What’s On Your Face?

One of the most disgusting movie scenes I’ve ever seen comes up in the movie RV. Robin Williams’ character is trying to empty the tank of his family’s RV while on their vacation. The hose is not attaching correctly to the RV, and after some creative attempts at getting it to stay on, they attempt to flush the sewage line and then comes the nasty. An explosion of excrement and urine that flies into the sky like Old Faithful, before splattering the characters in the face and everywhere else.

Even as a teenager, that scene disgusted me.

You know what else disgusts me?

My sin.

There are days where I’m starkly aware of my sinful desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. God shines a light on the ugly character traits and habits that seep into my heart.

This is not pleasant.

But it is beneficial.

Sin only grows when it is not brought into the light of God’s law and God’s grace.

Last Tuesday I spent some time listening to and then reading the book of Malachi. This is not a book I’ve spent any intentional time in, and I was struck with so many images in the book of Malachi that describe the gracious process of sanctification as well as the gross nature of my sin.

The Gross Nature Of Sin

Let’s start with the bad news: our sin is egregious. This is where I was this morning. I was reminded of just how broken and sinful I’m prone to be.

A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord almighty. – Malachi 1:6a

When I am walking in unrepentant sin, sin I’m not actively turning away from by the power of the Spirit of God in me, I’m giving God less than my best. I am dishonoring God when I refuse to bring my sin to Him in repentance, when I refuse to walk in the light of communion with Him.

Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. – Malachi 3:8a

When I refuse to give God back what He has already given me, I am in essence robbing Him. We see in the book of Malachi and elsewhere that God will ultimately not be mocked when we refuse to be generous, when we refuse to utilize the gifts we’ve been given for the Kingdom of God.

Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. – Malachi 2:3

And here’s the grossest verse in Malachi, a verse that takes me back to that scene from RV. Unrepentant sin is like poop smeared across my face. It is disgusting and abhorrent.

Do we think of sin in this way? Do we excuse it away, diminishing its weightiness? Or do we embrace the reality that our sin dishonors God, robs from God, and ultimately is vile before God?

Today, I’m well aware of my sin.

On days like today, I feel like a poop-faced pastor.

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

Now, if you’re feeling beat down, with every sin you’ve committed bearing down on you, you’re missing the point.

There’s a difference between conviction and condemnation. I pray that the book of Malachi and what it teaches about our sin convicts you, not condemns you.

Once we are more than aware of the poop on our faces, the beauty of God’s gracious sanctification becomes clear.

The Gracious Process of Sanctification

Sanctification is not fun. It can be excruciatingly painful at times. Like I have said, the moments when God draws my attention to my sins is never a happy occasion. Not at first at least. Once I wrestle through my doubts, I am reminded of the sanctification process that is provided for me by a good God.

God is holy.

His glory shines bright.

Encountering Him as I walk through life is exhilarating and disconcerting. He is holy. I am not when there is unrepentant sin in my life. Look with me however at how the book of Malachi talks about this process of sanctification.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, – Malachi 3:2-3

Refiner’s fire.

That’s how the prophet Malachi describes the nature of God when He comes to remove the sins of His people. The priests and religious leaders of the people of God were full of sin. God would come to deal with this sin, but we see that He does it by refining and purifying so that there would be a remnant of priests who would now be able to appear in righteousness before the Lord.

Here’s the beauty of the gospel.

When I look in the mirror of God’s Word and see poop on my face, I can rest assured that God will purify me and refine me from my sin. I will be made clean. I will be made new.

People of God, sit briefly under the weight of your sin. Realize that it is a dishonoring of God. But don’t remain there in self-condemnation. Race to the cross. Rejoice in the grace that is available for you in Jesus Christ.

Confess your sins to other believers. I’m grateful for the couple men I trust that I can bring my sin into the light with. They know me, the real me.

Be purified.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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The “New” Normal

When I was at OBU, I never sat in a lecture entitled How To Pastor During A Pandemic.

There were no nuggets of wisdom or examples shared with how to guide and lead a church or a ministry in the midst of all these things.

If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t found in the table of contents in your Bible a book on how to make much of Jesus during a pandemic either.

We, humans with finite knowledge and wisdom, are in uncharted territory.

The last nine or ten months have been hard vocationally. Decisions have been made that people don’t like. Striving to help students and adults make much of Jesus in a way that is safe for our community has been an ongoing task.

Throughout the seeming chaos, the Lord has been teaching me truth after truth. What I want to share this afternoon is not political, it is not a list of different conspiracy theories. It is my desire not to be flippant either, as I know people who have been through great despair and grief as a result of this year’s events. My prayer is that this would be a source of peace that drives you to Scripture and prayer.

