Taking Initiative

When we first moved to Venice I prayed asking the Lord to bring into my life someone He wanted me to disciple.  Prayer is always the best way to start the journey of discipling.

Now I never see a neon sign saying “Disciple this woman.”  Instead, it’s more like it says in Isaiah 40:11, “He gently leads those who have young.”  When someone gently leads you, there is a need to be sensitive to that leading.

It’s like when you lead a blind person – you don’t hold them by the hand and yank them where they need to go.  Instead you place your hand lightly on the back of their elbow and through gentle pressure indicate if they need to go right or left.  They still have a choice whether they’ll go that way and unless they are focusing its easy to miss such cues.

Bottom line:  it’s a process that very much involves both parties.

I find this is such a great picture of the way the Lord often leads.  He doesn’t force me to go His way.  But if I’m sensitive, if I’m seeking to know and open to going the way He leads, it’s amazing how present I find He is and He is always so faithful to guide.  The more I follow Him, the more I seek to be aware of Him, the more I am learning to recognize His gentle leading.

This requires intentionality on my part.  I find when I pray, “Lord, where are you at work?  Would you please show me and give me wisdom to know how you want me to join in?”  does this ever help!

And it doesn’t usually start with Him saying “I want you to disciple this person.”  It’s more like meeting your husband.  Rarely do people know the second they lay eyes on someone, “This is who I’m going to marry.”  Relationships tend to start with small steps – a conversation, doing things together, and in the process sensing whether you should move forward in the relationship or not.

I’ll never forget going to the Harvest Festival at Venice Bible church back in 1993.  As we waited in line to get in I started talking with the woman in front of me.  Before we even reached the front door I learned she’d recently come to know Jesus and started coming to church.

When I heard that, I asked if she would like to get together so I could show her something that really helps me in my walk with the Lord.  She said yes and the next week we got together and shared a quiet time.  She was so excited!  And so eager to learn more!  So then I asked if she’d like to get together the next week and soon a beautiful discipling relationship and friendship began!

But you know, it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t taken initiative.  First to pray, then to start up a conversation as we waited in line.  Then as we talked and I heard she was a new believer, I really sensed the Lord saying, “You’ve learned something that could really benefit her.  Ask if she’d be interested in doing this with you.”

Now the hard part about asking is you never know what a person’s response will be.  They could take offense, flat out refuse or look at you as if you’re crazy… you just never know.  It’s definitely putting yourself out there for possible rejection.  For me, that’s never easy!

One time I cried out to the Lord, “I am so tired of always being the one to initiate!” and He responded, “Now you’re getting a taste of what it’s like for me!  No one seeks after me (Romans 3:11) unless I’ve taken the first step!  And even I get rejected.”

So when people respond with no, and that does happen, I have to remind myself, they aren’t rejecting me.  I am God’s ambassador!  I’m just repping Him!  Like a mailman delivering the goods.  If a package is refused it’s not about the mailman!

It’s so important I don’t personalize but instead view it as the Lord re-directing me to someone else.  In truth I only have time to invest in a limited number of women.  Jesus discipled twelve, my maximum capacity is usually four!  So it’s really a blessing when a door closes that He doesn’t want me going through!

But when someone says yes!  What a gift it is each time I get to join in with what the Lord is doing in a woman’s life.  It truly is like a front row seat getting to see Him in action transforming her!  And does it ever make the uncertainty and even refusals worth it!

Wonder Woman?!

In our super busy society Philippians 4:13 is popular.  “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” appears on mugs, keychains, t-shirts… We love to quote this when we’re feeling overwhelmed because of activities and commitments.

But here’s the irony – that verse, in context, is not talking about conquering the world or handling a super busy schedule, it’s talking about learning to be content!

Twice  – in Philippians 4:11 and 12  – Paul emphasizes this is something that is learned.   It doesn’t come naturally to us.  But is it ever vitally important!

