“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

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

Red and Blue Arrows pointing right and left

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

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

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

I Took the Blue Pill, and Then the Red Pill

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

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

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

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

The War on God Wants Your Redemption Silenced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejecting Reality Means Ignoring Science

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

  • “Transition is the answer.”

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

  • “Transgender people are born that way.”

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

  • “A person’s sex can be changed.”

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

Leaving the Delusions of the Trans-Matrix Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Changes? An Appeal for Give to the Max Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unexpected Journey

 

Figure hailing a cab on a world map

 

I had countless questions as a young person struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. Why did I struggle with these desires? How could God change me? Would I ever be able to have a wife and children? The Church wasn’t talking much about homosexuality thirty years ago, so I was left to navigate the rigors of high school without much direction. I knew the Bible said that if you know the truth, the truth will set you free, so I decided to attend a Bible college after high school. Certainly a Bible college would know the truth that I was so desperate to find!

While at college, I first learned about Outpost Ministries, a ministry that exists to help men and women find freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions and other issues of sexual and relational brokenness. At just nineteen years old, I walked through the doors of Outpost. It was an unexpected journey but one that I was ready for and eager to take in order to find freedom.

God was faithful to me in those early years. At Outpost, I found answers. I found healing. I found my calling. I found a home.

In 2001, Dan Puumala asked me to come on staff as the Youth and College-Age Director. I was tasked with creating programming to help young people struggling with issues of gender and sexual identity. It was another unexpected journey, one most churches and ministries were not taking. Through a whole lot of help from Jesus and some trial and error, we found what worked. Persistent prayer, the study of God’s Word, and a focus on one’s inner-healing were foundational to the process. The practical realities of accountability, support groups, and separating out from negative influences were also foundational to walking away from life-dominating issues.

Outpost has seen many young lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ throughout the years. What a joy it has been to partner with the Lord in such an important work! Now, I have the joy of seeing many of those young men and women married and with children. They continue to bear the image of God with integrity and beauty in a society that so often seeks to tear down the distinctions between men and women. These holy ones strive to be good gifts to the other gender, knowing it is a glorious position to complement each other. They are also great parents, raising their children in the wisdom of righteousness.

Outpost is raising up generations. Family lineage will continue for these men and women, something the spiritual forces behind homosexuality seek to cease. Life will continue to flow. When we choose obedience to Jesus, He makes our lives fruitful—in our families and in our communities. I am very proud of the men and women whom I have had the privilege of ministering to throughout the last 18 years. They are pilgrims on this earth, the
faithful who have chosen to live for another age.

Now, the Lord is leading my wife and me on another unexpected journey. Over this past season, the Lord has been speaking to me out of the story of Abraham. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Abraham received the promise, he had a vision, but it was only realized by his first stepping out in faith. He ultimately received his inheritance though his saying “yes” to the unexpected journey.

In similar fashion, under the Lord’s leadership, my wife and I are stepping down from our positions at Outpost/TCJHOP and are following Him to the next adventure He has for us. We love this ministry. We love the vision and mission. We love what the Lord has built within this organization. But now, the Lord is calling us away, and we must follow.

This may seem like sudden news, but this has been a journey of discovery for us over many months. I took a sabbatical last spring. During that time, I was able to begin catching my breath and healing from almost 20 years of intense, front-lines ministry. As you can imagine, this is a challenging ministry to be in, and it has only grown more difficult in the past few years. There has been a great cost to my family and me for saying “yes” to life on the front lines. The cost has been one which we have paid willingly and would gladly do again, should the Lord ask us. But we know that if we stayed and said no to this new journey, we would be outside of the Lord’s leading. There would not be the grace to accomplish the mission and vision of the organization, and we would miss the fruitfulness of the next season of our lives.

We have not made this decision lightly. We have dialogued with good friends and mentors from all around the nation. We are so blessed to have godly men and women in our lives to help us navigate what we are sensing from the Lord. Listening obedience has also been the foundation of my ministry at Outpost. Without practicing listening obedience, I would not be where I am today. I would not have a new heart, a beautiful wife, and three amazing children. I have a rich history of relationship with God to draw from to give me strength and courage to step into the new season God has for my family and me. Yes, it is good to trust and obey, no matter how difficult.

Thank you so much for your support and friendship over the years. Candace and I are truly blessed to have been a part of such an amazing family. In that same spirit, we bless Outpost/TCJHOP as we leave.

Now more than ever, Outpost Ministries needs your support. Even now, I ask that you prayerfully consider a year-end gift to this vital kingdom ministry. Outpost has been a beacon of hope and healing for the sexually and relationally broken for over 40 years. She has helped countless men, women, and families heal from the devastating impact of sin. I am confident that her mission will continue under the leadership of Jesus and those who will be raised up in my stead.

This organization is a national treasure to cherish and invest in so that in another 40 years, she will continue to shine brightly in a world of growing darkness, continuing the vital work of Loving God, Declaring Freedom.

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An Introduction From The Interim Director

What a bittersweet situation to find myself writing as the Interim Director. As Nate’s friend, I am excited for this new season of life. Organizationally, however, this is a sad farewell. Nate has been a force for innovation and strength at Outpost, and his legacy will be something we carry with us permanently.

Now, we move forward. This is not a long-term appointment for me, but one that is intended to last a year at most. I already had a role at Outpost as the Executive Pastor, and long term I will step down as director to make room for the next leader. The Board of Directors will be actively looking to find a new director over the next year. We covet your prayers deeply in this process. We know that Jesus has someone special in mind to lead this vital ministry.

As I serve in the interim, I want to tell you about why I am here and what I love about this ministry. I am someone, like many of our Elijah Company participants, who was introduced to Outpost through a close friend who was struggling with same-sex attraction.

Then and even more now, the mission of Outpost resonated so deeply with me because my own testimony is one of overcoming. Because of the work of Jesus in my life, the things I struggled with before are just a memory. I was made new. In a world that increasingly tells us to just get by, my heart was immediately caught by this ministry and its message that no matter your struggle, Jesus can make you whole.

We are a company of overcomers. You and me. We are a people set apart. We have been made holy. Whether your struggle is with same-sex attraction or other forms of sexual and relational brokenness, Jesus remains the same. He makes us new.

While I am sad to carry on this ministry without my dear and beloved friend, Nate, I know that Jesus is still in the business of overcoming. He won’t stop rescuing the lost, and Outpost will continue to stand as a testimony of freedom.

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Voices: Real Connection, Real Freedom

connectionIn a word, I have found in twenty-three years of ministry, that people find lasting freedom from same-sex attraction (SSA) through connection. I believe anyone can find consistent power to overcome SSA if they can attain and maintain meaningful connection: 1) to God through His Son, Jesus; 2) to a community of sojourners; and 3) to the truth of Scripture.

A simple note of clarification here: freedom from SSA does not necessarily mean the absence of SSA but rather sovereignty over SSA. When America declared freedom from England in 1776, England did not go away. For eight years, England resisted and we fought hard to gain our own sovereignty, which is the power to control identity and behavior. Nowadays, sexual orientation is no longer considered merely a part of a person, but rather a sovereign power which completely identifies or classifies people. It takes over a person’s life. This conflicts with one of our culture’s highest values, self-determination. As Christians, we voluntarily transfer our sovereignty to God, rather than to SSA, thus bypassing the issue of self-determination altogether. We submit or defer control of our identity and behavior to God.

Let me develop three keys to connection that set people free. Intimacy with Jesus is primary. If there is no love of Christ, there is no motivation to seek freedom from other loves. Jesus knows and cares about each aspect of our personal lives. If we let Him, He will help us set our lives in order. He will fight for us against our enemies who want us enslaved to them or others . . . Anybody but Jesus!

Secondly, we must have holy, intimate connections with others. This happens when emotions are felt and shared. People need healthy, intimate, non-sexual relationships with same-sex friends who do not struggle with SSA. It is in the context of these intimate relationships that people discover their true selves—who God created them to be. We must be known by the church and in communities of like-minded individuals who support and help. Along with weekly church participation, we need therapists, support groups, and accountability partners in the church. One cannot fight for freedom alone and win; it takes an army! Simply showing up in these contexts is not enough—pulling into a garage doesn’t make you a Buick! One must actually be known by supportive others as one who struggles with SSA. This is much easier said than done!

Finally, there must be a strong connection to the Word of God as the only rule for faith and practice. In contrast to moral relativism, we adhere to the Bible’s absolute truth. Careful, thoughtful, serious study of Scripture and submission to its authority will change us. We renounce half-truths, cultural myths, and stereotypes. This establishes our identity on the foundation of truth. We become empowered to stand firm in the face of temptation. The lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil have all been defeated by the truth of Jesus’ Word. Jesus said it, “The truth shall set you free.” Indeed.

This post is an excerpt from the book Freedom Realized by Stephen Black, used by permission. It is one of the many contributions to the book from mature ministry leaders who are helping individuals overcome homosexuality, sexual sin, and brokenness of identity.

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Freedom Realized, a Book Review

Freedom Realized

Stephen Black, author of the recently published Freedom Realized: Finding Freedom from Homosexuality and Living Life Free from Labels, is the Director of First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City. The ministry was founded in 1976 by Frank and Peg Rogers under the name Fishers of Men Evangelistic Corporation. The name of the ministry was changed to First Stone Ministries in 1981. Along with Outpost Ministries, First Stone was one of the founding members of Exodus International. First Stone was also one of the founders of Restored Hope Network after the demise of Exodus International in 2013. Stephen is currently the Vice-Chairman of the RHN Board. Outpost Ministries was also one of the original members of Restored Hope Network in 2014. Freedom Realized was published in 2017 and is already creating quite a stir in the LGBTQ community.

I would like to highlight some of my favorite parts of the book. Stephen gives his testimony of leaving homosexuality in chapter 1 and writes about the root causes that led him into a homosexual life and how Jesus came into his life and set him free.

What sets his testimony apart from other written testimonies that have been published (Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas, Setting Love in Order by Mario Bergner, Coming Out of Homosexuality by Bob Davies, Pursuing Sexual Wholeness by Andy Comiskey) is that in chapter 3, My Story, Part 2: The Healing Power of Pain—The Crucible of Suffering Produces Life, he goes a step further. He writes about what he calls the “the dark night of the soul,” a quote from St. John of the Cross about the deeper Christian life. It is something that all Christians will experience at some time in their lives. He writes about the loss of five immediate family members within a short period of time. A deadly tornado devastated his town of Moore, Oklahoma in 1999 on the same day he buried his younger sister. His oldest daughter had just been sent to prison, and his wife was diagnosed with a skin disorder due to stress. He was also facing bankruptcy. He lost his daughter in 2012. He didn’t react sinfully, but with humility he sought counseling. Many a Christian would have given up.

Black explores giving up in chapter 4, The Burden of Those Who Do Not Finish the Race. I am so glad Stephen wrote about this topic. It is the burden that everyone in this line of ministry experiences. He writes about why some go back into homosexuality after years of ministry and counseling. We at Outpost have experienced this loss—some have been close friends—and the grief is sometimes hard to bear.

Chapter 6, Coram Deo—Experience Freedom In His Presence, is short and sweet. Coram Deo is Latin for “in the presence of God.” This chapter explores “the truth of Christians living in the presence, under the authority, and the honor of God at all times.” This is a very important concept for anyone leaving homosexuality.

Chapter 10, Freedom Realized By Experts—Final Thoughts From a Cloud of Witnesses, has 16 testimonies of men and women who have left homosexuality. Dan Puumala, Ministry Relations Pastor at Outpost, is one of them. I found his to be one of the best, but then again, I am biased.

After laying the ground work in the previous 10 chapters, chapter 11 is the reason the book was written in the first place. First Stone Ministries conducted an online survey that spanned 25 years, surveying former clients who were connected with First Stone for at least a year. The survey took place from November 2015 thru December 31 2016. 500 people were engaged, and 185 responded within 13 months. Each respondent was asked 29 questions. Stephen has created graphs and charts to help the reader to better understand the results. I highly recommend this book to anyone who ministers to the sexually and relationally broken or who wants to better understand the issues at hand.

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Called Out 2018

 

Called Out 2018

Announcing our 14th annual Called Out of Darkness Celebration! Called Out of Darkness is Outpost Ministries’ annual response to National Coming Out Day. For over 40 years, we have been ministering to men and women seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions. Jesus has been faithful to bring freedom and transformation time and time again. Come hear our stories!

Saturday, October 6, 2018, 7 PM

Olivet United Methodist Church

3620 43rd Ave N

Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Called Out 2018 is sure to be an evening of passionate worship, inspiring testimonies and heartfelt thanksgiving to the One who has called us out of the darkness of homosexuality into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

Rock Bottom, Persistent Love

rock bottomsMy story is not a simple “coming to Jesus” story. It’s been a long, hard journey, full of ups and downs, messy relationships, and many rock bottoms. But Jesus faithfully pursued me and reached out to me in every twist and turn I took, in each rock bottom I hit. His love has been persistent through it all.

My Early Years

I grew up in a Christian home, and we went church every Sunday. At a young age, I contracted bacterial spinal meningitis and was in the hospital for months. The doctors told my parents that if I survived, I would have brain damage and be disabled. By God’s mercy, I lived. I came out with only a hearing loss and a slight learning disability. My illness still had a profound impact on my life, though. Other kids teased me for having hearing aids. I struggled with friendships and connecting with peers.

In the third grade, I went on a Christian camping retreat with my dad. There, I was introduced to Christ and his love and salvation for me. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior while at that camp.

Around that time, I also got into a lot of fights with my two sisters. Once during a fight, my older sister punched me across the face.  I cried and went to my dad, but I was met with a face of anger and disappointment, not the comfort I was longing for. I was crushed. My relationship with him was already strained, and I felt a deep emptiness inside me. I determined to be the good little boy from then on.

Trapped and Hopeless

In middle school, that emptiness grew. Then I discovered pornography, and eventually gay pornography. I quickly became addicted. The images consumed me. It was torture, and by the ninth grade, I felt hopelessly trapped by it. I was losing sleep and losing friends because I was going home to look at porn rather than hanging out with them. I knew God and had accepted Jesus as my Savior, but I didn’t know how He could help me.  On many nights, I cried myself to sleep, asking God to take away this addiction. He seemed to respond with silence. I would vow to do better the next day but never did, and I was filled with guilt.

One night, while my mom and I were the only ones home, we got into a huge fight. I got so angry that I threw a large book at her. My actions shocked me. How could I do such a thing? I was the good boy! I finally confessed my addiction to my parents. They took away my computer privileges, and I met with our pastor for a while. It was helpful to talk with someone, but we never got to the root of my problems. Then I went off to college and was given a laptop, and I went right back to my desired source of comfort.

Trapped Again

During my first year of college, I began to be more aware of my intense attraction to guys and to actually question my sexuality. Eventually, I came out as gay to my parents. I began hooking up with other guys I had met online. My sexual addiction began to consume me once again, and I distanced myself from my friends.

Shouts in Our Pain

I still had a relationship with God though, and I didn’t want addiction as a part of my life. Once, after I had been crying all night, something nudged me to look up C.S. Lewis quotes. One in particular jumped out at me: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I knew then that, through my pain, God had been shouting at me for a while. I knew that I needed to leave college. The next day, while my friends were off at class or at chapel, I left all of my belongings and drove home.

My parents were supportive and helped me find Outpost Ministries. I was involved there for a season, but I was not quite ready to submit my sexuality to God and decided to leave. In the meantime, regardless of my choices, my dad started to rebuild our relationship. We began going out to lunch together. I would talk, and he would just listen. He took an interest in me, and it meant the world to me. It was a small but important change, and my life slowly began to shift course.

Another Rock Bottom

Soon after, I went back to a Christian college closer to home, and I was able to receive counseling there. My heart for God grew, even though I was still leading a double life. On campus, I was the good Christian boy, shy and unsure of himself, doing what he was told. Off campus, I was a sex addict who hooked up with about 30 different guys. The more I tried to find comfort and satisfaction in other men, the bigger the emptiness inside me grew. I hit an all-time low point. Yet there was another rock bottom to hit: I later learned I had contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I was devastated.

One night, I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across Jeremiah 30:12-13, 17: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’” It was me. God saw me in my state and promised restoration and gave me hope. From that day on, I stopped acting out sexually. God gave me a chance to try again.

A Question I Couldn’t Hide From

Two years later, I still desperately longed for a relationship. I thought, this time, maybe a Christian guy would work out better. I met one, and after a party, we sat in his car talking and agreed to start dating. He then asked me a question I couldn’t hide from: “How can we do this and glorify God?” I froze and heard God say, “Yes, Ian, how can you do this and glorify Me?”  I didn’t know what to say.  Eventually, I turned to him and said, “I don’t think I can do this,” and I got out of his car and left.

By the end of college, I had come to the conclusion that I would have to be a “gay Christian.” I had gotten involved in the LGBT community and the gay club scene by this point, but I still had a desire to honor God and be close to him. I determined that I would live a celibate life, but accepted that I would always struggle with my attractions.

Maybe There’s More

I still desired a place to go for spiritual support, and eventually found it again at Outpost. First, I went through Joshua Fellowship’s summer masculinity course. I learned what it means to be a man created in the image of God and how to be the man He created me to be. I also found a new, enjoyable community with the Joshua Fellowship guys. As my masculine strength and my trust in God grew, I noticed that my thoughts began to change. Maybe I wasn’t limited to just live a celibate life and always struggle. Maybe God had more for me.

Inviting Jesus with Me

I was still involved in the LGBT community during this time. It fed a deep desire inside of me for connection with others. In group at Outpost, I continually admitted going to gay clubs.  As I shared, the Outpost leaders advised me to ask Jesus to come to the bars with me.

I started doing just that, and my experience at the bars began to change. It wasn’t as fun anymore. One time at the bar, I saw someone I knew, and my friends continuously made lustful comments about him.  It hurt to hear what they were saying because I knew this person loved God, and he deserved better than those comments or to be in that bar. So I left my friends there. Little did they or I know that this was the last time I would go to the bars with them.

A New Season

A new season in my life came when I attended the One Thing Conference in Kansas City.  It was an amazing experience, and it launched me into a life of prayer and inspired me to get more involved with the ministry. I signed up for TCJHOP’s summer internship. We spent four days a week in the Prayer Room and also listened to different speakers. I experienced how being in prayer healed my heart and my relationship with God. I grieved my many messy, unhealthy relationships but recognized my real need for love. The Father’s love began filling that emptiness inside, and I desired less and less to be in a relationship with a guy.

God’s Power to Restore

Over time, God has not only restored my relationship with Himself and provided me with healthy same-sex friendships. He has also brought healing in my relationships with my parents, especially with my dad. My sisters and I have built amazing new friendships. God really does have the power to restore the family. God has also restored my desire to be married and have a family of my own. In fact, I have found a very special woman, and we are engaged to be married later this year. I have a new a passion to stand for the image of God in men and women. I also love to share my story with young people who find themselves trapped in similar addictions and situations as I did.

Through all the ups and downs, twist and turns and rock bottom experiences of my journey, God has been patient to reach out to me in my darkest moments. He has graciously shown me His persistent love and the truth of His Word. “He brought me out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (Psalm 40:2). God’s healing, restoration and firm foundation have brought unexpected joy and peace in my life that I never thought possible.

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Voices Q & A: Leaving and Grieving

leaving and grieving

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

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

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

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

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