A Better Story

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thrityfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Have you ever had a passage from Scripture take on new life? You’ve heard it. You’ve read it. You’ve studied it. But all of a sudden, it becomes the heartbeat of your walk with Jesus. It’s as if the words on the pages of your Bible have floated upward, saturating your mind and heart. It becomes all that you can think about. You read, you pray, you move on. But it continues to tug. 

That has been my experience with the parable of the sower from Mark 4. I’ve been slowly but surely meditating on the Gospel of Mark over the last couple of months. A couple weeks ago, the parable of the sower was up next. I read it. Then read it again. Soon, my colored pens were flying over the text, scribbling and writing, highlighting and circling.  

This passage lodged itself in my heart.

Particularly that last line from Jesus.

The seed that produced fruit. 

Thirtyfold.

Sixtyfold.

A hundredfold. 

Oh how I long to be that seed. Oh how I long to see the church I serve as a pastor become that seed. I long to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

Yet, Jesus obviously hit the nail on the head. Spiritual warfare, persecution, worldly cares, wealth, and fleshly desires can destroy any fruitfulness in our lives. Nothing has changed in humanity. It’s still the same obstacles. 

Spiritual warfare is far more real than our little Western minds think it is. I’m not the “there’s a demon behind every tree” guy. But I am the “we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God” guy. A couple weeks ago I had five days straight of oppression. No, it wasn’t a demonic presence in the form of some beast on fire in the corner of my bedroom. But it was a weight, a spiritual weight, that I couldn’t shake. I would wake up at 3:45 every morning and not be able to fall back asleep. Instead I just laid there and laid there and laid there. I felt off for days. I neglected to go to God in prayer and instead tried to shoulder it myself. That didn’t work. 

We can fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’ve allowed the enemy of our souls to deceive and demoralize. 

We can also fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’re way too impressed with earth. 

And that’s what I want us to think about. 

What story are we telling in our churches?

Are we telling a better, more fruitful story?

Or are we telling an earthly story? 

You see, what we communicate in our churches matters. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that Jesus makes your life better, we are setting people up to no longer bear fruit once they face persecution of any kind. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about success, accolades, accomplishments, wealth, brands, and followings, then we set people up to fall for the deceitfulness of riches. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is unbearably hard, and that all that we see is just death and destruction, then we set people up to get distracted by the anxieties and worries of this broken world. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about vacations, sports, fun, food, drinks, and entertainment, then we set people up to pursue the desires of their flesh the 166 hours a week they aren’t sitting in the pews of our churches. 

I want to pastor my church in a way that tells a better story. 

A story about a King and His Kingdom.

A story about the repitition and affection-led aspects of discipleship.

A story about a King who creates a better world through His people. 

I don’t want to be the reason that those in my church don’t bear fruit. 

So I want to tell a better story. 

In the coming weeks and blog posts, I want to combat the false stories we tell in our churches by asking questions that help us to dig into Scripture, be honest about the modern church, and then look to and meditate on the hope of the King and His Kingdom. I hope to share anecdotes of how I’ve fallen short, narratives of where others haven’t, and Biblical principles to form our churches around. 

Here’s the next few to look forward to:

Do we delight to draw near to God?

Are we counter-culturally winsome?

Do we sit in church gatherings with greedy, lustful hearts?

Come, take a journey through the Scriptures. 

Let’s tell a better story together. 

– Nate Roach 

Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus had just laid waste to his foes in the gladiator arena. He raises his arms and yells to the crowd “are you not entertained?!” It’s an iconic moment from an iconic movie. It’s a line I quote quite often as a matter of fact (although more so in my college days).

Here is a man who is on display before the crowds, and they seem disappointed in his performance, underwhelmed when they were expecting a show that would keep them on the edge of their seats. Here is a man at war personally while the crowds stand outside the field of battle, cheering or heckling, complaining or affirming.

I’ve been a pastor now for five years, and I can relate to that scene more and more.

I’ve been hesitant to even say that because I genuinely don’t seek a “woe is me” line of thinking or a “poor guy” response.

But I feel it.

And I share that feeling to advocate for those in my life who have been brutalized in the arena of ministry, all while they receive the thumbs down of those seeking to be entertained by the public figure that is the pastor. I share that feeling because men in ministry have been so hurt by the war that they face depression, discouragement, and even suicidal thoughts.

I know a man who has been faithful for decades and yet has people grumbling against him because his personality is not to their liking or some other minutia.

I know a man who was falsely accused (and proven so) of all sorts of moral failures by a group of people in the church who didn’t like him.

I know a man who was critiqued widely and regularly for his style of preaching.

I know a man who is exhausted and he’s only been in ministry a few years.

I know a dozen youth pastors who have faced to differing degrees the perception that they aren’t in the big leagues, they’re not adults, they’re not actually doing anything hard, they’re not real pastors yet, etc., despite being ordained ministers of the gospel. And to that I say, there is no greater mission field in the world than the ages of 15-30.

I know a man who regularly has to quote Colossians 1 and the importance of being continuously strengthened by the power of Christ, in order to continue manning up and seeking to live out his calling (that man is me).

Pastoral ministry is war.

It’s emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually draining.

It is painful.

It is hard.

Now, again, hear me say as clear as day: it’s worth it. The moments when I see young men and women catch the fire of discipleship, when I see students take ownership of their own faith, when I see older believers not get out of the game but continue advocating for the Kingdom to come, I am overwhelmed with joy. The pain and difficulty of ministry fades to the background as the joy of fruitfulness comes to the forefront.

So, yes it’s worth it.

But sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t lighten the load.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

When I was young, when God first called me into ministry (at the age of 7) and then later affirmed that call (at the age of 17), I thought pastoral ministry was easy and fun. I mean, I love to talk. I especially love to talk about Jesus. I thought people would love to hear me talk about Jesus. That’s all there was to it.

Then I actually got into ministry. Woah it ain’t that. Paul is challenging here. I think every man seeking to go into ministry should read this passage again and again. What does ministry sometimes look like?

Giving up one’s life for the church.

Sorrowful.

Yet always rejoicing.

Poor.

Yet making many (others) rich.

Having nothing.

But possessing everything (in Christ).

War.

For the Kingdom.

Here’s the beauty. Paul and his fellow ministers didn’t do anything that Christ didn’t do better. And so Christ doesn’t call the modern pastor to do anything that He didn’t do perfectly. Christ was homeless, lonely, poor. He continuously gave up His life for the people around Him and then He did it finally and firmly via the cross.

So, pastor, take heart.

Your affirmation comes not from the raucous crowd watching your public ministry.

Your affirmation comes from Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor, take heart.

Your faithfulness has been given a gigantic thumbs up from the only Emperor that matters, King Jesus.

Pastor, take heart.

He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. He provides strength.

Church, pray for your pastors. They are imperfect men, broken men, men in need of great grace.

Church, support your pastors. In every decision they make, they are weighing many different opinions and perspectives.

Church, love your pastors.

Church, fight alongside your pastors. Get in the arena with them. Do ministry alongside them.

Church, don’t lose your pastor. Don’t be the reason they step away from ministry.

I long for the day that I don’t hear of pastors taking their own lives. I long for the day when pastors don’t need counseling, don’t get burnt out, don’t battle depression on the regular.

I long for the day when the question isn’t “are you not entertained” but rather “are you with me”?

Let us strive for that day here on earth.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

A Slow Burn

Churches that seek to cause great numerical growth at a fast pace tend to cause explosions that do lots of damage to lots of souls.

We need to return to the slow burn of relational discipleship. It’s messy. It’s painful. Mistakes are made and opposition is faced. But it’s the Biblical way.

Check out an (I think) encouraging conversation about this based in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. You can listen below, or go find the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. Just search Roach Ramblings!

Inspiring Influence

He was sitting in the rocking chair of my childhood home in Wichita Falls, with the look of being deep in thought. I was 17, and considering where I wanted to go to college while seeking to avoid God’s call on my life. He was visiting from Virginia, and he wanted to leverage this time together to speak life into me. He looked at me and said “I think you should be a pastor” (or something much like this). I was caught off guard, as I had blinded myself to God’s plan for my life due to much sin in my life. This man saw through the grime and grit of my sinful anger, lust, and pride. He saw what I could become in Christ.

That was my Grandaddy. He has recently gone to be with the Lord, but his influence on my life continues to this day. 1 Thessalonians 2 teaches a whole lot about leadership that honors God. In his commentary on the book, Chuck Swindoll says that leadership is simply inspiring influence”.

What makes a good leader?

The ability to inspire people. The ability to leverage one’s influence in order to inspire people to do that which they didn’t think they could. The ability to leverage one’s influence to draw people into a new way of viewing themselves and the world around them.

I’m currently staring up at two items on the bookshelves of my office. A wooden piece of artwork that says ‘Happy’ (in memory of my mom’s dad who we called Happy) and the obituary of my Grandaddy. I live and serve with the memory of two men who had tremendous leadership in our family in that they had influence that inspired. I’ve seen the impact they made on so many, just in our family alone.

Since my Grandaddy just passed away, I have many memories of him running through my mind. We were both early risers, so we would take walks on the beach together when at family reunions. He would ask intentional questions about my life when he saw me and you could tell he genuinely wanted to know. He had the boldness to correct me when I was living in a way that wasn’t honoring to God. He took me to Pine Cove for father/son weekend when my dad was deployed. He shared with me then, while in his 60s, that the Bible was coming alive for him like never before. It inspired me to start digging in to its riches. He encouraged me to keep writing, keep studying, keep learning, and keep preaching. When I got ordained he wrote me a letter that I’m having a hard time finding. He said he longed to hear me preach once before God drew him home, and praise God in February of 2019 he got that opportunity. It is a memory I will never forget.

After he passed, I got to receive many of the things that he kept. He had an envelope full of my blog posts from five or six years ago. He printed them and kept them.

Grandaddy was a man who had a wall in his attic devoted to the achievements and accomplishments of his grandchildren. He was a man who kept the ramblings of his grandson. He wasn’t a man who pointed to himself. In fact I don’t ever remember him talking about his own achievements or accolades (a trait he has passed down to my dad). Grandaddy pointed to others, and ultimately to Jesus.

I see his influence in my uncle and aunt.

I see his influence most of all in my dad (because obviously I’ve been around him the most). I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad tells me to be God’s man. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad literally never talks about himself except in self-deprecating fashion. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad is borderline obsessed with loving on and leading my nephews, niece, and daughter. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad leads our family and the church he serves.

Grandaddy wrote me a letter several weeks after I was born, a letter that stays displayed on my shelf. He wanted to constantly encourage me and show me Jesus.

You see, I am not inspired by my Grandaddy alone.

I am inspired by the One who drew him into a relationship with Himself.

I’m inspired by the One who gave a family a rock of a patriarch. The One who gave a family a legacy that is centered not on athletics, academics, or prestige. But rather a legacy that is centered on the King and His Kingdom.

There’s a ton I didn’t say to Grandaddy in his final years. So many things I neglected to share with him. Many opportunities missed.

In just five days I will be privileged to have the opportunity to give the benediction at his funeral service. I can’t share all that I’ve said here in the moments before a prayer.

So I’ll say it here.

My Grandaddy is in the Kingdom of God. He is with Jesus. He is worshipping Jesus with every tribe, tongue, and nation. He has no more crying, tears, or pain.

I don’t think that he’s thinking about anything other than Jesus.

I long to be with him in paradise.

So I’ll say what he said to end his first letter to me 27 years ago.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Show Me What You Love

This past week I was in Clayton, OK speaking at a youth camp. One afternoon I went with a youth group that I had gotten to know to a lake not far from the camp’s grounds. The electric guitarist from the band, my friend Mason, was partnering with me to destroy young men in several rounds of chicken fights out in the murky water. Our final round was an awe-inspiring come from behind victory, as I as the base was fully submerged under water but stood strong in the sand. After my almost drowning (not to be dramatic), we retired on top of the world. Our conversation turned to working out, something Mason does a lot of and is really good at. I shared about the one time in the year 2021 that I went to the gym to lift. Mason mentioned in passing that my body type was one in which if I got committed to working out that I could see a lot of growth. Without skipping a beat I informed him that I don’t care enough to work out. Or in other words, I don’t love it enough to pursue growing in it.

We act upon what we love.

We labor towards what it is that we love.

It’s how we’re wired. And according to 1 Thessalonians 1, our love for God and others should lead to laboring alongside God and for others.

Paul gives thanks for three characteristics that the church in Thessalonica was known for.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Labor motivated by love.

The Christians in Thessalonica were known for this. What about you? When people look to you and your community of faith, do they see us laboring for one another?

I can’t claim to love my wife Jamie and then never show it via my actions.

In much the same way I can’t claim to love Jesus and His bride if I never show it via my actions.

If we love sports, we’re going to spend time watching them whether in person or via the media.Our kid’s participation in practices or games will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love earthly pleasures, we’re going to spend time and money preparing for vacations and going on vacations. These things of earth will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love money, we’re going to spend time working as hard as we can to earn more money and the love of money will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If Paul was to look at the modern church, he’d likely see a lot of labor motivated by love for vacations, sports, and excess.

Gone are the days where the commitment to one’s local body of believers trumped any other commitment. In a modern church context worried about the deceptive and destructive throes of legalism, the thought of deep commitment to a church body is seen as just a legalistic tendency of a bygone era. I would argue however that a deep commitment to a local church isn’t being legalistic, it’s being obedient.

Obviously, love for God and neighbor isn’t relegated to just attendance in a church on a Sunday morning. No, it’s much deeper than that. It shows itself in acts of service, evangelism, and intentional discipleship.

At Camp Minnetonka this week I saw so many adults who had given up a week of work not to go on vacation but to come intentionally invest in students by partnering alongside the pastors and youth pastors of their church. And it made my heart swell with joy.

Do you want this labor motivated by love for God and others?

I do.

And thankfully 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us the answer as to how to get it.

Not by working hard. But through receiving it via the Spirit.

our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b

The Holy Spirit brings the power.

Chuck Swindoll says “these qualities could only come from the work of the Spirit in the lives of genuine believers.

We all have room to grow in this. But that growth comes from the Spirit. The growth comes through communing with God.

And once we catch the fire of love, we share it with those around us. We model it.

My parents taught me to love God and others via the local church. That meant getting up at 7 AM for Sunday School after getting home from a Rangers game at 1 AM. That meant opening up our home for staff members, Sunday school classes, and students. That meant discipling younger believers. I watched and watched and watched. The fire was lit in me. And I want Gracie to grow up in a home where our commitment to the Lord and His people is shown by our wallets, schedules, conversations, and relationships.

I want her to see a labor of love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Working Faith

It was September 2016. I was in Phoenix, AZ, desiring friendships that would be centered around Jesus. I asked God to provide them for me, and then I got home from work to play three hours of XBOX before falling asleep. This went on for quite some time. I was discouraged, missing home, and begging God for relationships. There were people who cared about me in the church that grew into stronger relationships, but I didn’t have anyone my age. I would pray and ask and yet I kept the same routine of work and isolation.

It was only when I took a step of putting myself out there that relationships began to form and blossom. One day I went to Raising Cane’s with a guy named Victor and now he’s one of my best friends.

I was recently asked by a friend to be a backup speaker for a youth camp. I love traveling to preach God’s Word and yet I was wrestling with whether or not it was the right thing to do at this time in my life with a four month old at home. I was encouraged to pray and then act. So I did. It didn’t work out this time but I took a step of faith.

I kept hanging onto FCA after six months of knowing it was too much on my plate. My pastor kept encouraging me to step away, trusting God to provide for me and my family. I made the choice to step down, and within weeks I received an opportunity to speak at a youth camp this Summer, and the stipend was a generous gift of God’s grace.

Faith has a component not just of belief, but of action.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul is praising the church in Thessalonica for its qualities that honor God. Listen to what he says about their faith.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

In Paul’s mind, faith results in work. In action.

I think of the book of Ruth. Ruth trusted God to provide for her as she followed Naomi back to Bethlehem. She had faith. But that faith led to her following Naomi’s direction and going to work in the field of Boaz. God provided for her, but she acted to receive that provision.

Trusting God to provide for my family financially doesn’t mean I sit at home and do nothing. It means that I work, showing my faith through steps to obtain the gracious gifts of His provision. Every paycheck I receive is grace. As a matter of fact, every good thing in my life is grace. It’s not something I earned.

On the other extreme, trusting God to provide doesn’t mean chasing the promotion, piling our schedules super high with vocational opportunities at the expense of our spiritual lives. Sometimes the action we need to take isn’t getting a job, it’s denying earthly wealth and the upward trajectory of our American Dream in order to save our souls. Busyness is the greatest enemy of spiritual growth (go read John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Or better yet, go read the Gospels and watch Jesus’ pace of life).

Trusting God to protect my family from harm doesn’t mean I remove the doors from my home. It means that I lock the doors before bed, utilizing the gifts of common grace that God has given to keep my home safe. On the other hand, faith in the protection of my family can look like one day sending Gracie to the foreign mission field, trusting God to protect her even when she’s far from my sight.

Trusting God to draw those I love back to Jesus doesn’t mean that I say nothing and do nothing. I pray, ask others for prayer, and speak truth when I can. Yet I remember that God, not I, is the agent of change that can draw those far from Him back home.

I obviously do not know where this post finds you. I don’t know what difficulty you’ve encountered. I don’t know where you’re lacking faith or where you’re claiming faith but are inactive.

I would encourage you though to take the next step that aligns with God’s Word.

Show your faith in God.

Faith produces work.

Take a step of faith.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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The Lowest In The Room

It’s mid-evening, and we just went on a walk as a family. I’m sitting in the living room with a good book. Gracie has been asleep for three minutes and I’m eagerly diving into a new book I just received in the mail. The baby monitor is right next to me and I hear her waking up. I can go comfort her, or I can keep reading.

I’m on vacation with my family in Waco. As we’re planning our trip back to Vernon, Jamie mentions that she wants to stop at a furniture store for an extended period of time. I can joyfully participate in this excursion or make it a draining experience of me clearly being annoyed and frustrated.

I’m sitting in staff meeting trying to stay mentally engaged after an early morning trip to Wichita Falls. Ideas are flying around about this or that upcoming ministry opportunity. Assignments are dished out, some that I wouldn’t have gone looking for. I can faithfully do the assignments I’ve been given with a cheerful attitude or just get by with mediocre work.

In all of these recent scenarios, I had a choice. I could choose my comfort, my way of life, my priorities and passions.

Or I could stoop.

I could submit.

I could put Gracie, Jamie, and my coworkers first.

In our modern world, the idea of submitting to any authority is frowned upon by some. It is difficult for most, myself included. Everywhere we look we’re told that we should be in charge, that we should pursue what’s best for ourselves. I mean, the loudest, proudest and meanest are the ones that get the spotlight and the responsibilities.

You want attention? Be the loudest in the room.

You want to be like Jesus? Be the lowest in the room.

You want to model the character of Christ? Submit.

In Ephesians 5, Paul shares with the church in Ephesus the behaviors and character traits of those who are seeking to walk in the light of God’s presence. After detailing the importance of being filled with the Spirit as opposed to earthly things, Paul says the church should be doing the following:

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21

Submission. It’s the way we show our love for Jesus. It’s the way that we grow our relationships as the people of God.

In my marriage, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Jamie. In my parenting, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Gracie. This doesn’t mean I don’t lead my family in the way that God has called me to. It just means my family is not about me. In my job, I am to submit to Brooks, Donovan, Mike, Greg, Tisha, Joni, and Sandra. I am to be consistently seeking the good of all those around me.

And when I do so, I am living in the way that Jesus would.

That being said, don’t get me wrong. Submission isn’t easy to me. I still don’t want to listen to others when I think I’m right. I still don’t want to submit to the preferences of others when I’m passionate about my way. But if I’m staunchly, arrogantly refusing to submit to anyone or anything, I’m showing that I am not fully grasping Jesus nor the commands of the New Testament.

A friend recently said to me that the entire New Testament ethic could be summarized in the word submission. And I’m inclined to agree with him. We’re called to submit to Scripture, the Spirit, the government authorities (not just those we voted for), our spouses, our pastors, etc. Submission is central. So why isn’t it practiced in our lives?

Probably because submission doesn’t come naturally. Yet, I can tell you that it’s the way to fullness of life. When I stoop, I feel joyful. When I submit, I feel like I’m living in the way that God designed me to live. When I stoop, I dream of and envision a church, a community, that is full of submission.

What would that look like?

What if we went out of our way to promote someone else’s worship style? What if we went out of our way to give someone else the spotlight? What if we went out of our way to make someone else’s ministry idea happen even if we aren’t naturally on board with it? What if we went out of our way to serve and sit under the authority and leadership of others? What if we went out of our way to stoop, stoop, stoop.

Man, that would be something else.

I think that would be the type of community that God desires us to be.

So, as counter-cultural as it may sound, I want to submit.

I invite you to do the same.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Not So Courageous

When I was a kid, I avoided anything that had the possibility of inflicting pain. When playing paintball I would hide in the back of the field to avoid getting shot.

I played six-man football growing up and did the same thing. I was not a talented football player so I spent most of my time on the sideline. They would ask for someone to fill a spot to give one of the starters a breather and I would often pretend like my ears didn’t work. When I was on the field, I wouldn’t seek out contact. I remember one game getting chewed out for not attempting to tackle the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. Me and pain didn’t mix. Things that required courage didn’t come easy to me.

That’s fine in football. I may have missed out on the NFL, but oh well.

It’s a lot more serious when you’re an adult with adult responsibilities and adult consequences.

In college, I didn’t have the courage to pursue Jamie romantically while being six months away from moving to Phoenix. So I bounced back and forth between communicating with her a lot and ghosting her (to use a young and hip modern term). Thank God Almighty that He is greater than my commitment issues. Jame and I are married and now raising our daughter!

I still wrestle with courage. My job requires an inner strength that is often lacking in me. I have to have hard conversations, I regularly share a message about Christ that is becoming less and less popular, and I am put in positions where I’m stepping into messy and difficult situations.

As I’ve been praying for courage and thinking about courage, the Lord has reminded me that courage is not up to me. It’s not dependent upon me. Strength is given from the Spirit. It’s not something that I can manufacture by putting on a brave face and charging into the gap.

In his prayer for the church in Colossae, Paul says that he wants them to be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11). Later on in his letter Paul says this: For this (the desire to make all mature in Christ) I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (Colossians 1:29).

That has leapt off the page for me recently. They are such simple statements but they contain a timeless truth. The church is strengthened and made powerful by God. It is His might, not their own, that is the source of such strength. For me to lead my family and my ministries well, I need the glorious might of God working through me. Every single day. Left on my own, I would cave. I would hide. I would do easy and comfortable things. But through the might of God above, I can do hard things.

As I look back on my life, I can see how that simple truth has been on display over and over again. When I worked for the North American Mission Board, I led a team of OBU students on trips to Portland two Summers in a row. These were ten week trips for me that always began with me sitting in the PDX airport alone, feeling immensely overwhelmed. The second Summer, I remember pulling out my journal and asking God if I could just go home. Being in charge of a team in a city that was so spiritually dark was too much for me I claimed. When I came to terms quickly with the reality that there was no way out, I asked God to give me the strength to move forward and lead my team well. He blessed me with courage and strength.

If you’re lacking strength and courage right now, I want to invite you to stop trying. Stop gritting your teeth and clinching your fists. Rest in the power that is in you as a follower of Jesus. Ask Him for strength and then trust Him to provide it.

As you ask God for strength, I would encourage you to ask your friends to pray for that in your life. Often our prayer requests are all circumstantial.

“Pray the covid test comes back negative. Pray the house gets sold. Pray for my kid to excel or get through a difficult circumstance.”

These aren’t inappropriate prayers (my prayer requests can be like this often), but man they’re shallow compared to these prayers we read in the Bible. Paul prays for the church to have strength in God. I quite often ask friends, youth volunteers, or family to pray that God would give me courage. I would encourage you to invite others to do the same for you. We’re called to carry one another’s burdens, to uplift one another for the sake of the church’s effectiveness and the glory of the God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Heart-Changer

It’s Wednesday night at 8:45 PM. I’m driving home and reflecting on the day. Thirteen hours of work and I’m ready for sleep. Over the course of a week I had studied the Bible, scoured commentaries and books on theology, written a sermon, and delivered it twice. What I got in return was blank stares, students doodling on their note papers, and a seeming lack of passion.

That’s when the spiritual exhaustion is at its peak.

You’re likely not a youth pastor reading this.

So maybe you can grasp one of these other sets of circumstances.

You speak often about Jesus in your home, encouraging your children to follow Him, to seek first the Kingdom. All of your unique attempts at digging into Scripture with them seem to come up short. They are enamored with the things of this world, pursuing the American Dream, and your attempts at discipleship in the home don’t seem to be bearing fruit.

Your dear friend or family member is far from God. They have been for a while. You’ve prayed for them countless times. It’s not that you’ve stopped praying for them, that God would touch their hearts. It’s just that when you’re deeply honest with yourself, you’ve stopped believing that they will ever change.

Your community is full of sin and wickedness. The churches in your community are dwindling and shrinking, and it feels like things are hopeless. Those that walk under the banner of Christ aren’t honoring him with the things they post and the vitriol that is thrown back at the church disorients you and discourages you.

There are times when we feel hopeless.

There are times when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do to impact our family members, our churches, our communities.

And that’s exactly what we should be feeling.

Last Friday, it hit me afresh when I was reading a few chapters out of the book of Exodus as part of my quiet time. The people of God had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries, and now under the leadership of Moses they were being rescued by God. At the time of their departure, they were shown favor by their former captors, and this favor was from the Lord.

The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. – Exodus 12:35-36

There are a ton of examples from Scripture regarding the way that God is the one who moves in the hearts of men. This one was simply the one that stood out to me and impacted me last weekend.

Seriously. Think about what is happening here.

The people of God were enslaved.

And now those, whether they were actively serving as task-masters or were passive observers, who had been enslaving the people of God are lavishing them with silver and gold and clothing.

But did they do this of their own accord? By no means. We read that the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. God was the one who was working in the hearts of the people. The same God who by His sovereignty hardened the heart of the unnamed Pharaoh for His glory (as hard as that is to accept) now softened the hearts of the Egyptians for the sake of His people.

This floored me last Friday.

I would love to be in control of how people respond to the proclamations about Jesus that I make each Wednesday night and Sunday morning and occasionally at other times during the week. I would love to tell you that you have the power to change your prodigal family member’s heart, your child’s heart, or the spiritual health of your community. We love to pretend to be saviors.

But we’re not in control. We don’t have the power. And when we acknowledge that and rest in that we find the answer to seeing change happen.

Praying for the Spirit to move.

It’s only been six days. But I’ve been striving to push into that. I’ve been striving to get on my knees and pray for the Spirit of God to move. And you know what? He is.

He’s at work.

He’s always at work, but when I ask Him to move by the Spirit to soften the hearts of those who hear the Kingdom message, I begin to open my eyes to how He’s been working all along. It’s like buying a car. When I bought my Chevy Malibu, I started seeing them everywhere. It’s not that my purchase of a Chevy Malibu was followed by an outpouring of Malibu purchases in Vernon. It’s that I simply had my eyes opened to see them everywhere.

Here’s how God has been at work in my life recently. I desperately long to invite people into a deep, Christ-honoring, Spirit-led intimacy with the Father and passion for the Kingdom. I desperately want people to set their minds on things above and live for the only thing that matters. And I want to use the home God has so richly blessed me with to do so. I want to have adults and students in and out of it every day, growing into the image of the Son of God. As bad as I want that, it’s not been happening much.

But yesterday I prayed throughout the day that God would use His Word, a sermon on John 1:35-42, to ignite a fire for the Kingdom of God in the hearts of our students. I prayed that God would begin to use our home as a place for people to reorient themselves around the Kingdom.

After all of these prayers for the Spirit to move, in the span of an hour five students asked to come over to our house, three of them asking to be intentionally discipled by me and my wife. We are starting a Bible study open to the public on Sunday night and I pray we have many come.

Your prodigal needs the Spirit of God to work in their heart.

Your children need the Spirit of God to work in their heart.

Your community needs the Spirit of God to work in its streets.

Thankfully, we have a God who softens the hearts of the sinful and gives His people favor.

Let’s ask Him to do so.

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