I've enjoyed going along side women and encouraging them in their personal relationship with Christ. I have met so many women that want this personal and intimate relationship, but aren't sure exactly what to do. That is the beauty of it. There's not a list of rules to follow and not to follow. It's your own. It's your personal daily communion with God.
Many of these women are enjoying the new beauty of turning their life to Christ - those first years of salvation. This transformation is a funeral to yourself the day you surrender. The word funeral is scary really, but it is truly the best description of what happens. And trust me, if you were/are anything like me, I was ecstatic to die to myself because I was screwing up everything on my own anyways!
I've been researching about advice for New Christians, what to expect, recommendations and I loved this blog post by Frank Viola from "Beyond Evangelical". http://frankviola.org/2013/07/17/advice-to-new-christians/
This is a list of 12 recommendations that go beyond read the Bible, pray regularly, join a church for you new sisters in Christ. Since I am in my early years I will also describe how I have implemented these recommendations in my own walk with Jesus. My prayer is they will be helpful to you as you continue on your journey.
1. Christians will break your heart. The greatest pain you will receive will be at the hands of fellow and professing believers.
Heartbreaking. How sad but true. I have had more Christians hurt and reject me personally and professionally than non Christians. Judgmental, holier than thou attitudes, self righteous Christians exist in packs. It is not a representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have experienced this, my best advice is always respond to evil with good. Look to Jesus in how to respond: love, love, love. If you think that is weak. Try it - it's harder than you think.
On the contrary, I have also found Christians to be the most forgiving and loving people. A time in my previous marriage, I returned home and my family didn't just open the door and welcome me home - they ran and met me in the driveway. I had hurt them all. They would have every right not to open the door. Truly, it was the story of the prodigal son (daughter in my case) in current times. I will never forget the way they greeted me, hugged me, didn't ask questions. Only crying, "How can we not forgive you as God forgives us?" My life changed, I came to know Jesus, this blog was birthed and is helping hundreds of women all because my family gave me the same grace Jesus had given them. I witnessed an unconditional love that I knew didn't come from them - it came only from above.
2. Not everyone who professes Christ knows Him. The fruit of real faith is love – treating all others the same way you want to be treated.
I accepted Christ in 9th grade but didn't know Him until 3 years ago. I didn't know Him. I didn't know His word. And from an outsider looking in, it was obvious, because I bore no fruit. I loved, but not if you did me wrong. I never had joy - only happiness. Joy is much deeper and based on faith not circumstances. Peace was only after I finished a bottle of wine and the list of my unfruitfulness goes on.
Matthew 7:16 says you will know one by His fruit. Now, I hold tight to "Love your neighbor as yourself". Not just your best friend and family but the person that drives you nuts at work, the mom that you cannot stand to be around, the sinner that doesn't need more judgment but to be loved. Not just the people it is convenient for you to love. Treat ALL others the same way you want to be treated. No exceptions.
3. God will not meet all of your expectations and will sometimes appear not to fulfill His own promises.
Ok, God...I have surrendered. I confess with my mouth and believe it in my heart. NOW, can I get what I want?! God's ways are higher than our ways and thoughts higher than our thoughts. Thank goodness - maybe now, but definitely not when you are going "through" the yuck. If I would have gotten everything I was praying, more like begging or even telling God years ago - I now know - it wasn't His BEST for me and HE was preparing something better during the storm. Maybe He is doing the same for you now. There is no storm so deep that the arm of God can not reach you out of and set you in a better place than you were before. NONE.
4. You will experience dry spells where there is no sense of God’s presence. Learn to live by faith, not feelings.
For months I heard, "Be Still and know I am God". It is fine for a day or two, but when you feel forgotten you become unsettled and lose trust. During recent dry spells I think, what was the last thing God pulled me out of or saved me from. Or maybe reflect on the last answered prayer. Living in His faithfulness will help us step over our feelings and live by faith. God saved me from myself and I will never ever forget it. Mine was so dark that anytime I go through dry spells...I Know - that I Know - that I Know...God is always listening and is FAITHFUL. He is always present in our lives.
5. Build a library and read the best Christian books in print. Don’t waste your time on “pop” Christian books. Go for depth.
I'm always reading a book with Christian teaching that relates to what season in life I'm in. I've also found I love reading books to prepare for future seasons. I've ordered some mothering books recently. I'm not sure how God has planned me to be a mother: maybe my own, maybe adopting, or maybe raising kids at church, in the neigborhood or loving my nieces and nephews. His will - not mine, but if I'm going to be a Godly mother in any role - I need some Christian education now. =)
6. Write your goals down (goals = dreams = prayer requests). And document when a prayer/goal is answered/fulfilled
I have loved the prayer section of the Journal of Intentional Living for this very reason. I can write down what's on my heart and write in His answers when they're fulfilled or maybe not fulfilled. One of my greatest joys is to read prayers from days or even years ago and see God's faithfulness in it. It is a beautiful beautiful thing. Living in a mind frame of His faithfulness brings contentment. Contentment brings Joy. And Joy is the place He calls us to live from.
7. Never judge another Christian unless you’ve walked in their shoes. Always think the best of others (Matthew 7:12).
I heard Joyce Meyer preach not to judge and only give an opinion when asked. This advice has done me well over the years. I fall short often and when I'm quick to judge the person that cuts me off in traffic my initial reaction that God has taught me to do..."She/He is a child of God. Made in Your image and I am called to LOVE and not judge." It turns my limited judgmental prideful mind back to truth and right thinking.
8. Choose a mentor, but never choose one who is insecure, speaks negatively about others, and has an inflated ego.
Jenny, or I call her my soul sista' is my sister I call on to pray and for advice on the daily. She is a constant encouragement and faithful prayer warrior. We both grew up in the same town and didn't know each other until we moved a city 60 miles away and ten years later. There was no mistake God knitted our hearts together. She is a huge blessing in my life. I also listen to many other older women teachings: Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, Lisa Bevere, Lysa Terkeurst, to name a few. My other mentor, is my pastor Lisa. Once you've joined a church get to know someone on staff that you can go to. They are educated in theology and can help you in real life circumstances using truth. I call on her so much for advice and guidance in everyday life.
9. Some of the things you struggle with now you will struggle with when you are old. Resist condemnation (Romans 8:1).
Anything God is working in you and through you is by the power of the Spirit and comes through conviction. Conviction should bring awareness, but only lift you up higher. It should not bring you down. Recently, I was convicted of backing out of things I had on my calendar based on my feelings at the moment. I canceled at least one thing a week because I was tired and didn't feel like it. It might have been Bible study or workout or dinner with a friend. I sat with God and really worked out my schedule with what He was calling me to do. I was overscheduled and it was no wonder I couldn't do it all. Now, if it's on my calendar - I've talked with God about it and unless I am sick or a last minute emergency - I am there. This could have condemned me, "Why can Sally Sue do all that she's doing and I cannot". We all have different rhythms of life and God is helping me find mine. I signed up for 3 Bible Studies this Spring. When I began them, each was getting a little bit, but none were getting my best. God convicted me and I had to drop one of them. I could have felt like a failure, instead when you struggle in an area with God on your side, it should only encourage you and lift you up.
10. Many of the answers you have now will prove inadequate later in life. Always be a student and a child in is the Kingdom.
We are God's children. He wants us to continue to come to Him with childlike faith. The only way to continue to mature in your sanctification is to learn and grow in the Bible. I have a Study Bible - I've had it for years. I have scribbled, highlighted, and wrote notes all over it. It is my favorite possession I own. However, when I start a new Bible Study or go to a conference I bring a new clean Bible so I learn the material in a new way. Scripture can mean something to you in one season and mean something completely else in a different season.
11. Never bluff an answer to someone’s biblical or theological question if you don’t know the answer. Learn to say “I don’t know.”
We aren't called to know everything. I was so thankful, when I began Living Joy, a woman told me - you don't have to know everything Mary. I don't and I never will. And I'm ok with it. The best thing you can do is be honest.
12. Discover who you are in Christ and learn what it means to live by His indwelling life.
I had such low self esteem when I first began my walk with Christ. Mainly due to my self worth coming from self accomplishments and outside beauty. Learning who I AM in Christ was one of the first things God did with me. I recited these scriptures every morning and out loud, looking at my image in the bathroom mirror. I noticed when negative thoughts came to mind during the day - I would cast them out with the I AM's. I started believing these on the inside and living them on the outside. Oh, it is a beautiful thing to know who God made you to be! I would encourage anyone that suffers from negative self talk, depression, anxiety, people pleasing - to write these truths on your heart!
I've had so much fun sharing my personal advice for new Christians. I pray for you to continue to walk closely with Jesus and live the life He died for you to live. If you ever have any questions or need guidance please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you! It is a blessing and my honor to serve you!