The Israelite In Me
There is a really cool gem of a scripture in Numbers 6:22-27. The Lord gave Moses a Priestly Blessing to bless the Israelites. We know that at that time, the Israelites were God’s chosen people. He continued to bless them but unfortunately, they continued to reject Him. He continued to save them but they continued to turn away from Him. The story of the Israelites has always been exasperating and frustrating to me to say the least. Their memories were short and their complaints loud. Their faith and trust was shaky, weak and unstable. How could they experience God first hand and see Him miraculously move but continue to doubt and turn away? Grrr.
One day I realized, for many years, in many ways, I was just like the Israelites. God showed up and saved me from terrible situations over and over again. He blessed me in too many ways to count, yet I continued to turn away from Him and depend on myself. I shudder to think of my arrogance and pride about my own strength and ability. I was unwilling to acknowledge His role in any of it for many years. Looking back I now know and acknowledge that it was ONLY Him and His grace, provision and protection.
I remember reasoning to myself at times back then: “If God loves me then He will love me just like I am. I don’t need to go to church for God to accept me. I don’t need to change my ways because I’m not a bad person. I don’t hurt anyone or break any laws so what difference does it really make that I am living with my boyfriend?” My reasoning and excuses about why I did things my way and why God would “get it” went on and on. Retrospect reveals I was just a tall order of immature and selfish with a twist of ego, to seriously put God on my little level and decide what He was thinking or not thinking. I didn’t even really know Him!
The truth is, I didn’t want to go out of my way for God because it was inconvenient. There… I said it. That is the ugly truth. Learning about Him would take time and effort and I had better things to do. Christians didn’t live up to my expectations of what I thought good was, so I called them hypocrites, walked away from church and didn’t want anything to do with them. I never filtered into the equation that they are imperfect humans just like me and I was responsible for extending to them the same grace and understanding I expected God to extend to me.
I also remember the years of having my Bible tucked away in a bookshelf. Even if I wanted to (which I didn’t) who had the time to read it? I was a single mom, an employee, a friend, hobby pursuer, a traveling adventurer and so much more. Where was I supposed to find time to read the Bible? Truth is: We MAKE the time for what is truly important to us. I still had time for my hobbies, traveling with my kids, hanging out with my friends and family and even time to read books! Eeeek. I didn’t want to read the Bible because I knew what would come along with it… change. And I just wasn’t ready to change at that time.
I could have you here all day about how I came to change, what obstacles and blessings that eventual change brought and how coming to live for the Lord has added quality to my life that words can hardly describe. My tendencies with OCD, anxiety and irrational fears have almost completely disappeared. I have learned to forgive those that have hurt me in the past and truly move forward. My relationships are stronger, healthier and have more depth and substance. My struggle with becoming an empty nester has resulted in a renewed life purpose, a mission and ministry that fills my day, my heart and my very soul. I will continue to share with you over the course of the blog how I have been and continue to be molded and shaped for the will of the Lord and I pray it keeps you encouraged. But for now, let’s continue on about the Israelites…
We know that the Israelites eventually lost favor with God and were no longer His chosen people. When Jesus came to the earth, salvation was opened up to both Jews AND Gentiles (that’s the rest of us!). The call has been made. Unfortunately, only a few will respond. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus knew that the vast majority of us would reject Him. But He still felt that even the few that would love Him would be worth his suffering and dying for.
But what does this mean for you and me today?
How do you and I answer the call and STAY on the narrow road that leads to life?
First, we must get out of our own way. When we first start to do things God’s way, it may feel VERY inconvenient. It will require effort. Habits and time management will have to change. We will have to not just put up with but LOVE imperfect people around us, even those we feel should know better. My philosophy: Stop Judging, Start Loving! We will have to stop listening to our own reasoning and look to the word of God for HIS reasoning, HIS answers, HIS direction! We will have to lean away from our own anxieties, fears, anger or depression and start leaning INTO the Lord. How? Prayer, Bible reading, worship music, church services or group bible studies, life groups, etc. Pray specifically for the Lord to show Himself and reveal Himself to you every single day!
We also must be willing to be honest with ourselves about our own faults, sinful tendencies and bad behaviors and seek help from the Lord, a trusted Christian confidant, Pastor, or even a Christian counselor. We cannot do this on our own! God made us to be a part of a community, not alone in our own bubble with just our family or a best friend. We ALL make up the body of Christ and are so much stronger together! Gathering together (going to church) is not about a building, WE are the church. The church is not about just a place to worship and hear a sermon, it is also about service to one another! My attitude about why church is important has changed as I have been blessed to truly experience what it is supposed to be. I now see church as a loving provision from God. The folks at my church are my family and a blessing to my life!
All of this may seem like a lot but I can say from personal experience that taking these steps one at a time will eventually get you to a place of a new normal. I can say with confidence that it is an easier way to live life! It takes so much of the pressure off. You can breathe because God’s got you. He will show you how. He will help you figure things out. He will provide the people, the resources or the strength you need exactly when you need it! It’s amazing and 100% worth every single bit of effort you put in.
I am thinking about how much I love the Priestly Blessing in Numbers chapter 6. I believe that since Jesus gives the invitation to be His chosen people to ALL, this blessing became available to ALL who answer the call. I pray you receive it today:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
He is for you! IN JESUS NAME… AMEN
Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes have recently come out with this beautiful song that is appropriately entitled “The Blessing.” If you read yesterday's blog, this would be a great one to purchase on iTunes and set as your alarm wake up! Click here and enjoy! https://youtu.be/VZJFHh93FGc
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