Romans – April 2021

 

In the midst of vaccines, elections and weather changes we remember a carpenter who came to save the lost and destroy the works of the evil one. The problem is, we have lost sight of who the evil one really is, and some have supposed him to be their neighbor, boss, or someone in the opposite party. Discernment is needed in our culture more than ever.  Romans answers many cultural questions as it explains God’s heart and wrestles with Gods law.  

One of my favorite verses: Romans, Chapter Four – Verse 25. “… who was delivered up for (or because of) our offenses and was raised again for our justification. “I thought I was one of many that put Him there. The whole world sinned and there are some really bad guys, right? Read that slowly … because of our / MY offense Christ was delivered up. My insecurities, pettiness, issues, decisions, laziness, bitterness, comparing, insults, sins – I put Him there. If I was the only one, my conflicts, issues, hatred was all dumped on the innocent One that came to set me free. I not only sin but fall short of the glory of God. That is intense. This verse is not talking about my cousin, friend or enemy. It is talking about ME. Perhaps it is also talking about you.

On the night of the crucifixion God did not stand at the foot of the cross with a clipboard wondering what achievements we would have or what contributions we would make.  He did not ask our family or friends for a reference. Before we ever sinned, God set in motion the solution to our greatest problem. Every drop of blood had purpose and each wince of pain was caused by MY debt. Overwhelming and enormous debt. When we realize this, it evokes worship and gratefulness. Those who receive this free gift long to glorify the One who made it possible.

Romans has many theological themes, Justification being central. While my sin was being atoned for, God was declaring me justified. It was there, in that moment, on that spot. Not when I was born, in Bible college or raising a family. It was before I could offer any work/deed. In the midst of blood, tears and darkness, God took on my sin. Justification is positional, meaning we exchange our putrid sins for Christ’s righteousness, and He declares us righteous. It’s the worst deal of the century for Jesus and yet He did it willingly.  Romans explains how to walk that out, but this is where it starts. It starts with my offenses being gross, evil, and unforgivable — but then taken up by a holy God. His wrath had to be satisfied and only the cross and the death of His son would accomplish that. One writer said that is how we know Heaven is a safe place – because all wrath has been satisfied for the believer.

Romans can be understood only if we start off needing power for salvation.  NONE of us are pretty enough or elect enough to deserve it. Our highest praise comes from realizing our lowest depths.  

We have friends who are going through a physical trial at this time, and they determined to give it entirely to God with only one request, that God would use it entirely to glorify Himself.  Their testimony has gripped our hearts and spurred us on to know better this incredible Lord they have surrendered to. Their perseverance is producing prayer and dedication not only in their lives but those around them.  Ultimately, they have victory but, in each moment, because of the cross they can have peace. Their “visual” example beckons us to believe in a God we cannot see. It demands we acknowledge a God that is fully in control.  Those who have been justified are given access and peace. That’s not mere words on a page – its tangible. To know you can have audience with the King of Kings gives hope and strength. We do not have to struggle with “WHY” or what the outcome will be when you have left those decisions up to God. Peace comes when you rest in the promise that in Gods eyes you are accepted, and nothing can separate you from His love. Trauma, pain, cancer, conflicts, death are extremely tough. Access and Peace, assurance of God’s love, knowing we are justified in these times– this is all possible because of the cross.

When I was in grad school, I had a mentor. He was a man who had several degrees and had taught scripture for many years. We became friends and, on many occasions, we would spend time sharing stories and enjoying time together. He was a blessing to our family. Any questions I had, he seemed to know the answer. He valued listening to me. It was life changing. Because of Jesus we can run to our Heavenly Father who is Eternal. He longs and waits to spend time with us. People say that Easter is more than just eggs and bunnies. It is also more than just the cross. What the cross provided is GREAT NEWS and we miss that if we rush to resurrection or rush to evangelism. God made a way to save us but also to befriend us, love us, give us peace. Chocolate and Robin eggs just do not measure up!

When Tertius wrote Romans (secretary to Paul – see Rom.16), he laid out one of the best theological works ever written. The Gospel is power unto salvation. There we get a glimpse into the righteousness of God! Pretty amazing. What other book instructs us on what the God of the Universe requires – what delights His heart? God wants to be known and this is where we learn about Him.

Romans 15, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.” We are a people, a church, a nation that needs hope now more than ever.  Hope isn’t something you get in a drive-thru window like a cheeseburger. Hope does not rain down when the weather changes. HOPE is found in a person and God’s word brings us a new perspective and gives us tangible HOPE. Look at Romans 15: 13 “Now may the God of ALL hope, fill you with ALL joy and peace in believing, that you may abound (exceed, overflow) in HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

We are called to be believers – not behavers.

Faith causes us to overflow with hope.  I like solutions, action. I cannot fix the world or even myself– but I can read God’s word. Not reading is like having an antibiotic but then not taking it, hoping it will cure you. If we do not read Gods’ word, we cannot expect God’s solutions.

Another key area in Romans is the subject of ALL or ALSO. Paul is clearly telling the Jews in this book that they need to receive one another, there is a “new kid” in town. Paul compares the Jew and Gentile clearly stating that because of God’s mercy, God loves them both. This ALL concept is throughout this book and could apply to black/white, male/female, the list goes on. The Jews (possibly read 2nd and 3rd generation Christians) were taking God and the things of God for granted. The Gentiles burst on the scene and they were so hungry. There’s friction between the established camp and the “newbies”. When I was a young girl, I used to listen to Gloria Gaithers song, I am a Promise.”  The words said, “It does not matter what your name is, where you live, who your dad is or how big you are or what you look like. Are you short, fat, skinny? Got holes in your tennis shoes and freckles on your nose? It doesn’t matter a bit– you can be exactly what God wants you to be, and He has something very special in mind for you!” We grew up listening to songs that included all who were created in God’s image and an understanding that God wanted ALL to be saved. If you go back through this book and highlight the ALL and ALSO words you will be convinced by the time that you are done reading that this Gospel is for EVERYONE ever born. Without going down political rabbit trails, or risking censure –just read Romans and you will have clear answers. God was for anyone, whosoever would call on His name! That is profound and it will impact how we treat others, how we worship and especially how we reach out!

We have been trying to walk in the Newness of the Spirit. It is easy if you ask God to instruct you (i.e., take time to listen/obey), but difficult if you are set on your own agenda. Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. I asked my youngest son why his behavior had changed so much one day. He said, “I don’t know mom. I guess I was just born and breaded that way.” The older son has teased him since about being a little mozzarella stick. No matter how you were born or reared by your parents, if you are grafted into God’s family you are a child of the King. Adopted and righteous.

I pray you dig into the book of Romans. Look for Gods’ heart not just definitions of the big themes like sanctification or redemption. Discover how to walk out the Easter message – on Mondays, Thursdays, even Saturdays. The story is not over yet. It is only beginning. You are book 67 – and the world is still watching and groaning for you to be revealed. Let me know how the rest of the “Easter story” goes in your life.

 Living out the message with you,

RenaeRoche2021

 

 

 

A couple of years ago, after several years of researching festivals  and celebrating various ones we decided as a family to take a break and have a “normal” Spring. On the night we usually celebrate Pentecost, my husband had to go to work and my kids were playing in the basement.  I was lonesome. I missed the gatherings. By the time I realized I needed the others, desired Gods presence, really enjoyed the celebration, –it was too late. No invitations had been extended. There was not time to pull it together. Putting it first starts with getting it on the calendar, pushing aside other things. Grace says we are not under obligation, but my heart liked the process.

So, I went out on the driveway where the grill was, to try my hand at making a few hot dogs. My grill master husband (who had previously done all the grilling) had told me “it’s simple – just turn the knob to the right”. It Sounded easy enough. So, I set the essentials on the picnic table and looked around the neighborhood that was empty – and quiet. Just a few robins singing in the trees, enjoying one another. Someone was mowing a lawn. My pity party included smores, but I was too sad to think about eating them. Between tears I gathered marshmallows and grahams and chocolate knowing full well that it would not be half as sweet as having friends and neighbors over.

The grill made a popping noise which I know now was the ignition. It got hot, then hotter. Pretty soon flames were bursting up above the car and the porch. I had no water  hose in the front yard and had never seen this activity before. With loud screams, I ran to the neighbor’s house who used to be a boy scout leader. Knocking frantically on his door I explained to him and his wife that hubby was at work and the grill was out of control. The man ran and got water; I ran back just in time to explain to the now gathering people on the front lawn that it was the first time I had used this grill. Pentecost and my grill were going to celebrate with or without us.

Neighbors started showing up with snacks. “We forgot this year, thanks for doing it again”, they said to my amusement. Between laughter, memories and flames an instant party was born. Previous years there was much preparation, cleaning, stress. This was much easier. Emergencies, trauma, unexpected circumstances have a way of creating gatherings. Are we convinced this is all accidental? These moments can be providential for those watching the wind of the Spirit! The unplanned and unusual had occurred. Not to sound sacrilegious but the Old Testament, dry to some, is a huge BBQ invite from God to celebrate His character – He enjoys being with his people. When you experience these moments, you see them elsewhere too. Go back and note how many times Paul visits, eats, and engages a crowd. It is fascinating.

The Spirit does not just drive people to church. There is also a nudging to fires, food, hugs, fellowship, etc. I might even suggest there is a leaning to spiritual parties as wherever God shows up there tends to be food. We “were received, accepted” is more inviting than doctrines that never get shared. Before people will ever hear our Gospel, they need to see it in us, feel it in our warmth. What if the believers in Acts had stayed inside? What is more dangerous than Covid-19? People trying to behead you or put you on a stake. Seriously, we owe these NT folks an apology if our masks hinder our church function or praise. Caution, wisdom? Yes. Suppressing the truth and hiding out ? No.

So, what does this have to do with Acts other than flames of Fire? Everything. This book is called the book of the apostles, but if you read it carefully, the apostles  really do little of the ACTS. Jesus shows up but mainly in a collective term, “THE NAME” which may seem like a small thing until you try and say that name in a public, government, religious or hospital setting. That name is a hot potato due to history and power. 

I did not know until our driveway fire that a grill is ignited then tempered. You can control the flame amount and not burn things up by adjusting the dial. (Yes, hubby probably should have shared this or I should have read the manual). This Name which is not a magic rabbit’s foot can also be tempered. We gently introduce it – we season and salt people’s appetites for it by first introducing His character, His deeds and promises. We represent the NAME, not throw it around like it is a Billy club. The name is holy and brings to mind when friends are saved or healed. Do you remember when Jesus’ name turned everything around? When He brought peace, comfort, etc.?

When I go to Burger King, I think croissants –that are the same in every part of the country. Its consistent. I love meatball subs at Subway – the name makes my mouth water. Always a good choice. Names represent things. When I say cake, I think of my hospitable friend Stella who makes an insanely good blueberry dump cake. When I think company is coming, I smile and think of my friend Kitty who makes the best cheesy casserole known to man. I have tried countless times and just can’t match it. Her name is more than just a name – it recalls the night she showed up when times were tough, the prayer when a family member was dying, it reminds me of her laugh that is unlike any other. Names represent deeds, character, life.

That name I love to hear – Jesus, can change a man’s heart, a woman’s soul, a child’s mind and transform a nation, a people. I am careful to not use it in a common way because I know in short order, I will need to call on it to mend what is broken in my life. It is powerful not because I say it but because God puts HIS power behind it and Jesus signed His name in blood to authorize it. There is NO NAME under Heaven other than that name by which we can be saved. Potent, powerful, present. “Jesus, bring Your name to bear in this situation, please.”

What does it mean to use that name? Gods’ name means His character, His promises, and His deeds. When you call on that name that is what you are referring to. Its not a mantra or escape hatch.  It is the full flame, person, majesty, power, and word of the God of the Universe. No wonder there were so many miracles in the book of Acts! At the bottom of this page, I have put the  occurrences in Acts where they called on the name of Jesus. IF you want to do the ACTS of the apostles then this list will be important to you. If you just want to watch Netflix and eat Doritos, attending church one hour on Sunday, do not ignite this. It is dangerous, it is amazing and at times will draw a crowd.

I have seen this name deliver people from assault, gunshots, and death. Last summer someone I had mentored got in the middle of a gang fight, then as a last-ditch effort, called on this powerful name JESUS!  The person was delivered from the fight – and has video to substantiate it. That person later said they had not believed that was possible. He thought it was just an evangelastic fable.  God gave opportunity to experience it. God can deliver and will answer prayer when we call on His name. Those who have experienced this grace know that God watches over His own. If you have not experienced this– be grateful you have not been in a life/death situation to need that type of deliverance, but do not mock those who have and lived to tell about it! 

Why is this important to share? Because the days are growing dark, many  souls stand in the balance and many are hurting. Here are some themes we found in Acts:

  1. Prayer in the NAME. The people regularly, daily called on the name of Jesus, whether they were threatened to be silent, or not. It was a request for all that name could afford. It is as true today as it was back then. We can shout, say, or whisper this name anytime but it is not in just the saying of the name but in the trusting in His power, name, character, and deeds. (J e s u s, JESUS Jesus!) No other name offends so many, no other name delights so many. 

 

  1. Communion – they broke bread and gave thanks. This was not for show or ritual. It was not to be legalistic but to remind them that the righteous shall live by faith and the blood of Jesus is the ONLY salvific thing we can rely on. We are not saved by taking communion but take it to remind ourselves that Christs blood alone saves us from our sin and brings us into relationship with God. Being grateful, thankful for the cross makes one confident, trusting in nothing other than Christs work on the cross. (Rom.2:29) In spite of teaching on grace and being  redeemed  and justified, Paul continued the practice of communion. He dismantled most of the Jewish practices but upheld that one because Jesus told us to “Do this in remembrance of me”. It is a vital part of Acts and mentioned in the NT, more often than speaking in tongues. Perhaps this is what is missing in some Christian circles? Real power comes from a real person with a real name- so we remember our Source. The Holy Spirits job is to honor and glorify Christ so anything that veers from that might take us further from truth.

 

  1. Fellowship – Women, Jews, Gentiles, disabled, sinners, and the saints all get included in this book. There is a strong call for unity and valuing those who are unlike us. Anti-semitism, racism, sexism, elitism, favoritism = are  unlike Jesus. He is an includer, not an excluder. We are called not to call others unclean but to present the Gospel. Daily fellowship was part of their success. They did not have Covid-19 but they did have leaders and enemies wanting to kill them, – yet they did not forsake assembling in spite of threats. Tenacity, resilience and persistence? Nope, it did  not happen by human agenda but by more Holy Spirit activation.

If ever we needed healing, it is now. If ever we need a clear presentation of the Gospel, it is now. If ever we needed to call on the name of Jesus, it is now. If ever we needed to come together and let the Spirit work through us, it is now. Look at the many cultural conflicts, the crisis, the circumstances in Acts – and then watch how the Spirit circumvents them. As you read Acts, you will see the Holy Spirit redirect peoples hearing and vision, redirect leaders, change the wind and the charted course of ships and men. The “Acts of the Spirit” are evident in every chapter when the people call on the name of the Lord. Desire, invitation, Holy Spirits arrival, then ACTS, that amaze the saints and sinners. We follow Jesus, we call on the Holy Spirit to help us obey.

I love the tension in this book between triumphalism – (when we think victory is right now, for only us and guaranteed) which is in error, and Suffering (martyrdom, persecution, trials). We err if we believe ALL is victory. If we control every prayer than God is nothing more than a candy machine dispenser answering our requests. He decides when and what happens because He is sovereign. Crisis, rejection, and persecution are NORMAL for the Christian journey, as well as deep suffering. We err if we believe ALL  is defeat — hardship or darkness. God is unlimited and able to pour out His Spirit when and how He wants to. He is Sovereign. In the end God is still going to clean house, still sit on the throne and still hand out rewards. There is no situation where He does not win or bring justice – in HIS time. That holy tension happened then and is in full force now. God knew we would need the Holy Spirit to walk out the directives of Jesus. God is still pouring out gifts, fruit, and sweet fellowship for those willing to receive. The religious in Acts were busy gossiping, and the enemies were busy mocking and blocking – like today. But those following Jesus were assisted by the Spirit as God released blessings.

When the NAME is mentioned, God responds. When smoke arises, the people start looking and revival comes. I see smoke when different races share perspectives and platforms, I see smoke when women and men lead together, I see smoke when the marginalized are honored, I see smoke when people pray, I see smoke when the saints gather to break bread. Where there is smoke – there is ……. FIRE. It will come, it will ignite, and it will gather. The Same Spirit that fell on Pentecost, is the same Spirit that wants to ignite and UNITE the church and believers today. In Acts we get to see what that looks like. The Holy Spirit desires to be active in YOU and me. How can we step into this? We turn up the flame in our hearts. We fellowship, call on His name, break bread and long for His return. The result? The lost get found and join in because it’s a beautiful sight, a warm encounter. Eternal change.

Where is your desire leading you? What are you wanting to take place in your world at this time? Call on the name of the Lord first, then let the Holy Spirit help you obey. Gifts, tongues, power = all great but very lonely without the others God has called. He is ready, willing, and able. TURN UP THE FLAME in your heart. God will do the rest.

Lord, be the fire on the altar of our hearts! We need you; our families need you; our nation needs you! We long to not only read this book but walk it out, and share it.

Desiring with you,

Renae Roche 2021

 

Acts:

2:21 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

2:38 In this name, be baptized

3:6 In this name, rise up and walk

Acts 3:16  in the nam,  made strong – perfect soundness

4:12 Only name under Heaven where we can be saved

4:17 To prevent its spread – they were  threatened not to speak it (the name)

4:18 commanded not to speak or teach in the name

4:30 signs, wonders done in thy name

5:28 commanded not to teach in this name

5:40 beaten and commanded not to speak in that name

7:58 counted worthy to suffer shame for His name

8:12 believed and baptized in the name

9:14 all who called on that name–  were bound

9:15 chosen vessel to bear the Name before the Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel

9:21 destroyed, those who called on this name… bound unto the chief priests

9:29 speak boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, they went about to slay him.

10:43 through His name whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins

10:48 and he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord

15:14 to take out a people for His name

15:26 men that have hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

16:18 I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.

19:5 baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus

19:13 cast out evil spirits in the name of the Lord Jesus

19:17 name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

21:13 ready to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus

22:16 arise, be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of Jesus of Nazareth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of John

It was so much fun to study the Gospel of John, with my husband and boys. We took turns leading discussions, watched several movies to gain perspective on various issues and discussed each of the narratives during our devotion time. I’m amazed at how our time together has changed and the discussions deepened as the boys grow older. I’m inspired by these little people who are turning into scholars and lovers of God.

The verse we camped around was John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Just a regular scripture but if applied will literally increase your faith. Believe God and you will have LIFE In His name. Joyce Meyers says that we are called not to be merely “achievers” but believers. God is pleased by our faith, not our works. These are good promises. Has your faith been increased or decreased during Covid-19? Faith comes by hearing – the word of God, not the news.

When we accessed how much time we were spending on social media versus building our faith through scripture or testimony it stirred us to make changes. John told us that if we read these testimonies it would increase our belief.

We need to hear stories of faith and miracles. I’ve heard this statement a couple times recently: “Some people try to compete with praise reports by sharing their bigger stories.” This comes up every once and awhile but suggesting someone has wicked motives because they are praising isn’t a good place to land. We are on slippery ground if we think we can read anothers heart.  The enemy uses things like this to silence true, good stories. When I meet praisers or those who have had deep trials and pain – they get excited when God comes through for them. They want to shout it out when they are miraculously healed. Then that jump-starts others in the room to praise Him as well. The updraft from all the testimonies can go on for minutes, even hours. I’ve even seen a praise fest like that last for weeks and months. A couple times we have had people come to share their story and then they ended up staying at our house for days just to recount Gods goodness. We treasure those times. The bigger the trial, the bigger the praise. Oh if these walls could talk! Instead of being a praise police ask them to tell you more, cry out for more, worship God for the more!

