Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 1

biblical genderMy first memories of being taught about gender and gender roles are from early elementary school. It was the 1970’s, and Marlo Thomas and friends had released a record album and TV special, Free to Be You and Me. The messages of the songs and skits were designed intentionally to teach children to reach beyond the gender stereotypes of earlier decades and pursue whatever interests we felt would fit our particular personalities.

While some of the individual messages of the songs and skits contained some important truths, the overall message of the work was to encourage an unbiblical, post-modern gender neutrality. We were to understand that men and women are basically the same, and any differences we may see or experience are not to be turned into generalizations about either sex. What I learned was that a woman can do anything a man can do, and a man should be able to do anything a woman can do as well.

Defining My Womanhood

As I grew and became a teenager, this message seemed to be confirmed by my life experience. I was a girl who loved Star Wars, enjoyed math, excelled at school, preferred my Industrial Arts class over Home Economics, and generally got along with boys more than girls. There were more boys who shared my interests, and I struggled with the drama of junior high and high school girl relationships.

Even with all these traditionally male interests, however, I never questioned my own sexuality or gender identity. I was a girl who had a specific set of interests, but I was definitely a girl. (The teachings of the world had not yet reached the fevered pitch of today, where feelings and interests are taken to imply a specific gender identity.) I knew that my passions, interests, and giftings ultimately did not define my womanhood. And yet, I didn’t fully understand what did define my womanhood.

Feelings Versus God’s Design

Looking back, I can see God’s hand protecting and guiding my understanding. A biblical understanding of sex and gender does allow for each of us, man or woman, to have interests and passions in any arena. But those interests and passions, those feelings, are not what gives us our identity as a man or woman. Our identity is found only in God’s design for our lives, how God has created us to bear His image in the world.

Biblical Gender

In order to continue this conversation, we must first agree on some definitions. We use the term sex to describe the physical distinctions between our male and female bodies. We use the term gender to describe the categories of behavior and being—masculine and feminine . God is spirit and does not have a body; therefore, God is not male or female.  However, we do see God exhibit gender; we see God exhibit both masculine and feminine qualities.

Based on what we have seen in Scripture, we define what is truly masculine as the power to act. God demonstrates the true masculine in many ways, including the ordering of chaos in creation (Genesis 1:1-10) and the initiating of relationship with us through Jesus (Romans 5:6-8). Furthermore, we define what is truly feminine as the capacity to be. God reveals to us the true feminine in multiple ways, including resting in peace after creating all things (Genesis 2:1-3) and comparing himself to a mother who nurtures her children (Isaiah 49:15).

Image-Bearers

Genesis recounts for us that God created all humans in His image, both male and female. Each man is a full image-bearer of God, and each woman is also a full image-bearer of God. We each bear God’s image in the deepest part of our being—our spirits. Because we each bear God’s image in our spirits, all humans—male and female—will exhibit both masculine and feminine characteristics.   In fact, in relation to God, we all behave in feminine ways, receiving the Word of truth in our hearts and minds, responding to the relationship that God initiates with us. Additionally, each of us must protect and guard the truth in our hearts so we may stand firm against deception, exercising true masculine strength.

Distinction on Purpose

Still, God’s intention for distinction within creation and especially humanity is clear.  He could have chosen to create just one type of body —an androgynous human that would be like any other human in every way. But that’s not what God did. God created two distinct and different types of persons: male and female. God created us male and female in order to reveal even more fully who God is and how God acts in relationship.

Since we believe God’s creative act is intentional, it follows that our physical bodies reflect a deeper truth about our spirits and souls. That is, knowing God’s character, the decision to make two different types of bodies implies that the male-female distinction extends into our spirits; it is not only a distinction in body. It also encompasses our souls–the connection between body and spirit; home to our emotions, thoughts and decision-making abilities.  Thus, a person with a male body—genetically XY—is fashioned with  a male spirit and soul, and a person with a female body—genetically XX—is created with  a female spirit and soul.

Body, Soul, Spirit

A male body encounters the world differently than a female body, due to physical differences. Likewise, a male soul will think, experience emotions, and make decisions differently than a female soul. Finally, a male spirit needs to be connected to masculine traits to find identity as a man, and a female spirit needs to be connected to feminine traits to find identity as a woman. We encourage males to connect to their ability to initiate relationship, move in strength, and stand for truth in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit. Likewise, we encourage females to nurture beauty and be receptive and nurturing in relationship with others in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit.

Fully Bearing God’s Image

In order to fully reflect the image of God, however, we make sure that these connections are not to the exclusion of the other; that is, a male is also created  to exhibit feminine traits, and a female to also exhibit masculine ones. For example, a male can and should initiate relationship and stand for truth (the true masculine) while also being receptive and nurturing to others and being able to rest (the true feminine). Likewise, a female can and should be receptive and nurturing while also showing strength, standing for truth, and protecting others.  The encouragement of one type of trait does not mean we overlook or dismiss the other.

True Woman’s Lib

For me, this understanding means that I can acknowledge the differences between men and women while also acknowledging that we each can do whatever it is God has gifted us to do. I am a woman because God has created me with a female body, soul, and spirit, and it is good to be a woman. I act in both feminine and masculine ways, but I do those things as a female. To be a woman of God is to bear God’s image into the world through my femaleness.

