Friday, November 11, 2011

Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free! Part One

It wasn't very long after I subscribed to Facebook that I came across this gentleman named Dan Knoll.
We began communicating back and forth and discovered in each other avid students and lovers of God's Most precious Word.
I admire this brother, not just for his generous heart, his wit, his biblical knowledge and knowledge in general regarding pertinent subjects biblically related, but for the kind of man that he is: genuine, giving, and abundantly willing and able to exalt the LORD his God, and share the Word and the Gospel of our salvation with any one who is hungry for them.

It is, in part, for this reason that I solicited him to give his testimony on how he came to know the LORD and within about a single day, he delivered it to my email box (that was quick!). And so, with no further delay, here is the testimony of our brother in Christ, and saint of the living God, fellow citizen of heaven, and co-heir in Christ Jesus our LORD, Dan Knoll:

When asked, by James Fire to share my Christian testimony, I gladly jumped at the opportunity. And then it dawned on me, that I may have only verbally shared it in bits and pieces it the past. I am now past middle age and what seemed earthshaking years ago, is relatively mild nowadays.

I remember reading once in a Steinbeck novel, that "every body wants to leave their mark on the world even if it's a scribble." On the other hand I like what the Lord's brother James wrote,

James 4:14

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

I recall a guy I knew that was really an aggressive witness, who said that he would walk down main street with a toilet on his head if he knew it would cause a person to accept Christ.

So I believe that is the heart behind the sharing of Christian testimony, or how one came to know the Lord Jesus Christ:

I was a regular, relatively average kid growing up in Wisconsin in the '60's and '70's. My parents did the best they knew how to bring me up as a Roman Catholic. At 55 years young I am still learning just how many layers of deception exist in this physical realm we are trapped in. I was drafted into the altar boys and future priest club an so on and so forth. By the 4th grade I was a good Catholic boy or so they thought.

I think it was around that time I started to have some questions about God, and life. I actually believe to this day I was reborn around then since I would listen to the Gospel readings in the mass ritual and I believed in my young heart that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that he suffered died and rose from the dead 3 days and nights later.

I did remember... wondering how they got 3 days and nights from Friday at 3pm to Sunday morning... the priests didn't really know either and just told me to accept it on faith or something like that. That would be one of many questions I never received a satisfactory answer for from the Roman Catholic church.

I must admit I was somewhat intrigued by evil, the devil etc. I was in a constant quandary between trying not to sin and sinning what seemed to be incessantly. I played 'Let's Make a Deal' with God on a weekly if not daily basis. And I think my prayers were never answered.

Adolescence brought with it an ample dose of rebelliousness. I was the oldest of 8 and the kid that broke the ice for my poor folks.

I attended Catholic grade school for 8 years, went to a public Junior High in 9th grade, and it was in my sophomore year that I really started to cast off much of my upbringing. I think it's safe to say that, though Roman Catholics wind up in Mass every Sunday. Their indoctrination basically permeates ones being.

Sorta like the old sayin' "You can take the boy outta the Roman Catholic church but you can't take the Roman Catholic church outta the boy". I have tried to prove that absolutely wrong!
I met a kid - "Lancey" on my way to school one morning and he ended up becoming influential over me at that time. He was a nonconformist in lot of ways; 2 years older than me, so I kinda looked up to him.

Like so many kids I was really getting into the popular music, and he open me up to new exciting music I never heard before. Started hanging out with him a lot. He played guitar; it's what every "hip" teenager at that time wanted to do. And I wanted to learn to play, and my buddy Lancey was more than happy to teach me.

Now alcohol was no big deal in my life, my Dad let me have a little beer every so often. All my relatives were drinkers, and smokers but only a few were considered drunks. Lancey, he would have a beer when we were hanging, and jamming, and of course I would join in. One day he asked me about reefer, I admitted to not smoking dope.

You see I was a bit of a book nerd even though I wanted to be cool, I replied to him with some cliche I had read; he didn't pressure me but told me that pot causes you to see the world from a totally different point of view and that it EXPANDS your mind.

So I started to read all I could about pot and the problem was, it seemed that the books I read all sort of bent in favor of pot and it's benefits. At any rate I became more and more curious, I was highly interested in expanding my horizons. Lancey, he really was a mentor to me and I finally told him I was ready to open my mind.

As you probably can imagine nothing happened except I was kind of paranoid on account of smelling like a reefer. Went home and my kid brother spouts off that I have been smoking cigs. My Dad was a truck driver and wasn't home and Mom she gave me the third degree but both my folks smoked cigs so it ended up as no big deal.

Later that week dad gets home and he gets the report, and more or less tells me not to smoke and if he ever finds out I'm smoking dope he'd kick my a--.
Wonder where he came up with that notion . . . ?

As you might have guessed I continued to pursue the pot scene, never got high like all my friends have been telling me. So I am about to blow the whole thing off as a bunch of hype. In the process of pursuing the dope scene I started changing the kids I would hang with. I abandoned my old RC school friends and started hanging with a new and exciting crowd of freaks, and these cats were cool. We had a really open campus; I mean if you didn't have a class you could leave school for whatever reason and go to the store or where ever.

A lot of kids would go out into their cars and smoke; and a buddy invited me to join him, his sister, and some other kids to smoke some new dope he just got. It was the third or fourth hour. So I go out with them and started smoking pot with them and thats when it hit me like a ton of bricks! I had gotten blasted! I was laughing my guts out non-stop. It was mind blowing; it also was the start of a downward spiral that would end a number of years later.

The counter culture of which I now was a part of seems to me to flow in parallel to straight culture. And I was able to blend into both relatively unnoticed. They say that the frontal cortex doesn't fully develop till one is well in their 20's - in my opinion drug usage further retards the process. Hence the stupid choices continued longer than they should have. Looking back 40 years it's pretty hazy. I ended up a doper extraordinaire and gained the moniker "Danny Stoner" I was cool and liked by the freaks . . . I thought . . . had friends albeit not really. And when I was straight for a few hours, I had a gnawing urge to break this habit, but I'd smoke it any way.

Now I was in what they called 'A track classes' in 10th grade, but my grades were dropping rapidly, and I started choosing easier classes in 11th grade, and I was barely making passing grades. I had a job bagging groceries; needed it to buy dope, but it was a drag, man! While I was working, I would see this guy come in with his wife and baby on many different occasions. I was 16, he was probably 20 or so.

Anyway there was something about him that I liked and wanted to get to know him. I asked around and finally someone told me his name was Gary, and said, "The dude is cool, he plays guitar, love getting high. And the dude loves Dylan" (who was my hero at the time).

So, I try to break the ice and strike up some small talk with him while I'm working and he's shopping for groceries. Found out where he lived, and just showed up one night after work. It was awkward at first, but we hit it off and I thought it was great spending many, many nights getting high, talking about everything under the sun - you know like God and man and law.

Gary became my best friend. Everything else around me was falling apart. School was a hassle . . . all I took was Art classes, the job was a drag, family life: uncool. Gary turned me on to peyote and he explained things like how modern thinkers really proved God was dead and the corporations were really running the show - we were all just pawns in their game!

We were avid readers but the choice of material was heavy counterculture LEFT. After numerous trips I had come to the conclusion the system was all 'BS - total lies everywhere'. Religion was truly the opiate of the people, the 'work day rat race' was bs, everything was bs, except Dylan and getting high.

In my art classes there were a bunch of slacker dopers like myself and some truly strange ones even to me. There was this girl, she sorta gave me the creeps but I was sort of fascinated at the same time. Her art was really good and she would whip it out in seconds, it was kinda creepy and amazing at the same time. She was sorta like the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club, but darker. I don't know but somehow I was placed at a table next to her.

Anyway one day she just out of the blue tells me "I am a witch!" Mentally I'm thinking, Yeah right! what ever trips your trigger!

Verbally I said something like, "Hmm, I'll be!"

There apparently was a number of girls involved in witchcraft and this was in 1973 and '74. I lived about 30 miles NE of Madison and Madison was inundated with witchcraft and drugs. They called Madison "Berkley East" or Mad Town and it lived up to the name!

Even the mayor was a doper!

This so called witch started crossing my path at different times and it was creeping me out...and I got into the drug scene deeper and deeper. I thought it strange that she would tell me in class, "Don't become a Jesus freak!"

I'm like thinking of all things, Why not a Jesus freak?

But don't worry. I have by this time become a pothead, tripper... not good in any way or form. I had gotten in much trouble at home, been caught with dope numerous times.

My Dad, from the old school, knocked my block off a few times: I really didn't like him. I stole his car once and crashed it; should have been killed, but just had a few bruises.

The wrecker driver asked me, "Is Bob Knoll was your old man?"

I said, "Yeah why?"

He says "I hope he's mellowed out since I knew him for your sake." He hadn't and . . . Well the thought crossed my mind to take off and not look back. The cops took me home and my folks were awakened at 3 am, I was pathetic to say the least. There are a lot of things . . . It's now late '74 I barely graduated High School, got canned from a number of jobs, still a staunch rebel, no real prospects for the future except doping and serving my own selfish interest.

I read all kinds of books about all kinds of ways "but heaven was 10 dollars a bag and god was still spelled "me". My buddy Gary was moving off to join a commune out in the southwestern hills of WI. I was bummed.

Started smoking pot at home in the basement; one morning around 3 a.m. Dad was on his way to work and obviously smelled the dope, handed me 20 dollars told me to "Get the F out" and "never wanted to see my face again."

Looking back can't blame him a bit. We have since grown relatively close.

I had an aunt that offered me some money to go to college and since all my other prospect were nil I took it. Enrolled in the system and chose a college in the southwestern hills of WI. Majored in art, minored in philosophy.

While I as at UW Platteville it was a wasteland. I tried to be a student but the drugs had a big grip on my being. I spent most of my time high, and reading Carlos Casteneda books on the Yaqui Indian Way of Knowledge, endeavored to dance with mescalito. Took my classes high or tripping.

I remember quite clearly one afternoon a girl knocked on my door and invited me to a open bible fellowship or something . . . I spouted off some far out nebulous bs and it didn't seem to discourage her in the least, in fact after constraining and being turned down 3 times at least, she finally left. I remember thinking, That person was different, in a good way.

It was February or March and I get a letter from my friend Gary from the commune in Mt Horeb. And I thought, How did he know my address, how did he know I was in Platteville?

Anyway, the letter was quite infectious, going on and on about how he found the answers we were looking for but were sure couldn't be found. 4 or 5 pages of positive upbeat wording, he closed with "You gotta get up here as soon as possible, it's gonna blow your mind!!!"

Frankly I couldn't think of much else! I think it was a Thursday and Friday I was hitching a ride to Mount Horeb. It was probably 2 pm when I got there. The trucker dropped me off on the main hwy. and I had to walk the mile or so down a country road to find this place. Fortunately I saw Gary walking toward me in the distance with Noah, his son on his shoulders.

We no sooner got over our initial greetings when Roger comes around the corner in a old red IH pick up hollering, "Hop in dude! And light up the CHIEF" as he tosses 'the chief,' a hollowed out pine tree branch home made pipe that held a 1/2 oz of pot. I commenced to light it and passed it to Gary and he put up his hand and shook his head!

...whoa this is not cool, I thought to myself, my best buddy passing on the reef?! What is this all about??

So as Roger gives me the nickel tour of the commune property Gary is uncharacteristically quiet. Anyway he says to Roger, "Drop us up on the ridge, I want to show Dan the scenery and we'll walk back."

It seem as though Roger and I smoked a ton of weed & I wasn't high at all but rather somber. After Roger left Gary sat on a log and point blank asked me, "What do you think about God?"

After an awkward silence I spouted off something like, "Well I am sure there is some sort of creative universalism out there but I haven't met him." As we walked back toward the living quarters he spoke of a life more abundant, and that there is a way of truth, and one can have true peace without drugs, and "There's this fellowship in Madison that I would like you to go with Polly and I and Noah. Would you come?"

Well I guess so. We made it back to the house. I don't remember exactly how many actually lived on the commune as people commonly drifted in and out quite a bit but there was Roger who was a Viet nam vet and Gary and Polly, a few single folks I didn't know at all, And this couple who were committed satanists of which I was oblivious to, until we got back and I went with Gary to his and Polly's room.

The rest of the night they both witnessed to me quite aggressively, and told me how their lives had become a living hell battling daily with the witch and warlock. They would wake up with evil scrawled all over their door, one night Polly said she awoke with a loud noise hitting the bedroom door and after a few moments Gary went to investigate and they found a butcher knife stuck through a picture of Jesus with the Words LIAR written in what looked like red paint or blood. I was stressed yet not afraid; I don't know if I was oblivious or whatever - my head was spinning from all the Word they shared with me.

Morning came early and I really didn't want to be around Ken & Katy after what Gary and Polly told me.

I am really pretty fogged up mentally, and Gary is excited to take me to this Bible fellowship?? And I am sorta not too excited, yet I am thinking there must be something special for Gary to be this excited. So we all pile in the van and head to Madison. The meeting was in a downtown complex of efficiency apts. and we make our way in and I noticed what seemed to be a genuine love as greetings were made.

I would say that there were 8-10 people crammed into the small apartment. All of the folks there were young people early 20's at the oldest. I sat on the carpet with another long hair, I couldn't help noticing everything was clean and simple in the apartment. The fellowship leader's name was Perry.

It was a relatively uneventful meeting, I thought. They opened with prayer, started singing old gospel songs a cappella...kinda square I thought. Then they prayed again, and out of courtesy I had my eyes closed. Then Perry said some one speak in tongues and interpret! And a young lady stood up boldly and spoke in tongues out loud and interpreted. And in a split second my eyeballs went from closed to being as big a saucers I am sure!! I immediately thought, These people are Angels, man! Whoa! I can honestly say that I went from a hung over foggy state of mind, to thoughts racing through my brain.

I vaguely remember an account in the Bible about "tongues like as fire" descending upon the 12 apostles YEARS ago - what?! Does this mean . . . ? I really don't remember what Perry taught on.

And I was a bit out of sorts to say the least, what I did notice as I watched these young Christians was a sort glow, a gentle calmness that is hard to put into words. I understood a little what Gary was talking about. After it was over everyone sat round and visited; Perry he asked me small talk type questions. He told me he was from Rochester, N.Y.; and Billy was from Port Arthur, TX; Bonnie was from Wichita, KS; And Cindy was from Bloomington, IN., and that they were in Madison for a year sharing God's Word and running Bible classes.

Gary says that he and Polly are "gonna take their class", and I'm excited too but gotta go back to school! And as I am kinda cooling off, ready to go, and as I started out Cindy can up to me and gave me a hug and in the most genuine honest way said, "God Bless you! I am so glad you came."

I didn't know it then, but the love of God she manifested at that time is what melted my stone cold heart. There was something different there; it wasn't phoney religious hypocrisy.

I was a basic loser, kinda shaggy, pretty messed up, a dope head, a freak, and yet somehow I knew she meant what she said. We drove back to Mt. Horeb and Gary & Polly spoke a lot of Word to me on the way. Gary shared Romans 10:9-10 with me, and John 10:10. He told me how he met these guys Billy and Perry, how they witnessed to him: he was sick with bronchitis for 2 months and they kept telling him how Christ came so we could have life, more abundantly.

He told me how he decided to go to a fellowship, which just so happened to be a communion service and he shared the bread and the wine and his bronchitis was healed immediately, and that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior that night! He couldn't wait to get back and tell Polly, cause she really didn't want any part of it. But she saw the change in his demeanor; he was healed and she knew there must be Power in the name of Jesus Christ so she accepted Christ that night too!

And then all hell broke loose in their living arrangements. I was getting excited about God, his Word and our Lord Jesus Christ. I really didn't want the moment to end but I had to go back to Platteville. After heartfelt goodbye they dropped me on the highway and I started to hitch back to school. I had a lot of things racing through my mind, I'm gonna clean up my act, quit the dope: heck if Gary can do it I can do it! They told me to look for a fellowship in Platteville. Perry or Billy gave me a Bible, and I told myself I am gonna start reading it.

... Man it's taking a long time to get a ride. A blue Datsun stopped and a red headed dude said he's "going to Dubuque, so hop in". We make the basic small talk and after 20 or so minutes the dude says "there's some pot in the glove, roll us up one" . . . aw man! I really don't want to get high. So I said, "Man I not into getting high right now", and this cat just grins a weird sly grin and says, "Oh sure you are, don't be a leaker; come on roll us up a doobie man."

Well at the time I didn't know it but this was a classic display of John 10:10a The thief cometh not...but to Steal...the Word from you, to kill you if he can, and to destroy you... If we die before accepting Christ we don't have everlasting life and hence we are destroyed. Needless to say I rolled the doobie, smoked it with the dude but I didn't get high and I was again amazed God was calling me - wow I better listen! He dropped me outside Platteville and I had a lot of thinking to do . . .

I knew somewhere in that time frame that I was a child of God, after many years I have found that being a Christian is a way of life.
The things I shared above were just the beginning; Part One of my testimony.

It was a blessing to go back into the recesses of my memory and recall. The truth is . . . every week, month and year adds more to the story. I was to find out that the ride was just starting and what lay ahead was just gonna get wilder. Testimony and witness are the same word (in the Greek) and every day we add to our testimony and our witness.

The events above were 36 or more years ago. And through that time I have rose up . . . and fell down. I sometimes wonder how much have I really learned in that time?

One thing I know for sure is every day, every moment... we have to chose to live for God Who loves us as His dear children. He understands us, He knows our frame, know that we are dust. I love God now more than I did yesterday, I need to love others more too.

This concludes Part One of Dan Knoll's testimony; Part Two is also now posted as of 11/19/11!

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