Nate Roach’s Church

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

Today was one of those days.

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

Let’s look at the passage together.

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

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

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

I mean, that list is engrossing.

Look at all that it says about Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

Because do you see who is in control here?

Is it Nate Roach?

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

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

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

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

Then bam.

Gone.

In an instant y’all.

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

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

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

Here’s where the fist drilled the face.

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

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

This church is dependent upon Christ.

He is the head.

Not Nate Roach.

And He is still in control.

Not Nate Roach.

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

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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

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

Nate, The Saint

Nathan Roach is. . . .

A saint.

Not gonna lie, typing that out is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to me because I know that I’ve had thoughts, actions, and attitudes today that weren’t all that saintly.

Yet, that’s my identity. That’s who I am.

I am a saint in Christ Jesus.

Last week, I went on a highly-anticipated vacation to Nashville with Jamie. We spent a few days at Student Ministry Essentials, a youth ministry conference that Lifeway puts on at their national headquarters. I learned a whole lot, took a lot of notes, and dreamed a lot of dreams with Jamie about what our youth group could look like in the future. But then we got to stay a couple extra days and see the sights and sounds of Nashville. And I even got to take a nap! Pretty dope.

The whole time I was there, I was reflecting on my life. I had been going at a rapid pace. I was doing a lot for God (which is laughable when in reality He doesn’t need me) while doing very little communing with God.

I wanted to get to the bottom of my frenetic pace and restlessness.

A book I finished while on vacation encouraged me to write out my name at the top of a piece of paper and start listing out my identity. Much of our lack of rest and most of our stress come from a misunderstood identity.

Let me show you what I mean.

Sitting in the Gaylord Opryland Resort (we didn’t stay there, simply pretended like we belonged their while waiting for our flight), I did that exercise.

I wrote in my journal:

Nathan Roach is. . . 

I wrote a whole lot. And sadly, most of what I said about myself revolved around my vocation and my personality, not my position in Christ.

Here’s a few examples of the things I thought about and wrote about.

A family pastor. Tired. Fun. Funny. Different. An outsider. A Christian. An imperfect husband. A man of God. Angry. Prideful. Selfish. An FCA Ambassador. A writer. A reader. An open book.

Obviously I had some much more raw responses to that question, but those are for face to face conversations, not the blogosphere.

Here’s what I came to realize.

When my primary identity is in my vocation, my work becomes supreme in my life. I am not able to leave it at work. I take it home, thinking and planning while with my wife Jamie, not enjoying the grace of God to me in so many good gifts He has given me. Work consumes my mind and heart. To make matters worse, when I fail at my job, making mistakes, then I’m rocked to my core.

Nathan Roach is a family pastor. So when Nathan Roach makes mistakes as a family pastor, my entire view of self is negatively affected. This is unhealthy for sure.

When my primary identity is in my sin, then my guilt and shame become supreme in my life. When I view myself as an angry, prideful, and selfish man, those sins continue to trip me up, reinforcing that false view of myself. When my primary identity is in my sins, then I start to again work really hard for God to atone for my sins. That is also clearly out of line with the message of the gospel.

God rocked me with these realities.

No wonder I was tired when I became primarily a pastor and a sinner, rather than a child of God and a saint.

Recently I’ve been all over Philippians. I try and read through it every couple of days, I listen to it in the car, I am memorizing part of it. There is a whole litany of reasons I’m doing this, but it has certainly served to remind me of who I am.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:1-2 

Just in the very beginning of the letter, there is so much beauty. I’m a saint. God is my Father.

Those two truths should be my primary view of myself. If anything else supersedes those things in my life, then my life will fall apart. I will begin to run at a pace that I can’t even begin to sustain. I’m grateful that God removed me from the grind and got me alone with Him to consider how I viewed myself.

So my question for you is. . .

Who are you?

I would encourage you to do the same exercise with yourself that I did. Be honest. Be real. Be raw. Let what’s percolating in your heart come out onto the page. Share the things you’ve written with a trusted brother and sister in Christ. Then ask God to reorient your heart and your mind around who you are in Him.

Now, let’s be honest, it’s not a switch you can flip in your brain that magically fixes all of our self-doubts and self-perceptions. It’s a journey. Yesterday was absolutely great for me. Today, not so much. But I’m continuing to stay in the Word and I’m continuing to ask God day after day to show me who I am.

Pro-tip: Leave your phone out of your bedroom. When I start my day in God’s Word, my entire day is affected. When I start my day checking my blog stats, checking my e-mail, checking Facebook, my day is already based off of my vocation and and my performance.

And if you need your phone for an alarm, invest in an alarm clock instead. Thankfully I have a dog that wakes me up every morning like clockwork.

Who are you?

My prayer is that you seek Scripture for the answer.

And if you need any help in your journey, feel free to hit me up.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Fighting God On #7

I was on hole #7. I had hit a fairly good drive (in actuality I sliced it hard, but it worked since the hole was a dogleg right), and I was now lining up my second shot with my fairway wood.

The breeze was nice and cool, and the course was gorgeous as Fall weather was finally descending upon North Texas.

I shanked my second shot. I mean I shanked it so bad into the rough that I had no idea where it was in the absence of GPS tracking. I was extremely frustrated at this point, as the six holes prior to this one were less than ideal.

I remember saying aloud “are you kidding me”. I was flustered and frustrated. It had been a long week and all I wanted was to get out on the golf course and escape for a little while. I no joke started venting right there to God. Me and Him came to mental blows right there in the rough. I wanted to see success in this hobby of mine. In ministry, most of what I do, all the hours I put into studying and preaching and teaching God’s Word, leads to few things I can visibly see. That’s part of the gig.

But, here on the golf course, I had the chance to work at a goal that I could tangibly see. It was an escape.

The problem was just that.

Instead of seeing a few hours on the golf course this past Friday afternoon as a gracious gift of God’s common grace to me, I instead abused said gift as a way to run away from the weightiness of this world. Instead of communing with God through my time golfing, I was more or less avoiding God if I’m being real honest with you today.

I don’t hear God audibly speak to me.

I instead feel His presence with me as themes and verses and ideas from Scripture flood my heart and mind throughout my day.

Right there, in the midst of my fuming at something silly and insignificant on hole #7, God reminded me that He must be my source of comfort, not any earthly thing.

Any earthly thing in our life can become an idol, a point of sin in our lives.

Golf is one of those gray areas in the Bible, obviously. There’s nothing in there about whether this sport is holy or profane. But I had to acknowledge on Friday, after the Spirit’s prompting, that I was running to this hobby as a source of comfort and escape, which certainly is sinful.

The Lord had to bring me to a place where I acknowledged that I had an unhealthy relationship with golf. That feels silly typing out, but it’s no less true. Here’s a small sampling of what Scripture has to say about our joy and our relationship with earthly things.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4

First off, my joy is to be found in the Lord. Secondly, my anxieties are to be removed from my mind and heart, not by hitting a little ball around (or by certain foods, or by an inundation of entertainment, or by mystery novels), but rather by bringing all of those things to the Father who cares for me.

The Bible is full of gray areas. One theme in Scripture is that God is our Good Father who gives us good gifts. The world is created for us to see our Father’s hand in. One way for us to approach the gray areas of Scripture and life on earth is by asking if these things can be received with thanksgiving, based in the Word and prayer.

For instance, can I give thanks for golf? Yes. Can it be spiritually beneficial to me, a way to respond to God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer? Yes, when utilized rightly.

Here’s an example from today.

Today, my dog Morty woke me up (as he does almost every single morning) by sniffing and licking my face. Once I put him outside, the pressures of upcoming children’s ministry and youth ministry events came careening into my mind. Today I was off of work, and so I certainly didn’t want to dwell on what I’ve got to do tomorrow all day today.

So I went to God’s Word. I reflected on His character.

I have spent the day reading through the book of Amos, and this jumped off the page.

Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite. – Amos 2:10 

Amos chapter two dictates and describes some of the most abhorrent sins of God’s people. Disgusting, vile, wicked stuff. I believe this runs hand in hand with their forgetfulness. They forgot what God had done. God uses Amos to remind them of His faithfulness. Boom. Just what I needed to read and meditate upon today. God is faithful. God has done great things for His people throughout history, and He has done great things for me.

I prayed that I would be reminded that He is God, and I’m just a little human. I don’t have to run from my problems, escaping into some worldly endeavor every chance I get. Instead, I can face them, not because I’m anything special, but rather because my God is.

I’ve been thinking about this all day long, and guess what.

I am going to go golfing with my wife Jamie here in a little while.

I am so excited.

Because my prayer is that, instead of fighting God on hole #7, I can commune with Him all along the way, receiving a night on the course with my wife as the wonderful gift that it is.

Yes, I’m likely going to splash one in the water on #5 and maybe even shank one on the highway on #2.

But I’m going in a state of gratitude for God’s grace, and I may just not keep score.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Care Before Commands

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

I’ll say it again.

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

This seems like the most basic principle of living in light of the good news of the gospel, and yet we as followers of Jesus can forget this time and time again.

The best way to combat forgetting or neglecting this truth is by diving into the story of Scripture. I don’t mean simply reading your Bible to check off a box (like I do way too often), but rather I mean immersing yourself into the whole cohesive story of Scripture. I believe that God’s Word is inerrant, that God’s Word is put together in a specific way by the Spirit’s leading over mankind. So when we look at the entire story of Scripture, we see gospel themes all over the place.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us (yours truly included at times) fail to really understand what the Bible story really is. We like to read devotionally, follow a Sunday School reading plan, and never really get the point of most passages because we don’t read in context. All of this leads to mishandled beliefs about the Bible, God, and the good news of the gospel. Lastly, a disjointed approach to the Bible leads to a litany of verses taken way, way, way out of context (Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, etc.).

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. God’s care and God’s commands.

If you asked the average Joe or Jane meandering the sidewalks of our cities to describe what the Old Testament was about, there’s likely one theme that comes to the forefront of their response: God’s commands. They may talk about his anger and wrath, but they will likely have some component of the law of God as part of their answer.

Now let’s say you asked the average pew-sitting Paul or Phyllis, regular members of our churches, the same thing. They would likely answer the same way! Again, this includes rapidly rambling me.

It’s easy to think that the Old Testament is all about God’s commands for us to follow, with the New Testament being all about God’s care for us through Jesus.

This is well-meaning, but off.

If you look closely at Scripture, you’ll see that God is extending grace and showing His loving kindness long before He imposes commands on His people (which are also His loving kindness, btdubs).

For instance, if you look at the book of Genesis, you see that it is fundamentally about God’s love for His chosen people, namely the family of Abraham. While commands for right living are interlaced throughout this narrative, the main theme is clearly (in my opinion) God’s covenant relationship with Abraham’s family, in the midst of Abraham’s stupidity (as well as the stupidity of his descendants).

The book of Genesis is NOT primarily about the origin of God or the origin of the cosmos (Whether you bleed Answers in Genesis or believe God used evolution to create the world we currently live in, there’s not going to be a clear and concise answer found in Genesis). It’s not a conglomeration of classic Bible stories and their quirky VeggieTales adaptations (I’m not knocking VeggieTales, I grew up on that stuff. I certainly do like to waltz with tomatoes).

The book of Genesis is about God’s care for His people. A care for His people that not only comes before the commands of Exodus-Deuteronomy, but also a care for His people that is not dependent upon His people’s ability or willingness to follow such commands.

Still don’t believe me?

Open your Bible.

Yes, as far as timelines go, the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (I am tempted to start naming the trees in my yard, such as the Tree Full of Leaves I Will Pay our Students To Rake and The Tree That Hopefully Won’t Cause Foundation Damage) comes at the same time more or less as the introduction of Adam into the perfect garden.

Yet after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God immediately clothes them via a sacrifice, and promises to send the Messiah. I would say that’s a solid example of God’s care for them even after their disobedience.

Immediately after their displacement from the garden, the wheels fall off. Murder, deception, rage and malice, wickedness, pride. God gives the people 120 years to repent and turn to Him, but they refuse, and the flood happens. Let’s not forget that the fact God left a remnant via Noah and his family is also unbelievable grace.

After God’s grace given to Noah, there is a covenant made. But right after it comes more horrible stuff. More pride and arrogance (Tower of Babel). Clear incest (Judah and Tamar).

As generation after generation progresses in Abraham’s family, God’s care for them continues to be extended.

I would encourage you to dive in to the book of Genesis. Without the PG-tint glasses that our Sunday School backgrounds give us. It is dirty, grimy, dark, and nasty. But in the midst of humanity’s horribleness, God’s grace explodes off of every page.

If you need help reading the Bible in such a way, I can recommend two resources. Number one. The LifeChange Bible Study Series. These are great resources and they’re affordable. Number two. Anything by Jen Wilkin. She’s a phenomenal teacher of the Bible.

As we wrap up, fast forward to today. March 29, 2019.

How well are you doing at believing the truth we started with?

Do you evaluate your spiritual actions each day and hope you’ve done enough for God to be pleased with you?

Do you face incessant and unceasing guilt for your inability to follow His commands (been there, done that)?

Remember this truth. Before God imposes commands in our lives, He shows us His care for us. And when we fail to follow those commands in our lives, He continues to show His care for us.

I’ll close with the following quote.

God loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Think of that! God knows all about our weaknesses, doubts, fears, and sins. Yet, he loves us no less than he does his own child. – Bryan Chappell

He loves you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Wretched Idolatry

The Bible is not always as PG-rated as we would like to think. While teaching the Bible in a flippant manner is not good, I also think that there is a shock value in many Biblical texts that we are supposed to steep in rather than gloss over.

Here in February, I’ve been starting through the book of Jeremiah. This is a book of the Bible that I have never spent a ton of time in, but as part of God’s Word I know that it is useful for my training in righteousness. As I was reading through the first few chapters the last couple days, I’ve been caught totally off guard by the language it uses when talking about the idolatry of God’s people.

Through the lips of Jeremiah, God proclaims that the spiritual idolatry of His people is equivalent to whoredom.

You read that right.

Not only that, but the Lord goes on to use even more shocking imagery for the sins of His people.

In essence, Jeremiah 2-3 teaches us a few things about idolatry.

IDOLATRY IS ADULTERY

Idolatry is adultery. This imagery, this theme, is all throughout the Biblical story, most often seen in the prophets.

Look at the language that God uses through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2-3.

This is what the Lord says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. – Jeremiah 2:2

Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. – Jeremiah 2:20

You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” – Jeremiah 3:1b

Then in the most stunning language we see this:

(you are) a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving – in her heat who can restrain her? – Jeremiah 2:24a

Why such abrasive and shocking language?

Because the reality of idolatry is deplorable.

God made a covenant with His people in the Old Testament, and although He rescued and redeemed them time and time again, they turned from Him and worshipped other gods. They were not faithful. All one has to do is read the Old Testament with even the slightest attention to idolatry and you will see that it seeps into almost every story. God’s people regularly and religiously pursued false gods of the other nations and false gods of their own creation.

What idols have you created? What fills your heart and mind besides the Lord?

IDOLATRY IS CONTAGIOUS

So we’ve seen in this passage that idolatry is equated to spiritual adultery.

Sadly, it gets worse. Jeremiah says that idolatry is contagious. According to Jeremiah 3:7-10, we see that the faithlessness of Israel leads Judah into sin as well.

When a country or community becomes dominated by idolatry, the idolatry starts to become the new normal. Idolatry can become the status quo, seeping into the very nature of the community.

How many of us find our confidence and security in our possessions? How many of us find our confidence and security in our government or military? How many of us find our confidence and security in our ability to follow man-made religious traditions? How many of us find our confidence and security in the praise of others?

All of the above are foolish.

Here’s a not-so-subtle form of idolatry I’ve found myself in: needing the praise of man.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring appreciation. That’s a natural desire. But when the praise of man becomes the source of energy, life, and joy in my heart, I’ve fallen into idolatry. One way the praise of man has become a contagion in our communities is through social media. Now, every person has the ability to speak up about practically anything. Now, we can parade our accomplishments before a litany of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ who will build us up with their likes, and if we’re lucky, their heart emojis.

This is all fine and dandy when the likes are coming.

It becomes discouraging when the likes run dry.

Even writing about this seems silly. Ultimately it is.

Social media gets us consistently and constantly comparing our lives to the lives of others, filling our minds with things that are neither pure nor lovely.

In a world of people-pleasing affirmation addicts, the idolatry of needing affirmation became contagious. I fall into it time and again.

WE CAN TURN FROM IDOLATRY

Here’s the good news. Both for me and for you if you too struggle with idolatry.

Jeremiah 3 has some profound words about the grace of God.

” ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. . . . . . . . “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” – Jeremiah 3:12b, 22a

I’m not faithful to God. I’m a spiritual harlot. I’m a donkey in heat. Yet God says here in the book of Jeremiah that He will receive His people back to Him. This theme of God’s forgiveness and grace in the midst of our vile sins runs throughout the entire narrative of Scripture.

He is not angry forever. He relents from giving us what we deserve. He is faithful, even when we are not. He is powerful enough to cure us of our backsliding.

I backslide a lot.

Like a lot a lot.

Yet each time I return to the Lord, each time I limp my way back to Him, He is faithful to receive me and restore our relationship.

There is a way out of the idolatry you find yourself in, the idolatry that is ingrained in your psyche, the idolatry that is likely even culturally acceptable.

Return to the Lord, to your first love.

Lay your idols down at His feet.

Let your heart and mind be filled with praise for Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Far As The East Is From The West

After church on Easter Sunday many years ago, my parents put together an egg hunt for my two youngest sisters. Our backyard served as the hunting grounds and the prey stood no chance.

Who am I kidding? They struggled to find these eggs. My, oh, my. Poor little ones.

The oldest three siblings, inluding me, ran around helping as vaguely as possible. We didn’t want to help too much. But at some point you can only be so patient.

It was like when Dora the Explorer or Steve from Blue’s Clues ask, “Do you see ____?” And c’mon, everybody sees ___ right? I mean, Dora is a child, so I get it. Steve? You’re a grown man. It’s really not that difficult to see a blue pawprint on THE ONE PAINTING in your entire house.

I suspect you get the picture now.

Eventually, though, they found the eggs. They needed some direction, but they succeeded. All was finally well on that Easter day.

Sometimes I think we’re like little children looking for Easter eggs. We want to find something that seems hidden, something that surprises us to find it. We don’t think our parents are cruel for making it a game. And it’s (mostly) fun for everyone involved. Even more is the delight when you find an egg!

But just as children need a nudge in the right direction, we too need some help.

I went through a couple weeks of wanting to find an egg. For me, this egg was a message from God. I really wanted God to speak to me. It seemed like God was distant and all I could do was send an email to Heaven and wait for a response.

But God wasn’t checking emails. Instead, he was waiting for me to call.

So, after a time of confessing these feelings and thoughts I had about God, I was guided by a brother in Christ toward prayer. I prayed a thankful prayer, and I prayed a prayer asking for God to speak. I called God.

God picked up.

And this is what God said,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

That’s Psalm 130:8. A Psalm of David.

Let’s walk through the few verses that follow:

9 He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

10  He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

God will not “always chide.” The CSB says, “He will not always accuse us.” I think that’s a bit more clear. But take a second and think about what this line means.

God will not always accuse us. Think about what this implies. If I say, “I won’t always love ice cream,” that implies I love ice cream right now. This means at some point God accused us! God accuses anyone who does wrong–and we all do wrong. We all stand accused by God based on what we have done toward God and toward others.

Accusation is coupled with anger. The being who created the heavens and the earth, who threw angels down from heaven, who covered the world with waters, who spoke light into being sits on the throne of heaven with anger towards us. Why? Because we lie. We cheat. We steal. We hate. We lust. We rebel against the source of life itself, God Almighty.

These wrongs are called sin or iniquities. And when we sin, because God is not apathetic toward our wrongs, but is merciful and just, we stand accused by God.

But the gulf between heaven and earth collapsed in the God-man called Jesus. And Jesus stood in our place of being accused. By dying on the cross, Jesus took God’s accusation toward us upon himself. Since Jesus was fully man and fully God, he could take on this accusation. Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death we deserved, and then rose from the dead to prove he was God. He proved the accusation could no longer be made for those who are “in Christ.” That merely means whoever believes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, for those who believe in Jesus, things are different. God’s huge love can cherish us. God’s expansive love can reveal itself to us more clearly and completely. Because Jesus took on God’s accusation toward us, we no longer stand accused. We stand in the presence of God without being destroyed by God’s holy perfection. We boldly stand in the presence of God.

We can stand in God’s love because of God’s love.

God removes our sins from our record book and puts them in the grave. They are removed as far as the East is from the West. They are ineffably far away from us.

Sin was once close to us when we were far from God.

Now God came close to us in a manger. God came close to us as a man. God came close to us as a fellow sufferer in death when Jesus died on the cross.

God came close to us and now sin is far away.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Bless the Lord.

– Matthew Welborn

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

 

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

Every day is a chance for me to sing the praises of my King. Every morning is a gift of His grace poured out on my life.

Yesterday I came across Psalm 30 in my time with the Lord and my oh my it stirred my affections for Jesus and made my heart burst with joy. The Psalms tend to do this for me. They remind me that the experiences I face day to day are not unique or isolating, but rather they are just part of being a human being. The emotions the Psalmist unpacks give me the freeing reminder that I too can be bold when I approach the throne. Why? Because of Christ.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. – Psalm 30:1

Right out of the gate I was driven to my knees. I meditated and thought long and hard about the ways that God has rescued me. The ways  He has lifted me up out of harm’s way, out of the crosshairs of my foes. Worry, jealousy, anxiety, anger, pride, defeatism. These things assault me. These things want to rejoice in their victory over me. Yet the Lord draws me up and out of the way.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Healing is found in Christ and Christ alone. He alone is the soothing medicine that my aching and broken heart needs. Just look at this wondrous truth! God heals us! He heals me! I have cried out to Him in pain and He has reached down and lifted me out, He has healed me. What a wondrous Psalm.

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. – Psalm 30:3

Relatable much?

Have you ever felt like you’re in hell? That the junk you’re walking through is beyond words, is more painful than you could have ever imagined having to face? Now I’m not incredibly well-versed in the theology of the Psalms, but in my opinion what David is describing is not the reality of us all headed toward hell outside of Christ. Rather I think this is evocative imagery, much like David will earlier say that God has forsaken him completely (Psalm 22:1).

So if you’re going through a whole lot of garbage in your life right now, rejoice that we serve and worship a God who draws us out.

By the way, rejoicing doesn’t mean immediate gratitude for horrible circumstances. Job wrestled with so much suffering before he came to a deeper intimacy with God. If you have a friend who is walking through hellish circumstances, don’t be an idiot like Job’s friends and try and find a blame for what’s happening. Listen, learn, and love.

These first three verses describe the ebb and flow of life; they emphasize and illuminate our seasons of life where God is pulling us up and out.

I am not going to cover this entire Psalm in this post, I do however want to emphasize the way that we should respond to these verses.. We realize how we should respond by looking at verses five, nine, and twelve.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:9

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! – Psalm 30:12

How do we respond when God pulls us out and up?

We find joy in that truth! Joy comes in the morning. Every day is a reminder of what God has done. Every day when I get out of bed is a reminder of what else God has pulled me up from.

We tell of His faithfulness. David pleads with the Lord not to allow him to go down to death, because if he is but dust then he can’t praise the Lord. He knows that he is called to tell of the Lord’s faithfulness. So every day that we are living should be a day where we praise the Lord and tell others of all that He has done for us and in us.

We cannot be silent! God deserves our thanks forever. Again, every single day that we exist upon earth is a day to be loud about all that God has done. God has been faithful to us, over and over.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3-5

How will all the peoples and nations of the earth praise our Risen Savior, our good and great God, if we don’t first tell them of how this God has been faithful to us?

Speak out.

Speak up.

Our social media feeds and our daily conversations need an influx of proclamations of God’s faithfulness. In a world of hatred, vitriol, and division, we can be an encouragement to those in our lives who need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

If you still feel like you’re in a pit. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping that God will begin to pull you out. His grace is always stronger than our suffering.

For those of you who are in a season where you’re out of the pit, rejoice.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Grace Isn’t For Me

Yesterday, I forgot the gospel.

The day before, I forgot the gospel.

Tuesday, I forgot the gospel.

Now, I obviously don’t have a memory loss problem. (I mean not that I know of.) What I do have is a heart that is fleshly, a heart that is sinful, a heart that is forgetful.

As a pastor, I preach and teach the good news of Jesus multiple times a week. I do so in large groups, I do so in small groups, I do so one on one. Constantly the message of the gospel is being spoken by me. I hope and pray and hope some more that it is bearing fruit in the hearts of those I proclaim it to.

What has become frustrating to me though is the fact that I could speak all day about the gospel and believe that it applies to others, but in my heart and mindset at home, I don’t allow it to be applied to me.

Here’s a clear example of what I mean. I distinctly remember one day in May 2016, not long after I graduated, when my inability to accept the gospel was probably the most stark. It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting with my church community as we partook of the Lord’s Supper together.  

I remember it clear as day. We were passing out the elements, and as I sat there, I told myself “grace doesn’t apply to you.”

The Lord’s Supper, in my church tradition, is simply a pointing back to the work of Christ on the cross. We don’t receive grace when we take it each time, rather it is a reminder of the total and complete grace we received by putting our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

My heart and mind refused to allow me to rest in grace.

Even though I took the bread and the cup, my mind kept saying, “You can’t accept this grace. You’re a pastor who sins. You’re garbage. This grace isn’t for you. You are supposed to lead people but you yourself are trash.” This went through my head on repeat.

This was only a few weeks after being ordained to be a pastor. To me, the fact that people saw God’s call on my life to be a pastor and my own inability to overcome all sinful desires in my heart didn’t compute. I was a fraud.

On that immensely painful day, I had forgotten the message of the gospel.

I wish I could say that was the last time I forgot the message of the gospel. To be transparent, that’s one of the harder parts of my job as a pastor. I absolutely know and believe that Scripture says I’m held to a higher standard. But way too often I hold myself to a higher standard than the message of the gospel. I refuse to accept grace and walk in forgiveness. Instead, I try and punish myself emotionally and mentally in penance.

Maybe, you’re like me.

Maybe, you doubt grace.

Maybe, your sin seems greater than God’s love for you.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7

That’s the message of the gospel. God is rich in mercy. He loves us. He loved us. Even when we were dead as a result of our sins against Him. He made us alive with Christ, He saved us BY GRACE. Now we are seated with Him in glory (even if we’ve still got work to do here on earth). This is the gospel.

What we modern Christians forget sometimes is that Paul wrote Ephesians to followers of Jesus. This book (like many if not all of Paul’s letters) was not an evangelistic piece. Rather, it was a letter written to those who were already following Jesus. Yet, Paul reminds the people of the message of the gospel. Why?

Because we’re all prone to forget what the gospel tells us about ourselves. We all forget how we’re viewed by God. We all forget that we’ve already been made perfect in the eyes of God. Just look at the books of Galatians and Hebrews. These were people who were forgetting that they were perfect in God’s eyes, and so they fell back into legalistic and religious tendencies in order to give themselves assurance of their salvation.

Brothers and sisters, the gospel is not something you move on from. The gospel is the beauty of the Biblical story, it is the message of our freedom.

I’ll be honest, I still forget what the gospel says about me. I still allow myself to be defined by my sins and shortcomings. That’s why I need to remind myself of the gospel every single day. That’s why I need people in my life reminding myself of the gospel every single day.

But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. – Hebrews 3:13

We fall into sin, we fall into the lies of the enemy when we are not being encouraged by one another daily. The individualism of our day and age in churches drives me insane. How arrogant of us to think we can do it alone.

I need to preach the gospel to myself every single day.

I need you to remind me of it too.

If you see in me a falling back towards earning the grace of God, call me lovingly into repentance and back under the never-ending, unceasing grace and mercy of God.

Preaching the gospel to yourself daily means saturating your heart and mind in the truths of the good news of Jesus found in Scripture.

In His Name,

Nate Roach