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

A smiling hugging group in a circle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of the Cross

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

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

Hope, The Blood and The Way

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

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

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

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

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

Our Part: Draw Near and Hold Fast

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

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

Being a Good Gift: A Living Waters Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices: From Idolatry to True Worship, A Testimony

Living Waters has been the most beneficial course I have ever experienced regarding sexual sin issues and their root causes. I have been more able to walk with less shame and more transparency. I now see my need is not so much to flee sexual sin as it is to turn away from idolatry of God’s creation while seeking and worshiping my loving Heavenly Father. My past had me isolated in sin, but now I see the value and ability to have real and deeply Christ-ministering relationships with other men.

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Still Shining, Still Growing!

growingOver 40 years ago, God had a plan for Outpost Ministries. Knowing the trajectory of culture, He made a way for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. He established this ministry to stand for the truth of God’s Word in the wave of delusion that would soon wash over this great nation.

Forty one years later, we are still a beacon of hope to the sexually and relationally broken and their families. And we are growing!

A few months ago, I wrote about Outpost North, our branch office in Brainerd, MN. Now I’m excited to tell you about two other expanding programs.

Living Waters

Living Waters is a 20-week, closed group for men and women seeking healing in their lives. It includes worship, teaching and small-group prayer ministry. Ultimately, we learn how to press into Jesus more deeply, allowing Him to meet our needs and transform us for His Kingdom purposes. We have been running Living Waters as a regular part of our programming for many years. This year we will not only run a group in the North Metro area of the Twin Cities but also one in the South.

Elijah Company South

As you may have read, Elijah Company is a group for parents, family and friends of those impacted by homosexuality. The group provides prayer and support for its participants. This fall, this group will be held in both the North and South Metro areas as well.

I am so blessed to see the Lord continuing to expand this much needed ministry in this hour. Jesus Christ has life-changing power for ALL who will turn from their sinful ways and make Him the Lord of their life.

Once again, I thank you for all your prayers and financial support. We cannot do this without you. Let’s us continue to stand in the gap for those who so desperately need the transforming love of our Savior Jesus. He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

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Living Waters

Living Waters

Photo from Free Images

It is with joy and thankfulness that I am reporting on the conclusion of our 2015-16 Living Waters Program at the end of March.  Living Waters is an in-depth healing and discipleship group for any Christian seeking healing in areas of sexual and relational brokenness.  Living Waters is for EVERYONE!  Each one of us is a good gift from God; most of us are broken in our ability to love others well.  Living Waters lays a biblical foundation for sexual and relational wholeness in our lives.

After 21 weeks of intense worship, teaching and small group prayer, our participants testified to the change that had taken place as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. With their permission, here are their testimonies:

Through Living Waters, God showed me that at a deep level I had, in my woundedness, despised and rejected my gender and therefore, myself.  I learned so much through the truths expressed in the beautifully articulated, biblical and comprehensive Living Waters textbook about how Christ’s work on the cross can bring deep healing.  Through the teachings aided by the caring ministry and prayers of others, God’s Spirit gently enabled me to begin to accept the self that He made me to be.  This ‘real me’ was then able to begin to receive His love and perfect parenting in new ways, and turn from many broken ways.  I notice a new contentedness and growing joy in accepting who I am in Him.

Living Waters brought healing to my spirit especially from an abusive relationship with my ex-boyfriend.  By dealing with past wounds and traumas, I received healing!

 I came to Living Waters confused and scared.  I’m leaving with hope for my marriage!

I came to Living Waters feeling so broken.  I had just come out of a relationship where the man was very godly and good to me but I could not receive his love.  The more he tried to love me, the more I pushed him away.  Throughout Living Waters, the idea that God made me to be a good gift continually ministered to my heart.  For so many years after being in an abusive relationship, I believed that I was the problem and I had carried a huge yoke of shame.  Through the ‘cross time’, the Holy Spirit has been restoring my sense of worth and that I actually have much to give!

It started out with me coming because a friend invited me, but I got so much more out of it than I thought possible!  I’ve always had issues with anxiety, self-hatred and mild depression.  I didn’t think Living Waters was going to be able to help me with that, but it DID!  I was able to uncover things that I never thought were issues, things I thought were buried in the past and long forgotten. I never knew my revulsion toward the feminine and my desire to be a boy when I was younger God used Living Waters greatly in my life.  God showed me so much about my identity in Him instead of my sins of the past.  I’ve also grown much closer to God in my intimacy with Him.

I initially came because my wife required me to seek some kind of counseling.  I wanted to change but had been let down by so many counselors and groups that went nowhere that I was skeptical Living Waters would be any different.  In the end, I’m glad I came.  Small group was a highlight and removed my skepticism that groups can experience change and actually bond vs. being strangers stuck in a rut.  Seeing others who had overcome the same sins and struggles that had plagued me for years was very encouraging.  Becoming that person thanks to Living Waters and my church is incredibly edifying.

Living Waters has made me realize my need for community and also the importance of being in authentic relationships with others.

This has been the most beneficial course I have ever experienced regarding sexual issues and their root causes.  I have been able to walk with less shame and more transparency.  I now see my need is not so much to flee sexual sin as it is to turn away from idolatry of God’s creation while seeking and worshiping my loving Heavenly Father.  My past had isolated me in my sin, but now I see the value and ability to have real and deeply Christ-ministering relationships with other men.

The 2016-17 Living Waters Program will be starting in October 2016 and will run through March 2017.  We are now accepting applications! Applications are available on our Living Waters page.  Sign up early to ensure a place in the program, as space is limited.  Tell your friends to come!  They will be glad you referred them!