Michael Leehan only found himself in church because Satan ordered him to kill the pastor. Never did a mission fail so horribly.
In the opening chapter of Ascent From Darkness, Michael Leehan details a nearly fatal drug overdose; a result of popping too many pain pills and washing them down with too many beers.
Yet, at the back of an ambulance and on the brink of death, he heard a voice say, "Not yet, son. I have too much for you to do!"
Pills and alcohol were not enough to drown out Michael's haunting memories of sexual, emotional and physical abuse as a child.
He remembers crying before bed each night, praying to Mary and Jesus for relief that did not come.
"The statue of the sweet-faced woman, who I was told had the power to help me, did not," he writes. "The gentle smile of the man statue seemed to be laughing at me."
Michael was raised going to church and always believed in God; he just did not believe God was as good as He claimed.
"God, in my mind had abandoned me early in life," he notes in his book. "I decided that God was responsible for evil, controlled it, and was in fact both good and evil."
And if God was responsible for all the suffering in Michael's life, then he concluded God could not truly care about him.
When his wife of nine years and mother to his three children filed for divorce, he reached breaking point.
Out of anger and spite towards a God who had let him down time and time again, Michael decided he would instead devote his life to God's enemy.
One Saturday afternoon as he sat alone in his apartment, he said: "Satan, come into my life. You are now my god. Use me, have me, control me for your purposes."
He bought satanic books and cut himself to show his allegiance to Satan— the first of many such rituals.
Years of service to the devil ensued until a satanic spirit asked Michael to kill Craig Groeschel.
Craig founded Life Covenant Church in 1996 in Oklahoma, which had grown to become one of the largest churches in the U.S. by the time Michael walked through its doors with a 9 milli-meter to murder him.
Michael sat and listened to the reading of God's Word, the praises of His people, and the message of the gospel.
He heard again how Jesus had sacrificed His life out of love so that mankind might be saved, delivered from all the wrong they had done and all the hurt they had caused . He heard all this as his hand tightened on the handle of his gun.
Afterwards, when an usher came over to him, Michael confessed what he had been planning to do.
He came back the following Sunday unarmed and was immediately arrested but he told the security he no longer wanted to kill the pastor or harm any of the church staff.
"I think I am seeking freedom from the life I've been living for so long," he said. "I think I'm seeking your God. I'm just not sure what to do next."
Over the next three months as Michael continued to attend the church and decided to renounce his service to Satan, there was a battle for his soul and he was plagued with suicidal thoughts.
"I was going to kill myself," he says as he thinks back to those times. "It wasn't even a question."
He explains how he found himself on a hill to write a suicide note, but instead ended up pouring out his heart to God on the piece of paper.
"God, if you are real, help me now," he wrote. "I've lied and I have killed. I have lied and I have cheated. I have hurt everyone in my life, including You.
"Satan took me in, why didn't You? Help me. Where are You? I need you."
He describes a peace that surpasses understanding sweeping over him then.
"I felt warm, safe, and protected. In an instant, I felt whole again. I felt as if the Word of God was being absorbed into the cells of my body.
"I gave my life to the Lord on the hill."
Michael was baptized in a bathtub that very night.
Now, whenever he attends Life Church today, he sits in the front row, immediately in front of the pastor he intended to kill, ready to raise his hands in the air, praising God, joyful and free.
"Jesus Christ specializes in fixing broken messes just like me. He is, and always will be, the great Redeemer, and He is ready to transform your life whenever you call out to Him."•