Bored At Church

Every Sunday and Wednesday I look out in the youth room or in the sanctuary and I see a lot of stoic, tired faces. Maybe there’s small talk, but people seem at times to be in the room simply because the doors are open. When I ask one of the students to pray at youth, I’m often met with twenty seconds of silence until some brave soul raises their hand.

A lot of weeks, I don’t understand this stoicism, this exhaustion, this ‘it’s Sunday so we should be here’ mentality. What we are doing at the weekend and midweek services is the experience of encountering God together.

That should be the least boring experience known to man.

We get to commune with the God of all creation, the God who is at work in our world day after day.

*yawn*

How can we be bored at church? How can we look like we’re exhausted and are there out of obligation and duty? How can we have no excitement, no anticipation, no joy (I guess it’s down in our hearts)?

I go to sporting events, game nights, golf courses and movie premieres. At all of these places (and many more) I see followers of Jesus pumped, excited, and joyful. I see them worshipping. I see them cheering, not caring what others think around them. Heck, I see some aspects of worship before a tasty meal at a great restaurant.

So why is it that we’re bored in church?

It’s not an issue of not having the capacity to worship.

Most people would respond to such an outlook with statements about setting, vibes, culture, style, etc. The enemy of our souls has stolen the worship of multitudes of modern Christians by giving us a consumeristic viewpoint to the church.

When I look at Scripture, I see no caveat to deep worship.

God’s worthiness of our praise is not dependent upon earthly things.

The ability to worship is not an issue of style or setting or atmosphere. The ability to worship is an issue of awe.

I’m afraid too many of us have no awe of God, and so we are definitely bored at church. We don’t commune with God in prayer. We don’t look at the character and works of God as described for us in Scripture. We don’t thank God for what He’s done in our lives or in the lives of those around us. We’re distracted by earthly things and so we have no awe when we enter the worship settings in our local churches.

I’m afraid too many of us need a ‘feeling’ in our stomachs to worship.

Again, the enemy of God has done a great job of making worship about feelings. We want to feel something. When we don’t, when the music isn’t Elevation Worship or Hillsong, we fall back into a passive attendance, a bored experience.

How sly and cunning our enemy is. He takes a good thing (feelings of God’s presence) and makes them the end goal. He stifles our worship with an obsession with feeling.

We can fight back.

Here’s just a few things you can do to not be bored in church.

1. Pursue the Greatness of God

Those who get pumped at sporting events know the ins and outs of the teams they cheer for. Those who get pumped at playing video games will research and even watch other people play the same game. We worship what we pursue. Get into the Word of God. Get before God in prayer. Encounter Him in His greatness. When I’m communing with God during the week, I can’t help but give Him my all in worship on the weekend!

2. Pray Before Attending The Service

Our worship problem is often a prayerlessness problem. We don’t ask God to give us worshipping hearts and then we wonder why we’re easily distracted, bored, and turned off to the service. We don’t ask God to give us a new mentality, then we wonder why we’re so consumeristic and selfish when it comes to worship. We don’t ask God to stir our hearts, and then we wonder why we’re cold and dry. Do you pray as a family the night before church, before you leave on Sunday morning, or before you get out of the car in the parking lot? It’s no wonder we struggle to worship when we don’t actively pray for help to do so.

3. Practice a Posture of Worship

Posture can guide our hearts and minds in worship. When we raise our hands, close our eyes, get on our knees, etc., we tune ourselves into the presence of God. The Bible is chock full of examples where the people of God praise God in exuberant fashion. If you’re focused on what others think, you won’t worship. My prayer is that my daughter Gracie sees the same level of worship from me at church on Sunday as she sees at a football game on Friday night.

Let me close with this quote from Max Lucado. I enjoy him for devotional reading and he has a great chapter on this concept in his book Just Like Jesus.

Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a ‘nice’ service. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find. A few, however, seek more. A few come with childlike enthusiasm.

I want to be a man who comes to worship like a child.

I want to be a man who isn’t content with a nice, normal, typical, boring experience in the presence of God.

I want more.

And when I want more, God is able and willing to provide more.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Sexual Brokenness

I am sexually broken.

You are sexually broken.

We are all sexually broken.

In my heart are desires that do not honor God, and since I’m married, my wife. This is true for you. This is true for everyone around you. God made this world good (according to Genesis 1) and we’ve strayed from it, seeking to call the shots for our sexual lives.

I have wrestled with this blog post for a while now. I know that what I believe is not popular. I know that for many it makes me a hateful bigot on the wrong side of history. Yet, for many others it makes me a coward who won’t simply condemn those who are sexually broken just like me.

I believe our culture has taken a good, God-honoring thing and skewed it. In 2 Samuel 1, we read this as David laments the loss of his dear friend Jonathan:

Jonathan lies slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women. – 2 Samuel 1:26

There is a deep companionship to be found between two men or two women. David had it with Jonathan. They were deeply committed to each other, they loved each other deeply.

That honors God and it actually mirrors God’s love for His people.

I have a relationship with a guy named Victor who lives in Phoenix. We call each other often, encouraging one another in our faith. There is a deep companionship there that is distinctly different than my relationship with my wife.

Our culture I believe has twisted the fact that we can have deep friendship with members of the same gender, making it romantic and erotic. That is when I believe that people step outside of God’s design. I believe that an active lifestyle of what our culture calls homosexuality doesn’t honor God, is sin. I am not saying that if you have those desires, you are sinning. I believe it is the erotic or romantic acting on those desires that is sinful.

That being said, how should the modern church respond to the sexual brokenness of the world we live in?

Here’s three things.

Repent

I am sexually broken. It starts here. It starts acknowledging that I have many desires that don’t honor God. We are currently doing discipleship groups in our church and here are two of the questions that we are to ask each other as we meet.

Am I walking in sexual integrity, submitting my mind and body to the Lordship of Jesus? Am I having any lustful attitudes, entertaining any inappropriate thoughts about someone not my spouse, or exposing myself to any explicit materials that would not glorify God?

I have heard from many that are in these groups that they’re refusing to answer those questions because they’re too personal. Now, I get it, that’s not always a fun set of questions to answer.

But we have no right to call those who struggle with certain sexual desires to repent if we are not calling ourselves to repent.

The church loses its voice fast when the sexual brokenness in each and every one of us is not acknowledged. We must repent of our sin. Each one of us. Not because it will magically give us a voice in the culture, but because we are called to do so in Scripture.

Love

They will know that we are disciples of Jesus by our love (John 13:34-35).

Are we loving those that have disordered sexual desires? Or are we up in arms that they are given rights in the world, actively making fun of them, and communicating on Facebook and in real life that they aren’t welcome anywhere near our faith community? God forgive us.

Jesus had a ministry in which he surrounded himself with those that were sexually broken and had disordered sexual desires. This is true for every single one of the people he was around. Most had private sexual brokenness. But a large chunk of the people he dined with had public sexual brokenness. Jesus was so active in their midst that he was condemned by the religious leaders of the day for being a friend of sinners, of being a glutton and drunk.

The Lord of all creation associated Himself with the sexually broken. He loved them and drew them into something better than their sexual desires. Purity. Holiness. Companionship with a faith community and with God. He went to them in love.

Church, those who are outside of a relationship with Christ should be welcomed, loved, encouraged, and shown compassion. This is true for any sin struggle.

It is my prayer for my youth group, for my church as a whole, that literally anyone feels welcome. It grieves me that the thirty-year porn addict or three year cohabitating young man may feel welcome in our church but not the man attracted to other men. We are to be a place of love for all.

Repent. Love. Then, only then:

Speak Truth

As a follower of Jesus, it is my calling to speak truth into the lives of those who claim Christ in my church community. Once I’ve shown that I’m actively repenting of my sexual sin, shown that I love the man or woman I’m in community with, then I am called to speak the truth according to Scripture in regards to marriage and sexuality. This isn’t fun nor is it easy. It is the call of the Christian however.

It is my prayer that the truth is spoken.

But it is my prayer that the truth is spoken in love.

I’ve seen so many professing Christians mock those have different sexual brokenness than they do.

Lord forgive us.

Give us love.

I am a lustful, angry, prideful, selfish, jealous, unkind man. And no one has given me just one chance to grow in my holiness. Why is it that we treat those with homosexual desires any differently? Why do we say change your desires immediately or get out? The reality is, the broken sexual desires will always be there in our lives. Each of us for always. Again, that’s not sin. It’s the acting on it that is. We will all fail and fall, but there is grace. We will all fail and fall but we are to repent and keep moving toward Jesus together.  

Church, may we repent of our sexual sin.

May we love people well, giving people of all backgrounds a family they feel deeply loved in.

May we speak the truth when it comes to what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality, but may it be saturated in love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

My Prayer For The President

My heart is heavy this morning. I am a bit anxious about tomorrow, but not for the reason you might think. I’m anxious not about the outcome but rather about the witness of the church in 2020.

My heart hurts because I am a Family Discipleship Pastor tasked with reaching the next generation for Christ. Yet they are leaving the church in droves. LifeWay did a survey and 25% of the people they polled who had stopped attending church regularly said it was due to politics that they left (http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Young-Adult-Church-Dropout-Report-2017.pdf).

TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT.

And yet, we’re still doing it. We still are saying “True Christians would vote for ________”. We still break the second commandment by ascribing to God what He has not said in His word. As we break the second commandment day after day, conversation after conversation, Facebook post after Facebook post, the younger generations are leaving the church.

God help us.

Please. Stop reading right now and think. Think about the words you have spoken. My prayer, my desperate prayer, is that nothing I say drives anyone away from the church. Yet if I am breaking the second commandment and saying Christians can only vote Republican or Christians can only vote Democrat, there are statistics that show people are leaving the church over that.

Can you imagine?

People are missing the opportunity to hear about their Lord and Savior because of our political beliefs.

God have mercy. Forgive us.

With a grieving heart, I want to ramble a little bit about my beliefs regarding this election. This will come in bullet point form. After getting that all out in the open, I will then share a prayer from church history that I will be praying for our president, whether it be Trump or Biden.

  • I have Christ-honoring friends who are voting Republican, voting Democrat, and exercising their right not to vote. No one view is fully in line with Scripture. There should be nuance here, there should be grieving here. No political party is perfectly in line with Scripture.
  • Every word we speak should be to lift others up. It saddens me to see men and women who have been Christians for one year or fifty years calling the other side ‘idiots, morons, foolish, dumb,’ and things a lot worse than that. Jesus doesn’t cheer us on when we bash others (Ephesians 4:29-32). Even those policies you deem as evil or wicked are not the result of the man but of the spiritual warfare at work in the world (Ephesians 6). At the end of the day, look at your life. Look at all that God has forgiven you of. He didn’t condemn you. Don’t condemn others. Pray for them.
  • I have been taking church history in seminary this semester. When you study the 2,000 year history of the church, you see it thrive when it is under persecution. You see it dwindle and die, get corrupt and power-hungry, when it is the center of society. That’s why I’m not nervous about the results of the election. If the church keeps getting pushed out of the center of society, praise God. For it is there that we grow.
  • When we try and find our hope and peace in the outcome of an election, we forget the words of Jesus Himself. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36. This is not our home. I believe that we are seeing the idol of the American Dream fall, and it has us shaken. Yet when we remember that we are vapor, mist, dirt, and that we are temporary dwellers on earth, we have no reason to fear an election.
  • Our country is not loved more by God than other nations. The church in America is not loved by God more than the church in other nations. To think so is to forget his sovereignty over the whole world. To think so is for me to be arrogant. Let us be men and women who read the prophetic warnings against the church in the Prophets. Read them and repent.
  • God resides over every king and every kingdom. Nothing takes place that He did not plan for our good and His glory.
  • I am grieving at the loss of discipleship in our churches. You want to see change take place? You can’t legislate salvation. You can’t legislate sanctification. You must disciple. The commission of Matthew 28 is not ‘go and vote’. It’s ‘go and make disciples’. Yes, exercise our blessed right to vote. But don’t think that’s your primary Christian duty. Your primary Christian duty is to make disciples. When did you last meet with a younger brother or sister in Christ? When did you invest in someone spiritually? I see posts all over the place of ‘I voted’. Where are the posts about discipleship? Where is the passion to do that?
  • Again, vote if that is your conscience. Countless men and women have given their lives so that we can. Countless of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other nations don’t have such a right. But also realize that prayer is more powerful. In Daniel 10, an angel responds to the words of Daniel, and nations are changed as a result. We have that same power. We need the Spirit to move more than we need our guy in the White House.
  • We are called by God to submit to the president, even if it’s not the one we voted for. This is apparent in 1 Peter 2:13. We are also to remember that 1 Peter says (as does countless other passages from Genesis to Revelation) that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME (foreigners and exiles, v. 11). May we not expend all of our energy building a kingdom that will one day be a footnote in history. May we expend our energy bringing the Kingdom of God to earth (Matthew 6:10).
  • No matter the outcome, be kind. Be gracious. Be gentle. And please, please be humble. To celebrate your win is to forget your fellow image-bearers. No one should be excited this week. We should grieve the disunity, grieve the unkind words being spoken. Even in victory, speak words that honor Jesus, because you will give an account for what you say.
  • No matter the outcome, pray. Pray for Biden. Pray for Trump. Pray.

I urge you, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

I could preach on that for a while. We are called to live peaceful and quiet lives as Christians. Quiet lives. Not boisterous and loud lives of social media political drivel. Quiet lives of godliness and holiness. How do we go about doing that? By praying WITH THANKSGIVING FOR ALL PEOPLE.

Realize that Nero is emperor at this time. Nero, according to church history, is responsible for the death of Paul who writes this. Paul prayed for a man who eventually killed him. That’s the Kingdom of God on display.

That means, if Biden wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

That means, if Trump wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

Don’t you see that to be a Christian is to be distinctly different from the world?

For me, you won’t know how I vote.

For me, my prayer is that you see me living a quiet life and peaceful life, one of godliness and holiness, not one of arrogant celebration or condescending condemnation.

No matter the outcome, honor Christ.

No matter the outcome, make much of Jesus.

For if you cling to political power as your primary hope, you forsake the Scriptures. Acts 4:12 says that salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. John 10:10 says that life is found in Jesus.

You know who will be on the throne Wednesday? Jesus.

You know who won’t be surprised Wednesday? Jesus.

You know that if you don’t win, Jesus isn’t punishing our country. He’s using the election for His glory and our GOOD.

Lastly, finally, after much rambling, my prayer.

This prayer is not my own, but was prayed by Pope Clement, an early church father, prayed for the governmental authorities in Corinth.

Grant to them Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor in you.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

May we not drive people away from their Savior based on an election.

May we make much of Jesus.

For His Glory,

Nate Roach

Preferences

What’s your idea of a perfect church?

What type of classes should be offered? What outreach ministries should be taking place? What should the church’s logo look like? What type of teaching and preaching should be utilized? What type of music should be sung? What should the youth ministry be like? Should there be formal theological training? What missions organizations should we support? What type of expectations for members should there be? What type of structure should we have?

If you’re like me, you probably have your answers to all of those questions.

And if you’re like me, 100% of your preferences aren’t being met in the church you are a part of.

So what do you do?

Preferences are by no means wrong to have. It’s ingrained in us. It’s the culture we live in.

But when the proliferation of personal preferences become the primary pursuit of my life in the church, I’m woefully missing the mark.

Over the years I’ve been in Vernon, God has been stripping me slowly but surely of my preoccupation with how I think the church should do certain things.

Last Fall, in preparation for leading our students and children through the book of Philippians, I studied said book. And it began to blow me away. Unity through humility and love. Concern for others rather than concern for one’s self, even one’s preferences.

Outside of Scripture, countless books have formed my heart and mind to remember what I’m supposed to be doing. J-Curve taught me that life is about giving up my rights in humility and love. Everywhere You Look is one I finished last month that teaches the Kingdom of God is going to come as we are hospitable and gospel-centered in our neighborhoods.

But lately two things have been on my mind.

Romans 12 and the book Uncomfortable.

Romans 12 is chock full of examples from the church in Rome as to how to apply the life and teachings of Jesus to our lives together.

One of the translations I use and study with is the NASB, and this was how Romans 12:10 was translated:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 

That has been swirling through my mind a lot. I actually have dedicated it to memory because I need to be reflecting on its truths.

What if that was the type of preference I was concerned with?

Putting others first, devoting my life to them in love.

When anxiety racks my mind, or frustrations mount, is it about preferences of how the church runs or the fear that some in my church family don’t feel loved?

What keeps you up at night?

What gets you animated?

Preferences or love?

Man, y’all this has been a tough lesson to learn for me.

I want my conversations to be about loving others well. The people I don’t understand. The people I disagree with at times. The people who are guests. The people who live near me.

I want my conversations and motivations to be about love for God and others.

The reality is, there is no such thing as a perfect church. From an organizational standpoint that is.

The people that make up our churches however are just that.

Perfect.

Saints.

Holy.

Beloved children of God the Father, purchased for Him by Christ the Son, held together through the power of the Spirit.

Shouldn’t that impact every conversation we have? Even the hard ones?

I sit and imagine a people that literally outdo one another in showing honor (the NIV version of Romans 12:10b) to each other.

In the book Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken doubles down on the fact that the modern church goer has the consumerist mentality. This is something the Bible never condones. Is it a normal thought process? Yes. Is it something I need to fight against in my life? Absolutely.

This is a super long series of quotes. You really just need to go read the book yourself. I’ve got it in my office.

‘How it fits me’ is the wrong criteria for finding the right church. Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to be fit into the likeness of Christ. This can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture. . . What if we learned to love churches even when they challenge us and stretch us out of our comfort zones? . . . Commitment even amidst discomfort, faithfulness even amidst disappointment: this is what being the people of God has always been about. . . A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and a non consumerist covenant. 

What if we didn’t think about ourselves and our preferences at all when coming to a church?

What if instead we thought about how we could truly love others, not just our crew, but anyone in the pew.

What if going to a church that is not in your comfort zone in some areas was the way to learn humility and gentleness and love?

Brothers and sisters, I used to be a church basher. An over the top, anal, negative, cynical, apathetic, mocking, vocal critic of any church I went to or was involved in. Even a church I was once on staff at.

Then it hit me.

That’s the Bride of Christ.

It’s messy. It’s broken.

But it’s not a business. It’s not first and foremost an organization. It’s a people. A people to be loved.

Again, preferences aren’t bad. Changes aren’t bad. Changes need to be made to continue growing the Kingdom.

But I 100% believe that those changes are in our hearts first before it’s in the church.

Am I discipling?

When’s the last time you went through Scripture with another believer?

Am I witnessing?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

Am I having people over in my home?

When’s the last time you had someone outside of your sphere of friends over for dinner?

You see, even the seeker movement was based in the misconception that what happens at church during the week is how people come to join the people of God. Not so fast. That’s not true. Biblically or historically.

People will join the Kingdom of God through seeing a community that are devoted to one another in love every single day of the week. Praying for each other. Serving each other. Building relationships with each other. Disagreeing in love with each other. That’s the compelling community.

To build a church around primarily reaching new people is wrong, just as building a church around traditions that never change is wrong. The Gospels show us that when Jesus drew a crowd, He sent them away with tough teachings on laying down one’s lives.

I’m not concerned about how many new students come to youth group.

I’m concerned with how many of my current students go to them.

Every day I have to ask myself if I’m more concerned with my preferences than prayerfully submitting to the Spirit. Even at a place where I don’t agree with 100% of what happens.

Church, let us love one another.

Church, let us be more concerned with that than anything else.

Church, let us remember that we are the Bride. The Bride that Christ died for. The Bride that He loves (and He loves it a little better than we do). When I have berated the church, God is not cheering me on. When I try to humbly serve, that’s when I’m modeling His heart.

It’s time to ditch the consumerist outlook on church, what we can get out of it.

It’s time instead to commit to fighting in the trenches for the Kingdom of God.

Preferences don’t keep people away from Jesus.

Prayerless people do.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Come As You Are

Once you clean up your act, you can come in.

Once you stop falling into the same cycles and patterns of sin, then you’re welcome here.

Once you cover up those tattoos, take your hat off, and purge your social media, then you can find community in this place.

I look around at my generation, I listen intently to the stories they’re telling. Many of them are saying that these phrases above, these litmus tests for church community, were imposed against them.

If they were pretty, pristine, clean, and family-friendly, they could find the support of a faith community and of pastors. But if they were rough around the edges, broken, struggling, and sinful, they were judged and condemned. Subtly and not so subtly communicated with to clean up their act before they come back.

Sure, Jesus explicitly stated that He came to seek and to save the lost. Sure, Paul stated that Jesus’ reason for coming was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But that was Jesus. We’re just His people. We’re here for the nuclear families, the morally acceptable, those that know what to say and how to say it in church settings. That’s who we’re here for. That’s our calling.

God forgive us.

Jesus reinvigorate us.

Spirit guide us.

We were made for the mess. The dirty, broken, mess of life that is raw and real. Broken families. Egregious sin. Nasty rumors. Mental health struggles. We as the church are to sit, listen, encourage, and point to Jesus. But so many people in our communities won’t come in our doors. They’ve heard our gossip and slander. They’ve heard what we think about people like them.

I believe the role of the church community is to equip and empower the people of God to live in such a way that draws others into the community.

So in a sense, our Sunday morning worship services are for Christians. But they are for profoundly broken Christians. Those weekly services are to push us back into the world to reach others for Jesus.

But we sit on the sidelines.

Instead of leveraging our relationships for mission, we become codependent (this happens to me all of the time y’all).

People of God, you’re made for more. Let me show you one of the most insane examples of God’s heart for the broken.

Turn to 2 Kings chapter 5.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1

My passion is to take our G-rated glasses off when we read Scripture. I want you to read that again. What stands out?

An enemy of God’s people being given victory by God.

What in the world?

Remember, at this time the people of God were the nation of Israel. The people of God transcend nations and boundary lines today. Back then it was national. But yet you still see in this story God’s heart for those who were literally His enemies.

Naaman has leprosy and God heals him through the work of the prophet Elisha.

Things get even crazier in chapter six.

You may think, okay, sure God healed this man. But maybe it was so the Aram people stop their violence against Israel.

Nope. That doesn’t happen.

2 Kings 6:8 says that the Aram people are still moving against Israel.

Elisha hears of all their plans, before God uses Elisha to blind the people of Aram. This is an extremely popular story, for it is the moment where Elisha shows his servant the innumerable chariots of fire around them, protecting them. But people stop there (again, G-rated glasses).

The blinded army come before the king of Israel. Let me show you what happens next.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those who you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. – 2 Kings 6:21-23 (verse twenty-four tells us the Aram army comes to attack again)

Hold on.

What?

The people of God capture their enemies and then throw a feast for them?

Yes.

That’s exactly what happened.

God loves His enemies as well as His own people. They are given opportunities to repent, as Naaman showed. The book of Romans says that we are all God’s enemies. Not that we’re not close with Him. Rather that we are straight up His enemies. And yet God still sent His Son to die for us.

It seems like a Jesus juke but it’s Scripturally faithful.

God’s grace is for all people.

He extended grace to His enemies, both historically and spiritually.

What roadblocks do we put in the way of those who want to experience the love of God? Naaman did nothing that was worthy of being healed. The Aram army certainly didn’t deserve to be celebrated as they were.

I am stingy and self-righteous if I believe that the grace God has given to me was because of my actions and only goes to morally good people.

I am failing to live out the heart of God if any of my preaching, teaching, or day to day life is communicating to the Christian and non-Christian alike that they shouldn’t come into community as they are.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be the type of people who celebrate with our ‘enemies’. Let’s be the type of people who know we’re no better than the non-believer. We have no high ground. We’ve simply been rescued.

Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS. – 1 Timothy 1:15b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Nate Roach’s Church

There are times when Scripture just punches me in the face.

Today was one of those days.

I’ve been looking at the book of Ephesians lately here on my blog, and the passage I came to today shined a big ol’ light on some dark parts of my heart that I’ve been content to just ignore or gloss over.

Let’s look at the passage together.

when he raised (Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. - Ephesians 1:20b-23

This is an abrupt break due to the fact that I covered the previous parts of this chapter in prior blogs.

Here’s the gist of what we’re looking at though. We’re looking at a phenomenal, magnificent, amazing description of what God the Father gave to Christ the Son.

I mean, that list is engrossing.

Look at all that it says about Jesus:

  • He was raised from the dead (what we’re about to celebrate this weekend)
  • He is seated at the right hand of the Father
  • He is over every rule
  • He is over every authority
  • He is over every power
  • He is over every dominion
  • His Name is greater than all others
  • All things are under His feet
  • He is the head of the church

Wow. Now, I generally enjoy looking at least at all the cross-references for a passage before teaching on it. I didn’t do that today because there is honestly just so much here. There are dozens of other passages in the Bible that allude to these different realities regarding the magnificence of Jesus.

In this Covid-19 season of quarantine, this is the type of stuff that we should be meditating on. We shouldn’t be meditating on the news. We shouldn’t be looking up the word ‘plague’ in a concordance and trying to make verses speak into this direct situation. We should be looking to Jesus. We should be rejoicing in all that the Father has given Him.

Did you see all of that? He’s in charge. He resides over every nation, leading every ruler of every nation (even the ones you don’t like). There is nothing more powerful than Him. The entire world is under His feet. This passage brings me so much joy and hope. He’s got me. He’s got you. He’s got us.

But this passage also, like I said, punches me square in the face.

Because do you see who is in control here?

Is it Nate Roach?

Nope, and we should all be abundantly grateful that it’s not.

I’ve shared before that this quarantine scenario has served to take away any facade of my control over literally anything in my life. We like to think that we ourselves are in charge. But we’re not.

For me personally, as of late, that second to last verse is the one that really hits too close to home.

I had my ministry before Covid-19 struck. We were zooming through Philippians, gaining traction, seeing a little fruit, about to start a brand new High School only service. All was well.

Then bam.

Gone.

In an instant y’all.

I’ll be honest, these past few weeks of this quarantine stuff has been tough on me. As it has been tough on all of us. I’ve had to wrestle with doubt, fear, worry, feelings of purposelessness. All the while I wanted to wrestle back control of my life, my ministry, our church.

I mean, seriously, how will any student or child grow spiritually if we’re not gathered and I’m not leading?

Okay y’all, I hope you see what God showed me about the stupidity of that there statement.

Here’s where the fist drilled the face.

This church isn’t dependent on me. Not even remotely.

This church isn’t dependent upon any other staff member.

This church is dependent upon Christ.

He is the head.

Not Nate Roach.

And He is still in control.

Not Nate Roach.

Go back to that passage above. Read it again and again. Look at all that it says about Jesus. Look deeply, closely, intentionally. Be encouraged. Don’t fret or be afraid. God is in control. Jesus is still on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I’ve used this quarantine season to get started on a couple other avenues for sharing God’s Word. The first is a YouTube channel. You can find the latest video here: https://youtu.be/f1OnESBOAok.

The second is a podcast! This is what I’m super stoked about! I know reading a long rambling blog is not always the best. Sometimes, having something to listen to while doing other activities is a better way to soak up God’s Word. My prayer is that this new podcast (which will be up and running soon) will be a way for you to grow in your love for Jesus.

He Dwells In Us, Not Our Sanctuaries

“There’s nothing magical about these steps. But we can come up here and take the humble posture of prayer by kneeling.”

I got into the habit during the invitation component of my sermons of saying something like this. I point to the altar in our sanctuary and downplay its significance. The posture of prayer is significant, but not the carpeted steps leading up to our stage. There’s nothing significant about them, in terms of holiness.

We are living in unprecedented times. Unprecedented times that are affecting the way that we gather together as the church.

I do not envy one bit those who have had to prayerfully make decisions for the coming weeks for their churches.

I don’t know what the right answer is.

Our church leadership has chosen to gather together over the radio or over livestreaming as opposed to in person. We believe this is what is best for the time being.

So right now, our sanctuary will be empty for the foreseeable future.

There has been a proliferation of posts that fit the following mantra: “the church isn’t the building. we are.”

And as much as this language makes me cringe a tiny bit, it’s true.

But I want to talk about it from a slightly different perspective.

I want to talk about where God dwells.

God doesn’t dwell in the sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Vernon, Texas. He dwells with His people. Somewhere along the way (and I’ve studied zero minutes about this) we began to believe that God dwelled in a building like the temple that Solomon built for Him. So we started making sanctuaries these holy places where God dwelled with man. And yet God doesn’t dwell there.

He dwells in us.

I’ve been studying the book of Ephesians (my last two blogs have been out of this marvelous book of the Bible) and I’m reminded again and again that the message of the entire scope of Scripture is not God coming to dwell in a building, but rather God coming to dwell with a people.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. - Ephesians 2:19-22

I mean, come on y’all.

The second chapter of Ephesians details the amazing work of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It tells us how utterly broken we were in our sin, in the kingdom of darkness. Then we see the work of God. We see how we were SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. The implications of this wonderful news continues on into this passage.

We are fellow citizens with one another.

We are saints and fellow members of the family of God.

Even those who go to other churches in town.

The implications and applications of that reality alone is far-reaching.

But look at the conclusion. We have been brought together, built up into a dwelling place for the Lord.

Let that sink in.

It’s always been about the people.

In Genesis, we see the framework of this, as God promises to bless all the nations through the line of Abraham.

In Revelation, we see the culmination of this, as every tribe and tongue and nation bows before King Jesus.

All throughout the way, in tabernacles, temples, and Jesus, God has dwelled with His people. Paul tells explicitly in Acts 17 that God doesn’t dwell in buildings made by human hands.

So what does that mean for today?

It means that maybe, just maybe, we come to know this truth of Scripture like never before.

Maybe, just maybe, we will remember that we have always been called to primarily live in the world, not in judgment, but in hopes of bringing the good news of the gospel to bear on the lives of our friends neighbors (just read 1 Corinthians 5, 8, and 9).

Maybe, just maybe, we can live out the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives (joy and kindness) when we interact with others (Had to repent just today for some judgmental responses to others. This isn’t easy).

Maybe, just maybe, families will wake up and realize that the job of the church is to merely supplement their discipleship practices at home, not the other way around.

Yes, church community is going to look different for a while. I absolutely dread how awkward it is going to be for me to teach to an empty room this Sunday. But the community has never been about the building in the first place.

Y’all. This gets me pumped. When my church family gathers on Sunday mornings, it should be an opportunity to celebrate what God is doing in our community as well as to remind ourselves of the task ahead.

We should be doing far more outside the walls of our sanctuaries than we do in them. More people should be encountering Jesus outside than inside. We should be studying Scripture together far more outside than inside. We should be singing praise to God far more outside than inside.

Y’all.

God has chosen us as His people to dwell with. Every single believer who follows Jesus as Lord is part of this.

The sanctuary may be empty, but His presence is in us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

A Church Full of . . . .

What do you hold most dear? What is central to your heart? What do you think about the most? What does your media consumption revolve around? What do your conversations revolve around?

These questions can help you discern what you worship. What you love.

All of us are worshipping and pursuing something. More often than not, we are committing idolatry.

The Scriptures have a really sobering word for those of us (like me) who pursue other things above the Lord.

Recently I’ve been listening to and reading Hosea. This is a minor prophet that is relatively well-known, but it’s imagery and stark illustrations should catch our modern sensibilities off guard. Consider this verse for instance:

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord. - Hosea 1:2

Okay. Seriously. Let that sink in.

Hosea is a prophet, a spiritual leader who would speak the very words of God to the people of God. And God calls for him to go take a whore as a wife. This should be shocking language for us to read, but it should also be shocking imagery. We have made this too cute, but we need to really sit in this.

Hosea was to take a whore (or prostitute) for a wife to illustrate God’s covenant relationship with His people.

Come on now. Is that sinking in?

God had a covenant relationship with His people.

Two parties involved.

God.

His people.

One of them (God) is a faithful husband.

One of them (His people) is a whore of a wife.

That make you uncomfortable?

It certainly bothers me!

What God is clearly stating through the words and actions of the prophet Hosea is that when I worship other things, I am committing spiritual adultery. I am breaking the covenant between me and God. The reality is, this theme runs throughout the grand storyline of Scripture. This runs through most of the prophetic books. The church, the people of God, are God’s unfaithful wife (there’s a really good book on this subject with the same name). And yet God never forsakes us. He never breaks the covenant. Rather, he continues to love us. He ultimately sent His Son for us.

But the reality is, I am a whore (spiritually speaking). I pursue things other than the Lord Jesus. I hold things in my heart above Him. And this is reprehensible and obscene.

I hear people regularly say that the church is full of hypocrites. I have never felt led to disagree with that assessment. Rather, I’ve honestly wanted to tell them just how bad the church is. How, spiritually speaking, to use Biblical language, the church is full of whores.

Yikes.

That’s unsettling.

But despite what our modern sensibilities may want to tell us, it is inherently Biblical. This is the Bible’s view of our sin. It is nothing more than adultery against God.

Do we view sin that way?

I don’t. I trivialize sin. I ignore sin. I excuse sin. I push sin under the rug. I keep it in the dark. I treat it as normal.

Oh that we would have a Biblical view of our sin. Oh that we would take sin seriously in our lives, that we would rip it into the light, that we would no longer treat it flippant but rather treat it for the horrifying and disgusting offense against God that it is.

Church, for us to avoid spiritual whoredom, we must take the following proverb to heart.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. - Proverbs 4:23

This verse is not about dating. This verse is not about guarding your heart from a perspective lover. This verse is about guarding your heart against spiritual adultery. Let the author or proclaimer of this proverb (King Solomon) be your warning. Despite proclaiming this proverb, Solomon didn’t guard his heart against the allures of this world, and his spiritual idolatry was ultimately his undoing (1 Kings 11:1-9 tells us the sobering tale).

Church, admit your sins. Take them seriously. Confess them. Drag them into the light. Don’t hide them any longer. Don’t be a whore. Have a heart wholly devoted to the Lord your God.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

It’s Religion AND Relationship

It’s not religion, it’s a relationship.

This has become one of the most popular of what I call “fortune-cookie theology” statements about following Jesus.

It’s cute.

It’s catchy.

But as I’ve grown in my walk with Jesus (slowly but surely) and my understanding of the story of Scripture, the more I see that statement as partly false, incomplete.

And that false story has led to so many errors in how I’ve viewed the church, spiritual disciplines, or even my own identity.

Let’s walk through a couple falsehoods together and then let’s use the story of Scripture to correct them.

Who We Are 

The relationship focused view of Christianity would certainly emphasize our sonship and sainthood. Praise God for that. But that is incomplete.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5

We are a holy priesthood. And Peter is not the first to describe us as such.

As I look at the book of Genesis more and more, the more I see that it was God’s design for Adam was to function in a priestly role as well. He was to mediate God’s grace to the world. When you pay attention, you see that the garden is described like the tabernacle of God (Genesis 1:31-2:3 and Exodus 39:32-40:33), and that the roles and responsibilities of Adam and Eve includes the same language as the roles and responsibilities of the priests (Genesis 2:15 and Numbers 3:8). Remember the book of Genesis was not written with any intention of teaching how God created the world, it was written to teach who God is and who we are.

Come on y’all. I will never get tired of sharing how the Bible is one massive story.

Look at that passage above again. We are a community of living stones that God is using to build a house. The older I get the more I doubt that I really have a personal relationship with Jesus in the manner that most think. Yes I can commune with God privately with His Spirit residing in me. I can speak with Him just as Moses, Jacob, and countless others did. But the Scriptures are full of we language. The passage above is a perfect case in point.

We’ve allowed our culture’s utter obsession with individualism to lead us to think that our relationships with Jesus are private. They’re not. My walk with Him is 100% the business of those in my church.

Back to the story.

Adam and Eve failed at their duties. So God chose a line of priests. They failed again and again. They failed to be perfect mediators. So then, God sent His Son. 

What Jesus Did 

Many like to focus on Jesus as the example of someone who was not concerned about religion, as someone who came to abolish it. Fascinatingly enough, He says the complete opposite regarding the Old Testament Scriptures.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. – Matthew 5:17

Jesus does not abolish the religious nature of the Christian faith. He fulfills it. What befuddles me about the whole “Jesus just wants you to love others” niche of Christianity is this entire Sermon on the Mount section of Jesus’ teachings. As you read the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is making the law so much harder, not the other way around.

What used to be about external actions, Jesus makes about internal motivations.

What used to be the command of not murdering becomes a command of not holding in hatred in your heart.

What used to be the command of not committing adultery becomes a command of not holding any lust in one’s heart.

Jesus didn’t do away with religion. He fulfilled it. He deepened it.

Now, here’s where it gets confusing. Here’s where I reiterate that the phrase “it’s not religion, it’s a relationship” is partly true.

Because of the work of Jesus, we have been set free from the burden of the law (what most equate with the term ‘religion’). We no longer have to adhere to kosher dietary restrictions and strict Sabbath observances. The Law has been satisfied in Christ. Read the book of Hebrews. It’s all about how Jesus satisfied the demands of religion.

But let us not forget that Jesus was a Jew, even considered a Pharisee by many religious scholars. That means that Jesus grew up adhering to habits and actions that formed Him.

And that’s where we’re headed next.

What We Do

People despise legalism. Myself included. Just read my last blog.

But the anti-legalism mentality can fly to far the other direction where we never ingrain any formative habits in our lives. This mentality leads to renegade and rouge Christians who don’t submit to a local church (something the Bible gives literally zero room for, see above).

This mentality has led to a tremendous Biblical literacy problem in our churches. People don’t know Scripture. They don’t read it because they don’t want to become legalists. This mentality has led to prayerlessness, and to honestly thousands upon thousands of dollars being wasted by churches on study resources that often aren’t opened between weeks of Sunday School.

And I’m here to tell you that if you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a member of a religion.

Complete with holy days on the calendar, habits and practices that you should be adhering to and using to form yourself into the image of Jesus, and holy Scriptures.

Do you shower?

I do.

Almost every single day.

Do I love to shower?

Do I get just absolutely pumped when the time comes to shower?

No.

It’s a habit.

A boring, rote, ordinary habit.

But it’s a habit that produces a result.

I get to sleep in bed next to my wife.

I’m clean.

Brothers and sisters, Christianity has seemingly boring, rote, ordinary practices that you are called to adhere to. Reading the Old Testament (although, if you read closely, it’s super amazing. I’m about to start a series through 1-2 Kings with my students). Praying. Attending a church that isn’t exactly the way you want it to be (although if we applied the same covenant vow from marriage to our commitment to our churches [like Ephesians 5 does], we’d remember that it’s not about us) after a long weekend. Memorizing Scripture.

Following Jesus is religion AND relationship.

I tell my students all the time that is incredibly foolish to have no habits revolving around Jesus in our lives and yet expect to grow. I tell my students that to come to church twice a month when they feel like it and expecting to be more like Jesus is foolish.

Brothers and sisters, it’s time we stop listening to an entertainment-driven culture and instead remember that there are so much ordinary habits in our faith.

It’s about religion AND relationship.

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

 

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