Stressed Out

49% of Americans say that they are regularly stressed out. That’s based on an article I saw today on my Twitter feed. Now, I don’t know how they’re able to track such a thing, but the study showed that people worldwide are more unhappy this year then they’ve been in the past ten years. I’m assuming it factors in emotional, mental, and physical struggles, but I don’t have all the details. Either way, this is shocking.

When I was attending OBU , I made it a point, a mission in some ways, to live a life devoid of stress. Some might call this irresponsible or lazy, but I can honestly say that that was not my heart behind it. Rather, I saw countless brothers and sisters in Christ who allowed their hearts to be overrun by stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.

As a result of my mission (a stress-free life) I sought to make the mundane fun. My friends helped me by having similar intentions.. Going to get groceries became an avenue for fun memories and experiences. Going to class became opportunities to bring joy to the lives of others. Doing homework was a chance to enjoy friendships. Everything was full of life and vitality. It brought me some of my favorite moments and memories of my whole life. Because of this intentional lifestyle, college was only occasionally stressful for me.

Writing this I realize how much things have changed in my life and heart. That joyous young buck has been slowed, worn down, more stoic. For those of you who know me now this may sound laughable, but you didn’t know me then. My eyes have been opened to the pains of this world, my heart opened to the fears of this world, and my mind overrun by the anxieties of this world. There is clearly a part of this transition that is genuinely good. As a pastor now, not just a wild and free college student, I have a responsibility to lead with maturity and focus. At the same time however, I ache for the jovial young man I once was.

You may not be in my same season of life. Most of my readers are not. But you may feel the same. You think about your life today and you realize that it’s not what it once was. You’re more stressed. You’re more afraid. You’re more anxious.

As believers, we need to reorient ourselves. Many of us bought the lie in the past that Christianity was the easy route, that Christianity was the path to a full and blessed life. All of that is crashing around us as we take our rightful place on the margins of society. This transition leaves many of us looking with rose-colored glasses back to the good ol’ days of Christianity in America.

We must reorient ourselves in Scripture. That’s why I blog. I see the problems and struggles of my fellow followers of Jesus and in my own life and I know for a fact they can only be overcome when we spend time with the Lord in His Word. So I blog, even in my weakness, praying that at least one person would be encouraged by my writings to go to Scripture for hope.

The goofy, jovial me is below the surface of my crustier than normal outer shell. Each time I’m with the Lord, my anxiety loosens its grip on me and I’m freed by the truths of Scripture. It happened just this morning. Check this out:This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5:1

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

These two verses are likely not on somebody’s coffee cup or on their pillow or in a picture frame on the wall. But man alive they’re powerful. The language used in these two verses shows that Seth’s relationship with Adam is much like our relationship with God. Made in his father’s image, Seth enjoyed a special relationship with his dad. Genesis 5:1 tell us that we can enjoy this same type of intimate relationship with God, as does Genesis 1:26. We are made in God’s image just as Seth was made in Adam’s image. I wrote in the margin of my Bible this morning, “We are all children of God.” This is the first of hundreds of passages in Scripture emphasizing the theme that as followers of Jesus we have a Father-child relationship with the God who made everything!

This theme of Scripture alone should ease our minds. Where is the need for legitimate worry when God is sovereignly working all things for our good? But here’s the deal. If I didn’t go to Scripture this morning, I would not have encountered this passage and would not have been reminded of God’s grace given to me in this way.

Again, that’s why I blog. I strive to remind people that listening to sermons and going to church can’t hold a candle to experiencing the brightness of seeing Jesus daily through prayer and His Word. I would most definitely be more stressed today if I was not in His Word this morning.

I like what Max Lucado has to say about this topic, “Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” – Max Lucado

Man, this is truly one of the cures for anxiety. Instead of playing the chaos of this world through my brain ad nauseam, I can choose instead to rejoice in the ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

Part of working in a church is we do get to have front row seats at life change. The other part is that all day long I’m hearing the chaos of our members, or people they know, or strangers. Sadly, 90% of the time someone comes into our office, or calls our office, it’s bad news. Not good news. (I welcome calls of encouragement. I don’t get to hear many great stories. Seriously. Call me sometime.)

