Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Seeds of Love

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry 
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song
Songwriters: Rev. Benton Vespew Ellis
The Love of God lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

God loves us! In fact, God created us in love. He created us to love and to love Him back. So, what is love? Unfortunately, we bandy around the word “love” making it so common place that many people don’t have any idea of what love really is. For, we say things like, “I love chocolate”, “I just love that new iced coffee drink,” or “I love the color on that car”. That type of expression about love, though, is not really “love”. Love is more than an expression, and it is more than a feeling. For, true love requires action and is shown by the actions of love that we express toward others whom we profess to love. Moreover, true love can grow stronger over the years as we continue to express loving actions toward the other person whom we have professed to love. That is why, long-time married couples often tell their spouse that they love them more today than they did when they first got married. Indeed, love grows deeper and greater the more that we express our love.

The greatest love of all, though, is the love that is expressed by God to His children. Just look around at the beautiful world that God created in His love for us. But there are even more ways that God’s love has been expressed for us. However, it is hard for humans to comprehend, let alone understand, the depth of God’s love for us. Even with our glorious gift of Salvation, most of us cannot understand the depth of love that God expressed to us in sacrificing His only Son so that we would not have to spend eternity in hell upon our physical death here on earth. Moreover, we often take for granted the love that God has for us even when God expresses His love in His answers to our prayers, in blessing us and in providing for us. But, for those that have not yet accepted God’s loving gift of Salvation, there is no understanding at all of God’s love for them. However, for those of us who have received the gift of Salvation, there is just the beginnings of our understanding about God’s love. Unfortunately, we still just can’t completely comprehend it.

 The Apostle John wanted us to understand God’s love, so he wrote about God’s love for us. John wrote specifically about God’s love in the book of I John.  It is in I John 4: 7-19, where we discover that God’s love is the source of all human love. We also learn that we can focus on God’s love for us by showing God’s love to others through our own actions. For, in verses 11-12, John wrote: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much (sending his Son to die for our sins), we surely ought to love each. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love has been brought to full expression through us. And God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us.  But it is in verses 16-17 where John tells us that “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So, we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.”

Still, even with John’s explanation of God’s love it is hard for us to understand the depth of God’s love for us; both the love He gave in creating us and the love it took to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us. Notice that both those things required God’s overt action in order to express His love. However, we truly can’t comprehend the depth of God’s love for us until we recognize what it took (the sacrificial love it took) for God to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to His horrible death on the cross even knowing that it would be through Christ’s subsequent resurrection from the grave that we would no longer have to face eternal death and destruction. Until we understand that it is only through God’s love and through His loving sacrificial action of sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross and that it is only through Christ’s resurrection that each of us can be saved, we will not completely comprehend God’s love. Only when those of us who believe on Christ and those of us who are truly born-again finally reach Heaven to spend eternity with God will we finally comprehend the depth of God’s love for us.

The Apostle Paul also tried to explain the greatness of God’s love for us in Ephesians 3: 17-19. Here Paul said, “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how long, know high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.” Paul is telling us that it is through our Salvation that we can experience the love of Christ, yet that Christ’s love is so great that we will never fully comprehend it.

Then for those of us who have truly accepted Christ as our Savior, the Apostle Paul gave us this assurance in Romans 8: 38-39: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the power of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow! What an assurance even if we can’t comprehend God’s love for us.

From the above verses we have learned at least four things. One that God is the source of all love. Secondly, we have learned that God’s love was shown through the sacrificial action of the giving of His Son to save us from eternal damnation. Third, we have learned from within the Gospels that Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to love others, for everything that Christ did in His life and death was supreme love in action. And, last but not least, we have learned that for those who are Saved, nothing can separate us from the Love of God.

Relationships and God’s Love

Did you know that just as God lovingly created humans that God also created the concept of relationships? Well, He did. In fact, the Bible tells us in Genesis 1: 27 that we are all created in the image of God. This doesn’t mean that we look exactly like God. For, an image can be a reflection without being an exact picture of someone. Obviously, humankind is not an exact picture of God, because we are all so very different in so many ways. However, in creating us, God wanted us to have some of His attributes, especially the attributes that He thought would not only help us in life but that would also allow us to enjoy each other as well as certain attributes that would allow us to communicate and respond to Him in love. So, God gave humans the ability to love other people, just as God loves us.  He also gave us the ability to develop relationships with other people and to be able to use those relationships to express our love, help, compassion, concern, and kindness toward others.

God, understood our need for loving and kind relationships, because God, Himself, is in a relationship with the other essences of the Trinity of God, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who are all in a loving relationship with each other. So, in creating humankind God knew that relationships would be an important part of our being created in His image. Moreover, without the ability to form relationships, humans could not have a relationship with the Trinity in which we could express our love, our honor, and our praise for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Moreover, without the ability to form a relationship with Christ our Savior, we could not be Saved and share the Gospel message with others. Furthermore, without the ability to form relationships we would not be able to express love to others or be able to receive love from another person.

So, first and foremost, we were all created to be in a relationship with God and created to able to be in relationships with other people. The relationship that we have with God enables us to live in this fallen world, because we know that God and His love will help and bless us even within all the trials and sorrows we may have to face. Moreover, with our Salvation relationship with Christ, we have the certain knowledge that we will someday spend a glorious eternity with the Trinity of God. However, it is within all the other relationships, which we form here on earth, that we are able to discover that God has given us people to love and to love us back. These relationships give us people talk to, people to lean upon, and people with whom we can intellectually bounce ideas around, as well as giving us people who will come along side of us in times of despair. 
Indeed, we often need another person to come along side of us to comfort and encourage us at specific times in our lives, and to provide compassionate, loving, and caring relationships for our needs. In fact, no person is an island in and unto himself in this life here on earth. That is why relationships are the key to maintaining a healthy, happy, and interesting life here on earth. But how do we develop our relationships?

God Plants Relational Seeds of Love Between Humans

God plants relational seeds between people to help people navigate this world, as well as to give us opportunities to express love, kindness, compassion, concern, and caring toward another person. But, God also plants these relational seeds between people in order to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. So, what are these relational seeds that God plants? Well, God plants seeds of godly love. Eventually, the planted seeds of love develop and grow into a Christian’s understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” At other times, God’s a single planted seed of love often matures into a loving relationship between two people that has the love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the foundation of their life.

When the seed of love is then planted in the soil of service to Christ, Christian mentoring relationships or other evangelical relational services can start to grow with brotherly love and with the love of Christ as the focus. But it takes the right kind of watering, fertilizing, and nurturing for God’s seeds of love to germinate and develop into a Christ-centered fruit bearing relationships that are based upon the love of Christ. That is why the type of watering, fertilizing, and nurturing that is needed includes, but is not limited to: care, concern, patience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

The Seeds of Love

Throughout God’s Love Story, i.e., the Bible, we read over and over again how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love Him and others. Here are just a few examples of some verses in the Bible that speak about the importance of having the seeds of love in our lives.

I Corinthians 13: 3 from The Message says: “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

2 John 1: 6 from the New Century Version of the Bible says: “Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is this: Live a life of love.

In Galatians 5: 14 of The Living Bible Translation, the scripture reads: “The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love others as you love yourself.’”

I Peter 2: 17 says: “Show respect for everyone. Love your Christian brothers and sisters.”
In John 13: 35 in The Living Bible we read that Jesus said, “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Then, in I Corinthians 14: 1 the Apostle Paul tells us to: “Let love be your greatest aim.”

Why do you think that the Word of God speaks so much to us about the love that we are to espouse for each other and for Christ? Well, it is because God wants us to not only love Him, but to let our entire lives be focused on Christian godly love toward others. To answer this question even better, turn to 1John 3: 16. Here the Apostle John says, “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” In other words, real love can be seen in our selfless and sacrificial giving actions. Even the sacrificial giving of our time to help mentor another through Active Relational Christian Mentoring can be an expression of real love. Remember, though, real love does not expect anything in return. However, Jesus said, “… if you give a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”  -- (Matthew 10: 42. NLT). In other words, God’s relational seeds of love when watered, fertilized, and nurtured, will bring the action of love into focus and its growth will be rewarded. For Jesus is telling us that God notices every kind and caring deed that we do. Even the loving act of giving a cup of cold water to one of Christ’s followers will be rewarded. If in godly love, we help another, it is as if we are showing our love to God. Put another way, our treatment of others actually shows God how much we love Him.

Finally, in John 13: 34 (NLT), we learn that Jesus expects us to love as He loves us. For, Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” In other words, we are to love others with the same type of sacrificial love that Jesus showed to us by going to the cross. That doesn’t mean that we are expected to die for another even though some people will do so. But, it means that Jesus was a living example of God’s love for us, so we are now to be a living example of Christ’s love to those we encounter. This means that instead of focusing on self, we are to focus on what we can do to show our Christian love to others.

Christ-Centered Relationships and Seeds of Love

Our Christ-centered relationships, which are based upon God’s seeds of love, should eventually produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God, whether it is from a Christian mentoring relationship (ARCM), a friendship, a spousal relationship, a work-related relationship, or within the relationships that are made in the missionary field for Christ. Just think! From God’s relational seeds of love that we in turn plant in the soil of Christian service, to the sharing of our knowledge of God and His Son and their love for us, great and wonderful things can happen for the glory of Lord and for the other woman within a mentoring relationship that we have established. For, when the mentor shares her talents and resources (as needed), the mentor can develop a wonderful fruit-producing Christ-centered relationship with the mentee that will empower the mentee to be so much more for God, herself, her family, and her friends. Ultimately, the mentoring process becomes a “… planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” – (Isaiah 61:3. NIV).

That particular verse is taken from the book of Isaiah. I will end this posting with the first three verses of Isaiah 61 so that you can see how we are to use God’s seeds of love to help others. First, this is a prophetic message given to Isaiah about the coming Messiah. So, Jesus read these verses while He was in Nazareth in the synagogue there, to indicate that this prophetic message regarding Christ the Messiah as the Servant of God was that day fulfilled in Him. In fact, these three particular verses give us a picture of the Spirit of God resting upon and anointing the Servant of God, Jesus Christ, to accomplish specific tasks, which He did accomplish. But, secondly, before Jesus went back to Heaven, He commissioned His disciples to bring the Good News of Salvation to all nations. In other words, the apostles and now those of us who are followers of Christ have been given the responsibility of sharing the Good News, i.e., the Gospel message, to other people. We can do this by showing God’s love to others through our loving servant-oriented actions and words. The Apostles became God’s servants and ambassadors for Christ and now we, too, are to become God’s servants and ambassadors who are willing to share the love of God and the Good News of Christ’s loving gift of Salvation with everyone who will listen. Following are the verses from Isaiah 61: 1-3 of the NIV.

