Hello, My name is Tommy Richards, and in 1997 I became a believer in God through a very powerful and unexpected experience.
I'm not a professional writer so please bear with me as I try to put something into words that is truly beyond words.
Before I had this experience, I had gradually become a very cynical and bitter young man, filled with anger and regrets. I also had a terrible case of anxiety. I was a big fan of heavy metal music since I was a very young child and I ended up associating myself with a lot of their dark and depressing lyrics. The terrible case of anxiety I eventually developed caused me to seek to "self-medicate" in an attempt to take away those deeply embedded feelings of anguish and try to soothe my troubled mind and soul. I suffered from a dreadful case of insomnia, lack of appetite, concentration and happiness. I was a chain smoker of cigarettes and severely addicted to them. I could not quit no matter what. I had long ago given up even trying.
Today, I'm free from all those negative feelings and the need of ANY substances for anxiety or sleeplessness. That's because Jesus Christ healed me instantly when I was born again. He literally replaced the bad feelings I had with a powerful feeling of well being and soundness of mind in exchange. It's been over 22 years now. And this is why I need to share my story with you. I know God can do for you what He did for me.
We all have our own stories. And all are complicated and different from each other. That's what makes us so unique. Oftentimes it's hard and even impossible for others to identify with us and our problems. Even so called "professionals." That is why it is so important for us to seek a relationship with God. Because He understands us like no one ever could. He knows right where we hurt. And He can and will fix this problem if we ask Him.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." ~Psalm 119:67 (NASB)
"My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." — Proverbs 3:11, 12
The part of my story I want to share with you now deals with my thoughts and feelings I had about God from a very young age. I believed in Jesus and God since I was a small child but without anyone telling me about Him. When I was born, my mother wanted to name me "Christian", even though she was not a Christian at all. Matter of fact, she was quite the opposite. For example; When I was a young child she had me use a ouija board with her to try and contact the spirits of deceased people (which is called necromancy and forbidden by God). In other words, she had her young son partake in witchcraft with her. And I suffered terrible nightmares and mysterious illnesses as a result. She left my father when I was around one year old and she then lived a single lifestyle with many boyfriends over the years. Because of her choices I grew up very poor, hungry, without proper care and education.
When I was 3, my mother took me to Fire Island where we stayed with some of her friends. She then went out partying and left me with a few of her friend's kids who were a few years older and bigger than I was. Seeing we were alone with no adults to watch over us, the two older boys began taunting and terrorizing me. I remember being scared and thought they were going to hurt or even kill me. I then have a very vague memory of seeing a man with a beard appear with a concerned look on his face. And when my mother got back from da club, I told her that "Jesus appeared to me."
Did Jesus really appear to me? Or perhaps I had a vision? I'm not sure, but from that age, I believed Jesus was real. And when I was around 7 years old, I told my mother I wanted to learn about God. She spoke with her sister and her sister suggested I go to the Catholic church down the street, which I did. I was baptized there soon after and signed up for catechism classes and received my confirmation when I was around 13.
From ages 13-19, more and more, I found myself hanging out with the wrong kinds of people. Also during this time, my mother claimed to have an experience involving Jesus. She briefly attended a charismatic church in Deer Park, NY called The Upper Room Tabernacle. Not too long after that, my mother mysteriously stopped talking about Jesus and God altogether. At age 19 I decided I would join the Navy. When I was 20, I left for boot camp and it was there that I prayed for a dream of Jesus three nights in a row. On the third night I received a powerful vision/dream of Jesus the Messiah. I describe the dream here.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1993 is when I made the horrible error of agreeing with a woman I was engaged to, to have an abortion due to our trust and relationship failing. Before we went through with it, I called my mother for advice. She told me on the phone, "if I would have done my life over I would have done it too." In other words, she would have aborted ME! And I was so deep in darkness that I STILL went through with agreeing with this woman to get the abortion.
And immediately after, I was CURSED. Suddenly, I could no longer eat, sleep or function properly. I had been working as a collection agent, which the business I worked for picked me and 2 others out of over 50 applicants. And I was the only one who endured on the job. My boss called me a natural. But after the abortion I couldn't concentrate on my job anymore.
At that time I received a call from my father saying I could work at a major New York newspaper through the union. It was a good opportunity to make good money and move back home where I was born and raised, so I did. But I was extremely spiritually sick.
When I got to New York things proceeded to get worse. I began going to Rave parties all over New York and my physical, mental and spiritual condition continued to rapidly deteriorate due to the lifestyle and lack of eating properly.
In 1996, I became the lead singer of a hard rock band. The name of the band was called "Melodrama." We rented a studio under a storefront in Long Island and had about 10 polished, original songs. I thought this might be my life's career. Later, when I was finally coming to my wit's end, I remember suddenly realizing something I never thought of before, musicians Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain were all 27 years old when they died. And here I was, 27 years old and the reality of death hit me like never before. I had never been the kind of person who was easily scared, but this feeling I was experiencing terrified me. At this time of my life, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana failed to bring me any kind of relief. I was smoking about 2 packs a day of Marlboro Reds. I began to understand that nobody, not friends, family, could help me break free from the prison of my own mind and soul. I think they all began to realize this too and began keeping their distance from me. I even relented and tried going to a psychologist as a last resort (who was falling asleep as I poured out my problems on him). I believe that was the smartest thing I did, because after talking with him I realized he couldn't help me. And if this professional who makes a living helping people couldn't help me, I figured I was beyond help. I remember thinking, "I just got to get away for a while, from everyone. Just disappear."
One day with nowhere to go or no one to turn to for help, my mind and heart began to turn towards
God. I began to realize that He was my only hope. I then remembered a cassette tape my mother had given me about 10 years earlier. I had never
listened to it, yet I had kept
it through the NAVY and several other big moves. I found the tape and I put it in the player and
listened to it. It turned out to be the testimony of someone who was much worse
than me. He was a former heroin addict, satanic priest and wound up being left for dead by his fellow cultists. But he then mentions Jesus, and the blood He shed, and he says
at the end, "Just give Christ a chance." Through hearing this message and the words spoken in it, HOPE sprung up in my heart that GOD could save me from the terrible and hopeless reality I was living in for the last 4 years.
At that point I realized through God's mercy that Christ was the answer, to everything. I began to cry out to the Lord Jesus, Who I knew was there with me in the room. I didn't see Him, but He allowed Himself to be known to me that He was there and was listening to me. I told Him I was sick of my life, the way I was living, the drugs, the circles, the regrets, the misery. This was the very beginning of my entering into the New Covenant ("Testament", agreement, contract) with God through the death and shed blood of Jesus the Christ.
The next thing I remember, God allowed me to see where I was spiritually. And that I was a sinner on my way to an eternal hell. The Bible calls what I experienced "terror" and "dread" (1)(2). This terror and dread caused me to cry out to God for mercy from the depths of my soul. I then accidentally kicked over a glass of red wine that was left in the middle of my floor in my bedroom and it spilled on a white faux-leather NIV bible my mother had bought for me and sent to me while I was in the Navy. I picked it up and began cleaning the dark red wine off the white HOLY BIBLE and the terrifying, sorrowful and yet beautiful conviction of the Holy Spirit fell upon me. I began crying and I opened up the Bible right to these words, and when I read them I felt the eternal Almighty God speak directly to my spirit within. He said to me,
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.
But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
“Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.
Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” ~Proverbs 1:22-33
There's no need for me to exaggerate here. I honestly couldn't come close to verbally describing what was happening to me. It's much bigger and more powerful than I could ever relay in words.
While reading these verses I trembled with terror and chills went through my entire being. I pleaded with God to spare my life and have mercy on my soul. This is when the Lord showed me true misery, I all of a sudden felt
the terrors of an eternity of suffering in hell. I sensed
the awesome holiness of God while simultaneously feeling the disgust and shame of the
sins I had committed throughout my life. And I knew where they would take me without God's intervention.
At first I was shocked that God would send me to hell. I always thought that place was reserved for the worst of the worst. Like Adolf Hitler and people like him. I even said, "what did I ever do that was so bad?" And in that instant God brought to mind the abortion I had taken part in about 4 years earlier.
I felt the wrath of God towards this sin in particular and I felt the condemnation of not only my own self but I sensed the condemnation of
the whole world. It was so
overwhelmingly powerful and incredible that
it felt like I couldn't endure the revelation of this truth.
The whole spiritual realm was opened up to me. Satan, demons, angels, heaven, hell, the sinful condition of mankind, Judgment Day, and of course, God Almighty and His blessed Son, Jesus the Christ.
The most important part of my conversion testimony is yet to come:
Days went by and I remained glued to the Bible and prayer and God preached the gospel to me through His written Word.
The New International Version Bible I owned had footnotes for many of the prophecies Christ fulfilled from the Older Testament/Covenant and I looked up every one and saw Christ clearly through the Old Testament Scriptures and it filled me with faith.
The last night before I got saved I had been reading the book of Revelation when I got to the verse, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." Revelation 3:20 NIV. When I read that verse I broke down weeping, and praying to God and telling Him THAT'S ALL I WANT. I knew Christ was literally knocking on the door of my heart. And Its beautiful to recount, to this day.
Very early the next morning, I suddenly broke out of the deep sleep I was in. I felt the holy Spirit all around me like a heavy cloud. I then felt Him pushing me to turn on the TV. And I had no idea why. "What could be on TV that I would want to see right now?", I thought. But I couldn't resist this guidance from God. I turned on the TV and began changing the channel. I even remember going counter-clockwise as it was an old fashioned TV. I then saw a man's face taking up the whole screen and I stopped and let go of the TV dial. And The first words out of his mouth were, "If you have never accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart I want you to say this prayer with me.." I began saying this prayer of repentance and I knew that this moment was ordained by God for the day I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. He said, "repeat after me..", "My Lord and my God, have mercy on my soul, a sinner.." And I repeated and the conviction of a lifetime of sin fell upon me and I wept loudly confessing I was a sinner.. I knew I was a dirty filthy sinner who was separated from a Most Holy GOD.
But he continued, "I believe Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins" And I repeated knowing full well it was the truth. That Jesus died for ME, personally! And when I repeated that part of the prayer I felt the very heavy weight of sin lifted off of my soul and I felt cleaner than a newborn baby. It was beautiful..
But the prayer continued,
The man on TV said, "I open up the door of my heart and I invite you into my heart Lord Jesus"
-And after reading Revelation 3:20 the night before and knowing Jesus was knocking on the door of MY heart.-
I repeated that last part of the prayer with powerful faith and I felt God Almighty enter into my body. And I felt demons cast out. I was instantly delivered from every and all spiritual bondage and had no more anxiety, depression, substance dependency. I had no more anger, no more regrets, no more sadness. But my heart was FILLED with praise to the living God!
I had truly become BORN AGAIN by being washed clean of sin in the blood of Jesus and then Baptized in the Holy Spirit immediately after. That was almost 25 years ago.
May God bless all of you that read this testimony of God's saving power through His gift of faith in His Son, Jesus the Christ. I pray God opens your heart to receive free salvation through faith in the blood of Jesus and through God's Spirit He sends to all those who are willing to enter the New Covenant with Him. Invite the Lord into your heart. Ask Him for the peace, power and the sound mind God promises in His Word. Its free and its to all those who ask.
-Yours in Christ, Tommy Richards
May God the Father bless you all, in Jesus's holy Name, Amen.
You can be saved!
God loves the people in the world so much that He came down to die for us. If God is opening your heart to His message and you feel convicted for your sins which have separated you from a holy God and you feel the need to be forgiven, then say this prayer. This is how I was powerfully converted to the Christ in 1997!
Say, "My Lord and my God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I believe Jesus the Christ died on the cross and shed His precious blood for the forgiveness of all my sins. I believe Jesus raised from the dead and ascended into heaven and is now on the right-hand side of God listening to this prayer. I open up the door of my heart and I invite You in, Lord Jesus. Thank you, God, for saving my soul and I vow to serve you with all my heart which is the first and greatest commandment. Amen."