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Friday, March 20, 2015

Taking Church Outside Its Walls

This has been a week of divine appointments. There are too many things that have happened, lessons we've learned, things God has shown us that we can't begin to cover them all. I will attempt to share a few highlights with you and I pray that you are as encouraged as we are.
We have found since we moved to Tucson that ministry has been done out of just being who God made us to be. It happened by just being us. This trip only solidified that experience.
I heard Jean share about her job and her passion for inclusion and God used those conversations to encourage so many. And since her relationship with Jesus is also interwoven in it, it was impossible to share it without talking about Him.
Today she had a chance to present the gospel message through sign language to three individuals who were deaf. Something like that is only possible with a background in sign language. Truly a divine Appointment reserved for her.
I was able to do some hip hop and spoken word 2 times on this trip. Something that God has given me the ability to do, that just happened to fit with what the need was. And both times led to follow-up opportunities, one of which was a true divine appointment. A young man visiting from a Bible college, helping for the week, wondering what his purpose in life is. I was able to help him discover it and mentored him on how to create an effective music ministry.
The real story is what God showed us beforehand, and how it came to pass before our eyes. We knew we had a vision to pray for college students on a beach. We knew we were to go to Lake Havasu, and we knew we were to feed people. What we didn't know was that a local church has a ministry where they serve free pancakes and water on the beach for four weeks during spring break. They do so from 9-2 everyday. We were able to partner with what they already do. We were able to help feed people on Lake Havasu. We were able to participate in several divine appointments. And we were able to pray for people on the beach.
God had a plan, I am grateful He let us participate with Him in His plan. We look forward to more opportunities to be used by God, both at home in Tucson or wherever He would lead us.
God bless!

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 Family Ministry Trip

I realize its been a few years since my last entry. I guess I could sum up our time in Tucson with three statements. 1. Jean's dream job. It is very evident that a big reason we are here is for the impact that she has in the school district where she works. I believe what we have seen far is just the beginning. We will get back to that in another post. 2. Indirect Ministry. This is how I describe our main ministry objective. Which is simply to be us, stand out for being different, and live our lives in a way that directs people to God. This often leads to direct ministry through personal conversations, and those are pretty cool. 3. To model to others what a life of faith looks like. We are about to venture out on a ministry trip where we know where we are going and when we are going. But beyond that we are simply waiting for God to show us what to do. Let me give you a little back story and then get to the awesomeness of God part. Hopefully by the end of this post, you will be like us, eagerly waiting to see what God is going to do next. And hopefully, your faith will be strengthened as well.

A couple months back I had a series of visions where I pictured myself praying for people on a beach and them experiencing supernatural healing.  I have learned that these visions are usually a direct result of somebody, somewhere praying for something, and God preparing my family to be an answer to that prayer. We decided to plan a ministry trip and trust God to fill in the blanks. What we thought would be summer break trip shifted, when I next began to get a burden for hurting college students. After seeking The Lord, Jean and I decided we would pick a week of spring break and dedicate it to following God's leading and leave the details up to Him. We started to plan for a trip to some college spring break destination the week of March 14-21, but had no idea where we were going. A couple weeks ago, The Lord woke me up in the night to give us our destination. We would spend a couple days in Las Vegas, then finish out the week at Lake Havasu. 

As far as what we will do, the only direction we were given was to be there, be a presence, wait for divine appointments, and be ready. This doesn't seem like much, but I read through the book of Acts and see story after story of ministry happening just by going to a place and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It stirs in us an excitement, which is fueled by all the experiences we have from times in the past where God used our family to touch others. If is humbling when we realize that God has a plan and invites us to participate with Him in His plan.

The Holy Spirit told me that distractions were going to come up. He said circumstances were going to make it seem impossible to go, but we were to go anyways. Little did I know that I would get laid off just 3 weeks before our trip, and it would seem impossible to go. I didn't want to start a new job with a week long trip happening soon. So I waited to see what would happen. It seemed as though the only logical choice was to postpone the trip and seek full time employment in order to avoid falling farther behind financially. This Orion didn't feel right. I believed fully that to go this route would leave me feeling regret. So we prayed, we sought council and we waited for The Lord. He woke me up one morning and asked me how much I would need for the ministry trip. I told Him I would need to cover the cost of the week's wages, which I have been doing handy man work to fulfill. Also I figured we would need at least $600.00 to fund the trip.

Friday morning I woke up feeling hopeless. It seemed like canceling the trip was the only option at that point. I had no work set up for the following week and the bills were falling further behind. That day I landed 2 bigger jobs that would make enough money to cover the week of work I would miss. Later that day we were approached by a young woman at church who told us she had been faithfully stashing money aside for some time. She kept waiting for God to give her direction on what to do with it. She woke up from a nap that day and heard The Lord tell her Lake Havasu. She saw my post on Facebook from that morning and knew what she had to do. This morning at church she handed me an envelope, and it contained $530.00 in it. A while later Jean was handed another envelope with $100.00 in it. I sat speechless. 2 days ago It seemed as though we would have to cancel, now we sat here with the amount of money I had asked The Lord for. God is faithful. He is our provider, and He takes care of us in ways beyond what we can imagine. So we are less than a week away from hitting the road for an adventure with The Lord. We will be sure to update you on how it is going, and what The Lord reveals to us throughout. We appreciate your prayers and welcome them. God bless!  Brad

Monday, July 23, 2012

Six Months Out: A Look Back!

I was thinking the other day how short six months really is. When I was living and ministering in north Minneapolis, I remember when people who were new on the scene and had a passion to help change the city, and I remember my message to them. I would tell them slow down, people have to get to know you, learn to trust you, and make sure you are for real before you will be able to do what you want to do here. I remember that coming in and pushing an agenda and trying to make something happen without putting your time in building relationships tended to rub people the wrong way and trying to gain something back was more difficult. Yet here I sit, six months into our move to Tucson, feeling like I should be further along.

God's timing is not our timing. And He is very patient with us. His plans tend to work out according to His time table and rarely does it line up with ours. Apparently I have forgotten everything I used to say for advice to those moving into a new neighborhood, a new culture. If God led you here, then be patient and learn the culture. God reminded me of my own words this week and it gave me some sense of peace knowing that I am walking according to His plan, and once again I am free from having to produce results. That is His job.

So where are we now? Jean is a few weeks into her new job. She is an inclusion specialist at Cottonwood elementary school. This position gives her direct influence over 10 students and 11 para-professionals. It is definitely an adjustment for our family having her working full-time. But despite the long hours she assures me, she loves her job. She commutes to work on a scooter and loves it. That is one of the blessings of living in Arizona. If it isn't raining, you can go on two wheels.

The kids started school last week and are enjoying getting to know there new teachers and class mates. Hopefully, we won't be switching schools on them any time soon and they will be able to get into a groove. They all played baseball this past spring and loved it. There is always something going on in the apartment complex where we live and there is rarely a time they can't find a group of kids to play with. It kind of reminds us of our neighborhood back in Minneapolis. They have practically lived at the pool and are darker than probably a lot of their friends from Minneapolis. We are certainly outgrowing our apartment fast and are seeking other arrangements down the road. Now that we know where God has planted us and we have a specific geographical part of town to focus on, we can begin looking for housing opportunities.

As for me, I am quite the domestic spouse . . .NOT! I am learning to manage every one's schedule, taking more of an active role advocating for the kids. I am handling all the cooking, cleaning, homework, and laundry duties. At the same time, I have been serving others as needs have popped up. I am still ministering regularly at the Gospel Rescue Mission and have been allowed to take a more active role in ministry at our church as well. And I am starting a handy-man business. The Lord impressed this on me since I have been here. This will enable me to serve my community, build a network, and disciple men who are skilled laborers but having trouble finding work. I told the Lord how crazy that was for ME to be a handy-man. His response was humorous: Was it any more crazy than packing your family and moving without knowing where you were going? How did that turn out? Was it any more crazy than shutting down Community of Men and letting my income go with no plan in place to replace it? Well when you put it like that Lord it's not crazy at all.

So let's see what the next six months hold. More adventure as we follow our path down God's plan. I am so grateful for His invitation to journey with Him on it. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

A New Identity

I have been going back and forth with the Lord about something lately. As I await His direction and wait for doors to open for ministry, I have been trying to hold on to certain things that I thought I needed. For one, I have continued to remain employed through my ministry Community of Men and receive a monthly pay check. It has been essential up to this point because it was needed income. I am grateful for the faithful financial partners I have had and their giving has served our family greatly. But with that, I have clung to who I was in that role. I was a great advocate and resource to those struggling with sexual sin. I helped start seven different men's groups doing just that. I wrote curriculum books that have helped serve the guys and the groups I helped start.

Lately God has been asking me to give those up. He wants me to wait on Him to define who I am and what I will do in Tucson. As I have tried to make what I did in Minnesota fit here, I have found nothing but closed doors. That's not to say it can't work because I believe it can. It's just that God wants me to not get stuck on that thing, or the things I have done in the past and miss what is right in front of me.

I have been seeking the Lord earnestly about these things this week, and the Lord brought me to a study of the Biblical character Timothy. We first get introduced to him in Acts 16. He is introduced as a son of of a Jewish believer, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul decided to take him along with him on his missionary journey and so begins their relationship of spiritual father and son. The first thing Paul did was had him circumcised. It said that he did it because the Jews in that area knew that his father was a Greek. I thought that was odd because Paul and Silas were bringing the decree from the apostles at Jerusalem that said that gentiles didn't need to be circumcised. As I pondered this and inquired of the Lord about it, He told me that Timothy was getting a new identity. He was known as Timothy, who's father was a Greek. And that was a stumbling block to other Jews. He would no longer be known as Timothy, the son of a Greek. Rather, He was Timothy, child of God.

