Embracing Our Place

Last night I went to a graduation ceremony at my church for two great young men who had completed a gospel-centered drug rehabilitation program.

Those who filled the pews in our sanctuary came from all various backgrounds. There were those who have grown up in church, in Christian families, like myself. There were those who had fought addiction for decades and were continuing to be sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There were those who have their Baptist Hymnal memorized, complete with the third and fourth verses of many songs. There were those who prefer the ear-shattering drums and bass of concert-style music like we had last night.

All the while, I reflected on how this was the future of the church in America.

(I’m not talking about the music. Ear-shattering electric guitar is not more pleasing to God than hymns, or vice versa. Worship is about the condition of one’s heart, not one’s preference in music style.)

A unique, diverse group of men and women who were all acknowledging their need for the saving work of Christ.

You see, it’s those who acknowledge their need for Jesus who experience Jesus.

Those who act like they have it all together (none of us do) miss out on the joy and hope of Jesus.

The Lord has been revealing this to me over and over.

The first way God revealed this to me was on Monday night. Every week or so, my wife and I do a short Bible study in the Gospel of Luke. We were reading in Luke 6, and the following passage was impactful and intriguing.

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. – Luke 6:20-26

Wow.

Talk about how the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom.

Who is blessed?

The poor, those who are hungry, those who weep, those who are hated.

Now who is it that should be warned?

The rich, the well fed, the happy, the well spoken of and well liked.

When I think back to last night’s extravaganza, this passage just bursts into reality. A sanctuary full of men and women who acknowledged ‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not good enough. I need help. I need a Savior.” Those who acknowledge their needs will be blessed by the presence of their Savior.

Fast-forward from Monday night with my wife to yesterday afternoon. I was working through a Bible study on the book of Galatians, and I came across this quote.

Their belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah was hard to reconcile with the traditional view of an exalted Messiah, especially because Jesus had been nailed to a cross, like a common criminal. 

This quote is in reference to first-century Jews who had a hard time accepting that Jesus was the Messiah. This was because they believed their Messiah would restore the people of God to prominence, usurping the authority of Rome. This isn’t what happened. Instead, Rome crucified this Messiah. It didn’t make sense to them.

That’s because Jesus turns everything upside down. Instead of leading a rebellion to overthrow Rome and be served, He came to serve and give His life for His people.

You know what’s interesting to me?

You and I like to fight for that second list.

Don’t we?

We want to be full. We want to have self-worth that is boosting through the roof, so the gospel becomes about us rather than God. We want cushy, comfortable church experiences where we are never convicted or challenged. We want to be liked by everyone (well, some of us desire this). Our biggest hopes are that legislations and laws will be enacted that support our views. We want the church to be central. God and country. Cultural Christianity. All the while we are being warned by Jesus not to strive for these things.

Brothers and sisters, why are you clawing so hard to get back to the center of society?

Brothers and sisters, why are you exerting all of your energy to be better than Jesus? He suffered. We will suffer.

Instead, embrace what makes us blessed in the eyes of Christ.

Embrace your sinfulness. Embrace your need for a Savior. Embrace the aches and pains in your heart. Embrace God for who He is. Embrace the joy and hope that the saving work of Jesus brings. Embrace the margins of society. Most definitely speak up against sin in our country. Get off of Facebook pleading for people to see your point of view and instead be the hands and feet of Christ in your community. Stop trying to be more well-liked than your Savior.

I pray for the church to get pushed to the margins more and more. It’s not an easy prayer to pray, but it’s a powerful one.

This place is not your home.

God’s kingdom flips everything on its head.

Our walk as followers of Jesus comes with persecution.

But one day, a day I look forward to, I will be in the presence of God. He will have renewed all things. Once again I will be worshipping the King of Kings with hymnal-thumpers and Christian rappers alike (and I can promise you the worship won’t be like either), all acknowledging that we needed saving, and a Savior came for us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

We’re Losing Them

We’re losing the next generation of students.

Yet, we’re not losing them in the way we might think.

We’re not losing them to evil, malicious, atheist professors in college.

We’re not losing them to the temptations of this broken world we find ourselves in today.

We’re not losing them to some craze where they indulge in the world once they get their college independence.

No, we’re losing them much earlier than that.

