Happy 30th Birthday Stephen!

April 16th, 2015

IMG_4800-2 Cooking corn-tuna pancakes with Stephen while camping in Rocky Mountain National Park (I think we were running out of ingredients [smile])

Well, my big brother-playmate-counselor is turning thirty today. And he’s not even here; he’s in D.C. for work (photojournalism for The Gazette). So I thought I’d post a few comments about Stephen.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were playing Legos for hours on end in the basement. So much drama happened in those ongoing sagas as our Lego heroes protected their fortresses from the bad guys. It was so funny too (believe it or not)!

Stephen and I are kind of polar opposites in many ways (if you haven’t noticed). Whenever I know something that Stephen doesn’t know, I savor the rare moment and ask him, “Is this how you feel all the time?”

Stephen is certainly one of the smartest people I know, but beyond that, God has given him wisdom that sees through current issues with black and white clarity. I’m excited to see how God will continue to use him in our generation. I appreciate how whenever Stephen shares or teaches at our church, he shares something insightful, unique, and interesting—and communicates with authority.

He keeps our family ministry going in every practical way—coming over here to our office as his “second job” after he finishes his work at The Gazette. Sometimes we barely see each other as we’re both absorbed in our work; other times we’re up late laughing.

Happy Birthday Stephen—I am forever proud to be your little sister! =)

Bible Study Stations: Ready, Set, Go!

April 9th, 2015

IMG_4735 Last Monday night Sarah planned something a little different for our local Bright Lights group. Rather than teaching all of the girls together, she had the older girls in our group lead “Bibles study stations.” The younger girls spent the evening going from one station to another until they had been to all seven stations.

Every twelve minutes, Sarah would play a song on the piano. That was the signal to get up and move on. (We gave each girl a list in advance of the order in which she should move from station to station.)

I thought I’d document it in case any of you other Bright Lights leaders would like to do something similar in your group. (Thanks to Nickie for getting the pictures.)

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Station 1: Word Studies Marie led this group, sharing how it’s helpful to identify key words in a verse or passage and use a dictionary, concordance, etc. to really understand what that word means. My grandpa contributed by bringing a whole box of dictionaries and concordances for us to borrow!

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Station 2: Concordance Abilene taught this station. One girl said it was her favorite station and commented, “We have a concordance at home. I’ll have to start using it.” =)

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Station 3: Meditation on Scripture We wrote verses on 3×5 cards and talked about ways to get them into our hearts–such as quoting them to ourselves, emphasizing a different word each time. Biblical meditation (thinking about Scripture!) is the opposite of what the world thinks of meditation (emptying your mind). If we are thinking about verses while we are doing the dishes, in the shower, and all throughout the day, we will blessed as Psalm 1 tells us!

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Station 4: Observations Layel helped girls use the questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how to deepen their understanding of a passage. I heard that Layel did an excellent job helping them see that they can learn a lot more when they stop and ask a few simple questions about the passage they are studying rather than simply reading straight through. After all, we girls like to ask questions, right?! =)

IMG_4765 The piano is playing! Quickly move to the next station =)

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Station 5: Topical Studies
Mrs. Kissling from our church came as a special guest to help out. She shared how doing topical studies is one of the things that has helped her in her personal Bible study.

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Station 6: Waking up! Don’t laugh–this is a very necessary part of the process and a valuable skill to learn! =) Molly (in striped shirt) gave lots of practical ideas about how to wake up and be alert in the morning. She also created a morning checklist for each girl to take home.

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Station 7: Color Coding Elizabeth (blue shirt on the left) did a great job giving ideas about color-coding key words. She prepared a sample sheet to help the girls get started.

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“What did you girls learn?” Sarah asked as we came back together. It was sweet to see them raising their hands and sharing what they learned.

We overheard one of our littlest girls telling her mom, “Mom! I looked up a word in the dictionary tonight!” It’s special to see the girls experience new ways to study the Bible for the first time, and express enthusiasm about what they are learning.

The Lord is raising up young ladies with a heart for Him and His Word! May we all continue to seek Him in His Word in deeper ways, and pray with David, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies” (Psalm 119:36)!

‘Radical’ by David Platt, Free Audio Download

April 7th, 2015

I recently started listening to David Platt’s book, Radical. I’ve appreciated the challenging and encouraging points he makes, and I like how it’s read by the author.

Some people I highly respect have recommended this book, so it’s been on my “reading list” for a long time. I prefer audio, so finally I borrowed the CDs from a friend. But today I noticed that Christian audio was giving away the book free: see here. I’d really recommend you download this and listen to it — even if you’ve already read the book. =) The offer is only available for a few days.

Also, I posted a bit about a “book review” of Radical that Stephen shared with our Bright Lights leaders on a conference trip here.

(Note: I have been so grateful for the ipod my brother gave me a few years ago because of how much I have enjoyed listening to audio books/sermons the past few years… I strap it to my arm and have found it’s a wonderful way to maximize time when I’m cooking, cleaning, exercising, organizing, etc. A few minutes here and there really add up to a lot of time!)

Resurrection Conversations

April 7th, 2015

On Sunday, we went downtown Iowa City to share the gospel with University students, using the resurrection of Jesus as a conversation starter.

IMG_4728 Our witnessing team for the day

“Hi! I’m doing a little questionnaire about Easter. Could I ask you a few questions?” I asked two Asian students.
“We don’t know anything about Easter,” they told me.
“That’s okay! You can still answer the questions.”
They agreed.
“When did you first hear about the resurrection of Jesus?” I asked them.
“When I came to the States … on a TV show,” the guy replied.
“What do you personally believe about God and what happens when we die?” I asked.
“We don’t believe in God; we believe in evolution,” they both said.
“Well, when I look at that brick building over there and see the design and beauty in it, I know someone designed it. How much more our bodies, and this universe! How do you think everything started?” I asked.
“Through a big explosion,” he said.
“What exploded?” I asked.
“Gasses; chemicals,” he replied.
“Where did those come from?” I asked.
“Well … they were already there,” he said (or something like that).
“How did something come from nothing?”
After a bit of deliberation, he replied, “I guess there must have been a maker [of those original elements].”

Interesting! This Asian student went from claiming to be an atheist to believing in a “Maker” in just a few minutes.

“I’ll think about this,” he told me. He seemed to appreciate the Evolution Vs God DVD.

A few minutes later, I met Katherine and James, strolling down the sidewalk.

“Would you be willing to do an Easter questionnaire?” I asked them.
“Sure!”
“Really?” I said, surprised. (A lot of people had been turning me down!)
“When did you first hear about the resurrection of Jesus? Like … was it Sunday school, or … ?”
“I think it was when I was 10 in California and a friend talked to me,” James said.

About this time, a homeless man walked up and began interrupting the conversation in a kind of strange way. I felt this was likely spiritual warfare and this gave me stronger determination to do the most I could to communicate the gospel to this couple!

I decided to get right to the point. [smile]
“So what does one do to get right with God, and know they will be with Him when they die?”
James and Katherine had an “earn-your-way-to-Heaven” mentality.

“So if you were standing before God and He asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?”
“That’s a really good question!” Katherine said.
“I guess I would ask for forgiveness and try to prove to Him that I am worthy of getting there,” James replied.

After I shared about God’s justice, our sin, and His need to punish, I showed them some verses about how God’s rescue plan is a gift that we can either receive or reject.
“Have you understood this before?” I asked.
“No, I have not heard this until today; no one has ever explained it to me,” James said.

“Would you like to meet up again to study the Bible?” I asked them. There was interest, so I am praying this will work out.

I was reminded how a successful witnessing conversation is not getting them to “make a decision for Jesus” and then leaving them, but rather, giving them a taste for the Word so that we can continue to teach them! It reminds me of Ephesians 4:20-21, which I read this morning: “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.”

You see, another way of saying that someone “got saved” could be they “learned Christ.” We may not always know the moment of spiritual birth (the moment God detects faith in their heart) but God does! Our responsibility is to teach Christ!  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).”

It is so encouraging to meet students who want to learn about the Lord. One guy that my dad talked with asked for his contact info and told him, “Don’t be surprised if you get an email from me about this.”

I was also particularly encouraged to see the teens on our witnessing team growing in boldness! It’s thrilling to see God orchestrating and working.

St Patrick Search and Rescue

March 20th, 2015

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We are grateful to God for a great afternoon at the St Patrick’s parade on Tuesday.

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About 40 friends gathered downtown to pass out the “History of St Patrick” gospel tract, including many children whose parents were coaching them on tract-distribution.

People love the opportunity to dress up in their funny green attire, and this simply gives us more ways to start conversations with them!

“I like your hat!” my dad told a man with a really tall green hat.
“I like yours too!” the man replied.
“But yours is better,” my dad said. He then explained how we were passing out “The History of St Patrick” at the parade and offered him one of our tracts. The man wanted one, just like almost everyone else does. Many are curious about who St Patrick actually was.

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Cheryl had a good talk with this guy. She shared the gospel with him and recommended a good church in his neighborhood. I was surprised to run into him on a different street corner about twenty minutes later and was able to continue the conversation!

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“I can’t adopt a dog, unfortunatley,” I told this lady after taking this picture.
“But we adopted a son!” my dad added.
“A what?” she asked.
“A son!” my dad said. “From Korea.”
“And that’s how we ALL get into GOD’S family…” he said and continued to share how that can happen to any of us.

My dad especially enjoys going up to small groups of high school guys and asking them “Have you gotten one of these? It’s a history of St. Patrick. Do you know anything about Patrick? Why does Ireland remember him 1600 years later?”

He then tells the story, sharing something like this: “Patrick convinced many in Ireland that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. They worshiped the sun and Patrick told them, ‘If you worship the sun you will die, but if you worship the Son of God you will live, because the Son of God rose from the dead and is alive. You will live forever because the Son of God lives forever.’ So many Irish believed that it influenced the whole nation. They abandoned sun worship and turned to the God who created them!”

My dad then shares how people today remember Patrick, but know nothing of Christ. And only Christ can save us!

When talking with small groups of youth at the parade we find that some are politely disinterested, some are embarrassed, but some have that interest in their eyes.

Our team came back together after the parade and shared about the conversations we had. Several reported how they saw a sincere interest in the gospel in those they spoke with. Praise God!

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My mom sat down next to this lady on the picnic bench and they ended up having a good conversation through most of the parade. This lady was a single mom and shared a lot with my mom about things going on in her life.

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We think this was supposed to be Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster). Haha.

IMG_4603 Little Naomi is growing in her ability to pass out tracts! We are proud of her!

We had a big scare part way through the parade. Little David (8), Naomi’s brother, was missing. He had been doing a wonderful job passing out tracts (had distributed about 400!) but then David got separated from those with him. All of a sudden, our “witnessing team” became a “search and rescue team.”

After about a half hour, as I was scanning the crowds, a lady approached me asking urgently, “Are you looking for a lost child?”
“Yes,” I replied, wondering how she knew.
“He’s in the police car,” she said, pointing.

Someone had taken him to the parade judges, who took him to the police, and apparently the police man had told David to watch for someone he knew.

Poor David was quite shaken emotionally!

We are grateful for the kindness, security, and protection we were given from the police and parade officials. David said his favorite part of the day was “getting found.”

In the same way, may we have great urgency and concern to search for those who are “lost” spiritually, and find great joy in the fact that our Shepherd has found each one of us who has put our trust in Him and brought us to Himself, our secure Refuge!

After everything was over, we set out, tired and hungry, for Chic fil A! =P

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Thoughts of St Patrick

March 17th, 2015

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Christ be beside me; Christ be before me;
Christ be behind me, King of my heart.
Christ be within me; Christ be below me;
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife.
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, Light of my life.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me;
Christ be on all tongues telling of me.
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me;
in ears that hear me Christ ever be.

This beautiful song, “Christ Be Beside Me,” was taken from some writings attributed to St Patrick.

Praise God that He took hold of a rebellious young man 1,600 years ago and used him to make such an impact that the world still celebrates him today–though they don’t know why.

Although we don’t have a lot of information from Patrick’s life, we have two letters that he wrote. They sound a lot like Paul.

As the world remembers Patrick, may our thoughts be consumed with Christ–as Patrick’s thoughts were.

“ … the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.” – St. Patrick, missionary to Ireland

Just Repent at the End of Your Life?

March 11th, 2015

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On my recent flight to the East Coast, I needed to review some notes. But the guy seated next to me was very chatty. He explained, “Normally, I have my ipod and listen to my music [on airplanes] but about a month ago I wiped all my music off.”

Hm, I see God’s hand in that [smile] I thought.

I put my notes back in their folder, and figured the Lord had arranged this encounter with this man (who I’ll call Tim). I heard about everything from the difference between working with sugar and coal in farming equipment, to the details around his father’s death, to the time in Louisiana when a giant cockroach crawled up his shirt while he was on a platform in a grain elevator.

“So why again are you going to New Jersey?” Tim asked me after a while.

I explained about the Bright Lights ministry, and the main messages we try to emphasize when working with youth.

“What church do you go to?” he asked.

After explaining a bit about our church, I returned the question and asked about his spiritual background.

Tim didn’t have a good experience with “religion” growing up. He exclaimed, “I don’t like organized religion.”

“Oh I totally agree with you,” I said. “There’s a lot of greed and desire for power, and many who are not even real followers of Jesus …”

He agreed.

After I mentioned the concept of a relationship with God by faith in what Jesus has done for us, Tim said, “I don’t agree with people who say that you can be a rotten person your whole life and then repent right at the end and get to Heaven. That’s just not right,” he said.

“Well, what we need to understand is how God sees it—because He’s the One who decides who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t, right?” I asked.

Tim agreed.

“So, the question is, does God decide on the basis of what we do or on the basis of what we are trusting in?” I asked.

Tim waited for an explanation.

“Because if God decides on the basis of what we do,” I said, “We’ll never know if we’ve done enough. I mean, what if someone just needed to do five more good deeds and they would have squeaked by—but because they didn’t, they can’t go to Heaven now …”

“Exactly!” Tim exclaimed.

“But if God decides on the basis of what we are trusting in—in the fact that Jesus died a substitutionary death in our place—then it’s already taken of! It’s done, and we can know we are going to Heaven.”

Not only was this the start of deeper gospel discussion with Tim, but I was also able to recount this conversation to the lady next to me on a following flight. It provided a helpful way for me to share the gospel with her also – praise the Lord.

So if someone asks you that question (“How could a really bad person just repent at the end of their life and ‘get in?’ to Heaven?”) remember a couple things:

1) They are asking the wrong question, because the question itself assumes that some are “good people” when in reality there are none truly good (“As it is written, There is none righteous, not even one” Romans 3:10)

2) A better question to ask would be “how can ANYONE ‘get in'” !!!

Praise the Lord that He, “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

*Thanks to Michael from New Jersey for his helpful thoughts on this =)

Ignite Conference, Albany, New York

February 18th, 2015

Ignite Conference

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be sharing on evangelism at the “Ignite Conference” in Albany, New York, February 27-28th.

Please pray that the Lord would raise up laborers to the harvest in Albany, New York!

Bedtime Stories

February 13th, 2015

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Our dad wrote about the value of bedtime stories in this month’s ministry newsletter. For those who aren’t on our e-newsletter list (and would like to read about the exciting saga of Black Bulldog and Clawpatch), you can view it here.

“26 Below” CMML Youth Conference

February 10th, 2015

IMG_3637 Last month I had the privilege of being part of the “26 Below” retreat, run by CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands) the missionary sending organization of the network of New Testament-patterned Bible churches that I have grown up in.

It was a very challenging and refreshing time.

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The speaker was Nate Bramsen, missionary to Niger. The day of the conference he got word that religious extremists were burning churches in Niger and burned a place of worship in his village (a stone’s throw from his home), and almost burned his home and teammates’ homes. His team had to leave the area.

I think Nate’s Christ-like response to this news made an even stronger impact on the retreat attendees than his messages.

“Some call them terrorists, but I call them blind,” Nate mentioned, emphasizing that when we look at the cross we can’t help but “fall in love with them” and pray for their salvation! I’d encourage you to read the article he wrote for the Gospel Coalition about these events.

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We had a one-hour prayer meeting for Niger, asking the Lord to use these events to draw people to Jesus. I normally don’t pray for just one country for an hour, and doing so reminded me of how much you can think of to pray for regarding one country simply when you just keep praying!

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In the Q and A time, one topic that was addressed was this: following Jesus sometimes means you will be alone and may not always have the fellowship you desire. But you will have Christ, and He is enough.

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I really enjoyed my roommates. =)

The fellowship at this conference was so sweet. Raw, honest, Christ-focused, and energizing – it’s such a gift from the Lord to enjoy fellowship with other like-hearted young people who are excited about the gospel and using their lives to proclaim it.

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Girls breakout session on purity called, “Satisfied in Jesus: Purity and Struggles of the Heart.” I was blessed by the sharpening comments the girls contributed. One girl spoke of the “idolatry of the heart” that a crush can be. Another emphasized the simple cure of looking at the cross when we’re struggling with getting our focus right.

The topic of the conference was “Transparency.” I appreciated Nate’s point that a Christian’s transparency shouldn’t be simply “being real” or “just being you,” but rather “being clear” or “being invisible” so that the world can see Christ IN you. How much do people not see Jesus in me because they simply see so much of ME? Transparency is getting out of the way so that they see Christ.

To hear the messages from the conference click here. Or, to hear Nate’s podcasts on Matthew click here. (Some of my favorite podcasts have been “Shut the Door”, “The Anatomy of Anxiety”, and “The Answer to Anxiety”)


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