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Monday, April 29

Afraid To Walk Across The Street

My friend Amy Lively, from The Neighborhood Café, is guest posting today! She’s tackling an issue that so many of us struggle with – breaking out of our comfort zones to reach people in our own backyards with the Gospel. I think you’ll really love the ideas she has. And don’t forget to enter her fun giveaway! Here’s Amy…

“I can do it! I can totally do it!” Someone had spoken life into one of my dreams, and for a few weeks I believed I could do it—I could actually start a neighborhood Bible study in my home. I would lure my neighbors over with coffee and cookies, then spring the Gospel on them—they’d never know what hit ‘em! I penciled the date for an Open House on my calendar, sketched out an invitation, and made lists of silly icebreakers.

This crazy idea rattled around in my heart… but by the time it bounced all the way up to my brain, I wasn’t so confident anymore. Could my little list of “things I’d like to teach about” turn into conversations with real women sitting around my kitchen table? What if no one came? What if everyone came? And then there was the mildly troublesome fact that I didn’t know my neighbors.

Besides…
I don’t have time.
I’m not spiritual enough.
My house isn’t nice enough.
People don’t want to talk about religion.

My excuses were legit. I was busy working from home at our growing business while raising a family. I regularly fought with my husband, yelled at bad drivers (I love personalized license plates so I can call people out by name), and had never gotten around to memorizing the minor Old Testament prophets. My living room, with half-chewed rawhides poking out from behind the sofa cushions, is not Pinteresting. And, some people are a little uncomfortable bringing Jesus home from church.

There was nothing in the Bible telling me how to overcome my logical excuses and rational defenses. But there weren’t any escape clauses, either—and trust me, I looked! Not a single instance of “love your neighbor” was followed by “when your calendar is clear and your house is clean.”

“Please, God,” I begged, “Can’t I go to Africa instead? That would be easier than going across the street.”

Truth is, I was scared stiff—stiffly stuck in my comfort zone, stubbornly resisting God’s nudge out my front door.

My excuses were a thin disguise for my fears: fear of sacrifice, fear of humiliation, fear of being different, fear of rejection.

God never did magically eliminate my excuses, but He did ease my fears with sound scriptural promises about loving till it hurts (Ephesians 5:2), the difference between humiliation and humility (Proverbs 29:23), being weird (1 Peter 3:14-15), and pleasing God—not girlfriends (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

On the flip side of my fear, I found God’s faithfulness. He gave me Christ’s example to follow in my own neighborhood. He promised me honor when I submitted in humility. He offered a crown when others might offer criticism. He entrusted me with the Gospel not as a weapon, but as a way of life and love.

God’s faithfulness went with me as, knees knocking, I knocked on my neighbors’ doors. He led them back to my door, these women I never would have met had I not given into this scheme. We talked and laughed. Many became my friends as we continued to gather in my home every other week.

God broke my heart for my neighbors as I realized this was never about me—it had always been about them.

God’s faithfulness multiplied each hour I dedicated to getting ready; my productivity at work and home soared. No one asked me deep theological questions like, “Do pets go to heaven?” and some days they were a little irked at their families, too. They learned not to wear black pants around our yellow dog, and no one cared that Sara Lee made the snacks. And it turns out they needed Jesus in their homes just as much as I did.

Now when fear raises its ugly head, I remember how God proved His faithfulness as I obeyed His commands and believed His promises.

And this thing I dreaded—even as I was dreaming of it—became my deepest joy.

Would you like to turn your dread into joy by starting your very own neighborhood Bible study, but aren’t sure how?

Lively Post Pic

Today, I’m giving away three Neighborhood Café Kits that hold everything you’ll need to love your neighbors in a whole new way!

The kit includes a planning guide, open house invitations, leader’s guide, and more. To enter, leave a comment below telling me why you’d like to be a winner.

The first time I heard the words “neighborhood Bible study” was at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ She Speaks Conference. Each year as I’ve attended She Speaks and She Speaks Intensive, the Proverbs 31 team has stretched my personal faith and expanded my professional ministry. I have never seen so many beautiful women in one place encouraging one another without competing, generously imparting knowledge, equipping women to reach God’s daughters around the world. Read about it, pray about it—then GO TO IT! Click here for more information.

Wednesday, February 13

The Only Thing That Counts

My daughter, Hope, is one of those people who knows how to dress.

