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.

Staying the Course

God has been good to us at Outpost Ministries. It is no small thing to be a ministry to the sexually and relationally broken and still be bearing fruit after 41 years. Our fruitfulness is especially remarkable given the reality of the front lines ministry we do and the major shifts that have taken place in culture. We begin the year with gratitude in our hearts to the Lord for His leadership and provision throughout the years. And we are looking forward to the future and staying the course, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

Speedy Justice

In the fall of 2012, the Lord spoke to my heart from Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. In this scripture passage, Jesus clearly teaches us that in the context of night and day prayer, He releases justice speedily to His elect ones. As I read the passage, it was as if the word “speedily” jumped off the page. “Lord, you mean we can speed up the process? Human beings can play a role in partnering with You in the release of justice?” The answer was, “Yes”! God had my attention.

You see, I had seen many of our clients fight for long periods of time to get justice for their souls. The warfare around getting free from unwanted same-sex attractions was intense. The enemy wasn’t letting go without a fight. This passage of scripture gave us insight into how to fight back. The answer was persistent, consistent prayer.

Biblical Justice

The Lord loves releasing justice. “For I, the Lord, love justice . . .” (Isaiah 61:8a, NKJV). Justice is when God makes the wrong things right. Though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 61:1-4 gives us one of the best pictures of what justice accomplishes: Good news is proclaimed. Broken hearts are bound up. Captives are released. God shows favor to His people and vengeance to His enemies. Those who mourn are comforted and made glad. What has been torn down is restored.

Speedy justice for our participants is to experience the healing of their hearts and the restoration of their families. It is to be set free from the bondage of homosexuality. It is to become grounded in the truth of who they are as God’s image bearers. Speedy justice is the taking hold of their authority as sons and daughters of the Father. And it is to be made fruitful.

We said “yes” to the Lord and began the task of marrying night and day prayer with inner-healing ministry. The warfare intensified, but we started to see justice prevail in new ways. People’s lives were transforming. Our staff was growing. Our finances were increasing. God was blessing our efforts.

Now, I am more convinced than ever that times of corporate and personal prayer are key to overcoming life-dominating issues. There are many other helpful tools I wholeheartedly believe in that we use for the journey—Christian counseling, 12-step groups, life-giving community—but when we spend extended time in intimacy with God, we get more. God accelerates the process.

Not a Formula

I want to be careful not to make this formulaic—if you do “x,” God will do “y.” It is not a formula at all; God desires relationship with us. Prayer is dialogue with God. It is a conversation that involves sharing our hearts with Him. Our primary goal in prayer, however, should be listening. We are transformed from the inside out by hearing the voice of the Lord through His Word and through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discerning God’s Voice

God is always speaking the healing word. Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” The Lord is quick to release truth that will set us free, but we have to be receptive to it. It can be hard to hear the voice of the Lord in the midst of all the clamor around us. There are so many other voices that demand our attention.

This is where Outpost comes in. One of the main skills we teach our participants is to discern the voice of the Lord from all the other voices—especially the voices of the world, our flesh and the devil. Our participants learn to have life-giving quiet times with the Lord and to obey what He is speaking to them.

Leann Payne, in her book The Broken Image, wrote:

 Listening to God is the most effective tool we have in our “healing kit,” for by it we know how to collaborate with His Spirit. Teaching others to listen is one of the most valuable lessons we as spiritual directors can give them; by this freedom to hear, they pass from immaturity (being under the Law or laws) to maturity (the walk with Christ in the Spirit), both as persons and as Christians. The Lord Himself becomes their chief counselor and guide, and our vocation is made easier (pg. 134).

Corporate Prayer

When we pray together, we receive more revelation of the love of God. In Ephesians 3:17-19, the Apostle Paul prays, “. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (emphasis added). God desires personal prayer and corporate expressions of prayer. Thus, we teach our participants how to do both.

We provide a place for corporate prayer in the TCJHOP Prayer Room. In the Prayer Room, our participants are able to join with the greater body of Christ in a unified cry for justice—not just for themselves, but for the believers in the Twin Cities and beyond. As we pray together, we receive more of God’s heart for those we are praying for. As we pray together, we are set free from the prison of being only self-focused.

Looking Forward

One of our main objectives in the coming year is to make our resources more accessible to the region. Requests for speakers and our Distinctions Seminar are increasing. Outpost North in the Brainerd Lakes Area is going strong under the leadership of Angie Klein. We have planted groups in the South Metro that we hope to grow in 2018. As the Lord gives grace, we will consider the possibility of expanding in the east and west.

Even as the tide of culture continues to embrace gender and sexual confusion, there are still those who are seeking our services. Young people are still making different decisions about how to deal with their same-sex attractions. Instead of embracing them and living them out, they are striving to bring their sexuality under the lordship of Jesus Christ. God is meeting them in their obedience and restoring their souls. Jesus Christ has life-changing power! We have the privilege of witnessing this process week after week.

As I look forward to the future, we are staying the course. We will continue to strive to make prayer central to all we do. From the overflow of what we receive in prayer, we will do the work of inner-healing ministry. Thank you for partnering with us in this essential work, and blessings on you in 2018!

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Spare Your People

solemn assembly

I didn’t want to have to do this again. Certainly, not just over a month after writing a response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. But, here we are again. My heart is very grieved within me. This past Sunday morning, November 5, a 26-year-old man walked into a Baptist church in Sutherland, TX. He opened fire on the worshippers, killing 26 people and wounding 20. Among the dead are children as young as five years old, a pregnant woman and the Senior Pastor’s 14-year-old daughter. One family lost nine members (this number includes the unborn baby and mother mentioned above).

Great Shaking

Beloved, our nation is being shaken. Whole regions have been severely impacted by catastrophic weather. Whole regions have been burned to the ground by wildfires. The deep darkness in Hollywood is being exposed. The curtain is being pulled back on our government as well. Immense corruption and illegal activity are being revealed. And, in the past two months, we have seen two of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. Yes, we are being shaken.

God’s Strategy

In the midst of the shaking, God’s strategy is clear:

12 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. 17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” –Joel 2:12-17 (emphasis mine)

Great Awakening

Demonic activity is clearly increasing in our nation. God’s solution to the increasing darkness is the Church—the light of the world. We must get brighter. Now is the time for personal repentance, fasting, weeping and mourning. Now is the time for the Solemn Assembly. Prayer is our great weapon in this hour.

Special Solemn Assembly

In light of this, I want to invite you to TCJHOP’s Prayer Room Tuesday, November 7,  for a very special Solemn Assembly. We will focus on praying for the many impacted by the mass shooting in Sutherland and for revival in our city, state and nation. We will begin praying at 6am and conclude at 7:30 PM. I will be personally leading a prayer set from 4 PM to 6 PM, focusing on these prayer points and praying from Joel 2. Hope to see many of you there! We simply cannot go on business as usual. NOW IS THE TIME TO PRAY!

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Turning Hearts

Elijah CompanyElijah Company is Outpost’s prayer and support group for parents, family and friends of loved ones who are overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions, struggling with gender confusion or who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning).

A former staff member began the group in 2013 when he noticed a great area of need remaining unmet. Parents were taking our introductory Foundations of Healing class, but they were left with no other ongoing support and encouragement for the unique and painful challenges they were facing within their families. More often than not, they did not experience church as a safe place to open up.

Turning Hearts

The name Elijah Company is based upon Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents . . .” (NIV). Part of God’s strategy in preparing his Bride before His return is bringing restoration to the family, and we believe it begins by turning the hearts of the parents.

Loving Wisely, Standing Firmly

Elijah Company (affectionately referred to as EC) seeks to equip participants to love wisely and stand firmly on God’s Word. EC weekly meetings focus on praying for one another, with the goal of family restoration, healing and reconciliation. The group is designed to build an authentic community of intercessors and create a place of refuge, support and encouragement. One EC participant wrote, “The support from Elijah Company leadership and families has sustained us. Our family covets the weekly prayers over us and for all of us battling this worldview.”

Elijah Company South

Four years later, Elijah Company is still going strong here at our main location in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with another group running at our Outpost North location in Brainerd, Minnesota. This October, we will begin an additional Elijah Company South in the Southwest Metro Area! A church with a heart for the ministry of Outpost and to be a safe place is partnering with us to host the group. It will be led by EC participants Al and Susan who have remained closely connected to the ministry.

A Mother’s Heartache

Susan shares some of her first thoughts after her son came out as gay: “’Who will really understand how I feel? Who will hand me the Kleenex when I just can’t hold the tears back any longer? Who will totally support my decision to not agree with the lifestyle my son has chosen to live? Who will pray for me by my name? Who will pray for my son by name, that his heart would turn solely to the Lord and away from his homosexual activities? There’s got to be some individuals who have not bought into the lie that God says this lifestyle is acceptable. There’s got to be others who are experiencing the heartache I feel.’”

She continues, “I did find such a place. I found it at Outpost Ministries. I found it in their Elijah Company group that meets weekly. It’s a group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and neighbors of individuals who are burden by loved ones dealing with homosexual thoughts or actions.

“I have to admit that, at first, going to Elijah Company was painful. I dreaded each week, actually. By attending, I had to admit and face what was happening within my family. I listened to the heartache of others who came and felt their sorrow week after week. I was mentally wiped by the time I reached home.

“However, I was in the midst of great people within the group. I was surrounded by prayer warriors. These people knew how to ‘bring it to the Lord in prayer.’ I could feel God’s presence within the group. There was no doubt to me of His loving presence. I faithfully attended week after week. Then God touched me and assured me that I would find hope, joy, and peace in this group and also within my heart. That indeed has happened. Elijah Company is no longer an activity that I dread to attend. The group is powerful. We share our burdens and our joys, we listen, we teach, we read the Bible, we sing, we pray.”

The Light of Fellowship

Susan’s authenticity is an invitation to others to come out of their painful isolation into the light of fellowship with one another. Join others in passionate intercession for a sister or neighbor to encounter Christ. Anyone interested in attending Elijah Company South must first complete an intake meeting with Outpost ministry staff and complete the Foundations course before joining the group. Contact us through our website or by giving us a call, 763-592-4700, to schedule a meeting. Current Elijah Company participants wanting to meet at the new location can attend the new group once it begins. Contact your EC group leader for details.

We are blessed at how God is growing the reach of Outpost Ministries. Indeed, with the explosion of gender and sexual confusion in our society, especially among young people, there is an increase in the number of parents, families and individuals having to navigate through these issues. Please pray for protection for the leaders, new participants and even for the hosting church as we work to get this additional group off the ground.

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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.