The Red Sea parted and the Israelites walked away from bondage to freedom on dry ground with walls of water towering above them. Their freedom had come in shifts. First the freedom from experiencing the plagues that attacked Egypt, then the freedom from their physical bondage when they walked away, and then miraculously as they crossed the sea on dry ground.
They were truly free! Egypt was destroyed, the army drowned, no one could enslave them again. The elation! The jubilee! Their eyes were eager as they set out. They watched in awe as the cloud covered them by day and the fire warmed them by night. “Let’s get to the mountain to worship God! Step lively! Don’t dawdle! We’re free!” The chorus of voices rang out.
The Privilege of Freedom
I’m free twice. I was born free in the land of the brave and then I was born free again when Jesus became my Lord and Savior. One was a right by birth and the other was a gift. With both comes responsibility to serve.
My freedom right means I have the beautiful privilege of serving my fellow man, woman, and child. It means I get to serve democracy and not my own interests. It means that I have a duty to the country of my birth–a duty to uphold the values that men, women, and children have given their lives for.
My freedom gift means I carry the weight of Jesus in my life and it means that my life is no longer my own to serve myself, but to serve him. This gift is an exchange for my life for the very presence of a holy, almighty God in my heart.
I wish I could say it were easy being free, but sometimes I look at the selfishness in my life and truly wonder if I understand freedom. I want to use freedom to do what I want to do. I want freedom so I can have a life of ease and comfort. I don’t really think of freedom and fear in the same sentence, but I’m beginning to.
When We Reject Freedom
Our Israelite friends? The ones who experienced a miraculous freeing? They gave up a personal relationship with God because they didn’t understand what their freedom was really for. Their freedom was a vehicle for them to know the heart of God towards them and they rejected it for a man to be the mediator between them and God. (Exodus 20:18-21)
The weight of freedom is the fear of the Lord. It’s a healthy fear than enables us to not sin, which explains why the Israelites had a problem with sinning. I can see why they rejected God’s extension of a personal relationship with him. I mean, the mountain was shaking and smoking and it was thundering and lightening and somewhere, somehow there was the sound of trumpets. It was a cacophony of sound. Overwhelmed and as frightened as they’d been while slaves in Egypt, this had to have brought their fear to a whole new level.
We like to pigeon-hole people. Someone behaves a certain way and all of a sudden they’re the “organized” one or a “perfectionist” or a “cleany” or a “messy.” Humans love categories and classification. But God doesn’t fit into a category or classification. He is both kind and just. He is both gentle and destructive. And the God who they thought they knew as their freedom maker just became someone they were all together unsure of.
When Freedom Surprises Us
I know I’ve been surprised by God. I think I’ve got him all figured out and then out of the blue he pulls a fast one on me and before I know it I’m tossed on the waves of questioning and wondering who is this God I serve.
When this happens we don’t have to be like the Israelites and back away from him. We can be like Moses who drew nearer to the shaking, smoking, clanging, and lit up mountain. Do you know his character? Do you trust his heart for you? He is good. He is also just. He is light and life. He is breath. He is trustworthy. He knows best. He wants to make us into a beautiful reflection of him. And sometimes that involves stepping closer to a mountain that seems like it’s going to explode.
Imagine if it did. Imagine confetti exploding and covering us with all the goodness his heart has inside. Even if we feel our world is about to collapse, he is still good and he wants us to know him.
Don’t be like the Israelites and shirk away from your duty that being free in Christ brings to you. The duty to be enveloped in his presence and to know his very heart. It might seem frightening, but let him show you his heart and who he really is.
Your freedom gift is a privilege. Embrace it. Esteem it and never let it go.
I’m sharing a post that I wrote for The Family Roadmap on the power of words and the lingering effect they have on our lives. The following is an excerpt and you can read the rest at The Family Roadmap.
We can de-construct growth in someone’s heart with a careless word or misplaced assumption. The childhood sing-song of: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is a lie and a weak defense for those who have suffered at the hands of mis-used words.
Words carry weight which crushes, deflates, and prevents us from hearing the truth of God’s love. It is then that I know that God will need to replace the negative echoes with the positive reflections of his word and what he says about me. The trick? I have to be willing to listen. I have to be willing to lay aside my hurt and be open to Truth. Continue Reading……
Anyone who has played volleyball with me would agree: I spend more time ducking than I do spiking. They know I do not belong on any court involving a flying ball. I also don’t belong on a debate room floor as I stumble over my words and respond emotionally rather than logically. This is a type of belonging based on our strengths and interests and giftings, but there is another type of belonging. This other type of belonging resides in the heart of every man and woman and is the most difficult one to fulfill in our own strength and understanding.
I know what the unfulfilled yearning to belong feels like. It feels like I’m gazing through a window at a party of people who belong, while I shiver, not just from the cold rain, but from a longing deep within to belong to something or someone where the warmth and love is evident.
In my vision, I see a smiling someone motioning me to come to the door and I see myself taking a few tentative steps towards the door, thinking ‘Could it be?’ ‘Is this the place for me?’ As I reach for the handle, I see my tattered sleeve and I halt. I’m ashamed of my state, the state that comes from the wear and tear of living life. I gaze into the window again and the welcoming glance turns into a questioning glance as I slowly back away, fighting tears, with heart breaking over the awareness that once again, I perceive I don’t belong.
This sense of not belonging haunts and taunts and I am not alone in experiencing this feeling. One mis-perception leads to another and so it is with the mis-perception of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Our faulty beliefs of ‘not enough’ feed the sense of ‘not belonging.’
This longing to belong is birthed by God in our spirit so that we will long to belong to him. This gift, left untended or rejected, produces an unhealthy search to find our sense of belonging in people, performance, and professions.
The longing to be is a gift and the gift received is to belong.
“But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
When you respond to his call upon your hearts and say, ‘yes’ to his Lordship in your life you become unified with him. When all else falls apart and you are facing division in your personal life, you can know that your spirit is one with the Lord and be at peace. You belong to him.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you have been bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis mine)
You were bought at a price. God demonstrates the value he places on you through the cost of his Son’s sacrifice. You could argue that you are not worth a life, especially the life of God’s son, but your arguments have no bearing on the simple, profound, life-altering truth that you are treasured beyond measure. You are valuable. You belong.
“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
There will be a place at the table, on the other side of the rain-splattered window, for you if you will say yes to the invitation and come in from the rain. As a member of the body of Christ, you are gifted with a purpose and this purpose is to encourage, love, serve, and pray for each other. It doesn’t take an extra-ordinary person to offer a smile, a hand, and a heart. It takes the extra-ordinary God whom you serve to work through you to fulfill his purpose in the body of Christ. You belong to the body of Christ and have a place in it.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8
A longing to be loved is fulfilled when we read these words from Ephesians. In love he chooses us. In love he keeps us. In love he freely bestows the title of ‘Child.’ Adoption is the heart of God and just like any adoption there will be an adjustment period. Because many of us have little experience with the depth and strength of a love so pure, a questioning about the truth of this kind of love wells up within us and we ask: “Will God still love me if I disappoint him? Will God stick by me when I’m at my worst? Will God be safe enough to reveal my deep, deep hurts to him?” You belong to God because he says you do.
These verses assure us we are one with Christ in the Holy Spirit, we are valuable and priceless, we have purpose in the body of Christ, and we’re chosen in love by God.
The gift of longing to be is fulfilled when we find our unity, our value, our purpose, and our love in God who says we belong at his table of grace. He flings wide the door and pulls you in despite your worn and tattered coat and he takes that worn garment from you and gives you new clothes. Clothes that signify you belong to him.