The Reason For The Season

Yesterday, my good friend Marco and I went to the High School for lunch. In a forty minute lunch period, there were two fights. The saddest part of this is that both were widely encouraged by the other students. There was cheering, screaming, applauding, and the obligatory phone recordings of the festivities.

That more or less affected my entire day. I was supremely saddened by the fact that there is so much violence in our world, so much hatred. It seeps down into the upcoming generations.

After being present at these events, Marco and I had a conversation about sin and it’s global nature. He made a statement that I will forever steal.

Our sin is the reason for the season. 

When we approach the Christmas season, we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. To an extent this is true, and I’m not intending to split hairs. But we must acknowledge that the reason Jesus had to come in the first place is because of our sin which separates us from God. None of us come away clean, innocent, or pure in the eyes of God.

Although it’s generally not read in any Advent moments, the following passage is worth remembering:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one to come. – Romans 5:12-14

There you have it. According to Scripture, the real reason for this Christmas season is the sin that is prevalent in me.

Our sin is the reason for the season.

Adam’s sin has been imputed to all of mankind. Each of us is born into sin. There are many different worldviews present today that teach that mankind is inherently good. The Christian worldview is not one of them. According to Scripture, all have been born into sin. Instead of being inherently good, we are inherently sinful.

We don’t offer courses at our church to teach people to sin against God. Toddlers don’t go through “Deception 101” and “Advanced Selfishness”. It’s wired into them. They are innately broken.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

David sang about his innate sinfulness. He knew that he was birthed in sin.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

When I put my life up against this statement of Jesus, I realize just how sinful I am. I don’t love the Lord my God with all that is in me. So if we’re being real, we are way more sinful than we think that we are.

Yes, this is bad news.

That’s also why the good news of the gospel, the good news of Christmas, is good.

You see, the passage out of Romans 5 does not end there on the global nature of sin. It bursts into the glorious light of the gospel.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind. The sin of Adam spread to all of mankind. This is the background of the Christmas story. The shadow of the cross of Christ is on the cradle. The birth of Jesus is ultimately about His eventual death, His sacrifice for our sins.

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see two beautiful things happen.

Our sins are put on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ is put on us. Just as all of us are born into sin because of the sin of Adam, so we in Christ are righteous before God the Father because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Y’all, this is beautiful news.

I’ll be honest. Even when I write out this passage from Romans 5, my logical sensibilities are challenged by that final verse. The righteousness of Christ is a free gift. I cannot earn it. Neither can you.

We make our standing before God dependent upon our own actions and abilities, our personal holiness and righteousness. Yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear time and time again that there’s literally nothing I can do to earn what God did for me in sending His Son to die for me. Even my most noble attempts at righteousness are nowhere close to the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

The world we live in is broken, ravaged by sin. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is family violence and screaming matches in cafeterias. There doesn’t seem to be much peace anywhere. It is in this space that the message of the gospel can be transformative and tremendously impactful. The light of the gospel shines brightest in darkness.

This Christmas season, reflect. This Christmas season, in the midst of Sunday School parties and family, gifts and egg nog and decorating the house, reflect upon the message of the gospel.

Our sin is the reason for the season. But God the Father sent His Son Jesus to take our place. 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

The Lonely Southern Baptist

When I got to OBU, I honestly had a pretty strong disdain for all things theological and doctrinal. To me, my faith was about loving Jesus and others and nothing else mattered. Over the course of my years of study at OBU, I came to realize that theology and doctrine, when studied rightly, lead to loving God and loving others better. With this newfound fervor I began to study, but I started to find myself in an increasingly lonely position.

I grew up in a strongly conservative Southern Baptist church. My beliefs about sexuality, Scripture, sacraments, service, and soteriology are thus all firmly conservative and Southern Baptist. This was a heritage I entered into OBU with, something I was proud of. I was proud to have been raised in a conservative Christian home. My peers and friends around me at ‘The Walk’ at OBU when we started our collegiate journey stood by me in said beliefs.

