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

Jack Pearson Is No Fool

Last night was a doozy. Not because of anything Super Bowl related, but because of This Is Us.

If you watch the show, then you know that this episode was imminent. The episode where we get all the answers and find out just how Jack Pearson dies. After the very first episode of the show, I wanted answers. I wanted to know all the gritty details. Yet as yesterday progressed and this tumultuous episode quickly approached, I realized I didn’t want to see, I didn’t want to know. Yes, this is just a TV show, but hey the best stories are the ones that suck you in and make you feel like you’re part of it all. There’s power in stories.

Anyway, I sat at my friends’ house and watched in shock and awe as the details surrounding his death finally came to light. I hid my face between two pillows as some tears were shed. I sat in silence as the end credits came, amazed at the talent of the show’s writers.

Then my mind immediately started bouncing around, seeing all the gospel glimpses in this show. I’ve written other posts about themes in the show that I think speak into the Christian walk, but this episode by far had the greatest parallels.

If you’re reading this I hope you’ve seen the episode, otherwise I’m about to ruin your day.

Jack Pearson dies as a result of running back into his family’s burning home in efforts to save his daughter’s dog and other various treasured belongings, after rescuing his family and getting them safely outside. He doesn’t die in the house, but he dies later as a result of all the smoke that he had inhaled.

While I was obviously upset and bothered by these turn of events, I didn’t think it was a dramatic or questionable call by the writers. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Jack Pearson be a pretty tremendous father and husband. It was not out of character for him to run back into the house for his family. Out of the overflow of his love for his family, he ran back in. He was no fool. It would have been tremendously foolish if there was no dog inside and he just decided to prove his love by running back in for no reason. There were items and a pet that his family cherished and so he made the call.

When a doctor later questions his decision to run back into the burning building he says, “I love the girl that loves the dog.”

I recap all of this to say, Jesus was no fool either.

Jesus going through a gruesome death on the cross for us would have been foolish if there was any other way for us to receive salvation, to experience everlasting community with God, and to atone for our sins.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. – Galatians 2:21

If righteousness in God’s eyes could be gained by our behavior, than Christ died for no purpose. If we can gain righteousness in any other way than simply God’s great grace, then Christ was a fool for dying on the cross for us.

Jesus was no fool. I make Him a fool through my lifestyle however if I rely on anything other than His grace for my right standing with Him.

It is crazy to me how fast I can get into the mindset that I can bring anything to the table. It is crazy to me how fast I can fall into believing I can earn what He has done through good moral behavior. When I fall into this mindset or worldview, the entire book of Galatians blasts like dynamite through this false belief system.

If righteousness could be gained by behavior, Christ died for no reason.

I think we need to be reminded of this daily. It’s cool how the Lord works because a TV show can bring this reminder to me. Jack Pearson died because of his love, not because he was a fool. Jesus, in a far greater way, died because of his love for us, not because he was a fool.

This is the most well-known verse ever, but it’s important:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

It was the love of God that led Jesus to the cross.

Rest in grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

If there’s any topic you want to hear me ramble about, just leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Prayer Changes Things

When I was in Phoenix, I had a job as an early morning janitor. 4-8 AM every day. It was the worst, and I only lasted a month. If you can do that, you have my utmost respect and awe.Psalms.png

Anyway, the store I worked at didn’t open until 9 AM, so I asked if I could wear headphones. The manager said I couldn’t. So for four hours every day I would sweep, buff, and vacuum in total silence. Let me tell you, the vacuuming was the best, because it was one of those Ghostbusters vacuums.

There was one morning when I was like, here we go, I’m going to try and pray this whole shift. I wrote out a list of prayer needs on a card and got ready to go. I clocked in and started sweeping. I prayed everything I could think of and looked at my watch. It was 4:06. It had been a whopping six minutes since I started praying. I kept trying to find my groove but I would get distracted. I was not very good at praying, and to be totally honest I’m still not adept at this spiritual discipline. Psalm 3 teaches us however that prayer truly does change things. Prayer reorients our perspective, and through our humble petitions, God is willing to move.

Let’s do it.

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. – Psalm 3:1-2

This is a psalm of David, and in this Psalm David is in desperate need. He is running from his own son who wants to kill him and take his throne. He is surrounded by his former men who have now sworn allegiance to his son Absalom who wants to kill him.

Not only is there the fear of physical death in this situation, David is dealing with the fear of God’s abandonment. The foes and enemies of David were proclaiming that there was no salvation for David in God. I’m sure this led him to at least momentarily doubt whether or not God was still for him.

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever felt like God had abandoned you?

I know I have, and I can tell you that there is great confidence, hope, and faith to be found in David’s response to this intensely bleak season of his life. Instead of caving to the lies and losing his trust in God (although there are other Psalms where he does begin to question God’s faithfulness, which should remind us all that that is an okay emotion to work through), David continues to have deep confidence in Him.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. – Psalm 3:3-6

David is confident in the Lord’s ability to protect and provide. One of the greatest benefits of prayer for me is the opportunity to take a deep breath and remember that God has been faithful and will continue to be so. In this Psalm, David understands three crucial aspects of God’s character, and this leads to his confidence in prayer.

  1. God is his shield. This terminology is used all throughout the book of Psalms. It is warfare imagery, and it is a reminder for David and for us that God is able to protect us from anything that comes our way. He shields us from the enemy. This doesn’t mean that all will be perfect in our lives. Rather it means that God will not allow anything to hit us spiritually that He has not provided us the strength to overcome through His grace and mercy.
  2. God is his glory. David understood that anything in his life, any throne, any praise, and accolade, any glory, was ultimately just a shadow of God’s great glory and was a result of God’s gifts to him as his child. God is our glory as well. Anything we’ve got in this life is from him and for him.
  3. God is the lifter of his head. David knew that God would restore his countenance, that God would restore joy and hope to his heart, lifting up his head. When you and I get discouraged or down, our heads droop. But God lifts up our heads.

God answered David’s prayer. That is the beauty of verse four. Remember that this is after the Bathsheba incident. This is a wonderful reminder that God forgives, and that God shows great grace. God answered the cries of David’s heart.

Now in our lives, the answers may not come in the way or in the timing that we would ask for, but God still is in the business of answering prayers.

David then decides to go to sleep. This is the part of this passage that blows my ever-loving mind. David is being pursued by this enemy force and he is so confident in God’s ability to protect and provide for him that he takes a nap.

May we have equal confidence in God’s ability to provide for and protect us in every situation we encounter.

The Psalm closes with David praying total destruction upon his enemies, and for the sake of length I don’t have the space to tackle that today. I wanted us to take a look at this Psalm for the sake of being reminded that prayer truly does change things.

God hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer is vitally important. We don’t like to do it because it’s foreign and makes us slow down. But it is no less important. Because of Jesus’ death in our place, we can know God personally.

LET THIS SINK IN.

We can talk with God, we can share our lives and our worries with him. There is no prayer too big or too small for us to share with Him. We can ask for his help. We can give him the praise he deserves.

Tell God your worries.

Remind yourself how powerful and in control he is.

Ask God to help you.

Get some sleep.

You can rest in God’s provision and protection.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog via the menu.

 

Happy’s Porch

This world is broken. It is fractured, cracked, overwhelmed by the ravaging effects of sin upon the cosmos.14344313_1039930519457958_7959540184168886373_n

Families are in shambles, divorce and pornography run rampant, violence and death, suffering and disease. Loved ones passing away after long battles with cancer, strife between friends, financial woes, prejudice, injustice, war, slavery. The list goes on and on.

Yet this is not the way the world has always been. There was a time before the effects of sin, a time when all of creation lived in perfect harmony. A time before suffering, death, disease, and pain.

Regardless of what you believe about the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, it is clear to see that this world used to be in perfect harmony. Reading Genesis 1 leaves me aching and yearning for that day when God will restore all things. There is such a fluid rhythm of God’s creative acts and the refrain that ‘it was good’. Trying to picture a time of perfect peace is hard to do sometimes.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31

Very good.

The world and everything in it was very good.

I like to imagine what perfect peace sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. Images of being on the porch at my granddad’s house immediately flood my mind. There I would sit on the porch swing, listening to the birds call to each other, with the babbling of a forest brook in the distance with a little rain shower sweeping across the mountain.

You see, my granddad, who we affectionately called ‘Happy’ passed away less than a year ago. While I can’t imagine the pain that his spouse, siblings, and children went through when he passed, I definitely struggled and definitely still wade through seasons of deep sorrow and I miss him tremendously.

I would play and read and spend time on his porch for hours. Some of my favorite conversations and memories of him came from his porch. When I think perfect peace, I think of that porch.

Yet what happens when the place that is representative of perfect peace becomes instead a reminder of the effects of sin? What happens when Happy’s porch no longer brings the sense of peace to my soul but instead brings a painful reminder that he is no longer with us?

This is one way that the effects of sin have reared their ugly head in my life. You see, the story of the cosmos takes a turn for the worst real early on. Right after the creation of all things in perfect harmony, God makes Adam and Eve and puts them to work in the garden of Eden. Soon after, Satan comes and introduces temptation to Adam and Eve who unfortunately fall real quick. The perfection of the cosmos is shattered, and the consequences of sin are immediately imposed upon Adam and Eve and all that followed in their lineage (that is, all of us).

Yet in this bleak and dreary chapter 3, there is a promise. A promise that shines bright with gospel grace. A promise that comes flying onto the scene when it seemed all hope was lost.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. – Genesis 3:15

The Lord is cursing Satan, and makes a promise that there will be a descendant of Eve that will crush the head of Satan. Fast-forward several millennia and Jesus stepped onto the scene. He lived the perfect life you and I could not live and died the death we deserved. Three days later, he conquered death itself, crushing Satan, and making it possible for those who believe in Him to one day be with Him in paradise, in a perfect cosmos yet again.

The answer to my above question is to remember that God’s creation in the beginning was very good. The answer is to remember that God uses death, disease, suffering, and pain to bring about His glory. The answer is to remember that God is going to restore the cosmos into perfect harmony yet again. The answer is to remember the great news of the gospel. No more will we cry, be in pain, suffer, or face death. No more. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we will be in perfect harmony with God, enjoying eternal satisfaction in Him.

I loved those moments on the porch with Happy. I loved those moments of near-perfect peace.

But they pale in comparison to the wonderful perfection that is waiting for us in glory. Oh how I yearn for that day.

Brothers and sisters, if you are wading through suffering or pain, remember that this is not our home. Remember that this is for your good and His glory. Remember that there will be a day where the cosmos are totally restored.

This is good news. This is the gospel.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Israel’s Total Failure

The book of Judges is a dark one. It’s full of gory and vile atrocities, faithless people, and at times it even seems like God isn’t present. However, when we look deeper at the narratives found in this book, we see that God not only is sovereign over all nations, but that He is faithful even in the total failures of His people. From the beginning depictions of Israel’s half-hearted obedience, to the final narratives of Israel’s total loss of morality and godliness, we see the cross of Christ shining bright in the darkness.Judges 1-1-2-5

Judges is not just about Deborah, Gideon, and Sampson. Judges is way more than that. The book of Judges is about Israel’s total failure and God’s total faithfulness. Let’s dive in together.

The opening of the book of Judges prompts us to look backwards at what has transpired.

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” – Judges 1:1

Joshua was appointed by God to lead the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. Joshua had remained faithful to the Lord, trusting that God would provide for His people and bring them into the promised land despite what was seen as impossible odds. It was only Joshua and Caleb who exhibited such faith, and so God proclaimed that they alone out of their generation would be permitted to enter the promised land.

not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. – Numbers 14:30

Joshua was a faithful leader of God’s people, and the book of Joshua depicts how God keeps his promises and brings them into the land. It is a book that details the victories of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, and it shows how God begins to give His people blessings previously promised as well as peace and rest. It is a book that reminds us that because God always keeps His promises, we can obey him wholeheartedly with courage and bravery.

In the book of Joshua we see the details of the allotments of land that God has promised each of the tribes of Israel. We also see that God commands Joshua and His people to live out brave spirituality as they walk with God.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9

In this passage we see that God promises to be with Joshua all the days of his life, never leaving or forsaking him. With this promise of faithfulness comes the command to be courageous and strong. This command to be courageous and strong is able to be fulfilled by Joshua and the people so long as they obey God’s decrees. As long as they stay cemented in God’s laws and commands, then they will be successful in everything that they do. As long as they meditate on His Word and carefully do everything written in it, they will have prosperity and success. It is through this dedication to speaking and meditating on the words of God that the courage and bravery needed to take the promised land is found. Judges 1-1-2-5 (1)

The people of God will not achieve victory and rest for themselves.

They are not to expect success if they do not accompany all their work with obedience to God as they meditate on his word and trust in his promises. – Timothy Keller

Victory over their enemies will not come via their own strength. It will come via the supernatural strength of the faithful God they serve and worship. If they faithfully follow God, He will pave the way to victory and rest. The book of Joshua shows how this process begins, as the people enter into the land promised to them by God. But as the book comes to a close, it is clear that much still has to be done before the promised land yields complete and total rest to the people of God.

It is through the lens of the book of Joshua that the book of Judges must be seen and read. This is the continuing story of God’s faithfulness. Unfortunately however, whereas the book of Joshua depicts Israel’s obedience (for the most part), the book of Judges documents just how far the people of God fall. Yet again, despite the grievous failures of His people, we will see God’s faithfulness shine bright.

In the darkness of sin and death, we will see the light of the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu.