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.

“Facing A Task Unfinished,” and using St Patrick’s Day!

I am so excited about the “Global Hymn Sing” that Keith and Kristyn Getty are organizing for this Sunday. Partly, because I really love the message of this song! If you haven’t heard about this yet, the Gettys are inviting thousands of churches around the globe to sing the new hymn “Facing a Task Unfinished” together on Sunday, February 21st, 2016. Learn more here.

The command to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), begins whatever side of the globe we are currently on! A great place to start is to coordinate a group of friends to pass out gospel tracts on St Patrick’s day–a month from today.

We are revising our St Patrick’s gospel tract this year to have them printed in bulk. They’ll be available for order in about two weeks. Nickie is working on it right now as I type…

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May our hearts’ prayer be the same as the song below, “Saviour, whose love constrained them, to toil with zeal untired, from cowardice defend us, from lethargy awake! Forth on Thine errands send us, To labour for Thy sake.”

… We bear the torch that flaming fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming that Jesus died and rose
Ours is the same commission, the same glad message ours
Fired by the same ambition, to Thee we yield our powers

O Father who sustained them, O Spirit who inspired
Saviour, whose love constrained them, To toil with zeal untired
From cowardice defend us, from lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us, To labour for Thy sake …

We go to all the world, His kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save, But Jesus Christ The Lord.

Original Words by Frank Houghton. Original Music by Samuel Wesley. New Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Ed Cash, and Fionan de Barra; © 2015 OMF International, Getty Music Publishing (BMI), Alletrop Music (BMI), and Fionan de Barra (all admin. By MusicServices.org)

See here for all lyrics.

Haley Experiences Iowa Cold

We are so grateful to Haley for the countless ways she has been a support and blessing to the Bright Lights ministry for the past 7 years.

IMG_9025 She normally volunteers from her home in Texas (For example, one of her recent projects was the Simplified Bright Lights Songbook), but we were delighted that she was able to spend about 10 days with us in Iowa at the beginning of January.

IMG_9021 The only problem was that it was a little colder here than she expected. I’m not sure she ever acclimated. 🙁

Here were her remarks after we went sledding in 3 degree F weather. (Her idea, by the way. 🙂 )

We love you, Haley. Thank you for everything! (And sorry you missed our weather here yesterday, it was -9.)

Announcing: Midwest 26 Below Retreat

MW 26 below flyer

I have high expectations for how the Lord will work at this youth retreat coming to Iowa next month! This retreat has been running on the East Coast for almost two decades, and last year I had the joy of being a part of it. (I blogged about it here.) I was so excited to hear that the first “26 Below” was being held in the Midwest.

I would highly recommend that you look into coming if you are below 26 years of age. (And if you are a few years older, you’re still welcome.)

It will be held at Hidden Acres in Dayton Iowa (an hour north of Des Moines). See more details here. If you live in the Cedar Rapids area and would like to ride with us, we’ll probably be bringing a van or two.

The speaker will be Nate Bramsen, missionary to Niger. See him sharing some thoughts after persecution hit his village in Niger last year:

Sixty Years Ago Today!

What a significant event happened sixty years ago today! After we watched this video, my grandpa began sharing stories about Jim Elliot. He and Jim led a youth group together at Lombard Gospel Chapel, and Jim was in my grandparents’ wedding. I have appreciated hearing stories from them, both serious and funny, about how Jim was the “real deal” – with a huge heart for God and people…even walking in between stopped cars at traffic lights to pass out gospel tracts 🙂