You’re Not Alone In The Fight

Are you tired?

I am.

Are you hitting the point of the semester where you’re drained and bearing the weight of all that is on your plate?

I am.

It’s that time.

Late September.

The fun of the holidays isn’t quite here, North Texas hasn’t got the memo that today is the start of Fall, and the burden of busy calendars is upon us.

Coming in hot to steal away my ability to rest is some battles with insomnia. There are the occasional nights where I’m up for hours in the middle of the night for no reason other than the burdens of ministry (the pro of this is extra time in God’s Word, when I take the step of getting up and reading rather than just laying there). I see the light, but I also come face to face with the darkness that many are facing. There are moments where I feel like my tiny, feeble light is about to be extinguished by the darkness I battle every day.

You may not be in vocational ministry, but I know you’re likely prone to encounters with the weighty darkness of this world.

My problem is that I all too often try to bear this weight alone.

Thank God for friends who draw me back from the front lines, who remind me that I’m not in the fight alone, who remind me that discipleship is a team sport.

Discipleship is a team sport, guys! We need each other deeply and desperately. None of us, not a single one of us, are capable of doing the work of discipleship on our own in our individual communities. There’s enough work to go around.

We’re not alone in the fight.

The Lord’s been showing me this reality as of late. One through a pretty obvious text out of 2 Timothy, and secondly through a simple phrase at the start of an often-ignored letter of Paul.

Let me show you what He’s been showing me.

First off, we see in 2 Timothy a letter from a passionate missionary to his son in the faith. Timothy was at a point where he was deciding whether or not to go on in ministry. He was being pushed to and fro by the burdens of following Jesus above all else. He was a soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

Quick side-note. The easy life is the life of a man or woman who is not sold out in allegiance to King Jesus, ready to do His work. I’ve been there. I’ve been churchy, religious, a lover of God, but not all the way in as His soldier. Now I know that utter allegiance to Him is the hard life. But that’s also the worthwhile and joyful life. 

Paul sends him a letter of deep encouragement. He first reminds Timothy of his own care for him (1:2, my beloved child) and then he reminds Timothy of the heritage of faith that he had (1:5-6, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice). This was how Paul brought encouragement to Timothy for him to continue being resilient. He told Timothy to look behind him. See who came before him. See who invested in him personally. See who finished the race, and see who are still trucking along.

Man, as I’ve done that, I’ve felt such a fire in my soul to keep moving forward one day at at time.

Odus Compton. Brady Sharp. Zack Randles. Jeff Roach. Joshua Tompkins.

These are just a handful of men who have poured into me, who are still in the fight against the darkness.

Their faith, perseverance, and endurance keep me going.

Paul told Timothy to look behind him to those who came before.

Like I said, I’ve found another source of encouragement in a pretty random place.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

You read 2 Thessalonians as of late?

If you’re like me, probably not.

This short little letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica is pretty ignored at times. And while there is a ton of beneficial truths laced throughout the book, this opening greeting reminded me of something.

When you feel like you’re alone in the fight, look beside you.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

If we’re not careful, we can slide over to the belief that Paul was superhuman.

But, here we have a reminder that he had a team.

Sometimes this team abandoned him, sometimes this team didn’t get along well with him, but a team he had all the same.

Silas and Timothy did ministry with him, and they were a part of his letter of exhortation to the church in Thessalonica.

The Lord regularly has to remind me to look around me. To open my eyes to the men and women in my church who are fighting beside me, and the men and women in our community who are doing the same. I could list out a plethora of names of men and women who are chasing after Jesus as King, who are serving as soldiers in His battalions.

So I ask again.

Are you tired?

Are you worn out with life, not to mention the fight for the Kingdom of God?

Look behind you and look beside you.

You are not alone in the fight. Look behind you to those who came before, and look beside you to those who fight by your side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Searchlights

A long time ago when I was but a child, while at the beach in North Carolina, my family went on a walk. It was pretty late in the evening, and only the stars and our little flashlights lit the way for us. My sister decided to run on ahead (with permission) to make it back to the beach house where us and our extended family were staying. We continued our walk at a leisurely pace, but when we arrived back at the beach house, we couldn’t find her.

We all responded to this in different ways. Some of us shrugged it off, assured that she would come back around to the house. Others of us lost it, balling and freaking out (okay, this might have been me), thinking of the worst case scenarios. As the minutes ticked by, uncles and cousins and siblings continued making the trek out to the beach to yell her name and to try and find her.

