We’ve a story to tell to the Nations…

 

N A H U M

I usually post a blog a month. This one is for April but I decided to post early as people have more time to study. I included notes from the entire book of Nahum. It is long but life-changing. I promise your view of God and trust will increase if you ponder and study this book.  Happy reading. It’s not a lightweight book but will yield great results in your life.

Nahum is a little known or preached book. For those of you old enough to remember Paul Harvey, this is the “rest of the story” regarding Ninevah. After Jonah preached there, the people and the King repented but it was short lived – 100 years later they were back to their old antics. Lest we think it was just being lukewarm or culturally not PC, it was more than that. This group of people were involved in prostitution, killing children, skinning men alive and dismembering people they didn’t like. I’m so glad Micah is placed between these two books because we need a stronger reminder then and NOW that God is just and will NOT let sin go unpunished.

Unlike Jonah, who was strange with wild miracles under his belt, Nahum was cut from a different cloth and his life can be traced historically. Both were needed to reach Ninvevah.  Perhaps we know less about Jonah because the scholars, like Jonah, could not tolerate these “unsavory individuals” getting converted. People are not pleased when their enemies avoid wrath. Nahum does a great poetic work as he explains his “burden”, the prophetic vision. At first and second read it seems discouraging – at least if you are a Ninevite. The punishments are deserved and final. Nahum will cajole them to rally if perchance something will change, while still knowing God has reached His limit.

Typically you won’t hear this book preached to encourage the saints. This is a dark book of atrocities and judgement, however, If we draw out the pattern of God’s oversight, we will see clearly His intent to bless any who turn to Him. Can God move even in dark seasons and trials? Even in this book we can come to know and love the God who oversees everything.

This book is powerful if you want to know and clearly see God’s heart.

Anxiety in this book is off the charts as people process God’s wrath.   When people are running to idols, rejecting God and repeating sinful practices, it is imperative that we look for God, look to God. Nahum does that for the people of his generation and for us. Many know about God but wouldn’t you like to know what He’s like and how He acts? These are some of the things I learned about God while reading this book:

I: The Lord is a Jealous God

He does not like His people to serve idols. That does not just mean foreign gods, it also means when our jobs become gods, when our family comes first, when cars, money, a church building, a hobby, persons or fame separate us from our One True Love.

II. The Lord is an Avenger.

He takes vengeance on His foes and vents His wrath on His enemies.  Wow. That means God is not sitting back just hoping we all sing Kumbaya and endure. God actually pursues His enemies into darkness.  We trust God has our back, we trust He is making all things work together. According to Nahum, we can also trust that God will vent His wrath and avenge us, which seems foreign to “good Christian thinking.” That is the impetus for moving on (complete trust), not pausing to confront accusers or scoffers, we move forward in Gods grace to do His bidding. A NT verse comes to mind, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, we will reap what we sow (for good or bad).” Gal.6:7-9.

III. The Lord is slow to Anger

We saw that when Jonah preached and God spared them but here –their time is up and we are told that God will “not leave the guilty unpunished.” The thought is developed that yes He is slow to anger but when it comes –it comes with might and power. God releasing His wrath against the Ninevites was part of His power and mercy towards the people of Judah/ Israel. One punishment would bring deliverance to those who suffered and it would be swift. Please keep in mind as you read this that the cross will bring forth both God’s justice and mercy.

IV. The Lord is GREAT in power

I think the following verses are definitions of His greatness. He is above all, beneath all and everything in between. Note the contrast– the sky, the sea and flowers. That’s full circle greatness. I loved meditating on those verses. Surely THAT God is in control!

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; 
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
    and clouds are the dust of His feet.
He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
    He makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
    and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
The mountains quake before Him
    and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at His presence,
   

V. The Lord is Good

Is He? That’s what the enemy asks during crisis times. We need to settle that in our hearts long before the pink slip comes, long before the virus is announced.  It is difficult to see goodness when in trial, especially if it was God who brought it on. If we are opposed to God and repent, His hand of favor will once again rest on us. If we return to the Lord we no longer have to question if we are being judged or sifted. For those who seek God, for those who walk in His ways, the Bible states they will see His goodness. Nahum defines God’s goodness in this way:

God is a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for (knows) those who trust in Him, 
but with an overwhelming flood
He will make an end of Nineveh; 
 He will pursue His foes into the realm of darkness.

 

Not only is God a refuge during tough times – times of trials and tribulation, may I also add pandemics,  He knows His people. He is specifically good because He knows each persons’ needs, wants and cares for them.  How difficult it must have been for Nahum to prophesy to both groups of people knowing some would choose to reject God and suffer the consequences.

Whatever they plot (imagine strongly) against the Lord
 He will bring to an end; trouble will NOT come a second time.

The verb in Hebrew (plot) is an extreme one and reveals to us that the people in Ninevah were actively seeking evil, actively trying to go against God and His people to achieve their own ends. Talk about a political nightmare. Can you imagine in this day and age people actually plotting against someone, treason with  leaders, hoping they fall? Sounds familiar doesn’t it? The prophetic voice of Nahum must have sounded religious, probably out of step with the popular crowd making decisions. If only they had realized it was not Nahums’ message that was being proclaimed but Gods’. The lack of fear, reverence and awe of God is evident. In our vernacular we could read this verse:

                                                       It ENDS HERE AND IT ENDS NOW !!!

When I read these verses to my children, I shouted  in my best “mama is mad” voice. It startled them. They said they did not think of God being mad. They did not realize that was possible as He is always represented as loving and patient. Hmm? (Side note: all books of the Bible need to be taught so we see all of who God wants to be in our lives). We talked about obedience and that even God has a limit to nonsense. Why do we portray God as a milquetoast? Why do we make Him out to be some elderly sweet grandpa without teeth – or justice? Where there is no restraint, evil abounds. Throughout the years, God has sent preachers, teachers and prophets to let the people know Gods heart. In these last days, Hebrews 1:2 tells us God has sent His son to speak to us. The message remains pretty clear – follow God and obey Him and you will be blessed. If you depart and do cruel things you will be pursued and punished. All the Netflix in the world can’t silence that, all the music can’t drown it out.

Here is  the big question for us this month:  Can ONE person make an impact? In a family, a town, a city, a nation? One? 

 
11 From you, Nineveh, has one come forth
    who plots evil against the Lord
    and devises wicked plans. 12 This is what the Lord says:

“Although they have allies and are numerous,
    they will be destroyed and pass away.
Although I have afflicted you, Judah,
    I will afflict you no more.                         

                                                               We can be one to harm. That’s tragic.  


VI. The Lord is a Yoke Breaker

13 Now I will break their yoke from your neck
    and tear your shackles away.”                         A prophecy of hope! NOW!

 

 The people of Ninevah, Judah and Israel lived in wicked times, chaos and turmoil. How bad do you have to be for God to point you out as the most wicked or vile? This one who appeared in Ninevah made a difference but for evil! He (or possibly she)  had literally planned to be against God, plotted and devised schemes that would hurt God’s heart and harm other people. Evil plots the second you want to harm another, not when full blown. Wickedness begins the second you wish others injury, not when the event occurs. Remember the wickedness in this city was dismembering innocent people and skinning alive their adversaries. They were cruel tyrants. One person had an affect that multiplied throughout the whole city. I really hope it was not a wayward believer. I’d like to believe it was someone from another ideology, but it may have been someone discouraged, rejected or lost in their faith. When we fall away from God we can not predict our outcome or the others we negatively influence. We need to take that trajectory seriously in light of Nahums words. Apostasy, a falling away will happen – we determine daily if that will be us. Father intervene!

VII. The Lord is a Good News / Peace Giver

15 Look, there on the mountains,
    the feet of One who brings good news,
    who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, Judah,
    and radically fulfill your vows.                        Keep praising – in spite of the tribulation!

I’ve read this numerous times but never stopped to understand it. Why feet? Feet are what we run with, position to stand with, provide motion forward. It is not knees sitting in a recliner that Nahum sees but feet positioned at a top level. Isaiah 52:7 states, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” When you live in a climate of death, torture and idolatry you take note of those who have something uplifting to say or do! I believe this refers to the Lord but it may have referred to a godly messenger. The word bring here is the Hebrew word basar (pronounced bah sayer). It is a participle that screams actions. The One is massively, with excitement and passion bringing good news, not grudgingly, out of compulsion or because someone at their church told them it was a good idea. My early ministry was in children’s church so when I hear this I think of a little sheep preaching the good news – a “bah” sayer. This person is rosy, fresh, brings gladness, announces beauty and is joyful. Wow! That’s the person I want in my corner of the world when darkness comes near. That’s the one I want to hear from when all other voices cause me fear or anxiety. Oh that the world could have more basars!  Oh that someone would stand on their mountain and proclaim peace. Did you catch that? I want that, I want someone to be that for me says the little sheep. We need to be praying “Lord, make me a basar and lead me to those who need Your message.”

Take time to adjust your prayer today.

Before the Pandemic started we had plans to help out a church plant. We had prayed for their city and made plans to advertise church services. We had looked forward to this event for months. When people are quarantined it’s hard to reach them. We began to pray for wisdom. Lord, help us to be “basar” (ones bringing good news) in our generation.

The one proclaiming the good news is sharing shalom peace. We know what peace feels like, we understand Christ to be our peace but how do we define that? The commentary’s say it means “Completeness, soundness, tranquility, friendship, favor, peace from war and rest. “It refers to wholeness. The one on the mountain told the people how to find and have peace. That’s good news!  Speaking about solutions and sharing with people that ALL peace is found in God and His son Jesus Christ goes way back to Nahum. Will we preach, will we go, will we publish? It mattered then, it matters NOW.

VIII. The Lord God is a Restorer

The text goes on to warn Ninevah and comfort Jacob. Were they wondering, “what will happen to us?” Did they consider the murder they saw around them, the chaos and think they were next? God, in the midst of evil, unrepentant Ninevah tells them thru Nahum, “The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.” We forget that these powerful assurances came during their darkness – not on a sunny day in the middle of a church service. While their neighbors were being tortured and infants were being dashed against the rocks, they were hearing promises. We have a crippled faith if we only believe promises in times of prosperity.

I’m not sure if this is the place to say this but have you ever considered that we are not like Judah but Ninevah? If we have not established a relationship with God or given our lives to Him (see the how to get to Heaven page on this website) it’s possible we should be hearing the judgements given to Ninevah. I don’t want to falsely think all reading this blog are the ones receiving the good promises. If that is you, go back and read Nahum. Read both sides so you know where you will stand on that day. Are we more like the evil, unrepentant Ninevites or are we more like Judah and Israel when they were restored to God? It’s worth asking the question.

