Simple Treasures

Recently a guy ran up to me, “You don’t know me but I heard you speak a couple months ago and I want you to know what you shared revolutionized my time with God!”

What profound truth had I shared?

Simply that I didn’t stay in one place when I spent extended time alone with the Lord!

He’s an active guy who dreads sitting still for hours at a time, so when he heard me share how I enjoy spending extended time with God biking from one place to another in between reading chapters from the Bible, he was captivated.  “I love how you start out praying, “Where do you want me to go today, Lord?”  I’ve started doing this and now, not only do I look forward to the time but I’m doing it even more!”

Simple ideas can make a huge difference in someone’s life!

When one of the women I meet with lamented, “I’m really struggling in my prayer life…”  I shared with her how I use index cards, having one for each person the Lord places on my heart to pray for.  You wouldn’t believe the difference this simple idea is making in her prayer life and in the lives of those she’s praying for!  And as she’s passing it on to others, it’s making a difference in their lives too!

Being Active.  Index Cards.

Why did I share these ideas in the first place?  Because they are things I find helpful!

When you meet with people, don’t feel pressure that you have to have a fancy plan, loaded with info!  Don’t feel like you have to go to the experts trying to find treasure to pass on…  What is helping you follow Jesus?  Take time to consider this and then share it!

When one of my friends was discipled the woman meeting with her suggested they memorize one verse from The Navigators Topical Memory System each week, taking time to understand and discuss it, then seeking to apply it in their lives.  One verse, each week… simple.  But did this ever have a huge impact on her life!

You see, discipleship isn’t rocket science!  It doesn’t have to be difficult or complex.  It’s simply helping someone who’s decided they want to follow Jesus learn how to do this.  And one of the best ways you can do this is simply passing on what’s helping you!

The challenge is we often don’t take time to stop and think, “What is helping me follow Jesus?”

Or if we do, it’s easy to discount the value of something because it’s simple.  But remember Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.”

Little things matter.

Little things can impact lives in a BIG way!

As it says in Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings…!”



Do You Have What It Takes?!

The first time I ever met one on one with someone to spur her on in her relationship with Christ I’d only been a Christian a couple months!   I was so excited about what I was learning I simply had to share it with someone.  When I met a 12 year old at our church who seemed eager to grow we started meeting together.  I had  no idea what I was doing, but getting together to read God’s Word and talk about the Lord multiplied the joy!

Then a year later when an older woman started discipling me, I was so excited about what I was learning I asked a friend in my nutrition class if she’d like to get together so I could share this treasure with her.  She’d just become a Christian and it was such fun growing together!  And I discovered, you really do learn something better when you pass it on to someone else!

You see, you don’t need a seminary degree or years of experience to invest in other women! But Satan so loves to make us believe the lie, “You don’t have what it takes…”

But what does it take to disciple women?

1.  You need a personal relationship with Jesus!  

I’ll never forget the night I became a Christian.  When I looked at my Bible it was like reading it with new eyes!  Truly God removed blinders from my eyes and it finally made sense like it never had before!!!  At the same time God’s Holy Spirit came to live in me.  He is the wonderful counselor who is so faithful to guide and provide us with all we need to do whatever the Lord wants us doing!  And as God’s child I am heir to all His promises!  Which includes His promise for wisdom when I ask (James 1:5), guidance (Isaiah 40:11 tells us He gently leads those who have young!), strength (Phil 4:13) and provision (Phil. 4:19).  Without a personal relationship with Jesus no one can disciple for as Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing!”  (John 15:5).

2.  You need to be a disciple before you can join in with Jesus discipling someone else!

A disciple is a follower and a learner – hard to learn from someone if you don’t go where they go and do what they do.  But it’s not just someone who mentally takes in facts but who makes what’s being learned the rule of conduct for her life – someone committed to living out what the Lord is teaching her!  It is a direction, not a designation.  Even though I’m on Navigator staff, if I stop following Jesus and actively learning from Him, I’m no longer a disciple because I’m not heading in Jesus’ direction.  Discipleship is not pouring facts into someone else but rather inviting them to join you on the journey as you follow Jesus, helping them learn how to follow Him too!  Hard to take someone in a set direction if you aren’t heading in that direction yourself!!!

3.  You need God’s living Word!

Being a disciple not just about following Jesus so you can go where He goes and do what He does, but it’s about being transformed to be like Him, becoming who you truly are in Him.  This process of transformation is called sanctification.  In John 17:17  Jesus prays to the Father asking him to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  You see, I can’t change anyone, but God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12).  God even tells us in Isaiah 55: 10-11, “as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth, it will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Want to make certain your one on ones are of value?  Always include God’s Word!!!

