What’s amazing is that I spent years headed for eternal destruction. And I never even knew it!
I was born the son of two Muslim parents from Cairo, Egypt. My first years were spent in Toronto, Canada in a reasonably large Islamic community. I attended the mosque and learned what seemed to be hundreds of rituals. That wired me to think that I had to earn my way to heaven by doing good “works.”
It’s also where I learned animosity toward Christians and the Christian faith. If my parents would have caught me attending a church or wearing a cross, I would have been kicked out of our family, or worse.
When I was finishing grade school, we moved from Toronto to Houston. The Islamic community in Houston was pretty militant. But we stopped going to services, and so I basically grew up in a faithless home. Things were rough during my teen years. Violent arguments were common.
As I was entering my senior year, my dad and I had what was certainly our most violent fight. I took off out the door to the field house at the high school and when I got there, our head football coach, Donnie Lawrence met me there and I broke down in tears. Coach Lawrence was a great man of God and before I knew it, I was spending the night with him for a few days.
This was my first look at life inside of a Christian home. Blessing the food—never done anything like that before. It was awkward to say the least. On a Sunday, I went to church for the very first time. I can still remember at the end of the service during the invitation. Heart pounding. Sweating. Refusing to listen to the Holy Spirit calling me. This was the first of many times I would be running away from God.
I graduated from high school in 1986 and went to Stephen F Austin University in Nacogdoches…good old East Texas Bible belt. I was surrounded by believers. That’s when I met my wife Karen, and we started dating. I went to Bible studies—pretending to be a Christian, all to be able to hang out with the pretty girls! And while Karen and I were most definitely not equally yoked, and while I believe that it is imperative that couples contemplating marriage be equally yoked, I am grateful beyond measure that Karen and her family accepted me into theirs. Being around her family, I started to “play the part” of a Christian and in my mind, I was a Christian.
We moved to Plano in 1997 and attended First Baptist Church in Plano. We enrolled my daughter Taylor and eventually our son Blake at Canyon Creek Christian Academy. Every school event opened and closed in prayer. That’s where I got my “religion.” But at every church service, during every invitation from every preacher, I sat there. Heart pounding, sweating. Running away from God.
I was in control; I didn’t need Jesus. I was on the fast track in my career, making more money than I expected. One thing for sure, it was “all about me.” In my heart, I was a “good man.” I didn’t drink, do drugs, cheat. I tried to please God by living a clean life so that God would let me into heaven. I followed the Ten Commandments. Don’t get me wrong, I worried that I was not “saved” but kept on running away from God. I figured that God knew I was a good person—God and I had a deal.
Then in November of 2009, just when life was perfect, the president of my company, healthy family, lots of possessions; I imagine God probably decided it was time for me to stop being a fool, and He started sending me messages. They were not subtle. Every lunch, phone call, meeting people on airplanes, at every corner the person I would speak to brought something up about Jesus. But I wouldn’t listen…kept on running; until near the end of 2009.
Then things started to go off the rails. I hit rock bottom and was ready to resign from the company I had founded and that had become my idol. I attended an EvanTell Workplace Evangelism training program for business professionals to learn to share the gospel. I went in from a networking perspective—in a room with great men of God. Looking back I now see the many ways Satan tried to block me from attending—people desperate to meet with me, tempted with money, getting lost and coming in late. You name it. But I made it there.
Larry Moyer took the Bible and explained that all of us are sinners and that the penalty of sin is death and eternal separation from God. Then he explained that Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God died in my place as my substitute, taking the punishment for my sins, and rose again the third day. He used Ephesians 2:8–9 to explain that eternal life was a free gift that comes through trusting Christ alone to save us. There it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” In the midst of the training, it was like the Holy Spirit, in an instant, came into my heart. There in that training room, I trusted Christ and knew I was saved.
I didn’t tell anyone what had happened that day, not even my wife. But I was on fire and knew I could not sit still. I knew I HAD to go to church. That very evening Karen, out of the blue while surfing on the internet, says I think we should go visit First Baptist Church Carrollton this Sunday! And on February 7, 2010, our family went down during the invitation and I made a public proclamation of my faith. We are all baptized on February 14.
I now know I am a Christian, and I even know why. I have trusted Jesus Christ as my only way to heaven. Although I ran from Him, He did not run from me. My days as a Christian are not always easy, but I know He is there and one day I will be in His presence forever.