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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Linda’s Story: Tranformation of a Transgender

Linda SeilerFrom my earliest memory I wanted to be a boy instead of a girl.

Somehow I just knew that if I had male genitalia, my life would be complete. As a child, I prayed repeatedly for God to make me into a boy and became obsessed with my pursuit. However, I never told my family. Though I was a tomboy growing up, no one ever knew the depth of my struggles. It was my little secret that I kept for decades.

Around fourth grade, I heard about sex reassignment surgeries and vowed I would have the operation as soon as I was old enough and had the money. About the same time, some playmates introduced me to pornography, which developed into sexual addictions that would span the next 20+ years. Unbeknownst to my parents, I would spend hours alone in my room feeding my sexual fantasies, always envisioning myself as the male counterpart rather than the female.

JUNIOR HIGH

In junior high, when all the other girls were interested in makeup and boys, to my horror, I found myself attracted to women—especially older teachers who were strong yet nurturing.

I desperately wanted to be held and comforted by a woman, which then progressed into sexual fantasies. I was distressed by my attractions, but I dared not tell anyone.

Around seventh grade, I started to consider the logistical difficulties of having sex reassignment surgery. Where would I get the money? How would I tell my family? You can’t just be Linda one day and David the next. I considered running away as soon as I reached adulthood to have the surgery without ever telling my family, but I loved my family, and I didn’t want to live without them. I made a conscious decision at that point to try and conform to society’s expectation of me to look more like a girl in order to fit in. But inside, I still longed deeply to be a man, and the attractions to women became increasingly difficult to resist.

GOING THROUGH CHANGES

When my body began menstruation, I could have sworn my life was over. I envied the boys around me whose voices were beginning to change, and I mourned the fact that mine would never change like that. Instead, I had to submit to wearing training bras and being inconvenienced by monthly periods. Being female was a curse, not a blessing.

I committed my life to Jesus during my junior year in high school, but within days, I began doubting my salvation experience because my struggles didn’t go away like I thought they would. Yet, I knew Jesus had done something in my heart, and I wanted to follow Him. I got involved with my church youth group and, for the first time in my life, felt like I had friends who loved me. But the closer I got to females, the more I struggled with my attractions and sexual addictions. I was miserable but couldn’t tell anyone. I tried growing my hair out and even dating guys—thinking that being physical with a boy would “cure” me—but it just made me want to be male all the more. I tried to conform and even wore dresses on special occasions, but inside it always felt like I was wearing a costume, like dressing in drag.

COLLEGE

In college, I got involved with a campus ministry and developed a deeper relationship with God, praying and reading my Bible regularly, even sharing Christ with the lost. I eventually became a student leader despite the fact that I was deeply attracted to women who mentored me and was enslaved to sexual addictions behind closed doors. I hated the double life I was living. At one point, I knelt down on my dorm floor and prayed earnestly for God to please take my transgender desires away, hoping no one would ever know.

My senior year in college, I attended a campus ministry talk on overcoming habitual sin. The speaker quoted James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” stressing how important it is to get your sin in the light in order to be free. I was deeply convicted and knew I had to confess my secret to my campus pastor if I was ever to experience freedom.

It took all the courage in the world to finally tell my campus pastor my lifelong secret I had kept for 21 years. In fact, I seriously considered suicide as a way out, but I knew that would devastate my family, and I couldn’t do that to them. When I finally confided in my campus pastor, I expected him to react with shock, horror, or condemnation because I was a leader in the ministry living a double life. But instead, he responded to me in love, assuring me that he was committed to finding me the help I needed. I couldn’t believe it. I walked away from that conversation with a fresh revelation of God’s grace. I had always felt God hated me and condemned me for my sin. My campus pastor’s reaction was a living illustration of the Father’s heart towards me. For the first time, I discovered that being completely transparent with another person was very healing. I didn’t have to hide anymore.

That day in 1994 was my first step in what would be an eleven-year journey towards freedom.

