Reflecting the Father: the Challenge of Becoming Doers of the Word

Drawing of Little boy watching Father tie his tie in mirror

For New Year’s this year, I went to a formal dinner with friends. Normally I don’t wear ties when dressing up, but this time, I decided I would. I learned how to tie one several years ago and thought I would still remember, but I stood in front of the bathroom mirror for twenty minutes trying. Frustrated, close to running late for the event, and about to nix the tie altogether, I asked my roommate to help me out. He grabbed his own tie and stood next to me in front of the mirror. He tied his tie first as an example. Then he undid his work and began to tie it again–this time slowly so I could follow. Soon, I was out the door in a tie looking just as polished as his. 

This one-on-one, how-to-tie-a-tie tutorial has helped me put in context this passage from James 1:22-25: 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

This passage is a one-on-one, how-to-look-more-like-God instruction manual. Inside is a warning, a command, a challenge, but also hope of a promise.

The Warning: 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. . . For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”  

When we listen to the Word, we acknowledge the Father is speaking to us. Yet sometimes by choice or by becoming distracted, we stay stuck only listening. Taking no forward action, we are really taking a step back from becoming more Christ-like. We forget our fallen condition, and we move on with our life. We look into God’s Word that is confronting us and only think, that’s nice, that’s interesting, I will really think about that later. If we don’t return to this, it’s an action, not of obedience, but of pride. And if that is our mindset, we are only deceiving ourselves that we look like God. When we look like Him, we are representing Him to the world; but when we only think we look like Him, we are simply representing ourselves to the world. God receives no glory from us reflecting ourselves. 

The Command:

“Do what it says”

God’s Word does not compel us into action by obligation or threat of punishment. He is commanding us to take ahold of the abundant life He has given us through Jesus’ work on the cross. He always has our best interest in mind. If God’s Word is perfect, why don’t we simply do what it says? He is trustworthy. His Word is trustworthy. So why do we willingly put on blinders to what God shows us? It’s because this process hurts, and we want to avoid pain. Seeing the distance between our sinfulness and His holiness can be painful. If we chose to change, doing something about this distance is grueling, yet this is the command. We do not labor alone; the Holy Spirit is our helper. He is the only way to make any lasting change. 

The Challenge:

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts. . . “

We are blessed as we stay in His Word, suffering through the process of looking into His Word and surrendering everything that does not look like Him. By His help we can cut away the things that God never intended us to carry around. This can be surrendering our fleshly desires; weeping at how many false things we have added to our own image; feeling the pain of parting with our old self in the mirror. This is also the joy of seeing again the face of the One who died for us. 

Earlier in James, we read, “Count it all joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).”  Facing trials hurts, but each time you partner with the Holy Spirit to become more like Him, you grow in steadfastness and the ability to chisel bigger chunks off next time. This is perseverance. This is accepting the challenge and finding joy in the process.

Wanting to look like Jesus isn’t all boot-camp-during-a-rainstorm-on-an-empty-stomach. Yes, it’s hard work, but this Word–this “law”– that is shaping us isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts that weighs us down, making life miserable. James calls this the “law of liberty.” It frees us from the burdens we carry instead of adds to them; it gets us back to the basics. His yoke–His law–is easy and His burden is light. 

The Promise:

“Blessed in your doing.”

As we partner with God to reflect Him, He promises we will be blessed–not when we finish (though that will be its own blessing)–but as we labor toward holiness. Our efforts are rewarded. The process might be slow, but if we keep at it, we will see change. We will be different. We will look more like Him. As we dive into living out His Word, our words and our actions will more closely mirror His. Jesus told his disciples that He did only what He saw His Father do and said only what His Father said. So will we.

Those around us will also take note of our reflection. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” Acting upon God’s Word isn’t just for the goal of being like him one day. When we begin to act, even our progress–those tiny steps we’ll take–are something God will use to showcase Himself to our communities. 

At the end of the day, tying a Winsor is easy, and cleaning yourself up to look nice on the outside is a breeze. But allowing God to clean your life up is incredibly difficult. We all have areas in our lives that God has spoken into and said, “Let Me help you be set free.” We’ve told Him, “Thanks, but not right now.” We trust Him, but we don’t want to feel the pain of surrender. Yet He commands us to pursue life still. He knows best. So He challenges us to persevere and be honest with Him, ourselves, and those around us. He sees at the end there is blessing and reward–its His to give. He’ll stand back, take a good look at us, and say with a proud, fatherly grin, “looking good.”

(Re)Introducing TCJHOP’s New Head Pastor, Dan P.

Two empty chairs face each other with a table for two with pastry and coffee between

We would like to welcome Dan P. as the Head Pastor of TCJHOP! While many of you have known Dan for years, we thought this would be a great opportunity for everyone to get to know Dan even better (or for the first time). Dan has a Bachelor of Arts from Crown College in Music and Bible (1980) and a Masters in Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary (1986). Previously, he was in the role of Pastor of Ministry Relations. Here is a little Q&A with Dan and Jonathan, the Outpost Director.

Jonathan: Since we are introducing you to members of our Outpost family new and old, what’s something most people don’t know or wouldn’t guess about you?

Dan: “Umm. Coffee? No. Chocolate? No. Uh, well I was a piano performance major in college! Who just happens to love both coffee and chocolate!”

You’ve been a pastor for a long time. How were you first called into ministry?

“I sensed God’s call at around age ten when relatives went overseas as missionaries. That call was strengthened through serving on missions trips in 1975 and 1979. In between, there was always a struggle with my sexuality which pushed me towards greater and greater levels of commitment to Jesus and His service.”

I hear you’ve been at Outpost forever, but how long is forever exactly?

“I heard of Outpost 39½ years ago, and my first visit to Outpost was almost 34 years ago (Jan 1986). I became a regular attender and participant 30½ years ago at the Joshua Fellowship Fourth of July Picnic in 1989. I’ve been on staff for 26 years.”

Who is someone who had a major impact on your life?

“There have been many! But one notable person in regard to my connection with Outpost was Joe Hallett. He was the ministry director at the time I first got involved in Joshua Fellowship. It was through his ‘pestering’ me that the Holy Spirit convinced me to come to work at Outpost Ministries. Joe had an incredible gift of communicating, both through the written and the spoken word. He had a powerful understanding of discipleship when it comes to dealing with our humanity, specifically in regard to our fallenness in our sexuality. He taught me a lot about writing and the important impact of conveying meaning to one’s readers. Writing is work and requires due diligence on many levels and is not limited to fact, grammar, and spell checking! Additionally, words mean different things to different people. To really convey meaning, one must understand his audience and ‘speak their language.’ But mostly Joe was an infectious personality. When he laughed, the whole room erupted in guffaws. When he loved, everyone’s heart was warmed. When he worshiped, not only did we all ‘belt it out with all we had,’ but angels joined the chorus!”

I know you like to joke a lot, so I want to know who or what makes you laugh the most?                    

“One of my mentors typically has a ‘one-liner’ for me as we hug goodbye. His latest: ‘Dan, I like your [brighter-than-snow-white] shoes! Are they new?’”

 As you’ve experienced life and ministry, what is the most important thing you’ve learned about God?

“He does what He says! God is fully integrated, and His Word is His Action is His Identity. He never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. That gives me great confidence in Him. I can trust a Person like that! Combined with His other major attribute of Love, one cannot go wrong in fully depending upon Him. His Justice never changes, either. And Justice and Love combined is the most powerful combination of personal attributes that anyone could ever have. So a God of Justice sees to it that the ones He loves always receive their ‘just desserts’ (truly justified rewards or punishments). Sin deserves punishment. But God loves sinners and therefore allows a substitute to receive the punishment, while simultaneously allowing the sinner who appropriates the punishment to Jesus to go free. On the other hand, Love demands Justice for victims of abuse. If the perpetrator of the abuse is not held responsible and punished for the abuse, the victim then must bear the weight of the abuse himself. That’s unjust. Instead, God Himself, in the form of His Son, Jesus, came to bear the weight of the victim’s abuse and free that victim of that burden. Rarely will a man lay down his life for a friend, yet Jesus laid down His life for His enemies. This is the Gospel!”

Over your years of involvement, what kind of legacy have you seen Outpost leave?

“Outpost has remained true to the Word of God. The importance of this can hardly be overstated. Taken as a whole, the Bible is a cohesive unit, explaining what’s been called the ‘Grand Story of Redemption.’ It explains that homosexual behavior is always sinful in every circumstance without exception. The world hates that message. But the Bible goes on to explain that there is a solution to the sin problem. And that God provided the solution for sin because He so incredibly loves us. He wants to have a relationship with us, and He did all the work to make it happen!”      

What is your hope for Outpost in the future?

Jesus is our Hope. Outpost will cease to exist when Jesus comes. Homosexuality will cease to exist for us when Jesus comes, for there is no marriage in heaven. Life on earth is not easy, never has been, and never will be. It wasn’t designed to be easy. It was designed so that we can choose holiness. When we strive for holiness, a part of our eternal nature, the image of God in us, is revealed. Our flesh weakens that expression of the eternal. But so what? This is just for time, not eternity! Living for Jesus is what matters most in this life.”

What encouragement do you want to share with our readers?

“The power to live for Jesus comes from Jesus. He is our strength, our courage, our faith. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, the life-changing power of Jesus lives through us, setting us free from the bonds of sin.”

Finally, I need to ask my classic ‘youth pastor’ question: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

“Hmmm. X-ray vision? Nah. While improved eyesight would be a marvel, I’d rather have the patience of Job. And it is listed in Galatians as being part of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is ‘super.’ It comes from life in the Spirit. If that would suddenly (see what I mean?) manifest itself in my life, I would gladly and easily put in my eye drops without complaint … every … 15 … minutes!”

                                         

Meet Jonathan, the New Outpost Director

The words The Next Step written in chalk over dusty shoe prints

How, how did I end up here? I mean that in a tone of gratitude and wonder. Some of you reading this already know me, and many of you do not. So, I would like to share my story of how God moved in my life and got me to where I am today.

A Little History

When I first came to do my Outpost intake in the fall of 2012, I never could have imagined that I would be leading this ministry seven years later! In fact, my initial attitude was that I would show up for a few months, get “fixed,” and be on my merry way to overseas ministry. I soon learned that’s not how healing works. I got serious about my own healing in summer of 2013. Throughout that summer, I learned so much about myself and what God wanted to do in me. That fall, I started meeting one-to-one with former Outpost director, Nate O., and really dug deep into my soul. In this process, I started to see how same-sex attraction was a surface level symptom of much deeper wounds I carried. I had so much love, anger, hatred, and ambivalence toward God and others that I needed to work through. As I continued to struggle, grieve, grow, and receive healing, God continued to transform my heart. God used Outpost to save my ministry calling and my relationship with Him. I came to a point where I was even grateful for my struggle. Without it, I wouldn’t have dove so deeply into this inner-healing work, and I would never have experienced this level of intimacy with my Father, His Son, and His Spirit. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this ministry and how God has used its leaders, past and present, to bring so much hope, healing, joy, and peace into my life!

Up until last year, I was content just being a volunteer leader for Joshua Fellowship (our young men’s group). Eventually, I was asked to step into a staff position, Student Ministry Coordinator. Since I had a pretty cushy job working for the state’s Judicial Branch (government benefits are wonderful!), I was hesitant to jump into ministry. During this time, my dad received a prophetic word for me. He said that during a worship service, as they called forward people for full-time ministry, the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart that it was my time to do this. This was a huge healing moment for me and reminded me of God’s heart for the restoration of the family.

Just as I was getting comfortable as the Student Ministry Coordinator, I received an invitation from TCJHOP’s Call Committee to consider taking up the role of Director. After many long and prayerful conversations, I accepted the call. I am humbled yet excited to be in this role.

A Vision of Hope and Transformation

God has done such an awesome work in my heart, and in the hearts of many, through Outpost. When I take a step back, I am amazed to think about all the lives God has touched through this small and obscure organization. It illustrates what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV). We may be a type of outpost, feeling remote and hidden, but we also have a gift for the Church. An outpost is the first line of defense. We have a calling to build up the Body and Bride of Christ. The ministry of Outpost has been entrusted with a powerful message of hope and transformation.

Hope and transformation are what this ministry is all about. We need to provide HOPE to our brothers and sisters who have none. We also need to continue to see and proclaim TRANSFORMATION in the lives of individuals, in our churches, and in the Church. This is the core of the gospel.

This will require us to continue to dig deep and do the hard work. We will continue to grow in intimacy. Partnership with the Prayer Room at TCJHOP is a core aspect of this. We need prayer. We need intimacy. We need intimacy through prayer! This is where true transformation happens. It is not a work of our own, but a work of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, we have some room to grow. There are many churches and communities who do not know ministries like Outpost even exist! This is something I hope to change. I believe there is a great field of ministry opportunity. But we need to ask ourselves: will we be ready for it? Will we answer the call of what God is calling us to in this next season? Will we hold onto our hope and proclaim the truth of transformation?

I certainly believe we can do all of this. I believe God has great plans for this ministry, and I humbly ask that you all would continue to walk with us as we enter this new season, while being open and ready for what God may be calling you to do. It just might surprise you as it surprised me!

A Note from Alissa, Outgoing Acting Director:

Last September, when my appointment as the Acting Director of Outpost Ministries moved from temporary status to permanent, I was at a loss. It has only been by the grace of God that I have functioned for the last year-plus in this role. There were good days and hard days, and I made more mistakes than I’m comfortable with, but through it all God was faithful. It is with tremendous joy that I am stepping down from the role of Acting Director, and back into my position as the Executive Pastor. I couldn’t be happier about Jonathan’s appointment as the new Director of Outpost Ministries. Over the last year, working with him has been one of the highlights of ministry. He is strong, steadfast, endlessly optimistic, and full of vision for where God is leading Outpost. It is an honor now to be able to serve alongside him in his new position. I’m not going anywhere and will continue to lead the administrative department and do ministry.  But I am delighted to be released to do the things I am called to. Praise the Lord for raising up the right person to be the Director, and His continued goodness toward Outpost Ministries! 

Alissa Holmes
Executive Pastor

Small Groups and the Impact of Community: A Living Waters Testimony

A smiling hugging group in a circle.

A new Living Waters group begins October 3rd at Outpost Ministries. Living Waters is a 21-week Christ-centered program for those seeking healing and freedom from sexual abuse, sexual addiction, unforgiveness, fear, shame, insecurity, unwanted same-sex attractions and other relational brokenness. While that is a good high-level overview, the best way to tell you about Living Waters is for you to hear from someone who has already gone through the program. What follows is one of this year’s leaders, Tatiana’s testimony and interview about her experience in Living Waters.

Tatiana grew up being sexually abused from a very young age. This devastated her ability to have normal relationships and her concept of normal intimacy. As a result, she did not know how to connect with people, and that was very isolating and hurtful. She was an alcoholic by age 13, and a drug addict by age 14. She had her first stint in drug rehab when she was 16, and while there, met her first girlfriend. She had a disgust and fear of men, as well as a lot of confusion, so same sex relationships were a safe place. However, she still found herself constantly in relationships with girls that had drug or alcohol issues. She was addicted to hard-core, intravenous drugs by 25.

When she was in a jail cell at 27, she heard the gospel and had an encounter with Jesus Christ. At that point, she had her first bout of sobriety. She also remained celibate at that time. She joined a church, and she got involved in Bible Studies and outreach. However, she never dealt with or addressed her past. She simply tried to forget her past pain, ignoring its effects on her life. At 30, she met her husband through church, and they got married. Right away, she knew she’d made a mistake. Within 3 years, her marriage fell apart. Her husband turned to drugs, and she turned back to relationships with women. For 7 years, she left the church, her marriage, and sobriety behind, as she pursued heroin and same sex relationships.

Two years ago, her husband died of a heroin overdose, and 6 months later, her girlfriend also died of a heroin overdose. Between those two losses, she also lost her mom and dad. “Drugs could not even touch the pain,” she told me. “The darkness felt so much more dark! I didn’t think to call out to Jesus. There was just emptiness in my soul. But I believe the Lord heard that emptiness as a cry of my heart.” Three months later, she overdosed on heroin herself. She had to be revived twice, and she had an infection that complicated her recovery. While in the hospital at Mayo Clinic, she found hope again in Jesus. She chose to attend Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to get some help with her addiction. During that time, she turned her back on everything else and turned back to the Lord. Once she had completed Teen Challenge, she attended an intensive evangelism training class, where she met Jean M., Outpost’s Living Waters Coordinator. Jean told her about Outpost and Living Waters and helped her get signed up for the upcoming class.

She talked about how Living Waters showed her how to really understand what was pulling her back in to bad choices and behaviors. She saw her mindsets exposed. Additionally, she learned how to connect with people–and stay connected instead of alienating herself–when she had felt before like they were alienating her. Through time in small group, she learned to be honest and not to barricade herself inside. She learned to let people in, and that allowed her to break out of her “heart prison.” She said she is more scared now to not allow people in than to let people in, as she knows what that isolation leads to. “I look back over the last few years of my life and I couldn’t imagine being that person again. I wasn’t really even a person, I wasn’t really even living. Now I’m living. Before…I don’t even know what that was. It wasn’t even surviving. It wasn’t even existing.

What was your favorite or most meaningful part of Living Waters?

“The small groups! I didn’t know how to connect with people. I didn’t know how to be intimate with people. [Living Waters small groups are about] learning how to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Small groups taught me how to connect with people.” For Tatiana, small groups meant that for once, she was not being left alone in her pain. “[The people in a small group] help walk you out of [pain] and stand with you and invite God into [pain] with you.”

Why are you staying involved in Living Waters as a leader?

“Because I have been shown the way out of myself, and I just have to be a part of showing others the way out of themselves. I have to give what’s been given to me!” She also said, “having been pulled out of such a dark impossible pit, you can’t go on with your life without pulling them out too. Knowing that there are people that are in the place you were, pushes you to do something!”

Can you tell us about a deep experience with God, a special day, or encounter during Living Waters that you had?

“Sure! This was at Living Waters Leadership Training this summer. I always felt that there was a huge wall between my heart and God, and me and others. I heard from God that I had kept myself separated from Him and from others because I was unable to let people in fully, to trust anyone–or even Him–really. It was through the integration of repentance and forgiveness that I could feel that wall come down, and I just broke through.” She said that God spoke to her about loving part of His creation and hating another part of His creation (which was men). “[The wall] broke and it was very powerful. Something that plagued me for 30 years, melted away in 5 minutes. It was in group confession.” She said God changed her viewpoint from “look what they’ve done to me!” to “look what I’ve done to them!” “It was taking ownership and responsibility for my part,” she continued. “It reminds me of that verse: how can you say you love God when you hate man. It is important to forgive, but it is also important to be forgiven.”

If you were talking to someone who was afraid to come, what would you say?

“It changed my heart and my mind and ultimately my life! It’s all about inviting the Presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and there’s nothing to be scared of. You are not alone: You are surrounded by people who are gonna walk with you through it.”

Hopefully Tatiana’s story has been an encouragement to you. Living Waters is for anyone who sees or feels a need in their life for more of God, healing from past hurts, and breakthrough from hang-ups. Applications are being accepted until September 15th, so there is still time to join us! The programs runs October 3- March 12, 2020. It is from 6:30-9pm every Thursday–excluding holidays. The cost is $450, and there are scholarships available. Applications are available on https://outpostministries.org/get-involved/living-waters/

Do Not Give Up: When the Good Old Days Seem Better Than Another Day of Manna

Bird flying free from cage

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it’s warm and secure
Are you sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it’s getting so hard
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
Instead of your own back yard
(So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, Keith and Melody Green, 1980)

These lyrics by Keith Green describe the predicament of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. They also offer a clue into the attitudes of many today who have escaped slavery to sin (i.e. they have received the forgiveness of sins and become Christians) but who also wish to avoid the necessary struggle required to maintain their freedom. This struggle involves successfully avoiding the re-enslavement to sin, while on the other hand, still having to pay the high cost of maintaining their freedom.

Within two months of leaving Egypt and their slave masters, the Israelites forgot the object of their journey into the desert, which was lasting freedom from oppression. It was a worthy objective in itself, but additionally, they had the higher goal of worshiping the Living God. Instead, Israel settled for a golden calf. In our quest for freedom from the life-dominating nature of same sex attractions (or fill in the blank with your own particular sin struggle), we may also be tempted to passivity like the Israelites of old. We’d rather settle for slavery than take responsibility for ourselves.

Jeremiah Recounts Israel’s Sin

The prophet Jeremiah lamented the indecisiveness of Israel. About a hundred years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, he wrote, “And I will declare my judgments against [Israel], for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16.) Later, Jeremiah quotes God, referring to God’s spiritual courtship with Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD.” (Jer. 2:2f.)

Then Jeremiah recounts the history of Israel (see vv. 2:3-12) from God’s perspective as a spurned and grieving lover. Essentially what God is saying is “What did I do wrong that you left me? Why did you stop pursuing me after all I’ve done for you?” Next Jeremiah lists priests, lawyers, shepherds and prophets as having forsaken their authority and forgotten the Living God altogether. No other people on earth does this, complains the prophet; but all Israel has forsaken her God!

Israel’s Complaining and God’s Response

The prophet summarizes Israel’s problem in v. 13. First, they forsook God, and second, they tried to live by their own effort. Both of these options were predictably ineffective, and left Israel in a miserable state of frustration and destitution. They longed to go back. Things weren’t really all THAT bad in Egypt, they moaned. At least we had garlic and leeks. Food tasted good. What’s this manna? And the golden calf: at least we can see and feel it. Who is this unseen God who dragged us away from our comfort zone? Israel is clearly upset. They are not getting what they wanted. They are angry. “We didn’t sign up for THIS!,” they cry. Then God’s Word turns it all around: “You brought all this upon yourselves!” Jeremiah continues, “And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Here he cuts them off from all their false hopes. Slavery (Egypt) can’t comfort or satisfy you. Idols (Assyria) can’t cure or save you. Jeremiah even reminds them in v. 20 that long ago, it was God who set them free from slavery. But still they refused to serve him! Everywhere they went, they adulterated themselves sexually and spiritually.

Sin, Slavery and Freedom

What’s interesting to me is the story hasn’t changed much in the twenty-six centuries since Jeremiah wrote. God chose us for Himself and delivered us out of slavery to sin. But, we remember the “good times” of our past and want to turn back. We tell ourselves just a little taste won’t hurt a thing. So we revisit the pleasures of sin for a season, and suddenly, we’re trapped. The apostle Paul writes, “why subject yourselves once again to a yoke of slavery?” (Galatians 5:1)

Regarding our discussion of same-sex attraction, let’s call it what it is: slavery. Some may even veer off into the language of addiction here, and it’s all the same. We have an incurable condition into which we were all born. But, we have also been born from above, and our true allegiance is to heaven. Let us no longer pine for the prison! We don’t have to settle for prison food! As the apostle Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Even more pointedly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians–specifically in regard to sexual immorality–“I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave” (1 Cor 6:12, GNB). Indeed!

Let’s see sin for what it is; but even more, let’s see Christ as the one who has broken the power of sin to control our lives! The struggle to maintain freedom is hard work, but every minute in the desert is worth it as we are transformed unto lasting freedom. While we walk, we can look forward to being united with Christ and made fully new.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
Break every chain
Break every chain
(Break Every Chain, Jesus Culture, 2011)

All Scripture references are from the ESV unless otherwise marked.

The “Why” for Every Sexual Question

young man with hands folded looking out the window

Dr. Juli Slattery is a keynote speaker at the Restored Hope Network conference, HOPE2019, hosted by Outpost.  Dr. Slattery’s newest book, Rethinking Sexuality, is one of Outpost’s leading resources to give people a foundation in Biblical Sexuality.  Here’s a taste of what you might expect at HOPE2019.

When children reach the age of two, they begin asking a question they never stop asking. Why? If you are parenting a young child, you are faced with endless why questions. Why do I have to go to bed so early? Why do I have to eat brussel sprouts? Why do you have to go to work? Why does he get more pizza than I do? Why can’t I drive the car?

In their exhaustion, some parents defer to the age old response to every why question. Because I said so! This answer is not very satisfying to a child, no matter their age. In truth, it’s not very satisfying to us as adults either.

In my ministry, I still get asked why questions. Why should I save sex for marriage? Why would God care about two men getting married? Why is it a big deal to look at porn? Why should I stay in an unhappy marriage? Unfortunately, we typically defer to the age-old cop out in response to these questions as well. Because God said so. There are bumper stickers and plaques reinforcing the idea that “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”

God created us as rational creatures who long for the answers to our why questions. Certainly, there are some situations in which we simply cling to faith and trust God in spite of never understanding the why. However, God is a wise parent who often gives us a why. There is a reason why sexuality matters and why every sexual issue has spiritual significance.

The why for every sexual question is found in this truth: God intentionally created our sexuality as a powerful metaphor for His covenant love.

Everything God has created for us here on earth has a spiritual purpose, revealing something about God. Our sexuality was intentionally created as a holy symbol or analogy reflecting how God loves us. Throughout the Scripture, the one-flesh union of marital sex, sexual infidelity and sexual immorality are used as pictures to describe Christ’s relationship with the Church and our call to be faithful to our covenant with God.

Practically we experience this connection through our own lives in three ways.

  1. Sexual desire invites us to pursue covenant. Our bodies remind us that we were not meant to be alone. Sexual desire is not a bad thing! Although it may lead us to temptation and sin, God has given us sexual desire to remind us that we were made for love. Our romantic and sexual longings compel us not just to have sex, but to pursue covenant. We were created for more than a hookup; we were created for committed love and intimate knowing. Spiritually, you were not created to be alone. God invites you into a covenant, eternal relationship with Him, promising that we can never be separated from His love when we trust in Christ Jesus.
  2. Sexual intimacy is the celebration of covenant. Having sex within marriage is a physical way of celebrating the vows we made within marriage. Sexual intimacy within marriage is, in some ways, similar to a sacrament. We physically give each other our bodies in such a vulnerable and passionate way, mirroring how we have vowed our entire lives to each other. Sexual intimacy within marriage symbolizes that our intimacy with God is meant to be passionate and vulnerable, and it requires giving of ourselves.
  3. Sexual fidelity is the promise of covenant. The greatest call within marriage is faithfulness. Broken vows are a tragedy and create waves of pain. The despair of broken vows and sexual betrayal is a metaphor of the
    spiritual reality of breaking our covenant with God.

When we think about sexuality or have sexual questions, we need to view these through the filter of remembering the significance of this spiritual metaphor. This is the why… why sexual intimacy is reserved for the covenant of marriage, why male and female matters, why sex is under such spiritual attack in our world and why it’s worth it to pursue sexual integrity and sexual healing.

In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul makes a direct connection between marriage and the one-flesh intimacy between husband and wife as a reflection of Christ and the church. Paul says this is a “mystery,” which means we can’t grasp the fullness of this metaphor. Yet, Paul’s teaching here and references throughout the Scripture remind us that sexuality and marriage were created by God to teach us about His love, His pursuit, His faithfulness and His passion towards His people.

This article was originally published on Juli’s Blog at authenticintimacy.com and is used by permission. Dr. Slattery will be speaking Friday evening at HOPE2019, and we hope you can join us. 

Being a Good Gift: A Living Waters Testimony

hands holding a giftI recently completed the Living Waters program through Outpost Ministries. I’m deeply grateful to the leaders who spent several months creating a safe place for our healing. They also gave us a profound gift when they shared their stories with us in such transparency. So, in gratitude for the gift they have given me, here is my gift to you.

My story begins with a passive and emotionally detached father. To be clear, he worked incredibly hard to give us a comfortable life. But, while he never abused me, he also never sought a relationship with me. He was always busy with something more important. His passivity and emotional detachment left a huge hole in my life, contributing to a lot of anxiety and doubt in my worth as a man. But I wasn’t the only one affected. My mother, with whom it seemed I had a close relationship, also felt the effects of his absence. She frequently operated as a single mother, bearing the burden of dual parenting roles, one which she was never meant to carry. Additionally, her own needs for relationship and connection went unmet. My relationship with her became really hot-or-cold. Every time we had heart-to-hearts it felt as if something was being forcibly taken from me—something precious to me that I couldn’t name, but that I hadn’t agreed to give. I felt alone, unsafe and unprotected. In self-defense, I detached from almost all relationships, and vowed not to trust my dad and mom.

Because of how chaotic my external life was, I turned to an inner fantasy life of my own choosing. I hid my gift behind a wall of silence. The onset of puberty saw these fantasy worlds sexualized, for which I became deeply ashamed. I isolated myself further out of fear of discovery. I became thoroughly addicted to pornography and masturbation. As I was preparing to graduate high school I knew I had to make a change. So I joined a missionary group and moved to Indiana two days after I graduated. To my despair, choosing this Godly action did not set me free from my sinful behaviors. Anxiety ruled the day, and my acting out behavior became more desperate. Leadership, which couldn’t risk allowing me to continue in ministry, removed me from the fellowship. I came back to Minnesota devastated, slowly sinking deeper into addiction until I believed the lies that I had no ability to change, that change was impossible, that I was unworthy of marriage, that I was not a good gift.

This is when God met me. He told me, “I have a season of grace for you.” I threw it back in His face. “Who do you think you are to say that to me! What does that even mean? That doesn’t mean anything! I don’t care! Do whatever you want, but I’m not changing! I’m not doing a thing – It’s all on you”. Even as I lashed out, the cross came into my life. For the first time, I gave up trying to choose and act on my own, and I allowed Jesus to take control of my healing.

Shortly thereafter I was directed to Outpost Ministries and couldn’t wait to enroll in Living Waters. Throughout the course God continually brought up areas of my life to surrender at the cross. Every week I faced areas of misogyny, relational idolatry, unforgiveness, and vows of hatred and mistrust made against fathers and men in my life. Every week took courage to encounter my brokenness with honesty and humility. Every week I encountered safe relationships where I could share what God was doing in my life. Every week I went to the cross and surrendered. Every week I found nothing there but mercy.

God used the cross and fellowship to create a safe place in my heart, which He filled with an intimate Father-son relationship. He wasn’t passive and distant anymore, but present and engaged. He was able to nurture me and provide a home for me that my parents were never able to. He has taught me that the source of my masculine gift is found under the strength of His covering. My masculine strength and authority to lead come from my surrender to His authority, just like the centurion whose faith amazed Jesus. It was never my strength to choose or act that would free me, it was His! And He gave Himself generously!

I am so grateful for what God has delivered me from, and for what He has prepared me for. I hope you are encouraged by the gift of my story because God is writing a beautiful story for you to tell as well. You are a worthy gift!

From Glory to Glory: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to seeing you at the banquet,

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Alissa Holmes
Acting Director
Outpost Ministries

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

Red and Blue Arrows pointing right and left

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

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

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

I Took the Blue Pill, and Then the Red Pill

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

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

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

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

The War on God Wants Your Redemption Silenced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejecting Reality Means Ignoring Science

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

  • “Transition is the answer.”

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

  • “Transgender people are born that way.”

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

  • “A person’s sex can be changed.”

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

Leaving the Delusions of the Trans-Matrix Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Changes? An Appeal for Give to the Max Day

Give to the Max Day. Nov 15, 2018 www.givemn.org/organization/tcjhop

I often encounter the same question when I share about the work we do at Outpost. The scene is always similar. We’re sitting down over coffee or those all-too-addictive Chick-Fil-A waffle fries.

“So what exactly does Outpost do?” they ask.

I give the quick pitch: Outpost is a ministry that helps people walk away from unwanted same-sex attractions and other sexual and relational brokenness. I talk about my love for Outpost and the way that it helps people find hope and healing. I talk about my friends who are walking in victory – who have moved beyond the overwhelming struggle and are now thriving in life-giving marriages, as parents, or in pursuing their life calling.

Surprise flits across the face of the person I’m meeting with. They hesitate, but finally ask, ”What changes?”

What changes? How do people live beyond a struggle with homosexuality or gender dysphoria? Is it some miraculous teaching at Outpost? A special program? Or that one book that definitively lays out the keys to healing? We have some great programming at Outpost, but it’s none of those things.

It’s the gospel. Jesus sets us free. He transforms us. The old man is dead and we are raised to life again in Christ. These aren’t just words. This is the core of what Outpost is about. If you want a front row seat to Christ transforming lives and making people new, this is a really good place to be.
There are two reasons I want to ask you to prayerfully consider giving to Outpost during Give to the Max. First, because the work we do is so vital and it brings so much fruit. Families are being restored. People are walking free. There is real hope and healing from pervasive and life-dominating brokenness.Give to the Max Day Testimonial: Outpost really saved my family

Second, because we want to see a day when surprise isn’t the reaction people have when they hear about Outpost. Many have never heard stories of people overcoming same-sex attraction or being transformed by Christ. We have powerful testimonies to share. When you support Outpost, you are giving us the ability to tell our stories at churches, college campuses, and conferences locally and nationally.

What changes? People experience the love of the Father. The pain and brokenness they’ve been holding onto for years begins to heal. They learn what it means to belong and to be safe. They encounter the power of the cross. As they are made holy, they are also made whole. Broken desires begin to shift. Their testimony becomes a powerful tool in the hands of the Lord to set others free and to bring hope.

You can be a part of ‘what changes’ by donating today.

Please note: we updated the giving link to www.givemn.org/organization/tcjhop.
We wanted to make things easier to type!