Negative Nathan

When I consider upcoming events in my life, I am prone to think of the worst-case scenario (that’s plausible and possible at least). I tend to have a negative approach to new relationships, job circumstances, etc. If there’s even a chance of something bad happening, I’m there mentally.

Recently, my wife Jamie called me on it. She called me out on the way that I had a negative outlook on life. I don’t blame her for calling me out. There had been a lot of grumbling and complaining coming from me recently.

That being said, I’ve noticed that my heart and mind have not been full of that grumbling and complaining spirit as of late. And I think I know why. 

I’ve been saturating my brain with the Word and with prayer.

Last week, I talked with one of my best friends over the phone, and we prayed together (for each other, our families, our ministries, our futures). We were both in a disgruntled place and had allowed the world to get us down. That prayer time together lifted us up immediately. To the point where I said “You know, it’s almost like the Bible knows what it’s talking about when it tells us to go to the Lord in prayer”.

We grow up hearing about the spiritual disciplines, and that’s not horrible language, but it sounds rigid and harsh. Really, prayer, Word, silence and solitude, memorization, etc. are the way to commune with the giver of life!

Anyway, I share that because it’s hard for me to pursue certain disciplines that deeply impact my soul.

Studying Scripture is easy for me though (applying, not so much). I’ve been listening to Philippians nearly every day. I have subconsciously memorized parts of it. And I’ve seen it changing my life.

Here’s what I mean. Look at this passage.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. – Philippians 2:14-16

I’ve heard this and read this so many times the last month or two. And slowly, oh so slowly, I’m seeing it change my outlook and mindset.

Unfortunately, we live in an extremely cynical and critical age. And church culture is not immune to this. If the worship style isn’t right up our alley, we grumble. If a committee makes a decision we don’t like, we grumble. If a pastor teaches on something that steps on our toes, we grumble. If a ministry isn’t running at it’s total potential, we grumble. I’m saying we for a reason. I’ve been there.

This passage should destroy that critical and cynical spirit in our hearts.

Let’s look at the command first.

Do all things without grumbling and complaining. – Philippians 2:14 

Period.

There’s no caveat here.

Paul is commanding the church at Philippi to live in a way that is devoid of grumbling and complaining. That is all-encompassing.

Let’s look at the why and how.

WHY ARE WE COMMANDED TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The why immediately follows the command. When we live in a way that is not critical or complainy (is that a word?), we show ourselves to be distinct from the world around us. The culture around the Philippian church was crooked and twistedI don’t believe it’s a stretch to consider our culture to be similar.

I’ll tell you, if you were to cut that mentality, that mindset, out of your life, you would truly shine as (a light) in the worldThere is clearly something counter-cultural about this attitude and behavior.

We are to live this way to shine bright for Christ. We are to live this way to show ourselves to be ‘saints’ in the midst of a dark world.

So, yeah, maybe you agree that this is good reasoning.

But HOW are we able to do this?

HOW ARE WE ABLE TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The key is the context. If you back up to earlier in this chapter you see the passage of where Christ modeled perfect humility and others-first love (vv. 3-8).

We are able to do this by reflecting on and imitating the humility of Christ, and by pursuing unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If I’m being honest with myself, 99% of the things that cause me to grumble and complain find their genesis in my own self-centeredness. I grumble because things aren’t my way. I complain and dispute because my life isn’t the center of others’ universes.

I can’t sit here and say that the reasons I complain are that God’s glory isn’t being pursued or that Jesus isn’t being followed as Lord. Nope, I complain about what doesn’t align with my version of the perfect cosmos.

Once we humble ourselves, we must strive to put the unity of the body of Christ above ourselves. Philippians has an inescapable message of joy being found in Christian unity. As I’ve reflected on this, I’ve seen it to be true. When I view everyone, even those who may not be easy to be around (Toxic Relationships), as my brothers and sisters in Christ, joy is quick to follow.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING? 

  1. Hold Fast To The Word Of Life 

Verse sixteen teaches us to hold fast to the word of life. Pray. Get into God’s Word. Meditate on His promises. When I am actively and intentionally doing these things, my spirit of frustration and disunity disappears.

2. Do Something

God convicted me in Phoenix that if there was something I was complaining about that I was able to effectually impact, I needed to do my part (Love The Church).

Do something. If you are frustrated with someone, confront them. If you are nervous about the outcome of a future event, prepare. If a decision bothers you, go to the decision maker and have a gentle conversation. If a ministry needs help in your opinion, get involved. Do something. If a family member or friend is on your nerves, say something.

Before you grumble or complain, act.

Be the change.

3. Pray 

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order. But prayer is obviously the key response to that which causes us to grumble and complain. Take what you are frustrated about straight to the Lord. Let me tell you, this doesn’t typically fix circumstances (although our God is obviously big enough to do so), but it does change attitudes. Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi at the start of the letter is my favorite.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment – Philippians 1:9

He prays that their love will grow. He prays that their knowledge of God and discernment will grow. Pray the same things for yourself and others!

It’s easy to be critical.

But the way of Christ is service, action, humility, and prayer.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Toxic Relationships

I just need to work on myself right now. I need to care for myself. If you are ‘toxic’, or negative, then I’m done with ya. If you aren’t on board with helping me care for myself, then I’m done with ya. Forget the nay-sayers. I’m doing me. 

I have seen a ton of these types of posts on social media as of late. Like at least one each week.

Our culture, and unfortunately our Christian sub-culture, is all about individualism and living one’s best life. So the fact that these type of posts show up from Christians and non-Christians alike is not all that surprising.

But church, it is concerning.

As of late, I’ve been diving knee-deep into the book of Philippians. I try and listen to it every day in the car, read it a couple times a week, and memorize different portions of it. I want to know it inside and out, letting it permeate my mind and heart. One undeniable theme that runs throughout the entire book is the way that Jesus primarily, and Paul secondarily, model humble, others-first love.

Let’s start with the well-known passage about the descent of Christ, and then let’s look at how Paul modeled the same type of ‘stepping down’ love.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though, he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:3-7

You’ve likely heard this passage before.

You can see the steps down that Jesus takes (for more on this, read J-Curve by Paul Miller. I’m only halfway through it right now and it has blown up my view of walking with God. In a good way). Jesus forsook the throne for a season, stepping down into the likeness of men, loving the people of this world to the point of death (as the rest of this passage describes). Jesus was a man who put others before Himself.

However, Jesus is not the only example of this in the book of Philippians. Paul also lived an others-first life. Look at what I mean.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. – Philippians 1:7

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, – Philippians 1:24-25

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. – Philippians 2:17

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. – Philippians 4:1

Honestly, this is just a sampling. But I figured I didn’t need to type out the entire book. Paul held the Philippians in his heart. We see all throughout the letter that they financially supported him and that they cared for him. This obviously is not the ‘toxic’ relationships many of us try to avoid. But it is still a reminder of our need to have affection for one another.

Paul wanted to be with Jesus. He desired to be with Him. But he knew that it was likely that he would stay on earth. Why? So that he could help them progress in the faith.

Paul was willing to be literally offered up for the people of this church.

Paul loved and longed for this church.

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility leading to selfless love. Paul followed suit.

So, what does this have to do with toxic relationships and working on ourselves?

Let me boil it down for us.

0. If You Are In An Abusive Relationship, Seek Help and Get Out 

Let me start by introducing this huge caveat. If you are in an abusive relationship, Scripture does not teach you to suck it up and take it. Seek help. Get out. Go to a friend or pastor.

With that very important truth out of the way, let’s look at how we should treat others.

1. If Someone Is ‘Toxic’, Love Them 

I put the word toxic in quotes here, because oftentimes we use hyperbole and exaggeration to state the simple fact that someone is hard for us to be around. Yes, a lot of times it’s deeper than that, but in my experience, we like to call people toxic or negative simply because their world doesn’t revolve around us. 

Love them! In Miller’s book, he talks about how we have taken a therapeutic view on most of our relationships. If we don’t feel loved or appreciated by others, or valued or served, we see the friendship as pointless, or in this case, ‘toxic’. But the call of Scripture, the call of Christ, is to love those who may make our lives more difficult.

2. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Serve Them 

One way to show love for someone is to serve them. Have you done that? Have you sought to serve the person you’re thinking of right now that is difficult for you to be around? Have you modeled the humility of Christ, stooping low, giving up your rights, to serve them? Guess what. Service and love may not result in restoration or perfect relationships. You may get nothing out of it. We’ve made relationships transactional, and that is not the way of Christ either. Serve.

3. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Pray For Them

Have you prayed for them? I’m not talking a “God help them” kind of flippant or sarcastic prayer. I’m talking an intentional, genuine, Christ-centered prayer for them. Again, the book of Philippians is not a model of dealing with ‘toxic’ people (although chapter four sheds light on some tension in the church), but what is cool is how Paul’s prayers for them are about gospel growth, not circumstantial changes (1:9-10 for instance). Do you pray for those ‘toxic’ people in your life?

4. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Confront Them

My biggest pet peeve in the church (or one of my biggest), is how we just drop people that we’re frustrated with or annoyed by. If someone bothers you, you drop them, because it’s too much work.

But.

Have you confronted them? I’m talking about a real honest talk where you tell them why there’s tension or frustration. Now, we don’t like to do this, because we’ve misunderstood the implications of the gospel in our communities. We think that to believe the gospel is to forgive to the point of not acknowledging wrongdoing.

It’s not pleasant to confront. But brother or sister, if you have dropped a friendship or relationship without telling the other party why the distance occurred, you are not absolved of guilt (so to speak). To do your part is to go to the source and confront.

5. If All Else Fails, Love Them Some More 

And if all else fails, keep loving, keep engaging, keep relating. In Miller’s book, he quasi-addresses the whole “Don’t be a welcome mat for people” mentality. He says that life itself is a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. To be a follower of God is to intentionally take on difficult relationships. To be a follower of God is to focus on others, not ‘working on myself right now’.

Church, let us be men and women who live for others. Not ourselves.

That has been my anthem as of late. I’m a son, saint, and slave of Christ. I’m only still here to live for others. Yes, I’m going to enjoy my life and do things that I enjoy (like going to play golf once a week). But I’m not called to ‘work on myself’. I’m called to engage all people, even the ‘toxic’ ones, for the sake of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Don’t Forget That God Is With You

Besides John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13, there is one other verse that is extremely popular in Christian circles.

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:1-2

Now, obviously I’m kidding. You may have never seen that short little passage before.

Recently I’ve been reading through the book of Numbers in my time with the Lord. There is a whole lot about it that confuses and befuddles me, and I’m only just getting into it. Seriously, my journal is filled with a lot of questions.

But reflecting on this chapter (2) has been convicting and encouraging.

Let me unpack what is going on in these verses and how life-forming they should be for us as followers of Jesus. Here’s some truths to take away and consider.

1. God Was With His People 

The ‘tent of meeting’ was the tabernacle, the place where the presence of God dwelled. Jesus shows us the exact nature of God the Father, but Jesus was not the first theophany (appearance of God on earth), rather He was the ultimate one.

God appears on earth over and over again, beginning with walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. He appears to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. While leading the people of God out of Egypt, He appeared as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke.

Now, here in the trek towards the promised land, He is with them in the tent of meeting.

Guys, the message of the Bible is not ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. The message of the Bible is NOT about being good, moral people. The message of the Bible is ‘God with us’. It’s what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us.

Y’all, the commands of Scripture (of which there certainly are many) do not come from ethereal being in the heavens who has no relationship with His people. No, the commands of Scripture are built upon the foundation of God’s presence with His people.

Every family of God’s people made sure that their tents faced the tent of meeting. Think about it. Every morning, when they left their tent, they looked at where God’s presence dwelt. Every day began with reflections about God’s presence.

2. When You Forget God Is With You, Sin Surely Follows 

Things are relatively good at this point in the story of God’s people. The people have been rescued from slavery. They have a God who is with them, leading them.

The rest of the book of Numbers however unpacks how the people of God descend into lots of sin, simply because they forget that God is able and willing to provide for them and protect them.

In Numbers 11, the people of God complain against the Lord. They doubt His ability to provide for them in the wilderness. So then this happens.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord,and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them. – Numbers 11:1-3

God’s anger was aroused and some of their were destroyed.

Now, this is probably one of those passages that people would use to accuse the portrayal of God in the OT to be one of anger and malice.

A couple quick things. First off, God is a righteous and angry God. We forget that anger is not inherently sinful. God has the right to be angry with His people. Our sin is telling Him that we are not allegiant to Him as Lord.

Secondly, the fact that God didn’t destroy everyone here is grace. When we accuse God of mistreatment, we forget that just one sin separates us from Him. One sin requires judgment and justice. So this passage is exuding grace, even if our human sensibilities are irked.

Lastly, God immediately provides manna and quail for His people. Even in their sin, God is still providing for His people.

Later on in the story, the people of God are on the cusp of the promised land. They are commanded and called by God to go to war and remove the Canaanites. But instead, they refuse to go in. They think that the people of the land are way too big and powerful.

THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT HAD WATCHED GOD RAIN DOWN PLAGUES UPON THEIR ENEMIES IN EGYPT.

Yet, now their cowardice leads to sin. They forget that God is with them and is ready to protect them.

And their punishment is a generation dying out in the wilderness.

Now, before you start thinking that these people are a bunch of idiots, look in the mirror (I’m including myself in this, fyi). God no longer dwells in a tent of meeting or a temple. Rather, according to the message of Scripture, He dwells in us.

I mean, come on!

We have the very presence of God with us, in us. Yet we doubt His ability to provide and protect. We forget He is near. God is omnipresent. There is no such thing as private sin in my life. God sees it all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let your life reflect that God is with you. Do people see you trusting in His ability to provide and protect? Do people see you reflecting His character?

Brothers and sisters, God is with you.

He is with you.

Rest in that.

Rejoice in that.

God is with you.

Don’t forget it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Voting For God?

“To say no to President Trump is to say no to God”

“One cannot really love Jesus and wish to follow him and also vote for a person (like Donald Trump)”

The first quote is from a recent interview with one of Trump’s spiritual advisers. The latter is from an old article from a few years back from the Dallas Morning News.

Do you see what’s happening here?

Do you see what’s been happening for years?

Do you see what is being ascribed to various political views?

The very name of God.

There is a reason you will never read on this blog or hear from the pulpit my political viewpoint on who to vote for. There is certainly been many times where I have spoken about my views in a sinful way on secondary or tertiary political issues on Facebook, but I strive to only address theological issues when it comes to what I say about voting and politics.

What I have been seeing in myself recently however is me breaking the Ten Commandments. Or being on some unsure footing regarding the Ten Commandments. Here’s what I mean.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. – Exodus 20:7

One of the Ten Commandments is to not take the Lord’s name in vain. While this does have an application when it comes to saying “oh my God” when surprised or angered, the primary implication of this command is to not ascribe to God what is not His doing.

Does that make sense?

All one has to do is look for even a moment of world history and you will see vile atrocities committed by people doing such things in the name of God. We all are aware of these situations. Sinful acts and wicked evil have been done in the name of God for millennia. God’s name is taken in vain.

I recently took God’s name in vain.

I took a grey issue, gun rights, and made it into a black and white issue, where my stance was fully in line with God and anyone who opposed me was outside of God’s will and grace and commands. This was not my intention, but it is certainly what took place. You may have even seen the Facebook post. Now, I apologized on Facebook and even apologized from the pulpit.

I remind you of that moment to make it abundantly clear that I have been guilty of the very thing I’m addressing.

We must stop equating our political beliefs with God’s name. Everyone does it. I shared those two quotes at the beginning of this blog to show you that it’s not coming from just one direction. It’s everywhere.

Let me address three dangers of saying “a Christian should vote for this candidate”.

1. We Forget Our Hope 

Biblical theology is a necessary study. Biblical theology is the practice of tracing one theme all throughout Scripture. The importance of this is to see the important themes of the Bible story.

Here’s one issue for example. There are a few verses, references about not cursing. There are however dozens and dozens of commands of Scripture about caring for the orphan. Our churches often prioritize the former way of life without addressing the latter. I am grateful for serving a church that takes up the cause of the orphan. Biblical theology shows us that God is more concerned with the orphan than He is our language. They are both commands from God, but one has more weight.

Biblical theology shows us that politics, government, authority, these things are secondary issues. Jesus, Paul, and Peter all talked about submitting to authority, none of them said to put all your hope in them. The whole “God will save our country if such and such person is elected” is a misplaced hope. God will work in our country primarily through the local church, not the White House. Biblical theology shows us the prophets regularly getting on to the people of God for trusting in their political, financial, or military might for their primary hope.

Biblical theology tells us to respect, submit to, and engage with government.

Biblical theology does not tell us to hope in those things.

(I have written a whole lot over the years on this topic: Jesus Isn’t On Your Team The American Flag or The Cross No Country)

2. We Forget God’s Sovereignty

I would encourage you to read Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God. It is a valuable resource that reminds us that God is in control of all things, from the weather to the governments of our world.

God is in control. So yes, vote, if you feel led to do so.

But the outcome of elections, the rise and fall of leaders and nations, all of these things are in the hands of God. Saying that God wants a Republican or a Democrat in the White House is to assume the desires of a God we can’t even begin to comprehend (according to Romans 11).

God has used wicked and evil men, as well as godly (and yet still imperfect) men to bring about His purposes in the world.

Don’t assume you know His plans.

3. We Will Lose The Next Generation 

This is honestly the real reason for my post. The truth that absolutely breaks my heart apart as a Family Discipleship Pastor.

Students are backing away from the church.

That’s the reality of the world that we live in.

Lifeway recently shared statistics about why they are doing so.

Look at this.

Linger on this.

Pray about this.

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 7.53.16 AM

66% of students will back away from the church, from coming regularly while in college.

25% of them will do so because the church propagates political beliefs that they don’t agree with.

As much as I want to address the 29% listing disconnect as a reason for leaving, and the 32% saying that church members are judgmental, let’s focus on the political views.

Two weeks ago, we had forty-eight students on a Wednesday. This was the largest I think we’ve ever had, and it is by no means the average attendance. But, let’s say I had 50 students.

According to Lifeway’s research, 34 of them will back away from church.

THIRTY-FOUR.

Eight of them will do so because they see and hear pastors and older church members say that the Christian view is this or that when it comes to politics.

EIGHT.

They aren’t backing away because they are constantly put away from the rest of the church in their own building (although 10 will). They aren’t backing away because they are judged by pastors and older Christians or their peers (although 11 or 12 will). No, they will back away because they hear the church tell them that they aren’t a good Christian if they don’t vote a certain way.

That is absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.

I can’t even wrap my head around that.

Church, I plead with you, watch what you say on Facebook and in conversations you have with others. Do not assume that there is only one right way to vote on every single matter (again, I have sinfully done so regularly).

I am not even remotely concerned with whether or not my students end up Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. I am concerned that they stay plugged into the church and that they know Jesus as Lord.

Because, at the end of their life, they don’t get into heaven because of political views. And, when they get to heaven, they will be with people of all parties.

Church, watch what you say.

I plead with you.

I beg you.

For the sake of the next generation, don’t take God’s name in vain.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Nate, The Saint

Nathan Roach is. . . .

A saint.

Not gonna lie, typing that out is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to me because I know that I’ve had thoughts, actions, and attitudes today that weren’t all that saintly.

Yet, that’s my identity. That’s who I am.

I am a saint in Christ Jesus.

Last week, I went on a highly-anticipated vacation to Nashville with Jamie. We spent a few days at Student Ministry Essentials, a youth ministry conference that Lifeway puts on at their national headquarters. I learned a whole lot, took a lot of notes, and dreamed a lot of dreams with Jamie about what our youth group could look like in the future. But then we got to stay a couple extra days and see the sights and sounds of Nashville. And I even got to take a nap! Pretty dope.

The whole time I was there, I was reflecting on my life. I had been going at a rapid pace. I was doing a lot for God (which is laughable when in reality He doesn’t need me) while doing very little communing with God.

I wanted to get to the bottom of my frenetic pace and restlessness.

A book I finished while on vacation encouraged me to write out my name at the top of a piece of paper and start listing out my identity. Much of our lack of rest and most of our stress come from a misunderstood identity.

Let me show you what I mean.

Sitting in the Gaylord Opryland Resort (we didn’t stay there, simply pretended like we belonged their while waiting for our flight), I did that exercise.

I wrote in my journal:

Nathan Roach is. . . 

I wrote a whole lot. And sadly, most of what I said about myself revolved around my vocation and my personality, not my position in Christ.

Here’s a few examples of the things I thought about and wrote about.

A family pastor. Tired. Fun. Funny. Different. An outsider. A Christian. An imperfect husband. A man of God. Angry. Prideful. Selfish. An FCA Ambassador. A writer. A reader. An open book.

Obviously I had some much more raw responses to that question, but those are for face to face conversations, not the blogosphere.

Here’s what I came to realize.

When my primary identity is in my vocation, my work becomes supreme in my life. I am not able to leave it at work. I take it home, thinking and planning while with my wife Jamie, not enjoying the grace of God to me in so many good gifts He has given me. Work consumes my mind and heart. To make matters worse, when I fail at my job, making mistakes, then I’m rocked to my core.

Nathan Roach is a family pastor. So when Nathan Roach makes mistakes as a family pastor, my entire view of self is negatively affected. This is unhealthy for sure.

When my primary identity is in my sin, then my guilt and shame become supreme in my life. When I view myself as an angry, prideful, and selfish man, those sins continue to trip me up, reinforcing that false view of myself. When my primary identity is in my sins, then I start to again work really hard for God to atone for my sins. That is also clearly out of line with the message of the gospel.

God rocked me with these realities.

No wonder I was tired when I became primarily a pastor and a sinner, rather than a child of God and a saint.

Recently I’ve been all over Philippians. I try and read through it every couple of days, I listen to it in the car, I am memorizing part of it. There is a whole litany of reasons I’m doing this, but it has certainly served to remind me of who I am.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:1-2 

Just in the very beginning of the letter, there is so much beauty. I’m a saint. God is my Father.

Those two truths should be my primary view of myself. If anything else supersedes those things in my life, then my life will fall apart. I will begin to run at a pace that I can’t even begin to sustain. I’m grateful that God removed me from the grind and got me alone with Him to consider how I viewed myself.

So my question for you is. . .

Who are you?

I would encourage you to do the same exercise with yourself that I did. Be honest. Be real. Be raw. Let what’s percolating in your heart come out onto the page. Share the things you’ve written with a trusted brother and sister in Christ. Then ask God to reorient your heart and your mind around who you are in Him.

Now, let’s be honest, it’s not a switch you can flip in your brain that magically fixes all of our self-doubts and self-perceptions. It’s a journey. Yesterday was absolutely great for me. Today, not so much. But I’m continuing to stay in the Word and I’m continuing to ask God day after day to show me who I am.

Pro-tip: Leave your phone out of your bedroom. When I start my day in God’s Word, my entire day is affected. When I start my day checking my blog stats, checking my e-mail, checking Facebook, my day is already based off of my vocation and and my performance.

And if you need your phone for an alarm, invest in an alarm clock instead. Thankfully I have a dog that wakes me up every morning like clockwork.

Who are you?

My prayer is that you seek Scripture for the answer.

And if you need any help in your journey, feel free to hit me up.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Fighting God On #7

I was on hole #7. I had hit a fairly good drive (in actuality I sliced it hard, but it worked since the hole was a dogleg right), and I was now lining up my second shot with my fairway wood.

The breeze was nice and cool, and the course was gorgeous as Fall weather was finally descending upon North Texas.

I shanked my second shot. I mean I shanked it so bad into the rough that I had no idea where it was in the absence of GPS tracking. I was extremely frustrated at this point, as the six holes prior to this one were less than ideal.

I remember saying aloud “are you kidding me”. I was flustered and frustrated. It had been a long week and all I wanted was to get out on the golf course and escape for a little while. I no joke started venting right there to God. Me and Him came to mental blows right there in the rough. I wanted to see success in this hobby of mine. In ministry, most of what I do, all the hours I put into studying and preaching and teaching God’s Word, leads to few things I can visibly see. That’s part of the gig.

But, here on the golf course, I had the chance to work at a goal that I could tangibly see. It was an escape.

The problem was just that.

Instead of seeing a few hours on the golf course this past Friday afternoon as a gracious gift of God’s common grace to me, I instead abused said gift as a way to run away from the weightiness of this world. Instead of communing with God through my time golfing, I was more or less avoiding God if I’m being real honest with you today.

I don’t hear God audibly speak to me.

I instead feel His presence with me as themes and verses and ideas from Scripture flood my heart and mind throughout my day.

Right there, in the midst of my fuming at something silly and insignificant on hole #7, God reminded me that He must be my source of comfort, not any earthly thing.

Any earthly thing in our life can become an idol, a point of sin in our lives.

Golf is one of those gray areas in the Bible, obviously. There’s nothing in there about whether this sport is holy or profane. But I had to acknowledge on Friday, after the Spirit’s prompting, that I was running to this hobby as a source of comfort and escape, which certainly is sinful.

The Lord had to bring me to a place where I acknowledged that I had an unhealthy relationship with golf. That feels silly typing out, but it’s no less true. Here’s a small sampling of what Scripture has to say about our joy and our relationship with earthly things.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4

First off, my joy is to be found in the Lord. Secondly, my anxieties are to be removed from my mind and heart, not by hitting a little ball around (or by certain foods, or by an inundation of entertainment, or by mystery novels), but rather by bringing all of those things to the Father who cares for me.

The Bible is full of gray areas. One theme in Scripture is that God is our Good Father who gives us good gifts. The world is created for us to see our Father’s hand in. One way for us to approach the gray areas of Scripture and life on earth is by asking if these things can be received with thanksgiving, based in the Word and prayer.

For instance, can I give thanks for golf? Yes. Can it be spiritually beneficial to me, a way to respond to God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer? Yes, when utilized rightly.

Here’s an example from today.

Today, my dog Morty woke me up (as he does almost every single morning) by sniffing and licking my face. Once I put him outside, the pressures of upcoming children’s ministry and youth ministry events came careening into my mind. Today I was off of work, and so I certainly didn’t want to dwell on what I’ve got to do tomorrow all day today.

So I went to God’s Word. I reflected on His character.

I have spent the day reading through the book of Amos, and this jumped off the page.

Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite. – Amos 2:10 

Amos chapter two dictates and describes some of the most abhorrent sins of God’s people. Disgusting, vile, wicked stuff. I believe this runs hand in hand with their forgetfulness. They forgot what God had done. God uses Amos to remind them of His faithfulness. Boom. Just what I needed to read and meditate upon today. God is faithful. God has done great things for His people throughout history, and He has done great things for me.

I prayed that I would be reminded that He is God, and I’m just a little human. I don’t have to run from my problems, escaping into some worldly endeavor every chance I get. Instead, I can face them, not because I’m anything special, but rather because my God is.

I’ve been thinking about this all day long, and guess what.

I am going to go golfing with my wife Jamie here in a little while.

I am so excited.

Because my prayer is that, instead of fighting God on hole #7, I can commune with Him all along the way, receiving a night on the course with my wife as the wonderful gift that it is.

Yes, I’m likely going to splash one in the water on #5 and maybe even shank one on the highway on #2.

But I’m going in a state of gratitude for God’s grace, and I may just not keep score.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Your Life Depends On It

The enemy loves to lie to you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, there are few things that Satan would rather do than to get you believing lies in your mind and in your heart. He strives to convince you of many falsehoods, normally in the veins of your view of God or your view of self.

The best way to combat the lies of the enemy is by filling your mind and heart with the truth.

We live in a society borderline obsessed with the notion of ‘personal truth’, but as believers we know that there is one worldview alone that is true, and that is the worldview that we find in the Scriptures.

We see truth as one of the items in the armor of God. Look with me at this verse in Ephesians 6.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, – Ephesians 6:14 

In his book, The Whole Armor of God, Iain Duguid talks about each item of the spiritual armor of God. When discussing the belt of truth, he talks about once has to apply the belt. For the belt to function in our attire today, we must remove it from the closet and apply it to our clothing. The same is to be said for the Word of God. It is of no use to us in spiritual warfare (the Christian life) if it is merely collecting dust on our bookshelf, consistently ignored due to our busy schedules and lives.

I believe with all of my heart, and I’ve seen via my own experience, that many of us fall into sinful behavior and sinful patterns and sinful habits because we are simply not in a habit of entering into God’s Word on a regular basis.

It’s a subtle descent from meditating on God’s Word to meditating on the circumstances of this world, are worse yet, replaying lies from the enemy in our minds and hearts to the point where we begin to believe it.

What I mean is that I don’t believe many of us wake up and think “today I am going to live outside of the commands of Scripture and guidance of the Spirit”. Rather, our sinful and wicked hearts are left to their own devices when we don’t saturate them with the doctrine of the Bible.

So, how do we best go about studying the Bible? What are some good tips and thought processes we should have when we approach it?

In his book, Supernatural Power for Everyday People, Jared Wilson shares five such helps. I am going to jack them for this blog, sharing my own thoughts about each of them.

1. Interpet, then Apply

What is the first question you ask when you get into God’s Word? Is it, “what is this saying to me” or “what is this saying?”. In our microwave culture, we use the former question to jump immediately to application every time that we open God’s Word. Yet, the latter question is extremely important. Interpreting what the Bible says should come before applying the Bible to our lives, every single time.

2. Keep It In Context

Honestly, I cringe sometimes when I see the way that certain verses are mishandled in Christian culture. The Bible is not a book for you to strip verses out of their context to match what you believe, or to say something that they are not. Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 are at the top of the list when it comes to this debacle. We must understand what verses are saying via their context. Every time.

3. Make Connections

The Bible is not a self-help book. It is not a list of rules and regulations. It is one grand narrative that tells the story of God and His people. There is so much beauty in the Word if you dig in.

For example: In David’s fight with Goliath, Goliath’s armor is described like a snake. This echoes backwards to Genesis 3:15, when God promises that a descendant of Adam would defeat the Devil, and it harkens forward to Jesus. This one connection reminds us that this story is a picture of Jesus and the Devil, not our ability to overcome ‘giants’ in our lives.

There are great resources for making these connections, none better in my opinion than the Knowing the Bible series from Crossway.

4. Look For Jesus

The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus. The Old Testament is replete with moments when He shows up physically, and moments that allude to His eventual arrival. The New Testament is full of stories about what He said and did, as well as moments that allude to His eventual return. The Bible is about Jesus. Look for Him on every page.

5. Apply Prayerfully

Here’s the reality. We may not see anything to apply to our lives every single time we come to His Word. That is okay. That is expected. However, when we hear the Word telling us to change, we must take that point of application to the Lord in prayer. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are able to bring about any change in our live to begin with. So, when the time comes to apply, apply in prayer.

Bonus: (Nate’s Own Advice) Choose It

My greatest encouragement to you is to slow down. Life may be busy, but we know from Scripture that our lives depend on the truth of Scripture. So when it comes to deciding what our families are going to be involved in, think of this verse.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 

There are about a thousand opportunities for your kids. For you. Sports, committees, events, clubs, vacations, etc. While these are good things when they supplement your family’s commitment to a church and to His Word, they are horrid things when they become the priority in your conversations, finances, and schedules.

My parents did not allow me to play on a traveling soccer team (one that played on Sundays out of town) when I was a kid, despite many saying I had the talent to do so. They chose instead to model for me commitment to a church community.

Guess what.

I LOVE THEM for it.

They taught me what is most important, and I’m a better man of God because of it. Traveling soccer would have been fun. But Jesus is better.

Just because it’s an option, doesn’t mean you have to do it as a family.

There’s fun things for kids in your community.

But, seriously, Jesus is better.

Get yourself and your family in the Word. Your life depends on it.

In His Name,

Nate Roach