My campus pastor met with me a few times and eventually connected me with a professional counselor. The next decade was full of ups and downs as I sought healing. I read every book I could find on homosexuality, listened to tapes, attended conferences, and met with multiple counselors from both ex-gay ministries and general Christian counseling. It was a slow process, as there were not a multitude of resources at that time to help women struggling with transgender issues. In fact, well-meaning Christian counselors told me they had seen homosexuals and lesbians set free but never anyone transgender, so I should do my best to cope this side of heaven and know that I will be totally free when I die. Despite their discouragement, the Lord gave me supernatural assurance that He would completely heal me and that the transgender issues would be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I thirsted so deeply for nurture, I seemed to get worse before I got better, falling into sexual immorality with another woman from my church. I eventually repented and broke off that relationship, realizing my fantasy of being a man who slept with women would never fill the deep void in my soul. By God’s grace, I resolved to tug at the hem of His garment and not let go until I experienced the freedom Jesus died to give me.

As I continued to pursue healing, the Lord put a spiritual mother in my life who was only a few years older than I but spiritually much more mature. I was deeply attracted to her, yet she wasn’t phased by my struggles and began to invest in me relationally in a wholesome way. I found myself wanting to be just like her (much like a daughter might want to emulate her mother), so she helped me buy more feminine clothes and gave me advice concerning makeup and mannerisms. My outward appearance began to change, but inwardly, I still believed the lie that it was better to be a man, and I was still battling attractions to women.

In the fall of 2005, the Lord led me to meet with Mark Sandford, an inner healing prayer counselor at Elijah House. Over the course of a week, we spent hours praying through a lifetime of deep emotional wounds that were at the root of my issues. I forgave those who hurt me, let go of bitterness, renounced inner vows, and repented for my wrong responses towards those who had wounded me. I embraced the cross, and we closed every door I had opened to give the enemy legal ground to influence my life. I cried and cried as the Lord spoke graciously to me, and for the first time in my life, I saw a tender, compassionate side to the Father that I wasn’t aware existed. It’s as if I could literally feel His hands holding my heart. My lifelong yearning to be held and comforted by a woman was met in the tender arms of my heavenly Father.

THE NEW ME

After that powerful encounter with God, I had a newfound contentment in being a woman and was set free from my sexual addictions, which were essentially a counterfeit to the comfort I could only find in my Father’s arms. As I continued to walk out my healing, I eventually started experiencing genuine attractions towards men. It was as if I was going through delayed puberty in my mid-thirties, which was both awkward and thrilling to finally experience the mystery of sexuality according to God’s design. God had transformed me from the inside out and accomplished the impossible. I still feel like I’m living a dream!

Linda Seiler

Though I wanted to share my testimony immediately after everything happened in 2005, the Lord had me wait. I see His sovereignty in that now, as I needed time for my healing to be tested and to prepare me for the warfare that lay ahead. I stayed silent for eight years until the Lord gave me the green light to go public upon my eighth-year anniversary of freedom, a “new beginning” of sorts. I am finally coming out of the closet in a redemptive way, sharing my story with others to bring hope and restoration. I’m grateful for all the pastors, counselors, faithful friends, and especially my supportive parents who walked with me during the healing process. The eleven-year journey towards transformation was totally worth it. The length of the journey itself has given me empathy for those who are currently struggling to break free from similar issues and sometimes feel hopeless. Healing from sexual brokenness is rarely instantaneous—it’s more like peeling back layers of an onion one at a time—but if we will hold fast to the truth of God’s Word and determine never to give up, we will experience transformation to the point that the sin which once characterized our lives ceases to dominate us. God promised: such were some of you (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Outpost Ministries is grateful for Linda as a co-laborer in God’s Kingdom and for sharing her story. Check out more of Linda’s resources and pictures of her transformation at www.lindaseiler.com

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Blown Away

testimony

The following testimony is from a Joshua Fellowship participant after completing the Holy Aggression Masculinity Course at the end of last summer:

I went into the [weekend retreat] expecting, but not expecting much. So now I’m a little blown away and still trying to process the weekend. God met me in an incredible way, speaking to me at every turn. The weekend felt like it was the culmination of the last year God has been working in me finally coming to fruition. 

From the start, I could tell there were people praying for us. I had asked a few friends and family to pray for me throughout the weekend, but [I] could feel that there were more. People I do not even know had set an atmosphere, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

 I found out a lot about myself and how I cope under adversity. I make compromises, and that is what has gotten me here in the first place. I came face to face with my passive self, really putting words to what had been just a vague concept. That allowed me to confront it, to take it down.

 All the while, I was having fun working with other men as broken as I am. After the weekend, I really feel like I am part of the community. I do not just feel hopeful for change, I feel changed. I have come to an understanding of what brotherly love looks like that has been so foreign to me in the past. I am so glad I committed to this summer. It works if you work it. It’s worth it.

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Interested in joining programming? Contact us.

Staying the Course

God has been good to us at Outpost Ministries. It is no small thing to be a ministry to the sexually and relationally broken and still be bearing fruit after 41 years. Our fruitfulness is especially remarkable given the reality of the front lines ministry we do and the major shifts that have taken place in culture. We begin the year with gratitude in our hearts to the Lord for His leadership and provision throughout the years. And we are looking forward to the future and staying the course, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

Speedy Justice

In the fall of 2012, the Lord spoke to my heart from Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. In this scripture passage, Jesus clearly teaches us that in the context of night and day prayer, He releases justice speedily to His elect ones. As I read the passage, it was as if the word “speedily” jumped off the page. “Lord, you mean we can speed up the process? Human beings can play a role in partnering with You in the release of justice?” The answer was, “Yes”! God had my attention.

You see, I had seen many of our clients fight for long periods of time to get justice for their souls. The warfare around getting free from unwanted same-sex attractions was intense. The enemy wasn’t letting go without a fight. This passage of scripture gave us insight into how to fight back. The answer was persistent, consistent prayer.

Biblical Justice

The Lord loves releasing justice. “For I, the Lord, love justice . . .” (Isaiah 61:8a, NKJV). Justice is when God makes the wrong things right. Though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 61:1-4 gives us one of the best pictures of what justice accomplishes: Good news is proclaimed. Broken hearts are bound up. Captives are released. God shows favor to His people and vengeance to His enemies. Those who mourn are comforted and made glad. What has been torn down is restored.

Speedy justice for our participants is to experience the healing of their hearts and the restoration of their families. It is to be set free from the bondage of homosexuality. It is to become grounded in the truth of who they are as God’s image bearers. Speedy justice is the taking hold of their authority as sons and daughters of the Father. And it is to be made fruitful.

We said “yes” to the Lord and began the task of marrying night and day prayer with inner-healing ministry. The warfare intensified, but we started to see justice prevail in new ways. People’s lives were transforming. Our staff was growing. Our finances were increasing. God was blessing our efforts.

Now, I am more convinced than ever that times of corporate and personal prayer are key to overcoming life-dominating issues. There are many other helpful tools I wholeheartedly believe in that we use for the journey—Christian counseling, 12-step groups, life-giving community—but when we spend extended time in intimacy with God, we get more. God accelerates the process.

Not a Formula

I want to be careful not to make this formulaic—if you do “x,” God will do “y.” It is not a formula at all; God desires relationship with us. Prayer is dialogue with God. It is a conversation that involves sharing our hearts with Him. Our primary goal in prayer, however, should be listening. We are transformed from the inside out by hearing the voice of the Lord through His Word and through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discerning God’s Voice

God is always speaking the healing word. Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” The Lord is quick to release truth that will set us free, but we have to be receptive to it. It can be hard to hear the voice of the Lord in the midst of all the clamor around us. There are so many other voices that demand our attention.

This is where Outpost comes in. One of the main skills we teach our participants is to discern the voice of the Lord from all the other voices—especially the voices of the world, our flesh and the devil. Our participants learn to have life-giving quiet times with the Lord and to obey what He is speaking to them.

Leann Payne, in her book The Broken Image, wrote:

 Listening to God is the most effective tool we have in our “healing kit,” for by it we know how to collaborate with His Spirit. Teaching others to listen is one of the most valuable lessons we as spiritual directors can give them; by this freedom to hear, they pass from immaturity (being under the Law or laws) to maturity (the walk with Christ in the Spirit), both as persons and as Christians. The Lord Himself becomes their chief counselor and guide, and our vocation is made easier (pg. 134).

Corporate Prayer

When we pray together, we receive more revelation of the love of God. In Ephesians 3:17-19, the Apostle Paul prays, “. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (emphasis added). God desires personal prayer and corporate expressions of prayer. Thus, we teach our participants how to do both.

We provide a place for corporate prayer in the TCJHOP Prayer Room. In the Prayer Room, our participants are able to join with the greater body of Christ in a unified cry for justice—not just for themselves, but for the believers in the Twin Cities and beyond. As we pray together, we receive more of God’s heart for those we are praying for. As we pray together, we are set free from the prison of being only self-focused.

Looking Forward

One of our main objectives in the coming year is to make our resources more accessible to the region. Requests for speakers and our Distinctions Seminar are increasing. Outpost North in the Brainerd Lakes Area is going strong under the leadership of Angie Klein. We have planted groups in the South Metro that we hope to grow in 2018. As the Lord gives grace, we will consider the possibility of expanding in the east and west.

Even as the tide of culture continues to embrace gender and sexual confusion, there are still those who are seeking our services. Young people are still making different decisions about how to deal with their same-sex attractions. Instead of embracing them and living them out, they are striving to bring their sexuality under the lordship of Jesus Christ. God is meeting them in their obedience and restoring their souls. Jesus Christ has life-changing power! We have the privilege of witnessing this process week after week.

As I look forward to the future, we are staying the course. We will continue to strive to make prayer central to all we do. From the overflow of what we receive in prayer, we will do the work of inner-healing ministry. Thank you for partnering with us in this essential work, and blessings on you in 2018!

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The Road of Faith and Manhood

Basketball Under WaterI was born to parents who were high school teachers who genuinely loved me and imparted good qualities to my sister and me. Our family attended a Presbyterian church for a while, but it was never a big part of our lives. Little by little, we found other things to do on Sunday mornings.

Even though our family lived apart from God, He amazingly pursued me in my childhood. When I was eight years old, I had a dream about Jesus. The dream had a big effect on me, and I told others about it. Billy Graham Crusades, televised during prime time, also impacted me. I learned the sinners’ prayer and prayed it daily.

Broken Reality

When I was 13, life and the forces of darkness took their toll on our family. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer and wasn’t expected to survive. Eight months of nauseating chemotherapy and radiation followed. But thankfully God brought me through it, though I lost my right leg through the ordeal.

Also around that time, family problems began to surface. Suddenly we were dealing with fractured relationships and hidden sin. Without the Lord in our lives, none of us knew how to handle it. Wounds and brokenness resulted. (Side note: Outpost’s Living Waters program was a great help to me in processing and praying through wounds from the past.)

Searching for Truth

Having survived cancer and junior high school (not sure which was worse!), I really began searching for truth. In high school, I took lessons in eastern meditation. But my journey to Christ began in the most unlikely place—the local movie theater. Two friends and I went to see The Omen, a Hollywood horror flick based on the emergence of the anti-Christ. We talked into the night about the Bible, even though none of us knew much about it.

Soon after, my friend Mark and I began attending a series on the book of Revelation at a local church. Stories from Revelation left me more afraid than The Omen did. Jesus is coming back, judgment day is approaching, and I knew I wasn’t ready.

Opening the Door

In college, I really started seeking a relationship with Christ but didn’t understand that it began by faith. This difficult season came to a sudden and joyful end when two Christians knocked on my dorm room door sharing a gospel tract. I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior on February 22, 1978.

Wonderful days followed, as I was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. My life had been turned right-side up, and I was all in. The Lord brought two men into my life to disciple me, and I was baptized that summer.

Off the Rails

Naturally, I thought my same-sex attraction would go away now that I was a Christian. I was wrong. Rather, it was like holding a basketball under water. My gender identity had gone off the rails when I was an early teen, and it was still off the rails. Becoming a Christian didn’t fix it. As author Alan Medinger has said, I had undeveloped masculinity, and the only solution, was, well, development. I needed to resume my journey into manhood.

Same-sex attraction might seem horrible and undesirable to some, but as Proverbs 27:7 says, “to one who is hungry, everything bitter is sweet.”  I longed for manhood—my own manhood, really—and, eventually, the longing became sexual.

After college, I moved to the big city and lived near downtown. Soon, I discovered all of the places to get into trouble. I hated falling into sin but couldn’t resist the draw. Along with the spiritual consequences, there was real physical danger. It was the early 80’s, and AIDS was spreading unknowingly and undetected. Even though I veered into sexual sin, God spared me from that brutal outcome.

But God had a plan. A job opened up in Minneapolis. I packed up a U-Haul and headed north.

Deepened Roots

Many blessings awaited me in Minneapolis, and one of them was Outpost. I contacted the ministry within days of arriving and started meeting with one of the staff members. He also recommended a good church, which I attend to this day.

The following years brought many opportunities for growth. I was in the thick of things at Outpost as a volunteer and participant in Joshua Fellowship. I also deepened my roots at church where I joined a great small group and participated in a church plant in my neighborhood.

At the time, I believed that my efforts to grow spiritually and emotionally would cause my same-sex attraction to go away. Again, I was wrong. I was still falling into sexual sin from time to time, and I longed to be set free. None of my efforts addressed the real underlying issues.

Breakthrough

Though it wasn’t sudden, eventually there was breakthrough. When I focused on developing my wounded gender identity, I began to experience real change—a change that I would have never dreamt possible. I went on men’s weekends, joined a men’s group, read books pertaining to manhood, watched war movies and hung out at Home Depot. I pursued athletics and relished any activity that involved a power saw. Gradually, my identity changed. With masculinity growing in my heart of hearts, temptations lost their power. I didn’t need the masculinity of another; I had my own.

Same-sex attraction isn’t completely gone, but it’s nearly gone. I spent decades believing that this sort of transformation wasn’t possible. Now I can testify that real change awaits the men and women who embark on this journey. It’s been a long haul, and I’m still on the road. The rerouted journey into manhood that I’ve lived just might be more satisfying than if it had never been interrupted at all.

The Psalmist describes me when he writes, “[God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2, ESV). I’ve been rescued from the grip of dangerous sin, deadly disease and much, much more. I owe all to grace.

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Temptation Tool Kit

tool boxResisting temptation is a very important topic to me. I’d like to share with you some tools from my own personal tool kit. My old-nature appetites are not in the arena of same-sex attractions, but the principles are the same. In pastoring people, I never give this whole tool kit in one shot, so pull out one or two insights that might help in that day’s battle.

Something Even Deeper

Before I even start though, three things need to be said: First, most of us already know how to resist temptation when we want to. We already know what we “ought” to do. But something in us has been twisted to make us want to sin. Yielding to temptation gives short term, undeniable relief, but it brings worse pain long term. This article won’t help a bit unless there is something even deeper in you that wants to stay free and right with God. God’s Spirit lives in us, once we’ve invited Him in with Jesus. May He have the deepest place in our hearts, the highest place in our affections!

Second, much of what I share here is scripture. God’s Word is Truth that sets us free (John 8:31-32). You probably already know these scriptures, but just knowing the verses won’t help much. The point is not to know the verses but to do what they tell us to do. That is the path to freedom. We have to put into practice what God tells us, just as the wise man built his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24ff).

Third, this is a life-long journey, not fixed in a day or in a single article, but well worth the journey! Please join me!

Satan’s Main Goal

First, some thoughts on our situation. We know too well that there is an enemy of our souls. Satan’s main goal is not just to get us to sin, but to pry us away from God and keep us locked up in shame and bondage. Sin is just the bait he uses because sin separates us from God. Remember Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden in Genesis 3:8? Satan tries to trick us into hiding—staying away from God. But Christ has come to speak reconciliation and forgiveness and set us free.

The first step of “damage control” if we fall (you already know it; do you do it?): confess and return to Christ (1 John 1:8-10). He’s not surprised; He doesn’t love us any less. He already paid for our cleansing. Don’t despise His gift! It is here for us as much after as before a fall into sin. Jesus told the Pharisees that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor. He came for us–sinners (Matt. 9:12-13)! When we run straight back to God after we’ve fallen, we can be forgiven and restored, and so we escape Satan’s main trap.

I don’t dare pass up the forgiveness Christ offers because “I don’t deserve it.” Whoever deserves forgiveness? It is a free gift, already bought and paid for. Don’t be too stuck in self-condemnation to forfeit the cleansing Jesus offers. Every single human being is saved by grace, not by merit! Come back quickly to Jesus. When we fall, we need Him more than ever!

Straight from the Tool Kit

Now for some tools. A huge part of temptation is mental/imagination/fantasy. We imagine the pleasure before we act on it. I often tell myself, “Think about what you’re thinking about.” What we focus on, what we let ourselves think on, is a huge part of our battle. Scripture tells us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). That includes His character, His words, His ways. He is really good in every way, and to think or meditate on Him is encouraging.

This is not just a religious, spiritual sounding verse to quote. We can actually access or lay hold of God’s presence and power when we do this. We serve a living Savior who is interceding for us right now at the Father’s right hand, and He knows when we’re looking to Him. Remember Peter walking on the water; he was fine until he looked at the waves (Matt. 14:30). The enemy tries to distract us, divert us from our Lifeline. When we fasten our eyes on Jesus, we are much less able to be distracted, and that makes us less vulnerable. It is a skill to be learned and applied, and it can save you from great pain when you learn it.

Consciously remember the deception of the enemy’s offers. When we yield, it never satisfies. We just end up with a “continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19). Rom. 6:19 expresses the same idea: we are lured into “ever increasing wickedness”. It’s not as if we can give in once and never again. Giving in reinforces addiction to sin patterns. It’s a downward spiral. As with most addictions, what worked to satisfy last week needs a stronger fix to get the same satisfaction now. The enemy is never trying to satisfy our need! He’s trying to draw us in even deeper into the downward spiral. Remembering this fact helps me not even start down that path.

Now for the Eye-Rolling

Now come some verses you’ve heard so often they make you roll your eyes. “Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

The key here for me is that these two verses are adjacent in scripture. They should be held adjacent in our warfare for freedom. They must come together for our warfare to be effective. Otherwise, we focus on just the first half—the enemy we’re resisting, instead of focusing on the loving Father who encourages us daily. Looking at some sin I want but can’t have is worse than looking at something I want even more—being right with God. We resist the enemy by drawing near to God.

Ready for another one? “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matt.6.33). This one is huge. Again, the key is that this is not just a verse to know, it is a lifestyle. It is an action step. It is a whole life re-orientation. We do not just seek God first and then go on with our own agenda. Rather, we seek His Kingdom and lordship and presence in our normal, daily life. We look for Jesus in every situation as we walk through our day. This becomes our whole life purpose.

