I have co-written two nonfiction books: Be Intolerant with Ryan Dobson and Say Goodbye to Stubborn Sin with Clark Gerhart, M.D.
This was a fun project. Multnomah Publishers was working with Ryan Dobson, son of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, on this project and needed a co-writer.
Ryan was great to work with and this slim book turned out very well. It contains an analogy (at the beginning of chapter 5) that is so powerful that it's my favorite of any I've ever put in a book.
Thanks largely to Ryan's name and publicity efforts, this book has sold over 93,000 copies, by far the best-selling book I've ever been part of as a writer.
And Jesus said unto His disciples, “Go into all the world, teaching all men to live any way they want, and urging each to find his or her own path to God. Let not any one of you make someone feel inferior or victimized because of your beliefs. Above all, be tolerant. Verily, verily, I say unto you that what you believe and how you live do not matter, so long as you are sincere.”
Leaving that place, Jesus led His disciples to Jerusalem where they broke bread at Club Upper Room. There He addressed them again, saying, “I am one of the ways, one of the truths, and just one possible life. If you are basically a good person, you’re okay in my book. And if you choose to come to the Father (or Mother, if you prefer) through Me, that’s cool. Now go forth to live according to whatever feels good to you.”
And there was much rejoicing.
Which Bible Version Was That?
I promise you won’t find that passage of Scripture in any Bible translation. But there are plenty of people today who live as if that’s exactly how the Bible does read.
In the twenty-first century, everybody wants to be cool with everybody else. Nobody wants to offend others or be thought of as narrow-minded or intolerant. Ours is a live-and-let-live world.
It’s tough to be a Christian in that kind of culture, isn’t it? You want to follow Jesus. You want your friends to know about Him, too. But whenever you start talking about the Bible and what’s right and wrong, everyone jumps up and calls you a judgmental bigot. After all, who are you to say what’s right or wrong?
And so you keep your mouth shut.
Or maybe you’re the kind of Christian who just wants to get along. Jesus promoted a life of peace, right? You’re wondering why you can’t love Jesus and the next guy love Buddha. The problem with that is you don’t fit in with some of your friends because you say you love Jesus—doesn’t that name just freak people out?—yet you also don’t seem to fit in with the crowd at church.
If you can relate to what I’m saying, then this book is for you. I wrote it for young people who feel pulled apart by two powerful forces—God and the rest of the world.
“Hello, My Name Is Ryan, and I’m a Speed Freak”
Now before you start hanging with me in this book, you’d better know a few things.
The first thing you should know is that I like speed. Whether I’m on my surfboard in the head-high California surf or dropping in with my skateboard on a twelve-foot vert ramp, I can’t get enough of the stuff. My friends tell me I get this crazed look in my eye when I’m surfing. I don’t know about that (well, yes I do—they’ve shown me pictures), but I do know that when I’m flying down a glassy face, hanging on for dear life, I just can’t stop laughing. I laugh like a maniac all the way in. Then I paddle back out to the lineup as fast as I can.
The second thing you’re going to notice about me is that I’m totally intolerant. Totally, radically intolerant. Some people call me a narrow-minded, Bible-thumping, backward-thinking, fundamentalist white male bigot. In fact, it happens every day.
People say I’m intolerant because I speak up when I see something that’s just plain wrong. If I find out that a couple of my unmarried friends are having sex, for example, I tell them that what they’re doing is wrong.
I also make a habit of standing up and saying that some things are right, like loving Jesus Christ with everything in you. People don’t like it when I do that, either. I had my tires slashed over nine times in college. The lifetime guarantee on the tires has paid for itself many times over.
Yeah, I speak my mind about what’s right and wrong, but I don’t do it to be a jerk. Believe it or not, I do it out of love. If I didn’t really care about my friends, I’d let them go on and ruin their lives. The reason I stand up to them is because I love them.
And I’m not intolerant because I get an adrenaline rush from going toe-to-toe with people in open debate. I do it because the love of Jesus flows in me and out from me. If I didn’t care about others, I’d just sit down and shut up.
But Jesus doesn’t give me that option. He gave up the privileges of His position as the Son of God and did something to help us. It cost Him His life. Most of the people of His day—including religious leaders who should have recognized Him for who He was—refused to follow His teachings. He was rejected, violently opposed, falsely accused, and abandoned in His moment of need.
Out of love for us, Jesus Himself was intolerant—and He paid the ultimate price to take His unpopular stand. The least I can do in return is suffer a few flat tires.
All right, enough about me.
Time to Get Off the Fence
I have one goal for this book: If you’re feeling paralyzed in your Christian walk, if you’re fearful of what might happen if people find out what you truly believe, I want to take you to a new place where you will gladly stand up for Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost.
I want to bring you out of the darkness of political correctness into the light, peace, and freedom of the truth. I want to take you from hypocrisy to consistency, from moral cowardice to moral confidence. I want to show you that it’s not just uncomfortable to be a Christian and be friends with the world at the same time—it’s impossible. I want you to speak out for your Lord out of love for your friends.
The truth is out there. And Jesus is that truth.
Jesus didn’t say He was one of the ways to get to God; He said He was the only way. When it comes to being intolerant, Jesus is the leader of the pack. He will not let you stay on the fence.
By the end of this book, either you’re going to be stoked for Christ or you’re going to decide you never really believed in Him in the first place. What do you say? You up for the trip?
Clark Gerhart is a Christian surgeon living in Pennsylvania. I encounter-ed this book idea of his when I was on staff at Multnomah Publishers.
I was intrigued by his physiological approach to those most stubborn of sin problems. He showed how the body actually works against us when it comes to certain sins.
He explained sin in the context of what the Bible calls the flesh, but he defined flesh as something far less mystical than we'd always heard it explained from the pulpit.
I worked with Clark to try to get the book published at Multnomah, but that wasn't to be. After I left Multnomah I kept in touch with Clark and, most importantly, I went through the material myself. It was revolutionary.
I decided I needed to throw my lot in with this radical new teaching and help its author get the book published. He and I entered into a co-writing partnership and revised the book.
When I came on staff at Strang, I was the manager over Siloam, a line of Christian health books. Talk about perfect for Clark's book! The first book I pitched at Siloam was this one, and it was released shortly after.
If you've got a stubborn, recurring sin (and who doesn't), I urge you to read this book.
If I am a Christian, why do I keep struggling with this sin?
Why can't I get victory over this stupid thing for more than a few days at a time? It's like it owns me. I've tried everything—read the books, prayed the prayers, gone to the seminars—but I always end up right back here in the same place, hanging my head in guilt and defeat and leaning on God's forgiveness one more time. Will I ever beat this problem, or am I cursed to fight a losing battle with it until heaven?
Know what I mean? Have you ever been so frustrated with a problem that keeps coming around and around that you were almost ready to throw in the towel?
It may be those words that just fly out of your mouth whenever you’re with a certain person. Or maybe it’s where your mind—and your eyes—go whenever you’re around someone of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s what happens to you when that car keeps breaking down or that in-law keeps pushing your buttons. Maybe you’ve been trying to kick a habit, or you’re facing an attitude you just can’t change. Whatever it is, it has left you staggering. Is that where you are right now?
I’ve been there. Oh, yes, I know the place well.
For me it was an unrelenting case of unforgiveness. Sound lame? Sound easy to fix compared to addiction to cocaine or fits of spousal abuse? Well, maybe it is, but I can tell you that it was almost the end of me. The seething bitterness I felt had my marriage and closest relationships strained to the breaking point. My career was in jeopardy. My spiritual life was hanging by a thread. It had me in a death grip.
But now I can honestly tell you God has given me victory over that stubborn sin. I am free from it, praise God!
How did I get to that place of freedom? How did I finally gain victory over this chronic besetting sin? It started when I began to understand what my sinful, human nature was really all about. My medical training intersected with my spiritual journey, finally leading to the dramatic revelation that “the flesh,” that not-quite-understood force inside us that doesn’t want to obey God, truly is rooted in our flesh.
That may seem like a small thing, an obvious truth, but it really becomes a dramatic experience in your life when you realize that you can actually let your body teach you about your fleshly nature. Suddenly the flesh is not some vague mystical thing. It is as real as the nose on your face97in fact, it is the nose on your face. As you learn how your sense of smell and all of the other bodily functions work, it gives you a graphic demonstration of your fleshly nature in action and helps you understand why it is so powerful in your life.
This new understanding allowed me to spot areas of fleshly bondage in my life and to identify the underlying causes of my chronic struggles. Then I learned how to apply the power of God’s grace directly to the source of my sin through confession, submission, and trust in His power. And victory was mine.
I’ve gotten there. So have many others who have encountered the teachings in this book. You can get to this place, too. You can have permanent victory over that area of sin that is eating you up inside.
Is anger your chronic struggle? Armed with the things you’ll learn in these pages, you will be able to enter the same situation that normally sent you out of control and instead face it with perfect calm. Is bitterness the thing that keeps you in defeat? You can release your bitterness by the power of God—and find yourself released in the process. Is the rush of gambling the thing you just can’t seem to beat? You can be free of its allure and its bitter sting. Is pornography what has you in its stranglehold? Through the teachings God has revealed to me, you can come to the place where you feel yourself actually desiring purity over that chemical rush.
What is your archenemy that always manages to overtake you and leave you in misery? The one that leaves you crying out like Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Whatever it is, if you’re willing to expose yourself to God’s power in the ways I show you, you will be giving Paul’s cry of victory also: “Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:25, TLB).
Take Another Lap Through The Wilderness
Would you believe me if I told you that this struggle you’re having is a sign of God’s grace? Can you even imagine a world in which this cycle of temptation/resistance/giving in/self-loathing/confession/temptation is a good thing?
Well, it is.
Think about it: if you weren’t God’s child, you wouldn’t be having this struggle. Without Christ, there is no real reason not to give in to every fleshly impulse and live it up, no matter whom it hurts. But you are struggling. You do hate this persistent problem. And that by itself is evidence that you have the Holy Spirit inside you telling you that what you’re doing is wrong. So the struggle itself is a sign that God is working in your life.
He simply loves you too much to allow you to slink away into total corruption. But He also won’t let you go on to the deeper things of God while you’re still in your sin. He won’t leave you like you are, but you can’t go on, either. So, you’re stuck.
It’s not just you. God’s people have been doing this since the children of Israel left Egypt. Their recurring sin was a lack of trust in God. You’d think they would’ve learned to trust Him when the Red Sea split open in front of them, but they didn’t. So God sent them off for a little time in the wilderness to help in the learning process.
After a while they ran out of water. Did they trust God? No.
Back to the wilderness.
Next crisis: no food. Were they ready to trust Him yet? Nope.
One more lap in the wilderness.
At the edge of the Promised Land, God urged them to go in and take the place by faith, trusting in His power to drive out their enemies before them. It was time to trust again. Did they do it? Still no.
Back to the wilderness. Around and around they went, doing laps in the wilderness for forty years.
Is that how you feel? Like you are just going around in circles through a dry and desolate place in your life? Well, you can find victory God never gave up on Israel. And He won’t give up on you.
Just remember that the pain you experience in these difficult times is a sign of God’s unending love for you. If He didn’t want you fixed, He wouldn’t devote so much time and effort to intervene in your life, to bring you back to His path. The key is submitting to the work God wants to do in you, and in the pages to come I’ll show you just what is involved in that process.
“Doc, It Hurts When I Do This…”
I’m a surgeon. I make my living by causing people pain—but they keep coming to me! And, of course, you know why: the pain I cause is pain that will lead to healing.
So it is with God. The material I cover in this book is designed to help you in the healing process—but it may cause you pain, too. The path to health is not always easy. The more ingrained the sin, the more pain it may cause as the Great Physician works to remove it. But just as no patient has ever asked me to put his tumor back in, so you will never regret the discomfort when God cuts into your flesh. In His hands is true healing.
I’ve decided to present this book following a very familiar structure for me and possibly for you: a visit to the doctor.
Most people, when they first go to the doctor, have no idea what’s happening inside. All they know is that it hurts. So the first thing we’re going to do, in Section 1, “The Disease’ is sit and discuss your symptoms and talk about the disease process that is making you ill. In that section I’ll teach you a little about how problems arise from the flesh and try to give you a better understanding of where the pain is coming from—and why it’s so important that you get treated.
Then we’ll head to my office, where I’ll explain to you how we’re going to approach this disease. Section 2, “The Treatment,” details an aggressive, fivefold plan of attack called LASTS: listening, admitting, submitting, trusting, and standing firm. Here you’ll come to understand how to bring every area of fleshly control back under the authority of Jesus Christ.
Also in this section we’ll take your body’s systems one by one. It’ll be up on the examination table for you. We’ll see how amazing your body is, and how sin has usurped some of those systems, impelling you to sin.
You might think you have an idea what the flesh is like, but once you see how your natural physiology helps to produce your fleshly nature, your flesh will be clearly visible in your life. You won’t be wearing one of those drafty gowns, but as God reveals your hidden sins, you may feel just as exposed.
You’ll learn about how your neurologic pathways and the brain’s internal reward system, as well as many other processes, make you do the things you do. Before too many pages you might feel you’ve enrolled in med school. But don’t worry; I promise to make it understandable and easy to use in everyday life. It’s at this point that you may find yourself saying, “Aha, that explains why I do that!” Many people have found this section to be full of life-changing revelations.
Finally we’ll look at “The Cure,” the final healing that only God can bring. This is where we’ll get an x-ray of a flesh that is being slowly but surely sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Picture of Health
Right now, as you begin the process of dealing with your flesh, you might think that simply ending the recurring struggle in your life would be enough. I mean, what could be better than finally throwing off this sin, this horrible weight that’s been holding you down for so long?
But there’s more. If you commit yourself fully to this process, you will know far better benefits than this. After God walks you through this important stage of your Christian life, your spiritual world will change. You will think differently and act differently. You may find that some of what you said you believed in the past was only lip service. Now it will be real.
As you stick with this process, your spiritual strength will grow. Indeed, you will experience some of the greatest power in life—the power to change a human life. Your life, certainly, but not yours only. People around you will be touched as the change that God has done in you bubbles over.
As you stay with this sanctification process (because that’s what we’re really talking about here: God’s work of sanctification), you will develop the type of closeness with God you’ve always craved, that world-class walk with Christ. It’s a closeness that soldiers sharing a foxhole feel in wartime. You will come to understand that He will never leave you or forsake you. You will not be perfect, of course, but you will have confidence knowing that your imperfections will never separate you from the love of God.
When you truly understand how the flesh works, it will be as if scales fall from your eyes. The world, people around you, current events, major crimes, and even stories from the Bible itself will suddenly snap into sharp focus. “Oh!” you’ll say. “Now I understand why that happened. I can’t believe I’ve never been able to see this before!”
In the end, the anguish you’re feeling now over this recurring sin will be replaced with a quiet assurance and inner joy that comes from facing the worst in yourself and surviving. You’ll know the joy of being finally liberated from a wicked thing that has had you in a stranglehold for years. Once you have stood with God through tough times, you will know that He is beside you and nothing can shake you.
At times you may feel like the sanctification process is full of struggles, but you will find that God’s goal in this cleansing process is to prepare you to receive His greatest blessings. So take heart! There are blessings piled atop blessings waiting for you at the end of this difficult journey.
Are you ready?
If so, the doctor will see you now.
I've actually another nonfiction book, but it's harder to find.
It was a Y2K book with Shaunti Feldhahn. The full title was Y2K—The Millennium Bug: A Balanced Christian Response—Resource Guide.
I then went on to be managing editor for Shaunti's newsletter, Countdown Y2K.
I have also written many articles for Christian magazines. I've written on everything from prophecy to pheromones, dreams to cults, and Internet filtering to Saint Patrick. I have served as the media reviewer for HomeLife magazine.
When I was leading the launch of Realms, a fiction imprint at Strang Communications, I wrote much of the marketing copy for ads and back covers. I've also written ad copy as a freelancer. I've written many manuals and internal documents and forms.
Don't miss my infamous and controversial white paper, "UFOs and the Christian Worldview." This shows yet another nonfiction style I'm capable of.
Finally, I write extensive nonfiction content about Christian publishing in general and the craft of writing fiction in particular. You can see a good sampling of my style here.
As you've been able to see from the samples above, my voice and style vary remarkably.
One advantage of being a novelist is that I'm accustomed to speaking in other characters' voices.
I've written nonfiction like a skateboard dude, a black pastor, a former Federal Reserve analyst, and a surgeon.
During my three-and-a-half years at seminary, I wrote serious theological papers and doctrinal studies.
In my articles I have sounded like a theologian, an informed layman, a friendly Everyman, and more.
I can write with more or less formality as the situation and topic requires. If you're looking for a nonfiction writer for your project, I could be your man. Why not drop me a note?
If you're looking to hire a nonfiction writer or co-writer for a project, I could be your man.
Oh, and don't miss my infamous and controver-sial white paper, "UFOs and the Christian World-view."