Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

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A Dangerous Valentine's Day Tea Party: Laurie's Story

“Oh man, another one of these things,” she thinks to herself, as she pulls the red envelope out of her mailbox. “How many ways can I say no?” She takes the stack of mail inside and plops it all down on the kitchen table. The little red envelope, with her name written on the front in her neighbor’s neat cursive handwriting, is the only remotely interesting piece of mail she’s received today in a big stack of boring bills and advertisements. She sits down and sighs. “What’s she invited me to this time?” Inside the envelope, a cheerful pink and white card invites her to a Valentine’s Day tea given by the neighborhood Bible study. She smiles. She’s been receiving invitations like this for two solid years, and she’s running out of excuses. Her neighbor is a great gal – their sons are the same age and love playing together. But this Bible study stuff is not for her. Of course, this is just a tea party. It would be fun to meet some of the ladies in the neighborhood. How dangerous could it be?Little did I know it at the time, but that Valentine’s Day tea was extremely dangerous for me. It turned my whole life upside down! And not just mine, but the lives of my husband, my children, and even my 66-year-old father.The tea was a starting point – the tiny spark that lit a raging fire within me. When I finally said yes, I was pleasantly surprised that the gals at the neighborhood Bible study were regular women, just like me. No one wore long dresses or shouted Scripture at me. During the tea, I heard a five-minute teaching on God’s grace. It was exactly the simple message my tired, hungry heart longed to hear – that there was a God in Heaven who loved me, not for how well I could behave or how many good works I could accomplish, but just for ME.Several years after the fateful tea, I was encouraged to start a neighborhood Bible study of my own. Much to my surprise, I began reaching my neighbors in the same way I was reached.Touching women through my neighborhood Bible study was the source of amazing joy to me, but the real shocker occurred when God touched my father’s heart.Dad was a military man, an alpha dog and hard to the core. Dad was not a believer and had fallen away from the church years before. But, as he witnessed a softening in our home – the effect of grace – he became interested in the changes taking place in us. God gave me favor with my Dad – he loved exchanging emails – and he would listen as I shared the ways my faith was growing and our lives were changing. By God’s design, my parents moved into a retirement community full of godly people, and Dad was invited to his own neighborhood Bible study. Like me, he turned down the invitations at first, but he too eventually gave in (if only to get them off his back!) and began to love it. He called the men in the study “Quote and Go” because they were so familiar with Scripture.I knew God was a big God, but I could never have imagined what happened next.One afternoon, as my Dad and I sat on his patio, dunking Oreos in milk, our conversation turned to Christ. My heart began beating wildly in my chest, but God gave me boldness. I asked Dad if he wanted to pray to receive Christ, and he said yes. We prayed a sweet, childlike prayer together, and the skies, which had been crystal clear moments before, opened up and poured rain. It felt like God was crying tears of great joy! My parents were baptized soon after by the minister who led Dad’s neighborhood Bible study. I had to see it with my own eyes – the two of them up on the altar in choir robes – to believe it! When Dad died two years later, I had great peace and assurance that he was in Heaven and that we’d see each other again one day. That blessed assurance was possible because someone invited us – not once, but many times over – to a dangerous neighborhood Bible study.Have you ever stepped out on faith to do something "dangerous?" What was the result of your boldness?Find more Fresh Stories here!Laurie Bengochea (pictured with her family) is the mother of four children, and more importantly, the grandmother of one darling little girl. She leads a community Bible study in Georgia. She has a heart to disciple women wherever she is.Laurie's story was written by Erica Rountree. Erica is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc.  She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.
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Geesh, Don't Freak Out!

"Of all the God-given gifts provided to encourage us on the Christ-following way, few equal the presence of faithful friends. Without faithful friendship, we block the road to wholeness, fail to become all that God intends and risk losing our way. Without pilgrim companions, the Christ-light can sometimes go out. Faithful friendship is God's disguised way of befriending us with His encouraging, life-enriching presence. 'For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.' Matthew 18:20" - Trevor Hudson.Undeniably, the first few weeks of school on a college campus are like no other. As I was dropping off my freshman son this past August, I happened to be in the room as five guys were discussing what they wanted to do that night. I, of course, trying to remain as quiet as possible, was eavesdropping. Moms in a college dorm room must be as invisible as possible.“Hey, do y’all want to go hear this new band playing downtown,” one of them asked.  Simple responses and questions were given, but the one that stood out to me was the young man that said, “Ya, that sounds cool.  Let me check with … um … well … NO ONE!”He had realized for the first time he did not need to check with mom and dad. Total freedom! At the moment--I am completely serious--they all started high-fiving each other and whooping and hollering. It was a hilarious, fun, strange and exciting moment that I witnessed. As the semester continued, I was not surprised to learn that these five guys became close friends.We all like starting something new. We all like being a part of something. We all like growing friendships. These are threads of commonality we all share, but also in the heart of man is the desire to know God.  What if I took all these common desires and initiated a gathering in my neighborhood? Is it possible that “faithful friends” could be found right where I live?  Would the Lord want to disguise His encouraging, life-enriching presence with the people who live next door through me? Oh Lord, this is too exciting and too overwhelming at the same time!Nearly 10 years ago, I sensed the Lord wanted me to begin a neighborhood Bible study. I enlisted a friend, and we began praying. We walked and prayed and walked and prayed. I handed out invitations and anxiously waited. The morning came. The coffee was hot.  The pastries were yummy. I was ready and prepared. And … one person came!  The Lord showed up then (even with one!), and He continues to show up now, with quite a few more. What began as a simple step of faith 10 years ago turned a neighborhood into a caring community of Christ followers.My 16-year-old son, on several occasions, has said, “Geesh, mom, don’t freak out.”  Perhaps he is right most of the time.  Ahem.  So I want to say the same to you.  “Geesh, dear Christ follower, don’t freak out.”  Just do the next thing.  How does the Lord want you to reach out?  What is your next step?  Don’t let details, circumstances and fears overtake your desire to make Christ known.One step of faith is all you need to take. Take a look at “Open Door” on this website. It gives step-by-step details of hosting a neighborhood gathering. And then drop us a note and let us know what you are doing to reach out. We’ll be praying for you!Find more Fresh Stories here!Joan, 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 life long desire to share with others the amazing news of God’s love and forgiveness. 
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Nobody's Perfect

I once had a conversation with a good friend who was struggling with what to tell her daughter about Christianity.“How can I encourage her in that direction when there are so many Christians who do bad things? Christians who are hypocrites?”My response was to remind her that nobody is or ever has been perfect, except Jesus. While I believe this to be truth, my words still seemed to ring hollow. What she wanted to hear was that Christianity makes one perfect, makes the world in which we live perfect -- and therefore safe -- for her beloved child.I heard a yearning for perfection in her words and in her heart.The “nobody’s perfect” theme is one we tell ourselves every day, especially when we’re parenting children. As moms, we’re told we need to embrace the messiness of life. The imperfection. The errors. The chaos. Especially if we want to raise children who are okay making mistakes, trying new things and taking risks.Recently, I read an enlightening article by Sandy Blackard, author, parenting expert and founder of Language of Listening, entitled “How to help a perfectionist child.” Blackard takes a new spin on the subject of "perfect."

I know it may sound backwards, but from a perfectionist child’s point of view, being told it is OK to mess up, show emotion and not care what her friends think, is telling her she is wrong to be herself, even if that is not your intention. Acceptance is the missing element in shifting perfectionism from an anxiety-ridden malady to a gift of excellence. Once she knows it’s OK to be the way she is (no matter what that is), she can naturally start to relax about it.

Isn’t it true that we do long for perfection? And yet we’re faced every day with the fact that nothing and no one is perfect. In fact, we live in a broken world. People can be stunningly cruel, whether with words or by the sword. There is stridency, criminality, heartlessness and darkness surrounding us. Even Christians (since they are, in fact, human beings!) are sinful, doing and saying the wrong things, responding in less-than-perfect ways, sometimes in the worst ways possible. This conflict between longing for perfection and facing the realities of imperfection leads to a kind of suffering in our souls.Scripture says this:

For we know that even the things of nature, like animals and plants, suffer in sickness and death as they await this great event. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us—bodies that will never be sick again and will never die. Romans 8:22-25

We long for perfect. For the perfect response. For the perfect action. For the perfect love.And it was delivered to us right in the midst of our imperfect, broken and messy world on Christmas Day in the form of Emmanuel, “God with us.” He was (and is!) perfect. His every response while he walked on the earth was perfect. He never sinned. He never made the wrong choice, although He was provoked, ridiculed, betrayed and tempted. I believe He planted this yearning for perfection in our hearts because it’s a yearning for HIM. It’s a yearning for Heaven, where He has prepared a place – a perfect place -- for each one of us who accepts His gift.As we enter a new year, notice the next time you feel that deep yearning for perfection in your nation, your neighborhood, your home, your parenting or marriage. Try honoring it instead of telling yourself that you’re wrong to experience it.Recognize it as an awareness of our need for Christ. It’s true the yearning will not be met here on earth, but we are promised that a day is coming when we will experience perfection – fully and totally, in the presence of God Almighty.Maybe someone you know needs to hear this today. At NBS2GO, we are grateful for the freedom and opportunity to share Jesus with others in our homes, neighborhoods and during the business of living our daily lives.Merry Christmas!Find more Fresh Stories here!Erica Rountree is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc.  She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea. 
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A Christmas Twist of 1 Corinthians 13

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not GIVE LOVE AWAY,I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table,but do not GIVE LOVE AWAY I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing homeand give all that I have to charity,but do not GIVE LOVE AWAY, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the tree with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,attend a myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantatabut do not focus on GOD who GAVE LOVE AWAYin the form of a baby names JESUS, I have missed the point.

LOVE stops the cooking to hug the child.

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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?Find more Fresh Stories here!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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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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