I cannot thank the Lord enough for my spiritual father: Dr. Charles Solomon. I can thank many whom God used to guide and direct me through the years but none quite like my spiritual father - Chuck. It was through the Lord's influence in and through him that God provided a Biblical, Christ as Life foundation of Truth for my life and ministry.
– Dr. Stephen R. Phinney
"Son of Thunder"
Man Overcomes Dyslexia, Poor Health, and Childhood Trauma to Become a Prolific Writer
Repressed by an undiagnosed learning difficulty, poor health, and trauma as a child, Dr. Stephen R. Phinney felt he had been born rejected by life itself. Yet decades later, he is a prolific writer followed by millions, and his message is one of perseverance.
Phinney was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1955, spending the first five years of his life in an oxygen tent—which he refers to as a “bubble”—as he was allergic to many different things including various forms of food, human touch, and textures.
“As it turned out, I was allergic to the environment, including the air most people were accustomed to breathing,” Phinney told The Epoch Times via email. “I was labeled
‘The Bubble Boy.'”
“My first memories were seeing condensation on the inside of my ‘bubble’ and, as told by my mother, holding me through latex gloves attached to the walls of this tent,” Phinney described in his autobiography, “Why the Boy Cried, Wolf.”
Subjected to seemingly endless poking and prodding by doctors, Phinney’s early years were fraught with immense suffering. He lost his best friend to a fatal car accident, for which he felt responsible, and his father, a veteran working for the U.S. Air Force, started experiencing alcohol-induced post-traumatic war episodes, which traumatized him more.
Yet after a near-death experience, caused by exposing himself to allergens, Phinney, then-11, told his mother he would “rather have a short life out there than have a longer life in [the bubble].” An allergist would later tell him it was possibly the best decision he ever made.
Phinney, who has a sister and twin brothers, had also missed a lot of school owing to illness and constantly moving between military bases, yet when he did manage to attend, he was bullied mercilessly.
“I was stuffed and locked in lockers, beat up more times than I can remember, and teased relentlessly,” Phinney wrote in his autobiography.
“One experience stands out above the rest—one afternoon, I looked out the study hall window and watched the football team attempt to put my car on its roof. I went and got the principal, and to that, he said boys will be boys.”
Neither did Phinney’s teachers sympathize with his struggles, never picking up on the fact that their pupil had dyslexia or “word blindness.”
“By the time I reached high school, I was labeled ‘borderline mentally retarded,'” Phinney told The Epoch Times.
However, his junior year literature teacher, baffled, conducted a speed-reading test, first testing at a speed most elementary children could read at. Phinney’s retention was next to zero.
“She speeds the machine to the level of speed readers, and my comprehension range increased to 80 percent,” Phinney said. “Even though she didn’t pinpoint dyslexia, she found a profound truth: my brain processes data faster than the given norm.”
Phinney didn’t learn to read comprehensively until meeting his wife. He battled years of residual trauma, substance abuse, and unemployment before finally landing a job at a disabled care facility in Sheldon, Iowa, where the couple met.
Phinney’s inner storyteller finally found creative expression.
“A few years later, I was asked to tell my story to a subcommittee working on an illiteracy bill for their state,” Phinney told The Epoch Times. “After the event, a local neurological surgeon approached me. He asked, ‘Has anyone explained the neurological reasoning behind your challenge?'”
Gifted children, said the neurosurgeon, may appear mentally challenged due to their ability to process information more quickly than the speed espoused by traditional teaching methods. “He went on to encourage me to learn as fast as my brain so desires. I took that advice,” said Phinney.
Bolstered by his devout Christian faith—having become a believer as a teen after witnessing an apparition of Jesus during one school recess—he earned his master’s degree.
And, what was once his greatest challenge had become his greatest asset.
“Today, my writings reach multitudes,” he reflected. “I have written many books, and I am a compassionate activist in addressing children and adults with learning difficulties. While I still have to use grammar software and editors, I am compelled to get what is in my head onto paper.”
Marrying faith and advocacy, Phinney founded IOM America, the Identity Matters Worldview Institute, and IM Worldview Online School to help others confront cultural issues as they relate to Christian identity.
Phinney’s email publications reach over 2.1 million inboxes each year. Out of his 22 high school classmates, many of whom rejected him as a teen, 16 are themselves, subscribers.
He also has a simple motto: “Learning disabilities are the doorway to brilliance,” and his personal story of overcoming adversity is a fitting testimony.
Even though there are thousands of teachers, preachers, and workers of the Cross that God used to move the message of Christ in you forward – today, few remain focused on such teachings. This demise inflamed my passion for advancing the message of the believer's shared co-death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
However, I didn't hear those words spoken until the Lord moved me into the teaching world of eschatology. Since the end times talk is filled with condemnation and judgment for the fake Christians and the haters of God, this ministry focus activated persecution I've never experienced before.
While I am accustomed to generalized persecution, you know, those who despise what you are teaching and let you know of their opinion. Although, when someone or a group wishes you dead, it takes it to a new level.
I can't tell you how many times I have wept at my desk, asking the Lord the question, why me? As selfish as that sounds, the 'why me' is related to why the Lord selected me to say the things that tend to offend the Christian masses – as in the case of fake Christians who follow Christ vs. those authentic ones whom He indwells. At three in the morning on a given day, He answered me. You are a son of thunder. I created you to fulfill a mission to assist in separating the goats from the sheep. I have called you to front the Church of Laodicea.
Being a prophet is no fun. For being the most coveted position stated in the Bible, the cost of such a gift, humanly speaking, is daunting. Can you imagine having people stand before you rattling off the rhetoric of Christianity and having the ability to look into their souls and see the lies that fill their minds? Worse yet, speaking out on what you see? Honestly, this is when the gift "feels" like a curse. Minimally, it leaves God's people with this gift friendless.