We’re losing them while they are students in our churches, even as early as elementary school.

Right now, I function as the family discipleship pastor at my church in Vernon. My primary role is in youth ministry, but my role includes children and young families.

Here’s what I truly believe. If we as the church were perfectly doing what we’re called to do, my job wouldn’t exist. It just wouldn’t.

Now, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there is no aspect of the Christian life that I do perfectly. But if we were to get there as a church family in the area of discipleship, we wouldn’t need me.

Before I get to my reasons as to why we’re losing the next generation while they are sitting in our churches as kids and teens, let me start with the great things I’ve seen in my specific context.

We have children’s ministry leaders right now who have served faithfully, often unthanked, for decades. They have given of their time and effort.

Last Summer, our church’s generosity was astounding. Via a luncheon and auction, we raised enough money to send every single student to camp free of charge.

We have youth ministry leaders who give not only their Wednesday nights, but their Sunday mornings to our youth group. I can’t do what I do in ministry without people like them.

But let’s get to where there’s still work for all of us to do.

Here’s why we as the church in America are losing them.

We segregate them from the rest of the church

Most churches have the following:

Youth Sunday School and Children’s Church. Youth group and children’s programming on Wednesdays, distinct from the rest of the church. Homegroups for youth only on Sunday nights. All of these generally take place apart from the rest of the church.

Here’s what this not so subtly communicates to our students and children.

You’re not part of us.

Now, I know that’s nobody’s intent by any means. But it’s what happens subconsciously.

It’s what happened to me for a season.

When I went to college at OBU, I struggled for all four years to get involved in a local church. It’s one of my biggest regrets. I was a member at one, sure. But I never went all in. Instead, I’d sneak in and sneak out of the service, never really getting involved.

I believe many of our children and students who end up leaving a local church in college do so because they didn’t feel part of a local church as a child or teen.

In Scripture, I’ve never seen children and young adults separate from the body. Instead, I see mothers investing in sons, children being brought to Jesus, and teenagers being called out and used by Jesus. The only reason children’s and youth ministries exist is because we made church aboutfun and entertainment, comfort and preferences.

We condemn them more than we invest in them

Ouch. This one hurts me. Even as the family pastor here in Vernon, I fall into this one. I don’t believe I’m alone in that.

When I peruse social media, I see Christians condemning and demeaning the next generation. Regularly. Are there things about the next generation’s behavior that isn’t in line with Christ? Absolutely. Can the same be said for any and all of us? Absolutely, times a thousand.

I find myself treating kids and students as problems to be fixed or maintained rather than young men and women to be discipled. I’m thankful for a wife who calls me out when needed in this way.

Our kids and students know what you say about them and what you think about them. They see you complaining about this generation in comparison to the good ol’ days, and they see you refusing to invest in them.

They leave their church family because that’s not how families are supposed to act.

We teach them fluff and stuff

Felt boards and dating tips. That’s probably that which comes to mind the quickest when you think about children and student ministry respectively.

Too often, our churches are teaching our kids and teens the most frivolous and flippant things. Too often, our churches are not giving the next generation the meat of the Bible. This too is a new method. The catechisms of the early church were rigorously taught to young Christians.

The next generation is leaving the church because the fluff and stuff doesn’t mean anything to them. They aren’t prepared to know the story of the Bible. They aren’t prepared to love God and love others.

We promise too much

In an effort to avoid teaching fluff and stuff, we can unfortunately go the other direction and promise them too much.

Here’s what I mean.

We promise students changed lives and a changed world.

At first glance, this seems just fine, right?

But here’s how we teach these things incorrectly.

We teach them that they can see their lives transformed in a moment, and we teach them that they, not Jesus, can change the world.

Sanctification, becoming like Christ, is an arduously long process. It’s never quick. Yes, our standing before God is changed in an instant when we accept the sacrifice of Christ. Our temptations and sin struggles persist, however. Students go to college or grow up and give up on faith because they were told they could overcome all the sin in their life in just a few moments.

You won’t change the world.

I won’t change the world.

Jesus changed the world, and only He continues to change the world.

This is what I teach the students at our church. God uses ordinary people in ordinary jobs in ordinary places through ordinary churches to make disciples.

Students are leaving the church in college or when they grow up because they were told they were world-changers, and yet they really aren’t.

