From the Director: Change and God’s Charge to Rest

In the midst of so much change and having everything shut down for a time during this recent COVID-19 outbreak, I’m actually not that perturbed. I know the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s in control. More than that, I know He knows, and I can trust His character that He cares. Honestly, I think my shoulders are getting sore from all the shrugging I’ve been doing, saying, “Eh, we’ll see what happens!” God’s been teaching me many lessons in this season, and one of those lessons is around rest.

Hebrews 4 talks about our future (eschatological) rest as the people of God. This place of rest is the dwelling place of God. He dwells in perfect rest. God’s not anxious because He knows His will will be done. I believe God’s command for rest is a sacrament. That is, it’s a divine reality lived out in our physical world. Keeping Sabbath, resting, is a sacrament of the Sabbath rest that is to come. Even as we strive to enter that future rest, God is gracious and allows us to experience a little taste of it as we rest in His presence now.

This season has forced a lot of us to rest, or at least interrupted our busyness. It’s easy to stop working, but can be hard to truly rest. These changes allow for rest, but rest is also meant to change us!

Sometimes God’s presence can seem intimidating, but I encourage us all to not just distract ourselves. Rather, let’s take advantage of this opportunity to rest in God’s presence, allow the Word to slice and dice us (Heb.4:11-13), and draw near to throne of Grace, knowing that our Great High Priest understands our weaknesses (Heb.4:14-16)!

From The Director

Sometimes the Bible can be pretty quirky. That might sound weird coming from a pastor, but before you grab the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. There’s a very short story in 2 Kings 6:1-7. The prophet Elijah is with a couple men doing some log-cutting. One of the guys loses an ax-head in the water and cries out, “No, no, no, no! I borrowed that!” If you ever lost or broke something that belonged to someone else, you know that sick-to-your-stomach feeling. Instead of diving in and looking for the ax-head like a normal person, Elisha asks where it fell in, throws a stick in that spot, and waited for the iron to float so the man could pick it up.

I think that’s a little overkill. Didn’t anyone know how to swim? Did they really need to break the laws of physics for one ax-head? Really?! If that’s not quirky, I’m not sure what is. However, I think it illustrates an important point about God–He cares about the mundane.

Throughout my time teaching and meeting with clients this month, God has been reminding me of this . He is not only transcendent; He is also imminent. He is not just in the abstract; He is in the practical. He cares about our ax-head moments and wants to meet us there.

Not only that, I would argue this is the primary way He reveals Himself to us. Our faith isn’t built on abstract moral or legal principles. It’s not an esoteric revelation. Rather, our faith is built upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. God revealed Himself in flesh and blood, dwelt among us, and will dwell among us again!

A lot of us romanticize encountering God. We believe it must be some extraordinarily big experience. Basically, we have great expectations we place upon God when, really, we should simply have expectancy. Expectancy is open to whatever God has for us today or in this moment. This is what the healing journey looks like at Outpost. It isn’t only about crazy breakthrough moments (those do happen, though!), but it’s about the consistent, every day choice to choose God above all else. To trust that He will be working and encountering us in the small and simple as well as the awesome and abstract.

God cares so deeply about us and He wants to reveal that love to us, not just in abstract theological terms, but especially in those practical moments of everyday life and lost ax-heads.

Waving the Flag of Surrender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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