Self-indulgence is wasting time. Self-fulfillment leaves us empty! When we look for Jesus, we will find Him (Matt. 7:7), and we receive more than we can ever give back. Living water overflows from our hearts (John 7:38). This can be real for you, the “new normal”—it really can!

Our Daily Bread Today

Please believe me that I’m not just talking “religion”. I’m talking about real life, here and now. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:10-11). Eternal rewards in heaven, though certain in Christ, are simply beyond my imagination. So for me, they do not help much because life hurts too much here and now. Again, yielding to temptation gives short term relief that I long for (but worse pain long term). If and when I hurt too badly right now, eternity is too unreal to me, too far away to be helpful.

Seeking the Kingdom of God fills us on earth. When we do it, God’s nearness and Spirit kick in with power, and as that happens, the pull of sinful self-indulgence is diminished. When I am actively engaged in advancing the Kingdom of God, I don’t have as much time for my crazy imagination to run down the wrong streets.

This principle even comes with a huge guarantee-promise attached: When we do it, all the other needs we worry about will be taken care of for us by Father God (Matt. 6:33).

There is still more. 2 Peter 1:3-11 speaks of character qualities we are to grow in. It’s worth checking: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love.

These are character qualities that require some effort (v.5) but they should mark our lives, and in increasing measure. When we are consumed by growing in Christ, sin has less opportunity to suggest itself. This is not magic, not foolproof, but it certainly helps us in the battles. When our focus is upward toward Christ, actively seeking first the Kingdom of God, the appeal of the addictions is diminished.

Prayers of the Saints

One last thought: I have people praying for me in the area of my appetite and my imagination. We need each other’s support! I ask God to sanctify my appetite, to sanctify my imagination so that what I am hungry for and what I imagine can come with His blessing.

Without prayer, without effort, our natural mind goes to things that are very worldly, and very often unclean. We were created with natural appetites, which are fine, but after the Fall, the enemy twists them to pull us into things far from God, things that can never satisfy.

If our natural appetites can have an acquired taste for bitter drinks like coffee or beer, just imagine what spiritual nutrients God can make us hungry for! I want to acquire a taste for things of God! What would a sanctified appetite be like? What would a sanctified imagination be like? I want to imagine great things of God, for God. I want to imagine doing and being great for God. Our imaginations, linked to His good intentions, can run free on fabulous pursuits.

This again has to do with mental disciplines, a learned habit. The effect of this learned mental discipline is to keep us on a path of life and godliness instead of sin and self-indulgence and increasing distance from God. It is worth the effort!

This is a lot to read, I know. One article won’t change your life. My hope and prayer for you is that this will be like a tool kit you can go to from time to time, as needed, and that one or another of these thoughts will give you the strength, leverage, or motivation you need for that day. May you be blessed with increasing FREEDOM in Him as you grow in Him.

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Heroes

heroesDo you have heroes? If you don’t, you should—it’s important to look up to somebody. I have heroes of my own. As it happens, my case is a little special because some of my heroes are the young men who come to us for help.

One of the hats I wear at Outpost Ministries involves giving leadership to weekly programming called Joshua Fellowship. It’s a group of guys who grew up as Christians, for the most part, but then—frequently to their shock and dismay—found themselves experiencing same-sex attractions.

These guys spring from a variety of backstories. Some have never ceased to fight against what they regard as temptation and sinful behavior; others were out and proud for years until Jesus got in their face.  Some already have a great deal of inner-healing under their belts; others don’t yet know what that is. Some are respected professionals—dentists, architects, etc., while others are broke college students.

But there are a couple of common denominators; one is that they are all faithful men of God, indeed. You and I, my friend, could stand to learn a thing or two from the kind of stubborn dedication to Christ which these young men live out every day. And the other is that they have each survived a bloody battlefield to get here.

There’s a quote I like to use from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “All of us sought an easier, softer way, but it availed us nothing!” Does that sound like real life? Well, it rings true for these guys too. There’s a story I like to tell them, and it’s remarkable how often it hits home. It goes, with variations, like this:

Adolescent Boy begins to discover his sexuality, but to his surprise, along with that comes same-sex attractions. Well, at that point, what should he do? He should probably tell somebody; he should get some help, right? But sadly, that’s the one thing which almost never happens. Why? Because the young man lives in a Christian world, and the last thing he wants is for his struggle to become known. So, he keeps it a secret and struggles on alone, often frightened and certainly confused, frustrated and ashamed. He’s a Christian, you see, and he believes embracing his same-sex attractions is wrong, and so he tries hard to change, without success.

So he resorts to religion and gets involved in church: he volunteers, leads, mentors. His parents are proud, and the community is impressed. But his secret is still there and still bites.

So he goes away to Bible school because, he reasons, what he really needs is to immerse himself even more deeply in the things of God. That will kill this struggle. But it doesn’t.

So he goes on to seminary because, after all, professional Christians could not possibly struggle with something like same-sex attractions. And then, when that doesn’t work either, he begins to realize that he’s out of options.

Except that he remembers some time ago somebody mentioned a place called Outpost. And so, in pure desperation, he finally picks up the phone.

Of course this is only a story, but when I tell it, there tend to be sheepish grins here and there in the room. And I’ve told this story to you to illustrate that favorite quote of mine: all of us try an easier, softer way, but it avails us nothing. On that level, these guys are no different from you and me.

What does set them apart, though, is that they didn’t give up. Faced with a relentless enemy, defeating them at every turn, surrounded by a public discourse which pronounces the utter hopelessness of their cause, they did not cease to seek a way to lay their sexuality at the feet of Jesus. Whatever solutions they had tried first, in the end it was their saving faith which brought them, finally, to Outpost.

That’s the kind of guys I get to work with. They’re heroes before they ever come to us. If the Church were composed of such, our enemy would have far less freedom of movement, and the world would be a different place than it is now.

They don’t see it that way, of course. They don’t call themselves heroes. They come broken, confused, angry, dispirited, disillusioned, desperate and in pain. And my role, then, is to labor to point them to the only pathway to healing that’s left to try: the genuine love of Jesus.

And so together we get to work, and we spend time talking, teaching, exposing lies, taking risks, getting honest. Sometimes, as we do those things, the time comes—not right away, as it takes a lot of work—when I am granted a very special privilege. I get to be present when something happens, and they begin to engage in real time with the real love of a real God who really is there and, as it turns out, has not forgotten them after all.

It’s like—well, the best way I can describe it is that it’s like watching the sun come up. Of course, they’re not finished; there’s lots of work ahead for them. But it does mean once that miracle happens, the playing field has changed. They are no longer smoldering wicks whose best hope was to stubbornly refuse to go out. Now they have tasted fire. They have a new capacity for desire. They’ve moved beyond mere desperation and are motivated now by a ravenous hunger for the genuine presence of Jesus. We call it “turning the corner,” and it’s when the fun really starts.

What’s a hero? A hero is someone who, faced with impossible odds, shouted down by every voice, nevertheless sticks to his guns and refuses to give up. We think of heroes as winners, but what really makes a hero is the courage it takes to refuse to lose, no matter what the odds or how long it takes or how much it hurts.

The Bible promises victory to the faithful. Victory is a marvelous thing; it is a time to rejoice and celebrate the victor. But never forget that victory comes always after faithfulness. And faithfulness is no picnic because it happens in the trenches where winning seems a happy but remote dream and defeat would be oh, so much easier.

Faithfulness is never a mountaintop experience; if you’re a Christian, you know that.

The guys and I have a name for the place where faith happens. We call it the Valley of the Shadow of Death because in that place, the enemy is all around us, and darkness and defeat sometimes overshadow us. The only way out is through, and the only way through is to follow Jesus—no matter how rocky, confusing or unexpected the path is upon which He leads us.

Are my guys heroes? You do the math.