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                                Jeremiah –  Well Done!

Lamentations – July

This word means the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping. Lament prayer is to persuade God to ACT on behalf of the sufferer.  Last blog I asked if perhaps God spared Jeremiah from what was happening above ground when they threw him in a pit. That’s possible but in this book we learned that while he was in there someone poured water on his head and also threw rocks at him (Lam3:52-54). This was while he was praying for them and the nation. My whole life up to this point could not conceive of such cruelty – especially from religious folks but this year in our political culture and after going thru some things personally I can now see where that would be possible. Poor Jeremiah was just trying to communicate God’s heart and help them understand God’s voice. What a mess! Jeremiah is part of the writings (Ketuvim) section of the Old Testament. There are five chapters or poems of lament.  It laments the period of time when the Babylonian soldiers destroyed Jerusalem, God’s city and the Temple. The people did not realize that God would travel with them so seeing these things destroyed must have felt like God had been destroyed also. Jeremiah tells them throughout Lamentations their true source of HOPE.

For a class assignment I was also reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It is his account of living in Auschwitz. It is not a book for the squeamish that’s for sure as it details his hope to live and the atrocities around him in the concentration camps. When I hear comparisons to modern day jails to confine people it makes me angry. Intentionally trying to decimate someone is vastly different than trying to protect the population.  Such overreach makes valid arguments (and there are some) not worthy of being heard. The children in Auschwitz were never treated as children but adults and many would throw their bodies at the electric fences to escape the daily fear of the gas chambers and crematoriums.  Keeping order on our borders is not the same as purposeful slaughter of a group of people because of their religious beliefs. It seems like a secondary offense to compare the two. It’s another way to water down what truly happened and change the narrative of history. The lamentations from those camps are still being sung and voiced today. I think that is appropriate and necessary, lest we forget.

All of this stirred in my heart as I read this precious book. During this time frame, we were given a magnet for our fridge that reads:

The Most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity; and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Lamentations gives us a picture of what Jeremiah endured and what the people faced in the exile. It is heavy reading and makes for tough devotional material – until you get to chapter three:

Yet this I call to mind (remember, reflect, bring into my heart)
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love (Mercy) we are not consumed (destroyed, vanquished),
    for His compassions (tender love, root of this word says it is like a womb that holds a fetus) never fail.   
                           Note the description of God here- that’s the definition of compassion!

                           With this definition, our nation should be in lament and grief.
23 They are new (restoring and refreshing) every morning, (every sunrise);
    great (vast, many, enough) is your faithfulness (truth, fidelity, steadfastness).
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion (award, reward, land);
    therefore I will wait for Him.”  25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,
    to the one who seeks Him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Jeremiahs secret and certainly Viktor Frankl and others in the Holocaust was to remember God’s past works and to trust in God’s deliverance and love. When we remember, when we recount God’s goodness, when we look forward to His salvation, we have HOPE. Trusting God starts with knowing God. While we may never understand why God does what He does, we can trust His character. Herman Gunkel once said, “If God is predictable then He is a tool of humans.” God retains the holy prerogative to heal and bruise as He chooses and that free will keeps us from being trapped in a robotic world of fate. When we surrender our ultimate destiny to a loving God, we are free to work in His kingdom. What we fear the most – death, is no longer our ultimate fear because we have surrendered to a God we believe makes only righteous decisions. Wrestling with these concepts emboldens us to serve a God who is anything but tame. It also ignites passion in us that the world has rarely seen. According to Luke 18:1, we are invited to pray and even appeal to God for changes in the outcome. He remains unchanging; we connect with His divine will as co-laborers in a divine exchange of mercy, favor and grace.

 

Steve Leder, a Rabbi in one of the largest synagogues in America wrote a book, “More Beautiful than Before” and it speaks directly to suffering and ministering to people who are in lament. It starts off with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “there is a crack in everything.” It continues with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Courage is not having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have the strength. The rest of the book is filled with stories and deeply personal revelations of years ministering to those crushed by chronic pain, death and sorrow. It is an excellent resource for ministers and chaplains who grapple with these tough questions every day.  It made Lamentations come alive for me in a new way. Crushed people somehow know how to bring spiritual glue to others, it comes no other way.

The apostle Paul said it this way, 10 “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation (fellowship) in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  Many want the resurrection before they have entered into the suffering. It’s a grave without a cross experience and it is hollow. My husband noted that the hollow grave culture strives to retire into complacency with the status quo, but the purpose is all self-indulgent. It’s not for the divine purpose of the kingdom.  Big difference. He said his bigger fear is living in complacency and safety. Jeremiah didn’t have to go to Babylon. His foresight through prophecy warned him of what was to come- he went anyway. He had an inkling and a word that things were not going to turn out as he hoped or planned – he went anyway. God was not caught off guard, diminished or forgetful. He knew the plans He had for Jeremiah and His people. I love it when the unchanging God changes things to bring about a holy change for His purposes. His  story is filled with those occurrences.

So, what will we do with this book? Its prescription:

That we continually remember and call to mind the deeds of the Lord.

 

Its healing solution is that we wait on the Lord and place our hope (grounded in Gods’ track record and fulfilled by His presence and promises) in Christ. Jeremiah wasn’t an ivory tower preacher or television star spouting out platitudes. He wasn’t dressing for success –his linens were buried in dirty rocks, remember? We can look at his life and identify with the call to proclaim God’s heart. We can look at his life and understand that doing so will bring on persecution that may cost our jobs or even our lives. So what!  Our direction and calling do not come from man’s hand but from God’s. Ultimately, as we hope for God and wait on Him, justice will shine like the noonday sun. Eternally, God will be pleased and if that is our ultimate goal, nothing else really matters.

 

Lament, arise, proclaim,

RenaeRoche 2019

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it weird how the players in these stories become more real as you get older? I feel like Jeremiah is a relative from back in the day. Each time I read this book penned by him I feel like I get to see him just a little bit better, a little closer up.  He was called early on, given visions that no one understood in the moment but would later come to know that God Himself had spoken through him. His prophecies are so spot on and fulfilled, they are mentioned throughout the New Testament. He’s a Biblical prophet and hero, but it wasn’t always like that.

Jeremiah was pretty vocal about his faith. He believed with all of his heart that those who loved God needed to set aside the Sabbath to worship and honor Him. He was glad the Book of the law had been discovered and reformation had come but deeply sad that people were doing rituals from obligation instead of from the heart. He wrote much about the importance of putting God first. Instead of suggesting just people straighten up, he called them to “repent”! That never seems to go over very well I’ve found. Whether it was spelling out judgements or telling people to break up their fallow ground, he was concerned that they would miss God’s heart. Jeremiah did not just have a small vision for his family; he was concerned about an entire nation that was seeking other gods. Wiersbe says he reminds him of Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Jeremiah and his writings remind us that God does not look favorably on our sin. When the nations changed gods, as frequently as they changed their togas, it broke God’s heart. When the people followed with lip service and not with their whole hearts it grieved the righteous God. Jeremiah wanted to be faithful to deliver God’s word but probably did not count the cost to him personally. One guy threw him in a pit filled with mud, leaving him there to starve to death. He was accused of being a liar and a manipulator by people convicted of their own shortcomings and sin. The more Jeremiah stood up for God’s law, the more he was hated. His best life was not now, but it was more mature than then.

I love hearing God’s instructions and plans but this time around I identified with this weeping prophet. He didn’t set out to be rejected, he really was trying to follow after God. Things turned out much differently than he planned. He empathized so much with the people he was serving that he kind of lost his own identity and took up God’s, at least long enough to prophesy to them. The more he tried, the less results he got, the less they loved him, the smaller his circle of friends.

While worship should have started in the home and become a source of stability and bonding, the families of Jeremiahs day started accepting and worshipping idols. They were very syncretistic. Not only did it become acceptable but people were promoting it. I never thought I’d see the day where idols were more popular than Jesus but check out the home décor in Target,  Marshalls and that’s what you will find. God is a jealous God and those who serve Him are asked to serve Him alone. How much has crept in when we were unaware? How much has crept into our lives when we were? Like boiling a frog, it happens one degree at a time and no one notices. Jeremiah rebuked those who knew and those who were caught off guard and called them to re-surrender, return and repent to a holy God. He stood his ground and would not get off that topic. Did he miss their slams and innuendos due to mental deficiency or possibly  was he just decidedly going to serve a God that required absolute loyalty?

Though being expelled from the temple, thrown in a pit, depressed, fearful and weary, Jeremiah clung to a God who He believed had all power, authority and answers.  I wonder if Jeremiah was sheltered from fighting while in his mud bath? Sheltered from danger?  Jeremiah was on “papers”, a prisoner and yet God was not hindered from speaking to him even in his darkness. He would foreshadow another prophet that “wept” revealing not only his humanness but the Father’s heart.  My husband noted that God ALWAYS had Jeremiahs best interest in mind, even when circumstances obscured Jeremiahs view.

Jeremiah shows us a range of emotions – anger, fear, depression, sorrow.  He probably questioned why the wicked were prospering, why the bad guys seemed to be winning.  Wiersbe (Be Decisive, p.63) states “God’s reply to Jeremiah, however, wasn’t what he expected. God’s focus was not on the wicked; it was on the servant Jeremiah. As most of us do when we’re suffering Jeremiah was asking, “How can I get out of this?” But he should have been asking, “What can I get out of this?”

 

 “God’s servants don’t live by explanations; they live by promises.”

 

“Understanding explanations may satisfy our curiosity and make us smarter people, but laying hold of God’s promises will build our character and make us better servants. “

This wonderful book of the Bible has been quoted thru the years. We all love to land on the text “For I know the plans I have for YOU declares the Lord, plans to prosper, not to harm you.” It feels good, it sounds good, and it looks good on graduation plaques. The context for it however is much more expanded. Speak for God, endure criticism, live for God, get thrown in mud and out of the temple. Messy, exiled, alone. That just doesn’t sound right. No wonder no one wants to model Jeremiah for a business school or ministry success training. “You too can get stabbed in the back for just 19.99- just prophesy to someone who doesn’t want to listen, call now.” Wouldn’t go over well – unless the One you are trying to please is God. Then it works, then it makes sense.

I believe in God and loving Him alone. I believe in family – worshipping together a holy God and bonding over His promises. I believe in a nation that honors God and rejects following other loves. Just writing that feels a bit scary as not everyone agrees with those thoughts and values. I would much rather be celebrated than stoned however I would also rather stand alone than go with the crowd that denies Christ and His power. The one who stands alone for God stands in Good company.

Religion won’t get us into Heaven, nor will following rituals. Remembering God and making Him a priority does not earn us salvation but it does promote joy and satisfaction. Laws and rules don’t gain entrance to the throne but delighting in God through relationship yields eternal results on this earth and in Heaven.  Choosing God’s ways is not easy short term, but brings LIFE and PEACE long term.

Let me know if you hold these values, if your life is postured to repent and love with your whole heart, soul and mind. I could be wrong but I’d rather live under a bridge connected to the One who flung the stars in space than have full access to a Temple where He said He would not dwell. God’s ways are not popular or for the faint-hearted and are often very at odds with our plans for the future.

 

However, they are best –because God knows best.

 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you seek ME with ALL your heart14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” These Promises that were backed by the ONE who saw and heard everything.

May we be faithful like Jeremiah, faithful to the Word, faithful to the Lord, faithful to God’s process and may God give us the strength to endure, as we carry out His plan.

Renae Roche 2019

                                Isaiah

I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites but this is mine. This one book nestled in the middle of the Old Testament declares the entire book of the Bible in a nutshell. It’s poetic, prophetic and showcases God’s heart. We believe the main author is Isaiah whose name means – the Lord is salvation. It is the most quoted book in the New Testament. “The Lord is salvation” – not church attendance, tithing, good works or anything we do, it’s Gods’ work in Christ.

 A story comes to mind that I will risk sharing here. It is the night when I was licensed to preach the Gospel. My family was too far away to come so I went to the ceremony with a couple girlfriends from My Bible College. As we drove along I got more nervous. I was greatly concerned that I would never again be able to smoke. Those who struggle with this addiction may sympathize with me but I had never smoked a cigarette. I vowed to God I would not drink and increasingly grew more stricken with the thought that I was dedicating my life to Christ and would lay down forever the “right” to drink as that was the commitment I was making to preach the Gospel. In my young foolish mind I thought serving God was about what I would do, heroically giving God my life. How would I last my whole life without drinking a beer, sipping a margarita?  At first I did not dare share with the others in the car what I was struggling with. I was tempted with things I did not know even existed which should have tipped me off that there was another battle in place. When I discussed this with my friends they were not making the same vows and thought it odd that I was. Kissing came next and I’ll leave that off this website but you get the idea. As we drove through the dark night of Minnesota, I kept counting the cost and focusing on what things I chose to lay down to be used by the Lord. At the time it seemed like such a HUGE sacrifice I was making for the Lord. I worried my life would not be lived to the fullest. I did not realize that salvation is not laying down our lives but taking up HIS life.

On that journey a big semi-truck darted in front of us. We had no choice but to read the words scrawled on the back of that very dirty truck – “He whose mind is stayed on thee will be kept in perfect peace.” The rest of that passage left off the truck states – because s/he trusts in YOU (Isaiah 26:3)  The debate, the struggle, the temptations quickly faded away as I realized I was not leaving behind wonderful things, fun things (or even things I had ever done or tried), I was moving towards something- or more accurately SOMEONE. Peace not only flooded my mind but flooded that car. My mind and spirit went higher than temporary pleasures. “God, I lay down lesser things so I can understand you as the MORE.” I have never regretted that decision. While my license to preach was to commit to the Word and the Body, I also laid down my life and asked God to help me take up HIS. It was a serious commitment for my entire life – not just for a piece of paper from a religious organization. My choice to lay down other freedoms was something I did out of a willing heart – not because any denomination or group asked me to. That choice has led to an increasing hunger for God, taken me around the Globe to witness people coming to Christ, to church meetings where I’ve seen amazing things, to neighborhoods where miracles have happened. I didn’t exchange that for a glass of beer (nor do I fault people that don’t have that same conviction) but I did set apart my life for God to have every second available for His purposes possible. It was a commitment of my heart to let Him sanctify me for His purposes. That’s about relationship- not ministry.

Isaiah gives us the prime example of the Suffering servant. He laid down His life, suffered and was bruised for our iniquities and took on our guilt and shame. My favorite chapter is 53 where we find Jesus was silent, “He opened not His mouth” choosing instead for God to vindicate Him which He did – big time. I have some awesome mentors and teachers that have taught me through the years but this is the best example – Jesus. He laid down His reputation, His rights, His destiny, everything He was or wanted to be and picked up instead — My sin, our sin, their sin. He was in His prime, His ministry was front and center, He was on the fast track and then He lays it ALL down and takes on the sin, shame and punishment of people who clearly did not deserve it. Death seemed like a very unlikely achievement – at the time. Giving up His rightful place in “ministry” for a bunch of scoundrels seemed self-defeating – at the time.  His promotion was nails, blood, sweat and tears. The only flow in His career was blood trickling down an old rugged cross. He didn’t walk a line for graduation; they drug him through the crowd. The marks on his “vessel” were not degrees but nail scarred hands. The only commencement was demons gathering to jeer and scowl. Only Heaven saw angels gathering near to usher this righteous one home.

He didn’t do it for a title – though they put one there instead of His name.  Instead of His day it was Yahweh’s day. He didn’t do it for money – in fact all the money he had was spent and the blood money spilled out in a field like a game. He didn’t do it to look Holy – they criticized and mocked and there was great shame.

I think in the midst of this book, in the midst of Jesus life was more than  just ministry or acclaim – as His head hung down, as his legs went lame, Jesus had a question, like the broken, bloody criminals beside Him, it was the same – where are you God, why have you forsaken ME? That question outlasts and out screams all others. Where are You God when I’ve made You my life, my all? Why am I forsaken when I’ve defended your name? Are my minor sacrifices enough to show you my heart or are you wanting me instead to see YOURS? In the midst of serving God, in the midst of denying all other Gods, what are you asking me to do and where will YOU, and I… be in the end?

What we lay down is not of utmost importance. What we do with our hands and our hearts is not of utmost importance. How we live our days or our lives is not of utmost importance. What brings us peace, in the moment, in the life is our connection with God, knowing He is there, with us each and every day. We receive Your love Lord; You have loved us and will NEVER, EVER go away. THAT bloodied One – took on my sin and shame. ALL my righteousness He covered, yes even my blame. There is nothing I can offer that He has not already done, all my trophies and achievements in His sacrifice, HE HAS WON.

Isaiah is a book that teaches us God’s heart, God’s ways. It predicts the cross and how it works as a SOLUTION for the world’s sin. It also displays God’s son bringing that peace and beauty to a world marred by sin. I brought my bruised heart and weary soul to this book; I dragged near my offenses and grudges. They did not bear any weight after looking into the mirror of this text. One week was not enough to glean all the lessons it affords.

Peace is not what we lay down. Peace is not what we give up. Peace is not what we predict or suppose. Peace is the life of Christ, bridging our lives to the Fathers through the pain and suffering this ONE demonstrated for then and now. His abdication of rights yielded promise, His suffering yielded victory. I want to reject notions of “my” ministry or suffering and take up HIS. The righteousness, holiness… even the government is on His shoulders.

Jesus, we look to You to see Peace, to model Peace, to seek Peace, to receive Peace.

Shalom and Amen, RenaeRoche2019

Song of Songs

I’m not one to put my hubby and I on Facebook. I read a survey one time that said that couples that do that are less happy than those who don’t. the next day this couple who put their whole engagement on a social website got in a fight and the guy murdered his spouse. I told my husband, “we’re going to be together forever.” When he asked me why, I told him that story. I figured if we didn’t put anything up that ensured great success. Lol.  He’s just not a poster kind of guy.

So, in an effort to be romantic I cut up apples one Saturday morning and displayed them on a fancy plate. I read this in Song of Songs and figured it would yield similar results.  “Come here”, I seductively said to my husband. He muttered something about being busy then sat down. Not only was he not interested in my fair apples but emphatically told me he had just had coffee and they would probably curdle his stomach. This was not going well. It certainly did not evoke poetry from my heart. The kids also did not get why they could not have these special cut apples. It was nothing like in the movies at all.

So, after several attempts to reduplicate the lovely book in scripture I confessed my plan. I was thinking he would be touched and then tell me how rosy my checks were and how much like a gazelle I am, blessing his life with my feminine beauty. I think he said something about needing to be at an appointment and thanked me for the gesture. I smiled at him with my shorn like sheep teeth and said “goodbye, my love, adieu.” Clearly I had missed some cues along the way and my Saturday attempt at being provocative had gone unnoticed. I wondered if a special perfume would have aided this little project in some way. I think I heard him tell the kids on his way out to “help mom eat up those apples – she’s acting strange.”

To the romantic, or newly married– this book evokes images of lovemaking and romance. To the seasoned couples we note the godly characteristics and note that faithfulness is much more than fleeting youthful lust. This time when I read this book there was a new appreciation. The favorite word and imperative is;

DRAW

It means to beckon to come close or near. Won’t you come closer? Just like I wanted to spend time with my husband and have his full attention, God is wanting us to call Him to draw near. Sometimes we ignore Him, sometimes we keep Him at a distance, other times we come close only to flee away at the first hint of distraction. It’s been my prayer this week: “Draw me Lord”. Is it possible for us to actually pray for hunger? Do our prayers help increase that sense of longing for the Lord? `

The passage on shadowing our love –  was awesome. The language of this book is amazing and each verse brings us closer and closer to this beautiful love story. Without the urgency though, to come closer, without the bidding to not run away… it just would not be the same.

How much do we long for our love? Is it youthful zeal like when we first came to Christ? I’ve known my husband for 13 years now and I respect and love him now more than ever. His integrity, wisdom, kindness and character inspire and bless me daily. Although holding his hand still thrills me, the youthful starry eyed girl has transformed into a trusting, grateful spouse. While I don’t often see him as a running buck, he certainly resembles a doting father and faithful partner and that is poetic in my heart. Even though we love each other I still have to come near, beckon him to come close and we have to make sure the other knows we are committed and want to be with each other.

My appeal to you, to myself, to believers everywhere is to call out to God today and everyday – not a  paragraph full but just one little word that will open the Heavens and beckon God near:

DRAW

Draw me into your presence Lord, into Your courts. Draw me from my sin shame and wretchedness and draw me to your loving side. Draw me to your character, love and Kingdom. Draw me till all that I am is wrapped around all that You are gentle Shepherd.

So, this wordy author leaves you with this longing, holy thought:

Without a call, there can be no response

Without a yearning, there can be no satisfaction.

Your Bridegroom waits for your desire, your passion… what will you say to Him in this moment?

Draw me, draw me after you, draw me into Your chambers Lord.

That is where we want to be, that is where we want to stay.

Draw us… and we will run after you.

RenaeRoche2019

Ps. Keep praying this one little word, He loves to answer your prayer!  D R A W

Draw me, draw me Lord and I will run after you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed3PzxlMGiU      Draw me Lord/ Myron Williams

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes is the title of the book we are studying this week. Its name means an address to an assembly. Solomon, the aged preacher and King is sharing his life of experience and wisdom with us. I love this book and I’m reminded of my choir teacher in High School who had us sing “Remember now they Creator”. It was not popular even back then, yet he taught it and we sang it in the auditorium for graduation. It guided my life and I’m thankful for his courage and wisdom.

Different commentators believe various themes are seen in this book and there is not one common one to share. I will share with you my take on it after studying Sabbath rest. Resting in God is important and a theme throughout the entire Bible. Here we see the man who built God’s house, who labored for Him telling us how to work and live. It is powerful against the backdrop of that message. Consider the following scriptural clusters:

Ecclesiastes    רָאָה  (To enjoy)  ra’ ah (To open eyes, look, gaze, behold)

2:24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 

3:13   And also that every man should eat, drink and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.

5:18-20 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God

8:15   So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

9:7-10 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 

After reading this it’s hard to say it was a passing thought. Our puritan minds resist concepts like this because God has often been portrayed as being “no fun” or harsh. In reality, He is warm, loving and compassionate. Enjoyment, rest and delight are His signature. Why do we live as though the opposite is true?

Men, women toil all their lives and give their best to their jobs only to be laid off, fired, replaced. It is a good thing to work as unto the Lord. It is meaningless to make work our goal and serve mammon.

Some people work and never feel the satisfaction of a hard days work. They build a savings, pay bills but laughter, enjoyment and delight are not part of the equation. In all this the gift of God is missing. If hard work is a gift, then enjoyment of that hard work is also a gift. Why do some enjoy, and others detest going to work?

I still believe we are to rest and enjoy God at the beginning of the week, getting saturated and refreshed. When we walk that input into our week in our work it becomes the gift of God as we manage the tithe of time over the next 6 days.

A story comes to mind – the Allegory of the Long Spoons. It was told by Rabbi Haim Roshishok. For space, I am summarizing it:

A bunch of people end up in hell and they are seated after days of not eating at a long banquet table filled with choice food and desserts. They are thrilled and await their serving utensils. When they are handed out they are long spoons. They try to pick up the food only to be disappointed that they cannot maneuver them. The spoons are too long to feed oneself. The event turns into a fight with no one getting fed or satisfied, all angry at one another. They die of starvation. Their lack of cooperation and collaboration blinds them to the others hunger and turns their blessing into death.

The people in Heaven in contrast, happily share their utensils and work together to accomplish what they need to do. They create a pleasant, cooperative environment to work in and that produces health for all. They serve each other with joy, making sure each person gets what they need. Their cooperation insures that each person not only gets fed but enjoys the process and all rejoice together at the wonderful feast set before them.

I like Rabbi Roshishok. His story is paraphrased here but represents a whole lot more than “teamwork makes the dreamwork”. Striving, ambition, beating one another down to get positions, aiming for success while ignoring family or God = is all vanity and meaningless. It doesn’t build God’s kingdom but tears down all hope. In contrast those who remember their Creator, those who enjoy food, drink, life, God and especially their loving wife = now that’s a gift supersized by God Himself.

Stoicism, legalism, rigidity leave us cold and bitter. Hedonism, lust, extreme pleasure leave us shamed, filthy and depressed.

Somewhere in the middle – is hard work, enjoying life and God and rejoicing with others on a similar journey. Solomon would have firsthand knowledge of all of this and in his writings, he points out wisdom that someone who had lived in both extremes could speak to.

I hope today, possibly tomorrow if it’s available to you, that you eat some good grub, drink something refreshing that won’t cause you to sin and that you delight in what God has given you to do for a living. Then on the weekend – chillax a bit. This is the gift of God.

Oh, and if you need help with your long spoon, I’ll be available and maybe in turn you can help me with mine.

Ecclesiastes is not quoted in the New Testament. Possibly because Jesus reinterpreted the “meal” that brings joy and satisfies:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad (enjoy/rejoice) together.  John 4:34[1]

So glad God is known for His compassion and not just compliance. So glad this is the character of the God we serve.

RenaeRoche2019

 

[1] For full sermon on this scripture see Crossroad Assembly of God Facebook page Sunday 5/26/19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love old sayings and adages. Told to us in childhood, they tend to stick and sometimes we mistakenly think they are scripture. My mom used to say, “oh what a web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”  I think my mom was the most honest person I’ve ever known. She just did not have an ounce of fraud in her. Until I grew older and had kids of my own did I realize what a true gift that was in a relationship. Integrity was the foundation for everything she did and that gave us a compass to live by. Another saying she often said was “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” We lived in a city but to me that meant things can change so rely on things that are certain. Then there’s “the early bird gets the worm.” One day I woke up and thought, first off, I don’t want a worm and secondly, I want to sleep in! Then I became a mom….  Little birds need worms. When we started getting up at 5:00 AM that wisdom made a lot of sense. Now in my older years I’m starting to understand the mama wisdom she passed on. Oh, for one more day to be able to thank her for all of her “wisdom”.

The book of Proverbs is also called the “writings”. Many are written by Solomon, some by another author. There are 30 of these wise sayings that give us moral lines to live by. As a teenager someone told me that if I read one per day that would equal an entire month and when I grew up I would have a system of integrity built into my mind. Year after year I’ve read the Proverbs and I haven’t memorized many of them but every once in a while, when I get in a sticky situation one or two will pop up. Here are a few that I’m especially fond of:

Prov. 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

When you are a child or even a teen that doesn’t make much sense but now looking back at some of the paths I’ve seen people take– it shouts with wisdom. Rather than following God on a trajectory to Heaven, sin can distract, detain and even end a life of promise and blessing. I see tragedies like this every day. Straight paths are a blessing and a life centered on God, even though it has bumps and twists in the road glorifies God. The pathway is paved with blessings and favor, despite difficulties.

Sometimes we think we are doing “wise” things but they aren’t Biblical, just human reasoning. I think of good old family advice too. Once I saw my grandmother making Thanksgiving turkey. She took the bird to the sink and poured in a cup of coffee. When I got older I used the “secret recipe” and added coffee making the flavor of my bird robust. Proudly I shared with grandma that I was following in her tradition and wanted to thank her for passing it on. Grandma was horrified. Grandma had never done that before. Then she realized one year she poured her coffee down the sink only to realize that the sink was empty but holding the thanksgiving bird that was cooling off!  We have a tradition but instead of it being my grandmas secret it is now my secret and mistake. Lol. Other families pass down their “traditions” of holidays, perhaps driving while intoxicated, family fights or feuds. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is common sense, what is Biblical and what is absolute nonsense. That’s where Proverbs can help us. Chapter One tells us what they are for and their importance and yet many live day to day without ever getting the gold stored therein:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

 

I’m no longer a teen… but I still needs God’s wisdom and guidance. The more I branch out to seek God’s will and direction, the more these Proverbs will help by bringing understanding.

 

Lord, open our hearts, minds and spirits to gain Your wisdom and to walk in Your ways. We need Your mind on matters more than ever before. Lead us by Your Spirit, Your word and these Proverbs we pray.

Amen.

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

G

This weekend I went to Hobby Lobby to get something and encountered all kinds of people getting presents for Mother’s day. One particular family stood out – it was a  father and a little boy probably about five years old. The dad was asking his son what he wanted to get his mama. He pronounced boldly, “I would like to get her an owl feeder. Do you think they have owl feeders? ” I wanted to say “go next door to PetSmart and get a couple mice and they’ll come” but I resisted the urge and went on. 

 

Life is full of options isn’t it? Our moms had a way of pointing towards the better ones such as you can sit and shiver OR you can go put a sweater on.  You can lick that cake batter spoon and get a tummy ache OR you can wait till the cupcakes come out of the oven and have one. Maybe there were bigger decisions she shed some wisdom on like you can fear going to school tomorrow to face that mean ol bully OR you can trust God to make a way of deliverance for you.  You can stay In the dark about God’s will for your life OR you can ask Him for guidance and direction. Life is just full of options we can choose OR we can surrender those choices to the Lords will for His glory.

 

While reading the book of Psalms this past week I found another OWR – it’s the Hebrew word for light. It looks like this:  אוֹר     OWR

What it means is: Lightening, brightness and serene countenance, happiness, morning dawn, lamp, instruction and teaching. David used this word in Psalm 27 when he was talking about the Lord. He said, “The Lord is my OWR (light) and my salvation. He’s our OR (OWR).

Our family watched Thomas The Disciple after studying this and in that movie, the guard watching Jesus’ tomb sees a bright light in the night that changes his life forever. Though the guard was loyal to the Romans, after encountering that light made a choice to follow Christ. This Light of the world – it illumines our sin and Lord. We can press towards eternity daily. Isaiah talked about those who sat in darkness… have seen a great light!  Oh to embrace that light as being for us, willing to save, shield and illumine our way. People all around the world light candles to join in anticipating Messiah – we eagerly await!

David goes on to write that God is also our salvation (deliverance, aid, rescue, safety, welfare) and strength, the (place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold) of whom shall I be afraid? He goes on to write about his enemies and battles but then boldly proclaims that even in the midst of battles he will be confident.  David, the singer has a much different definition of confident than modern day singer Demi Lovato. He means confidence as putting ones trust not in oneself but in Jehovah, trusting in God, being secure in God and putting His hope in God. Self-confidence is momentary, God-confidence is eternal.

One thing I ask from the Lord,  this only do I seek:  (verb here means to actively, passionately pursue)
that I may dwell (remain, stay) in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty (delight, pleasantness, grace, favor) of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. This isn’t just go to Sunday and hear a couple tunes or even to worship for an hour. This is to Inquire: ponder, reflect, plough, break forth, inspect, admire, consider who God is and what He has done. This PROCESS as a lifestyle brings David great confidence because he intimately knows the God he seeks. He’s getting to know God, reflecting on His goodness, pondering His greatness, enjoying His pleasantness, grace and favor.

Our culture often showcases self-made people, amplifies players and movers and shakers as if that was a sign of success. The song “Bad to the Bone” comes to mind. Those who define themselves and promote themselves seem to rise to the top. Yet David had success and focused on the Lord. Quite the opposite arenas. He wanted to be strong in the Lord – not himself. He knew his real source of strength.

For in the day of trouble
    He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at His sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music (a whole bunch) to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;                         all imperatives !!!
  be merciful to me and
 answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek His face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide Your face from me,
    do not turn Your servant away in anger;
    You have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.

I recently lost my dad and several years ago lost my mom . They were wonderful people and gave me a solid foundation in life. They were kind and honest. There absence has left a hole in my heart. One day that was especially filled with grief made me question where God was in all this. I felt kind of orphaned, abandoned. Does God understand this type of pain I wondered? This next verse was especially helpful to me and brought much comfort going into Mothers’ Day:

10 Though my father and mother forsake  (leave or fail) me,
    the Lord will receive me. (Gather, bring up the rear, assemble others around me).

I’m not sure exactly how –but there seems to be a promise there that HE will be our family and provide family for us when we are alone. That’s amazing. I’ve experienced that through our church and also in special encounters along the way. God should get His own day just for that! He’s Worthy of celebration.

11 Teach me Your way, Lord; (cause me to be taught PLEASE — imperative)
   You must lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me, (Slanderers) 
    spouting malicious accusations  (certainly anxiety producing if we allow it).

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.                         Long-term HOPE

14 WAIT  for the Lord:
 imperative– To eagerly wait, hope for, linger, expect, tarry
    BE                             (Courageous, be of good courage- imperative)
 and He will strengthen your heart.
    and WAIT  for the Lord.         imperative – Double packed twice, really important!

David’s wisdom is poured forth in song and he has given us some great options to the times and trials in our lives. We can fear trials OR we can trust God. We can walk in darkness OWR we can choose the Light. We can be shaky OR we can be confident in God. We can rush around doing our own thing only to fail OR we can WAIT on God and be strengthened.

Good options – choose you this day whom you will serve.

Happy Gods’ Family day! RenaeRoche2019

PS. Bless all of you who celebrate this week and also those who mourn – you WILL be comforted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Happens and is rarely fair. In our culture we see temper tantrums every day. Things don’t go the way we want, and we blame everybody and everything. The political arena has really been like that recently. People who used to be able to “ride the bumps” of life are going off the deep end. It seems that our “reserve” just isn’t what it used to be. I think that is why the book of JOB is more relevant than ever. I like the heart of this man who lost everything. It strikes me as odd that God showcases those with pain, disappointment and suffering to teach us. The Bible could be God’s collection of successful preachers and prophets. Like a winner’s guild or training posse. Instead we see train wrecks and nervous traveling ministers with sketchy backgrounds as his workers. Interesting, isn’t it? Let’s see how he responded to grief:
         1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and cried till his head hurt? No, not exactly. It ends with and  

“gave himself to worship.”

That means he gave it ALL in worship, holding nothing back. That is shocking. Even normal grief says you cry and fuss a while.  Now my curiosity is piqued. How? How is it that this man’s response and reaction to devastation and suffering is so unique and beautiful? I think he must have developed an intimate relationship with God beforehand. Worship would not have been my first thought. He punched the wall, he drank, he screamed, he kicked the cat, yes. Worship? It almost seems foreign, yet this godly man knew exactly what to do in a time of trial. I’ve only seen that response once or twice in my life but when it happens you connect with Heaven.

We like to spiritualize. When hard times come our way maybe we go to church or read a few more scriptures but Job threw himself into worship – the wholehearted praise of God. He didn’t first take a day of vacation or get everyone’s input. He goes to his ONE Source – God. Not a priest, prophet, leader or spouse but God Himself. He went to the One who could make a difference. Maybe this book is not about Job. Maybe this book isn’t even about his suffering. Like Esther where God is not mentioned but we see God’s sovereignty, maybe this is a book that talks a lot about God, yet it is about Him being Lord.

Let’s check his friends out:

2:13 “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” Those are amazing friends if they can listen and keep silent for that long! At first, they didn’t try to fix Job – they just listened. That’s a rare gift to find someone to sit with you in your pain and just share your heart. Job was closest to his divine friend: 16:19 “my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend. Job goes on to declare who this friend is: Job 19, “I know that my redeemer lives,
 and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

This may be key to everything – this suffering WILL END. There WILL come a day where torment stops and we encounter GOD Himself. Hope increases.

While many commentaries focus on what Job lost, it is interesting to me to realize what he first had. Surely God’s favor had been on him before tragedy struck: Job 29; “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, then my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.”

It seems that what Job missed most, what Job wanted most, what Job sought for most – was God’s friendship to be restored. He knew God as friend, so he could turn to HIM. He knew God was good, so he could worship Him. I think the greater suffering is not having hope that things will get better or knowing what that would be like. Job knew what was possible because he had been close to God in the past. He could picture in his mind what restoration and return looked like. His point of reference, his baseline, his life was wrapped around God.

The middle chapters of Job are good but wearisome as his friends do some intervention type meetings that fall short. He calls them worthless physicians, everyone. I like this poem that one of my supervisors shared with us this week:

A New Serenity Prayer
By Fr. James Martin, SJThe Jesuit Post

Nov.10, 2012 

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen

 

I need this. Job’s friends need this. Maybe… someone sitting next to you needs this?  After reading it I read this in Job: “Job 37. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. 24 Therefore, people revere Him…”

Giving our whole selves in worship no matter what the circumstance, sitting with people in silence, hearing God speak over the shouts and screams of our suffering may take a lifetime to understand. We often hear about the patience or perseverance of Job. I’d like to tweak that just a bit. After studying this book, I think it speaks to my heart more like this, “the posture of Job”. I want that. I need that, because it seems that everything else is irrelevant if we have that one thing in place. God is BIG, WISE, Wonderful. I’m not Him, nor do I speak for Him or direct Him. Oh, the POSTURE of Job.

The song that ministered to me while studying this book was I’m listening by Chris McClarney and Hollyn. I want to hear Him, I want Him to hear me. I want to hear others and pray for them to the God that hears all. The next book we study is Psalms. If our hearts are postured before God, the praises and worship can flow. Wow, God’s word is so connected, and its purpose is to bend our hearts to God’s will.

So, Lord:

We posture our hearts, lives and will before You now.

You are the Lord God Almighty and we surrender to YOU. We are listening, listening, listening.

We are ready to hear and obey. We don’t want to miss one word YOU speak, so quiet our hearts we are

LISTENING.

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

“Another immigrant. She came to our country from God knows where (literally) and wins the grand prize and beauty competition. She must have spent a lot on all that perfume and make-up. What’s she got that I don’t? Then she gets chosen to be the queen and she is sweet but she won’t be as grounded and liberal as Vashti. Imagine that! She’s not even originally from here. I think she’s just another pretty face, using her beauty to get to the top. Let’s shut her out, she’s not one of us for sure.”

We don’t know what the women of Persia said but the above paragraph might be pretty close. We don’t know if she was scared, scrawny or sick. All we know is that she had a praying older cousin named Mordecai. His Hebrew name meant warrior and the Talmud lists him as a “prophet”. What was so great about this exiled older relative? Why didn’t the book get named after him?  I mean by tradition and because of his lineage it would normally be a guys name. The Targum says he was from the birth line of Mephibosheth which was a relative of Jonathon and King Saul. In Israel he would have been quite popular but here – he’s just another Jewish guy sitting by the Kings gate. Did he sit there longing for the good ol days? Was he there praying for the Temple and Kingdom back home to be restored? Were the 60 years missing in Ezra and Nehemiah being fulfilled as he sat and prayed?

Two things stood out to me as we read this book this week. Overall, God’s sovereignty and the power of prayer is seen. Anyone who thinks God isn’t in this book doesn’t know Him or His people because He is everywhere! The first thing was that wine and drinking were mentioned quite a bit. After reading Nehemiah and the importance of the cup bearer this became clear. Nehemiah was called more often a eunuch or castrated one than he was a cup bearer. He really gave his all to protect the King and help his people. Go back and read the mention of wine and insert an extra person and it makes more sense. The king left his wine…    true but the cupbearer would have stayed there. Who was that guy and is that where we get the rest of the story and validity to Esther as she talked to Haman? Who shows up and puts a hood over Hamans head?  Why was that part redacted? These unwritten guys seem to do an awful lot of work behind the scenes. How many of them came forward for such a time as this? Ready instant in season and out plays  out for many men and women in this book.  There are several guy heroes yet Esther is the star. Are we ready for God’s appointment for us in our generation? Will we be found faithful doing what He has called us to do? It just seems that those who are in step with mundane, insignificant things step into being a “star” not by planning to be front and center but by walking into obedience to the Lord. Fame comes with a steep price but faithfulness… that’s something very different for a martyr, a child of God. On the other side of death comes success. On the other side for taking a stand for Christ comes either persecution or victory. Some walk into grandiose glory as they obey God and others get beheaded. Hebrews 11 and 12 declare that some don’t get a reward until Heaven. I wish we could to choose which one of those we got. It’s hard to  choose the joy of Heaven when we haven’t seen it. Many are afraid not to die but to struggle or suffer in pain until they get there. I recently read the end of the lives of the disciples and was shaken at how NOT ready I am to suffer like they did. Boiled alive, beaten, thrown down a cliff, Esther was not merely being bold she was risking her life. Her precious life, her only life. Her parents would NOT be proud of her on that day. Why?

Esther was an orphan. No mom, no dad. There would be no one to walk her down the aisle or mourn that she was exiled to another country. No one to give her that woman talk when she married a Persian king. Mordecai stepped up to honor God and give her a heritage. He committed to pray for her. While everyone else celebrated the wealth, Mordecai would have been mortified that she married a Gentile. So he prayed, and prayed and prayed. When we adopt orphans we give them a new heritage, a new name. No longer are they on the trajectory of their birth but they are positioned for blessing from the prayers of their new parent(s). Mordecai marked Esther (The star) for God. Mordecai would have prayed God’s blessings over her. Mordecai would have asked God to use her for His glory and their people. Boy, did he not fully see what he was praying for? They were words, words he meant but did he realize how big, how bold, how prophetic those words really were in those days?

Our friends are celebrating the adoption of their little girl today. We had to stay home and finish some funeral arrangements and family things so we could not attend. I was so disappointed as I had prayed for that day for over a year. I pictured in my mind the shoes, the dresses, the books that would be carefully wrapped and tied with a bow given to the girl and her new family. I could just hear the well wishes and see the pink ribbons. I missed out on buttercream frosting and ice cream and cake. She would be loved, celebrated and honored. Secure in their love she will have a childhood of giggles and dancing and joy. I wonder how many Hamans will be sent her way to make her strong, test her resolve, display her spiritual power? Does God see this even now? If we truly believe God answers prayers when we pray for spiritual blessings, gifts and fruits –will we be surprised when she challenges governments, faces armies, moves mountains? Already we can see a tenacity in her little spirit. What battles will she fight in the name of her God? Did God place her in the loving care of her new home because of her parents and grandparents prayers or did God place them in her hands so she would one day deliver them? Awesome is the Lord God Almighty, sovereign over all.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Orphan. Immigrant. Woman in a home where the last wife died due to domestic violence. 

Mordecai had religious things to do, he was a descendant of King Saul after all. What was he thinking taking on the care of a little girl? But he was also from the line of Mephibosheth, the crippled one. I’m so glad in the family line there was mercy, grace, compassion enough to care what happens to others. Somehow that care and concern grew enough for an old Jewish guy who was not a yes man, to muster up the courage to single handedly raise a little exiled girl. He’d have to learn how to braid hair, kiss boo-boos. I’m thinking Torah school didn’t teach those things! Who cares about immigrants, orphans, women in danger? Those who PRAY. It’s a mark, a signifier, a tell tale sign that something holy is going on in their lives and hearts. Prayer stirs hearts to action.

We have two amazing little boys that we took the challenge to raise and we are so thankful. I don’t know a lot but after watching our lives and the lives of our friends, my guess is that the battle for Esther and her destiny started long before she arrived on the steps of the palace. No wonder they call Mordecai WARRIOR!  The first battle is always waged in the HOME.

God bless all you adoptive parents. God bless all you who take your pro-life energy and invest it into children that are born and need support. God bless all you who pray for orphans that God will accomplish everything in their lives He intends and wills to happen for His kingdom and glory. Build YOUR kingdom in all the orphan kids and their parents Lord we pray. For the rest Lord – bring them forward as shining Stars in Your season, for Your purposes and in Your time (2 Peter 2:12). The Kingdom needs those who pray — to be Mordecai type praying warriors more than ever before. Help us Jesus today! Amen.

RenaeRoche 2019

   Comforter and cup bearer

The cup bearer to the king was an immensely important task. If the wrong person got near the wine the King would be at risk for poison and death. The Kingdom depended on that cup of wine being pure, not diluted or filled with toxic chemicals. His job was to make sure that what was inside that cup would bring refreshment instead of certain death. Nehemiah, whose name means “comforting one” took his job seriously. The inside was important. What was inside was critical. While others may look at the beauty of the outside, the cup bearer to the King knew that what mattered most was the purity on the inside.

The temple was in ruins when a holy immigrant named Ezra came to declare to the people that God did not dwell in temples made with hands. He presented the law and called them to holiness – on the inside. Nehemiah was also born in Babylon and dwelt in finery. He wanted God’s city to look nice on the inside but he knew that Ezra was crucial to that happening because what was INSIDE was what mattered the most. How do you make an individual great again, a church, a city, a nation? The trio of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther knew the secret to build people, cities and nations – getting in the word, worshipping, wonders and deeds remembered of Yahweh and the collective “we” dwelling together in unity. Triple power pack leaders.

Neh.8  – “All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon (six hours plus) as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. …. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food (means fatty meats) and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.” 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

…..18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. (Talk about strengthening the people, wow!) They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly. The law is often thought of as binding or legalistic but here we see it as the basis to keep up their heels, dance, eat and celebrate. I think that’s a pretty good regulation. This is kind of what was said, “As your father, I demand that you rest and enjoy me and each other.” That sounds like a pretty good idea. Did God really have to tell people to enjoy Him and life? It would seem so.

The word joy is not the regular word for rejoicing (simcha) nor is it a word to be happy or exultant (shashown). It is the word Chedvah which means the process of resting, working and being in God’s presence. It’s a life lived for Him, not just a mere emotion or feeling. The only other time that phrase is seen is in 1 Chronicles and refers to being in fellowship  with God (Presence).

Note that they celebrated for 7 days. That is quite the party. The puritan prude in me cringes when I hear the party lasted for 7 days. The kid in me loves to hear the exhortation to drink Hi-C for 7 days. We have celebrated all of the Jewish festivals so we could experience the Old Testament and the last years have been filled with such awe and wonder for not only who God is but what He has done among us. When we walk out these commands there is always fruit. This year we decided that Easter – the better covenant because of Jesus on the cross should equal MORE celebration, MORE sweet drinks and more celebration. We are intentionally celebrating 7 days of Resurrection joy. God is not a killjoy. God is not a sterile demagogue. God is not a disappointed party crasher. If anything He has opened the Heavens to the family of God and the celebration there is unending. We get to practice for seven days. Break out the sparkling juices, bring out the brisket, cakes and cookies. Hosanna is risen and God is HAPPY. Do you hear me, GOD IS HAPPY.  It almost sounds blasphemous because the only partiers in our culture are thought to be rogue. No wonder God has gotten a bad reputation with tired, weary people.

Thank you Jesus for cleansing my sin, not just covering it. Thank you Jesus for welcoming me in, though I don’t deserve it.  Thank you Jesus for forgiving me when I forsook your law, your word and your ways. Thank you Jesus for making me born again from above, something I could never earn or deserve. Thank you Jesus for rising from the dead so I could know and have eternal life. Thank you Jesus for ascending to the Father and sending your precious Holy Spirit, the comforting One.

Truly God wants us to be clean and filled inside. That is the beauty and secret to a great church, a great home, a great nation. It is more important to be connected to God and in intimate holy relationship with Him than to have a beautiful building or town. The comforter is doing that work on the inside of us and that work is ongoing and necessary.

Praying you see all that God has done, is doing and will do in your lives.

Celebrating with you,

Renae Roche 2019