“1. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
2. To proclaim freedom for the captives,
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
3. And provide for those who grieve in Zion –
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Although Christ, is the Servant that is being referred to in this prophecy, as “born-again” Christian servants of Christ’s, I believe that we, too, have been anointed, i.e., we have also been given the specific purpose of bringing the Good News to the poor. We can do this by developing relationships and by watering and nurturing the seeds of love that God has planted for those relationships. In addition, we have been given the specific purpose of reaching out to the captives with the Good News, which could mean that we are to reach out to either actual captives in prisons or to those who are captives within their own emotional prisons. In either case, we can share the loving Gospel message with them.

In these three verses, the prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s Servant, i.e., Jesus Christ, as setting the prisoners free. The freedom that Christ proclaimed to the prisoners could mean that they were literally released from bondage like when Peter was released from prison supernaturally as recorded in Acts 12: 1-19, but it could also mean that the Christ brought the prisoners from the darkness of sin and oppression to the light of Salvation and happiness. Obviously, we cannot literally set prisoners free. However, we can visit the prisons and share the Good News by mentoring those that need to hear the Good News of Christ. As “born-again” servants of Christ, we can share the light of Christ with those who are in bondage, thus expressing God’s love to them and letting them know that God wants them to be free from sin.

In verse 2, “the Year of the Lord’s favor” refers to the Day of Jubilee, which was to come every 50 years and was to be the clearing away of all debts and the healing for the land. Although the Day of Jubilee is no longer celebrated as such, God expects His commandments to be followed, including the celebration of the Day of Jubilee. That is why there was reference to “the Year of the Lord’s favor” in this prophecy. But, never forget that God keeps track of the years even if we do not. Moreover, there will be a Day of Jubilee in the future.

Within the second verse, “the Day of vengeance of our God” refers to God’s future judgment, which we can read about within the book of Revelation. Certainly, we can be assured that Christ explained both the Day of Jubilee and the Day of vengeance to His disciples while He was here on earth, although many, except the eleven closest to Him at that time, did not listen to Him. But, the apostles who believed on Christ understood that they were to continue sharing the Truth of God’s coming vengeance or judgment with everyone who would listen. And now as Christ’s followers we are to also continue to share the Word of God and God’s Truth, including the day of judgment, with those within our sphere of influence or with those with whom we have the ability to develop a godly relationship. In fact, everyone needs to know that Christ will come back to judge the people of this earth who have not accepted Christ as their Savior. For, there will indeed be a judgment day! That is why we must share the Good News with everyone we can.

In verse three, we discover that Christ while here on earth came to comfort those who grieved. So, just like Christ comforted those who grieved and mourned, we, too, are to comfort those who mourn. We are to show compassion, godly love, and understanding to those who have lost a loved one. Obviously, Christ did and will also again transform their mourning into joy, by giving them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes” just as He did for those who were mourning for Lazarus. In such a situation, those who mourned would have been given a festive oil and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Obviously, we cannot do that, but we can be there for those who are suffering and mourning. We can hold their hands and comfort them. And, for those whose loved ones have indeed gone on to be with God because of their wonderful Salvation, we can rejoice with their loved ones!

All the services that we perform for God through the seeds of godly love and our willingness to share with others the Good News, our talents, our gifts, and our abilities to help others will lead to God’s seeds of love growing into wonderful glorious plants, i.e., relationships that give God all the glory and honor which He so richly deserves. The relational seeds of love that God has planted between His children will then become a “planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor.”

Active Relational Christian Mentoring as explained in my book, The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring, is a great way to grow and nurture the relational seeds of love that God wants us to fertilize and nurture for Him. You can do it! You can reach out to another woman and be there for her. You can share your knowledge, talents, and gifts easily by giving just a few minutes of your time a week. Just think! You could empower another woman to be all that she can be for God, herself, her family and her friends. You can do it. And if you want to know how easy it is to become a Christian mentor who can empower another woman, read my book which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, iTunes, Google Play, and at Christian Book Publishing Company.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Discipleship and Spiritual Guidance in Christian Mentoring

The Scriptures say, “People do not live by bread alone,
But by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
– Matthew 4:4.

It is just amazing to me that Christians can be so excited when another person finally accepts Christ as their personal Savior, but then we leave that person alone to flounder around trying to learn what God wants them to know. Generally speaking, no one comes along side of them to help them in their spiritual growth and maturity. They receive little or no discipleship or spiritual guidance through Christian mentoring. Why is that? Well, as long-time Christians we just assume that everyone who comes to Christ on a Sunday morning in our church has probably had a strong church-oriented background of youth and adult Sunday school, sermons, and growth groups on which to base their understanding of what it means to live their life for Christ. And, even if a person is saved either inside or outside of our church, many Christians often feel that they did their part in sharing the Gospel message and now it is up to the newly Saved to find out on their own how to live for Christ daily, i.e., if they think about it all. Sadly, many new Christians have no one to come along side of them and teach them about the Word of God, which is the bread of life.
How selfish, unloving, and uncaring can we be? Is this how Christ wants us to act? I don’t think so!

Christ, not only expects us to share the Gospel, but He expects us to teach His Word, i.e. the bread of life to new Christians. We know this because before being crucified Jesus Christ prayed to His Father that His disciples would be kept from the evil one as they lived in this world and as they shared with others the Gospel message. Then, Christ prayed saying to His Father: “They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  -- (John 17: 17, 18. NLT). In other words, Christ wanted His disciples to learn God’s words of truth so that they could share those words of truth with new believers too. Later, it is the author of the book of Hebrews, who succinctly explained the importance of studying, learning, and knowing the Word of God. He said, “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.” – (Hebrews 4: 12. NLT)

It is at the moment of Salvation, that a new Christian becomes pure and holy through believing in Christ as the living Son of God and by obeying the Word of God. Although a new Christian has already accepted Christ’s forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and His subsequent conquering of eternal death, the new Christian needs to apply God’s Word to his/her life daily for continued spiritual growth and maturity. For, it is the Word of God that has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts. But, how will a new Christian learn the basic principles of the Christian life found within the Word of God without having another Christian step forward to explain these principles to them? Of course, someone who really wants to study the Word of God can dig out those principles over time. However, most new Christians don't feel that they have the time to study the Word of God, so they need Christians who have over the years studied the Word of God and are willing to share what they have learned with them.

Christ expects us to be there for the new Christian’s questions, to be there to teach the basic principles of Christian life as established in the Word of God, and to be there to provide encouragement in their new lifestyle of living for Him. Obviously, new Christians will need all the encouragement and knowledge they can get in order to live for Christ. But, in order to encourage or disciple them we have to make a commitment to discipleship and/or Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM), which will provide Christian mentoring and discipleship for the new Christian. However, in order to truly be involved in ARCM Christians will have to give up a little of our personal time to speak into the life of a new believer. All it takes is thirty to forty minutes a week for the first few weeks, and then after that it may only take a telephone call once every two or three weeks to see how the new Christian is doing or to see if they have any questions. However, to help them grow in their faith and understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ’s, it does take a loving commitment to help in the spiritual growth of the life of a new believer. As committed Christians, we can help them grow by sharing the Word of God with them and by spending a little time with them talking about Christ while we are discipling them.

Sharing the Gospel is Just the First Step in The Great Commission

Most of us can recite the Great Commission, but have we ever really thought about the words that Christ used in that Great Commission? First, we should know that there are actually two parts to the Great Commission and each part has two sections. In the first part Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” – (Matthew 28: 19). Within this statement or the first part of the Great Commission, we can all understand that Christ is telling us to share the Gospel message with everyone. We are then told within the second section of this first part that when a person decides to accept Christ as their Savior, they are then to be baptized; signifying to the world that they have been buried in sin but have now arisen to a new life in Christ.

Many of us can also recite the second part of the Great Commission where Jesus continued saying: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always even to the end of the age.”  -- (Matthew 28: 20). But this second part of the Great Commission is where we generally fall down as fellow Christians. Evidently, we simply forget that we are to do more than just tell a person about the Gospel message. For within this second part, Jesus was also stipulating to the disciples and us that we are not to stop with just sharing the Gospel message, nor are we to think that we have done all that Christ has asked us to do when the person finally decides to receive Salvation and then follows through with baptism.

Yes, Salvation is a wonderful moment and a time for rejoicing, for someone has given their heart to Christ. But now there is even more for fellow Christians to do. For in reading the second part the of the Great Commission a little closer, we find that Jesus was telling the disciples and us that we are to teach. We are to teach the newly saved to observe all that Christ has commanded, i.e. the principles of a Christian life. In other words, Christ was telling His followers that we are to invest in the lives of the newly Saved, by “teaching” them to live by all the commandments and words that Christ had given to His followers. But in order to teach new believers what Christ taught His disciples and us while He was here on earth, we have to know the Word of God and we have to be able to teach others what it means to actually live for Jesus Christ. Sadly, the teaching part of the Great Commission is what most Christians regularly fail to do after someone accepts Christ as their Savior. Yet, Jesus set the example of teaching others while He was here on earth. He discipled and mentored many people during His ministry.

Jesus Christ was the Ultimate Mentor

Jesus not only gave us the Great Commission, but throughout His ministry, Jesus gave both His disciples and us examples for teaching, mentoring, and discipling people. For example, in Matthew 5: 1-3, the Scriptures tell us that “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, … He opened His mouth and began to teach them …” Throughout the Gospels we are also told that Jesus taught the crowds both with direct words and with parables – (See Mark 4: 2). Indeed, Christ was constantly discipling or mentoring those who believed in Him. Both many in the crowds and Christ’s disciples wanted to be taught. In fact, in one example, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray …” – (Luke 11: 1). Obviously, both the disciples and Christ recognized the importance of His teaching the disciples. And, even though Christ is back in Heaven with the Father, as Christians we too know the importance of knowing God’s Holy Word so that we will know how to act and behave in living for Christ. Teaching, through discipling and mentoring, is exactly what Christians must step up to do if we want our newly Saved brethren to know how to live for the Lord. We must inspire others to read the Word of God, we must show them the importance of communicating with the Lord through prayer, and we must teach them how to quietly listen for the words of our Lord.

Being Taught by the Lord

In the Psalms, King David wrote several songs that spoke to his and our need to be taught by the Lord. In one Psalm David wrote, “Make me know your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all day.”  -- (Psalm 25: 4, 5.). But, for the Lord to teach us, we have to be able to communicate with the Lord and be willing to listen for His instructions. However, without guidance and direction from long-time fellow Christians who have studied the Word, new Christians may fail to understand the importance of not only praying but also fail to understand the importance of reading the Word of God wherein God’s Word becomes their bread of life.

The lessons found within the Word of God and learned through our communicative prayer with God, teaches the newly Saved and reminds the long-time Christian how to walk daily for the Lord. It is also in the Psalms that we learn that King David continued to ask for God’s guidance throughout the years. In his Psalms David also shows us that we, too, need to ask for God’s guidance on a daily basis. In fact, in one Psalm David wrote, “Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul. … Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” – (Psalm 143: 8, 10.). Notice that besides wanting to learn how to live for God, that David spoke of God’s Spirit whom we know as the Holy Spirit. As we know, all Christians receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon our Salvation, but new Christians often need to be taught what it means to listen to the Holy Spirit as well as how important it is to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them. This is something new for them and they need the assurance that what they are hearing is indeed from God.

There are so many things that new Christians need to be taught about God and His Word. That is why new Christians need discipleship and/or the guidance of a mentoring Christian to help them grow spiritually in their new relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Moreover, it is by listening to the Holy Spirit, who guides all believers into paths of righteousness, that new Christians can learn how to live righteously for the Lord. Yes, all Christians have been cleansed of their sins and made righteous before God with their Salvation. But because we live in a fallen world that embraces sin as nothing more than happiness of self and the determination to seek self-happiness at all costs, Christians need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide them into continued paths of righteousness here on earth. So, as cleansed and saved Christians, Christ has given all of us the Holy Spirit to remind us and guide us in doing what is right and to guide us into making right decisions in our lives. In doing so, the Holy Spirit provides us with godly wisdom and advice, along with the desire to love our fellow man.

Discipleship and Spiritual Guidance Mentors

Although Salvation has cleansed us and given us the desire to be righteous, we often do not yet have a firm foundation for living a righteous life. To get that firm foundation, we need to study the Word of God, then pray, and meditate upon the Scriptures of the Word of God; hiding the Scriptures in our heart. These Scriptures are the bread of life on which we are to live for Christ. We also need to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in sometimes Christians also need Spiritual guidance mentors to help them grow in knowledge and godly wisdom. In other words, we may need another Christian to come along side of us and help us to understand certain things within the Bible that may be confusing or to help in discerning the meaning of a certain Scripture for our life. Christians may also need help at certain times in staying on the right track. A Spiritual guidance mentor can help both long-time Christians and the newly saved Christian to better understand the Word of God and to stay on the right track.

Spiritual guidance mentors are Christians who study the Word of God, pray, and closely listen to the Holy Spirit. They are able to help people discern or understand certain Scriptures within the Word of God, as they spiritually discern the direction and guidance they receive from the Holy Spirit. But those that have the ability to be spiritual guidance mentors must also have a desire to reach out and help another Christian. They should also be willing to be a sounding board and be willing to help the mentee, i.e., the new Christian, to make good decisions based upon the Word of God.

Throughout the Newer Testament, we often see believers stepping forward to help new Christians and to be that spiritual guidance mentor that the new Christian needs. For example, in the book of Acts, we are told about Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement”. Barnabas came along side of Saul/Paul after his conversion to help him and to later vouch for Paul to the apostles. Later after vouching for Paul, Barnabas went together with Paul on their first missionary journey. (See Acts 4:36; 9: 27- 29; 13:1-2.). Barnabas also taught Paul what He knew about Christ from his close association with the apostles. However, later Paul was able to return the favor, so to speak, by teaching Barnabas things that the Lord and the Holy Spirit were teaching Paul. Notice how that works. We need each other. Moreover, we are all a work in progress for the Lord. That is why we need to not only stay in the Word, listen to the Holy Spirit, pray, and meditate on the Word, but we also need to have spiritual Christian mentors and friends who will help keep us focused on Christ and living for Him.

Discipleship and Christian mentoring (ARCM) is very important for all Christians, but especially the newly Saved. That is because it takes time to spiritually grow and mature in our life with the Lord, and we often need help in growing spiritually. The Apostle Paul admonished the Colossians saying: “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use His words to teach and counsel each other.”  -- (Colossians 3: 16.

The Apostle Paul, a spiritual mentor, knew the importance of teaching and counseling new Christians about the Lord. He knew that every new believer needed to have another Christian come along side of them to help in their spiritual growth and maturity. They needed to be discipled and mentored. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “So everywhere we go, we tell everyone about Christ. We warn them and teach them with all the wisdom God has given us, for we want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.” – (Colossians 1: 28. NLT). Notice that first Paul warned people that without Christ they were doomed to eternal death and separation from God. But once a person was Saved, Paul continued to “teach” them or mentor them “with all the wisdom God has given us.” We too, can teach the newly Saved, using all the wisdom that God has given us, through our studies, our prayer time, our meditation, and from our time listening to God.

The New Living Translation Study Bible gives a footnote on the word “perfect” used within the above verse. The NLT Bible’s explanation is that the word “perfect” means “mature or complete,” not “flawless. So, that means that Paul was stating within this verse that he wanted to see each believer mature spiritually so that they could be presented to God mature or complete in their relationship with Christ. Teaching new believers and helping them to mature spiritually is part of the responsibility of long-time Christians (that is those Christians that have worked at spiritually growing and maturing, whether it has been five or fifty years of living for Christ). It is also the responsibility of the spiritual guidance mentor.

As we pursue intimacy and spiritual maturity with Christ, Christians need to also come along side of new Christians to speak God’s truth in love and to encourage them to grow in the knowledge of God and His Son. Sharing our knowledge and speaking words of truth in love encourages each of us to become “… more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  -- (Ephesians 4: 15, 16. NLT).

Discipleship and the spiritual guidance of a new Christian through Active Relational Christian Mentoring (i.e. the coming along side of a person to teach and share from the Word of God and to share what Christ has asked us to share) is necessary for the growth and maturity of new Christians. Certainly, speaking words of truth from God’s Holy Word can guide all of us toward maturity in Christ. Isn’t that what we are supposed to want for all Christians – maturity in Christ? Let’s all reach out to new Christians in Christian love to teach them what it means to be a disciple or follower of Christ. Reaching out in discipleship and Christian mentoring can make all the difference in the world to a new Christian. It will not only teach and show them the importance of learning about God and His Word, but it will encourage them at a future date to reach out and disciple or mentor another newly saved person.

You can do it! You can reach out to disciple or to spiritually guide another Christian through ARCM. You just need to listen to the Holy Spirit, keep your eyes open for a new Christian that you can help either within your church or workplace. Offer to befriend them and then offer to share what you know about the Bible. Most new Christians are hungering for the Word of God. They want to know how to live this new life that they have been given. In fact, this is a golden opportunity for Christians to reach out and disciple or mentor a new Christian.

If you want to learn more about Christian mentoring, read my book: The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring. You can get the book through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Christian Faith Publishing Company, iTunes and Google play.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Compassion and Lovingkindness

What is it that makes you feel better when you suffering, lonely, down, or hurting in some way or another? It probably isn’t a pill, although there is no doubt that sometimes a doctor’s intervention and his medicine may be needed at certain times in a person’s life. But what really does an even better job of brightening our day is to have someone come along side of us with compassion and kindness. Someone who cares enough to check upon us, talk with us, or go out for a cup of coffee; someone just to talk to or someone who wants to be there for us. Where are those Christians when we need them?

Unfortunately, we live in a world that no longer has time for true compassion or kindness. Oh yes, we throw money at situations like giving to missions or the needy in order to show that we are compassionate and kind, but most people, including Christians, often don’t reach out to give of their time and energy to show that they care. However, as a Christian, who is to represent Christ and His love to the rest of the world and as a Christian who is to love others as we love ourselves, we fail in so many ways to show true compassion and kindness to others.

Proverbs 10: 11,13 tells us that “The words of the godly lead to life; …” and “wise words come from the lips of people with understanding, …” For Christian women, this means that we are to speak into the lives of other women who may need the godly or wise words we have been given through God’s Holy Word and the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who will remind us of what we learned and of the specific words that we can use to help another woman, if we are just willing to reach out in compassion and lovingkindness to come along side of her.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) is the very necessary aspect of compassion and lovingkindness, for without those two caring words becoming a part of our reason for mentoring, true Christian mentoring cannot take place. Authentic Christians are, moreover, supposed to live out our Christian life in a way that glorifies the Lord through our words and actions and in a way that shows others that we are truly living for the Lord. But often Christians become so wrapped up in themselves and the fast paceness of our society that many people rarely find the time to show true compassion and lovingkindness.

God’s Compassion and Lovingkindness

Believers should know the importance of compassion and lovingkindness, because God has given us examples of the importance of compassion and lovingkindness throughout His Word. In fact, from the Older Testament and throughout the Newer Testament God has given us story after story about compassion and lovingkindness to show us how we are to live and just how important those two words are to God. For, our God is a loving and compassionate God showing compassion and lovingkindness to those who are obedient and love Him. In fact, it is the Psalmists who constantly speak of God’s compassion and lovingkindness throughout the book of Psalms.

David often wrote of God’s compassion and lovingkindness, and in one of his Psalms he wrote, “For You, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” … But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” – (Psalm 86: 5, 15. NASB).

Again, David wrote, “He has made His wonders to be remembered. The Lord is gracious and compassionate.” -- (Psalm 111:4. NASB).

In addition David said, “He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.”  -- (Psalm 112: 4. NASB).

We also have other examples of God’s standard of compassion and lovingkindness written about throughout the Older Testament. These examples tell us that God sat out to teach us how we are to act and care about others. For, it is through the stories that God had recorded in His Word that we learn how we are to treat others with compassion and kindness. One such example was the story of baby Moses who was found floating in the bulrushes of the Nile by one of the Pharaoh’s daughters. We are told that “… When the princess saw the little basket among the reeds she told one of her servant girls to get it for her. As the princess opened it, she found the baby boy. His helpless cries touched her heart. …). – (Exodus 2: 5, 6. NASB). However, she also knew that he was probably one of the Israelite’s babies who was being hidden from soldiers who were enforcing the decree given to them by her father, the Pharaoh, to kill all the Israelites’ baby boys. Yet she had compassion upon the baby and took him into the palace and raised him as her own. Through her compassion and lovingkindness, Moses was saved and grew in knowledge and wisdom. Some of that wisdom would be acquired the hard way, but God knew that Moses would be the leader that He needed for the Israelites. So later, Moses, with God’s help, would save all the Israelites, as he led them to safety from the Pharaoh.

False Compassion and Kindness

God also gives us examples of false compassion and lovingkindness as He contrasts it in His Word with true lovingkindness and compassion. I am sure you all remember King Saul and his obsession with getting rid of David, because he knew that David had been anointed to become the next King of Israel. Not only was King Saul jealous, but in his paranoia, he believed that David was out to get him, which was something that he had allowed his sick mind to imagine and believe. Some of his men also lied to him and encouraged him in his belief that David was out to get him. Consequently, Saul spent years searching for David and trying to kill him.

At one point in time, David and his men hid in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. Then the Ziphites went to Saul and told him that David was hiding in the strongholds of Horesh. They urged Saul to come to Horesh and they would surrender David to him. That is when King Saul said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, for you have had compassion on me.” – (I Samuel 23: 21. NASB).

Obviously, anyone can use religious verbiage in order to appear deeply spiritual or close to God, But God is not impressed with our duplicitous words or actions. Furthermore, Saul did not care whether the Ziphites were blessed or not. All he wanted was to get and kill David.  On the other hand, the Ziphites were not showing Saul compassion, but instead wanted to get David and his men out of their territory. So, they were offering to surrender David to Saul. Their offer was not out of compassion or kindness for King Saul. Eventually they would have expected something in return from King Saul, if not at that time or at a later time, whether it was money or a favor in the future. Fortunately, they were not able to give David to King Saul.

God gave us this specific example of duplicitous actions to show us that our compassion and lovingkindness for others has to be genuine. Moreover, we should not expect anything in return for our words or actions. Instead, we should be focused on doing for others in kindness and compassion what God has given us the opportunity to do. We are to love others as we love ourselves.

True Compassion and Kindness

There are many other examples of  God's true compassion and lovingkindness throughout the Older Testament, as God shows compassion on people through the mentors and through His prophets who were sent to tell people what God expected them to do. God also used several appearances of the "Angel of the Lord", who many believe was a special appearance of pre-incarnate Jesus Christ who spoke to and showed compassion on several people in the Older Testament. (See Genesis 16: 7; 22:11; 31:11; Exodus 3:2; 14:19; Judges 2: 1; 13:2; and Zechariah 3: 1-6.)

There were also other ordinary humans within the Older Testament who spoke into the lives of other people while showing compassion and lovingkindness for them. One such example was Ruth, who showed compassion and lovingkindness for Naomi by not leaving her alone and by going with her back to Israel after Naomi’s husband and sons died. Through Ruth’s compassion and lovingkindness, we can see how we were created to love others as we love ourselves. 

It was God who not only spoke directly through His prophets to tell the Israelites of His love and compassion, but He also showed compassion and lovingkindness in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to earth to show God’s love for us, and then through that compassion and lovingkindness He offered us Salvation. So now let’s turn to God’s Son in the Newer Testament to see how Jesus showed compassion and lovingkindness to the people He encountered. At what point did Christ’s acts of compassion turn into mentoring words of compassion and lovingkindness?

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and His Compassion and Lovingkindness

There are so many stories in the Newer Testament about Christ’s compassion and love, but I do not have time to write about them all. So, I will just pick out a few of the lovingkindness and compassionate ones that will emphasize the example that Christ was setting for us. For, Christ wanted us to understand that we are to do more than just live our own lives and leave others on their own. He wanted us to understand that we are to be involved in the lives of others and that we are to be there for those who are: hurting, struggling, down and out, or in need, etc. No, it isn’t about giving out money so that we can get off the hook and make ourselves feel better by simply throwing money at a problem or situation. Yes, giving money is great when it is needed. However, we are to do more by giving of ourselves and by showing compassion and lovingkindness with our words and actions. True compassion and lovingkindness is about speaking into the lives of others when they are desperate for a friend or need emotional support. It’s about being there for someone who is hurting or in need of a shoulder to cry on. It is also about sharing the Good News to those who are lost.

As Jesus was going through the cities and villages healing every kind of sickness, removing demons from the possessed, teaching, and proclaiming the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, He one day stopped and looked at all the people surrounding Him. “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.  -- (Matthew 9: 36-38. NASB.).

Christ Jesus loved all the people he encountered, and He loves all of us today. The harvest was great back then and it is also still great, which means that we need to share the Gospel message with those who have as yet been able to find Christ as their Savior. We can also become involved in the harvest when we tell another person of the Good News of Christ and when that person comes to know Christ as their Savior. The sharing of the Good News isn’t hard with the help of the Holy Spirit, and in many cases all it takes is befriending someone who needs a friend or needs someone to talk to. No, we are not like Jesus in the sense that we can take away their pain and problems. But we can pray for them, we can talk with them, and we can sit with them when they are sick. We can teach them what we know from what we have learned in life. But, we first have to build a mentoring relationship based upon compassion, lovingkindness, caring, and truth.

It is important for us to also befriend, console, help, or emotionally support another Christian woman through ARCM. Just because someone may be a Christian, does not mean that she doesn’t need a fellow Christian to come along side of her to actively mentor her with caring and compassionate words. In fact, most Christians have been in a valley at some time or another where they have had to struggle to get out and live their life for the Lord, as the devil does everything in his power to bring them down. This is where the mentoring discipleship of a fellow Christian becomes so important. But so many Christians just live and let live. They do nothing to reach out and be there for their fellow Christians. Because of this, I believe that God is very disappointed in people's lack of compassion and the false kindness or un-Christian behaviors they produce for Him. For, many fail to show acts of compassion and lovingkindness toward even their fellow Christians, let alone to those that are lost and need the Lord.

Do you remember the story in the Gospel of Matthew about Christ feeding the four thousand on the side of a mountain? Large crowds had followed Him upon a mountain and they were quite some ways from any town. Jesus taught and healed for a few days. Finally, “Jesus called to His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint.’” – (Matthew 15: 32. NASB). The disciples were astonished for there was no where to get any food. So, they searched for food among the crowd, but were only able to come up with seven loafs of bread and a few small fishes, which certainly was not enough to feed that large of a crowd. But it was enough for Jesus to create a miracle. Jesus blessed the bread and fish and suddenly there was enough for everyone. All of the people were fed and there were even seven large baskets containing pieces of food left over.

Christ felt for these people and their earthly need of hunger, just as He had compassion for their heavenly spiritual need for God and eternal life. However, it was with the miracle of food, that Christ was able to not only meet their earthly need but was also at the same time able to show them that they needed a spiritual life with God. It was also through this miracle that Jesus was able to show them that he had the authority to teach them about eternal life as well as the authority to teach them of their need for the daily compassionate and living for God. Jesus Christ did this by solidifying in the peoples’ minds, through their experience as seen through their eyes and the filling of their stomachs, that Christ’s relationship with God as the Son of God made Him able to perform the miracle of food for everyone. Christ’s compassion for the peoples’ physical need is why He created the miracle of feeding four thousand, and it was His compassion for their spiritual need and His teachings and healings that showed at least some of the people that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah.

Thank goodness that we are not responsible for producing large miracles like those Jesus created. Furthermore, like those people of long ago, we know that only God can produce those kinds of miracles. However, it was Christ’s miracles that provided the backdrop for His teaching and showed everyone that Jesus Christ was indeed the incarnate Son of God who had come to cleanse them of their sins and to offer them Salvation. Now, as Christ’s ambassadors, we have been given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who will help or guide us into sharing the Gospel message with others; leading to the miracle of Salvation if the person so chooses to invite Christ into their heart. But in order to engage another person in conversation about Christ, we must be willing to be compassionate and show lovingkindness before we can share the Gospel miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ who will take away our sins. Being compassionate and showing lovingkindness can then produce small miracles like those of bringing a smile to someone’s face when they had previously felt so alone, or of being able to teach someone how to do something that they previously could not do. In fact, there are many more small miracles that can occur every day when we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, speak into the lives of other women.

True believers are to mentor other Christians in their spiritual growth just by being there with them and talking to them about the Lord. True believers also need to be there to help their fellow Christians when they need help. I don’t know about you, but when I am with fellow Christians, the conversation invariably turns to the Lord. It is during those times that the wisdom and knowledge of one person can be shared with the other. Sharing what we know about the Lord is very important. We also know that Jesus shared His personal spiritual insight and knowledge with a crowd of four thousand on the side of a mountain, but all we have to do is to share with one or two of our friends, or friends to be, what the Lord has lain upon our heart to tell them. For, sharing what we know from the Lord is just another way of showing compassion and lovingkindness to another person. This sharing can often be accomplished through ARCM.

Throughout the Gospels we are told over and over again, and we have been given many examples of Jesus having compassion on the people. (See Matthew 9: 36; 15: 32; Mark 1: 41; Mark 5: 10; Mark 6:34; Mark 8:2; Mark 9:32; Luke 7: 13; Luke 10: 33, Luke 15: 20; John 10: 11; John 11: 33-36; John 17: 11-17 as just a few of the examples of Christ’s compassion for humans). These examples of compassion and lovingkindness have been recorded in God’s Word for us to learn from and to show us what God expects of those that love Him.

Throughout His healing, miracles, and teaching, Jesus gave people the Good News of Salvation and eternal life. Indeed, both Christ, the Son, and the Father want none to perish, but want everyone to come to the Saving Grace of Christ. Unfortunately, not everyone will come to know Christ as their Savior. Still it is our responsibility to be the hands and feet of Christ as we are His working ambassadors to the world. If we do not reach out to comfort, support, share, coach, counsel, and empower other women to be all that they can be for God, themselves, their family and their friends, then we are not doing what Christ has asked us to do. We are just living in a type of limbo that will one day have to be explained to God at the Bema Judgment Seat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to explain to God why I did not help, or why I did not care about, teach, mentor, counsel, or disciple another Christian.

It takes so little time to reach out and help another person even when you least expect to find yourself in a position to help. You just have to have your eyes open and wear your compassionate and lovingkindness as a Christian on your shoulder so that you can use them when the opportunity is presented to you. 

I will end with a story by Anne Cetas who wrote this devotional for the March 17, 2018 Our Daily Bread. It is entitled “Whispering Words.”

The young man fidgeted as he sat down for his flight. His eyes darted back and forth to the aircraft windows. Then he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself – but it didn’t work. As the plane took off he slowly rocked back and forth. An older woman across the aisle from him put her hand on his arm and gently engaged him in conversation to divert his attention from his stress. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Where are you from?’ ‘You’re doing well’ were a few of the things she whispered. She could have been irritated with him or ignored him. But she chose a touch and a few words. Little things. When they landed three hours later, he said, ‘Thank you so much for helping me.”
Such beautiful pictures of tenderheartedness can be hard to find. Kindness does not come naturally to many of us; our primary concern is often ourselves. But when the apostle Paul urged, ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another' (Ephesians 4: 32.) he was not saying it all depends on us. After we’ve been given a new life by our faith in Jesus, the Spirit begins a transformation. Kindness is the ongoing work of the Spirit renewing our thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4: 23).
The God of compassion is at work in our hearts, allowing us in turn to touch others’ lives by reaching out and whispering words of encouragement.

Lord, use me today to bring someone hope, a lighter burden, encouragement.

Compassion is understanding the troubles of others and reaching out.” – Anne Cetas

I will add one thing more to what Ms. Cetas said. Compassion is also understanding the troubles of others, and then understanding when we have been given the opportunity to help, so that we can reach out to mentor them with Christian lovingkindness in whatever area that God may have given us the expertise to help them. If, on the other hand, we don’t have the specific expertise they need, we can actively look for another Christian who can help them. Indeed, all of us can reach out in compassion and lovingkindness, like the woman on the plane did, to help someone in need. We just have to be actively involved in being ambassadors for Christ. What do Christian ambassadors do? They represent Christ in everything they do. They look for opportunities to come along side of another person to help or mentor in some fashion or another. Are you representing Christ to others in all that you do? Are you looking for opportunities to actively mentor or help another woman?

May God bless you in all your mentoring endeavors!