This is my husband’s testimony. We were members of the United Pentecostal Church for almost 13 years. He was raised in a UPC church. I was raised in an Assembly of God church. Hopefully his testimony will help explain some of the hows and whys of where we are now — pastoring a Southern Baptist Church. Well, he pastors; I pastor-wife.
I knew as soon as I started to develop my own identity who I was supposed to be. I have honored my pastors. I have treasured them. In second grade in Waskom, TX, I was singing an Imperial song. I don’t know if y’all remember the Imperials. Some of you more mature people may. That is what Mama listened to; it was either that or the Chuck Wagon Gang. Well, I didn’t really like the Chuck Wagon Gang, if you want to know the truth of it. I was five, and six, seven, eight however old you are in second grade….
I was seven, so the Chuck Wagon Gang didn’t really do it for me, but the Imperials really did. So I am on the swing set and I am singing the Imperials song, I sang three songs, had a short prayer, and you know what comes after that? The preaching. So, I couldn’t very well preach on the swing set, and I couldn’t find anybody who wanted to hear any preaching. There was a privacy fence between the school and the apartment complex. So I went over and I preached at that fence and I preached hard. I mean, I was beating sheep that day, I was going at it, and it was hellfire and brimstone. When it was all over with, I sang another song and went and swang some more. I had church; church was a part of my life when I was seven years old. It was what I did, it was what I longed to do, I felt comfortable at church. We lived two blocks from church and I could ride my bike to church. Even the times when say Mama was sick or something like that, I would actually ride my bike to church. It was just what we did. I found out when I was 38 years old, I never knew this, not until I was older and mature, I was 38 years old, this was six years ago I found this out that my brother and my brother-in-law were on the other side of that fence smoking dope and they heard their little brother preaching right to them. They put out their joint and poured out their beer. Without saying a word, they both shuffled off. My brother-in-law who wasn’t my brother-in-law at the time, he was dating my sister and he was a pretty rough boy, let’s just say that Daddy and Mommy didn’t like him very much. He ended up giving his life to God, coming to church, now he is an elder and has been an elder for years.
When I was 16 years old, I learned that I could not live up to the Bible; I could absolutely not live up to the bible. You see, I was brought up in a very, very old school church where if you sinned just a little bit, you were going to hell, period point blank and I knew I had not sinned a little bit, I had sinned a lot. It just seemed like I couldn’t get past it, I couldn’t get to where I could ever find grace from God again. So I made the decision that if I was going to go to hell, I was at least going to have fun doing it and I did, for a little while. That’s when I was 16 years old. I came back when I was 19 years old, broken, hurt, and prayed through. Got baptized and was saved. I only learned that I could not live up to it, again. So, brokenhearted I left the church and I sank lower than I ever would have dreamed. I learned first-hand that when you dance with the devil, you wait for the end of the song; you don’t stop when you want to.
When I talk about people having baggage, I know what I am talking about. I have two previous marriages and I have a child from each one of those marriages. I did everything that I possibly could to save those, but I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t within me. You see if God’s not in it, it is not going to prosper. I was very adamant that me and God did not get along. It was a war within myself because I knew absolutely, positively that I was called to serve God, yet I could not find my way to God. How frustrating would it be for a woman to be pregnant, but never be able to deliver? Can you understand the pain and the heart ache that that would be? That is how I felt in my life. I would go shoot pool or go to the bar. We would get high and go out with our friends and it never failed, somebody would start talking about the Bible. It got to the point where I would just tell them, shut up, I don’t want to talk about God anymore and of course then they would, in a drunken stupor say, ‘you don’t believe in God?’ No, I believe in Him, trust me, he is very, very real. Then they would look at me like well, ‘how can you believe in God so much and be sitting here with me?’ I would be looking at them like, well how come you are thinking so much for me you are sitting here, too. Do you all know what it is like to not be able to get drunk on a barstool without somebody talking about God? They would argue over Bible scriptures and I would be sitting over there biting my lip through, all the time.
Melinda and I got married, I was still not trying to look for God, and I was actually trying very hard to not look for God. My family was having a hard time with it. My mom was struggling with it quite a bit. A lot of craziness going on. Mama, I’m sorry. We lived right down the hill from them and I am sure they heard God knows what. I was watching for my father-in-law to come down the hill and shoot me personally sometimes. It all came to a culmination one night with me standing in the front yard yelling at God. It was not a profitable conversation because at the end of the conversation which consisted of me yelling at Him, how I was going to do it without Him, He put a little thing in my heart and said, ‘Okay, I am not going to do anything. You go do you and I will do me and we will part our ways, but I want you to see how it works out.”
It didn’t work out very good. It didn’t turn out good at all. So on the 4th of July, 2003, my wife packed up our son in our family car, went to leave and the dog chased them down in the driveway and got in the car with them. I realized real quick that even the dog was smarter than me. She left for a little while, but her heart must not have really been in it because she turned around and came back. That gave me time to have a good old fashion prayer meeting on the couch with an eight ball of cocaine and about a pound of weed. The very place that used to be my man cave where I would smoke dope to get high was the place I met with God, again where for the last time in my life, I said, “God, I will trust you, I will follow you, I want to know how. All I have been told is that I am not good enough, but I am going to tell you what, if you will just bring her back, please if you will just bring her back, I swear I will raise my kids and they will follow you, I swear to you that I will take her to church, I swear to you that I will do all of that.”
