Crossing county or state lines to visit our families is now more normal via the bright, glowing screens we stare at day after day. 2020 was spent inside “Brady Bunch squares” as we “gathered” to make the best of it. Where has this taken you? Personally, I have “traveled” to Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado. The relationships I value have motivated me to reach out to dear friends and family with whom I’m not normally involved.
I don’t know what was more intimidating, the ice sculpture or the perfectly-dressed ladies. Both of these greeted me as I walked into the church. This particular morning was the introduction to women’s Bible studies. I would pick up the Bible study book, meet others who were also interested, and hear from a speaker. As I walked into the church, I wanted to run the other way. I had just returned from several years of living internationally with a very simple lifestyle. My grid for evaluating any situation was a little different to say the least. Just the size of the foyer completely overwhelmed me. I came into church by myself. Alone. I quickly realized that everyone else came in with a friend. I didn’t know where to go, wasn’t sure I wanted to be there, and definitely didn’t want to experience this situation again. My one thought was, “Why does Bible study have to feel so uncomfortable.”
Have you ever had an experience like this? You know, the kind where your heart is racing, you break out into a sweat, and you feel so confused because in trying to do something right, it suddenly feels very isolating. But moments like these can forge new paths in our lives. My question that lingered was, How many other women feel this way? Could we do it differently?
Motivated by that experience, I wanted to try a new approach. Beginning a Bible study in my neighborhood seemed daunting yet intriguing to me. But I knew that someone reaching out to me and asking me to come seemed very kind and soft. The invitation from a voice rather than an announcement felt caring and compassionate. Could this be what the Lord wanted me to do?
We invite you to take part in the ADVENT 2GO Bible plan now available on YouVersion. This study includes four stories from Matthew and Luke. We learn of God’s divine plan for the birth of Jesus Christ and experience what it was like to be present at these events. The question-and-answer format can be used for family devotions, group discussion, and self-study. Invite a neighbor, friend, or family member to this Bible study and look expectantly to what God will teach you together. He will draw you closer to one another as you study God’s Word.
Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him!
Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. The calendar of the planet revolves around one date—the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether or not we have faith in who Christ claimed to be, it remains as a beginning point by which the world lives. This one event altered history.
The pain and anger on his employees’ faces tore at him. He could feel the wall between them. His decisions earlier that week had affected everyone. He stood at the podium ready to take the blame as he said quietly, “Look no further, the ‘elephant in the room’ is before you.”
What if he had said sarcastically, “I feel sorry for you that you don’t understand what I just decided.” Or if he had responded angrily, “It is what it is – deal with it!”
Isn’t it amazing what tone and a few words can do in any situation?
One week into the COVID crisis, I sat up at 4:00am filled with anxious thoughts. The “what ifs” started pouring in. The “if onlys” came right after. Following the intermission of this two-part heart-racing play was the trilogy, “Now what?” As quick as I could, I grabbed my pen and began to listen.
Speak, Lord, I am listening.
Where are You in this crisis?
What are You doing?
Do you see our fears?
What do You want us to know?
Opening the Bible that stays on the pillow next to me,
Here is a great idea for celebrating Easter differently this year! Ask several neighbors to join you in creating a walking scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. Included in this scavenger hunt are two main items, cute Easter riddles/jokes and Bible verses highlighting the Passion Week. On the attached printable forms are eight cards for each. Ideally you would ask eight neighbors to join you (adapt accordingly). Assign one joke and one verse to each of your eight neighbors. On Easter morning, each neighbor would post the joke and the Bible verse with a symbol inside the Easter basket, along with either a plastic figure of the item listed or a creative alternative.
On Easter, families go around your neighborhood looking for the Easter baskets that have these cards. The scavenger hunt sheet shows them what to look for on these specific cards and check them off. This is a fun way for us to celebrate #EasterTogetherApart.
If you are like me, it seems like time creeps through the winter months leading up to spring. Then suddenly Good Friday arrives, we go to church on Easter and Monday begins the week again. This monumental event of my faith comes with little awareness or forethought. Somehow I feel I have missed out on a season of anticipation. What if you and I don’t “do Easter” that way this year? What if we spend time purposely preparing our hearts and minds for this incredible celebration? The LENT study is meant to do exactly that.
As another Christmas approached I found myself weary of the commercialized season. What I really longed for was thoughtful moments being mesmerized by my Savior's birth. The story that had transformed my life somehow seemed diminished in the to-do's of December. I searched for an Advent study that would take me through the Scriptures in order to feel the story firsthand, but I couldn't find one. So, I wrote one. I invited several others on this personal journey, and their encouragement to publish and post this study was unanimous.
Step out of time and into these Scriptures. Find yourself pondering afresh this moment when our stratosphere was interrupted with the divine. The silent and holy night is near. Make ready your heart to worship.
The following is the introduction to the ADVENT study. The ADVENT study guide and compact guide are available here.
As I was beginning a neighborhood Bible study I decided to hand-deliver a few invitations. Nancy lived across from me at the time, and my simple invitation turned into a conversation with her. Nancy shared with me that she had always wanted to attend a Bible study, but she didn’t know anything about the Bible. This had always held her back. I assured her that we would all be learning together and that she could feel comfortable. She came, and her life began to change. Christ made a difference in Nancy’s life through a neighborhood Bible study!
Beginning a NBS might feel like a daunting task. Will anyone come? Will I be seen as the Bible person on the street? Will people stop being my friend? We all have concerns and fears as we begin. We thought we would compile our top 5 things we have found most helpful.
1. Pray. Do not underestimate prayer. Ask the Lord to help you as you begin. If possible, ask someone to pray with you. Pray for open hearts. Pray for divine connections. Pray for people to come!
“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” Washington Irving
Our newest study, the Lent Bible Study, is only available through this email. We desire to have several individuals and a few small groups take part in field testing our materials before we post them to our website. Would you help us by being a part of our “Lent Bible Study” field test? This study is written in the same format as our other 2GO Bible study series. It is a 7-week study leading up to Easter. The following is the introduction.
I’ll never forget the day my husband shared a new ministry principle with me. He suggested, “What if you stopped doing things for people and did things with people?”
That single question revolutionized what it meant for me to truly love my neighbor in ways that included both acts of service and also a relational commitment that changed my neighborhood forever. That year, I began to gather the neighbors together based on what our family already did each day. I was going to live with my neighbor, not simply do tasks for them.
“The one feature I know I need is a fenced-in backyard,” I told my realtor as we began looking for my new townhome. I thought it would surely increase my home office productivity if I could open the door, let Snickers the dog outside, and keep on working. I prayed and even visualized Snickers running around in that fenced-in backyard as I checked off item after item on my action list.
After an exhaustive real estate search, I settled on a townhome in a lovely, small community that had every feature I needed...except the fenced-in backyard. Little did I know that God had a bigger and better plan. As Snickers and I headed out of the door four times a day, I began meeting and getting to know my neighbors. Brief conversations quickly turned into learning each other’s names. Longer conversations soon turned into sharing laughs and hearing about each other’s lives and families.
The ruling on the field stands.
The ruling on the field is confirmed.
Football reigns and rules in the South. On Monday, we were glued to the TV to watch the National Championship college football game. It was intense to say the least. Half of my family barked like a true Dawg (University of Georgia). The other half was cheering “Roll Tide” (University of Alabama). Suffice it to say that all of us were hoarse by the end of the game. After every play, there was yelling. “Yeeessss!!!! Noooooo!!!!” And all at the same time!
Guest post by Karen Guzman
I grew up in a house regularly filled with guests, whether for a meal or for a semester. So, when I joined InterVarsity staff and moved into my own place, it was natural to host students for meals, movie nights, parties, etc. Later, I began working with graduate students who tended to be on campus year ‘round. Work commitments and/or being from out of state or overseas make for infrequent visits to family. Working with international students, I discovered that many come to the states for school and return home without ever having seen the inside of an American home. Thanksgiving, particularly, became a focal point of ministry as I welcomed students into my home for a traditional American celebration.
One year, I decided to change it up. Instead of just reading the book at Bible study, I contacted the husbands of the women of the group and ask them to help me. I sent a quick note to them that said, "Hello! This is Joan Parsons. I am hoping to surprise the ladies around Valentine’s Day with a note from their husband. Could you please take a couple of minutes and answer the question: What do you admire about your wife? I would like 2-3 sentences. You can send it via text or email."
The morning of Bible study came and honestly, I was overwhelmed.
The husbands were amazing with their words. They had taken time to be thoughtful and encouraging. I took each of their notes and reproduced them on pretty stationery.
"She is the most capable person I've ever met. There is absolutely NOTHING she can't accomplish when she puts her mind to it."
One by one, I read the notes aloud. We laughed. We cried. We shared a very special and precious moment together. One of the ladies said, with tears in her eyes, "I have never heard him say these things. This means the world to me." And she and her husband had been married for 40+ years!
Mr. Hatch strikes again!
Ask the Lord to give you creativity. He can do what you could never do on your own.
How have you marked Valentine's Day in your Bible study? Share your ideas with other leaders in the comments.