Renewal, Reflection, and Repentance

water splashing into cupped hands

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

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

Renewal

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

Reflection

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

Repentance

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

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

God is Faithful

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing the Process

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

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

From the Director: Change and God’s Charge to Rest

In the midst of so much change and having everything shut down for a time during this recent COVID-19 outbreak, I’m actually not that perturbed. I know the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s in control. More than that, I know He knows, and I can trust His character that He cares. Honestly, I think my shoulders are getting sore from all the shrugging I’ve been doing, saying, “Eh, we’ll see what happens!” God’s been teaching me many lessons in this season, and one of those lessons is around rest.

Hebrews 4 talks about our future (eschatological) rest as the people of God. This place of rest is the dwelling place of God. He dwells in perfect rest. God’s not anxious because He knows His will will be done. I believe God’s command for rest is a sacrament. That is, it’s a divine reality lived out in our physical world. Keeping Sabbath, resting, is a sacrament of the Sabbath rest that is to come. Even as we strive to enter that future rest, God is gracious and allows us to experience a little taste of it as we rest in His presence now.

This season has forced a lot of us to rest, or at least interrupted our busyness. It’s easy to stop working, but can be hard to truly rest. These changes allow for rest, but rest is also meant to change us!

Sometimes God’s presence can seem intimidating, but I encourage us all to not just distract ourselves. Rather, let’s take advantage of this opportunity to rest in God’s presence, allow the Word to slice and dice us (Heb.4:11-13), and draw near to throne of Grace, knowing that our Great High Priest understands our weaknesses (Heb.4:14-16)!

From The Director

Sometimes the Bible can be pretty quirky. That might sound weird coming from a pastor, but before you grab the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. There’s a very short story in 2 Kings 6:1-7. The prophet Elijah is with a couple men doing some log-cutting. One of the guys loses an ax-head in the water and cries out, “No, no, no, no! I borrowed that!” If you ever lost or broke something that belonged to someone else, you know that sick-to-your-stomach feeling. Instead of diving in and looking for the ax-head like a normal person, Elisha asks where it fell in, throws a stick in that spot, and waited for the iron to float so the man could pick it up.

I think that’s a little overkill. Didn’t anyone know how to swim? Did they really need to break the laws of physics for one ax-head? Really?! If that’s not quirky, I’m not sure what is. However, I think it illustrates an important point about God–He cares about the mundane.

Throughout my time teaching and meeting with clients this month, God has been reminding me of this . He is not only transcendent; He is also imminent. He is not just in the abstract; He is in the practical. He cares about our ax-head moments and wants to meet us there.

Not only that, I would argue this is the primary way He reveals Himself to us. Our faith isn’t built on abstract moral or legal principles. It’s not an esoteric revelation. Rather, our faith is built upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. God revealed Himself in flesh and blood, dwelt among us, and will dwell among us again!

A lot of us romanticize encountering God. We believe it must be some extraordinarily big experience. Basically, we have great expectations we place upon God when, really, we should simply have expectancy. Expectancy is open to whatever God has for us today or in this moment. This is what the healing journey looks like at Outpost. It isn’t only about crazy breakthrough moments (those do happen, though!), but it’s about the consistent, every day choice to choose God above all else. To trust that He will be working and encountering us in the small and simple as well as the awesome and abstract.

God cares so deeply about us and He wants to reveal that love to us, not just in abstract theological terms, but especially in those practical moments of everyday life and lost ax-heads.