Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I Am So Grateful for God's Transformational Power

Every Thanksgiving I like to express my gratefulness for being in a ministry where I get to observe God's transforming power.

On this Thanksgiving, I tell you Jim's story, with his permission, because it illustrates why Kingdom focus is so important for every Christian.

Church is who we are, not what we do. 

The Lord calls us to be transformational, not comfortable.

Salt and light, that's who we are. Good News, that's what we share.

Yet, too often, we pastors are more interested in pleasing people and making budgets than we are in pleasing God and making disciples.

It was ten years ago that Jim first came to see me at Emmanuel Enid.

Jim told me he didn't wish to live. He wanted to die. Every day he'd get out of bed and tell his wife, "Today's the day I'm going to kill myself."  

His threats were real. 

Jim had attempted suicide seven times. When you know his story, you understand why. He only came to see me at the request of his wife.

Jim recounted his life for me at that first meeting. 

He was beaten by his mother beginning at the age of 3. Not spanked; beaten. The physical abuse intensified over the years.

At age 12, after his mother caught him at an R-rated movie, Jim was told to remove his pants and underwear and bend over the kitchen counter. 

His mother removed Jim's metal three-pronged belt from his pants, and she proceeded to beat him with the metal end on his bare buttocks.

She told Jim she would keep beating him until he cried. "I'd been beaten so much by her I was determined to die before I cried," Jim told me.

The beating didn't stop until Jim's older sister finally intervened and grabbed the belt out their mother's hands. 

Enraged that her pre-puberty son had not yet cried, Jim's mother yelled, "You two clean up this mess."

It took more than an hour to clean Jim's spattered blood spots from the floors, countertops, and ceilings.

The physical abuse was nothing compared to the sexual abuse.

From age 8 to age 11, an older male cousin repeatedly sexually violated Jim. Unless you've experienced sexual abuse, it's difficult to imagine the soul-crushing agony. 

After the physical abuse in the kitchen, Jim's mother realized she could no longer control him through physical abuse. So Jim's mother began enticing him sexually.

It would be inappropriate for me to detail how Jim's mom sexually abused him, but Jim's psychosis began around the time he grappled with why his drug-addicted mother crossed over from inflicting physical pain to demanding sexual pleasure.

At the age of 13, Jim began to get in trouble with the law. The police arrested him for setting fires and other acts of vandalism. "I was arrested too many times to count," Jim told me.  

The fights were frequent and fierce. "I once put a boy in the ICU for bashing his head with a brick on our way home from school." Jim's anger was uncontrollable.

On those occasions he managed to suppress it and not express it, Jim plunged into deep depression. 

Jim turned to drugs and alcohol for relief but found none.

That's when he began to have actual mental breakdowns. "I've been institutionalized nine times. I've been diagnosed as bi-polar. All I know it's been difficult to even want to live." 

His suicide attempts were frequent and often the cause of his institutionalization.

Seven years ago, when I first heard Jim's story, my heart went out to him. Jim could barely look me in the eye. His voice was so quiet I strained to hear him.

I knew Jim was a wreck inside. I encouraged Jim as best I could. I recommended that Jim begin attending a new recovery program that Emmanuel Enid was beginning.

Jim did what I asked. He went to our new recovery program at Emmanuel. In a moment, I'll let Jim share in his own words how God transformed his life at Emmanuel Enid one Thursday night in 2009.

But first, fast forward with me to Thanksgiving week three years ago.

I went with Jim to a local mental health facility that Jim had been visiting every week.

Jim was no longer a patient at the facility. Jim went to minister to patients.

I listened as Jim shared his story of abuse, addiction, psychosis  and recovery through Jesus Christ to the patients in the mental health facility.

I watched the mental health patients listen intently as Jim shared his story. I mean, they really listened.

Jim captivated them with the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ. One man wore a shirt that said, "Nothing to fear, but the loss of beer." But in listening to these men as they conversed with Jim, I realized that they all feared so much more.

Many of them had been sexually abused like Jim. All of them faced addictions like Jim. These men connected with Jim because he was one of them; he was part of the walking wounded.

I too listened intently as Jim explained to the men in the mental health facility how he began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery program at my request.

It was there that Jim experienced God's transforming power. 

Four weeks into the recovery program, participants are asked to pick an accountability partner. The recovery leader at the time asked everyone to stand and look around and find someone to be their accountability partner.

Jim shared with the mental health patients what happened next:
"I ran to the bathroom and hid," Jim told enraptured mental health patients. "I did what I always did. I withdrew. I decided while sitting on the floor of that bathroom to take my life that night. I resolved to kill myself. I washed my face and walked out of the bathroom."
All the people listening to Jim tell his story weren't even blinking. Jim continued, "That's when I saw two men in Emmanuel's recovery program standing there in the hall. They had seen me go into the bathroom. They were waiting for me.
'Jim,' they said, 'We want you to be our accountability partner. We love you.' They hugged me. It's the first time I can remember anyone ever hugging me. 
I cried all the way home. I thought to myself, 'If these men actually loved me, then maybe God could love me too."
I went home and told my wife, 'Honey, I don't know what happened tonight, but something's changed. I think I experienced the love of God. That night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I surrendered everything to Him; my life; my hurts, my hang-ups, and my habits. My recovery began."
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Jim finished. 

Jim had touched them with his story.

As Jim was speaking, he looked his listeners in the eyes. As he shared, the hesitant, embarrassed man that was full of shame, the man I first met seven years earlier, was now gone.

God had transformed Jim. The Spirit of God now controlled him.

It was my privilege to pray with the mental health patients as we finished our time together. I couldn't help but get emotional as I prayed for Christ's power and love to transform these men's lives, just as He had transformed Jim's life.

The men all hugged Jim and me before we left.

As we were leaving the hospital I said, "Jim, it's absolutely amazing to see the impact you had on these men tonight. You are so totally transformed from the man I first talked to seven years ago."

Jim smiled and said, "We serve a very big God, don't we?"

As an adult, Jim didn't avoid the mom who'd inflicted so much pain. Christ gave him the power to love her, in spite of her sins. Jim's now aged mother recently sought forgiveness of Jim.

The power of God's grace in Jim has been seen in his ability to forgive.

When we walk the halls of the church building on Sundays, there are many people just like Jim who are walking with us.

They are unimpressed with outward appearances because everything inside them is falling apart.

I'm grateful to pastor a church who thinks about everything we do, with the primary focusing on being transformational rather than comfortable.

I'm grateful for friends like Jim who continually remind me that the grace of God makes us all "more than conquerors through Him who loves us."

I'm grateful that after four decades of vocational ministry, I'm finally learning that the measurement of a great ministry is the people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ, not the number of people who wish to be comfortable in their church. 

I'm grateful that Jim, who after ten years of his own recovery, now heads up our Thursday night recovery program at Emmanuel Enid.

I'm grateful that Jim continues his weekly ministry at our local behavioral health unit, and that we are seeing some of them beginning to come to Emmanuel Enid. 

I'm so grateful today for God's transformational power.

Don't give up on that person you love.

God is in the business of changing lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Bob Cleveland said...

I am SO thankful for the fact you state here. As a young person, I was a shy, insecure, high-strung introvert, with a poor self-image (not just my opinion, but confirmed by an Industrial Psychologist when in my 30's). And when I think of what God has done in me, my voice is not strong enough for the "AMEN" I want to shout.

andrew said...

Thank God for his transformational power to rescue people! Glad you told Jim's story as it gives hope for a broken world.

Anonymous said...

God’s transforming power is often communicated through human beings who truly love.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I've seen that sort of thing happen slowly, recovery mode as you detailed, and quickly in Wesleyan/holiness settings where someone experienced "the shorter way" to entire sanctification, as they term it. Either way to see a heart completely remade is beautiful!

Unfortunately many in the "recovery mode" today do not reach out to God for that heart change, but rather simply to psychology. I have not personally ever seen that be as successful, but your mileage may vary.


Victorious said...

There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Jim finished.

Jim had touched them with his story.

Aptly describes how I felt upon reading Jim's story.

Jim, thank you for allowing Wade to share your testimony. I, too, have experienced God's transforming power and like you am forever changed and grateful for His love.

I'm sending virtual hugs and appreciation to both you and Wade for this truly inspirational story.

Mary Ann

Cindy Meyers said...

Wow..that was powerful..made me cry..I'm so glad Jim's wife knew just the right one to send her husband to and that Jim trusted her enough to go..God was in it all the way! What Love! I'm grateful for this blog! Happy Thanksgiving to you, Wade and your WHOLE family!!

Rex Ray said...


As I was reading, I thought how blessed we were to have parents that loved us. I couldn’t keep tears away in reading Jim’s story. Instead of the birth of a butterfly, I visualized Jesus touching a man lying in filth to be washed clean as an angel.

Christiane said...

"The LORD . . . heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
(from Psalm 147)

a beautiful witness to the power of Christ

Christiane said...

words from a hymn by Charles Wesley for Jim and the many others who has suffered much:

. . . Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.. . . "

Chris said...

I never heard this side of Jim and now I see why he came to your mind during our meeting about recovery pastors.

Jim should DEFINITELY be Emmanuel's Recovery Pastor. (personal opinion of course)

Rex Ray said...

We got whipped by hand on the bottom with our clothes on. My worst was when I wouldn’t stop crying after mother whipped me. She said, “You’re not hurting, but trying to punish me; I’m going to give you something to cry about.”

I wish our father would whip us, but he never did. Instead, he’d give us a ‘talking to’ that felt worse.

Gerald was my ‘best man’ when Judy and I got married. Once, I told his mother that she’d hadn’t whipped him enough when he was growing up.

She replied, “Didn’t whip him enough? I whipped him on his wedding day!”

Gerald told me later, that she had said, “You’re never too old to sass me! Go get a limb off that tree and bring it here!” He obeyed, but every time she swung at his legs, he would jump over the limb. Finally, they both got to laughing.