From Glory to Glory: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

This is about the Gospel. This cultural fight that we are in over sexuality is actually about the Gospel, about whether or not Christ just reassures us or if Christ restores us. The work we do at Outpost is about the Gospel. It’s about the Good News that a relationship with Christ results in actual, tangible transformation and healing. It’s about the truth that relationship with Christ transforms us from glory to glory.

I love serving at Outpost because this is my own story of encountering Christ. The loving-kindness of our God rescued me from darkness, and He so changed me that I have a hard time remembering who I was before.

It wasn’t in a moment. It wasn’t an ‘overnight success.’ Through a process of daily encounter, accountability, and community, the Lord relentlessly pursued and changed me. The Gospel–Christ giving up his life to purify me and reconcile me to the Father–was real and active in my life. The result is that it is honestly difficult for me to remember the thought patterns, desires, and feelings that I had before. I have become a new creation, not finished but continually being made into the image of Christ.

I love serving at Outpost because at the core of what we do is the Gospel, and we have the daily privilege of giving hope to people who are being bombarded with despair. The message of culture is that if you struggle with sexual brokenness, you’re stuck. It’s just the way you are, there’s no hope for overcoming.

The Gospel says something else: Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Image of Whom the Son sets free is free indeed textTogether we are an outpost of hope standing for truth, and a much deeper truth than just calling sexual brokenness out for what it is. We’re standing for the truth that Jesus is real.  He pursues us and rescues us. We’re standing for the truth that the Gospel is powerful and active today: There is good news for the sexually and relationally broken.

As you stand with us, you are adding your voice to ours to proclaim the truth and help young men and women have a life-changing encounter with Christ through discipleship, accountability, and community. You are helping them in the journey to make Christ the Lord of their lives, including the surrender of their sexuality. You are helping remove chains of shame and fear. You are giving them access to resources to overcome unwanted attractions, addiction to pornography, and self-hatred.

Thank you. Thank you for being a remnant that will not let go of the Gospel, will not let go of love and truth, will not let go of hope.

Outpost and TCJHOP’s annual fundraising banquet is quickly approaching, and now is a critical time when we need your support. The current heartbreaking legislation, the growing needs of individuals and families, and the search for a new director all highlight our need for our community. We can’t do this without you.

There are three ways that you can get involved and make an impact.

First, attend the fundraising banquet! The banquet is always an amazing time of testimonies and hope. Come hear stories of individuals who have found real hope and change in a struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and fellowship with others who stand for truth like you do. You can register online now.

Second, if you are unable to attend, you can make a tax-deductible donation designated towards our spring fundraiser. You can do this online, over the phone, or by mail.

Third, share the banquet with friends and family that you think would be impacted by the ministry of Outpost. Invite them to attend and support the work we do. You can share this article, the website address, or–if you’re interested–please stop by the office, say hello, and pick up some invitations to pass out.

There is an urgency to stand for truth right now. There is an urgency to bring hope. Christ really does transform us from glory to glory. I stand as a witness to this, and so do you.

Looking forward to seeing you at the banquet,

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Alissa Holmes
Acting Director
Outpost Ministries

“He, She, Them, and Me”

Small rock on big rock with plant growing

A university encourages workers to list their preferred pronouns in their email signatures. A barista wears a full face of feminine-looking makeup while speaking in a deep baritone voice. A teenager orders a breast-binder online without her parents’ knowledge. A kindergarten student declares he wants to be a girl and is allowed to use the girls’ bathroom at school. All of these situations are becoming regular occurrences in our world. Responding to this increasing confusion is often overwhelming. Even thinking about how to respond becomes overwhelming for me. It seems that every day brings a new type of confusion, a new name people are giving to themselves, a new idea of what is means to be human.

In many ways, none of this is surprising. Our world has spent the last 50 years teaching that there is no difference between men and women, that gender and identity are social constructs, and that the world of ideas and feelings is somehow truer than the physical world we inhabit. We have been told that our identity is not given to us by a loving, good, and faithful Creator, but instead is constructed by each person out of their own feelings, ideas, passions, and beliefs.

What do we do in response to those who have believed the lies and have been led to a place where they are at war with their bodies, actively seeking to re-create their bodies into a new physical image in order to match their mental picture of their “true self”? How do we share the Gospel of hope and healing with people hurting in such a profound way? Thankfully, the answer is not overwhelming.