It’s easy to take that home. It’s easy to just sit back and rehearse the chaos. But anxiety’s grip is loosened when I take an active step in meditating on Scripture, on God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean naively pretending the world is perfect, but rather acknowledging that God is greater. In the case of today, it means meditating on the fact that I’m able to approach God as His child.

Scripture memory is one way that we as God’s people can dwell on the greatness and graciousness of our Father. In my current season of life, I carry note cards with Scripture on them in my back pocket so that when I have downtime in my day, I can meditate on the beautiful truths of Scripture. The verse I wrote down today to memorize is the following:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

By meditating on what matters in the spiritual realm, I’m able to prevent myself from getting lost in the bad news of today, instead resting in the good news of the gospel.

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Grace Isn’t For Me

Yesterday, I forgot the gospel.

The day before, I forgot the gospel.

Tuesday, I forgot the gospel.

Now, I obviously don’t have a memory loss problem. (I mean not that I know of.) What I do have is a heart that is fleshly, a heart that is sinful, a heart that is forgetful.

As a pastor, I preach and teach the good news of Jesus multiple times a week. I do so in large groups, I do so in small groups, I do so one on one. Constantly the message of the gospel is being spoken by me. I hope and pray and hope some more that it is bearing fruit in the hearts of those I proclaim it to.

What has become frustrating to me though is the fact that I could speak all day about the gospel and believe that it applies to others, but in my heart and mindset at home, I don’t allow it to be applied to me.

Here’s a clear example of what I mean. I distinctly remember one day in May 2016, not long after I graduated, when my inability to accept the gospel was probably the most stark. It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting with my church community as we partook of the Lord’s Supper together.  

I remember it clear as day. We were passing out the elements, and as I sat there, I told myself “grace doesn’t apply to you.”

The Lord’s Supper, in my church tradition, is simply a pointing back to the work of Christ on the cross. We don’t receive grace when we take it each time, rather it is a reminder of the total and complete grace we received by putting our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

My heart and mind refused to allow me to rest in grace.

Even though I took the bread and the cup, my mind kept saying, “You can’t accept this grace. You’re a pastor who sins. You’re garbage. This grace isn’t for you. You are supposed to lead people but you yourself are trash.” This went through my head on repeat.

This was only a few weeks after being ordained to be a pastor. To me, the fact that people saw God’s call on my life to be a pastor and my own inability to overcome all sinful desires in my heart didn’t compute. I was a fraud.

On that immensely painful day, I had forgotten the message of the gospel.

I wish I could say that was the last time I forgot the message of the gospel. To be transparent, that’s one of the harder parts of my job as a pastor. I absolutely know and believe that Scripture says I’m held to a higher standard. But way too often I hold myself to a higher standard than the message of the gospel. I refuse to accept grace and walk in forgiveness. Instead, I try and punish myself emotionally and mentally in penance.

Maybe, you’re like me.

Maybe, you doubt grace.

Maybe, your sin seems greater than God’s love for you.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7

That’s the message of the gospel. God is rich in mercy. He loves us. He loved us. Even when we were dead as a result of our sins against Him. He made us alive with Christ, He saved us BY GRACE. Now we are seated with Him in glory (even if we’ve still got work to do here on earth). This is the gospel.

What we modern Christians forget sometimes is that Paul wrote Ephesians to followers of Jesus. This book (like many if not all of Paul’s letters) was not an evangelistic piece. Rather, it was a letter written to those who were already following Jesus. Yet, Paul reminds the people of the message of the gospel. Why?

Because we’re all prone to forget what the gospel tells us about ourselves. We all forget how we’re viewed by God. We all forget that we’ve already been made perfect in the eyes of God. Just look at the books of Galatians and Hebrews. These were people who were forgetting that they were perfect in God’s eyes, and so they fell back into legalistic and religious tendencies in order to give themselves assurance of their salvation.

Brothers and sisters, the gospel is not something you move on from. The gospel is the beauty of the Biblical story, it is the message of our freedom.