You’ll note I am skipping the part where God states they are vile and  “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. God spells out how angry He is about how they treat infants. Is that true today? Yes, according to the Bible. He’s tired of their prostitution and idolatry  (rebellion). It is spelled out in this book what God will do after He has warned and re-warned His people. I think of the many calls to rest in the Old Testament – they were warned. After they mock, ignore and trample God’s word they are put into a mandatory rest in Exile in Babylon for as many years as they had ignored Him. God will have His way and as earlier stated, when it ends, it ends immediately. There will NOT be a second time for trouble.

I’m a wife, mom and blogger. I don’t claim to be a prophetic voice. I can however read Nahum and see similarities in our nation. Do we as a family, church, city or nation anger God by atrocities or sins? Have we ignored multiple warnings in our government and school system? I’ll let your heart answer that for you and yours.

I  believe there is another attribute of God (though silent in the text) that shouts from the end of this book. In 3, vs. 17 f it states: “Your guards and officials are like locusts – fleeting.” “Your shepherds slumber and your nobles lie down to rest, …no one can bring you healing.” Tough times.  It seems in every area the Ninevites had ignored God’s word and their fractured society was the result. God was seeing, was watching, was guarding, was shepherding. How awesome that God sends the forgiving one, the delivering one, the healing one and the saving One.  

IX. The Lord GOD is Active

After reading this book, I KNOW that the God who was watching over Judah and Israel will “never leave or forsake us”. This God neither sleeps nor slumbers. The Lord is our Shepherd and Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. What a contrast! This God also offers Healing because of the cross. Communion reminds us of Christs amazing grace and blood protection. Under the law in the Old Testament and in the Saviors words in the NT, God is telling us this is who He is and wants to be for us. Many need to hear that during this pandemic- it’s good news, its GREAT news! In this hour, in this nation and in our hearts, we have a choice – will we repent like Jonah’s Ninevah or remain hard hearted like Nahum’s? Will we stand and “basar”– bringing GOOD news and proclaiming peace or cower in fear and isolation? Nahum’s challenge is fresh today. We have a choice. We can avert wrath. We can be like the One who impacts ALL- for Good.

 

I urge you to reflect on the judgments against Ninevah in this book. I implore you to meditate on the characteristics of God that are so evident. Get to know the God of this book and the God of your circumstances. He wants to know you and be known by you. I believe He also wants those living in darkness and tribulation to see His goodness and greatness. Now you know some of His characteristics – Go, SHARE the Good news!!!

 

“Lord, speak this to our hearts anew and afresh. We choose YOU.”

RenaeRoche2020  

             Our son Josiah’s feet of courage

Micah

               I love Facebook and it is fun to interact with people, hear their updates and share stories. I especially enjoy the encouragement and scripture from other believers. Lately, I’ve noticed that there is a predominant thread about our society not “listening” to one another. Young people don’t listen to older people, Republicans not listening to democrats, Evangelicals not listening to Catholics and of course the reverse happens when they don’t listen as well. I’m not sure if this is a new thing or ramped up because of politics but it sounds dangerous to not “hear” one another. By the time we do hear one another it may be too late. Consider this guy:

A 92-year-old man went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw the man walking down the street with a gorgeous young lady on his arm. At the man’s next appointment, the doctor said, “You’re really doing great, aren’t you?” The man replied, “Just doing what you said, ‘Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.’” The doctor said, “Listen, I didn’t say that. I said you got a heart murmur. Be careful.”[1]

It is important to hear instructions clearly from a doctor but how much more important from God? In Micah we will come to understand just how important it is to listen carefully. Micah knew that judgement was coming, and that God was building His case.

This prophet was more than a visionary as he called people to HEAR, to really listen. It fascinates me that he called us to listen to something that he “saw” from God. God was upset with the nation because they were seeking idols, involved in prostitution, coveting others’ gifts, defrauding and robbing people and passing by others without a care. (God sees these public and private sins). They also had defiled and corrupted their resting and sacred places. While we can’t blame everything that goes wrong on God, in this case God tells them that HE is the author of the calamity coming upon them. Yikes.

There are many imperatives in this book as God through Micah points out that they really, truly NEED to hear what is being said to them. God tells them that He will massively gather them back after they have been scattered and that it is His will that the left-over folks, the residue, those remaining will be collected and gathered into one-fold.

The verse that meant the most to our family was this one:

“Break open the way – the One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their King will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.”

 So often we hear that God is the “Way maker”[2] and in this passage He shows Himself to be just that. We don’t make breakthroughs happen, we are to get behind the One who breaks through and follow where He is leading. Praise God! We can still kneel, fast, cry, scream and eat grapes all month to try to gain a breakthrough but Micah is pretty clear when he tells us to get behind the One who breaks the way open. Seems pretty simple – if we follow.

God calls out the leaders and asks them why they hate good and love evil. Imagine if our politicians answered directly to God. Wait, they do? While they should be embracing justice, they continue to have dishonest weights, scales, biases, actions and all kinds of nonsense going on. The culture is rampant with dishonesty and the people are weighed down with sin. In this wretched crowd Micah stands out:

               “But as for me, I am FILLED with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.” 

Is Micah arrogant or God- confident?

That is very different than the other leaders around him. So, what was Micah’s secret? Thankfully Micah didn’t have Facebook or the internet, or we would have to pay $19.95 to get his five tips to success. Thankfully Micah didn’t make DVDs, or we would have to wait for them in the mail to discover why he lived in a different category. We aren’t told in a concise formula but in vs. 2 we are told to “come up” to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. What an open, beautiful invitation. Can you hear that in your life today – “Come up higher?” God, who melts the mountains like wax – HE will teach us HIS ways, so that we may walk in HIS paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Later in that chapter we are told “we will walk in the Name of the Lord”. I believe these things were part of how Micah lived out his faith. Rejecting the idols and shame, sexual promiscuity of his age and following God’s law, word and ways seemed to keep Micah on God’s path, doing God’s agenda.

So how does one follow the law, aren’t there over 600 commandments? God gave us the law of love and said ALL laws were fulfilled through Christ. See Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:10. We can read His word and we can walk in His name meaning we take on His name through spiritual adoption by giving our lives to Christ. (Go to the page on Heaven on this website for more information).

Our pastor has been preaching about Daniel for the last month or so and talking about courage to live differently in the midst of a corrupt culture. It has been a powerful series. He suggested we write “Daniel” on our shoes to remind ourselves to walk like Daniel walked. I think our walks would be different, bolder, more courageous if we did. We need reminders or we may walk like those going down wrong paths.  Micah, like Daniel, knew who he was and WHOSE he was.  

In the midst of a polluted, rotten, sinful group of people that knew God but refused to obey Him, comes this amazing promise that God will send them a new plan – His plan. In the midst of these promises the daughters are promised courage and strength – power to rise, thresh and break to pieces many nations. God empowered women in the Old Testament. Yes, it’s right there in the text! This One that comes will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. IF you compare this passage of abiding and dwelling with John 15 where Jesus talks about abiding in the Vine, you will be amazed. This One coming will be recognized as the Vine that dwells or abides with us!

Vs.8 is a powerful verse that has been used by politicians and ministers alike. It reminds us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God—however, it doesn’t start there. That verse stems from vs. 5 where God calls His people to ZAKAR – to remember. He wants them to remember their journey, remember the stories that God points out for a purpose. What is that purpose? We look back not to stay stuck in the past but to “get to KNOW the righteous acts of the Lord”. Knowing those acts builds our faith as we are reminded of God’s track record. Faithful He has been, faithful He will be. When we look on His goodness, when we think about His love, when we remember the way He was our WAYMAKER….    We are humbled, we are reminded of the mercy and justice we have received and how to act.

Micah points out that considering all that God has done the people are no longer acting like God and God is angry. This God who delights to bend down and show love, kindness, favor, benevolence and mercy is seeing in His people something very different. How disappointing. In our highly politicized world today, these words seem to resonate more than ever:

Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire – they all conspire together. “Then Micah contrasts himself again and it is refreshing to hear:

“But as for me, I watch in hope (expectantly, eagerly, continually observing and carefully looking) for the Lord. I will cause myself to wait for the God of my salvation and my God WILL HEAR ME.” (Translation is from the Hebrew). This guy is all in. This is not a casual Sunday Christian or mere church attender. This guy is setting his alarm clock to check in on God’s doings. This guy is the king of spiritual disciplines and causing himself (through prayer, worship, word, fellowship and rituals) to understand and become intimate with His God. He is not merely sitting by waiting for the action but is literally bringing the action to himself, training himself to wait in God’s presence. Oh Lord may we be like Micah!

Was Micah legalistic? Maybe. Was Micah zealous and intense? Maybe. Was Micah rejected by his peers – most assuredly yes. We don’t know how the others around him behaved but this guy – according to his testimony, when others were becoming more hedonistic by the hour, this guy was high on holiness and experiencing Gods voice and love. I want to be like Micah! In the midst of a crazy culture gone astray, he was dedicated to seeking and finding God. That is admirable.

If you get a chance, reread this book – or may I say cause yourself to read this book again and notice the hard times and the high hopes of this prophet. He realistically sees the depravity around him, the lies, deception, fraud and hatred. But… he looks up to the Way maker and gets behind HIS agenda. He trusts that in an unjust world – the JUST ONE is coming! 

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I WILL RISE. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord WILL BE MY LIGHT! Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the Lords wrath….(How humble and honest that Micah puts himself in the company of the wicked, not assuming he’s more righteous but deserving of the same wrath being poured on the nation).

UNTIL ….  HE pleads my case and upholds my cause.

He WILL bring me out into the light; I WILL SEE His righteousness.” If you are not shouting after reading these verses, you may want to check your pulse!   What hope, what expectation, what faith!

               If these weren’t enough, in verse 18 it states, “As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I WILL SHOW them MY wonders.” 

God does not just want to be a dry dusty book on your bookshelf or a cold religion that you assimilate with on Sunday mornings so you can appease the family. God wants to be your everything and show YOU wonders. Wonders mean healing, salvations, transformed lives, etc. The God who pardons sin and forgives transgressions awaits to reveal Himself to those who are looking for Him. That’s incredible! Micah goes on to tell us that this God is patient and delights to show mercy. We know His favorite hobby – showing compassion and favor to His children. What a good, good Father, it’s who He IS.

Last year I was given some money to distribute to people that were in need. The requirement was that they were not told where it came from but were just being blessed because God loved them. I honestly can say I don’t think I have enjoyed anything as much as that experience. I got to feel God’s delight. I randomly chose people the Lord put on my heart and handed them provisions they were not expecting. Some cried, some shouted, some sang … all were so surprised and began to thank God. I got to feel the mercy and tender love of Christ. It was life altering. These people became aware that the Big, massive God of the universe SAW them. God delights, enjoys, takes pleasure in meeting needs, blessing, promoting and showering people with Himself and gifts. God is not a killjoy. God does not give rules and laws/words to restrict us –but to bless us and make room for HIM. If we follow Him, we will see His goodness. If we turn to idols and our own worldly pleasures, we will perish.

Micah was warning the people not because they were evil but because God was so good. God wanted them to NOT block Him because of their sin. He wanted to enjoy and take delight in them. The ones’going to idols missed out on their blessing and caused others to fall.

No wonder Micah called out and said, “WHO is a God like you?”   

“That was back then, and a lot has changed”, you may say. Micah affirmed his faith and caused his heart to be refreshed when he declared, “Lord, You WILL AGAIN have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You WILL be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, …

               In a nation where promises are the buzz word for political campaign slogans you may have become jaded. Everyone says they will make things better only to make things worse. We watched this last week as those guaranteeing they were THE candidate to change the nation drop out of the race to pursue other goals. And it’s not just politicians, I read the other day that the O’Hare airport in Chicago has doubled their budget continually over the last 10 years never reaching their promise to build a magnificent airport system. Each year they go over what they contracted by double and triple digits. The reporter suggested it is the running joke in Chicago because no one believes the “promises” any longer. It reminds me of diet goals – New Year’s promises that are in stone… until the golden arches come into view. Many spouses have promised to be faithful then leave for someone else. Promises kept seem like a dream from yesterday. But God, in our day, like He was in Micah’s day – does NOT change or lie. Listen to this, what Micah declared: “You will be faithful and show love….  AS YOU PLEDGED on oath (promised) to our ancestors in days long ago.”

Let’s fact check Micah’s prophecy:    Did Messiah come as promised?  Yes. Did He redeem His people as promised? Yes. We know from the NT that He died, rose and ascended to Heaven. Yes. God’s never broken His word.

        God promises us He will forgive. God promises us He will come again.

Until then, we can delight with Him in mercy, we can act justly and walk humbly as we look to Him for our example.

Lord, help us to hear your word to Micah. Help us to walk as he did with courage and strength before you. Thank you for this example Lord. In 2020 may our vision be firmly fixed on YOU. Amen.

Renae Roche 2020

 

 

[1] Start ASL.com/ deaf jokes. Accessed 3/4/2020

[2] Michael W. Smith – Waymaker composed by Joseph Sinach. 2019.

 

 

February – the Book of Jonah

“In the eye of the storm, You remain in control. In the middle of the war, You guard my soul. You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn. Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.” This song by Ryan Stevenson has been on my heart all month. When I was a chaplain in a hospital, I would sing it almost daily. It resonated with all the trauma and pain I was seeing. The focus of this book many believe is a rebellious prophet or perhaps a heroic whale, but the real Hero is God – Lord of all chaos and storms. He will show Himself mighty in a land where the gods of chaos and the gods of the sea were regularly worshiped.

 

GOD SEES Everywhere and Everyone!

 

Jonah – or in Hebrew Yonah has been a favorite of mine since childhood. As I read and reread this book, I’ve come to a new appreciation of both the prophet who runs and the God that pursues. Jonah’s life starts out on a sunny day when all is calm and bright. Rabbinic tradition states he was a p preacher and prophet’s kid, you PK’s will appreciate him even more.  Jonah goes the opposite direction of God’s leading. At the very front of this book there is a crisis we are not expecting from a “churched guy”. Then he descends to Joppa, then to a ship, then to the bottom of that ship, then to the bottom of the ocean, then to the bottom of the whale and then to the lowest recesses of that whale. (Forgive me for singing “how low can you go from Grease”) at this point because it ranks somewhere between shocking and amusing). That’s low – and he sunk to the lowest not just physically but metaphorically as well! When things go from bad to worse, we can look to Jonah’s example. “Can things get any worse?” some ask, and the answer is yes, absolutely things can get worse– if there is no pause, no prayer, no repentance.

I delayed writing the blog this month because I became so fascinated with this story. We know the fish part and the miracle part but there is so much more to this narrative. Did you know the people in that area believed in a sea goddess? Her name was Nina. The Mariners on that boat were thought to represent 70 different nations – a plethora of gods they could call on from their own cultures. Chaos and darkness lurked in the sea. When the sailors were sailing along, everything was calm and they could not fathom (pun intended) things going any different, the winds picked up and the sails began to shake. At first, they thought it was something they just “picked up”. Then they investigated where each were from and questioned Jonah’s occupation, then familial background. His answer wouldn’t bother them, in fact it should have allayed their fears. A righteous man on board, no less the son of a righteous man should earn them brownie points with his god, right? Do the ritual, wear the robe, sing the song and dance the dance and all is perky and well. Kind of sounds like American religion doesn’t it? We put the quarter in the plate slot and out comes some earned favor at the job or maybe a special parking space at Walgreens. It should work that way; we hear it works that way but on this day…. It didn’t. A professor friend of mine wrote this week on FB, “Holiness is not earned, it is a gift.” These guys didn’t quite get that. Big muscle guys with ugly mugs and sensational tans were poking at Jonah’s pedigree and resume. When we can’t figure something out, we tend to blame things like race, gender, career. Jonah had to spell it out to them that his presence among them was the source of chaos and he needed to be thrown overboard.

How bad is God’s assignment if death looks better? Yikes!

Well you can do the math. Modern day Nineveh is Iraq. How many of us would want to tick off Isis or get blamed for bringing harm to someone in Isis? Drowning is not to difficult compared to torture.

Ever wonder why their gods didn’t work? Ever wonder why in the midst of all these other gods, none of them were listening or paying attention? Ecumenical folks say all religions are the same but as we see here that is simply NOT true. Tradition suggests Jonah paid for the whole ship, not just the ride. The goods, weapons, furniture were thrown overboard so there would be consequences for this cruise that went awry. Who do we blame says the insurance company? Who has angered their god? Even in that generation ALL GODS WERE NOT THE SAME.

The guy trying to blend in – the skinny, pale preachers’ son was not around when the storm first stirred up. He was no where to be found. Tradition says he was the widow woman’s son who was raised from the dead in 1 Kings. I’m not sure about that but it would make sense if he didn’t fear death quite as much since last time, they just woke him up. There he was –snoring in the bottom of the ship. He was resting which once a week is a great idea. He was resting however when the donkeys were drowning, not just in a ditch. He was resting when lives were at stake. He was snoring when there was work to be done. Time was almost up for him and his fellow sailors and he was in dream land.

This guys story often centers around his disobedience and a large fish. That is cool but when I discovered that he came from a religious family, “Jonah – the son of Amittai” I grew suspicious of this guys motives. He believed in the One True God – could even articulate sound theology about Him. Jonah knew God to be loving, patient, kind and slow to anger. He had a concise message. What he didn’t have was the love of that God – full of mercy for ALL in his heart. There lies the problem. Those who have been personally touched by that LOVE, can NOT keep silent. He knew of and about God’s love, but he didn’t know the God of love – great message for Valentines month.

Yonah – go to the 49ers, sure you choose the Chiefs, but I am directing you to the 49ers. Yonah, go to the Democrats. Yes, I know you prefer the Republicans, but I am commanding you to join the democrats. Yonah- go to the Irish. Yes, I know you prefer Jamaicans, but I will that you go to Ireland. We could list a million options here but there is only ONE decision to make – follow God or do our own thing. Yonah’s “thing” ended up in danger for EVERYONE and he became a “bottom dweller”.

By accident the captain of the ship woke Jonah up from slumber saying the exact same thing God had said when he found Jonah napping – “Get up (arise), go and proclaim. By accident Jonah preached the Word of the Lord. By accident he and the others called on God. By accident they figured out who was to blame. Then these mariners did the exact same thing you and I do when we can’t figure out where the source of chaos is coming from – we foolishly try harder. Harder. It does not seem to occur to us to worship, pray, repent or ask God for answers. We double down, we white knuckle, we blame the pastor, we blame the vessel carrying us (job, spouse, ministry). Row harder, row faster maybe we can outrun this chaos and get to smoother waters. The Bible states the storm then matched their intensity and grew worse. Side note: we are never a match for God’s intensity, if we try, we will always fail that test. Finally, like bad seafood needing to be vomited out, they throw jaded Jonah overboard. His body weight didn’t make a difference in their sail, but it did make a difference in their waves. Nothing, no sound, no flapping of the sails, no wind, no rain, everything slowed to a luxurious rhythmic cruise. (You can add Celine Dion singing “My heart must go on” here if you choose).  Peace came and all realized prophetic, wrong direction jobless, no joke Jonah had been right.

The sleeping sluggard affected his first congregation, but his papa wouldn’t have been proud. Instead of collecting an offering for his sermon–they had thrown everything out. When the chaos came these guys realized the only God who had listened was Jonah’s. Pretty significant insight- note that it came from the pagans on board, not the prophet.

The sea goddess had been shushed and Jonah’s God had been appeased.

All the pieces of conversion are present – they call on God, they change their course, they offer sacrifices and make vows. That’s more than we had seen in Jonah up to this point. The disobedient had challenged them and they became obedient. Preacher or Teacher, those reading this who struggle with their very human lives before getting up to speak, you understand this better than most. It is a daunting task to present a holy word when we know full well how unholy or weary, we can be in our daily lives. What a fresh reminder that it is the Message of God that is effectual, the power of the Spirit that is possible to transform men and women’s lives and we are just vessels. Jonah was in open rebellion when God used him to speak to the sailors. That’s hard to square with our evangelist requirements isn’t it? Wouldn’t that make our hiring and releasing standards change? Hmm – “you, the one running, full of sin I think we could use you.”

Mariners from 70 nations (according to the commentary’s) are Jonah’s first audience here. He explains with ease what has taken place and forces them to abort his mission to Tarshish. Four times in this story Jonah will display suicidal tendencies and straight up beg God to take his life in death. Depression did not prevent God from mightily using this PK. In fact, it kind of catapulted him into his destiny.  

This is a compelling story, a cute whale of a story but the question still stirs us today. It is not a parable, as Jesus affirms its truth in Matthew 17. The book of Jonah strongly reminds us that God is forgiving, compassionate and slow to anger. It’s what he wanted the Ninevites to know then and what God wants YOU reading this now to know. God is forgiving, compassionate and slow to anger. How then can we not share that compassion with the world? Who do we withhold this love from? Who do we think does not deserve it?

Let me offer you some options:

Kanye West – not a theologian yet drawing the biggest crowds to hear the Gospel. Many ignore his message since he is not “seminary trained”.

JLo – beautiful, physically fit actress and singer who is from New York of Puerto Rican Descent. She’s the first person ever challenged thru lawsuits for a half time performance while years of white women and cheerleaders and Americas Got Talent performers continue to do the same without rebuke.  Do they not deserve the love of God but the sponsors who paid them to dance do? Who decides arbitrarily who gets mercy and who gets punishment? The viewers who innocently or intentionally watched – are they more or less deserving of God’s grace?

North Korean or Iraq leaders

Presidential Candidates or politicians and which ones get it and which ones don’t?

People in your church who are on welfare or maybe have enormous wealth

Perfect people with made beds and clean garages

People who do not look, smell or act like us.

Which of these is beneath or not deserving of God’s love or compassion or salvation? Who decides? Can you see where our standards of “deserving” break down pretty quickly?

Does that mean we don’t hold Biblical standards? No. Does that mean we toss holiness out the window ourselves? No. Does that mean people can harm or hurt others without being disciplined? No.

What it does mean is that God loves the Ninevites from Assyria despite the stories of cruelty and torture. I honestly don’t understand why at times, but my heart is limited, my grace is cut short, my compassion has a due date. These awful people offered up their family as burnt sacrifices, they served pagan gods. I would say that is worse than adhering to a different political party! God wants us to reach them? Which Ninevite? Which Ninevite is unworthy of God’s grace? How many stones are left in the ground for us to throw and who among us is clean enough to throw it? Who is worth saving?

                ALL of them, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Why? Because HE CREATED THEM. Pro-life means Jesus is for giving all abundant life. We forget He loves adults TOO. Regardless what designer dress or jean they wear today, one day they were tiny babies that He designed and made plans for, full of hope and promise. One day they may turn from their wicked ways and make Him Lord and on that day, He will let them know His love was always available – they just needed to ask. He could not love them less yesterday or more tomorrow because He is constant – and He never changes. His mercies are limitless, new every morning (Lam.3).

Who God loves – that’s His decision and for His timing – not mine. I’m thankful that He reached me.

One day, He came and rescued my soul. One day, He showed me that He was faithful and present and oh so loving. If He can love a sinner such as me, who am I to deny another His grace and love? He reached low and pulled me up. That was Jonah’s moment of hope – He picked ME up.

This blog is not about equality or diversity or political opinions. It is merely a chance to look at Jonah’s fears and justifications for why he could not share God’s love with the unlovable or unlikeable. It challenges us if we don’t acknowledge God’s character or if we don’t truthfully say that He does not change His desire for ALL of those He has created.  My question from this book to you is this– Which of those God wants to save now as adults in their full belief system, fully living in wretched or righteous actions would you prevent from hearing or sharing God’s lavish love?

Jonah- son of Amittai, born into a structured, sacred religious system chose four times to DIE rather than bring God’s message to someone that did not fit his structure of belief. I cannot cross the aisle to Nineveh (or xyz…)  because these people are too gross, too sinful, too different. Today we face the same questions.

  1. What is YOUR theology of the One True God?
  2. Is He only those things (forgiving, loving, patient) for people who act, speak or vote like YOU?

 

I pray we will no longer try to abort God’s precious proclamations to those He sends us to. I pray no one will drown while we nap, perish while we run the other way. I pray we will all live out our purpose under Heaven, sharing the love that first touched our families and our hearts. Lord, help us to see with YOUR eyes. Lord, now, use us however, whenever, wherever and ….to WHOM ever You send us.

When I shared this post with my family throughout the month the boys said it reminded them of a song their friend wrote:

Watch “A song about perfectionism ft. Justin Binnicker Music” on YouTube
https://youtu.be/6PAoFh_0q0g

                Ivy Brillhart, Hadley Brillhart, Justin Brillhart – great job!

Every month we pray over the blog and those who read it. I was really touched by their song and the wisdom that went into it.  In the group Jonah reached were countless children and teens – all headed to destruction if no one reached them, no one loved them or told them the truth. The smart, the pretty, the rich, the poor, despised – who deserves to hear the full Gospel of Jesus Christ? Ask Him, then arise and GO FIND THEM.

Blessings, RenaeRoche2020

 

               

 

We Place You at the Highest Place….

Obadiah (NKJV)

The people that Obadiah wrote  about were mountain dwelling people. They were those who felt safe and unreachable, secure. Because of their security they grew in self-reliance. Have you ever noticed how poor or oppressed people cling to the Lord, trusting Him for their every provision? Some successful or wealthy people falsely think that being able to pay for their needs makes them unshakable. Obadiah was used by God as a mouthpiece to tell them otherwise. They were being warned that their time of judgement was near. In verse 3 Obadiah tells them the pride of their hearts had deceived them. Pride is an ugly thing. It begins with presumption. Presumption according to Webster is :

 

“Something you think is true before you know any facts about the matter.”

 

Reflect on that for a moment. How does that differ from assumptions? That  something you think is true when you are missing information but think you have it. [1] Ouch. No one is indispensable and no one’s fame lasts forever. When I read this book I can’t help but remembering  Electric Light Orchestras  song “Don’t Bring Me Down”. The Beatles who were thought to be invincible were overshadowed by this new group. They,  would be reduced in popularity as the years went by and the shocking truth is that we all have an expiration date.  Just ask the people in the cemetery. When we live like we don’t have an expiration date, pride creeps in.

 

Pride is characterized by arrogance, haughtiness and disrespect. It works its way into families, churches and schools. The “ism” group is produced by Pride and displays its ugly work. Ism refers to an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief. [2] It does not seek God’s opinion or report but creates its own. You know the ism group – racism ( rejection due to one’s color), sexism (rejection because of ones gender), ageism (rejection based on one’s age), elitism (rejection due to one’s education or lack thereof). It shrieks, “I’m better than you” and reduces its victims to being less valued, loved, appreciated, employed or involved. Sometimes the most prideful are those who insist they have the most “common sense”. It begs a comparison to be made with another which is at the very heart of pride and arrogance. It may even be a shadow – one thinks someone  else is better than them  and then lives accordingly. Sometimes pride comes in the form of pretending to be humble, real or righteous. Anytime we take on the role of  judge and presume or assume, we are headed for confrontation with the ONE who sees and truly knows ALL – especially the facts. As a New Testament believer I believe that BAPT–ISM levels the ground and makes us all valuable based on the work of Christ. All jostling for power, wisdom, strength, etc. rest at the foot of the cross. whew. 

 

The people in Obadiah’s world were listening to God. They took time to hear from God.

This past week I decided to stay home from a fellowship, overwhelmed with tasks, chores and holiday plans. I wanted to see friends. Toward the end of the day I felt a pressing on my heart to leave all my important tasks, “it’s time to pray”. It wasn’t booming but very quiet. I responded not to my day planner but God’s voice. I had to make a choice WHO and what I valued more in that moment. I was going a mile a minute on my own track when I felt corrected to pause. Choosing God’s kingdom vs. our own is imperative. Seeking God’s report and agenda is critical if we want His kingdom to reign in our lives.  If we slow down, pause… we give God room to speak.  How can we do kingdom work if we don’t know what the King wants on any given day or week?  How can we run with His word if we have first not heard it? I want 2020 to be Spirit-led. The people in Obadiah’s time did not have a need for God or His resources. Their self-reliance and self-confidence led to them pushing God away.

 

Cs. Lewis once said,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself — less. “ 

When we look up and think most of God, everything else comes into perspective. At our house we have to “catch up” on the weekends or we go into a new week drained and empty of that perspective. When we pause to seek God, we find Him.  Schedule the catch-up lest it turns into months and years.

In Muhammad Ali’s heyday as the heavy weight champion in boxing, he had taken his seat on a 747 which was starting to taxi down the runway for take-off.  When turbulence  became really strong, the flight attendant walked by and noticed Ali did not have on his seat belt, and said, “Please fasten your seatbelt, sir.” He looked up proudly and snapped, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” The flight attendant did not miss a beat and replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane either.” [3]

Andrew Murray, in his book on humility said,

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”[4]

I think that makes confession, communion and self-examination imperative for individuals, families and churches. How often? Well that shouldn’t depend on when you feel you need it because quickly we would all assume we were fine and go on without it. Heaven does not come from programs, events or agendas. When we try to achieve success or grandeur apart from God, we exist in a state of pride. Those who choose to share the mercies and  compassion given to them by a loving God, in order to impact others, live in a blessed state of  God-centered humility.  That then feeds a love and gratitude for Christ and blessings are exponential.

God also rebuked the people of Obadiah’s day for gloating, rejoicing over others demise. He drives this point home by repeating Himself several times saying basically that they were jerks in the day of their brothers “calamity”. God not only cared about how they treated Him but how they treated OTHERS. That’s true religion. He reminds them that “The day of the Lord upon ALL the nations is near; …as you have done, it shall be done to you… As I watched the media this past month I was alarmed. Obadiah’s words seemed to come to life and became very relevant. Many thinking they were acting for God were caught with blood dripping from their chins as they pointed out others flaws and sins. Obadiah describes the prideful people as “standing on the other side” when they were not loyal or even kind to those they should have been. May I ask the question, when did America become two sided? This prophetic word from Obadiah is not for the Democrats or Republicans, it’s for ALL who are under the Lords watchful eye. When did Christians go with Apollos or Cephas and think God would not notice?  Whose side are we leaning on? It MUST be the Lords side.

Hear the contrast:

17 “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance (escape from slaughter and war- a timely word!), and there shall be holiness (consecration and sacred setting apart from the common and mundane);

the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions ( to enjoy, inherit and take by seizing, to delight in).
18 The house (family) of Jacob shall be a fire (A theophany, an altar of fire),

And the house of Joseph a flame (weapon, sword, spear);
But…. the house of Esau shall be stubble;.

What do you want your house to be in 2020? Who do you want to be in God?

19 The South shall possess …– Obadiah lists mountains, lowlands, fields; and states that these will be possessed. Not because Obadiah decreed and declared it but because he humbled himself to sit before the Lord and hear GODS’ REPORT. God knows and determines the outcome based on His will and obedience to it. He was declaring and sharing what the LORD had to say. Big difference in the focus and results.

I love the contrast and comparison in this very short book. It is concise and God does not use many words to communicate His heart. Choose. Choose who you want to be and reflect. Edom or Jacob/Joseph? Pride and arrogance (Self-created wishes and whims) or humility and consecration (Gods’ word and directives)?  Free-will means we are given a choice but God firmly and finally determines the outcome of those choices.

The house of Jacob – they are positioned like logs awaiting God’s fire so they can become heat and light, an altar of God’s presence. Joseph – like a flame, a sword and spear in God’s hand, yielded to Gods direction. He was not content to fill in his goals for the year and then take ownership of his schedule and accomplish it. He wants GODS AGENDA and purpose. He was GOD led and directed, not purpose or goal driven. Timely word for Obadiah’s generation AND 2020.