Then the ‘deconstruction’ began. Countless people I knew, who I sat by in class, began this process of deconstructing their faith, a process that in my belief is the result of the tremendous lack of family discipleship. Many members of my generation grew up in homes where church was mandatory, but the gospel was not lived out at home. This is a tremendous travesty, akin to that of Judges 2:10 – “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.” The book of Judges is full of disheartening and disgusting acts done by the people of God, and this is the backdrop. A generation arose that did not know the Lord or what He had done. This means implicitly that the parents of this generation did not show their kids who God was and didn’t tell their kids about what God had done.

In response to growing up in homes where there was a lack of genuine gospel conversation or Christlike character despite religious practices, many of my peers were driven to process their faith for themselves via the deconstruction of it. Soteriology, Scripture, service, sexuality, and the sacraments. All of these facets of theology were on the table now, ready to be studied and made new in the lives of my peers.

As this deconstruction revolution went up like a powder keg all around me, I found myself ostracized, villianized, and condemned by those who had stood by me as conservatives only four years before.

I remember the day. My Senior year we had Rosaria Butterfield come and speak in chapel at OBU. A group of students who had put sexuality on the cutting block and reassembled their beliefs about it were adamantly opposed to her presence. They stood up and silently left the auditorium in defense of said beliefs. This was the day where I felt the loneliness really start to kick in.

I am all for the right to protest. Yet in the aftermath of this protest, I felt myself smack dab in the middle of a divide with no place to call my own ‘theological home’.

On one side was the ‘deconstructionists’, a group that had pushed deeper into what they were taught and told to believe (an admirable endeavor) and had come out on the other side with opposing views to what I believed about sexuality, service, soteriology, and Scripture. Those who came before me at OBU were militantly and rudely attacking the college on social media in what was honestly a cowardly way of action. Instead of face-to-face conversations, there were social media clap-backs that were not at all showing the love of Jesus that this ‘camp’ was so desirous of. I felt (please know that I’m aware that feelings can be wrong) like I was looked down upon by this group for being one of two things. For holding tightly to my conservative Southern Baptist beliefs I was either 1) foolish and naive or 2) unloving and devoid of compassion. I was either a man who had not thought long and hard about what I believed, or if I had, I was a man who had no love or compassion for the broken and battered in our world.

On the other side were those who I felt like adhered to my beliefs about theology and doctrine. That being said, I felt myself alone in these circles due to my desire and emphasis on holiness. The ‘conservatives’ were now wearing shirts that said “I love Jesus but I cuss a little”. Cards Against Humanity, obscene talk about sex, and an outcry against our legalistic ancestors were the talk of the town. I could never find myself able to fully embrace this camp of ‘authenticity’ and ‘brokenness’ because I can’t escape the call of 1 Peter 1:16 to be holy as God is holy. This camp decried me as being either old-fashioned or legalistic for my belief about this. I became a weirdo in the denominational family that I called home.

When I left OBU I felt quite alone. I had a group of friends that stood with me in this middle ground, but we were few and far between. Two experiences at two different churches solidified me in this lonely middle ground.

On one hand, in Portland I was at a church event where we attended a Portland Timbers soccer game. I left discouraged and frustrated as members of this church chanted “We are the Timbers, we are the best. We are the Timbers, so F*&% all the rest. F&%$ them all! F#$% them all! F%#$ them all! Being authentic believers meant being no different than the world.

On the other hand, I served at a church in Phoenix where jokes were consistently made about SBC life (which in fact funded said church), and how we should not be so concerned with theology and doctrine (which led to an unhealthy meddling of Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic beliefs). “Let the theologians argue about theology, we are going to love like Jesus”.

In a world of acceptance and charity, I found myself ostracized by those who had deconstructed their faith and outed by those in my own denominational camp because my desire for holiness and Scripture-driven sermons was not in agreement with the cussing Christians.

