Thursday, January 21, 2016

Out of the ashes of Isis

I just recently returned from Kurdistan/Iraq with a team of 11 men from our Church,Grace Community. About 18 months ago God laid on our hearts the desire to help the refugees that were fleeing worn-torn cities in Iraq because of ISIS. We linked our arms together and put boots on the ground to help our brothers and sisters. 

We were able to rescue many displaced people and secure housing for them. On my most recent trip we were able to witness first hand many victorious stories. This is just one of many to come..

Waheeda pictured above still lives in the apartment complex with her family. She is married and a mother of 3 children. She fled Bagdad and found herself lost and unprepared for what might be next. By the grace of God she was able to find safety,security and a fresh start in Erbil. 

She was a bank accountant in Baghdad but had a love and desire for crafting... 

In order to make it and help her family make it she is making crafts that have Arabic Bible verses etched into it. Day after day she spends time etching Bible verses on wood, rocks, and vases. 

We were able to stop by and see first hand her makeshift work station in her home. I recognized her from our visit a year ago and her son remembered me from playing soccer with him. As we listened to her tell her story and work her craft my heart was encouraged.

What man intended for evil God is using for good. Waheeda refuses to give up and refuses to deny Jesus. She could have stayed in Baghdad and kept  her home and job when ISIS took over but she refused to deny Jesus and left everything behind. 

What I am learning from these precious refugees is that they are resilient and refuse to let the circumstances of life keep them from pressing on for Jesus.

As I watched her work and drink tea with her family I was deeply moved and grateful to be part of a church that responds to the needs in our world instead of just talking about them.

And by the way we bought everything she made and supported her new business venture. The national news doesn't cover these kind of stories but I do so that we can see that our God is alive and well in Iraq! 

Hope is growing from the ashes! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Boston Redsox have a Fight Club Man.

Every once in a while God does something to show his approval on the mission. About 4 years ago was launched here in Goshen at our church. It began as a burden in my heart to reach men and God put wings to it by setting it into motion in the local church.

4 years later it is in 170 churches across America and by God's grace men's lives are being radically transformed with this discipleship tool. Jesus does the transformation, Fight Club is the tool. I have witnessed first hand the impact it has had on men and have witnessed some amazing resurrections.

Every new venture, mission, and vision, is tested and critiqued along the way and those are the very things that can make it better. We have made some adjustments along the way and are releasing a 2.0 version this year. 

I believe with all of my heart that if you get the man, you get the family, you get the community, and you get the world for Jesus! 

What was started to help the local church is now reaching men from Alaska to California to Florida and everywhere in between. 

And there is nothing like seeing another Fight Club grad wearing his FC band in public. I have run into men in airports, at Pro Golf matches, at amusement parks, churches, and all over the country. But this week we got word that Justin Masterson a Professional baseball player for the Boston Redsox is a Fight Club graduate. I must admit that excites me.

So to all my Fight Club Brothers out there, how about a shout out to Justin and few prayers that Jesus will use him in a powerful way in the MLB!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The lost discipline of Spurring one another on

I have spend a large part of my time watching people. I learn a lot about their fears, weaknesses, strongholds, and insecurities by listening to them talk and interact with others. But I learn more when they are in some kind of community with their own peers. 

I spend a large part of my time studying men and what makes them tick and what makes them come alive and what keeps them chained in their patterns of insanity.

I have also noticed the dumbing down of men... Let me explain... We let them waddle in their sin without ever calling them out and even coddling them in their  listlessness. We have truly lost the art of spurring them onto love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24 says "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Spur is defined this way: to stimulate, urge someone forward, prod them on, and becoming a catalyst for them to move in the right direction.

Whatever happened to a man poking his brother, calling him out, challenging him to get with it? We have lost the art of spurring. 

Why? Because you become the mean guy, you open yourself up to criticism, you give them permission to do the same to you. You become that guy that people have mixed feelings about when you enter the room. You  become the man that has to speak truth when its hard and you could possibly lose friendships over it. 

Yet, we know we need to do it!

Men run from this kind of accountability too because they fear being spurred on. They would rather waddle in their sin and live below their redemptive potential than become the men God made them to be. It such a sad day for me to watch men refuse to get in this kind of community because they believe some lies from the Enemy.

