Friendly Fire!

Friendly fire isn’t friendly.

It’s when people on your side, on your team accidentally shoot you. The only problem – when you get hit, it hurts just as much as if an enemy shot you!

And the crazy thing is, in the heat of a battle, people may not even realize they’re hurting you.

Sadly friendly fire happens a lot in ministry. And the wound of it goes far beyond the pain of what happened. There is something so deflating, so disheartening about being shot by your own teammates. It’s actually worse than if an enemy shot you.

But never forget Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” Oh your teammate may have pulled the trigger, but whenever friendly fire happens you can be sure there’s someone else behind it.

There is a much greater battle raging! And the enemy loves to use anyone he can, especially people on our team!

I’ll never forget when I started coordinating the women’s Bible studies for our church and the sweetest older woman, one of the other Bible teachers who had been teaching the Bible longer than I’d been alive, suddenly lit into me, yelling and screaming, because she didn’t agree with the way I was running the first meeting. To say I was totally surprised would be an understatement. Before this, I’d never even heard her raise her voice. My heart literally felt torn to shreds.

It may look and feel like the battle is against those who’ve hurt us, but I’m telling you, even though they may have pulled the trigger, or said words that cut us to the quick, according to the Bible our battle is not against them, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.”

So note if we don’t quickly forgive – not just for what happened but also for how it made us feel – so easily this can morph into bitterness and our true enemy gains an even greater victory.

Remember, when you are on the front lines, not just following Jesus yourself but helping others do so too – the enemy is doubly eager to destroy you! And he is so ready and eager to use any opportunity that presents itself. So beware! Recognize his warfare for what it is and don’t let bitterness enable him to rob you even more!

And remember, when you are discipling with a generational mindset, well you’re raising up future targets for him, so it’s vital you prepare those you’re meeting with to excel in forgiving – this isn’t just a nice topic to cover, it’s vital for survival in this broken, fallen world… especially for those on the front lines spiritually!

In the “Heal” section, I’ve included resources I use when forgiving and when helping others learn how to forgive.

Honestly, it was a huge struggle to forgive that older woman. Especially as I was young and not at all expecting this. I felt so disillusioned that someone who had taught God’s Word for so many years could act that way. But then I realized, this side of heaven we all blow it! Me included!

I’m so thankful the Lord poured on the grace enabling me to forgive her, because that proved to be the first of many close encounters with friendly fire! And not just requiring me forgiving, but also me needing to be forgiven. We need to beware of inadvertently shooting others too!

Jesus even had to rebuke Peter when the enemy was shooting through him. (Matthew 16:23) This is part of the cost of following Him. But the beauty is when this happens to you, you begin to understand even more what He willingly endured because of His incredible love for us!

Does that ever make it worth staying in the battle!

The Power of Processing

I’ve never been much of a scrapbooker.  I made one when Jim and I were dating, but that was years before Creative Memories and it was a rather simple affair.  But one of the girls I was meeting with loved to do this!  And as I was praying, asking the Lord what He’d like for us to do during our next time together, He gave me the idea to take her to a scrapbooking store and let her pick out materials to make one page summarizing the key thing the Lord recently was teaching her.  Little did I realize the treasure we were both in for!

She was soooo excited!  We started our time praying asking the Lord to guide us, to bring to mind what He wanted us focusing on and to help us create a picture that represented this.  It turned out most of our time that week was used just selecting supplies so I asked if she’d complete her page during the coming week and then share it with me at our next one on one and I decided I’d create one too.

Now at first I was bummed that our entire time was taken up by the selection of materials – what kind of one on one was this?  But you know, it was amazing how we both experienced the Lord even through the process of deciding what to use as well as when we had to think through the lessons we’d been learning to select one.  And then as we started putting our pages together it was like the Lord was right there with us, not only helping us create a picture of what He’d been teaching us, but the actual process of creating helped us further process and internalize that lesson even more!  And what a powerful time we experienced the next week when we shared our creations!

Shortly after this a friend shared with me how he’d been reading all the verses in the Bible that talk about remembering – and realized how incredibly key it is to take time for this.

Numbers 15:40 ESV

So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.

Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Deuteronomy 8:18 ESV

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Deuteronomy 16:12 ESV

You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

Deuteronomy 32:7 ESV

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.

(And that’s but a taste!  The  word “remember” occurs 162 times in the ESV Bible!)  

Prior to this when I thought about spending time one on one with someone I was always forward focused – what’s going to help her move forward and press on in her walk with God?  But this experience really highlighted for me how vital it is we periodically take time to intentionally remember, and process deeper what the Lord is teaching us.  The irony is, taking time to look back, process and remember, really can spur us on even more!