We didn’t just turn on a Brian Reagan comedy special and go about our night. Rather, we continued praying and seeking.

We eventually called the non-emergency number for the police, who informed us that some Coast Guard helicopters were flying over our stretch of the beach, and that they would use their spotlights to try and locate her. In other circumstances, this would have been totally dope.

At long last, my Uncle Jay ended up being the MVP, locating her huddled up next to a sand dune a little bit down the shore from our house. She was safe. She had been found.

My entire extended family did what they could to differing degrees (I was pretty useless) to find my sister and bring her home. We were not content to just enjoy the rest of the evening, claiming that 8 out of 9 cousins being safe was a pretty good percentage.

Your community has lost people that need to be found. Your community has people that are shrouded in darkness, who need the hope-bringing light that Jesus offers. Let us not ever grow content to continue entertaining ourselves (with witty pastors rather than comedians) while we know that there’s someone out there that needs to come home.

Look with me at Scripture. Yes, it’s another passage out of 2 Corinthians (it’s been my jam lately).

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

There are two types of people in the world.

There are those who are being blinded from the light of the gospel by the enemy of our souls, Satan.

And there are those who have had God shine light into our hearts. What is this light? This light is the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This light is Jesus.

Now, let’s be brutally honest with ourselves for a second, those of us who have the light of Jesus in us.

Are we just chilling in our beach house?

Are we simply having a good time, being entertained, being fed, being with our faith family, soaking it all in? Or are we taking the light we have out onto the shore, searching for our lost friends and family members?

I’m often not.

I believe in the local church. 100%. I am finding myself more and more alone in this point of view with people my age, but it’s what I believe all the same. The local church is the method through which God reaches our communities.

That being said, our local churches can miss the mark when they’re only ever about those who are already in the family of Jesus.

I’m young, and I’m blunt, and that’s not always a good thing.

Because I’m young, I’ll let an older pastor say it his way.

Josh Howerton, a pastor in Rockwall that I am dying to be friends with, said that we as the church should do whatever it takes, barring sin, to reach the lost in our communities.

Whatever it takes.

That’s my heart. In my short time in ministry, just three years, I’ve seen tragedies and seen churches focused too much on themselves. I see my heart focused too much on itself. All too often.

My heart wants comfort. My heart wants the status quo. My heart wants easy. My heart wants to watch Brian Reagan in the beach house while eating seventeen bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But the truth is, we would not have found my sister if we simply turned on all the lights in our beach house and said come find us.

We would not have found my sister if we simply kept ourselves distracted by entertainment on the TVs or by arguing and bickering about who had claim to what food in the fridge or what room in the house.

We would not have found my sister if we told ourselves that we shouldn’t go, because it’s uncomfortable or scary or we just have never done things like that before.

No, we found my sister by lighting that shoreline up.

We did whatever it took to find her.

We did whatever it took to bring her home.

As the people of God, we have been given a gift. The light of God through Jesus that has pierced our hearts. God removed the veil that the enemy had put over our eyes.

Let us flood our communities with searchlights.

It’s time to bring the lost home.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Serving God in Cancer and Infertility

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. – Luke 1:5-7

Elizabeth and Zechariah faithfully served the Lord. The Bible describes them as righteous, walking blamelessly in all of the commands and statutes of the Lord This at first glance doesn’t seem all that extraordinary, until you reflect on two key parts of this story that the text shows us. 

First off, Elizabeth is barren and they are both in their old age. Elizabeth lived in a world where there was tremendous shame associated with barrenness, to the point of people assuming God had something against the woman who was barren. Yet despite being in such a culture and struggling with infertility, Elizabeth’s barrenness didn’t prevent her from wholeheartedly serving the Lord. That alone is astounding. Here in Elizabeth we have an example of a woman who faithfully submitted herself to God even in the midst of what many would perceive to be God’s indignation with her. 

I can’t speak for you my reader but I find it difficult to serve the Lord when I feel like the Lord has slighted me in some way. It’s hard for us to sing out his praises on Sunday morning when in the previous week tragedy has struck, whether major or minor. Yet day after day she faithfully served the Lord alongside her husband Zechariah, putting up with innumerable chide remarks regarding her barrenness from those around her no doubt. We see this because later she will proclaim that her disgrace has been taken away by God (v. 25). 

As I am typing this, memories come to mind of my dad’s former colleague and best friend, Michael O’Brien. Although the Lord has brought him home to glory, his legacy lives on in countless ways. One such way is in my memories, and one such memory stands out in my mind as I reflect on submissive worship in the midst of tragedy. 

You see, Michael had a long bout with cancer, which he eventually succumbed to. Yet in the midst of this fight, he worshiped. Day after day he worshiped while leading his family through the darkness of his own disease and when gathered publicly with other followers of Jesus his praises rang out from battered lungs. I watched him one time in a service sing out “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” This while his own cancer-battered lungs fought against him. I cannot write these paragraphs about him without fighting tears. Although I did not know him well myself, his worship and devotion to God in the midst of his own pain was worthy of emulating and worthy of admiration. 

These stories are amazing. 

When I look at Elizabeth and Zechariah, I see glimpses of Michael O’Brien. 

Let’s get back into Luke chapter one. 

Zechariah is going about his duties as a priest when it becomes his opportunity to enter the temple of the Lord. When at the altar, an angel of the Lord appears to him. . . 

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, – Luke 1:13-14

Silence. For hundreds of years the voices of the prophets have echoed away into silence. The people of God waited, hoped, and waited some more. God was seemingly far away, distant, unwilling to reside with His people. Little did anyone know that on this day, this mundane and ordinary day of service to the Lord, God would prepare the way for the greatest moment in human history. A Messiah would soon be arriving on earth, and the angel of the Lord was shining upon the darkness of one couple’s barrenness to signal the impending arrival. 

Their child was to do the following. . . 

And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. – Luke 1:16-17

This child was to prepare the way for Jesus. 

Zechariah would end up doubting the angel’s message and end up being mute until the birth of his son as a result. 

That aside though, we serve a God who faithfully visits His people in their brokenness and sin. He is not far away. Whether it is the book of Ruth or the book of Exodus, God’s timing is perfect and His purposes are great. 

Although we are not quite at Advent, my wife and I have been studying this chapter and have been in awe of God. As you head towards the holiday season, I know there are struggles you are facing. The holidays can be wonderful and beautiful, but the enemy can make them dark, brooding, and a constant reminder of what you’ve lost. 

Maybe the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah hits incredibly close to home for you, you long for a child. Maybe you are facing cancer like Michael. Maybe you have a wayward child or a tense relationship in your family. Whatever you are facing this season, meditate on the beauty of this passage. Follow the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and ultimately Jesus. Be a man or woman of God who faithfully serves God regardless of personal pain or darkness. Submit to Him.

He comes close. He brings healing and hope. Maybe it’s a child in the midst of infertility. Maybe it’s being taken home to glory. 

I long for the day when I will be in glory with Michael O’Brian. Until then, I pray that his example and the example of the Biblical characters we looked at today will spur me on to good works for God’s glory until the day my race is done. 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach 

 

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

Every day is a chance for me to sing the praises of my King. Every morning is a gift of His grace poured out on my life.

Yesterday I came across Psalm 30 in my time with the Lord and my oh my it stirred my affections for Jesus and made my heart burst with joy. The Psalms tend to do this for me. They remind me that the experiences I face day to day are not unique or isolating, but rather they are just part of being a human being. The emotions the Psalmist unpacks give me the freeing reminder that I too can be bold when I approach the throne. Why? Because of Christ.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. – Psalm 30:1

Right out of the gate I was driven to my knees. I meditated and thought long and hard about the ways that God has rescued me. The ways  He has lifted me up out of harm’s way, out of the crosshairs of my foes. Worry, jealousy, anxiety, anger, pride, defeatism. These things assault me. These things want to rejoice in their victory over me. Yet the Lord draws me up and out of the way.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Healing is found in Christ and Christ alone. He alone is the soothing medicine that my aching and broken heart needs. Just look at this wondrous truth! God heals us! He heals me! I have cried out to Him in pain and He has reached down and lifted me out, He has healed me. What a wondrous Psalm.

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. – Psalm 30:3

Relatable much?

Have you ever felt like you’re in hell? That the junk you’re walking through is beyond words, is more painful than you could have ever imagined having to face? Now I’m not incredibly well-versed in the theology of the Psalms, but in my opinion what David is describing is not the reality of us all headed toward hell outside of Christ. Rather I think this is evocative imagery, much like David will earlier say that God has forsaken him completely (Psalm 22:1).

