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

Pump And Dump

This week has been Vacation Bible School week at the church I serve at. I am utterly exhausted, but my heart is full. I have desperately tried to keep up with the motions that accompany our theme songs for the week, I’ve played some mad games of Four Corners with the younger kids, and squabbled about the rules of Capture the Flag (or in this case, sponge) with the older kids.

I am saddened by how many men or women become crusty and somber due to studying theology, and Vacation Bible School is a refreshing way to break out of this in my own heart. I leave my office and my studies and interact with kids whose faith is encouraging and worthy of praise (all while eating plenty of cheese puffs and nachos along the way).

Last night I was able to be a part of a conversation in which a young child put their faith in Jesus for the first time. It was encouraging and exciting to be in the room when this happened, but it was also convicting. You see, I think it’s easy to come into discipleship with the exact same mentality as I came into my Psychology exams back in college.

What I mean is the ol’ pump and dump routine.

Generally my routine of studying for Psychology consisted of quizzing myself repeatedly with note cards the day before the exam, followed by regurgitating all of that on my test. If you asked me the following week about a definition, I would have no idea, it would likely already be forgotten. While this got me through Psychology, this is a horrendous way to do discipleship. Yet, if we’re being honest, if I’m being honest, we do discipleship like this sometimes in our churches.

We host a VBS, we host an Evangelism Sunday, we take students to Summer Camp or D-Now. We see God move in the lives of people in our community, then we pat them on the back, more or less saying good luck walking out your faith now. As long as we can post on Facebook or Instagram about the number of salvations, we’re not concerned about follow up and discipleship. I see no example of this type of pump and dump discipleship in Scripture. It’s painfully convicting to acknowledge in my own heart that I’ve been prone to be this way at times as well.

May we be churches that don’t settle for students coming to the altar and giving their lives to Jesus or kids having a conversation about the gospel with their counselor leading to the same. This is a wonderful, praise-worthy thing, the salvation of souls! However, we must not pump them up and then dump them out once the week is over and we’re back into our normal routine. There are many reasons for people departing from the faith, and every individual is individually responsible, but dumping kids and students and even adults off after they make a salvation decision is immensely detrimental to their spiritual growth.

Yes, the Spirit of God is what is ultimately responsible for the growth of the Christian through prayer and time in His Word. However, we are designed for community, created in such a way where we are able to flourish spiritually when someone is guiding us and leading us. We are woefully bad at times as the church at not doing this part of discipleship. We get them in the door and get them saved but we don’t walk through them how to think, feel, and act as a Christian. No wonder we have men and women in our churches who have come to programs and services for decades yet are still infants spiritually.

We must avoid pump and dump salvations. We must strive for discipleship.

The question of what discipleship is has been coming up a lot recently in my discussions with friends and fellow ministers. I look at a room full of people and I wonder how to get them from pews to God-honoring discipleship relationships. We have men and women in our churches who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully, but a vast majority of them are not in discipleship relationships.

Discipleship is pretty simple in my mind, at least at its core.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

That’s discipleship at its core for me. It’s me walking alongside someone, imitating their faith as they imitate Christ. It can look like a myriad of different things based on the relationship and situation, but it should always be life on life. Some of the most influential men in my life have been men who shared their faith while also sharing their home, family, struggles, and habits. Sometimes it looked like meeting weekly, sometimes it looked like tagging along while he went to pay utility bills for his home. Discipleship is not something that is for only the most experienced believers. It is for all who profess faith in Jesus.

My prayer for my community and my church is that older men will disciple, invest in, pray for, and commune with younger men, and same with the women. I don’t see a whole lot of that. We’ve mystified discipleship and it doesn’t need to be that way. We’ve made it for the elite saints instead of the everyday followers of Jesus.

My prayer is that myself and other members of our church will continue to walk with the young boy that professed faith in Jesus last night. My prayer is that we avoid pump and dump events.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never been discipled, I apologize on behalf of the church. My prayer is that you would encounter and partake in a relationship with another believer that grows you in your faith. A good step for you may be to step out of your comfort zone and ask an older believer if you can imitate them in their faith.

Let’s be disciples who make disciples.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

He Never Slumbers

This season of wedding and camp preparations is making me feel like I’m moving a billion miles per hour. I am beyond grateful for a family in our church who is letting me stay with them, but not being able to stay at my own home (Jamie is getting it ready and actually looking like a home) has made me feel like I’m on vacation but still having to work every day. It is a weird feeling.

My natural tendency in the moments where life feels out of control is to do my foolish best to bring life back under my control. No matter how hard I grit my teeth and try and push forward into some semblance of faux control, I end up coming back to the same spot of acknowledging that I’m tired and can’t keep going. When life is going a billion miles an hour, I also slip into a subtle but not so subtle spiritual malaise where even when I’m spending time in God’s Word, I’m not spending time with God.

The last couple weeks of crazy I’ve been in God’s Word each day, yet the intimacy of just shutting up and listening to God while truly meditating on His Word in His presence has been missing. So this morning I decided to do just that before hopping in the shower to start my day. I opened up my Bible to read and pray a Psalm and Psalm 121 came crashing into my heart at the exact time I needed it (God is pretty great).

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. – Psalm 121:1-8

Boom. A shorter Psalm with a power punch. In seasons of hecticness, I can try and grip the wheel tighter and try and hold onto all the control, which is hilarious really and never works out. This Psalm is one that draws us as God’s people into worship. My help comes from the Lord, who lest I forget, made the heavens and the earth, the entire cosmos we reside in.

I hope that you are encouraged by this passage. I know that there are mental health circumstances that make battling anxiety not so black and white, but for many of us this Psalm is the soothing oil we need to calm our anxious nerves. I believe the cure to much of our anxiety is found in meditating upon this Psalm and taking it to heart.

While in Phoenix, my anxiety was through the roof and I did a horrible job of handling it. Since I’ve been back to Texas, the anxiety can still spike in the weirdest of ways. Small triggers.

– realizing that a job responsibility slipped past my to-do list, causing anxiousness about my job performance.

– hearing an expletive-laced rant in front of a gym next door to where Jamie works, causing anxiousness about her safety.

– a text message casting doubt on how someone views me, causing anxiousness about my identity.

None of these are really life and death situations, yet all of them are aspects of life that we should care about. Vocation, loved ones, self. That being said, if I don’t nip these fast-flowing anxious thoughts in the bud, they can spiral on me and I start playing the ‘what-if’ game.

Psalm 121 blows this up.

When I’m getting anxious, I can lift up my eyes to the heavens in a way to remind myself that my help comes from God above. He is creative, good, orderly, and perfect. Just read the creation account. God makes, and what He makes is good. God separates, bringing order to an otherwise orderless cosmos. Sin entered the picture and so we live in a fallen world, but God’s purposes and promises are secure. He says let there be light, and by the very power of His words light is made. This alone is a stunning reminder that all God says, all He proclaims, will come to pass. He made the heavens and earth.

Verse three is amazing. He who watches over us does not slumber. He does not sleep. Jamie will tell you that I hate sleeping too long or napping. I am prone to being a productivity slave (that’s a blog for another time) and thus refuse most times to take necessary rest (leading to me being late to a morning appointment and accidentally crashing into a two hour nap just yesterday). Resting or sleeping is hard, because in my foolish brain and heart my inaction is equivalent to my cosmos being out of order. Yet I am but a creature. I am an image-bearer of God who needs rest.

Juxtaposed to this need for daily rest is the God who never sleeps. In verse four it says that He watches over all of the people of God. He has us all securely in view, and He cares for us deeply.

Verse seven tells us that God will keep us from evil (not that bad things won’t happen to us as His followers, rather that the enemy of our souls will not win our souls).

Verse eight is such a pleasant piece of Scripture. The Lord will guard my going out and coming in forever. There is nowhere I can go where He is not watching over me. I am always in His hands.

This Psalm is a solvent that dissolves my anxiety.

My prayer is that it would do the same for you. He is worthy of our praise and our trust.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

DISCLAIMER: As stated in passing, I believe that there are chemical imbalances, mental health issues, etc. that make fighting anxiety much more difficult than I’ve written about here. I pray for those experiencing such things, and I am not intending to belittle those very real, very personal struggles.

Share A Table

“I lost my job, and I need money for a hotel room tonight with my kids. I’m only lacking forty dollars. Can you help?”

I turned around and saw a man who was a little scraggly, yet clearly in need. His eyes pleaded for help and support. I was moved in my heart, and so I reached into my wallet and gave him some cash. I kept walking, heading back to the apartment I stayed in while serving with the North American Mission Board in Portland.

Two months passed by and I was headed with a few members of the team to get some food in downtown Portland. While waiting for the train, a man approached me. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I lost my job, and I need money for a hotel room tonight with my kids. I’m only lacking forty dollars. Can you help?” I was filled with frustration when I realized that this was the exact same man I had given some cash to earlier in the summer. Now, there is obviously the chance that this was an actual coincidence where the need and amount happened to be the same. Yet in all likelihood this was a well-rehearsed line that I fell for previously in the summer. I declined to give him cash and stepped on my train.

Fast-forward to my time here in Vernon, and I have found myself confronted by the gospel of Mark yet again this week. I have been confronted by the fact that this unnamed man who conned me was the very type of character that Jesus would have come to save and heal. Look with me at the following passage:

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:14-17

This passage confronts what I am prone to believe about church community, while also affirming that which I have been outspoken about in the way of fighting sin.

First, Jesus calls a tax collector to be one of his closest disciples. These men were the worst of the worst when it comes to conning their own people financially, while also robbing them blind for the Roman government which was the governing power over the people of God. Yet not only does He call Matthew (Levi), he chooses to recline and enjoy the table with him.

This is a powerful point for there is a humongous difference between me calling someone to follow Jesus and choosing to share the intimacy of a meal with them. It is shameful and disdainful when I am willing to call someone to follow Christ yet refuse (consciously or subconsciously) to be associated with them in such a way. Shame on me for the times that I have done this.

It’s hard to live as Jesus lived. It’s hard to be as unconcerned with the opinions of men as He was. It’s easy to love our fellow Sunday school attenders while neglecting those who are new to our church community. The reality is that the rule Jesus appeared to live by was that if He called you into God’s will, God’s design, the good news of the gospel, then He was calling you into an intimate relationship with Him (see Mark 3:31-35, when Jesus calls those who follow God His family).

So if I am to live as Jesus lived, then I should (with much discipline, help from the Spirit, and grace) be able to open my life up to the point where if I preach to you from the pulpit then I should be willing to eat with you around the table. Regardless of race, economic status, political viewpoint, or hobbies. It’s way too easy to commune with those who are essentially just mirror images of yourself. Jesus calls us to a wider and thus deeper community.

We live in a world of division. This is common knowledge at this point. It is into this space that Jesus calls His followers to be different. Now, let me be clear, Jesus communing with sinners was not a condoning of the sinful behavior of these men and women. I believe that is clear when He says He came as a Physician who is calling these men and women out.

Again, Jesus did not condone sinful behavior by communing with those who were engaged in that sinful behavior. That’s a huge lesson for me to learn. I have often equated association with affirmation (although there is a subtle danger there, and Scripture does speak to this danger), yet Jesus knew that calling people into discipleship started by being willing to be associated with them in intimate ways.

So as followers of Christ, let us be men and women who not only call people into repentance, but who are also willing to be relationally involved with those whom we are calling.

Preach the gospel.

But also share a table.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

He Holds It All Together

It’s been a draining couple of days in Vernon, TX. My days have been chock full of ministry-related activities, and the busyness (albeit really exciting busyness) of moving Jamie into our duplex. Last night I wrestled with whether or not to wake up early and head to Wichita Falls for the youth pastor (and worship leader) breakfast I am a part of on Thursday mornings. I felt so tired (having been going from 6 AM to 9 PM) and didn’t feel like getting up. That being said, I felt the call of God for me to not abandon community just because I may be tired. So I set my alarm and headed into Wichita Falls. The breakfast was refreshing, I found myself encouraged and grateful for the community that I was a part of.

Just as we were wrapping up, I received a text. Tragedy had struck in Vernon. It is not my place to say what it was, but I was confronted yet again with the brokenness of the world that we reside in. The whole day has been solemn and somber, and tears have not been far from my eyes when I’ve had moments of quiet and isolation. As a young youth pastor, I’m walking through the brokenness of this world more days than I would like to, as I see the pain that so many congregants and students have to walk through some days.

I went about my usual Thursday routine before pausing just a little while ago to spend some time in Scripture. I read through the first chapter of Mark and when journaling about it I remembered what Scripture says to be true, what I believe the whole first chapter of Mark is all about:

Jesus is the Son of God, full of all the compassion and power of God.

The first chapter of Mark is a whirlwind of activity and snapshots of Jesus’ early ministry. In just one chapter we see John the Baptist prepare the way, Jesus get baptized, Jesus call his first disciples, and Jesus preaching and healing throughout Galilee, whether that be casting out demons or healing leprosy. In the midst of all this, there are key points that illustrate what I mean.

First off, verses seven and eight show the majesty of Jesus before He even arrives on the scene so to speak.

And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:7-8

John the Baptist says that he isn’t even worthy of untying Jesus’ shoes. That’s humility and that’s awe in the face of majesty. Jesus is fully God and John understood this. Shortly after this we see Jesus baptized and the very Spirit of God descending upon Him (vv. 9-11). Jesus is full of all the power of God, and the rest of the chapter proves this. He preaches the gospel (v. 15), drives out demons (vv. 23-27), and heals a leper (vv. 40-45).

It’s His healing of the leper that showcases in my opinion the compassion of Jesus and the heart of God. Lepers were outcast, contagious, treated as almost less than human. A leper approached Jesus and asked for healing, bowing before Him. Jesus responded in verses 41-42.

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:41-42

I’m aware that verse forty-one is also translated at times as ‘moved with pity’ or ‘moved with indignation’, and I’m not a Greek scholar, but I am amazed by the fact that Jesus touched him to heal him. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus move with power in many ways, often healing people just via his words. Yet he chooses to reach out and touch this man that so many found unclean and disgusting. I believe that shows His compassion.

Here’s what I want you to know. There are dark days. There are days where the darkness seems overwhelming and the grief is heavy. Yet on these days, we can remember that the King Jesus we submit to and follow is full of amazing compassion and amazing power.

As a follower of Jesus, I can KNOW that God is all-powerful and TRUST in His compassionate heart. That is hard on days like today, but it is no less true.

Be encouraged by this verse as well (one of my all-time faves):

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17

What was at one time no more than a pleasant reminder of God’s control has become over time a stake in the ground of my mind and heart to remember and cling to. God is still God and Jesus still holds the cosmos together. The sin of this world is raging and at times it’s all I can physically see. Yet I can cling to the fact that Jesus still reigns.

“By the Son, for the Son, and through the Son, all things exist and hold together.”

Jesus shows us the character and heart of God. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge His power and trust in His compassion.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach