The New Creation Has Begun

All of mankind destroyed in a moment.

All save one family sheltered from the raging flood of God’s wrath.

One family deemed righteous in the sight of God.

One family saved.

The story of Noah’s Ark is one that we’ve missed the focus of for quite some time. At least in my opinion. The story of Noah’s Ark is normally taught to little kids. And I’m not so sure it should be. Yes, it’s cute to imagine the scene of the animals coming to Noah on the ark.

But the whole story of Noah’s Ark is about the wrath of God. His righteous, just, fair anger towards the wickedness of man (Genesis 6:5). After a century of grace, of time for man to repent (Genesis 6:3), God brought His wrath to bear on the world. Massive destruction. Whether or not you believe in a global flood is not the primary point of application. This story should cause us to reflect on the righteous wrath of our God. It’s easy for our modern sensibilities to cause us to ignore the wrath of God. Yet it is an undeniable theme of Scripture. Even the other day I noticed in Ezra 5:12 that we are given a reminder that God’s anger led to their enslavement (which was ultimately for their good and His glory, mind you. Read the whole story, not just the one verse).

God’s anger poured out upon the earth.

Death came.

Have you ever stopped and let your mind linger on this story? The waiting and watching as the oceans flooded the earth, as all of life was destroyed.

Then, slowly but surely, the waters began to recede, to dissipate.

And in its place, life.

New life.

Noah and family start to think that maybe they’ll soon be getting off the ark. Noah opens up a window and lets a dove out. The dove comes back after circling the earth and finding nowhere to land.

Then, well, then the beautiful happens.

He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8:10-11

Again. Have you lingered on this? It’s easy for us to read these stories and assume all these Biblical ‘heroes’ had insane faith in the midst of what they were experiencing. I don’t think that’s the case. Noah was not a perfect man. He was a drunk who passed out nude in front of his family. Isn’t it possible that after over FIVE MONTHS on an ark he started to doubt if God was going to come through?

I think so.

I think he likely started to wonder if new life would come. He sends out the dove, and the dove comes back with an olive leaf (fascinatingly enough, that became a historical signal for peace. God hangs his ‘bow’ back in the sky. We miss the significance of that when we only think about that as colorful, and not a symbol of war).

The dove comes back, communicating that new life has come. What a beautiful scene. But it points forward to a scene that brings tears to my eyes. It points forward to the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

Cause you see, despite God’s grace, the people screw things up again.

For centuries, the people of God fail to live holy lives, fail to be distinct from the culture around them. The human heart remains wicked, broken, evil, full of sin. Injustice and pain is brought about by the people of God. The prophets rise again and again to try and correct the sins of the people of God, and yet their messages are not heeded.

Then, silence.

Centuries of silence.

The promise of a Messiah faded into legend.

Again, it is extremely likely that doubt began to rise in the hearts of man.

Then, one day, a prophet arises from the wilderness. He is wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts. He begins to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come, that the Messiah is here.

Honestly just typing this is giving me goosebumps.

Imagine.

Imagine the scene. People begin to flock to Him.

Then a man comes to Him.

And this is what happens next.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . . Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. – John 1:29, 32

BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD. Those words had to of hit the people listening hard. They knew all about sacrificial lambs. They knew about lambs used to atone for personal sin, familial sin, nationwide sin. But now a man steps into the Jordan while a prophet claims that He is going to absolve the entire world (all who choose to believe and submit) of their sin.

Then (with tears in my eyes again) the Spirit is shown to descend on the Son.

In the form of. . .

A dove.

New life had come.

And this time, it would last.

The Messiah had arrived. To bring life out of death. To bring new life that lasts. To inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth. To set us free from all of our sin. Through His death.

He lived a perfect life. He ministered for three years, showing His power over nature and the spiritual realm. He taught a way of life that would begin to turn the world upside down.

Then, one night, he found Himself in a garden, an olive grove to be exact (THE BIBLE IS ONE STORY!!!!!!). After toil and tears, He obeyed His Father to the point of death.

And through His death, we have life.

Life to the fullest.

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In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Walking Around Like He Made The Place

The disciples are intrigued by who Jesus is. They have left families, vocations, friends, hometowns, all to follow this man. This man who they have seen heal the blind, the lame, even the dead. This man who has spoken with such authority that crowds flock to him and the religious leaders of the day become incensed by his teaching.

But now they’re on the sea. Crossing over to the other side. And a storm comes up unlike anything they’ve seen. Many of these disciples of Jesus are fishermen by trade. They had seen swells and waves. But nothing like this. This is causing them to fear for their life.

Who is going to rescue them?

They scan the boat through the torrential downpour, looking for this man who seemed to have nature bent to his will. They fret as they fail to find him, but alas they finally do. What they find doesn’t instill much confidence or security. They find Jesus asleep in the boat.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this?Even the wind and the sea obey him!” – Mark 4:35-41

The storm ceased.

In a moment.

This man they referred to as teacher was clearly more than that.

He calmed the wind and waves.

He was walking around like He made the place.

Recently I’ve been thinking about this passage quite a bit. The great pun that I titled this post after came from a chapter in Jared Wilson’s book The Wonder-Working God. I wish I could claim it as my own, but I can’t.

This morning I read Genesis 1. Trying to get the year started off on the right foot, you know. As I was journaling about it and studying it, verse two kept leaping off the page.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depth, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

When we remember that Scripture is one major narrative played out over sixty-six books, we are able to see themes that run all throughout the story. Here’s one such theme that  and that I’ve begun to see more and more in Scripture.

The seas are symbolically used to characterize chaos and disorder. They are almost seen as a symbol of evil, since they have historically housed much that we can not see. Much of the literal oceans of the world are unexplored. In ancient literature, these unexplored seas housed evil.

For instance, Revelation 13 has the Beast (a figurative, non-literal symbol of evil) rise up out of where? The seas.

With that in mind, the first chapter of Genesis is stinking beautiful. God brings order from chaos. Remember, the book of Genesis is not a science book. It was never written to give us a scientific understanding of how the world was created and how it functions today. The book of Genesis was written to remind the people of God of the promises of God, the faithfulness of God, and the creative nature of God.

The world is produced, filled, and formed by the God of the Bible.

I have been created, redeemed, and made perfect by the God of the Bible.

That is what Genesis is about.

With that in mind, the first chapter of Genesis is likely included in the Bible to remind us as God’s people that God brings order out of chaos. Not only that, but He makes everything good.

The cosmos before creation are described symbolically as a sea, as watery depths (see the verse above). And out of seeming chaos and disorder, God brings the ordered world into being.

I think that’s powerful. And beautiful.

When you then fast-forward to this story in Mark, you should be struck with what is truly being said here. This is not a cute little story to tell children in Sunday school. This is a provocative and powerful truth.

Jesus is not just a teacher, even though the disciples first refer to Him as such.

He tells a chaotic and disorderly sea to be still.

And the disciples are in speechless awe and fear. Who is this man, that wind and sea obey Him?

Who is this man that did the very thing that God the Father did way back in Genesis 1? They knew the stories. God the Father brought order out of chaos (interestingly enough, He did so through the Son and the Spirit).

This man is no man.

He is God Himself.

That gives me chills.

Church, we live in a chaotic world. I woke up on a new year to the same stories of violence and unease. This year ahead may hold a lot of uncertainties for you. It does for me. Let us rest in the presence of the One who made the place.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Care Before Commands

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

I’ll say it again.

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

This seems like the most basic principle of living in light of the good news of the gospel, and yet we as followers of Jesus can forget this time and time again.

The best way to combat forgetting or neglecting this truth is by diving into the story of Scripture. I don’t mean simply reading your Bible to check off a box (like I do way too often), but rather I mean immersing yourself into the whole cohesive story of Scripture. I believe that God’s Word is inerrant, that God’s Word is put together in a specific way by the Spirit’s leading over mankind. So when we look at the entire story of Scripture, we see gospel themes all over the place.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us (yours truly included at times) fail to really understand what the Bible story really is. We like to read devotionally, follow a Sunday School reading plan, and never really get the point of most passages because we don’t read in context. All of this leads to mishandled beliefs about the Bible, God, and the good news of the gospel. Lastly, a disjointed approach to the Bible leads to a litany of verses taken way, way, way out of context (Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, etc.).

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. God’s care and God’s commands.

If you asked the average Joe or Jane meandering the sidewalks of our cities to describe what the Old Testament was about, there’s likely one theme that comes to the forefront of their response: God’s commands. They may talk about his anger and wrath, but they will likely have some component of the law of God as part of their answer.

Now let’s say you asked the average pew-sitting Paul or Phyllis, regular members of our churches, the same thing. They would likely answer the same way! Again, this includes rapidly rambling me.

It’s easy to think that the Old Testament is all about God’s commands for us to follow, with the New Testament being all about God’s care for us through Jesus.

This is well-meaning, but off.

If you look closely at Scripture, you’ll see that God is extending grace and showing His loving kindness long before He imposes commands on His people (which are also His loving kindness, btdubs).

For instance, if you look at the book of Genesis, you see that it is fundamentally about God’s love for His chosen people, namely the family of Abraham. While commands for right living are interlaced throughout this narrative, the main theme is clearly (in my opinion) God’s covenant relationship with Abraham’s family, in the midst of Abraham’s stupidity (as well as the stupidity of his descendants).

The book of Genesis is NOT primarily about the origin of God or the origin of the cosmos (Whether you bleed Answers in Genesis or believe God used evolution to create the world we currently live in, there’s not going to be a clear and concise answer found in Genesis). It’s not a conglomeration of classic Bible stories and their quirky VeggieTales adaptations (I’m not knocking VeggieTales, I grew up on that stuff. I certainly do like to waltz with tomatoes).

The book of Genesis is about God’s care for His people. A care for His people that not only comes before the commands of Exodus-Deuteronomy, but also a care for His people that is not dependent upon His people’s ability or willingness to follow such commands.

Still don’t believe me?

Open your Bible.

Yes, as far as timelines go, the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (I am tempted to start naming the trees in my yard, such as the Tree Full of Leaves I Will Pay our Students To Rake and The Tree That Hopefully Won’t Cause Foundation Damage) comes at the same time more or less as the introduction of Adam into the perfect garden.

Yet after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God immediately clothes them via a sacrifice, and promises to send the Messiah. I would say that’s a solid example of God’s care for them even after their disobedience.

Immediately after their displacement from the garden, the wheels fall off. Murder, deception, rage and malice, wickedness, pride. God gives the people 120 years to repent and turn to Him, but they refuse, and the flood happens. Let’s not forget that the fact God left a remnant via Noah and his family is also unbelievable grace.

After God’s grace given to Noah, there is a covenant made. But right after it comes more horrible stuff. More pride and arrogance (Tower of Babel). Clear incest (Judah and Tamar).

As generation after generation progresses in Abraham’s family, God’s care for them continues to be extended.

I would encourage you to dive in to the book of Genesis. Without the PG-tint glasses that our Sunday School backgrounds give us. It is dirty, grimy, dark, and nasty. But in the midst of humanity’s horribleness, God’s grace explodes off of every page.

If you need help reading the Bible in such a way, I can recommend two resources. Number one. The LifeChange Bible Study Series. These are great resources and they’re affordable. Number two. Anything by Jen Wilkin. She’s a phenomenal teacher of the Bible.

As we wrap up, fast forward to today. March 29, 2019.

How well are you doing at believing the truth we started with?

Do you evaluate your spiritual actions each day and hope you’ve done enough for God to be pleased with you?

Do you face incessant and unceasing guilt for your inability to follow His commands (been there, done that)?

Remember this truth. Before God imposes commands in our lives, He shows us His care for us. And when we fail to follow those commands in our lives, He continues to show His care for us.

I’ll close with the following quote.

God loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Think of that! God knows all about our weaknesses, doubts, fears, and sins. Yet, he loves us no less than he does his own child. – Bryan Chappell

He loves you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Conditional Surrender

Have you ever read the book of Genesis?

All the way through?

Not just the stories that are retold in VeggieTales or on felt-boards in a Sunday School classroom, but every chapter?

Not just the stories of creation, the fall, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.

Every story. Every narrative.

I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis this past week in my time with the Lord. I have been blown away with how crazy the narratives are, how grace saturates the lives of the people of God, even way back at the beginning of the story.

It’s easy to get sucked into the mindset that the world is worse than it’s ever been. I honestly don’t really believe that the more I read Scripture. Yes, the darkness of sin and wickedness and war and evil are prominent at times in our world and in our country. That being said, this darkness is nothing new. It may be unsettling and off-putting for those of us who grew up in relative bliss and innocence, but it has been present since the dawn of creation.

Last night I was reading Genesis 31-34. I was blown away by the continued sins of God’s people. Let me tell you a portion of Jacob’s story. Mind you, this is a bird’s eye view of what is going on.

In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run. He has stolen the birthright of his older brother and his older brother wants to kill him. So he flees. He flees for the land of his mother’s family. On the way, he stops for the night and has a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. After that visual, the Lord appears to him in a dream and promises the following.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. – Genesis 28:15

What a promise. God appears and delivers that grandiose promise. Yet look how Jacob responds.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God.” – Genesis 28:20-21

IF.

What the what.

God appears to Jacob and promises safety and security, provision and protection. Instead of clinging to this, Jacob says that IF God remains with him and and keeps him safe and gives him food and clothes to wear and gets him home to his family safely, THEN He will be his God.

God appears, Jacob doubts.

Now, if I was God, I would have bailed on Jacob straight up.

But God is perfect.

He is gracious.

Over the next few chapters, God will provide for Jacob in amazing ways. He provides him with grace despite Jacob taking multiple wives, (addressing polygamy in the Bible is a blog post for another time. My Cliff Notes opinion is that this is sinful of Jacob. God makes clear in Scripture that marriage is between one man and one woman.), children, and tons of animals. Jacob leaves and heads back to his home, where Esau (his brother who wanted to kill him) welcomes him back with open arms.

In Genesis 32, Jacob encounters God yet again. This time he wrestles with God. If you have any questions about that story, please ask an actual theologian or Old Testament scholar, because I have no idea.

Either way, Jacob makes an awe-inspired realization that he survived by God’s grace alone (Genesis 32:30).

You would think that after seeing God, after having God fulfill all of His promises to you, that you would lead your family in godliness. You would lead your family in worship. Your life was full of sin (deception, scheming, polygamy), and God gave grace. This should make you want to lead your family in following God.

Instead, the wheels fall off.

Genesis 34 is a vile chapter. Jacob’s daughter is raped violently. In retaliation, Jacob’s sons (remember, these are the brothers of Joseph. I realized this for the first time last night.) murder an entire village of people. In the following chapter, God appears to Jacob and Jacob tells his household to hide the foreign gods in their midst.

I took you on this whirlwind tour of this section of Genesis to highlight something.

I tend to look back at these narratives from Scripture and think what a bunch of morons.

Then the Spirit comes and kicks my butt.

I’m all over these passages.

I, like Jacob, see God do amazing things in my life and respond with conditional surrender. I’ll follow you Jesus if you do all these things in my life.

I, like Jacob, can fail to lead my family in the gospel outside of the occasional bold proclamation that Jesus is my Lord. But my home is full of foreign gods. The gods of this culture. The gods of this world. Good things become God things. Idolatrous behaviors and actions seeping into my home. Into my life.

Yes, children are responsible for their own actions. But what kind of life are we living at home in front of them? Are we wholly surrendered to Jesus, or do we just say we are on Sunday mornings? Are we walking them through Scripture, or are we letting them play Fortnite and watch Netflix all evening? My daily prayer is that my actions and habits encourage my family in the faith. I fall so stinking short of this day after day, but it is my hope.

I, like Jacob, have lived a life full of imperfection, brokenness, and sin. I have failed countless times, and yet God gives me greater grace. What a wonderful God that we serve.

You probably have a whole lot of Jacob in you too.

Thankfully we have a God full of grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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