So if you’re going through a whole lot of garbage in your life right now, rejoice that we serve and worship a God who draws us out.

By the way, rejoicing doesn’t mean immediate gratitude for horrible circumstances. Job wrestled with so much suffering before he came to a deeper intimacy with God. If you have a friend who is walking through hellish circumstances, don’t be an idiot like Job’s friends and try and find a blame for what’s happening. Listen, learn, and love.

These first three verses describe the ebb and flow of life; they emphasize and illuminate our seasons of life where God is pulling us up and out.

I am not going to cover this entire Psalm in this post, I do however want to emphasize the way that we should respond to these verses.. We realize how we should respond by looking at verses five, nine, and twelve.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:9

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! – Psalm 30:12

How do we respond when God pulls us out and up?

We find joy in that truth! Joy comes in the morning. Every day is a reminder of what God has done. Every day when I get out of bed is a reminder of what else God has pulled me up from.

We tell of His faithfulness. David pleads with the Lord not to allow him to go down to death, because if he is but dust then he can’t praise the Lord. He knows that he is called to tell of the Lord’s faithfulness. So every day that we are living should be a day where we praise the Lord and tell others of all that He has done for us and in us.

We cannot be silent! God deserves our thanks forever. Again, every single day that we exist upon earth is a day to be loud about all that God has done. God has been faithful to us, over and over.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3-5

How will all the peoples and nations of the earth praise our Risen Savior, our good and great God, if we don’t first tell them of how this God has been faithful to us?

Speak out.

Speak up.

Our social media feeds and our daily conversations need an influx of proclamations of God’s faithfulness. In a world of hatred, vitriol, and division, we can be an encouragement to those in our lives who need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

If you still feel like you’re in a pit. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping that God will begin to pull you out. His grace is always stronger than our suffering.

For those of you who are in a season where you’re out of the pit, rejoice.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

The Righteousness Of Jesus

(Tonight, we add Matt Welborn (one of my closest friends from OBU) into the mix of writers. Our blog has almost 250 followers and I’m excited to see it continue to grow with your help!)

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and righteousness. The more I read about God’s righteousness, the more I realize the depth of my own sin.

I was reading in Mark 7 recently, and I came across the passage in which Jesus and His disciples go about eating without washing their hands. The Pharisees were upset. Jesus wasn’t following the rules! How can someone be righteous if they don’t obey their elders? At first glance, maybe Jesus is in a bind here.

Yet Jesus responds to the upset Pharisees:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Mark 7:6-7

Their hearts were far from God, thus their worship was in vain.

The Pharisees were supposed to be the most righteous of all of God’s people. If I was sitting around, observing this conversation nearly two-thousand years ago, I’d be worried. The people I saw as most righteous were the same people Jesus was saying were far away from God.

I don’t want to be far away from God. At the same time, I’m not very righteous. I’m terribly unrighteous. Jesus spits a list of sins shortly thereafter:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:20-23

Yikes. I’ve definitely had evil thoughts. Sexual immorality — yeah. Theft? Well, I envy often. And I’ve stolen for sure. Murder? I’ve hated another person. Jesus says that counts. Adultery? I’ve lusted after another person. Jesus says that counts too.

I don’t really want to keep going in this list. It’s hard to look inside and see how evil my heart is and has been.

The beautiful thing, though, is Jesus knows already. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I want that. I want a clean heart. I want a right spirit.

When Jesus came to earth and lived among us, He knew our unrighteousness. He knows it more deeply and intimately than we probably will ever know. We are born into sin, far away from God. But God came to us.

Jesus came to us when we were far away.

By dying on the cross and raising from the grave, Jesus conquered sin and death and all unrighteousness. He came to exchange our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. He desires for each and every one of us to be alive in Him. To be actually, fully, completely human. Jesus wants us to walk with Him in the same way Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. Jesus invites us into relationship — even in our state of unrighteousness.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our state of unrighteousness, Jesus died for us. He defeated death and is now offering the free gift of righteousness to all who believe. What does that righteousness look like? Phillipians 4:8 tells us. This is what we get to think about and be about:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

The God of peace will be with us. Jesus gives us the Spirit of God to practice the very things above. This is a list I’d much rather embody.