4.  You need time!

Time to be available, both to meet with the woman you’ll be discipling and to meet with Jesus to talk with Him about her and get His input on what He’s doing in her life and how He wants you to join in!  You also need time to love her well and to share your life with her.  Truly more gets caught than taught!

5.  You need to be intentional, being willing to step out of your comfort zone!

You need intentionality even to get the ball rolling and start meeting with someone.  It’s not easy to take that first step and ask if she’d like to get together knowing she may very well refuse.  Even if she says yes, when you get together it takes intentionality to make that time profitable.  It’s so much easier to spend the whole time chatting!  But for us to get in the Word or to dive into praying or to do anything of spiritual value at all, well, sometimes it can feel like pulling teeth!  Small wonder since a battle is raging and the enemy so wants to rob both of you of making the most of this time…

But here’s the beautiful thing, whether you’ve been a Christian one day or eighty years, because of Jesus these can all be true of you!

As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God who has made us competent to be ministers of the new covenant not of the letter, but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.”

Do you have what it takes to disciple women?  By yourself, no.  No one does.  No matter how much training or experience they may have.

But God makes us competent.  And in Him, do we ever!!!

How Much Time Should You Plan for Meeting One on One with Women?

Ideally, I like to meet with the women I’m discipling for two hours each time.  I find this provides sufficient time to pray, relate and catch up, hear how her assignment from the previous time went, enjoy good time in the Word together and pass along new tools, process, give her the next assignment and end our time praying together.

But there are many factors that go into this.  For example, your personalities.  I am highly relational and my love language is quality time so two hours really works well for me. But it’s also important to determine, how much time does she have?  If you’re meeting during her lunch hour, she most likely won’t have two hours.  And if you’re working full time with other responsibilities or a mom with young children, or already discipling a number of people, you may not have two hours!

Currently I have three women I meet one on one with on a regular basis.  One I meet with every week for two hours each time, another I meet with every other week for two hours, and the third I meet with for an hour each week as this is when she’s available.  In the past there’ve been times I’ve met with people weekly for just a half hour – it’s tight and we’re certainly limited in what we do during that time, but bit by bit it has proven it can be helpful.  When that’s all you have to work with, it’s amazing how the Lord can multiply time like He did the loaves and fishes!

Remember the most important issue when determining how much time you spend meeting with someone is doing what Lord leads you to do!

Recently I’d set aside two hours to meet with a woman and our time together was one of those precious times where the Lord was so at work!  But then we finished what He’d laid on my heart to do in an hour and a half.  When I looked at the clock and saw we still had a half hour to go I decided to dive into something else – and you know, it ended up detracting from the time, not really benefitting either of us.  It would’ve been so much better if I’d ended our time early!

So again, don’t get caught up following a set time frame, follow Jesus!  Ask Him for the wisdom and sensitivity to follow Him well in this.  What a difference it can make!

Fighting Dependence!

Ever have something that started out great go sour on you?

My read through the Bible discussion group was a classic example of this.  From the start it was obvious the Lord was at work.  When two sisters joined while we were in Leviticus and then ended up not only hanging in there but becoming Christians I was blown away!  Even as we dove into the minor prophets the discussions were incredible and life change was occurring all over the place.  I thought, “If God is doing this much in the Old Testament, I can’t wait to see what He’ll do as we discuss the New!”

But as we dove into the gospels everything changed.  “I don’t get it!”  I shared with a friend, “We aren’t having the great discussions we use to have.  People seem to have stopped making application to their lives.  I don’t even know if doing this is benefitting anyone anymore!”

After inquiring further about what we did when we got together, my friend stated, “You need to stop answering questions.”

I was shocked!  But you know he was right!  When I followed his advice, great discussions resumed, people started making life applications again, and I learned soon as an answer is given discussion is killed.  What’s worse, it shifts the focus of the group from going to the Scriptures seeking to hear what the Lord wants to say to them, to reading with a questioning mindset.

You see, at that time I didn’t know as much about the Old Testament so as we read through that we were all on fairly equal footing – we just accepted there were some things we weren’t going to get this go round, so we read for what we could understand, listening to hear whatever the Lord wanted to tell us.

But when we came to the New Testament, I’d done a bunch more study on this and often knew the answers to their questions.  And the more I answered, the more they started focusing on what they didn’t understand when they read, rather than on what they did understand and what God wanted to say to them through it!

So when they showed up for our “discussion group” – well at that point it became more of a “let’s go hear how Debbie will answer this” group.  Without me intending, the focus shifted from God to me.

You see, the Bible is the Living Word.  It’s the only book you ever read with the author right there with you any place, any time you sit down to read it!  And I don’t care if you study it full time every single day of your life, there is always more to learn!  Questions can be good if they get you to slow down and spend more time observing the passage, especially if they get you interacting with the author!  But if all you do when you read is come up with a bunch of questions which you ask another person to answer you miss out on the best part – relating with the author and having your life change as a result.

