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A Gift For You: Practical Tips For Kicking-off A Bible Study In The New Year!
No matter if you’ve been leading a small-group Bible study for a long time … if you’re new to leading … or if you are just feeling called to start one … you know that it’s a commitment that you can’t take lightly. There’s nothing quite like opening up God’s Word and leading others through it. It is a rewarding process that can draw you closer to the Lord and bring others closer to Christ, as well.
However, leading a small-group Bible study on your own can be a daunting task!
It’s okay to admit that leading a Bible study isn’t always easy. That’s why I wrote the ebook, “How To Lead A Thriving Small-Group Bible Study, So That You Can Thrive, Too!” As an organization, we’ve worked with group leaders from across the country, and we’ve seen them struggle with the same things over and over. We’ve watched as some Bible studies have faded away, and we’ve seen others grow to become a thriving, dynamic group, led by the Holy Spirit.
So, what makes the difference between a struggling or “just surviving” Bible study and a group that is growing and thriving?
At BBT, we believe that the 3 C’s of a THRIVING Bible Study (Curriculum, Community and Coaching) make the difference for thriving groups. In the ebook, I’ll walk you through the best practices to help you find the right curriculum, build the best community, and remind you about the importance of coaching – to invest in yourself as a leader. You’ll be able to identify the common pitfalls of leading a small group and learn some of the best practices and strategies for overcoming them.
Need a copy of the ebook? Simply email us at email@example.com and we’ll send you the link for free!
Welcome to Advent! If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering “Where has this year gone?” … and “How can we be getting ready to celebrate Christmas, already?” This year has flown by! As I find myself finishing up things at work for the year, and crossing off all of the things on my to-do list at home, my heart needs to be reminded of the true reason for this season.
Here is a list of “truths” (adapted from the BBT Christmas curriculum) which you can use to help focus your mind and heart on Jesus.
The only way to “BE” a working woman …
I have many titles: mom, wife, volunteer, daughter, sister, aunt … friend. Maybe your titles are slightly different (maybe you’re not married, or you’ve recently divorced … perhaps you don’t have kids) but because you are a working woman, we have something in common. It doesn’t even matter what it is exactly that you do, because you’re probably like me … you are involved in so much and do so many different things, for so many different people … sometimes the hardest thing is to just “be.”
Be. It is so easy to get caught up in all the fragments of life, and not always so easy to be still.
Through Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” I’m starting to explore the question for myself, “Who does God want me to be?” Did you know that the Hebrew phrase in this verse for “Be still” means “Enough!” or “Stop”? The NASB version of the Bible even says, “Cease Striving.”
What would it look like in my life to cease striving? I think the essence of this verse is His promise to make the broken whole. For when I come before Him in a kind of quiet acceptance of my brokenness (the real me), I’m not trying to fix or to do, I simply am. And in the act of bringing all of the broken pieces to Him, He enters that brokenness and becomes God in my life – the God of my life.
I don’t know about you, but for a woman who is constantly doing, this is a sweet message and a wonderful gift.
As a working woman, is it hard for you to find time to be still? How can you change your schedule each day to be still and know God?
Happy Labor Day!
It’s here! Labor Day: the end of summer, one last BBQ, and (agh!) no more wearing white!
Traditionally, a day of rest and parties, Labor Day is a federal holiday designed to celebrate and honor working men and women.
It hit me that God celebrates and honors our work, too. He has ordained work as something good! Before He gave Adam a wife or a child, God gave Adam a job. “The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it.” (Genesis 2:15) He intends for us to work, too – it’s part of our spiritual development.
How can work … toil … effort … and, of all things, employment be a spiritual adventure? The simple answer is, that it’s part of life. A BIG part of life, and as the Bible reminds us, a part that God has planned for us to do! Every day is part of God’s calendar, and he is Lord over each day. He conducts His business at all hours, in all places.
He has a purpose for each and every person – for each and every job. Your job can be more than a sense of personal accomplishment or a source of income, it can be a place where you make an eternal difference.
Happy Labor Day … Every Day!
Charles Stanley once said, “No matter how much authority we may possess, we will always be accountable to someone.”
Authority. Just say the word and some people grimace. It’s just not a popular concept.
However, authority is an important concept for Christian leaders – both in learning how to work under authority, and in administering it.
There are many examples in the Bible of leaders who submitted to the authority of others: Joshua worked for Moses before he led the Israelites; Elisha submitted to Elijah. The Bible even speaks to this relationship of being under authority in 1 Timothy 6:1 (MSG), “Whoever is a slave must make the best of it, giving respect to his master …”
And, imagine what would happen if those with authority also looked at power from the Biblical point of view? In Mark 10:45, Jesus defines Biblical authority and leadership as serving others, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Real authority means service.