Where was I to go?

The answer is still not clear.

That being said, I am grateful for God’s grace given to me in two ways. One, I’ve been grafted into a community of youth pastors in my region who seem to be in the same position I’ve found myself in with this middle ground. Second, I’m incredibly honored and grateful that I have been asked to join the conversation at Misfits Theology. Go give that blog a follow!

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Love, Vocation, Geography

We tend to put the Spirit in a box where its primary purpose is to help us in love, vocation, and geography. What I mean by this is that the majority of my conversations in which the Holy Spirit comes up revolve around who someone is going to marry, what job they will have, and where they will live. These are all things that growing up I felt a lot of pressure to make a “Spirit-led” decision in. This led me also to relegate the Holy Spirit to a position in my life where his primary purpose was to speak to me in those areas alone.

God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. – R.C. Sproul 

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Sproul, and this quote is no exception. Nestled in a booklet about Christian conscience is this quote that speaks volumes.

The Holy Spirit’s primary leading in our life should be towards holiness and obedience. Take for instance the classic Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. This chapter pits two lists of characteristics against each other, the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We are all likely familiar with the so-named ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the characteristics that we as believers should have and exemplify (we all fall short, but it’s what we should be striving towards). In this chapter we come to Galatians 5:25, one of my favorite verses for its encouragement and conviction. This coupled with Galatians 5:16 gives us the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

These verses do not say ‘walk by the Spirit and you will know explicitly who you are to marry, where you are to live, and what you should do with your life”. These are aspects of our lives that God does speak into no doubt, but let us not relegate the Spirit of God to just these areas.

In efforts to potentially take some weight off younger and older believers alike, let’s take a quick look at what I personally believe (and I may be wrong, and you may not agree with me) regarding love, vocation, and geography.

LOVE 

I personally do not believe that the idea of ‘the one’ is accurate. We romanticize this ideology and that’s not necessarily good. I believe that we are called by Scripture to marry someone who is of the opposite gender and who has saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside of those two parameters, I believe that God is more concerned with us showing Christlike love to our spouse than he is us finding the perfect man or woman for us (newsflash, no perfect men or women exist). In my relationship with Jamie, I never got a lightning flash dreamlike moment where God audibly spoke to me and said she’s the one. Instead I found myself incredibly attracted to her outward appearance, her character, and her love for the Lord. Our goals and aspirations lined up, we enjoy being around each other, and so we have committed to loving each other for life. Seeking godly counsel and prayer do go a long way, but I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a rule of thumb where you get an audible confirmation from God about the person you want to marry.

VOCATION 

As previously stated, there are times where God explicitly calls people to do specific things with their lives (I have had God’s call on my life to be in vocational ministry. This was not an audible speech moment, rather a feeling in my gut that was affirmed and confirmed through prayer and godly counsel). More often than not though, I believe that we are to use the natural gifts we’ve been given by God in a way that brings honor and glory to His name. So if you’re a gifted scientist, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted orator, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted teacher, do that for Christ. In the midst of my sister having a specific calling from God on her life to one day do overseas missions, I remember playing XBOX as a teenager racking my brain and trying to discern God’s will so as not to garner his anger by stepping outside it. When boiled down, I believe that God’s will for us vocationally is to love God and love neighbor through something that we are gifted at, and the rest is just geography.

GEOGRAPHY

This sounds repetitive, but it’s true. There are times where God calls men and women to specific locations. Most of the time however I believe that God is more concerned with how we live than where we live. When making decisions regarding where you live, you should again pray and seek counsel. But don’t sit around waiting for an audible voice. The question should remain the same regardless of whether you’re talking about love, vocation, or geography: “will this bring glory to Christ?”

My decision to leave Phoenix and move to Vernon was never confirmed by signs and wonders. It was a decision made between me and Jamie, with the counsel of friends and families, in that we felt like we could serve the Lord faithfully here and bring glory to His name. Today marks six months and it stands as one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

I hope that this brings a breath of fresh air to many of us who become anal about the will of God. I welcome discussion and disagreement, just be cordial please.

The main thing (although I’ve devoted little words to it really) I want to share is that you shouldn’t limit the Spirit to these decisions. The Spirit of God is in your life to lead you in obedience and holiness.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Night Sky

A few weekends after I graduated OBU back in May of 2016, my family took a trip to Caprock Canyon State Park. One night we were there, we had the chance to view the stars through these incredible telescopes. I am awed easily by the magnitude of space, so waiting in line for a while to look through these telescopes was worth the wait. We got to see star clusters, constellations, the Milky Way, and one of the planets (although I cannot remember which one). That particular state park prided itself in having some of the darkest night skies in Texas. So when all the lights were off at this stargazing shindig, every star in the sky was shining in an incredible way.

There were occasionally however some nincompoops who continued turning on their iPhone flashlights, blinding us unintentionally, and making it immensely hard to see the glory and majesty of the night sky. After getting yelled at by some less-patient fellow stargazers, the lights were turned off and the night sky was seen in its fullness yet again.

The night sky is glorious and majestic. No doubt about that.

But when there are other lights, we become blinded, unfocused, and unable to see the stars.

God is in a league of His own in the glory and majesty department. Absolutely no doubt about that.

Yet when I allow myself to become blinded or distracted by lesser things, I am unable to see Him in all of his glory and might.

The beginning of a new year always prompts me to explore ways that I can become more like Jesus, how I can grow closer to Jesus. The reality for me is that I am prone to get blinded and distracted by countless other things in life that prevent me from seeing all of Him.

The biggest move I’ve made in getting distraction-free was putting my phone up in December, leaving it in the kitchen overnight instead of scrolling endlessly through social media in bed. I had written about this idea a couple times over the course of a year before I actually followed through on what I felt was best for me. I’m weak and lack self-control, and know that I spend hours of uninhibited time on social media if I don’t remove that temptation. That is not an everyone has to do this mandate, but I encourage you to maybe consider it.

Anywho, I got rid of that distraction but I know there are still so many lesser lights that I am prone to get distracted by. Here’s some of my big ones right now:

  1. Darkness. My heart is to see God and the good news of the gospel saturate and permeate the community that I find myself in. Out of this desire however comes eyes that are maybe a little too aware of the darkness, evil, and sin that are a part of a post Genesis 3 world. What I mean by this is that I can be zeroed in on the here and now, the evil and brokenness of our world, to the point where I fail to see beyond it to the glory, majesty, and power of our King. Yes, the world is a broken place. It’s all over the news. However, God is greater. I believe that. Everything that is broken will one day be made right. Until that time, we should put out the light of the darkness around us (weird illustration) and focus on the glory and majesty and power of God. He is able to bring restoration, redemption, and resurrection to all that we see.
  2. Work. I’m a spaghetti brain. Unlike most men who have the segmented waffle brains, I have an incessantly and constantly moving brain that is often thinking about 458 things at once. That being said, I do a pretty bad job of leaving work at the office. I think part of this is the nature of ministry, how it does permeate your daily rhythms, but that is no excuse to not put it aside and rest. So for me, I’m learning how to establish rhythms of life where I put work and ministry aside and just rest and relax and enjoy the good graces of God. The light of work blinds me from the majesty of God. No more.
  3. Self-Reliance. Man, oh man. I gave up on the power of New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago, but this is certainly something I want to grow in in 2018. I am too often dealing with prayerlessness. I journal prayers throughout the day, but as far as sitting alone with the Lord in prayer, I’m still not good at. This is pride, arrogance, and sinful. I am too self-reliant, thinking that I have all I need to get through my day without the power of God’s Spirit within me. Because I don’t go to Him, I miss out on seeing Him move. Because I miss out on seeing Him move, I miss out on seeing His glory and majesty.

I don’t know what your lesser lights are, but my prayer is that you will put them aside, or at least dim them so that you can see the greatness and majesty of God. Lastly, don’t be a light that distracts or detracts from God’s glory yourself. In our arrogance, we can become people who draw attention to ourselves, instead of letting people see through us to the glory and majesty of the God we serve.

I’ll close with this.

 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may the whole earth be filled with his glory!

Amen and Amen! – Psalm 72:18-19

He does wondrous things. He is glorious. Look at Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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As For Me And My House

Movies like God’s Not Dead and A Matter Of Faith popularize in Christian circles the  belief that it is in college that a Christian young person has their faith questioned, sometimes by militant and angry atheist professors. While I’m not intending to chide these Christian films or those who believe the “going to college = faith being tested” mantra, I hope that I can remind us that the testing of a child’s faith is happening long before they leave for college.

I grew up in a day when Christian home decorations were all the rage (they may still actually be all the rage). Everywhere I looked I saw verses and hymn lyrics and crosses in people’s kitchens, living rooms, and family rooms. Sometimes even the bathroom. The maybe over-popularized verse on family, Joshua 24:15, was all over the place: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

These were families who had a heart and desire to see their children grow up in Christian homes, filled with gospel conversations or at least gospel decorations.

Here’s where I’m fearful for my students, this next generation of kids. I see parents and families who are gospel-centered in their public sphere, their social media, but they’re just good moral people in their family and private life. I see this in me, so it gets me nervous about my future kids as well. While finishing an old book from 1985 (if you know me, you know finishing a book was a tremendous feat), I came across a quote that floored me due to it’s accuracy and it’s conviction.

Our homes, the homes of church members, are often no different from the homes of non-Christians. We worship pleasure, convenience, the country club, money, success, power, and prestige, just as the world does. We don’t pray in our homes any more than our moral neighbor next door. We attend church twice a month to appease the Lord, and yet we become upset if the service goes beyond twelve o’clock. We go to great pains to teach our children math, science, business, football, baseball, tennis, golf, and soccer, or perhaps ballet, music, art, and theater. But how much time or effort is spent in the training of our children in godliness? – John Sartelle 

Read that again. It stunned me. Written 8 years before I was born, but even more applicable today than it was back then.

You see, children in Christian homes are not getting their faith tested in college, they aren’t getting pulled away from Jesus in college. They are getting their faith tested and are getting pulled away from Jesus in elementary school, in Christian homes.

I have seen peers grow up in homes where sports was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where good grades was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where being liked, admired, and well-received in the community was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen younger peers right now grow up in homes where their accolades and even their struggles are put on display on Facebook so the parents can gain a following (pet peeve numero uno).

It breaks my heart to write this and it breaks my heart to see it. Countless members of my generation have abandoned their steadfast commitment to the Lord not because they were challenged by an atheist professor in college, but rather because they looked back and saw that in their homes their parents modeled that discipleship, missional living, and Christlikeness were all half-hearted additions to a life of comfort, pressure to be perfect, and athletics.

People of God, let this not be so. Let us not be men and women who raise children to take the gospel as an addition to life, instead of the onus of life itself.

I have a healthy fear of parenting, and while I pray it’s a part of my future, it makes me nervous to take on the responsibility of shepherding a home and raising kids who love the Lord.

Brother or sister in Christ, you cannot control the outcome of your child’s life. You cannot control whether or not a child continues to walk faithfully with the Lord into adulthood, or not. That is not on you, so don’t carry that weight.

I do pray however that you carry the weight of being a mother or father who makes your home about the gospel. For the sake of your kids. It’s not enough to be for Christ in the public sphere, even if that’s working in a church like I do. You must be for Christ at home. Make Jesus more important than good grades. Make Jesus more important than being admired by everyone around. Make Jesus more important than sports. Make Jesus more important than any other pressure in your child’s life.

Let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life outside of your home. Way more importantly however, let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life inside your home.

Repentance goes a long way. When you’re imperfect (which we all are, daily), repent. Apologizing to children is a huge win for the gospel.

Start small. It’s going to be weird and awkward. Praying with my fiancee Jamie is kinda weird still sometimes. But it’s worth it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Chuck. E. Cheese & The Gospel

Today I took my brothers to Chuck. E. Cheese. It was a fun experience, albeit it was a little crazy and hectic in this children’s casino. Caleb and Matthew each played their arcade games and tried to garner as many tickets as possible in order to get some prize at the end of our afternoon. Matthew came up with 121 tickets, and Caleb only came up with 84 (he was obsessed with the pure chance style games). We walked over to the counter to pick out toys, and they each laid eyes on their ideal toy. Caleb wanted an emoji glow stick (yes, it is as stupid looking as it sounds) and Matthew wanted a Rubik cube (Chuck. E. Cheese. themed).Chuck-E.-Cheese

Both of those toys were 400 tickets a piece.

They were way short.

Matthew may have done better in the arcade than Caleb, but they were both going home empty handed.

Now unbeknownst to my brothers there was a nifty little rule at the toy counter that allowed someone to purchase tickets for a penny a pop. So lo and behold, Matthew and Caleb both got their toys that will be broken or lost within the week (I got me one single Cherry Airhead for what seemed like a bajillion tickets, which was a tremendous rip-off).

Now, let me tell you, my sacrifice for Caleb and Matthew was puny. It was a handful of dollars. But it is a teeny tiny example of the gospel message.

Bear with me.

I have sickness. I have pain. I have rebelled against God. I have sinned against God. I have countless grievances committed against God.

Yet every ounce of that has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Every ounce of it.

While reading this afternoon, I came to the passage from Isaiah 53 that is likely well known to you if you have a church background. I was amazed by the consistent refrain of ‘He. . . Our.’ Look at the passage with me and see what I mean.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:3-6

How does that not evoke worship in your heart? I’m drawn to the edge of tears when I think deeply about this passage. I read it over and over again this afternoon, underlining and highlighting different aspects of it.

One thing that’s cool about this passage is that it reminds us that the Old Testament foreshadows Christ as being the sacrificial Lamb of God. This passage should also remind us that the righteousness that we are given by God came at an immense price. Look at the unfairness of this situation.

He bore our sicknesses

He carried our pains

He was pierced for our rebellion

He was crushed for our iniquities

The Lord punished him for the iniquities of us all

Jesus paid an incredible price for us to obtain forgiveness of sins and peace with God (v. 5).

What’s even crazier is that none of us could ever receive this righteousness, this forgiveness, this peace on our own. Verse six paints an immensely clear portrait of our tendency as humans. We all have strayed, we all have turned to our own way. Now this passage wasn’t written to us 21st century Christians, but I think it’s safe to say that we also are in the same boat of none of us being able to measure up to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Romans chapter three makes this pretty clear, so take a look at that chapter if you are wary of my proclamation.

None of us could ever measure up. We all despise and reject Jesus when we fall into sin, and every single one of us has fallen into sin. Some of us may think we’re better than others in our pursuit of perfection, but even if that was the case, we would still all fall short. Just like Matthew performed better than Caleb and still came up short.

Every one of us comes up short.

How grateful we should be.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Christ lived the life I could not, and He paid the sin debt I was unable to pay.

I don’t want to belittle the gospel with this illustration at all, but I can’t help but think of entrance into heaven like that prize counter at Chuck. E. Cheese. The cost for the ‘prize’ of eternal life with God is an insurmountable debt that I cannot pay. I see myself holding in my hands the ragged tickets I’ve garnered in my life, realizing I don’t stack up at all with the cost of eternal life. I picture Jesus tapping me on the shoulder and telling me ‘I got this.’

The people who read this passage in the days of Isaiah were likely given a sweet and ferocious anticipation for the coming Messiah.

I know that He has come. Jesus Christ paid my debt. He took all of my sins, pains, rebellions, and grievances. He was my substitute sacrifice. He paid my debt.

You can either reject this gospel or you can receive it. You can either reject Jesus as your substitute sacrifice or you can receive him.

Receive what he has done for you.

Worship.

– In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below

*The Christian walk is not one of achievement or earnings, this was simply an illustration.

 

 

Focus On A Family

The story of the Israelites’ partial obedience to God is interrupted here in the first chapter with a short five verse vignette about the generosity, bravery, and boldness of one specific family.

Caleb said, “Whoever attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah to him as a wife.” So Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as his wife. When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What do you want?” She answered him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me springs also.” So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs. The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’s father-in-law, had gone up with the men of Judah from the City of Palms to the Wilderness of Judah, which was in the Negev of Arad. They went to live among the people. – Judges 1:12-16

This is a seemingly random story about Caleb’s family. Yet when we focus in on each of the three main characters in this story, we see qualities worth emulating.

Caleb

This is not the first mention of Caleb in the Bible. In Numbers 13, he was among the men who went up to spy upon the land that God had promised His people. The spies encountered giant men of renown and then returned to the people. Every spy except for Caleb and Joshua were afraid and told the people that the task was impossible. Only Joshua and Caleb stood up with courageous and radical faith, proclaiming the promises of God and insisting that with His strength they would be victorious. rod

What is all the more intriguing is the fact that Caleb was not a descendant of any tribe in Judah. He and his family came from the Kenizzites. Yet because they were such devout followers of the Lord, they were grafted into and assimilated into the tribe of Judah.

All this being said, we know that he was a man of courageous and radical faith in the Lord. He was a man who wanted his daughter to marry a man of courageous and radical faith as well. This culture had customs we may seem strange. Arranged marriages made perfect sense to this culture, and so Caleb was not devaluing his daughter when he offered her up to a willing and courageous husband.

What is worth focusing on is the fact that Caleb was kind and generous. When his daughter came to him asking for springs of water because of how barren the land was, he graciously and generously gave her more than she needed. This is evidenced by the sweeping gift of the upper and lower springs.

Othniel

Othniel was clearly a man of bravery and courage. He went up to capture Kiraith-sepher, and with the Lord’s help he did just that. It is important to note that this city and the surrounding land was land God had promised to Caleb through the lips of Joshua (Joshua 14:6-15) and not just the land-grabbing of a greedy man.

We will see in just a couple chapters that Othniel was the first judge raised up for Israel. He would lead his people into forty years of peace (spoiler alert: it doesn’t last). His bravery and courage will be on display in that passage as well.

Achsah

Achsah is seen in this story as a bold woman, a woman who was analytical and astute. She surveyed the land and realized that without springs, her family would not be able to survive for long in the desert landscape. Her character reminds me of Proverbs 31:15-16.

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. – Proverbs 31:15-16

She had a desire right off the bat to provide for her family and her estate. She asked Othniel to ask his father in law for the springs and for some reason not explicitly stated in Scripture, he didn’t. With respect balanced with boldness, Achsah takes matters into her own hands and asks Caleb for the springs herself.

Courage. Kindness. Generosity. Boldness. Faith.

In this family we see what the entire people of God should have been characterized by.

Caleb’s family is, in miniature, what all Israel should be like. – Timothy Keller

I would close by reminding you that whenever we look at characters in the Old Testament, we shouldn’t be using them as moral figures to follow. Yes, the heroes of faith in the Old Testament have some great qualities, but more often than not they have some incredible flaws as well. That will be on vibrant display in the book of Judges.

So when we see Caleb, Othniel, and Achsah in this vignette as worthy models of character, let us look beyond them, ahead of them, to the life of Christ.

 

The kindness, boldness, and generosity of Jesus can be seen, remembered, and meditated on via the lens of the kindness, boldness, and generosity of this family.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Prayer & Community

The themes kept appearing incessantly throughout the week. They came from my own lips in the midst of Bible studies, and they came from the lips of local church planters of many different backgrounds and ministries. They showed up in D-Now teachings and Skype conversations. It was as if God was divinely orchestrating the entire week so that I would be able to undoubtedly grasp that without these two things, I could not successfully stay afloat in ministry in Phoenix.

Prayer and community.

I’m sitting in my apartment on an immensely rainy day, and these two things have not left my mind. For the past nine days I’ve had the privilege to host a team of nine students from my Alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. In the midst of walking with them this week and simply doing my best to paint a picture of what ministry in the West is like, the importance of prayer and community kept reverberating through my mind and heart. There is so much power in both of those practices and having the team here affirmed how beautifully refreshing practicing them can be to the heart of a Christian.

obu
So thankful for this team from OBU and the work they did in the city this past week!

There’s two ways of going about life on a normal week.

The first way of going about life is isolation. Yes, I may go to church with brothers and sisters in Christ, I may live with one of my closest friends, I may do fun activities and engage in conversation with my peers. Yet I can still be tremendously isolated by my failure to share what my deep-seated questions and pains may be at that time. I’ve looked my roommate in the eyes when he’s leaving the house, all of me wanting to scream out my need for prayer and encouragement, but my desire to stay comfortable and not admit weakness keeps me silent. I have the sovereign Lord of all willing to listen to my humble cries for help yet I can in my isolated state keep laboring through the darkness unwilling to seek the light of Christ through the practice of prayer.

That way of life is dark, depressing, and ultimately not how God designed us to live. But there is another way to go about everyday life in a missional mindset. That way of life is saturated with prayer and community.

A life saturated with prayer and community is the blessed life. Community is what the church is all about. It can definitely happen through functional and organized church events. Yet most of my growth and support in the context of community has happened on a random Tuesday when my friends ask me how I’m doing and I say “not so great”. For goodness sake, we were designed to need each other and we shortchange what God has given us through His church if we don’t place ourselves in the vulnerable position of community.

Prayer is too often my last resort. How silly and prideful of me. Prayer should be our first step of faith when faced with any circumstance. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a specific posture or location. Prayer is reliance on God, and prayer has transformational power. I’ve seen it change the hearts of others, I’ve seen it change the circumstances that I’m in. But more often than not, the transformational power of prayer happens in my own heart. When I praise God for all that He is, confess my sins and shortcomings, and give thanks for all the blessings He’s given me this day, I can’t help but have a heart that is changed and more in love with God.

I’ve been reading some of the short letters at the end of the New Testament and I’ve found encouragement to keep striving to implement both of these practices. There are many verses that combine both practices: deep community and prayerful posture.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 2

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; – Jude 20-22

John practiced praying for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He prayed not only for their spiritual health, but also their physical health. As followers of Christ we are to pray in the spirit, building each other up in our holy faith. We as followers of Christ are to also have mercy on those who doubt.

That final verse has been the most beneficial and impactful to me in regards to living in Christian community. I’ll honestly say that I’m not entirely sure the exact context of “have mercy on those who doubt”. Yet I imagine it has implications on how Christians should treat each other.

I’ve been following Christ since I was seven. Despite this, I doubt.

In certain seasons of my life I struggle with doubt in regards to certain things. Not necessarily in regards to mental doubt, but emotional doubt. I used to have a lot of fear in regards to confessing my struggles in doubt to my brothers in Christ. Yet it has been so true in my life that when I confess my anxieties and faith struggles that the mercy of my brothers drives me to remembering the promises of Scripture. We all need community to encourage us in our faith. We all get down and discouraged, we all need affirmation of the truths of God’s Word. We all need to be shown mercy and grace.

If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we must be a people of prayer. If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we need to be in a community of brothers or sisters in Christ who daily point us to Him.

Prayer and community.

I can’t exist without them.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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