God’s Pursuit In Prayer

The strain on my mind and heart feels near-constant sometimes as I struggle and yearn to maintain my relationship with the Lord. There are days, weeks, entire seasons of my life where it’s a battle, a struggle, a fight to pursue the spiritual disciplines that I know will yield spiritual growth in my life. It can be exhausting to feel the pressure of pursuing God in my daily life. That’s weird to type out, but it’s no less true. 395H

In the quiet moments before sleep, my mind runs a recap of my day, and I feel the internal self- scrutinizing begin, as I question how well I pursued the things of God.

I wake up with the sun, strain to pursue God in the midst of earthly things, and run through the same self-scrutiny at the end of the day.

In the midst of these seasons, I wrestle with feeling like this shouldn’t be the case. Jesus proclaims that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Yet in every church service and small group setting, I’d be reminded of the importance of my relationship with God. I’d be reminded of the priority it should hold in my life, the priority the pursuit of spiritual disciplines should hold in my personal life. This would push me right back into the weight of feeling responsible for maintaining my relationship with God.

Maybe you’ve experienced the same feelings and struggles.

Maybe you feel an immense pressure and weight to make sure you do everything you can to maintain your relationship with God.

What shatters this weight, what sets us free to have renewed joy and energy for our days, free from the shackles of feeling wholly responsible for our own spiritual growth, is when we remind ourselves that God is a pursuing God.

Consider the following verses.

There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. – Romans 3:11

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:20

I know that I’ve stripped all three of these verses from their contextual passages, but it is widely attested and widely circulated in theological circles that all of these have implications regarding God’s pursuing grace. Most often, these verses are used in the context of salvation, of people coming to know the Lord. In this context, we see that God does the first pursuing in the onset of our relationship with Him. It is His grace that draws us to Him.

Look next at the words of Paul to the church at Galatia:

You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? – Galatians 3:1-3

Paul was combating in Galatia the doctrine of false teachers who were saying that newly converted Christians had to follow all of the Jewish laws and regulations. In essence, new believers were being told they had to adapt to Jewish culture, and become culturally Jewish in order to be right before God.

So Paul is calling the Galatian churches foolish for straying into this false doctrine. The point he is making in these verses is that God draws us to Himself when we first enter into a relationship with Him, and our continued growth in spiritual things is dependent upon His grace as well. We didn’t start our walk with Him via grace, only to be dependent upon our own flesh for the rest of our walk with Him.

HOW FREEING THIS IS.

I am incapable of pursuing God in my own strength, in my own sinful flesh. No one seeks God without God first drawing them closer to Himself.

I forget this truth, and God graciously reminds me of it time and time again. When God brings renewed vigor and understanding of this truth, it changes how I view prayer.

Prayer is easily my least practiced spiritual discipline. This is a hard admittance to make, but it is true. I can go hours in studying the Word and memorizing Scripture, but it takes all of my effort to get into my prayer closet and have personal times of prayer with the Lord. I too often begrudgingly meet my quota of prayer time because it feels like my way of maintaining the relationship.

Yet when I meditate upon the fact that God is the one pursuing me, drawing me into communion with Him, this changes prayer 100%. It is not burdensome any longer (I don’t say this as if prayer should ever be burdensome, this is merely just a confession). It is a precious and wonderful gift of God’s grace, as He draws me into deeper intimacy with Him!

Hallelujah!

What a wonderful gift! Any time I feel prompted to pray, that is God present grace. God is not distant, He is here, drawing me into communication with Him.

There is so much here, so much of God’s character that is worthy of praise.

He knows that I need Him. He knows that prayer changes my outlook, attitude, heart, mindset, and passion for Him.

Because He knows I need Him, He draws me, calls me, prompts me to pray.

Since no human heart naturally seeks God or can come to God without his drawing, no one even thinks about praying unless God is prompting or leading us to pray by his Holy Spirit… – Timothy Keller

Be encouraged.

Whenever you feel led to pray, study God’s Word, or worship with other believers, God’s grace is drawing you into deeper intimacy with Him.

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

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Focus On A Family

The story of the Israelites’ partial obedience to God is interrupted here in the first chapter with a short five verse vignette about the generosity, bravery, and boldness of one specific family.

