Have you ever had a thought pop in your mind that you knew was not your imagination? Last week in church I was randomly praying (silently) for the congregation when 3 pictures popped in my mind. It wasn’t from a known fear or anything familiar. Because this is a public blog I think it’s best not to give the details but the pictures gave me insight how to pray. During the worship time three people gave their testimonies and their praise dissolved, neutralized and removed what I perceived to be a threat in each picture.  It was like baking soda thrown on acid- fpssst. It was fascinating to me and a visual for what takes place spiritually when people praise God – for their past, their mistakes and God’s grace in their lives. I was just zoning out when the service started. So many times I’ve gone to church and passively stood there while God ministered to me, while people prayed for me, while healing took place. Now when I’m feeling free and strong I want to press in for others and not let my mind just wander. Because I’ve been prayed for, I want to also pray for others.  I was not expecting to learn something of warfare that morning. Fizzle, dissolve – gone. Praise obliterates the poison of the enemy. I couldn’t help think how time efficient and cost effective of God to just eradicate pain or yuck with a song? We can’t often explain intercession but God leads us to and through it. Do I believe in psychology, counseling, psychotherapy and medicine? Absolutely. But I also know that sometimes a praise break can do deep works that only God could accomplish or explain.

One night a couple years ago, I went to visit my sweet mama in the hospital. I had to stay in the ICU waiting room for long periods of time. There were many families going thru heartache with their loved ones. There were lots of tears and sorrow. One family there attended a Baptist church and every day their church brought them food. Those Baptists loved on me too with their casseroles. That’s not seen as a spiritual gift  but it should be!  The next day I asked the Lord how I could be a blessing and felt a leading to sing “The blood will never lose its power.” I wrestled with this. There were all new people in the waiting room and I was scared. Finally, I did it.  Peace came into that room. A family whose dad was dying came near. Last rites had just been given. They were Catholic and asked if I would come sing my song to their dad. I can’t explain it but their dad got better and lived for several more months, reconciling with family and making things right with God/man. Some things about God are just stronger than what people expect or plan on taking place.   Fpssst….. New direction. God neutralizes really hard things when we praise. The family was very grateful for this time.

Stripes on the back of Jesus, then two men get arrested for preaching about HOPE in this beaten, dead and resurrected guy’s name. That name was not neutral, it did things. They would be free –if they had just shut up about the hope within them. They could not contain their joy- it kept popping out. Paul and Silas were bound in physical chains and the story goes on (Acts 16) that they praised God, even in their darkness and in spite of their trial. We remember this story as an example of their great faith. Did you ever read the next lines? Silas was WITH Paul and they were NOT alone.

Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,

                                         and the prisoners were listening to them. 

They were just taking a praise break with God but others were listening in. God moves mountains when even a little tiny beam of hope enters into someones’ heart. It’s God’s currency; it’s what thrills Him the most. Streaming light, come on up higher, this is the God in Heaven we are reaching for, streeeeeetch….. and the prisoners catch on and ride that wave on Paul and Silas’ praise, encountering God.

26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and

EVERYONE’s chains were loosed.”  God likes to go BIG or go home.

Someones’ going deeper for more than just themselves. Fpssst….. There’s a change of plans. The power of that name is real! Thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday it’s a minute by minute life choice. Praise spreads, it multiplies, and it draws in Heavenly choirs and listening angels. It does not stay put or silent. God’s got this and the story gets rewritten. Praise invites the God of that praise to come on down and dance a while. You just gotta get some Jesus Jig on that! It’s medicinal, it’s real, its hope giving, life altering and not just about us!

Psalm 92 (a song written for the Sabbath day) says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night…”  I’ll leave the rest of that chapter for those spiritual soldiers to look up and I challenge you to view it as a warfare tool. This is no tame psalm to just sing a little tune.  The “Good”  in Psalm 92, looks like healing, plans changed, victories won, not just “normal” or happy.

In the last days, Matthew 24:10 tells us, many will get all hateful and many will live offended at one another. Not just the media, but everyone. We cannot change things in the natural but we can praise God and “Fpssst” let His poison busting, hate crashing, Spirit comforting power –work. We can invite Him into situations that are deemed hopeless or painfully hard. “We praise in full trust that = God’s got this.” We are not just employing weapons of our warfare but connecting with the ONE who can change tough situations into joy. Sometimes situations remain but He changes us. Sometimes that happens immediately and sometimes it is stored for eternal desserts – see the book of Hebrews. Either way, God gets involved and comes to minister to His children while the rest of the world is zoning out and waiting for something to happen. God is sovereign but our will to praise puts us right in the middle of the miracle while it’s happening.

Sins effects are seen all around us. The world is filled with wars, darkness and death. That’s real. Pollyanna platitudes can’t erase wickedness. Human effort can’t eradicate spiritual evil. What is also real, is a God who can cleanse us from all unrighteousness and make us whole. What is also true is that He can change situations when we invite Him into them. The world will still be held by God’s hands today. The sun will rise and set. The stars will still twinkle in their place. The tide will come in and go out. God has set things in motion and continues to be sovereign over them. What about us? Our motions are not fixed by God. Today we will choose whether our praise goes up or our heads hang down. Today we will choose if we relegate our plans to God’s care or our failed wisdom. Today we can choose if we involve Him in our lives through praise or distance ourselves and worship other gods. David, a covetous, murderous adulterer was on a trajectory of death, then Fpssst….. He invites God into his mess. “Uhm, God this is royally screwed up, will you reign some Heaven on this?” The fruit of the loom dancer  David, returns to worshiping the only Worthy One and everything changes. He exchanges his story for God’s story planned for him from long ago. He “sees” God as being worthy of his praise and then God “sees” him as being a man after His own heart. Aren’t you thankful God sees us better than we know ourselves to be in the current situation? The spiritual “earthquake” in David’s soul makes room for the Messiah in his family line. God was planning David’s redemption and legacy even while he’s losing ground. That’s grace. Then all those bound around him start to get their chains loosened. Aren’t you glad David chose to praise? His resume got a rewrite – fpssst.

Are you free today or bound by others’ opinions? Are you chained to your past, your fragile present or your presumptive future? What would change if you took a praise break now? Are those around you in chains just waiting for you to reach out with the glimmer of hope you still have, to praise Him? Whether you or those you love are bound today, aren’t you glad the One we praise is wanting and longing to hear you sing and worship, declaring your trust in Him?

Because of HIS stripes, we can be free, even while bound. Because of His death and resurrection we can stand justified, redeemed and whole – praising with full assurance of present and eternal hope. Aren’t you glad, you are no longer in chains, stuck in a prison of despair? Praise connects us with Jesus. Praise gives us perspective on who He is and who we just might be or become. Fpssst… Change of plans! Change of me…

RenaeRoche2018

 

So , I finally realized that I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I fought the good fight, I applied concealer, I highlighted my hair but alas today I entered into the aging graciously stage. Maybe not so much graciously, but I’m definitely entering into another aging phase. Today, I had the annual eye exam. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my eyesight is doing well and blood vessels are all healthy. I rejoiced to find out they no longer use the “puffer” thing that makes you want to yell and run.  That’s progress.

What I did find out though was surprising to me as they asked the usual questions about family history, health and medications. I grew up around smokers but have never smoked.  God’s a lot more concerned about mean words defiling someone than smoking so this isn’t a blog to condemn smokers. There’s no judgement here and breaking a sugar habit has given me a huge appreciation for those trying to quit. I do want to give a 411 to my blog friends because I was shocked by this information today: Did you know that those who smoke are four times, FOUR TIMES more likely to get macular degeneration than those who don’t? I know people who struggle with this and endure getting shots right in their eyeball. It’s excruciating to even think about it. My response was, “Wow, why don’t they put that on the cigarette ads?” Some parents even give their kids permission to smoke. They have nagged for so long they just give up. Smoking looks cool, eye surgeries… not so much. There are only so many things you can say to prevent harm to a teenager, or adult for that matter. It reminded me of a verse in Acts 14, I had read earlier in the week:

15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a LIVING God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Read the context for this section- it’s not about smoking but worshiping idols that are not God. The things listed are now known to be harmful but were not back then. God in His wisdom warned people but many did not heed the warnings to their own peril.) Here’s the verse to note:

 16 In past generations He ALLOWED all the nations to walk in their own ways.

God spoke with them, led them, had prophets prophesy to them, gave them commands, precepts and even instructions on stone tablets, exiled them and then we hear one of the saddest sentences ever:

He allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.

It’s that sticky subject of free will. Free will says our children choose their own clothes, college or possible demise. Free will says adults can make their own moral choices, even if it damages their kids. Free will is what differentiates God from the other religions as He loves us to much to make us into slaves or robots. There comes a point where God warns, warns and then … allows them or us to play it out. He full well knows that “their own ways” will not accomplish His will. He understands that “our own ways” will not produce righteousness or fruitfulness but His will. It feels… well, reckless. It certainly isn’t cautious. He is not concerned about others opinions but reaching US. He knows there may be consequences but suspends His absolute authority for a higher cause- our freedom to choose Him or to reject Him. He takes the risk because pure love lets people make even the choice to walk away. The expression is you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Freedom means one can choose their own god or the Lord God. For some it leads to life and favor and for others it leads to death.  God in His compassion gives each individual the “right” to choose. Forced choices only lead to stone cold hearts. God’s patience is meant for us to discover who He is and to fall in love with His will and character. It must break His heart when people choose their own way.

A loving father (or mother) will not leave their kids up to their own choices or decisions, especially if they are harmful. God gives direction, wisdom and even the Holy Spirit but each individual has to decide if they will listen, hear or follow. God is so loving but this freedom to walk in one’s own ways – that’s serious business. In plain English it’s “do your own thing, but then expect your own rewards.” Favor from God is NOT like the  what the TV preachers say about wealth and fame. Favor with God looks like peace, rest and communion with Him. You just can’t get that in a bottle, title or cigarette. You also can’t get it in a stained glass church, ministry position or the lottery. Sola Eirene – Peace only comes from God (Jesus)  and living in HIS truth. Living out your “own truth” is fine, but then you must expect —

your own payment,

reward and

entire,  eternal system.

Ouch! That’s pretty crazy to work all that out on your own – minus a Savior.

Following God as an individual, family, church and nation means we follow HIS ways. The problem with this solution is that we don’t always know what His ways are, so how can we follow them? We can “ostrich” it and just pretend we don’t know  or can’t see them, but eventually those excuses will run out. For those wanting to know how to know God’s ways:

  1. Get in the word – all the answers regarding God’s heart are in there.
  2. Get around folks who know God and His word
  3. Seek out wise counsel from those who live according to God’s ways
  4. Pray and seek God’s will rather than others opinions or even spirituality

 

If we follow leaders who are not following God’s ways we should not be surprised if we end up in the Best Buy parking lot instead of Glory. If we entertain ungodly leaders in our minds, televisions or conversations,  we should not be surprised if our lives end up, Stormy. IF there is no push back to the way we are living, it may not be that God is okey dokey with our lifestyle choices, it may be that He has left us up to them! The crowd will yell at whoever is top dog but that does NOT mean that they know how to walk in any truth or follow after the God of the Universe. These matters are way too important to leave our information gathering to fake news or biased think tanks. We must and need to know God’s word and will at such a time as this. Hollywood vs. Holy Cross – who directs your life?  Just pause for a minute… the God who created the Universe left us an instruction manual. That’s mind blowing. There is a complete way to KNOW Him. He did not leave us without answers. He loved us so much He wanted us to know how to follow Him and be in a personal relationship with Him. That’s cool. 

While some people look under every rock for sin and fall into condemnation there are others who go their own way and are perpetually unaware of the absence of God in their lives. They wrongly think that actions today will not have eternal consequences tomorrow. God’s favor doesn’t come from popular opinion or Facebook posts or even twitter followers. You can be surrounded with hundreds of friends saying everything is perfectly alright but God waits, sometimes in silence for the man, the woman, the child who will be fully committed, fully devoted to Him. The one whose heart is postured to follow His ways, will most certainly find Him.

I want to live a life for Gods’ purpose and power, not just skating by in His permissive will, escaping final death. “Lord, do not leave us to our own devices, doing what “feels right” in the moment. Only YOU Lord, can see what is on the other of our every decision. Only  YOU know the full ramifications of our successes and mistakes. Only YOU know the outcome of our daily choices. Help us to serve, choose and love  YOU with a FULL Heart today! We don’t want permission to go our own way and do our own thing, we want YOUR will, YOUR best and to go after YOUR heart. Amen.  Seeking Him with you,

RenaeRoche2018©

 Slim fast – less sugar, more protein. Weight Watchers – Freestyle/ More freedom and choices. Nutrisystem- lose weight and improve your health. Promises that are very similar, all promising one size fits all results. Can we not get more protein at our own houses? Do we not have freedom or choices in our own kitchens now? “You must eat the tuna!” ” Sit there and eat those veggies!” I owe my folks thousands of dollars for what is now being sold as “weight coaching”. Wouldn’t losing weight naturally improve one’s health? Not one of these places offered childcare so I could get off my fat bumper and go for a walk. None offered exercise equipment so I could get movement in these tired bones or a vacation in the Bahamas so I could get some refreshing sun. The fault must be in their offers? 

I took a psychopharmacology class last summer and it was life changing. Minus the intense studying and medical terminology, the biggest take away was this — our brains need nutrition, fish oil, sleep and CARBS. If we remove these things our brains can’t make the connections we need to make. Low carb diets may be a great temporary fix but long term can cause dizziness, confusion and reduced functioning skills. High protein, high carbs, gluten free, sugar free are all terms that have become common place but those quick fix plans do not fit every person and are not to be utilized for months or years at a time!  When our bodies starve for protein, vitamins or basic minerals we do not function at peak performance.

Americans have trained themselves to eat FAST!  We eat on the run, grab a cheese stick, and rush out the door. No longer do we linger with laughter and love. No longer do we pause to add thankfulness or even  … salad dressing. It’s a quick procedure meant to give us just enough fuel to live and hopefully do some minor tasks daily. To get ahead and steam forward many drink liquid shakes and race thru their day. Some even pop a pill and forgo eating entirely. Do we skip meals and then become surprised when we have no endurance to think, no energy to run and no strength to succeed?

Our spiritual habits follow our natural habits very often.

Abraham did not have a devotional book but he knew how to look up and count the stars. Melchizadek didn’t have a one year Bible but he did have some wine and bread. Isaiah did not have an IPhone with inspirational tunes but he was married to a praying woman who could hear from God. King David prayed not once or twice a day but seven times daily! I wonder if eating just enough to survive has also impacted how we eat spiritually?  Is spiritual anorexia one of our nation’s most dangerous diseases? Do we hear “let go and let God ” because it’s less work than praying or fasting?

As we head to the annual celebration of Pentecost I have been doing some research. This past week we spent the evening with some conservationists at Burr Oak Nature Center. What was intended as just a fun family night took a serious turn of events when a khaki dressed man supplied my children with owl pellets. Don’t let the scientific name fool you – it’s owl digestive material. They rummaged through the tightly wound material and pulled out mole bones, mice skulls and a variety of things owls eat when no one is noticing. Being somewhat of a germa-phobe my first reaction was to run for the hand sanitizer but I endured and watched as my two precious boys sifted through the remains of an owls take -out choices and non-vegan supper collections. I’ve never seen them so still and focused (the boys, not the owls).  Another woman in khaki asked my family if we knew the difference between a field mouse and a city mouse? My reply , “one has overalls and the other a teeny, tiny vacuum?” drew groans from my kids. With a little investigation, one can discover what the owl likes to eat, where the owl likes to eat and even when the owl likes to eat. You might be thinking “who-oo cares?” The life of this owl can be determined by its stomach contents and food choices.

What if we were given a spiritual autopsy on that final day?

What if our spiritual nutrition could be weighed and measured in relation to our fruitful output? Is there a magic bullet for spiritual nutrition, strength or growth? Yes. Acts 6:4: but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The word continuously is from two root words – pros/kartereo. Pros means to be a priority, before anything else, in front of, superior. Kratos means to be great, mighty, and powerful, with strength, vigor and dominion. The emphasis is on constantly giving care and attention in a steadfast way to this activity. Continually. 

The church where we attend has a prayer group but it is not just a group of people that claim that as their spiritual gift. It is made up of men and women, some desperate for answers, others sacrificially giving their intercession and time. They also have prayer before the preaching Sunday morning, prayer requests through Facebook, a prayer chain and group prayer  weekly. Their prayers have strengthened  me in many ways such as healing, courage and more.  I love those spiritual meals corporately but if the only time I prayed was in the sanctuary I would spiritually starve. Prayer must also be 24/7, 365, at home, in the car and wherever life takes us. We choose to be spiritually famished or spiritually full and unless you are on a food drip that choice must be made  intentionally and daily. Maybe minute by minute if you are in crisis. The more full of God we are as individuals, the more full our corporate times will be.

Dr. Billy Graham used to stop and read Psalms several times a day. The busier he was, the more he would pause to read, pray and refresh. He never preached his “formula” but the Word of God. He told us his “source” yet Christians today would rather read his book than get on their knees and emulate his lifestyle. We are a lazy society physically and spiritually and the results come with that package deal. The problem is that there is no statin, high blood pressure pill or insulin shot for spiritual disease but it will kill just the same. Elijah did not stop praying to sell anointing oil on TBN. He continued on in prayer. Daniel prayed by his window and resisted the temptation to sell prayed over windows on HSN. David prayed seven times a day to face trials not obtain a preaching circuit. Now these Jesus Freaks in Acts are beckoning us to pray CONTINUOUSLY? You would need power to do that. Heavenly power. If it is stated as necessary, it must also logically be possible. Available, unlimited. Hmm? As long as we are asking Lord, is it also possible, available and unlimited – daily, like manna? I want that! Need that!

If we cannot fathom, comprehend or experience this… we might need a special spiritual coach or trainer. 

This week some things happened in lives around us that were quite frightening, some of these things gave me “shaky guts” and I needed to connect with a strong Savior to get thru them. My spiritual diet had to be fortified. When I work out in the natural, I drink a recovery drink.  When I do spiritual warfare, my prayer needs to increase, not decrease. The bigger the stress, the greater the mess, prayer and fasting need to become more, not less.  Our spiritual feeding cycles needs attention!

If someone dissected your spiritual diet and nutritional pellet (gut content), what would they find? Are you anemic and anorexic, or fat and flowing? To continuously pray, we need a power source. To continuously battle, we need a power source. To continuously overflow, we need a Power Source.

Our “guts” need to be filled with the very presence and person of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom.

If we want to be a Justice Little (weightlifting champion 2017), a Chris Froome (champion Biker) or Michael Phelps (champion swimmer) we would eat like they eat, train like they train and abstain from what they abstain from. If we want the success, strength and testimonies of the saved disciples in the book of Acts we need to adapt their magic bullet and the first part of that is: “We will give ourselves continuously to prayer.”

“Well, I don’t want to do sit-ups today, it’s rainy. I don’t want to train like Sarina Williams, that’s just legalistic and rule-keeping. No one can make me do laps like Phelps, I’m free in Christ. OK, just sit there and enjoy your cankles then. Can “No pain, no gain” apply spiritually?  Do large groups decrase our need for individual sanctification or spiritual formation habits? Are the churches in America becoming spiritual insulin centers? Do what you want and we’ll fix you right Sunday? Are we a nation that fixes problems AFTER they occur because we neglect the obvious beforehand?  Redemption and Sanctification is what the Holy Spirit accomplishes , but we still need to place ourselves under the flow, the faucet of Christs’ grace. We need continual prayer and the meat of the Word. For the book of Acts results, we must lift the book of Acts weights and a good start might be praying continuously. Note: the group had a plan, it was not the sole responsibility of a pastor or a leader to do the heavy lifting.

I’m so glad for health leaders who have recently told me the truth about what my body needed to not only survive but thrive – I’m feeling physically great. New habits and God’s healing have blessed me. Where are the people willing to tell us we are dying spiritually? Not easy at first but very important. The disciples did not just pray alone or with those of the same nationality, gender or denomination. THEY prayed continuously. Like Paul we need to put on our running shoes and run the race set before us, like Moses we need to eat our spiritual bread, like Jesus said we need to drink in the water that gives us eternal life. Like the disciples  during and after Pentecost we need to be filled with the Spirit. Strong groups are comprised of praying individuals relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit. 

Lord, we pray that you will fill us, saturate us with Your Spirit. Give us this day our daily bread. Change our appetites that we would hunger for holy things that actually satisfy. Quench our thirst with Your living Water . Help us to find and pray with people who want to see Your Kingdom come. Renew Pentecost in US today and give US that Power, Person and Presence of the Holy Spirit that we too could pray continuously.

Who will do this with me and continuously pray for ACTS type families, churches and lives? 
                                 Who, who, who?

RenaeRoche2018©

 

Hubby works hard during the week and our family has a special bent for relaxing on the weekends. We’ve found it “softens the grind” of tough schedules. Recently hubby was trying to catch a quick nap and I heard the “ding, ding, ding” of the microwave go off. I raced to the kitchen to stop it, but didn’t get there in time. Then several minutes later it happened again with another hungry boy practicing his culinary skills. “Ding, Ding, Ding”. Then it was my turn to warm up my snack of choice and I honestly forgot, again. Then a cake in the oven announced its arrival – “Ding, ding, ding. “If I had only just turned it off and not loudly said, “I am so sorry”, it might have gone unnoticed. So much for relaxation! We were all thinking of our world and not the “other guy”. My Navy husband tries to help us look out for the whole team rather than just our individual interests. That little snack, in that little appliance, getting little micro waves, alerted us that the food was ready but not of the bigger picture – sleeping papa on the couch, in the next room. Asking, “did we wake you” did not smooth things over. He had every right to be annoyed. Some questions should not be asked multiple times unless we’re ready to hear the clear answer, right?

One of the questions the disciples often asked was if Jesus would become an earthly King. Pre-cross they anticipated it, even threw a parade. Preachers all over the country reiterated this season that Jesus did not come to take an earthly throne. You would think the cross would have cleared that up for the early Christians, but look at Acts 1. Post-cross some of the disciples still can’t get past this expectation, this hope that “their team” would conquer and rule. Micro-vision. They connived to set up their own earthly kingdom. I wonder if Jesus slapped His forehead in frustration wondering when they would stop trying to make Him fit into their mold. Again, Jesus barely out of the grave, they repeat the question. “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” “Ding, ding, ding–times up, we still need a king”.  His resurrected visit among them seemed like the perfect opportunity for a “re-do” of their plans. UGH! He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” They still can’t control or manage Him. They were still thinking about their sphere of influence, their world, their outcome.

They were thinking micro- not Kingdom. There’s something else happening here. Something bigger than what we can manipulate with our own ideas. They were thinking about what they wanted to happen, what they needed and what they expected to take place.

Jesus, on the other hand was looking at the bigger picture. He was looking at things from a Kingdom view (macro). Restore is His language. It means to mend, return to its former state. Perfect wholeness and peace through salvation. The request is to bring back the covenant promise. They assumed it was the promise to just Israel. Jesus, who sees things from a historical, present and eternal perspective can’t look at things in just linear fashion. He sees things North, South, East, and West. He sees in 3millionD, from every angle and in every color possible. He is not limited by space or time and does not view things with the perspective of humans. That covenant did not start with Israel. That covenant does not end with Christians. He is not the King of one time or one people–He died for ALL. Pretty inclusive. They are wanting what matters to just “them” to be fixed and modified. Jesus’ goal is to reach the ALL. He is looking back to the first covenant with Adam and Eve. They get the part where He conquers the grave and will go to His father but still have limited micro vision. Give us Your vision Lord! He’s getting ready to show them the bigger picture but first …

has to peel their eyeballs off of themselves and their current situation.

Hmm? Sounds like us, doesn’t it? We see what is right in front of us. We focus on what we can touch and understand in this minute of time. The commands that He left with them were not a manuscript, biography, or  even a printed doctrine. He does them one better (literally) and leaves them a teacher, the Holy Spirit. The qualification? Wait for it….pray and wait. Do we realize that is true for us, here, now? Wait, then full access. All of their and our questions can be heard. The Kingdom now has a guide. This MACRO sight Spirit will direct them to all things Jesus has said about the Kingdom. Broad, complete view, first at creation, through the cross and into eternity.

The Holy Spirit is a Kingdom player.

Jesus, King of the Kingdom of Heaven will rule and reign and will sit on a throne, but it will be a Heavenly one. It is secure there where no one can manipulate or bargain with its justice or power. Then slowly but surely the plan gets explained and their micro vision is stretched into Kingdom vision – where all wait on God, all can be filled by the Holy Spirit, all can receive gifts, all can be sent. Will you restore the Kingdom (present tense) Jesus? He doesn’t chide them for asking a stupid/repeat question or send them to the remedial religious romper room. He doesn’t scold them for being exclusive or ethnocentric (cliquish).  He, compassionate Savior, redirects them to look at the larger picture, the original covenant being restored and the eternal kingdom affecting earth and realized in Heaven.

Until our calendars are viewed as moments God directs, until our thinking is restoring covenant back to where God intended with Adam and Eve, until our hearts are open to the Macro teacher (Holy Spirit), until our goal is co-laboring with all in God’s kingdom we will be merely dinging, clanging symbols stuck in time, missing God’s heart and God’s mission, only looking at our own lives or kingdoms. We need the Holy Spirit to enlarge our hearts, enlarge our spiritual family, enlarge our goals, enlarge the Kingdom and our vision until a wave of God is felt throughout our land in macro proportion.

Because we often forget and do not see clearly, we need the Holy Spirit to teach, lead and guide us. The message of Acts 1 is to come near, let God restore His kingdom and wait on the teacher to be released in our lives long term. Not just to bring us to Heaven but to bring us back, restored to God’s original plan (creation, covenant love, fellowship) then together walking forward to the Heavenly Kingdom ….  As planned. There is no new design to just move forward, forgetting the past. There is no new-fangled Messiah, reserved for the Jews (or Christians) or just us four and no more. There is a fulfillment of a Promise. Christ’s end game – all coming Home to God’s Kingdom, must become our endgame. 

 Strrrreeeeeeetttcccchhhh us Lord. Expand our Kingdom View.

Acts 1:3 says “to whom He showed Himself alive after His passion with many infallible proofs…”  What was Christ’s passion? ME. That’s the micro version. The macro version is salvation provided for me and YOU (plural-y’all). The difference in those two versions is the Holy Spirit. We need that power to see clearly, inclusively and most of all to bring us back to Homeplate – where it all began. Our advantage is having part of the “home team” guide us there. When we see through a Kingdom (Heavenly) lens, we will start to walk and live with a Kingdom lens, praying for all things and all people to be restored (mended, whole, at peace). Blessed are they who come in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna!

Instead of “will you restore Israel Lord” (incorrect question) we can now say confidently with exclamation, “By the power of the Holy Spirit, through us Lord, restore Your ENTIRE Kingdom and carry out Your Kingdom directives in a Macro way (waiting, restoring, including, gifting, anointing, and reaching) instead of a microwave “fix my world” on my timetable, now.

Ding, ding, ding   …. He’s ready. Are we?

RenaeRoche ©2018

When I was younger I was involved in a theatrical group. I remember the big velvet curtains ready to open, the lights panning the audience, the sound swelling from the orchestra pit and then the show began. “Another opening, another show, in Philly, Boston or Baltimore” still swirls around my mind. The big production proceeded and culminated in a grand finale. That’s just the progression we expect.  Holidays remind me of these events as they ramp up and we expect a certain outcome. We anticipate the ending of the Passion story: Jesus lives, goes thru a series of intense, painful events and then goes from life to death.

This week I had to go out of order in my reading, to help my kids as they started a new devotional time. Gotta admit, it was a bit weird reading it backwards as I was reading about the Emmaus road and they were back in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I like doing things in order. I’m a big fan of the breakfast burrito at McDonalds, available now all day long. Some things just need to be done in order to keep on track.  So, there I was rewinding Easter, as if it was a story to be put on the shelf. Somewhere in the middle however, something in me was stirred:

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. (Note to self: Leader meetings with Jesus were done in God centered, restful nature, not a board room, hmm?) Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward (or as hubby says ADVANCED) and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back

and fell to the ground.        (screeech… rip)

Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

Using lame humor I asked my kids if Jesus had garlic breath and asked why they thought these gang participants fell backward. Responses were mainly about power and comparisons to superheroes. The lanterns were probably held by religious people, the torches by government people and the weapons probably by (insert people you are mad at here. Don’t be all coy like that was not what you were thinking when you read that). These folks came “armed”. They ask questions, another actor gets off script and then escort Him off to His death. Here’s the rip (screech….) All the bad guys and gals are now laying on the ground. That’s a problem with a torch in your hand. Talk about a literal hot mess. Do they scramble up, does someone give them a hand? Then there is this question: When Houdini wanted to escape he did. When animals are caged up and get even the smallest opening they run. When robbers or thieves see a chance to high tail it out of there, they take it. When the moment presents itself that you might get annihilated most people would run screaming away like a little girl. Why didn’t Jesus run?

I’ve seen power similar to this (falling down) when people encounter God. History records events like this when people are in revival or encountering the spiritual. You can find it in cults or genuine churches. It’s real and anyone who’s ministered at an altar knows that people react differently when their emotions are touched by the living God. Phenomenon like this is not all that unusual when people are scared, excited or transformed. When you touch a supernatural live wire there is bound to be a supernatural manifestation, sometimes fake and sometimes real.

But this is different. This is not a usual altar, it’s a beat down. Here’s where Jesus “alters forgiveness” forever. The ones carrying things fell backward. That’s greater than Ninjago or Karate Kid. Jesus didn’t even lift a finger, they fell backward. Not fantasy, not fiction.

There was power in His name.

Superman and all childhood superheroes either fight or flee and that is what we expect, but this is wholly different. He is wholly different.  What fight scene EVER ends this way? The soldiers fall backwards and there is the huge NCIS like opening for Jesus to run. Exit stage left – whoosh. But He remains. He helps them “learn things”.  What is the producer thinking? CUT! Did someone forget to follow the script? The One who is preparing to die for all, inserts a pause into the narrative, speaks calmly and then secures the release of His friends. Maybe He’s following scripture. It does not seem wise to do this. Don’t you just want to yell out “This is your opportunity to run!” In the black of night a getaway in this moment is possible. But He doesn’t take it – He just stands there, undistracted.

It will unnerve you if you meditate on that verse. Not only does He somehow cause these carriers of implements (lanterns, torches and weapons), aka unsavory villains, to fall back to the ground by some mysterious force but then protects His friends. That’s weird but what is weirder is that He gives Himself up and then…   He helps them. Now is not the time to be forgiving – run! You had a chance; they were on the ground for Heaven’s sake, run! Maybe He stays, for our sake.

Was the character of Jesus such that even in a moment like this He could not act any differently than He did on other days because His nature and character were defined by His father rather than His circumstances? Was it ingrained in every fiber of His being? I could not shake this thought. Would Jesus even support, help and assist those whose twisted life destiny was to crucify Him on a bloodied cross? That thought is challenging to “feel good” theology. Did He know that if He did not help these horrible people they would face certain death just days before He could redeem them? Did that matter to Him? Is His mercy really that endless? Were even they on His radar for salvation?

I get that Jesus gives mercy to the broken and weary. I get that Jesus gives grace to the addict. I have seen Jesus give love to the hurting but giving assistance or peace to the hateful enemies trying to destroy Him? RUN! Jesus, RUN!  They fall, His friends tremble, then Jesus gives them what they are looking for and peacefully, gently goes with them. Wholly unlike an escape artist,  a Navy Seal, any human being and any superhero. Completely different. Beyond our scope of understanding or intelligence. No comparison. When everything in our history, memory, training and survival instinct would tell us to hide, run or lie, He loves His enemies. This is the crucible, precursor to the cross.

This hand that formed mountains, constellations and a little babies feet stands in the cold starry night – empty handed, while theirs are filled with weapons. And He gives them a hand – to help carry out His own demise. Wow. That’s beyond comprehension. It would be enough that Jesus asks us to remember His suffering or even to love our enemies but we are told to love AS He loved. There must be some power we need to fulfill that because we are not superheroes, we are mere humans. He would not command that love without providing the needed resource to do so.

Sunday I went to church, still miffed by this passage and wrestling with the crazy notion that Jesus would actually help His enemies. The substitute preacher/ chain breaker read Luke 6:32-36, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is KIND to the ungrateful and the evil. 

Could it be that there is a whole category of people that Jesus wants us to reach? They aren’t in the 10/40 window but they may be breaking yours. They may or may not be from a foreign country but they may ask you to accept their ways –or be martyred. They may look just like you but snarl when you walk by. They may be the ones God uses to irritate you just enough to trigger violence– or prayer. God gave Jesus a way of escape, a way out but the cross was the only way He could run back Home. He wasn’t trying to get out of the tasks His father had given Him; He was aiming to fulfill them.

Maybe we should set aside the Christmas shoeboxes, the clothing give aways, the homeless handouts and instead this year look for some really ugly, mean, violent people carrying lights, torches and guns. It sounds like a Frankenstein movie doesn’t it? Maybe it’s time for a reverse thriller – chase the chasers, run down the rebels and pursue the persecutors but with God’s love instead of hatred. “Let me help you up so you can throw me down.” Radical. Revolutionary. So contrary to what we think is our “right” or the norm. We can sing “we got the POWER” all night but this pure, restrained beautiful example of power under control, submitted to Gods’ will changed the world once, perhaps that same power can change the world again. We just need to find some ungrateful and evil people and begin to let God do His work. Prayer connects us with that. It was those people who lifted Him to the cross and God’s will for His life. All under His Lordship.

What will you do with this information?  Jesus, assisted the ones who came to crucify Him. Kindness must have been more than just a child’s admonition. Being kind was the weapon He used on that day. “Did He win that fight mama?” Yes, He went from death to life and reigns victorious!” Jesus loved the ungrateful and evil ones. I’m not loving like He is, but I want to be, I choose to be.  Maybe it’s time to put the running shoes aside and stand firm in God’s will and plan. Lord, guide us. Arm us with Your kindness and goodness and lead us into YOUR battle.

