Why Through Pain, Lord?

By Guest writer Angelia Hendon

July 7, 2012. I woke up early on this Saturday morning with all my plans for the day running through my head. Little did I know, God had different plans for me that day.

My husband got up and asked me what I had going on that day. I impatiently went down the list. “Quick” time with the Lord and breakfast, go to the gym, rush home, shower, dress and head to Jasper for a baby shower. Then back home, to work on plans for our daughter-in-law’s baby shower the following week. His next words would come back to me later, and I would never forget them. “Do you think you could have some time for me today?” My reply… maybe when I’m finished. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I was a woman with a plan, and that plan could not slow down or be altered!

So, off to the races I went! Everything was going according to schedule, until I ran through the den on my way to leave for Jasper an hour away. I passed my husband, Greg, sitting in his recliner. He had been to the gym and was covered in sweat. My first thought was, keep going, don’t stop, just yell goodbye. But, for the first time that day, I listened to the Holy Spirit say, go kiss your husband and tell him goodbye.

So, I stopped, put the baby gift down, and went to the den. That is when God revealed His plans for that day. As I bent over to kiss my husband goodbye, I noticed his lips were clammy, and he was very pale. I asked, “Are you okay?” He opened his mouth, but couldn’t get any words out. I once was a nurse, so I immediately went into Supernurse mode! Also in God’s divine provision, I had just completed a course on CPR and stroke awareness for our business.

Greg is a diabetic, so my first thought was his blood sugar is low. I ran and grabbed a spoonful of jelly and stuck in his mouth. Nothing. No change! Then I remembered the stroke protocol. I got aspirin and gave it to him screaming, “Chew it, chew it!” I went into the bathroom to call 911, afraid he wouldn’t approve.

Up until this point , I was calm, cool, and in charge! After I called 911, I called my daughter. She was supposed to be working, caring for foster children that day. I didn’t think she could help, but called anyway. As soon as I heard her voice I broke down, and tried to tell her what happened. Again God’s provision, she had been called and told not to go to work. She said, “I’m coming. Wait for me!” Relief! Help was coming. What I didn’t see at the time was that my help was already there!

I went back to Greg, held his hand and told him I had called an ambulance; they were on the way. I knew in my heart he was having a stroke, but couldn’t believe it. It was like a cruel nightmare, and I was just dreaming all this.

It was only a few minutes and they were there. They came in, took his vital signs, and said, “Your husband is having a stroke.” I knew it, but when they said it, I lost it again. My neighbors, whom I had only met, came in saying they worked in the medical field, and helicopter-flying-medical-float-65943asked to help. They began telling me to get his medications and his wallet and send with him. The medics had decided to fly him to either Birmingham or Huntsville. They were taking him on a stretcher out the door, and said, “We’ll let you know which one.”

How was I supposed to know where to go, they didn’t have my phone number! This could not be happening. They’re taking my husband somewhere in a helicopter! What is happening, God? This was just an ordinary Saturday!

The helicopter landed on an empty lot by our house. (God provided a landing pad!) As they rolled him in, they yelled, “Your husband wants to go to Huntsville, meet us there!”
My daughter had just gotten there, so we got in her car and headed to Huntsville, neither of us knowing where the hospital was.

We rode in silence, praying. I was begging God to let my husband live. That’s when I remembered his words, “Could you have some time for me today?” Please God, don’t let that be the last words he says to me!

We made it to the hospital and found him. He seemed ok. At some point my daughter had called our pastor and told him what was happening. In a few minutes, in walked in our former youth pastor and close friend. He had been at the hospital visiting someone, and had heard about Greg. Again God’s provision. He began joking with Greg, as usual. Greg started smiling and laughing. I knew then he was ok.

A few days later, they sent him home.

medicine-2361046_1280We followed up with his neurologist. At this visit, we walked in, sat down, and he pointed to some X-rays. He said, “This is your brain. You’ve had 2 small strokes in the area that controls speech. You should recover completely. But…” What he said next, I wasn’t ready for. “You could have another one any time. You might not survive it. I’ve had 3 patients this week, younger than you, who didn’t. There’s really nothing you can do, go home, reduce your stress, and enjoy your life.”

It was like being punched in the gut, hard! I couldn’t breathe! Somehow we managed to walk out of there. I turned to Greg and said, “We’re getting another doctor!”

While I went to get his records at the hospital, I left Greg in the waiting room. He was very weak. When I returned, our pastor was sitting there with him. He “just happened” to be at the hospital in Huntsville visiting someone. We tearfully told him what the doctor had said. He prayed for us, and tried to encourage us.

When we got home, I sat in his lap, and we cried out to a God. What is going on?! We had no answers, only fear and discouragement.

The next morning I got up early to pray. God spoke to me that morning. He gave me a verse of hope. It is marked in my Bible, July 16, 2012, God is fighting for Greg! Nehemiah 4:14-15. God said, Angelia you and your children are to fight for your husband and father! On your knees! I have frustrated the enemy’s plan! My faith grew that day, as I trusted that He would heal my husband.

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. Nehemiah 4:14-15

That was 5 years ago. I would face many trials after that, some I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, God is faithful! Ps 33:18-22 says, “The Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him, who wait and hope in His mercy and loving kindness. To deliver them from death, and keep him alive in famine.”

Yes, Lord, it is through pain I have learned to trust You! May I know You and the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your suffering! (Philippians 3:10) My hope is in You alone!

We never know what God has planned for us sometimes, but it is for our good and His glory!

Never forget – Always kiss your husband goodbye, and have some time for him! It could be the last time.

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Back to Basics: Doing a Topical Study

Grab your coffee! It’s time to learn to do some Bible researching. It’s not hard! Don’t panic!

Ever been at the office or out with friends and a subject comes up that gets uncomfortable for you? Maybe it’s a hot topic from the news that has spiritual overtones, or perhaps a spoken opinion on a moral issue that goes against what you believe. Whatever it is, it pricks your heart, or conscience. You feel internal distress. You know you disagree with what is being promoted, but you can’t pull up the scriptural principles you need to be able to support your point, so you sit in tacit agreement even though you know you disagree. Most likely, we’ve all found ourself in this position at one time or another.

Fast forward 2 hours. Dinner is over and you’re home mulling over your regrets about not speaking up. What do you do?

May I suggest doing a topical study of the subject in scripture? You may have felt a bit like you failed because you could not or did not speak up. But as my sweet husband says, those failures or problems are just creative opportunities. So NOW is your opportunity to make sure you are never caught in that place again (on that subject, at least)! Let this “failure” move you to take action, and take an hour to dig into the Word of God to see what it has to say, so that the next time you will be prepared.

Topical studies are easy-peasy! Here is the scoop:

  1. Grab your Bible, a pen & paper, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, either paper or online.
  2. Jot down on the paper key words related to the topic you want to discover more about.
  3. Look up each word in your concordance and jot down the scripture references that use this word.
  4. Take time to read each scripture on your list.
  5. As you read a scripture write down facts you learn. (Realize that these may support what you believe, or they may not. In the latter case, they may cause you to change your belief.)
  6. Pray over what you have learned and tuck away those ideas for the next time you feel challenged to speak about what you believe on this subject.

Example:

At a wedding shower yesterday you found out the bride-to-be has been living with the groom-to-be and they’re not married yet. You were always taught this was wrong, but you know it’s very acceptable in today’s society. You feel tongue-tied, can’t really remember why you believe what you believe, and it’s not the place to speak up anyway.

So you go home with these thoughts nagging at your brain. You drag out your commentary and Bible. (This is step 1.) You write down general words having to do with the topic: marry, marriage, wife, husband, and virgin. And then you think of more specific words and Biblical words: sex, unfaithful, chaste, fornication, etc. (Step 2) As you go to the Strong’s you find L-O-N-G lists of scriptures. You notice that the Strong’s also gives you a phrase beside each scripture reference so you can get the gist of the meaning of that verse. The phrases that don’t seem to relate directly to your topic you skip over and just record the most pertinent ones. (Step 3.) Then you grab your Bible and paper and notate that a man and wife become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), that there should not be any impurity or any hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3), and that in Ephesians 5:22-33 husbands and wives are seen as a picture of Christ and the church – and you are very aware that Christ would never be seen in an immoral act like sex before marriage. (There are many, many more scriptures on this subject area, but these give us a view of what steps 4 & 5 might look like.) You end your study with prayer for wisdom, prayer for your own strength of character to obey in this area, and prayer for the bride and groom-to-be that triggered your interest in this study. (Step 6.) Notice that there is no “Step 7” that has you go back and bash-with-scripture the people who disagreed with you earlier. You are NOT their Holy Spirit. But you are now better equipped in this area to speak your beliefs in love if the appropriate opportunity arises in the future.

So I challenge you, as you drain that last sip of cafe-au-lait out of your cup, dig into God’s Word in areas where questions have come up in your daily life. Do topical studies. Try it! Today even. Don’t wallow in your ignorance as my grandmama used to say, but take time to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We don’t grow in knowledge to be able to correct others or put them in their place. That mentality comes from a heart of pride. Rather, we grow and learn to know God more intimately and to become more like Jesus Christ, thereby being lights to the world that draw people to Jesus like a moth to a flame.

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Back to Basics: Faith

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. … And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

It’s coffee time! Or tea! Or chocolate milk! Or… whatever. Grab you favorite morning treat and sit back, read, and sip.

I’ve heard it said that we tend to judge others based on their behavior, but we judge our self based on our intentions. I have found this to be true of myself. I intend to exercise and eat right every day, I intend to save more, spend less. I intend to write cards to people more often than I do. The reality is I often find stray cards around my house that have been half written in and never mailed. So I imagine I’m falling short in other areas too.

I intend to walk in faith when tough times come, too. I consider myself a woman of faith. Maybe you want to think of yourself as a woman of faith, too. You know the Word of God, you want to have faith, you intend to have faith, but when a crisis hits… hmmm. Do you walk through it in faith? Or do you find yourself so overcome with the tragedy or the unknown or the fear that faith flies out the window? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to church and heard people say in response to the turmoil, “I’m praying. Trust the Lord. He’ll get you through this.” And you walk away thinking That’s easier said than done!

It’s always much easier to say things than to walk them out. But we want to become women who “Walk by faith not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) So how do we do that? How do we have faith when we don’t have faith in that moment? If we dig in scripture and make a careful observation of God’s word we get some help.

pexels-photo-259027Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” What do you put your confidence in? Some things I have chosen to put confidence in over the years are my husband, a job, finances, doctors, my “good”-ness, truth, family – and these are just a few. Have these ever rescued me? No. I guess they’ve made my anxious heart quit racing a little at times, but they have never had the answer or the final say. There is only One worth putting our confidence in. Only one that we can be assured has the power to rescue.

Do we truly believe what Hebrews 3:11 says? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Or is this another of those things that we want to believe? If we truly believe in the depths of our being that God formed the whole universe out of nothing, then, mercy, what could there ever be to worry about? The one who made it and spun it into motion is in control! Perhaps that’s our core issue. Because we can’t reason it out, we struggle to believe it.

