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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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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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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Linda’s Story: Tranformation of a Transgender

Linda SeilerFrom my earliest memory I wanted to be a boy instead of a girl.

Somehow I just knew that if I had male genitalia, my life would be complete. As a child, I prayed repeatedly for God to make me into a boy and became obsessed with my pursuit. However, I never told my family. Though I was a tomboy growing up, no one ever knew the depth of my struggles. It was my little secret that I kept for decades.

Around fourth grade, I heard about sex reassignment surgeries and vowed I would have the operation as soon as I was old enough and had the money. About the same time, some playmates introduced me to pornography, which developed into sexual addictions that would span the next 20+ years. Unbeknownst to my parents, I would spend hours alone in my room feeding my sexual fantasies, always envisioning myself as the male counterpart rather than the female.

JUNIOR HIGH

In junior high, when all the other girls were interested in makeup and boys, to my horror, I found myself attracted to women—especially older teachers who were strong yet nurturing.

I desperately wanted to be held and comforted by a woman, which then progressed into sexual fantasies. I was distressed by my attractions, but I dared not tell anyone.

Around seventh grade, I started to consider the logistical difficulties of having sex reassignment surgery. Where would I get the money? How would I tell my family? You can’t just be Linda one day and David the next. I considered running away as soon as I reached adulthood to have the surgery without ever telling my family, but I loved my family, and I didn’t want to live without them. I made a conscious decision at that point to try and conform to society’s expectation of me to look more like a girl in order to fit in. But inside, I still longed deeply to be a man, and the attractions to women became increasingly difficult to resist.

GOING THROUGH CHANGES

When my body began menstruation, I could have sworn my life was over. I envied the boys around me whose voices were beginning to change, and I mourned the fact that mine would never change like that. Instead, I had to submit to wearing training bras and being inconvenienced by monthly periods. Being female was a curse, not a blessing.

I committed my life to Jesus during my junior year in high school, but within days, I began doubting my salvation experience because my struggles didn’t go away like I thought they would. Yet, I knew Jesus had done something in my heart, and I wanted to follow Him. I got involved with my church youth group and, for the first time in my life, felt like I had friends who loved me. But the closer I got to females, the more I struggled with my attractions and sexual addictions. I was miserable but couldn’t tell anyone. I tried growing my hair out and even dating guys—thinking that being physical with a boy would “cure” me—but it just made me want to be male all the more. I tried to conform and even wore dresses on special occasions, but inside it always felt like I was wearing a costume, like dressing in drag.

COLLEGE

In college, I got involved with a campus ministry and developed a deeper relationship with God, praying and reading my Bible regularly, even sharing Christ with the lost. I eventually became a student leader despite the fact that I was deeply attracted to women who mentored me and was enslaved to sexual addictions behind closed doors. I hated the double life I was living. At one point, I knelt down on my dorm floor and prayed earnestly for God to please take my transgender desires away, hoping no one would ever know.

My senior year in college, I attended a campus ministry talk on overcoming habitual sin. The speaker quoted James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” stressing how important it is to get your sin in the light in order to be free. I was deeply convicted and knew I had to confess my secret to my campus pastor if I was ever to experience freedom.

It took all the courage in the world to finally tell my campus pastor my lifelong secret I had kept for 21 years. In fact, I seriously considered suicide as a way out, but I knew that would devastate my family, and I couldn’t do that to them. When I finally confided in my campus pastor, I expected him to react with shock, horror, or condemnation because I was a leader in the ministry living a double life. But instead, he responded to me in love, assuring me that he was committed to finding me the help I needed. I couldn’t believe it. I walked away from that conversation with a fresh revelation of God’s grace. I had always felt God hated me and condemned me for my sin. My campus pastor’s reaction was a living illustration of the Father’s heart towards me. For the first time, I discovered that being completely transparent with another person was very healing. I didn’t have to hide anymore.

That day in 1994 was my first step in what would be an eleven-year journey towards freedom.

My campus pastor met with me a few times and eventually connected me with a professional counselor. The next decade was full of ups and downs as I sought healing. I read every book I could find on homosexuality, listened to tapes, attended conferences, and met with multiple counselors from both ex-gay ministries and general Christian counseling. It was a slow process, as there were not a multitude of resources at that time to help women struggling with transgender issues. In fact, well-meaning Christian counselors told me they had seen homosexuals and lesbians set free but never anyone transgender, so I should do my best to cope this side of heaven and know that I will be totally free when I die. Despite their discouragement, the Lord gave me supernatural assurance that He would completely heal me and that the transgender issues would be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I thirsted so deeply for nurture, I seemed to get worse before I got better, falling into sexual immorality with another woman from my church. I eventually repented and broke off that relationship, realizing my fantasy of being a man who slept with women would never fill the deep void in my soul. By God’s grace, I resolved to tug at the hem of His garment and not let go until I experienced the freedom Jesus died to give me.

As I continued to pursue healing, the Lord put a spiritual mother in my life who was only a few years older than I but spiritually much more mature. I was deeply attracted to her, yet she wasn’t phased by my struggles and began to invest in me relationally in a wholesome way. I found myself wanting to be just like her (much like a daughter might want to emulate her mother), so she helped me buy more feminine clothes and gave me advice concerning makeup and mannerisms. My outward appearance began to change, but inwardly, I still believed the lie that it was better to be a man, and I was still battling attractions to women.

In the fall of 2005, the Lord led me to meet with Mark Sandford, an inner healing prayer counselor at Elijah House. Over the course of a week, we spent hours praying through a lifetime of deep emotional wounds that were at the root of my issues. I forgave those who hurt me, let go of bitterness, renounced inner vows, and repented for my wrong responses towards those who had wounded me. I embraced the cross, and we closed every door I had opened to give the enemy legal ground to influence my life. I cried and cried as the Lord spoke graciously to me, and for the first time in my life, I saw a tender, compassionate side to the Father that I wasn’t aware existed. It’s as if I could literally feel His hands holding my heart. My lifelong yearning to be held and comforted by a woman was met in the tender arms of my heavenly Father.

THE NEW ME

After that powerful encounter with God, I had a newfound contentment in being a woman and was set free from my sexual addictions, which were essentially a counterfeit to the comfort I could only find in my Father’s arms. As I continued to walk out my healing, I eventually started experiencing genuine attractions towards men. It was as if I was going through delayed puberty in my mid-thirties, which was both awkward and thrilling to finally experience the mystery of sexuality according to God’s design. God had transformed me from the inside out and accomplished the impossible. I still feel like I’m living a dream!

Linda Seiler

Though I wanted to share my testimony immediately after everything happened in 2005, the Lord had me wait. I see His sovereignty in that now, as I needed time for my healing to be tested and to prepare me for the warfare that lay ahead. I stayed silent for eight years until the Lord gave me the green light to go public upon my eighth-year anniversary of freedom, a “new beginning” of sorts. I am finally coming out of the closet in a redemptive way, sharing my story with others to bring hope and restoration. I’m grateful for all the pastors, counselors, faithful friends, and especially my supportive parents who walked with me during the healing process. The eleven-year journey towards transformation was totally worth it. The length of the journey itself has given me empathy for those who are currently struggling to break free from similar issues and sometimes feel hopeless. Healing from sexual brokenness is rarely instantaneous—it’s more like peeling back layers of an onion one at a time—but if we will hold fast to the truth of God’s Word and determine never to give up, we will experience transformation to the point that the sin which once characterized our lives ceases to dominate us. God promised: such were some of you (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Outpost Ministries is grateful for Linda as a co-laborer in God’s Kingdom and for sharing her story. Check out more of Linda’s resources and pictures of her transformation at www.lindaseiler.com

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Blown Away

testimony

The following testimony is from a Joshua Fellowship participant after completing the Holy Aggression Masculinity Course at the end of last summer:

I went into the [weekend retreat] expecting, but not expecting much. So now I’m a little blown away and still trying to process the weekend. God met me in an incredible way, speaking to me at every turn. The weekend felt like it was the culmination of the last year God has been working in me finally coming to fruition. 

From the start, I could tell there were people praying for us. I had asked a few friends and family to pray for me throughout the weekend, but [I] could feel that there were more. People I do not even know had set an atmosphere, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

 I found out a lot about myself and how I cope under adversity. I make compromises, and that is what has gotten me here in the first place. I came face to face with my passive self, really putting words to what had been just a vague concept. That allowed me to confront it, to take it down.

 All the while, I was having fun working with other men as broken as I am. After the weekend, I really feel like I am part of the community. I do not just feel hopeful for change, I feel changed. I have come to an understanding of what brotherly love looks like that has been so foreign to me in the past. I am so glad I committed to this summer. It works if you work it. It’s worth it.

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Staying the Course

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

Speedy Justice

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

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

Biblical Justice

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

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

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

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

Not a Formula

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

Discerning God’s Voice

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

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

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

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

Corporate Prayer

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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Confronted at the Cross

In August, I had the pleasure of taking 15 young men into the wilderness to confront their false ways of relating to God and to others. At the cross, they were able to crucify their false selves and enter into the truth of who God created them to be as men. It is always a profound time of watching God move. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year!  I wanted to share with you part of a testimony from a young man who attended the “confront” (our word for  “retreat”):

I went into the confront expecting, but not expecting much. So now I’m a little blown away and still trying to process the weekend. God met me in an incredible way, speaking to me at every turn. The weekend felt like it was the culmination of the last year God has been working in me finally coming to fruition.

From the start, I could tell there were people praying for us. I had asked a few friends and family to pray for me throughout the weekend, but you could feel that there was more. People I do not even know had set an atmosphere, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

I found out a lot about myself and how I cope under adversity. I make compromises, and that is what has gotten me here in the first place. I came face to face with my passive self, really putting words to what had been just a vague concept. That allowed me to confront it, to take it down.

All the while, I was having fun working with other men as broken as I am. After the weekend, I really feel like I am part of the community. I do not just feel hopeful for change, I feel changed. I have come to an understanding of what brotherly love looks like that has been so foreign to me in the past. I am so glad I committed to this summer. It works if you work it. It’s worth it.

Thanks for praying for these young men.  They are feeling your prayers!

 

True Endurance

Teenagers are crazy. I’m probably just as crazy to supervise, of my own free will, an all-night lock-in with a few dozen of them. Any youth worker will tell you, the infamous “youth lock-in” is a program from the pits of purgatory to sanctify us and test our endurance.

enduranceTrue Endurance

As Christians, youth worker or not, we all need a lot of endurance. There is so much in our culture, society, and personal lives that tries to pull us down. Maybe we put down our guard for just a second, and all of sudden, we start to believe lies and accusations. Maybe we follow temptation into sin. Even if we are a super-saint, we still can get walloped with external disappointments and setbacks.

When this happens we might question, “Was my breakthrough even real? How can I carry on in victory and not start back from square one?” This is what true endurance is about.  It’s not only about standing tall when the world is pulling you down, but  it’s also about standing up again and again after you’ve landed flat on your back.

My Healing Story

Hebrews 12:3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” For now, let’s just focus on that last line: so you will not grow weary and lose heart.

My own healing story, like most, has turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. I first joined programming at Outpost during my last college semester before going overseas. I figured, “Well, better get this little issue of same-sex attractions (SSA) out of the way before I leave. Three months should be good enough.” It’s been more than three months. I found that SSA was visible on the surface, but like an iceberg, there was so much more underneath. Sometime I have felt like I’m walking in circles, but each time I go deeper—more like a spiral staircase. There were many times I could have said, “I give up. I’m tired of this process.”  But even then, I feel like I have received too much and learned too much to go back.

Fixing My Eyes

The ultimate motivation and inspiration for me in all of this is Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says,  “. . . Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” I am learning what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus.  

Just to clarify when I say Jesus, I don’t mean God the Father, I mean God the Son—Jesus, and the entire theology behind His personhood. Hebrews chapters 4 and 5 tell us about how Jesus endured. He was fully human. Scriptures says how He was tempted in all the ways we are. That means He had no advantage. That really is radical, but it makes sense. If anything, He faced more temptations to sin than we ever will. He was tempted in ways we can’t even imagine. When I fast, I might be tempted to eat bread, but I’m never tempted to turn rocks into bread.

Fighting On

When I’m reminded of how Jesus overcame, it encourages and inspires me. Jesus is not this abstract idea, but since He was flesh and blood, He understands what our struggles are like, and He helps us in them.

I absolutely love the song Love is War by Hillsong Worship. It ties into this idea of not growing weary by fixing eyes on Jesus:

I will fight to follow, I will fight for love

Through my life forever, into the triumph of the Son

Your love has won it all, You took the fall to embrace my sorrow

I know You took the fight, You came and died, but the grave was borrowed

I know You stood again so I can stand with a life to follow in the light of Your name

When I see what Jesus did, how He fought on my behalf, how can I not get up and fight on?

Getting Desperate

The very next verse in Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” If you can’t holla, “Amen!” holla, “Ouch!”

This verse always gets me every time. It reminds me that I’m not stuck. You’re not stuck. We’re not stuck! Even if we’ve failed, there’s more that I can do, there’s more that you can do. We haven’t resisted to the point of death yet!

This is what true endurance is all about: even after failure, we do whatever it takes to press on and overcome. It’s about getting desperate.

I love that word, because “desperation” is not affected by feelings, it’s fueled by need. I can be passionate about something, and I can lose that passion. Desperation stays consistent. I might go to visit the Sahara Desert because I’m passionate about travel, but if I’m stuck in the middle of the Sahara, I will quickly lose that passion. However, my desperation for water will remain the same.

When I’m desperate about seeking after God, His Kingdom and His righteousness, aware of my incredible need for Him, circumstances won’t change that desperation. If things are going well, I desperately need God; if things are terrible, I still desperately need God. For me, that is the foundation of endurance. It’s the reason why I continue to fight on.

A Great Cloud

Fellowship and community is another reason to push on and endure. Hebrews 11:39-40 says, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

That last line is absolutely insane: apart from us they would not be made perfect. Just for the sake of context, “they” is referring to the super-heroes-of-faith-hall-of-fame-all-stars of the Bible. We read in Hebrews chapter 11 about all of these amazing people, their lives of faith and how they endured so much. The chapter ends in saying that all of that was just the prelude to what we can now receive.

They are the same “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews chapter 12. And they are not cheering us on with a polite golf-clap. They are screaming and shouting because our freedom is their freedom. We are a part of the fullness of what God had promised to them. They, just like the rest of us, are waiting for the day that the Bride is ready for her marriage and mystical union with Christ. They finished their race, and are eagerly waiting for us to finish ours.

What a privilege and responsibility it is, living on this side of the cross! I still can’t get over how crazy this passage of scripture is and how it inspires me. I read how these heroes of faith “did not receive what was promised” and “saw promises from far away and welcomed them” (Hebrews 11:13). I read on and find out that they committed their lives, even though they saw that the promise was not to happen in their lifetimes. All they saw was a small glimpse of what was to come through Jesus, but that was more than enough. They knew it would be worth it.

Worthy of It All

A glimpse is what they saw, and it was worth it. A glimpse is what we need because Jesus is so worth it!

Jesus is the only reason I would be doing any of this process. There is no other reason besides Jesus to go through the pain and the work to endure. I’ve tasted and seen God’s love that is better than life (Psalm 63:3), and now I’m wrecked for anything else. I don’t mean that in any cute or romanticized way. Our God is an all-consuming fire. When I think I’ve given Him enough, He demands more. Yet because I’ve seen a glimpse of Him, I see how He is worthy of more than I can ever offer. Just like in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they said that even if God did not save them, they would not bow. I can do nothing else but get up, carry on, and pursue God no matter what.

So let’s continue to persevere and never give up. Keep focused on Jesus. We can endure, and we will overcome. He’s worthy of our sacrifice, our struggle and our strength.

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The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

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Waving the Flag of Surrender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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