Thursday, February 13, 2014 the name of LOVE!

On a day I felt particularly beat up, I sat in my office, my eyes brimming with tears. In a moment that I so wanted to call someone to ‘vent,’ I decided instead to go to the Word. I begged God to encourage me, to calm me down.

It had been one of those days when I felt that despite my efforts to lead well, to help, to pour in, to encourage, to include - that none of those things were being thrown back my way. I was hurt. I was discouraged. I was deflated and I felt the urge to say, what about me? Why am I doing all this? God, you called me to lead, but I’m not sure that I want to lead these people. They don’t even seem to notice what I do, and they certainly don’t return the sentiment. I thought being called to ministry and leadership would be more rewarding.

It’s so easy, in the midst of obstacles – whether real or perceived, as mine tend to be - to let your heart begin to believe that retreat, that giving up and running away, is the answer. I know that day I did.

We have days where we feel left out, that we’re not embraced by the people we lead, that no one sees us, that we’re under-appreciated, that people are rude when we are nice to them, that we’re giving every bit of ourselves and no one seems to notice or care or even give us a little affirmation. We don’t do it for others, of course, but some gratitude for our time sure would be nice. Right?

This was my posture that morning.
And as I sat with my head in my hands, I prayed, “God, show me what to do."
Then I picked up my Bible.
What I read came from Exodus 33. I was absolutely stunned by what I read, because I didn’t pick the passage out intentionally. The backdrop of the passage is the time of Israel's passage from Egypt to the promised land. Moses had just successfully extracted thousands from bondage and triumphantly received the 10 commandments at Sinai...only to come down the mountain to a people who had abandoned obedience and had forgotten about him, and were now celebrating a feast to a molten calf.

I'm sure he was frustrated, drained, tired, emotional – maybe he felt the people in his charge were ungrateful and obstinate. He might have felt hurt and forgotten, totally left out of what was going on. Betrayed. And there in that moment, instead of wanting to quit, Moses did something very interesting:

Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

And He did.
Moses left that conversation victorious. But the victory did not yield people that were easier to manage, or ideal circumstances from there on out. Moses understood that thre is only one thing that could keep him truly effective as a leader – being filled by an intimate knowledge of God!

At the end of the chapter we find that after Moses' intimate conversations with the Lord, his face radiated. This glowing was evidence of their time together, proof that God had chosen and ordained him. And that glow commanded attention - and so they listened to him and regarded what he said.

 Friends, whatever God has called you to, whatever circumstance or sphere of influence - whether you're a mom, a colleague, a friend - there is position and title there. Maybe you chose it, and maybe you didn't. But God gave it to you, and the circumstances are just where you need to be. And though there are absolutely days when we just get fed up, when we just want to retreat, when we want to quit, we must remember what Moses modeled for us.

 Here's what he did not do:

• He didn’t go to friends to vent, commiserate or create drama.
• He didn’t complain about his circumstances or give up hope.
• He didn't panic or feel that he had to bear the burden of 'fixing things.'
Instead, he simply threw the burden off and said, “God, these people are YOUR people - I just want to know you better and please you.” He stopped all that he was doing in his own power, and got with God.

I used to love these Magic Eye posters when I was a kid. I remember others agonizing over them, trying to figure them out. And the victorious cry would come when we realized what the hidden image really was.

Life is kind of like these optical illusions at times. If we allow the stress and the burdens to take over, we miss that Jesus is always there, in the center of it all. If we start to try to do it in our own strength, we miss opportunities and inspiration for ministry. This is what happened to Mary Magdalene in John 20. Let’s look at her story:

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be a gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher.

Notice that Mary's first response is to go tell everyone. To vent. To cause a stir. But when that yields no comfort or result, she just seems to throw her hands up and give up hope. Not even angels really get her attention, so she must have been in a real state. She was so busy trying to do things in her own strength, so busy doing - panicking, mostly - and she couldn't see Jesus when he was right in front of her!

Isn’t that how we get sometimes? We’re so overwhelmed with all we have to do, with the burden and stress of it all, feeling like we just have to fix things and it's so hard, that somewhere Jesus gets lost in it.

Thankfully, because he boldly spoke her name, she found Him again. And after that moment of recognition of Jesus in the midst of the crisis, she found the right words. She found the peace. She became effective again.

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Wow. When she just stopped worrying and trying to figure out what to do to remedy what was happening and tuned in to Jesus, she got to do some very meaningful Kingdom work - she was the herald of the resurrection of the Lord!

Oh, sweet friends, when we get so caught up in the tasks at hand and begin to feel like it’s our job to fix it, we immobilize ourselves. When we start to feel discouraged, unnoticed, deflated and panicked, it's a barometer that we're trying to do it on our own. But, like Mary, when we recenter and refocus on Jesus, we become REFRESHED and a POWERFUL source of ministry and encouragement to others. All that other stuff just fades away to our legacy.

God has a message for each of us to share, just like Mary, just like Moses. And He will give us the words, attitudes and actions we need for the journey. We just have to remember, our spheres of influence are HIS people. Our only duty is to know him, and to witness to what He’s doing in our lives.

Here's an interesting little fact: In the days of the temple, when sacrifices were offered, making communication with God possible, the insides of the animal were offered up and completely burned up, completely consumed and sent up to God. What was leftover was the hide of the animal – which now belonged to the priest.

That hide was then cured, tanned, treated, scraped – and in many cases, was turned into the very pages of the Torah scrolls that have been discovered and are precious artifacts - the very sources from which your Bible and mine come! So...the shell of the animal is what the Word of God was written on.

So often we think that we are the pen. We think its our job to write truth on hearts and affect change in the lives around us. We think we’re the priest! But the fact is, we are not the pen - we are the scroll. Jesus is the priest, and we are the sacrifice - we have offered our hearts, souls and spirits - our insides - to Him, and it is our flesh - our physical body - that remains in this world - and it belongs to Him. This physical body we have is the very canvas on which He writes his teaching, His word. We need only allow this process to take place in our lives, and be read by the world around us, in order to glorify and testify about Him!

So my prayer for us is that we just shine! He’s going to take care of us and those around us. He’s going to use you to impart change and make a difference in your obedience and submission to him. Don’t allow circumstances to be a discouragement. When the words don’t come, when the kindness just isn’t there, when you feel empty….stop what you’re doing. Stop in the name of Love – and get with Love, get with Jesus.

Blessings and Happy Happy Valentine's Day!

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