Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

Full of new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

Are you a Cookie or a Mouse?

Mouse in a Cookie Jar

Is being religious enough?

If I put a mouse in a cookie jar, would it make it a cookie? No.After years of being raised in a Christian home, going to church every time the doors were open, acting and looking religious, I was almost shocked to discover that that did not automatically make me a Christian. I was like a mouse in a cookie jar, thinking I was a cookie.I knew a lot about God and memorized verses in Sunday School like John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”One summer night, lying on my bed feeling the cool night air blowing over me, I heard Jesus say, “Look!  Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” Revelation 3:20 (another Sunday School memory verse).Upon hearing that verse, I realized somehow, some way that it wasn’t enough to just believe and be religious. Right then and there, I opened the door, asked and received Jesus into my life. If someone would have asked me, “Did He come in?” I would have confidently answered “Yes!” I didn’t feel any different or hear angels playing harps, but I knew He came in because He promised He would!  A 9-year-old’s childlike faith…In John 1:12, Jesus said, “To all who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” Notice, no mention of being religious.Do you believe? Have you received?Do you know any religious “mice” who think they are “cookie” Christians who might benefit from this word picture? 

Philippians 3:8-9;  Ephesians 2:8-10;  Romans 2:28-29

As Always, From my Heart,

Debbie

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His Plan, Not Mine. Thank God!

I have always had a heart for women’s ministry and for my neighbors, so you would think that starting a neighborhood Bible study would just be a natural, and exciting thing for me to do. It wasn’t.  I was excited to be a hostess, and even meet new neighbors, but leading a study, and opening it up to my ENTIRE neighborhood was causing a little bit of insecurity.I had met with Debbie McGoldrick and she had encouraged me to have faith! Invite everyone and rest in the sovereignty of God.  He would bring just who needed to be there.  I stressed that no one would come, or too many people would come, and they wouldn’t fit in my house!  After some hemming and hawing, I finally made invites for all 260 homes in my neighborhood.When the day came for my open house/kick off tea party, I was a mess.  Not knowing how many would show up was nerve racking!  I prepared for about 10, and then, at the last minute, I rushed my friends for cookie donations, and gathered enough for about 40… (This is typical behavior of some one trying to “help” God, or A/K/A control freaks)The doorbell only rang a few times.  I was crushed.  “What’s wrong with me?” “Doesn’t anyone like me?” “What did I do wrong?”  It was hard to focus on the few beautiful women that were sitting around my kitchen table, chatting and snacking on cookies happily, when I was worried about where everyone else was!I was so hesitant to invite so many! I prayed, and prayed through each one of those 260 invites.  I prayed for each family as I put those invites on their doors.  I didn’t want to invite everyone, but I did out of obedience! How could I have so many cookies left over after all of that!?I tried to be gracious, and I made sure everyone had cookies to take home, and I even gave some to some neighbors that didn’t come.  I asked God why only a few?  I was ready! (I like to think that I bring my Father in Heaven lots of laughs and I know he smiles and shakes his head at me daily.)  Didn’t I just step out in faith?  Didn’t I just pray for the entire neighborhood, one address at a time?  Didn’t I just plant seeds of fellowship in this community? Um…. Yes…God always has a purpose, and nothing is ever wasted.When the first night of our Bible Study finally came, I looked around my small, but cozy living room and my heart swelled with gratitude... I had just enough seats!  It’s funny how we like to think that God’s ways are the same as ours… I praise Him that they aren’t, but oh! they are SO much higher!I bet you have just enough seats too…  What does God want to do in your neighborhood?His,Jennifer Jennifer Mottola is a social media team member for NBS2go, as well as a busy wife, mama to adult, and almost adult off-spring, blogger, home-school teacher, gardener, crafter and, obviously, a NBS hostess.  You can read more about her adventures at www.reallyjennifer.com 
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Grasshoppers or Giants

What kind of glasses are you wearing? Have you ever experienced a movie wearing 3-D glasses? How those crazy plastic glasses make such a visual and experiential difference, I will never know. But they do!In Numbers 13 and 14, twelve scouts were chosen to spy out the Promised Land. After 40 days and 500 miles, they brought Moses a full report. I bet you did not know that all 12 wore glasses? Ten of the scouts wore 3-D glasses, but the other two wore God glasses. It’s pretty amazing, both groups saw the same movie, so to speak, but felt and experienced something totally different, based on the glasses they chose to wear. Both groups saw a magnificent land. Those wearing the 3-Dglasses were overwhelmed by the size and number of people they saw living in massive fortified cities. The report: We cannot and will not go into the land, because we are powerless and few. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, in fact, that’s what we looked like to them!  Numbers 13:27-33; 14:36 [paraphrased] Caleb and Joshua, wearing their God glasses, gave an opposite report: God will bring us safely into His Promised Land! Let’s go in and take it! We can certainly conquer it, because the Lord will go with us! We don’t need to be afraid of them! Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9 [paraphrased]When I wear 3-D glasses [Discouragement, Despair and Defeat], I tend to see and experience life as a grasshopper. When I choose to put on my God glasses, [by focusing on, believing in ...God’s character and His promises], I have the ability to see and experience life like a giant. What is your present situation? What are you reporting to others? Is what you see and experience a grasshopper’s or a giant’s perspective? Choose your glasses wisely.  Invite someone to exchange their 3-D glasses for God glasses today!Numbers 13 & 14; Psalm 54; John 9:35-41As Always, From my Heart,Debbie 
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A Young Perspective on Open Hearts & Open Doors

