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!!!

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?”

I Can’t Do That!

Precious Friend:  But I can’t memorize scripture?

Me:  What do you mean?

Precious friend:  I have a horrible memory.  Trust me, I’ve tried so many times to memorize verses and there’s just no way I can do it.

Me: (turning to Philippians 4:13)  Would you mind reading me this verse?

Precious Friend:  (reading) I can do every thing through Him who gives me strength.

Me:  Do you think that includes Scripture memory?

Precious Friend:  Um, maybe….?!

Me:  Why don’t we start by asking Jesus to help us!

And as we pray the idea comes to ask Him to give us a tune to help us learn the verse.  And He does!  Right there on the spot, phrase by phrase, He gives us music to help us memorize.  Oh, it won’t win any Grammy’s but here’s the best part ~ two years later I get a text from my son’s girlfriend, a sophomore at the University of Florida:

“Hey!  You aren’t going to believe this!  I just got together with one of the freshmen in my Bible study and while we were doing scripture memory, she starts singing one of the verses and I’m like, “That’s really neat.  Do you always sing to remember verses?”  And she said, “No.  When my older sister was a student at the University of South Florida she use to meet with this lady and this is how she taught her the verse.”  By any chance was that you?!”

Not only did my precious friend memorize the verse, but she taught it to her younger sister… who still remembered it years later!  How cool is that?!!!

Not only does this highlight how helpful singing can be when doing scripture memory, it also illustrates the truth, “Things that are impossible with men are possible with God”  (Luke 18:27)

It’s not uncommon for people to be resistant when they think they can’t do something.  But not only is the Lord an amazing enabler, He’s also a great idea giver!  As it says in James 1:5  “If any of you lacks wisdom He should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.”  I frequently pray this while I am meeting with someone, especially when there is resistance.

But here’s the crazy thing, opportunities like this are not only great for helping someone overcome their resistance, but also to help people grow in relying on the Lord!

Now I know Philippians 4:13 relates specifically to Paul learning to be content, but in truth it also represents a principle I have found to be true ~ When we rely on the Lord, asking Him for help to do what He wants us to do, as it says in 2 Corinthians 9:8  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work!”

May we make the most of every opportunity to encourage those we disciple to rely on Him.  Can’t never could.  But the One who created the world and everything in it, is so able to enable us to do whatever He wants us doing!

And yes, that even includes scripture memory!