Changing Our Community

Keep trying to take the drugs, alcohol, and other substances out of Vernon, but it’s still never going to change.

This is the sentiment I’ve heard from many about the place I call home. The place where I serve as a youth pastor. In the wake of a humongous drug bust, families are reeling, angry, broken-hearted, and confused. I’ve seen some become particularly jaded and cynical to the reality of change in this community.

There are times in youth ministry where I can feel the temptation to fall into the same mindset. Last Spring, I would drive home from youth group every Wednesday night thinking that nothing was ever going to change. It was like banging my head against a brick wall over and over again. I would share the love of God and the good news of His Son, but my students would appear to not really care as they simply waited through the lesson to get to the open gym at the end. Honestly, this perception was inaccurate. I would come to find out this week at camp that our students are listening more than we think. What’s even more simultaneously encouraging and challenging is that they are watching us way more than we think.

Since my wedding day (three weeks ago), I have been giving the greatness and glory of God a ton of thought. Some of this is because of my Bible study I did through the book of Jonah, and partly because of the book Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. I’ve felt the desire to pray daily for a greater glimpse of God’s glory, greatness, and grace. Each day I’ve had him answer this prayer through the stories I hear of His faithfulness, my time in His Word, or other things. I prayed this prayer as we headed off to camp.

My eyes well with tears as I think about what God did this week. He worked in every student that we brought. We had salvations, rededications, calls to ministry, calls to mission, and the building of many relationships. God is not done y’all. I get really discouraged way too often because I look all around me and I feel alone. I feel alone in what I believe the Bible says, and what I believe this life is supposed to be about. But here this week I have a great testimony of God’s faithfulness to look back on.

Here’s the deal you guys.

I can’t change Vernon.

I can teach and preach and plead and beg and disciple and pray and hope all I want, but I can’t change Vernon.

However, God can.

God can change the place I call home.

And he can do it through His church.

The heart-breaking thing for me is that His church isn’t sold on the mission. Instead we chase the world. Instead we get busy. Instead we are unfaithful to our promises.

I asked the family group I had this week to raise their hand if an older believer committed to mentor and disciple them and yet forgot about them within a month of their commitment and blamed getting busy.

Y’all. Every single one of them raised their hands.

Shame on us. Shame on us for making our lives about other things instead of the gospel. No one is too busy to disciple, it is simply a matter of passion and priority.

I was reading the other day about the book of Leviticus. And the book of Leviticus really emphasizes the gulf between us and a holy God. The author of the study I was going through said this about mankind:

“They live selfishly: seeking and hoarding more and more, shutting his or her ears to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the suffering, the lost.”

People say our community can’t change.

I am prone to believe them when I see that I’m living like the quote above.

Well, when’s the last time you shared your faith with a non-believer?

When was the last time you shared what God has done with someone in your circle?

When was the last time you committed to disciple, encourage, and support a younger believer?

When was the last time you opened up your home to share about what God has been doing in your family?

Guys, God can change our community. In fact, God is already changing our community. In fact, God doesn’t need us to help him change our community. But one of the most beautiful aspects of the gospel is that we have been gifted with the opportunity to join God in what he is doing.

Don’t let another year go by with church attendance without gospel commitment.

Share. Disciple. Pray. Give. Invest. Encourage. Support. Worship.

The sentiment of men and women like that at the beginning of this blog post is partly right. We can keep trying to take all of the drugs out of this place and this place simply won’t change. Change isn’t going to come through merely the removal of illegal substances. In actuality that doesn’t do very much.

Instead, change comes through discipleship.

Pick one person this year. I plead with you. That’s it. One person to be faithful to in walking them through their faith.

My students are watching us. My students are watching the generations above them in our community to see if they truly are disciples of Jesus. My students are watching to see if you just sit in the pew or if you get in the game.

I don’t care how old you are, God isn’t done with you yet.

I love you all. Whoever you are reading this, regardless of what town or city or country you live in, God is at work in your community. Join him.

I’ll be honest guys, the temptation to deaden my passion, quiet my voice, and fade into the back is high at times. I’m 24. I’m not all-wise, and I am prone to mistakes. The pressure to shut up and play the game of going through the motions is heavy at times. But I just can’t stop talking about how good and great God is and how we have a high calling to join Him in what He is doing. I know that I can learn to do so with more kindness at times, but I can’t stop. It’s who God has wired me to be.

In conclusion, please hear me out.

I don’t know it all. I’m not perfect. I don’t do discipleship perfectly. I’m not always faithful. That’s why I need men in my life too.

All I do know is Jesus is my Lord and Savior, God is great and good, and He is changing our community, and we can join Him in that work.

I love you all.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Ticked Off Jonah

I enjoy studying the Bible. If you know me, you know that. Let me clarify however. I enjoy observing and interpreting the Bible, I do not enjoy the application part of the Bible. It is much more fun to see what the Bible meant back then than it is to see what the Bible is confronting in me and is calling me to do.

The book of Jonah confronted the mess out of me. As horrible of a man as Jonah was prone to be, I see myself in him. Unfortunately it is unavoidable, there is no way of getting around it.

Many know the story of Jonah. He runs from God’s call and finds himself in the belly of a big ol’ fish. After prayerfully turning from his rebellion, the Lord has the fish spit him up on dry land and then recommissions Jonah to Nineveh.

However, most of us, including myself, have never really dug into the second half of the story after the fish blew chunks.

Jonah chapter 3 recounts what happens in Nineveh. Jonah walks in and proclaims that destruction is coming. The people of Nineveh believe in God, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and the king of Nineveh decrees a city-wide fast in hopes of God relenting from the impending doom that Jonah said was coming. The final verse of chapter three tells of how God saw them turn from their wicked ways and how He chose thus to save the city at that time. Wow. Miraculous repentance. City-wide repentance. City-saving repentance. Brought about by God’s mercy and grace through the proclamation of His servant Jonah.

You would think such an awe-inspiring act of repentance and subsequent mercy would lead Jonah into a grateful and thankful proclamation of praise.

Nope.

Instead, we read:

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was in still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. – Jonah 4:1-2

Wait, what?

Jonah witnesses the salvation of a city and gets ticked off. He cries out to the Lord and says that God’s kindness and mercy and compassion is the very reason he didn’t want to come to Nineveh in the first place. He’s so angry that he tells God to just kill him already (verse 3).

Later on in the chapter, Jonah will leave the city and wait to see what would end up happening. God brings a plant to give him shade and comfort, but the following day God removes the plant via a small worm and Jonah is wrecked by a scorching eastern wind. In verse eight he hilariously (or sadly) gets so mad that he tells God to just kill him yet again.

The book of Jonah concludes with the following:

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:9-11

The book of Jonah runs all up on me and doesn’t take it easy.

At first, it didn’t. At first, I was ready to put the Bible study I had finished on Jonah back on my shelf and move on to whatever was next. But I lingered. I read the narrative again and got a face full of conviction.

I am like Jonah.

At first, I didn’t think so. I would never, I mean surely would never, be unwilling to share the goodness of Jesus and be angry at God when He saved.

My mind however goes back to Phoenix, AZ (I know that I write a lot about this chapter of my life, so forgive me for going back there again. I will say however that it’s simply a fact that it is in the deserts of life [this time a literal desert] that God teaches us the most).

Leading up to my departure, I regularly listened to and belted out “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. It was my anthem. I shouted it out and I meant it. Thy will be done Lord. No matter what. Thy will be done, no matter the cost.

Yet then I caved into fear and let the trials of my life break down my faith. I was in a place that was foreign to me, loud, busy, full of people and most of them were not like me.

A couple weeks into my Phoenix season that song came on the radio. I distinctly remember turning it off. I did this each time it played the whole time I was there. I didn’t want God’s will to be done. Because I knew it would cost me. I knew it would cost me my comfort, my security, my ideal life. I wanted my will to be done instead.

It really is no wonder that that was the worst year of my life because of that fact.

God had commissioned me to a people that needed to hear about His Son, and although I did share and serve, my life was never wholly surrendered to God.

I really am like Jonah.

Maybe you’re like Jonah too. Maybe you are more concerned with your comfort than the salvation of those around you.

Don’t wallow in this. Pray for the ability and strength to change.

Cry out to God.

And remember,

. . . Salvation is from the Lord. – Jonah 2:9b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

You Deserve Wrath, Not Love

God’s love is unfailing and inexhaustible for those who are His children. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness stretches to the horizon. His grace is inexhaustible as well because of the blood of His Son poured out on the cross. His wrath is just, fierce, and poured out upon those who are not His children.

Most of us would affirm the first four sentences, leading us into worship of our wonderful King. Yet instead of worshipping God because of His wrath, we tend to apologize to the world for that aspect of His character, as if He was a moody teenager whose actions simply needed defending because He is in a phase.

I would affirm and attest however that it is the wrath of God, His just, fierce, and full wrath, that makes the gospel shine even brighter in my heart. It is true that the light of the gospel shines brighter against the backdrop of our dark and dire position before God.

I’ve heard it a bazillion times from those who think the Scriptures are archaic, untrustworthy, and unnecessary for the modern Christian. The picture is painted of a god in the Old Testament who is vengeful, violent, wrathful, angry, and moody. In steps Jesus however and the god of the Old Testament is neutered, replaced with this Son of God who comes onto the scene of human history proclaiming that God loves everybody no matter what and that we are not in danger of God’s wrath as long as we are loving and not judging.

To claim that the New Testament portrait of God is one of love rather than wrath is in my opinion impossible to reconcile with Romans 1.

Romans 1:18 says the following.

For the WRATH of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. . . (emphasis mine)

Paul certainly begins his letter to the church in Rome with gospel truths and thanksgiving for those who were called by God in Rome to be saints.

That being said, he transitions into a lengthy proclamation of God’s wrath and the fate of mankind apart from God’s wonderful grace via Christ.

Since I have been studying God’s Word, I have never undertaken to study the book of Romans. This is in part because of its length, but definitely the more terrifying aspect of it for me is its depth, how meaty and deep it is. The whole salvation debate that seems to be the rage for any newly minted self-proclaimed theologian (i.e. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.) uses much of Romans for its battleground and because of this I just didn’t want to wade into those waters (since when it comes to how God saves people my answer is I have no idea). However, it was also passages like this in Romans that I wanted to avoid having to mentally wrestle with and come to terms with. It’s easier to pretend these passages about God’s wrath are not here.

All this to say, after many years, I decided that now was the time, and so I picked up a commentary by the late R.C. Sproul and I’ve been slowly digesting this meaty chunk of Scripture. Lo and behold early on I’ve had to face this one.

God’s wrath.

Revealed. Unapologetically and explicitly said to be against mankind for their sin.

When I’ve read Romans 1 in the past, I’ve kept myself out of it. The people that Paul is talking about in this passage were the wicked and foolish men of past and present who were unwilling to submit to God as Sovereign over their lives. This time through I’m seeing that I am definitely in this passage. There’s no avoiding it. Honestly in reality I’m all over it.

Why is God’s wrath being poured out?

. . . against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:19-22 

Mankind has seen evidence of God through creation. I’m not trying to fight about apologetics or philosophy, now’s not the time or the space. I’m simply affirming what the Word of God says to be true: creation alone testifies of a Creator.

Mankind has seen evidence of God, but every single man and woman who has ever lived has suppressed the truth. Every person who has ever walked the earth has chosen to ignore the reality of God and instead live however they want. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

God is perfectly just and right. Those who refuse allegiance to Him are deserving of His wrath.

I, Nathan Patrick Roach, deserve death. I deserve separation from God for now and eternity. In the words of Lecrae, “If we all fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight”.

This dark and dire statement is where the gospel blossoms. That is why God’s wrath is necessary, and honestly is beautiful. I cannot sit here and say I understand how God’s wrath works nor can I affirm and celebrate the destruction of another. However, I can give great thanks that God extended grace to me through His Son.

Brother or sister, if you are living outside of a relationship with Jesus, then you are deserving of God’s righteous wrath. Just as I am deserving apart from Jesus.

I would plead with you to repent, to turn. We all at one point suppressed the truth of our God for our own sinful and selfish gain. Search your heart, submit to King Jesus.

