The Weeds Of Life

A few weeks ago, my dad had shoulder surgery. Since then, what he has been able to do has been pretty limited. That means all of his yard work projects have been put on hold.

You’re probably thinking “sweet, I wish I had an excuse not to do yard work,” right?

Well, he is probably thinking the same thing.

Me, on the other hand, not so much. You see, dad not being able to do yard work means his tasks and projects get delegated. To me. Not so fun now, huh?

If you know me, you probably know that yard work is absolutely not my thing and pulling weeds is one of my least favorite activities. But, pulling weeds is my delegated task. The first time my dad asked me to pull the weeds, I did it. I thought it would be a one time thing.

Funny thing about weeds: they never go away.

The next time, he asked me to pull weeds in the back corner of our property, behind the barn. After I begrudgingly put it off for almost two weeks, I finally went out to pull the weeds. And if I’m being honest, my heart was a little bitter at this point. Why did I need to pull weeds BEHIND the barn, where no one could see?

But, I started to realize that this sounds a lot like our walk with the Lord.

Holiness has been on my mind a lot recently.

We should all be pursuing holiness, but, in reality, most of us are not.

Most of us just want to look holy without actually doing the work of pursuing holiness.

I didn’t want to pull the weeds behind the barn, in the shadows, lurking in the back corners, because I thought they didn’t matter. But what about the weeds of life? Our deep-rooted sin that we don’t want to uncover? Those sinful habits we have that we are hoping no one will notice because we try to hide them in the dark corners of ourselves? Do those matter?

They should.

We cannot pursue only partial holiness.

As Christians, the Lord is our firm foundation, providing us good soil in which we can grow beautiful, healthy, and holy relationships, ministries, practices, habits, etc.

Imagine how many more godly relationships we could plant if our soil wasn’t filled with weeds. Imagine how we could serve His kingdom more fully if we would actively work to pull the weeds. I am just as guilty as the next person, putting off repentance and confession of my sins even more than I put off my task of pulling weeds.

If you know anything about weeds, you know that despite the hours you put into pulling them, trying to make your yard or garden look and be healthy, the weeds always come back. Pulling them is not a one time task. Pursuing holiness is not a one time effort. It is not a one time confession. It is not a one time act of repentance.

It is a continuous work, a continuous pursuit, a continuous fight against our deep rooted sin. It’s easy to convince ourselves that the sins no one sees don’t matter, that the weeds in the back corner don’t matter, that the things we do behind closed doors don’t matter. But holiness cannot exist only partially.

Holiness doesn’t stand in front of the barn so that it won’t see the weeds hiding in the back. Holiness does not wait outside the door so that we can hide our sinfulness on the other side. It is all or nothing. We must diligently pursue it, carefully examining our lives and what the Lord is teaching us, actively working to confess and repent of the weeds of our lives.

When I went out to pull the weeds, I didn’t understand why I had to pull the ones hiding in the back, but now I know that weeds corrupt good soil and that holiness cannot live where the weeds of our lives are rooted. 

– Mackenzie Knox

Choosing Vomit or Jesus

One time at the zoo, I watched a gorilla puke out the contents of its stomach. This alone was disgusting, but I was appalled to watch him return to his vomit and start to eat it, only to puke again and restart the cycle. This happened over and over until I was whisked away to watch the shenanigans on display in the next exhibit.

You want to know something?

The Bible teaches that we can be just as nasty and disgusting.

This prior week, I was at youth camp with our students, enjoying the worship and Word. I saw many of our students take intentional steps toward Jesus. I was encouraged and amazed and overjoyed.

As the time came for us to have our last devotional together, I had been reminded of the realities of the broken world we live in. Many of our students were exiting the camp high, just to enter the darkness of broken homes, broken communities, broken hearts, broken dreams. Worse than this, many of our students were returning to friend groups that would guide them away from Jesus, not to them.

Falling back into the same old actions and sins is a foolish thing.

Look at this passage with me.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” – 2 Peter 2:20-22

Peter is addressing those who were in sin, heard the truth, and then returned to sin.

I told our students this week that it would have been better for them to have not come if they were simply going to return into the same lifestyles of sin (not sin struggles, that’s different. That’s going to war.) after camp.

Peter’s teaching is honestly pretty harsh. We don’t like harsh. But here it is anyway.

So where are you at?

Have you had an experience where God has recently clearly called you out of a certain sin in your life, but you find yourself back in the same lifestyles that Jesus rescued you out of? If you are, the Bible describes that aspect of your fleshly desires and actions as a dog returning to vomit.

If I’m being honest, I’m like that gorilla.

I return again and again to the same vomit.

I return to the same sins instead of using my knowledge of Jesus to redeem my thoughts, words, and actions.

Let me offer us some hope as well though. Look at this verse from the next chapter.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

God is patient with us. God has a desire to see us come to repentance rather than perishing.

So how do we choose Jesus rather than the vomit?

The answer I’ve found is this.

We must be taking small and intentional steps toward Jesus.

I personally am not a fan of altar calls, emotional songs playing as everyone cries and makes shallow decisions for the Lord. Because in the face of brokenness, emotional decisions brought about by borderline-coercive and manipulative moments fall flat. They aren’t followed through on. August and September steal away emotional decisions. When school starts back, students fall into the same rhythms they had in the Spring.

That’s why in my youth ministry we don’t do them. We share the gospel every week through the lesson and then tell our students to come talk to one of our leaders if they need to. If a student isn’t able to forsake volleyball and gaga-ball to talk about becoming a Christian, then they are likely not ready to go all in with Jesus. They haven’t counted the cost.

While I believe kids and teens are most susceptible to this emotionalism, adults can fall into it too.

There is one big decision in the life of a Christian, and that is the salvation decision, where we actively place our faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross.

Every other decision is small, ordinary, boring even.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

This passage is always so encouraging to me. We are being transformed into the image of Jesus from one degree of glory to the next. It comes from the Spirit, not our own discipline or actions.

So, for you, maybe you need to just take a step.

Set that alarm for five minutes earlier than normal and pray. Read through a book of the Bible over the course of a month. Share a percentage of your income with others through church offerings and non-profit involvement. Meet with a younger or older man or woman to grow in your faith.

Take a step.

Invite your neighbors into your home for a meal and conversation. Volunteer at the local food pantry. Find where the foreigner and refugee are in your midst and provide them with the necessities of life. Call your estranged sibling or parent or cousin. Repent to a friend. Confess sins. Forgive.

Take a step.

Grandiose proclamations of life change more often than not don’t pan out. Simple, small steps toward Jesus always produce results.

So what step can you take this week?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Don’t Go There

As I continue to write for Misfits Theology, my desire is not to seemingly unceasingly criticize and condemn the Southern Baptist church, for this is the tribe that I find myself deeply rooted in and supremely thankful for. That being said, I don’t want to stray to the other side of the pendulum and pretend that everything is all fine and dandy in my tribe, refusing to acknowledge the needs for reform. Maybe I’m a misfit because I don’t air on the side of tradition or the side of upheaval but somewhere in-between.

With all that said, I want to address the power of public confession, or public proclamation of the gospel truths that we find in Scripture. This is something I’ve desired to see come about in my tribe in a deeper way.

Let’s start from the beginning.

My grandparents have been loyal to their God while giving themselves the freedom to explore what denomination’s style of worship they find to be the most honoring and glorifying to God. I have been to an Anglican, Episcopalian, Messianic Jew, and I believe a Presbyterian church with them.

I at a young age found the liturgy at these bodies of Christ to be boring, mundane, monotonous. The constant sitting and standing, calls to worship, and pre-planned Scriptural reading was so annoying to me. At a young age I had a supreme passion for and desire for the preaching of God’s Word and at some of these experiences the sermon was an afterthought. I did however look forward to the way that the Lord’s Supper was done, with all of us dipping our bread in the same cup. Germaphobes beware, this is an intimate family of believers.

As a young man in ministry today, I do miss one part of these other denominations’ style of worship: confession.

There was something about all of us reading a prayer of confession together that was beautiful to me. While any liturgical process can become rote and no longer useful for spiritual growth, these prayers of confession when done rightly stirred the soul to remember our need for daily grace, to rest in the finished work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful for those prayers of confession.

I have aspirations of being an Education or Family Discipleship Pastor one day. I love youth ministry, but my deepest desire is to see entire churches full of gospel-centered solid teaching that saturates everything that the church does, from the opening of the doors to the conclusion of the service.

That being said, I don’t believe that it is possible to have a correct understanding of our need for grace without some sort of weekly reminder that permeates our time together as a community of faith.

One word my generation is somewhat obsessed with (to the point of me gagging anytime I hear it) is the word authenticity. To reach the next generation for Christ, we need to be authentic believers. We need to be men and women who hopefully understand that THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE TO SHARE OUR MUTUAL NEED FOR JESUS, NOT HIDE FROM THAT. Oops. Got a little hyped again. But seriously, the church should be a place where we recognize our individual needs for grace (not to the point of parading our sin in a sinful way, or condoning sinful behavior) rather than hiding from others our need.

Confession in general is something that my tribe (or all tribes to an extent) are not good at. I have been in many situations where a young man or friend confessed sin to me and I didn’t follow up, I didn’t walk through that sin with them. Instead I dropped off. I still cared, often prayed, but I did not walk them through their sin (so maybe it’s not my tribe to blame, but rather just me).

There are seemingly unwritten rules to not go there. You’re not supposed to confess sin. Sure, we all confess our Savior but we must never confess our sins to another. Maybe that’s just my perception, but I don’t think I’m alone.

For instance, there is Celebrate Recovery. One of my best friends here in Vernon helps lead the local Celebrate Recovery at our church. It is an amazing program. The level of discipleship that takes place at Celebrate Recovery is second to none. They truly care for each other, and those who are in confessional relationships follow-up, exhorting and encouraging each other. My friend has fought hard to remove the ridiculous stigma associated with that type of program. My heart is for that program, and I pray for that program.

Yet, if the church was repentant and confessional, that program might not need to exist (this can probably be said about any parachurch organization, they are filling roles that the church itself should be filling, and they are a tremendous blessing as a result). If we were honest with those in the pews next to us, I believe that we would find the freedom to grow in holiness. It is in the shadows that Satan can continue to trip up God’s people. It is in isolation that his plans thrive. If we as the church become more willing to acknowledge fault, then we will see men and women freed up to pursue the Lord with more vigor and more community.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. – Proverbs 28:13

I pray that my tribe would be open to having prayers of confession as more of regular occurrence. Not because these prayers of confession are our means of grace, but rather they are reminders of the gift of grace.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.

Help us not to be unduly discouraged by the heavy load of guilt that so easily clings to our hearts. Instead, whenever we see clearly the sins of our hearts, enable us to fly to the Scriptural truth that in Christ the penalty of those sins have been paid for, once for all. Remind us that we are now clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness and that therefore there can be no condemnation left for us. In Christ’s name we pray, amen. – Barbara Duguid 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Me, Myself, and I

“If we can just get through May.”

I’ve heard this refrain from many friends and peers recently, and I’ve even thought it and said it myself. May is a busy season. A time of endless graduation related responsibilities and end of the year awards banquets. It is full of solidifying family vacations for the summer. Many who were faithfully following resolutions for 2018 have seen themselves depart from their grandiose plans as they move from Hello Fresh planned meals to driving through Braums or Taco Casa. For the college student, finals weigh heavily on the mind. The pace of the end of the school year is relentless and hard to keep up with.

Friendships and relationships that were strong and tight but three months ago are now more distant as a result of the busyness of life, whether that is co-workers, friends, or family.

While there are definitely seasons of life that are busier than others and thus will naturally effect our relationships, I don’t believe that as followers of Christ we are to nonchalantly go along with this flow and not strive for community all the same.

While reading this evening, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is a beautiful reminder of the necessity of community. As followers of Christ, we cannot do this alone. We need people to help us up (confession and repentance), keep us warm (encouragement and support), and prevent us from being broken (spiritual warfare). If we are not encouraging, praying for, and confessing to a select group of men or women in our church community, then we are missing out on so much of what it means to follow Christ. We were designed for community. Adam was in a perfect state and yet it was not good for him to be alone. In the midst of Genesis 3′ horrible turn of events, we see that God was in the practice of walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Eden was communal.

Yet way too often that cord of three strands is just me, myself, and I.

As the end of the school year has come, I have felt this need for community, for brotherhood, but have experienced the lack of it. This is just as much my fault as anybody’s as I have not taken all the active steps necessary to cultivate relationships that bring grace to those involved and glory to God.

I am neither a husband or a father (or wife or mother). There are daily responsibilities that are not on my shoulders that many of you reading this carry. I know there is an innocence and naivety there. That being said, I believe that God’s desire is to see His church genuinely and truly care for one another with love. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s tough.

I am aware as well that we don’t live in an era where the Acts 2:46 version of church is possible (meeting every evening). That being said, I also don’t believe we live in an era where this idea of actually being the church to each other can’t be fought for.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century because I loathe the family isolation that our culture is all about. You do you and I’ll do me. THAT’S NOT THE CHRISTIAN WAY. If I take the Lord’s Supper with you, that’s me saying that my family’s habits, struggles, and joys are your business. You have the right, even the calling, to call me out when I’m leading my family in sin, just as you should be rejoicing when we rejoice and mourning when we mourn. The Bible paints a picture of community that I rarely see in this day and age.

Forgive me for ranting, I’m passionate about that topic. It is my desire to lead my family (40 days till I’m married. That’s terrifying and exciting.) in a way that puts Christian community over the status quo of what you’re supposed to do in the US of A. Again, there are things that are required. I’m not saying ditch all the end of the year events. I am saying that God made you for community and when you’re throwing that aside for unceasing pragmatic programming, I think you’re missing out on so much.

Heaven will be idyllic. There will be no more nights of fast-food, no more relentless responsibilities. Too often we think once we’re there than we’ll embrace community. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We are to be a people formed by God to bring heaven down to earth. We are to be a people formed by God in such a way that our weekly habits and rhythms stand out. I’ve caught myself looking no different than the world when it comes to my isolation and the way that I spend my weeks. Being a Christian is about being different.

I say every word out of love and every word to myself more than anyone.

As a follower of Christ, slow down.

Speak with a friend. Confess, encourage, pray together.

Go for a walk.

I don’t want to wait ’till the end of May to walk in community, cause then the finish line will just keep getting extended (let us not forget as well that rest was woven into the fabric of creation, and when we don’t allow ourselves rest we are breaking a command of God).

Be different. Be in community.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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