From Coward to Son of Thunder
I grew up in what the world classifies as a "dysfunctional home." My father was the son of a great man of God - a preacher who was used to reform the Quaker and Friends church branches. Rumor has it that my father was named after my grandfather's role model, Charles Finney. Because of growing up in a spiritual environment that was ever so public, my father decided to go in the opposite direction of his calling. Because of this, my father did not allow Christianity to be discussed in our home. Overall, bitterness and fear ruled our household.
My childhood was plagued with illnesses. I was born with allergies that affected most areas of my life. Due to these weaknesses, school attendance did not become regular until my high school years. As a result, I did not know how to read or write until I married my wife. Thus, most of my rejection issues were related to education. However, once I learned to read & write, a new world opened up.
I received Jesus Christ into my life at 16 years of age. It was a "radical" conversion and transformation. However, while I accepted Christ died on the Cross for me, I was not told I died with Him. This led to a performance-based Christian life.
In the mid-'70s, I found myself in a state of unrest. I knew I was born-again and served the Lord the best I knew how. I shared the Word of God and led others to Christ. I was active in church outreach, but there remained a yearning, a spiritual thirst for a deeper walk with Christ. I desired a life of victory and triumph rather than fear and performance - knowing what I was living wasn't enough. I found the classic message of the Church to be dry as bones. I intuitively knew there had to be a better way of living.
While working as a residential care worker in Iowa, a friend & coworker placed a book on my desk that he obtained from his sister (a friend of Lee LeFebre) while visiting Denver - The Handbook to Happiness by Dr. Charles Solomon. Seeing the graphics on the cover created a "wanting" to read it, but I had a problem - I was functionally illiterate. I was 21 years of age and faking my way through life. After confessing my problem to my wife, she began teaching me how to read using God's Word. At this point in my walk, God introduced me to Dr. Charles Solomon, who was soon to become my spiritual father and mentor for life. Knowing that this "exchanged life" book contained my answer, I pressed on to find a way to read the book. Amazingly, this book became the first book I read from cover to cover. Little did I realize how Christ would use Chuck's book to change my life and the course of my ministry! I embraced the truths of the Exchanged Life. Shortly after this revelation, in 1981, I packed up my family, moved to Denver, and became an intern in Dr. Solomon's training program. This adventure started a father/son relationship until Dr. Solomon's death.
After consulting with Dr. Solomon, he encouraged me to start a non-profit in Colorado Springs that focused on the message of the Exchanged Life. In 1986, we started Release Ministries - now IOM America. We developed and established a training and counseling center that serviced the community with a special emphasis on ministering to the Navigators and Compassion International staff. During this time, I met my second mentor, Lorne Sanny - former President of Navigators, now with the Lord. Through my relationship with Lorne, I refined my leadership & visionary skills.
Soon these skills were required of me. During the late '90s, after moving our ministry to Arizona, I served as an advisor to multiple politicians. During my advisory position with the state, God gave me a plan to establish a new branch of government called The Faith-Based Initiative. This plan was the basis for my doctorate dissertation at Phoenix University of Theology. To my surprise, this plan was embraced by leaders throughout the United States, modestly in Uganda, ultimately leading to a 5-year collaborative relationship with the White House. Even though I was warned and prepared, God used the dysfunction of American politics to call me back to my roots. I resigned from my position in politics and began to re-establish IOM America.
Once returning to my life calling – uniting Exchanged Life workers, IOM America became dedicated to Christ-as-Life discipleship, conferences & Worldview Center development. We continue to help members of the body of Christ to experience, mature in, and communicate effectively the message of identification with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
During this time, God reminded me that the plan He gave me for my doctoral studies was not meant for the government but for His Church. After years of ministering the Exchanged Life, God opened the door to kindle my vision afresh to unite workers of the Cross. With permission from the White House to reconstruct the Faith-based Initiative for our use, in June of 2010, we were released to go to work. Today, the Christ as Life Global Commission started as the Exchanged Life Global Initiative. Our overall mission is to unite prophets, teachers, and preachers in sharing the message of Christ in you. The practical advantage is developing a website that will host books, articles, videos, and other forms of media that advance the doctrines of Christ working THROUGH the authentic believer.
Son of Thunder, Step Forward.
Much later in my life, the Lord brought to my attention the importance of eschatology and the indwelling Life of Christ. This led to years of studying cultural issues that have infiltrated the Church. My emphasis shifted to Christ, Culture, and Creator by blending prophetic end-times doctrines and modern movements. A vision we advance to this day. However, this is when the nominal, typical persecution is elevated to intense or severe. I quickly discovered that the Christian masses despise the talk of the end times. I concluded that the "Grace Movement" spoiled the people who believed in God so much that the talk of condemnation, judgment, and fake Christianity became the most resistive theology of modern times. In this, I realized why the Lord is calling all sons of thunder to rise to the surface of the end times.
Since our initiative's early years, I have come to embrace that the full Gospel includes the Grace of God AND His judgments. While I have come to accept who I am in Christ, my challenge to accept my calling is far more challenging. I am sure I will have many more days of resisting my calling; I know one thing, functioning in the center of what I am called to do cement who I am in Him.
Thank you for reading this "extended version" of my personal and professional timeline. I believe it is important, if not critical, to know the pathway of the Cross for leaders you choose to serve or assist. Bless you.
So now, let's get busy advancing the Life of Christ in our Lord's eschatological prophecies and warnings. Time is running out. The Rapture is approaching us, and our time is precious in proclaiming the Day of our Lord.