Not So Courageous

When I was a kid, I avoided anything that had the possibility of inflicting pain. When playing paintball I would hide in the back of the field to avoid getting shot.

I played six-man football growing up and did the same thing. I was not a talented football player so I spent most of my time on the sideline. They would ask for someone to fill a spot to give one of the starters a breather and I would often pretend like my ears didn’t work. When I was on the field, I wouldn’t seek out contact. I remember one game getting chewed out for not attempting to tackle the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. Me and pain didn’t mix. Things that required courage didn’t come easy to me.

That’s fine in football. I may have missed out on the NFL, but oh well.

It’s a lot more serious when you’re an adult with adult responsibilities and adult consequences.

In college, I didn’t have the courage to pursue Jamie romantically while being six months away from moving to Phoenix. So I bounced back and forth between communicating with her a lot and ghosting her (to use a young and hip modern term). Thank God Almighty that He is greater than my commitment issues. Jame and I are married and now raising our daughter!

I still wrestle with courage. My job requires an inner strength that is often lacking in me. I have to have hard conversations, I regularly share a message about Christ that is becoming less and less popular, and I am put in positions where I’m stepping into messy and difficult situations.

As I’ve been praying for courage and thinking about courage, the Lord has reminded me that courage is not up to me. It’s not dependent upon me. Strength is given from the Spirit. It’s not something that I can manufacture by putting on a brave face and charging into the gap.

In his prayer for the church in Colossae, Paul says that he wants them to be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11). Later on in his letter Paul says this: For this (the desire to make all mature in Christ) I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (Colossians 1:29).

That has leapt off the page for me recently. They are such simple statements but they contain a timeless truth. The church is strengthened and made powerful by God. It is His might, not their own, that is the source of such strength. For me to lead my family and my ministries well, I need the glorious might of God working through me. Every single day. Left on my own, I would cave. I would hide. I would do easy and comfortable things. But through the might of God above, I can do hard things.

As I look back on my life, I can see how that simple truth has been on display over and over again. When I worked for the North American Mission Board, I led a team of OBU students on trips to Portland two Summers in a row. These were ten week trips for me that always began with me sitting in the PDX airport alone, feeling immensely overwhelmed. The second Summer, I remember pulling out my journal and asking God if I could just go home. Being in charge of a team in a city that was so spiritually dark was too much for me I claimed. When I came to terms quickly with the reality that there was no way out, I asked God to give me the strength to move forward and lead my team well. He blessed me with courage and strength.

If you’re lacking strength and courage right now, I want to invite you to stop trying. Stop gritting your teeth and clinching your fists. Rest in the power that is in you as a follower of Jesus. Ask Him for strength and then trust Him to provide it.

As you ask God for strength, I would encourage you to ask your friends to pray for that in your life. Often our prayer requests are all circumstantial.

“Pray the covid test comes back negative. Pray the house gets sold. Pray for my kid to excel or get through a difficult circumstance.”

These aren’t inappropriate prayers (my prayer requests can be like this often), but man they’re shallow compared to these prayers we read in the Bible. Paul prays for the church to have strength in God. I quite often ask friends, youth volunteers, or family to pray that God would give me courage. I would encourage you to invite others to do the same for you. We’re called to carry one another’s burdens, to uplift one another for the sake of the church’s effectiveness and the glory of the God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Just Do It

Believe in something, even it means sacrificing everything.

In a world of social media, stories get blown up in minutes. One such story that has broken is the deal that Nike has made with Colin Kaepernick, to make him one of the faces of their 30 year anniversary of their slogan. Now, hostility seems to be high on both ends of people’s responses to this, with hateful rhetoric spewed on both sides, as well as a laughable burning of Nike gear. This post is not an attempt to add to the proliferation of op-ed pieces that have already raged about this, but I do want to talk about what it brings to mind when it comes to spiritual things.

In short, I’ve still got my Nikes on today. What a corporation does with their advertising doesn’t really affect my calling nor my relationship with God, so I try not to get bent out of shape about it. The reality is, I don’t see the heart of Kaepernick, I don’t know what he has gone through as a minority in our country. It may very well have taken tremendous courage to speak up about what he believes to be injustice in our country. To say he’s sacrificing everything may be some heavy hyperbole, and others have definitely done this literally (consider the story of Pat Tillman), but again, I am not in his shoes. I tell my students, and adults I know, and myself, that it is not my responsibility as a Christian to agree with those who scream injustice. Rather, it is my responsibility and calling to listen, to consider, to be slow to anger, to be slow to speak.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20 

And people say the Bible is not applicable today.

The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

What makes me even more considered for the state of believers in our country is that we have become a people who get far more outraged over the decisions of others when it comes to patriotism and legislation than we do over the way people are choosing not to follow Jesus.

Maybe that didn’t make sense. Basically, we get up in arms about earthly things rather than spiritual things. I’ve seen some of the most hateful rhetoric shared and spewed on social media at those who believe differently than the poster on political matters or even matters of standing for the flag at a football game. We become more concerned about whether or not people kneel for the flag than we do whether or not people bow before the King.

I know I basically just blogged about this verse a week ago, but this passage continues to fill my heart and mind as of late.

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? – Proverbs 24:10-12

We as followers of Jesus are called to rescue those who are being unjustly killed, we are to rescue those who are being oppressed. Why? Because the entire narrative of Scripture it about God rescuing His people out of literal oppression and spiritual slavery. From Exodus to what Ephesians says about how we’re enslaved to our sin outside of Christ. It’s all about being rescued from oppression.

One day, we will stand before God, He who knows our hearts. We won’t be able to say we didn’t see the oppression happening. We won’t be able to lay forth any valid excuses.

Social justice is not the gospel. It is not the good news of the Scriptures. If we merely meet physical needs, we are doing people a disservice, and we are not saving them from death. Notice how the above passage can be applied to those who are headed towards eternal separation from God. There are spiritual needs far more dire than physical ones.

But.

The gospel leads to social justice. If we believe that God died for us, then we are willing to leverage our lives for His cause.

Guys, I’m not team Kaepernick or team Tillman.

I’m team Jesus.

And while that may be the most nauseatingly cliche thing you’ve ever read, it’s no less true. Christ calls me to listen, to really listen.

Consider a story from Mark 10:46-51. In it, a blind beggar cries out to Jesus for help. The crowd tells him to shut up. Yet Jesus has compassion on him and heals him.

Consider with me for a second.

What if the cries of injustice and oppression are false. What if truly men like Kaepernick have nothing to really complain about? Now, I don’t believe that to be the case. But, what if? Even if it’s not genuine oppression, when we say we don’t care, when we say stand up and shut up, we might very well be the deterrent that prevents them from seeking Christ.

Yes, God is a God of justice. But He’s also full of mercy and compassion.

If we tell those in our community to just shut up when they cry out, that literally does nothing but drive them away from Christ. Again, please understand, as Christians we do not have to agree with those who cry out. For instance, I don’t agree with everything that the Black Lives Matter movement stands for and does, but, I am called to listen.

Guys, people are dying without Christ!!

I don’t want the vitriol of the church to keep them from experiencing Jesus.

What if we listened? You know agreeing and listening aren’t the same thing?

What if we listened?

What if we cared enough about the souls of people to hear about their deepest hurts and point them to the Healer.

Guys, read my heart. I’m not pro-kneeling or pro-standing. Really I don’t care. What I care about is that the church needs to be willing to listen to those who say they’re being oppressed. To not at least listen is to grieve the heart of God (just read all the indictments against the people of God in the Old Testament).

What if we listened?

Just do it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Missing Out

The College Football National Championship. The Greatest Showman. This Is Us or The Crown. The latest blog post, the Dosh app, essential oils, Plexus, or some other social media business scheme. All of these things are talked about by passionate people who commonly use the phrase “don’t miss out”. We can be encouraged by friends to not miss out on the latest movie, TV show, or social media fad. If we weren’t tuned into the big sporting event, our friends tell us we missed out on an incredible game. When this happens, I believe a small part of us, or of me at least, feels that in my bones.

For instance, I don’t really care all that much about the NFL. Yet I woke up this morning to a lot of notifications on social media outlets regarding the Vikings-Saints game last night. Apparently the Vikings won the game in thrilling fashion on a last-second deep touchdown pass involving some fancy footwork and poor defensive decisions. I saw comments by people about it being the best game they’d ever seen (which is almost always an exaggeration), and a part of me felt like I missed out a little. I felt this when I didn’t watch the Alabama-Georgia game either.

I’m not immune to speaking about movies and sporting events in this way to others however. Just yesterday I was raving to a fellow member of my church about the latest This Is Us episode and how intense I was. I’ve raved about The Greatest Showman. I’ve raved about the $10 Dinner Box that Pizza Hut has that’s a regular purchase of mine.

Why however do we feel impassioned to share about these things that are ultimately so trivial and insignificant, yet we struggle to share about the one thing that if people don’t know about, they will truly miss out for all eternity? I’ve been inundated with Plexus conversations and sports conversations, but even amongst Christian friends I’ve struggled to be engaged in many gospel-centered conversations of any depth.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

The Psalmist in Psalm 89 can’t help but sing of the steadfast love of God, using his mouth to make known to others the faithfulness of God extended to all generations. This is a wonderful thing. Regardless of your favorite type of Christian music, or general worship style, you can still use any hymn, contemporary worship song, or even rap in a way to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness to others. I have in my past been too quick to shut off during a time of worship at church if the worship music style isn’t too my liking. Then I realized that I was an entitled little turd that had the complete wrong idea about worship music. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about giving God praise, not about listening to music I like. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about telling the world about God’s love and faithfulness to us his people. Man, I got that wrong for so long in my life.

This little snippet out of the gospel of John is a reminder of what happens when a man or woman dies without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They won’t see life after death, instead the wrath of God will remain on them for eternity. That’s what is at stake.

If a man or woman misses a sporting event, a movie, or a TV show, nothing happens. If a man or woman misses out on a new app, Plexus, or essential oils, nothing really happens there either. If a man or woman misses out on Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel, they spend their eternity separated from God. That’s huge.

We’ve got to do a better job of opening our eyes and hearts to those who are currently walking through life without Jesus.

My enthusiasm for sports has waned over the years because I’ve begun to see them in their proper place, and I’ve begun to see the millions of people in our country that worship them. It’s saddening to see people lay down their spiritual lives for the sake of athletics, parents trading in the discipleship of their kids in church for the shot at a traveling sports team that promises their kids a chance at the pros.

Sports are not bad. They are evil when they take the god role in our lives however. I’ve seen men in so many contexts, including myself, talking about sports with abandon to everyone they can, but having their lips glued shut when it comes to speaking about their Lord and Savior.

I’m fairly bad at personal evangelism. The best I do on some weeks is to simply post on this blog and share it as a way to tell people about Jesus. I’m praying that God will continue to grow me in evangelism. I’m praying that God will lead me to speak about Jesus more than I do about trivial matters. I’m praying that God will implant in my heart a deep and growing desire to see men and women in my community connect with their Savior and thus not miss out on all that God has for them. This is my continual prayer.

Join me in praying for courage and strength to share, just as Paul had in Thessalonica.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel in the midst of much conflict. – 1 Thessalonians 2:2 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach