True Endurance

Teenagers are crazy. I’m probably just as crazy to supervise, of my own free will, an all-night lock-in with a few dozen of them. Any youth worker will tell you, the infamous “youth lock-in” is a program from the pits of purgatory to sanctify us and test our endurance.

enduranceTrue Endurance

As Christians, youth worker or not, we all need a lot of endurance. There is so much in our culture, society, and personal lives that tries to pull us down. Maybe we put down our guard for just a second, and all of sudden, we start to believe lies and accusations. Maybe we follow temptation into sin. Even if we are a super-saint, we still can get walloped with external disappointments and setbacks.

When this happens we might question, “Was my breakthrough even real? How can I carry on in victory and not start back from square one?” This is what true endurance is about.  It’s not only about standing tall when the world is pulling you down, but  it’s also about standing up again and again after you’ve landed flat on your back.

My Healing Story

Hebrews 12:3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” For now, let’s just focus on that last line: so you will not grow weary and lose heart.

My own healing story, like most, has turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. I first joined programming at Outpost during my last college semester before going overseas. I figured, “Well, better get this little issue of same-sex attractions (SSA) out of the way before I leave. Three months should be good enough.” It’s been more than three months. I found that SSA was visible on the surface, but like an iceberg, there was so much more underneath. Sometime I have felt like I’m walking in circles, but each time I go deeper—more like a spiral staircase. There were many times I could have said, “I give up. I’m tired of this process.”  But even then, I feel like I have received too much and learned too much to go back.

Fixing My Eyes

The ultimate motivation and inspiration for me in all of this is Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says,  “. . . Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” I am learning what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus.  

Just to clarify when I say Jesus, I don’t mean God the Father, I mean God the Son—Jesus, and the entire theology behind His personhood. Hebrews chapters 4 and 5 tell us about how Jesus endured. He was fully human. Scriptures says how He was tempted in all the ways we are. That means He had no advantage. That really is radical, but it makes sense. If anything, He faced more temptations to sin than we ever will. He was tempted in ways we can’t even imagine. When I fast, I might be tempted to eat bread, but I’m never tempted to turn rocks into bread.

Fighting On

When I’m reminded of how Jesus overcame, it encourages and inspires me. Jesus is not this abstract idea, but since He was flesh and blood, He understands what our struggles are like, and He helps us in them.

I absolutely love the song Love is War by Hillsong Worship. It ties into this idea of not growing weary by fixing eyes on Jesus:

I will fight to follow, I will fight for love

Through my life forever, into the triumph of the Son

Your love has won it all, You took the fall to embrace my sorrow

I know You took the fight, You came and died, but the grave was borrowed

I know You stood again so I can stand with a life to follow in the light of Your name

When I see what Jesus did, how He fought on my behalf, how can I not get up and fight on?

Getting Desperate

The very next verse in Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” If you can’t holla, “Amen!” holla, “Ouch!”

This verse always gets me every time. It reminds me that I’m not stuck. You’re not stuck. We’re not stuck! Even if we’ve failed, there’s more that I can do, there’s more that you can do. We haven’t resisted to the point of death yet!

This is what true endurance is all about: even after failure, we do whatever it takes to press on and overcome. It’s about getting desperate.

I love that word, because “desperation” is not affected by feelings, it’s fueled by need. I can be passionate about something, and I can lose that passion. Desperation stays consistent. I might go to visit the Sahara Desert because I’m passionate about travel, but if I’m stuck in the middle of the Sahara, I will quickly lose that passion. However, my desperation for water will remain the same.

When I’m desperate about seeking after God, His Kingdom and His righteousness, aware of my incredible need for Him, circumstances won’t change that desperation. If things are going well, I desperately need God; if things are terrible, I still desperately need God. For me, that is the foundation of endurance. It’s the reason why I continue to fight on.

A Great Cloud

Fellowship and community is another reason to push on and endure. Hebrews 11:39-40 says, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

That last line is absolutely insane: apart from us they would not be made perfect. Just for the sake of context, “they” is referring to the super-heroes-of-faith-hall-of-fame-all-stars of the Bible. We read in Hebrews chapter 11 about all of these amazing people, their lives of faith and how they endured so much. The chapter ends in saying that all of that was just the prelude to what we can now receive.

They are the same “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews chapter 12. And they are not cheering us on with a polite golf-clap. They are screaming and shouting because our freedom is their freedom. We are a part of the fullness of what God had promised to them. They, just like the rest of us, are waiting for the day that the Bride is ready for her marriage and mystical union with Christ. They finished their race, and are eagerly waiting for us to finish ours.

What a privilege and responsibility it is, living on this side of the cross! I still can’t get over how crazy this passage of scripture is and how it inspires me. I read how these heroes of faith “did not receive what was promised” and “saw promises from far away and welcomed them” (Hebrews 11:13). I read on and find out that they committed their lives, even though they saw that the promise was not to happen in their lifetimes. All they saw was a small glimpse of what was to come through Jesus, but that was more than enough. They knew it would be worth it.

Worthy of It All

A glimpse is what they saw, and it was worth it. A glimpse is what we need because Jesus is so worth it!

Jesus is the only reason I would be doing any of this process. There is no other reason besides Jesus to go through the pain and the work to endure. I’ve tasted and seen God’s love that is better than life (Psalm 63:3), and now I’m wrecked for anything else. I don’t mean that in any cute or romanticized way. Our God is an all-consuming fire. When I think I’ve given Him enough, He demands more. Yet because I’ve seen a glimpse of Him, I see how He is worthy of more than I can ever offer. Just like in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they said that even if God did not save them, they would not bow. I can do nothing else but get up, carry on, and pursue God no matter what.

So let’s continue to persevere and never give up. Keep focused on Jesus. We can endure, and we will overcome. He’s worthy of our sacrifice, our struggle and our strength.

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Holy Masculinity

Holy AggressionEvery summer, I lead young men through a curriculum I have developed on masculinity. The class is called Holy Aggression. The purpose of the class is to help these young men overcome passivity and face the challenges of life. I have so much fun teaching it!

Two Gifts

There are two precious gifts God has given the masculine soul: challenge and adversity. Challenge is the obstacle or difficulty; adversity is the demonic or circumstantial influences that make the challenge more difficult. This is God’s faithfulness to men. We need a battle to fight. After all, what is a warrior without a war?

Judges 3:1-2 states, “These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience).”

Empowered to Fight

We are in a real war with real casualties, and in this class, the men learn how to do spiritual warfare. They are empowered to fight the voices of the world, the flesh and the devil. They learn that there are no cease-fires in the kingdom of God. They learn how to stay alert to the enemy’s schemes.

True masculine strength does not come forth without a fight. Like Jacob, men have to wrestle it out of God. They have to learn to attach to God in the midst of challenge and adversity.

 Different Choices

The young men in this class are making different choices about their same-sex attractions in the midst of the cultural barrage of licentiousness. They are young men who are committing to holiness and purity. And God is changing them from the inside out.

Once again, thank you for your support of this ministry. God is changing lives, and your prayers and financial support are making all the difference.

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The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

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A Hundred Fold

Restored Hope NetworkOutpost is a member ministry of the Restored Hope Network (RHN). RHN is an inter-denominational, member-governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin, especially those impacted by homosexuality. Every year, Outpost participates in RHN’s national conference. This year’s conference was just held in San Diego, CA, in mid-June. I attended with several other staff members. I also had the privilege of leading worship for the two-day conference.

Gideon Army

What an amazing time it was! I have known for almost 20 years many of the ministry leaders who were in attendance. It was so encouraging to see that there are still many leaders standing firm on the truth of God’s Word. Transformation is available through Jesus Christ! We are a “Gideon Army,” but we trust that God will be faithful to champion those who are obedient to His Word.

Thirty, Sixty, A Hundred

During the conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Brad Dacus, the head of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization. Over 15 years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth revival meeting in Sacramento, CA. Who did I stay with? Brad Dacus. At the RHN conference, Brad recounted the story of bringing a young man out to California to share his testimony of transformation—me!  As he shared the rest of the story, I learned something new. A gentleman who was in attendance at this youth revival meeting was so moved by my testimony and other speakers that, since then, has held over 1,000 revival meetings for high schoolers.

seedIt reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the seeds, “‘Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold'” (Mark 3:8).