Whether we are leading a Bible study or meeting one on one with someone there is a vital need to fight dependence – I don’t want those I’m meeting with to become dependent on me.  Instead my job is to help them grow in depending on God!

To do this I have to remember I am a facilitator, not their savior.  I know that may sound like a no brainer, but I’m sad to say it can be so easy to slip into seeking to be the latter.

Trust me, it’s a huge ego boost when people are hanging on your every word, as well as seeing lives change as a result of doing what you suggest.  And it sure can be fun to show off what you know – especially when it impresses people!

But imagine if you were in Kindergarten and the teacher answered every question?!  You could ace every test … and never learn a thing!

Now the purpose here isn’t to encourage you to never answer a question!  But it certainly can be wise when investing in others, to ask, “Is our time together spurring them to depend more on the Lord or on me?”  Being aware of the danger is half the battle!  The rest is dying to ego!  This is a battle and often one that rages subconsciously.

But love seeks what’s best for the other person!  Is it ever worth it when we fight against people depending on us, and fight instead for them to depend on the Lord!  Even if it requires sometimes leaving questions unanswered…




The Gift of Story

I was once challenged to write a story that presented the gospel in a creative way.  It was just a random suggested assignment at the end of a Bible study on evangelism.  Was I ever surprised when the Lord used it to bring four friends to Himself!

One time while speaking the Lord prompted me to share a story from my life regarding my own struggle with sin, afterwards I was shocked as woman after woman came up, tears streaming down, exclaiming, “I thought I was the only one!”

Another time after a friend shared the frustration she felt over constantly failing in a spiritual discipline, the Lord brought to mind a story that encouraged my heart years ago and as I shared it with her, it was beautiful to see her perspective shift and peace come.

Shared stories can be a powerful, life-changing gift. Whether they are fictional or personal, simple or complex, they have the ability to hit us straight in the heart.  They can bring conviction, hope, understanding…   Small wonder Jesus used them so profusely in his teaching.

When a lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus could’ve replied, “Whoever God brings into your life.”  But he didn’t.  And good thing too, because there’s a multitude of lessons encased in that one story!  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve had a quiet time focusing on this story in the past 30 years.  Every single time the Lord teaches me something different.

Stories stick.  Much better than platitudes or propositions.  Much better than a verse or truth told straight out.  When people share stories with me I often find myself reflecting on them.  And it’s amazing how many times the Lord will teach me something through them – though not always right away.  Some stories are like crock pot cooking, stewing inside for a good long while and then out of the blue, yielding something delicious, something of great value in my life.  And are they ever pass-on-able!

But how a story’s told is so important.  And also why!

Best way to kill a story?  Read it in monotone!  Honest!  I love books!  But I think most children’s Bibles never should’ve been written.  It’s too easy for parents to read straight from the page rather than share the stories with their kids in an engaging way!  It’s sad how we can get animated telling the story of finding a great sale at the store, but think we don’t have what it takes to tell Bible stories!

I spent more than five years teaching 2 and 3 year olds in Sunday School.  What a wonderful challenge that was!  You can’t be boring and hold their attention!  ;0)  And it’s amazing how much I learned as I shared these stories with them!  It forced me to consider what was really happening in the story as I basically acted it out – or even better involved them in acting it out!

But you know, even with college students I find sharing stories to be incredibly impactful.  What would you rather hear – someone telling you, “God gives us a wonderful promise in James 1:5 that if we ask for wisdom He’ll give it to us – you should take him up on that sometime.”  Or hearing about a single mom whose two boys were failing school and she had to work till 11 nearly every night just to support her family.  She’d never even learned how to read, but she’d sure seen the value of an education, so when the boys brought home report cards with mostly F’s, she got down on her knees and cried out to the Lord for wisdom, telling him she had no clue what to do, and He gave her an idea…  She told her sons they were no longer allowed to play after school until they’d gone to the library, read a book and wrote a report on it each week… This one idea totally turned her boys lives around – and in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the woman was Ben Carson’s mom (the famous cardiologist!).

Stories can play a key role when we are discipling someone.  Remember “telling” is one of the least effective teaching methods!  But “telling stories”  can be a whole different matter IF you follow Ephesians 4:29 where we are encouraged to speak “only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ever been trapped at a party listening to someone go on and on in detail about a story you could care less about?  That’s an example of story not being helpful. We have to be God focused and other focused when we select and tell stories.  Is the Lord prompting you to share?  And if so, for how long and in how much detail?

