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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Heaven notices those things.

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

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

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

Love in and through us Lord. Amen.

RenaeRoche2019

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

Judges

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

RenaeRoche2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving with you, Renae Roche 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Covenant – Rights and responsibilities:

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

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

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

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

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

RenaeRoche2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RenaeRoche2019

 

 

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

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

The plan was to murder all the baby boys.  

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

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

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

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

The Rams trained on turf.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

                                                       make way for HIM.

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

RenaeRoche2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shine on, RenaeRoche2019

 

A little boy grew up, favored by his mom and dad so much so they gave him a special coat. He was hated by his half- brothers. Early on in scripture we see a blended family and this chosen little boy forced to be a suffering servant. Joseph, once secure in his parents love was snatched away and served a King in the land of Egypt. Surrounded by pagans and astrologists and magicians, Joseph learned the culture and brought deliverance to the kingdom because of his wisdom and the King of Heaven he proclaimed. Favor came to the entire land because of this God that Joseph served. After the telling of a few prophetic dreams, God used Joseph as a wise man. His family was treated as special guests and honored in the midst of magicians and Egyptian royalty.

Just a few centuries later, the Israelites were being treated as slaves. The tide had turned and no longer were the Israelites welcome in Egypt. One Hebrew family had a baby boy and had to hide him from a violent king who murdered all the male children. He was pulled out from the water, between the reeds. His Hebrew parents were scared for his life and what would happen to him. He was rescued by a Kings daughter and given royal privilege. Later on this same boy would grow to be a man and in the midst of many magicians prove to Pharaoh that deliverance had come to God’s people. The magicians had competed time and again, taunting with their authority and powers. Moses left Egypt with many gifts from the neighbors. Moses, trained by secular people brought the people from Egypt to worship the Lord. Where was God in this? It seems unfair that this Hebrew boy bowed at the feet of Egyptian royalty when he was God’s chosen one. Both of these sons were born to Hebrew parents, both were in Egypt and had dreams, encountered magicians and secular training was a part of their history.

Remember the original search for a wise bachelor? Serving for the right reasons, specifically with the heart goes way back. There once was a young, wise royal woman from the East who fell in love with the supposed “wisest man in the world.” She came to visit on a camel bringing treasures of gold, spices and jewels. Extra biblical writings suggest that Solomon would not accept this woman’s gifts—he wanted more than her prizes, he wanted her heart to turn to his god. How could such a request be made and why would one’s heart condition be of any significance to a wise king? What would be more important than gold, spices or jewels? The Queen of Sheba and her influence on wisdom and culture would long be remembered. That encounter impacted Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It was a set-up.

Consider Daniel. His parents must have been proud of their son, hoping God would use him. Then one day an evil king abducts him and he gets enrolled in Babylon University. His culture changes, his food, clothing, friends and everything his mama warned him about. It was a non-prophet school and Daniel had to live incognito regarding everything holy. The homeschoolers back home were freaked out and no one thought anything good would come of this season, how could it? Add in some dream interpreters, magicians and astrologers and the young God boy was all but destined to blend in with the crowd. After studying Aramaic and being mentored by Babylon’s wisest men, how could Daniel prevent seeing his new culture as the best? Yet, somehow he ends up seeing a different outcome – Lions so full they can’t eat and angels so saturated they don’t catch on fire. Why do the wise men not understand this stuff? We hear of Daniels outcome but what of these wise men that Daniel influenced? He became a teacher and had an impact on the magicians due to his wisdom and prophetic interpretation. But then what?

Fast forward to a new little blended family with big plans for their son. Wisdom was not the first thing written about the little tyke. Instead we hear of angels singing of His arrival. Shepherds nursing their little sheep on a hill outside of Bethlehem and family love came first. The murderous actions King Herod did, must have struck a nerve in Hebrew homes though and then there’s the wailing echo of Rachel crying through the ages for sons slaughtered without mercy. The fulfillment of everything Isaiah ever hoped for would have resonated with the Jewish families.

Next when the little child was a probably a tween, the Magi come riding in on camels.  Were the magicians and astronomers any relation to Pharaoh’s court jesters? Were the men bringing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh in anyway connected to those who served in Joseph’s court? Were they more magicians, wise men, astronomers or Kings? Or a combination of all three? History is very silent on this. We do know they were not Pure Bred Hebrew people. We do know they were not expected or necessarily invited. Scripture almost hides their existence other than the basics. They knew about stars, royalty and had a pretty good GPS system. These wise fellows (and possibly females also) came not to offer their wisdom but to worship the One they deemed wise. Magicians are not typically welcome in Jewish homes yet these wise folks came to offer their worship and in the very first years of this little babies life we all get a window into what conversion looks like. The hopes of Joseph, Moses, King Solomon and Daniel, the light they shone in the darkness, the witness they were in secular society, becomes real. Were they placed in these secular bastions of darkness for this moment? Was all that trial for this testimony, all that mess for this message? One day… the royalty will bow down to the Hebrews, you just wait. But it wasn’t at a throne, but a manger, yet He was certainly a king.

