A Cool Guy Preaches On Haggai

Last week my brother Stephen preached at our church on Haggai. I’m glad that he rehearsed his message with me and Sarah the day before because that was a lot of content to process (and he talks fast!).

If you’ve been wondering about the significance of Zerubbabel being a ‘signet ring,’ the chronological order of the minor prophets, why the dates of Haggai’s four prophecies are important, the difference between Darius I (the Great) and Darius the Mede, or practical lessons we can take away from the book of Haggai, this sermon is for you!

Stephen ended with three questions:

“Is there someone who I could ‘spur on’ to good works by words of encouragement?”
“In what ways should I be more diligent in what God has told me to do?”
“If I remember that the Lord Himself is with me, how will that affect my perspective each day?”

Waiters, Insects, and Gospel Tracts …

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Yesterday afternoon Sarah and I went out to eat for her birthday.

Our waiter was very friendly.

After we paid, as our server was about to walk away, I said, “Oh, wait—we have something for you.”

He came back and I handed him a “Good Person Comic”. I try to give waiters gospel tracts in person now rather than just leaving it on the table. It’s more personal and it often opens a door for conversation.

He stood there for a second looking at it and muttered something…. which I can’t remember. It wasn’t exactly unfriendly, but it prompted me to ask, “Do you get many of those in here?”

“Oh yeah—all the time,” he said.

“Really? So can I just ask you something—do you notice a difference in how much people tip when they give these out?”

“Yeah, it’s lower.”

“Really?” we asked.

“Do you think people think of the tract as part of the tip?!” Sarah asked.

“Yeah, it seems like they do,” he affirmed.

“That’s really sad.”

“You know the coolest one of those we’ve seen?” he lit up and laughed, “There were these cards with insects on the front. They were like baseball cards, but with insects! That was so cool,” he said.

We nodded and smiled, wondering if those were from us. Later that day, Sarah remembered being at that same restaurant with my grandparents a few weeks previously and leaving several insect animal card tracts. So we were glad to hear they were well received. (They almost always are. If you’re interested, see these “Creation Cards” [smile])

Our waiter also shared a story with us of his conversation with some people who were pushy about their beliefs and aggravated him.

“Well, different people have different motives,” we mentioned.

He agreed.

“For us,” we said, “we pass these out everywhere—and it’s not because we are trying to get people to our church or anything — it’s just because we believe it’s the truth. And for us, if we didn’t share it, it would be kind of like knowing the cure for cancer and not saying anything.”

“Yeah, that’s a good perspective to have,” he said.

Our waiter yesterday was not the only one who has told me that “people who leave tracts tip less.” I remember one waitress who told me she dislikes Sunday afternoons because of all the stingy Christians. And I’ve heard similar reports from other sources as well. Of course, it isn’t true across the board, and I’m sure servers who are already antagonistic towards Christianity are extra sensitive to this and may exaggerate the statistics they share. But whatever the case may be, if we are going to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), we must be generous!

Please do not read this and be discouraged about giving tracts to servers! Just remember to tip well with your tract.

Here are a few other suggestions:
1) Try to get to know your waiter/waitress. If we are friendly and enjoyable to serve, it lays a great foundation for then sharing about the Lord.
2) Try handing them a tract in person instead of leaving it on the table. Even better, give them something bigger like a DVD or book.
3) Pray for them even before you arrive at the restaurant.

I had prayed yesterday morning that we would be able to witness to our waiter at lunch. Although the talk with him wasn’t what I was expecting, I think it was beneficial. I think the gentle explanation with the tract was what that guy needed at that time.

A Few Thoughts from Paul’s Prison Epistles

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As I posted a few weeks ago, in the beginning of January, I spent 3 and 1/2 days in northern Minnesota with about 40 other young people studying Paul’s prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Though we should read the Bible daily, it is a valuable thing to we immerse ourselves for a lengthy period of time in the Word. When we focus on studying the Word with others for a period of time, looking from many perspectives and discussing questions and insights, not only does it make an impact on our lives, it also makes for great fellowship! Below are a few brief thoughts from that time.

• After spending over three days studying these books I felt like I moved backwards not forwards in my understanding of them! I love that. They are inexhaustible, and that’s the beautiful thing about studying God’s Word.

• It’s notable that Paul’s “prison epistles”—the letters he wrote while he was in undesirable physical conditions – are some of the most joy-filled and uplifting sections in all of Scripture.

• “Leftover grace.” This term was used as we were studying Ephesians 2. Praise God that He has way more grace than just the grace needed to save us! And this grace He will continue to give us forever! “…in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)

• Ephesians 4:15-16 – We are being fitted together with the brothers and sisters around us not just for now, but for eternity! Colossians 2 also speaks about how we are being knit together in love. Our love for each other, and our ever tightening relationships in the body of Christ is setting the stage for beautiful things ahead. Things are just beginning.

• One benefit of studying several New Testament books in a close time-proximity, is that the repetitious parts stand out. We are reminded that some commands God repeats frequently—and it’s important to take those commands seriously! The instruction to “give thanks” is a superb example of that.

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication …” (Phil 4:5-6) The girl sitting next to me turned and pointed out that we often connect the phrase “The Lord is near” with the previous verse, and do not notice that it’s an important introduction to the following verse. Because the Lord is near we do not need to be anxious.

• Just as Paul was interceding for Onesimus, so Christ intercedes for us. I suggest that you re-read the little book of Philemon and look for pictures of Christ interceding for us. Notice the phrases such as “Lay it to my account” (Philemon 1:18) and “Receive him as you would receive me” (Philemon 1:17).

• I love how encouraging Paul is as he exhorts. When there is a “don’t,” he gives a “do.” It is so important in discipleship not to simply tell people to refrain from the wrong thing but to help them wholeheartedly embrace the right thing. If you’ve never noticed this theme in Ephesians 4 especially, I highly recommend you read it with this perspective.

Goodbye Dinosaur! :(

20110516_144445_7447 For over two years we have had this um … cute little dinosaur in our bookstore.

20110516_145050_7449 He made a great display, and, side by side with our model Noah’s Ark, we felt like we owned a mini-Creation Museum, right in our own bookstore! Well, not exactly. But anyway, our personal little museum is now down to only one piece, because it was time to return the dino to the Creation Museum.

Though we were sad to see our dinosaur leave, it did provide a nice excuse to make another trip to the the Creation Museum!

“If we’re going, I think we should bring a group!” my dad said.

The Lord pulled together a group to come with us in a sort of miraculous way (through my dad “randomly” bumping into a friend at the store!) and we had a terrific trip.

20121228_163306_19488 Most of the group sat in front of the dinosaur …

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…and Nolia and I had a unique experience with the dinosaur in the back. It was a bit tight, but we had fun. (Right Nolia? [smile])

20121228_190028_20292 This is just a tiny fraction of one of the pathways. The whole Museum grounds were lit beautifully (as it is every December). For more pictures see here.

20121228_192245_19492 The best part of Christmastown was how the gospel saturated the presentations, especially the presentation by the “archaeologists”, as pictured here. Thousands of unbelievers from the community come to see Christmastown at the Creation Museum and then hear the gospel.

I was volunteering nearby as a greeter, so I got to hear the message about twelve times [smile], which was fun, esp. since both of the archaeologists were friends from the times we have helped with the NEA outreach.

After one of the presentations, my friend Grace Ramsek and I began talking with two girls who didn’t have a good grasp on the gospel. Their youth pastor observed our conversation and expressed how much he appreciated that we talked with them. He explained that many of the girls from his inner-city youth group were there at Christmastown that night.
“I pray for them so much,” he explained, expressing that they had a lot of needs.

I offered to talk with the rest of his group, and this evolved into a little gospel sharing time with about ten of them which lasted, maybe, 30 minutes. We praised the Lord for allowing this opportunity. (We were praying that he would provide someone to witness to!) And we pray that the Lord continues to work in their lives.

20121228_220537_19496 The Ramsek family was very hospitable to host all ten of us! Here we are in the middle of a great discussion, sharing ministry reports and talking about evangelism and many other topics.

20121229_083348_19504 The adventures of traveling down a steep snowy driveway with a big van.

20121229_132847_19511 The Creation Museum has a fantastic new display about “Lucy”. They created a model of what Lucy likely looked like.

20121229_133124_19518 Underneath the display are many pictures that people have drawn of what they think Lucy looked like, based on their imagination. They make her look somewhat human by drawing white around her eyeballs (something no apes actually have) and giving her human shape and expressions … but it’s really all a big hoax. Lucy was just an ape.

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So if you haven’t been to the Creation Museum yet, you must go … and if you haven’t been to the Creation Museum for Christmas Town yet, I highly recommend putting it in your schedule for next December!

Tract Organization Process :)

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Today I have been organizing several boxes of tracts and I have been thinking about how grateful I am for all the young people God has raised up to get them out … into the hands of a world that really needs them! A while back, we started putting “witnessing packets” together for our book table at Bright Lights conferences, and I have been very pleased with how popular the packets have been! (They are a combination of sample tracts and materials to get people started in witnessing.) Also, local young people have distributed a lot of tracts at the University of Iowa over the fall months … so we have been making many purchases from Living Waters! [smile] Yay! But it’s encouraging to remember that now, not just in Iowa, but in all the cities and countries we have been to recently, young people are excited about witnessing and gospel tracts.

Soon I will be posting a few things about what I learned at the Bible retreat, about our recent trip to the Creation Museum to return a dinosaur, and a few more highlights from our overseas trip!

Story Book Lodge Christian Camp

I am currently in northern Minnesota at Story Book Lodge for a camp with about 40 other young people for 3 ½ days of Bible study. We are going through Paul’s prison epistles expository style, doing about one chapter per session. It’s been wonderful! The sessions are led by a father or one of the older young men here, with discussion following. Personal Bibles study is great, but there are special blessings that come when you are studying Scripture with a whole group of people who love the Lord. Yesterday we did Ephesians, and tonight we finished Philippians and started Colossians. Hopefully later I will post some of the things I’ve been learning.

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Here Dan (my cousin Priscilla’s husband) is teaching through Colossians chapter one. He brought out a lot of great points I hadn’t thought of before – it was a great session.

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Playing broom ball on the lake this afternoon—so much fun.

I Shall Be Like Thy Son

And is it so I shall be like Thy Son? Is this the grace which He for me has won? Father of glory, thought beyond all thought—In glory to His own blest likeness brought!

Oh Jesus Lord who loved me like to Thee? Fruit of Thy work, with Thee, too, there to see
Thy glory, Lord, while endless ages roll, myself the prize and travail of Thy soul.

Yet it must be Thy love had not its rest were Thy redeemed not with Thee fully blest. That love that gives not as the world, but shares all it possesses with its loved coheirs.

Nor I alone, Thy loved ones all complete In glory round Thee there with joy shall meet –All like Thee, for Thy glory like Thee, Lord, Object supreme of all, by all adored.

J.N. Darby 1800-1882