Celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Bread of Life!

For the Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”

– John 6:33, 35 –

But in all the land of Egypt there was bread. ―Genesis 41:54, ESV

This may seem an odd passage for Christmas, but let’s take a closer look. Egypt often represented slavery and oppression in the Bible. However we also see that God repeatedly used Egypt to deliver or save His people, particularly from starvation. Abraham AND Jacob independently sought “salvation” in Egypt because God directed them to the provision that was there. This salvation, however, was limited to physical life. Thus, Israel would ultimately require a Deliverer to set them free because she had settled into complacent dependency upon Egypt, which eventually led to oppression.

Further, do you recall that Jesus Himself sought refuge in Egypt? An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13, ESV) Let’s not make too much of this theologically, as Jesus was a small child requiring 100% care, just like any other. So, Jesus, the Deliverer also entered into Egypt for deliverance at this time. This was prophesied in Hosea 11:1, “out of Egypt I called my son.” (See also Matthew 2:15.)

Jesus as our Deliverer came to do more than merely save our physical lives. He came to save us wholly: body, soul, and spirit. We are then empowered to live out our salvation in service to God and others. Who serves food to the poor? Most rescue missions are run by Christians. Who heals the sick? Many hospitals and medical missions are run by believers. Even the oppression by 18th century slave traders was ended largely by Christians declaring “Freedom!” to slaves. These are messianic (though limited) works that Jesus began, saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven…, not like the bread their fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51,58 ESV)

May you be fed and strengthened by the Bread of Life this Advent season!

Merry Christmas!

Dan P., Senior Pastor

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Seven C’s: A List of Helps for Struggling Loved Ones

Dear Friends,

This month we have a special article for you from a long-time friend in ministry. Andrew Comiskey (M.Div.) has worked extensively with the healing of the sexually and relationally broken. He is the Founding Director of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, a multifaceted outreach to the broken. Andrew’s ministry grows both out of his own commitment to overcome homosexuality and his experience as a husband to Annette, father of four children and grandfather to five grandkids. He is author of Pursuing Sexual Wholeness (Creation House), Strength in Weakness (InterVarsity Press), Naked Surrender: Coming Home To Our True Sexuality (InterVarsity Press) and the Living Waters healing program. Andrew seeks to equip the Church to be whole and holy, a bride ready to receive Jesus. Andrew serves at St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Missouri. After over four decades of ministry, Andrew still loves receiving and extending mercy to sexual sinners like himself.

Conversion:

The realization that a loved one has assumed a false identity invites you to go deeper in Jesus; it may well become more about your conversion than his or hers. Perhaps it challenges your current ‘standing’ in Christ. All you may be able to do is fall face down and grieve over your sins and the sins woven deeply into our culture. The two are related. You are woven into the fabric of an idolatrous culture; He invites you to repent unto Himself as the way ahead for your integrity of faith and humanity.

Compunction:

This involves the uneasiness or anxiety you may feel for wronging others or causing them pain. It may have to do with brokenness before God for failing to be true to your faith in a culture that now celebrates over 50 gender ‘identities.’ Have you been complicit in allowing friends and/or children to grow distant as you proceeded on with your own life? You may also need to grieve how you have not stood for truth in the public square: contraception, no-fault divorce, rampant porn use, ‘gay marriage’ are all predecessors to today’s gender meltdown.

Compassion:

Jesus hears your cries for mercy. He never fails in His love for you and always responds with deep compassion when you cry out to Him with a broken and contrite spirit. All He is after is your heart. He wants to give you His heart, His compassion, and is intent on using everything, including a loved one’s delusion, to bring you into Reality. Compassion is His way of doing so. He wants to make you compassionate like He is.

Clarity:

With tear-washed eyes, you can behold with clarity your beloved confused one. You possess true vision: he or she possesses a gender of God’s design that the Creator always upholds. So can you. Your sight summons what is mighty in him and lovely in her whether or not they believe it or even want it. Given the lousy self-definitions one can adopt in our day, you can hold fast to the fact that in Christ, according to one’s baptism and confirmation, our beloved one is either a son or a daughter of the Heavenly Father and need not be tossed around by lies (Gal. 4:3-7).

Constancy:

In prayer and in care, keep knocking and seeking the Lord to make known to the beloved His tender, almighty love; at the same time, choose to keep the door open to the beloved. You can seek to be a point of loving continuity in his or her life, the welcome of a home on earth for this weary wanderer. You can set good boundaries when necessary but always with a prayerful, caring spirit that wants only the best for your loved one.

Communication:

Prayerful ones who speak more to God than to the beloved are primed to be led by the Spirit when it comes to what and how much to say. Each confused soul is different but most can be irrationally defensive when it comes to considering his or her delusion. So you can walk and talk in the Spirit concerning the beloved; trust God for brief moments of clarity where compassion and truth meet and you are able to convey your heart’s desire for his or her best.

Consider:

The patience of God towards you in all your wanderings and pride and bad relationships and bad religion, how He simply loved you and waited until you were ready to hear Him (1 Tim 1:15-16). When you broke and bowed down and cried out for mercy, He gave Himself to you freely and fully. He had mercy on you. Wait in patient expectation that He will lead your loved one to repentance and the gift of His almighty mercy.

Originally published as a blog post on DesertStream.org on September 13, 2021. Reprinted with Permission.

Give to the Max Day!

Give to the Max Day Logo with trees, hills and the state of MN.
https://www.givemn.org/

Dear Friends,

November is arriving, and with it comes chilly air, holiday gatherings, and our annual invitation for you to join us for Give to the Max Day. As many of you are aware, Give to the Max Day is specifically set aside in Minnesota for financially supporting local non-profit organizations, like Outpost/TCJHOP. In years past, we’ve asked our supporters to consider giving a little extra this month. This year, however, we are doing something different: inviting new people to contribute to our ministry. We have so many who regularly pray and give, but to do all the work before us, we need to bring more people into this community of support.

Inviting others to join in is inherently biblical. Consider the story of Andrew and Philip in John 1. These men were disciples of John the Baptist when he pointed them to Jesus and said “Look, the Lamb of God!” (v.36). Both men began following Jesus that day. Scripture tells us the first thing Andrew did was go and get his brother Peter, saying, “We have found the Messiah” (v.41). Likewise, Philip went and got his friend Nathanael, telling him to “Come and see” (v.46). What prompted Andrew and Philip’s actions? They had found the Messiah, and they couldn’t wait to bring others to Him.

Have you have been blessed by the ministry of Outpost? Then we encourage you to be bold like Andrew and Philip to say “come and see!” to a few friends or family members. What do we mean? Think about what God has done in your heart, your mind, and your life to bring you hope and healing. Consider who you know that would be blessed and encouraged by hearing your story. Tell them your story and ask if they would like to help us bring that same hope and healing to others.

Our goal is to welcome 50 new donors into our community through Give to the Max Day. Here’s how you can help:

  • Visit givemn.org and create an account.
  • Visit our organization page at givemn.org/organization/tcjhop and click the “Fundraise” button.
  • Create a fundraising page using the provided template.
  • Talk with people and invite them to give through your fundraising page from November 1 – 18.

Andrew and Philip boldly and speedily invited Peter and Nathanael to follow Jesus. This could not have been easy and, as we know, certainly cost them greatly. But it also brought them a great reward. Sharing your story of healing with others may feel daunting, but the reward is also great. Find one or two trusted people you can share with. Tell them what God has done and is doing in your life. Invite them to help us continue providing help and hope to others. And may the act of invitation bring you strength and encouragement to continue sharing your story so others can come and see the hope and healing of Jesus the Messiah for themselves.

Yours,

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Wendy

A Living Waters Update

Click to go to details page for our Living Waters Group.

Dear Friends and Family,

In John 4, Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman and reveals Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus draws the woman into conversation by telling her about the “living water” He offers. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). The woman expresses her desire for this “living water,” and Jesus begins to minister to her regarding her sexual and relational brokenness. In a sense, Jesus is telling her that her brokenness points to what she is truly needing from Jesus. As Jesus reveals Himself to her, the Samaritan woman believes and starts witnessing to her village. Through her testimony, many encounter Jesus and come to believe in Him.

One thing that is striking is that Jesus offers the Samaritan woman the living water before she has everything pulled together. Jesus offers her healing and freedom, despite the fact that she is not morally perfect. The minute she receives Jesus as Messiah, she begins to overflow into the lives of others, calling them to encounter Jesus too. Before she is fully healed, she is already being the good gift she was made to be.

This passage, as well as John 7:37-39, gives name to the Living Waters program. Living Waters is a discipleship curriculum that seeks to bring members of the Body of Christ into deeper relationship with, and experience of, God. In this curriculum, a Christian is someone who is already fully accepted, fully loved, and fully valued by God through Jesus Christ. From that place, a Christian begins walking in the fullness of what is already true about them (set free from the law of sin and death, a new creation, a beloved son or daughter, etc.).

This is a stark contrast to how many Christians approach God and walk out sanctification, as I can personally attest to. So often we believe that God will only truly accept us or like us once we have gotten over sinful habits, or have healed from past hurts, or renounced lies and agreements we have made with the enemy. This is a bottom-up approach: we get cleaned up or fixed up, and only then can we believe God is really okay with us. Scripture, however, reveals that in Christ, Christians are already fully accepted, forgiven, and made new. From that place of a new identity, we walk out our healing journeys in order to experience more of the fullness of God than we already have access to through Christ. This is the top-down approach: we are already made whole in Christ. We now walk in Him, experiencing that reality of wholeness and agreeing with Him about who we are.

Jean M., who recently stepped down from the Living Waters Coordinator position, has counseled the Living Waters’ leadership team on this subject. We believe God has something new He is wanting to do, and we sense that this is tied to emphasizing the top-down approach. In this group, we don’t approach people by shaming them and focusing on their brokenness. Instead, we talk with participants about brokenness, wounding, and lies so they can see who they already are in Christ. We focus on what is true and help them learn to hear what God is saying to them in prayer and in the Bible. They are already filled with the living water. We come alongside to help them step into the reality of their adoption into God’s family, as well as work through anything that keeps them from experiencing this.

Living Waters will be meeting for 18 weeks on Thursday evenings starting September 9, running through January 27, 2022 (with breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas). The group will meet from 6:30pm to 9:00 pm. The format includes worship, teaching, time to process, and small groups. The cost is $220 and includes your book. Anyone who would like to dive deeper into their relationship with God is welcome to apply! If you have questions or are considering applying, please click here for more information and a link to the application. You can also email us with any questions. Applications and a small deposit are due August 29 so we have time to meet with each person prior to September 9. We don’t turn anyone away because of inability to pay, so if you are interested in a scholarship, let us know!

In Christ,

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CalebSpirit Update: A Letter From Dan

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring! This month we have a letter from Dan about another of our support groups, CalebSpirit.

Logo for CalebSpirit
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, 
I will bring into the land into which he went… Numbers 14:24 (ESV).

At Outpost, one of our chief aims is the release from slavery―not unlike ancient Israel. In our case, we aren’t slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but to same-sex attraction (SSA), or so it seems. Our enemy has no real claim to us, nor did Pharaoh have to ancient Israel. Nonetheless, Israel found herself enslaved by her worldly master. She was delivered by God in a miraculous series of events found in the book of Exodus. But en route to her destiny of freedom, she stumbled, and she grumbled. According to verse 22 of this same chapter, Israel had seen the glory of God and many signs. Seeing God’s glory and witnessing signs and wonders does not motivate obedience, and most certainly does not guarantee entrance into the Promise. That entrance requires something else.

Enter Caleb and Joshua. They trusted God to deliver them into the Promised Land, regardless the obstacles in their path. This is the essence of faith. It could be said of them—like it was said of Abraham—that their faith was accounted to them as righteousness (Rom. 4). They were saved (delivered into the Promise) by faith.

We call the group CalebSpirit because these men have “wandered in the wilderness” for a long time (40 years? Yes, perhaps!), and because they have seen the salvation of their God and believe in Him for their deliverance into the Promised Land. The men of CalebSpirit have a different spirit and are fully following the Lord. That does not mean perfectly following the Lord, but they have determined in their hearts to endeavor to imitate Christ throughout their lives, especially in regard to their SSA struggles.

We currently have ten men enrolled in our Tuesday night group where we are studying a book by Steve Gallagher entitled, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. Our weekly book-club-style discussions have addressed such topics as “Am I really enslaved (addicted)?”; “Why do I do the things I do?”; “What is at the root of my sexual sin struggle?”; and “How do I rely upon the Holy Spirit to overcome sexual sin in my life?”

Further, we engage as a fellowship of like-minded sojourners. We are in this together. We hold a retreat a couple times a year for concentrated prayer and fellowship. We also do fun summer activities together, like kayaking, mini-golf, croquet, movies, dinners out, potluck BBQs, holiday parties, biking, and even some travel. We attend conferences and seminars as a group. Finally, we hold one another accountable for our SSA struggles. The men of this group are forming a unique fellowship. Many of the men have been part of our group, or other Outpost groups, for over 20 years. This stability provides confidence and strength to the group.

If you are interested in this group, or know of men ages 45-70 who would be, please contact me at (763) 592-4700 x101. I welcome conversations anywhere along these lines.

Dan's Signature

Merry Christmas From the Staff of TCJHOP and Outpost!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son
from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Well, we’re almost there. Christmas 2020. This Christmas may feel very different than some of our other Christmases. It may be harder to see family (I still haven’t been able to even meet my in-laws in person!). While there are a lot of changes, the Truth and the reason we celebrate remain the same. Speaking of things not changing, I’m still a nerd as well as a pastor, so please bear with me as I talk a little about Greek.

The word “dwelt” used in John 1:14 is tied to the tabernacle. It could better be translated, “The Word became flesh and fixed His tabernacle among us.” This is meant to call to mind the time when God’s presence was in a tent in the wilderness because that’s where His people were. God’s character doesn’t change. Just as He was willing to dwell in the midst of His people in the literal wilderness, He desires to abide with His people no matter where they are. God has made a place for His people even on the outskirts, at the outposts, in the hard to reach places. He tabernacles with those that feel far away. As we remember Christmas, we remember our Savior laying all His glory and riches and privileges aside to be born into a barn because there was no room for Him. Christmas is the reminder that the Good Shepherd seeks us out to reside with us—not the other way around.

This is incredibly good news! Especially for those for whom our ministry exists. We are called to establish outposts of restoration for the sexually and relationally broken Body of Christ. Even as we feel like we are on the fringes of the Kingdom, we are reassured that it is in the lowly places that God chooses to dwell and manifest His presence.

Thank you for supporting this ministry as we continue to provide a place for the broken to encounter God’s dwelling presence, no matter how far off they feel. Thank you for helping establish this outpost of restoration.

Jonathan M., Outpost Director

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Giving: Obligation or Opportunity?

Click here to Donate to TCJHOP and Outpost

I don’t like talking about money. Most the time, I don’t even like thinking about it. And I really don’t like asking for it. I mean—who actually enjoys asking or being asked for money? (Spoiler alert, that’s what I’m going to do in this article.) However, the only way I’m able to do this–and in fact enjoy writing this–is because I now have come to realize I’m not trying to make anyone feel obliged to give. Rather, I get to present an opportunity for giving.

Sowing and Reaping

Sometimes I’m surprised at how much the Bible talks about money and giving. The apostle Paul is not shy regarding talking about or asking for money. In fact, there are two chapters in one of his letters that are basically a lengthy request for money. Paul makes this long appeal in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 about giving to the needs of the saints in Jerusalem. Usually only 2 Cor. 9:6-7 are quoted, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” However, there is a lot more to unpack in this passage.

Too often I’ve heard the “sowing and reaping” language being hijacked by proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” (Which I am really not a fan of…) Reading more of the surrounding context, this passage is not at all about how the givers can be rewarded for giving. Their reward was not to just “be blessed” in return or get some material dividends on this spiritual investment. Their reward is bringing about thanksgiving to God, as it says in verse 12, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Ultimately, then, God’s glory is the reward. Paul was inviting the Corinthians into this opportunity to be part of what God was doing and more fully worship and experience God’s goodness in their giving.

Burdens Or Blessings

This idea of opportunity versus obligation isn’t unique to giving. Unfortunately, we Christians do a great job of making burdens out of what should be blessings. For example, some people make their calling to ministry sound like such a burden! I get so frustrated when I hear others compare themselves to Jonah and talk about “running away from their call.” Like giving, ministry is a privilege not a compulsion!

Some of the best advice I’ve had through the years in considering my own call to ministry is (1) God doesn’t need you and (2) God will love you the same whether you follow your call or not. After all, God’s mission and purpose will not be foiled by my lack of obedience. My call to ministry, with all the suffering, pain, affliction, loneliness, ups, downs, in-betweens, and general craziness, is a gift and a privilege. I get to partner with God! If that’s all I get from ministry—i.e. my only reward is His being glorified—then I’m more than blessed. Likewise, when I give, my reward is God being glorified.

An Invitation to Give

I say all this to now extend an invitation for you to partner with us in what God is doing here at Outpost. Some of you are maybe feeling the Holy Spirit nudge you to give, and that’s great. Some of you maybe don’t feel any specific conviction yet simply want to give. That’s great too! If you can’t give, we understand and are not worried about it.

  • Do we need the money? Of course. Like many other ministries and nonprofits, giving has been less this year.
  • Do we need the support? Absolutely. This ministry for the sexually and relationally broken is one that faces attacks from many sides.
  • Do we need you to feel guilt so that you give? No. God is our ultimate provider. While your giving does help further our mission and ministry, ultimately it’s all about the result of thanksgiving and glory to God. Please do consider this opportunity to cheerfully partner with us toward the glory of God!

Give to the Max Day is Minnesota’s annual Giving Holiday. This year, it falls on November 19. Our goal is to raise $10,000. The giving opportunity opens at givemn.org/organization/TCJHOP on November 1 and goes through 11:59pm November 19. Each organization receiving a gift on any of those dates gets entered into a daily raffle for additional grants and prizes. There will also be special power hours on November 19 where additional prizes will be given. By giving at givemn.org/organization/TCJHOP, you help us to be eligible for these extra opportunities. Give to the Max is over for 2020, but you can always give on our website.

Encounter, Community, and Perseverance

Shoots of a green plant in a terra cotta pot representing growth and perseverance

I first came to Outpost as the volunteer Media Director years ago. I recently went back through some of the video footage that I shot in those early days. It brought me tears. It was so unexpected, but I was confronted with literal evidence of dear brothers and sisters who used to wear their shame and pain on their faces. I know them today as ones with shining faces, faces filled with the confidence of being loved by God and by their community. My favorite part about ministry at Outpost is watching the light of Christ fill the countenance of our participants. They are still on their healing journey, but they have been transformed into ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

There are three fundamental things that I’ve found to be necessary on the healing journey: encounter with the living, relational God; healthy community; and perseverance. I’d like to share a bit about each.

Encounter

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a.

We have this great promise, that when we give God our weak yes, He will answer. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we knock, the door will be opened to us. When we seek, we will find.

It is necessary, vital, and inescapable that we need encounter with God to be changed. Transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can conjure up or fake. Our part is a necessary “Yes” to the process of discipleship and encounter.

This need for encounter is fundamentally why we’re partnered with the Prayer Room. It’s not that there is something especially ‘spiritual’ about the modality of our Prayer Room compared with other prayer practice. The healing partnership with Outpost is really about time. What the Prayer Room affords is extended hours of prayer that force us to stop running from our pain; confront our boredom and cold hearts; and get beyond our own navel-gazing to pray for others.

It can be difficult at first to face into our lack of hunger for God, but in the repeated devotion of time, He encounters us and softens our hearts. In that space of prayer, communion, and encounter, He transforms us.

Community

“…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Most of us have struggled at some point with belonging, feeling left out, or unwanted. For those of us who have struggled with addictive or compulsive sin, there is a correlation between our sin struggles and our lack of community. When I am cut off from community, I am at highest risk of giving into the enemy. When I am surrounded with support from the body of Christ, I am empowered to overcome by the experience of real love.

It’s a powerful thing to be loved on our worst day. It’s a powerful thing to know that someone will stand with us when we can’t stand ourselves. It’s also painful, because broken humans hurt each other, but as we risk, choose to trust, and learn to forgive as we have been forgiven, we find belonging and transformation.

Perseverance

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

The work of healing is hard. The enemy comes in with discouragement and, like the serpent in the garden, with variations of “Did God really say?” or “Does God love you, really?”

We can’t dictate what transformation will look like, but if we persevere, it will happen. In my own journey, I always came to the Lord with my laundry list of things to fix. Typically, He ignored my list and gently worked on something else. This was not because of some sort of cheap grace but rather a fundamental fault in my understanding. God was concerned, not with my punishment, but with my healing. As I learned to submit to His Lordship on a daily basis–regardless of my feelings of rebellion, fatigue, boredom, or even joy–He transformed me.

What results from encounter, community, and perseverance? Transformation. It’s not a myth or a fanciful idea. It’s real, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and it’s the desire of the Father for us. (Jeremiah 29:11).

We Need You

We want Outpost to continue to stand as a beacon of hope for transformation. As we approach our annual fundraising banquet, we need to raise $41,000 for this year of ministry. If the message of transformation resonates with you, there are a few ways that you can help us:

Consider sponsoring a table. If you are financially able, this is a profound tool to help spread the message of hope. When you sponsor a table and invite people from your network, you are inviting them into hope. Every year at the banquet, we hear from people who are hearing testimonies of transformation for the first time–it’s powerful to see the way their hearts come alive.

Attend or make a gift. You may not be in a position to sponsor a table, but every gift we receive is an important part of our mission.

Pray. We wouldn’t be here without the sustaining power of prayer, and we continue to need your support. Please continue to partner and stand with us in this way, and do not discount this critical ministry. You matter to us!

To register for the banquet or make a donation, CLICK HERE

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/

“He, She, Them, and Me”

Small rock on big rock with plant growing

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

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

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

Rooted in God’s Truth

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

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

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

Rooted in God’s Love

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

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

Ministering in Love and Truth

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

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

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