Stepping into the Light

Celebrating 40 Years of Being Called Out of Darkness40 years

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. —1 Peter 2:9-10

In 1976, Outpost Ministries was born. I was born just one year later. I have often thought of the goodness of God. He knew that I would struggle with same-sex attractions, and He went before me to establish the place where I would ultimately find healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ.

I first set foot inside Outpost in the fall of 1997, and I was called out of the darkness of homosexuality and into the marvelous light of Jesus. True freedom always begins with stepping into the light. I had never before told anyone about my struggle. I was too afraid and ashamed. Now, for the first time, I was in a place where I could be open and honest about my sexual brokenness. How freeing!

In the light, we begin to see rightly. My sight began to heal through my involvement at Outpost. I began to see men and women very differently, I began to see myself differently. Most importantly, I began to see God differently. As I started to see how God truly thinks and feels about me, my heart began to change.

I saw that I am chosen. Growing up, I was not very athletic, so I generally wasn’t the first kid picked for playground sports, or the second or the third . . . We all desire to be chosen, and it’s painful when we are not. At Outpost, I got to know a God who chose me before the foundations of the world. He wanted me on His team!        Since then, I have often marveled at these words from 1 Corinthians 1:27-28:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.

God’s standards are completely the opposite of the world’s standards, and in many cases even the opposite of the Church’s. He intentionally chooses for His team the weak and broken!

I saw that I am royalty to God the Father. What is so amazing about the cross is that not only does it afford us the forgiveness of sin, but it also give us a new identity. We are now kings and priests to God because of the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5-6). We have been given authority in Jesus’ name to partner with God in administering justice in the earth (Ps. 149) through our intercession. Our prayers matter to God!

I saw that I am holy. For someone who has lived in so much shame and condemnation for so long, it is an amazing thing for him to realize and truly believe that he is a new creation. In Christ, I have become the righteousness of God and am set apart to accomplish the good works God has planned in advance for me (2 Cor. 5:17, 21; Eph. 2:10).

I saw that I am special. I think my parents did a fine job of letting me know that I was special to them. There is, however, a part of our hearts that needs to hear this word from the Heavenly Father in order for us to feel confident in who we are. One who has heard the Lord affirm that he is fearfully and wonderfully made doesn’t need fame or status. He is already famous in the sight of the Creator of the Universe. It’s the angel Gabriel telling Daniel that he is “highly esteemed” by heaven (Dan. 9:23) or the angel of the Lord informing Gideon that heaven sees him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). A person’s soul is set free from always needing to perform for approval when he learns to live before an audience of One.

In the light, I saw more clearly. I saw a God who is mighty to save. At Outpost, I learned to trade my rags for my new identity. Christ had always been holding it out to me. In the darkness, I just couldn’t see it.

Chosen. Royal. Holy. Special. What a glorious exchange.

There has been much fruit that has come forth from Outpost over the last 40 years. I am just one of the many who has stepped into the light because I heard the call of God. There are many more walking in freedom and many more to come. How much more do we need Outpost for the next 40 years! We need this beacon of hope and truth now more than ever before in the history of our nation.

Thank you for standing with us, some of you since the very beginning. It has been such a privilege to run the race with you. I hope to see you at our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration and Called Out of Darkness. Let us all come together and proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!

Heroes

heroesDo you have heroes? If you don’t, you should—it’s important to look up to somebody. I have heroes of my own. As it happens, my case is a little special because some of my heroes are the young men who come to us for help.

One of the hats I wear at Outpost Ministries involves giving leadership to weekly programming called Joshua Fellowship. It’s a group of guys who grew up as Christians, for the most part, but then—frequently to their shock and dismay—found themselves experiencing same-sex attractions.

These guys spring from a variety of backstories. Some have never ceased to fight against what they regard as temptation and sinful behavior; others were out and proud for years until Jesus got in their face.  Some already have a great deal of inner-healing under their belts; others don’t yet know what that is. Some are respected professionals—dentists, architects, etc., while others are broke college students.

But there are a couple of common denominators; one is that they are all faithful men of God, indeed. You and I, my friend, could stand to learn a thing or two from the kind of stubborn dedication to Christ which these young men live out every day. And the other is that they have each survived a bloody battlefield to get here.

There’s a quote I like to use from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “All of us sought an easier, softer way, but it availed us nothing!” Does that sound like real life? Well, it rings true for these guys too. There’s a story I like to tell them, and it’s remarkable how often it hits home. It goes, with variations, like this:

Adolescent Boy begins to discover his sexuality, but to his surprise, along with that comes same-sex attractions. Well, at that point, what should he do? He should probably tell somebody; he should get some help, right? But sadly, that’s the one thing which almost never happens. Why? Because the young man lives in a Christian world, and the last thing he wants is for his struggle to become known. So, he keeps it a secret and struggles on alone, often frightened and certainly confused, frustrated and ashamed. He’s a Christian, you see, and he believes embracing his same-sex attractions is wrong, and so he tries hard to change, without success.

So he resorts to religion and gets involved in church: he volunteers, leads, mentors. His parents are proud, and the community is impressed. But his secret is still there and still bites.

So he goes away to Bible school because, he reasons, what he really needs is to immerse himself even more deeply in the things of God. That will kill this struggle. But it doesn’t.

So he goes on to seminary because, after all, professional Christians could not possibly struggle with something like same-sex attractions. And then, when that doesn’t work either, he begins to realize that he’s out of options.

Except that he remembers some time ago somebody mentioned a place called Outpost. And so, in pure desperation, he finally picks up the phone.

Of course this is only a story, but when I tell it, there tend to be sheepish grins here and there in the room. And I’ve told this story to you to illustrate that favorite quote of mine: all of us try an easier, softer way, but it avails us nothing. On that level, these guys are no different from you and me.

What does set them apart, though, is that they didn’t give up. Faced with a relentless enemy, defeating them at every turn, surrounded by a public discourse which pronounces the utter hopelessness of their cause, they did not cease to seek a way to lay their sexuality at the feet of Jesus. Whatever solutions they had tried first, in the end it was their saving faith which brought them, finally, to Outpost.

That’s the kind of guys I get to work with. They’re heroes before they ever come to us. If the Church were composed of such, our enemy would have far less freedom of movement, and the world would be a different place than it is now.

They don’t see it that way, of course. They don’t call themselves heroes. They come broken, confused, angry, dispirited, disillusioned, desperate and in pain. And my role, then, is to labor to point them to the only pathway to healing that’s left to try: the genuine love of Jesus.

And so together we get to work, and we spend time talking, teaching, exposing lies, taking risks, getting honest. Sometimes, as we do those things, the time comes—not right away, as it takes a lot of work—when I am granted a very special privilege. I get to be present when something happens, and they begin to engage in real time with the real love of a real God who really is there and, as it turns out, has not forgotten them after all.

It’s like—well, the best way I can describe it is that it’s like watching the sun come up. Of course, they’re not finished; there’s lots of work ahead for them. But it does mean once that miracle happens, the playing field has changed. They are no longer smoldering wicks whose best hope was to stubbornly refuse to go out. Now they have tasted fire. They have a new capacity for desire. They’ve moved beyond mere desperation and are motivated now by a ravenous hunger for the genuine presence of Jesus. We call it “turning the corner,” and it’s when the fun really starts.

What’s a hero? A hero is someone who, faced with impossible odds, shouted down by every voice, nevertheless sticks to his guns and refuses to give up. We think of heroes as winners, but what really makes a hero is the courage it takes to refuse to lose, no matter what the odds or how long it takes or how much it hurts.

The Bible promises victory to the faithful. Victory is a marvelous thing; it is a time to rejoice and celebrate the victor. But never forget that victory comes always after faithfulness. And faithfulness is no picnic because it happens in the trenches where winning seems a happy but remote dream and defeat would be oh, so much easier.

Faithfulness is never a mountaintop experience; if you’re a Christian, you know that.

The guys and I have a name for the place where faith happens. We call it the Valley of the Shadow of Death because in that place, the enemy is all around us, and darkness and defeat sometimes overshadow us. The only way out is through, and the only way through is to follow Jesus—no matter how rocky, confusing or unexpected the path is upon which He leads us.

Are my guys heroes? You do the math.