Painful Correction

It’s never pretty when the Lord reveals to my heart the ways that I have been sinning against Him. Sometimes it comes through the Word, other times through the words of a friend, and occasionally via my own conscience in the aftermath of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

A couple weeks ago, I was on my way back from an orthodontist appointment in Dallas when a friend called me. We chatted about life for a while, and then he lovingly confronted me, revealed to me actions of mine that weren’t in line with Christ. A light was shone on my selfishness and distrust, and I didn’t like what I saw. My flesh burned within me, and my every desire was to lash out, to claim that I was being wrongly accused, to try and cover up the realities of my sinfulness. But instead, by God’s grace, I listened. I wrestled with the confrontation.

God used the words of a friend to ‘discipline’ me, to reveal to me that I was walking out of step with the way of Christ.

In Job chapter five, Eliphaz is continuing to speak to Job about his suffering. Despite the fact that not everything he says is solid, we can glean some truths from the words that he speaks.

Let’s look at it together.

This Life Is Troublesome 

For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. – Job 5:6-7

Can I get an amen?

We are all in tune with the fact that this life is not a walk in the park. It’s troublesome, difficult, hard. As followers of Jesus, we know that it is going to be even harder for us as we walk against the grain of this modern culture.

There are popular pastors these days who claim that following Jesus with enough faith leads to prosperity. They claim that if you’re in the midst of storms or giants you can overcome them through a stronger faith. They claim that the road of blessing is the road of being called by God.

This is not only experientially false, it’s also straight-up Biblically false.

Recently I’ve been studying the book of 1 Samuel. At my church we will be taking our students and kids through it. We see in the book of 1 Samuel that David is chosen by God, and yet he spends the majority of the latter half of the book on the run from Saul, who is striving to kill him.

Being called by God leads to suffering and difficulty.

Eliphaz gets this right. There is no rosy world free of hard times.

God Disciplines His Children

Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. – Job 5:17-18

Eliphaz hits some truth here in this proclamation to Job. The imagery of God wounding and shattering is not necessarily accurate, but he gets that first part right.

The blessed man is the man who is disciplined by God.

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that you are blessed when God disciplines or corrects you? This used to make me so upset. I remember being a teenager or college student, facing the aftermath of sinful decisions, seeing the painful and exposed parts of my heart with clarity, all while hating that I was being disciplined by God.

It didn’t seem fair or right.

As a young man, I see now that God doesn’t lead with discipline. We have His Word. We know what’s right and wrong. We know how to walk in step with Christ. But for many of us, we don’t. At least in different aspects of our lives. So the Lord brings difficulty to reveal our dependence upon idols, and then to restore us, often painfully, into dedication to Him.

Consider the following verse out of the book of Hebrews.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

We don’t like discipline.

But it yields righteousness if we’re willing to listen.

If I were to buck up against what my friend was saying, which I was tempted to do, I would not have grown in my faith, in my faithfulness to Christ.

I had to be willing to receive correction.

God Does Unseen, Marvelous Things

(God) who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: – Job 5:9

Eliphaz reminds Job that God does unsearchable and marvelous things without number.

That’s what we have to remember as followers of Jesus here in 2019.

I just reminded us that life is hard.

But life is also beautiful in that God is doing innumerable things that would blow our minds if we were to see it all.

In your life, today, God is at work.

Do you believe that?

You may not see it, you may not feel like it’s true, but according to the entire corpus of Scripture, we know it is.

God is at work.

I have a journal where I record ways that God shows His faithfulness to me. I could sit down with you for hours and hours and tell you all that He’s done this very year, and that’s just what I’ve been able to see. He’s done immeasurably more I’m sure.

When you bring all of these points from chapter five together, you get the following.

GOD USES THE DIFFICULTIES OF THIS WORLD TO CORRECT US AND TO OPEN OUR EYES TO HIS FAITHFULNESS

I’ll say it again.

God is at work.

If you believe that, then I encourage you to respond to the correction of God’s Word or a trusted friend with the humility to ask God what unseen wonders He’s wanting to open your eyes to.

I ended my conversation with my friend that day with “I want to be mad at you, but I know you’re right.”

Honestly, that’s a pretty good prayer to pray.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

The Rule Of Love

Authority.

That’s not a popular word these days.

