Vessels of Honor Conference

Last weekend four friends and I drove down to the “Vessels of Honor” conference, held at a college in the Kansas City area. It was humbling and encouraging. I gleaned a lot. And as I look through my notes, I am still gleaning. 🙂

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I received much rain, both physically and spiritually. 🙂 The physical rain was because I forgot an umbrella. The spiritual “rain,” the rich teaching, was the preferable part, but getting wet was kind of fun too.

11270520_10153028400383318_1606222366252370415_o Scott DeGroff taught about being mighty warriors for the Lord today and walking in victory. Sometimes we have a pessimistic attitude, thinking that a struggle we’re having will just linger on and on. But if we belong to Christ, we don’t ever have to live like slaves to various struggles or sins, because Jesus powerfully frees us from sin’s grip. We need to “wake up” (Romans 13:11) and ask Him, trusting Him for the victory. We must be delivered from living a wasted life that we’ll be ashamed of at the judgement seat of Christ.

IMG_5585 Mr. Attwood talked about seeking after a more intimate walk with Christ. The more we fall in love with our Savior, the more things that used to captivate us lose our interest … because of the explosive power of a new affection. The closer we get to the Light, the more corrupt we see ourselves … but this makes us love Him more as we experience His forgiveness and grace.

There is always a danger in becoming so busy, even with “ministry,” that we don’t spend quality time in the presence of the Lord, worshiping Him, studying Him, enjoying close fellowship with Him. Yet, it’s these times that change us most and enable us to encourage others most!

IMG_5562 Scott DeGroff and Mike Attwood, answering questions

When speakers are willing to spend much time with the attendees, it demonstrates how much they care. And that says a lot.

In between the 12+ hours of Bible teaching, we had some free time for extra activities. I love being with people who love to talk about the Lord, and that was the atmosphere of this event. It was a mature group of youth and young married couples (who don’t want to quit coming 🙂 ).

IMG_5550 One of the guys attending (Chris) initiated a door to door witnessing outreach in the nearby neighborhood. A group of about 20 joined him, and some exciting things happened.

11141787_10153028449898318_5692873668064859635_o Much of the teaching was in break out sessions. I really enjoyed Mr. Attwood’s (left) breakout sessions on rightly dividing the word of truth. He spoke of all the problems that have arisen because Christians have failed to distinguish between the church and Israel. It was an excellent session. I also enjoyed Lynn DeGroff’s session on discernment, especially in popular Christian literature being published today.

11313083_10153028323913318_5308071870858695107_o The singing in the main sessions were nice, but many wanted to keep singing more …

IMG_5565 … so an attendee (Danny) coordinated a hymn sing one evening. It was beautiful!

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IMG_5581 Abby and Guy

Many of you know Abby through Bright Lights conferences over the years. In this picture she and her husband Guy are singing “Complete in Thee.” It was a sweet conclusion during the last session of the conference.

“…in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete … ” (Colossians 1:9-10)

May we run after the Lord Jesus in hot pursuit, confident that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)!

‘Radical’ by David Platt, Free Audio Download

I recently started listening to David Platt’s book, Radical. I’ve appreciated the challenging and encouraging points he makes, and I like how it’s read by the author.

Some people I highly respect have recommended this book, so it’s been on my “reading list” for a long time. I prefer audio, so finally I borrowed the CDs from a friend. But today I noticed that Christian audio was giving away the book free: see here. I’d really recommend you download this and listen to it — even if you’ve already read the book. =) The offer is only available for a few days.

Also, I posted a bit about a “book review” of Radical that Stephen shared with our Bright Lights leaders on a conference trip here.

(Note: I have been so grateful for the ipod my brother gave me a few years ago because of how much I have enjoyed listening to audio books/sermons the past few years… I strap it to my arm and have found it’s a wonderful way to maximize time when I’m cooking, cleaning, exercising, organizing, etc. A few minutes here and there really add up to a lot of time!)

Thoughts of St Patrick

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Christ be beside me; Christ be before me;
Christ be behind me, King of my heart.
Christ be within me; Christ be below me;
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife.
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, Light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;
Christ be on all tongues telling of me.
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;
in ears that hear me Christ ever be.

This beautiful song, “Christ Be Beside Me,” was taken from some writings attributed to St Patrick.

Praise God that He took hold of a rebellious young man 1,600 years ago and used him to make such an impact that the world still celebrates him today–though they don’t know why.

Although we don’t have a lot of information from Patrick’s life, we have two letters that he wrote. They sound a lot like Paul.

As the world remembers Patrick, may our thoughts be consumed with Christ–as Patrick’s thoughts were.

“ … the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.” – St. Patrick, missionary to Ireland

“26 Below” CMML Youth Conference

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”)

The Thessalonian Example

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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

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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

What Are You Thinking About?

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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 Answer to Why is Who

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We showed this 24-minute testimony at our last Bright Lights meeting. I believe it was the third or fourth time I have seen it in the past month, and I love it each time–especially the end.

Look up Naghmeh Abedini on Facebook or Twitter for more information on how to pray and support her!

Love is Always Tried

Sarah texted me this quote, and it really enocouraged me!

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“Hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give … the morning star.” Revelation 2:25-28

“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2

Sheep and Grapes

20141013_110709_30280 Isn’t this a beautiful place to live?! We visited our friends, the Kirks, after the Missions Fest in Seattle. They raise sheep, grow grapes (among other things), and have a beautiful horizon of mountains. Talk about a rich place for spiritual analogies!

They told us that it’s a misconception that sheep are dumb. They said sheep are just stubborn and slow to trust that you are actually trying to help them and that you know what’s best for them. (Hmmm … that sounds familiar!)

They also emphasized that sheep cannot bear being alone.

Anna and Melody Kirk also lead a Bright Lights group in Washington and have been to Cedar Rapids a few times to help with the Bright Lights ministry. One time, while with us in Iowa, they showed us pictures of their little lambs and told us their names. My mom asked them, “How do you tell them all apart?!” Melodie laughed and said, “By their faces!” It reminds me of how the Lord knows each of us so individually…

20141013_111714_30300 …with all our unique quirks and personalities, =) and He is so patient with us!

20141014_125005_30376 Early one morning, I walked over to their grapevine, and noticed something I had never thought about before regarding grapes: the fruit is somewhat hidden.

20141013_112802_30324 It’s not displayed loudly for all to see, such as apples.

20141014_131652_30383 Although the fruit is incredibly beautiful, it’s quiet and hidden, so to speak.

20141014_125012_30378 It was a reminder to me that our focus should be on bearing fruit on the inside, in the heart, where our Heavenly Father is looking.

The Lord does intend for our fruit to be seen that HE may be glorified (Matthew 5:16, John 15:8) but it’s His job to make it visible. It’s our job to abide.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before me to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

20141015_104647_30472 On a different note, have you ever had grape sized kiwis? They are amazing–sooo sweet and delicious. The Kirks also grow these.

20141013_151110_30343 Lunch at the beach. Thank you, Kirks, for the wonderful time we had with you.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15:8