Voices Q & A: Leaving and Grieving

leaving and grieving

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

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

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

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

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Outlawing Gender Integration in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Voices: Above the Noise

Above the Noise

The loudest voice always wins, right? At least that seems to be the reality of my three young children at home. Whomever talks the longest and the loudest, drowning out the others, engages the attention of Mom or Dad. It’s like a verbal game of dog pile. It makes for a chaotic scene at dinner time.

There is also a shouting match going on in culture, and it seems the loudest voices are winning. (We are not among them.) “If we can just declare our message loud enough and long enough—literally in a protest or figuratively through social media—we will capture people’s attention. They will begin to hear us and believe us because we are the only voice they hear.”

Our Silenced Voice

Our voice at Outpost Ministries, and other ministries like ours, may not be very loud in culture or in the public square. There are others who have more money, more power, and more opportunities to amplify their voice. Even when we do speak, many don’t even want to listen. (Sadly, in some cases, not even in the Church). Like a child closing his eyes, plugging his ears, and singing at the top of his lungs, they refuse to hear our stories. And they try to silence us, like with California’s Bill AB 2943. Or by suspending us from Facebook discussions. Or by removing our testimonies of transformation from YouTube.

Thankfully, we don’t need to win the shouting match. Don’t get me wrong, we still speak up. We share our stories. We continue to teach, train, and equip with the authority God has granted us. And we don’t stop offering encouragement and hope to those who are broken and hurting. But our voice doesn’t have to be the loudest to have an impact.

Above the Noise

After all, the voice of God is at times still and small, like a whisper, and yet it can be heard above the noise. It’s heard by those who are listening for Him, seeking Him. That same voice has the authority to speak light—and all of creation—into existence, just by His very Word. That voice has the power to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim freedom to captives, to transform lives.

We are trying a new segment in the Outpost News (which will also be posted here), aptly named Voices. At times it may be a simple Q & A, a concise testimony, or a short reflection. It’s our way of using our voice to bring a clearer message to those who are sorting through the noise. We want to reach the ones intent on hearing the truth, listening for God’s wisdom, and looking for encouragement. Ultimately, we want our voice to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ to anyone willing to listen. After all, to whom shall we go? His voice alone has the words of eternal life.

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I’m Invited to a Same-Sex Wedding. Yes or No?

Same-Sex WeddingLet each be fully persuaded in his own mind. —Romans 13:5

There’s an ongoing buzz in the Christian community over whether or not believers should attend same-sex weddings. As buzz goes, this one’s awfully relevant, as more of us are facing this dilemma. Do I accept the invitation, even though I don’t believe in same sex marriage, or decline and risk alienating someone I deeply love?

As the old song goes, “Everybody’s talkin’.” Stephen Arterburn of New Life Ministries blogged at the Huffington Post that Jesus would definitely say yes to such an event, so we should go and do likewise. John Shore over at Crosswalk.com seems to agree, comparing refusal to attend a gay wedding to the sin of having a Pharisee’s attitude. Free Bible Study Lessons.com likewise says that we should accept the invitation, unless one or both of the partners getting married claims to be a Christian, in which case we should decline, while Candice Watters at Boundless.org gives the whole thing a thumbs down, claiming it’s unloving to condone what God condemns. Got Questions.org takes the same position as Watters: yes on loving gay friends and family; no on going to their weddings.

To cut to the chase, let me say that’s my position as well. A few years ago I wrote an article for The Christian Research Journal titled “Should Christians Attend Same-Sex Weddings?” (Click here to order the issue.) In this two-part piece, Rev. Michael F. Ross, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church of America, took the “pro” position, arguing that he would attend a gay wedding provided both parties knew where he stood Biblically on homosexuality, as a show of love and respect. For my part, I voted “con,” contending that attendance at a wedding is a conscious and intentional act of celebration, not just a show of support, and therefore not a legitimate option unless you believe the wedding itself is a good thing. The article showed, along with those mentioned above, that even conservative believers are divided on this question. So I’d like to take some space today to better explain where I stand, and why.

Let’s do so by looking at the issue through the eyes of those getting married, then through the eyes of the believer, then the eyes of God, whose perspective trumps all else.

TRY TO SEE IT THEIR WAY

One of my favorite lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” In other words, a person can joke about something he’s never experienced, showing a huge lack of respect or empathy. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to make light of someone else’s feelings, whether I agree with them or not, and that’s doubly true if I have to make decisions they might find to be hurtful. And clearly, the decision not to attend a loved one’s wedding qualifies as one of those tough ones.

Try looking at it from the couple’s perspective. They’re no doubt in a relationship that’s very serious, very committed. Before deciding on marriage, they’ve thought the issue through, considered the way they feel about each other, weighed the nature and value of their relationship, and decided to form a union they hope will last a lifetime.

Yes, by Biblical standards, they’re wrong; the wedding itself is a ceremony solemnizing something that in God’s sight cannot be called a marriage. But to the couple involved (and to your loved one in particular, be that loved one a child, sibling, cousin or even parent) it’s dead serious, a joyful milestone they’re anticipating and wanting to share with the people they love the most.

They probably know you are a Bible-believing Christian who doesn’t condone homosexuality. But they’re also hoping you’ll put that aside for the sake of sharing their joy, supporting them in love, and being there for them because of who they are to you, despite what you believe. For them, this is a life changing event, one of their most significant moments, and having you there would mean so much.

A “Sorry, Cannot Attend” RSVP will almost certainly be hurtful, possibly devastating, and may in fact sound a death knell to your relationship with this person. Don’t underestimate that when considering how you’re going to respond.

SO WHY NOT ‘YES’?

Let’s look first at the believer’s relationship to either non-believers or to believers involved in ongoing, deliberate, significant sin.

Regarding non-believers, there’s nothing in Scripture indicating we shouldn’t have relationships with them. Jesus associated freely and notoriously with people of all sorts—notorious sinners like prostitutes and tax collectors included—showing no compunction about enjoying their company and being among them. (See for example Matthew 9:9-12; Matthew 11:19; Mark 2:16-17; Luke 15: 1-2; Luke 19:7.)

The question, then, is not whether we should have good relations with gay or lesbian family members. We can, should, and probably will. What’s at issue here is attendance at a wedding ceremony, ostensibly approved of and rejoiced over by those who come to it. Attendance means, to my thinking, more than loving support for the person(s) involved. It also means an offer of approval and blessing.

There’s the catch, and it’s not minor. Celebrating a loved one’s sin is a serious matter, no matter how deep the love or how important the loved one. To attend a wedding is to offer explicit support for the event itself, and that would constitute violation of Paul’s clear instructions to the Ephesians to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11), and his advice to Timothy to “neither be partakers of other men’s sins.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

Paul’s choice of wording here is not accidental. A “partaker,” according to the Strong’s translation of the Greek term involved, is “one who shares, partners, or comes into association with another’s activities.” And that makes attending a wedding you don’t really believe in very problematic indeed.

The question, then, boils down to this: Can I attend a homosexual wedding without making a clear statement of support, not only for the people involved, but for their union itself? Does my attendance constitute friendship and love only, or does it not also testify to approval and outright celebration?

I’d say it expresses approval, not just love. That’s what I believe attendance at a wedding always does, making it impossible for me to in good conscience show up.

For most other events involving a homosexual family member, showing up is an option. If there’s a party my family member comes to, my attendance is a statement of my love for him and others, not one of approval for this one part of his life. If we get together under virtually any other circumstances, I see no conflict with scripture or conscience. But to attend his ceremony would be to say, by my very presence, “I bless and support not only these people, but this event.” And that’s just too much.

It would also be too much if a Christian friend of mine asked me to attend his wedding if he united with a non-believer, in clear violation of 2 Corinthians 6:14. To be there would be tantamount to saying “I bless this” when, in fact, I couldn’t. Nor could I show up for the wedding of a Christian friend who dumped his wife for totally unscriptural reasons, then latched onto a younger model. Because an event is involved at which attendance equals approval. I see no way around this. If a thing is wrong, no matter how deeply bonded I am to the person involved, then while I’m allowed to love and interact with him, I cannot participate in anything expressing approval or support of the wrongdoing itself.

Some have raised the question of attending a wedding for two people who lived together prior to marrying, but that’s not a good comparison to make, since the wedding would be a correction, not a continuation, of the problem.

Others have suggested that if we attend non-believer’s weddings we’re condoning something that’s not Christ-centered, so why not attend a gay wedding as well?

Because the thing itself—a marriage between man and woman—is still inherently good, and worth celebrating. After all, I would gladly attend the commencement ceremony of a non-Christian college graduate because, even if he’s not living a Christ-centered life, his achievement is a good thing in and of itself. The same cannot be said for a marriage which is, in form and practice, clearly outside God’s will. So as hard as it may be to refuse, I still believe it reasonable to simply say, “I would never ask you to do something you don’t believe in, nor would I make that a litmus test of your love for me. So please don’t make this a litmus test of my love for you, either. We have a relationship; let’s keep it and respect our differences.”

BUT WHERE’S THE LOVE?

Despite all this some Christians feel it’s better to attend and maintain the bond, than to refuse coming and jeopardize a family relationship. I’m sympathetic to that viewpoint. If there’s any way to avoid a breach in the family, without violating our own conscience, then I’m all for it.

But in this case I just don’t see any wiggle room. Jesus’ own reference to marriage was unequivocal: “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female? For this cause man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

The standard is clear: He who made them from the beginning created the martial bond to be independent, permanent and heterosexual. Removing the complimentary nature of it makes it something else—a committed relationship, perhaps, and one in which both parties love each other deeply. But not, per Biblical standards, a marriage. I simply can’t shake the conviction that attendance at a ceremony attempting to revise this standard is complicity in the revision itself, qualifying for the warning God issued through Jeremiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

That’s why I could not attend a same-sex wedding. If I were invited, I would probably say, feeling both sadness and conviction:

I would never ask you to do something which would violate your conscience. Please don’t ask me to violate mine. We have differences, but I hope and pray those differences won’t come between us as people, and that we can both respect each other enough to allow each other’s need to follow our conscience and principles.

So for what it’s worth, that’s where I’ve landed and, as Paul recommended in the verse from Romans quoted above, I’m fully persuaded, so that’s where I’ll stay.

This article was originally posted at joedallas.com and was reposted by permission. Copyright by Joe Dallas.

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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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Loving Your (LGBTQ) Neighbor as Yourself

serving

I am often asked at speaking engagements how to share the gospel with the LGBTQ community. My answer: the same way you would share with anyone else. One of the best ways to win souls in the LGBTQ community is to first build relationship with them and then pray for opportunities to share your faith.

Four Truths for Engagement

Here are four truths to help you engage with LGBTQ individuals:

  • Loving does not meaning condoning. Serving someone in love does not mean that you are in agreement with every area of their life.
  • It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin, not yours. (What a relief!) Your job is simply to introduce them to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do what He loves to do—conform us to the image of Christ.
  • Gay people need Jesus way more than they need heterosexuality. Remember, it is only in relationship with Jesus that we are changed from the inside out.
  • Serve others. The most powerful thing I have found in reaching out to the LGBTQ community is service—being Jesus to them with skin on.
Four Practical Ideas for Loving

Here are four practical ways to love your LGBTQ neighbors:

  • Buy your gay co-worker a coffee on your way to work. (I actually know a story of a lesbian who was brought into the Kingdom because her Christian co-worker brought her a latte.)
  • Invite your gay neighbor over for dinner or bake them cookies.
  • Write out an encouraging note and give it to this person. (Make sure to listen to the Holy Spirit as you write. God will give you His heart for this person!)
  • Shovel their sidewalk! (Or, if you live in a more temperate climate, help them out with yard work.)

There are many ways to reach out to those who need Jesus. I pray you are inspired to generously love the LGBTQ people around you. Love wins souls!

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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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Turning Hearts

Elijah CompanyElijah Company is Outpost’s prayer and support group for parents, family and friends of loved ones who are overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions, struggling with gender confusion or who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning).

A former staff member began the group in 2013 when he noticed a great area of need remaining unmet. Parents were taking our introductory Foundations of Healing class, but they were left with no other ongoing support and encouragement for the unique and painful challenges they were facing within their families. More often than not, they did not experience church as a safe place to open up.

Turning Hearts

The name Elijah Company is based upon Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents . . .” (NIV). Part of God’s strategy in preparing his Bride before His return is bringing restoration to the family, and we believe it begins by turning the hearts of the parents.

Loving Wisely, Standing Firmly

Elijah Company (affectionately referred to as EC) seeks to equip participants to love wisely and stand firmly on God’s Word. EC weekly meetings focus on praying for one another, with the goal of family restoration, healing and reconciliation. The group is designed to build an authentic community of intercessors and create a place of refuge, support and encouragement. One EC participant wrote, “The support from Elijah Company leadership and families has sustained us. Our family covets the weekly prayers over us and for all of us battling this worldview.”

Elijah Company South

Four years later, Elijah Company is still going strong here at our main location in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with another group running at our Outpost North location in Brainerd, Minnesota. This October, we will begin an additional Elijah Company South in the Southwest Metro Area! A church with a heart for the ministry of Outpost and to be a safe place is partnering with us to host the group. It will be led by EC participants Al and Susan who have remained closely connected to the ministry.

A Mother’s Heartache

Susan shares some of her first thoughts after her son came out as gay: “’Who will really understand how I feel? Who will hand me the Kleenex when I just can’t hold the tears back any longer? Who will totally support my decision to not agree with the lifestyle my son has chosen to live? Who will pray for me by my name? Who will pray for my son by name, that his heart would turn solely to the Lord and away from his homosexual activities? There’s got to be some individuals who have not bought into the lie that God says this lifestyle is acceptable. There’s got to be others who are experiencing the heartache I feel.’”

She continues, “I did find such a place. I found it at Outpost Ministries. I found it in their Elijah Company group that meets weekly. It’s a group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and neighbors of individuals who are burden by loved ones dealing with homosexual thoughts or actions.

“I have to admit that, at first, going to Elijah Company was painful. I dreaded each week, actually. By attending, I had to admit and face what was happening within my family. I listened to the heartache of others who came and felt their sorrow week after week. I was mentally wiped by the time I reached home.

“However, I was in the midst of great people within the group. I was surrounded by prayer warriors. These people knew how to ‘bring it to the Lord in prayer.’ I could feel God’s presence within the group. There was no doubt to me of His loving presence. I faithfully attended week after week. Then God touched me and assured me that I would find hope, joy, and peace in this group and also within my heart. That indeed has happened. Elijah Company is no longer an activity that I dread to attend. The group is powerful. We share our burdens and our joys, we listen, we teach, we read the Bible, we sing, we pray.”

The Light of Fellowship

Susan’s authenticity is an invitation to others to come out of their painful isolation into the light of fellowship with one another. Join others in passionate intercession for a sister or neighbor to encounter Christ. Anyone interested in attending Elijah Company South must first complete an intake meeting with Outpost ministry staff and complete the Foundations course before joining the group. Contact us through our website or by giving us a call, 763-592-4700, to schedule a meeting. Current Elijah Company participants wanting to meet at the new location can attend the new group once it begins. Contact your EC group leader for details.

We are blessed at how God is growing the reach of Outpost Ministries. Indeed, with the explosion of gender and sexual confusion in our society, especially among young people, there is an increase in the number of parents, families and individuals having to navigate through these issues. Please pray for protection for the leaders, new participants and even for the hosting church as we work to get this additional group off the ground.

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Declaring “Very Good”

gender neutral signRecently, I led of team of eight people from Outpost to Minot, ND to present our newly assembled Distinctions Conference. The conference trains people in an understanding of God’s image and how to stand for the truth of biblical gender in our culture. It was a huge success!

In prepping for the conference, I was struck by the weightiness of the prophetic word we as a ministry have been called to carry. AND I was struck by the weightiness of the spiritual warfare standing against this word. Friends, it was intense.

The enemy is systematically attempting to erase the image of God from the face of our society. Genesis is clear that the image of God is revealed on the earth as male and female. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26-27). The gender binary is essential for us to know and experience the image of God.

One major retailer’s decision to eliminate “boys” and “girls” signs from its toys and bedding departments makes a bold statement: gender acknowledgement is passé.

Now I admit, there is nothing wrong with little girls playing with stereotypically boys toys and vice versa. However, the larger issue remains: God’s image is being systematically removed from our culture. There are no boys toys, no girls toys, no boys bathrooms and no girls bathrooms. Ultimately, according to the world’s progression, there are no boys and no girls. No boys and girls, no image of God on the earth. This should alarm us as believers.

Without the image of God present to us visibly and experientially, mass confusion ensues. The image of God is worth fighting for and declaring as “very good”!