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Tracts > What in the world happened to the Mike of ETVFC?

*And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart*. (Jeremiah 29:13)

For a while I wanted to write my testimony how GOD changed my life and my destiny from March 2002 on. The main reason I am writing this is to encourage you that what happened to me can happen to you. God's word promises, *All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out*. (John 6:37) My prayer is that after reading this you will not only know how and why to come to Him, (Jesus Christ), but that you will WANT to come to him*. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest *says Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28).

I am nothing special, but in 2002 I was introduced to a book that changed my life, the Bible, and I have read it every day since. The Bible is the WORD of God, and the Best seller of all time. It says it is written by God (THUS SAITH THE LORD! 413 times in the Bible), is supported 100% by historical evidence, has 25,000 archaeological finds without contradicting the Bible, is scientifically accurate (the THEORY of evolution is not science!), and is the only book with hundreds of detailed prophecies accurately fulfilled. Jesus is the bridge to God and the Bible is the bridge to Jesus. The response of the Author is determined by the attitude of the reader. While I can lead you to water but can't make you drink, I can salt your oats to make you thirsty! That is my prayer!

Let me first begin by saying I had a fairly privileged upbringing, with 2 loving parents who wanted to show us the world. I had a good work ethic, starting work at a young age in 1988 at my dad's store cleaning shelves, which would earn a box of baseball cards. I believed in God, was baptized Greek Orthodox as a baby (mom's side), and was confirmed in the Catholic Church when older. I prayed to God when I was little and had some sense that He existed but I didn't know him in any personal sense. I likened God to Santa Claus ---it was a great idea, sounded to good to be true, and you could at best hope that he existed without knowing for sure.

Without going into gory details, let me say that living the American dream did not satisfy my soul. I would get excited for an upcoming holiday or a new movie coming out, but once it was over and done, my happiness was gone. If our football team, the Buffalo Bills, lost on Sunday I'd be miserable Monday. I'd get a new job or a new relationship and 2 weeks later or 2 months later, I'd end up back in the same rut, empty and purposeless with nothing in me to fight the inner turmoil I faced. I was a social smoker and drinker on the weekends. I couldn't understand how anyone could be addicted to cigarettes or liquor and was full of pride that I could control these habits. Meanwhile, I was blind to my own addictions that I turned to everyday that I had no control over. My outside looked put together, I worked hard at getting people to think I was wonderful, but deep down I was insecure, felt alone, didn't know who I was, and knew something was missing.

The problem was someone was missing. The TRUE and LIVING GOD. *And ye are complete in him,(JESUS) which is the head of all principality and power:* (Colossians 2:10) I had bought into the American dream, which is bent on materialism and getting all you can out of life. We live so we can take care of ourselves, and we look forward to retirement, weekends, and vacations. Yet, without God's perspective, it makes no sense why in general we are so miserable, depressed, and confused about life when we have SO MUCH. Why does it seem that those with nothing in the average third world country seem happier? Why does it seem like every American needs Prozac? What I have found is that today's American mindset is flawed and it has us looking inward and it is humanistic, meaning that the ultimate purpose of live is the pursuit of happiness. It is putting ourselves on the throne of our lives. Like Burger King, we have it our way. Looking inward leads to depression, and only those climbing the wall of success in America that get to the top realize the ladder is facing the wrong wall. In many third world (especially eastern) nations, people have a servant mindset, a mindset of putting others first. That is more in line of God's way - the King of the Universe came not to be served, but to serve. 2:7 *But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men*: (Philippians 2:7) Jesus said if any man come after me, let him deny himself. It goes against our natural instincts but it also satisfies.

Getting a servant mindset fixed my temporal depression. Getting the MIND of CHRIST will fix our eternal destination! Getting right with God fixed everything, and staying right with God is more important to me than anything now.

When I go back to focusing on my wants and desires, I am miserable again, but it is never God's fault and I always find that he is there despite my wandering. I am convinced that there is a prescription for finding God, but we need the RIGHT drug (Jesus Christ) administered the RIGHT way (Faith and Repentance) to someone RIGHTLY convinced of the disease. We might get different doses, we might have a different diagnosis, but the medication is the same. One cure, but what a CURE it is!

To state it simply, God puts circumstances in our lives to get us to the point of looking to him. For me, it was my dad dying of cancer 2 weeks after 9/11 + my fiancée breaking up with me a few months later + a lonely job reassignment to Tops in Medina where you would fill 10 prescriptions in a 12 hour shift. Then the true and living God starts revealing who he is, wooing you like a man courting a woman he is in love with. John 6:44 says *No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:* God sheds some light on who he is as well as some light on our sin. Most people at that point push God away. However, as God started to draw me I knew that my sin had to go. I first did a New Years Resolution type of thing, giving up the sins I hated in my life, but clinging desperately to the ones I didn't think were that bad. That did not produce salvation, as there was not a "forsaking of all others".

However, after reading a book called *A Case for Christ* by Chicago Tribune atheist turned Pastor- Lee Strobel-, I knew that Jesus was God and that meant he had the right to rule in my life. That book helped me to see Jesus literally died on the Cross and rose from the dead, that the Bible could be trusted, and there was enough hard evidence to make a logical leap of faith to embrace it. I had to make Jesus my God, but once I got to know him, and saw how much he loved me to die for me personally, I could trust him with my life. Romans 5:8 says *But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.* At the point when I was willing to repent of being the authority of my life and not pick and choose what sins I'd give up and what sins I would keep, Jesus came into my life and my life was transformed. I said "I do" to God! Jesus says "*Ye must be born again*" (John 3:7). That is what happened. I got saved, my sins were forgiven, and my desires were changed. Before that moment I would have went to hell to pay for my sins, but when I received Jesus Christ, he took my punishment in my place. I went from a pig that loved the mud even after a bath, to a sheep that may get dirty now and then but naturally wants to stay clean. 2ndCorinthians 5:17 says *Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. *

Jesus Christ is first base, to use a baseball term. I find most churches replace first base with good works, baptism, etc. All those come second! Just as a just Judge isn't swayed by a convicted criminal's contributions to society, God isn't impressed with our good works. Isaiah 64:6 puts it like this*, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags*. God is Holy so he cannot be in the presence of sin. God is Just so he must see that all sin is punished, from one little white lie to cold-blooded murder. In God's economy, lust is adultery and hatred is murder, so we need to be honest that we need a Savior. God is also love. He cannot ignore one of his natures, but he also doesn't want to send anyone to hell. At the Cross, God's natures all merge, and God's love meets his justice there and there alone so that we could be reconciled to God. To reject that leaves God no other option than Hell.

He deserves to be first, and who we come to in time of need. I needed a trade in. I traded my sins which left me hungry for more for Jesus who quenched my thirst. John 6:35 says *And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. *The lie of the world is that Snickers satisfies. Nothing in this world satisfies for long!!! What in the world happened to Mike Ilardo? Simple. I found something outside this world that satisfied my hungry soul—the one who created this world! The Bible says, in *Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. *Are you hungry yet? Well, what in the world are you waiting for?