Every time I see a cowboy with spurs on his boots and spurring his horse in the right way I wonder why we have lost the art of spurring with men? Go spur another brother on to good deeds today, he will be better for it and the world needs men that are willing to truly keep other men accountable!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Divine encounter

I have often said that a praise does not become a praise until it is spoken otherwise it is just a thought. If we see a post on social media and think "wow look what God has done" but never articulate PTL then it is just a thought. The Bible tells us that we overcome the Evil One by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony. 

Satan is unable to hear our thoughts so it never truly becomes a Praise that can overcome him until we speak it. So I am firm believer that Christ-followers miss out on overcoming Satan because of the way they refuse to speak praise about how great our God is.

So this morning let me tell you of an incredible divine appointment that took place last night so that the Enemy can be overcome and Jesus gets more glory and praise!

Last evening I went for a run as I do on many days, yet this night I left the house at a very different time because of some scheduling changes. As I was running I spent the majority of the time talking and listening to God. As I finished my run I worked my way down to the water to build an altar (pictured above) to spend time with God. This was part of a moment that many men were to do this week. As I knelt at my homemade altar and laid my life before Jesus. I confessed my sin, worshipped him, and played a song by Jeremy Camp "The Same Power" and prayed "Dear Jesus use me in a powerful way to change the world for you."

As I began to work my way up from my spot with God I noticed a man running. I waved to him and soon came to realize that he was just finishing up his run too. So as I walked by him I greeted him. As I began to walk the trail back to my Jeep I noticed that the man was jogging towards me. So as he got closer I felt compelled to talk more.

So I began to talk to him about running. I also felt compelled to share why I was walking out of the woods. So I told him I had just built an altar to talk with God and that I was part of a men's group that was doing the same thing. I then asked him how his day was going. What happened next was only a God thing.

He shared his day had been really hard and stress was killing him at work and that things at home were really strained. I began to speak the truths about Jesus. Then he said, "by the way I go to your church and have been on and off for the last 9 months" and that he was in the same group called Fight Club that I was. Which by the way was the very first day of this chapter. He shared how he had tried to get a hold of someone to talk to that day but they weren't available.

He then shared that he had heard me say in Church that I liked to run at Benton Trails and he normally didn't run there so he prayed "Dear God please let me run into Pastor Jim tonight" well guess what God did. 

I began to connect the dots for him of how much Jesus loves him and had orchestrated the details for us to cross paths. I normally don't run at that time and I normally don't build altars :) and that the odds of us both meeting when we finished at a place that has 7 miles of trails was truly a God thing.

To make a long story short I shared the Gospel of hope with him and we bowed our heads and he trusted in Jesus as his LORD and Savior on the Benton Trails. And two sweaty brothers hugged each other as mosquitoes hovered everywhere. 

Now, not only is he a fight club brother but a brother in the LORD! Our God is awesome and will go to great measures to pursue us! All praise to JESUS! 

I love how God used an assignment in Fight Club to create a real ALTARing experience!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Whatever happened to hard work

I am concerned by the  subtle shift I see in our Culture. The shift of not wanting to work hard. The notion that hard work is something that we should work hard to work away from. And even more disconcerting to me is that it is spilling over into our walks as Christ Followers.

We live in a day where we want to get to a place where we don't have to work so hard anymore in our jobs, finances, marriages, families and lives so that we can finally just go into cruise control.  I realize that is a very simple explanation to a bigger issue but its true. Today we have a culture that somehow  believes the lie that hard work is only for those belonging to the lower class. Somehow the notion of manual labor or physical exertion should be something to work away from. And this philosophy morphs into all areas of our lives. especially the Local Church. Yet...

More than ever in my walk with God I am seeing more followers of Christ talk more about being than doing. I know that God loves us the same regardless if we do more or do less. I know that nothing we will ever accomplish will change his love for us. I know that sitting in his presence is where I get refreshed and renewed. I know that we don't need to earn our salvation. I know what legalism is. I know that God loves us for who we are and not  for what we do. I know all of those things. Yet...

