Ignite Conference, Albany, New York

February 18th, 2015

Ignite Conference

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be sharing on evangelism at the “Ignite Conference” in Albany, New York, February 27-28th. (A ministry of Campus Renewal.)

If you live close or know anyone in the area who might be interested, click here for more information

Please pray that the Lord would raise up laborers to the harvest in Albany, New York!

Bedtime Stories

February 13th, 2015

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Our dad wrote about the value of bedtime stories in this month’s ministry newsletter. For those who aren’t on our e-newsletter list (and would like to read about the exciting saga of Black Bulldog and Clawpatch), you can view it here.

“26 Below” CMML Youth Conference

February 10th, 2015

IMG_3637 Last month I had the privilege of being part of the “26 Below” retreat, run by CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands) the missionary sending organization of the network of New Testament-patterned Bible churches that I have grown up in.

It was a very challenging and refreshing time.

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The speaker was Nate Bramsen, missionary to Niger. The day of the conference he got word that religious extremists were burning churches in Niger and burned a place of worship in his village (a stone’s throw from his home), and almost burned his home and teammates’ homes. His team had to leave the area.

I think Nate’s Christ-like response to this news made an even stronger impact on the retreat attendees than his messages.

“Some call them terrorists, but I call them blind,” Nate mentioned, emphasizing that when we look at the cross we can’t help but “fall in love with them” and pray for their salvation! I’d encourage you to read the article he wrote for the Gospel Coalition about these events.

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We had a one-hour prayer meeting for Niger, asking the Lord to use these events to draw people to Jesus. I normally don’t pray for just one country for an hour, and doing so reminded me of how much you can think of to pray for regarding one country simply when you just keep praying!

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In the Q and A time, one topic that was addressed was this: following Jesus sometimes means you will be alone and may not always have the fellowship you desire. But you will have Christ, and He is enough.

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I really enjoyed my roommates. =)

The fellowship at this conference was so sweet. Raw, honest, Christ-focused, and energizing – it’s such a gift from the Lord to enjoy fellowship with other like-hearted young people who are excited about the gospel and using their lives to proclaim it.

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Girls breakout session on purity called, “Satisfied in Jesus: Purity and Struggles of the Heart.” I was blessed by the sharpening comments the girls contributed. One girl spoke of the “idolatry of the heart” that a crush can be. Another emphasized the simple cure of looking at the cross when we’re struggling with getting our focus right.

The topic of the conference was “Transparency.” I appreciated Nate’s point that a Christian’s transparency shouldn’t be simply “being real” or “just being you,” but rather “being clear” or “being invisible” so that the world can see Christ IN you. How much do people not see Jesus in me because they simply see so much of ME? Transparency is getting out of the way so that they see Christ.

To hear the messages from the conference click here. Or, to hear Nate’s podcasts on Matthew click here. (Some of my favorite podcasts have been “Shut the Door”, “The Anatomy of Anxiety”, and “The Answer to Anxiety”)

Bright Lights on the East Coast

February 7th, 2015

Two weeks from today I’ll be in New Jersey sharing an “Introduction to Bright Lights” at Mountain Ridge Bible Chapel (not far from New York City). We’d love to see more Bright Lights groups start on the East Coast. If you know anyone in the area who would be interested, click here for the flyer.

Bright Lights Workshop.

I Love Airports

February 2nd, 2015

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I love airports. They are great places to witness. I don’t always feel like it, but I am always glad afterward.

Two weeks ago I took a trip to New York for the CMML “26 Below” Conference (which I will post about soon). One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Lord arranging witnessing opportunities on flights and in the airport. Here’s a summary:

Episcopalian Man:

On my first flight, I began chatting with the couple next to me who were about my parents’ age. I explained that I was going to a Christian youth camp. They thought that was really nice and I wondered if they were Christians.

“Do you have a spiritual background?” I asked them.

Now, if I wouldn’t have asked that first question, the conversation may have never really taken off. But after that question, we talked for about 20-30 minutes about spiritual things. It was a reminder to just ask a question and see what God does with it!

