Voices: Real Connection, Real Freedom

connectionIn a word, I have found in twenty-three years of ministry, that people find lasting freedom from same-sex attraction (SSA) through connection. I believe anyone can find consistent power to overcome SSA if they can attain and maintain meaningful connection: 1) to God through His Son, Jesus; 2) to a community of sojourners; and 3) to the truth of Scripture.

A simple note of clarification here: freedom from SSA does not necessarily mean the absence of SSA but rather sovereignty over SSA. When America declared freedom from England in 1776, England did not go away. For eight years, England resisted and we fought hard to gain our own sovereignty, which is the power to control identity and behavior. Nowadays, sexual orientation is no longer considered merely a part of a person, but rather a sovereign power which completely identifies or classifies people. It takes over a person’s life. This conflicts with one of our culture’s highest values, self-determination. As Christians, we voluntarily transfer our sovereignty to God, rather than to SSA, thus bypassing the issue of self-determination altogether. We submit or defer control of our identity and behavior to God.

Let me develop three keys to connection that set people free. Intimacy with Jesus is primary. If there is no love of Christ, there is no motivation to seek freedom from other loves. Jesus knows and cares about each aspect of our personal lives. If we let Him, He will help us set our lives in order. He will fight for us against our enemies who want us enslaved to them or others . . . Anybody but Jesus!

Secondly, we must have holy, intimate connections with others. This happens when emotions are felt and shared. People need healthy, intimate, non-sexual relationships with same-sex friends who do not struggle with SSA. It is in the context of these intimate relationships that people discover their true selves—who God created them to be. We must be known by the church and in communities of like-minded individuals who support and help. Along with weekly church participation, we need therapists, support groups, and accountability partners in the church. One cannot fight for freedom alone and win; it takes an army! Simply showing up in these contexts is not enough—pulling into a garage doesn’t make you a Buick! One must actually be known by supportive others as one who struggles with SSA. This is much easier said than done!

Finally, there must be a strong connection to the Word of God as the only rule for faith and practice. In contrast to moral relativism, we adhere to the Bible’s absolute truth. Careful, thoughtful, serious study of Scripture and submission to its authority will change us. We renounce half-truths, cultural myths, and stereotypes. This establishes our identity on the foundation of truth. We become empowered to stand firm in the face of temptation. The lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil have all been defeated by the truth of Jesus’ Word. Jesus said it, “The truth shall set you free.” Indeed.

This post is an excerpt from the book Freedom Realized by Stephen Black, used by permission. It is one of the many contributions to the book from mature ministry leaders who are helping individuals overcome homosexuality, sexual sin, and brokenness of identity.

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Freedom Realized, a Book Review

Freedom Realized

Stephen Black, author of the recently published Freedom Realized: Finding Freedom from Homosexuality and Living Life Free from Labels, is the Director of First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City. The ministry was founded in 1976 by Frank and Peg Rogers under the name Fishers of Men Evangelistic Corporation. The name of the ministry was changed to First Stone Ministries in 1981. Along with Outpost Ministries, First Stone was one of the founding members of Exodus International. First Stone was also one of the founders of Restored Hope Network after the demise of Exodus International in 2013. Stephen is currently the Vice-Chairman of the RHN Board. Outpost Ministries was also one of the original members of Restored Hope Network in 2014. Freedom Realized was published in 2017 and is already creating quite a stir in the LGBTQ community.

I would like to highlight some of my favorite parts of the book. Stephen gives his testimony of leaving homosexuality in chapter 1 and writes about the root causes that led him into a homosexual life and how Jesus came into his life and set him free.

