Pastor Paul Phillips' Testimony - Crossroads at the Cross

Writer Author  Dixie Phillips
Christian Article : Salvation  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer Ronnie McWilliams and I were born just three days apart. He came first on December 9, 1952, and I followed on December 12 – practically "womb mates" we often joked.

Our mothers shared the same hospital room after our births. We attended the same schools, went to the same church and played on the same basketball team. In May of 1971, we graduated from the same high school – an exciting year because our team, the White Hall Bulldogs, made it to the state basketball tournament.

After graduation, Ronnie attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I enrolled at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Whenever possible we visited back and forth. During that time, we had a conversation that remains with me to this day. Ronnie seemed depressed, and I was going through an identity crisis of my own.

"You don't really believe there's a God that cares about us, do you?" Ronnie blurted out as we drove home from a night of partying.

Pastor Paul Phillips just received a kidney transplant. The organ was donated by his son, John. What an amazing Father's Day Gift! Both are recovering well and they were able to visit with each other face to face today. What a visit that must have been! I ask that you take a moment to lift them in prayer for continued progress in recovery and our gratitude for God's great care for them! Use the link below to follow Pastor Paul's recovery and send him a message of encouragement!

"I believe in God. I believe He is the Creator and somehow directs our lives," I responded.

"I don't believe in a personal God,” Ronnie insisted. “I think we were just born, and we're on our own, and we do the best we can with the cards we've been dealt.”

One day during the spring of my sophomore year at Arkansas State, I returned to my dorm after class and plopped down on my bed. I was awake but relaxed when, as if I was dreaming, I saw myself standing in a park holding a Bible. There were 20 to 30 young people sitting on the ground cross-legged listening to me share about Jesus.

As I lay on the bed, a Presence enveloped me and the atmosphere in my room changed. I looked to see if anyone was there, but I was alone. This powerful Presence became stronger, and I realized I was not dreaming. I was wide awake, but couldn't comprehend what I was experiencing. The Presence permeated every part of my being. Overcome with emotion, I began to weep.

I jumped up from my bed, ran to the sink and splashed cold water on my face attempting to shock myself back to reality. The vision left, but the Presence lingered. I peered in the mirror and felt strongly directed to move back in with my parents right away. I knew deep within that I needed to make immediate, drastic changes in my life. Without hesitation, I packed my bags and returned home.

Physically moving from campus did nothing to abate my desire for the party lifestyle. When I arrived back home, I surrounded myself with the wrong kind of friends and continued making the same bad choices. One Sunday morning my father stuck his head in my room and asked, "Paul, are you going to church this morning?"

I had been sound asleep. Without opening my eyes I let out a groan and shook my head no.

"It's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God," my father warned.

My parents' rules cramped my walk on the wild side, so I rented an apartment with a couple of my buddies. I was only there a few months when I was arrested for marijuana possession. Facing my parents after my arrest was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There were no heated verbal exchanges, but my mother let me know how disappointed she and my father were in my choices.

I started working at my father's business and enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff. One of our customers, an older gentleman named Mr. Reed, invited me to revival meetings at a local church. Still stinging from the results of my recent poor choices I agreed to attend.

When I told my father about the revival, he said he would like to go with me. The first night I felt such a drawing to respond to Jesus. It was as if I was "homesick" for Him. The congregation sang the old hymns of the church, and a sweet Presence filled the sanctuary. I recognized that Presence – the same One who visited me in my dorm.

The next night my father and I again attended the special service. When the altar call was given, I felt such a pull to go forward and give my heart to Jesus. The Holy Spirit made it clear that I was at a crossroads. I knew if I continued down the path I was on I would live a life full of regret. Merciful Jesus offered me the opportunity to choose another path. I knew enough to realize that if I followed His ways, I would still face difficult days, but I also knew He would be with me on the journey. I went forward that night, repented of my sins and gave my heart to Jesus.

Soon after my life-changing experience, I surrendered to the call to preach. I knew I had to see Ronnie and tell him of my decision. I hoped and prayed he would have a spiritual encounter of his own.

"Ronnie!" I exclaimed, "I have found what we have been searching for."

"That's great, Paul! I've heard where people in the ministry can make a lot of money; especially if you play on people's emotions, like start an orphanage or feed hungry children."

Ronnie didn’t “get it.”

After I came to Christ I devoured the Word and surrounded myself with godly people. I also attended every church service I could. One night a missionary from Mexico spoke to my home Bible study group. When he concluded, we had a time of prayer during which the missionary walked directly to me and began to pray. He spoke these words over me: "The vision you had will come to pass in the next few days."

I was stunned. I remembered the "dream-like" experience in my dorm room. Could that be the vision the missionary was talking about? But how would he know what I had seen? I’d never met this man, and I wasn't even sure if you called what I experienced a “vision”. As I drove home from the meeting, so many questions filled my head. I pondered all the events of the day excitedly anticipating what God had planned.

The following morning my phone rang. It was my pastor.

"Paul, I would like you to give the devotions at the youth retreat this weekend up in the Ozark Mountains."

My mind raced to the previous night. Could this be the fulfillment of the vision God had given me?

Days later I stood before a group of young people, and I could barely believe my eyes. It was exactly as I had seen in the vision. Without a doubt I knew that Almighty God ordained this moment, and I knew that what I had experienced in my dorm room came from Him.

From time to time Ronnie and I saw each other, but it was apparent our lives were going in two totally different directions. I continued to love Ronnie through our differences. I knew that if he could just experience God's love for himself, it would change his life forever, but no matter how hard I tried, Ronnie let me know he was not interested.

The years marched on. I graduated from East Texas Bible College in Tyler, Texas, and became the pastor of a small church in rural northern Iowa. Early one morning the phone rang. It was my mother calling from Arkansas.

"Paul, Ronnie is dead."

A tidal wave of memories flooded over me as Mama continued, "He committed suicide."

I sat dazed. Scenes flashed before me. Past conversations with Ronnie replayed in my thoughts, and waves of grief swept over me. Ronnie and I began our journeys on the same path – a path that forked in two directions the day Jesus stepped into my dorm room.

I bowed my head to pray and wept for Ronnie's family. And I thanked God for revealing Himself to me.

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Editor's Comment: This story was first published on WorthFinding June 13, 2008. Today is the 3rd anniversary of Pastor Paul's transplant. WorthFinding will celebrate this day by highlighting this article. Congratulations to Pastor Paul and his dear wife Dixie!

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Country: United States
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