If the next generation isn’t discipled, our churches will close their doors.

We aren’t losing the next generation in college.

We’re losing them now.

Let’s do something about it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Belief On My Terms

We’re entering a season of the church calendar when we reflect on the final days of Jesus leading up to his death and resurrection. In light of this time of the year, I’ve been reading a little in the Gospel of Matthew. And while reading the portion prior to Jesus’ death, I was struck by the audacity of the crowds. I was struck with conviction in my own heart too.

Imagine you’ve followed this man around, a philosophy and theology teacher who seemingly came out of nowhere. You’re pretty certain he’s something special, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You also know you’re looking for a rebellion to start to remove the oppressive Roman government from ruling over you. Maybe this Jesus guy is that guy.

But all of a sudden he starts talking a little crazy. He’s saying things about tearing down the temple where everyone worships, including you and your family. The major religious teachers you respect and follow on Twitter are saying he’s blasphemous. He calls himself the Son of God, which might mean he’s actually God somehow? You’re not really sure what to do, or think, or say.

You just want to follow God.

Then everyone around you gets riled up. Let’s kill this crazy man. He’s making bold claims, but he’s not delivering on a political revolution. So you get swept up in the frenzy. You’re sold, this man is a blasphemer. He’s distracting people from God. He might be the Adversary himself!

Everyone gathers around Pilate, who is going to give you a choice of who you want to be freed from prison on behalf of your annual festival. And this happens (Matthew 27):

15 At the festival the governor’s custom was to release to the crowd a prisoner they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Who is it you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

You listen. You consider the options. The religious authorities speak up.

20 The chief priests and the elders, however, persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to execute Jesus. 21 The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

“Barabbas!” they answered.

This is your preference as well. It’s the first of three preferences you will get to make this day. Pilate speaks up again.

22 Pilate asked them, “What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?”

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 Then he said, “Why? What has he done wrong?”

But they kept shouting all the more, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them and, after having Jesus flogged, handed him over to be crucified.

Another preference. Let’s crucify Jesus. You’re fired up, you’re certain this is what God would like. Let the one who deceives be judged and condemned.

A little while later you finally see Jesus led to Golgatha, the mount where criminals are crucified. And you look up and see Jesus and two others hanging there. You join in the festivities, mocking Jesus, who is getting what he seemingly deserves.

38 Then two criminals were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him and said, 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue him now—if he takes pleasure in him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with him taunted him.

Everyone was taunting and mocking Jesus. You and I would have done the same if we were there. How do I know that? Because we still taunt and mock Jesus with our words and actions. If you’ve mocked another human, an image of God, then you’ve mocked God. If you’ve cursed yourself, an image of God, then you’ve cursed God.

Some of us are bold enough to have even mocked and cursed God in the midst of prayer–whether we believe in God or not.

And we’ve wanted our preferences all along the way.

Our first preference as part of the crowd was for Barabbas to be freed. Our second preference was for Jesus to be crucified. Our final preference was for God to save himself instead of us.

We are so foolish.

Our preferences are twisted and corrupt because we are sinful. Our default is sin.

And we are so deceived by sin that we think we can dictate how God should show up in our lives and in our world to save it. We think highly of our own plans and our own wisdom, a wisdom that is mere foolishness to God.

I don’t even know what to do with this. I’m still processing what it means to be so foolish. I’m still processing my own preferences, even for what following God is supposed to look like. I’m processing my own preferences for what makes a good life.

But I’m praying for wisdom. I need eyes to see the mystery of God’s work in this world.

I don’t want to be foolish enough to claim Jesus as my savior but my own self as lord.

I don’t want belief on my own terms.

Please pray for me.

– Matt Welborn

Embarrassed To Be A Christian

Some of us hate confrontation.

Some of us hate conflict.

Here’s what I’ve learned recently.

To be a follower of Jesus means that most people aren’t going to agree with me or like me.

You may be thinking, well duh Nate, we know this.

Well, I have to remind myself sometimes of that truth.

Recently, I was reading in the Gospel of Luke, and I came across the following verse. It’s a verse I honestly hadn’t noticed before.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. – Luke 6:26

Wow. That’s pretty intense. Jesus is proclaiming  that if everyone likes you as a follower of Jesus, you’re probably not standing solidly on the truth. Instead, you are most likely flattering others and telling them what they want to hear. That was the method of the false prophet.

Jesus is making it clear that not everyone around us is going to speak well of us. As a matter of fact, we can expect the opposite when we stand on what Scripture says is true.

That doesn’t jive well with my desire to be fully liked by all people.

Now, I am not an advocate for being Christian jerks. There is a balance of truth and love. Many people that claim Christ are some of the rudest, meanest, and honestly most vile people when it comes to communicating that which the Bible says is true.

For some of us who claim Christ however, our desire to be well loved leads us to avoid the truth. We tiptoe around the topics of the day, living our lives as sheepish, embarrassed Christians. I think many members of our churches live this way.

Here’s what I mean by this:

Some of us are embarrassed by the Bible’s view on sexuality.

So we avoid talking about it. The Bible calls homosexuality sin, but it also calls premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, transgenderism, divorce (for a reason other than marital unfaithfulness), and a litany of other sexual or marital practices to be sin. In a world of individualism, some of us back down off of what the Bible says to be true, not wanting to infringe upon people’s preferences or personal lives. Yet to be a follower of Jesus is to submit one’s sexuality to Jesus.

Some of us are embarrassed by the claim of Christ that all of a person’s life, all of their heart and soul and mind and strength, should be submitted to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, we want people to come to our churches. So we preach messages that tickle the ears, make people feel good about themselves, and keep the status quo. Instead of daily submission to a life of discomfort via allegiance to Jesus, we preach for our people to chase the desires of their hearts, that they can achieve all of their dreams and goals with Jesus’ magic pixie dust of blessings raining down upon their lives. Christianity becomes about feeling good.

Oh, and those times where Jesus calls us to love Him more than we’d love our own family, that was hyperbole and exaggeratory on Jesus’ part. Our kids should be number #1 in our lives. Don’t teach them covenant commitment, make it about their fun and comfort.

Some of us are embarrassed by the call to holiness that is abundantly clear in Scripture and is a crucial part of what it means to follow Jesus.

So we make life about authenticity and transparency. This leads to the Game of Thrones watching, Cards against Humanity playing, beer drinking, cussing, partying, but attending church on Sunday version of Christianity. Are any of the above the unforgivable sin? By no means. But the whole “in the world but not of it” mantra of this subset of Christians shows the world around it that there’s really nothing different about them. They partake in the same things, act the same way. This truly is an abuse of grace.

Some of us are embarrassed by the practices and traditions that are present in our churches.

We are afraid to bring people to our church, because what will they think when we belt out all four verses of “Be Thou My Vision”? What will they think when we have the Uber-awkward “greet people around you time” of the service? What will they think when we talk about tithing, or when we have a Frightless Family Fun Night on Halloween? None of this is hip and relevant. None of this is cool and popular.

Some of us are embarrassed by the character of God, namely His anger and wrath towards the unrighteous.

So we make it our mission to be God’s PR rep. We start by not studying and definitely not speaking about the Old Testament, because that’s not about the God of love. We then make sure to downplay the fact that the Sermon on the Mount ups the ante for the follower of Jesus. We don’t talk about hell. Some even come to the conclusion that hell isn’t real. When we do this though, we are communicating that Christ died for no reason.

Do any of these hit close to home for you?

Some of them hit home for me.

We have all of a sudden become people who are apologizing for what we believe! We’ve become people who are embarrassed to be associated with Jesus.

We all fall into it.

I’m a pastor and I fall into it.

When I get my haircut in Wichita Falls, I inevitably get asked what it is I do for a living. I answer truthfully, yet there are times when I start to feel embarrassed. My heart doesn’t want the discomfort of being known for all of the above things I talked about in this blog. My heart is also wicked, not to be trusted.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be weird, to be not liked at times.

No, we mustn’t be rude and arrogant.

Yes, we must be willing to stand for truth, truth spoken in love.

Stop apologizing for being a Christian.

Start embracing the discomfort.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Good Ol’ Boys

Today my heart is broken.

My heart is broken for what passes today as a Biblical man.

My heart is broken for what is going on in the Southern Baptist Convention.

My heart is broken for what is going on in our leadership.

My heart is just plain broken.