Here’s my point. A phrase that I have heard a thousand times this year is “this is the new normal”. I bristled against that. I didn’t want that to be so. I fought against that in my heart. I’ve grumbled and given my opinions and been anything but gentle. As I’ve looked at the history of the church and more importantly Scripture, I’ve been struck with the reality that what we’re going through right now truly is normal, and it’s nothing new.

Pandemics and political upheaval are nothing new. They may be new to us, but they’re not new.

Much like I did when I wrote about the election, I want to ramble through my thoughts about this year in bullet point format:

  • God is not surprised by what is taking place. This should be a source of great security and peace in the life of a Christian.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of kingdoms rising and falling, political intrigue and drama. We must not be shaken by the events of human kingdoms and powers. We must strive to pray for our leaders and serve our neighbors.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of pestilence and disease, moments when the people of God faced great trials in the form of sickness.
  • Our nation is built upon the idea of individual freedom. This is not inherently sinful, but it is prone to be. The Bible does not teach individualism. It teaches submission and community. It doesn’t teach freedom to do whatever I want to do, but rather freedom to lovingly, by God’s grace, submit to leaders at every level of life knowing they are put in place by a sovereign Father. Go read Romans 13.
  • The vitriol, hatred, and conflict we are seeing is the result of our individualism being brought in check. We want to call the shots in our own lives. We want to do what we think is best. How Christlike, how Kingdom-expanding, how beautiful it would be if we were to start making decisions in line with what others think is best. If this rubs me the wrong way, I’ve allowed life to be all about me.
  • When the government asks us to do something, we should submit. In matters of personal preference, we should be charitable and understanding. Colossians 3 says that we are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Are our conversations about these matters of personal preference characterized by such fruits of God’s work in our lives?
  • What are you filling your mind with? I’m 100% prone to seek darkness. Give me the bad news. I want it. This is a matter of what we cherish. I’ve been reminded by the Lord to look for light. May we be brothers and sisters in Christ who are informed, but not obsessively preoccupied with the latest Covid news.
  • What we are experiencing, many of us, is the reality of our frailty, our coming death. We won’t live forever. We should live in light of this fact. Every day when we wake up, our prayer should be that God uses us to extend the Kingdom of God, that we would live out Romans 15:2, striving to encourage and build up those around us. Every single day is a gift of God’s sustaining grace at work in our lives (Psalm 4).
  • Community is important. Loneliness is real, it’s present, it’s a pandemic of its own in our communities. May we seek to love well those who have had to be isolated for the majority of this year. May we as the church be a conduit of God’s love to those in need.
  • Share Christ. Seriously. If all we share on our social media profiles and in our conversations is our election hot take, our conspiracy theory, our opinions on masks, our anger and outrage over such and such decision or result, we are acting like this country is our home. It’s not. We are refugees. Foreigners. Passing through. Yes, be aware and sensitive to the hurt that is being experienced. But if all we do is add to the noise, we are failing to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on our communities.
  • Pray, pray, pray. There are people I know that are exhausted. Hospital workers. Teachers. Administrators. Parents. Neighbors. Friends. Family members. Prayer is powerful and this year should drive us to our knees.
  • Lastly, please be patient with us pastors. We strive to make much of Jesus and to love His people well. We are trying to make decisions that boost the physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and relational health of our people. Very rarely will you 100% agree, but I ask that you pray for us.

That was an ol’ rambling mess, but it was my thoughts about this year. Whatever 2021 may hold, may we remember that Jesus is on the throne. In the span of history, this is normal, and this isn’t new. May we rest in the unchanging God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

What’s On Your Mind?

My mind races almost all the time. There are normally a dozen thought processes running through my head from moment to moment. It’s the way I’m wired.

It’s become such a part of me that my wife knows I’m lying anytime I answer ‘nothing’ when she asks me what I’m thinking about.

From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep my mind is on the run.

So I’ve striven to live a life of meditation.

You see, the Biblical view of meditation is the process of filling your mind. That’s what it means to meditate.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2

Oh how I desire to be that man.

The beautiful part of Psalm 1 is that it opens our eyes to the reality that happiness is found when we delight ourselves in meditating on God’s Word (v. 1).

Don’t you want to be happy? I certainly do. I want a life full of happiness that is grounded in the work of Christ and the beauty of His Word. I want to wake up excited to take on the day ahead, and that’s not always the case.

A lot of days I wake up and I’m just trying to summon the strength to get going.

That’s not God’s design for us.

He doesn’t want to produce flippant, fickle, ungrounded men and women who don’t acknowledge the realities of a Genesis 3 world. But at the same time He desires for His people to be the happiest of people.

