Seeing Signs, Missing The Savior

God is consistently at work in my life. From giving me breath itself to orchestrating the events of my days, He is always at work.

How often do I stop to savor the fact that every act of His faithfulness is also an example of the glory of God?

Not often.

Most of the time I acknowledge the signs of His faithfulness without savoring the glory of my Savior.

If you’re like me, and you miss the glory of the Savior in the signs of His faithfulness, you’re not alone. In fact, we have company from all throughout Scripture. Yesterday morning, I was starting my day in God’s Word (I wish I could say this happened every day. It does not.) and read about Jesus turning water into wine in John chapter two. Look at the passage with me.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. – John 2:1-12

According to the timeline of events in the Gospel of John, this wedding takes place after Jesus has called many of his disciples to follow Him. Up to this point, Jesus has not done anything publicly that drew attention to the fact that He was the Son of God (Well, besides knowing everything about the disciple Nathanael just by looking at him. See John 1:43-51.). This was the beginning of His signs. The passage even tells us this in verse eleven.

But look.

Although more than just His disciples knew that it was Jesus who had created this amazing wine out of simple water (according to the passage, the servants were obviously well aware of His miracle-work in this event), there’s not much hullaballoo surrounding this.  Jesus has just done the miraculous, and those who saw Him do it had to have been astounded at His control over nature and the molecular structure of liquids. Yet according to the passage, not all believed in Him. Not all realized that this was the Son of God in their midst. So instead of a crowd of followers who believed in Him, it is just his family and disciples that move from Cana to Capernaum (v. 12).

Jesus has never shown up at my house when Jamie and I have had people over, turning our filtered water into McAllister’s sweet tea. That would be pretty dope.

Jesus has however moved in my life in countless ways, just in 2019 alone. Jamie got me a journal for Christmas with pages to write out ways that God has shown His faithfulness to me. I’ve already got a couple pages full. Obviously the list could be endless, but I have limited it to major things.

Here’s a sample of a few.

On January 9th, I prayed that God would give Jamie and I guidance when it came to buying a house in town. This past Thursday, we moved into a home that we absolutely love! 

Back on February 11th, I prayed that dear friends of ours in our faith community here in Vernon would get the adoption of their three boys they currently foster finalized with a date on the calendar. That date is now set! 

2018 was a lonely year for me and my wife Jamie. We have been praying for solid Christ-centered friendships. God has used the last few months to strengthen relationships that we have with other families in our church, as well as introduce new friendships into our habits and rhythms.

We have a Disciple Now approaching in just three days at my church, and due to some poor decisions on my part, I wrestled with insomnia occasionally in the past month. But as of late, God has answered my prayers for a trusting heart and good, deep sleep. 

All of this was God’s faithfulness to me. A new home. Adoption finalized for this family in my church. Community. Rest.

It came from Him.

God has shown me signs of His miraculous power, His power over my emotions, my circumstances, my relationships, my ministry, my desires, my aspirations, my health. But have I missed the glory of the Savior in their midst?

Probably.

I may briefly thank God when a prayer is answered, but I rarely meditate on what it tells me about the character of God, the glory of God.

Don’t be like me.

Don’t be like the servants from John 2.

Don’t stand in awe of the sign but miss what it signifies about the Savior.

Meditate on all that God is.

Meditate on His glory.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Jesus Wept

Lazarus was dying. He was terminally ill and his sisters were in desperate need for a miracle. Good thing they knew a Miracle-worker. They knew Jesus. Jesus had dined with them, they worshipped Him as God and they knew He was capable of healing the sick. So they reached out to Him. They sent for Him. They sent Him news that Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, was sick. Then they waited. And waited. And waited some more. Lazarus died and there was still no sign of Jesus.

This story in John 11 is one of the most painful circumstances in the gospels in my mind. I try and place myself in the Biblical stories, especially the stories of Jesus in the gospels. I imagine how it would feel to have a loved one dying, to be crying out to God day after day, only to have the one I loved pass away. For some of you who are reading this, this requires no imagination. You’ve lost a parent, a friend, a husband, a neighbor, a coworker. You have faithfully served God and pleaded with God and yet God didn’t answer your prayers the way you had hoped He would.

This week in particular several of my friends have been facing loss in their families, unexpected loss. I don’t have the words to say. My heart is broken and burdened. I get home and think about God’s plans and purposes. I am not a pie-in-the-sky optimist and the Bible is not designed to create that mentality. Instead, the Bible is full of painful stories that are infused with the hope of Christ. I try then to share this hope with those I love.

The death of Lazarus in John 11 brings so many truths that lead to hope. Look at them with me. These aren’t alliterated because I guess I just haven’t been in ministry long enough to obtain that gift.

1. OUR WEEPING MESSIAH

To me, this is the prerequisite truth before one shares about the purposes of pain in our lives. Too many people have been turned off to the church because those who genuinely love Jesus and strive to love others through their grief lead with the fact that ‘God works all things for good and we are to count it all joy’. Many who have a high view of God’s sovereignty I think often miss this part, jumping to doctrinal truths before mourning with those who mourn. We miss the point when believing in God’s ultimate control over all things makes us horrible neighbors and brothers who are cold-hearted, intellectual, and jaded towards the hurting. That’s been me on many occasion, yet it’s missing the heart of Jesus. Cause here’s what Jesus did. It’s the shortest verse in all of Scripture.

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

There it is. Our Messiah, our Miracle-working divine Son of God wept with Lazarus’ friends and family in the wake of his death. Jesus is omniscient, He knew full well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet He wept. This is such powerful encouragement to us in our pain. Jesus weeps with you. God’s heart breaks when your heart breaks. God’s knowledge of His plan for our pain does not lead him to distant coldness of heart. No, to see His child in pain causes Him to mourn with us. Share your hurts with Him.

2. THE PURPOSE FOR PAIN

While I believe that this shouldn’t be the first thing we say to those who are grieving, it most definitely needs to be said. Maybe not for days or weeks after loss, but eventually. In my daily pains of this broken world, I have to tell myself of this. There are two verses that illustrate why pain comes into my life. Why my loved ones die and experience the affects of this world.

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” – John 11:4

and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there (when Lazarus died), so that you may believe; but let us go to him. – John 11:15

These two verses give us the answer to the ultimate reasons for our pain. Everything in my life happens so that:

A. God will be glorified

B. People would believe in Jesus

That’s it. Now again, this truth devoid of genuine care for the heart and soul of our brothers and sisters is cold, twisted, and unworthy to bring one to worship. This truth without the character of God leads one to feel like a pawn in a divine game of chess (I’m speaking from experience here). But this truth coming from a God who weeps with us, who hears our cries, who loves us, becomes a spark to the light the fire in my heart for me to worship God, even in the midst of immense pain.

3. ETERNAL LIFE 

The Lazarus story has an amazing ending. Jesus raises him from the dead to the awe of all who saw. We thus see clearly how Jesus was believed in and God was glorified as a result of what took place. For other stories in our lives that isn’t always the case. My brother Trevor’s story still has not resolved in a way that has clearly done the above two things, at least not in my heart, and it’s been almost two years since he took off. Our stories don’t always wrap up with a cute bow and a clear picture of God’s plan.

But here’s the most hopeful part of this story. Infused in this story is yet another “I Am” statement of Jesus. I’ve been walking through these this summer and they have amazed me. The character of Jesus is beautiful. What He claims to be and promises to be is amazing.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. – John 11:25

There you have it. The promise of eternal life.

When I was growing up, I kinda thought of the abundant life Jesus offered as starting after death. Like if you make through earth than you get this amazing offer of eternal life.

Yet Jesus is claiming with this proclamation that He is the resurrection. He brought the full life. To follow Jesus is not to wait until we die to experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers. Yet so many of us live like this.

Jesus is with you.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, He walks through life with you. He weeps with you. He glorifies Himself in you. He brings life to the death that is in your life.

I pray you are encouraged by the story of Lazarus.

Please know that if you are in need of prayer, you can reach out to me. Shoot me an e-mail or a Facebook message.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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The Light Of Jesus

Light.

Darkness.

Black.

White.

Truth.

Falsehood.

The days of clearly defined morality and truth in our culture seems to be utterly long gone now. There is no longer right or wrong, there is simply opinion and speculation. There is a grayness to just about every subject under the sun these days. This has become part of our world around us, and it has made its way into the church.

As a youth pastor, I see my students growing up in a world that is distinctly different from the one that I grew up in. I grew up with an innate sense of what is right and wrong, of what is Scriptural. My students are growing up in a culture and world where the Bible no longer has any weight in public spheres and philosophical conversations of this nature. I see them every Sunday struggle with the definitive truth of Scripture and how accepting this definitive truth would make them ostracized and bigots in the eyes of their peers. I feel it. I know they feel it too.

Now I am not saying woe is me I’m persecuted for my stance on Scripture and truth. By no means. I am simply saying that I am willing to accept the label of being ‘old-fashioned’ and maybe even foolish in the eyes of some for putting all my eggs in the inerrancy and reliability of Scripture basket. And for my students it’s far worse, far more difficult.

We have concocted a world where truth is defined by the individual, whereas the Bible makes it clear that God defines what is true, not our feelings or opinions or biases or perceptions.

Please hear my heart. The inability to see my heart is one of my least favorite aspects of blogging. With just words on a page I can appear to be saying or implying things I’m not. My heart is that I wholeheartedly acknowledge my own biases and assumptions and positions that I bring into Scripture. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my opinion on all matters is wholly in line with God, but I will humbly stand on the belief that the Scriptures drive my beliefs and I will not back down from them.

I am trying not to write a 4000 word intro, so let me get to my point.

In John 8, the Bible makes it explicitly clear that Jesus is the answer, that Jesus is the Light in the midst of moral darkness, that Jesus is the direction we all need. He is our light.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. – John 8:12

You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. – John 8:15-16

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. – John 8:26

There is a whole lot more at work in this passage, but I want to address some things out of these particular verses. Essentially Jesus makes this proclamation that He is the Light and the direction in the darkness. The Pharisees question his claim because their law said their must be two witnesses to prove anything, and Jesus comes back by saying the Father testifies alongside Him, affirming His claim to be the Light. Lastly, Jesus responds to even more questions that they have by stating that His Father is true, and that He simply proclaims that which His Father says to Him.

Now let me be clear that the Bible is not my God.

That being said, I believe that God (Jesus. Man the trinity is confusing.) speaks to us through His Word. All of it, not just the red words. The Bible is all about Him. The entirety of Scripture conveys his heart, not just the sermon on the mount through Revelation. Obviously the gospels give us a clarified and condensed view of Him, but all of Scripture points to him.

We in the church have followed the maxim, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But that is such an incredibly wrong maxim to follow. That makes truth built upon our feelings and beliefs. So for instance if I am struggling with greed, I can start to nuance Scripture so that it doesn’t explicitly say that greed is sin, I can start to cave to the American Dream which practically says that greed is a win in business and in life. I can listen to theologians who say that whatever dude wrote the parts of Scripture that call greed sin was just saturating the text with his own opinions. I can let my feelings lead me into disbelief. So God might say it in Scripture, but because I don’t believe that, I don’t live it out.

In my humble opinion, that is what’s wrong with our churches today. We have stripped the Bible of its inerrancy, and replaced it with a Bible that is like a choose your own adventure book where you the reader determine what is true.

In my humble opinion, where does that road end?

If you follow things out to their logical conclusion, eventually we will make the very words of God spoken to us nothing more than suggestions.

It reminds me of that scene in Pirates of The Caribbean where Elizabeth Swan is taken captive despite evoking the rights of the pirate code, to which Barbossa responds “they are more like guidelines”. Now I know the Bible isn’t a pirate code, and maybe that doesn’t make any sense. But either the Bible is authoritative or it’s not.

I’m digressing.

We should be those who follow the maxim that if God says it, that settles it. What God says is true regardless of my feelings or what I believe.

In the midst of darkness, I point my students to the light of Jesus on display in His Word.

We live in the realm of darkness, but we can trust in the light of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Good Shepherd

There is nothing like children’s camp to reinvigorate one’s faith. Three days with nothing but the laughter and love of children is an encouraging thing.

After spending a week with the students at camp earlier in July, I honestly was not that enthused to leave my wife and go back with the children. However, after all has been said and done, I am overjoyed that I got to be a part of this week.

Let’s get the what in the world moments out of the way. Here were some of my favorites:

  • the kid who conveniently lost his body wash, shampoo, and towel the entire week until approximately two minutes before we left for home.
  • the kid who refused to change out of his Minecraft pajamas for three days straight.
  • the kid who told me he wanted to talk to me about spiritual matters but decided not to because and I quote, “When I look at you, I’m reminded of a cheese I had a long time ago that was disgusting. So I can’t look at you without thinking about cheese.”
  • the kid who sat me down one morning and told me all the reasons he should be given the servant leader award that we passed out at camp
  • the kid who had some of the utterly worst gas I have ever smelled in my entire life, and who committed countless atrocities of that nature in the evenings.

Again, there’s nothing like church camp with a couple dozen little ones.

Seeing their faith though I was challenged and reminded of what it was like when I first put my faith in Jesus for the first time at a young age. These kids desired the Lord. They desired Jesus and they desired to grow closer to Jesus. We had one kid that so wanted to experience God that he would come back and talk to us after each evening service about how he wanted to be better at prayer and studying God’s Word.

It was invigorating.

It also tied in perfectly with what I’m going to be teaching tomorrow to the youth in my Sunday School class.

Tomorrow we’re going to be looking at John 10 and the role of Jesus in our lives and the role we play as a sheep.

I’m stoked to see so much spiritual growth in the lives of countless kids, and I’ve already ranted previously about what we as adults need to be doing to set the example for them (Changing Our Community). I want to briefly focus on childlike faith and what we all can do to better be like the kids in our church.

John 10:1-21 teaches us all that Jesus does for us, in His self-proclaimed role as the Good Shepherd:

  • He calls His sheep by name
  • He goes before His sheep, leading them
  • He leads His sheep into abundant life
  • He lays down His life for His sheep
  • He protects His sheep from harm

Here’s how we are to respond. We are to respond like sheep.

When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:4

All that this passage says that we have to do is simply follow Him. That’s it. He promises to provide for us and protect us.

The proverbial thorn in my side when it comes to sin struggles is worry, fearfully playing what if games of all that could possibly happen. I’ll go long stretches of time with none of this, but then it’ll come back with a vengeance, especially when I’m outside of community with brothers in Christ. So when a Facebook post went viral in Vernon regarding a dangerous man attacking a couple teenagers, my mind immediately went to the what ifs of my wife and myself and safety, etc. There’s nothing wrong with occasional pangs of worry, but it often becomes a sinful practice of disbelieving God’s ability to protect and provide.

Growing up, if my dad was around, I felt safe. No matter what. We could be in pitch black darkness surrounded by blood-hungry enemies and I guarantee you I would feel totally safe. Because I knew my dad could protect me. I knew my dad would provide for me. Because I knew my dad loved me.

This passage should cast all worry and anxiety from our minds. Our hearts. I know I’m not alone in falling into sinful levels of worry. I know that I’m not alone in having to train my mind and heart.

Here’s what I love about kids. Most of them don’t worry about a thing. They are full of vigor and wonder and excitement and awe and trust.

I saw many of them put their trust in Jesus for the first time, and I’ve already seen many of them living out this trust back home.

As adults, let us be men and women who put their trust in our Good Shepherd. God desires to answer the prayers of His people especially when they are in line with His will which is illuminated for us in Scripture. A prayer I need to commit to praying is that God would give me confidence and security in His love for me. This is a prayer I recently read in a Bible study of mine and it’s simplicity is freeing.

If you are like me and worry, pray for confidence in His love.

If you are like me, God has proven himself to you time and time again. You don’t have clarity on all that has happened in your life but you know that He has been faithful to provide and protect.

I was reminded after five days with the kids at camp that I need to become like a child and trust Him.

I felt safe with my dad.

I can feel even safer with my Heavenly Father, with Jesus as my Good Shepherd.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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