Freedom Realized, a Book Review

Freedom Realized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Moses Generation

house on sandIt has now been almost 20 years since the Lord spoke to me about my life’s calling. I was sitting on my porch, spending time with Him, when He spoke very clearly to my heart. “Son, raise up a generation in My love and in My power—a generation like Moses who will lead the Church out of her Egypts.” At the time, I didn’t fully know why God was calling me to raise up a generation, and I didn’t know exactly how to do it. Over the years, however, the Lord has been faithful to answer those questions.

Answering the “Why?”

The next generation consists of our future leaders. They will lead, not only the Church, but every sphere of life. They are future husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. The next generation will lead in the market place, media, and technology. They will be our future lawmakers and law enforcers. Someone from the next generation will one day be the president of our great nation. Given all of this, what the next generation believes about God and His Word is of great importance to the advancement of God’s Kingdom in our society.

More specifically, what the next generation believes about the image of God is of great importance. It is paramount, not just to the Kingdom advancing, but to their very sense of being human and belonging in God’s created order. Without a biblical understanding of these foundational issues, the next generation—and society as we know it—will unravel. The reality that we are men and women created in God’s image is solid ground for the next generation. All other ground is sinking sand.

The question is, will the next generation wisely build society on the Rock or foolishly build it on the sand? How will they know the difference if they are not taught? Jesus was clear: great will be the fall of the house built by the foolish (Matt. 7:27). I would add, great will be the guilt of the previous generation who did not teach their children the wisdom of righteousness.

At the Center

The understanding of the image of God is at the center of the war over the next generation. If you have any doubt, simply look at where the enemy has set his sights. The image of God can only be seen and experienced within the gender binary (male/female, masculine/feminine). There is a demonic war being waged to remove the gender binary from society. Gay marriage has become the law of the land. The transgender movement has exploded.

Businesses are implementing gender neutrality into their short- and long-range plans. Target Corporation has removed any gender-based branding among children’s toys and has introduced a gender-neutral line of kid’s clothing. It has also committed to installing gender- neutral bathrooms in all of its stores. The Boy Scouts of America now includes girls and has dropped the word “boys” from its name in order to become less gender specific. Why does this matter? No boys, no girls, no image of God. That is exactly what the enemy desires, for where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (Prov. 29:18).

We can already see the casting off of restraint in our culture. Beloved, we are really only at the beginning of what could be a great rebellion against the beauty of God’s image on the earth. In the midst of such a rebellion, men and women will not order their lives in such a way that they get to the marriage supper of the Lamb. They will no longer work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). There you have the enemy’s strategy in a nutshell: eradicate a right vision of the image of God revealed in men and women. Eradicate a right vision of marriage, a prophetic picture of our eternal destiny in God. Throw in some wrong teaching about extreme grace, and the recipe for disaster is complete. The next generation is disempowered and deceived. Demonic mission accomplished.

Not on my watch. And, I hope, not on yours.

Answering the “How?”

Early on in my own recovery journey, I connected with the prayer movement in the Twin Cities. There, I found amazing fathers and mothers of the faith who helped turn my heart to the Heavenly Father and to the wisdom of righteousness. I was encouraged to spend extended times in prayer and in God’s Word. I am forever grateful for their leadership—especially to Marylynn Christopher, founder and former director of the Twin Cities House of Prayer. For many years, time and time again, she pointed me to the Word of God. She taught me, not just how to study the Bible, but how to truly receive the revelation of the Father’s heart contained within its pages.

As I saw the fruit of a dynamic prayer life, I began to implement this strategy in my work with young adults at Outpost. The Encountering Jesus Internship was born. The program was simple. In addition to the inner-healing work they were doing at Outpost, interns spent three hours in prayer and in the study of the Word. We were not prepared for the result. We began to see our participants soaring through the process of recovery. Our staff tripled. Our budget quadrupled. God was backing up His Word with power. The Lord was granting speedy justice—healing, deliverance, provision—to those who were crying out to Him day and night (Luke 18:8).

Crystal Clear

It became crystal clear that God was going to raise up a generation in His love and power by revealing His love and power in the place of prayer.

The next generation is longing for encounter with something or Someone who will truly satisfy. As young adults quiet their hearts before the Lord, gaze upon His beauty and talk with Him, the wrong things in their lives are made right. Foundational identity is imparted. They are empowered to stand for the truth of God’s image.

Now, my calling is crystal clear: I am to raise up a generation in God’s love and power through night and day prayer and worship to stand for the truth of God’s image. And, Beloved, our nation is desperate for such a generation. Hear King David’s ancient cry: Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come (Ps. 71:18).

Deeply Grieved

We at Outpost/TCJHOP have had our eyes on the next generation for many years, especially on those struggling with core identity issues. I am beginning to see, however, that God is doing something unique in our midst. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference for Restored Hope Network (RHN), a network of ministries like Outpost. My heart was deeply grieved to see the absence of young people. Many of the ministry directors are at retirement age or older with no prospects to take over when they are gone. I continue to be the youngest RHN ministry director, and I am not that young anymore!

Furthermore, I had the opportunity to connect with a colleague who oversees like-minded ministries around the world. I asked him point blank, “Do you know of anything happening in the world for young people wanting to overcome same-sex attractions or other gender identity issues?” His response was sobering, “Nate, I know of nothing.”

Moses Generation

Something Unique

Yet God is doing something unique in the Twin Cities. And, we want to be lock step with what He is doing.

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a group of young men who are pursuing holiness in their sexuality and gender identity. During the summer, we always focus on biblical masculinity. We currently have 18 participants and three young adult leaders. They are jumping in with both feet and passionately pursuing Jesus. I am keenly aware that this move of God is somehow special. The Lord is raising up a standard in the midst of the wave of delusion sweeping across our nation. The testimonies coming forth in the lives of these young men will one day overcome the evil one.

Doubling Down

In the coming months, we are doubling down on our focus on the next generation to see them raised up for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Not only do we need to be raising up the next generation of leaders at Outpost, but we need to find a way to help other ministries reproduce themselves. We also desire to implement similar programming for young women specific to their issues and needs. Much of this is still in the brainstorming/development stage.

As always, we need your prayers. We will be establishing a strategy to bathe this all in prayer. We welcome you to join us in specifically praying for the needs of the young men and women to whom we are current ministering and for those yet unreached. And mark your calendars: we will be hosting a visioning night on September 17 at 7 PM to pray and discuss these vital issues!

A Practical Investment

We also continue to need your financial support. A practical way to invest in these young people is by contributing funds to the Joshua Fellowship summer programming. The summer program especially costs a significant amount due to the masculine initiation retreat component in August—roughly $9,000 total for the class, or $450 per person. Most of the young men we minister to are college-age or young professionals who don’t have much money. We offer our programming at a discounted cost and provide scholarships to those who cannot pay. Would you consider sponsoring a young man this summer? Would you consider helping to offset our retreat costs? Or would you consider contributing financially to help develop and begin similar programming for young women?

Undeniable Fruit

The fruit is undeniable. This month, one of my former participants married his college sweetheart. In September, I will have the pleasure of officiating the wedding of another one of my participants. In October, I will attend the wedding of another. Now, marriage itself does not mean that someone has successfully overcome same-sex attractions, but I have walked with these guys for years. I have seen their hard work of recovery, their integrity, and their commitment to Jesus. I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness to each one of them. They are overcoming something that the world tells them to embrace and celebrate. They are better—and stronger—men because of the journey they have chosen. And one day, God willing, their children will be born. Praise God, the generations will continue despite the devil’s schemes.

This work of God is a weighty and sobering thing to be a part of. No wonder we face constant attacks from the enemy. But we are holding fast, and we are being kept by the power of the Lord. We are committed to raising up a Moses generation. Will you join us in this movement?

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Outlawing Gender Integration in California

CaliforniaWe have been keeping a close eye on a particular bill that is quickly being pushed through the California legislature this week. The ministry of Outpost has never been about political activism. We have always focused our energies into helping people walk in obedience to God and to their sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, we bring this bill to your attention because, in the end, it threatens our very freedom to practice those said beliefs. Read on as we share Andy Comiskey’s post about AB 2943.

“‘We give you strict orders not to teach in His name.’ Peter and John replied: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard . . . We must obey only God and not men!'” (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29)

Wake up people. The bill best designed to outlaw Christian efforts to help persons resolve gender identity problems is racing through the California legislature as you read this. AB 2943 prohibits all conferences, teachings, or publications (where money is exchanged for the resource) aimed at helping people to overcome same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. This impacts every pastor, counselor, friend, or family member in California.

Most chillingly, it slams the door on citizens whose conscience guides them to make peace with their bodies as designed by God. The California legislature wants to deny them that choice. [This week] the Assembly will decide if the state has the right to insist that the only option for Californians with gender identity problems is to transition into the ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ self. Though these are standard values in much of the clinical community, California is seeking to make them the only values. This is an affront to moral liberty.

It sounds preposterous, I know. When I first heard of this bill, I assumed it implausible, dead on arrival. Instead, AB 2943 raced through the first two committees in spite of valiant testimonies by friends Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Jr., Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, and Bethel Redding’s Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams. These last three witnessed persuasively to the power of Jesus and His community to restore true identity but were stonewalled by representatives who only asked sympathetic questions of those claiming abuse at the hands of bad helpers, valid issues for clinical ethics but irrelevant to the rights of persons to choose the kind of help (s)he desires!

According to Ken Williams, “The freight train is here, barring persons from the right to help and to heal gender identity problems. This is the first day I have felt discriminated against, robbed of my freedom to hold to my convictions. The government is now seeking to mandate what I do with my sexuality.”

Every person deserves the freedom to exercise moral authority over his or her body and desires. I may boldly disagree with Ellen Degeneres’ and Rupaul’s identity choices (just as they do mine!) but I grant them freedom to make them. We as Americans share constitutional freedoms of worship and speech. According to the Supreme Court, “the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought we hate.”

Church, wake up. AB 2943 roused Bethel Redding to mobilize their people to engage gently and well with political representatives. Might I ask all Christians in California–Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals–to invite their fellows to persuade elected officials to vote against this bill? (See californiafamily.org.) If this bill passes, the state officially denies Jesus’ will for our sexual humanity and His power to redeem it.

[On Thursday, April 19,] the lower house of the CA legislature will vote on AB 2943; if passed, it will go to the senate then to the governor. Pray for a miracle of God’s justice. Or that such a preposterous bill, if passed, will be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

Pray that a renewed Church will unite and arise in California as a result of this enslaving legislation. Nothing short of our freedom of speech and worship– our right to decide the man or woman we will become–are at stake. If we lose, may we become holy outlaws who obey God, not man, with words and deeds of fire.

“‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.'” (Acts 4:29, 30)

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Hope Conference 2018

Hope Conference 2018

Strugglers, family memebers, loved ones, counselors, pastors, and lay people, this conference is for you! Join us for Restored Hope Network’s conference HOPE 2018 in Upper Marlboro, Maryland June 15-16.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOPE 2018

Outpost Ministries is a founding member of Restored Hope Network. RHN proclaims “that Jesus Christ has life-changing power for all who submit to Christ as Lord; we also seek to equip His church to impart that transformation.”

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A Hundred Fold

Restored Hope NetworkOutpost is a member ministry of the Restored Hope Network (RHN). RHN is an inter-denominational, member-governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin, especially those impacted by homosexuality. Every year, Outpost participates in RHN’s national conference. This year’s conference was just held in San Diego, CA, in mid-June. I attended with several other staff members. I also had the privilege of leading worship for the two-day conference.

Gideon Army

What an amazing time it was! I have known for almost 20 years many of the ministry leaders who were in attendance. It was so encouraging to see that there are still many leaders standing firm on the truth of God’s Word. Transformation is available through Jesus Christ! We are a “Gideon Army,” but we trust that God will be faithful to champion those who are obedient to His Word.

Thirty, Sixty, A Hundred

During the conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Brad Dacus, the head of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization. Over 15 years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth revival meeting in Sacramento, CA. Who did I stay with? Brad Dacus. At the RHN conference, Brad recounted the story of bringing a young man out to California to share his testimony of transformation—me!  As he shared the rest of the story, I learned something new. A gentleman who was in attendance at this youth revival meeting was so moved by my testimony and other speakers that, since then, has held over 1,000 revival meetings for high schoolers.

seedIt reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the seeds, “‘Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold'” (Mark 3:8).

Sometimes we get to know the impact of our ministry in this life, sometimes we do not. But this was certainly a blessing from the Lord to hear how my testimony helped motivate someone else in Kingdom work. Who knows how many young people have been saved in these revival meetings that have taken place over the last decade plus. Thank you, Lord, that a generation is being raised up in your love and power!

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Remembering Frank

CoastlineSingle acts of heroism make the news and cycle through social media. But a lifetime of faithfulness—acts of loving obedience to Christ day in and day out—is worthy of a moment of reflection. Those acts over a lifetime are like the constancy of waves along the shoreline. Some large and some small, they eventually change the entire landscape of the coastline.

Frank Worthen lived his life in that manner until his passing earlier this year at age 87. Unless you are in the trenches of—or actively opposed to—ministries like ours, you may have never heard of him. Frank was the pioneer of what has been called the ex-gay movement, blazing a trail for thousands of others to follow.

Blazing a Trail

In his book, Destiny Bridge (Forever Books; Winnipeg, Canada; 2010), Frank shares his story of how God brought him out of 25 years of living as a gay man and led him to start a ministry for men also desiring freedom. His ministry began in, of all places, San Francisco. God went right to the heart of the matter. He chose a man to do His bidding in a city renowned for its homosexual community.

Frank recalls in 1973, a pastor friend encouraged him to put his testimony on a cassette tape. He put an ad in the Berkeley Barb, a New Age paper that also had numerous ads for men looking for sexual encounters. His ad ran in November of 1973 and read, “Let Jesus break the chains of homosexuality. Brother Frank tells how Jesus changed his life. Send for the tape on free loan . . .” His first ad was published on the same page with the racy ads and nude pictures he used to frequent. His tapes became popular enough that he had to make many duplicates.

“You May Not Want Me”

Then in 1974, while driving, Frank was listening to a Christian radio broadcast of a popular preacher talking about the book of Leviticus. The preacher focused almost entirely on homosexuality. He said, “Don’t waste your time trying to convert a homosexual. They can’t be saved.”    

Frank recalls that those condemning words hit him hard. For several days, he considered taking his own life. He remembers praying, “Lord I’m going to serve You, just as if I were saved. You may not want me, but I want You.” Frank sent the radio station his “Brother Frank” tape. He added to his testimony 1 Corinthians 6:7-11, in which Paul declares to a long litany of sinners—including but not limited to homosexuals, “Such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).  He received many positive responses from Christian believers.

Persevering

He started a support group and eventually named it Love in Action, the first formal ministry of its kind. Other groups sprung up all over California, as did several others around the country, including Outpost Ministries in Minneapolis. Back then, there were no resources other than the Bible, so many groups wrote their own curriculums. Frank wrote a booklet, Steps out of Homosexuality. 

He founded Exodus International in 1976, a network of these like-hearted ministries. The founder of Outpost, Robbi Kenney, joined the first Board of Directors, and Outpost was one of Exodus’ original members.

In the beginning, Frank had very little encouragement. Frank says his gay friends abandoned him. In the day and age when homosexuality was taboo to mention in church, his supporters were slow to come around.  He was bombarded with temptation, and in the early days, many leaders went back into the gay life. One can only imagine what he endured. To start an ex-gay ministry as he did with no help and no guidelines in a city like San Francisco is not only extraordinary, it’s miraculous!

Frank and Anita Worthen

Frank and Anita Worthen

Changing the Coastline

Frank not only survived, he continued to thrive. In 1991, he started a similar ministry in the Philippines. Upon the crumbling of Exodus in 2012, in his early 80’s, he led the charge with Anne Paulk and Stephen Black to form Restored Hope Network.

Frank leaves behind Anita, his loving wife of 32 years, and a stepson. He also leaves behind a legacy of steadfast obedience to God’s calling which has impacted men and women around the world for over 40 years. The weight of that impact will be felt as we gather for Restored Hope Network’s annual conference in June. The coastline has changed under the rhythm of his faithful perseverance.

Watch Frank’s testimony here.

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How to Love a Vulnerable Friend: Responding to the ‘Transgendered’

Bruce JennerFirst, thank you for your commitment to your friend. Sometimes devout, energized persons like you can help prevent an already vulnerable soul from doing further injury. I realize your friend is on the verge of doing just that by pursuing gender reassignment surgery.

Gender is not a product of the mind; it is a fact of our birth. To be sure, your friend has a deep conflict with his or her true gender self, for which one must only be compassionate. Such compassion flows from the truth. Your friend has a gender self and to be at odds with that truth is a serious affliction. Your advocacy may help him or her to begin to resolve this identity confusion in the right way.

Your friend is not hearing the truth today, only pretty lies. To paraphrase Dr. Paul McHugh, the idea that gender is a matter of choice remains unquestioned in our culture and is utterly without scientific foundation. Studies reveal that in spite of terrific costs to all family members, gender reassignment surgery does not result in happiness but the same or worse mental health conditions than existed before the surgery, including drug addictions, psychotic disorders and the risk of suicide.

Your friend is vulnerable to robbers and needs understanding and inspired care. This is a person who looks in the mirror and hates the reflection. He or she believes that self-acceptance lies in becoming the other gender. Wrong. I have worked with several persons whose ‘fantasy gender selves’ arose in response to profound distress. Their fantasy selves became the prison. It is a joyful labor of love to accompany the gender afflicted out of unreality and into the truth of their real selves.

Spiritual and emotional intervention makes sense. Why? We cannot change our genders. Guess what? Bruce Jenner is still a man! The only real choice we have is to make peace with the gender of our birth. Nevertheless, we must recognize that our gender identities (the psychological adjustment we make to our gender) are subject to profound frustration. We may feel chronically inadequate to master certain ‘gender’ tasks, or experience repulsion over one’s body type combined with a persistent desire to have different body traits.

The gender-afflicted need inspired therapy, not surgery. It is cruel to subject a vulnerable soul to knives and implants and alien hormones. We do not ‘cure’ an anorexic by exercising fat from her body because she feels fat any more than we ‘cure’ a man who feels like a woman by cutting off his penis. We help him make peace with his intrinsic manhood, just as we help the anorexic adjust to a true body image.

Your friend is imprisoned by the lie that ‘feelings’ can and should determine biological gender. Wrong. God determines our gender and we must work that out in fear and trembling. Yes, Jesus is the door that swings out from the prison, and yes, we must open it. Praise Him—we can do so in the light of Divine Mercy and merciful friends like you.

For this transformation, we need entire faith communities. I would suggest that you check out our offerings at Desert Stream/Living Waters (desertstream.org), the national Restored Hope Network of ministries (restoredhopenetwork.org), and the international network of Courage (couragerc.org). Please stay in touch. If your friend and family want to come out and meet with some of our staff, please let us know.

View Andy’s original post of this article.