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!

So God’s Name Isn’t Reviled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started…

I’ve never been a big fan of fill in the blank Bible studies.  I’d much rather dive directly into the Word and experience the joy of first hand discovery!

But there was one fill in the blank Bible study that was absolutely life changing for me:  Henry Blackaby’s Bible study entitled, Experiencing God.  A total shift in my thinking occurred while doing this study.  I went from a “do whatever your hand finds to do for the Lord is surely with you” mentality to asking, “Where are you at work Lord? And how do you want me to join in?”  And my life, and ministry, haven’t been the same since!

You see, God is always at work!  The problem is unless we’re intentionally looking (and asking!) we sure can miss it!  For just as His thoughts aren’t our thoughts, so His ways aren’t our ways!  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I use to read Luke 2:10, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out laborers into His field” and think that field must be somewhere else!  I sure didn’t see a lot going on around me.  But when I started asking the Lord that first question, “Where are you at work, Lord?”  I was blown away at how He opened my eyes!

And then when I started asking that second question, it was amazing how many opportunities to join Him in His work came my way!!!

I recently met a woman who has been a believer for years.  As we shared about our lives and I shared about the very special women I meet with, she exclaimed, “Where are you meeting these women?!”  And I responded, “They’re just around me!”

You see, one of my all time favorite promises is found in James 1:5 where we’re told, “If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask of God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.”  God is a generous giver!  He loves to reveal things to us ~ but we need to ask!

In your desire to start discipling women, let me encourage you, take God up on His offer by asking Him daily where He’s at work and how He wants you to join in.

Nearly every time I meet a new woman I’m asking those two questions.  Sometimes He may lay it on my heart to share a verse or pray with her and that’s all.  Other times He impresses on me to ask her over for tea, to listen more.  And sometimes He guides me to women He wants me investing in long term.

I don’t always know how He’ll direct at the beginning.  It’s more like a dance with Him leading, than an assignment I run with.  But it’s always, ALWAYS far, far better than anything I ever could come up with on my own!

And truly the best part of discipling women is how we get to experience God as we do this!