Our Behind the Scenes Hero

Most people who order from our online store don’t know that almost everything is packed by our 91-year-old grandpa! Not only does he pack orders, he keeps the basement organized, duplicates CDs, meticulously proof-reads for us, picks up mail from our PO box, takes inventory, packs and unpacks for our conferences, and meets many other needs (including remembering to water our plants, since we always forget).

Even more than the practical help Grandpa provides, we appreciate his prayers. Actually, he prays diligently not only for all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but he prays for each individual at our church by name (while keeping up-to-date with the details of their lives). Right now he is also teaching four Bible studies. 🙂 He keeps a pretty busy schedule. I hope that when I am 91 I will be living the same kind of life. Also hoping that one day I will have read through the Bible 40+ times like he has!

I won’t go into detail about the quirky skills he maintains such as quoting the books of the Bible backwards, naming major US cities in order of population, his detailed knowledge of all the presidents and vice presidents, or his tips for remembering the ten plagues in Egypt, but if you know him you can ask him yourself.

Thanks Grandpa for your godly example in our lives!

“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:6-7).

Nine Tips for Christmas Caroling Evangelism

A few nights ago we went out Christmas caroling. The girls in our Bright Lights group LOVE doing this. And the elderly neighbors around our church LOVE it when they come.

Here are a few practical tips if you’d like to arrange an outreach like this in your neighborhood or church neighborhood! You don’t have to do it with a Bright Lights group — you could do it with a church group or group of friends. (Our church is planning to do it on a coming Wednesday night.)

1) Don’t take too large of a group – it takes too long to move from house to house. We split into smaller groups of about 12 each. This way we can also reach more houses.

2) Knock, ring the doorbell and then start singing! If they don’t come to the door after one verse, we usually go on to the next house.

3) Have the carolers bring cookies pre-made on little plates (with about 5 cookies per plate) so that you can leave a little treat at each home. Also give them a Christmas gospel tract or Christmas scoll. Give each girl involvement by letting different girls give the plate of cookies to the home resident each time.

4) After you finish the first song, greet the person who came to the door with a warm “Merry Christmas” and explain who you are and what you are doing. (I usually say, “We are from a girl’s Bible study group that meets at the little church around the corner!”) Then we often ask, “Do you have a favorite Christmas carol you’d like us to sing?” However, this is a little risky. It has led to some embarrassing attempts at singing “Silver Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

5) If they don’t come to the door, instruct the carolers not to announce loudly, “I see a man in there — he’s watching the TV!” because walls are not very sound-proof and we don’t want to be a bad testimony or seem rude.

6) If there is snow on the ground, try not to turn their glistening white front yard into a yard covered with muddy boot prints (i.e. take the sidewalk or street).

7) Instruct your carolers in advance to smile!!

Christmas caroling door to door is kind of a thing of the past. Some elderly people remember doing it when they were young and are shocked and ecstatic when carolers arrive at the door!

8) Sing only the first verse of common Christmas carols. The carols my team sang the most were, “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Joy to the World.”

9) Have one person in your group be the scribe. Take notes of which houses you went to, and which houses were especially grateful. You’ll want to make sure you hit those houses again next year. We have some elderly people around our church who wait for us to come each year, and have been extremely touched.

When you regather inside your warm church (or home) discuss what the Lord did and pray for the people that you reached. Celebrate with hot cocoa and Christmas cookies!

We need more “carolers for the harvest” :). Please leave a comment if you have done this and have additional tips.

Thanksgiving, International Students, and Joyful Noises

Praise the Lord for bringing 20 international students from 13 different countries to our church two nights ago for our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll share a few details of what the evening looked like, in hopes that some reading this might like to plan something similar with your own church!

We all signed up to bring a different part of the Thanksgiving dinner, and we started the meal at 5pm so we’d have time for a program afterward.

Some have wondered how we get the word to international students about the event. We had a connection with a few students and they, in turn, passed on the invite to others.

We seated the internationals at different tables so families could get to know each of them personally (and potentially follow up with them).

My dad did a time of introductions by having each of the students share a little about themselves. They all seemed to enjoy this, and there was quite a bit of laughter.

After introductions we had a casual, family-like program that consisted of special music, congregational singing, sharing words of thankfulness, a short history lesson about the Pilgrims, and a gospel message.

Glory Hallelujah from Grace on Vimeo.

We think our kids are pretty great; I can’t imagine how boring our church would be without them. 🙂 They did a great job singing Psalm 100.

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:1-4).

The teens reading Scripture verses on thankfulness.

Some students are talkative and eager to discuss their culture and religion.

“We believe that Jesus was just a prophet,” one Muslim student told my dad.

“We also believe that the Messiah was a prophet, but we believe He was more than a prophet,” my dad said. “Actually, Islam is closer to Christianity than almost all of the other religions,” my dad continued. “We both believe in one Creator God, both have roots in Abraham, and we both believe that all men have sinned. One of the main differences between Islam and Christianity is that we have a different cure for sin.

“We believe that earth is a test, and we each need to pass God’s test,” the student said.

“Yes, earth is a test,” my dad said, “But the Bible says that we have all sinned, and that we have all failed God’s test. In fact, we CAN’T pass God’s test. This puts us in a huge predicament–a problem that only God can solve for us. That was the job of the Messiah. So the question is, what makes the Messiah unique and therefore able to help us? What’s so special about the Messiah? What are His credentials that qualifies Him above other prophets?

The students in the van seemed to agree that this was a good question. We hope and pray for more interaction with them!

We have seen that each year, the connections we make with international students leads to more opportunities with them. With nearly a million international students now studying in the US, we have a wonderful opportunity to touch the world from home … and incorporating them into homes, and church-family settings is one of the best ways to do that.

We praise God for a great night. And I’m a little surprised that more feathers and napkins didn’t drop onto people’s heads from the balcony this year. 😛

“Billboard for Jesus”

Two years ago today, Nickie’s dad, Todd Biegler, went to be with Jesus. What a difficult two years this has been for their family! He is so missed. The Bieglers continue to be a blessing to the whole community in so many ways as they faithfully serve others.

When Nickie’s mom (Deb) was getting John 14:6 engraved on the tombstone, the man doing the engraving made a comment like, “So basically you want a billboard for Jesus?”
He got that right! 🙂

They got permission for the stone to be put backwards so that the Bible verse could face the bike trail. This is a heavily-traveled bike trail, and the verse is very readable from the trail. My family takes the trail all the time because it connects to our neighborhood, and it’s such a delight to see the verse there. Maybe you all could join me in praying for those who see it—that the Holy Spirit would use it to turn the eyes of their heart to Jesus, our hope.

Special note: On the “Biegler” side of the rock, at the bottom, is the chorus of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This was a theme song throughout Todd’s four years of sickness, even to the very end as their family was singing hymns around his bedside.

Special note 2: In the first picture, the rock that is behind Todd’s tombstone to the right says “Rodgers,” and that is where my grandma is buried. ❤️

A Surprise Prickly Package

Guess what arrived in a little box at the Bright Lights office today?

Our own adorable baby cactus from Arizona, with a sweet letter from one of the girls who attended our conference there (Madison Graham), saying, “Since you didn’t get to go sight seeing we decided to send you a cactus.”

Awwwww!

I had posted a picture standing next to a cactus in the church parking lot in Arizona last October, mentioning how fascinating I thought the cactuses were. 🙂 I never expected that I would be getting my very own baby cactus from Arizona in the mail!

The package included a cute little dish, potting soil, the cactus, rocks, and even a little Arizona sign. Now we have a visual reminder in the Bright Lights office to pray for all of our special friends in Arizona.

It is the perfect plant for the Bright Lights office because our other ones are dying because we always forget to water them!

Loading up a 70 inch TV at Answers in Genesis

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Today we had the interesting experience of having seven men from the IT department at Answers in Genesis help load a very heavy 70 inch flat screen TV into the back of our van. Early tomorrow we head to Washington DC to help with the gospel booth that Answers in Genesis will be running at the NEA convention. The TV will be used for showing drone footage from the Ark Encounter. Please pray that it will cause many public school teachers stop by our gospel booth on July 2nd and 3rd to hear how Jesus is our Ark of salvation and He rescues us from coming judgment.

Example of drone footage of Ark Encounter:

200 Young People. 26 Below.

This report is about 2 months late, but I figured better late then never.

IMG_9320 Almost 200 young people joined together for the first Midwest 26 Below Retreat: a missions focused retreat for young people. Sarah and I were thrilled that about 26 of our friends from the Cedar Rapids area came along with us.

IMG_9336 Sunrise Saturday morning

Nate Bramsen spoke on “Counteracting Counterfeit Christianity.” I’d say Luke 9:23 sums up the whole weekend pretty well: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY and follow Me.” As Nate often emphasizes, taking up a cross isn’t something that happens to you; it’s something you choose. It’s not comfortable. It’s not popular. It’s not normal. But it’s the way to walk closely with JESUS – and nothing in this world compares to that.

Those who follow Jesus radically are not the ones truly sacrificing – they are gaining the greatest Treasure imaginable. It’s those who forfeit a close walk with Jesus for the love of this world who are the ones making the great sacrifice.

IMG_9264 In this session, Nate had everyone out of their seats participating in a group activity that illustrates how quickly evangelism can happen when people are discipling others as Jesus commanded. Many of my friends told me this session on evangelism and discipleship was their favorite. Messages available to listen to online here. (Scroll down to the bottom of page.)

