Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hebrews 1:2

Hello friends,

I apologize that it has been so long since I have written.  The last week or so has been a battle, personally, and I had allowed that to prevent me from writing.  Please forgive me!

I experienced breakthrough yesterday, just before we went on campus for an outreach.  It's hard sometimes for me to put into words what it's like when God breaks in on your heart.  I just remember in the midst of the heaviness saying, 'No, Jesus is alive,' and my heart began to believe in the Son again.  It's amazing how God comes running with grace, mercy, and a love that brings freedom at even the slightest turn of our hearts towards Him.

It was then in prayer that morning that I felt the Father speaking over us that we were glorious.  Our faith in His Son was so glorious in His eyes.  Our little crew of young missionaries, our tiny body of believers here in Thessaloniki, the leadership and body of our church back home, along with many others that are believing in His Son, are so glorious in the eyes of the Father.  I could feel His pleasure and delight.

Yesterday was the second time we had done a coffee outreach on campus.  Basically, every Tuesday we set-up a table on the campus of the university and give out free coffee.  People are intrigued by a handful of Americans giving away free Starbucks.  I honestly don't know how to describe it because I think we are all learning how to be genuine, sincere, effective and loving evangelists.

I believe our heart is 2 Cor. 5:20, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

We have already started to develop a history of relationship among some students after only two weeks.  I was talking with Amy about how there is such a unique mix of people that we meet.  Some just want free coffee.  Some are really inquisitive and perhaps, a little suspicious.  Some are sarcastic.  Some are genuinely interested in who we are and what we're doing.  I believe the Lord is drawing people to Himself through us, and it's cool to see that already.  I think even those that are at first suspicious, sarcastic, and just want free coffee, may begin to find themselves drawn aswell.

Thank you so much for praying for me.  I cannot emphasize enough how much of an effect your prayers are having.  Please continue to pray for our body here; that we would continually love one another and dwell together in unity.  Please pray especially for the outreaches on campus.  I really believe that the Lord is blessing and moving in the midst of our corporate work.

I have to get ready to leave for a short trip to Macedonia now (pray for that aswell).  I'm looking forward to fellowshipping with our sister church there.  They are a lot of fun!  We hope to return around mid-day Friday.

I intend to take photos of the university campus when I return so that you have an idea of what it looks like there.

I love you all!  Skype me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

John 6:44

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

Last Sunday I was praying about how to spend my day before service in the city at 7:30pm.  It was one of those prayer times that feels like you're just talking to yourself.  Feeling as though, 'I got nothin,' I decided to take my basketball and hit the courts in Kalmaria, one of the sea-side municipalities downtown.

To my surprise, there were quite a few people playing on the two, caged-in, full-courts.  I walked in through the chain link gate and sat down on a bench as I watched a 2-on-2 game between a group of twenty to thirty-something guys.

I just sat there.  I honestly wasn't sure what to do or say, so I just waited.  After a minute or two they finished their game and one of them sat down beside me.  I ask him if he spoke English.  He did, so I introduced myself.  He was a Serb.  He asked me what I was doing here.  I told him I was working with a church in the city.  He said that he went to a Pentecostal church (which is pretty unusual) when he lived in Novi Sad.  I asked him if he was attending a church in Thessaloniki.  He wasn't and he asked me to text him the address of the Network Community, so that he could come check it out.  We exchanged numbers.  His buddies then beckoned him from the bench for another game, so we shook hands and parted ways.  

That was easy.  I didn't have to do... anything, really.

I was shooting around by myself on the far goal when a group of three college-aged guys and girls walked on to the adjacent court.  I told them that if they needed a fourth man... hmm, fourth man (Dan. 3:25), to let me know.  After they warmed up, another guy showed up, so they called me over for a game of 3-on-2.  We played a pretty friendly, uneventful, fun game.  I figured that was all it was purposed to be.  After the game, we shook hands and three of the four departed.  However, I noticed the fourth had a tennis racquet in his backpack.  I asked him if he played (as if you would carry around a tennis racquet just for kicks...).  Of course he did and asked me if I had someone to play with.  I definitely don't and I love playing tennis.  We exchanged numbers.  He also inquired about my business in Thessaloniki, so I told him.  He didn't quite understand my description of the church, so he thought he might check it out sometime.  We exchanged numbers with a pending tennis engagement for next Sunday.

That was easy.  Again, I didn't really have to do... anything; except perhaps, make myself available, be myself, and let the Holy Spirit do what He wants to do.

The Lord really reminded me that He is absolutely in love with the people of this city.  He is really jealous for them and He is doing so much more work than I am likely aware of, drawing many of them unto Himself.  I don't need to save them.  I can't save them.  They don't need Ben Bradford.  They need Jesus, the only One who can Author and Perfect their faith.

"What then is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." - 1 Cor. 3:5-7

Please pray specifically:

- That Jesus would continue to have first place in everything (Col. 1:18).

