Get GOOD Christmas Tracts!

December 10th, 2014

Some gospel tracts are boring and dry. I don’t even feel like reading them, so why would an unbeliever? The gospel is the most exciting news in the world, and I think it should be shared with enthusiasm and creativity! So when I ran across these fun and tastefully written Christmas tracts, I quickly ordered a bunch for our store. I appreciate their engaging style and their approach of teaching the foundational concepts of the gospel (something our Biblically-illiterate generation really needs!). You can read/purchase them online here if you’d like.

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Christmas provides a very natural opportunity to witness to your dentist, doctor, neighbors, music teachers, local fire station, etc….. We can simply make an “appreciation plate” of cookies, add a Christmasy message (tract) to the top, and drop it off with a warm greeting. I don’t know about you, but this is a great solution for me in reaching people that I want to witness to more than I have.

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Some other recommended Christmas resources:

-The Christmas Story from the Bible Scroll is something my mom especially enjoys giving people at the store. She was just telling me the other day how people receive it very well – it seems special to them. (You can print them off yourself – follow the link to see English and Spanish version.)

-“Uncovering the Real Nativity,” is a booklet from Answers in Genesis that I really enjoy giving. I usually share a quick summary of what it’s about to spark their curiosity. (Read it here if you’d like.)

-“What are Christmas and Easter All About?” teaches the gospel with very clear and simple language and is illustrated beautifully.

-“The Greatest News Ever Told…” is just Scripture–all the way through. When I pass it out, I like to explain, “It’s a big string of Bible verses!” and I have found people to receive it gratefully and with interest.

Who knows? This could be the last Christmas season before Jesus comes back. Let’s give Him ALL our love and energy and pour our efforts into what is on HIS heart–lost souls for whom He died.

” … and you will testify also, because you have been with Me … ” (John 15:27)

Christmas Dinnertime Challenge!

December 2nd, 2014

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For those who don’t get our family’s e-newsletter, here’s this month’s article! (And if you’d like to sign up for the newsletter you can do so on the left-hand column of our website)

Dinnertime is an important time for families! Here is a list of 25 items to talk about during family dinnertime discussions this month. There is one for each day, starting today (December 1st) and concluding on Christmas Day. These questions are designed to be done when the whole family is together.

If your family completes this challenge, email us after Christmas, and we will send you a free copy of your choice of either Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends, Before You Meet Prince Charming, or Will Our Generation Speak? :-) (If you start a day or two late, that’s fine, as long as you complete all 25. Also, the time of day is flexible. The “deeper” questions are optional.)

1) What is your favorite Christmas carol and why?
Deeper: Which Christmas carols best explain the gospel?

2) Christmas is much more than a birthday—it is a coming! What is the difference between a “birthday” and a “coming”? Why is it important to make this clear?
Deeper: What could be some of the negative effects of referring to Christmas as a birthday?

3) When we wish people a “Merry Christmas,” what are we actually wishing them? Make a list of 10 things to help families have a true merry Christmas. (After making a list, see some ideas at the end of this email.)
Deeper: What is the difference between what the world thinks is a “ Merry Christmas” and a true “Merry Christmas”?

4) What is your first Christmas memory? What is your best Christmas memory?
Deeper: What is something that God taught you at Christmastime in the past?

5) What is your favorite Christmas tradition in our family? Can you think of any new traditions we could start this year that would help us to focus even more on Christ?

6) What does the word “Incarnation” mean and why is it so important? (John 1:14) How would we explain the Incarnation to someone who had never heard?
Deeper: Here is a suggested project. Print out the Christmas account from Matthew and Luke (download here). Ask people if they have read the Christmas account in the Bible yet this year, and ask them if they would like a copy. See how many you can give away as a family this month.

7) In what way is a Christmas card similar to an angel? Is there someone in particular who would be blessed by a surprise Christmas card from us this year?
Deeper: Why do you think God used a star in Matthew (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10) and an angel in Luke (Luke 2:8-15) to announce the birth of Christ?

