From The Director

Sometimes the Bible can be pretty quirky. That might sound weird coming from a pastor, but before you grab the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. There’s a very short story in 2 Kings 6:1-7. The prophet Elijah is with a couple men doing some log-cutting. One of the guys loses an ax-head in the water and cries out, “No, no, no, no! I borrowed that!” If you ever lost or broke something that belonged to someone else, you know that sick-to-your-stomach feeling. Instead of diving in and looking for the ax-head like a normal person, Elisha asks where it fell in, throws a stick in that spot, and waited for the iron to float so the man could pick it up.

I think that’s a little overkill. Didn’t anyone know how to swim? Did they really need to break the laws of physics for one ax-head? Really?! If that’s not quirky, I’m not sure what is. However, I think it illustrates an important point about God–He cares about the mundane.

Throughout my time teaching and meeting with clients this month, God has been reminding me of this . He is not only transcendent; He is also imminent. He is not just in the abstract; He is in the practical. He cares about our ax-head moments and wants to meet us there.

Not only that, I would argue this is the primary way He reveals Himself to us. Our faith isn’t built on abstract moral or legal principles. It’s not an esoteric revelation. Rather, our faith is built upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. God revealed Himself in flesh and blood, dwelt among us, and will dwell among us again!

A lot of us romanticize encountering God. We believe it must be some extraordinarily big experience. Basically, we have great expectations we place upon God when, really, we should simply have expectancy. Expectancy is open to whatever God has for us today or in this moment. This is what the healing journey looks like at Outpost. It isn’t only about crazy breakthrough moments (those do happen, though!), but it’s about the consistent, every day choice to choose God above all else. To trust that He will be working and encountering us in the small and simple as well as the awesome and abstract.

God cares so deeply about us and He wants to reveal that love to us, not just in abstract theological terms, but especially in those practical moments of everyday life and lost ax-heads.

Encounter, Community, and Perseverance

Shoots of a green plant in a terra cotta pot representing growth and perseverance

I first came to Outpost as the volunteer Media Director years ago. I recently went back through some of the video footage that I shot in those early days. It brought me tears. It was so unexpected, but I was confronted with literal evidence of dear brothers and sisters who used to wear their shame and pain on their faces. I know them today as ones with shining faces, faces filled with the confidence of being loved by God and by their community. My favorite part about ministry at Outpost is watching the light of Christ fill the countenance of our participants. They are still on their healing journey, but they have been transformed into ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

There are three fundamental things that I’ve found to be necessary on the healing journey: encounter with the living, relational God; healthy community; and perseverance. I’d like to share a bit about each.

Encounter

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a.

We have this great promise, that when we give God our weak yes, He will answer. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we knock, the door will be opened to us. When we seek, we will find.

It is necessary, vital, and inescapable that we need encounter with God to be changed. Transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can conjure up or fake. Our part is a necessary “Yes” to the process of discipleship and encounter.

This need for encounter is fundamentally why we’re partnered with the Prayer Room. It’s not that there is something especially ‘spiritual’ about the modality of our Prayer Room compared with other prayer practice. The healing partnership with Outpost is really about time. What the Prayer Room affords is extended hours of prayer that force us to stop running from our pain; confront our boredom and cold hearts; and get beyond our own navel-gazing to pray for others.

It can be difficult at first to face into our lack of hunger for God, but in the repeated devotion of time, He encounters us and softens our hearts. In that space of prayer, communion, and encounter, He transforms us.

Community

“…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Most of us have struggled at some point with belonging, feeling left out, or unwanted. For those of us who have struggled with addictive or compulsive sin, there is a correlation between our sin struggles and our lack of community. When I am cut off from community, I am at highest risk of giving into the enemy. When I am surrounded with support from the body of Christ, I am empowered to overcome by the experience of real love.

It’s a powerful thing to be loved on our worst day. It’s a powerful thing to know that someone will stand with us when we can’t stand ourselves. It’s also painful, because broken humans hurt each other, but as we risk, choose to trust, and learn to forgive as we have been forgiven, we find belonging and transformation.

Perseverance

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

The work of healing is hard. The enemy comes in with discouragement and, like the serpent in the garden, with variations of “Did God really say?” or “Does God love you, really?”

We can’t dictate what transformation will look like, but if we persevere, it will happen. In my own journey, I always came to the Lord with my laundry list of things to fix. Typically, He ignored my list and gently worked on something else. This was not because of some sort of cheap grace but rather a fundamental fault in my understanding. God was concerned, not with my punishment, but with my healing. As I learned to submit to His Lordship on a daily basis–regardless of my feelings of rebellion, fatigue, boredom, or even joy–He transformed me.

What results from encounter, community, and perseverance? Transformation. It’s not a myth or a fanciful idea. It’s real, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and it’s the desire of the Father for us. (Jeremiah 29:11).

