Receiving Bad From God

It’s easy to praise God on good days, isn’t it? When things are stable vocationally, relationally, financially, and physically, our worship of God is pretty natural.

What about on difficult days though?

What about on the days when one thing after another seems to be falling apart in your life?

On those days, it doesn’t come nearly as natural to us to open up our mouths and hearts in praise to our Heavenly Father.

Yet, this is exactly what Job did in Job 1. He faced the most excruciatingly difficult day of his life, and he was able to praise God regardless.

The second chapter of Job takes us back to the throne room of God. The angels are again presenting themself before His splendor and majesty (v. 1), and Satan again comes into the room. God is quick to bring up Job again, showing Satan that Job’s integrity and righteousness remained intact (v. 3), despite the tremendous suffering that was thrust upon him.

Satan is prepared for this, and he quickly responds.

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” – Job 2:4-5 

Satan’s point is clear. Job’s family and finances were destroyed, sure. But his body was still intact. Satan’s argument is that if God would affect Job’s physical body, Job would respond in anger and cursing.

Let’s read together what happens next.

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  – Job 2:6-8

I want you to see this first. Our good, glorious, gracious, and generous God allows this next test to be played out, just like He allowed the first. Beware any prosperity gospel that promises an easy life as a follower of Jesus. There is no such thing. It is a good life, absolutely, but it is not one devoid of suffering. Job’s life makes this abundantly clear to us.

Satan leaves the throne room of God and immediately goes after Job. Job is afflicted with a skin disease that isn’t exactly clear to us as the reader. It sounds like some sort of leprosy. Regardless of what it was, we see that Job is full of painful sores that go from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. There is no relief to be found anywhere.

Then Job’s wife enters the picture.

Now, I personally am blessed with a wonderful wife. When I face difficulties in my life, she is quick to encourage me and share wisdom with me. She’s done so in a couple instances just this week.

Job however had a less than great wife in this circumstance.

It’s interesting to note that there are some who actually believe that the wife was more or less on Satan’s team in this story, being used by him to encourage Job to fall into sin.

I personally don’t see her as a willing participant in the schemes of Satan. That’s a little extreme.

That being said, her faith is not grand. In the throes of pain (all this suffering surely affected her too, right?) she encourages Job to simply curse God in such a way that would cause God to strike him down in justice.

What happens next is another one of the most powerful sections of Scripture (well writing that sounded like a clickbait Facebook article. “We adopted a goldfish, what happened next will stun and amaze you!”).

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:9-10

Notice that Job doesn’t call her wicked, nor does he say that she is in fact foolish. Rather, he says that she is simply talking like someone who is a fool.

I’m not really sure what happens to Job’s wife after this, not gonna lie. She doesn’t ever show up again in the book, even after Job’s life is restored (chapter 42). He has more children, so maybe that’s proof she sticks around? I’m not sure. Consult someone smarter than me.

Let’s focus in on the second part of his statement though.

Dang.

That’s some A-level faith. We willingly accept good from God, we should be just as willing to accept evil (side-note. I was reading a commentary that mentioned that the Hebrew word here means ‘bad’. Don’t think that God is capable of doing something wicked or sinful).

“. . . for when the bad as well as the good is received at the hand of God, every experience of life becomes an occasion of blessing. But the cost is high. It is easier to lower your view of God than to raise your faith to such a height.” – Francis Andersen

Job’s faith is powerful, as is this quote.

Again, remember, Job is going to wrestle with God throughout this entire book. Yet, his faith here at the onset is secure. He doesn’t get it. He can’t fathom why this has happened to him. Yet he knows that it is from the Lord.

Again, the prosperity preachers and their thirty second clips getting shared on Facebook will tell you you’re an overcomer, a champion, a conqueror. They’ll tell you that you can overcome sickness if only your faith is strong enough. You can be blessed financially and spiritually and relationally and vocationally if you just have enough faith.

They must have cut this book out of their Bibles.

Job teaches us something powerful.

Following God is not about the level of your faith.

It’s about what your faith is in.

I’ll say that again. Following God is not about the level of your faith. It’s about what your faith is in.

Job is going to incessantly wrestle with God, but his faith is in God. That won’t waver.

The text goes so far as to say that Job didn’t sin in what he has said.

He hasn’t sinned, yet the affliction will remain for dozens of more chapters.

As followers of Jesus, we must have the faith to receive the bad as well as the good.

Job models that for us well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Suffering And Sin

Some books of the Bible are easier to read and to understand than others.

Finding the point of a passage from Philippians, for instance, is not too difficult.

