Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

Full of new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

New Year’s Resolutions: Will I Walk on Water or Stay in the Boat?

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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.


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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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Momma Sheep


Parenting never ends, but shepherding does...

When my oldest child entered high school, I found myself desperate for help! Many mornings I would pray and plead with God on her bedroom floor. I was so fearful and worried. Never had I sensed such a pull on her life toward following the world.

As I was crying, the Lord asked me, “Who is your shepherd?”  I replied, “Oh, You are.” Almost immediately I heard, “Who is Melissa’s shepherd?”  I caught myself beginning to say, “I am” and changed it to “You are.”  What transpired next literally transformed my view of parenting.

The Lord continued His sweet dialogue with me by asking, “If I am Melissa’s shepherd, who does that make you?” I replied, “Her momma sheep?”  Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will lead His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”

The more I meditated on the attributes of the Good Shepherd, the more I trusted Him. The momma sheep’s role was to stay close to Him, listen and follow Him in whatever He led me to do or say. It was the shepherd’s responsibility to watch over, guide and go after the lost and wandering sheep. When I felt myself becoming uptight, fearful and worried, needing to know and control my child’s life, it was a signal to me that I was taking on the role of the shepherd. I would immediately confess my sin, thank God that He was shepherd to both of us and choose to be her momma sheep instead.

What would it be like if you chose to be your child’s momma sheep rather than the shepherd? (Since then, I’ve discovered that I’m also just a spouse sheep, friend sheep and fellow follower of Christ sheep, not the shepherd.)

Who will you share this with today?

As Always, From my Heart,

Debbie

Psalm 23:1;  28:9;  80:1;  95:7;  John 10;  Matthew 18:12-14

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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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Adrienne's Story: My Whole Life Would be Suspect


There was no way I was going to a neighborhood Bible Study! These people were radicals. They would no doubt judge me. I didn’t own a Bible, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to find my way around one if I did. All my life prior to Bible Study attendance would be suspect! I was almost 40 years old, had everything anybody would rightfully need in life, and I was miserable. The self-help aisles at Barnes and Noble weren’t helping. I sensed I was being pushed hard by the Holy Spirit to give it a try. I see that now, only in retrospect. So I went.

None of my fears were founded. The group of women I met that first year were polite, patient and concerned about the spirituality of others. Nobody attempted to convict me on my prior lack of Bible knowledge or church attendance. There were no critics as I flipped back and forth through my Bible trying to locate the proper Book. No one commented on me or my family’s spiritual life prior to that first year of the study.

I cannot begin to estimate the value our Neighborhood Bible Study has brought to my life and to my family’s lives. There is no doubt the Lord intended for me to be in that environment to come into a personal relationship with Christ. Despite having the worst of preconceived notions, I was to take away Truth – life-altering Truth. Jesus is likely delighted to not be the stern taskmaster and cosmic scorekeeper anymore. My family now knows the Lord as the Loving Father that He is. My husband and I have grown in faith together in the years since I started attending the study. All three of my children now know Jesus and have the opportunity to live a life intertwined with Him, which I never had. I am certain that my grandchildren will have the opportunity to grow up with Jesus.


Did I mention that the woman who ultimately showed me the way to Christ actually asked me often to attend the study, through at least two years of carpooling? I am eternally glad that I finally said yes.












Adrienne Osbourne



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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!

Lisa

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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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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?

churchmeeting1

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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