Thursday, September 29, 2011

Remembering Summer

As we are all rolling into a busy fall, I want to take a moment and celebrate some summer memories....

What a summer we had in Women's Small Groups!

We spoke His Peace, Breakthroughs & Heart's Made Whole, every single day, over each woman in Small Groups this summer and our Daddy in Heaven MOVED.

Relationships were healed


Families were reunited


Bodies were healed


Children were saved


Hurts were mended 


...and we all stepped closer into His beautiful embrace.


Hallelujah!


We got together to celebrate and have a little old-fashioned fun in the park in August.  Here's a peak:

video
This is one of our beloved Lead Coaches, Julia Mateer, showing us what she's got in the ultra competitive sport of watermelon seed spitting.

Julia proved to be an amazing seed spitter, but it was Coach Marilyn Hayden that took the trophy:
Marilyn Hayden and her Big Trophy

 Mary, Bonnie & Cindy, 3 beautiful hearts for women
Diana, a new group leader & Suzette a new coach, amazing women! 
 Krista & Kathy, they are both stepping up to lead this Fall!
Julia & Dale, Two of our fabulous Lead Coaches


What is your Small Group Story?  We would love to hear it.  


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Big One That Got Away

God taught me a lesson on faith this summer.  We were vacationing in northern NH on Lake Winnipesauke.  My husband caught the fishing bug.  It started Tuesday afternoon when he had a big large mouth bass on his line that got away.  It snapped the line and swam off with his hook in it’s mouth.

On Wednesday, he asked our 6 year old daughter Chloe to pray that he would catch a big fish.  Her prayer surprised us, “Dear God, please help Daddy catch the big fish that got away with the hook in it’s mouth, because that’s Daddy’s fish.”

Amazingly, one hour later he did just that!  He caught the same bass that had broken the line the day before, and it still had the hook and leader in it’s mouth!



Chloe prayed for that fish believing Chris would catch it! We could learn a lot by watching the faith of children.  They pray believing without doubt.  Then they go on playing or back to what they were doing without another thought about what they prayed for.  They don’t worry about the result!  They have trust that God will do what they prayed!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pray like children?  All it takes is simple trust that our loving Father wants the best for His kids.  Let’s pray with faith believing that God will answer our prayer.  And not worry about the result.  Let’s pray believing we can catch the big one that got away!

by Bonnie McKinley

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Other Side of the Cross



To fall at the front of the cross, what a wonderful place, the lifting of the weight of sin the wonder of God's love, beyond comprehension our heart receives life and hope. We are his children in grace forever forgiven, made the righteousness of God in Christ. It is a work so thorough and complete what could it possibly lack?


Nothing.


That is the point. 


Why would we keep going back to a place that has provided everything for us to go on? 

The front side on the cross is the doorway to the other side, the side we are meant to reside on, live in and stay at, it is living on the other side of the cross. It is the very purpose that he brought us to Himself and paid such and incomprehensible price. And what honor is it to the Father and the gift of the Son to continually fall to the front on the cross never moving to other side, the place intended?
It is entering the palace, we are made royalty, our identity changed, our position with God forever transformed. 


Jesus said “I no longer call you servants I call you friends.” 


Who, invited into palace would be content to stand at the door and live as a servant and who being set free would still consider themselves a slave and never enter the gate of freedom to claim their identity?

Paul, being transported to heaven in body or out he did not know, saw inexpressible things that he was not permitted to tell. This so impacted his heart and out of it the prayer for the Ephesians 


“ I pray the the eyes of your heart would be enlightened that you would know the hope to which you are called. The glorious inheritance of the saints and the incredible great power for those of us who believe.”  


It is the resurrection power of the other side of the cross. We don't live in the tomb.  The stone has been rolled away and we are called the live as kids in the kingdom, exploring the treasure of the palace and calling out the treasure of those who are yet to join us. Can we truly save those who are bound if we don't first live in the freedom and identity we have received.  Can slaves lead slaves out of slavery? Or shall we just peer into the palace and never enter the  door to the other side. 


