Christian Living | 93 comments | 5 min read

You Are Equipped to Follow Jesus

Two things we learn about true discipleship 

Feb 7, 2024

Karen McNary

BSF Director of Global Cultural Engagement

What does it mean to be a disciple?   

There were many people who followed Jesus. John tells us that great crowds of people were always at Jesus’s heels. The more Jesus performed miracles, the more people followed Him, asking for healing, questioning His motives, and seeking more of His teaching.  

However, just because great crowds literally followed Jesus does not mean they were spiritually following Jesus. Only a small number of these people became true disciples of Christ.  

So, how do we know what it really looks like to follow Jesus? 

John 12 and 13 give us a picture of authentic discipleship that we can follow in our daily lives. Through His disciples’ willingness to give what was costly and serve as the lowly, we learn that every follower of Jesus is equipped by the Spirit for true discipleship.   

No gift is too costly  

What would convince you to give up your salary for a year? Can you imagine a gift this costly?  

In John 12, Mary anoints Jesus’s head and feet with a pint of nard. Scholars estimate this perfume was worth an entire year’s salary! This gift could have given Mary economic security at a time when women were dependent on others. Yet she gave willingly. Was this a demonstration of trust that the God who raised her brother from the dead would care for her? Certainly, Mary showed her conviction that Jesus was worthy of her best. 

It’s been said that giving is an act of worship. Giving resets our hearts to love God alone. Our decision to give despite the cost (or our unwillingness to offer what we have) shows what we value most.   

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Giving resets our hearts to love God alone.

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Each of us has been called to give, and giving will differ based on the person. While it’s not uncommon to place higher importance on gifts that have a higher currency amount like Judas did, Jesus sees our hearts. He knows us intimately, which includes what we value. For some, donating treasure is easy, while giving time is a challenge. For others, giving talent is easy, but offering time and treasure is a struggle.   

Mary’s example of willing, sacrificial giving causes me to examine my heart about what I treasure. Is it sacrificial or self-centered? Am I willing to give despite potential criticism? What ways may God be prompting you to rethink how and what you give? 

No role is too lowly 

Despite the quality of her gift, Mary did not hand it to Jesus in a way that honored herself. Instead, she humbly poured the perfume on His feet, using her hair as a towel.  

She served in humility regardless of how she would be viewed.  

Remarkably, the same is true of Jesus Himself. Although He is God and King of all, He served rather than asking to be served. In John 13, Jesus took up a towel like an ordinary household servant and washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus even tenderly and lovingly washed the feet of Judas, who He knew would soon betray Him.  

Growing in our discipleship means putting aside our desire to be extraordinary for God. It means developing our hearts to be willing to serve in the most ordinary ways.  

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Growing in our discipleship means developing our hearts to be willing to serve in the most ordinary ways.

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Peter, who was one of the disciples having his feet washed in John 13, was transformed by the experience. He devoted His life to serving God at any cost. He later wrote to encourage believers to follow the example of Christ, saying, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). The term “whatever” seems so simple and harmless until an opportunity comes up that doesn’t seem particularly appealing! For example, the most difficult position to fill on a Sunday morning at my local church is volunteering for the nursery. While it’s easy to say, “It’s not my gifting,” all it really takes is a willing heart to serve a real need.  

This passage challenges me to ask, are there roles I consider beneath me? Or people I think aren’t deserving? What motivates me most—the need or my own comfort? 

We do not need special training or unique giftings to be Jesus’s disciples. Authentic discipleship means recognizing that the Holy Spirit has already equipped us to be His followers. He calls us to give freely from what He’s given us and to serve humbly, meeting the needs of the community where He’s placed us.  

About the Author

Karen McNary served as a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, Teaching Leader, Area Personnel, and, most recently, as a Skills Coach for BSF prior to joining the staff in April 2021. She is originally from Louisville, KY, and for the past 20 years has called Charlotte, NC, home. She has been married to her husband, Keith, for 27 years, and together they parent three young adult sons, who attended the BSF Student Program for many years.

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93 Comments

  1. I am just now reading Karen McNary’s post more than a month after she posted it. God knew when I needed to read this.
    I have been dealing with well-meaning family and getting my feelings hurt very easily. All me. Prideful me. I have not stopped to think – even after being in the study of John how humble my Lord and Savior was to wash Judas’ feet. And I will not humble myself to listen to my family who loves me?!! What’s up with that? with me?
    I need to follow Jesus’ lead. I love that she wrote “Growing in our discipleship means putting aside our desire to be extraordinary for God.”
    Thank you for that and thank you for this comment:
    “giving is an act of worship. Giving resets our hearts to love God alone. ”

    God has used this blog to change my attitude and humble my heart. I am grateful.

    Reply
  2. Hi! Karen, as I continue to grow older more and more I realize what you are saying, I am a servant of the Lord, and I love to give to others may I always give to honor Jesus and others not myself.

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  3. Karen, I found your article to be very encouraging and challenging as I learn to be a disciple of Christ. What a great reminder to humbly give from what He has already given to us… I will continue to ponder what you have shared as I grow in my faith and witness to the world around me. Thank you!

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  4. Thank you for sharing and encouraging under the topic “You are equipped to follow Jesus”.

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  5. I truly appreciated reading this article. I am currently in a discipleship training pilot program at my church and it’s about to end soon. Then each member will have their own discipleship group. I am the only lay member of the group meaning I don’t have a church title. I am only a church member. The group has made me feel welcomed, but I am not as biblically trained as they are. This article is encouraging because it supports that God can use ordinary people to ordinary task. I feel like I can serve in a space that is fitting for me. Peace be with you!

    Reply
  6. This is a very thoughtful article. I was a longtime DL then a longtime admin member, which I loved. Two years ago I had to drop out of BSF to care for my homebound husband.

    A wonderful church elder offered to stay with Ron so that I can still play the piano for our evening service. So I am the recipient of someone’s heartfelt gift!

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  7. Dear Karen,

    I appreciate and thank you for the simple but highly challenging way you have explained what it means to be a disciple! As I grew with the BSF as a member, DL/GL, CS, and now as CL, yes, I fully agree with you ” God calls us to give freely from what He’s given us and to serve humbly, meeting the needs of the community where He’s placed us”. Glory, honour and praise to His name.

    Reply
    • I really enjoy BFS online teaching each Monday really learning about Jesus and all He has done for us and to learn to hear from Him a great teaching looking forward to learning more and to grow stronger in His Will… Amen ❤️

      Reply
  8. Thank you for your article on serving the Lord. It is very important that we continue to serve Him daily.

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  9. Thank you for the reminder.

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  10. I truly appreciated this article because it touched a part of me that needed to be rethought and prayed about. As the writer of this article she too was not wanting to serve in the nursery, It is not my gifting and so many times I have said I will give this up , but she reminded me that it is not the service but the need that’s important and not my comfort but the comfort of others that is so important as Mary humbled herself so I should humble myself in that manner.
    Peace and love in Jesus Christ

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    • I appreciate your wrestling with where to serve Norma. I don’t think we’re called to do everything, but comfort can’t determine our decisions. Praying that the Lord confirms where He would like you to serve.

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  11. Lord God, forgive and have mercy on me for abandoning humility while donating quality gifts to your people in ways that have often honoured and brought glory to myself.

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  12. I have learnt to selflessly serve God in humility because that is the example that Jesus set for us when he washed the disciples feet.

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  13. Great write up. It has deepened my understanding on what you need to be a disciple and the believers calling to give. Most Grateful

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  14. I will be forever grateful to the Almighty for the opportunity to deeply understand His will for me and my family through the structures laid down by BSF. For 19 years now, and gladly doing it with my grand children is a great joy and fulfilment. To me this is the abundant life i wake up to everyday no matter what. All honour and glory to our Father God in heaven. Amen.

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  15. A very clear explanation.

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  16. Thank you, Karen! Your words are so simple, as “we do not need special training or unique giftings to be Jesus’s disciples”. Simple, yet so challenging. Serving in any capacity counts. You have given me lots to think about, even at my age of 79. I have served in many ways throughout my years, then had the feeling, “I’ve done my time”. Now, my heart feels different. Thank you for your encouragement. Even with my health issues, I can still bake something for a funeral at church, or call a friend I haven’t heard from for a long time, to encourage them. Send cards of love to those who are unloved. It is endless what we can do in our later years, in Jesus name.

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    • Rita, I totally understand feeling like you’ve done your time. Yet I know God still has more for you to do!

      Reply
    • Rita. I also reached “Floor 7” of my life last year.
      I have been also thinking of quiting Leadership at BSF since “I have done my part; let the youths also take over”. God bless you and Karen for inspiring me to hang on paka (till) last.

      Reply
  17. Impressive. Great lesson.

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  18. This article was refreshing and informative,, Some of us who have been in bible study a long time, need to be reminded what discipleship is all about; and sometimes we need to be encouraged to fill in where we are needed even when it takes us out of our comfort zone. Just as Jesus humbled himself and washed the disciples feet as an example of how we are to serve one another, We need to remember that we are servants of the most high God. God has placed us here to serve and glorify Him and to serve one another. Thank you Karen for this great article. May God bless you as you continue to do His work.

    Reply
  19. Well done my faithful Sister! Thanks so much for echoing Spirit’s call to serve humbly and to develop our hearts to be willing to serve in the most ordinary ways. After my departure from serving in BSF leadership for quite a number of years, I’m often asked the question, “What are you doing now?”(with the implication being, “Where are you serving now?”)
    Rather than offering a response that would add to my “service resume”, I now feel a more suitable response would be, “I would appreciate your prayers for me to respond to Spirit’s developing my heart to serve in the most ordinary ways”. I’ve found that something as simple as a smile or heartfelt compliment (especially to “service workers” with whom we interact on a daily basis) can change their expressions and completely ‘change the atmosphere’ for the good!
    So, in rethinking how & what I give, I’ll continue to follow the ONLY voice that counts, so that one day I’ll hear the Master’s voice saying, Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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    • Such a good reminder Barbara to serve in ordinary ways as you are led by the Lord.

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  20. “What motivates me most – the need or my own comfort?” That challenge hits the nail on the head. We so often don’t want to get out of our comfort zone – but Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, not as a burden but to free us from that burden.
    Thank you for this reminder!!

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  21. Enjoyed and more encouragement

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  22. Thank you Karen

    Indeed no gift is too costly and no role is lowly in the preaching the Good News of the Gospel and bringing people to Christ.

    I have been encouraged.

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  23. Thank you for the challenging comments, Karen. It is encouraging to read your last paragraph, that the Holy spirit has already equipped us to be His followers. He calls us to give freely from what He’s given us and to serve humbly, meeting the needs of the community where He’s placed us. It’s so easy to think we’re not adequate, but He enables us to do what He wants us to do.

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  24. Excellent …

    Shows the importance of putting the emphasis on being a servant leader. .

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  25. Karen, your 3 examples of serving as a disciple were so clear and inspiring- Thank You!

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  26. I love and need to know each day that Jesus sees our hearts and knows us intimately. Then through His Holy Spirit presence in me I can share this Love💝

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  27. My thought is If I know someone, who they really are, will I love them because of what I know. Let us love one another as Love is of God!

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  28. Thanks Karen,
    Having a heart like Jesus and being His humble servant is so important in our walk with Him and shining His light for the world to see.

    Reply
  29. It is always a refreshing reminder getting emails from leaders like Karen and others as well. It helps us to hear from others who love and appreciate our BSF leader’s devotion to our Lord Jesus and the group members in our men’s BSF group.
    Praise God for BSF

    Reply
  30. RESETTING OUR HEARTS TO WHAT JESUS TAUGHT US AND
    WILL TEACH US – TO SERVE. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS ON JESUS AND HE WILL LEAD THE WAY.

    THANK YOU KAREN.

    Reply
  31. Thank you Karen for the encouraging article to be disciples for Christ in action in our families, community and the body of Christ, serving with humility and selflessness.

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  32. The LORD has certainly pressed me hard in these very areas this year. This post encourages me that I am on the right path and that I am never alone, no matter how difficult those heart changes seem to me and as well as the obedient action which must then result. Thanks!

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    • Beuatifully articulated. Challenging and thought provoking. It takes courage to ask oneself ‘Why are you doing what you do? For whose attention?

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  33. We just talked about this in our discussion group and a clear message was how do we serve our enemies and the unlovely. It is easier to serve within our church communities and our neighborhoods, but are we willing to step outside of our comfort zone and really serve those we find repugnant.

    Thank you for asking the question, “This passage challenges me to ask, are there roles I consider beneath me? Or people I think aren’t deserving? What motivates me most—the need or my own comfort?”

    Deeply the Holy Spirit reveals in my heart how to serve in ordinary ways to parts of my community that I have not recognised or considered before.

    Thank you, your sister in Christ

    Reply
    • Catherine,

      I think many Christians are challenged to serve those who are unlovely or those we consider enemies. But I think that’s what makes us different than the world. Thankfully we have His Spirit to guide and empower us to serve and respond as He did.

      Reply
  34. This is a beautiful and insightful blog. Ty for sending it to me my cousin and I are believers in Jesus and we are Jewish. We trust and love him with all our hearts.We attend BSF in Texas where we live, I just want to learn and do more for my God and Savior, Right now, I am temporarily disabled I say “temporarily” because I know Jesus will help me to heal 100%Again thank you for this reading, it’s justwhat i needed

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  35. Thank you, Karen. It really is as simple as you stated, “all it really takes is a willing heart to serve a real need”. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us!

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  36. A very nice summation of deep Biblical truths. Thank you! I attend a very large church and yet sadly we lost our Sunday choir over the years, killed off by COVID in ’20-’21 and never resurrected. We have 8 aisles in the sanctuary and only rarely do we have enough ushers/greeters to cover them. I hear the same from friends/family all over and every denomination…people are too often “busy” and desire not even the most basic of serving. If we cannot serve each other, how can we serve others? ‘The harvest is plenty but the workers few.’ Jesus of Nazareth

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  37. This is an amazing topic of giving whole kindheartedly. You challenged me in giving “time”. Thank You

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  38. How timely for me to read this. Two years ago my husband of 67 years and I moved into a beautiful Independent living village. I asked God when we moved, show me the reason I’m living there that I can ‘ show Jesus’ to others. Two days ago a conversation came up with a casual friend of a comment I had written in a note to her that “ God was with us and on our side” during a health situation. She said the other day she thinks of my comment often and that she doesn’t have God with her..I said” Oh Nancy I couldn’t go on without Him and I want you to have B
    God in your heart and on your side…..she hugged and kissed me and said thank you Betsey…..so,,,now I know, God put me here for Nancy and I can’t wait to share HIM with her and have her ask Jesus into her heart. It’s been 2 years for me to clearly know my mission here!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing… God often allows us to be a blessing in ordinary ways.

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  39. The characteristics of Christ are woven into our very being.

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  40. Great reminder to help us step out of our comfort zone. Truly show the world that we are the Body of Christ.
    Thanks for this encouragement!

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  41. Lord help me to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ

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  42. This is a great article on serving and discipleship. Thank you@

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  43. It is true . To follow Jesus first we should love Him , Secondly obedient to His teachings and humble our self . Place others before us and their needs before ,Also we have to have passion to serve. Then Holy Spirit will guide us every step of our way. I was a BSF student too, I miss studying the word through BSF . I will try and enroll this year.
    Thank you very much ,

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  44. Thanks you. It really takes a willing heart to serve.
    God help me have a willing heart to serve you 🙏

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  45. All I can say is SALUTE QUEEN KAREN,I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THE CONTEXT OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST KING OF KING’S, FURTHERMORE, IT’S ALWAYS A JOY WHEN I READ ,SEE, WITNESS,OR PARTICIPATE MYSELF IN WHO OR WHAT JESUS TRULY WAS & IS. HE WASN’T ABOUT THE CHEERING OF MANKIND,HE WAS ABOUT THE GLORY OF HIS FATHER,MY FATHER, YOUR FATHER,OUR FATHER! HUMBLE AND HONEST IS ALL I WANT TO BE. CARRY MY CROSS INTO VICTORY. HE DIED FOR ME SO I’M WILLING TO LIVE FOR HIM. May you and your FAMILY HAVE A PEACEFUL, PRODUCTIVE AND PROSPEROUS YEAR IN JESUS NAME I PRAY. GOD BLESS

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  46. Such great questions to reflect on as we serve others and the church! Thank you.

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  47. It is always a blessing to hear Gods truth and be convicted to serve Him more. Thanks for all you do to help us alone this journey.

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  48. Thank you, Karen.

    Your words are encouraging and a blessing as I think and pray about new ways to serve in this new year.

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  49. Very good insight, helped me a lot. In my opinion ‘Discipleship’ is the most neglected area of our Christian journey.

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  50. Love the wisdom you gave me.

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  51. Thank you! That was very encouraging. A good reminder that serving the people around us with ordinary every tasks glorifies God.

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  52. I too believe that to follow Jesus we have to give out of our comfort zone. The world has made us so comfortable with all the pleasures of life but to be called a disciple of Jesus we need to deny ourselves the secured comfortable life we lead & move out of the comfort zone as per leading of the Holy Spirit. And this is not a once in a lifetime action, it has to be repeated each & every day. If we unable to impact the people around us at home, work or where we spend our time for Jesus, then we are like the great crowds who followed Jesus & not a true disciple of Christ.

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    • I agree Benjamin.. we like comfort. A wise person once told me ‘comfort’ isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. Very convicting indeed.

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    • Benjamin, you’re so right on. We need to move from the comfort zone to the faith zone.

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  53. Thank you for this wonderful message. It was very inspiring and thought-provoking. May it up lift and promote more workers for Christ where most needed.

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  54. Thank you Karen, wonderful words for self introspection and yet same time encourgaing, Praise God.

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  55. Loved the summary of John 13 it helped me with my lessons.

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  56. Thank you so very much for sharing this. I know it blessed my heart immensely. To be God’s servant through discipleship is an amazing gift which He bestows on us when we take up the mantle to do whatsoever is needed to further His Kingdom while we are here on earth. He is, indeed, an “awesome God!” Bnkurged (Be Encouraged)!

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  57. Excellent teaching on being a disciple of Jesus, Karen. We (I) tend to complicate matters, the beauty of being a genuine follower or disciple of Christ, is understanding the simplicity of the Gospel message. I am called to serve and not be served. LORD, HELP ME TO BE A SERVANT BY FOLLOWING YOU IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.

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    • Amen

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  58. Owesome stuff, thanks

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  59. That’s a beautiful perspective on discipleship. Indeed, discipleship is a lifelong journey of growing in our relationship with Jesus, being transformed by His love, and reflecting His character to the world around us. It’s not about our own abilities or qualifications but about surrendering to the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, trusting that God will work through us as we yield ourselves to Him.

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  60. Thank you for your flog Ms. McNary. Such impactful yet simple words. Your points about putting our desire to be extraordinary for God was so challenging – in the best ways. And I love the question at the end “what motivates me most- the need or my own comfort?”
    So great! Thank you for your contribution to BSF and to me personally! From Redding CA!

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  61. Wow! Just what I needed to hear. “Is it sacrificial or self centered?” Thank you

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  62. Thank you for your message. I am very touched.

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  63. God expects us to follow Him. He is the only One who knows ours hearts.

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  64. Fully aware of this calling now I chose to be His disciple of love and affection to others as He showed me how to love even those betraying Him! So must I do so wholeheartedly!

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  65. Bless you for wonderful words

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  66. Service unto the Lord is very humbling, but very satisfying.

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  67. Very well said. I believe it is a struggle for us all. We want to serve when it comes easy for us. Thank you for sharing what it looks like to be a true disciple of Christ – seeing a need and not counting the cost to us personally, but the honor and glory that it points to our Lord and Savior.

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  68. Dear Karen,
    I don’t know whether to thank you or cry, because I struggle a lot with the questions you brought up. I know that I can’t hide who I am from God. He knows the authenticity of my heart, but I have trouble knowing if I am pleasing Him with my giving to others. Is the giving of my time & resources to my children & grandchildren in other states enough? Or do I tell them I can’t come & help because I need to be helping other people? I honestly don’t know. I have felt that God is calling me to first
    take care of, lead, & show Who Christ is to the people he has planted in my life. But…maybe I’m wrong.
    When my children were little I did lots of volunteer work fighting against child sexual abuse. I believed I was called to do that, but one day I realized how much I was neglecting my own family. It took one of my own children’s hurt voices to wake me up to realize that it had gotten all about me feeling worthy in the world’s eyes.
    I don’t want to neglect my children again or miss knowing my grandchildren, just for pats on the back from the world.
    Please pray for me about this, because I really do want to obey God in wherever He wants me to put my time & resources. Thank you for bringing all of this to the surface for me.
    May God bless you.

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    • Tassie I think you bring up a legitimate concerns. God does want us to take of our families. Good management and care of our family responsibilities is part of living out the gospel. One of Jesus’s final instructions to John from the cross was for John to take over the care of Jesus’ mother Mary. Mary and Jesus’ siblings accompanied him during his ministry . It is assumed his father was dead at this time. He was the oldest son and would have been caring for His family. Also see 1 Timothy 5:8 . I will pray that God will give you clarity on how to balance your family responbilities and any ministries that He is calling you to serve. I know if He calls you , He will give you the grace you need to meet all the responsibilities He calls you to. 🙂

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    • 🙏🏾

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    • Tassie.. your desire to serve the Lord is evident. As a wife and mother of 3, I believe my first ministry and place to serve is with my family.

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  69. Precious way of describing sacrificial giving by Mary. Jesus loves us.

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  70. Is following the great command also part of the definition of being a disciple? Knowing what Jesus taught, behaving as Jesus did and following His teachings, serving, loving and making other disciples who help to do greater works by sharing the gospel across the world, even with one person at a time.

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  71. Thank you Karen for opening the eyes of my understanding when you said that “Jesus even tenderly and lovingly washed the feet of Judas, who He knew would soon betray Him”. I recently reacted shamefully when a certain people group hurt me deeply. Yet, here we see JESUS tenderly & lovingly washing the feet of the very man who gave HIM a “Judas kiss”. May the LORD forgive me for not taking my pain to the foot of the cross and forgiving these people all because while I was yet a sinner, CHRIST died for me. That is what being a true disciple of CHRIST requires of me.

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    • Melody,

      Seeing how Jesus interacted with Judas is very convicting to me. If I confess to be a Christ-follower, then I have to respond His way. But thankfully we have His Spirit to help as I don’t think we can do this in our own strength.

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  72. wonderful insights into discipleship. Phrases easy to remember and memorize. Thank you Karen.

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  73. Beautifully written. Timely and so important for Christians to remember
    and serve others the way Jesus served his disciples.

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    • Beautiful written. Make you think about all the people following Him. I will keep my self with Him

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  74. Convicted and motivated!

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  75. Well written and an inspiration to grow more fully as a disciple of Christ. It finally dawned on me in this year’s study of John that Jesus is inviting me into God’s kingdom today, not upon my death. Eternity starts right now if I want it, and I do!

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  76. I am loving learning how the disciples grew in faith. I feel somehow assured that the Lord is bringing me along. Little by little. Always with me/us.

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  77. Karen,
    Thank you so very much for blessing us with your words of wisdom & conviction. I will be praying that the Holy Spirit will show me how to serve as Jesus, selflessly. And I will be praying that my giving “resets my heart to love God alone”
    Again, thank you for blessing me.

    Reply

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