“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
Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives
Enjoy this remodeled HEART 2GO Bible study written by Debbie McGoldrick.
In creation we see a myriad of word pictures that God uses to demonstrate His character, biblical truths, and His miraculous ways. Jesus often used nature to illustrate His divine teachings. The following insect story allegorizes the essence of the HEART Bible Study theme.
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 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!
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is a beautiful story that has been adapted to film. It releases to U.S. theaters, today, November 17, 2017 and I can’t wait to see it. I hope moviegoers pass through the double doors, walk down the dark and narrow passage, and claim a seat prepared to accept this message of #choosekind.
August “Auggie” Pullman, born with a condition that necessitated 27 surgeries that did not restore his disfigured face, enters school for the first time as a fifth grader. Can you imagine? It is a rough start but students around Auggie transform throughout the year, allowing viewers to soak up the possibilities of being “ordinary” and what it means to choose kindness.
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.
Throughout the year we seek moments with our neighbors to show God’s love and perhaps to invite them into our homes. We may have asked a neighbor several times to come over and they have never accepted. Yet for Halloween, many of these same neighbors will likely walk up to our doors and ring the bells. May we open our eyes to the possibilities…
“Love is the very nature of God, and as believers, we share His nature. That’s why love is so important. Our expression of love is evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. True love results in action.” Janice Mathers
By Judi L
Reposted with permission from Calvary Life Magazine
Excuses, excuses….I can’t do a Bible study with women in my neighborhood! I certainly can’t do one in Traverse City this summer! That’s my time to read all the books I can’t get to the rest of the year. I have company all the time. I only teach children! What if these women ask me something I don’t know? Most of the people come and go during the summer so they won’t be consistent.
I kept seeing the need and making more excuses. The simple truth was I didn’t want to give up my time in the summer. I had asked God repeatedly, “What should I do?” And I couldn’t shake the words I had told the children all year in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) that we were about to "GO TELL THE GOOD NEWS" But I didn't want to go and tell!
Caroline’s soft voice drew the crowd closer. With attentiveness that no one expected nor planned for, her authentic words of vulnerability accomplished what some speakers only dream of but never achieve.
For Caroline, her size and stature began her testimony before she uttered the first word.
At age 18, she reached her full height, 3’7”. From birth, it was discovered that she had a rare bone and joint condition that would classify her as a “little person”. She was born on 2/10 at 2:10pm. Her life verse is Ephesians 2:10, “For I am God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
♥R eposted with permission from Calvary Life Magazine.♥
FEAR seems to be a common theme from those who have been sharing their experiences about their Neighborhood Bible study journey! “How will my neighbors respond when I invite them to come to my house for a Bible study? Will they think I’m weird, crazy, fanatical? What if don’t know how to answer their questions? WHAT IF NO ONE COMES?” On and on the doubts and fears go. Well, my experience has been no different! From the time two years ago when the vision was shared for us to go out into their neighborhoods, workplaces and families like streams in the desert, sharing the Living water, I knew that God wanted me to start a study in my neighborhood! BUT, all those fears I mentioned kept on rearing their ugly heads in my heart and mind!
Kid’s Back Yard Bible Club
Designed by kids, for kids!
Want to try something different with your family this summer?
Along with your summer bucket list of:
How about adding:
*neighborhood Bible club for kids!
Nine-year-old, Aiden, caught a vision last week to do such.
Debbie McGoldrick lead a workshop entitled “how to begin a neighborhood Bible study for kids.” One such attendee was Aiden. After praying with his mom and dad he told them what he wanted to do. Aiden shared, “I want to teach kids about the Bible so that kids can know Jesus and go tell others about him and can become Christians too.” His mother, Heather, said, “he is so excited. We are truly excited to see what God wants us to do with this.”
The plan is simple. Heather discussed they will meet Tuesdays from 3:00-5:00pm in their home. The time will be spent developing friendships and reading from the Bible and talking about it. Their main desire is that their neighbor children know they can come to a “safe” place with their questions about God and they can learn what it means to have a relationship with God. She also shared her boys are running with the idea and they are trusting the Lord with all the details from week to week.
This week Aiden and his two brothers handed out rice krispie treats and flyers to the children in their neighborhood. How fun is that? They wanted to make sure all their neighbors knew about the summer Back Yard Bible Club. Heather also said she will have a private facebook group with the parents to keep them up to date with the weekly Bible verses.
Aiden’s favorite verse is Psalm 90:2. “Before the mountains were born you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.” When asked why this was his favorite, his reply
was, “it shows how much God knows and how mighty he is.
Way to go, Aiden! We can’t wait to hear about all the Lord will do through your step of faith.
What ideas have you had to reach out to children? What have you done to reach the children of your
Joan Parsons, with three sons (21, 20, and 17 years old) and one girl (15), is thankful for her large capacity washer and naps. She loves Mountain Dew, dance parties in the kitchen when all her kids are home, and laughing about anything. She remains bewildered with God's indescribable and constant love for her in the midst of heartaches and plain normal days.
5 Ways to connect with your neighbors at Easter
A pastor was recently sharing that his family initiated with a neighbor who lived two doors down. They had the family over for Easter lunch. As the conversation progressed he asked them what Easter meant to
them. The wife responded, “what do you mean? It’s all about the Easter bunny and spring and such. Does it mean something different to you?” He thought he would ask the question in a different way. “What significance does Easter have to you spiritually?” The wife responded again, “does Easter have anything to do with God?”
Does this story burden you like it does me? The crux of the Christian faith hinges
on the reality of the resurrection. Our team put together a brief list of ideas to connect with our neighbors during the Easter season.
What is keeping you from reaching out to your neighbors? Are you hiding behind your door?
So far NBS2GO has encouraged you to host a Bible study in your home, emphasizing that it doesn’t matter what type of countertops you have, where you live, and if you serve food. Think about it. Jesus wasn’t meeting with His followers in a Joanna Gaines decorated farmhouse with a serene setting and tasteful hors d’oeuvres. He fearlessly met them where they were – on the road, near the synagogue, in their homes. He wasn’t focused on the external, but the internal. Newsflash, He wasn’t worried about what He was wearing either.
Over the years since my children were born, I have made many excuses for not gathering with other women. One of them centers around not having anything to wear. Seriously! Not talking about your typical packed closet with unwanted choices for the moment. More like drawers replete with items that do not fit. It is hard enough to step out in faith and lead a Bible study if you are marginally confident in your abilities to at least open in prayer, lean on the Word, and start a discussion. It is even harder if you are completely uncomfortable in your own, plentiful, skin.
You can tell yourself all the same platitudes…the ones you have heard before. Yet, it all boils down to one thing…the confidence to be who you are in Christ.
Time is up. Gig over. Own it. By the grace of God and an unimaginable gift of a precious Son, we are FORGIVEN and can have a sweet, personal relationship with God. We are not defined by our size, the baby weight (even if our youngest baby is 16 years old…can I call it that?), the ornery number on the scale, or our wardrobe – or lack thereof.
We are LOVED and called His.
We are also empowered by Him! We can pour and squeeze ourselves into whatever is relatively comfortable and OPEN our front doors to other women who need Him. It IS about HIM.
“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:10
So, if what is holding you back from unlocking the door to hosting a Bible study in your home is what weighs you down; sweet sister, let go. He loves you. The women will love you. Stepping out in faith for Him and them, is more important than your comfort zone. Countertops, home decor, fine china, haute couture (or clothes that fit) really and truly do not matter. In this process, live FULLY in Him. Your life will be overflowing instead of your muffin tops – blueberry that is, or scones. In your obedience, you will be a gift to others and blessed beyond measure.
Rebecca is a wife of 23 years and a mother of two teen boys. A former educator, certified in three subject areas from P5 – 12th grade, she clearly can’t make up her mind (just ask her ever-patient husband). Years ago, God placed Rebecca into the role of Editor for an online magazine, nurtured her love of writing and photography, and then delivered her to NBS2GO at its inception. Having recently moved, she is beginning a Bible study in their new neighborhood – with complete disregard to her wardrobe. You can often find her reading a book, curled up with her two dogs, munching on raw carrots and green beans (her dogs that is).
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.
My head says GYM my heart says NACHOS.
Who else can relate to this?
The beginning of the year always holds grand thoughts of that 10 lbs. I want to lose, or organizing my entire house, or the budget I want to live by. What are your grand thoughts? Do you have aspirations for this year?
