Dad Witnessing At Christmas Tree Farm

After my dad and I picked out and cut down our Christmas tree this afternoon, we began talking about how we should witness to the guy who was working there. We thought that a good strategy for getting into a conversation would be to ask what he thought the second coming of Jesus would be like.

After my dad tied the tree to the top of our vehicle, he remembered he never paid for the tree. 🙂

When he went to pay, he asked his question about the second coming and they ended up talking for 10 – 15 minutes. I joined part way through.

“How’d that conversation go?” I asked dad as we were pulling away.
“Great,” Dad said.
As he began to explain the story to me, I pulled out my camera and started recording, hoping it might spark some new idea for others who might get into discussion this Christmas.

Dad Shares About Witnessing to Christmas Tree Farm Workers from Grace on Vimeo.

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.

Christmas Witnessing Tool

“Have you read the Christmas story from the Bible yet? Here’s a copy for you!”
This is my dad’s favorite line to say in the month of December as he passes out the Christmas account from the Bible.

This year, we decided to order 5,000 “Christmas scrolls.” The scroll is almost entirely Scripture. Our objective is to get people reading the Word of God!

Scripture written on the scroll:
Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 2:1-12, John 1:1,14, John 3:16-19 (Scripture quoted from the NASB.)
Old Testament verses contain various prophecies of Christ’s coming.

We like to roll them up and give them out like little scrolls. People receive them as a festive Christmas gesture. Thanks to my Grandpa, who works for us at our office daily (even though he is 91 years old), we have 200 rolled for our next outreach this Friday night: the Peppermint Walk downtown Marion. For those in our area, if you’d like to come and help pass out the scrolls, you’re more than welcome.

The scrolls are perfect for attaching to a plate of Christmas cookies for neighbors, teachers, coworkers, and friends. You can purchase them in packs of 25, 50, 100, and 250 from our online store. (Note: they come flat and you have to roll them yourself.)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Note: I have not yet mastered the art of carrying these as I’m Christmas shopping (to give to cashiers) and not wrinkling them. If you come up with any solutions to this problem, I’d be interested.

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. 😛

Stephen’s Finish Line

A few weeks ago, my brother Stephen ran in a marathon. Our family drove to Des Moines to watch and cheer. By using a tracking app, we could see how many miles Stephen had run so far and where he currently was on the route. This techy tool enabled us to drive to different spots along the 26-mile route and cheer for Stephen as he ran by.

There were many others watching and cheering. Some of the cheerers were more fun to watch than the runners.

Throughout the morning, when I had free minutes here and there, I was reading 1 Corinthians. Just before arriving at our last stop to cheer (the finish line!) I was reading these words … “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV).

I was impressed with how fancy the finish line was.

Runners were finishing their race one by one and receiving their medal. The announcers shared details about the athletes as they crossed the line: “Runner 2553 is from Minnesota, and this is her 3rd race this year…”

It made me think about our heavenly finish line, where new people are arriving each day and being greeted. There must be such an awesome excitement in the air. New arrivals are doubtless eager to tell stories of God’s faithfulness to them on the journey. Cheering, warm-hearted saints in heaven (“the great cloud of witnesses” – Hebrews 12:1) are likely just as eager to hear their stories and praise God!

I have not even run a 5k race, so I can’t speak from experience about finish lines—but I can only imagine the agony that some of the athletes in Stephen’s race must have felt at about the 25-mile mark. Everything in them was focused on ONE thing: the finish line.

I thought, Imagine a finish line with JESUS there.

There is so much emotion contained in this thought! Talk about motivation! Not only is the pain over, not only is the goal reached, but you’re in the presence of Jesus—the One you’ve longed to see for so long.

Now, when Hebrews 12:1-2 discusses the race of life, the instruction it gives us is not to “run faster,” but rather to endure. We are supposed to run with endurance, looking unto Jesus. (He set the example for us by enduring the cross. No trial we encounter compares to His!)

So how do we endure? Glancing back through the previous chapter (Hebrews 11), we read stories of men and women throughout the ages who endured great trials, and the secret to their endurance is given: faith.

As you know, enduring trials is a normal part of the Christian life; in fact, it seems that the Lord often gives Christians extra trials because they are so good for us. I guess each trial is kind of like the Lord bringing us to the gym to build more faith muscles. Although trials are unpleasant, we need to view them as valuable; because if endured properly, they will ultimately enhance the joy of the finish line.

So to summarize, faith helps us to endure trials, and trials build our faith. The result is that our strengthened faith enables us to run better, be purified, and ultimately bring Jesus more glory and honor on that Day. There’s a reason James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials (James 1:2)! Peter also reminds us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV).

If trials are beneficial for the race, what are the things that are damaging? We’re told in Hebrews 12: the extra weights we accumulate, and the sin which clings so closely. It was about 40° F the day Stephen ran his marathon. The organizers of the race informed the runners in advance that if they wanted to wear a sweatshirt and throw it to the side sometime during the race, they’d collect them and donate them to a homeless shelter. A serious runner doesn’t want anything unnecessary—even a sweatshirt. It’s not worth it.

Stephen told us that at mile 25, with just one mile left to go and a hurting knee, he began to walk. But soon another runner approached him and said, “Hey, only three-quarters of a mile left. Let’s run to the end.” So the two of them ran the last section together. The kindness of this stranger provided the extra boost Stephen needed. In our heavenly race, we’re not running against each other, but with each other! Far from competition, part of “winning” is helping others win! What better way to do this than to remind them of the soon-coming finish line and to run beside them? “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8).

