Over the last few weeks we've been dealing with a broken oven. It is such a frustrating thing when something you use as a part of your daily life quits working. Until the repairman was able to come, I planned all of our meals around utilizing the cook-top only. Easy enough. But, then the repairman came and named his price, and we were indignant. The fact that our warranty had just expired didn't help much either. Rather than wanting to pay the amount requested I began thinking about how we could go on the rest of our lives without having to fix the oven. Maybe I could just make meals on the cook-top forever! Doesn't that sound ridiculous? Why wouldn’t I choose to fix something that I knew was broken? Rather than paying the price to fix the issue, I was willing to adapt my lifestyle and do without.
As I read this week about the Israelites and their wandering in the wilderness, I could see similar reasoning although on a much larger scale. I'm saddened by the broken view they had of themselves that kept them from experiencing the fullness of life that God had planned for them. They were willing to remain broken and in bondage than pay the price to break free. They were willing to settle for scraps in captivity when God had planned complete freedom for them in a land He had set aside that was flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17). It sounds absolutely crazy…until you are able to understand the nature of bondage.
Sometimes we don't realize we are in bondage. We don't realize that we are missing out on the fullness of life God has planned for us. Until recently, I didn't realize my own bondage. I knew that there were certain behaviors that I wasn't proud of, but I didn't realize they were products of something deeper. Our identity, how we see ourselves, determines our actions. If you aren't sure if you are truly free to experience all God has for you, take a look at your behavior. Is there something there that bothers you? Maybe it's an anger issue. Or low self-esteem preventing you from understanding your worth. Maybe you judge yourself or others harshly. Perhaps an alcohol problem that's getting out of hand. Where do these things come from? They are the lies that are written on our heart that have shaped how we see ourselves. Lies from our past and our experiences. They have been placed there by the enemy, preventing us from experiencing joy in an uninhibited walk with God. When we allow ourselves to be named by our past, our failures, or our regrets Satan gains a foothold in our heart. That is when you begin to see the product of brokenness: bitterness, depression, addiction, etc. This is not God's plan for you!
Discovering Your Identity
Our true identity is not in the lies we hear or what we have come to believe about ourselves, but in the truth God softly speaks to us in His word and in our hearts. How He sees us. We are Children of a King! We are saints! The very thought and utterance of these words brings excitement that can barely be contained. This is how our God sees us! This is how much He loves us.
See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. ~1 John 3:1
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” ~Jeremiah 31:3
But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. ~Ephesians 2:4-5
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16
We are covered by the sacred blood of Jesus who has washed away our impurities. When we strip away the lies, sins, and painful memories and see ourselves the way God sees us; we can begin to feel how much our God loves us. We can see the potential in ourselves that He sees. He created us for great things! God fashioned you specifically for a purpose and desires for you live freely and experience joy that can only come from walking closely with Him.
Worth the Journey
I'm amazed at how the Israelites responded frequently during their journey. Several times they expressed discontent, lack of faith, and begged to return to Egypt as slaves. They had the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, laid before them yet they just wanted to go back. Back to the slavery, bondage and abuse, because they didn't think believe they deserved better. They were willing to settle for that life because it was what they knew. It was comfortable and required little effort or change. I have to remind myself not to judge them too quickly. When I look at my own life, there have been so many times that I have resisted change. Even when I knew the change was good. I resisted because I knew the change would be hard or painful. It takes a lot of work to change your life, to get out of the rut you're in. But if we consider the freedom and joy that awaits us in an abundant, close relationship with God, how much more should that encourage us to press forward?
Joy vs. Happiness
So often we just want to find happiness. How can I be happy? When we hurt, sometimes we will do anything just to be happy again. But, happiness in this world is transient, and built solely off of circumstance. What we are really searching for is joy.
Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, defines joy as this: Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
When happiness seems to escape us, we can have a deepened joy, in the midst of any circumstance we face, from walking closely with God and trusting Him with our every need. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. This joy is immeasurable and what we should strive for by having a healthy relationship with Him and a healthy view of ourselves.
We're depending on God; He's everything we need. What's more, our hearts brim with joy since we've taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all you've got - that's what we're depending on. ~Psalm 33:20-22, MSG
He is There
Though the Israelites grumbled and complained, God was with them every step of the way. Even when they were frustrated with Him, He never left them. When they doubted His provision and felt sure they would perish, He provided their every need in miraculous ways. God promises the same for us:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. ~Isaiah 43:2
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. ~Psalm 28:7
He calls us to step out in obedience to Him. Though the journey seems long and painful, and we are unsure of what the future holds, He promises us that He is there. He commands us to be courageous and trust in Him. He is guiding us back to the path He has planned for us, working to restore us, and helping us discover our identity in Him. Trust in His plan for you and step out in faith. Choose life!
He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." ~Revelation 21:5
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You write well, but you paint only half a picture. Perhaps that is because you only see half, the half you want to see. - DEUTERONOMY 31:16 And the Lord said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
19 “Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. 20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. 21 Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.” - JEREMIAH 9:13 And the Lord said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, 14 but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,” 15 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. 16 I will scatter them also among the gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known,- and I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them.” - Judgment comes