What sets his testimony apart from other written testimonies that have been published (Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas, Setting Love in Order by Mario Bergner, Coming Out of Homosexuality by Bob Davies, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness by Andy Comiskey) is that in chapter 3, My Story, Part 2: The Healing Power of Pain—The Crucible of Suffering Produces Life, he goes a step further. He writes about what he calls the “the dark night of the soul,” a quote from St. John of the Cross about the deeper Christian life. It is something that all Christians will experience at some time in their lives. He writes about the loss of five immediate family members within a short period of time. A deadly tornado devastated his town of Moore, Oklahoma in 1999 on the same day he buried his younger sister. His oldest daughter had just been sent to prison, and his wife was diagnosed with a skin disorder due to stress. He was also facing bankruptcy. He lost his daughter in 2012. He didn’t react sinfully, but with humility he sought counseling. Many a Christian would have given up.

Black explores giving up in chapter 4, The Burden of Those Who Do Not Finish the Race. I am so glad Stephen wrote about this topic. It is the burden that everyone in this line of ministry experiences. He writes about why some go back into homosexuality after years of ministry and counseling. We at Outpost have experienced this loss—some have been close friends—and the grief is sometimes hard to bear.

Chapter 6, Coram Deo—Experience Freedom In His Presence, is short and sweet. Coram Deo is Latin for “in the presence of God.” This chapter explores “the truth of Christians living in the presence, under the authority, and the honor of God at all times.” This is a very important concept for anyone leaving homosexuality.

Chapter 10, Freedom Realized By Experts—Final Thoughts From a Cloud of Witnesses, has 16 testimonies of men and women who have left homosexuality. Dan Puumala, Ministry Relations Pastor at Outpost, is one of them. I found his to be one of the best, but then again, I am biased.

After laying the ground work in the previous 10 chapters, chapter 11 is the reason the book was written in the first place. First Stone Ministries conducted an online survey that spanned 25 years, surveying former clients who were connected with First Stone for at least a year. The survey took place from November 2015 thru December 31 2016. 500 people were engaged, and 185 responded within 13 months. Each respondent was asked 29 questions. Stephen has created graphs and charts to help the reader to better understand the results. I highly recommend this book to anyone who ministers to the sexually and relationally broken or who wants to better understand the issues at hand.

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Rock Bottom, Persistent Love

rock bottomsMy story is not a simple “coming to Jesus” story. It’s been a long, hard journey, full of ups and downs, messy relationships, and many rock bottoms. But Jesus faithfully pursued me and reached out to me in every twist and turn I took, in each rock bottom I hit. His love has been persistent through it all.

My Early Years

I grew up in a Christian home, and we went church every Sunday. At a young age, I contracted bacterial spinal meningitis and was in the hospital for months. The doctors told my parents that if I survived, I would have brain damage and be disabled. By God’s mercy, I lived. I came out with only a hearing loss and a slight learning disability. My illness still had a profound impact on my life, though. Other kids teased me for having hearing aids. I struggled with friendships and connecting with peers.

In the third grade, I went on a Christian camping retreat with my dad. There, I was introduced to Christ and his love and salvation for me. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior while at that camp.

Around that time, I also got into a lot of fights with my two sisters. Once during a fight, my older sister punched me across the face.  I cried and went to my dad, but I was met with a face of anger and disappointment, not the comfort I was longing for. I was crushed. My relationship with him was already strained, and I felt a deep emptiness inside me. I determined to be the good little boy from then on.

Trapped and Hopeless

In middle school, that emptiness grew. Then I discovered pornography, and eventually gay pornography. I quickly became addicted. The images consumed me. It was torture, and by the ninth grade, I felt hopelessly trapped by it. I was losing sleep and losing friends because I was going home to look at porn rather than hanging out with them. I knew God and had accepted Jesus as my Savior, but I didn’t know how He could help me.  On many nights, I cried myself to sleep, asking God to take away this addiction. He seemed to respond with silence. I would vow to do better the next day but never did, and I was filled with guilt.

One night, while my mom and I were the only ones home, we got into a huge fight. I got so angry that I threw a large book at her. My actions shocked me. How could I do such a thing? I was the good boy! I finally confessed my addiction to my parents. They took away my computer privileges, and I met with our pastor for a while. It was helpful to talk with someone, but we never got to the root of my problems. Then I went off to college and was given a laptop, and I went right back to my desired source of comfort.

Trapped Again

During my first year of college, I began to be more aware of my intense attraction to guys and to actually question my sexuality. Eventually, I came out as gay to my parents. I began hooking up with other guys I had met online. My sexual addiction began to consume me once again, and I distanced myself from my friends.

Shouts in Our Pain

I still had a relationship with God though, and I didn’t want addiction as a part of my life. Once, after I had been crying all night, something nudged me to look up C.S. Lewis quotes. One in particular jumped out at me: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I knew then that, through my pain, God had been shouting at me for a while. I knew that I needed to leave college. The next day, while my friends were off at class or at chapel, I left all of my belongings and drove home.

My parents were supportive and helped me find Outpost Ministries. I was involved there for a season, but I was not quite ready to submit my sexuality to God and decided to leave. In the meantime, regardless of my choices, my dad started to rebuild our relationship. We began going out to lunch together. I would talk, and he would just listen. He took an interest in me, and it meant the world to me. It was a small but important change, and my life slowly began to shift course.

Another Rock Bottom

Soon after, I went back to a Christian college closer to home, and I was able to receive counseling there. My heart for God grew, even though I was still leading a double life. On campus, I was the good Christian boy, shy and unsure of himself, doing what he was told. Off campus, I was a sex addict who hooked up with about 30 different guys. The more I tried to find comfort and satisfaction in other men, the bigger the emptiness inside me grew. I hit an all-time low point. Yet there was another rock bottom to hit: I later learned I had contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I was devastated.

One night, I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across Jeremiah 30:12-13, 17: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’” It was me. God saw me in my state and promised restoration and gave me hope. From that day on, I stopped acting out sexually. God gave me a chance to try again.

A Question I Couldn’t Hide From

Two years later, I still desperately longed for a relationship. I thought, this time, maybe a Christian guy would work out better. I met one, and after a party, we sat in his car talking and agreed to start dating. He then asked me a question I couldn’t hide from: “How can we do this and glorify God?” I froze and heard God say, “Yes, Ian, how can you do this and glorify Me?”  I didn’t know what to say.  Eventually, I turned to him and said, “I don’t think I can do this,” and I got out of his car and left.

By the end of college, I had come to the conclusion that I would have to be a “gay Christian.” I had gotten involved in the LGBT community and the gay club scene by this point, but I still had a desire to honor God and be close to him. I determined that I would live a celibate life, but accepted that I would always struggle with my attractions.

Maybe There’s More

I still desired a place to go for spiritual support, and eventually found it again at Outpost. First, I went through Joshua Fellowship’s summer masculinity course. I learned what it means to be a man created in the image of God and how to be the man He created me to be. I also found a new, enjoyable community with the Joshua Fellowship guys. As my masculine strength and my trust in God grew, I noticed that my thoughts began to change. Maybe I wasn’t limited to just live a celibate life and always struggle. Maybe God had more for me.

Inviting Jesus with Me

I was still involved in the LGBT community during this time. It fed a deep desire inside of me for connection with others. In group at Outpost, I continually admitted going to gay clubs.  As I shared, the Outpost leaders advised me to ask Jesus to come to the bars with me.

I started doing just that, and my experience at the bars began to change. It wasn’t as fun anymore. One time at the bar, I saw someone I knew, and my friends continuously made lustful comments about him.  It hurt to hear what they were saying because I knew this person loved God, and he deserved better than those comments or to be in that bar. So I left my friends there. Little did they or I know that this was the last time I would go to the bars with them.

A New Season

A new season in my life came when I attended the One Thing Conference in Kansas City.  It was an amazing experience, and it launched me into a life of prayer and inspired me to get more involved with the ministry. I signed up for TCJHOP’s summer internship. We spent four days a week in the Prayer Room and also listened to different speakers. I experienced how being in prayer healed my heart and my relationship with God. I grieved my many messy, unhealthy relationships but recognized my real need for love. The Father’s love began filling that emptiness inside, and I desired less and less to be in a relationship with a guy.

God’s Power to Restore

Over time, God has not only restored my relationship with Himself and provided me with healthy same-sex friendships. He has also brought healing in my relationships with my parents, especially with my dad. My sisters and I have built amazing new friendships. God really does have the power to restore the family. God has also restored my desire to be married and have a family of my own. In fact, I have found a very special woman, and we are engaged to be married later this year. I have a new a passion to stand for the image of God in men and women. I also love to share my story with young people who find themselves trapped in similar addictions and situations as I did.

Through all the ups and downs, twist and turns and rock bottom experiences of my journey, God has been patient to reach out to me in my darkest moments. He has graciously shown me His persistent love and the truth of His Word. “He brought me out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:2). God’s healing, restoration and firm foundation have brought unexpected joy and peace in my life that I never thought possible.

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Voices Q & A: Leaving and Grieving

leaving and grieving

Q: What does the mourning process of leaving a gay lifestyle/identity look like? How can the Body of Christ help someone going through this process?

A: The process looks different for everyone because we all have our own stories. I personally had to mourn the loss of my friends and past boyfriends. My relationships were not healthy—destructive, even. But they were still driven by a desire to get my very real needs met—my needs for love, for affirmation as a man, for healthy relationships with other men, my need for community.

In my relationships, I was co-dependent, hurtful, and self-centered. It was a process for me to learn what healthy relationships look like. Over time, I chose to let go of those friendships and boyfriends. I went through a time of great sadness, knowing I wasn’t going to be hanging out with them anymore.

Additionally, I needed to create new memories and build new friendships. I also needed the space and freedom to just be sad. I needed to have safe opportunities when I was ready to talk about my sadness and how Jesus was meeting me.

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A Moses Generation

house on sandIt has now been almost 20 years since the Lord spoke to me about my life’s calling. I was sitting on my porch, spending time with Him, when He spoke very clearly to my heart. “Son, raise up a generation in My love and in My power—a generation like Moses who will lead the Church out of her Egypts.” At the time, I didn’t fully know why God was calling me to raise up a generation, and I didn’t know exactly how to do it. Over the years, however, the Lord has been faithful to answer those questions.

Answering the “Why?”

The next generation consists of our future leaders. They will lead, not only the Church, but every sphere of life. They are future husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. The next generation will lead in the market place, media, and technology. They will be our future lawmakers and law enforcers. Someone from the next generation will one day be the president of our great nation. Given all of this, what the next generation believes about God and His Word is of great importance to the advancement of God’s Kingdom in our society.

More specifically, what the next generation believes about the image of God is of great importance. It is paramount, not just to the Kingdom advancing, but to their very sense of being human and belonging in God’s created order. Without a biblical understanding of these foundational issues, the next generation—and society as we know it—will unravel. The reality that we are men and women created in God’s image is solid ground for the next generation. All other ground is sinking sand.

The question is, will the next generation wisely build society on the Rock or foolishly build it on the sand? How will they know the difference if they are not taught? Jesus was clear: great will be the fall of the house built by the foolish (Matt. 7:27). I would add, great will be the guilt of the previous generation who did not teach their children the wisdom of righteousness.

At the Center

The understanding of the image of God is at the center of the war over the next generation. If you have any doubt, simply look at where the enemy has set his sights. The image of God can only be seen and experienced within the gender binary (male/female, masculine/feminine). There is a demonic war being waged to remove the gender binary from society. Gay marriage has become the law of the land. The transgender movement has exploded.

Businesses are implementing gender neutrality into their short- and long-range plans. Target Corporation has removed any gender-based branding among children’s toys and has introduced a gender-neutral line of kid’s clothing. It has also committed to installing gender- neutral bathrooms in all of its stores. The Boy Scouts of America now includes girls and has dropped the word “boys” from its name in order to become less gender specific. Why does this matter? No boys, no girls, no image of God. That is exactly what the enemy desires, for where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (Prov. 29:18).

We can already see the casting off of restraint in our culture. Beloved, we are really only at the beginning of what could be a great rebellion against the beauty of God’s image on the earth. In the midst of such a rebellion, men and women will not order their lives in such a way that they get to the marriage supper of the Lamb. They will no longer work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). There you have the enemy’s strategy in a nutshell: eradicate a right vision of the image of God revealed in men and women. Eradicate a right vision of marriage, a prophetic picture of our eternal destiny in God. Throw in some wrong teaching about extreme grace, and the recipe for disaster is complete. The next generation is disempowered and deceived. Demonic mission accomplished.

Not on my watch. And, I hope, not on yours.

Answering the “How?”

Early on in my own recovery journey, I connected with the prayer movement in the Twin Cities. There, I found amazing fathers and mothers of the faith who helped turn my heart to the Heavenly Father and to the wisdom of righteousness. I was encouraged to spend extended times in prayer and in God’s Word. I am forever grateful for their leadership—especially to Marylynn Christopher, founder and former director of the Twin Cities House of Prayer. For many years, time and time again, she pointed me to the Word of God. She taught me, not just how to study the Bible, but how to truly receive the revelation of the Father’s heart contained within its pages.

As I saw the fruit of a dynamic prayer life, I began to implement this strategy in my work with young adults at Outpost. The Encountering Jesus Internship was born. The program was simple. In addition to the inner-healing work they were doing at Outpost, interns spent three hours in prayer and in the study of the Word. We were not prepared for the result. We began to see our participants soaring through the process of recovery. Our staff tripled. Our budget quadrupled. God was backing up His Word with power. The Lord was granting speedy justice—healing, deliverance, provision—to those who were crying out to Him day and night (Luke 18:8).

Crystal Clear

It became crystal clear that God was going to raise up a generation in His love and power by revealing His love and power in the place of prayer.

The next generation is longing for encounter with something or Someone who will truly satisfy. As young adults quiet their hearts before the Lord, gaze upon His beauty and talk with Him, the wrong things in their lives are made right. Foundational identity is imparted. They are empowered to stand for the truth of God’s image.

Now, my calling is crystal clear: I am to raise up a generation in God’s love and power through night and day prayer and worship to stand for the truth of God’s image. And, Beloved, our nation is desperate for such a generation. Hear King David’s ancient cry: Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come (Ps. 71:18).

Deeply Grieved

We at Outpost/TCJHOP have had our eyes on the next generation for many years, especially on those struggling with core identity issues. I am beginning to see, however, that God is doing something unique in our midst. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference for Restored Hope Network (RHN), a network of ministries like Outpost. My heart was deeply grieved to see the absence of young people. Many of the ministry directors are at retirement age or older with no prospects to take over when they are gone. I continue to be the youngest RHN ministry director, and I am not that young anymore!

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to connect with a colleague who oversees like-minded ministries around the world. I asked him point blank, “Do you know of anything happening in the world for young people wanting to overcome same-sex attractions or other gender identity issues?” His response was sobering, “Nate, I know of nothing.”

Moses Generation

Something Unique

Yet God is doing something unique in the Twin Cities. And, we want to be lock step with what He is doing.

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a group of young men who are pursuing holiness in their sexuality and gender identity. During the summer, we always focus on biblical masculinity. We currently have 18 participants and three young adult leaders. They are jumping in with both feet and passionately pursuing Jesus. I am keenly aware that this move of God is somehow special. The Lord is raising up a standard in the midst of the wave of delusion sweeping across our nation. The testimonies coming forth in the lives of these young men will one day overcome the evil one.

Doubling Down

In the coming months, we are doubling down on our focus on the next generation to see them raised up for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Not only do we need to be raising up the next generation of leaders at Outpost, but we need to find a way to help other ministries reproduce themselves. We also desire to implement similar programming for young women specific to their issues and needs. Much of this is still in the brainstorming/development stage.