My head says, “take the initiative with my neighbors.”
My heart says,
*too much fear of rejection
*someone else will do it
*my house isn’t pretty
*I don’t know enough about the Bible
*I don’t know how
As this year begins we want you to know that we are praying for you. Many of you have communicated that you are pro-actively reaching out to your “neighbors.” We rejoice with you! Many of you have communicated your desires to do so but you face barriers like the ones mentioned above. We understand!
Personally, I am heading into my 10th year of leading a neighborhood Bible study. In many ways that sounds like a lot of years. In some ways, it feels like I just got started. And to be perfectly honest I face internal hurdles just like I did the first year. Will anyone be interested? Will I sit alone? Will I know the answers to their questions? Will the Lord show up and teach us what He wants us to know? Will there be genuine life change? Will this make a difference anyway?
What is it with us humans? Vulnerable. I just feel vulnerable. Do you ever stop to wonder if Jesus felt that way? In his humanness, certainly there had to be times when he felt this. This has deeply encouraged me each year as I trust Him to continue to reach out. By faith, I press on. By faith, I will put my neighbors lives in front of my fears. By faith, I trust that God is “drawing men unto Himself.”
I choose to live by faith. Will you come along side of me and do the same? I need you to gather around me and pray. Our team wants to gather around you and pray for you. We need one another. We need to trust the Lord together.
Your fellow human,
for the NBS2go team
Joan, with three sons (21, 20, and 17 years old) and one girl (15), is thankful for her large capacity washer and naps. She loves Mountain Dew, dance parties in the kitchen when all her kids are home, and laughing about anything. She remains bewildered with God's indescribable and constant love for her in the midst of heartaches and plain normal days.
I usually don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. There are enough things I fail to do on a regular basis -- why would I add to the list? But, this past year I did. I made a big one: I resolved to give up fear. Fear of man, that is.
I decided that I was not going to allow the fear of man to influence me in any way. I would follow God wherever He led me, and I would do whatever He told me. I would not be intimidated into silence or complacency. I would be His to use however He saw fit regardless of the consequences.
Wish I could say that I have had a successful year ... that I have been God’s faithful servant, and that my resolution has become my reality. But, alas, I have not conquered my fear of man. That desire to please people is hard to shake. And it comes dressed up in so many disguises. But it has been an interesting year, and I've learned some important things:
- God honors my desire to please Him. Even when I fail and allow my fear to keep me from doing what I know I should, He is right there with me, cheering me on. He does not condemn my weakness or shame my pitiful efforts. He reminds me that His power is made perfect in my weakness, that He loves me still and that He is with me and for me.
- Sometimes God takes me to lonely places to teach me to be strong for Him. I don’t always like this. I like a good party with good girlfriends and lots of laughter. But, giving up my people-pleasing ways sometimes means I walk alone with Him.
- There is always more at stake than I can see. Choosing God over man (or myself) always involves something bigger. It's never just about the thing before me. It's usually about something more significant and someone else.
- Sometimes God lets me participate with Him in something really big and cool! I often remind myself that I have to get out of the boat to walk on water, which can be scary and seemingly crazy. But, I can trust God and walk on water or follow man and stay safely in the boat. I’d rather walk on water.
So, you may be asking and rightly so, what in the world does this have to do with neighborhood Bible studies? Well, EVERYTHING, maybe. We know that it's God's desire to reach the lost. We know that there are lost people all around us and in our neighborhoods. We know that we have been called to love our neighbors. And we know that sharing the Word of God with our neighbors is the most loving thing we can do.
What then keeps us from beginning a neighborhood Bible study? Is it the fear of man? The fear of rejection? The desire to be seen in a certain way? The desire to be accepted? The fear of not measuring up or of not being qualified? What keeps us from taking the next step? Perhaps it’s time to trust God and step out of the boat. Perhaps it’s time to make your own resolution. Perhaps it’s time to give up fear and follow God! And if you get to walk on water, you’ll never want to ride safely in the boat again ... I promise.
Lisa Hankins is a native Georgian and the leader of a Neighborhood Bible Study with a passion to help others find healing by trusting Christ with their brokenness. Lisa lives with her husband Richard and their two sons. When she is not shuttling her boys to various activities, she is busy serving as the sponsorship coordinator for an orphanage and school in Uganda called Hands of Love. Her favorite verse is Hebrews 10:25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
For more information to set up your own "Christmas Gathering" please click here.
As always, please share with us if you plan to host a gathering or any other ideas. We love hearing from you.
Wife of Zechariah.
In the culture of the day, barrenness was not exactly esteemed. The thick Jewish traditions that surrounded Elizabeth and Zechariah must have been some of the hardest parts of their lives. Customs, festivals and holidays all involved celebrating with family. Yet they had no children. Year after year, they attended the temple and gathered with family. Yet they had no offspring to pass on their faith. The privilege of giving away your name and inheritance was also a rich part of the history of the Jewish culture. Yet, they had no one to give it to.
Was this heartache all a part of God’s plans?
Oh, the privilege we have to be on this side of history! We know the rest of the story. Elizabeth and Zechariah (in their old age) gave birth to John, the one who would baptize Jesus for the beginning of His public ministry.
Do you wonder how that “hard thing” could ever be used by the Lord?
Luke 1:58 states, “And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her and they rejoiced with her.”
From this one verse we learn several things about Elizabeth.
- She was known by her neighbors and relatives. The relatives, of course, would know her. But her neighbors? Does this actually imply that she shared her “life” with those whom lived right next door? How many neighbors walked the road with her when she struggled with not having children?
- Elizabeth gave praise to God and everyone knew it. The news spread quickly. The Lord had shown great mercy to her. Elizabeth walked with God. Not only in the good times, but also in the hard times. Through all of life’s struggles and heartaches she still was a woman of faith. The trials pushed her towards the Lord. She kept her eyes heavenward even though she didn’t understand.
- Her neighbors rejoiced with her. The news was supernatural. Elizabeth had a baby and she was old! Time for a party. Time to come together. She and Zechariah called for the neighbors to come and give praise to God.
Let’s consider these thoughts for ourselves.
- Are we known by our neighbors? Do they know we struggle? Of course we do not need to divulge all of our lives to everyone around us. But do we allow our neighbors to walk next to us in hard things? Do you share “life” with those who live right next door? Are you a “safe person” for your neighbors to confide in?
- Do we give praise to the Lord in the good and hard things? Are we known to walk with our God in the struggles and heartaches? Are we known as people of faith? Would our neighbors even care?
- If there is something to celebrate in our hard messes, would we want our neighbors to come? Would we want them to join with us in giving praise to the Lord?
Go ahead and read all of Luke 1. Don’t read it like it’s part of the Christmas story. Read it and look for references to being a part of a caring community focused on drawing others to look to Jesus. My guess is, like me, you will see that God’s plans include that we share life with those right around us.
How about your neighborhood? Are you known by your neighbors? Are they known by you? Go ahead … start a neighborhood Bible study and allow God's plans to include your messes. We have all the simple tips and tools you need to get started, and we would love to pray for you, too! Contact us and let us know!
Find more Fresh Stories here!
Joan Parsons, lover of McDonald’s cokes, is happiest when her home is filled with her husband and four children. She reports that her two college age boys come home whenever she offers to cook steak. Her only claim to fame is the week she got every piece of clothing laundered and matched all 126 socks. She had a dream when she was in college that Jesus returned to gather up the Christians to go to Heaven. Except one of her roommates asked her why she never told her about God. She woke from the dream with a lifelong desire to share with others the amazing news of God’s love and forgiveness.
Where do you belong? Where do you fit in? These are lifelong questions that everyone on planet earth asks themselves at some point or another.
Sometimes my husband and I talk about the beer “Bible studies” that happen on Friday nights in local bars. Do we really think that men study the Bible during happy hour? No, but these men know where they're welcome. They know where they can relax. They know where they belong on Friday nights.
It's a simple fact of life. We all want to belong. We all want to fit in.
We all want to find a place where everybody knows our name.
In my neighborhood, when Wednesday morning rolls around, we have a home where we meet, where everyone is welcome. It is a safe place we can come to relax. It is a place to find community. It is the morning of our neighborhood Bible study.
We greet each other with a warm, “Hello!” We ask each other, "How are you?" and we actually listen to the answer. We share in the joys of children winning spelling bees and we share in the disappointments when they don't make the baseball team. We cry together when a loved one passes away. We celebrate when there is a wedding. Most importantly we talk about Christ's immense love for us and how it has transformed our lives. He has given us life and this life is in His Son. He has given us love and we share it with one another.
How about your neighborhood? Do you want a place where everybody knows your name? My guess is that everyone in your neighborhood wants a place like this too. Go ahead ... start a neighborhood Bible study! We have all the simple tips and tools you need to get started, and we would love to pray for you, too! Contact us and let us know!
Find more Fresh Stories here!
Joan Parsons, lover of McDonald’s cokes, is happiest when her home is filled with her husband and four children. She reports that her two college age boys come home whenever she offers to cook steak. Her only claim to fame is the week she got every piece of clothing laundered and matched all 126 socks.
She had a dream when she was in college that Jesus returned to gather up the Christians to go to Heaven. Except one of her roommates asked her why she never told her about God. She woke from the dream with a lifelong desire to share with others the amazing news of God’s love and forgiveness.
It’s hard to be a guy in a houseful of females. Even our two cats are girls! While my husband has always deftly handled being the lone guy in a sea of women, he faced a big challenge last year when he and our teen daughter were struggling to find something they could “do” together that they could both enjoy. It was an “uphill” battle, no pun intended! Last summer, they hatched a plan to hike the entire Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail – 84 miles – before she graduates from high school. Before I knew what was happening, my Ebay account was getting some serious action as our closets filled with tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots and camping equipment. Recently, I was invited along with them on a section hike, about 7 miles between Neel’s Gap and Hogpen Gap. I learned a few things about myself, God and life that can help us whenever we’re facing a challenge, like starting a Neighborhood Bible Study.
You can’t adequately prepare for the steepness of the peaks and valleys
I play tennis and do a lot of walking, so I felt pretty good about being able to make the journey, but walking 50 miles on level ground doesn’t compare to the constant up and down of climbing and descending of mountains! I logged about 20,000 steps that day, but only about 195 the following. Why? I could barely walk for three days! But once you’re in the woods, you’re all in, and you just have to trust God with the journey. If I’d known about the pain beforehand, would I have said “yes” to the journey? But, oh, the mountain vistas I would have missed.
Hike your own hike
There’s no single “right” or “wrong” way to take a hike. When you’re tired, you rest. When you see something cool, you pause and check it out. When you need more water, you open your ears to listen for a rushing stream. I learned that God had prepared something amazing for me that day, and I took pleasure in discovering it. Similarly, there’s no right or wrong way to reach out to our neighbors or lead a Bible study. God has prepared something unique – just for you. Trust Him with the journey, and take pleasure in watching His plan unfold.
Don’t lose sight of your guide
For this trip, my husband was my guide. He planned every aspect of it, he had the map, the phone, the daypack with my jacket, water and snacks, and he knew exactly where we were going. I was perfectly content to walk a few steps behind him, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. At one point, though, I got lost in my thoughts and when I looked around for him, I could no longer see him. I had a brief moment of panic! What if I’m lost? What if I missed the last white blaze? What if I never get home? Was that a bear??! However, all I had to do was call his name, and I discovered that he was nearby all along. Don’t we do that with God? We wander off the trail sometimes and forget how dependent we are on Him. Fortunately, we can always call His name, and He can be trusted to be nearby. Our ultimate Guide has planned every aspect of our journey, and He has the map.
You can do 20 more steps
We made a very sorrowful error by parking our vehicle at the top of the last mountain instead of at its base. When I learned that we’d have to climb another very steep half a mile to get to our car, I thought I might cry. (I may have cried, who can remember such things?) But to get to where I wanted to go, I had to finish my hike. Legs like jelly, I trusted the Holy Spirit to take me up the hill. “Holy Spirit, help me do the next 20 steps. I can do 20 steps if you’re with me.” When I accomplished those 20 steps, I trusted Jesus with the next 20. That’s what we need to do with our Savior. When we’re positive we can’t take one more step, we can claim the promise that we can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens us. He will help us take the next step. And the next. And the next.
When we determine to undertake what might feel like a daunting task such as starting a Neighborhood Bible Study, remember that you can never adequately prepare, but if you’ll trust your Guide, He will help you take the next step in your own, uniquely gifted way!
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil 4:13