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

 

Jack Pearson Is No Fool

Last night was a doozy. Not because of anything Super Bowl related, but because of This Is Us.

If you watch the show, then you know that this episode was imminent. The episode where we get all the answers and find out just how Jack Pearson dies. After the very first episode of the show, I wanted answers. I wanted to know all the gritty details. Yet as yesterday progressed and this tumultuous episode quickly approached, I realized I didn’t want to see, I didn’t want to know. Yes, this is just a TV show, but hey the best stories are the ones that suck you in and make you feel like you’re part of it all. There’s power in stories.

Anyway, I sat at my friends’ house and watched in shock and awe as the details surrounding his death finally came to light. I hid my face between two pillows as some tears were shed. I sat in silence as the end credits came, amazed at the talent of the show’s writers.

Then my mind immediately started bouncing around, seeing all the gospel glimpses in this show. I’ve written other posts about themes in the show that I think speak into the Christian walk, but this episode by far had the greatest parallels.

If you’re reading this I hope you’ve seen the episode, otherwise I’m about to ruin your day.

Jack Pearson dies as a result of running back into his family’s burning home in efforts to save his daughter’s dog and other various treasured belongings, after rescuing his family and getting them safely outside. He doesn’t die in the house, but he dies later as a result of all the smoke that he had inhaled.

While I was obviously upset and bothered by these turn of events, I didn’t think it was a dramatic or questionable call by the writers. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Jack Pearson be a pretty tremendous father and husband. It was not out of character for him to run back into the house for his family. Out of the overflow of his love for his family, he ran back in. He was no fool. It would have been tremendously foolish if there was no dog inside and he just decided to prove his love by running back in for no reason. There were items and a pet that his family cherished and so he made the call.

When a doctor later questions his decision to run back into the burning building he says, “I love the girl that loves the dog.”

I recap all of this to say, Jesus was no fool either.

Jesus going through a gruesome death on the cross for us would have been foolish if there was any other way for us to receive salvation, to experience everlasting community with God, and to atone for our sins.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. – Galatians 2:21

If righteousness in God’s eyes could be gained by our behavior, than Christ died for no purpose. If we can gain righteousness in any other way than simply God’s great grace, then Christ was a fool for dying on the cross for us.

Jesus was no fool. I make Him a fool through my lifestyle however if I rely on anything other than His grace for my right standing with Him.

It is crazy to me how fast I can get into the mindset that I can bring anything to the table. It is crazy to me how fast I can fall into believing I can earn what He has done through good moral behavior. When I fall into this mindset or worldview, the entire book of Galatians blasts like dynamite through this false belief system.

If righteousness could be gained by behavior, Christ died for no reason.

I think we need to be reminded of this daily. It’s cool how the Lord works because a TV show can bring this reminder to me. Jack Pearson died because of his love, not because he was a fool. Jesus, in a far greater way, died because of his love for us, not because he was a fool.

This is the most well-known verse ever, but it’s important:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

It was the love of God that led Jesus to the cross.

Rest in grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

If there’s any topic you want to hear me ramble about, just leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Butterflies In The Stomach

I know very little about marriage. This makes perfect sense since I’m not indeed married.  Thus you could throw this whole blog out. But, don’t. Give it a chance.

I may know absolutely nothing functionally speaking about being married, but I can say pretty definitively that the picture of marriage or relationships that we see in movies and tv shows is ridiculous and far-fetched and is ultimately setting up a generation to fail in marriage because it’s all about emotion.

I have been stuck at home for the last 48 hours due to my respiratory system being ravaged by the flu (this stuff does not mess around). This has given me ample time to read, and one such book I’ve been digging into is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book was given to me by a dear friend shortly after I got engaged to my beautiful fiancee Jamie. I had every intention of putting it at the bottom of my to-read list but the tagline got me interested fast.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

That sucked me in fast. Now I’m only a handful of chapters in, but this book has provoked a lot of thought in me about my upcoming wedding and lifelong marriage to Jamie. There’s one such aspect of the book that I want to devote this blog to, and that’s the false idea that our relationships should be built upon emotional highs or that we should value the feeling of chemistry more than anything else.

Thomas will devote an entire chapter to this ploy that media has thrown our way, saying “the concept that marriage should involve passion and fulfillment and excitement is a relatively recent development on the scale of human history, making its popular entry towards the end of the eleventh century.” It’s fascinating to me that romance or an obsession with feelings and emotion has not been a constant in conversations about love and marriage but has slowly entered the equation to eventually take over and dominate our thoughts about love in our modern age.

I grew up pretty obsessed with finding love, with finding this spark of chemistry and electricity and excitement with a girl. I was so wrapped up in this that I declared a girl my girlfriend at the ripe old age of seven. The more I watched the Disney Channel, read books, and watched movies, the more I wanted to have this cute happenstance meeting with a girl and then overcome insecurities to find a forever love. Real life wasn’t that simple. I’ve heard (although I haven’t researched this, but it sounds about right) that infatuation lasts 18 months at the most. I went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college, being infatuated with different girls but never finding lasting stability with one because I would question the relationship as soon as the feeling wore off.

Then I met Jamie, and it wasn’t love at first sight. But then after a D-Now weekend in Weatherford, we hit it off and were infatuated with one another. This helped us to get through a stint of long distance in Portland and then me taking off to the West to go to Phoenix. But then something happened at the start of 2017. It was inevitable, but I was no less prepared for it. The emotional high we got from speaking or seeing each other began to wane. The long distance lengthened the timeline for these feelings we had for one another, but sooner or later they were gone and we were faced with questions of why we should keep going.

IS THIS NOT INSANITY. In all honesty it is crazy to think that I was conditioned to put so much stock in my feelings. It’s hilarious to think that we should base the most intimate of human relationships on the least reliable thing in the world. I think that Scripture shows us that God made marriage for so much more than getting butterflies in the stomach.

I think Genesis 2:18 is about holiness not happiness.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

I genuinely believe that all human relationships are designed to make us grow more like Christ. This applies to friendships, co-workers, neighbors, etc. That being said, a marriage relationship has got to give you the greatest opportunity for growth in Christlikeness since you spend so much time with your spouse. In every other type of relationship, you can distance yourself (or at least try to) from situations that challenge your character or provoke you to change. There’s no such option in marriage (well I guess you can try to avoid it here too).

That’s what makes Gary Thomas’ tagline for his book so intriguing to me. Because I want to believe that marriage truly was made for something greater than our feelings, than companionship, than sex or happiness. I want to believe that my relationship with Jamie in the coming decades will make me more like Jesus. Right now I am able to do pretty much whatever I want outside of my work obligations. That’s going to change in 149 days. That’s going to force me to become more like Jesus in laying down my desires and wants for the sake of my spouse.

Jamie and I got through last Spring by realizing that a relationship built upon the feelings we have when we’re around each other is like building a house on the sand. We’re striving to build our relationship upon Jesus, upon spiritual growth, and I can tell you that has bonded us together much more than butterflies in the stomach (which I still get around her periodically).

I’m not anti-romance. I’m actually a schmuck when it comes to it.

But I know that a relationship built upon the lies of modern movies and television is not a stable one.

Build your marriage upon Jesus.

Build your life upon Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Missing Out

The College Football National Championship. The Greatest Showman. This Is Us or The Crown. The latest blog post, the Dosh app, essential oils, Plexus, or some other social media business scheme. All of these things are talked about by passionate people who commonly use the phrase “don’t miss out”. We can be encouraged by friends to not miss out on the latest movie, TV show, or social media fad. If we weren’t tuned into the big sporting event, our friends tell us we missed out on an incredible game. When this happens, I believe a small part of us, or of me at least, feels that in my bones.

For instance, I don’t really care all that much about the NFL. Yet I woke up this morning to a lot of notifications on social media outlets regarding the Vikings-Saints game last night. Apparently the Vikings won the game in thrilling fashion on a last-second deep touchdown pass involving some fancy footwork and poor defensive decisions. I saw comments by people about it being the best game they’d ever seen (which is almost always an exaggeration), and a part of me felt like I missed out a little. I felt this when I didn’t watch the Alabama-Georgia game either.

I’m not immune to speaking about movies and sporting events in this way to others however. Just yesterday I was raving to a fellow member of my church about the latest This Is Us episode and how intense I was. I’ve raved about The Greatest Showman. I’ve raved about the $10 Dinner Box that Pizza Hut has that’s a regular purchase of mine.

Why however do we feel impassioned to share about these things that are ultimately so trivial and insignificant, yet we struggle to share about the one thing that if people don’t know about, they will truly miss out for all eternity? I’ve been inundated with Plexus conversations and sports conversations, but even amongst Christian friends I’ve struggled to be engaged in many gospel-centered conversations of any depth.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

The Psalmist in Psalm 89 can’t help but sing of the steadfast love of God, using his mouth to make known to others the faithfulness of God extended to all generations. This is a wonderful thing. Regardless of your favorite type of Christian music, or general worship style, you can still use any hymn, contemporary worship song, or even rap in a way to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness to others. I have in my past been too quick to shut off during a time of worship at church if the worship music style isn’t too my liking. Then I realized that I was an entitled little turd that had the complete wrong idea about worship music. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about giving God praise, not about listening to music I like. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about telling the world about God’s love and faithfulness to us his people. Man, I got that wrong for so long in my life.

This little snippet out of the gospel of John is a reminder of what happens when a man or woman dies without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They won’t see life after death, instead the wrath of God will remain on them for eternity. That’s what is at stake.

If a man or woman misses a sporting event, a movie, or a TV show, nothing happens. If a man or woman misses out on a new app, Plexus, or essential oils, nothing really happens there either. If a man or woman misses out on Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel, they spend their eternity separated from God. That’s huge.

We’ve got to do a better job of opening our eyes and hearts to those who are currently walking through life without Jesus.

My enthusiasm for sports has waned over the years because I’ve begun to see them in their proper place, and I’ve begun to see the millions of people in our country that worship them. It’s saddening to see people lay down their spiritual lives for the sake of athletics, parents trading in the discipleship of their kids in church for the shot at a traveling sports team that promises their kids a chance at the pros.

Sports are not bad. They are evil when they take the god role in our lives however. I’ve seen men in so many contexts, including myself, talking about sports with abandon to everyone they can, but having their lips glued shut when it comes to speaking about their Lord and Savior.

I’m fairly bad at personal evangelism. The best I do on some weeks is to simply post on this blog and share it as a way to tell people about Jesus. I’m praying that God will continue to grow me in evangelism. I’m praying that God will lead me to speak about Jesus more than I do about trivial matters. I’m praying that God will implant in my heart a deep and growing desire to see men and women in my community connect with their Savior and thus not miss out on all that God has for them. This is my continual prayer.

Join me in praying for courage and strength to share, just as Paul had in Thessalonica.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel in the midst of much conflict. – 1 Thessalonians 2:2 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Randalling Faith

This Is Us continues to be one of my favorite shows. Randall, one of the main characters, struggles with anxiety, perfectionism, over-thinking, obsessive worry, and moments of freaking out. He is a smart dude, and a genuinely compassionate man. His consistent vice throughout the series however continues to be this life-consuming worry and over-thinking. To the point that in one episode, his wife asks him if he’s ‘randalling’. She turns his name into a verb to mean over-thinking and anxiously stressing out. It’s a humorous moment for sure. I have caught myself randalling in more than one area of my life throughout the years, but one consistent point of over-thinking is often my faith.

In his book, Perfect Sinners, Matt Fuller paints a picture of a young woman who does the same thing:

“Wendy” is obsessed with how well she’s living the Christian life. She assesses her obedience daily. She is always looking to repent of anything that doesn’t please the Lord. She daily confesses all she’s done wrong and seeks to express her love for God by obeying him. This is great! The downside is that she’s anxious and introspective. She seems happier reciting a confession than singing a hymn of praise. 

This is obviously an over the top caricature, but it is relatable. Maybe you’re like this woman. Maybe you are constantly looking at your life, evaluating your faith, evaluating your thoughts and words and actions to make sure they are honoring God. Introspection is your norm.

If this is the case, I feel you.

Since I was an early teen, much of my alone time has been spent thinking about my life, thinking about my faith. Wondering if I was doing enough, pleasing God with my life. In the early teen years, it was questioning if my faith was strong enough to make me right with God (more on that later). In college, it was wondering if I was worthy or deserving of the positions of leadership I had been granted in spiritual circles, despite my ongoing struggles with sin.

For those who struggle with randalling their faith, I totally believe it comes from sincere hearts. Hearts of men and women who have seen countless professing Christians who don’t seem to look at the fruit of their faith in any way and want to instead make sure their life is worthy of the gospel.

Here’s where randalling our faith is ridiculously stupid.

We make our faith in Jesus about US.

We turn our eyes off of Christ, the object of our faith, and instead navel-gaze and introspectively stare at ourselves, questioning the level of our faith. Been there, done that. Too many times to count.

Look at this wonderful passage with me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

What’s ironic is this is one of the passages that would normally precede much of my navel-gazing. In my desire to lay aside weight and sin, I would write, pray, and rack my brain trying to see if there was stuff to confess, change, or get rid of. Stupid Nathan, missing the point of this passage.

Yes, we are to put sin to death in our lives (Colossians 3:5-8), but that is not to consume our minds and vision to the point of missing the grace of Jesus. Just like you can be so focused on grace that you don’t put sin to death in your life, you can be so focused on putting sin to death that you forget grace that covers over your sin.

This passage pleads with us to run with endurance, looking to Jesus, who founded and will perfect our faith. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, and Colossians 3 will remind us that we too are seated with Him there.

Here are a few quick ways to take our eyes off of ourselves, how to stop randalling our faith:

  1. Community. I’ll be honest, most of my randalling happened when I was alone in my room or not in a deep, intimate community of fellow Christians who I could share my difficulties, worries, and over-thinking tendencies with. For this type of Christ-follower to be caricatured in a book on our identity is proof that you’re not alone in this type of behavior. Don’t isolate yourself with your thoughts, share them in a gospel-centered community in order to be reminding of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
  2. Sing. Way too many worship services were quasi-wasted by me in high school and college because I couldn’t sing the promises of God while simultaneously worrying if I’d earned the promises of God. In Psalm 51:15, we see David opening up his mouth in praise, not soon after being confronted by Nathan regarding his adultery and murder. SING. Even if you’re not a good singer, give God praise for the grace he has lavished upon you.
  3. Reflect. There is a healthy way to reflect if you’re like Wendy. Reflect on Christ. What he has done, the victory of the cross that frees you to confess and carry on. Don’t focus on sin that via confession is not held against you any longer.

Don’t be a Randall when it comes to your faith. Don’t freak out. Live in freedom. Don’t live in anxiety, live with joy in grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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