I originally wrote this a couple days ago, but I had to sit on it and think, allow my righteous anger to dissipate a little. I feel confident now that this is what I need to say.

Let’s start with the two catastrophic events that have taken place this month that have got me thinking about manhood in the first place.

First off, the Houston Chronicle released an article recently documenting over 700 cases of sexual misconduct perpetrated by male pastors and volunteers in the Southern Baptist Convention over the last twenty years.

Seven.

Hundred.

Several dozen of these cases were swept under the rug, and the offending male leadership are still in positions of authority.

Secondly, last Wednesday, James MacDonald was fired for a litany of immoral behaviors. There is an audio recording of him saying immensely vulgar and obscene things about others in Christian leadership, and he has been accused of financial embezzlement and sexual misconduct as well.

Sadly enough, James MacDonald has written a Bible study entitled “Act Like Men”, one that I have used in a men’s ministry at OBU, as well as one that I’ve walked through with my father.

My heart is broken.

For change to come about, we need healthy practices of accountability in our churches. I’ve been thrilled to see the response from J.D. Greear regarding the horrors of all this sexual misconduct, in which he advocated for security measures and the full weight of the law in response to allegations that are made.

I thank God for such a response.

But, if history proves itself true, I’m afraid we will only hear of more moral failures among men of God in coming months.

So how do we combat this?

I believe we need to fundamentally change what we teach men about what it means to be a man of God.

This sadly is not the response of many people. Sadly, my Facebook is often full of posts from people claiming that men are being emasculated, that men are being ostracized, that men are under attack. While there may be some slight validity to this, Biblical manhood is not about machismo, shooting guns, and drinking beers.

Let’s look at what it is like.

Gentle Strength.

If there is one thing I wish men would understand, it’s this. Gentleness, meekness, is strength. Jesus modeled this perfectly (as He modeled everything), as He boldly stood for what is right, endured immense pain and suffering, and yet did the above with gentleness. He wasn’t loud. He wasn’t boisterous. He wasn’t arrogant. He was gentle.

Nor was he a sissy or a pansy.

He taught regularly about how He didn’t come to make peace. But. He also didn’t come to make war through physical bravado.

Gentleness is hard, anger is easier.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5

I fight this all the time. Too often Facebook becomes an extension of my emotions, and I post out of anger instead of taking a deep breath and seeing all sides to every story. Just this week I had to take a post down that was nothing more than me angrily responding to something in my life.

I truly believe that in many communities and churches, men wouldn’t follow Jesus if He were here in the flesh, because they would find him weak. And gentle.

Teachability.

This is where sexism explodes into the conversation. I am not by any means advocating for what is oftentimes in our society a witch hunt for sexists, where every slight offense is drudged up into a violation of equal rights.

However.

I think we would be a bunch of bafoons if we didn’t acknowledge that sexism is oftentimes rampant in our churches and communities.

Sexism is this: If male leadership are the only voices being heeded while wise female leadership is being ignored.

There are women in my community that are wiser than me, smarter than me, and better leaders than me. They teach me what it means to follow Jesus and how to be a better leader myself. I need them in my life. I need their voices.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

We have curated men who refuse to listen to any voice, whether it is male or female. We have created and raised up men who think they know best. Yet teachability is a key sign of Biblical manhood.

Submission.

This point and the previous one go hand in hand. Teachability requires humility.

True Biblical manhood includes submission as well.

There should be mutual submission in the home. Husband and wife.

Yes, I believe Scripture spells out that the man is head of the household. But that certainly doesn’t mean the man should be domineering, manipulative, and unwilling to listen.

I go to my wife about a whole lot. When I don’t, things don’t go so well.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7

Men should also submit to King Jesus. Every day. We have men who don’t see Jesus that way. Jesus is for their wife and kids and for when they were children. Jesus blesses their work and home but He’s not their Savior. But you can’t have Him as your Savior if you don’t submit to Him as your Lord.

Holiness.

Cuss it up, drink those beers, watch football, and leave the parenting to your wife (my biggest pet peeve on earth is when I hear that fathers are ‘babysitting’ their own kids). God made you this way.

This is the message of some well-known books on manhood. Books written by Christian men.

What has happened is that we have made holiness not important.

Instead we have ingrained in our men the generational habits of vulgarity, alcoholism, and misogyny. I have been around countless men who break my heart with there consistent obscene talk and the way they’re no different than any man around them while claiming Christ.

There is nothing wrong with beer in moderation.

Nothing wrong with hunting.

Nothing wrong with watching football.

But as a man, what habits do you keep?

We have a country full of men who claim Jesus but open up a Coors Light more often than they open up God’s Word. We have men who know their way around a tool box but they don’t know how to follow Jesus in their day to day life.

They haven’t been taught.

Instead, they’ve been taught to perpetuate the belief that Jesus is for women, and men can be rough around the edges as much as they want.

These four things are what I’m teaching my male students.

These four things are what I’m going to teach my sons.

Gentle strength. Humble submission and teachability. Holiness.

Until we teach men to be true Biblical men, we will hear more and more moral failures.

Our churches don’t need “God and country” good ol’ boys, they need Biblical men.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Nothing To Brag About

Do you brag a lot?

I do.

Do you brag about your accomplishments, your accolades, your abilities?

I do.

Going through my high school and college years at the same time that social media exploded, I lived in a time where bragging was normal, even encouraged.

Only recently, through conversations with men who care about me, and through time in God’s Word, I’ve learned just how foolish that is.

But it sure is hard not to sometimes.

It’s how many of us are wired. Our wicked hearts want glory. Our wicked hearts want praise.

A couple moments last year illustrated just how hungry for human praise I am. One happened over the summer.

Our student ministry had home groups over the summer in lieu of normal youth group. This was done to build community and camaraderie amongst all of our students. It was a great time.

Well, Jamie and I live in a duplex (Until March 9th! We just bought a house!), and so we outgrew that space. We had to start having our Sunday night home group at the church instead of in our home.

This was purely the work of God.

But I wanted to let people know about the 0% of it that was my doing.

So I snapped a couple photos and then posted them on our Facebook with a caption of “Look what God is doing! We outgrew our space! #Blessed” or something like that. The classic humble brag. Drawing attention to growth in our youth group. I’m not saying that my heart or intentions were to manipulate or to draw attention to myself. But if I’m being honest, that was probably part of it.

We all do it.

We all pride ourselves on our abilities, our accomplishments, our accolades.

Last week, I was reading in Jeremiah. And a passage leaped off the page and punched me in the gut. Metaphorically speaking.

This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord.

– Jeremiah 9:23-24

Wow. What a powerful word.

The wise aren’t to boast in their wisdom. The rich aren’t to boast in their riches. The strong aren’t to boast in their strength.

The only thing the people of God have to boast in?

That they have the understanding (from God) to know God. The God who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness (all of which He delights in). That’s it! That’s the only thing they have to boast in.

Man, I wish we read the prophets more. I understand why most people don’t. There are some hard indictments against the people of God in these passages. Some tough love. Some parts of Scripture that we want to avoid. We want the God who loves, but we don’t want the love of God that leads to rebuke. We want to feel happy any time we read Scripture, we don’t want to be corrected.

When I put my social media posts up against this passage, I am quickly shown just how prone to prideful boasting I am.

Now, I’m not saying that we can never show other people our accomplishments. It’s how we show them. It’s how we present them. It’s why we’re presenting them.

What’s our motivation?

For instance, a great young man I’ve been meeting and hanging out with over the last year was in a stock show in San Antonio this weekend. Now, although I live in a country town, I know literally nothing about stock shows. So, I’m not sure what it all means but he won a big award this weekend. His mom shared about it on Facebook, praising God, praising her son, and praising the tribe that was in his corner throughout this whole process. There was nothing wrong with that in my mind at all.

However, recently, I preached on a Sunday morning at my church. I quickly went to Facebook and posted about it, hoping to rake in heart emojis and praise for my preaching abilities.

My motivation was askew.

My motivation was to obtain glory and praise for myself, not the Lord.

So, what about you?

What’s your motivation?

What is your motivation for the things you share on Facebook? What is the motivation for the things you bring up in conversation? If you’re pointing to yourself a lot, like I do, you’re likely operating in a place of pride that the Bible confronts here in this passage.

However, if you’re striving to point to others and to point to Jesus, then you’re in the right place.

The only thing we have in life to brag about is the fact that God allows us to have a relationship with Him by His grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach