F.E.E.D #6 By Pastor Joe F.E.E.D is an acronym for “Family Emphasis Enrichment and Development. From Mother’s Day through Independence Day Weekend we will be focusing our sermons on how we can be better parents, a better spouse, a better son or daughter, how we can be more connected to our local fellowship, and many other virtues which should improve as we grow in our faith. A secondary purpose is to remind the congregation that we need to focus inward for a portion of our yearly messages and activities. You often hear the term personal development. F.E.E.D will speak to this growth dynamic, so each of us should be prepared to evaluate where we are in our growth process. Most of the recent articles have started with the exact same opening words. I have learned in my own life how important repetition is to developing good behavior and thought processes. Just a little over 5 years ago I joined Hawthorne Assembly and this group of believers’ journey of faith. It has been my privilege to be the Senior Pastor for 63 months, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. But as we move forward, let me just look back for a moment at what my 3 plus years of working in the secular world taught me, specifically while employed for a major branding and market company in the Twin Cities. Business Impact Group helped major companies with their branding solutions. When I hear the word branding, I immediately think back to the Old West and ranchers who would brand their livestock. There was and is a very important reason for marking their herds. Two hundred years ago in places like Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana, it was impossible to fence in the areas where cattle would roam. Obviously smaller ranches, and very wealthy cattlemen could afford to string up miles of barb-wire fence. Nonetheless honest entrepreneurs had to protect their investment from dishonest individuals looking for a free hide! They even made sure their brand was so unique that forgers couldn't just add an additional letter and claim the bovine as their own. Sounds a lot like our enemy, the devil, presenting himself as an angel of light. Lucifer is nothing more than a forger, and he has been trying to fool God’s followers for a long time. Listen to what it says in John 10: “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” The reason we keep repeating familiar things over and over is because sheep need to hear the same voice saying the same thing often. With so many false voices in the world, knowing the difference between what is real and a counterfeit is critical. “Together is Better!” isn't just a catchy phrase, it is part of our branding, those who are part of this fellowship understand exactly what it means. We are in this journey together, and if you think you can do it on your own, you are easy prey for the enemy. You’re just like the solo sheep who wandered off from the fold because the grass looked greener in the next field. Jesus tells the parable of leaving the 99 to go find the one who was lost. Branding doesn't just signify where you belong, but who stands behind you and watches over you. When you hear the commercial, “We have the beef!” everyone knows which restaurant uses that jingle. Together is Better is part of our branding. It’s Biblical branding, because it speaks about one of the truths taught in the Word of God. Our primary branding is being an image bearer of God’s kingdom, and secondly, we reflect the brand of this fellowship.