Saturday, October 25, 2014

Representing Christ to the World and to our Mentees

Whether we become active relational mentors or not, as Christian women we represent Christ to the world. People are watching our behaviors, our attitudes, and everything we say and do. This is especially true of our mentees who are looking to us for the answers in certain situations.They are also determining if we are really living for Christ. So,we are to role-model Christ-like attributes for our mentees. But in order to do so, we must know what they are.Then we must work at acquiring these Christ-like attributes and values for ourselves.

Most things in life aren't just handed to us on a platter and neither are the attributes of Christ-likeness. After our Salvation, we have to “seek” or try to acquire Christ-like attributes and values in our pursuit of Christ-likeness.These attributes and virtues do not happen automatically, although the Holy Spirit does give us the desire for them and the desire to live and love as Christ would want us to live and love. However, most of us start out our new life in Christ as if we are in the first grade. This means we have to start at the beginning to learn how we are to live and represent Christ; doing this by studying the Word of God, by attending church, and by developing our relationship with Christ through prayer and communication.We also need to work at listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is through dedicated study and our desire to become more Christ-like that we can actually start to learn how to live our lives for Christ.

Christian mentors can be of great help for a newly “Saved” person, because they can help the new believer study and learn about Christ and the Holy Spirit at the mentee's own pace and in a one-on-one teaching atmosphere. Christian mentors can also help their mentees learn about Christ-like values and attributes by teaching and role-modeling them. How do mentors acquire or cultivate Christ’s attributes and values? First we have to recognize what those attributes and values are that Christ expressed and role-modeled for His disciples and the world. It is by reading the Bible that we can discover Christ's attributes and values.We can acquire godly virtues and values by studying the Word of God and then applying the Word to our lives. By taking heed of the help and guidance offered to us by the Holy Spirit along with help offered by other Christian mentors, we can develop those Christian attributes and values that we need. God has given all of us the ability to acquire those same virtues expressed by Christ when we asked Christ to come into our lives and cleanse our hearts from all our sins. We are now able to recognize all the vile evil and ugliness that is in the world.

Christians should allow Christ to control our lives for the good, which in turn means we cannot let Satan and the world's influence back into our lives. Because we live in a fallen world we are constantly inundated with worldly ideas and things that try to pull us away from living for Christ. So, we must continually work at living for Christ and doing that which is right and true with a loving and gracious heart. Our walk with Christ is a journey. True "born-again" Christians never stop learning and should never stop working at becoming even more Christ-like. (Did you know that the word "Christian" means "little Christs"?). We all need strengthening. Even long-time believers may need mentoring to be strengthened in their walk for Christ just as new believers are strengthened through mentoring. ARCM is for every woman whether you are the mentor or the mentee.

We Must Allow Christ to Control Both our Inner and Outer Lives. In order to completely relinquish all the old fleshly and worldly ways, we must allow Christ to control not only our inner thoughts and desires, but control any outer actions that might represent those inner thoughts and desires.  That sounds complicated, but it really isn't. With our Salvation, comes a desire to live for Christ and a desire to obey Christ. In fact, Christ said, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying My teachings. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”  -- (John 8: 32). [i]

We are all searching for the Truth of God whether we realize it or not. When we accept Christ into our hearts, we have a change of heart for the better.We no longer have to be controlled by evil thoughts and worldly ways, because we have the Holy Spirit who will help us get rid of evil and negative thoughts and ways, if we listen and obey. However, we still have to deal with the world we live in, and no matter how hard we try we are inundated with things that can cause us to backslide or be negative. However, if we continually allow the Holy Spirit to direct both our inner thoughts and our outer actions we can live a Christ-like life for all to see. It is with our outward actions and attitudes, that people can really tell whether or not we have truly accepted Christ as our Savior. It is with our outward actions and attitudes that mentees will or will not decide to allow us to mentor them.

It is our outward actions, though, that gets most people, both Christian and non-Christians, in trouble. That is because; it is often our outward actions that tell the world more about us than we think. For example, let’s say that a woman named Victoria has accepted Christ as her Savior. She now has a love for not only God and Christ in her heart, but also believes she has love for her neighbors or fellowman as well. Then one day a friend tells her she is going through a rough time. Victoria verbally sympathizes and tells her she will pray for her, but does nothing more. She even forgets to pray. A month later a co-worker tells Victoria that she is very sick and won’t be able to take her daughter to the dress rehearsal for her play. Victoria again sympathizes but does nothing. Oh, Victoria has a twinge of guilt, and the Holy Spirit puts her friend on her heart every few hours or so, but Victoria ignores His still small voice. She knows that she could offer to take the daughter to the dress rehearsal, but she has other things she wants to do. You see, Victoria is not allowing Christ to control her outer life and actions. Moreover, her inner thoughts of selfishness have shown us outwardly what she is really feeling or thinking by her refusal to step up and help someone in need. She may think that her Salvation is all she needs, and that now that she is “Saved,” she doesn't have to do anything more. However, Christ wants us to care about each other; showing Christ-like love for all. Indeed, it is by our outward actions that our care for others and Christian love is shown. Christian women need to show other women, even if they aren't our mentees, that we care. We need to remember that it is what we say and do outwardly that shows the intent and the desires of the heart. Even our words, which are extremely powerful in witnessing to others about the Gospel message, can be used to hurt others, whether intentionally or unintentionally.As Christian women we have a responsibility to use our words carefully and be guided by love, graciousness and Christ-likeness.

We not only need to listen to Christ’s Words, but we should obey Him. Jesus is the Truth that sets us free! (See John 8: 32). When we truly allow Christ to control our inner thoughts and desires, which are represented by our outer actions, we are putting our complete trust in the Lord. Christ is able to use our outer actions and reactions as well as our loving attitudes to witness for Him and to serve Him in the most efficient and advantageous ways. Then, we do not have to wonder what we should be doing for the Lord or how we can be of greater service. Instead, we know we are allowing Christ’s love, values, and attributes to guide us into caring for and witnessing to those who have not been introduced to the Good News of Christ. In fact, each believer needs to live a life of service to the Lord that expresses the Truth. Jesus is the Truth and the Light.  “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – (John 3: 21) NASB. Therefore, if we allow the Lord to direct our learning of the Truth and we practice the Truth, we can then follow His Light. The Lord can use our lives to witness for and to serve Him. We can serve the Lord through ARCM. We can become an outward expression of the Truth!

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians that we are to Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do.”  -- (Ephesians 5: 15). [i]  It is that sense of responsibility that is given expression through our actions and outer lives lived for Christ. It is one thing to think good clean thoughts in your mind, but it is something much better when you take those wonderful thoughts and use them for the glory of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul goes on to say, Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.  … Instead let the Holy spirit fill and control you.”  -- (Ephesians 5: 16-18). [ii]

One of the ways that we can “make the most of every opportunity for doing good,” is to be there for others when they are struggling or wanting to learn a new skill, develop a resource, or gain knowledge. We can step up to the plate and mentor another woman for the Lord. Those who have been given the ability to listen or teach or to do both and those who have the wisdom to understand the Word of God should use every opportunity to help someone else when they are in need. If you have the ability to help another for the Lord, then through love try to understand what the Lord would have you do and let the Holy Spirit direct and control your life. Of course you have free will in what you do with your life. But in listening to the Holy Spirit and by working at obtaining Christ-like attributes and values as you live outwardly for the Lord, you may find that you can also be a great Christian mentor for the Lord!

[i] -- Ephesians 5: 15.  New Testament in Modern English. Macmillian Company, c. 1958.
[ii] -- Ephesians 5: 16-18.  The Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Tyndale House. c. 1996.

[i] -- John 8: 32.  The Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Tyndale House, c. 1996.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Finding a mentee

You have recognized that you have a desire to serve the Lord and others, so what is next? Although there are many ways to serve the Lord and others, Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) is a ministry that suits women, because it can easily fit in with all the other hats of responsibility that women wear. As Christian women, we know, too, that God has given each of us specific gifts that we can use in our Christian life. God has also given each of us various skills, resources, knowledge, or talents that we can share with another woman to help her grow in her own spiritual maturity or to help her lead a more productive life. Whether you are a good hostess, a parent, a career woman, a stay-at home mom, an organizer or leader, you have something that could benefit the life of another woman. Certainly, too, you have the Gospel to share with another woman who may not yet know Christ personally.Whatever you have to share, rest assured that God will help you in the sharing if you truly want to become an Active relational Christian mentor to another woman. What then is the next step in your becoming an active Christian mentor?

Last time, we talked about the importance of prayer in determining whether or not you should become an active mentor. We also talked about how prayer is needed in developing your ability to listen, as listening is a very important part of ARCM. If you are still reading this blog you probably have prayed for God to show you what specific ministry will fit into your daily life and how you can be a blessing for others. If Active relational Christian mentoring keeps coming to the forefront of your mind and if you love to fellowship with other women, then you are probably getting confirmation from the Holy Spirit that this is a service ministry for you. I hope that after reading the last blog that you have also been praying to become a good listener. For you want to be able to be discern and recognize the needs that are spoken as well as the ones that are not spoken by your mentee.

You should also be practicing listening more carefully to the conversations of others without doing all the talking. For sometimes it takes a woman several sentences or conversations to finally express what is of concern to her. Even if you have a hard time at first not doing all the talking, don't become frustrated when listening to the other woman. You will have your chance to talk at the right time. Becoming a good listener may not happen overnight. but if you are truly interested in Active relational Christian mentoring (ARCM) as a service area for you, you will soon discover how easy it is to listen to what other women are saying.

Now it is time to pray for God to direct you to the right woman to mentor. Mentees are all around us. You just may not have looked at the other woman as a potential mentee. However, through your prayers and the Holy Spirit's guidance you will be directed to a woman that could use your expertise in a particular area or to a woman that seems to need someone to talk to or someone to support her in her time of need. We all have been blessed with gifts, talents, knowledge, resources, etc. either through God's specific gifting to us or through God giving us the ability to acquire knowledge, wisdom, information, etc. Sometimes, though, we don't recognize our own abilities, but God always does. So it should not be a surprise that God often introduces us to a particular mentee when we least expect it.

There are three basic ways we can acquire a mentee. The first way is when someone at our church or someone we know tells us that there is a woman in need that we could potentially help. If you have a background in a specific area or on a specific topic, this is not an uncommon way to receive a mentee. For example, if you have dealt with a strong-willed child of your own, or if you have a degree in child psychology, your pastor could ask you to mentor a frustrated mother who is dealing with a strong-willed child. Or if you play the guitar and a woman in your Bible study would like to learn how to play the guitar, you might offer to mentor her. You could also be at work or on the job and your employer asks you to mentor another woman about the job.This occurs often in middle management positions, and although not specifically a Christian mentoring situation, it gives the Christian mentor the opportunity to share the Gospel through her life lived for the Lord.

The second way we can  receive a mentee is through our awareness of a need. In listening to those around you, you may discover that a woman could use instruction, counseling, coaching or support in a particular area whether it is in the emotional, spiritual or natural realm.You know that you could help this woman, and so you start by befriending her. In order to mentor another person, though, a relationship of some kind needs to be developed. Then once a relationship is established, even if it is only an acquaintance type of relationship, you can either offer to mentor her or the mentoring comes naturally as you engage in communication and fellowship with this woman.

The third basic way to acquire a mentee is by listening to the Holy Spirit and then acting upon the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit will direct you to a person that you have never met before, or to a woman that you vaguely know. You are then suddenly prompted to go and speak to her, or the Holy Spirit puts you in close proximity so that you can hear what she is saying to someone else. Either way, the Holy Spirit leads you to the place that you need to be in order to develop a relationship and mentor her.

Obviously, these are not the only ways that a mentoring relationship can be formed, but these are the three basic ways with many different situational variances. Personally, I have been led to a mentee in many different and in sometimes seemingly strange ways: while walking in a swimming pool for therapy; when I had an Insurance company's secretary call me up to ask me a question regarding our insurance, which led to a mentoring relationship with her and ultimately to her Salvation; and when a friend's daughter came to me and asked to be mentored on the Bible after she asked Christ to come into her life. I have also mentored a lady from our small group at church, and even though she has moved away I continue to mentor her as needed. I have mentored other women who I never expected to mentor until a crisis suddenly occurred in their lives. Most recently, I met a lady at the checkout counter in a clothing store who had recently been widowed. We were just talking and suddenly, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask her if she would like to go to lunch sometime, so we exchanged telephone numbers. I don't yet know if it will be a mentoring relationship or just the befriending of a lady in need. But, I know that I need to pray about the possibility of her becoming a mentee.

Again, prayer is the key to developing a mentoring relationship and the key to all we do in life. God always has the best in mind for us. We just have to be willing to pray, listen, and obey. Now, it is your turn. Look around you and see if there is anyone that God puts in your path. Pray about what you see and ask for God's help.You Can Do It! You can serve the Lord and others through Active Relational Christian Mentoring.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Listening is an Important Part of Mentoring

Today I want to talk about prayer and finding a mentee. Two of the things that women frequently ask is how can I become a mentor and how do I find a mentee. The first thing that you need to do to become a mentor, if you are really interested in Active relational Christian mentoring (ARCM) as a service ministry for the Lord and to help others, is to pray. This is the time to be very specific in your prayers. We often pray in generalities, such as asking God to bless us. However, along with praying for your heart's desire to serve the Lord and others you should pray specifically asking God to give you the ability to listen to other women and for God to open doors for perspective mentees to enter in. Why those two specific requests?  Well, today let's start with your first request from God, which is to teach you how to listen to others.

Most women love to talk and talk. We are very good at talking and often use our large vocabularies while we fellowship with other women. However, to be good mentors we have to first become good listeners. It is only through our listening that we can become skilled at discerning the mentee's needs, emotions, and desires. By listening, the mentor can pick up on the nuances of what she is or is not saying and gain insightful information about the needs of the woman mentee. If the mentor, though, does all the talking, the mentor is just taking up time telling about her life or talking about what she thinks the mentee should want to know. That is not mentoring. That is just a one-sided conversation. The other woman, the mentee, doesn't receive any thing from your one-sided conversations unless God chooses to use something you have said to speak to the woman. For example, if I want advice and understanding about a particular situation in my life, but my mentor starts the conversation talking about her terrible week and all the things that she has had to accomplish in a short period of time, I will politely listen. However, if the mentor continues talking about herself and her thoughts or wants, I may be sitting there and listening politely, but all the time I'm really thinking, "this person seems to be focused only on herself".  "I really wanted to talk about a need I have and what the Bible says about addressing that need, but I am just wasting my time sitting here listening to her." It is at this point that I, as the mentee, may decide not to pursue the development of a mentoring relationship with this mentor. All could have been saved, and perhaps we could have become the best of friends, if only the mentor had been willing to listen and only ask questions when there was a break in the conversation or to ask a question to have me clarify or explain something that I said. Throughout the conversation, i.e. the back and forth interchange between the mentee and mentor, the mentor will only gain insight about the situation or have a better understanding of what she should be saying to the mentee, if she listens to what her mentee is actually saying.

All women can learn to listen. It is just a matter of whether or not we want to give up some of our talking in order to help another woman. If you pray for the ability to listen and then actually work at listening to what those around you are saying without always filling in the dead spaces, you will find that you can learn a great deal about the woman and her needs. Start by practicing listening to your family and friends. For example, in listening to your daughter's conversation with the family, you may find out that your daughter is dating one guy, but actually wants to date another guy, because every time she says the other guys name her voice changes, or there is a smile on her face, etc. Listening can often provide great information and insight. Actually, it is the combination of listening to and watching the other person that becomes a powerful tool to learn details of another's life without even talking. Of course, there is also a time for talking and talking is needed. The Christian mentor has to talk, too, to develop the mentoring relationship and in order to proceed with actual mentoring. For, if a mentor never talked, the mentee would not receive the information, resources, skills, etc. that she was hoping to gain from the mentoring relationship. So, it is important to use our listening and watching tools along with our talking and conversing  skills to have productive and fruitful ARCM.

God hears all our prayers and He knows our heart's desire, so if you truly want to become a Christian mentor, He will hear you. God will help you develop your listening skills, but you have to do your part as well. You have to put in the effort to listen to other women; to truly listen and hear what they are saying so you will be able to discern what they need and what you should say. You should also be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit, for He will also give you insight into the woman's needs, as well as guidance for what you should say. Listening, then, is a very important part of Active relational Christian mentoring whether you are listening to the mentee or listening to the Holy Spirit.

As you work on your listening skills, you can start praying for God to put a potential mentee in your path. Next time I will talk more about how to go about obtaining a mentee. In the meantime, study the Word of God; get to know the Bible well enough that you can easily turn to the different books of the Bible. Find the Bible verses that you can use to share the Gospel message with another person.  Don't forget to pray. Pray for you to be used by God to help others, and if the ministry of mentoring is what God wants you to pursue, specifically pray that you become a good listener!