Rooted in God’s Truth

First, we need to be rooted in God’s truth, which starts with understanding God’s intent in the original design of humanity. Genesis 1 teaches us that God created humanity “in the image of God, male and female He created them.” This verse reveals the fullness of our identity as men and women and is fundamental to our theology of the body. Being made in the image of God means being made for relationship; being able to reflect the nature and character of God on the earth; being set apart from the rest of creation; being made sons and daughters of God through the redeeming work of Christ.

We also see in Genesis 1 that being created male or female is a distinction that matters to God. In fact, our biological distinctions teach us about true masculinity and true femininity. Men and women each exhibit true femininity and true masculinity, but in a unique way informed by their bioligical sex. True masculinity, reflected in the male biology, is the strength to initiate and form meaningful relationships. True femininity, reflected in the female biology, is the capacity to receive and nurture meaningful relationships. Both sexes exhibit strength and nurturing, but how they do so is intended to complement their biological sex, not to war against it or disconnect them from their gender.

These God-given distinctions show us that our identity is fundamentally connected to our physical body, and is not a disconnected mental reality. As we root our identity in our God-given embodiment, we are free to come into alignment with God’s design for our life, and to walk in the good works that God has prepared for us; works that match up with the interests, passions, and personality God bestowed when He knit us together before birth and reflect the nature and image of God in the earth.

Rooted in God’s Love

Second, we need to be rooted and grounded in God’s love so we may speak life and truth to those we encounter. As Paul notes in Ephesians 3, when we are rooted and grounded in God’s love, and understand and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, we are able to be filled with all the fullness of God. Walking in the fullness of God through the power of the Holy Spirit allows us to see people through the eyes of God, gives us compassion for their confusion and pain, and reminds us that the real enemy is the prince of this world, who is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy lives at every turn.

People who identify as transgender, non-binary, queer, gender-fluid, or otherwise need to experience the unconditional love of God. Many that I have met are looking for belonging; they do not feel like they “fit”, either with their same biological-sex peers or even with their own body. Many whose stories I have read have been victims of trauma or neglect; they are seeking an escape from the pain of those experiences. Some are also just needing to be seen; they have been ignored and overlooked for too long and are trying to stand out and be noticed. Sharing the deep, unconditional love of God is the first step in showing people that God sees and knows them, that God can heal them, and that God wants to make them part of His family.

Ministering in Love and Truth

Looking at the bigger picture, many in our world are lost in a sea of confusion about identity. They have believed the lie that their body is just a shell for the “real” person inside rather than understanding that their body is as much a part of who they are as their mind is. They have believed the lie that feelings and interests define one’s identity rather than recognizing that identity comes from knowing we belong to God. They have believed the lie that we each must construct our own identity rather the relying on our Creator to show us who we are.

Our role, then, is the same as in any other ministry. First, to live our own lives deeply rooted in the truth and love of God, allowing God to transform our own hearts and minds as we grow into our new creation. Second, to share the unconditional love of God with those we meet. Then, as we build relationship with people, to be available to hear their pain, grieve with them, and share the truth of the Gospel.

Ministry in a world of confusion does not need to be overwhelming, even as our world dives deeper into darkness and disorientation. We can stand firm in truth and love, caring for the hurting, and bringing the hope of Jesus to all we meet

The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill

Red and Blue Arrows pointing right and left

In the 1999 sci-fi movie The Matrix, the hero, Neo, is given a choice of two colored pills: red or blue. It’s a monumental decision, because his choice will determine how he understands everything around him.

If Neo chooses the blue pill, he will remain blissfully unaware that what he perceives as reality is an illusion: a simulation called “The Matrix.” People who take the blue pill can believe in whatever reality they want, but they never know that they are being manipulated and used by nefarious entities.

On the other hand, if Neo takes the red pill, he will awake from the dream and see that everything he has believed since birth is a lie. He will see things as they truly are, and that will make him an enemy of the status quo.

I Took the Blue Pill, and Then the Red Pill

People with gender dysphoria are encouraged to change genders so they can live happily ever after. In the trans-world, all inhabitants fashion their own “reality” based on their feelings and desires.

That’s exactly what I did. Even though I was born male, I chose the blue pill and pursued my lifelong dream of being a woman. I believed the “reality” that I wanted to believe. I took on an elaborate alternate identity, made possible by hormones and surgery, and lived as a transgender woman.

But a funny thing happened. After about eight years, I gradually awoke. I realized the simple biological truth: I was still a man, had always been a man, and always would be a man. In terms of The Matrix, I took the red pill. With newfound clarity of vision, I could see that everything I had believed about the trans-life was a lie. God’s original design of two innate biological sexes, male and female, cannot be overthrown by taking hormones, having surgery, and living a masquerade.

I wanted “true reality,” and I found it in Jesus Christ. No longer was I willing to live an artificial life. When I realized the peace and joy of living in the true reality of my God-given sex, I decided that I needed to share my life story. My goal is to empower and help others who no longer want to live the trans-life to see a way out, too.

The War on God Wants Your Redemption Silenced

But the proponents and inhabitants of the trans-matrix consider me an enemy. When I step out and talk publicly about my experience, the blue pill people attack, saying my viewpoint is “hate speech.”

In their version of reality, there are two things you must never do: 1) talk about being restored from a former trans-life and 2) testify that it was due to an encounter with Jesus Christ. I’m guilty of both.

Pure Passion Ministries also violates both rules of political correctness. They recently released a gripping documentary of fifteen former transgender men and women (including myself) who, through Christ, abandoned their transgender life. All of them speak candidly of the gut-wrenching events that led to living a transgender life and how God intervened in love to personally redeem and restore them back to living fully in their birth gender. For me and the other fourteen people in the documentary, Jesus opened our eyes to “true reality” and transported each of us into a new life, one where we are free, no longer enslaved. It is a powerful movie worth watching—Find out more at https://tranzformed.org/

When the producer and director, David Kyle Foster, himself a former homosexual, released the movie, the consequences from the political correctness police were swift. His ads were rejected from Facebook and YouTube numerous times, and he was denied the use of an e-blast mailing list he had used previously to promote other projects to Christians. He found out that his organization has been designated as “hateful” or “offensive” and blacklisted from using the mailing list by a secular entity.

In a column on TownHall, Dr. Michael L. Brown tells how Foster also had been targeted by the popular video hosting service, Vimeo, which demanded that Foster remove videos that the company found offensive. He defended his organization and received a few months’ reprieve, but unfortunately, on March 24th of this year, Vimeo removed all 850 of his videos and shut down Pure Passion’s account. In one of the emails Foster received, the representative for Vimeo said:

Your statement equating homosexuality to “sexual brokenness” betrays the underlying stance of your organization. To put it plainly, we don’t believe that homosexuality requires a cure and we don’t allow videos on our platform that espouse this point of view.

Vimeo said it was offensive to suggest that the blood of Jesus Christ could bring healing to the homosexual. For that reason, they also removed the Pure Passion videos that helped sex abuse victims, sex-trafficked people, people addicted to porn, and people seeking God for help with other issues, including gender dysphoria.

Michael Brown concludes, “Vimeo is engaging in blatant, unapologetic, aggressive anti-Christian censorship.”

The Vimeo viewpoint about homosexuality mirrors the viewpoints I heard expressed by transgender and homosexual advocates at a public hearing in March in Massachusetts. Versions of legislation being proposed have already been passed in nine states and the District of Columbia. The law makes it illegal to provide any therapy for minors that fails to affirm them in their homosexuality or transgender identity. Any therapist who seeks to discover and treat the underlying psychological causes of such issues can be charged with child abuse and lose his or her license.

Rejecting Reality Means Ignoring Science

The trans-matrix requires its members to believe some outlandish claims. The claims deserve to be scientifically scrutinized, but scrutiny is considered blasphemy. Here are just a few of the most egregious of these claims:

  • “Transition is the answer.”

The trans-matrix claims that gender transition is the answer that will solve all of the problems of those who suffer from gender dysphoria. Yet, studies show that two-thirds of people with gender dysphoria also have other co-existing psychological disorders, which if treated, could ease or eliminate the gender distress without the need for surgery or cross-sex hormones.

  • “Transgender people are born that way.”

The trans-matrix claims that people with gender dysphoria are born that way—that the transgender brain is wired that way from birth. But no definitive evidence has been found to support that belief.
An article in Scientific American that begins by saying that “Imaging studies and other research suggest that there is a biological basis for transgender identity” concludes with the following contradictory statement:
“But given the variety of transgender people and the variation in the brains of men and women generally, it will be a long time, if ever, before a doctor can do a brain scan on a child and say, ‘Yes, this child is trans.’

  • “A person’s sex can be changed.”

People who live in the unreality of the trans-world believe that men can become women and women can become men. I’ve written elsewhere about the physical impossibility of that belief:
Underneath all the cosmetic procedures, vocal training, and hair growth or hair removal lies a physical reality. Biologically, the person has not changed from a man into a woman or vice versa.
In a recent study, genetic researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science found evidence that at least 6,500 genes contain sex-specific instructions for males and females. Changing from one sex to the other is not physically possible.

Leaving the Delusions of the Trans-Matrix Behind

Psychiatrist Richard Corradi calls transgenderism a “contagion of mass delusion.” As the authors of a report on the ethics of sex reassignment surgery explain:

Candidates for SRS may believe that they are trapped in the bodies of the wrong sex and therefore desire or, more accurately, demand SRS; however, this belief is generated by a disordered perception of self. Such a fixed, irrational belief is appropriately described as a delusion.

Having lived the trans-life as a woman for eight years, I wholeheartedly agree. For people who identify as transgender, true reality is found in what is called “de-transitioning,” which involves coming to terms with and accepting one’s birth gender.

People who no longer find satisfaction in the trans-matrix and desire to leave the illusionary world often contact me for support. Resources and information are scarce, to say the least. The process of de-transitioning is emotionally, socially, and legally difficult for most people. The transgender community isn’t sympathetic to members of the trans-matrix who want to leave.

To help expand these resources, a gathering of former members of the trans-matrix world like myself, all of whom now see reality as it is, will take place at a secret location in the next few weeks. Each person involved has found the joy of “true gender reality” and wants to help others who have awakened to the same mindset and desire to vacate the artificial transgender life.

The red pill population is growing each day. I will continue to share my story, knowing it can be hope-giving and life-saving, as it affirms the truth of God’s original design of innate biological facts.

Note: This piece originally appeared on October 17, 2017 in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. It is used with permission of the author. 

God’s Good Design Conference

Join us for God’s Good Design Conference in Mankato, MN featuring Distinctions, training designed to empower the local church to form an educated, biblical, and compassionate response to gender and sexual confusion, and Walt Heyer, a former transgender with a powerful testimony of redemption and a passion for others who regret gender change.

May 5, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Covenant Family Church, 709 North Riverfront Dr., Mankato, MN 56001

Students: $10  Pastors: $25  Indviduals: $35  Couples: $50  Lunch is included!

REGISTER NOW

Gender Matters sessions will address current identity, sexuality, and “transgender” issues from a biblical perspective! Sessions will:

  • Lay a biblical foundation for God’s good designs for human IDENTITY and SEXUALITY
  • Equip you to LOVINGLY and TRUTHFULLY interact with people who are struggling with GENDER CONFUSION
  • Give you a glimpse into the powerful, personal TESTIMONY of freedom from a transgender identity
  • Help you address LEGAL and POLICY needs proactively to ensure privacy, safety, and dignity of all in facilities and activities

Gender, Confusion, and Conversation Part 3

ConversationSo far in this discussion, we have laid a foundation for understanding biblical gender and God’s creative intent for men and women as His image-bearers. We have pinpointed the confusing messages the world proclaims about gender and sexuality and presented the contrasting truth of God’s design. We have also given tools to bless and affirm the God-given gender identity of the children and youth within our families and churches. Now we will consider how to have life-giving conversations with our friends and individuals in our lives who live out of a place of confusion about their own gender and sexuality.

Looking to Balance

To have these life-giving conversations, we look to the balance of compassion and truth. We must always act in love, while continuing to stand for the truth of God’s Word and His design for men and women. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all way to be in conversation with the people in our lives. Each person has different hurts and needs, and each situation carries different levels of risk and consequence. Thus, it is imperative that we listen to God’s leading in each situation and have our conversations in the context of ongoing relationships with people.

The Ministry of Listening

The first way to demonstrate compassion and love to others is to listen, listen, listen. We listen in order to understand those who believe differently and those who are struggling. We listen to people’s stories, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. We ask questions to hear the depths of people’s hearts. As trust is built, we can also ask questions to give friends the opportunity to give deeper thought to the experiences and pain that led to their confusion.

After listening, we affirm their openness and honesty. We acknowledge their pain, and we grieve with them over their hurts. All ongoing relationships are built on the sharing of ourselves. In listening, we communicate the message, You are worthwhile, and your story is important. In this world of confusion and destructive voices, this message is a healing balm to the soul.

Sharing Your Story

As we grieve with others, we can also ask permission to share our own story. Share your story of struggle—whatever the struggle—and how God intervened and brought healing and hope. All of us have struggled at some point with whether or not to believe what the world says about us or to choose to believe what God says. Your story of choosing to believe God is your testimony of healing. Always, though, be ready to listen first, and speak later.

Loving through Action

The second way to act in love is to serve, serve, serve. Practice the art of service. All of us are longing for love and acceptance, and God will not take away a legitimate need for love. Instead, God wants to show all people how to truly have that need met. We can begin to meet those needs for love by serving people. Take a meal, share vegetables from your garden, babysit, help with a home improvement project, and so on. Show love through action.

Keep in Mind

Of course, while we are actively showing love, we can also draw boundaries so as to not participate in advancing the confusion. For example, have a weekly coffee date with your gender-confused friend, but explain that you cannot help take him to doctor visits for his transition surgery. In these cases, we must remember it is not loving to encourage friends to continue down a path that will lead to more hurt and confusion or that will take them further from God’s design and plan for their lives.

We must also keep in mind that the people we interact with are not the enemy. Rather, they are confused and deceived by our real enemy, Satan. Our response to a confused individual can further the deception or shine a light into their lives. Our goal in all our interactions is to speak life so that others may know the love of God.

Walt’s Story

Walt Heyer, a former transgender with a powerful testimony of Christ’s redemption in his life, recently shared his own experience with us. Years after his own transition surgery, Walt, living as a woman, began seeking God and answers for his personal life. He began to look for a church. The pastor of the first church he visited told him, “We don’t want your kind here.” As you can imagine, Walt was devastated—but still, he tried again. Before attending the second church, he met privately with the pastor. Walt explained his situation. “You won’t try to change me, will you?”

The pastor thoughtfully responded, “No, Walt. I won’t try to change you.  My job is to love you.  It’s God’s job to change you, and don’t be surprised if He does.” That pastor had Walt write down his prayer requests every week so that the church elders and leaders could consistently pray for him. The church walked closely in relationship with Walt as he continued to seek God and work through personal issues in intense therapy. Walt eventually de-transitioned and has been walking out his God-given gender identity as a man for over 20 years.

Walt’s story could have easily turned out differently, but this church was committed to engaging in life-giving relationship with him as he sought after God. We want people to be drawn into relationship with their Creator so they may ultimately discover who God created them to be.

First Guiding Principle

To listen and serve is to show love and compassion for individuals in our lives. As we act in love, we also continue to stand for truth. Our first guiding principle in standing for truth is to remember that language matters. We want to always default to the biblical language of sex and gender when we speak to others. It is important to have a basic understanding of the world’s terms, but we want to remember to use the life-giving language of God’s design. Occasionally, we may also need to speak in the world’s terms, especially if our listener isn’t yet able to hear the fullness of truth. Listen to God’s leading in these areas, especially in the area of pronoun use, with a goal of continued conversation.

Second Guiding Principle

The second guiding principle we use is that safety for all is our goal. This is how we can approach all issues surrounding bathroom and locker room use, sex-specific sports and activities, and the like. We want everyone to be and feel safe in their environment. We want to stand for policies that protect all people, and we want to engage in conversation to ensure understanding. Male and female bodies are different, and intense hormone use doesn’t necessarily change those differences. We can encourage safety for all and work towards policies that support that goal.

Acting in love while standing for truth is a delicate balance, but it is necessary in our confused and fallen world. It is not compromising to show love to an individual while opposing a policy. And it is not unloving to stand for a policy that protects truth while serving someone who disagrees with a particular policy.

 Offering Refuge

Many struggling with gender confusion are struggling with a sense of belonging. Many are struggling because they have been so deeply hurt that they want to be someone else in order to let go of the pain. These individuals need our compassion and our unconditional love. We desire to be a place of safety and refuge, that they may be able to find a way to face the hurts, bring their pain to Jesus, and find full healing at the Cross. Remember, it is our job to love people. It is God’s job to change people. Prayerfully be expectant that He can and that, in time, He will.

Speaking Life

Having life-giving conversations with anyone takes time. We need to be prepared to spend the time to speak life into to the lives of those  around us. We must be ready to invest our time and resources into the lives of those who struggle. Our ability to listen and serve and our capacity to sow life-giving truth and grace-filled words bring the hope and healing of Jesus to those we meet. May we be available and ready when God calls us to speak life.