8) Why did Jesus have to be born as a baby? Why couldn’t He have come as a grown man?

9) Who is a person or family in need that we could reach out to this Christmas season? What could we do for them?
Deeper: How did the shepherd’s respond to the angel’s message? How can we imitate them today?

10) How do people in the world today demonstrate the same attitude as King Herod? How do people respond like the wise men?
Deeper: What wicked Old Testament King played an important role in the Christmas story (Isaiah 7-9)? Why did God offer what He did?

11) Read Luke 2:19. What do you think were some of the things Mary was pondering in her heart?
Deeper: In Jesus’ own words, why did He say He came? What verses can you find?

12) Read the story of Anna (Luke 2:36-38). What can we learn from her example?
Deeper: Why did Jesus come when He did? Why didn’t He come earlier or later in history?

13) What is your favorite Christmas gift you ever gave? What are some good aspects of giving Christmas presents? What can be some negative aspects of it?
Deeper: Can you think of any times in Scripture when the Israelites sent presents to each other? (See answers at the bottom of this email.)

14) What are the ways that Jesus’ birth was specifically humble?
Deeper: How are Jesus’ first and second coming different?

15) What Christmas ministry has our family been involved in over the years? How have we seen God work?
Deeper: Why is it better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)? What is an example of a time we saw this concept to be true in our family?

16) How can each one of us be like the star? What was the star’s purpose? How can we fulfill that same purpose?
Deeper: What did the star in the Christmas account ultimately represent? (Numbers 24:17, Revelation 2:28, 22:16)

17) What does the name “Emmanuel” mean and why is it important?
Deeper: When was the last time in Israel’s history that there was a command to kill baby boys? Can you think of any other similarities between these two times in history?

18) Read and discuss Micah 5:2. What does the word Bethlehem mean?
Deeper: Why do you think God arranged for Jesus to be born in that particular town and a town with that name?

19) What is the first Christmas verse in the Bible? (See answer at the bottom of this email.)
Deeper: Which of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob) prophesied the coming of Christ? (See answer at the bottom of this email.)

20) What are some ideas of things we could do for our neighbors this Christmas?

21) Why is Jesus the Prince of Peace?
Deeper: How many names can you think of for Jesus and what do they mean? What do the names of Christ listed in Isaiah 9:6 tell us about some of the roles He fills?

22) What is a fun family memory from Christmas?
Deeper: How do we know that the angels and the wise men did not come at the same time? (There are at least 2 reasons.) Was the star in the east or the west?

23) How many different people are mentioned in the accounts of the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2? Name them all. Pick one person and share something that we can learn from them.
Deeper: What prophecies can you think of that were fulfilled at Jesus’ birth? (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, Micah 5:2)

24) Why did God name the baby Jesus rather than allowing Joseph to choose a name for Him?
Deeper: What are two reasons Joseph was told to name the child “Jesus”? (See answer at the bottom of this email.)

25) Without looking, what were the “good tidings of great joy”?
Deeper: Why was Jesus’ birth “glory to God in the highest”?

Also, we will be tweeting the daily question(s) from @BrightLightsMin and @TFInc.

I love how Malachi 3:16-17 reminds us that the Lord is listening to our conversations!

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.
‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’” Malachi 3:16-17

Answers:
Question 3: Honor Christ, Read Scripture, Make Christmas “merry” for someone else, Sing carols, Witness, Give generously, Be excited about the coming of Christ!
Question 13: Esther 9:22, Nehemiah 8
Question 19: Genesis 3:15, Genesis 49:10
Question 24: 1) It means salvation and Jesus would save His people from their sins. 2) It is the same name as Joshua who delivered the people and brought them into the Promised Land.

Sharing the Gospel at the Mayflower Steps

November 26th, 2014

20140812_070730_29275 We had the privilege in August to go to the location where the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in Plymouth, England.

20140812_070724_29274 It was an interesting feeling to be there and think about what must have been going through the Pilgrims minds when they took off.

20140812_101705_29313 This was the last phrase of a plaque put up as a memorial to the Pilgrims overlooking the steps.

While we were there, we decided to see if we could get into a few conversations with people about the gospel. We knew we a great starting place – we could ask them about their perspective on the Pilgrims!

Both of the encounters on the video below ended up being great conversations (most of which happened after we turned off the camera!) I thought I’d put a few bits and pieces from the conversations here for Thanksgiving! I’m sorry it’s a little choppy and windy!

I received an e-mail from this man later, saying he enjoyed the conversation. Please join me in praying that the Lord raises up laborers unto the [very needy] harvest in England. I believe many are interested in conversing about the true message of the Bible, and very few are sharing it.

The Answer to Why is Who

November 14th, 2014

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We showed this 24-minute testimony at our last Bright Lights meeting. I believe it was the third or fourth time I have seen it in the past month, and I love it each time–especially the end.

Look up Naghmeh Abedini on Facebook or Twitter for more information on how to pray and support her!

University of Iowa / Halloween Evangelism

October 31st, 2014

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Here is the team who joined us to share the gospel at the University of Iowa a few days ago. Or rather, we joined Brad, who is there consistently on Wednesday afternoons, even when he’s by himself.

I was encouraged to hear of many good conversations. Chuck (who was with us for the first time) had a lengthy conversation with a girl who welled up in tears a few times, seeking true answers.

Another girl told me that she had stopped going to church. She said it was never real to her. But it was clear in her eyes that she was wanting it to be real to her.

Praise the Lord for the way He brings people to us who are hungry to know His answers and His grace.

Here is the questionnaire I was using to start conversations. If any of you will be at public places or events tonight where you can share the gospel, you may want to try using this questionnaire!

1) What is the most destructive force in the universe?

a) nuclear bomb
b) sin
c) disease
d) famine
(Note: if they say “nuclear bomb” you can remind them that sin precedes war.)

2) Is there a cure? What is it?

3) Do you believe in ghosts?

4) Do you believe in God?

5) What do you think happens when someone dies?

6) How does someone get to Heaven?

Sarah did the same thing, but just used questions 3-5 to get conversations started.

I’d also recommend checking out this Halloween tract that our family put together last year. It’s a series of verses.

If you don’t have plans to do anything tonight, I would recommend you take advantage of this night to share the gospel! One idea I have seen work well is to go door to door giving nice quality chocolate and tracts (instead of taking candy) and do the questionnaire above with them if they’re willing. It’s a great time to do door to door evangelism, because people are already expecting visitors. When we give instead of take, it surprises them. See blog post about that here.

Stephen’s Car in Flames

October 30th, 2014

20141030_100939_30528 We received a text from Stephen around midnight last night saying that he was okay, but he hit a deer and his car was in flames. It actually wasn’t his car – he was driving the company car for the Gazette. (He’s a photojournalist for our local newspaper, as many of you know.)

They hit the buck at 70mph. After being disoriented from the airbag deployment and loss of visibility due to the windshield being covered with a fluid, they were able to get to the side of the road.

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Ironically, it was the reporter who took these pictures while Stephen was on the phone with 911.

He and the reporter were able to safely move all of the photo gear out of the car (while the car was in flames).

When Stephen arrived home around 3am we all gathered in the living room to hear the details. I was there physically on the couch, but I barely remember anything that was said.

We are so thankful to the Lord for protecting Stephen and the reporter last night!!!

“The Lord is gracious and merciful” Psalm 111:4

Love is Always Tried

October 28th, 2014

Sarah texted me this quote, and it really enocouraged me!

Spurgeon, Come, My Heart_smaller

“Hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give … the morning star.” Revelation 2:25-28

“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2

Sheep and Grapes

October 23rd, 2014

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

Missions Fest Seattle 2014

October 17th, 2014

Last weekend, Sarah, Nickie, and I were so encouraged by all that happened in Seattle at the Missions Fest. The first day started out with the “Friday Field Trip.” This is an event to encourage young people to be missionary-minded. It was so excited to see the 640+ kids flooding into the church.

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20141010_115605_30135 Energy filled the air as the young people began finding the rooms for the workshops they wanted to attend – a hard decision, because there were almost fifty workshops, with topics such as “How to Use the Wordless Book,” “Use Illustrations to Share the Gospel,” “How to Share the Gospel with Your Atheist Friends” and so on. I wish every city in the US could have a conference like this!

20141010_124906_30154 Just as Paul went into the market place in Athens and shared with those who happened to be there (Acts 17) so we told the kids that when believers go out to parks or malls to share the gospel, the Lord arranges conversations! We shared several examples of this. We explained to them that they actually have many advantages in witnessing while they are young. For example, people are less intimidated by them. Additionally, people will see strong contrast between them and young people in the world. They can begin practicing talking with unbelievers about the gospel now while they’re young, and by the time they are older they will have a lot of experience.

Seattle is in great need for more laborers. We pray that the Lord works in the hearts of these kids and makes them into zealous voices for Him!

20141010_133406_30167 We were also asked to teach a session entitled “The Mall a Mission Field.” =) It was fun to hear their questions afterward: “How do I witness to a strong atheist?” “What do I say to a friend who just doesn’t think it’s important?”

20141010_155845_30172 After I shared with the kids how being a friend to the “unpopular” and “hurting” children gives us an opportunity to share Jesus with them, the girl on the left came up afterward and told me how she had done just that with a friend she knew, and it gave her an opportunity to share the gospel. We need to pray for more laborers to the harvest that take action as she did!

20141012_165911_30267 Heather (right) is the main one who coordinates the “Friday Field Trip.” I was encouraged and challenged by her zeal for serving God and her heart to share the gospel with everyone she comes into contact with from neighbors to the UPS man.

20141010_135529_30169 After the “Friday Field Trip,” the main conference began Friday evening. One of my favorite parts of the conference was getting to know the other exhibitors / speakers there. (Pictured above is the New Tribes Missions booth.)

For example, during lunch, I began talking with the Arabic couple at my table and they told me about the difficult persecution they experienced in central Asia before escaping their country. It was so awesome to hear how the Lord had worked in their lives and is still working in their people group. I realized that I was sitting with modern day heroes and I wished I would have had time to ask them many more questions!

There were actually many “modern-day heroes” at this conference – many men and women who had spent decades laboring on the mission field. There were also many who were interested in going on the mission field. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by people who are living with their focus on eternity!

The church was filled with believers from many different denominations and cultures, brought together with joy under the banner of missions. It was a very sweet atmosphere. The “WHY” of missions wasn’t the focus, because that was already a “given.” The focal point was more on the “where?” and “how?” of missions. I noticed how much joy I sensed among everyone, and I think that was because these people were focused on serving God and not on themselves.

20141011_165409_30218 In the afternoon on Saturday, Sarah and I were asked to be part of a session that discussed the importance of BOTH word + deed ministry. The first ten minutes of the session was a 10 minute video by Tim Keller. Then Sarah and I shared some testimonies on witnessing. The session concluded with a panel with two main speakers from the conference: Jeff Lilley and Paul Watson, who both lead urban missions here in the US. (Questions were texted in from the audience.)

I was challenged by Jeff and Paul’s perspective and answers. Jeff mentioned how when you start helping a person in need, you better be prepared because it is going to get messy. He mentioned how “it’s going to consume your day.” They referenced the story of the good Samaritan. It made me think “How many of us think we are a good Christian and would do what the good Samaritan did, when in reality we do exactly what the priest and Levite did and look the other way?” Sure, maybe the situations we encounter are a little less extreme, and every case certainly requires wisdom, but let’s pray that we don’t miss the opportunities God puts in our path!

20141012_165951_30268 We stayed in the home of Paul and Sandy Blauert, who started the Seattle Missions Fest nine years ago. While others retire and spend their time on themselves, Paul and Sandy instead give their time to organizing and running the largest free Missions Fest in the country. =) They were such a blessing and encouragement to us!!

“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14).”

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…’ (Mark 16:15)”

A Message Demonstrated By My Grandma

October 7th, 2014

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


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