We Saved You a Seat Bible Study | Week 6

We have reached the final week of our friendship study. Congratulations on completing We Saved You a Seat by Lisa-Jo Baker at the Womens Bible Cafe™. My view of friendship has changed during this study. By participating in our small group discussions, I learned how many of my friendships are work-related. Since this study, I have been intentional about pivoting them into personal relationships. I’m reaching out more, making myself available, and allowing disruptions to a very BUSY schedule.

My new definition of a friend is someone SENT by God, to walk in partnership on this side of eternity. She is trustworthy, vulnerable, respectful, and kind. She has a sincere heart and mutual respect for boundaries.

Since completing this Bible Cafe™ study, I want to start traveling with my friends and planning in-person meet-ups with online friends. One of my Zoom(ers) shared how she is training to hike. And a friend who does NOT hike comes over and helps cheer her each week as she prepares and exercises. The friend does not exercise with her but is beside her as a cheering friend. I love that!! Everyone needs a friend who cheers for your journey.

From We Saved You a Seat online Bible study, I have learned to value the friends God has placed in my garden. To seek regular conversations and share life. For example, I made friends at my WW meetings and we would go to a coffee shop after the meeting. Or schedule a day of hiking.

Also in this study, I learned how walking away is good for both friends. It opens doors for new people to enter and spend time with you

Jesus shows love and generosity to his friends. He prayed for His friends, accepted their invitations to meals, and celebrated their religious holidays together. He traveled and made Himself visible. He gave them the gift of His wisdom. Looking at Jesus’ example, how should we react when friends let us down or hurt us?

First, I look for the spiritual aspect of my disappointment. Did this friend intentionally cause hurt or was she being used by the enemy of God and not aware of it? Next, I look at my heart and seek wisdom from the experience. What can I learn from this? Finally, I decided to keep her in my inner circle of friends, move her to my outer circle, or separate the relationship AFTER praying and seeking the Holy Spirit’s discernment.

Please look at Luke 22:3 NIV: Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.

So Jesus spend 3.5 years with their friend Judas who was not yet under the influence of Satan. Thats HUGE. Don’t feel bad if your friend has a changed heart or your friendship moves sour. Maybe her faith moved in a different direction from yours.

Jesus knows our human tendencies and limitations. He prayed for His friends. He disciples His friends. He forgave His friends because “they know not what they are doing” (when under the influence of Satan).

This study book did not address the dangers of having Jezebel-like friends. These are friends who get close to the highest level of church or ministry, for power or manipulation. She’s the one gathering intel and then bringing down the church or ministry.

Boundaries are helpful to ensure there is no open door for a Jezebel stronghold to enter your heart. She can consume your time, resources, emotional energy, and strength. Study the Jezebel spirit and be watchful for someone who may be positioning herself for this purpose.

May you be blessed as you continue your journey of friendship- with Jesus!

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

We Saved You a Seat Bible Study | Week 5

This week at the Bible Cafe™ we discussed living an abundant life with our small groups. For week five of We Saved You a Seat by Lisa-Jo Baker, we looked at John 10:10 where Jesus brings us abundant life. What is an abundant life?

As we discussed in our online Bible study, the abundant life is the presence of God in an intimate relationship. This reminds me of the Garden of Eden. It also reminds me of eternal life, the abundance of living with the Father beyond death. And of course, abundance life is the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me…the sanctuary of my heart.

An abundant life refers to a life that is characterized by richness, fulfillment, and a sense of abundance in various aspects. It goes beyond material possessions and encompasses emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. An abundant life is often associated with feelings of joy, gratitude, purpose, and contentment.

An abundant life involves living with a sense of purpose and meaning. It means identifying and pursuing activities, goals, and relationships that align with your values and bring you a deep sense of fulfillment.

Cultivating gratitude and appreciating the blessings in your life are essential for experiencing abundance. Recognizing and expressing gratitude for both big and small things fosters a positive mindset and amplifies feelings of abundance. Giving thanks is biblical.

Nurturing healthy and supportive relationships contributes to an abundant life. Surrounding yourself with loved ones, friends, and a community that uplifts and encourages you fosters a sense of connection and belonging. Fellowship is biblical.

As I meditate on Galatians 5… I see the fruits of the Spirit. He generously gives us these fruits. He generously gives us the gift of eternal life though we have sinned and are unworthy. God’s love is generous. Abundant!

With gratitude, I thank God for my friends. I love giving and receiving cards in the mail. I keep my cards in a treasure box as a reminder to nurture the friends God has placed into my heart. When I receive a card I always THANK the sender so she knows it arrived. Giving thanks takes 3 seconds with a text message. But it has a lasting heart imprint saying “I saw your kindness today.” Can you take 3 seconds and thank a friend? Try it.

Looking at Scripture, Jesus has some interesting friends named Peter and Judas. Both men were friends of Jesus, dined with him, prayed with him, and knew him. Both betrayed Him as part of their divine destiny and to fill God’s purpose. Peter sought forgiveness from God, Judas went to the religious leaders to affirm what he did was right.

What I find interesting about Peter and Judas is that you can be close enough to hear Jesus breathe.. and still not KNOW Him because of your peer group or people’s approval.

Lisa-Jo Baker writes, “Forgiveness is an act of generosity.” I looked further into my Bible and found this beautiful verse:

The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself. Proverbs 11:25 NKJV

If we look at biblical examples of forgiveness, Joseph forgives his undeserving brothers. They tried to kill him and sent him into exile. Because Joseph lived with a forgiving heart, he did not carry a stronghold of bitterness or resentment. He was able to see the actions of his brothers through the eyes of God- not man.

Does Jesus forgive everyone? Well…look at this verse:

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Matt 12:31 NIV

If you look at the original Greek meaning for blasphemy (G988) you discover it means- slander, detraction, speech injurious, to another’s good name; and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.

Anyone can create a false confession. Jesus came to reveal the true confession of faith and His disciples. Do not slander His name! Let your mouth speak life and be respectful of your Holy King!

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

We Saved You a Seat Bible Study | Week 4

During our online Bible study called We Saved You a Seat by Lisa-Jo Baker, we explored the “new girl” concept. Being the new girl can be a transformative experience filled with growth, new friendships, and exciting opportunities. We can embrace the unknown with an open heart, a curious mind, and a resilient spirit.

Remember that this journey is just the beginning of a new chapter in your life, and with time, you’ll build a strong foundation of connections and create a sense of belonging in your new community. I enjoyed the New Girl challenge this week from page 93. When I look back at the times I experienced welcoming new people or being a new person myself, I see opportunity. There are so many layers of revelation in the experience.

As we discussed Mark 10:35-41 in our online Bible study, two brothers James and John ask to sit at the right and left of Jesus. I think they could be seen as self-serving, using the kingship hierarchy, seeking reward and privilege. But on the other side of my opinion, I think they could have been craving wisdom and being close enough to hear His words.

Jesus says, “…a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). Often people will try to get close to the messenger without getting close to God. We worship God, and we can serve His messengers without worshipping them. My pastors are messengers in my life, carrying God’s word each week in sermons and worship. I serve them with tithes, and prayers, and speak positively about them and their work. However, I do not worship them.

As a friend said this week, “All who pray for me, share my faith, preach the Good News, encourage me to grow in my faith by being in the word are messengers in my life. The Bible Cafe is a great example of messengers of Christ because we grow in the word through these Bible studies.” Okay, those are beautiful words!!

My goal at the Bible Cafe is to see women disciple others to live like Christ in our modern world

When you represent Christ, as His messenger, what type of “soul clothing” do you wear most: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12-15)?

I tend to wear compassion, and I need to cultivate gentleness. I am driven to help people and extend anything the Lord has given me as a blessing to bless others.  For example, when I think about my dining table or outside patio table, I desire to use it for “heaven’s gaze.” It is a place of compassion where everyone is welcome to sit.

Get yourself an outdoor table (freecycle). Prepare it in advance, location, convenience, visible. Have mugs and a French press coffee pot. Invite people at a specific time each week. The table is “open” to serve the Lord.

Why be intentional only on holidays? Let’s open our homes or our front yards for conversation. Jesus dined numerous times in the Bible because He met people where they were!

Perhaps we can feed the spiritually hungry, right in our homes. Keep the doorway of your heart open. Let people know you are a praying Christian. Have the Bible visible and not on a shelf. In my neighborhood, people know that I pray. Someone will say “I have (illness)” and my reply is always “I’ll pray for you.”

Since I don’t have a front yard table (yet) a neighbor recently sat on the pavement (no sidewalks here) in front of my house and shared her trials with me. I listened and prayed for her.

Your mission field is your FRONT yard. Sit in your wheelchair (in the front yard) as my stepdad did. He would talk to everyone who had time to listen to his heart. You are not too frail to witness for Jesus. You have a mouth. Use it.

Lisa-Jo Baker writes, “I’ve been given this little lot in God’s kingdom. It’s my job to be a good and generous host here.” How can you steward the “little lot” that you are given?

Before this study, I saw my little lot as an embarrassment. Never clean and overgrown with weeds. Now I am intentional to keep the house ready for guests anytime. And to pull the “super bloom weeds” which have invaded the garden. I am planning a neighborhood summer in that garden and getting ready to receive Jesus’ guests.

