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

Dad’s Speaking Ornaments

December 26th, 2014

IMG_3371 My dad had an idea of how we could make better use of the large windows on our bookstore this Christmas season.

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IMG_3128 He came up with a plan and then recruited some help from Hannah and Shelby who help frequently at the Bright Lights office

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IMG_3369 Dad wanted to communicate concepts to make people think!

IMG_3374 Some friends from church let us use their large Nativity set

IMG_3382 Since there is a stoplight at the corner, often cars are slowing down or stopping as they pass our store, giving them more opportunity to see the ornaments. We also have a lot of people who walk by.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” Luke 1:68

Sarah Tells a Christmas Story …

December 21st, 2014

I recorded Sarah telling this children’s Christmas story last year, and I thought it would be a blessing to some of your families. Merry Christmas!

“Don’t Delude Yourself,” he told me

December 20th, 2014

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While at Menards last week, I saw an older gentlemen walk by leisurely with his cart. I gave him a Christmas tract. He seemed appreciative and I noticed he started reading it right away.

Twenty or thirty minutes later, I saw him again near the front of the store. I smiled and made eye contact, hoping he might comment on the tract.

“Hey, where did you get that little booklet?” he asked me.
Yay! Just what I was hoping for!
I explained that I ordered it online, and that I think it’s important for people to remember the basics of what Christmas is about, and what the Bible has to say about it.
“Well, good for you,” he said.

“So do you have a spiritual background?” I asked him.
He said that he went to the Eastern Orthodox church in town.
“What about you? Do you have a spiritual background?” he asked me.
Yay!
I shared a brief version of my testimony… that when I was six I realized for the first time that “even though I was in a Christian family, that didn’t make me a Christian, and I had to trust Jesus to save me… I wanted to go to Heaven and not to Hell…”

“Well, you have to do a lot of bad stuff to go down there!” he exclaimed.

I referenced a few of the Ten Commandments, commenting on the very high standard it is, and told him that just one sin disqualifies us from God’s presence.

But when I explained the gospel, he replied, “Now don’t delude yourself…”

Hmmm. I wonder what he disagreed with? I thought. I had said that I was trusting in Jesus’ death alone and His gift of righteousness to get to Heaven and not my own good works.

Apparently, his view was that everyone was going to Heaven unless you do something “bad enough” to send you to Hell. So we talked for about thirty minutes in the aisle there about God’s justice, Romans 2, the gospel, and why Jesus came. It was a very nice conversation and he told me his name, telling me to call him if I wanted to talk more.

Since my conversation with him, I’ve been thinking about Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Most people on the broad road think they are headed for Heaven, but if they would listen to God’s Word, they would realize that they are not. Most are also open to talking about it. “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:38

Birthday Gift from Stephen

December 18th, 2014

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We celebrated my birthday a few nights ago. A friend commented, “Only a month late? You guys are doing great!” We’re not always real punctual with birthday celebrations around here. =)

Stephen gave me a gift that is already proving to be a big help for the study guide I’m trying to write: noise cancelling headphones! I think my grandpa thought it was very amusing that he had to actually tap on my head yesterday morning to get my attention, lol. Basically all of the technical items in my life have come from Stephen—he has a way of giving me things that I then use ALL the time, and I’m pretty sure these will be no exception!

Birthdays remind me of God’s grace. I began thinking you know, I really don’t get any credit for being born… yet ‘just because it’s my birthday’ I get all this extra love from family and friends. We have done nothing to earn God’s grace and favor — in fact, we’ve done the opposite and earned His punishment. Yet, God is a giver GRACE and we will forever be awed by that.

A few years back I read this journal entry by David Brainerd on his 24th birthday. It certainly wasn’t an “all about him” birthday! The best times are when it’s all about Christ. “This day I am twenty-four years of age … This has been a sweet, happy day to me: blessed be God. I think my soul was never so drawn out in intercession for others. Had a wrestle with the Lord tonight for my enemies, and I hardly ever so longed to live for God; I wanted to wear out my life in His service, and for His glory.” -David Brainerd’s Journal, April 20, 1743

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” Ephesians 2:4

Get GOOD Christmas Tracts!

December 10th, 2014

Some gospel tracts are boring and dry. I don’t even feel like reading them, so why would an unbeliever? The gospel is the most exciting news in the world, and I think it should be shared with enthusiasm and creativity! So when I ran across these fun and tastefully written Christmas tracts, I quickly ordered a bunch for our store. I appreciate their engaging style and their approach of teaching the foundational concepts of the gospel (something our Biblically-illiterate generation really needs!). You can read/purchase them online here if you’d like.

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Christmas provides a very natural opportunity to witness to your dentist, doctor, neighbors, music teachers, local fire station, etc….. We can simply make an “appreciation plate” of cookies, add a Christmasy message (tract) to the top, and drop it off with a warm greeting. I don’t know about you, but this is a great solution for me in reaching people that I want to witness to more than I have.

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Some other recommended Christmas resources:

-The Christmas Story from the Bible Scroll is something my mom especially enjoys giving people at the store. She was just telling me the other day how people receive it very well – it seems special to them. (You can print them off yourself – follow the link to see English and Spanish version.)

-“Uncovering the Real Nativity,” is a booklet from Answers in Genesis that I really enjoy giving. I usually share a quick summary of what it’s about to spark their curiosity. (Read it here if you’d like.)

-“What are Christmas and Easter All About?” teaches the gospel with very clear and simple language and is illustrated beautifully.

-“The Greatest News Ever Told…” is just Scripture–all the way through. When I pass it out, I like to explain, “It’s a big string of Bible verses!” and I have found people to receive it gratefully and with interest.

Who knows? This could be the last Christmas season before Jesus comes back. Let’s give Him ALL our love and energy and pour our efforts into what is on HIS heart–lost souls for whom He died.

” … and you will testify also, because you have been with Me … ” (John 15:27)


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