Here’s a practical step of action. Pick one person in your life and pray some specific requests for them in the heavenly race:

• Pray that he or she will lay off weights that are a hindrance
• Pray that he or she will lay off the sin that clings so closely
• Pray that he or she will stop building with wood, hay, and stubble but be eternally minded.
• Share an encouraging word and point him or her to the finish line
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13 NKJV).

“The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV).

Note: This article was sent out in our family newsletter this month. Along with our newsletter we also had a special for free shipping from our online store from now until Christmas. You can view the newsletter here. To sign up for our newsletter, you can send us an email and request to be added to our list.

Jesus’ Shocking Actions

After singing “Jesus Loves Me” with the children in my Sunday School class yesterday, I asked them, “How do we know Jesus loves us?”

I was pleased by their good, biblical answers. Several of the children said, “Because He died on the cross for us.”

Little five-year-old Moriah (affectionately called Momo) said, “He loves us … because He does!”

I affirmed to Momo that she was exactly right. God told Israel that He didn’t love them because they were so great or talented or strong, but because … He loved them! He chose to love them because of who He was, not who they were (Deut. 7:7-8).

I also told them that we know Jesus loves us not primarily because of things that happen to us, but because His Word says so, and because He proved it by dying for us.

“Because sometimes in life, something really hard may happen to you, and it might be tempting for you to doubt God’s love for you,” I told the kids. “But actually the Lord lets really hard things happen because He loves us—and He’s using those things for good in our lives.”

After more singing, I opened my Bible to John 11 and began drawing out the events of Lazarus’ resurrection on my whiteboard. One of the little girls raised her hand and sweetly commented, “Your people kind of look flowers.” Despite my poor drawing, they listened attentively as I explained that Mary and Martha must have felt very let down when Jesus didn’t show up. Jesus was their one friend who could have prevented Lazarus’ death! And He didn’t come, even when they requested Him to. But the truth was that Jesus purposefully delayed His coming because of his love for them (11:3). He was planning to do something even better.

I discussed with the kids about Jesus’ compassion and tears upon His arrival.

“He didn’t cry,” one of the little boys protested in denial.
“No, He really did cry,” I said. “Crying isn’t wrong–Jesus was showing His love for them.” I explained that the people around really took notice of His tears. It showed them how much He cared. In fact, Jesus used the deep sorrow that Mary and Martha were experiencing as a time to bond with them. If Jesus had prevented their pain, Mary and Martha wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the love of His comfort and empathy. When someone comforts you, that creates a bond. If Jesus would have raised Lazarus immediately upon arrival, He wouldn’t have had those important conversations with Mary and Martha.

Next I drew the tomb scene and told the kids, “Then Jesus said something really shocking. He said to ‘take away the stone.’ Think of what everyone must have been thinking! I mean, there was a dead man behind that stone. That’s kind of like if Jesus told people today to dig up the coffin of someone who was recently buried.”

It was cute to see the children really getting into the story.

I continued, “Martha complained that there would be a bad smell. She was thinking practically, from a human perspective. Sometimes in our lives, our problem is that we think from an earthly perspective too — and that’s why we doubt Jesus. But you know what Jesus said to her?”

I read it to them: “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”

I emphasized a point to the kids that I am trying to learn myself: Jesus wanted Martha to understand who He really was. He is the resurrection and the life! This was not a problem for Him! Jesus’ actions are shocking. He is always doing something bigger and better than our minds can fathom. He wanted Martha to see that no matter the predicament, disaster, or agony, she should refuse to look from her practical, earthly viewpoint, and rather turn to Him in belief. That’s when she would see the glory of God.

The same is true for us, and I think that Jesus asks us the same question in our trials: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

Is our faith lacking because we have not read what He has said to us? Or have we read and forgotten?

May we respond to Him with the same faith represented in the children’s song:
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but HE IS STRONG.

“Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the GLORY OF YOUR NAME; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭79:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Oh, and I thought you’d enjoy seeing a picture of my class (including Lazarus).

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the PROOF OF YOUR FAITH, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Texas “Speak Truth in Your Heart” Conferences This Month!

We’d appreciate prayer for the Lord to work in the hearts of girls and moms at our upcoming Bright Lights conferences in Dallas and Houston this weekend and the following week!

We just returned from a set of conferences in three different locations in Mexico and were very blessed by all the Lord did there. More reports coming soon!

Testify Camp Schedule

In less than a week, we’ll be running our witnessing training camp for the second time at the Iowa State Fair. We’re excited that this year Tim Chaffey, speaker and writer from Answers in Genesis will be teaching some of the training. Tim is the content manager for the Ark Encounter.
Last year we were greatly encouraged by how we saw the Lord work and by the fellowship that emerged. Registrations is closed this year for campers, but it is still open for those who are local and would like to come as a “Day Camper.” Please email me and let me know if you’d like more information, or if you are planning to come.

Testify Training Camp Registration Deadline: August 1

(To see this flyer englarged, click here.)

The deadline to register for the Testify Training Camp at the Iowa State Fair is August 1st, just a few days away. We’re excited about the group God is bringing together, and we are looking forward to an exciting time of ministry and fellowship. We saw the Lord work in so many ways last year.

Click here to register. If you have not yet seen the 3 minute promo video we made last year, view that here.

Local Option: For those who live in the Des Moines area and would like to be a part of the camp as a “day camper,” you are welcome to do so for no fee. However, if you’d like to join us for any meals at the camp, that will be $6 per meal and we’ll need to know which meals you will be joining us for by August 1st. (If you won’t know until the last minute, you can bring a sack lunch.) To register as a Day Camper, please email me and let me know if you are planning to come for the whole time or just part, and if you want to eat any meals with us. I will be posting a schedule for the conference early next week.