Gary Wilkerson Podcast | World Challenge

Gary Wilkerson Podcast

  • A Prodigal's Journey from the Pew to Prison to Phnom Penh

    God’s commands can sometimes seem so impossible to fulfill, so distant from what we want. In these moments, it can be so easy to become angry at God. Our visitor this week, Holly Dziedzickie, shares how her frustration with God’s commands led her down a rebellious path until he called her back in the most extraordinary way.

    God’s commands can sometimes seem so impossible to fulfill, so distant from what we want. In these moments, it can be so easy to become angry at God. Our visitor this week, Holly Dziedzickie, shares how her frustration with God’s commands led her down a rebellious path until he called her back in the most extraordinary way.

    Gary Wilkerson: Hi, I'm so glad you guys are here today. I'm Gary Wilkerson with the Gary Wilkerson podcast. We're in for a really good story today, Holly, we are so happy to have you with us. We're going to be hearing a story of God's miraculous power.

    How He not only changes a life and Holly in your life makes you a devout follower of Jesus but gives you a purpose and a way to help other people. Holly, thanks for coming here today. I want to start off with your testimony, you came from Christian home, right?

    Holly Dziedzickie: Yes.

    Gary: Both parents mom and dad.

    Holly: Yes.

    Gary: Loved Jesus devout, took you to church.

    Holly: Yes, took to me to church, growing up, they would talk about God at the dinner table. I believed in Jesus. I believed that there was a God and His name was Jesus Christ. My mom sent me to Awana and all those things good Christian parents do.

    Gary: They were probably a little concerned when they saw, you were a teenager you started getting involved in some things that would not be necessarily a Christian lifestyle, to say the least.

    Holly: Yes, when I was a teenager, actually, the first thing I started getting involved in was homosexuality, from there I got caught, was I 12? You got caught and then--

    Gary: Caught by your parents or you were caught by somebody else?

    Holly: Actually, the pastor of the church by love letters. I was writing with another girl that was in church and her stepmother found it and she gave it to the pastor.

    Gary: Pastor told your parents?

    Holly: Yes, he told my parents and then he came and had a meeting with me and he said, "Holly, you have a fork in the road. You have to choose. Are you going to follow Christ or are you going to go down this road of your own way?" I told him at the time I choose to follow Christ. I was a little kid though but in my heart, I didn't. In my heart, I was very angry with God for making it wrong in the Bible. He could've made it right. Why did he make it wrong? That sparked I would say, a seed of rebellion. From there, I would still do the things I wanted to do, but be hiding it from my parents back, got into drinking, got into hanging out with the wrong people, got into drugs and ended up just keep coming home and hiding it.

    Holly: When you say drugs like you're talking about smoking pot.

    Holly: You start out smoking cigarettes as a kid and then go from there to pot. Then from there got into methamphetamine and then from there got into selling pot, so I could pay for my methamphetamine. Then from there, got into selling methamphetamine, and then from there, decided to cook it. Why should I sell it for them and give them all the money when I can learn how to make it myself. I just started hanging out with the bikers and with the Mexican mafia, different people that were cooking and I figured out how to do it myself. Then I became a cook with a girlfriend in and out of jail.

    Gary: During this time, did you have any reminiscence of the background of your mind, of the words that you heard in church or your parents that was Jesus whispering to you at all or did you totally shut them out?

    Holly: Well, during that time, it's funny because I use needles, I would inject methamphetamine. I would sit there with girlfriends or whoever I was doing drugs with and I would talk to him about God. I say, there is a God, his name is Jesus Christ. I'm not following him but he's real. It was just a matter of fact to me but there wasn't that personal relationship. I remember having little experiences as a kid here and there, but what I have now today, present today is not what I had then for sure.

    Gary: You didn't have the clear understanding of Christ being your Lord and Savior.

    Holly: I didn't have this Holy Spirit living inside of me telling me no, don't do that or making me uncomfortable to do so like I do now living inside of me. When I do something it's like I fill up and it's telling me no. It actually makes sin uncomfortable. It's the point to where the things that used to attract me and the things that I used to live for and fight for and be willing to die for before now are like a repellent to me. It's really weird. It's from darkness into light. Really quite an experience.

    Gary: How did that experience happen? The transforming of your heart and the renewing of your mind coming to Christ, how did that happen to you?

    Holly: Well, the last time I got arrested, I was a felon. I had already been arrested for manufacturing and I had a loaded firearm. I had drugs all bagged up, so I could sell them and I got caught.

    Gary: In your car?

    Holly: That's actually interesting. I was at another drug addict's house trying to meet up with a girlfriend of mine that I was fighting with and she was supposed to come meet me. The cops pulled up to their house and I had on me a gun. I was sitting in their chair, I had on me the drugs, and I was drinking alcohol and I saw the cops pull up. There was this weird void or numbness that went over me. I had time to get up and throw the gun out the back door into the neighbor's yard and throw the drugs and everything and wait until the cops leave and go back and get it.

    For some reason, I just sat there and kept drinking my bottle. They walked in, they said, are you on probation or parole? I said, no, I was lying and then they said, can we search you? I said, no. Then they searched me and they ended up finding the gun and the drugs and there I went off. Even me getting arrested, that last time I got arrested was miraculously-- It was miraculous in a sense of I let them arrest me. It was weird.

    Gary: God was preparing for something to happen. It was actually while you were in prison then somebody talked about Christ or did you go to a chapel?

    Holly: While I was in jail, I was like in this dark cloud. You have the drugs coming out of you and so your skin feels like it's crawling. I started hearing loud whispers like, “Psh! Psh!” and I thought it was the girls and said shut up and I jumped on the tables they were scared of me. The guards would move me to other pods because you're fighting your case, you're in County. They wanted to give me 12 years, which was actually a good deal for me at the time and because a loaded firearm, what do you do when you're a felon already? That was going on and they moved me from pod to pod because of my violence. I would pace up and down and say, let the bodies hit the floor. If anybody came near me I shove them.

    Gary: I heard you say earlier, you had studied some type of martial arts.

    Holly: My dad had all in his kids.

    Gary: It wasn’t just rage, but knowing what to do with your rage. You could hurt somebody.

    Holly: I was very much a fighter, street fighter, and everything. There was no problem. I liked violence. It actually attracted me. They moved me from pod to pod, which actually if I looking back at it, if they wouldn't have moved me because of my violent outbursts, they actually drove me in the middle of the night from a low-security jail to high security. If they didn't do that, I wouldn't have ran into this girl I knew from the streets, her name was Michelle. She was in there for four years fighting a murder case. She was a pretty evil broad. I saw her and it was like I was in this dark cloud and I saw her, it was hard to explain but she looked different, shiny in a weird way.

    I walked in for like, Michelle, she's like, Holly. I said, what happened to you and what I meant by that was you're weird looking, you're shiny. She didn't know what I was talking about, but she ended up telling me she had gotten saved. This little old lady from Yucca Valley would come drive down and tell the girls about Jesus. She said, "Do you girls want to be delivered?" If they said yes, she'd come and pray over them. She said, Jesus Christ can deliver you, and pray over them. Michelle's was very demon possessed. They would go into the Bible studies and County and stuff just to get out of your cell. You're locked down for 22 hours, you just went out. Whatever it takes, I can get out and go into a room, okay I'll go there.

    It doesn't matter what you're going to talk about to them. She said yes. The lady prayed for her. She fell on the ground doing a flop. Demons came out of her, and so she got saved. That's what I was seeing was this girl that I knew from the streets who was totally different. The inmates respected her, the cops respected her in County, and she was now the trustee and there was just something different about her. During that time, I'm this crazy violent homosexual drug addict, violent but there was something in her that I wanted. I called home and I called my mom and I said, can you send me a Bible? She sent me a Bible and I tried to read it and it was just, I opened it, I was excited.

    I was in my little two-man cell with my roommate. I read it and it didn't make any sense to me. It went in my head and it spun around and it made me really mad. I was like, man, all you Christians and I started saying something, I don't know. I threw the Bible across the room. My roommate was supposedly a Christian and she said something, I was like, shut up lady and then she's like, I'm going to push the button. There's an emergency button because I scared her. I was like, no you're not going to push the button. I knew if she did, they'd moved my pod again and I'd be away from Michelle. I had her up by the throat against, so she couldn't push the button where the window, the cops can't see in the window, because you're just in that door.

    There's only a little tiny window about a foot by what maybe four inches. She's screaming, I'm like, "Shut up lady." Then Michelle was out because she was the trustee. She came up to the door, she said, "Holly, what are you doing?" I said, "I'm tired of you guys tell about the Bible I try to read as much of jargon." She said, "You need to ask God to open your eyes before you read that." She walked away and I was like, "Whatever." Anyway, she walked away. I calmed my roommate down, she went on her bed and cried herself to sleep and I got the Bible, I sat on my bed and I said, God, open my eyes. I opened it and I started to read it randomly opened it to Romans chapter five.

    Romans chapter five and chapter six is how I got saved. Where it talks about how God's demonstrated his own love towards us and how he died for the unrighteous. As I was reading it and how he died for the ungodly, and you keep reading, it's something light. It was like something hit me. The thought came to my mind. I'm ungodly and also whatever was keeping me from understanding what I was reading before. It's like God ripped it off. He opened in my eyes. I understood what I was reading. Which was a miracle. As I kept reading it, talked about being a slave to sin. Don't you know whoever you choose to obey, that was whom you obey? Whether of sin leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness but God be thanked. As I'm reading, I'm like, "I'm a slave to sin." It was just like this revealing, I guess you'd say, of who I was and it was shocking to me. I'm a slave? I was realizing all those years of drugs, all the lies I said, all the cons I did, and everything. I knew that there was a God and his name was Jesus Christ. I knew that he died on the cross for my sin but I also knew there was a Satan and the thought came to me, "I've been being conned."

    All my life I thought I was doing what I needed to do to make me happy but I've been serving Satan. I've been a slave to him and he's been robbing me. It was anger. I was like, "I'm such an idiot." Then as I kept reading, but there was a choice. I could choose to be a slave or I could choose to be obedient. The end of that is life eternal. I was definitely an enemy of God. As you read through those chapters, you'll see that you're in enmity with God. You're an enemy of God and that qualified me to be able to receive from him. I remember back then, I didn't know Christianese and everything.

    It was like my life flashed before my eyes and I was realizing how many years I threw away on all the drugs and all the false relationships. Always looking for love, really. I looked up and I said, "God, I don't know you but I want you and there's things in me. I can feel it up in my throat. I'm a homosexual. I'm a drug addict. I'm a alcoholic, but if you don't like it, you can change me because I want you." It was like, after that… The sinner's prayer or whatever, that was my sinner's prayer. God met me right where I was at and after that, I couldn't read the Bible enough. The more I read it, it would give me this feeling, this excitement.

    I’d come out of my cell before, it was like let the bodies hit the floor. Now, it's like God gave me new eyes and I would look at the women and it wasn't like how can I get a candy bar from you or maybe I want to sleep with you. It wasn't like that anymore. Now, it was like, I had this feeling and these new emotions and I go by them. I'd stand by and they're like, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "I love you, man." They're like, "What are you doing in your room?" I'm like, "Man, I'm just reading the Bible. If you just open it and you just read it, it's better than drugs. It's better than sex, man. It's so good."

    They're like, "Really?" I'm like, "Yes, it makes you feel really good, but you got to say open my eyes, first."

    Gary: You already had your pattern. [crosstalk]

    Holly: Yes. That was me just coming off of drugs and not knowing really the word of God. That's how I got saved. After that, they wanted me to give me 12 years, which was a good deal but actually they dropped it the next time I went to court and they gave me three years. So I got three years and I started to learn how to be a Christian in prison, which was good. I needed to be behind bars for that. I ended up getting out in one and a half years on good time and learned a lot. I learned a lot. Blew it a little bit. You know what I mean? Because you're just out of Egypt.

    Going through that wilderness. [laughs] Not getting laid. What do you mean, "Blessed are the meek? What does this mean, God?" I don't get I'll fight for you? What do you mean weak? Where God's like, "Okay. I'll show you here in prison because you can't learn it on the streets. You need to learn it here first."

    Gary: That's so powerful. After that, you went to a Bible school?

    Holly: Yes.

    Gary: In California?

    Holly: Yes. I went to Calvary Chapel Bible College in in Murrieta and graduated.

    Gary: That's a transition. That's a real transformation. Now, moving up to more current things. From the time at Bible school, you got a call to do something a little bit unusual? We will talk about this minute. You ended up in Cambodia for the last 10 years. You've been in Cambodia. It was that like, "I'm going to go to Cambodia and help people there." Or was it like God somehow miraculously told you to get up and go?

    Holly: Yes. There was a guy that was going to Bible college. He went to Cambodia. He emailed me and said, "Holly, we really need worship leaders here." I'm a worship leader. That's another story. I was like, "I'll be praying that God would send some people to Cambodia. I'll pray for you." I didn't want to go because I have in my drugs and stuff would go into Mexico a lot and I didn't like Mexico when I went there. It was just for working, you would say. My idea of missions was like that. I didn't want to be a missionary, but I was willing to do whatever God wanted me to do so I started praying that God would send missionaries over to Cambodia, worship leaders.

    In my last semester, I was getting ready to graduate and then God really clearly-- It was funny. I'm praying for Cambodia. I didn't even know where it was. It sounds like Africa to me. You know what I mean? The name. Never bothered to look and then all of a sudden, wherever I go, I go to the gym, there's a story about Cambodia. I was like, "That's funny. I'm praying for that country." Then I'm driving the car to go to Bible school and the pastor was talking about Cambodia. Then God told me to go to morning devos at Bible college and I didn't have a class that day so I wouldn't normally go.

    I got up early, went to the morning devos and it was this big, huge screen and it was a big map and it was Cambodia. It was almost like God smacked in the face with Cambodia, in a sense. Driving home, I said, "God, do you want me to go to Cambodia?" It was just like this instant love poured through my heart to the point where I got teared up, had to pull over because I was driving on the freeway. I was going to crash and I was like, "Okay. I will go." I bought a ticket to go to Cambodia for three months, a round trip. Then while I was there, He called me there. It wasn't like, "Oh, I'm good. God told me to go so I went."

    Gary: You've been there for 10 years now. Tell us a little bit about your ministry there in Cambodia. You're working with, what's the name of the ministry?

    Holly: Girls' House of Refuge.

    Gary: Girls' House of Refuge. Tell me, what is that?

    Holly: God told me to open a home for women, for young women. So I did and then he would choose and bring the ones he wanted to, so he ended up bringing girls that were pregnant or girls that got raped and different girls. Also, just really poor girls. I started getting a name for being willing to take drug addicts, being willing to take alcoholics, being willing to take traumatized girls that are all knocked-up or pregnant. Nobody else can help them. Other Christian organizations in the country would call me and say, "Hey, will you take this girl?" Or, "Hey, there's this girl. This person's trying to sell this girl, this little girl, 14, 12, whatever."

    I would take those kind of girls. Also, with women's ministry, you're drawn to women. When you go out in public, girls are drawn to girls. They want to share the gospel. We'll go through the whole Bible in a year at my house. They want to practice what they're studying. It's really cool because they're baby Christians so everything's new, which I loved it because it's just really innocent in a sense.

    Gary: You still lived in the home where the girls come in now after 10 years?

    Holly: Yes. We all live together.

    Gary: Did I hear you say more than one home now?

    Holly: Well, I did before. Right now, we're back down to one.

    Gary: That's in Phnom Penh?

    Holly: Yes, in Phnom Penh.

    Gary: Okay. You're in the city. You're in the bustling, hustling, crazy part of the world. That's… World Challenge, our ministry, does work there and we have for 20 years or so or more in Cambodia and in Phnom Penh in some of the rural areas, church planting and things like that but we've ran across some of these things that you have been facing as well and it's not an easy ministry.

    Holly: Yes. You can call me. Bring me the girls.

    Gary: All right. That's so cool. Thank you.

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    …when I was a teenager, actually, the first thing I started getting involved in was homosexuality. In my heart, I was very angry with God for making it wrong in the Bible. He could've made it right. Why did he make it wrong? That sparked I would say, a seed of rebellion. - Holly Dziedzickie

    I didn't have the Holy Spirit living inside of me telling me, “No, don't do that!” or making me uncomfortable to do sin like I do now. It actually makes sin uncomfortable. It's the point to where the things that used to attract me and the things that I used to live for and fight for and be willing to die for before now are like a repellent to me. - Holly Dziedzickie

    The lady prayed for her. She fell on the ground doing a flop. Demons came out of her, and so she got saved. That's what I was seeing was this girl that I knew from the streets who was totally different. The inmates respected her, the cops respected her in County, and she was now the trustee and there was just something different about her. During that time, I'm this crazy violent homosexual drug addict, but there was something in her that I wanted. - Holly Dziedzickie

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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  • Faith & Food – Feeding Your Calling

    Unhealthy habits in life usually begin in small steps. They start when we say, “Oh, I can stay up late for this event and still wake up early for work tomorrow. I can splurge with my diet this week and work it off later.” Sooner or later we may find that these small choices have begun to build into serious health problems. This week, Gary Wilkerson talks with a Christian nutritional counselor, Laura Harris Smith, who shares her descent into a deadly medical condition, the way God healed her body and her journey into good health.

    Unhealthy habits in life usually begin in small steps. They start when we say, “Oh, I can stay up late for this event and still wake up early for work tomorrow. I can splurge with my diet this week and work it off later.” Sooner or later we may find that these small choices have begun to build into serious health problems. This week, Gary Wilkerson talks with a Christian nutritional counselor, Laura Harris Smith, who shares her descent into a deadly medical condition, the way God healed her body and her journey into good health.

    Gary Wilkerson: Well, hello, everybody. We are in for a great time today at the Gary Wilkerson Podcast here at World Challenge. We have in our studio with us today Laura Harris Smith. Thanks for being with us today.

    Laura: Thanks.

    Gary: I just got your book, and I've been reading it and it's been a real blessing. I love how you're praying for people, speaking faith, and helping people's spirit, mind, body—spirit, soul, and body. That's one of our favorite passages here as a ministry, 1 Thessalonians, where it talks about the spirit, soul, and body. As I was reading your bio, there's some things you're a nutritional counselor. Can you just give us-- What is a nutritional counselor?

    Laura: Well, I actually, six years ago almost lost my life because I was on the brink of adrenal failure and did not know it. I was told make changes or die. They said, "If you survive, it'll take 18 to 24 months to turn around." I had what was called adrenal burnout.

    Gary: Were you already a nutritional counselor?

    Laura: No, I'm telling you why I became one.

    Gary: Gotcha

    Laura: It kind of found me. I basically was in a place of not sleeping. I can't sleep, I'm laying down sleep for eight hours, but I wasn't sleeping. I love my life; I have a king-size life. I would get like maybe four hours sleep; both of my parents did this kind of work like a badge. Stage four of adrenal burnout is when all of your organs shut down. I didn't even find out I had it until I was in stage three.

    My blood work started coming back wonky. I discovered John F. Kennedy had it. They said it not been assassinated, he would have been dead in a year. All of these things I'm finding out. When someone looks at you and says make changes or die, every meal becomes a final exam. I had to start studying what to eat, what not to eat, what to get rid of.

    Gary: What were you feeling at that time? Could you feel symptoms of weakness, brain fog?

    Laura: Yes, yes, and yes. However, I have such a strong constitution.

    Gary: You fought through it?

    Laura: That really worked against me. Because I just kept pushing through and kept pushing through. I started noticing like, at church, I was unable to even keep standing through the first worship song. We have the typical concert worship style, three, four songs upfront. I would have to sit down, I would be just exhausted. Those types of things started happening. I was actually in the middle of a book contract with Baker books, and I had, I was contracted to write Seeing the Voice of God, it was a book on dreams and visions, biblical dreams and visions. I was interviewing sleep study doctors.

    It was so sneaky, I call it Jehovah sneaky, for God to use work to make me study sleep, because it was work that was keeping me from sleeping. This doctor's looking at me and saying, "If you don't sleep, the first thing is to will go wonky in your body are your hormones, and then this and then this," and I'm like checking the list and still, it's not fully registering, that's what's going on with me. Then I get the diagnosis, I go on total bed rest for three months. It was during that time that I knew because of everything that I was learning. I just bet this is going to become a shift in my writing. I had written probably 16 books before that.

    I knew the Lord was calling me to shift into a body, mind and spirit lane. I felt like I owed it to my readers to go back and educate myself. Go back to school, and educate myself once I got mended up. The Lord did in six months. I had a total clean bill of health. I was back running strong. I make myself get seven to eight hours sleep every night now. Somehow, still just as productive. When I went back to school, I became a nutritional counselor not to hang out a shingle and open a clinic, but for my readers. Everything I do, I pour into my books.

    I have now since then gone back and pursued degrees. I have my bachelor's in original medicine, which is body, mind and spirit medicine, and my masters in another couple of years, I'll be a naturopathic doctor.

    Gary: Wow. Good for you.

    Laura: I'm slamming it.

    Gary: You said something that, I think maybe some listeners might be really interested hearing, your only sleeping four hours, and then I heard you say you made yourself sleep eight hours. How does somebody's make yourself sleep eight hours.

    Laura: I really do and always have had the ability to lay down and just sleep. Not only fall asleep but stay asleep. I wouldn't sleep, I was in sleep rebellion. I had a massive sleep debt. When you don't go to sleep, your body will go to sleep for you. To answer your question, what I had to do is I had to, in my pursuit of disciplining myself with sleep health, I discovered this whole world of people, who they tell me they just can't get to sleep.

    They lay there and they just can't, they cannot do it. If they do get to sleep, they can't stay asleep. My heart was really compassionate toward them because I think sleep doctors could put all the other doctors out of business. If we get our sleep right, we will be healthy people. Oh yes, those eight hours that God gave us at night, and him even creating the moon and the stars. That's not an afterthought. He did. That's a sacred time.

    He not only wants us to rest, He wants us to heal during that time. We're a captive audience. He wants to speak to us, even in the night, I believe, like He did with many other biblical characters. What I have done since that time is, I've actually begun to create helps products, essential oils, things to help people get to sleep and stay asleep. I do have one called quiet brain that does just that.

    I have people tell me that they, whether by applying it, or diffusing it, that they go to bed and they wake up 10 hours later, it doesn't sedate the brain it focuses. I have also reports of people saying it helped them focus for work. It must be a, it helps you focus on sleep or focus on work, whatever it is you need to do. Turn everything else off and do that.

    Gary: Is there a link between-- I know, we didn't invite you to talk about sleep, and I'm not sleepy. That’s not why I am asking this question. I’m wide awake. I think it's interesting topic. Is there a link between-- because you're a nutritionist, poor nutrition is it going to cause poor sleep habits or not?

    Laura: You're asking all the right questions. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. What we eat, and especially the time that we eat it can lead to poor health. I got in here late last night and had to eat very, very late. I slept very, very well, but that's because that was a rarity. If you are eating right before you go to bed, if you are eating wild and crazy things, and your body is having to work all night long to digest it. It's not doing what God created it to do, which is to heal. There's a chemical that's released in your body while you're asleep called HCG. It's a hormone. In children, it's released and they grow.

    At some point, you quit growing. As adults, when it's released as we sleep, we heal. If we're not sleeping, we're not healing. This is where all your reserves run out in your 30s and 40s, and chronic illnesses start settling in and listen, I am a miracle believing, hey, let's pray and I'll call down a miracle. I want people to maintain their miracles and to be smart.

    I'm telling you, on this one, He required me to cooperate with Him. He still requires me to cooperate with Him. I still if I fall back into that and I could so easily, that's my drug of choice. It's just I could work all day. I think sleep is a colossal waste of time. I think there are people dying and going to hell. I've go to get to them. I want the whole world to be saved by noon tomorrow.

    Those are the downsides of that 1 Corinthians 12, "Gift of faith". You just think you're invincible, you can do everything like, I said, "by tomorrow". I've just had to learn that I'm one person. I have to make myself go to bed. I have a husband who is all about the journey. I'm all about the destination. I'm A to B. I like direct flights. I like all that. It is about the journey and you have to take care of yourself on the journey.

    Gary: Is he like you as far—I don’t want to sleep. I just want to…

    Laura: No.

    Gary: No, he isn't.

    Laura: Oh, no.

    Gary: He's kind of the plotter, kind of paces.

    Laura: Absolutely. He is usually the first one in bed and now we have, I won't say it's a deal, a kind of unspoken but I migrate that way and I'm on the bed. [chuckles] I'm usually on my laptop for about a whole other hour, but I do. I try to. I have kind of an inward rule. My typical time to sleep is like midnight to 8:00, sometimes 1:00 to 9:00. I have a rule if I wake up before that eight-hour mark, I try to just lay there, just pray, not rush and start the day. I mean this was serious. I almost died. I have to take it seriously. Yes, it's the thing that I easily fall back into if I'm not careful.

    Gary: Yes, going back to your story then, how long did you take to get out of that place?

    Laura: Well, three months in bed-

    Gary: Three months in bed.

    Laura: -will make you think differently.

    Gary: What changes did you make then?