This article is the third in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churchesPart 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 2

confusionYOU are an image-bearer. Have you ever paused to consider this weighty theological truth?  Men and women have been given the most profound honor in all of creation: we are created to bear the image of God. We bear God’s image—who He is and how He interacts with the world—in our spirits, souls, and in our bodies as male and female. The enemy is working hard to remove God’s image from the earth by bringing about much confusion regarding gender and sexuality. As image-bearers, we have the privilege of speaking truth into this confusion. We can also take life-giving steps to bless and affirm the God-given gender identity of the children and teenagers in our spheres of influence.

Message #1: Gender is a Social Construct

In order to have life-giving conversations, it is helpful to understand a little of the world’s thinking. We interact with it every day. Overall, the world is communicating three messages. First, gender is a social construct. In other words, gender is a concept created and constructed by people. This philosophy is nothing new. It has been taught in women’s studies courses for decades, but it is now emphasized among mainstream educators and taught as early as kindergarten.

Message #2: Gender is Based on Feelings

Second, the world says that gender is based on feelings, interests, and passions and is defined by each individual. Thus, we have people who identify as “transgender.” Their thoughts, feelings, and interests are classified according to what has historically been assigned to the “other” gender, not the one associated with their physical bodies.  It’s also a perfect confluence of self-determination and post-modern thinking. There is no objective truth—my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth. Each of us creates that truth on our own, including the truth about our own gender. As a result, there are now 57 genders to choose from on Facebook in the United States.

Disconnected

Much of our culture is working with the misguided idea that gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction are all independent parts of a person’s makeup. These different areas of a person’s life are all considered to be completely separate from one another. They are based on feelings and completely changeable from day to day. This means that every day, people are choosing whether they feel feminine or masculine. They are deciding how much cultural femininity or masculinity they want to express through clothes, hairstyle, etc. They are selecting how much of their physical female-ness or male-ness they want to exhibit, and whether they sense attraction to men or women.

Message #3: Gender Doesn’t Matter

Third, the world says gender ultimately doesn’t matter. In the end, men and women are interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. The ultimate goal of this line of thinking is androgyny, a world where humans are indistinguishable from one another. Distinction is removed, and the two meld into one. Thus, we have people identifying as “gender fluid” or “queer,” believing that they don’t belong to either gender.

The Truth of God’s Design

The truth, in contrast, is that gender is created by God, gender is defined by God, and distinction between men and women-and unity within marriage-are an intentional act of God.  We believe that God reveals and imparts our complete identity to us at the moment of creation through our embodiment as man or woman. The creation and definition of our identity rests in God’s design, not ours. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the ultimate goal of unity with distinction is shown to the world: two become one, while still remaining two.

Navigating the Chaos

Bottom line, the world’s thinking is rooted in contradiction and chaos. The world is trying to make sense of feelings and experiences while rejecting the truth of God’s design and revelation. Our children and teenagers are encountering this contradiction and chaos daily. Now as a parent of teenagers myself, the topic of gender comes up nearly every day. I am often corrected on the particular pronouns of choice by my daughter’s friends. “Mom, that person is a ‘they’.” Another friend chooses the pronoun “he” when “his” body is definitely a she. While God imparts our gender identity at creation, we also must embrace and grow into that given identity. As parents and mature adults, we can help children and teenagers in our sphere of influence do the same.

Connect Children with Their Bodies

The following tools can help build a solid foundation of blessing and affirming their God-given gender identity. First, within the context of family, we can connect children with their bodies. We can connect children with their male-ness or female-ness. Intentionally call them “son” or “daughter” and “boy” or “girl.” Teach children about their bodies and help them see how their bodies are called good by God. Teach the correct names for body parts and how to protect their bodies from misuse and abuse. This first may require overcoming our own shame about our bodies.

Encourage children to understand how their particular body works, what it does well, what it needs more help doing. Remind boys that their body is distinctive and different from a girl’s and how to take care of all the parts of their body. Remind girls that their body is distinctive and different from a boy’s and how to care for their unique body. Most of all, make your family the place children learn about their bodies. Then when they have questions, they know they can come to moms and dads to ask those questions.

Connect Children with Biblical Gender

Second, we connect children with biblical gender, with special focus on the gender that gives them identity. That is, we help all children do masculine things and express feminine traits. We also make sure boys find connection and identity in the true masculine while helping girls find connection and identity in the true feminine. Families are the first place this type of connection is formed. However, the church family and friends also participate in this connection-building.

Affirming Boys

Help boys find connection to the true masculine. Encourage and affirm them in their strength of character, their willingness to stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and their reaching out to others in relationship. Remind them they are “men of God” and name them as “sons of God.”  Make sure to build up this connection without diminishing their capacity to express the true feminine.

For example, when a young man plays a beautiful piano piece for the offering at church, thank him afterward for the strength of his playing. When a sensitive young man in youth group expresses grief over injustice at his school, commend him for calling out the truth of the situation and his desire to protect those who are vulnerable.

Affirming Girls

Help girls find connection to the true feminine. Encourage and affirm their ability to be at peace in the midst of tough times, their willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word into their hearts, and their capacity to live without anxiety about relationships. Name them “daughters of God” and remind them they are “women of God.” Build the connection without diminishing their ability to express the true masculine.

For example, when a young woman comes to church dressed in an androgynous style, compliment the beauty of her spirit and the tenderness of her dealings with others. When you notice a young woman speaking up regularly in Bible Study, commend her for her willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word in her heart. In all these situations, we build up people’s connection to their gender identity, while still allowing them to express characteristics of the other as they grow into full image-bearers.

Connect Children with Distinctions

Third, we encourage and affirm distinctions that arise from the differences between men and women. Take notice and talk about the different ways men and women think, feel, and behave because of their embodiments as male and female. Be aware of our cultural biases here, however. It can be helpful for children to find connection to things that fall into a cultural norm to encourage a sense of belonging, but we must avoid extremism. Toys, activities, clothes, hairstyles, and interests don’t inherently have gender, even though our culture often associates these things with a particular gender. Girls can like sports, and boys can like music without it meaning anything about their gender or sexual identity. Still, girls will do sports differently than boys; boys will do music differently than girls.

Continuing the Conversation

These tools can provide an environment that affirms children in identity and reduces the risk of confusion. They are, unfortunately, not a guarantee. As parents, we strive to fill our children’s hearts with the truth of God. We help them learn to nurture that truth, protecting it from interference from the world until it can bear fruit. We connect to a church body that helps continue this process, helping us teach and train our children in the truth of God’s Word. However, at some point, we all have to let our children move out from under our protection to protect and nurture the truth themselves. As our children mature, they are ultimately responsible for their own relationship with God and their own understanding of God’s Word. We continue to have ongoing, life-giving conversations with our children even after this point. We encourage a biblical understanding of gender and identity, directing them always to God’s design for their lives.

Our world is slipping further and further into gender and sexual confusion. It is now even more important that we have a grasp on what the world is thinking and understand God’s design for us as men and women. Within our families and churches, we must bless and affirm biblical gender and have ongoing, life-giving conversations about gender and sexuality. We need to have discussions about what it means to be God’s image-bearers in the world. These conversations will equip us and our children to have life-giving conversations with those in our communities. Our children are image-bearers of God. Let us as parents and the Body of Christ strive to impart this understanding into their hearts. May fully live as God has designed them, each one.

This article is the second in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churches. Part 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 1

biblical genderMy first memories of being taught about gender and gender roles are from early elementary school. It was the 1970’s, and Marlo Thomas and friends had released a record album and TV special, Free to Be You and Me. The messages of the songs and skits were designed intentionally to teach children to reach beyond the gender stereotypes of earlier decades and pursue whatever interests we felt would fit our particular personalities.

While some of the individual messages of the songs and skits contained some important truths, the overall message of the work was to encourage an unbiblical, post-modern gender neutrality. We were to understand that men and women are basically the same, and any differences we may see or experience are not to be turned into generalizations about either sex. What I learned was that a woman can do anything a man can do, and a man should be able to do anything a woman can do as well.

Defining My Womanhood

As I grew and became a teenager, this message seemed to be confirmed by my life experience. I was a girl who loved Star Wars, enjoyed math, excelled at school, preferred my Industrial Arts class over Home Economics, and generally got along with boys more than girls. There were more boys who shared my interests, and I struggled with the drama of junior high and high school girl relationships.

Even with all these traditionally male interests, however, I never questioned my own sexuality or gender identity. I was a girl who had a specific set of interests, but I was definitely a girl. (The teachings of the world had not yet reached the fevered pitch of today, where feelings and interests are taken to imply a specific gender identity.) I knew that my passions, interests, and giftings ultimately did not define my womanhood. And yet, I didn’t fully understand what did define my womanhood.

Feelings Versus God’s Design

Looking back, I can see God’s hand protecting and guiding my understanding. A biblical understanding of sex and gender does allow for each of us, man or woman, to have interests and passions in any arena. But those interests and passions, those feelings, are not what gives us our identity as a man or woman. Our identity is found only in God’s design for our lives, how God has created us to bear His image in the world.

Biblical Gender

In order to continue this conversation, we must first agree on some definitions. We use the term sex to describe the physical distinctions between our male and female bodies. We use the term gender to describe the categories of behavior and being—masculine and feminine . God is spirit and does not have a body; therefore, God is not male or female.  However, we do see God exhibit gender; we see God exhibit both masculine and feminine qualities.

Based on what we have seen in Scripture, we define what is truly masculine as the power to act. God demonstrates the true masculine in many ways, including the ordering of chaos in creation (Genesis 1:1-10) and the initiating of relationship with us through Jesus (Romans 5:6-8). Furthermore, we define what is truly feminine as the capacity to be. God reveals to us the true feminine in multiple ways, including resting in peace after creating all things (Genesis 2:1-3) and comparing himself to a mother who nurtures her children (Isaiah 49:15).

Image-Bearers

Genesis recounts for us that God created all humans in His image, both male and female. Each man is a full image-bearer of God, and each woman is also a full image-bearer of God. We each bear God’s image in the deepest part of our being—our spirits. Because we each bear God’s image in our spirits, all humans—male and female—will exhibit both masculine and feminine characteristics.   In fact, in relation to God, we all behave in feminine ways, receiving the Word of truth in our hearts and minds, responding to the relationship that God initiates with us. Additionally, each of us must protect and guard the truth in our hearts so we may stand firm against deception, exercising true masculine strength.

Distinction on Purpose

Still, God’s intention for distinction within creation and especially humanity is clear.  He could have chosen to create just one type of body —an androgynous human that would be like any other human in every way. But that’s not what God did. God created two distinct and different types of persons: male and female. God created us male and female in order to reveal even more fully who God is and how God acts in relationship.

Since we believe God’s creative act is intentional, it follows that our physical bodies reflect a deeper truth about our spirits and souls. That is, knowing God’s character, the decision to make two different types of bodies implies that the male-female distinction extends into our spirits; it is not only a distinction in body. It also encompasses our souls–the connection between body and spirit; home to our emotions, thoughts and decision-making abilities.  Thus, a person with a male body—genetically XY—is fashioned with  a male spirit and soul, and a person with a female body—genetically XX—is created with  a female spirit and soul.

Body, Soul, Spirit

A male body encounters the world differently than a female body, due to physical differences. Likewise, a male soul will think, experience emotions, and make decisions differently than a female soul. Finally, a male spirit needs to be connected to masculine traits to find identity as a man, and a female spirit needs to be connected to feminine traits to find identity as a woman. We encourage males to connect to their ability to initiate relationship, move in strength, and stand for truth in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit. Likewise, we encourage females to nurture beauty and be receptive and nurturing in relationship with others in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit.

Fully Bearing God’s Image

In order to fully reflect the image of God, however, we make sure that these connections are not to the exclusion of the other; that is, a male is also created  to exhibit feminine traits, and a female to also exhibit masculine ones. For example, a male can and should initiate relationship and stand for truth (the true masculine) while also being receptive and nurturing to others and being able to rest (the true feminine). Likewise, a female can and should be receptive and nurturing while also showing strength, standing for truth, and protecting others.  The encouragement of one type of trait does not mean we overlook or dismiss the other.

True Woman’s Lib

For me, this understanding means that I can acknowledge the differences between men and women while also acknowledging that we each can do whatever it is God has gifted us to do. I am a woman because God has created me with a female body, soul, and spirit, and it is good to be a woman. I act in both feminine and masculine ways, but I do those things as a female. To be a woman of God is to bear God’s image into the world through my femaleness.

This is true woman’s liberation! To know that I am perfectly and fully loved as a daughter of the Most High King; to know that I can fully bear God’s image in the world; to know that God has gifted me specifically to do the work designed for me and my gifts; and to do all this through my femaleness, as a woman. May God grant us each the strength and wisdom to stand firm in the truth and lovingly share it with those around us. May we truly and fully bear God’s image in our manhood or womanhood, as God has created each one. May we truly be free to be you and me.

This article is the first in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churchesPart 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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