But what about all the craziness of Ezekiel, Daniel, or Revelation? Those aren’t so simple. Those are way more complicated, scaring off even the most impassioned students of God’s Word.

Another difficult book of the Bible is the book of Job. It’s a complicated book that falls under the ‘Wisdom Literature’ of the Bible. It’s a book that I want us to explore together throughout the summer. Not every blog will be about this book, but it will remain the dominant topic. So, grab your Bible or pull up your Bible app, and let’s check it out together.

As I said, Job falls under the banner of wisdom literature. But what kind?

The rest of the wisdom literature have their own niches. Psalms is essentially an old hymnal. Proverbs is a collection of sayings about wisdom and folly, and the importance of pursuing the former. Ecclesiastes is about the wisdom to know that all of life is meaningless outside of God. Song of Solomon is about the wisdom of marriage, or our relationship with God, or maybe both?

Job is different though. Job is poetry bookended by narrative. We are told a story about Job (chapters 1-2) that leads to dozens of chapters of Job speaking with four of his friends, who are quite foolish (but we’ll see that later). Then God comes in and says the last word, humbling Job and hopefully us in the process. We then get a final chapter where we see the culmination of the story.

The Wrong Way To Read Job

There’s a couple ways to read Job incorrectly.

  1. We have the proclivity to unintentionally strip verses out of their context, trying to jam them into the puzzle that is our theological beliefs about God and man. This happens quite regularly with wisdom literature. Here’s where this is especially dangerous when it comes to the book of Job. Whenever any character other than God is speaking about the nature of God, you could have some falsehoods. There are innumerable times in Scripture when a character makes a false statement about the nature of God and the world (Pharaoh, the wicked prophets, the servant from the parable of the talents). So, as we sift through the dozens of chapters of dialogue in the book of Job, we should be careful not to take what Elihu, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, and Zophar say about God at any moment as necessarily true about God. Make sense?
  2. The other way to read Job incorrectly is to make Job the hero of this story. Yes, there are aspects of Job’s character and faith that are worthy of emulation. But ultimately this story is not a fable that teaches us some moral lesson as we try and make our lives more like Job’s. Instead, it has something much deeper and richer to teach us, and you’ll see that below.

The Right Way To Read Job

I personally have found that reading through entire books of the Bible (this doesn’t have to take place in one sitting) to be the most beneficial to me. I would attest that this best equips us to observe and grasp the book of the Bible we are wanting to glean from. So, to best read Job, you should do just that. Just as I’ve been methodically walking through Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire, we should methodically work through the book of Job.

Secondly, don’t go to the book of Job looking for black and white answers about the world we live in and what it means to be human. If you’re looking for a clear-cut answer to why suffering happens, you’ll be left wanting. There’s a whole lot of tension, gray area, and paradox in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The book of Job will take us deeper into that tension, rather than alleviate it.

The Theme of Job

As a matter of fact, the purpose of the book of Job is to highlight the incorrect black and white understanding of sin and suffering that so many people then and now hold to.

You will see that all of Job’s friends believe that Job’s suffering is a result of some hidden sin that is just below the surface. They attest again and again and again that Job is going through such powerful suffering and pain because of his unrighteousness and sin.

We still fall into this. Christian Karma is alive and well. We can claim faith in Christ and belief in the God of the Bible and yet still fall into the “do good, get good; do bad, get bad” mentality. This is so antithetical to Christian doctrine. The book of Job will show us that suffering happens in a Genesis 3 world. Suffering can have purposes for us, and sometimes it may just not. There have been tremendously painful moments in the life of my family that don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to them. It’s in that space that the book of Job can remind us that God is faithful, even when our sufferings don’t fit into our black and white, systematic beliefs about life.

Craig G. Bartholomew wrote a book on Job called When You Want To Yell At God. That name is so good.

Have you been there?

I have.

In fact, I’ve not only wanted to yell at God, I have.

Many times.

In his book, Bartholomew teaches that suffering is not always the result of wrong behavior, and right behavior does not always guarantee blessing – but God is always faithful.

I encourage you to read the book of Job. Again, not for trite answers to share in moments of grief, but rather for powerful proclamations from the Word about the faithful God we serve in the midst of our own abject sufferings.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Go Down The Street

I live in a city full of people in need.

You do too.

I live in a city where houses are crumbling, students go to school hungry, violence persists, hundreds of kids need mentorship, and kids walk to and from school and down our streets in the middle of the night.

You do too.

These issues are nuanced and specific to certain contexts and communities. But there are needs that need to be met by God’s people in every single place where people reside.

Here’s the heartbreaking issue.