Jesus said “it is finished” 


Come on in. 


Change the world from the place of power!



Monday, September 26, 2011

Lay it Down


I woke up this morning feeling burdensome.  I prayed and it helped a little before I had to fly out the door for work.  I got to the tennis club and the burden stuck with me for majority of the morning.  Towards the end of morning practice, I went to talk to one of my students; she’s probably around 12 years of age.  I knew something was bothering her.  She then told me some of the other girls were aggravating her.  I told her, “you can choose to let this bother you or you can choose to let it go.”  I realize her emotions were taking control at the moment and she was upset.  Granted, she may have had a reason to be upset, but the choice was hers… whether she wanted to let it ruin her day or work past it. 

I was able to minister and help heed her emotions.  But the cool part of it for me was the aftermath of my own situation and burden I was carrying.  The very same counsel I gave her, I needed to listen to myself.  How often do we give advice to others, when we ourselves should be looking in the mirror?  I had a choice to make, I could let this burden weigh me down or I could give it to Jesus. 

Jesus says this in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The answer seems easy, right?  Easy to tell someone, but not always as easy when it pertains to us.  Again, so I’m faced with this choice… Do I let this burden bring me down or do I give it to the One who says, He’ll take all my fears, all my doubts and anything that could possibly be holding me back.  Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”  The Lord is bound to His Word and He will never go back on it.  His character is true and just.  All we have to do is trust, because He will deliver and He will conquer!  There is no need to live in slavery when you are in Christ.  God is still in the business of setting the captives free!  Freedom awaits you… you choose.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Excellence, a working definition……




I’m not going to pretend I have the market cornered on defining excellence, but in the past 8 years I have developed a working definition I use on a daily basis to see if I am operating with excellence in the things that God has called me to do.

At the end of the day, I take a quick 2-3 minutes and get a bit introspective. I ask myself this question.  Did I do what I could/should, when I could, with what I had?  Let’s break that down a bit.

Did I do what I could/should?
We all get sidetracked and distracted from doing what we can/should do.  There are more things demanding our attention than ever before.  Focus is the key to this.  If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is pretty easy to come up with.

When I could?
Timing is everything.  If you have 24 hours is a day, then this applies to you.  This really comes down to knowing how to prioritize the things you get to do.  Another way to look at it is this, “The right thing done late is the wrong thing.”  Procrastinators should have a thoughtful look on their face and be saying, Oh yea……” to this.

With what I had?
I don’t have everything.  But we serve a God that does.  This piece of the question really comes down to being a good steward of what God has given us.  If everything I have is God’s in the first place, then I have every resource to do what he called me to do.

I have found this to be extremely encouraging over the years, keeping me focused on the vision God has for my life.

One final thought, if the answer to the questions we talked about is all too often “no” for you, don’t beat yourself up.  This is a process and no one starts off doing everything with excellence.  The awesome thing about this is if you had a rough day and excellence managed to elude you, don’t worry.  Tomorrow is a brand new day with opportunity to operate in excellence in all you do.

Question for discussion:  How do you define excellence?  Let’s talk about it in the comments section below…

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Truth of the Treasure




I remember many times singing Isaac Watts’ hymn, Alas! and did my savior bleedfor such a worm as I.” For it was clear to me that the spiritually dead condition of  a life with out Christ is infinitely dark and hopeless. So what was worth redeeming?  Somehow I can't see Jesus in looking out over the crowd and in his heart full of compassion thinking what a bunch of worms.  I am not making light  the hopeless plight of our condition nor the utter need of God's redemptive love, but here is the question.
Are we not made in the image of the creator?  If we were to travel the universe to its see-able edge only to peer into the extended vastness of unlimited space and turn and travel back through the universe coming back to our galaxy and finally to our solar system we would travel past the planets and  would come upon a place called earth and after all that we explored we would come upon the only place in the entire universe that it is said that something is created in the image of God, that is you and I. 
Jeremiah wrote, “before you were in the womb I knew you”. We are created in wonder and power with the stamp of our very words having the ability to give life. At the tower of Babel God gave testimony to His creation “ there is nothing that man imagines to do that they cannot accomplish” And in epistle to Corinthians Paul states we have this “treasure in earthen jars”.
We are a treasure buried. I submit God did not come to save worms. He came to unlock treasures. Why is this thought so important?  It is simply this, if we fail to see the wonder of God's creation we will ever focus on the “jar and not the treasure”.  By extension we will be saving jars and not unlocking treasures. Every life apart from Christ is a treasure plowed under and buried. Each unique in itself endowed with the potential of its creator. Each life birthed with desires Fathered by God for the purpose of His Kingdom. Lives of unlocked passion and creative potential. Jesus came to restore our intimacy with Father and unleash the wonder of His creation to destroy the work of the enemy and restore the Kingdom of God on earth. And why of all creation is Satan bent on destroying the one thing that is in God image. All of his lies are directed and devised to take the image of God in man and plow it under along with all the potential for the Kingdom.
So this thought changes everything, as leaders we are called to find the treasure in everyone we meet. And with the message of the Gospel to revive, unlock and unleash the unique treasure in each life.  We are called to those who are redeemed by God yet held captive in thought to expose them to the truth of the treasure. To connect them to the wonder of how they are created, their passions, their desires Father by God, their 10.  Yes people need God to meet them at the deepest point of their need and give them hope. The hope of a life lived in the way the prodigal, extravagant Father intended. He didn't run for worms but with a ring a robe and shoes the Father's heart is to restore the treasure in His children. Now we get to do it also!!!

Lead Like Jesus

Jesus.

The sound of His name alone brings me peace.  His name, spoken by one who loves Him, is a kiss.  His ways, practiced by one who loves Him, are life-giving.  He has shown us exactly how to lead and it is much less complicated than we tend to make it.

Let’s look at the story Feeding the Five Thousand in Matthew 14.  Just picture it, an epic gathering, a sea of 5000 men and their families spread out as far as the eye could see.  They have followed Jesus from the cities into the deserted place, not giving a thought to anything except being in His presence.  And our Jesus did what he does.  In His goodness and mercy, He healed them.  Some of them didn’t even know it was happening, weren’t even aware of their need, but that is just what happens in the presence of God.

As the disciples perceive this amazing day coming to an end, they think they have a good plan.  Their thoughts turn toward the natural and they begin to strategize and make plans and determine to send all the people away.  But what does Jesus say?
   
 “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

What???  Us?  Perhaps you don’t realize we only have a few loaves and fishes, Master?  Don’t you love how we feel the need to explain things to God?  As if He doesn’t see things as clearly as we do?  Scripture tells us to trust God with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Prov 3:5) and yet, time and time again, we filter each situation through our own understanding before moving.

It is here, in this moment that Jesus does the most amazing thing of all.  He blesses the tiny little bit that they had and

gave it to the disciples

He could have fed that crowd in any number of supernatural ways, but His choice was to use the hands and feet of His disciples, His small group.  Just imagine how those guys felt as their unbelief turned to wide eyed, joy filled, wholehearted belief in the everlasting, ever present, perfect provision of God.  It gives me chills!

The next time your small group meets, think of that day in the deserted place.  Expect miracles, breakthroughs and hearts made whole by the grace of God, but don’t stop there.  Expect to see Jesus use you, Child of God.  Instead of gathering prayer requests and sending them out in e-mail, try this;  when someone has need, have your small group members gather and lay hands on them.  Agree in prayer that their request shall be met, knowing that the prayer of the righteous avails much.


Then send them out to do the same…


by Jen Milne

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Relationships Renew!

I was sitting on the couch and my friend was sitting across from me. She was crying; the kind of crying you do when you are just tired and weary.  Tears slowly rolled down her face as she explained to me how she yearned for her husband to come to church with her. It had been such a long time since they had connected on a spiritual level.  All she wanted from me was for me to lend her a listening ear and to pray with her. I know the value of just listening because I too have  been on the receiving end of a listening ear and prayer.  Scripture encourages us in I Thess. 5:11 to “…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” In 1 Peter 4 we are encouraged to “…keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s grace.”  My friend needed encouragement and love.  And when we come together like this, we are renewed!  Our strength is renewed! How often have you shared a burden with a friend and left feeling more hopeful, more strengthened, more encouraged, more full of faith that God is going to move in your situation? It happens all the time…we spur one another on…we encourage one another to fight the good fight…to run our race.   That is one of the beautiful results of being connected in a small group.  We get renewed by the relationships we develop in small groups.

Relationships renew!

by Julia Mateer

Mustard Seed Faith

I like cooking and one day I was making a fish recipe that called for mustard seeds.  Have you seen the size of a mustard seed?  It’s very small.  It’s actually the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  It got my attention!

In Luke 17 the apostles came to Jesus and asked him to increase their faith.  I thought His answer was very interesting.  He didn’t tell them the 12 ways to increase their faith or pray a prayer to give them more faith.  Look at what he said.

The apostles said to the LORD, "Increase our faith!" He replied, 
"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.”  Luke 17:5-6

All we need is the faith the size of a mustard seed!  


So don’t get caught up in how much faith you have or don’t have.  Instead use the faith God has given to you and speak to your problem to be uprooted and cast into the sea!  Dig into the Word of God and memorize some scriptures that pertain to your need.  And watch our miracle working God come through for you!   


by Bonnie McKinley

Saturday, September 17, 2011

There's Power in an Invitation

As we get ready for the Fall 2011 Small Group Semester, I am reminded how my life has been radically changed by the power of an invitation, both receiving and giving them.  They are literally the basis for the life change that I have experienced over the last 10 years.

When we invite people to be part of our small group, we are giving them a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves;  something that could change their life.  In fact, we are modeling what Jesus did in Matthew 4:18-20:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were called fisherman.  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people."  At once they left their nets and followed him.


Jesus knew that what he was doing was what Father God asked him to do.  He invited (vs.18) Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew to join him on a life changing journey, one that changed the world.  Within his invitation, there are two things that stand out to me as things we can do as we invite people to be a part of our small group.

1.  The invitation was personal.  He spoke to them.  There is something special about looking someone in the eyes and asking them to be a part of something that you are doing.  People want to be wanted.


2.  He made it clear what they would be doing.  He spoke to them in a way they would understand what it was he was doing.  An invitation should be tailored to the individual receiving it.  It should be easy for them to understand and something they can find value in.  This is why it's so important to invite you know.  If you know what's going on in a person's life, then you know how to invite them.

I am not saying any of you are Jesus, but I will go out on a limb and say that I believe that small group you are leading you have been lead to do so by Father God, just as Jesus was.  So, if you have been lead to start your small group by Father God, shouldn't you invite people to join you for the journey?  After all, it will be life changing for them, and for you.

As you read this, who is standing out in your mind that you need to invite to your small group?  someone whose life needs to change and maybe your small group can help with that?  Go ahead and decide to reach out to them and invite them to join your small group.

Do you have a story about how you life has been changed by the power of an invitation?  Feel free to share below in the comments section.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where is Your Samaritan Woman?


Jesus is in the business of changing men, women, children, teenagers, the elderly…anyone that calls upon the name of the Lord will be changed. 

There is one particular story that makes me fall in love with Jesus all over again and that is the story of the Samaritan woman. Before we look at that story, let’s look at Jesus genealogy.  Knowing Jesus’ genealogy helps us to relate to Him in a whole new way. His genealogy had several broken women in it – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. This list brings into Jesus’ history such things as incest, prostitution, interracial marriage (thankfully, this isn’t an issue anymore, but it was forbidden in that culture), and adultery. And perhaps this is why Jesus could relate to the woman at the well.  Here was a woman who had been married 5 times and was now living with a man. She comes to the well to get water in her jar and who does she find there? The Son of God! He meets her where she is at…I love it!  He shares with her that the water she is seeking will run dry and she will thirst again, but the water He is offering will never run dry. He “reads her mail” and speaks to the area that women care most about and the area that causes us the most pain…and that is the area of relationships. He reveals that He knows that she has been married 5 times and is currently living with a man. He then reveals to her that He is the Christ. Now this is significant because of whom she is: not only is she a woman but she is a Samaritan woman! Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they believed differently from them; they were considered heretics. The Samaritan woman is so impacted and changed by her encounter with Jesus that she goes back to her town and shares with the men about her encounter with Jesus.  The men are so curious that they go and hang out with Jesus for a few days, and then they become believers too! And this all happened because Jesus met the woman at the well.
You see Jesus is still in the business of changing lives, but here’s the thing: Jesus isn’t here anymore! Scripture says that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and He sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper.  WE ARE HERE. WE ARE HIS HANDS AND FEET.  So how do we do that? How do we minister to that Samaritan woman? The Samaritan woman is still here. She may not be at the well anymore, but she may be at the water cooler or in front of us in line at Wal-Mart, or at the gym, or our kids’ sports games.  I had a friend that started a small group in her home and she not only had women from Bayside but also women from her neighborhood. As they met together on a weekly basis for Bible study, something beautiful began to happen. They began to pray together for their marriages, and they developed loving supportive friendships. My friend was so excited because right there in her own living room, women were experiencing the passionate love of Christ and their lives were being changed! And there are hundreds of stories just like this happening in our community. What is your story? How will you minister to the Samaritan woman in your community? Most of us reading this blog have experienced the passionate love of Jesus but there are thousands of people in our community that have yet to know His grace and mercy.  There are even people coming through our church doors that need to experience His love! Maybe it is the woman who just had a fight with her husband right before coming to church and she is trying to figure out how to “do marriage” as a Christian. Maybe a man has just dropped his teenager off at Epic and he is using drugs, and he needs someone to come along side him to love, pray, and support him.  There are people INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the church who need to experience the passionate love of Jesus. Let us remember to be the hands and feet of Jesus and reach out to the Samaritan woman in our spheres of influence!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beyond our Small Group

In this series, we are going to look beyond our official Bayside small group, but keep our leader's hat on.  If we really listen, we can hear the Father calling us to lead in every area of our lives.....


Do you know your neighbors?  If your experience has been anything like ours, meeting your neighbors just doesn’t happen naturally anymore.  People are so busy and the days are so fast.  We pull in and out of our garages with our to-do lists dancing in our heads and give little thought to the people we live amongst.  When our family moved to Bradenton 4 years ago, I thought my dreams of moving into a warm and friendly neighborhood filled with lovely, Christ-centered families were dashed.  I allowed our less than warm reception to really mess with me for a while and the enemy had me right where he wanted me:  feeling sorry for myself and not seeing the land I was supposed to possess.
Moses says this to Joshua, just before he leads the people into the promised land:
 "Be strong. Take courage. You will enter the land with this people, this land that God promised their ancestors that he'd give them. You will make them the proud possessors of it. God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you. Don't be intimidated. Don't worry." (Duet. 31:7-9)
Perhaps you need to be reminded of this as well.  I sure did.  What a beautifully powerful promise!  As believers, we house the Spirit of the Living God.  He strides ahead of us and is right there with us at all times!  Talk about a confidence booster! How can I not go out of my way to greet my neighbor?  And going out of my way is what it took in the beginning.  We made an effort to be hospitable and didn’t let the “no’s” and “no-show’s” get us down.  
We chose not to be intimidated, not to worry. 
Today, a beautiful thing is happening.  Our home is “the kid house”, you know the one, where the door is always open, there is always a snack and a cool drink to be had and no one worries about the crunchy floors.  And those floors, while crunchy, they are nothing less than holy ground.  Christ Jesus lives here and everyone who comes in meets Him in a warm welcome, a bite to eat and nice conversation. Garage doors are beginning to stay open after the cars pull in and we all are enjoying sharing a little about our day, ourselves, our lives as we linger over the mailboxes.  We are taking this land: one wave, one hello, one invitation at a time.  
He is striding ahead of all of us.  


Your home is holy ground and by purposefully opening your doors and inviting people in, you will begin to change the culture of your own neighborhood.  Try it!  
by Jen Milne

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don’t Settle for Mediocrity

Do you ever find yourself in the same place, struggling with the same thing that you thought you were over, but just not? I feel too often, we as Christians struggle with the same reoccurring problem. So, what needs to change?

1. Know your identity in Christ.

We have to know what Jesus did. He already paid the price of sin, so we no longer have to bear it. My fellow co-worker in Christ, Keith Olsson says, “Either the work is complete or it’s not. When Jesus was on the cross, He said, it is done!” We can either believe that the work is done or we can continue to live in chains, bondage or partial freedom… When in fact and in truth, the work has been completed when Jesus said it was done. Now we have to choose to receive grace and live in Freedom. That only comes when we know who our identity is in.

2. Do life with others.

In Genesis, from the beginning, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God designed us for relationships. Why should we think that has changed over the course of the past 2,000 plus years? When you are going through something great or you are going through something hard, life is just better with people. Nothing great was every accomplished alone! That’s why we have so many small groups to choose from here at Bayside because we know we can’t do life alone!

3. Be an overcomer!

God doesn’t call us to mediocrity, He calls us to greatness! This is not a measure of the world’s standard of success. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trials and tribulations, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” Jesus already proved that He has overcome the world. He faced every trial and temptation we could and will ever go through. He is living proof that it can be done with His strength. Let me stress, His strength, not our own. When we tap into operating in Jesus’ strength and with the power of the Holy Spirit, the possibilities are endless and far more than we could ever ask or imagine. So, if you ever feel that you are in a place of mediocrity, understand that we are not called to live a less than life. We are called to overcome and be more than conquerors!

By Weyli Chang

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seeing More

One of the questions we get on the small group leadership team from new small group leaders is, "Why do I need a coach?"  There are a lot of reasons for this, but a recent time playing with my daughter, Kassidy, reminded me of one of the reasons coaches are so important.


Kassidy and I horse around a lot.  She is at an age where she wants to play all the time.  Most of the time, the more dangerous, the better for her.  She loves being up high, sitting on my shoulders.  This particular day, she wanted to stand on my shoulders.  I looked over at Nichole, giving her a look as if to say, "You good with this?"  Nichole looked back at me with a look that said, "Yep, as long as nothing happens to her." (You know that look, right?)  So, I took Kassidy's hands, helped her climb up, and got her settled in standing on my shoulders.  The moment she was up there she said, "see more."  I asked her what she was seeing and she started pointing things out around the room that she had a hard time seeing from her height.  A whole new world was opened up to Kassidy.  She saw things from a different perspective. To me, it's what I always see because I am taller than her, but to her, it was pretty amazing. 


I immediately thought, what a great picture of what a coach does for a small group leader.  The coach has the ability to help the small group leader "See More" by allowing the small group leader to “stand on" their shoulders.  Coaches have a perspective that small group leaders do not have.  They have been there, done that.


Invariably the small group leader will have questions about how to do this, or what do I do with this type of personality, etc.  What a great opportunity that is to talk to your coach and gain from the perspective they have.  All of our coaches have a heart to serve and would love nothing more than having the opportunity to help with any question or situation you find yourself in as a small group leader. 


Coaches are not better people, they are just people that have been where you are and if you take the time to "stand on" their shoulders, you have an opportunity to "see more" and to see things from a different perspective.


I would encourage you to get to know your coach, spend time with them, and ask questions around thoughts you have pertaining to your small group.  Give them the opportunity to help you "See More."  You'll be glad you did.


Do you have any stories of someone helping you "See More," helping you see things from a different perspective?  Please tell us about it in the comment section below.........


by Sean Callaghan