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A Change of Heart

with Andrew Palau | April 6, 2012

God has His ways of getting us where He wants us to be. Andrew Palau, son of world-wide evangelist, Luis Palau, reminisces about his crazy college antics, and his downward spiral that pulled him further and further away from the faith of his youth. Andrew talks about attending one of his father's crusades in Jamaica in his 20's and realizing that the time had come for him to make a decision for Christ.

God has His ways of getting us where He wants us to be. Andrew Palau, son of world-wide evangelist, Luis Palau, reminisces about his crazy college antics, and his downward spiral that pulled him further and further away from the faith of his youth. Andrew talks about attending one of his father's crusades in Jamaica in his 20's and realizing that the time had come for him to make a decision for Christ.

A Change of Heart

With Andrew Palau
|
April 06, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  Luis Palau was getting ready to do a crusade in the Caribbean.  He thought to himself, “Maybe if I invite my son to come, maybe God would do something in Andrew’s heart.”  Here’s Andrew Palau.

Andrew:  I knew he was working me over.  I’m like, “Well, I’ll work him over.”  So I’m like, “If you get me a marlin fishing trip, I’ll be there.”  Lo and behold, of course, I knew he’d figure it out.  The next day he calls me.  “There are these people, and they’re tournament marlin fishermen.  They’re going to take you out.”  I’m like, “Alright, I know what you’re after; and you know what I’m after.  I know that you know that I know.” 

I went out there, and I thought, “I know how to handle this thing.”  I love my folks.  I really love to be around them.  I’m like, “This will be great;” but God had other plans for me.  As I went out there—if we had time—you all know, from your own experiences, the ways in which the Holy Spirit is just orchestrating your life and your circumstances for that very moment when the Gospel will come in power.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 6th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Andrew Palau joins us today to share with us about the day the prodigal came to his senses.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.   You know, all of us kind of look back at our lives and say, “If I could do it again, I’d do some things differently than I did it the first time.”  I think all of us have regret; but to consider the story we’re looking at this week, there’s a lot that Andrew Palau has come clean about in the new book that he’s written.

Dennis:  He’s written a new book called The Secret Life of a Fool; and it’s no longer a secret, Andrew.  You have put it in print, and there’s no doubt about it.  You were a fool.

Andrew:  Yes, yes.  I am afraid to say that I wasn’t alone out there, so keep your eyes peeled.

Bob:  You had to wrestle in writing this book.  For folks who don’t know, you’re the son of Luis Palau, international evangelist for more than 50 years.  Today, you’re on the team with your dad.  You speak as an evangelist all around the world.  You’ve been serving there for 17 years; but there was a gap in your life, from 12 to 13 years until you were 27, when living for Christ was not on the radar screen for you.  In fact, there came a point in your life, after you’d been kind of playing the game for a while—still going to church, and still trying to keep the peace—but there came a point where you said, “I’m not going to keep this charade up.”  You quit going to church; and everybody knew, “Andrew’s just not walking with the Lord;” right?

Andrew:  Yes, I tried to play games—

Bob:  Was that in college that that happened?

Andrew:  You know, I think in high school I went to church and to youth group.  I had a lot of fun.  I had a lot of partying friends there. 

Dennis:  Hold it.  I want to make sure that parents don’t miss what you just kind of said under your breath.  You said there was a lot of bad company corrupting good morals in a youth group.

Andrew:  Oh, man.  Absolutely; I was the worst, but I wasn’t alone.  I remember going off to a Christian university, my first year out of high school.  I pretty much was thinking, “Well I’ll go down to Los Angeles.  It’s warm and I can surf, and I have other friends down there I can party with.  I’ll just find friends at that university just like I have done here.”

Now, it just so happened that that university, Biola University—I’ll mention it because its testimony is so strong.  I really didn’t find that many people down there.  What I found—is the opposite—very dedicated young people.  That impacted me a lot, and the way they handled me impacted me a lot.  Graciously, lovingly, but firmly, they allowed me to finish my year and then escorted me out.  But certainly, I was going to find people to do what I was into, no matter where I went.  My parents tried everything, believe me.

Dennis:  You had an experience one night where you and a couple of other buddies got some liquor, got drunk before you went to a ballgame, thought, even in your drunken state, nobody would notice.  There was a friend, a family friend, who had an impact in your life—who came to you before the game was over.  He made a request.  There was a reason why he made the request.

Andrew:  Yes.  This is a beautiful story that continues to bear fruit.  Al Egg, the chaplain of the Portland Trail Blazers—he does some rodeo chaplaincies and some other work in Portland.  He’s just a great man of God.  His daughter was in our high school.  She was two years older than me.  When I was a freshman, she was a junior.  A young man was driving drunk and crashed the car, and Lisa Egg was killed in that accident.

He was our FCA huddle leader.  I went to FCA, to see the girls periodically and that sort of thing.  I really wasn’t that involved, but I did know her.  It was a great tragedy.  When I was at the game and he saw me—you know, you feel so invincible as a young person—like you’re invisible, like you said, like you’re floating around the gym—and you think , “It’s a massive stadium,” and it’s like 300 people or whatever it is.  Al spotted me. 

He knew exactly what I was up to.  He lovingly grabbed me and said, “Andrew, please tell me you’re not driving.  Please do not drive.  Be careful.”  Of course, I just foolishly lied to him and told him, “Of course, I’m not driving.  I would never drive in this condition.”  But I was.  Lo and behold, that night, I packed the car with kids.  We were messing around, in that state; and I crashed the car. 

By God’s incredible grace time after time—I don’t know why He was so merciful to me—but He protected us that night.  I totaled the car, sent the kids running off, and I really didn’t even go home that night because I wasn’t, even at that point, willing to give up partying.  “Well, I can deal with this in the morning.  I got a party to go to.”  I ended up at the party, and the police came, and they called my mom.  What was I thinking?  Can you imagine the foolishness?

Dennis:  Well, you’d actually committed a felony.

Andrew:  Yes, it was a felony hit-and-run driving.  These are the kinds of things that I was involved with, and my parents were living through and working through.  Dad’s friends, like Al, were praying for me, intervening, doing their best.  I just thank God for their testimony and God’s grace in my life through it all.

Dennis:  Did you think you were a Christian?

Andrew:  I did not.

Dennis:  During this period of time, if someone had said, “Andrew, when you die, are you going to go to heaven; or are you going to hell?”

Andrew:  You know what?  I would not have said that I was a Christian.  I would have said, “I’ll deal with that later.”  I mean, that’s the fool.  There are different types of foolishness, you see, in the Bible.  The one that I think is the most crucially difficult is the one who says, “The fool says, ‘There is no God.’”  I never really did say, “There is no God;”—but isn’t it—how much more foolish is it to actually potentially believe that maybe there is a God and still carry on in your foolishness? 

That is really what I’ve had to recognize is exactly what I did because, sometimes, I know, I actually believed, “That’s probably true.”  But I loved my sin too much.  That’s what a lot of people do.  I know it is insanity, as a believer—that rationale is insane; but I was not in my right mind, clearly.

Bob:  So here you are, wrecking cars, facing felony charges.  You loved this? 

Andrew:  I guess so.

Bob:  I mean, wasn’t there a point where you went, “My life’s not going well.”

Andrew:  You know, I guess there were enough people in my life who, when I said, “This is what I did, and this is what happened,” they thought it was radical, and funny, and insane, and—

Bob:  You were getting positive strokes.

Andrew:   —I was getting rewards for that, which is that—

Dennis:  You burned up a Volkswagen® bug; right?  You burned it, just for kicks.

Andrew:  Well we thought—yes, just for fun.  We thought it might explode.  You know, we were looking for the strokes of the frat buddies saying, “You guys are definitely the most ridiculous people we’ve ever met.”  I don’t know why that meant so much to me, but it certainly did.

Bob:  You had one year at the Christian college.  What happened after that?

Andrew:  I went to the University of Oregon and spent another four-and-a-half years there.

Bob:  And that was all about the perpetual party for you?

Andrew:  Yes, just partying, nonstop.  You know, relationships—

Bob:  And then you graduate from college.  What’s next?

Andrew:  Went off to Boston, on the other side of the country, and started working my way up the corporate ladder.  Slowed down my partying a little bit, not for spiritual reasons, but just because I had to get up to go to work in the morning.  Plus, I’d had some pretty rough encounters with the Enemy that kind of made me slow down a little bit; but nothing had changed in my heart.

Dennis:  You ended up in Europe.

Andrew:  Yes, spent some time in Europe and hitchhiked around.

Dennis:  Yes, some of those stories—I mean, you’re sleeping underneath a sailboat—not that far from a homeless bunch of hobos—you call them, in the book.

Andrew:  Yes, yes.

Dennis:  Who were thinking about getting you—

Andrew:  We were sleeping rough, as the Brits call it—sleeping on the streets, hitchhiking around.  We were in Marseilles, France.  One of the hobos kindly, out of the generosity of his heart, came and said, “You know, we’ve been watching you guys.  If you’re under that sailboat, sleeping tonight, some of the guys are going to come, and just beat you up, and rip off your stuff.  You’d better beat it.”  So we did. 

God intervened like that so many times.  I know, in many cases, things happen; and you say, “Wow, I wish God would have intervened in that case.” You don’t understand why.  Why He did on my behalf, endlessly, I cannot tell you; but I am eternally grateful that He rescued me over and over.

Bob:  When you’d show up back in Portland—see your Mom and Dad—you’re back home for Christmas or something.  Did they just open the door and say, “We’re so glad to see you”?  I would think, “If my son’s coming home,”—and it’s been the kind of life he’s been living—there would be an awkwardness.  There’d be a chill in the air.  I wouldn’t know what to talk to—

Andrew:  I think there was some of that, and I would play it off pretty well.  I was fairly respectful like—I mean, I wouldn’t come home to a family gathering drunk.  I could refrain from doing certain things for a number of days.  I really loved my family.  They meant the world to me.  I was impressed by them.  I wanted them to think highly of me.  I would kind of shape it up for those little seasons and make it difficult for them to pin me down in the moment.

Dennis:  And just continuing to run.

Andrew:  Just carry on; yes.

Dennis:  But here’s your dad, Luis Palau, who’s a global evangelist, who’s preaching the Gospel everywhere.  He ends up getting an invitation to go to Jamaica in 1993.  He invites you to come.  Now, isn’t that interesting that your dad would invite you to join him at one of his evangelistic crusades?  What do you think he was trying to do there?

Andrew:  Yes.  Well, I am like a poster child for what mass evangelism really is because, as I tell people endlessly, when we come together, in a unified way, for a particular tool for the Gospel—it’s not the best model or the only model—it’s just one of the many tools that we have available to us to share the Good News with our friends and family, as we’re clearly called to do as followers of Jesus Christ—to remember and the tell of His mighty works.  It’s our responsibility. 

How we choose to do that—there’s just an endless number of ways.  Of course, Dad just did what we tell everybody else to do—live the life as a testimony, pray faithfully because there’s great power in prayer, and they also shared with me the Good News because they knew the Good News of Jesus Christ was the power of God unto salvation—unto radical transformation—and nothing less would do for me. 

They did that.  They prayed for me, they thought they had a little hook for me because I’m living in Boston.  It is February.  It is freezing cold, two feet of snow.  They’re like, “Maybe he’ll come to this crusade because it’s in Jamaica.”  They invited me; and I’m thinking about the sun, and the beach, and Red Stripe® beer.  “I know how to handle this Christian thing.”  Actually, I love to fish.  I said to my dad,—

Dennis:  Yes, yes, yes.  You asked him to line up a fishing trip for you.

Andrew:  I knew he was working me over.  I’m like, “Well, I’ll work him over.”  So I’m like, “If you get me a marlin fishing trip, I’ll be there.”  Lo and behold, of course, I knew he’d figure it out.  The next day he calls me.  “There are these people, and they’re tournament marlin fishermen.  They’re going to take you out.”  I’m like, “Alright, I know what you’re after; and you know what I’m after.  I know that you know that I know.” 

I went out there, and I thought, “I know how to handle this thing.”  I love my folks.  I really love to be around them.  I’m like, “This will be great;” but God had other plans for me.  As I went out there—if we had time—you all know, from your own experiences, the ways in which the Holy Spirit is just orchestrating your life and your circumstances for that very moment when the Gospel will come in power.

 

Dennis:  Where did you sit at the crusade?  Were you backstage or were you out with the masses?

Andrew:  Well, I was sitting out with the masses with this family—this brother of—now, I’ll let the cat out of the bag—the brother of my, now, wife—

Dennis:  Who you met there.

Andrew:  Who I met, who is the guy that took me fishing.  I was sitting with this group of young people that I had met.  We were sitting in the crowd, with her family.  My mom was there, and my little brother was there.  We were out in the crowd, just listening—night after night, too, by the way—probably five nights of the crusade.  I would hear the message.  I would feel that burden—you know—the Hound of Heaven just pressing down on me and just trying to capture my attention. 

I’m seeing the testimony of these young people who God had recently radically done this incredible transformative work.  They’re talking about it.  I’m out on this fishing trip, and I could tell these guys were just like me.  They’d been into all of the garbage, yet their conversation was about this very recent radical, 180-degree turnaround—healing from addictions, restoration of relationships. 

I’m just like, “Man!  That is what I want.”  You know?  “That is what I have to get a hold of in my life because I have this great mask for the world to see, ‘Everything is fine with Andrew,’” but, in my heart, it was not fine.  I played it off fairly well; but boy, was there a battle going on for my soul. 

I was fearful of eternity.  The Bible says, “I have written eternity on the hearts of all men.”  No matter what people tell you—I would have told you, at that time, some philosophical, pseudo-intellectual, ridiculous thing I learned at the University of Oregon about those things being beyond the mind of man, and this sort of thing; but I knew, when I laid in my bed at night, sober, if you ever found me in that condition, I knew exactly what my situation was. 

It wasn’t good.  The shame of all my activities, the people I had hurt—the faces of those people would haunt me.  It was really getting into me, but nobody knew it.  But when I heard that Good News, I saw the testimony—I had the testimony long-term of my parents—and I just said, “Yes, this is what I really want.”

Bob:  This is your dad, up on the platform, preaching in Jamaica.

Andrew:  Yes; right.

Bob:  And you were listening.

Andrew:  I was listening; but you know, it was like, “Me and God.”  You’ve probably had that experience, many of you at camp or somewhere.  You’re just like, “This guy’s talking to me.”  I thought to myself for a moment, “Dad is picking on me.  Why is he doing this?  This is—I’m going to get him.”  I realized, immediately, at the end of that thought, “It’s not Dad.” 

He was preaching—I remember, on the rich young ruler.  I’m not rich.  I don’t rule anything, but it was me.  God was reaching out to me.  It was on that last night ,at the Kingston National Stadium, when Dad was preaching on the rich young ruler, that I made a determination that was the real beginning of change.

Bob:  And you’re sitting next to the guy who had taken you out marlin fishing.

Andrew:  Yes.

Bob:  Did he say something to you?

Andrew:  Yes.  They’re praying for me.  They knew what my situation was.  They weren’t idiots.  I think Mom and Dad had tipped them off, and they handled it very well because they had just been through it.  They knew what was going on; and that if anything good was going to happen, it was going to be God’s work and that the Holy Spirit would intervene in my life, as He had in theirs. 

But they wanted to be a part of it, so they were cautious but clear.  One day, one of the guys just said, “What’s really going on?  Where are you coming from and what’s happening?  You’ve made this proclamation of faith.”  They really got into it with me, and I’m very grateful. 

My parents had gone for it all the way along.  Dad was faithful.   When I was little, he would take me for walks and say, “Son, you know how to have a good time.  You’re doing well in school, you’ve got lots of friends; but God offers you life and life in abundance.  As a father who loves you, I have to caution you.  The direction that you’re going is not going to lead you to the life that you think it is.  Sin has fun in its season.” 

He’d give me the whole thing, you know, and tell me about the cross of Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection on my behalf.  He would go for it, and I would just weasel my way out of it and reject it.  He would write letters.  I put one of the letters in the book, which, I think for me, is the highlight of the whole book—is to see the heart of this father for his son; you know?  It’s powerful, and it impacted me, and I rejected it.  He wrote 60 books, half of them I’m sure just to have something new to put in my hand—you know what I mean?  Then, that final effort there—to invite me to the crusade—they just never gave up, and other people were involved, and, of course, the Holy Spirit, orchestrating it all.

Bob:  And then that night, the last night of the crusade, where you reached a turning point, what did you do?  Did you go forward at the end of the crusade?

Andrew:  Well, I did not.  I was like, “Oh, that’s just ridiculous.”  I made that decision and determined it in my heart.  I told this girl that was with me there that night.  Later, I said, you know—

Dennis:  Wendy?

Andrew:  My wife Wendy.  She said—

Dennis:  She wasn’t your wife then.

Andrew:  She wasn’t my wife.  She was just a girl I had met.  I knew her for probably six days, at that point; but I was interested in her and—

Bob:  —thought she was cute.

Andrew:  Yes.  She was definitely cute.  She was beautiful, and it captured my attention in a unique way.  It was part of God drawing me.  I really wanted all the good things of God at that point, but I really had a further step to take.  I determined to go to church, to read my Bible, to stop the drugs and break off these relationships.  I was very serious about making a step; but you know, there was something that, even though Dad called for it and people were having that experience there at the stadium, it’s something that really happened about a month later. 

I made a determination that I wanted all the good things of God there at the stadium, but I went home and I kind of floundered for a little while.  I went back out to Jamaica and went to a Bible study with these young people.  It was really there that I realized that there was an issue related to repentance that I had not gotten to yet.  It was really a breakthrough moment where I realized, “I want all these good things, but I haven’t really crucified the sin in my life.  I haven’t really confessed it to Christ and asked Him to forgive me.” 

I kind of just wanted a closure and a moving forward, without dealing with it.  That’s another situation that occurred to me, where I came before the Lord and I said, “I want to follow You.  I’ve made some steps, but I’ve failed miserably.  What is it that’s keeping me from You?”  It’s as if He said, “You really want to know what’s keeping Me from you, Andrew.”  I said, “Yes, what is it?” 

He just did this miraculous thing.  He opened up my eyes, in this moment, to see what was keeping me from the relationship that I was made for.  It was just all the sin of my life—all of my lying, and cheating, and stealing, and the abusive relationships, and the arrogance, and the pride, and all of the garbage that I heaped into my life.  I just wanted it to go away, but I had never turned to the Lord, broken, and said, “I am sorry.  I am wrong.  Please forgive me.” 

When He opened my eyes to see it, I was just shattered.  I fell on my face, and I was like weeping and bawling.  Some issue would come into my mind, or the face of someone I’d hurt, and I’d be like, “Oh God, please forgive me.  How could I have been so foolish?  How could I have done that?  Please forgive me.”  He just took it, and took it, and took it. 

Then, in this one moment, it is as if I just stood up, off my face.  I just knew it was finished, and His work in me was complete, and I was forgiven, and restored.  I felt the shame of my life—just lifted, absolutely, and filled with a joy.  The Bible talks about the joy of the Lord that will be your strength and a peace that passes understanding.  It happened for me in a moment.  That was really that radical, transformative moment, a 180-degree turnaround; and life has not been the same since then.

Dennis:  And that can happen in a listener’s heart, right now, because the same Jesus Christ, Who rose from the dead and defeated death—because He’s alive today.  He changed your heart 18 years ago; and He can change that person’s heart, wherever they are, right now.

Andrew:  Absolutely.  And He’s calling you.

Dennis:  Yes, exactly.  You have to answer the call.  Don’t let another day, where the sun goes down, occur without settling up with your God.

Andrew:  The Bible says our life is like a vapor, it comes and it goes.  You have no idea when that will be.  If God has been calling you, just refuse Him no longer.  I just beg you.  If I could do anything to compel you to confess Christ, and ask Him to forgive you, and follow Him, I would do it; but really, it’s your decision.  He’s calling you.

Dennis:  It really is.  Andrew, I want to thank you for being on the broadcast; but I have one last assignment, or one last thing I want you to do.  After Bob tells folks how they can get a copy of your book, I’m going to ask you another question here.

Bob:  I just want to let listeners know how they can get a copy of the book that you’ve written.  It’s called The Secret Life of a Fool.  We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  I’d encourage our listeners, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get a copy of Andrew’s book.  Again, it’s called The Secret Life of a Fool.  The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. 

You can also call us to request a copy of the book:  1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  Ask about Andrew Palau’s book, The Secret Life of a Fool; and we’ll make arrangements to get it sent to you.  Dennis?

Dennis:  Well, it’s been our privilege to have Andrew Palau on the broadcast.  Thanks for joining us.  You’ve told a remarkable story of how your parents continued to love you, even though you were full of yourself and had no sense of how you were breaking their hearts.  Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do.  I’m going to sit your dad and your mom across the table from you right now, and I’m going to ask you to give them a tribute.

Andrew:  Great idea.

Dennis:  Thank them for exhibiting the love of God, the love of the Hound of Heaven that you spoke of.  Would you do that?

Andrew:  Absolutely.  That would be a privilege.  I would just say, “Dad and Mom, I love you.  I am so grateful that you never gave up on me.  I just thank you for persevering through the difficult days, for having the boldness and the love for me to take me for the walk, and to plant that seed and help me to know the truth that God did love me and that He had a plan for me, and that He had made a sacrifice on my behalf.

“I thank you for writing the letters that you wrote to keep that at my attention.  I thank you for writing the books that would be another tool to bring that lifeline into my life.  I thank you for siccing the Campus Crusade® guys on me—who, in those awkward moments, just persevered to do what they certainly must not have wanted to do. 

“I thank you for praying faithfully and bringing me to the Festival, with an expectation that God would do a miraculous work in His time.  If anything good has ever come out of my life, I know it’s because of your dedication to the Gospel, and to your faith in God, and your confidence that the Good News has power to radically transform lives.  I love you, and I’m grateful.”

Bob:  FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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