Austin

Recently some friends and I went to a local college to share the gospel with students who were walking around outside. We were pleasantly surprised how friendly and open to discussion the students were!

If you’d like, you can listen in on a conversation our friend Brad had with a student name Austin. I edited it down because it was a pretty long conversation. Please pray that Austin will place his faith in Christ! We left him with a Begin book, which I highly recommend giving to unbelievers.

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Often we think that people will be uninterested, when that is simply not true! The people we talked with at the college truly appreciated the conversations about spiritual things and were grateful that we stopped them to talk. I only wish we could have talked to all 17,000+ students … [smile] (I.e. we need to pray for more laborers unto the harvest!!!)

What Has Jesus Done?

20130223_135647_20471 Last Saturday, Sarah and I helped with a youth conference at Bethany Bible Chapel, about an hour away. We had a great time. We did a girls’ track on witnessing, and they recorded it and gave us the CD. If anyone is interested, you can listen to the session here. But we will only be leaving it up for about a month, so download it now if you want it.

20130223_154719_20475 It was nice to have some free time to get to know people in the afternoon.

The theme of the conference “What Has Jesus Done?” with WHJD bracelets (instead of the WWJD message and bracelets). The funny thing was that Sarah and I had to explain what the “WWJD movement” was to the 14-yr-olds at our table because they hadn’t even heard of it. Wow, was that craze that long ago?!

Anyway, I like the “What Has Jesus Done?” slogan better. [smile] The emphasis of the conference was on what Jesus DID for us – the gospel message – and how the power of the gospel is what transforms us every day.

“For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).

1 Peter Weekend

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Last weekend a group of friends joined us for a concentrated time of studying 1 and 2 Peter. Though it was our first time to plan something quite like this, I don’t think it will be our last! It was such a rich weekend, and when we finished we were more in awe of those books than we have ever been before.

Lilly texted Sarah afterward stating, “I benefited from the retreat sooooo much. If I could, I would like to study the Bible with believers all day, every day, forever =)”

Augusta asked me, “You are going to keep doing this at least every three months, right?”

Maybe some of you would like to do something similar in your area! Here’s what we did: We designated specific chapters to different people to study in advance in order to lead a discussion on that chapter. We also encouraged everyone to spend time in both books before they came.

This is how our schedule played out:

Friday:
6:00 Soup dinner together
7:30–9:30 1 Peter 1, singing and prayer

Saturday:
9:15 1 Peter 2
10:45 1 Peter 3:1-12
Lunch
1:00 1 Peter 3:12 – 1 Peter 4:9
3:00 Ice skating, and time for one-on-one conversations
6:00 Chick-fil-A
7:30 1 Peter 4:10 – 1 Peter 5:19

Sunday
1:00-2:30 Prayer time and brief look at 2 Peter (1 Peter took longer than originally planned [smile])

A few gleanings from our time together:

Intro: 1 Peter was written close to the time of the great fire in Rome (AD 64). The citizens of Rome blamed Nero for setting the city on fire, so Nero blamed the Christians. This ignited great persecution across the Roman empire. So we see that God’s encouragement to the church through Peter’s words on suffering were greatly needed at this time. This is a reminder to us that the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls will strengthen us through suffering.

1 Peter 1:4-5 “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time .”

God is keeping our inheritance for us and keeping us for our inheritance!

1:8 “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice … ”

Notice this is not a command — this is a statement. You love Him! Likely, Peter doubted his own love for Christ after he denied Him, but Jesus restored Peter and gave him public opportunity to state and then demonstrate his love.

1:6 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”

Our trials may seem very long to us as we are going through them, but they are actually very short!

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1:18-19 “…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

Though we were rebellious and filthy in our sins, the Lord placed the highest price-tag imaginable on us – and then He bought us! Our salvation is free to us, but it cost God terribly. Being redeemed at the highest possible cost makes our redemption secure. (No one can out-buy God!) It also shows us how bad our sin was – that Jesus had to pay such a high price to redeem us.

2:12 “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Lilly pointed out that our goal is not to keep our behavior excellent so that our accusers will realize one day that we were innocent after all. No, the goal stated here is that they may glorify GOD!

2:21 “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”

The word example here is referring to something like tracing paper that children would use when learning to write the alphabet. Peter’s first and last personal command from Jesus was to FOLLOW ME (Mt 4:19, John 21:22). That’s why Peter was such a great leader — He had learned to follow. In this book, Peter points to Jesus’ example in a number of areas, especially the areas of suffering and shepherding. He also points to Jesus as the stone both in 1 Peter 2 and Acts 5. This is significant since Jesus named him Peter which means rock.

2:10-11 “…for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Peter is quoting from Hosea 1 which brings a deeper meaning to these statements.

2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

I think we girls especially have a desire to feel safe and cared for. Knowing that the Lord is both our Shepherd and Guardian, brings ultimate security and rest!

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4:7 “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”

When have a correct perspective of the nearness of the end, we are more purposeful in our lives and priorities, and pray with more concentration and fervency.

4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

Don’t you love how Peter adds those two words to the end of this command knowing our natural human tendencies?! Philippians 2:14-15 emphasizes the same command (no grumbling) if we want to be lights in this world.

4:10-11 “…each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another … so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

Nickie pointed out that God has given us each gifts, and we can rejoice not in the fact that we have extra ability to do something well, but in that we have extra ability to glorify God through this ability He has given us. (THAT is a gift to us!)

The Yellow Soap Dish

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I just returned from a ministry conference at Emmaus Bible College. I was there with a table representing Bright Lights. It was very encouraging to rub shoulders with some neat ministries and missionaries.

I had the privilege of hearing David Croudace speak (pictured above). He has been a missionary to Africa for the past 50 years, and he and his wife will be returning to Africa soon, although he is 80 years old. His wife told me, “It would be more comfortable to stay here but there is work to do there.” It reminds me of a quote I heard once about how God’s people don’t retire, they refire!

Mr. Croudace explained about God’s faithfulness through the years. He recalled this story from their early days of ministry:

One day his wife thought You know, it would be really nice if I had soap dish. So she prayed, “Lord, please send me a soap dish. And it would be great if it was yellow to match in this room.”

Guess what arrived in a package shortly after her prayer? A yellow soap dish.

This was an encouragement to them to continue to make their needs known not to men, but to the Lord. And this is what they have done throughout their 50 years of ministry. They have not asked for money, but have made their needs known only to God (following the pattern of George Mueller and the orphanage).

It is an easy thing for the Lord to provide for the needs of His servants! And it brings glory to Him when we demonstrate the faith to trust Him–watching HIM provide for needs that no other human even knew about.

If anyone would like to hear some stories and teaching from Mr. Croudace, see here.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Malachi 3:10

The Romans Challenge

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About 2 weeks ago, Nickie and I began a “Romans challenge” where we are reading Romans 1-8 every day for 50 days. This was recommended to us by a friend who did this as a new Christian (when he was in his 20’s). It had such a dramatic effect on his walk with Christ and understanding of the gospel that he’s been an advocate of this plan ever since.

Romans builds in a systematic way, so it is helpful to read those chapters all together to grasp the flow of the argument being made. It establishes an understanding of the whole context: starting with creation, God’s wrath toward sin, and our hopelessness, and then dives into the amazing news of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death and resurrection—and what all of this means for us as believers!

It takes most people about 45-60 minutes to read chapters 1-8, depending on how fast you read. But the goal is not speed, it’s comprehension. [smile]

So … WHY read Romans this much? When we saturate our minds, day after day, with God’s magnificent explanation of the gospel in Romans, we develop a greater understanding of the depth and beauty of the gospel. The greater our understanding of it, the greater our delight in it! Gospel truths will then overflow to others in our conversations as we both edify believers and evangelize the lost.

Today was my 14th day, and I definitely have a much stronger grasp of Romans than I did before. It keeps getting better the more I read it! I have been e-mailing some friends (especially girls who helped with our overseas Bright Lights conferences) and many have been interested in joining. As of yesterday, there were about 50 of us reading Romans 1-8 every day! But in the last 24 hrs, 34 more people have joined the plan! (Sarah sent an e-mail about it to all the leaders of Bright Lights groups.)

I am filled with joy about this … especially because many of these friends have also expressed their desire to witness more. What greater witnessing training could any of us receive than to thoroughly know Romans?!

SO (did you guess I was getting to this? [smile] ) if anyone else would like to join, please let me know! I would be happy to add you to my e-mail list. I’m sending out weekly e-mails with tips and ideas. If you don’t have my e-mail, please leave a comment and I will get in touch with you.