It doesn’t seem loving to rule over others.

That’s because there have been so many negative examples of authority throughout history, and we have all likely been negatively affected by someone who has abused their power and not used it to cultivate life. This happens in homes, businesses, governments, and churches.

This disdain that many have for authority figures can seep into the church if we’re not careful. At many times, this clearly does. The church becomes a place in our minds that has no authority over us as people. This creates a culture of Christians that move from church to church,  never submitting to the rule of a church over them.

Instead of churches full of Christians that are holding each other accountable, we have churches full of independent Christians, which in my mind is an extreme oxymoron.

In his book, The Rule of Love, Jonathan Leeman sets out to show how the authority of God over us is not at odds with His love for us.

In the opening chapter, Leeman begins by showing how our culture’s view of love is way off course. Our culture makes love about self, finding happiness. We have allowed consumerism and tribalism to seep into our views on love. We see this consumerism by the way that men and women evaluate their ‘purchasing power’, measuring themselves up to what they believe they deserve in another man or woman. Tribalism shows up when we define ourselves by our own group, whether that be race-related, career-related, or likes-related.

This false love comes into the church in a detrimental way when we only submit to the body when the programs and worship styles make us as a group feel comfortable, or if it’s the best we can consume individually.

Leeman continues his book with a chapter on how various theologians throughout church history have thought about love, whether that be God’s love or the love of man. This chapter got a little tiring for me, but there were some intriguing points of discussion.

After this, we get two chapters on God’s love for Himself. Now that’s certainly a topic I don’t hear a lot of conversations about in our churches, but it’s an important one. God loves Himself. That’s a confusing phrase and theme of Christianity, but it is the basis and foundation of what it means for us to love each other. I would encourage you to dig into articles on this, and pick up this book for a thorough study on this topic.

At the conclusion of these two chapters on God’s love for Himself, we are given a list of how this applies to the local church, in the areas of membership and church discipline.

  1. Holy love impels a church to evangelize and do good.
  2. Holy love impels a church to mark of members and practice church discipline.
  3. Holy love impels a church to teach and disciple.
  4. Holy love motivates a church to worship.
  5. Holy love creates a distinct and holy culture. 

The second of these points gives us one of the main thrusts of this book.

According to Leeman,

A church that chooses to emphasize God’s love but not God’s holiness is a church that doesn’t actually understand what God’s love is. God’s love, I’ve observed, is wholly fixed upon God and his glorious character in all aspects. It’s holy. A church characterized by holy love, likewise, is jealous for God’s glory and fame. 

We live in a day and age in our Christian culture where membership and discipline are frowned upon. They both seem too authoritarian at best and unloving at worst. To not welcome all and accept all is to not show the love of Jesus to others, we say. I’ve heard that said explicitly and implicitly countless times. Yet it becomes pretty clear that if we are to model the love and holiness of God, this includes setting clear distinctions between those who are in the body and those who are not. If we are to model the love and holiness of God, then we should enforce church discipline. This can be abused yes. Definitely. But the abuse of authority by some should not hinder the attempts at God-honoring authority by others.

In chapter five, Leeman goes on to talk about God’s love for sinners. It was a pleasant chapter full of the good news of the gospel.

In chapter six, Leeman continues by speaking on the idea of love and judgement. As he has done several times throughout the book already, he shows how judgement is an unavoidable aspect of love. Our daily lives are full of judgements about what we love and don’t love. Do I love keeping my body healthy or eating Pizza Hut? Do I love clean teeth or getting to work? These are silly examples but they should serve to remind us that we all make countless judgments every day about what we love.

The final chapter is about the relationship between love and authority, ultimately what the entire book is about. The following quote was so good that I had to stop and write it down in my journal,

Good authority loves. Good authority gives. Good authority passes out authority. – Jonathan Leeman

Yes, there are authorities in our lives that hate, take, and refuse to delegate.

But that is not the type of authority that God desires us to model, in our homes or in our churches. As a man who has been given some authority over certain aspects of my current church, I have been tasked by God to cultivate what I reside over. Too often I fail to do that.

This book was ultimately a pretty good read. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read recently, and it wasn’t one of the worst. I think that many people would get bogged down in some of the monotonous sections of the book, but if you push through to the last couple chapters you will find some great truths.

I have received a free copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an unbiased review.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Malnourished

Fast_food_meal.jpgI’m not the most healthy or disciplined guy. Those who know me are not surprised by that statement. My fiancé Jamie (that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that. So cool.) has been encouraging me to do better in that department. The girl has this well-oiled evening routine every night as she gets ready for bed. I just watch TV or read until I can’t stay awake and just conk out. I do run from time to time, and I’m making progress (albeit very slow) towards eating better than I used to. Jamie encourages me to cook my own meals instead of purchasing fast food or something like that.

When I’ve followed her advice, I have felt so much better. There’s something about cooking your own meal and going for a run that relieves stress and makes you feel better about your life. There’s something far more restful about going to sleep devoid of screens and distractions, instead thinking about the Lord and what He has been doing.

There is benefit to discipline. There is usefulness to exercise, eating healthy, a bedtime routine, and periods of screen-less time. But there is a type of discipline that is even greater, a type of discipline that yields even greater rewards. Look with me at a passage from 1 Timothy.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:8-10

Rewind to my time at OBU, and this is a topic I taught on at OBU’s Men’s Ministry. Now, I definitely did teach it with my heart in the right place, but there was an aspect of me that felt like I had it made in this department of my life already. I took this passage to the extreme and felt that as long as I was studying the Bible and learning more about His Word, then I was a disciplined man. I was wrong on two accounts.

First, Paul tells Timothy that physical training does indeed have value. I knew I needed to eat better and exercise more, but I traded those things in for Bible study and the like. I neglected physical discipline. I neglected fighting the sin of slothfulness. I neglected fighting the sins of gluttony and laziness. I’m not saying that not exercising or not eating healthy is explicitly sinful. Rather, I’m saying that for me those were a neglect of God’s gift of my life and health.

The second way I was wrong about my state of self-discipline is in the fact that my spiritual health was focused on one thing: the study of Scripture. To this day my favorite thing to do is to study God’s Word via commentaries, books on theology, Bible studies, or podcasts. That being said however, I have noticed recently how unhealthy my spiritual life has become due to that fact. Now I’m not a big weightlifter, but if you work just one type of muscle every single day you’re in the gym, neglecting the other muscle types, you’re going to likely be a bit unhealthy. And you’ll likely look really weird too.

The same goes for me in my walk with God. I’m prone to dive into studying Scripture, but if I’m not worshipping, praying, fasting, communing with others, or serving, I’m going to be one unhealthy Christian. My mind will be full of great truth, Biblical knowledge, deep understanding of Scripture, but I won’t know how to commune with God or others. That’s deeply problematic. I need every discipline to have a healthy spiritual life, a healthy walk with God, and a healthy walk with my church community.

I was wrong back then about my discipline.

I am not naive to my areas of spiritual malnourishment in the present day either.

I want to focus on one more aspect of this passage.

Paul describes this process with the language of laboring and striving. It takes effort. It takes dedication. This is true of any discipline. That’s why I’ve never actually made it to a half-marathon. At least once a year I fall short in this goal and this desire because I’m just simply not dedicated enough to keep getting up in the morning to run before work. It takes more effort to make food at home then to pick up some Chick-Fil-A. It takes more effort to follow an evening routing and put up our phones rather than just watch TV till our eyes born.

Effort. Laboring. Striving.

The same is true of our spiritual discipline. Here’s where it gets super cool to me though. Paul says that we labor and strive because we have put our hope in the Savior of our souls.

For me, partaking in spiritual disciplines reminds me that I don’t have the strength to do that very thing without the grace of God at work in my life. Every time I spend time studying God’s Word, or in prayer, or in church community, or in rest, I am reminded of God’s grace and I give thanks that God would lead me closer to Himself. The only way I’m able to labor and strive after Jesus is because Jesus has given me the grace to labor and strive.

I’ll close with this great quote by Richard Foster.

A spiritual discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own. 

It takes effort to be healthy, active, and properly nourished physically.

It takes effort to chase after Christ through the practice of spiritual disciplines. But it is worth it.

What are some of the reasons you grow undisciplined spiritually?

What spiritual discipline do you need to focus more on this week, and what can you do practically to grow in it?

Labor and strive, secure in the hope of Jesus.

If you enjoyed this blog, please give it a share on Facebook or Twitter. I also appreciate any and all feedback you can send my way. I’m always seeking to grow my writing abilities.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach.

 

Go Out In The Fields

God is faithful and provides for His people. Yet this doesn’t mean that we are to just sit idly by and wait for God to abundantly bless us according to His great love. No, oftentimes we are told to work diligently and with discipline, and through this God blesses us with all that we need. fields

The book of Ruth has much to say about this very subject. Ruth experienced the providential care of the Lord, yet she experienced this via diligent work in the fields. Ruth is an example of Christ-like living in so many ways that I seek to emulate her in, and one such way is her work ethic. God would meet her needs in incredible and inexplicable ways, yet this would be done because she chose to go out in the field and collect grain that wasn’t being used (Ruth 2:3). Even after God chose to provide for her through the loving care of Boaz, Ruth still committed to working day after day in the fields in order to receive this provision:

So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. – Ruth 2:23

Since I’ve moved to Phoenix I’ve experienced this truth in many ways. God has been faithful to provide for me financially, yet not via me just sitting in my bed. Too often that has been my response to any fears I have about surviving financially in Phoenix. I could show you countless journal entries asking God to help provide for me financially. Countless entries with no plan of action in-between. This wasn’t me walking in faith. This was me laying in laziness. I would be lying to say I wasn’t at first overwhelmed by the daunting nature of rent costs and utility bills combined with the lack of knowledge regarding the job market here in the West Valley. However, I needed to act. When I did, God was faithful to provide.

The Scriptures say that every good and perfect gift is from Him, and this includes jobs. It’s been a carousel of part-time jobs since I got here four months ago, yet God has been faithful to provide me with a new one each time I stepped out in faith and applied or professed interest in a new one.

This is not of my own doing. God has been gracious to give me parents that instilled a deep work ethic in me as a teenager. I by no means have a perfect one, and I’ve not been excited to give my all in every job I’ve had out here (I’m looking at you, early morning janitor shift. Seriously, nothing tested my faith in this truth more than my 3:30 AM alarm clock going off.). Yet whenever I’ve gotten scared about my finances or have been overwhelmed when a job doesn’t pan out the way I planned, God has been faithful to supplant in my life a new one to fit my needs just as I’m crying out to Him for help.

God’s provision comes in a myriad of other aspects of our lives, not just financially. Let me give a couple other examples.

In ten days a team from Oklahoma Baptist University will be arriving to partner with Wellspring Church and engage with different worldviews that are on display in the Phoenix area. I was given responsibility to schedule and host this team for the nine days they are here. Week after week I was overcome with anxiety of making all that needed to happen, happen. Like clockwork it seemed that every Monday I would get overwhelmed with all that needed to be done and I would cry out to the Lord for help. Then the next Monday would roll around and I would cry out to Him again. It was only after reading Ruth’s story as part of a devotion that I realized I needed to go out in the fields so to speak. That afternoon I made all sorts of phone calls and then got the whole trip mapped out in just that one day. God was faithful to provide me with favor in all the connections I made, but I had to step out and make the connections. They weren’t going to magically appear in my lap as a result of my prayer.

Spiritually speaking, this is true as well. I’ve journaled a bazillion times (this a rough estimate) about wanting to have my heart grow in some way. Whether it’s the courage to share my faith daily, the desire to pray constantly, the discipline to memorize Scripture, the fortitude to fight for purity, or the desire to have a Christ-centered dating relationship, those things don’t happen unless I go out in the fields spiritually.

Only when I share my faith will I experience the courage in that moment. Only when I make it a habit to pray even when it’s hard and I don’t know what to say will the desire to pray more arise. Only when I fight with no compromise will I experience purity. Only when I guide my heart and Jamie’s to Jesus will our relationship be centered on Him. Only when I set out to memorize a verse will I memorize a verse (this last one seems obvious but I’m telling you too often I just envision and don’t act).

God is faithful. God is beyond my mind’s comprehension. There is definitely no limit to what He can do. He can choose to bestow blessings whenever and however He sees fit. Yet I’ve seen in Scripture and my own life that it takes me stepping out in the fields of faith that He blesses me with the grain of godliness.

Whatever you are lacking, go out into the fields. Emulate Ruth, walking and working diligently in the strength of Christ.

Our God is faithful to provide and He promises to care for His children.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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