Monday, July 7, 2014

The High Calling

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 KLV) Have you ever read this verse of scripture and just wanted so badly to get inside of the Apostle Paul’s head and figure out just how he did that? How did Paul forget his persecution of the believers? How did he forget that he denied the very Christ that he now professes? How did Paul go from referring to himself as “the chief of sinners” to saying in 2nd Corinthians chapter seven, “we have wronged no one”? How did he forget that he gave consent and held the coats as the people stoned Stephen? I wonder about this, not to judge Paul, but to free myself. How do we walk away from our past and break the ties that hold us hostage to become all that God is calling us to be in Christ Jesus. Once I became a Christian, it was very easy for me to forget the things that I did outside of salvation, because I understood that when I did those things, I was simply doing what sinners do. My struggle comes when I mess up as a Christian. How do I walk away from those things? How do I leave them in the past and reach forward to the things that God has before me? Then a couple of weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me where the problem laid, a spirit of unworthiness. All of my life, I have struggled against this spirit of unworthiness. Once I became a Christian, the warfare with this spirit intensified. As time passed, instead of growing more confident in my walk with God, my footing became less and less sure. I would hold back, thinking that surely God does not plan to use me! I am certainly not the one He will use, maybe my mom or my sisters, but surely not me! Yet God continued to speak to my heart the things that He was calling me to. Each time I thought that I was able to stand in the confidence of who I am in Christ, that same spirit of unworthiness would fire off another arrow, “who do you think you are that God would use you? Remember when…” So my confidence would be shaken and I would fall back to that position of “surely God does not plan to use me!” I know what you are thinking, “OK Evangelist, we get that part, but where is the remedy?” The remedy beloved is found within that same verse of scripture. In Philippians 3:3 the Apostles admonishes that we put no confidence in the flesh. You see, our human weaknesses, our human failings will never satisfy the righteousness and holiness of God. We will NEVER be worthy of what Christ did for us, we will NEVER be worthy to name ourselves among the sons and daughters of God if we place our confidence in our flesh (our humanness). We will NEVER stand justified before God in that place, if that were so Christ would never have taken on our sins. What we do is just what the Apostle Paul did, we forget those things that are behind us, even if the “behind us” was only two minutes ago, and we look ahead to who Christ is calling us to be. We see ourselves as the Father sees us, through the cleansing blood of Christ and we keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck in condemnation and recrimination. The Father knew every time that you were going to mess up before you ever did. Does that mean that He excuses our sins, no; it means that our failures NEVER determine God’s love for us and it NEVER changes His plans for our lives. Paul realized this and made the decision that all the things that were important to him, all the things that gave him confidence in his flesh were garbage when compared to the call of God on his life. He forgot the man that Saul had been and he saw himself in the light of what Christ had done for him. So what is my remedy for us, dearly loved ones? Both you and I must forget our failures; dismiss that sense of unworthiness, because Christ made us worthy. Our goal must be to reach forward, striving to catch hold of what has caught hold of us. Christ made us worthy through His blood, the Father sees us as worthy through the blood of Christ and His plan for us is eternal. There is a high calling in Christ Jesus that once we determine we are going to pursue it with our whole heart, it will lead us into the fullness of who God created us to be and we will be able to stand before Him in confidence that we fulfilled His purpose in our lives. Be encouraged dearly loved ones!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Preparation for the Harvest

In Galatians Chapter six and verse nine, the Apostle Paul offers believers some encouraging advice; “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Paul knew that often we as believers forget that God put a system into place where there is a time of planting and a time of harvesting and this doesn't just apply to natural things, but to spiritual things as well. From the very beginning, God made this promise to His people; “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22 ESV) I believe that as long as we don’t give up on God, we will reap the harvest of our faith. Placing our trust in the promises of God is our seedtime. Our faith as we wait is our “doing good,” the two then will produce in their season. It does not matter what the promise is; if we remain faithful and trust the God who promised, we will reap in our season! I was reminded of this a few weeks ago in a very practical way. On the road that I travel to and from work each day, there are peach orchards; as far as the eye can see on either side of the road. Growing up in the south, there is one thing that I have learned about peach trees, at the first sign of warm weather they begin to blossom. It doesn’t matter if it is still winter, as sure as the temperature climbs above seventy degrees for a few days, you will begin to see the pretty pink blossoms paint the orchard. But there is something else that every southern born person knows and that is this; in the south, cold weather is not over for the season until after Easter; my great grandmother used to call it “the Easter snap.” The peach trees obviously don’t know this pearl of wisdom. But because the peach growers know about the “Easter snap,” and because they know that the peach trees always get ahead of themselves, they make preparation early on for the cold weather. The peach orchard that I drive pass has tall windmill-like contraptions that are actually heaters; and when the temperature drops below freezing and the trees are already in bloom, the growers use these heaters to keep the trees warm and prevent the cold from damaging the harvest. Not only do they use these heaters, but they also have bales and bales of hay lined around the orchard that they burn to keep warmth on the trees. When the temperature drops below freezing, the workers stay up all night making sure that the fires burn and the trees with their fragile blossoms are protected. Why do they do this? They are preparing for the harvest. I am certain that on those nights when the temperature dips into the low twenties, the workers would much rather be at home in their warm beds instead of standing out in the cold with only the fire from the hay to keep them warm. The peach growers will do this night after night, even when it seems like an impossible task, because they want to see the harvest. The end result of their faithfulness is a harvest of delicious fresh peaches for all to enjoy come July and August. So what is my purpose in telling you this? Well, I believe that when we receive a promise from God, sometimes we see the early blossoms of this promise coming to pass and we get excited and hopeful, but when we run into a road block and the promise looks like it is not going to happen, we give up. What do you think would happen to the peach harvest if the growers gave up when the temperature dropped? There would be no peaches in that season, or there would certainly be a much smaller harvest. Paul encourages us, do not get tired of doing good, in other words, don’t get tired of trusting God, don’t look at the circumstances of our lives and decide, “I must not have heard God right.” Or “God did not come through for me.” Everything has a “due season.” Peaches have their harvest season in July and August, but there are other fruits and vegetables that have their season in fall or winter, or early spring. Just because your due season hasn't arrived yet, don’t give up on God! God is not limited by time; He does not have to keep our schedule. The scripture tells us that Abraham is the father of us all,”in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist…No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” (Rom. 4:17; 20-21 ESV) Despite the passage of time, twenty-five years to be exact, Abraham continued to believe God; and now he has the eternal testimony in the presence of God and all creation that he is the “father of us all.” God knows our days, beloved. He knows every promise that He has for us! And when His timing is complete, we will receive that promise. What we have to do is prepare for the harvest. Trust that God is going to do what He said. Know that even those things that appear dead matter little to God because He gives life to the dead, and He calls things which do not exist into existence. Are you believing God for something today? Perhaps you long to be a parent but biology says you’re too old. Maybe you are longing for a spouse but it seems that all you ever get is rejection. Or you may be a parent that has been waiting for God to deliver a child from a life of sin and destruction. You might be a husband or wife in a bad marriage and you have been trusting God to save your spouse. Whatever your harvest is, don’t give up. You may need to add the fertilizer of faith to your prayers, or maybe you just need to rest in the knowledge that the God who promised is faithful, and just because you have not received your harvest yet, does not mean that your due season isn't coming! Be encouraged believed, trust God and you will enjoy your “peaches” if you don’t give up!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"...And His name shall be called..."

