Interview with God.net Author James Langteaux
- Cheryl Johnston Crosswalk.com Spiritual Life Editor
- 2001 10 Oct
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: The Crosswalk.com audience is fairly familiar with God.com. What kind of response have you received from your first book? How did it change lives?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: It's almost scary to me that I haven't gotten ... I think I've received one negative one [e-mail message]. Everything else is, "This book has changed my life and I realize that I have not really been believing and I have not been engaging in intimacy with God like I could have or want to. And I didn't even realize that I wasn't doing it." Then, other people were the least likely persons to be reading my book. Several stories like this one put tears in my eyes. This guy in Florida was on the verge of suicide. He had been involved in sexually confused relationships. And he went to Barnes & Noble and [he told me], "I wasn't even a Christian, and this book seemed to be glowing on the shelf. And I bought it and it saved my life. And I now have hope and I want to know this Jesus." There were a number of those.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: That's awesome, to be instrumental in bringing about such a change in people's lives.
JAMES LANGTEAUX: Yeah, and I hope I don't sound at all prideful, because I know it was God. And I know that there are a good group of people out there that this book doesn't click with. It's not the way their minds work. But for the people for whom I've written, God has really done something. And it's neat because it's been a real welcome mat for the people who have been burned by the Church, who have hated the Jesus they have seen on TBN, and who would never set foot into a church situation. But it has also been a call to revolution for people who have claimed to believe for a long time.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: How does God.net's message relate to that of God.com?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: It's almost a prequel. It's a little bit like the StarWars trilogy. God.com threw the concept out there and gave some vague hints at different things and was a bit of a poetic call to revolution and a confession. And God.net is the net that captures the details that slipped through the cracks. It's the rest of the story. There was the talk about going to New Zealand and how hard it was to sell everything without any details. In this [God.net], there was a whole part on going to New Zealand and God's promise and the hardships that followed. And it was also the net of His love when He's not speaking (which is Part 1). You know, God does speak, but what happens when we hit those deserts when we don't hear anything? And it's tools to learn how to pray authoritatively, and it's hope for those who aren't hearing God's voice but got excited when they read God.com. So I think it's a prequel and I also think it's a follow-up.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: When I started God.net, I was expecting to jump into a book about evangelism. Instead, the chunk on lifestyle evangelism came in the last third of the book. Did you begin the book with expectations of only talking about evangelism? How did you become focused on sharing more of your personal struggle with faith?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: There were many sleepless nights when we were wrestling with chapter order and part orders. It was driving us crazy. When I was writing the book, I was probably at the most critical juncture of trying to decide what I believed. I mean, it was like all hell broke loose when God.com hit the shelves. And I found myself stripped. And that's where I was when I was writing. I think it was good to end the book with hope and with tools that engage us to go.
If I had engaged you to go, and then said, "Welcome to hell," it would've been harder for people. So I think it was, "Welcome to hell. God makes promises, then all hell breaks loose to try to convince you that you're just imagining it. That the promise isn't real." Just look through the scriptures. It's nonstop. The easy one - Abraham and Sarah - a promise -- but then a zillion years before there's the fulfillment and a whole bunch of things to convince them that it couldn't possibly be. Then David, anointed King, then sent back out with the sheep. Who knew he would be chased around the desert by some kook? Then all those horrible things that would happen before he would actually become king. But God wanted him to continue to believe the promise. So I just wanted to tell people who had read God.com and got all excited, just like watching Les Miserables or Rent and think, I want to be part of the revolution and then you get to the revolution and you're shot in the hip and you're in the hospital for 10 months and you think, Ughh, why did I do this? So, I wanted to say to people, "Yes, it's exciting. Yes, God speaks, but be ready for the hell on the other side of Believe. You're not alone. It happens to every single one of us. Look at Elijah. He sees fire fall from heaven and he says, just kill me. So that's not uncommon." I wanted to say to people who got excited and ran into roadblocks, "You're not alone; keep believing."