When we read Genesis 1 (and also Job 38!) we see God is really into separating and setting things in their places. He set the water exactly where he wanted it to be – both the waters below and the waters above.  And he created boundaries for the Sea.  He set the sun, moon and each of the stars in their exact places.  And good thing too!

Can you imagine what life would be like if the Sun didn’t have a set place, if it exceeded it’s boundaries?

Scientists say if it was just one degree closer we’d all be scorched.  And if it was one degree farther away we’d freeze!  There would be no life.

Likewise, when we don’t live in the boundaries God has laid for us, it robs us – and others around us of life!  Yet our sinful nature tends to rebel against boundaries.  And as Christians we sure can excel at offering seemingly biblical justifications for busyness!

But God has created us, all of us, with limits – for good reason too!

I once cried out to God in frustration, “I want to be available to these women at any time but I can’t!” And the Lord replied, “You mean you want to be me?!”

“I’ve give you limits for a reason – for your benefit as well as for the girls.  Only I am available all the time and I want them to know that!  When you aren’t available for them, I’m here and that gives them opportunity to run directly to me.”

“Rest in me.  Knowing I never want you doing more than one thing!  And when you try to do more than I want you to, you aren’t doing anyone any favors but can actually end up working against me!”

In Psalm 16 David writes, “Oh Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

Yet how many times do we miss out on that pleasantness because we are rushing around, as if boundaries don’t exist or aren’t important.  Some of the busiest people I know are those involved in ministering to others!

If we aren’t careful, when we are discipling someone, instead of helping her learn contentment, so she can live well in the boundaries God laid for her, we can add to her driven-ness and busyness.

But to live a beautiful life in a broken world for the glory of God we simply must learn to live within the boundaries the Lord has laid for us.  And help those we’re discipling learn this too!

As they say about children, “More is caught than taught.”

So ask the Lord to help you learn the secret of being content with the boundaries He has placed in your life.  Ask Him to help you identify where you are exceeding your boundaries and what He wants you to do about it.  Ask Him to reveal anything that may be driving you to do more than He wants you to.  And then, help those you are discipling learn this.

Right before he died, David Brainerd said, “God has given me a horse and a message.  I have killed the horse and can no longer deliver the message.”

To love well, we need to live well.  And a key part of living well is learning to live within the boundaries the Lord has laid for you.

You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) and His works are wonderful (Psalm 139:  14). May we live in the reality of this truth and not be driven to do more than we should, trying to prove or attain what Jesus has already established for us.

There’s no need to strive to be wonder woman, when in Jesus you already are a wonderful woman!

Leading A Bible Study for the First Time? Beware!!!

The first time I led a Bible study did the enemy ever have a heyday!  Honest!  After each meeting the accuser would rip me up one side and down the other, reminding me of every word misspoken, every uncomfortable silence, pointing out what I could’ve done better, making me feel like the biggest loser ever!

Thankfully, one of the girls I was meeting with one on one was in the study and I asked her for feedback – and was she ever faithful!  After I got home she’d call and talk through the study with me.  When I shared how I thought I’d blown it she’d be like, “Oh no, I think it was good you said that.  Didn’t you notice how that helped to draw the girls into the discussion?”

She helped bring perspective.  And even when I really had blown it she encouraged me to learn from it and keep pressing on.

And this was one of the freshmen I was meeting with!!!  Gracious feedback from anyone can be a huge help!

A key time when the enemy loves to attack is right when someone first starts leading a Bible study.  I cannot stress enough how vital it is that there be someone giving feedback, helping to bring perspective and process what transpired.

Otherwise it’s so easy to conclude – “See, I can’t do this!” and stop and never attempt again!  Which is exactly what the enemy wants!!!  It is so much easier to stop someone at the beginning, when it’s all new and she is struggling with insecurities anyway.

This is such a vital time when support is needed as well as feedback!

Learning to lead a Bible study is a key part of helping someone grow spiritually – you always learn something better when you’re helping others learn!  In addition, this is a key way we can help advance God’s kingdom – there is such a need for women who are willing to take initiative and get Bible studies started!

Honest!  It is amazing to me how few women in the church ever think of leading a Bible study.  So many women who’ve done Bible study for years and have so much to offer just don’t step up to the plate.  Sometimes it’s because they believe the lie they don’t have what it takes to do this so they’ve never even tried.  Other times it’s because the enemy gained a victory when they were younger and first tried…

If you are starting to lead a Bible study for the first time or if you are meeting with someone who is starting to do this, please be sure to make provision for feedback.  I cannot stress how vitally important this is!

Never forget, there is a battle raging and the enemy is a devious and deadly accuser.  Warning people in advance, giving them a heads up that he’s most likely to attack here can really help fortify their souls in advance!

You see, the enemy loves to take a little bit of truth and twist it to suit his purposes!

The truth is no one starts out as an amazing Bible study leader.  There is a lot you can learn and it’s something even after thirty years of leading Bible studies I’m still growing in!!!  If I’d waited until I could do this well to start I’d never have begun!

And in truth the best Bible studies I’ve ever been in have been facilitated, not taught.  You don’t have to be Beth Moore or Kay Arthur to lead a life changing Bible study!

Give me a Bible study leader who gives time for people to share what they are learning from the Word and asks questions to help them further process and provides an environment where people are actively seeking to apply God’s Word to their lives – that’s infinitely better than listening to the best Bible teacher and never doing anything with it!

And yes, you’re going to make mistakes.  But thankfully God doesn’t only use those who get it perfect.  As G.K. Chesterton says, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Please note, this is not a justification to keep doing something poorly,** remember, a disciple is a learner – so if you have a heart of a learner you are going to want to keep growing in your ability to do this and the more experience you get, the more opportunity you have to grow.

But here’s the kicker… to grow, to improve, you need feedback!  Experience alone doesn’t automatically grow you – but evaluated experience sure can!  Do you see how critical getting feedback is?

But until you get this, as you are starting out, remember what the Lord says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  And Paul writes in response, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

So here’s the irony – Satan is determined to pull out the stops to get people to never start or quickly stop leading Bible studies by attacking and making you think you can’t do this because you don’t have what it takes, but the truth is your weakness creates opportunity for God’s power to rest on you!

And with the power of God resting on you ~ is that ever an awesome way to lead a Bible study!!!

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** For further thoughts on what Chesterton meant by this quote check this out: http://www.chesterton.org/discover-chesterton/frequently-asked-questions/a-thing-worth-doing/  (and I must say I absolutely LOVE the definition given of an amateur!  This so applies to raising spiritual babies too!!!)

Keep It Simple, Sweetie!

Now there is not just one way to enjoy a quiet time or do scripture memory or pray or spend extended time alone with the Lord.  Different methods work for different people at different times.

However, when you are first teaching someone how to do something it is wise to start with showing them just one way – later on you can always teach them alternative methods or tweak what you showed them to better suit their personality and preferences.

But if you try to show more than one method at a time it usually adds confusion and what you’ve intended to help can actually end up being a hindrance as they then have to choose what to start with before they even start.

As they say with the old acronym KISS – Keep it simple, sweetie!

So how do you select which one to start with?

I usually start with the method that’s worked best for me so I’m passing on what’s impacted me and helped me the most.  Whether it’s what will ultimately work best for them or not, I am letting them see more of my walk with Jesus – and that is so important.

But there are exceptions to starting this way– especially if someone struggles with a handicap.  Once my husband was meeting with a guy who seemed so eager to get together and grow but whenever Jim would challenge him to read something, even the Bible, on his own he never did.  It was so perplexing.

Then we found out he had an extreme case of dyslexia and couldn’t read. This definitely requires adjustments!  Once that came to light Jim started having him listen to the Word – what a difference that made!!!

So again, don’t follow a set plan, follow Jesus!

It also really helps if the first method you teach is well organized and easy to remember. Not only does this help her know how to do it the next day when she is on her own, but she is more likely to pass on something simple

For example, when I teach women how to enjoy a quiet time I follow the outline: Look, Listen, Live It Out (you can read more about this in the Helps section). It’s not that this is the only way, but it’s what I’ve been doing for thirty years and benefiting greatly from!  Plus, it’s simple and easy to remember and still covers the three key parts I have found so vital for being transformed by my time with Jesus – focusing, meditating, and application.

Over and over I am amazed at how many women, after just sharing one quiet time with me turn around and do this with someone else!  I truly have found the more simple, organized and memorable something is the more likely it is to be passed on.  This is key for discipling generationally!!!

And please note, keeping it simple, isn’t just of value when you are meeting one on one with someone – if you are ever asked to give a workshop, keep it simple!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with students after they’ve attended introductory workshops on a spiritual discipline and they never got around to doing it because they were immobilized by all the options.

Instead, whether you’re doing a workshop or showing a woman one on one take time to do the discipline together!  Don’t just tell how to do something!  Model it and let it be experienced… and be amazed at how much more likely people are to do this on their own after actually doing it with you!

And, if possible, don’t just do it with her once.  We live in an information based society – where we’re always seeking something new.  And it’s easy when discipling to think – I’ve showed her once, now let’s move onto the next topic.  Remember it takes six weeks for something to become a habit.  Since the goal isn’t for her to know about spiritual disciplines, but to do them so she can be transformed as the Lord works through them, you have to take this into account!

It is not uncommon for me to dedicate at least six weeks (if not double!) focusing on one spiritual discipline.  Yep!  All we focus on week after week is doing that one discipline together, helping her not just learn how to do it, but giving opportunity for it to be incorporated into her life.

For this to happen there not only needs to be repetition, she also needs time to experience the life changing benefit of doing this so she’ll be motivated to keep doing it even after we’ve moved on to something else – or when I’m no longer around!

So keep it simple, sweetie!  This simple principle really can help you – and those you’re meeting with get off to a good start!

First Hand Joy!

Have you ever found anything?  If so, how did that make you feel?!

We use to live in Venice, Florida ~ the shark tooth capitol of the world!  Every time we walked the beach we would search and find shark teeth!  And you know, it never got old!  One time I took my son to a playground right beside the intercostal waterway and I’ll never forget looking down and discovering a two inch shark tooth!  I was so excited!!!

Now since Venice is a tourist town, you could go into any number of stores downtown and purchase shark teeth in bulk – but that was never the same as finding your own!

It’s the same with Bible study.  There is something special about discovering things first hand, rather than just being told outright.

Most Bible studies are like having someone walk along the beach with you and say, “Right there!  Look! See the shark’s tooth?”  And that is of some value, especially when you are starting out.  But there is such a deeper joy when you are completely discovering those shark teeth on your own!

And remember, when discipling women we are seeking to liberate them so they aren’t dependent upon us but equipped to be lifetime learners.

Inductive Bible study is key for people learning how to discover treasure in God’s Word on their own.  Basically there are three parts to this:  Observe, Interpret and Apply.  And there are specific tools that can help you grow in doing each.  These are simple tools.  You don’t have to go to seminary to learn how to do this.

For example, it is amazing how much more you observe just by slowing down and asking questions of the text.  But most people don’t do this, or realize what an incredible tool this is, unless specifically taught.

Howard Hendricks, who use to teach at Dallas Theological Seminary would start the semester giving his students one verse and challenging them to write as many questions regarding that verse as they could.  This is a simple exercise you can do with those you meet and if you do, be prepared to be amazed at all they discover!

In Gladys Hunt’s book Honey for a Child’s Heart she shares how she taught her children to do this.  Together they would read a short passage from the Bible and then one at a time each person in her family came up with a question about the text.  They would discuss each question before moving onto the next person and the next question.

Last year at Christmas we did this with my sister’s family.  My husband read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke and then we went around and everyone took turns asking a question.  It made for the neatest discussion!

If you’ve never done inductive Bible study before, here are three great resources that can really help you learn:

1. First Hand Joy by Rick Yohn

Shortly after Barb started discipling me, she gave me a small book entitled First Hand Joy by Rick Yohn.  Each chapter features a short exercise that helps you start learning how to study the Bible for yourself.  I tell you working through that little book not only enhanced my Bible study but every single time I read my Bible!  Through doing this I learned new tools for digging even deeper.  And did this ever yield even more treasure!  And Joy!

Sadly this book is out of print – though I just checked and there are still five copies at http://www.amazon.com/First-Hand-Joy-Rick-Yohn/dp/B001YJ8U7Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378289249&sr=8-1&keywords=First+hand+joy+rick+yohn

2.  Another favorite – much more extensive is Howard Hendricks’ Living By The Book.  http://www.christianbook.com/living-science-reading-bible-revised-updated/howard-hendricks/9780802408235/pd/408230  This is hands down my favorite resource for learning inductive Bible study.

3.  Another good book is Hans Finzel’s Unlocking the Scriptures.  http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Scriptures-Hans-Finzel/dp/0781438160/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378348469&sr=1-1&keywords=hans+finzel+unlocking+the+scriptures

I cannot recommend these books highly enough!  You can work through any of them with someone you are meeting with – but I’ve also found just working through them myself, enabled me to incorporate teaching these tools informally as I’m meeting one on one with someone.

Not only will these tools help those you meet with learn how to discover even more treasure in God’s Word for themselves, but when you are discipling for generations you want to equip them to know how to mine God’s Word for the answers to questions they’ll encounter.  These tools free them so they don’t have to run to a Christian bookstore and find a Bible study on x, y or z but when questions come up they know how to go directly to God’s Word for the answers.  And help others learn to do so too!

But it’s not just about getting answers – it’s also about joy!  For me, that’s the best motivation of all!

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NOTE:  If you would like to learn how to do inductive Bible study while studying a book of the Bible, feel free to email me at jadseekhim@msn.com and I’ll be glad to email you a copy of a study on Genesis that week by week helps you learn how to use numerous Bible study tools.  Just be forewarned, it was written to be used at a summer training program so each chapter provides enough material for anywhere from five to twelve hours of Bible study!

Learning to Learn

The original goal of a liberal arts education was to equip people so that by the time they graduated from college they would know how to study any topic on their own.  That’s why it’s called “Liberal Arts” – because the goal was to liberate people from needing someone to teach them!

Ever wonder why in college you have to take so many courses “you’re never going to use?”  It stems from this educational philosophy.  The goal wasn’t to cram content in, but to equip you with as many different learning tools possible since there are different ways of learning different topics.  Studying biology requires different tools than learning physics!

I was blessed to be discipled by Barb Choate for two years when I was in college.  But you know, Barb didn’t teach me all I needed to know for walking with Jesus these past 30 years.  What she did was lay a foundation, helping me learn how to learn from Jesus so I could keep following Him.

All those spiritual disciplines – they are not ends in themselves, but ways of learning to learn – of helping you show up for Jesus to teach you.

Having a quiet time? That’s learning to listen – a foundational part of the learning process – it all starts here!

Scripture memory?  That’s learning to remember – another key part of learning!

Fasting?  That’s learning to focus!

Praying? That’s learning to ask questions and interact with your teacher! :0)

Bible study?  That’s learning how to observe, interpret and apply!!!  Especially when you teach how to inductively study God’s Word.

So don’t feel like it all depends on you to teach someone everything they need to know when you are meeting with them. And be careful you don’t disciple in a way that promotes the person you meet with becoming dependent on you!  (btw that’s a quote from my husband!  :0) Instead, equip her with tools, helping her learn to learn from Jesus and you will be laying a foundation for a lifetime of learning!

Memorizing for Life!

When do you have a verse memorized?  It’s not when you can quote it!

You see there is short term memory and long term memory.  You can memorize something short term in just a few minutes – and forget it just as easily!  But for a verse to truly be memorized long term you need to have quoted it word perfect 100 times!  Three times a day for a month will just about get you there!

And you are much more likely to remember something that is significant to you.

This is why I love to memorize verses with those I meet with – I have found getting off to a good start can really help someone succeed in developing this discipline.

1.  When the Lord lays it on my heart to have someone memorize a verse, we start our time together praying, asking the Lord to help us not only memorize the verse but also understand it and give us wisdom to know how it can make a difference in our life.

2.  Next we read through the verse in context and then break it into phrases.  You can have so much fun with this – bring colored pens and have them create word art on a 3×5 card.  It’s amazing when you create a visual like this how it can help start you remembering.

3. Then we tackle memorizing the first phrase.  We go back and forth repeating it to each other, taking turns being the reviewer – and note when you are serving as reviewer make sure you are looking at your card so you’re certain you’re memorizing the right words.  In the midst of repeating one can easily make mistakes!!!   (Even when the verse has been memorized for over thirty years!  ;0)

If someone struggles with memorizing, I will ask the Lord to give creative ideas – either a rhythm or a song or sometimes we’ll use sign language.  It’s amazing how helpful this can be!  With one student, a dancer, she found choreographing the verse really helped her.  Did she ever get a great workout reviewing!  :0)

4.  Only after she has quoted the first phrase word perfect a couple times, will we move onto the next phrase.  We’ll seek to learn that second phrase then add it onto the first phrase and keep going back and forth saying those two phrases together.  Hearing and saying are both helpful – but again, when you are reviewing make sure you’re looking at the card!!!

5.  If she’s a kinesthetic learner we may even move around learning each phrase in a different place (this is really helpful with kids! But you’d be surprised at how even college students love this!)  You need to be thorough, but you don’t want it to be boring.

7.  So you keep adding on one phrase at a time, not stopping until the whole verse can be quoted word perfect.

8.  Then we go back to the first phrase and start asking questions about it.  The goal here is to really understand what the verse says… and what it doesn’t!

For example, when memorizing John 16:24, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name, ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete”  For that middle phrase I’ll ask, “Receive what?”  And how would it be different if the verse read, “and you will receive what you ask for?”  “So what is the Lord promising here?!”

9.  And I’ll share different cross references that can help us understand this part of the verse even more. For example, James 1:17 states “Every good and perfect gift comes from above…”

It’s vital she understands that God is the giver of good gifts.  Yet we don’t always know what’s good.  So there’s a real safety in this.  God promises whenever we ask, we will receive… something!  And because He is good, it will be good!  But if we ask for something that’s not good, we’ll still receive – you never leave the Lord empty handed! – but because He loves us and protects us it may not be what we ask for. But whatever it is will bring us joy!

10.  Each time we move to the next phrase I’ll have her review me saying the whole verse and then review her saying it.  By the time our one on one is finished, she is off to a good start towards quoting that verse 100 times!

11. The most important part of our time comes at the end when we each determine how we can apply the verse in our life during the coming week.  This is so critical!  Because once someone starts experiencing first hand the value of this verse lived out, that’s one of the strongest motivators for memorizing scripture ever!

This is why I don’t start with a lengthy discussion of why she should memorize, instead we dive in and let her discover this for herself!

12.  And we always start our time the next week sharing what happened as a result of our application!

So there are two assignments I give whenever I do this with someone – one is to do the application she’s come up with.  The other is to keep reviewing the verse.

But it’s vital neither assignment be vague.  (check out the previous post on how to make your assignments SMART)  Remember the goal is to review it 100 times so it’s lodged in her long term memory!  No one makes that goal without intentionality!  So I ask her to review her verse three times a day every day and we create boxes!  :0)  You can do this on an index card or an iphone!  Work with her to determine what will work for her.  And I really encourage you to do it with her!

Scripture memory is one of those things that seems so easy initially ~ just memorizing a verse, especially a short verse isn’t that difficult ~ but remembering it for life takes much more intentionality and effort!  Yet I have found over and over the effort is so worth it!  Because when applied, when you live out what you’re memorizing, it really does add life to your life because you don’t just know in your head that God’s Word is more precious than silver, you’ve experienced the incredible value of it first hand!