Jesus remained, even when given the chance to flee. He was wholly unlike all others. Fully God, fully man. John 13:32-36 will tell us how to live this out. Christ’s One commandment will guide us. “Give us YOUR power Lord that we could obey Your commandment and will. Help us not to run from our destiny but to walk in Your example and power.”

RenaeRoche2018

 

 

I love that verse that says Gods mercies are new every morning and that God is FAITHFUL (Lamentations 3:22-23). Mondays remind me of that and the restart of another week. I don’t know about you but I really need that. Successes and failures over the weekend come to the forefront of my mind as I try to make sense of  life, ministry and future. Long gone are the days when Franklin Covey could just wrap everything up in a day’s agenda. Handsome hubby told me about something he had heard this week, “diversity is not God’s agenda, it’s His nature.” Man that is loaded with possibilities. It got me pondering, how many things do we do out of agenda versus God’s nature? Do our calendars or hearts reflect that?

The scripture for this week’s blog is Luke 15.  There’s this crazy strange story about a fig tree that is planted in a grape vineyard. I’m afraid Sesame Street has impacted my theology more than I realized. “One of these things is NOT like the other.” Who plants figs in a vineyard? Someone that likes variety, owner’s option. So the guys in the story dialogue about this out of place tree that is just not producing. The obvious and quick answer is CUT IT DOWN. This is the same type of tree that covered Adam and Eve when they were cut off from the garden. Same tree that will shade a man named Nathanial.  A tight budget and a yard that needs weeding may have brought my attention to this verse because greenery is expensive. Jesus, master recycler, tree hugger and teacher suggests something else – get some manure. Wow, He can redeem anything!  That’s some crazy manure right there.  It’s used to warm things up and decrease acidity – making the conditions better for fruit production.   So they are challenged to give it a year and then see what kind of fruit comes from it. A year, are you serious? Is it the soils fault? The gardeners fault? The food or nurture ? 

Manure is the solution. “Hey, Donkey, you just got promoted and this Jesus guy increased your value significantly.” Talking about using what’s near you!  Nothing fancy, just dung.

The manure fix came from the one who scooped dirt and blew breath into creating the first human being.  Give it nutrients, water, love and manure. It’s not in God’s nature to give up without first trying  EVERYTHING possible to redeem –including His own son. Jesus, the One who can redeem anything and anyone is giving a wonderful visual that manure is useful for growth.  Give it  a try – warm things up and lower the acidity and watch it blossom. This little fig tree, obviously belonging to the owner of the vineyard and significantly  out of place in its environment , has potential to thrive.

The one who came from Heaven would understand going the extra mile.

He did not waste resources but called for them to do right by this living thing. What a wonderful creator, still caring about creation. I feel a tug to water my plants and myself right now. Jesus suggested packing this barren fig tree with manure and giving it grace for over a year, that’s the long haul. How careful He was with life. Isaiah would also say of this same Messiah, “a bruised reed He would not break.”  

The disciples knew Jesus as a carpenter but now He’s giving them potting lessons? “Holy Toga!” Next He’ll be telling us how to fish! What’s with this guy? I don’t think He went to Essene State University, He went to that “other” school maybe. Why is He teaching us about fertilizing or watering plants when He’s supposed to be teaching us lessons about the Kingdom? Are you sure He’s the One? Doesn’t He know we’re here for His Leadership course? This down to earth lesson just isn’t that deep to us. What experience does this guy have anyway?” I would love to say Jesus gave a fig about that vineyard and everything in it, but that would detract from the message.

Most people skip the first part of the story because in our western city mouse world we don’t often garden. It is critical to understand the next section. No one likes to get their hands dirty or discuss manure too much. We’re a hand sanitizing generation. It’s easy to keep ones hands clean if we never plant anything (applies to the spiritual also). The highlighted “branch” of this chapter is the woman who is bent over. She’s bowed down low. She has an encounter with this garden happy Savior and everything changes. Her support, the lifter of her head has now come! (Lift your neck up, woo woo, lift your hands up). We are only told she straightens up but I’m thinking there must have been a happy dance when she realized there was more to life than just the pavement!  Reading this years later we rejoice and wear her shoes but again, our carnal nature distances us from the bad guys in the story and we immediately race to how we would champion the woman. Slow down…. Hear the bad guys because we also need to identify with them. The program, tradition, service has been interrupted in the synagogue. How uncouth. This guy is not one of “us” and he has not come up thru the system as “we” have so therefore he must be “other”, “them” or anti-authority. He just doesn’t understand our protocol, tacky. We can’t see what the Kingdom of God IS if we don’t recognize what the Kingdom of God isn’t. Does this woman think today is all about her? Is she an attention hog manipulating the situation?

She’s just standing there crumpled, needing support.

But like that barren fig tree Jesus knows just what type of support and comfort she needs, regardless of all the “religion and religious people” around her. All these theological gyrations aren’t a thought in her mind. He steps in and shows them how God cares for His daughter in spite of the agenda going on around them. Another gem from hubby this weekend as we prepared for church was this – “bring your prayer requests to Jesus and the altar until they turn into praises.” (I love it when He waters me with things that have watered him).

How many times do we ask for prayer? Well, it’s been said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We had a sweet older spiritual mother in our church who used to ask for prayer for her family every Sunday. It did not matter if it was a holiday, baptism or revival – she brought them all up in prayer. I used to just think it was her being quirky. She didn’t go with the flow of things; she created the flow of things. She trained this preacher woman that the service wasn’t about my agenda but God’s digging, fertilizing, watering and pruning His plants. Over the years I noticed her family regularly getting healed and blessed. That wise saint knew how to press in and persevere. She spread lots of glory, love and honor all around the roots of her family tree and now there is a vast forest she could thank God for in her prayer time.

Our family has been listening to a really good preacher talk for several months now on God setting things straight in our lives and those we reach out to. He’s doing just that in us. Oh that the holy chiropractor would come and rub out all the spiritually arthritic places in our hearts and souls!  I love this visual of Jesus bending the woman’s back, back into place – so she could rest and see Him and others aright. Jesus wants to set all things straight according to His reign. Double back and consider that again – God’s kingdom agenda is to let God set things straight and aright, yielding rest to His creation. We make room for GOD to do that.

Don’t you just love Jesus today? He’s careful with the little, He’s careful to redeem and recycle, He’s careful to make things straight….   I’m not like that yet, but I want to be. We’re all in these stories – good and bad guys on any given day. That’s why we need the Bible, each other and lots of grace!

Maybe that’s why repentance is based on God and not on us.

These blogs are meant to inspire discussion, connect with others that want to live Biblically and share hope. The purpose is to go deeper in the subject of Rest and Peace. What are modern day Ox and Donkeys? Do we let our cars rest and fill them with oil? Do we bless those who help us work during the week or just cut them down or replace them? It’s interesting to think of modern day Oxen and Donkeys. Pots are replaceable and Razors are disposable but living things should not be.  How do we care for and bless those who give us the ability to work harder and smarter during the week? Do we at least weekly water/bless them? Straightening and healing are fundamental things the Kingdom is about and Kingdom work should equate to rest for the weary.  Disclaimer: I have not talked to anyone’s’ mechanic, secretary, spouse or plant. Just reading and processing the text. It makes me curious though, if we paid more attention to that or those who serve or need mercy, would there be less time to judge those trying to straighten and heal?

Those of you reading this that lived during the post depression era understand the value of reusing a tea bag and recycling things. Those of you who are poor understand the value of salvaging what you cannot afford to just replace. Those of you who work in leadership know the benefits of low turnover. Those of you who understand mercy, realize all of these are seen in the Christ. God’s in the people recycle business and His goal is to redeem ALL things.

Caring, straightening, watering are all signatures of God bringing rest to His body. “Quick and easy” to “get er done” is not part of that system. We must dig deeper and pour in God’s healing grace. It takes His work to bring rest to God’s creation. This whole passage is convicting. Changing a culture takes time, changing a Body so it is straight does also. How do we steward people? How do we steward rest? How do we work to glorify God who loves even the littlest plant or seed? While the seasons change, He is watching over every living thing, He is Heaven bent on straightening every crooked path or person, His eye is still on the sparrow and the smallest hair on our heads, regardless of what the bad or good guys are doing.

I’m going to go find my mustard seeds and see what God wants me to plant and care for this week. I’ll do my part and trust that God will do His. I also have some things to water, oil and make straight. I want Heavens agenda and to learn how to walk in God’s Kingdom.

How about you?

 

RenaeRoche 2018 

 

 

 

The Grandest Holiday of the year has now passed and people are still cleaning up plastic grass, eggs and the leftover remnants of company. It was so cold here that we did not put up many of the decorations we had in previous years. We did however light our lantern and put ceramic figures of the resurrection scene around it. At the table each of us took turns saying what questions we thought each of the figures would have asked post resurrection. Some of these included: Why did Jesus say “I thirst” when He was the living water? (This from a ceramic woman we think is Mary). “Why was it so bright when the angel showed up” (The guard). And then someone thought Jesus would ask where the tartar sauce was since later on, they had fish. Some years are more spiritual than others, but who doesn’t like tartar sauce?

I became fascinated with one of the characters in the Easter narrative this year. He just happened to share the same name as Jesus. If you did not know this – there were hundreds of men named Jesus at the time of the Passion of the Christ and many were crucified that same day. Talk about confusing. The enemy thought the Right One, who came to seek and save the lost would somehow get lost in the crowd. “Sssee you’re just a number among many, no one will even remember you were here.” It’s impossible to pull the wool over the eyes of the One they call Shepherd, just saying.

Scripture tells us that because of envy they crucified Christ. Jesus said He was chosen. Jealousy wants what someone has; envy just wants them to be stripped of any potential blessing, joy or favor. “So Jesus, you think you’re all that and a bag of chips? You don’t know everything!” In Christ’s scenario– chosen meant selected for Death, though innocent, He was crucified according to the popular vote of the crowd. He was Chosen before birth to die. That’s a popularity contest no one would want to win. Don’t ever believe that the majority is right because of their numbers – in this case they were deadly, eternally and permanently wrong. Truth does not change based on the largest numbers. Jesus died on His cross- very alone. “Well, we think…”  Nope, what does Jesus say, what would Jesus do? Consider it was during a time of purification and holiness that the religious people plotted Jesus the Christ’s death. Religion had gone very, very wrong.

So back to our rogue imposter – the other Jesus that was Unchosen. He may have slipped your eye before because not much is written about him. Mark tells us he was bound with the other protestors in the riots he stirred up and thrown with them in a cell. He had a cause and unlike the milieu of meddlers around him, was willing to stand up for it. Seems the people maybe even liked this guy as he represented their opinions. He had given voice to their discontent. They wanted people to know things needed to change — but they wouldn’t go as far as wanting this guy to die even though he was a murderer.  He was popular – but wasn’t chosen by the high priest. He was chosen by the people. He was the unchosen one.

Being unchosen saved his life. He wanted to help, but not to die. That sets him apart from Jesus the Christ right there. The common folk however were yelling for him to be released, he was the “other one.” He was notorious in those parts, “notable” scripture tells us.  Only disciple John, Jesus’ close friend, gives us insight into him. He simply cannot stomach this guy being associated with Jesus in anyway, so he tells us that he was a “robber” – a sneaky snake. Later editions of the Bible scrubbed rogue Jesus’ name out to help us avoid confusion. That’s frustrating because knowing his real name helps us identify with his sin, the unfair trade and depth of redemption.

This imposter rogue, riot guy’s story is pretty straight forward unlike the story about Judas. I never understood why all the “news” about Judas was so twisted until this year (USA news spin).  Judas repented with remorse. True remorse means money gets returned, and items restored, not just cheap words. True repentance means a life change, not just a sloshy “I’m sorry”. Judas did that and the news cycle should have changed — but it didn’t. They knew in time that the real Jesus was innocent but the gossip, rumors, slander and envy – laden hate was already in motion. No wonder the real story never accurately got recorded. Bribes, sell-outs and cover ups prevented it. The Potters field caught the attention of the crowd and the investigative reporting stopped. It’s the magician’s bunny – “look over here” to divert attention away from the critical thing at hand.

So back to this other Jesus, the unchosen one. The crowd in Matthew 27 is made up of soldiers, regular folks, men and women – from every belief system and nationality. It is not made up of only Jews. Telling people that, was just another magicians trick to fuel anti-Semitism. Caiaphas, prophesied that One should die for the nation. Real Jesus was causing  people to believe in Him and the religious leaders were afraid that they would lose their nation over His teachings. The fight in the nation was mounting. Those standing behind rogue Jesus wanted Him released. Real Jesus, not even defending Himself, had previously told people He was the Chosen One. Envy says I don’t want this successful person who is XYZ to get rewards/favor. Envy wants to quash anything that looks, smells or feels like God’s or man’s favor. It’s like crabs in a basket, all remaining trapped.

Both real and rogue Jesus were chosen and unchosen that day.

Rogue Jesus escaped death and was unchosen for the cross. Whew! Rogue Jesus was chosen by popular vote to remain alive. Chosen Jesus Christ was  scourged, mocked and crucified. The crowd did not pick Him believing the “other guy” represented them best. So true. Unchosen Jesus Christ, did not get the acclaim that “notable” rogue Jesus did but He was chosen to ascend to Heaven and sit by the right side of God, chosen to return by His Father. Part of the Irony is that rogue Jesus’ name (Jesus Barabbas) literally means the son of the father.  What a mind twister.

It’s past Easter and we know where Jesus was going and about His return, but where did Jesus Barabbas go? History remains silent. While the One who died so that ALL lives could matter was crucified and resurrected, the guy who was a murderer and thief got off totally free. I’m guessing Barabbas did not riot that decision. Pretty amazing. Did Jesus Barabbas simply go home? Did he celebrate? Did he settle down and work a 9 to 5 job?

Would he or would we, walk, talk, work or rest differently after being set free? What would Jesus – Barabbas do Monday morning?

It’s the same question we have to answer. I am saved from destruction, damnation and death. What do I do with that information? I know Jesus is at the right hand of the father, interceding for you, for me. Fully God and divine. We identify with the other guy more readily. How do I walk about the week in Barabbas’ shoes? Back to insurrection vs. resurrection? Does he visit Jesus grave only to find it empty? Does he flee Jerusalem that night and run to Emmaus to get a donkey and get far, far away? Hmm? Back to robbery and rioting?  

Or maybe… wanting real news and a real Messiah he could follow this Chosen One’s life and example? I don’t want to follow in His miracles or footsteps because He’s NO LONGER THERE. I don’t want to look back for His shadow or yesteryears revival, I want to hear His voice TODAY and actively, willingly go WITH HIM, wherever He is going. If I were Barabbas I would:

  1. Realize my life is now a gift and not by my works, skills, talents

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph.2:8-9)

  1. Get in the word and find out what is really true

If I were Barabbas I would diligently search the scriptures and then listen carefully to Peter teaching:” But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, (WHY?) so that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light;”(1 Pet.2:9)

  1. Seek out godly mentors to stay on track and in truth

If I were Barabbas I would go find John, who called me some awful names (true but painful) and have him explain 1 John 1:9 to me, slowly.

  1. Be a vessel for Christ to shine through

Then, if I were Jesus Barabbas I would focus on decreasing so real Jesus could increase. Whatever the cost. I would ask John to tell me the story of Lazarus where Jesus tells them that they have NO light within them. I would ask for Jesus to shine HIS light through me. I would make room in my heart and life for that to happen on a regular basis.

I’d also go find Toby (Mac) Maccabees and daily sing “Light Shine Bright” and connect with Jesus protesters disciples and live in a manner that glorifies Christ. I don’t know what Barabbas did Monday morning or any morning thereafter but like him, guilty, sin-laden and not capable of earning salvation, life now CAN NOT be the same. That unchosen, unpopular guy on the cross and His resurrection= CHANGES EVERYTHING!  

If JB goes forward, in spite of his life of sin, he can walk into a bright future – provided by an unpopular, unchosen, bloodied, envied, yet loved Savior. He faced the same choices we face today. Redemption precedes radical change. How will you walk out the message of the resurrection? What would Jesus do? What would Jesus Barabbas do? Because of Him we can live shining bright in a dark world. Chosen, free.

2018 RenaeRoche

 

 

 

 

 

A friend of mine recently went to a meeting to discuss nutrition and weight loss. Halfway through she remembered  she had a Peep in her purse, contraband for sure. It cracked me up as I thought about the possibilities if she was found out by the hungry people around her. There might be a peep pile on! There she sat, no one knowing she had this little delightful treat in her purse. It was like an Easter surprise for one. You just never know what things are hidden in a woman’s purse. This is a season of surprise, fulfillment and ….  hope.

Feeling a little disconnected, one night I bought the kids palm fronds at the grocery store. As I wheeled through the aisles I debated with myself the necessity of tradition. I pondered how to celebrate this event at home.  As I loaded the groceries into our vehicle, the wind picked up and off went the fronds flying through the air. This did not go as planned. I had really hoped to celebrate the event with the boys. I remembered as a child when balloons flew away, my mom would tell me they were going up to Jesus. I never understood why he would steal a little kid’s balloon, but on this day I was OK with it  because the reason I bought the fronds was to praise Him.  So, there in the dark parking lot, littered with sale fliers I broke out into a little praise. I thought I might as well, while the fronds were airborne.  Nope, there were no donkeys, coats or disciples but somehow I knew Heaven had heard my song.  Hosanna, Hosanna!

This weekend is Resurrection Sunday, a serious  high church holiday. I greatly respect the churches that pause and meditate on Good Friday. It is powerful to consider the cross as we embrace the reality of pain, suffering and the experience of what it feels like before the third day. It gives depth to the miracle of the resurrection and helps us identify that “place” of absolute abandon and hopelessness before our prayers are realized. When all is dark, we can not rely on our vision, we must hope in that which we cannot see. It grounds us in the reality of repentance and remission of sins and their cost. Hope on that dark night appeared destroyed. 

The Messianic line took 14 generations of waiting from David to Jesus.  That’s a lot of hope!  I was reading in Ruth how her hope had understandably  been crushed when she lost her husband and sons. (Ruth 1:12) It’s really hard to hope when death seems to have won.  She couldn’t even say she had hope, even the effort to breathe out the words would be too exhausting. Because she could not “see” or touch hope, she thought it was hopeless. That’s not what faith is though. 

Faith does not need evidence, faith only needs Jesus.

When the enemy can’t snuff out hope, he’ll try to tell us that hope is real but just no longer available for US; it’s for the “other guy or gal or couple” who deserves it more for whatever reason. Ruth lives out a season of her life trying to help her daughter in law who is young, vibrant and “worth” blessing but God was still working to provide for, strengthen and support Ruth. God is multi-inclusive when He blesses and “overflow” is His specialty. Prov.13:12 tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life “. Sometimes the timing in the answer is part of the blessing. Prov. 33:18 tells us “behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.” When we continue to hope, God comes near. We cling to faith, God clings to us. We posture our hearts and He comes near and answers. That’s a good exchange.

Hear another weary spiritual traveler (New Testament):

18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.” 

This previously unknown group now becomes very important in the New Testament. They take center stage in the story of the risen one. Who is Cleopas’ companion walking with them? Many have speculated that it was another disciple or perhaps his wife. I wondered if he was the owner of the donkey that brought Jesus into Jerusalem or maybe it’s Simon of Cyrene, bewildered how he got in the middle of all the craziness on Friday.  Note that they are walking away from Jerusalem. What Cleopas and this mysterious person say gives us a clue to perhaps why the risen Lord would seek them out:

 

 21 But we had hoped  that he was the one to redeem Israel.

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”   Perhaps they saw that any possibility for change has been stripped away and thought they were fools to believe otherwise. They held on for awhile, they listened to the women and their testimony, for awhile — but just like they thought, it was just another cruddy end to another cruddy day. We understand disappointment, it’s that sadness that appears when we believed otherwise. Nothing would ever change, what were they thinking? It was near sunset so they had believed almost to the end. They did not know the song He’s an on time God or maybe they would have held on!  

Don’t read over that to fast because it is where WE fit into the story:

But we had hoped….

They were honest, real, transparent, broken = all things Jesus values.

Was this believer perhaps the only one who trusted until that hour that Jesus was Messiah? We aren’t told. Was this guy the greatest fan or most devoted servant?  We are not told. We hear that Cleopas is dejected, disappointed, and downcast by his statement, “we had hoped.”

It’s almost like Jesus leaves the crowd (99) to find the 1 on purpose.   It’s almost like the Shepherd has returned to gather His sheep. It’s almost like He’s giving them a visual of what repentance and returning physically look like as they have supper. Then, as mysterious as He had appeared, He vanishes… but their hope is restored. His presence does that.

They had encountered the exalted and resurrected King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s not in Jerusalem doing a victory lap with James or Andrew, he’s taking a dusty, arduous walk on the road to Emmaus with some folks who won’t even shut up long enough to hear Him tell His story… (totally self-absorbed) yet He goes with them on their journey. Selfless, aware, mindful, in tune, compassionate, merciful, patient and still smelling glorious from being in the throne room of Heaven, fragrant from His offering. That is just crazy awesome. Now King, yet  remaining  a Shepherd. I love that about HIM!

Would Jesus go the wrong direction, leaving the group at this critical moment in history, in order to get His loved ones to the right place?

A thousand times YES!

He would and did go out of His way to reach the lost. 

He would leave the “party” to encourage the downcast. Imagine the vindication and celebration of being with the group of disciples at that specific time? No one would have blamed Him, but He didn’t go back to the church or even his family to celebrate – he went to find those who had already checked out and gone on their way home. He saw their dejected faces, slumped shoulders, weary hearts as they dragged on to Emmaus – and met them in their hopelessness.

See, hopelessness had to surrender to the HOPE of HEAVEN. He stared it down and sent it running the other way. He came by that day to tell someone God’s promises are real, they are true and they are for YOU! Someone must have had an ounce left of faith on that road to Emmaus!  Like the Army – leaving no man behind, Jesus sought them out! He took a YOU turn so He could find where the ewes turned and then pointed them to Heaven. It’s not just what He does – it’s who HE IS.

He transformed the womb, then transformed the tomb, rose and entered Heaven… .   

That u turn on the Emmaus road got them ready so CHURCH would forever be transformed to look like the church in Heaven. No one missing, no one broken – all gathered in HIS name. THIS is the One we ALL hoped for.  Lift your hands up!  It’s Messiah, lift your hands UP. (Sorry, just got happy).

Hope in Jesus DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. Hope in Jesus, draws Him near because trust is His currency. When we hold out hope that He is who He says He is, He comes running to meet that faith. He’s not some star just strutting around seeking applause, He’s Lord of the Universe – and He came to seek and save the lost, whoever they are, authorized disciples or barely believers, wherever they are on life’s twisted, dusty roads. He came to recover them ALL, not one  that God gave Him will be lost. 

“Our hearts are broken Lord, our dreams are gone. XYZ did not take place.” Did we fail you or did you fail us? We had hoped….

Hope can be misplaced. It needs to be in God.

Hope can be misguided. It needs to be according to God’s word.

Hope can be delayed. It needs to be in God’s timing.

 

But Hope in Jesus, is NEVER, EVER disappointed. He is who He said He is. He has done just what He said He promised. He has challenged and conquered death, hell and the grave. He is coming back to rule and reign in righteousness. That Hope is fixed. Hope that is grounded and rooted in the Savior is permanent because He has proven ALL His words are true.

Whatever you are going through … fix your eyes on Jesus. God is watching over you with His protective eye. Jesus is near you with His mercy and the Holy Spirit is working in and through you to form Christ in your heart. You will never be forsaken or forgotten; it just is not Christ’s character. YOU are His treasure – the one He came to seek and save. If on the busiest day of His entire life he came back for Cleopas and his unknown, no name friend, who had lost hope, don’t you think if you are hoping and waiting that He will come near you? He stands ready to save, fill  and lead you on.  Who are you hoping in today? 

Lord, we place our hope in YOU today. Thank you for your example. May all of our hope be firmly fixed in YOU. Please also show us those along the road who have lost hope that we could point them to YOU, the ONE who does not , will not, can not ever disappoint.

We had hoped… and you came near and answered, just as you promised. Thank you Jesus. 

 

RenaeRoche 2018

 

 

For some reason the alarm did not go off this morning and the dark sky prevented the light from shining thru the window to wake us. Eventually we got ready and I walked the boys to the bus stop in the pouring rain. “Mama did we forget to change our clocks after daylight savings time?” “No, it’s just a stormy day.” My heart was with the kids but my “will” was back under the warm cozy sheets. Some days, not even coffee makes a difference. Last week the shorts came out, this day the gloves and scarves were put back on. Huddling children cowered under umbrellas and parents, as we all waited for the school bus to come splashing down the road. One by one the students entered and slowly the parents went back to their homes and cars. I walked down the broken, muddy sidewalk avoiding the puddles. The big pine trees surrounding our little neighborhood were dripping with fresh spring rain and the clouds in the sky looked ominous. As I went to cross the street I heard a familiar sound, a robin. Silly bird, robins don’t sing in rainstorms. She continued. I guess robins sheltered under a big dry branch do. It was such a sweet surprise and beautiful tune on such a dark, dreary day.

 I will sing this day, in spite of the rain.

That’s what robins do, that is what they were created to do. Not sell shoes, throw footballs, organize business meetings, they were created to sing and there Ms. Robin sat, doing her thing, come rain or shine. Maybe her “will” this morning was to sleep in also. Maybe her will was to live in Arizona. I’m so glad she sang her tune in my neighborhood.

As we progress to the beginning of April there is much spin – Lent is here, churches are advertising “resurrection Sunday”, some are having big Easter productions and egg hunts, some are explaining Passover, others are conducting Seders and then there are always groups talking about how some or all of these things are wholly spiritual, cultic or pagan. We humans have sure made a mess out of something so beautiful.

