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Regaining One’s Sanity After Worldwide

  I think that most of us reading this column would agree that our experience with the Worldwide Church of God, and especially with Armstrongism, has not been exactly a pleasant one.  For nearly all of us, I would hazard a guess that it was a journey fraught with emotional and spiritual highs and lows, but with the lows far outnumbering the highs.  We believed that we were God’s only true people, and thus expected a life full of obvious blessings.  Or, at the least, a life with an elevated level of peace of mind and joy.  But instead, we reaped the whirlwind spiritually, mentally, and physically.  With no obvious blessings to be found in any category, we were left scratching our heads in bewilderment. 

  Gloomily, we concluded that apparently it was our lot in life to be continually tried and tested – the blessings and real joy in life would have to wait for the Kingdom. What other explanation could there be?  Didn’t we have more truth than any other group on earth?  Didn’t we play by the rules – rules that others denied even existed?  Weren’t we faithful in paying our tithes (all 3 of them)?  Didn’t we do without so that we could give more generous holy day offerings?  Didn’t we settle for inferior jobs so that we could observe the all important, Christian-defining Sabbath and holy days? 

  And yet, the financial and physical blessings we were promised always seemed to be just over the horizon.  Was it not written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain”?  Yet God seemed to be muzzling us, never letting us partake of enough blessings to keep us from becoming frustrated and discouraged.  Of all religious groups, we were probably bordering on being the most miserable.

  After the changes in 1995, and with the increased free flow of information thanks to the internet, it became apparent that those who had had the misfortune of following Herbert Armstrong had been involved in a very unhealthy cult and had placed their confidence in a “holey” man rather than in a “holy” man.  They were paying, among other things, a mental price for their folly.  Depression, anxiety, and even suicide were surfacing as being much more common among the current and even former adherents of Armstrongism than in the general public.  Yes, sadly, even those who had escaped Armstrongism were not immune to these problems. 

  Apparently, as the statistics increasingly bore out, one of the long-term effects of having drunk in so deeply of Herbert’s tainted teachings was the taking on of a gloomy, fatalistic, and depressed state of mind.  And little wonder, when one considers all the doom and gloom that the church kept us focused on almost exclusively, and the Nazi-like iron-fisted rule that was employed to “protect the sheep.”  I think very few of us have been able to avoid taking on to some degree the pessimistic, unbalanced attitude that resulted from these tactics.  I know that Armstrongism has not left me unscathed.

  But just as there were those who would enslave us in hellish doctrines that would suck the very life out of our souls, there were also some whose teachings were having just the opposite effect upon those willing to listen; i.e., imparting to their lives joy, confident living, and freedom in Christ.  Thankfully, I stumbled upon a book written by one such person during these tempestuous years.  That person was Norman Vincent Peale, and that book was “The Power of Positive Thinking.” 

  His writings were like brilliant sunlight breaking through dark and dreary storm clouds.  Every time I read from this book, and later from others that he wrote, I would go away inspired and encouraged. Mr. Peale’s writings greatly contributed to keeping me sane through some very depressing times in the cult.  It was, you might say, one of my few links with true spiritual reality during those Armstrong-fogged years.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of reading five of his books. “The Power of Positive Thinking,” which I’ve read three times, remains my favorite.

  Norman Vincent Peale died on Christmas Eve, 1993, at the age of 95. He was one of the most popular preachers of the twentieth century. His famous book The Power of Positive Thinking has sold almost 20 million copies in 41 languages.  Although both Peale and Armstrong died at approximately the same age, both were ministers and writers, and both had charismatic personalities, Mr. Peale proved to be, over the years, the very opposite of Herbert Armstrong.

  The life and teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong versus those of Norman Vincent Peale – a study in contrasts, if there ever was one!

  The Bible states that you can evaluate the worth of a person by their fruits.  So let’s take a quick look at just what these two men produced in their lives.  The fruits of Herbert’s life and teachings: controversy, depression, fear, defeatism, oppression, loss of faith in God, destroyed lives.  The fruits of Norman ’s life and teachings: unity, peace of mind, confidence, joy, power, a growing relationship with God, changed lives spent in serving God and man.

  But didn’t Peale preach a “pick-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps” philosophy, you might be asking?  Didn’t he teach that the power that we need in life lies in our own selves, with little emphasis on Christ? Didn’t he minimize the need to repent of sin?  This was also my belief for years, but once I actually got into one of his books, I found that this was completely false.  True, he does continually stress the power of keeping a positive attitude and state of mind, but this teaching is built upon the bedrock of drawing that power from Christ and God. 

  In his later life, it has been asserted by some that he believed in a rather all-inclusive gospel, with more emphasis being placed on being a good person than on having the correct gospel.  This may or may not be true.  These same things have also been rumored about Billy Graham, but few would argue that Graham preaches the biblical gospel.  I have found no evidence of a false gospel in Peale’s books, for I have found them to be very effective in bringing people to a relationship with Christ and God, through biblically sound teachings.  I think some may have confused “presenting the gospel in a different way” with “presenting a different gospel.” 

  Regarding the apparent worldly titles of his books, Mr. Peale kept his book titles, for the most part, non-religious sounding, so as to present Christ’s principles without turning off the non-Christian general public before they even had a chance to be exposed to Christ through his books.  Was Norman Vincent Peale a true Christian?  In my opinion, absolutely!  One only has to read a few pages in any of his books to see that his emphasis was, as I mentioned above, on relying on Christ.  In one of the books which I consider to be among his best, “The Positive Power of Christ,” he explained that the reason he wrote this book was “that I felt that I would like very much for a book of mine to be a strong, clear, and loving witness to my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and an expression of gratitude for all He has done for me, one of the least of His servants.” 

  He also stated in this book that the reason he and others had long ago decided to attend the Beacon Hill School of Ministry was because “we had been fired up with the conviction that God had called us to go out to help people in Christ’s name, to lift them out of themselves, to get them to stop doing bad and start doing good, to change their attitude from negative to positive, to lead them to be committed followers of Christ.”  This certainly doesn’t sound like one who taught a “do-it-yourself” philosophy for bettering oneself while ignoring Christ.

 I believe that there are many “walking wounded” exCOGers out there who are in dire need of what Mr. Peale has to offer in his books.  Many feel alienated from God and religion and desperately need help.  Many of those who have escaped Armstrongism have been left so disoriented and confused about God and religion that they no longer wish to have anything to do with either.  And quite a few of those who are in this unenviable condition probably find themselves sitting in a darkened room on occasion, scratching their heads and wondering how, oh how, they got into this sorrowful state of affairs; for they started out with a sincere hunger for God and a desire to have a real relationship with him.

  I came across several very insightful articles on the internet, both of which illustrate, I believe, what has occurred to far too many of us.  In the first article (which appears on the “Painful Truth” website), Bob E. states in “Things We Should Have Learned From the Worldwide Church of God” the following:

“A drunk will choose another drink over helping a friend or relative out of a dire life-threatening situation.  A WCG member chooses religion over "carnal"  or "worldly" family members.  Drunks and addicts are often very abusive to family or children.  WCG members, intoxicated on religion, frequently beat the crap out of their kids, and used their wives as a foot wiping mat, or slave!  Addictive personalities always victimize the financial stabilities of themselves and those close to them.  Those intoxicated on the WCG, gave up financial stability, their kids' college educations, and retirement plans to respond to each of HWA's emergency letters.  See the pattern?  But it gets worse.  Even a drunk or addict would eventually take his or her child to obtain medical attention in case of injury or severe illness, but not someone intoxicated on the WCG!  Religious intoxication is perhaps the most insidious addiction of all.

  “First of all, who is going to believe that it even exists, let alone condemn it as evil and recommend treatment?   Then, how do you treat it?  Do you treat it as you would treat some addictions, with a 12 step program, total abstinence, and surrender to a higher power?  Ooohhh, watch those last two words, aren't those the ones that got us into trouble?  So maybe we treat it as we would an eating disorder.  You need food for sustenance, so you are forced to learn moderation.  But, HWA time-bombed you.  If you practiced his religion in moderation, didn't he then brand you as Laodecean?  That is why the greatest number of those exiting this abominable cult practice total abstinence from religion.  When I tried to explain this once to a minister from another faith, he literally broke down and cried, and marveled at how Satan had been so effective in actually killing the whole concept of religion for a great number of people!” [emphasis mine]

  In the other article I came across, former WCG member Jesse Ancona, in her 1990 writing, “Lying with the Truth: Deception and Mind Control in the WCG, a Case Study in Religious Manipulation” (see:  www.keithhunt.com/jesse/wcg-toc.htm), writes about some of her observations of the old WCG that many of us can identify with:

  Killing Bible Study

      Closely allied with its (the WCG’s) hatred and suspicion of creative activity is its severe censorship. Creation and communication are vital components of freedom and individuality, but these are states the organization wishes to discourage. Members are forbidden to discuss religious subjects, which is seen as "preaching" or "holding a private Bible Study," a serious usurpation of the ministry's role. Thus, the pleasure of sharing things with your peers, comparing experiences or texts, or discussing new discoveries are all put under the cloud of "heresy," a word of warning heard repeatedly on members' lips. This fear cuts the member off from one of the ways that Bible study can be kept interesting--the sharing of new insights on accepted ideas.


      Inch by inch, the Worldwide Church of God begins to kill the member's individuality and his genuine religious experience. Bible study goes from being a joy to a burden, by making it a duty whose insights cannot be shared--indeed, by putting a fear of heresy into a member's mind, the organization makes him afraid of making any new discoveries: after all, heresies can exist also in your own mind.


      This is less honest than my own mother's upbringing: as a Catholic, in those days, she was forbidden to look at or own a Bible, because of the danger of reading and misinterpreting something best left to the priest. Opening her first Bible, as a grown woman, was an act of great moment for her. The Worldwide Church of God, however, extols personal Bible study, then begins to create a dread of it in the members' minds. This puts the member into a double-bind, or dilemma: he's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. All of the WWCOG teachings which have hidden opposites set people up in this no-win situation. This is useful to the organization, because, as in this case, once the member begins avoiding Bible study, he develops a guilt he can be manipulated by.

Killing Prayer

      Prayer is another area slowly eroded by the atmosphere of the church. Since the overriding emphasis is on reaching God through the medium of the church, private prayer begins to feel somehow disloyal to the church, and God begins to seem farther and farther away, and less and less real. Many times, the honest member will want to talk to God about what is happening to him, what the church is doing to him. He feels too paralyzed with guilt to do so.


      If the agonies of his heart are off-limits in prayer, because God is on the organization's side (isn't He on the Organization Chart?) what Advocate can a member have--or what hope? Is it any wonder that the fruits of the spirit of the Worldwide Church of God are fear, dread, and despair, rather than the fruits of the spirit of God, which are love, joy, and peace? St. John tells us that "perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (I John 4:18); he also says that those who hate their brothers and claim to love God are liars (v.20), which ought to give this organization serious pause.

Killing the Sabbath

      The member has now been robbed of the joy of Bible study, and the comfort of prayer: he is consumed with guilt because he is not praying or studying like he used to, he doesn't understand why, and fear of the Lake of Fire begins to insinuate itself into his daily thoughts. On top of this, in order to keep the spirit of the Sabbath, the member must not only refrain from unnecessary work, but devote himself to those two things he has learned to dread (emphasis mine). He now has the third sin of Sabbath-breaking on his conscience, and with each mark against him he becomes ever more vulnerable to the molding of the organization: after all, aren't they telling him repeatedly to do those things he is neglecting?


      It must be his own sin. Of course, it is easy to lose interest in something once the first flush has worn off, but this is where the organization's history clarifies the situation. If all this were merely the flagging of interest after the first conversion experience, why did this vicious cycle of guilt followed by inability to pray or study, uncommon enough before 1979, become epidemic in that year when, due to the Receivership on the church, the organization was starting the first of several purges to come? At that time I saw fear, doubt, and despair replace the earlier interest and joy. Certainly so many hundreds of people did not lose the first flush of conversion in one year!


      Most members did not connect the two. They were afraid of being purged, and tried their best to get right with the organization, in the belief that this was the way to a place in God's own heart. Meanwhile, their spiritual life began to wither rapidly, the more they believed and identified with the terror tactics of the organization.


I think that both Bob and Jesse have really put their finger on several of the causes of  “religion burnout” so common among those exposed to Armstrongism.   I have at times myself felt this very strong pull to just chuck everything relating to religion.  How many times have I picked up the Bible, intending to read from it, but ended up laying it aside as I realized that just the act of opening it and looking at a few familiar verses, for some strange reason, brought with it an inexplicable cloud of gloom. 

  The tendency for many, after having by some miracle of God escaped Armstrongism, is to just be too weary and spiritually exhausted to even begin to face the daunting task of trying to find a healthy, spiritually alive church.  How could we trust ourselves to even know one if we saw it, seeing as how we so totally misjudged Worldwide?   Talk about classic burnout!

  It is my firm belief that Satan has been much more efficient in using Armstrongism to destroy many more relationships with God and lives given in service to him than we may have ever imagined.  Those lives Satan hasn’t been able to totally derail through Armstrong’s teachings, he has managed to effectively neutralize by deceiving these followers into clinging to and contributing to self-centered, self-righteous cultic spin-offs, rather than allowing them to make a difference in the world by joining forces with a healthy church.  

  The damage Herbert Armstrong has done to potential children of God over the years is, in my estimation, incalculable!  And no wonder!  If there was one thing we learned from HWA, it was the deeper nuances and intricacies of the emotions of fear, frustration, guilt and depression, which we came to associate with being “religious.”  Thus the great number of exCOGers who now want nothing to do with God, and in some cases, have even become staunch and vocal atheists.

  A story in  “The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking” (1959) by Mr. Peale sheds some further light on just what the real defining spirit behind Armstrongism really was.  See if you don’t find yourself identifying personally with the story that Mr. Peale relates below:

  I received a letter from a lady in Philadelphia whose little boy, named Carl, was troubled with fears.  He was having nightmares; he was afraid of his playmates; he had grown thin and was constantly tired.  She wanted to know if she could come to see me.  Well, there is nothing sadder than a little boy full of fear and I wanted to help if possible, so we fixed an appointment.

  When the time for the appointment arrived, it was a beautiful spring-like day, which was a bit unusual as it was the fifteenth of January.  When this mother walked in (she came without Carl), I made some passing remark about what a fine day it was.

  “Sickness weather,” said this woman.  “It’s not healthy to have it warm this time of the year.  Watch out for influenza when you get a warm stretch in January.”

  That was just the start.  This woman was afraid of everything.  Within the first five minutes of our conversation, she mentioned that she had not brought her son with her from the hotel because she was afraid of the “dirty” air in the subways.  She was afraid of all the “foreigners” she saw on the streets.  She was afraid to go up on the Empire State Building for fear of the pressure on her ears.  This was the tone of her talk.  After we had visited in this way for a while, I brought the conversation around to Carl.  I mentioned to her that his problem was by no means unique.

  “So many children have fears,” I said.  “Where do you think they come from?”

  This woman didn’t know.  She thought perhaps children were born with their fears.

  “Not at all,” I said.  “Most fears are acquired from the people around them, especially, of course, from their parents.”

  “What you’re trying to say is that Carl gets his fears from me?”

  “I assure you this is nothing to be ashamed of,” I said.  “It is the way of human nature.  You probably picked up your own fear thoughts from your parents and they came from their parents and so on.  The important thing is to break the chain.”

  “And how can I do that?’

  “With positive thinking.  Fear is a negative thought, and one helpful way to get rid of it is to think of your mind as a scale, a balance.  On one side of the scale are all your negative thoughts.  On the other side are all of your positive thoughts.  Right now, our scale is pretty badly out of balance; your negative thoughts far outweigh your positive thoughts…and, of course, these are being reflected in your son.  The solution is to outweigh your fears.

  “Try this method.  The next time you have a negative thought, put a positive thought in the other scale.  Take, for instance, the weather.  It’s a beautiful day outside.  When you leave here, say to yourself, ‘What a health-giving day!  In fact it’s so unusually clear that this would be a good day to take Carl up the Empire State Building to see the view.’”

  The woman laughed—but doubtfully, “Do you think it would really work?”  I replied, “It will work.  Stick with it until that emotional scale is completely balanced; and then stick with it some more, until your positive thoughts outweigh your negative thoughts.  When you have done this for, let us say, three months, let me know how Carl’s fears are coming.”

  It was more than three months before I heard from this woman, nearer six, actually.  But she really did make the experiment.  When she finally wrote me, her letter reflected a state of healthy, happy excitement.

She said:

  “You’ve no idea what an amazing effect on our lives this simple plan of outweighing your fears

has had.  We have had to do a lot of struggling with them, but I do believe they are under much better control.  Carl is much more relaxed and has fun with his playmates.  He no longer seems so afraid or tense.  I like to feel that I have, at last, broken that chain of inherited fears.  One of these days I hope I can report that they are conquered altogether.”