Happiness isn’t found in mindless scrolling of social media. Happiness isn’t found in filling our minds with the latest Covid conspiracy theories, anecdotal articles that focus on self-help, or angry editorials that idolize our nation and our political party. Happiness is found in filling our minds with God’s Word.

Psalm 1 differentiates between the counsel of this world we reside in and the counsel of His Law. The opening verse encouraged us to avoid the counsel of the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.

How much of what I fill my mind with falls under that?

Instead, we are told by God to fill our minds with His Word. Day and night. If you instinctively go for your phone in moments of waiting, utilize that. When you’re in line at the grocery store. When you’re brushing your teeth. When you’re waiting for a few minutes before a meeting. When you’re waiting a few minutes for your spouse to get home. When you’re in those spaces where you grab your phone, go to your Bible app. Meditate. I think you could fill your mind with so much more Scripture than you might think if you intentionally stole those moments of waiting and instead of checking Instagram you read some Scripture.

Day and night.

Meditate.

Your time in God’s Word should not be casual and flippant. It should be voracious. We should be hungry for more of it, for it helps us commune with the Trinitarian God we love.

Meditation involves taking the Word seriously by our determining to make use of more than a casual and occasional reading of the Bible. – Alton McEachern

Do we take the Word seriously?

I don’t.

It’s much more easy and convenient to fill my mind with mindless stuff instead of filling it with Scripture.

May we grow to be happy men and women who passionately pursue a deep study of the Scriptures.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

My Prayer For The President

My heart is heavy this morning. I am a bit anxious about tomorrow, but not for the reason you might think. I’m anxious not about the outcome but rather about the witness of the church in 2020.

My heart hurts because I am a Family Discipleship Pastor tasked with reaching the next generation for Christ. Yet they are leaving the church in droves. LifeWay did a survey and 25% of the people they polled who had stopped attending church regularly said it was due to politics that they left (http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Young-Adult-Church-Dropout-Report-2017.pdf).

TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT.

And yet, we’re still doing it. We still are saying “True Christians would vote for ________”. We still break the second commandment by ascribing to God what He has not said in His word. As we break the second commandment day after day, conversation after conversation, Facebook post after Facebook post, the younger generations are leaving the church.

God help us.

Please. Stop reading right now and think. Think about the words you have spoken. My prayer, my desperate prayer, is that nothing I say drives anyone away from the church. Yet if I am breaking the second commandment and saying Christians can only vote Republican or Christians can only vote Democrat, there are statistics that show people are leaving the church over that.

Can you imagine?

People are missing the opportunity to hear about their Lord and Savior because of our political beliefs.

God have mercy. Forgive us.

With a grieving heart, I want to ramble a little bit about my beliefs regarding this election. This will come in bullet point form. After getting that all out in the open, I will then share a prayer from church history that I will be praying for our president, whether it be Trump or Biden.

  • I have Christ-honoring friends who are voting Republican, voting Democrat, and exercising their right not to vote. No one view is fully in line with Scripture. There should be nuance here, there should be grieving here. No political party is perfectly in line with Scripture.
  • Every word we speak should be to lift others up. It saddens me to see men and women who have been Christians for one year or fifty years calling the other side ‘idiots, morons, foolish, dumb,’ and things a lot worse than that. Jesus doesn’t cheer us on when we bash others (Ephesians 4:29-32). Even those policies you deem as evil or wicked are not the result of the man but of the spiritual warfare at work in the world (Ephesians 6). At the end of the day, look at your life. Look at all that God has forgiven you of. He didn’t condemn you. Don’t condemn others. Pray for them.
  • I have been taking church history in seminary this semester. When you study the 2,000 year history of the church, you see it thrive when it is under persecution. You see it dwindle and die, get corrupt and power-hungry, when it is the center of society. That’s why I’m not nervous about the results of the election. If the church keeps getting pushed out of the center of society, praise God. For it is there that we grow.
  • When we try and find our hope and peace in the outcome of an election, we forget the words of Jesus Himself. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36. This is not our home. I believe that we are seeing the idol of the American Dream fall, and it has us shaken. Yet when we remember that we are vapor, mist, dirt, and that we are temporary dwellers on earth, we have no reason to fear an election.
  • Our country is not loved more by God than other nations. The church in America is not loved by God more than the church in other nations. To think so is to forget his sovereignty over the whole world. To think so is for me to be arrogant. Let us be men and women who read the prophetic warnings against the church in the Prophets. Read them and repent.
  • God resides over every king and every kingdom. Nothing takes place that He did not plan for our good and His glory.
  • I am grieving at the loss of discipleship in our churches. You want to see change take place? You can’t legislate salvation. You can’t legislate sanctification. You must disciple. The commission of Matthew 28 is not ‘go and vote’. It’s ‘go and make disciples’. Yes, exercise our blessed right to vote. But don’t think that’s your primary Christian duty. Your primary Christian duty is to make disciples. When did you last meet with a younger brother or sister in Christ? When did you invest in someone spiritually? I see posts all over the place of ‘I voted’. Where are the posts about discipleship? Where is the passion to do that?
  • Again, vote if that is your conscience. Countless men and women have given their lives so that we can. Countless of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other nations don’t have such a right. But also realize that prayer is more powerful. In Daniel 10, an angel responds to the words of Daniel, and nations are changed as a result. We have that same power. We need the Spirit to move more than we need our guy in the White House.
  • We are called by God to submit to the president, even if it’s not the one we voted for. This is apparent in 1 Peter 2:13. We are also to remember that 1 Peter says (as does countless other passages from Genesis to Revelation) that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME (foreigners and exiles, v. 11). May we not expend all of our energy building a kingdom that will one day be a footnote in history. May we expend our energy bringing the Kingdom of God to earth (Matthew 6:10).
  • No matter the outcome, be kind. Be gracious. Be gentle. And please, please be humble. To celebrate your win is to forget your fellow image-bearers. No one should be excited this week. We should grieve the disunity, grieve the unkind words being spoken. Even in victory, speak words that honor Jesus, because you will give an account for what you say.
  • No matter the outcome, pray. Pray for Biden. Pray for Trump. Pray.