I love to tell stories!  So I have to be super careful or it can become all about Debbie talking about herself, or Debbie having fun performing!  Or even Debbie wanting people to value or like her.  So when a story comes to mind, I seek to ask first, “Lord is this something you want me to share?”  And then ask Him to help me share it in a way that honors Him and encourages the other person.  And as I’m sharing I try to watch the other person for clues, are they bored?  Overwhelmed?  Uncomfortable?  In truth, I don’t always get it right!  And I’m sure there are times those I meet with are thinking, “Here she goes again!”

But when the Lord is prompting me to share a story, well, that’s when I most experience the beauty of Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver!”

As you have opportunity, study the stories of Jesus, noting how and when He uses them.  He really is the perfect story teller!

And next time you’re praying about what to do when you meet with someone why not ask, “Lord, is there a story you’d have me share?”

A Disciple Making Continuum: Flexibility vs. Structure

There is not one way to disciple.  This is true not only because each person being discipled is unique, but also because every discipler is unique!

Personality, maturity, past experiences, convictions, spiritual gifting… there are so many factors that impact the way we do what we do.

Some disciplers are super structured.  They know what they want to accomplish and have a clear plan for how to get there.  Others are extremely flexible, highly relational, ready and willing to go with the flow.   In between there’s a range of possibilities!

This reality can be expressed by a continuum which features on the left “extreme flexibility,” (aka “Let’s just get together and talk…”) and on the right “extreme structure” (aka “This is THE plan!”).

There are strengths and weaknesses to both.

Consider the following:

At one extreme we have Flexible Felicity.  Her focus is primarily on building relationship.  She tends to see disciple-making as an art, with each encounter a new creative opportunity.  Her strengths can be her focus on the person, who usually feels very loved and cared for, and her flexibility may result in deep needs being met that might otherwise be missed which she intuitively may be more likely to pick up on (though this doesn’t always happen!).  A key weakness is she can easily be sidetracked and miss the goal.  Her greatest danger is to lose sight of the goal and end up spinning her wheels, perhaps even wasting the time.  When this happens does the enemy ever rejoice!

At the other extreme we find Structured Susan.  Her focus is on reaching the goal.  She views disciple-making as a science (most likely one she’s got down pat! and is very eager to help others learn to “do right”).  Her strengths are her ability to clearly articulate her goals at all times for this is primarily what she’s focusing on.  What she does in her one on ones tends to be easier to duplicate, since the more organized something is the more easily it lends itself to passing on, and what she does with people is usually measurable (ie, she knows when her plans are accomplished…at least her part of doing it!).  A key weakness is this can be impersonal and with such a heavy focus on a predetermined plan, important needs can easily be missed and people can end up feeling like a project.  The key danger here is losing the relationship!  When this happens does the enemy ever score a huge victory.

In Ecclesiastes 7:18 we’re told, “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”  Have I ever found this to be wise advice.  There can be great beauty and strength in balance!  For example, it’s vital to love well (see 1 Cor 13:1-3!), people really do grow best in the context of relationship, and to realize you are meeting with a unique individual who has unique needs, but also to understand being intentional can be a huge part of loving well.  How do you feel when someone puts effort into preparing something for you?!

My favorite part is what happens to our focus as we struggle to stay more balanced – rather than focusing primarily on the person or on the goal, I find the struggle tends to help me keep my focus primarily on God!

Can it ever help to pray through this continuum and consider where you fall on it:

Where does your personality naturally place you?

How have your past experiences influenced this, especially if you were discipled, what did that look like?

What impact has your spiritual maturity had on this?  Have you changed through the years?

Are there any convictions influencing what you do?

And how does your gifting influence this?

For example, I’m a fairly flexible, intuitive, highly creative and highly distractible person who LOVES people!!!  So on the basis of personality alone, it’s obvious I’m more likely to fall on the left of the continuum.  BUT I was discipled by a woman who was structured and had a plan so that provides balance!  Since what was modeled for me was more on the right side, I’ve experienced the benefits of that side too.

Because I’ve been discipling women for over thirty years I have a lot of tools available to use that are internalized, so if an opportunity to meet one on one with someone pops up unexpectedly I don’t need as much advance planning as I did when I was first learning how to do this.  Though without a doubt the first tool I always seek to use is prayer, because I realize no matter how much experience I have, God’s ways still aren’t my ways and I so want to walk in step with Him! (that’s a conviction that’s resulted in a set plan to pray first!)

Over the years I’ve seen one of the best ways I can help women is to faithfully spend time in the Word with them each time we meet.  With all my heart (yes, this is a deep conviction!) I believe that’s the most enriching thing I can ever do with anyone.  So I intentionally plan each week to spend focused time together in the Word.

And I have a deep conviction about spiritual generations of laborers being raised up – I want what I’m passing on that’s of value to be readily passed onto others.  I so want each woman I’m meeting with to discover the joy of doing with others what I’m doing with her!  Not only for the benefit of others – I deeply believe this is key for her finishing life well.  Does that ever spur me on to be more organized so what I do is pass-on-able!

Now hospitality is one of my gifts, so I am much more likely to seek to disciple in a warm place preferably with a cup of tea and something good to eat and to spend time at the start catching up and relationally connecting!  But the Lord has also given me a gift of teaching and often teaching well requires advance planning (like making certain I have two sets of colored pencils or copies of tools I’m introducing!  ;0) and being aware of the time (which does NOT come naturally to me) so we have enough time to do what I believe the Lord wants us doing!

So I continue to seek to grow towards being more balanced when I’m discipling women.  In all honesty, this can be a struggle!  I expect I’m always going to be more on the left side due to my personality.  But that’s not bad!  That’s a big part of how the Lord made me.  Maybe structure and planning come more naturally for you and you need to be more intentional about enjoying relationship with those you meet with.  Either way, let’s not let what comes naturally be an excuse that keeps us from growing, or from doing the best we can for the women we’re discipling!

Why I am Not a Fan of Using Devotionals for Quiet Times

I love books! As a voracious reader, I learn so much from the things people have written.  Just this past week I discovered a new Christian used book store here in town on my date with Jesus and I was like a kid in a candy shop!  I bought three books after putting four back (had to limit myself because I was on my bike with only a small backpack!) and devoured the first one that night!

So please understand… I do believe there is much value in reading the thoughts of others – but not during a quiet time!  With all my heart I believe this should be a sacred time, enjoyed daily, directly with the lover of your soul.

Yes, the Lord can and does speak to us in a number of ways.  He is an incredible communicator!  But I have found keeping my quiet time limited to the Lord, His Word and me during that special time makes such a difference in my life!


a.  Enjoying a quiet time this way is relational!

Now I’m well aware there are many who will disagree with me regarding the use of devotionals for Quiet Times.  And that’s totally fine! (I am not at all saying I think it’s wrong to do this, just not generally wise if its taking the place of you going directly to God’s Word – though if Jesus leads you to do this, by all means follow Him!!!)  But I know my dates with my husband wouldn’t be the same if someone else came along and I just listened to this person, no matter how wise or eloquent he was, tell me what he thought about what my husband said.  For a counseling appointment or at a dinner party that’s fine, but on a date I want to hear and experience Jim directly! :0)  And it’s the same in my times with the Lord.

b.   Enjoying a quiet time this way promotes growing in dependence on the Lord… not other people

I believe this is especially important when following up a new or young believer. Remember how 1 Peter 2:2 talks about how key “pure spiritual milk”  (or as the KJV says “the sincere milk of the Word”) is for growing?  A daily quiet time is a prime time for taking this in.

It’s so easy for young believers to develop a dependence on other people, to let others do their thinking for them, and then to be intimidated by how well written or how brilliant the thoughts in the devotional are and think, “I could never come up with anything like that.” So instead of directly learning to listen to the Holy Spirit teach them from His Word, they become dependent on people.

c.  Enjoying a quiet time this way helps people grow in valuing God’s Word

The Bible is not another book among books.

2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And we’re told in Hebrews 4:12 “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.  It penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

And in 2 Peter 1:20 we’re told, “But know this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

And in Isaiah 55 the Lord himself pleads, “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” and then He compares His Word to the rain watering the earth and promises, “So is my Word that goes out of my mouth it will not return to me void, but will accomplish the purpose I have for it.”

What other book is like this?!!!

As I often say, my words are like .5 cents compared to God’s Word being a million dollars.  So let’s say the words of the most eloquent, mature Christian writer are worth $20.  What’s that compared to God’s Word?!  If I really care about someone don’t I long for them to maximally be enriched?!!!

d.  Enjoying a quiet time this way can help us learn in small bites to meditate on God’s Word and apply it

It’s work learning to meditate on God’s Word and diligently apply it.  This is why a daily quiet time is a discipline and as Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who’ve been trained by it.”  Did you catch that?  No discipline! Not one!  So this is not an easy thing to integrate into your life.

Reading a book can be a whole lot easier!  For me, reading is like a sweet reward.  It’s what I do to relax, refresh, recharge.  It’s all too easy to take the easy route – and really miss out!

Remember for growth you can’t “just read.” There also needs to be meditating on what you’re reading and then application.  Otherwise you end up like the foolish builder in Matthew 7 whose house came crashing down because it was built on sand.  This foolish man heard the Word, he just didn’t do anything in response to it!

It’s so easy to just read books and not do anything with what you’re reading.  (Granted, it’s easy to do this with God’s Word, too.  I can’t stress enough how vital practical application of God’s Word is!  So I will concur someone who takes whatever morsel of God’s Word they find in a devotional and meditates on it and actively applies it in a life changing way is better off than someone who reads multiple chapters from their Bible each day and does nothing with it!  But why settle for this when you can go directly to God’s word and reap maximum benefit?!)

e. Enjoying a quiet time this way becomes a time of experiencing the Lord!

Just as when I meet with someone, it’s so much more valuable if they discover something rather than me telling them – so I want them to experience the joy of God opening their eyes so they can see wonderful things in His Word!  This is a powerful way of experiencing the presence and wisdom of the Lord.  He really is an amazing communicator.  What a difference it can make in our relationship as well as our lives when we experience this first hand!

f.  Enjoying a quiet time this way is transformational not simply informational!

In America, we are so caught up with knowing information.  And sadly it’s so easy to mistake knowing something in our heads with truly being transformed by it!  God’s Word has such power to transform our lives as we live it out.  Far better to have a simple thought from God’s Word that you live out and changes you, rather than the most brilliant thought that simply fills your brain.

Yes, there are many devotionals that contain incredible thoughts.  I have benefitted greatly from the writings of Oswald Chambers, especially.  But please note he didn’t deliver these as quiet time material.  His wife faithfully wrote down what he shared in messages!

It’s fine to read writings like these and you may benefit greatly from them – but I highly recommend reading them as you would any other book and saving your quiet time for special time enjoying and interacting directly with Jesus through His Word!

(NOTE:  for more information on a simple but highly transformational way of structuring quiet times with an emphasis on meditation and application, check out the article “The Treasure of Shared Quiet Times” found in the “Helps!” section)

Follow Up vs. Discipleship

“I am so frustrated!!!”  My friend exclaimed, “Sometimes she does what I ask her and other times not!  I never know what to expect!”

One thing that can help eliminate this frustration is understanding the difference between follow up and discipleship.

When someone first becomes a Christian, Jesus uses the analogy of a baby to describe them.  What do babies need?  To be fed, cared for, protected, given lots and lots of love… and to have their diapers changed!

In Ephesians Paul describes young Christians like infants tossed on the waves, not very stable and steady.  But in Hebrews 4:12 the believers are admonished, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God.  You need milk, not solid food.”  Unlike physical babes, maturing isn’t guaranteed for believers!

This is why we are encouraged to grow (Ephesians 4:15, 2 Peter 3:18)  and 1 Peter 2:2 points out how critical God’s Word is for helping us do this.  A basic fact for both physical as well as spiritual growth – you need to eat for this to happen!  But babies often won’t eat on their own.  What a difference it makes when they have someone help them eat and then learn to feed themselves.

When Billy Graham’s crusades started taking off and thousands upon thousands were coming to know Christ, he became concerned.  What was happening to all these people afterwards?  Dawson Trotman also encountered this same dilemma after picking up a hitchhiker.  When he shared the gospel, the guy prayed to receive Christ!  A year later while sharing the gospel again Daws realized this was the same hitchhiker from the year before – his life hadn’t changed one bit.  That’s what got Dawson on the track of seeing the need for follow up.  What a difference it made when someone came alongside a new believer helping him!  Hearing of this, Billy Graham came to Dawson and asked for help developing a plan for “following up” those who became Christians at his crusades.

So follow up is helping a young believer grow.  But what’s the goal?  What are you shooting for as you do this?  And how will you know when you’ve accomplished this goal?

You want to see them become a disciple of Jesus!  The Greek word for disciple, μαθητης literally means a follower and a learner.  Not just one who acquires head knowledge, but one who takes what is being learned and makes it the conduct for her life!  We want her to follow Jesus so she can learn from Him and increasingly become like Him, joining in with what He’s doing, bearing fruit for the Father’s glory!

Now in countries where there is extreme persecution of believers, when someone becomes a Christian, they have to be a disciple because to openly declare they are following the Lord, they have to be ready to die for Him.  But here in cushy, materialistic America that’s a bit more difficult.  Usually there is a process people go through before they are ready to die to themselves and commit to follow Jesus wherever He goes, doing whatever He wants them to do, whenever He wants them doing it.

Also, before someone is ready to say to the Lord, “Not my will, but yours be done” she needs to be able to trust His way really is better!  And that He is able to do a better job guiding her life than she is!  In our broken and fallen world, where people’s trust has been violated and hearts have been wounded this can be hard to do!

So here’s the kicker – you have to be a disciple before you are ready to be discipled!  A disciple is a follower and learner.  To follow someone you have to go where he goes and do what he does – and not just when he happens to be going the way you want to go!  But you won’t come to the point of surrender, where you’re ready to follow Jesus even when your heart is screaming to go the other way, until you learn to trust Him.  So follow up is not only helping someone lay a solid foundation for a lifetime of relating with Jesus, it’s helping her grow in trusting Jesus so she will become His disciple!