I’ll be honest, I still forget what the gospel says about me. I still allow myself to be defined by my sins and shortcomings. That’s why I need to remind myself of the gospel every single day. That’s why I need people in my life reminding myself of the gospel every single day.

But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. – Hebrews 3:13

We fall into sin, we fall into the lies of the enemy when we are not being encouraged by one another daily. The individualism of our day and age in churches drives me insane. How arrogant of us to think we can do it alone.

I need to preach the gospel to myself every single day.

I need you to remind me of it too.

If you see in me a falling back towards earning the grace of God, call me lovingly into repentance and back under the never-ending, unceasing grace and mercy of God.

Preaching the gospel to yourself daily means saturating your heart and mind in the truths of the good news of Jesus found in Scripture.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

The Righteousness Of Jesus

(Tonight, we add Matt Welborn (one of my closest friends from OBU) into the mix of writers. Our blog has almost 250 followers and I’m excited to see it continue to grow with your help!)

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and righteousness. The more I read about God’s righteousness, the more I realize the depth of my own sin.

I was reading in Mark 7 recently, and I came across the passage in which Jesus and His disciples go about eating without washing their hands. The Pharisees were upset. Jesus wasn’t following the rules! How can someone be righteous if they don’t obey their elders? At first glance, maybe Jesus is in a bind here.

Yet Jesus responds to the upset Pharisees:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Mark 7:6-7

Their hearts were far from God, thus their worship was in vain.

The Pharisees were supposed to be the most righteous of all of God’s people. If I was sitting around, observing this conversation nearly two-thousand years ago, I’d be worried. The people I saw as most righteous were the same people Jesus was saying were far away from God.

I don’t want to be far away from God. At the same time, I’m not very righteous. I’m terribly unrighteous. Jesus spits a list of sins shortly thereafter:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:20-23

Yikes. I’ve definitely had evil thoughts. Sexual immorality — yeah. Theft? Well, I envy often. And I’ve stolen for sure. Murder? I’ve hated another person. Jesus says that counts. Adultery? I’ve lusted after another person. Jesus says that counts too.

I don’t really want to keep going in this list. It’s hard to look inside and see how evil my heart is and has been.

The beautiful thing, though, is Jesus knows already. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I want that. I want a clean heart. I want a right spirit.

When Jesus came to earth and lived among us, He knew our unrighteousness. He knows it more deeply and intimately than we probably will ever know. We are born into sin, far away from God. But God came to us.

Jesus came to us when we were far away.

By dying on the cross and raising from the grave, Jesus conquered sin and death and all unrighteousness. He came to exchange our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. He desires for each and every one of us to be alive in Him. To be actually, fully, completely human. Jesus wants us to walk with Him in the same way Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. Jesus invites us into relationship — even in our state of unrighteousness.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our state of unrighteousness, Jesus died for us. He defeated death and is now offering the free gift of righteousness to all who believe. What does that righteousness look like? Phillipians 4:8 tells us. This is what we get to think about and be about:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

The God of peace will be with us. Jesus gives us the Spirit of God to practice the very things above. This is a list I’d much rather embody.

Whatever is true — seeking the truth in all things. Whatever is honorable — thinking about the words that lift people up and serve the Kingdom of God. Whatever is just — the Bible is pretty clear about God’s desire for justice (and our place as seekers of justice). Whatever is pure — Jesus says during the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see God!

The list continues. Whatever is lovely — is it not pleasant to see beauty? The loveliness of the Grand Canyon, the wonder of wildflowers, the patience of your parents, the face of God. Whatever is commendable — the great acts of service: loving God, loving others, and laying aside your selfishness to serve another person. Anything excellent and worthy of praise — anything!

This is a much better list of things to think about and be about. I pray that the Spirit of God would reveal the depth of your sin, the great need you have for a Savior, and the wonderful reality of your new life in Christ. Think about the loveliness of Jesus Christ. Think about these things. Practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Matt Welborn

Do You Love The People In The Pews?

Do you love the people you go to church with?

These last couple days I’ve been thinking about this question in my own life. As a pastor, my job can be draining and tiring, especially because it’s working with students specifically. (Now, way too often we treat our students like a problem, speaking about them negatively in public situations. But, even if this is in jest, all it does is tell students we don’t believe in them.) That being said, it still takes patience. Patience that only God provides.

My job can also be draining when I hear the opinions of others about me. Again, even if it’s in jest, it can get to me.

The last part of my job that is difficult on me is that I see things in black and white. If Scripture teaches us and commands us to do something, I don’t see a way around it. I may not be perfect (this is obvious to me), but I fight against those things in my life that are sinful in the eyes of God.

What if you’re like me in one or many of these ways?

What if you’re like me when it comes to needing patience to be involved in church community?

What if you’re like me when it comes to getting hurt by the words of others?

What if you’re like me when it comes to caring about sound doctrine and theology and getting discouraged when people don’t follow it?

Let Philippians 1:9-11 be an encouragement to you.

Paul is writing from a prison cell to the church in Philippi, and in this passage he shares with them his prayer for them. .

And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

Paul was a man who had thick skin and a tender heart. He had the boldness to be speak out strongly against heresy (see Galatians) and yet also described himself as a caring father and nursing mother (see Thessalonians).

(Let’s be clear that this thick skin and tender heart on display in Paul’s life is also clearly on display in the life of Jesus.)

Anyway, Paul prays that the people in Philippi would continue growing in their love for each other. Not only that, he desires that their love for each other would be a wise love, a love that knows what people really need (what is superior), a love that is pure and holy in the eyes of Christ.

So the question I again have to face over and over is: Do I love my church community? Do I genuinely love them? I can say that I do, but I need this love to grow. We all do.

I’ve written at length in other blogs the pains that people have walked through, the immensely difficult situations that people have fought through at the hands of church members and leaders.

What can happen if we’re not careful is that we can become a people who tolerate each other. A people who see each other on Sundays but nothing more. A people who avoid others during the greeting time. A people who talk poorly about others behind their back. Honestly, the more I dive into Scripture, particularly the idea of how the church is to be set apart, the more that my heart breaks over our lack of love in many instances.

I know for a fact that there are people in our church who don’t speak with each other. I know there are times in my own heart where I feel the temptation to treat people like that as well. What does that show the outside community?

During a conversation at lunch today, a friend of mine said if she wasn’t a Christian, much of the behavior of churchgoers would prevent her from exploring the Christian faith. I heartbreakingly would be inclined to agree with her. We gossip, slander, argue, hate, mock, chastise, and choose to not extend grace. Guys, it shouldn’t be this way.

Please understand my heart. I’m not a man who seeks to degrade the church. The church is a beautiful community. My specific church I serve is one of the most generous churches I’ve ever seen. God is moving. God is teaching me so much. God is unifying our congregation. I just don’t walk in naivety when it comes to sin in my own heart and in our own pews.

We must speak strongly and soundly on certain matters. For me, I’m more willing to listen to those who are sticking it out in the trenches. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but rather to remind you my reader that I’m fighting from the inside. I see myself as part of the problem.

Back to the thrust of the post.

Ask God for love.

Ask God for a love that wisely understands what your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ need. Extend grace. Be forgiving. Seek reconciliation. Refuse to speak poorly about others. Be like Jesus. Plain and simple.

Where love of the brethren grows, the church is most like heaven and becomes attractive to the world. – Stephen Lawson

If you enjoyed this blog, received anything from it, please consider sharing it on your social media.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Afraid Of Giants

Do you ever wish God would audibly speak to you? That He would tell you what to do, where to go, and that He would be with you? Or if not you, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone so in tune with God that they could communicate His promises to you? Honestly, I wish I had that setup sometimes. In my naïve and innocent mind, I convince myself I would never doubt God’s promises or commands if I could just hear them out loud from a person of God.

At one point in time, the people of God had that luxury. They had men and women who heard from God and relayed God’s message to the people. The intro to the book of Deuteronomy teaches us, however, that despite these clear verbal messages, the people still rebelled. They rebelled big time. They quivered in fear, doubted God, whined and complained, and even begged to be thrown back in slavery. True story.

The book of Deuteronomy is more or less Moses’ last will and testament. He is standing between his people and the promised land. This is his final sermon. He begins (what is the first three chapters of Deuteronomy) by reminding the people of God all of what had occurred so far between God and this present generation’s ancestors. So, be aware, what is being described in these chapters has already happened; the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers tell these stories. Moses is merely reminding them of what has gone on before.

Moses reminds them first of God’s promise to their parents to give them victory over their enemies. Look at the passage with me.

See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and their descendants after them. – Deuteronomy 1:6

Moses then recounts what he told their parents:

I said to you. . . See, the Lord your God has given the land to you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you; do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 1:20, 21

Let’s zero in on this past event. The stage is set. The people of God know without a doubt what God had promised them: a land for their possession, a God who would never leave them, and a Lord who would fight for them. You would think they’d jump right up and run right in to battle.

Sadly, that’s not what happened.

Instead we see that the people of God disobeyed the commands of God. As Deuteronomy 1 continues, we hear Moses speaking, reminding the people of how things went south. Moses reminds them it was their idea to send spies into the land (vv. 22-25). At first glance you might see things look hopeful. At first glance it looks like they’re preparing for war. But then you read verse 26.

But you were unwilling to go up. You rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you grumbled in your tents and said, “It is because the Lord hates us that he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to hand us over to the Amorites to destroy us. – Deuteronomy 1:26-27

Wow.

We know from the book of Numbers it was the presence of thirteen-foot giants in the land that prevented the people of God from having the courage to fight for what was theirs.

Fear of giants kept the people of God out of the land of promise.

This might be where some would stop and bring up the cliché ‘what giants are you facing’ stuff. In my opinion, the book of Deuteronomy needs to be read somewhere between literalism and allegory. Meaning, this is a historical book with historical facts. It’s not purely an allegory, where each character in Deuteronomy is some aspect of our spiritual lives. Deuteronomy is not Pilgrim’s Progress. We must be careful not to over-spiritualize things. That being said, this book is not just a book. Rightly read and applied, it should correct us, rebuke us, teach us, and train us in righteousness.

I want us to think about this in a deeper way than pure allegory.

The people of God were rescued out of slavery in Egypt. Four hundred years of brutal, oppressive slavery in an evil empire’s back-breaking regime. They cried out to the Lord generation after generation. Finally, God rescues them in miraculous fashion with plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.

IT WAS THESE VERY MEN AND WOMEN WHO NOW REFUSED TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND DUE TO FEAR.

They had seen God lay waste to the dynastic empire of that day. Egypt was it. They were the big dogs. And yet God laid utter waste to their land and their army in order to rescue His people.

Now you’re on the edge of the land promised to you by God. And some 13-foot giants scare you? What?

So my question for us is not what allegorical giants are in our lives.

No, my question is: Are we remembering what God has done for us?

The question is not what’s in our way.

The question is whether or not we obey.

You see, we have something much better than the people of God in Deuteronomy. We don’t have a prophet. Rather, we have the combination of God’s Word spoken to us in Scripture and the Spirit of God illuminating it for us. God does speak to us in His Word, in Scripture.

Are we obeying it?

Are you obeying it?

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Just Do It

Believe in something, even it means sacrificing everything.

In a world of social media, stories get blown up in minutes. One such story that has broken is the deal that Nike has made with Colin Kaepernick, to make him one of the faces of their 30 year anniversary of their slogan. Now, hostility seems to be high on both ends of people’s responses to this, with hateful rhetoric spewed on both sides, as well as a laughable burning of Nike gear. This post is not an attempt to add to the proliferation of op-ed pieces that have already raged about this, but I do want to talk about what it brings to mind when it comes to spiritual things.

In short, I’ve still got my Nikes on today. What a corporation does with their advertising doesn’t really affect my calling nor my relationship with God, so I try not to get bent out of shape about it. The reality is, I don’t see the heart of Kaepernick, I don’t know what he has gone through as a minority in our country. It may very well have taken tremendous courage to speak up about what he believes to be injustice in our country. To say he’s sacrificing everything may be some heavy hyperbole, and others have definitely done this literally (consider the story of Pat Tillman), but again, I am not in his shoes. I tell my students, and adults I know, and myself, that it is not my responsibility as a Christian to agree with those who scream injustice. Rather, it is my responsibility and calling to listen, to consider, to be slow to anger, to be slow to speak.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20 

And people say the Bible is not applicable today.

The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

What makes me even more considered for the state of believers in our country is that we have become a people who get far more outraged over the decisions of others when it comes to patriotism and legislation than we do over the way people are choosing not to follow Jesus.

Maybe that didn’t make sense. Basically, we get up in arms about earthly things rather than spiritual things. I’ve seen some of the most hateful rhetoric shared and spewed on social media at those who believe differently than the poster on political matters or even matters of standing for the flag at a football game. We become more concerned about whether or not people kneel for the flag than we do whether or not people bow before the King.

I know I basically just blogged about this verse a week ago, but this passage continues to fill my heart and mind as of late.

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? – Proverbs 24:10-12

We as followers of Jesus are called to rescue those who are being unjustly killed, we are to rescue those who are being oppressed. Why? Because the entire narrative of Scripture it about God rescuing His people out of literal oppression and spiritual slavery. From Exodus to what Ephesians says about how we’re enslaved to our sin outside of Christ. It’s all about being rescued from oppression.

One day, we will stand before God, He who knows our hearts. We won’t be able to say we didn’t see the oppression happening. We won’t be able to lay forth any valid excuses.

Social justice is not the gospel. It is not the good news of the Scriptures. If we merely meet physical needs, we are doing people a disservice, and we are not saving them from death. Notice how the above passage can be applied to those who are headed towards eternal separation from God. There are spiritual needs far more dire than physical ones.

But.

The gospel leads to social justice. If we believe that God died for us, then we are willing to leverage our lives for His cause.

Guys, I’m not team Kaepernick or team Tillman.

I’m team Jesus.

And while that may be the most nauseatingly cliche thing you’ve ever read, it’s no less true. Christ calls me to listen, to really listen.

Consider a story from Mark 10:46-51. In it, a blind beggar cries out to Jesus for help. The crowd tells him to shut up. Yet Jesus has compassion on him and heals him.

Consider with me for a second.

What if the cries of injustice and oppression are false. What if truly men like Kaepernick have nothing to really complain about? Now, I don’t believe that to be the case. But, what if? Even if it’s not genuine oppression, when we say we don’t care, when we say stand up and shut up, we might very well be the deterrent that prevents them from seeking Christ.

Yes, God is a God of justice. But He’s also full of mercy and compassion.

If we tell those in our community to just shut up when they cry out, that literally does nothing but drive them away from Christ. Again, please understand, as Christians we do not have to agree with those who cry out. For instance, I don’t agree with everything that the Black Lives Matter movement stands for and does, but, I am called to listen.

Guys, people are dying without Christ!!

I don’t want the vitriol of the church to keep them from experiencing Jesus.

What if we listened? You know agreeing and listening aren’t the same thing?

What if we listened?

What if we cared enough about the souls of people to hear about their deepest hurts and point them to the Healer.

Guys, read my heart. I’m not pro-kneeling or pro-standing. Really I don’t care. What I care about is that the church needs to be willing to listen to those who say they’re being oppressed. To not at least listen is to grieve the heart of God (just read all the indictments against the people of God in the Old Testament).

What if we listened?

Just do it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks

“On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
and cast a wishful eye
to Canaan’s fair and happy land,
where my possessions lie.”

Whether or not you know this hymn probably says a little something about your age. Throughout the twentieth century this was an incredibly popular hymn, but to be honest, I had not heard it before. Or if I had, it’s somewhere in the hidden recesses of my mind like all the knowledge of Power Rangers and college football stats that I once had.

Those who sing this hymn likely are not saying that their hope and happiness are found in the literal, geographical location of Canaan. Instead, they are likely thinking of heaven when they sing this song.

Either way, it is this hymn that describes the scene that Deuteronomy paints for us. The entire book is documenting the scene described in the hymn.

The entire narrative of Scripture to this point pushing forward to this moment.

Genesis. Creation. Fall. The gospel promise. The origins of humanity. The origins of the cosmos. The promised one to come. The promised nation to come. The promised blessing to come. The grace of God on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The sovereignty of God over the life of Joseph. Power in a new world. All seems well.

Exodus. A new power rises. Slavery. Oppression. Pain. Moses. The plagues. The promised one to come. The Passover. The rescue from Egypt. The Red Sea. Mount Sinai. Testing in the wilderness. The promised land to come. The Ten Commandments. The way the people were to live.

Leviticus. The laws of God. The worship of God. The relationship of God to His people. The Tabernacle. The presence of God. The sacrificial system. The holiness of God.

Numbers. The march towards the promised land. The fear. The rebellion. The punishment. The death of the old, the life of the new. The forty years in the wilderness. Moses’ inability to enter the land of promise. The justice of God upon the disobedience of His people.

What now?

This is the most brief synopsis of the Pentateuch I could possibly write. There is so much more to each and every book. So much more.

But I write it so that I can say what I believe to be true.

If the book of Deuteronomy bores you, it’s because you don’t know the story.

When you know the story, the Biblical narrative, this moment in the story is immensely important. God has promised His people Canaan, and it’s right in front of them. Sure, reading through all the laws isn’t the most exciting Bible experience, nor is it the most immediately applicable. Especially when we understand that we are not held to the minutiae of the Old Testament Law. But with all those caveats, the book of Deuteronomy can still be a deep dive into the beauty of Scripture, the beauty of Jesus, the beauty of grace, the beauty of our part in the story.

Moses is speaking to a new generation of God’s people. The previous generation had died in their disobedience. Now this new generation was poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses was not allowed to enter. So here we have his final sermon, his final guidance given to his people. The book of Deuteronomy is two of his speeches to the people with a re-statement of the law sandwiched between them. Yes, it’s not the most popular book in our churches, but it is immensely important.

In fact, Deuteronomy has been used a lot in American history. Did you know that John Winthrop, the leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, used it to conclude a sermon he preached to his people right before they made it to New England? While I definitely don’t agree with early patriotic readings of the Old Testament where the ‘New World’ was equated to the ‘Promised Land’, you can see from history how Deuteronomy was used to encourage and admonish when people felt themselves on the edge of a new beginning.

Deuteronomy was also utilized in the spiritual songs of African-American slaves, as they longed for freedom in a promised land, whether that be spiritual or historical (like the Underground Railroad). This reading of the book of Deuteronomy is one I am far more sympathetic to.

Either way, we all can glean from it like those before us.

2 Timothy 3:16 will tell us that Deuteronomy teaches us, corrects us, rebukes us, and trains us in righteousness. With that in mind you mustn’t ignore it.

It is because of all this that I want to encourage you to read it. Imagine yourself in the story, immerse yourself in the story. Your parents were rescued out of Egypt by God, and they told you about it. Then they cowered in the face of difficulty and opposition, despite having their miracle-producing God on their side. This led to them dying in the wilderness. But here you are, you look across the Jordan river and see the land of promise. They had told you stories. It was a land of great fruitfulness, a land flowing with milk and honey. A land where you would be free. A land where you would be able to make themselves a home. A land where you could commune with God in prosperity and blessing. You look up and your leader Moses, who looks old and aged, weak and dying, is about to speak.

Now dive.

Dive deep into Deuteronomy.

You won’t regret it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

(This upcoming semester, I will be preaching through the book of Deuteronomy {at high altitude} for the student ministry I shepherd. When I study a book, there is so much more that I glean than I have time to share on any given Wednesday night, so I will be posting some blogs like this one of what I’ve been learning. The book I’ve relied the most on is Thomas Mann’s commentary on Deuteronomy, and that will likely show in my posts.)