I urge you, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

I could preach on that for a while. We are called to live peaceful and quiet lives as Christians. Quiet lives. Not boisterous and loud lives of social media political drivel. Quiet lives of godliness and holiness. How do we go about doing that? By praying WITH THANKSGIVING FOR ALL PEOPLE.

Realize that Nero is emperor at this time. Nero, according to church history, is responsible for the death of Paul who writes this. Paul prayed for a man who eventually killed him. That’s the Kingdom of God on display.

That means, if Biden wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

That means, if Trump wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

Don’t you see that to be a Christian is to be distinctly different from the world?

For me, you won’t know how I vote.

For me, my prayer is that you see me living a quiet life and peaceful life, one of godliness and holiness, not one of arrogant celebration or condescending condemnation.

No matter the outcome, honor Christ.

No matter the outcome, make much of Jesus.

For if you cling to political power as your primary hope, you forsake the Scriptures. Acts 4:12 says that salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. John 10:10 says that life is found in Jesus.

You know who will be on the throne Wednesday? Jesus.

You know who won’t be surprised Wednesday? Jesus.

You know that if you don’t win, Jesus isn’t punishing our country. He’s using the election for His glory and our GOOD.

Lastly, finally, after much rambling, my prayer.

This prayer is not my own, but was prayed by Pope Clement, an early church father, prayed for the governmental authorities in Corinth.

Grant to them Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor in you.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

May we not drive people away from their Savior based on an election.

May we make much of Jesus.

For His Glory,

Nate Roach

Squirrels, Lions, and Provision

Growing up, I went camping with my family all the time. I have had so many experiences out in nature with people I love.

I’ve encountered a coiled up western diamondback rattlesnake. On another occasion, I almost put my foot in a rattlesnake nest while climbing a rock face (thankfully someone called out to me). I have seen massive alligators up close and personal in South Texas. I’ve seen longhorn, bison, and elk. My mom and I almost got lost on a trail at dusk that we then found out was near the den of a mountain lion.

I’ve burned wood that had poison ivy on it, I’ve sat on a nest of ticks and had hundreds all over me. I’ve hiked more miles than I can count and eaten more graham crackers (while the normal people ate smores) than some have in a lifetime.

These fun experiences led to memories I cherish.

Yet, these times in nature were an opportunity for me to encounter God.

Hebrews 1 teaches us that God has spoken to His people through the prophets and now through the Son.

Yet when you pay attention to Scripture, you see that God often speaks to us through His good creation. Or rather, creation testifies to His character and nature.

Psalm 104 is a song about how God has orchestrated creation to give Himself glory and praise. The psalmist draws attention to many different realities of the natural world that point to the supernatural Creator behind the scenes.

Meditate on it. Meditate on this psalm that testifies to God’s greatness and goodness, His provision and protection.

Watch nature documentaries that show you the wonders of the animal kingdom that spans the globe, the intricacies of inter-species relationships. I’ve been watching Our Planet on Netflix and have been in awe of the wonders of creation. God has been teaching me things and illustrating things for me even through watching that show.

For instance, ministers are a lot like flamingos (but that’s a blog post for another time).

Get out in creation. Take a day trip to a local state park and search for the hand of God in the world He has made.

As I’ve meditated on Psalm 104 recently, the following verse has been very impactful.

The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. – Psalm 104:21

Here’s what that communicates to me about God.

God cares for beasts. God provides for them. God allows them to find food. Now, do lions have the awareness that they are receiving only that which God has given them?

Certainly not.

But it’s no less true.

God cares for them as their provider.

In fact, this psalm teaches that all of creation is provided for by God.

The earth is full of your creatures. . . all of them wait for you to give them their food at the right time. When you give it to them, they gather it; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. – Psalm 104:24b, 27-28

God provides food for all of His creatures, big and small.

According to the psalmist, that extends to us. When we have food and wine, God orchestrated the events that got those things to our table (Psalm 104:14-15).

You, brother or sister in Christ, are the crown jewel of God’s creation. You are cared for by the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and feeds the mouths of young lions.

I encourage you to seek God in creation.

Go outside.

I’m planning a trip to the Wichita Mountains (a semi-local wildlife refuge) in the next week or two in order to just see God’s creation on display. While thinking through this psalm, I wrote the following in my journal:

“God created, fashioned, founded, and formed the earth. The earth itself testifies to its Creator. I need to get off my phone and see it.”

I don’t know what acknowledging God’s creation may look like in your life. But I encourage you to do what you can.

It’s all around us.

I have squirrels that run across the roof of my house every day. And every time I hear them is an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that God provides for them. And if He provides for them, how much more so will He provide for me.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Kingdom is for Children

Then children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After placing his hands on them, he went on from there. – Matthew 19:13-15

Our world is built on power. Powerful men and women run nations, lead businesses, win awards, and make money. A brief glance at the news, politics, sports, church, and really any aspect of our culture at all will show you that the loud and proud lead the world. You get ahead by being good at something and not doing it for free. You get ahead by drawing attention to yourself and making a name for yourself.

These last couple days however God has put a lot on my heart.

It revolves around the passage above.

We are to become like little children. Jesus brings children to Himself, blesses them, and says the Kingdom is for them.

You see, the Kingdom of God is drastically different from the kingdoms of man, the cultures we live in. It’s upside-down. It’s backwards. It’s better.

In a world that says arrogance and self-service are the standard, we are to live with gentleness and kindness. We are to live with humility and self-giving love.

In a world that teaches us all to believe that everyone else orbits around our desires, the Kingdom teaches us to give up all of our life for everyone else.

In a world that teaches to take the spotlight, we are told to find the shadows, to find the opportunities to serve those around us.

This is counter-cultural in every regard. Romans 12:1-2 teaches that we are not to conform to the patterns of this world in its arrogance-promoting and self-serving way. Instead we are to be transformed by renewing our minds in Scripture, following the leadership of the Servant King (see the book of Philippians).

Through reading 2 Peter and praying through the passage above, I have had the following questions on my heart. Maybe they would be good for you to think about as well.

Do I chase, cling to, and cherish status?

OR

Do I chase, cling to, and cherish the Savior?

What is precious to me?

God’s promises, presence, and people?

OR

Earthly power, prestige, and pleasure?

You see, a quick look at our lives will show us the answers to those questions. If I wake up thinking about how to self-promote, self-serve, and get my way, then I’m clearly living askew. But if I wake up and take myself before the Lord in prayer and Word, then I’m living rightly.

In the same way, if I dedicate myself to obtaining likes on social media, supporters at church, friends in the community, and all the other earthly glories, then I’m living askew. But if I am motivated by and treasure above all else the promises of God for me, pursue time with Him at the expense of earthly things, and lavishly love all of His people, then I’m living rightly.

Too many people think that living for Jesus is easy, simple, natural. But that is simply not the case. It takes transformation in the Word. It takes prayer. It takes reorientation. It takes living in such a way that seems utterly foolish to an ego-driven culture.

The Kingdom is for children.

The Kingdom is for those of us who actively and intentionally forsake status and prestige for the sake of Jesus.

The Kingdom is for those who can play the background so that the Risen Savior gets all the spotlight.

I’m still on this journey.

You know when I most encounter this struggle?

Golfing.

(Don’t stop reading. I know this is my 1000th golf illustration)

I am atrocious at golf. Like high-nineties on a good day atrocious.

Today I played in a scramble at the local country club.

Now, generally speaking, golf tournaments for those who are good at golf. The best golfers in town were certainly out there today. In those environments I get real stressed because I hate people watching me play, especially those who are quite good.

If there was ever a sport about status and prestige, it’s certainly golf (in my opinion). So today was a chance to practice just existing. Not trying to impress. Not trying to make a name for myself. Just enjoying my time.

In my time with the Lord today I felt like He was wanting me to just enjoy the gift.

The phrase “I’m just golfing with my Father” ran through my mind again and again. I thought about Psalm 27:4 and how I wanted to just be in God’s presence today.

You see, growing up, my dad and I would golf together. It was our thing. None of my other siblings really enjoyed it, but I cherished that time with him. And it was so much fun. I would hit a horrible shot, and we would just laugh about it. We would give each other a lot of grace, move the ball onto good grass, take mulligans, and just have a great time. I never felt nervous with my dad.

That’s what life in general is supposed to be like as a Christian. It’s not about impressing others. It’s about enjoying life with the Father.

Having that mindset doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it snap me out of my fear of what others think of me. Not in a moment at least.

Today I shanked a tee shot about 2.5 miles away from the fairway near other people, and I didn’t have the humility to go get it. I’m still growing. Still learning to enjoy life with the Father.

My prayer is that you enjoy life too.

The world is pushing you towards elevating yourself. The way of Christ is the way of going deep into humility.

Let us be different. Let us be transformed. Let us live for others.

Let us enjoy life with the Father.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Long Road Of Repentance

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.

That’s the little ditty that you’ve heard if you have a background in church, particularly VBS or Sunday School. I grew up singing that song or at least hearing it often. This weekend, I was led to give it a lot more thought than I typically do.

You see, growing up, my knowledge of Zacchaeus was that he was a man who abruptly changed his life in response to the welcoming and receptive love of Jesus. If anything he was the epitome of rapid repentance, of going from being a tax collector who stole to a man who wanted to restore funds to all the people who he stole from. You can read all about his story in Luke 19.

But if I’m being honest, I don’t see that type of repentance happening very often in the ministries I’m a part of. I don’t see 180 degree turns from vice to virtue. Now, obviously, when it comes to salvation itself, we know that that truly is an instantaneous change from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.

I’m thinking more along the lines of habits being changed from sinful to sanctified. Gossips and slanderers becoming kind and encouraging. Cheaters and liars becoming men and women of integrity. The sexually immoral changing their ways.

I don’t see those in a moment changes.

I don’t see those changes in me. Oh how I wish I could be sanctified in certain areas of my life with the snap of my fingers. It would certainly be a lot easier that way.

But life with Christ is generally not like that.

It’s a journey.

A process.

So let me propose (my words, but the ideas of Marlena Graves in her book The Way Up Is Down) another angle to the Zacchaeus story. This angle is just an interpretation. It is by no means the right one. Just something to consider.

What if the process of repentance with Zacchaeus was a lot longer than we think?

You see, in the Gospel of Luke’s account of the teachings of John the Baptist, we see him address tax collectors in this way:

Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." - Luke 3:12-13

These were Kingdom ethics. And the reality is, where John the Baptist was preaching was likely only six miles from Jericho. Zacchaeus may have been in the crowd that listened to John the Baptist preach. If he wasn’t there personally, his tax collector buddies may have shared that teaching.

Take no more than you are supposed to.

Maybe that was something he mulled over when he went to bed at night. What kind of teaching is that?

John also spoke of one to come, one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, one who would come as the Christ.

As time passed, the city of Jericho was abuzz with knowledge of Jesus, son of Joseph.

Zacchaeus may have remembered what he saw with his own eyes or heard with his own ears. He may have come with that in mind, trying to push through the crowd to see this one that was to come.

Upon his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaimed that he would pay back fourfold what he had taken.

Repentance.

Life change.

A new way of living in the world.

Maybe it wasn’t instantaneous (although God has the power to bring that about). Maybe it was a long journey of submissive listening and learning, leading to Jesus.

I see that to be the case more often in my life.

I didn’t wake up one day and say “I don’t want an impatient and frustrated disposition” and then boom it came about. God has in the past year refined me, pained me, challenged me, convicted me. And I can now look back to where I was a year ago and see the change. Do I still get impatient and frustrated? You betcha. But I’ve seen change in my life. Painful, slow, hard change.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you’re praying for change in your life or in the life of someone you love, it’s a journey. You may not be seeing it. But it’s happening. Slowly. Oh so slowly.

You don’t know how many seeds will be planted via conversations, Scriptures, moments, and experiences before the life-altering encounter with Jesus takes place. I am prone to think that Zacchaeus had been worked on for a long time. Your loved one, or yourself for that matter, have been worked on for a long time too.

Repentance is slow.

But when we can look back and see the journey we’ve taken, it’s oh so beautiful.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Preferences

What’s your idea of a perfect church?

What type of classes should be offered? What outreach ministries should be taking place? What should the church’s logo look like? What type of teaching and preaching should be utilized? What type of music should be sung? What should the youth ministry be like? Should there be formal theological training? What missions organizations should we support? What type of expectations for members should there be? What type of structure should we have?

If you’re like me, you probably have your answers to all of those questions.

And if you’re like me, 100% of your preferences aren’t being met in the church you are a part of.

So what do you do?

Preferences are by no means wrong to have. It’s ingrained in us. It’s the culture we live in.

But when the proliferation of personal preferences become the primary pursuit of my life in the church, I’m woefully missing the mark.

Over the years I’ve been in Vernon, God has been stripping me slowly but surely of my preoccupation with how I think the church should do certain things.

Last Fall, in preparation for leading our students and children through the book of Philippians, I studied said book. And it began to blow me away. Unity through humility and love. Concern for others rather than concern for one’s self, even one’s preferences.

Outside of Scripture, countless books have formed my heart and mind to remember what I’m supposed to be doing. J-Curve taught me that life is about giving up my rights in humility and love. Everywhere You Look is one I finished last month that teaches the Kingdom of God is going to come as we are hospitable and gospel-centered in our neighborhoods.

But lately two things have been on my mind.

Romans 12 and the book Uncomfortable.

Romans 12 is chock full of examples from the church in Rome as to how to apply the life and teachings of Jesus to our lives together.

One of the translations I use and study with is the NASB, and this was how Romans 12:10 was translated:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 

That has been swirling through my mind a lot. I actually have dedicated it to memory because I need to be reflecting on its truths.

What if that was the type of preference I was concerned with?

Putting others first, devoting my life to them in love.

When anxiety racks my mind, or frustrations mount, is it about preferences of how the church runs or the fear that some in my church family don’t feel loved?

What keeps you up at night?

What gets you animated?

Preferences or love?

Man, y’all this has been a tough lesson to learn for me.

I want my conversations to be about loving others well. The people I don’t understand. The people I disagree with at times. The people who are guests. The people who live near me.

I want my conversations and motivations to be about love for God and others.

The reality is, there is no such thing as a perfect church. From an organizational standpoint that is.

The people that make up our churches however are just that.

Perfect.

Saints.

Holy.

Beloved children of God the Father, purchased for Him by Christ the Son, held together through the power of the Spirit.

Shouldn’t that impact every conversation we have? Even the hard ones?

I sit and imagine a people that literally outdo one another in showing honor (the NIV version of Romans 12:10b) to each other.

In the book Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken doubles down on the fact that the modern church goer has the consumerist mentality. This is something the Bible never condones. Is it a normal thought process? Yes. Is it something I need to fight against in my life? Absolutely.

This is a super long series of quotes. You really just need to go read the book yourself. I’ve got it in my office.

‘How it fits me’ is the wrong criteria for finding the right church. Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to be fit into the likeness of Christ. This can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture. . . What if we learned to love churches even when they challenge us and stretch us out of our comfort zones? . . . Commitment even amidst discomfort, faithfulness even amidst disappointment: this is what being the people of God has always been about. . . A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and a non consumerist covenant. 

What if we didn’t think about ourselves and our preferences at all when coming to a church?

What if instead we thought about how we could truly love others, not just our crew, but anyone in the pew.

What if going to a church that is not in your comfort zone in some areas was the way to learn humility and gentleness and love?

Brothers and sisters, I used to be a church basher. An over the top, anal, negative, cynical, apathetic, mocking, vocal critic of any church I went to or was involved in. Even a church I was once on staff at.

Then it hit me.

That’s the Bride of Christ.

It’s messy. It’s broken.

But it’s not a business. It’s not first and foremost an organization. It’s a people. A people to be loved.

Again, preferences aren’t bad. Changes aren’t bad. Changes need to be made to continue growing the Kingdom.

But I 100% believe that those changes are in our hearts first before it’s in the church.

Am I discipling?

When’s the last time you went through Scripture with another believer?

Am I witnessing?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

Am I having people over in my home?

When’s the last time you had someone outside of your sphere of friends over for dinner?

You see, even the seeker movement was based in the misconception that what happens at church during the week is how people come to join the people of God. Not so fast. That’s not true. Biblically or historically.

People will join the Kingdom of God through seeing a community that are devoted to one another in love every single day of the week. Praying for each other. Serving each other. Building relationships with each other. Disagreeing in love with each other. That’s the compelling community.

To build a church around primarily reaching new people is wrong, just as building a church around traditions that never change is wrong. The Gospels show us that when Jesus drew a crowd, He sent them away with tough teachings on laying down one’s lives.

I’m not concerned about how many new students come to youth group.

I’m concerned with how many of my current students go to them.

Every day I have to ask myself if I’m more concerned with my preferences than prayerfully submitting to the Spirit. Even at a place where I don’t agree with 100% of what happens.

Church, let us love one another.

Church, let us be more concerned with that than anything else.