21 Then saviors (plural)  shall come to Mount Zion
to judge the mountains of Esau,
and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

 

The last line to me is the strongest – the Kingdom SHALL BE the LORDS.  That is our source and place of loyalty. It is not what we direct or imagine. His report is His will and intention, heard by those who will take the time to receive it. Not what we decree or declare like a mantra but an accomplishing of God’s heart and purposes in the earth.

So Father, we posture our hearts in 2020 to sit before You, wait in Your presence and hear Your report. We want Your will and Your commands. Your opinion is our delight. Your guidance is what we long for. Speak to us, direct us; guide us for

                                                                                     Your glory.

We also pray that you would make our families, our houses, our churches and schools like Jacob and Joseph – ready for YOUR will, altars of fire. We love you Lord, KING of ALL.

RenaeRoche2020

 

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] Merriam-Webster.com/dictionary/ism

[3] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (Word Publ., Dallas: 1994), p. 7

[4] Andrew Murray, Humility

 

             Do you know of anyone trying to build a wall ?
Have you heard of notable men fighting like little school girls and pushing aside manners and kindness? Does your heart twist inside your chest when you hear of people being sold into sex trafficking? Are you sick of the government being involved in corruption? Do you wonder if judgement is near because pregnant women are not only being harmed but their babies are being taken? Are you weary of conspiracies? Do you see the poor being oppressed and marginalized?

ALL of these subjects are covered in the book of Amos.

I guess it ends up that Amos was a real prophet because his words came true back then and are still being fulfilled today. It was a tough book to read because about 95% of the book is concerning the people’s dark sins and Gods absolute annihilation and destruction of His people. Those who were sinning in God’s camp were His targets. That is very shocking and quite opposite of what you hear if you turn on contemporary preaching. It doesn’t line up with Amos telling us that God does not accept everyone’ doing whatever they please.  

So who was this Amos? He was not a mere shepherd as our English Bibles would present. He was a Bowker (Hebrew) a Herdsman of cattle. Those guys are tough and solid. Helping cows give birth, roping steer, pushing calves through gates is not for light weights. They knew the calculated risks of giving birth and the diminished economic cost when calves died. Contrast that with his disdain for the “cows of Bashan.” Luxury and lounging were antithetical to everything about Amos.

Amos also had a second job – Sycamore fig dressing. That sounds lighter but it’s not. The branches on a sycamore are very woody and the bark is strong. To get to the figs takes a strong hand. Figs were used to fight disease and heal all kinds of ailments. That means desperate oozy, germy people would draw near so there had to be an overseer for the trees to control the crowds and also make sure the figs could be distributed.  The commentaries say that only the lowest of society would pick them because it was grueling work and your hands would get cut up from the woody bark. Amos isn’t a fluffy, polished preacher – he’s a rough, gruff, and scarred up LAYMAN. Not the kind that crosses their legs or says “pardon me” when they cough. Certainly not a Harvard grad type. I picture more of a John Wayne character.

Amos confronts the sins of Israel’s neighbors, Israel and Judah. He doesn’t mince words and he doesn’t play favorites. Reading this sounds so much like America today that it was jarring. When he prophesy’s to Israel, things get too close to home. The High Priest (Amaziah) comes to him and instead of saying, “good job young chap, you’ve had no seminary and yet you discern the culture” Amaziah tells him “Get OUT!” We are not sure if Amaziah was concerned about job security, losing an offering, being shown up or what, but he speaks the truth when he tells Amos – this is the “King’s sanctuary”. Indeed –it stopped being God’s  Sanctuary when corruption and violence took over. The High Priest sends Amos packing. Layman Amos doesn’t know to politely walk away but lets the religious, trained guy who is the professional know, “This was not my idea but God’s”. He states, “I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet.” Amos has only done what the Lord required him to do. He was there by Divine choice not by the popular vote of the people so he had perseverance and integrity. Good qualities for spiritual leaders. Man’s applause never means favor with God in fact it often blocks it.

This was all taking place while Amos was herding cattle and picking figs. Amos didn’t mess up – God pulled him out of the mess to protect him while the High priest and people would receive God’s judgment for their actions. My guess from getting to know this rough around the edges cowboy is that he didn’t lose any sleep over the dismissal. He saw what was coming for them and got out of the gate while he could. They thought he was part of a conspiracy but he was doing nothing but listening to God and following God’s orders.

The safest place in the world to be is right in the middle of God’s will.

 

As I read this I wondered how  will we escape judgement when our country resembles so much in this book? This morning I read of natural disasters, school shootings and that North Korea is planning to harm America on Christmas day. Our enemies are waiting at the gate as well. It certainly gives reason to pause and consider, to weigh one’s life. Amos told the people of his day “Prepare to meet your God.” Strong wording. After researching this book I sensed the heaviness of God’s heart for sin. He would use whatever means necessary to get His people to wake up and come back home. Even if it meant destruction by a foreign country!

Did you know that Amos interceded twice and God relented? (Amos 7:1-9) God thought so highly of Amos and his prayer that God changes direction and brought mercy. That’s some radical pull with God! Finally a day came when God could no longer look the other way and judgement came. God doesn’t tell Amos natural things were happening by coincidence but emphatically states – “I did this.” Was it God’s preference ? NO! The peoples actions and complete disregard and rejection of God’s law brought it upon them.  God is sovereign and He decides when that final day comes. But what if we intercede for our nation? What if ONE person reading this now stops and asks God for His mercy for our country or neighboring countries? Surely God can see mockery, sin and injustice today as He saw it back then. Would God relent again in our day? The Bible says HE NEVER CHANGES which suggests He will still extend mercy IF we ask. Today is a really good day to get in our prayer closets!

God brings Amos to view a plumb and plumbline. It is a measurement tool to build straight walls. You can watch YouTube videos to get a picture of this. The gravity ensures that the line is straight. Straight walls make for strong buildings.  The secret to it is looking UP. If you attach it right on top it will hang evenly. Hmm? God planned on making His people straight, plumb. This is where we get the word plumber from –things that are plumb (straight, level and and in working condition).

You came from Heaven to earth, to show the way. From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay. From the cross to the grave from the grave, to the sky, Lord, I lift Your name on high.” God looked down through the ages using prophetic words to navigate His people and holy temple being built in them.

 “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to His servants the prophets (vs.7).” 

 

The whole book of Amos is a call to repent and return to God.  God wants His people back and for them to be prepared for that final day. They can’t however just do their own thing – they and we need to be PLUMB with God’s Word. We need to follow His ways and will. He got angry when the religious and government leaders did their own thing and oppressed others. He saw the notable people challenging, oppressing and harming the marginalized. Things happen when a holy God gets ticked off. Just ask Amos. But when one or many turn back to God, when one or many choose God and humble themselves, when one or many prefer others and choose righteousness, when that takes place –social justice will roll like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream (Amos 5:24). It will not cease, it will not stop, it will not be hindered  but will accomplish that work that it was set out to do. Glory!

Who will lift up the standard in THIS hour? Who will seek God’s perfect laws and decrees? Who will cry out for mercy and justice and deliverance? Who will share what the Lord sees?

Many years after Amos his prophecies regarding judgement were still coming to pass. That was followed by darkness and silence. Then, a young woman begins to seek God and light is sparked in the darkness. Hope creeps into the night. We see the beginning of the  Old Testament prophecies fulfilled as Mary recites the Magnificat:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
49 for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear him     (much preferred than living under judgement!)
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy,
55 as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity forever.”

This same line reaches Zechariah as he carries on the prophetic word:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
70 as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,
and to remember His holy covenant,
73 the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to His people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of Peace.”

The glimmer of hope in Amos is found being fulfilled in Luke One and beyond. The line was fixed in Heaven and connected through all eternity and will continue until that final day.  IF we return, when we return to the Lord –He is willing to take us back, hear our prayers and straighten our lives according to His plumb line, His blood line. Aligning ourselves with our families, jobs, churches, culture, and government just will not do. Our plumb, our standard needs to be firmly fixed in HEAVEN where the Lord is boss and reigns. When we align ourselves with Heaven and the Sovereign God we are given secrets, our prayers are heard, nations are changed and hearts are reestablished.

Dear brother, sister: align yourself with God today. Repent, return and have God’s word and blood (true plumbline) be your standard. Not a political party, preacher or popular hero. Reconnect with God’s covenant and then let Him tell you secrets and let Him hear your requests for deliverance, salvation and strength. The hour is near; the neighboring countries are in position. Who will stand in the gap and ask God to forgive? Who will, like Amos and John prepare the way of the Lord?  Who will bring and be the Light in the darkness and shadow of death to guide people to the Way of Peace?

Whatever your occupation, status or calling, the days are dark and light is needed in this hour – God’s Light, God’s plumbline JESUS. Go tell it on the Mountain; go tell it in the Valleys that Jesus Christ is born. To all who receive Him, to all who believe Him – will come restoration, deliverance and strength. Mercy and hope are still possible. Reject all other avenues and ideas and embrace this ONE plumbline God established to build His kingdom.

Aligning with you, praying for mercy,

RenaeRoche2019

 

Praise and Thanksgiving

O My God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
My heart admires, adores, loves Thee,
For my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before Thee in
ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with Thee
Ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
Ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
Ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless Thee for the soul Thou hast created,

for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil:
for the body Thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigor,
for providing senses to enjoy delights
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do Thy bidding:
for Thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of Heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing Thee clearly.

I love Thee above the powers of language to express,
for what Thou art to Thy creatures.

INCREASE my love, O my God, through time and eternity.  Amen.

The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Edited by Arthur Bennett. Banner of Truth Trust. 1975. P.15

Lord,
bless the food before us, the family beside us and the love between us. Amen.

We love you all and pray you have a joyful, peaceful and restful Thanksgiving!

The Roche Family 2019

 

 The Book of Joel – November 2019

Yo!  You there. Do you know that Yahweh is God? Do you really know that He is LORD of the nation regardless of the popular vote? Do you know that Nancy Pelosi, The Republican and Democrat party and Vladimir Putin are NOT? There is one God and He alone sits in judgement over the nations and over our hearts.  Yo-el is the way to pronounce this prophet in the Old Testament who had much to say to his contemporaries and also to us today. 

As I was studying Joel and praying about its message, I saw a random post on Facebook that came from a friend of a staff member in the White House. It was vague enough in print to miss but strong enough in the Spirit to “catch” the importance of the request. It states that in November there is

a CALL to fast and pray for the White House and our country.  

Like Joel, we are not given names and specifics but the call to prayer is still important. The people’s response to repent and come to God caused God to have pity on them. Odd that the God who made the Universe could be moved by a prayer from any puny human but it’s true. Joel tells us that God is merciful, compassionate and slow to anger. We see God prove that in this book. That gives us courage to do likewise.