436b8212d90f6d298b44b1df8e16a243-whirlpool-galaxy-black-holesI see articles on faith issues being “proven” by science. I know these are meant to calm our curious mind and help as we struggle with unbelief. But in reality, faith and science are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Science is based on what can be observed by the senses. But faith… what does it say? It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Totally unobservable by the senses. Faith is based on nothing physical, but on everything spiritual. It goes against our rational 21st century technologically leaning brains. Faith is believing in the unseen, not the observable. But we will see the results after we walk in faith.

In the Gospel of Mark there is a story of a young man who was mute and had seizures. In desperation his father had brought him to the disciples to be healed. The disciples prayed over him, but to no effect. Cue the heralding trumpets… and our rescuer, Jesus, appears in the story! He has come to save the day, as He does. But not without a quick lesson. His first words are not words of healing, but a gentle rebuke, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He chastises them for their unbelief! I wonder what He would say to me in many of my trials and unbelief (that I like to call “weak faith,” it sounds nicer).

But today I’m going to call it what it is: unbelief. In their unbelief the disciples wanted to heal the boy. In his unbelief the father brought the boy and “hoped” he could be healed. In our unbelief we come to Jesus and say the exact thing this father said, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22 KJV) We desperately want Christ’s intervention in our life. We pray for His help, but we come to Him many times on shaky faith-feet just like this father, wondering if He really can.

possible-1060212_1280The story goes on… “And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.'” (Mark 9:23 KJV) Jesus tells us flat-out, all things are possible! The condition on that possibility is belief, faith, trust in God that it WILL happen, not just that it CAN. In the next chapter of Mark, Jesus tells His disciples that “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” And Luke 1:37 says it the other way around, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” (KJV) or as it says in the NIV, “For no word from God will ever fail.” Why are all things possible simply by our believing? Because we are a believing in a God who never fails.

And then comes the part of the story that we need to focus on to strengthen our faith. “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.'” (Mark 9:24 KJV) The father realized Jesus’ power, and he realized his own frailty, his lack of faith. This is where I live. I go for days or weeks at a time living life under my own power, doing the routine things that do not require the supernatural. (We can do that, you know? Live from day-to-day without the influence of God.) And then a storm, or trial, or problem comes along where I need God. And it takes that moment for me to realize God’s omnipotence and my insignificance and poverty of soul. At that moment I fall before Him in prayer confessing my total lack of faith and my inability to make myself believe. I believe Lord! Help my unbelief!

So there you have it one of two keys to having faith: ask God for it! So simple. Just ask God, “I choose to believe Lord, help me when I can’t make myself believe.”

pexels-photo-208278And the second key to having faith? It is found in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV) Our faith comes by hearing His Word. When my faith is weak, I go to His word and read it. And just lately I’ve begun reading it out loud because of this verse. If the Bible says “faith comes by hearing” then I want to literally hear it with my ears as well as hearing it in my mind when I read silently. And at the same time our enemy is hearing the scripture I’m building my life on, and he’s getting the message to “back off” because this is where I stand!

The other verse quoted above from Hebrews 11 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we want to please God, we must choose to have faith. Do you desire to be a God-pleaser? Then it’s time to make a choice and act on it. My sweet husband says that faith is like a muscle, the more we exercise it the more it grows and develops. I’ve found that to be true in my life. As I’ve learned to take a good intention of having faith and turned it into a choice I act on to believe God in any situation, my faith has grown. God proves Himself true by the results, and walking in faith becomes easier year by year as my faith muscle grows.

So ladies, there you have it, some simple keys to faith: 1) Acknowledge our belief and ask God to help our unbelief. 2) Hear the word of God. 3) Choose to believe and act on faith. To believe or not to believe, that is the question. It’s your choice. Will you be a God-pleaser? As Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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Back to Basics: Worship

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It’s coffee time! And worship time! For me these two go hand in hand. Sound strange to you? Read along and maybe you’ll join me.

As a church attender for fif-… ah… many years, I’ve attended many “worship” services. You too?

If so, you’ve probably noticed the similarities and the differences. You’ve felt at times as if the worship ushered you into the very presence of God, while at other times you wondered why this particular meeting was even labeled a “worship service.” You’ve most likely worshipped with tens, hundreds, or thousands at time, and hopefully you’ve found your deepest worship with just a close few, maybe friends, likely family, definitely a spouse, and hopefully one-on-one just you and your Abba. Through singing, preaching, praying, instrumental music, in your own living room, on a mountain peak, or in a huge arena, you’ve worshipped. You have perhaps worshipped through grief that seems it will bury you, and at other times, through joy and ecstatic delight. You may have found yourself worshipping alone even though you were in a crowd, or more sadly, alone in a crowd of worshippers when your heart and mind were far away.

So what is worship? What do we need to know that will draw our hearts to be true worshippers?

As I’ve studied Revelation chapters 4 and 5 lately, I’ve seen true worship in its ultimate, eternal character. Worship in this heavenly scene involves:

cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089Bowing down. Throughout the New Testament the word translated “worship” is proskuneo. This Greek word refers to kissing the hand in reverence or of bowing down, kneeling, or prostrating oneself. Here in Revelation 4 and 5 the elders and 4 living creatures are falling down before the Father and The Lamb in worship. Their reverence and awe is evident. How long has it been since you knelt to worship or lay flat on your face worshipping Him in reverence of His holiness? I remember hearing of a preacher who left indentations in the floor boards beside his bed because of his faithful kneeling to pray day after day. Wow! To be that faithful in prayer and worship!

Speaking. Revelation 4:8 says,

And the four living creatures… day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ ”

They never stop saying it. Never!