It is interesting that later in the Bible we get to read about the letters that Paul sent to Timothy while he was in charge of pastoring the church in Ephesus. A young man with a large task. So much of Paul's two letters were about how a believer should conduct himself and how Timothy should focus his time and attention. He challenged him to operate not as the world does, to not judge himself or others according to what they could physically see (such as circumcised or uncircumcised), but as an example of how a believer should act. God had given Timothy a new identity. And He desires to do the same thing for us as well.

My location has changed. The people I have been sent to minister to are different than where I came from. I am viewed differently. In fact the very basis for the ministry I did in Minnesota was an openness and vulnerability. Here in Arizona, people are skeptical of people that are that open and honest. They struggle to accept them and trust them. So who I was and what I did has to change. Like Timothy, I am having to give up my old way of operating. And I have no idea what to expect. But I know who is in control of my future, and I am willing to follow Him wherever He leads. I will no longer be the director of Community of Men Ministries. I will no longer look to that ministry to provide me with a salary. For now I am a child of God, a husband, a father, a friend, and a pursuer of God's presence. Check back for further updates as I seek the Lord for His direction. God Bless!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A position of Influence

It is a different culture here in the desert. People tend to isolate and hide to get out of the heat. The culture of Arizona has adjusted to the weather. Movie theatres off free movies to children as an alternative to being outside in the heat. The shopping malls are packed with families during the day as a way of giving people some place to go. And parks are usually empty. In Minnesota, we were outside all summer. We did outdoor outreaches in the summer, because in the winter people hibernated. As I have wandered around Tucson praying for God to show me how to do ministry here I have come to this realization: Outreach looks completely different. My prayers have been for God to put me in a position of influence, so that people are drawn to me, rather than me going to them.

That has happened in a few ways. First of all, through being able to minister regularly at the Gospel Rescue Mission, God has literally sent guys to me who have let me direct them, teach them, and help them any way I see fit. I haven't had to convince them or prove anything to them, they came to me and I have been helping them build a community of support for them. Second, I had the chance to paint some one's house. This enabled me to provide income for two other guys for a couple of weeks. The Lord showed me that as I meet their physical needs, I instantly gain a platform to speak into their lives. In two weeks of ministering to the one guy I saw him go from being angry at God, to embracing him, joining a church, and being baptized. The third way it has happened is through coaching baseball. I volunteered to coach one of my son's teams, but by the end of the season was coaching two of them. I was able to directly teach these young men about being good citizens, having a vision and purpose for their life and pushing yourself to become better than you believe you are. I was also able to be bold with the parents about parenting with purpose and looking at the big picture of your child's life. I taught the dads how to affirm their children and we all watched together as these moments produced greater results. I also had a chance to do some counseling with one of the coaches and am watching him surrender more and more areas of his life to Christ.

My first temptation when I got to Tucson was to run out and began to promote my ministry and myself. When I found that those actions made people uncomfortable, I was forced to wait for God to promote me. Slowly, He has elevated me to a place of influence. It may only be over a few people, but I have to be faithful with the few if I expect to be given more.

The question for you is, who has God given you influence over? Are you waiting for God to elevate you to a place of influence? When that happens, what will you do with that? I pray for God to give you the boldness to speak words of truth, hope, and direction into all those who let you speak into their lives.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Faith to Stand

The church here in Tucson that we have had the privilege of being a part of is called New Song Foursquare Church. It has been a real blessing for our family because it is hard enough moving to a new place and trying to find schools for the kids and work and housing. But to have a church that welcomed us into their family so immediately was an absolute blessing. One of the the many things I love about New Song is the way we start the sermon every week. We hold up our Bibles and say the following:

This is my Bible.
It is God speaking to me.
I am who it says I am.
I can do what it says I can do.
I can have what it says I can have.
So I open my heart to a receive a word from God
That will change my life forever.

This very idea has strengthened my faith. The idea that I am who God says I am. In Ephesians 6, Paul teaches us that we are in a spiritual battle. He then tells us how to put on our spiritual armour. In verse 16 it says to pick up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. I find it interesting that the flaming arrows often represent questioning our identity. He tries to get us to doubt our security as sons and daughters of God. If he can get us to look down upon ourselves due to our circumstances and keep us from entering boldly into God's presence, he will do so. It is in these times when we are often feeling really low, looking at our circumstances, staring at our weaknesses and being disgusted with ourselves where we do not have the strength to return fire and attack. But that is not what the scripture says. It says to lift the shield of faith. Faith is described above in the words, I am who God says I am. We choose to believe that God is who He says He is and we are who He says we are. So no matter what difficulty or trying time you might be facing, remember that by simply speaking those words aloud, you take away the enemy's power to steel, kill, and destroy what God is doing in your life.

So stand by faith today. God has a plan and He is faithful to complete His plan. It may not happen in our timing, it may require some suffering. We may even find ourselves questioning it, but His promises remain. Nd if He promises us something, we can rest assured that He will complete it. So stand firm, reminding yourself often of the above statement, and know that God is moving on your behalf and He longs to give you all that He has reserved for you.