- That I would be diligent to fulfill what I believe the Lord is calling me to do personally.
- That Amy, Jen, Kim, and I would be united in fulfilling our corporate call to reach young people.
- That our relationships within the body would be ordered and develop according to the will of God.

- That I would be effective in my communication to those interested in my life and work here.

With this in view:

I intend to update this blog on a weekly basis, at a minimum, for those interested in more frequent, detailed updates.

I intend to disseminate a newsletter via email on a monthly basis, for those that prefer a more concise, less-frequent update, in that medium.

Please send me your email if you would like to subscribe to the monthly newsletter.  My email address is located in the About Me page.

Much love.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Last Thursday, Kim, Annika, and I were invited to Peggy and Argiris' home in Galatista.  As far as I understand (which isn't very far when it comes to Greek holidays), January 6th is the national celebration of Epiphany, the visitation of the Magi, and the baptism of Jesus.  However, in Galatista, they celebrate the 6th of January a little differently...

It goes something like this:  Turkish soldiers kidnapped a beautiful young Greek woman from Galatista.  In response, the Greeks planned a rescue.  They disguised a donkey as a camel and upon arriving at the Turkish outpost, they proceeded to get the soldiers completely drunk with wine.  Given their level of intoxication and the ingenious 'trojan' camel, the Greeks were able to smuggle the young Galatistan woman safely home.  She then marries her fiancĂ©e and they lives happily ever after.

In celebration of this momentous victory, every 6th of January, there is free food in the village square, along with hours of traditional music, dress, and dancing, as the conquering camel is paraded through the streets.  This felt like my first real cultural experience in Greece.  It was as if I were living one of those exotic Travel Channel shows.  I really felt like a foreigner.

I also found myself really absorbed in shooting the festivities with my Canon DSLR, which was a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed it, which is something I haven't felt shooting in some time.  Click here to see more photos.

Following the celebration, we returned to Peggy and Argiris' home.  Due to the challenging financial situation that is quite pervasive in Greece presently, they had to leave their apartment and constructed temporary living quarters in the workshop below his parents' home.  I share that just to give you a small idea of what the economic situation is like in Greece.

Argi also showed me his workshop.  It's a large metal hangar, a short drive for his parents' home, full of heavy machining equipment, welders, and massive metal lathes from the '50s, built in former-Czechoslovakia.  Argiris is somewhat of a machinist by trade, skilled in custom metal fabrication and repair.  You see another side of a man when you see him operating masterfully in the element of his profession.  You enter into his joy as you watch him do what he loves to do.  Argiris may end up selling his shop, tools, and machines, as he and Peggy continue to pray about God's will for them concerning opportunities for financial provision.

Annika and Argiris

It's been a little over a month that I've been here now and I'm starting to see that the focus of this time has been more about developing relationships with brothers and sisters in the body; and not so much diving into my own ministry.  Having real, growing relationships within the body is so necessary to growth and is a conduit for experiencing the love, safety, and security of God through His family.

'And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all - Ephesians 1:22-23'

'...holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.' - Col 2:19

I've come to realize a certain level of subconscious pride or superiority as an American, especially in things pertaining to God.  The Lord has been really good in helping me overcome this.

'For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?' - 1 Cor. 4:7

'Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,' - 2 Cor. 3:5

'For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren' - Heb. 2:11

I can't really say it any better than those verses.  They release so much grace and peace, as they neutralize striving and disarm a spirit of competition.

Thank you so much for your prayers.  Please continue praying.  It is having a dramatic effect.  Also, feel free to message or video chat with me via Skype, as we have the opportunity.  My Skype account information is available on the About Me page.

I love you all.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Tasos.  I met this guy in little souvlaki restaurant about a week ago.  He's a 27-year old guy.  He lives in Kalamaria (a municipality of Thessaloniki), which is one of the places I play basketball to meet people in the city.  He works in this souvlaki place in Peraia for a relative of the family, as I understand it.  He's fan of the NBA, or at least, the glory days of American basketball.  I believe he also told me that he studied to be a priest when he was younger.  He speaks enough English for us to communicate relatively well.  In prayer this morning, I felt like I was supposed to buy him one of the NBA action figures I had seen in a store a week or so ago, so I did.  I'm not sure yet when I will give it to him.

I played basketball for the first time in the city today.  There wasn't anyone on the courts, as it was perhaps too cold, but it was worth the investment.  I prayed for the sons and daughters of Thessaloniki to be born again.  I'm looking forward to meeting my new brothers and sisters.

I met two guys at the bus stop after leaving the courts.  One was Canadian and the other was South Korean.  The Canadian had a big back-pack on, so it was pretty clear they weren't from Greece.  They're exchange students at a university near Zurich in Switzerland.  All the European students at their university left to be with family during the holidays, so these two decided to take a backpacking tour of eastern Europe.  They asked what I was doing, so I told them I was a missionary here (I think it's safe to say that openly to South Korean and Canadian travelers).  I can't say for sure they weren't believers, but I didn't receive the response of a kindred spirit.  They seemed pretty lost actually, and I was struck pretty sober by the contrast.  Here these guys are looking for a family and I don't think they've been adopted into God's family yet.  It made me realize the treasure of the Holy Spirit and Christ in me, the hope of glory.  As soon as I got on the bus, I regretted doing so, so quickly.  I felt as though I had cut short a God-opportunity, and for what?  What am I in a hurry to return to?  Oh, well.  I prayed, confessed, and repented.  There will be more.

