I Am A Horrible god

I am a horrible god.

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

Not really.

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

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

And.

I.

Can’t.

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

The guy’s name was King Xerxes.

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

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

His glory.

His greatness.

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

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

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

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

Part of the decree is as follows.

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

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

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

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

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

Guys, here’s the reality.

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

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

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

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

We make horrible masters.

We make horrible gods.

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

Would you pray for me as I walk that out?

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

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

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Stressed Out

49% of Americans say that they are regularly stressed out. That’s based on an article I saw today on my Twitter feed. Now, I don’t know how they’re able to track such a thing, but the study showed that people worldwide are more unhappy this year then they’ve been in the past ten years. I’m assuming it factors in emotional, mental, and physical struggles, but I don’t have all the details. Either way, this is shocking.

When I was attending OBU , I made it a point, a mission in some ways, to live a life devoid of stress. Some might call this irresponsible or lazy, but I can honestly say that that was not my heart behind it. Rather, I saw countless brothers and sisters in Christ who allowed their hearts to be overrun by stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.

As a result of my mission (a stress-free life) I sought to make the mundane fun. My friends helped me by having similar intentions.. Going to get groceries became an avenue for fun memories and experiences. Going to class became opportunities to bring joy to the lives of others. Doing homework was a chance to enjoy friendships. Everything was full of life and vitality. It brought me some of my favorite moments and memories of my whole life. Because of this intentional lifestyle, college was only occasionally stressful for me.

Writing this I realize how much things have changed in my life and heart. That joyous young buck has been slowed, worn down, more stoic. For those of you who know me now this may sound laughable, but you didn’t know me then. My eyes have been opened to the pains of this world, my heart opened to the fears of this world, and my mind overrun by the anxieties of this world. There is clearly a part of this transition that is genuinely good. As a pastor now, not just a wild and free college student, I have a responsibility to lead with maturity and focus. At the same time however, I ache for the jovial young man I once was.

You may not be in my same season of life. Most of my readers are not. But you may feel the same. You think about your life today and you realize that it’s not what it once was. You’re more stressed. You’re more afraid. You’re more anxious.

As believers, we need to reorient ourselves. Many of us bought the lie in the past that Christianity was the easy route, that Christianity was the path to a full and blessed life. All of that is crashing around us as we take our rightful place on the margins of society. This transition leaves many of us looking with rose-colored glasses back to the good ol’ days of Christianity in America.

We must reorient ourselves in Scripture. That’s why I blog. I see the problems and struggles of my fellow followers of Jesus and in my own life and I know for a fact they can only be overcome when we spend time with the Lord in His Word. So I blog, even in my weakness, praying that at least one person would be encouraged by my writings to go to Scripture for hope.

The goofy, jovial me is below the surface of my crustier than normal outer shell. Each time I’m with the Lord, my anxiety loosens its grip on me and I’m freed by the truths of Scripture. It happened just this morning. Check this out:This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5:1

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

These two verses are likely not on somebody’s coffee cup or on their pillow or in a picture frame on the wall. But man alive they’re powerful. The language used in these two verses shows that Seth’s relationship with Adam is much like our relationship with God. Made in his father’s image, Seth enjoyed a special relationship with his dad. Genesis 5:1 tell us that we can enjoy this same type of intimate relationship with God, as does Genesis 1:26. We are made in God’s image just as Seth was made in Adam’s image. I wrote in the margin of my Bible this morning, “We are all children of God.” This is the first of hundreds of passages in Scripture emphasizing the theme that as followers of Jesus we have a Father-child relationship with the God who made everything!

This theme of Scripture alone should ease our minds. Where is the need for legitimate worry when God is sovereignly working all things for our good? But here’s the deal. If I didn’t go to Scripture this morning, I would not have encountered this passage and would not have been reminded of God’s grace given to me in this way.

Again, that’s why I blog. I strive to remind people that listening to sermons and going to church can’t hold a candle to experiencing the brightness of seeing Jesus daily through prayer and His Word. I would most definitely be more stressed today if I was not in His Word this morning.

I like what Max Lucado has to say about this topic, “Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” – Max Lucado

Man, this is truly one of the cures for anxiety. Instead of playing the chaos of this world through my brain ad nauseam, I can choose instead to rejoice in the ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

Part of working in a church is we do get to have front row seats at life change. The other part is that all day long I’m hearing the chaos of our members, or people they know, or strangers. Sadly, 90% of the time someone comes into our office, or calls our office, it’s bad news. Not good news. (I welcome calls of encouragement. I don’t get to hear many great stories. Seriously. Call me sometime.)

It’s easy to take that home. It’s easy to just sit back and rehearse the chaos. But anxiety’s grip is loosened when I take an active step in meditating on Scripture, on God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean naively pretending the world is perfect, but rather acknowledging that God is greater. In the case of today, it means meditating on the fact that I’m able to approach God as His child.

Scripture memory is one way that we as God’s people can dwell on the greatness and graciousness of our Father. In my current season of life, I carry note cards with Scripture on them in my back pocket so that when I have downtime in my day, I can meditate on the beautiful truths of Scripture. The verse I wrote down today to memorize is the following:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

By meditating on what matters in the spiritual realm, I’m able to prevent myself from getting lost in the bad news of today, instead resting in the good news of the gospel.

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Good Shepherd

There is nothing like children’s camp to reinvigorate one’s faith. Three days with nothing but the laughter and love of children is an encouraging thing.

After spending a week with the students at camp earlier in July, I honestly was not that enthused to leave my wife and go back with the children. However, after all has been said and done, I am overjoyed that I got to be a part of this week.

Let’s get the what in the world moments out of the way. Here were some of my favorites:

  • the kid who conveniently lost his body wash, shampoo, and towel the entire week until approximately two minutes before we left for home.
  • the kid who refused to change out of his Minecraft pajamas for three days straight.
  • the kid who told me he wanted to talk to me about spiritual matters but decided not to because and I quote, “When I look at you, I’m reminded of a cheese I had a long time ago that was disgusting. So I can’t look at you without thinking about cheese.”
  • the kid who sat me down one morning and told me all the reasons he should be given the servant leader award that we passed out at camp
  • the kid who had some of the utterly worst gas I have ever smelled in my entire life, and who committed countless atrocities of that nature in the evenings.

Again, there’s nothing like church camp with a couple dozen little ones.

Seeing their faith though I was challenged and reminded of what it was like when I first put my faith in Jesus for the first time at a young age. These kids desired the Lord. They desired Jesus and they desired to grow closer to Jesus. We had one kid that so wanted to experience God that he would come back and talk to us after each evening service about how he wanted to be better at prayer and studying God’s Word.

It was invigorating.

It also tied in perfectly with what I’m going to be teaching tomorrow to the youth in my Sunday School class.

Tomorrow we’re going to be looking at John 10 and the role of Jesus in our lives and the role we play as a sheep.

I’m stoked to see so much spiritual growth in the lives of countless kids, and I’ve already ranted previously about what we as adults need to be doing to set the example for them (Changing Our Community). I want to briefly focus on childlike faith and what we all can do to better be like the kids in our church.

John 10:1-21 teaches us all that Jesus does for us, in His self-proclaimed role as the Good Shepherd:

  • He calls His sheep by name
  • He goes before His sheep, leading them
  • He leads His sheep into abundant life
  • He lays down His life for His sheep
  • He protects His sheep from harm

Here’s how we are to respond. We are to respond like sheep.

When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:4

All that this passage says that we have to do is simply follow Him. That’s it. He promises to provide for us and protect us.

The proverbial thorn in my side when it comes to sin struggles is worry, fearfully playing what if games of all that could possibly happen. I’ll go long stretches of time with none of this, but then it’ll come back with a vengeance, especially when I’m outside of community with brothers in Christ. So when a Facebook post went viral in Vernon regarding a dangerous man attacking a couple teenagers, my mind immediately went to the what ifs of my wife and myself and safety, etc. There’s nothing wrong with occasional pangs of worry, but it often becomes a sinful practice of disbelieving God’s ability to protect and provide.

Growing up, if my dad was around, I felt safe. No matter what. We could be in pitch black darkness surrounded by blood-hungry enemies and I guarantee you I would feel totally safe. Because I knew my dad could protect me. I knew my dad would provide for me. Because I knew my dad loved me.

This passage should cast all worry and anxiety from our minds. Our hearts. I know I’m not alone in falling into sinful levels of worry. I know that I’m not alone in having to train my mind and heart.

Here’s what I love about kids. Most of them don’t worry about a thing. They are full of vigor and wonder and excitement and awe and trust.

I saw many of them put their trust in Jesus for the first time, and I’ve already seen many of them living out this trust back home.

As adults, let us be men and women who put their trust in our Good Shepherd. God desires to answer the prayers of His people especially when they are in line with His will which is illuminated for us in Scripture. A prayer I need to commit to praying is that God would give me confidence and security in His love for me. This is a prayer I recently read in a Bible study of mine and it’s simplicity is freeing.

If you are like me and worry, pray for confidence in His love.

If you are like me, God has proven himself to you time and time again. You don’t have clarity on all that has happened in your life but you know that He has been faithful to provide and protect.

I was reminded after five days with the kids at camp that I need to become like a child and trust Him.

I felt safe with my dad.

I can feel even safer with my Heavenly Father, with Jesus as my Good Shepherd.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below!

 

 

He Never Slumbers

This season of wedding and camp preparations is making me feel like I’m moving a billion miles per hour. I am beyond grateful for a family in our church who is letting me stay with them, but not being able to stay at my own home (Jamie is getting it ready and actually looking like a home) has made me feel like I’m on vacation but still having to work every day. It is a weird feeling.

My natural tendency in the moments where life feels out of control is to do my foolish best to bring life back under my control. No matter how hard I grit my teeth and try and push forward into some semblance of faux control, I end up coming back to the same spot of acknowledging that I’m tired and can’t keep going. When life is going a billion miles an hour, I also slip into a subtle but not so subtle spiritual malaise where even when I’m spending time in God’s Word, I’m not spending time with God.

The last couple weeks of crazy I’ve been in God’s Word each day, yet the intimacy of just shutting up and listening to God while truly meditating on His Word in His presence has been missing. So this morning I decided to do just that before hopping in the shower to start my day. I opened up my Bible to read and pray a Psalm and Psalm 121 came crashing into my heart at the exact time I needed it (God is pretty great).

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. – Psalm 121:1-8

Boom. A shorter Psalm with a power punch. In seasons of hecticness, I can try and grip the wheel tighter and try and hold onto all the control, which is hilarious really and never works out. This Psalm is one that draws us as God’s people into worship. My help comes from the Lord, who lest I forget, made the heavens and the earth, the entire cosmos we reside in.

I hope that you are encouraged by this passage. I know that there are mental health circumstances that make battling anxiety not so black and white, but for many of us this Psalm is the soothing oil we need to calm our anxious nerves. I believe the cure to much of our anxiety is found in meditating upon this Psalm and taking it to heart.

While in Phoenix, my anxiety was through the roof and I did a horrible job of handling it. Since I’ve been back to Texas, the anxiety can still spike in the weirdest of ways. Small triggers.

– realizing that a job responsibility slipped past my to-do list, causing anxiousness about my job performance.

– hearing an expletive-laced rant in front of a gym next door to where Jamie works, causing anxiousness about her safety.

– a text message casting doubt on how someone views me, causing anxiousness about my identity.

None of these are really life and death situations, yet all of them are aspects of life that we should care about. Vocation, loved ones, self. That being said, if I don’t nip these fast-flowing anxious thoughts in the bud, they can spiral on me and I start playing the ‘what-if’ game.

Psalm 121 blows this up.

When I’m getting anxious, I can lift up my eyes to the heavens in a way to remind myself that my help comes from God above. He is creative, good, orderly, and perfect. Just read the creation account. God makes, and what He makes is good. God separates, bringing order to an otherwise orderless cosmos. Sin entered the picture and so we live in a fallen world, but God’s purposes and promises are secure. He says let there be light, and by the very power of His words light is made. This alone is a stunning reminder that all God says, all He proclaims, will come to pass. He made the heavens and earth.

Verse three is amazing. He who watches over us does not slumber. He does not sleep. Jamie will tell you that I hate sleeping too long or napping. I am prone to being a productivity slave (that’s a blog for another time) and thus refuse most times to take necessary rest (leading to me being late to a morning appointment and accidentally crashing into a two hour nap just yesterday). Resting or sleeping is hard, because in my foolish brain and heart my inaction is equivalent to my cosmos being out of order. Yet I am but a creature. I am an image-bearer of God who needs rest.

Juxtaposed to this need for daily rest is the God who never sleeps. In verse four it says that He watches over all of the people of God. He has us all securely in view, and He cares for us deeply.

Verse seven tells us that God will keep us from evil (not that bad things won’t happen to us as His followers, rather that the enemy of our souls will not win our souls).

Verse eight is such a pleasant piece of Scripture. The Lord will guard my going out and coming in forever. There is nowhere I can go where He is not watching over me. I am always in His hands.

This Psalm is a solvent that dissolves my anxiety.

My prayer is that it would do the same for you. He is worthy of our praise and our trust.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

DISCLAIMER: As stated in passing, I believe that there are chemical imbalances, mental health issues, etc. that make fighting anxiety much more difficult than I’ve written about here. I pray for those experiencing such things, and I am not intending to belittle those very real, very personal struggles.

Randalling Faith

This Is Us continues to be one of my favorite shows. Randall, one of the main characters, struggles with anxiety, perfectionism, over-thinking, obsessive worry, and moments of freaking out. He is a smart dude, and a genuinely compassionate man. His consistent vice throughout the series however continues to be this life-consuming worry and over-thinking. To the point that in one episode, his wife asks him if he’s ‘randalling’. She turns his name into a verb to mean over-thinking and anxiously stressing out. It’s a humorous moment for sure. I have caught myself randalling in more than one area of my life throughout the years, but one consistent point of over-thinking is often my faith.

In his book, Perfect Sinners, Matt Fuller paints a picture of a young woman who does the same thing:

“Wendy” is obsessed with how well she’s living the Christian life. She assesses her obedience daily. She is always looking to repent of anything that doesn’t please the Lord. She daily confesses all she’s done wrong and seeks to express her love for God by obeying him. This is great! The downside is that she’s anxious and introspective. She seems happier reciting a confession than singing a hymn of praise. 

This is obviously an over the top caricature, but it is relatable. Maybe you’re like this woman. Maybe you are constantly looking at your life, evaluating your faith, evaluating your thoughts and words and actions to make sure they are honoring God. Introspection is your norm.

If this is the case, I feel you.

Since I was an early teen, much of my alone time has been spent thinking about my life, thinking about my faith. Wondering if I was doing enough, pleasing God with my life. In the early teen years, it was questioning if my faith was strong enough to make me right with God (more on that later). In college, it was wondering if I was worthy or deserving of the positions of leadership I had been granted in spiritual circles, despite my ongoing struggles with sin.

For those who struggle with randalling their faith, I totally believe it comes from sincere hearts. Hearts of men and women who have seen countless professing Christians who don’t seem to look at the fruit of their faith in any way and want to instead make sure their life is worthy of the gospel.

Here’s where randalling our faith is ridiculously stupid.

We make our faith in Jesus about US.

We turn our eyes off of Christ, the object of our faith, and instead navel-gaze and introspectively stare at ourselves, questioning the level of our faith. Been there, done that. Too many times to count.

Look at this wonderful passage with me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

What’s ironic is this is one of the passages that would normally precede much of my navel-gazing. In my desire to lay aside weight and sin, I would write, pray, and rack my brain trying to see if there was stuff to confess, change, or get rid of. Stupid Nathan, missing the point of this passage.

Yes, we are to put sin to death in our lives (Colossians 3:5-8), but that is not to consume our minds and vision to the point of missing the grace of Jesus. Just like you can be so focused on grace that you don’t put sin to death in your life, you can be so focused on putting sin to death that you forget grace that covers over your sin.

This passage pleads with us to run with endurance, looking to Jesus, who founded and will perfect our faith. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, and Colossians 3 will remind us that we too are seated with Him there.

Here are a few quick ways to take our eyes off of ourselves, how to stop randalling our faith:

  1. Community. I’ll be honest, most of my randalling happened when I was alone in my room or not in a deep, intimate community of fellow Christians who I could share my difficulties, worries, and over-thinking tendencies with. For this type of Christ-follower to be caricatured in a book on our identity is proof that you’re not alone in this type of behavior. Don’t isolate yourself with your thoughts, share them in a gospel-centered community in order to be reminding of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
  2. Sing. Way too many worship services were quasi-wasted by me in high school and college because I couldn’t sing the promises of God while simultaneously worrying if I’d earned the promises of God. In Psalm 51:15, we see David opening up his mouth in praise, not soon after being confronted by Nathan regarding his adultery and murder. SING. Even if you’re not a good singer, give God praise for the grace he has lavished upon you.
  3. Reflect. There is a healthy way to reflect if you’re like Wendy. Reflect on Christ. What he has done, the victory of the cross that frees you to confess and carry on. Don’t focus on sin that via confession is not held against you any longer.

Don’t be a Randall when it comes to your faith. Don’t freak out. Live in freedom. Don’t live in anxiety, live with joy in grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

  • I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below. If you enjoyed this blog, please give it a share on Facebook!