    Laura: I took out wheat. I took out sugar. My nutritionist told me, "You need to make certain changes so that your body cannot have anything else to do but heal". All of my organs, things were starting to shut down. My reproductive system had already entirely shut down in my early 40s. I just thought, "That's a fluke". Well, no. Then my liver tests were coming back, where all these different tests. I had to use food as medicine. When your liver is in bad shape, you just can't start popping pills for each organ. It won't process it.

    She said, "Wheat and sugar are very hard on the body to process. Let's take those out for now and give your body nothing else to do but heal." Lots of naps during the day; it was the hardest thing.

    Gary: Obviously, it's worked. You're healthy and your family is doing good.

    Laura: I feel great.

    Gary: You've made major changes. Things change.

    Laura: We're all off wheat and sugar. I mean literally we started, if I could just say, I had this one shelf in the pantry and there was sign on it. It said, "Mom's Pantry". Whatever the cook does usually it starts to trickle down and they were all gluten-free. We all do this sugar-free. We have made a lifestyle change. There's 19 other flours out there. There's rice. There's buckwheat. There's sorghum. There's almond flour. In the beginning, my husband would bring me flours. We’d experiment with different flours. That type of thing. It's just a choice. It's a perspective shift.

    Gary: I love it. He sounds like a good husband.

    Gary: One of the major things I wanted to ask you was being that you’ve written the book and I know it's helping lots of people and you've been interviewed and you speak on this. Do you find that fairly normal in the church for us to be eating poorly, out of shape? Is that a major problem or do you think there's any second question tied to that? Do you think there's any difference between, just say an average, take 100 people that go to church and 100 people that don't, would their nutrition be any different? I don't know if you've ever examined that or not.

    Laura: It is a major problem. If I had to put a number on it, on the people that I have seen, I would say that it's in the high 90% of people that they not only are they unaware, I think it's that they have high faith. They just think that God's got their back and I began to bury some heroes of mine a couple of decades ago and I just started asking myself questions like, and I was a farmer's daughter, so I already thought that I ate healthy. I ate colorfully. For me, it was the sleep. I call it sleep hygiene, but for others, it is what they are putting on their plate. They're killing themselves, one forkful at a time, and let me tell you what else I've learned people don't like it when you mess with their food. I have had to learned to be hated by a few people. The tide does turn.

     

    Gary: It's like you're touching idolatry in some senses, right?

     

    Laura: You move people's food and the flesh goes crazy. You go out to dinner with people and they start apologizing for what they're ordering. I'm like, "Hey. There's no condemnation. I am not judging you. I may be praying for you." I actually had a guy look at me one time and say, "Are you saying if I eat wheat, am I going to go to hell?" I said, "No." He asked me if I eat wheat, am I not going to go to heaven. I said, "Absolutely not. You'll probably get their sooner, but you're not going to not get I”n. It's not about that, it's the quality of life that we have here living a healthy life. We need this body to serve the Lord with, I want to live long and live strong.

     

    Gary: Yes, I've had people say, and you've probably heard this as well, when you talk about nutrition, when it comes to their spiritual life and the calling on their life, you've heard it said, "Hey I don't care what I eat. If I die, I'll be with Jesus sooner," and it's just like, well, yes, you will be, but he's given you a calling on your life and if you're not going to be healthy enough to carry it out, you're going to be sick and just as slow of body, slow of mind. That's just not going to work.

     

    Laura: You are the very first show I've ever been on that quoted the 1 Thessalonians 5:23 passage for me. The reason I love that is because of what you just said. It actually says in there, "You may be found blameless, at the Lord’s coming body, soul and spirit." Come on. We can receive, accept, take responsibility for and have some blame in this if we are not doing these things. It’s not bondage, it's actually easy things. You've just got to change your mindset, change your lifestyle. Start making better choices. I believe that body, mind and spirit, if we are to be whole, we are to pay attention to all three.

    Gary: So, we're talking about the health or lack thereof of some in Christian circles. Do you have some inclinations as to why people remain in poor health, whether be spirit, mind, or body when they've heard it. Like some of the stuff you're hearing today, it's going to be new. I like that but some of the stuff they're going to go like, "I heard it before" or "Here we go again" or there are some things that keep people stuck.

    Laura: I think it's habit.

    Gary: Habits, yes.

    Laura: A lack of discipline, a lack of tapping into the spirit of self-control which God has given us. It's one of the fruits of his spirit. By the way, if you don't have self-control, you don't need to go read a book on self-control you need more the Holy Spirit. His main job is to make us holy. I love all the gifts of the Spirit. I love all of that the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit but the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit if we only have one or the other, we're like interestingly enough a dove which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit has nine grooves in each wing. If you only have the gifts of the Spirit and you're not exercising the character of God or if you only have love, peace, joy and all the fruits of the Spirit but you don't believe in miracles or healings or faith or prophecy you're a one-wing dove. You're going to be flying around in circles. I think it's the lack of self-control but it's also a lack of believing in the miraculous. It took for me a miraculous changing of my mindset to change and make these lifestyle changes.

    For me, like when people say to me, "It's too hard" I have one woman telling me the other day, "It's just too hard. I try to give up sugar it's too hard" I thought, "You know what? I didn't have that luxury. I had to make the changes or die." When people say to me, "Life's hard" I'm like, "Compared to what, dying?" Come on, you can do this-

    Gary: Or living sick.

    Laura: - when I find someone who's not doing it they either have not made the connection in their mind between what they're putting in their mouth. Psalm 103, "He satisfies my mouth with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagles." I always feel like if they can get that revelation, have discipline, self-control, set those new habits they will see change and they won't forget.

    Gary: I could not agree with you more. I think you're spot on with all those things. I might add one and you probably would as well is getting rid of shame in our life because I think a lot of people either overeat or have poor eating habits because there's such shame. Even sometimes trying a new diet or something and then they fail they feel more ashamed. Then that shame is the sense of something, "I'm not good or I'm not loved or I'm not worthy, I'm not acceptable"

    When somebody feels like that they're going to have to go to their drug of choice whether it be, some would go to alcohol or narcotics or-

    Laura: Or food.

    Gary: - food. Yes, food is one. I think shame sometimes plays into the battle for somebody who in their mind saying, "I'm going to change" but their emotions are so out of whack. There's a lot of self-hatred and condemnation. Listen to the voice of the enemy, you're no good, you'll never make it. Then that shame drives them actually to eat even more poorly like, "I need a whole pint of ice cream" How many times have we seen even in movies you see this link. Somebody gets dumped by their spouse or by their boyfriend, girlfriend and they have this big party.

    Laura: Pint with a spoon, right?

    Gary: Yes, it's the comfort food. I think shame, discipline all these. It's not one like the wings of the dove you're talking about. It's not one ingredient that brings this wholeness of health but balancing the three together. Somebody is listening to us now and they're starting to say, "Okay, let me give it another go" What kind of advice would you give to them about maybe engaging their self-discipline, getting involved now in healthy choices. Do you start with motivation or do you start with--?

    Laura: Habakkuk 2:2 Write the vision and make it plain

    Gary: Write it out. Good. That's really practical.

    Laura: So that he who reads it can run.

    Gary: What would you want somebody to write?

    Laura: What I would say is get online, Dr. Google your situation. By that I mean try to lose weight, can't lose weight, obese, family history of diabetes, whatever it is just Google your way to some basic information. Then get a great book of somebody who believes body, mind, and spirit, health and then try to get a plan, a game plan for your life starting with some easy goals.

    Baby step your way into them, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get a plan for movement. Just all of those things. Get your plan, plan your work and then work your plan. 

    Gary: Do you mind praying for the people that are listening to us today that they might be touched in these, particularly three realms that we're talking about?

    Laura: Yes, let's do it. All right. "Well, Heavenly Father, I just, first of all, thank you for Gary and for this wonderful organization. Thank you for the World Challenge. Thank you, God, for bringing us together. I believe it's no mistake, and that those in the sound of our voices today can know that they have tuned in for a reason. And that God has total temple health for their body, mind and spirit health for them. I believe the Lord is saying, today is the day to make a vow and keep it. That the Lord is putting it on some of your hearts right now you know. You've been listening and you are convicted, not condemned, but convicted.

    Through the Holy Spirit, that change needs to come. You're having your aha moment. And I just declare that you're going to listen to that you're going to flow with that you're going to get your game plan. You're going to get a good book or get online and study and show yourself approved to just the story of you learn what you need to consult a healthcare professional if you need to, but get a plan, write it down. And ask the Lord for grace for change in your life. If it's that you need to eat differently and better and make wiser choices and sleep better and exercise more do that. If it is that your life is full of stress and your emotions are all locked up, and you're full of unforgiveness or hatred or whatever. Get Healthy there, get rid of all of that you can do it now and release those people in those relationships to him and those emotions, in Jesus's name. It could be that spiritually, you need to be better connected to God or friend, it could be that you need to be better connected to the body of Christ. It's not just you and Jesus. You've got to get connected to the body because otherwise, you are off on an island.

    And that disconnection can dis fellowship you and all of that. So get connected spiritually, emotionally, physically, I pray for all three for you right now that you would be proven blameless at the Lord's coming, body, soul and spirit, just like 1 Testimony 5:23 says. As Gary said earlier, if you are someone who's tried before, and you have felt shame or condemnation because you could not finish what you started. Let me tell you something, a righteous man falls seven times it gets back up. Get back up.

    I tell you this too, if you fall, fall forward, okay, just don't lose progress. Just get up again, and keep going. You can do it. The Holy Spirit is there to help you. I'm here to help you. And I believe that God wants you to live your life and finish. Strong, live long and live strong in Jesus' name.

    Gary: In Jesus' name. Amen. Thank you so much. Appreciate you being with us today. It was brilliant. I loved every minute of it [crosstalk] for people to hear this.

    Laura: Thank you, Gary.

    Gary: God bless.

    Key Questions from the Podcast 

    • How important is sleep to our physical, emotional and spiritual health?
    • Will poor nutrition negatively affect our sleep?
    • Is poor nutrition a problem in the church?
    • What are the things that keep people stuck in bad eating habits?
    • How can we move toward making healthy choices?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    Sleep doctors could put all the other doctors out of business. If we get our sleep right, we will be healthy people. Those eight hours that God gave us at night, and him even creating the moon and the stars, that's not an afterthought. That's a sacred time. He not only wants us to rest, he wants us to heal during that time. – Laura Harris Smith

    A dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, has nine grooves in each wing. If you only have the gifts of the Spirit and you're not exercising the character of God, or if you only have love, peace, joy and all the fruit of the Spirit but you don't believe in miracles or healings or faith or prophecy you're a one-wing dove. You're going to be flying around in circles. – Laura Harris Smith

    I might add one, and you probably would as well, that’s getting rid of shame in our life. A lot of people either overeat or have poor eating habits because there's such shame. Even sometimes trying a new diet or something and then they fail, and they feel more ashamed. – Gary Wilkerson

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Laura Harris Smith

    Laura Harris Smith is a Certified Nutritional Counselor with a master’s degree in Original Medicine. But before all of that she was just a farmer's daughter with a love for colorful food and a pastor's granddaughter with a heart to see others prosper spiritually. The best-selling author and her husband, Chris, are the founding co-pastors of Eastgate Creative Christian Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where they specialize in helping people get healthy—body, mind and spirit—believing it is the only path to wholeness.

    Facebook | Twitter | Web

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Facebook | Twitter

  • You Can Have Victory Over Lust and Pornography

    Shame and feeling incomplete or insignificant often leads us to seek out worldly solutions. As we spiral into isolation and harmful patterns of living, we can quickly find ourselves with addictions that we’d never imagined having. No one sets out to become a pornography addict, but many have found themselves caught. Unable to pull away from explicit material, they feel forced to watch as it consumes their thoughts and lives. This week, Gary Wilkerson and Bob Ditmer discuss the deeper injuries to our hearts and souls that can lead to addictions like pornography. They want believers to know that we can find healing that leads to freedom.

    Shame and feeling incomplete or insignificant often leads us to seek out worldly solutions. As we spiral into isolation and harmful patterns of living, we can quickly find ourselves with addictions that we’d never imagined having. No one sets out to become a pornography addict, but many have found themselves caught. Unable to pull away from explicit material, they feel forced to watch as it consumes their thoughts and lives. This week, Gary Wilkerson and Bob Ditmer discuss the deeper injuries to our hearts and souls that can lead to addictions like pornography. They want believers to know that we can find healing that leads to freedom.

    Bob: Well, Gary, we're going to be talking about a topic today that is uncomfortable and a lot of people don't like to talk about it. Maybe that's part of the problem. It's one that needs to be talked about and that is pornography.

    Are there other reasons besides lack of significance that leads to pornography or is that the primary one that you hear when you're pastoring?

    Gary: The primary ones that I hear and that most people that really spend their whole careers helping people through this, there's two. The shame which we've spoken about. There's one that's a lot less spoken off and it surprised me when I first started studying this and it's anger. I think the surveys that they took over 3,800 men, they found out that 80% of them when they viewed pornography they looked at- I don't know what to call it, but angry pornography, aggressive, almost abusive, dominance, someone being subservient. They started it out like, "Why is so much of this directed towards--" They realize there's anger here. It's not just-- if you just deal with the lust, you're not dealing with the anger and the anger is still going to be in your heart and therefore you're going to go back to something that tries to-- you get to relieve the anger and play out the anger.

    Most men, they're angry and they're lustful, but they are also fearful a little bit. They don't want to lose their jobs, pastors don't want to lose their ministries. Most pastors say, "I don't know anything else to do." They don't want to have an affair. They don't want to see a prostitute, so they feel like this is a safe way to get rid of that anger inside of them. Again, that's dealing with the issue of anger. We're spending so much time hearing sermons about, and reading books about it and even preaching against sin only in the form of repressing it, not in a way of understanding it and seeing why we sin. Where's this anger come from?

    Maybe trace it back to a lot of men look at pornography when their wife rejects them from an invitation to intimacy and they'll say, "I can’t believe my wife, she is so mean to me." Then they go down to the basement and look at pornography. There's this track, this anger. "My boss just overlooked me and somebody else got the raise and not me." Most times we don't link it. We're frustrated, we're angry, we don't think and we just want some relief and so we go to pornography. We oftentimes don't trace the connection; shame, anger, fear and some of those other things that we did that. Another one is entitlement.

    "I've worked hard." "I've served my family." "I gave overtime at the job." "I tithe and then gave to the missions program." "I've done a lot and even after doing all that, God I've done so much for you and I still feel miserable and I still feel lonely. Forget it, I'm just going to go out and have some fun." Pornography becomes the means by which we escape and there's a sense of entitlement. "I deserve this, I'm giving a whole lot but not getting anything." There's this fake, this false sense of intimacy. I'm getting something from these people that I'm viewing on a screen, that they're giving me something and they're not.

    Again, coming into that circle, that cyclical thing, it just intensifies the loneliness, intensifies the lack of intimacy, the shame, and even the anger. "I'm angry." Now you're angry at yourself. You started the day angry at your boss or your wife and now you're angry at yourself for doing that. You're a Christian so you repented so It's going to be three, four more days, you're going to be clean and holy and you're going to feel good about it, but that self-anger will catch up with you after the faux holiness loses its power over you and you're back to your angry self. You got to deal with the root, the anger.

    How do you deal with it? How do you deal with these deeper issues of the heart? First of all, is to face them. Again, in the church, we're oftentimes told just to repress them, don't talk about them, just a quick confession, come to the altar and confess it and then never talk about it again, never discuss it with anybody. Don't talk with your wife about it. Don't go to your pastor about it. Don't talk about it the men's group. We're coming to church with very superficial issues. Talking about-- It's always project oriented. We're going to go here, we're going to do this, we're going to build that, we're going to start this or this group's going to start, we're going to do this series, we're going to do this program.

    Very little of-- like some guys sitting around on a couch and you're saying, "You're hurting, tell me about it. You're struggling, what is it?" This sense of openness, this sense that God has something more for us. That's the intimacy that we're looking for. It can be a marriage, yes, certainly but it also is in community and without that community-- Community helps anger heal, it helps the sense of not belonging when you're in-- If you're in a superficial community, you won't feel like you belong anyway even if you're in community. It's real community where you do belong and others belong to you that all sudden there's that sense and that's why God created us. He says, "It's not good that we're alone." That's the creation of male and female.

    Bob: The church does a lot of-- you've already mentioned talking about what you should not do. Stay away from this, put up these guardrails. Do those actually in your view harm, getting to the root of the problem? I got to be there. I know it's a controversial question because I don't want to be suggesting forget all the guardrails, but do guardrails sometimes keep us from getting to the real problem, which just prolongs the issue.

    Gary: Great question, I think it is. I think it gives us a momentarily superficial sense of control without dealing with the roots. It's like mowing your lawn and it had a lot of weeds in it and it looks like grass a little bit because it's had weed, so you go, "Okay. That's acceptable." That's maybe the guardrails we're talking about, is make sure you keep it looking good on the outside. Jesus talked about that cleaning outside of the cup, that's not going to take care of it. It has to be the inside of the cup. That's where the power comes from. There are some really healthy leaders in the church and some really healthy churches that are helping people.

    A good friend of mine will be on another podcast. We'll be hearing from him, Nate Larkin has started this thing called the Samson Society. It's a group of men that have gotten together and said, they're so exhausted with the superficial and not dealing with their heart issues, and so tired of dealing with pornography in the secret closet and nobody knowing. They're talking about their drinking problems, their anger problems, their lust problems, their lack of love for their children problem. They're getting together and having these wonderful times of openness and the amount of healing that is taking place in that is phenomenal.

    Bob: That's a good example. Are there some things that you think the church should be doing in addition to those? Do you have some suggestions for pastors that may be listening to us today?

    Gary: I think this is such a-- the statistics you just-- we talked about it at the beginning of our time together today, would suggest to us without doubt that we in the church need to start being more intentional about dealing with this issue and not dealing with it on a superficial issue and not being afraid of it. There are certain words that's similar to this, you can't even say the word pornography in the church. A pastor can't preach about it. It's seen as a few men that wear cloaked in his jacket and they had some sunglasses and they walk into pornography shops. Maybe it used to be like that, but it's not now. It's so pervasive and so available in every home, on every telephone.

    So many teenagers are dealing with this. We're going to have to get honest with it. We're going to have to stop stigmatizing it as, "That sin." It's totally fine for a pastor to be full of arrogance and pride and selfishness and almost applauded like, "Man, he's leading us into great things", but if we talk about pornography, you say, "Oh, that's shameful. that's a secret thing that nobody should talk about." We have to talk about it. We have to have groups. I believe like Samson Society or other ones. Celebrate Recovery is another one Rick Warren started. These things work when you start getting a little more honest.

    Wild at Heart type of thing, John Eldredge. He speaks of these issues of men dealing with issues of the heart, the longings, getting to the core. A lot of it starts with self-work. A man's not going to go to a group or a woman are not going to go to a counselor or a pastor unless first, they're doing some self-work. Realizing that they have a problem, that pornography is both a sin and an addiction, and those two things are differentiated, I believe. That sin is the thing that happens. We talked a little bit about that. In pornography, I'm actually in a strange way I'm sinning against the woman who is having to make her living to do something so degrading.

    I'm sinning against my wife because the intimacy I give to somebody else, false intimacy is taking away from the intimacy of that. I'm sinning against my children because I'm a man who now has secret shame and undealt with anger and increasing it by looking at pornography, so I'm doing that. I'm sinning against my church, my community, my job, everybody is being negatively affected by my sin and so I have to deal with my sin. God hates that because He sees how much it's hurting the people around me so He rebukes my sin, and He disciplines me for my sin, and rightfully so. Many of us are only dealing with the sin and not the addiction. God cares about the addiction as well.

    He hates the sin, but He cares about the addiction. His care for the addiction is to say, "I understand that you're broken-hearted, I understand the woundedness, I understand the cry of your heart for intimacy and longing." It breaks His heart that we're looking for that thing in the wrong places. He wants to deal with the heart of the addict that says "Okay, I want to help you. Not only with the fruit of your sin but the root of your sin, and the woundedness that is driving you to this." You were abandoned as a child and now you're looking for love. Certain types of pornography, they find comes from being sexually abused as a child. That plays out in certain types of pornography as well and heavy addictions. Maybe even a lot of sexual acting out sinfully, it comes from that. Again, you wouldn't excuse the sin. They need to look at the sin but there's a reason maybe for it, not an excuse for it but a driver for it that is from this woundedness. That's where God wants to- He both wants to forgive the sin.

    That's usually where we stop, "Forgive me, I shouldn't do it again. I promise I'll never do it again. I'm reading my Bible three times a day now and I'm going to fast." We deal with the sin but we're not actually dealing with the heart addiction. The goodness of God is that he deals with both. I believe, to get more back to your question, it starts with yourself, you're realizing you have a problem. You're realizing it's deeper. You're starting to find out why I'm angry? Why is this lust coming from? Why am I lonely? You're starting to even deal with it not by just putting a Covenant Eyes type-of-thing on your computer, but you're dealing with the heart issue as well.

    You can put a block on your computer, and then you get it on your phone or you can go into a store, you're going to find magazines. You're going to find it if it's in your heart. The other things that can be helpful; the accountability partners and the blocks and the people that have access to what you're watching on your computer. Those can tend to be superficial if the man's heart is not dealing with the addictive nature, that he's having and dealing with it. It comes down to being hurt and shamed and wounded. It's easier to, "I don't want to deal with painful things. I want to be happy".

    I'll be a lot happier if I just look at some pornography than I am having to spend a day alone with God just saying, "God, My heart is breaking and my heart is hurt. I feel so worthless. I feel so abandon. Then God start asking the questions, "Why do you feel abandoned?" "Lord, it started when I was a little boy." "Can you tell me about it.?" It's like, " Do you remember when my dad started hitting me. Then he was beating my mom and I just ran to the closet." You start remembering these things and it's painful. Again, we need help along this way. That's where I think Christian counseling is important to get some help in this realm, that can really change.

    That's what it was for me, even after a good number of years in my mid-30s, I started looking inside the heart, the freedom. There was a change. It wasn't that bootstrapping and like, "I'm going to grit my teeth and not look at pornography and I can make it six months." This one was like, "Man, I'd forgotten that I liked that stuff. I've forgotten to look at it. It's almost nice. If I did become lonely, my default became, "Let me call a few friends and let's go have a nice meal together," or, "Let me call my best friend and tell them like, I'm kind of lonely I'm feeling--" That kind of-- is it nip in the bud?

    Bob: Yes. You're nipping it in the bud.

    Gary: I was going to say that and it sounded weird, nipping in the bud. You're nipping in the bud there. I can't speak for women but men, not to get too weird, there's a sequence like, a rocket launcher. Once you get to T -3 or whatever, you're going to take off. You're going to go into pornography and masturbation or whatever sexual sin. If you can stop it earlier you like, "I'm starting to feel angry and I'm starting to feel lonely, I'm starting to feel worried about my future, and then community is built for that. You're talking to somebody and then this real intimacy comes into your heart.

    Out of that real intimacy comes like, the power of that sin just doesn't have the same kind of power anymore. What Satan has tried to put up as a false view of intimacy, it no longer has the same attraction. It still takes discipline. You could go like, "It's still a little attractive but it's not as powerful."

    Bob: We talked about its pervasiveness, how many people it affects. We've talked about how hard it is to get over of, but if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying you can have victory over it?

    Gary: Absolutely.

    Bob: Because there are some people out that think, "This is just with me forever. I'm just not going to worry about it anymore."

    Gary: Yes. The majority of people, it's not like-- Certain addictions are short-lived. In our work with Teen Challenge at the drug rehab program, not too many people live 30, 40 years as a crystal meth user or a heroin injector. It kills them or even alcohol usually delivers such to that heavy drinker. Those tend to be like, "Man, I'm 30 and I'm still using drugs. I got to get some help." Whereas pornography, you can be 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 years old and nobody wants to wait until you have no testosterone. Nobody wants to wait and to like, "I'm healed." That's when you're 75 and you don't think about sex anymore. No wonder you're healed. That's not what God wants.

    He wants us to be healed in our 20s. He wants us to be healed when we first go to it or He wants us to be prepared. Even as the Christian community prepares young people- Now these things are starting at 10, 12 years old. People are getting involved in sexting and all kinds of horrible things. Preparing this next generation to be free from this, from the get-go, they don't need to get free from it later.

    Bob: They conquered it early.

    Gary: They conquered it early, yes.

    Bob: You mentioned a lot of good resources during the program. You mentioned another, Unwanted, is another book that you suggest.

    Gary: Unwanted by Jay Stringer? He studied I think, it was about 3,800 men and women. He started finding out the whys and the reasons of this and phenomenal insight into the human heart, into the soul. Him and some others began to- a little more graphic than we could get into today, but he began to ask, "What type of thing do you look at when you look at pornography?" They categorized and they found out angry men look at this. Fearful man look at this. Women who have been abused look at that. It was 99% accurate or something like that. He could actually ask you what happened to your past and tell you what kind of pornography you look at?

    He made a link not just generally to pornography, but to the purpose of pornography, what it is that we're actually looking at. Some very interesting studies like, here's one that I found extremely interesting. When Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the final, Google Analytics, study both cities and found out that, I think it was, don't quote me on the numbers, but let's say, about 25% drop in views of pornographic sites in both those cities. Golden State wins and that 25% stays low. It only shoots up about 5%. About 5% of men went back to it after the win. What do you happened in Cleveland?

    Bob: It shot up.

    Gary: It shot up. Not only went back to its normal use but went another 25% above its normal use.

    Bob: Disappointment.

    Gary: Yes, disappointment, anger.

    Bob: Anger.

    Gary: Frustration.

    Bob: It was an escape from their loss, right?

    Gary: Yes. Doesn't that clearly speak that it's not just an issue of wanting something sexual? It's a soul issue, it's a hurt issue? Pornography is not a sexual sin. Pornography is a sin against sex. There's a real difference there because unfortunately, we make sexuality sometimes in the church seem to be a bad thing. That's why we can't say certain kind of words in the church. Can’t even say pornography or masturbation because it's like you can't talk about those things? It just makes it more shameful. The sex is not bad. God created sex and it's meant to be good in the marriage.

    To bless that and to speak well of that and to provoke good things out of that but then see this as an anomaly. That's not the norm. It's against, it's not a form of sex. Pornography is not a form of sex. Prostitution or masturbation, that's not a form of sex. It's against sex. It's against what God created it to be. That's why it causes that much more shame and feeling of defeat. Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers when their team was defeated, they went to that. When we feel defeated personally, in relationships, on our job, even spiritually, we feel like we're not living up to God's standards, that can drive us to that thing.

    There are certain words in the Bible that are the counters the power of sinning against sex. There are words that we don't think really are the words that would be like what kind of words would set you free? Well, these words that the Bible so covets that we have and even scripture says the Spirit lusts after these things. He wants to use such a powerful word because he knows it's going to be a counter for these false sexual intimacy. These are words like joy. In my counseling, I've never counseled a man or woman came to my office and said, "I've just got so much joy and peace and contentment and I'm just delighted in the Lord. I have really strong relationships.

    All that's going good, but I'm struggling with pornography." Never once, it's always been like, "I'm struggling with pornography, why? Well, because I'm miserable, I'm sad, my job has no meaning, there's no purpose in my life." That was another one that Jay Stringer found out that it was like the number one indicator of somebody who would be addicted to pornography. We talked about some of them, anger and things like that.

    The number one according to him was purposelessness. That a man who didn't have a sense of purpose even might have had a job, but it's not a job he loves and he's not living for the thing that God created him for, there's going to be a sense of meaninglessness and that will drive you to do that as well. There are all kinds of reasons but it's one thing to say I'm going to stop doing this but it'd be another thing to say I'm going to start increasing this instead of repressing something like stop looking at pornography. How about we impress, increase the sense of, I'm coming to the Lord for joy. I'm coming to the community for life. I'm coming to the family of God for a sense of belonging.

    I'm coming to my wife for true intimacy. I'm coming to my husband for real partnership and getting those things. You have the fruit of the Spirit is really what it is, so you have peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering.

    Bob: All addictions need to be replaced with something else and sadly, it's usually another addiction. Something good has to fill that void.

    Gary: That's right. You can see that. The difference in strategy, "I'm going to stop this." "How am I going to stop this?" Or maybe it's, "One day I'm going to start this. I'm going to start being truly intimate with people and truly vulnerable with people." You'll find there's a replacement like the old song, Turn your eyes on Jesus and the things of this world will go strangely dim. Oftentimes our focuses is, "I got to make that dim. It's such a bright light in my life, how do I make that dim?"

    Well, that song is so powerful because you're turning your eyes to Jesus and the things of the world will go dim because of the things of Jesus grow light, which is love and community and grace and forgiveness, and self-acceptance. Even that agape of self we've talked about here before.

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    We in the church need to start being more intentional about dealing with this issue and not dealing with it as a superficial issue and not being afraid of it. – Gary Wilkerson

    You can't even say the word pornography in the church. A pastor can't preach about it. It's seen as a few men cloaked in their jacket and they have sunglasses on and they walk into pornography shops. Maybe it used to be like that, but it's not now. It's so pervasive and so available in every home, on every telephone. So many teenagers are dealing with this. We're going to have to get honest with it. – Gary Wilkerson

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Facebook | Twitter

  • Exposing Shame's Darkness to the Light and Love of God

    Shame is a feeling everyone knows. It is born out of something deep in our hearts, and we need God if we want to find freedom from it. As we are on this journey of healing and freedom from shame, we need people who point us toward God and pray for us. God calls us to live as a body in active connection with one another and constantly aware of one another’s needs.

    Shame is a feeling everyone knows. It is born out of something deep in our hearts, and we need God if we want to find freedom from it. As we are on this journey of healing and freedom from shame, we need people who point us toward God and pray for us. God calls us to live as a body in active connection with one another and constantly aware of one another’s needs.

    Bob: Well, Gary we're talking today about a topic that everybody deals with, I guess, at one time or another, and that shame.

    Bob: … I was intrigued when you sent me your notes on this topic. That was when you said the opposite of shame is pride. That kind of lit a light bulb, although I think you and I are heading in a different direction. Tell me what you're thinking at this point.

    Gary: It sounds terrible, like, "Gary, you're in heresy now," because pride comes before a fall and Satan fell because of pride, but I think there's two types of pride. The one is the arrogant self-sufficiency, "I don't need God. I can do this myself. I'm perfect." You can see using those words and shame, they don't cohabitate. It's like if I'm thinking I'm the cat's meow, and I do everything perfectly, and I don't need any help, then I'm probably not wrestling with shame, I'm probably wrestling with arrogance, a godless self-sufficiency. But if you're wrestling with shame—

    So, I started thinking, "Okay, what are the antonyms of shame?" Confidence probably might be a better word, peace, fearless. There are several words you could use, but in a sense, if shame is, "I'm worthless, I'm no good, I can't do anything right," then pride is, "I am worth something, there's value that God has placed in me and I can do things through Christ." There's a sense, again, of peace and of confidence. The pride I'm talking about is the kind of pride that I might have in my children. I'm really proud of them, they did good. "You got a 92, I'm so proud of you," not, "I shame you." That's the type of pride that—

    We're comfortable having that for others. I'm really proud of these guys and how hard they work at making this podcast and you, Bob. I'm proud of how you make that, but then I would say, "Well, I'm proud of you guys," but I can't be proud of myself. That would be arrogance that would… all of a sudden I come before a fall. This is razor sharp, an edge here, you can go really in the wrong direction with this and go fall into sin.

    Some of the most grievous sin of all is pride, but we can also feel like to bless the whole world, and bless others, and believe in others, and think highly of others, and esteem others, and then when it comes to ourselves, we have to put a heel of our shoe on top of ourselves and crush ourselves, make sure we that perpetual worm. That just leads towards self-hatred which then, when the voice of shame comes, that's why it's so easy to agree with it. You have no sense of self-concept, of "God has done something good in me."

    Years ago, there was a song. I think it was maybe by the Vineyard that, "God, you do all things well, just look at my life." I remember the first time our worship pastor sang that song. I stopped. I was like, "I'm not singing that." I thought, "Well why not?" It's like, "Do we not believe--" We only believe in the testimony of the work He does in other people's lives, but when it comes to us, we no longer feel like we're comfortable believing that.

    When I use the word "pride", I'm talking about confidence in the work that God has done in your life, and being grateful and thankful for it. I'm proud to be a Christian who has been touched by God, and it has nothing to do with my own abilities or my own competencies. It has to do with being grateful for what He's done in me so that when the voice of the enemy comes in, there's a strength in me. A godly pride, a godly confidence is a strength that can keep those voices-- If you're weak and the arrow comes, it's going to hit you. If there's a strength in you, a godly strength, I think that gives you a greater power to overcome. What do you think about that? When you first heard it, did you feel like, "I don't know what he's trying to talk about here?"

    Bob: No, I thought you were really onto something.

    Gary: You did?

    Bob: I did. I was looking at it slightly differently, because as I thought of my own shame, what would keep me from telling other people would be my pride. I know God forgave me, but I don't want others to know because of how highly I think of myself. I want others to think that way of myself as well.

    but I think pride really, as it is in many things, it becomes the source of why the shame has such an impact on us. At least the way I thought.

    Gary: Yes. I like that. The negative pride keeps you from being vulnerable or open.

    Bob: Exactly.

    Gary: That's where shame gets rooted. Shame loves the darkness. When it's exposed to light, so when I confess, when you confess something, when you're open about things—And that’s the opposite of that community group I was talking about, that small group that everybody's got this shame, fig leaf covering over them, even if they don't seem like it because of their boisterousness. The opposite of that, what would that look like? A community of people who are not hiding, who are real, who are vulnerable. That’s light, and so you expose your shame to the light, and it flees. That's where shame runs away.

    Bob: In fact, Brené Brown, I read one that she said about the very same thing. She said, "If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive." It is the vulnerability. I don't want to be vulnerable because it affects my pride, it makes me look negative.

    Gary: Sometimes people around you don't like your vulnerability. It makes them uncomfortable because of their refusal to face their own shame and be vulnerable. A lot of times when I'm preaching, I'll use an example of saying-- I said it in a sermon recently, "When I'm done with the sermon I'm going to be attacked as I am almost every sermon, nine out of ten." At the end of it I'm walking down from the stage, just finished preaching and close my Bible, and I start feeling like, "That wasn't good enough. I should have preached a little better. I shouldn't have said that."

    That's the attack. If I ever say that, I always have somebody come up to me and saying like, "I just want to rebuke that in Jesus' name. You don't belong in that." I said, like, "No, I'm just exposing that as a reality." That's part of my healing, not denying it and stuff, but I could see in the person they're very uncomfortable with a leader being vulnerable. That's a whole another topic, corporate cultural shame.

    Bob: Yes. I think Satan knows how to attack you to what will do the most damage. You give your story, if you walk off the pulpit, you said you didn’t do that well. Was it Wesley or Moody that said, "I walked off the pulpit and one of the parishioners said that was a great sermon." He said, "Yes, Satan already told me that,” because it affected my pride.

    Gary: It's the opposite, yes.

    Bob: Exactly. Satan knows how to get to what influences you the most. Well, let's talk about how to get rid of it. You've got some ideas on the demise of shame. What should a person do if they're listening and say, "I'm dealing with that now, it's affecting me, it's affecting my walk with God, it's affecting how I relate with others. What do I do?"

    Gary: The first thing I would do, thankfully, is if they're asking that question, that might be the first door that opens up to healing, and that is to realize that it's there, it's in you. Then, how it works. One of the things I advise people to do is to get a little notebook and just as soon as they get a little thought, just write it down, just saying, "Okay, I just heard this voice saying I'm going to fail at that test today I'm taking. I just heard that voice saying, 'You're so stupid, you just told your friend that, and that was bad advice. You're so stupid.'"

    Just write that down at the end of the day and then take a look at it. Do that for a week or so, and you'll see how this is no small thing. This is not something trifling little sidebar to our walk with God and our emotional and mental health. This is deeply rooted. As I said earlier, it's the core of facing all the other issues of our life. Realizing what it is and what it looks like for you, because it's attacked in different ways, where it comes. Mine comes from the sermon, or it comes through other things. Find out where it comes from.

    Secondly is to realize how it's affected your relationship with God. You have that sense of trust, "How can I pray about this if I feel my prayer is unworthy?" It's affecting God. I feel like there's some shame and embarrassment, and yet I feel ashamed in the presence of God. I'm hiding with God. I'm hiding with Adam and Eve are hiding-- I'm hiding with God. The first one you're taking some notes of how I'm hiding with other people, and then all of a sudden you're presenting this to God, and in God you're saying, "Okay, I come to you and you say there's healing available, but I'm so ashamed to come to you. I'm so afraid to come to you. Do you accept me? Do you love me?"

    I would call the second one like a fearless confrontation. It's probably not the right word, but confronting yourself and what's in you in the presence of God, just throwing it into his presence, throwing it into his lap. "This is how I feel. I feel worthless. I feel hopeless. I feel despair," and bringing that to his attention. Thirdly then is, we've already talked about this, that shame is relational. It's not an isolated. I don't know if I have any scientific data on this, but I think if you were to grow up on a desert island alone, you pray wouldn't have much shame, because you wouldn't have voices telling you—

    Bob: No one to impress.

    Gary: Yes, no one to impress and no one to shame you, so you start believing the things you're saying about you. Shame has history. When you feel ashamed now about something-- I walked off the pulpit and I started hearing this voice, "You're not good enough." There's probably a history to that of other things where I have not felt good about myself, there's that sense. Taking that-- Shame is birthed relationally, so therefore it's not healed in isolation.

    The pride we're talking about, the pride is a crippler of the healing of shame because we say to ourselves, "I can deal with this myself. I listened to this podcast, I read this book, and now I understand shame and I'm just going to study a little bit more and I might look at a concordance and read all the scriptures about shame, and then I'm going to go to the Lord and tell Him I'm sorry that I allowed shame in there, and heal me, and forgive me, and cleanse me, and okay, good, shame is gone." It doesn't work.

    I know that sounds terrible to say. Please don't hear me saying God doesn't work or the Bible doesn't work, but it works by obedience, and part of healing the shame is bringing it to light. To have somebody in your life that you talk to-- You'll hate this. There's so many men who are-- I can't remember that, I think we talked about it once before, maybe you remember the statistics of how many men are wrestling with pornography.

    Bob: Yes, it was high.

    Gary: It was high, like 60% maybe or something like that. Even in the churches, 6 out of 10 men are wrestling with pornography. They are ashamed. They're ashamed of that sin and they're trying to get out of it. Then they're ashamed they can't get out of it. Then they're ashamed they repented and they can't get out of it. Then they're ashamed that they had an accountability partner, thinking that exposing it to the light would be enough, but their accountability partner wasn't enough because all of they were dealing with was, "Did you look at something today," not, "How do you feel about that, what's in your heart?"

    It started in a relational problem and it has to be healed through that. That's why James says, "Confess your faults to one another that you might be healed." Not, "Go into your secret closet and pray that you might be healed." You go in your secret closet and ask the Lord for requests. You go to the Lord and say like, "I have shame, can you help me deal with this?" Yes. Go confess it to somebody. Not just the sin, but also the thing that is driving that sin. The shame oftentimes drives the sin.

    Again, there's a difference between a man who confesses to an accountability partner, "I'm dealing with pornography," and they just try to cut off the sin at the fruit and not the root of saying, "Well, why? What's happening in your heart? What's happening in your emotions? What do you feel about yourself?" If our Christian communities could go a little bit deeper and have some faithful men and women—

    I don't want to change subjects here, but I advocate for true elders in the church, and I mean men and women. I don't mean the official role of board of directors type thing, but somebody who's a little bit ahead of you, and mature, and is digging deep. Bob, if you were to come to me, or some of these younger guys here would come to us and say, "I'm dealing with this particular sin, but I also feel like there's some shame underneath it." We wouldn't go like, "Cast all your cares on Him for he just cares for you."

    Bob: Run. [laughs]

    Gary: Yes. We'd actually be able to listen to them, and talk, and ask about 25 questions, and spend two hours with them and say, "We're not leaving until we understand what's going on in your heart.  We need to meet next week." That person feels heard. What breaks shame, part of it is the exposing it to the light, but what kind of light? If it's light that's hidden under a bushel of the person you're talking to has their own shame, "Pornography, how dare you? I rebuke you in Jesus' name." What's that going to do? It's going to cause more shame.

    Going to a person who has dealt with the issues themselves. I still struggle with a lot of things, but I honestly could say, if somebody could come to me with sin and shame and need of healing, they're going to have somebody who's really dealt with themselves. I have dug into this, I've prayed and I've met with my brothers in Christ. I shared everything with my wife. I can't think of a sin in my life that my wife doesn't know about. There's not going to be an article in Charisma Magazine about something I've done wrong, and my wife's going to go like, "I can't believe you did that." She's going to be like, "They found out."

    [laughter]

    Gary: I'm not doing anything that's going to merit an article in Charisma, but I'm doing things. I'm lying, I'm lusting, I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm doubtful, but people around me know that, and so it…. The last thing then would be to try to build through healthy elders who have dealt with issues themselves and dug deep into the heart, into the emotions, into their relationship with God, and now they are creating healthy communities. Because so many churches and Christian ministries are not healthy. People feel very uncomfortable sharing things of brokenness and woundedness and shame in their own heart.

    They come into church. "How are you doing?" "I'm fine. Everything's good." Meet in a small group and it was like, "Here's my testimony, what God did for me." Or if there's a prayer request, it's usually second-hand. "Pray for my uncle. He has cancer." We're not dealing with our own brokenness very well. That's because there's a lot of fear of being shamed, of being the topic of-- You talk to the pastor and you're the topic of their sermon next week in an accusational way, there's judgment.

    You see this in Luke where Jesus heals the blind man in the synagogue, and the Pharisees, that's a shame toxic culture. The Pharisees come to him and say, "Who did this to you? You're a sinner." Shame. "This shouldn't have been done." Then that's not enough, they have to go to his parents and try to draw his parents into like, "Now, you know this guy's a sinner, right? Tell us he wasn't blind." They're creating a whole culture of judgmentalism, of fear of being kicked out, you don't belong. Instead of breaking the power of shame, they're increasing the power of shame.

    Sadly, a lot of our churches and Christians organizations actually build a culture where shame becomes cyclical and the shame storm, as some people call it, things get worse because you have to hide now. Or if you expose your heart to things-- I had a friend who confessed to his pastor, he was an associate pastor, and he confessed that he had failed and looked at some pornography. He'd really overcome it, but just slipped up. The pastor fired him, took his severance pay, just cut him off. He has children and stuff.

    That's sin and he needs to deal with it, but the shame of that-- Is that guy going to be more likely to look for help? Probably not. We need cultures of openness, of vulnerability, of acceptance, of being honest about sin and calling sin “sin” and not excusing it, not building a theology where sin is not sin anymore, but dealing with it through the lens of grace and understanding.

    Bob: I'm sure there are a lot of people who, for the reasons you've just described, are uneasy about going to their pastor, going to their church, going to someone in their church about the issues, the shame they're dealing with. We have a prayer ministry here at World Challenge. Is that someplace you would recommend people call asking for prayer and help with this?

    Gary: Absolutely, yes, because sometimes, number one, just somebody listens to you without accusing you, without being judgmental, without giving you a list of to-dos. You know what I mean by that? You're struggling with anxiety, do this and do that, and here's why you're doing it wrong. Just without all that, but just listening and then praying, that's what our team is called to.

    Bob: The website is pray.worldchallenge.org and you can put your prayer request in there. Also, take some prayer requests if you like. We should talk about that on some program. You’ll also find a phone number there where you'll get right to our prayer warriors that we have here at World Challenge that could talk directly to you if that's what you'd like to do. We’ll have that information is in the show notes, and also you'll see it on the screen here if you'd like to contact them.

    Gary: Yes. I would go so far as to say, I hope you guys are okay with this. Normally, time-wise I'm not able to do this, but on this particular podcast and this issue of shame, if you're dealing with this and if you'll email-- Email, is that the best way to get a hold of us? If I wanted to read something, they could email us at World Challenge, then I will read their email and minister to them. I'll talk with them through email one-on-one and just speak to them about the issues of shame and results of that, what's happening in their heart and their life. I can't do that over an extended period, but one time I'll offer that.

    Bob: We'll put that email address on the screen as well and in our show notes, so that they can know where to write. That's awfully generous of you to offer that to the listeners and viewers.

    Gary: It's important. It is an area that's hard to deal with, again, because it's a commodity that's unknown and unspoken of a lot of the times in the church. I think, now that it's brought to the light, you don't want to just tuck it away. It's like, "Go for it now." If you're dealing with this and you feel it, and you're getting this critical voice of accusation, then now's the time. The Holy Spirit never introduces a topic to us without it being the right time, because he's ready to ready to minister in that realm. I think he's ready to bring healing to people.

    The result of that will be-- Lastly, the good news is what happens in your life once that shame has gone? Is this, we called it pride, maybe want to call it confidence, a godly pride and the goodness of God in your life, comes a freedom to be who you are. Adam and Eve hid. Now the hiding is gone and I am creative again in the way-- I don't mean just artistically, creativity could be a mathematician, it could be an accountant, but being free to actually enjoy the work of your hands, to enjoy the relationships that you have, to enjoy where you are in life without it being fretting of not being enough. "I don't have enough money, my house is not big enough, my car's not new enough." All that is shame-based.

    Can you imagine the freedom of that shame being gone, how much you wake up in the morning, just like, "I'm grateful, I'm breathing again this morning, and my wife is next to me, and I have kids and grandkids, and I have a job that pays me some money." Just so thankful and grateful. Now I want to just move into the world with a sense of confidence that I'm not just hiding and cowering and afraid of the world. Now I'm moving into the world and tending the garden of the world, cultivating it. That was the mission that they had, that they hid from.

    Lastly, enjoying God's presence as well. God is not an ogre, He's not a monster, He's not a wicked stepfather. He is somebody to be really enjoyed and to love His presence, to love to walk with him in the cool of the garden. Then, also, to realize that He feels that same way about us. The nail in the coffin of shame is when you have God come to you, and you just realize how much He's enjoying you, and you believe His words about you.

    When He says to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant," you don't go like, "I didn't really do very well. I'm so sorry." You go like, "Thank you. I can't believe you're saying that, but I'll take it. I like compliments and to be able to do that." Then, it makes our faith attractive.

    Bob: I guess a good way to close this is with a word of scripture that may speak to this topic that we've been discussing here today. You've got one from Romans actually.

    Gary: Yes, I think it's probably the hardest hitting. It's like a punch in the face to shame and it's Romans 5:1-5. You can read the whole thing, but the crux of it is, "Hope does not put to shame." It sounds like the antidote to shame is hope. You're hoping for something and then it says “because”-- Now, you've got to pay attention. Hope doesn't put to shame because there's a reason why hope keeps you from living in shame, and it's so precious. It's because God's love has been poured out in our heart, and so if we can receive that love of God—

    If you work backwards, God's poured out His love in my heart. Therefore, I have hope, and that hope puts shame to flight, and so it reverses it, but if you're living in shame, you don't have hope. If you don't have hope, when God says He loves you, then you can't receive it. Start each day from the center of, "I am loved by God. I am accepted by God." He doesn't look at me and say, "You got a 92. You missed 8%." He looks at you and says, "100% of me loves 100% of you. There's no part of you-- Some of it, I'm fixing. Some of it, I'm changing. Some of it, I'm transforming. Some of it, I call to repentance, but I love all of you. I don't love you just when you're performing well. I don't love you when you're perfect."

    You can always put perfection in there with shame, and this is an antidote to that, is that I'm loved just as I am, even when I'm not perfect, and therefore hope puts shame to flight.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • Is pride the opposite of shame?
    • How can we heal from shame?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    Shame loves the darkness. What breaks shame? Part of it is the exposing it to the light, but what kind of light? What would that look like? A community of people who are not hiding, who are real, who are vulnerable. That’s light, and so you expose your shame to the light, and it flees. That's where shame runs away. – Gary Wilkerson

    Shame is birthed relationally, so therefore it's not healed in isolation. – Gary Wilkerson

    Sadly, a lot of our churches and Christians organizations actually build a culture where shame becomes cyclical and the shame storm, as some people call it, things get worse because you have to hide now. – Gary Wilkerson

    The nail in the coffin of shame is when you have God come to you, and you just realize how much He's enjoying you, and you believe His words about you when He says to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant." – Gary Wilkerson

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast 

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Facebook | Twitter

  • Loss, Pain and the Healing Power of Music

    When we go through heartache and crisis, God has many different ways to reach us. He may use loving relationships, the beauty of nature or even our work. Whatever that unique space is, he can use it to show us his goodness and glory in the darkest places of our lives. Music is how he reached our guest this week, long-time Christian musician Matthew Ward, after he tragically lost two of the closest people in his life. Life can be incredibly painful at times, but God is always near to his children, and he wants to show us how he will heal and transform our grief into something glorious. As we grapple with pain, we must always know that we can go to God and he will never turn us away.

    When we go through heartache and crisis, God has many different ways to reach us. He may use loving relationships, the beauty of nature or even our work. Whatever that unique space is, he can use it to show us his goodness and glory in the darkest places of our lives. Music is how he reached our guest this week, long-time Christian musician Matthew Ward, after he tragically lost two of the closest people in his life. Life can be incredibly painful at times, but God is always near to his children, and he wants to show us how he will heal and transform our grief into something glorious. As we grapple with pain, we must always know that we can go to God and he will never turn us away.

    Gary: Hey, it's good to be with you here. My name is Gary Wilkerson. This is Gary Wilkerson podcast. I'm here with Matt and Deanne Ward. Thank you guys for coming in and spending some time with us today.

    Matt: You betcha!

    Gary: Let me tell our friends that are listening a little bit about you guys. Matt and Deanne have been involved in ministry and in missions for many, many years. We met each other when we were teenagers, really in a little town called Lindale, Texas where there’s a whole bunch of ministries going on. My father David Wilkerson was there. You guys 2nd Chapter of Acts had your own headquarters, ministry headquarters, there. Keith Green, Leonard Ravenhill, Youth with a Mission, another group called Agape Force. Do you remember Agape Force?

    Matt: Dallas Holm and Praise.

    Gary: Dallas Holm and Praise. Matt, you were the voice of the ages. Incredible musician and singer. Deanne, you come from a-- Some people know Matt and maybe not as familiar, but you come from a ministry family as well. Weren't your family involved in missions.

    Deanne: They served our community for years. I learned a lot about serving which is why I went into ministry by watching my parents. My dad would go down to the inner city and play basketball and take donuts and take milk and then do a Bible study, and just kind of hung out. Fourth generation charismaniac.

    Gary: Fourth Generation, wow.

    Deanne: I have pictures of my great grandparents, black and whites, hands in the air.

    Matt: Yes, in the '50s [crosstalk]

    Deanne: Bible study at their house.

    Gary: Oh, cool.

    Matt: Very cool.

    Deanne: Same as you, Assembly of God. Summer camp. Awana’s. Christian schools.

    Gary: Yes, we have a lot in common.

    Gary: Let's go back then. Tell us a little bit about your upbringing. You come from several generations of charismatic Christians. Your family, not so much.

    Matt: We were charismatic, all right, but we weren't necessarily Christians. Oh boy!

    My dad’s side of the family very Norwegian. He said, screen door, thousands of years. He had a bad. His side of the family, they were not-- They didn't go to church. My mom, she was Irish, German. She was Catholic and very devout. Of course, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, so he went to church because it was the thing to do but my dad, we went to church-- We were not Christian. Our background was not. I'm the youngest of nine kids. Five boys, four girls.

    Gary: Baby of nine.

    Matt: Baby of nine.

    Deanne: Explains a lot.

    Matt: It does explain a lot.

    Gary: And the oldest, how many years older is your oldest sibling?

    Matt: She turned 80 this year?

    Gary: Okay. 20 years older [crosstalk] Some of them were already gone by the time you were born. Some of the kids were already outside.

    Matt: Married. Not like gone, like rest in peace. Gone, like Holy Matrimony. My mom was pregnant with me at my oldest sister's wedding. She said, "You tell anybody I'll kill you." She was not too excited about that. I thought that was kind of cool.

    Gary: Gives new meaning to a shotgun wedding. It's like instead of the bride being pregnant, the mother

    [crosstalk]

    [laughter]

    All right. Just take a minute to describe what that was like.

    Matt: Well, from the time I could remember, my mom was sick. She was misdiagnosed, they thought she had epilepsy. Actually, it was a brain tumor. She was sick from the time I literally could remember. She passed away when I was 10. Then my dad died, two years later, when I was 12. There were still four of us kids living at home. Me and my sister Nelly, who's right above me, and then the two kids right above her, Tony and Jack. Tony and Jack stayed in Sacramento, which is where I was living and where I was being raised until my parents passed away. Then Nelly and I went to live in Los Angeles with Buck and Annie. That's where the group of the 2nd Chapter of Acts started. It was really through just tragedy. Nelly and I pulling up a piano, chairs around the around the piano. Annie taught herself to play. Buck bought her this piece of junk upright piano. She taught herself how to play. We'd come home from school. We just listened to her like, "I got a new song." We go, "Okay, you got a new song." I didn't know what that meant. We just sat down. We just started to sing with her just, it was kind of a time of healing for us after our parents passing. I didn't realize that until looking back years later what that was all about. I think that's what God was up to. He was mending us and in an odd but powerful way.

    Gary: Music is quite healing, isn't it?

    Matt: Yes, it can be. It's almost daunting in its ability to sustain and create and patch.

    Gary: I don't want to get too far off your story. I do want to ask you to speak to that issue a little bit. Do you have any, in your history in music, do you have any why’s as to why music is healing, as opposed to maybe the written word or the spoken word like a sermon? Do you have any idea why music seems to touch people in wounded areas than other--

    Matt: I think it's one of the first things God used in creation. If you look back, even at our arch enemy, who was the choir director, if you will. Music has always had a place. The Lord would send out the musicians before the warriors before battle. Well, why'd He do that? Who knows? I bet He has some good reason because it would mess them up. Like, "Why that guy's playing a harp? I got to get out of here." Don't blame him. I’d get out of there too if somebody was playing a harp, but I don't know music's just got-- You can look at it historically. I think it has a way-- I think it processes in a different place in your brain than the spoken word does.

    Gary: I've heard of those kind of end around. If you're hurting and I speak to you directly like, "Don't get hurt, don't--"

    Matt: Don't do this.

    Gary: That's one thing, but you can put your defenses up where music gets into parts of our brain and our mind and our soul that the written or spoken word doesn't do so.

    Matt: I think it can, I think it has a way of-- I think that's why King David wrote so many psalms, and sang so much because it was a way for him to navigate, I think, some of the things that were going on in his life that he couldn't just confront. He did it through music and I think that's powerful.

    Gary: That would be, so going back to your story, then that became healing for you, just you and your sister singing.

    Matt: Like I said, I had no idea at the time that that's really what that was, but looking back, that's what I would equate it to, is that the Lord was patching up our hearts in some ways and binding us together in a way that I don't think could have happened any other way than through music. Like I say, it has a way of getting in your heart and changing things in your spirit a little bit.

    Gary: That suffering that type of because I wanted to ask you on about ministry, and mission and marriage, all these great things that you guys have experienced but part of the story I wanted to have you guys tell a little bit is that you've been through so much hardship, your many, many years of ministry and marriage and impact around the world and we can talk about that later too. It's not been an all easy, so for you started at 10--

    Matt: 10. Well, really before that watching my mom get sick, and sicker and sicker and watching her die, so really, it started from like I can remember having pain and--

    Gary: Looking back now, how did that affect you? What kind of person did you become because of that loss?

    Matt: I think it affected me some ways real negatively because I think it just threw up big, big, big defenses. I'm not going to get hurt that way again, period. I have to put these walls up and hold people at arm's length and I think that's why I developed a sense of humor. I think that was part of my defense mechanism and just to hold people off. That's just-- I don't know that was the thing for me was just deflection was one of the main things that I think that was not good that I got from it was to deflect pain instead of learning how to, not necessarily embrace it, but recognize it and let it do what it needed to do. It was incredibly huge and I think from the time my mom died to the time my dad died those two years I was a zoo animal. I mean, I was off the charts. I would disappear and some of the people wouldn't know where I was. I spent days down at the American River, just camping and hanging out with friends. My dad would be like, "Where have you been, you are okay, here's a hot dog." He was a hard worker, he didn't have time to worry about me man, he had bills to pay.

    Deanne: And he was suffering.

    Matt: He was suffering terribly, and then he died two years later, he died of leukemia got him.

    Gary: You saw him go through sickness as well.

    Matt: I saw him go through even more physical-- It was harder for him physically than the stuff I saw my mom go through. Because that affected her balance and her ability to do this, that and the other. My dad, it just totally jacked him up. I mean, he'd come home from the hospital with-- All they could do was infusions, they didn't have treatments back then and so his legs… he looked like he had elephantiasis, his legs just would just be all totally swollen. I remember the day he literally died, he was sitting on the edge of his bed, and he needed help getting his shoes on. I remember helping him get his-- and his lungs were filling up with blood. He couldn't breathe. He was like (panting) That was the last time I saw him, helped him to put his shoes on.

    Gary: He died that day?

    Matt: Yes. One of my brothers or somebody took him to the hospital, and he worked up until just about the day he died. The doctor's like, "You should not even be conscious." Because he was a brute, I wish I had half his work ethic.

    Gary: You do.

    Deanne: You do.

    Matt: I guess I do.

    [crosstalk]

    Gary: Two people who know you quite well. You do. You're a hardworking man. When you were 10 to 12, you didn't know how to process this so your grieving was to run away a bit or to--

    Matt: My grieving process was to internalize and at the same time, to not just to-- I would internalize the things I didn't understand. Like, I never got to the place where I said like, "I hate you God." I never felt like God did this to me.

    Gary: At that time did your family have any kind of a different relationship with God in the sense of still not … up to this point you’re still going to mass.

    Matt: Not yet.

    Gary: You were filtering through the lens of somebody who's like, I'm really close to Jesus and I can pray about this. It's more like, what the heck's going on?

    Matt: Exactly, I didn't know what was going on. I couldn't really, as a kid I didn't have the tools to embrace that kind of pain. There wasn't anybody around that I could pour into to get those things out of my own heart. I couldn't offload it. I was walking around with these bricks inside of me that I didn't know what to do so I just would throw them at people. That's a good way of putting it. In some ways, it was incredibly detrimental, In some ways it helped me grow up a bit, even though it's kind of all sort of warped my perspective on some things.

    The way I looked at the father heart of God was completely twisted up and I didn't see him as-- I saw him as someone who loved me absolutely conditionally, I had to meet all these requirements. I had to be so righteous or so good. I didn't know what righteous was when I was a kid. Not a bad kid. I just didn't think God would hear me, he didn't hear my parents. Why would he hear me I'm just a kid, and so I walked through a lot of that a lot of those a lot of that hurt. I didn't really know how to process this.

    Gary: I can't imagine a kid losing both parents, then having a little bit of knowledge of God through some Catholic mass, and then trying to talk to him some way, like do you love me, do you care about me, that had to be. Then how did you actually come into a relationship with God?

    Matt: Well, even though I say I wasn't, I was raised in a church that I didn't understand the lingo. I always had this deep appreciation for what I sensed as was the Lord even in those services that I didn't understand. I hear these hymns, and I ended up in a deep love for music because of the hymns I first heard in church. Even though I didn't know what I didn't know what a mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark. Really? Okay. Hmm…a cow that goes 9-5. I had no idea.

    I remember right before my mom died, my dad got mad at me because I drew on a wall that he painted inside our garage that he made into bedrooms. We needed to make the most out of our 900 square feet. I remember painting this scene and in my mind from what I remember it was like an altar inside of a church. It was very elaborate. I'm sure it was, I was probably eight years old, it was probably a couple of years before my mom died. She thought it was stunning, she thought it was beautiful and I felt the presence of God when I drew this thing. I'd like to see it now. It probably like, “That’s hilarious! It looks like a Sonic.” But then my dad was just totally torqued. "I can't believe you drew on the wall. He just painted over it. I was like, "My masterpiece."

    The reason I say that is because that was my first inkling of seeing God as someone that was real and not just some somebody I heard about in Catechism, or in classes, but somebody that was real, I felt his presence that was early on and then I just didn't sense him at all for a long time. After my dad died, Nelly and I moved to LA with my sister Annie and her husband Buck. We started doing music together with no-- I had no ambitions, no ideas, no preconceived like, "Oh we're going to start a group and then we'll sing and we'll become famous."

    It was really funny because we're all a bunch of introverts. Most of my family, not all of them, but most of them are. I'm a severe introvert. I've just learned how to channel that. Because I've been in front of people since I was 13 years old. I've had to do it. It's been part of my makeup. I can pull that off. I don't care for it. I can do it. I'm not a schmoozer man. Because whatever, Ill go to a party, hang out with the three guys I know, there's 40 people there all like, "So what do your kids do?" I'm just like, "Whatever, man." That's more me but I really watched for a while when we first moved into LA, and Nellie and I were just like watching Buck and Annie, and we started going to this Assemblies of God church, first AG of North Hollywood. Pastor Sanders was the pastor back in the day, and I didn't understand it because I was always taught if you leave the Catholic Church, you're going to burn in hell. It's the church and you can't, right? So I was like do I want to burn in hell or… hell, church, hell, they're pretty much on an even keel for me. Anyway, so I just started watching these people at this church. I wanted to see okay, well, what makes them different? What are they laying claim to that is different than what I have already? I watched, watched, watched for a couple of months and I started seeing people that just seemed to have a real spirit of joy in them that it didn't seem to match up with their outward circumstances. How can you be at such peace when things around you wouldn't qualify those feelings? I thought, well, maybe there's something to this and so I accepted the Lord into my heart, said the magic words, repented and did all the stuff that we do but I felt like the Lord really showed up and forgave me of sin. I felt a weight come off of me. I really believed that that was some moment that as we refer to it as being born again, I felt like my spirit was renewed. Everything in me had changed in an instant.

    Of course, there's things you walk through. There's emotional, mental things that you still process. It doesn't mean you have a new brain but it is renewed eventually, but my spirit was clean. I came to life in Him.

    Gary: Thank you guys for coming today.

    Matt: Absolutely.

    Gary: Good to talk with you. I love you guys.

    Deanne: Thanks for having us, we love you too.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • Who is Matthew Ward? Who is Deanne Ward?
    • Why does music seem to speak and heal more powerfully sometimes than written or spoken words?
    • How do we respond to and process the pain of losing a parent?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    I think that's why King David wrote so many psalms and sang so much, because it was a way for him to navigate some of the things that were going on in his life that he couldn't just confront. He did it through music and I think that's powerful. – Matthew Ward

    As a kid, I didn't have the tools to embrace that kind of pain. There wasn't anybody around that I could pour into to get those things out of my own heart. I couldn't offload it. I was walking around with these bricks inside of me that I didn't know what to do, so I just would throw them at people. – Matthew Ward

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Matthew Ward

    Matthew Ward was one of the voices that helped create the sound of contemporary Christian music. He started as part of the 70s group, 2nd Chapter of Acts, which is credited with changing the sound of Christian music. Matthew is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He has released 9 solo albums, and 15 albums as part of the 2nd Chapter of Acts. He has recorded or performed with more than 50 contemporary Christian artists. As well as singing a duet with pop-diva Donna Summer and background vocals on other songs including the No. 1 hit She Works Hard for the Money.

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    About Deanne Ward

    Deanne Ward is CEO of Ward Consulting and has worked for more than 30 years in collaborative partnerships with non-profits. She has served on a number of boards, including Caring Hands, Friendship International, Mission Outfitter, and Kids Crossing. Deanne’s passion is to impact the lives of others for the cause of Christ. She has traveled to more than 50 countries with this purpose. She has worked with various churches, ministries, and non-profits, establishing and cultivating leadership teams. Some include, Colorado Springs Mission, David C. Cook, World Challenge, Habitat for Humanity, Family Talk, Navigators, and New Life Church. Deanne currently resides in Colorado Springs with her singer/songwriter husband, Matthew Ward.

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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  • Starting in the Spirit but Finishing in the Flesh

    We need God our entire lives the same way a very small child needs a loving caregiver. Trying to live as if we can take care of ourselves will only hurt us in the end. God wants us to rely on him for his transformative power in our lives. This week, Pastor and Counselor Doug Welbourn joins Gary Wilkerson to share how dependency on God has enormous benefits for our spiritual and emotional health.

    We need God our entire lives the same way a very small child needs a loving caregiver. Trying to live as if we can take care of ourselves will only hurt us in the end. God wants us to rely on him for his transformative power in our lives. This week, Pastor and Counselor Doug Welbourn joins Gary Wilkerson to share how dependency on God has enormous benefits for our spiritual and emotional health.

    Gary: Hi, Gary Wilkerson here on the Gary Wilkerson podcast.  I'm excited about today's podcast, I think we're going to see and hear some amazing things. 

    We're going to be talking with Doug Welbourn today about developing the inner strength to carry out the kind of ministry that God's called you to and soul care, some really good issues.

    Doug was a pastor for many, many years in New Jersey, and now works partly with World Challenge doing pastors conferences all over the world and leading very life changing ministry there and also then personal counseling ministry with other pastors as well. Doug, welcome, glad you're here and looking forward to talking to you about some deep issues, some things that are really deep in the heart.

    Doug: Thank you. Appreciate it.

    Gary: You were my pastor for a good number of years when we lived in New Jersey. My wife and I, and four kids there, you're amazing pastor and now moved on to something else. Let's work backwards, what are you doing right now?

    Doug: I was a pastor for a very long time, and over 30 years actually. I came from a pastor's family, so it was kind of a natural transition for me. I kind of knew what to expect and slid into it pretty easily. I pastored all different sizes, from like, 60 to 1,200. I found out over time that my gift was in regard to pastoring, revitalizing churches that were hurting. For some reason, the inside is always been very important to me, as opposed to creating an outer appearance of health. I've always wanted to pursue true inner health. I found myself in the later years moving, I actually worked for our denomination for a while, and then a company that did this. It was their purpose to go to churches that were struggling.

    Usually, as you go on, you try to go to larger and larger churches but for me, I would go to struggling churches with the express purpose of intentionally dealing with systemic dysfunction in those churches and working with the leadership to get to a place where they were willing to deal with those hard issues. It could be very, very difficult but saw some wonderful change in those churches. Sometimes, people would leave or people would be hurt by that and I'm sorry for that but that's what it took because sometimes those people were-- They weren't well really in some emotional ways and they weren’t willing to look at it.

    Gary: You see, I think you and I experienced some of the similar things when we do pastors’ conferences or ministering to churches and people within the church as well as that. There's this perception that because you're a Christian, some kind of salvation experience happened to you that you're definitely going to be healthy now, and your family's going to be tight knit and all together and you’re not going to have any emotional or relational problems. Your experience would say otherwise?

    Doug: Yes, a big otherwise.

    Gary: Okay, not just otherwise, a big otherwise.

    Doug: There's still not a lot of people addressing this. There are people now, Pete Scazzero is a guy who's really making an impact on that particular issue of just because you’ve become a Christian means you're emotionally healthy and--

    Gary: I think you recommend that book. I read it Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

    Doug: I would recommend that. Then there are some others that are beginning to get into this kind of stuff so I'm thankful for that.

    Gary: Do you think the expectation of somebody who becomes a Christian and then the expectation of people who are already Christians are that becoming a Christian or living Christian life is supposed to kind of almost automatically take care of all of your emotional relational difficulties. You're going to be sort of like, “Now I'm not going to be lonely or now I'm not going to be depressed, or now I'm not going to be suicidal or now I'm not going to be addicted.” Do you feel like there's an expectation for a decision for Christ to solve all your problems?

    Doug: I think there is a lot of that. I think that teaching is found in a lot of churches, not all churches. I think some teachers teach that the more Bible you know intellectually will produce that. I also think unfortunately, the way we're moving in our society, there is more and more apathy, which would say-- I hate to say this but, "I don't really care. I don't want to go to hell so I'm going to accept Jesus as my Savior,” but they don't think very much about their Christianity enough to really analyze those questions. I think that's a growing blight.

    I would say five years ago, how you described it would describe the majority of Christians. I have become a Christian so now the Bible says, “I'm a new creature so I'm a new creature. I'm not going to get depressed.” Someone says, “You have a problem, you should probably go and get some help.” They’ll say, “I'm a Christian, why would I do that?” There's still a lot of that I think.

    Gary: Is it a false expectation? We don't want to belittle the power of the experience of coming to Christ. He washes our sins away, he gives us a new heart, begins the process of renewing our mind and yet the expectation is sort of like, “Okay, now your marriage is supposed to be instantaneously healed. If you have kids who are prodigal sons, they're going to come home.” That's not the reality, right? Would you say it's--

    Doug: I think you're right and we don't belittle it and probably some stuff is happening because God is in you. God works in ways we don't understand. You do become a Christian, some people have more of a transformation right away than others. We've all met certain people that have been instantly maybe released from addiction or something, that's not the norm. Most Christians still have to go through rehab and the normal process but that is, there may be some fruit. I don't like to limit God and say, “There's nothing happening,” but I agree with you that that attitude that says, “I'm a Christian now and so I'm transformed,” is a fallacy and a dangerous fallacy.

    Gary: You have somebody that's kind of where you come along in a sense, whether it be a pastor who's saying, “I know, I shouldn't be depressed or I know I shouldn't feel like giving up or I know, I shouldn't be caught in this habitual pattern of sin whether it be a pastor or a member of a congregation, a Christian.” That's where you come in and start ministering to them and what do you start doing to help them through some of that stuff? I know that's a really broad question but—

    Doug: Well, I think you can break that up. Sometimes people don't want to hear it because they haven't had many problems and that has worked for them. Some people, you might call them legalist or moralists, they try to live a good life and that's worked for them. Eventually, it won't but for now, they don't want to hear any other mumbo jumbo about a deeper life or anything like that. Then, there are those who they’ve become a Christian and one of three things happen.

    They say it doesn't work so they get mad or they run or they just sit in the back of the church disillusioned. They don't quit, because they do believe they're a Christian but they're disillusioned. They have to get desperate enough to say, "There's got to be more than this," or they just put everybody in a bucket, and then they can be in a church and you can have a pastor that comes in and starts talking about a new message.

    What will happen is, if a message has been preached like we've been talking about, you're a Christian now and so you need to be doing this, and this, and this because you have the power of God in you. If you bring in another pastor who begins preaching, which we're probably going to talk about this other message, it will create… It's what the Bible calls a new wineskin. The new wineskin will explode because… or the old wine skin will explode because you're going to pour that new wine in there and you're going to have conflict and stuff like that.

    Gary: I want to get to what you're talking about the message. Before we do, you mentioned about somebody getting to the place of-- You've got these people that have a laissez-faire attitude about their faith. They're like, "Well, I'm saved, I’m a sit at the back of the church," with an attitude or maybe angry and repressing it. For the one that you mentioned that becomes aware of their inner turmoil, the pain, and the suffering and they're desperate for help.

    They come to you because you deal a lot with Christian leaders, but broaden out to anybody whether you're Christian leader or not, they're desperate, they finally want help. They say like, "Here's the presenting problem. What do you do as a counselor leader to try to help walk them through that?

    Doug: Okay. Without getting into detail about a lot of techniques, I'll go right to the message, that I'm trying to help them understand. Pastors are complicit, but sometimes it's because they don't know themselves. The reason that people are having problems is they don't apply what happens at their second birth when they're born-again, saved, any terminology you want to use, they don't apply that to after they're born again when in reality, it's not that complicated.

    Though it is more complicated but it's the same message after as it is when you become a Christian. When you become a Christian, what happens? You become aware that I cannot deal with the sin. I don't have the ability. I'm a sinner. Whatever it might be, I might be a horrible sinner, I might be a rapist, or whatever or I might just be a person that's very angry, or I lie or whatever.

    I come to Jesus, and I say, "I see clearly that I'm not right, and I can't fix it so will you forgive my sins and receive me? I receive you. Will you receive me into your family, and make me one of your children so I become a Christian?" It’s a wonderful thing, and that never goes away but then that's it. What needs to happen is that exact same thing called sanctification if you want a theological word needs to continue, and for some reason, which I won't take the time to get into right now but several reasons, people can seem to have a very, very difficult time most Christians, almost all Christians, applying that basic principle of Christianity going forward, they instead revert back to trying to be good.

    They know they weren't good enough at salvation, but they try to be good enough afterwards. It's illogical, really. Ultimately, my goal is to convince them that just as they couldn't become a Christian, they needed Jesus to forgive their sins. They need just as much, that's the key, you can't do this halfway or partway. They need Jesus just as much to live their lives, overcoming sin and becoming a person that is like Jesus, which we're told is a goal or one of the major goals by Jesus in us, now He's in us, okay?

    When we were saved, He came inside of us. That's the great miracle. That's a wonderful miracle. His power, His life. That's what the Bible, that's how it's referred to His power. It's a lot. It's His very life, the life that promoted Him from death to life, resurrection life.

    Gary: You were saying earlier in the conversation, I was listening to you talk about the Greek word there was interesting about life, right? He said it was it's not bios.

    Doug: Yes, it's interesting because in the Greek, there's different words. Several different words, but two main words for life one is bios. That's our regular physical life, you get biology. We live our regular lives and we try to live a Christian life with bios. That will not work. It didn't work before you were a Christian and it doesn't work. We can try to be good which is moralism. It's like every other religion. The problem is, a lot of Christians live like other religions. I'm not saying that they're not Christians, or they are in other religions, but their core belief, unfortunately, becomes the same and that is, to please God enough to be accepted.

    Well, they're already accepted. They'll never stop being accepted. They have to stop trying to be accepted. They're still trying to do that with bios, be good, be good. That's called moralism or behaviorism or if you want to get into a biblical discussion, it would be legalism. Zoe is this exciting idea of, it's literally the life of God. This gets me very excited every time I talk about it, because this is what's been given to us.

    Everything that's in God is in us. I'm going to have to take a sidebar in order to help with that, because the question immediately comes to most people, well, if I have the life of God and then why aren't I acting like God. The reason for that is that God, Jesus says that we need to identify with God, we need to walk the walk he walked. Jesus walked the walk the Father did.

    He went to the cross, even though he never sinned. He says, "You need to walk the life I walk even though you're without sin now too in order to be like me." In fact, He said you need to pick up your cross every day and follow me. What's the cross? If it's not Jesus hanging on it, what is this thing? The cross is a path that if you're going to change, if this life of God that you have is this great gift, the zoe, this is going to begin to come out, you have to walk the cross.

    The cross is Jesus through the Holy Spirit and I'm going to give you the short term but he is going to lead you, everything has a purpose, that's what we forget. He's going to lead you in your life and some things will be good. He’ll lead people in your life that will teach you things quickly, and then they might disappear or He might lead a teacher into your life. It can be anything. He's so creative and smart. He's so big, He's beyond anything we can dream of, okay?

    You just got to keep reminding yourself that God is like-- He's so big that if you saw Him, your head would blow off. He's massive, so He can do anything and he takes pleasure in our lives and moving things around. Part of it though, is the cross that's an instrument of pain so He's going to bring some pain into your life. No one wants that, I don't want it, I've had it. I hate it. You hate it, I hate it but if you'll walk with Him, the purpose is to draw you to Him during those times and if you'll do that, rather than run away, get mad at Him.

    Which is okay if you do for a season, this is a process but in time, as you walk with Him, you'll begin to see it's Him working in you. Say you get sick and it lasts for a while, you're saying, “I'm a younger person, what's going on, I'm mad at God.” If you wait on Him and move towards Him, and say, “I love you,” and say, “Show your love to me.” Over time, things begin to happen inside. It's a journey, as you do that journey, you'll be surprised God will begin to show Himself and you'll begin to know His love and you'll begin to love Him.

    That's the journey of the cross, okay? There's a story in the Bible, where Jesus says, “There's a seed and in the seed, we all know is life.” You plant a seed and a flower will come up or a tree or whatever but a seed is very impressive, right? Nothing is more or less impressive than a seed, little brown or gray thing is like, “I got you a seed,” great, thanks. No one wants a seed. But you take that seed, you put it in the ground, Jesus says, And there's warmth and there's moisture and minerals, and the husk comes off.

    Then, a life that is inside is spectacular and it explodes. He says that, “He will multiply.” That's what's happening with the cross, the more you grow, the more you walk and allow God to do what He's going to do, that husk breaks. More and more of that zoe life begins to grow and flow out of you. It’s not you doing it, it's Him doing it and you find yourself being kinder and more loving. You find yourself being a different person, it doesn't mean you don't fall back and do stupid stuff and be a jerk, because it takes time and He's gracious.

    Gary: It's good, I like that. That's good encouragement, I think that does speak a lot to the question of the person who's struggling. Those are some really good Bible [crosstalk]

    Doug: Translating it to a person that wouldn't be, I wouldn't do that. Five minutes I'd be working with them for a long time, dealing with their pain, which is real but ultimately, I would want them to see that Christ wants to live through them.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • When I become a Christian will all my emotional and relational problems be fixed right away?
    • What can the Christian who finds themselves in inner turmoil and struggle do to find freedom?
    • What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    The reason that people are having problems is they don't apply what happens at their second birth when they're born-again, saved, any terminology you want to use, they don't apply that to after they're born again. Sanctification, if you want a theological word, needs to continue, and for some reason…people can seem to have a very, very difficult time applying that basic principle of Christianity going forward, they instead revert back to trying to be good. They know they weren't good enough at salvation, but they try to be good enough afterwards. – Doug Welbourn

    We can try to be good, which is moralism. It's like every other religion. The problem is, a lot of Christians live like other religions. I'm not saying that they're not Christians, or they are in other religions, but their core belief, unfortunately, becomes the same and that is, to please God enough to be accepted. Well, they're already accepted. They'll never stop being accepted. They have to stop trying to be accepted. – Doug Welbourn

    The cross, that's an instrument of pain, so He's going to bring some pain into your life. No one wants that. I don't want it. I've had it. I hate it. You hate it. But if you'll walk with Him, the purpose is to draw you to Him during those times and if you'll do that, rather than run away, get mad at Him, which is okay if you do for a season, this is a process but in time, as you walk with Him, you'll begin to see it's Him working in you. – Doug Welbourn

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Doug Welbourn

    Doug Welbourn has served in ministry for over 30 years. He has pastored in several states and in churches of all different sizes from 60 to 1100. Doug served in Abidjan West Africa as an International Pastor. Doug’s experience also includes working as a consultant for the western churches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He specialized in the revitalization of unhealthy and dysfunctional churches. He has served on the Spiritual Care Team of Samaritans Purse where he traveled internationally to minister to the rescue and developmental workers across the globe. Doug has been a speaker at workshops and conferences here and abroad and writes for Christian publications. He has three grown children and three stupendous grand children. He loves to ride his bike, follow everything Boston sports and even dabbles in interior design.

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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  • Sex is Not Your Problem, It's Your Solution

    Last week, Nate Larkin shared his personal testimony about struggling with a pornography addiction and how he eventually found freedom. This week, he and Gary discuss the types of sexual addiction and where they can spring from in our pasts. God wants to heal these deep heart wounds. As we heal and shed addictions, we will find it easier to forge deep and meaningful relationships with others. Gathering healthy community around us will make staying on the road to recovery easier. While the path may not be any smoother or less steep, faithful friends can walk beside us and remind us of our heavenly Father’s promises.

    Last week, Nate Larkin shared his personal testimony about struggling with a pornography addiction and how he eventually found freedom. This week, he and Gary discuss the types of sexual addiction and where they can spring from in our pasts. God wants to heal these deep heart wounds. As we heal and shed addictions, we will find it easier to forge deep and meaningful relationships with others. Gathering healthy community around us will make staying on the road to recovery easier. While the path may not be any smoother or less steep, faithful friends can walk beside us and remind us of our heavenly Father’s promises.

    Gary: Hey, I'm back with Nate Larkin. Nate, you have written this amazing book called Samson and the Pirate Monks and your story you've been telling us over what may end up being several episodes. I just wanted to let you know, alert you that you are now the-- You hold the record for the most times appearing on the Gary Wilkerson Podcast. This is amazing. It's something that-- It's such an intriguing-- I don't want to say story. It's the intriguing life that you've been through. God has been good to you, man.

    Nate: He really has.

    Gary: It's been good to hear your story. I just have the sense that so many people are being helped by this. I want to recommend the book too. Get it online or Christian bookstore.

    Nate: Fine bookstores everywhere.

    Gary: Fine bookstores everywhere. It'll be helpful. Over the last few times, we've been talking together you've been sharing your story and in that story, you've weaved in some things I want to go back to because I think they really help us. Let's get practical now. Here's a guy, or a girl struggling with porn addiction, prostitution addiction, any kind of sexual addiction. Let's start there. What various types of sexual addictions are there?

    Nate: Wow. Patrick Carnes, who is the granddaddy of sex addiction as a diagnosis. One of the-

    Gary: That's the name of the book?

    Nate: No. He wrote a book 20 years ago called Out of the Shadows. Dr. Patrick Carnes-

    Gary: C-A-R-N?

    Nate: C-A-R-N-E-S. He opened the first treatment center for sex addiction. He really classifies three levels of sex addiction. The highest level would be the offender. People who for whatever reason, are now crossing the line into actual abuse of minors or whatever.

    Gary: They get sentenced almost to therapy if they're an offender?

    Nate: In most states, if you get caught as an offender, you're going to jail for a long time.

    Gary: A predatory type, molestation?

    Nate: Right. That's a bit of a catch 22 because therapists and even a pastor-- You have this legal obligation to disclose if you hear. If somebody has crossed the line into that predatory behavior, they can't tell anybody. The only way they're going to stop is if they get caught. I'm afraid that that may result in more victims than if there were a safe place for them to disclose what they're doing

    Gary: I've come across some ministries that work with maybe not- There are certainly people that help with that you're probably talking about but maybe somebody that has been caught by the police. Picking up a prostitute. They can be sentenced to. Like this guy, I think you interviewed him on your podcast, Jay Stringer, Was it?

    Nate: Yes.

    Gary: He works with people that-- He has a class for that.

    Nate: Sure. Yes. John School. Yes.

    Gary: Yes. That's another type of addiction is prostitution.

    Nate: Yes. That was one that I fell into. Prostitution felt safe to me because I wasn't-- I loved my wife and wanted to stay faithful to my wife. I didn't want to know anybody's name. I didn't want to form any kind of an emotional attachment.

    Gary: Wow, prostitution. It freaks me out when you say it sounds safe. It sounds so dangerous.

    Nate: Yes. It was extremely dangerous. It was insane behavior.

    Gary: Then why do you say it sounds safe? I don't understand.

    Nate: It felt emotionally safe to me-

    Gary: I don't get that.

    Nate: -because I was not going to have to form a relationship or sustain a relationship with this person.

    Gary: Emotionally safe. You're not talking about risk caught or anything.

    Nate: There was all kinds of risk.

    Gary: You're talking about safe in the sense of-

    Nate: I was not only putting myself at risk, I was putting my wife at risk of a sexually transmitted disease. It was very dangerous behavior, but I was doing it. I was doing irrational things for non-rational reasons, trying to solve the problem by rational means. This was an emotional thing that was driving me, zero risk of rejection when you're hiring prostitutes. If you got the money, baby, she's got the time. That's how it works.

    Gary: I'm sorry. I want to just keep on track there. The other types would be after prostitution would be pornography.

    Nate: Yes, pornography. Then, there's also affairs, serial affairs.

    Gary: That would be considered a sex addiction to have serial affairs?

    Nate: It can be. It can be very compulsive.

    Gary: Multiple affairs.

    Nate: Multiple affairs and what I need to make is an emotional connection with another person. I can get caught in that cycle of seduction and conquest. It can be about power.

    Gary: If someone's in a long-term affair, would you help them through a sex addiction or more just, they'd have a relational difficulty with their spouse or something?

    Nate: I think there's a sexual component to be dealt with, but we do these crazy and harmful and destructive and sinful things. Sin is not an outmoded concept. They're not bad because God told us not to do them. God told us not to do them because they're bad. We do need repentance, but we also need healing, and we need a safe place to do it, which is why God constituted the church.

    Gary: I want to talk about that in just a moment. The difference between sin and repentance, and being wounded and needing healing. Let's come back to that in just a moment. You have these various types of sexual addictions. Then you have what are the-- Obviously, you're in this world in the sense of helping people recover this-- Can you give us-- Some people, statistics have some value to them, so they don't feel like they're alone. If somebody is dealing with one of these things we just talked about, they're not alone, probably.

    Nate: The craziest thing is that I thought that I was the worst sinner in the world, and that I was all alone, and that nobody would understand. What is astonishing-- I've lost track, Gary, of the number of men who've come up to me and said, "Your story is my story." Preachers who said, "I need royalties because you obviously have told my story." Porn use is very prevalent and becoming more so with every passing year. I think the last Barna study, boy. I don't remember the numbers exactly. Covenanteyes.com, the Covenant Eyes people always keep a current list of statistics, but it's more than 50% of active churchgoers-

    Gary: Are addicted or viewing?

    Nate: Yes or viewing pornography on a regular basis.

    Gary: The number for pastors is not far off that.

    Nate: Pretty much the same for pastors.

    Gary: Because they're human.

    Nate: Exactly. What's most distressing to me is that porn use is higher with younger people. The average age of first exposure to pornography now is eight. The fact that we're now putting smartphones into the hands of children, we're giving them a porn theater. At least 30% of all web traffic is porn. One of the great dangers is that I got hooked as a married man when I saw my first video porn. There's something very much more powerful about modern pornography than about the still images in the Playboy magazines that I saw as a child.

    This immersive experience, it impacts the brain in an entirely different way. If a boy by the time he's 14, 15, 16, 17, has had now thousands of virtual sexual encounters, his brain has become conditioned to novelty. When my brain is conditioned to novelty, now it doesn't matter how beautiful a woman is. She's only one woman. That makes me tremble for my beautiful granddaughter Ruby who turns 10 years old this year. The odds that she's going to be able to meet and marry a young man who can see her for the exceptional, beautiful woman she is, and love her and connect with her on a deeply intimate basis—those odds are diminishing every year.

    Fortunately, even the most secular cultures in the West are now beginning to recognize the damage that porn is doing. They're now taking steps. It's starting actually in Europe, where now age verification is required under European Union rules to view a pornographic website, but given the nature of the web, and the inventiveness of adolescence, I don't know that that really is, it's not a final solution but it's a help.

    Gary: Then you have various forms of sex addiction. Secondly, you have then a large number of population getting involved. Can you help us? Someone is listening, they're saying, "I view it occasionally but I'm not an addict." Is there a difference between somebody who occasionally views porn and a porn addict?

    Nate: Certainly. I would say pornography in any amount is dangerous, and destructive but certainly, there are those who have, and I was among them for many years, who have crossed the line. As I see it, it happens this way, something tells me I shouldn't do it, but I do it anyway but I do it freely. I have an impulse to do it, I follow the impulse, I do it freely. As I do it, I create a neural pathway. In the process, condition some chemical receptors throughout my body that will predispose me ever so slightly to repeat the behavior.

    I have begun a learning sequence. Now, if I do it, again, I strengthen that neural pathway, condition some more chemical receptors, making it ever more likely that I will repeat it again. As I repeat that, at some point, I cross an invisible line. Now what began as a volitional act becomes automatic, I have lost the freedom of choice. I am not free to stop. It's in me now. I am sick, I am addicted and I need intervention, I need a healing, but there are certainly a lot of people at the beginning of that continuum.

    Gary: We want to be healed, we want to be free of this addiction or even be free of the occasional lapse and viewing and experiencing things as we shouldn’t. The journey, then, how would you suggest somebody to begin this journey? They're caught in this pattern, there's addiction, there's wounds, there's history? Is there a starting place?

    Nate: There is. First of all, you have to give up the crazy idea that you can get out of it by yourself. If there's one thing I'm certain of, is that once you are addicted, there's no solo way out. I don't think there's any spiritual, a religious way out. I tried those solutions. I'm not saying that Jesus can't come and sovereignly do it. I don't want to close the door on what God can do because God's God. However, He designed us to live in community, He will use even these greatest weaknesses of ours to drive us back into that place where we can truly be healthy.

    When I make a fresh resolution, I got lost track of how many resolutions I made to stop. I could stop for a while, I could white knuckle it for a while, but eventually, I would get tired enough, angry enough, afraid enough, hungry enough and close enough to the edge that I'd be back in again. We need to find somebody to walk with us. Now, it could be a pastor, it could be a therapist and thankfully the ranks of therapists skilled in sex addiction recovery are growing year by year. You could find a CSAT a certified sex addiction therapist who would help you.

    Now, that therapist is also probably he or she is going to want to connect you to a group that's going to be a safe group where you can come in, you don't have to talk in code, you don't have to make promises you can't keep, you don't have to pretend to be any better or healthier than you are. You can just come in and live in the world of what is and begin to form actual, authentic intimate relationships. It starts there-

    Gary: That's with being vulnerable, opening up your heart to community. I don't know, I can't tell you, and you’ve probably experiences this more than me, how many people have come to me and said, "I tried worshipping it away, I tried praying it away, I tried fasting it away, I tried the accountability, I tried falling on my face on the carpet just weeping for hours, just like, “God hate this sin. I don't know why, why do I still have it?" Then yet get up and still engage in the same practice that tells me, going to jettison to a different topic for a second here, it tells me, "There's something more going on, there's neural pathways, there's sin and we need to repent of that sin." These people are repenting of their sin.

    It tells me, "There's a wound, and it's not to excuse the sin and to say you don't need to repent, you're a victim. You're an agent of sin, and there does need to be repentance." It's a much more grace-based repentance than we could ever imagine rather than being a fear-based repentance of I'm going to lose my salvation or I'm going to lose God's favor. He's going to hate me. I think it's a lot less fear-based and a lot more grace-based. I grew up hearing, I read your book so I know you did too, we grew up hearing a lot about sin and repentance, as we should.

    We need to be aware of that but I don't think we heard about it in the depth of really what it was but how much brokenness there is there and how it's created by an enemy that's out to kill, steal and destroy. Can you talk a little bit about, I don't know if you want to talk about some of your own. Would you say you had wounds that caused you? I'm not sure I'm using the right word caused or created a felt need in you or in me that we go to our favorite addiction to try to make us…

    Nate: I think there are two classes of wounds that we can talk about. There are those wounds of presence, the trauma that we can point to. For me, it was my mother's mental breakdown when I was eight years old, and her death by suicide when I was nine, that left me bereaved, orphaned. That's a very traumatic event. When you look back over the lives of sex addicts, specifically, my story is quite common or a lot of correlates.

    Now, interestingly, trauma can also be as devastating as a wound of presence is, equally devastating can be a wound of absence. All of us have needs that need to be met in infancy. We come into this world helpless. We are totally dependent on adults to care for us. We can't talk yet, we need help feeding, we can't move, we can't shake, the only way to communicate is by crying. We don't know who we are, our brains have just started to develop. The limbic system is almost fully developed, but that prefrontal cortex has just begun to develop.

    We could talk about the four S's of those primary needs of infancy. We need to be seen, in other words, we need to look into the face of somebody else who will react to us that we need to be mirrored. There are those horrible stories that are told at the Bulgarian orphanages, those orphan crib farms where people came in and found infants, some of them had died just out of neglect. They had been fed, but they had died from neglect because they hadn't been seen.

    Gary: More often I and Kelly were actually in Romania and saw that. We saw this huge room with a bunch of cribs and one nurse showed us this girl probably six, seven years old, who couldn't walk. The nurse said she has the muscles and the legs to walk but she's been in a crib her whole life and nobody takes her out to walk her. That's one of the S’s, she's not being seen.

    Nate: She has to be seen.

    Gary: Yes.

    Nate: We have to be seen, we have to be soothed. In other words, when I'm in distress, I need to have somebody come and soothe my distress. Whether I need my diaper changed, whether I need food, whether I just need stroking, whether I need calming, that communicates to me that I matter. Now, I was raised in a home as part of a culture. My dad raised me the way he was raised in this culture. I'm one of 10, My dad was one of 16. Part of what my dad believed was he'd never reward a child for crying. He would actually brag that he gave me my first spanking when I was eight days old. Because I wouldn't stop crying.

    A kid cries, you wait until they stop crying and then you sooth them or you come and feed them. My dad did that for the best of intentions but it's not very good parenting. One of the messages that Patrick Carnes says, one of the core beliefs of all sex addicts is no one will take care of-- I can't rely on anybody else to take care of my needs. The kind of behavior that I engaged in was self-soothing behavior. Hard for me to trust that anybody else will actually meet my needs. That's a wound of absence. I also fundamentally need to be safe. That means if there's a lot of chaos going on if I sense that my parents are fighting, or if God forbid-- You guys hear these stories all the time.

    If I happen to be born in a war zone or were a refugee family where life is uncertain, where there can't be predictability, as much as my parents may do to try to shelter me from that, I'm going to carry that wound. I'm going to carry that wound deep in the limbic system. That is going to become implicit memory. I may not even be consciously aware of it, but I'm going to react out of it until some substantial healing comes and that higher part of my brain is healed to the point where I can regulate that reactive behavior.

    Gary: Some wounds that people have or trauma close to them, we've talked here before I've heard you say that there's two types of trauma, the similar one you were saying here. One is things that should have never happened to a child that did, some form of abuse. Then the second one is things that should have happened that didn't happen. That's the soothing and the comfort, you have that. Somebody could be talking to their pastor about their addiction or a therapist and they're totally unconscious. "No, I wasn't abused. No, there' no trauma in my life." They don't know it's like some of this stuff happen eight days old and the first two, three years.

    Then, of course, even after the two or three years, there's the things like divorce or a parent being put in jail or addiction in the parents. You might not experience those till you're six or seven, but all through your upbringing, you're susceptible to these types of wounds.

    Nate: Nobody gets out of this unscathed. I've heard it said that even the most attentive parents can really meet the deep needs of a child and enough to create secure attachment if they can meet those needs 60% of the time.

    Gary: That'd be healthy.

    Nate: There's only one perfect parent. I love the way Jesus said that when he tried to get us to understand the love of the Father, he said, "Just look at how much you love your kids, and what you'll do for your kids. You're really not even that great. You really stink as parents. He's perfect."

    Gary: That could be a whole other show on how we stink as parents and parenting. [crosstalk]

    Nate: I love my kids, but I'm really not that good.

    Gary: We were talking about being wounded here but how much the biggest regrets of my life is how much I've wounded my own kids by trying to compensate for my woundedness. My addictions were different. I think I was addicted to ministry if that's a possibility.

    Nate: Absolutely.

    Gary: It was I had to compensate for my core wound of feeling like I'm not enough. I had to build this ministry. Once it's built and it's big enough and successful enough and it's on the cover of Charisma magazine, then I'll be enough. I served that idol and out of that, some of my kids suffered having an emotionally unavailable father for a long time.

    Unfortunately, we’re talking about wounds, that's another wound but thank God there's a healing available for the parents as well that are going to go through that as well.

    We were identifying some wounds. A lot of people never take the time to identify the wounds. They just repress them. That's where the root word of, you've heard this before, the depression comes from repressed. You're going to get depressed if the Holy Spirit is trying to put a spotlight on these areas of your life where you've suffered trauma and you don't deal with it, you don't bring it to the Holy Spirit for healing, you're probably going to end up addicted to something.

    It could be something as seemingly as "holy” as ministry, and it's not when you're doing it the wrong reason, but then, it can be some things that scripture talks about as negative in our life. After we get to the point where we're starting to do some soul care and some self-work and we see, "Okay, there are these wounds, I've been through some trauma, that trauma maybe like my case it caused a core wound that I identified as being I'm not enough. I'll be enough when I get successful but I'm not successful so I need something to comfort me so I go to drugs, alcohol, pornography." The healing process then after you define the sin and the wound.

    Nate: It gets very practical. Now, I approached recovery from the neck up, headfirst. I'm a thinker, not a feeler. I really thought that this is a conceptual problem. If I can just understand it, I'll get better. Western Christianity has tended to draw this division between spirit and body that we don't find in Hebrew thinking. We really are embodied spirits. There's a physical component. I am sinning, I am sick, and there is a physical component to that sickness, my brain needs to be healed.

    We know a whole lot more about neurology than we did 20 years ago. My sponsor drawing on the wisdom of 50 years of recovery, knew some basic things that I needed to start doing. I thought… I didn't understand why he was focusing on this because I want him to give me the curriculum, give me the books, I want to understand the concepts, I'll be fine. The first thing he talked about was my bedtime.

    Now, our brain needs sleep to heal. It does a lot of cleanup work and renovation work while we sleep and while we dream. It's all very important to healing. He goes, "When do you go to bed?" Well, I told him I can't get to sleep before one, two o'clock. He says, "Well, I got some stuff that I want you to start doing at six in the morning when--" I said, "I can't do it." I said, "I can never fall asleep before midnight." He said, "Nothing good happens after midnight."

    He said, "Start getting up at six. Your bedtime will change.” He wanted me to get enough sleep. I started to get sleep. He then wanted me to go to the gym. I had not gone to the gym. He said, "Look, we got to do self-care here." He said, "You've been taking care of your addiction and you've been taking care of business. You've been trying to take care of your family, but you have not been taking care of yourself."

    Gary: Self, right, so important.

    Nate: The brain has to do a lot of repair work. The energy for that repair work is produced in your cells. Cellular health is a function of-- It's a physical action. We now know through studies that regular aerobic exercise greatly increases cellular health and increases energy production in the cells, which makes it possible for your brain to heal. Your brain, that part of my brain that needs to heal, that draws more energy than any other organ in my body. When I have a deficit of energy because I'm not caring for myself, and the lower part of my brain has to manage that energy, it browns out my prefrontal cortex, it doesn't get the energy it needs and that's the part of me that makes good decisions.

    That's why my decision-making ability erodes toward the end of the day. I make progressively poor decisions toward the end of the day if I get tired, if I have to make a lot of decisions over the course of the day. Here's the other thing he wanted me to do, he wanted me to program my day in such a way that I didn't have very many decisions to make. Now, I didn't want to do this. I had spent my life keeping my options open. That was my operating assumption.

    He's telling me, "Look, dude, boring is good." Turns out that once I had my day scripted, and I had my decisions pre-made, I wasn't drawing-- It made it easier for my brain now, but it's more energy available for my brain to heal. I now think that one of the reasons I was able to recover was through this coaching. I'd gotten in preaching before and I'd gotten teaching before but I hadn't gotten in coaching before. This coaching gave me the underpinning that made it biologically possible for my brain to create the new neural pathways that would actually change my behavior.

    Gary: That's deep. Just playing the skeptic for a moment here. When you first start giving me a list of sleep a little bit more, exercise, my mind goes like take a cold shower. You want to look at the pornography. It feels insufficient. When you start talking about the brain, that all said, "Okay, now I see. It's not just like go to bed early so you don't go look at the computer." You're talking about the healing of the brain. The steps you're talking about are not just steps in themselves, which are healthy. I would have food maybe that what you eat.

    Nate: Absolutely.

    Gary: You're talking about what it produces afterwards because I think there's something spiritual in this too because it could sound almost just to do list. I think there's something real spiritual in here because when you are rested, and you're not overloaded with decisions, and you're eating right, and you get some serotonin or something exercise releases the good chemicals in your brain. When you go into the Lord’s presence, then you're bringing a different person. I think if you bring that weary worn out, defeated person to the foot of the cross, you certainly can be healed and restored there.

    You do that every day and then the Lord’s saying like, "Okay, you just come in for like breathe on you and make you feel a little bit better because you destroyed your life today. Again, why don't you bring me a life that's--" I'm not saying like get healthy then come to Jesus. I'm saying, He helps through rest, through that, restoring of the mind, renewing of the mind. He brings us to this place where-- I think that physical health, emotional health, the relational health, that you talked about, and you're being in community, these things are not like-- What I want to say is, we're not at all saying Jesus didn't work for me. These other things will.

    What we're saying is Jesus works by creating these opportunities that He by grace has given to us in life. He wants us to have an abundant life. Abundant life is not being exhausted all the time and having idolatry of money or work so that we just can't pay attention to the deeper things like love and kindness and mercy and community. We're healthy. We come into His presence. Also we open up the scripture and go like, "This is clear to me.” Not,” I'm so tired. I'm so exhausted." I think what you're saying is healthy. Not only overcoming addiction, but just to live a healthy life, a godly life, a creative life.

    Nate: I think Jesus modeled that. When he was teaching people, he did the bread and fishes trick a of couple times because people are hungry. He himself, he would nap when he needed a nap. Even though it was in the middle of a storm.

    Gary: I was with a pastor recently and he was just talking about and his wife mentioned this as well, and talking about just to take the day off. There's such guilt, like, "I'm not doing enough. I'm wasting this day, because I'm not serving the Lord today by being out on the streets witnessing or something, or preparing my sermon." I just trying to encourage them like, "Man, being with your wife for a walk in the mountains is so spiritual. It's so being with God and it's so taking care of yourself that gives you the strength to take care of others in a more powerful way."

    All these things we're talking about, none of these things are selfish to me. I don't think you talk about like, "Gary, Nate, You're just talking about me getting healed and me overcoming and me getting healthy.” All of this has the sense of, We can be now alive. We can now be empowered. We can now be the things that we really want to be out of our life because we don't-

    Nate: I could be more present now in relationships and conversations.

    Gary: Exactly.

    Nate: I can stay connected to other people.

    Gary: That's good.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • What are the different types of sexual addiction?
    • Is there a difference between somebody who occasionally views porn and a porn addict?
    • How do we begin the journey to find freedom from pornography and sexual addiction?
    • What types of wounds and trauma lead to sexual addiction?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    We do these crazy and harmful and destructive and sinful things. Sin is not an outmoded concept. They're not bad because God told us not to do them. God told us not to do them because they're bad. We do need repentance, but we also need healing, and we need a safe place to do it, which is why God constituted the church. – Nate Larkin

    The craziest thing is that I thought that I was the worst sinner in the world, and that I was all alone, and that nobody would understand. What is astonishing is the number of men who've come up to me and said, "Your story is my story." Preachers who said, "I need royalties because you obviously have told my story." Porn use is very prevalent and becoming more so with every passing year. – Nate Larkin

    What's most distressing to me is that porn use is higher with younger people. The average age of first exposure to pornography now is eight. The fact that we're now putting smartphones into the hands of children, we're giving them a porn theater. – Nate Larkin

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Nate Larkin

    Nate Larkin, the founder of the Samson Society and author of Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood, grew up as a preacher’s kid. He married his wife, Allie, on the day he graduated from St. Lawrence University, and they headed off toward Princeton Seminary and the ministry.

    If you’ve heard Nate’s story, you know his plans didn’t work out so well. He was ensnared by a sexual obsession he couldn’t tame, and the fear of discovery eventually drove him to abandon the professional ministry. It’s a miracle his marriage survived.

    After more than two decades of secret and steadily intensifying compulsive sexual behavior, Nate’s nightmare finally ended in a painful collision with reality. Today, he helps overlooked victims of the commercial sex industry – addicted users – find their way back to integrity and the true intimacy that every person craves.

    Booking Inquiries | Facebook | Twitter

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Facebook | Twitter

  • A Pastor's Struggle with Pornography and Prostitutes

    A pornography addiction can feel like a hopeless trap. When we pray and pray for it to go away, we can get stuck in a cycle of despair when the addiction remains. This week, visiting speaker Nate Larkin talks about his own sexual addictions and how he eventually found freedom.

    A pornography addiction can feel like a hopeless trap. When we pray and pray for it to go away, we can get stuck in a cycle of despair when the addiction remains. This week, visiting speaker Nate Larkin talks about his own sexual addictions and how he eventually found freedom.

    Gary: Nate, it is good to have you here today. I'm Gary Wilkerson. This is Nate Larkin. Nate and I, we haven't known each other all that long. We met in Franklin, Tennessee. Do you remember? I don't remember how long that was.

    Nate: That was just a few months ago. I think yes. Introduced by Matthew Ward.

    Gary: The crazy Matt Ward, who's in studio with us here today. Who is just by-- I know you're not going to be able to turn the cameras but he is attempting to grow his hair long as I am. Especially, and I think it's important that we have long hair and this topic today about Samson and the pirate monks. That’s your book is called, Samson and the Pirate Monks?

    Nate: Yes.

    Gary: You wrote that. It's been a while.

    Nate: Yes, it came out in 2007.

    Gary: I was… kind of just want to get right into the crux of the thing. Do you mind just starting off the podcast just by kind of just telling us the-- I don't know, your rock bottom. The topic today is going to talk about addictions and particularly sexual addictions and problems we have in life-controlling problems.

    Nate: Yes, it's funny, as my illicit sexual behavior continually crossed boundaries every time I did something I swore I would never do before I would think this is it, this is finally bottom. It turns out you really don't hit bottom until you stop digging. For me, that happened 21 years ago when my wife walked in on me as I was downloading porn in my home office.

    Gary: Wow.

    Nate: It was a long-standing habit. Actually, that was the tip of the iceberg. I was also at that point seeing prostitutes and I had a very well-hidden secret life going on and was completely miserable in it.

    Gary: Something like that doesn't just sort of like you don't just flip a switch and all sudden you're addicted. This comes from a long history of compromise, of trauma, of difficulty.

    Nate: Yes.

    Gary: Do you mind going back to--

    Nate: Yes, back it up, sure.

    Gary: Back it up and just kind of tell us how all this started or a little bit about your upbringing or?

    Nate: Yes, I think I'm still coming to understand what made me especially vulnerable to this kind of addiction, this process addiction. To back it up. I grew up in a Christian home. My dad actually was a preacher, Pentecostal preacher. In a large family. I'm the oldest of 10 kids. Life was church when I was a kid. We were in there three times a week at least when the doors were opened we were there. That was where I felt most alive. It was where I excelled. I had the skills that were deemed necessary to really perform well in church and I did perform well in church.

    I loved church. I was marked for the ministry from an early age. We all have a deep need for intimacy, for connection. We need people attuned to us; we need to connect. When I got my first glimpse of pornography shortly after my mother died, and all it was was I saw a Playboy magazine in a magazine rack at the corner store. Just that image arrested me. It was almost electric. At the same time I felt guilt, I felt shame, I felt excitement, I felt attachment.

    I remember later on that night after dinner, I slipped out of the house and ran back down to the store just to look at it for a few more minutes and then come back home. Never even opened the magazine. Because I had a reputation as a Christian, because I really wanted to be a Christian and wanted to be a public Christian and felt it was very important, I had an obligation to maintain a testimony and we certainly don't want to bring shame on the name of Jesus.

    During my high school years, I found inventive ways to get softcore porn, but I always had a collection concealed in the basement of the church somewhere where nobody would find it.

    Gary: Wow.

    Nate: A few times after an evangelistic crusade or a youth camp when I had rededicated and promised to-- I'd repented, I'd go and destroy the collection. Yes, but just tortured by my own conscience. Feeling really condemned. So I kept that all very well concealed. The persona that I developed, I was given the nickname St. Nate in high school.

    Gary: I like that.

    Nate: Everybody had a pretty good a high opinion of St. Nate but nobody had a higher opinion of him than I did. Went on to college where I was a scholarship kid in a secular university. Where there although I was the president of the campus Christian fellowship, and so I didn't advertise my porn use. At that point of during my college years decided to kind of stop feeling guilty about it. This was kind of adult behavior. I'm going to get some sex education. I’m preparing for marriage. Because I'm so naïve but I need sex education. This is a way to get it. It was stupid.

    Gary: Is that common-- I don't want to skip ahead too far. In the ministry even now the men you're dealing with, is it common that there's lots of excuses for doing it? Or?

    Nate: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Yes.

    Gary: We'll talk about that later, but that's yours were just preparing for marriage.

    Nate: Right. Exactly.

    Gary: Okay.

    Nate: Which didn’t mean that I stopped feeling guilty about it. I tried to stop feeling guilty about it, but you can't silence your own conscience.

    Gary: Got you. Yes.

    Nate: I didn't understand the damage I was doing to myself. I was allowing pornographers to define beauty for me in a way that eventually would blind me to the beauty of my wife. The way I was learning just to objectify women to see bodies and not people. The way sex became, in my own mind, connected to lust rather than love, to taking rather than giving; and it was depersonalized, and it was about performing not about being. All of the special, intimate blessings of marriage that come in that marital union. It would be years before I would begin to actually experience what it's like to have that kind of marital love because I allowed it to be conditioned by a culture of pornography.

    Gary: You seemed to be saying it’s hard or impossible to really love someone when you’re spending all your energy on lust.

    Nate: Yes. Lust kills love. They are enemies of one another. Lust is about me. Love is about you. Lust is about taking. Love is about giving. Learning to love. I remember my first sponsor in recovery saying, “Nate you’ve had sex but you’ve never made love,” and he was right. He was right.

    Gary: It’s different, wow. You’re in college. You’re hiding it.

    Nate: Yes. Exactly but looking around and I meet this extraordinary woman who shows up at our church and she’s a brand new Christian. She’s so different from the church girls and for some reason although every man in the building was looking at her, somehow she saw me and I saw her. It was just, “Bang” from the first sight. We married the day I graduated from college. Allie is 10 years older than I am and she was a single mom so I got a 10-year-old son in the process. A great kid who’s responsible for us moving to Nashville and has now become 52. How did that happen?

    Gary: Wow.

    Nate: Yes, amazing. We were good friends and have remained good friends. Sometimes joke that our marriage has survived partly because we have compatible intimacy disorders. [laughs] I was greatly distressed. Very disappointed to discover that marriage was not a solution to my porn problem. I told myself that once I had an actual physical committed sex partner, porn would lose its attraction and that was not the case. I kept that hidden from my wife for the first few years of marriage, eventually did disclose it to her.

    She never excused porn use or approved it but she understood the attraction and didn’t reject me. Said that she would stand with me against it and I could share my struggle with her. She would help but I have come to believe that really God didn’t design her to be my accountability partner in matters sexual. She volunteered for a burden too heavy for her to carry but I gave it to her because I didn’t have any male friends to share it with.

    I had no brothers, so I put all that weight of all my missing friendships I put it on my wife. That was a strain. I eventually stopped telling her about the struggle. I thought I had it under control because I wasn’t following through on the impulses. During that time, I found the courage to start a church. Became a church planter and fulfilled the family destiny. Started a church in South Florida.

    Gary: How old were you then?

    Nate: Started the church at age 25.

    Gary: Okay, quite young.

    Nate: That was crazy. I was the youngest guy in the church I think but I was a smart guy, good on my feet, articulate and sincere. I was able to pull some people together but it wasn’t very long before the stresses of the ministry-- under those stresses my brain wanted relief and I found my way. By this time, I guess we’ve skipped. By this time I’ve graduated from softcore porn to hardcore porn which is available at this point in the 1980s, early 80's, only in adult bookstores. I am haunting adult bookstores, making furtive trips being very careful not to be seen. It’s always high stress. You take a big risk. I did that. I was careful. I was never caught. I hated my own hypocrisy, was tortured by this thing. I quit a hundred times. I just couldn’t stay stopped.

    Something would happen and I would find my car driving back to the same place. Then about four years in it got worse when I wound up picking up my first street prostitute on a Christmas Eve of all nights on my way to a candlelight service. It was accidental. I didn’t know what I was doing because I just saw a woman walking in the rain. I didn’t know what she was doing until she was in the car and propositioning me but at that point, I was so conditioned by a scene that I had seen countless times on film and video. Something that I had participated in vicariously but now I was just another character in the scene and I followed the script. Tragically, didn’t even see the person. Never bothered to learn the backstory of that poor woman who on Christmas Eve was out offering her body to strangers.

    Gary: My goodness, wow. You went from there to your candlelight Christmas Eve service?

    Nate: Yes, I went straight to the candlelight Christmas Eve service and it was just awful.

    Gary: How were you feeling?

    Nate: It was the worst night at that point. I really thought for a moment I thought this is the bottom, I’m going to stop here but in the back of my mind there was a voice that said, “No, you’re going to do it again.”

    Gary: That was all happening at the Christmas–

    Nate: Yes. I knew. I knew. I knew because I’d stopped so many times.

    Gary: Yes, made so many promises.

    Nate: Made so many promises.

    Gary: We can go through those, “Lord, that’ll be the last time or if you’re going to do it again just one more time then I’ll stop. Or I made a mistake so I’m going to read my Bible three hours a day. I’m going to fast, I’m going to increase my tithing by 20%." Just more promises we make in compensation. Try to compensate for-- but that’s a tough-- I mean all sin-- you can’t compensate for any sin but in your own mind that’s got to be a tough one to think you could ever compensate for.

    Nate: Right.

    Gary: Okay, I’m a pastor of a church and I pick up a prostitute on the way to my Christmas Eve service. You’re almost in an awkward and very unusual position. It’s not when you can go, “Well, six of my other friends who've told me about when they did this.” You feel alone too.

    Nate: Yes sure, there’s nobody I could tell and I’ve got a family to support. This is the only thing I’ve ever done so yes, that was lonely and terrifying. I thought for a while that-- I entertained the hope that maybe, possibly I had hit bottom because I didn’t do it right away but then I did. A year later, on my 30th birthday, I woke up knowing that something had to give. Famous preachers were getting caught, humiliated and exposed. The worst thing I could imagine was losing my reputation. I had to preserve St. Nate at all costs. I was either going to have to quit the ministry or quit the behavior and at that point, the only thing I could do was quit the ministry so at the tender age of 30 I retired.

    Gary: And was that relieving?

    Nate: Yes. It was also terrifying. I remember the church gave me three months’ severance. I had three months to figure out what I was going to do and I had no idea what I was going to do. This is the only thing I’d ever imagined that I was going to do.

    Gary: That’s why you went to seminary so that’s what you’re trained for?

    Nate: Sure, yes. I’m a graduate of Princeton Seminary. I’ve devoted my whole life to this thing. All my training is in this direction. I got three kids so I’m in the family station wagon. I’m driving down the strip in Fort Lauderdale. I’m listening to an AM radio station. A motivation station. All self-help all the time right. I’m grasping its straws so the guy on the radio is saying something like this. He’s saying, “Are you afraid to go to that job interview or that audition?” He said, “You’re afraid you won’t get the job or won’t get the part?” He said, “Well I have a solution for you. Send somebody else.” He goes, “Here’s what I mean. They know exactly what they’re looking for. They’ve written up a description of that person so read the description, create that person and send him to the interview.”

    I thought, “I can do this. I’ve been doing this my whole life.” I created a whole new persona right there in the car. “Mad Nate the business guy,” and it worked. I got a job as a partner-- within a year and a half-- I got a job in an engineering firm and within a year and a half, I was a partner in an engineering firm. I’ve never had an engineering course in my life. I faked it and unfortunately, that came with a lot more money than I'd ever made in the ministry with even less accountability. I was on my own, I was in charge of marketing and promotion, and all that kind of stuff. I had an expense account, I was not accountable to anybody for my time, and what followed was a very, very dark decade.

    Gary: What was that?

    Nate: Well, it just progressed. I spent all told, best I can figure $300,000 on pornography and prostitutes, but secretly and never missing church. Not just going to church. I sang in the worship team, I helped with the youth group, I taught Sunday school, I sometimes filled in for the preacher. I loved church. St. Nate could live at church, could breathe there, but it was tough on Sunday morning though. I would come in just weighed down with all the guilt of what I've been doing. I would make my silent confession to God, because I couldn't confess to anybody else. I would fight my way to the foot of the cross, and I'd get some feeling of forgiveness. Halfway through the worship service, I could look toward heaven again, but it was exhausting.

    Gary: The weight of that must be hard to bear with a double life like that?

    Nate: Yes. The great irony, one of the great sadness that I still live with. One of my great regrets is that when other men in the congregation were caught in something or confessed to sexual sin, I was among those who participated in the punishment. I now believe that the church is to be a safe place for repentant sinners. We're never ever to excuse or accommodate sin, but we're always to be open and accepting and empathetic and helpful to the repentant sinner. We always took a punitive approach, and I participated in effectively driving other guys from the church. Knowing all the time, thinking that maybe if I scare them enough, it would scare me enough. That's a great regret I have.

    Gary: You were afraid to--

    Nate: Yes, but I knew. We had what we called accountability groups back then. I did this shame-based accountability a couple of times, but always very carefully. You get around a few guys and you talk in code. I could never really say exactly what I was doing. Are you kidding, they just give me the left foot of fellowship. Talking code about the lust of the eyes, and then really pretend that my biggest concerns were grouchiness and speeding. [chuckles] We'd make this deal that we would get together weekly, and ask each other the tough questions.

    By the second meeting I was always lying, because I didn't want to get kicked out of the group. The whole arrangement was based on this insane assumption that I can hold it together on my own for an entire week, so then I would leave with more shame and the accountability group would fall apart.

    Gary: In your story now it brings up to, you've been in a good number of years stuck in this lifestyle?

    Nate: All of that in Florida, and then at the invitation of our son and daughter-in-law who are expecting our first grandchild. We move from South Florida to Middle Tennessee. Franklin, Tennessee just south of Nashville, and it's there not long after we've moved that Allie catches me looking at porn.

    Gary: Sorry to interrupt, but you were just sharing this morning a devotion that I thought that was interesting. You're talking about, you're thinking the move was going to be--

    Nate: Yes, the move was magical to begin with. I mean, we moved and it was amazing. The obsession did lift. We're in a new place, we've got a fresh start, we're kids again, we're holding hands, we're buying furniture, we're hanging curtains, we're walking to church, and it is wonderful. Which made me think, "Wow, the problem must've been Florida."

    Gary: Location, it's where I lived--

    Nate: Yes. The geographical cure does work.

    Gary: A lot of people think that. The location helped for a little while.

    Nate: Help for a little while until we started running out of money, and I began to get afraid and fear drove me back to my favorite drug, which was porn and prostitutes. At that point, there was a thriving prostitution center in Nashville, so I was back into it. We ran out of money faster than we needed to because I was spending a lot of it secretly. My wife caught me. She handled the porn all right that first night, but then she found a condom on the floor in the bathroom that I couldn't quite explain. It was a bridge too far for her, and that's when she sat me down in our bedroom and said, "I am done."

    She said, "I still love you, but I don't like you. I don't trust you. I don't respect you, and I don't think you can ever change." I can hear those words today, and those are the words really that saved my life. They gave me the gift of desperation. She was my only friend. I knew if there was any chance at all to salvage that relationship—and she didn't give me any hope really to believe that there was—I was going to have to do something I'd never done before, and I was going to have to go for help. I didn't have the money for a therapist. We were in a new church, and I didn't trust the church yet. I wound up going to a 12-step group for sex addicts, and it was there I met Jesus in a whole new way. [laughs].

    Gary: That's interesting. Why didn't you trust the church?

    Nate: I didn't trust the church because I had seen us in practical ways, ignoring our own rhetoric about grace. We always sang amazing grace in the churches where I was growing up. Our theology said that when you sinned, you fell out of grace. God was the God of second chance, but you had to comeback, and you had to repent and truly repent, and then you could get grace again. Which meant basically, that you had all the grace you needed unless you needed it. I didn't want to get kicked out of a brand new church.

    Turns out, one of the things really that lead eventually to the formation of the Samson Society was I heard the pastor from the pulpit, the pastor of Christ Community Church Scottie Smith describe what it's like to wait for a pornographic image to crawl its way down the screen. That told me two things. It told me one, Scottie had seen porn. Two, that he'd seen in the days of dial-up.

    [laughter]

    He could talk about it.

    Gary: From the pulpit?

    Nate: From the pulpit. Turns out, that was a safe place for me to talk about my sin in the present tense, but I didn't know it at the time.

    Gary: Sin in the present tense, because a lot of pastors when they're sharing something about their own struggles. It's like, "35 years ago, one time I did this."

    Nate: I almost did this.

    Gary: It makes you feel like, "I'm such a loser, I can't talk to these guys who have it all together."

    Nate: The 12-step meeting was in the basement of the church, in the middle of the week while all the good people were gone. You know what amazed me? 

    Jesus shows up even though they talk about him as a higher power.

    Gary: Right, many have come to know Jesus through first saying, "I don't know what this is, but there's something bigger than me."

    Nate: What that has turned out to be is a side entrance into the church. I got into the world of 12-step recovery. Starting off to meetings for sex addicts. I also started going to AA meetings even though I'm not an alcoholic. I love going to AA meetings and listening to drunks talk sense to each other. It's amazing to me because what an alcoholic says, one drink is too many and a thousand is not enough. I know exactly what he's talking about. It was amazing to me as I started going to those meetings. Then I went back to church, how many people I recognized.

    How many people who found their way to church or found their way back to faith because they finally found a place where they could take their real selves and say the real truth bring all themselves in the warmth of the love of God.

    Gary: That's good, so that was as the things started to transform in your heart then at that point?

    Nate: Yes, and as I found my first male friend since childhood there, a guy who became my first sponsor in SAA. He was a guy I'd met in church, actually. He was a guy who wanted to know everything. He was willing to hear my life story, unvarnished. I remember when I did my first step which was like a sexual history. The first time I wrote it out. I wrote out pages and pages and pages of stuff. We met at a park so that I could read it to him. We sat down on the bench, and I pulled it out, and my hands are shaking. He says, "Okay before we get started, what's the one thing you didn't write down?" I went, "What are you are you talking about?" He says, "The thing you didn't write down. What's the thing you didn't write down?"

    I told him. He said, "Good. Now read the rest of it." When I got done, he said, "You know what your biggest problem is? Your biggest problem is you think that sex is your problem." I looked at him like he was crazy. He says, "Sex is a problem. It's a big problem. You can't stop what you are doing on your own. God's going to have to do it for you. He will use us in the process, but if you think that just stopping that sexual behavior is going to fix you and make you happy, you are crazy. If that's the only thing that changes, you are going to become more miserable, and more miserable to be around than you have been, because sex is not your problem. Sex is your favorite solution."

    He said, "Sex is the medication that you have been using to numb the pain caused by your deeper problems, which, by the way, are common to man." He really wanted to broaden the conversation.

    Gary: How'd that feel to you? What were you feeling when he said that to you?

    Nate: I was confused because really, I did think that sex was my problem. I went into those rooms thinking these are the people who have the secret information. The missing piece of the puzzle. The rest of my life is pretty much together if I can just stop this crazy sexual behavior I'll be fine. What he began to open up to me, and I resisted this for years. It was really two and a half years before I, although I had periods of abstinence and certainly there were spiritual growth and enough change that Allie made the choice to stay and our marriage began to heal. It was two and a half years before I really experienced true sexual sobriety.

    That amazing feeling of freedom and serenity. Mainly because I kept resisting the deeper work. I didn't want to confront my own pride. I didn't want to talk about unbelief because in my own head I believed. I didn't want to talk about fear, because I'd been taught that real men are not afraid. I didn't want to talk about shame, I didn't want to be angry because somehow I thought that anger is sin. My friend was patient, and he didn't walk ahead of me, he walked with me. He shared his own struggles along the way, and because I had found a place where I could come in, he wanted me to call him every day, which was a struggle. It's what I absolutely needed to begin to build a bridge of attachment and connection, trust and connection with another person. I had to learn non-sexual intimacy, but as I learn to say the truth. I had to learn to stop lying. I lied instinctively. I had a great sense for what people needed to hear, and I could deliver it that fast. To learn to walk in the light, to tell the truth, and to begin to face these things, it takes time. That's the other thing that I brought into this process. One of the enemies was my spirituality was very impatient. I was raised in a world where when God moved miraculously, miracles were always instantaneous. You would come up today, you would respond today, and everything would change. If everything didn't change, well, then you really hadn't repented.

    Gary: Yes, it's your fault. That gets you to the point of starting to feel like you felt free and felt you could-- was it bootstrap abstinence or were you actually as this journey went on you felt like you just stop thinking about porn less?

    Nate: Yes, you know, this is the renewing of the mind that the Bible talks about. This really is healing by the way. It's healing in a specific part of the body. It's healing in the brain. We can see now on brain scans what the brain of a sex addict, lust addict, or porn addict looks like. It's very much like the brain of a cocaine addict, because we've been living out of the pleasure centers and because we've been acting mostly out of the middle brain, very strong neural pathways have formed so that that behavior that elicit behavior has become habituated. Almost it's practically automatic. Our ability to override the impulse has diminished.

    We have to recover that. New neural pathways have to be formed. Our brain actually has to heal. It's interesting that the brain scans of recovering sex addicts show that function has returned to the prefrontal cortex. That's a gradual process. We really need a lot of support in the early stages. It was very disheartening when I had my first relapse. I didn't want to call. I remember rehearsing my phone call. I waited several days to call my sponsor because I wanted to get my feet back under me. I wanted to have three days of abstinence before I called him so I could talk about it in the past tense. Then I rehearsed my call. Then I called him and I gave him this very upbeat check in. Then I said toward the end, I said, "By the way, I did have a slip last Tuesday but I'm fine. I know why it happened. I've got it figured out, and it's all for the good, and I'm good. I'm fine." Then I waited for the punch. It never came. He said, "I'm sorry. That must have sucked. I'm really sorry."

    Gary: Beautiful. 

    Nate: He gave me empathy and he gave me respect. With that, he gave me hope. He said, I said, "I hope next time you can call me sooner. Someday, you can call me before it happens."

    Gary: You started doing that. You started calling before-- [crosstalk]

    Nate: Yes. It turns out that we plan our slips. It seems like they happen suddenly, when we go over the edge but we've been working our way to the edge for a while. Learning to be more aware of when I'm moving toward the edge, and to be able to talk about it and let somebody else speak into my life, so that I can stay farther away from the edge. It takes humility to do it. It takes wisdom that comes with time. It takes the support of an accepting and gracious and empathetic community and perceptive guy. I almost think it's a rare person who can help me in my struggle, who hasn't shared the struggle. There are few angels out there, who God has given empathy for addicts like me, who've never had the struggle. Mostly it's people who've been down the same road.

    Gary: That's where the demarcation between different types of struggles a sex addict, a drug addict or alcohol, that's where the nuances help a little bit.

    Nate: They got the nuances help a little bit, but I have found that alcoholics can help me. I can be some help to an alcoholic, but not as much help as a guy who that's really his favorite medication.

    Gary: You were in the recovery mode for a number of years. Then something started shifting and you started thinking about Jesus in the center of it was slightly a lot more or just-- Something started being birthed in your heart, a vision.

    Nate: I really did. It was almost like being born-again again. I had started to become… there’d been this seed of cynicism that was growing in me during those desperate years of active addiction. This gnawing doubt, does God really care? Can God really heal? Is this as good as it gets?

    Gary: Can He really set us free? Are His promises true and then ultimately, is He even there? Is there really a God?

    Nate: Sure. At one point, I remember thinking either He doesn't care or He doesn't exist. I prefer to think He didn't care. Now, from the basement of the church-- When I picked up the Bible there, Gary, it was like a different book. It was like I saw verses from a whole different angle. The love of God shone through those pages in a way it never had before.

    Gary: It's like you shifted from theology to a real experience with God in the sense that you didn't have experience with God before. There's something about going through the miracle of transformation even if it be a process, that when you realize that your prayers are being answered, and the process is working and something's happening in your life. You're beginning to see it and experiencing it. I think certain scriptures leap off the pages that would not have before whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

    If you're stuck and you're reading, you just go like, "What's wrong me or what's wrong with this Bible that's not telling me the truth or what's wrong with the God who had this printed for us." To be able to experience that now and go like, "Okay, I think I know what that means." Then you realize, "He who is forgiven much loveth with much." That's not just for love for God, love of people, but also the love of the Word. I think you love the Word because you go like, "Man, this thing is telling me about my own life really." That started moving you towards creating something, right?

    Nate: Yes. I remember at one point, a guy asked me to sub for him in teaching his adult Sunday school class. He had about 30 people in the class. He asked if I would sub, and I said, "I don't think I can." He said, "Why not? You've been to seminary. Why can't you teach the class?" Well, I don't tell a lot of people this, but I'm a sex addict in recovery. I can't promise that I'll never slip again. I can't expose the church to that risk. So, I can't." He said, "No, I think you should teach the Sunday school class." I said, "Well, I respect that, but you're not the pastor of the church."

    He said, "Well, talk to Scottie." I made an appointment to see Scottie and he's a busy guy. He was about a month later before I finally got into see him and then-- I told Scottie, he says, "I hear that George has asked you to teach a class with him and you don't want to do it." I said, "Well, here's the deal." Scottie was so great. He goes, "Nate, please teach the class. By the way, can you sub for me preaching in three weeks from now?" He put me in the pulpit.

    Gary: That's cool.

    Nate: Because he understands grace. What I found is a lot of guys, as I-- Now I started teaching the Sunday school class even when I preached that Sunday, I talked about addiction, but never named sex addiction. That was really at Allie's request because she was really concerned that if people found out I was a sex addict, that we would lose the friends we had, the people would pull their children away from me. I'd be designated a danger and probably show up on the internet somewhere. We just catastrophize.

    I spoke about being an addict. I became a regular in that Sunday school class. I became a co-teacher. The class blew up. We're now we're got 300 people in the class. I'm seeing the gospel like I've never seen it before. I'm teaching and preaching like I never have. I'm talking as an addict without ever naming my addiction. I'm sure there was a lot of speculation. Probably people thought I was a Scrabble addict.

    Gary: Those with a gambling addiction, we're putting money out whether it was alcohol or something like that.

    Nate: Meanwhile, I did disclose it to one-on-one when guys would come. I told Scottie, I said, "When you run into a guy who has this problem, here's my phone number. Have him call me." My phone started to ring.

    Gary: I imagine so.

    Nate: I started meeting guys and telling my story. Then a lot of them really identified. I would take them to 12-step meetings. Some of them connected with 12-step meetings, and some of them didn't. It was just too tough. The transition was too big because if you'd name Jesus in the 12-step meeting, they look at you funny. One of the things that I had a tough time with early on was they talk about addiction as a disease rather than-- I remember having it out with my sponsor one day saying. I said, "I keep talking about this as a disease and it really makes me mad. I'm sure it makes God mad too, because we're defying a Holy God. This is sin."

    I remember my sponsor said, "Think of it this way. What if addiction is a sickness caused by sin?" I said, "Well show it to me in the Bible." He said, "Romans 7. Let's go to Romans 7. We go to 7:21, where Paul says, if I continue to do the thing I hate, it's no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. That is, in my members." He repeats that phrase, "In my members," twice in three verses. It's in me now. It has affected me. I spent years begging God, for forgiveness that was already mine, because I didn't believe the gospel. Not knowing that what I really needed was healing and not knowing that healing was only going to come as I get-- That whole vulnerability of mine its roots are in an intimacy disorder.

    I have a deep need for connection. That's how God made me. We are the body of Christ. We actually are not an organization. We are an organism whose members are so closely connected we can only move together. Jesus came to reconstitute the family of God. This is an organic thing. I'm never going to be free, never going to be really happy and enjoy the freedom of Christ until I am in real relationship with other members of the body of Christ. That can only happen when I bring my real self, which means I've got to be willing to speak the truth. I've got to confess, and that means I confess my failure. I also, by the way, confess my gifts and strengths. I don't hide from either, and I don't hide any of it from you.

    Healing comes, James tells us. When we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, then healing comes, and it comes progressively. It comes to us individually. We heal individually, and we become progressively healthier as an organism when we have authentic relationship. When nobody can send the real self to church, when the building is full, but nobody's there because everybody sent somebody else, I don't think Jesus even bothers to show up. That's a shame.

    Gary: It is. Well, so much what you're saying is raising up tons of questions in my mind, and I'm sure and those who are listening as well. Men or women who are saying, “Okay, I'm addicted to this or I have a sexual addiction.” Can we take the next session? Can you stay a little longer?

    Nate: I would love to.

    Gary: I want to get into some of the ways of escape the scripture talks about it, but there's a way of escape. You've already talked about interwoven in your story so profoundly and powerfully. I'd like for us to come back and do one more episode, because there's tons of questions in my mind, and I'm sure those listening as well. Thanks Nate, I appreciate that.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • Can we truly love others when we’re struggling with lust?
    • Will getting married solve my porn problem?
    • Can Jesus really set us free from pornography and sexual addiction?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    I didn't understand the damage I was doing to myself. The way I was allowing pornographers to define beauty for me in a way that eventually would blind me to the beauty of my wife. The way I was learning just to objectify women to see bodies and not people. The way sex became, in my own mind connected to lust rather than love, to taking rather than giving. – Nate Larkin

    Lust kills love. They are enemies of one another. Lust is about me. Love is about you. Lust is about taking. Love is about giving. – Nate Larkin

    I was greatly distressed, very disappointed, to discover that marriage was not a solution to my porn problem. I told myself that once I had an actual physical committed sex partner, porn would lose its attraction and that was not the case. – Nate Larkin

    The church is to be a safe place for repentant sinners. We're never ever to excuse or accommodate sin, but we're always to be open and accepting and empathetic and helpful to the repentant sinner. – Nate Larkin

    You know what your biggest problem is? Your biggest problem is you think that sex is your problem. If you think that just stopping that sexual behavior is going to fix you and make you happy, you are crazy. Sex is not your problem. Sex is your favorite solution. Sex is the medication that you have been using to numb the pain caused by your deeper problems. – Nate’s first SAA sponsor

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Nate Larkin

    Nate Larkin, the founder of the Samson Society and author of Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood, grew up as a preacher’s kid. He married his wife, Allie, on the day he graduated from St. Lawrence University, and they headed off toward Princeton Seminary and the ministry.

    If you’ve heard Nate’s story, you know his plans didn’t work out so well. He was ensnared by a sexual obsession he couldn’t tame, and the fear of discovery eventually drove him to abandon the professional ministry. It’s a miracle his marriage survived.

    After more than two decades of secret and steadily intensifying compulsive sexual behavior, Nate’s nightmare finally ended in a painful collision with reality. Today, he helps overlooked victims of the commercial sex industry – addicted users – find their way back to integrity and the true intimacy that every person craves.

    Booking Inquiries | Facebook | Twitter

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

    Facebook | Twitter

  • Faith & Finances - Practical Advice Is Not Enough

    The United States is often called the richest country in the world. Often, as believers, we feel guilty about the money or nice things we own. Should we, though? Money is a resource that God chooses to give to us, as well as a blessing. If that’s the case, should we feel guilty about owning a nice house or car? Today Jim Palumbo and Gary Wilkerson discuss the answers and how we can have wisdom with our money.

    The United States is often called the richest country in the world. Often, as believers, we feel guilty about the money or nice things we own. Should we, though? Money is a resource that God chooses to give to us, as well as a blessing. If that’s the case, should we feel guilty about owning a nice house or car? Today Jim Palumbo and Gary Wilkerson discuss the answers and how we can have wisdom with our money.

    Bob: Welcome back to another episode of the Gary Wilkerson Podcast. Today, on the program, we have Jim Palumbo. We're going to talk about a topic today that everybody thinks about, everybody talks about and that's money. I'm sure we have some people out there listening and watching and say, “What are you talking about money for?” I guess the point is, the Bible talks about money. I think I read over 2,300 verses versus on money are in the Bible. If it's in the Bible that many times we probably ought to be talking about it too, right?

    Gary: Exactly, yes. Have you ever met any Christians that have guilt or shame at occupying in the financial realm and seeing that as like, “Oh, you're just seeking mammon?” Do you ever meet Christians that live out of a sense of guilt? If I spent too much time, energy on thinking about money or making money that I must not be living for Jesus.

    Jim: Absolutely.

    Gary: What do you say to them?

    Jim: I'm glad you asked the question. I believe that the philosophies that represent that thinking. There's a philosophy of old Pentecostal holiness or whatever puritanical religious view of wealth, prosperity, material goods, as being bad. Then you have the more modern sort of psychotic view that the whole purpose of the Bible and your relationship with God is to make you wealthy. I reject both of those philosophies.

    Gary: Me too.

    Jim: It is incorrect because I believe the Bible is transcendent. It's a third, but transcendent perspective on material goods. All the things in this world belong to God and we are stewards. It's never talked about. We're stewards of the things that are here on this earth. The reason that most people are poor is because they're poor stewards. They never learned how to occupy their talent. That little thing that God gave them, they never did it well, and they didn't get more. They just stayed right in that spot, being sloppy, being irresponsible being… ignoring it, or being puritanical, and thinking it was evil, or striving after it out of covetousness. If you reject all of that, and look around, look out the window here. All of this belongs to our Father, and he said, "Gary, Jim, Bob, take care of it. You're in charge, do good job." The minute we mess it up, then we don't get more.

    Gary: Yes. I came from the puritanical point of view. I don't know, did you too growing up?

    Jim: A little both, right. [laughs]

    Gary: What about you, Bob? Are you more of the prosperity family?

    Bob: No more. No, of the previous.

    Gary: Okay. Yes. I think most of us in evangelical world are brought up in that. For me, I lost a lot of joy in life because-- An example, I was in a car accident two years ago, insurance gave us some money so we could buy a new car. My wife wanted to buy a nice one. It has a nice name brand, in my mind went to Gary Wilkerson head of… Dave Wilkerson’s son, head of World Challenge can't drive a car with that symbol on the front of it. Even though it's the same price as the other one, but it was the name of it. It was a better quality, a better deal, it's an older car, and see, I even had to say that.

    Jim: You’re apologizing still.

    [laughter]

    Gary: Yes. We've got that puritanical mindset that material goods are bad for you and if you're doing it--my mindset goes to is like, "Okay, that car could have fed a thousand children or something like that." It's hard to live that way though because you're always like in guilt and condemnation and shame. On the other hand, as you said, "I don't want to live the other way, though, make as much as I can and be proud of it. Tell everybody that's-- look at this mansion I'm living in, that shows how much I'm following God because He's honoring me with this big house or this big car." I don't want to live that way either.

    You're talking about a third way here. Can you define that little bit more like this way that you're not living as an intentional pauper to try to please God, but you're not living as a hyper prosperity movement that is all about money, so what's this third?

    Jim: I'd like to tell a story, so I’ll try not to forget to tell that but let me address the first part of the question which is sort of theological. It's basically, if we go back to stewardship, that a good steward should ultimately be a Joseph, commanding millions, billions of dollars if he's a good steward. Because this is what God has given him to do. He was faithful with little and God made him faithful with much. This is scriptural.

    We talked about the teachings of Jesus and everybody says, "Oh, it's just prayer and spiritual meditation." No, it's not. It's these real things, about faithfulness. Think about the beatitudes, think about the commands of Jesus, how radical it was to love others more than yourself, to put others before you. This was radical thinking in his time. If you live your life with that kind of radical generosity and love, that makes you a good steward. Then God's going to give you more. As you're a good steward, you can have more and more wealth. What you do with it determines the next level. It's impossible to hide covetousness and greed. The moment you start exercising it, God finds you out, and He caps you and you got to learn the lesson or you don't keep moving.

    As soon as you put your eyes on, "Well, I want to have more money, so I'll try to pretend to God that I'm not covetous," He knows your heart, He knows you’ve been covetous.

    Gary: You've heard this before, God gives you something and you hold it in your hand, but you hold it lightly, you don't grasp it, so you let go.

    Bob: Let me ask you a question about that.  The heart is very deceitful, and it can talk us into all kinds of things. Any advice on knowing where your heart really is when it comes to some of those big purchases? What should you ask yourself to know where your heart’s really at?

    Jim: There's two sides to that coin too, so I'll answer it two ways. Number one is the practical, which is, if you have to go into debt for it, and if you have to spend more than you have, then it's a bad idea. Always live principally, live modestly, below your means, not above your means. The practical side is to make those decisions, don't buy things you can't afford, don't go too much into debt, et cetera.

    The flip side of that is Paul, here with I'm content, to just simply be content. Why do we buy new cars? Sometimes we buy it because it breaks down. Sometimes we buy it just because we want what that other person has. I think the one thing that's never ever, ever preached on, if I've heard one sermon in 40 years on covetousness, that's probably a lot and maybe it was your dad.

    Gary: [laughs]

    Jim: It's just not talked about and it's one of the Ten Commandments. People don't really know how to recognize covetousness. We talked about other mistakes I've made with money. God blessed me, I had a new car and I remember, I don't mind naming the brand, it was a Cadillac Seville, bright red, man it was excellent. The Lord really blessed me, and it really was. The other car died, needed a new car. It was like some lease deal, zero interest, one of those extraordinary things that was 230 bucks a month. I was like, "Wow, what a blessing?" I have this killer luxury car for 200 some bucks a month, on a lease was terrific. Well, I wasn't happy with that.

    A year later, looking, I see this guy has got a Porsche Boxster convertible. I'm thinking, “A Porsche Boxster is just killer, man. I got to have.” I went and bought one. What a pain in the neck it was. It always was breaking down and rocks going through the windows. It just wasn't right. It was so clear to me that I got that Porsche Boxster convertible out of pure covetousness. There was no practical reason whatsoever for doing it. We say, the people listening-- there are some easy ones like that. If you're tempted to get the Porsche Boxster convertible, it could be covetousness, especially if you have six kids.

    [laughter]

    Gary: It's just a little hard that, Jim and Bob, when you come from that puritanical background where material goods are worldly and then the biblical teaching that's helping you make a decision. Normally, I hear it's like if you have peace about it. Buy that car if you have peace about it. You pray, and then if you have peace, then that's the Lord leading you.

    Coming from that puritanical background, I don't have peace about anything when it comes to buying, now my wife does. She'll go like, "Yes, let's buy it. You deserve it. We got the money in the bank." Is there any other way? Can you help me because peace is not going to do it for me? Is there any other way-- but I think I hear you saying good stewardship, like is it wise? Is that car going to put you in debt, or is it going to be within your means to make the monthly payment or whatever? Is that stewardship? Do you think of peace when you're making financial decisions?

    Jim: No.

    Gary: You don't. Wow. That's pretty rare. I think it is anyway.

    Jim: Outside of Pentecostal circles, maybe. In charismatic circles, maybe not. Let's take the other side of the Puritans’ teachings. They were very austere. The other thing that they said is this. They said that, “With no extraordinary revelation from God, no word from heaven, no sense of go to the left or go to the right, you can live your life perfectly before God with what's in the scripture.” The word of God is a guide to us, how to live our lives.

    It’s not going to tell you what color of car to buy, but there are lots of principles for us to rely on when making a decision. Let's say about a purchase. Start with Paul, "Whatever state I find myself here with to be content." First of all, are you content with what you have and is it fine? Follow Paul's principle, "Yes, my car works. The house is fine." Let it go. Just give up. Just let go all this stuff like, "I need a better house. I need a better car." Just let it go. Don't think about materialism.

    This is the time to be spiritual. Think about your kids. Think about your family. Think about your church. Think about the poor. If the house is fine, the car is fine, just leave it go. Just don't obsess about the things of this world. That's a principle that's taught to us in the Word of God. We don't need extraordinary spiritual revelation to know that.

    The next thing, Bible teaches us not to be a debtor. Do I have to go in debt to do this? If the old car is fine, I have to go into debt to get the new car? Don't do it. The Bible literally tells you not to get that car because it says don't go into debt and to be content with the one that you have. You could just go on and on. There are so many principles like that in the Bible. I'm just picking a couple of them that are great examples so we can live by the word of God without fear of making a mistake because we don't have a spiritual leading, peace or check or some other thing. Word of God is enough.

    Bob: I go some other principles that you mentioned in your book, investments. What are our principles regarding investment of our money?

    Jim: That's a hard gear shift.

    [laughter]

    Bob: That Boxter should be able to handle.

    [laughter]

    Jim: When we talk about investments, the first thing is, yes. That's the first thing that we have to say about--

    Gary: Yes, invest?

    Jim: Yes. Right, invest. Saving, investing. How many examples in the Bible, starting with the parable we talked about the talents? The guy that buried it and didn't do well with it, with what he had, was punished. Literally, not just like, "Okay, you weren't rewarded." He was actually chastised for not doing good with what he had. The first answer to the question is, yes, that every Christian should be saving and investing for the future and should be doing their very best in principle to make it grow. Doesn’t mean you have to take extraordinary risk? It doesn't mean you have to make unwise decisions, and there're biblical principles around that too, but everybody should be doing that.

    For the people are listening, that might represent 50%, 60%, 70%, 80% of the people listening just to get a start. It's important to just get a start on these types of things.

    Gary: Just keeping on the theme of practical. Let's draw a scenario. There's a husband, father, he makes, let's say, $60,000 a year and comes to you and says, "I have no savings. I'm a little bit in debt. Do you have some recommendations to help me be a good steward?" In a real practical sense, what would you say? Would you have them by a little bit of a mutual fund or how much percentage would you ask him to save? Do you mind going a little bit in detail on that?

    Jim: If you'll indulge me the preamble. 25 years ago, people started asking this advice of me and I thought, "Man, I have so much wisdom I can share on these practical advice that I'm going to really change people's lives." I found that it changed nobody's life because--

    Gary: Oh, yes. The externals.

    Jim: -- it really was the spiritual. I can give them practical advice and they can't do it because the heart isn't right. My preamble will just be yes, they got to deal with what we're talking about first. Faith, family, fitness, and then the finance comes automatic. Now to the point of the practical--

    Gary: Hold onto that thought about the practical but let me just echo what you just said there because I talk a lot about this from the pastor's point of view in the counseling office 40 years of pastoring people that come in office that are in financial problems. It's really not the finances. It's something else and so, you've got to get to that--

    Jim: 100% of the time.

    Gary: Yes. I have to- and you do as well. You have to get to say, "Okay, what's driving those spending habits?" Again, I go to the soul issues of, if you feel like you're not enough, if you feel you aren't big and brash, and bold enough, you're going to go out and spend to try to prove that you are and you'll make some bad-- out of that soul wound, you'll always make bad decisions. I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to confirm. I think my experience would say exactly the same thing, 100% of people-- I wouldn't say 100 to be honest with that because--

    [laughter]

    Gary: Occasionally, you get the person--

    Jim: 99.9.

    Gary: Single mom with five kids and her husband abandoned them and so she's in debt. I wouldn't say, “Well, you have soul issues,” but even then, there's some ways of getting help. Yes. I'm rambling--[crosstalk]

    Jim: No, it's okay. Poverty is an exception, number one. What's funny is this podcast could be listened to all around the world. In American society, true poverty is not that common. People can find a way out of their circumstances in a relatively short order. That widow is going to face difficulty. Yes, indeed. We should be there for them. If we're talking to somebody in another country, the further from here, you go east, that may be true. That those circumstances are truly what's responsible for their situation and not covetousness. We acknowledge that. We're talking very much here, this type of conversation to the western culture person, that mass affluent, middle class that's working through these issues. That's the first thing.

    The next is, why did-- You were talking about linking self-worth with materialism and money. I think that is a very good link. Think about how God wrote the Commandment. Covet not thy neighbor's horse or wife or house or whatever, because what he's saying is that self-worth is connected with the pecking order. You live in this village, you live in this town, you live in this neighborhood, you live in this community. You look around and they're doing better than you and what does that you feel less as a person because you see somebody doing better than you. Therefore, you need to feel like you have to move up the pecking order. That's why you need the house, that's why you need the car, that's why you need the clothes, jewelry, whatever it is. It's to find your place in the pecking order. Nobody wants to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

    Gary: Bob and I've talked about that before where the external, the sin is the fruit but there is a root. You’re talking about self-worth, of the root of the healing need inside, the fruit is you're being covetous. The answer to covetousness is not don't be covetous. That's what the Bible says, but there is power in the gospel that gives you that and so it's not just like, again, I call it bootstrapping, like, "I'm not going to covet. I'm going to close my eyes."

    It's getting that contentment inside of you so that once I'm content, I see that they have a different car than I have. It's like, I'm more content with as you said being content with my car, it runs good, it gets me to work. There is a contentment of peace about it so that I don't need to covet then whereas if there is that lack of understanding worth as you're calling it, then I agree with that.

    Then it's almost impossible not to covet and so you're dealing with covetousness as an issue but then you're dealing with worth as an issue.

    Jim: Inescapable.

    Gary: The two have to be dealt with. Who'd have thought we'd be invited here to come and talk about finances and we're talking about the self-worth? I love what you're saying, it's so linked.

    Jim: Bob, rightly brought up the topic of origin, purpose, and meaning earlier and so self-worth is connected to those things. Origin, the imago dei the Image of God, we are created by God in his image, and we therefore by the sheer fact of our existence, we have inestimable worth because we're created in God's image. Before we’re even redeemed, we have value as humans because God made us, created us for a purpose.

    Once redeemed, now the purpose, God has a purpose for your life, and he's expressing that. The reason that people are often not content, Gary, is that they don't realize that, right where they are today—whoever is listening, wherever you are, you've got some bills, you're making X number of dollars a year—you are precisely where God wants you today because you're there. God loves you. He has his hand on you. He's been directing your steps every day of your life, and you are where you are because he wants you there.

    Guess what? He has extraordinary and beautiful things for you tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Be content in the today.

    Gary: You keep digging deeper, don't covet. Why am I coveting? Because I'm not content. Be content then. How do you be content? There is something even under that. Asking ourselves the question, why am I discontented? What is driving this discontent and it goes against to the worth? You then go, why don't I feel worthy? It's like, I don't believe exactly-- the lack of worth is not believing what you just said that you were created in God's image. That you have value and I always say this, it's one thing to believe God loves you, but it's another thing to accept yourself and have compassion and tenderness and have the same kind of mercy you have on yourself as you have to others.

    Most people that are even in debt and struggling financially, would say somebody else in debt and financially struggling are-- they're valuable human beings that God loves, but if they ask about, am I that? No, I'm so guilty, I'm so ashamed, I've spent poorly. The debt that you created by not being content actually makes you more discontented and then more anxious and needing to get more money to do that. It's a vicious cycle that you have to-- I actually call it detox.

    There are things in my life that are off-kilter from the values that I have. Sometimes I do a 10-day detox on food when I start returning to the poor values of eating poorly. I'm not living my values. Healthy living creates a powerful energy and engine in me to be able to do what God's called me to do. I'm off value so I have to change the values. I think people have to not get stuck in the cycle and change the values and saying, "I value contentment but how am I going to find it?" That's so powerful.

    I would have thought you would have come here and said, "Invest in this, and here is a good stock." When we first started talking, I was little bit like, "Hey Jim, can you give us a little more tips about helping the listeners’ finances?" I think you were really onto something. I'm so glad you've kept the conversation as Jesus did towards the heart issue.

    At first, I was a little bit like, "Jim you're just talking about Jesus and the heart." Now after this conversation, I'm going like "Oh, you have really helped people," because if they get those two things and this is what you're saying, right? They get Jesus right and their own heart right, then these things you'll start having wisdom, contentment breeds wisdom. You can start making some wise decisions. You'll probably pick up a good book or something and go to a financial advisor like the company you have and be able to get that kind of wisdom.

    At those places, the financial book about how to invest, or how to save or how to stay out of debt or the financial advisor that you might go visit, they're not going to tell you about your heart issues. Out of the heart springs the issues of life. Finances is one of those issues so I'm really glad you're talking about the heart issues.

    Jim: It becomes the 80-20 rule.

    Gary: What's that? What's the 80-20 rule?

    Jim: 80-20 rule, I guess isn’t self-evident. For every 100 people that you talk to, only 20 are going to take the good advice. The 80 are going to continue in the err of their ways and the 20 will get it.

    Gary: Got you.

    Jim: 80-20 rule is that I can give the practical tips. I can tell you exactly what investment to buy, don't buy and what quantities for your age and all of those things. It's useless information to the unredeemed heart. You have to get these things in order. If we're talking about the entrepreneur majority 80-20 rule, 80% of the businesses fail when people start them. Why do they fail? Other than really horrible business ideas, they mostly fail because of their lack of character in the individual.

    Give you a great example. Not far from here there was a coffee shop and I would pass by it every day in the morning and then in the afternoon coming back. I'd go in the afternoon coming back, pick up the kids the place was packed. It was obviously good coffee and good snacks or whatever else they had in there. In the morning, I'd drive by 6:00 something in the morning, the place was closed. I laughed to myself thinking, this is some person who had a great idea for the business. Obviously great because people pack it in the afternoon, but didn't have the depth of character to wake up in the morning and open the place up so they could serve coffee to the people in the morning.

    That's a very simple illustration that businesses fail. Your efforts today, people who are listening, you're frustrated by your efforts because you say, "I'm trying with money," but those efforts are frustrated because of that character because of that absence of some things here in your life. When those things get right, they're expressed in making good decisions. From that depth of character that Jesus is working in us we make the right decisions. To that man or that woman, you can't escape wealth, it will follow you.

    Bob: I guess we could let Timothy to wrap it up with, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

    Jim: Exactly. Perfect.

    Gary: Good capstone, yeah.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • Should Christians feel guilty about being wealthy?
    • What is the middle ground between intentionally living as a pauper and following the hyper prosperity movement?
    • How can we make sure our heart is in the right place when making large purchases?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    If you live your life with radical generosity and love, that makes you a good steward. Then God's going to give you more. What you do with it determines the next level. It's impossible to hide covetousness and greed. The moment you start exercising it, God finds you out, and He caps you and you have to learn the lesson or you don't keep moving. – Jim Palumbo

    Every Christian should be saving and investing for the future and should be doing their very best, in principle, to make it grow. Doesn’t mean you have to take extraordinary risk. It doesn't mean you have to make unwise decisions, and there're biblical principles around that too, but everybody should be doing that. – Jim Palumbo

    The debt that you created by not being content actually makes you more discontented and then more anxious and needing to get more money. It's a vicious cycle. – Gary Wilkerson

    I can tell you exactly what investment to buy, don't buy and what quantities for your age and all of those things. It's useless information to the unredeemed heart. – Jim Palumbo

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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  • Pastor, You Don't Have to Hide Your Hurts

    In the wake of Jarrid Wilson’s death, it is more important than ever to be aware of mental illness and spiritual attack, particularly for pastors. In response, Gary Wilkerson discusses the unique nature of depression for church leaders. He also opens up about how people in the church can help their pastors.

    In the wake of Jarrid Wilson’s death, it is more important than ever to be aware of mental illness and spiritual attack, particularly for pastors. In response, Gary Wilkerson discusses the unique nature of depression for church leaders. He also opens up about how people in the church can help their pastors.

    Bob: Well, welcome to another Gary Wilkerson Podcast. A special podcast today we're doing it from Gary's home.

    Bob: We're going to do a follow up of a previous podcast where we talked about depression; suicide as a general topic. More specifically, pastors and suicide.

    Bob: It got a lot of reaction from our viewers and our listeners and many of them wrote in, in fact, was one of the topics that got the most response on our social media sites. Some people asking questions, some people making comments about what you said what we talked about. I want to go through a few of those and have you answer them, answer the questions and respond to some of the comments that were made since it got such a great reaction from our viewers and listeners.

    Bob: Ivan asked God or actually makes the statement, God can heal the mind and bring peace. We talked in the first podcast about those who have a physiological problem that you probably do need to seek some medical help. Let's take those who are more spiritually depressed and emotionally depressed. God can heal them, can't He?

    Gary: Yes, absolutely. This sounds terrible, but I think the reason that not all pastors, being what they've gone through, have committed suicide, I don't mean to be glib about that, but they're in some deep stuff and some painful stuff. When it's not the accusations and stuff I was talking about, the role of a pastor is unlike any other vocation in the world because the paramedic is there during the accident while the pastor walks alongside them too.

    The funeral home director takes care of the death of the family member. The doctor takes care of the cancer patient. The teacher educates the one with the learning disability. The pastor is there for all that. He's hearing all of the family suffering. He's hearing all the divorces. He's hearing… and so he or she is exposed to the depths of human suffering, unlike any other profession. It's like without the grace of God, probably every pastor would have been depressed, would have quit, would have given up, would have committed suicide.

    I believe it is the healing power of God that has kept 99.999% of us from clinical severe depression. Maybe more have given up and changed careers when they really didn't need to but just couldn't receive that kind of love from God that they need to. Certainly, yes, absolutely, God can heal. It's not even a question that needs to be discussed. I've seen him heal. I've prayed for people and seen them healed.

    I met a man in Europe who had been at one of our meetings the year before, and the next year he came back and said, "I came here. I was going to kill myself but the conference changed my life." That's the miracle he's it's talking about. On the other hand, God can heal cancer, and yet people die of cancer. He can save marriages and reconcile marriages, but a lot of marriages end up in divorce, even if the wife has been praying for 10 years to reconcile the marriage.

    If you can answer that, you've got, besides the Bible, the bestselling book ever written, then the most important sermon ever preached, why are some people healed and some people are not? I honestly don't know the answer to that. I don't know, and somebody can enlighten me on that. Just as long as your answer is not some sort of tin can platitude of—

    Bob: There are plenty of those around.

    Gary: Yes, but a real deep, meaningful sense to this would be important. Yes, God can heal, but the reality is He either doesn't or there's a bigger purpose that we don't know, or we're not receiving it the right way, whatever it is, it doesn't always happen. When it doesn't happen, it causes pain, it causes hardship, and it causes sometimes to do that, but it's something that I talk about a lot.

    I think we've already talked about this in one of our podcasts before, how I have taken great joy and delight in redefining certain phrases that we throw out. Abundant life means I got a big house, a nice car, and my family's always happy. I never have cancer and I never get in a car wreck, and 4.0 student and all that kind of stuff. If you define abundant life that way, then you don't have abundant life because you're not going to get that.

    Even Jesus didn't have it, but if you define abundant life as being you can press through those painful circumstances and still be joyful and still be content, and still have life inside of you. That is abundant life. The opposite of abundance, the word is scarcity. Scarcity tends to get people to be fearful. The opposite of abundant life is a fearful life. What if the circumstances don't work out? Well, where abundant life is, I don't care if--I care, but that's not my highest priority.

    It's making sure all my circumstances, "God, you better make sure all of my circumstances of life are storm free, problem free. If not, you're not a good God and you're not keeping your promises." That's a false view of abundant life. The true view of abundant life is, in the midst of this, there's no scarcity. I have abundance of peace, I have abundance of joy, even I have-- Now, that scarcity is the opposite of generosity.

    I can give to other people, even-- That's when you see-- I think the deepest people you see, the deepest, real spiritual people are not those who can quote scripture a lot. That real deepest people are, and you've seen this before, they've been through such pain. Their stories are like, "You endured that and yet you're more concerned about me. You're other-centered. You have a grace about you, a generosity about you.” Those are the people I love being around, that they have endured.

    Not the person that, I've heard it said before, there's a person who shouts the coordinates down from the mountaintop like, "I'm up here and here's how I got here. You can come up here too if you follow my 10-step program and pay $49 for my 12-point thing and buy my book. I'm shouting my coordinates from the mountaintop." Whereas the people we tend to learn from are those who are on the edge, the precipice of the abyss.

    They're right on the edge but they're not jumping. They look into that and they've survived, and not only survived but now they're thriving. They're giving something away that is not, "Look at me, how great I am on the mountaintop," but, "Let me share in your suffering. I know how to walk alongside of you, and I know how to speak in your life." There's a depth about them, and that to me is abundant life.

    That may be why some are healed and some are not because the abundant life is not everybody being healed. The abundant life is not everybody having the perfect marriage and the abundant life is not everybody being rich. The abundant life is when you don't have that and you're still generous, you're still God-fearing, and you're still loving, then you have a deeper-- You've exchanged life. You gave up the corrupt American materialistic mentality of, "I want to achieve more and be successful and famous and rich and sexy. I want all these things." You give that up, you tear that down. You're willing to replace it with, "I'm content, I have joy, I have life, I have abundance, I have peace, I have grace, I have forgiveness, I have kindness and--"

    Bob: No matter the circumstances.

    Gary: Yes, no matter the circumstances. In our culture today, wouldn't you say, hands down, it's like this one, success, fame, fortune, a huge following, that's what we should aspire to. God will help you get there. Follow God, he's the best way to get to the mountaintop. Even if people achieve that, that's why they're still unhappy. It's never enough like, "Okay, I got to this mountaintop. I got to get to that one because that's not making me happy.

    I still feel like a failure. I still feel like I'm not enough. Whereas this person here is-- I think that's what Jesus meant when He said die to yourself. He didn't mean die to love or die to grace or die to a godly ambition that wants to extend love to a hurting world. He didn't mean die to that. He meant die to the self-built construct of our life that is based on a world system and exchange it. That's the thing, you'll never get rid of the old until you see a better alternative. For most of us, we don't see-- okay, gosh, this is hard to say, but I was reading something the other day that said, "Would you rather be a good father or a great success in your field of labor?" If I'm honest, I tend towards the great success.

    Bob: We think if we're a great success, we'd be a good father. We'll take care of that in the backend, right?

    Gary: Yes, but I don't know if that's what they're meaning. I think they're meaning he could be only one or the other. I know what I'm supposed to say and the good moral Christian that I am wants to be a good father, but when I look back to my history of my life, I think I've proven the opposite, that the career and the calling and the so-called work for God, I think the thing that I struggle most when I look back at my relationship with my own father was that for large portions, large chunks, he chose-- not God over us, I wouldn't mind that because you've got do that, but chose the vocational career of ministry.

    Even though it's ministry-- The problem with that is when you're a child, you can't accuse that. If your dad is out there and he's running some corporation, you're like, "That corporation is more important than me? No way, dad. You've got to give me your attention." If it's ministry, you feel guilty if you come against that.

    Bob:  Once again, it's a good thing that we have taken in the wrong direction.

    Gary: There's nothing wrong with being successful in your career and wanting to be really good at what you do, and these guys here are amazing, right? If you had to choose between a good father and being great at your career, you got to choose being a good father because, during that season of your kid's life, that's your greatest vocation. Your kids know it if it's not, you can tell them that and you can try to -- I remember times where my dad would take me for a bike ride when he came home from work. I'd think, "What a great bonding time," and his mind would be like—

    Bob: He's somewhere else.

    Gary: Yes, he's somewhere else. That hurts as well. This idea of what you value, you've got to value life, and especially exchanging the success syndrome of the American dream. Exchanging that for these really much more meaningful things, but most people can't be convinced that this compassion is more meaningful than success, or grace, whether it be extended towards others or towards yourself, is a much more meaningful way to live your life than being affluent or popular.

    But we live in a culture that constantly, the whole-- if you watch TV, everything you hear on the TV is, "You're not enough. Buy my product and you'll be enough." That is the American corporate ladder, success ladder, or fame ladder that totally goes against the whole gospel is being, "That stuff, it's okay. You need some of it in your life." It doesn't hurt to have a little bit of applause and a pat on the back, but what you really want is His grace and compassion and mercy and kindness, but those things are not.

    Occasionally, you'll hear a sermon series at church on them and stuff like that, but more-- would you agree with this? We're more likely to hear how to have a good marriage, how to choose your right career, how to financially be sound and secure.

    Bob: We want to be a success in everything we do. Even the churches want to be a success. As you've mentioned, if the numbers aren't there, then you're a failure. We especially see it now in the era of megachurches and the rest that's going on, that's just what everybody's after. This is just a different version of it.

    Gary: Then those mega-churches, gosh--and I'll put myself in that category too. I was in the deception of, "I'm not good enough, but when my church gets to be 2,000, that's the number that makes you a mega church. We were right on the edge of getting to be almost 2,000 members. I remember thinking like, "I can't wait. If we can get a couple more hundred people in the church, then I'll be a pastor of a mega church.

    Then I can go to the meetings and say, yes, I'm a pastor of a mega church." It doesn't mean anything.

    Megachurches, I'm not into all that. I'm lying. I actually was and probably still am to some degree. You're not only ministering to try to fill your own needs, but you're attracting people who are just like you. I'm coming to church because you're a guy who can speak to the issue of, "What do you do to get your needs met?"

    I'm not talking about the need to love and to have grace. That's an appropriate spiritual hunger. One's a spiritual hunger and the other is of carnal hunger. The carnal hungry is, "Pastor, would you teach me how to become more successful? Now, how do I pray? I'm in this house but I want that house. Can you teach me how to pray?"

    Bob: Even Jabez has a prayer [laughs].

    Gary: Yes, right. I heard somebody say if one of the first things that God will say to the author of Prayer of Jabez is like, "Where did you get all that?"

    [laughter]

    Gary: That was a lot for just that one little sentence.

    Bob: Yes, I understand what you're saying. Alfred brings up a point with this then. He asked the question of these pastors, can't he resign? I guess the underlying question there is, should he resign? Should a pastor going through depression that is so severe that he's considering this, should he step out?

    Gary: Yes, I think so. I think you need to get diagnosed medically if you're in clinical depression. If you're not medically in a place where you're given the green light like, "Okay, you're safe. You're dealing with depression, you're dealing with suicidal thoughts, but you're managing it and you're getting the right soul care internally yourself, and externally through community and through counsel, so you're safe," but if you're fresh into it and you haven't been going through the process of understanding what you have, why you have it, maybe some strategies, how to live in the midst of it, and then maybe even, Lord willing, as we talked about earlier, the healing part of it and how to come out of it.

    During that process, if you're doing all that we talked about, like you're getting those critical emails and you're self-critical, and the next Sunday sermon is going to be… Can you imagine being self-critical, and depressed, and you get up and you preach, you've just poured your gut out to people and you leave and just feel miserable, and then you get an email like, "What's wrong with you?" I think you are setting yourself up for greater soul damage to stay in the ministry at that point.

    But I think, again, a lot of people do it because they don't know what else to do. They don't know if they have the finances to be able to do that. I wish there was a ministry. Maybe there's one out there and they could send in some information about how a pastor could be provided for for a season while they take a sabbatical. Again, most churches are under 200 people in America, and so they can't afford to pay a year salary while a pastor is maybe on a sabbatical getting the care that they need.

    But I would recommend if possible, and this is maybe me on a mountaintop sending my coordinates down how to get there, but even if you had to work at 7-11 or something like that, and I'm not putting that job down, it's a good work that somebody is doing, but if you had to do something different that maybe don't pay as much but less demanding and give you time for the soul care, for the community that you need to build, and going into counseling, then that'd be good.

    Because my kids have struggled with addiction before, I've been to a group called-- What's it called? Al-Anon. It's for the family members of those who have addictions. I love being there. I know people say like, "You shouldn't go to that because it's not Christian." It's not anti-Christian either, but I go there because it's anonymous, and so no one knows I'm a pastor or a Christian or a leader. I go there. The anonymity, it's so cool because it's like I can say what I want without a filter. I can be who I am. Isn’t that sad that a lot of pastors can't. You can't do that in a small men's ministry. Men in the group can, and the pastor can hear that like, "I'm so sorry, you're hurting," but the pastor can't say, "My wife is..."

    I say all that to say, if a pastor is listening to this and you're dealing with some issues: an addiction or pain, or an internal suffering that is beyond your capacity to move beyond and it's getting to be depression and maybe suicidal thoughts is getting counseling. Get a group like that, something outside your own church, a therapy group for people that are suffering with depression. Go in anonymously and talk, and you'll be able to say things that-- I walk away from those meetings just feeling like-- and it felt really good to say what I had to say, but also felt good to hear what other people, their stories, like "Okay, I'm not in this alone."

    Bob: You're not trying to hide anything anymore.

    Gary: Yes. We need to say that to pastors who are depressed and maybe even thinking of suicide, "You're not alone. You're not one in a billion. There's other men and women out there like you because of the pain you've been through and because of the hardship. Because you're doing so good dealing with people who are hurting all around you and you're so compassionate, it's just causing you to hurt in ways that maybe it had become unmanageable to you. Again, that's where you put your own oxygen mask on.

    Bob: Yes, before you help the person next to you.

    Gary: Right, yes. A lot of these pastor's conference we do, we'll give-- Remember I talked about the altar call? A good response. If we're talking about a particular issue, a lot of pastors come to the front and the expectation would be, "Pray for me," I was like, "Yes, I'm dealing with that issue." Maybe I'm going to say I’m preaching on anger for instance, might have a pastor come forward. "I can't. I've been dealing with anger, anger at my congregation and maybe even a little bit angry at God. Pray for me."

    Oftentimes, it's not like that. It's like the guy falls on his face and weeps and sobs, and you're looking at him like, "What did I say?" It's so much aloneness, so much loneliness, so much having not dealt with issues that it comes-- It doesn't come out like a tear. It comes out as-- gushes out or a cry of anguish.

    It says to me, it's like, "Okay, there's some stuff that--" instead of going to the revival, this is the long haul, this is the long journey over a long period of time of healing and growing and processing.

    I would recommend you find some books about healing of the soul, of caring for your soul, of things that feed you. There comes a time, you have to put down the leadership books, as good as they are, and the how-to books and the church growth books, and just feed your own soul.

    Bob: Gary, why don’t we finish up with this one, it came from a Pastor Roy Kerr who I guess you know.

    Gary: If it's the same one, from Ireland. Used to head up Teen Challenge in Ireland, a good friend of mine if that's you—

    Bob: Here's what he asks. He says, "Gary, what's being done to support these pastors?"

    Gary: Well, the little bit we can do, and it feels very little, and I guard my heart to not be that kind of person that bleeds all over the world and feels like I have to fix every problem. My little bit is, it's my bread and loaves. I think that's the best anybody can do is just say, "I can't care for the souls of all these men and women, but I can sure try to do that." We do with these pastors conferences that I was talking about.

    One of the other questions that we didn't go into that I noticed you mentioned before that we didn't talk about is like the five-fold gifts of ministry. That's a way you can intentionally help yourself by having other people-- Even if you're in a small church, you don't have to be a one-man show. You can ask for help. There was a church in Kenya we were at last month or two months ago, and it's a church of maybe 10,000 people and they only have one staff member, the pastor. Everybody else is a volunteer.

    The place is run better than any organization I've ever seen here in American, powerful, because the people just know their calling and their giftedness. You can have a church even if you have not a lot of money by willingly giving up some of the power and control. Some people are harming themselves because they are under such a need to control everything. You’ve seen that before, right? Pastors who like-- they say the Catholic Church.

    Bob: My Dad was one of those. He just did it all himself.

    Gary: He was in radio ministry, right?

    Bob: He was a pastor and [crosstalk].

    Gary: He's a pastor? Okay.

    Bob: He was in pastorate, then he was in radio, went back to the pastorate, just did everything himself and it took its toll on him.

    Gary: What did you think of that when you watch him do that?

    Bob: Fortunately, it wasn't a young child when he did this. He did it after I was an adult, but I could see it from afar and see how it would tear him up, see how he would take everything so personally because he dealt with everything, and any criticism came his way, he'd lived and died it every day. It was just hard to watch. He just needed more people around him, but he was not willing to ask help from that generation. You don't ask for help. You didn't want help. They can, but I'll do it. They don't do it, I'll do it.

    Gary: It hurts us to do that and it hurts the people that were meant to be doing that position that we're filling, that God had called them to do. If they have a particular gift and you're feeling, "I'm the only person who can do that," if they have the gift of service but you feel like you have to go out and be at every hospital visit yourself. That doesn't necessarily answer the question directly because that's that pastor's job to gather around them the kind of people with the five-fold or all the gifts of the body, not just five, but we could maybe recommend that more if we see a pastor hurting.

    That's when we could reach out and help just by saying like, "If you're in that church, maybe be a little bit more not selfishly looking for a position, 'like I should be the Sunday school teacher or head of the men's ministry,'" that's corruption as well, but offering like, "I'm here to help," and maybe being honest with your pastor like, "Can we talk about this? It seems like you're doing a lot of stuff. How are you feeling about that?"

    See if you can help a little bit. That's the way people in the church could help. There are ministries that are out there specifically designed for pastors to get help. Maybe I can do a little bit of research and get a couple of names. I have one that I actually want to be on this podcast, a really close friend of mine, Pastor Doug Wellborn. He's involved in a ministry that exists. There's several. I don't know, there's several, at least a handful of their leadership that go all over the country.

    When I was going through a hard time, he actually flew here without me asking and just spent three days with me. I don't know if he can do that for everybody that's listening to this podcast who needs help, but that ministry can help. We'll put his name and some of the contacts for that ministry in the notes.

    Bob: We'll do that. Great. Well, I would hope those listening that aren't pastors would get from this program that you could probably do a lot yourself, as you pointed out, if you see a need in the church. I know it's harder with mega churches. It's harder to find a place and find things to do but perhaps look for ways that you might help relieve the pastor from some of the burden he's under and just understand that he has issues just as you do and that he needs help as well. Be compassionate, show them some grace, and help out wherever you can.

    Well, Gary, thank you for the answers on these. I like this. Hopefully, we'll get some more questions on topics, hear what the listeners are thinking and the viewers. A reminder to those listening and watching, if there's something that you've wondered about, have a question about, or something that we've touched on and you have questions about, send them in.

    Key Questions from the Podcast

    • Can God heal depression?
    • How should pastors and church leaders truly measure success?
    • Should pastors who are struggling with depression and suicide resign?
    • What can we do to support pastors who are hurting?

    Notable Quotes from the Podcast

    Pastors are exposed to the depths of human suffering unlike any other profession.…without the grace of God, probably every pastor would have been depressed, quit, given up, committed suicide. I believe it is the healing power of God that has kept 99.999% of us from clinical severe depression. – Gary Wilkerson

    Exchanging the success syndrome of the American dream for these really much more meaningful things, but most people can't be convinced that compassion is more meaningful than success, or grace, whether it be extended towards others or towards yourself, is a much more meaningful way to live your life than being affluent or popular. – Gary Wilkerson

    We need to say to pastors who are depressed and maybe even thinking of suicide, "You're not alone. There's other men and women out there like you, because of the pain you've been through and because of the hardship. You're doing so good at dealing with people who are hurting all around you and you're so compassionate, it's just causing you to hurt in ways that maybe it have become unmanageable to you.” – Gary Wilkerson

    I would recommend pastors find some books about healing of the soul, of caring for your soul, of things that feed you. There comes a time when you have to put down the leadership books, as good as they are, and the how-to books and the church growth books, and just feed your own soul. – Gary Wilkerson

    Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

    About Gary Wilkerson

    Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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