Legalism And Living Water

I was sitting in my room reading when I heard my wife exclaim from the kitchen. I made my way to her (after yelling back and forth for a sec) and found that the garbage disposal was leaking all over the place. It was pooling up in the dishwasher and it was pouring onto the floor. Nasty, chunky, yellowy (not sure if that’s a word, but I’m running with it) water. My dog was having a field day, but my wife and I were utterly disgusted.

As I unsuccessfully tried to fix it (I am woefully incompetent in the world of being a handyman), I couldn’t help but think about idolatry. I had just been reading in preparation for teaching the youth Sunday school class and we were discussing this verse.

God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, said this:

For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves – cracked cisterns that cannot hold water. – Jeremiah 2:3

Whew.

That’s a good word.

God is declaring His people guilty, for they not only abandoned Him but also pursued idols instead. And God doesn’t mince words through Jeremiah’s proclamation. He proclaims it to be evil.

Idolatry is evil.

So which idols are in your life? Where do you turn to for satisfaction or purpose? Where do you turn to for comfort and hope?

Sometimes mine are trivial in nature. I have spent a little too much time golfing during certain seasons of life. I can find a new show on TV and just go crazy with it. I can read until I drop the book on my face as a way of escaping the difficulty of my life.

Sometimes my idols are a little more insidious and dangerous. I crave being in control. I hate not being in control. That’s an idol that affects a lot in me.

The most dangerous idol in my life is legalism.

Yes, legalism.

I’ve only recently began to understand that legalism is idolatrous. It’s the belief that I can live in such a way so as to earn God’s favor, or to remain in his love. I’ve been reading a book by Trillia Newbell, and she summed up legalism in the local church in a phenomenal way. So I’ll just let you read her words.

The problem came when, at a certain point, some of the members twisted the gospel, equating some specific practices with godliness and placing matters of personal preference on the same level as the Word of God. . . It doesn’t seem to matter what’s going on in the hearts of those who live a certain way; they are automatically considered godly as long as they follow the accepted practices. – Trillia Newbell, Sacred Endurance 

What a profound description of one of my deepest struggles.

Legalism has affected my marriage in the past, my relationships with church members, my relationship with the Lord.

As soon as we start judging the faith of another based on our habits, we are walking in legalism.

The second half of that quote rocked me the most.

It doesn’t seem to matter what’s going on in the hearts of those who live a certain way (doing the accepted practices). 

I’m all about God’s Word. I love to teach it, study it, and read it. I love to sit under good preaching and listen to podcasts of sermons. So in my legalism I have been prone to see those who are more committed to gathering together under the Word as more solid in their faith.

But, one can sit under the Word for decades and still have a heart that is dead, cold, and unaffected by the glory of Christ.

One can not drink, not cuss, not watch certain movies, not dress a certain way, and still have a heart that is dead, cold, and unaffected by the glory of Christ.

I go to counseling/mentorship with a pastor in my area twice a month. And when I sit down in his office, he never asks me “How many hours have you prayed this week? You on track in your Bible reading plan? Have you done your Sunday School homework? Did you wear a t shirt to church?”

No, he asks me questions about my heart.

He gets me to acknowledge where I’m really at. Am I in love with Jesus or not. If not, why. And then we talk. A lot. For hours. And we discuss life, marriage, ministry, and Jesus.

When’s the last time you’ve asked that to a friend?

Again, external actions devoid of genuine love of Jesus mean nothing to God and should mean nothing to us.

Legalism is often unseen. It is insidious. We don’t always notice it at work in our lives. But then, the cracked cistern breaks and the impure water flows all over the place, affecting our relationships and churches and communities and families.

If you are realizing legalism in you, let me encourage you.

You MUST behave a certain way for God to love you.

No, that ain’t it. That’s more legalism.

If you are realizing legalism is at work in you, I want you to stop drinking leaky garbage disposal water and instead drink from a Dasani bottle (or whatever your favorite water is, I don’t care).

In that verse from Jeremiah above, God says that He is the fountain of living water (John 4 anyone? I mean, come on! The Bible is one big story, and I love the connections!)!

Legalism is a disgusting trade for genuine communion with God.

You have been set free! Read all through Galatians! Highlight all the grace and freedom! Underline the gospel!

Walk with Jesus!

Stop judging others and slandering others based on practices that you think are exactly equated with godliness (and if you’re even a little like me, those practices are normally practices I just so happen to be good at).

Let’s walk in freedom together. Pursuing holiness.

Let’s drink from communion with Jesus.

As a man who has been a legalist and a lover of Jesus, let me tell you the latter is so much greater.

If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing it! You can follow my blog down below or via the menu on the right side of the page! Also, I appreciate any and all feedback, so comment below as well! 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Weak Leaders

I have a little bit of leadership experience in my life. Not much, but some.

And I wrestle with it. I wrestle with what my role should look like, how I should speak, act, behave, and think.

I write about it quite a bit too. This post may sound similar to previous posts on my blog.

I think our churches need weak leaders.

I think our families need weak leaders.

I think our communities need weak leaders.

Let me clarify what I mean when I say that.

I think that right now in our present day and age, leaders are supposed to be strong, stoic, emotionless men and women who are put on pedestals.

I experienced that big time in college. I had the opportunity to lead ministries on and off campus, speak in chapels, lead mission teams, etc. And there was almost always a weight (often self-imposed) to be strong, to be perfect, to uphold the image of whatever ministry I found myself leading.

As a matter of fact, what drew me to my now wife Jamie was that she never accepted that version of me. From the beginning of our relationship she would tell me that she knew there was more to me than my public image. She gave me the freedom to step down off the pedestal I had been put on.

I still feel that weight at times. I still have felt the expectation to not crack under the pressure of leadership.

Yet, when I look at Scripture, I see only one strong Man. His Name is Jesus. Every other character was broken. Every other person in the story had flaws and failures. Every other person was weak.

I just recently started looking closely at the book of Genesis. It’s a beautiful book. It’s not its own set apart story. It is the beginning of a much larger story that spans all of Scripture: the story of God’s redemptive work on behalf of and through His chosen, covenant people.

We quickly see just how insignificant we are. How weak we are. It’s counter-cultural. It’s certainly not going to be featured in any self-image, self-help blogs. But it’s the reality of our lives.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7 

I am of dust.

Meaning, I am insignificant.

It also means that I am reliant upon God in everything.

Acts 17 echoes this.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by 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

One of my favorite prayers is “Thank You Lord for this day, thank You for giving me life and breath and everything else.”

It keeps going in Scripture though.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. – 1 Corinthians 15:53

One day our dusty, broken bodies will be replaced with spiritual, heavenly bodies that will not fade.

Until then, I believe that we need weak leaders. Not in the terms of timidity, cowardice, and the like, but rather in terms of confession, emotion, prayer, and admitting weakness.

1. Confess Sin

One of the worst misunderstandings in Christian culture is that pastors are supposed to be perfect. Yes, they are clearly held to a higher standard in the Scriptures, but there is only one holy man, and again, His Name is Jesus.

In my pedestal days at OBU, there was so much sin in my heart that I felt like I couldn’t take to anyone about (again, until Jamie). Which was again likely self-imposed. I bought the press of being different and unique in regards to sin.

I look around and literally bi-weekly, some famous pastor in our country falls into moral failure of some degree.

I combat that path by consistently and constantly bringing my sin into the light. I meet with a counselor/mentor a couple times a month, and I do my best to drag sin into the light.

When wise and applicable, I speak about sin struggles from the pulpit.

When wise and applicable, I speak about sin struggles to my students as well.

My hope and prayer is that no one in the church I attend ever sees me as perfect.

2. Admit Weakness

Until pretty recently, I thought I had to have all the answers and had to excel at every area of my job. Thankfully God has taught me that a true leader admits weakness. And honestly, it’s freeing. It’s freeing to acknowledge that I have a great team of volunteers around me that are way better at certain things than I am.

But think about how counter-cultural that is.

Our culture flocks to leaders that exude confidence and bravado, who act the part.

Saying “I’m weak in this area” is one way for me to acknowledge my dustiness.

3. Pray. Pray. Pray. 

Lord help me for all the times I’ve acted like I don’t need You.

Prayer is the clearest proof of acknowledging weakness. It’s the clearest way to say “God, I need you for life, breath, and everything else.” This season of my life without a pastor has given me a new appreciation for how much I need Jesus. Every hour I need Him.

If you aren’t prayerful, you likely have bought the lie that you’re strong.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Share Your Emotions

One part of American leadership that I’ve always wrestled with is the idea of stoicism. This is even more imposed on masculine leadership.

I acknowledge fully that I’m wired differently. I am an emotive person. But when I look at Scripture, I see more than enough room for emotions being displayed, even by those in positions of leadership.

Yes, wisdom and maturity are important. But acknowledging sadness, discouragement, fear, and the like is a practice that I have started to do with the team around me (I literally talked last night at youth about how I wrestle sometimes with my identity in Christ, how I get discouraged). And so far, none of them have told me that they no longer want to follow me. Maybe, just maybe, it’s refreshing to people.

I am imperfect at being weak.

But I do think that our churches, homes, and communities need more weak leaders.

If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing it! You can follow my blog down below or via the menu on the right side of the page! Also, I appreciate any and all feedback, so comment below as well! 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Were You There When?

Where were you when the twin towers fell?

I distinctly remember where I was. I was in second grade at the Episcopal School in Wichita Falls, Texas. I don’t remember what subject I was in at the time, but I remember getting interrupted as the teachers wheeled in a tv for us to watch live this act of terror (maybe not the best choice by the teachers at the time).

What is crazy to me is that I regularly interact with students now that weren’t even alive on that fateful day.

Yet, they could still tell me most of the details surrounding the attack.

Why? Because through YouTube videos, documentaries, museums, and reflection, they have been discipled in the knowledge of that event. They know what it reflects, proclaims, and means for our country. Through these remembrances, they become part of a people that have been formed by that event.

On a lighter note, I think of Texas Rangers fans. I am not really a huge baseball fan anymore, but I grew up in a Rangers household. So although it happened long before I was born, I can tell you the details surrounding the Nolan Ryan beatdown of Robin Ventura.

Why? Because for quite some time before every Rangers home game, they played a hype video giving glimpses of all of these great moments in Rangers history, and that was included in it. Every game I went to with my family, I was being discipled in the knowledge of Rangers lore.

Church, we are being discipled. At all times. We are constantly being indoctrinated through reflection and collective memories.

The church was made for doing the same. When we come together as followers of Jesus on Sunday mornings, everything we do should be helping us collectively look back at the history of God’s people. Not only that, we should find our place in their midst.

The book of Deuteronomy is avoided by many. It appears dry, rote, religious in all the wrong ways. But if you actually look closely, there is so much beauty in it. There is a really short, easy to read, great book on the subject called Invited To Know God if you’re in to reading. I’m really only merely regurgitating what it talks about.

But anyway, in chapter six of Deuteronomy we see the following passage, one that drives so much of my vision for the ministries I serve in at my church.

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. – Deuteronomy 6:20-24

I mean, that’s beautiful.

Don’t forget that Moses is addressing the children of the Exodus generation. The generation that was brought out of Egypt died away in the wilderness due to their disobedience and unfaithfulness. These are their children Moses is speaking to. And yet, he encourages them to say ‘we were Pharaoh’s slaves’. Why? Because they were to find themselves in the story.

Church, we are to find ourselves in the story of God’s people.

It is popular in our current day and age to make Christianity nothing more than a private relationship with Jesus. And yet, that is not even remotely Biblical. The anti-religion version of Christianity causes us to miss out on the beauty of finding ourselves in the story of God’s people, from the time of Abraham to the time of Martin Luther to today. What a rich heritage we have.

This passage out of Deuteronomy is an invitation.

It is an invitation to be with God.

It is an invitation to be with God by focusing on what God has done, both individually and in our families.

If we as families are truly allegiant to Jesus as Lord over all in our lives, we are going to look distinct, different, even weird to the world around us. When kids, friends, neighbors, co-workers question why it is that we live the way that we do, we can tell them the story.

God drew the people of God out of Egypt, to draw them in to relationship with Him.

In the same way, God drew us out of our bondage to sin, in order to draw us into relationship with Him.

That’s our story.

And as we reflect on our story, we are drawn into obedience. Did you notice that?

Verse twenty-four described the fact that God gave them as a people commandments and statutes to follow. But that obedience was to always come after remembering the story!

That gets me pumped. Seriously, that’s powerful.

The call to holiness that the Bible lays before me is in the context of what God has done for me. If we don’t place ourselves in the story, the beauty of that call fades.

We must teach and preach the story.

That’s what I’m becoming passionate about. I want those I serve to know the story. Telling them how they are to live does nothing. Telling them the story of all that God has done leads to a desire for obedience.

