A Man, Drugs, & Penn State Revivals

[The following is a true story based on events that occurred at Penn State during their Christian Revivals of 1980-1983. If you don’t believe me, look the revival up. This story was once told to me from the person who experienced it.]

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Yesterday was cocaine. Today is weed. Just an ordinary Spring day at Penn State when Mark and his friends would skip class to get high. They sat around the sofa stoned, laughing hysterically at the stories they’d tell of their latest escapades. Freshman year was a blast and sophomore year for Mark and his friends was a breeze.

One by one the guys left Mark’s dorm room as they wrapped things up. Mark remained on the sofa –  his eyes glazed, shoulders slumped, his head barely upright on his body. Somehow the drugs hadn’t reflected in his college grades. Mark was a decent engineering student to the point where it would be impossible to guess what was going on behind closed doors – or so you would expect. The year is 1981 and drugs are a normal recurrence with many students on campus. Buying a bag of marijuana was almost easier than buying box of pencils.

As Mark’s high eventually began to calm down, he realized that he’d soon have a choice to make. Up to this point Mark had done (and enjoyed) practically every drug except heroine. His friend Ashley was able to buy some heroine earlier that day and they planned on doing it together. They say, as Mark thought to himself, “Once you start heroine there is no going back.”  Nevertheless, he settled on joining her that evening. Since Mark could handle all the other drugs he concluded that he could handle heroine just fine.

Just before evening time there was a knock on his door. As he opened it he barely recognized who it was, but he’d seen them around campus before. They were two preppy-looking Freshmen guys inviting him out to a Christian gathering for later that evening. They added that there would be food and the opportunity to meet some new people as well.

[The odd thing about this occurrence was the rarity that someone would even come to Mark’s door about this. Percentage-wise, Christianity was not a big thing at Penn State at the time.]

Mark, extremely reluctant because he didn’t know much about religion, heard his conscious urge him to go so that he could get out of his heroine date later. After little debate, Mark decided to take a chance and go to the Christian gathering instead.

At the Christian event that very night, Jesus saved Mark and he began to believe.

In the days following, Mark went cold-turkey from all his drugs. He would still hang out with his normal crew of friends and just not partake in the usage. His friends didn’t mind. Sure, they thought it was strange, but it just meant more enjoyment for them.

When Mark wasn’t in class or hanging with his old friends, Mark now spent all his time swimming in the scriptures and going to the Christian events of that small campus ministry.

After about a month of being saved Mark and his two closest old friends took a weekend camping trip. That night his two friends pulled out some Crystal meth to use. They begged and pleaded Mark to join them. Mark initially refrained.

They reasoned with Mark, “Come on man, just this once like old times. It’s not fun if you don’t join us. You’ve gone a month without a high anyways.”

Mark eventually gave in. The three of them got started and immediately the high kicked in for each of them. Mark could feel the familiarity from the high that he used to feel, but something was different this time. It was as if his heart wasn’t for it. He began to feel his face melting, which is a typical reaction to meth. Mark glanced over at the flames from the fire pit and heard a distinct high-pitched, demonic laugh come out from the fire.

[To this day Mark believes that was Satan’s demons laughing at him as they realized they’d gotten one of God’s chosen to slip.]

Without delay Mark fell to his knees after hearing the demonic laugh. He began to cry out loud to God that he was sorry. All the while his friends stood enjoying their own highs. Mark cried continually asking that Jesus take away the high. After repeatedly praying aloud for healing…. suddenly…. the impossible happened…. Mark’s high vanished. Not only that, but Mark’s friends had their high abruptly taken away as well.

[You see, a Crystal meth high doesn’t just abruptly end after a few minutes. A Crystal meth high literally lasts anywhere between 8 to 24 hours and has a gradual decline of its effects.]

Knowing this from their past experience, Mark’s friends freaked out. They frantically asked Mark what just happened. Before Mark could respond his friends tearfully got on their knees and asked Mark to tell them about this Jesus he’d been following the past month. This same Jesus who Mark just prayed to who impossibly took away their high. What a miracle, what a God. Mark’s friends got saved and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord that night.

What happened the rest of the school year at Penn State was nothing short of a miracle. revivalMany other of Mark’s drug friends also became believers. There began to be a Christian revival on campus that year and subsequent years. Numerous campus ministries formed and each experienced drastic growth in numbers.

But for Mark, how long did it last? Was it just a little phase or spiritual high that Mark went through?

There are other spiritual stories to tell of Mark and his obedience to Christ. However, I’ll end with this: Today, Mark is pressing harder than ever into Christ as he wrestles for more faith as his wife of many years is now struggling with ALS. Both having a life lived well for the Lord, are now living life well through suffering. But still, the fight goes on. “It is the worst time and it is also the best time,” Mark says encouragingly.

Mark and his wife were asked, “If you knew what your life would hold, would you still choose it?”

Their reply – a resounding ‘Yes’.

Oh to have such remarkable faith.  The angels rejoice over Mark and his wife. For all eternity, we will celebrate.

“I’m a pilgrim passing through. We’re just passing through on this journey. I’m blessed that I’ve had such a wonderful wife all these years. Whatever God gives us today will be wonderful. So what about the dreams we had, heaven is so much better. It is said that it is better than anything I can hope for or imagine. And I have a pretty good imagination.” – Mark

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There was the Young Man, Drowning in the Sink…

There was the young man, drowning in the sink. Everyone says that it was because of gravity that he was drowning. Unfortunately, they were right. His older brother looked on as he helplessly stood just a few feet away. The gravity of sin pulled the young man deeper and deeper into the waters until his fight for breath was as meaningless as a caged bird.

With civility, Sin initially used his charm to lead the young man to the sink. The older brother did not scruple to attempt to take his brother away from Sin’s grip. However, little did the older brother know, Sin had a grip on him as well. Soon enough the older brother grew passive and was frozen in place. So much so..….that he was powerless to help. Complications were more layered than tiramisu. All hope was lost for the brothers. Sin rejoiced as he was winning the war.

Things were not always this way. There was once a time when things were pure and life seemed innocuous. Is this not the human experience: that in one moment everything can be so beautiful and right, and then in one fellow swoop (a phone call, an accident, one conversation) there becomes all this weight laid on your soul. All of a sudden your soul cannot breathe because the gravity of sin is too much to bear. Sometimes the change is quick. Sometimes the change is slow-moving, With the great wisdom of Sin, most of the time the latter method is the case. One minute you’re on a raft close to shore and the next minute, without realizing, the waves have drifted you out into the sea. Whether it’s sin, loss, betrayal, hate, or whether it’s being overwhelmed; you then cry out for God’s nearness and help, but the only voice you hear is darkness. Or maybe the devil himself. Or sometimes worse…. you hear nothing at all. Maybe, nothing at all. Such scary times there.

 

The young man hadn’t noticed his far drift until it was too late. He was not lying in a sink – to the contrary, he was drowning in the ocean waters. His death was imminent. On the other side, the older brother’s passiveness caused his ability to save his brother to be nonexistent. The young man finally gives up. His lungs begin to fill with water. His heartbeat slows down. His skin coloring grows dark. His heart beats its last beat. His older brother, still looking on, drops to his knees in gloomy defeat.

 

Suddenly, with all hope lost and with Sin and death close to victorious reign, Love interrupts. The loving Narrator of the story interjects Himself. The omnipotent Narrator who knew the characters before writing the story, who created the story, and who knows how it ends as He types away … suddenly appears. For He is the only one who can save the brothers. He is the perfect one that loves both idiotic brothers and can shift them back onto the path he designed them to walk long before the story began. For what the brothers were powerless to do because they were weakened by their flesh, the Narrator freely did – Even as the brothers did not deserve to be saved. The narrator turns a hopeless story into a story of good news! Odd thing is, the Narrator could have corrected things a long time ago but chose to wait. Why? That is something for us to wrestle with until we meet Him face to face. We do know that He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”

The book of Hebrews says that Jesus endured all that loss and betrayal. It describes that he also suffered a brutal death. It claims that He endured those things so that He can empathize with us and say, “I know how these hard times feel”. Luckily Jesus the Empathizer is also Jesus the Narrator who is in control of the entire story. There is a warm blanket to our soul in knowing that our Narrator intimately knows us, loves us, and has the ultimate power to save us.


What an almighty and glorious narrator that would be.