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: In God.net you talk about hell as "the desert of the real." Are you glad you went through that experience? Was being in the desert a worthwhile experience?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: Yes, I wouldn't trade it now for the world. It's building character. It's caused me to question everything I believe. And I think that's good. I think, as Americans especially, we've lost our ability to be critical thinkers. We're so over-stimulated that we don't have time to process it. We're e-mailing, we're faxing, we're calling, we're paging, we're leaving voice messages, we're instant messaging, and there's no time to process. So the desert is a really good time to process. I remember one particular day where I was on the edge. I had just spoken at Chuck Smith Jr.'s church for four services and they had claimed that, "oh, that was one of the best speakers ever" and it was exciting. And shortly afterward, I ran into hell, and I e-mailed Chuck and I said, "I don't know what I believe. I am being completely rocked, and I am questioning everything I believe." And Chuck wrote back and said, "Good! I wish all Christians would do that. Because whatever we're doing right now is not working, so we should be questioning." And so, yes, I wouldn't have answered yes when I was in it. But on the other side, yes, yes, yes, because it's causing me to have a firmer foundation, it's causing me to understand that circumstances are so significant and that holding on to God's Word and His promises and believing past what we can see is the key.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: Do you feel better prepared to go through a similar trial in the future, since you've been through the desert once?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: Yes, this isn't the only desert I've ever been through, but it was one of the harder deserts and one of the more unexpected deserts. Some of the deserts I've entered have been because of blatant sin or stupidity. This desert, my first book had come out, I was calling people to this revolution, I had no idea that I was going to get slammed. I feel more prepared, I feel less fearful of future deserts. I also feel more compassionate. I don't think I had the compassion when I would meet with people who were in the middle of a desert. I was like get up and get over it. Get joy again. And I realize now that you sometimes can't drum that up. And that I have more compassion and love for those people who are dealing with it.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: Did you write this book as an evangelism tool in itself or as a guide for Christians on how to more effectively share God's love?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: God.com was the book to hand to someone who just completely ... that you could say, "if you're interested at all in learning about God, read this." God.net is a tools book. Why would an unbeliever need to know about lifestyle evangelism when they aren't even on the team yet? For an unbeliever who isn't even believing you can hear from God, they don't need to read about when God doesn't speak. So I believe this book is really a discipleship book for my A.D.D. audience to learn those things.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: You share some powerful stories of leading others to Christ for the first time or back to Christ in their moments of utter despair. Have you become more effective or are you a natural at lifestyle evangelism?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: I think it is a little bit natural. The joke at CBN, which I kind of hated that it was a joke because I think we should all be a little bit like that, but it was, "here's our little evangelist" when we would go out to lunch. They'd be like, "James knows every waiter and waitress in this city and they love him." And really, I think it's just about love. So, I love people for the most part. So, just bumbling through life, loving people, sooner or later they will ask, "Why are you like this?" And then, when you tell them, then they are like, "Well, I want that." So, to me, that's lifestyle evangelism. And since I tend to really love people, yeah, it kind of comes naturally, but I believe God is showing me more and more ... in addition to just loving people, God is teaching me that He will speak through me for them and tell me things about them sometimes that will rock their world. You don't need 18 months of love for them to ask. If you say, "Wow, are you considering suicide and I don't know you?" The person immediately takes note that something has just happened here that I can't explain.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: In God.net you share that sometimes when you are sharing God's love you see pictures or visions that reveal something about the person with whom you are speaking. Do you share that you are seeing an image?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: I used to think that maybe you needed to tell them about the picture. And I realize now that that's usually their key that they're talking to an insane person. I tend to not say, "I've got a picture in my head." And usually the picture wouldn't make much sense.
I was just hosting a new series of television shows called The Bomb Shelter. It's a powerful new series, 26 episodes coming out in the next month on INSP and then in four months it's syndicated nationally. Thirteen young people on the set being really honest and exposing the fact that we really don't have a clue. I asked, "So does God speak?" And they said, "Yes!" One kid described it really well. He's a 21-year-old ex-drug dealer. And he said, "I was on a plane and I was sitting next to this beautiful girl and I didn't want to be lusting after her because she was so beautiful so I kept staring at a magazine. And all of sudden I saw a picture of a lamp with no bulb in it. And I knew God was trying to tell me something for her. So I didn't mention the lamp and bulb but I said, 'Hey, I don't know you. But I feel that the light has gone out in your life.' And she just burst into tears. And he said, 'I feel that something has been taken from you, and you don't have that light and joy.' And she just poured out her heart to him." So the lamp with no bulb wouldn't have made any sense. And I think that's the best way to do it.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: To interpret it on your own?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: Once I did tell the vision ... and I'm not a person who has ... but it says in the Word, "old men will dream dreams, young men would have visions" or vice versa, I never know the order. But we're so surprised at this, but it's all in the Word. I had a picture in my head - it was the first time this had happened. I was praying for this kid and I saw pieces of broken glass on the floor. And I said, "I see broken glass." And I saw it jabbed into his heart. And this woman came up who hadn't heard a word that I said, she was from South Africa, and she started praying for him and she said, "I see shards of broken glass." And I stopped praying and said, "Why did you just say that?" And she said, "Because I see shards of broken glass." And I laughed and when we finished praying, his mother came up and she said, "Thank you so much for praying for Johnny."
And I said, "Hey, I saw this broken glass. What does that mean?"
And she said, "I have no - oh my gosh, when he was 8 his father left us, and he had such rage at times that for years, he would smash windows and mirrors, and we would have piles of broken glass all over our house." Stuff like that just has me in awe.
So, I would never have been able to say, "I think there's great rage in your life based on the fact that your father is absent from the broken glass."
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: Are you cautious to keep yourself from seeming like you are mimicking someone from the psychic network? In other words, are you self-conscious of the radical way in which you talk about and relate to God?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: I don't want this to be misinterpreted. I feel that it has been the same gift in a sense, but they're using it for evil or misunderstanding it, whereas God has given gifts of prophecy - the ability to know things we can't know, the ability to see things we can't see -- and since the church has pretty much abdicated its position and doesn't use it, the younger generation really is flowing in it. I'm shocked when I see that it happens. In the show that I was telling you about, in the last episode, all of a sudden all of the kids just started flowing. And those who didn't even believe in it were starting to flow in it. And kids were bursting into tears as a result. It was cool. So, I believe that this younger generation is wide open.
I believe that it's a gift from God, it's an anointing. It says in the Word that His gifts and His calling are without repentance. So, if His gifts are used in a psychic manner - if an unbeliever asked [me if I was a psychic] I would be very careful to say, "I am not a psychic. The God of the universe knows all things and He has given this gift for us to be able to see and to know and to hear things and so it's just devoted to Him and His purposes." And I would think that psychics ... probably it's the same anointing, they're just using it in a demonic sense or Satan mimics every good gift, so it could just be that psychics are mimicking the holy gift.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: In the first half of the book, you share a couple of difficult times in your career when you felt that you were struggling to let God control your path and creative talent. What does it mean to let go and let God take over? How does this differ from procrastination or laziness?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: I wrestle with that. I feel that God has called me to enter His rest. And I don't know the difference between laziness and rest. I think this is all about learning to walk. And you're going to make mistakes. You'll veer into laziness sometimes, and you'll stumble into rest. I believe it's about walking into it and learning and seeing, "OK, that's laziness, that's procrastination. OK, now this is the way to do it." And God is forgiving. If you're doing it to honor Him, He's not going to spank you because you goofed up while you were trying to do what's right. He's just going to say, "OK, now here's some encouragement. Here's how to do this better." He's a good father. When you listen to God, he will tell you how to find that balance between procrastination and trust.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: Your story about your destructive pit bull, Erich, and the havoc he was creating in your life was to illustrate how some friendships are too harmful for a Christian to maintain. People might read this section and have a few relationships come to mind. It can be difficult to balance your effort to be a lifestyle evangelist with keeping yourself away from temptations to sin. Do you have any advice to offer as to when the time to give up a particular friend or relationship might come?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: The minute you think that you're the savior or you are doing something to protect this person, it's veering toward codependency and it's time to let go. And if you think, "I can't let go," that's probably a really good sign that this is one you need to let go of.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: You describe a time of despair in your life when you asked a friend to pray for you and he began with the usual comforting prayer. You interrupted and asked him to pray with more authority, in the name of Jesus. Are you suggesting that if we don't pray in just the right way, our prayers aren't heard?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: No. It wasn't so much about praying in Jesus' name.
The point of that story was what I needed at that moment was for him to take authority over the kingdom of darkness or whatever it was that was causing me to be on the brink of despair. As Christians, we tend to go for the weeds instead of the roots. We spend our entire existence pulling weeds and we run out of strength, we run out of energy and we get full of despair. "God, these weeds are never going to stop!" And they won't, unless we go to the root. So I asked my friend to go to the root, take authority over the darkness and despair. And he did, and it went. And there were no more weeds.
And I think when there's sexual abuse, when there's abandonment, when there's rejection, when there's all of those things in our lives, we could spend our entire lives - when it's generational curses - we could spend our entire lives pulling weeds. Or we could ask God to reveal the roots and show us how to get to the roots. In Jeremiah 1 it says, "I give you the ability to pull up, uproot, to tear down, to rebuild, and to plant. And I give you that authority." And I use that Scripture a lot because we need to pull those roots. And we need to know what those roots are. And then we don't leave that void. We need to plant. If it's abandonment, then we say, "God, now fill that place with acceptance, with love." We're planting.
CROSSWALK.COM'S CHERYL JOHNSTON: What is the message you want people to take away from this book?
JAMES LANGTEAUX: That this is a journey, and it's a difficult journey. And God speaks, and we are foolish if we choose not to believe and participate in that kind of intimacy with Him. And we're also foolish to think that He'll speak nonstop. And that in those desert times He wants us more than ever to believe and to hold on to the words that He spoke. And then find out, are there things in my life that have put me in this desert? And make adjustments and then continue to believe.
And I also want to equip the reader to become effective lifestyle evangelists, not to be seeker-sensitive and to be politically correct, but to literally love the hell out of people. Love them, love them.
And I think the other thing I really liked was when God showed me, "Tell the people to stop saying love the sinner and hate the sin. I hate that. Love. I have dealt with the sin."
And so, I think those are the main things I would like people to take from it. They're not alone. There's real rest in the desert and on the other side of the desert. And I think very few people understand how to rest in Him. And the journey is hard without a network of people surrounding us. We need to be surrounded by a community of powerful prayer warriors who can speak into our lives and share the journey with us.