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.

The “Why” for Every Sexual Question

young man with hands folded looking out the window

Dr. Juli Slattery is a keynote speaker at the Restored Hope Network conference, HOPE2019, hosted by Outpost.  Dr. Slattery’s newest book, Rethinking Sexuality, is one of Outpost’s leading resources to give people a foundation in Biblical Sexuality.  Here’s a taste of what you might expect at HOPE2019.

When children reach the age of two, they begin asking a question they never stop asking. Why? If you are parenting a young child, you are faced with endless why questions. Why do I have to go to bed so early? Why do I have to eat brussel sprouts? Why do you have to go to work? Why does he get more pizza than I do? Why can’t I drive the car?

In their exhaustion, some parents defer to the age old response to every why question. Because I said so! This answer is not very satisfying to a child, no matter their age. In truth, it’s not very satisfying to us as adults either.

In my ministry, I still get asked why questions. Why should I save sex for marriage? Why would God care about two men getting married? Why is it a big deal to look at porn? Why should I stay in an unhappy marriage? Unfortunately, we typically defer to the age-old cop out in response to these questions as well. Because God said so. There are bumper stickers and plaques reinforcing the idea that “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

God created us as rational creatures who long for the answers to our why questions. Certainly, there are some situations in which we simply cling to faith and trust God in spite of never understanding the why. However, God is a wise parent who often gives us a why. There is a reason why sexuality matters and why every sexual issue has spiritual significance.

The why for every sexual question is found in this truth: God intentionally created our sexuality as a powerful metaphor for His covenant love.

Everything God has created for us here on earth has a spiritual purpose, revealing something about God. Our sexuality was intentionally created as a holy symbol or analogy reflecting how God loves us. Throughout the Scripture, the one-flesh union of marital sex, sexual infidelity and sexual immorality are used as pictures to describe Christ’s relationship with the Church and our call to be faithful to our covenant with God.

Practically we experience this connection through our own lives in three ways.

  1. Sexual desire invites us to pursue covenant. Our bodies remind us that we were not meant to be alone. Sexual desire is not a bad thing! Although it may lead us to temptation and sin, God has given us sexual desire to remind us that we were made for love. Our romantic and sexual longings compel us not just to have sex, but to pursue covenant. We were created for more than a hookup; we were created for committed love and intimate knowing. Spiritually, you were not created to be alone. God invites you into a covenant, eternal relationship with Him, promising that we can never be separated from His love when we trust in Christ Jesus.
  2. Sexual intimacy is the celebration of covenant. Having sex within marriage is a physical way of celebrating the vows we made within marriage. Sexual intimacy within marriage is, in some ways, similar to a sacrament. We physically give each other our bodies in such a vulnerable and passionate way, mirroring how we have vowed our entire lives to each other. Sexual intimacy within marriage symbolizes that our intimacy with God is meant to be passionate and vulnerable, and it requires giving of ourselves.
  3. Sexual fidelity is the promise of covenant. The greatest call within marriage is faithfulness. Broken vows are a tragedy and create waves of pain. The despair of broken vows and sexual betrayal is a metaphor of the
    spiritual reality of breaking our covenant with God.

When we think about sexuality or have sexual questions, we need to view these through the filter of remembering the significance of this spiritual metaphor. This is the why… why sexual intimacy is reserved for the covenant of marriage, why male and female matters, why sex is under such spiritual attack in our world and why it’s worth it to pursue sexual integrity and sexual healing.

In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul makes a direct connection between marriage and the one-flesh intimacy between husband and wife as a reflection of Christ and the church. Paul says this is a “mystery,” which means we can’t grasp the fullness of this metaphor. Yet, Paul’s teaching here and references throughout the Scripture remind us that sexuality and marriage were created by God to teach us about His love, His pursuit, His faithfulness and His passion towards His people.

This article was originally published on Juli’s Blog at authenticintimacy.com and is used by permission. Dr. Slattery will be speaking Friday evening at HOPE2019, and we hope you can join us. 

Being a Good Gift: A Living Waters Testimony

hands holding a giftI recently completed the Living Waters program through Outpost Ministries. I’m deeply grateful to the leaders who spent several months creating a safe place for our healing. They also gave us a profound gift when they shared their stories with us in such transparency. So, in gratitude for the gift they have given me, here is my gift to you.