We need to praise Him, our bodies need to praise Him, our children need to praise Him, future generations need to know Him, etc. Don’t get cynical and judgey blocking someone’s praise reports just because somebody else is too chicken to share or doesn’t have any yet. People who don’t look for Gods movement usually won’t find it! Praise, let the church, mountains and streets hear you testify of the greatness of your God! IF you feel overtaken by someone else’s stories – ask God for some. The more you read John, the more you will gain confidence in the Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent God. Do not let another silence your praise – it came at too high a price. This past Sunday our church sang “Waymaker”. I tried to be still but then I remembered His goodness to me. I remembered when I was laying in a hospital bed not sure if I’d ever return home. I remember His sweet spirit encouraging me when I was alone. I remember what it felt like for my body to be healed, when no medicine would work. You can’t ask me to keep quiet. You can’t ask me to be still. It changed my life, my family, my ministry and my praise.

A few years ago I spent some time around many wounded and critically ill patients. I saw healing happen on a regular basis. Because of privacy laws I cannot recount their stories. One day I was walking along feeling pretty amazed at what God was doing and had a thought that maybe my new skills were producing fruit. I was thankful and glad God was using me and yes pride and arrogance were whispering in both ears. Along came a mentor of mine. He acknowledged my hard work and ministry which felt great. Then he added, “I have 2000 friends praying for you every day”. I should have been in awe he had that many friends. I should have been thankful people were praying. It was in that moment I realized that an unsaved rock could have been successful with all that prayer going up!  Lol. At my best I cannot work miracles – but I know One who can. With every year of education I cannot fulfill prophecies of the Lord – but I know One who can.  I showed up but it was God who did amazing things. How powerful to have people in unity who pray for you. We are privileged to be able to see extraordinary blessings of God but they do not come from our hands. Belief that God is able—makes a difference and an impact. Now we all know that God sometimes chooses not to heal in a certain time frame or at all. That’s good theology to understand that – but do not STEAL Gods’ glory by diminishing the praise when He does heal or move. God can vindicate Himself just fine.  Life and the enemy provide plenty of wet blankets to cover us all. Let’s come up higher with our faith and praise!

The prayer of the saints made (and make)  a difference. When we operate in gifts, when we experience supernatural events, when we praise God – it is not about the person recounting the story. It is about a Holy God breaking into our dark worlds and making a difference. No one gets the credit or glory for God moving. How fun to share how we experience Him in our small little worlds to encourage others and that His movement is possible. After reading this, don’t just pray for a group of people to pray for your ministry. Be a person of prayer. Serve others in that capacity. Ask God to bring you into a unified prayer group. Ask God to work the works He wants to do through you and flesh out the Gospel of John in your family, neighborhood, and church. He is faithful to do abundantly above all that we ask – but we need to ask.

The chapter that stirred us was John chapter 18. Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross. They expected Him to be a King of a different kind. Judas has prepared for Jesus to be arrested. The Kingdom didn’t respond to this king, and instead looked for another. Simon Peter, defended Jesus and in a fleshly moment takes his sword and cuts off the ear of the High priests servant. He could have gone after one of the soldiers– but they were on the ground overcome by the power of God. Explain that to a Sunday school class! They were blown away –not by a riot, fists or weapons by what Jesus says to them. Wow. Judas had rallied troops and officers from the High priests and Pharisees camp. They were armed with lanterns, torches and weapons. I imagine it was noisy when they fell.  Absent are the ones who made the order to arrest Jesus.  Between this passage and Matthew 26 we get a full picture of betrayal, disappointment and destiny. From what I can tell the only ones standing are Judas, Jesus and this servant. His boss is the high priest. So Peter seeing this odd occurrence (downed troops and officers) takes his sword and cuts off the servants ear. This kids name is Malchus- his name literally means king. I’m not sure of the dynamics of that moment or what went through the mind of Jesus but His call was to be Lord of the Kingdom, not wrestle or brawl for it. The One sent to rule the Kingdom has watched the ear of this young man fall to the ground. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The High Priest had sent this guy in his place and all of a sudden he can’t hear what the others heard and his face is bloodied. What a mess. The servant got the brunt of the entire riot. Things had not gone as planned. Now their king is arrested for causing an insurrection. An opposite result occurs and confusion abounds.

The One heading to a cross, is watching an innocent man named Malchus lose his ear, just for being obedient. It must have been surreal. Jesus, true to His nature, restores this servants ear. (Truly an Isaiah fulfillment of healing the deaf). In the whole Gospel of John, we see Jesus restoring people, making them whole. The word in the Old Testament is Shalom.  In the new Testament, wholeness is pronounced (Greek: hoo-gee-ace). He cares about the little kingdoms each of these disabled and broken people lived in. He showed mercy and compassion in each of their settings showing us what His fathers kingdom was really about. Restoration – making the broken whole again. He laid down His crown to accomplish these things. Then he laid down on a cross and trusted God to restore Him to His kingdom. The middle of the mess was, well, messy. Humans got involved and tried to force their own agenda, but that did not diminish Jesus or His power. He still reigned in the midst of chaos, riot, betrayal and violence. Why? His kingdom is higher, eternal. Hmm, maybe His word is for today?

As I have watched the world, the church and my own microcosm of spirituality change this last year, I reflect on God’s ability to bring peace, miracles and wholeness. John has a lot to teach us as we ask Him to impact our spheres of influence – supernaturally. Johns theology will show us just how powerful this Jesus was, is and can be in our lives. I’m in awe of His light breaking in very dark places. I love this King. I love how He restores and makes people whole. I also love a Kingdom I rarely see but look forward to. The good news (Gospel) is still available but not for those who grab it, misalign it or ignore it. It is for those who seek the King and the ways He instructed us to live.

May you seek, praise and experience that King today.  When you do—be sure to shout His praises long enough and loud enough that folks living below their praise level get jealous enough to seek Him too.

Please, for God and the next generations sake – call and share those stories too.

RenaeRoche2021

The Gospel of Luke – January Blog Post

Just a quick note: the link below is overwhelmed with posts, many of which come from unknown sources. Please contact me directly if I have not responded to a post so I can answer or publish your comments. Thank you. 

This past month we studied the Gospel of Luke as a family. It was unifying and gave us a profound view of the life of Jesus. My kids liked the stories. We wrestled with its’ message daily. When the “Star of Bethlehem” showed up in our wooded backyard it brought the Nativity account in Luke, chapter two to life. It created anticipation and caused us to “look up”. Suddenly technology was not the highest thing on our list. This was bigger, brighter, real.

When I did more in-depth research for the blog/ preaching, I realized I had missed things while “casually” reading. There are things we take for granted, those of us who have been saved a long time. One of the things is believing that Christians pray. That may range from just a pleasant thought all the way to prayers of Jesus where He calls out, yells a prayer or cries (Greek word Krazo). We casually tell everyone we will “keep them in prayer”. It is part of our normal dialogue and similar to the “How are you?” that well-meaning people ask without much thought.

In Luke, we see Jesus and others, praying. We expect that so we skim over it. When I went back to look at Jesus’ spiritual disciplines in this book it was unnerving – convicting. Did He have to pray? Did He need to pray? Would things not have changed if He had stopped? What if His friends told Him His prayers were hyper-spiritual? What would the Gospel of Luke look like –if Jesus had not prayed? Or if He had prayed in a perfunctory manner? Perfunctory – a warning word concerning spiritual rituals. Wouldn’t one prayer have been enough? Some think too many words negate prayer, citing babbling concerns. Today, should we still engage in more intense forms of intercession? Jesus retreated at times but did not stay in a prayer room, claiming He was an intercessor. He did not ignore the cries of those in trouble, spying on him in trees, waiting as they were crawling in pools, or walking along roads. Jesus was fully engaged and prayed. Luke shows us He was multi-tasking both  important things–with His father.

Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. So, prayer is part of our daily being. Thomas Watson said, “Prayer delights God’s ear; it melts His heart.”  So, prayer affects the Father. Hudson Taylor preached, “it is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.” So, prayer affects men. Billy Graham once said, “To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” So, prayer affects nations.  Jesus affected others; Jesus was EFFECTIVE. Mary knew the secret, the disciples saw the secret, Luke wrote about the secret. Shhh.

Jesus, when baptized (3:21) did not leave the “spiritual stuff” up to the pastor who dunked Him. It was not a one-way transaction or mere church event.  He was praying to the Father when the Heavens opened up. Dialogue. It was important to their relationship and God responded. He prayed when He was alone (5:16 and 9:18), He prayed when in agony (22:41) and He prayed with His disciples (11:1). Paul tells us in Colossians 4:12 that Epaphras, a fellow servant “labored fervently for them in prayer”. This isn’t the type of prayer that is frequently seen in our culture. Before the pandemic it was rare. Perhaps God is teaching His church how to persevere? Perhaps pressing– in requires practice? Jesus labored in prayer for salvation, the world– before He labored in suffering on the cross. He lifted up effective, fervent prayers that we benefit from still today.

You know my next question; it haunts us in the silent moments when we wonder if the world could have been a sweeter place. The question pierces us when we wonder if our children would have gone a different route, our marriage risen to higher heights, if our impact could have been more lasting….  IF Jesus needed to pray for those around Him, those given to Him – how much more do we need to engage the Father in the arenas He has given to us? Will He come pray with us as we groan in prayer? Yes.

Will He lift us as we weep for the tribulation around us?

Yes.

Will our prayers be heard by a loving Father and change take place?

Yes.

Jesus, by example, taught us that in the book of Luke– but maybe we trivialize it because it is just part of our christianese language? Maybe we falsely believed that prayer was for Sunday school kids and those who could do nothing else. Shhh – Mary and the disciple’s knew Jesus’ secret to powerful living. He shares it in parable form throughout this Gospel.

Prayer in Luke –It appears to us to be just narrative – spiritual words on the pages of our Bibles. But what if it was prescriptive? What if that example was meant to be spiritual warfare training? What if we really are supposed to follow after Jesus and His example?

When my mom was dying of COPD in a local hospital I cried out to God for understanding, direction. It was the most painful season I’ve ever encountered. I was reminded of the verse in Luke 18:1 that records what Jesus said,

 “Pray ALWAYS, NEVER give up.”

I clung to it, I rehearsed it, I repeated it and most of all I prayed it. I will never forget all the things that happened after that verse sparked hope in my heart. Read it in context. Memorize the parable – then get your nag on!  Spiritual nagging in prayer before a righteous judge is effective.

Luke, named the bright one – the bringer of light, tells us that behind the scenes is a powerful Holy Spirit, intercepting, guiding, and empowering every action of Jesus. Then Luke points out the regular, formative, habits of the Lord and if we are not careful, we will minimize their importance. The truth is, that was the SOURCE of Jesus’ power and the reason the narrative turned out like it did – Jesus came to do Gods’ will and praying/obeying Him was foundational to His entire ministry. He sought… then He followed.  He did not placate people. He did not follow societal norms or obligations. He sought God… then obeyed Him. You can not obey a God you are not listening to.

Luke the evangelist, Bishop, physician, historian, and patron of arts was a friend of not only Jesus but also His mother, Mary. Her insights and secrets are shared in Luke’s gospel and absent in the other gospels. Mama insight is valuable, and Luke understood the family system of Jesus. Luke shows us the humanitarian side of Jesus and those who served with Him. His gospel is the most descriptive and compassionate, describing a kingdom that impacted Jews and Gentiles with divine healing. Luke shows us how this suffering servant will change the Kingdom as we know it and become the King for the disenfranchised, poor, women and all those pushed back by the religious power brokers that honor themselves instead of lifting up others in community. Luke redefines the Kingdom (and its’ success) so we can come to know and love this new Sav ior.

Recently I wrote some things about inclusion that had been on my heart. It was scary to share and made me feel vulnerable. I was stating what I believed was a timely word –nothing personal to any specific individual(s). Several thousand people shared that blog post! That shocked me, but the comments/calls  alerted me to the realization that women still feel marginalized even in Christian circles. Women were able to take that post and use it as a discussion starter. There needs to be feedback and better communication for people to identify their concerns without retribution. Instead of contrition and change, some have doubled down and increased their bias and disparaging comments. That is heartbreaking on many levels. I did not realize there was such a need for healing or that I had exposed a raw nerve. Please join me as we dialogue and pray for change. Light disperses darkness – pray for light.

The King is still in charge and I am confident that whether here or on that last day, God will bring justice, rewards and promises. Judgement begins at the house of God and the Kingdom Luke wrote about is vastly different than the modern political or church system. (This can apply to black/white, men/women, Democrat/Republican, rich/poor). The point is we need to be Christ-like in our inclusion, ministries, and discipleship. This is what Luke and Jesus told us the Father wanted to see in His kingdom.

Many are weary of the talk for change. I get that but this emphasis is not mine – Luke’s main focus was – prayer, inclusion (gentile, women, poor), the family and the lost.

That is how we will recognize when Jesus has shown up.

These are areas our country is struggling with today. We too await – a national leader, a hope for a reduction in crime and division, healing, unity. Are we waiting like Jesus waited? Praying. Are we waiting like those in the story of Luke waited? Looking for Jesus? Maybe Luke offers us tools, tools to once again “activate” this kingdom Jesus initiated. The lost will not be saved if we do not pray and follow Jesus to them. Jesus used women such as Mary, Joanna (a secular manager for Herod) and Susanna. That is a great evangelism plan. Jesus used Gentiles (insert mainliners, Pentecostals, Catholics, children, recovered folks, even a demoniac). His Kingdom is bigger than our mindsets and restrictions. That makes for sweet community. The poor, the disenfranchised, the sinners = all very welcome at the table of the King. Dr.Luke told us about the life of Jesus, His secret for living life and who to include in that life. Doctors write prescriptions to help us know how to get better. Ignoring their wisdom is to our own peril.

Our great physician (Jesus) made a house call when He came to the house of bread –Bethlehem. IF we slow down to read Luke, slow down to see the star, slow down to understand Epiphany, slow down to see Jesus’ spiritual discipline of prayer –we begin to see what God had in mind all along. Jesus knew what it took to win and against all odds, He won. It is certified in Hell and Heaven. A win that can never be overturned. Pretty awesome. Reading this book every day for a month is just scratching the surface. For medicine to take effect it must be the right patient (you), the right dose (full strength), the right route (He is the way) and the right time (Now is the day). Ask the Lord to help you study His word, ask the Lord how to pray, ask the Lord how to proceed. In 2021 remember to ALWAYS pray and NEVER give up. In Luke’s day– it took ONE to make a difference. Be that ONE (you know the secret) in 2021. 

 

Praying for you and with you,

RenaeRoche2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marks’ Gospel of Jesus

 

                    Elf – get off that shelf!  It’s time…..

This year has been marked with all kinds of things – illness, elections, pandemic, career changes and family issues. It was like the perfect storm of events—all, very out of our control. In times of chaos we seek stability. Did you know that McDonalds sales grew by 4.6% this last quarter – during the pandemic? I think it’s one of the only places that is—just always there. Each one – standard operating procedures prevail. We expect things. Covid-19 rules affected bars and churches but didn’t touch ol Ronald McDonald. You can count on the arches being lit up, people going thru drive thru and employees in matching uniforms, taking your order. We like being asked what we want. We like having our place in line and getting that warm bag, driving off having our needs satisfied. “I’m loving it” we are programmed to say. Sometimes there’s even an extra nugget or two and we celebrate thinking the odds are in our favor. Don’t judge me, you secretly love those moments also.

Recently I went through a drive-thru in our city. They advertised strawberry pies –a blend of warm strawberry filling and cream cheese. We went through several times only to be switched out with apple pies. It was a dessert scam! Then it switched to “wait ten minutes please or pull ahead”. Seriously? We don’t like to wait; you don’t like to wait ….. I won’t tell you how many times we went back just to accomplish this task. Waiting ten minutes or pulling up to spot # 2 just isn’t McDonalds. Even this small part of our little world had been affected. Fast food was now somehow different. Our expectations had to grow and change. I like pie but I was not ready to shift from tradition and control. We want instant, immediate, we want it NOW.

Think this is just a little left of crazy? Consider the most purchased item on wedding registries today – Instant Pot. When I went to look into this feeding frenzy I was told on the webpage to “hurry up” to get this instant meal maker. I’m on a computer, pulling up the listing on Cyber Monday and they are telling me to “do it faster”! The company doesn’t disclose their financials but did write that each year their sales DOUBLE and they have surpassed the 380 million mark. Americans like fast, urgent, and instant. It is who we are and how we like to roll.

Now just walk through this with me for a minute– consider hospitals all over the country with beds filled with patients. We pray and pray, and people still die. Daily we see situations not changing, circumstances even getting worse, wearing down our resolve and belief, testing our faith in what is possible. Our faith is challenged and instead of resisting we succumb to a silent fear that it won’t happen. While some do not get healed, we lay down our prayer shields and don’t take the “risk” of asking God to intervene. (See the friends of the paralytic in Mk.2). Being safe is important but God does not need a mask. His power has not been unplugged during this crisis. We spend more time investigating consumer reports on things like Instant Pot than how to pray for healing, or comfort or grief. We are fast paced – until it comes to scripture or pressing through in intercession.  Jesus waits to be invoked, involved, and introduced but all that is just too time complicated, so we mindlessly scroll Facebook and pretend it’s not real or perhaps not for today or us. There are 27 miracles in Mark. Miracles happen 27 times! That’s awesome. Amazed, blind men saying hallelujah for their sight, paralytics jumping around experiencing the Joy to their world. Miracles did, can and will take place when we make room (time, pray) for them. So, what if we confessed our fears to God? To each other? What if we let science do the possible and ask God to do the impossible?  Imagine how much “Joy in the season” would take place if praise reports flooded our lives? What if we pressed into pray for longer than a second? Is our need for speed also an indication of our resistance to waiting on God – for direction, healing, answers? “Lord, help us to respond and give time for you to do what you do.”

Let me share with you our subject (Mark) and his “immediate (Greek Euthus)” family – martyred disciples, Peter the wild evangelist, Matthew a tax collector, a bunch of women with money and passion and a spiritual relative named Barnabus. Oh, and then – Jesus of Nazareth, feeding people, serving people, ministering to people all the while Matthew was connecting Him to be the King of the Everlasting Kingdom. Mark came from wealth; he knew what it was like to be served yet this Jesus guy kept leaving the comfort of His home to hang out with the likes of the “unseemly”. Jesus’ ministry was characterized by 3 things – teaching, preaching (about Gods ways) and compassion. The result was people’s lives being touched, but for Jesus it meant – suffering. While Isaiah told us what it would look like when the suffering servant arrived it caught everyone off guard. It wasn’t what was anticipated. This Messiah served and lifted up others rather than asking them to serve Him. It was a different picture, a new paradigm.  The mission model of churches is often “come and join our shiny program” but the biblical model in Mark is the disciples hanging out with Jesus, greatly impacting the lost, building them up and sending them out to reach their world, their sphere of influence. It’s upside down – in the biblical model, the leaders serve the ministers (all followers) who walk thru the door. The Messiah is serving instead of ruling. Sacrifice and servanthood in the book of Mark is different. It shows the leader, the wealthy, the privileged, even poor reaching down and making the demon possessed, lame and leprous GREAT and using all Gods’ resources to see that happen. Teaching becomes an effort in elevating the mamas, preaching becomes an exercise in supporting the papas, compassion means the best event of the week is around sister Berthas table connecting, instead of on a stage or platform. Walking with Christ for Mark meant walking dusty streets, hugging the downcast and blind, resources brought to the disenfranchised and beggarly so GOD would be glorified. Short gospel- large message. (Consider Mark 2:17).

As we studied Mark, we circled every time the word “immediately”, “as soon as” and “suddenly” popped up. The whole book is highlighted. What intrigued me was when the demoniac of Gadarene ran to Jesus. Ran, not sauntered, or walked, ran. I asked my kids when the last time was that they saw someone running to an altar. The youngest mentioned a ministers gathering we were at a year ago which blessed my heart that he had experienced that passion. Jesus did not let the demoniac follow him but instructed him to go and minister in his arena of influence. Contrast that with the other guy in the book that runs to Jesus – the rich young ruler. Same passion but when he is told he needs to lay down his wealth, he turns away. Riches, “stuff” can keep us from the Lord more than demons. That’s a bit frightening. Instantly both of these men recognized Jesus and knew they needed him. One forsook what held him back and the other forsook the One who made him rich. It would seem their speed of running to Jesus was not the point but if they remained with the One they ran to. Continuing to run, continuing to seek, continuing to obey made all the difference in the world. Not just the instant fix or encounter but the long game.

I know we are all looking for happy, comforting Christmas messages as we start Advent. In Mark we don’t get angelic narratives that make for great hymns but we do see many reasons for rejoicing, for joy and God coming to earth to be with His people. I don’t have a Christmas greeting to go with Mark. However, I can tell you my family pulled up stakes and obeyed God this year, setting outside our small ideas. We sold half of everything and moved to actively follow a God we believe still does miracles, still offers forgiveness, still changes lives. We started practicing listening to God and following what He said, and it has been the most exciting journey ever! Talk about peace on earth. The best GIFT you will receive this Christmas may just be reading LIVING the book of Mark. It truly was a gift at our house. If you listen to Him and practice IMMEDIATELY obeying God, you will experience a brand-new type of journey. It is wild.  

I would categorize this Gospel into 2 sections – Obedient servant (Christ and reader) and Responsive King (then and now). For all the times Jesus called them to obey– immediately things took place that were reciprocal.  Jesus comes through –like the time he sent them to get a colt or a room for a sacred meal. They co-labored. He actively supported those who were His. When we obey God, He responds. When we step out in His name, He goes with us. He’s not distant, deaf or apathetic towards His children.  Most important of all these stories is Mark telling us that any day, hour, minute, second…. The King of the Kingdom would SUDDENLY, IMMEDIATELY return. That is responsive!  We can count on that. The Christmas story is filled with all kinds of fulfilled prophecies. Mark points us to the one great reality and prophecy to come – this suffering servant who sacrificed His life is going to return, so get ready!

I challenge you to get a journal and read the book of Mark. Then for the next 31 days ask the Lord to use you in teaching, preaching and compassion. Listen for His direction and follow His leading. Set down your agendas and preconceived ideas of what following Christ means. Servants, take up your towel! Start your engines– for this ride will change the track of your life. Immediately obey, immediately serve, at once, get off the couch and do what you are led to do. Perfunctory, in a rut, Christianity is boring and frankly not worth living. Passionate, vibrant, and relational living with the King who came as a servant – is so much better than any Hallmark story and truly better than a story where a plastic baby god remains in a cradle.

Like our wait at McDonalds, the world is waiting for us to show up. It is expected that we will do and be what our “label” is as Christ–ians and bring the Gospel.  Jesus saw those who were captive  on the streets, in the jails, in homes. Will we? Not someday, when we have money or when the season is just right but now, today, immediately will we go?

O come, o come Emmanuel

O come, o come Emmanuel

and ransom captive Israel! Those redeemed, it’s time to see those still in shackles, it’s time to release those still bound. It’s time to go about as Jesus did – releasing compassion, following the Lords directives immediately.  Pray and Go tell it in your world — The Savior is waiting to go with you. Emmanuel!

Rejoicing and waiting with you,

RenaeRoche2020

 

Matthew

Matthew, named “gift of the Lord” was a tax collector, previously named Levi, who wrote the best seller for things pertaining to Jesus and his story. This best-read book of the early church unfortunately has become one of the least read Gospels of our generation. It is filled with Jewish background, genealogies and stories that do not appear anywhere else in scripture. It is worth asking why this Gospel is often omitted in churches – perhaps it is too difficult to research or regretfully many do not like to study history. In some circles anti-Semitism clouds the rich heritage that would bring clarity to prophecies that have been fulfilled.  For those who dig deep- rich treasure awaits!

Whatever took place during Matthews’ life, we can see the end result in Acts 1:13 where we find him sitting with the other disciples in an upper room.  We can also see the new Kingdom agenda working – Note the disciple is with the women who ministered with them also – all in unity. These things do not happen by coincidence, nor are they typical for that generation but they do represent a transformation in relationships. Matthew records that.  OT and NT come together. Tax collectors and church folks, together? Men and women, together? Jews and Gentiles working and worshipping – together? The Old Covenant being fulfilled in the New is the focus of this book. The more you study the prophecies the more you see that Christ is the promised Messiah.  Matthew shows us the process of being Christs disciple and relational unity throughout his book, showcasing both the KING and His Kingdom.  

I want to pause for a second and exhort the Church in this season. We are in a spiritual upheaval and the church mamas and papas need to speak up now more than ever. Silence has not helped the Church! and in some instances has left her behind justice, the very thing the prophets cried out for in their day. Women are needed in politics, churches and especially in families to rise up and be who Christ has called them to be. (Slowly reread that in light of what is taking place today). Not just in the pew or the applause section but in every ministry and on every board.  We can’t say the Gospels are for this when our ministries do  not represent this as the world has taken note. Matthews Gospel promotes partnership, collaboration and .Gods spirit being used in every believer. 

Categorically, Women (or any group) are not: depressed, suicidal, promiscuous, Jezebel wannabes, mentally ill, perpetual victims, emotional or any other host of things that are put on them when others fear their promotion or release. Let us move past these archaic labels specifically designed to limit Gods movement in the earth. Seriously, if you use these tools of stereotype you are fighting the King Himself.  Random assessments intended to suppress others are being exposed quickly. Judgement begins in the House of God. The entire body is needed to combat the fears and foes of this generation. Gods’ not playing anymore – the King is about to return, and He will be retrieving HIS Bride – in all her glory (male, female, black, white, democrat and republican). If you have used tools to suppress any group of people (yes even white males), now is the time to make amends and get ready. Lamps filled with oil are not needed on a sunny day – they are needed when it is dark.  Called women are not willing any longer to watch their families, churches, neighborhood or country fall to ruins. Make room and let them do what they have been prepared to do in this hour.  In plain language – interview the women in your church, get their resumes, inquire about their passions, seek to find open doors,  plan coffee with them and leaders to plan –hire and honor those unlike you, do NOT rest until each one is placed in the body and using her FIERCEness to challenge the status quo.  Submit your fears of other colors or genders to GOD and GO reach your communities!  WE must change, be change, activate change if there will ever be change. We do not have to fast and pray for something already clearly in Gods word.  Fast and pray for how to mobilize every person in your congregation. Then sit back and watch Gods Kingdom move.

Back to our book…

I love how Matthew takes fourteen generation of the Royal family and fills it with victors and villains. Although the legacy is long, the ones that complete the Kings rule are those who sought after God. From the very first chapter we see that God does not rely on human choices, families, or pedigree to do His will. Stop relying on your grandpappy to be your ticket or your lineage to declare your righteousness – it is only the blood of Jesus, in every generation. King David would not have been able to be in his family photo on Facebook! Yet, God made him King. It is time to bury the dung that smells in all our “gifts, titles, relatives and roles”. The Kingdom reign suggests that the fragrant one is Christ ALONE. If you have a broken, blended, or awesome family – God will still use you, but only IF– you are yielded to Him. We rely on the Holy Spirit, not gene pool or title and this Gospel points that out in the beginning. King David- the King of sinners in the Old Testament, is prominently displayed in the lineage that produces King Jesus. That would never have taken place without several sinful characters and also several holy ones. Matthew includes quite the blend of sinners and saints = women, Jews and even children making this Gospel loved by all.

In an election year, the chaos and violence are more pronounced. This narrative is no exception. If you factor in the stress they experienced in their political upheaval, this story comes to life. Reading about the Census and King Herods’ paranoia seemed timely. I took a month off from writing this blog after studying Malachi and let some of the lessons “soak” into our value and family system. Sometimes letting things “rest” helps to clarify what is important. I wonder if the giant pregnant pause between Malachi and Matthew was used by God to get people to meditate on what God had said prior to that. Was He letting the dust settle so the messages He had given them would be obeyed? We do that with our children – give them space to slow down and really hear what we are saying. Our youngest was explaining the Nativity story to his younger cousins one year and stated that “Mary, was a Veteran(virgin) so we should honor her.” Sometimes messages bear repeating until they are accurate and followed. Isn’t it like God to challenge our perceptions and redirect our behavior also? Things not going as planned is a tool to make people cling to what is truly important. Unity, obedience, love.

It was interesting to me that the story of the wise men is only written in Matthews Gospel. The secrecy of their journey and leaving in the night to protect the young child would have altered the story significantly in their day. We learned recently that the more you try to keep something confidential – the further it spreads! How odd that we have this flight and witness protection program in the life of Jesus before he even becomes a teenager! Keep it silent in the desert would come long before “Go, tell it on the mountains.” Jesus parents had to value Gods’ voice in their lives above all others.  What a model of parenting! Herod, feeling deceived that he did not have all the information, did not short-circuit Gods plans to safeguard the holy family. Christmas pageants today, do not include the story of Rachel weeping for her children and thousands of babies murdered in Bethlehem. Some of the anger from those passages can be felt in our country today. Babies are still pawns in political agendas and continue to be eliminated. Babies were sacrificed in Matthews Nativity story – a cover-up of epic proportion. Mans’ kingdoms come with a price tag when they are against Gods’ will. The innocent were Herod’s target, much like today. Matthew, the “gift from the Lord” is the only one who mentions this atrocity and the connection between Herods’ foiled plan and babies being destroyed. Power mongering, control, greed and fear =breed death in every kingdom. For this purpose was the son of God manifest – to destroy the works of the evil one. Who’s the King on your throne?

Matthew includes the narrative of the wise men’s gifts which would be normal for a tax collector to “follow the money.”  Matthews keen eye for budget, finances, travel, lodging, and issues like inheritance gives us in-depth insight into the Kings early life. These detailed, logic driven individuals are not often the life of the party, but they are much needed in understanding the full picture of any people group. We can credit Matthews personality strength for giving us perspective into this narrative of young Jesus’ life.

This month is adoption month throughout our nation. Maybe we could apply some “Matthew theology” to those in this process? Maybe we could understand their fears, roadblocks, finances and stand with those warring to protect the forgotten children of our land? Or those outside the border? Pro-life needs to include toddler life, teenage life, and disabled children’s lives as well. If you cannot adopt, please considering standing with those who take on this enormous blessing and task. If there was ever a poster child for adoption it would be the Nativity story. Joseph signed up for a task that benefited the entire world! My older son when he was little called them “Marnie and Jeffef” instead of Mary and Joseph. Somehow it made them more human in our eyes. We often wondered if the early family needed diapers, formula or friendship as they started their new family far away from relatives and synagogue friends. Did they pretend they were not blended; did they gloss over the fact that the baby was not technically theirs? Did they evade questions or have a baby shower? The life Mary dreamed of became the dream for the entire world, but first she had to endure the nightmare. Perhaps God puts this story first, so we understand its importance in our lives today? What will we do to follow God? What dreams will we lay down to be found faithful by the King? Where will we move, work or worship to accomplish Gods’ plan?

The Key “King sermon” from Matthew comes straight from Jesus. It is the body of information that Christ shares with His disciples. The “Kings Proclamation” as it is called, is chapters four through seven. The entire book is awesome but for space and time I just want to point out that if you want to know the heart, the platform, the message from King Jesus to you and your family in this hour, these are the chapters to focus on. It is here we see how Jesus wants us to live. It was what the early church took to heart and passed on with passion. It takes less than a half hour to read. How different the Church would be if this was our focus today! Here is a brief intro:

Chapter Four:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

  1. Jesus knew and was led by the Spirit (not a political, prophetic or church group. Good advice). If we are to be like Jesus, model Jesus or follow after Him this is one of the premier passages that tells us how – be led by the Spirit. That would imply that we need to know the Spirit and take time to listen to the Spirits directives. Later on, at the end of this body of proclamation Jesus tells us those who hear these words and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE are those who truly are wise.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

  1. Jesus knew the scripture and how to navigate the misuse of scripture

The devil’s favorite thing is to twist scripture for his purposes. Knowing God and knowing His word needs to be a priority in a world that regularly spins it for their own fake agendas. Dig deep, dig often – yourself.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God (identity threat),” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

  • Jesus was only concerned about one Kingdom – His Fathers, not his own. He had already laid down his kingdom, so it was not available to give away.

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! (He did not entertain or debate him). For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”

  1. Jesus knew all temptations were an attempt to divert and hijack true worship. The devil was not after his ministry or attention but his primary weapon of warfare- worship. Worship is at the heart of everything we believe and do, and this was a major temptation. Defeated people lose their joy and cease their worship – that is the biggest loss! Jesus is ALWAYS worthy of our worship.

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  1. This is the first assignment Jesus had and part of his OJT. Jesus could receive ministry and balanced it with REST. If the son of God allowed time to recover and rest, certainly humans need that too!

The rest of these chapters are great advice for disciples on all levels. Jesus was not trying to build His own kingdom but His fathers and constantly sought God’s agenda. This is ministry 101. His messages were not “best life now” but “Come follow me” and consisted of repentance and good news that salvation and deliverance were possible for those who came to Him. It emphasized making Gods kingdom known and not just rehabbing our lives and hearts. If we only followed this small chapter we would do well. Our generation wants to reach their destiny and use all their amazing gifts to reach their full potential. The early church focused on everyone listening to the King so HIS kingdom could be seen here on earth. It is time for a Kingdom shift – Matthew style. I have seen Gods’ blueprint work over a city to reach the lost and it’s life changing.

WHOEVER wins the election will affect America.  However, the Kingdom was established long ago, and the Kings bidding WILL BE DONE — one way or another. Gods’ kingdom is without end. Paul stated he was not of Apollos or Cephas but of Christ. As half the nation (or 3/4 depending on your news channel) grieves the loss of their candidate winning– it might be healing if we all step back from these other “kingdoms” and focus on the ONE true King and His Kingdom. Let us remember HIS campaign promises and follow HIS agenda.

It is time to be led by the Spirit. It is time to read and understand God’s word. It is time to seek the Lord FIRST and give Him ALL of our honor, respect, and worship. If we stay busy with that, we will be too busy to get burdened by other things.

Sounds too good to be true, too simple?

Well, maybe why that’s why Jesus came in the form of a human baby to make things easier, more understandable. He was born King – God’s purpose for Him was to shine the light in the darkness. Our purpose? Same. Go find some darkness and shine in it. Seek God and His Kingdom FIRST. Like Matthew, as we follow Jesus we will start to look, work and function more like Him – what a gift!

“Lord, in these troubled times we declare that YOU are our King, and it is YOUR kingdom that we seek. May Your kingdom come; may Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Renae Roche 2020

PS. This blog was written as an insight to the book of Matthew.  I pray you are loved and blessed as you seek Gods face during these trying times. You are always welcome to call for prayer or to give insight.

                                                                                                                         

This past month we watched the pro tennis player Novak Djokovic prepare to win a big match. He is believed to be the number one tennis player in the world. He comes from Belgrade Serbia. It is amazing how far this young man has come. In a heated moment, he accidently bounced a ball that hit a judge in her neck and was kicked out of the tournament. It was not only unfortunate but predictive. It was not the first occurrence of unrestrained anger for him and the judges decided it was “Game Over” for this exceptional athlete. No matter his talent, how he treated others changed the game. It reminded me of a game show years ago “Hollywood Squares” when the star Paul Lynde suddenly died of a massive heart attack. It was sudden to us but there were multiple warnings for his substance abuse according to biography.com. He was playing games and then it was “game over” for his life. It was preventable and predictive which made it even more heartbreaking. This past month two national leaders were exposed for sexual sin and the church at large once again became “just like the world”. As I read the words from Malachi to the people, “take this to heart” it was clear that Gods position was from a desire to spare, a hope to bless His people, yet they continued in their own self-directed ways. Folly will eventually be exposed, no matter one’s title or position.  In our fast-paced world, it is easy to forget that God is faithful to punish and reward. Malachi’s burden was to tell the people to take God seriously, take His word to heart and to not ignore the prodding’s of the Lord.

Malachi has come to a post exiled community where Nehemiah had been promoting, “Make Jerusalem great again!”  In spite of prophetic warnings, the people after the exile were just as corrupt and lukewarm as those who were rebuked prior to the exile. The Exile had not accomplished what it was intended for – change and repentance. The interesting thing is that Malachi was addressing the religious leaders – the priests and not just the people. They were exploiting their workers, treating others treacherously, committing adultery and idolatry. Using and abusing people had become the norm.  So, Malachi lets them know that God was tired of the games they were playing and wanted them to know they were loved. The entire message is couched in terms of love and repentance. Judgement was coming, Messiah was also coming, and the people were given warning after warning – to no avail. Instead of responding to Gods offer of love the people hear Gods declaration, then defend and give argumentative feedback and God responds. Who could imagine winning an argument with God?  Instead of surrendering to Gods offer of love, they push back with fighting and more disingenuous questions. This message is timely for todays situations as well. It speaks to leaders and believers today to lay aside idolatry, adultery, and treacherous ways. God may delay but surely, He will come! As we have watched national leaders fall recently, the message is painfully relevant. It is time to arise from our slumber and make God our number one priority. We must take the day seriously and focus on God’s will, putting aside lesser loves.

For those of you college grads you know what it is like to feast on spaghettios or Rama noodles. Cold Pizza is just what you have to do to get thru those busy study times. You learn to eat leftovers for survival but somewhere along the way we forget that season is over and it is a new day. Our palates get used to lukewarm leftovers and we expect nothing else. Perhaps the tyranny of life also acclimates us to survival in our relationships, marriages, church attendance, even our Christian walks if we are not intentional. One occasion can turn into every day quickly. Malachi calls us to stop the mindless, passionless activities and get back to giving God and loved ones, our BEST – fresh, pure, passionate hearts. It is time to refresh our palates and our hearts!  

I’ve been listening to Matthew Wests song “Going thru the Motions” this month. It asks the questions, what if I had given everything instead of just going thru the motions?”  It’s a haunting thought. Do we realize how much potential we have in God, how ready He is to hear and answer our prayers? If we truly believed in His  name, we would live very different.  Today is not over yet….

 

Chapter 3 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the Covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? (I believe the New Covenant and Lords supper is being prophesied here) It begs the question – why are people hesitant to take communion, to pause and rejoice in the New Covenant? Today in 2020, we need to remember and not forget what God has done for us!  His table still matters. Reflecting on His sacrifice will give us a proper perspective and focus. Churches need to remember the New Covenant and not be weary of the very thing Jesus said to do “in remembrance of me”. Honoring and respecting God trickles down in how we treat one another. In what areas have we become weary of God? The pandemic has given many an excuse to continue being apathetic and serving God with a lackadaisical attitude.

Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. (See also Isaiah 1:18) He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

1 Peter 4:17 tells us that “judgement begins at the house of God”. Before the return of the Lord it would make sense that priests would be the first group that God addresses. The priests of that day did not meet on Sundays and their duties encompassed their entire lives. We can now read 1 Peter 2:9 and realize WE are the royal priesthood today and this message is for all who say they follow after God.  These words are to challenge us as they challenged the priests then. Sadly, some representing the Lord are still exploiting workers, dealing treacherously with other saints, and committing sin. Many in privileged positions still ignore the poor and treat others partially. The people today, like then, operate as if a holy God is not watching. The hope is that IF we surrender to the refiner and purging one, we can be white as snow, pure gold reflecting Gods image. That possibility remains for any who return to the Lord. We must choose to do so, actively, and willingly while there is still time.

The Old Covenant required that we give tithes and offerings. If you are still stuck offering 10% you are under the law. The New Covenant initiated by Jesus Christ is above and beyond, better than, greater than and hopefully looks more wonderful in our lives and fellowships. The minimum is for people that do not trust God will come thru, it is a litmus test. Then and now, God wants our hearts and first place – not leftovers and people doing heartless, perfunctory rituals. Wild abandon to God with joy and grace is more the picture. Now is the time to test and prove God!

If you study the fall of the Roman Empire, you will see that if they had heeded this book they may have lasted longer. Both kingdoms were not destroyed from enemies without but imploded due to a BIG enemy within- apostasy and divorce. Gods people were forgetful of God’s name – person, character, and deeds. They forgot His precepts, law, and commands. God bored them and they were irritated that anything was required of them. Because of their forgetfulness, the people practiced faithlessness and divorce became the norm. Treacherous relationships where people lie, cheat, steal or treat others with dishonor does not bring Gods’ favor. It blocks it and incurs Gods wrath. When people are biased and partial like in Malachi’s day, God sees. God sees today as well. In order to avoid meddling I will not mention racial justice, sexism, ageism or a host of other areas where we categorize or ignore people due to various grouping but it would be worth ones time to ask God to search our hearts and show us areas where we have engaged in these behaviors. The privileged leaders in Malachi’s day were incredulous when confronted. They did not believe they were doing anything wrong, yet God thought otherwise. We cannot change what we are not willing to confront and own. Search us Lord, dig deep!

In other prophets you hear them speak for God but here we get to hear God directly, “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly, evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’” 16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”  How do we honor His name? That means to reflect and treasure His person, character, and deeds. It takes time and intentional purpose to get to know God. We need to treat God and His name with respect and honor, worshipping with pure hearts. God heard their worship but also their conversations. God knows those who are His with devoted hearts and those who are tepid in their faith.

17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. 4 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays (awesome promise!). And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

For those who celebrate the New Covenant, we are still called to remember it, we are still called to bless the Lord with worship, offerings and tithes, we are still called to be holy but it is not out of obligation or demand but– love. Malachi warned the people of God in his generation and we hear his clarion call today – guard against having a treacherous heart, return to God, return to the God who loves you and He will return to you. Quickly – the Lord is coming soon. Do not just go thru the motions but pursue Him with everything. Stop the games, the evil deeds and worship the Lord.

Malachi’s word was so intense that it lasted 400 years. God did not receive their priests or sacrifices. He used a visual of smearing feces on their faces to emphasize His point! Gross. Let that sink in for 400 years….. Then came a perfect baby in Matthew, that we know as the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Even though we gave God our worst, God offered us HIS BEST. No other sacrifice is needed, no other sacrifice will pay our debt. That child became the perfect High Priest who walks and ministers thru the heavenlies and will be very opposite of the priests in Malachi’s day. He became the perfect and BEST High priest. His everlasting love will be seen on the cross and He became for us the forgiving and perfect faithful One, returning for His Bride. Malachi knew God hated divorce, he knew God was upset with their sacrifices, he knew their faithlessness to each other was indicative of their faithlessness and forgetfulness of God. When Christ returns to the Temple, He prepares the way, clears it out so His father’s house could become a true place of prayer and worship, not games. Christ is our example; Christ is our solution and Christ is the answer – for America and for eternity.

Read Malachi, let his message go deep down into your soul. I do not know if we can “Make America Great Again” but I do know we can ask God to refine us, purge us and make us like HIM. Everything else needs to fade and Malachi reminds us that the great one does not change. We need to see HIM as great, trusting that He will make us His treasured possessions and spare us as a father spares His son. What will you now do with this message?  My prayer is that it will not make you weary but HUNGRY for more of GOD with a desire to honor Him and His name.

RenaeRoche2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The song Imagine by John Lennon has sold millions of copies and has been a hit throughout the years. It expresses what many cannot and that is a deep desire for world peace, religion that heals instead of hurts and barriers torn down that all could live in peace. The words, “Imagine there’s no Heaven. It is easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today.”  Yes, people said he was a dreamer.

This month the blog is on the Bible book of Zechariah – a dreamer, vision seer of a different kind. He imagined a real Heaven with a real God trying to call people back to Himself. His book is filled with all kinds of visions, messages and burdens and while it is one of the most unstudied or talked about book of the entire Bible, and although he is not as popular as John Lennon, he had a lot of good things to say. He pointed us to a very real heaven and pointed out the way to gain God’s favor instead of anger.

Zechariahs’ name comes from Zakar (Hebrew for Remember) and Yah (Hebrew for God) so his name literally means God has remembered. In a world where everyone forgets that is comforting! He was a  seer and a prophet’s son. His 8 visions, 4 messages and 2 burdens were all for the purpose of encouraging people to rebuild the Temple.  His prophetic call was different from his contemporaries. He was a weird guy, but his work not only impacted his generation but one day Jesus would walk into the very temple he had encouraged them to build. His work was fit for a king! There needed to be a place for people to find God and one another. God sent Zechariah to encourage them to build, build and keep building. He was sent to give them that message in various forms. Note that he had a different role than the priest or king.

There are many comments in Zechariah about false shepherds and looking for the true Shepherd. I am going to intentionally not mention those things out of love for shepherds today who are struggling on many levels. Pastors  have the same stressors, worries and pressures that their congregants have  and if ever they needed a break it is now. Maybe instead of pointing out their failures we could apply some of that grace and mercy we are longing to receive. Those looking to the Great Shepherd will fare much better than those who do not. Maybe bringing supplies to the church would be a way of celebrating this book! Ask God how you can help build HIS church in this hour.

Zechariah gives many wonderful promises of a Shepherd and Savior to come. Worship is priority and those who look for this KING should rejoice because surely He is coming! What will He find us doing?

I’ve wondered this month; how does this book apply in our day?  Hear a few of the scriptures regarding the Temple in the NT:

Mar. 14:58 “I will build another Temple, not made with hands.”

Mar. 15:38 “The veil of the Temple was rent in two, top to bottom.”

John 2:15 “He made a whip of cords and drove them out of the Temple.”

Acts 2:45 “They continued daily in one accord in the Temple and breaking bread from house to house…”

Acts 26:21 “For this cause the Jews caught me in the Temple and went about to kill me.”

1 Cor. 3:16 Know ye not that YE are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?’

 

So, we see that the Temple has a new, fulfilled meaning post resurrection. It has always had controversy; it has always had a remnant and people trying to fashion it after their version of God. It is also the work of the Lord and Jesus said HE would build HIS church and the gates of Hell would NOT prevail against it! God is wanting to build HIS kingdom and fill us with His Spirit to be the Church in this hour. Not a building made with hands but a people where He can move and reign.

Imagine, by John Lennon – did you know it really was not written by him? Years later Yoko Ono filed for half of the copyright. Here is what Lennon said, “A lot of it, the lyric and the concept – came from Yoko, but those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho.” (BBC Interview 1980).  The song written in 1971 took 9 years before it became public that it was a collaboration. Perhaps along with world peace, we should also imagine a world where the body of Christ functions TOGETHER. Black and white, Democrat and Republican, Male and Female? His Spirit, in full measure always unifies, not divides, includes, not excludes. It is Gods’ signature. His Spirit moves, speaks, and functions in both Gentile and Jew, male and female and by His Spirit means He uses young, old and whosoever calls on His name. It is time for the world to see this. When we fight for the unborn but smear people like Kamala Harris (or Sarah Huckabee Sanders), we look UGLY. When we fight for women’s freedoms and bash white church guys, we look UGLY.  You can insert any party, gender or color – unverified gossip is evil and hatred makes God angry.  No it doesn’t matter if others are doing it, and no being better is still rooted in competition –be holy!

Imagine if we let the Holy Spirit sow cords of love through it all and decide others can choose their path but we CHOOSE to follow after God with ALL our might, soul, and strength. Yielded hearts bring God much pleasure. I do not know about you but lately I feel allergic to nonsense.

Ephesians 2:21, “In whom all the building fitly framed TOGETHER grows unto a holy temple in the Lord.

The Lord through wild visionary dreamer Zechariah, lets us know that we need to return to God, not religion, not affiliations or churches but first to God Himself. The promise is that IF we do, God will return to us. Then He calls us to repentance to build alongside others (similar/opposite).

I liked chapter One, vs. 13 where the angels are questioning if God will have mercy on these pitiful folks. God comforts them and the wording is almost consolation for those in grief. I wonder how much of our world they see and wish they could impact.  

During the COVID-19 crisis we were encouraged to put up Christmas lights to bring hope to our neighborhood. We did and one night plugged in a tall white lacy angel. Well, during a windstorm, our angel, complete with a scarf around her neck, got airborne. Up she went past the trees and houses, flying in the breeze. I sincerely hope no drunks were out at that hour as seeing this angel swooping around would have been quite disturbing to say the least. I was extremely concerned she would land on some unsuspecting walker or freak out some wayward child threatened by their parents that God is always watching. We had a lot of fun with the thought of where it might land. After the lockdown we were guest preaching in a church in another city. I decided to “gift” them with my special angel. Leaves had collected on it and my husband and kids recommended we leave it at home. I urged them on and when my husband began teaching that morning on the angels in Revelation, he sheepishly admitted that the gift was timely. Angels are real and whether it is one flying over your house with a pretty scarf, or one assigned to you or your local church– we can imagine God caring about the outcomes. Not all dreams are while we are sleeping. God has dreams, plans, and hopes for our families and the churches. I imagine they look more like Zechariahs’ visions, than John Lennon’s song.

Last month as we studied Haggai, I kept asking God how He wanted to build His church. Zechariah tells us in Zechariah, chapter One, vs. 16, “My house shall be built in Mercy.” What is mercy?  It is tender affection, grace, and pity. It is the bowels or seat of emotion and refers to love and tender affection. Remember that? Deep, abiding, fervent, affection like one would have for a relative. 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply for love covers a multitude of sins.” IF it is truly God’s house – that will be the mark of it. Not Facebook likes, publicity stunts or offerings but genuine love for one another, for ALL. You cannot buy that at Walmart or Mardel. You cannot learn that at Seminary. Not even great Hillsong or Bethel music will be the trademark of God’s presence – only His mercy working in and through the body of Christ and individuals.

Zechariah goes on to remind us that it is “NOT by might, nor power but only by God’s spirit”, Zech.4:6. Not best practices, not muscle or title or degree but by diligently obeying His voice that we will be able to hear and know the Lord.

This great man who encouraged the building of the Temple also addresses one of the hugest battles in this process – our minds. Joyce Meyers Battlefield of the Mind would be timely to read with this book. Chapter Seven, vs. 9 & 10,

“Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you imagine or plan evil in his/her heart against his/her brother/sister.”

To imagine means to think, esteem, calculate, make a judgement, plot, meditate. When we are building something great and big and awesome it is easy to think we are mighty and on the “winning side” but the Lord wants us to be on HIS SIDE. Building WITH the saints is more important than going solo or without the ones God sent to share his word/burden/prophecy. This same word (Imagine) is used when Eli thinks Hannah is drunk. There she is praying, and he accuses her falsely of having an addiction. His assessment is based on what is in his own heart, not Hannah’s and gives a wrong diagnosis. Ouch!  Talk about painful. There she is serving the church and the priest, and they think she is doing them harm. It happened right before God was getting ready to move. The enemy is incredibly good at his craft. This is an arrow the enemy uses, and we are all susceptible.  It is interesting that it is mentioned as a correction while building. We would be wise to give others the benefit of the doubt in these seasons.

I have fallen in this area many times unfortunately. I had a dear friend visit me recently and I confided in her a struggle I was having in my personal life. Later I overheard her three times tell someone on the phone, “I got the dirt and I’ll share it with you when I return to the city.” She had been a trusted prayer warrior and confidant. My heart was broken. I could not believe she had changed so much. She was a champion in my life, and this disturbed me greatly. I decided to take it to the Lord and asked Him to help me ask the question I feared the most. In this era of conspiracy, era of protests and masks vs. unmasked persons it is easy to mistrust anyone and everyone. The war lines are being drawn and the enemy will take as many prisoners as he can before the last hurrah. I went to my friend and before I could confront her with sharing my personal dilemmas she shared with me how the Lord had led her to go to the center of the United States to pray for Revival, anointing and repentance for our nation. Guess what? Yes, she brought dirt, actual physical dirt back from that very spot to remind her praying friends to intercede for our nation. She was raised up for “such a time as this”. Boy, did I feel stupid. I felt bad for not trusting, I felt bad for not guarding my tongue and almost wrecked a wonderful friendship. It takes just as much time to imagine GOOD about someone as it does bad. The difference is if we imagine good – the Lord will step in to comfort and support. If we imagine and judge bad and begin to plot evil, we step over into the side of the enemy and further from God.  These minor things hinder the building of not only the local church but the kingdom.

Return to God and Repent

Rebuild the Temple (people/church of God)

Restore everything, everywhere, everyone possible

I can only imagine what it would be like….   If we all returned. If we all walked by HIS side here. If we all repented, if we all began to build GODS Kingdom and invested our lives to restore Gods purposes. What if we looked on our sin and brought it to God and overlooked others and lifted them up in prayer before the throne, offering mercy and grace? I’m not there yet but I want to be.

Lord, we ask for Mercy. Lord, we ask for your help to give Mercy. Help us to build YOUR church, YOUR way for YOUR glory.

Build your Kingdom- here, in our hearts in this moment and with others where possible, we prayer. RenaeRoche2020

 

Ps. The link to comment often gets filled with odd ads so those who genuinely want to comment can contact me through email. 

Image result for Clip Art Free Praise

Haggai    New International Version (NIV)

When I was in Seminary a young pastor gave me some of the best advice I have received in my Christian walk. He said, “Get to know God.” Coupled with that advice was the knowledge that this particular preacher would take walks at night to really talk with God and seek out His wisdom. It was the core of his ministry, private and public. He directed me to the attributes of God – His goodness and greatness. One of the things I learned there was that holiness is the foundation of God’s throne. Things like integrity, veracity and compassion matter to God. When I have had to make decisions, these core values have led me. While studying Haggai this month, I have also been in Philippians, hearing Paul exhort us to “know, really know Christ.” Both of those things have helped me hear Haggai’s heart a little better than before.

According to Jack Hayford– Haggai was self-aware. He realized that God was speaking to Him and that He could actually hear His voice. If you write down all the references to God’s word, His voice and His message, it is pretty impressive that Haggai was so in tune with the Lord. That is a rare thing now a days as many soak up devotionals and sermons but few dig into the riches and wealth of God’s actual word.

Although Haggai is only two short chapters long it is packed with wisdom. More than likely Haggai was an Octogenarian – fancy word for old guy. If he had seen the original temple that would place him well beyond these young guys memories. They had passion to press forward but needed the wisdom on how not to repeat the same mistakes.  IMAGINE 70 plus years of learning a lesson only to repeat it!  Would anyone remember God’s instructions or to put Him as a priority?  The value of older people in the congregation cannot be emphasized enough. They bear the glory scars and have seen the larger picture. Haggai was crucial to inspire and remind them that God was the focus. Note that early on we are told that there is a threefold team here – priest, governor and prophet. They work in tandem to get the job done. The people – well, they are a different story because some are clinging to the past, some are too lazy (or self-absorbed) to move into the future and if they had a theme song it would sound like “I can’t get no satisfaction” by the rolling stones.

We can discuss the plurality of the Godhead and enter the debate the scholars have about Haggai or you can just praise the Desire of all nations and know that God likes using all three circles of influence – civil leadership/ governor, church leadership/ priest and spiritual realm/prophet. When one of those elements is missing –God won’t dance, as He likes to work with the full enchilada. It’s just His way – unity, diversity that is holy and honor.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”

We can trust that God hears what we are saying – about Him, His house and one another. For some that is relief and security and for others it is frightening. Nonetheless, still true. I think God said this tongue in cheek. It makes me laugh when I read it because the Sovereign Lord had things to say but they were all listening to one another instead of Him. It’s kind of like organizations on Facebook that make declarations on where they stand on various issues, while the Sovereign God sees/hears from above. When each household is focused on their own interests, it is easy to crowd God out. I found it interesting that God never said not to build their own houses, but merely stated that His house was in ruin. He who created the solar system, the rivers and fields of flowers and could create everything– left His own castle and home up to the hands of mere men. He gave special instructions and stated He would NOT dwell in temples made with hands. What do we build with then? Who will inhabit it ?

The One who is preparing a grand place for you and me or maybe “them and those”, was waiting to see what kind of place they would build for Him. He was having faith in them while waiting to see if they had faith in Him.

In the midst of the work God wanted them to know that He was among them and WITH them. He wanted to give them rest and peace which would come after their obedience. These leaders do not represent  just modern leadership –they represent Jesus as He builds HIS kingdom, not a building with walls. I love that in the midst of all the resources, occupations and opinions God sends those who are worshiping Him in first, to do the heavy lifting, breaking down barriers and setting God in His priority – Lord. When we establish altars of prayer and places of lifting God up, we are doing the same and making places where God can come and abide with us.

So back to the earlier mention of God’s throne built on the foundation of Holiness. I know a pastor in Missouri that decided to sell the huge church building for something smaller and it caused a ruckus. His focus on integrity (paying bills, avoiding debt, changing focus to Kingdom giving) was greater than the focus on appearance. It reminded me of Haggai. Zerubbabel’s temple would be much smaller, less grand and absent of ornate design, yet God’s presence would be there. Years later a guy born in a barn amidst smelly cattle would walk in and think it was pretty awesome. This same guys’ early dwelling had a dirt floor, so this new crib was very fancy. It was HIS opinion they were after.

After years of exile Haggai, the seasoned old guy recognized (unlike the young pups) that size doesn’t matter but heart does. After years of being in exile he was weary of missing God and probably desired something that satisfied more than the culture. True satisfaction ONLY comes from God and His Kingdom –and His direction. Although they could not see it then, they were working towards a spiritual structure that would house an eternal King – a Kingdom. Haggai wanted them to build it the right way – unlike they had done before. Priority, choices matter. 

I don’t know all the people on Lake street in Minneapolis but as they baptize people in water, I recognize God’s signature. I don’t know what churches they are all from but as they pass out Bibles, I recognize God’s resources. As they partner with various types of gifted people, I recognize God’s way of leadership. They are not sitting waiting for things to return to the way they “once were” but they are actively building a NEW structure that looks like the Kingdom we see in the scripture.

There is much to say about Haggai. The birth line through Jeconiah is fascinating. The contagious defilement of sin and non-contagious holiness debates are thought provoking. However, I’d like to learn from old guy Haggai and be short, so the point isn’t missed:

God’s kingdom is about God’s ways. He has preferences and standards. He likes the plurality of leadership that includes civil, sacred and spiritual. What the people say– isn’t the story of the day, but God’s Word IS. CHOICES MATTER and we can base them on God’s character or popular opinions but those choice have consequence either way.  Godly choices direct Godly behaviors and attitudes. Worship, putting God first, building His church and playing well with others is all part of that Kingdom plan.

Choose God and get to know Him. Build His kingdom and start by sending forth the worshippers….

RenaeRoche2020

 

 

February – the Book of Jonah

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

 

GOD SEES Everywhere and Everyone!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me offer you some options:

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

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

North Korean or Iraq leaders

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

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

Perfect people with made beds and clean garages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings, RenaeRoche2020