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Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough: An Interview with Jack Alexander

Jack AlexanderWhy do we fear scarcity when the Bible says God will provide? How can Christians experience true abundance, both spiritually and practically and not worry about not having enough?

Bible Gateway interviewed Jack Alexander (@TheReimagineGrp) about his book, The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough (Baker Books, 2017).

What is a scarcity mentality? How do people unintentionally develop that kind of mindset?

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Jack Alexander: Most of us experience some form of scarcity from a young age—whether a lack of love, emotional support, or actual resources. This can easily become the lens through which we view life, yet it radically conflicts with a God who wants to be our Father and Provider. Brene Brown goes so far as to say “not enough” is the post-traumatic stress disorder of our world.

So, there is, in effect, a collision of values, prompting questions of, “Does God play favorites, or “Is he simply not powerful enough to provide bountifully for all?” These questions must be answered to have a healthy relationship with God.

What are the lessons you write about from the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000?

Jack Alexander: In The God Guarantee, I go through a 4-step “pattern of provision” that God disclosed five times in Scripture. Each time, he provided in different ways: practically, spiritually, and relationally. This pattern is rooted in relationship with him and each other.

One of the five examples of this “pattern of provision” is in the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15) when Jesus took a boy’s small lunch—a few loaves of bread and fish—and fed a crowd estimated to be 15,000 (5,000 was just the number of men). We see that he did four things with this lunch:

  1. He took it and looked to heaven
  2. He blessed it
  3. He broke it
  4. He gave it

Walter Brueggemann calls these “the four sacramental verbs” of our existence. So, there’s a transcendent quality to them. In the book, I convert them to four concepts: capacity, consecration, challenges, and community. Then, I practically cover how we can live in this rhythm that God created in order to understand how he will, and does, provide.

What is God’s rhythm of provision?

Jack Alexander: We all know relationships develop patterns, some of which are healthy, and some are not. If I give my wife a list of ten things she must do every week to prove that she loves me, then I’m setting the stage for discord. Or, if every Sunday night I ask her about her schedule and how I can be involved in the next week, there’s a totally different result.

Throughout the Bible, God shows us a pattern where he draws near to us and desires that we draw near to him. James 4:8 says to “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us “that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

So, this 4-step pattern that God gives us tells us that:

  • Capacity: God created everything and everyone as “more” than what we think. Who would think that viper venom could be used to treat high blood pressure?
  • Consecration: God wants to be close to us as we invite Him into the details of our lives.
  • Challenges: God wants to meet us in our challenges to reveal new aspects of His character and provision.
  • Community: As we lean into community and learn to “orbit” around others, we experience God’s provision.

All relationships develop a positive, life-giving pattern or a negative pattern. Our relationship with God is no different. Our provision changes as we walk with him and engage with him.

How does your book differ from the “prosperity gospel”?

Jack Alexander: Simply put, the prosperity gospel is based on the premise that you access God’s promises through positive confession (naming the promise) and expecting God to “orbit” around you and your needs to fulfill that promise (claiming the promise). It reduces God to a simple “name it and claim it” theology.

However, the biblical pattern of provision that God outlines is a dynamic journey of faith. Can we believe that everything that God created is more than we can imagine? Does inviting him in to the details of our lives, including our weaknesses, make a difference? Can challenges really work for our good and for the kingdom? Is leaning into community worthwhile or safe?

Saying “yes” to God in each of these steps triggers intimacy and provision from him. It’s a battle as we have an enemy who loves our “no’s” and desires our despair.

Explain your chapter, “The Wilderness and the Marketplace.”

Jack Alexander: We all have worldviews that deeply inform how we operate. One that I developed through a variety of difficult circumstances in my adolescence involved a distrust of environments where I had no measure of control. Therefore, the “wilderness” of loneliness and loss was to be avoided at all costs. The “marketplace,” however, represented an area that I could view rationally and orderly—especially as my career took off. It was far better than the hated wilderness!

I’ve come to see how that initial perception of the wilderness kept me, for years, from experiencing deep times of retreat with the Lord. We see that the wilderness is the first place Jesus is brought after his commissioning at baptism (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:9-13; Luke 4:1-13). It’s there that Satan battled with him over his identity, over the Father’s ability to provide for him, and over his willingness to surrender to God’s plan instead of his own. It was in the wilderness that Jesus’ resolve was tested and he was prepared for ministry.

As I reflect on my own life, I’ve experienced God’s healing in profound ways as I have increasingly embraced those desolate places—when I’ve been willing to retreat out to a place that I cannot control. And, as I’ve entered the wildernesses of others, I’ve seen God do a deeper healing work in both my life and the life of others. I call this “making friends with the wilderness.”

What is a vision of capacity and how can having such a vision help transform a person?

Jack Alexander: A vision of capacity begins with the knowledge that everything and everyone is more than you realize.

Who would think sea urchins could be used to formulate new responses to Alzhiemer’s disease or cancer? Or that aspirin would come from the bark of a willow tree? Or, what about the night sky? The new James Webb telescope reports that there are billions of galaxies. We even see this propensity for seeing more in the television we watch. Many people love shows that involve “makeovers” of some kind—whether homes, or taking junk & transforming it into something beautiful, or even programs where obese people lose weight. We love to see what something or someone can become. In The God Guarantee, I ask the question, “what can you become?”

