Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

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The Star Stopped. Have You?


It's Christmas, and it's time to stop. Does this sound like an oxymoron to you? I feel the accelerated activity swirling: packing for a trip, praying for a publisher. Fighting a cold, fighting the traffic. Taking my tooth to the dentist, taking my car to the shop. Praising another UPS truck, pushing another grocery cart. Staying up late, getting up early. Yet, I am determined to resist the surge.

I don't want to miss the wonder that Jesus was born.

I invite you to take off your headphones, turn off your iPhone and join me! Treat yourself to a refill of coffee, or cider, or hot chocolate and sit down for a minute with this thought: The Star Stopped.

Matthew: 2: 9-11 says, "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw The Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him."

The answers to three questions concerning the star can bring a fresh brightness to light our hearts this Christmas.

  • Why did the star stop?

  • What happened after the star stopped?

  • What does “the star stopped” say to you and me today?




Why did the star stop?
The star was a GPS for the wise men. In their journey, we sense a Divine Drive. Can you feel the pace and the push in their determination to get where they were going? They were desperate to get to the right place and to arrive on time. They stopped and asked for directions. And all the while, they were focused on following the star. And then … the star stopped. The star came to a screeching halt. Why? Because the search was over! This search did not stop just anywhere. It stopped somewhere. It did not stop over something. It stopped over Someone. The ultimate and final destination for all mankind was reached. The star stopped over Jesus.

DESTINATION.

What happened after the star stopped?
When the star stopped, they celebrated!
They were overjoyed.
     They bowed down.
          They worshipped.
               They gave Him gifts.
This event was greater than any office party or any neighborhood soirée. The breathtaking discovery of the King of Kings brought forth joy and worship. Of course it did!


DELIGHT.

What does “the star stopped” say to you and me at Christmas?
The star did not stop just for the wise men. It stops for us as well! When we find Jesus, our search is over. Our quest for security and significance is satisfied. When we find Him, we find Everything. We find love, acceptance and forgiveness. We are invitees to a worship party that will last long after the lights go out! It will go on for all eternity. However, the RSVP is left up to each of us on an individual basis. No one can respond for us. We must personally accept Who He is and what He has done. Then, personal, authentic celebration is set into motion. Heartaches are healed. Disappointments are redirected. Relationships are resurrected. Our unfulfilled expectations find fulfillment, not in a person, not in a position, not in a possession, but In Him. Stop and think about that. We are set free to thoroughly celebrate Christmas, overjoyed, worshiping and giving of ourselves, our best gift, to Him.


DEDICATION. 

This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the one true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
In Thy presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)
In Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a)


It is really true! Jesus plus nothing is more than enough. Jesus plus nothing is everything.

Has your star stopped in Jesus?

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Debby Thompson has served on the staff of Cru for more than 40 years. In 1977, she and her husband went with their infant daughter to live covertly behind the Iron Curtain. Together with their three children, they have lived and served in four different countries, with four different languages and cultures. Larry and Debby now work with Athletes in Action and live near Cincinnati, where they are especially thrilled to be close to the most beautiful people on earth: their grandchildren. You can read more of Debby's writing at her blog, GPS for the Wife of a Leader.

 

Star photo used with permission from http://heliximaginginc.com/

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The Hands and Feet of Jesus

blessings
It was eight years ago that I experienced the realness of Jesus in a way that changed me forever. One summer morning the Lord woke me, actually He jolted me out of my sleep during an incredible dream.

I dreamed I was a princess and I was running through a beautiful castle, going from room to room in awe of all the beauty of it. Then suddenly for a really brief moment I became afraid and I hid. But as quickly as the fear came, it left.  I burst out of the hiding place and there I stood looking lovelier than ever in a long, flowing dress.

I awakened suddenly with an image in my mind of me standing there looking like Cinderella with a quizzical look on my face and my heart filled with a sense of wonder. When will my Prince rescue me? Then reality hit me. Oh, it was a dream. Hmmm...What exactly is God trying to speak to me through this dream? As the day went on I received the answer so clearly.

A few hours later the telephone rang. It was my sweet friend Lisa calling after unsuccessfully trying to reach me for several weeks. Lisa was a part of a neighborhood Bible study where I cared for the children of moms who met each week during the school year. It was during the summer break and I hadn’t spoken to her in three months.

That morning over the telephone Lisa asked me how things were going in my life and I shared that we were in the midst of a trial. My husband Michael was self-employed at the time and his business had almost come to a halt. He was delivering pizza to support our family. I was a stay-at-home mom earning money by babysitting and working other small jobs on the side. We were barely scraping by. Our refrigerator was nearly empty, we had no money to buy groceries, and some of our bills were overdue. I was teetering on a fence between fear and faith, but choosing to trust the Lord.

As Lisa and I talked, I told her about the question I heard the Lord asking me the night before.  In my heart, I heard the Lord’s still, small voice. Do you really trust me? At 6:00 a.m. that morning I had written down my answer. Yes I do, I have no reason not to... Jesus has been so good to me!

I asked Lisa to pray for the Lord to guide us and to provide the jobs Michael and

I needed. Lisa’s words were soothing to my soul. "Would you like to come over to help me clean out my big freezer? I'll give you the excess food in return for helping me." She cheerfully exclaimed.

My heart leapt with excitement over Lisa's words. I felt so encouraged and thanked her over and over. She said she would be waiting for me to come over later that evening. I was excited, but I had no idea what was in store for me through the divine appointment God was orchestrating that day.

Throughout the afternoon, many thoughts were racing through my mind. Will the Lord rescue me in time?  Will He pull me under His loving wings, just as He always has? For a really brief moment I hid in fear. Fearful thoughts swirled in my head. What if He doesn’t come through for me and all our needs aren’t met? But as suddenly as the fear came—it left. It was just like the dream I had been awakened from that morning. I knew without a doubt my Prince would rescue me in His way, in His time.

For the rest of the day I let peace fill my heart. During the early evening I headed over to Lisa’s neighborhood. As I drove closer to her house, I felt this indescribable emotion coming over me. I began weeping. The emotions intensified the closer I got to Lisa’s home. I turned the corner and I saw that Lisa’s driveway was full of cars. I knew immediately that something was going on. Lisa came out of her house with a huge smile.  She exclaimed, You’re about to get your socks blessed off!

She invited me in and the room was filled with an indescribable love as I noticed other special friends were there from the Bible study group, waiting with loving arms and just the right words for me. The floodgates opened to my heart and the tears came pouring out.

I sat down with my friends and Lisa began saying, "I have watched the Lord take you to the edge so many times and it amazes me to see how much you trust Him." I was breathing in God’s amazing love and taking in their uplifting words as they each prayed for me.

I will never forget the glow on Lisa's face that day. As we walked toward the kitchen, Lisa joyfully said, "Now it's time for the surprise!" I was overcome with intense emotions as I entered the room and saw the blessing awaiting me. I had never seen so many bags of groceries on a kitchen counter in my life. I couldn’t contain the joy. The tears kept coming and coming and coming. One of them said, “There is more.”  As the tears flowed, they handed me envelopes full of money and gift cards. I could hardly believe it. But still there was more. Lisa started bringing in bags of frozen meats from her freezer.

It was surreal as I listened to several of my friends saying, "This is from the Lord, Amy. He told us to do this for you." I thought of the Scripture the Lord had given to me as a promise for my life many years before.  

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3: 20

I was standing there saying through tears, "This is like being on an Extreme Grocery Makeover show!" And they weren't even finished yet. There were more blessings that had been dropped off at my friend, Kathryn’s home. As I drove to her house, the tears were still flowing. There was a huge cooler full of premium food, more money, and more bags of food for my family.

That day Lisa had contacted my Bible study friends, and the response was simply amazing. On a moment’s notice these special ladies pulled together an awesome act of God. They had been dropping off loads of groceries for my family all day long. This was so far beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of.

I wept all the way home and still had waves of emotion for the rest of the night. When I finally came down a little from the emotional high, I counted 36 bags of groceries. The food that was provided to us was the best of the best—luxuries that we had never had in our home before. And I found out I had been given enough money and gift cards to feed our family for at least eight months and enough to pay our overdue bills.

My family and I had a dancing celebration of God’s goodness to us. We stayed up late into the night praising Him with singing, dancing, and laughter. After everyone went to bed, I stayed up all night overwhelmed by the way my Prince had arrived to rescue me through the love of my friends.

My friends literally became the hands and feet of Jesus to me. Only God knows the full impact that this act of love had on my life. They were the Body of Christ in action. I would have missed one of the greatest blessings of my life had I not been connected to a local Bible study group.

As a result of experiencing this act of love, my faith grew by leaps and bounds. My life changed drastically for the better when my husband returned to college and began a new career in 2010. He has an awesome job now that enables us to be the hands of Christ to others in the way my friends were to me all those years ago. I will spend the rest of my life looking for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who are lacking and desperately need to see His love.

 

Amy von Borstel is a wife and mother of two children. She attributes her twenty-eight year marriage and happy home to the love of her Lord. She knows the joy that comes from living a life of faith-filled prayer. She’s been a writer since she was a little girl, writing poetry and keeping journals as a way to find peace and rest in her soul. She is passionate about helping orphans and seeing people find abundance through an intimate relationship with Christ. Read her devotionals and faith stories athttp://www.liveabundantlynow.com.
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Christmas is Coming...Again!


Every year it’s the same, I vow not to be overrun by Christmas. I vow to keep it simple. I vow to take time to focus on the “reason for the season.” I long to live the picture of me enjoying my family and perfectly decorated home; relaxing before the fire, with the smell of cookies in the air. I long to attend all of the Christmas concerts, live nativities, and pageants. I long to give all of the perfect presents and cook all the best food. But, before I know it, it is over. I am exhausted.I haven’t seen a single concert, smelled real animals, or laughed at little angels. My vows have been forgotten. My picture has not materialized. The last time I relaxed was sometime in November. I amirritated with my family and my house is a mess! Maybe, if I had just started earlier, I think....But then I realize, what I really need is to change my expectations. I long for what may well be the impossible, the perfect material and the perfect spiritual Christmas. Can the two ever go together? Can you have both? How did Christmas ever become about stuff and Jesus? And what about this character, Santa Claus? Isn’t Christmas about the birth of our Savior Jesus? Why do we even give each other gifts? I don’t get gifts on anyone else’s birthday! How in the world did Christmas become Christmas as we know it? In a new DVD by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer, he answers all of these questions! In a way that only he can do, Mr. Vischer masterfully tells the story of the history of Christmas. In Buck Denver asks Why Do We Call it Christmas, he explains that Christmas is really two holidays that were put together: Christ’s Mass and St. Nicholas’s Day. Christ’s Mass was the celebration of the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. St. Nicholas’s Day was the celebration of Saint Nicholas, a man who loved Jesus and gave presents to the poor children, on the 6thof December. At some point along the way, the two holidays became one. St. Nick became Santa Claus and Christmas with its confusing blend of the material and spiritual was born. I finally understand why I am so tired and worn out by the time its over! I am taking on two holidays at once--well, actually three since myhusband was born on Christmas day! No wonder I am running crazy. No wonder my messages are mixed. No wonder the material and spiritual compete for my attention! No wonder my children and I are confused about Christmas! For a fresh understanding of Christmas and its traditions, watch this DVD with your children, or alone. It is funny, delightful, and entertaining. And it will help you understand why you do what you do.

And it may even help you to do it without being frustrated, exhausted, or irritated. For a better, merrier Christmas,

Lisa

Lisa is a native Georgian, who hails from a long line of hardworking, God fearing people.  Her grandparents taught her to love deeply, laugh easily, andwalk closely with God.  It wasn’t until she reached adulthood, however, that she truly surrendered her life to Christ.  By that point, she had made a real mess of things. When she finally turned to God, He gently and lovingly met her and led her, step by step, out of the pit she had created for herself.  She isstill amazed by His grace and humbled by His mercy.  As the leader of a Neighborhood Bible Study, Lisa’s passion is to help others find healing by trusting Christ with their brokenness.   Lisa lives with her husband Richard and two boys.  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, Hands of Love.
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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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