We Need You

We want Outpost to continue to stand as a beacon of hope for transformation. As we approach our annual fundraising banquet, we need to raise $41,000 for this year of ministry. If the message of transformation resonates with you, there are a few ways that you can help us:

Consider sponsoring a table. If you are financially able, this is a profound tool to help spread the message of hope. When you sponsor a table and invite people from your network, you are inviting them into hope. Every year at the banquet, we hear from people who are hearing testimonies of transformation for the first time–it’s powerful to see the way their hearts come alive.

Attend or make a gift. You may not be in a position to sponsor a table, but every gift we receive is an important part of our mission.

Pray. We wouldn’t be here without the sustaining power of prayer, and we continue to need your support. Please continue to partner and stand with us in this way, and do not discount this critical ministry. You matter to us!

To register for the banquet or make a donation, CLICK HERE

(Re)Introducing TCJHOP’s New Head Pastor, Dan P.

Two empty chairs face each other with a table for two with pastry and coffee between

We would like to welcome Dan P. as the Head Pastor of TCJHOP! While many of you have known Dan for years, we thought this would be a great opportunity for everyone to get to know Dan even better (or for the first time). Dan has a Bachelor of Arts from Crown College in Music and Bible (1980) and a Masters in Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary (1986). Previously, he was in the role of Pastor of Ministry Relations. Here is a little Q&A with Dan and Jonathan, the Outpost Director.

Jonathan: Since we are introducing you to members of our Outpost family new and old, what’s something most people don’t know or wouldn’t guess about you?

Dan: “Umm. Coffee? No. Chocolate? No. Uh, well I was a piano performance major in college! Who just happens to love both coffee and chocolate!”

You’ve been a pastor for a long time. How were you first called into ministry?

“I sensed God’s call at around age ten when relatives went overseas as missionaries. That call was strengthened through serving on missions trips in 1975 and 1979. In between, there was always a struggle with my sexuality which pushed me towards greater and greater levels of commitment to Jesus and His service.”

I hear you’ve been at Outpost forever, but how long is forever exactly?

“I heard of Outpost 39½ years ago, and my first visit to Outpost was almost 34 years ago (Jan 1986). I became a regular attender and participant 30½ years ago at the Joshua Fellowship Fourth of July Picnic in 1989. I’ve been on staff for 26 years.”

Who is someone who had a major impact on your life?

“There have been many! But one notable person in regard to my connection with Outpost was Joe Hallett. He was the ministry director at the time I first got involved in Joshua Fellowship. It was through his ‘pestering’ me that the Holy Spirit convinced me to come to work at Outpost Ministries. Joe had an incredible gift of communicating, both through the written and the spoken word. He had a powerful understanding of discipleship when it comes to dealing with our humanity, specifically in regard to our fallenness in our sexuality. He taught me a lot about writing and the important impact of conveying meaning to one’s readers. Writing is work and requires due diligence on many levels and is not limited to fact, grammar, and spell checking! Additionally, words mean different things to different people. To really convey meaning, one must understand his audience and ‘speak their language.’ But mostly Joe was an infectious personality. When he laughed, the whole room erupted in guffaws. When he loved, everyone’s heart was warmed. When he worshiped, not only did we all ‘belt it out with all we had,’ but angels joined the chorus!”

I know you like to joke a lot, so I want to know who or what makes you laugh the most?                    

“One of my mentors typically has a ‘one-liner’ for me as we hug goodbye. His latest: ‘Dan, I like your [brighter-than-snow-white] shoes! Are they new?’”

 As you’ve experienced life and ministry, what is the most important thing you’ve learned about God?

“He does what He says! God is fully integrated, and His Word is His Action is His Identity. He never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. That gives me great confidence in Him. I can trust a Person like that! Combined with His other major attribute of Love, one cannot go wrong in fully depending upon Him. His Justice never changes, either. And Justice and Love combined is the most powerful combination of personal attributes that anyone could ever have. So a God of Justice sees to it that the ones He loves always receive their ‘just desserts’ (truly justified rewards or punishments). Sin deserves punishment. But God loves sinners and therefore allows a substitute to receive the punishment, while simultaneously allowing the sinner who appropriates the punishment to Jesus to go free. On the other hand, Love demands Justice for victims of abuse. If the perpetrator of the abuse is not held responsible and punished for the abuse, the victim then must bear the weight of the abuse himself. That’s unjust. Instead, God Himself, in the form of His Son, Jesus, came to bear the weight of the victim’s abuse and free that victim of that burden. Rarely will a man lay down his life for a friend, yet Jesus laid down His life for His enemies. This is the Gospel!”

Over your years of involvement, what kind of legacy have you seen Outpost leave?

“Outpost has remained true to the Word of God. The importance of this can hardly be overstated. Taken as a whole, the Bible is a cohesive unit, explaining what’s been called the ‘Grand Story of Redemption.’ It explains that homosexual behavior is always sinful in every circumstance without exception. The world hates that message. But the Bible goes on to explain that there is a solution to the sin problem. And that God provided the solution for sin because He so incredibly loves us. He wants to have a relationship with us, and He did all the work to make it happen!”      

What is your hope for Outpost in the future?

Jesus is our Hope. Outpost will cease to exist when Jesus comes. Homosexuality will cease to exist for us when Jesus comes, for there is no marriage in heaven. Life on earth is not easy, never has been, and never will be. It wasn’t designed to be easy. It was designed so that we can choose holiness. When we strive for holiness, a part of our eternal nature, the image of God in us, is revealed. Our flesh weakens that expression of the eternal. But so what? This is just for time, not eternity! Living for Jesus is what matters most in this life.”

What encouragement do you want to share with our readers?

“The power to live for Jesus comes from Jesus. He is our strength, our courage, our faith. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, the life-changing power of Jesus lives through us, setting us free from the bonds of sin.”

Finally, I need to ask my classic ‘youth pastor’ question: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

“Hmmm. X-ray vision? Nah. While improved eyesight would be a marvel, I’d rather have the patience of Job. And it is listed in Galatians as being part of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is ‘super.’ It comes from life in the Spirit. If that would suddenly (see what I mean?) manifest itself in my life, I would gladly and easily put in my eye drops without complaint … every … 15 … minutes!”

                                         

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be on His Shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Isaiah 9:6 -

A Christmas Letter From Our New Outpost Director

I really love the holidays. This season is especially special for myself as the ninth and final Star Wars movie will be released slightly before Christmas! This sequel and conclusion is a big deal for many fellow nerds. This isn’t the only sequel I’m looking forward to, though. I’m even more excited for Christmas II.

What do I mean by that? Most of the time we think of Christmas, we think about looking to the past, nostalgia, and remembering the birth of Christ. However, Christmas is also about looking ahead. It’s not only meant as a time to look back on Jesus’ incarnation but also a time to look forward to His return. We live in a liminal space where the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, but has yet to come in its fullness.

As the lyrics of O Holy Night say, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining…” That was certainly true before Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth. Yet, creation is still groaning and longing for the redemption of our bodies and the fullness of God’s Kingdom on the earth (Rom 8:19-23). There is still injustice that permeates society. There is still sexual, relational, and every other kind of brokenness. Things are far from ok. However, in the midst of this, we still have hope.

Just as Israel longed for the Messiah in the midst of oppression, we eagerly await the Messiah’s return.  Christ is the Lord. He is seated at the right hand of the Father with all power and authority. It’s not a matter of if we will see the fullness of his Kingdom, it’s a matter of when

This ministry of Outpost has a vital role in seeing the Kingdom breakthrough on earth. An outpost after all represents the furthest reaches of an empire. It’s on the front lines. We are seeing great things as chains are loosed and the oppressed are set free and are continuing our mission to build up the Church and bring restoration to families. This work isn’t easy, and we need your help! We are looking to raise $100,000 to cover our expenses in the coming year. Would you consider partnering with us and giving an end of the year donation? Your support means so much to us.

Merry Christmas and Maranatha!

Jonathan M.
Outpost Director

For the first time, I gave up trying to choose and act on my own, and allow Jesus to take control of my healing. Shortly thereafter, I cam to Outpost Ministries and enrolled in Living Waters. Throughout the course, God continually brought up areas of my life to surrender at the cross. Every week took courage to encounter my brokenness with honesty and humility. Every week I encountered safe relationships. Every week I went to the cross and surrendered. Every week I found nothing there but mercy.

-Living Waters Participant

Generosity + Joy: A Reflection on Matthew 6

Young group of smiling adults walk at sunset under a bridge

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Matthew 6:1-4

Several years ago, I was in New York City doing short-term missions work. It was this time of year – cold, crisp, and full of the expectation of Thanksgiving. During the grueling 14-day trip facilitating worship, outreach, and ministry to the homeless, I had one 10-hour break to enjoy the city. A few subway stops later, I was strolling through Central Park with a friend, on our way to gawk at 5th avenue and the finest that New York had to offer. Everything was full of lights and color, and overwhelmingly decadent. We strolled, carefree, and I’ll admit I was a little taken in by it all.

Ahead of us, a light turned red, and we stopped.

Beneath the cold street sign that boldly proclaimed “5th Avenue” was a homeless woman. She was lying on the sidewalk, wrapped in a dirty, gray cotton sheet. Her dark hair was matted into dreadlocks; her lips were crusted yellow with dehydration. Tears flowed freely across her beautiful cheeks as she stared at the ground in desolation. The glamour of 5th Avenue disappeared with a sort of violence, and my heart broke in two.

Her shoulders were shaking in agony as she wept. I placed a dollar in her plastic solo cup full of pennies and nickels. My friend knelt down and tenderly asked if she could pray for her. The woman nodded. We prayed.

Hundreds of people were passing by without a second glance, and who could blame them? Sometimes the need is so great that it is too much for our hearts to feel. We have to shut it out just to avoid despair, but I think we all can relate to getting it wrong sometimes. In that moment I was repenting for forgetting compassion. 

As my friend prayed, the woman raised her eyes. Slowly, afraid of what she might see, she looked up into my face. Surprise registered as she saw that I was crying too. She held my gaze for a long time, like a thirsty man drinking water. She tentatively held my hand with two of her bony fingers. There was not enough space in my heart to contain what I felt in that moment.

Suddenly another woman, in cashmere and leather, aggressively came marching up from a restaurant a few feet away and angrily spat at me, “I just want you to know, we decided to buy her dinner, and they’ll bring it out to her.”

I had to smile. As reluctant as that woman was, our choice to see this child of God in the street, had allowed her to see also. Our conviction begat more conviction. Our tiny, almost insignificant, generosity begat more generosity.


When I was a child (a very legalistic, perfectionist, pastor’s-kid of a child), I would read Matthew 6 with horror. How could I possibly keep every act of charity a secret? Would God be angry with me if someone else knew I was tithing from my $6 allowance? Once I even went so far as to sneak into the office after service with my dad’s key and add my tithe. It makes me laugh now; I imagine I may have caused the accountant some frustration over 60¢.

I didn’t understand the heart of it. I didn’t understand that it was about heart motivation, not a legalistic practice of physically hiding. I didn’t understand that generosity done for accolades receives its reward in the moment. It’s still generosity, it still has value to the one who receives it, but there is something higher to strive for. Generosity done out of care for the other, out of compassion, out of conviction, out of the love of Christ produces not only eternal rewards, but also produces joy.

In the famous soliloquy, Shakespeare penned Portia’s words:

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Like mercy, real generosity blesses “him that gives and him that takes.” Or more appropriately from scripture:

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work 
we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus
himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”
Acts 20:35

One day we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Our selfish deeds will burn away like chaff, and we will have to make an account for our actions. In Matthew 25, Christ admonishes us that whatever we do or don’t do for the least of these, we do unto Him. 

I like to imagine that I will be taken aback by the deeds that Christ honors in that hour: that woman who provided a dinner on the street in New York; a mother turning the other cheek as her son angrily rejects her; a man struggling against the temptation of pornography and choosing holiness; a husband quietly caring for his ailing wife without thanks or praise; an overcomer of sexual sin silently enduring slander from our culture and loving beyond the accusations and hatred. 

I like to imagine that as the Bride of Christ, we will have the opportunity to celebrate powerful acts of unseen love and generosity.

Culture, and so much of the Western Church, has turned its back on people who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and sexual brokenness. These are a people “thirsty” and “given nothing to drink.” Someday, all of the agendas, the rhetoric, and the arguments will fade away, and Christ will bring right judgments about the way that the Church has responded to this sexual crisis. You are part of a different company of people. You see the need, and you believe in healing and transformation. You have poured out incredible generosity to help us bring hope and healing. You have helped bring living water to those in need.

As we enter into Give to the Max 2019 and this season of generosity, would you consider giving a gift to Outpost to help us continue in ministry? Your generosity begets so much more generosity, and your generosity brings joy.

Thank you for standing with us.

Donations can be given online at GiveMN.org on the TCJHOP organizational page, which will be directed to the Outpost General fund.

Meet Jonathan, the New Outpost Director

The words The Next Step written in chalk over dusty shoe prints

How, how did I end up here? I mean that in a tone of gratitude and wonder. Some of you reading this already know me, and many of you do not. So, I would like to share my story of how God moved in my life and got me to where I am today.

A Little History

When I first came to do my Outpost intake in the fall of 2012, I never could have imagined that I would be leading this ministry seven years later! In fact, my initial attitude was that I would show up for a few months, get “fixed,” and be on my merry way to overseas ministry. I soon learned that’s not how healing works. I got serious about my own healing in summer of 2013. Throughout that summer, I learned so much about myself and what God wanted to do in me. That fall, I started meeting one-to-one with former Outpost director, Nate O., and really dug deep into my soul. In this process, I started to see how same-sex attraction was a surface level symptom of much deeper wounds I carried. I had so much love, anger, hatred, and ambivalence toward God and others that I needed to work through. As I continued to struggle, grieve, grow, and receive healing, God continued to transform my heart. God used Outpost to save my ministry calling and my relationship with Him. I came to a point where I was even grateful for my struggle. Without it, I wouldn’t have dove so deeply into this inner-healing work, and I would never have experienced this level of intimacy with my Father, His Son, and His Spirit. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this ministry and how God has used its leaders, past and present, to bring so much hope, healing, joy, and peace into my life!

Up until last year, I was content just being a volunteer leader for Joshua Fellowship (our young men’s group). Eventually, I was asked to step into a staff position, Student Ministry Coordinator. Since I had a pretty cushy job working for the state’s Judicial Branch (government benefits are wonderful!), I was hesitant to jump into ministry. During this time, my dad received a prophetic word for me. He said that during a worship service, as they called forward people for full-time ministry, the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart that it was my time to do this. This was a huge healing moment for me and reminded me of God’s heart for the restoration of the family.

Just as I was getting comfortable as the Student Ministry Coordinator, I received an invitation from TCJHOP’s Call Committee to consider taking up the role of Director. After many long and prayerful conversations, I accepted the call. I am humbled yet excited to be in this role.

A Vision of Hope and Transformation

God has done such an awesome work in my heart, and in the hearts of many, through Outpost. When I take a step back, I am amazed to think about all the lives God has touched through this small and obscure organization. It illustrates what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV). We may be a type of outpost, feeling remote and hidden, but we also have a gift for the Church. An outpost is the first line of defense. We have a calling to build up the Body and Bride of Christ. The ministry of Outpost has been entrusted with a powerful message of hope and transformation.

Hope and transformation are what this ministry is all about. We need to provide HOPE to our brothers and sisters who have none. We also need to continue to see and proclaim TRANSFORMATION in the lives of individuals, in our churches, and in the Church. This is the core of the gospel.

This will require us to continue to dig deep and do the hard work. We will continue to grow in intimacy. Partnership with the Prayer Room at TCJHOP is a core aspect of this. We need prayer. We need intimacy. We need intimacy through prayer! This is where true transformation happens. It is not a work of our own, but a work of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, we have some room to grow. There are many churches and communities who do not know ministries like Outpost even exist! This is something I hope to change. I believe there is a great field of ministry opportunity. But we need to ask ourselves: will we be ready for it? Will we answer the call of what God is calling us to in this next season? Will we hold onto our hope and proclaim the truth of transformation?

I certainly believe we can do all of this. I believe God has great plans for this ministry, and I humbly ask that you all would continue to walk with us as we enter this new season, while being open and ready for what God may be calling you to do. It just might surprise you as it surprised me!

A Note from Alissa, Outgoing Acting Director:

Last September, when my appointment as the Acting Director of Outpost Ministries moved from temporary status to permanent, I was at a loss. It has only been by the grace of God that I have functioned for the last year-plus in this role. There were good days and hard days, and I made more mistakes than I’m comfortable with, but through it all God was faithful. It is with tremendous joy that I am stepping down from the role of Acting Director, and back into my position as the Executive Pastor. I couldn’t be happier about Jonathan’s appointment as the new Director of Outpost Ministries. Over the last year, working with him has been one of the highlights of ministry. He is strong, steadfast, endlessly optimistic, and full of vision for where God is leading Outpost. It is an honor now to be able to serve alongside him in his new position. I’m not going anywhere and will continue to lead the administrative department and do ministry.  But I am delighted to be released to do the things I am called to. Praise the Lord for raising up the right person to be the Director, and His continued goodness toward Outpost Ministries! 

Alissa Holmes
Executive Pastor

Small Groups and the Impact of Community: A Living Waters Testimony

A smiling hugging group in a circle.

A new Living Waters group begins October 3rd at Outpost Ministries. Living Waters is a 21-week Christ-centered program for those seeking healing and freedom from sexual abuse, sexual addiction, unforgiveness, fear, shame, insecurity, unwanted same-sex attractions and other relational brokenness. While that is a good high-level overview, the best way to tell you about Living Waters is for you to hear from someone who has already gone through the program. What follows is one of this year’s leaders, Tatiana’s testimony and interview about her experience in Living Waters.

Tatiana grew up being sexually abused from a very young age. This devastated her ability to have normal relationships and her concept of normal intimacy. As a result, she did not know how to connect with people, and that was very isolating and hurtful. She was an alcoholic by age 13, and a drug addict by age 14. She had her first stint in drug rehab when she was 16, and while there, met her first girlfriend. She had a disgust and fear of men, as well as a lot of confusion, so same sex relationships were a safe place. However, she still found herself constantly in relationships with girls that had drug or alcohol issues. She was addicted to hard-core, intravenous drugs by 25.

When she was in a jail cell at 27, she heard the gospel and had an encounter with Jesus Christ. At that point, she had her first bout of sobriety. She also remained celibate at that time. She joined a church, and she got involved in Bible Studies and outreach. However, she never dealt with or addressed her past. She simply tried to forget her past pain, ignoring its effects on her life. At 30, she met her husband through church, and they got married. Right away, she knew she’d made a mistake. Within 3 years, her marriage fell apart. Her husband turned to drugs, and she turned back to relationships with women. For 7 years, she left the church, her marriage, and sobriety behind, as she pursued heroin and same sex relationships.

Two years ago, her husband died of a heroin overdose, and 6 months later, her girlfriend also died of a heroin overdose. Between those two losses, she also lost her mom and dad. “Drugs could not even touch the pain,” she told me. “The darkness felt so much more dark! I didn’t think to call out to Jesus. There was just emptiness in my soul. But I believe the Lord heard that emptiness as a cry of my heart.” Three months later, she overdosed on heroin herself. She had to be revived twice, and she had an infection that complicated her recovery. While in the hospital at Mayo Clinic, she found hope again in Jesus. She chose to attend Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to get some help with her addiction. During that time, she turned her back on everything else and turned back to the Lord. Once she had completed Teen Challenge, she attended an intensive evangelism training class, where she met Jean M., Outpost’s Living Waters Coordinator. Jean told her about Outpost and Living Waters and helped her get signed up for the upcoming class.

She talked about how Living Waters showed her how to really understand what was pulling her back in to bad choices and behaviors. She saw her mindsets exposed. Additionally, she learned how to connect with people–and stay connected instead of alienating herself–when she had felt before like they were alienating her. Through time in small group, she learned to be honest and not to barricade herself inside. She learned to let people in, and that allowed her to break out of her “heart prison.” She said she is more scared now to not allow people in than to let people in, as she knows what that isolation leads to. “I look back over the last few years of my life and I couldn’t imagine being that person again. I wasn’t really even a person, I wasn’t really even living. Now I’m living. Before…I don’t even know what that was. It wasn’t even surviving. It wasn’t even existing.

What was your favorite or most meaningful part of Living Waters?

“The small groups! I didn’t know how to connect with people. I didn’t know how to be intimate with people. [Living Waters small groups are about] learning how to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Small groups taught me how to connect with people.” For Tatiana, small groups meant that for once, she was not being left alone in her pain. “[The people in a small group] help walk you out of [pain] and stand with you and invite God into [pain] with you.”

Why are you staying involved in Living Waters as a leader?

“Because I have been shown the way out of myself, and I just have to be a part of showing others the way out of themselves. I have to give what’s been given to me!” She also said, “having been pulled out of such a dark impossible pit, you can’t go on with your life without pulling them out too. Knowing that there are people that are in the place you were, pushes you to do something!”

Can you tell us about a deep experience with God, a special day, or encounter during Living Waters that you had?

“Sure! This was at Living Waters Leadership Training this summer. I always felt that there was a huge wall between my heart and God, and me and others. I heard from God that I had kept myself separated from Him and from others because I was unable to let people in fully, to trust anyone–or even Him–really. It was through the integration of repentance and forgiveness that I could feel that wall come down, and I just broke through.” She said that God spoke to her about loving part of His creation and hating another part of His creation (which was men). “[The wall] broke and it was very powerful. Something that plagued me for 30 years, melted away in 5 minutes. It was in group confession.” She said God changed her viewpoint from “look what they’ve done to me!” to “look what I’ve done to them!” “It was taking ownership and responsibility for my part,” she continued. “It reminds me of that verse: how can you say you love God when you hate man. It is important to forgive, but it is also important to be forgiven.”

If you were talking to someone who was afraid to come, what would you say?

“It changed my heart and my mind and ultimately my life! It’s all about inviting the Presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and there’s nothing to be scared of. You are not alone: You are surrounded by people who are gonna walk with you through it.”

Hopefully Tatiana’s story has been an encouragement to you. Living Waters is for anyone who sees or feels a need in their life for more of God, healing from past hurts, and breakthrough from hang-ups. Applications are being accepted until September 15th, so there is still time to join us! The programs runs October 3- March 12, 2020. It is from 6:30-9pm every Thursday–excluding holidays. The cost is $450, and there are scholarships available. Applications are available on https://outpostministries.org/get-involved/living-waters/

Do Not Give Up: When the Good Old Days Seem Better Than Another Day of Manna

Bird flying free from cage

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it’s warm and secure
Are you sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it’s getting so hard
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
Instead of your own back yard
(So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, Keith and Melody Green, 1980)

These lyrics by Keith Green describe the predicament of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. They also offer a clue into the attitudes of many today who have escaped slavery to sin (i.e. they have received the forgiveness of sins and become Christians) but who also wish to avoid the necessary struggle required to maintain their freedom. This struggle involves successfully avoiding the re-enslavement to sin, while on the other hand, still having to pay the high cost of maintaining their freedom.

Within two months of leaving Egypt and their slave masters, the Israelites forgot the object of their journey into the desert, which was lasting freedom from oppression. It was a worthy objective in itself, but additionally, they had the higher goal of worshiping the Living God. Instead, Israel settled for a golden calf. In our quest for freedom from the life-dominating nature of same sex attractions (or fill in the blank with your own particular sin struggle), we may also be tempted to passivity like the Israelites of old. We’d rather settle for slavery than take responsibility for ourselves.

Jeremiah Recounts Israel’s Sin

The prophet Jeremiah lamented the indecisiveness of Israel. About a hundred years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, he wrote, “And I will declare my judgments against [Israel], for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16.) Later, Jeremiah quotes God, referring to God’s spiritual courtship with Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD.” (Jer. 2:2f.)