Whatever is true — seeking the truth in all things. Whatever is honorable — thinking about the words that lift people up and serve the Kingdom of God. Whatever is just — the Bible is pretty clear about God’s desire for justice (and our place as seekers of justice). Whatever is pure — Jesus says during the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see God!

The list continues. Whatever is lovely — is it not pleasant to see beauty? The loveliness of the Grand Canyon, the wonder of wildflowers, the patience of your parents, the face of God. Whatever is commendable — the great acts of service: loving God, loving others, and laying aside your selfishness to serve another person. Anything excellent and worthy of praise — anything!

This is a much better list of things to think about and be about. I pray that the Spirit of God would reveal the depth of your sin, the great need you have for a Savior, and the wonderful reality of your new life in Christ. Think about the loveliness of Jesus Christ. Think about these things. Practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Matt Welborn

Where’s The Love?

I walked up to the youth room to get ready for youth group and came to notice that all the chairs were messed up for another week. Instead of having them in neat, well-manicured rows, they were in piles in the corner of the room. I frustratingly put them all back. This transpired for several weeks and my ire grew. I finally wrote a note and left it for whomever was using the room to please put everything back. I tried my best to be respectful in the letter, yet I realize that I was annoyed. What took place after that has been convicting and encouraging.

It’s a bummer sometimes that I notice after the fact how God gives me a perfect opportunity to immediately apply what I’ve been learning in Scripture to my life and I just don’t capitalize. This scenario was one such opportunity missed.

The last few weeks I’ve been attending an early morning Bible study here in town with a handful of men from the church I work at. We’ve been slowly, and I mean slowly, walking through Romans. Since I’m new to the study we’re already in Romans 12. We were dialoging just the other week about Romans 12:9-18.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. 

Wowza. That is a tough passage to measure up to for sure. Too many of our churches are full of infighting, disrespect, gossip, and slander. Too often my heart is prone to those things as well. Yet as Christians we should be fighting for one another, not against one another. We should be striving to love, bless, rejoice with, weep with, honor, respect, and be hospitable towards all who are in our faith community.

Instead, what tends to happen? When relational friction occurs, we go to other members of the church to talk all about it (seeking counsel and gossiping are decidedly different things, and we all know the difference). When someone else gets their way instead of us in something church-related or life-related we may put up a facade but are we actually rejoicing with them? For those who have any type of leadership in the church (elders, pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc.), are we loving our people or are we trying to control them?

Like I said, this passage is a lot to live up to.

And in this situation, I didn’t.

Instead of striving to respect, honor, and love those who were using the youth room, I instead got all bent out of shape for having to spend an extra seven minutes getting ready on Wednesday nights. Instead of trying to figure out who was using the room and approaching them in kindness, I hid behind a note and their anonymity.

They responded (I still don’t even know who was using the room) with love, respect, and kindness above and beyond that which I was hoping for. The day following my note they put the chairs back, put the cords to the Tv on the right inputs for my youth slides, put up all the Bibles on the shelf, vacuumed, wiped down the counters, and cleaned some downstairs as well.

I was amazed that they would go to that extent in showing love to me and our youth.

That love shines bright in the darkness of our societal and cultural norms. What I mean by this is that we live in a culture saturated with disrespect, disdain, and division. I can hardly stand to get on social media anymore as it breaks my heart that there is so much hatred in our world. One cannot disagree with another anymore without attacking them, slandering them, making fun of them, clapping back at them, or generally mocking them. It’s heartbreaking. Kids disrespecting leaders, those leaders disrespecting kids. Neighbors and ‘friends’ engaged in hateful speech towards each other, getting extra points if they’re particularly witty in their comebacks. This very week I read a comment thread where even politicians did just this.

In a world of hate and division, loving and honoring and respecting each other will go a super long way. Especially in the local church. We of all people should be the brightest example of love, even in the midst of not seeing eye to eye on all things.

Let’s all be more like this anonymous group of people that have been cleaning the youth room for our students.

Let’s love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Gentle Light

Fluorescent lights are the worst. I used to not think this way, but after a year of dating my girlfriend Jamie who despises them, I’ve come to see things from her point of view. Just about every time we FaceTime, she is in her room with just the light from the window and a lamp. Again, it used to bug me, but after a while I came to discover they’re just obnoxious and overbearing. I’d much rather go from a dark room to the gentle light of a lamp, rather than having my eyes assaulted by the behemoth fluorescent lights on the ceiling. flourescent light

Now before you check out, this blog is not about lighting preferences. I wanted to illustrate that there is gentle light, and obnoxious light.

The reality is, there are men and women, children and youth, who are sitting in our churches in darkness. They are discouraged, depressed, weak, unsure, hopeless. The list goes on and on. There are real needs in these dark situations of grief and pain, suffering and trials. These brothers and sisters in Christ need light. They need to see the light of the gospel in the darkness of their days. 1 Thessalonians tells us in 5:14 that we are to comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

How then do we speak into their lives, how do we share the light of the gospel without being obnoxious or inconsiderate?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, I believe that we are given the direction we need in order to bring this light. We are called to be the light via compassion, instruction, exhortation, and intersession (this outline is not my own).

The church at Thessalonica was under heavy persecution, and the community of believers were reeling as a result. They were nervous, unsure of their hope, scared. They had bought the lie that the ‘day of the Lord’ had arrived, and that they were left behind to suffer alongside the wicked. False teachers had entered their midst, convincing them that they were in fact in the last days. In the darkness of persecution and hopelessness, Paul wrote to them a letter of encouragement. These were professing believers who had bought lies about God’s character, God’s nature, and God’s plan for their lives. There are many today who fall into believing lies as well (me included) and need to be reminded of the truth. So how does Paul do it? How does Paul strengthen and not shame these believers? How should we do it? How should we be interacting with those of our brothers and sisters who have lost hope? How do we strengthen them rather than shame them?

Compassion 

Paul tells them in this section of his letter that they are beloved by the Lord (2:13). There is no shaming here. Paul leads by compassionately and gently reminding them of their identity in Christ.

In the thick of this darkness, Paul doesn’t barge in, throw open the windows, pull back their sheets, and drag them outside. He lights a single candle of hope, a solitary but brilliant flame of compassion. – Charles Swindoll

We are to care for the discouraged and strengthen the weak among us. Our church communities would truly overflow with Christ-like love and amazing hope if we treated the discouraged and weak among us in this way. Not shaming them and making them feel bad for feeling bad, questioning the level of their faith, but rather compassionately speaking hope into their dark hearts. Paul definitely had his moments of aggressive exhortation and frustration, but here we see him model compassion that leads to life. However, he definitely wasn’t merely compassionate to the Thessalonians.

Instruction 

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 2:14

Paul encouraged the dark souls of the Thessalonian believers with instruction in gospel truth. Theology and doctrine can go a long way to mend not only the mind, but the heart of broken believers. When there are weak and discouraged members of our spiritual family among us, we should be consistently instructing them in the truths of the gospel. Again, not in a flourescently obnoxious manner, but by gentle reminders of what is true. Jamie does this for me better than anyone, constantly calling out lies in my mind for what they are, and reminding me of truth. We should speak into darkness with compassion and instruction.

Exhortation

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Here’s where Paul takes a stark turn that we should pay attention to. He’s compassionately shared truth of the gospel, but now he exhorts the believers in Thessalonica to stand firm. We are to encourage the depressed or discouraged among us to keep fighting, to be on the assault, on the attack. The fight for faith is just that, a fight. I have been so passive too many times in my life, not taking the fight to the enemy. Paul reminds the discouraged Thessalonian believers to hold firm to the truth.

In times of pain, anguish, mourning, depression, or doubt, nothing is more stabilizing than the truth of Scripture – nothing. – Charles Swindoll 

We should exhort the weak and discouraged among us to stand firm and hold to the truths of God in Scripture (remember this should be done compassionately).

Intercession 

Paul concludes this section with a prayer (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Pray, pray, pray. When you are aware of a brother or sister suffering in the darkness, pray for them. Prayer has power. Even the knowledge that others are praying for me can go a long way to bring a little bit more light into my life.

Paul in this passage doesn’t pray for the suffering of the Thessalonians to end, for their dark days to suddenly be complete. Rather, he prays that God would comfort them by reminding them of who they are and what they have in Christ. When we suffer, we want immediate rescue. Paul understood that suffering leads to greater faith.

If you have a member of your faith community whose hope is shrouded in darkness, reach out to them. Be compassionate, instruct them, exhort them, and don’t forget to intercede for them.

If you are in a dark season, remember Scripture, remember truth, and remember that the Lord is for you and not against you.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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