This afternoon, I received this e-mail from a friend:

“Already God has used this Romans reading to prepare me for something He was going to use me for! Yesterday I flew to Alaska from Boston, and by God’s providence, traveled the whole day with a “stranger friend.” The young woman I sat next to on the plane was friendly and talkative. We began chatting right away, and continued to for almost the entire 5 ½ hour flight, got Hot Dogs together at our layover, and stood in the cold at 1am waiting for the shuttle where we finally parted ways! As we began chatting and getting to know each other, I began praying that the Lord would help to turn the conversation to spiritual things. Sure enough, the lady asked me about a book I was reading (it was a Lamplighter book, “Stephen, Soldier of the Cross”). “There it is! Thank you Lord!” I thought as I began to explain the plot of the book and the life of Stephen, a martyr for Christ. We continued to talk about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, and other matters … She calls herself a “Christian” but did not have a salvation testimony. Many of the things she believes are based on her personal feelings, though she prays often and is seeking God’s will for her life. Continually, I brought her back to the Bible, and almost all the topics we covered, were in Romans 1-8! Though I am only on day 5 of the 50, I was familiar enough with the chapters already to find the pertinent verses! It was such a blessing to be prepared to wield my sword! Praise the Lord, I look forward to seeing how He will continue to use this long-term reading of Romans 1-8!”

I really appreciated that note from Jordan, because she brought out a true point I wanted to make anyway: Studying Romans helps to both strengthen our confidence in our knowledge of the gospel and increases our eagerness to share it.

I have also been encouraged by all the other testimonies I’ve been receiving! Here’s a sampling:

“I’ve been understanding these passages more than I ever have before … it really helps reading it all together as one ‘thought,’ rather than as separate ‘thoughts.’” – Bailey, BL Leader in Arkansas

“God has used this to reveal so much to me, and I am so excited about His Word!” – Katrina, Canada

“… I’m only on day 12, but it’s been a really neat thing so far! I am understanding those chapters like I never have before.” – Kristin Youngblood (BL leader in Texas)

“… we have grown so much for the Lord!! You can learn so much reading it every day!! I love it!” –Michailia, BL Leader in Alaska

“I am going to totally do it and I am going to mention it in our meeting tomorrow. I would like to see if the other girls might be interested in trying it too.” – Sarah, BL Leader in Nebraska

“I am enjoying it so much! Today is my third day … and I am also coping the book of Romans into a notebook during my study!” Janessa, BL Leader in Texas

“I got through all chapters in 45 min! I’m so excited, not so much about the short amount of time (although hehe that is exciting too, since I have been taking 2 hours), but also because of what I’ve gained. Keeping in mind what you said about reading it all as a whole and ignoring chapter breaks, I changed my reading approach. Usually I read detailed-ly, stopping after each chapter if there’s some insight to journal about… So today I tried ignoring chapter breaks and title breaks (my Bible has a lot of titles), going straight from one chapter/section to the next. I also didn’t journal till the end. It was so great. I got distracted much less, and it was exciting to start to see how the passages all fit together!! I know it is good to be detailed at times, but I am beginning to see that it is also very beneficial to read the Bible as a whole and learn to see the bigger picture and how it all fits together!! …I’m really excited and I just wanted to share it with you!!” –Judith, Australia

And it has been exciting to see how the Lord has prepared peoples’ hearts for this:

“Hi Grace! Ok, true story here… I’m working on memorizing Romans right now, and as I was reviewing chapter 5 this morning I realized it’s still quite rough and that I don’t have the ‘flow’ of the previous chapters down as much as I’d like. It occurred to me that, in addition to working with the flashcards I’ve made and working on one section at a time, I also should starting reading through all the chapters regularly- yes, it would take extra time, but probably worth it, right? Still pondering this, I put aside my Bible and checked my e-mail, and read yours first! I would love to join you ….” -Kea, Alaska

“God is so neat in how He weaves everything I’m studying together. Even the set 5 lessons are going right along with what I’m studying in Romans. Our adult SS classes at church just started studying the book of Romans in January, and I started trying to memorize chapter one, so reading through chapters 1-8 every day goes right along with it!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that is so neat and was smiling very big when I read your e-mail last night.” – Kim, BL Leader in Indiana

“I would love to take on this challenge in my own life, and am planning to start today. I have such an acute desire to delve into Word in a deeper way, so I am very excited to embark on this study. It’s quite amazing to me how God works; for a while I’ve been working on memorizing Romans 8. I’m only in the beginning of the chapter so far, but this is such a powerful chapter to read/recite! So to know that there are other young people who are studying these passages at the very time that God laid Romans 8 on my heart just thrills me! What a beautiful thing this is…this journey on the set-apart Narrow Way.” – Amber, BL Leader in Virginia

“I would be thrilled to join you in reading this passage of Scripture. I just finished reading “Morning Star of the Reformation” – the book about John Wycliffe – and it really made me think about how much we take for granted having the Word of God so readily available to us. It just makes me long to read it even more!” – Danielle, BL Leader in Maine