  (Mr. Peale continues) The basic idea employed here is an indirect approach to the problem of handling fears.  Instead of tackling the anxiety and fear directly, by which process they often refuse to budge, we tried the indirect method of floating the fears out.  This is one of the best strategies for ridding yourself of fears; much better than trying to force them out by mustering your will power, which may be weak anyway.  Rather let the rising tide of faith do the job for you.  Fill your mind with such a large quantity of faith that your fears will actually be floated away.  By this method God’s power will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.  Your part is simply to believe, trust and surrender yourself to His power.  Let His tremendous strength lift you above fear.

  Those who have used this principle of positive thinking in dealing with fear have had amazing results.  But how do you fill your mind with faith to this degree?  One of the methods is what we call the practice of the presence of God.  Next time you are afraid, next time your heart pounds or anxiety clutches your mind, repeat the following seven confidence-building words from Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not; for I am with you.” Say them over and over to yourself, listen intently to them as if God were actually with you speaking to you.  He is, of course, so try to sense His presence.  When you are able to do this with a sense of conviction, then you will experience release from your fears.


Wow!  I think we can really relate to the above account.  HWA trained us in the ways of fear, not of faith.   The real spirit behind Armstrongism was not one of faith, as he purported, but was in actuality the spirit of fear and self-preservation.  He placed such an unnecessary burden upon our backs regarding making it to the place of safety, observing days and food laws, three tithes, and trying to avoid “worldly” customs that, more often than not, that was all we could focus on. 

  And lest any of us happen to be able to run this gauntlet and remain somewhat balanced, HWA would devise various ways to lay a crushing guilt trip on us now and then, just to keep us humble.  Each day was an enervating challenge in being careful not to lose one’s salvation over one of these testing points.  No wonder so many of us developed fearful, worried, unbalanced thinking patterns.

  Many of us have not been able to retrain our thinking, try as we may.   Some of the pointers that Mr. Peale brings out in his books are excellent for rooting out this kind of fear and worry, as you can see by the suggestion he makes above.  I have listed below some of them from his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” pp 132-133:

  1.  Say to yourself, “Fear and worry are very bad mental habits.  And I can change any habit with God’s help. 

  2.  You became a worrier by practicing worry.  You can become free of fears and worries by practicing the opposite and stronger habit of faith.  With all the strength and perseverance you can command, start practicing faith.

  3.  How do you practice faith?   First thing every morning before you arise say out loud, “I believe,” three times.

  4.  Pray, using this formula, “I place this day, my life, my loved ones, my work in the Lord’s hands.  There is no harm in the Lord’s hands, only good.  Whatever happens, whatever results, if I am in the Lord’s hands it is the Lord’s will and it is good.”

  5.  Practice saying something positive concerning everything about which you have been talking negatively.  Talk positively.  For example, don’t say, “This is going to be a terrible day.”  Instead, affirm, “This is going to be a glorious day.”  Don’t say, “I’ll never be able to do that.”  Instead, affirm, “With God’s help I will do that.”

  6.  Never participate in a worry conversation.  Shoot an injection of faith into all your conversations.  A group of people talking pessimistically can infect every person in the group with negativism.  But by talking things up rather than down you can drive off that depressing atmosphere and make everyone feel hopeful and happy.

  7.  One reason you are fearful and a worrier is that your mind is literally saturated with apprehension thoughts, defeat thoughts, gloomy thoughts.  To counteract, mark every passage in the Bible that speaks of faith, hope, happiness, glory, radiance.  Commit each to memory.  Say them over and over again until these creative thoughts saturate your subconscious mind.  Then the subconscious will return to you what you have given it, namely optimism, not worry.

  8.  Cultivate friendships with hopeful people.  Surround yourself with friends who think positive, faith-producing thoughts and who contribute to a creative atmosphere.  This will keep you restimulated with faith attitudes.

  9.  See how many people you can help cure their own fear and worry habit.  In helping others to overcome, you get greater power over it within yourself.

  10.  Every day in your life conceive of yourself as living in partnership and companionship with Jesus Christ.  If He actually walked by your side, would you be worried or afraid?  Well, then, say to yourself, “He is with me.”  Affirm aloud, “I am with you always.”  Then change it to say, “He is with me now.”  Repeat that affirmation three times every day.

 These are steps that can really help those recovering from a destructive cultic experience.  This is why I am recommending Norman Vincent Peale’s books – they may be just what the doctor ordered!  They are just chock-full of story after story of changed lives, and pointers on how to achieve change in one’s own life.  I have found his books to be inspiring from cover to cover.  Those who have read his books have in many cases had their lives totally changed, whether they were previously involved in a cult or not.  One of my favorite stories of just such a changed life comes from the chapter entitled “Excitement and the Power,” from “The Positive Power of Jesus Christ,”(1980).  As Mr. Peale relates:

  The more completely the power (of Christ in us) takes hold of one, the more exciting life becomes.  Indeed, it has been my observation that the power enhances the capacity to be excited.  An in-depth spiritual experience inevitably brings an effervescent, though emotionally controlled, excitement.  I have known dull and lethargic persons to come alive, astoundingly so, when they began living on a Christ-centered basis.  People for whom life was only an uninspired routine of one thing after another suddenly became vital, even vibrant and excited about everything. 

  They were actual demonstrations of the Scripture, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Such persons began to “walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:4) every day a new and thrillingly fresh experience.  Everything for such persons became wonderfully different because they were themselves different when Christ took over within them.  Even their awareness was sharpened to a keener sensitivity; excitedly they tell about ordinary light and color being enhanced, the songs of the birds sweeter, common things suddenly endowed with amazing beauty.

  An example of this is the man who made an appointment with me to discuss his personal problems.  He poured out a mass of negative and unhappy thoughts and fulminated bitterly on how “absolutely lousy everything and everybody is.”  He said he had made the appointment to get my advice, but instead of giving me a chance to do any advising he went into a tirade against the church and religion generally and preachers in particular.  “How come you take the time to talk to me if you dislike preachers so much?” I asked.

  “Oh, you’re different,” he replied.  “You’re not religious; you’re a positive thinker.  And let me tell you, I’m not going to have anyone telling me that I need God.  As a matter of fact, I hate God – if there is a God.  So please tell me what I need to get some meaning out of this no-account life,” he concluded dejectedly.

  “God,”  I said.

  “What’s that you say?” he sputtered.

  “God,” I repeated.  “You need God, for only He can straighten out the mess in your mind.  Only God can give you healing and peace and joy, and He can do all that and more, that’s for sure.  You need God.”

  The man glared at me and, jumping to his feet, shouted, “So, you are just like all the rest – just a God-talker!  I thought you were a better educated, intelligent, and sophisticated man, same as I am.”

  “I guess you don’t know what the word sophistication means” I interjected.  “It means to know your way around in the world.  Obviously you don’t know your way around very well, for you are mixed up, hurt, and unhappy.  So once again I say you need God.”

  My visitor apparently was angry with me, but perhaps even more so with himself.  “God, God – always God,” he muttered, and growling a short good-bye, he stomped out into the late afternoon winter darkness.

  An hour later, just as I was about to leave my office in the church, my secretary called on the intercom.  “That man is back, and he looks wild.  Says he’s just got to see you.”

  “All right, send him in.”  The man came rushing in and, indeed, he was rather wild-eyed and bewildered looking.  “For God’s sake,” he exclaimed, “what has happened to me?  Am I going nutty?  Help me, Dr. Peale, please help me!”  He told me a strange though not necessarily unique story.  He said that when he stomped out of the church he turned to the right on 29th Street walking toward Broadway, muttering angrily, “God, God, that’s all those fools know – God.  God – !” 

  Then suddenly, to his astonishment, it seemed that everything was bathed in brilliant light; the drab streets became beautiful, as did the faces of the people he passed.  The sidewalks seemed to undulate and he felt that he was walking, or rather, floating upright above the sidewalks.  He could not understand why the passersby took no notice of him or the blinding light that enveloped him.  He was uplifted, wondrously happy, and as light as air.  But frightened also, and puzzled.  Ah, he knew now.  He had gone crazy!

  He turned and rushed back to tell me about it and to implore help.  “For God’s sake, help me,” he pleaded.

  “You’ve said it,” I replied.  “It’s for God’s sake you have had this experience.  God is calling you to Himself.  He wants you to be His own.  My friend, you have had a rare and marvelous experience of the mystical presence of God Himself, such as is given to very few people.  God must love you very much and believe in you to so reveal Himself.”

  He was stunned.  I watched as he passed through kaleidoscopic emotions and a series of reactions.  “It’s unbelievable!  Absolutely unbelievable.  Even now I feel …” he struggled for the word  “…exalted, that’s it—exalted!  And clean—so clean.  As though I had been washed.  Fresh and clean.  Everything is so very different.  I never felt this way before.”

  “Some other people have,” I told him.  Then I took up a Bible and read to him about a similar experience that another and perhaps not too different type of man had once, a man named Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, on the road to Damascus.

  “But why me?” asked my visitor.  “I’m not spiritual.”

  “The answer is that I don’t know why,” I replied.  “But you can count on it that God has His reasons.  As for not being spiritual, I can only say that you have just had an overwhelming spiritual experience.  God will tell you what He wants of you if now, this very moment, you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.”

  He nodded. “I do, indeed,” and after a long silence he said, “I guess maybe that is what I’ve wanted for a long time and didn’t realize it.”

  Again my visitor went out into the winter night, but this time as a very different person.  He returned to Brooklyn and, as he later told me, spent a long time in prayer, during which guidance came that he was to dedicate his life to witnessing to the “intellectuals” with whom he associated.  He himself was engaged in the international banking field and was a member, though not active, of Alcoholics Anonymous.  He became outstandingly effective in bring people to Christ, who, because he had been so completely turned off, might never have known God had it not been for this remarkable man.  His excitement for Christ was boundless, and he communicated an equally exciting new life to many others.  The total occurrence was an impressive and unforgettable demonstration of the positive power of Jesus Christ.

  As I have since considered this extraordinary story of life-changing, it was evident that at first this man was deeply hurting for lack of exuberance or zest in living.  He was afflicted with a deadening case of ennui and even disgust with everything and everyone, including himself.  Actually, he was starved for excitement.  More and deeper life was his need.  He was looking vaguely and inexpertly down the usual dead ends for that vibrant quality that makes life exciting.  But when, through an astonishing circumstance, he encountered God and Jesus Christ, his life became filled with excitement, both within himself and outwardly toward life itself.  He then proceeded to convey the inherent excitement of Christianity to all who had the good fortune to touch the activated personality of this reborn man.

  What an awesome account of one man’s experience of being touched by the hand of God!  What a fantastic life awaits the person who truly gives his life into God’s hand.  Joy, peace, power and excitement await that person.  He may not attain these attributes in great measure all at once, as this man did, but he will be well on his way.

  You know, it’s rather amazing that we could have been exposed to so many great testimonies of the power of God in action to change people’s lives over the years, and yet have insisted on clinging onto legalistic teachings which bore so little fruit in the lives of its adherents.  I remember puzzling over the fact that God was so obviously working in people’s lives, totally transforming them and filling them with power and joy, and yet He was stopping short of convicting them of the need to keep the Sabbath and holy days.  Why?  Weren’t the observance of these days the very key, the true sign, of those who were true Christians?  Weren’t all others actually only fake Christians, deceived by Satan and to be avoided?  Yet their lives were virtually bursting with joy, power, and love.  And ours were self-centered, suspicious, and self-righteous.  How could this be?

  I remember puzzling over this same question after reading Corrie ten Boom’s book, “The Hiding Place.”  What a great book!  Full of miracle after miracle as God protected and blessed this woman through years in various Nazi concentration camps.  She developed a faith in and a relationship with God that few have ever equaled.  She spent many years, up until her death at an elderly age, publicly speaking about the love and nearness of God during her years in the concentration camps.  If ever God had gotten someone’s undivided attention through trial and suffering, it was hers.  Yet God didn’t see fit to take this opportunity to show her the “important” bedrock aspects of being a Christian – the need to observe the Sabbath and holy days.  What a head-scratcher!   My puzzlement and head-scratching finally came to a blessed end early in 1995 when the answer to this enigma finally became obvious.

  We are so blessed at having been delivered from legalism!  Contrast the joy and freedom in Christ true Christians have with what lies ahead for those deceived into believing and following Armstrongism and the other cultisms. Bitter experience has shown time and again that those who get pulled away from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ eventually end up fighting to retain their very sanity, not to mention their bank accounts. 

  Men like Herbert Armstrong have brought nothing but misery to this planet.  Thankfully, God has provided  men such as Norman Vincent Peale to counter that misery and evil with insights into the joy and happiness that true Christianity brings.


Till next time, here’s whistlin’ at ya!    ;o)



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