”
We encourage you to watch this documentary. The culture that God saved Rene out of is real; it’s an eye opener. The last fifteen minutes of the film are especially amazing! See how the power of God can change a life–even the life of a gang leader.
Matthew 16: 26, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but
lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”