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6 NKJV) Every Christmas someone will preach a message from this scripture, we reference it in our discussions about Christmas; I have even received several Christmas greetings this year using that particular verse. But how often do we stop to really take in the prophet Isaiah's very descriptive prophecy of who our Savior is? Let's take a moment beloved to dissect and analyze the prophet’s descriptive verse, name by name. Let me begin by saying that very often, I look at scripture through the lens of a writer. By that I mean I look at the grammar mechanics, where commas are placed, is something in parenthesis, is there a word that is connecting one verse to a previous verse, etc. In looking at Isaiah’s prophecy, I see that each name is separated by a comma, and is therefore meant to stand on its own. “And His name shall be called Wonderful,” “And His name shall be called Counselor,” “And His name shall be called Mighty God,” “And His name shall be called Everlasting Father,” “And His name shall be called Prince of Peace.” Each name was a promise of who Jesus would be, for those of us who receive Him as our Savior and Lord. They are not just titles to be recited poetically; they inform us of Messiah’s roll in our lives! His name shall be called “Wonderful.” Wonderful has two definitions, that make perfect sense when used as a name for Jesus: (1) of a quality that excites admiration or amazement; (2) suiting somebody perfectly. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, think about your life before Christ and your life now. Is there something about Jesus, just saying His name that excites you? Does His goodness and love for you sometimes leave you shaking your head in amazement? Does life in the loving care and forgiveness of Jesus Christ suit you perfectly? My answer is Yes! His name shall be called “Counselor.” There are two definitions of counselor that jump out at me when I look at Jesus as Counselor; (1) somebody such as a friend who gives advice; (2) an attorney, especially one who acts for a client in a trial. What a beautiful image. Jesus is certainly a friend who gives advice. Have you ever been in a situation when you had no answer, no one to turn to and the still small voice from within advises you on what to do, how to do or where to go? That is Jesus, our friend, being a counselor. When the “accuser of the brethren” stands to accuse us with our past, pointing out our failures and shortcomings, our attorney, Jesus is there representing us, speaking on our behalf, reminding the Father and Satan that our past has been wiped clean by His blood! Jesus our Counselor! His name shall be called Mighty God! Jesus, contrary to how he is portrayed in some Hollywood productions, is a Mighty God! If you read the Gospels and you see how He faced down His challengers, if you read the Book of the Revelation, you will see that He is a Mighty God! Jesus is not the helpless little baby in the manger, and He is not the broken, disfigured body hanging on the cross, He is our Mighty God! His name shall be called Everlasting Father. In Ephesians chapter one we see Jesus as everlasting, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6 NKJV) Jesus has always been who He is and we were eternally His. And He shall be called Prince of Peace. Have you ever been in a situation beloved where everything that you saw, every report, every word spoken was telling you to fall apart, lose control and give up? Yet you found yourself in peace! There is a peace that comes in Christ Jesus that allows you to lie down and rest when all hell is breaking loose. There is a peace in Christ Jesus beloved that fills us when the report is “the worst case scenario.” Why is that? Because our Prince of Peace is reigning supreme in our lives; He is present and He holds us in the midst of the storm! Jesus, our Prince of Peace! Beloved, this Christmas, amid the joy and fellowship that you share with your family, take time to reflect upon who Jesus Christ is in our lives. He is not the “sweet little Jesus boy,” he is not “Mary’s little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.” Jesus is Wonderful, He is Counselor, He is Mighty God, He is Everlasting Father, He is Prince of Peace! Praise God! Merry Christmas beloved, thank you for stopping by to read my posts this year, I pray you were blessed by them. I hope you will come back in 2014!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brand Recognition

Have you ever watched the Red Carpet interviews when Awards shows air on television? If you have, then you know that the first question that celebrities are asked by the interviewers is, "Who are you wearing?" And the celebrity responds by giving the name of a top designer. You never hear the celebrities say, "I don't know, I just picked this up at the mall." No, every celebrity on the red carpet is careful to select a top designer, or an up and coming designer with clear brand recognition. These people know that the designer label that they are wearing is almost as important as the award itself. Even the lesser known celebrities want to be seen in the top brand names. There are certain designer labels that are so easily recognized at these red carpet events that no one needs ask the question, "Who are you wearing?" Or, certain designers are identified almost exclusively with certain celebrities, so there is never any guesses about who they are wearing. When Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she always wore Oscar de la Renta. He was even the designer of her Mother of the Bride gown when her daughter got married. Before the sketches for her inaugural gowns were released, even before word of what she would wear to her daughter's wedding got out, reporters were speculating that she would be wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown. Mrs. Clinton was known for her preference for and tendency towards wearing gowns from the De la Renta line, so it was never a surprise when she stepped out in a gown by the well known designer. Which brings me to the thought that sent me writing this Christians, are we concerned with brand recognition? Does the life we live easily identify us as being of the Household of Christ? The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (ESV) When you step out onto the "Red carpet" of life do the people around you have to guess who you are wearing? Does your conversation say, "Of the Household of Christ" or does it say "gratifying the desires of my flesh" because you are prone to gossip, crude language and hurtful words? When someone needs prayer, do they seek you out because your daily life identifies you as having "put on the Lord Jesus"? When celebrities seek out designers for the awards season, they don't want just any old designer. They don't pick the guy whose designs end up on the worst dress list year after year, no they choose top of the line designers because they know that at some point during the night a reporter is going to stick a microphone in their face and ask the question, "Who are you wearing?" We should also be mindful beloved, what we are showing the world as believers, in Galatians 3:27, Paul again reminds us of who we are wearing, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (ESV) As saved men and women of God we are wearing the "Brand" of the living Christ! Does the world see that in you? Do they know who you are wearing or do they scratch their heads in confusion when you say that you are a Christian? Many people believe that the word Christian is translated "little Christs" but in truth, the translation means "Of the household of Christ." If we belong to the Household of Christ, the world should easily recognize that we are wearing His “Brand”. When we step out, we should be wearing a loving attitude, our joy and peace should be evident, we should treat others with patience, kindness and gentleness. We should be an example of goodness, faithfulness and self control. These are the things that will identify us as wearing the "Brand" of Jesus Christ. You would never see a celebrity altering a gown by Vera Wang or Carolina Herrera, because they want everyone to know that they are wearing a gown from these notable designers’ lines. Our desire should also be that every person we meet will see a true and unaltered Christianity that draws them to our Savior. So here is my question for you, dearly loved ones, who are you wearing and are you easily identified with His brand? I don't know about you, but there are plenty of days that I know I don't wear the brand well, but my prayer and my sincere desire is this, having put on the Lord Jesus, I want to wear Him well! What about you? The world is watching to see who we are wearing, so let's wear the "Brand" in a manner that is worthy of the designer!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cast Out the Idol and Tear Down the Altar

So often, we build certain things up in our lives to the point that they become our idols. We don't think of them as idols, we just see them as our dreams, our goals, and our ambitions; but when those things become the central focus in our lives, they do, in essence, become our idols. Anything that we place above our love and passion for the true and living God becomes an idol. God warned us early on that we were to give nothing first place above Him in our lives, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." (Ex. 20:3-4 NIV) I confess that I had one such idol and recently, I went before God, and confessed that I had built up this idol. I then cast the idol out and tore down the altar that I had built up in my heart and I surrendered the dream that had fostered the idol to my heavenly Father. Now as you sit with your mouth gaping, trying to figure out to what idol I am referring, let me assure you that I know that there is but the one true God and His son Jesus Christ who died for my sins. I also know that when I received salvation, God and Jesus came to live in me and with me in the person of the Holy Spirit. When I speak of an idol in my life and the altar to that idol, I am speaking of a dream that I have carried in my heart since I was a little girl. As most little girls do, I dreamed of becoming a wife and a mother. I always wanted four children, two boys and two girls. Even as a young girl, I would think of raising a family then having that family go off and build families of their own and then my children and grandchildren would return home to visit my husband and me. When I got saved at twenty-nine, my dream for a family became more. My dream became one of marrying a good godly man and together raising children who would love and honor God. I dreamed of leaving behind a legacy of children and grandchildren whose lives honored God and brought Him glory. As time passed and this dream did not come to pass as I'd hoped and believed, I realize now that it became larger than a dream. It became a source of contention between God and me. My simple dream that most young girls have became my idol. And the altar to this idol became the place where I sent up my sacrifices of bitter complaints and feelings of slight! I lamented about the unfairness of it all; that as a saved woman of God I'd placed my trust in Him to choose for me and He let me down! I'd wasted my childbearing years trusting Him to bring this dream to pass! I was robbed! It was unfair! Where were my children? So these children, this husband that I didn't have became the central focus of my life. They became my god! My bitterness towards God drove me farther from Him and often caused me to make foolish choices and open my life to people that were clearly not God's choice for me, all in a pursuit of my god, my idol. I believed that I was sincere when I sought God for my family, when I prayed about this dream of mine; but in truth it was all about what I wanted not about what God had planned for my life. God didn’t answer this prayer because He doesn’t love me, and it doesn’t necessarily mean this is not a part of His plan for me. The problem was that the asking was not about “God what do you want with my life, what are Your plans for my life?” The problem was that my prayers were more like a spoiled child, “I want and You won’t…” The Apostle James warns of these types of prayers, “Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons.” (James 4:3 CEV) The longer this dream did not happen for me, the bigger it became in my heart and mind and the more selfishly motivated my prayer became. The thing is that God is not going to change because we get mad at Him or we pout when He doesn’t do things our way. He is sovereign, we are His and He doesn’t alter the plans he makes for our lives, not even for us. We may alter them but that only ends up hurting us! I realized a little while ago that what I wanted more than this dream was a walk with God that would glorify Him; a life that would bring glory and honor to Jesus, the one who died that I could live. My pursuit now is to honor God, to open up the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would receive it. What about you dear ones? What dreams of yours have become your idols? Have you given them first place in your life? My challenge to you is this beloved, cast out the idol that you have built up in your life, tear down its altar and surrender that dream that you’ve carried to the One who always had a greater plan for you, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 NKJV) The truth is that this life is not about our wants, it is about what God the Father desires of us. Our pursuit should not be centered on us; it must be centered on Him. Jesus gave this directive to His disciples and by extension, to us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV) I know that there is more to this scripture, but let’s just focus on this part and let Him do the rest. As always, be encouraged dearly loved ones!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Open the Portal

I love Marvel's The Avengers! It is one of my favorite movies; I could watch it over and over again. In the opening, the Tesseract is activated and opens a portal to earth so that Loki, the brother of Thor, and an army of space invaders can come and conquer earth. When the portal opens, The Hawk asks Inspector Fury, if the Tesseract opened a portal to earth, wouldn't it make sense that there was another door on the other side? No sooner had Hawk spoken than Loki appeared through the the answer to his question was, yes! So what does this have to do with anything you ask? Well, a lot actually for those of us who are believers. When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of Heaven would come He replied “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) How on earth is the Kingdom of God within us? We find the answer to that question in the Gospel of John chapter 14, when Jesus made a promise to His disciples that though the world would not see Him, they would see Him because He would be with them and not only He, but the Father as well, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (v 23 NKJV) Those of us who love Jesus have Him and the Father living inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. We find this promise from Jesus also in The Gospel of John Chapter 14, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (V. 16-18 NKJV) When the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, He brings the Kingdom of Heaven to us! The Holy Spirit is our Tesseract so to speak. You see, when we tap into the Kingdom of Heaven it is not just for us, it is for those around us as well. The portal is opened so that we can access heaven at anytime and when we access heaven we can then share that power with others. Following Pentecost, the disciples were in constant contact with the Kingdom of Heaven; wherever they went peoples' lives were changed to such a degree that when they came to Thessalonica, the people complained to the rulers, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." Acts 17:6 (NKJV) In the movie, The Avengers, the Tesseract was believed to be a source of unlimited power; therefore everyone wanted to control it. For believers, the Holy Spirit is our source of unlimited power. The Apostle Paul said that we have within us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead; and Jesus, when he arose declared that all power in heaven and on earth was given into His hands. We have Jesus, with all this power living on the inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. When Loki used the Tesseract to open a portal between earth and other worlds, the people of earth were exposed to power they'd not witnessed before. When we who are in the body of Christ open the portal that we received when the Holy Spirit came to live within us, we will again expose the world to a power it has not seen since the Apostles ministered as it is recorded in the Book of the Acts. You see, the door that allows us access to heaven has never closed; but the door that allows the world to experience heaven has been shut up by far too many believers for far too long! If you have received Christ as your Savior then the Holy Spirit has come to live within you, so go ahead dearly loved ones use your spiritual tesseract, the Holy Spirit, to open the portal that can again turn the world upside down!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Would've, Could've, Should've Won't Change the World!

My baby sister has a saying, “Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve caught a rabbit won’t make stew!” It’s a funny saying but there is an element of truth to it. In essence, what she is saying is that you can make all the excuses in the world but in the end, all you will have are the excuses. The Apostles were all men who could have made excuses. At the time that Stephen was martyred for being a follower of Christ, the scripture tells us that Saul (Who would later be called Paul) was in agreement with his death. According to Acts 8:3 Paul was wreaking havoc on the Christians: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (NKJV) We find in Chapter nine of The Acts that Saul was intent upon bringing an end to Christianity: “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NKJV) What Saul didn’t know was that he was about to have a divine encounter that would forever change this zealous, “Pharisee of Pharisees!” On the way to Damascus, Paul met the Savior whom he persecuted. He was then carried by those who were with him into Damascus, a man blinded and broken. The scripture tells us that the Lord spoke to a devout man named Ananias and told him to go and lay hands on Paul that he might receive his sight. Ananias protested, reminding the Lord that it was this same man who had persecuted His followers, to which the Lord replied, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16) Now here is where Paul might have offered his “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.” Who in the world would willingly go from persecuting and fighting against someone only days earlier to “suffering many things for His name’s sake”, Paul would, and he did. Did you know that Paul was beheaded by the Emperor Nero? Not only Paul, but all those who followed Jesus and proclaimed His name, and continued His teachings suffered. Peter was crucified, Church historians say that he chose to be crucified upside down rather than think himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus. The Apostle John, though he was not killed, suffered for Christ. Church history tells us that he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, prophesying the events of the end times. John’s brother James was the first Apostle to suffer death for Christ; he was stoned and beaten to death in Jerusalem. Peter’s brother Andrew was crucified. Matthew was killed with an axe. Mark was said to have been torn to pieces by a mob in Alexandria after he told them that their god was just a piece of carved stone. Do you think that these men might have had some “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve excuses to offer? Jesus told them before His crucifixion that the world would hate them because of Him. They could have made excuses and gone back to their homes and lived out the rest of their lives, but they didn’t. They chose the tough suffering way, and because they did, we now have what the world calls The New Testament; a series of letters and personal accounts of the work these men did in the name of Christ. Ask yourself these questions, “Could I do it? Do I do it? Do I risk it all to make certain that the people that I come in contact with meet and know the Risen Savior?” The truth is that we are a people of excuses. The doctor says go on a diet, you need to lose weight to get healthy and we offer excuses;"My metabolism is too low!” “Diets are too expensive!” “I don’t eat that much, I’m just big boned!” The pastor and the church leadership ask us to go out and witness in a drug infested area of our neighborhood on Saturday morning and we offer excuses. “Saturday is my only day to sleep late.” “Those people don’t want to know Jesus, they like what they’re doing.” “My child has a really busy schedule on Saturdays.” Jesus, as He was preparing to ascend into heaven left a mandate for His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:18-20 CEV) It is called “The Great Commission.” This Commission was not just for those who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, or those who came into direct contact with the Apostles, it is for every believer who claims Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Instead of fulfilling the Commission, we offer our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s).” Honestly, if we don’t give up our excuses, and be about the work of spreading the Good News of the love and salvation of Jesus Christ, we are of no benefit to the Kingdom of God; and if we are of no benefit to the Kingdom, we need to stop calling ourselves followers of Christ. Peter, John, James, Paul, all of the Apostles gave up the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and as a result, they have stew…or as Paul put it in his final letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV) The Apostles gave up all of the excuses and put it all on the line for Christ and in exchange they received the crown of righteousness. What about you, dearly loved one…are you ready to make stew? Let’s give up our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and let’s go into our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our nation and around the world and proclaim the love and salvation of Jesus Christ! The harvest truly is plentiful…and the “stew” is wonderful!