This is true woman’s liberation! To know that I am perfectly and fully loved as a daughter of the Most High King; to know that I can fully bear God’s image in the world; to know that God has gifted me specifically to do the work designed for me and my gifts; and to do all this through my femaleness, as a woman. May God grant us each the strength and wisdom to stand firm in the truth and lovingly share it with those around us. May we truly and fully bear God’s image in our manhood or womanhood, as God has created each one. May we truly be free to be you and me.

This post is the first of two. Part one covers the topic of biblical gender; part two, coming soon, will address gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations with family and friends.

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Declaring “Very Good”

gender neutral signRecently, I led of team of eight people from Outpost to Minot, ND to present our newly assembled Distinctions Conference. The conference trains people in an understanding of God’s image and how to stand for the truth of biblical gender in our culture. It was a huge success!

In prepping for the conference, I was struck by the weightiness of the prophetic word we as a ministry have been called to carry. AND I was struck by the weightiness of the spiritual warfare standing against this word. Friends, it was intense.

The enemy is systematically attempting to erase the image of God from the face of our society. Genesis is clear that the image of God is revealed on the earth as male and female. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26-27). The gender binary is essential for us to know and experience the image of God.

One major retailer’s decision to eliminate “boys” and “girls” signs from its toys and bedding departments makes a bold statement: gender acknowledgement is passé.

Now I admit, there is nothing wrong with little girls playing with stereotypically boys toys and vice versa. However, the larger issue remains: God’s image is being systematically removed from our culture. There are no boys toys, no girls toys, no boys bathrooms and no girls bathrooms. Ultimately, according to the world’s progression, there are no boys and no girls. No boys and girls, no image of God on the earth. This should alarm us as believers.

Without the image of God present to us visibly and experientially, mass confusion ensues. The image of God is worth fighting for and declaring as “very good”!

How to Pray Like Jesus for Family and Friends

Have you ever struggled to pray regularly for the people God has placed in your life?  I know I have. Like many people, for years I used a prayer list of all my family and friends as a helpful place to begin. But even then I often had difficulty staying focused and praying meaningful, confident prayers for many of them. Invariably I would gravitate merely to a rote recitation of their names as I moved down the list.

It was not, however, until I discovered a Biblical, tried and true way to effectively pray for them that a new focus and faith began to energize my prayers.

There is one chapter in the Bible that is dedicated entirely to a verbatim prayer recited by Jesus. That chapter is John 17, and it is considered to be one of the great treasures in all of scripture because it preserves for posterity an entire prayer, prayed by the greatest pray-er who ever lived! Some have called it Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer. In this chapter Jesus is praying for those the Father had committed to His care.

Apart from the first verse which says “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed,” everything that follows is in red letters. These are the words of Jesus as He prays to the Father for a very specific group of people: “for all those you have given me” (vs. 2; 6) and for “those who will believe in me through their message” (vs. 20). In fact, Jesus specifically narrows the field by saying, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.”

Who then is this select group for whom Jesus was praying? They were His apostles and disciples.  Interestingly this included His friends such as Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha; as well as His family – mother, brothers, sisters, and cousins.

The John 17 prayer of Jesus is therefore the best model ever given for our use in praying for those whom God has placed in our lives. A study of the prayer reveals that there are seven specific ways in which Jesus prayed for His loved ones.

These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and inspire confidence and faith as we pray because we are praying the same words Jesus prayed.

Praying Scripture has always been a sure-fire way to pray effectively, and to me this way of praying for friends and family is as exciting and powerful as it gets. This is so because “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14 NIV).

Here are seven prayers you can use to pray following in Jesus’ footsteps: “Father… 

  1. GLORIFY Jesus through their lives by having them do the work you’ve given them to do. – “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (vs. 1b). “I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (vs. 4). Give them a clear sense of your calling and purpose that they might dedicate their lives to living for and glorifying you. 
  1. FORTIFY and protect them from the evil one and keep them safe in Jesus name. – “Protect them from the evil one” (vs. 15). Let no weapon formed against them prosper (Isaiah 54:17). May they put on the full armor of God to take their stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18). 
  1. UNIFY them and make them one with you and with one another. – “…that all of them may be one” (vs. 21). Where there are broken relationships, release a spirit of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation (Ephesians 4:32). 
  1. SANCTIFY them in the truth of your Word. – Set them apart for you, and make them holy. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (vs. 17). Give them a hunger for your word, that they might make it their daily meditation and guide for all they do, as they walk in obedience to you (Psalm 119:105). 
  1. MULTIPLY them by sending them into the world with your message. – “I have sent them into the world . . . so that the world may believe” (vs. 18; 21). May they live their lives as your witnesses sharing your love and your truth. 
  1. FILL them with your Joy. – “…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (vs. 13). May your joy be their strength imparting peace, faith, and generosity (Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 9:7). 
  1. REVEAL your Presence and Glory to them. – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (vs. 24). Be present in their lives releasing “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that [they] might know [Jesus] better” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV).

 As you consider all the precious people God has placed in your life, why not pray the prayer Jesus prayed for them?

For further meditation and application: The next time you pray through your prayer list of family, relatives, and friends, consider using these seven prayers from John 17. As you pray for each person, pause and select the appropriate prayer(s) that is applicable to their situation and your burden for them. Pray for them using the same words and phrases that Jesus used in praying for those the Father had given him. Expect a quickening of your faith, and renewed confidence as you pray, that God is hearing and answering your prayers.

Igniting an Impassioned Prayer LifeThis post is a chapter taken from Tom Stuart’s recently published book Igniting an Impassioned Prayer Life – How to Develop the Energized, Extended, and Sustainable Life of Prayer You’ve Always Wanted. It is available for purchase on Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Copies are also available directly from the author for $10. Go to tomstuart.org and order a copy via the contact form.

 

 

Declaring Allegiance

The most frequently-asked question I encounter by new participants or others inquiring about Outpost Ministries is, “What is the success rate of people finding freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions?” Ultimately, they want to know, “How much is this decision going to cost, and will it really work?” I don’t blame them for asking the question; I myself asked the very same thing four years ago. I have found throughout my own healing journey, as well as through helping others on their own journeys, that there is a surprisingly simple response to this question. To individuals inquiring about healing success rates, I ask, “How do you define healing?” and “To what extent are you willing to follow Christ?”  We will experience healing and transformation through relationship and obedience to Jesus.  Our allegiance to Christ—our everyday commitment to Him through our trials and temptations—is an extremely important aspect of our Christian faith, for “. . . faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17, NLT).

Defining “healing” is essential to the believer. First, he or she must know that we are forgiven and justified—made righteous—upon accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Inner-healing is the process that follows, agreeing with God about our identity in Him.  I have found that choosing Jesus’ lordship is absolutely foundational to the healing process.  In the fall of 2011, I declared, “Jesus, I believe that you can and will heal me from my same-sex attractions, but even if you don’t, I will not make it my god any longer. Instead, You are my Lord and the One who sits on the throne in my life, not my same-sex attractions.” From that day on, my process of healing could begin. That doesn’t mean I no longer struggle with same-sex attractions on any level, but it does mean I am free from the power to be ruled and controlled by them. Thus, I can declare healing and freedom really have occurred in my life! I may spend the rest of my life seeking the Lord and finding increasing freedom, but that is part of taking up my cross and following Him (Matthew 16:24). I don’t do this perfectly by any means, but it is my joy to lay down my temptations and struggles before Him and confess, “I want you more.”

Our culture claims that anyone who experiences any attractions towards the same sex are not and cannot be healed from homosexuality.  If this definition of healing—the absence of struggle—were transferred to other forms of addictions or unwanted behaviors, there would be an uproar among the recovering alcoholics, drug users, compulsive gamblers and anger management participants.  Although these people still experience temptation to use or even on occasion act out, they probably would not appreciate being labelled “unrecovered” or “unhealed” after their hard work towards sobriety.  Those in recovery of any sorts, including from unwanted same-sex attractions, know that their healing is not based on temptations or lack of struggle.  It is based on their willingness to get back up after sin occurs.

We have a choice as believers to continue to recover and move on from the temptations that we face, whether it be once or a hundred times throughout a day.  The process of following Christ is referred to in Philippians 2:12 as “working out one’s salvation.” The first question I ask the women I mentor is, “What is your commitment to obedience to Christ?” They quickly learn that transformation can only begin when they have committed their whole selves to the One who gave all of Himself. When we declare total allegiance towards Christ, it is not that we won’t experience temptation or decide to sin, but it is that we hate our sin, repent of it, and seek after Christ to renew us from it. It is through this process of sanctification, as well as time spent with God, that we can truly encounter Him.  When we truly encounter the Lord, it is impossible not to transform.

Though we live in a world which is unfamiliar with holiness, we must seek holiness, “for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). In the presence of God’s holiness, we are continually made new. For we cannot see the face of Christ and not be changed forever. Likewise, a person who struggles with unwanted same-sex attractions will experience transformation if he or she wholeheartedly seeks the Lord (Jeremiah 29:13). Transformation, however, doesn’t always occur in a timely manner or in the way in which we desire. Thank God! I used to cry out for the Lord to save me instantly from homosexuality. Now, I am so glad that He didn’t. I would have missed out on the chance to follow, trust, and obey the Lord without knowing the results! One of my favorite quotes comes from Oswald Chambers regarding this matter: “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” Do you trust the One who is leading? Will you be faithful to Him no matter the outcome? Or are you offended by His statutes and plan of redemption for you?

Jesus is worthy of our allegiance. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of our sacrifice. Through the power of Christ’s forgiveness, we can begin our healing journey in the moment we entrust our lives to Him. Then, we get to experience the transformation that He has for each one of us on our own individual journeys with Him. The love and healing He has for you is so rich and satisfying. Don’t sell out for anything less than the deep love, forgiveness, and life-change He has in store for you. If only you would give Him your whole life. If only you would follow after Him with no conditions or expectations. The journey of following after Christ is an adventure, to say the least! It is filled with wildness, excitement, and unknown blessings. Give Him your life and just see what He can make out of your brokenness!

To Those Who Overcome

For those of us overcoming life-dominating issues such as unwanted same-sex attractions, it is essential for us to have a right understanding about what “overcoming” means and have an eternal perspective about it.  Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law” (NASB). Our vision—our big-picture understanding—for our obedience to God’s Word is profoundly important when navigating through the confusion of this world.  When we lose vision, we cast off restraint.  We must have clarity about both the redemptive power of God here and now and our eternal destiny.

Sometimes believers make the mistake of thinking overcoming is the complete and total absence of struggle.  I have found, however, that healing is much more of a progressive work.  There are many moments of overcoming along the way.   I teach our participants that there are three stages to victory:

 1)  Sincere intention to obey God.  (If you only measure your life in achievements, it will result in condemnation.)

2)  Partial break through yet with a continued struggle.

