A year ago I wrote a post on this blog titled “Lord Break Me – A Bold and Daring Prayer”. In the post I mentioned that I prayed this prayer 37 years ago, and how God has been in the process of answering this prayer since the day I prayed it. Well, since writing that post, and especially in the last few months, the Lord has heightened His work in my life in answer to this prayer. I have always taught that, as followers of Jesus, we need to be transparent, open, and honest with each other regarding our lives, and thus He has led me to write this very transparent testimony. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever written because it is so personal, and writing this makes me extremely vulnerable before you, but I have nothing to lose. I write this from a place of brokenness. Hopefully, it will shed some light on the breaking process and give you some encouragement as you walk with Him along the “Broken” road.
I need my to start my testimony in March, 1998. At this time God was working in a powerful way in my life. He brought me into a place of deep intimacy with Himself, and I started experiencing incredible mountain top times with Him and in ministry. It was at this time that He called me to be a “watchman on the wall” – definitely not a prophet, but someone who He would reveal the true state of the church and society, and preach, teach, and write what He placed on my heart regarding these. It would not be a popular message, and not many would want to do this type of ministry (even me), but I responded to His calling and started to be that watchman on the wall.
Because the burdens He gave me to speak and write about weren’t positive and upbeat, I was basically ignored by many, and opposed by others (I’ve been called all sorts of derogatory names through the years). Because of this I started to grow hard and, inwardly, started to develop a critical spirit against those who didn’t think like me or embrace what God had given me to say. Additionally, and unbeknownst to me, I had a sense that I was God’s gift to the church and that I had, in some ways, “arrived” to that special place in His kingdom because I was doing what very few would do. Because of this, I had this idea, deep in my heart, that I didn’t need anyone, which led to developing an unteachable spirit, which led to spiritual arrogance. No one would have ever guessed that I felt like this because outwardly I appeared just the opposite – humble and selfless. Shockingly, I didn’t even realize it myself, I was blind to my own wretched condition. But deep in the recesses of my soul this ugly attitude festered.
So God began the breaking process in earnest, and in 2004 He started to shatter these prideful characteristics. Having been approached to start a new church in another part of the country, I resigned my position at the church I was pastoring. We sold our house and were excited to begin this new area of ministry. However, this opportunity fell through soon after we sold our house, and there I was, having resigned my current pastorate and having just sold our house. Needless to say, I was devastated. At this same time my 14-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a condition that required expensive medication, which exhausted my medical insurance prescription benefits. We ended up renting a condominium in an area where my kids could stay in the same school, or so I thought. A week into the school year we were told that our kids had to change high schools, which was really hard on them, and it crushed me to see this happen to them. On top of this I was applying to many churches around the country that had pastoral openings, but couldn’t get hired. I was a finalist in four or five churches but didn’t get hired. So I took on some temporary jobs in the field I used to work in before entering ministry. My income from these jobs wasn’t enough to meet our monthly bills so we had to dip into our savings, which started to get smaller and smaller. This was a bleak time in my life. I argued with God, yelled at God, and accused Him of not caring about me or my family. After all, I reasoned, I had given up everything to follow Him and I had boldly taught and written what very few pastors were willing to say. I thought that since I had kept up my end of the deal by being a watchman on the wall, God owed me blessings. At one point, I was so low that I just wanted to walk away from ministry and from God, but in His infinite grace and mercy, He wouldn’t let go of me.
Finally, in August, 2005 I was called to the church I currently pastor. Many other heart wrenching things happened along this journey (things that brought me to my knees before Him) but I would need volumes to write them all down. Suffice it to say that similar things like I described in the preceding paragraph continued to happen. Deep down I continued to be bitter at God and my heart became old, cold, and hard. I continued to preach, teach, and write what He led me to say. I never compromised His calling, and He graciously continued to use me in a powerful way in spite of myself. But my heart just wasn’t right. Then a few months ago God started to peel me back like an onion, layer by layer. He showed me my spiritual pride: thinking I was His gift to the church, that I had somehow “arrived” to that special place in His Kingdom, being critical of those who didn’t agree with me, and having an unteachable spirit. When He revealed these attitudes to me I was absolutely floored. I had never realized that this was the condition of my heart. He let me know that my spiritual arrogance had robbed Him of His glory, and this absolutely devastated me. You see, when I had entered ministry in 1997 my prayer was that I would always point eyes to Him and would never rob Him of the glory that was due to Him alone. I cannot explain how grieved I was to realize that this is just what I had done – robbed God of His glory, and was shocked to see what I had become. It was a gut punch that left me breathless and crushed. What God told Job in Job 40:8 applied directly to me: “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” I had, in a sense, condemned Him to justify myself.
Then for the first time, I could see why God allowed all of those trials to enter my life and why He needed to bring me so low. In His infinite wisdom He brought these trials as part of the breaking process to bring me to this very point in my journey. I didn’t know what to say to God other than what Job said in Job 42:5-6; “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes“. For the first time I started to understand what it meant to be broken. I cried out to God in repentance, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I had this feeling that, perhaps, He had given up on me for ministry, I know that I am still saved (by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone), but the shame of my spiritual arrogance and the fact that I had robbed God of His glory was overwhelming. The fact that I am still standing and breathing, and the fact that I am still in ministry is a testimony to His grace. Now, each week when I preach and teach, and when I write these blogs or articles and letters in the newspaper, I am overwhelmed at His grace – overwhelmed that I am still fulfilling His call on my life, as I definitely don’t deserve to be in ministry. He hasn’t given up on me, still wants to use me, and still loves me in spite of myself.
Psalm 119:65, 67, and 75 is so applicable in my life: Psalm 119:65 – “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word; Psalm 119:67 – “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word“; Psalm 119:75 – “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me“.
Is the breaking process over. No. It will be a life long journey, but I’ve experienced and learned so much. I know that I have nothing to offer Him but my brokenness, and I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him. Has the breaking process been hard. Definitely! Do I wish that I hadn’t have had to go through this painful process? Oh yes! However, am I glad that He has done this in my life? Absolutely! Without this breaking process, I would have continued in my spiritual arrogance, robbing Him of His glory, and been ignorant of my pitiful condition. My prayer now is that, in the rest of the years He has me on this planet, my original motive would be true – to point all eyes to Him and to bring glory to Him alone, and that He would rebuild this broken, shattered bond slave of His into a vessel worthy of His glory. In faithfulness and love He has afflicted me, and I love Him so very deeply! Amen.