This takes us back to our analogy of a baby.  All babies need to eat.  But not all food is equally nutritious!  This is also true spiritually!

Think of devotionals as watered down food. They are akin to someone sharing what God’s been teaching them.  You can learn a lot from listening to others share, but don’t let this take the place of feasting on the pure milk of the Word!  Even brand new baby Christians can do this!  The key is how it’s served!

I don’t think I ever bought a single jar of baby food.  When my son was ready for solid food, I took some of what we were eating, pulverized it with a food processor and fed that to him.  The same food in small bits can be so nourishing to a child!

This is why I love having shared quiet times with new believers.  We’ll start with a sweet psalm of adoration (as opposed to the psalms of lament – which are wonderful!  but harder to digest!) and just select one verse to camp out in.  After they’ve done this for a while, and started incorporating it as a daily part of their life, then they are ready for some meat!

How do you grow in trusting someone?  By experiencing them doing what they say they’ll do.

This is where we realize how very great and precious God’s promises truly are!  God never had to promise us anything!  But he does.  And a key reason why is so we will have opportunity to experience Him being faithful to do what He said He’ll do ~ and grow in trusting Him.  One of the best things you can ever do with someone is help her learn one promise each time you meet, discuss it so she truly understands what God has and hasn’t promised and then encourage her, how will she take God up on this offer so she can experience Him?  Then the next time you meet ask how it went as she did this.

I am telling you folks, this is like miracle grow!!!

(for more specifics on how to do this, see the article in the Helps section entitled “Promise based Follow up”)

Now as she grows at times she may look like she’s following Jesus, but where the rubber meets the road is what does she do when God leads in a different direction than where she really wants to go?  This almost always involves a crisis, where she reaches a fork in the road and a key decision has to be made – will she go Jesus’ way or her own way?  It’s a crisis because it usually involves something very dear to her.

For me, it happened when the Lord asked me to give up my major in college and follow Him studying whatever He wanted me to (and He didn’t tell me at first what that would be!).  Now I’d always been one of those people with a ten year plan.  I was studying broadcast journalism and already hosted a television show for two years and had just been appointed the Assistant Programming Director for a radio station.  How I wrestled as the Lord made it so clear He wanted me to walk away from all this.  Then one day, in July of 1983, I came to the point of surrender, left that job and became “undeclared” in my major.  At that moment I became Jesus’ disciple.  I didn’t know where we were going, but I was committed to following Him each step of the way.

That was one big, “Yes!” that every day needs to be followed by smaller yeses!  And it doesn’t mean I always get it right. But it’s a direction I’m heading and by the grace of God I pray I keep heading throughout the rest of my days!

So you follow up someone until she is ready to follow Jesus wholeheartedly!  And then the adventure of discipling begins, of helping her learn what it means to follow someone she can’t see and helping her persevere even when all hell breaks loose because Satan is so not happy about this!

But oh the joy it brings Jesus!!!  :0)

The Wisdom of Questions

If someone came up to you and asked, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?”  how would you respond?

Would you dive in sharing the bridge or another illustration?   Ask them if they’d like to start reading through the book of John with you? Share your personal testimony?

At different times I’ve done each of these.  But here’s the crazy thing… that’s not what Jesus did!

He responded with a question!  (Matthew 19:16)

In fact, if you read through the gospels, nearly every time Jesus is asked a question, he responds with a question!

Not only can this help to clarify what the person is asking, it also engages them in dialogue, drawing them into the conversation.

This is not only helpful when doing evangelism, but especially when discipling someone.  There’s a fascinating  verse in 1 John 2:27, “But you have received the Holy Spirit and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true.  For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true – it is not a lie.  So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

Once someone has entered into a relationship with Jesus, she has His Spirit living within her.  And God’s Spirit is so faithful to do what He’s promised to do – to teach us… if we’ll listen.  Over and over I am amazed at how true this verse is.

As I grasp the reality of this I realize my main job in discipling someone is not to teach her, but to come alongside and encourage her to remain in fellowship with Christ, to help her learn how to place herself in a position where she is able to hear what God wants to teach her and to help her learn to persevere in doing this.

A great way to do this is to ask questions – and teach her to ask questions.

The first question I ever ask before meeting with someone is of God, “What do you want me doing with this woman today?  How can I come alongside her and join in with what you’re doing?”

Then I seek to start our time asking questions about how she’s doing.  I recently met with a precious young woman who wanted to learn about forgiveness.  When I asked how she was doing she started to weep and share some painful things she was wrestling with.  It quickly became apparent learning about forgiveness was not the main reason the Lord brought us together.  When I asked, “What lies do you think the enemy is trying to get you to believe right now?” what followed was one of the most amazing one on ones I’ve had.  And I mostly listened!  Then together we considered the truth God gives in His Word to combat those lies.  And yes, we ended up in the last ten minutes talking about forgiveness as it tied in with what she was struggling with but do you see?  Without asking questions I so easily could’ve missed out on what the Lord really wanted for our time!

When I’m having a shared quiet time with someone I’m helping her learn to ask, “Where do you want me to focus today in your Word, Lord?”  “What do you want to say to me through this?” and “What difference do you want this to make in my life?”

You don’t have a daily quiet time to “be a good  Christian”  or to earn God’s favor.  You have one because this is an incredible way to learn to listen to the Lord and remain in fellowship with Him, so when He wants to teach you something you’re picking up on it and developing the discipline of responding and doing what He teaches you!  I cannot stress how radically life changing this is!!!

Now while I initially may “teach” them what I do, note the focus is on them showing up to learn from the Lord.  This helps them grow in their dependence on Him and not on me!

I need to be careful because it can be a heady thing having someone ask for your advice or ask you how to do something.  My pride loves to demonstrate what I know.  It’s so easy for that to kick in without me even realizing it and suddenly a one on one becomes a monologue.

But you know, when I take time to ask questions that really helps save me (and the woman I’m meeting with!) from this!

Plus it’s amazing how many times when I respond with a question I discover what she really is asking is rather different from what I first thought!

Good question asking is a skill.  It’s so much easier to “tell.”  But I have been amazed at how much more effective it is when my questions help people discover on their own the answer the Holy Spirit is giving them.

The good news is this is something anyone can grow in!  So I’m asking God for the grace to be more like Him in this.  And as I do, what a difference it’s making in my discipling!

It is finished!

One of the things I love about meeting with people is the way the Lord speaks to me and teaches me and challenges me through our time!

Just this morning I was camping out in Genesis 2 with a friend, showing her how when I pray through the scriptures I find it really helps if that flows out of rich time interacting with the Lord in them and then like to keep Him my focus as I pray.  So we started with a shared quiet time, then together prayed our way verse by verse through Genesis 2.  We didn’t make it past the first few verses when the Lord started speaking to me.  That whole idea of being finished just jumped right off the page!

You see, I never feel finished!  At the end of every day as I take time to process my day with the Lord I’m nearly always asking forgiveness for all I didn’t get done.  Just this past week I began to wonder about that.  After reflecting on the sweet things that took place I journaled, “…but there was so much more I could’ve done.  I wonder, am I off in my expectations?  Or am I sinning?  Because of my handicap I feel so tired after meeting with people and just want to veg.  Is that a reasonable expectation?  Yet there’s still so much undone…”

Even when I “finish” something, well there’s a long “to do” list waiting so I usually dive into the next thing.

Genesis 2 begins, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Now God is still at work…  in my life, in the lives of those around me, all over this world!  So it doesn’t mean he finished all He was ever going to do.  But when the heavens and earth were finished and all the host of them, he stopped.  He rested.  And it was a blessed, holy thing.  He set a day apart to do this.

I wonder what difference it might make in my life if periodically after finishing I take time to acknowledge what’s been done, to evaluate, to delight in it, rather than rushing on to the next thing?!  God took time every day at the end of each day to do this.  At the end of the fourth day, He wasn’t bemoaning, “I didn’t get the fish created today!”  But celebrating the lights He had made and how He’d separated the light from the darkness.  Then at the end of six days He took extra time, a whole day to rest and enjoy!

This is so not the pattern of this world!  Or sadly, my world!  I thought, “Today, I’m going to take some time to write down what I’ve finished this past week and celebrate that it got done!”  But you know, I found it hard to remember what I’d finished…

My friend shared how she uses a post it app to keep track of what she needs to do.  As soon as something is accomplished it’s deleted.  And we wondered, how might we be missing out by not taking time to reflect on and celebrate what we’ve accomplished?!  I think I’m going to start keeping a list of what I finish each day!

And really I should be in awe that anything gets done at all!  In Genesis 2: 7 we’re told, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature.”  Did you catch that?  We came from dust!  It’s a miracle we can do anything!

Once again it seems the enemy has incited my pride and is royally robbing me because of it.  I think more highly of myself than I ought and as a result I expect more from myself, rather than realizing, even washing the dishes is a miracle!  What expectations do you have for the dust on your coffee table?!

So I wrote in my journal on top of the page where I’ll be recording my end of the day prayers tonight, “Look what dust formed by God did!  Isn’t God amazing?!”  Because really this is all about Him.  His works are wonderful!  He is the breather, the life giver, the enabler!

And He is a finisher, evaluator, delighter, blesser and rester!  How I long to keep growing and becoming more like Him!  Did He ever give me new insights today in how I can…

Got to love the way I’m being discipled as I meet with others!  :0)