The Spirit of Caleb

But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land.

Numbers 14:24 (ESV, emphasis added)

Dear Friends,

These words from Numbers are the guiding verse for our older men’s group, CalebSpirit. This group is essentially a fellowship group, defined as two or more Fellows in one Ship, struggling against the tide to reach their destination. Of course, the Old Testament imagery of Caleb and the Exodus is the centerpiece of our approach to ministry. Released from slavery to sin, now en route to the Promised Land of freedom in Christ, these men are on a journey together.

Our itinerary includes focused discussion throughout the school year, generally about Christian discipleship and sometimes more specifically about the topics related to LGBTQ+. We often include weekend retreats in September and May, and even January, schedule permitting.

Along with the book study, we have other occasional events like dinners, movie nights or holiday/birthday parties. During the summer months we ramp up the outdoor activities like mini-golf, kayaking, biking, croquet and of course, food events like BBQs, restaurants and ICE CREAM!

Perhaps the sweetest part of our fellowship takes place “off schedule.” At our age, we seem to be attending more family funerals together, like Mom’s, Dad’s, spouse’s, and sadly, even some of our men’s children’s funerals. We walk with each other through the impacts of caring for aging parents, difficulties in children’s lives, and even separations and divorces.

Life is not easy on the Road to Zion. But, oh, when we get to the Promised Land, do we have something to look forward to! There will be no more sin and no more suffering when we Look in His Wonderful Face! So, we walk side by side, offering encouragement, strength and hope to each other along life’s way.

We all need that, don’t we? I’m so glad that I’ve had many communities like this in my life. I have much to be grateful for!

The example of Caleb is a powerful one. Think of it. He was about 40 years old and the head of his family when Israel set out on the Exodus. He bravely spied out the land with 11 other scouts. Only his and Joshua’s reports came back engendering hope and a future for the Children of Israel. Ten naysayers—faithless men—put a halt on the whole thing. Only he and Joshua held out for hope and kept the faith.

Now, imagine again. Caleb watched all his adult friends drop dead in the wilderness. He heard all their grumblings, murmurings and complaints, yet kept the faith. He had a different spirit about him. He was “one in a million.” And if there were 2 million people on this march, Joshua was the other “one in a million”! God uses extraordinary people like Caleb.

But what made Caleb extraordinary? Was it his education? No, he was a slave. Was it his lineage? Perhaps, as he was “one of them” in the line of Jacob. Was it his hard work? Maybe, as he did claim to be as strong at 85 as he was at 40! (See Joshua 14:10f. for the full story on how he eventually took the land for his inheritance.)

Actually, the one characteristic that set Caleb apart from his ten Israelite “brothers” was this: he fully followed YHWH. He kept the faith! He submitted. He yielded control. In essence, he was meek.

Meekness is, generally speaking, not seen as a social value or a positive masculine virtue. But God saw it and rewarded him for it. Meekness, as we are learning in our summer study of the Beatitudes, is “strength under control.” It is like a horse that has been broken and now, submitting fully to the jockey, can win races. As Colin Smith aptly observes in his book Momentum, wild horses don’t win races! Broken horses do.

Caleb was rewarded first with life itself. He did not fall in the wilderness, but was preserved. Secondly, he was rewarded with an inheritance that he would pass on as his legacy for generations. He was the chief of the tribe of Judah, and if you recall, Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, too. Talk about legacy!

So, it is in the same spirit that the men of CalebSpirit are building a future in and for the Kingdom! Perhaps their legacy will bless generations to come.

PS: If you’re interested in joining CalebSpirit, please contact me at the office phone 763-592-4700 x101. I’m happy to help get you started!

CalebSpirit Update: A Letter From Dan

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring! This month we have a letter from Dan about another of our support groups, CalebSpirit.

Logo for CalebSpirit
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, 
I will bring into the land into which he went… Numbers 14:24 (ESV).

At Outpost, one of our chief aims is the release from slavery―not unlike ancient Israel. In our case, we aren’t slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but to same-sex attraction (SSA), or so it seems. Our enemy has no real claim to us, nor did Pharaoh have to ancient Israel. Nonetheless, Israel found herself enslaved by her worldly master. She was delivered by God in a miraculous series of events found in the book of Exodus. But en route to her destiny of freedom, she stumbled, and she grumbled. According to verse 22 of this same chapter, Israel had seen the glory of God and many signs. Seeing God’s glory and witnessing signs and wonders does not motivate obedience, and most certainly does not guarantee entrance into the Promise. That entrance requires something else.

Enter Caleb and Joshua. They trusted God to deliver them into the Promised Land, regardless the obstacles in their path. This is the essence of faith. It could be said of them—like it was said of Abraham—that their faith was accounted to them as righteousness (Rom. 4). They were saved (delivered into the Promise) by faith.

We call the group CalebSpirit because these men have “wandered in the wilderness” for a long time (40 years? Yes, perhaps!), and because they have seen the salvation of their God and believe in Him for their deliverance into the Promised Land. The men of CalebSpirit have a different spirit and are fully following the Lord. That does not mean perfectly following the Lord, but they have determined in their hearts to endeavor to imitate Christ throughout their lives, especially in regard to their SSA struggles.

We currently have ten men enrolled in our Tuesday night group where we are studying a book by Steve Gallagher entitled, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. Our weekly book-club-style discussions have addressed such topics as “Am I really enslaved (addicted)?”; “Why do I do the things I do?”; “What is at the root of my sexual sin struggle?”; and “How do I rely upon the Holy Spirit to overcome sexual sin in my life?”

Further, we engage as a fellowship of like-minded sojourners. We are in this together. We hold a retreat a couple times a year for concentrated prayer and fellowship. We also do fun summer activities together, like kayaking, mini-golf, croquet, movies, dinners out, potluck BBQs, holiday parties, biking, and even some travel. We attend conferences and seminars as a group. Finally, we hold one another accountable for our SSA struggles. The men of this group are forming a unique fellowship. Many of the men have been part of our group, or other Outpost groups, for over 20 years. This stability provides confidence and strength to the group.

If you are interested in this group, or know of men ages 45-70 who would be, please contact me at (763) 592-4700 x101. I welcome conversations anywhere along these lines.

Dan's Signature

Elijah Company

Elijah Company is a prayer and support group for parents and friends that have loved ones who identify as LGBTQ.

Why is it called Elijah Company?

The name come from the last verses of the last chapter of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5-6a says, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.” We hope to see the spirit of Elijah be present through this group. One of the greatest horrors parents can face is watching their child wander from the Truth. Yet in the midst of heartache and what feels like devastating loss on many levels, there is hope. As hearts are healed, transformed, and turned towards our children, we wait in expectancy for the Holy Spirit to also turn the children’s hearts back towards their parents and—most importantly—back to their Heavenly Father. This is not limited to parents, however. As we are bonded together as one family through the blood of Christ, we can join hearts in praying for the return of all God’s sons and daughters.

If you come to Elijah Company, what could you expect to find?

You would find other parents who love and care with you about your son or daughter. You would find other parents who are further ahead of you in the journey of walking with a loved one who identifies as LGBTQ. You would find other parents growing in their own faith as they move along on this journey. You would find other parents who are learning what it means to walk in truth and love. You would find parents wrestling with situations and attitudes and searching for God’s answer. You would be learning that mercy triumphs over judgment.

What are some of the things we do in our time together each week?

Our time together is rich! We are family to each other. We listen to each other and are able to empathize. We point each other to the scriptures that sustain us, encourage us, and give us hope. And we pray for ourselves to become more like Jesus to our sons and daughters, not compromising the truth, but extending mercy.

We love the Lord. He is our Rock. We pray for our children and those impacted by sexual sin to be released and set free. We are the watchmen on the wall waiting for them to come home to the Father.