My story begins with a passive and emotionally detached father. To be clear, he worked incredibly hard to give us a comfortable life. But, while he never abused me, he also never sought a relationship with me. He was always busy with something more important. His passivity and emotional detachment left a huge hole in my life, contributing to a lot of anxiety and doubt in my worth as a man. But I wasn’t the only one affected. My mother, with whom it seemed I had a close relationship, also felt the effects of his absence. She frequently operated as a single mother, bearing the burden of dual parenting roles, one which she was never meant to carry. Additionally, her own needs for relationship and connection went unmet. My relationship with her became really hot-or-cold. Every time we had heart-to-hearts it felt as if something was being forcibly taken from me—something precious to me that I couldn’t name, but that I hadn’t agreed to give. I felt alone, unsafe and unprotected. In self-defense, I detached from almost all relationships, and vowed not to trust my dad and mom.

Because of how chaotic my external life was, I turned to an inner fantasy life of my own choosing. I hid my gift behind a wall of silence. The onset of puberty saw these fantasy worlds sexualized, for which I became deeply ashamed. I isolated myself further out of fear of discovery. I became thoroughly addicted to pornography and masturbation. As I was preparing to graduate high school I knew I had to make a change. So I joined a missionary group and moved to Indiana two days after I graduated. To my despair, choosing this Godly action did not set me free from my sinful behaviors. Anxiety ruled the day, and my acting out behavior became more desperate. Leadership, which couldn’t risk allowing me to continue in ministry, removed me from the fellowship. I came back to Minnesota devastated, slowly sinking deeper into addiction until I believed the lies that I had no ability to change, that change was impossible, that I was unworthy of marriage, that I was not a good gift.

This is when God met me. He told me, “I have a season of grace for you.” I threw it back in His face. “Who do you think you are to say that to me! What does that even mean? That doesn’t mean anything! I don’t care! Do whatever you want, but I’m not changing! I’m not doing a thing – It’s all on you”. Even as I lashed out, the cross came into my life. For the first time, I gave up trying to choose and act on my own, and I allowed Jesus to take control of my healing.

Shortly thereafter I was directed to Outpost Ministries and couldn’t wait to enroll in Living Waters. Throughout the course God continually brought up areas of my life to surrender at the cross. Every week I faced areas of misogyny, relational idolatry, unforgiveness, and vows of hatred and mistrust made against fathers and men in my life. Every week took courage to encounter my brokenness with honesty and humility. Every week I encountered safe relationships where I could share what God was doing in my life. Every week I went to the cross and surrendered. Every week I found nothing there but mercy.

God used the cross and fellowship to create a safe place in my heart, which He filled with an intimate Father-son relationship. He wasn’t passive and distant anymore, but present and engaged. He was able to nurture me and provide a home for me that my parents were never able to. He has taught me that the source of my masculine gift is found under the strength of His covering. My masculine strength and authority to lead come from my surrender to His authority, just like the centurion whose faith amazed Jesus. It was never my strength to choose or act that would free me, it was His! And He gave Himself generously!

I am so grateful for what God has delivered me from, and for what He has prepared me for. I hope you are encouraged by the gift of my story because God is writing a beautiful story for you to tell as well. You are a worthy gift!

From Glory to Glory: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

This is about the Gospel. This cultural fight that we are in over sexuality is actually about the Gospel, about whether or not Christ just reassures us or if Christ restores us. The work we do at Outpost is about the Gospel. It’s about the Good News that a relationship with Christ results in actual, tangible transformation and healing. It’s about the truth that relationship with Christ transforms us from glory to glory.

I love serving at Outpost because this is my own story of encountering Christ. The loving-kindness of our God rescued me from darkness, and He so changed me that I have a hard time remembering who I was before.

It wasn’t in a moment. It wasn’t an ‘overnight success.’ Through a process of daily encounter, accountability, and community, the Lord relentlessly pursued and changed me. The Gospel–Christ giving up his life to purify me and reconcile me to the Father–was real and active in my life. The result is that it is honestly difficult for me to remember the thought patterns, desires, and feelings that I had before. I have become a new creation, not finished but continually being made into the image of Christ.

I love serving at Outpost because at the core of what we do is the Gospel, and we have the daily privilege of giving hope to people who are being bombarded with despair. The message of culture is that if you struggle with sexual brokenness, you’re stuck. It’s just the way you are, there’s no hope for overcoming.

The Gospel says something else: Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Image of Whom the Son sets free is free indeed textTogether we are an outpost of hope standing for truth, and a much deeper truth than just calling sexual brokenness out for what it is. We’re standing for the truth that Jesus is real.  He pursues us and rescues us. We’re standing for the truth that the Gospel is powerful and active today: There is good news for the sexually and relationally broken.

As you stand with us, you are adding your voice to ours to proclaim the truth and help young men and women have a life-changing encounter with Christ through discipleship, accountability, and community. You are helping them in the journey to make Christ the Lord of their lives, including the surrender of their sexuality. You are helping remove chains of shame and fear. You are giving them access to resources to overcome unwanted attractions, addiction to pornography, and self-hatred.

Thank you. Thank you for being a remnant that will not let go of the Gospel, will not let go of love and truth, will not let go of hope.

Outpost and TCJHOP’s annual fundraising banquet is quickly approaching, and now is a critical time when we need your support. The current heartbreaking legislation, the growing needs of individuals and families, and the search for a new director all highlight our need for our community. We can’t do this without you.

There are three ways that you can get involved and make an impact.

First, attend the fundraising banquet! The banquet is always an amazing time of testimonies and hope. Come hear stories of individuals who have found real hope and change in a struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and fellowship with others who stand for truth like you do. You can register online now.

Second, if you are unable to attend, you can make a tax-deductible donation designated towards our spring fundraiser. You can do this online, over the phone, or by mail.

Third, share the banquet with friends and family that you think would be impacted by the ministry of Outpost. Invite them to attend and support the work we do. You can share this article, the website address, or–if you’re interested–please stop by the office, say hello, and pick up some invitations to pass out.

There is an urgency to stand for truth right now. There is an urgency to bring hope. Christ really does transform us from glory to glory. I stand as a witness to this, and so do you.

Looking forward to seeing you at the banquet,

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Alissa Holmes
Acting Director
Outpost Ministries

“He, She, Them, and Me”

Small rock on big rock with plant growing

A university encourages workers to list their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. A barista wears a full face of feminine-looking makeup while speaking in a deep baritone voice. A teenager orders a breast-binder online without her parents’ knowledge. A kindergarten student declares he wants to be a girl and is allowed to use the girls’ bathroom at school. All of these situations are becoming regular occurrences in our world. Responding to this increasing confusion is often overwhelming. Even thinking about how to respond becomes overwhelming for me. It seems that every day brings a new type of confusion, a new name people are giving to themselves, a new idea of what is means to be human.

In many ways, none of this is surprising. Our world has spent the last 50 years teaching that there is no difference between men and women, that gender and identity are social constructs, and that the world of ideas and feelings is somehow truer than the physical world we inhabit. We have been told that our identity is not given to us by a loving, good, and faithful Creator, but instead is constructed by each person out of their own feelings, ideas, passions, and beliefs.

What do we do in response to those who have believed the lies and have been led to a place where they are at war with their bodies, actively seeking to re-create their bodies into a new physical image in order to match their mental picture of their “true self”? How do we share the Gospel of hope and healing with people hurting in such a profound way? Thankfully, the answer is not overwhelming.

Rooted in God’s Truth

First, we need to be rooted in God’s truth, which starts with understanding God’s intent in the original design of humanity. Genesis 1 teaches us that God created humanity “in the image of God, male and female He created them.” This verse reveals the fullness of our identity as men and women and is fundamental to our theology of the body. Being made in the image of God means being made for relationship; being able to reflect the nature and character of God on the earth; being set apart from the rest of creation; being made sons and daughters of God through the redeeming work of Christ.

We also see in Genesis 1 that being created male or female is a distinction that matters to God. In fact, our biological distinctions teach us about true masculinity and true femininity. Men and women each exhibit true femininity and true masculinity, but in a unique way informed by their bioligical sex. True masculinity, reflected in the male biology, is the strength to initiate and form meaningful relationships. True femininity, reflected in the female biology, is the capacity to receive and nurture meaningful relationships. Both sexes exhibit strength and nurturing, but how they do so is intended to complement their biological sex, not to war against it or disconnect them from their gender.

These God-given distinctions show us that our identity is fundamentally connected to our physical body, and is not a disconnected mental reality. As we root our identity in our God-given embodiment, we are free to come into alignment with God’s design for our life, and to walk in the good works that God has prepared for us; works that match up with the interests, passions, and personality God bestowed when He knit us together before birth and reflect the nature and image of God in the earth.

Rooted in God’s Love

Second, we need to be rooted and grounded in God’s love so we may speak life and truth to those we encounter. As Paul notes in Ephesians 3, when we are rooted and grounded in God’s love, and understand and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, we are able to be filled with all the fullness of God. Walking in the fullness of God through the power of the Holy Spirit allows us to see people through the eyes of God, gives us compassion for their confusion and pain, and reminds us that the real enemy is the prince of this world, who is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy lives at every turn.

People who identify as transgender, non-binary, queer, gender-fluid, or otherwise need to experience the unconditional love of God. Many that I have met are looking for belonging; they do not feel like they “fit”, either with their same biological-sex peers or even with their own body. Many whose stories I have read have been victims of trauma or neglect; they are seeking an escape from the pain of those experiences. Some are also just needing to be seen; they have been ignored and overlooked for too long and are trying to stand out and be noticed. Sharing the deep, unconditional love of God is the first step in showing people that God sees and knows them, that God can heal them, and that God wants to make them part of His family.

Ministering in Love and Truth

Looking at the bigger picture, many in our world are lost in a sea of confusion about identity. They have believed the lie that their body is just a shell for the “real” person inside rather than understanding that their body is as much a part of who they are as their mind is. They have believed the lie that feelings and interests define one’s identity rather than recognizing that identity comes from knowing we belong to God. They have believed the lie that we each must construct our own identity rather the relying on our Creator to show us who we are.

Our role, then, is the same as in any other ministry. First, to live our own lives deeply rooted in the truth and love of God, allowing God to transform our own hearts and minds as we grow into our new creation. Second, to share the unconditional love of God with those we meet. Then, as we build relationship with people, to be available to hear their pain, grieve with them, and share the truth of the Gospel.

Ministry in a world of confusion does not need to be overwhelming, even as our world dives deeper into darkness and disorientation. We can stand firm in truth and love, caring for the hurting, and bringing the hope of Jesus to all we meet

Voices: Real Connection, Real Freedom

connectionIn a word, I have found in twenty-three years of ministry, that people find lasting freedom from same-sex attraction (SSA) through connection. I believe anyone can find consistent power to overcome SSA if they can attain and maintain meaningful connection: 1) to God through His Son, Jesus; 2) to a community of sojourners; and 3) to the truth of Scripture.

A simple note of clarification here: freedom from SSA does not necessarily mean the absence of SSA but rather sovereignty over SSA. When America declared freedom from England in 1776, England did not go away. For eight years, England resisted and we fought hard to gain our own sovereignty, which is the power to control identity and behavior. Nowadays, sexual orientation is no longer considered merely a part of a person, but rather a sovereign power which completely identifies or classifies people. It takes over a person’s life. This conflicts with one of our culture’s highest values, self-determination. As Christians, we voluntarily transfer our sovereignty to God, rather than to SSA, thus bypassing the issue of self-determination altogether. We submit or defer control of our identity and behavior to God.

Let me develop three keys to connection that set people free. Intimacy with Jesus is primary. If there is no love of Christ, there is no motivation to seek freedom from other loves. Jesus knows and cares about each aspect of our personal lives. If we let Him, He will help us set our lives in order. He will fight for us against our enemies who want us enslaved to them or others . . . Anybody but Jesus!

Secondly, we must have holy, intimate connections with others. This happens when emotions are felt and shared. People need healthy, intimate, non-sexual relationships with same-sex friends who do not struggle with SSA. It is in the context of these intimate relationships that people discover their true selves—who God created them to be. We must be known by the church and in communities of like-minded individuals who support and help. Along with weekly church participation, we need therapists, support groups, and accountability partners in the church. One cannot fight for freedom alone and win; it takes an army! Simply showing up in these contexts is not enough—pulling into a garage doesn’t make you a Buick! One must actually be known by supportive others as one who struggles with SSA. This is much easier said than done!

Finally, there must be a strong connection to the Word of God as the only rule for faith and practice. In contrast to moral relativism, we adhere to the Bible’s absolute truth. Careful, thoughtful, serious study of Scripture and submission to its authority will change us. We renounce half-truths, cultural myths, and stereotypes. This establishes our identity on the foundation of truth. We become empowered to stand firm in the face of temptation. The lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil have all been defeated by the truth of Jesus’ Word. Jesus said it, “The truth shall set you free.” Indeed.

This post is an excerpt from the book Freedom Realized by Stephen Black, used by permission. It is one of the many contributions to the book from mature ministry leaders who are helping individuals overcome homosexuality, sexual sin, and brokenness of identity.