Today is Epiphany. It marks a week of celebration. It is a time that the world celebrates the families not part of God’s original chosen to welcome the Savior, Deliverer and King. This is Christmas in most countries. Not one day to receive gifts and sing Silent Night but a week of festivities and joy to celebrate a wise King born to all – joy to the WHOLE world, the Lord for US has come. It is a message about joy coming to the astronomers, fortune tellers, magicians, pagans, gentiles and all the wisest men and women secular institutions can train. That means there is hope for them, and the smelly likes of you and me. Don’t you just love Jesus more knowing that while he was still a youngster – foreigners; magicians and not your typical church going type folks were welcome in His house? Did he tell them stories of  Joseph, Moses and Daniel? Did it happen between demonstrating the floss and bemoaning teenage acne or after his mom told him to clean up his room? This odd collection of worshippers is hidden in most Christmas stories but I think worth celebrating. What kind of party would that create? The next story of Jesus is Him training with those in the Temple – not learning secular culture or their ways but teaching them His. His suffering would come after, not before.

The tree can stay up another week, there is grace for that. To be “biblical” about Christmas it’s time to welcome the unusual who also want to worship. It’s time to make room for those bearing gifts seeking someone wiser than themselves. People that can’t be bought with gifts but people who want to turn to the King. Conversion showed up at the Christ child’s home- long after the manger. Will it show up at your house? Will the story continue in your hearts and include those along the path of history just watching and waiting to see how God redeems this group of people? This baby drew a diverse crowd. This baby brought families together from centuries prior to His birth. What we do today and tomorrow will unfold next Christmas, for Jew and Gentile. Welcome to Christ, welcome to Worship… let’s get this party started!   RenaeRoche2019

 

 

We have come to celebrate; we have come to sing of Your great power and the greatness of Your love. In the house of the Lord, where Your children come to dance and sing. Do you remember this one? I don’t know what you’ve come to do, I’ve come to praise the Lord, I’ve come to lift Him up, I’ve come to stomp for joy…  Or Carmen singing, “Who’s in the house?” JC!

The last verse of Psalm 23 is our last verse for the blog this week and also the last one for this year – 2018. Last year at this time, I was just starting a sabbatical and looking for a way to reach out to those I have discipled or befriended during the years of ministry. I started this blog just to reach out to a few people on Facebook and now over 38,600 people have visited the site. The widget says since 2014 but it was added just last December. Thank you for visiting. I can’t believe that a little step in faith reached people around the world with the Gospel. It cracks me up because media people know that this is not the form that is popular or recommended yet somehow God is using it. Shout out to the folks in Greece who keep trying to sell me stuff, the Russian porn ad guy who may have gotten saved and the countless people who offer their editing services. You just never know who is paying attention.

Our Christmas decorations are still up as this year we experienced Advent and are heading towards the Epiphany day, fully ready to discover the Magi anew. I welcome the excuse to keep the lights and tree up. Our Advent ring burned up one night when the Christ candle got too hot. It sure made the holiday more interesting when we discovered it wasn’t just the toaster setting off the fire alarm! O holy night, the candles were brightly shining, it was the night of fire alarms and mirth.

 My family had quite the time this year as our wonderful neighbor helped put up our lights. We added a gold, light- up, metal angel in the front yard. She’s beautiful and people keep stopping to take pictures. Or at least we think that’s what they were doing. Hubby Joseph was busy getting ready to enjoy the Christmas vacation and holiday when the angel face planted in our front lawn, bending the tiny tent stakes that came with her original packaging. For days, there she lay, our kids and others making jokes about her late night habits. It was really weird to defend a metal angel and her integrity but I still tried. I suggested using a plunger, crutch, broom, marshmallow stick, etc. to keep her upright, much to my husband’s dismay. Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the house not a creature was stirring, except Marvin our mouse. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter I sprang to my bed to see what was the matter. (Boy, this sounds familiar somehow…) Down went the angel, clattering wings as she went. I knew in a moment the car would have a dent. Joe, I nagged, “we are getting known as the fallen angel house people.” Who wants their house to be decorated with a fallen angel? That’s anti-Christmas like. He replied, “Baby it’s cold outside.” It was cold, windy and dark and our angel looked like she was making snow angels on the ground or worse yet dead. After years of dreaming of a nicely lit house with some type of ornament outside– this was not what I imagined. The next night before supper I gently made a comment about grounded Gabriel. In exasperation hubby got up to go to Home Depot to get big yellow tent stakes while we sat at the dining room table wondering if all the Christmas preparation had finally caused the ol papa unit to snap. The children singing “Angels we have heard on low” probably was overkill.  I think I mentioned it probably one to many times this season. I just could not bear being the “house of the fallen angel.” Then, one morning our family was having devotions in Revelation and we read Revelation 7:11, “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.

They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God.”

 

“Mama, my little boy cried out – our angel is doing exactly what she is supposed to! That’s what they do in Heaven – fall down before the throne worshipping God.” Alas, we are a household of proper theology in spite of our ornament.  I question whether this is what they meant at PTS to “wrestle with the scriptures.” Lol.

Somewhere between Hanukkah, burning up the advent ring and resurrecting a face planted angel in the front yard we managed to still celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and navigate family time this year. This last verse of Psalm 23 was especially helpful – “And I will dwell in the House of the Lord – forever.” I hear it will be calm and bright there. Sigh.

That baby in the manger brought forgiveness for our past sins and directs us to our Heavenly home. Families longing for something stable – that’s it. Stability and peace are possible if Christ is Lord of your household. Joseph and Mary were the original “blended family” and because of their obedience and the birth of the Christ child, we have HOPE. That is pretty amazing and worth celebrating. Goodness and mercy are bringing up the rearguard and securing a legacy for all those in Christ. God has our back covered. But what about the future? What does that hold? Many are prophesying and predicting what next year will bring. I never hear anyone say, next year your room will be clean, your tables will be dusted, your kids will do their homework, etc. No, it’s always big crazy stuff because that is what people like to hear. Maybe as Christians we do that too?

God’s house – we often picture Heaven and think of John 14 and that is part of the “future” equation. Do Shepherds raise A lamb or a flock of sheep? A church or household is a group of people that have common interests and goals. They connect and carry one another through the battles. We were planning to go to a district church function recently and ended up staying home because I had to work later than I anticipated. I was heartbroken. We could have rallied but between the holidays, family obligations and general sense to not travel without preparing the vehicle kept us away. I missed the laughter, the scripture, the prayer and song. We could not give or receive and it felt disconnected. Church can be like Heaven on earth, it can be a source of feeding, resting and care/comfort. Shepherds know that there is safety in numbers and that sheep do best when they remain in a flock. Independent “I gotta be me” life styles may seem fun in the moment but doesn’t really bring the peace one needs during a weekday. God brings us to Himself AND into the fold, to dwell with US.

What if to dwell in the house of the Lord meant to be snuggled, nestled in His household (church, people) vs. a physical building or futuristic Heavenly abode? What if part of the Shepherds care for us was to be connected? What if dwelling or living in God’s house was abiding in His presence and with those who call on His name? That would be a daily, moment by moment positional type care rather than just a wish to make it into eternity. Maybe it is both – a heavenly future home and a here and now supportive household we enter in thru collaboration and connection? Whatever the case or location – I want to BE there.

Forever in this verse is literally forever and all days. That is morning and evening- all of them. Not my length of days (because I’m a finite human) but as long as days exist we want to be in the Lords’ presence and in the presence of His people. My household is pretty squirrely, smoky and crazy sometimes but it is awesome to me –because the people I love the most are with me. Heaven will be awesome because the people God loves most will be there. If it refers to the here and now and Christian fellowship – being a sheep in fellowship with other sheep becomes important- eternally.

John Burke has a book out that gives insight into Heaven- Imagine Heaven (Baker Publishing 2015). King David wrote in Psalm 84 how he longed to be in God’s Temple, dwelling in His presence. It seems that those who posture their hearts towards eternity and live among those who long for it, are the happiest and most content. I want to be in that number! I believe the reason Homeplate advantage works for families is because they take time out weekly to remember how real and close Heaven really is. (Homeplateadvantage- Pathway Press and Derek Publishing 2018).

In the midst of our holiday, someone we knew slipped into eternity. The timing seemed odd but on the day that person passed, it felt like Heaven was celebrating. Our focus was redirected and our perspective on what was important drastically changed. I remember walking outside and thanking God for that person’s life and legacy. By accident my cell phone started playing the song, “Well Done” by the Afters. I had never heard it before but it snuck into my heart and danced around awhile. You may like it also, as you refocus 2018 and prepare for 2019. Our Great Shepherd leads us to dwell with Him daily (John 15) and is also actively preparing us to live with Him for eternity. The church is one of the tools He utilizes to do just that.

 

May you find Him and may you find Him in THEM in 2019. That’s Heaven- here and there.

RenaeRoche2019