IMG_9232 Brady Collier, sharing with my friends about the Bible study he and his family do with international students.

IMG_9305 Missionary Panel (Missionaries answering questions and sharing from their experiences)

In this photo, Joel Hernandez (former missionary in Mexico) is sharing about the importance of reaching out to Hispanics here in the states. Countless Mexicans bring the gospel back to their home villages because someone in the States shared it with them while they were here. Many of these villages have no other way to hear the gospel.

One of the reasons I wanted to post about this retreat was because it is a reminder of the way God is raising up young people with a heart to serve Him. So often, we hear bad reports. We hear news of sin, rebellion, and young people leaving the church. But God is working, answering prayers, and raising up “warriors” for His kingdom … warriors for truth who have a heart to know Him and bring His love and light to this confused and hurting world.

I’ve been reading Jeremiah recently and I especially appreciated Jeremiah 24:7 which says, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” I thought, What a good prayer to pray for others. That God would “give them a heart to know Him.”

May that be the passion of each of our hearts: to know Him.

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).

Sarah in Washington State

WA 1 Last weekend Sarah flew to Washington state to speak for a girls’ weekend camp. I wasn’t there, but thanks to Melodie Kirk (on Sarah’s right), I still have pictures to post to share about the special weekend.

Since I wasn’t there to kill the spiders in her cabin like she usually has me do, she had to kill all 5 of them herself. But she said they stood still and let her kill them, so she was grateful for their compliance.

Washington 3 We’re grateful for Kimbrlee, the 18-year-old Bright Lights leader who hosted the camp. Sarah said she did a wonderful job, and it sounds like the Lord really blessed … even more than anyone expected!

Washington 4
The theme was “Speaking the Truth In Your Heart.” Here were the topics Sarah covered over the weekend:

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly
Learn to discern lies of the world that are not consistent with Scripture, to delight in God’s Word, and to build every area of your life upon it!

Speaking Truth about God
Choose to reject the lies which girls often believe about God and to trust in Him fully. Grow deeper in your personal walk with Jesus Christ by getting to know His character.

Speaking Truth about Self
Take your eyes off yourself and put them on Jesus! Understanding who we are in Christ is the key to security and joy.

Speaking Truth about Emotions
Learn the dangers we as girls face in the area of emotions, and how to use your emotions to glorify the Lord.

Speaking Truth about Sin
Understand that the answers to dealing with guilt, regrets, and temptations are found in God’s Word. Only in Jesus will we find forgiveness, and gain power over sin and strength to walk in victory!

Speaking Truth about Purity
Choose to honor the Lord in your relationships with young men, to wait for God’s best in marriage, to walk by faith, and to use your single years for Christ.

Speaking Truth about Witnessing
Overcome common excuses and fears, and gain practical ideas about how to be a bold witness for Christ!

Washington 2 There were four small group discussion that met four times.

IMG_0643 There was also some free time for hiking, Frisbee, games, mother/daughter time, etc.

Today Sarah received an e-mail from a camp attendee with these words: “… We had a wonderful seven hour discussion on the drive home. 🙂 [My sister] and I were just talking today and saying how what Jesus did there is indescribable in a way… partly because we’re still processing everything, but it was just so good. We were trying to figure out how to describe it to people who asked us about it. We decided that one way we could say it was getting plunged into Truth, and soaking all weekend. :)”

Of course, that wasn’t Sarah–that was the WORD OF GOD bringing comfort and encouragement to their lives. Praise God for the Truth that sets us free!

If you are interested in hosting a “Speaking Truth in Your Heart” camp or weekend in your area, contact us for more information.

IMG_9817 Nickie put together a 31-page booklet that includes an outline of Sarah’s sessions.

IMG_9811 It includes the content of her Power Points (common lies girls believe, and Scriptures which refute them) as well as extra little Biblical studies.

IMG_9815 Lies have consequences! Often when we get to the root of our struggle, we see that we are telling ourselves something that is not true about God’s character. That’s what this little activity Nickie created is about. (She actually created it and some others like it for Sarah’s latest book-in-process on this subject. This is just a little preview. 🙂 )

New St Patrick Gospel Tracts Available

This year we printed our St Patrick’s Gospel Tract in bulk in order to make them available for others to distribute also.

IMG_9405 Shelby (who volunteers weekly for Bright Lights) is busy folding, counting, and preparing the tracts to ship out.

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You can order 50 for $4 from our online store here. There are also options on our online store for larger quantities, folded or unfolded.

Are there are some people in your life that you want to share the gospel with but you aren’t sure how? I’d recommend using this tool as a starting place. Just this morning, I gave one of these to our mail man and the man who empties our dumpster. I’m so grateful for how a holiday provides a wonderfully natural way to witness… people are receptive, thankful, and curious.