Category: Thoughts

Thoughts

Sheep and Grapes

20141013_110709_30280 Isn’t this a beautiful place to live?! We visited our friends, the Kirks, after the Missions Fest in Seattle. They raise sheep, grow grapes (among other things), and have a beautiful horizon of mountains. Talk about a rich place for spiritual analogies!

They told us that it’s a misconception that sheep are dumb. They said sheep are just stubborn and slow to trust that you are actually trying to help them and that you know what’s best for them. (Hmmm … that sounds familiar!)

They also emphasized that sheep cannot bear being alone.

Anna and Melody Kirk also lead a Bright Lights group in Washington and have been to Cedar Rapids a few times to help with the Bright Lights ministry. One time, while with us in Iowa, they showed us pictures of their little lambs and told us their names. My mom asked them, “How do you tell them all apart?!” Melodie laughed and said, “By their faces!” It reminds me of how the Lord knows each of us so individually…

20141013_111714_30300 …with all our unique quirks and personalities, =) and He is so patient with us!

20141014_125005_30376 Early one morning, I walked over to their grapevine, and noticed something I had never thought about before regarding grapes: the fruit is somewhat hidden.

20141013_112802_30324 It’s not displayed loudly for all to see, such as apples.

20141014_131652_30383 Although the fruit is incredibly beautiful, it’s quiet and hidden, so to speak.

20141014_125012_30378 It was a reminder to me that our focus should be on bearing fruit on the inside, in the heart, where our Heavenly Father is looking.

The Lord does intend for our fruit to be seen that HE may be glorified (Matthew 5:16, John 15:8) but it’s His job to make it visible. It’s our job to abide.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before me to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

20141015_104647_30472 On a different note, have you ever had grape sized kiwis? They are amazing–sooo sweet and delicious. The Kirks also grow these.

20141013_151110_30343 Lunch at the beach. Thank you, Kirks, for the wonderful time we had with you.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15:8

Miscellaneous/Thoughts

A Message Demonstrated By My Grandma

20141007_161836_30024 Grandma and us, 1991

Sometimes we are proportionately challenged in the way we look at ministry. I.e. Little looks big and big looks little. The things we consider “really big,” may not actually be as big as we imagine, and the things we think are “just little” are not little at all.

Recently I have been reminded how often serving God means being faithful in the little things. Over a lifetime, those things add up and impact countless people! This is something I have learned from my grandma. It was reinforced to me by those who have shared with us how she impacted their lives since she went to be with the Lord last month. My grandma was one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known, continuously thinking of others. She had a special heart for anyone handicapped, less popular, or overlooked. For example, Grandma would often have one child from our church over (maybe someone who didn’t get a lot of attention) and spend the afternoon doing a craft with that child. Grandma and Grandpa consistently gave people rides to church, had them for dinner, and developed special friendships with the “less-noticed” in the body of Christ.

There are no little things with God. Cooking and deliver meals, writing letters of encouragement, visiting people in the hospital, listening to a friend who is struggling, babysitting, cleaning your church building, being kind and patient with our family members, laboring in prayer … these are NOT little things! In fact, I think the “littler things” are often the “bigger things” with God—because it takes greater faith to persevere in them. It takes faith to know that God is using them—even though they may not seem to make much difference. It takes faith to be confident that these good works are worth the time and energy they take—even if just one person is helped by it. The growth of the kingdom of God here on earth happens little by little, as one sheep at a time is brought into His fold and nurtured.

Another reason to delight in behind-the-scenes acts of love is that there is generally no earthly applause for them. This makes it easier to work with pure motives: simply desiring to be noticed by the Lord. Let’s do more “little” things!

If we could only see how the Lord multiplies our work and uses even the smallest things we do for Him, we’d probably be much more diligent in them! But we don’t get that luxury. The heroes listed in Hebrews 11 didn’t get that luxury either. Instead they worked by FAITH—and that is what made them heroes! God likes faith. =)

In Heaven, the great ones may not be names we recognize, but men and women of God who were faithful in their little corner, serving quietly and faithfully without concern for human praise or recognition. People whose minds were occupied with something much nobler—their love for their Commander. That is what should drive us. And that is the work which pleases our Father most!

My grandma did things to help people all the time, not just to check off her “ministry check list for the day,” but because she really cared about them! She, together with my grandpa, was an example of Romans 12:9 – “sincere love.” Her love for the Lord caused her to love those He loved. The New Testament couldn’t be more clear that Lord wants His servants to be driven by love.

