“He, She, Them, and Me”

Small rock on big rock with plant growing

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

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

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

Rooted in God’s Truth

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

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

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

Rooted in God’s Love

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

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

Ministering in Love and Truth

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

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

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

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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Called Out of Darkness 2017

Announcing our 13th annual Called Out of Darkness CelebrationCalled Out of Darkness is Outpost Ministries’ annual response to National Coming Out Day. For over 40 years, we have been ministering to men and women seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions. Jesus has been faithful to bring freedom and transformation time and time again. Come hear our stories!

This year, Called Out 2017 will have two parts, beginning with our one-day conference, Distinctions: Discovering Biblical Clarity in a Sexually-Confused WorldThe day will end with our annual evening of passionate worship, inspiring testimonies and heartfelt thanksgiving to the One who has called us out of the darkness of homosexuality into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hope Presbyterian Church

7132 Portland Ave S, Richfield, MN 55423

Distinctions is from 9 AM-5 PM, Called Out begins at 7 PM

The Distinctions Conference is $20/person, or $10/person if you refer a pastor or ministry leader to attend. All pastors and ministry leaders attend for free. The evening event is free and open to anyone. Registration is necessary to attend either one or both events. No childcare is provided.

REGISTER NOW

Conference sessions include:

Biblical Gender: How Men and Women are Created in God’s Image

The Broken Image: How Sin Can Impact our Sexuality

Un-defining Gender: How Sin Can Impact our Identity

The Power of the Cross: God’s Solution to the Sin Problem

Plus testimonies, break-out sessions, and a panel Q & A

$15 Discount for the 2016 Bethlehem Conference for Pastor and Church Leaders

2016 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors and Church LeadersOutpost Ministries will be an exhibitor at the 2016 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders in Partnership with desiringGod.org.  This year’s theme is Joy Set Before Us: Perserverence and Hope in the Day of Opposition.  The conference will be held January 25-27 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Get a $15 discount when you register using our special exhibitor link.  Enter code PARTNER15.  For every 15 people registered under our ministry, Outpost will receive one free admission for staff as exhibitors at the conference.  You must use our special exhibitor link in order to benefit Outpost.