Church-Wide Memorizing Marathon

On January 20th, our church family ran a marathon. Only, the entire event took place inside our church building. It was not running miles, but memorizing verses! It was an exciting day! I’ll share a glimpse of what happened.

The morning began with a wonderful breakfast that Cheryl volunteered to provide. (Everyone knows you need good food before a marathon!)

As breakfast was concluding, my dad gave instructions about the morning’s schedule. Everyone chose in advance whether they wanted to do a whole marathon (memorizing 26 verses, all in one morning), a half marathon (13 verses) a 10 K (6 verses) or a 5 K (3 verses). We had 37 participants.

Memorizing 26 verses all in one morning is no easy undertaking! Like physically running a marathon, it requires unusual dedication and perseverance. It helps to know others are doing it with you. Sometimes you don’t know how much you can memorize until you really apply yourself.

No one knew in advance which Bible passage we would be memorizing. The passage was printed out, and everyone was told to pick up a copy (in the version of their choice) as they entered the auditorium to begin.

Silence filled the room as the “race” began and each mind focused diligently on the passage.

That is, until the “Chariots of Fire” theme song would start playing (approximately every 45 minutes) which meant it was time to go downstairs for a quick water and snack break. (How could you run a marathon without snacks? 🙂 )

Some of the girls prepared motivational posters for the little ones to hold to cheer on the memorizes as they came down for the snack break.

After a quick break, we were all back upstairs to keep studying! Each person picked their own quiet, comfortable spot in the church to study.

Chloe found an exceptionally good study spot (her dad’s lap).

Whenever anyone finished their entire goal (whether 26, 13, 6 or 3 verses), he or she would quote to someone.

Naomi worked really hard and did a 10 K all by herself (6 verses). Here she is quoting them to Charlie.

Thomas really applied himself and here he’s quoting his 5 K (3 verses) to my grandpa with actions. We’re so proud of how hard the kids worked!

After lunch we had an awards ceremony! In this picture Stephen is passing out the 10 K medals.

Our “winner” was Laura Howard (mint sweatshirt), who memorized all 26 verses in just 90 minutes and quoted them fluently to my grandpa. Mark Woodhouse, one of our elders, was the second to finish the full marathon. 🙂 Of course, we weren’t actually racing against each other.

The event concluded with some Bible quizzing on the passage we had all just memorized.

The kids were pretty excited to see the adults quiz also. 🙂

We praise God for all the Scripture that was hidden in hearts in just a few hours, and for the joy that accompanied doing it together! We counted up how many verses that were memorized by everyone over the course of the morning and the number came to 500. Praise the Lord.

Sarah’s Birthday + John 1 + Isaiah 40

We had a nice family time at Kava House in Swisher this morning for Sarah’s birthday!

After some nice family discussion, my dad shared some insights from John 1 that he has been enjoying. I’ll try to restate his thoughts:

After John denied that he was the Messiah or Elijah, he explained who he was: the very one Isaiah 40:3 was talking about. That must have been amazing for his audience to hear. The man standing before them was the one about whom Isaiah prophesied! Wow. They were seeing prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes. However, what John the Baptist said NEXT made his previous statement pale in comparison. He said, “AMONG YOU STANDS ONE you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26).

Whoa! If the crowd listening was familiar with Isaiah 40 (and I’m guessing many were) they should have connected the dots, and realized that John the Baptist was talking about Jehovah, the I AM described in Isaiah 40. If they were understanding John the Baptist correctly, it should have registered in their minds that he was saying, “The Messiah is alive today in Israel! The One that ‘the voice calling in the wilderness’ from Isaiah 40:3 was called to introduce is here! He stands among you now!”

“It’s kind of like ‘Aslan is on the move,’” Stephen commented.

And if they remembered any of the amazing descriptions of this Coming One that Isaiah 40 gives they would have been even more in awe. Although John’s listeners didn’t catch on at that time to the implications of what he was saying, praise God WE can read John 1 and Isaiah 40 with understanding.

John the Baptist was a phenomenon that Israel hadn’t seen in 400 years. An angel announced his birth. His life’s work was prophesied. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15). Even Jesus spoke high compliments for him (Luke 7:28). Yet all of John the Baptist’s credentials merely elevate Jesus because John said he was not worthy to even untie the strap of Jesus’ sandal.

Anyway, there are few things better than a good Bible discussion with family at a coffee shop on a cold January morning.

Our Behind the Scenes Hero

Most people who order from our online store don’t know that almost everything is packed by our 91-year-old grandpa! Not only does he pack orders, he keeps the basement organized, duplicates CDs, meticulously proof-reads for us, picks up mail from our PO box, takes inventory, packs and unpacks for our conferences, and meets many other needs (including remembering to water our plants, since we always forget).

