Renewing Your Mind: An Interview With Author Dennis Jernigan
Author Dennis Jernigan recently wrote a book detailing what it means to renew the mind. In an interview with The Stream, Jernigan discussed why he wrote the book on his former homosexual lifestyle and healing. He now wants to provide hope and healing to others who suffer from the same or other struggles. Renewing Your Mind will be available on Amazon on August 1, then available in bookstores and through Jernigan’s ministry in October.
How did the book come about?
Everyday I’m approached by people asking how I attained my freedom. They come out of the woodwork. I needed something to put in their hands. I started thinking, ‘What would I want to know?’ So it’s to answer all those questions.
What is the book about?
Every feeling we have is attached to a thought. I got tired of feeling rejected, of feeling angry. Like I said in the book, it’s about my incredible journey. The battleground of my mind.
Who is the audience?
Everybody struggles but God’s Word is so powerful. It’s for everyone who struggles to help them renew their mind.
Were you raised as a Christian? How did it happen that you simply chose to believe God’s Word and your life was changed?
I was raised in the church. I was the pianist at age 10. I was there every time the door was open. I knew at age 10 that I struggled with homosexual thoughts. One day in church I heard men talking about homosexuality. I thought “They hate me. If they hate me, God hates me. I have to hide.” I felt that if they knew what I was really like they’d hate me. If my performance didn’t measure up I felt like a failure.
I got to college and wanted to major in songwriting. There were a few openings. But they said they didn’t see that potential in me so they didn’t let me major in songwriting. I enrolled in a top theory class. But it was good because it forced me to learn. During that time I struggled with sexual failure. I tried to fix myself but I didn’t feel valuable. One day as I walked across campus I heard my name. It was a Christian leader. He began investing time in me — talking and praying with me. Then we started getting cokes and talking. I felt I was worth something. I decided to share my struggle with him. The moment I told him, he made a sexual advance toward me. I was devastated. I went home and turned on the gas in my apartment and lay on the floor. Then I heard this voice saying, “Are you ready for eternity?” I couldn’t answer that and it scared me. I decided that “This is the way I was born.” So I lived a homosexual lifestyle in 1981. I was miserable. But God was not willing to let me go.
In college I was introduced to contemporary Christian music. I listened to 2nd Chapter of Acts. I realized that somebody could write songs that spoke to where I was. Keith Green’s writing was so intimate with God. One song that really impacted me was He Loves Me by Annie Herring and 2nd Chapter of Acts.
After I graduated college I cut off the relationship I was in. I enrolled in Seminary, but three days before I was to go, a friend called me. He said, “Dennis, the Lord’s been speaking to me about you. The Lord came to me in a dream and showed me that hundreds of people are singing your songs.” His mother had the same dream that night. He asked me “Would you be willing to come to Oklahoma City?”
I did, and took a job driving a school bus. At that time, homosexual thoughts bombarded me. I was double-minded like it says in James. To settle my mind I went to the piano with my Bible. I sang through the Psalms making up melodies. I was reminded that King Saul was beset by evil spirits and David was called to worship. David committed adultery and murder, but he was called a man after God’s own heart.
At one point, my friend said we need to talk. He knew I was struggling with homosexuality. He told me the answer is Jesus. He said, “Let’s just walk toward Jesus together. When you fall down I’ll help you up.” That’s what I needed to hear.
Then on November 7, 1981, I went to a concert by the 2nd Chapter of Acts. They were singing the Mansion Builder, then they stopped. Annie Herring said, “There’s somebody here tonight who’s struggling with hiding something. God sees the things you hide and He loves you anyway. Place it on the shoulders of Jesus.” Then my heart began to break. I walked out with a new identity in Christ that night. I’ve been walking toward Jesus since 1981. There was so much healing between 1981 and 1983. My thought life has so drastically changed. I had friends in my old lifestyle telling me I’d be back, or saying that I’d been brainwashed. And I’d have to agree with the last part. I’ve had my life cleansed. Hope is possible, change is possible.
I don’t argue with people about it. I want to help people who want help. I want to educate the church. You just have to know Jesus. If everyone treated their home as a hospital for Jesus we could change the culture overnight. I love people where they are. Others loved me where I was. They loved me enough not to leave me there.
