I was water baptized. A week after that, I called my Dad and said, “Dad, I just want you to know that after a careful examination of the Old Testament, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus or Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and I have given my life to him.” My Dad said, “But son, were you water baptized?” I said, “Yes I was Dad.” And he said, “Jeff, you’re not my son anymore. What you have done to your people, you are worse than Adolf Hitler.” He said, “You are no longer welcome in this home.” This went on for twenty-six years.
I found out that my brother Bruce (who is my youngest brother, five years younger) had been going to Bill Hybel’s church (Willow Creek) in Chicago taking an Old Testament class. We talked on the phone. He asked me, “How did it happen that you gave your life to Jesus? When you made this decision years ago, Jeff, I thought you went crazy, but today I realize that you made a good decision. The one who needs Jesus in his heart now is me.” See my brother had a gambling addiction, and God healed his life from that and healed his marriage. So he said, “Jeff, will you do me a favor? Will you call and tell Dad the decision that I have made?” Well, my Dad and I were on speaking terms. Our relationship was pretty good, but he wasn’t obviously a believer in Jesus. When I told my Dad the decision that my brother had made, I received the surprise of my life. My Dad said, “Jeff, your brother has made a good decision. I know about his problems. I see that those problems are healed, and I have respect for it. He said, “Is there anywhere in the Bible that Jesus ever said that He was the Messiah?” I said, “Dad, sure.” Then I shared some other scriptures out of the book of John with my Dad. All of a sudden, my Dad broke down and cried. He said, “All of these years, somebody’s been calling to me. I just didn’t know who it was.”
My father’s Hebrew name is Smuel or Samuel. That was only the second time in my whole life that I ever heard my Dad cry. He said, “Jeff, would you pray with me like you pray with all of your kids with your ministry of global baseball around the world? Will you pray with me like you pray with those kids?” I said, “Dad, are you saying it? Are you saying that you believe? That you want to make the decision that I made twenty-six years ago?” He said, “I sure do. Will you forgive me for kicking you out of the family?” He said, “I thought you stopped being Jewish, but today, today I realized that you’ve been more Jewish than me all along.” He said, “I’m so sorry for what I did.”
I prayed with my Dad and he invited Jesus into his heart. I have never been the same. My father was never the same. He walked with Jesus for two and a half years. The man was on fire for the Lord. My Dad was a hard-hearted man but he changed. After two and a half years, he had a massive heart attack and went to heaven. At his funeral, two of his best friends approached me and said, “What happened to your Dad?” That was one hard-hearted man but two weeks before he died, we talked to him and he said he made peace with God through Jesus Christ or the Jewish Messiah.” He said, “Jeff, he really changed.” This was a testimony from unsaved Jewish people. They were basically saying, whatever happened to your Dad, we want that to happen to us.
My Dad was a guy who never called me when I was in college. Never called to remember anybody’s birthday all of a sudden was now calling me. “Jeff, how are you doing?” Whenever I would talk to my mom who divorced my dad many years earlier, I said, “Mom, let me ask you, did Dad change?” She said, “Yes he did change.” He actually asked my Mom’s forgiveness before he passed away. He actually prayed with my Mom because her husband was having stroke-like symptoms. He prayed for my Mom’s husband who he hated. So the fact that he would pray for him at the end of his life with my Mom, and God actually healed her husband.
A couple of weeks later my Dad passed away and went on to Heaven. So when I tell this part of my story in churches, I just see people crying because it is so powerful that here was a guy that if anyone said that somebody wouldn’t get saved, it would be that guy. Well, that guy got saved.