Put Away The Felt Boards

Murder. Sex. Betrayals. Deception. Intrigue. Death. Destruction. Wrath. Incest. Sexual Brokenness.

Welcome to the book of Genesis.

When I have read Genesis up close and personal, I’ve seen how dark and dreary much of the story of God’s people really is, from page one.

We tend to stay above the mess when we discuss this book. We talk about (and bicker about) the creation narrative, we discuss the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, and Joseph.

There is a place for that. Absolutely. I don’t believe young children need to be immersed in the chaos.

That being said, there is a place for slowing down and sitting in the darkness of these narratives.

Have you ever read through the book of Genesis slowly? Have you ever studied it with the help of a commentary or Bible study guide? Or is your familiarity with Genesis limited to the Sunday school stories you heard growing up?

I want to encourage you and invite you to look closely at this beginning book of the Bible.

The first thing you need to grasp when you read the book of Genesis is that this is not a history textbook. If you read the book of Genesis like a history textbook, you will be confused and asking a thousand questions about the text. The book of Genesis leads to a whole litany of questions that it doesn’t answer.

The book of Genesis is not primarily telling history in regards to facts and figures, dates and locations.

Rather the book of Genesis is inviting you to encounter God.

Genesis is inviting you the modern Christian to find yourself in the story of God’s people and to encounter the God who made everything, who gave grace in the midst of disgusting sin, who called and chose a family to be His own.

Genesis is inviting you the modern Christian to find yourself in the story of God’s people and to encounter the God who made everything, who gave grace in the midst of disgusting sin, who called and chose a family to be His own.

The book of Genesis is not to be read like a modern novel either. Genesis is full of drastically different genres. There are genealogical lists, prayers and petitions, poems, and copious amounts of stories focused on particular people in specific circumstances (see Basic Bible Commentary: Genesis).

We also have to remember that the contents of Genesis were likely passed down from generation to generation orally before they ever came to be written down.

That being said, we see in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) itself acknowledgments that Moses wrote down certain laws, as well as the existence of historical accounts (again, Genesis is not one):

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” – Exodus 17:14

That is why the Book of the Wars of the Lord says: “. . . Zahab in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon – Numbers 21:14

I would love to read the Book of the Wars of the Lord. That would be such an interesting history book.

We don’t have that though.

What we do have is a theology book, a family history, a story of God and His people.

The book of Genesis is all about God’s relationship with His people. See more on this below:

My blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page and podcast will all have material out of the book of Genesis in the coming months (with more personal lessons and thoughts interspersed).

I encourage you again to put away the felt board Sunday school stories and instead dive deep into the dark narrative that is the book of Genesis, the story of God and His people.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Light Of Jesus

Light.

Darkness.

Black.

White.

Truth.

Falsehood.

The days of clearly defined morality and truth in our culture seems to be utterly long gone now. There is no longer right or wrong, there is simply opinion and speculation. There is a grayness to just about every subject under the sun these days. This has become part of our world around us, and it has made its way into the church.

As a youth pastor, I see my students growing up in a world that is distinctly different from the one that I grew up in. I grew up with an innate sense of what is right and wrong, of what is Scriptural. My students are growing up in a culture and world where the Bible no longer has any weight in public spheres and philosophical conversations of this nature. I see them every Sunday struggle with the definitive truth of Scripture and how accepting this definitive truth would make them ostracized and bigots in the eyes of their peers. I feel it. I know they feel it too.

Now I am not saying woe is me I’m persecuted for my stance on Scripture and truth. By no means. I am simply saying that I am willing to accept the label of being ‘old-fashioned’ and maybe even foolish in the eyes of some for putting all my eggs in the inerrancy and reliability of Scripture basket. And for my students it’s far worse, far more difficult.

We have concocted a world where truth is defined by the individual, whereas the Bible makes it clear that God defines what is true, not our feelings or opinions or biases or perceptions.

Please hear my heart. The inability to see my heart is one of my least favorite aspects of blogging. With just words on a page I can appear to be saying or implying things I’m not. My heart is that I wholeheartedly acknowledge my own biases and assumptions and positions that I bring into Scripture. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my opinion on all matters is wholly in line with God, but I will humbly stand on the belief that the Scriptures drive my beliefs and I will not back down from them.

I am trying not to write a 4000 word intro, so let me get to my point.

In John 8, the Bible makes it explicitly clear that Jesus is the answer, that Jesus is the Light in the midst of moral darkness, that Jesus is the direction we all need. He is our light.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. – John 8:12

You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. – John 8:15-16

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. – John 8:26

There is a whole lot more at work in this passage, but I want to address some things out of these particular verses. Essentially Jesus makes this proclamation that He is the Light and the direction in the darkness. The Pharisees question his claim because their law said their must be two witnesses to prove anything, and Jesus comes back by saying the Father testifies alongside Him, affirming His claim to be the Light. Lastly, Jesus responds to even more questions that they have by stating that His Father is true, and that He simply proclaims that which His Father says to Him.

Now let me be clear that the Bible is not my God.

That being said, I believe that God (Jesus. Man the trinity is confusing.) speaks to us through His Word. All of it, not just the red words. The Bible is all about Him. The entirety of Scripture conveys his heart, not just the sermon on the mount through Revelation. Obviously the gospels give us a clarified and condensed view of Him, but all of Scripture points to him.

We in the church have followed the maxim, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But that is such an incredibly wrong maxim to follow. That makes truth built upon our feelings and beliefs. So for instance if I am struggling with greed, I can start to nuance Scripture so that it doesn’t explicitly say that greed is sin, I can start to cave to the American Dream which practically says that greed is a win in business and in life. I can listen to theologians who say that whatever dude wrote the parts of Scripture that call greed sin was just saturating the text with his own opinions. I can let my feelings lead me into disbelief. So God might say it in Scripture, but because I don’t believe that, I don’t live it out.

In my humble opinion, that is what’s wrong with our churches today. We have stripped the Bible of its inerrancy, and replaced it with a Bible that is like a choose your own adventure book where you the reader determine what is true.

In my humble opinion, where does that road end?

If you follow things out to their logical conclusion, eventually we will make the very words of God spoken to us nothing more than suggestions.

It reminds me of that scene in Pirates of The Caribbean where Elizabeth Swan is taken captive despite evoking the rights of the pirate code, to which Barbossa responds “they are more like guidelines”. Now I know the Bible isn’t a pirate code, and maybe that doesn’t make any sense. But either the Bible is authoritative or it’s not.

I’m digressing.

We should be those who follow the maxim that if God says it, that settles it. What God says is true regardless of my feelings or what I believe.

In the midst of darkness, I point my students to the light of Jesus on display in His Word.

We live in the realm of darkness, but we can trust in the light of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Pump And Dump

This week has been Vacation Bible School week at the church I serve at. I am utterly exhausted, but my heart is full. I have desperately tried to keep up with the motions that accompany our theme songs for the week, I’ve played some mad games of Four Corners with the younger kids, and squabbled about the rules of Capture the Flag (or in this case, sponge) with the older kids.

I am saddened by how many men or women become crusty and somber due to studying theology, and Vacation Bible School is a refreshing way to break out of this in my own heart. I leave my office and my studies and interact with kids whose faith is encouraging and worthy of praise (all while eating plenty of cheese puffs and nachos along the way).

Last night I was able to be a part of a conversation in which a young child put their faith in Jesus for the first time. It was encouraging and exciting to be in the room when this happened, but it was also convicting. You see, I think it’s easy to come into discipleship with the exact same mentality as I came into my Psychology exams back in college.

What I mean is the ol’ pump and dump routine.

Generally my routine of studying for Psychology consisted of quizzing myself repeatedly with note cards the day before the exam, followed by regurgitating all of that on my test. If you asked me the following week about a definition, I would have no idea, it would likely already be forgotten. While this got me through Psychology, this is a horrendous way to do discipleship. Yet, if we’re being honest, if I’m being honest, we do discipleship like this sometimes in our churches.

We host a VBS, we host an Evangelism Sunday, we take students to Summer Camp or D-Now. We see God move in the lives of people in our community, then we pat them on the back, more or less saying good luck walking out your faith now. As long as we can post on Facebook or Instagram about the number of salvations, we’re not concerned about follow up and discipleship. I see no example of this type of pump and dump discipleship in Scripture. It’s painfully convicting to acknowledge in my own heart that I’ve been prone to be this way at times as well.

May we be churches that don’t settle for students coming to the altar and giving their lives to Jesus or kids having a conversation about the gospel with their counselor leading to the same. This is a wonderful, praise-worthy thing, the salvation of souls! However, we must not pump them up and then dump them out once the week is over and we’re back into our normal routine. There are many reasons for people departing from the faith, and every individual is individually responsible, but dumping kids and students and even adults off after they make a salvation decision is immensely detrimental to their spiritual growth.

Yes, the Spirit of God is what is ultimately responsible for the growth of the Christian through prayer and time in His Word. However, we are designed for community, created in such a way where we are able to flourish spiritually when someone is guiding us and leading us. We are woefully bad at times as the church at not doing this part of discipleship. We get them in the door and get them saved but we don’t walk through them how to think, feel, and act as a Christian. No wonder we have men and women in our churches who have come to programs and services for decades yet are still infants spiritually.

We must avoid pump and dump salvations. We must strive for discipleship.

The question of what discipleship is has been coming up a lot recently in my discussions with friends and fellow ministers. I look at a room full of people and I wonder how to get them from pews to God-honoring discipleship relationships. We have men and women in our churches who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully, but a vast majority of them are not in discipleship relationships.

Discipleship is pretty simple in my mind, at least at its core.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

That’s discipleship at its core for me. It’s me walking alongside someone, imitating their faith as they imitate Christ. It can look like a myriad of different things based on the relationship and situation, but it should always be life on life. Some of the most influential men in my life have been men who shared their faith while also sharing their home, family, struggles, and habits. Sometimes it looked like meeting weekly, sometimes it looked like tagging along while he went to pay utility bills for his home. Discipleship is not something that is for only the most experienced believers. It is for all who profess faith in Jesus.

My prayer for my community and my church is that older men will disciple, invest in, pray for, and commune with younger men, and same with the women. I don’t see a whole lot of that. We’ve mystified discipleship and it doesn’t need to be that way. We’ve made it for the elite saints instead of the everyday followers of Jesus.

My prayer is that myself and other members of our church will continue to walk with the young boy that professed faith in Jesus last night. My prayer is that we avoid pump and dump events.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never been discipled, I apologize on behalf of the church. My prayer is that you would encounter and partake in a relationship with another believer that grows you in your faith. A good step for you may be to step out of your comfort zone and ask an older believer if you can imitate them in their faith.

Let’s be disciples who make disciples.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach