Butterflies In The Stomach

I know very little about marriage. This makes perfect sense since I’m not indeed married.  Thus you could throw this whole blog out. But, don’t. Give it a chance.

I may know absolutely nothing functionally speaking about being married, but I can say pretty definitively that the picture of marriage or relationships that we see in movies and tv shows is ridiculous and far-fetched and is ultimately setting up a generation to fail in marriage because it’s all about emotion.

I have been stuck at home for the last 48 hours due to my respiratory system being ravaged by the flu (this stuff does not mess around). This has given me ample time to read, and one such book I’ve been digging into is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book was given to me by a dear friend shortly after I got engaged to my beautiful fiancee Jamie. I had every intention of putting it at the bottom of my to-read list but the tagline got me interested fast.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

That sucked me in fast. Now I’m only a handful of chapters in, but this book has provoked a lot of thought in me about my upcoming wedding and lifelong marriage to Jamie. There’s one such aspect of the book that I want to devote this blog to, and that’s the false idea that our relationships should be built upon emotional highs or that we should value the feeling of chemistry more than anything else.

Thomas will devote an entire chapter to this ploy that media has thrown our way, saying “the concept that marriage should involve passion and fulfillment and excitement is a relatively recent development on the scale of human history, making its popular entry towards the end of the eleventh century.” It’s fascinating to me that romance or an obsession with feelings and emotion has not been a constant in conversations about love and marriage but has slowly entered the equation to eventually take over and dominate our thoughts about love in our modern age.

I grew up pretty obsessed with finding love, with finding this spark of chemistry and electricity and excitement with a girl. I was so wrapped up in this that I declared a girl my girlfriend at the ripe old age of seven. The more I watched the Disney Channel, read books, and watched movies, the more I wanted to have this cute happenstance meeting with a girl and then overcome insecurities to find a forever love. Real life wasn’t that simple. I’ve heard (although I haven’t researched this, but it sounds about right) that infatuation lasts 18 months at the most. I went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college, being infatuated with different girls but never finding lasting stability with one because I would question the relationship as soon as the feeling wore off.

Then I met Jamie, and it wasn’t love at first sight. But then after a D-Now weekend in Weatherford, we hit it off and were infatuated with one another. This helped us to get through a stint of long distance in Portland and then me taking off to the West to go to Phoenix. But then something happened at the start of 2017. It was inevitable, but I was no less prepared for it. The emotional high we got from speaking or seeing each other began to wane. The long distance lengthened the timeline for these feelings we had for one another, but sooner or later they were gone and we were faced with questions of why we should keep going.

IS THIS NOT INSANITY. In all honesty it is crazy to think that I was conditioned to put so much stock in my feelings. It’s hilarious to think that we should base the most intimate of human relationships on the least reliable thing in the world. I think that Scripture shows us that God made marriage for so much more than getting butterflies in the stomach.

I think Genesis 2:18 is about holiness not happiness.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

I genuinely believe that all human relationships are designed to make us grow more like Christ. This applies to friendships, co-workers, neighbors, etc. That being said, a marriage relationship has got to give you the greatest opportunity for growth in Christlikeness since you spend so much time with your spouse. In every other type of relationship, you can distance yourself (or at least try to) from situations that challenge your character or provoke you to change. There’s no such option in marriage (well I guess you can try to avoid it here too).

That’s what makes Gary Thomas’ tagline for his book so intriguing to me. Because I want to believe that marriage truly was made for something greater than our feelings, than companionship, than sex or happiness. I want to believe that my relationship with Jamie in the coming decades will make me more like Jesus. Right now I am able to do pretty much whatever I want outside of my work obligations. That’s going to change in 149 days. That’s going to force me to become more like Jesus in laying down my desires and wants for the sake of my spouse.

Jamie and I got through last Spring by realizing that a relationship built upon the feelings we have when we’re around each other is like building a house on the sand. We’re striving to build our relationship upon Jesus, upon spiritual growth, and I can tell you that has bonded us together much more than butterflies in the stomach (which I still get around her periodically).

I’m not anti-romance. I’m actually a schmuck when it comes to it.

But I know that a relationship built upon the lies of modern movies and television is not a stable one.

Build your marriage upon Jesus.

Build your life upon Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Cool Christianity

“I’m not cool, but that’s okay, my God loves me anyway. I’m not cool, but that’s all right, I’m still precious in his sight.”

These were lyrics to a song I used to hear pretty frequently when I was in my early elementary years. I still don’t know who wrote it, nor do I know the full song, but this was the chorus and it always resonated with my six and seven year old heart. Now I’m not implying that we should go around blaring this or saying it necessarily, but I think it’s a good reminder that we as followers of Christ shouldn’t be caught up in trying to be cool or relevant.

The older I get, the more I have come to realize that you can’t make Christianity cool. You can make it appealing through communities of faith who live distinct from the world, but being a Christian will always make you weird.

Instead of devoting so much time and energy trying to convince others (especially students) that being a Christian makes you cool, we should teach them it makes you holy.

I know that I’m still new to serving in youth ministry, but I have a deep conviction that we are sending the wrong message when we implement programs, procedures, and plans that are all oriented around trying to make being a Christian seem cool to teenagers. I grew up in this type of environment, and I fight this proclivity in my current life. We make youth camps and weekly activities about being cool and relevant as a Christian. Yet the Bible nowhere talks about how following Jesus makes you cool or relevant. If anything the Bible has a pretty clear message of exactly the opposite. There is not really one passage that hits on this, but here’s a passage from the pen of Paul describing the way he and his comrades in mission were treated.

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. – 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

Let’s just make a list. They were:

  • seen as foolish
  • seen as weak
  • reviled
  • persecuted
  • slandered
  • considered like the scum of the world
  • considered like the refuse of all things

Okay, wow. Paul and those like him who were following Jesus were hated, despised, seen as the literal scum of the world and trash of the earth. Yet we try and tell teenagers that following Christ will make them cool.

This is a horrendous lie that does terrible damage.

Students who buy the lie of being Christian makes them cool will at some point realize just how untrue that is. What astounds me is what makes us think that this lie will work. When I was growing up, we were just on the cusp of being able to maybe make this argument since being a Christian was still being seen in a relatively positive light. Those days are no more.

So not only does telling students that being a Christian makes them cool lead to them drifting from Jesus the moment they’re first ostracized, it also is an inaccurate picture of what even Jesus Himself said regarding His followers.

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. – Luke 21:17

That’s distinctly different from being cool.

Now I’m not saying that we try and bring students to church by telling them this right off the bat. The youth ministry I serve in does not have an ‘Everyone Will Hate You If You Come To Jesus” slogan. This is not a smart way to draw people to Jesus.

Here’s where I think the gospel can have an appealing factor. We should be telling students that when they follow Christ, they are holy. They are seen as righteous in the eyes of the Father. That they are made in His image and are seen as perfect in Christ if they submit to Him.

And just to clarify, this applies to all programming in the church. This is not just a teenager problem. There are plenty of times when we try and make church hip and cool for adults. We can use our God-given creativity, artistry, and passion in ways that make church compelling. I’m all for that. But if these attempts of creativity and artistry are for the sake of being accepted by the culture, I’m not all for that.

What makes a community of faith compelling in Scripture is their love for God, others, the community. It was their faith, love, hope, and joy, even in affliction. If we can show our communities that we are for them, that we truly love our neighbor and love the person in the pew next to us, then there will be a buzz about our church.

Christian community isn’t cool, but it is compelling.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit. . . For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 9-10

Tell your students about the glory and majesty of Christ, not how they can be considered cool for following Jesus, because they never will be.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Spirit-Powered Ministry

I wake up on Wednesday morning, eat a couple waffles and a banana, take my vitamin, jam to worship music while I get ready, and then head off to work. I put the finishing touches on my sermon for youth group, and then head to lunch. After lunch a nervousness clutches my gut and squeezes tight. I rest in the afternoon and then head up to youth. At youth I watch as the students interact, eat, and play games. Then I walk up the stairs while looking and re-looking at the notes I’ve taken over a half a dozen hours of studying the passage. Then I preach. Then I go get Sonic and go home to read.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are times as a minister where it feels like something is missing. I put in work and effort and try to be engaging, all to go home and do it again the next week.

As we’ve been studying 1-2 Thessalonians together as a youth group, certain verses jump out at me as I read it in different settings. Yesterday I was reading it and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 jumped off the screen (I prefer an actual paper Bible but the app can be useful occasionally).

because our gospel came to you not only in words, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. – 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Nestled in Paul’s chapter of thankfulness for the faith of the Thessalonian believers is this statement about how the gospel came to the people of Thessalonica. It came to them from Paul and his missionary team not only in mere words, but also with power from the Holy Spirit that lead to conviction.

Meditating on this verse (saying it over and over, thinking about the words and phrases) caused me to realize that there is definitely oftentimes a lack of power and conviction from my sharing the gospel, and maybe that has to do with me sometimes trying to preach and work under my own strength.

Regardless of what your profession or vocation is, we are all in ministry. We are all called to minister like Jesus to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. So I think this verse has implications for all of us. When we do ministry in our specific contexts, we should be reliant upon the Spirit’s power.

Thinking about this made me go searching through old journals to find a quote from last February. Last February I was able to attend a NAMB Conference in Los Angeles, California. A pastor by the name of Vance Pittman was talking about this very thing. He said a couple things from the stage that have come to mind time and again.

More can happen in five minutes of God’s manifest presence than in fifty years of human effort. 

What happened at my church on Sunday that can only be explained by God showing up?

Man, these are good. These are powerful quotes that prompt a whole lot of thought in me. I’m reminded that truly God can do so much in an instant. More than I could do in decades of ministry. That first quote brings to mind a passage out of Acts that was my absolute favorite during one semester at OBU.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made my man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. – Acts 17:24-25

There are few passages in Scripture that draw out awe and amazement in me like this one. In just two verses of one of Paul’s sermons we see just how mighty God is.

God:

  • made this world and everything we see
  • is the Lord of heaven
  • is the Lord of earth
  • does not live in temples made by man
  • is not dependent upon the works of men
  • needs nothing
  • gives all mankind life
  • gives all mankind breath
  • gives all mankind everything

Boom. That’s powerful stuff. This verse should take down any thoughts about God needing us to move, God needing us to spread the gospel. He graciously chooses to use us, but He does not need us.

As far as the second quote, this is definitely convicting. I rarely show up to church expecting big things from the Lord. Now, I am a consistent advocate of the Lord moving in the ordinary, via our spiritual disciplines. That being said, we serve a God that is capable of more than we could ask or imagine. There’s something to be said for expecting Him to do just that.

For instance, I pray for revival in our country regularly. I want to see God do something in my generation that cannot be explained by human logic or human strength. I want Him to draw an entire generation to Himself.

Now back to the monotony.

Work for the Lord in ministry (again, whatever your vocation might be, you’re to share the gospel), be faithful in the times where it feels like drudgery. But don’t try and move without the Spirit of God. Paul spoke the gospel to the people of Thessalonica, but he didn’t ignite revival. The Spirit of God brought power which led to conviction in the hearts of men.

If I’m not praying for God to move, then it will be a waste of my time. No one will come to know the Lord through our words alone. We need God moving. We need the Spirit of God to empower our words, leading to full conviction in the hearts of men and women.

What if we as a church began praying like this. What if we realized that God doesn’t need us, but graciously used us. What if we prayed that God would move through our words. Without Him, the gospel will not expand in our midst.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Missing Out

The College Football National Championship. The Greatest Showman. This Is Us or The Crown. The latest blog post, the Dosh app, essential oils, Plexus, or some other social media business scheme. All of these things are talked about by passionate people who commonly use the phrase “don’t miss out”. We can be encouraged by friends to not miss out on the latest movie, TV show, or social media fad. If we weren’t tuned into the big sporting event, our friends tell us we missed out on an incredible game. When this happens, I believe a small part of us, or of me at least, feels that in my bones.

For instance, I don’t really care all that much about the NFL. Yet I woke up this morning to a lot of notifications on social media outlets regarding the Vikings-Saints game last night. Apparently the Vikings won the game in thrilling fashion on a last-second deep touchdown pass involving some fancy footwork and poor defensive decisions. I saw comments by people about it being the best game they’d ever seen (which is almost always an exaggeration), and a part of me felt like I missed out a little. I felt this when I didn’t watch the Alabama-Georgia game either.

I’m not immune to speaking about movies and sporting events in this way to others however. Just yesterday I was raving to a fellow member of my church about the latest This Is Us episode and how intense I was. I’ve raved about The Greatest Showman. I’ve raved about the $10 Dinner Box that Pizza Hut has that’s a regular purchase of mine.