When was that time you felt like the “new girl?” When I moved to my new neighborhood and rental house, people did not bring pies or cookies. Instead, they were suspicious of me. I was an outsider, and they were a tight community. They immediately referenced all the bad things (supposedly) the past renters had done. Later I discovered these were lies. They drilled my children on “What kind of Christians are your parents?” It was unwelcoming. When I moved to my permanent house, they were still giving me the inquisition and by this time I knew how to answer without triggering a rejection tag on my home and family. Today, those neighbors are close friends.

Lisa-Jo Baker writes, “Friendship isn’t something we passively receive. Friendship is something we actively do.” And so, I can actively be different and allow my friends and neighbors to be different too. We all grow in our faith, often in seasons of difficulty. When those seasons come, I am planted right where God needs me to bloom.

One of my neighbors painted rocks and put them in her front yard with a sign “Take one.” Another neighbor puts her garden flowers in vases in the front yard and has a note “Take one.” Many neighbors put their unwanted household furniture or items in the front yard with the sign “free.” In my home, we have a “reverse garage sale” and give everything away.

Love your neighbors- where God has planted you for a season.

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

We Saved You a Seat Bible Study | Week 3

Welcome back to womens online Bible as we continue We Saved You a Seat by Lisa-Jo Baker. As we discussed in our online Bible study, encouraging a friend can be a powerful way to uplift and support her.

Here are some suggestions on how you can encourage a friend:

1. Be a good listener: Take the time to listen attentively to your friend without judgment. Show empathy and validate their feelings. Sometimes, simply lending an ear can be incredibly encouraging.

2. Offer genuine compliments: Point out your friend’s strengths, accomplishments, or positive qualities. Let them know what you appreciate about them. Genuine compliments can boost their self-esteem and make them feel valued.

3. Provide emotional support: Be there for your friend during challenging times. Offer a shoulder to lean on and let them know they’re not alone. Offer words of comfort, understanding, and reassurance. Pray with them.

4. Offer words of affirmation: Speak positive and uplifting words to your friend. Encourage them by expressing belief in their abilities, reminding them of their past successes, and expressing confidence in their future endeavors. Let your words speak LIFE.

5. Be a source of motivation: Encourage your friend to pursue their goals and dreams. Offer words of motivation and remind them of their potential. Help them stay focused and provide support in their journey.

6. Celebrate their achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate your friend’s milestones and accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Express genuine happiness for their success and let them know you’re proud of them.

7. Be reliable and dependable: Show up for your friend when they need you. Be someone they can count on in both good times and bad. Being a reliable presence in their life can be encouraging in itself.

8. Offer practical help: Sometimes, encouraging a friend involves taking action. Offer your assistance or support in practical matters. Whether it’s helping them with a task, offering advice, or providing resources, your practical support can be greatly appreciated.

9. Share uplifting and inspiring resources: Recommend the Bible Cafe™ University, books, articles, podcasts, or videos that you think might inspire and uplift your friend. Sharing resources that have helped you in the past can be a meaningful way to encourage them. Bring her to a church Bible study or Sunday worship.

10. Express gratitude and appreciation: Take the time to express your gratitude and appreciation for your friend. Let them know how much they mean to you and how their presence has positively impacted your life. Feeling appreciated can be incredibly encouraging.

Remember, everyone is unique, so consider your friend’s personality, preferences, and needs when offering encouragement. Small acts of kindness and genuine support can make a significant difference in their life.

Seek the opportunity to look at the calling/anointing of your friends. As we discussed in our online Bible study, it would be to have a friend group with different spiritual gifts: from Ephesians 4:11, “It was He (Jesus) who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers.”

Ask yourself: Do I know a missionary/evangelist? Are there any prophets in my life speaking words of knowledge? Who are the teachers in my life? Which friends fill the discipleship role? My pastor once told me “There are people in the Church who know these things. Pray and look for them.”

In a good way, the Fear Of Missing Out/FOMO allows me to get out of my comfort zone. Just yesterday a group of neighbors were walking to the beach and asked me to join them. We enjoyed a backyard party with them Friday evening. I had to overcome my discomfort and interruptions and become intentional on MY part not to reject their invitations because the weather was cold or I was busy doing something else. I take responsibility for not missing out …. when I let go of perfection or familiarity and adapt to the invitation!

Lisa-Jo Baker points out that encouraging others not only lifts the one being encouraged but the one doing the encouraging as well.

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT): So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. >

The One who encourages is Christ, from my heart to hers. -Christine Abraham

Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to be judged and misunderstood (or ignored) on social media. That like button needs to go away! People measure their likes against other people they follow. The algorithm can hide your content and make you feel ignored.

And yet, social media has opened the door for online Bible study. We have many women participating at Bible Cafe™ who are international, or unable to attend local church groups due to caretaking or personal illness. They want to talk, be encouraged, and make friends. We love our online Bible study groups!

Imagine you are a friend of GOD. What things might you do to grow your friendship? 1) spend time with Him 2) ask Him for wisdom when you need direction 3) seek Him for comfort when you are hurting 4) laugh with Him and express your joy through worship 5) respect His name

Memorize 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (CSB) 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God works all of them in each person. 7 A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good: 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of tongues, to another, interpretation of tongues. 11 One and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.

Look again at verse 11>>>distributing to each person as he wills.

Lisa-Jo Baker writes, “Blessings are not for hoarding; they’re for forwarding.”

I’ll see you next week- Be Blessed!

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

We Saved You a Seat Bible Study | Week 2

We Saved You a Seat is written by Lisa-Jo Baker and we are leading this as a Bible Cafe™ study. We are studying the theme of friendship while exploring the joys and challenges of relationships with others. As we discussed in our online Bible study, we are learning biblical principles related to friendship, hospitality, vulnerability, and community. Come join us!

The title, “We Saved You a Seat,” suggests the invitation and inclusiveness of the study, emphasizing the idea that there is always room for one more person at the table. The book encourages participants to embrace the value of authentic connections and provides practical insights and discussion questions to facilitate group conversations.

Each week in our online Bible study, we have the opportunity to discuss three friendship challenges with our Bible Cafe™ community. In our Bible study, I discovered that I want to offer ENCOURAGEMENT to the women around me, so I’m going to have to make INTENTIONAL time to text, send cards, and call them. I need to visit them if they are nearby.

Since we started this study, my friendships are blooming! Especially with my neighbors who are close enough for a hot cup of coffee or homemade ice cream on the patio.

After reading a companion book called “The Turquoise Table” I told my husband we need to make our home an “Embassy for the Holy Spirit” and I asked him to put a table in the front yard. We compromised…we will put a table on our “party deck” which you can see from the front yard and add a staircase to the deck so anyone can come up and sip coffee or tea with us.

As you recall in our Bible study this week, we learned about “perfectly curated” images and lifestyles. How can we be more vulnerable in our “real” lives? As a family rule, I never post images of my kids or husband online. So that means I post my dogs, garden, books, or latte photos. And these are snapshots of my life. To be more real online, we simply need to be who God made us to be. Share our hobbies. Tell our stories.

And…Let’s be very clear: Being vulnerable is not giving you permission to GOSSIP, or diminish a family member or friend because you’re “being real.” Guard your mouth and words so you speak life.

For introverts like me, vulnerability can feel awkward because we are constantly judged or misunderstood. When I put my words (and heart) online, someone is not seeing what Jesus sees and forms a biased opinion about me.

Because my confidence is in Christ- not people- I have learned not to care about the critical spirit and I allow myself to be free in Christ and His love for me. -Christine Abraham

On a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest, everyone begins at a 3 on the friendship scale. I trust them and expect them to have mutual respect and mutual vulnerability. A few of them move up to my level 5 on the scale as we get to know each other more and more.

Jesus had 12 apostles, and 3 moved into his level 5 circle. Two of His friends betrayed him. Like Jesus, I still love the betrayers in my friendship life but no longer allow them access to my deepest heart.

As we talked about fences, hedges, and protection last week, we remember how some people need the outer fence, and some are allowed into the inner fence of your heart.

I see friendships as a garden and so God has planted a beautiful garden into my life and heart. It is my job to sow and tend to the garden. Sometimes if we pull weeds from the garden, we will lose a few good flowers too. For example, when our church of 12,000 split into two churches after a leadership disagreement, the friends who left my church small group eventually disappeared from my life. They followed the new church and pastor and disconnected from the original church.

Martha and Mary went to Jesus with their disappointment the first time Lazarus died. Where do you go when you feel disappointed? I used to go to food- sweets- to keep my mouth silent from speaking about disappointments. And I gained weight. Now I go to Jesus with my emotions. I pray in the garden, for two hours daily! And I have learned that you can’t eat food with dirt and weeds in your hands. Back to Eden!!

Bible Cafers love like Jesus, speak like Jesus, and KNOW Jesus. -Christine Abraham

Lisa-Jo Baker writes, “We’ve been groomed by our culture to present a flawless version of ourselves to the people around us.” How do you feel about your online biography, so far? Actually, I’m fine with my online biography because it is not a flawless story. I am me.

Be yourself and share Christ in you. I’ll see you in our Zoom groups or online small groups next week.

Be Blessed!

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.