Stop and ask yourself: WHY am I doing what I am doing? Who am I hoping to be noticed by? Who am I doing it for? “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

“Does the place you’re called to labor seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it, and He’ll not forget His own.
Little is much when God is in it! Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it, if you go in Jesus’ name.”
– Kittie L Suffield

Family News/Miscellaneous/Thoughts

My Grandma’s Memorial Service

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here is one of my favorite pictures of my grandma

Ecclesiastes 7:2 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

A week and a half ago, at my Grandma’s memorial service, this verse struck me in a way it never had before.

When Mr. Glock closed the service and referred to this verse in his prayer, I thought that’s so true. It’s so much better to go to a funeral than to a party. In the past hour, as I had been sitting there on the front row, I had been reminded deeply of the realities of life through all that had just been shared.

Parties are often filled with emptiness, but funerals are rich with lessons and reminders. First, they remind us of the reality that each one of us will also die (unless Jesus comes back first). It is at funerals when we ask ourselves questions such as What difference will my life make in the battle for Christ? How many lives will I touch? How deeply? How much will I have prayed?

We only have one time around – one chance. We need a lot of reminders about how short life is. So it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting!

And, of course, Christian funerals are the best, because though they are tear-filled, they are basically a big worship service. We rejoice in the hope that we have in Jesus – the One who has conquered death and replaced it’s sting with hope!

Even though many of you didn’t know my Grandma, I still think you would be edified by listening to her memorial service.

Here is an outline of what is shared:

Stephen’s introduction
2:30 George Farber (message)
18:00 Stephen introducing sharing time
19:20 Matt Coventon (friend from church)
21:00 Andy Parker (friend from church)
26:00 My mom
30:00 My aunt Roxanne
32:30 Carla Neto (friend from international student outreach)
34:20 Sarah and myself
41:00 My uncle Larry
46:00 Dave Keele (friend from church)
50:00 My Grandpa
57:00 Mr. Glock Closing Prayer

Thoughts

Jesus is Not Calling Us to a Sprint

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Recently I was struck by Hebrews 10:36 which says, “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”

Jesus is not calling us to run a short sprint — He’s calling us to a life-long marathon. He doesn’t promise immediate compensation or an easy path. But He does give us advance instruction about how to finish strong: “look not at what is seen but at what is unseen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) i.e. Run by faith.

Life is not always going to make sense right now. And it’s okay — we just keep running. It is not always going to be fun or comfortable. It’s okay; we keep running. We may not be understood or approved of by onlookers. It’s okay. Our path may not go the direction we hoped. IT’S OKAY! Why is it okay? Because our treasure isn’t here anyway. Our Treasure is at the finish line.

If one is tempted to “slow down,” “give up,” or “yield to despair” because of a sudden rocky path or undesirable turn of events, maybe that’s a sign they have lost some interest in their true Treasure at the finish line, and put too much affection on things on earth.

May we run, looking unto Jesus, the finisher of our faith. Let’s guard our first love.

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

(Picture taken during vacation in Colorado several years ago.)

Family News/Thoughts

Oh Death, Where is Your Sting?

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My grandma went to be with the Lord today around 2:20 this afternoon. I was the only one with her when she died because it happened so quickly and no one was expecting it.

Because of her declining condition and need for much extra care, she was in a nearby nursing home. She had had a rough morning this morning, but stabilized and even asked us to go for a ride in her wheelchair. We thought it might be getting “close to the end” for her, but we weren’t sure.

After lunch I decided to go back to the nursing home to check on Grandma. I don’t normally go at that time, and I even had fresh coffee in my cup and a somewhat urgent phone call to make, but I felt a desire to check on Grandma first. I see now that that was from the Lord!

“I’m so glad you are here,” the nurse told me, “She’s unresponsive and I can’t get a hold of your mom.” (My parents were taking my grandpa to the emergency room, but that’s another story. And he’s okay now.)

I walked into Grandma’s room. She was sleeping with somewhat strained breathing. The director of the nursing home (who is a Christian) came into the room moments later.

“This would be a good time for you just to stay and pray with her,” he encouraged me.

I informed my family of the situation, and then I prayed with Grandma. I texted Stephen that it could be getting near the end, but I didn’t know for sure. However, just moments later, as I knelt by Grandma’s bed, I noticed her mouth changed a bit. Then I felt her stop breathing. I ran to get a nurse.

“There’s no heartbeat,” the nurse told me. “I’m sorry, she’s gone.”

It was an interesting moment of shock mixed with a real sense of “it’s okay” … and joy that she was in the presence of the Lord now. It was a firsthand experience for me of the “powerlessness” of death. I know I am temporarily separated from my grandma, but there was no sting in that for me (or her!). However, I do know that I am really going to miss her. We were very close.

I am so grateful that the Lord led me to the nursing home just in time for those last moments. I’m so grateful for the director’s encouragement to pray with her right then, as I had no idea she was so close to the end! I am also so grateful for the many conversations we’ve been able to have about the Lord today with many in our “community of friends” there at the nursing home – and we would appreciate prayer for them.

How amazing that we can stand upon this beautiful truth: Because the Lord is in complete control, we can have complete peace.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)”

My guess is that many of you are probably thinking right now about how your grandma or grandpa died. But if they are still alive, remember to take the time to call them, write them, and spend time with them… maybe even journal the things they tell you. Our friends will come and go, but our grandparents are a treasure beyond what we even know.

Thoughts

We Aren’t Good Enough At Dreaming

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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/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).

Thoughts/Witnessing Stories

How to Get Witnessing Conversations Started on the 4th

The fourth of July is an amazing time to share the gospel with people. They just set up their lawn chairs and blankets and then hangout until the fireworks start. It’s one time in the year when people aren’t busy. But isn’t it weird and awkward to start a conversation about spiritual things with a stranger? No, it actually doesn’t have to be at all! The key is to find a good approach and then just going out and practice!

Click here for some questionnaire ideas. Click here for the Price of Liberty tract that you can print for yourself. Click here to see Living Waters’ Fourth of July Million Dollar Bills. (There’s still time to order them for the fourth if you do it right away!)

Let’s pray for fruitful evangelism all over the country on the fourth of July! The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Remember, this is one thing that Jesus specifically told us to pray for.

Click here to see what the team of Bright Lights leaders did in Houston last year, and how we used the 4th of July Millions as conversation starters.

Thoughts

Clinging Tightly

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Why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene to not cling to Him (or to “stop clinging to Him”) in John 20?

I’ve heard many explanations, but I liked the one I recently read in my Choice Gleanings Devotional Calendar (April 17, George Ferrier), which says, “…the Lord responded that the time to cling to Him was after His ascension. No longer seeing Him physically she would then depend upon Him through spiritual eyes…”

Clinging to the Lord is a repeated Biblical instruction (Deut. 10:20, 13:4, Joshua 23:8, Psalm 63:8, Jeremiah 13:11). The Lord wasn’t changing the instruction here; but He was telling Mary (and all of us) that we have something much greater than His physical presence to cling to. 1 Corinthians 6:17 tells us we who are joined to the Lord are one spirit with Him!

Paul clung to the Lord in His weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10). James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Peter says, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” (1 Peter 1:8) Paul wrote, ”… all deserted me … but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me … (2 Tim. 2:16-17).”

Moses wrote, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27).” Psalm 125:2 says that He surrounds us!

Although Jesus is not with us physically right now, He is with us! And we can cling to Him–as the apostles did after His ascension. He gives abundant comfort, companionship, counsel, and strength. Because of His near presence (Phil 4:5), we can be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6). May we be clinging tightly when He returns!

“And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28).”

Thoughts

Not Just A Woman, A Former Demoniac!

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There was sure a lot for the believers in Jerusalem to be talking about 2,000 years ago after Jesus rose from the dead! I love the way the Lord caused the resurrection story to play out with all its interesting elements, aspects, and angles!

I enjoyed Tim Chaffey’s article and chart on evidence for the resurrection in the most recent Answers Magazine. If you don’t get Answers you can read it here.

One point that I hadn’t thought of before was that Mary Magdalene — being both a woman and a previous demoniac — would have been practically the last person the Jews would have trusted as a witness for Christ’s resurrection. If someone was making up this whole thing, they certainly wouldn’t have formed a story that had Mary Magdalene as the first person Jesus appeared to! Women’s testimonies were not highly valued in those days, and a woman who recently had seven demons makes her much less trustworthy! To read Tim Chaffey’s fuller explanation of this, you can also click here and scroll down to “Principle of Embarrasement.”

Also, in regards to using this week for witnessing, here is a link to our Resurrection questionnaire and tract.

And if you’d really like to read more about evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I’d recommend reading Tim Chaffey’s whole series of articles from last year. [smile]