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Freedom Realized, a Book Review

Freedom Realized

Stephen Black, author of the recently published Freedom Realized: Finding Freedom from Homosexuality and Living Life Free from Labels, is the Director of First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City. The ministry was founded in 1976 by Frank and Peg Rogers under the name Fishers of Men Evangelistic Corporation. The name of the ministry was changed to First Stone Ministries in 1981. Along with Outpost Ministries, First Stone was one of the founding members of Exodus International. First Stone was also one of the founders of Restored Hope Network after the demise of Exodus International in 2013. Stephen is currently the Vice-Chairman of the RHN Board. Outpost Ministries was also one of the original members of Restored Hope Network in 2014. Freedom Realized was published in 2017 and is already creating quite a stir in the LGBTQ community.

I would like to highlight some of my favorite parts of the book. Stephen gives his testimony of leaving homosexuality in chapter 1 and writes about the root causes that led him into a homosexual life and how Jesus came into his life and set him free.

What sets his testimony apart from other written testimonies that have been published (Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas, Setting Love in Order by Mario Bergner, Coming Out of Homosexuality by Bob Davies, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness by Andy Comiskey) is that in chapter 3, My Story, Part 2: The Healing Power of Pain—The Crucible of Suffering Produces Life, he goes a step further. He writes about what he calls the “the dark night of the soul,” a quote from St. John of the Cross about the deeper Christian life. It is something that all Christians will experience at some time in their lives. He writes about the loss of five immediate family members within a short period of time. A deadly tornado devastated his town of Moore, Oklahoma in 1999 on the same day he buried his younger sister. His oldest daughter had just been sent to prison, and his wife was diagnosed with a skin disorder due to stress. He was also facing bankruptcy. He lost his daughter in 2012. He didn’t react sinfully, but with humility he sought counseling. Many a Christian would have given up.

Black explores giving up in chapter 4, The Burden of Those Who Do Not Finish the Race. I am so glad Stephen wrote about this topic. It is the burden that everyone in this line of ministry experiences. He writes about why some go back into homosexuality after years of ministry and counseling. We at Outpost have experienced this loss—some have been close friends—and the grief is sometimes hard to bear.

Chapter 6, Coram Deo—Experience Freedom In His Presence, is short and sweet. Coram Deo is Latin for “in the presence of God.” This chapter explores “the truth of Christians living in the presence, under the authority, and the honor of God at all times.” This is a very important concept for anyone leaving homosexuality.

Chapter 10, Freedom Realized By Experts—Final Thoughts From a Cloud of Witnesses, has 16 testimonies of men and women who have left homosexuality. Dan Puumala, Ministry Relations Pastor at Outpost, is one of them. I found his to be one of the best, but then again, I am biased.

After laying the ground work in the previous 10 chapters, chapter 11 is the reason the book was written in the first place. First Stone Ministries conducted an online survey that spanned 25 years, surveying former clients who were connected with First Stone for at least a year. The survey took place from November 2015 thru December 31 2016. 500 people were engaged, and 185 responded within 13 months. Each respondent was asked 29 questions. Stephen has created graphs and charts to help the reader to better understand the results. I highly recommend this book to anyone who ministers to the sexually and relationally broken or who wants to better understand the issues at hand.

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Voices Q & A: Leaving and Grieving

leaving and grieving

Q: What does the mourning process of leaving a gay lifestyle/identity look like? How can the Body of Christ help someone going through this process?

A: The process looks different for everyone because we all have our own stories. I personally had to mourn the loss of my friends and past boyfriends. My relationships were not healthy—destructive, even. But they were still driven by a desire to get my very real needs met—my needs for love, for affirmation as a man, for healthy relationships with other men, my need for community.

In my relationships, I was co-dependent, hurtful, and self-centered. It was a process for me to learn what healthy relationships look like. Over time, I chose to let go of those friendships and boyfriends. I went through a time of great sadness, knowing I wasn’t going to be hanging out with them anymore.

Additionally, I needed to create new memories and build new friendships. I also needed the space and freedom to just be sad. I needed to have safe opportunities when I was ready to talk about my sadness and how Jesus was meeting me.

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Outlawing Gender Integration in California

CaliforniaWe have been keeping a close eye on a particular bill that is quickly being pushed through the California legislature this week. The ministry of Outpost has never been about political activism. We have always focused our energies into helping people walk in obedience to God and to their sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, we bring this bill to your attention because, in the end, it threatens our very freedom to practice those said beliefs. Read on as we share Andy Comiskey’s post about AB 2943.

“‘We give you strict orders not to teach in His name.’ Peter and John replied: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard . . . We must obey only God and not men!'” (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29)

Wake up people. The bill best designed to outlaw Christian efforts to help persons resolve gender identity problems is racing through the California legislature as you read this. AB 2943 prohibits all conferences, teachings, or publications (where money is exchanged for the resource) aimed at helping people to overcome same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. This impacts every pastor, counselor, friend, or family member in California.