Yahweh’s call upon their (our) lives is not random or arbitrary but born of his past goodness… By telling the redemption story, therefore, each new generation joins the story and learns to love the Lord in this way. – A.J. Culp 

You’re being discipled, brought into a story.

Make it the story of the Bible.

If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing it! You can follow my blog down below or via the menu on the right side of the page! Also, I appreciate any and all feedback, so comment below as well! 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Walking Around Like He Made The Place

The disciples are intrigued by who Jesus is. They have left families, vocations, friends, hometowns, all to follow this man. This man who they have seen heal the blind, the lame, even the dead. This man who has spoken with such authority that crowds flock to him and the religious leaders of the day become incensed by his teaching.

But now they’re on the sea. Crossing over to the other side. And a storm comes up unlike anything they’ve seen. Many of these disciples of Jesus are fishermen by trade. They had seen swells and waves. But nothing like this. This is causing them to fear for their life.

Who is going to rescue them?

They scan the boat through the torrential downpour, looking for this man who seemed to have nature bent to his will. They fret as they fail to find him, but alas they finally do. What they find doesn’t instill much confidence or security. They find Jesus asleep in the boat.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this?Even the wind and the sea obey him!” – Mark 4:35-41

The storm ceased.

In a moment.

This man they referred to as teacher was clearly more than that.

He calmed the wind and waves.

He was walking around like He made the place.

Recently I’ve been thinking about this passage quite a bit. The great pun that I titled this post after came from a chapter in Jared Wilson’s book The Wonder-Working God. I wish I could claim it as my own, but I can’t.

This morning I read Genesis 1. Trying to get the year started off on the right foot, you know. As I was journaling about it and studying it, verse two kept leaping off the page.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depth, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. – Genesis 1:2

When we remember that Scripture is one major narrative played out over sixty-six books, we are able to see themes that run all throughout the story. Here’s one such theme that  and that I’ve begun to see more and more in Scripture.

The seas are symbolically used to characterize chaos and disorder. They are almost seen as a symbol of evil, since they have historically housed much that we can not see. Much of the literal oceans of the world are unexplored. In ancient literature, these unexplored seas housed evil.

For instance, Revelation 13 has the Beast (a figurative, non-literal symbol of evil) rise up out of where? The seas.

With that in mind, the first chapter of Genesis is stinking beautiful. God brings order from chaos. Remember, the book of Genesis is not a science book. It was never written to give us a scientific understanding of how the world was created and how it functions today. The book of Genesis was written to remind the people of God of the promises of God, the faithfulness of God, and the creative nature of God.

The world is produced, filled, and formed by the God of the Bible.

I have been created, redeemed, and made perfect by the God of the Bible.

That is what Genesis is about.

With that in mind, the first chapter of Genesis is likely included in the Bible to remind us as God’s people that God brings order out of chaos. Not only that, but He makes everything good.

The cosmos before creation are described symbolically as a sea, as watery depths (see the verse above). And out of seeming chaos and disorder, God brings the ordered world into being.

I think that’s powerful. And beautiful.

When you then fast-forward to this story in Mark, you should be struck with what is truly being said here. This is not a cute little story to tell children in Sunday school. This is a provocative and powerful truth.

Jesus is not just a teacher, even though the disciples first refer to Him as such.

He tells a chaotic and disorderly sea to be still.

And the disciples are in speechless awe and fear. Who is this man, that wind and sea obey Him?

Who is this man that did the very thing that God the Father did way back in Genesis 1? They knew the stories. God the Father brought order out of chaos (interestingly enough, He did so through the Son and the Spirit).

This man is no man.

He is God Himself.

That gives me chills.

Church, we live in a chaotic world. I woke up on a new year to the same stories of violence and unease. This year ahead may hold a lot of uncertainties for you. It does for me. Let us rest in the presence of the One who made the place.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Pursuing Victimhood

I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, but it’s easy to see that we live in a day and age where everyone pursues victimhood.

Those who have Republican leanings cry out as victims of a Democratic attempt to take over and destroy everything they hold dear.

Those who have Democratic leanings cry out as victims of an oppressive and tyrannical regime.

Obviously these are exaggerated to prove a point, that we are all prone to holding a victim mentality.

It is not just in politics. It happens in the sports world. Clemson football’s head coach spoke out about how the College Football Playoff Committee didn’t want them in it, how they were against them. In essence, how they were victims of an SEC-bias. You best believe that fired up his team.

It happens in even smaller things too.

This very morning at church I jokingly tried to present myself as the victim in my wife’s decision to not let us open Christmas presents a few days early.

Coming across as a victim has power in our day and age. People side with the victim.

Now, duh, there are very real victims of very real evil and wicked acts. Don’t get me wrong. But there are also innumerable moments where victimhood is claimed inappropriately and incorrectly.

I think it happens all of the time in the church.

We live in an age in the United States where Christians are crying out as victims just about daily. Petitions are floating around social media, boycotts are taking place, what isn’t persecution is decried as persecution. Everywhere I look, Christians are taking the role of the victim.

Toy Story 4 is liberal propaganda designed to subtly destroy the Christian view of sexuality. 

Starbucks is persecuting Christians because they didn’t put Merry Christmas on their cups. 

Netflix is persecuting Christians due to the abhorrent nature of some of their films and shows. 

Our schools are persecuting Christians by removing certain Christian practices (prayer before sporting events, etc.). 

These are all things I’ve seen (some less recent than others).

Is this inherently wrong?

Not necessarily. Although I would argue that most believers in countries that are actually physically persecuted for their faith would see our outcries of victimhood as interesting to say the least.

Is it forgetting some of the themes we see in Scripture?

Probably.

You see, as followers of Jesus, in my opinion, we should never play the victim card. Meaning, we shouldn’t really be loud about the ways that we may or may not be ‘persecuted’.

It’s expected that we should be ostracized for our faith.

Look with me at what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage. – 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13

Honestly, and I guess weirdly, this is one of my favorite passages. Because it first reminds me that the entire story of Scripture says that we are never going to be popular for following God. What our country has experienced the last few decades is unique. It’s almost unheard of in Scripture. It certainly wasn’t normative.

Now, the church is finding itself headed back towards its rightful place. The bottom of society. Considered by at least some as scum and garbage.

Again, the ‘persecution’ I outlined above is not really persecution in the slightest. I personally have never gotten wrapped up in the fact that a non-Christian culture doesn’t put Christian values at the forefront of all that it does. Why would it? And why is the church so overly concerned with the fact that it doesn’t?

Look at what Paul said.

When they were reviled (I’ve never been hated for what I believe. At least not to my face. The closest thing to that is a lady who was cutting my hair giving me a half second weird look when I said I was a pastor), they BLESSED. They didn’t scream for their rights.

When they were persecuted (real, physical persecution), they ENDURED it. They didn’t put their hope in petitions to the government.

When they were slandered, they responded GRACIOUSLY, not enraged and ready to fire back.

When they were treated like SCUM OF THE EARTH AND GARBAGE, they accepted their role.

Church, it’s time we accept our role. Jesus was mocked, spat upon, beaten, tortured, and put on trial. He never once cried out as a victim. He never once petitioned the powers that be. He never once fired back in rage. He just went lower and lower unto death. It’s time that we become willing to ‘share in his sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10).

Does that mean we become a quiet partaker in unfair treatment? Maybe. Maybe that is what Jesus modeled for us.

When he was on trial and asked if he was king, he said this. And it’s fire.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” – John 18:36

MY. KINGDOM. IS. NOT. OF. THIS. WORLD.

If it was, His servants would fight.

Since it isn’t, His servants will give their lives in love.

Church, let us love our community. Let us engage our culture. Let us seek to be the hands and feet of Christ. Let us give up our rights (just as Jesus did in Philippians 2:5-8). Let us be more concerned with whether or communities know that we love them than we are whether or not our communities value all that we value.

Let me end with this quote from Mike Cosper, one of my fave authors.

We don’t love our cities well by withdrawing and doing nothing. We also don’t love them well if we waste our lives with political arguments about who has victimized whom. No doubt there is a need for legal battles, a need to fight for religious liberty and freedom of expression. But just as important – perhaps far more important  – there is a need for the faithful witness and faithful work of Christians in culture, putting themselves at risk for the sake of others and working in ways both great and small to make their cities more peaceful, flourishing places. – Mike Cosper

That’s gold.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

 

Manhood & Mister Rogers

I obviously did not know Mister Rogers personally. But by all accounts, it seems like he was a meek, kind, compassionate, and humble man.

I wonder if men’s ministries in our churches would accept him as a leader.

Over Thanksgiving break, I went to see A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood with Jamie and her family. Personally, I loved it.

Back at OBU, I had the opportunity to be a part of leading the men’s ministry on campus for several years. While in Phoenix, I sat in on a men’s ministry. I’ve read many books on the topic. It’s something I’m passionate about.

And with all of these experiences and lessons learned, I think that we need more men in our churches like Mister Rogers.

There’s a passage in Colossians that I came across that has me thinking more and more along those lines. At this point in the letter, Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus at Colosse to put their sin to death, replacing those sinful behaviors with that which is in accordance with Christlikeness. He says this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

So, in summary, according to Paul a follower of Jesus (men included) should be:

  • compassionate
  • kind
  • humble
  • meek
  • patient
  • forgiving
  • loving

Somewhere along the way, in American churches, strength and courage, bravado and bravery have taken the lead when it comes to what men should be like. I wrestle with that a lot, because those things wouldn’t exactly be on my epitaph.

I know a ton of godly men, in my church, in my community, and in my past. Men who have and are pouring into me. This is obviously not an indictment against all men everywhere.

I just want to push back against the idea that a godly man must be aggressive, strong, boisterous, etc. I would in fact make the argument that the godly man should look more like the list above. And I will tell you from firsthand experience that the men who have been the most impactful in my life have some or all of those characteristics.

I have nothing at all against hunting or home improvement. But if I’m being real candid I have felt some (possibly self-induced) feelings of being ‘less than’ at different times in my life for not enjoying the prototypical male activities. I have wrestled with the way that God designed me to be, the gifts He’s given me.

I used to be an extremely loud, obnoxious, flirtatious, annoying, braggadocios, vulgar turd. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, He has been pulling me away from those things. Well, maybe not the obnoxious part (as I wear a sequin-infested, dinosaur Christmas sweater while typing this).

I want to invest in younger men (something that both my full-time job as a pastor and part-time job with FCA allows me to do, praise God), and show them that manhood isn’t obscene and vulgar and loud. Manhood is service, meekness (the characteristic some say is ‘wussifying’ masculinity in our country), and humility. I want them to get that a lot earlier than I did.

I’ve read, listened to, and heard from men that masculinity is mostly strength and courage. But I’ve also seen many of these same men fall from grace. Hard. Private sexual sins and vulgarities and obscenities are ripped into the light. Anger and misogyny and domineering behaviors uncovered.

Why is it that so many men who have talked about manhood have had great public charisma and strength but little Christlikeness in private? Could it be because we’ve been teaching men the wrong things?

Have we focused so much on the man’s role in leading the family that we have forgot to talk about serving the family? Have we focused so much on outward strength that we’ve missed inward fruits of the Spirit?

Have we allowed Braveheart, Gladiator, and Saving Private Ryan to outshine Christ?

This past semester at the church I work at, we walked through the book of 1 Samuel with our youth and children. Jonathan leaps off the page.

Here you have a man who singlehandedly wins a battle for the people of God. Talk about strength and courage. These are not bad things. But he also was willing to relinquish his genetic right to the throne, giving it to David instead. Not only that, he wept over David, cherished his relationship with David, and saved him again and again. Here’s a man who had strength and courage, but that wasn’t all. He also was an empathetic, compassionate, humble, and kind man.

What a great example of what I personally believe manhood should look like.

I have another great example.

My dad.

My dad is strong. My dad is brave. My dad is courageous.

But my dad is also humble. My dad is kind. My dad is a servant.

And all the time, I mean all the time, he tells me one simple phrase. It’s not “be loud and proud”. It’s not “be rude and crude”. It’s not even “work hard and go hunt”.

It’s this.

“Be God’s man.”

And I want to tell younger men the same thing.

Be God’s man. 

Be a servant. Be someone who helps others in need. I’m not good at this one, but I’m working on it.

Be compassionate. When I see men tear up, I don’t think “what a pansy”. I think, “what a Christlike heart”.

Be kind. Sexism, sarcasm, rudeness and crudeness are not the way of Jesus. Be kind.

Be humble. You’re not all that and a bag of chips.

Be meek. Again, our culture doesn’t really like men like this. But Jesus was meek and gentle. Strength is not violent and aggressive. Strength is gentle.

Be patient. This world doesn’t revolve around you.

Be forgiving.

Be loving. Are you known for your jump shot, your wit, your looks, your intelligence, or your loving nature? Are you known more for the power of the Spirit (public life) or the fruit of the Spirit (private life)?

I think the world needs more men like Mr. Rogers.

I think the world needs more men like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

No copyright infringement is intended in using this picture of Mister Rogers

 

 

The Real Deal

Have you ever been around somebody who was just the real deal?

Their public persona and their private character lined up and you could tell that everything about them was genuine.

I love being around those type of people. They don’t just share Christian anecdotes and pithy sayings. They actually walk out this following Jesus thing day in and day out.

In the first century, Paul wrote a letter to a church that was known for being the real deal. They didn’t just claim to be followers of Jesus, they also bore fruit. They bore fruit in such a way that everyone heard about it, including Paul.

Look at the passage with me.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. – Colossians 1:3-5a

Reading this mail a couple millennia later, we can learn something about what it looks like to be a true Christian. According to Paul it’s not all that complicated.

Paul was giving thanks to God the Father for the church in Colosse because of three things they were exhibiting:

1. Faith in Christ Jesus

This is the bedrock of Christianity. Our faith in Jesus is the proof of our salvation. Our sin has separated us from a perfectly holy God, and the blood of Jesus spilled for us on the cross reconciles us back to Him (something Paul unpacks for the church in Colosse later in the chapter). By putting our faith in this sacrifice and committing to follow Jesus as Lord, we are saved.

But according to Paul, this isn’t the only mark of a genuine Christian.

2. Hope in Christ Jesus

So, the first one was pretty easy for me personally. I have been attending church all my life, I put my faith in Jesus as a young child, and despite battling doubt and curiosity throughout seasons of my life, my faith in Jesus as my Savior has not really waxed or waned.

But hoping in Him?

That sure has.

As we are walking through the Advent season (an especially hectic one at that), I’m reminded that this time of the year is not just reflecting on the future work of God through the nativity of Jesus, but also the future work of God at the end of the age.

As followers of Jesus, our hope for life should flow out of our knowledge of Jesus.

But when we look at our actions, motivations, schedules, bank accounts, and desires, our hope is not often in Christ. I confess that too often I try and find the hope to carry on via Netflix, comfort food, golfing, friendships, reading, writing, etc. Now, all of the above are good things when done in moderation and thanksgiving, but when I turn to them for hope that life is going to be okay, not only is that stupendously ridiculous, it’s also sinful (Fighting God On #7).

Where is your hope found? I was reflecting the other day about just how much of the New Testament is about putting one’s hope in Jesus. The early church was known for this. They were known for their hope.

When people observe the way you live, do they see hope in Jesus?

Paul has one more thing to share as a characteristic of a Christian.

3. Love for All the Saints 

Well, shoot.

When I recently journaled through this book, I wrote in the margins “this is lacking in me!”. And in the last week or two, there hasn’t been an abrupt change.

Let’s be honest guys.

This is hard.

I mean, there is no caveat or exception or asterisk. We are called to have a love for ALL the saints that is noticeable to the surrounding culture.

Loving those who look like us, vote like us, think like us, worship like us, and have hobbies like us is pretty easy. As soon as there is discrepancy however in these areas (amongst others), loving the way that Jesus has called us to love becomes a whole lot tougher.

Loving all my brothers and sisters in Christ is something I pray that God grows in me. I love teaching and preaching but loving is tougher for me. In fact, my last counseling session was all about that.

In closing, don’t fret if these three things are not vibrantly pouring out of your life. Neither Paul nor myself are trying to call your salvation into question.

Rather, I want to encourage you to pray for and practice these things.

Cause if you do,

You’ll be the real deal.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Negative Nathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at the command first.

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

Period.

There’s no caveat here.

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

Let’s look at the why and how.

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

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

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

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

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

But HOW are we able to do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING? 

  1. Hold Fast To The Word Of Life 

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

2. Do Something

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

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

Before you grumble or complain, act.

Be the change.

3. Pray 

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

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

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

It’s easy to be critical.

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Toxic Relationships

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

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

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

But church, it is concerning.

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

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

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

You’ve likely heard this passage before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul loved and longed for this church.

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

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

Let me boil it down for us.

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

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

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

1. If Someone Is ‘Toxic’, Love Them 

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

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

2. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Serve Them 

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

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

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

4. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Confront Them

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

But.

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

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

5. If All Else Fails, Love Them Some More 

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Don’t Forget That God Is With You

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. God Was With His People 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean, come on!

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

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

Brothers and sisters, God is with you.

He is with you.

Rest in that.

Rejoice in that.

God is with you.

Don’t forget it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach