To prelude my blog for the week, I encourage you to read Isaiah 58. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2058&version=NIV
This last Monday I went with my friends on the "God's Favor Bus" to Detroit again to serve and minister to the homeless. I must admit I commited to serving on this day, but didn't really want to go, because I was anxious to work on my Fund Development for InterVarsity. I have an ambitious goal of raising 90% of $63,000 by June 1. I'm currently at 24%. I thought, O another day "I" cannot work on this. But I know this is a commitment I've made and I do really love doing this ministry.
God always does something different each time we serve in Detroit. Before we circled up to pray I decided to go talk with one of the homeless ladies that I've met several times before. I'm curious and perplexed by her. At times she seems so random and rythmical with her conversation, almost like a beat poet, that I am not exactly sure what she is saying. Other times she seems clear and concise and almost prophetic. This was one of those times. I don't even know why she told me this because I didn't even bring up the conversation. I just asked her if she would like to join us in prayer. Her response, "now you go and don't worry about not saying anything. Respect your elders and know that God knows your heart. Okay, go now, okay..." I was speechless. I only asked her to join us in prayer and this is how she responds? And what is it that God has been telling me to respect my elders lately. Don't I already do that? Hmmm.... Anyway, we circled up for prayer and I had something on my heart to share but an older man in our group started to preach. I felt a little jealousy in my heart and I remembered what the lady had told me. So I submitted and resisted the jealous tendancy and prayed and listened. After the older man had finished speaking (amazing words from the Lord) I was given the opportunity to share my story.
I also talked with a homeless guy who had only been on the streets of Detroit for one week. He came here from Arkansas seeking to find his estranged wife who left him for someone who lives in the Detroit area. He's only 29 and he was definitely out of his element. Me and another friend pleaded with him and encouraged him to yes contact your wife, but if she is not willing to reconcile, please get off the street and go home to your family. He was deeply hurt and moved I could tell, but he just couldn't humble himself enough to take our words to heart. So he continues to hang out on the streets with people who really don't care about him.
Another encounter was with a prostitute. Our bus pulls up beside her and our crazy bus driver lady (Louise - wonderful woman of God) shouts out, you need anything! The lady immediately repeats, "I know I am doing wrong. I know I am doing wrong." After talking with her and praying with her she did say that she believed in Jesus. But she just couldn't get out of this life style. The marks on her eyes showed just how her "boy friend" treated her. We pleaded with her to let us take her to a shelter. She wanted to be free, but again she wanted to go get her things from her boy friends apartment. We explained that we had clothing on the bus and that she should leave the other stuff behind. The price of freedom is leaving the old and moving toward the new. That's what Christ has done for us.
It breaks my heart to see people who want and need the freedom that Christ offers, but the bonds of sin hold them captive. O Lord that you would set the captives free! Indeed you already have, but please open the eyes of the blind and help the deaf to hear! O Lord have mercy on the people of Detroit!
Why did I ask you to read Isaiah 58? What is a day the Lord finds acceptable? What type of worship does he glory in? How are we as followers of Jesus suppose to live? The word is plain and true. If we are to see change and transformed lives in Detroit or anywhere, the gospel must be proclaimed, the captives must be set free and we must be humble before the everlasting Almighty God!
O Lord have mercy, Jesus have mercy, Lord have mercy!
Yesterday I attended another funeral of a teen. I didn't know this specific teen, but he was an acquaintance of a friend of mine who lost their teen son a couple years ago in a similar circumstance. Drivers please watch out for bikers and roller bladers. Don't be in such a hurry please!
While I was in school and working at a structural engineering office an old man stopped me as I was rushing out the door. He said, "What's the hurry?" Then he said, "I once saw a sign on the gate of a grave yard - "Don't worry, they will wait for you." I stopped to think about it and recognize that we need to take time to enjoy the beauty of creation and of those around us. Life is but a mist and no one knows the day or hour that we will be taken from this earth or that Christ will return. I've been to about 6 adolescent funerals over the last three years. Two were believers in Jesus, the others most likely not. The best we can do in those circumstances is to comfort those left behind and share the truth of the gospel as best we can. It has been quite unfortunate that most of the funerals I've been to, the ministers do NOT share the full gospel. What other HOPE do we have other than Jesus Christ?! He has the words of eternal life and he is "the way."
Friends and ministers of the gospel, we need to be bold in sharing the hope that we have. Remember what Peter (who is know to be bold) says, "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." 1 Peter 3:13-16
Please pray for the young people in our communities. Take action too by speaking truth in their lives, in love.
Please continue to pray for my ministry and support as well.
