Were You There When?

Where were you when the twin towers fell?

I distinctly remember where I was. I was in second grade at the Episcopal School in Wichita Falls, Texas. I don’t remember what subject I was in at the time, but I remember getting interrupted as the teachers wheeled in a tv for us to watch live this act of terror (maybe not the best choice by the teachers at the time).

What is crazy to me is that I regularly interact with students now that weren’t even alive on that fateful day.

Yet, they could still tell me most of the details surrounding the attack.

Why? Because through YouTube videos, documentaries, museums, and reflection, they have been discipled in the knowledge of that event. They know what it reflects, proclaims, and means for our country. Through these remembrances, they become part of a people that have been formed by that event.

On a lighter note, I think of Texas Rangers fans. I am not really a huge baseball fan anymore, but I grew up in a Rangers household. So although it happened long before I was born, I can tell you the details surrounding the Nolan Ryan beatdown of Robin Ventura.

Why? Because for quite some time before every Rangers home game, they played a hype video giving glimpses of all of these great moments in Rangers history, and that was included in it. Every game I went to with my family, I was being discipled in the knowledge of Rangers lore.

Church, we are being discipled. At all times. We are constantly being indoctrinated through reflection and collective memories.

The church was made for doing the same. When we come together as followers of Jesus on Sunday mornings, everything we do should be helping us collectively look back at the history of God’s people. Not only that, we should find our place in their midst.

The book of Deuteronomy is avoided by many. It appears dry, rote, religious in all the wrong ways. But if you actually look closely, there is so much beauty in it. There is a really short, easy to read, great book on the subject called Invited To Know God if you’re in to reading. I’m really only merely regurgitating what it talks about.

But anyway, in chapter six of Deuteronomy we see the following passage, one that drives so much of my vision for the ministries I serve in at my church.

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. – Deuteronomy 6:20-24

I mean, that’s beautiful.

Don’t forget that Moses is addressing the children of the Exodus generation. The generation that was brought out of Egypt died away in the wilderness due to their disobedience and unfaithfulness. These are their children Moses is speaking to. And yet, he encourages them to say ‘we were Pharaoh’s slaves’. Why? Because they were to find themselves in the story.

Church, we are to find ourselves in the story of God’s people.

It is popular in our current day and age to make Christianity nothing more than a private relationship with Jesus. And yet, that is not even remotely Biblical. The anti-religion version of Christianity causes us to miss out on the beauty of finding ourselves in the story of God’s people, from the time of Abraham to the time of Martin Luther to today. What a rich heritage we have.

This passage out of Deuteronomy is an invitation.

It is an invitation to be with God.

It is an invitation to be with God by focusing on what God has done, both individually and in our families.

If we as families are truly allegiant to Jesus as Lord over all in our lives, we are going to look distinct, different, even weird to the world around us. When kids, friends, neighbors, co-workers question why it is that we live the way that we do, we can tell them the story.

God drew the people of God out of Egypt, to draw them in to relationship with Him.

In the same way, God drew us out of our bondage to sin, in order to draw us into relationship with Him.

That’s our story.

And as we reflect on our story, we are drawn into obedience. Did you notice that?

Verse twenty-four described the fact that God gave them as a people commandments and statutes to follow. But that obedience was to always come after remembering the story!

That gets me pumped. Seriously, that’s powerful.

The call to holiness that the Bible lays before me is in the context of what God has done for me. If we don’t place ourselves in the story, the beauty of that call fades.

We must teach and preach the story.

That’s what I’m becoming passionate about. I want those I serve to know the story. Telling them how they are to live does nothing. Telling them the story of all that God has done leads to a desire for obedience.

Yahweh’s call upon their (our) lives is not random or arbitrary but born of his past goodness… By telling the redemption story, therefore, each new generation joins the story and learns to love the Lord in this way. – A.J. Culp 

You’re being discipled, brought into a story.

Make it the story of the Bible.

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In His Name,

Nathan Roach

A Man Named Job

The book of Job teaches us a whole lot about God, the world, our enemy, suffering, sin, friendship, and humility. If you didn’t get the chance to read my post from yesterday, I would encourage you to do so. It will give you some guidance on how to approach the book of Job, and it will provide you with some brief background information (Suffering And Sin).

Let’s dive in.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:1-5

That is all that we’re going to cover today. This narrative introduction in the book of Job sets the stage for all that is to follow. In these five verses, we see some things about Job that will come in handy down the road. I would encourage you to leave any preconceived notions about Job behind as we dig in together.

I know that for me, I had a cookie cutter version of Job in mind growing up. I thought that he was a near perfect man who was given a bad hand. I thought that all he did was righteous and right. That’s not the case necessarily. So, deconstruct any image of Job that you have, and let’s build him back up together as we look at the text.

Who Was Job?

We don’t know a ton of stuff about Job from a historical point of view. While some doubt that Job was even a real person, I hold to the belief that he was. In Ezekiel 14, the prophet Ezekiel is speaking about how Jerusalem would not be spared. In verses 14 and 20 of that chapter, he mentions that even if Job were there in Jerusalem, his righteousness (and that of Noah and Daniel) would not be enough to spare the city. While this isn’t an airtight argument for the literal existence of Job, I believe it is a reminder that people knew his story.

Biblical scholars who are far smarter than me have deduced that Job lived in the time of the patriarchs (Think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). He was an extremely wealthy man, as seen by the great number of livestock that he had. I personally would be confused, rather than impressed, by a man with thousands of camels. Back in the day though, that was some serious wealth. I can’t really think of a modern equivalent, so just think, super rich.

Not only was Job wealthy, he was divinely blessed by God. When the text says that he had seven sons and three daughters, the original readers of this book would have seen those numbers to be signs of completion and divine blessing. Basically, Job is presented with the divinely given perfect family and perfect life.

Lastly, we are told that Job was righteous, blameless even. This is not to say that he was perfect. Instead, it is to say that he was a man who turned away from evil. He didn’t allow sin to fester in his life. He removed it, he repented of it, he turned from it.

Where Did Job Live?

Job lived in Uz, which was in ‘the east’. When you read ‘the east’, think the Wild Wild West. One commentator I read likened it to the edge of civilization, a romantic, often wild place. It wasn’t an empty desert, but it certainly wasn’t the center of civilization, much less Israelite civilization, in the time of the Patriarchs. This isn’t the place to go into a detailed study of exactly where this location was, but some see it as to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

Job was a God-fearer. He was a man who feared the God of the Israelites, even though he was not living with the Israelites. Anytime I read in Scripture that there are people worshipping God outside of the geographical residence of the people of God, I’m reminded that God’s Kingdom is not limited to borders, to a country. Those at the edge of civilization today are just as capable to love and fear and serve God as those of us with access to all that Western civilization has to offer.

What Did Job Do?

Lastly, we see what Job did. Now, this is where things just about immediately descend into tension and gray area.

We see that Job’s children had parties at their individual houses, something that we should NOT read as an indictment against their character. Job’s children were simply celebrating and utilizing the lavish wealth that God had blessed their family with. There is nothing in the text to assume that these were wild parties of drunkenness and licentiousness. That being said, Job made sure that they were purified. That’s why verse four tells us he would have them consecrated after their feasts.

Job would also make sacrifices to God in order to atone for the possible sins of his children. He didn’t know for sure that they had committed the grievous sin of cursing God, yet out of his love for them, he made sure to offer the Lord sacrifices on their behalf.

This is not yet explicit in the text, but there is a hint of a reciprocal view of service and blessing here. We find out later a little bit more about Job’s regular offerings, but we see already that he had what could be construed as an unhealthy view of God’s justice upon his children.

I’ll close with a quote from Craig Bartholomew.

“His greatest fear appears to be that their (his children) behavior would bring God’s judgment rather than His ongoing blessing. Therefore, part of Job’s religion was motivated by an unhealthy anxiety and fear.”

Can you relate?

Is your religious activity sometimes motivated by a fear that if you don’t offer up your prayer, time in His Word, Sunday morning attendance, or service, that you will be cursed, or at least certainly not blessed by God?

If so, as we keep going through Job, my prayer is that you will see that God is faithful. I pray that you will see He is not a God to be anxiously feared, but rather a God to be humbly trusted.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

You May Be Religious

Much has been said about the classic parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), to the point where I’m not looking to add to the discussion today. Rather, I wanted to share with you all a series of questions that I heard in a sermon I was listening to yesterday that challenged my heart and could be of use to all of us if we explored them individually.

The pastor’s name is Josh Kouri and in his treatment of the story, he zeroed in on the older son, who’s unwillingness to join the feast for his brother that had returned is an example of how we too can behave towards the grace and mercy of God. Kouri proclaimed that the older son struggled with religion rather than irreligion, and was in just as much danger of missing out on God’s love than the prodigal son who had left was.

Kouri posed the following four questions. These were his litmus test for whether or not you are living in grace or living in devotion to religion (in the bad sense of the term, the type of mind-driven rote behavior that God has disdain for).

Do I obey God to be loved by God?

Why do you follow the commands of God? Are you trying to earn his love, his affirmation, his support? We all need to pause and remember that God already loves us, that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross confirms that, and we have no fear of condemnation any longer. You can miss out on the grace of God if you get so caught up in following the commands of God in order to feel affirmed by God. It is out of the overflow of our gratitude for God’s saving work in our lives that our desire for holiness and obedience should come.

Is my identity in myself or in Jesus?

Many of us have rollercoaster spiritual lives. When we’re in God’s Word, we’re on top of the world. When sin wins the day in our lives, we feel like we’re underground. Since our commitment to holiness is more often than not sporadic, we have emotional lives that are thrown for a loop. The answer to this is remembering what Christ has done, and that our identity is SECURELY ROOTED in Him. On my best day, I’m deserving of hell. Yet because of Christ, on my worst day I’m awarded heaven.

Do I try and control God through my works?

You can’t manipulate God. But we sure do try sometimes. When trials hit we remind God of all the things we’ve done for Him. If our works are done in a way of putting God in our debt, then we misunderstand grace. God’s grace when comprehended leads to a desire for good works, but God cannot be coerced into blessing us because of our flippant faithfulness to Him.

Do I look to ‘more sinful’ people for righteousness via comparison?

This one is classic. Feeling bad about your life? Then look at your neighbor and see how much better you are. Righteousness via comparison is pathetic. We all fall short of God’s glory, so excusing sin in our lives because we think someone else’s sin is worse is hilariously ineffective in the long run.

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, which we all do in different ways at different times, then you may be religious.

Rest in God’s grace.

Repent of where you’ve tried to earn it.

Come in and enjoy the party of God’s love for you.

In His Name,

Nate Roach