THE PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF CALEB OWEN

 

I grew up in probably the best home in the world.  My dad being a pastor kept me in church every time the doors were open.  I remember going to church more than I remember going to school.   The thing I probably remember the most about my childhood was how much my mom and dad loved God and loved the church.  I had heroes as a kid like most kids do.  But mine were different.  My heroes were people in the church like my dad, Bro Mark Harding, Bro Greg Moffitt, Bro Mark Tutor and many others.  Their love for God was very evident when I was a child.  I grew up seeing them worshiping God like nobody has ever seen somebody worship God.  They really did love God, and from an early age I would feel God move in services.   I never doubted one time that God was real.  From an early age I knew that God was real.  But I just wasn’t sure if he would ever be real to me.  

The first time I remember God talking to me was when I was 15. It was in a service where my mom gave her testimony.  In her testimony she told a story about two friends.  One friend had been diagnosed with a very rare blood disease.  He was told that he would die from it unless he could find a donor of the same blood type.  His friend chose to give his life for the friend with the disease.  He had the right blood type and everything. All he needed was permission from his father.  His father didn’t want his son to die but if it were what he wanted to do then he would let him give his life for his friend. So the arrangements were made, the friend had all of his blood drained from his body in order to give it to the friend in need.  The blood was taken by the father whose son had just died, to the needy boy and when he approached the boy looked at him and said “I have changed my mind, I don’t want it.”  The father was distraught and rightly so.  His son just gave his life so that his friend could live! But the boy looked at it as nothing and said he didn’t want it.

I had never heard this story before.  But God spoke to me through it.  God told me that night not to turn down what he had for me.  And that he was going to offer me something and it was precious and that I did not need to turn it down.  At the time I really was not sure what all of that meant, but I knew it was God.   I remember being so broken and God being so real that I did not want that to end.  God set me up.  He gave me a taste of himself and it changed my life.  I then began going to men’s prayer meeting.  It was at men’s prayer meeting that God began to touch me in a way that would change my life. I still remember my first prayer meeting. God loved on me at a young age.

Later that year at one of our yearly Festivals I went to the altar under conviction.  My dad came down to me and asked me if I knew if God was there?  I said yes because if my dad thought he was there then he had to be there.  The reason is because everything I knew about God came from my dad.  I trusted dad with my life.  If he said God was there, then he was there.   If he said God wasn’t, then he wasn’t.  I trusted my dad with the things of God to the point where I didn’t even trust God myself.  I just trusted that my dad knew God.  I know that does not make much sense, but I trusted my dad so much that he was almost like God to me.  I did not know God, but my dad did.  That night I rested in what dad told me.  That God was there to save me.  At first I thought this experience was salvation.  It had some ingredients but the missing ingredient was “me” trusting in “God.” I trusted in my dad instead.

  

A year or so went by and nothing was new. There was no new person in me.  It was the same old Caleb.  I knew something was not right.  Bro Charlie Garza came to our church and preached a message on how the saints long to worship and praise God. They long to worship him because of what he has done for them.  Salvation was such a miracle that when you are truly saved you worship over that miracle for the rest of your life.  I knew then that I was not saved.  I had struggled over the past year trying to worship like a saved man. But the truth of the matter was I was not saved.  God had never done a miracle in me. He had never raised me from the dead. He had never done anything for me that was a miracle. 

After I realized that I was lost my dad told me that God told him he was not going to be able to help me anymore when it came to salvation.   Not that I could not ever ask any questions, just when it came to God dealing with me he had to stay out of it.  God wanted me to trust him and not trust my dad as much as I did.  It scared me to death at first.  The one person in my life that was connected to God and he was not going to be able to help me.

For the next couple of months or so I listened to the preaching and waited on God.  My dad preached several sermons that helped me.  One sermon in particular was when Peter walked on water.  I’m not sure if I have ever heard God calling me to come like he did that night.  It was so clear.  Dad was preaching on how Peter could not have ever walked on water unless God called him first.  He compared it to how we can never be saved unless you hear God calling you.  God was just telling me to come….come…..come….  

I went to the altar broken and really did not know what to do.  I was just broken and I felt like I did what God wanted me to.  I came, but nothing happened.  It frustrated me a bit and I remember going home upset because I felt like I was stuck.  My dad came into my room and said, “what’s going on?” I told him, “if that was not salvation, I don’t know what is.  I’ve done everything I can do and nothings working.”  My dad looked at me and said something that stung me more than anything he has ever said to me.  He said, “son, salvation is not what you do, it is what God does to you.” 

It was like I have never heard that my whole life, yet I’ve heard that saying probably a million times. But this time it became so real to me.  I was seeing how I could not save myself and my whole existence was up to God.  I asked my dad “what if he does not save me?” My dad responded “son, he does not have to save you.  Your salvation is up to the mercy of God.”  I’ve never felt so hopeless in my life.  I remember crying myself to sleep that night with the thought of “God does not have to save me”.  Up until now salvation was something that I was going to do one day.  But that night it was very evident that it did not matter what I did, I could NOT save myself. 

June camp came and I had not really had any other movements of God on me since that night.  I came in to camp meeting hoping that I could find God.  The first night, Bro Mike preached out of Isaiah 55 on “Seek the Lord while he may be found and call upon him while he is near.”  I could hear God calling just like I heard him several months back, but my unbelief kept me from moving.

The next night Bro Greg preached out of Luke 18 on the Publican and the Pharisee.  He began to explain how the Pharisee thanked God for not making him as other men are such as adulteress, sinners, unjust, or even as the publican. The publican however stood afar off and would not even look up to God and was saying “God be merciful to me a sinner”

God really used Bro Greg to open up my eyes to my sin during this sermon.  I began to see how much of a Pharisee I really was.  Growing up I was a good kid.  I did not do anything to dishonor my parents and I pretty much did what I was told.  In everybody’s eyes I was a good kid, if not the best in school.  And I took pride in that.  I took pride in my goodness.  When in fact it was just the grace of God in my life.  But I did not acknowledge that. I thought that this goodness must be from some good part that was in me.  God began to show my how I was just like the Pharisee’s and looked down on kids at school who did not know the truth and I thought I was better than them.  I even remember thanking God for not making me like them.  I thought that God made some people good and some people bad.  Oh how I was so wrong!  For there is none that doeth good, no not one!  Man God pricked my heart and showed me that my pride was sickening to him. And how I had spurned his grace. I thought I had somehow earned all of this goodness that God had bestowed upon me.  I saw my offence to God that night and how that God had to die for those Pharisee’s who were so high minded.  I had never in my life looked at myself like a Pharisee.  But that night God showed me I was a Pharisee of Pharisees! 

Bro Greg was preaching on how we needed to be like this publican who was saying “God be merciful to me a sinner!”  Bro Greg said the Publican was saying he was “THE” sinner. I was THE worst sinner in the whole world.  The CHIEF of sinners. God began to show me how that was me. God my whole life and His hand had been upon me from a young age had loved me. I had felt him move and heard him talk to me. Yet I thought the whole time that I deserved this GRACE! I how lofty were my eyes and how sickening this was to God! Even though I had been a good kid, my heart was wicked and it wanted to do the things that the other kids were doing.  I wanted the friends of the world.  I wanted to be out with them on the weekends. I wanted to do my own thing and wanted to be left alone to go my own way.  But grace kept me from doing those things!  I saw my dark black heart and how God had to die for the things that were in this wretched heart of mine.  I became sick.  Sick of my self, sick of the pride that was deep within my heart!  My heart sank and in my heart I was asking, “what can I do to take all of this away?” 

Bro Greg started saying “ask God for mercy, like this Publican!!! Ask God for mercy!!! Ask God for mercy!!!”  I ran to the altar and began begging God to have mercy on my soul.  I remember telling myself don’t quit asking.  I just begged God to have mercy on “THE” sinner. Have mercy on this PHARASIEE!  Before I knew it I was telling God thank you.  I am not sure exactly how that happened but I came to myself and I was telling God thank you.  After about the third thank you I stopped and said “what just happened?” Everything was gone.  I didn’t have conviction on me anymore.  My heart was at peace and just moments ago it was in torment. Moments ago I was a Pharisee!  But when this Pharisee called out like the publican did, God heard him!  God had heard me and told me that he loved me and that he had forgiven me! 

Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and that humbleth himself shall be exalted.