Thank God for His wrath, for in it we find His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Good News of Nathan?

The gospel is all about Jesus.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

These seem like total no-brainer statements, yet if we’re honest, we all subtly move away from these truths.

I know that I have countless times in my life in the past and in the present. First, when it comes to that first statement, here’s what would happen. When I first got to OBU, I wanted everyone to know my story. You can see the problem that arose just by how I phrased that last sentence. I wanted people to know MY story, not the story of Jesus, not the story where I was simply an extra with a teeny tiny part to play.

So what happened is that I regularly, I mean probably a couple times a month, would share my testimony with anyone who wanted to hear it. Each time I shared it I would emphasize all of my nasty, gritty, and grimy sin struggles. Anger, sexual sin, dishonesty, rebellion. Then at the very end I would tack on a quick here’s how God redeemed me from all of that (the other stupid thing I would do was act like none of those sin struggles were still in my life, maybe to will myself into getting rid of them, who knows). It also got so bad that I would embellish my story like crazy, dramatizing it, making it seem unfathomable. This snowballed and soon my story was full of scenarios and situations that never actually happened. Imagine that, being dishonest when sharing my own testimony. Man thank God for grace.

The gospel that saturates the Scriptures was suddenly about me. I never said that in those words, but it was clear in the way that I shared my life story.

Life progressed and as I entered vocational ministry, the temptation to make the gospel the means by which I would build my own kingdom and legacy was hot and heavy. In hopes of not making the same mistake silly old 18 year old Nate made, I confess that this continues to be an ongoing battle for me. Ministry is rough and rugged and not at all what I expected it to be when I first submitted to God’s call on my life as a teenager. Yet despite the brutality of it at times, it’s easy to treat it as any other job and make it about achieving my own goals and aspirations. I don’t particularly believe that everything is explicitly black and white, that having dreams and desires is sinful. That being said, it is sinful to take from God’s glory (or hilariously attempt to).

The proclamation of the gospel is not to be used to build our own kingdoms of sand. I’ve seen evangelists and preachers make the gospel their avenue to glory. I’ve fought and at times given into that same desire in my own heart. May we be men and women of God who do no such thing. May we understand the futility of trying to make the gospel about us.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son – Romans 1:9a

The gospel of His Son.

The gospel is all about Jesus.

Let us transition to the second statement.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

Sometimes the gospel seems mundane. Sometimes the gospel of Jesus Christ seems like VBS style theology to the pew-hardened follower of Jesus. Here’s where Paul in the book of Romans blows that false feeling out of the water.

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. – Romans 1:15

There was already a gospel presence in Rome when Paul wrote the Roman church this letter. This is easily proven in verse seven. For there to be church community in Rome, people needed to have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. For them to have done that, they would have needed to have heard the gospel. Thus we can say that the gospel had been preached in Rome. Yet, Paul is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to preach the gospel in the very place there was already a gospel presence. Why? Because as people of God we should be all about the gospel.

It may seem repetitive to our hearts, but if it is, it is more than likely because its beauty has not cascaded into every dark crevice. A right understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ leads to a yearning to hear it and preach it and share it and soak it in. We should be all about the gospel. That word can get watered down, so here is what R.C. Sproul gives as a mini-synopsis of this good news:

  • Jesus’ life of perfect obedience
  • Jesus’ atoning death on the cross
  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
  • Jesus’ ascension into heaven
  • Jesus’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church

What a surprise, the gospel is all about Jesus.

We live in a society where we are supposed to tickle the ears of our congregations with pep-talks that use Scripture as support instead of actually preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To preach the gospel every week does not require preaching from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) every week. Every story in Scripture points to Jesus in some way. Any sermon can be a gospel-saturated sermon.

Let us not grow weary of proclaiming the gospel to our families and friends.

Let us be men and women of the gospel.

 

 

Don’t Go There

As I continue to write for Misfits Theology, my desire is not to seemingly unceasingly criticize and condemn the Southern Baptist church, for this is the tribe that I find myself deeply rooted in and supremely thankful for. That being said, I don’t want to stray to the other side of the pendulum and pretend that everything is all fine and dandy in my tribe, refusing to acknowledge the needs for reform. Maybe I’m a misfit because I don’t air on the side of tradition or the side of upheaval but somewhere in-between.

With all that said, I want to address the power of public confession, or public proclamation of the gospel truths that we find in Scripture. This is something I’ve desired to see come about in my tribe in a deeper way.

Let’s start from the beginning.

My grandparents have been loyal to their God while giving themselves the freedom to explore what denomination’s style of worship they find to be the most honoring and glorifying to God. I have been to an Anglican, Episcopalian, Messianic Jew, and I believe a Presbyterian church with them.

I at a young age found the liturgy at these bodies of Christ to be boring, mundane, monotonous. The constant sitting and standing, calls to worship, and pre-planned Scriptural reading was so annoying to me. At a young age I had a supreme passion for and desire for the preaching of God’s Word and at some of these experiences the sermon was an afterthought. I did however look forward to the way that the Lord’s Supper was done, with all of us dipping our bread in the same cup. Germaphobes beware, this is an intimate family of believers.

As a young man in ministry today, I do miss one part of these other denominations’ style of worship: confession.

There was something about all of us reading a prayer of confession together that was beautiful to me. While any liturgical process can become rote and no longer useful for spiritual growth, these prayers of confession when done rightly stirred the soul to remember our need for daily grace, to rest in the finished work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful for those prayers of confession.

I have aspirations of being an Education or Family Discipleship Pastor one day. I love youth ministry, but my deepest desire is to see entire churches full of gospel-centered solid teaching that saturates everything that the church does, from the opening of the doors to the conclusion of the service.

That being said, I don’t believe that it is possible to have a correct understanding of our need for grace without some sort of weekly reminder that permeates our time together as a community of faith.

One word my generation is somewhat obsessed with (to the point of me gagging anytime I hear it) is the word authenticity. To reach the next generation for Christ, we need to be authentic believers. We need to be men and women who hopefully understand that THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE TO SHARE OUR MUTUAL NEED FOR JESUS, NOT HIDE FROM THAT. Oops. Got a little hyped again. But seriously, the church should be a place where we recognize our individual needs for grace (not to the point of parading our sin in a sinful way, or condoning sinful behavior) rather than hiding from others our need.

Confession in general is something that my tribe (or all tribes to an extent) are not good at. I have been in many situations where a young man or friend confessed sin to me and I didn’t follow up, I didn’t walk through that sin with them. Instead I dropped off. I still cared, often prayed, but I did not walk them through their sin (so maybe it’s not my tribe to blame, but rather just me).

There are seemingly unwritten rules to not go there. You’re not supposed to confess sin. Sure, we all confess our Savior but we must never confess our sins to another. Maybe that’s just my perception, but I don’t think I’m alone.

For instance, there is Celebrate Recovery. One of my best friends here in Vernon helps lead the local Celebrate Recovery at our church. It is an amazing program. The level of discipleship that takes place at Celebrate Recovery is second to none. They truly care for each other, and those who are in confessional relationships follow-up, exhorting and encouraging each other. My friend has fought hard to remove the ridiculous stigma associated with that type of program. My heart is for that program, and I pray for that program.

Yet, if the church was repentant and confessional, that program might not need to exist (this can probably be said about any parachurch organization, they are filling roles that the church itself should be filling, and they are a tremendous blessing as a result). If we were honest with those in the pews next to us, I believe that we would find the freedom to grow in holiness. It is in the shadows that Satan can continue to trip up God’s people. It is in isolation that his plans thrive. If we as the church become more willing to acknowledge fault, then we will see men and women freed up to pursue the Lord with more vigor and more community.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. – Proverbs 28:13

I pray that my tribe would be open to having prayers of confession as more of regular occurrence. Not because these prayers of confession are our means of grace, but rather they are reminders of the gift of grace.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.

Help us not to be unduly discouraged by the heavy load of guilt that so easily clings to our hearts. Instead, whenever we see clearly the sins of our hearts, enable us to fly to the Scriptural truth that in Christ the penalty of those sins have been paid for, once for all. Remind us that we are now clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness and that therefore there can be no condemnation left for us. In Christ’s name we pray, amen. – Barbara Duguid 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Running From A God You Know

The first chapter of the book of Jonah simultaneously shows us how prone we are to sin and running from God. Yet, it also shows us in stark clarity how gracious and great God is.

If you look at every time Jonah is mentioned in this first chapter (this is not an exhaustive list), you get a portrait of a despondent runaway who knows how big God is yet continues to run:

The word of the Lord came to him, telling him to go to Nineveh and preach the gospel (v. 1)
He fled to Tarshish instead, which if you look at a map of this time period, was in the completely opposite direction (v. 2)
In the midst of a huge storm that was the result of his sin, Jonah slept in the hull of the ship (v. 5)
Despite all the stupidity that he exemplified, he was able to articulate to the other sailors that God was both the maker of all land and all the seas (v. 9)
Jonah knew that he was in the wrong. He knew that he was clearly disobeying the orders of God, yet he was more willing to face death than to face Nineveh (v. 12)

All of this paints a picture of a man who knew God yet wanted nothing to do with God’s salvation of a people that he himself hated (see Jonah 4:2). It’s easy for me to look at this story and say wow what an idiot, if I had a word from the Lord to go share the gospel with a specific person, I would NEVER run from that, subconsciously or otherwise. Yet, if we’re super honest with ourselves, this happens more than we’d like to admit.

You see, God has called us to our community. The one we’re in right now. The one you’re in right now. It’s easy to push aside our calling to share the love of God with our community by just saying that command is for a later date.

What I mean by that is it’s easy to say “okay, once I graduate high school, then I’ll live missionally.” That leads into ‘after college’, ‘when I’m more rooted with a family and job that I enjoy’, ‘when I’m not as busy with my family and my job’. There is always an excuse to be like Jonah and not be faithful to what God has called us to.

If we’re being honest, it’s easy to know a whole lot about God, just like Jonah, and still not live into the mission that God has called us to.

So I am encouraged that we see the story of Jonah in Scripture. Maybe one reason it’s in the Bible is to encourage us that sometimes we’re stupid and yet God is still good, great, and gracious.

Let’s look at how God shows up in this first chapter of Jonah:

He desired Nineveh (a wicked place full of wicked people) to be saved (v.1)
He’s aware of the wicked rulers and nations in our midst, so don’t lose heart (v. 2)
He controls the seas, powerful enough to bring a storm that scared seasoned sailors (v. 4)
He made all the cosmos, as testified about by Jonah (v. 9)
He is faithful to those who call on His Name. The sailors, though pagans, were saved from the storm because they put their faith in the Lord (v. 14)
He appoints everything in our lives (this may be a stretch to say from this one verse, but it was definitely intimately involved in Jonah’s life since he brought a big fish to this exact spot at this exact time (v. 17)

I am encouraged by the greatness and graciousness of God on display in this chapter.

His greatness. God heard the cries of the nations rising up to Him regarding the vile wickedness of Nineveh. This is encouraging to note given the fact that we live in a world saturated with evil leaders and governments. God hears the cries of the oppressed, and as followers of Jesus we are called to uphold those who are being oppressed as well, regardless of political leanings (I know current issues are complicated, but let us not become complicit in wickedness, our devotion is first and foremost to our God and King not whatever country you are reading this from).

God also shows His greatness via the storm that He sends to grab Jonah’s attention. Now, side-note here. I don’t believe that every storm and trial in our lives is a result of disobedience to the commands of God in our lives. Life is not black and white like that. That being said, sometimes that is the case. Let us be mindful of where we have run from God’s call, and let us be repentant (something we don’t see Jonah do in this chapter)

His graciousness. The grace-giving nature of God is all over this text. First, He doesn’t obliterate Nineveh off the face of the earth. Instead he sends a prophet to warn them of His coming wrath if they do not repent. God is slow to anger, abounding in love. What a wonderful picture of His mercy, just below the surface of this text.

Secondly, God saves the sailors. Sure, they all came into this encounter with the storm with their own gods. That being said, they respond in what I believe to be reverent, right fear of God after Jonah proclaims who he serves (again, hilarious since he’s blatantly running from Him). In verse fourteen they offer up what I believe to be a heartfelt and legitimate prayer to God, and then in verse sixteen they put their complete faith in the Lord.

Lastly, God saves Jonah. Now there’s far more to the story of Jonah then just what we see in chapter one, but it is clear to see that God was kind, patient, and gracious to Jonah by appointing (v. 17, NASB) a big fish to swallow him up.

When I look at the story of Jonah, I see myself. When I look at the story of Jonah, I see a great and gracious God.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

They Will Know Us By Our Hate?

I was not able to attend the SBC annual convention this year, since I’m now only TEN days away from getting married (whoa, that’s crazy) and decided I’d rather have time with my fiancee. Thankfully living in a world of technology, I was able to watch snippets of the convention after the fact online.

I know there are thousands of pastors and church leaders more qualified to speak into the situation, but I have decided to share a little bit of my heart in the wake of some things that I personally have seen.

Obviously, leading up to this year’s convention there has been a plethora of disheartening and discouraging circumstances regarding Paige Patterson and the ways that people were taking sides. I got somewhat involved in this conversation via a blog post and some private conversations with friends, but for the most part I stayed out of getting my opinions out there.

Despite all that took place leading up to the convention, all that I have heard about it and from it has been encouraging. I’ve read articles and tweets, watched videos and an incredibly powerful sermon from JD Greear. All that I’ve seen and read has been about the unity, the missionaries being sent out, and the way that the SBC is striving to make the gospel central again.

Then today Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, came and spoke to the SBC. What was thought by many to be a speech where he would share his support of the SBC turned into a speech about the Trump administration’s success in political affairs, and how with the help of the SBC the Trump administration can make America great again.

This understandably was incredibly divisive. What the speech appeared to do was to solidify the false belief that to be Southern Baptist is to be Republican, or at least to be a Southern Baptist is to be someone who puts their hope in the United States government. Regardless of what you believe about Trump, whether or not you voted for him, I pray that all who claim allegiance to Christ would acknowledge that their hope according to Scripture should not be in the governments and leaders of man, but rather that their hope should be in their risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I believe that Scripture is clear that God appoints and dictates the leaders and governments of our world. They can be used by Him in great ways to strengthen the faith of His people through persecution or to bless His people with seasons of peace. That being said, salvation is not found in a government. Salvation is not found in a mortal man. It is true that God used kings in Scripture. That being said, these kings were residing over God’s people, a people that today is not in any one country, a people that today is under the ultimate authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus pray for our leaders, but we are not to be wholly allegiant to them.

Oops, I got a little carried away there.

Anyway, this speech led to divide. It led to yet again a fractured room where some stood and applauded and some sat dejected. What has been the most disheartening however is the conversations that I have seen on social media. I have seen some of the most hateful and un-Christlike speech from people in both camps so to speak, both generations.

I have personally read outspoken believers on Twitter chastising, criticizing, condemning, and villianizing those who were not overly elated at Pence’s speech. I have seen people on both sides of the classic Calvinism debate launch attacks at each other. That is something I’ve been caught in the middle of, accused before of not reading Scripture correctly if I’m not reformed (I am a three-point Roachest by the way, I believe in Pizza, Jesus, and the OKC Thunder). I have seen language unbecoming of a Christ follower being launched at another image bearer of God. There has been crass, vulgar, sexual (you read that right) language being spewed.

It is disheartening to see so much hate. It is also disheartening to see so much unintentional tear-downs. While the older generation appears to be way more in your face regarding how they feel about you, the younger generation’s disrespect of the older generation is much more subtle. In a world of social media, everyone wants to be the clown, everyone wants to be the man or woman with the wit and jokes (me, 80% of the time). I have seen grown men display their cynicism and jadedness for all to see. It is immensely discouraging because people are watching. The clap-backs, digs, jokes and the like even between friends on social media does ostracize those who believe differently even when not directed at them.

May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say on social media. May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say face to face. May we be men and women who do not allow secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine to drive a wedge between us. May we not be men and women known for our hate, but rather for our love. This is my desperate plea and prayer.

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear… let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:29,31-32 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach