Back in the day I was struggling to find God’s will for my life. I had previous experience in waiting tables so thought I would go back to that for a while. It was a bit nerve wracking to say the least. Several of the waitresses (now called servers) that I worked with would grumble over tips, tables and even customers. Well, one day I got a little promotion and my manager showed me the stainless steel pie divider. I had moved up to desserts and I got to slice the pie – eight even pieces. He trusted me so I was allowed to use this little device to make even slices so each customer got an equitable slice rather than a big piece for farmer Freddy and a meager piece for Matilda. I loved the customers but grew weary of all the feuds over tips, tables and who got the biggest slice of pie. Beyond that front showcase was a freezer in back that contained hundreds of frozen pies that no one knew about until they got the special pie promotion. I laugh now but back then it was a big deal. Customers would never rush thru supper if they knew there was an unlimited supply of dessert out back just waiting to be ordered. If you have convinced yourself that there is only enough pie for someone else and none for you, then you live with great limitation.

Remember the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness? They could eat as much as they wanted but one day was to be set apart to remember the One who provided their vittles. God did more than stretch their budget; He was stretching their faith as well. My little boys get into squabbles sometimes over food portion size. When they were really small they would get something and then the second in line would ask, “Mama, can I have one too?” to which I would reply “no”. Downward would go the chin and quickly a scowl would emerge. I would then softly say, “you don’t get one, you get two, or four or eight”. Now that they are older they love that and we talk about limits and training our minds to think beyond what our fears tell us is real. Why do we imagine God’s heart or hand is so very small?

So those Israelites, they complained and I believe that God grew weary of their grumbling and gave them so much they barfed it up. Maybe it was more like saturating them? Maybe He was trying to show them the abundance He had to bless them with, but they were still stingy, miserly and small minded in spite of watching the Egyptians and their horses trying to dog paddle through the Red Sea?  Whoosh! Gee Whiz – thousands of gnats, frogs and you really can’t see that God’s supply is bigger and better than Pharaoh’s? It seems that we limit God and give much room for our belief in the enemy’s resource supply. We fear all the things that might happen rather than trusting in the limitless power, protection ad presence of the One who has promised to be with us. We fear other people, curses, foreign ideas or people, maybe weather or spooky rhymes people say. The more we give credit to other gods, the more we detract from the One who made the universe. What we fear, we worship. What we pay attention to we eventually obey. You have heard many talk about end times and the evil released but I’ve read the end of the book and spiritually (and mathematically) God has more angels, more power, and more resources. Why do people then fear the end, instead of anticipate the revealing? If Heaven is endless and Hell is contained wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the Greater instead of the lesser?

When phone companies went to unlimited data on their phones people switched loyalties and phone companies! Unlimited was unheard of! It did not take great orator skills and smooth sales talking to switch people over because the difference was well… unlimited. God is limitless. Animal control is not going to lasso or contain Him. Extraverts will not wear Him down with their prayers. There are not enough votes in the nations to impeach Him because those who are for Him are more numerous than the grains of the sand, the stars of the sky. Remember, God still is bigger than Walmart, McDonalds or Coke. God never runs out of mojo, power or energy but remains faithful, refreshing the weary and giving strength to the weak.

 

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
 His mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
 great is Your faithfulness.   Lamentations 3:22-23

 

Sure, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but that’s Old Testament? Well, …there is a Well that never runs dry and the Samaritan woman surely can tell us about that story (John 4). Water that’s turned into wine is how the people of Cana would describe it. Then there’s the boat that was shiny clean until the limitless One’s Son came aboard and redirected their supply chain – “Not here but over there”. What about that little kid who had just a little lunch that fed thousands? You Northern cookin mamas know how to stretch a good meal, but THAT meal –was off the charts awesome. Slice the ham thick and call the relatives over kind of meal. Then there’s that woman that had a limited edition jar of Nard but a limitless edition of love … then lavishly poured it all over Jesus. You tee-totallers can celebrate one day in Heaven when the tap is open and wine flows throughout Heaven celebrating the victory of the Risen King. There – there is no last call, because the last call was already made! There – all drinks are on the House. There the celebration will be filled with the Spirit and Joy, not substances or sorrows.  Unlimited, inexhaustible, unstoppable, limitless…  So very different than bound, contained, small, restricted stingy love. God is limitless, His Son is limitless, and His children are limitless (or can be).

What if we saw how God sees, felt how God feels, loved like God loves? Just for a minute, an hour, a day?

Heavenly Father, remove the blockages that stop up our service. Remove the blinders that let us only see things from this earthly, small opinion living and view. Open our hearts, our minds, and our lives and then open our finances, homes and churches. Amen.

RenaeRoche2018

*Praying for the children of Uganda and their need for unlimited provisions and food today.

If I asked when does life begin, people would rush to their area of political belief. I read recently that in the olden days people believed that life was only valid after a mother felt her baby kick within her. That explains society quite a bit if you ask me – only the kickers survived? Life means many different things in our modern world. Joy has been replaced by debates and votes, making life something humans determine rather than what God breathes life  into. God still holds the keys to life and death and only He determines our start or final day.

NASA is exploring life in space and the latest discovery is that there just might be “life” on Mars. I’m not ready to go there yet and my mind cracks up whenever I think about that. They found hydrogen peroxide there which makes one think there is a mama and a few boo-boos up there somewhere, right? When I questioned some friends about what “life” meant to them one suggested that it is a prison term and how long someone has been sentenced. A “lifer” is one that goes to jail and does not ever come out.  It’s great to have friends from all walks of life to give depth to our perspectives.

I asked my favorite theologians (child 1 and child 2) and they both said God was alive because He created them and lives inside them. They were both proof positive that God was alive. I agree. When I pressed for less Sunday school-like answers this is what they told me. Child 1 stated that he has breath in his lungs and since God put that there He must still be alive to generate such breath. I was so stunned I could barely talk. Then child 2 stated that he sins a lot and when he asks God to forgive him he feels less guilty and gets a peace in his heart and it gets all clean inside. Grace has “got” him. That proves God is alive because only God could fix his heart. Their answers made me happy that they are aware of who God is and the difference that God’s life makes in their lives. I did not realize peace could be so easily explained. “I felt guilty and now I feel free”. Fair enough.

Movies like God’s Not Dead help remind us what God is up to, but have you ever wondered if God ever ran out of energy and just ceased? Did God’s life source run out last month and we are all running on fumes? What keeps God moving, doing miracles and loving? He’s the God that is un-caused and sustainable in all seasons. Eddie James sings all about the various aspects of His life and existence in, “I Am” ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHz2_HLw7fg ). 