Sometimes we get to know the impact of our ministry in this life, sometimes we do not. But this was certainly a blessing from the Lord to hear how my testimony helped motivate someone else in Kingdom work. Who knows how many young people have been saved in these revival meetings that have taken place over the last decade plus. Thank you, Lord, that a generation is being raised up in your love and power!

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Remembering Frank

CoastlineSingle acts of heroism make the news and cycle through social media. But a lifetime of faithfulness—acts of loving obedience to Christ day in and day out—is worthy of a moment of reflection. Those acts over a lifetime are like the constancy of waves along the shoreline. Some large and some small, they eventually change the entire landscape of the coastline.

Frank Worthen lived his life in that manner until his passing earlier this year at age 87. Unless you are in the trenches of—or actively opposed to—ministries like ours, you may have never heard of him. Frank was the pioneer of what has been called the ex-gay movement, blazing a trail for thousands of others to follow.

Blazing a Trail

In his book, Destiny Bridge (Forever Books; Winnipeg, Canada; 2010), Frank shares his story of how God brought him out of 25 years of living as a gay man and led him to start a ministry for men also desiring freedom. His ministry began in, of all places, San Francisco. God went right to the heart of the matter. He chose a man to do His bidding in a city renowned for its homosexual community.

Frank recalls in 1973, a pastor friend encouraged him to put his testimony on a cassette tape. He put an ad in the Berkeley Barb, a New Age paper that also had numerous ads for men looking for sexual encounters. His ad ran in November of 1973 and read, “Let Jesus break the chains of homosexuality. Brother Frank tells how Jesus changed his life. Send for the tape on free loan . . .” His first ad was published on the same page with the racy ads and nude pictures he used to frequent. His tapes became popular enough that he had to make many duplicates.

“You May Not Want Me”

Then in 1974, while driving, Frank was listening to a Christian radio broadcast of a popular preacher talking about the book of Leviticus. The preacher focused almost entirely on homosexuality. He said, “Don’t waste your time trying to convert a homosexual. They can’t be saved.”    

Frank recalls that those condemning words hit him hard. For several days, he considered taking his own life. He remembers praying, “Lord I’m going to serve You, just as if I were saved. You may not want me, but I want You.” Frank sent the radio station his “Brother Frank” tape. He added to his testimony 1 Corinthians 6:7-11, in which Paul declares to a long litany of sinners—including but not limited to homosexuals, “Such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).  He received many positive responses from Christian believers.

Persevering

He started a support group and eventually named it Love in Action, the first formal ministry of its kind. Other groups sprung up all over California, as did several others around the country, including Outpost Ministries in Minneapolis. Back then, there were no resources other than the Bible, so many groups wrote their own curriculums. Frank wrote a booklet, Steps out of Homosexuality. 

He founded Exodus International in 1976, a network of these like-hearted ministries. The founder of Outpost, Robbi Kenney, joined the first Board of Directors, and Outpost was one of Exodus’ original members.

In the beginning, Frank had very little encouragement. Frank says his gay friends abandoned him. In the day and age when homosexuality was taboo to mention in church, his supporters were slow to come around.  He was bombarded with temptation, and in the early days, many leaders went back into the gay life. One can only imagine what he endured. To start an ex-gay ministry as he did with no help and no guidelines in a city like San Francisco is not only extraordinary, it’s miraculous!

Frank and Anita Worthen

Frank and Anita Worthen

Changing the Coastline

Frank not only survived, he continued to thrive. In 1991, he started a similar ministry in the Philippines. Upon the crumbling of Exodus in 2012, in his early 80’s, he led the charge with Anne Paulk and Stephen Black to form Restored Hope Network.

Frank leaves behind Anita, his loving wife of 32 years, and a stepson. He also leaves behind a legacy of steadfast obedience to God’s calling which has impacted men and women around the world for over 40 years. The weight of that impact will be felt as we gather for Restored Hope Network’s annual conference in June. The coastline has changed under the rhythm of his faithful perseverance.

Watch Frank’s testimony here.

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Submit, Resist, Fight

Ministering on the front lines, I have learned a thing or two about spiritual warfare. I am in no way an expert, but the Lord has been faithful to “train my hands for war and my fingers for battle” just as He was with King David (Psalm 144:1).

The world is a painful place. Daily we are wounded by the devil’s fiery arrows, the assaults from the world and even our own sinful flesh. When wounding happens, the devil is right there to introduce his narrative: it was all your fault, you deserved it, this happened because you are bad, you may as well quit.         

Submit

The Word of God says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). To SUBMIT to God is first and foremost is to listen for His narrative about the situation. We must train ourselves to, at the point of injury, immediately listen for the healing word the Lord is always speaking. Submission does not end there. We must believe what the Lord is saying and come into agreement with His Word. This establishes a boundary with the enemy. We are essentially saying “no” to His lies and “yes” to the truth that will set us free.

Resist

Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t end there. The devil will put up a fight, and so we must RESIST. To resist is to look to God and hold fast to the Lord’s narrative. We say, “Jesus, You are the only One who gets to interpret my pain and life circumstances.”

Our resisting is not a passive exercise but an active one. We must enter the battle as warriors and fight. We must wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God in our mouths. We pray the Lord’s narrative, and we declare it over ourselves. The truth will prevent strongholds from being erected, and it will tear down ones that already exist. We worship the Lord with hearts full of gratitude for the deliverance that is ours in Jesus—even if we don’t feel it yet.

Fight

This is the most important part: all of this we do UNTIL the devil flees. If we don’t quit, we win. Beloved, like it or not, we have been born into a war. As believers, we must be warfare minded as the Apostle Peter exhorts us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8.) In doing this, we truly can be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

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Temptation Tool Kit

tool boxResisting temptation is a very important topic to me. I’d like to share with you some tools from my own personal tool kit. My old-nature appetites are not in the arena of same-sex attractions, but the principles are the same. In pastoring people, I never give this whole tool kit in one shot, so pull out one or two insights that might help in that day’s battle.

Something Even Deeper

Before I even start though, three things need to be said: First, most of us already know how to resist temptation when we want to. We already know what we “ought” to do. But something in us has been twisted to make us want to sin. Yielding to temptation gives short term, undeniable relief, but it brings worse pain long term. This article won’t help a bit unless there is something even deeper in you that wants to stay free and right with God. God’s Spirit lives in us, once we’ve invited Him in with Jesus. May He have the deepest place in our hearts, the highest place in our affections!

Second, much of what I share here is scripture. God’s Word is Truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32). You probably already know these scriptures, but just knowing the verses won’t help much. The point is not to know the verses but to do what they tell us to do. That is the path to freedom. We have to put into practice what God tells us, just as the wise man built his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24ff).

Third, this is a life-long journey, not fixed in a day or in a single article, but well worth the journey! Please join me!

Satan’s Main Goal

First, some thoughts on our situation. We know too well that there is an enemy of our souls. Satan’s main goal is not just to get us to sin, but to pry us away from God and keep us locked up in shame and bondage. Sin is just the bait he uses because sin separates us from God. Remember Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden in Genesis 3:8? Satan tries to trick us into hiding—staying away from God. But Christ has come to speak reconciliation and forgiveness and set us free.

The first step of “damage control” if we fall (you already know it; do you do it?): confess and return to Christ (1 John 1:8-10). He’s not surprised; He doesn’t love us any less. He already paid for our cleansing. Don’t despise His gift! It is here for us as much after as before a fall into sin. Jesus told the Pharisees that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor. He came for us–sinners (Matt. 9:12-13)! When we run straight back to God after we’ve fallen, we can be forgiven and restored, and so we escape Satan’s main trap.

I don’t dare pass up the forgiveness Christ offers because “I don’t deserve it.” Whoever deserves forgiveness? It is a free gift, already bought and paid for. Don’t be too stuck in self-condemnation to forfeit the cleansing Jesus offers. Every single human being is saved by grace, not by merit! Come back quickly to Jesus. When we fall, we need Him more than ever!

Straight from the Tool Kit

Now for some tools. A huge part of temptation is mental/imagination/fantasy. We imagine the pleasure before we act on it. I often tell myself, “Think about what you’re thinking about.” What we focus on, what we let ourselves think on, is a huge part of our battle. Scripture tells us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). That includes His character, His words, His ways. He is really good in every way, and to think or meditate on Him is encouraging.

This is not just a religious, spiritual sounding verse to quote. We can actually access or lay hold of God’s presence and power when we do this. We serve a living Savior who is interceding for us right now at the Father’s right hand, and He knows when we’re looking to Him. Remember Peter walking on the water; he was fine until he looked at the waves (Matt. 14:30). The enemy tries to distract us, divert us from our Lifeline. When we fasten our eyes on Jesus, we are much less able to be distracted, and that makes us less vulnerable. It is a skill to be learned and applied, and it can save you from great pain when you learn it.

Consciously remember the deception of the enemy’s offers. When we yield, it never satisfies. We just end up with a “continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19). Rom. 6:19 expresses the same idea: we are lured into “ever increasing wickedness”. It’s not as if we can give in once and never again. Giving in reinforces addiction to sin patterns. It’s a downward spiral. As with most addictions, what worked to satisfy last week needs a stronger fix to get the same satisfaction now. The enemy is never trying to satisfy our need! He’s trying to draw us in even deeper into the downward spiral. Remembering this fact helps me not even start down that path.

Now for the Eye-Rolling

Now come some verses you’ve heard so often they make you roll your eyes. “Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

The key here for me is that these two verses are adjacent in scripture. They should be held adjacent in our warfare for freedom. They must come together for our warfare to be effective. Otherwise, we focus on just the first half—the enemy we’re resisting, instead of focusing on the loving Father who encourages us daily. Looking at some sin I want but can’t have is worse than looking at something I want even more—being right with God. We resist the enemy by drawing near to God.

Ready for another one? “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matt.6.33). This one is huge. Again, the key is that this is not just a verse to know, it is a lifestyle. It is an action step. It is a whole life re-orientation. We do not just seek God first and then go on with our own agenda. Rather, we seek His Kingdom and lordship and presence in our normal, daily life. We look for Jesus in every situation as we walk through our day. This becomes our whole life purpose.

Self-indulgence is wasting time. Self-fulfillment leaves us empty! When we look for Jesus, we will find Him (Matt. 7:7), and we receive more than we can ever give back. Living water overflows from our hearts (John 7:38). This can be real for you, the “new normal”—it really can!

Our Daily Bread Today

Please believe me that I’m not just talking “religion”. I’m talking about real life, here and now. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:10-11). Eternal rewards in heaven, though certain in Christ, are simply beyond my imagination. So for me, they do not help much because life hurts too much here and now. Again, yielding to temptation gives short term relief that I long for (but worse pain long term). If and when I hurt too badly right now, eternity is too unreal to me, too far away to be helpful.

Seeking the Kingdom of God fills us on earth. When we do it, God’s nearness and Spirit kick in with power, and as that happens, the pull of sinful self-indulgence is diminished. When I am actively engaged in advancing the Kingdom of God, I don’t have as much time for my crazy imagination to run down the wrong streets.

This principle even comes with a huge guarantee-promise attached: When we do it, all the other needs we worry about will be taken care of for us by Father God (Matt. 6:33).

There is still more. 2 Peter 1:3-11 speaks of character qualities we are to grow in. It’s worth checking: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love.

These are character qualities that require some effort (v.5) but they should mark our lives, and in increasing measure. When we are consumed by growing in Christ, sin has less opportunity to suggest itself. This is not magic, not foolproof, but it certainly helps us in the battles. When our focus is upward toward Christ, actively seeking first the Kingdom of God, the appeal of the addictions is diminished.

Prayers of the Saints

One last thought: I have people praying for me in the area of my appetite and my imagination. We need each other’s support! I ask God to sanctify my appetite, to sanctify my imagination so that what I am hungry for and what I imagine can come with His blessing.

Without prayer, without effort, our natural mind goes to things that are very worldly, and very often unclean. We were created with natural appetites, which are fine, but after the Fall, the enemy twists them to pull us into things far from God, things that can never satisfy.

If our natural appetites can have an acquired taste for bitter drinks like coffee or beer, just imagine what spiritual nutrients God can make us hungry for! I want to acquire a taste for things of God! What would a sanctified appetite be like? What would a sanctified imagination be like? I want to imagine great things of God, for God. I want to imagine doing and being great for God. Our imaginations, linked to His good intentions, can run free on fabulous pursuits.

This again has to do with mental disciplines, a learned habit. The effect of this learned mental discipline is to keep us on a path of life and godliness instead of sin and self-indulgence and increasing distance from God. It is worth the effort!

This is a lot to read, I know. One article won’t change your life. My hope and prayer for you is that this will be like a tool kit you can go to from time to time, as needed, and that one or another of these thoughts will give you the strength, leverage, or motivation you need for that day. May you be blessed with increasing FREEDOM in Him as you grow in Him.

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Introducing Outpost North!

Outpost NorthWe have been waiting for the right moment to announce our new branch Outpost North in Brainerd, MN! Outpost North offers our Foundations course to anyone struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, family members, and pastors and ministry leaders who want to learn more about Outpost and the healing journey. They have also started an Elijah Company group for parents, family and friends of gay-identified loved ones.

Our Outpost North Coordinator, Angie, has a beautiful testimony of the Lord pursuing her, even in the midst of her sin and brokenness. She now has a husband and a little girl—a little girl who would not exist had the enemy succeeded in his plans to keep Angie from her true identity and destiny in God.

Angie understands by experience that it is the Father’s desire to restore the broken-hearted and restore the family. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “’Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (NKJV). Seeing the restoration of the family is our vision at Outpost Ministries and TCJHOP because we believe that it is the Lord’s end-time strategy to bring healing to families, to the family of God and to our society. Thank you for partnering with us in this mighty work the Lord is doing among us!

Broken Pieces Made Whole

broken glass. . . And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (Corinthians 6:11, NASB).

What a powerful statement to be said over someone’s life: “and such were some of you.” I resonate strongly with this passage. However, I first had to wrestle my way through 1 Corinthians 6:9, especially the part about homosexuality.

I grew up in the church, hearing Bible stories most of my life. I have led youth groups, Christian school groups, and I even went to seminary. I loved Jesus passionately, but I lived a double life. I did not know there was an escape plan that Jesus was offering me, “and such were some of you.” I thought I was a lesbian and that there was no way out. There is a plan, however; there is a way out, and there is Someone who can redeem our brokenness and make us whole again.

I guarantee that there are people among your family members, co-workers, friends, and among the people who sit next to you at church and in your small group who are struggling with SSA (same-sex attractions). I believe that most of these people want out but don’t know there is a way. I was one of those people who just wanted to be “found out” by anyone because I desperately wanted out. I knew I needed help.

My story begins on a family farm in rural Iowa where my family consisted of a dad and mom and four girls. We literally had three TV stations, and the smell of farm manure was the smell of money. I loved growing up on that farm with my family. I loved working outside, the smell of dirt, hot summer afternoons, working hard and spending countless hours shooting hoops in the driveway with my sisters. Every Sunday, my mom would drag my sisters and I to church; my father would stay home to attend to the chores.

In the midst of everything that I loved, I remember being a hurting little girl who was struggling in relationship with her parents. I was swimming in a sea of anger and rage, trying to keep myself afloat. Because of their own brokenness, my father was harsh and unemotional, and my mother was weak and submissive. I grew up disliking my dad and being mad at my mom for not standing up for herself or for us.

Fast forward to my third year of college after a Chicago missions trip. I found myself falling “in love” with one of my friends. We entered into a very emotionally enmeshed friendship that turned physical very quickly. I was shocked at what I was doing, but I also enjoyed this new relationship.

It was a new adventure that seemed to whip me off my feet. I had found someone who accepted me, who loved me unconditionally, who gave me worth. She understood the depths of my heart as we became more and more emotionally enmeshed. It seemed that both of us were made for this type of relationship. My feelings reminded me that I had felt this way for as long as I could remember. I secretly concluded that I must be a lesbian.

This new adventure was actually counterfeit love and acceptance. It was a counterfeit that wore the perfect mask and said the perfect things, but it always left me disappointed and cleaning up the mess. It literally left me hating myself. The adventure was filled with lust, wrong motives, control, codependency and emotional enmeshment.

You need to understand how Satan will present things to people. He will make things look good and look loving, but behind my partner’s words was emptiness and a dark void. Please know that even my words to her were counterfeit and empty, just as much as her words were to me. Her words could never sustain me, and my words could never satisfy her.

It was strange; as our relationship seemed to flourish, as we lavished each other with love, tension grew. Sin is only pleasurable for a season. We began to fight more and more and tried to control one another. I was left with a dark cloud of guilt, pain and depression. During my fourth year of seminary, I spent days in bed and hours on the internet viewing pornography. I was looking for a quick fix, something to numb out all of my pain and shame.

I couldn’t hear God’s voice anymore. I would pray for a way out, for someone to find us out, for someone to call me out. No one took a stance against homosexual behavior; everyone was accepting it, even our Christian friends. Even with all of this acceptance around me, I could not stop the aching inside. It was consuming me. I thought of ways I could kill myself as the dark cloud around me became more and more suffocating. Sin became a cancer in my body; it was eating me up.

Then God spoke!

One night as I cried out to God, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Angie, tonight you will either choose Jesus or choose your sin.” I told Jesus, “I choose You, but I want to be free from homosexuality, lust, pornography and rage. I don’t care if I ever teach or preach again. I just want to be free.”

The next day, I went to an art exhibit in a church basement in downtown Minneapolis. There, the Holy Spirit spoke to me again through a piece of artwork. The art piece was large; it stood taller than me. As I went closer, I saw that it was the face of Jesus made out of small, broken pieces of mirror. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to go forward, and I hesitated. I asked the Holy Spirit, “Have you seen what I’ve embraced? What I’ve laid with? The darkness I’ve slept with? The darkness that’s consumed me? I cannot go closer. I am dirty, too dirty!” But I went closer, and as I saw my reflection in the broken pieces of mirror that made up Jesus’ face, I heard the Holy Spirit, “I will make you whole again!” With hot tears streaming down my face, I knew I was going to be made whole again and set free from sexual perversion and sexual brokenness.

That day in 2001 marked the beginning of a journey of healing and restoration in my life that continues to this day. My husband Scott and were married in 2013. As I rock our little girl to sleep at night and gaze upon her wonderfully-made frame, my heart declares, “My God, You are faithful in all things!”

After the birth of our daughter, Scott and I found ourselves moving to Brainerd in north-central Minnesota for his job. We had no clue what God was up to but knew we needed to be here. My husband and I are excited to tell you about the beginnings of Outpost North. Outpost Ministries’ long 40-year history in the Twin Cities has now come to Brainerd to offer the same ministry of healing and restoration while helping individuals and families experience freedom in Christ.

Outpost North started programming in January. We offer the Foundations course and have started an Elijah Company group. Foundations is a four-week introduction to Outpost and the healing process and is open to anyone struggling with unwanted SSA, parents and family members, as well as pastors and ministry leaders. Elijah Company is a support and prayer group for parents, family members, friends and co-workers with loved ones who identify as gay. We are also seeking opportunities to speak in area churches, especially to youth groups. It is my hope that someday we can offer one-to-one coaching and discipleship for individuals seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions.

We are excited about what God can and will do here in the Brainerd Lakes area. We are excited to see lives transformed, families restored, marriages reconciled and captives set free. Our culture has done an excellent job of normalizing homosexuality. This, however, is not God’s design. It is time to stand up and help those who are struggling and lead them to a place of restoration and reconciliation.

It is our delight to be here in the Brainerd Lakes Area and to be the voice of Truth regarding this subject. This Iowa farm girl is excited to see God go after ones just like me and to set them free. It is our privilege to serve the Lord and to serve Outpost Ministries.

Interested in joining Outpost North’s Foundations class or Elijah Company group or inviting Angie to speak in the Brainerd Lakes Area of MN? Contact us.

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Waving the Flag of Surrender

surrenderAs Christians, we sing and talk about surrender all the time. We often forget that surrender is a battle term. It means giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an army surrenders, the victors take complete control over their lives. When we surrender to God, we are declaring that He has won, we have been defeated and subdued, and we give ourselves over to God’s plan for our lives.

I’m a proud person. I’ve always worked hard, and I have always gotten what I’ve wanted. I studied hard and got a good degree and a well-paying job. I work out and eat well so that I have a strong body. I practice so that I can become a better worship leader.

But when it came to my sexual struggles, it was a completely different story. Growing up, I had a perceived lack of masculine affirmation, affection and acknowledgement in my life. When I discovered homosexual pornography, it was the perfect drug. These were men willing and ready to share intimacy and vulnerability with me. I could control these relationships, and there was no risk on my end. What I didn’t realize was that I was training my heart and my head to receive male love through this avenue only.

It took six years of silent struggle and mental torture before I could write these words in my prayer journal, “I am struggling with homosexuality. God, I’m not asking for You to magically make it disappear, but I do want You to help me change my life. I know You have the power to intervene and change me like nothing else can.” That was my first step in surrender.

After that journal entry, it took another three years before I could take the next step of surrender and confess this struggle to another person. Each time I brought it out into the open, it weakened the pull of my addiction and strengthened my bond with another man in a healthy and legitimate way. There was freedom in admitting that I was powerless, that I struggled with same-sex attractions. But just surrendering to the reality that I was powerless over sin and lust and acting out wasn’t enough. I needed help; I needed to surrender to something or someone outside of myself and my own patterns of thinking.

It was terrifying to come to Outpost for the first time. But eventually, this became a safe place for me and a refuge for my soul. There was also great promise and hope here. I saw men fighting in strength, walking in the fullness of their masculinity, and I saw restoration. I liked what I saw, and I wanted it. So I gave myself to this process of recovery. I came every week. I shared during our small groups. I said yes to whatever the leaders challenged us to do.

From that point, this journey has been a series of cliffs for me to jump off. Each time, it has felt like I would drop into oblivion. Each time, I had to surrender another part of my heart that I had been holding on to in defiance. I had to allow that part of my heart to become reconciled to God.

When we were required to have an hour of listening prayer each day, it meant waking up earlier. And if that meant waking up at 4:30am, then I had to surrender my sleep. When I was still struggling with pornography and isolation, I had to surrender my independence and find a roommate. When I started to develop an emotionally dependent relationship with my best friend, I had to surrender that relationship.

When I pursued relationship with a woman, and she broke my heart, I had to surrender my singleness and my loneliness to God. When I moved into my own place again, I knew I couldn’t have internet. I had to surrender my convenience and only use the internet at work

Each step is another terrifying adventure where God asks, “Are you going to trust Me in this?” I have had to come to the end of myself and finally let God have a personal place in my life. And just when I think I’ve already given my all to God, He reveals another part of my heart I’m holding on to with a death grip. He asks me, “How can you receive more from Me when your hands are clenched tightly around this?”

I need to constantly remind myself to trust in God. If I believe that God knows the deepest parts of my heart better than I know myself, then I can trust Him. If I believe that God knows what will truly make me come alive, then I can trust Him.

I had to surrender my sleep for listening prayer, but this discipline has taught me how to hear God and how have intimacy with Him. I had to surrender my independence and live with roommates I couldn’t stand, but with them, I learned about patience. I had to surrender one of my best friends, but it was only in letting go that we could learn to love one another in a healthy way and have God bring a new depth to our friendship.

I had to surrender my singleness and loneliness to God, but after that I began to appreciate being alone, and being alone with God. I had to surrender convenience by not having internet, but I haven’t struggled with pornography or masturbation since moving to my new apartment.

There’s an illustration that has helped me understand surrender: Imagine life as a rollercoaster. There’s going to be a big drop and bunch of twists and turns. I can try to hold onto the handle bars and clench my teeth, or I can raise my hands and feel the rush. Either way, I’m still going to drop, and I’m still going to be held in. So why not just enjoy the ride?

There can be so much death in surrendering and letting go. But there can also be so much peace and life when we finally give God space in our hearts.

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