Renewal, Reflection, and Repentance

water splashing into cupped hands

And He who sits on the Throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’.” (Rev.21:5a NASB)

There is a lot to absolutely love about that declaration from God! However, I think the present continuous tense that’s used—the “am making” part—is a bit of a challenge for  me. To be honest, I would rather God say, “I will make,” or “I have made.” I would rather have God snap His fingers and then everything changes at once. This present and continuous process is tough work! Yet, this is exactly what we ought to think of when we hear the word “renewal.”

Renewal

If you’re like me, renewal usually sounds like something so positive, uplifting, and even fun! It is all those things, but this process of making things new is not all warm and fuzzy feelings. After all, part of “all things” includes you and me—broken, willful, and sinful humans—and all we make and do. Implicit in this idea of renewal is that there are things that are not as they should be. To be made new means something needs to change, and change is almost never easy.

Reflection

One of the silver linings of this last year is the time we have had for reflection. Particularly, I have done my fair share of reflecting on what is truly important for Outpost Ministries, what we could have done differently, and how to prepare for renewal. After all, God is certainly always pro-renewal. As I reflected on renewal, I started to see how one of its mechanisms is another “re-” word, repentance. I am seeing that in this renewing process, there is going to be a lot of repenting, both on an individual as well as a corporate level.

Repentance

I know that the word “repentance” can conjure up all sorts of images and feelings, but at its most basic, repentance really just means a change of direction. It’s a turning aside from one way and going another way. As an individual, I can confess I have made and will make many mistakes. The lyrics of Come Thou Fount summarize this well saying, “Oh to Grace how great a debtor / Daily I’m constrained to be / Let thy goodness, like a fetter / Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee / Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love!” As a son, brother, husband, new father, friend, pastor, director, and president, I am prone to wander—prone to stray from God’s renewing work—and I have needed and will need to repent.

As the leader of this ministry, I can also confess on behalf of Outpost corporately: we have and will make many mistakes. While God has and continues to use this ministry to bless many, I also acknowledge that we have made decisions that have hurt people. I don’t think it will shock anyone for us to say that we have taken wrong actions and handled some situations poorly. As we hear about these hurts and learn from the mistakes of the past, we are committed to repentance and moving in the direction of continual renewal.

God is Faithful

As I heard many times in chapel in my bible college days, “People will fail you. Organizations will fail you. But God is faithful!” As we turn and repent, God brings about the healing and the renewal. It is not something we can do ourselves. While I wish I could say I lead a perfect ministry, that is not what God has called me to. I am called to beckon people to trust in God alone, not in me nor in this ministry. By the same token, Outpost isn’t called to have people trust in us. It is called to point people to trust in God alone.

This trust in God alone doesn’t mean we don’t do all we can to align ourselves more with God’s character and plan. It’s in that spirit I want to introduce our newly articulated core values meant to foster this spirit of renewal.

Four Core Values—Honor, Humility, Honesty, and Healing

All four of these values relate to each other and must work together in unity in order to foster healthy community and ministry. While I could (and eventually will) write whole blog posts about each of these, for now I’ll just give a few sentences of explanation of what I mean by each.

  • Honor: This concept comes from Romans 12:10 (NIV), “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” It’s about holding others in higher esteem than ourselves, speaking well of them, and making sure our conversation is aimed at recognizing God’s image in each person rather than demeaning or villainizing them.
  • Humility: The greatest example of this is Jesus. Philippians 2:1-11 shows how the Son of God became a servant, obedient all the way to death on a cross. He wasn’t constantly crying out, “You got this all WRONG!” Instead He said, “Father, forgive them….” If Christ, who did no wrong, could act in such humility, how much more should we seek humility as fallible individuals and groups of human beings? Humility for us is an opportunity to connect with Jesus.
  • Honesty: This is more than not lying. It’s about walking in the light (e.g. John 3:21, I John 1:5-7). The goal is to be as transparent as possible so that we can have true fellowship with one another. Honesty is risky, and that’s why the other values must be present in order for this to be a safe and welcomed value.
  • Healing: The reason this ministry exists is for the sake of healing. We believe the words in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Now this verse is not meant to be individualized (this “you” in Greek is a 2nd person plural) and neither is healing. Healing happens in community. Community is messy. Still, we—as wounded healers—press on and see our need for healing not as a limitation or obstacle, but rather as an invitation and opportunity.

Embracing the Process

I share all of this because I really desire to see this specific renewal process come about at Outpost and TCJHOP. We do not need to fear honor, humility, honesty, and healing. Instead, we need to embrace these values and continually live them out. I am asking you all to keep us accountable in this work.