You know, I found this out: God loves a hard head. I started looking at all the disciples and every single one of them were knuckleheads. They were some of the worst dudes. I wouldn’t have called them to help me build anything. They liked to fight; two of them carried daggers on them all the time because they were identified as zealots. They were guerrilla warriors. Fisherman who liked to fight and cuss and carry on. Tax collectors, don’t even get me started on them boys. So I started trusting that God could use an idiot and guess what? That is about the only thing I am qualified for. I know I got a lot of pieces of paper that I hang on the wall, but you know what? I don’t. I got all kinds of certifications and when I turned in my packet here, I just put what was required because absolutely none of that has anything to do with who I am with God. I haven’t learned anything, in any school that has taught me more than what God has taught me, one-on-one in fellowship. Some of the most amazing things I’ve discovered when we started living for God; we started living for God hard. I started praying, God I really want to go into the ministry now. I love you and I know what you meant, it is in my heart and I got to get it out. So start using me, please God, here I am. I talked to Melinda; she said that she was ready to start moving into the ministry. We started praying together and what, within 7/9 days, we both lost our jobs. I sat there thinking, okay God, now you got a sense of humor, we know that. I will tell you this much, we didn’t suffer any. The Higginbothams that were here, they fed us, they cared for us, gave us a riding lawn mower, I had a little tore up push mower and they gave us a riding lawn mower. Our in-laws took care of us. We didn’t miss one thing, God provided for us. That is when I learned that, that is absolutely where I loved to be, I can’t be anywhere else.
If I had stopped pursuing what God had for me in my life, I really don’t care for it. I’ve been in gun battles; I’ve been in knife fights. I’ve got all kinds of crazy scars and tattoos, if you think that’s bad; you ought to see what’s been on my heart…lots of scars, lots of hurt and a lot of pain. You know what? All of that, those are trophies now. Those absolutely, positively, I get to lift up one day and find God and say, you know what? You healed me all you did all of this. So, that is pretty much me in a nutshell. You ever want to know who you are looking at, nobody, nobody in particular. Just some guy that God used, some fisherman, a zealot, tax collector, whatever came along, whatever low-point was, that is pretty much where I went. If you ever think that anything held me, give it to God.
Corrie Ten Boom said this, when she was asked by a reporter, “How do you deal with all this acclaim? How do you deal with all these people literally just falling at your feet when you tell your testimony?” She says, “You know what? I save it all up and at the end of the day, offer it up to God as a bouquet.” So if you ever praise me, tap me on the back and say, good job, you will see me kind of duck my head because I know who I am, but then I look up and say thanks because I am just receiving it from you, but later on at the end of the day, I am going to give it to God and say, thank you so much because if these people knew who I was, if these people could understand where I came from, they probably wouldn’t even let me in their church. Hopefully there are no secrets. If you ever want to know, ask me and I will tell you. I am not going to lie to you. I might tell you something that you don’t want to hear, but I won’t lie. We are too far in now. Thank you all for giving us the opportunity to come up here and tell our testimonies. You know, I’ve baptized two of my children and I will baptize a third one as soon as she can give me a good answer of why she needs to be baptized because she asks about once a week. You know what? That is the best part of my life right there. The best part of me is sitting on the bench right now, the three of them. I feel absolutely called to do the word of God. Whatever God gives me to say, I am going to say it. I have already done one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, so coming in here and telling the word of God is not very hard for me anymore. It is challenging to do it in a good light. Sometimes you put some hard things that I have to say and I have to look at you and smile and say, I love you. God put it on my heart to say.
The hardest thing I have ever had to do, I got commissioned driving in my truck one day, I had a little red pick up, I was driving down the road and God started working on my heart. I literally had to pull off the road. I called in to work because I couldn’t move my truck. I couldn’t see to drive anymore, I literally had to just lay over in the seat of my truck because I was so, so, so burdened and God started talking to me. He told me that he was going to afflict my mother so that her children could be saved, that he wasn’t being mean to her, but that he was answering her prayers, it sat stacked up before him as a testimony. So he told me to go and tell my mother not to worry. It is because she is asking to. See, my mother used to pray, ‘God save my children, save my children, take me, save my children. Whatever you have to do, save my children.’ I remember I used to sit in the hall and cry because it hurt me when she would say that prayer. I would talk to God and say please, please, please stop her. Tell her to quit, I can’t hear it anymore God. When I was a teenager and I wasn’t living for God anymore, she would pray. I could hear her. I would be trying to sleep and she would be in there wailing. I would say God, if you got one ounce of dignity, please she is killing me over here. I went to my mother’s house and we talked till 2 in the morning at her kitchen table. Soon after that, we got the diagnosis that my mother had dementia, she is now in full-blown Alzheimer’s. My family is shaken. I still have three brothers and sisters who aren’t living for God, but he’s got their attention. It is very difficult because when I go see my mother, she thinks I am my dad, who abandoned her, left her and beat her, which doesn’t go over well. Of course she remembers me as a strung out drug addict, stealing stuff from the house. God knows what he’s doing because they have to go to her and say, no, Jimmy is different now and explain to her that he is a preacher, he is living for God. Too far in, I can’t quit now.
I wont ever quit on you; I can’t quit on them, too far in. Just want to tell you I love you and I understand. The mere fact that you let me walk through that door every day. The fact that you see God in me and not just all the scars and craziness. I bless you for it. Whatever happens today, know this, I love you. So God is going to put some things on your heart, you act accordingly. Understand, I didn’t let none of this sneak up on you, he is a pretty good planner. Amen.