We too often forsake the local needs of our community for the national or international needs we come across.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – James 2:15-16

That one puts some tears in my eyes. How often is that me? How often do I proclaim the good news of the gospel but don’t care enough to meet physical needs as well?

Well, I guess I have met some needs.

They’ve just been overseas or across the country.

Surely that counts right?

That’s a pretty good combination at least.

Preaching the gospel locally and meeting the needs of people internationally.

My brothers and sisters, I don’t believe this is how the church is supposed to be.

My brothers and sisters, I don’t believe this is how my life is supposed to be.

To use the context of the verse, you could say:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed. I would help you, but I’ve expended all my energies and resources on overseas missions,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – Nathan’s Opinions 2:15-16

What I do nationally or internationally should be out of the overflow of what I do locally. This is what I imperfectly practice and strive to be about. For me and my wife, we choose to focus on local missions first, and then if there is anything left over, we extend out from there.

Think of it as circles that are expanding.

Local, regional, national, and international.

My desire and prayer is that I will focus on doing things in my local circle, but our churches have become places at times where we focus on national or international and forsake the local. We go on short-term mission trips, but fail to evangelize our neighborhoods. We collect goods to send overseas, but we ignore the kids walking to school hungry in our own community. My heart breaks at this.

International Efforts Are Great, Local Efforts Are Too 

I want to start by making this abundantly clear: Gospel-centered, Jesus-proclaiming international efforts of sharing Jesus and meeting needs are great things. Let us pray and support them financially. I have nothing against them. That being said, I want to lovingly push back and remind us that local efforts are great too.

International Efforts Are Easy, Local Efforts Are Hard

Please hear my heart again. My sister is literally a missionary overseas sharing the gospel right now, and nothing about her situation is easy.

But, for me in North Texas, to get involved in international efforts is easy.

It’s easier for me to send money per month to help some child overseas whose picture is on my refrigerator, then it is for me to open up my home to a child here who is in need. Why? Because it’s hard.

It’s easier to go take part in a VBS on a short term mission trip than it is to build relationships with students in town all year long. Tonight my wife and I are having a couple students over, whom we love. But opening up our home to a couple Junior High boys takes some effort.

It’s easier for me to send a gospel tract to a missionary overseas than it is for me to meet weekly with young men in our community and guide them closer to Jesus.

It’s easier for me to take a trip to Washington D.C. for a focused week of service, than it is for me to volunteer at the local food bank or local Boys and Girls Club.

International Efforts Make Discipleship Uncertain, Local Efforts Put Discipleship On Us 

If you’ve been on a national or international mission trip, the discipleship, the follow-up, is often uncertain. I served on teams three consecutive summers with the North American Mission Board, and each year when we left we were unsure if those we had conversations about the gospel with were being discipled or followed up with. We had faith churches we partnered with would do so, but we just didn’t really know for sure.

But sharing the gospel in a local capacity puts the discipleship on us. That’s hard. That’s messy. That’s difficult. That’s time-consuming. This is how it should be.

I recently was part of a regional youth weekend at a camp near where I live and work. I taught a breakout session on Discipleship. I asked the room of students who had ever been discipled, led in their faith, by an older follower of Jesus. 5% of the students raised their hands.

Wow, how that rips me up inside.

That’s the purpose of the church.

It is not a matter of time, but of priority.

If we are not actively discipling those younger than us in the faith, our priorities are way out of whack.

International Efforts Should Be The Overflow Of Our Local Efforts 

Here’s what all this boils down to for me. International efforts should be the overflow of our local efforts. I’m all for raising money and goods for kids overseas, but only if we are matching that in our local community. I personally don’t feel at peace about kids walking to school hungry in my community while we send all we have to other countries. I’m all for short-term mission trips, but only if we are evangelizing and discipling our own community as well, opening up our homes to any and all.

The community of faith is to be one that is irresistible, one that draws people in. One reason I think that our churches are fighting to even stay afloat is because those who don’t claim Christ see communities full of need filled with churches doing nothing.

Let me say that again.

One reason our churches aren’t drawing people in is because we preach the good news of Jesus to communities full of needs while often doing nothing to meet those needs.

Let me be clear. I’m imperfect. While my wife and I strive to focus locally, we fall short. I’ve missed the last two weeks of meeting with a couple High School boys I’m mentoring. We are opening up our home for just the first time in 2019 tonight. But we’re striving to meet the needs of Vernon, TX first and foremost.

Pray for international missionaries like my sister. Give to international organizations doing great work. Go on short term trips throughout the nation, partnering with churches.

But do this out of the overflow of what you are doing locally.

Before you get on a plane or write a check,

Go down the street.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Confessions of a Perfectionist

Matthew 5:48 used to put me in chains.

Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

In college, this verse led to so much pain in my life. Instead of realizing this verse was to show us that we could never measure up to the perfection of God the Father, I made it my standard.

Now, yes, the Bible is replete with references to being holy because God is holy, of striving to live worthy of the call of God. That being said, the Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength. Let me say that again and make sure you see both sides of that statement.

The Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength.

Oh, how I missed this message in the Scriptures.

Instead of allowing my imperfections to drive me to the power of the Spirit, I allowed them to shame me of doing things that now embarrass me. Let me lay it out for you.

I put my faith in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross on December 24, 2000. I was seven years old.

What this means is that the vast majority of sins I have committed in my life have come after putting my faith in Jesus. So what began in college was a process of dealing with that sin in an unbiblical way.

I would live for Christ, having verses about being perfect always on my mind and heart. Yet over the course of weeks and months sin would pile up in my life. Instead of repenting of it and accepting grace, I would naively and foolishly simply restart my life with Christ. This would look like buying a new journal, buying a new Bible, buying a new Bible study or Christian book and simply beginning afresh (this often involved getting rid of those things that I had previously been using for my spiritual life).

My life was all about being perfect and shoving sin back down into my heart by simply pretending like I was starting afresh. To talk about it in Christianese terms, I made private rededications to God dozens of times. The first few days of a ‘rededication’ would be absolutely great. But then the weight of all of my sin would come crashing back down on me.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Two years ago, while in Phoenix, God spoke through my now wife and through His Word to tell me clearly the following: stop running, accept grace. All of my rededications didn’t have the power to change a stinking thing in my life. When faced with the reality of my sin, I was running away from the very One who had died in my place, the very One who I could find rest in.

Stop running, accept grace.

Maybe you are somewhat like me. Maybe you are constantly under the weight of the call to be perfect. Maybe you are trying to be that perfect man or woman under your own power. My encouragement to you is found in the following verses.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:4

Even typing this up in my office brings my heart to worship. Oh, how I wish I had searched the entirety of Scripture for what it says about being perfect.

Let’s meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 together.

In that passage, someone is doing the following:

  •      Sanctifying you completely
  •      Keeping your spirit blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your soul blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your body blameless until Christ comes again

Is it you?

NO.

The Scriptures make clear that it is God, the one who calls you, the Faithful One, who does this work in your heart and life.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That gets me animated in preaching, teaching, and in this case blogging.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That verse does not say, and you will surely do it. You will keep yourself blameless and holy. No! It says He will.

I just had the temptation to run down the hall of my church. This seriously gets me so excited.

The pressure is off my tiny little shoulders.

We are called in Scripture to be perfect and holy.

But this is not on our strength.

No, it is done by God, and according to James 1:4 it is often done through the difficulties of our lives. This is a small reminder that everything in our lives, including the rough parts, are used for His glory by making us more like Him.

I wish I could tell you that I have never felt the urge to run since God called me out of my rededication addiction in October 2016. I wish I could tell you I have perfectly embraced the reality that I will not ever be perfect under my own strength. That’s not the case. But looking at my shelf right now and seeing two years worth of journals is a reminder that I’m no longer running from the past.

Yes, you are called by God through Scripture to pursue holiness and Christlikeness. It is an active thing. That being said, it requires resting in the finished work of the Faithful One on your behalf.

The pressure is off your shoulders.

The pressure of perfection was placed on Jesus Christ and He accomplished what we could not.

You are called to be blameless and perfect.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Faithfully Waiting For Justice

I wish more people read the minor prophets. Besides Jonah, the easiest one.

I wish I read the minor prophets more.

Two conversations have happened in my life recently that have made me more desirous of these little nuggets of Scripture.

The first one was with one of my best friends. The two of us have a tradition of venting to each other about things that come up in our lives followed by offering up prayer and support for each other as we walk out our faith. He was bringing up how many churches seem to have made the book of Acts the entirety of the Bible. What he meant was so many churches have an “Acts-model” of church, small groups, etc. There is a borderline obsession on the part of countless churches and people I know to be EXACTLY like the early church in the book of Acts. I wholeheartedly agree that we could and should live out our faith with the trust, courage, and fervor of the early church. BUT, no one book of the Bible is more important than another. They all are canonized for a reason. Some may be easier to understand, may better articulate the gospel, etc, but Paul says that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful for the training up of the saints. (2 Timothy 3:16)

The other discussion was with a student who said that he was looking at his table of contents in his Bible and saw one of the minor prophets and wondered how long it had been there. We laughed about it but in reality I can assure you that not many of us grab our coffee in the morning and turn to the minor prophets. I don’t hear much about these in our churches and in our conversations about faith.

