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.

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

The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill

Red and Blue Arrows pointing right and left

In the 1999 sci-fi movie The Matrix, the hero, Neo, is given a choice of two colored pills: red or blue. It’s a monumental decision, because his choice will determine how he understands everything around him.

If Neo chooses the blue pill, he will remain blissfully unaware that what he perceives as reality is an illusion: a simulation called “The Matrix.” People who take the blue pill can believe in whatever reality they want, but they never know that they are being manipulated and used by nefarious entities.

On the other hand, if Neo takes the red pill, he will awake from the dream and see that everything he has believed since birth is a lie. He will see things as they truly are, and that will make him an enemy of the status quo.

I Took the Blue Pill, and Then the Red Pill

People with gender dysphoria are encouraged to change genders so they can live happily ever after. In the trans-world, all inhabitants fashion their own “reality” based on their feelings and desires.

That’s exactly what I did. Even though I was born male, I chose the blue pill and pursued my lifelong dream of being a woman. I believed the “reality” that I wanted to believe. I took on an elaborate alternate identity, made possible by hormones and surgery, and lived as a transgender woman.

But a funny thing happened. After about eight years, I gradually awoke. I realized the simple biological truth: I was still a man, had always been a man, and always would be a man. In terms of The Matrix, I took the red pill. With newfound clarity of vision, I could see that everything I had believed about the trans-life was a lie. God’s original design of two innate biological sexes, male and female, cannot be overthrown by taking hormones, having surgery, and living a masquerade.

I wanted “true reality,” and I found it in Jesus Christ. No longer was I willing to live an artificial life. When I realized the peace and joy of living in the true reality of my God-given sex, I decided that I needed to share my life story. My goal is to empower and help others who no longer want to live the trans-life to see a way out, too.

The War on God Wants Your Redemption Silenced

But the proponents and inhabitants of the trans-matrix consider me an enemy. When I step out and talk publicly about my experience, the blue pill people attack, saying my viewpoint is “hate speech.”

In their version of reality, there are two things you must never do: 1) talk about being restored from a former trans-life and 2) testify that it was due to an encounter with Jesus Christ. I’m guilty of both.

Pure Passion Ministries also violates both rules of political correctness. They recently released a gripping documentary of fifteen former transgender men and women (including myself) who, through Christ, abandoned their transgender life. All of them speak candidly of the gut-wrenching events that led to living a transgender life and how God intervened in love to personally redeem and restore them back to living fully in their birth gender. For me and the other fourteen people in the documentary, Jesus opened our eyes to “true reality” and transported each of us into a new life, one where we are free, no longer enslaved. It is a powerful movie worth watching—Find out more at https://tranzformed.org/

When the producer and director, David Kyle Foster, himself a former homosexual, released the movie, the consequences from the political correctness police were swift. His ads were rejected from Facebook and YouTube numerous times, and he was denied the use of an e-blast mailing list he had used previously to promote other projects to Christians. He found out that his organization has been designated as “hateful” or “offensive” and blacklisted from using the mailing list by a secular entity.

In a column on TownHall, Dr. Michael L. Brown tells how Foster also had been targeted by the popular video hosting service, Vimeo, which demanded that Foster remove videos that the company found offensive. He defended his organization and received a few months’ reprieve, but unfortunately, on March 24th of this year, Vimeo removed all 850 of his videos and shut down Pure Passion’s account. In one of the emails Foster received, the representative for Vimeo said:

Your statement equating homosexuality to “sexual brokenness” betrays the underlying stance of your organization. To put it plainly, we don’t believe that homosexuality requires a cure and we don’t allow videos on our platform that espouse this point of view.

Vimeo said it was offensive to suggest that the blood of Jesus Christ could bring healing to the homosexual. For that reason, they also removed the Pure Passion videos that helped sex abuse victims, sex-trafficked people, people addicted to porn, and people seeking God for help with other issues, including gender dysphoria.

Michael Brown concludes, “Vimeo is engaging in blatant, unapologetic, aggressive anti-Christian censorship.”