“We’re Episcopalian,” he told me.
“Oh, on one of my last flights (last summer) I also sat next to an Episcopalian!” I told him. “But I don’t know too much about it…”

He explained the Episcopalian history, saying it has similarities to Catholicism but without a pope. I brought up the issue of salvation by faith or works. “What are your thoughts on that?” I asked. He believed we were saved by both faith and works.

“Could I get your opinion on something? Are you familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9? What do you think it means?”

“Well, I’d have to see it again,” he said.

I handed him my Bible and he took about a minute reading the passage. He came up with an explanation of the passage to go along with his viewpoint, but it was a pretty big stretch. It was also very clear to me at that point that he simply did not understand the gospel! He called the “gift” in Ephesians 2:8 “mysterious” saying something like, “whatever that mysterious gift is, it works itself out in our works… does that make sense?” he asked me.
“No, not really…” I replied.
He explained it again. Then he went on to explain, “You know, one thing our church is really big on is tolerance … ”

I told him I think it’s important to accept and love people, but at the same time, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life—no one comes to the Father but by Me.”

“You will probably think about that verse 100,000 times in your life,” he replied, “And each time your thinking will evolve and it will mean something different to you…”

“But, you know, it can really only mean one thing!” I said.

He replied, “I read the Bible very differently now than I did fifty years ago. I have friends who are very rigid in their understanding of Scripture, but …” and he went on to explain that we all have our own interpretation and lifestyle.

“Well,” I said, “When we look at Hitler and what he did, we can’t just say ‘that was fine for him.’ There is a point when someone is just wrong!”

The whole conversation was very gracious and respectful, but I do think that a nerve was pricked. He seemed slightly uncomfortable after a bit, and I think that was a good thing. It’s sad how far he is from Christ. He is simply blind to the truth of the gospel. But I am grateful for the opportunity we had to interact, and I pray that the Lord opens his eyes.

Of course, my desire wasn’t to offend, but to help bring to light the truth that no matter how “good” one is, we are separated from God because of sin. God in His love has provided a way to be reconciled with Him through Jesus, but one will not come to Jesus in repentance if they do not see the need to do so. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” Ephesians 2:4-5

Jehovah’s Witness and Catholic:

Upon arrival at the airport, I had two hours before being picked up as I was waiting for someone else to fly in also. After passing out tracts and having a seemingly not-to-productive, but friendly argument with a Jehovah’s Witness couple who had a table set up there, I prayed for the Lord to lead me to someone else to talk with.

Then I noticed a girl sitting alone by the door. I decided I’d do my questionnaire approach with her.

“I’m Catholic but I don’t know anything” she told me. She was 100% interested in talking, and thankfully, I had another 45 minutes before my ride came. Praise the Lord! I started back in Genesis [smile] and began to teach through from the beginning, and it was so sweet to see her desire to learn.
“I want to see Jesus” she told me.
“Me too!” I replied [smile].
I’d appreciate prayer for Gabrielle, that the Lord would bring other Christians along her path to continue to teach her.

Eastern Orthodox:
On my flight home, I had a very long conversation with the Eastern orthodox girl next to me. She had her earphones in, but when we were served snacks and she took them out, I realized, Here’s my chance! and asked her, “Where’s your accent from?”

I also asked her about her religious background. I was so glad I asked those questions, because they led to about an hour of discussion! She had a lot of thoughts and seemed eager to discuss them.

She was convinced that we have to work hard for our salvation. I took her to some verses in Scripture, but she was still firm. However, then SHE brought up two examples from Scripture which were perfect examples making my point! One was the thief on the cross, and the other was the publican/Pharisee prayers (the proud prayer and humble prayer). Those gave me wonderful spring boards to talk about how amazing the gospel is and how we cannot come to God boasting! She seemed deep in thought for a while. After that we began talking about various life issues and became better friends ….and we learned that we were also on the same next flight (from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids) so we walked to our gate together, took turns watching each other’s stuff, shared a pizza… and decided to meet up for coffee sometime in the future since we live close. It was so special to become friends with her.

Although I often would prefer to just keep to myself and read, I try to remember that some of my best witnessing conversations have been on airplanes! And I’m always so excited when I see the Lord arrange those opportunities. Nothing is more fulfilling! As ambassadors of Christ, we are “on duty” every time we are in the presence of another human being – and that is a life full of blessing.

The Thessalonian Example

January 27th, 2015

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When earthly desires and dreams beg for our focus and distract us from “pure devotion to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 7:34) remember that the answer is not to try to somehow minimize earthly desires, but to maximize heavenly ones! I especially love how William MacDonald describes this in the Believers Bible Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – something I was reading yesterday as I’m working on the Will Our Generation Speak Study Guide.

“Notice that they turned to God from idols, not from idols to God. It wasn’t that they had become fed up with their idols and then decided to give God a chance. No, they turned to God and found Him so satisfying that they dropped their idols.

It’s that look that melted Peter,
It’s that face that Stephen saw,
It’s that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
—Ora Rowan

Let us never lose the sense of thrill and awe that is implicit in this account. Two men go into a heathen city with the word of the Lord. They preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit. The miracle of regeneration takes place: men and women become so enraptured with the Savior that they abandon their idols. Next you have a local assembly of believers praising God, living lives of holiness, bravely enduring persecution, and winning others to Christ. Truly the Lord’s service is the prince of callings!”

If any of you are not familiar with William MacDonald’s Believers Bible Commentary, I highly recommend you get one. =) It’s definitely a favorite of ours!

I’d also recommend you reread 1 Thessalonians 1, enjoying the beautiful conversion story of the Thessalonian believers!

Picture from Snoqualmie Falls (Washington)

Girls and Beauty

January 20th, 2015

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As girls, we have a natural drive to do what we can to make ourselves beautiful. This can be pride, but it certainly isn’t always. For example, is it prideful for a bride to do her best to look beautiful on her wedding day? Of course not. It’s not pride—it’s a gift to her husband!

When Peter instructed women in 1 Peter 3, he didn’t say “Now, you wives, stop trying to be beautiful.” No, he simply instructed them to channel their God-given drive to be beautiful correctly. He explained that there is something much, much more beautiful than our outward adorning—it’s a meek and quiet spirit.

But what Peter says next is actually stunning when you think about it. We have the opportunity and privilege to be beautiful in the eyes of God Himself!

“but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:4

This is an amazing gift given to us — and certainly a motivating goal to be driven by (1 John 2:28)! Of course it’s only by God’s power that we can be changed and cleansed from the filthiness we once were to something beautiful in His eyes, as Ephesians 5:25-27 explains,

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

So I believe what Peter is ultimately saying is more like this: “Women, seek to be beautiful in the greater way (your spirit) in the eyes of a greater Person (Jesus Christ Himself!)”

Let’s use our God-given “drive” to be beautiful to remind and motivate us to seek to be beautiful in the eyes of our Heavenly bridegroom. This happens as we let Him “cleanse us by the washing of water with the Word,” as the verse above from Ephesians explains.

One more thought: this topic of beauty doesn’t start in 1 Peter 3, it starts backs in 1 Peter 2:13 when it begins talking about submission in the face of unjust suffering. This is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who submitted to His Father even to the point of death. THAT is the pinnacle of beauty. The more like Him we are, the more beautiful.

“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us … ” Psalm 90:17

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

Eclectic Reports

January 9th, 2015

This past month has been a busy time for us, as I’m sure it has been for most of you!

IMG_3094 Our Christmas began right after Thanksgiving when we took our friend Manish (from Nepal) with us to cut down a tree … which led to an interesting discussion on the way home about the tree of life in the Garden of Eden and what that means. =) Manish was a student at a local college and has become a good friend of our family. Even though he lives in another town now, he’s able to visit often.

IMG_3223 We had an encouraging time Christmas caroling with our Bright Lights group, and this lady told us that our caroling made her whole Christmas season! She said she used to carol as a girl, but she didn’t know anyone did it anymore. Praise the Lord for how He directs to the right houses.

IMG_3435 My mom arranged a little Christmas celebration with Joan, our friend in a nearby nursing home.

IMG_3471 Often when you have an opportunity to talk with someone about the Lord, others are also listening! After my dad read the Christmas account to Joan, we began talking to the lady in the other bed whose name was Jill. She hadn’t heard the story very well, but wanted to. We explained that the main point was that God sent His Son, Jesus, to come to be our Savior! Sarah then went back a few days later to talk to Jill more. She read the Christmas story to her again, and they had a nice talk.

IMG_3505 On Christmas Eve, several international friends joined us along with my grandpa and a few from our church. The paper crosses on our Christmas tree provided an opportunity to explain to our guests the purpose behind them: it’s something that many believers are doing this year to remember to pray for the persecuted church. This led into a good discussion about persecution, and I was reminded of the value of having “objects” in our homes which can be used as springboards into conversations.

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IMG_3550 We all thought Grandpa looked great in his new hat!

IMG_3567 Brad and Lindsay Sturm and their six adorable children joined us (along with Christa and Nickie) for dinner after church a week ago Sunday. It was such an encouragement to hear of the church they started in Mexico which is now filled with young, growing believers … the harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few! Brad also preached the sermon for our church.

I love it when people take a portion of Scripture and present a perspective I hadn’t seen before. Brad did this with the story of the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:14-29. I was really blessed by it and have listened to it twice.

IMG_3593 A family from Mexico (friends of some of our friends there) were visiting Cedar Rapids to stay with some friends of theirs here. These friends of theirs in Cedar Rapids are also friends of ours (haha, this is sounding confusing!) Okay, let me start over. Due to a complicated connection of mutual friends in both Mexico and Iowa, we were invited to dinner to meet this special family. As we got acquainted, we learned that they are part of a Bright Lights group in Mexico! It was so encouraging to hear how they’d been praying for something for the girls in their church and then they found the Bright Lights curriculum. At the same time they read Will Our Generation Speak? in Spanish, not knowing the origin of the book, but shared how God was using it in their lives. We had a wonderful evening of fellowship. Praise the Lord for how He arranges circumstances to meet the needs of His children.

What Are You Thinking About?

January 3rd, 2015

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We remember the things that we think about a lot. Thoughts and events that are often reviewed stick in our memory. Meditating on our own mistakes or achievements usually makes us either discouraged or too self-confident. But look at what the Psalmists say they were thinking about:

“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” Psalm 145:5

“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

“… I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You …” Psalm 143:5-6

These verses were an encouragement to me today. As we reflect on another year gone by, let’s follow their example and contemplate the ways we saw God work last year: Answered prayers. People we saw changed by His power. Special encouragement that the Lord gave us in needed times. God’s direction of our paths. People He used in our lives. And, of course, all that God has done in history before 2014. [smile] (2 Peter 1:9!)

Our thoughts directly affect our emotions and actions, so it is vitally important we think about what Scripture tells us to think about! (Also see Deuteronomy 11:18, Josh 1:8, Psalm 1:2, 119:97 Philippians 4:8, 1 Timothy 4:15.)

The Return of the Dinosaur

December 30th, 2014

IMG_3216 We are so happy to have “our” dinosaur back, on loan from the Creation Museum! The Estemmenosuchus (which we affectionately named Esty) is a wonderful object lesson and conversation starter! Esty returned in time to be a delightful addition for the Peppermint walk. Hopefully he enjoyed all the attention he got, lol.

We overheard one boy asked his mom, “Did they shoot him?” =)

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We have several small signs in front of Esty, teaching what the Bible says about dinosaurs. One of them explains,

“In the last several years a number of dinosaur bones have been found with actual blood cells and soft tissue still within them. It is a puzzle to evolutionary scientists how soft tissue could remain in bones for 70 million years but it is not a puzzle for the creation model…”

IMG_3161 The Peppermint walk is something that downtown Marion organizes for families one night in Christmas. It’s a very festive time.

IMG_3141 This year we rolled up lots of scrolls of the Christmas Story (the account told from various places in Scripture) and passed them out to the long lines in the town square. The families were very appreciative.

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IMG_3177 Lots of families also came into our store. It’s a nice spacious place for them to warm up.

IMG_3183 We are very grateful for the Martin family’s DVDs on God’s incredible creation, which we keep playing throughout the evening.

IMG_3185 Peppermint white hot chocolate, cookies, and various Christmas gospel tracts / pamphlets.

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“Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79


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