Non-Christian Prayers

PRAYER LIST

  • Susie has pneumonia
  • Youth group fundraiser night is coming up
  • Bob broke his leg
  • Jim is having surgery on his knee
  • Roseann has the flu
  • Kyle needs a job
  • Frank is fighting for our freedom overseas
  • Adam has been having bad migraines
  • Emily’s dog is in need of medical care

If you are part of a local church, you likely see some sort of list like this frequently, whether in the church bulletin or via an e-mail blast to all the church members. These lists are good, and useful for the church to become aware of the ailments and needs of the members.

That being said, I believe that as followers of Christ, the prayers we engage in both privately and corporately should go beyond the sicknesses, ailments, and trials of the congregation.

Here’s why: I believe the church should pray the things that we see in Scripture. the Bible for sure commands us, exhorts us, and encourages us to pray for healing from sickness.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. – James 5:14

Yet to limit our private and congregational prayers to just healing is to take a theme of prayer in the Scriptures that honestly is not super prevalent and make it the onus and center of our whole prayer life.

I’ve written in the past that to pray for healing is Biblical and necessary.

That being said, our prayer lists in our churches are often filled with prayers that nonbelievers wouldn’t find weird. They’re filled with prayers that nonbelievers who don’t understand the gospel could pray. They’re filled with prayers that nonbelievers would affirm. While this isn’t explicitly wrong, I don’t think it sets the church apart.

The church should sing, proclaim, share, and pray God’s Word.

As the people of God, we should be praying deeper prayers than just the health of our members.

In his book Word-Centered Church, Jonathan Leeman gives the following list of Paul’s prayers as examples of deep, gospel-centered prayers:

  • He (Paul) prays that the Ephesians would be given the spiritual sight to see the glorious inheritance awaiting God’s saints (Ephesians 1:16-19)
  • He prays that the Philippians love would become more discerning and knowledgeable so that they might pursue only good things and live holy lives (Philippians 1:9-11)
  • He prays that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that they might live pleasing lives of good works and growth in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10)

Now those are some prayers that would perturb the nonbeliever. Those are prayers that would seem weird, that wouldn’t be prayed around the dinner table of a nonbelievers’ home.

These are the type of prayers that I believe we as Christians are called to pray for one another. These prayers are gospel-centered, God-centered, and produce eternal fruit rather than our measly “I want this” type prayers. We do our congregations a disservice if we limit our private and corporate prayers to praying for the sick.

I’m thankful to be currently serving under a pastor who prays genuine and bold prayers for God to be glorified amongst our congregation. During our Sunday morning gatherings, I look forward to his prayers. As he prays, I can see that his public prayer for God to be glorified is the overflow of his private prayers for God to be glorified.

Here are some other types of prayers that the church should pray, setting themselves apart:

  1. FOR OUR ENEMIES. Praying for our congregants is admirable, but not all that surprising. Praying for our neighbors, and even those most adamantly opposed to all that we stand for is most definitely surprising. Too often, my prayers against the wicked are all judgment-based. I should seek instead to pray that the wicked are redeemed from their wicked state by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. FOR AWARENESS OF SIN. This one is a doozy. We live in a culture where sin is downplayed, even in our churches. Yet as Christians we miss out on experiencing in our core the forgiveness and mercy of God if we don’t acknowledge our needs for His forgiveness and mercy. The puritans of old would pray for the ‘gift of tears’, meaning they would ask God to bring them to tears over their sins. While I think this is somewhat extreme, I do believe it’s important for us to pray that God would make us aware of our offenses against Him so that we can in turn confess and experience the forgiveness already extended us via the cross.
  3. GOD’S WILL. Most nonbelievers would not be surprised or caught off guard by a man or woman praying that God would bless their individual will for their life. That’s often how we treat God, as if His role is to bless us and prepare the way for us to achieve all that we desire and dream up. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. We should as followers of Christ (looking in the mirror like crazy on this one) be praying that God’s will would be done in our lives. This is a prayer that would be weird to a nonbeliever.
  4. NO MORE UNSPOKENS. I understand that people have been burned by church members in the past, if not ministers. Unspoken prayer requests are likely a symptom or result of these heartbreaking situations. That being said, if a church is healthy, if a church is doing what it is called to do via praying for one another in love and grace, then there should be no need for unspoken prayer requests. Yes, be wise and don’t air dirty laundry publicly before the congregation. But be in a community of faith at some level of the church where you can reveal your sin, your struggle, or your doubt in fullness.

