“Come, Follow Me” – How Ready and Willing Am I?

Come, Follow Me

“Come, follow me, Grandma!” My grandson yelled over his shoulder as he grabbed his sled and sped down the steep snow-laden hill. The sun brightened the day, but failed to soften the biting crispness of the winter air. With fingers numbing in the cold and heals dug in, I hesitated, evaluating the outcome and standing in reluctance. For generations, our family enjoyed sledding together down these familiar slopes. The pages of my photo album chronicle many such outings.

Today was different!

As I stood on the crest of the hill, I realized I wasn’t as young as I once was. Broken bones don’t heal quite as quickly as they once did. My aging body doesn’t flex like it did a few decades ago. But alas, fun called! I lassoed my courage in one giant breath, lifted my heals and pushed off. Wind and snow pelted my face, forcing icy crystals around my neck and blurring my vision. Holding frantically to the inner tube beneath me, I creased my eyes tight as I veered off course, slamming into a bluff of shrubs and trees. With limbs intact, I flung my arms wide in the air, signalling triumph to the onlookers (laughing wildly, I might add). Obviously, I lived to tell the tale and smile in the remembrance. 

Waiting and watching

This invitation was risky, but invitations come in many forms. Invitations to weddings, baby showers, dinners with friends, picnics or vacations. Someone thought of us. Someone values our presence. The response to the invitation rests with each one of us. Will we pass up the opportunity, or be counted in?

Sometimes, we consider the cost more carefully. Future outcomes lay hidden. Resulting consequences questionable. “Come, follow me!” should cause us to ask at least a few questions before we jump on board. 

“Come, Follow Me.”

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.” 
Mark 1:17,18

Simon and Andrew never requested a legal contract validating Jesus’ ability to lead or adequately compensate them for their efforts. “At once” they followed. A little further down the beach, Jesus summoned two more fishermen, the brothers James and John.

Birds on water

Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat
with the hired men and followed him.”
Mark 1:20 

Don’t be confused! Their decision carried serious consequences. When they walked away from their father and the fishing business, they also left security, a predictable income, and peer credibility. They chose Jesus above their families and any earthly benefits. Jesus called these dedicated, mature business owners into futures they could not yet comprehend. 

Jesus recognized qualities in these hardworking men that would be essential for the demanding ministry ahead. Though rough around the edges, Jesus noticed in them the ingredients of greatness. His invitation to “Come, follow me!” held unprecedented risk — ultimately costing them their lives. 

Followers

Eventually, the numbers of people following Jesus aroused the suspicion of many, the jealousy of others, and the anger of still more. The multitudes which followed sought healing, deliverance, and food for their bellies. Others followed out of curiosity. A few followed with evil intent, waiting to catch Jesus in his words. 

Come Follow Me

The outward appearance of this rag-tag group of disciples concealed the mighty world-changers they would become. Jesus chose those who would be passionately committed and deeply involved in the work of ministry. He sought those who would courageously stand in the face of adversity and death. All-in, nothing held back, trusting, independent, and teachability! 

Many God honoring men and women turned and walked away. The cost of following Jesus was greater than they were willing to make. A wealthy young man in Matthew 19 is a prime example.

Since childhood, to the best of his ability, he lived for God. Yet, he knew he lacked something. He asked Jesus what more he could do.

” . . . sell your possession and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew 19:21

Sadly, he walked away, hoping to find an easier path, a cheaper alternative, a less painful option.

Everyone Come

Our response to Jesus’ call to “come, follow me” reveals more about the motivations of our hearts than we realize. Just maybe, His invitation discloses how deeply we hold to the temporary pleasures and comforts of the world.

The open invitation to follow Jesus still stands. Unfortunately, we too often relate to the wealthy young man or those in the parable of a banquet. Jesus says that everything is prepared and waiting for anyone willing to come. Throughout the streets and byways, messengers announced the good news.

Come, for everything is now ready. But they all alike began to make excuses.”
Luke 14:17-18

Though their reasons appeared valid and their response polite, they all missed a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the core, they all made excuses! Funny, how much validity we give to our frail reasoning. The Master in the parable knew both the weakness of their arguments and inevitable consequences of their failure to respond.

Compel Them

The Master became outraged by the feeble responses. The parable foretells a wedding celebration unlike any other. The union of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. It speaks with urgency.

Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame . . . Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:21-23

Ducks Diving

Excuses won’t matter then! The Master will fill the seats — if not with us, with others.

Every invitation requires preparation, setting aside other commitments, our time, and perhaps gifts. “Come, follow me!” carries a price, too. Our dedication to Jesus means more than lounging at banquet tables or sitting idly under shady trees.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Matthew 10:38

The cross for some may seem insignificant, but for others weighty. In following we become servants, messengers, and ministers caring for the needs of others above our own. In following, we commit everything we are and have to Him. We are no long our own; “we have been bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

The Reward

The rewards of following Jesus Christ are greater than could be compiled within a blog or list!

  • He lifts our burdens (Matt 11:28)
  • “Come, follow me!” leads us from the familiar into the miracle-moving, water-walking impossible (Matt 14:19, 28-29)
  • It brings us into the place of blessing and inheritance (Matt 25:34)
  • It welcomes us and others into the kingdom of God (Mk 1:17)
  • He provides quietness and rest (Mk 6:31)
Geese Lead and Follow

” . . . Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
John 7:37-38

We’ve all heard those get-it-now, time-limited offers. Though it may not seem like it, Jesus’ invitation fits into a similar category. When He returns, it will be too late. The doors will be closed and further access denied, unless you have already accepted His invitation to “Come, follow me!” Let’s not allow anything to keep us from responding.

” . . . I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

Today, acknowledge the invitation. Jesus welcomes all to RSVP, “Yes, Lord, today I come!”

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The Voice of Prophecy – Prophets Listening and Speaking Truth

How clearly does the voice of prophecy resound today? Are prophets still listening to God and speaking His prophetic truth in our generation? Has their voice diminished or is it strong? Prophets throughout the ages have been mocked, ridiculed, crucified and burned. Few people, if any, stand in line saying, “Pick me, Lord! Pick me to prophesy!”

Just before Stephen was stoned to death, he asked,

“Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? . . .”
Acts 7:52

Of all the spiritual gifts, why does prophecy get such a bad wrap? Undoubtedly, there is a lethargy toward spiritual gifts, an absence of mature mentors and misguided notions of prophecy. All, perhaps, put this beautiful and important gift in dim light.

Gifts of Perfume

Yet, prophecy remains among the gifts God gives to the church.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them . . . To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Six times Paul states that the gifts are given by the Spirit “as he determines,” including the voice of prophecy.

Gifts of Love

‘Charisma’ (singular) or ‘charismata’ (plural), commonly translated as gifts, means ‘gift of God’s love.‘ God beautifully lavishes His church with gifts of His love. Another word, ‘phanerosis,’ we also find translated as gift, means manifestation.

Child's ear

For the church to experience God’s love, His gifts must be seen and known. Without the gifts, His love remains hidden, not just from the church, but from the entire world.

For All

The gift of prophecy encourages believers while convicting those who neither know nor acknowledge God.

“. . . prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers . . . But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted . . .”
1 Corinthians 14:22-25

The voice of prophecy bridges the gap between those inside and outside the church. Both declare, “God is really among you!”

“. . . they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'”
1 Corinthians 14:24-25

Eyes to See

Honestly, I’ve approached the prophetic praying the secrets of my heart would forever remain hidden. Nonetheless, the unveiling of the heart draws one closer to our loving Father. Whatever God exposes, He redeems!

The Voice of Prophecy

When Jesus, the perfect Prophet, met the woman at the well and told her everything she ever did, worship was her predictable response.

. . . You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4:17-18

Jesus spoke to her privately, honoring and elevating her to a place of dignity while exposing the real pain and giving her the hope of an intimate relationship with God.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

One prophetic word brought a woman out of a hopeless situation and an entire town into knowing Jesus the Messiah.

True Prophecy

The honest voice of prophecy encourages those who hear and points them not to the prophet but to God. Prophets precisely tune their ears to hear God’s voice and focus their sight to heavenly realms to accurately relay what they hear and see to others.

“But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”
1 Corinthians 14:3

Although most prophecy adheres to this principle, not all. One doesn’t have to read the Bible long before realizing that the voice of prophecy often brought necessary correction from their loving Father.

Child and Adult

Earthly fathers who refuse to correct when necessary, harm those entrusted to them. Every loving father, including our Heavenly Father, loves enough to speak correction. He invites the listener to strength, courage and comfort.

Covet Prophecy

Paul commands his listeners to covet and zealously pursues prophecy.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy . . .”
1 Corinthians 14:39

Why such a strong admonishment? Why does he encourage everyone to prophesy?

Microphone

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”
1 Corinthians 14:1

What is it about the voice of prophecy that brings substantial “strengthening, encouragement and comfort?”

Whenever I have prophesied over others or God has spoken to me through a prophet, the awareness that God knows, sees and loves, even in the midst of personal messiness, inspires greater faith and trust, motivating to godly purpose and calling. Why?

“. . . the one who prophesies edifies the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:4

Testing Prophecy

For this reason, the voice of prophecy must be tested to ensure it agrees with the heart of God and the Word of Scripture, the Bible.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

The scrutinizing of the voice of prophecy ensures the purity of the word spoken. When God gives His gifts, it is the recipient’s responsibility to exercise and develop those gifts to reach their fullest potential and greatest benefit to His Kingdom.

Positive and Negative Image

The prophet requires a safe and loving atmosphere to hone the prophetic gift. Godly prophetic mentors, solid in the faith and established in the Word guide the maturing process.

We often see groups of prophets hanging out together in the Old Testament. For good reason! Here they developed, became accountable and grew in their gift (2 Kgs 6:1). Elisha followed Elijah, learning and growing in his gift. The disciples followed Jesus, watching and training as prophets.

The Prophetic Office

Testing the voice of prophecy is especially essential in regard to the office of the prophet. Few prophets mature to a recognized place of holding the position, or ministry, of a prophet, which is different than operating in the prophetic gift.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-13

Many people today create business cards identifying themselves as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. How God labels a ministry matters far more.

Sound Studio

Though many operate in the gifting found within the five-fold ministry, few hold the true spiritual office of that position. One of the frustrating aspects of any ministry is being pigeon-holed under a title, not God-given — frustrating for the individual and for the people under his or her ministry.

Avoiding man-made labels and maintaining a humble, godly attitude ensures the free-flow of the gifts God gives. He calls each of us to pursue spiritual gifts, test and hone them, then use them for His Kingdom purposes.

Prophets and prophetesses boldly arise! May your senses be open to perceive the currents of heaven releasing the prophetic voice once again for the strengthening, encouraging and comfort” of all.

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

3 Keys to Successful Ministry

If you were to ask five people for the keys of effective ministry, you would probably get five different answers. So I didn’t ask! I went straight to the bible looking for examples of effective ministry and asked God. Novel idea, right? Here is what I discovered!

This quest for answers was spurred on by a question from a friend. Honestly, I didn’t have a response! I have witnessed God heal many people through my prayers. I have seen others delivered from personal bondage, hearts mended, and marriages restored. Yet, there is an acute awareness that my ministry is far from successful!

What is successful ministry? Rising high!

I’m not referring to being successful in the eyes of people; I am talking about hearing “well done, good and faithful servant”. I want to know I am doing what God wants me to do, in the way He wants me to do, in the place He has called me.

Key #1 – He Called

One training method say:

  • I do. You watch.
  • I do. You help.
  • You do. I help. We talk.
  • You do. I watch. We talk.
  • You do. Someone else watches.

With Jesus, His method seemed to jump from step one to step five rather quickly!

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together…”
Luke 9:1

This isn’t the first time Jesus called the twelve apostles and sent them out. Luke 6:6 tells about the beginning of such journeys. The apostles already had experience both in watching how Jesus ministered and in activating those principles in practical ministry settings.

When Jesus called, it means, He called them to Himself. He invited them to draw near. He called them not just into ministry, but more importantly into relationship with Him.

The first secret to successful ministry is responding God’s call to intimate relationship.

An eye for successful ministry!

Jesus remained close to the Father. He was close enough to see what the Father was doing and hear what the Father was saying.

[bctt tweet=”Desire an intimacy close enough to hear God’s whisper!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Unless I consistently draw near, I won’t be able to receive His direction. I desire an intimacy close enough to hear God’s whisper.

His call over my life must be unquestionably real! When I know what He is asking me to do, I can go in full confidence! Knowing His will, I am able to walk in His directive! It is the sweet spot of ministry!

My desire isn’t sufficient! My way will lead me off course! Ministry must always be on His terms! I must guard against being lured outside of that call.

Key #2 – He Gave

“He gave them power and authority
to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.”
Luke 9:1

I can be in the right place at the right time, but if I am going in my own strength it will get me no where fast!

Power for successful ministry!

As a matter of fact, the more natural ability I have, the greater the temptation will be to begin doing things in my own strength. I may be able to fool those around me, but I sure won’t be able to fool God or the demons of hell! Trouble is just around the corner!

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’
says the LORD Almighty.”
Zechariah 4:6

More than any other factor for successful ministry, this one cannot be forfeited! Without the power of Holy Spirit, I can do nothing of significance for God’s kingdom.

Jesus later added,

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit,
just as my Father promised.
But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes
and fills you with power from heaven”
Luke 24:49

“Stay here!”

Holy Spirit brings all the power and authority we need to minister successfully. People may want to promote you too soon! Don’t move! Stay! Stay where you are until the Holy Spirit fills you with everything you need!

Everyone in the will of God, doing the purposes of God, is marked for success!

Key #3 – He Sent

When Jesus says, “Go!” It is time to go! Without excuses! Without hesitation!

Aiming for successful ministry!

Wherever God calls, He equips for sending!

If His call is into your home, go! Be the best Spirit-filled husband/wife, father/mother, peacemaker, child-raiser, and homemaker you can be!

If His call is in the workplace, go! Be the best employee or boss, servant and worker, you can!

Don’t waste any time looking over your shoulder at someone else’s call, or try to fill someone else’s shoes. Be the best you can be, wherever God sends!

Perhaps God is sending you into full-time ministry. Go!

Let’s each do our very best to be all God has chosen us to be, wherever He sends us!

Successful Ministry! Proclaim and Heal!

Wherever He plants us, it is with purpose! He has given us what we need to proclaim the Good News of the gospel, Jesus saves! His mandate still stands! Proclaim the good news of the Kingdom and heal. Let’s faithfully take the presence of Jesus everywhere we go.

The prize of successful ministry!

[bctt tweet=”His divine power has given us everything we need!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

To be successful, we don’t need to be the biggest, the best or the strongest. We don’t to be wisest or the most beautiful.

“His divine power has given us everything we need
for a godly life through our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
2 Peter 1:3

Being successful in ministry means far more than seeing lives changed and transformed. Some day, it will be an honour to lay every gift and ability at His feet. Then…

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful in handling this small amount,
so now I will give you many more responsibilities.
Let’s celebrate together!’ ”
Matthew 25:23

The apostles demonstrated successful ministry when they

obeyed His call,
used what He gave them,
and went where He sent them.

That, my friends will be our seal of successful ministry as well!

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