The Vimeo viewpoint about homosexuality mirrors the viewpoints I heard expressed by transgender and homosexual advocates at a public hearing in March in Massachusetts. Versions of legislation being proposed have already been passed in nine states and the District of Columbia. The law makes it illegal to provide any therapy for minors that fails to affirm them in their homosexuality or transgender identity. Any therapist who seeks to discover and treat the underlying psychological causes of such issues can be charged with child abuse and lose his or her license.

Rejecting Reality Means Ignoring Science

The trans-matrix requires its members to believe some outlandish claims. The claims deserve to be scientifically scrutinized, but scrutiny is considered blasphemy. Here are just a few of the most egregious of these claims:

  • “Transition is the answer.”

The trans-matrix claims that gender transition is the answer that will solve all of the problems of those who suffer from gender dysphoria. Yet, studies show that two-thirds of people with gender dysphoria also have other co-existing psychological disorders, which if treated, could ease or eliminate the gender distress without the need for surgery or cross-sex hormones.

  • “Transgender people are born that way.”

The trans-matrix claims that people with gender dysphoria are born that way—that the transgender brain is wired that way from birth. But no definitive evidence has been found to support that belief.
An article in Scientific American that begins by saying that “Imaging studies and other research suggest that there is a biological basis for transgender identity” concludes with the following contradictory statement:
“But given the variety of transgender people and the variation in the brains of men and women generally, it will be a long time, if ever, before a doctor can do a brain scan on a child and say, ‘Yes, this child is trans.’

  • “A person’s sex can be changed.”

People who live in the unreality of the trans-world believe that men can become women and women can become men. I’ve written elsewhere about the physical impossibility of that belief:
Underneath all the cosmetic procedures, vocal training, and hair growth or hair removal lies a physical reality. Biologically, the person has not changed from a man into a woman or vice versa.
In a recent study, genetic researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science found evidence that at least 6,500 genes contain sex-specific instructions for males and females. Changing from one sex to the other is not physically possible.

Leaving the Delusions of the Trans-Matrix Behind

Psychiatrist Richard Corradi calls transgenderism a “contagion of mass delusion.” As the authors of a report on the ethics of sex reassignment surgery explain:

Candidates for SRS may believe that they are trapped in the bodies of the wrong sex and therefore desire or, more accurately, demand SRS; however, this belief is generated by a disordered perception of self. Such a fixed, irrational belief is appropriately described as a delusion.

Having lived the trans-life as a woman for eight years, I wholeheartedly agree. For people who identify as transgender, true reality is found in what is called “de-transitioning,” which involves coming to terms with and accepting one’s birth gender.

People who no longer find satisfaction in the trans-matrix and desire to leave the illusionary world often contact me for support. Resources and information are scarce, to say the least. The process of de-transitioning is emotionally, socially, and legally difficult for most people. The transgender community isn’t sympathetic to members of the trans-matrix who want to leave.

To help expand these resources, a gathering of former members of the trans-matrix world like myself, all of whom now see reality as it is, will take place at a secret location in the next few weeks. Each person involved has found the joy of “true gender reality” and wants to help others who have awakened to the same mindset and desire to vacate the artificial transgender life.

The red pill population is growing each day. I will continue to share my story, knowing it can be hope-giving and life-saving, as it affirms the truth of God’s original design of innate biological facts.

Note: This piece originally appeared on October 17, 2017 in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. It is used with permission of the author. 

What Changes? An Appeal for Give to the Max Day

Give to the Max Day. Nov 15, 2018 www.givemn.org/organization/tcjhop

I often encounter the same question when I share about the work we do at Outpost. The scene is always similar. We’re sitting down over coffee or those all-too-addictive Chick-Fil-A waffle fries.

“So what exactly does Outpost do?” they ask.

I give the quick pitch: Outpost is a ministry that helps people walk away from unwanted same-sex attractions and other sexual and relational brokenness. I talk about my love for Outpost and the way that it helps people find hope and healing. I talk about my friends who are walking in victory – who have moved beyond the overwhelming struggle and are now thriving in life-giving marriages, as parents, or in pursuing their life calling.

Surprise flits across the face of the person I’m meeting with. They hesitate, but finally ask, ”What changes?”

What changes? How do people live beyond a struggle with homosexuality or gender dysphoria? Is it some miraculous teaching at Outpost? A special program? Or that one book that definitively lays out the keys to healing? We have some great programming at Outpost, but it’s none of those things.

It’s the gospel. Jesus sets us free. He transforms us. The old man is dead and we are raised to life again in Christ. These aren’t just words. This is the core of what Outpost is about. If you want a front row seat to Christ transforming lives and making people new, this is a really good place to be.
There are two reasons I want to ask you to prayerfully consider giving to Outpost during Give to the Max. First, because the work we do is so vital and it brings so much fruit. Families are being restored. People are walking free. There is real hope and healing from pervasive and life-dominating brokenness.Give to the Max Day Testimonial: Outpost really saved my family

Second, because we want to see a day when surprise isn’t the reaction people have when they hear about Outpost. Many have never heard stories of people overcoming same-sex attraction or being transformed by Christ. We have powerful testimonies to share. When you support Outpost, you are giving us the ability to tell our stories at churches, college campuses, and conferences locally and nationally.

What changes? People experience the love of the Father. The pain and brokenness they’ve been holding onto for years begins to heal. They learn what it means to belong and to be safe. They encounter the power of the cross. As they are made holy, they are also made whole. Broken desires begin to shift. Their testimony becomes a powerful tool in the hands of the Lord to set others free and to bring hope.

You can be a part of ‘what changes’ by donating today.

Please note: we updated the giving link to www.givemn.org/organization/tcjhop.
We wanted to make things easier to type!

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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Rock Bottom, Persistent Love

rock bottomsMy story is not a simple “coming to Jesus” story. It’s been a long, hard journey, full of ups and downs, messy relationships, and many rock bottoms. But Jesus faithfully pursued me and reached out to me in every twist and turn I took, in each rock bottom I hit. His love has been persistent through it all.

My Early Years

I grew up in a Christian home, and we went church every Sunday. At a young age, I contracted bacterial spinal meningitis and was in the hospital for months. The doctors told my parents that if I survived, I would have brain damage and be disabled. By God’s mercy, I lived. I came out with only a hearing loss and a slight learning disability. My illness still had a profound impact on my life, though. Other kids teased me for having hearing aids. I struggled with friendships and connecting with peers.

In the third grade, I went on a Christian camping retreat with my dad. There, I was introduced to Christ and his love and salvation for me. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior while at that camp.

Around that time, I also got into a lot of fights with my two sisters. Once during a fight, my older sister punched me across the face.  I cried and went to my dad, but I was met with a face of anger and disappointment, not the comfort I was longing for. I was crushed. My relationship with him was already strained, and I felt a deep emptiness inside me. I determined to be the good little boy from then on.

Trapped and Hopeless

In middle school, that emptiness grew. Then I discovered pornography, and eventually gay pornography. I quickly became addicted. The images consumed me. It was torture, and by the ninth grade, I felt hopelessly trapped by it. I was losing sleep and losing friends because I was going home to look at porn rather than hanging out with them. I knew God and had accepted Jesus as my Savior, but I didn’t know how He could help me.  On many nights, I cried myself to sleep, asking God to take away this addiction. He seemed to respond with silence. I would vow to do better the next day but never did, and I was filled with guilt.

One night, while my mom and I were the only ones home, we got into a huge fight. I got so angry that I threw a large book at her. My actions shocked me. How could I do such a thing? I was the good boy! I finally confessed my addiction to my parents. They took away my computer privileges, and I met with our pastor for a while. It was helpful to talk with someone, but we never got to the root of my problems. Then I went off to college and was given a laptop, and I went right back to my desired source of comfort.

Trapped Again

During my first year of college, I began to be more aware of my intense attraction to guys and to actually question my sexuality. Eventually, I came out as gay to my parents. I began hooking up with other guys I had met online. My sexual addiction began to consume me once again, and I distanced myself from my friends.

Shouts in Our Pain

I still had a relationship with God though, and I didn’t want addiction as a part of my life. Once, after I had been crying all night, something nudged me to look up C.S. Lewis quotes. One in particular jumped out at me: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I knew then that, through my pain, God had been shouting at me for a while. I knew that I needed to leave college. The next day, while my friends were off at class or at chapel, I left all of my belongings and drove home.

My parents were supportive and helped me find Outpost Ministries. I was involved there for a season, but I was not quite ready to submit my sexuality to God and decided to leave. In the meantime, regardless of my choices, my dad started to rebuild our relationship. We began going out to lunch together. I would talk, and he would just listen. He took an interest in me, and it meant the world to me. It was a small but important change, and my life slowly began to shift course.

Another Rock Bottom

Soon after, I went back to a Christian college closer to home, and I was able to receive counseling there. My heart for God grew, even though I was still leading a double life. On campus, I was the good Christian boy, shy and unsure of himself, doing what he was told. Off campus, I was a sex addict who hooked up with about 30 different guys. The more I tried to find comfort and satisfaction in other men, the bigger the emptiness inside me grew. I hit an all-time low point. Yet there was another rock bottom to hit: I later learned I had contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I was devastated.

One night, I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across Jeremiah 30:12-13, 17: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’” It was me. God saw me in my state and promised restoration and gave me hope. From that day on, I stopped acting out sexually. God gave me a chance to try again.

A Question I Couldn’t Hide From

Two years later, I still desperately longed for a relationship. I thought, this time, maybe a Christian guy would work out better. I met one, and after a party, we sat in his car talking and agreed to start dating. He then asked me a question I couldn’t hide from: “How can we do this and glorify God?” I froze and heard God say, “Yes, Ian, how can you do this and glorify Me?”  I didn’t know what to say.  Eventually, I turned to him and said, “I don’t think I can do this,” and I got out of his car and left.

By the end of college, I had come to the conclusion that I would have to be a “gay Christian.” I had gotten involved in the LGBT community and the gay club scene by this point, but I still had a desire to honor God and be close to him. I determined that I would live a celibate life, but accepted that I would always struggle with my attractions.

Maybe There’s More

I still desired a place to go for spiritual support, and eventually found it again at Outpost. First, I went through Joshua Fellowship’s summer masculinity course. I learned what it means to be a man created in the image of God and how to be the man He created me to be. I also found a new, enjoyable community with the Joshua Fellowship guys. As my masculine strength and my trust in God grew, I noticed that my thoughts began to change. Maybe I wasn’t limited to just live a celibate life and always struggle. Maybe God had more for me.

Inviting Jesus with Me

I was still involved in the LGBT community during this time. It fed a deep desire inside of me for connection with others. In group at Outpost, I continually admitted going to gay clubs.  As I shared, the Outpost leaders advised me to ask Jesus to come to the bars with me.

I started doing just that, and my experience at the bars began to change. It wasn’t as fun anymore. One time at the bar, I saw someone I knew, and my friends continuously made lustful comments about him.  It hurt to hear what they were saying because I knew this person loved God, and he deserved better than those comments or to be in that bar. So I left my friends there. Little did they or I know that this was the last time I would go to the bars with them.

A New Season

A new season in my life came when I attended the One Thing Conference in Kansas City.  It was an amazing experience, and it launched me into a life of prayer and inspired me to get more involved with the ministry. I signed up for TCJHOP’s summer internship. We spent four days a week in the Prayer Room and also listened to different speakers. I experienced how being in prayer healed my heart and my relationship with God. I grieved my many messy, unhealthy relationships but recognized my real need for love. The Father’s love began filling that emptiness inside, and I desired less and less to be in a relationship with a guy.

God’s Power to Restore

Over time, God has not only restored my relationship with Himself and provided me with healthy same-sex friendships. He has also brought healing in my relationships with my parents, especially with my dad. My sisters and I have built amazing new friendships. God really does have the power to restore the family. God has also restored my desire to be married and have a family of my own. In fact, I have found a very special woman, and we are engaged to be married later this year. I have a new a passion to stand for the image of God in men and women. I also love to share my story with young people who find themselves trapped in similar addictions and situations as I did.

Through all the ups and downs, twist and turns and rock bottom experiences of my journey, God has been patient to reach out to me in my darkest moments. He has graciously shown me His persistent love and the truth of His Word. “He brought me out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:2). God’s healing, restoration and firm foundation have brought unexpected joy and peace in my life that I never thought possible.

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A Moses Generation

house on sandIt has now been almost 20 years since the Lord spoke to me about my life’s calling. I was sitting on my porch, spending time with Him, when He spoke very clearly to my heart. “Son, raise up a generation in My love and in My power—a generation like Moses who will lead the Church out of her Egypts.” At the time, I didn’t fully know why God was calling me to raise up a generation, and I didn’t know exactly how to do it. Over the years, however, the Lord has been faithful to answer those questions.

Answering the “Why?”

The next generation consists of our future leaders. They will lead, not only the Church, but every sphere of life. They are future husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. The next generation will lead in the market place, media, and technology. They will be our future lawmakers and law enforcers. Someone from the next generation will one day be the president of our great nation. Given all of this, what the next generation believes about God and His Word is of great importance to the advancement of God’s Kingdom in our society.

More specifically, what the next generation believes about the image of God is of great importance. It is paramount, not just to the Kingdom advancing, but to their very sense of being human and belonging in God’s created order. Without a biblical understanding of these foundational issues, the next generation—and society as we know it—will unravel. The reality that we are men and women created in God’s image is solid ground for the next generation. All other ground is sinking sand.

The question is, will the next generation wisely build society on the Rock or foolishly build it on the sand? How will they know the difference if they are not taught? Jesus was clear: great will be the fall of the house built by the foolish (Matt. 7:27). I would add, great will be the guilt of the previous generation who did not teach their children the wisdom of righteousness.

At the Center

The understanding of the image of God is at the center of the war over the next generation. If you have any doubt, simply look at where the enemy has set his sights. The image of God can only be seen and experienced within the gender binary (male/female, masculine/feminine). There is a demonic war being waged to remove the gender binary from society. Gay marriage has become the law of the land. The transgender movement has exploded.

Businesses are implementing gender neutrality into their short- and long-range plans. Target Corporation has removed any gender-based branding among children’s toys and has introduced a gender-neutral line of kid’s clothing. It has also committed to installing gender- neutral bathrooms in all of its stores. The Boy Scouts of America now includes girls and has dropped the word “boys” from its name in order to become less gender specific. Why does this matter? No boys, no girls, no image of God. That is exactly what the enemy desires, for where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (Prov. 29:18).

We can already see the casting off of restraint in our culture. Beloved, we are really only at the beginning of what could be a great rebellion against the beauty of God’s image on the earth. In the midst of such a rebellion, men and women will not order their lives in such a way that they get to the marriage supper of the Lamb. They will no longer work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). There you have the enemy’s strategy in a nutshell: eradicate a right vision of the image of God revealed in men and women. Eradicate a right vision of marriage, a prophetic picture of our eternal destiny in God. Throw in some wrong teaching about extreme grace, and the recipe for disaster is complete. The next generation is disempowered and deceived. Demonic mission accomplished.

Not on my watch. And, I hope, not on yours.

Answering the “How?”

Early on in my own recovery journey, I connected with the prayer movement in the Twin Cities. There, I found amazing fathers and mothers of the faith who helped turn my heart to the Heavenly Father and to the wisdom of righteousness. I was encouraged to spend extended times in prayer and in God’s Word. I am forever grateful for their leadership—especially to Marylynn Christopher, founder and former director of the Twin Cities House of Prayer. For many years, time and time again, she pointed me to the Word of God. She taught me, not just how to study the Bible, but how to truly receive the revelation of the Father’s heart contained within its pages.

As I saw the fruit of a dynamic prayer life, I began to implement this strategy in my work with young adults at Outpost. The Encountering Jesus Internship was born. The program was simple. In addition to the inner-healing work they were doing at Outpost, interns spent three hours in prayer and in the study of the Word. We were not prepared for the result. We began to see our participants soaring through the process of recovery. Our staff tripled. Our budget quadrupled. God was backing up His Word with power. The Lord was granting speedy justice—healing, deliverance, provision—to those who were crying out to Him day and night (Luke 18:8).

Crystal Clear

It became crystal clear that God was going to raise up a generation in His love and power by revealing His love and power in the place of prayer.

The next generation is longing for encounter with something or Someone who will truly satisfy. As young adults quiet their hearts before the Lord, gaze upon His beauty and talk with Him, the wrong things in their lives are made right. Foundational identity is imparted. They are empowered to stand for the truth of God’s image.

Now, my calling is crystal clear: I am to raise up a generation in God’s love and power through night and day prayer and worship to stand for the truth of God’s image. And, Beloved, our nation is desperate for such a generation. Hear King David’s ancient cry: Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come (Ps. 71:18).

Deeply Grieved

We at Outpost/TCJHOP have had our eyes on the next generation for many years, especially on those struggling with core identity issues. I am beginning to see, however, that God is doing something unique in our midst. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference for Restored Hope Network (RHN), a network of ministries like Outpost. My heart was deeply grieved to see the absence of young people. Many of the ministry directors are at retirement age or older with no prospects to take over when they are gone. I continue to be the youngest RHN ministry director, and I am not that young anymore!

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to connect with a colleague who oversees like-minded ministries around the world. I asked him point blank, “Do you know of anything happening in the world for young people wanting to overcome same-sex attractions or other gender identity issues?” His response was sobering, “Nate, I know of nothing.”

Moses Generation

Something Unique

Yet God is doing something unique in the Twin Cities. And, we want to be lock step with what He is doing.

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a group of young men who are pursuing holiness in their sexuality and gender identity. During the summer, we always focus on biblical masculinity. We currently have 18 participants and three young adult leaders. They are jumping in with both feet and passionately pursuing Jesus. I am keenly aware that this move of God is somehow special. The Lord is raising up a standard in the midst of the wave of delusion sweeping across our nation. The testimonies coming forth in the lives of these young men will one day overcome the evil one.

Doubling Down

In the coming months, we are doubling down on our focus on the next generation to see them raised up for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Not only do we need to be raising up the next generation of leaders at Outpost, but we need to find a way to help other ministries reproduce themselves. We also desire to implement similar programming for young women specific to their issues and needs. Much of this is still in the brainstorming/development stage.

As always, we need your prayers. We will be establishing a strategy to bathe this all in prayer. We welcome you to join us in specifically praying for the needs of the young men and women to whom we are current ministering and for those yet unreached. And mark your calendars: we will be hosting a visioning night on September 17 at 7 PM to pray and discuss these vital issues!

A Practical Investment

We also continue to need your financial support. A practical way to invest in these young people is by contributing funds to the Joshua Fellowship summer programming. The summer program especially costs a significant amount due to the masculine initiation retreat component in August—roughly $9,000 total for the class, or $450 per person. Most of the young men we minister to are college-age or young professionals who don’t have much money. We offer our programming at a discounted cost and provide scholarships to those who cannot pay. Would you consider sponsoring a young man this summer? Would you consider helping to offset our retreat costs? Or would you consider contributing financially to help develop and begin similar programming for young women?

Undeniable Fruit

The fruit is undeniable. This month, one of my former participants married his college sweetheart. In September, I will have the pleasure of officiating the wedding of another one of my participants. In October, I will attend the wedding of another. Now, marriage itself does not mean that someone has successfully overcome same-sex attractions, but I have walked with these guys for years. I have seen their hard work of recovery, their integrity, and their commitment to Jesus. I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness to each one of them. They are overcoming something that the world tells them to embrace and celebrate. They are better—and stronger—men because of the journey they have chosen. And one day, God willing, their children will be born. Praise God, the generations will continue despite the devil’s schemes.

This work of God is a weighty and sobering thing to be a part of. No wonder we face constant attacks from the enemy. But we are holding fast, and we are being kept by the power of the Lord. We are committed to raising up a Moses generation. Will you join us in this movement?

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