Since becoming a full-time employee, I’ve noticed it is a lot harder to “soak” in the word. While I once used to set a timer to limit my devotions and study times now it is harder to plug them into a regular work week. We intentionally set aside time on the weekends to spend more time in the word and daily we have a quiet time, but I miss the extended devouring of the text and drawing out charts and diagrams with the husband. A “happy place” in my mind is sitting around a table covered in butcher paper and fleshing out the meaning of the text. I liken it to eating a good meal of chicken – not at KFC, where you get the bucket special. I’m talking about my moms fried chicken, dripping with oil and seasoned goodness. The time when you savor every bite and pull off every bit of chicken off the bone. A good meal is like that, a good sermon keeps giving flavor upon flavor until it’s all gone, and you just wait for some more.

This weekend we had a full course meal that is still satisfying our spiritual bellies. The boys came home from children’s church talking about the “box”. I was weaving something in my mind, so I initially thought it was my train of thought . At home we were studying 2 Samuel and at church they studied the ark of the Covenant. God’s box carries His presence was the theme. They had sister Bonnie telling them about Jesus and they (the boys) just seemed different. I guess God’s box has that effect on people. I saw the results before I heard what they had learned. 

Then we went into the service and the worship time was sweet. I had come off a 16 hour shift and had been praying through the night. In my tiredness my filter to be reserved was absent. It was fun to fully enjoy the presence of the Lord. (Yes, it is sanctified and holy to have fun in God’s presence).  It was an extension of that time and as I poured out my heart to God it felt like the release of prayer and praise reached the Heavens, more importantly God’s heart. We had a huge outpouring of people crying out to Jesus for healing and the pastor took his time following God. There was no rush to perform. After many weeks of snow cancelled services, the sheep just needed time with the Shepherd. It reminded me of 2 Samuel 24. The cost for the altar in the Old Testament was often born by those in leadership in ways the sheep may never see. David says, “24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  In the New testament we know the “cost” of the offering was Christ. Leaders bringing that sacrifice to the people still requires their effort in teaching, time and gathering the saints. It comes with a price, sometimes even in spiritual attacks, resistance or distraction. I was convicted and stirred to pray more for those in authority.

I’m thankful for men and women of God who go before a holy God on behalf of their congregations on a daily and weekly basis. Ministers who present their lives as a sacrifice, so others can be healed, saved, discipled. When I was younger this text was often heard as a call to humility and not “numbering” the folks. The appeal was to trust in God and not the arm of flesh and we do see that in this text. I wonder though in all our aim and effort to focus on the negative we miss the beauty of what David provided by way of bringing the sheep to the altar. The compassionate God was working through this young shepherd boy, now warrior King to reach His people. I don’t believe David ever forget the lambs in all his life and ministry.

Over the years you see the struggles of leaders and the ebb and flow of ministry. I’m thankful for the New Testament and that we don’t have bloody wars like those in this precious book. There definitely are still spiritual wars that continue to affect God’s people however. God does still get angry at sin and leaders still encounter lots of hard things. This focus of this book can be studied in commentaries and encyclopedias, etc. and I’m not trying to summarize every book on this blog. That’s french for those of you looking for this blog to be perfect will be disappointed. My hope is to stir interest to read more of the Bible – awards for best scholar I gave up years ago. 

What I noticed in 2 Samuel was that David inquired of the Lord – and God answered him. The prophet Samuels work and ministry continues in David’s life and God’s anointing was David’s secret to success. The royal line is promised to David and I don’t think he had any clue that it would be the Messiah. Like Hannah presented Samuel to the Lord, like Ruth presented Obed to the Lord, like Mary presented Jesus to the Lord, God will use those surrendered to Him for His glory. We don’t know what God has in store for us or our legacy’s, but we can look at David in this book and find similar patterns: we go to God, He answers, and we follow His directions. That equals success Kingdom style. In order to build God’s kingdom rather than our own, we need to seek and serve the King.

What will we push aside to make room for the Lord? What will we leave undone to do the things the Lord requires? What will we not buy or sell in order that we have money to increase the time and prayer at the altar? How will we make room for the God box in our lives?

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” What is the point of all the wars in Israel? What was the point for all the power struggles? God wanted a people for Himself, a worshipping, obedient people for His kingdom. Lord have Your way!

I watched yesterday as the altars filled with people. I saw people there recovering from addictions, struggling with family issues, people that others would not have received in their churches, I saw them weeping and calling out to a Holy God. I watched as men and women who had sacrificed time and money praying over them. People who were once faulted for welcoming “those people.” People who could have gone to a more popular, better built church stood there ministering. People who could have been golfing, shopping or sleeping were laying their hands-on people, entering their struggles and pain without any thought of reward. All needs were considered equal and all people loved and welcomed. That gathering did not come without a price – emotionally, spiritually and relationally. A price that Jesus paid long ago that we could identify with and claim. I don’t think the intercession or anointing was there just because of placement or titled authority. I think it came from years of choosing God, facing their own struggles and hearing from God in seasons of darkness. It was beautiful to behold. I don’t know their cost, but it seems that their seasons in God produced beauty that could not come any other way.

David’s life was not calculated. David’s life was not planned for career success. He was a shepherd boy that was called into leadership and warfare by a wandering prophetic priest. His claim to fame was sticking to the script- God’s script and building God’s kingdom. His failures and highlights in this book serve as reminders to us to fulfill God’s call and obey His will.

Please forgive my running train of thought this morning. It is not the usual exegetical focus I try to keep. I want God to imprint these words on my life, not just my mind. My heart is moved by this book – a weary soldier and a BIG hearing God. Life was anything but orderly for him. He kept his relationship strong despite the jealousies, competition, cynical voices and war around him. He kept moving towards relationship with God and loving on his sheep. The bookends of his life are prophetic and speak of sacrifice and obedience. I pray my life; our lives will look the same.

What is the cost for your altar today? Your churches? Those who minister to you? How does the “God Box” (God’s presence) in our culture, in our churches, change those things?

Seeking and studying with you, RenaeRoche2019

 

 

Have you ever wondered why there is no book of the Bible named after David? I mean after all,  he was a big player in Israel’s’ history. After the darkness of the period of the Judges, the last judge comes into authority and his name was Samuel. Lots of leaders, lots of crazy nonsense takes place and then in walks Samuel. We are given a clue that things are soon going to change because the last part of his name EL means God. The first part Samu means “heard”. God heard what was taking place.

The books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel are not divided in the Hebrew Old Testament. In our Bibles they are divided just to make the content easier. First Samuel covers the time between Samuel finishing as the last Judge and then Saul becoming the first King. The people were demanding a king like the “other nations” have and they got a similar leader like the “other nations”. Eventually it becomes obvious that one man in authority that is jealous, paranoid and crazy takes its toll and King David, a man after God’s heart, unlike the other leaders, comes into power.

Every time I read this book I am amazed at how clearly God spoke and how his voice was directed to the leaders. There is such an awesome responsibility that goes with being a leader. The mantle, the weight, the warfare… you just can’t appreciate that from the church pew. God requests that we pray for leaders because He understands the full range of what they endure.

It is also interesting to read how clearly God spoke to those still rebelling against Him. Saul gets a lot of bad press when he does things his “own way”. Less than obedience is still disobedience and he found out that “cutting corners” was still not following God.

This book is written so we can see the struggle of the people who were in a dark season – they wanted a leader to tell them what to do. Mistake number one. When in the dark – look for THE Light. If we look to others instead of God, THEY WILL NEVER BE BRIGHT ENOUGH to understand our plight or everything that only God can see.  It’s a good idea to get wise counsel but this was more than that- they sought direction from a human being and did not inquire of God to lead them -again and again. These folks wanted to see a person and hear from a human. Mistake number two- when feeling out of control, get your security from the King of all kings. It may feel more secure or expedient to have someone giving directions, but God doesn’t want to speak thru a mediator.  He wants to speak to individuals and in the New Testament clearly tells us there is only One mediator and that is Christ Jesus. When others block that direct line of prayer it gets murky and others motivations get in the way. 

I write often about women in ministry. This may be a little risky, but this book reminds of when young women want their pastors to “release” them into ministry as if God’s chain of command comes from the leader or pastor of the church. Promotion comes from neither the East or the West but from God. What if the ministry God has is on the streets or in a foreign country or just being still?  Guidance is very different from commands. Leaders should confirm what the Lord is saying, not replace God’s voice. I worry when leaders get pulled by all kinds of people to give them “ministry” rather than people praying and following Christ.  Isn’t that skewed a bit? We start looking like each other rather than the One who anoints, appoints and calls us and the church becomes a circus or competition. If the King is in charge, He has specific assignments for each man, woman and child. Following Christ should look like turning from sin and to one’s purpose in life. Sometimes we choose men and women to direct us rather than the King and then we are surprised when there is no fruit.  Freedom may be relinquishing all our manipulation or pulling on leaders and returning to the King and asking for HIS assignment over our lives. I’m not judging anyone – I know this because I have lived and experienced this. Chasing carrots and pipe dreams have wasted many of my years. Seeking God and His pathway is so much more fun and yields so much more fruit.

So, what does it look like to serve a King? Maybe recognizing that we are children of royalty? Knowing He is the boss and His ways remain. Loyalty is certainly a theme in this book. Saul misses the boat in that regard, but David chooses the high road and proves over and again that he was loyal.

How do you worship King Jesus? Loyalty to Him would be part of that. Worship is honoring God not for what He has done but for who He is. He is faithful, kind, compassionate, etc. Praise is worshiping God for His mighty acts and deeds. Both are important. Two examples:

A man was in a car accident with his wife and 2 daughters. He was found by paramedics after the wreck worshiping God in a ditch. He told them he was thanking God for the time he did have with them rather than being angry about the time that he had lost. That’s worship. It’s thanking God without expecting anything in return. It is thanking Him for who He is and His character.

My brother-in-law recently helped our family as we struggled with grief. What a huge blessing he was to all of us in our time of need. It was not only special to have a new family member but an extra bonus to get one that loves God. When he went on a business trip this week, we sent him off with hugs and prayers. Less than 24 hours later, a tractor trailer crossed the median and hit him head on. It totaled the trailer and his car, throwing him and his business partner 50 yards in the air until they landed in a field. When people ran to the car, they both got out- without a scratch. The national news reported that the people  who witnessed the accident said, “there must be a God because of what we have seen here.” That is praise, thanking God for His protection and help. Extraordinary things happen when we put our trust in God. Woo-hoo.

In a culture of many opinions and opposing factions who should we serve and give our loyalty to? When we don’t know what to do and fear bigger armies, who should we run to? When we feel danger and need a safe refuge, who will we put our trust in? All these questions have the same answer – King Jesus. He is the only one worthy of being our King.

This past weekend two beautiful worshipping ballerinas danced in our church to the song “King of my Heart”. Every movement was directed to God in worship. It was amazing. It reminded us that there is a God who is in control of the Universe who also wants to be in control of our hearts. It was a visual demonstration of grace and beauty. Hear the words:

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh, He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh, He is my song   (Bethel Music)

This King does rule from the Heavenlies, but He also rules from the love inside my heart. I have chosen to make room for His kingdom in my heart and life.  He is the One we seek, serve and obey. David may not have had a book named after him, a palace or army but his title, “A man after God’s own heart” is much more impressive. I don’t care about the titles so much, but I do want God to know that He is MY king. I want Him to know all my hope is in Him and that I will be loyal to Him Forever.  How about you? Who is your king and how will that affect your life? How will it affect others lives?

Oh come, let us worship and bow down…

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

The last week I have not watched the news as much. The few times I did check it there were heinous crimes being reported. Parents murdering their kids, adults harming one another, wild police chases and crashes, etc. It reminded me of the book we read last blog – Judges. Everyone was doing what their political party would approve of, no one checking in with the Lord of all lords. The dividing line has really been set in our country – those in both parties who want to see God’s will done. Things are so dark. The actions of many in every sphere of our culture are – RUTHLESS. The word means devoid of pity, compassion, kindness or any type of relief.

The setting for the book of Ruth is during Gideon and Samsons’ generation. Famine has driven people to new territory, some questioning if God is still provider or even involved. That is one of the reasons I love celebrating a spiritual rest day or Sabbath. At sundown we remind ourselves every week that God is still awake – neither slumbering or sleeping. We light a candle to declare that a light STILL SHINES IN THE DARKNESS. We light a candle to remember Heavens light awaits us…

During this time of spiritual evil and gross darkness, God sent someone to display kindness, compassion and beneficence. We are told the story of someone who would not act according to religious affiliation or culture but according to the love in her heart. Her name is Ruth. Her father-in-law had walked away from his people to get a better financial portfolio, then died. Her husband and brother-in-law were named “sick and ailing”. Not exactly men of the hour type guys. I suspect her husband however must have had some good upbringing because he selected such a kind woman and she later dedicates her life to his moms God. Even mother-in-law Naomi succumbs to the barrenness and cynicism of the day when she gives up hope and wants everyone to call her “Mara”. 

Regular life can cause us to get discouraged. Regular life can cause us to be afraid. Regular life can cause us to look at our situations, our aloneness, our limitations and problems rather than up to a loving and supporting God. Add grief – a husband, a son, two sons and the burden of sorrow gets multiplied, overwhelming. Grief causes us to forget reality, grief blocks grace and joy. Grief robs us of connection causing our souls to get isolated and lost in pain. At the beginning of Ruth, we are faced with the question – is God also ruthless? Because of our choices has God left us alone and walked away?

Then someone, a young girl who has every right to act forlorn and forsaken, makes the bold choice to love again. She determines in her spirit to be – different. She acts according to the memory of her heart and what she knows to be true rather than what she sees or hears around her. Faith is like that – it is a plucked string of a guitar in a key no one expects. It is a song in the night when all the world is silent or in discord. Ruth’s love and actions were shocking and out of step with the narrative the enemy was trying to write on Naomi’s life.

In great generosity this book is named Ruth, when easily Boaz or even Naomi could have taken center stage or the credit. It is humble and Godly when older women step aside and let the younger women come into their own. It is mature and healthy to let the younger generation take the lead. Working with the generations is so important. Older women grasping onto their younger years or younger women rejecting older women as if they had nothing to offer – both cause emotional and spiritual pain. So often we talk about women in ministry having trouble with men or being marginalized but sometimes the deeper pain comes from those of the same gender. Those things may not get mentioned as often as would help us. (As with other blogs, there are no personal or intentional attacks here just general information to remind us of what people go through.) we don’t see that struggle in this story, instead we see an older woman opening doors for, encouraging and praying over a younger woman. We see a younger woman learning from, caring for and ministering to an older woman. That’s a sign that God’s in the house.

 

So, in the middle of this book we get a glimpse of the real hero of it: “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” It is God that has overseen Naomi and Ruth’s life. Kindness is another name for Jesus. Compassion is another name for Jesus. Pity and love are more names for Jesus. In the darkness, God has shone forth light. When light shines forth, God tends to reciprocate. It’s His language, currency, good pleasure.

The rest of the book is the miraculous reward of choosing to love when life feels broken, barren and cruel. It’s the reward of knowing God’s love and favor when it took every ounce of strength within you to give someone a smile, a hug a kind word.

Heaven notices those things.

When God smiles on someone it looks like hospitality, it looks like favor, it looks like open seats at a dinner table, it looks like new family, it looks like fellowship, it looks like a baby of promise.

The setting dictated more ruthless acts. The setting dictated more judgement. The setting dictated more barrenness, isolation and abandonment. A kind word turned away wrath. A kind deed averted emptiness. Naomi may have felt forgotten and forsaken, but God remained faithful and His character remained true. Thank Heavens God is not bound by setting, culture or rotten feelings!

Lord, help us to keep our eyes on YOU. Help us to look for Your kindness and favor. Help us to be kind, loving, compassionate and merciful – regardless of what is going on around us. Put that spirit in us that Ruth had – to be kind, to cling to what is good and to keep walking and trusting, no matter how bad things look or turn out to be – temporarily.

Love in and through us Lord. Amen.

RenaeRoche2019

Ps. Print out this blog and give it and a Baby Ruth candy bar to whoever you catch doing something loving or compassionate. It only takes a spark…

Judges

The backdrop for this book is the death of their leader Joshua. People experience grief in many ways but this death seemed to make everyone forget what was important. They seek God and ask for direction but then go their own way. Long forgotten is Joshua’s exhortation to be strong and that God was “with us”. Godly leadership is replaced with each person doing their own “thing”. One nation under God became one nation under whatever god was available that day.

There are several things that stick out in this book but these stuck in my heart.

  1. God promises to never break His covenant with His people. That tells us that even though we are faithless, He will remain faithful. That is good news! That means if we fail we can go back and start over. In spite of a dark nation, God was still bringing forgiveness and HOPE. Hope that came from HIm and was irrevocable. Redemption and compassion are available in spite of the sin.  Britney Spears used to sing “Oops I did it again” and that would be an appropriate hymn for this group of people. Repeatedly they keep sinning and following other gods, ignoring God’s word. History will repeat itself if nothing changes and the lesson keeps getting lost on them as they wander further and further away from God’s truth.  I appreciate the emphasis of Homeplate Advantage on celebrating communion with your family as it helps us to remember what Jesus did on the cross and the character of God – despite living in a world that forgets God’s goodness. Intentionally remembering God and what He has done will help our children get to know Him and serve Him. Those who have to serve God are slaves, those who get to serve God are servants and blessed. We choose by seeking Him. We also choose by ignoring God or letting the culture chose for us.

 

  1. They cried out to God. The appeal is more than whining they are terrified they will get what they deserve so they plead with God to save them. We also see the words “they wept” several times. It is a book filled with tears. It is the sorrow of the sinner. They want God’s favor desperately, they want His blessing but repeatedly live outside of that possibility by turning to other god’s and everyone doing what is right in his/her “own eyes”. They felt like they were above the law and beyond the scope of God’s reach. God showed them otherwise.  The clarion call of this book is that no ruler or king can take God’s place. He is sovereign and Lord over ALL. Seeking the leadership of another – whether human or not is still looking elsewhere. Idolatry is anytime we seek someone or something other than God to meet our needs. (Diet Coke, foreign gods, christian leaders, youtube… the list goes on). God sent deliverers and saviors to Israel to show them what He can do for them. Hebrews 1 tells us that in these last days God speaks to us, even delivers us through ONE way – Jesus. Natural or voted in leaders can do great things but they cannot replace or do Gods’ things. They have limited power and ability. Yet, the people vote and lobby and fight as if blessings and peace come thru human avenues. Posturing ourselves under God’s leadership, doing what brings His favor and being in covenant with Him is what counts. Crying because one is sorry is much different than crying because one has been caught red handed. The people wanted their way in their timing and when the consequences for their actions came they cried out to God. In His compassion He delivers them and then they do it all over again. History truly does repeat itself – but it doesn’t have to. If only they had stopped and gotten off the crazy train – returning to God and God alone they would have been spared so much grief and heartache.

 

  1. There are many horrific stories in the book of Judges. The people are barbaric and do heinous things. It surprises me that the one leader that makes way and stands head and shoulders above the rest is Deborah. Why are there not more movies about her? Sampson ends poorly yet he is a heroic figure for young boys. He runs from God, His call and in the ends kills himself. The leader that affects the nation is a female and shines brightly amid a wicked and corrupt generation. That speaks volumes about Gods leadership plans and I pray that women of influence everywhere will continue to shine. Our nation needs more godly Deborah’s! If you recognize the darkness, then please recognize one of the sources of light God chose. I continue to hear stories of Christian women being excluded, mocked and diminished and wonder why the connection is not being made between God’s favor and God’s way of doing things. As Oprah would say, “make the connection.”  If we continue to do things in “our own way” rather than follow what God is doing, we too will end up repeating history and going around the bend again. If there are godly women in your organization or church – let them use their gifts and talents. Seek out their opinions and insight. It might just be that God has placed them there for that season for His purposes. God has preferences, we need to understand what they are and for what time and season.

