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and connotations of branding have remained common, for the most part, the negative undertones of branding have been replaced by a more positive and commercial reference.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.