Most chillingly, it slams the door on citizens whose conscience guides them to make peace with their bodies as designed by God. The California legislature wants to deny them that choice. [This week] the Assembly will decide if the state has the right to insist that the only option for Californians with gender identity problems is to transition into the ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ self. Though these are standard values in much of the clinical community, California is seeking to make them the only values. This is an affront to moral liberty.

It sounds preposterous, I know. When I first heard of this bill, I assumed it implausible, dead on arrival. Instead, AB 2943 raced through the first two committees in spite of valiant testimonies by friends Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Jr., Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, and Bethel Redding’s Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams. These last three witnessed persuasively to the power of Jesus and His community to restore true identity but were stonewalled by representatives who only asked sympathetic questions of those claiming abuse at the hands of bad helpers, valid issues for clinical ethics but irrelevant to the rights of persons to choose the kind of help (s)he desires!

According to Ken Williams, “The freight train is here, barring persons from the right to help and to heal gender identity problems. This is the first day I have felt discriminated against, robbed of my freedom to hold to my convictions. The government is now seeking to mandate what I do with my sexuality.”

Every person deserves the freedom to exercise moral authority over his or her body and desires. I may boldly disagree with Ellen Degeneres’ and Rupaul’s identity choices (just as they do mine!) but I grant them freedom to make them. We as Americans share constitutional freedoms of worship and speech. According to the Supreme Court, “the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought we hate.”

Church, wake up. AB 2943 roused Bethel Redding to mobilize their people to engage gently and well with political representatives. Might I ask all Christians in California–Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals–to invite their fellows to persuade elected officials to vote against this bill? (See californiafamily.org.) If this bill passes, the state officially denies Jesus’ will for our sexual humanity and His power to redeem it.

[On Thursday, April 19,] the lower house of the CA legislature will vote on AB 2943; if passed, it will go to the senate then to the governor. Pray for a miracle of God’s justice. Or that such a preposterous bill, if passed, will be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

Pray that a renewed Church will unite and arise in California as a result of this enslaving legislation. Nothing short of our freedom of speech and worship– our right to decide the man or woman we will become–are at stake. If we lose, may we become holy outlaws who obey God, not man, with words and deeds of fire.

“‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.'” (Acts 4:29, 30)

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Voices: Above the Noise

Above the Noise

The loudest voice always wins, right? At least that seems to be the reality of my three young children at home. Whomever talks the longest and the loudest, drowning out the others, engages the attention of Mom or Dad. It’s like a verbal game of dog pile. It makes for a chaotic scene at dinner time.

There is also a shouting match going on in culture, and it seems the loudest voices are winning. (We are not among them.) “If we can just declare our message loud enough and long enough—literally in a protest or figuratively through social media—we will capture people’s attention. They will begin to hear us and believe us because we are the only voice they hear.”

Our Silenced Voice

Our voice at Outpost Ministries, and other ministries like ours, may not be very loud in culture or in the public square. There are others who have more money, more power, and more opportunities to amplify their voice. Even when we do speak, many don’t even want to listen. (Sadly, in some cases, not even in the Church). Like a child closing his eyes, plugging his ears, and singing at the top of his lungs, they refuse to hear our stories. And they try to silence us, like with California’s Bill AB 2943. Or by suspending us from Facebook discussions. Or by removing our testimonies of transformation from YouTube.

Thankfully, we don’t need to win the shouting match. Don’t get me wrong, we still speak up. We share our stories. We continue to teach, train, and equip with the authority God has granted us. And we don’t stop offering encouragement and hope to those who are broken and hurting. But our voice doesn’t have to be the loudest to have an impact.

Above the Noise

After all, the voice of God is at times still and small, like a whisper, and yet it can be heard above the noise. It’s heard by those who are listening for Him, seeking Him. That same voice has the authority to speak light—and all of creation—into existence, just by His very Word. That voice has the power to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim freedom to captives, to transform lives.

We are trying a new segment in the Outpost News (which will also be posted here), aptly named Voices. At times it may be a simple Q & A, a concise testimony, or a short reflection. It’s our way of using our voice to bring a clearer message to those who are sorting through the noise. We want to reach the ones intent on hearing the truth, listening for God’s wisdom, and looking for encouragement. Ultimately, we want our voice to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ to anyone willing to listen. After all, to whom shall we go? His voice alone has the words of eternal life.

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