Month: July 2014


We Aren’t Good Enough At Dreaming


We all have dreams for the future. Many of them aren’t necessarily selfish dreams, but deeply rooted desires and godly ambitions. Let’s say for a moment that the Lord gave you all you had dreamed for and even more than you had imagined. You couldn’t believe it, and stood in awe of the goodness of God in showering you with these gifts.

Yet, roll that all together and it’s merely like a pinhead compared to the infinite treasure of knowing Christ. Think about it: everything good here on earth is just a reflection of Him. Everything we like, He made it! It was His idea.

Our dreams are subjective. The truth is, we aren’t good enough at dreaming. We don’t even know what we want! We think we do, but we don’t really. But the Lord KNOWS the desires of our hearts – He made us! He sees the whole picture and knows what will be the best for us and everyone else. And He who did not withhold His own Son, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

Of course it’s natural to have earthly dreams–we all do! But recently I’ve been encouraged by remembering that the Lord has actually instructed me on what my dream should be! He said, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Knowing Jesus is the relationship that is all-fulfilling and all-consuming, the treasure that satisfies. He is the Life Purpose that is worth pouring out everything inside of ourselves to serve. And this relationship is not just something we’re waiting for, it’s something we can have now. But if we want to be experiencing this treasure right now, we must trust Him. You see, you cannot be truly close with someone if you don’t trust them. Lack of trust puts a wedge in the relationship. Remember, the Lord KNOWS how to give good gifts to His children (Luke 7:9-11). It’s not hard for Him! So if He doesn’t give us what we think we want, it means He has a better idea for us.

Maybe He will bless us with the beautiful things we all desire here on earth, and maybe He won’t. Ultimately, it’s not that big of a deal either way … in the long run. Paul considered even gain in this world as loss in comparison to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-8)! In the Lord’s courageous love, He chooses the VERY BEST for each of us and then gives it. For some it looks like cancer and loved ones torn away. For some it looks like concentration camps and martyrdom. For some it’s serving faithfully in loneliness without appreciation or recognition. It’s all allowed by a loving Father who beautifully gives His children the treasures of His love as He heals them from the thorns and pricks of this earth. And He reminds us that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).”

Let’s remember that earthly dreams are shaky and passing. We need to learn how to dream better. If we want a joy that is constant and enduring there’s only one way to get it: “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).”

Rather than focusing on earthly dreams, let’s imitate the example of those listed in Hebrews 11 who “… were strangers and exiles on the earth … seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).”

“Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine”
-Fanny Crosby, I Am Thine O Lord

Bright Lights Conferences/Miscellaneous

A Few More Pictures

Below are a few more pictures and reports from our Bright Lights conference week.

20140707_211751_27499 As most already know, Stephen is the guy who basically makes everything happen smoothly….running cables all throughout the auditorium beforehand, taking care of sound (12 lapel mics, and up to 9 lapels on stage at once during one of the skits!), and many other logistical details. Not to mention packing up and loading the trailer afterward. We are very grateful that he took several vacation days off work for this conference!

20140710_112457_27733 We took the small group leaders to the coffee shop right behind the Bright Lights office on our free day in between conferences. At this table we got into a pretty interesting discussion about apologetics. 🙂

20140710_104525_27724 It sounded like they had some good discussions in the other room also. (We kind of took over the coffee shop as there were about 20 of us there!)

20140710_150745_27747 After the coffee shop we had a time at the park for our own individual time in the Word; very restful!

20140708_090536_27502 One thing that was very special was having several girls from our local Bright Lights group here in Cedar Rapids as leaders at the conference. (Pictured above are some of them.) It’s been encouraging to see them growing in the Lord and rising to leadership responsibilities within our local group, and we were blessed to have them as part of our team!

20140708_164110_27553 Thanks again to everyone who came to the conference or helped with the conference!

We are now gearing up for our trip to England. We are leaving Tuesday! We would ask that you would please pray for our time there — that the LORD would do a mighty work in that country and raise up leaders that would have great influence for Him.

If you’d like to receive our e-mails with specific requests during the England trip, I’ll add you to our prayer email list. Just send me an email with the words “England Prayer Points” in the subject.

Bright Lights Conferences/Radiant Purity Conferences/Thoughts

Radiant Purity Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

20140711_175609_27789 Laura Sisson (Nickie’s older sister) sharing the special story of how she met her husband Jim. Laura used to be a central part of our Bright Lights team before she got married eight years ago.

20140709_124522_27600 We were excited to have Laura join us again for the “Strong in the Lord Conference” — this time attending as a mother with her daughter! (Abigail is a little young, but we made an exception for her to come [smile]). Laura is just one of many Bright Lights conference leaders who are now happy mothers!

20140721_160036_27938 The “Storms of Life” newscast skit

2014 leaders We had a wonderful team of small group leaders who came from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia! Most of them are currently leading Bright Lights groups in their home towns.

20140709_212708_27692 One evening after the attendees had left, all of us leaders went outside with a couple guitars and just sang and sang … definitely a highlight!

20140708_114350_27525 Mrs. Kramer (in teal) did the cooking for our team of forty for the week. She also did snacks for the conference attendees. It was a lot of work, and we are very grateful! We also appreciated Gabriella and Bethany Isaac (left) for all their hard work in the kitchen!

20140709_151227_27608 Mrs. Kramer even made homemade rhubarb sauce (like applesauce) for one of the snacks for the attendees. It was amazing.

20140711_203331_27798 One highlight for the attendees is the fellowship. Sometimes it’s lonely swimming upstream and not going the world’s way! I think it’s refreshing for them to see so many other girls who also want to love Jesus with all of their heart and walk in purity!

We received an encouraging report the other day from a mom who brought her daughter to the purity conference: “…coming to Cedar Rapids has altered the trajectory of my daughters’ journey to be directly living for Jesus… We’ve had so many discussions that are God centered, initiated by the girls(!) and developing a genuine evangelistic heart for unsaved…”

Praise the Lord!

The main thrust of the Radiant Purity Conference is that we are to guard our hearts–not merely for our future husbands–but for Jesus Christ! We want to be occupied with HIM in our single years. We want to be useful for His glory during this precious time. The question is not “Where is the line?” or “What are the rules?” but rather, “How can I please the Lord even more in my thoughts and actions?!”

It’s not about a perfect formula for a pain-free path. Rather, it’s about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and learning to trust Him!

It was exciting to see girls grasp these truths and desire to follow a higher road.

One question that seemed to help the girls in my small group understand this point was the question, “Is purity something you don’t do, or is purity something you do?”
One girl replied, “Well, I think it’s both…”
Another girl answered, “Well, I think it’s something you do, because when you are doing the right things then you won’t want to do the wrong things.”

The primary emphasis is do not don’t. Purity isn’t just about avoiding certain activities. It’s much, much more. Purity is pursuing Jesus Christ! When a girl runs after Him with all her heart, satisfied in HIS love, everything else in her life will fall into it’s proper place as HE becomes the Master of every area of her heart.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9).

Miscellaneous/Witnessing Stories

If at first you don’t succeed…

On our free day in between our two conferences last week, we watched a Way of the Master training video and had a discussion on witnessing with the Bright Lights leaders who came in to help with the conferences.

Then we spent the afternoon at a park. Unfortunately, however, there were not enough people there for everyone to witness to. Several girls expressed a strong desire to spend more time witnessing.

Our plan was to have a singing time after dinner, but I casually mentioned to the girls that if they wanted to go somewhere else after dinner to witness instead, I could take a few with me in our minivan. I suggested going to the concert that is held on Thursday evenings in our town square because there are often a lot of junior high and high school kids hanging out there.

20140710_190403_27755 I was surprised when about 17 girls wanted to go! We gathered in the parking lot and divided into three vehicles.

Upon arrival at the square, we found that this particular concert was geared to older people and, in fact, it had just finished. All we found was elderly people walking away with their lawn chairs.

Not exactly what I was anticipating. Hmmm.

It was a bit perplexing to have an anxious group of evangelists and no people to talk to! (It’s in times like these that I wish we lived in southern California or by a beach or somewhere with more people!)

I called Sarah. I talked with Stephen. Finally, we resorted to the mall. It was pretty empty, and we only had a half hour before it closed … but we were blown away by the conversations the Lord arranged! Some of the girls were just glowing on the way out as they were telling me how well their conversations went!

We picked up a gallon of mint chip ice cream, and spent about an hour sharing stories back at the church. I thought some of you would be encouraged to get a little taste of our sharing time, so I took a bit of very casual video footage with my little camera.

The first story is Kaylin explaining how they spotted three teens (two girls and a guy) that they wanted to witness to. While they were trying to figure out how to approach them in a non-awkward way, they noticed a wallet that someone had left on a bench. They picked it up and recognized that it belonged to … guess who? The guy in that group of three teens! Can you think of a better way to get a witnessing conversation started than to return someone’s wallet? [smile] Praise the Lord!

I was reminded that if at first you don’t succeed in finding witnessing opportunities, pray, and keep persevering, knowing we have a powerful God.

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.” Psalm 75:1

Strong in the Lord Conf.

Strong in the Lord Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Here are a few pictures from the “Strong in the Lord Conference” that was held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

20140709_102432_27689 The clear conscience sisters encouraging Bekah to confess her sin to her mom and ask for her forgiveness.

20140709_102559_27690 The guilty conscience sisters encouraging Bekah to cover her sin.

20140709_135358_27691 Singing “I’ve Been Changed”

20140708_091013_27509 Our small group leaders’ time of sharing from the Word with each other before the conference started. In these sharing times, often we find that the Lord has been giving us similar thoughts in preparation for the conference. A theme that came through was focusing on the character of God. Our desire is not to present to the girls a “formula” of how to be “good Christian girls” but to encourage them to pursue Jesus Christ and know Him! It’s all about a Person. A formula will always eventually fail, but a relationship with Christ is what will enable us to persevere to the end.

20140709_172802_27647 We’ve had an increasing emphasis on witnessing at Bright Lights conferences, and this time we had a whole session on it. The small group leaders often tell us that witnessing is one of the topics their girls ask about the most. It’s evident the Lord is raising up little bright lights unto the harvest! [smile] On Wednesday as the conference was ending, we had each of the girls take 3 “animal cards” home with them to pass out to gas station employees, etc. on the way home. It was fun to see the girls’ enthusiasm in picking up their cards. It’s also exciting to see girls and families eagerly buy boxes of them.

20140709_154719_27623 Karen’s team

20140709_175151_27662 The Lord has brought together a wonderful team of small group leaders who love Him. (About forty of them!)

Yesterday we saw the Lord do some very neat things as we went out witnessing.

The Radiant Purity conference starts tonight and the girls just finished “teacher’s training.” Please pray for perseverance and emotional energy for the small group leaders as many are tired. Please also pray that the Lord works in the hearts of all who come to this conference. We are all just instruments, and apart from Him working, nothing good happens.

We also just had another special time sharing from the Word this morning. Those times are always a highlight! As we all shared with each other what we’ve been gleaning from the Word, there were again many common threads… especially on joy, perseverance, and keeping Jesus the focus of our hearts (which is good, since that’s the main message of the “Radiant Purity Conference.” [smile])

Strong in the Lord Conf.

Strong in the Lord Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Please pray for the girls and parents who are here at the Strong in the Lord Conference today! Please pray that the Lord would work in their hearts, drawing them closer to Himself!! Please pray that all of our words would be Christ-focused as we teach them!

Our desire is that they’d be faithful young ladies who would not only learn, but go on to “teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Debriefing last night with the small group leaders. We have about forty leaders helping with this conference! This makes it possible to have smaller small groups, which is wonderful.

Miscellaneous/Witnessing Stories

4th of July Witnessing Report

20140704_174746_27461 A group of friends joined us to share the gospel downtown on the fourth. Praise the Lord He gave many encouraging encounters! We found people were especially drawn to the Evolution Vs God DVDs that we gave to those we spoke with.

20140704_191014_27466 Brad talking with six teens. Although they were goofing off some of the time, he stuck with the conversation, had fun with them, and lovingly communicated the law and the gospel.
“So what do you guys think?” he asked after finishing.
“I’m scared now,” some of the girls said.
That was an interesting yet encouraging response, we thought. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
We explained that it was good they were taking this seriously, and emphasized that God’s message is good news.

Approaching little groups like this is one of our favorite ways to witness at these events. It’s personal and friendly, yet you get to reach several people at once.

On the afternoon of the fourth before we started witnesing, I got a text from a girl that I had witnessed to at the parade the previous week — asking if I’d be at the fireworks. I responded that I would, but then didn’t hear any more from her. I thought it was unlikely I’d be able to find her. But, just as we started witnessing, there she was, calling my name! I was sort of shocked. [smile]
There was a guy with her this time. When I explained to him how we’d met last week, he became very curious. “So what was it that you guys were talking about last week?” he asked.
Realizing this was a good opportunity to witness to him now, I started to share. Then my friend Brad joined the conversation and recognized this guy! Brad said, “Hey, I know you!”
The guy seemed to acknowledge he knew Brad too, but acted awkward.
“At the mall, like three years ago, remember? You were witnessing WITH me!” Brad told him.

Then I remembered this guy too. He had actually joined our witnessing team once about three years ago because another guy on our team was discipling him and brought him along. We had paired him with Brad and they spent a couple hours witnessing together at the mall. How interesting to run into him again while we are out witnessing! Unfortunately, it seemed clear that this young man has fallen away and is not walking with the Lord now. He didn’t want to stick around and talk. But I do not doubt that the Lord caused our paths to intersect last night! So please pray for him. He obviously already knows the gospel.

Prayer request:
In about three hours, our Bright Lights conferences here in Cedar Rapids begin. We have a large number of leaders who have come in to help — there are about forty of us! We’d appreciate prayer for the Lord’s hand to be intimately upon each aspect of this week! It is already going great – praise the Lord! 😀

Miscellaneous/Witnessing Stories

The NEA Gospel Outreach

20140703_174417_27460 Spiritual battles were being fought in the unseen realm at the National Education Association Convention in Denver, Colorado this past week! Fifteen thousand public school teachers came together, representing 3 million NEA members around the country. Many of these teachers came by the Creation Science Educators’ Caucus where they were given free books and DVDs that Answers in Genesis had donated to the caucus. The most exciting part was engaging in conversation about a topic even more controversial than the Creation and Evolution debate: the GOSPEL.

20140701_132055_27262 Carlos, a history teacher (in white), had such an open heart. He said, “I’m so excited to talk about this. I just don’t want to take your time!” (A very refreshing contrast to others who yell at us or give us nasty looks or comments!)

One of our main give away items this year was Evolution Vs.God. If you haven’t seen this yet, make sure you do! You can watch it online at I also recommend ordering them here for $2 a piece and giving them out freely. People are very intrigued by it and receive it gladly.

20140702_150517_27295 The guy in the blue cap told me, “I’m SO interested in this topic! I’m just not sure where I stand yet.”

He brought up a medical question that he thought was an evidence for evolution. I wasn’t sure how to answer him, but thankfully Dr. Menton and Dr. Martin both joined the conversation and gave him many answers and explanations. He was very interested! It’s so exciting to start witnessing conversations with people, knowing that behind me are experts and spiritual giants who can jump in and finish the conversation!

One geology teacher told me, “I’m an atheist–I see no evidence for God whatsoever.”
“Oh really?” I said, “Well the Bible says in Romans that we see God clearly by the things he has made…”
I continued, “Is there anything that could cause you to believe in God?”
He said, “Every time I go into a church I ask if there’s a higher power to kill me right now…but it’s never happened. But if it did, I guess that might cause me to believe in God for a split second before I died.”
I asked about his view about the origins of morals.
He said, “Well, I just don’t think there’s someone up there keeping score–that doesn’t seem right at all, or kind!”
“Well if an earthly judge let murderers go free, that wouldn’t be right, would it?!”
He agreed, and this seemed to spark his interested a little.
So I continued to share my testimony—how I was a “good girl” on the outside but a wicked sinner in comparison to God’s perfect standard. I shared how God can be merciful to me—yet a just Judge at the same time—because Jesus died in my place.
To my surprise, he listened with interest!
“You know one thing I’ve always wondered?” he asked me, “What’s the difference between the god of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity?
Interesting comment coming from him, don’t you think?

20140702_145740_27293 Dr. John is speaking here with an Native American young man. This young man and his friend talked to Mirren Martin for a long time the first day, and appreciated the conversation so much they came back and talked for a long time the next day.

20140702_165359_27309 My dad got to come along with me and Nickie this time. Always better when Dad is along. [smile]

20140702_163005_27306 Frank (in white) and James (in pink) talked to this man for probably over an hour. Our goal with these teachers is not to argue science but to share the gospel. Science is just a starting point in the conversation.

It’s clear that many of these teachers aren’t fighting against Creation–they’re fighting against God.

“Would you like a free DVD?” I asked a man who approached our booth, curious about what we stood for.
“Are you a teacher?”
“Yes, I’m a chemistry teacher,” he said.
“Oh, neat! So what are your beliefs about this issue?” I asked. “How do you think life started?”
“Well, I believe in the primordial soup. That’s probably not your cup of tea,” he added, “Not meaning to be funny.”
I smiled.
“So can I ask you a question?” I asked him.
“You’ve already asked me several,” he said playfully.
I laughed.
“So do you think it takes more faith to believe in God or in Evolution?” I asked.
“Oh, well I think it’s easier to believe in God – I mean, that is a simple explanation to everything. But that doesn’t mean that’s the correct view.”

“How do you think morals started?” I asked.
“That’s a good question,” he said, and began talking about his support of alternative lifestyles and disapproval of those who reject them.

Soon we got back to the creation issue and Dr. John joined the conversation, sharing some things about chemistry (which were above my level!), and pointing out flaws in the evolution model.
The chemistry teacher said, “I agree with you, evolution is definitely an uphill battle…” and expressed that it was the harder route to believe.
“So why is it that you choose to believe Evolution?” I asked him.
“Yes, why do you believe the more unlikely option?” Dr. John added.
“It just feels right!” he said, “It feels good to me.”

“So what I’m getting from what you’re telling me,” I commented, “is that you would prefer that evolution was true.”
He agreed.
“Like,” I added, “you would prefer there wasn’t a God?”
He smiled and said, “It just fits my life better! I guess I believe evolution for the same reasons you believe in God – it feels right.”

He began talking about the beauty of the Smokey Mountains, where he recently took a vacation.
I grabbed a Bible and opened to Romans 1. He looked my direction a little playfully, and said, “Read me something.”

I read from Romans 1:19-20 “What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…”

“I know you disagree with this,” I told him, “but I believe that everyone knows there’s a God—it’s obvious by the beauty and the design all around us. That’s what the Bible says…”

He said that referencing the Bible was circular reasoning, but Dr. John was quick to point out that he was reasoning in a circular way also.

The chemistry teacher looked me in the eye and stated, “When I die I just become worm food, and I truly believe that.” He wanted to know why I had a problem with him believing what he wants.

I explained, “If this life was all there is, then I would be fine with you believing whatever you want to believe. But … ” (and I saw in his eyes that he knew where I was going with this) “… but we believe that this life isn’t just it. We’re eternal! And we don’t know you very well, but we care about you–”
“You’re trying to save my soul,” he said.
“Well, I’m not!”
“You’re not? … Oh, I see you’re trying to put me on a path where I’ll find salvation …”
I agreed.
“Well,” he said, “I do not doubt at all your intentions or think that you have ulterior motives. And this has been a good discussion,” he said with genuine warmth.
“So the issue really is God,” I clarified. “That’s what it comes down to.”
He agreed.
“Well, I realize that you don’t desire God, but I know that He desires you!” I told him.

This conversation reminded me, once again, that with these teachers it is not an issue of the mind. It’s an issue of the heart. That’s why, at our booth, our goal is not to fight for Creation Science — our goal is to share the GOSPEL. It’s not evolution vs. creation. It’s evolution vs. GOD.

20140703_094149_27385 After two days in one location, we had to move the booth to a different location, about a quarter mile away (in the same huge building). We were a bit concerned about the moving process for a number of reasons. But the Lord, who provides above and beyond, gave us favor in the eyes of the convention center leadership staff and these kind men moved all of our stuff FOR us. Unbelievable! 🙂 (Well, not really, not when you know the Lord.)


20140703_152023_27441 After setting up the second booth, we continued to have almost non-stop conversations.

20140703_151919_27432 Although this man was skeptical, he was willing to stick around for a while and talk with Tony. He said he discusses these things with his brother who is a Christian! Maybe we were an answer to his brother’s prayers!

Here Tony is showing this man the chapter on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. At the end of this conversation, I gave him our tract on the resurrection of Jesus. At first, he didn’t even want to receive it, but when I told him it was something my sister and I wrote, then he changed his mind and happily took it. He even began reading it right there at the booth! I’d encourage any Christian to write their own little gospel tract. Sarah and I have consistently found that people receive it much more readily when we tell them it was something we wrote personally.

20140703_163711_27458 This girl was extremely open to things of the Lord, humbly admitting her need for Him – what a blessing to talk with her.


Please pray that the 4,000 DVDs and 4,000 books and booklets distributed to public school teachers are watched and read. Please pray that the Lord convicts hearts and leads them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength…” Psalm 65:5