Hi, my name is Mark Merlucci. I was born in Irvington New Jersey in 1958. I became a Christian in October of 1998. I like to say that I was in the desert for 40 years.
My upbringing was not a religious one. The only way I can describe it, is to say that I was “barely” Roman Catholic. My peers influenced me and also society/television in regards to the meaning of life was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I actually owned a t-shirt that said, “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.”
This was my mentality until I encountered Jesus Christ. Without going into the boring and gory details, I came to a point in my life when I had accomplished much of what I had wanted to (seeing that my interests were purely materialistic and physical). The “God vacuum” in my life was always there, and it was growing deeper and wider. I didn’t know exactly what it was at the time, but I knew something empty was there. Once, in 1988 when I was riding the subway in New York City (as part of my high-paying job), tears started to stream down my face uncontrollably. I was surprised that this was happening, because I had no reason to be sad at the time. You see, the emptiness was starting to swallow me up.
In 1996, I was working for a very large and “respected” religious denomination-perhaps the largest in the world-even though I was not a true believer. Well, these people were involved in outright evil business practices that I would not participate in. I was actually threatened with my job if I did not participate in these immoral practices; I still refused to do so. In fact, my non-participation caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, and they finally told a bunch of lies to justify firing me. I stopped the immoral machine from working as it used to before I arrived on the scene. I became a “whistleblower” and hired a lawyer. When the lawyer and the government agency involved in investigating this incident proved that they were going to do nothing, my frustration increased to an all time high. Furthermore, these people blackballed me from getting employment.
At the same time these things were occurring, I started to listen to Christian radio and seriously study the bible. I was amazed at what I found out about God! I never knew there were people who could figure out the meaning of the bible; much less teach about it on the radio.
It is also interesting to note that about the same time, I was praying to God to lead me to a church that didn’t have any “funny stuff” going on. I prayed this because of a bad experience I had in 1984 when I tried “another” church, and the madness that I encountered is exactly what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 14 (if unbelievers see you doing this, will they not think you are mad?) The weirdness of this church scared me away from going to “another” church until I prayed to God to show me “the real thing.”
Well, He answered my prayer! The problem was, that I would not listen. For about nine months, total strangers were coming up to me and mentioning this certain church, but I would not go. I knew that they were from God in response to my prayer, but I stubbornly resisted, I still wanted lordship of my life.
Finally, after a series of events (I won’t bore you) I cried out to God and said, “I’m tired of being me, you can take over! I will follow you until the day I die! I give up!”
I know that people speak of the peace they feel at this kind of moment, the “great weight being lifted from their shoulders.” I experienced this also.
I knew what it meant to me when I came to this place in my life. I knew that I was serious, and I knew exactly what I was saying. You see, those months of studying the bible and listening to Christian radio paid off. I was not coming to Christ solely on feelings, or blindly, or out of some sort of peer pressure. I was coming as someone who took the time to make sure I knew what I was doing, and going to do it.
Well, I’ve been His since October of 1998. I’m not His best example of a disciple, but oh, how I love Him so! And I KNOW that He loves me too. And as the TV cop Baretta used to say: “YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK!”
Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!!
Grow in Grace,