A New Creation

This article originally appeared on CHANGED Movement’s Love & Culture blog in April 2022. used with permission.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Several years ago, I was part of a small group of men. We all struggled with issues around sexual purity and identity. We met weekly to encourage and support each other. During one of the meetings, after rejecting most of their encouragement regarding God’s love and view of me, one of the men confronted me.  He asked, “Are you so arrogant to believe everyone here is wrong and you are right?” The truth was, yes. In fact, I was that arrogant. In that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me clearly saying, “They see you like I see you, they see the real authentic you. Rodger, your vision is distorted by lies, you don’t see that you are a new creation.” See, I saw myself through the distortion of self-applied    labels and identities. I didn’t recognize the new man. No wonder walking in newness of life felt impossible.

The Old and New Testament speak of the hope that one day God would come and save His people. This salvation wouldn’t just be rescuing them from the evil surrounding them but it would be a salvation that completely changed the person who had faith in God. While this is fantastic, He promises to do even more. God said His Spirit would live in his followers, empowering them to live a righteous life, a righteousness that flows from the inside out1. The Prophet Ezekiel wrote, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”2 The Old Testament hope has become the New Testament reality. Paul writes “the gospel is the power of God to save all who believe.”3 That is, when you believe this good news you encounter the power of God and it changes you, it changes everything!

Knowing and experiencing this power is central to Christianity. Paul asked God to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened so that you would know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” Paul continues, it’s the same power (his great might)  “that he (God) worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…”4  WOW, breathe that in a few times, it’s intoxicating in the best way!!! The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. Because of this we are saved, born again, resurrected into new life, adopted as daughters or sons, and we’ve been released from slavery to sin and death and set free to live a righteous life. This power is so powerful that it has made each of us a new creation. And, the Holy Spirit lives in us!

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes about the ministry which he is, indeed, we are all called, the ministry of reconciliation. Paul states, “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh….”. He stopped assessing or judging people according to their appearance, what he could see with his eyes. He had initially done so with Jesus (and the fledgling church) and it didn’t work out well. Thankfully, this kind of vision problem can be healed by encountering the Risen Christ.

The effect of this change is we no longer see with distorted vision. Instead of seeing the distorted person, we see the authentic person who is in Christ; we see the new creation. Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”5 Again, this is a good time to stop for just a few seconds and think about this truth. When we came to Jesus we were made a new creation. The word he uses for “new” means “all things are new, previously non-existent, far different from what they were before.”6 This is outrageous; I am not the man I use to be! Christianity is not rehabilitation for those addicted to sin. It’s not therapy to piece together a fragmented psyche. No, the old Rodger died, he was buried. Now, by faith in God, His power has made me a new creation, born again, resurrected into new life. And, so are you.

I may not feel or behave like a new creation, but I am. As a new born baby, born again into this walk of faith, I will develop and mature. It is by faith that we are saved! And it is the fruit of this faith in his grace, love and power that we mature in him. With faith that I am who God says I am, I challenge other voices that identify me as something other than what God says in Scripture. I recognize that my appetites, desires, or lust don’t define. My body’s sexual response doesn’t define me. God defines me and I see myself through His eyes. I see that I am a new creation. And, with hope in Christ and the testimonies of others, I “run the race set before me.”7 

Now that you are a new creation, do you see through those new eyes? When you look at others, how do you see them?  When looking at followers of Jesus, do you see the new creation?  Many disciples continue with the labels they had prior to faith in Jesus. They continue with labels that are no longer true. No worries. These labels are like “yellow sticky notes” stuck on a woolly sweater. With just a breeze, those labels are blown away. You don’t need to try to rip off the labels or confront the person, but rather love the authentic person Christ made them to be. Jesus will bring a breeze at just the right time. I encourage you to see with new eyes. Look for the authentic in others. For believers, this is always their new creation. For those yet to come to faith in Jesus, ask the Father to see them as He does. Never label someone with a label the Father would not give them.8 Ask the Lord who they really are and interact with them from that perspective. Honor them and love them as the Father does.

I pray that you encounter the love and power of God so intimately that nothing causes you to look back but that you see everything as lost for the sake of the gospel. I pray you no longer see yourself or others “according to the flesh,’ but as God sees. I pray you see yourself as a new creation and engage how different you are. You are not who you were! You are a disciple, a follower of Jesus, a Christian. This is your authentic self. Nothing else identifies you. I pray you and others are able to see in you the fruit of intimacy with Jesus, His righteousness, peace and joy increasing in you and through you!!!

1 See Matthew 5 In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus “raises the bar” regarding righteousness. “You have heard it said…but I say….” The righteousness of the Kingdom of God flows for inside out; it is not measured only by action but by one’s heart, feelings, fantasies and attitudes. 

2 Ezekiel 36:25-27

3 Romans 1:16

4 Ephesians 1:17-19

5 2 Corinthians 5:17

6 The mean of “new” from the Strongs, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2537/esv/mgnt/0-1/

7 Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7

8 Kris Vallotton, one of the senior leaders at Bethel Church, Redding, one day had an encounter with a young man who had shared the labels he had applied to himself. When Kris spoke to the Lord about the young man, the Lord said to Kris, “Never label people with labels I would not give them. See them as I do.”

Knowing the Love that Surpasses Knowledge

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

Dear friends,

I am amazed at the prayers of Paul in the New Testament. Paul had a keen sense of the Christian life and our deepest needs. Ephesians 3:14-21 is no exception. What strikes me about this passage is that Paul prays for Christ to indwell Christians. However, doesn’t Jesus already indwell Christians by the Holy Spirit? Yes, but Paul also prays for Christians to know the love of Christ “that surpasses knowledge.” Paul is making a distinction here between knowing about God’s love for us and knowing God’s love experientially.

Why does this matter? I believe it is a matter of life and death.

First, let’s look at the straightforward way this difference matters. To know about God’s love for you through the Gospel is not the same as to have received it yourself. The Gospel requires a response through repentance and faith; knowing the truth of the Gospel alone cannot and does not save anyone. To be led out of spiritual death into life, each one of us must chose to receive the Gospel. That is, we must each know it in our heart and spirit as well as in our mind.

The second way this matters is more complicated. To know about something and to experience something are not the same. Jonathan Edwards once talked about the difference between knowing that honey is sweet and actually tasting its sweetness. To know about something without actually having experienced it leaves us with a sense of disconnect. The same disconnect is true in relationships. I might know about a certain celebrity, but that is not the same as having a personal relationship with that celebrity.

Where am I going with this? In my Christian walk, this passage in Ephesians has been significant to me because of its implications for my relationship with God. If God’s love is abstract to me, it does not affect me at all. If, however, God’s love is something I experience deeply and regularly, my capacity to respond to, love, and obey God from a place of fullness is greatly increased.

It’s not just my story, however. Both in Joshua Fellowship (JF) and Living Waters, I have heard participants share that deep down, they are not truly sure God loves them. I can relate to that belief; I believed for years that God deeply disliked me even though I was saved. Learning about Jesus is not enough. One must “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) in order to know Jesus’ love in the center of his or her being.

That is why I love being a part of JF and Living Waters. I get to participate in God’s work to see men and women freed from the shame and lies that keep them from experiencing God’s presence and love for them. That is why I am excited to see how God uses the remainder of JF’s Strive summer course to bring the young men into deeper freedom and joy. And that is why I look forward to the upcoming Living Waters book study, where men and women will dive into God’s love and acceptance of them through the breaking of lies and healing of wounds. Praise God, for He is able to do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine, to the praise of His glory! Amen.

All Things New

As an avid gardener, spring is one of my favorite seasons. In springtime we watch as the muck and grime left by winter is washed away by cleansing rains. The rains in turn nourish fresh green sprigs of new life. This is a beautiful picture of the transformation experienced by those of us who have found freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions and other forms of sexual and relational brokenness. Our new lives of joy in Christ are as different from our past life of sin and sorrow as bright blooms and blossoms are from the dreary grey of winter. The new life of spring reminds us each year of the joy and freedom we’ve found. We remember that Jesus breathed new life into us when we thought we were beyond hope.

Tending to Growth

As any gardener knows, however, a beautiful and fruitful garden is only achieved through much hard work and consistent attention. The soil must be tilled, the weeds pulled, the rocks dislodged, and the garden plot protected from pests. Once new life sprouts, it must be carefully tended, watered, and fertilized for it to mature and produce fruit. So it is with the life of a believer. If we do not dislodge the lies of the enemy from our minds, uproot the selfish desires from our hearts, and allow the Spirit and Word of God to minister to us and teach us, we are not likely to see much growth or transformation in our lives.

The Tools for Growth

The Joshua Fellowship (JF) program is specifically designed to help young men struggling with sexual and relational brokenness achieve victory over sexual sin and receive a renewed identity in Christ. While this work is taking place throughout the year, over the summer we place a special focus and emphasis on doing the hard work of healing. We focus on practical tools for defeating lies, fighting temptation, and overcoming sexual and relational brokenness. Overall, we point participants back to the source of abundant life: Jesus.

Our Summer Strive program and the Encountering Jesus Internship provide young men the opportunity to confront their challenges head-on with the encouragement and support of the JF community of men. We take on passivity and addiction, replacing them with action and service. We reject lies and sin, filling ourselves with the truth of God’s Word and joyful obedience. This hard work changes the young men who go through our program. The summer Strive program is credited by many current and past participants as the turning point in their journey out of sexual brokenness and confused sexual identity.

Growth Produces Fruit

What makes the summer Strive program so powerful is that it reconnects men with their God-given identity. In today’s culture of gender fluidity and androgynous sexual identity, many men struggle to connect with who they were designed to be and what makes them thrive. That’s why we started Strive. We want to help men reconnect with their masculinity–not as culture defines it, but as God does. Overcoming a life-dominating issue like same-sex attraction is not a purely self-focused act. It is a generative act that spreads life and the fragrance of Christ to many others. When men rediscover the truth of their identity, gender, and sexuality, they are empowered to be good gifts to their community. Men who devote themselves to being transformed into the image of Christ go on to become movers and shakers in the Kingdom of God.

Growth Comes From God

How do we do this? We meditate on the character of God as displayed in scripture. We offer thanks to God in all circumstances. We pray. We worship. We look to the wisdom of those who have walked this path before us. We entrust ourselves to Jesus and let go of control. We fight alongside our brothers. We get up when we fall. And above all, we rely on the God who is over all things, and on the sacrifice of His Son for our salvation. What it really comes down to is this: we don’t do it, God does. As the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah, his Word will not return empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. His work may still be in the early stages of growth—almost imperceptible to the untrained eye—but given time it will spring forth to abundant eternal life. May God’s work be accomplished in your life and the lives of those for whom you labor in prayer.

Thanks for Being There

From the 2022 Spring Banquet. Used with permission.

A Joshua Fellowship Update

Joshua Fellowship Logo

Dear Friends and Family,

Do we really want what we say we want? The story of Joshua in the Old Testament seems to ask this question. He is introduced, alongside Caleb, as one who encouraged Israel to go and take the promised land—despite what looked like insurmountable danger. Yet, that generation of Israelites decided they didn’t want what they said they did. They said they wanted freedom, then they complained and wished they were back in Egypt. They said they wanted the promised land, then they allowed fear to make them complacent in the wilderness. This is why—as Joshua was finally about to lead a new generation across the Jordan into God’s inheritance—God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Like Joshua, the brave young men in Joshua Fellowship are choosing to trust God and His promises unto abundant life. This is why we call this group Joshua Fellowship. Often this trust comes little by little and with many reassurances from God. For example, Joshua hears God say, “Be bold and courageous,” many times in a short section of Joshua chapter one. Likewise, these men are certainly bold and courageous. In a world that says, “anything goes,” they are choosing to stand and fight for truth. I truly believe that these young men are future leaders in the Kingdom of God.

Many of these men face real struggles. Most (but not all) struggle with same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors, sexual addictions, shame, identity, and deep pain. However, I don’t see them as ones to be pitied for their struggles. Instead, I see them as part of God’s elite force that terrifies the kingdom of darkness! That’s because these men are real. They know what it means to suffer and yet still choose God. They have truly counted the cost and are not doing because it’s easy.

God has also been blessing Joshua Fellowship and drawing men from all over to Outpost. This is nothing special we’ve done—this newsletter is the closest thing we’ve ever done to marketing the group—but is truly God’s doing. I am very excited for what God is going to do in the lives of these men this summer, most of whom are new to Outpost. Please pray for these men to continue to stand firm and become faithful “warrior witnesses” for Jesus to this world.

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.