If you want to join us, we’d love to have you! To find out more, send an email to jmersberger@outpostministries.org

Encounter, Community, and Perseverance

Shoots of a green plant in a terra cotta pot representing growth and perseverance

I first came to Outpost as the volunteer Media Director years ago. I recently went back through some of the video footage that I shot in those early days. It brought me tears. It was so unexpected, but I was confronted with literal evidence of dear brothers and sisters who used to wear their shame and pain on their faces. I know them today as ones with shining faces, faces filled with the confidence of being loved by God and by their community. My favorite part about ministry at Outpost is watching the light of Christ fill the countenance of our participants. They are still on their healing journey, but they have been transformed into ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

There are three fundamental things that I’ve found to be necessary on the healing journey: encounter with the living, relational God; healthy community; and perseverance. I’d like to share a bit about each.

Encounter

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a.

We have this great promise, that when we give God our weak yes, He will answer. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we knock, the door will be opened to us. When we seek, we will find.

It is necessary, vital, and inescapable that we need encounter with God to be changed. Transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can conjure up or fake. Our part is a necessary “Yes” to the process of discipleship and encounter.

This need for encounter is fundamentally why we’re partnered with the Prayer Room. It’s not that there is something especially ‘spiritual’ about the modality of our Prayer Room compared with other prayer practice. The healing partnership with Outpost is really about time. What the Prayer Room affords is extended hours of prayer that force us to stop running from our pain; confront our boredom and cold hearts; and get beyond our own navel-gazing to pray for others.

It can be difficult at first to face into our lack of hunger for God, but in the repeated devotion of time, He encounters us and softens our hearts. In that space of prayer, communion, and encounter, He transforms us.

Community

“…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Most of us have struggled at some point with belonging, feeling left out, or unwanted. For those of us who have struggled with addictive or compulsive sin, there is a correlation between our sin struggles and our lack of community. When I am cut off from community, I am at highest risk of giving into the enemy. When I am surrounded with support from the body of Christ, I am empowered to overcome by the experience of real love.

It’s a powerful thing to be loved on our worst day. It’s a powerful thing to know that someone will stand with us when we can’t stand ourselves. It’s also painful, because broken humans hurt each other, but as we risk, choose to trust, and learn to forgive as we have been forgiven, we find belonging and transformation.

Perseverance

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

The work of healing is hard. The enemy comes in with discouragement and, like the serpent in the garden, with variations of “Did God really say?” or “Does God love you, really?”

We can’t dictate what transformation will look like, but if we persevere, it will happen. In my own journey, I always came to the Lord with my laundry list of things to fix. Typically, He ignored my list and gently worked on something else. This was not because of some sort of cheap grace but rather a fundamental fault in my understanding. God was concerned, not with my punishment, but with my healing. As I learned to submit to His Lordship on a daily basis–regardless of my feelings of rebellion, fatigue, boredom, or even joy–He transformed me.

What results from encounter, community, and perseverance? Transformation. It’s not a myth or a fanciful idea. It’s real, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and it’s the desire of the Father for us. (Jeremiah 29:11).

We Need You

We want Outpost to continue to stand as a beacon of hope for transformation. As we approach our annual fundraising banquet, we need to raise $41,000 for this year of ministry. If the message of transformation resonates with you, there are a few ways that you can help us:

Consider sponsoring a table. If you are financially able, this is a profound tool to help spread the message of hope. When you sponsor a table and invite people from your network, you are inviting them into hope. Every year at the banquet, we hear from people who are hearing testimonies of transformation for the first time–it’s powerful to see the way their hearts come alive.

Attend or make a gift. You may not be in a position to sponsor a table, but every gift we receive is an important part of our mission.

Pray. We wouldn’t be here without the sustaining power of prayer, and we continue to need your support. Please continue to partner and stand with us in this way, and do not discount this critical ministry. You matter to us!

To register for the banquet or make a donation, CLICK HERE