There are so many who are trapped in their sexual and relational brokenness with no hope for a way out or for transformation. Our work as a ministry is so important in this time, and in order to continue to do this, we need to continuously and consistently be on the path of renewal. Consistently humble in seeking the face of God. Continuously honoring of God and His image in others. Ever honest about our successes as well as our failures, and constantly growing in healing. Thank you for encouraging, forgiving, holding us accountable, supporting, and praying for Outpost and those it serves. My hope is that you will continue to walk with us as we consistently seek after true renewal for ourselves individually, as well as for our ministry and our world.

A Banquet Recap: A Letter From Wendy

Dear Friends and Family,

Spring is here, our yearly reminder that God is in the business of renewal. Between the warmth of the sunshine and the cool cleansing of the rain, we see the wonder of new growth as the grass becomes green and the trees begin to bud.

What a beautiful picture of God’s work in each of our lives! How fitting, then, that we take time each spring to reflect on the ultimate gift of rebirth: the new life given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this year of illness, confusion, incivility, and even violence, the reminder of God’s heart for our redemption, renewal, and healing becomes even more precious.

I was reminded again of God’s heart as we gathered for our Spring Banquet. This was the first time in over a year that we were able to gather such a large group together to share a meal, worship in song, and celebrate what God is doing in and through the ministry of Outpost and TCJHOP. Most meaningful to me were the words of the song “Graves into Gardens”:

You turn mourning to dancing,  
You give beauty for ashes,  
You turn shame into glory,  
You’re the only One who can.  

You turn graves into gardens,  
You turn bones into armies,  
You turn seas into highways,  
You’re the only One who can!

Last year, we had to cancel the in-person banquet only weeks beforehand. Our lives and ministry changed drastically in order to respond to the pandemic. All that we had known and done before was re-evaluated in light of ever-changing information. Mourning, frustration, and anxiety were our constant partners.

Through it all, however, God was working in and through us. As each of the banquet speakers shared, I saw again how God meets us in the midst of our heartbreak to bring comfort, healing, and restoration. I was reminded of all the ways God had moved to provide exactly what the ministry needed this year to do the work before us. I reflected on the times when God met me personally to encourage and strengthen my heart when I felt overwhelmed.

Perhaps today you find yourself in that place of mourning and ashes. Maybe you feel as if your life is in the grave. Take heart! God is in the business of rebirth. No matter how large or small the hurt, God’s heart is to meet you in your pain and bring you comfort and healing (Matthew 11:28).

Perhaps instead you have recently experienced comfort and refreshment from Jesus. Maybe you have seen God move to resurrect a part of your heart. Rejoice! Now is the time to share your story with others and bring them that same comfort and encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:4).

As the world is renewed around us this spring, our prayer is that each of you will experience God’s healing and restoration in your hearts and lives. God is in the business of transformation! Let us celebrate what has already begun and watch with expectancy for the next stage of God’s transforming work.

Yours in ministry,

Wendy

PS:  We are so encouraged by your faithfulness: in prayer, in support, and in giving. Thanks to you we were able to raise just over $16,000 to help fund our 2021 vision. While we still have funding needs for this year, we’re grateful for your ongoing generosity and partnership. We trust that God will continue to provide as we move forward in ministry.

Generosity + Joy: A Reflection on Matthew 6

Young group of smiling adults walk at sunset under a bridge

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Matthew 6:1-4

Several years ago, I was in New York City doing short-term missions work. It was this time of year – cold, crisp, and full of the expectation of Thanksgiving. During the grueling 14-day trip facilitating worship, outreach, and ministry to the homeless, I had one 10-hour break to enjoy the city. A few subway stops later, I was strolling through Central Park with a friend, on our way to gawk at 5th avenue and the finest that New York had to offer. Everything was full of lights and color, and overwhelmingly decadent. We strolled, carefree, and I’ll admit I was a little taken in by it all.

Ahead of us, a light turned red, and we stopped.

Beneath the cold street sign that boldly proclaimed “5th Avenue” was a homeless woman. She was lying on the sidewalk, wrapped in a dirty, gray cotton sheet. Her dark hair was matted into dreadlocks; her lips were crusted yellow with dehydration. Tears flowed freely across her beautiful cheeks as she stared at the ground in desolation. The glamour of 5th Avenue disappeared with a sort of violence, and my heart broke in two.

Her shoulders were shaking in agony as she wept. I placed a dollar in her plastic solo cup full of pennies and nickels. My friend knelt down and tenderly asked if she could pray for her. The woman nodded. We prayed.