3)  Substantial breakthrough with transformed desires.

 When Christians do not understand the reality of the healing journey or process, they often get discouraged along the way.  People in recovery must often remind themselves of the old adage: Progress, not perfection. For the one struggling with same-sex attractions (SSA), this understanding is very helpful.  Most likely, transformation will not happen in an instant, but it will be a journey of progressive healing.  Make no mistake, though, that a life submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ will be transformed.  Jesus Christ has life changing power, even for the SSA struggler!

Having worked for over 15 years with men and women struggling with SSA, I have seen this transformation process happen over and over again.  I have watched these men and women come into a sense of gender wholeness and move beyond homosexuality into heterosexual marriage and family or into singleness, using it as a good gift to the Body of Christ.

In addition to having a right view of “overcoming” on this side of heaven, it is essential to have an eternal perspective of “overcoming” and the rewards given to those individuals who persevere until the end.  As Christians, our great hope is eternity with Christ, ruling and reigning with Him on the earth.

The book of Revelation gives us great insight into some of the eternal rewards for those who overcome.  Let me offer a few examples:

 To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. —Revelation 2:7 (NKJV)

 The Bride of Christ will feast for all of eternity on the knowledge of God in the King’s garden.  In Genesis, we were banned from Eden and entered a fallen world that we were never meant to experience.  What will it be like to finally return to Paradise—can you imagine?  Take some time to think about it, meditate on it.  Get this reality into your vision for overcoming.  Our eternal destiny is not playing a harp on a cloud forever.  It is a dynamic, joyful and exhilarating life in the Paradise of God.

 To him who overcomes . . . I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. —Revelation 2:17

 There is a new dimension of your identity that only God knows—a secret with which you can finally be trusted.  How amusing to ponder what such a new name might be.  How entertaining it will be to get to know all over again the people whom we have known and loved while on the earth.  There will be so much more to know and love!  Once again, get this eternal reality into your vision for overcoming.  It will fuel your journey.

 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations . . . as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. —Revelation 2:26-28

 One day you will shine in the presence of God, and not just with a little glow.  You will shine like the sun in all its strength because you will live in a Light we cannot even imagine.  Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star, will give us Himself!

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. —Revelation 3:5

 Can you imagine Jesus explaining who you are to the Father and to His angels?  I absolutely cannot wait to hear Jesus describe me to the Father!  What does He know about me that I don’t know?  What words will He use?  How will the angels respond?  What’s more, how will the Father react?

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. —Revelation 3:21

 The government of Jesus will know no end.  The meek will inherit the earth and rule and reign with Jesus forever.

On this side of heaven we progressively overcome, and in eternity, we will be greatly rewarded for working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  If you have sincerely decided in your heart to obey God, you already have victory.  If you don’t quit, don’t give up and don’t give in, you will be shocked and amazed at how richly the Father will compensate you in eternity.  We will see that our troubles truly were light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).  In these difficult days, let us  therefore press on toward the prize (Philippians 3:14) with even greater vigor and intensity.  It’s going to be worth it!

Facing the Climb

On a typical Saturday in June, hundreds of people will head to the base of Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park to begin what could be the most physically demanding day of their lives.  Some will begin as early as 2:00 a.m. in an attempt to scale the massive peak that overlooks the plains to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west.  Fewer than half of them will succeed in reaching the summit.  Dangerous storms, physical demands, high altitude and lack of sufficient daylight will cause many to turn back.

Those who reach the summit have achieved an accomplishment of a lifetime.  When their heads hit their pillows at the end of the day, most will be completely spent, but there will be few regrets.  They will have purchased the “I Climbed Long’s” t-shirts and bumper stickers and will share their stories over and over.

My journey out of unwanted same-sex attractions has been like climbing Long’s Peak.  The journey began when I moved to Minneapolis in 1985 and contacted Outpost Ministries.  It wasn’t going well for me on my own, and I knew that I needed help.  I found it through this ministry then, and I am blessed to be part of its staff now 30 years later.

It is certainly true that I never would have chosen to have same-sex attractions.  It hasn’t been easy, and I’m still on the mountain.  But God has given me many a gift on this trail, and I can now say that I am completely thankful for it.  Yes, the Lord could have taken away same-sex attractions in a moment when I placed my faith in Christ (as He has for some).  Instead, I have a long list of blessings that have resulted from this satisfying journey.  Whatever “Long’s Peak” trek that the Lord has given you, I would like to offer you some encouragement to persevere.

Never, never, never give up.  “Never give in–never, never, never, never . . .” Winston Churchill told the students at Harrow School in 1941 in a speech entitled “The Unrelenting Struggle”.  Let this be your resolve.  Of course it would be easier to stop climbing and head downhill.  The culture is constantly telling you to embrace a gay identity, find a same-sex partner and live out your desires.  Family members, friends, and others believe that you are denying your true self.  Sadly, some churches have the same message.  Along with these voices, the desires of our flesh scream for satisfaction.  But Jesus said that the “gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13, ESV).  Though there are hardships and setbacks, unfulfilled longings and loved ones who don’t understand, keep climbing.

It gets easier!  If you are scaling Long’s–particularly the “Keyhole” route–the most difficult stretch is at the summit, where there is a treacherous two-mile climb.  Those in our ministry report that the opposite is true in the journey out of same-sex attractions.  Our participants become “students of gender” and come to understand how a gender-related wound or deficit contributed to the direction of their attractions.  As they seek healing and growth from the Lord in the area of gender, most experience a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their same-sex desires.  Some who have come through our doors have gone on to experience joyful marriages; others, on to victorious and fruitful celibacy.

You are not alone on the journey.  You have a traveling Partner who will never leave you or forsake you.  The Lord is with you every step to help you up when you stumble and fall, to keep you in His grip as you traverse a dangerous ledge, to teach you valuable lessons of mountaineering, and to encourage you in the midst of fatigue.  On the cross, He purchased your perseverance and will see you through to the summit.  Praise the Lord for His constant companionship on this journey!

Strength is made perfect in weakness.  It is easy to have high expectations about how our journeys will progress and easy to fall into discouragement and disappointment when our expectations fall short.  Many have foolishly given God a timetable to “take away” their same-sex attractions, and then have walked away when their timeline was not met.  But just as the Lord didn’t take away Paul’s thorn in the flesh despite his pleading, so the Lord might draw out our journeys for His purposes.  His response to the apostle:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:19).  Though you’d like to be past it by now, your still being on this journey is providing you a strength that you otherwise would not have.  Be patient with His timeline, and trust that He is sanctifying you and working in the waiting.

God has a purpose and a ministry ahead for you.  Our journeys are not without meaning.  They are not a dead-end but rather an avenue to bring instruction, encouragement, and comfort to others on the same road.  With the recent sudden changes in the culture and the capitulation of some lukewarm churches, the need for strong men and women in our ministry is greater than ever.  As you experience transformation and victory, God has a ministry in store for you so that others coming after you will stand on your strong shoulders.

Cling to your eternal hope.  As Francis Chan has said, all that matters in this life is that you are ready for the next one.  Same-sex attractions are a difficult and unwanted experience, but, as the Apostle Paul tells us, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).  He calls our hardships in this life “a slight momentary affliction” which are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  It is true that you might be living with unfulfilled desires now, but before you know it, you will be experiencing pleasures beyond what you can now imagine, and to them there will be no end.  The longings that believers have for paradise will be satisfied completely. . . just not yet!

Take heart, fellow mountaineers.  Never, never, never give up!  Jesus said the way is difficult that leads to life.   Yes, It is a long trail and challenging climb, but it is worth every step.

The Undeniable Power of God

My family consisted of a mom, a dad, and two sisters. My father had set his heart and focus on providing for his family. He provided everything from a nice house to food on the table to, of course, fun toys for his children! Both Dad and I were clueless about the need for emotional connection with each other. With Dad’s time spent traveling for work, I remember distinctly when he’d return home. For two days, I would barely recognize him. How could I engage with him emotionally? My desire to connect with him, to be the apple of his eye, to make him proud of his little boy was stunted, leading to doubt and confusion.

The eight years that followed had me wrestling and searching for connection with males. Only now can I see just how ill-equipped I felt in relating to men. While I turned up empty-handed in this area of my life, I had no problem connecting with women. It’s all I could do growing up in a house full of them.

I believe this all contributed to my later torments in school. I was an easy target for ridicule as my peers teased me for my girlish behaviors, feminine sounding voice, and girly walk. At the tender age of ten, I could do nothing but fall for and, yes, even embrace these taunting lies as truths of my identity! As I did, I arrived at a new place of prescribed clarity: I must be gay!

At the age of 14, I came out as gay to my mother. We had been sitting together at night when I turned to her and unleashed my secret. Her words to me that evening sowed seeds that would later lead to changing my life forever. Her response to my secret was one offered in honesty, not judgment. She simply said to me, “Brad, nothing that comes from God will leave you confused or unsatisfied.” I couldn’t fully grasp what she meant in that moment, nor did I care to try. With my secret out, I was excited to get started on living my life as an openly gay young man.

Five years down the road, I had managed to acquire many sinful experiences, all in pursuit of happiness and love. I was ultimately looking for someone who would provide for, care for, and support me. In the end, my unhealthy relationships just exposed my emptiness and desperate need for fulfillment. The good feelings I came across would evaporate as quickly as they first appeared.

A game of tug-of-war began in my heart at the age of 20. God purposely ignited a slow-burning passion within me to have a family: a child and a beautiful wife. My gay partner could not offer this nor argue against it—men are meant to create! For the next two years, confusion set in and buried me. To speak out any of my new yearnings would directly contradict my “identity.” Drugs, promiscuity and isolation became the methods I used to interact with the world. I had attained everything I had ever wanted, yet here I was unsatisfied with a desperate need for more.

At the point when my life was the darkest, I found the light of salvation shining very brightly! The hope of Christ, however, had me pinned; mercy had come but with it, a choice. I could leave my lifestyle, move in with my parents and search for the abundant life God had promised my heart. Or, I could remain in the ruins I had created with my very own hands. After what felt like a full 24 hours of weeping, I surrendered to Jesus, and reached out to receive the hand of the Lord on April 20th, 2008.

The door of my parents’ house greeted my weary soul with a calming hush. My family rushed in and surrounded me with the unconditional support of their presence. God’s peace met me and welcomed me. I would need it for strength to commit myself to the unknown journey ahead. I realized quickly that God never intended me to fight alone, so I made the heavy-handed phone call to Outpost Ministries.