Caleb said, “Whoever attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah to him as a wife.” So Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as his wife. When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What do you want?” She answered him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me springs also.” So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs. The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’s father-in-law, had gone up with the men of Judah from the City of Palms to the Wilderness of Judah, which was in the Negev of Arad. They went to live among the people. – Judges 1:12-16

This is a seemingly random story about Caleb’s family. Yet when we focus in on each of the three main characters in this story, we see qualities worth emulating.

Caleb

This is not the first mention of Caleb in the Bible. In Numbers 13, he was among the men who went up to spy upon the land that God had promised His people. The spies encountered giant men of renown and then returned to the people. Every spy except for Caleb and Joshua were afraid and told the people that the task was impossible. Only Joshua and Caleb stood up with courageous and radical faith, proclaiming the promises of God and insisting that with His strength they would be victorious. rod

What is all the more intriguing is the fact that Caleb was not a descendant of any tribe in Judah. He and his family came from the Kenizzites. Yet because they were such devout followers of the Lord, they were grafted into and assimilated into the tribe of Judah.

All this being said, we know that he was a man of courageous and radical faith in the Lord. He was a man who wanted his daughter to marry a man of courageous and radical faith as well. This culture had customs we may seem strange. Arranged marriages made perfect sense to this culture, and so Caleb was not devaluing his daughter when he offered her up to a willing and courageous husband.

What is worth focusing on is the fact that Caleb was kind and generous. When his daughter came to him asking for springs of water because of how barren the land was, he graciously and generously gave her more than she needed. This is evidenced by the sweeping gift of the upper and lower springs.

Othniel

Othniel was clearly a man of bravery and courage. He went up to capture Kiraith-sepher, and with the Lord’s help he did just that. It is important to note that this city and the surrounding land was land God had promised to Caleb through the lips of Joshua (Joshua 14:6-15) and not just the land-grabbing of a greedy man.

We will see in just a couple chapters that Othniel was the first judge raised up for Israel. He would lead his people into forty years of peace (spoiler alert: it doesn’t last). His bravery and courage will be on display in that passage as well.

Achsah

Achsah is seen in this story as a bold woman, a woman who was analytical and astute. She surveyed the land and realized that without springs, her family would not be able to survive for long in the desert landscape. Her character reminds me of Proverbs 31:15-16.

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. – Proverbs 31:15-16

She had a desire right off the bat to provide for her family and her estate. She asked Othniel to ask his father in law for the springs and for some reason not explicitly stated in Scripture, he didn’t. With respect balanced with boldness, Achsah takes matters into her own hands and asks Caleb for the springs herself.

Courage. Kindness. Generosity. Boldness. Faith.

In this family we see what the entire people of God should have been characterized by.

Caleb’s family is, in miniature, what all Israel should be like. – Timothy Keller

I would close by reminding you that whenever we look at characters in the Old Testament, we shouldn’t be using them as moral figures to follow. Yes, the heroes of faith in the Old Testament have some great qualities, but more often than not they have some incredible flaws as well. That will be on vibrant display in the book of Judges.

So when we see Caleb, Othniel, and Achsah in this vignette as worthy models of character, let us look beyond them, ahead of them, to the life of Christ.

 

The kindness, boldness, and generosity of Jesus can be seen, remembered, and meditated on via the lens of the kindness, boldness, and generosity of this family.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Leading Like Jesus

Leadership is a popular topic. There are tons of books, conferences, seminars, podcasts, and blogs on the topic (This is ironic since I’m about to add to all the noise). We hear of methods, practices, models, examples, and game-plans worth modeling. I know, I have several such books on my shelves at home. This subject has been on my mind lately in a big way, due to me taking on my first leadership position in ministry. I was still striving to figure out my views on the idea of leading in a Christian vocation when I came across 1 Thessalonians 2:3-12. chess

Now I preface the following blog post with two things:

  1. I am young and not that experienced, with lots of room for growth
  2. There is way more to this passage than it being a treatise on pastoral leadership, that’s just my topic for this blog. Read it not as a sermon but as a topical summary.

Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica, a church that he helped birth. They were a church of incredible faith, ever-present hope, and brotherly love. In the middle of his letter to them, Paul gives a summary of how he led them in the birth of the church, and why he led them that way.

First we see in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 some qualities that we shouldn’t have as a leader.

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you known, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6

Paul speaks as to how he didn’t lead or act when they came to Thessalonica to present the gospel. But in his speech we see a condemnation on the type of behavior he’s adamantly asserting he didn’t walk in.

