2021 “I will do xyz”                                              2022   “Thy will be done”

1 Timothy 

It is the first of 2022 and as usual, people from all corners of life are telling us to make goals, lose weight, exercise, and many other things – most of which no one wants to do any month of the year. I think two of the most thrilling (and possibly convicting) types of people are those with a new relationship with Christ and those who have just lost more than ten pounds. Right? We are so happy for them but secretly we  weigh the cost of that. Rather than do what they did, we choose apathy and just wish. We choose the couch; we choose being lukewarm– even though being close with God — is just a prayer away — we resist what is good for us.

This year starts with our study of 1 Timothy  which has alot  to offer  in 2022. I’ll cover a few highlights, but a deep dig into this wonderful book is well worth one’s time. My husband and I are teaching it now in Sunday School and it has stirred our love for the word and disipleship. This is Paul’s manual for Leadership to his apprentice Timothy. It is a really good  training guide. Purity,  faith and love are key words.

As a woman in ministry, I am aware that this  book has been difficult for many.  Some have, in error,  used it to “put women in their place” and at times it has been painful. I wish I had understood it more in years past. The letter is written to  Timothy, whose mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois)  had taught him in the faith. It was written by an apostle who had been taught by an excellent woman teacher— Priscilla. Paul in chapter two, addresses that a woman must be discipled (Greek manthano) without being disturbed. Previous women that were discipled, tested and approved would include Deborah, Huldah, Lydia, Junia, Priscilla, Phoebe and more. I am going to leave that alone other than to say that there is much MORE to this book than that subject. We can only grow if we ask God to teach us His will, rather than clinging to our paradigms. The Holy Spirit is wanting ALL to use their gifts and talents- in faith and love. Paul addresses strange teachings and arguments, divisions, and carefully addresses temptations in these groups of leader categories. The “extra-biblical” issues are what is contrary to Biblical teaching – not a discounting of studying the Old Testament or promoting women. If we do what God wants us to do there will be little time for power mongering or vain arguments.  The appeal for a pure conscience and life of faith and love is the foundation for Paul’s instructions. Our litmus test for leadership in the Western world is different from Paul’s standards. We need to prepare and equip people to lead, but first we must be taught. Taught in faith and love and purity.  I love Paul’s further clarification to avoid prejudice and partiality in chapter 5:17-18 (a clear and much needed word for today). It is God’s heart. Note the word “likewise” – women as leaders are to have the same standards. The goal – training leaders in the church, in spite of cultural chaos for Gods’ glory.

Now, let us move on to a  much more important issue back in chapter one. I addressed two first because that is the hot topic many race through this book to read, often missing the larger picture of love and faith. We pull out verses before getting to the root of the message which changes the message. 1 Timothy must be read as a whole and not with our own constructs and scaffolding of bias. The ONE mediator we can turn to is not the newest commentary but CHRIST Jesus. 

Chapter One  – 
vs.8  We know that the law is good —if one uses it properly. Paul was not a legalist, he wanted people to enjoy the blessings of being in relationship with God. “The law is not for the righteous” Paul writes, but to train and set up guardrails (mainly for the sinful). They were not dealing with scholars in Ephesus, but lost, multi-god systems that continued to impact the church. Then Paul shares with us the main goal, the purpose (resolution if you will) of Jesus:

v.15 “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. “

Jesus had a priority, a mission, a cause. His vision board was not a corkboard but the cross. His goal was salvation for the lost. His purpose was the Fathers will, not living his best life in the here and now. He left us a visual reminder of this purpose in communion so we would remember His work and what is important to Him. It speaks to wholeness, unity, love, and faith- Jesus’ sacrifice for all.

Scholars tell us that when we study a passage it has to mean today what it meant to the original audience. Times change but God does not. My question and focal point for 2022 is this, “If saving people was Jesus’ main purpose, what is the purpose of the modern-day church?” It does not say great media, worship, storytelling, resume building, leadership training, prayer meetings or any other host of excellent and necessary things we focus on . The main thing was to save sinners. We have heard that many times over the years, so much so that it becomes like cotton in our ears.

The word save is the Greek word “sozo.” It does not  mean an altar call or sinners prayer. It means to bring wellness, wholeness, and salvation. Not just for eternity but in the present – peace and lack of stress, rest, healing, and total person revival. The Christian journey to eternity is a process and not just a main event. Jesus wants to impact every part of ones’ life. That being said, it has to start somewhere.

These other things are important, but they are ancillary to the mission of Jesus. If we are following Him, where is He going? Daily, monthly, yearly, over a lifetime? Do we say those words as a cliché, or do we genuinely intend to apply them in our lives? How amazing that the God of the universe wants our lives to be impacted, healed, changed by the Fathers love and the Sons’ sacrifice.  That is good news.

Knowing that, hearing that, being led in that= requires relationship and time in His presence.

I am tempted to write about Paul’s exhortation to secure a peaceful, good life – by praying FIRST for leaders and those in authority. FIRST, priority, important. I would like to expound on that and the great costs for  servants whether they are public servants or  in ministry. It is a missing exhortation in our day- and our leaders are feelings its absence. But today,  I want to lay down my own agenda and ideas to press in, to FOLLOW Christ.

I will shorten this  blog entry, because I want this message to ring loud and clear for the next twelve months in my spiritual ears and yours :

Christ’s goal, resolution was to SAVE (make whole, healed, rescued) sinners.   His transformation just begins at salvation. This is the main thing that must remain the main thing. His history, His purpose, His end game. 

May our day-planners, work, family, church, and national calendars ALIGN with our CHIEF leaders’ primary goal — To save sinners (encourage wholeness, healing, rescue, transformation). That was His joy and heart, inside and outside the four walls of the church.

Following with you,

RenaeRoche2022

Thank you to our new and regular visitors last year and the overwhelming response already this year! we appreciate you.  

Due to some spam issues, we cannot  read or post comments at this time but we are working on that.  Please keep us in prayer as we navigate funding and social media concerns. 

                             2nd Thessalonians

What a prophetic book! We loved it, especially in this season.  Let’s look at this book in three areas:

  1. Help!

Remember the Charlie Brown specials? Lucy loved setting up Charlie, then grabbing the football away right when he hoped to kick it. We laughed; Charlie groaned. We identified with Woodstock and his many trials and felt solidarity with the tough life of a beagle named Snoopy. Some suffering is just part of life, right?

This past year suffering was at an all-time high. We saw crime rise and many homes where anger escalated into violence. We saw bullies mercilessly harm kids at school. The nightly news reported people rioting and harming others- sometimes just because of their skin color or political affiliations. People were persecuted for their faith at work and pastors endured hate in their communities… the pain varied in intensity but suffering abounded. The Bible addresses these issues.

Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians was aware of their trials. In spite of them,  Paul says their faith was growing and the love of all was abounding – even towards one another. That is a healthy church! Perhaps suffering comes to remind us that we are not alone – we are in this together. Martyrdom has a way of lessening vanity and all the “isms” – racism, sexism, elitism, territorialism. Hard times often bring solidarity that comes no other way. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that God will repay those who were troubling them. Good grief!

We often hear of the Lord of love, but He is also an Avenger. He stands up for His own. God does not let pain go on forever. I love Toby Mac’s lyric in Help is on the way – “He’s rolling up His sleeves again.” Paul tells them that they will REST– when Jesus is revealed with His mighty angels. Better days are ahead – in eternity.  This trial is not your destination, it is only a small detour. Paul finishes that chapter letting them know that he would be praying for them always. It  is a HUGE thing to have pastors who not only pray– but pray for you. Prayer works and is critical in these days. If you have a praying pastor, you are doubly blessed.

Today, as we go through our various trials, we, like the Thessalonians can be encouraged that one-day REST from  persecution will come and the Deliverer will appear to set things right. Not right according to our standards or opinions but according to God’s kingdom. Even so, come quickly, Jesus. May I encourage you to pray for your leaders, (spiritual and national) and if you have not recently  –let them know how much their prayers are needed and appreciated! Encourage one another – HELP IS ON THE WAY!

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVgetIvEIAs   HELP is on the way (maybe midnight)
by Toby Mac

 

  1. Hope!

While CNN, NBC  and other news outlets give us reason to be shaken and afraid, the words from Paul tells us in  Thess. 2:1 to NOT be shaken in mind or troubled whether by spirit or by word or by letter. Shaken means agitated,  disturbed,  insecure or cast down. Do not BE that! You may feel it, think it, identify with that –but do NOT allow it! The day of the Lord has  not come and there is still HOPE. He is coming, He is coming soon! In verse 8 Paul says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord WILL consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  Gods fight is a Fixed fight – we know the outcome. Just by His breath, He will conquer. That puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Believers often talk about warfare or the battle between good and evil. “Wwhoosh” by His breath God alone can set things aright. No army, no weapons, no bullets – by HIS breath! The Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth.

When we forget HIS power, we forget our outcome. When we forget HIS promises, we forget our victory. Lift up your heads, it is TIME to remember why we have hope.

When we realize WHO we are serving we will stand firm, not easily shaken. When we realize He is coming back to take us HOME, we will increase our confidence. Do not be shaken, Gods not only got this but is rolling up His sleeves as we read this. (I recommend every time you brush your teeth, or use mouthwash –remind yourself of Gods GREAT, awesome power!  Whatever it takes for you to remember – remember and then remember again – HOPE is on the way. Hope has a name, and it is Jesus.

In the  middle of this letter Paul prays a blessing: 

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who  has loved you and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in EVERY good word and work.”

Throughout Thessalonians, we hear of prayer, faith, hope and working for God. Could those things be the very things that kept the Thessalonians growing and abounding? In spite of persecution, trial, and suffering? It is a pretty good recipe for overcoming. We need to know our pain has an end. We need to know our Deliverer is coming. We need to remind others that that is true.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8-NxI_IWd0  My Deliverer is Coming. Rich Mullins

 

    In this holiday season, lift up your heads and comfort  one another with these words.  HOPE is near! God promised He would send Messiah. He did. People forgot– and a fragile baby slipped in their common, dusty midst and fulfilled what ancient peoples longed to see. In the darkness, a light appeared. Herod slaughtered countless children to eradicate every trace of Him, yet a collection of  Magi slipped in and worshipped the true king. God promised He would send His son. He did. In the darkness, a light appeared. In our darkness, while we watch, while we wait… we must lift our eyes above the tinsel and garland and shift them to that darkened sky outside. God is about to fulfill His promise to end All suffering and send the Redeemer. He will. In this darkness, very soon a light will…..

           

      III.  Peace

Prayer is a huge part of Paul’s ministry in the Thessalonian church. At the end of this letter, he will pronounce the benediction: “Now may the LORD of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

Peace (Greek Eirene) means having harmony  in relationships, rest in the nation, quietness in churches, reconciliation between God and man, wholeness, full shalom – nothing missing, nothing broken. Peace for Paul meant the Gospel would have free course in their ministry – not hindered by the enemy or immoral, divisive people. Prayer oils the levers. Prayer is needed to recognize and be delivered from evil of all kinds. Prayer loosens sins tight grip. Prayer is needed to follow examples like Paul’s, while stepping aside from those against the Lord. It directs our focus. Prayer strengthens us to keep going even when we are spiritless, exhausted, lacking courage, weak and faint-hearted (the very definition of weary).

We have started listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack which makes my heart happy. It reminds me of times past and  celebrates what we love now. When I work or pray, I listen to worship and praise songs – the soundtrack  of one waiting for that trumpet call. It keeps me focused on what is important. What soundtrack is playing in your heart this season? Does it direct you to God and those who are HIS or away from God’s peace and plan? Paul tells us to follow the example of those who are righteous. Thessalonians calls us to pray for those we stand with – those suffering, those waiting for His appearing. Solidarity. The star on the Christmas tree is fun – but it will not eradicate the worlds darkness. Are we waiting like those who know  the Messiah?

The Lord is faithful who will establish and guard (keep, preserve) you from the evil one.

It is what God does – Full time. Paul’s prayer is that the Lord will direct the Thessalonians and one day our hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. If you are looking for a goal, a purpose, a focus in the midst of trial, it is this – ask God to direct (guide, make straight) your heart into the love of God and into the patience of Christ (vs5). Peace will be the result and gift.

Maybe instead of meditating on the next variant or vaccine we meditate on the victory of a God who loves, adopts, and chooses us.  Maybe instead of meditating on the next protest or power struggle we meditate on the patience of Christ who  reigns triumphant? He patiently waits for you and me to recognize His offer of salvation, His payment of our debt and return.

God is our help, our hope and soon coming King. If you want Him to be that for you then pray:

Lord I have sinned against You, and I repent. I believe You are the One who died to pay for my sins  and the only solution for my brokenness. Come into my heart and make me born from above – I want to obey you and I give you, my life. I want to spend eternity in Heaven with you. Use my life for Your glory from this moment forward. I love you. Amen.

That is the gift He wants – our hearts. You can go to the Rest for you tab on this website for more information on living life as a Christian.

I pray you have a wonderful holiday. I pray you feel comforted by these words. Help, hope, peace, and Jesus – are all on the way!

Merry Christmas to you and yours,  Renae Roche 2021

O come, O come Emmanuel!

1 Thessalonians – How Do We Wait?

This letter is one of Paul’s first. It was written in the background of Christians who were highly suspicious (understandably)  and a city that celebrated an earthly King. It  must have unnerved them to hear the message that Jesus was the new King they were all waiting for and strange to the believers of their day. No wonder people were nervous and looking behind them. The persecution would have been intense.

Watch: MY King by  Rev.  D.M. Lockridge    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzqTFNfeDnE

Being persecuted and rejected was part and parcel of the early Christian church.There was much opposition.  In modern culture we do not see much of this – probably because the modern message is palatable and  very different than a message that called disciples to die and be holy.

I remember one time being falsely accused of something and  then being rejected because of that information. Their “intel” was wrong. It was so painful. I am thankful for that experience because it taught me the potential damage of the tongue. Some people never recover from that. Paul knew this was possible and warned his congregation.  When we suffer for Christ’s sake or endure persecution of various kinds, we get a glimpse of what Christ endured. There is a sweet chord of solidarity that wraps itself around those that understand what that feels like. Identifying with the broken or outcast was something Jesus prized – enough to die on a rugged cross to stand with “them”. I have chosen HIM – it is freeing. I identity with HIM – it brings joy that will come in no other way.

Many in our day mock Christians. The foolishness of the cross will never make sense to a carnal mind. Paul says we are appointed or called – to suffer and endure hardship. Magical thinking is not healthy but standing with the belief in ONE that has healed, saved or freed you from addictions- there is wisdom in that. I would rather be misunderstood and stand with those who still have faith than to run after the crowd and miss God. Oh, the joy of losing one’s lust for reputation.. We all struggle with that on some level.  We are to walk worthy while continuing to believe. Paul prayed for these believers – night and day.

1 Thessalonianst somehow this year  makes more sense as we power through a pandemic. Believers martyred for their faith and the various issues look much like today’s landscape –  spiritually and politically.

For those of you who follow Homeplate advantage you know that we are big fans of taking  Sabbath rest (as your faith system observes) and remembering Christs new covenant. Legalism is not good for the soul, neither is religion but delighting in God’s  will – IS. Chapter one, vs. 10  tells us the Thessalonians not only turned from idols and to God but  …”to wait for His son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  Wait is not just being saved -It renews our focus and purpose in one sentence but, How do we wait?

Watch: Wait on You by Maverick City       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3TYG7Q_fj4

When I studied this book with my kids I played “Avenger” music and we talked about God seeing all of our actions – good and bad. He is the best AVENGER of all time We are not called to uncleanness but holiness. Paul calls the Thessalonians to increase their love MORE AND MORE <<<<<<<. The context is holy love – brothers and sisters. Taking advantage of or defrauding one another is not a message you hear much today. I remember my mentor in high school telling our youth group– “Do not steal the kisses of someone else’s future spouse.  To defraud is to steal. There is a lot of “stealing” going on. That is not cool. No matter what Little Nas or K-pop says.  We are called to be holy and love ABUNDANTLY. You could minimize that, or even add new pronouns, but it is pretty straight forward for ALL of us. Repentance and forgiveness are one prayer away.

Chapter 4:11 says, “That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing”. Good advice.

To a congregation that has seen much death, Paul then comforts them with these words: ” for the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”

1st Thessalonians is a wonderful reminder that any minute the Lord may return. That sudden appearing  challenged my heart. Am I waiting? How am I waiting  for His return?

Chapter 5 tells us how to wait – Watching and sober. To watch (Greek word: greg oreo) is to give strict adherence to and be active, vigilant, waiting with anticipation and expectancy. It is opposite of being lax or indifferent. Any word with Oreo in it must be good! I bought a package of Oreos and let the family know there would be a prize at the end of the study – that ramped up the excitement immediately.  I wonder how much of our anticipation is dampened because we forget God will reward those who are His? That we will get to SEE the one we love? Do we lose hope as we lose sight of what Heaven and eternity will mean for the believer? Enjoying God is – HIS idea. Christians that lose sight of delighting in God get bitter and bossy quickly. We all do – if we stray from His love or shrink back. Loving Him and each other prevents that.

My oldest son Jackson recently gave me a saxophone lesson. He pointed out that the mouthpiece  has to be prepared before you play your first note. It must be damp – wetted down with water. If it is not FIRST saturated it will shriek when you play it. Some Christians are like that right? We must live between holiness and delight. The older I get the more I realize I cannot live in that space without the help of the Holy Spirit. On a bad day I err on one side or the other. God, please help us live saturated so we can get to know you first and so the world will get a clear sound of who you truly are. Before the trumpets…..

What does the rest of this letter say? While we wait, we are to recognize those who labor among us. This is the Greek word eido (pronounced I dough). It means to perceive,  inspect, examine and get to  know. It does not say put them on a pedestal or fix them but esteem them highly in love. One friend told me unless you have been slammed on media you are not in ministry. Another friend said unless you have scars from preaching the gospel you have not been in ministry. I do not know about all that but it is true that both Jesus and Paul warned that there would be times of trial.  I think of my professor that served in the Balkans and ran through a literal war zone to reach his sheep! The worst days in ministers’ lives are often not things that can be shared and can level one’s faith at times. I would include pastors spouses as they endure the brunt of many attacks also.  In spite of these things Paul goes on say “pursue what is good, rejoice, pray without ceasing, do not quench the spirit or despise (make of no account) prophecies.” It’s always timely to love on those who bless you.

We recently had someone in the congregation we attend– get healed from cancer, another from a stroke, another faced and thrived in spite of a devastation in their home. Additionally, many people lost their lives to covid. It was a tough year. One Sunday during worship we looked around and many who had lived thru these storms were just standing there praising. Smilng, not shaken. It was unnerving to see so many we thought were not going to return,  not only survive but come back to praise. When it was time for the pastor to preach –the people kept praising – not one or two but the majority. It was a spontaneous event. It was such a sweet offering. The pastor spends many hours in preparation. The spotlight and cameras were all on him. He could have insisted on doing his thing … but he paused, waited. He did not quench the spirit or the expressions of faith. Several introverts boldly thanked God. You could tell it was not a regular Sunday.  I felt like Jacksons Saxophone reed – getting saturated by the spirit in a way I cannot explain. The message came through clearly that day from a symphony of praise and gratitude. God is with us. Peace was in the house. God was ministering body, soul and spirit, preserving us till the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is faithful – when we  see persecution and pain and when we see victory. The more trials the more the Lord will pour out His kindness and favor. Why? Because although wrath is stored up for the wicked, God stores up grace, peace and love for the righteous. This is not all there is or all that will be! Sometimes God gives us little glimpses into His glory, and it is amazing. Continue shining, continuing being light in the darkness – a better day is near!

1 Thessalonians tells us in EVERYTHING give thanks;  for THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for YOU. Gods will is His good pleasure, desire and wish. His will is His choice. Gods’ opinion is paramount and when we yield to Him and wait for Him, there is Joy in the house. God waits for us too – to praise Him.

Eat less turkey >>>  LOVE more like God <<<<

Give thanks for ALL  in November (not just a day) and stay in HIS will.

Renae Roche 2021

*If you are intereted in advertising on this page or website contact Renae. Thank you.

 

 

Colossians
In the beginning and at the end of this letter we hear of the saints love for all of Gods people. What a wonderful thing to be remembered for — a deep love for ALL! Rather than being known for what they disagreed with or who they followed, the Colossians were known for their LOVE. Part of the key to that love was being filled with the knowledge of Gods will and living in GRACE. Their example and standard was not just in one another or even Paul – but Christ Himself.

In Colossians we hear the words that Jesus is “pre-eminent”. What does that mean? In Greek, the word is proteuo (being chief or first). According to Vines Expository Dictionary it means that Christ is first in rank and significance.  He (and His opinion)is First, Foremost, TOP … or should be. When we remember He is SUPREME –it causes us to value ourselves and others in proper alignment. Humility flows when Christ’s authority is lifted up. When people willingly follow Christ –that is true submission.

Moving from the city to living in the woods has had many interesting lessons. Nature is fascinating on many levels. Here’s something we found out – if you are sitting outside and it becomes dark, look up– as the looming shadow coming near you may be a plane or a huge bird. It may be a heron, a hawk or whole flock.  That shadow signifies what is coming closer.  Ignoring it is a mistake.  If you see a shadow on the ground — it may alert you to a bear (or intruder) hiding behind the trees. It’s a visual alarm signal. Shadows are important. It notifies us of what is to come.  The Old Testament gives us shadows or clues of what is to come through the various festivals. It teaches us God’s character and pattern of redemption. Paul, who had never visited the Colossian church wanted them to know how to see God. So, he writes,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”

In a culture that worshipped many deities, in a religious context where the people had to “clean up” before they came to God through various traditions, Paul welcomes them to the fulfillment of all – Christ, the supreme one. If they saw HIS image – if they looked on Him, they would be able to know God,  and be reconciled. They could be transferred from darkness into the Kingdom. Not thru cleansing of hands or circumcising of flesh or singing songs in E minor but through HIS BLOOD. That is the reason for their hope. Thankfully, we are circumcised, buried, and raised by Christ. Fate and observance are replaced by the fact that Jesus gave us His favor and positional righteousness on the cross. That process is important to understand .  While we no longer have enact the full traditions, we are called to  “remember”  Gods love thur Christ in communion. It was the only request Christ emphasized. Quite the exchange!

The new believers wanted to fit in, be part of the Colossian church but there were those that wanted them FIRST to follow men’s traditions – ritual cleansing, circumcision, human requirements, avoiding meats, worship of intermediary angels, false humility, etc. The newbies just wanted to come to the table! What are modern day examples of this? Perhaps dietary restrictions, avoiding meats, wearing jeans  vs. tuxes Sunday morning, Hillsong vs. Bethel vs. redback hymnal perhaps? There were so many cultural laws that prevented people from coming to the Lord and His presence. The Pharisees became the standard rather than Christ. Their opinions trumped listening to the Spirit. Paul didn’t say stop celebrating God, but to stop placing human laws and opinons on people who wanted to come near. Christ was foremost – HIS opinion should be chief.

What do you need to know God and worship Him? What do you need to draw near? Nothin but the blood! The answer is not a political party or diploma. It is not in a denomination sign or membership card. Only the blood of Jesus reconciles us with a holy God. The Colossians were getting tossed around with “extras” and Paul wanted to clarify. He simplified the list of what to < and what to >.

One of the verses that stirred my heart was Col. 2:1 “If then you were raised with Christ – SEEK those things which are above where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Sitting occurs when a priest has FINISHED his work. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory!”

We all know what it is to seek right? I thought I did but it’s more than just a mere look. When applied to this context it means to “crave, enquire, meditate on, and desire.” That is more intense than lukewarm faith. It is looking with intent and passion. It means it can’t be mere head knowledge. I wonder if our cravings for other things, would be less, if our cravings for Him were more? Knock, knock. Who’s there? “It’s me Lord and I’ve come to enquire about this savior you sent into the world – Jesus. I’d like more information. Reveal Him to me. I want to know His story.”

Do we ponder, breathe, investigate, and research His heart, His character, His preferences? That would include the Old Testament and its players. That would include Jewish and African preachers. History of women, judges, history of prophets. Back then the debate was washing hands before eating, circumcision and Jewish table etiquette.  We no longer argue about how to celebrate the festivals. While some believe the festivals were just a Jewish ceremony,  they were actually what the Lord gave everyone to remember His character. They could not see the compassionate, merciful, loving Savior so all the combined memorials and ceremonies were to give them a visual to acquaint themelves with God. It was a preview – an adumbration, a faint outline of what was to come.  Jesus embodied ALL of that. These celebrations created their story. In their absence, new pagan holidays (or manmade ones) have risen in their place. Paul still celebrated the festivals– without the legalistic requirements. The point was to know and keep Christ the MAIN thing – from the  heart. When the full image comes into view, He can be seen  and reveals the Father.

In a month where candy corn is all the rage and fear is King –let me suggest to you digging deeper into this seeking idea – Paul calls the believers to SEEK those things which are above – with desire. Do we still remember and feel desire for the Lord? It must be a greater > desire > than finding that perfect costume at the bottom of the Walmart bin. A greater desire than running a marathon thru Hobby Lobby to decorate for the season. A greater intensity than any other thing. Setting your mind means you focus your emotions and thoughts on it. Thats what Colossians states.

Burger King states we can “have it our way”. The people flying flags on the news, suggest we can satisfy our own desires and doing so is our “right”. Maybe –but for the Christian, we died, were buried and raised which is supposed to include giving up our rights for Christ.  Supreme, Christs’ opinion whether popular or unpopular is to be pre-eminent. Period.

I read Haggai this month while studying Colossians 2.  It says  “…I will shake the nations and they shall come to the Desire of All nations (a name for Jesus), and I will fill this temple with glory… then a promise that He will give Peace.”  Christ, our peace, is the solution to our need. He is the desired one who satisfies our deepest longings and cravings. The high point is now changed from a ceremony and temple to a Savior filled with Peace. Great upgrade– Gods’ own son!

In Colossians, Paul lays out orthodoxy – correct, true doctrine. He points them to the Pre-eminent Christ. Those who peddle “extras” without Christ will distract you from your purpose – seeking Him. Paul also lays out orthopraxy – correct behavior, letting the Colossians and us know that continuing in faith and putting to death sinful behaviors is important. He even goes deeper by talking to church, family and work systems calling for love and holiness. That is opposite of todays message of personal liberty. We need more “God Image” and less of a self-image focus perhaps.  In our day, personal freedom is elevated without the call to be holy. Paul calls us to renovate our old ways and be renewed, reconstructed, and transformed to God’s image. How do we do that? Through Christ – the image and paradigm God chose to disclose Himself to us. That first means we need to have knowledge of it.  Hear Paul exhort them, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality (soma/body/life), however, is found in Christ.” 

     When we were studying the festivals in the Old Testament, we gained new perspective on the immense effort God put into making Himself known. Each year the events found in Lev.23 became more meaningful. It seems the modern-day church has ignored much of that history, rather than embracing how Christ has fulfilled it. It was how God revealed Himself and the prophets foretold Messiah. It gives us a window into God’s very heart. At the very least it gives us stories  that help us see Jesus clearly which in turn reveals God.  

As we dive into October, many will wear costumes, carve pumpkins. The American holiday at the end of the month is now the second highest grossing holiday after Christmas according to the National Retail Federation. According to Statista.com about 70% of all Americans understand and celebrate it.  But it doesn’t reveal Christ, it doesn’t help us know Gods’ character and it certainly makes no appeal for self-examination or repentance.  Shadows cause us to look FURTHER, investigate, seek…until in LIGHT we see the One our hearts desire. Paul goes on to say in chapter 3:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Lev.23 events show us this in detail – the prophetic , shadow story of forgiveness and mercy). 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

“Put on” is to bundle and tie with a twisted chain rope. Paul is wanting them to array themselves with these things, layered up like a queen in royal garments, bundled together so it becomes one beautiful ensemble. The word comes from a Roman military battalion of 600 soldiers (manipulus), that encircles with no room left for the enemy to enter. What a beautiful word picture of Gods’ love to and through His church!

Let us continue to celebrate God’s goodness and understand the mystery of Christ. May we look on His image so we can see His grandiose majesty. May we keep Christ the main thing and put on the new man. If He is our focus, then we will be grounded, steadfast and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel. Our orthodoxy (belief) and orthopraxy (behavior) will be radiant as we walk, clothed (not just costumed) in a fine array of love.

Whatever the individual seeks and desires, the family will investigate. Whatever the family enquires about, the church will look into. Whatever the church passionately desires, the world will look into. Where is our gaze? What do we crave?

Happy Hallowed and Sacred rejoicing of the One we desire and seek – The Desire of all nations — Christ, Supreme.  RenaeRoche2021

 

It is a day when opinions are running rampant. Want to hear about generals pulling rank and yielding to nationalism? How about a discussion on political maneuvering that affects even innocent people in jail? No, I’m  not talking about current events. I’m referring to the political climate in Philippi. So many similarities! Old Roman generals retired and lived there. Their influence added up to a strong national identity. Loving your country can be a good thing but it was negatively impacting their heavenly citizenship. They needed Paul to remind them to be of One mind. The people were fiercely loyal, and everyone had lots of “rights”. Paul, a Roman citizen ends up being thrown into prison – even though he was one of them. These historical letters have much to say in our current cultural climate.

A mentor of mine worked with a church overseas as a missionary. After many years of hard work, it was shut down by the government. When it was destroyed, he and his wife blessed their persecutors and dedicated themselves to stand and pray for the area and those who bulldozed it. Not knowing the hand of the Lord the Afghan government thought bulldozers could eliminate the work!  The minister died, not realizing his dream but God brought it to pass, and that very area became one of the fastest growing churches in the world. Until a couple weeks ago the church in Kabul was flourishing. Someone needs to stand in prayer – again.

Gods’ church can’t be torn down or burned down – because it is not built with human hands.  Gods’ church can’t be shut down permanently because God’s hand is firmly keeping that door OPEN through THE DOOR, Christ Jesus. The gates of hell will NOT prevail. God leaves a remnant and when those are removed – His Spirit remains. Those who know God –need to pray. Listen to Paul:

“…He who began a good work in you– will carry it on to completion 
(to accomplish, perfect, execute, finish) until the day of Christ Jesus. That’s Gods’ timeline. In spite of all that Paul was going through, was this calm assurance that the same God that called them to the work would bring them through the work. His plans NEVER fail. It might take a second, a minute, a lifetime but God has an excellent track record. Battles and skirmishes never dictate the final war. Paul will go on to let us know that these painful assaults actually advance the Gospel. God loves to put His signature where we least expect it. What is our part? Rejoice, then rejoice some more. We are to remain joyful worshippers who realize our salvation is guaranteed by the Master of our souls. That’s what makes us stand FIRM, resolute.

For many, persecution causes retreat, but Paul went forward and fulfilled everything God had in mind for him. He had a choice to go to Rome. Before jail, Paul had already determined that his background, reputation, and achievements just did not matter when  compared with the matchless love of Christ. His joy was in Christs’ life.

In seminary some friends invited me to a Friday prayer time at noon in a tiny little prayer chapel. These saints fasted, prayed for the 10/40 window, and lived for missions. It stretched my faith and I wanted to follow their example. They were not concerned with pomp or title but the nations coming to Christ. They were deeply committed. Pauls’ example was Christs’ sacrifice and humility. Paul was ALL in – 100%. When faced with persecution he shares his testimony, when faced with imprisonment, he preaches more, when faced with a trial he rejoices and when faced with death he calls it “far better”. We can’t begin to understand the Philippians until we understand their leader. We can’t understand Paul unless we look at the Christ he served. Jesus– to many, was just a carpenter, his father was the supposed bad guy in town, his mother was a pregnant teenager, and yet he was anointed to preach. Priests came thru the family line, so this was potentially just another teacher with passion. Paul had all the success boxes checked and yet he laid it all down to follow this despised carpenter. Pauls’ value system  changed and his “best life now” was exchanged for the crucified life. Far better doesn’t make sense unless your whole paradigm of joy changes. 

How could Paul say far better? The whole world was his oyster, he was primed for high impact living yet he called it all “garbage and dung” to follow a renegade teacher with a sketchy background. Far better Paul says. How can our loved ones dying with covid say far better? How will the Afghans, Haitians and we say it is FAR BETTER?

Far better means “much, by far, more, for a greater advantage, more excellent”. It is part of Paul’s declaration, “For me to live is gain –but to depart and be with Christ, is far better.” When you first hear this is sounds crazy, bordering on depressive. We’ve seen lives cut short, families grieving, churches losing their leaders. We sigh, we grieve, we grow discouraged and even question God — If we’re honest. We’ve lost so many people in the last two years it is unbearable.

Consider Pauls’ words. Perhaps his statement is not about departing this life, or even understanding a Heaven we cannot fully comprehend. Maybe his declaration was about being with Christ. Far better may not have been about him and his feelings or location. I think it was about being with the One he worshipped.  Pain and suffering ceased is heavenly, fighting and wars being stopped is heavenly, new bodies and purposes realized is heavenly but the biggest reason that dying is “far better“ is the joy of being in the presence and company of Christ.

I think that as a Church (worldwide), we do not understand this because we have not really grasped or experienced what that means here. HERE. Loving God isn’t a textbook or seminary class, it’s not membership in a church or a choir or affiliation with a political party. It’s not cutting your neighbors grass or returning your library books on time. Loving God is having a vital relationship with Him. It’s delighting in His presence and yielding your will and life to His plan. Following God is not a weekly or yearly check off list of things “to do”.

Paul goes on to tell them this:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.”

He goes on to tell them to be like minded, having the same love and being one in spirit. “…Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”

Those words are powerful during this season. In the same chapter we are told of one of Paul’s friends who was ill and almost died. He was acquainted with disease and physical suffering. He was also familiar with torture and the murder of those who stood for Christ. Risking one’s life for the Gospel was the norm not the exception. In a world that fears negative Facebook press, we can hardly identify. Paul was familiar with lives cut short for the Gospels sake. He had regrets; he had made mistakes. THIS is the man that tells us to rejoice. Not some man in an ivory tower with no field experience and a cold heart. 

Paul wanted to know Christ – the power (ability, miracles, host of armies, moral excellence) of His resurrection. He wanted to know the fellowship of His suffering (the communion, fellowship, community, intimacy), in order that he would be conformed to Christ. Far better sounds like words of a longing bride settling in her new home. In that scenario all lesser loves vanish. In that lens what else would come close?

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, …   We might not understand far better if months of Netflix have crowded out our desire. We might not get the words “far better” if marriage, education, children, or entertainment have dampened our desire to be near the Lord or His people. Our scales may be skewed, our vision blurred, our hopes dashed. Not just better, but FAR better.

I recently had a health scare and chapter 4: 6 &7 became very helpful: Be Careful (anxious) for nothing. This is an imperative command, not a suggestion. It’s root means to not take thought or care, to not be troubled or DISTRACTED. It literally means to not be drawn out into different directions. Do not be distracted, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (garrison and protect like a 500-man military unit) your hearts and minds in Christ.  The core meaning is – FOCUS solely on God. Ignore other things that keep you from the main thing. If we spend time on that– the other things melt away. We are pulled away, anxious when we get our eyes off the prize, our eyes off of the Lord, our eyes off of what is FAR BETTER.

Paul did not say he was “Poof!” content but that he learned to be content. Days shipwrecked, days in adverse situations, days legalists polished and refined him, acclimating him to his highest goal – Christ’s fellowship. There’s no degree for that education but there certainly will be a reward. In spite of it all Paul could still say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” In my recent dilemma I quoted that verse, and it brought such peace. I sat back and watched God do what those verses say. It refreshed me and my family.

Whatever you are facing today, God is more than able to handle it and complete His work in you. He is able to give you strength and resources, making you content no matter what the circumstance. Whatever Paul experienced, whatever he encountered or saw down the road in spite of discouragement, jail, and death we know that it was far better than anything else.

I want to know the Christ, Paul sought. I want to know His power of resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering and most of all I want to be conformed to HIS image. By faith and Paul’s testimony we long for the day we can see into glory and say, “Yes, it is FAR BETTER”.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,
Renae Roche 2021

 

 

Ephesians  –  “Dressed to the T”   

Ephesians is such a profound book. It was fun to read it with my family. We took turns studying and teaching it. A local thrift store just happened to have a big shield, so we had good visuals to go with the lessons. I’m going to highlight two sections that were especially meaningful.

Ephesians 3:14

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen  you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts.

*Dwell:  “To house, inhabit permanently, to reside. (Not a visiting guest but to take up residence) To settle down, make a  home, dwell fixedly. “

through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established  in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (dimensions)
how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and

*Grasp:  ” Comprehend.  Not just to obtain but to attain, meaning to vigorously seize, appropriate, and make one’s own.  It comes from two root words: Kata: a preposition denoting motion or diffusion . lambano: to seize, catch, receive.”  

to know this love (feel, perceive, understand) that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Years ago, I preached  this passage at a seminary. The tough thing about preaching and being recorded is that every mistake is remembered – permanently. Preachers have a much harder time today because you have to carefully say every word for virtual playback.  I  made the mistake of saying this particular school had “arrived”. I was nervous and it just popped out as I was so impressed- and intimidated. The point of the text was that even though we had “knowledge” the arrival of excellence Paul was seeking was not brilliance– but love. I finished and tried my best, but that expression would haunt – and stir me for years to follow. It was foundational for me. Paul wanted the church to be so filled with love that it would surpass knowledge. That is a worthy goal for schools and churches today! Our highest aim should be our love for the Lord, the lost and one another.

Recently we  have moved to the sand hills state. I didn’t fully understand what that meant,  until my plants started dying off. Each of my pots outside had rocks  in the bottom of them for drainage and then local soil. It is sandy and will not  work to “root and ground”  plants, so they die quickly. So much to learn. I miss  black dirt! In the middle of whatever you plant you need traction – something solid for the plants to root in. We need to be “rooted” in Christ. My son planted his little jalapeno plant out back and it quickly wilted. We needed to mark off the area so there was room for it to spread out. We needed to make sure what was beside it wouldn’t kill it off and what was above wouldn’t eat it. It needed to be shielded  from shade and critters. Growth does not come without struggle!  Paul tells the believers that they are to know the width, length, depth, and height of Gods’ love. It starts with good soil , getting rooted and grounded in Christ.

This month – will you have your family each take one of these dimensions to study? How is Gods love deep?  ”How deep the fathers love for us, how vast beyond measure”. I live with a husband who has sailed the ocean deep and his stories are incredible. “Lots of water” does not do justice to the deep blue sea where he lived for many years. We need to get curious when it comes to scripture and dig deep. We can never “fathom” the things in the ocean and wonders that exist there. How wide is God’s love? Wide enough to stretch out a visual message on a wooden cross.  How long is God’s love? Long enough to span time, long enough to reach eternity? Long enough to reach your heart and mine. How high is His love? I remember flying an airplane when I was younger – looking down and seeing little cars and houses and fields. I was in awe of Gods  viewpoint and amazed that He would search all over the world for those whose hearts were postured towards Him. Each one of these dimensions is inexhaustible– but as you study– your heart will stretch in new directions.

Knowledge is wonderful but love surpasses it. We need to be immersed in Gods’ love – and the knowledge of it. Note that grasping also includes “diffusion”. What if that love diffused and spread faster than Corona or Delta or sin? What if the love that we embrace– affected others around us? (One sneeze spreads millions of droplets and can reach from 6 to 27 feet. How far does a hug, a smile, an encouraging music note spread?  It takes less than a second to hum a hymn that will circulate for hours. Church folk should be the best spreaders of love on the planet. Hmm, how do we love fervently while social distancing?  A—chhhhhh—ooooo!

At the end of this powerful book is  the imperative to put on the armor of God.  Our family studied this at a church night, led by our friend Carol a few years ago. She did so while standing with  a full-size soldier in armor. Her handouts were amazing. She introduced us to a weapon we had not considered before : the cloak of Zeal. It  is a fascinating study.

As we reviewed Ephesians afresh this  month, we noticed something interesting in the chapter 6 list:  Praying in the Spirit and praying for your Pastor (Paul) and the saints. I previously looked at it as just a ending remark, but we now believe it is part of the soldiers “dressing and armor”.

The pastor and spouse are front line warriors.  My youngest son said , “They care about us and pray for our safety, and we do the same for them.” That’s pretty important to have people  fight with you. Our pastoral family is going thru something currently and we have felt the battle raging. They  lead the troops and things are not the same when they are not out in front. What happens to them affects the whole body, so we need to cover  them on a daily basis!

One night after I had been hit by many fiery darts, I dragged myself into church and sat there. It was too complicated to ask for prayer, I was discouraged and could not shake the oppression of the day. I grabbed the pew in front of me and said a silent prayer for God to help me make it through the night. Have you ever been too burdened to even pray? The world and enemy can be noisy and confusing. The worship leader hit a few notes on the piano. As we waited for the rest of the church folk to filter in, he played the melody  “I’m going to see a victory.” It slowly replaced my fears and reminded me who wins the final war. Faith started poking my doubts and a smile crept across my face. St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach often and if necessary, use words.”  Those notes silenced the enemy.  It changed the atmosphere and gave traction. Praying for the pastor,  leaders and saints is not trivial – its part of our  armor, necessary equipment to WIN the battles before us. Hear Paul:

18 And pray in the Spirit (worth an entire study) on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

The war for souls Sunday morning is not waged just before the service – it is waged when the pastors plumbing breaks during the week, when the pastor’s spouse gets stuck in traffic, when the sound system is broken down. Praying for our leaders not only ensures that they will make it to church and live to fulfill their calling –but to press through for victory for the congregation. It also ramps up praying for people who come into the church with  chains they can not break by themselves. Prayer, fasting and support are  critical – it makes all Gods’ saints ESSENTIAL. YOU ARE ESSENTIAL if you are part of the house of God.

When our pastor was going through a medical situation, we received updates from people in the church and his family. It helped us to keep focused in prayer and brought great comfort. There’s this one lady that is in our church (Tina) that works in various areas. She is the voice on our telephone prayer chain and she records special phone messages.  I got to spend  some time with her and her husband at a youth event. I know her as the one who ” brought bacon and grilled onions” for the burgers. If you’ve ever been camping—that is a BIG deal. She was the joyful “extra” that made that meal special. She keeps us In the loop when people go to the hospital. Those “touches” from the Lord, those ministries that don’t fit in a five- fold description are an essential part of the Army of God. Flipping burgers and enemies might just be a thing.  (LOL) A single smile goes a long way for a weary sargeant or  soldier. Whether its an angelic host  led by God, a battalion of disciples led by a  Sunday School teacher or saints that are “seasoned” and bring the seasoning, we hold out hope that “We’re going to see a victory.” Michael W. Smith sings, “This is how I fight my battles” and lets us know that we fight surrounded by God. I think  Paul would add – with fierce, prayed up saints surrounding us also!

So,  put on the whole armor but lets also pray in the Spirit, for the leaders and seasoned saints as part of our weaponry.  Ephesians 6 :

“Tychicus , the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.  I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Eph.6:14-21

 

A AAAA     —cccccchhhhh—-oooooooooooooooooooooooooo…….!!!!!!!   !!!!!

RenaeRoche2021

 

 

 

Galatians – This blog study and Sunday school class was so life changing I have put together chapter notes and outlines. If you are interested in the this for your family or church contact me.  

In preparation for the Fourth of July this year we put up bows, flags, flowers, and signs to celebrate Freedom. We wanted to start early since the stores were not really stocked yet after the Covid crisis. It was exciting and for the first time  I bought red geraniums to accent our house. As the day grew closer to celebrate– the kids pointed out that our freedom sign was fading. It was not the bright red and blue that was there upon purchase.  It was more faded pink and grey with funky stripes and stars. Days, months and years later, freedom and how we got it may be fading in our memories. 1776 is a long time ago. It is easy to forget – unless we make plans to remember, which is why family gatherings like the 4th are important. Keeping these sacrifices and events fresh and repeating them in the next generation is imperative (See Psalm 78).  It is time to remember how we became free, why we became free and who purchased that freedom for us, so we do not neglect so great a salvation – or country.

Freedom costs somebody something. There is either a debt or a promise and then the satisfaction of that debt. In 1776 men and women risked their lives to get free from Tyranny. They paid a price so all Americans could live, work and worship as free citizens. Some in our country have taken the symbol of the American flag and reminded us that justice should be for ALL. It is painful to be confronted with  a truth. Some will ponder the veracity of that statement and others will get defensive or deny it altogether. Change takes place when we consider others perspectives and pain.  Are symbols true or mere words? The colonists backed their words with their lives and fought hard so all could be free. 

Long before this debate entered the culture, the Christian church had another symbol, more powerful – the cross. Early sermons told us that the ground at the foot of the cross was LEVEL meaning Jesus died not just for one but for ALL – men, women, children, minorities, and a whole bunch of WHOSOEVERS that included Jews and Greeks, slaves and free. That message got hidden along the way and replaced by national messages. Those in the original camp pressed for things to remain as they were. Galatians speaks the message of liberty and freedom for ALL loud and clear. Once you get freedom, there just is no going back….

After the resurrection of Christ, Judaizers came in and insisted that new believers had to be circumcised and follow the customs of the ethnic Jews and religious rites that were burdensome. Paul clearly reminds them in Galatians to focus on the life of Christ and live by grace. He understood the Jews passion for their homeland – yet he insisted on the citizenship in Heaven and Christ as being the true home, the true identity that they needed to receive (not strive to obtain).

The tension our country has experienced over the last few years is remarkably similar to the tensions the Jews had with their symbols. To desecrate or change them was abhorrent and  they feared it threatened their national identity. This fear impacted the churches of Galatia and tried to alter the theology of the Freedom provided by the cross. Paul was appealing to a HIGHER identity – identity with God in Heaven. Citizenship there was Paul’s main intent and appealing to the Christ caused some serious friction. Aren’t  you glad he persisted? He persevered with the Gospel message in spite of great persecution – verbal and being stoned. Freedom is messy business – the Carolina battle grounds continue to tell the story of the civil war as men and women decided the value of justice for ALL was not only virtuous but biblical. 

As we have studied Galatians, we have discussed various cultural things that are impacting the church at large: BLM, Gender discussions, political challenges, educational changes, etc. Francis Schaeffer once asked, ‘How then shall we live.?”  Paul would tell us to live in Christ as he told the Galatians. We live according to scripture, in grace and more.  We can not survive without grace and faith! We do not live free as tourists, immigrants or beggars but adopted children of the most high God. We are free not becaue we are talented, educated or pretty. We are free because we have been SET FREE. That freedom should  evoke gratitude and praise. When fully understand it will evoke good works, faith, deeds and proclamation. Paul was a pastor and church planter. His people had captured his heart and were part of his regular visits and letters. He did not remain silent but continued to proclaim Christ. Hearing all the drama that was taking place must have broken his heart. His strong admonitions in Galatians were meant to get them back on track.

I have an antique washboard that I brought to show our Sunday School  class. I used one like it when I was in Haiti , doing laundry in the creek under a scorching sun. I remember missing the luxury of the laundromat back home. Sometimes we use it as a musical instrument when we praise God as a family.  I remember the extra steps I needed to take when washing with that washboard that were grueling.  It is an antique and helpful in some scenarios, but I sure would not want to use it on a regular basis. Joe, my left-brained hubby bought me a new washing machine and dryer. What a blessing! The dryer is fancy. Bright white, with several cycles including one that takes wrinkles out and one that just warms up blankets, so the kids feel cozy when they came in from outside on a snowy day. The best thing about it is that when the cycle is done is loudly plays some Beethoven – Ode to Joy I believe. It cracks me up, makes me smile and evokes worship in me. It is a whole experience in the comfort of my home.  I appreciate it MORE because I understand all the steps, I no longer have to take to accomplish the same thing to do laundry – without any effort. If I went back to the old system  my sweet husband would have sacrified for nothing. It would be foolish and soon he would ask – who told you you needed to go back to the washboard? 

Understanding the Old Testament laws will help one understand Gods ‘ character and grace. It can cause appreciation for covenant and freedom. The Jews had a way of adding to the Biblical precepts and have 613 commandments to follow.  My antique washboard served a purpose but when the new came, the old was obsolete for the same tasks. Going backwards by earning good works, trying to earn salvation or Gods delight any other way is also obsolete. One can remain in the Old system or embrace the resurrected Christ and Holy Spirit. The symbols pointed to a Messiah to come and when Christ came they would receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit which would help them fully understand the Son who would fully show them the Father. 

God declares us righteous. God decrees us justified.

The cross is the final verdict that all those who accept what Jesus has done on the cross have been MADE righteous, not by works, creeds or good behavior. Jesus stamps His own as holy– based on His work on the cross and righteousness. No one can earn it which means we are all standing in  need of His grace and mercy – standing on level ground. Powerful declaration.

Justification means God declares me righteous based on Christ’s work. It is as if I never sinned a minute or a day. His “label” for me is redeemed. We are declared righteous because of our relationship with God through the provision of Jesus on the cross. That is final – the judge of Heaven has sent His son to pay our debt and has legally declared us justified, righteous, forgiven.

One man died that all could be free.

He did not suffer a horrific crucifixion and then say those with black hair ( blond, red, brown, grey), freckles or green eyes were excluded.  WHOSOEVER. Jesus died for ALL and whosoever comes to Him will be justified if they accept his work on the cross and payment for sin – whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. Talk about blending a family = Old covenant and New covenant. When we look like the blended family Jesus died for, we represent HIM. When once divided and separated people walk together, talk together, worship together we know the Spirit is in full operation and it glorifies Jesus and the Spirit of God. It is the signature of the Trinity! 

Rather than tell you what it looks like when that does not happen, I would just say turn on the nightly news or tune into the culture around you. Divisions remain, racism remains, sexism, elitism, ageism, secularism remain because there is a rejection of the ONE unifying factor to level the playing field. Jesus died to make us ONE with the father (see the priestly prayer in John 17:

              20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  *

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to show us how to LIVE by the Spirit.  These are not just theological concepts – they are instructions for daily ( religious, family, and political) life.

As you celebrate your national freedom this month, take a moment to thank the ONE that provided you with earthly freedom and eternal liberty. Celebrate the one that unifies people, families, churches, and nations. If we do not rally around that level ground and blood-stained cross, well… all you’ll have is smoke, mirrors and fireworks.

Thank you to all the veterans who bravely served so we can enjoy national peace. Thank you to all the ministers who continue to remind us we can be free from sin and death. THANK YOU, Jesus, for dying and resurrecting so we could have eternal peace!

Love and prayers for you all.

RenaeRoche 2021

*Special thanks to Jean for sharing her SS lesson on John 17

Second Corinthians –  June 2021

 

“The world does not need cool Christians who are culturally saturated. it needs exiles with the scent of Heaven and the aroma of Christ.”      – John Piper

 

Paul was such aa man as this. He was an amazing man who wrote most of the New Testament. To us he is the quintessential pastor and evangelist, but to the Corinthians he was some jerk who got in their way, tied them to the past and was not very “cool”. They said he was untrained, unqualified, unimpressive. Wow.  I was shaking my head, thinking about the persecution that surrounded Paul this week when I read a quote from Marc Rubio concerning Tim Tebow: “Tim Tebow sure does stir up a lot of scorn and mockery for someone, who has never been accused of wrongdoing, treats everyone with respect and organizes a high school prom every year for kids with special needs.” It’s a good thing Paul didn’t live in the age of twitter or things may have been worse for him!  Question: what is it that glows inside of a man or woman, that evokes such intense hatred from others? Is that indicative of a lamp burning brightly – the  more stuff that gets spewed out ?  It would certainly change our litmus test for ministry, wouldn’t it? Jesus said beware when men speak well of you (Luke 6:25).  We live in a time where discernment is very necessary.

I wonder how history will record the “super apostles” of our day? Will they be those who did not burden others, or those asking for money? Will they be known for charitable deeds or huge crowds? Will the Gospel still exist down the road because Jesus remained the center of their message? Hmm. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being disappointed by large speakers who later come out as having lived secret lives, prophets whose prophecies don’t come to pass and showmen who  do not impact their community. The majority of churches in our nation are led by simple, faithful men and women who pray and preach and make less than 50k a year. To them Paul says that “The God of all comfort will comfort you”. To them Paul says, “Keep on praying – your prayers are effectual.” To them Paul says “ALL of Gods promises in Christ are yes and amen.” Does Paul’s word also say that to the popular, super apostles? Yes, but they may be to important or busy to hear it. What we hear in silent, sacred moments is the “stuff” Paul suggests we pass along. We rest, we receive, we share what the Lord is saying and doing – not the culture or our own agendas.

This past week I celebrated another birthday and now sit at the top of the hill. There’s a new perspective from this vantage point – I can see more clearly the past and am aware that the downward journey is much faster than I would like it to be. One thing I’ve learned is that if you are doing the will of the Lord, there will be slander, gossip mongers and rumors that you can’t control. People will write a narrative that makes them feel comfortable – whether it’s true or not. The Corinthians had much drama in their midst, and it was much easier to look at Paul’s weakness and failures than their own. If you want to destroy a man (or woman’s) message – go after them with mistruths and then no one will want to listen to their message. Sneaky warfare. Doubt the praises, throw shade on the testimonies, spread misinformation so it will not be suspect rather than clear to the hearers. I don’t think Paul cared so much about his reputation, but I believe he did want God’s message to be proclaimed with integrity (and not sullied among unbelievers). So, he set out in 2nd Corinthians to set the record straight – to vindicate himself, if at all possible, so the Gospel would go forth.

It’s a deeper cut when gossip prevents Gods message from reaching the lost.

Paul’s desperation to set the record straight and explain his heart and ministry was presented in three arenas: Being, Giving and Training. I think it is relevant to our lives today. We will consider just one section:

Being

Paul points out in chapter one that the Paraclete will come alongside the believer and bring comfort. Paraclete is a Greek word for “One you call out to, to give you aid.” It’s a fancy word for the Holy Spirit, also called the Comforter. It further explains what type of spirit is coming to support. The helping, comforting one. It’s a living being with personality and power to change things.  It reminds me of firefighters who yell “fire department- call out” when they enter a building. If they don’t come to help –the person will be lost. Just a mere mental assent, wishing  rescue  would come, is not a wise default posture – someone needs to call 911 right? If the person does not actively CALL OUT– they could forfeit that assistance. “My name is, my injury is,” works in prayer also!

One late night after a prayer meeting, when I lived in Minneapolis, I drove down Lyndale avenue and saw a house that was on fire. Smoke and fire were billowing out of the roof. The owner didn’t answer when I ran to the door and knocked — my persistence was ignored. I prayed, then went back to my car and laid on the horn.  The neighbors started coming out of their houses, swearing at me, not aware of what was taking place.  The call has to be strong enough to be heard. The Ones hearing have to be compassionate enough to come and help! Paul knew the ministry of the Paraclete and the power to help the believer.  He had experienced it not as religion in some dusty, leather bound book but –deliverance in the fire of life!  Cliches don’t quench flames. If we do not receive this comfort firsthand, we will not be able to comfort others. At least not with the same humility as ones remembering they were in need of it first. The fragrance of that smoke should always linger to remind us of the sweet smelling fragrance of a saving Christ.

My pastor has been going through a trial and in the middle of it, he preached one of the best messages I have ever heard. The things the Lord shared with him were gold. One of those things was this, “The will of the LORD will prevail.” In his weakness, we could see Christ’s strength. Literally thousands of people were touched by one message that was not “stellar” by human terms. The weakness showcased the strength of the Lord and amplified the message.  We were able to see first- hand, what raw trust looks like in the midst of great suffering. Christ’s presence was tangible.

In spite of all that Paul endured, he kept promoting Christ. He was beaten, shipwrecked, and even despaired of life – that’s spiritual words for he wanted to give up, quit, die. When Paul penned the words, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us”, he understood that the best message was the one that came from the throne room, the message that focuses on Christ. His vessel was “perishing, yet his inward man was being renewed day by day (4:18).” Gods’ favor was on Paul in his worst misery and during his best ministry because he was clinging to Christ – not because of big audiences or works.

Joyce Meyer often says, “We are human beings, not human doing’s. I would add we are believers – not just behavers. Martin Luther said, “The just shall live by faith.” Following Jesus is paramount to carrying out His kingdom. Paul did not do good works just to do them – his life had been affected by this Christ that stopped him in his tracks and changed him. His ministry was an outgrowth of that encounter and thankfulness for transformation and comfort – not for applause or promotion. Paul’s motivation for preaching the gospel was that he was a new creation in Christ – “old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new”. But it does not end there– the next verse (5:18) states that because of that transformation, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Given, not earned, we are commissioned by the transforming One to be “ambassadors for God”.  But how?

When we moved to the woods, I was mortified. Yes, I wanted to be like Abraham and Sarah and yes I believed we were in Gods will –but there were snakes in the bushes, just waiting to bite me. When storms came thru, they ejected large branches and swirling leaves swept all over the yard and house. We had a bear,  a deer and turtles in our backyard! It’s not a very controlled environment. The insects were twice the size as back home. It took me a while to get “content” in my new location. This city girl had to make adjustments.

One day the boys and I were outside looking at nature. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Did you know that butterflies have tongues? They are called proboscis and they roll out when they sip nectar, then curl back up when not in use. Tiny little tongues on beautiful, brightly colored, winged creatures.  (I had never encountered this in the cement jungle of the city). Butterflies have purpose in the life cycle of the woods. They do not just leave the cocoon to chilax and laze around. They fly, they drink, they flutter. New creations are meant to have new activity, to do things they could not previously do. Paul wanted the Corinthians to get back to the basics – Jesus saved us, now we proclaim Him. In all the minutia (false gods, pagan worship, immorality, others matter issues, the divisive drama of Corinth) they had forgotten that. They were not only saved from sin but they were supposed to be saved “to” something.

Perhaps Pauls first thoughts in chapter one – that the God of all comfort will help us comfort others was overshadowed by his exhortations regarding their bad behavior? I was impressed that the small minority who had been gossiping and causing problems repented. That’s growth. They were sorry for their behavior and made changes. The “they” included leaders and congregants.  I have no doubt that the missing letters to the Corinthians was an act of grace. Kind of like the missing commentary from mother Sarah tromping across the desert and missing her family. Thank heavens we only hear of that one time she laughed. Whew!  Some things are silent for a reason.  We can learn from some of their issues but perhaps the other stuff was too personal or – forgiven. 

 Proverbs says that, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all transgressions.”

 We do not need to be spiritual voyeurs into their mess anyway – we have enough crud of our own to manage, right? They took Paul’s advice, reconciled and moved forward.

Many years later, another minister of the gospel was going thru  intense trials. He came down with Pleurisy. It almost took his life, and his outward man was perishing.  He was discouraged and had serious doubts about God. The Christian believers around him, comforted this man with testimony and food (yum- love that blessing), and through them, he experienced  the genuine love of the Lord. He later stated in his journal that though he was terribly ill, his spirit had been renewed.

As a praise for this encounter and to pass on the comfort he had received, Charles Wesley wrote the song, “O for a thousand tongues to sing”. Charles states he wanted those tongues to sing, ” my great Redeemers praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.“  He lived the triumph of Gods grace. But Wesley didn’t stop at just being a “new creation”. He went on to share his reconciliation with God and bring that reconciliation to others. His brother John Wesley was one of those he encouraged. Paul’s message to the Corinthians was this, “If ANYONE is in Christ, he/she is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ,  reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to US the word of reconciliation. Therefore – we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we IMPLORE you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

I do not know what drama is in your life right now. Perhaps you struggle with substance abuse, sexual addiction,  or some other type of immorality. Perhaps you have compared yourself to the super apostles who are like clouds without rain. Perhaps you have gotten caught up in the maligning of some leaders character or the slander of some Christians life. Paul would tell you as he told the Corinthians – be reconciled to God. After you have gone to the throne … Be reconciled to one another. Repentance is one prayer away.

Then, take your little tongue and go use it for God’s glory. You do not need a professional license to share your story. Your story, like a butterflies wings is unique to your area, your calling. You do not need to have someone else tell you that God has chosen YOU to testify of your transformation. If you have been reconciled to God thru Christ, here’s the thing –

GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO BE HIS AMBASSADOR

Praise Him, proclaim Him, preach about Him. Not because others are, not because others do it differently or better. Do it because that is exactly what new creations were created to do – use your little tongue to share Jesus. That he has come to reconcile people to God. Whatever comfort you have received, whatever joy, whatever strength, whatever gift – pass it on. The weary world is waiting…

RenaeRoche2021

Have you ever been friends with a worshipper? Their head is in an entirely different space. They hum, sing, and get caught up in another realm that keeps them grounded. It seems that their praise is not limited to a service on Sunday. They encourage others to enter into the atmosphere of worship in spite of their circumstances. When life overwhelms us, we can look up (as Lauren Daigle sings) and focus on what really matters.

So how does this impact how we look at 1 Corinthians? I think it was a significant part of Pauls story and  part of how he dealt with his experiences in Corinth. I also wonder if digging deeper into this story would help us in our situations today. To get a clear picture of this, read Acts 18. Paul was trying to reach his own group in Corinth. Many Jews lived there and many more had just moved into the area. Paul finds a couple there (Priscilla and Aquila) who are in the same secular occupation that he is – tentmaking.  (Providential circumstances).

Because Corinth was a major port and trade city.  It was a hub for shipping and manufacturing. Another significant feature was that the Isthmian Games were held here (similar to our Olympics). When thousands of people come in and out it increases the wealth of a city. Opportunity and anonymity increase which creates new power structures and increases crime. Tents were often used to house athletes and travelers and Paul picked a lucrative trade to accommodate his need for travel funds.

His new friends Priscilla and Acquila were Jewish. They had just been thrown out of Rome when Claudius sent out all the Jews , and had recently moved to Corinth. Pauls’ original plan was to reason in the synagogue. On that last day trouble was stirred up and heated arguments took place. After that encounter Paul decides to change course and reach the Gentiles. The synagogue was one of many religious instituions and  there were seven other temples built to various gods there. The biggest one was dedicated to Aphrodite and was known for “corinthianizing” whoever came to visit. Lust, immorality and promiscuity was common throughout Corinth. Holiness was not popular.

After Pauls negative encounter in the Synagogue, he leaves in a dramatic , heated moment. However, he did not get very far. Right beside the synagogue lived a friend of his – Justus, who was a worshipper of God. We are not told if this was a Red back hymnal, Bethel, or Jason Crabb type guy. We are only told that he was a worshipper. Worshippers know things. Was this his  house or a parsonage? Not sure. But somehow what happened in that house inspires Paul to stay a little longer and plant a church in Corinth. Justus gets no credit other than a mention that he is a worshipper.  After this verse we see the head of the synagogue get saved (Crispus) and his whole household. (Paul may have been done with the Jews, but God clearly wasn’t).  In an about face, we see a transition from opposed Paul to church planting Paul. This was the same guy, who had shaken his garments and yelled “your blood be upon your own heads, I am clean.” We aren’t given details but all of a sudden when Paul was supposed to be stomping down the road – Salvation comes to Crispus. He’s no common visitor – this guy is the leader of the entire synagogue! 

Then the Lord speaks to Paul, “Do not be afraid, I am with you. No one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” Somehow, Paul slowed down from his anger to listen to Gods’ message. No longer do we find him arguing over doctrine. Instead, he continues to teach the word of God. We do not know the details, but I am thinking, what a difference a worshipper friend can make! Whatever took place there affected Paul to redirect. The Corinthians were the recipients of that change.  

First Corinthians was written to a  problematic church.  When it began, there were riots and droughts. They had endured agitations and culture wars. Life wasn’t easy. The religious there were liberal and believed no one should judge anyone. To read more about this you can check out F.F. Bruce’s work, “Christianity Under Claudius.” The expulsion of the Jews was primarily a political move but of great impact spiritually.  Their preserving light would have been missed.  To shine in Corinth would have been quite the assignment.  It was the Las Vegas of their day.  It was a very immoral place. The ones Paul had come to reason with had  opposed and blasphemed him. How disheartening in the midst of that city. So, what caused him to stay? Space was made for him to hear Gods voice and direction. In spite of Paul burning his bridges,  God told him to stay put . That is a powerful moment in Pauls story we cannot miss.

I was talking with hubby this week about Priscilla and Aquila. They spent time in Rome before moving to Corinth. Imagine for a moment combing Jewish traditions with Italian customers, food or even celebrations. Jewish traditions take time and interrupt schedules. This can certainly cause aggravation with those who live differently. Their day off and day to worship would be a constant reminder they were “unlike” the Romans. Blending in Corinth would also be challenging. Small things can irritate in big ways. My boss used to say “don’t ever mess with peoples’ money or their food.”  When in Rome…, they stuck to One God and all their cultural norms. It did not exactly work out there for them. That would have been a sore spot in a country that boasted of being liberal and judgement free. With bruised  hearts it is possible that Priscilla and Acquila looked forward to being with the Corinthian Jews. Imagine the disappointment when things blew up in the new Synagogue.

When we were first married my husband Joe would cook when we had family gatherings and make large pots of the “sauce”. That would turn in to spaghetti and lasagna for many days following. Each of the guests would leave with extra sauce. It was a holiday thing. When he makes “the sauce” it takes a full day and the whole house smells amazing. I had to change my “Ragu and Prego” ways and resist all fake and bake store bought meatballs. (Shh, don’t even mention I said this). Families create traditions on many levels. In the blending of Corinth, a new people emerged and it affected the whole on many levels – social, cultural, political, spiritual, etc.  What is the standard then? Who decides what is moral, good or right?  All the combinations and temples and opinions– This was a colossal mess.  I tease my family that it may have been fights over Matza and Cannoli (just joking), but we will never know for sure. 

The friendship forged between Priscilla and Aquila and Paul literally impacts the world. God used many methods to prepare them to this point. This couple will go on to mentor Apollos. What gathers people? Games, Matza, fresh sauce, worship… ? Whatever the “draw” was, in addition to the Holy Spirit– we may never know, but we do know that the love Paul will later write about in 1 Corinthians 13 will be strong enough to keep Paul and them on task. The gifts he shares show up as Crispus and his household come to Christ. Paul has experienced these solutions himself. Much of that dialogue is omitted and probably for good reason. However, this misfit crew got together, it worked, because it impacted the original Corinthian church and filled it with love and fellowship. Doctrine is important —  but working together, eating together, worshipping together, suffering together…. were all part of the early church.  It was a Holy, but happy mess.  Love had to be patient, love had to be kind.

When Paul travels on to Ephesus and hears that there are divisions in the Corinthian church, he has  authority to make corrections. It is in a context of love that he appeals to them to make changes. The five messages can be summarized as follows:

  1. Unity 1-4

In Gods economy all leaders are servants under Christ. Whether you follow Graham, Moore,  Osteen or others – it is only Christ that died on the cross.  Only God is worthy of our praise. All these camps, if elevated above Christ, will eventually cause divisions. Loyalty belongs to the Lord. Comparison is such a sneaky snake. How do you know if that is happening? When you direct people to a specific leader or website rather than Jesus. It is seen when a group is a solution offered, rather than a savior. When we discuss religion more  than the Bible, it is evident. Paul requested that they cease in their personality promotion and lift up Jesus. Let’s dig deeper – When was the last time you had fellowship with someone from another nation or denomination? Can you enjoy praise and worship if its in a different style? Do you only go to conferences led by those in your camp?  Who do you follow most? Christ is not divided –Paul tells them and us.

      2. Integrity 5-7

How we live our lives matters to a holy God. If we have died with Christ, then we are no longer our own with unlimited personal rights. What matters in our temple (body) matters to God.  We are not our own –we have been bought with a price. Unlimited grace is true– but God will not always strive with man. We will one day all account for our actions within and outside the body. In an age of whatever feels good, Paul reminds us that  God decides what is pure. Does God want you to give your body to a prostitute Paul asks? God does have a say in our actions. We certainly can choose our rights –but if you want a personal relationship with God, then He gets to say what is O.K.  For those who don’t follow God – it is not our business to judge.

      3. Expedience 8-10

While all things are lawful, not all are expedient. Putting Gods law of love FIRST is what Paul was contending for. Honoring one another is more important than being right. This applies to drinking, eating and anything where we misuse our freedom to justify behaviors. In an era of massive addictions, Christians need to be supportive rather than enablers or promoters of things that destroy the body.

   4. Inclusion 11-14

Paul uses a body metaphor to say that each person is a unique gift to be used in the body of Christ. Each are critical to the overall good. My understanding of the function of leadership is that they serve every congregant to know their gift and use it fully for Gods’ glory. Blending takes time, like simmering the sauce — fresh ingredients simmered down so each flavor is distinct but makes the whole taste better.  The world is hungry…  Churches can become centers of training and worship to equip individuals to reach their corner of the world. In this post-Covid era the FULL church body needs to be equipped and functioning. Not because someone in the Church, White house or media says it, but because the WORD of God demands it.

5. Resurrection – 15-16

The reason this all matters is because our future is in Heaven. Behaviors can be seen by a holy God. What we see today is not all there is to experience. A loving savior is coming back and there is work to do. Paul starts and ends his message with that in mind.

 

Oh, the joy to have a worshipping friend, an accepting and supportive Christian couple, a teaching buddy while planting a church. Paul knew the value of team ministry. They all were working toward the same goal – Kingdom ministry that glorified Christ. Each hearing from God for the collective good.  Paul urges in chapter 16 for his mentee Timothy to be received without fear. “Do not let anyone despise him.” He uplifted and supported the younger ministers (male and female) . He surrounded himself with ministry people and sent them out to be effective in the Harvest. This is rare in a individualized society. 

 

In verse 9 Paul states that a great and effective (Thura), vestibule was opened to him. This is a unique word for door. It refers to a waiting area. Paul was planning on tarrying in Ephesus until Pentecost. He stayed with people for a while. He hung out with worshippers, he waited to hear Gods’ voice. Perhaps his success was not a door of preaching or ministry but an effective door of being able to listen to God for direction? Right there, that is the sauce! The effects of hitting the bulls eye for Jesus would certainly prove to be very successful. An audience is a mark of success to some,  but in Pauls day success was audience with the King who could really make a difference. 

 

My husband has  been studying in I Kings where Elijah hides himself away.   Elijah had faced many oppressors and also decided, “I’m done with this!”. In the crushing, in the waiting… God starts sharing His purpose, His heart, His mind. Paul may have been done with the Corinthian Synagogue –but clearly God was not and after he went to Justus the worshippers house, God begins to move in a way that will permanently affect the Temple. The leader gets saved – and his household. What a way to start a new work in the city. It took ONE worshipping person who had their focus on God. It took ONE person to pause to listen to God. It took ONE person to get saved to reach their synagogue and family. 

 

When Paul paused and waited in Corinth – the word and vision came. The church in Corinth was born.  Paul went on to Ephesus and wrote the letters to Corinth when they started struggling  that still strengthen the church today. Paul tells us in 16:13 to watch (be vigilant, cautious, active, and awake), to stand fast in the faith, persisting and persevering and to be brave (man up, have courage). In vs. 14 he states, “Let ALL that you do, –be done with love.” His encounter with Priscilla, Aquila and Justus changed Corinth. His encounter with God, hearing His voice and direction, changed Paul.

 

Paul exhorts the saints to submit and labor with those who have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints. He then points out good examples stating that they supplied what was lacking and “refreshed the saints.” These, Paul states we are to “acknowledge” which means to become thoroughly acquainted with them, perceiving them, knowing them well and understanding their character, will and deeds.”  This is not your standard business as usual church. They were passionate followers. It was forged in fighting, worshipping, working together, suffering together and co-laboring. They were so close they kissed one another! In a Covid generation– maybe we can skip the last part,  but the rest is really important.  

 

The instructions in 1 Corinthians are wonderful helps for our Christian life. I just want to ask you some questions:

  1. Where is your Justus and are you first and foremost a worshipper of God?
                In the atmosphere of  worship, much can be accomplished.
  2. Who are your house and work mates during this hidden time?

                       Will they build you up in the Spirit or Corinthianize you?

  1. Who are you sending on to carry out these instructions like Timothy?

                    Investing in others is part of the process  to glorify God and bear fruit.

Thank you for reading the blog and  considering how 1 Corinthians, can impact your life and ministry. May you accomplish all God has planned for you to as you co-labor with HIM.

 

Renae Roche 2021

                                          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