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”)

Bright Lights on the East Coast

February 7th, 2015

Two weeks from today I’ll be in New Jersey sharing an “Introduction to Bright Lights” at Mountain Ridge Bible Chapel (not far from New York City). We’d love to see more Bright Lights groups start on the East Coast. If you know anyone in the area who would be interested, click here for the flyer.

Bright Lights Workshop.

I Love Airports

February 2nd, 2015

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I love airports. They are great places to witness. I don’t always feel like it, but I am always glad afterward.

Two weeks ago I took a trip to New York for the CMML “26 Below” Conference (which I will post about soon). One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Lord arranging witnessing opportunities on flights and in the airport. Here’s a summary:

Episcopalian Man:

On my first flight, I began chatting with the couple next to me who were about my parents’ age. I explained that I was going to a Christian youth camp. They thought that was really nice and I wondered if they were Christians.

“Do you have a spiritual background?” I asked them.

Now, if I wouldn’t have asked that first question, the conversation may have never really taken off. But after that question, we talked for about 20-30 minutes about spiritual things. It was a reminder to just ask a question and see what God does with it!

“We’re Episcopalian,” he told me.
“Oh, on one of my last flights (last summer) I also sat next to an Episcopalian!” I told him. “But I don’t know too much about it…”

He explained the Episcopalian history, saying it has similarities to Catholicism but without a pope. I brought up the issue of salvation by faith or works. “What are your thoughts on that?” I asked. He believed we were saved by both faith and works.

“Could I get your opinion on something? Are you familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9? What do you think it means?”

“Well, I’d have to see it again,” he said.

I handed him my Bible and he took about a minute reading the passage. He came up with an explanation of the passage to go along with his viewpoint, but it was a pretty big stretch. It was also very clear to me at that point that he simply did not understand the gospel! He called the “gift” in Ephesians 2:8 “mysterious” saying something like, “whatever that mysterious gift is, it works itself out in our works… does that make sense?” he asked me.
“No, not really…” I replied.
He explained it again. Then he went on to explain, “You know, one thing our church is really big on is tolerance … ”

I told him I think it’s important to accept and love people, but at the same time, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life—no one comes to the Father but by Me.”

“You will probably think about that verse 100,000 times in your life,” he replied, “And each time your thinking will evolve and it will mean something different to you…”

“But, you know, it can really only mean one thing!” I said.

He replied, “I read the Bible very differently now than I did fifty years ago. I have friends who are very rigid in their understanding of Scripture, but …” and he went on to explain that we all have our own interpretation and lifestyle.

“Well,” I said, “When we look at Hitler and what he did, we can’t just say ‘that was fine for him.’ There is a point when someone is just wrong!”

The whole conversation was very gracious and respectful, but I do think that a nerve was pricked. He seemed slightly uncomfortable after a bit, and I think that was a good thing. It’s sad how far he is from Christ. He is simply blind to the truth of the gospel. But I am grateful for the opportunity we had to interact, and I pray that the Lord opens his eyes.

Of course, my desire wasn’t to offend, but to help bring to light the truth that no matter how “good” one is, we are separated from God because of sin. God in His love has provided a way to be reconciled with Him through Jesus, but one will not come to Jesus in repentance if they do not see the need to do so. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” Ephesians 2:4-5

Jehovah’s Witness and Catholic:

Upon arrival at the airport, I had two hours before being picked up as I was waiting for someone else to fly in also. After passing out tracts and having a seemingly not-to-productive, but friendly argument with a Jehovah’s Witness couple who had a table set up there, I prayed for the Lord to lead me to someone else to talk with.

Then I noticed a girl sitting alone by the door. I decided I’d do my questionnaire approach with her.

“I’m Catholic but I don’t know anything” she told me. She was 100% interested in talking, and thankfully, I had another 45 minutes before my ride came. Praise the Lord! I started back in Genesis [smile] and began to teach through from the beginning, and it was so sweet to see her desire to learn.
“I want to see Jesus” she told me.
“Me too!” I replied [smile].
I’d appreciate prayer for Gabrielle, that the Lord would bring other Christians along her path to continue to teach her.

Eastern Orthodox:
On my flight home, I had a very long conversation with the Eastern orthodox girl next to me. She had her earphones in, but when we were served snacks and she took them out, I realized, Here’s my chance! and asked her, “Where’s your accent from?”

I also asked her about her religious background. I was so glad I asked those questions, because they led to about an hour of discussion! She had a lot of thoughts and seemed eager to discuss them.

She was convinced that we have to work hard for our salvation. I took her to some verses in Scripture, but she was still firm. However, then SHE brought up two examples from Scripture which were perfect examples making my point! One was the thief on the cross, and the other was the publican/Pharisee prayers (the proud prayer and humble prayer). Those gave me wonderful spring boards to talk about how amazing the gospel is and how we cannot come to God boasting! She seemed deep in thought for a while. After that we began talking about various life issues and became better friends ….and we learned that we were also on the same next flight (from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids) so we walked to our gate together, took turns watching each other’s stuff, shared a pizza… and decided to meet up for coffee sometime in the future since we live close. It was so special to become friends with her.

Although I often would prefer to just keep to myself and read, I try to remember that some of my best witnessing conversations have been on airplanes! And I’m always so excited when I see the Lord arrange those opportunities. Nothing is more fulfilling! As ambassadors of Christ, we are “on duty” every time we are in the presence of another human being – and that is a life full of blessing.

The Thessalonian Example

January 27th, 2015

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When earthly desires and dreams beg for our focus and distract us from “pure devotion to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 7:34) remember that the answer is not to try to somehow minimize earthly desires, but to maximize heavenly ones! I especially love how William MacDonald describes this in the Believers Bible Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – something I was reading yesterday as I’m working on the Will Our Generation Speak Study Guide.

“Notice that they turned to God from idols, not from idols to God. It wasn’t that they had become fed up with their idols and then decided to give God a chance. No, they turned to God and found Him so satisfying that they dropped their idols.

It’s that look that melted Peter,
It’s that face that Stephen saw,
It’s that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
—Ora Rowan

Let us never lose the sense of thrill and awe that is implicit in this account. Two men go into a heathen city with the word of the Lord. They preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit. The miracle of regeneration takes place: men and women become so enraptured with the Savior that they abandon their idols. Next you have a local assembly of believers praising God, living lives of holiness, bravely enduring persecution, and winning others to Christ. Truly the Lord’s service is the prince of callings!”

If any of you are not familiar with William MacDonald’s Believers Bible Commentary, I highly recommend you get one. =) It’s definitely a favorite of ours!

I’d also recommend you reread 1 Thessalonians 1, enjoying the beautiful conversion story of the Thessalonian believers!

Picture from Snoqualmie Falls (Washington)

Girls and Beauty

January 20th, 2015

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As girls, we have a natural drive to do what we can to make ourselves beautiful. This can be pride, but it certainly isn’t always. For example, is it prideful for a bride to do her best to look beautiful on her wedding day? Of course not. It’s not pride—it’s a gift to her husband!

When Peter instructed women in 1 Peter 3, he didn’t say “Now, you wives, stop trying to be beautiful.” No, he simply instructed them to channel their God-given drive to be beautiful correctly. He explained that there is something much, much more beautiful than our outward adorning—it’s a meek and quiet spirit.

But what Peter says next is actually stunning when you think about it. We have the opportunity and privilege to be beautiful in the eyes of God Himself!

“but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:4

This is an amazing gift given to us — and certainly a motivating goal to be driven by (1 John 2:28)! Of course it’s only by God’s power that we can be changed and cleansed from the filthiness we once were to something beautiful in His eyes, as Ephesians 5:25-27 explains,

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

So I believe what Peter is ultimately saying is more like this: “Women, seek to be beautiful in the greater way (your spirit) in the eyes of a greater Person (Jesus Christ Himself!)”

Let’s use our God-given “drive” to be beautiful to remind and motivate us to seek to be beautiful in the eyes of our Heavenly bridegroom. This happens as we let Him “cleanse us by the washing of water with the Word,” as the verse above from Ephesians explains.

One more thought: this topic of beauty doesn’t start in 1 Peter 3, it starts backs in 1 Peter 2:13 when it begins talking about submission in the face of unjust suffering. This is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who submitted to His Father even to the point of death. THAT is the pinnacle of beauty. The more like Him we are, the more beautiful.

“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us … ” Psalm 90:17

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25


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