God is a God of more. Potential is about what I can become, in my own strength and on my own accord. Capacity is about God doing something special in his kingdom through me. Joni Eareckson Tada might not have realized her individual potential, but think of the capacity she created within the kingdom. Capacity is like having a new set of eyes, that allows you to see beyond the here and now.

Why is community an important part of understanding God’s provision?

Jack Alexander: Our provision almost always comes through others and, oftentimes, unexpectedly. Just as the Devil tells us that planting seeds will put as at greater risk, he loves to have us think that we’re better off alone. We’re meant to be interdependent, to function as one body. It’s how God created us. Yet, mankind is always attempting to redesign God’s ways and plans. When we exist in a psuedo-state of community, where we busily project an image of ourselves that we want others to believe, we miss out on the myriad of ways that God wants to move through others to care and provide for us.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Jack Alexander: I love the Abrahamic Covenant that is laid out in Genesis 12:

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3).

God repeatedly says I will. It’s emphatic; loving; eager. God’s excited about this covenant, even though he surely knows that he’ll be far more faithful to us than we will be with him. We should be equally excited. After all, it’s the perfect deal for us. He has our backs, God says. He’ll bless those who bless us, and curse those who curse us. Moreover, God wants us to “bless all the peoples on earth.” How beautiful is that?

But that very section of the covenant—where it talks about us blessing the world—is also a condition. A catch. As much as God promises to bless us, so we must return the favor and promise to bless others. It’s so important that God says it twice: You will be a blessing. And all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

That’s our role in this strange, wonderful relationship with God. If he gives to us, and we don’t pass it on, the blessing stops. He desires us and his plan is that he will bless the whole earth through us: his people!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Jack Alexander: I love Bible Gateway. It’s a gift to those who love God’s Word. I use it regularly in my personal devotions. Thank you!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Jack Alexander: I believe that scarcity thinking, rooted in fear, breaks the heart of God. He wants so much for us, both in relationship with him and with one another. It’s easy for our relationships to more closely resemble transactions, especially in a society that moves at such a quick pace. This can present a false sense of security; all the while drawing us away from the dynamic rhythm of relationship that the God of the universe desires with each of us. I hope The God Guarantee can be a source of encouragement to draw near to the heart of God and experience the richness that comes with participating in his intimate pattern of provision.


Bio: Jack Alexander has built and led companies in real estate, business services, and technology. Two companies that he cofounded made the Inc. 500 list, and another, in which he is a partner, made the Inc. 5000 list. He is currently chairman and cofounder of a software firm called Understory, as well as for The Reimagine Group, a content company that makes high-quality media for the church market. A previous recipient of the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year award, Alexander is also winner of six global awards in the corporate travel and hospitality arena. In 2005, he received the Family Honors Award as a businessman who made a positive impact on the American family. He is a regular speaker, coach, and board member for a number of businesses, nonprofits, and ministries. Jack lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Lisa. They have three grown sons and three grandsons.

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Go Ahead and Get Happy

Amena BrownBy Amena Brown

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:31-32, NIV

It was the night of the book release event for my first book, Breaking Old Rhythms. A few hours afterward. My husband and I were both dog tired, which seems to be the hardest-hitting version of tired, at least from what I can tell from the cliché context clues. He slept peacefully, and being not only the band, deejay, and emcee but also the man who carried every last box, book, and piece of luggage for all the gigs we’d had the previous couple of weeks, he deserved his sleep.

I did not sleep. My mind pushed rewind and replayed the events of the evening while I watched intently, looking for a place I missed it, a mistake I made. I searched the eyes of my good friends who came to see us perform that night, looking for that flatness in their eyes that might say it wasn’t quite good enough.

When people came up to me to say they enjoyed the show, to say they were looking forward to reading the book, a part of me kept wondering if they were lying to me. If maybe they were telling me these things because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings by saying all of the things I could have done better.

This made me wonder, Why can’t I just be happy sometimes? Why is my good never good enough to me? Why am I always looking for a way to raise my already unrealistic expectations for myself? What’s up with that?

I am a realist, also known as a pessimist. My worst-case scenarios dress themselves as reality, so I listen to them. I married an optimist. I fell in love with a man who can find a sunny disposition in a thunderstorm cloud of circumstances, and this has been God’s way of building my character.

Matt and I work together, create together, walk through messes and successes together. At our lowest points, I have been fraught with worry and fear. Matt will join me there for a few minutes, and then he will make a joke, do a dance, or offer to pick up donuts.

At our highest points, I have been nitpicky about all of the details that could have gone better and will mentally move on to the next thing without taking the proper amount of time to revel in a present good moment. He will laugh, smile until his cheeks hurt, and suggest we do something to celebrate until I have no choice but to give in.

Having Matt in my life is teaching me to go ahead and get happy. To remind myself that although I’ve experienced plenty of heartbreak and am just a human being with flaws and imperfections, that doesn’t make me unworthy of love or good things.

I don’t know if that little girl of divorced parents needs permission to go ahead and get happy or what. I don’t know if all the years I spent trying to integrate myself into the lives of people I wanted to love me made me feel like there was some bar just a couple of feet shy of my reach that I would never be able to meet.

Experiencing hard times is the lot of every human being, but this doesn’t mean I can’t shush my realist/pessimist brain when necessary and enjoy the good times when they come. Life will bring plenty of hurts, but I will also experience many great firsts, opportunities to laugh and smile until my cheeks hurt.

Just because I’m a full-fledged grown adult doesn’t mean I don’t need God to be my parent, to show me I’m okay, to prove to me I don’t have to keep chasing this unrealistic bar, to show me he’s proud of me, pleased with me, to depend on him to teach me how to simply be myself and be content with that.

So before I critique myself or other people, I’m learning to take the time to be thankful, to say, “Thanks God; I made it.” To say thank you to this amazing Jesus I’ve given my life to. I don’t have to try so hard to be an insider. I don’t have to press my cheeks up against the window of the cool kids’ table or of someone else’s family or home.

I have home with God in conversations with friends, in the love of family, and in my own soul. When I remember this, I feel less of a need to prove myself. I can finally stop trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and just live, love, and enjoy being loved.

God, help me lean on your grace and learn to go ahead and get happy.

________

How to Fix a Broken RecordTaken from How To Fix A Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself by Amena Brown. Click here to learn more about this title.

Your soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to.

The hurtful words of others and the failures of your past often determine what record you play the most in your mind. Those painful repetitions can become loud at the most inopportune time, keeping you from speaking up, pursuing your dreams, and growing closer to God.

Recognize the negative messages that play on repeat every day in your mind. Learn how to replace them with the truth that you are a beloved child of God. And discover how to laugh along the way as you find new joy in the beautiful music of your life.

Amena Brown is an author, spoken word poet, speaker, and event host. The author of five spoken word albums and two non-fiction books, Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas with a mix of poetry, humor, and storytelling. She and her husband, DJ Opdiggy, reside in Atlanta, GA.

How to Navigate the Bible Gateway Scripture Engagement Section

Do you read the Bible to grow spiritually?

Do you read the Bible in order to know God better?

J. I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), writes that having a relationship with God is our primary purpose. “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself.” The Bible is the means by which we encounter God, get to know and enjoy him, and fulfill our purpose in life.

Did you know Bible Gateway has dedicated a section of our site to different Scripture engagement methods (provided by Taylor University)? It offers ways that Scripture can be interacted with that might allow us to more openly receive God’s words and, therefore, come to know him better. In it, you’ll find creative ways to dive into the Word—everything from memorizing Scripture to dramatizing Scripture. There’s a lot here.

If this sounds intriguing to you, I recommend scanning the entire page before rapid-fire clicking all the links you see. Because there are so many methods of Scripture engagement, and because they’re so well-documented, it’s easy to get lost…

So, here’s the basics: on our Scripture Engagement page, there are some introductory articles about why engaging with Scripture is important. Of these, in my opinion, the “Not This Way” article is the most interesting. Everyone has specific reasons for turning to the Bible when they do, and this page talks through a few common but “inadequate” approaches to the Bible. It’s not intended to make you worry that you’re reading the Bible incorrectly. It’s only a list of mindsets we should attempt to expunge before opening the Bible. As with prayer, God would like us to set aside certain ways of thinking before engaging with his Word, and I’ve definitely found this article helpful for future reference.

The other introduction links are important, but if you’ve got your sleeves rolled up already, scroll down to the Scripture Engagement Practices. Bam! Huge bulleted list. It’s actually not as overwhelming as it looks. In this list there are 14 different devices for engaging with Scripture. I recommend selecting just one for now. Maybe you’d like to focus on one of these methods for the remainder of the year—through Thanksgiving, through Advent, get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions. No time like the present!

For most of these ideas, there are three links below:

  • Practice Tips
  • Small Groups
  • Resources

Sometimes there are examples of how this has been done effectively or creatively. Take ten minutes or less to explore the method, gather some specific ideas and examples, and then go and try it with the Word. The last thing we want to do with the Scripture Engagement page is to distract you from actual Scripture.

How to Live the Bible — True News, Fake News, Good News

howtostudythebible

This is the fourth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


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Some people believe the Bible is true in what it asserts. Skeptics, on the other hand, may view the Bible as a collection of falsehoods and superstitions. These are entirely different attitudes. It is analogous to today’s tensions about what may or may not be believed—the difference between true news and so-called “fake news.”

Good News Illustration

Scripture is not fake news, and, while it is true, it is more than true news. It is good news. The word “gospel” in the New Testament literally means “good news.” The core message of the New Testament is “gospel,” as is evident throughout:

Jesus: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Luke: “After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages” (Acts 8:25)

Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).

Not fake news, and more than true news, the good news of the gospel is the reality that, in Christ, God has initiated a great movement of salvation and reconstruction. It begins with the good news of forgiveness of sin, moves on to reconciliation with God, and ends with the promise of a new creation.

We are “living the Bible” when we take in the good news of the gospel and realize the freedom from guilt and fear and sin that begins decisively. This is God’s unilateral action of rescuing us. “In [Christ] was life; and that life was the light of mankind” (John 1:4).