The 24 elders then join them, also speaking in worship of God. (4:11) They say,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

In chapter 5, we read of their worship of Jesus:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

And in Revelation 5:11 thousands of angels join the proclamation, reciting,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And by the end of this heavenly panorama in chapter 5, EVERY creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea join these worshippers around the throne in saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Ascribing worth to the one being worshipped. Everything these worshippers said attributed worth to God or Jesus. The Father was worshipped as the creator. The son was worshipped as the Lamb slain to ransom people for God, for being The Redeemer. Jesus was also worshipped as the only one worthy to carry out God’s redemptive plan and His judgment on the Earth. How often do we appeal to God or His son Jesus about our wants and wishes, but quickly go away without admiring their glory, acknowledging their love and power, or simply sitting in awe of their majesty and holiness?

Humility. If you didn’t pick up on this, let me say it straight out: Father God, the Lamb of God and the Spirit of God are the only ones who are worthy of our worship! We need to lay down our will, our desires, our image, and our pride when we come before God. That’s what prompts us to fall to our knees or flat on our faces, the realization that we are nothing and He is all that matters. If we don’t choose humility, it will one day be thrust upon us. Make no mistake, “Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Every knee. Every tongue. Not just those knees and tongues who chose to follow Him. But the knees and tongues of those “under the earth” who reaped a different destiny because of their pride and rejection of Him. 

worship-cambodia-church-public-domainSinging. There is music in Heaven and music in our worship here on earth as well. There are trumpets and loud noises and singing. A song of redemption sung by the redeemed! I am a trained music educator. To those who say you can’t sing, and therefore you don’t sing in church, may I free you up? A baby can’t talk, but it doesn’t learn how by not trying. A 5-year-old doesn’t know how to read, and they never will if they don’t try. Everything you do in life, at one time you didn’t know how, but you tried and you learned. It’s the same with singing. Just do it. When we first married, my dear sweet husband sang out of tune because he had been raised in a house that had an out of tune piano. But years of singing in church has turned him into quite a singer. So I encourage you, bring that sacrifice of praise! The sacrifice you may be making might just be sacrificing your pride and not worrying about what people around you at church think about how you sing.

A Last Word.

Before you go to a church to worship this week, try worshipping alone. My personal worship time each day, from the time I started having kids until today, has almost daily involved a cup of coffee, a snuggly blanket, His Word, a pen and a notebook. Also, it often involves a combination music and dance, speaking and quiet meditation, reading and praying, writing and interceding, tears and joy, questioning and listening, confessing and crying out to Him, praise and love, bowing-sitting-falling facedown, and a huge dose of humility or humiliation depending on the condition of my prideful heart.

When you do congregate with your brothers and sisters this next Sunday at our Father’s house, examine yourself. Are you going through the motions or going before the very throne of God to honor and praise Him? Are you worshipping Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23-24 tells us to? It’s quite easy to “get in the spirit” in an exciting musical “worship” setting, but are you truly worshipping? It’s not just the clapping or hand raising or the feeling of euphoria. Are you humbling yourself? Ascribing worth to God? Bowing down? Speaking or listening? Singing? … Dig into His Holy Word; get to know Him more. The more we know of the truth of who He really is, the more our hearts truly worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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Back to Basics: How to Study Your Bible 101

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Grab a strong cup of coffee – it may be a long week! Get cozy. We’re putting together the pieces of life as we study the Word of God.

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We were blessed to hear Mike Satterfield preach this past week at GFBC. And did he ever step on my toes! How about you? When he began by asking us to think back over our last week…

Has anything changed? If I have not progressed, why?

Wow! Stopped me dead in my tracks. I long to see slight changes from year to year, but from week to week?! Methinks I’m to easy on myself? How about you? Let’s examine ourselves together?

How have you done so far this year at developing the spiritual disciplines you desire? Are you in the Word more now than you were this past January? How about more than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you praying without ceasing more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes! Are you memorizing scripture and witnessing and obeying scripture more now than last January? Than last month? Last week? Yikes!

It puts me a bit on the defensive. I want to say, “But hey, you don’t know how busy I am! I’m a good person, a real Christian. Really!”

The bottom line is that our good intentions to live a godly life are not the same thing as living a godly life. So join me today as I choose to be tough on myself. To recommit to that one most central spiritual discipline – Bible reading and study. Let’s seek to live to a higher calling.

In light of that here are a few simple things to keep in mind as you dig deep into God’s word. There’s something in this list for you, no matter where you find your level of commitment to Bible reading or Bible study or applying the Bible to life.

  • Read the Bible every day. Even if it is only 1 verse. Develop the habit.

 

  • Ask the 5 W’s and an H (who, what, when, where, why, how) when you read God’s Word. These give you a frame-work for what you are reading, similar to filling in the corners and edges to a puzzle. Especially ask these type questions: What does this teach me about God/Jesus? About people? About women? About sin? About the world?

 

  • Read with a pencil (and possibly paper) on hand. Ideas you may want to try: Underline or mark key words or thoughts.Take notes in your Bible. Mark things that apply to you.Put question marks in the margin beside what you do not yet understand. In the margin, date and make notes on promises or commands that you sense are specifically for you that day. You may want to use a journal to record longer thoughts or prayers concerning the scripture you have read.

 

  • Train yourself to systematically read the Word of God. Start today. Ideas: †Read one proverb a day for a month. †Read all 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John over the course of a year. †Read one Psalm a day.  †Read the Bible chronologically. †Read through the whole Bible from Genesis through Revelation in a year or 2 years.

 

  • Use the study Bible notes at he bottom of the page which explain meanings of names, or the historical or cultural implications we may not be aware of today.

 

  • Refer to the scriptures listed in the margins of study Bibles to find other scriptures throughout God’s word that mention the same word. For example: beside Genesis 1:1 about God creating the heaven and the earth, my study Bible lists in the margin 13 scripture references for verse 1, the first one is Psalm 102:25 which says that the heavens are the work of His hands. This type of searching for scriptures that help us understand similar scriptures is called cross-referencing. The best commentary on scripture is other scriptures.

 

 

  • Pray before you read your Bible. Always. Ask the Lord to teach you, to open your eyes to the truth, and to help you live out what you are learning. John 14:26 tells us “But the Advocate, 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.”

Grasp onto one of these tools. Get in the Word. Let it change you!

Expect yourself to be better next week than you are today!

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Back to Basics: What’s Your Story?

Writing Your Testimony

Grab your coffee, and a pen and 2 sheets of paper today. You’ll have an assignment! The teacher in me is coming out. Sometimes you have to follow through and do something to actually learn it.

As we’ve walked through 8 months of Back to Basics, I’ve often wondered if anyone is really listening to the heart behind this series. The deep heart desire of each of us at the Priceless blog is that you would come to know Christ, and would grow a deeper relationship with Him – a more obedient lifestyle that honors Him in all you do.

With that end in mind comes this lesson. If your heart has been pricked by some of these articles to the point of making changes in behavior and commitment, then you are well on your way to spiritual growth (even if you can’t see big changes yet!). Many of these lessons have had a personal focus. They have been things that would change our lives – studying God’s word, prayer, scripture memory, etc.

But what is our end goal? To just be changed for ourselves? No. In Matthew 28:19-20, God’s Word tells us, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We have an assignment. A duty. A commission. So now that you have been feeding yourself spiritually and growing, it’s time to learn to carry out that joyful responsibility.

Today we will learn to write out our story, our testimony – a short one that can be shared in 3-5 minutes. Please read the how-tos, but more than that, grab your paper and do it!

Steps to Writing a 3 Minute Testimony.

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    Something like this…

    Take one sheet of paper and turn it sideways. Divide it into thirds with vertical lines. You now have 3 columns. Title the columns individually, left to right, with “Before I met Christ,” “How I met Christ,” and “After I Came to Know Christ.” Leave yourself plenty of room below to write notes.

  2. Start with the left column. Jot down notes about what your life was like before you became a Christian. Write down circumstances, feelings, beliefs, or what you did and did not understand about the Bible, church, or being a Christian.
  3. Under the second heading write down the facts, maybe in a bulleted list, about how you came to know Jesus, your salvation experience. Tell the basics: how old you were, where were you, who shared Jesus with you, what Bible verses led to your conversion, how you felt, what you prayed, did you put it off at first, and other similar facts.
  4. And finally, in the third column explain in short phrases how your life changed after that. Was it immediate or over time? How have you grown in Christ? What have you learned? How has your faith been strengthened? What Bible verses are important to you today? What is the most recent or most powerful way you have seen God work on your behalf? How do you know you are a child of God?
  5. Now take this note page and your other blank piece of paper. From the notes you jotted down, pick the most important ones or those that convey the meaning you want, and use them to write 3 concise paragraphs on your blank page to tell your story.
  • Make sure you include scripture verses.
  • Don’t glorify your sin, glorify Jesus.
  • Use simple direct words that anyone can understand. Avoid “church words” such as “redeemed” or “sanctified” that non-church attenders may not clearly understand. (Alternate word options: Lord = boss, saved or redeemed = rescued, sanctified = set apart, justified = balanced my account, sin = something that goes against God’s standards.)
  • If you keep with the 3 distinct paragraph form, you will easily remember the past-present-future of your story and be able to share it in any moment.
  • Look over it daily until you are comfortable saying it with ease.
  • Grab a good friend and ask them to let you practice sharing it with them. if you’ve already said it many times, you won’t be as nervous telling your story to a stranger or whoever God puts in your path.

Now it’s time to try! You can do this! God will use it when you are obedient to do it!

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Back to Basics: Hearing God’s Voice

“Look Mommy! It’s God talking!”

These words burst out of my preschooler’s mouth and caught me by surprise. “What?” I asked. He pointed to the sun’s rays streaming through the clouds seeming to shine down on one particular place in the distance. I understood. All those children’s Sunday School pictures would show light coming down from Heaven when God spoke to someone, and now my son was seeing that in real life and knew in his little mind that God was talking. My perspective was changed forever in that moment. Now whenever I see the sun streaming through, I think to myself God’s talking to someone. I pray for whoever it is that God is shining down on at that moment, that they will hear, accept, and obey His voice.

Oh! If only discerning God’s voice were that obvious! If the clouds parted and sunlight struck me square in the face, that would be so much easier than having to mature and learn to discern for myself what God is speaking to me. How can I know it’s God talking? How do I discern God’s voice? How do I learn to hear God’s voice and distinguish it from the other voices I hear – my own, the enemy’s, the world’s, etc.

ear-2372090_640❀  The foremost way we learn to know God’s voice is the same way a baby comes to recognize his mommy’s or daddy’s voice: he is with the parent continuously until the parent’s voice becomes familiar to him. For us, that means spending time with God as constantly as we can. Granted, in everyday life, work must be done, physical life moves quickly. In the midst of this rushing river called Life we must intentionally plan for and look for ways to spend more time with Our Father God. This means immersing ourselves in his Word – daily, hourly, continually. Find focused time to read and study His word every day. Listen to scripture songs, sermons, podcasts, and testimonies. Memorize scripture so that it dwells within us. Let’s make our heart familiar with the tone of God’s voice so we recognize it immediately.

❀ Learning to hear God’s voice also means spending time in prayer listening for God to draw that verse of instruction up from the depths of our heart and into our conscious attention. We need to speak scriptures to ourselves and call our spirits to attention in the name of Jesus Christ and listen to Him. Life is not just composed of mind and body. We have a spirit within that can commune with God and that God will move and inspire. But we must pray and listen.

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also happens when we immerse our lives in Him. Surround yourself visually with scriptures and wholesome, Godly images. Surround yourself socially with like-minded Christians who will “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) Get deeply connected with the local body of Christ. All these things help filter out the voice of the enemy, remind us of Christ’s voice, and correct us when we start listening to the wrong voice.

❀  Listening to God’s voice requires waiting. In our Instagram/Breaking News world we’ve become accustomed to having the information we want immediately. God is not bound by time and does not fall prey to our mental urgency to “know it now.” We must seek Him patiently with our whole heart and we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13) We must be still to recognize and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

❀  Learning to hear God’s voice also includes exercising self-control in your thought life. If your mind is overrun with your thoughts, the world’s opinions, unholy dramas, self-pitying sagas, and Satan’s fiery darts of temptation, God’s still small voice will be drowned out in all the hubbub, and even when He is speaking we will have trouble hearing Him. In Philippians 4:8, Paul gives us the key to controlling our thoughts.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Tools For Determining God’s Voice

1. Remember That God’s Voice Will Never Tell Us Anything Contrary to His Written Word.

God ‘s written Word, the Bible, is truth. God will never speak anything to your heart that goes against His written Word. That’s why it is critical for us to know His Word. If we don’t understand the full counsel of what Scripture teaches, Satan is able to slip subtle twists of truth into our minds and deceive us just as he did Adam & Eve in the Garden. Satan is in the game of mimicry and deception. He shoots those kinds of thoughts into our minds, and when we aren’t in tune with God’s voice we may obey this counterfeit voice thinking it is from God. Always compare the thoughts and promptings of your mind and heart with God’s written Word. If you’re a young Christian and don’t feel you have the Biblical wisdom to discern this yet, go to an older, wiser Godly woman or a pastor for prayer and help. The next tool will help with this too.

 

2. Sifting Our Thoughts

We must learn to sift our thoughts through the lens of Philippians 4:8, and then our mind can be cleared of the clutter and can readily discern God’s voice. Here is the process to take every thought captive. For any thought you have, ask your self the questions below. If at any point your answer is “No,” then that thought is not of God.

Philippians 4:8 Thought Tester:

Is this thought True?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Noble?                      Yes/No

Is this thought Right?                       Yes/No

Is this thought Pure?                        Yes/No

Is this thought Lovely?                    Yes/No

Is this thought Admirable?            Yes/No

Is this thought Excellent?               Yes/No

Is this thought Praiseworthy?       Yes/No

If your answer to any of these is “No,” then choose to quit thinking that thought and replace it with a scripture verse to think about. If we just ask the first question, a great deal of what we consider will be raked aside.

 

3. Know What Scripture Says about God and Satan

Another way I make sure I am hearing from God is to be aware of what scripture teaches us about God and Satan. This simple chart compares the voice of God with the Enemy’s voice.

                The Voice of God and the Voice of the Enemy  

  1. Satan condemns, God convicts our hearts.
  2. Satan’s goal is to destroy, God’s goal is to correct and encourage.
  3. Satan’s is a harsh, loud, merciless voice, God’s is a gentle, merciful voice.
  4. Satan is negative and discouraging, God speaks honestly of your failures, yet is hopeful.
  5. Satan seeks to separate you from Christ, God seeks to restore your relationship with Christ and others.
  6. Satan is punitive, he offers no grace, God offers grace with appropriate consequences.
  7. Satan is a roaring lion, God is a still small voice.
  8. Satan has come to kill, steal, & destroy, while God gives life to the full; abundant life.

 

4. Recognize that God Asks Us Questions in Order to Teach Us

In the Garden of Eden, God called to the man and woman “Where are you?” Was it because God didn’t know? Had they hidden so well that the omniscient Creator of the Universe couldn’t find them in a garden? Um, no. He was educating them. Today we call it the Socratic method (an educational method based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions), but personally, I like to refer to it as God’s method. He knew where Adam and Eve were, but He asked them a question to get them to think – where were they really? Outside God’s plan, disobeying His instructions, hiding from Him. They needed to take stock of themselves to learn.

God asked many people questions throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19:9-13 God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” as he hid in a cave in fear. Then a wind and an earthquake and a fire came by before God spoke in a gentle whisper and asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (Side note: God also repeats Himself to us.) In Job 38 God asked Job questions which stopped him in His tracks. God asked Isaiah, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Jesus asked people He met questions, the most common one being, “What do you want me to do for you?” God asks us questions today also. He asks us questions to get us to think and learn His ways. So listen. When you find yourself asking yourself, “What are you doing girl?” just maybe God put that question in your mind to get you to think and learn. So stop, go to His Word, and contemplate your actions.

Learning to hear and discern God’s voice is a process. We must learn to recognize the voice of our shepherd. As we faithfully stay in His Word and apply His principals in living out our lives, we will find His voice becomes more distinct through the years. In the meantime, listen carefully! He is speaking! My prayer for you is that you would begin to hear Him and follow Him obediently just as it’s recorded in Isaiah 30:21-22 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”

(Join our fall Women’s Bible study at Gardendale First Baptist Church: Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God.)

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“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate very wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:103 – 105 May His Words illumine your path today as you seek Him faithfully! 

 

The Unappreciated Gift

by returning guest author Brea Burelle

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want?

You know, the ones you want to return or just stick in your closet and never use.

I have. My unappreciated gift was a car. I received it in 1985 when I was 17 years old. It was a 1967 Brown Mustard Plymouth Duster. That’s right, my grandparents gave me an 18-year-old car when I was 17 years old. They had planned this big surprise. They had stored the car in their basement, backing it in so when they opened the door I could see the car with the custom-made license plate with my name on the front. They were so excited to provide this gift to me and thought they had done so well in picking it out. Well I was so unimpressed that I looked right pass the car trying to figure out what the big deal was about. Plymouth Duster Car2.jpegThe car looked nothing like anything I would want. It was not the right style or color and definitely not like what my friends were driving. How could I be seen driving this Mustard Yellow car? Who were the kidding? I am positive that I must have hurt their feelings, but at 17 years old I could not pull it together to fake my appreciation. It was not until I had to start paying a car payment on a car I bought years later that I fully appreciated the gift of being handed a car free and clear, with no strings attached. In my mind all I could think about was that I wanted what everyone else had. All these years later I look back on this event in my life and wonder how I could have been so unappreciative of the gift I was given.

Just like this car how many gifts have I been given by God that I take for granted and don’t full appreciate the sacrifice made on my behalf. Gifts like: His Love, the Gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the gift of My Salvation. God has also provided me with Spiritual pexels-photo-264793gifts to be used for his kingdom along with more gifts than I can name. He says in His Word in Matthew 7:11 (NET) “If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God’s is the giver of good gifts.

Then the other day as I was preparing to lead a prayer group and was looking for Scriptures to give other woman dealing with Singleness. I was listening to a sermon on Singleness and the text was 1 Corinthians 7:7 (NLT) “I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness.”

Wait did you catch that? Wow! God’s Words says singleness is a gift from God. The word gift in Greek is charisma which means “a gift of God’s grace” (charis). So Singleness is not just any gift, but a gift of God’s grace.  Now what am I going to do with this new piece of information. Who wants to hear that Singleness is a gift? Most of us singles ladies consider singleness as a holding pattern until we get married. Our Singleness is supposed to be just for a Season. Why would God consider singleness a gift? No woman I know wants to open a gift that contains the gift of singleness. We surely don’t get excited about being single. We get excited about getting married. Our society puts our focus on marriage. We expect to receive flowers and gifts from the guy we are dating. The excitement of receiving a ring. Then comes the parties, tea and wedding gifts, and the wedding itself. Single people don’t get these things. So, this got me thinking. What is so special about Singleness that God would consider it a gift?

I am sure there are many answers, but this is the one that pricked my heart. As a single woman, I can have a life more devoted to Him. God can have my undivided attention if I am willing to give it to Him. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NLT) Paul say:

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

God’s Word says I am to use my gift of Singleness, “to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”  Paul tells us that a married woman has earthly responsibilities and are pulled in many different directions. They have to worry about their husbands and children and how any other ministry they take on will affect them.   As a single, I don’t have to worry about family members being neglected. I don’t have to work my schedule around others. When God calls me to a ministry I can devote my time to it. I can travel and do mission work when needed and called. I can be involved in several different ministries and not worry about family members feeling left out and abandoned. I don’t have to work my quiet time around distractions in my home. pexels-photo-478541I can spend extra time with the Lord and not have to worry about the clock or what is not getting done. If I am willing to give it, the Lord can have all my devotion as I serve him with all my ability.

Singleness may not be the gift I would choose for myself or that any woman would willingly choose, but we do not get to choose our gifts, remember? God does. I have to remember that God is a good Father who loves me and wants the best for me. God does not give bad gifts. But the choice is mine of how I look at my gift of singleness: I can choose to be bitter and unappreciative of God’s gift or I can choose to be excited and joyful about this gift. It is all up to me. If I choose the former, I miss out on all the wonderful things God has planned for my life during this Season or Seasons. If I choose the latter I get more than the gift of Singleness, I get the Gift of God Himself. If I am willing to stay devoted to him and follow his path, God’s Word promises in Psalm 16:11 “You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” As I continue to serve the Lord and He continues to open doors may I experience absolute joy and sheer delight in being able to be in his presence and know that by walking this path of Singleness, I am walking the path he designed just for me. May I fully appreciate and be excited about this gift that has been given to me.

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When the Tables Are Turned

A young friend in her late twenties came to me recently with an unusual concern.

She is the only one in her small group who has chosen not to drink alcohol because of her Christian faith. It’s not that she’s never tasted alcohol. Nor is she rigid, prudish, or legalistic. It is a conscious choice she has made.

I don’t know all her reasons. Our conversation was more on the reactions she had received to her choice than on the choice itself. She had made that decision when she realized that alcoholic beverages offered no benefit to her and didn’t draw her closer to God, and that there are always risks associated with drinking alcohol. So she made the intentional decision not to use alcohol. In my mind I immediately thought of the verse in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable,” and I understood her decision.

But that was not the case with others she had encountered. At a small group meeting the prior week, she had found herself conspicuously being the only one not consuming alcohol. She did not feel out-of-place in her spirit and was enjoying her fellowship time. She also had the strength of character to not feel compelled to drink just because the rest were. So where was the issue? One of the young men approached her offering a drink. She declined, and he reacted!

He was offended that she wasn’t drinking. He chastised her for it and questioned her on it. She explained that she wasn’t judging him; she had just chosen not to consume any alcohol. A discussion ensued and suddenly she was the one feeling judged for her abstinence. We are told in Romans 14:16 to “not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.” So she had to stand up for her convictions to another member of the body of Christ, one who should have been encouraging her and building her up instead of undermining her convictions.

Has our society so infiltrated the church that this is what we’ve come to?

Has it become a world where it is “politically correct” in the body of Christ to be so open-minded about alcohol that we condemn those who choose to abstain?

In another situation, a family friend in her early 30s recovering from alcoholism encountered her church friends, who knew her well, drinking at a class gathering they knew she would attend. She was surprised and let down. How could brothers and sisters in Christ choose to exercise their “freedom” at the jeopardy of her sobriety? Is Paul’s warning forgotten? “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14:21)

A skewed view of grace has been slowly rising to the surface over the years, one that says a follower of Christ can do anything they choose and it doesn’t matter because God will forgive. Has the church bought into this so much so that a person who walks in purity and holiness is seen as an affront to this false interpretation of grace? In Romans 6:15, the apostle Paul admonishes us, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Are we so caught up in our freedom, that we are careless with our responsibility toward other believers?

Just as Christ has given us grace, we are called on to offer grace to those around us. In our Christian walk, let us extend compassionate love and care by respecting others weaknesses and not causing them to stumble by our actions. Let us also refrain from judging another for choices they make, that while they don’t go against scriptures we would perhaps consider a sin for us.

And on the other side of that coin, let us all also refrain from undermining a brother or sister in Christ who has chosen a higher standard than we are living. That is often difficult, especially when we feel conviction or condemnation simply by being in their presence. Instead of questioning the high road they have taken, when that conviction comes upon us let us pull aside, and seek God to see if He is using their example as a way of calling us to a deeper walk of holiness.

Back to Basics: Mentoring

The 5 Basic Ingredients & How to Carry out Your Mentoring.

 

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Hey Girls! Grab your cup of coffee and let’s chat. This should be informative!

So in our last Back to Basics we discussed tips for finding the person God wants you to disciple or the mentor you’ve been longing for. Hopefully you have taken action in that direction – and yes, diligent prayer over the issue is taking action. Think ahead for a moment. What happens next? Once you find the right person to mentor or be mentored by, what does the relationship look like and where do you go from here? Just as every person is different in personality and every marriage is different in the way it plays out, every mentor relationship will be unique and personal. But there are several ingredients that go together to make a healthy, fulfilling discipling relationship. Scripture memory, witnessing, and other aspects of spiritual growth and training can be added in, but these 5 ingredients are the core:

  1. pexels-photo-446169Prayer
  2. Studying God’s word together
  3. Worshiping together
  4. Sharing lives/building a relationship
  5. Accountability

And just how you do it also varies.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Decide whether to have one-on-one mentoring or a group you are mentoring. A group makes best use of your time.
  2. Set a regular place to meet: a home, church, coffee shop, conference room at work, etc.
  3. Find a regular time to meet whether weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or something else. Make it a calendar event.
  4. Set the length of the meetings – 1-2 hours works well. Respect each other’s time: be punctual starting and stopping.
  5. Determine the duration of the discipling relationship: a one year commitment is usually good. It can be extended if you both wish, but always schedule another ending date so the relationship doesn’t waste away in awkwardness.
  6. Agenda. Have a routine planned that will take place each time, but be flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Determine the focus of the mentoring based on the greatest need of the disciple: salvation, spiritual growth, training in how to study the Bible, moral accountability, developing spiritual disciplines, prayer for an ongoing and desperate situation, developing leadership in a more mature believer, etc.
  8. Choose a course of study such as read though the Bible together and discuss, do a topical study, use a Bible study booklet, or read and discuss a Christian book.

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Advice to Mentors.

  1. Always begin with prayer dedicating your time to the Lord to use as He sees fit. And always pray for wisdom for yourself as you lead them.
  2. Your goal is to love them with the love of Christ.
  3. Your purpose is to teach or train this disciple from what God has taught you.
  4. Your job is NOT to fix this person’s flaws nor be their Holy Spirit – He is the one who convicts them of sin and guilt.
  5. Offer your young protegé loving correction for the sin in their life. Hold them accountable. But love them even when they fail.
  6. Be absolutely genuine with the ones you disciple. Fakiness or a holier-than-thou attitude can’t be in you when you disciple someone. Drop your mask.
  7. Be faithful to your commitment. Don’t give up and bail on your disciple because you get busy, feel insecure, sin yourself and don’t feel worthy, or for any other reason.
  8. Mentor, you are not perfect, and you are not expected to be. Admit your failings to your mentee. Learning occurs even when our disciples watch us deal with our own sin, failings, and awkward moments. (If it is a grievous moral failure on your part you should strongly consider handing them off to another mentor while you get your life back on track spiritually. And DO confess and ask forgiveness from them when you have sinned.)
  9. Never lead your disciple into sin! (“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” Mathew 18:6-7; “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” Romans 14:21)
  10. Besides the scheduled meetings, make yourself available as much as possible to your mentee. (However, do protect your marriage and family commitments.) Be available for calls, texts, emails, visits (including emergency ones), and spontaneous casual friend time. Include them in holidays and special events, or invite them to be your roomie on the next ladies retreat.

Now that you are praying and seeking one to disciple and you know what the expectations are, it’s time to step beyond your awkward feelings and act obediently! You will struggle and grow and open up being painfully honest when you don’t really want to be. You will be forever changed. You will never regret investing in others for the kingdom of God. It’s time to step out of your boat and walk in faith with Jesus! You can do this!

So finish your coffee and leave us a response. Let’s get this conversation going!
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