Favorable Change

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Stingy eyes evidence of the tears the day before as I tried to insert my contacts lenses I pondered to myself how in recent history I had gone through a record number of contact lenses evidence of multiple crying episodes. The day before, my friend had declared she was moving away. I’ve heard it said that major events and good things occur in threes. Like three pregnant women at the same time, three blind mice, the three little pigs, the three primary colors from which every other color can find its basic origins. The ships that carried Christopher Columbus’ to find The new World: The Nina, the Pinta, and The Santa Maria. The three cord strand that is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12): The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection after 3 Days. I could go on and on. Well maybe not me, but with help of an internet search engine I could.

So when the for the third time a sweet dear friend told me she was moving away all I could do was cry. It was a true answer to prayer for her and for her family, but for me, it was heartache. For the others whose lives she had invested in, it was sad. I’d watched her over the last several years, she had been the very words of Jesus that had come to life for me.

Jesus said in Matthew 25: 36-40:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

qag0vcte_600x600_a538b01aMy friend, she had fed me. She fed me on multiple occasions, but one of the most memorable was when we were moving, living out of boxes, and she called me and said, “Hey! I have a Beef Bonapart that I am bringing to you Martins right now.” There was no time to protest, no time to argue, she didn’t even give me the option to say no. She brought that delicious baked pasta right to my front door, handed it over, said, “Enjoy! I love you!” and she left.

That evening I was tired, I was stinky, I had worked all day in preparation of my new living quarters and I was hungry. I’d long ago resolved that dinner would come in the form of a grease stained paper bag, with some mediocre fast food option to sustain me through the night. Yet, there I was sitting at a makeshift table with my family, enjoying a homemade dinner on a paper plate, with a plastic fork, she’d brought so we could eat that pasta dish.

She’d invited me in countless times, even in the days when she barely knew me. I was in essence a stranger and she opened her home and welcomed my rowdy Martins and me. She told me once, regarding her Mama’s house, “Mimi’s house isn’t fancy but it is welcoming.” I knew exactly what she meant, for her house was the same. It wasn’t fancy, but is was warm and welcoming for sure.

clothes-hangers-coat-hangers-plastic-hanger-hang-39518She didn’t exactly clothe me, except she daily reminded me that Colossians 3:12 tells us to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” She reminded me by being dressed that way herself. She challenged me to dress the same way, to exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

I can honestly say I’ve not been in prison physically, shackled up and sentenced to serve jail time by a judge, but I have been shackled up spiritually. I’ve been so fearful and anxious that it were as if my extremities were shackled to the wall. She knew I was in jail, that I couldn’t free myself from those things. She didn’t have a key to liberate me, but she knew the One who did, and she would intercede to Him on my behalf. Both in my hearing and not. She would pray for me and I can honestly say, there were times I never told a soul that I was wrestling yet that did not stop her, she would sit with me and she would pray.

I have been sick. She has prayed for vomit and pain, for test results and for strength. She has prayed for peace and for comfort. She has prayed without ceasing not just for me, but for countless others as well. Heaven alone knows that astounding number. She taught me the benefit of “Well, let’s just pray right now.” When she would be asked to pray for someone or some situation in particular, she demonstrated there truly was no time like the present. She’d say the aforementioned statement and then she’d get to it, petitioning the King for healing. I am, I was, one of the least of these.

When my friend announced her leaving, I cried because there are some kinds of change of which, I am not a fan. I cried because I know that she is so much like Jesus that I would miss the reminders of Him, (she would argue this point with me here, further demonstrating her humility and supporting my statement.) We prayed together that day, and she reminded me of a solid truth, “When you walk with the Lord, change is always in your favor.” As the time came for her to embark on the new phase of life and new adventure and ministry Jesus had already prepared for her, I was challenged. Unknowingly she has challenged me, and Jesus clarified that challenge.

Jesus speaks to me somewhat unconventionally. He essentially said to me, that I wouldn’t be missin’ her and the Jesus in her so much if I acted more like Him. If I would take the time to do for others the very things my friend taught me to do.

The King’s word says in Proverbs 7:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I’ve not been trained in the metallurgic arts, but I know enough to know this is absolutely the truth, for I was a rusty, dull, piece of iron, heavy and laden with fear when along came my friend, who acts like Jesus and helped to sharpen this ol’ gal up.

iron-sharpens-iron

Back to Basics: Mentoring

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

 

IMG_4281

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.

clasped-hands-comfort-hands-people-45842.jpeg

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!
pexels-photo-248021

Back to Basics: Discipling

Disciple.

Interesting word. We’ve heard it. We know of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But it’s a word many Christians don’t connect with in everyday life. We should.

So what is a disciple? Dictionary.com defines it as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower.” And the Greek word mathetes translated as “disciple” in the new testament means “a learner, pupil, disciple.” And although our very modern dictionary.com considers the verb forms “disciple, discipled, discipling” obsolete and archaic, the meaning is still in frequent use among Christians: to convert into a disciple” or “to teach; train.”

A buzz word of the last few years has been mentorMy Google definition for mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser” (noun) or “advise or train someone, especially a younger colleague” (verb). The term mentor seems to be the more secular term, but crosses over easily into use in the Christian realm.  For this article I will use the terms mentoring and discipling interchangeably.

As Christian women studying God’s Word and seeking to live out the commands of Christ, we quickly come upon the term “disciple” and have to decide whether to ignore it or to move forward in obedience. At the end of the gospel of Matthew we are confronted with these words from Jesus, “ 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.” (28:19-20) But what do we do with His words?

Common responses to that verse are either:
1) to assume it only means to lead people to Christ
2) to believe that verse is only for certain, mature Christians or pastors, but not for me
3) to realize what it means, but avoid living it out in my life

But when I come upon a Christian who actually grasps the full meaning and lives out this verse, my senses are immediately aware and conviction wells up within me – Am I living out the fullness of this scripture?

For true disciples of Jesus, these verses, referred to as the Great Commission, are not just a random suggestion; they are a mandate that sears their heart and spurs them to an action – making disciples themselves. Those who have sat at Jesus’ feet as learners (disciples) soon realize that they are called upon to not just sit there and soak it in, but to share it and spread what they’ve learned to others – to disciple, to teach and use Jesus’ words “make disciples.”

alexis-brown-82988But what goes into making a disciple? What is needed to find a Christian mentor or to be one? What is the cost of discipleship? How do we do it? What are the things we need to focus on? How do we carry it out in real life? What areas of growth do we focus on? These are the questions that leave us in a gray fog of doubt. Today we’ll approach a few of these questions, and then hit the rest in follow-up articles. So let’s break it down question by question.

1) How can I, a Christian woman, find a mentor or disciple?

  • Ask God to send you a disciple/mentor or to put on your heart who to ask. Prayer is so underestimated! If you take this need to God with a sincere heart He will reveal the person and make a way for you.
  • Ask someone to mentor you. Consider a godly woman you know from church and approach them at church or invite them out for coffee and ask them straight out to mentor/disciple you.
  • Ask a women’s ministry leader or Sunday School teacher for a recommendation. Tell them of your desire to be discipled and ask for help in finding one.
  • Plan a mentor/mentee luncheon where several women who are interested in discipling or being discipled can come together and allow match-ups to happen. Or invite several women to your home for a small group prayer or discussion time in hopes of developing relationships. Consider sending out invitations or putting a notice in your church bulletin inviting all those who are interested.

2) And am I ready to become a discipler/mentor – I’m not “perfect”?

  • Yes, you are ready! A simple word picture (gleaned from Anne Ortlund’s writing I believe) may help us grasp this. Imagine you are on a vertical ladder. At any time you will be on one of the rungs. The person above you will be reaching down to help you grow and learn and move to the next higher rung, while at the same time you will be reaching behind you to disciple someone coming along in the Christian walk who is “younger” spiritually than you are. So if you accepted Christ as your Savior and have been digging in His word and growing, guess what? You have the potential to take someone “younger” under your wing and share with them what you’ve learned!
  • If we had to “be perfect” to disciple others, no one ever would! Because guess what? Only Jesus was a perfect human. If you can say to another, “I can tell you what I’ve learned,” “Read your Bible each day,” “Pray each day,” “I’ll pray for you,” “Let’s dig through scripture and find out!” or “I’ll walk through this hard time with you,” then you have what it takes.

3) How do I become a discipler?

  • Pray and ask. If you see a younger woman (spiritually) who seems to desire to grow in the Lord, or who has verbally expressed a need or desire to be discipled, pray diligently about it and then approach her and offer to disciple her. Yes, this takes courage! Yes, it can be a bit awkward if she declines your offer! I’ve walked through this. She’s not rejecting you. That is simply not the right person or time God has for you. This is not about you, this is about obeying God’s command to make disciples.
  • Print up a handout and invite a group to your home. I’ve done this too.
    • Be specific in the flier. Tell the “5 W’s and an H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Type up a succinct yet appealing flier that lists day & time you plan to meet, duration (i.e. 1 1/2 hours, once a week for the next year), who you’re reaching out to (moms of littles, caregivers of aging parents, brand new Christians,…), what you plan to do (prayer, Bible study, worship, accountability, a mix of several of these,…), why you feel led to, and if you have a Bible study book or topic, list that too.
    • Print more than you think you’ll need. I probably handed out 20, when all I desired was a group of 3-5. I ended up with 4 wonderful young women and myself. It was an awesome year. (I still love you gals – Kelly, Christy, Jennie, and Michele!)
    • Give them out to everyone God allows you to. I gave some out sure that the person would come – they didn’t. And one I gave out very reluctantly, sure that she was too busy and too spiritually mature to even want to come to my house – and she came! Go figure. God will surprise you.
  • Evaluate relationships you already have that God is trying to turn into an “undeclared” discipling relationship. Sometimes God allows a relationship to develop of gentle teaching, guiding, and praying for a person who has been a friend for a long time. You are not there to “Lord it over” or “fix” your friend, but to humbly teach what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
  • Alert your small group leader, women’s ministry leader, or pastor at church that you would be willing to mentor new Christian women (women only mentor women) who come into the class or church and need/want to be discipled. Some churches even offer training programs on how to disciple/mentor.

Realize that you are most likely already discipling and being discipled. In our worship service, Bible study, small group, women’s meetings, etc., we are all unofficially teaching one another and learning from one another. We are growing from simply watching how our Sunday School teacher digs in the Word and how she prays and how she ministers to hurting people in our class. We are becoming more mature disciples when we take notes on the pastor’s sermon and go home and seek to apply it to our lives. We are casually discipling (teaching) other Christians when we share what we learned and how God grew us as we walked through a trying life experience. “You are My Disciples,” Jesus says, “if you love one another,” and “if you hold to my teaching.” (John 13:35, John 8:31) We ARE His disciples, let’s begin to obey scripture and make disciples!

eli-defaria-9977