Fast forward a few years to our sabbatical last summer.  I asked the Lord if He’d give me a creative way to remember the lessons He’d be teaching me throughout it.  That’s when He led me to art journaling.  Again I was blown away at how taking time to create a picture of what He’s teaching me helps me learn on a deeper level – and sometimes even figure out what’s going on in my heart!

And you know, this takes place in a format I actually enjoy looking back through and praying through – which only serves to help me remember even more!  (I’m a very messy writer and an external processor who writes volumes every day just to think and pray – I would never want to go back and read all of that!  But I love to look at these pictures!)**

Recently a friend asked if her Bible study could come over and art journal with me.  We paired up and shared a quiet time in Psalm 139 and then took time to create an art journal page illustrating what the Lord laid on our hearts. It was so precious to hear each woman share and “see” what she was learning!  I cannot recommend highly enough doing this!

So now, when I meet one on one with someone I will periodically take time for us to actively, creatively process what the Lord’s been teaching us.  At the end of a semester, the end of the year, the end of a Bible study ~ these are all great times to do this.

In fact, at the end of one summer training program after we’d inductively studied the book of Genesis, as a way of further processing what we’d learned I encouraged the students to go back and draw a quick sketch or do word art, featuring on an index card the main thing from each chapter that stood out to them.  Talk about a fun and insightful way to review and help summarize when finishing a Bible study!

As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning…”  Don’t miss out on the best part by rushing onto the next thing!  Taking time to further process and remember can enrich and deepen your relationship with the Lord, and with those you are discipling!

(**NOTE:  you can find examples of this art journaling at http://www.restfulheart.wordpress.com ~ I put this together for friends who wanted to “see” what I was doing during my sabbatical last year :0)

Show and Tell

You know how Eric Liddell says, “When I run I feel His pleasure?”  For me, that happens when I’m speaking.  I’m not saying it’s a breeze to get up in front of people – with my hearing loss it’s always stretching whenever the Lord asks me to do this – but once I’m up there,  I could keep going for hours and it’s amazing how time flies… for me.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, no matter how great a speaker is, when I’m sitting there listening, it’s hard to sit for a long time!  Besides how much can you process in one sitting?!  Too much of a good thing can certainly be too much!

I think there’s a reason Eutychus’ story is included in the Bible – and not just to demonstrate God’s power to raise the dead!  (Acts 20:7-12)

In Ephesians 4:29 we’re instructed to speak “…only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  So even though it’s a joy for me to speak, I need to keep in mind what’s best for those “who listen.”

If I do what comes naturally, I can talk non-stop.  But not only can that be tiring for those listening, from an adult learning perspective it’s not the best for them learning either!

When you are meeting one on one with someone, you need to keep considering their perspective – how can they best benefit?  Now this varies from person to person, and ultimately you want to learn what’s best for them, but a good starting point can be considering what is beneficial for you as you listen.

One thing I love about teaching kids – you have to do this or you’ll soon be talking to yourself!  So I find myself seeking to be even more creative and concrete when communicating.

For example, I was recently teaching a group of missionary kids about the armor of God.  When we went over the belt of truth I didn’t just talk about it ~ we literally made belts using links of chains and a carabiner.

Then I borrowed extra large adult jeans and had the kids spar with swords while wearing them – first with the belt on so it held up their pants, then without it.  It was pretty humorous to see them discover how vital those belts can be, and how vulnerable they are without it, as pants dropped to their ankles!

Then we talked about how the most important truth you can ever know is the truth of who God is.  Because when hard times come Satan wants you fixating on the circumstances and trying to figure out why rather than clinging to the truth of who God is.

Many times, this side of heaven, you won’t figure out why – so focusing on that can really throw you off balance and make you even more vulnerable to the enemy.  But when we keep taking time to remember who God is – can that ever fortify our souls even in the darkest of trials.  And that’s not just true for kids!

We are personally going through a tough time right now and first thing, I went and got some plastic links and a carabiner from Lowes.  Every day as the Lord is revealing who He is, I write that new attribute on a link with a permanent black sharpie…

“Purposeful, Powerful, Active Refuge, Planner, Savior, Provider, Conqueror, Finisher…”

I know it may sound crazy, but even though I’m not wearing the belt (talk about a fashion statement, eh?!), making the effort to do something concrete like this is really helping me focus more during my quiet times on who God is and keep recalling this throughout the day.  And I find I’m not forgetting these quiet times like I often do if I don’t do anything with them.

Creative, concrete illustrations can be very impactful, very beneficial in helping people learn, understand and remember what you’ve talked about – it’s easier to just “tell” but God doesn’t call us to do what’s easy, but what’s beneficial for those listening.

Remember how they use to have “Show and Tell” in kindergarden?  That’s a great thing to strive for when discipling someone!

So God’s Name Isn’t Reviled

Every morning when I wake up, before I get out of bed, I’ve been praying through the Lord’s prayer.  I find it’s a great way to start my day, taking a few minutes to ask for help and remember what’s most important.

This morning it hit me that very first part relates to the ultimate goal of Titus 2:3-5… “Our Father, who is in the heavens (and yes in the original Greek heaven is plural!  I love that!  It reveals even more how BIG the Lord is!) hallowed be your name.”

What am I praying at the getgo?  That God’s name will be honored and treated as holy, not just generically, but also as a result of the way I live my life as I dive into each new day.

As His daughter, as one who belongs to Him, what I do reflects upon Him.  I only wish I could say that’s always a good thing!

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case…  when someone who knows I’m a Christian hears me being short with my husband, or when I’m frustrated and rolling my eyes because once again I’m in a hurry but in the slowest checkout line and the cashier sees the cross on my neck…. This isn’t just about Debbie having a bad day, but it really does reflect on the Lord.  And when I’m tired or a series of things have gone wrong and I get frustrated or start to feel like I’m being treated unjustly, it’s all too easy to get short and unpleasant.

Please know I’m not trying to justify, it is wrong when this happens.  But there are times it does.  And it’s sad how easily!

This is why I’ve started asking for help at the start of the day.  I see my need for Jesus to help me and grow me so I’ll live in a way that honors him.

It’s kind of like biking.  You don’t put your helmet on just when you need it.  If you wait to do this, it’s going to be too late.  But realizing that every single day I need Jesus to save me, and not just from outside problems, but from my natural selfish sin nature – I want to start out the day right away praying my desire that he will be honored and his name treated holy – by me and all around me!

And it’s not like I pray this and expect Jesus to keep me in line!  Like – ok Jesus now it’s up to you, the ball is in your court to make me behave!  No!  What I’m expressing is my desire to live in this way and since I’m not there yet, I’m really asking Him, “Do whatever you need to do to keep changing me so I can live this way!”

Honestly, God knows what we’re going to say before a word is on our tongue!  He doesn’t need our prayers to know what to do!!!  But I need prayer, because what I pray for changes me!!!

As I pray this every morning I’m reminded I don’t have what it takes, but by stating my desire to do this (and I’m not just praying this for me but also for my family, other women in my life, all believers everywhere!)  I’m motivated even more to keep growing, because I’m reminded as I do, as I grow in kindness and self control and in loving well those around me, it’s not just about me having better relationships but about repping the Lord better!

And it’s pretty neat to make the connection to Paul’s letter to Titus and realize this is a big deal for everyone!  And it is a big deal!  Check out what is written in Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12.

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” 1 Peter 2:1

Evangelism isn’t just telling someone the good news of the gospel!  God can be glorified, even by those who are lost, through them seeing a difference in the way we live.

Don’t just teach people to tell ~ seek to help them learn to live in a way that results in the Lord’s name being honored!  And teach them to pray so they will keep focused on desiring this and be willing to follow the Lord even when it’s hard as He grows them!

Discipling Women

In the Bible there are a number of gray areas, things the Bible doesn’t directly address, even mysteries!  Women discipling women is not one of them.

Paul writes in Titus 2:3-5 , “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Note this starts with specific instructions on how the older women themselves should live!  Discipling others always begins with being a disciple of Jesus ourself!  Then out of that will flow not just words to pass on, but “follow me as I follow Christ!”

“Older women are to teach what is good,” but Paul doesn’t stop there.  He proceeds to give seven specifics that need to be passed on in any discipling relationship where women are seeking to invest in other women.   Older women are to teach what is good and so train the young women:

* to love their husband

* to love their children

* to be self-controlled

* to be pure

* to be working at home

* to be kind

* to be submissive to their own husbands

If you are involved in discipling women and this is not a key part of what you are doing, then biblically your discipleship is deficient!  And note, he doesn’t say to train married women in these things, but young women.

The best time to train for this isn’t after marriage!  Trust me, learning to love before you get married can really help your marriage get off on a much better start!  And if you don’t learn the value of purity and how to pursue it when the heat is on before you get married you are most likely going to do major destruction to your marriage before it even starts!

And please note, Paul wouldn’t highlight these areas if they came naturally to us!

You see a cute baby pass by and think, “What’s not to love?!”  but just wait until you have your own and he’s sick and fussy and you’re sleep deprived and there’s nothing you do can make him stop crying!  It does not come naturally to be patient at that moment!

And you watch the movies and think love is just going to flow when I find the “right” guy – not realizing every single person, including yourself, struggles with a sin nature and lives in a broken and fallen world.  Just wait until your husband hurts your feelings or you start experiencing the consequences of his sin.  What comes naturally is to react in pain, anger, frustration, not to be kind.

Yet kindness is so key Paul doesn’t just leave it as a part of love (expecting readers to cross reference his first letter to the Corinthians!) but he specifically states it again.  Training in being kind is a critical part of discipleship!!!

And in truth when you go through seasons where you aren’t happy with your life, where past wounds resurface, or where you are in pain from health problems, guess what’s the first thing that usually goes out the door?!  Kindness!  What comes naturally when you’re feeling poorly – emotionally or physically – is to take it out on whoever is closest to you!  We have to learn to be kind, learn to love, learn to be self controlled… and all the rest!

There is incredible wisdom in what the Lord has revealed through Paul regarding how women should be training other women!  Don’t ignore this!

And note he calls older women to train women “to love” and “to be” ~ the focus is not on doing.  It’s so easy to get a microcosmic focus where the goal of your discipleship is to teach someone how to do scripture memory, or how to have a quiet time, or how to pray.  And there is value in each of these things, but what a difference it can make when you keep in mind, the purpose for passing these things on is not simply to be doing these things but part of something so much greater!

The reason Paul gives for teaching women so they will be trained in these seven areas is so God’s word won’t be reviled or as it says in the New King James Version blasphemed.  To revile is to assail with abusive language, to blaspheme is to speak of God in an irreverent manner.  This is what can result when women aren’t trained in these areas.

Paul doesn’t say, teach women so they’ll be trained in these areas so they can live a wonderful life!  But so God’s word and God himself aren’t spoken poorly of.  What we do, the way we live reflects on the One we belong to!  It’s not about us!

If you take time to camp out prayerfully in this verse really seeking to understand what the Lord is saying ~ is there ever wealth in here!  And key guidance for how to disciple women!

No Pain, No Gain

I wish the way to godliness was through Bible study!

This can help lay an important foundation, but the primary way we become more like Jesus is through adversity.  That’s when those biblical truths have the opportunity to work their way into the depths of our soul and transform us.

We see the heart of a disciple so beautifully displayed in Mary’s response when the angel approaches her about giving birth to Jesus, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)  Talk about a willingness to follow God regardless of cost!

And did this ever prove costly!

If you take time to read the nativity story slowly and really consider what’s happening, you realize it wasn’t a very silent night!  Imagine giving birth far away from home, and if you’ve ever given birth, you know this was no cake-walk!  She had no access to any epidural or even demerol to take the edge off the pain!!!  And can you see her learning in the midst of contractions, there’s no room in the inn?!  Forget about sterile environments, your newborn gets placed in a manger, and then a bunch of scruffy shepherds crowd in?!  And that’s not even taking into account all the attempts of the enemy to destroy her – surely he wasn’t at all thrilled that she was carrying the son of God – or the hurtful things said to her due to being pregnant before the wedding!

It’s so easy to read these verses quickly, whitewashing over them, but in the middle of the story there is pain and intense emotion!

I bet Mary never dreamed how great this cost would be.  And isn’t that true for us too?  We say “yes” to following the Lord, yet are surprised when things don’t go smoothly.

When we came on staff with the Navigators, we gave up a secure income, career, being with family and friends to head in our late-thirties to a college campus to spend most of our time with people half our age.  You think in view of all the sacrifice the Lord would roll out the red carpet!

But instead we ended up homeless for a month, living like vagabonds going from house to house, then lived in a tiny, temporary home for the next few months where our dining room table was in the center of the kitchen so I had to squeeze around it to cook.

Prior to this the Lord laid it on my heart to start memorizing Psalm 119.  I was like, “Lord, that’s the longest chapter in the Bible!”  And He was like, “I know!”  When I agreed to do it, I asked, “Would you please give me music to set each of the 8 verse sections too?  That would really help!”  And he did.

During the time of our homeless adventure, I was memorizing Psalm 119: 81-88 and verse 83 jumped off the page at me, “Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.”  And I wondered – what’s that about?

When I looked it up, I discovered wineskins are put in smoke to mature them faster!!!

Can’t you just hear the wineskin…  “Lord, I said I’d hold whatever wine you want to put in – but what are you doing leading me to that fire and wait…!!!”  Cough, cough, cough…  “This smoke is burning my eyes! It’s hot here!  And those flames keep getting closer!!!  Are you trying to destroy me?!”

You see, the Lord knew we needed to grow, we needed an intense faith and character stretching experience to be ready for the work He had for us, more than we needed a comfy, easy transition!

Truly what He gave grew us a ton!  And afterwards, looking back, we can clearly see it was so worth it!  But at the time…

This is why it’s so helpful to have someone walking with you through the journey!  Someone who’s been in the fire, felt the pain, experienced the intense emotions and can help prepare you for the hard times sure to come and assure you it will be worth it!

This is why cake mix discipleship is so deadly!  That’s where people are led to believe if you just do x, y, or z,  if you just follow the recipe your life is going to go great!  Beware of communicating this!  It’s so easy inadvertently to do!

There is no formula!  Unless you consider, “No pain, no gain!” Because being a disciple and becoming more like Jesus isn’t about following a formula, but following a person who is committed to transforming you as He writes a unique masterpiece in your life!

 

 

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Here is a link to one of my favorite songs related to this entitled, “Every Day”

It’s War!

One of the most important questions you can ever ask when starting to meet with someone is, “What’s your story?”

And make sure she knows you don’t want the reader’s condensed version!  You want as many facts as she is comfortable sharing.

What has brought pain into her life?  Where has she struggled.  How has the Lord been at work bringing her into a relationship with Him?  And since?  Has she ever dabbled in the occult?  Or been sexually involved with someone?

These questions can reveal key things so helpful to know at the onset.  But be sure to ask gently and respectfully, and make it clear it’s ok for her to only share what she is comfortable telling.

If she has experienced severe wounding or abuse, if she’s had any prior experience with the occult, it can really help to know this not just so you can help her move forward, but so you can help prepare her for ways the enemy might try to intervene and interfere in your relationship.

Remember discipleship is about spurring people on to grow!  The enemy does not want this!  And it seems the greater his hold on someone formerly, the more desperate he will be to thwart your attempts.

I once met with a woman who had supported herself working as stripper and who had repeatedly been deeply wounded relationally as well as sexually assaulted.  The story of how the Lord reached out to her in love drawing her to Himself was absolutely amazing!  When I met her she was so eager to grow!

Yet about a month after we’d started meeting, when she heard a mutual friend share how she’d just learned the Bible says sex before marriage is wrong – she was so upset!  This was the only type of love she’d ever known and as a brand new believer she was not ready to give this up!  Right away she started withdrawing from fellowship and not being available for us to meet.  It broke my heart… how I wish I’d known to give her a heads up in advance.

While the enemy can’t keep someone from entering into a relationship with Jesus, he is so cunning in his subterfuge and efforts to undermine and interefere any way he can with her growing – which very much includes constant subtle efforts to destroy her relationship with whomever is seeking to disciple her.

It is vital you be ready for this and if possible, beat him at his game, by forewarning the woman of ways he may try to attack.

You see, when someone has traumatic or occultic experiences in her past many times there are strongholds that still remain, that need to be addressed.  This is why it’s vital you ask a person to share about her past with you, so you can attempt to prepare her for the battle that’s sure to erupt.

Too many times people read “forgetting what lies behind and pressing on towards what lies ahead…” as if there’s no need to address past wounding and strongholds.  But remember verses need to be read in context!  And in this context Paul is talking about his past achievements, not wounding!

Now people may not be willing to be open about this until they know you better – that may be one of the ways the enemy has already been at work encouraging them to build walls around their heart.  But it sure can help if you at least ask ~ and if you’re willing to share about painful things you’ve been through too!

This is why when I begin meeting with someone I will often start telling her my story first, sharing deeply about my past.  That sets the stage for her to realize here’s someone willing to be real, willing to be honest with me.  Someone who cares enough to reveal even the pain she’s been through.  And I do this after praying, asking the Lord to guide my sharing and help me speak only what’s helpful for building up the person who listens.

Then I ask her to share her story in depth – can this help launch your time in a powerfully bonding way, even if there aren’t deep issues.

But if there are, be sure to encourage her – God is a God of hope!  Nothing is too difficult for Him!  He is able to take the ugliest scars and bring beauty out of them, but there really is a battle going on and the enemy is going to do whatever he can to get her feelings hurt and try to get her to pull away from you.

If you can point this out from the getgo and encourage her, “If this happens, if I do anything or say anything that hurts you, please come to me and let’s talk because I don’t want the enemy messing with us” and warn her to be on the lookout for ways he might try to isolate her from other believers too ~ can that ever help you beat him at his game and thwart his purposes to destroy your relationship!