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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Gender, Confusion, and Conversation Part 3

ConversationSo far in this discussion, we have laid a foundation for understanding biblical gender and God’s creative intent for men and women as His image-bearers. We have pinpointed the confusing messages the world proclaims about gender and sexuality and presented the contrasting truth of God’s design. We have also given tools to bless and affirm the God-given gender identity of the children and youth within our families and churches. Now we will consider how to have life-giving conversations with our friends and individuals in our lives who live out of a place of confusion about their own gender and sexuality.

Looking to Balance

To have these life-giving conversations, we look to the balance of compassion and truth. We must always act in love, while continuing to stand for the truth of God’s Word and His design for men and women. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all way to be in conversation with the people in our lives. Each person has different hurts and needs, and each situation carries different levels of risk and consequence. Thus, it is imperative that we listen to God’s leading in each situation and have our conversations in the context of ongoing relationships with people.

The Ministry of Listening

The first way to demonstrate compassion and love to others is to listen, listen, listen. We listen in order to understand those who believe differently and those who are struggling. We listen to people’s stories, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. We ask questions to hear the depths of people’s hearts. As trust is built, we can also ask questions to give friends the opportunity to give deeper thought to the experiences and pain that led to their confusion.

After listening, we affirm their openness and honesty. We acknowledge their pain, and we grieve with them over their hurts. All ongoing relationships are built on the sharing of ourselves. In listening, we communicate the message, You are worthwhile, and your story is important. In this world of confusion and destructive voices, this message is a healing balm to the soul.

Sharing Your Story

As we grieve with others, we can also ask permission to share our own story. Share your story of struggle—whatever the struggle—and how God intervened and brought healing and hope. All of us have struggled at some point with whether or not to believe what the world says about us or to choose to believe what God says. Your story of choosing to believe God is your testimony of healing. Always, though, be ready to listen first, and speak later.

Loving through Action

The second way to act in love is to serve, serve, serve. Practice the art of service. All of us are longing for love and acceptance, and God will not take away a legitimate need for love. Instead, God wants to show all people how to truly have that need met. We can begin to meet those needs for love by serving people. Take a meal, share vegetables from your garden, babysit, help with a home improvement project, and so on. Show love through action.

Keep in Mind

Of course, while we are actively showing love, we can also draw boundaries so as to not participate in advancing the confusion. For example, have a weekly coffee date with your gender-confused friend, but explain that you cannot help take him to doctor visits for his transition surgery. In these cases, we must remember it is not loving to encourage friends to continue down a path that will lead to more hurt and confusion or that will take them further from God’s design and plan for their lives.

We must also keep in mind that the people we interact with are not the enemy. Rather, they are confused and deceived by our real enemy, Satan. Our response to a confused individual can further the deception or shine a light into their lives. Our goal in all our interactions is to speak life so that others may know the love of God.

Walt’s Story

Walt Heyer, a former transgender with a powerful testimony of Christ’s redemption in his life, recently shared his own experience with us. Years after his own transition surgery, Walt, living as a woman, began seeking God and answers for his personal life. He began to look for a church. The pastor of the first church he visited told him, “We don’t want your kind here.” As you can imagine, Walt was devastated—but still, he tried again. Before attending the second church, he met privately with the pastor. Walt explained his situation. “You won’t try to change me, will you?”

The pastor thoughtfully responded, “No, Walt. I won’t try to change you.  My job is to love you.  It’s God’s job to change you, and don’t be surprised if He does.” That pastor had Walt write down his prayer requests every week so that the church elders and leaders could consistently pray for him. The church walked closely in relationship with Walt as he continued to seek God and work through personal issues in intense therapy. Walt eventually de-transitioned and has been walking out his God-given gender identity as a man for over 20 years.

Walt’s story could have easily turned out differently, but this church was committed to engaging in life-giving relationship with him as he sought after God. We want people to be drawn into relationship with their Creator so they may ultimately discover who God created them to be.

First Guiding Principle

To listen and serve is to show love and compassion for individuals in our lives. As we act in love, we also continue to stand for truth. Our first guiding principle in standing for truth is to remember that language matters. We want to always default to the biblical language of sex and gender when we speak to others. It is important to have a basic understanding of the world’s terms, but we want to remember to use the life-giving language of God’s design. Occasionally, we may also need to speak in the world’s terms, especially if our listener isn’t yet able to hear the fullness of truth. Listen to God’s leading in these areas, especially in the area of pronoun use, with a goal of continued conversation.

Second Guiding Principle

The second guiding principle we use is that safety for all is our goal. This is how we can approach all issues surrounding bathroom and locker room use, sex-specific sports and activities, and the like. We want everyone to be and feel safe in their environment. We want to stand for policies that protect all people, and we want to engage in conversation to ensure understanding. Male and female bodies are different, and intense hormone use doesn’t necessarily change those differences. We can encourage safety for all and work towards policies that support that goal.

Acting in love while standing for truth is a delicate balance, but it is necessary in our confused and fallen world. It is not compromising to show love to an individual while opposing a policy. And it is not unloving to stand for a policy that protects truth while serving someone who disagrees with a particular policy.

 Offering Refuge

Many struggling with gender confusion are struggling with a sense of belonging. Many are struggling because they have been so deeply hurt that they want to be someone else in order to let go of the pain. These individuals need our compassion and our unconditional love. We desire to be a place of safety and refuge, that they may be able to find a way to face the hurts, bring their pain to Jesus, and find full healing at the Cross. Remember, it is our job to love people. It is God’s job to change people. Prayerfully be expectant that He can and that, in time, He will.

Speaking Life

Having life-giving conversations with anyone takes time. We need to be prepared to spend the time to speak life into to the lives of those  around us. We must be ready to invest our time and resources into the lives of those who struggle. Our ability to listen and serve and our capacity to sow life-giving truth and grace-filled words bring the hope and healing of Jesus to those we meet. May we be available and ready when God calls us to speak life.

This article is the third in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churchesPart 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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Turning Hearts

Elijah CompanyElijah Company is Outpost’s prayer and support group for parents, family and friends of loved ones who are overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions, struggling with gender confusion or who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning).

A former staff member began the group in 2013 when he noticed a great area of need remaining unmet. Parents were taking our introductory Foundations of Healing class, but they were left with no other ongoing support and encouragement for the unique and painful challenges they were facing within their families. More often than not, they did not experience church as a safe place to open up.

Turning Hearts

The name Elijah Company is based upon Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents . . .” (NIV). Part of God’s strategy in preparing his Bride before His return is bringing restoration to the family, and we believe it begins by turning the hearts of the parents.

Loving Wisely, Standing Firmly

Elijah Company (affectionately referred to as EC) seeks to equip participants to love wisely and stand firmly on God’s Word. EC weekly meetings focus on praying for one another, with the goal of family restoration, healing and reconciliation. The group is designed to build an authentic community of intercessors and create a place of refuge, support and encouragement. One EC participant wrote, “The support from Elijah Company leadership and families has sustained us. Our family covets the weekly prayers over us and for all of us battling this worldview.”

Elijah Company South

Four years later, Elijah Company is still going strong here at our main location in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with another group running at our Outpost North location in Brainerd, Minnesota. This October, we will begin an additional Elijah Company South in the Southwest Metro Area! A church with a heart for the ministry of Outpost and to be a safe place is partnering with us to host the group. It will be led by EC participants Al and Susan who have remained closely connected to the ministry.

A Mother’s Heartache

Susan shares some of her first thoughts after her son came out as gay: “’Who will really understand how I feel? Who will hand me the Kleenex when I just can’t hold the tears back any longer? Who will totally support my decision to not agree with the lifestyle my son has chosen to live? Who will pray for me by my name? Who will pray for my son by name, that his heart would turn solely to the Lord and away from his homosexual activities? There’s got to be some individuals who have not bought into the lie that God says this lifestyle is acceptable. There’s got to be others who are experiencing the heartache I feel.’”

She continues, “I did find such a place. I found it at Outpost Ministries. I found it in their Elijah Company group that meets weekly. It’s a group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and neighbors of individuals who are burden by loved ones dealing with homosexual thoughts or actions.

“I have to admit that, at first, going to Elijah Company was painful. I dreaded each week, actually. By attending, I had to admit and face what was happening within my family. I listened to the heartache of others who came and felt their sorrow week after week. I was mentally wiped by the time I reached home.

“However, I was in the midst of great people within the group. I was surrounded by prayer warriors. These people knew how to ‘bring it to the Lord in prayer.’ I could feel God’s presence within the group. There was no doubt to me of His loving presence. I faithfully attended week after week. Then God touched me and assured me that I would find hope, joy, and peace in this group and also within my heart. That indeed has happened. Elijah Company is no longer an activity that I dread to attend. The group is powerful. We share our burdens and our joys, we listen, we teach, we read the Bible, we sing, we pray.”

The Light of Fellowship

Susan’s authenticity is an invitation to others to come out of their painful isolation into the light of fellowship with one another. Join others in passionate intercession for a sister or neighbor to encounter Christ. Anyone interested in attending Elijah Company South must first complete an intake meeting with Outpost ministry staff and complete the Foundations course before joining the group. Contact us through our website or by giving us a call, 763-592-4700, to schedule a meeting. Current Elijah Company participants wanting to meet at the new location can attend the new group once it begins. Contact your EC group leader for details.

We are blessed at how God is growing the reach of Outpost Ministries. Indeed, with the explosion of gender and sexual confusion in our society, especially among young people, there is an increase in the number of parents, families and individuals having to navigate through these issues. Please pray for protection for the leaders, new participants and even for the hosting church as we work to get this additional group off the ground.

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How to Pray Like Jesus for Family and Friends

Have you ever struggled to pray regularly for the people God has placed in your life?  I know I have. Like many people, for years I used a prayer list of all my family and friends as a helpful place to begin. But even then I often had difficulty staying focused and praying meaningful, confident prayers for many of them. Invariably I would gravitate merely to a rote recitation of their names as I moved down the list.

It was not, however, until I discovered a Biblical, tried and true way to effectively pray for them that a new focus and faith began to energize my prayers.

There is one chapter in the Bible that is dedicated entirely to a verbatim prayer recited by Jesus. That chapter is John 17, and it is considered to be one of the great treasures in all of scripture because it preserves for posterity an entire prayer, prayed by the greatest pray-er who ever lived! Some have called it Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer. In this chapter Jesus is praying for those the Father had committed to His care.

Apart from the first verse which says “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed,” everything that follows is in red letters. These are the words of Jesus as He prays to the Father for a very specific group of people: “for all those you have given me” (vs. 2; 6) and for “those who will believe in me through their message” (vs. 20). In fact, Jesus specifically narrows the field by saying, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.”

Who then is this select group for whom Jesus was praying? They were His apostles and disciples.  Interestingly this included His friends such as Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha; as well as His family – mother, brothers, sisters, and cousins.

The John 17 prayer of Jesus is therefore the best model ever given for our use in praying for those whom God has placed in our lives. A study of the prayer reveals that there are seven specific ways in which Jesus prayed for His loved ones.

These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and inspire confidence and faith as we pray because we are praying the same words Jesus prayed.

Praying Scripture has always been a sure-fire way to pray effectively, and to me this way of praying for friends and family is as exciting and powerful as it gets. This is so because “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14 NIV).

Here are seven prayers you can use to pray following in Jesus’ footsteps: “Father… 

  1. GLORIFY Jesus through their lives by having them do the work you’ve given them to do. – “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (vs. 1b). “I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (vs. 4). Give them a clear sense of your calling and purpose that they might dedicate their lives to living for and glorifying you. 
  1. FORTIFY and protect them from the evil one and keep them safe in Jesus name. – “Protect them from the evil one” (vs. 15). Let no weapon formed against them prosper (Isaiah 54:17). May they put on the full armor of God to take their stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18). 
  1. UNIFY them and make them one with you and with one another. – “…that all of them may be one” (vs. 21). Where there are broken relationships, release a spirit of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation (Ephesians 4:32). 
  1. SANCTIFY them in the truth of your Word. – Set them apart for you, and make them holy. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (vs. 17). Give them a hunger for your word, that they might make it their daily meditation and guide for all they do, as they walk in obedience to you (Psalm 119:105). 
  1. MULTIPLY them by sending them into the world with your message. – “I have sent them into the world . . . so that the world may believe” (vs. 18; 21). May they live their lives as your witnesses sharing your love and your truth. 
  1. FILL them with your Joy. – “…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (vs. 13). May your joy be their strength imparting peace, faith, and generosity (Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 9:7). 
  1. REVEAL your Presence and Glory to them. – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (vs. 24). Be present in their lives releasing “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that [they] might know [Jesus] better” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV).

 As you consider all the precious people God has placed in your life, why not pray the prayer Jesus prayed for them?

For further meditation and application: The next time you pray through your prayer list of family, relatives, and friends, consider using these seven prayers from John 17. As you pray for each person, pause and select the appropriate prayer(s) that is applicable to their situation and your burden for them. Pray for them using the same words and phrases that Jesus used in praying for those the Father had given him. Expect a quickening of your faith, and renewed confidence as you pray, that God is hearing and answering your prayers.

Igniting an Impassioned Prayer LifeThis post is a chapter taken from Tom Stuart’s recently published book Igniting an Impassioned Prayer Life – How to Develop the Energized, Extended, and Sustainable Life of Prayer You’ve Always Wanted. It is available for purchase on Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Copies are also available directly from the author for $10. Go to tomstuart.org and order a copy via the contact form.