Why however do we feel impassioned to share about these things that are ultimately so trivial and insignificant, yet we struggle to share about the one thing that if people don’t know about, they will truly miss out for all eternity? I’ve been inundated with Plexus conversations and sports conversations, but even amongst Christian friends I’ve struggled to be engaged in many gospel-centered conversations of any depth.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

The Psalmist in Psalm 89 can’t help but sing of the steadfast love of God, using his mouth to make known to others the faithfulness of God extended to all generations. This is a wonderful thing. Regardless of your favorite type of Christian music, or general worship style, you can still use any hymn, contemporary worship song, or even rap in a way to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness to others. I have in my past been too quick to shut off during a time of worship at church if the worship music style isn’t too my liking. Then I realized that I was an entitled little turd that had the complete wrong idea about worship music. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about giving God praise, not about listening to music I like. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about telling the world about God’s love and faithfulness to us his people. Man, I got that wrong for so long in my life.

This little snippet out of the gospel of John is a reminder of what happens when a man or woman dies without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They won’t see life after death, instead the wrath of God will remain on them for eternity. That’s what is at stake.

If a man or woman misses a sporting event, a movie, or a TV show, nothing happens. If a man or woman misses out on a new app, Plexus, or essential oils, nothing really happens there either. If a man or woman misses out on Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel, they spend their eternity separated from God. That’s huge.

We’ve got to do a better job of opening our eyes and hearts to those who are currently walking through life without Jesus.

My enthusiasm for sports has waned over the years because I’ve begun to see them in their proper place, and I’ve begun to see the millions of people in our country that worship them. It’s saddening to see people lay down their spiritual lives for the sake of athletics, parents trading in the discipleship of their kids in church for the shot at a traveling sports team that promises their kids a chance at the pros.

Sports are not bad. They are evil when they take the god role in our lives however. I’ve seen men in so many contexts, including myself, talking about sports with abandon to everyone they can, but having their lips glued shut when it comes to speaking about their Lord and Savior.

I’m fairly bad at personal evangelism. The best I do on some weeks is to simply post on this blog and share it as a way to tell people about Jesus. I’m praying that God will continue to grow me in evangelism. I’m praying that God will lead me to speak about Jesus more than I do about trivial matters. I’m praying that God will implant in my heart a deep and growing desire to see men and women in my community connect with their Savior and thus not miss out on all that God has for them. This is my continual prayer.

Join me in praying for courage and strength to share, just as Paul had in Thessalonica.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel in the midst of much conflict. – 1 Thessalonians 2:2 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Do You Know?

I know that vegetables are good for me.

I know that I need prolonged hours of sleep in order to stay healthy.

I know that there are certain things that I do that annoy Jamie.

I know that I should wear ankle braces when I play basketball.

I know that God is good, great, and worthy of praise.

Knowing these things doesn’t lead to change. Not always at least. We can know what is right for our relationships, our health, our hearts, our walk with God, and yet we don’t always and consistently act upon those things. When we obtain knowledge about some aspect of our life, we may or may not implement the necessary steps to live out that knowledge.

I find this especially true for me in Scripture. I can know what Scripture says, whether it be commands or promises or stories or encouragements, and yet still hesitate or be less than great at implementing Scripture into my life. I have been told by mentors in the past that they don’t care how much about Scripture I know if that knowledge doesn’t play itself out in my day to day life.

That’s why we’re called to belief.

You see, belief leads to action. If you truly believe something, you’re going to act on it. I can know what’s right and do nothing. But if I truly, wholly, completely believe something to be true, I’m going to live it out. I’m going to take that belief and run with it. It’s like me sitting in this chair as I type. I can know this chair will hold my wait and not sit down in it. Sitting down in this chair however is believing that it will in fact hold my weight.

The Apostle’s Creed starts with the phrase “I believe” before going into a long and luxurious lists of statements about the Christian worldview. I was listening to a Matt Chandler sermon about this fact and he unpacked the difference between knowledge and belief. He drew my attention to things in my life that I know that I don’t believe. He drew my attention to things in my spiritual life that I know but don’t believe. He also drew my attention to the following passage:

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. – Romans 10:9-10

You see, to be saved, it takes more than just knowledge. I can know that Jesus is Savior and that He should be my Lord. But if I don’t truly, wholly, and genuinely believe that, then I don’t have saving faith. Rather I just know what the demons know, that Jesus is God.

I don’t like when people use this truth to elicit fear, anxiety, and discouragement. I do like when I’m reminded however that it’s not enough to know something in my head and not believe in my heart leading to actions in my hands. I’ve written in length in previous blogs about how we are not to constantly be caught up in looking at the level of our faith. Rather we are to look constantly and consistently at the object of our faith, Jesus. It’s insidious of Satan in how he draws us into looking at and focusing on ourselves even in the midst of trying to grow closer to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

However, do stop and consider whether you live in your day to day life believing in the promises and commands of God, or if you just know the promises and commands of God.

To grow spiritually, we need to believe.

Do you?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

On My Shelf: January 11, 2018

Well, I didn’t get as much reading done in the last couple weeks as I would have liked. That being said, the two books I did read were solid.

Perfect Sinners by Matt Fuller (7/10)

The tagline of this book is “See yourself as God sees you”. This one was personally beneficial to me. I honestly expected more from it, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations or where I thought Fuller was going to take it, but it was encouraging and good.

Many of us allow our walk with God to determine how we ‘feel’ that our status with God is. So, when sin comes and rears its ugly head in our lives, we begin to feel as if our status with God has changed and that He no longer looks upon us with love and affection. This book will make the argument time and again that our status with God should determine our walk with God. So if we understand what Scripture says about how God views us, our lives should be different as a result.

My two favorite chapters were:

How strong does my faith need to be?  – As I’ve written about in length in a previous blog, some of my alone time in high school and early college was spent wondering if my faith was strong enough for salvation or strong enough for being in spiritual leadership. This chapter will strongly encourage the reader to stop worrying about the level of their faith and instead focus on the object of their faith. So if you tend to worry about how good of a Christian you feel like you need to be to obtain God’s love, read this chapter and remember that God loves you so much that He sent His son to die for you.

Why is change so slow? – This was easily my favorite. There are sins that seem to take years and years to remove from my life. There are seasons of success and failure, but it seems to take forever to stir my heart for Jesus in such a way that my behavior changes. This chapter reminds the reader that our culture is all about instantaneous results, but sanctification takes decades in some areas. This chapter will also encourage you to simultaneously look at the cross and take sin seriously, for this is the way to grow spiritually by reminding ourselves of grace and putting sin to death.

The reason it only got a seven is because it seemed a little disconnected at times and there was a chapter on heavenly rewards that was solid but seemed to take a little bit away from the freedom to live that the book set out to establish in the Christian’s life.

So if you wrestle with God’s love for you despite your consistent sin, read this one. It will set you free to live out what is already your status before God because of Christ. Give it a read, you won’t be disappointed.

Word-Centered Church by Jonathan Leeman (9/10)

This one had me writing and journaling like a madman. This one intimidated me at first, as it is a 9 Marks book and at least to me those can be a little heady, despite being sound and solid.

Once I actually pushed past the first chapter, I was drawn into thinking deeper and deeper about what it would look like for our churches to be Word-Centered. This book, (much like Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry) looks at many aspects of the local church and how to build them upon the Word of God. This means more than just saying a slogan about the Bible or having the inerrancy of the Bible as one of your ‘What We Believe’ statements. Rather, building your church around the Word means singing Scripture, preaching Scripture (not just self-help or motivational messages with Scripture sprinkled in to affirm your points), designing small-groups around Scripture, etc.

Much like Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry, reading this book was like reading my passions and desires being articulated wisely by someone who is much more seasoned in ministry than me. From a young age I loved Scripture, and as I’ve grown I’ve desired to see it taught well and rightly.

My two favorite chapters were:

The Sermon Announces – This one was like reading my statement of belief regarding preaching. This chapter reminded me that the job of the pastor is to announce what God has already said through a Biblical passage, not use the passage to announce what you think. Man this one is convicting to me, challenging to me, and it lights a fire in me to see pastors around the globe stop using their Bibles to prove their points and beliefs, but rather announcing afresh what God has already said to be true via Scripture. That’s a humongous difference, and one that hugely impacts the health of the church long-term. Are you using Scripture or announcing Scripture?

The Church Prays – This chapter prompted a previous blog of mine about how our churches pray prayers that non-Christians would not be confused by. This chapter calls our churches into deeper prayers, Scriptural prayers for one another that go deeper than good health and financial needs. This one convicted me big time as I pray for family and friends. I tend to pray for surface-level stuff, or needs that have been brought to my attention. But I rarely if ever have prayed deep Scriptural prayers with eternal implications.

The reason this one didn’t get a perfect score for me is because it was still a little heady.

I enjoyed reading these two books during my New Year’s Day time off, so pick them up and give them a read!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

No Country

As followers of Christ, we are just passing through. As followers of Christ, we are sojourners and exiles on earth. We are in a sense men and women of the future, purchased by the blood of Christ for a present kingdom which will come to full fruition in the future.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

I never felt out of place growing up. Sometimes I felt a little different due to my belief in Jesus, but I never felt like I was a sojourner or exile here on earth. This still felt like my country, my place, my home.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home slowly began to show signs of weakness and unsoundness my latter years at OBU. This was because my world expanded with trips to Salt Lake City and Portland. All of a sudden the United States didn’t feel quite as homey for me. The hostility to Christianity here in the states is still not even in the same league as other parts of the world, but it was definitely growing and my little world was getting rocked as I got to see it and experience it via these NAMB trips.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home came crashing down around me in Phoenix. In a city that was 93% full of people who don’t submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I felt the spiritual darkness, the spiritual warfare, like never before. It slowly began picking away at my defenses, my incorrect beliefs of this being my place. Over the course of many months this kept happening, until one day I lay defenseless in my bed listening to a song come under my door from the other room.

My roommate was listening to John Mark McMillan’s song No Country. In the song, McMillan will describe his feelings of being an exile and sojourner on earth. This lead to the lyrics that were reverberating throughout our apartment, “I’ve got no place to call my country, no place to call my country, no place to call my country anymore.”

My heart and soul put up all their defenses. I hated what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe the words of the song, I didn’t want to believe that truth of Scripture. Sure, it’s not popular to be a Christian in the USA, but this, this was my place. This was my home. This was where I felt comfortable and at peace.

I fought this sojourner identity with all of my strength. I made sure I kept myself distracted, I made sure that I didn’t pay too much attention on Twitter at how ungodliness and wickedness and injustice fill our earth. I made sure I went and saw Dunkirk and ignored the gnawing realities that surrounded my heart. When Jamie arrived for the summer, I ignored them some more. This was my home. This was my place to start a family with Jamie and to live happily ever after. The culmination of all my joys and deeds would be me making a home here on earth.

In the moments of being alone in the car or at my apartment, the nature of my place here on earth came cascading in with every minute of silence. So I’d turn on the TV and fight. On and on this dance went, and then I got my ticket out. I got back to Texas.

I had somehow convinced myself that being back in Texas would quell the attack, and that I would again feel at home here on earth. Four months of seeing family, friends, Jamie, working in a place I’m familiar with, and having my own home on a quiet little street in Vernon, Texas.

Then it came again. In the quiet. And when you live alone, there are plenty of those quiet moments.

It came again. Feelings of not quite being home. Feelings of being out of place.

Now I’m starting to get it. This isn’t home. This isn’t my country. This world is not my place. The culmination of all my joy is somewhere else.

If you’re struggling with this too, surrender. There are amazing promises of God in the Scriptures that tell us who we are in Christ. Don’t miss this one. In Christ, we are exiles. In Christ, we are sojourners. In Christ, this is not our home.

This scared the snot out of me before, but now it doesn’t. Now it invigorates me. Or at least it’s starting to. Because each time I don’t feel at home here is a glorious reminder that I was made for more. Each time I feel weird, restless, like a wanderer, it’s because God is reminding me that I was made for heaven. I was made for communion with God not earthly trinkets.

This should not drive us to hide in our houses and wait for the end. Rather, this should motivate us out into mission. The verse I shared earlier in the blog is about as explicit you can get about our nature. We are sojourners and exiles, yes.

Because of this, we should deny our fleshly desires, the desires that tell us to partake of this world in ways that don’t honor God. The following verse teaches us more.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 2:12 

We should live in such a way that the people around us glorify God because of us.

I’ll close with these two quotes.

As Christians, we can trust in God’s guidance even while we are in exile here on earth. – Daniel Akin

We can walk in the faithful footsteps of those who have gone before us, knowing that God will sustain us – like them – all the way home. – Eric Landry 

So go ahead, accept that this place isn’t your home. It never will be.

You’re a sojourner.

You’re an exile.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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