How can people determine they’re thinking wrong?
There are several ways that help me in determining wrong thinking. The first thing that comes to mind for me is if the thought I am thinking violates the Word of God, I renounce the thought and replace it with the truth of God’s Word. Since I have been walking in this reality for so long now, I have discovered that if my conscience feels violated, I may be thinking incorrectly. Coupled with those those factors is the feeling itself. If I am feeling discouraged or sad or lonely or whatever, I try and trace the feeling back to a thought that caused the feeling. If I have no reason to feel discouraged or sad or lonely based on what is true, I reason that I have believed a lie.
Also, surrounding myself with people who love me and believe in me and want the best for me goes a long way in helping determine right thinking. My wife and children have permission to remind me of the truth in the area of my thought life. An example: If I do something boneheaded and call myself a “stupid idiot,” they are quick to remind me that is not true. They will respond with “Is that who you are?” It helps me walk in right thinking.
How can people change their thinking?
Discipline. Recognize the lie and putting it off. I’m not to call myself something my Father doesn’t call me. I decided to start with a blank slate. I prayed “I want to know who You say You are.” I started by getting up each morning and asking God “What do you want me to do today? What do you want me to wear today? What do you want me to say to this person today?” I was able to develop an intimate relationship with Him. I would pray at night, “Would You cleanse and renew my mind while I sleep?” I also give my family and friends permission to correct me. If I say, “I’m such an idiot,” my kids will say, “No, Dad, you’re not.” My buddies are the same way. But you’ll never get to the Truth without an honest confession. The Truth is I need a savior.
When saved, people have a new identity in Christ. What do you say to those who still struggle with homosexuality after conversion?
We don’t get to pick what tempts us. Even Jesus was tempted. It’s what you do with that temptation. He makes a way to escape. He is so faithful. Here are some practical things. When I’m angry, I speak peace. When I’m down, I encourage others. Sin gets us self-focused. But when we focus on others, temptation loses its power.
How can people change their thinking about their identity to God’s point of view?
The first step for me was to determine what my worldview would be. A man-centric worldview always leads to failure because man eventually dies and the wisdom of man always seems to be based on what the latest greatest humanistic way of thinking might be. One day up means up but the next day up means down! I saw no safety or future in that kind of thinking. I needed a firm foundation from which to base my thought life. Since God made me, I decided a God-centric or Christ-centric worldview would be my bedrock. My desire came to be that I wanted to know what my Maker’s design for my life was. From that point, it became easier for me in the sense that if who I thought I was seemed contrary to who Father God says I am, I could replace the old way of thinking with God’s truth.
If I am my Father’s son, then it stands to reason that His spiritual DNA flows through my veins. A great help in determining my true identity in Christ was to simply discover Who God says He is! If He is Healer, then I am called to bring His healing to others … which is one of the purposes of this book. If He is Provider, then how can I help bring His provision to others around me whether spiritually or tangibly? If He is Victor, then I am destined to win and to help others run the race of life well. If He is Savior, I am to be His ambassador to the world around me. If He is Shepherd, then I am called to minister to His sheep as He cares for me. It is in discovering Who Father says He is that I more fully understand the identity and calling He has instilled in me. The enemy’s scheme is to so confuse us in our identity that we do not walk in the power and purity of who He created and designed us to be in the first place.
We have no choice as to temptation but we do have choice as to reaction and/or behavior. Does this mean people are born as homosexuals?
I don’t believe anyone is born homosexual. But everyone is born a sinner. We’re capable of anything. It depends on personality, giftings. I always wondered why there was a high percentage of homosexuals in the creative arts. It’s possible that Satan chooses to use the most creative people to to get his message out … to get his way of thinking out to the masses.
Is everything truly all in the mind?
I think so. Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts define us. If I’m feeling down or depressed, I think “What am I thinking about?” We never stop talking to ourselves. We do [Satan’s] dirty work for him. He plants the seed and we take it to town.
People have asked me if I still struggle with homosexuality. I know what my reality is. Where can I turn in our culture where there isn’t mention of homosexuality? Sure I remember, but it has no power over me.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to add?