However, I have recently read through the book of Habakkuk, underlining, writing in the margins, and being awed by the truths that are found in this book with way too many consonants in the title.

Here are some truths to glean from the book. If this book confuses you like it did me, check out the Read Scripture video summary on it, it was incredibly insightful.

1. SOMETIMES GOD FEELS UNJUST

If you open your eyes to the world around you, nothing seems fair. The wicked and unrighteous appear to thrive in their kingdoms of sand, and the devoted followers of Jesus who reside in countries where persecution is rampant continue to be swallowed up by violence. When we take a look at our own lives, we may feel slighted by God as well (although when we look at this feeling through a gospel lens we are reminded that God has blessed us with much). Habakkuk shares these raw emotions with the Lord in both 1:2 and 1:13. He asks God why He is silent in the midst of violence, why He doesn’t come to the rescue when the wicked thrive.

2. PRIDE IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL BROKENNESS

The verse that caught me off guard and convicted me was 2:4. It says this:

Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. – Habakkuk 2:4

Wowza. This made me squirm. I feel prideful often. I look at my own knowledge of the Scriptures (which is really not that impressive) and become proud. I become proud of the abilities and gifts that God has given me. I can start to think that my ministry will be successful or that I will survive the year ahead because of my own abilities and strengths. Yet the prophet Habakkuk compares this level of arrogance to a man whose very soul is not right within him. This goes back to the previous point. We have been blessed by God. All that we have is from him. I wrote in my Bible next to this verse, “Pride is proof of not getting the gospel.” If I am arrogant, I legitimately have missed the message of the gospel.

3. WE LIVE IN THE MIDST OF CORRUPTION

Well, this part of Habakkuk was hard to accept as well. Now let me be clear I am immensely grateful for the USA. I have been afforded so much freedom, freedom that my own father fought for, and I don’t take that for granted.

However, we are not God’s country. We are not the people of God. Americans are not the people of God.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that we live in a country that while better than most, is not aligned with Christian values. At least not currently.

Habakkuk pronounces many woes on the Babylonians (or Chaldeans) who would come and enslave the people of God. He calls them out for their unjust economics, their enslavement of other nations, their irresponsible leaders, and their idolatry. Every single nation ever has struggled with one or more of these indictments, including the very people of God.

I just am reminded through Habakkuk that my hope should not be in America (The American Flag or The Cross). It should be in Christ the King.

4. WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED WILL COME TO PASS

From the very first page of the Bible, this doctrine has exploded off each and every page as I read. God says certain things about the order of creation and the text tells us ‘and it was so’. I was reading in Jeremiah 1 this afternoon and noticed that in verse 12 God says that He is ‘watching over my word to perform it.’ So as He commissions Jeremiah, He promises to be with Jeremiah in order for His words to come to pass.

Now this truth may not be explicitly present in Habakkuk. However, the entire final chapter speaks of what God did in the exodus and what He will one day do in the ‘Day of the Lord’. Everything that God promises, especially when it comes to rescue and justice, will come to pass in fullness.

5. WE CAN LIVE BY FAITH

When you boil it down, the book of Habakkuk is a powerful reminder of what it means to live by faith. Habakkuk was overwhelmed by the presence of violence all around him. He cried out to God. God answers by saying He will bring Babylon down on the people of Israel (God can use wicked nations for His glory and our good). Habakkuk is fearful of this proposition and God promises to bring down the Babylonians one day as well.

Just notice the change in Habakkuk’s outlook.

Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. – Habakkuk 3:18

This was highlighted in my Bible as well.

We live amongst injustice and violence.

Sometimes that is all we can see.

Yet we can be like Habakkuk and faithfully wait on the justice of God, rejoicing in the God who saves.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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They Will Know Us By Our Hate?

I was not able to attend the SBC annual convention this year, since I’m now only TEN days away from getting married (whoa, that’s crazy) and decided I’d rather have time with my fiancee. Thankfully living in a world of technology, I was able to watch snippets of the convention after the fact online.

I know there are thousands of pastors and church leaders more qualified to speak into the situation, but I have decided to share a little bit of my heart in the wake of some things that I personally have seen.

Obviously, leading up to this year’s convention there has been a plethora of disheartening and discouraging circumstances regarding Paige Patterson and the ways that people were taking sides. I got somewhat involved in this conversation via a blog post and some private conversations with friends, but for the most part I stayed out of getting my opinions out there.

Despite all that took place leading up to the convention, all that I have heard about it and from it has been encouraging. I’ve read articles and tweets, watched videos and an incredibly powerful sermon from JD Greear. All that I’ve seen and read has been about the unity, the missionaries being sent out, and the way that the SBC is striving to make the gospel central again.

Then today Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, came and spoke to the SBC. What was thought by many to be a speech where he would share his support of the SBC turned into a speech about the Trump administration’s success in political affairs, and how with the help of the SBC the Trump administration can make America great again.

This understandably was incredibly divisive. What the speech appeared to do was to solidify the false belief that to be Southern Baptist is to be Republican, or at least to be a Southern Baptist is to be someone who puts their hope in the United States government. Regardless of what you believe about Trump, whether or not you voted for him, I pray that all who claim allegiance to Christ would acknowledge that their hope according to Scripture should not be in the governments and leaders of man, but rather that their hope should be in their risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I believe that Scripture is clear that God appoints and dictates the leaders and governments of our world. They can be used by Him in great ways to strengthen the faith of His people through persecution or to bless His people with seasons of peace. That being said, salvation is not found in a government. Salvation is not found in a mortal man. It is true that God used kings in Scripture. That being said, these kings were residing over God’s people, a people that today is not in any one country, a people that today is under the ultimate authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus pray for our leaders, but we are not to be wholly allegiant to them.

Oops, I got a little carried away there.

Anyway, this speech led to divide. It led to yet again a fractured room where some stood and applauded and some sat dejected. What has been the most disheartening however is the conversations that I have seen on social media. I have seen some of the most hateful and un-Christlike speech from people in both camps so to speak, both generations.

I have personally read outspoken believers on Twitter chastising, criticizing, condemning, and villianizing those who were not overly elated at Pence’s speech. I have seen people on both sides of the classic Calvinism debate launch attacks at each other. That is something I’ve been caught in the middle of, accused before of not reading Scripture correctly if I’m not reformed (I am a three-point Roachest by the way, I believe in Pizza, Jesus, and the OKC Thunder). I have seen language unbecoming of a Christ follower being launched at another image bearer of God. There has been crass, vulgar, sexual (you read that right) language being spewed.

It is disheartening to see so much hate. It is also disheartening to see so much unintentional tear-downs. While the older generation appears to be way more in your face regarding how they feel about you, the younger generation’s disrespect of the older generation is much more subtle. In a world of social media, everyone wants to be the clown, everyone wants to be the man or woman with the wit and jokes (me, 80% of the time). I have seen grown men display their cynicism and jadedness for all to see. It is immensely discouraging because people are watching. The clap-backs, digs, jokes and the like even between friends on social media does ostracize those who believe differently even when not directed at them.

May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say on social media. May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say face to face. May we be men and women who do not allow secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine to drive a wedge between us. May we not be men and women known for our hate, but rather for our love. This is my desperate plea and prayer.

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear… let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:29,31-32 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

He Holds It All Together

It’s been a draining couple of days in Vernon, TX. My days have been chock full of ministry-related activities, and the busyness (albeit really exciting busyness) of moving Jamie into our duplex. Last night I wrestled with whether or not to wake up early and head to Wichita Falls for the youth pastor (and worship leader) breakfast I am a part of on Thursday mornings. I felt so tired (having been going from 6 AM to 9 PM) and didn’t feel like getting up. That being said, I felt the call of God for me to not abandon community just because I may be tired. So I set my alarm and headed into Wichita Falls. The breakfast was refreshing, I found myself encouraged and grateful for the community that I was a part of.

Just as we were wrapping up, I received a text. Tragedy had struck in Vernon. It is not my place to say what it was, but I was confronted yet again with the brokenness of the world that we reside in. The whole day has been solemn and somber, and tears have not been far from my eyes when I’ve had moments of quiet and isolation. As a young youth pastor, I’m walking through the brokenness of this world more days than I would like to, as I see the pain that so many congregants and students have to walk through some days.

I went about my usual Thursday routine before pausing just a little while ago to spend some time in Scripture. I read through the first chapter of Mark and when journaling about it I remembered what Scripture says to be true, what I believe the whole first chapter of Mark is all about:

Jesus is the Son of God, full of all the compassion and power of God.

The first chapter of Mark is a whirlwind of activity and snapshots of Jesus’ early ministry. In just one chapter we see John the Baptist prepare the way, Jesus get baptized, Jesus call his first disciples, and Jesus preaching and healing throughout Galilee, whether that be casting out demons or healing leprosy. In the midst of all this, there are key points that illustrate what I mean.

First off, verses seven and eight show the majesty of Jesus before He even arrives on the scene so to speak.

And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:7-8

John the Baptist says that he isn’t even worthy of untying Jesus’ shoes. That’s humility and that’s awe in the face of majesty. Jesus is fully God and John understood this. Shortly after this we see Jesus baptized and the very Spirit of God descending upon Him (vv. 9-11). Jesus is full of all the power of God, and the rest of the chapter proves this. He preaches the gospel (v. 15), drives out demons (vv. 23-27), and heals a leper (vv. 40-45).

It’s His healing of the leper that showcases in my opinion the compassion of Jesus and the heart of God. Lepers were outcast, contagious, treated as almost less than human. A leper approached Jesus and asked for healing, bowing before Him. Jesus responded in verses 41-42.

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:41-42

I’m aware that verse forty-one is also translated at times as ‘moved with pity’ or ‘moved with indignation’, and I’m not a Greek scholar, but I am amazed by the fact that Jesus touched him to heal him. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus move with power in many ways, often healing people just via his words. Yet he chooses to reach out and touch this man that so many found unclean and disgusting. I believe that shows His compassion.

Here’s what I want you to know. There are dark days. There are days where the darkness seems overwhelming and the grief is heavy. Yet on these days, we can remember that the King Jesus we submit to and follow is full of amazing compassion and amazing power.

As a follower of Jesus, I can KNOW that God is all-powerful and TRUST in His compassionate heart. That is hard on days like today, but it is no less true.

Be encouraged by this verse as well (one of my all-time faves):

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17

What was at one time no more than a pleasant reminder of God’s control has become over time a stake in the ground of my mind and heart to remember and cling to. God is still God and Jesus still holds the cosmos together. The sin of this world is raging and at times it’s all I can physically see. Yet I can cling to the fact that Jesus still reigns.

“By the Son, for the Son, and through the Son, all things exist and hold together.”

Jesus shows us the character and heart of God. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge His power and trust in His compassion.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Scary Close To Leaving The Church

Donald Miller exploded onto the landscape of my life when I was in late high school. His book Blue Like Jazz came with a considerable amount of buzz and hype. Each book since then has generated even more excitement in the lives of peers. While I love his heart for storytelling and his fight against a mundane approach to life, I think that his view on one certain aspect of the Christian walk is eye-opening (yet wrong in my opinion).

Donald Miller wrote (albeit it several years ago, but there hasn’t been a retraction) that he did not find regular church attendance necessary, going so far as to allude to the church as a university that he had graduated from. He wrote that he looked upon the traditional church with fondness, but that he no longer needed it. His avenue to the Lord was personal and intimate and he was able to find community outside of the local church.

While few people have the reach in our current day and age as Donald Miller, I have heard this line of thinking hundreds of times from peers and other voices in the Christian community (i.e. – John Eldredge and the wild, rough around the edges view of manhood and faith).

I originally set out to write this blog as a critique against Miller. Instead I have felt God moving in my heart recently to consider why so many people are leaving the local church behind (while still respectfully disagreeing with those who choose to do just that).

To the Donald Millers of the world I believe that an apology is needed. Those who have left the church behind have been wounded by the church, or they have seen it as empty religiosity and unnecessary for their personal walk with the Lord. To me, looking at the Pastoral Epistles is the route necessary to see where we have gone wrong.

In his commentary, Thomas D. Lea has described the Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) as “helpful, insightful, and pulsing with spiritual warmth.” The book of Acts no doubt walks narratively through the practices of the early church, but these letters to Timothy and Titus shed light on what the church and church leaders should be like.

1. The church should be a family of faith full of mutual respect and love.I 

I could rant about the need for intergenerational discipleship all day. But for the sake of time, let me just point us to 1 Timothy 5:1-2. When it comes to our interactions, conversations, and relationships, how are we doing as far as respect and purity is concerned? The church should be a family. Not a program. Not a machine. Not a business. It should be a family where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of age or honestly regardless of behavior. Someone in our churches deserves respect and pure love not because of their actions but because they are purchased by the blood of Christ just like us.

2. Church leaders should be full of humility due to grace. 

That leads to this understanding. We see this in 1 Timothy 1:16, as Paul even late in his ministry continued to recognize his own personal need for grace, how grace was not something that he left behind. Our elders and deacons and Sunday school leaders and volunteers are most effective and most God-honoring when they understand that they are desperately reliant upon the grace of God each and every day of their lives. I am afraid many leave the church due to pastors and overseers who walk not in gratefulness for grace but rather as professionals, know-it-alls, dictators, or manipulators.

3. The church should prepare its people for the reality of life as a Christian.

2 Timothy 2:3 reminds us that the Christian walk is a battle. It is not easy to follow Christ. When our churches do not allow church to be a place where people can open up about the difficulties that they have been experiencing for living for Jesus, our when our churches preach a false gospel that is the American Dream dressed in a choir robe, people who are experiencing the realities of suffering feel out of place in the masquerade of the church. Let us be communities of faith where suffering is a reality we prepare for and walk through together.

4. Church leaders are to preach the Word with patience and instruction. 

Believe it or not, many in my generation abandon the church for a similar reason as number three. They go to church and see pie-in-the-sky optimism combined with gimmicks, facades, programs and the like. What they don’t see unfortunately in many local churches is the preaching of the Word. Solid, Biblical, sound teaching of God’s Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 encourages the pastor to do just that. Many are leaving the church because they are getting carnival games and parlor tricks instead of the theological preaching that is necessary for the health of their souls.

So to Donald Miller and company, I apologize that our churches in the United States have failed in some ways to look like the church painted for us in the Pastoral Epistles. If you’re scary close to leaving the organized local church yourself, I urge you to not. With a right understanding of what it means to be part of a local church, you can find yourself being built up in your faith. I promise. No church is perfect because it is full of imperfect people. But it’s full of imperfect people that Christ died for.

We profoundly need each other. We are immersed in the Christian life together. There is no merely private faith – everything we are and do as individuals affects the church community. – Tish Harrison Warren

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

On My Shelf: January 11, 2018

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

Perfect Sinners by Matt Fuller (7/10)

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

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

My two favorite chapters were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My two favorite chapters were:

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

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Worrying About Our Place In The Dirt

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.wallup.net

That line has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie Interstellar. In the sci-fi epic, Matthew McConaughey’s character is talking with his father about the state of humanity after monstrous dust storms and irresponsible land usage has destroyed the fabric of the world. McConaughey is acknowledging a sad fact that all the people are doing is worrying about what they’re going to eat, if the crops will come in.

Ever since I watched this movie for the first time and heard that line for the first time, the more I’ve wondered just how true that is in my own life. There was a day where I used to think about big things, my place in it all, and now it seems like all I can do is worry about my place in the dirt.

Don’t hear me talking about some sort of Lion King-esque belief that we will find our legacies in the stars. Not at all. The second part however is more what I’m focused on. All I seem to do on any given day is worry about earthly matters.

I’ve had a full-time job for like a month and a half and I can already tell how I can go days at a time without truly stopping to reflect on eternal matters.

Bills. Laundry. Cleaning my house. Preaching on Wednesday. Teaching on Sundays. Parents. Volunteers. E-mail. Seminary application. Girlfriend. The newest episode of This Is Us. Day after day every moment of down time seems to be consumed with the next thing on my schedule. I have done a heinous job of thinking about what truly matters in my day to day life.

This reality combined with this quote from this great movie leads me to think about Colossians 3.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3 

Am I thinking about eternal things, or am I consumed with worry about my place here in the dirt?

There is a gospel reality that we don’t take to heart as often as we should. Christ is seated in glory, at the right hand of the Father, and we are raised to life with Him. We have been left on earth after our salvation in order to tell others about Him. That’s it. To bring Him glory by sharing his story. It is insane to me how often my heart and mind get sidetracked by other matters.

I’m not saying our every word should be evangelistic or that we should never enjoy the good gifts of God here on earth. I am saying that we have been given a singular purpose, to make His glory known through telling the gospel story to all who do not yet know Him. That’s it. That’s why you and I are here. To use the illustration from the movie, to ‘wonder about our place in the stars’ is to think about our higher calling, our higher purpose.

You were not put on this earth to get married and have a family.

You were not put on this earth to have a successful career, even if that career is vocational ministry (talking to you Nate).

You were not put on this earth to make a lot of fond memories.

You were put on this earth to glorify God through bringing other people to know Him.

Please, enjoy your family, get married, have a job that you love, make a ton of memories. But don’t let those things overshadow your real reason for life.

It’s funny to me how the very things that sidetrack me from my gospel purpose are the very same things that cause the most anxiety and worry in my mind and heart. Again, I’m not saying that good gifts of God in our lives are wrong. They’re not. But let’s be careful not to spend every waking moment worrying about our place in the dirt. There’s so much more to life.

I don’t know what recalibrating your mind and heart looks like to you. For me it means putting everything up and just sitting outside, often looking up into the night sky. I have to remind myself that my stressors, anxieties, worries, and fears are ultimately going to be hilariously small and insignificant in a million years.

Stop worrying about your place among the dirt.

Live for something more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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