Hundreds of people were passing by without a second glance, and who could blame them? Sometimes the need is so great that it is too much for our hearts to feel. We have to shut it out just to avoid despair, but I think we all can relate to getting it wrong sometimes. In that moment I was repenting for forgetting compassion. 

As my friend prayed, the woman raised her eyes. Slowly, afraid of what she might see, she looked up into my face. Surprise registered as she saw that I was crying too. She held my gaze for a long time, like a thirsty man drinking water. She tentatively held my hand with two of her bony fingers. There was not enough space in my heart to contain what I felt in that moment.

Suddenly another woman, in cashmere and leather, aggressively came marching up from a restaurant a few feet away and angrily spat at me, “I just want you to know, we decided to buy her dinner, and they’ll bring it out to her.”

I had to smile. As reluctant as that woman was, our choice to see this child of God in the street, had allowed her to see also. Our conviction begat more conviction. Our tiny, almost insignificant, generosity begat more generosity.


When I was a child (a very legalistic, perfectionist, pastor’s-kid of a child), I would read Matthew 6 with horror. How could I possibly keep every act of charity a secret? Would God be angry with me if someone else knew I was tithing from my $6 allowance? Once I even went so far as to sneak into the office after service with my dad’s key and add my tithe. It makes me laugh now; I imagine I may have caused the accountant some frustration over 60¢.

I didn’t understand the heart of it. I didn’t understand that it was about heart motivation, not a legalistic practice of physically hiding. I didn’t understand that generosity done for accolades receives its reward in the moment. It’s still generosity, it still has value to the one who receives it, but there is something higher to strive for. Generosity done out of care for the other, out of compassion, out of conviction, out of the love of Christ produces not only eternal rewards, but also produces joy.

In the famous soliloquy, Shakespeare penned Portia’s words:

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Like mercy, real generosity blesses “him that gives and him that takes.” Or more appropriately from scripture:

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work 
we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus
himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”
Acts 20:35

One day we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Our selfish deeds will burn away like chaff, and we will have to make an account for our actions. In Matthew 25, Christ admonishes us that whatever we do or don’t do for the least of these, we do unto Him. 

I like to imagine that I will be taken aback by the deeds that Christ honors in that hour: that woman who provided a dinner on the street in New York; a mother turning the other cheek as her son angrily rejects her; a man struggling against the temptation of pornography and choosing holiness; a husband quietly caring for his ailing wife without thanks or praise; an overcomer of sexual sin silently enduring slander from our culture and loving beyond the accusations and hatred. 

I like to imagine that as the Bride of Christ, we will have the opportunity to celebrate powerful acts of unseen love and generosity.

Culture, and so much of the Western Church, has turned its back on people who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and sexual brokenness. These are a people “thirsty” and “given nothing to drink.” Someday, all of the agendas, the rhetoric, and the arguments will fade away, and Christ will bring right judgments about the way that the Church has responded to this sexual crisis. You are part of a different company of people. You see the need, and you believe in healing and transformation. You have poured out incredible generosity to help us bring hope and healing. You have helped bring living water to those in need.

As we enter into Give to the Max 2019 and this season of generosity, would you consider giving a gift to Outpost to help us continue in ministry? Your generosity begets so much more generosity, and your generosity brings joy.

Thank you for standing with us.

Donations can be given online at GiveMN.org on the TCJHOP organizational page, which will be directed to the Outpost General fund.

Small Groups and the Impact of Community: A Living Waters Testimony

A smiling hugging group in a circle.

A new Living Waters group begins October 3rd at Outpost Ministries. Living Waters is a 21-week Christ-centered program for those seeking healing and freedom from sexual abuse, sexual addiction, unforgiveness, fear, shame, insecurity, unwanted same-sex attractions and other relational brokenness. While that is a good high-level overview, the best way to tell you about Living Waters is for you to hear from someone who has already gone through the program. What follows is one of this year’s leaders, Tatiana’s testimony and interview about her experience in Living Waters.

Tatiana grew up being sexually abused from a very young age. This devastated her ability to have normal relationships and her concept of normal intimacy. As a result, she did not know how to connect with people, and that was very isolating and hurtful. She was an alcoholic by age 13, and a drug addict by age 14. She had her first stint in drug rehab when she was 16, and while there, met her first girlfriend. She had a disgust and fear of men, as well as a lot of confusion, so same sex relationships were a safe place. However, she still found herself constantly in relationships with girls that had drug or alcohol issues. She was addicted to hard-core, intravenous drugs by 25.

When she was in a jail cell at 27, she heard the gospel and had an encounter with Jesus Christ. At that point, she had her first bout of sobriety. She also remained celibate at that time. She joined a church, and she got involved in Bible Studies and outreach. However, she never dealt with or addressed her past. She simply tried to forget her past pain, ignoring its effects on her life. At 30, she met her husband through church, and they got married. Right away, she knew she’d made a mistake. Within 3 years, her marriage fell apart. Her husband turned to drugs, and she turned back to relationships with women. For 7 years, she left the church, her marriage, and sobriety behind, as she pursued heroin and same sex relationships.

Two years ago, her husband died of a heroin overdose, and 6 months later, her girlfriend also died of a heroin overdose. Between those two losses, she also lost her mom and dad. “Drugs could not even touch the pain,” she told me. “The darkness felt so much more dark! I didn’t think to call out to Jesus. There was just emptiness in my soul. But I believe the Lord heard that emptiness as a cry of my heart.” Three months later, she overdosed on heroin herself. She had to be revived twice, and she had an infection that complicated her recovery. While in the hospital at Mayo Clinic, she found hope again in Jesus. She chose to attend Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to get some help with her addiction. During that time, she turned her back on everything else and turned back to the Lord. Once she had completed Teen Challenge, she attended an intensive evangelism training class, where she met Jean M., Outpost’s Living Waters Coordinator. Jean told her about Outpost and Living Waters and helped her get signed up for the upcoming class.

She talked about how Living Waters showed her how to really understand what was pulling her back in to bad choices and behaviors. She saw her mindsets exposed. Additionally, she learned how to connect with people–and stay connected instead of alienating herself–when she had felt before like they were alienating her. Through time in small group, she learned to be honest and not to barricade herself inside. She learned to let people in, and that allowed her to break out of her “heart prison.” She said she is more scared now to not allow people in than to let people in, as she knows what that isolation leads to. “I look back over the last few years of my life and I couldn’t imagine being that person again. I wasn’t really even a person, I wasn’t really even living. Now I’m living. Before…I don’t even know what that was. It wasn’t even surviving. It wasn’t even existing.

What was your favorite or most meaningful part of Living Waters?

“The small groups! I didn’t know how to connect with people. I didn’t know how to be intimate with people. [Living Waters small groups are about] learning how to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Small groups taught me how to connect with people.” For Tatiana, small groups meant that for once, she was not being left alone in her pain. “[The people in a small group] help walk you out of [pain] and stand with you and invite God into [pain] with you.”

Why are you staying involved in Living Waters as a leader?

“Because I have been shown the way out of myself, and I just have to be a part of showing others the way out of themselves. I have to give what’s been given to me!” She also said, “having been pulled out of such a dark impossible pit, you can’t go on with your life without pulling them out too. Knowing that there are people that are in the place you were, pushes you to do something!”

Can you tell us about a deep experience with God, a special day, or encounter during Living Waters that you had?

“Sure! This was at Living Waters Leadership Training this summer. I always felt that there was a huge wall between my heart and God, and me and others. I heard from God that I had kept myself separated from Him and from others because I was unable to let people in fully, to trust anyone–or even Him–really. It was through the integration of repentance and forgiveness that I could feel that wall come down, and I just broke through.” She said that God spoke to her about loving part of His creation and hating another part of His creation (which was men). “[The wall] broke and it was very powerful. Something that plagued me for 30 years, melted away in 5 minutes. It was in group confession.” She said God changed her viewpoint from “look what they’ve done to me!” to “look what I’ve done to them!” “It was taking ownership and responsibility for my part,” she continued. “It reminds me of that verse: how can you say you love God when you hate man. It is important to forgive, but it is also important to be forgiven.”

If you were talking to someone who was afraid to come, what would you say?

“It changed my heart and my mind and ultimately my life! It’s all about inviting the Presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and there’s nothing to be scared of. You are not alone: You are surrounded by people who are gonna walk with you through it.”

Hopefully Tatiana’s story has been an encouragement to you. Living Waters is for anyone who sees or feels a need in their life for more of God, healing from past hurts, and breakthrough from hang-ups. Applications are being accepted until September 15th, so there is still time to join us! The programs runs October 3- March 12, 2020. It is from 6:30-9pm every Thursday–excluding holidays. The cost is $450, and there are scholarships available. Applications are available on https://outpostministries.org/get-involved/living-waters/

Do Not Give Up: When the Good Old Days Seem Better Than Another Day of Manna

Bird flying free from cage

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

So you wanna go back to Egypt
Where it’s warm and secure
Are you sorry you bought the one way ticket
When you thought you were sure
You wanted to live in the land of promise
But now it’s getting so hard
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert
Instead of your own back yard
(So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, Keith and Melody Green, 1980)

These lyrics by Keith Green describe the predicament of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. They also offer a clue into the attitudes of many today who have escaped slavery to sin (i.e. they have received the forgiveness of sins and become Christians) but who also wish to avoid the necessary struggle required to maintain their freedom. This struggle involves successfully avoiding the re-enslavement to sin, while on the other hand, still having to pay the high cost of maintaining their freedom.

Within two months of leaving Egypt and their slave masters, the Israelites forgot the object of their journey into the desert, which was lasting freedom from oppression. It was a worthy objective in itself, but additionally, they had the higher goal of worshiping the Living God. Instead, Israel settled for a golden calf. In our quest for freedom from the life-dominating nature of same sex attractions (or fill in the blank with your own particular sin struggle), we may also be tempted to passivity like the Israelites of old. We’d rather settle for slavery than take responsibility for ourselves.

Jeremiah Recounts Israel’s Sin

The prophet Jeremiah lamented the indecisiveness of Israel. About a hundred years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, he wrote, “And I will declare my judgments against [Israel], for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16.) Later, Jeremiah quotes God, referring to God’s spiritual courtship with Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD.” (Jer. 2:2f.)

Then Jeremiah recounts the history of Israel (see vv. 2:3-12) from God’s perspective as a spurned and grieving lover. Essentially what God is saying is “What did I do wrong that you left me? Why did you stop pursuing me after all I’ve done for you?” Next Jeremiah lists priests, lawyers, shepherds and prophets as having forsaken their authority and forgotten the Living God altogether. No other people on earth does this, complains the prophet; but all Israel has forsaken her God!

Israel’s Complaining and God’s Response

The prophet summarizes Israel’s problem in v. 13. First, they forsook God, and second, they tried to live by their own effort. Both of these options were predictably ineffective, and left Israel in a miserable state of frustration and destitution. They longed to go back. Things weren’t really all THAT bad in Egypt, they moaned. At least we had garlic and leeks. Food tasted good. What’s this manna? And the golden calf: at least we can see and feel it. Who is this unseen God who dragged us away from our comfort zone? Israel is clearly upset. They are not getting what they wanted. They are angry. “We didn’t sign up for THIS!,” they cry. Then God’s Word turns it all around: “You brought all this upon yourselves!” Jeremiah continues, “And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” (Jeremiah 2:18). Here he cuts them off from all their false hopes. Slavery (Egypt) can’t comfort or satisfy you. Idols (Assyria) can’t cure or save you. Jeremiah even reminds them in v. 20 that long ago, it was God who set them free from slavery. But still they refused to serve him! Everywhere they went, they adulterated themselves sexually and spiritually.

Sin, Slavery and Freedom

What’s interesting to me is the story hasn’t changed much in the twenty-six centuries since Jeremiah wrote. God chose us for Himself and delivered us out of slavery to sin. But, we remember the “good times” of our past and want to turn back. We tell ourselves just a little taste won’t hurt a thing. So we revisit the pleasures of sin for a season, and suddenly, we’re trapped. The apostle Paul writes, “why subject yourselves once again to a yoke of slavery?” (Galatians 5:1)

Regarding our discussion of same-sex attraction, let’s call it what it is: slavery. Some may even veer off into the language of addiction here, and it’s all the same. We have an incurable condition into which we were all born. But, we have also been born from above, and our true allegiance is to heaven. Let us no longer pine for the prison! We don’t have to settle for prison food! As the apostle Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Even more pointedly, Paul wrote to the Corinthians–specifically in regard to sexual immorality–“I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave” (1 Cor 6:12, GNB). Indeed!

Let’s see sin for what it is; but even more, let’s see Christ as the one who has broken the power of sin to control our lives! The struggle to maintain freedom is hard work, but every minute in the desert is worth it as we are transformed unto lasting freedom. While we walk, we can look forward to being united with Christ and made fully new.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
Break every chain
Break every chain
(Break Every Chain, Jesus Culture, 2011)

All Scripture references are from the ESV unless otherwise marked.

HOPE2019 Conference: A Reflection

Stained glass window shot from inside. Features a cross in the window frame as the center of the pictureI stand amazed at the relentless way that God meets us in our need. He met me in a profound way at the Restored Hope Network conference HOPE2019 this past weekend. I didn’t expect it; in fact, I expected my responsibilities to naturally exclude me from times of ministry and encounter. When you have to be Martha, it’s easy to lose hope for moments of Mary. In the midst of my busyness, Jesus heard my hearts’ cry–the desire I had to sit and receive–and He met me there.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV

It was Saturday afternoon, and I was making my umpteenth run in and out of the sanctuary. Camera batteries had to be charged, cables exchanged, questions answered, and leaky toilets dealt with. Announcements ended, the keynote began, and I found myself drawn to sit and ignore the clamor for a moment.

As the speaker started, I actually felt panic begin to rise in my chest. Not there, Jesus, not that pain. I have to teach a class in 30 minutes. If You touch that part of my heart, I won’t be able to keep it together. Despite the overwhelming desire to bolt, I stayed.  I gave Jesus my weak ‘yes’, and let Him work in me.

Thirty minutes later, you could find me weeping at the altar, but not out of panic. I was surrounded by the people who love me most: fellow laborers for the gospel, friends-in-arms. I was ministered to, held, and had incredible promise spoken over my life. Jesus began (another!) good work in my heart, and I know that He will be faithful to complete it.

When you seek the Lord, He answers you. That small, unspoken cry of your heart, He hears that too. I heard this theme in the stories, the testimonies of transformation, the sessions, and so many conversations in the hall. Often His answers come at inconvenient times, in uncomfortable and humbling ways, but He answers you. When we let Jesus in, and give Him permission to touch those deepest, darkest wounds, He brings healing.

You could not help but be moved by the stories of transformation that were shared this weekend, and I was awed and humbled to be counted friend among so many who have persevered against incredible odds. They really have overcome by the word of their testimony and the Blood of the Lamb, and continue to do so daily.

I am so grateful for the Restored Hope Network and Outpost’s membership therein. Obviously, there are organizational benefits, but really, my gratefulness arises because of the incredible people and leaders in this network. They are different, set apart, a caliber all their own.

I also want to thank every single member of Outpost’s staff, and many of our participants, who gave their all this weekend to help run the HOPE2019 Conference. I am so grateful for their tireless efforts in registration, running the bookstore, serving lunch, manning AV, and so much more. In particular, special thanks to Joy K. who poured herself out endlessly as one of the conference leads.  If you think of them, please pray for the refreshing and protection of the Lord. It was an honor to be the host ministry for HOPE2019, and I am looking forward to next year’s conference in Seattle.

The Power of the Cross

Recently, I have experienced difficult circumstances and losses that have left me reeling. Life has been so unpredictable and painful, and the challenges just keep coming. This has made me think about how we navigate this world as broken, sinful human beings, who so badly need a savior, a comforter, and a refuge from the storm. How do we turn from our own self-sufficiency and our attempts to fill the hurt and broken places with something other than the healing love of God? This is where the cross enters the picture.

The power of the cross is that we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who can sympathize with our weakness, who has been tempted in every way but is without sin, who enables us to confidently draw near the throne of grace where we are able to receive God’s mercy and help in our time of need (Heb. 4:14-16). This is a powerful passage, but one we know too well and can minimize when thinking of ourselves and our circumstances. If we read this passage with fresh eyes, we see a hope that we can be met and held, no matter what. We see the way to the Father opened by Jesus’ blood. We see that Jesus has bought us and we are HIS! Because we are His, we can have the confidence to come before Him in obedience and trust, even when things are hard. As I have struggled with the difficulties of this past season, I want to share some passages from Hebrews that I found very helpful.

Hope, The Blood and The Way

When our feelings and circumstances overwhelm us, the first thing we need is hope. Even when we are in the darkest places, overwhelmed by our pain; when we feel lost at sea, drowning in our sin and shame, we can have hope as an anchor in the storm. Hebrews 6 says God gives us His promises to encourage us as we lay hold of the hope set before us and flee to Him for refuge. This hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast (vv 17-19a). Using a promise from Hebrews 4, we can draw near to God to receive mercy and help. Instead of struggling like one who is in a sinking ship, we can lay hold of this promise as an anchor to weather the storm. We can turn our eyes towards Jesus in faith that He is with us, and that there is a future beyond our current stormy situation.

The second thing we need in this unpredictable life is the reassurance that Jesus’ blood is enough. When we are hit with shame or feel the weight of our sin, the Holy Spirit reminds us that Jesus shed His blood to set us free. Hebrews 7 speaks of how Jesus saves us completely and forever, and that it is He who always lives to make intercession for us (vv 24-5). Jesus is our Advocate before the Father, who understands us in our weakness and claims us as His blood-washed bride. Hebrews 9 talks about how Jesus, through His own blood, obtained for us eternal redemption, that our consciences may be cleansed of dead works to serve the living God (vv 12,14). By Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we can be set free of so much–our past, our hurts, and our sins–that we might walk out of darkness and into light. We are new creations in Christ, even when we struggle, because we are saved and cleansed to the uttermost.

The third thing that we need is a way out or a way forward when we feel lost and overwhelmed by our sin. We have already seen Hebrews 4, where Jesus enables us to draw near the throne with confidence.

It won’t be overnight, but Jesus saves forever and completely, so we can continue to give God our “yes” in the now and the not yet. 

So Jesus not only intercedes for us, but he made a way for us to enter the throne room, for us to have access to the Father. Hebrews 8 tell us that Jesus mediated a new and a better covenant, one based on faith in Him and not obedience to the law (v 6). He calls us to faith and shows us the way into God’s presence, where we can receive the kind words and healing love of the Father into our broken hearts. It isn’t about legalism or following rules, but trusting that Jesus will show us the way as we walk closely in relationship with Him.

Our Part: Draw Near and Hold Fast

Now we have hope to anchor us, our Savior’s blood to cover us, and the way forward opened, so we can approach the throne. What is left is only our participation. Hebrews 10:19-23 is a summary of what has already been discussed, but there’s an important addition. We are called to draw near and to hold fast. Our part is to give God our “yes”–our submission to His working in our lives–and to believe when it gets hard. In my darkest and most rebellious times, when I felt farthest away from God, I prayed to be willing to be made willing. In His mercy, He answered my prayer, and worked in my heart to accomplish this. God is faithful to answer our “yes.” Like a kid who scrapes her knee and runs to her father, we have that kind of access to God. We can keep coming back, choosing to return and follow Him until the end.

The power of the cross is that the way is open, the blood has covered us, and we have an anchor in the storms of life. Even when we feel a million miles away from God, we get to choose, again and again, to say “yes”: to believe God and to take Him at His word. We are clean, we are healed and being healed, we have been freed from the power of sin and death, we are being made new. It won’t be overnight, but Jesus saves forever and completely, so we can continue to give God our “yes” in the now and the not yet. We may look like a mess on the outside, but the cross is enough. It is not our work, but our “yes”–our submission, our surrender and letting go–that allows God the opportunity to do something powerful and real in us.

Being a Good Gift: A Living Waters Testimony

hands holding a giftI recently completed the Living Waters program through Outpost Ministries. I’m deeply grateful to the leaders who spent several months creating a safe place for our healing. They also gave us a profound gift when they shared their stories with us in such transparency. So, in gratitude for the gift they have given me, here is my gift to you.

My story begins with a passive and emotionally detached father. To be clear, he worked incredibly hard to give us a comfortable life. But, while he never abused me, he also never sought a relationship with me. He was always busy with something more important. His passivity and emotional detachment left a huge hole in my life, contributing to a lot of anxiety and doubt in my worth as a man. But I wasn’t the only one affected. My mother, with whom it seemed I had a close relationship, also felt the effects of his absence. She frequently operated as a single mother, bearing the burden of dual parenting roles, one which she was never meant to carry. Additionally, her own needs for relationship and connection went unmet. My relationship with her became really hot-or-cold. Every time we had heart-to-hearts it felt as if something was being forcibly taken from me—something precious to me that I couldn’t name, but that I hadn’t agreed to give. I felt alone, unsafe and unprotected. In self-defense, I detached from almost all relationships, and vowed not to trust my dad and mom.

Because of how chaotic my external life was, I turned to an inner fantasy life of my own choosing. I hid my gift behind a wall of silence. The onset of puberty saw these fantasy worlds sexualized, for which I became deeply ashamed. I isolated myself further out of fear of discovery. I became thoroughly addicted to pornography and masturbation. As I was preparing to graduate high school I knew I had to make a change. So I joined a missionary group and moved to Indiana two days after I graduated. To my despair, choosing this Godly action did not set me free from my sinful behaviors. Anxiety ruled the day, and my acting out behavior became more desperate. Leadership, which couldn’t risk allowing me to continue in ministry, removed me from the fellowship. I came back to Minnesota devastated, slowly sinking deeper into addiction until I believed the lies that I had no ability to change, that change was impossible, that I was unworthy of marriage, that I was not a good gift.

This is when God met me. He told me, “I have a season of grace for you.” I threw it back in His face. “Who do you think you are to say that to me! What does that even mean? That doesn’t mean anything! I don’t care! Do whatever you want, but I’m not changing! I’m not doing a thing – It’s all on you”. Even as I lashed out, the cross came into my life. For the first time, I gave up trying to choose and act on my own, and I allowed Jesus to take control of my healing.

Shortly thereafter I was directed to Outpost Ministries and couldn’t wait to enroll in Living Waters. Throughout the course God continually brought up areas of my life to surrender at the cross. Every week I faced areas of misogyny, relational idolatry, unforgiveness, and vows of hatred and mistrust made against fathers and men in my life. Every week took courage to encounter my brokenness with honesty and humility. Every week I encountered safe relationships where I could share what God was doing in my life. Every week I went to the cross and surrendered. Every week I found nothing there but mercy.

God used the cross and fellowship to create a safe place in my heart, which He filled with an intimate Father-son relationship. He wasn’t passive and distant anymore, but present and engaged. He was able to nurture me and provide a home for me that my parents were never able to. He has taught me that the source of my masculine gift is found under the strength of His covering. My masculine strength and authority to lead come from my surrender to His authority, just like the centurion whose faith amazed Jesus. It was never my strength to choose or act that would free me, it was His! And He gave Himself generously!

I am so grateful for what God has delivered me from, and for what He has prepared me for. I hope you are encouraged by the gift of my story because God is writing a beautiful story for you to tell as well. You are a worthy gift!

Restored Hope Network Conference HOPE2019

Image of Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis, MNThis year’s Restored Hope Network Conference will be here in Minneapolis! Please join us for HOPE2019 on June 21-22, 2019.

HOPE2019 is a special conference filled with powerful biblical teaching, worship, and inspiring life stories of those who have dealt with same sex attraction and been transformed by the living God.

HOPE2019 is for strugglers, family members, loved ones, counselors, pastors, and more.

Find additional information and register here. 

Early Bird rates end March 15th, so register early for a 10% discount!

 

From Glory to Glory: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

This is about the Gospel. This cultural fight that we are in over sexuality is actually about the Gospel, about whether or not Christ just reassures us or if Christ restores us. The work we do at Outpost is about the Gospel. It’s about the Good News that a relationship with Christ results in actual, tangible transformation and healing. It’s about the truth that relationship with Christ transforms us from glory to glory.

I love serving at Outpost because this is my own story of encountering Christ. The loving-kindness of our God rescued me from darkness, and He so changed me that I have a hard time remembering who I was before.

It wasn’t in a moment. It wasn’t an ‘overnight success.’ Through a process of daily encounter, accountability, and community, the Lord relentlessly pursued and changed me. The Gospel–Christ giving up his life to purify me and reconcile me to the Father–was real and active in my life. The result is that it is honestly difficult for me to remember the thought patterns, desires, and feelings that I had before. I have become a new creation, not finished but continually being made into the image of Christ.

I love serving at Outpost because at the core of what we do is the Gospel, and we have the daily privilege of giving hope to people who are being bombarded with despair. The message of culture is that if you struggle with sexual brokenness, you’re stuck. It’s just the way you are, there’s no hope for overcoming.

The Gospel says something else: Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Image of Whom the Son sets free is free indeed textTogether we are an outpost of hope standing for truth, and a much deeper truth than just calling sexual brokenness out for what it is. We’re standing for the truth that Jesus is real.  He pursues us and rescues us. We’re standing for the truth that the Gospel is powerful and active today: There is good news for the sexually and relationally broken.

As you stand with us, you are adding your voice to ours to proclaim the truth and help young men and women have a life-changing encounter with Christ through discipleship, accountability, and community. You are helping them in the journey to make Christ the Lord of their lives, including the surrender of their sexuality. You are helping remove chains of shame and fear. You are giving them access to resources to overcome unwanted attractions, addiction to pornography, and self-hatred.

Thank you. Thank you for being a remnant that will not let go of the Gospel, will not let go of love and truth, will not let go of hope.

Outpost and TCJHOP’s annual fundraising banquet is quickly approaching, and now is a critical time when we need your support. The current heartbreaking legislation, the growing needs of individuals and families, and the search for a new director all highlight our need for our community. We can’t do this without you.

There are three ways that you can get involved and make an impact.

First, attend the fundraising banquet! The banquet is always an amazing time of testimonies and hope. Come hear stories of individuals who have found real hope and change in a struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions and fellowship with others who stand for truth like you do. You can register online now.

Second, if you are unable to attend, you can make a tax-deductible donation designated towards our spring fundraiser. You can do this online, over the phone, or by mail.

Third, share the banquet with friends and family that you think would be impacted by the ministry of Outpost. Invite them to attend and support the work we do. You can share this article, the website address, or–if you’re interested–please stop by the office, say hello, and pick up some invitations to pass out.

There is an urgency to stand for truth right now. There is an urgency to bring hope. Christ really does transform us from glory to glory. I stand as a witness to this, and so do you.

Looking forward to seeing you at the banquet,

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Alissa Holmes
Acting Director
Outpost Ministries