The more I read his Word and look closely at what happens when we truly live out our faith it drips with the sweat of Work. Passages in the Bible tell us to Work out our salvation with fear and trembling; remind us to be doers of the word and not hearers only, asking for workers for the harvest, telling Adam to work the ground, to work as though you are working for the LORD, telling us to labor and strive in our faith, to be busy about the Father's business, running the race and much more. The concept and picture of Working and Doing is everywhere. Yet...

Have we swung to the other end of spectrum and become more influenced by our culture than the Words of the LORD? And have we become a group of Christians that would rather sit and soak only instead working hard for the LORD? I am not only concerned by the younger generation but my very own age group as I watch them move closer to retirement. That's another blog subject. They seem to be moving towards comfort and safety and places that aren't challenging them to do the Work of an Evangelist etc. Yet...

God has a high calling on our lives and way too much is at stake for us not work hard for the LORD. I am saddened by this shift  because the closer I get to Jesus the More I am compelled to labor and strive and DO more for him because of all that he has done for me! Yet...

We will stand before Jesus one day at the Bema Seat and he will reward us for the way we have worked out our faith and in turn place those crowns at his feet as a way of saying LORD we loved you this much! May I never be the man who does not daily work out his salvation with fear and trembling and enjoy the Work of the LORD and work for the LORD!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why we do what we do for men!

I have just begun my 20th year at Grace Community this month as the Senior Pastor. I have witnessed a lot of ministry moments through the years and have seen many great moves of God. I also have experienced opposition as to why we do what we do to reach men. Seem nuts for someone to say I don't like the way you unashamedly go after the men for Jesus. But  that doesn't stop us and we trust that we listen to The Holy Spirit and remain obedient to his leading.

All that to say this, "every single meeting, conversation, letter, phone call, text, email, rolling of the eyes, criticism, list, accusation, and much more" was and is worth it! 

Jesus longs to see men lead their families in a tender way and shamelessly chase after him. And when a man does that the family, the community, the world is changed for the better!

As I rode away Sunday on my Harley with my daughter Hannah on the back I felt this deep, deep, deep satisfaction from the Lord. The mental picture of men stepping forward with their sons and daughters, wives and friends to trust in Jesus gave me the fortitude to press on!

My wife, Anne who is my greatest cheerleader and supporter said it best when she said this "Keep doing what you are doing Jim it is worth it!"  

Yes we had man games...

yes we had relentless effort...

 Yes we crowned a winner....

Yes we gave away an ATV...

Yes we had a motorcycle entrance with a fireworks display...

Yes men walked forward to trust in Jesus...

Yes men hugged and showed great emotion...

Yes men crossed over from death to life...

 Yes sons watched their dad do the bravest thing and admit they need Jesus...

Yes men walked with other men to show support...

Yes men drove stakes in the ground as a new beginning...

Yes daughters walked with their dads and watched him trust in Jesus...

Yes over 100 men trusted in Jesus!

Yes, yes, yes, yes and YES!

That is why we do what we do and yes all glory goes to Jesus!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My daughter captured it in one sentence

Love keeps no records of wrongs. I have read that 100's of times and even used it in sermons, weddings, and counseling sessions. It is the crux of a healthy relationship. 


... My daughter said something to me on Sunday while we were debriefing the Message that I had preached that Sunday morning. Yes pastors do discuss the sermon too, we just don't roast the pastor :)

I had just preached from the Book of Malachi and we were in Malachi 3:13-18 and it gives reference to God having a scroll of remembrance that he writes in concerning the things we do that are praiseworthy to him. I shared the story of God getting a chance at our funeral's to give his testimony about our lives after everyone else has spoken. Jesus walks to the microphone and pulls out the Scroll of Remembrance and just reads. 

Certainly it would be a pin-drop moment for those in attendance as every detail would be 100% accurate and meaningful because the God of the Universe has recorded it. It basically would be a summation of all the good we had done for him.

As we were talking about this, Hannah said, "Dad, God only keeps track of the good things!" Wow that truth pierced the air like a flaming arrow in darkness. God keeps no records of our wrongs. 

Process that a little as we did that afternoon the King of Kings only records and remembers the good we have done. The Bible says He chooses not to remember our sins anymore. The Bible tells us that the good deeds we have done will somehow be broadcasted and rewarded at the Bema Seat. The Bible is clear that God's record keeping keeps no record of wrongs. 

Imagine if you can if we began to do the same with those that we love. Imagine a world where we forgive and choose only to point out the good in each other instead of our religious lists of what we don't like. Imagine family members keeping track only of the good that their family has done that day, that week, that year, or that lifetime.

Imagine family gatherings, church worship services, business meetings, friendships that only journaled the good. 

That thought is a divine one that our Father God models well and we have some major work to do! When we begin to do that the world will run to Jesus in droves because they have never witnessed anything like it. Love keeps no record of wrongs and they will know we are Christians by our love for each other! 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Do Your Kids love you more than they Love Jesus

Parenting is such a great joy...

Yet the greatest satisfaction comes when a child ages and continues to chase hard after Jesus. I would even go so far to say that the greatest gift a child can give their parents is for them to still chase after Jesus all of their lives. There is no full-proof way to make this happen because children have a free will and can make their own choices once they become adults. But there are some things that can help build godly characteristics in them. 

We are reminded in Proverbs 22:6 of this truth... start children off in the way they should go and even when they are old they will not depart from it.

Anne and are not perfect parents and we have been showered with gobs and gobs of grace as we parent our children. But we have also been very intentional in trying to start our children in the right direction as Proverbs refers to above. I will share a few things over the next couple of blogs that we have worked hard at with them.

Elevate Jesus and his mission in their lives.

* As soon as possible let them experience a mission's trip on the other side of the world.
* As soon as they can understand have them pray regularly the armor of God on their lives.
* Eat together once a day at a table at home and talk about God-moments.
* Actively share your faith with others and pull them into those conversations to show them how important it is and let them see how they are an important part in the evangelism process.
* Get them to pray at gatherings.
* Encourage them often and then some more about how good our God is and tell them you love them.
* Ask them to pray for their lost classmates regularly.
* Elevate God's Word in their lives.
* Create a safe place where they can ask questions about God and the Bible.
* Help them to be stretched in their faith by encouraging them to stand up against the peer pressure and express how God is pleased with them.
* Talk about the joy of knowing Jesus and worshipping at your local church.
* Never gossip or talk despairingly about other Christians.
* Invite them to serve in your local church with their gifting.
* Tell them often how proud you are of the way they live their lives for Jesus.
* Never expect anything from them that you are not presently willing to do yourself.
* Model Jesus in front of them.
* Teach them to tithe as soon as possible and find ways to connect their giving to an event, person, or mission so they can see how they have made a difference.
* Pray often with them instead of telling them you will pray for them. Do it now with them.
* Make sure they are connected to youth group at church.
* Allow them to fail and extend forgiveness laced with grace often.
* Make sure they worship regularly on Sunday Mornings.
* Have God talks in the car while you are going from point A to Point B. 
* Help them connect the dots as to how God provided for you and them.
* Ask for forgiveness and say I am sorry when you have sinned with them.
* Let them see that Hard Circumstances create Strong children.
* Laugh a lot with them 
* Pray for favor protection and blessing on their life everyday.
* Never compare their progress or lack of against their siblings let them become the best version of themselves.

More tomorrow, but I will close with this... Way too many parents raise Children that love them more than they love Jesus. Thanks Josh, Hannah and Isaiah you are a great blessing to us!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Out of the Ashes of Isis... Jonah and Ninevah again?... Report #4

What I am about to tell you is so incredibly awesome...
Many of you know the story of The Reluctant Prophet Jonah and Ninevah. God had called him to go to Ninevah and preach a message of repentance. Jonah wanted no parts of that because he had witnessed first hand and heard plenty of stories of Assyrian cruelty. 

It is recorded in Biblical history that the Assyrians had killed many of Jonah's people . In fact stories are told that the Assyrians impaled them at the end of the cities and in some cases flayed them alive. It was brutal manslaughter on God's people. So when God called Jonah to go and preach he said no way and fled to Tarshish. Well, God had other plans and now enter the the story of the large fish which eventually puked him back on the shore towards Ninevah.

