A New Creation

This article originally appeared on CHANGED Movement’s Love & Culture blog in April 2022. used with permission.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Several years ago, I was part of a small group of men. We all struggled with issues around sexual purity and identity. We met weekly to encourage and support each other. During one of the meetings, after rejecting most of their encouragement regarding God’s love and view of me, one of the men confronted me.  He asked, “Are you so arrogant to believe everyone here is wrong and you are right?” The truth was, yes. In fact, I was that arrogant. In that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me clearly saying, “They see you like I see you, they see the real authentic you. Rodger, your vision is distorted by lies, you don’t see that you are a new creation.” See, I saw myself through the distortion of self-applied    labels and identities. I didn’t recognize the new man. No wonder walking in newness of life felt impossible.

The Old and New Testament speak of the hope that one day God would come and save His people. This salvation wouldn’t just be rescuing them from the evil surrounding them but it would be a salvation that completely changed the person who had faith in God. While this is fantastic, He promises to do even more. God said His Spirit would live in his followers, empowering them to live a righteous life, a righteousness that flows from the inside out1. The Prophet Ezekiel wrote, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”2 The Old Testament hope has become the New Testament reality. Paul writes “the gospel is the power of God to save all who believe.”3 That is, when you believe this good news you encounter the power of God and it changes you, it changes everything!

Knowing and experiencing this power is central to Christianity. Paul asked God to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened so that you would know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” Paul continues, it’s the same power (his great might)  “that he (God) worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…”4  WOW, breathe that in a few times, it’s intoxicating in the best way!!! The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. Because of this we are saved, born again, resurrected into new life, adopted as daughters or sons, and we’ve been released from slavery to sin and death and set free to live a righteous life. This power is so powerful that it has made each of us a new creation. And, the Holy Spirit lives in us!

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes about the ministry which he is, indeed, we are all called, the ministry of reconciliation. Paul states, “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh….”. He stopped assessing or judging people according to their appearance, what he could see with his eyes. He had initially done so with Jesus (and the fledgling church) and it didn’t work out well. Thankfully, this kind of vision problem can be healed by encountering the Risen Christ.

The effect of this change is we no longer see with distorted vision. Instead of seeing the distorted person, we see the authentic person who is in Christ; we see the new creation. Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”5 Again, this is a good time to stop for just a few seconds and think about this truth. When we came to Jesus we were made a new creation. The word he uses for “new” means “all things are new, previously non-existent, far different from what they were before.”6 This is outrageous; I am not the man I use to be! Christianity is not rehabilitation for those addicted to sin. It’s not therapy to piece together a fragmented psyche. No, the old Rodger died, he was buried. Now, by faith in God, His power has made me a new creation, born again, resurrected into new life. And, so are you.

I may not feel or behave like a new creation, but I am. As a new born baby, born again into this walk of faith, I will develop and mature. It is by faith that we are saved! And it is the fruit of this faith in his grace, love and power that we mature in him. With faith that I am who God says I am, I challenge other voices that identify me as something other than what God says in Scripture. I recognize that my appetites, desires, or lust don’t define. My body’s sexual response doesn’t define me. God defines me and I see myself through His eyes. I see that I am a new creation. And, with hope in Christ and the testimonies of others, I “run the race set before me.”7 

Now that you are a new creation, do you see through those new eyes? When you look at others, how do you see them?  When looking at followers of Jesus, do you see the new creation?  Many disciples continue with the labels they had prior to faith in Jesus. They continue with labels that are no longer true. No worries. These labels are like “yellow sticky notes” stuck on a woolly sweater. With just a breeze, those labels are blown away. You don’t need to try to rip off the labels or confront the person, but rather love the authentic person Christ made them to be. Jesus will bring a breeze at just the right time. I encourage you to see with new eyes. Look for the authentic in others. For believers, this is always their new creation. For those yet to come to faith in Jesus, ask the Father to see them as He does. Never label someone with a label the Father would not give them.8 Ask the Lord who they really are and interact with them from that perspective. Honor them and love them as the Father does.

I pray that you encounter the love and power of God so intimately that nothing causes you to look back but that you see everything as lost for the sake of the gospel. I pray you no longer see yourself or others “according to the flesh,’ but as God sees. I pray you see yourself as a new creation and engage how different you are. You are not who you were! You are a disciple, a follower of Jesus, a Christian. This is your authentic self. Nothing else identifies you. I pray you and others are able to see in you the fruit of intimacy with Jesus, His righteousness, peace and joy increasing in you and through you!!!

1 See Matthew 5 In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus “raises the bar” regarding righteousness. “You have heard it said…but I say….” The righteousness of the Kingdom of God flows for inside out; it is not measured only by action but by one’s heart, feelings, fantasies and attitudes. 

2 Ezekiel 36:25-27

3 Romans 1:16

4 Ephesians 1:17-19

5 2 Corinthians 5:17

6 The mean of “new” from the Strongs, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g2537/esv/mgnt/0-1/

7 Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7

8 Kris Vallotton, one of the senior leaders at Bethel Church, Redding, one day had an encounter with a young man who had shared the labels he had applied to himself. When Kris spoke to the Lord about the young man, the Lord said to Kris, “Never label people with labels I would not give them. See them as I do.”

Knowing the Love that Surpasses Knowledge

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

Dear friends,

I am amazed at the prayers of Paul in the New Testament. Paul had a keen sense of the Christian life and our deepest needs. Ephesians 3:14-21 is no exception. What strikes me about this passage is that Paul prays for Christ to indwell Christians. However, doesn’t Jesus already indwell Christians by the Holy Spirit? Yes, but Paul also prays for Christians to know the love of Christ “that surpasses knowledge.” Paul is making a distinction here between knowing about God’s love for us and knowing God’s love experientially.

Why does this matter? I believe it is a matter of life and death.

First, let’s look at the straightforward way this difference matters. To know about God’s love for you through the Gospel is not the same as to have received it yourself. The Gospel requires a response through repentance and faith; knowing the truth of the Gospel alone cannot and does not save anyone. To be led out of spiritual death into life, each one of us must chose to receive the Gospel. That is, we must each know it in our heart and spirit as well as in our mind.

The second way this matters is more complicated. To know about something and to experience something are not the same. Jonathan Edwards once talked about the difference between knowing that honey is sweet and actually tasting its sweetness. To know about something without actually having experienced it leaves us with a sense of disconnect. The same disconnect is true in relationships. I might know about a certain celebrity, but that is not the same as having a personal relationship with that celebrity.

Where am I going with this? In my Christian walk, this passage in Ephesians has been significant to me because of its implications for my relationship with God. If God’s love is abstract to me, it does not affect me at all. If, however, God’s love is something I experience deeply and regularly, my capacity to respond to, love, and obey God from a place of fullness is greatly increased.

It’s not just my story, however. Both in Joshua Fellowship (JF) and Living Waters, I have heard participants share that deep down, they are not truly sure God loves them. I can relate to that belief; I believed for years that God deeply disliked me even though I was saved. Learning about Jesus is not enough. One must “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) in order to know Jesus’ love in the center of his or her being.

That is why I love being a part of JF and Living Waters. I get to participate in God’s work to see men and women freed from the shame and lies that keep them from experiencing God’s presence and love for them. That is why I am excited to see how God uses the remainder of JF’s Strive summer course to bring the young men into deeper freedom and joy. And that is why I look forward to the upcoming Living Waters book study, where men and women will dive into God’s love and acceptance of them through the breaking of lies and healing of wounds. Praise God, for He is able to do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine, to the praise of His glory! Amen.

The Power of Testimony

Dear Friends,

Spring is just around the corner and with it comes our annual Spring Fundraising Banquet. After the menu planning and invitation design is complete, we turn our attention to the most important part of the evening: inviting people to share their testimonies.

What does it mean to give testimony? Merriam-Webster defines testimony as “a public profession of religious experience” and “first-hand authentication of a fact: evidence.” For followers of Christ, we understand the former, but we often tend to forget that the latter also applies to our stories. When we testify—share our story—we are speaking fact. We are saying, “listen to what God has done.” Banquet testimonies give participants the chance to share their stories of God’s work in their lives over the past years. If you’ve been around Outpost for a while, you’ve probably noticed that all our major events include testimonies. This is an intentional choice we make during planning.

Testimonies Help Overcome

Why are testimonies so important? First, giving testimony is a part of overcoming. Revelation 12:11 reminds us that those who overcome do so “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Somehow, speaking the truth out loud to others solidifies that truth in the speaker’s heart and mind. The more we tell the story of God’s work, the better we are able to remember the story later—especially when we face another challenge. You’ve likely experienced this already in your life. Think of a song you learned as a child. The more you sang that song, the more you now remember the lyrics and the tune, and the more readily the song comes to mind when you need that particular encouragement. The same is true of testimony.

Testimonies Encourage

Second, when we give testimony, our story encourages others in their walks with Jesus. None of us who follow Jesus are walking alone. There are people in front of us, further along the path. There are people next to us, walking and talking with us. There are people behind us, looking to us for guidance and hope. When we share our testimonies, all three of these groups are encouraged. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that encouragement is a vital part of gathering together. “Let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Testimonies Share Hope

As the cares of the world press in around us, it can feel as if there is no hope. In those times, remembering God’s past faithfulness gives us hope that God will move again. Those who have heard our stories are also reminded of their hope in God’s faithfulness, power, and love. My prayer is that each one of us will be encouraged and emboldened to testify today. Whether your story is big or small, sharing God’s work in your life brings hope to those around you. Share away!

We hope you will join us on April 2 for the spring banquet, so you can hear the stories of how God is at work in people’s lives through the ministry of Outpost. Visit www.outpostministries.org/events/2022banquet to register today.

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.

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

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.

Meet Jonathan, the New Outpost Director

The words The Next Step written in chalk over dusty shoe prints

How, how did I end up here? I mean that in a tone of gratitude and wonder. Some of you reading this already know me, and many of you do not. So, I would like to share my story of how God moved in my life and got me to where I am today.

A Little History

When I first came to do my Outpost intake in the fall of 2012, I never could have imagined that I would be leading this ministry seven years later! In fact, my initial attitude was that I would show up for a few months, get “fixed,” and be on my merry way to overseas ministry. I soon learned that’s not how healing works. I got serious about my own healing in summer of 2013. Throughout that summer, I learned so much about myself and what God wanted to do in me. That fall, I started meeting one-to-one with former Outpost director, Nate O., and really dug deep into my soul. In this process, I started to see how same-sex attraction was a surface level symptom of much deeper wounds I carried. I had so much love, anger, hatred, and ambivalence toward God and others that I needed to work through. As I continued to struggle, grieve, grow, and receive healing, God continued to transform my heart. God used Outpost to save my ministry calling and my relationship with Him. I came to a point where I was even grateful for my struggle. Without it, I wouldn’t have dove so deeply into this inner-healing work, and I would never have experienced this level of intimacy with my Father, His Son, and His Spirit. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this ministry and how God has used its leaders, past and present, to bring so much hope, healing, joy, and peace into my life!

Up until last year, I was content just being a volunteer leader for Joshua Fellowship (our young men’s group). Eventually, I was asked to step into a staff position, Student Ministry Coordinator. Since I had a pretty cushy job working for the state’s Judicial Branch (government benefits are wonderful!), I was hesitant to jump into ministry. During this time, my dad received a prophetic word for me. He said that during a worship service, as they called forward people for full-time ministry, the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart that it was my time to do this. This was a huge healing moment for me and reminded me of God’s heart for the restoration of the family.

Just as I was getting comfortable as the Student Ministry Coordinator, I received an invitation from TCJHOP’s Call Committee to consider taking up the role of Director. After many long and prayerful conversations, I accepted the call. I am humbled yet excited to be in this role.

A Vision of Hope and Transformation

God has done such an awesome work in my heart, and in the hearts of many, through Outpost. When I take a step back, I am amazed to think about all the lives God has touched through this small and obscure organization. It illustrates what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV). We may be a type of outpost, feeling remote and hidden, but we also have a gift for the Church. An outpost is the first line of defense. We have a calling to build up the Body and Bride of Christ. The ministry of Outpost has been entrusted with a powerful message of hope and transformation.

Hope and transformation are what this ministry is all about. We need to provide HOPE to our brothers and sisters who have none. We also need to continue to see and proclaim TRANSFORMATION in the lives of individuals, in our churches, and in the Church. This is the core of the gospel.

This will require us to continue to dig deep and do the hard work. We will continue to grow in intimacy. Partnership with the Prayer Room at TCJHOP is a core aspect of this. We need prayer. We need intimacy. We need intimacy through prayer! This is where true transformation happens. It is not a work of our own, but a work of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, we have some room to grow. There are many churches and communities who do not know ministries like Outpost even exist! This is something I hope to change. I believe there is a great field of ministry opportunity. But we need to ask ourselves: will we be ready for it? Will we answer the call of what God is calling us to in this next season? Will we hold onto our hope and proclaim the truth of transformation?

I certainly believe we can do all of this. I believe God has great plans for this ministry, and I humbly ask that you all would continue to walk with us as we enter this new season, while being open and ready for what God may be calling you to do. It just might surprise you as it surprised me!

A Note from Alissa, Outgoing Acting Director:

Last September, when my appointment as the Acting Director of Outpost Ministries moved from temporary status to permanent, I was at a loss. It has only been by the grace of God that I have functioned for the last year-plus in this role. There were good days and hard days, and I made more mistakes than I’m comfortable with, but through it all God was faithful. It is with tremendous joy that I am stepping down from the role of Acting Director, and back into my position as the Executive Pastor. I couldn’t be happier about Jonathan’s appointment as the new Director of Outpost Ministries. Over the last year, working with him has been one of the highlights of ministry. He is strong, steadfast, endlessly optimistic, and full of vision for where God is leading Outpost. It is an honor now to be able to serve alongside him in his new position. I’m not going anywhere and will continue to lead the administrative department and do ministry.  But I am delighted to be released to do the things I am called to. Praise the Lord for raising up the right person to be the Director, and His continued goodness toward Outpost Ministries! 

Alissa Holmes
Executive Pastor

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.