I spent three years as a participant at Outpost finding healing through:

  •  Real people who understand this issue. I couldn’t do life without community, especially without transparency, vulnerability, and others carrying the burdens of my heart (Galatians 6:2).
  •  Men standing strong with me, linking arms with me through the Holy Spirit, giving me support and encouragement through the Word of God.
  • Healthy masculine relationships. We are wounded in relationship and we are healed in relationship! The more I communicated with men and opened up, the more I felt my own masculinity being called forth. God placed a very specific group of men around me as Christian brothers. This was beyond powerful for me because I needed to know I was enjoyed and appreciated by other men.
  • Learning to rejoice in my weaknesses.

 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As I started to give God thanks through my trails, temptations, and afflictions, I gained the strength and power of the Lord.

  •  Listening to the voice of the Lord to obey His Word. Slowly but surely, He peeled back layers of my heart exposing pain and discomfort. My heart ached but God gave me perfect mercy and grace. God healed my heart as I heard His voice. He exposed me to my pain, allowing me to feel it. He didn’t leave me in the pain for long but used it to propel me forward with a stronger, fuller heart. It’s God’s desire to repair and restore the years the locusts have eaten.
  • Not focusing on the healing of unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) but instead on the holiness of Jesus. The goal of healing from SSA is holiness, nothing else. If one has any other goal, it will lead to a disappointing and even destructive end. But the good news is that as we are transformed into the righteousness and holiness of Jesus (Ephesians 4:24), we are healed from SSA—over time.

My friends, the transformational power of God is undeniable! He has transformed my broken heart, searching for love and hope in all the wrong places, into a heart lovesick for Him, being filled with every blessing and revelation!

I have been serving on staff at Outpost for over three years now. I started Elijah Company, our support and prayer program for parents, friends and family with loved ones struggling with SSA, and I currently serve full-time as our Chief Operations Officer.

Today, seven years after God turned my disobedience to the wisdom of the righteous (Luke 1:17), He has blessed me with an unbelievable wife for whom I would joyfully give up my life. He has given me a double portion for taking up my cross to follow Him.

Even If

“God, if this relationship is truly wrong in your eyes and you really want me to let her go, please help us get out of our relationship.”

I prayed this half-hearted prayer in June 2011, and my life has since been forever changed.  The Lord answered my prayer three weeks after I prayed it. My girlfriend’s family found out about our secret relationship, and she retreated to them.  I didn’t chase after her as I knew that the exposure of our relationship was clearly God’s answer to my quiet plea.

After the breakup, my heart was broken beyond what I thought could be repaired.  I expected God to come at me with crushing truths such as, “I told you so,” and, “You deserve this pain for disobeying my commandments.”  He would have been absolutely righteous in doing so. I had always known the truth about homosexuality, that God’s Word forbids its practice.

Instead, however, the Lord comforted me in a supernatural way.  I could feel His distinct presence holding me close as snot and tears ran down my face each day that summer.  Instead of accusations, He whispered gently to me.  “I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry that you lost someone you loved, and I’m sorry that you struggle with same-sex attractions. I love you more than you can possibly imagine, and we will get through this together.”

After several months of simply mourning the loss of my girlfriend with the comfort of my Father and my family, Jesus nudged me back to Outpost Ministries.  I had been there in the past but with a chip on my shoulder and a hardened heart.  I finally gave in and made an appointment with Nate Oyloe.  I will never forget sitting in the prayer chapel with him and pouring out my pain and brokenness.  When I was done telling my tale, Nate asked me one simple question.  I thought he’d say, “What are you willing to do to become straight?”  Instead, he gently asked me, “What are you willing to do to get back your relationship with the Lord?”  After pondering this unexpected question, my heart answered for me as my lips said, “Anything.”

My answer launched me into an intense year-and-a-half of healing. I met with Nate each week, I endured and allowed myself to be remolded by the Living Waters program, and I spent hour after hour with the Lord, reading His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit speak life into me once again.

At the beginning of my healing journey, I still wasn’t sure if I really could be healed of my same-sex attractions, and I wasn’t sure that I would follow God if I couldn’t be healed. Soon enough, however, the Lord spoke to me through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel.  These men were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace unless they bowed down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue.  These men’s response changed my faith.  They said,

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18, NLT). 

 This was it!  God was calling me to surrender my life in this same way.  That fall I declared, “Lord I believe that you will heal me of my same-sex attractions, but even if you don’t, I will never again bow down and worship the idol of homosexuality.”

Our Lord is a jealous God.  He desires our full affections and allegiance.  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” Jesus declares in John 14:23.  From the point in which I declared my allegiance to Jesus Christ, my healing really began to take place.  I would follow Jesus into any fiery furnace because my love for Him from my youth had returned.  I now loved this God-Man with everything that I had.  He has never let me down.

Once my heart was with fully committed to the Lord, I began to trust and love Him in a new way.  As I began to relearn His character through time spent with Him as well as with Outpost’s life-changing help, He slowly began to restore my identity as a woman.  He began speaking truths to me such as, “You are my daughter.”  “You are my princess.”  “I have made you a woman and have said that it is good.”  For the first time in my life, I began agreeing with God.  Romans 12:2 became reality in my life as I allowed the Lord to transform the way that I thought.

Although I am still healing and transforming, the Lord conducted speedy recovery in my gender identity and sexuality in about a year-and-a-half.  In the fall of 2012, He called me to work for Outpost Ministries, the ministry that had quite literally saved my life.  I quickly refused as I declared, “God, I will NOT fundraise!”  After being denied application after application, month after month, for what I thought were “real jobs, I finally gave in to the Lord’s calling on my life.  I began to fundraise to help others impacted by homosexuality.  Just as God provided healing for my identity and sexual healing, He also provided for me financially.  I trained for nine months under Nate Oyloe as I sought to learn the work of Outpost.

