The Good Shepherd

There is nothing like children’s camp to reinvigorate one’s faith. Three days with nothing but the laughter and love of children is an encouraging thing.

After spending a week with the students at camp earlier in July, I honestly was not that enthused to leave my wife and go back with the children. However, after all has been said and done, I am overjoyed that I got to be a part of this week.

Let’s get the what in the world moments out of the way. Here were some of my favorites:

  • the kid who conveniently lost his body wash, shampoo, and towel the entire week until approximately two minutes before we left for home.
  • the kid who refused to change out of his Minecraft pajamas for three days straight.
  • the kid who told me he wanted to talk to me about spiritual matters but decided not to because and I quote, “When I look at you, I’m reminded of a cheese I had a long time ago that was disgusting. So I can’t look at you without thinking about cheese.”
  • the kid who sat me down one morning and told me all the reasons he should be given the servant leader award that we passed out at camp
  • the kid who had some of the utterly worst gas I have ever smelled in my entire life, and who committed countless atrocities of that nature in the evenings.

Again, there’s nothing like church camp with a couple dozen little ones.

Seeing their faith though I was challenged and reminded of what it was like when I first put my faith in Jesus for the first time at a young age. These kids desired the Lord. They desired Jesus and they desired to grow closer to Jesus. We had one kid that so wanted to experience God that he would come back and talk to us after each evening service about how he wanted to be better at prayer and studying God’s Word.

It was invigorating.

It also tied in perfectly with what I’m going to be teaching tomorrow to the youth in my Sunday School class.

Tomorrow we’re going to be looking at John 10 and the role of Jesus in our lives and the role we play as a sheep.

I’m stoked to see so much spiritual growth in the lives of countless kids, and I’ve already ranted previously about what we as adults need to be doing to set the example for them (Changing Our Community). I want to briefly focus on childlike faith and what we all can do to better be like the kids in our church.

John 10:1-21 teaches us all that Jesus does for us, in His self-proclaimed role as the Good Shepherd:

  • He calls His sheep by name
  • He goes before His sheep, leading them
  • He leads His sheep into abundant life
  • He lays down His life for His sheep
  • He protects His sheep from harm

Here’s how we are to respond. We are to respond like sheep.

When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:4

All that this passage says that we have to do is simply follow Him. That’s it. He promises to provide for us and protect us.

The proverbial thorn in my side when it comes to sin struggles is worry, fearfully playing what if games of all that could possibly happen. I’ll go long stretches of time with none of this, but then it’ll come back with a vengeance, especially when I’m outside of community with brothers in Christ. So when a Facebook post went viral in Vernon regarding a dangerous man attacking a couple teenagers, my mind immediately went to the what ifs of my wife and myself and safety, etc. There’s nothing wrong with occasional pangs of worry, but it often becomes a sinful practice of disbelieving God’s ability to protect and provide.

Growing up, if my dad was around, I felt safe. No matter what. We could be in pitch black darkness surrounded by blood-hungry enemies and I guarantee you I would feel totally safe. Because I knew my dad could protect me. I knew my dad would provide for me. Because I knew my dad loved me.

This passage should cast all worry and anxiety from our minds. Our hearts. I know I’m not alone in falling into sinful levels of worry. I know that I’m not alone in having to train my mind and heart.

Here’s what I love about kids. Most of them don’t worry about a thing. They are full of vigor and wonder and excitement and awe and trust.

I saw many of them put their trust in Jesus for the first time, and I’ve already seen many of them living out this trust back home.

As adults, let us be men and women who put their trust in our Good Shepherd. God desires to answer the prayers of His people especially when they are in line with His will which is illuminated for us in Scripture. A prayer I need to commit to praying is that God would give me confidence and security in His love for me. This is a prayer I recently read in a Bible study of mine and it’s simplicity is freeing.

If you are like me and worry, pray for confidence in His love.

If you are like me, God has proven himself to you time and time again. You don’t have clarity on all that has happened in your life but you know that He has been faithful to provide and protect.

I was reminded after five days with the kids at camp that I need to become like a child and trust Him.

