Stephen’s Finish Line

A few weeks ago, my brother Stephen ran in a marathon. Our family drove to Des Moines to watch and cheer. By using a tracking app, we could see how many miles Stephen had run so far and where he currently was on the route. This techy tool enabled us to drive to different spots along the 26-mile route and cheer for Stephen as he ran by.

There were many others watching and cheering. Some of the cheerers were more fun to watch than the runners.

Throughout the morning, when I had free minutes here and there, I was reading 1 Corinthians. Just before arriving at our last stop to cheer (the finish line!) I was reading these words … “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV).

I was impressed with how fancy the finish line was.

Runners were finishing their race one by one and receiving their medal. The announcers shared details about the athletes as they crossed the line: “Runner 2553 is from Minnesota, and this is her 3rd race this year…”

It made me think about our heavenly finish line, where new people are arriving each day and being greeted. There must be such an awesome excitement in the air. New arrivals are doubtless eager to tell stories of God’s faithfulness to them on the journey. Cheering, warm-hearted saints in heaven (“the great cloud of witnesses” – Hebrews 12:1) are likely just as eager to hear their stories and praise God!

I have not even run a 5k race, so I can’t speak from experience about finish lines—but I can only imagine the agony that some of the athletes in Stephen’s race must have felt at about the 25-mile mark. Everything in them was focused on ONE thing: the finish line.

I thought, Imagine a finish line with JESUS there.

There is so much emotion contained in this thought! Talk about motivation! Not only is the pain over, not only is the goal reached, but you’re in the presence of Jesus—the One you’ve longed to see for so long.

Now, when Hebrews 12:1-2 discusses the race of life, the instruction it gives us is not to “run faster,” but rather to endure. We are supposed to run with endurance, looking unto Jesus. (He set the example for us by enduring the cross. No trial we encounter compares to His!)

So how do we endure? Glancing back through the previous chapter (Hebrews 11), we read stories of men and women throughout the ages who endured great trials, and the secret to their endurance is given: faith.

As you know, enduring trials is a normal part of the Christian life; in fact, it seems that the Lord often gives Christians extra trials because they are so good for us. I guess each trial is kind of like the Lord bringing us to the gym to build more faith muscles. Although trials are unpleasant, we need to view them as valuable; because if endured properly, they will ultimately enhance the joy of the finish line.

So to summarize, faith helps us to endure trials, and trials build our faith. The result is that our strengthened faith enables us to run better, be purified, and ultimately bring Jesus more glory and honor on that Day. There’s a reason James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials (James 1:2)! Peter also reminds us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV).

If trials are beneficial for the race, what are the things that are damaging? We’re told in Hebrews 12: the extra weights we accumulate, and the sin which clings so closely. It was about 40° F the day Stephen ran his marathon. The organizers of the race informed the runners in advance that if they wanted to wear a sweatshirt and throw it to the side sometime during the race, they’d collect them and donate them to a homeless shelter. A serious runner doesn’t want anything unnecessary—even a sweatshirt. It’s not worth it.

Stephen told us that at mile 25, with just one mile left to go and a hurting knee, he began to walk. But soon another runner approached him and said, “Hey, only three-quarters of a mile left. Let’s run to the end.” So the two of them ran the last section together. The kindness of this stranger provided the extra boost Stephen needed. In our heavenly race, we’re not running against each other, but with each other! Far from competition, part of “winning” is helping others win! What better way to do this than to remind them of the soon-coming finish line and to run beside them? “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8).

Here’s a practical step of action. Pick one person in your life and pray some specific requests for them in the heavenly race:

• Pray that he or she will lay off weights that are a hindrance
• Pray that he or she will lay off the sin that clings so closely
• Pray that he or she will stop building with wood, hay, and stubble but be eternally minded.
• Share an encouraging word and point him or her to the finish line
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13 NKJV).

“The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV).

Note: This article was sent out in our family newsletter this month. Along with our newsletter we also had a special for free shipping from our online store from now until Christmas. You can view the newsletter here. To sign up for our newsletter, you can send us an email and request to be added to our list.

Jesus’ Shocking Actions

After singing “Jesus Loves Me” with the children in my Sunday School class yesterday, I asked them, “How do we know Jesus loves us?”

I was pleased by their good, biblical answers. Several of the children said, “Because He died on the cross for us.”

Little five-year-old Moriah (affectionately called Momo) said, “He loves us … because He does!”

I affirmed to Momo that she was exactly right. God told Israel that He didn’t love them because they were so great or talented or strong, but because … He loved them! He chose to love them because of who He was, not who they were (Deut. 7:7-8).

I also told them that we know Jesus loves us not primarily because of things that happen to us, but because His Word says so, and because He proved it by dying for us.

“Because sometimes in life, something really hard may happen to you, and it might be tempting for you to doubt God’s love for you,” I told the kids. “But actually the Lord lets really hard things happen because He loves us—and He’s using those things for good in our lives.”

After more singing, I opened my Bible to John 11 and began drawing out the events of Lazarus’ resurrection on my whiteboard. One of the little girls raised her hand and sweetly commented, “Your people kind of look flowers.” Despite my poor drawing, they listened attentively as I explained that Mary and Martha must have felt very let down when Jesus didn’t show up. Jesus was their one friend who could have prevented Lazarus’ death! And He didn’t come, even when they requested Him to. But the truth was that Jesus purposefully delayed His coming because of his love for them (11:3). He was planning to do something even better.

I discussed with the kids about Jesus’ compassion and tears upon His arrival.

“He didn’t cry,” one of the little boys protested in denial.
“No, He really did cry,” I said. “Crying isn’t wrong–Jesus was showing His love for them.” I explained that the people around really took notice of His tears. It showed them how much He cared. In fact, Jesus used the deep sorrow that Mary and Martha were experiencing as a time to bond with them. If Jesus had prevented their pain, Mary and Martha wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the love of His comfort and empathy. When someone comforts you, that creates a bond. If Jesus would have raised Lazarus immediately upon arrival, He wouldn’t have had those important conversations with Mary and Martha.

Next I drew the tomb scene and told the kids, “Then Jesus said something really shocking. He said to ‘take away the stone.’ Think of what everyone must have been thinking! I mean, there was a dead man behind that stone. That’s kind of like if Jesus told people today to dig up the coffin of someone who was recently buried.”

It was cute to see the children really getting into the story.

I continued, “Martha complained that there would be a bad smell. She was thinking practically, from a human perspective. Sometimes in our lives, our problem is that we think from an earthly perspective too — and that’s why we doubt Jesus. But you know what Jesus said to her?”

I read it to them: “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”

I emphasized a point to the kids that I am trying to learn myself: Jesus wanted Martha to understand who He really was. He is the resurrection and the life! This was not a problem for Him! Jesus’ actions are shocking. He is always doing something bigger and better than our minds can fathom. He wanted Martha to see that no matter the predicament, disaster, or agony, she should refuse to look from her practical, earthly viewpoint, and rather turn to Him in belief. That’s when she would see the glory of God.

The same is true for us, and I think that Jesus asks us the same question in our trials: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

Is our faith lacking because we have not read what He has said to us? Or have we read and forgotten?

May we respond to Him with the same faith represented in the children’s song:
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but HE IS STRONG.

“Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, For we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the GLORY OF YOUR NAME; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭79:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Oh, and I thought you’d enjoy seeing a picture of my class (including Lazarus).

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the PROOF OF YOUR FAITH, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Texas “Speak Truth in Your Heart” Conferences This Month!

We’d appreciate prayer for the Lord to work in the hearts of girls and moms at our upcoming Bright Lights conferences in Dallas and Houston this weekend and the following week!

We just returned from a set of conferences in three different locations in Mexico and were very blessed by all the Lord did there. More reports coming soon!

Testify Camp Schedule

In less than a week, we’ll be running our witnessing training camp for the second time at the Iowa State Fair. We’re excited that this year Tim Chaffey, speaker and writer from Answers in Genesis will be teaching some of the training. Tim is the content manager for the Ark Encounter.
Last year we were greatly encouraged by how we saw the Lord work and by the fellowship that emerged. Registrations is closed this year for campers, but it is still open for those who are local and would like to come as a “Day Camper.” Please email me and let me know if you’d like more information, or if you are planning to come.

Testify Training Camp Registration Deadline: August 1

(To see this flyer englarged, click here.)

The deadline to register for the Testify Training Camp at the Iowa State Fair is August 1st, just a few days away. We’re excited about the group God is bringing together, and we are looking forward to an exciting time of ministry and fellowship. We saw the Lord work in so many ways last year.

Click here to register. If you have not yet seen the 3 minute promo video we made last year, view that here.

Local Option: For those who live in the Des Moines area and would like to be a part of the camp as a “day camper,” you are welcome to do so for no fee. However, if you’d like to join us for any meals at the camp, that will be $6 per meal and we’ll need to know which meals you will be joining us for by August 1st. (If you won’t know until the last minute, you can bring a sack lunch.) To register as a Day Camper, please email me and let me know if you are planning to come for the whole time or just part, and if you want to eat any meals with us. I will be posting a schedule for the conference early next week.

Summer “Speak Truth” Conferences Next Week!

Here’s a peek at the schedule for our upcoming “Speak Truth” Conference in Cincinnati, and in the Detroit, Michigan area. (Note: In Michigan, the conference will run over a Thursday and Friday instead of a Friday and Saturday.)

Click here for more information or to register! Registrations are full for Cincinnati, but there is still plenty of room for Michigan. If you have friends in Michigan who may be interested, we’d appreciate the help in spreading the word. We are also doing a “Strong in the Lord” conference in Michigan the same week.

Living the Love Song

We sent out our May newsletter a few days ago! These newsletters were supposed to be every month, but the last one we sent was in December! :-O
You can view our May newsletter, “Living the Love Song,” here. If you’d like to be added to this list, contact me and let me know. I can guarantee emails will not be flooding your inbox. 🙂

“Billboard for Jesus”

Two years ago today, Nickie’s dad, Todd Biegler, went to be with Jesus. What a difficult two years this has been for their family! He is so missed. The Bieglers continue to be a blessing to the whole community in so many ways as they faithfully serve others.

When Nickie’s mom (Deb) was getting John 14:6 engraved on the tombstone, the man doing the engraving made a comment like, “So basically you want a billboard for Jesus?”
He got that right! 🙂

They got permission for the stone to be put backwards so that the Bible verse could face the bike trail. This is a heavily-traveled bike trail, and the verse is very readable from the trail. My family takes the trail all the time because it connects to our neighborhood, and it’s such a delight to see the verse there. Maybe you all could join me in praying for those who see it—that the Holy Spirit would use it to turn the eyes of their heart to Jesus, our hope.

Special note: On the “Biegler” side of the rock, at the bottom, is the chorus of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This was a theme song throughout Todd’s four years of sickness, even to the very end as their family was singing hymns around his bedside.

Special note 2: In the first picture, the rock that is behind Todd’s tombstone to the right says “Rodgers,” and that is where my grandma is buried. ❤️

2017 Iowa State Fair Outreach

God did awesome things at the Iowa State Fair last year. Our team of volunteers were able to pass out 75,000 gospel tracts and have hundreds of Christ-centered conversations. We experienced much joy as we saw Him working. This 3-minute video was put together with the hope that many more will join us this August!

Answers in Genesis Outreach at the Iowa State Fair from Tomorrow's Forefathers, Inc. on Vimeo.

TESTIFY TRAINING CAMP – AUGUST 10-14, 2017
The fair runs from August 10-20. On the first four days of the fair (August 10-14) we will be running a camp, together with Tony Ramsek from Answers in Genesis. The camp (Testify Training Camp) is designed both to equip believers in sharing their faith, and to provide opportunity to learn together as we witness at the Iowa State Fair in the afternoon and evening. See flyer for more information. You can also see this blog post for pictures and reports from last year’s camp. Click here to register. Locals are also invited to attend training sessions even if they don’t come to the rest of the camp, provided they RSVP (space is limited).

Feedback from Camp Attendees Last Year:
“I feel less fear and less pressure to ‘convert.’”
“…very encouraging and helpful training in sharing the gospel.”
“I realize that I am given the responsibility to share the gospel and the Holy Spirit does the work.”
“It’s encouraging to be around so many Christians who want to share to gospel.”

If you’d like to come and volunteer at the booth any time from the August 10-20 (apart from the camp) you can see this page.

The above video was shared on Ken Ham’s blog on Saturday along with more reports from Tony Ramsek. You can see that post here.

Tulip Time Outreach, Less Than 2 Weeks Away

Last weekend my dad and I went down to Pella, Iowa, to run a witnessing training time in preparation for the gospel outreach that will happen in less than 2 weeks at the Tulip Time on May 4-6th.

Many tulips are already in bloom, and the town looks beautiful. Our booth will be in a great location with lots of foot traffic. Thousands travel long distances to come to this event. Please pray that the Lord opens the eyes of many to see the beauty of the gospel while they are there!

My dad with Jon Neifert, who is heading up this outreach

The town is named Pella because when Dutch settlers came from Holland seeking religious freedom, they named their new town Pella after a city where Jewish followers of Jesus fled for refuge before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. A mural remains in the post office (pictured above) in Pella showing emigrants in Holland being arrested, and a pastor leading them in prayer as they travel by ship to America, and a church being established as the center of their new community in America. (See full story here.)

This picture will be on the banner above our gospel booth and will help to open doors of conversation with people about the gospel. We will be passing out the story of the Christians who settled Pella, along with many gospel tracts.

Our main need is for people with a heart for the lost to help us get this new outreach off the ground. You don’t have to have any previous skills in evangelism; you just have to be able to smile and hand gospel tracts to people as they walk by. There are many great reasons to do evangelism from a gospel booth. See more information about the Tulip Time outreach here.

Here’s a short video that describes some of the benefits of doing evangelism from a gospel booth.

Benefits of Gospel Booth Witnessing from Tomorrow's Forefathers, Inc. on Vimeo.