Even more than the practical help Grandpa provides, we appreciate his prayers. Actually, he prays diligently not only for all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but he prays for each individual at our church by name (while keeping up-to-date with the details of their lives). Right now he is also teaching four Bible studies. 🙂 He keeps a pretty busy schedule. I hope that when I am 91 I will be living the same kind of life. Also hoping that one day I will have read through the Bible 40+ times like he has!

I won’t go into detail about the quirky skills he maintains such as quoting the books of the Bible backwards, naming major US cities in order of population, his detailed knowledge of all the presidents and vice presidents, or his tips for remembering the ten plagues in Egypt, but if you know him you can ask him yourself.

Thanks Grandpa for your godly example in our lives!

“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:6-7).

Scrolls Multiplying like Bread and Fishes

Last week a group of young people from our church loaded up into our van to pass out “Christmas scrolls” downtown before a parade.

Here was our team who braved the cold, 23 degree F weather! 😮 The only problem was that we had more helpers than anticipated, and we didn’t have as many scrolls as we would have liked. It’s a disappointing situation to have the manpower but not enough resources to give away.

Thankfully, Edie and Brad Dukek had rolled and brought several large bags of scrolls downtown and had them waiting for us (about double the amount you see in this picture). What a wonderful sight that was. God had fixed our problem.

We had a good hour passing out several hundred of them before the parade. My dad liked to tell people with enthusiasm, “This is the Christmas story FROM THE BIBLE!” and he said people responded with warmth to that–like they were getting “the real thing.” And they were!

I was also grateful for a few discussions I was able to have because of a Christmas questionnaire I used. I thought I’d share my questions in case any of you would find it useful in starting discussions this season. I’d start by saying, “Hello, I’m doing a little Christmas questionnaire — would you be able to answer a couple questions?” Then I went through the first four questions fairly quickly and spent the most time on the 5th question.

1) What was Jesus’ primary purpose for coming to earth as a Man? (John 12:27-28, Hebrews 2:14)
2) Do you know what the name “Immanuel” means?
3) Can you name some of the prophecies that were fulfilled at Jesus’ birth? (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2)
4) What was the good news of great joy that the angel spoke about? (“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:10-11)
5) Jesus is called a “Savior.” What does He save people FROM and how does He do it?
6) The Bible tells us quite a bit about Jesus’ first coming. Do you know what it says about His second coming?

One man named Carlos told me he thought you get to Heaven by faith plus works. I was just about to explain the key concept found in Ephesians 2:8-9 when a drunk guy came up and was a big interruption to our discussion. Thankfully I was able to get back to Ephesians 2:8-9 and Carlos told me he was touched by the encounter. These interruptions at key moments are common and they are a reminder that we are in a spiritual battle and need to persevere in sharing the truth.

We returned invigorated, ready for a warm dinner, and grateful for those who helped us get God’s Word into many hands, and thankful to the Lord who allows us to be involved in His work.

Dad Witnessing At Christmas Tree Farm

After my dad and I picked out and cut down our Christmas tree this afternoon, we began talking about how we should witness to the guy who was working there. We thought that a good strategy for getting into a conversation would be to ask what he thought the second coming of Jesus would be like.

After my dad tied the tree to the top of our vehicle, he remembered he never paid for the tree. 🙂

When he went to pay, he asked his question about the second coming and they ended up talking for 10 – 15 minutes. I joined part way through.

“How’d that conversation go?” I asked dad as we were pulling away.
“Great,” Dad said.
As he began to explain the story to me, I pulled out my camera and started recording, hoping it might spark some new idea for others who might get into discussion this Christmas.

Dad Shares About Witnessing to Christmas Tree Farm Workers from Grace on Vimeo.

Nine Tips for Christmas Caroling Evangelism

A few nights ago we went out Christmas caroling. The girls in our Bright Lights group LOVE doing this. And the elderly neighbors around our church LOVE it when they come.

Here are a few practical tips if you’d like to arrange an outreach like this in your neighborhood or church neighborhood! You don’t have to do it with a Bright Lights group — you could do it with a church group or group of friends. (Our church is planning to do it on a coming Wednesday night.)

1) Don’t take too large of a group – it takes too long to move from house to house. We split into smaller groups of about 12 each. This way we can also reach more houses.

2) Knock, ring the doorbell and then start singing! If they don’t come to the door after one verse, we usually go on to the next house.

3) Have the carolers bring cookies pre-made on little plates (with about 5 cookies per plate) so that you can leave a little treat at each home. Also give them a Christmas gospel tract or Christmas scoll. Give each girl involvement by letting different girls give the plate of cookies to the home resident each time.

4) After you finish the first song, greet the person who came to the door with a warm “Merry Christmas” and explain who you are and what you are doing. (I usually say, “We are from a girl’s Bible study group that meets at the little church around the corner!”) Then we often ask, “Do you have a favorite Christmas carol you’d like us to sing?” However, this is a little risky. It has led to some embarrassing attempts at singing “Silver Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

5) If they don’t come to the door, instruct the carolers not to announce loudly, “I see a man in there — he’s watching the TV!” because walls are not very sound-proof and we don’t want to be a bad testimony or seem rude.

6) If there is snow on the ground, try not to turn their glistening white front yard into a yard covered with muddy boot prints (i.e. take the sidewalk or street).

7) Instruct your carolers in advance to smile!!

Christmas caroling door to door is kind of a thing of the past. Some elderly people remember doing it when they were young and are shocked and ecstatic when carolers arrive at the door!

8) Sing only the first verse of common Christmas carols. The carols my team sang the most were, “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Joy to the World.”

9) Have one person in your group be the scribe. Take notes of which houses you went to, and which houses were especially grateful. You’ll want to make sure you hit those houses again next year. We have some elderly people around our church who wait for us to come each year, and have been extremely touched.

When you regather inside your warm church (or home) discuss what the Lord did and pray for the people that you reached. Celebrate with hot cocoa and Christmas cookies!

We need more “carolers for the harvest” :). Please leave a comment if you have done this and have additional tips.

Christmas Witnessing Tool

“Have you read the Christmas story from the Bible yet? Here’s a copy for you!”
This is my dad’s favorite line to say in the month of December as he passes out the Christmas account from the Bible.

This year, we decided to order 5,000 “Christmas scrolls.” The scroll is almost entirely Scripture. Our objective is to get people reading the Word of God!

Scripture written on the scroll:
Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 2:1-12, John 1:1,14, John 3:16-19 (Scripture quoted from the NASB.)
Old Testament verses contain various prophecies of Christ’s coming.

We like to roll them up and give them out like little scrolls. People receive them as a festive Christmas gesture. Thanks to my Grandpa, who works for us at our office daily (even though he is 91 years old), we have 200 rolled for our next outreach this Friday night: the Peppermint Walk downtown Marion. For those in our area, if you’d like to come and help pass out the scrolls, you’re more than welcome.

The scrolls are perfect for attaching to a plate of Christmas cookies for neighbors, teachers, coworkers, and friends. You can purchase them in packs of 25, 50, 100, and 250 from our online store. (Note: they come flat and you have to roll them yourself.)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Note: I have not yet mastered the art of carrying these as I’m Christmas shopping (to give to cashiers) and not wrinkling them. If you come up with any solutions to this problem, I’d be interested.

Thanksgiving, International Students, and Joyful Noises

Praise the Lord for bringing 20 international students from 13 different countries to our church two nights ago for our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll share a few details of what the evening looked like, in hopes that some reading this might like to plan something similar with your own church!

We all signed up to bring a different part of the Thanksgiving dinner, and we started the meal at 5pm so we’d have time for a program afterward.

Some have wondered how we get the word to international students about the event. We had a connection with a few students and they, in turn, passed on the invite to others.

We seated the internationals at different tables so families could get to know each of them personally (and potentially follow up with them).

My dad did a time of introductions by having each of the students share a little about themselves. They all seemed to enjoy this, and there was quite a bit of laughter.

After introductions we had a casual, family-like program that consisted of special music, congregational singing, sharing words of thankfulness, a short history lesson about the Pilgrims, and a gospel message.

Glory Hallelujah from Grace on Vimeo.

We think our kids are pretty great; I can’t imagine how boring our church would be without them. 🙂 They did a great job singing Psalm 100.

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:1-4).

The teens reading Scripture verses on thankfulness.

Some students are talkative and eager to discuss their culture and religion.

“We believe that Jesus was just a prophet,” one Muslim student told my dad.

“We also believe that the Messiah was a prophet, but we believe He was more than a prophet,” my dad said. “Actually, Islam is closer to Christianity than almost all of the other religions,” my dad continued. “We both believe in one Creator God, both have roots in Abraham, and we both believe that all men have sinned. One of the main differences between Islam and Christianity is that we have a different cure for sin.

“We believe that earth is a test, and we each need to pass God’s test,” the student said.

“Yes, earth is a test,” my dad said, “But the Bible says that we have all sinned, and that we have all failed God’s test. In fact, we CAN’T pass God’s test. This puts us in a huge predicament–a problem that only God can solve for us. That was the job of the Messiah. So the question is, what makes the Messiah unique and therefore able to help us? What’s so special about the Messiah? What are His credentials that qualifies Him above other prophets?

The students in the van seemed to agree that this was a good question. We hope and pray for more interaction with them!

We have seen that each year, the connections we make with international students leads to more opportunities with them. With nearly a million international students now studying in the US, we have a wonderful opportunity to touch the world from home … and incorporating them into homes, and church-family settings is one of the best ways to do that.

We praise God for a great night. And I’m a little surprised that more feathers and napkins didn’t drop onto people’s heads from the balcony this year. 😛