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

I Am A Horrible god

I am a horrible god.

I can’t control one single thing in my life.

Not really.

Now, I strive and try and give it my best go.

I want to control the youth group I serve. I want to control circumstances in the life of my family, my marriage, my job. I want to control when and how students respond to the gospel.

And.

I.

Can’t.

During this week, I’m reading the book of Esther and listening to a sermon series that covers it. The book of Esther shows us a picture of a man who tried to be in control, who then tried to create a nation full of men who felt the same.

The guy’s name was King Xerxes.

In the first chapter we read of a humongous party that he throws. Six months straight of uninhibited feasting, drinking, and sex. All in a huge palace. It’s disgusting and deplorable. And it’s all about his own glory.

The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. – Esther 1:3a-4

His glory.

His greatness.

At the time, Xerxes was king over an empire that some history buffs estimate was three million square miles. It was massive. The chapter says that he has 127 provinces.

Now, there is archaeological evidence that sheds light on how he referred to himself. He saw himself as the greatest of kings. His enemies (sometimes) and his servants believed the same. Here was a man that was full of his own arrogance. Later in chapter one, he calls for the Queen to come in and be shown off in front of the thousands of men. She denies him that request, and all of a sudden he goes into a tail spin.

Despite his bold and provocative proclamations of his lordship and kingliness, he is still immensely insecure.

So, him and his bros come together and come up with a plan. Queen Vashti’s refusal to come before the King at his command could not be allowed to spread to other women throughout the provinces. So they decide to make a decree.

Part of the decree is as follows.

He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. – Esther 1:22

Now, let’s be clear from the onset, this is blatantly sexist and not at all how a Christ-honoring marriage in 2019 is supposed to work. The woman in the relationship is not called to report to you as king. As a male, you are called to lead the household, yes. But through the model of Christ who gave up His life for those He loved.

Anyway, this is the heart of what Xerxes is trying to do.

He has already acted as god, now he is trying to establish a bunch of smaller gods who are masters over their own affairs.

The satire that is under the surface of this story is that Xerxes will fall to the Greeks. His kingdom will end, only to be remembered in the annals of history. All of his attempts at being god, at being in control, of his spouse and armies and provinces ending in failure.

Guys, here’s the reality.

It’s the reality I’m coming to realize through God’s Word, through the wisdom of others, and from the circumstances of my life.

Worry, anxiety, anger, and fear are often all fruit from me trying to be god.

The loss of joy comes when I feel like I have to control my life.

The loss of joy comes when in my mind, the flourishing of my life is dependent on me.

We make horrible masters.

We make horrible gods.

I added on my prayer list today a daily prayer of “I’m Not God”. For me, in this season of my life, I know that I will need to daily respond to this reality in prayer, to see joy come into my life as I acknowledge that He is God, and He is Good.

Would you pray for me as I walk that out?

Let me know if I can pray for you in any way!

Love ya guys. This one is a little shorter and maybe not as polished, but it’s what is on my heart!

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Aslan Is On The Move

God is near.
Do you believe that?
In the midst of all that you’re facing today, God is close.
Have you ever been in a situation where life seems hopeless? Have you ever been in circumstances or situations where things seem so dark, so discouraging, so messed up, that you don’t think there’s any light to be found?
If you have been there, or if you are there now, I want to show you something in the book of Samuel that I pray gives you hope, if you look closely.
The book of 1 Samuel begins with hope in the midst of darkness. Hannah, a deeply troubled infertile woman, cries out to the Lord in her pain, asking for a child. She promises to give her child back to the Lord if her prayer is granted. God is faithful to her, blessing her in just that way, and she keeps her promise to Him, bringing Samuel to the temple to serve under the headship of the priest, Eli. You can read all about that in 1 Samuel 1-2.
Eli, the priest, was set apart by God to serve Him in the temple. Yet, we see a pretty bleak picture of what his sons, two men who were supposed to follow in his footsteps, were doing at this time.
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. – 1 Samuel 2:12-14
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. – 1 Samuel 2:22
Phinehas and Hophni were the names of these two worthless men.
They were not only stealing from the sacrifices that the people of God were bringing to God, they were also having sex with the female workers at the temple. Worthless men is right. Driven by lust and greed.
Talk about a bleak situation.
The religious leaders were driven by lust and greed.
Things get even bleaker, and then hope peeks its head up in one simple verse.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. – 1 Samuel 3:1-3 
Verse 1 says that the voice of God was rare in those days. At the time of Samuel’s life there was rarely any words from the Lord through a prophet/judge. Instead, the people were doing whatever was right in their own eyes. There was no guidance from God, there was no leadership.
Look at verse three again though.
This is a key part of the story.
So first we read that the voice of God was rare in that day, but now we see that “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.”
In his commentary (1 Samuel for You), Tim Chester notes that he believes this phrase to not simply be a statement about what time of day it is in this moment. Instead, he believes the writer of 1 Samuel intended for this to be symbolic.
Eli’s eyes are literally “dim” in 1 Samuel 3:2. Now we have an image of a lamp almost going out. The light it casts is dim. But it is not yet extinguished. There is still hope. – Tim Chester
I can’t help but think of the moment in the The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe where the Pevensie children are with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The White Witch had turned Narnia into a winter not so wonderland of bleak and dreary days. Mr. Beaver states “Aslan is on the move”, and the children (all but Edmund) burst into hopeful smiles.
In the bleak moments of life, God is still on the move.
In the hopeless moments of life, the lamp of God is still burning.
God is still near.
If you feel like He’s not moving, not speaking, not at work, you’re failing to understand that God dwells with you.
The God of the universe, if you are a follower of Jesus, is with you at ALL times.
In the midst of divorce.
In the midst of losing friends.
In the midst of not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. 
In every situation, God is near.
The lamp of God had not yet gone out. God was about to remind His people that He was still near. He’s about to speak to Samuel.
In His Name,
Nate Roach

Jesus Isn’t Your BFF

I truly believe I could have 100 students in my youth group.

It would take a while, but I think we could get there. The formula is fairly simple. Have live music that’s cutting edge, play a lot of fun games, and have crazy giveaways week in and week out. At the end, have some sort of message that’s loosely based on a verse of Scripture but functions more as a motivational talk about Jesus helping you overcome difficulty in your life rather than a call to come and die with Jesus.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I’m not trying to knock that version of ministry. There are great men and women of God involved in that philosophy and style of ministry and God is saving young men and women through those ministries with that mentality.

That’s just not me.

Instead of 100+ coming to a cutting edge service, we have a little less than forty who come to a honestly pretty boring service from a worldly sense. We don’t play music (although I’d like to I just don’t have the talent), we don’t play that many games and we very rarely have some sort of a giveaway.

What we do have is God’s Word.

We walk through it, week after week, often focusing on chunks of the Bible (I don’t know if that’s an acceptable term for a portion of Scripture or not, but I’m running with it) that are not even all that entertaining to read. What’s been phenomenal to me is that we’ve seen growth come in the midst of it.

I’m not talking breadth.

Last Fall we did a semester-long study through the book of Deuteronomy, and that certainly did cause our numbers to explode.

I’m talking depth.

It’s not been anything crazy. At times I face discouragement because it doesn’t seem like it’s clicking with some students. But for some, their depth in their faith is obvious and powerful.

Yet if you look at the modern evangelical church as a whole, you likely see a trend, especially in the Baptist tradition, to make church about being entertained or feeling good and that’s simply not the call of the follower of Jesus.

Here’s what I mean.

We have emphasized a personal relationship with Jesus.

Now, that is obviously a phenomenal aspect of our faith. Christianity certainly encompasses the opportunity that we have to commune with God through union with Christ and fellowship with the Spirit. What a wonderful thing.

What we’ve done by emphasizing this time and time again however is unintentionally taught people, I think, that they have a private relationship with Jesus. One where they see Him as their best friend forever, but not the Head of the universal church and certainly not the Lord telling them to come and die to their own desires each day.

Jesus isn’t my best friend forever. Sure, He calls me friend. What a marvelous truth. But He is also the Lord of all the universe, worthy of awe and worship, adoration and healthy fear. Jesus is fully man. Yet He is also fully God.

Look around our churches though and you again see that many are hesitant to present a Jesus that is worthy of our fear and worship. Instead of liturgy and church history, we have a modernized Christianity that forgets the 2000 years of faithful men and women who have gone before us and set the foundation for what it looks like to follow God. All of that legacy is tossed aside for the hip new trends that gets the most people in the door.

What we’ve created is a version of following Jesus that is about one’s own comfort and self-worth. I can’t tell you how many posts on social media I have seen recently that say something like “I’m committed to working on myself right now. If you aren’t helpful, if you’re toxic, I’m tossing you to the curb.”

Now, that’s not completely bad.

That mindset creeps into the church though, doesn’t it?

Getting up and getting to church on Sunday mornings is hard. And I say that having zero children and as someone who gets paid to be there.

It’s hard to get there. So, if one is expecting to get a self-help sermon about Jesus’ power to make them overcome any difficulty in their life, (complete with hilarious jokes and illustrations from modern entertainment, oh and music that is right up their alley) when those things are lacking their commitment to church falters.

They’re working on the betterment of themselves. If the church doesn’t help their self-image, and if the people in their church are ‘toxic’ (or in my opinion ‘human’, because we all battle sinful thoughts, words, and actions), then they bail on it.

Church is a declaration that we are allegiant to King Jesus. Church, if done right, should absolutely encourage and train us in righteousness. But it should also convict us, challenge us, and get us outside our comfort zones. It should call us each and every week to die to ourselves in the week ahead. That’s not a fun message in the world of self-help motivational speakers.

Jesus isn’t my BFF or a self-help guru. 

He’s Lord. 

Daniel Darling puts it this way:

I wonder if average worshiping evangelicals feel the weight of what they say they believe. I wonder if they grasp that Jesus is more than a fun bumper sticker or billboard, that he is the Head of the church, the Lord of creation, and the sovereign King of the universe. . . our homogenized evangelicalism can at times make weekly worship more like a divinely inspired TED talk than an act of worship, offering a Jesus who desperately wants to be your BFF but is totally chill if you’re, like, not that into him. – Daniel Darling 

Actually guys, if you would like to read a spectacular book on this subject, get The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling. This post is basically me thinking through what he talks about in his book.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Chasing Seagulls

I’m back! I took a break from the blog to enjoy vacation and get ready for the Fall in my church! But now after this hiatus I’m ready to jump back in! 

Earlier this month, Jamie and I went to Emerald Isle in North Carolina for a family reunion. It was a restful week with family, lots and lots of reading, and sleeping in!

One day, I was out on the beach reading and my nephew Samuel was playing in the sand right in front of me.

Now, here’s a little background on my boy Samuel. He is stinking adorable. I mean seriously, he is the cutest. He steals the show. Every time. But he can’t say a whole lot right now (which is understandable since he is 18 months old). One thing he loved to say though was “hav”. He would stick out his arms toward something that he wanted and say that. “Hav, hav, hav”. Adorable.

Back to the sand. There we are hanging out. Then a handful of seagulls flew overhead and landed not far from where the Roach clan had staked their claim on the shore. Samuel’s curiosity was immediately piqued. He got up and starting moving toward them.

Then the hilarity ensued. Samuel kept shouting “hav, hav, hav, hav” while moving as quick as his little legs could take him toward these seagulls. My older brother Jon and sister-in-law Whitney tried to get him to understand that no, he could not have a seagull.

I’ve been thinking about prayer lately. The youth group I help shepherd is going through the book of 1 Samuel this Fall. Last night we started our journey through the book, looking at the birth of Samuel. I was struck by the ferocity and rawness of Hannah’s prayers to the Lord. She was dealing with infertility. This was something that would have made her a social pariah in her culture. To be infertile was to be cursed by God, something that many assumed was the result of sin in the life of the woman who was infertile.

Think about that.

Think about the depths of that pain.

Anyway, Hannah goes all out with the Lord.

Look at what the Bible says about her prayers.

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. – 1 Samuel 1:10

When’s the last time you prayed like that? When’s the last time you let it all out? When’s the last time you were totally open before God?

In the ensuing verses we see that Eli the priest actually believes that Hannah is drunk because her prayers are just that fervent, raw, emotional.

There is definitely a place for awe and wonder before God. We must treat Him with the worshipful posture that he deserves. That being said, we don’t need to sterilize our prayers. We can be real with Him regarding our emotions (just read the Psalms if you don’t believe me), understanding that He already knows our emotions.

Pray fervently and ferociously.

But what about when the prayer isn’t answered?

What then?

Here’s where the story of my nephew Samuel (not the Biblical Samuel. Confusing.) comes into play.

My nephew wanted a seagull. He wanted one bad. He actually spent many a cool minute chasing these birds around the sand.

Now here’s the reality. It would have been super duper tough, but it’s likely that my older brother, Samuel’s father, could have gotten a seagull for him.

Here’s why he didn’t. Seagulls are riddled with disease and simply just aren’t the ideal companion for an eighteen-month old. My brother Jon knew better than Samuel what was best for Samuel.

I’m not as wise as King Jesus.

Neither are you.

Let’s just be honest. Even if you have been on the earth for decades, you still pale in comparison to God when it comes to wisdom and knowledge.

I believe that sometimes God does not give us what we’re asking Him for simply because He knows it’s not what’s best for us.

My nephew Samuel wanted a seagull. His father knew that wasn’t best for him.

If you aren’t getting from God something that you want, maybe it’s because Your Father knows that that thing is not what’s best for you.

Let me go back to Hannah for a second.

There’s a powerful aspect of her prayer. She asked God for a son, and promised to return her son back to the Lord. Talk about sacrifice. Talk about dedication. Talk about faithfulness.

The birth of Samuel likely restored Hannah’s joy and vigor and life in ways that I cannot even begin to comprehend. She went from infertile to fertile, from barren woman to nursing mother. Yet in the midst of that incredible joy she chose to give back the answer to her prayer to the Lord.

This causes me to ask myself the question:

Is the focus of my prayers that which would benefit me alone or that which would benefit the Kingdom?

What is the motivation behind the prayers I pray? Are they purely about me? Or are they about extending the Kingdom of God in the place that God has me today?

Am I praying for that which would help me love God and love neighbor? Or am I just chasing seagulls?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Practice Vulnerability. Pursue Community.

Vulnerability. 

The word itself is enough to make most of us cringe. We often are scared of it and, if we’re being honest, being vulnerable with a friend is usually the last thing on our agenda. We assume that it will make us look weak, that people will judge us for the things we confess, or that any number of negative outcomes are possible. So, instead of stepping out in faith, we choose to be silent. 

However, most of us desire community. And we should. The Lord calls us to pursue community and it is so vital to our spiritual growth. But, when we are asked to be vulnerable, we shy away, we change the subject, or we remove ourselves from the conversation instead of diving in. 

Friends, this doesn’t work.

I have learned that you cannot have community without practicing vulnerability. 

The Lord has been so gracious to bless me with some God-ordained friendships that have radically changed my life. I am so thankful for these relationships, but they require work. They require honesty. They require trusting that the Lord has placed the right people in your life. They require vulnerability. 

Vulnerability is not comfortable and it is rarely easy, but I have seen firsthand the fruits of my labor, of my pursuit of vulnerability. I won’t tell you that being vulnerable is easier for me than the next person, but I have learned that it is essential and vital to the growth of God-ordained friendships. 

I would love to tell you that vulnerability is easy when you engage in deep relationships with the people that you know God has intentionally placed in your life to be your community. However, to tell you that would be a lie. My heart still beats a little faster, my hands still start to shake, and I still laugh nervously every time I prepare myself to be really vulnerable.

I don’t know what vulnerability looks like for you. Maybe for you it simply means expressing how you feel about something to a close friend. Maybe it means confessing a sinful practice in your life that you need to be held accountable for. Maybe it means discussing your past struggles that you haven’t healed from or your anxieties about the future. This deliberate choice of vulnerability may feel like the hardest thing you have ever done. But, I can tell you that it is so worth it. 

This, however, is not a guarantee that you will not be hurt. We are all human and we all, whether purposefully or not, let the people we love down. We speak before we listen. We don’t bite our tongue when we should. We say things we don’t mean. We are human. It happens in every relationship, and a God-ordained friendship in which you consistently practice vulnerability will not be void of these things. 

BUT, it will push you to be better and do better. It will push you to grow in your faith and to pursue the Lord more fully. It will teach you how to love yourself, the Lord, one another, and others better. 

When we choose vulnerability instead of silence, instead of surface-level relationships, we learn how to point each other to Jesus more. We learn how to hold each other accountable in our sinfulness. We learn what Biblical truths our friends need to be reminded of a little more often. The Lord can use others to pour into us much more when we are practicing vulnerability than when we choose to sit silent. 

Pursuing deep, God-centered relationships is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It takes effort. It takes discipline. It takes energy and so much heart. And it takes courage to be vulnerable. 

The Lord will use your vulnerability to grow relationships in ways that you could never imagine. He will supply you with just the right people in the most unexpected of times. He will do what only He can do, but the Lord cannot make us trust that He has put people in our lives for the purpose of vulnerability. He cannot choose to put in the work and the effort to grow and build a God-ordained relationship for you. He cannot be vulnerable for you. We have to do our part. 

The Lord calls us to be in community and we cannot do that without practicing vulnerability. 

My challenge to you is to look for the people that the Lord has placed in your life. Look for those people that God wants to give you a relationship with. It may be a person that you have known your whole life. It may be a person you have known for two months. The Lord loves to surprise us with beautiful things when we choose to look to Him, when we choose to look for His people. Look for and pursue those God-ordained friendships. When you find them, hold tightly to them. Practice vulnerability. It won’t be easy, but it will always be worth it.  

– Mackenzie Knox