Mike.  I decided to ask this dread-locked 25-year old dude that sat next to me on the bus if he spoke English.  It turns out, he did, so we had a conversation!  He went to cooking school and lives in Peraia aswell, with his parents and younger brothers.  He lived in Germany for three years and prefers living there, although his dream is to go to the US.  He likes to cook, play soccer, and create hip-hop and electronic music.  I told him that I liked electronic music too.  He asked me if I liked to listen to trance and go to clubs.  I told him that I wasn't big on the club scene, but that I liked Christian electronic music.  "What's that?"  "Electronic music created under the influence of the Holy Spirit," I told him, "It's the best."  "Ok," as he nodded his head.  I think he understood me.

Please pray for all of these guys and continue to pray for us!  Pray for wisdom, open doors, and divine appointments.  Pray for love, boldness, and sensitivity to the leading of His Spirit.  May lots and lots of them come to know Jesus Christ through our love.  Most of all, may Jesus have first place in our hearts.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Vision 2011

3rd Gear.

Tonight the girls and I attended a New Year's Eve party at the home of Tanya and Stefan.  And I just have to say for the record, I feel straight-up loved by this precious, German missionary couple.

About 45 minutes before midnight, we broke up into small groups.  We each shared something that we were thankful for from the past year; as well as, something that we were believing God for in the upcoming year.  Then we prayed for one another.

One of the young ladies in our group was really honest about how she was feeling towards God and people.  She said she was starting to feel like she didn't want anything to do with God and like she didn't belong in our fellowship. (Oh, how often have I felt like this?  And I'm thankful that God is not shocked by our religious fears) -  But as she was vulnerable and brought to light what was in her heart, the Spirit of Truth and the love of God just overwhelmed me.  I say the Spirit of Truth because it was so crystal clear to me that a spirit of religion was destroying this woman.

'For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.' - 2 Corinthians 3:6

Only a religious, false view of God would cause you to believe that you would want nothing to do with God and that you don't belong in the body.  But the true, living God... now that's another story.

Jesus, the exact image of the invisible God, the expression of the Father and God, Himself; this Man, this King, He is glorious!  His eyes burn with flames of fire.  He is full of jealous love.  Tender mercies and grace flow from Him.  His love shatters fear.  It covers and fills every broken and hurting place.  He gave Himself to forgiveness and His love never fails.  He never fails.  This Man, and only this Man, Christ Jesus, completes us.  He fills all in all.

I felt the power of the love of God as I prayed for this woman.  The love of God is so strong.  It is so incredibly powerful.  It is like a flood of great waters.  What can stand against the power of this love?  Nothing.  It is the great equalizer.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and it never fails.  His love levels everything.  Insurmountable mountains are brought low and valleys are raised high.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” - Isaiah 40:3-5

Hmm, 'Comfort my people, says your God,' 'her sin has been paid for'
'in the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord,' 
'Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'  Interesting...

Downshift into 2nd gear.

I've been praying for vision as I try to find my purpose here.  I believe I'm here for young people.  Especially, brothers.

Down again, into 1st.

His word that sent me here was, Song of Solomon 1:8, 'Go forth on the trail of the flock and pasture your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.'

Back in to 2nd.

Since I've been here, I've been struggling to find my place.  I've been searching for the trail, the flock, the young goats, and the shepherds, but they're not here!

I think the girls from Dwelling Place and I are the only consistent church members under the age of 30 - no 'young' goats to pasture, and need I say, no bro's?  Part of our flock is out of the country and one of the shepherds is in Sweden with a whirlwind tour abroad in the weeks to come.  And concerning the trail, Tommie's words to me were, 'Back in the States, the roads are already dug and paved.  Here, you have to make your own road.'

Hmm, this sounds like a wilderness, or a desert, or a valley of dry bones...

And I hear Him say, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones...
Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.'
"Thus says the Lord God to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.  And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.'"
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. - Ezekiel 37: 1,3-6, 10

So we will prophesy the word of the Lord to this valley of dry bones.  'The motherlands of the gospel shall give birth again.'  They shall give birth by the Spirit, for the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. - Galatians 4:26

Redlining 2nd. Hit 3rd gear.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died - 2 Corinthians 5:14 
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. - John 12:32

I don't know if anyone has ever been theologically debated into the kingdom of God.  I know I wasn't.  People manifested the love of God to me and led me to the Man that manifested the love of God to the world.  Then I began to manifest the love of God to people.

And so armed with the Spirit and the power of the love of God, we will clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.  Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low.  Let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Pray for us as we prophesy to the rising army in this land and live to love people into the kingdom of God through His Spirit.