This weekend I hosted a party in our new neighborhood for a former neighbor. (A little background on the eight of us hostesses - we’re all in a really fun season of life. We’re all 20 somethings, we’ve been married about five years, and we’re young in our careers and in our adventures in parenting.)  Even though we’ve been getting together and throwing little get-togethers for years, this time, somehow it felt different.I felt the tension of being old enough to plan and celebrate new life experiences – a baby shower! – but still so young in the world.  As we were setting out the food and arranging the flowers, I still almost expected one of our mothers to pop in and help. I had a vision of all of us girls pretending to be adults, trying to “play hostess” dressed up in our mothers’ heels and pearls. It was a beautiful moment of vulnerability as we outwardly projected confidence in our ability to hostess, while inwardly wondering if we’d ever truly measure up. The moment passed and the shower went off without a hitch. I think our mamas would’ve been proud.All that to say, if you’re waiting to start a Neighborhood Bible Study, don’t wait until you feel old enough or ready enough or prepared enough. “Do not let them look down on you because you are young....” (1 Timothy 4:12a) We have a place in the body, too! And we have a purpose to serve in our neighborhood even if we feel inadequate and inexperienced. Even if you think that when you open the door your neighbors will view you as a little girl playing dress up, pretending to be able to host some big event, the truth is, when you open your door, you open your heart – and that is a beautiful thing for neighbors to see.I’m right there with you, stepping into big beautiful shoes, twisting the pearls around my neck and hoping to create authentic community with my neighbors just as I am – inadequacies, imperfections, and all...Lucy Lucy Duggar is a 20-something fully-embracing life in Atlanta - loving her husband, Grant, and their comical great dane, Georgia. Culture, travel, and art history are a few of her favorite things, having worked for a museum and several non-profits in the Greater Atlanta Area. She was born in Alaska and has lived in Oregon, France, Wyoming, and most recently London, and Shanghai; she and Grant are just back from a year living abroad, but she feels most at home in the South. Where ever she may be, you can bet there's a good book at hand and a delighted introvert fluttering pages.
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Steppin Up & Steppin In... The Hot Tub

How I came to baptize someone in a hot tub…Leading a neighborhood study can direct you into some unchartered waters…like the time I was asked to baptize one of our girls in the middle of winter!  Well, I am not a pastor or clergy person of any kind.  I don’t wear a robe or a collar; I don’t sing in a choir or alone; and I don’t baptize people!   So, I said NO.  I WILL NOT DO THAT!  I AM NOT QUALIFIED.  But, she persisted.  My sweet Iranian friend, who had come to know Christ at my table, and the fellowship of the Saints at our neighborhood Bible study, would not give up.So, I began looking for Scripture to show her why I could not possibly baptize her.  When I failed to find it, I began asking my more versed friends why I could not baptize her.  When they failed to tell me, I began asking God to show her why I could not be the one.   Well, the Word, my friends, and our God all failed me on this one.   When at last she began pleading with me with those beautiful liquid brown eyes and in that lyrical soft voice (Lisa comes out Leeza, so much better), I caved in.  You would have too!  And, we began planning a baptism in our study!Without a baptismal, where do you go?  There were too many of us to crowd into a bathroom for a good dunking.  And it was too cold to go into the lake.  So, we decided on one of the girl’s outdoor hot tubs, and set a date!And what a date we had!  We all gathered around her and prayed.  We read Scripture to her and over her.  We laughed and we cried.  And then, she and I stepped up and into that hot tub, and I had the awesome privilege of baptizing her, based on her profession of faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I will never forget it.  Though I do not remember exactly what I said, I will never forget the feeling of having my hands on my Sister, guiding her body into the water, and lifting her up again.  My heart was so full.  It doesn’t get much better than that.Maybe I will start wearing a robe…would make getting dressed much simpler!LisaTo subscribe to this blog, click here and enter your email on the right, then click "subscribe"
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I Don't Have Granite Countertops...

I don't have granite countertops, I can't lead a neighborhood Bible study...There!  I said it!  Doesn't that sound crazy?  Oh! my list of excuses was many... I don't know the Bible like I should. I haven't been to seminary. I am nervous. I don't have the gift of teaching. My house isnt perfectly decorated.  The list goes on, and on....Yet in the not so ignorable part of my heart lingered these words, "Who will go for Me?"I live in the "South."  Most of the women around me have lovely decorated homes.  My neighbor's home has been featured in Southern Living Magazine!  To invite women into my home felt intimidating.  My thoughts about granite countertops were very real.  But deeper still, were my thoughts about my sweet neighbors and friends living right here next to me. "Who will go for me?"  And I said, "here I am Lord, send me."Send me with all my insecurities.  Send me with all my flaws.  Send me with my shortcomings.  Send me with my shallow worries about my kitchen.  I can't give them living water.  You can.  I can't give them forgiveness.  You can.  I can't bring life change.  You can. And you can use me.  And if the Lord can use me He can use you!What are your barriers?  Spoken or unspoken?  Real or shallow? Joan
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Weary in the Waiting? Try Welcoming!

WELCOME!

Weary in the waiting? Try welcoming. 

Waiting….it’s something not many of us do very well.For years I waited, prayed, claimed God’s promises, fasted and prayed some more. Things remained the same year after year….my prodigal child was still wandering, and I was becoming weary in the wait!While meditating on Hebrews 11:13, God spoke directly to my weariness and gave my waiting “wings” as described in Isaiah 40:28-30. The verse follows with my thoughts in italics.All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, (Wow, if these great heroes of the faith didn’t live to receive all God’s promises to them, who am I to demand to receive it in my lifetime?) but they saw it from a distance (Yes, I could clearly see, by faith, from a distance, my prodigal child’s return.) and welcomed the promises of God. (Here is where I was absolutely stunned and prayed, “Father, please teach me what it means to welcome Your promises in my child’s life.”)The very next week my brother’s family was coming for a visit. The excitement I had in their coming visit energized me as I prepared to welcome them into our home. I didn’t worry or pray for them to get to my house faster….I just enjoyed waiting and anticipating our time together.This experience began to teach me how to welcome God’s promises. My prayers turned from, (Father, please return my child, I beg you to do whatever it takes) to welcoming (Thank You, Father, for what You are doing in my child’s life that I cannot see, feel or experience).Is there a promise God has given you that He wants you to try welcoming?Who is a friend who is weary in their waiting? Give them the wings of welcoming!

John 4:46-54;  6:56;  Romans 4:20-21;  Hebrews 11:8-16

 
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First Gathering...What if Your Fears Come True?

Ok, so you have planned and prepared…you have prayed and prayed… your invitations have been sent… some  have expressed an interest …you have picked the perfect study…and FINALLY it is time…it is your first gathering…you are so excited!   And it happens. The thing you most feared… no one shows up or only one or two women come.WHAT DO YOU DO? If no one is there, go ahead and have a good cry.  Really, you deserve it.  If you have company, you will need to hold off on crying till later though...This probably won’t happen to you, but if it does, here is what I learned:(1) It is not about you. How can it be? You are just beginning!  Don’t take it personally!  You are not a loser or a bore or whatever else may be going through your mind...(2) God may be testing your faithfulness.  If God’s desire is that none should perish, if He would leave the 99 to go after the one, will you lead just one or two if that is all He sends?  Is it about you or Him?  Are you willing? Can he entrust you with a few? Will you prepare for the one like you would for the crowd?  Will you serve Him with all that you have no matter the number?(3) You may need a friend, just one friend, who will show up with you every time you meet. Having just one other person with you will make it easier for others to come and will definately help you to feel better too!(4) Keep praying and keep doing what you believe God has called you to do until He tells you otherwise. I promise, He will reward you for your faithfulness. In fact, He will bless you beyond your wildest imagination!!!
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Feeling Inadequate?

Feeling Inadequate? … Me too... Always have.  Guess I always will.  The truth is, I am inadequate.  I am inadequate to teach others the Word of God.  I am inadequate to lead a group of women in their walk with God.  I am inadequate to represent Christ to my neighbors.  I am inadequate to do anything good at all.   I wasn’t’ raised in a Christian home.  I haven’t attended Church all my life.  I don’t have a lot of Scripture memorized.  I still struggle with sin.  I am broken and flawed.  I don’t dress right; I don’t always act right; my car is a mess, and my boys are usually dirty!  Really, I am the last person you would pick to lead a Bible study! But I do.  And I have for the past 7 or so years.  Yes, it still surprises me sometimes!  Yes, it is still terrifying sometimes.  Yes, it is still beyond my abilities—all the time.  But, week after week, God meets my lack with His grace, and together we get to touch hearts and spur on life change!  It is wonderful.  It is a privilege. So, today, I want to encourage you.  Just say YES.  Just do it.  If God has laid it on your heart to lead a neighborhood study, don’t let your inadequacies or fears stop you.   God is faithful.  He will meet you in your weakness.  He will honor your obedience.  He will show up for you.  He will enable you.  With Him and in Him and through Him, YOU CAN DO IT!  I know…because I know our Lord. Love, Lisa

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What is NBS2GO?

NBS2GO = Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO - nbs2go.com is simply the packaging of ideas, resources, and inspiration to equip believers to launch and multiply Bible study groups.


What's the big deal about a Bible study group?

Like a one-room schoolhouse, a Bible study group brings together a wide range of seekers and Christ-followers to study, discuss, and encourage one another toward life application of God’s Word. This blending of spiritual maturity levels creates a dynamic, life-transforming community. Friendships are formed, and group members are equipped to minister to others where they do life. Life transformation and multiplication!

NLT Scripture references on nbs2go.com and in publications, unless otherwise noted.

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