Ask God to help you redefine authority this week. Spend some time thinking about this concept. Read Mark 10:42 – 45. Why would anyone want to be under your leadership? What does your leadership look like?
Magnets: Leaders who leave a legacy.
While you can open almost any business magazine and read the latest about “How to become a better leader,” or do a quick internet search and find thousands of articles on the topic, you probably haven’t heard this one before … A leader is like a magnet.
Think of it this way: leaders are magnets of different orientations (callings), sizes (competencies), shapes (personalities), and are used in different contexts (vocations).
Now get this … the strength of the magnet is ultimately measured by how many other magnets (leaders) it creates, not on how much metal (followers) it attracts.
Want to be a strong leader? Develop other leaders by pouring your life into them!
This magnet or “legacy” model of leadership (as we refer to it in BBT) is Biblical. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 captures the essence of legacy leadership, as do Jesus’ final words before His ascension in Acts 1:8.
Be a magnetic leader, and leave a legacy. A Biblical leaders’ highest calling is in developing other leaders!
Rest … It’s time to take some!
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 not only serves as a prologue to Genesis (and perhaps, the entire Bible) but this passage provides us with a picture of God’s 6-day work week. Many Christians believe that the creation of man was the climax of God’s work, but many theologians and scholars believe that God’s day of rest was the climax!
Yes, God took a rest after His 6-day work week. Today, rest is often one of the first things that we sacrifice during our insanely busy and frenetic lives. But, rest is good for us!
Rest is a means of self-care for the soul, body and mind. Indeed, resting from our work puts work in perspective. Our rest also communicates to a watching world that we “dance to the beat of a different drum.” We rest, or move, by God’s rhythmic pattern for work and rest. Resting communicates not only that we are members of God’s family, but resting also communicates to God that we trust in His providential care and timely provisions.
In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the Bible tells us the reason to observe the Sabbath is grounded in thankfulness. Here, God asks that we obey Him by observing a Sabbath out of gratitude for his gracious redemption. In the New Testament, Jesus explains that Sabbath rest is not intended to be a burden, but rather, God’s merciful provision for His creatures …“Then He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:27).
We rest from our work because God rested from His work. We rest because God commands us to rest and this is for our good and self-care. When we rest and engage in inactivity, we honor God. (Yes, this is contrary to the world, which says, inactivity is slothfulness!) When we rest, we show God that we trust Him to provide during our inactivity.
Have you rested lately? If not, it’s time to take some time! It doesn’t matter what day of the week you pick for Sabbath, the “bottom-line” is: you must take time to rest!
A Working Sabbath
It’s the 4th Commandment – you know, the one that doesn’t really apply to modern-day life. We’re just too busy, with too much to do. Surely, God didn’t intend for us to keep a Sabbath in this day and age … did He?
Yes, I believe that He did! Just look around … it’s evident in the busyness (and business) of our lives!
You see, my family and I haven’t always observed the Sabbath. In fact, it’s only been within the last couple of years that we’ve started making a conscious effort to honor the day by not working like we do on every other day. Not to be legalistic, we’ve just tried to make Sunday simple – our “no errands, no hurry” day.
Why is it important to have a day of rest? Like most families, we were constantly on the run. My husband and I both work. We have three young children and there wasn’t any breathing room in our schedule. No, we didn’t “go into the office” on Sunday, but (besides adding church), the day looked like every other – we were still on the run, we were busy. But we began to realize, that in this commandment, God is actually giving us a gift – a day of rest, a day to be in-the-moment, a day to honor and strengthen connections to each other, and to Him.
So, how does a modern family begin to make time for a Sabbath? We started by … stopping. We began the process of slowing down our busy schedules to set aside a special day. It wasn’t all at once, and it’s not always perfect. But most weeks, Sabbath now works for us. As Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Consider how you can make Sabbath work in your family. Purposefully resting on Sunday has been a wonderful way for us to create space in an otherwise cluttered schedule … space for each other, and space for God.
Jesus’ Resurrection and My “9 to 5” Work…What’s the Relationship?
We must turn to Paul’s fine exposition of Jesus’ resurrection and its implications for how we work today; this is, 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, Paul brilliantly lays out the implications of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For example, if Jesus’ resurrection did not happen, we are still hopelessly lost, wallowing in our sins and enslaved to the ruthless and capricious taskmaster, Satan. The Apostle Paul concludes this chapter by recounting what Christ’s death, burial and resurrection accomplished; namely, His death, burial, resurrection and ascension has convincingly defeated and rendered our enemy of death impotent (vv. 50-57). And as with many of Paul’s writings, he ends on a practical note on what we are to do as a result of what Christ has done has done for us. So Paul writes in vs. 58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (ESV)
What does vs. 58 have to do with my ‘9 to 5’ work? Not only did Jesus’ death and resurrection inaugurate the end times but these historic events did much, much more. N. T. Wright enlightens us, “It was not merely that God had inaugurated the “end”; if Jesus, the Messiah, was the End in person, God’s future-arrived-in-the-present, then those who belonged to Jesus and followed Him and were empowered by his Spirit were charged with transforming the present, as far as they were able, in the light of that future.”1
What is Wright saying?
He is saying that there are ethical implications of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and our future resurrection2: that is simply, to do the Lord’s work. Some are called to vocational ministry; so Paul’s charge is to carry on in this work (such as evangelism) as this is the Lord’s work. Some are called to the secular and to the domestic workplace; Paul’s charge is to carry on doing this work as this is the Lord’s work too. In other words, in light of Jesus’ bodily resurrection we are called to do the Lord’s work – which includes our chosen professions – and in the Lord’s way. And as we do our chosen vocations or professions in the Lord’s way, we are actually participating in the transformation or renewal of our vocations or professions – as far as we are able.
We are Transformers
The resurrection of Jesus not only guarantees our future resurrection but it also informs how we live and work in our present. Like one of my professors once said, “Live life now from the end of the story.” We are called to be busy about transforming our present. Sin has corrupted every centimeter of this universe and that includes our professions and workplaces. Get this: we have the honor and privilege to lock arms with God to participate in the transformation of our professions and workplaces by working excellently, righteously and ethically in light of Jesus’ resurrection.1 – See N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 46. 2 – That’s the point of Jesus’ resurrection serving as a ‘first fruits’ (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). Using an agrarian metaphor, Paul is saying just like the farmer’s first crops serve as a preview or guarantee of more harvested crops to come likewise, Jesus’ resurrection serves a guarantee or preview of more bodily resurrections to come for those who die in Christ.
Practicing The Resurrection
You don’t have to look very far to find brokenness. It is everywhere. You run into it daily – at work, at home … and everywhere in between. So the question is this: What are you doing about it? Are you practicing the resurrection?
That may sound strange, but it’s important theology to understand … and it’s important that you take your part in it! Redemption and renewal is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection represents an intrusion into the present, of what will be true in the new heavens and new earth. On page 96 of his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright says, “Redemption doesn’t mean scrapping what’s there and starting again from a clean slate, but rather liberating what has come to be enslaved.”
We must live life now, in light of Jesus’ resurrection! This means that we are to engage in restoring what is broken into wholeness. A friend recently captured this thought in a Facebook post, writing, “I believe in the restoration of all things or practice resurrection.” Jesus’ resurrection inaugurated a grand restoration project!
I have another Christian friend who owns and operates a restaurant and bar … and he is living out this example and “practicing the resurrection” in his work environment, daily. To tell his story, people may frown upon him selling alcohol (they believe it is the primary reason for many of our societal ills – fatal car accidents, domestic abuse, sexual assaults, etc.), but this is exactly where the ‘living life now, in light of the resurrection’ comes in. My friend runs his business by Biblical principles, and as he does this, he is redeeming the opinion of alcohol in his sphere of influence, and he is restoring its proper and responsible use. As examples, he has trained his employees to limit the number of drinks to repeat customers, and he has also paid for cab rides for customers who have had too much. He is engaged in restoring what is broken to wholeness.
If you are involved in redeeming something that is broken in the workplace, to move it to wholeness, you are practicing the resurrection! Look around your workplace, something is broken that needs to be restored. What will you do, to ‘practice the resurrection’?
Noah Was An Entrepreneur!
Have you read the account of Noah lately, from Genesis 6? It struck me that Noah was an entrepreneur who was being led by God!
According to Dictionary.com, an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise … usually with considerable initiative and risk.” I would say that Noah encountered significant risk, and many of his neighbors were probably left scratching their heads wondering WHY he was doing something so crazy.
Genesis 6:9 tells us that Noah was “a righteous man … and he walked with God.” Noah had great faith, and he listened and obeyed God’s commands, even though it didn’t make sense to the people around him. In the New Testament (Hebrews 11:7) we read about Noah’s extraordinary faith, even when it related to things unseen. This can be true of an entrepreneur today – many start a journey without knowing how it will turn out, but trusting that the idea is good. How much better to be “walking with God” and know that He’s got it covered!
What are some inspiring examples of entrepreneurial spirit in your company, industry, and in your church that remind you of Noah and the Ark?
Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
People who are led by the Holy Spirit just have “something different” about them. Sometimes, the fruit of the Spirit is very evident in me … and sometimes, well, let’s just say that it’s not!
As Christians, we are billboards in the workplace – advertisements for Jesus. As such, our lives are constantly under the microscope. God wants us to work in such a way that our co-workers will marvel at us and ultimately point them back to God (who is the source of our ability!)
For me, I need to remember that I can’t produce the fruit on my own. Without Him, my love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always lacking. I must draw on His power … and He will enable me to work in a way that is worthy of notice.
Will you have the courage to pray this prayer with me this week? “Heavenly Father, work in me! I need the power of Your Spirit and I desire the fruit that comes with it. Put my life in a place where people can observe my conduct as a Christian … and marvel at YOU.”
Bumper Stickers, Jesus, and Forgiveness
I was on the way to my BBT group last week, when this little red car passed my winter-soaked minivan. There were a bunch of bumper stickers on the back – all making various statements. The top one, on the right, caught my eye (mainly because I’m a dog person) … it said, “I love cats … it’s people I can’t stand!” Then, my eyes drifted down a bit. In the very middle of the bumper, there was a black sticker with bold, white lettering and a big red heart that read, “I Love Jesus.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, is it even possible to love Jesus and not people?
People disappoint us, don’t they? It’s simple … they just let us down. My heart has certainly felt the sentiment of that bumper sticker! Can you relate?
“I can’t stand him.” “She makes me so angry.” “Who does she think she is?” “I don’t like him.”
There are times that I can’t “stand” people … but, I do love Jesus. So what’s the answer?
I think it all boils down to forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness. There are many quotes and writings on this topic. Just google “forgiveness quotes” and you’ll get more than 9 million results. But, look to the Bible and you’ll find the actual Authority on forgiveness. There are many verses that encourage us to forgive one another (Colossians 3:13, Matthew 18:21-35, 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 – just to name a few.) Perhaps the biggest reminder is in the Gospel: we are already forgiven in Christ!
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” As we head into the Lenten season and toward Resurrection Sunday, remember this truth: You are forgiven in Christ … and as such, you are expected to forgive others.
You might be rolling your eyes right now … or perhaps you are ready to quit reading this blog altogether. After all, forgiveness is a lot easier to talk about than it is to do. But this is the best part … if you can honestly say, “I love Jesus,” then you know about the power of the Holy Spirit!
Jesus himself describes the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” That includes teaching us how to forgive!
Let these truths stick to you this week … rewrite the bumper sticker on your heart! Make a mental list of people you “can’t stand,” and pray that God will help you forgive them.
Walk Away From Workplace Gossip!
Gossip. It runs rampant in the workplace and can do a lot of damage. Odds are, at some time during your life, you’ve experienced gossip on one or both sides – you may have started the gossip, listened to it, or have even been its subject. But, no matter where you’ve been in the line, gossip is no good for anyone.
The Bible tells us (in Proverbs 16:28) that a person who spreads gossip is a “mischief-maker,” spreading damage and causing discord and havoc. Gossip is offered in a tone or under the guise of confidentiality, and shares harmful information. According to Proverbs 11:12, someone who belittles another lacks judgment or understanding (in other words, he is a fool!), and according to Proverbs 11:13 and Proverbs 20:19, a gossip cannot be trusted. In Romans 1:29, Paul goes so far as to list gossip among the sins associated with pagans!
Do you gossip? Do you listen to gossip? Gossip is a sin and we must ask God for forgiveness. God wanted holiness to be a mark of His people during the course of everyday life. We show ourselves holy by loving our neighbor (or coworker) as ourselves. As a Christian in the workplace, this means (no matter what) we cannot engage in gossip!
Even though it may always be in your environment, the most practical way YOU can “shorten the shelf-life” of gossip is to refuse to listen to it. You may ask, “Does this person know you are telling me this?” If the answer is no, this gives you the opportunity to stop the discussion, and walk away.
Do you think of your coworkers as “neighbors”?
In this week’s “Wednesday’s Word,” (our Facebook weekly devotion) we referenced Mark 12:31 and asked you, “Would your view of work change if you thought of coworkers as neighbors?” Here’s a little more to get you thinking about what it means to be a “neighbor” in the workplace.
The parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) tells us what it means to be a good neighbor – we should help anyone in need. But, what does that really mean? What does it look like to be a “neighbor” in the workplace today?
Frankly, “being a neighbor” is often lost in today’s cut-throat world – a place where most people are just out for themselves, but it’s just as important today as it was in Jesus’ time. As a Christian in the workplace we must always seek justice on others’ behalf – we are called to step in and help our co-workers … even when it’s not convenient or easy to do so.
Do you remember the parable? If not, take some time today to read how the Good Samaritan (who would have been a “bad guy” in the eyes of the Jewish lawyer and thought to be one of the last people to stop and help) helped the man who was robbed and beaten. He risked his own life, and then even paid for his medical bills and stay!
Could you go out on a limb for a coworker? To be a neighbor in the workplace, you may have to! There are small ways to serve your coworkers (think bringing them coffee, rearranging your schedule, etc.) … but sometimes it will require you to serve them in a big way. You may need to speak up for someone who has been mistreated, write a letter on another’s behalf, help someone find employment, or even testify in court!
Being a neighbor will (most likely) not be easy. The Bible reminds us that we can we have confidence in the midst of a crisis. While we can expect “arrows” directed to us when we fight to correct injustices in the workplace, we can also be assured that God has our back, because Psalm 11:7 says that the Lord is righteous and that He loves justice!
What are some ways YOU can be a neighbor in the workplace today?
Love Notices The Person Behind The Desk
Today has been one of those days … I have bumped into hurting people all day. Someone’s going through a divorce. Someone’s teen is in trouble. Someone has cancer. I’m not sure what it was about today, but I was quickly reminded that everyone has “something.”
Yes, everyone has something going on in life! The secretary who answers the phone in your office, your boss, your coworkers … they all have a story, a history … perhaps even a heartache.
This realization should change the game for Christians at work … everyone we interact with is an opportunity to show the LOVE of Christ!
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-12).
Sometimes it’s a tall order to love your fellow coworkers like this … but I think it helps when you realize that they, too, have “something.” My prayer is that there would be more of this kind of love in the workplace – love that notices the person behind the desk … and the pain behind the smile.
How will you apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-12 in your workplace today?
Can a Bible study with co-workers really work?
If you’re like most working people, you already spend a lot of time with co-workers. Projects, meetings and deadlines fill your day and your conversations. Consider, however, what might happen if you took just one hour of the non-working part of your week (before work one morning, or during your lunch break) to study the Bible together.
This BBT-concept of studying the Bible with co-workers can change the way you think about work and how you do business as a team. In addition to talking about the latest project, you will be talking about how the Bible relates to your work and how to handle challenges, stresses and problems you face in every-day life.
Here are a few BBT-tested strategies to help make your Bible study at work … work!
These five strategies seem simple, don’t they? But actually starting is another thing, and keeping it going is a challenge! So, as you pray about starting a group, how would you feel if you had a leadership coach to help you every step of the way, from starting a group, to growing and sustaining your group, and even helping you to develop other Christ-centered leaders through your group. BBT combines curriculum and leadership coaching, that’s why it’s called “Faith for Work-Leadership for Life!” When the Lord calls you to begin, call us. We’re ready!
Diversity In The Workplace
Diversity in the workplace can be a hot topic these days – but for a Christian, it should be an opportunity for compassion, hospitality and love! While these commands aren’t new, it’s important to think through applicable ways you can show the love of Christ to someone in the workplace who is different than you. Here are some Biblical reminders, and practical ideas …
Compassion: Show kindness. Ephesians 2:11-13 reminds us that we were once a foreigner, like the Israelites (in Exodus 23:9) we were once strangers to God! Yet, God in His rich mercy and grace, showed kindness to us. As those who have been shown kindness, we are to do likewise and show kindness to others.
Hospitality: Be inclusive – invite and welcome others warmly. In Romans, the Apostle Paul takes several chapters to lay out all that God has done for us, and the privileges that we have been given. As part of our response to these gifts, Paul says, in Romans 12, that we are commanded to show hospitality … which in Greek means to “love a stranger.” To love the ‘stranger’ in our workplaces may mean to open our homes and invite them to dinner!
Love: Take good care of others. In Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah encourages the people of God to practice good to the vulnerable – this would include the “strangers” in the workplace. God calls us to defend their honor, which may mean that we may need to speak up on their behalf.
When we show love and compassion to the stranger, when we practice good by caring for the vulnerable, we are actually showing them Christ. Think about ways you can actively show Christ to your coworkers today!