 

  1. The last story in this book is about a bunch of  men catching some dancing women and forcing them to be their brides. Does anyone hear Dolly Pardon singing in the background, “hear you come again?” When these new couples set up house and have children, what stories will they be told? Contrast the dancing women and the judge Deborah. Will the children continue to remember God, or will they go around the bend like their forefathers doing what is right in their own eyes? Honor, value, favor are part of God’s plan.                                     When we short circuit covenant, we short circuit blessing.                                                                                                            Grabbing a woman is very different than honoring a woman. I wonder why the story of the Concubine is also not loudly told? The contrast of their treatment to me reflects the blessing and favor of following God vs. following after our own flesh and desires. The outcome is just not the same. This time  I noticed afresh the women in this book. Maybe its my older age or the reflection as my father passes this earth and I raise up godly young men. Will we pass on amazing legacies of honor and dignity? Will we remember their sacrifice and service and what brought them to that place or go our own way and live in the convenient here and now? What choices will we make that will forever mar or build the next generation? How we walk out God’s covenant is truly important. Our aim should be to do what is right in God’s eyes – the One who sees it all.

 

God, we submit to Your Lordship, Your will and Your ways. We remember Your covenant and want to be faithful to you in all we do. Remember us and give us Your favor we pray. Amen.

 

Our nation needs godly men, women and children to shine in its dark hours ahead. How will we learn from this precious book of the Bible and what difference will that make next political or news cycle? FB your thoughts. 

RenaeRoche2019

 

Success may look to some like a business suit or a shiny new car, maybe a college degree. In the book of Joshua, one of history’s greatest leaders he tells us exactly how to be a successful leader: “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; or then you shall make your way prosperous and then you shall have good success. “ Joshua 1:8

To meditate means to roar, muse or imagine. It’s the low growl of a lion, the murmur or speaking to oneself that causes one to remember something. Its point is to get it deep down inside until it becomes part of who you are and what you are about. It is so foundational that throughout this book Joshua pulls the readers back to his marching orders and battle plan – God’s word.

This reading was slowed way down for me this week. I ignored the highlights I usually focus on. Before ADVANCE which everyone loves, comes the direction to consecrate. Consecrate is often thought of as cleaning up and pouring on oil which is fair. More than just creating a holy look is the understanding of setting ones whole self – apart. To pull back from the common in order to hear from the Divine. Now that hubby and I are in leadership and have intense work schedules, we have noticed that to prepare for grueling weeks, we must first set aside time to hear from the Lord and get our marching orders. If we don’t pull back and reserve our energy, we will get depleted before the hard stuff even starts. But before then….

Vs. 9 “Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee wherever you go.” New Testament believers will recognize the same words in “Lo I am with you to the end of the age” when Jesus promises His presence to assist in every adventure they will take.  The success is not in just following orders but in the ONE who goes with you as you follow the orders. Divine assistance and guidance are promised and guaranteed. That’s HUGE. But there’s more…

Even before all the other orders, there is a line that is often missed: Vs. 11  says, “Pass through the host and command the people saying “Prepare you victuals, for within three days you shall pass over this Jordan…”  What are victuals?  Food, meat provisions. It may mean for the journey or it could mean the meal of rest that homes were still doing in honor of the Passover and celebrated with the God of creation. Get your protein! Fill up and rest, get some nutrition and physically prepare yourself. It surprises me how we often “spiritualize” these passages and miss out on some basic but often missed verses of scripture. Victory can also be part of being healthy, rested, wise and FULL.

This extraordinary leader knew his source – God. He knew how to access Him – the law and understanding God’s character. He knew he had to prepare for exploits – through rest and sacred fellowship meals. He goes on to see the Jordan dry up, so the people can pass on dry ground, conquer armies and march around Jericho. We even see the sun  be “still” for a day, so God can do what he wants to do for His people. It’s amazing. Could such ordinary things be part of such extraordinary outcomes? I think so because tomorrow the “amazing things” are things that God will do. We do the mundane – rest, set  aside and eat as our part. God does the amazing conquering as His part.

On Facebook this week I got a post that asked why there were so many leadership conferences and not more “servant” conferences. It really touched my heart. It’s also very telling for our culture. Joshua was not your typical great “leader”, but he was a listener of Yahweh and he was a follower of everything God ever commanded him to do. In Moses fashion he wanted to do everything according to Gods directions and pattern. That seems like a good role model to follow. Hear, obey, repeat. Hear obey, repeat. Hear obey, repeat.

Some want to be GREAT leaders and leave a legacy. Others know God is the best leader EVER and want to align themselves with HIS kingdom.  I want to do all the things He asks me to, in His spirit and by His power for His glory. The stories of Joshua’s obedience in this book are phenomenal. I don’t want to be a leader like Joshua – I want to be a follower, a servant like Joshua. He set out to be faithful and obedient, not great. God knows what we need, when we need it and how to make it happen. Success is not from a Joshua formula but listening to and obeying Joshua’s God. Then we will see God as THE leader and watch HIS people – succeed. People may mock and laugh to see you stomping around the gates singing –but only until the walls start falling down. 

Serving with you, Renae Roche 2019

Deuteronomy is the “second” law and explanation of what took place after the Exodus. It is a book filled with cursing and blessing. The saddest chapter is when God refuses to engage Moses any longer and tells him that he will not be able to enter the Promised Land. All the journey rewards and the final prize are not released because Moses forgot God was the ultimate judge and provider. The sentence that clinches it is when we are told that Moses lived in a valley the rest of his days. Rewind a bit…  what was it that Moses forgot? That Aaron forgot? It seems maybe it was loving God with their whole heart, soul and mind. They exchange their close relationship with the Lord and get focused on the people instead. That’s the snare of leadership. When we start to “play to the crowd” instead of serving and obeying God, we run the risk of offending a holy God. Over and over in this book God reminds them to “choose His ways”. (The four letter word usually placed there is omitted to avoid FB scans that block blogs like these.)

This precious book is known for two big components: Reviewing  God miracles and going over their role and responsibilities (Covenant) in the new journey. Both of those messages are couched in the larger issue of whole- hearted worship of God. The Millennial’s and children of Moses day needed to hear about the miracles. They did not have first hand knowledge of a God who wanted to be present and active among them.

We are reading a book of the Bible a week and learning all kinds of stuff about the God we serve. It’s intense but enjoyable. We are more religious than necessary though. What? Yes, I learned that too this week. Deut. 31:10 says we are to read this book every SEVEN years to our children and all the people. Ugh. Here I was feeling guilty that I didn’t read through the Bible every year with my kids. Feeling some extra grace this  morning!  So what would God have us focus on if not voracious Bible reading yearly? Maybe loving Him with our whole hearts? Or perhaps the other things listed in Deuteronomy that are front and center:

  1. Review God’s miracles.
  2. Know and live the Covenant (rights, responsibilities)

When we do those things we will learn to fear, love, honor and reverence God. That sounds good to me. Also, not dragging kids thru the Bible at break neck speed but loving them along the road sounds pretty good too. I hear a loud amen from the boys’.

When I was younger my friends and I would take a Bible passage, read it all day, go out in a field and hash it over with each other, pray and ask God what He thought about it and then we would live it out practically, coming back together the next week to compare notes. We were never disappointed. I remember many stories from those days that continue to refresh my faith today. Stories of God providing, healing and setting up divine appointments. God was actively involved in our lives. I have two stories that take several hours to tell. They inspire people to get on fire for God when they hear them and seem to encounter God in new and fresh ways. “God is awesome” stories have a way of feeding our faith. Two things that hinder that today: People who think storytellers are boasting or grandstanding so they throw shade on whatever is said thus condemning the person trying to praise God. The other group is well meaning – they urge “fresh and new” stories which is understandable if you are calling people to move forward in their walk. However, we don’t want to suspend the “good ol day” stories too much or the younger generation will not understand the workings of God. Valuing old and pressing on for new might be a good balance. The focus – keep telling whatever praise stories possible until you are so full of faith and God that you burst out in praise and proclamation! Our pastor has encouraged and called for the saints to proclaim what God is doing today in our lives and it is creating a stir of excitement among Gods’ people. He is building the congregations faith while causing them to remember God’s goodness. 

Acts 2:46 tells us that “…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  Coming together and praising God is Old and New testament. Whether it is in church or in the backyard with lemonade doesn’t matter half as much as getting together to share God stories. Read Jeremiah 9:23-24 for more insight regarding that passage. There is nothing on Netflix or at the movie theater that can compare or even come close to the praise reports of a living, loving and magnificent God.

The joy of getting older – yes there is a joy to it. For a second let’s forget creaky knees that ache when the temperatures drop. For a minute let’s ignore the thinning hair and glory brown spots on our hands, wrinkled with time. There are things we may not love but the absolute thrill and joy of seeing a spiritual harvest is incredible. The miracle of watching God thread people and souls and blessings thru the halls of time to make His kingdom known – incomparable. I feel like shouting right now! I’ve seen little children grow and walk into their ministries, missions and marriage. I can look back over the years and declare to my kids and grandkids – indeed God HAS BEEN faithful. Did I tell you about the time….?

I had friends come visit me for just an hour one day to catch up. They ended up staying three days and we spent the entire time sharing miracle and God stories. We bought stuff for sandwiches and just praised God for days on end. It was life changing. Another teenage friend once spent 16 hours just chatting about God’s goodness during a blizzard. We never run out of things to thank Him for and those stories still “light my fire” today. What have you seen God do for you, for others? When have you stepped out in faith and seen God come through? It is time to share those moments with the next generation. Before TMZ gives them a different narrative, before Facebook has them “like” another 10,000 stories of some political nutwings agenda, we need to saturate their minds and memories with the awesome love of a miracle working God. You ever see God provide? Perhaps move mountains, heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind? Then, remind yourself and others WHO GOD IS and WHAT HE CAN DO!!!

Covenant – Rights and responsibilities:

In my family anyone who reads Deuteronomy 28 -30 and can discuss it with me is given $25.00. It’s just that important to know. We all have choices to make and this is a good framework to understand what is the best way to live our lives. 28:49-50 are especially relevant to this generation – so much so that to write it out would create flags on Facebook. Read it and you will understand. Christianity is not everyone getting some random blessing by Osmosis. God has conditions, preferences and boundaries. This book marvelously points out some of that framework. It is not an easy read. You will be so thankful for the NEW Covenant through Jesus by the time you are done reading it.

Another verse I like is in Deut.1:17: Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgement belongs to God. Throughout the book we are called to not only know God is just but to be just as He is Just. We are continually called to enjoy, honor and wholeheartedly obey God. The benefits include being prosperous, the apple of God’s eyes and His chosen people. Pretty amazing promises!

This book is like a chiropractic visit – it’s painful but will nudge things back in place, reminding us of what and WHO is important. To not heed these warnings – well that’s like ignoring the oil change light on your car, it will not end well. Yes, it’s true we all have choice but it is also true God is the only One who will ultimately reward us with blessings or consequences for ALL those choices. We saw thru Moses  and Aaron that God cannot be cajoled or scammed into changing His mind. He reserves the right to accept or deny our requests. How we live today matters to how and where we will live tomorrow and beyond.

If you have time and an extra cup of coffee this week – or a weekend and some sandwich fixings, let me know…  I have some stories that will absolutely thrill your soul and I’m also hoping you will share some of yours with me as well. We must remember this: DO NOT FORGET! 

Remembering and enjoying His love, praying both will impact the next generation….

RenaeRoche2019

Last year I exercised almost every day. I lost weight, my blood pressure went down, my sugar went down, my cholesterol went down, and I felt like a million bucks. This year I was feeling strong and wonderful so one or two chocolate puddings wouldn’t hurt. Then it grew to daily drinking Sprite zero. Well, you know, I work hard so a slice of pizza for lunch couldn’t hurt much, since I’ve been doing well. The candy is tempting … you get the picture.  Working out for a season does not provide LIFELONG results. Starting out right is not the same as finishing well. When it came to enter the Promised land, the Israelites were not getting the keep keeping on idea. They stopped often to grumble and complain, thinking they could do their own thing.

It reminds me of my kindergarten graduation. I walked the “line” in my new special dress, I sang “I’m a little teapot” in my best voice and recited the poems our teacher taught us. Was I surprised when they told me I had to go back to school the next year. But I graduated! Didn’t that celebration mean anything? Grade school, high school, Bible school, seminary, graduate school… this stuff just won’t end. It is a principle that we can see really clear in the book of Numbers. God did not just save us FROM sin, God saves us to something… the Promised Land, Destiny and a life lived in glory for HIM. We don’t just leave Egypt and STOP.

This week we were reading in Numbers. Studying a book of the Bible weekly is vigorous but there is so much good stuff in there!  I want to share three of the highlights that inspired me. In Numbers 6:24-26 is says:

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelite’s. Say to them:

24 “The Lord BLESS you and keep you;
25 the Lord make His face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn His face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelite’s, and I will bless them.”  When you are heading across a hot desert with a nation, this would have been a pretty good promise!

The word bless here is barak in Hebrew. It means to benefit, adore and congratulate. It is a HUGE, over the top type blessing. It follows a narrative about purity and the importance of living a holy life –obeying His ways. We have a Lord who helps us stay pure. We have a God who desires to bless us. Paul said it this way, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:32). We take these verses for granted because they are spoken in a lot of churches but they were not meant for the General crowd – only those who follow God in purity and truth. That’s a much different message than the one the world will tell you. Do we win God’s approval by our actions? No, but He still wants us to be holy and that is often overlooked in a culture that values equal treatment in every arena regardless of life choices.

God wants to bless us and keep (protect, watch, guard over) us.

He also wants to illuminate our pathway and give us pity, kindness and compassion. When these blessings are spoken and received, God’s name is placed on us – His reputation, fame, glory and renown, then… It says once God sees that on our lives, He blesses us again!  That’s amazing. If His peace includes completeness, safety, soundness in body, welfare such as good health and prosperity, quietness, tranquility, contentment, friendship and peace = that’s BETTER than winning the Superbowl!  God wants to bless His followers, specifically YOU.

That same loving, blessing God speaks to Moses in the desert. In the New Testament, Hebrews 1 tells us that in these last days God has spoken to us through His son, Jesus. Hearing Gods voice happens over 100 times in the Bible.  Christianity is the only religion I know of where the God is actively participating and speaking in the life of the follower. The voice of the Lord shows us how involved and alive He is!  When you are heading to the Promised land, that is good information to keep at hand and repeat often.

These concepts are basic yet when we find ourselves in a time of discouragement or disillusionment isn’t that the thing that creeps in our mind and accuses God before us? “Is He real? Is He good and trustworthy or a tyrant and villain? These verses show us what a kind, compassionate God He really is. Yea, but… does He want to bless me, actually- me? Yes, all those who follow Him with a pure heart. The 613 commandments cannot be met daily but standing behind Jesus and letting His life pay for all weaknesses and sin certainly can.

Numbers 15 tells us about the visual reminder of God’s commandments and promises. Moses instructed the people to tie tassels (tzitzit) on their garments so that they could remember His love for them and that He wanted to speak to them through His precepts and their leaders. We’ve tried it here for a few days and it is cool. It is not salvific, meaning it cannot save us. It does not earn us brownie points with God, but it does keep us in a pattern of listening to what God says instead of the enemies lies about God. Watching the Superbowl game Sunday was fascinating – the team did not function as individuals. They kept going back to their huddle, the coach and reminding themselves of the rule book. It was not “beyond or beneath them” even though they had won multiple Superbowls before. 

God wants to bless, keep us and make us shine. God wants to give us Peace and the reputation and glory of His very name. God wants us to remember His ways and promises. If we really got a hold of just those 3 things , our lives would drastically change.

Numbers is a great book – lots of very specific instruction on continuing in our journeys as we head HOME. Remember my forgotten exercise routine, my kindergarten graduation? In error, we think once we are saved, that is it. No more building, tearing down old things or following God’s pattern –we just move forward with our lives and think it’s all good. But it doesn’t work that way. The benefits of our relationship with God, like exercise and other Spiritual disciplines cease when we discontinue it. It is not an accumulative relationship but a living, breathing relationship. Seeking and following God must continue until its GAME OVER. 

Wherever you are on your journey, maybe it is walking away from your past, or maybe you are stuck in the desert? Maybe you are trudging along but have lost heart to keep moving. Wherever you stand – start walking and remind yourselves of the very things God did to encourage the Israelite’s:

 

“I want to, and I am going to BLESS you, make my face shine on you and give you PEACE.

I want to and will speak with you – avail yourself to hear ME.

I want you to actively remind yourself of my ways and promises (NT – hear Jesus). “

You are not alone as you continue walking towards the Promised land. If you are receiving God’s blessing and listening for His voice, being reminded of His ways and promises – now THAT’S a WIN!  Congratulations.

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

 “‘Our family   went to Winter Jam in KC over the weekend. All day Saturday I cleaned and got ready for our supper time – spaghetti squash, dump cake, fresh breadsticks out of the oven.  Then my husband decided to be spontaneous and we got in the van and went down to the Sprint Center for the concert. I think the supper is still covered in the fridge! The table is still set. We scrambled and then ate hotdogs.

The Newsboys and every artist were amazing. Leviticus is our book this month and has quite a bit to say about worship. “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord“‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.”  I don’t  know if God had in mind loud guitars and light shows but after leaving that building we felt like Gods presence was among us. The word, the music, the fellowship…. off the charts awesome. My dump cake and supper = it was all secondary to what my family needed the most – more of God.

So, God does re- dos. Remember the Garden of Eden? They missed out on walking with God and things got pretty dark? Then the Exodus. Look at this verse in Leviticus:

12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

Last months blog was about Exodus but in the middle of that week New York decided to enact a new law. The blog spoke to those decisions beforehand. God cares about our laws and if we are “hostile” to His.  I encourage you to read Leviticus with new vision this month. It speaks to praising God for what HE has done rather than doing stuff to get in His favor or grab His attention.

If we want His favor, His blessing, to walk with Him = we need to worship Him, know Him and follow His ways. When we do , the yokes come off, when we do, the fellowship is sweet, when we do choose to worship Him, it affects the whole nation.

I want God’s blessing in my life. I want God’s blessing in the life of my family, church and nation. Sometimes setting aside our work and taking up His takes effort and disappoints our plans but it is ALWAYS worth the effort if it is to posture our hearts towards God and do His will.

Watching my kids raise their hands to God and hear about Jesus – no crockpot meal could accomplish that. 

Lord, align our lives to YOUR schedule, align our hearts to YOUR bidding, align ALL  our worship to YOU !

Leviticus – a book for today and eternity. Thanks WinterJam 2019!

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

Oh, my — I never realized the “play” book God put in place centuries ago so that we could understand Him. He put things down in writing so we could know how to be on His winning team. It’s very basic really and so simple a child could understand yet a scholar can never grasp. To the seeker and true fan, patterns and jewels will be seen. To the scoffer the page is only filled with ink and space. Let’s check out Exodus 1: 

“Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”  Poor king, he was the one on the throne, but his story revolves around the life of a guy with some colorful threads. Joseph was despised by his family but God had other plans for him.  God likes to write stories on His own timeline. So, the king starts blowing smoke and starts rolling the stone to manipulate people to his way of thinking and to build his own kingdom. He did not read Proverbs 26:27 which says, “whoever digs a pit will fall into it, if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.” When people set out to intentionally harm someone — that never goes unnoticed by a righteous God. So, this king maneuvers a plan to hurt the Israelites, invites others into his scheme (making them complicit in his wickedness)  and then oppresses the very ones who were bringing natural and divine blessing into his country.

The plan was to murder all the baby boys.  

This was the plan to capture a generation, to put the wicked kings’ kingdom in motion. If you want to annihilate a people, don’t go for the ones in the fields, go after their babies. If you wipe out the babies you can guarantee that another nation will suppress and rule them quickly. It’s a strategy right out of the book of Exodus. Wipe out their children and the sheer numbers of the new ones coming in will guarantee their ruler-ship within one generation. This wasn’t the first wicked king that came up with this idea- it was in the play book centuries before him and my contention would be straight from the garden of evil. Going after a nations children is what Hitler did, it was what Stalin did. While no one is watching the inconsequential lives of the children, plans are put in place and nations are altered.

There are some unsung heroes in this chapter. I’ve read this story hundreds of times and skipped over it to get to what I thought was the main thing. In God – ALL involved in the story are His main thing.  Two nurses {midwives in their generation) were skilled at what they did. Seeing life and death makes people become grounded. Focusing on saving a mama’s life creates a strength that cannot be learned in a medical textbook. These women were commissioned to do one thing – bring healthy babies into the world. If you know a nurse you know that they are extraordinarily called. They get up early, work thru the night and do things no one else will or can do. They are a special breed often working undercover.   God has given them a task and they have an incredible fortitude. Anyone who could hear screams and look at blood and guts is tougher than your average bear. It does not matter how much the papas huff and puff or the leaders around them pontificate. Their one task is to see that baby survive and that mama thrive. You do not get in the way of a mama nurse protecting her sheep in labor. Pharaoh made the mistake of thinking they were just silly women holding pregnant mother’s hands. He missed their “Gronk” power. He was looking at the big guys in the field and the little bundles that could easily be tossed away. He did not factor in the call, the virtue, the strength of a couple inconsequential women just going to work every day.

I don’t remember the kings name in this story, but the two nurse’s names were Shiphrah and Puah.  Shiphrah means fair, bright one and Puah means brilliant glittering one, the splendid mouth.  All the verbs in this text are regular but when it comes to the king’s command it is super intense. He was off the charts crazy wanting to kill these children. (Perhaps it was as spiritual as it was mental). These women who are trained to follow protocol disobeyed their leader. It says they “feared God”. To fear means to be in awe of, to reverence and honor. They wanted to follow God more than they wanted to follow a leader who had gone off the rails with paranoia and jealousy. We are not sure if they were single or married but it hints at them being childless and serving the moms. The Bible says that they were summoned by the king to explain themselves. They used wisdom and God blessed them with children of their own. The king grew more agitated and instead of killing babies at birth he ordered them killed after they were born- drown them! . The king with all his authority and leadership got his eyes off building a kingdom to serve others and his jealousy blinded him. Drowning children would be his legacy. Instead of being blessed by the gifted ones God sent –he annihilated them. The midwives on the other hand did not have their eyes on the Pharaoh, the armies, the laws of the land. They were focused on honoring God – no matter what the cost. They were true players in the kingdom and they acknowledged the King of that kingdom.

This weekend as I watched the chiefs and the patriots play I was reminded  of this story. Of course, I cheered for the chiefs since I live  in KC.  They are “our team”. I wear red whenever possible and eat all the crazy “chiefs specials” our city has to offer. I’m a loyal home town fan. I rooted for them and watched every second of the game. However, there was a time in my life when I was in grad school and lived in Massachusetts. I gained something there that remains in my DNA. That “something” caused me to fear the Patriots win. My experience and memory gave me doubt of a sure win.  I kept thinking last week “these people (chiefs fans) don’t know the storm that is coming to our city.” I had watched the Super bowl smack down of 2002, Brady was new, and the Rams were favored to win. It was a Sunday night and the whole church watched it in the parsonage. I was surrounded by people with New England accents who were normally quiet type people. Not that night! The smell of fish was strong on the Cape outside and Clam chowder on the inside. They had braved many a Nor’easter which is a combination of snowstorm and hurricane. These were seasoned men.  

The Rams trained on turf.

It was an amazing game. I think it was one of my first football games.  I’m reminded of a shirt my hubby wears – “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. ” See, the people of New England are not just ordinary. They are THE PEOPLE of New England and they live not in a state but a COMMONWEALTH. They were strong people who broke away from a kingship that suppressed and oppressed them. They value every single person and their unique individual gifts. Because winters were cold, and babies were dying they became FIERCE. Death was part of their struggle and each person and what they brought to the table mattered. The people who founded Massachusetts refused to let their children forget that they had broken free from an oppressive kingdom, they refused to let the lives and deaths of their relatives go unnoticed. All the legal and government documents of Massachusetts are stamped “the COMMONWEALTH” of Massachusetts, you won’t see “state” anywhere. The Patriots are now in a state of – joy.

The chiefs sit in the state of misery this morning and I too grieve with them.  Unlike when the Royals won the championship, last night there was no shouting, cheering and celebrating in the streets. They fought an awesome game, they used every ounce of energy and will power they had. Tom Brady. during the almost physical snowstorm in KC this weekend declared he was the best quarterback ever! He boldly declared he could face ice and snow anywhere! He used the oldest trick in the book – get their eyes off the  mission and make them jealous of one impressive player. The Chiefs’ losing point was NOT the last coin toss. It was when they were faked out by Tom Brady, a master at his craft .  You can’t see the whole team when you get mesmerized by one Giant.  Gronkowksi, a resident of the commonwealth came up from the backside several times while the Chiefs and the kingdom were mean muggin Brady. All eyes were on Brady, so the commonwealth came along and did some impressive whoopin. The Chiefs were fighting and playing the illusion of Tom Brady, ….  however, the Patriots were

 

being the Commonwealth team of Massachusetts and together – THEY won.

 

This is why Boston is strong, this is why the Patriots continue to win. Keep whispering about stolen games, unfair this or that and mismanaged players  or calls and bla bla bla. THEY get the ball, THEY run it down the field and THEY win. Touchdown! The other stuff is just  whiny DISTRACTION.  They have learned how to be commonwealth strong and it shows. When every player does their part – the team wins. Mahomes is fresh and awesome but he is not the totality of the team. It takes ALL to make it happen.

The nurses?  They kept their focus on the game and honored God. They influenced from the quiet corners, in the dark while no one was watching. They pulled a Gronkowski.  They were fair, brilliant, shining players. What if they called in sick that day? What if they didn’t like being unsung heroes and changed occupations the month before? What if they got distracted and the mom or baby died? There would be no baby Moses. EVERY player counts because you never know what play the coach will call next or when the game will go into overtime. Only one thing we know for sure – it won’t last forever and every second counts.

Who do you honor most? What spot do you play? Are you aware of your potential for influence? Are you aware of how you can impact your team for good? What if you are the one making way for the next or last DELIVERER?

I read the end of the book. We know who wins. We have a coin toss also – will we choose The Lord to be our head and leader, directing all our plays?  Or will we focus on others and continue to be jealous of those with different gifts? We choose to lose when we hog the ball, sit on the sidelines and do our own thing? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Lord, help us to fear and honor YOU. Help us influence who you want us to. Help us do the things you want us to do. Make us into the team You want us to be. A Deliverer is coming and while we wait we will do our part and

                                                       make way for HIM.

We will be careful to give You all the praise and all the glory, Amen!

RenaeRoche2019

Ps. Our little guy offered a visitor to our home who was fixing our internet a protein bar and water. I told him he had “Gronk power” and helped get the work done. It takes a team – let US play ball!

2019 is here, so much sooner than I thought it would appear! I was vacillating between blogging about Doctrine and going thru the Bible in a year. Since I am in a new position in life I decided to go with the Bible. Many of the people reading the blog are from different denominations so I went with that.

Question: Does God love you more if you have devotions before you go to work or read the Bible in a year? Being the “queen of legalism” (that’s a joke) I’m noticing things I never did before writing a book about Sabbath and grace. Father Abraham did not own a one year Bible and yet somehow he is still credited as being the Father of Faith. Somehow I don’t believe he had the “right translation” of the Bible or those fancy colored markers that make ones salvation just so much clearer. Our youngest son got some pretty awesome tabs for his Bible and before I could show him how to do it the “right” way he put them on the top. I was aghast. It was too late to say anything and like wearing white before Easter weekend it was just out of step. Upon further investigation, it is much easier to put them that way and I think he may have discovered an easier way to find those books. He’s excited to read now.

Some churches are fasting this January. Everyone who has read Jentzen Franklins book knows he is the most amazing writer when it comes to Fasting. Our denominational district pastor wisely suggested everyone fill their lives with scripture and giving to others – a true fast that warms ones heart. Who is right? Both are godly men and both ideas stir up the spiritual engines. Is the sacred January fast a sacred cow for those who “get it over with” once a year? Hmm? I won’t say that is the case for all but I think it can become that if that is the only time we focus on prayer or humility. We cling to what we think will make God happy with us. I’m picturing a large volcano and some guys with Hawaiian shirts chanting, we must sacrifice MORE. When will enough be enough? Enough devotions, enough reading, enough fasting, enough scripture printed clothing? NEVER. Maybe that is why pastors are reciting doctrine this time of year – we are justified by Faith. Not Bible memory (although that is really good), Bible gluttony (truly it leads to faith in spite of the excess) or Bible sharing (evangelism is rarely a bad thing). Where is the tension between doing all this wonderful spiritual exercise to make room in our hearts for a holy God vs. spiritual gymnastics that just shake the weight around? When I’m fasting the discipline is ultra spiritual and awesome. When I’m not I’m annoyed by others “success”. It strikes me as being ironic or funny that Christians compare their rituals in January but other rituals (Sabbath, communion, foot washing) are legalistic or unnecessary during other months. The glorious Bride is still precious to Jesus. Thank God!

I want to be a “good” Christian. I want to decrease so God will increase.  I want to hear amazing things from God’s word. There’s lots of “I want” in those sentences. Sigh. God wants to be close with us. God wants us to know Him. God wants to share secrets with us. Do we realize the many things that are “our” rituals vs. things that God is wanting or leading us to do or hear?

This year my family is asking God to help us stand in the gap for others to get breakthroughs and encounter God in new and fresh ways. Personally my word will be GRACE. Grace for the journey and especially Grace to get with God. I don’t want to live life as an American Christian. I want to live life as someone who is following Christ, living life according to HIM, rather than rituals, traditions or rules. We have banned the word “should” from our home and we are asking God to tell us His will instead.

Example: I wanted to start reading the Bible front to back. The first weeks have slipped away and now the schedule does not “fit” into any reading plan. Everyone else has a plan for me. I want God’s plan. I don’t want to randomly pick scriptures for my agenda. I decided to read every day as much as possible and blog what God lays on my heart for that week. You are welcome to join me and even write part of it.

This last week we were in Genesis. The oldest son read to us about Noah. He didn’t say much except, “Big Boat mom”. Being a former seminarian I guess I was expecting a theological treatise on covenant. I was so glad Noah was an old man when all this took place. If he was a teenager it would have went something like this: “God, how about a smaller boat? I hardly think we need all that space. If we did a few adjustments we could make that thing really hum, what do ya think? We’re laughing about that but God had a specific will and pattern for Noah’s life. If he had followed “culture” or the church of the hour Noah would have missed God’s will for his season. What if Noah’s wife had weighed in on his supposed legalism in building everyday? Noah, really no one else has one of those in their yards and the Jones’s are never going to invite us over if you keep hammering all day. The church leaders think you need to usher instead of building Sunday mornings and I can’t join the ladies group if my husband isn’t involved in the men’s stuff. Why should we make that crazy portable altar when there is a perfectly good one down at the church? Did you just feel that? It was like water, it landed on my head?

The other child in the family was reading about the universe being formed. God, put the stars in place. He not only numbers them but gave them a certain place to shine. He also knows then where it is dark or going to be dark. I secretly wonder if God’s promise to Abraham was more than just a multitude- but placing them in key places to bring light to the world. I had been reading: Phil. 2:15. It says “that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons and daughters of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

While we all want to follow God, He has created us for certain tasks, in certain areas, for certain reasons unbeknownst to us – or other believers. In the beginning, God created. Divinely made – divinely placed – for a divine reason, only God may know or understand. I also wonder if the importance of resting and enjoying God is also to find out the how and why of shining in our season. Let’s lay down our rules, agendas, rituals (and fears) and direction this year and take up Gods heart. See Psalm 8:3 and Job 38:7 for inspiration for what that may look like.

Lord, Begin in us this year…  Your will, even for things like devotion, worship and praise. Begin in us this year… Your plan for what we build and how we build. Begin in us this year … Your plan for how we multiply and shine.  We’ll be careful to give you all the glory and all the praise.

If the stars were made to worship, …..so will I.

Shine on, RenaeRoche2019