Please keep your prayer sheets and prayer request lists. They are good, and they do good.

I pray that you and your congregation go deeper than that though. Don’t just pray in ways that nonbelievers would. Pray in ways that shows that we are the people of God, set apart by God, praying the Word of God.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, questions, or points of disagreement and concern. You can also follow my blog below. Lastly, if you enjoyed this blog, please give it a share on Facebook.

 

Randalling Faith

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

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

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

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

If this is the case, I feel you.

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

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

Here’s where randalling our faith is ridiculously stupid.

We make our faith in Jesus about US.

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

Look at this wonderful passage with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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

On My Shelf: December 28, 2017

Over my Christmas break, I had the pleasure of finishing a book that has filled my heart and mind with dreams for what I want the youth I’m charged with shepherding to experience. Throughout the time I’ve been reading it, it has challenged, affirmed, and even equipped me for the year ahead in ministry to youth.

The book is Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It is edited by Cameron Cole & Jon Nielson, and it has ten other contributors. The book is a call to gospel-centered youth ministries, instead of entertainment-centered youth ministries.

This passion for gospel-centeredness has been on my heart and in my life for quite some time, but this book kicked it up a notch for me. I grew up in a youth ministry that had great godly men with hearts for the gospel ride the wave of entertainment and giveaway based ministries. I watched in sadness in college as many of my peers who grew up in such ministries drifted away from the church, because they were ill-equipped to stand for Jesus and were not consistently taught the beauty of Christ and the wonders of the gospel.

This book will lovingly confront the entertainment-based youth ministry industry that in some ways is still roaring along today. It paints a picture instead of youth ministries that are wholly focused on the good news of the gospel and the centrality of Christ in every facet from worship music and small groups, to discipleship and short-term mission trips, to developing adult and student leaders to retreats and events. Each chapter picks a different aspect of the generic youth ministry and teaches you the Biblical foundation for why it should be gospel-centered and then provides you with applications and ways to implement this gospel-centered approach into your own ministry over time.

My two favorite chapters were:

  1. Gathering God’s People: Generational Integration in Youth Ministry
  2. The Impact of Expounding God’s Word: Expositional Teaching in Youth Ministry

The chapter on generational integration was the most convicting for me. We do a pretty terrible job of making youth feel like they’re not a real part of the church. The chapter encouraged churches to allow students to be a part of the ‘big church’ programs through announcements, being greeters, being ushers, or the like. It put forward the belief that countless students leave church in college because they never really felt like part of the church to begin with.

The chapter on expositional preaching was the most affirming. It has always been my heart and desire to teach through books of the Bible. It laid out the fact that Biblical illiteracy leads to a lot of sin, and that the best thing we can do for our students is to show them the Bible’s overarching story and how to study God’s Word for themselves. I do not remember ever walking through a book of the Bible in my youth days. As a result, my understanding of my faith was a hodgepodge of devotional appetizers with no doctrinal depth and I was clueless as to the grand narrative of Scripture.

Overall, I agreed with just about everything this book laid out. I was convicted in many ways, and my passion for gospel-centered ministry was stoked.

If you are a student, a parent of a student, a youth minister, or just someone who wants to see the next generation drawn to Jesus, pick up this book and give it a read.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Giveaways, Grub, Games, or Grace?

Don’t drink. Abstain from sex outside of marriage. Be a morally good person who passes out food to the poor every once in a while. Pray sometimes when you remember to, read your Bible occasionally, memorize a couple verses a year, and be a good friend.

