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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Branded by Love

The following was an outline of the Keynote message I gave at NC District Ladies Conference 2016. Our theme was "Branded by Love" - and so it went...

Branding has been going on for centuries.
I want to run a couple spiritual parallels - and then get to my thought. 

Branding - whether by heat, ice, ear tags, or tattoos, is a method still used to identify ownership of animals. 
Note: Who do you belong to? Who owns you?

In Western states, out on the vast ranges, cattle can easily wonder or get mixed with other herds. They may graze for weeks along with another herd - but when “round-up” time comes - and the owners brand is spotted - all the cows come home.
Note: You may have a son or a daughter who has wandered off… don’t worry - that brand is clear to the owner. He'll round them up. They’ll come home - you just keep praying!

Believe it or not, there are still modern-day cattle rustlers to keep an eye out for. They tamper with the brand - disguise it to look like "their" brand. Being able to identify an animal’s owner by a brand is critically important.
Note: Make sure your brand is clear - not a smudged up - tampered with brand. There’s an enemy trying to claim you and take your soul to Hell.

Humans were also branded for various reasons throughout history... 
  • Slaves were branded to mark ownership; 
  • Criminals were branded with marks of disgrace. 
  • During World War II, victims of Nazi persecution who were interned in concentration camps were branded with numbers. 
Note: Some of you have been scarred and marred by your previous owner. But God is in the business of changing lives. When He gets through with you - His brand will be clear! No one will ever guess how far He’s brought you!

Although some implications and connotations of branding have remained common, for the most part, the negative undertones of branding have been replaced by a more positive and commercial reference.
Branding is now a very sought after thing in the business world. A distinction of quality merchandise and services "brands" a company.
Interesting fact: What do you call a jetted bathtub? (Of course - we all call this luxurious bath a Jacuzzi!)
But Jacuzzi is just one brand name. 
The seven Jacuzzi brothers, Italian immigrants to the USA, set up a company in 1917 producing aeroplanes, and later, agricultural and marine water pumps.  Then in 1956, one of the brothers, Candido, adapted a pump and incorporated it into a bathtub to create a hydro-massage effect which eased the pain being suffered by his young son, Kenneth, a victim of rheumatoid arthritis.
In 1968, another of the family members, Roy Jacuzzi, spotted the real commercial marketing potential of his relative’s invention, and a version incorporating the jets into the structure of the bathtub was launched onto the market.The Jacuzzi surname became the brand name of the product.

And now... my message:
Over 2000 years ago Jesus Christ began His ministry - by pouring Himself into 12 young men - later called Disciples. 
These guys started living and reproducing what Jesus taught them and their number grew. 
They spent every waking moment with Jesus for three years.
Pretty soon - they started talking like Jesus.
They started walking like Jesus.
Just before His crucifixion - Jesus took the disciples aside and tried to explain to them what was getting ready to happen. 
He took a towel and a basin of water - and washed their feet.
Their grimy, sweaty, calloused, stinky feet. 
He knew the pain and hardship each one of them were walking through.
He wanted to love on them.
He wanted to help them.
He wanted to minister to them.
He wanted to teach them a very important life lesson.
At that point none of them knew what Jesus was going through.
I can imagine how much joy he felt as He lovingly watched them interact. They talked and ate - and He loved it.
He was watching the wheels turn in Judas’ brain - and knew what his plans were. 
He washed Judas’ feet - and I can imagine how lovingly he dried them - knowing those feet were getting ready to run to betray him. 
Jesus KNEW these guys were going to be shattered and scattered - devastated by what Judas was going to do; so He tells them:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13: 34-35)
Love was to become their "brand".
It took a supernatural act for this branding to take place.
During the horrendous arrest; they, ran, hid, denied and lied.
During the tragic crucifixion; they fell hopelessly into depression, because His preparatory words were lost beneath their grief and loss
Someone else had to step in and take care of His burial - their devastation was suffocating.Those three long days before His resurrection, they forgot everything He had told them.
But as He stood transfigured before them - RISEN from the dead; they finally believed and obeyed their Lord. 
They went to Jerusalem - and tarried. On the Day of Pentecost - they were totally empowered! The Holy Ghost fell on them and they became bold new creatures!
From that day forward...
They laid hands on the sick - and they recovered
The dead were raised. 
Demons were cast out. 
The blind received their sight.
Of course this stirred up some trouble… 
As you read through the book of Acts - they began to be persecuted for being like Jesus. 
Stephen was stoned. Many were put to death.
Due to the persecution - they begin to obey the command - to “Go ye into all the world”…
They fled to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch - and the Church grew. Persecution made them stronger and closer!
Seeing each other suffer stirred up such a LOVE! They drew closer together; as a body - they took care of the hurting, the poor, the widows… 
It was in Antioch - where the people noticed how they cared for one another. The way they took care of each other and loved one other caused the public to take notice.
They were called Christians; "Branded"! ...first at Antioch.
(Christian was a word that linked them to Christ. They were acting just like Jesus Christ - so they were called Christians!)
My message in a nutshell.
If we want to be known as HIS girls - we have to carry the brand.
He saw you - as a child. 
He’s watched you through your entire life. 
He saw your pain. Your hurt. Your rejection 
He knew about the walls you had built.
But He saw how valuable you were too.
He washed you. He cleaned you up.
And if you wear His brand - you LOVE.
You LOVE the unlovable.
You LOVE the one who hates you.
You LOVE the one who cheated on you and exposed you.
You LOVE those who can’t love you back.
You SHOW LOVE to Christ by LOVING His creation.
This week - lets pour love on each other. 
(I honestly wish we could have had a mass foot-washing service.) 
Find a way to show humility and love to someone WITH NO EXPECTATION of payment or return.
Show LOVE to the lady in line behind you.
Show LOVE to the sweethearts cleaning your hotel rooms.
Show LOVE to the servers - and the maintenance workers. 
Wear your BRAND!
I don't want someone to sidle up to me and look at my BRAND and say, "Hmmmm… this is a confusing BRAND! Is she a Christian or a Martian?" 
"Is that J for Jesus or for Jealousy?"
"Is that C for Christ or for Crazy?"
Lets wear our BRAND of LOVE today - tomorrow - wherever we go!
Jesus purchased us - and He put His BRAND on us.
He didn’t say: 
"They’ll know your’e Mine by the long skirts you wear."
"They’ll know your’e Mine but the big offering you gave."
They’ll know we are HIS by the LOVE we have for one another! Simple. 
He rounded us up.
He cleaned us up.
And He Branded us.
He saw our value and He paid the price!
Now wear the BRAND of LOVE with Honor!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Making Friends With The Calendar

The Calendar.
I live by mine. I set my phone alarm to remind me to look at my calendar. My calendar texts my phone to remind me where I'm supposed to be and who I'm supposed to be with. All of my devices sync to my calendar - so I won't miss something important (or fun!) that I have committed to being involved in.
Just a nagging twinge at first. Then a dull ache that doesn't go away. Increasing to pain that sends him looking for something for relief. Nothing helps and the pain grows. Finally, erupting into incapacitating, gut-wrenching pain and we're on our way to the ER! The one we love is sick and our life comes to a screeching halt.
The calendar lays silent while we attend to our loved one's pain. Doctors ask questions, poke and prod. Nurses hover and machines chirp in the background. And while we wait for test results, a course of action, a diagnosis... the calendar looms. In the back of our mind, we guiltily ponder... what am I going to do about this appointment, that commitment... but our family is hurting and our focus has changed. Flights are cancelled. Schedules are cleared. People step up - step in - and we sit down - and pray. Nothing else matters but seeing our precious darling healthy and happy again.
The Calendar.
A year from now. The little blocks on the month ahead will be full. How did we get so busy, we'll ask? Why did we put so much into one block of time? These days at the hospital will be like a fog. The weeks of recuperation a blip on our memory. Will we even remember the meetings we missed? The cancellations will not impact our life one bit. However, that feeling of desperation - that focused, passion-filled, prayer-saturated time with our family and friends will change us. The calendar tether will no longer choke us, because the calendar understands that what is written there does not take priority over our life. The people with whom we share our life own the important dates, times, and places on our schedules. These are the people who matter. These are the people we can count on - the people who will stand by us in the good times and the bad times. They will rearrange their priorities, lives and calendars to accommodate us. And we realize... these times are the best of times.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ramblings and Reasonable Service

     I started beating myself up this morning - as I logged into blogspot - with a thought on my heart to BLOG. My thoughts were, "I am quite possibly the most inconsistent blogger in the world!" Seeing as how I blogged TWO times in 2015! With February 2015 being the most recent.
     But then that little inner voice spoke up passionately! (The voice I have come to recognize and appreciate as the person who takes care of this girl... takes responsibility for my total health and wellness - better known as "Self-talk") Yes - okay - I talk to myself! 
     So today I said, "Hey, take it easy! You were entering a two year Masters program at the end of February 2015 - and by the way - you have buckled down and will be finishing it in February of 2016! Yes - a two-year degree in ONE year! So don't be beating yourself up - you've worked harder than most... accomplished more than enough... and on top of your education goals - you've kept some pretty big commitments that you made to yourself spiritually, physically and financially. So, way to go girl! Now blog on..."
     Okay! Now, here are my thoughts for this cool, crisp, January morning. I have been mulling a passage of scripture over in my heart...
Matthew 15:10-11
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Matthew 15:15-20
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do ye not yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
     Jesus is so brilliantly explaining a new concept to His disciples - which was totally blowing their mind. Their rituals of washing and cleansing were deeply imbedded in their lives and hearts.
     Here is what I am receiving today. Jesus was concerned more with what was being manifest on the outside - because it was a reflection of what was REALLY going on inside!
     Let me ask a few questions...
1- Is your desire to be attractive more overpowering than your desire to be holy?
2- Is your desire to be appealing stronger than your desire to be pure?
     Clearly what is manifest on the outside is the evidence of what is happening on the inside. 
     We can say we are in Love with Jesus - but when we dress and prepare ourselves for the day in a manner that is guaranteed to attract sexual attention - our true love is revealed. When married men have to force themselves to look away from your revealing clothing - a defilement is being manifest in you. 
     We can call ourselves Christians and claim to desire to be like Christ - we may even have rules that we think are keeping us safe and saved... "Don't go here, Don't go there. Don't watch this - Don't listen to that." But true defilement is manifest outwardly through nasty attitudes, perverted conversation, filthy language, rude remarks, racial prejudice, disrespect, rebellion towards authority... and the list goes on.  
     The Word of God is clear that we are to present our body - holy - unto God. Many of us think we do. 
     I submit that we are presenting our bodies to God every day as we enter into our public lives - through the way we dress; our attitude; our persona; the way we treat others; our integrity. There are not two presentations - one for the public and one for God. Many people have one presentation for "church" and another presentation for "everyday life". This is a delusion. 
     If each of us examined ourselves each day and honestly presented ourselves in a way that we felt God would accept as holy and spiritually alive; we would see a remarkable difference in our lives, homes and communities... and our churches would be consumed with the fire of His Spirit!
Romans 12:1 
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

In A Dream...

I have always been amazed by the story of King Solomon - especially his request for "Wisdom" while God's omnipotent hand was outstretched to him. He could have asked for many things - but he asked for wisdom.

I've often measured myself and my ambitions against this moment in Solomon's saga.
(What would I ask God for if I heard His same request?)

Recently, as I was reading my daily chapter block - on my "Bible in a Year" app - I found myself lost again in Solomon's story. The words were so familiar to me - as I have read them dozens of times. However, I read a portion in I Kings 3:5 that I have evidently not digested before - or perhaps the translation I am reading made it more obvious - but I was stunned nonetheless! (The Word of God often does this to me - because it is Alive! It doesn't change - but it changes me - therefore I see new and wonderful things each time I read it!)

The background here ... Solomon has shown his love for the LORD by following after the heart of his father King David - and has gone up to the most honored and holy place to worship God (Gibeon) - where Solomon has offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar.

Now - here's what caught my attention... That night - at Gibeon - the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night IN A DREAM - which is when God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."

For some reason - I always imagined God appearing to Solomon there on the mountain - as he finished offering the one thousand sacrifices. I never caught the fact that God communicated with Solomon later - and that Solomon was actually DREAMING!

I know this was a divine dream - which was one way that God spoke to His prophets in that day... but this little nugget has resonated with me every since I read it. I can't stop thinking about it!

I can imagine Solomon - sleeping the exhausted sleep of a man who has poured out his heart and soul to God. His sacrifice was so extravagant - it no longer qualified as sacrifice - but had entered the realm of worship. Worship on a new level - a greater dimension than anyone had ever worshipped.

His sleep was deep and peaceful. His soul was in complete harmony with his maker and his rest was magnificent and perfect.

And then...

As he slept - God's purpose intersected with Solomon's passion.
As he slept - God invaded his dreams and granted Solomon's heart's desire.

Here's what I have pondered...

What am I this passionate about?
What am I dreaming about?
Are my dreams worthy of God's invasion?
Are my dreams capable of intersecting with God's purpose?

Webster's definition of the word DREAM:
: a series of thoughts, visions, or feelings that happen during sleep
: a strongly desired goal or purpose

My summary of this pondering...

When my passion intersects with God's purpose for my life - my dreams will be invaded by His presence - He will speak to me - and grant me the desires/dreams of my heart.

Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" ESV

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Challenge!

My New Years Challenge to ME (and all my FRIENDS):  
STOP IT! STOP it! Stop it! Stop blaming everyone and everything for your failures/shortcomings! Man/Woman up! Take responsibility! You are WHERE you are - because of YOUR decisions. You are WHO you are because of WHAT you have done with your LIFE. 
Stop with the excuses - and feel the FREEDOM! Knowing you are taking responsibility and being a MATURE ADULT is Liberating! You may have obstacles, challenges and dire situations - but allow God to guide you through it! 
Think about this: 
Millions watch Sports Teams - and the entertainment of the game is BOTH teams are trying to win! SO they play STRATEGICALLY and think FAST and work HARDER than the other team - just to WIN! What if they just made excuses and blamed all the other team players for their weaknesses? NO! They PAY people to critique them - show them where they're going wrong... and THEN they focus on turning that weakness into a strength! Then they go WIN THE GAME! 
I suggest that we should not only work within our areas of strength and comfort - but figure out what our weaknesses are... and then STUDY, PRAY, READ A BOOK, TAKE A CLASS, HIRE A TUTOR - OR MENTOR... But we can turn that weakness around and STOP making excuses and BLAMING everyone else for our non-productive life/career/church/ministry... etc! Any takers? Just throwing out the challenge! I'm in!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Eavesdropping On My Enemy

Judges 7: 9-15 (Gideon's army has been whittled down to 300 men - and God has directed him to take them into battle against an innumerable army)
9 That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 
10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 
11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 
12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 
13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 
14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” 
15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 
My thoughts as I read this passage...
  • God is not mad at me if I have fears and hesitation - he will give me the confidence I need to pursue and conquer my dreams. 
  • God is okay with my "need" for a companion during my times of weakness. He may place someone right there beside me to walk with me in those times.
  • What is my enemy saying about me that could strengthen me and give me courage to go forward? When I see someone looking my way and whispering - instead of feeling intimidated and upset - I should be encouraged and worship God! For all I know - they are sharing insights of my past victories and acknowledging the anointing upon my life. Gideon heard what his enemy was saying about him - and began to worship God! He then went back to his "Team" and encouraged and motivated them to a miraculous Victory!
  • Today I will Arise - and Conquer my Dreams!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Will - 2015 and Beyond!

I Will seek Gods face early each day
I Will not do anything else until I have connected with Him
I Will keep His Word as my first read of every day
I will not check email, messages, or social network until I have read deeply of His book
I Will dream big
I Will not feel unworthy of my dreams
I Will work to see my dreams fulfilled
I Will not wait for them to materialize magically
I Will stop making excuses
I Will take responsibility for where I am - who I am - what I am not - and why I am not where I want to be
I Will start now
I Will not procrastinate 
I Will eat healthy
I Will not be unkind to my body by eating unhealthy 
I Will set and meet my exercise goals
I Will not put off exercise another day
I Will schedule my life around my priorities 
I Will not fit my priorities into my schedule 
I Will live in Gratitude and Abundance 
I Will not give up or give in