Church, let us remember that we are the Bride. The Bride that Christ died for. The Bride that He loves (and He loves it a little better than we do). When I have berated the church, God is not cheering me on. When I try to humbly serve, that’s when I’m modeling His heart.

It’s time to ditch the consumerist outlook on church, what we can get out of it.

It’s time instead to commit to fighting in the trenches for the Kingdom of God.

Preferences don’t keep people away from Jesus.

Prayerless people do.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Just Talking

One of the greatest movies of all time is obviously The Incredibles.

That may or may not be a bit exaggerated, but my family certainly loved it growing up. We loved it so much we had the accompanying GameCube game. We loved it so much we could quote vast stretches of the dialogue, especially the parts that we found humorous.

At one point in the movie, Mr. Incredible and Frozone are hanging out in a car, listening to the police scanner, hoping for something to be a part of. Syndrome, the villain, has his pal Mirage watching them.

She reports in and says “They’re just . . . talking”.

I don’t know if it’s the cadence of her voice or what, but that random line had me and my siblings dying, and we still use it. At least a couple of us do.

I wonder often what the city I live in thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

I wonder often what the enemy of the Kingdom thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

If they were to summarize what we’re doing, what would they say?

Do the spiritual forces of evil simply say “they’re just talking”?

When I look at my life, I pray that I’m able to say I do more than talk. Yet it’s so easy to do only that.

“We need to be discipling younger men and women. We need to reach out to our friends that aren’t believers. We need to invest in this ministry or get involved in this way in our neighborhood.”

We talk about it.

We go through studies on it.

We go to conferences about it.

But are we actually doing it?

We dream.

We vision cast.

We plan.

But do we act?

From my personal experience, I can attest that when I talk about getting to work in our community, sometimes that does enough to assuage the conviction that I should be doing just that.

So then I go back to the norm.

The status quo.

Here’s the American version of walking with Christ:

  1. Believe in Jesus
  2. Pursue the American Dream
  3. Stick to only minor adjustments to the status quo

I want so much more.

Church, enough is enough. Planning is good. Prepping is good. Talking is good. Vision-casting is good. Dreaming is good. But all of this leading to no action is not the heart of God.

I’ve been in Vernon for almost three years now.

I have done a whole lot of talking.

I don’t know how much I’ve actually done.

I want to invite you, brother or sister in Christ, into action.

I want to share what the Lord has put on my heart in regards to action.

Here’s the normal process for me before I act:

  1. I see a ‘problem’ in the church or the community
  2. I go to Scripture and look for a solution
  3. I act

There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that. But it often leads to rash action that is birthed out of my own frustrations or opinions or perceptions.

The Lord has been leading me to view my actions in this way instead:

  1. Prayerfully and quietly listen to the Spirit’s leading
  2. Make sure what I feel the Lord is leading me to do is faithful to Scripture
  3. Act

Do you see the difference? Too often we walk in Biblical wisdom, but it’s couched in our own frustrations. We adhere to Scripture, but in response to our perceived issues with the church or community, rather than in response to the Spirit’s voice in our prayers.

I long to be the type of man who only ever acts when the Spirit is calling me to act. I long to be the type of man who acts, rather than just talks.

The books of 2 Corinthians and Titus have been on my heart a lot lately.

2 Corinthians is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s a book all about weakness. I don’t like when people acknowledge my weakness. It leads me to pop off, to get frustrated. Yet 2 Corinthians teaches that Christ-followers are to rejoice in their weaknesses.

This verse has been coming to my mind a lot.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. – 2 Corinthians 1:12

Are we just talking?

Or are we conducting ourselves in the world with sincerity and integrity?

Are we relying on worldly wisdom (which I would argue that Biblical wisdom without the Spirit is rather close to that) or God’s grace?

The book of Titus is all about how we should respond to the gospel by doing good works in our communities.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always be gentle toward everyone. – Titus 3:1-2

That one’s tough.

(A quick side note: let’s stop with the gossip. Are we slandering people? Or are we considerate, remembering that every action has behind it life experiences that we know nothing about? Are we peaceable? Are we gentle, even when we don’t get our way?)

We are to be ready to talk about doing good.

No, that’s not what it’s calling us into.

We are to be ready to DO whatever is good.

Church, enough with the lallygagging. Enough with the talking endlessly.

It’s time to listen to where the Spirit is at work.

It’s time to join in with what He is doing.

It’s time to take the advice of Bono’s pastor who told him: Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed.

Are we mentoring someone?

Are we serving our church?

Are we serving our neighborhood?

Are we praying for others?

Are we letting others know we’re praying for them?

Are we inviting other people into life with us, or just the people we like the most?

It’s time to do more than just talk.

It’s time to act.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The photo is not my own.