She’ll put on a blue and white striped shirt, throw an army jacket on top, black stretch pants on the bottom, finish the look with some little brown ankle boots and look like a fashionista.


I get all stuck in a garanimals state of mind. Did you ever wear garanimals? It seriously scarred me for life. And made me resistant to the delight of the unexpected.

Matchy matchy became the curse of my closet.

Until.

Hope set me straight one day. “Mom, your outfits need a little pop!”

Pop?

She started whipping my outfits together in a way I’d never dream.

An orange necklace with an outfit that had not a stitch of orange.

Hunh?

Leopard flats with a dark blue shirt, teal necklace, and black skinny jeans.

Really?

A grey and white striped shirt with a patterned black and white scarf brought together with a bright red jacket.

Are you sure?

She was more than sure. With great confidence she introduced me to the world of adding a pop- a little something unexpected. A new way of expressing myself. And it has been delightful.

So, I started thinking, what if I did this with other areas of my life? Other places where I’ve slipped into the “same old, same old” ruts.

Might the delight of the unexpected make other aspects of my life more fun?

Galatians 5:6b says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Might this be an invitation to discover another new way to express myself? Express my faith? Through unexpected acts of love?

Yes. I think so.

So, I did a little experiment. I started reading Bible verses by adding on a little question/challenge to myself at the end: “…. So that I can love who?”

For example, Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” … so that I can love who?

There is someone in my life who needs my love but I’ll only be able to do it if I let God change my mindset. I need to add this little pop- this new expression of my faith through love.

Philippians 4:19, “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” … so that I can love who?

There is someone in my life who needs something that I think I can’t give. But I can give when I realize God is supplying me in abundance. He is the supplier. I just have to open my hand and channel some of my blessing in this person’s direction. I need to add this little pop- this new expression of my faith through love.

Why not try this yourself? No, not the leopard flats and teal necklace… although that is quite the charming combination. But rather adding the question, “so that I can love who?” to the end of the verses you read this week.

It will certainly give you a new way to express your faith. A way that God says is the only thing that counts.

Tuesday, October 9

Why I’m Breaking Up With My “Quiet Time”

I’m taking a break from having a quiet time. Because sometimes I can get in a rut. Even with good things. And having a daily quiet time is a good thing. Until it becomes more about routine than actually connecting with God.

When God becomes routine rather than revival, it’s time to switch things up.

Otherwise, I might start seeing this time as less important. It becomes the second or third thing I do. After other things. Seemingly more pressing things. Before I know it, it’s been days since I connected privately and personally with Truth.

And then my soul feels a bit off and sluggish. Like when my stomach has been denied food, a desperation starts creeping over other parts of the body. That happens with soul hunger too.

Only the triggers for stomach hunger are much more apparent. My brain quickly reminds me, “You feel awful because you need to eat.”

Sometimes my brain isn’t as quick to pick up on soul hunger. So I just lumber forward but wonder, “What’s wrong?” I think of a list of reasons… I’m tired, I haven’t had enough fun, girlfriend time or my butt looks big in these jeans.

And while some of those things may be true — it’s not why I feel off.

I need more time with God.

Not more quiet time.

More listening time.

This morning as I sat with God with nothing but willingness to listen, three things popped into my mind. I can’t say “God spoke to me” but it felt right. I need to do some new things as I listen. Listen. Listen.

* Study wisdom by reading a chapter in Proverbs everyday.
Ask God to reveal “my verse” for the day and think of ways to apply it. I listen.

* Read something from someone I admire.
I need to study leadership right now. So, I pick up a book written on this topic by someone I admire and glean from their wisdom. I listen.

* Read something from someone I trust.
There’s a book I’m reading right now that is whimsical and grounded all at the same time. It makes me feel like this writer gets me. They get my struggles and offer up advice I know I can trust. I listen.

Maybe you think all this still sounds like a quiet time, but to me it’s different. It’s a listening time. A time to shake things up a bit and get outside my normal routine. A time to listen to God speak. And He does speak… through His book of wisdom, through someone I admire and through someone I trust.

And this morning? My soul felt that thrilling and comforting full feeling. Complete. Satisfied. Deeply nourished.

What do you need to break up with so you can connect more closely and listen more intently to God?

If the topic of relationships and conflict is something you’re wanting to study right now, my book, Unglued, will help you have better reactions. This might be a really good thing to study as the holidays are approaching. To find out more, click here.