There are days when I am very discouraged with raising support for my ministry position with IVCF. It is a "marathon" of faith and hard work and prayer. God's timing is crucial as He develops my character, knowledge, faith and so many other traits necessary for ministry. It's days like this, that make me vulnerable to Satan's lies and tricks... "just give up", "it's no use, God won't provide for you." "Go back to Architecture where you can make good money." But in the midst of my doubt and trouble a friend gives me a call, or an email or sends a letter and lifts up my spirit and sets my eyes back on Christ and not on my circumstance. Here is such an encouragement from a friend who has had to persevere more than I ever could imagine. A friend filled with faith in Christ!
Todd--keep with your ministry and persevere. We need you sharing truth with those college kids! We NEVER ever know what tomorrow brings. May God continue to bless you my friend.
The short story here is that my friends lost their teen son in a tradgic car and bike accident a couple years ago. Then recently another teen lost his life in a similar circumstance in the same community. Yet my friends encouraged me!
No one knows the extent or number of his/her days on earth. The urgency of sharing Christ and believing in him is now! There is NO other way to heaven! "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.." Hebrews 3:15. No matter where a person has been because of their sin, God has paid for that sin by the suffering and death of His own Son Jesus, who also rose from the dead. The punishment that we deserve, Jesus voluntarily took it upon himself! Don't beat yourself up over the sin that you do over and over again; Jesus already took that punishment. Turn away from it and confess it to the Lord. He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:5-10. We have a loving God friends. He has called each of us to build up the rest of the body. If you see someone discouraged, hurt, alone, falling into sin... build them up, share truth with them in love.
Thank you friends, for your encouragement to persevere in faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
The last week and a half have been absolutely AMAZING! For several months I have been struggling to see fruit in Support Raising and seeing God work. It is an endurance race for sure, but it has also been a faith building time for me too. When we pray do we expect God to answer? Do we trust his promises to know that he hears us? When a circumstance seems impossible, do we trust that "all things are possible with God? This week has been a week of seeing God answer prayers amazingly!
1. I didn't have any contact information for a friend, as I have been sending letters and emails out. I prayed specifically for God to reconnect us so that we could trade contact info. The very next day the person connected with me on Facebook.
2. Another friend surprised me with a donation that I did not expect. I cannot say much more than that until I get the person permission. But I will tell you it brought me to tears... Praise God!
3. I've met with several pastors over the last few weeks. But it greatly encouraged me to hear that "they" were encouraged by my vision and passion for serving Christ. One pastor even wants to meet with me on a regular basis to pray and encourage each other! Praise God!
4. Another friend shared his frustrations in ministry and what seemed like the lack of fruit. But God used me to encouraged him in his ministry and gave him a possible future vision of his service in the future.
5. An elderly woman, who is the sweetest lady, met with me and shared that she is going to support me monthly. She said it wasn't much, and that it would tighten her budget quite a bit, but she had never had any children and feels like this would be a good service to reach unsaved students. She has amazing faith and such a servants heart. Praise God!
6. Other networks are opening up for me. Everything seems unexpected, unplanned, yet I know God has a plan. Please continue to pray for me and the support raising. I'm at 16% and need to be at 90% by June 1.
The work I do is produced by faith. My labor is prompted by love.
My endurance is inspired by my hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Several people have mentioned to me that theydon't understand why I have chosen to serve in the type of ministry such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Support raised ministries, especially in this economy and even more in Detroit, MI just don't make sense to us. But God has led me to this ministry and He has chosen the time and place I am going to serve.
Some friends have stated, "Why don't you just find a "paid position" at a church? It is true that money is one element necessary for ministry and in our day and age, ministry is understood to be more of a "job" with pay, benefits, vacation etc... That is all good and fine for pastor's to be supported in that way and is a great and wonderful blessing to them and their families, as they can focus more on serving their people and the community and not worry about finances... hopefully. However, ministry is also a "call" to go and make disciples of all nations. Missionaries go to unestablished regions to share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus. Is it not better to share the gospel without asking for money in that circumstance? The Apostle Paul took this attitude. He called on the established churches to support his missions, so that he didn't burden the new converts. The love of money is the source of all kinds of evil. People are suspicious when it's (gospel + money), especially when they are burdened financially already. The gospel is already paid for - Jesus lived it and gave his life as a ransom of all of us! The call is to share this good news with them.
As Isaiah wrote, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" My response, "Here I am. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8-9). "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:35-38). As I have been on campuses occasionally, I see a hunger in people to know the true God and Savior. I want to go and share with them! I am eager to start ministering full time to them. Yet I do need financial support to be able to go to them! The "going" to them is key. Today many churches expect people to "come." Churches set their bait and lures and try to draw some to their little boat or big boat, whatever the case may be. I want to dive right in with them, swim with them, build relationships with them, love them. Then the other fish will follow in a school of fish and we will all swim among the fish who are out on their own, who potentially are lunch for a shark or larger fish. Okay, this analogy may be a little weak, but I hope you see my point. There is a fire, an urgent passion in my bones to go and share Christ with students on these campuses... and I need the church (body of believers) to do their part. The eye can do nothing on its own, the mouth cannot speak on its own... we need each other.
My prayer - that the Lord would use his church to support me and other missionaries across the world to do what they are called to do: share the gospel of Christ boldly, in love. There is NO other salvation but in Jesus. Do you believe it?
The work I do is produced by faith. My labor is prompted by love.
My endurance is inspired by my hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 1:3).
I remember reading from a book called "The Dream Giver" by Bruce Wilkinson about a young man named "Normal" who lived in Normalsville, or something to that effect. He felt called to go to another land outside of Normalsville, yet there were many challenges ahead of him. He faced "Border Bullies" and "Giants" and had many tests of faith before he would reach the destination that God had called him to. At one point he even had to give up his dream to God.... then he waited. Eventually God gave him the dream back after his faith was tested. Normal had to learn to trust God, to face challenges with faith and to persevere when doubts are thrown at him.
I have felt a lot like Normal during these last few months of unemployment and now raising support for ministry with InterVarsity. I am certain that God has called me to plant new ministries at community college campuses throughout Detroit and Ann Arbor, but I am still faced with doubts and uncertainties. I ask, "Are you sure Lord?" Many people have mentioned and stated, "You sure picked a bad time to try something like this Todd." I appreciate the insight, but I didn't choose this time or this ministry - the Lord did. Who else would choose a time when the economy was so low for me to raise support? Who else is able to bring about the impossible? This isn't just a time of faith testing for me, but for all of us. But I do have doubt, fears, worries and anxiety even though I know that the Lord has called me. Look through the bible did the people the Lord called ever have impossible circumstances to overcome? Yes, time after time the Lord continued to prove that He is our Lord and our God. He is our provider, our sustainer our deliverer and our savior. That my friends is encouraging!
Someone recently sent me an encouraging note that helped me set my focus back on the goal. It is easy to hear the Border Bullies and Giants cast doubts at me. But with encouragement from my wife and others I am able to press on. I strongly believe your prayers sustain me in my efforts to persevere in serving the Lord.
Here is the email:
God has given you many gifts that I believe He would desire to use in ministry. You work well with children and youth ministry is a good fit, but the college years are such a strategic time of life. People make life time decisions then. Additionally the best and the brightest from around the world choose to gain their education on US campuses. That allows you to influence the world more efficiently and profoundly than any other ministry venue. You may well have contact with future foreign presidents, business executives, and kings. Because we have such privilege and access to higher education in this country we easily lose sight of the uniqueness and power that it provides. Pick up your stones and sling them well.
I appreciate the prayers and encouragements. Please do not think less of them as you continue to support me by various means. An encouraging word, a smile, a prayer, though they may seem small can and will lift the spirit of a man, especially with the help of an Almighty God!
What about your dreams and call from God? Have you fallen to the Border Bullies or lost a battle to the Giants? Seek the Lord, pray and ask for prayer and watch the Lord help you defeat them. Our God is Awesome! Do you believe it?
(After thinking about it the character in the books name was "Ordinary" who lived in Normal.)...
Have you ever stood on the top of a mountain or a hill? You can look all around and see the glory of all God's creation. I always feel as if I am on top of the world at those moments. In the distance is another mountain top that is even taller. Can I reach it? I dream of jumping from one mountain top to the other, avoiding the great depths of the valley and the struggles that lie beneath. But alas, we cannot avoid the valley. That's how I feel after great moments on the support raising trail as I seek to find ministry partners that will enable me to "do" ministry on campus. I am so anxious to begin ministry on campus, but I have to get through the valley first.
I loved visiting my friends at Open Arms in Belleville on Sunday. I love speaking in front of others too. That is my mountain top of support raising. But then I feel the slow and steady descent into the valley. The mundain daily tasks of writing letters, making phone calls. Don't get me wrong, I love talking with my friends and other new believers about the cause of which I am called to serve the LORD. But it takes focus, endurance and continued guidance and prayer to the LORD, as he directs my path. It's difficult to submit to being in our home office all day from morning until night, when I long to be on the mountain top.
The other part of my weakness is small talk. I get so focused on the "deep things" of God that I sometimes lose my joy in the midst of what is seemingly "small." Didn't Christ say that the kingdom of God is small like yeast in a batch of dow, or as small as a mustard seed? (Luke 13:18-21). Yes, things may start small, but with the daily commitment to being faithful to the tasks of "today" something unexpected begins to happen. A tree is grown, a relationship is made, a home is built, support is raised and the Kingdom of God grows and matures! God's ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts like our thoughts. His ways are above our ways and his thoughts are above our thoughts. So great is the Name fo the LORD!
Today, I am rejoicing in the small things of God!
Here you will find updates, thoughts, discussion and prayers for my life and ministry...