Now some who are skeptics say that this is precisely where the credibility of the Bible breaks down. They say that the writers of Scripture had a perspective they were promoting. So naturally their texts conveniently support their superstitious ideas. Old Testament and New Testament writers, the skeptics say, produced propaganda. But there is a logical fallacy here. If someone is a proponent of an idea, that does not mean they fabricated the idea.

Yes, the writers of Scripture had a perspective. They were proclaimers, not just reporters. But they were proclaiming happenings like the resurrection of Jesus with enthusiasm precisely because the event was life-transforming for them. Just because they considered it “good news” does not mean that they made the story up or that they believed a rumor because it was attractive to them.

Think about it. The truths of the “good news” are not convenient. If you accept the gospel, you are agreeing to sacrificing your life, giving up personal autonomy, committing to service. You give up self-sovereignty. You are generous with your money and your time. The disciples of Jesus did not create a fake news story about Jesus having risen from the dead because it made them more comfortable, secure, and prosperous. In fact, their proclamation of the “good news” resulted in many of them losing their lives. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Living the Bible is founded on that gospel—that, in Christ, God has entered this world and our lives in order to establish his reigning. This is true news, but it also has an infinite spiritual and moral value, and so it is good news.

Living the Bible means we see the great potential of people because of God’s reigning, and so we do not need to be despondent over the horrific things we see in the news every day, the harsh truths about natural catastrophes, wars, shootings, tribalism, crime, disease, ignorance.

Living the Bible means we will discern the difference between what is false and what is true. It is understandable that some people get so confused and discouraged that they conclude that they will never know what it true. But becoming cynical is a great loss. It means losing not only what is true, but what is good, also.

If we are “gospel people” we will let the good news, in all of its detail, fill our minds, and so shape us. As the Apostle Paul put it in some of his closing words he wrote to his friends in Philippi: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Phil. 4:8-9).

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[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

As Evangelist Billy Graham Turns 99, Zondervan Announces Definitive Biography: ‘A Prophet with Honor’

Buy your copy of A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, Updated Edition in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

William Martin granted unprecedented access to document Graham’s life

Today marks evangelist Billy Graham’s 99th birthday. Looking forward to his centennial celebration, Zondervan Publishing (@Zondervan) is announcing plans to release A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story by William Martin, in March 2018. Graham himself requested Martin for the project and granted him unprecedented access to the Billy Graham archives and team members, lending this work the authenticity and transparency of no other.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Cliff Barrows, Longtime Billy Graham Associate, Dies at 93]

“As I have written in this book, I have constantly examined what I have said in an effort to make sure that I was neither shading the truth in Graham’s or his associates’ favor out of gratitude for their helpfulness, nor taking an inappropriately negative slant as a way of emphasizing that I had not been taken in by slick manipulation,” Martin writes. “But since Billy Graham and his associates—like all humankind—have weaknesses, I determined not to gloss those over.

“I have tried to be scrupulously fair, not only because I do not wish the taint of unfairness to mar the most notable scholarly enterprise in which I have engaged to date, but also because I regard fairness as a cardinal virtue,” Martin continues. “I do not imagine, of course, that my judgment is flawless. But the account and the assessments I have rendered have been given with great care.”

In the above video released on his birthday, Billy Graham urges people to seek a close relationship with God and read the Bible every day. He has been praying for a “spiritual awakening” but says that can only happen if “individuals surrender their lives to Jesus Christ.”

He says people need to do “everything we can to follow in the footsteps of Jesus,” which he defines as living a life where people “love one another, help one another,” and live according to Christ’s teachings. He says it is the Holy Spirit who helps people live such a “deep lifestyle” that is focused on “love, gentleness, and patience.”

Graham urges people to read the Bible every day, advising them to start with the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. And in the Old Testament, to start with the first verse in Genesis.

In A Prophet with Honor, author William Martin begins with a short introduction to evangelicalism and the revivalist movement starting with John Cotton’s messages to the settlers of New England in the 1600s. Other names to follow include Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield through to Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Mordecai Ham, the evangelist under whom Graham came to faith in Christ as a teenage boy in 1934.

Fans of Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, will recognize many of the names, places, and events chronicled here, but A Prophet with Honor goes further behind the scenes to explain the conditions that made it possible for Graham to achieve his spectacular success and to reveal how sometimes he succeeded in spite of himself.

As Graham explained when approaching Martin about writing the book, “There are no conditions. It’s your book. I don’t even have to read it. I want you to be critical. There are some things that need criticizing.”

Despite Graham’s humble expectations of a biography that would reveal his true self—warts and all—Martin came away from his research with the overwhelming sense that despite his flaws, Graham was a man of rare integrity. Martin concludes that there will likely never be another like him. “Unless and until that happens, William Franklin Graham, Jr., can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did—‘a workman,’ as Scripture says, ‘who needed not to be ashamed.’”

See the many books and resources by and about Billy Graham in the Bible Gateway Store.

About William Martin
William Martin (BD, PhD, Harvard) is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Since his retirement from teaching in 2005, he has served as the Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice. He has appeared on many national radio and television programs, including 60 Minutes, Nightline, 20/20, Today, Frontline, and All Things Considered. He has been published in numerous national and regional periodicals, including The Atlantic, Harper’s, Esquire, and Texas Monthly.

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Christian Faith and Mental Health: An Interview with Sheila Walsh

Sheila WalshHow can the spiritual disciplines of confession, prayer, and Scripture meditation form a daily connection to Jesus to help women in their mental health struggles?

In the following question-and-answer, Sheila Walsh (@SheilaWalsh) talks about her book, In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for This Beautiful, Broken Life (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Quiet Time for Your Soul: An Interview with Sheila Walsh]

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Helping Kids Love the Bible: An Interview with Sheila Walsh]

You write openly about your father’s and your own mental health struggles. Why did you decide to be so vulnerable in your book?

Sheila Walsh: When I was hospitalized in 1992 with severe clinical depression I thought I was the only one. I didn’t know of one other Christian struggling with any form of mental illness. What I didn’t know then was that there are thousands and thousands of men and women who love God yet are struggling alone, in silence, full of shame. This has to end. It’s time to shine the brightest light into the darkest corners of the church. I chose to write so openly now because I began to realize that many people who watch me on television or hear me speak at an event imagine that depression is part of my past rather than the reality that it’s an ongoing daily challenge.

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

What do you mean “it’s okay not to be okay”?

Sheila Walsh: We live in a culture of quick fixes. We want to feel better and we want to feel better now. I believe that’s why many turn to alcohol and drugs because they want to numb the pain of life. In my life I have a choice. I can sit with my depression and look at Jesus or I can sit with Jesus and look at my depression. What I mean by that is I can focus on what’s broken and wonder where God is or I can sit in the companionship of Christ who suffered for us and worship him in the middle of the mess. That gives my pain meaning and context.

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

The Psalmist David wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” Psalm 34:18 (NLT). God doesn’t run from us when we’re hurt and in despair; he moves close.

Until we see Jesus face to face we’ll live with brokenness and yet we look to the day that John saw in his Revelation, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” Revelation 21:4 (NLT).

How have you come to understand “the hellish dance between depression and spiritual warfare”?

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Sheila Walsh: Some view mental illness as a purely spiritual issue and deny the need for medication or other forms of treatment. Others view it as an illness with no spiritual aspect. I believe it’s a combination of both.

As Christians we know that we have an enemy. Paul writes that, “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12 (NLT). We also know that he’s a liar and the accuser of God’s children (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10).

When depression or suicidal thoughts weigh heavily, the hardest thing to do is to fight. My battle weapons are the Word of God, meditation, confession, community, and worship. But each evening I take my medication with a prayer of thanksgiving that God has provided this kind of help for those of us who need it.

How has Scripture ministered to you in your need through the years?

Sheila Walsh: As a child my mum taught me to commit God’s Word to heart. I’m so grateful that in my darkest moments I can reach down inside and pull up verses I’ve rested on for years.

I found my first night in a psychiatric hospital terrifying. My dad was committed to a psych ward when he was in his early 30s and it was there that he took his own life. As I sat in the dark, in the corner of my room that night the Scripture that came to mind was Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
    “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

God’s Word is a stronghold in the fiercest storms.

How should people experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts approach the Bible?

Sheila Walsh: God’s Word is a book of life! It’s a love letter from a Father to his children. During our darkest nights we can find great comfort in the Psalms. I’ve learned to pray them out loud. David didn’t pretend to be okay when he was struggling. He cried out honestly—at times bitterly—but then he would remind himself of the goodness and faithfulness of God (Psalm 18, 34, 91).

If depression has been viewed as a taboo subject in the church, then suicide and suicidal thoughts are the darkest secret of all. Talking about it doesn’t make it more real or powerful; it brings it out of the shadows into the light and love of Christ. In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul encouraged the believers to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (ESV). The word he uses for burdens is the Greek word meaning a ship’s load. Some burdens are too heavy to be carried alone.

What is secret shame that overcomes some people and how does the love of Christ push through it?

Sheila Walsh: If guilt tells us that we’ve done something wrong, then shame tells us that we are something wrong. So many people feel isolated, not good enough, defined by the labels they wear rather than the identity they have in Christ.

The love of Christ tells us that we’re accepted; that we belong. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4, he made it clear that he knew her story: she’d been married five times and was now living with a man. He didn’t do that to shame her but to let her know that she didn’t have to hide anymore. He said that the time was coming, and was in fact here, when those who worship will worship in spirit and in truth. The word for truth is alétheia which means with nothing hidden. We’re invited to come as we are. We worship in spirit with nothing hidden.

How has the evangelical church become more sensitive to mental health issues in the last few years?

Sheila Walsh: I think we’ve come a long way in the last few years. God has used devastating losses like the suicide of Rick and Kay Warren’s darling son, Matthew, to wake us up to the reality of how pervasive mental illness is. In the past year I’ve spoken at several conferences on mental illness and the church. We have a long way to go but we’re on the road.

What do you want your book to achieve in the life of its readers?

Sheila Walsh: Primarily I want my heavenly Father to be glorified. I’m alive today because of the love and faithfulness of God. I also want others who live with mental illness to know that they’re not alone. As well as the book, I’ve prepared a six week DVD Bible study and study guide diving deeper into the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, meditation, confession, community, spiritual warfare, and thanksgiving. We can’t know the will of God if we don’t know the Word of God.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Sheila Walsh: I love the book of Romans. It’s such a complete theology. I particularly love Romans 8 which begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. Hard to beat that!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Sheila Walsh: I LOVE Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App. I use them every day. If I want to pull up a Scripture quickly and I don’t have my Bible within reach, I can always pull it up on the App. I’ve also used several of the daily devotion plans. Love them!


Bio: Sheila Walsh is a powerful Bible teacher and bestselling author from Scotland with over 5 million books sold, including 5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy and The Longing in Me. Her international ministry has reached more than 5.5 million women by combining honesty, vulnerability, and humor with the transforming power of God’s Word. Calling Texas home, Sheila lives in Frisco with her husband, Barry, her son, Christian, and three little dogs. You can reach her at braveheartsisterhood.com.

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Report: The Top 25 Schools for Studying the Bible

Learn about Bible Gateway's Online Bible Learning ProgramBiola University, La Mirada, California, is considered first by TheBestSchools.org, an online publication for ranking schools and degree programs, on its list of “The 25 Best Schools for Studying the Bible.”

[Learn about Bible Gateway’s Online Bible Learning Program]

The list includes Bible schools as well as other educational institutions with strong Bible programs. According to TheBestSchools.org, schools earn a place on the list through individual holistic considerations that include their (1) commitment to sound Christian education, (2) academic excellence, (3) spiritual life on campus, (4) and impressive Bible curriculum. Also, (5) all entrants are associated with one or more of the following: Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), Association of Theological Schools (ATS), and Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

“Many people today are searching for truth. Our ranking of America’s top Bible schools reflects a select group of elite institutions that provide students an assurance of authority and credibility,” says Dan Edelen, director of marketing services for TheBestSchools.org. “As a service to our readers, our list provides an additional 75 Honorable Mention schools for added convenience should a prospective student need access to a more nearby program.”

Here’s the list of the top 25 ranked institutions:

  1. Biola University, La Mirada, California
  2. Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois
  3. Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia
  4. Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas
  5. Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania
  6. Cedarville University Cedarville, Ohio
  7. Trinity International University, Deerfield, Illinois
  8. Multnomah University, Portland, Oregon
  9. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
  10. Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas
  11. Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa, Georgia
  12. University of Dallas, Irving, Texas
  13. Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts
  14. Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  15. Taylor University, Upland, Indiana
  16. University of Northwestern, St. Paul, Minnesota
  17. Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa
  18. The Master’s University, Santa Clarita, California
  19. Hardin-Simmons, Abilene, Texas
  20. Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota
  21. Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
  22. Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee
  23. Emmaus Bible College, Dubuque, Iowa
  24. Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky
  25. Clarks Summit University of Pennsylvania, South Abingdon Township, Pennsylvania

[Learn about Bible Gateway’s Online Bible Learning Program]

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Bible News Roundup – Week of November 5, 2017

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
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Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: Nov. 5 & 12, 2017
Bible Gateway Blog post

International Day of the Bible is November 12
IDOB
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, National Bible Week and International Day of the Bible 2016
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Join the International Day of the Bible: An Interview with Richard Glickstein

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Declares November 12-18 National Bible Week
Catholic.Bible
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, CNN: A Catholic Reads the Bible
Browse Catholic Bibles and books in the Bible Gateway Store

Jewish Scribe to Write Torah Scrolls in Live Exhibit at US Capital’s New Bible Museum
Breaking Israel News
Read the Bible in Hebrew on Bible Gateway
See Biblical Hebrew Resources in the Bible Gateway Store

Midwest City Auto Shop Reunites Woman with Cherished Bible
KOCO-TV News

The Top Reasons Soldiers Turn to Scripture
CT

World War II Miracle: Bible Stops Shrapnel
KXAN News

Wycliffe USA Celebrates 75 Years of Bible Translation
Mission Network News

UK’s House of Commons Motion Celebrates the 150th Anniversary of Scripture Union
UK Parliament

Museum of Printing, Gutenberg and the History of the Printed Bible, A Special Exhibit & Lecture, December 2nd
American Printer

Tobago Bible Marathon Set for Jan 1-5, 2018
Newsday
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Scripture Says Reading the Bible in Public is Important

Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century
Pew Research
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Unexpected Christian Century: An Interview with Scott Sunquist
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization: An Interview with Vishal Mangalwadi

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: Nov. 5 & 12, 2017

Buy your copy of The Martyr's Oath in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Standing Strong Through the Storm: Stories from the Persecuted Church]

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Staggering Picture of Christian Persecution: An Interview with Johnnie Moore]

[See books in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution]

The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (#IDOP) is a time set apart to remember millions of Christians around the world who face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ.

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, International Day(s) of Prayer for the Persecuted Church]

Buy your copy of I Am N in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

“Persecution is the daily reality of at least 100 million Christians around the world,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director, World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission (@WEARLC1). “These Christians, who face routine harassment and difficulties, often suffer in silence and isolation. Over the years, the IDOP has served as a platform to highlight their stories and advocate their plight. Moreover, in so doing, the IDOP has also been a source of solidarity and encouragement to persecuted Christians by reminding them that they are part of a larger, global family of believers.”
Buy your copy of Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters]

…We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies….
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (CEB)

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Buy your copy of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

While the number of Christians martyred for their faith every year is difficult to precisely assess, Open Doors USA estimates that, in 2015, more than 7,000 Christians were killed specifically because of their faith. Open Doors, with its list of countries where Christians are most in need of prayer, urges Christians and churches to remember those killed and pray for those in more than 60 countries still facing persecution because of their faith (see the Open Doors Facebook page).

“Under Caesar’s Sword” is a three-year, collaborative global research project by the University of Notre Dame to discover and draw attention to the ways Christian communities around the world respond to the severe violation of their religious freedom. These strategies vary widely, ranging from nonviolent protest movements of the kind that Pope John Paul II led in communist Poland, to the complex diplomacy of Christian churches in China, to simply fleeing from persecution en masse, as Christians have in Iraq. The project aims to raise solidarity with persecuted Christians worldwide and to help them respond justly and effectively. Watch the documentary film.


The above slide presentation is a production of the Office of Social Justice, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church.

The following organizations have resources ready to help you help others become more prayerfully aware of the plight of Christian brothers and sisters around the world:

Basic Biblical Teaching About Persecution

Persecution Foretold

Jesus Warns and Teaches About Persecution

The Apostles and First Missionaries are Persecuted

  • Acts 4:1-22 – Christ’s supremacy threatens the supremacy of the totalitarian and theocratic leadership. (vv. 2, 17)
  • Acts 5:12-41 – Power and attraction of the gospel arouses jealousy. (v. 17)
  • Acts 6:7-15 – Success of ministry arouses competition.
  • Acts 7:54-8:4 – Stephen becomes the Christian Church’s first martyr; persecution breaks out.
  • Acts 12:1-4 – Herod persecutes apostles for political gain.
  • Acts 12:1-18 – While Peter is in prison, the church prays.
  • Acts 13:49-14:7 – Opposition to the gospel forces missionaries to flee.
  • Acts 16:16-34 – The gospel threatens trade, economic prosperity and the fortune-telling industry (v. 19); false accusations lead to missionaries being severely beaten. (v. 22)
  • Acts 17:1-15 – Missionary success arouses jealousy; missionaries forced to flee. (v. 5)
  • Acts 19:23-32 – The gospel threatens trade, economic prosperity and the idol industry; idol-makers incite riot that goes out of control.
  • Acts 21:27-36 – Enemies of the gospel incite hatred and violence; Paul beaten and arrested.

Prepare for Persecution

Conduct Under Persecution

Results of Persecution

Rewards for Suffering Persecution

Place and Power of Prayer

Possible Forms that Persecution May Take

The above list is a production of the World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission.


The above video is a production of The Voice of the Martyrs.

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The Pilgrims May Not Be Who You Think They Were: An Interview with Jay Milbrandt

Jay MilbrandtDo you see the Pilgrims as folksy people in funny hats? The true story of the Pilgrims’ great journey to America was one of courageous faith, daring escape, and tenuous survival. Theirs is the story of refugees who fled intense religious persecution.

Bible Gateway interviewed Jay Milbrandt (@JayMilbrandt) about his book, They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

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As a lawyer and historian, how have you joined those two elements in writing this book?

Jay Milbrandt: A lawyer is a storyteller. It’s our job to understand and explain the facts. I see my role as an author as much like that of the judge in a jury trial. I’m dealing with a variety of perspectives and trying to make sure the jury/reader gets a fair and accurate case. I find I’m constantly applying legal concepts—like the rules of evidence—to history. I like finding topics that have been subject to misinterpretation; then I try to tell a fact-based story and let the reader come to their own conclusions.

How has the Pilgrim story become misunderstood?

Jay Milbrandt: We have a mental picture of the Pilgrims: funny hats, dining on cornucopias overflowing with food at the first Thanksgiving. Nothing in that image is true. There was no “First Thanksgiving,” as we want to believe it happened, and the Pilgrims were starving, rationing their food, and wearing tattered clothes. Over time, the retelling of the story combined several Pilgrim events to fit into our modern holiday. In fact, Thanksgiving as a holidy was created 200 years after the Pilgrims’ arrival, at the close of the Civil War to promote national unity. The notion of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrim identity has also been subject to intense secularization. The Pilgrims’ quest for freedom and their “thanksgiving” event were deeply religious. That motivation has been largely lost over the years as our modern Thanksgiving became a secular, national holiday.

Who were the Pilgrims, what did they believe, and what was their social standing?

Jay Milbrandt: They were “Separatists.” They were unhappy with the Church of England, which was the official state church. The government prescribed how people would worship, mandated church attendance, and dictated tithes. The Separatists were people who wanted to worship as they saw fit and, based on their reading of the Bible, viewed the state church as incompatible. The Separatists met secretly in their members’ homes and came from all walk of life, career, and status. The government abhorred the Separatists, whose movement threatened state control on religion. Violations of church requirements led to fines, imprisonment, and even death for repeat offenders. The Separatist churches were a regular target for law enforcement raids.

What was the difference between Separatists and Puritans?

Jay Milbrandt: Whereas the Separatists wanted to separate themselves from the Church of England, the Puritans wanted to purify and reform the church from within. The Puritans had more friends and supporters in England than the Separatists, and thus avoided the persecution that the Separatists faced. Later, the Puritans would begin feeling more pressure and many would follow in the footsteps of the Separatists who fled England.

Why and under what circumstances did the Pilgrims escape England to seek the New World?

Jay Milbrandt: The Separatist church members who would later become known as the Pilgrims, fled England in 1609 after their previous attempts to flee had been thwarted by English authorities. It was a daring and dangerous departure, and English authorities captured half of their group. Eventually, all made it safely to Holland, where they lived for more than ten years. Fearing that the Catholic Church would force Holland into a similar posture as the Church of England had taken against them, the Pilgrims departed Europe for the New World in 1620.

What Bible translation did the Pilgrims use and why?

Jay Milbrandt: They cherished their Geneva Bibles. Among the few possessions they could take on the Mayflower, many of the Pilgrims carried their Geneva Bibles. Written by scholars who had also fled England, the translation offered a more accessible Bible, which included study guides, summaries, and cross-references. Prior to the Geneva Bible, the only available Bible translation was state controlled and church services were held in Latin. The Geneva Bible brought theological study to the people, rather than monopolizing it among the English Bishops.

What role did the Bible play in the Pilgrims’ establishment of their colony in America?

Jay Milbrandt: Without a doubt, it was their guiding light and constant companion. With no manual for how to create a new colony, they often looked to their Geneva Bibles for insight. It was influential in their decision to self-govern under the Mayflower compact and experiment with social order, including how to handle private property and making marriage a civil matter. Above all, they did not want to create another scenario where the government prescribed how they would worship.

What was the Mayflower Compact and its influence?

Jay Milbrandt: In the eyes of the Pilgrims, the Church of England had used religion as a weapon for control. The Pilgrims knew a similar fate could fall upon their New World colony unless otherwise put in check. They needed a radically different system of civil authority. Before stepping off the Mayflower, the passengers gathered on its deck to draft and sign a document spelling out this new system of self-government: The Mayflower Compact. Nearly 200 years later, John Quincy Adams would say of it: “It was the first example in modern times of social compact or system of government instituted by voluntary agreement conformably to the laws of nature, by men of equal rights and about to establish their community in a new country.” The compact would serve as predecessor to the modern Constitution and a building block for the foundation of American democracy.

How did the Pilgrims seek freedom of worship and in turn thwart it?

Jay Milbrandt: They came to the New World to worship as they saw fit. This group had rallied around the idea of Separatism and held it a common goal. As more Europeans arrived in the New World, these newcomers brought different ideas, some of which were difficult to accept in the Pilgrims’ small, insular community. In some cases, the Pilgrims outright rejected these individuals. Eventually, as the North American colonies became more diverse, the youth left and new arrivals settled in more hospitable places.

Was there disunity within the Pilgrims’ community?

Jay Milbrandt: Relatively little. Aboard the Mayflower, division arose between the Separatists and Puritans over ideological matters. Once in North America, their quest to merely survive unified them.

Why do you write that “the Plymouth experiment was, ultimately, a failure”? And why do we, today, view the title ‘Pilgrim’ with reverence and honor?

Jay Milbrandt: The United States had 13 founding colonies, yet Plymouth Colony was not among them even though it preceded all but Jamestown in Virginia. As the Plymouth church began to disintegrate, so did the community. People moved away to attend other churches and Plymouth fell back into subsistence living. Eventually, the Plymouth church decided to relocate farther out into the countryside to further isolate themselves from the pressures of a rapidly growing colonies along the coast. Plymouth was essentially abandoned.

The Pilgrims should be regarded with reverence and honor. What they did was incredibly daring—they risked their lives for their faith by venturing across an ocean and into the unknown. In North America, they persevered against weather, starvation, and death. Through their resolve and fortitude, they survived. Their steadfastness inspired the Founding Fathers and characterized the American spirit. They also left a lasting legacy through the separation of church and state, and their novel form of self-government.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Jay Milbrandt: Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

This passage was particularly meaningful to me as a law student and young lawyer when I was seeking guidance on direction for my life and career. As an author, I try to write on topics that pursue these ends. I believe the Pilgrim story is about justice and freedom from oppression.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Jay Milbrandt: I appreciate Bible Gateway. When I write, I’m often comparing translations or trying to find obscure topics. Bible Gateway has proved exceedingly useful. It was particularly helpful to find the Geneva Bible translation for this project—it’s no longer a common translation to find!


Bio: Jay Milbrandt is the author of The Daring Heart of David Livingstone and a professor at Bethel University in Minnesota. He formerly directed the Global Justice Program and served as Senior Fellow in Global Justice with the Nootbaar Institute at Pepperdine University School of Law. He has traveled throughout the world as a lawyer, managing global initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia, and consulting with organizations engaged in human rights and legal development efforts.

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