My husband Joe was teaching our boys about praying for the nation this morning on the way to church. They did not know what I was studying this past week. He quoted  Benjamin Franklin when he said, “the Republic is yours, IF  you can keep it.” The discussion that followed included thoughts of dedication and personal sacrifice. Quite by accident, we were telling our children and the next generation what we valued.  It was chilling in light of this passage and the current call from those in authority to step up to pray. “But we are busy God”. Will one meal, one prayer, one cry of surrender be the thing that causes God’s heart to turn to America with pity?

                                        Will that one prayer or cry be …. yours, mine?

                                         Just one prayer that touches Gods heart, bends His ear?

The Day of the Lord, like the Day of rest is focused on Jesus. There are choices to be made and God’s heart is ALWAYS that He wants us to choose blessing. He is the mighty warrior that came to judge in the first half of this book and He is the judge that will be there to pour out blessings. He is also the warrior on that final day to judge the nations. He is the suffering One in between that was hung on a cross as the moon and sun went dark and the stars refused to shine. He pointed his disciples to wait until the wind of the Spirit was poured out. Pentecost was a promised prayer time that rocked the world then and continues to shake things up today. ALL were touched in that upper room. God was listening.

So, why does God judge and mete out punishments? According to Joel it is to further prosper and bless  those who are willing. The sins in this book including sexual sins, drunkenness, addictions and having tepid hearts toward God.  All serious grievances. It doesn’t matter to  God one hoot if you have a different opinion or CNN told you these things were your “right” to do. God has opinions, laws and directives and when they affect a whole nation God will get our attention through natural disaster or heated politics, sometimes both. That’s not my thought, so don’t write me. Take it up with the Bible.

This summer, we took a trip through Nebraska and what we saw were fields completely covered in water. I remember the footage on the news of cows being swept away in the water. It will be years before crops can be planted there. I read of the Harvest not being able to be pulled in completely throughout the Dakotas because of an April blizzard that prevented sowing and late August rains that slowed down the Harvest. Stored grain from years past cannot be sold at market because the farmers can not drive through flooded fields to retrieve it. Times are tough for farmers.  Although the news states there isn’t an olive shortage we do know that the crops were bad in Italy and Spain and they are two of the world’s largest producers of olives. Crops are still affected from drought and rain in 2018. When you look at these things all together there are similarities in the book of Joel.

When we watch the devastating fires in California, far away from the Midwest we feel sorrow for the homeowners; maybe even the movie stars, but there are also many acres of vineyards being destroyed. If you don’t drink wine that may not be startling but churches around the nations use grape juice for communion and that drives up the price. Overflowing wine was a sign of God’s blessing but Joel clearly states it is high time for the drunkards to wake up and take note that trouble is afloat. 1 Peter 5:8-9 reiterates the call to be sober (free from alcohol and drug influences with a mind alert to God’s voice).  If that was important then– it is definitely important even more so now. Awake! More than farmers and vine dressers being severely depleted in their finances are worshippers and families that will be touched for quite a while. Grain, Wine and oil from Olives were also important in Joel’s day.  The alarm has been sounded and if it is heeded, danger and invasion may possibly be averted. Death was imminent for those who refused.

The news makes everything sound so logical. Weather patterns, farming skills and time may equal success but the wise people in Joel’s day and the wise people in our day know that God is sovereign and arranges things based on His time table. When are these “disasters” a result of God’s judgement? When are they a result of our failures or sins? When are they just part of our daily rituals and plans in the grander scheme of things? To save yourself time in figuring that out, it all starts in one place – repent and get right with God. That way you are covered all around. God can sort out the rest.

Joel called the people to repentance. He goes on in this short, brief, concise, masterfully crafted small book to exhaust adjectives as he proclaims God is holy and those who serve Him must do so with fresh hearts. IF you take note of their sins, they absolutely deserve total annihilation and we are shown God is capable of that – regardless of who is in charge of the Government. In fact in this book the leaders are left out because the NAMES and PARTIES don’t matter. What matters is that the people REPENT. What matters is that they become aware that God alone sits in judgement and will judge His people and foreigners alike.

Repentance means we turn around and go a different direction.

Repentance means we acknowledge that God is right and we are wrong.

Repentance means we stop doing our agenda and start doing HIS.

Repentance means we posture our heart to love and serve God FIRST.

Joel also tells us about how God is going to make the world great again. He promises restoration, regeneration and really HUGE provisions for those who follow after Him with their whole heart. The whole point is not just to spell out judgement but to emphatically state there is the potential for blessing when people turn FROM their sin and TO God. It’s a promise. There is prophetic promises of wine, milk, water and fountains running, flowing and quenching the thirst of both the land and the people. Joel’s prophetic promises, like the swarm of locusts are complete in every stage. Locusts attack until absolutely nothing is left. When God’s spirit comes, it would absolutely obliterate the dry, parched places. It would overwhelmingly saturate all within reach. Joel uses language of abundance, fruitfulness and fertile fields. The difference, the choice is when the wind blows.

DO WE QUENCH OR LET THE WIND BLOW AND THE BLESSINGS FLOW?

I propose that this book is not about the Day of the Lord but the Wind of the Lord. (That is shocking but if commentators focused on the wind – minorities, women and old guys would be loosed and leaders responsible for that release. ) First the wind drove in the locusts, and then blew them out. Then the wind was prophesied to come in and change everything. There’s a new wind on the Horizon!  We saw it fulfilled (as testified by Peter in Acts 2) on Pentecost. That wind after repentance determined if judgement would come or promises and prosperity.  Young people, boys and girls and old people of all colors and socioeconomic categories would find their place in this new fresh breeze from the Lord. It would represent fresh hearts and the changes that God wanted to see. When repentance happens, God sends a new wind and it looks like ALL being able to call on the name of the Lord and to proclaim HIM.

How will we know what God is saying and doing in this hour if we are not listening to those the Spirit is touching? God is ALWAYS doing something but it may not be with the leader, the church sanctioned prophet, etc. It may be the Mexican Janitor or the Chinese accountant. God is pouring out His spirit in wave after wave on ALL His people.

As complete and total as the plagues were, God wanted to also completely, totally and abundantly bless those who followed after Him with passionate, fresh hearts. The blessing wasn’t just for obedience but a desire to please and serve God. Covenant was important then and it is important now. If God has given everyone a piece of the puzzle to accomplish this and we only let one person minister or a handful that all look alike how will we ever see a full picture of God or His character? It’s impossible!  It is ironic that Pentecostal churches all over the nation claim the outpouring in Joel and in Acts 2 and then continue to do monologue ministry. The fullness of God is seen ONLY when His gifts are poured out and released in a multitude of channels. Praying in tongues is wonderful but the fulfillment from Joel was more about the Spirit being poured out in human vessels than just one gift. IF your church is all women leaders, let the men speak. If your church is all Korean, let the people from Denmark speak, etc. If your church is all contemporary Hillsong folks, find some senior citizen who loves Hymns and give him a microphone because God cares about those saints in the congregation seeing someone like them also.  We need one another and we can NOT see or hear GOD unless we see Him in the whole, beloved, diverse context.

This may be unpopular but after reading Joel I want to press in for the fountain type blessings instead of getting munched on by locusts so here it goes….  Kanye West is very wealthy. He is a minority. God is choosing him in this hour to be a mouthpiece and in the last days God will save whoever calls on His name. It won’t be a vessel of honor here or there but like Daniel, boys are going to prophesy, old men will dream, young handmaidens will proclaim. DO NOT BENCH or MUZZLE those God is pouring His Spirit out on. Especially not if you love the Holy Spirit. In this last season it’s ALL HANDS ON DECK to bring in the Harvest. Anyone who loves God from a place of joy and surrender will be welcomed and accepted by Him. Being Pentecostal, at least Bible style is allowing the full body of Christ to operate – that will include once drunk folk, women, minorities, old guys past their prime and possibly even a redeemed president. It’s God who pours out the Spirit as He wishes. For those who do not repent for being lukewarm and religious… get some netting because the grasshoppers are coming for you.

Joel was sick of all the gatherings where people just came to puff themselves up or talk about the latest happenings. He asked them to gather to repent, gather to change, and gather to recognize how far they had fallen. Serious heart type stuff. Self-examination. Why? Because those things mattered and matter to GOD! Good content for ALL religious gatherings I would say. When repentance primes the pump for the anointing, why do we spend time doing everything but that? God alone is judge. Those who come to Him and focus on His opinion will receive fresh fire, power and experience the wind of change. Does the church need that in this hour? Our families?  Our nation?  Repentance unlocks those answers and that change as God once again pities His people. Lord, come with Your compassion we pray.

As I read this and prayed over this book some things stood out that I must share:

  1. REPENT … your sins will find you out and the wages of sin is death. God is judge and awaits your prayer and to open His hands in provision, forgiveness and joy.
  2. Breathe in…Let God’s wind of the Holy Spirit change you and bring about all that God has for you. That looks like blessing, fruitfulness and joy.
  3. Look up – your redemption draws nigh. The Day of the Lord is at hand and Heaven is real so keep encouraged.
  4. Collaborate – where is God speaking that you are blocking or resisting? Who are you judging or silencing that God wants to use in these days? Hindering God is serious stuff.
  5. Proclaim – Multitudes remain in the valley of decision. Share this message. Perhaps God will have pity on us and prevent the coming invasion.

 

God, you will hear my voice today. Please have pity on my heart, my family, my church, my nation and all others who cry out to you with fresh faith! He’s waiting for YOUR prayer for the USA. He’s listening for YOUR prayer for your family and church.

Blessings. Renae Roche2019

 

         The Book of HOSEA

My grandmother was a frugal woman. When she visited our home when we were children she would make a cup of tea and the entire week she was at her house there would sit that one lonely tea bag on a saucer, begging someone to throw it away. It was so used up it barely had any tea left in it.  She was the only one who drank tea so it was not like anyone else would use it. It wasn’t until later on in life when I studied the Great Depression that I came to realize her foresight in not wasting money. Then there’s my college roommate who received a Poinsettia for Christmas. The plant thrived until one day in March we mentioned it was looking a little rugged. Our deck resembled a plant cemetery as my roommates big heart just would not let her give up on that plant. It had a streak of green on a limb and she earnestly watered it believing for a comeback. That same tenacity was in her heart for people, broken and dehydrated in need of God’s love.

When we read Hosea this month these two women came to mind. There was just something tenacious in them that displayed to me that they were not swayed by others opinions or whims. Their persistence was contagious. I think Hosea was such a man. His name means salvation so he must have had some understanding early on that “quitter” would not be in his vocabulary.

It is one thing to test a man with a quiz, a job, even ones health but to get in his face and mess with his family is really above and beyond. God would not waste these lessons or his pain as Hosea was led, even called to marry and then search after the town whore. The shame, the embarrassment, the slander must have been unbearable. What self-respecting preacher would go against all norms to do such a thing?

Someone who’s sold out.

Someone not living for themselves.

Someone who knew they could trust the heart of God.

This book messes with our minds because it seems out of God’s will to do such a thing yet God calls Hosea to obey Him rather than sacrifice to Him. With Daniel we saw moral courage and career success –  his pathway we can emulate. But how does one model after Hosea? How does one give God access to rip apart ones very heart to touch a family? That’s a whole new level of torture. A prophet rejected by the one who intimately knew him best. A groom turned away by his closest love – his bride.

 

This, Yahweh says, is what my people have done to Me.

 

The self-righteousness in me does not like the grace for Gomer. I think Hosea could have done better and his wife did not deserve the second chance. I wrestled with this for a while but then I had a conversation with some friends about God’s desire for us and what He expects from us. We will mess up. We will have days that we will regret. We will set our affections on lesser things. We will get discouraged, not just because we are human but because at our core we are weak and sinful. Will God turn His face on us then? Will God forsake me when I am weak, depraved, messed up? Someone told me that “mature Christians”  should no longer go through those things. I almost believed it — until I remembered what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”  I think Paul was pretty mature and yet he had bad, awful days. That did not however mean God turned away from him. Resist the urge to think all his struggles were spiritual ones, the guy was human and subject to the same emotions and trials that we go through today.

God still loves us when we are weak, miserable, sinful and weary. If His grace is not stronger than our sin, we would be without hope. If His grace and mercy were dependent on our actions or holiness or maturity we would all certainly be doomed for eternity. Those who rest on their maturity or strength may feel confident today but tomorrow… when the sun doesn’t shine, when the bills don’t get paid, when things don’t go as expected will their hope dim? I believe that’s why our righteousness must fully be dependent on the blood of Jesus which remains FULL STRENGTH. The song, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” comes to mind.  A favorite hymns says, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”  The notion that we have to be “strong or perfect” seems to suggest that we are not in need of a blood that cleanses or sets free. No wonder sinners struggle to fit in churches today – it can feel like a group of “mature” believers rather than scoundrels in need of grace. Can you hear the difference? We don’t reach perfection; we succumb to the everlasting love of a God who changes us as we continually enter His grace. Everything flows from that one central relationship – pretty important.

When we read Hosea we don’t stand in the place of righteous Hosea, wealthy elite who condescends to his wayward wife. WE are the skanky, double-minded, divided heart woman who leaves, embarrasses and destroys her family. Any hint of idolatry and we land in that camp. This book stirs our hearts to consider our waywardness, our turning away in even the slightest decision. We are confronted with our decisions to reject or choose God and His ways. It should remind us of a God who longs to bring us rest and bring us back into His heart and home.

Like my grandma with her little tea bag, Hosea was a re-cycler. He saw down the road and he saw value where others couldn’t. He just couldn’t throw Gomer away. Like my roommate he was just determined that there was a glimmer of hope for new life. Against all odds, when everyone else would have thrown in the towel, he clung to his greatest value. Or I should say the One he valued.  I like that poster that says an oak tree was once just a little nut that held his ground. Broken, disparaged Hosea was just a byword, a scorned lover who couldn’t accept reality –if you asked the locals, but to God …. and all those watching for eternity onward, he was a man who received the answer to his prayer. H got to see the realization of hope planted in God. That’s incredible. I want a love like that! I want to love like that!  GOD loves like that.

While studying Hosea we also were studying Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of reflection and confession before God. It begins the ten days of awe when we search our hearts and renew our commitment to Christ. One of the foundations for this festival is making a choice to serve God and give Him our whole hearts. We choose to make Christ our King. We choose to remember God. We choose to seek Him and denounce all other gods and affections. God is a jealous God. These seasonal festivals remind us to renew our love for Yahweh. It stirred my heart to consider that message and Hosea at the same time. We were inspired to learn that the Shofar is blown to alert people to the time and alarm of the hour. God breathed his RUACH into Adam. We now become that shofar – we are the voice alerting the nations that Messiah is calling. We can be the vessels, holy and set apart to announce His coming. God stands waiting to see if we are willing to be His faithful Bride, His shofar, His love.

Will you choose God afresh today – make HIM the King of your heart? Will your renounce all other gods and affections? Our passions will only find their rest in God; our lives will only find their purpose in the Creator.

As you wrestle with the message of Hosea and Gomer, may you find peace and true Love. When you don’t? May you rest in the absolute guarantee that He is waiting for you, longing for you and yes still loving you, not because of what YOU say or do but because of who HE IS. When we are unfaithful, He remains faithful. Unchanging, constant, beneficent, faithful, persistent.  THAT is amazing love.

These next days of awe… purify our hearts Lord, we return to YOU, our husband and lover of our souls.

RenaeRoche2019

Daniel

It is the name for a book dedicated to describing the exiles in Babylon and how Gods people lived out their lives in a pagan culture. The first six books are about what happened to Daniel in his day. It alerts us to a special calling, a special focus on God and a life that altered history. There was a cause and effect in Daniels life – he earnestly sought God and God supernaturally delivered him. The second part of Daniel is dedicated to the prophetic revelations he had for the King and ultimately how those revelations explain  eternity and things to come.

Daniels’ name means     “God is my judge”.

Judgement runs rampant in the USA today. We judge politicians, presidents, women and men, voters and anyone within our reach. It seems a little odd when actors who merely act out lines given to them by others, come out with huge opinions on anything happening in the government.  I don’t understand how reading lines for a Charmin commercial makes one proficient in foreign policy or vetting a Supreme Court justice. Instead of pastors and psychologists and scientists voicing their research or concerns, we have people that merely read lines telling us what is the preferred way to live. Daniel had studied every discipline possible, every religion and political persuasion of his day possible, yet still stayed true to the One True God.

Imagine with me for a moment what it would feel like to be torn from your family and placed in a home where they believed opposite of how you believed. What would it be like to stop hearing scripture and start chanting occultic phrases? What if your school changed and you were immersed in the doctrines of the land?  Would you resist or accept the teaching? Daniels wisdom shows  that his parents had prepared him well as he gracefully navigated his new circumstances. What a tactful diplomat he had become and just in time! What would it feel like to radically change your drinking and eating habits, how you exercise, what clothes you wear? When I discussed this with my children they said,  “it’s similar to going from private to public school, a new neighborhood in a different zip code.” We discussed different traditions, styles and how religion impacts that. They could identify with Daniel more than I realized. Change is something that takes place when you step out in faith and can uproot quite a bit in your life. Sometimes these changes shake your body, your faith, and your beliefs. What shook loose in Daniels life, allowed him to focus on that which was rooted and grounded in him – his faith.

Not to pry into your life or business, but what would God have to shake loose for instability to fall to the ground? When all is stripped away will God find a heart of worship?  What would need to spin out of control for you to start letting God direct your steps? What would need to get taken or lost for you to reconnect with that which is eternal?

After reading Daniel, my husband, a former submarine sailor showed us videos of submarines preparing to go to sea. Everything must be secured or it will come loose when they get underway. Securing things before the journey makes for smooth sailing. A good sailor prepares for the journey by tying up loose ends. Prepare, secure, submerge  … dive, dive, dive! 

There is a shaking coming for our country, or so some  say. We are not promised tomorrow so there may be a shaking coming in our health, churches and family. Which of these are God initiated, enemy initiated or part of an ultimate plan? Many times in scripture God states that He caused these things to occur – until all that remains is Him, us and some doggone grit to last until the next day. God promises throughout Daniel that He is with us IN our trials. God promises to give us joy and rest IN our dilemmas. God promises to walk into crisis with us and stay  …until His will is complete. 

Our family postured our hearts to follow Jesus Christ with renewed passion about 3 years ago. It has been an adventure ever since. What was left behind was a bit of apathy, some depression, a rut or two and a whole lot of comfort. What has been taken up is a sense of purpose, focus on Heavenly things, and a core commitment to stay together as a family. We attempt to posture our hearts to seek and obey the Living God. (Right here, I’ll raise a hallelujah! Practicing, not perfect.)  All this was taking place while we were taking excess to the thrift store, digging ditches for the small cloud in the sky and making shifts of priorities to follow God’s heart). I think that was a pretty good exchange. People’s opinions did not alter the outcome. God remains this September — Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent – my guess is that HE will remain the same in each month thereafter as well and yes beyond.

Daniel had to be circumspect and tactful while serving four different kings. (Proverbs 21:1)  HIs wisdom did not come from Maxwell or Harvard but a regimen of prayer.  This man had a daily habit of praying three times a day.  Stronger than vitamins or meals for sure. Hmm?  We can’t ignore that when calculating his success. 

Daniel had to learn a new language (Aramaic)  and multiple leader’s preferences and customs. IN the midst of those fiery trials, he kept up his dietary promise. Break that down further – what Daniel ate was IMPORTANT enough to schedule and plan ahead because it would affect how he lived out his life. Food and faithfulness to pray took precedence over pleasure. Well, that just sounds legalistic sister Renae. Sure, tell that to the kings he served and see if they give a royal scepter what you think or how that played out theologically for Daniels lunch. Exiles don’t get to live wild and loose while they are being persecuted or trained. (Today, sojourners are preparing for their final destination).

Daniel knew he would have to exchange discipline in devotion for results in order to deter dying before dessert. He calculated his obedience and what was required of him to stay true to the One True God. We can’t understand the need for such discipline in our pampered culture but if the day comes when we have to– will we stand or surrender? These folks didn’t just disagree through social media, they gutted their enemies and made people eat their intestines. Will we stand or surrender and how will what we do TODAY impact that? Will we be able to think clearly, live disciplined lives and continue to carry out Gods purposes?

I believe that God paid the cost for Daniel, because he counted the cost for God.  Because Daniel showed up to seek God, God showed up to rescue Daniel.  Extraordinary loyalty to the Lord produced dynamic deliverance for Daniel.

You know the stories in this book – dreams, lions, fiery furnace and handwriting on the wall. Daniel is the best action figure for kids and adults. The difference between him and Marvel characters? Daniel was REAL and did REAL things. See Daniel 2:20-22. What do all of those stories have in common?

DIVINE INTERVENTION.

God did not leave His boy hanging, He showed up to rescue him and his friends.  In each instance, God appears and shows Himself STRONG. God has a great track record! In each circumstance God was an on time God, displaying His glory and power for Daniel and all those around him to see the greatness of his God. Feed your spirit and listen to He’s an on time God by Dotty Peoples and Deliverance by Zac Williams.

Rehearse your “what if” muscle for a moment. Picture that royal court full of wise men too full of sugary cake to stay awake and seek God. The next morning they can’t discern anything but chocolate. The Guillotine drops – heads roll. Now picture those big ol lions lickin their whiskers. Had God waited another ten minutes – CHOMP! Ever had Daniel Angel rings (extra crispy onion rings)? Everything is crispy on the outside and deep fried but inside – cool and clear.  Picture that cremation ready furnace and the coolest guy in the universe doing the Orange Justice. Had the Angel not shown up; they would have been crispy critters – just like the guys who put them in there! Picture the calligraphy on the wall being written after everyone drank their fill of wine – they might have seen different words and no one  perceive the message. Note it was sober guy who helps them out. I know of some current stories like Daniel that are quite remarkable.  Hanging out with friends like Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah has its benefits. Unsinged and unhinged, they stood firm, declaring Gods’ praise. God still speaks, God still moves, God still delivers.

God doesn’t promise we won’t be shaken but He does promise He will keep us still. God doesn’t promise we won’t go through change but that He will love us still. God doesn’t promise any trials but that He will keep us in the middle of His will. Daniel shows us his passion, God shows us His perseverance.

Our church is just entering in to a month of studying this book and the moral courage of Daniel. Like him we want to be devoted, disciplined and determined. Also like him, we want to be delivered! What if every boy and girl was steadfast in their faith, immovable in their doctrine and committed in their lives? What a difference in our homes, schools, churches and nation that would make!

Take note of what God wants to shake in your life, what He wants to change to make you more like Him. Map it out and remove every hindrance, distraction or circumstance that would keep you from fully obeying His plan for your life. I don’t think these stories were born out of apathetic or regular living. I think they came out of being devoted to God and the struggles of staying strong to His name. When we live counter culture, there is bound to be anger, resentment and retribution. Even in this, God will be present. Even in this, God will MOVE.

Daniel and his friends gave God an out – if He doesn’t show up we will still trust and obey.  Hebrews 11 which had not been written yet talks about God vindicating and blessing people in Heaven. Daniel was not looking for reward but had committed to obedience. That is remarkable, sold out, heated, passionate faith. Faith that looks for genuine sincerity and veracity – not the western brand that is just looking for cheap reward or sloppy grace. The faith comes through trial and testing, being proved.

My prayer for us and for you this month – understand Daniel and the God he served. Then go and live likewise.  Remember, whether you do this or whether you don’t, the lions will still be  growling and licking their whiskers….

RenaeRoche 2019

 

When our son was little we took him bowling. He could barely hold the ball and there were a few times when he would try to lift it up and throw it like a basketball. We are grateful for the manager of the alley who gave us grace! At our  Bowling alley they have something called bumper guards that go inside the gutters to prevent the ball from going astray and keep the ball centered  so the likelihood of it going toward the pins is greater. When our son got his first couple strikes he was elated. He jumped; hollered and screamed with delight: “I did it, I did it!” We smiled and let him celebrate which brought us great joy. No one to this day ever said, “Well, we put those guards in place.” We never called the alley and said, “His success was because we used bumper guards.” It was just something parents did so the child could train and “feel” success. If he had insisted we take them off, if he had decided those guards were “legalistic” or for children, we would have removed them. We really enjoyed seeing him accomplish his goal and  celebrate those wins. 

In The Old Testament, God put “guards” in place and His people ignored them. God sent prophets to remind them but they ignored Him. Not only were they missing out on the “wins” but they were getting out of their lanes and bonking other people on the head – their games/sins turned lethal. They ignored Gods boundaries and precepts as if they were too old to need such lame guidelines.

Ezekiel – the strengthening prophet came along and ministered as a priest. He knew God and he knew God’s word. His main task was to comfort Israel. Hmm? Comfort looks very different in this book than in our western mindset. Caution brings comfort? How?  One day God put a huge sign in the sky to get Ezekiel’s attention. It was an amber light. The Bible doesn’t say yellow which is a natural color it says amber which is seen in fossilized resin from a tree – something that has become hardened. There was fire in the sky and this peculiar color was indicative of something that had been melted. He sees this color in the sky and God starts to teach him to warn those people, to caution them that danger is ahead if they do not turn from their wicked ways. Their biggest offense? Following after Him with tepid hearts – doing things in a perfunctory way.

Perfunctory – (of an action or gesture) carried out with a minimum of effort or reflection. That is the dictionary definition. When Josiah found the book of the law and reformation came, it did not last long and people fell into perfunctory obedience. Their hearts were somewhere else. This grieved Gods heart – their tepid affections towards Him and the Sabbath. The prophets shared with the people this grief over their “perfunctory affections” yet it did not move them to change their ways. They were too “mature” and adult to use bumper guards.

Ezekiel, whose name means “the one who strengthens”, had a mom, dad (Buzi), and wife but no kids. Ezekiel’s contemporary friend and prophet was Jeremiah. That would be a difficult coffee buddy if there ever was one. “Hey buddy lets go to Kingbucks and have a latte – doom, gloom and destruction will be delayed at least a day or so, let’s commiserate.” How would you encourage a fellow prophet like that when you were hearing the same thing? Wouldn’t you just pray and hope that one of you was wrong or potentially a bit depressed? It seemed like a perspective problem – until the prophecies started coming to pass!  Jerusalem – fallen, Judah, fallen. Nations, fallen. He wanted Israel to be Great Again but the fake news  from the prophets around him was too intense. So God sent a sign….

Ezekiel warned the family, his neighbors and then the people that judgement was coming. First he warned his family and  relatives and then he went to his neighbors,  … judgement was on the way!  Then he started warning other nations- seven of them! Long before television, cellphones or YouTube, Ezekiel was seeing in multi color, 3D cinema. The devil gets described and showcased as a big distraction. God goes higher and brighter revealing HIMSELF and His glory so we are reminded who to follow rather than the shiny thing that lures. The graphic visuals and the heavy prophetic warnings make this book rated at least PG13 if not R. We tried using it for devotional material but had to stop because it was not age appropriate.  It was tough reading – until the last couple of chapters.

So, what was Ezekiel warning them about? Unrest – political, religious and international turmoil. Like our day, secular and spiritual leaders were fighting and the atmosphere was one of distrust and anger. There was immorality – sexual alliances, improprieties and unfair business practices. Also, like our day. The acts themselves grieved God but the ensuing cover-ups, triangular relationships and problems, muddied the waters beyond repair. Then there was the apostasy – the people were syncretistic and God fearers only in name. So much for reformation! It was a joke and short- lived because it focused on peoples new actions vs. Gods tried and true guidelines (ways). Re forming something is not making it  different but refreshing and returning it to how it was originally designed – new in Gods plan.

 “Look what we’ve experienced or done!”  the focus immediately went back to themselves. so subtle but telling. Once the people found out how to live (God’s laws and precepts) in Josiah’s day they could have held onto their new knowledge and lifestyles but instead their rituals (and love)  became perfunctory. Kind Ezekiel tried to warn them. Kind God gave them consequences to prevent total, permanent death.

I remember one of our church leaders sharing with us his ride to church one night. It was past sunset and as he rounded the corner all of the street lights came on. His daughter knew he had keys to the church and was going in early to set up. “Daddy, thank you for turning all the lights in the city on.” She was aware her dad could do BIG things so just assumed he could turn on the church and city lights – all for her viewing enjoyment. Ezekiel points us to his vision in the sky – a wheel within a wheel. It lifted his eyes above all the hatred, sin and chaos. Their Temple (church), the place of God, had been destroyed. To a desperate, weary group of people exiled to Babylon, they needed to know their God was not destroyed also, that He was able to cross state lines. This God was not bound by geography even though they were kicked out of their country. This was a move-able God who went with them. The king could take their homes, their temple, the idols – but he could not remove their God who reigned in the heavenlies. No scaffold, drone or missile can reach where God dwells. That speaks to Sovereignty. Where does God live? Anyplace He wants to! Does He want to live where you dwell? 

A local church here has a sign that signs, “You don’t have to ever fear the waves when your lifeguard walks on the water.” Ezekiel points out to the leaders then and the hearers now that God is BIGGER than their dilemmas, can see from many different angles and goes with them. That’s huge! The connecting thought is that if this God sees us, then He can also help us in the midst of our turmoil, unrest, immorality and apostasy. If we read this book right, God has done this before, it’s part of His resume. He is LORD over our relationships, nations and everything that happens under His watchful eye. Go Fish and their song “our God is so big, so strong and so mighty” could be Ezekiel’s theme.

True revival comes when we look up to see a Holy BIG God and rightly see ourselves in reference to Him. The overflow of that revelation in action, is when Revival begins. – R.Roche

While doing research for this blog I read an article on the origin of traffic lights by R.J Wilson. It shares some fascinating things about color. It points out that John Peake invented the system for the railroad originally. Did you know that 70 percent of people in San Francisco disobeyed the early light system to their own demise? Folks just don’t like to follow rules or even suggestions. Without rules in place it created chaos. Those lights were for prevention and protection. They needed to create gas lights so the people could travel at night. There were explosions. Yellow was added later on because people needed to learn to YIELD before the danger occurred. Who were these people trying to redirect their lives? The people did not want to give up their freedom to drive anywhere they wanted, however they wanted. The system involved the entire police force until people got the point that there was a time to go, a time to slow down and a time to stop!  When the idea caught on the police went back to policing the city instead of enforcing traffic. Ezekiel came to be God’s proverbial traffic light – God’s amber light on earth. “SLOW DOWN, DANGER IS COMING!”

I searched for a man to stand in the gap, but there was none. (Ezekiel 22).

Do you want a sign from God? Do you want a vision, 20/20 vision? See Ezekiel 20:20 and then read Matthew 11:28. Powerful one, two punch. Here’s the amber light for our generation – wait on the Lord and OBEY Him. Comfort comes when we yield to God’s will and God’s ways – peaceful comfort.

Read Ezekiel – it’s hard reading all the judgments, but eventually you will get to the part where Gods glory rises and His glory is displayed. God warned the people in Ezekiel’s day over and over and over again. We like to skim books like these which is kind of like running a yellow light. God is not wanting to quench our fun; He’s waiting to celebrate our success.

Ezekiel calls us back to full force faith – not perfunctory for show practices. Come back to the heart of God, use bumper guards if you need to but come back. He wants to watch you, help you and celebrate YOU.  We come back when we pause, we listen, we hear, we act; we celebrate; not out of obligation or fear but pure love. The final line of this powerful book?   Jehovah Shammah – the LORD is there. His goal all along was to be present among His people, making them secure, safe, comforted. His goal is not judgement, punishment or just rules/boundaries, His goal is fellowship and relationship. God through Ezekiel and through His word today is trying, actively trying to assist, caution, protect and celebrate us. Will we allow or resist this?

Let the Glory of the Lord rise among us, let it shine, let US shine.

RenaeRoche2019