  1. A leader is not to be deceptive (v. 3). Paul didn’t manipulate or have a hidden agenda. He presented the gospel in purity and simplicity. We will see later in this passage why he was so straight-forward.
  2. A leader is not to be a people-pleaser (v. 4). It’s easy to sit on the fence when it comes to big decisions, schmoozing both sides, making sure that you’re well-liked by all who are under your leadership. But a leader is not to behave in such a way, flattering for the sake of approval.
  3. A leader is not to be greedy (v. 5). There’s a lot more to greed than just financial gain. A leader should not be in the business of striving for more power, prestige, control, or praise.
  4. A leader is not to be authoritarian (v. 6). Paul and Timothy could have made elaborate demands as apostles, but they didn’t for they were not in the business of seeking personal glory. It’s easy to become dictatorship and accountability-less in leadership, especially when you’re put on a pedestal. But a leader is not to be authoritarian.

In all of this, I want us to see Jesus Christ as the better leader. He is ultimately the example, and Paul strove to emulate Christ in everything he did. So when we talk about what makes a good leader, may we look to Jesus.

Jesus was not deceptive, He had no ulterior motives in the things He did. He came boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God, the good news. Jesus was not a people-pleaser. It seems to me that any time the masses were comfortable with Him, He re-defined what it meant to follow God to the point where people were not pleased. Jesus was not greedy, He was not a glory-hog. He was constantly giving the glory to God the Father. Jesus stepped off the throne of glory, and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross.

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. – 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12

The unfortunate truth is that far too often knowledge and experience begin to cloud our compassion and love. This is too often the case in the church. Pastors lose their shepherding nature in exchange for a mind saturated with doctrine and theology. Paul shows us in this passage that we don’t need to separate the two. You can have love and compassion while also adamantly teaching right doctrine.

This list of exemplary leadership qualities that follows may make you feel like I’m writing to just pastors. While pastors and those in church leadership should definitely seek to grow these qualities, all Christians are called to emulate Christ in all we do. So regardless of what your vocation is, strive to lead like Christ.

  1. A leader should be sensitive to the needs of his followers (v. 7). Paul had a mother-like deep care for those whom he led. We too should strive to be sensitive to the needs of those we lead.
  2. A leader should value those under his care (v. 8). Paul had great brotherly affection for those who led in the church at Thessalonica. Far from treating his subordinates as just that, Paul came to love and have affection for all whom he led.
  3. A leader should be transparent and real (v. 8-10). Because of the pedestal of leadership, we can hold people at arm’s length. However, a good leader is a transparent one. We should be pointing others to Jesus, not ourselves.
  4. A leader should be encouraging (v. 11-12). Paul exhorted, encouraged, and supported those he led. Sometimes this came through hard words of hard truth, but it was always in the hopes of drawing people closer to God.

We see this in Jesus. Jesus was sensitive to the needs of His followers. He valued and treasured those who chose to follow Him. Jesus was transparent and real, allowing the disciples into his life in more than just once a week Bible meetings. They lived, ate, and had fun with Jesus. Jesus was encouraging. This came through some extremely hard teachings and harsh words. Yet all that Jesus did was to bring His followers closer to God and God’s glory.

Jesus was the better leader.

He’s worthy of following and emulating.

Lead like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

  • I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu. Also, special thanks to Charles Swindoll’s work on this passage.

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

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Waking Up

“Thank you for raising your Son from the dead, and for raising us from sleep every morning.”

This sentence rocked me this morning.

Every couple of days, my roommate and I start the day by praying through a Psalm. This morning we were reading and praying through Psalm 3.

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!17453399_1238843922899949_398781119_o
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 – Psalm 3

I love verses three through five of this Psalm. Despite being surrounded by foes who are proclaiming that David will not find salvation or rescue in God, we see a declaration of who God is out of the lips of this king who was running from his own son.

David proclaims what we know to be true about God.

  • God is our Lord – He is in control of all things, from the microscopic to the cosmic. If He is Lord, He is worthy of having dominion over every aspect of our lives.
  • God is the shield about us – in the face of many foes and attacks of the enemy of our souls, He protects us from harm
  • God is our glory – ultimately everything we do in life should be for the praise of His Name. May he be glorified in the everyday matters of our lives
  • God is the lifter of our heads – I love this one. God doesn’t let us stay discouraged or remain in the mire and the muck of our sin. He lifts up our head.

What is more beautiful is the fact that God answers the cries of our hearts. Not only does He answer them, but He answers them from His holy mountain. It is important to remember Jesus Christ in this. God is holy, and God resides in holiness. But because of Christ, we can approach God even as He resides in holiness. Our unholiness is paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross, and the holiness of Jesus has been imparted to us.

Then comes verse five. It was in response to this verse that Matt made the incredible statement quoted above.

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustains me. – Psalm 3:5

Every day is a gift. It’s easy to type those words out and not let them impact my thoughts, motives, and actions heading into each day. But that doesn’t make them any less true. In the case of David, waking each day was proof that God was protecting and sustaining him. Although the vast majority of us reading these words are not running for our lives, our waking each morning is no less an example of God’s grace poured out on us.

Each day my eyes flutter open is God choosing to give me another day to glorify His Name. Each day my eyes flutter open is an opportunity to reflect on the gospel.

“Thank you for raising your Son from the dead, and for raising us from sleep every morning.”

My prayer and hope is that the gospel of Jesus Christ will saturate into every aspect and activity in my life. My prayer and hope is that the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection would become the reflection of my heart and mind at all times.

That being said, what a beautiful way to start the day. What a beautiful way to begin a Monday morning.

What if when we first woke up we took the time to thank God for raising us from sleep by His grace, grace that is given to us only because God the Father chose to raise Jesus from death?

Can you imagine the impact that would have on our days?

Two of my biggest struggles go hand-in-hand: anger and ingratitude.

Both of these are put to rest with the gospel. Anger and ingratitude have no place in the heart of a man or woman who truly comprehend and meditate upon all that is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let’s allow the gospel to impact everything we do.

Let’s start with beginning our days by giving thanks.

Thank you God for raising your Son from the dead, and for raising us from sleep every morning.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Israel’s Total Failure

The book of Judges is a dark one. It’s full of gory and vile atrocities, faithless people, and at times it even seems like God isn’t present. However, when we look deeper at the narratives found in this book, we see that God not only is sovereign over all nations, but that He is faithful even in the total failures of His people. From the beginning depictions of Israel’s half-hearted obedience, to the final narratives of Israel’s total loss of morality and godliness, we see the cross of Christ shining bright in the darkness.Judges 1-1-2-5

Judges is not just about Deborah, Gideon, and Sampson. Judges is way more than that. The book of Judges is about Israel’s total failure and God’s total faithfulness. Let’s dive in together.

The opening of the book of Judges prompts us to look backwards at what has transpired.

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” – Judges 1:1

Joshua was appointed by God to lead the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. Joshua had remained faithful to the Lord, trusting that God would provide for His people and bring them into the promised land despite what was seen as impossible odds. It was only Joshua and Caleb who exhibited such faith, and so God proclaimed that they alone out of their generation would be permitted to enter the promised land.

not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. – Numbers 14:30

Joshua was a faithful leader of God’s people, and the book of Joshua depicts how God keeps his promises and brings them into the land. It is a book that details the victories of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, and it shows how God begins to give His people blessings previously promised as well as peace and rest. It is a book that reminds us that because God always keeps His promises, we can obey him wholeheartedly with courage and bravery.

In the book of Joshua we see the details of the allotments of land that God has promised each of the tribes of Israel. We also see that God commands Joshua and His people to live out brave spirituality as they walk with God.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:5-9

In this passage we see that God promises to be with Joshua all the days of his life, never leaving or forsaking him. With this promise of faithfulness comes the command to be courageous and strong. This command to be courageous and strong is able to be fulfilled by Joshua and the people so long as they obey God’s decrees. As long as they stay cemented in God’s laws and commands, then they will be successful in everything that they do. As long as they meditate on His Word and carefully do everything written in it, they will have prosperity and success. It is through this dedication to speaking and meditating on the words of God that the courage and bravery needed to take the promised land is found. Judges 1-1-2-5 (1)

The people of God will not achieve victory and rest for themselves.

They are not to expect success if they do not accompany all their work with obedience to God as they meditate on his word and trust in his promises. – Timothy Keller

Victory over their enemies will not come via their own strength. It will come via the supernatural strength of the faithful God they serve and worship. If they faithfully follow God, He will pave the way to victory and rest. The book of Joshua shows how this process begins, as the people enter into the land promised to them by God. But as the book comes to a close, it is clear that much still has to be done before the promised land yields complete and total rest to the people of God.

It is through the lens of the book of Joshua that the book of Judges must be seen and read. This is the continuing story of God’s faithfulness. Unfortunately however, whereas the book of Joshua depicts Israel’s obedience (for the most part), the book of Judges documents just how far the people of God fall. Yet again, despite the grievous failures of His people, we will see God’s faithfulness shine bright.

In the darkness of sin and death, we will see the light of the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Live Long And Prosper

We live in a broken world. The effects of sin wreak havoc upon every facet of the cosmos, including our bodies. This is not to say that we are without hope. For the cross of Christ gives us the hope to carry on. Yet we still have to face the fallenness of our world, often in the ways of physical imperfection, from chronic illnesses to common colds.prosper

How are we to deal with these realities? How are we to pray for our loved ones, our family and our friends? Do we pray for healing? Do we assume sickness is punishment?

Many questions abound in my mind about health. Many answers are found in Scripture.

Look with me at the small book of 3rd John, and specifically John’s greeting and prayer for his dear friend Gaius.

Dear friend I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually. – 3 John 2

These types of wishes for good health were not at all uncommon openings to ancient Greek letters in the time of John. John goes beyond just the standard wish though, proclaiming that not only does he care for Gaius’ soul (spiritual health), he also prays for his physical health with the understanding that our bodies are held in the sovereign hands of the Lord.

Some believe that Gaius was in poor health when John wrote him this letter. Regardless of whether or not this is true, John loved him like a brother and thus desired to see Gaius in good physical health. This prayer for good health was way more valued in their time as medical care in that day and age was often ineffective leading to diminished life expectancy.

I chuckled to myself when I realized that John was essentially saying ‘live long and prosper’ to his buddy Gaius. Now, I’ll admit, I’m not much of a Star Trek fan but I do know enough to humorously recognize how Biblical of a greeting that classic line is.

Back to the subject at hand.

I would attest given this verse, and others like it, that it is normal and encouraged to pray for the good health of those we love and care about.

Just take a glance at Jesus’ earthly ministry and you can see countless examples of Him healing the sick and in need. Our God is a Healer. He is able to save. He is mighty to save. It is Biblical and right to pray for not only good health personally, but good health for friends and family.

So what about when we pray fervently for our health to change, or for the chronic illness of a friend, and God elects not to bring physical healing?

We must hold tight to the fact that God is good, God is great, and what He does is right.

This is difficult. This is immensely difficult. We in our broken nature and limited scope do not often think about the big picture.

I woke up this morning, not with a grand view of eternity in mind, but with March 2nd, 2017 in mind. I woke up thinking about what I’d like to accomplish today, and what I need to accomplish today. With such a minute view of my world, I can see sickness in the life of a friend as a travesty and a terrible blight. Yet in the grand scope of eternity, God uses every aspect of our lives for our good and His glory.

There is not a direct correlation between sickness and personal sin. Waking up with a cold one morning is not because you didn’t pray enough that week. No, in fact, sickness and poor health can bring us closer to the Father, and into a greater understanding of His Word. Take for example these two verses from the longest Psalm.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 119:67

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

When I reflect on my life, it’s easier for me to stray from God’s Word and from learning His ways when everything is peachy-keen in my world. When darkness comes creeping in from the edges or close to home, I am reminded of eternity. I am reminded of what matters. I am reminded of God’s precious Word and His ways. In a sense, these times of sickness in our lives can be for our good. The Psalmist here says it was good for him to be afflicted because it produced in him a greater attentiveness to learning the statutes of God.

Please do not read into what I’m saying. Please do not see me saying that our sicknesses are simply to draw us back in from going astray. I know countless men and women who this day are struggling with real difficult things despite amazing faith and faithfulness to the Lord throughout their lives. What I am saying, or what God’s Word is proclaiming, is that God uses every aspect of our lives to draw us closer to Him. In some cases, this means going through physical health issues for His glory.

God is good. God is great. What He does is right.

If you or a loved one is walking through sickness right now, I don’t have the perfect words to say to you. I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with praying for healing. Our God is a Healer. As you walk through this difficult journey, don’t walk through it alone. Walk in community. You may not understand why things happened the way they did this side of eternity. But hold tight to the fact that God is good, great, and He always does what is right.

My prayer is that my friends and family would live long and prosper.

I pray you do to.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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