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

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below!

 

 

You Deserve Wrath, Not Love

God’s love is unfailing and inexhaustible for those who are His children. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness stretches to the horizon. His grace is inexhaustible as well because of the blood of His Son poured out on the cross. His wrath is just, fierce, and poured out upon those who are not His children.

Most of us would affirm the first four sentences, leading us into worship of our wonderful King. Yet instead of worshipping God because of His wrath, we tend to apologize to the world for that aspect of His character, as if He was a moody teenager whose actions simply needed defending because He is in a phase.

I would affirm and attest however that it is the wrath of God, His just, fierce, and full wrath, that makes the gospel shine even brighter in my heart. It is true that the light of the gospel shines brighter against the backdrop of our dark and dire position before God.

I’ve heard it a bazillion times from those who think the Scriptures are archaic, untrustworthy, and unnecessary for the modern Christian. The picture is painted of a god in the Old Testament who is vengeful, violent, wrathful, angry, and moody. In steps Jesus however and the god of the Old Testament is neutered, replaced with this Son of God who comes onto the scene of human history proclaiming that God loves everybody no matter what and that we are not in danger of God’s wrath as long as we are loving and not judging.

To claim that the New Testament portrait of God is one of love rather than wrath is in my opinion impossible to reconcile with Romans 1.

Romans 1:18 says the following.

For the WRATH of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. . . (emphasis mine)

Paul certainly begins his letter to the church in Rome with gospel truths and thanksgiving for those who were called by God in Rome to be saints.

That being said, he transitions into a lengthy proclamation of God’s wrath and the fate of mankind apart from God’s wonderful grace via Christ.

Since I have been studying God’s Word, I have never undertaken to study the book of Romans. This is in part because of its length, but definitely the more terrifying aspect of it for me is its depth, how meaty and deep it is. The whole salvation debate that seems to be the rage for any newly minted self-proclaimed theologian (i.e. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.) uses much of Romans for its battleground and because of this I just didn’t want to wade into those waters (since when it comes to how God saves people my answer is I have no idea). However, it was also passages like this in Romans that I wanted to avoid having to mentally wrestle with and come to terms with. It’s easier to pretend these passages about God’s wrath are not here.

All this to say, after many years, I decided that now was the time, and so I picked up a commentary by the late R.C. Sproul and I’ve been slowly digesting this meaty chunk of Scripture. Lo and behold early on I’ve had to face this one.

God’s wrath.

Revealed. Unapologetically and explicitly said to be against mankind for their sin.

When I’ve read Romans 1 in the past, I’ve kept myself out of it. The people that Paul is talking about in this passage were the wicked and foolish men of past and present who were unwilling to submit to God as Sovereign over their lives. This time through I’m seeing that I am definitely in this passage. There’s no avoiding it. Honestly in reality I’m all over it.

Why is God’s wrath being poured out?

. . . against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:19-22 

Mankind has seen evidence of God through creation. I’m not trying to fight about apologetics or philosophy, now’s not the time or the space. I’m simply affirming what the Word of God says to be true: creation alone testifies of a Creator.

Mankind has seen evidence of God, but every single man and woman who has ever lived has suppressed the truth. Every person who has ever walked the earth has chosen to ignore the reality of God and instead live however they want. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

God is perfectly just and right. Those who refuse allegiance to Him are deserving of His wrath.

I, Nathan Patrick Roach, deserve death. I deserve separation from God for now and eternity. In the words of Lecrae, “If we all fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight”.

This dark and dire statement is where the gospel blossoms. That is why God’s wrath is necessary, and honestly is beautiful. I cannot sit here and say I understand how God’s wrath works nor can I affirm and celebrate the destruction of another. However, I can give great thanks that God extended grace to me through His Son.

Brother or sister, if you are living outside of a relationship with Jesus, then you are deserving of God’s righteous wrath. Just as I am deserving apart from Jesus.

I would plead with you to repent, to turn. We all at one point suppressed the truth of our God for our own sinful and selfish gain. Search your heart, submit to King Jesus.

Thank God for His wrath, for in it we find His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan 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

 

Private Sin

There are countless stories each and every day of well-known politicians, athletes, pastors, and entertainers falling from grace in the eyes of their followers due to the exposing of private sin. Most recent in this list is comedian Kevin Hart, who had adulterous actions caught on camera. His apology has gone viral, as has his sinful decision. Now Kevin Hart is by no means a stand-up guy, and I’m by no means endorsing any of his comedy. Portrait of Kevin Hart

His circumstances are just another reminder that we live in a world inundated with cameras, and people carry around high-quality cameras in their phones everywhere they go. There is not really private sin anymore.

In light of God’s omnipresence, there truly is no such thing as private sin.

My sinful thoughts, words, and actions happen because of a myriad of reasons, one of them being my forgetfulness about God’s presence.

If we were truly to understand that God is ever-present with us, it would bring so much encouragement and joy. At the same time however, it would hopefully give us vigilance in our fight against sin.

There is nowhere that we can go to escape from His presence.

“Am I a God who is only near” – this is the Lord’s declaration – “and not a God who is far away? Can a person hide in secret places where I cannot see him?” – the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” – the Lord’s declaration. – Jeremiah 23:23-24

God fills the heavens and the earth. There is no secret place for us as humans to hide from His presence. So much of our sin struggles would be crippled and ultimately defeated if we were able to meditate upon and get this reality of God’s omnipresence into our hearts and minds.

Pornography would hold no power over the lives of God’s people if we were to meditate upon the omnipresence of God.

Domestic violence would hold no power over the lives of God’s people if we were to meditate upon the omnipresence of God.

Deception and lack of integrity would hold no power over the lives of God’s people if we were to meditate upon the omnipresence of God.

Private sin in general would hold no power over the lives of God’s people if we were to meditate upon the omnipresence of God.

Granted, it may not always be so black and white as this. Yet I truly believe that if we were to speak about, think on, discuss, pray through, and meditate upon the omnipresence of God, we would see the glistening vices of our various sin struggles become powerless against us. Would we slip-up in our thoughts and words and actions from time to time? Probably so. But the lifestyles and repeated offenses of private sins would be removed of their power if we remembered that truth.

May we be vigilant against sin.

Every single one of us would likely hate to have our sins revealed publicly and virally to the entire world. I do not envy Kevin Hart’s situation. I do know however that I am guilty of sins that I don’t tweet or post about. There are thoughts and words and actions that are grievances against God that are not public knowledge. Every single one of us is in that boat. We must understand not only the reality of God’s knowledge about our sin, but the amazing reality of God’s forgiveness for each and every one of our sins.

We should be overflowing in thankfulness. I’ll have Jen Wilkin say it better than me:

The fact that he sees all, yet, against all expectation, stands ready to forgive should awaken a gratitude of the deepest kind, a desire to be the same person in public that we are behind closed doors – a person who thinks, acts, and speaks as one who fears the Lord. A person who understands that the limitless presence of God leaves no allowance for a life of practical atheism – professing that an omnipresent God exists and then living as if he does not. 

You could take the omnipresence of God and use it in a not so good way.

If I’m fighting against sin just because of the guilt and fear of knowing that God’s watching at all times, then I’m treating Him like a divine Santa Claus who I want to impress in order that I can receive good gifts from Him.

God isn’t a divine Santa.

(I never thought I would type that sentence ever)

However, let the omnipresence of God strengthen and encourage you in your fight against sin. Let the omnipresence of God and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit lead you into battle against the flaming arrows of Satan’s temptations and tricks. When you are faced with temptation, you can cry out to the Lord WHO IS THERE WITH YOU and find the strength to fight back. Will you be perfect in your war against sin? By no means. But you can use the omnipresence of God as an encouragement, a resource, a weapon.

Brother or sister in Christ, there is no such thing as private sin. It’s a myth.

God is with you, so be vigilant and be confident.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below.

 

Faithful But Flawed

The opening chapter of the book of Judges outlines the conquest of Canaan by the people of God. The first verse draws our attention to the book that immediately precedes this one, the book of Joshua. In that book we see God’s commands to Joshua and to His people as a whole, that they are to rely on Him for strength and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Read about this at https://nathanpatrickroachblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/israels-total-failure/

However, at the onset of the book of Judges we see the people of God begin to stray from relying on Him and Him alone for victory and strength. Instead, compromise and half-hearted obedience saturate almost every story and circumstance. Let’s take a look at Judges 1-1-2-5Judges 1:1-11.

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them. – Judges 1:1-3

The Israelites are off to a pretty rocky start. We see in these opening verses their half-way obedience. We see quickly that the Israelites were both faithful and flawed. The tribes of Israel inquire of the Lord, asking who is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites. Good start. They know that God is ultimately the One who brings victory so they ask for His guidance. However, after He answers that it should be the tribe of Judah, they don’t fully submit to the Lord. Instead the tribe of Judah immediately asks the tribe of Simeon to help. Instead of relying on God for victory, they rely on military might. The people of God choose to follow conventional wisdom instead of relying on God by faith.

Faith in God’s promises means not always following the expected, rational path. – Timothy Keller

When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem,and he died there. – Judges 1:4-7

Despite their half-way obedience, we see that God is graciously with them (His judgment will come when their faithlessness is present in everything they do). The tribes of Judah and Simeon obtain victory. They chase Adoni-Bezek (the Lord of Bezek), catching him and mutilating him. It was a violent cultural practice in that day to cut off the toes and thumbs of prisoners so that they couldn’t fight or wield a sword ever again.

There are two camps in regards to what happens here. Some theologians believe that the Israelites acted rightly in their treatment of this king. They believe that God vindicated their actions. The other camp believes that the Israelites were in the wrong, as they acted in accord with the pagan practice of the day. This second camp also uses the fact that Adoni-Bezek didn’t use the name of Yawheh, but rather just ‘god’ when talking in verse seven as affirmation of their beliefs.Judges 1-1-2-5 (3)

I fall into this second camp. I believe the mutilation of this king was another example of the Israelites acting like the other nations around them, instead of being set apart. However, this is just an opinion.

This is not to say that God never repays the wicked for what they have done. Look for instance at Psalm 64.

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. . . But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. – Psalm 64:2-4, 7-8

So yes, there is tension between God’s judgment and His people’s part to play in that judgment. However, mutilation does not in my opinion fall in with God’s judgment in this situation.

God has always intended for His people to be unlike the other nations. God has always intended for His people to be an example of what God is like.

You may immediately be questioning why then that God led them into war, as that seems to be how the nations outside of the worship of God behave. We will see later in this chapter that this war is not war for war’s sake. It is an issue of idolatry and worship.

The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.  After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). – Judges 1:8-11

These final verses that we’re looking at today show that God continued to provide for His people, allowing them to for the time being achieve victory over their enemies.

God gives more grace, even when His people are undeserving.

God gives more grace to you and me, even when we too live according to what’s rational and live with a half-hearted obedience to Him.

Yet may we learn from the mistakes of God’s people in Judges and choose to rely on God in full obedience and faith.

He is worthy of our all.

He is gracious even when we’re both faithful and flawed.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

  • I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu!