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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Introducing Outpost North!

Outpost NorthWe have been waiting for the right moment to announce our new branch Outpost North in Brainerd, MN! Outpost North offers our Foundations course to anyone struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, family members, and pastors and ministry leaders who want to learn more about Outpost and the healing journey. They have also started an Elijah Company group for parents, family and friends of gay-identified loved ones.

Our Outpost North Coordinator, Angie, has a beautiful testimony of the Lord pursuing her, even in the midst of her sin and brokenness. She now has a husband and a little girl—a little girl who would not exist had the enemy succeeded in his plans to keep Angie from her true identity and destiny in God.

Angie understands by experience that it is the Father’s desire to restore the broken-hearted and restore the family. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “’Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (NKJV). Seeing the restoration of the family is our vision at Outpost Ministries and TCJHOP because we believe that it is the Lord’s end-time strategy to bring healing to families, to the family of God and to our society. Thank you for partnering with us in this mighty work the Lord is doing among us!

Broken Pieces Made Whole

broken glass. . . And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (Corinthians 6:11, NASB).

What a powerful statement to be said over someone’s life: “and such were some of you.” I resonate strongly with this passage. However, I first had to wrestle my way through 1 Corinthians 6:9, especially the part about homosexuality.

I grew up in the church, hearing Bible stories most of my life. I have led youth groups, Christian school groups, and I even went to seminary. I loved Jesus passionately, but I lived a double life. I did not know there was an escape plan that Jesus was offering me, “and such were some of you.” I thought I was a lesbian and that there was no way out. There is a plan, however; there is a way out, and there is Someone who can redeem our brokenness and make us whole again.

I guarantee that there are people among your family members, co-workers, friends, and among the people who sit next to you at church and in your small group who are struggling with SSA (same-sex attractions). I believe that most of these people want out but don’t know there is a way. I was one of those people who just wanted to be “found out” by anyone because I desperately wanted out. I knew I needed help.

My story begins on a family farm in rural Iowa where my family consisted of a dad and mom and four girls. We literally had three TV stations, and the smell of farm manure was the smell of money. I loved growing up on that farm with my family. I loved working outside, the smell of dirt, hot summer afternoons, working hard and spending countless hours shooting hoops in the driveway with my sisters. Every Sunday, my mom would drag my sisters and I to church; my father would stay home to attend to the chores.

In the midst of everything that I loved, I remember being a hurting little girl who was struggling in relationship with her parents. I was swimming in a sea of anger and rage, trying to keep myself afloat. Because of their own brokenness, my father was harsh and unemotional, and my mother was weak and submissive. I grew up disliking my dad and being mad at my mom for not standing up for herself or for us.

Fast forward to my third year of college after a Chicago missions trip. I found myself falling “in love” with one of my friends. We entered into a very emotionally enmeshed friendship that turned physical very quickly. I was shocked at what I was doing, but I also enjoyed this new relationship.

It was a new adventure that seemed to whip me off my feet. I had found someone who accepted me, who loved me unconditionally, who gave me worth. She understood the depths of my heart as we became more and more emotionally enmeshed. It seemed that both of us were made for this type of relationship. My feelings reminded me that I had felt this way for as long as I could remember. I secretly concluded that I must be a lesbian.

This new adventure was actually counterfeit love and acceptance. It was a counterfeit that wore the perfect mask and said the perfect things, but it always left me disappointed and cleaning up the mess. It literally left me hating myself. The adventure was filled with lust, wrong motives, control, codependency and emotional enmeshment.

You need to understand how Satan will present things to people. He will make things look good and look loving, but behind my partner’s words was emptiness and a dark void. Please know that even my words to her were counterfeit and empty, just as much as her words were to me. Her words could never sustain me, and my words could never satisfy her.

It was strange; as our relationship seemed to flourish, as we lavished each other with love, tension grew. Sin is only pleasurable for a season. We began to fight more and more and tried to control one another. I was left with a dark cloud of guilt, pain and depression. During my fourth year of seminary, I spent days in bed and hours on the internet viewing pornography. I was looking for a quick fix, something to numb out all of my pain and shame.

I couldn’t hear God’s voice anymore. I would pray for a way out, for someone to find us out, for someone to call me out. No one took a stance against homosexual behavior; everyone was accepting it, even our Christian friends. Even with all of this acceptance around me, I could not stop the aching inside. It was consuming me. I thought of ways I could kill myself as the dark cloud around me became more and more suffocating. Sin became a cancer in my body; it was eating me up.

Then God spoke!

One night as I cried out to God, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Angie, tonight you will either choose Jesus or choose your sin.” I told Jesus, “I choose You, but I want to be free from homosexuality, lust, pornography and rage. I don’t care if I ever teach or preach again. I just want to be free.”

The next day, I went to an art exhibit in a church basement in downtown Minneapolis. There, the Holy Spirit spoke to me again through a piece of artwork. The art piece was large; it stood taller than me. As I went closer, I saw that it was the face of Jesus made out of small, broken pieces of mirror. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to go forward, and I hesitated. I asked the Holy Spirit, “Have you seen what I’ve embraced? What I’ve laid with? The darkness I’ve slept with? The darkness that’s consumed me? I cannot go closer. I am dirty, too dirty!” But I went closer, and as I saw my reflection in the broken pieces of mirror that made up Jesus’ face, I heard the Holy Spirit, “I will make you whole again!” With hot tears streaming down my face, I knew I was going to be made whole again and set free from sexual perversion and sexual brokenness.

That day in 2001 marked the beginning of a journey of healing and restoration in my life that continues to this day. My husband Scott and were married in 2013. As I rock our little girl to sleep at night and gaze upon her wonderfully-made frame, my heart declares, “My God, You are faithful in all things!”

After the birth of our daughter, Scott and I found ourselves moving to Brainerd in north-central Minnesota for his job. We had no clue what God was up to but knew we needed to be here. My husband and I are excited to tell you about the beginnings of Outpost North. Outpost Ministries’ long 40-year history in the Twin Cities has now come to Brainerd to offer the same ministry of healing and restoration while helping individuals and families experience freedom in Christ.

Outpost North started programming in January. We offer the Foundations course and have started an Elijah Company group. Foundations is a four-week introduction to Outpost and the healing process and is open to anyone struggling with unwanted SSA, parents and family members, as well as pastors and ministry leaders. Elijah Company is a support and prayer group for parents, family members, friends and co-workers with loved ones who identify as gay. We are also seeking opportunities to speak in area churches, especially to youth groups. It is my hope that someday we can offer one-to-one coaching and discipleship for individuals seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions.

We are excited about what God can and will do here in the Brainerd Lakes area. We are excited to see lives transformed, families restored, marriages reconciled and captives set free. Our culture has done an excellent job of normalizing homosexuality. This, however, is not God’s design. It is time to stand up and help those who are struggling and lead them to a place of restoration and reconciliation.

It is our delight to be here in the Brainerd Lakes Area and to be the voice of Truth regarding this subject. This Iowa farm girl is excited to see God go after ones just like me and to set them free. It is our privilege to serve the Lord and to serve Outpost Ministries.

Interested in joining Outpost North’s Foundations class or Elijah Company group or inviting Angie to speak in the Brainerd Lakes Area of MN? Contact us.

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Even If

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confronting “Gay Christian” Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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