What did Jesus say to His disciples after He rose from the dead?

Three days, three words. We know he was fully man right there. Few words. A lifetime of fulfilment and prophecy and no one would have blamed him for preaching up a whopper of a sermon but he was brief, concise and summarized the whole event. Three days, three words. What a life message and standard for all the other events and shenanigans we call “church”. Sola Eirene. It’s so simple, but required a lifetime and eternity to display.

As we follow the journey to the cross and ramp up for Easter Services, there is one verse that continues to grip my heart. It’s couched in a paragraph in Luke 23:” For the third time he (Pilate) spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand.25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and

 

surrendered Jesus to their  will.

 

26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.      Note that they now lead Jesus instead of following Him. 

If you have any Campus Crusade for Christ friends you have heard the question, “who sits on the throne of your heart?” I’m grateful to Bill Bright and his team for ministering that into me during my first year at a secular college.  It changed the direction of my life. The analogy is meant to discover if it is God leading you or your own desires. Maybe you have read the book, Not My Will. TV preachers call us to exchange our tattered lives to serve God, doing whatever He calls us to do. That’s the Christian culture. We know post -cross that we are supposed to live in obedience, to surrender to the will of Jesus. But like Pastor Cho, do we pray and obey or talk ourselves out of anything that calls us out of our comfort zones?

Pilate and the crowd could not access YouTube; they could not do a google search to get info on this guy called the King of the Jews. They did the opposite of what was expected. Who in their right mind would choose a criminal over an innocent man, unless  they really hated him? Did they not see the dark clouds forming, then the sun refusing to shine? Pilate acquiesced to the majority; the majority crushed the will of Jesus, to their demands, by force. With fists in the air they demanded “their way” and for a moment in history, “self, rights and majority” seemed to win.

“I will have my own way, I will decide what’s best for my life, I will determine my own destiny” and then they overrode the will of the One, purposed to be the King. This crowd was not so horrible– we hear these things in our own heads, we see these furrowed brows in our own mirrors as we intentionally, recklessly and even unconsciously choose to do our own thing, proceed in our own will.  But with each decision do we realize that we too are demanding Jesus surrenders to our will? Isn’t knowing the full story and still proceeding in our own way more horrible than those who walked in ignorance?

A young preacher, wrestling with his career path, chose a song “All to Jesus, I Surrender ” to sing as a meditation. He later told others that it helped him daily choose God’s will instead of his own. The song was written by a painter (Judson W. Van DeVenter) who had reluctantly laid down his passion for art to take up the call to be an evangelist. JW wanted to draw, God wanted him to preach. His song was his prayer, expressing the struggle to choose God’s will over his own. JW’s meetings did not reach as many as he probably hoped, nor did his career make him famous as his art might have, but the song he wrote regarding that critical decision, still reaches across the nations today. It’s a song that calls believers to lay down their will, hopes and dreams to carry the cross of Jesus, not out of obligation – but love and devotion. The young preacher faithfully sang JWs song in his personal devotions, “fill me with thy love and power” and then… in auditoriums all over the world. JW’s small tune brought a ray of sunshine, enough for Billy and Cliff and Margaret, to see through their storms and continue laying down their will, to pick up the Lord’s. The tune gave them courage as they surrendered their lives and wills to the Master. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “One act of obedience is better than a hundred sermons.” I think that obedience is a sermon that God preaches through our lives that displays His character.

Ravi Zacharias says, ” All it takes is for one man, one woman to step on the scene and change the course of history.”

 

Fill us Lord with Your love and power. We surrender to Your will.

 

“Surrendered lives are available for God to speak through , accessible for miracles to  work through and aligned to usher in the King.” R.Roche  Fill us Lord with Your love and power.

I will ____today     God, what will YOU have me do to today, tomorrow, with my life? Help me surrender to Your will and hear Your call. Your will is always BEST and Your peace is how I accomplish YOUR will. Fill us Lord with Your love and power.

The song that has been my meditation this season is Dave Pedde’s “Come Now, Your Kingdom. ” It helps me as I try to release “my” will and step into HIS. I pray it blesses you as you surrender to the ONE worth following.

Peace To you,    Sola Eirene

RenaeRoche 2018

Two men walk in a bar, they share a drink, they talk through their day and their conflict. Yea, right. In the Wild West sometimes you would hear of a shootout and who had the fastest draw. Occasionally innocent bystanders would get gunned down and shot glasses and dreams would be shattered.

Modern day- Two madmen meet to discuss peace (Random example). Their nations are volatile and if they can get along they can avoid a nuclear holocaust. The odds are high that there will be casualties because advanced weapons are being used. If either one was perceived to be reasonable –the other one may back down, so bravado and bluster are employed to harness fear. Those behind the factions lean in to see who will “break” and who will triumph. Speculation heightens as to who really is a madman and who is trained to call the others bluff. Those who understand the pressure will see that both are capable of human atrocity and both have a look deep in their eyes signaling past pain, current turmoil and future anger just waiting to be unleashed. Who really knows their capability?

peace treaty, “is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties.”[1] You’ve heard the expression it takes two to tango. 

Years ago I had the joy of meeting a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was one of the freest men I’ve ever met. Handsome in appearance, his true character radiated beyond that as he explained living a life with purpose. There was an inner fire that drew his listeners closer as he shared exploits that could only have taken place with a divine hand on his life. He had successfully sat down with Jews, Muslims and Christians to navigate peace in a war torn area. While discussing the intricacies of negotiation with our team afterwards I reflected on how he had brought so many factions to the table – friendship and food. A warm heart and good cup of coffee goes a long way in bringing people together. 

The news this week tells stories of world leaders bargaining with resources, weapons and even lives. Some were poisoned as they represented their governments. Stateside we hear of battles over citizenship and walls being erected to keep “bad guys out”. What about the bad guys left in?

In Missouri last week a young man decided to strip down naked, steal a yellow ATV and go joyriding. He flew down the wrong side of the freeway, eluding police who could not follow him. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out drugs were a huge part of the war he signed up for voluntarily. My husband, a former submarine sailor, jokingly tells me that the letters in NAVY stand for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself. Two different worlds. Two different purposes for the risk involved. 

Who are the madmen? Who are the madwomen in our society? Hostile parties, coming together looking for relief, treaties, agreement, armistice. It is so much easier to put all our anger, hatred into a bucket of North Korea, Russia or the drug dealer down the highway than to realize….I am the madman.  We collectively are the madmen.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Romans 8:7

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10

In order for there to be a peace treaty, it necessitates that both parties are hostile to one another. Christ comes between us and a merciful, loving God. There is no yin/yang in that equation. God is hostile to sin but loving towards us. One sided. Pretty amazing covenant! He gives all the benefits and we take all the provision.  Is G-d a Sucker? No, He’s benevolent, compassionate, and merciful. May we never lose the wonder of that. We will — if we continue to believe that “others” are madmen and we are born free.

Colossians One (NIV) tells us, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 

                                                                 if you continue in your faith,

established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.“

While some women are marching declaring rights, injustices and freedoms, other women are struggling to watch children, feed husbands and volunteer at schools. A question has stirred my heart. Why do we fight to look “xyz –good, advocate, confident”?  Both want other women to “believe in themselves”. Both groups would probably tell us they are working hard to make life better for –others. Sheer madness or sweet sacrificial service? In the midst of everyone telling us how wonderful/ powerful we are and the focus on having perfect bodies I wonder if we could pause for just a millisecond…

Theologically, we too are madmen.

How long since we “identified” with our true roots? Hostile to God. You won’t see that on a poster. Unless we remember that, we will never realize the deep, pervasive need for a Savior, a maker of peace. Eradicate the need, eradicate the solution. Without the pain of the cross, there is no crown. Without the balm of the crucified, there is no blessing. Without the blood stained Jewish Messiah, there is no new creation Christian. Talk about cutting out the middle man! He offers us a

Peace Covenant

because there’s only one hostile party and that is me, you. The difference is He offers all the benefits and reaches out across the aisle. The difference is –there is no gleam of cruelty in His eye or plan of hate in His heart. He offers us the glorious exchange – our hostility for His peace.

Who’s the Madman? Answer that question and you are on the right highway to real peace.  When is it the right time to be reconciled through Christ to God?  

Two rustlers _________ walk in a church (fill in the blank with bikers, minorities, elderly, women, teens, white guy, etc.). They share communion and talk about their day. The sun shines in the Calm East and hope for the future is apparent. They rejoice in their fellowship and things are restored.

Rejoicing that there is a solution, a hope, REAL Peace…..

RenaeRoche2018

 

[1] Wikkipedia (public opinion source)