I felt safe with my dad.

I can feel even safer with my Heavenly Father, with Jesus as my Good Shepherd.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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A Model Church

1 Thessalonians is a book of the Bible that sometimes goes unnoticed, unless you’re talking about end times and the like. But embedded in the book of 1 Thessalonians is a picture of what a model church should look like (a church that is being talked about all throughout the region [vv. 7-10]). Taking a cursory glance at the first chapter of this book will show us three truths that I pray are present in the church that I am a part of. My intention is not to tease out every theological truth present in this passage. Rather I pray that through reading this short synopsis, your heart would be stirred and that you would commit to laboring after Jesus over the coming days. I’d encourage you to have your Bible open as we dive in together. fbc

BE COMMITTED TO CHRIST. 

In verse three, Paul praises the church at Thessalonica for their work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is praising this church for their commitment to Christ. The lie we can so often fall into is that the Christian’s walk is one of ease, slumber, and natural growth in godliness.

This is simply not the case. Becoming more like Christ takes work. Discipleship is labor, it is work, and it takes endurance. In a previous blog on Psalm 1, I acknowledged the fact that I am prone to drifting away from the Lord when I’m not being intentional in my spiritual disciplines. Yes, there are seasons of my life where I’m walking closely with Jesus and am naturally desiring to come into His presence. But what normally happens is that when I don’t start my day in His Word with focus and drive, I’m going to neglect His Word, I’m going to neglect prayer.

The church at Thessalonica was known for the way that they were committed to Christ, even in the midst of severe suffering (v. 6). As we move ever closer to the return of Jesus, suffering will continue to rise for our faith. I’m not naive and I don’t have a persecution complex. We in America have it easy in regards to how we’re treated for our faith in Jesus. But should suffering come to Vernon, Texas, my prayer is that we would be a body of believers joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ, because we are just that committed to Him.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR CONGREGATION. 

You are going to disagree with people in the church you attend. I disagree with people in the church where I serve as a youth pastor. Here’s what I know to be true though, I am called to love, support, and equip every single person who is a member of my local congregation of Christ-followers.

The church at Thessalonica was known for its commitment to one another. Not only that, but Paul and Silas and Timothy set an example for how to serve the church, as verse five will tell us our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. The rest of this book will tease out just how Paul and his companions lived among the church of Thessalonica, but we do know that they lived with fatherly discipline, motherly nurturing and care, and brotherly love.

Not only that, but the Thessalonians would become imitators of them and thus of the Lord.

In a world that is fractured by divisions, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ that we could paint as the body of Christ is one of unity, love, of outdoing one another in honor and respect and service. We are not called to agree on how we worship, how we vote, how we parent, etc. We are called to love one another. So be committed to your congregation. Every member.

My prayer is that FBC Vernon would become a place known for its unity and its commitment to one another.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY.

The Thessalonians church was also committed to its community. It was well known for the way that they were turning from idols and serving the living and true God (v. 10). They were not silent about their faith. They definitely had struggles and fears, as they worried that the Lord had already come back and had simply left them in need. But they still served their community to the point where their church became well known all throughout Macedonia and Achaia.

This is hard to do sometimes. But the church should not be outside the community it finds itself in. Rather, the church should mirror the community. By no means are we to sacrifice truth or the gospel message in order to reach our neighborhoods for Jesus. Instead, we should be bodies of believers that are more focused on serving the people outside of it’s walls than it is hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to make all things new at the end of time.

Paul is writing this letter in hopes of stirring up the hearts of the Thessalonian church to  be focused in their present purpose, even as they place their faith in the future hope of Christ’s return.

May we fight the desire to hunker down and wait out the rest of our days. May we be men and women of Jesus Christ who charge forward into our communities, meeting needs and ministering to people who are messy, just as Jesus did.

The church at Thessalonica was a model church. They were committed to Christ. They were committed to their congregation. Lastly, they were committed to their community.

It is my daily prayer that FBC Vernon becomes a place known for these three distinctives as well.

For my followers who do not live here in Vernon, may your church become known for these three distinctives as well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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