As always, we need your prayers. We will be establishing a strategy to bathe this all in prayer. We welcome you to join us in specifically praying for the needs of the young men and women to whom we are current ministering and for those yet unreached. And mark your calendars: we will be hosting a visioning night on September 17 at 7 PM to pray and discuss these vital issues!

A Practical Investment

We also continue to need your financial support. A practical way to invest in these young people is by contributing funds to the Joshua Fellowship summer programming. The summer program especially costs a significant amount due to the masculine initiation retreat component in August—roughly $9,000 total for the class, or $450 per person. Most of the young men we minister to are college-age or young professionals who don’t have much money. We offer our programming at a discounted cost and provide scholarships to those who cannot pay. Would you consider sponsoring a young man this summer? Would you consider helping to offset our retreat costs? Or would you consider contributing financially to help develop and begin similar programming for young women?

Undeniable Fruit

The fruit is undeniable. This month, one of my former participants married his college sweetheart. In September, I will have the pleasure of officiating the wedding of another one of my participants. In October, I will attend the wedding of another. Now, marriage itself does not mean that someone has successfully overcome same-sex attractions, but I have walked with these guys for years. I have seen their hard work of recovery, their integrity, and their commitment to Jesus. I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness to each one of them. They are overcoming something that the world tells them to embrace and celebrate. They are better—and stronger—men because of the journey they have chosen. And one day, God willing, their children will be born. Praise God, the generations will continue despite the devil’s schemes.

This work of God is a weighty and sobering thing to be a part of. No wonder we face constant attacks from the enemy. But we are holding fast, and we are being kept by the power of the Lord. We are committed to raising up a Moses generation. Will you join us in this movement?

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Simon Says

Dave RSimon says, “Retire!” This month, we acknowledge and celebrate Dave Rasmussen, former director of Simon Ministries, and Outpost’s Married Couples Coordinator. Dave is a man who has faithfully ministered to Jesus, his wife Diane, and to many other married couples for nearly 20 years.

Humble Beginnings

I first met Dave Rasmussen in 1997 at his intake interview for Joshua Fellowship (JF). Back then, JF was the only group at Outpost Ministries. It was for any and all men struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions who sought to align their sexuality with their spirituality. We met on the second, third, fourth and fifth Mondays of each month. The first Monday was open to anyone and all people interested in learning about and participating in Outpost programming.

After several months in JF, I asked Dave if he and his wife would be willing to share their story of faith and healing at one of the open meetings. He immediately agreed to do that. Completely unbeknownst to me, Dave was shaking in his boots—not because of the prospect of sharing his story, but because he hadn’t shared “enough” of his story with his wife, Diane.

So he scurried home, shared “the rest of the story” with Diane and started to prepare to share. Well, the open meeting was a smash hit, both for Dave and for Outpost Ministries. We have a saying around here, “There is no transformation without sharing.” Dave and his marriage were transformed because of that open meeting in 1998. It was a catalyst that propelled both Dave and Diane further in their healing journey together.

Simon Ministries is Born

Dave and Diane later started an outreach of their own seeking to help married couples dealing with issues of homosexuality. They named their ministry Simon Ministries after Simon of Cyrene, the man the Roman soldiers conscripted to carry the cross of Jesus. For 15 years, the Rasmussens would minister faithfully out of their church to these married couples, lead Living Waters groups, be the regional representative for a national ministry group, and correspond with and mentor many people by mail and email.

Joining Forces

Then in 2012, through a series of practical decisions, Simon Ministries closed its doors, and Dave came to work at Outpost. He brought the renamed Simon’s Refuge ministry to married couples with him. He has continued much of the same ministry activity at Outpost, additionally overseeing the Caleb Spirit ministry for men over 30.

Leading the Way

This month also marks Dave’s “real” retirement. He first retired from a telephone company back in 2003. Dave is actually the first person ever to retire from Outpost. In the 1970s and 80s, the ministry saw several leaders leave because of burnout. In the 90s, we saw the death of our beloved ministry leader, Joe Hallett, who had lived a life with AIDS for many years. In retiring, Dave is setting a new precedent for ministry leaders here. We are now on a new leadership trajectory, and Dave is leading the way!

Standing Out

In an age where the sanctity of marriage is disregarded, and one’s feelings, attractions, and self-determination are king, Dave and Diane’s commitment to Christ and to one another stands out in noteworthy brilliance. We gratefully acknowledge Dave’s commitment to Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of His mission alongside us here at Outpost Ministries.

Congratulations on your retirement, Dave! May you and Diane have many happy and healthy years together, enjoying all of God’s blessings in Jesus Christ!

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Voices Q & A: Husbands and Wives

fork in the roadQ: If a husband struggles with same-sex attractions, why should he stay with his wife? Wouldn’t they both be better off going their separate ways?

A: Diane and I were committed to our marriage. We loved each other. The gay community was about youth and good looks. Diane loves me unconditionally!

There was always a voice inside me that said what I was doing—sexually acting out with other men—was wrong. I also had other people in my life who would be affected, especially my sons, and also my siblings, my in-laws, my mother, my dear friends. Their relationships were more important to me than my selfish, carnal desires.

Divorce was never an option for me. We knew it would be a battle, but we persevered, thanks to our Lord Jesus.

As Robert Frost once wrote, Diane and I “took the [road] less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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Conversion Therapy and Urban Legends

WickedAre you familiar with the Tony-award-winning Broadway musical Wicked? Wicked recounts the life of Elphaba, also known as the Wicked Witch of the West, and her best friend Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Only this retelling of the story puts an incredible spin on these two characters and what we know of them from the movie The Wizard of Oz.

It turns out that Elphaba is actually the “good guy” who has been forced to take on a reputation of being evil and dangerous. We really only know of the urban legend that is the Wicked Witch. Glinda, on the other hand, is actually calculated and manipulative. She is only after power and a spotless reputation in the eyes of the public. All is not what it seems. All is not what the masses have been told and led to believe.

We understand Elphaba’s plight.

What the Masses Believe

A recent USA Today article highlighted that an increasing number of states are banning what is commonly referred to as “conversion therapy,” particularly for minors. The article defines conversion therapy as “an attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity through tactics as obvious as hypnosis or as subtle as inducing shame.” The list of state bans is growing. So is the list of bans on freedoms for adults who, due to their religious convictions, are seeking help for themselves.

Unfortunately, the masses are believing what they have been told. “Conversion therapy” (and all of the negative—and false—implications associated with it) has become a catch-all term describing any therapy or ministry like Outpost that addresses issues related to unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity confusion. Another broad and undefined term, “sexual orientation change efforts,” has also become a catch-all expression. It usually refers to any activity associated with the intention of changing someone’s sexual orientation. “Sexual orientation change efforts” has become synonymous with the dangers of “conversion therapy.” We have become the stuff of urban legends.

What We Don’t Do

For the record, Outpost Ministries does not do “conversion therapy.” We don’t even do “sexual orientation change efforts,” if that means trying to turn people from “gay” to “straight.”

What We Do Do

Outpost Ministries has a much higher calling. We are here to turn people into Christ-followers, especially in regard to their sexuality. Jesus had a lot to say about the proper and holy use of our bodies. Many people come to us seeking help in aligning their lives with their (and our) sincerely held religious beliefs regarding sexual expression. There are actually individuals who, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, conclude they no longer ought to be involved in behaviors where they are acting upon their same-sex attractions. They desire clarity in their identity as sons and daughters of God.

Priorities

At Outpost, we focus our attention on the character of the God-man Christ Jesus, the perfect human, and upon the character of Creator God, in Whose image we are all created as males or females. What does that mean? We try to flesh it out―literally. Our bodies are the location of our devotion to Christ. We worship him in our bodies. Like Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (ESV).”

Our “religion” is integral to the way we live our lives. Our spirituality profoundly affects our sexuality. And it is that priority order: God is first, we are second, not vice versa. As we bring our sexuality under the lordship of Jesus Christ, no matter our struggle, we are progressively healed and transformed.

All for Love

By the end of Wicked, Elphaba is not able to turn the tide of public opinion against her. But she concludes that what others think of her really doesn’t matter. She knows the truth, and she has found true love. We too doubt that we will be able to turn the tide of public opinion. We are concerned that this minority of people, who are tempted by same-sex attractions but wish to avoid acting upon them out of love for Jesus, will be shut out of the public discourse. But in the end, we can’t let what others think hinder us. We too are in love. We know the Truth, and He has set us free.

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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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Outlawing Gender Integration in California

CaliforniaWe have been keeping a close eye on a particular bill that is quickly being pushed through the California legislature this week. The ministry of Outpost has never been about political activism. We have always focused our energies into helping people walk in obedience to God and to their sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, we bring this bill to your attention because, in the end, it threatens our very freedom to practice those said beliefs. Read on as we share Andy Comiskey’s post about AB 2943.

“‘We give you strict orders not to teach in His name.’ Peter and John replied: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard . . . We must obey only God and not men!'” (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29)

Wake up people. The bill best designed to outlaw Christian efforts to help persons resolve gender identity problems is racing through the California legislature as you read this. AB 2943 prohibits all conferences, teachings, or publications (where money is exchanged for the resource) aimed at helping people to overcome same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. This impacts every pastor, counselor, friend, or family member in California.

Most chillingly, it slams the door on citizens whose conscience guides them to make peace with their bodies as designed by God. The California legislature wants to deny them that choice. [This week] the Assembly will decide if the state has the right to insist that the only option for Californians with gender identity problems is to transition into the ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ self. Though these are standard values in much of the clinical community, California is seeking to make them the only values. This is an affront to moral liberty.

It sounds preposterous, I know. When I first heard of this bill, I assumed it implausible, dead on arrival. Instead, AB 2943 raced through the first two committees in spite of valiant testimonies by friends Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Jr., Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, and Bethel Redding’s Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams. These last three witnessed persuasively to the power of Jesus and His community to restore true identity but were stonewalled by representatives who only asked sympathetic questions of those claiming abuse at the hands of bad helpers, valid issues for clinical ethics but irrelevant to the rights of persons to choose the kind of help (s)he desires!

According to Ken Williams, “The freight train is here, barring persons from the right to help and to heal gender identity problems. This is the first day I have felt discriminated against, robbed of my freedom to hold to my convictions. The government is now seeking to mandate what I do with my sexuality.”

Every person deserves the freedom to exercise moral authority over his or her body and desires. I may boldly disagree with Ellen Degeneres’ and Rupaul’s identity choices (just as they do mine!) but I grant them freedom to make them. We as Americans share constitutional freedoms of worship and speech. According to the Supreme Court, “the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought we hate.”

Church, wake up. AB 2943 roused Bethel Redding to mobilize their people to engage gently and well with political representatives. Might I ask all Christians in California–Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals–to invite their fellows to persuade elected officials to vote against this bill? (See californiafamily.org.) If this bill passes, the state officially denies Jesus’ will for our sexual humanity and His power to redeem it.

[On Thursday, April 19,] the lower house of the CA legislature will vote on AB 2943; if passed, it will go to the senate then to the governor. Pray for a miracle of God’s justice. Or that such a preposterous bill, if passed, will be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

Pray that a renewed Church will unite and arise in California as a result of this enslaving legislation. Nothing short of our freedom of speech and worship– our right to decide the man or woman we will become–are at stake. If we lose, may we become holy outlaws who obey God, not man, with words and deeds of fire.

“‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.'” (Acts 4:29, 30)

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