Squirrels, Lions, and Provision

Growing up, I went camping with my family all the time. I have had so many experiences out in nature with people I love.

I’ve encountered a coiled up western diamondback rattlesnake. On another occasion, I almost put my foot in a rattlesnake nest while climbing a rock face (thankfully someone called out to me). I have seen massive alligators up close and personal in South Texas. I’ve seen longhorn, bison, and elk. My mom and I almost got lost on a trail at dusk that we then found out was near the den of a mountain lion.

I’ve burned wood that had poison ivy on it, I’ve sat on a nest of ticks and had hundreds all over me. I’ve hiked more miles than I can count and eaten more graham crackers (while the normal people ate smores) than some have in a lifetime.

These fun experiences led to memories I cherish.

Yet, these times in nature were an opportunity for me to encounter God.

Hebrews 1 teaches us that God has spoken to His people through the prophets and now through the Son.

Yet when you pay attention to Scripture, you see that God often speaks to us through His good creation. Or rather, creation testifies to His character and nature.

Psalm 104 is a song about how God has orchestrated creation to give Himself glory and praise. The psalmist draws attention to many different realities of the natural world that point to the supernatural Creator behind the scenes.

Meditate on it. Meditate on this psalm that testifies to God’s greatness and goodness, His provision and protection.

Watch nature documentaries that show you the wonders of the animal kingdom that spans the globe, the intricacies of inter-species relationships. I’ve been watching Our Planet on Netflix and have been in awe of the wonders of creation. God has been teaching me things and illustrating things for me even through watching that show.

For instance, ministers are a lot like flamingos (but that’s a blog post for another time).

Get out in creation. Take a day trip to a local state park and search for the hand of God in the world He has made.

As I’ve meditated on Psalm 104 recently, the following verse has been very impactful.

The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. – Psalm 104:21

Here’s what that communicates to me about God.

God cares for beasts. God provides for them. God allows them to find food. Now, do lions have the awareness that they are receiving only that which God has given them?

Certainly not.

But it’s no less true.

God cares for them as their provider.

In fact, this psalm teaches that all of creation is provided for by God.

The earth is full of your creatures. . . all of them wait for you to give them their food at the right time. When you give it to them, they gather it; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. – Psalm 104:24b, 27-28

God provides food for all of His creatures, big and small.

According to the psalmist, that extends to us. When we have food and wine, God orchestrated the events that got those things to our table (Psalm 104:14-15).

You, brother or sister in Christ, are the crown jewel of God’s creation. You are cared for by the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and feeds the mouths of young lions.

I encourage you to seek God in creation.

Go outside.

I’m planning a trip to the Wichita Mountains (a semi-local wildlife refuge) in the next week or two in order to just see God’s creation on display. While thinking through this psalm, I wrote the following in my journal:

“God created, fashioned, founded, and formed the earth. The earth itself testifies to its Creator. I need to get off my phone and see it.”

I don’t know what acknowledging God’s creation may look like in your life. But I encourage you to do what you can.

It’s all around us.

I have squirrels that run across the roof of my house every day. And every time I hear them is an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that God provides for them. And if He provides for them, how much more so will He provide for me.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Reasons Why Not To Watch

Yesterday, the second season of “13 Reasons Why” came onto Netflix. As a youth pastor, it pains me to acknowledge that many of my students will be filling their minds and hearts with its content over the coming weeks and months. I acknowledge that my conscience and conviction about the following is not something you have to agree with me on. However, after exploring the content of this show’s second season, I am pleading with teenagers and adults alike to not watch this show.

Here are some reasons not to watch.

It is full of obscene talk about sex and pornographic material. 

When I first saw the trailers about this show coming out, I legitimately considered watching it on VidAngel (a great resource by the way). After reviewing the content however, I realized that if I was to take out the obscene talk about sex and the pornographic scenes, I would be left at times with a disjointed show that makes little sense. This show is laced with tons of obscenities, vulgar talk about sex and sexual acts, and then the occasional scene depicting such acts.

The argument that is made by many regarding this stuff is that it’s already in the schools and in the ‘real world’ so it’s okay to partake in and support in the entertainment world. I can’t disagree more. All that logic does is keep the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality that has seeped in even to countless adult men. There are countless men who claim Christ yet still speak and make a joke of this sacred marital gift like crazy. I believe that pains the heart of God.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29

I am horribly bad at this sometimes. While maybe not explicit, my conversations can be unwholesome and not beneficial. When I fill my mind and heart with this talk, it inevitably comes out.

It is not beneficial to my personal walk with Christ (we may disagree here).

Any choice we make, we should ask if it is beneficial to our walk with Christ. Especially in the gray matters of life.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

There are gray matters, the Bible doesn’t say don’t watch this show. But the Bible does say to make choices based on rather or not they are beneficial to your walk with Jesus. I can say that in my life, it is not beneficial at all (more on this later).

It has graphic depictions of sexual assault.

This show is known for this. There were two scenes of sexual assault in the first season and they brought one into this season as well. The curators of this content claim it is for the purpose of raising awareness and leading to conversation. I may slightly agree here because this topic is not well talked about in our churches, despite it happening more often than we care to admit. That being said, the graphic visuals of these moments have literally led people to vomit.

I understand that the Bible has its share of these moments as well. When you read Genesis and Judges in particular there are horrifying gruesome moments of sexual assault and torture that make the show’s moments pale in comparison. However, these have a purpose. They are vile and evil but they accentuate God’s grace and are to point to a hope when God will make all things right and new. This is something the show fails to do……

It is seemingly utterly devoid of hope (spoiler alert). 

 

 

Everything I’ve seen about the show (people’s responses to it) has pinpointed the fact that there is little hope. The main ‘villain’ gets three months probation for his brutal rapes, the other vile character commits sexual assault in the last episode and isn’t brought to justice. The main character is haunted by hallucinations of the young girl who committed suicide (depicted graphically mind you) in the previous season. The final scene includes several characters stopping what would have been a horrible school shooting, yet they are left with the gun as the police are almost on site. All of this pain and obscenity and vulgarity and horribleness is devoid of hope.

You can make the real world argument again, but I disagree. If we truly believe in Christ, then we have hope. When horrible things happen, we can remember that God is good and great and while we don’t understand evil we know that one day God will make everything right. It is our hope in the midst of tragedy that sets Christians apart.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy. Namely, Christ. There is nothing wrong with being aware of the darkness, but we are called to dwell on the light. For me, 15 hours of hopeless and vile tv is not the way to practice that.

It cannot be received with thanksgiving (again, we may disagree here). 

Lastly, for me, Scripture makes another point about the grey areas.

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4-5 

This world is full of good gifts. This world is full of things that can be received with thanksgiving. My conscience is not allowing me to watch this show because I don’t believe it can be received with thanksgiving based on the word of God.

In conclusion, I’m a youth pastor. I have been in real life conversations and situations that are more weighty than anything in this show, leading to tears in my eyes when I conclude my day. It is my hope in Christ that keeps me going, that gets me up to face the next day, to continue fighting for and praying for my students. I don’t need a 15 hour vulgarity-fest to be aware of the darkness of this world. I am pleading with you to think long and hard before you support this show.

If you are watching it for the way it raises awareness, that is a slacktivist approach. If you want to genuinely and truly be active in the public sphere about this, get involved at your local Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Have a conversation with a student in your midst.

Again, you may not agree with me here. If that is the case, I am all for having a conversation with you about it. I simply ask you to make it a respect-laced conversation and not one of villianization. I have attempted in this blog to say what is my conviction regarding this material without villianizing those who may choose to disagree with me. I respectfully ask you to treat me with the same respect.

In His Name,

Nate Roach