If we are not careful, Christianity can become nothing more than this in our youth groups, and in our personal lives. We can absent-mindedly take the greatest story, the story of Scripture, and make it about being a morally upright person.

Thankfully this was never a temptation or even an option in my heart and life. When I was a teenager I had a deep fascination and draw to studying the Scriptures, for understanding what the Bible was saying in its entire story. This oftentimes became an obsession that became more about knowledge than intimacy with God, but the reality was I always seemed to understand there was more to Christianity than I was hearing on Wednesday nights in youth group.

That being said, I still struggled with what I was taking in on Wednesday nights. I remember countless weeks of emotional worship sets with the altar open. I also remember countless trips to that altar to draw attention to myself. I remember games and giveaways and lessons about dating well and not having sex or partying. In this season of my life, there were for sure men who took me deeper in my faith, men who proclaimed the gospel’s life-changing power, but they were rare in comparison to the weekly morality lesson I was used to hearing.

That style of youth ministry is likely close to completion.

“Due to the volumes of research suggesting that the moralistic, emotional, entertaining approach to youth ministry has had little to no efficacy in creating lasting followers of Jesus, many youth pastors have put the dry ice machine in the church attic and toned down the underage drinking speeches.” – Cameron Cole

As I now sit in a position of leadership over a group of youth, I am aware of my faults and struggles, but I am glad that I have the opportunity to show teenagers that there is more to Christianity than they think or may have been led to believe. I do my best from week to week to teach students the 3 things they need to know.

The Source Of Truth

The indoctrination of media is astounding to me. This is something that even as a 24 year old male I am needing to fight in my own life and walk with Jesus. We are fed information incessantly. iPhones aren’t evil but they inundate our existence with a barrage of news and opinion. The truth of life is found in the Word of God.
Here’s where I differ with people however. I think we need to be proclaiming the authority and inerrancy of Scripture in the context of the grand narrative of Scripture. Stories are inherently powerful. We learn more from stories than we do from facts and figures. I know this to be true because my students remember more from The Last Jedi then they do my latest Wednesday night sermon.

It is certainly true that we need to search and meditate upon the Scriptures to find the truth about our world and matters that are in the public eye. However, we should do so without turning the Bible into a book of mere facts and prescriptive life lessons. the The Bible is a grand narrative that needs to be read, studied, and taught as such.

A Correct View Of Self. 

We absolutely need to paint a picture of our sin. This is true and necessary for a true understanding of the gospel. That being said, I think we need to do a better job of starting in Genesis 1 with our students rather than Genesis 3.

When we start in Genesis 3, we approach the gospel with the brokenness and terrible nature of our hearts that need to be healed. Acceptance of the gospel brings this healing and redemption. This is good news. Here’s where things get dicey for me. It becomes a story of God making bad things good, and I think this limits the gospel message.

I am in 100% support of the truth that we are all naturally wicked and evil outside of Jesus. We are born with a sin nature. No one has to tell us how to sin. But when we start with Genesis 1, we can show our students that at their core, their deepest identity, they are made in the image of God, they are a son or daughter of God. Yes, they sin and are wicked. But deep down they are an image-bearer of the King and through belief in the gospel they can be set free to live out their true identity.

A Correct View Of God

This goes hand in hand with a correct view of God. I pray before every Sunday school session and Wednesday night sermon that we would all leave the church with a deeper understanding of who God is.

We concoct views and ideas about God that are simply not true. This is not often on purpose, but rather when we take a text from Scripture outside of the grand story. This is how we get a view of God as a malicious sociopath, an uninvolved clock-maker god, a grace-giving genie who doesn’t call us to holiness. We need to teach our students (and our adults, and ourselves for that matter) who God truly is. What His character is truly like.

Giveaways, games, and grub are not sinful things. But if we aren’t proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace every single time we meet with our students, we are wasting our time. I can attest that an entertainment-based version of ministry to youth rarely produces long-term disciples of Jesus.

Let us proclaim the grace of God in our youth buildings.

Our kids are learning geometry and biology, they can learn some theology. Don’t sell them short.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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

 

 

Letters Of Encouragement

Jamie was visiting this weekend, and as we prepared to leave my parents’ home in Wichita Falls, I came across a large manilla envelope with my name on it. I had no idea what it was or where it came from. Since it had my name on it though, I went ahead and opened it. stamps

Inside were dozens of letters. They all came from team members and coworkers from my summer in Salt Lake City back in 2014. It was weird, eye-opening, enlightening, encouraging, and a little confusing reading letters written to my former self. I pored over them, laughing at old memories, reminding myself of the ways that God moved in me and others that summer in Salt Lake City (I also remember that I selfishly chose not to write anyone else letters. Boo hiss 2014 me).

On my 16th birthday, my dad gave me a supremely special gift. As a present, he had a couple dozen men write me letters about what it meant to be a man. In these letters were timeless truths from the experiences that they had been through. It was an honor (although at the time I didn’t realize this) to read handwritten letters from these men who told me what it looked like to walk with God in every area of my life whether that be in friendships, marriage, vocation, or family. Texts just wouldn’t have meant the same to me, not to mention they’d be automatically deleted off my phone after 30 days.

That’s an aspect of the Christian life that I think we miss in our current day and age. There’s nothing like a letter from a friend. There really isn’t. At least in my experience. There is something about receiving a letter from someone you love, taking into account the time they took out of their day to write you. Texts, e-mails, voicemails, Facebook messages. All of these forms of communication can be used for encouragement and strengthening the body of Christ for sure, but there is something about a handwritten letter that takes it up a notch.

I know that 2nd and 3rd John came long before our modern communication techniques, but they are indeed personal letters from John to the ‘elect lady and her children’ (possibly a local congregation of believers) and to ‘Gaius” respectively. These are personal letters. From a man to his friends. From one follower of Christ to others.

These are notes snatched from the every-day correspondence of an Apostle – G.G. Findlay

Some scholars believe that John introduced himself in 2 John as ‘the elder’ instead of ‘the apostle’ because it is a little bit more affectionate as a title. This is just a little more confirmation about the nature of these letters. This may show us that he is writing as a friend and fellow Christ-follower in these letters, more than he’s writing as an authority figure to the church (although he does address doctrine).

This blog is definitely not like what you may be used to reading from me, but I hope I can encourage you to follow in the footsteps of not only the apostles of old, but also countless ministers and Christ-followers who have made it a practice of theirs to write letters to churches and friends. If you’ve got the letter-writing bug as I do, here’s some places to start.

1. The Person/People Who Led You To Christ

Even if you’ve been vocal about your gratitude towards this person(s) in the past, it wouldn’t hurt to write them a letter and remind them just how thankful you are that they had the boldness and courage to share with you the good news of the gospel. Yes, the Lord drew you to Himself, but it took men and women who were instruments of His grace in your life to bring you to salvation. Thank them for what they did.

2. A Non-Believer You Want To Share The Gospel With

Yes, we should be vocal in our conversations with non-believers about our faith (I need to work on this one desperately), but why not write them a letter about how you’ve been praying for them and how the gospel has transformed your life? They may or may not read it, and they may or may not respond. But you can show them just how precious the gospel is to you with a heartfelt note.

3. A Missionary In A Foreign Or Not-So Foreign Land

Write a letter to a church-planter, a missionary overseas, or a missionary in your own backyard. When I worked in Phoenix, I read countless letters of encouragement and prayer directed towards the staff of the church which I was a part of. They were lights in the middle of dark and difficult days of ministry. A letter of encouragement, Scripture, and prayers can go a long way.

4. The Christian Who Is Struggling 

Be careful with this one. If you know of a follower of Christ who is walking through a difficult season, you can write them a letter of encouragement. I say be careful because it’s easy to spout out Scripture without showing compassion or concern for the person you are reaching out to. That being said, a letter of encouragement in the midst of trials can go a long way.

5. Relatives

Write a letter to a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling. Reach out to the family that the Lord has put you in. They may all be saved, or none of them may be saved. Find ways to encourage, equip, and evangelize through handwritten letters to the people who share your family heritage.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I encourage you to walk through it, as will I.

There’s not much gospel in this blog, but I encourage you to put the gospel in letters to family, friends, fellow Christians, and those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Write for His glory.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog via the menu.

 

 

I Am Nothing

“You’re not cool, Nathan! You’re not cool!” 403H

In college I played intramural basketball with some of my best friends. One of these guys would yell that at me every single time that I made a basket (which was rare). If there was even the teeny-tiniest hint of pride or arrogance on my face, he would scream from the sideline to remind me that I was in fact not very cool. At the time, this annoyed the snot out of me. It got to the point where I would dread seeing the ball go in the basket because I knew his scream would soon be filling the court.

While I did not enjoy that refrain ringing in my ears, there are some statements that I intend to tell myself daily:

“I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.”

In a world of self-help praise and positive thinking vibes, this proclamation does not sit well. I do want to clarify from the onset though that I am a wholehearted believer in reminding ourselves daily of our blessed identity in Jesus Christ, and I strive to teach myself the implications of the gospel onto my identity each day.

But for the purpose of this blog, I am focusing on the idea of contentment and how these phrases help us to reorient our hearts and minds on thankfulness and gratitude in light of our present circumstances.

We are called by God to deny ourselves. This is one of the main mandates of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Discontentment is a litmus test for how well we are walking after Christ in our day-to-day lives, how well we are practicing the spiritual discipline of self-denial.

But how do we deny ourselves daily? How do we remind ourselves that we are not the center of our world? In his book, Chasing Contentment, Erik Raymond offers up these three short proclamations as one of a myriad of means through which we can find true and lasting contentment in Jesus Christ through denying ourselves.

I Am Nothing

This is not to be in conflict with the biblical truth about the dignity of every human life.

Rather it is putting ourselves against the majesty of God and realizing how small and insignificant we all truly are. All throughout Scripture I see men and women of God who had an understanding of their nothingness so to speak in light of the wonderful majesty of God. One of the most stark and surprising instances of this comes from Genesis chapter eighteen. In this chapter, Abraham is conversing with God, making his requests known to God in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at verse twenty-seven with me.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, – Genesis 18:27

Let me remind us that this proclamation comes after Genesis 15, when God proclaims his covenant blessings to Abraham. So Abraham knows the good news of God’s covenant faithfulness, yet he still proclaims that he is but dust and ashes.

Erik Raymond encourages us to find joy in being able to say that we are nothing:

Isn’t this what makes God’s pursuit of us in the gospel so refreshing? He pursues and arrests us by his grace. Though it may seem severe to think you are nothing, in the gospel you have Christ to be your everything!

I Deserve Nothing

The gospel shines incredibly bright into our lives because without Christ what we deserve is death. This may be a well-worn verse but it is no more striking in its verdict:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

This couldn’t be any more clear. What we deserve for our sin against God is physical and spiritual and eternal death; eternal separation from God. The wonderful news of the gospel could not shine any brighter either in this passage, as we see that the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is available for us!

Contentment is found in denying ourselves. Denying ourselves comes from remembering not only that we are nothing apart from Christ, but that we also deserve nothing. Pastor and theologian Mark Dever is known to quip “Anything less than hell is dancing time for Christians!” How true this is. When we truly understand that what we deserve is hell, anything less than that in our lives is a time for rejoicing. Lecrae, in his song Boasting makes the statement:

If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight. 

This is truly the case. You and I deserve nothing.

I Can Do Nothing

This is a hard one for me to remember as I am striving to live for God in vocational ministry. Yet its implications are profound on every one of us who professes Christ. Apart from Jesus, you and I can do nothing. We don’t have the power to say no to temptation, we don’t have the power to say yes to the Spirit, we don’t have the power to save souls. In all things we are unable to do what is necessary for bringing God glory in our own strength or ability.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

This is the reality about me that I seek to cling to:

I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.

With this, I can strive to deny myself daily. With this, I can see the beautiful message of the gospel shining through as it is truly a gracious gift of God. With this, I can practice Biblical and gospel-centered contentment.

While I often despised the refrain of my lack of coolness coming from the sidelines during a basketball game, I am already growing to love this method of self-denial.

Remember that you are nothing.

You deserve nothing.

You can do nothing.

Meditate on this and you will find the joys of the gospel message.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu

 

 

Happy’s Porch

This world is broken. It is fractured, cracked, overwhelmed by the ravaging effects of sin upon the cosmos.14344313_1039930519457958_7959540184168886373_n

Families are in shambles, divorce and pornography run rampant, violence and death, suffering and disease. Loved ones passing away after long battles with cancer, strife between friends, financial woes, prejudice, injustice, war, slavery. The list goes on and on.

Yet this is not the way the world has always been. There was a time before the effects of sin, a time when all of creation lived in perfect harmony. A time before suffering, death, disease, and pain.

Regardless of what you believe about the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, it is clear to see that this world used to be in perfect harmony. Reading Genesis 1 leaves me aching and yearning for that day when God will restore all things. There is such a fluid rhythm of God’s creative acts and the refrain that ‘it was good’. Trying to picture a time of perfect peace is hard to do sometimes.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31

Very good.

The world and everything in it was very good.

I like to imagine what perfect peace sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. Images of being on the porch at my granddad’s house immediately flood my mind. There I would sit on the porch swing, listening to the birds call to each other, with the babbling of a forest brook in the distance with a little rain shower sweeping across the mountain.

You see, my granddad, who we affectionately called ‘Happy’ passed away less than a year ago. While I can’t imagine the pain that his spouse, siblings, and children went through when he passed, I definitely struggled and definitely still wade through seasons of deep sorrow and I miss him tremendously.

I would play and read and spend time on his porch for hours. Some of my favorite conversations and memories of him came from his porch. When I think perfect peace, I think of that porch.

Yet what happens when the place that is representative of perfect peace becomes instead a reminder of the effects of sin? What happens when Happy’s porch no longer brings the sense of peace to my soul but instead brings a painful reminder that he is no longer with us?

This is one way that the effects of sin have reared their ugly head in my life. You see, the story of the cosmos takes a turn for the worst real early on. Right after the creation of all things in perfect harmony, God makes Adam and Eve and puts them to work in the garden of Eden. Soon after, Satan comes and introduces temptation to Adam and Eve who unfortunately fall real quick. The perfection of the cosmos is shattered, and the consequences of sin are immediately imposed upon Adam and Eve and all that followed in their lineage (that is, all of us).

Yet in this bleak and dreary chapter 3, there is a promise. A promise that shines bright with gospel grace. A promise that comes flying onto the scene when it seemed all hope was lost.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. – Genesis 3:15

The Lord is cursing Satan, and makes a promise that there will be a descendant of Eve that will crush the head of Satan. Fast-forward several millennia and Jesus stepped onto the scene. He lived the perfect life you and I could not live and died the death we deserved. Three days later, he conquered death itself, crushing Satan, and making it possible for those who believe in Him to one day be with Him in paradise, in a perfect cosmos yet again.

The answer to my above question is to remember that God’s creation in the beginning was very good. The answer is to remember that God uses death, disease, suffering, and pain to bring about His glory. The answer is to remember that God is going to restore the cosmos into perfect harmony yet again. The answer is to remember the great news of the gospel. No more will we cry, be in pain, suffer, or face death. No more. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we will be in perfect harmony with God, enjoying eternal satisfaction in Him.

I loved those moments on the porch with Happy. I loved those moments of near-perfect peace.

But they pale in comparison to the wonderful perfection that is waiting for us in glory. Oh how I yearn for that day.

Brothers and sisters, if you are wading through suffering or pain, remember that this is not our home. Remember that this is for your good and His glory. Remember that there will be a day where the cosmos are totally restored.

This is good news. This is the gospel.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

In His Name,

Nathan Roach