You know the rest of the story... He preached a message of Repentance and the whole city repented even the dogs were covered in sackcloth. I believe Jonah knew this was going to happen and that is why he fled in the first place. He remembered how the Assyrians had done such evil things and caused his people to flee... 

Fast forward to today...

Ninevah is now modern day Mosul and thousands of people are fleeing the city because of Isis. A modern day group doing similar things that the Assyrians did. People are leaving in droves and to be quite frank many that we talked to do not want to go back there. They remember what Isis did they recall how their neighbors have raided their homes and broke their trust.

Do you know where many are headed to as I type? They are headed to Erbil. They are now gathering in groups to learn about Jesus. Many will get saved and find Jesus in the church that is being planted in Erbil.

Could it be that these same people that Grace4Iraq is rescuing in these apartments will one day be the group that reluctantly returns to Modern Day, Ninevah (Mosul)? 

My heart skips a beat at this thought because we could see God do the very same thing he did in Jonah's day. We could see one of the greatest revival's recorded in the Bible taking place in Mosul by the very people we are rescuing and our Pastor friend is equipping...

We know from the Bible that the Middle East is the greenhouse for the end times... Could this movement help usher in the Rapture?

I ask you to pray for Pastor Malath and his wife Nour as they are elbows deep into leading this church movement and they are sharing the good news of Jesus with many modern day Mosul refugees...

Could God be up to something really big? All I know is that he longs for all to come to repentance and there are many in Mosul that need Jesus!

May we see in our day what Jonah did!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

out of the ashes report #3 Everybody needs a daddy!

I love being a daddy. I love it when my kids send me a text and call me Dad. I love when my kids introduce me to their friends as Dad. I love seeing the name Brown on the back of my kid's sport jerseys. I love providing, caring, praying and pouring life into my kids. I thank God that I get to be daddy!

I know the importance a Dad has in the formation of his children. I work hard at this incredible opportunity I have with my kids. Everybody needs a daddy. All over Iraq are children reeling from the effects of Isis. Children are trying to find some security and new identity in a foreign city; children that have witnessed the horrible tragedies of Isis; children on the run; children sleeping in tents; children with absent daddy's; children trying to cope.

My heart always breaks for the kids. On many occasions I had to gulp the emotion I was feeling as I interacted with them, yet I knew this was a chance to be daddy to these scarred kids. 

The Bible says that Jesus often took time for the children and loved on them. I picture Jesus sitting with them, playing King of Hill and skipping rocks across the Jordan with them. I picture him telling them stories and laughing with them. I picture the kids running to him when he came to town.

Well, we had many opportunities as a team to be daddy to a lot of kids. The picture above is a boy named Frank. He is one the kids we were able to rescue. The first time we met was in his apartment. He sat down beside me on the couch. I wrapped my arm around him and gave him a daddy hug. After that hug it was as if he never left our side. Everywhere we went Frank showed up. Frank loved soccer and told us that his name was Messi the famous soccer player. I told him I was Renaldo. He became our adopted kid for the week..

Whenever we walked outside our doors the kids gathered around us and joined us. It was soon apparent they needed daddy time so our team became 11 dads to these precious kids. George gave them a soccer ball and it was as if he had dropped a million bucks in their hands. They carried that ball everywhere. In the midst of the apartment complex was a private school with tons of kids. This school had two really nice soccer fields for the private school kids. 

These rescued children didn't have access to these fields because they weren't in school. So we did what any daddy would do we walked into the principle's office and asked if we could play soccer with our kids. You should have seen these rescued kids as they walked into the school for the first time with their American daddy's. They held their chins high and smiled like kids do on Christmas morning... 

Well, we explained that we were from the USA and were there to help the refugees and we wanted to play soccer with our kids. God moved in the hearts of the staff there and he let us in. You should have seen Messi, it was as if he was in the World Cup. Kids laughed and ran like deer on this new soccer field while we gasped for air. It was so much fun mixing it up with the kids. In fact at one point the Principle came and joined the rescued kids in his suit.

For a moment it was just a daddy-son moment and it was good, really good...

Every single time we walked outside the kids came out of nowhere to walk with us and asked us if we can play soccer. It was as if they were peering out the window waiting for us...

Each morning we were greeted by boys wanting us to come out and play. Well, we did what any daddy would do. We had pillow fights...

We wrestled with them...

For a few days in the lives of these kids they became superstars and we high-fived them. We told them we were proud of them. We got lost in moment and loved on  our family...

You never know how God will use you in Iraq but what I do know after traveling the world every boy needs a daddy. Every boy wants a daddy to tell them they are proud of them. 

So for a few days we did just that... 

The goodbyes were hard because we really loved our new sons. I got to believe this is what Jesus felt as he traveled from city to city in the Middle East. I got to believe that when he came to town the kids ran to him and asked him if he was Renaldo or Messi...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Out of the Ashes of Isis Report #2 Only God...

Each morning in Iraq a group of us would get up and go for a prayer run across the country-side. We would run in packs and often pray over the country asking God to bring revival and healing to this land. It was a great way to bond as a team and link arms together. 

On one morning a few of us decided to take a left off the beaten the path and run across the sandbox and pray. It's amazing how you immediately recognize the presence of God with you as you run. We saw sheep and some rugged muddy terrain and were reminded that this country has been the place where many battles have taken place for centuries. We all have run many miles in our lives in America but only God would have known that one of the reasons we did so was to prepare us to do a prayer run across Kurdistan.

One of our greatest desires was to go back to the tea shop we had visited on our first trip in September. This is the place where God gave us the opportunity to pray over the men all together. We were excited to find some of the same people we met the first time around, like the man above who graciously served us tea. 

I have almost 20 emails and phone numbers of Kurds who have been displaced from this shop. We met doctors and teachers and engineers in this tea shop who are trying to find hope. We played dominoes and smiled and gave Iraqi hugs to them. 

Just today I received a Facebook Message from the Doctor I met there... Only God can make that happen. Pray for Dr. Saaad..

We were able to meet with many of the families in the apartments and pray with them. In one of the apartments this little girl was all bundled up in her seat. Imagine the mom and dad as they carried this child across the sandbox as they fled Isis wondering what was next. Only God could answer their prayer by sending a community of believers 6500 miles away to help rescue this baby and answer their prayer. 
Imagine if this was your baby and you began to beg God for help...

One day we were out shopping for Apartment Supplies and this man came buzzing by us. I love the hooded sweatshirt he is wearing. I was proud to be an American when I saw this. I am so grateful for all the men and women who served our country from the Military to bring freedom to so many in Iraq. I am sure many times our veterans wondered what good could come out of the war in Iraq.

Because of our Military we can now follow up with the Gospel of Jesus. Had they not served we could have never been on this mission. Only God could take such hardship for our Soldiers and turn it into something good...

God has equipped us all in unique ways to do his work. We were able to have Scott Devlin on our team to capture the story on video. He found himself in many precarious positions filming the work there. Scott has longed to take the story of how God is working in other countries back to America for a long time. Little did he know that God would give him the chance to do it in Iraq. 

Only God can take something as atrocious as the devastation of Isis and build a church from it.

This picture is truly an Only God kind of moment. As you know we long to see many churches planted in the ashes of Isis. One of the days we were there we were able to sit in the office of the Minister of Religion of Iraq. On his wall were pictures of him with the Pope and Franklin Graham. We talked about the refugee implosion in Erbil and about our mission project with the apartments. He shared how the country of Iraq especially Erbil was overwhelmed with 1.5 million Refugees. At one point he was overcome with emotion as he spoke about the pain his people were facing. 

He served us tea and he was very encouraged by the work we were doing and shared how he longed for the local church to step up and help out. At one point in the conversation I said to our guys to stop and consider where we were at and what God has just done to get us in this office. 

As we neared the end our stay I had the privilege to pray over him and his country. He gave me his personal contact information to keep in touch with our work in Erbil. Only God could arrange a meeting with a group of 11 American Christians to sit in the office of the most influential religious leader in Iraq...

As we left the building we snapped off this photo and thanked God for his hand in this meeting... Only God...

This photo represents so much more than the naked eye reveals. These are many of the people that worship together in the church that we have linked arms with in Iraq. As I scan the picture I see family members that were once in tents along the road but now in Apartments where they are finding dignity, hope and a fresh start. I see refugees worshiping from pain of Isis with a deep love for Jesus. I see people who were once far from God now Christ-followers. I see Hope stamped everywhere... Only God can turn this tragedy of Isis into good, only God, only Our God, Amen!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Out of the Ashes of Isis

About 5 months ago God spoke clearly to me in my office while I was prepping for my sermon in the Book of 1John. It was as if The Holy Spirit had grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. Out of that came a vision to reach the precious people in Iraq who were being displaced by the atrocities of Isis. Our church unloaded their support. They immediately prayed, gave, sacrificed and formed a team to go to the war torn country. To be quite honest, we were discouraged by many to not go. Some people thought we were crazy, others were even upset with me because they thought I was leading people to a death march.

But we knew God wanted us to go! Out of that prompting by the Spirit a team of 8  mighty men who decided to go in first, knowing full well the potential cost. Our wives and families stood in support and bravely held down the home front. I will never forget the night we rolled out of Goshen with tears streaming down our faces realizing the risk at hand. 

Fast forward to today...
 We just returned after a second visit with a big vision to rescue hundreds of refugees. We desire to find them housing in apartments for 6 months and a fresh start to their lives. Our prayer is that out of the ashes of Isis comes a strong a mighty church planting movement for Jesus. 

God is alive and well in Kurdistan... on this second trip we were able to go and support, love, care, and pour courage into these precious people. We saw first hand what God is doing with our Grace4Iraq mission. God is giving us a chance to link arms with a man of God, Pastor Malath Baythoon and his church to reach people who once would never  have given us any chance at all. 

In this photo above to my right is Pastor Malath and to my left is a Yazidi man who greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks because he knew that this group of Americans were caring for his people. In fact he showed up to the church service I preached at earlier that week. God is truly at work for that to happen.

Grace4Iraq is rescuing people who were in tents along the side of the road and pulling people in who had no place to call home and restoring dignity, hope. Plus it is  showing them that Jesus loves them. The ladies above represent 3  generations of women, who now have a place to call home. We sat with these precious ladies and heard their horrific stories of Isis pushing them out. We ate a meal with them that they had prepared for us. We saw the smiles on their faces. I wept tears of joy as  I saw first hand what can happen when a church decides to help their brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

We were able to purchase beds, cabinets, blankets, heaters and mattresses to get a couple of apartments ready for two families being rescued. I will never forget the smiles on their faces, the taps on the hearts by men, and the kisses on our hands from the women to show us how grateful they were. 

As we carried supplies to the new apartments I again wept knowing full well this is what God longs to see his church do for the harassed and helpless.

The apartment complex entrance was a daily reminder to us that this was a war torn country as a guard packing an AK47 stood on his watch. But if God is for us who could ever stand against us. This apartment complex now holds 100's of rescued refugees who are meeting in small groups to study the Bible and learn more about the love of Jesus. Out of the ashes of Isis, Jesus is building a mighty church.

One of the most powerful moments was us being able to hand the keys over to a large family who had been displaced. As we stood in the hallway and looked out the glass window we watched a van roll in packed with a family that would be placed in this apartment. 

As we stood in the hallway and prayed over this family and prayed over many family members I was overcome with emotion knowing full well this is what can happen when God's people link arms together.

I wish you could have been there as we handed over the keys to this new apartment and watched the families enter their new apartment... Simply beautiful...

Apartments like this one are now bustling with kids, adults and families. We ate with them, prayed with them and saw first hand hope emerging in their hearts.

I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that God allowed me to preach in Northern Iraq last Sunday while Isis was a town away. I was able to tell them from Matthew that they do not need to worry because Jesus had their backs and that there was a church in America called Grace Community that had their backs too..

This picture above captures fully the emotions our team felt as we were able to sing happy birthday to every person who had a January birthday. Stop and ponder this reality. We sang happy birthday and cut cake together. In fact, I too have a January birthday and never for the life of me did I ever think I would be celebrating my 53rd birthday with a group of rescued people and an Iraqi Church on Sunday Night in Kurdistan.

Out of the ashes of Isis hope is emerging... this is kind of story the press needs to be reporting!!!