Then Jeremiah recounts the history of Israel (see vv. 2:3-12) from God’s perspective as a spurned and grieving lover. Essentially what God is saying is “What did I do wrong that you left me? Why did you stop pursuing me after all I’ve done for you?” Next Jeremiah lists priests, lawyers, shepherds and prophets as having forsaken their authority and forgotten the Living God altogether. No other people on earth does this, complains the prophet; but all Israel has forsaken her God!

Israel’s Complaining and God’s Response

The prophet summarizes Israel’s problem in v. 13. First, they forsook God, and second, they tried to live by their own effort. Both of these options were predictably ineffective, and left Israel in a miserable state of frustration and destitution. They longed to go back. Things weren’t really all THAT bad in Egypt, they moaned. At least we had garlic and leeks. Food tasted good. What’s this manna? And the golden calf: at least we can see and feel it. Who is this unseen God who dragged us away from our comfort zone? Israel is clearly upset. They are not getting what they wanted. They are angry. “We didn’t sign up for THIS!,” they cry. Then God’s Word turns it all around: “You brought all this upon yourselves!” Jeremiah continues, “And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Here he cuts them off from all their false hopes. Slavery (Egypt) can’t comfort or satisfy you. Idols (Assyria) can’t cure or save you. Jeremiah even reminds them in v. 20 that long ago, it was God who set them free from slavery. But still they refused to serve him! Everywhere they went, they adulterated themselves sexually and spiritually.

Sin, Slavery and Freedom

What’s interesting to me is the story hasn’t changed much in the twenty-six centuries since Jeremiah wrote. God chose us for Himself and delivered us out of slavery to sin. But, we remember the “good times” of our past and want to turn back. We tell ourselves just a little taste won’t hurt a thing. So we revisit the pleasures of sin for a season, and suddenly, we’re trapped. The apostle Paul writes, “why subject yourselves once again to a yoke of slavery?” (Galatians 5:1)

Regarding our discussion of same-sex attraction, let’s call it what it is: slavery. Some may even veer off into the language of addiction here, and it’s all the same. We have an incurable condition into which we were all born. But, we have also been born from above, and our true allegiance is to heaven. Let us no longer pine for the prison! We don’t have to settle for prison food! As the apostle Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Even more pointedly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians–specifically in regard to sexual immorality–“I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave” (1 Cor 6:12, GNB). Indeed!

Let’s see sin for what it is; but even more, let’s see Christ as the one who has broken the power of sin to control our lives! The struggle to maintain freedom is hard work, but every minute in the desert is worth it as we are transformed unto lasting freedom. While we walk, we can look forward to being united with Christ and made fully new.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
Break every chain
Break every chain
(Break Every Chain, Jesus Culture, 2011)

All Scripture references are from the ESV unless otherwise marked.

HOPE2019 Conference: A Reflection

Stained glass window shot from inside. Features a cross in the window frame as the center of the pictureI stand amazed at the relentless way that God meets us in our need. He met me in a profound way at the Restored Hope Network conference HOPE2019 this past weekend. I didn’t expect it; in fact, I expected my responsibilities to naturally exclude me from times of ministry and encounter. When you have to be Martha, it’s easy to lose hope for moments of Mary. In the midst of my busyness, Jesus heard my hearts’ cry–the desire I had to sit and receive–and He met me there.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV

It was Saturday afternoon, and I was making my umpteenth run in and out of the sanctuary. Camera batteries had to be charged, cables exchanged, questions answered, and leaky toilets dealt with. Announcements ended, the keynote began, and I found myself drawn to sit and ignore the clamor for a moment.

As the speaker started, I actually felt panic begin to rise in my chest. Not there, Jesus, not that pain. I have to teach a class in 30 minutes. If You touch that part of my heart, I won’t be able to keep it together. Despite the overwhelming desire to bolt, I stayed.  I gave Jesus my weak ‘yes’, and let Him work in me.

Thirty minutes later, you could find me weeping at the altar, but not out of panic. I was surrounded by the people who love me most: fellow laborers for the gospel, friends-in-arms. I was ministered to, held, and had incredible promise spoken over my life. Jesus began (another!) good work in my heart, and I know that He will be faithful to complete it.

When you seek the Lord, He answers you. That small, unspoken cry of your heart, He hears that too. I heard this theme in the stories, the testimonies of transformation, the sessions, and so many conversations in the hall. Often His answers come at inconvenient times, in uncomfortable and humbling ways, but He answers you. When we let Jesus in, and give Him permission to touch those deepest, darkest wounds, He brings healing.

You could not help but be moved by the stories of transformation that were shared this weekend, and I was awed and humbled to be counted friend among so many who have persevered against incredible odds. They really have overcome by the word of their testimony and the Blood of the Lamb, and continue to do so daily.

I am so grateful for the Restored Hope Network and Outpost’s membership therein. Obviously, there are organizational benefits, but really, my gratefulness arises because of the incredible people and leaders in this network. They are different, set apart, a caliber all their own.

I also want to thank every single member of Outpost’s staff, and many of our participants, who gave their all this weekend to help run the HOPE2019 Conference. I am so grateful for their tireless efforts in registration, running the bookstore, serving lunch, manning AV, and so much more. In particular, special thanks to Joy K. who poured herself out endlessly as one of the conference leads.  If you think of them, please pray for the refreshing and protection of the Lord. It was an honor to be the host ministry for HOPE2019, and I am looking forward to next year’s conference in Seattle.

The Power of the Cross

Recently, I have experienced difficult circumstances and losses that have left me reeling. Life has been so unpredictable and painful, and the challenges just keep coming. This has made me think about how we navigate this world as broken, sinful human beings, who so badly need a savior, a comforter, and a refuge from the storm. How do we turn from our own self-sufficiency and our attempts to fill the hurt and broken places with something other than the healing love of God? This is where the cross enters the picture.

The power of the cross is that we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who can sympathize with our weakness, who has been tempted in every way but is without sin, who enables us to confidently draw near the throne of grace where we are able to receive God’s mercy and help in our time of need (Heb. 4:14-16). This is a powerful passage, but one we know too well and can minimize when thinking of ourselves and our circumstances. If we read this passage with fresh eyes, we see a hope that we can be met and held, no matter what. We see the way to the Father opened by Jesus’ blood. We see that Jesus has bought us and we are HIS! Because we are His, we can have the confidence to come before Him in obedience and trust, even when things are hard. As I have struggled with the difficulties of this past season, I want to share some passages from Hebrews that I found very helpful.

Hope, The Blood and The Way

When our feelings and circumstances overwhelm us, the first thing we need is hope. Even when we are in the darkest places, overwhelmed by our pain; when we feel lost at sea, drowning in our sin and shame, we can have hope as an anchor in the storm. Hebrews 6 says God gives us His promises to encourage us as we lay hold of the hope set before us and flee to Him for refuge. This hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast (vv 17-19a). Using a promise from Hebrews 4, we can draw near to God to receive mercy and help. Instead of struggling like one who is in a sinking ship, we can lay hold of this promise as an anchor to weather the storm. We can turn our eyes towards Jesus in faith that He is with us, and that there is a future beyond our current stormy situation.

The second thing we need in this unpredictable life is the reassurance that Jesus’ blood is enough. When we are hit with shame or feel the weight of our sin, the Holy Spirit reminds us that Jesus shed His blood to set us free. Hebrews 7 speaks of how Jesus saves us completely and forever, and that it is He who always lives to make intercession for us (vv 24-5). Jesus is our Advocate before the Father, who understands us in our weakness and claims us as His blood-washed bride. Hebrews 9 talks about how Jesus, through His own blood, obtained for us eternal redemption, that our consciences may be cleansed of dead works to serve the living God (vv 12,14). By Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we can be set free of so much–our past, our hurts, and our sins–that we might walk out of darkness and into light. We are new creations in Christ, even when we struggle, because we are saved and cleansed to the uttermost.

The third thing that we need is a way out or a way forward when we feel lost and overwhelmed by our sin. We have already seen Hebrews 4, where Jesus enables us to draw near the throne with confidence.

It won’t be overnight, but Jesus saves forever and completely, so we can continue to give God our “yes” in the now and the not yet. 

So Jesus not only intercedes for us, but he made a way for us to enter the throne room, for us to have access to the Father. Hebrews 8 tell us that Jesus mediated a new and a better covenant, one based on faith in Him and not obedience to the law (v 6). He calls us to faith and shows us the way into God’s presence, where we can receive the kind words and healing love of the Father into our broken hearts. It isn’t about legalism or following rules, but trusting that Jesus will show us the way as we walk closely in relationship with Him.

Our Part: Draw Near and Hold Fast

Now we have hope to anchor us, our Savior’s blood to cover us, and the way forward opened, so we can approach the throne. What is left is only our participation. Hebrews 10:19-23 is a summary of what has already been discussed, but there’s an important addition. We are called to draw near and to hold fast. Our part is to give God our “yes”–our submission to His working in our lives–and to believe when it gets hard. In my darkest and most rebellious times, when I felt farthest away from God, I prayed to be willing to be made willing. In His mercy, He answered my prayer, and worked in my heart to accomplish this. God is faithful to answer our “yes.” Like a kid who scrapes her knee and runs to her father, we have that kind of access to God. We can keep coming back, choosing to return and follow Him until the end.

The power of the cross is that the way is open, the blood has covered us, and we have an anchor in the storms of life. Even when we feel a million miles away from God, we get to choose, again and again, to say “yes”: to believe God and to take Him at His word. We are clean, we are healed and being healed, we have been freed from the power of sin and death, we are being made new. It won’t be overnight, but Jesus saves forever and completely, so we can continue to give God our “yes” in the now and the not yet. We may look like a mess on the outside, but the cross is enough. It is not our work, but our “yes”–our submission, our surrender and letting go–that allows God the opportunity to do something powerful and real in us.