For two years, I have been meeting with women to help them overcome what, at first, seems to them like impossible situations.  Alongside this responsibility, I have also worked as Outpost’s Office Manager.  At the beginning of this year, I was offered the position of Community Fundraiser since my individual fundraising efforts had been flourishing.  I smile as I think of the irony of the situation.  A once extremely stubborn, “non-fundraising” woman now raises funds for the ministry she holds dear to her heart.  I am excited to share the good news about the healing and restoration that Jesus Christ has to offer as I envision many to financially support the miracles that happen at Outpost on a daily basis.

Confronting “Gay Christian” Theology

I have been a part of Outpost Ministries for almost 20 years. During this time I have watched the cultural landscape shift radically in regards to the issue of homosexuality. Nowadays, the “gay lifestyle” is embraced, accepted and even celebrated in all spheres of life. It is normal to see gay couples get married or engaging in sexual behaviors on prime-time television. This was not the case all that long ago. The shift came quickly and took many in the Church by surprise.

Now I am watching the landscape of the Church change in this regards as well. In the same way, the shift is coming quickly and is taking many by surprise. Most mainline denominations now more than tolerate—they ordain gay clergy, marry gay couples and encourage same-sex attracted youth to embrace their “gayness” as a gift from God and a blessing to others. What is even more shocking is now, once stalwart evangelical churches and organizations are falling prey to “gay Christian” theology—the thinking that it is okay to be a Christ-follower and embrace a gay identity. While there are different expressions of the “gay Christian” (some choose celibacy while others marry their partners), the bottom line is clear: to embrace the gay identity in any way is an affront to the image of God in men and women, and it is contrary to what God has commanded in His Word.

God’s creation is heterosexual (Genesis 1:26-27). Within God’s heterosexual creation, there are two genders: masculine and feminine. In God’s created order, there is always one and then the other. In the macro understanding of this principal, we have God who, in the masculine, initiated a love relationship with the Church, His Bride. We see the macro played out in the micro: married love between a man and a woman (Ephesians 5:31-32).

“Hetero” is different from the prefix “homo” which means “same.” There is, not two, but one. The good news for the same-sex attracted is that in God’s creation, there is no such thing as a homosexual, only heterosexuals, however broken he or she may have gotten in this world. We all have to live in the flow of the reality God has established, regardless of our feelings or attractions.

Gender is a way of categorizing characteristics. The historical meaning of gender is “things we treat differently because of their inherent differences.” Biblical gender is the compilation of characteristics that make up who God is and how He acts within relationships. It includes the distinction between God’s being and His activity.

Right away in Genesis 1:1, we see God as a gendered being—In the beginning God (being) created the heavens and the earth (activity). God continues to make distinctions as He creates: light and dark, day and night, land and sea, the heavens and the earth. God solidifies distinction within Himself—He IS and He DOES. He creates for six days (activity) and on the seventh day He rests (being). Distinction is important to God.

God continues to make distinction in Genesis 1:26-27:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In God’s creation, unity or union does not do away with distinction. There will always be a distinction between God and man, man and creation and male and female.

Paganism always tries to do away with distinction. The goal of paganism is that all would become one; God and man, man and creation, male and female, etc. are simply “one with the universe.” We see this lack of distinction being played out in human culture’s many sordid expressions of sexuality. It seems anything goes these days! Culture wants to do away with any gender distinction or the gender binary. Dr. Peter Jones, author of The God of Sex, says that when the primary binary (God and His creation) is eliminated, all other binaries crumble.

Homosexuality has its roots in paganism. This is why the movement to promote homosexuality is so powerful. It is not just about sex, or even whom you choose to love; it has a spiritual component. When the creature is worshiped rather than the Creator, demons are present.

To take on a gay identity is to step outside of God’s created order and out of the flow of reality. It is to reject one’s sense of belonging in God’s creation. Taking on a gay identity essentially shuts down the healing process and hinders receptivity of future blessings the Lord has in His heart for the struggler. It is letting the “old man” remain and refusing to walk in righteousness and holiness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).

These words may seem bold or even harsh, but now is the time for boldness and courage, Church! I believe that “gay Christian” theology (in all its varied forms) is the greatest danger to the Western Church today. It threatens the very foundation of our understanding of God, His creation and our place within His creation. It is an assault on the image of God and the distinctions He has established between Himself and creation.

Let me conclude by clarifying a couple of issues. First, one’s temptations and life-dominating issues do not determine salvation. Most of the individuals who come to Outpost are born-again believers, yet they still struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. We are saved by God’s grace available through Jesus Christ, not by our ability to keep His Law or to avoid temptation.

Second, God loves everyone within the “gay community”. His heart is burning to see His children return to Him.  Many individuals have been wounded and rejected by the Church’s poor response to their struggle with same-sex attractions.  A compassionate, biblical understanding of homosexuality within the Church has been needed for a very long time.

With that said, the current “gay Christian” conversation and shift that is now taking place within the Church is not based on a biblical understanding of homosexuality. The Church is sorely lacking a scriptural understanding of gender and the image of God.

We must be firm in our convictions in this hour. We must dig deeply into Genesis 1:26-27 and seek the Lord for wisdom and understanding of His image. We must stand for truth, for there is much at stake. As the kings of the earth cast off restraint, let us with even more resolve humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and bow our knees to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Transformation: Let it Change You

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed . . . (Romans 12:2, NIV)

It is interesting to me that while transformation is something that we all work hard to achieve, Paul in Romans commands us to “BE transformed.” In other words, let transformation happen to you. It is a passive imperative, in grammatical terms. It requires no action on our part. The action, empowered by another force, happens to us. This is a grace.

Because it is a grace, the world has no concept of how transformation is achieved. In fact, the world has no concept that transformation of a person happens at all. Several years ago, before Jesse Ventura was governor of Minnesota, I heard him on his morning talk radio show say, regarding Chuck Colson, “He hasn’t changed! He’s still the same crook he was back in his ‘hatchet days.’ People can’t change! Can a leopard change it’s spots?” I rather doubt he knew he was quoting a biblical text, lest he appear “weak-minded.” But this text does appear in the Old Testament scriptures. Jeremiah 13:22-27 is the passage and reads in part,

And if you ask yourself, “Why has this happened to me?”—it is because of your many sins that your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jer.13:22f.)

 But Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to give life abundantly and to heal the sick. These are all examples of transformation. That it happens in regards to one’s sexuality is just plain miraculous, and reveals the power of God’s grace.

But I want to land more squarely on the imperative part of that passive imperative. The word imperative means command or obligation. This is something that must be done. There is no excuse, no way of getting out of it.

We could look at this imperative in a couple of different ways. First, we could say that the passivity of the change is the imperative, and secondly, that the transformation itself is imperative. I believe both are key aspects to be discovered and lived out.

Let’s look at them each separately. The passive voice is not one of the more masculine aspects of human life. Actually, it is a very feminine way of responding to what is happening around oneself. C.S. Lewis once wrote that “compared to God, we are all feminine.” That is, we can only receive from him, we cannot give to him. He is completely lacking nothing and in want of nothing. So in relationship with God, we must come to him in a passive, receptive sort of way. This is our stance toward God. The virgin Mary embodied this posture in her response to Gabriel at the announcement that she would bear the son of God, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)

Our culture balks at feminine ways of responding within relationship. We see it as weak and ineffective. We abhor the “door mat” syndrome we witness in the way some people relate. And we hate being the door mat ourselves. But I submit to you, that is false femininity. That is not a reflection of the “image of God he created them . . . female,” according to Genesis 1:27. However, it does require humility, chief of the feminine virtues.

And when you think of it, that is how we all must come to God in relationship—open to receiving his gifts of life.

Let’s move on to the requirement of the transformation itself. Paul seems to be saying that being transformed is not an option. The Christian doesn’t get to choose if he should be transformed or not.

The world knows this in an intuitive way when they say, “I can’t become a Christian, because I don’t want to give up X, Y or Z.” Yet, some Christians balk at this out of a superficial desire to live in “freedom” under grace. (I see this insubordination to the will of the Father, and therefore, sinful in its rebellious attitude.)

But look at it this way. All the  language in scripture about salvation reveals a profoundly transformational effect on the life of the Christian:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt. 4:17) Jesus uses the word repent which is a word about changing one’s mind and one’s ways.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God.” (Rom. 6:11)

Neither . . . male prostitutes nor homosexuals . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified . . .” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.” (Matt. 13:31f. ) The transformation of the mustard seed illustrates what happens in the kingdom of God. Though the essence of the tree is potential within the seed, one must start with the seed in order to get to the plant or tree. When it comes to kingdom life, change is of the essence and in the essence.

Jesus’ parable of the yeast yields a similar kingdom reality: everything that is “infected” by the yeast changes and grows.

Paul is not PRE-scribing change or transformation to becoming a Christian, he’s DE-scribing the Christian life in reference to the changes that must have had to have taken place. I believe that this is the way it is. Paul, in effect, is saying that when new life comes to you in connection with your relationship with Christ you will change. It’s what happens. It is evidence that new life is really, truly there. If A, then most definitely B! If not B, then it’s fair for folks to question A.

When some come along and demand not B (“We don’t have to change!”), I question the validity of A (their new life). While some may condemn this as “judging others,” I see it merely as discerning the fruit.

Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them . . . Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:15, 20f.)

Now we don’t pursue change. Nor do we make it our goal. Nor do we demand it of others. Transformation, however, is not a without effort. We pursue and we encourage the imitation of Christ, encourage the imitation of Christ, humility. We want to become like Jesus in every way. The change comes, therefore, in connection to Christ. No one can get too close or be too connected to Christ. Instead, the closer he gets to him, the more he becomes like him. And that affects us to the core of our being. Even our sexual identity.

Now change is a threat to the secular world. They become uncomfortable around changes. They’re thrown off-kilter. And who can blame them? We’re the same way. We resist change. We love sameness. We can predict it, we can bank on it, we can get used to it. With change, none of these conveniences are affordable. And this simply illustrates one of the great differences between kingdom life and principles, and the kingdoms of this world. In the kingdom of heaven, change is valued. In the world, change is to be avoided.

This seems ironic, doesn’t it? Especially with current language pitting conservative against liberal, condemning evangelical Christians as right-wing extremist “conservatives.” In light of this, a Christian ought to be the most liberal of them all —loving and promoting change in his own life and in the lives of  those around him. We’re bucking the trend here, people! And that’s bound to illicit opposition.