Could we fathom a world without His presence? He is pre-existent and was there in the beginning, wholly unlike us and eternal. But is He living, still? Job tells us in Job 19, one of the earliest books of the Bible, “I KNOW that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.” If anyone deserved to think for a second that God was MIA it was Job. It looked like God was off the job or had gone out for a break when terrible things happened to him. A few verses later however he equates God’s existence with the yearning in his heart.  How does one long for a God one has never seen unless that being is wholly alive within us? It is personal to him – MY redeemer lives and ultimately in the end will triumph- He will stand on the earth. He could have appealed to the mighty mountain or the bubbling of a small brook but instead states that his heart knows that God will stand – that is faith! Do our hearts resonate and beat to the meter of God’s living power?

GOD IS LIFE

The God of life is seen walking with Adam and Eve. He intervenes all the way through the Bible and then Jesus makes many statements telling us that He is the bread of life, the way the truth and the life and gives eternal life. But how do we know God is life and alive today to impact us? Here are a couple things to consider:

  1. He provided life through creation
  2. He provided Jesus to give us life everlasting (salvation)
  3. He provided the continuation of life, breath and sustains us
  4. He provided eternity and Heavenly life with Him
  5. He provided reconciliation – a lifeline to continued relationship
  6. He provided the Holy Spirit for communication and wisdom so life is fresh and directed on a daily basis.

That sounds theological but let’s slow down….

This morning we found snails in our garden. A true gardener would have been disappointed but we were thrilled to investigate and understand the little creatures. They looked like rocks. They appeared dead. Our youngest told us they were “alive”. How do you know, we asked? Because we can see them move once in a while and they leave a trail where they have been – oily slime. “Sometimes this little snail moves, then we know mama that he’s alive.” He moved. If they feel safe and welcome, they venture out of their shell. We make room for them and then they slowly come out.

Sometimes we don’t feel or see God, but He still exists, still lives. My dad used to have a magnet inside his pick-up that said, I believe in the sun when it is behind the clouds, I believe in God when He is silent. Maybe we have to slow down, get quiet and make room for God. Maybe He reveals Himself on His schedule instead of ours.

One day I was trying to remember a scripture that a friend had shared but could not find it. The next day I got ready for work and tried to look it up again, but could not find it in my Bible or on my phone. Doubts and struggles clouded my belief that a mighty God could help with a certain problem I was facing. Later that day, I went into a random room that just “happened” to have a Bible, I flipped it open and it “accidentally” fell open to that scripture I had been searching to find. If coincidences only happened now and again one would dismiss that as random but when these things happen often it is pretty clear that there is divine orchestration that is grander than our human minds can imagine. God is very ordered, anything but random. The same God that sets the tides by the moon also designed our DNA. That same miraculous, detailed God longs to give us life – not just in the land of glory but in the here and now.

We see God’s life when we look at the Northern lights. We see God’s life when we look into a babies face. We see God when the altar is full on a Sunday morning. We hear life when a bird sings, when a sinner repents, when a saint passes. We experience life whenever a sovereign God moves, when the loud saints pray or when the quiet whispering ones stay silent. There are millions of expressions of the life of God around us.

When life ceases to exist, God still remains. Until then, we need His breath, His heart, His life. When He is given invitation, room, time … life increases. This life is meant to bond us together, to create a loving, living intimacy with the Lord of the universe. Dead faith does not have life giving daily talks. Dead religion comes from dead hearts, those whose relationships with God have no living fountain flowing. Fresh faith comes from vibrant, living interactions with a vibrant, living King. Dear Lord, show us Your life, give us Your Life, and use us to show forth Your life to others. Amen.

RenaeRoche2018

One night as our little boy lay sleeping, his younger brother woke up him with a “burning” question, “do worms have ears?” The reply “dude, go back to sleep, it’s 3 in the morning.” We laughed for a long time when we heard it and then every time we read letters that remind us of this event. Can a worm hear us? Is there a God who hears us? Is there a heavenly entity that understands what we are feeling?

This webpage was created to start dialogue about rest and peace in our lives. I was reminded recently of a time in grad school when I was struggling to understand God and a good friend recommended reading the list of God’s attributes in a book by Millard Erickson. That list that I am going over on this webpage is originally created by him, although I have changed the content under the headings of that list. Over the years I have reflected back on that time and the ways God has revealed himself regarding each of these attributes. This week’s character attribute of the Greatness of God is that He has personality.

God is not a deaf and dumb idol that merely hears our prayers and never replies back. God replies, responds, communicates. God is unique among all other gods in that He tells us His name and identity when He speaks with Moses, “tell them I am that I am has sent you.” We read throughout the Old Testament the many names of God that describe His nature. Our God not only desires our friendship but gives us names so we can identify with and understand Him. That’s pretty amazing.

Matthew 11:35 tells us that Jesus wept or shed tears. I don’t really care if He cried for Lazarus or their unbelief or Mary’s faith. The point to me is that He had emotions which robots and other gods are incapable of having. The fact that He is moved by emotions at all is remarkable. Match that with His incredible mercy and that makes Him unique among all other gods, anywhere in history. I ran into someone recently that was not touched by another’s pain, was insulated against their feelings and closed off to the slightest thought of another’s suffering and it struck me that no matter how much this person said they knew about God, they clearly did not know the living Jesus of the Bible because He was moved by others insecurities, pains and griefs. Desperation does not give us intimacy with Jesus, because then it would be about our quest and not His greatness. It is His mercy and character that brings us into His realm and allows us to be touched with what touches His heart. Those who cannot empathize with others pain need to understand that He is deeply moved by what affects those who know and serve Him. In the end times the Bible states that the love of many will wax cold, in other words they will have dull and unsympathetic emotions. The word wax there means to grow or blow cold. They will say they love God but then show their hearts to be insulated, frozen and cold.

We see Jesus having another emotion, in the temple as He drove out the sellers and materialistic hawkers and charlatans. I do not believe He was hostile towards bird sellers or what was happening in the temple as much as He was angry at what was being prevented from happening – people praying and connecting with His Father. He was angry at what was NOT taking place. He was angry that they separated the children from their father with all their nonsense. Jesus is moved by emotion when He sees His children being used, manipulated, marginalized or pushed aside while the hawkers and sellers or religion take center stage. This real God is really concerned about who is prevented from coming near to His father and His anger displays to us that He was fully man, in all ways tempted like we are and true to His human form. It caused Him to take a stand against the injustice. We can personally trust this God because the foundation of His throne is Justice and He cannot remain silent – no matter the cost.

There are other theological handles that preachers have mentioned thru the ages but as I pondered on this God with personality I was reminded of a Christ that would search for a crazy little man up a tree even though everyone around Him was begging for His time We see His personality when He hangs out with the leper, the beggar, the bride and never tries to look like a leader or sound like a leader or even make a huge declaration from God. If anyone could gain applause from a big, “thus says the Lord” it would be this guy… but He doesn’t. Instead He says things like blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. He intentionally keeps His entourage small and just goes about loving the insignificant.

I encountered some things this week that made me very thankful for the leaders who teach and encourage me. I also encountered some people that made it very clear that they were more spiritual than the next guy and used shame and love as weapons. Their actions bruised my soul. I was tempted to let my heart grow cold but the more I pondered on the personality of this great God, I was reminded that Jesus weeps when we weep and it angers Him when the love of the saints grows cold or becomes a commercial. He is not distant from our tears, or our anger. That may be a good litmus test for fellowship as well. Do the people we hang around with see our tears, hear our hearts, and feel our anger? Are we aware of how God feels about the emotions of ours and others lives? If God has personality, i.e. emotions, feelings and character how does that touch us? Can we hold on to rigid theological belief systems while living out the feelings or lack of feelings that we see in the world?

If you can find time, watch the movie Inside Out. It’s a fascinating story that helps people understand emotions and the importance of all of the various ways we feel things. Being real means really feeling and those who know and love Jesus will know and feel mercy, compassion and loads of grace.

I’m thankful we don’t have to feed Jesus like a ceramic idol. I’m glad we don’t have to sacrifice our children to stay His anger. I’m glad God is not just a cosmic candy machine that dispenses blessings when all around us give us a thumbs up. If we really know this God, we will come to appreciate Him. If we appreciate Him we will understand who He is and how that relates to our relationships with others. We can choose phony slick salesmen relationships with our loved ones, awaiting their admiration and applause or we can cast that aside and feel pain, feel mercy, feel anger and feel grace. If God condescends to us with His character and personality don’t we at least owe Him to be or become real worshippers, real friends and have real relationships? I really think so.

What part of your personality has been hijacked by a lack of understanding of Gods? I pray for all of us that we can see God fully in His attributes and then model that understanding of personhood and identity not only for us to see in the mirror but for the world to see that mercy and real tears and real anger are not things to be avoided but embraced by a God who is more than enough. If our lives revolve around God and His personality, the rest will take their rightful place and emotions will blossom into character traits rather than human personality differences. Psalm 62: 10 says, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” Trust and pour in this verse are both imperatives.  If we trust that God has emotions and personality, we can also trust that He is not shaken by our feelings and emotions. Fake emotions will not produce real healing. Fantasy lives will not produce God results. Go to this living God today and pour out your heart. Trust in Him – at ALL times and when we pour out our real hearts to Him, He will be our refuge. A real God, a real refuge –with real results.

 

Jumpin Jimmy

So, we’re coming home from church this morning, and the highway goes down to two lanes. Fair enough they are doing construction. We are hurrying to go see my sweet daddy so our minds were far down the road. All of a sudden a tiny little mouse darts out from the left and barely makes it underneath a truck. Then traffic slows down and he continues to speed through the lane, under another car and hops up in the air several times and then safely lands on the right side of the road. Having a bit of a wild imagination, I wondered what new sneakers he was wearing. One of the boys commented that he was a very athletic mouse and then my wise hubby pointed out that in 105 heat index weather, the pavement was probably super hot causing this little guy to jump as he raced across the freeway. I was so happy for him and had never seen a jumping, flying mouse before. He was very courageous!

Hubby went back to maneuvering thru the traffic to get us to our destination. The boys went back to doing their various “keep occupied” in the van activities. My mind went to wondering how much this mouse was of value to God. Hmm? He certainly was of value to me! You could create a whole YouTube channel around that little guy. He was incredible.  Would God stop up traffic down the road to make sure this little rodent got to safety? Was the plan set in motion long before the mouse encountered these hurdles? Did God know this little mouse would delight my heart for hours on this hot, Father’s day? Is this why my husband turns on music after church on the way home so I don’t ask him questions about animals? Or theology? Lol. Just how far in advance does God plan our lives and trials? Maybe only pastors or Bible college students wonder about things like this, I don’t know.

God has attributes that are communicable and in-communicable. Things we as humans can emulate and copy (Communicable) and then things that nothing and no one on earth can replicate – like omnipresence or omniscience.

GOD IS SPIRIT

He is not limited to one place or time. The centurion soldier shows us this when he requests a favor from Jesus – “heal my servant who is very ill”, and in that same hour the servant gets healed even though Jesus never treks back to the sick bed where he is praying for healing. That’s amazing! That is why we can pray for someone in Istanbul or Fargo or Croatia and God’s presence shows up in mighty ways – God is not limited by geographical boundaries. I remember once praying for a missionary in Argentina. I woke up in the middle of the night in grueling agony, praying for some guy in a truck and bombs were going off all around him. The next day I called and asked what was going on. At first I was told everything was calm but then later they called back and related a story about a guy being in the back of a truck while bombs were going off all around him. We cannot see around the world but God can. Who are we but jumping little mice that God would condescend to us and make us partners in His kingdom? Incomprehensible.

I asked the family at supper tonight, “why doesn’t God have a body?” The oldest boy said, “that’s God’s business.” Fair enough. We talked about what we would do if we were invisible and how many people we could secretly bless. I kept thinking of this big theological concept I’ve known for years but tonight the answer seemed so basic as I talked with my kids – GOD DOES have a body – us!  We are literally His hands and His feet. He lives and dwells within us as we yield to Him. We can pray, we can be used to further God’s causes. I love that God does not call us just to co-exist like we were frogs or robots or something. He calls us to co-labor, smelly, weary, fragile, human beings -us. We are powerful because of the One we partner with! Power team – with purpose, not random animals on the highway of life.

24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
   John 4:24

Those who worship God do not do so merely in a building but worship wherever God is, where God dwells. Jesus went to a tree, a river, a lake and many other places to proclaim His Father. Places where He showed up – became church! Minus a mortgage payment, there was still some praise goin on. Because God is Spirit He is not limited to a building. We limit God when we believe that is the only place where people can get saved, healed or reconciled. What if every building we went in, every tree we stood under, every lake we swam in – became places of His presence, places of praise?

We have been given attributes from God so we can more fully know Him and His ways. We have been invited into His family and ministry. The Father’s heart is that we would know Him, fellowship with Him and demonstrate that to other’s who do not know Him. Yet.

Thank you Lord for Your love and care for us. Thank you that we are not just little mice in some big cosmic plan but participants in your life and continually reminded of Your greatness. Show us how to co-labor with you. Amen.

RenaeRoche2018

So, it’s summer and the student loans, car payments and mortgage payment are weighing us down. The stretching of the budget with hot dogs and cereal has not been fun. While cleaning out the shed we found a little white birdhouse and I promised the boys we could clean it out and get some birdseed. Pet food is not cheap and investing $3.98 in a bag of birdseed seemed excessive when we were “jones-ing” for some soda, s’mores or something filled with empty calories and pure heavenly sugar for us human people. After all, doesn’t God provide for the birds of the air and feed them?

We filled the thing full with bird seed and hoisted it up high in the branches so wandering kids, squirrels and raccoons would have limited access. Later that night as I sat outside, a big chubby bird sat on the very top branch and sang the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. It had a trill at the end. I’ve lived in the same place for many years and listened to many bird songs but this was special, long and loud. I asked hubby if it was possible that the bird was grateful for the new house and his new dinner. He muttered something about “not knowing what the birds are thinking” and went inside. So I sat there wondering and feeling quite content. The bird lifted its little beak and belted out another verse. As the sun began to set, in the quiet of our neighborhood, I was his only audience. Maybe, this bird had appreciated what we had done. Maybe we were part of the Heavenly fathers plan for feeding him? I delighted to give the birds in our yard a little treat.

In that moment I got to feel what grateful felt like on the other side. This little bird appreciated what I had done and that tiny little song was sweet to my soul. I wondered if my Heavenly Father feels so delighted when we sing to Him, when we pause and let Him know how thankful and grateful we are for His care, love and provision? I thanked God and felt sweetly delighted in my soul. The next day I received a message that a surprise was coming and a delivery guy came to our house and brought us a freezer box of Omaha meat. It was a special blessing from a dear friend and oh what a timely gift it was for our family! God’s goodness and care was seen when a sister in Christ just felt led to bless us. I may have a doctorate but I’m super grateful for my little  “bird brain”, just  smart enough to know where provision comes from and the mighty hand outstretched with blessings from the Lord. What a delight to have a friend to bless us! Giving and receiving God’s love is pretty cool. When the boys opened up the freezer they were pleasantly surprised and we had so much fun planning all the meals we were going to make with it. Steaks, meatballs and more! While we were planning on surprise blessing other people this week, someone blessed us. God’s pretty sneaky that way. 

The verse I’ve meditated for this weeks blog is from Romans 12:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Anthony Bourdain, a television celebrity who committed suicide this week, once said “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” This man was world renowned for his cooking food and sharing with others. We’re praying for his family. Paul had a very different view on life and tells us something life changing in these verses:

We ARE living sacrifices and purposed to life for God’s enjoyment.

Do not conform means to not fashion yourself according to the pattern of this world. It is an outward focus. To be transformed is to be morphed into something else. This verb is a present passive imperative verb which means the action is not something we do but something the Holy Spirit does as we surrender and REST in the Lord. It takes place at once with continuous effects, ongoing. It is imperative that we renew, it is super important that we foster and allow this process to take place. It is a process of becoming more like the image of Christ –which takes time and saturation. It does not take place by merely observing rituals or traditions out of habit, but by surrendering to the Lords will in our lives and specifically the renewing of one’s mind.

How do we do that?

We don’t. That’s why it is a passive verb. The Holy Spirit does. What we can do however is posture ourselves under the faucet of His love daily, weekly, annually. We can set aside time to saturate in His power and Word. We can posture our hearts to receive His love and spirit. Renewing according to Strong’s’ dictionary means to have a renewal, a renovation and complete change for the better. The Lord pulls up the old baseboards in our minds and lays down new fresh structures of His grace and mercy. Renovating is changing the vision and perspective of one’s mind. It is a refusal to leave yesterday or year’s internal décor as is. We allow God to “overhaul” our spiritual man and give space for the demolition crew to come in and make it happen. A Ruach Rehab so to speak. 

So, exactly what is our part?

Set aside time for the Holy Spirit to do the “home repair”. We allow the Lord through His Spirit to minister to our minds and get in and stay in the Word of God. His part is to renew, renovate and completely change our minds according to the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Internal work vs. external work.  External is things we physically do and Romans reminds us not to establish our own righteousness by any of these things. Internal means we submit to God’s Word and Will, letting the Holy Spirit work in process with our hearts to become more like Christ until that final day. Outward “motions” can never equal inner renewing. They can however facilitate the space to let the inner work take place. One is gymnastics and the other is a purified heart. If we practice spiritual formation habits (such as rest, study, worship) to allow God access to our hungry hearts, we get transformed but if we practice those things as righteous building traditions to look on the outside like we are holy, we actually impede the work of renewal by creating monsters of our own making. Scary.

I love getting blessings in the mail, rewards, favors and encouragement. I also love watching God renew my mind and transform me into His image. Some may run a marathon, some may earn a degree, some may master a hobby but delighting God’s heart is what living sacrifices do. Worship, thankfulness, praise are part of our reasonable service. Focusing on His Word and gaining His perspective helps us prove His will. It’s opposite of living to get the most bang for your buck. It’s opposite of treating life like it’s a party and getting everything you can get out of it. You can search the whole world over and still remain empty inside. You can eat the foods from every nation and fancy desserts from every bakery but if your joy is not found in the Lord you will live empty in spirit.

The horse races were not on my calendar for this past weekend but it was exciting to hear that a crown had been given to the winner “Justify” for winning the Triple Crown. Our culture has lost the understanding of living for the Lord in such a manner as to be “crown worthy” or a “living sacrifice” . It’s rare to hear someone talk about being fashioned after Christ or transformed. Paul states the “fashion violation” is if we do not let the Spirit transform us on the inside! In our Designer culture, We feel justified in our own merits and many have given up trying to please a God they no longer understand or know. Bibles have been replaced as the Christians main accessory with designer handbags and shoes with rhinestone crosses on them. Without renewing our mind in prayer and the Bible, we cannot understand who God is or His character. He’s merciful, He’s mighty, He’s everlasting love. When our goal is to be an amusement park or live for our own enjoyment and praise or a crowd, we miss out on God’s amazing journey and plan for our lives. We cease being grateful, thankful or surprised by His goodness. James 1 tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having STOOD the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who work for Him? No, those who love Him.”

These are just some thoughts for the week. Now you know what this crazy bird is thinking. Smile. Simple, not profound. Sometimes the answers in life aren’t given to the rich, poor, wise or wonderful but those merely responding to the rhythms of God’s love – living sacrifices that believe they will be loved, nurtured and fed. God is so simple a child can grasp His love yet so profound a scholar can never exhaust His majesty.

Go find a branch and belt out your praise to the God who is waiting to hear your song. He understands it. Present yourself, STAND before Him and renew your mind to get to know this God of love and life. Eat like a bird on the word- continually and thankfully. It’s imperative that we keep on singing in our Temple, and His. Then, today and tomorrow we will be able this side of eternity, to rest in peace. Enjoy !

RenaeRoche2018

 

God is so awesome. Last week after writing the blog I heard the song, “Enter in- Psalm 100” and it fortified my soul. It also caused me to reconsider what “offerings” we bring to the sanctuary. So free from the law, free from offering goats, bulls, etc. we are to bring in our best.  I’m thinking that a couple of songs can’t replace a whole bull. Bull in our culture is just a show on Netflix. How far removed we have gotten from the Old Testament sacrifice of giving God our best. As a youth pastor I once had the teens experience sacrifice old school, it was gross, time consuming and laborious. We are so thankful that the New Testament has given us the New Covenant!

We heard a really good sermon this weekend on “Denying Yourself” and we were stirred to follow Jesus with passion.  That’s all part of sacrifice isn’t it? The thought was that if we don’t get the new toy or dress, we can give to God’s work, missions, etc. In a Kardashian culture, no wonder the church is missing walls, staff support and all kinds of blessings.  I wonder if God feels like He gets a bad deal week after week when we slump into our church chairs and hope someone else “stirs it up”. That’s a lot of ecclesiastical pressure placed on the leaders. I’m praying about what to bring as an offering this week and if we can “offer” something to God’s people as stand-ins for Him? Your thoughts in the comments below would not only be appreciated but might slow down my Russian hacker that is sure to get saved any day now. Smile.

The Bible for the blog this week comes from Romans 5 (ESV):

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Our family used this text for a mini-retreat this weekend. It has been a theme for us for a while. Justified means made right with God or as the kids say “Just as if I’d never done it.” Throughout my graduate studies we tested hundreds of ways to peace including yoga, vitamins, stress management techniques, resting retreats, massage, aromatherapy, etc. It was a fun journey but the conclusion of all of that was – we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The other things are mere additives– no matter the price tag, source or random study done in some government building.

Because of Christ, because of His BIG sacrifice (that wasn’t measly, greedy, stingy, weak, misdirected or meager) we have obtained access…

Jesus gave us some keys so to speak. He gave us keys to God’s presence that let us know we are acceptable to Him, because of what He’s done for us. It also lets us know His favor is on us. We should reek of His grace, His favor, even when we are unaware of it. Not because of Bible College, church affiliation, good works but because He made a way, opened the DOOR and gave us FULL ACCESS by faith into this grace in which we stand. We enter in… because we’ve been invited and given The Key.

The idols in your mind should be rebelling about now because it just sounds too good to be true. You know, the idols we all build from past hurts and establish after years and years of being discounted, marginalized, slandered, rejected or thinking we are too miserable or wretched for anything good from God. If you don’t resonate with that last sentence either you are super spiritually healthy  or have never wrestled the enemy for souls and need to get in the battle. There’s just no way human minds can ever conceive of all that God has in mind or in store. That’s why we need to STAY in the Bible so we could be reminded of the revelation that Jesus is for us and not against us – no matter what our enemies (or friends) or even ourselves say.

That access does not come because you study, fast or worship 24/7. Jesus is positioning us for a much bigger “clique” where all are welcome and connected based on His blood and not small group or large group identification. It does not come from being part of a generation of young people and wearing certain jeans or having a certain hairstyle. It does not come from grey hair or apostles regardless of their title. That access solely comes from Jesus and it cost Him -His life.

Access implies trust, acceptance, familial relationship and we get that from Christ not because we deserve it but because HE IS GOOD. It is given to ALL those who love Him and accept that blood stained payment for sin, not just a select few. That access also means FAVOR because He has made us ACCEPTABLE to God. You don’t even have to join the churches praying for gold bricks or helicopters because it is not how or what YOU pray, it is based on Jesus and what HE’s prayed and done. Hallelujah. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. Woohoo.

Favor means you are positioned to receive blessings from the Heavenly Father. It does not mean money, positions or titles. It is not reliant on human material blessings. The best favor someone can have is to waltz into Heavenly Daddy’s throne room and hang out for a while.  I think the reason most people neglect prayer is because they don’t realize:

Who is waiting to speak to them.

Who is waiting to listen to them.

Or possibly, someone else’s opinion has blocked the knowledge that there is therefore now no condemnation! We have audience with the King of Kings, who rules the universe and has sovereign power to change the tides and sunset with one movement of His hand! That’s huge. All other favors are smaller, lesser, tiny.  Jobs, houses, money will all pass away but relationship with the Holy One – is Eternal and Awesome.

While having devotion time this morning, my little boy and I saw a commercial that popped up on You tube. It was for Degree deodorant and had a catchy drum beat. We laughed about DOOR in the middle of deo-dor-ant. The ad promised that Degree would “never let you down”. Wow.  Society thinks the idols of education, money, power or prestige would work but all we needed to buy was some deodorant? That idol sounds good because you could get one for your purse, one for your gym bag and one for your vehicle. Until … you run out. Deodorant has really come a long way. Lol. I know of One that has come a much longer way and is the only One who will never let us down. The Eternal One wants to replace the immediate and temporal idols in our lives, giving us permanent acceptance and favor with the King. Whichever one we choose will determine the doors and blessings that open. The One who sits on the throne, the One who offers Peace also offers access.

Access is offered not to the spiritually mature or brilliant or wise but to the one who relies on and worships the One who paid the penalty for their sin.

Our status,  our belief system, our status all just increased. The Lord of Lords and King of Kings has made a way for us, for me to enter in. Me, a little ol white woman from the Dakotas. That’s amazing. I must have spent many days in defeat because I didn’t realize how powerful that could be if I realized what that meant! The One who never changes, never lets us down, never forsakes us is waiting for me. I’m acceptable to Him, so much so that He beckons me to enter His gates. He has made me so favored that He invites and gives me access to come into His courts… with singing! How many people do you know that want to hear your voice and would pause to hear your singing to or for them? Lalalala!

Irrevocable invitation. No one can slander you there. No one can gossip about you or malign your character there. Accepted and favored one, the robe of righteousness has been placed on you and the King has invited you into HIS presence. Outside in the hallway the naysayers may hear the echoes of, “who can separate us from the love of Christ, nothing!”

Idols of our generation and nation do not promise unconditional love, stop serving them. Idols do not give us unconditional access. Stop serving them. Their worship is based on human’s needs, emotions and situations not ONE sacrifice made for All. Dead idols cannot reciprocate love or favor. Idols are earthly and do not have Heavenly perspective. Idols are subject to stress, weather, financial difficulties and popular opinion and conflict. God, who sits in the Heaven laughs at the things man reveres and worships.

If man/woman did not give you access to God, they cannot take it from you. If spiritual, legal, local, church authority did not give you access to God, they cannot take it from you. If good works did not give you access to God, bad works cannot take it from you. Access to God comes from one source and one source only – Jesus and His blood stained sacrifice and resurrection to give us life.  That or I should say HE is the reason we stand in grace. If it required SO much of Him, why would we neglect to great a salvation? Why would we neglect so great an invitation? How would we orchestrate any other purpose or plan than coming before Him on a regular basis?

The King waits… The Bridegroom beckons… The Holy Spirit draws and longs for us to enter in as accepted, favored sons of the King. We did not realize Lord. The way was open but we have let lesser gods distract us. We have allowed idols to entice us. We have let other humans condemn us, clouding our vision of the open Door.

We enter in, not because it is our ritual. We enter in, not because of what we bring. We enter in, not because it’s Sunday. We enter in, not because it’s a reasonable sacrifice or part of the worship hour. We enter in because we have been given access by Jesus for an audience with the King.

We choose to what degree we will enter in – He chose to give us FULL Access.

I went to find a pitcher in the cupboard in the garage and saw a plastic jug that looked just the right size. I was in a rush, we were all thirsty. I needed tea, water and ice cubes. Then I remembered fondly the kids’ bath routine and how that jug used to wash little kids heads. I remembered the shampoo and soap that was stored there. As I picked it up, I saw soap scum on the handle.  Ew. Very quickly, I snapped back in the moment and started looking for a clean, glass pitcher in the house. Our sweet lemon tea was prepared and placed on a freezer shelf for chilling.

Throughout the day I was thinking about the first plastic pitcher – I could not see this pitcher in any way other than a bathtub accessory and certainly did not want to fill it with lemon tea to drink. If however, it was cleaned out, it too could be an excellent vessel for our summer beverage. I had to look forward to it’s possibilities and not backwards to what it used to be or used to contain. I wonder if we do that to people as well? The believers at Pentecost must have been a crazy integrated bunch. They were not well thought of, even some viewing them as drunks, at least on that one day.  

I think Pentecost was politically and spiritually kind of messy. The context was religious people murdering one another, factions, sects all keeping to their own camps, disciples hiding in an upper room, people fighting over holidays….Then love breaks through and everything changes. Some just could not see these folks reaching the world, they were unlikely, ordinary and from different walks of life. Maybe if they hadn’t spoken about being “world changers” people would have had lowered expectations of them.

Ice tea on a hot sunny day sure would be nice. A little elbow grease and that plastic jug could have watered many. When we only “see” things one way, we limit the vessel and the viewer. We look at the filthy jug instead of the thirsty people. We get stuck when we can only see things for what we are familiar with seeing. Take Romans 1 for example. Many have taken this passage to focus on others. The conversation quickly turns into “those” unsavory people doing unspeakable things. What if we looked at our part instead?

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul does not distance himself from the OT, in fact in 7:22 he says in his inner man he delights in the law of the Lord. He states that he will preach to the Greeks and the non-Greeks. Knowing the theological traps set before him and yet wanting to reach all the groups with the gospel he boldly says,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to EVERYONE who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last (not static identification with any ideology, cause or group), just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Martin Luther said “the Just shall live by faith”. He was one that chose God’s word rather than his political parties ideas. He stood out like a sore thumb but changed the course of religion as we know it today. I think that means we follow Jesus and not the herd. I think that means our loyalties are with the Christ instead of a denomination, political or spiritual group of people. We do what’s RIGHT rather than what is popular. Recently I felt the sting of not being part of the “us” and was treated like a “them” and it deeply hurt. Paul stayed in the middle ground and loved on everyone. Paul’s power came from the Gospel, his connection with Christ, not his traditions or habits.

What I saw this time reading Romans 1, floored me. We are told there,  the ROOT cause of the sin. It wasn’t Netflix, Budweiser or the casino. It was:

  1. They suppressed the truth.
             They talked about lesser gods and lesser things, omitting and covering the truth.
  2. They did not glorify or give thanks to God.
             No reason is given but any reason will suffice, if it blocks your praise.

Tithing, church attendance, sabbath or communion practices are all voluntary spiritual activities, they are not salvific meaning they do not and cannot save us. We can add worship, fasting, acts of service in that mix as well. However, used as spiritual formation disciplines, they sure can put our minds in remembrance and our hearts in good posture to bless God. They can assist posturing us under the faucet of God’s grace, but they do not bring salvation – only the gospel does that. My literal friends would add only the cross of Christ and His payment is effectual.

So, preaching the Word and worship is premium–really important. Not just for warfare but for our emotional health as well. No wonder Paul wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel, it was salt (prevention) for society. Without those things people, even saved ones would begin to dissolve into gross darkness and lusts of every kind.  It takes time to saturate in Gods’ word. The Psalmist David asked,”How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9) GIVE ME SOME WORD! should be our daily cry.

If that is the antidote for not slipping into futile thinking – we need it in large doses.

Vulnerability is not my strong suit but I will share that one recent Sunday I made up my mind to not go to church. (It was a rough morning!) I had a good excuse no one would have questioned. Each Sunday I wake up and spend time in the word and worship, asking God to use me as His vessel in any way He chooses. Then I posture my heart by listening to worship songs and ask Him to direct me to people who need encouragement. Sometimes it’s a scripture, sometimes it’s a hug. I love Sundays! It has been thrilling to see God meet needs, give fruit, etc. But not this particular Sunday. I had valid hurt, a valid cause. A kind saint prayed with me and once again my heart was open to worship. There are times when you are so broken that triage is necessary. Reading Psalm 100 did not help that day as I read, “enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, enter His courts with praise.” After years of getting to church early, before the people showed up, I had taken on new habits. I had forgotten the importance of being a prayed up parishioner. God has grace for ministers too and if I could replay the morning I would have cried out to God in my van instead of coming into the sanctuary. I did not want to further disrupt anyone with my tears so decided to not go to the altar. Between physical aches that would prevent kneeling and emotional aches too distracting for public consumption, I decided to not take up anyone’s time that others might need.  Oh the enemy of our souls is sneaky.

What I found however, is that there were a bunch of hurting people crying out to God and we all got loved on anyway. That day was my day to just fall into God’s grace. Loyal families surround, support and encourage those who are hurting. Healthy families are those who hear all voices, surround all members and each one is received whether rejoicing or grieving. Worship pries open the doors of our heart so love can rush in. Worship heals what the world, sin and culture wounds.

The pastor sent minsters out to the congregation to pray that day. He did not seem to care one bit it messed up his fancy altar. He did not pause to consider the choreography of the prayer team or the interruption of the praise team. He wanted every member reached. It’s almost like he followed a playbook from a higher leader. Lord Loyalty vs. religious rules. I’m not sure why we come forward for prayer or salvation when the biblical model is Jesus coming to meet us. I guess it’s a habit that we started thinking was sacred, so it was reproduced in American churches. Frail folk and disabled are expected to just jump in. Many don’t, even fearing such journeys so much they stay home. It might be time to “see” those processes in a new light too. Living by faith seems to be a flexible rather than stagnant model. What if our hearts rather than our altars were full each week?

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” They did not think it worth their time, worthwhile, appropriate or valuable to (EXW, pronounced e-xoh) – a greek word that means to retain, remember, hold close or cling to the knowledge of God. In otherwords, they trivialized its efficacy and power.

They lessened the value of the knowledge of God.

How does the world learn how to retain the knowledge of God? Who will tell them what the knowledge of God means? Who will go and proclaim that the Gospel is power and needs to be read, heard and understood? The missing element is clinging to God’s word. They can’t retain something they’ve never heard first. Why isn’t it being preached, taught, loved and adored more in our  churches , parks, homes or culture? When there is a famine of the Word, which there has been in America for some time, that void gets filled with the things listed in Romans 1. The word lessened means it is not learned, memorized or retained. Cause/ Effect. We suppress the word – the enemy of our souls provides a substitute. If we blame the substitute we must ask why is there a void in the first place.

Bible memorization is great but it can easily turn into boasting and competition. I’m not suggesting yet another ritual to add to the list. It also is not salvific.  We need to live where we have a love for the word  and things of God. All additions will either distract or impact depending on our heart posture. The things mentioned in Romans one are sometimes used to flog those who do not act in holy ways. However, Paul did not spend his time just looking at others sins but calls US to not be ashamed to present the truth. That’s the HUGE thing we are to note as a solution. Instead of pointing out others errors, we need to acknowledge our part. When the Church suppresses or diminishes the word, education of the word, study of the word, memorization of the word, etc. we are guilty of causing the void which transitions into futile thinking and carnal living. “Those guys” are not ruining America. According to Paul, WE are — guilty of suppressing the truth and lessening the value of the Word. That’s a chilling, startling thought.

Next time you want to judge someone else’s carnality ask yourself when you have suppressed or maybe mocked the truth, or those who present it? Do you promote the study of the word or suggest that it is not necessary? Do we rely on the “spirit” as a cover for fleshly or lazy lives? Do we donate to Bible colleges, evangelists? Next time you’re (we’re) tempted to feel superior let’s ask God to evaluate our gratefulness and thankfulness level. If word and worship fuels the holiness of a culture and provides a barrier from it eroding, then what part will we play in promoting rather than dissing it?

In order to see God clearly, we need the word. In order to see ourselves clearly, we need to worship. In order to see others clearly, we need to not be ashamed of the Gospel and share it. Popular, contemporary, cultural, epic, trendy…. are only fine if they are promoting the main thing – the Word.

Just how thirsty are you to see the culture, people and yourself change? It’s time for the Word, because it (the Gospel) is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel, the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”    That deep sweet peace that comes from resting in His payment, from living in His righteousness produces fruit and satisfies even the thirstiest soul.

When God gives the world a sweet fruit tree – we best be/find vessels, put us, them under the faucet and get to pouring. The folks are thirsty!  Wash, Fill Drink – ya’ll it’s tea time.

 

 

Pentecost started for me at 2 A.M. Sunday morning. You never know where you will go when you follow Jesus but at least you know that you do not GO alone. His timetable is different than ours, His goals and interests are different than ours, but maybe as we serve Him those eventually come into alignment.  Words such as presence and Paraclete were just black words on white pages in seminary but in real life they look quite exciting.

Later that same morning, my family attended church and sang our hearts out. The song “Amen” resonated with a calling we have discovered to be very true. Redemption has a name and it’s Jesus. I suspected that the Heavenly choir had to hush a minute while our praises rang out. Not because of the quality of singing but when God shows up He is also singing over His people. The worship connected people vertically and horizontally and I would not be surprised one bit if the angels bent down to hear what was going on this side of Heaven. You could feel the receiving of warm hearts rejoicing and thanking God for all He had done during the week. It changed us.

Exhausted that afternoon I nodded off into oblivion. There is always a deeper rest on the weekend when the week has been filled with joyous work. It did not last long however before I was awakened by some Sabbath- breaking birdies outside my window. They got caught up in some kind of hallelujah hoe-down and woke me up. At first I wanted to reject the noise and go back to sleep.  Then I wondered if any of those notes were for me to hear? There was a group of them which multiplied their music and influence. It delighted me deep down in my soul.

They were just doing what they were designed to do and it was so beautiful.

Who hears these little guys amid the noise of the city? Who receives their praise? Do they sing their best so the people in the neighborhood feel blessed? Are they noticed by humans jumping in cars and racing off every morning while they continue to sing their best notes? Do their tweets go unnoticed in Heaven while everyone tweets on their cellphones oblivious to the Creators work around them? 

We witnessed another collection of people praising this weekend while watching the Royal wedding. The Royal Bride and Groom could have gone straight to their Honeymoon but instead they paused to ride past the common folks, acknowledging where their power comes from and graciously thanking all those who celebrated their special day. Their royal training included being gracious and thankful. They understood the price of being Royal and acted accordingly. They are part of a line of Royals and they knew the importance of the “receiving line” that day. They had received the warmth and joy of their audience. They were not annoyed or hindered by the crowds, litter or even horse manure that fell into the streets. Their love was larger than the details. Their love was strong enough to encompass the “others” around them which multiplied their joy. They were collectively celebrating their marriage with friends, family and onlookers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated at the ceremony, a female priest (unnamed in most news reports) read a scripture and an Episcopal priest Michael Curry, an African American, gave the sermon. It was a group making some wedding noise that was replayed around the world. The fiery sermon spoke of the revolution of fire and how a revolution of fiery love is needed to change our world. This Royal wedding was different – unique. It brought denominations together, blacks and whites together, slaves and free together (via MLK’s words), men, women and children; rich and poor together, royalty and commoner together. Gospel, hymns, spirituals and classical music were all heard in one wedding. Why? The Bride wasn’t just joining Harry’s family – he was joining hers to make one, shared  NEW family.  Collaborative says we change one another for the better. It is not one attends and claps and the other conforms. Shared love and shared new life. Paul in Romans 1 says this:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the MUTUAL FAITH, both of you and me.

The Bride represented her side of the family and promised to add flavor to the grooms existing family. It was a true, sweet picture of Pentecost if there ever was one and historically we look to Kings and Queens to see what God is doing in that generation in the earth. If you know the Holy Spirit, you will recognize sinner, saint, black, white and a whole bunch of people coming together for a purpose that Michael Curry summarized in his fiery sermon – LOVE changes everything and what the world needs  NOW is love. The Pentecostal element was added – “Stand by me”. Together, we thrive.

On the other side of the pond, in a city named Santa Fe (meaning Holy Faith in Spanish) was another element of our human existence – grief and tragedy. A High School in Texas was still numb from another school shooting. Supposedly there were no “signs” although most Christians could see them as they reported on it. The first shot occurred in an Art classroom. Art, like music is meant to calm, thrill and even inspire. Art expresses a cultures likes and dislikes and draws our minds to better places. Art appreciation is put in schools to teach students to see things from a different perspective and appreciate others points of view regarding beauty and truth. It builds creativity, confidence and trains children to see things thru the lenses of others eyes. It is meant to point to beauty and nature around us. The supposed shooter – Dimitrios Pagourtzis, however, did not get that message and instead chose to continually look at the ugliness and rejection within himself for so long it burst outward. Somehow the message did not reach him that beauty begins within and rejection of another’s art form does not negate the beauty contained therein by the artist or another viewer.  

See this link for more information on the importance of teaching art: 
https://www.learningliftoff.com/10-reasons-arts-in-education-important-kids/

“What is missing this time?” the news reporters have asked. Gratitude for life, value for others and their boundaries. He was either not taught or rejected his own self-esteem and the ability to not be disheartened when others rejected him.

His value was seen in their opinion and praise.

Should he bear the weight of his actions alone? I don’t believe so because the media, school system, political system and culture have trained him to believe there is no higher authority watching his actions, no intrinsic value in the notes he sings or plays and no reward or judgement at the end of his days. If there is no one to receive his voice, to hear his voice, to celebrate his voice, the end result of his life is one lived in a state of constant rejection. Who received him at Sunday school, in the neighborhood or at home? One more brick on his pile crumbled his wall of self-defense. If there was no value in his single life then there was no reason not to take the lives of those drawing, singing or living around him. Where were the people teaching him the reason why this was wrong? There was no  honor for the collective group or the individual – both necessary for peace in society. He finally stopped when he remembered his life was too valuable to kill, leaving that task to a judge. No one taught him to put a fence on the top of his hill so why are we then surprised when the ambulances gathered at the bottom?

What if NRA stood for Never Reject Anyone again? What if the message of Michael Curry challenging us to a revolution of God’s love had been preached the weekend prior to the Santa Fe tragedy? Would the connection have been made between love and being received? Would this shooting have been prevented? What if NRA represented New Renaissance of Appreciation / Affection and picket signs protesting rejection were all over the media? We don’t hear the real reasons, just blame for the weapons used. Can we blame God, when He left us solutions? Can we blame the parents, they sent him to school? What if the blame lands squarely on the church withholding the words of life? Those in the line of reconciliation that withheld the truth? What if someone watching God’s new little princess get married had reached out to this young man and fought for his acceptance somewhere? What if fiery love, the kind that comes from an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit had knocked on his door the month before this tragic day? But, some guy in a polyester suit said door knocking is outdated? I stayed home and played video games instead. Or, let Billy Graham reach them?

Life is fragile. Life is beautiful. It is filled with joyous celebrations and painful tragedies. Into this chaotic mess, the Holy Spirit has been poured out. That King James little word “lo” means “hold up guys this is extremely important, set your gaze here”. Where? On the part where Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to accompany the believer. (For you new folks that means to walk alongside and support).  We have a companion in moments of early morning ministry, rejection by peers, wedding bliss and extreme fears. We have a fiery power capable of starting a revolution that has the potential to reach around the whole world. As we learned this weekend in church, we also get fellowship in moments of failure and grace because God is building us and His body. Only church folks give up on sinners  (or self-righteous hypocrites) – God does NOT. The Holy Spirits job is to prepare us for eternity and help us look like Jesus. The Holy Spirit may be grieved –but always present. That same down-payment Holy Spirit, the engagement ring given by God, continues working to let us know the groom will be coming back soon.

The word calls us to reflect on the Bride. The King calls us to reflect on the Bride. Pentecost teaches us that the Bride has power to change the family dynamic. The Biblical message is still relevant and powerful. We desperately need it – not just to picket or yell or blame but to live out our daily Santa Fe (holy faith) both to please our Father and to be salt (prevention) and light (a healing solution) to the nations.

God is not waiting for the NRA or anti-NRA to picket or rally the crowds. They are not capable of putting up a spiritual fence.  They were not commissioned to put up a fence. WE are the sign, lit up through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is waiting for His Bride, in all her glory to declare HIS message of power, presence and promise to a lost and dying world. That fiery message of love and power was released to those engaged to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave US the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Cor. 5:18

 Where is the Bride in this hour? Has she prepared herself for her season and Groom? Will she reach out to those in the receiving line, awaiting reconciliation to the Royal family?

 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”       Matthew 28:18-20

 

RenaeRoche2018   (forward, print, distribute and pass on)

 

 

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

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

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

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

                                         and the prisoners were listening to them. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RenaeRoche2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

your own payment,

reward and

entire,  eternal system.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

RenaeRoche2018©