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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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