Pass The Baton

As Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were passionate about the things of God, carried their copy of the Torah everywhere, and they were fully committed to the weekly synagogue meetings for nearly a decade now. Jesus saw them as worthy of His investment so He said to them “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” – Mark 1:16-17

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew with his copy of the Torah in tow. Matthew had new ideas and new vision, born out of his desire to grow the people of God. Jesus knew these ideas were against His preferences, and desiring to cling tightly to His leadership and authority in His Father’s kingdom, neglected to call Matthew to follow Him. – Matthew 9:9

If you know the Bible, you know that what you just read is not the actual verses.

That being said, I think our modern church reads them that way.

Discipleship, the raising up of new followers of Jesus, new leaders in the church, doesn’t happen often.

Here’s why it doesn’t happen often, at least in my sphere of ministry.

I wait for them to be ‘worthy’ of my discipleship, of my investment.

God have mercy on me for the number of times I have thought to myself, ‘yeah, they’re not ready (according to my standard). They’re not committed enough (to my preferences). They’re not faithful enough (to my preferences).

I have gone so far at times to not invest in younger men because I simply don’t want to pass the baton of my ministry to them. I want to stay in charge. It’s my ministry.

God have mercy on me when I do that. 

Thankfully, in my life, I have seen discipleship modeled. Over and over. 

At Olive Garden in 2010, Zack Randles (my youth pastor at the time) was having lunch with my family. He asked if he could disciple me. Weekly. One on one. There was nothing in me that was ‘worthy’ of that. He came to me. He called me. He didn’t wait for me to come and ask him. 

He changed my life as a result. 

At OBU in 2013, I was stirring the pot on campus. OBU was a small school, and I was a very loud and boisterous personality (surprise). I was vocal, very vocal, about the things that needed to change in the ministries on campus. Odus Compton, the Campus minister, came to me and sat down with me one on one. He lovingly confronted me in my methods, but supported me in my leadership. And over the course of the next four years he invested in me, passed the baton to me, and equipped me to lead. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. And he was right there by my side, guiding me, encouraging me, calling me out. 

With their leadership in mind, I was able to pass the baton to three younger men on campus. 

Because you know what? 

I graduated. 

The men’s ministry I was the leader of continued without me. 

Church, to be blunt, every one of us is going to ‘graduate’ this life. 

Who will carry on the ministry of the church when we’re gone? 

When I was in Phoenix in 2016, I attended a Christian Challenge event on the campus of GCC. There was a man there named Joshua Tompkins. He immediately reached out to me and became my mentor for the rest of the time I was in Phoenix. He allowed me to help him lead the CC club at GCC. I messed up and made mistakes. Again. Again. Again. Yet he continued to walk with me. 

Discipleship is scary. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward at first. But it’s oh so beautiful. 

Who are you raising up?

Who are you teaching?

Who are you inviting in? 

If you are a leader in an area of the church you attend, who are you giving ownership of that area to? Are you clinging to it? Or are you sharing it? 

Who are you passing the baton to? 

I will likely never take a youth pastor job again. I feel the Lord guiding me towards other things. Senior pastor. Teaching pastor. Discipleship pastor. Church planter. But probably not student ministry. 

That being said, one day I am going to leave this church I serve. When that happens, one of two things could take place. 

The youth group could utterly fall apart, back to square one, only to be built back up by the next youth pastor that comes in. That will happen if I don’t disciple and raise up leaders. 

That leads into the second possibility. I could leave, having already given ownership of the youth group to other leaders, adults and students alike. That way, the youth group continues to thrive. 

My desperate prayer and plea is that when I leave, the second possibility happens. But that will not happen if I wait to pass the baton until it’s my time to leave. That will not happen if  I don’t disciple students one on one in the Word of God. That will not happen if I don’t allow students and volunteers to make mistakes, just as I make many myself. 

If you’re reading this and there is not a younger man or woman in your life that you are meeting with weekly for the dual purpose of going through God’s Word and passing the ownership of leadership in the local church that you attend, I plead with you to prioritize this in your life. 

Without discipleship, our churches will close their doors. 

Without passing the baton, the next generation will not be reached with the good news of our Risen Savior. 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach 

 

 

 

Your Body Is A Temple

Your body is a temple.

This phrase, which is true according to Scripture, is most often associated with working out or going on a diet. So, if you’re into Whole 30, Crossfit, running half-marathons, or the paleo diet, you’ve probably justified doing said thing via truths like this. Your body is a temple that should be cared for.

Now, let me say right off the bat, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that at all!

I personally ‘enjoy’ running, lifting small weights, and doing sit-ups. My body is a gift of God (as is yours, as is all of life) that should be cared for (just don’t ask me to eat any of those nasty vegetables).

That being said, the truth from Scripture that my body is a temple of the living God speaks to far, far more than just my exercise and diet routine.

My body is a temple.

As a follower of Jesus, your body is a temple.

This means that the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, resides in us.

Read that last sentence again, I don’t think you got it.

How amazing is that.

Let’s rewind thousands of years to a moment that is unpacked for us in 2 Chronicles chapter seven.

Solomon, the son of David, is building a temple for the presence of God to reside in for the sake of the people of God. Remember, the presence of God lead the people through the wilderness while manifested as a pillar of smoke and a pillar of fire. Remember, when Moses encountered the presence of God, his face shone like a flashlight and freaked everyone out.

In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon and the people of God are dedicating this elaborate, glorious temple that they have built for the Lord. Then, this passage happens:

When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the Lord because the glorious presence of the Lord filled it. When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” – 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

So, once Solomon prays, the presence of God comes flying down and fills the temple. This manifested presence of God is so glorious, the priests could not even enter. When the people encountered this presence of God, they fell face down in awe and wonder and lifted up praises to the faithful, loving, and good God.

I read this yesterday and was in awe myself.

How terrifying and awe-inspiring would it have been to be there to see that?

Now, sin has obviously marred our ability to fully experience the presence of God in our own lives each day.

But that presence still resides with us, in us.

If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is a temple for the Living God.

Now, don’t you think then that this truth impacts way, way more of my life than just my choices when it comes to exercising and eating? I surely think so.

In one New Testament passage that talks about our bodies being temples, we are told to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6). It would seem then, that there truly is more to this than we think.

Here are some implications.

Purity

If our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, we should strive to be pure (not only in our actions, but in our hearts and minds as well). We will all fall short in this. That being said, it should drive our decisions when it comes to the conversations we have, what we fill our eyes and minds with, what seeps into our hearts and affects them. Maybe I am the weakest of believers, but what I allow to get into my heart always comes out in thoughts, words, and deeds. As a temple for the Lord, purity should be our priority. Do you give more thought to your body, or to your heart?

I see innumerable posts from people who are seeking to inspire others in regards to their health choices. This clearly is important to many.

Where is the value on purity of heart, mind, and eyes? It seems to be missing. As temples of the Living God, it shouldn’t be.

Power

In Romans 8, we are told that the Holy Spirit is what brought Jesus from death to life, and we are reminded afresh that the Holy Spirit resides in us.

Now, let me be clear, sanctification is a long process. I state this all the time on this blog. I want to remind all of us that becoming like Jesus is a lifelong battle. You can’t snap your fingers and become like Jesus immediately. Don’t believe anyone who tells you you can.

That being said, the Holy Spirit more or less removes any excuse we have to willfully sin.

If you are a follower of Jesus, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us.

Think about your battles with pride, greed, gossip, lust, anger, envy, selfishness, addiction.

Are those more powerful than death?

No, they’re not, even in the moments when they feel impossible to overcome.

If the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from death to life, then the Holy Spirit is more than capable to help you fight.

Stop willing yourself to avoid temptation.

Pray. When you are tempted, remember that you are a temple of the Living God. When you are tempted to sin, remember that the Holy Spirit is within you. Rely on Him for the strength to fight. Stop trying to do it alone.

I’ll say it one more time to close. Being a temple of God is not primarily about exercising or eating. It’s about purity and power.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

Warped And Sinful Words

When it comes to sin in the minds of modern Christians, sins of aggression (hate, malice, murder) and sex (lust, adultery, sexual assault) are the ones that we tend to see with the biggest amount of physical and earthly consequences, especially in the church.

We all have heard and read the stories of pastors who have fallen into egregious sexual sin and have been removed from their flock as a result. We have heard stories of men in pastoral roles who led with hatred and malice in their hearts, becoming dictators who trampled on their staff and congregations.

I am not inclined to disagree with this sentiment.

That being said, I want to put another sin in the ring.

There are few sins that are as detrimental to the life of a church than the sin of divisiveness.

There are few sins that are as prevalent in the life of our churches than divisiveness.

Gossip, slander, drama. They are too often saturating the life of the local church. Phone calls, texts, private conversations. All full of disagreements that instead of being addressed in a healthy way are spread through the grapevine. All of these conversations destroy the health of a church.

Look with me at a couple verses out of Titus 3.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11

Earlier this week I came across this passage in my devotional time with the Lord and it has stuck with me since. That is heavy stuff, a heavy indictment against this specific sin. These verses come on the heels of a passage in Titus 3 that is all about how as followers of Christ we have been saved by God to do good works and to live lives that are worthy of God.

In verse 8 we read, I want you to stress these things (the gospel message), so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

As those who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, we are saved to do good. What’s the antithesis of that in this passage? Foolish controversies and quarrels (v. 9), and divisiveness.

The book of Titus is such a good book to study as it speaks into the life of a church, and how it is supposed to function. Titus chapter one is mainly about the qualifications of a pastor or elder. Titus chapter two has a lot to say about intergenerational discipleship. Then it concludes with this chapter about good deeds and the dangers of divisiveness. My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would take the format of this book to heart. There is much more to it than this, but here’s a simplistic takeaway:

Titus 1 – If you have appointed or hired pastors or elders in your church. Trust them. Pray for them. Support them. They have not been placed in your church to be used, abused, or be treated like puppets. God has placed them in your midst to shepherd the church.

Titus 2 – Disciple, disciple, disciple. Some churches do this well, others not so much. But the call is clear. The older men are to disciple the younger men in the church, while being willing to learn from the younger men. The older women are to disciple the younger women in the church, while also being willing to learn from the younger women.

Titus 3 – Don’t be divisive. You have been saved for good works. You have been saved to evangelize, disciple, and support the leadership of your local church. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that your pastoral staff does. This does mean that you should talk to them about it rather than engage in gossip or slander.

It pains me to acknowledge that this sin of divisiveness has been present in my life to an extreme degree in my past. Instead of seeking counsel, speaking to my pastoral leaders, or supporting them in their actions, I instead gossiped, slandered, and honestly caused division.

Please do not make the same mistake. Look with me again at how Paul responds to this type of behavior in followers of Christ. We are to warn those who are being divisive. We are to call them out privately for living in a way that is not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture then goes on to use some severe terminology about them. They are warped, sinful, and self-condemned.

That’s harsh but true. It was in my life. I was warped in my beliefs. Church was about me. Pastors were a commodity for me to use, not a shepherd to trust. I was sinful. The fact of the matter is that Christians are called to be unified in the church. Shame on us when we’re not. Lastly, divisive people and gossips are ultimately just condemning themselves each time they talk. Scripture makes clear that every word we speak we will have to give an account for (Matthew 12:36).

I pray that I would avoid the sin of divisiveness.

I pray that you would too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Malnourished

Fast_food_meal.jpgI’m not the most healthy or disciplined guy. Those who know me are not surprised by that statement. My fiancé Jamie (that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that. So cool.) has been encouraging me to do better in that department. The girl has this well-oiled evening routine every night as she gets ready for bed. I just watch TV or read until I can’t stay awake and just conk out. I do run from time to time, and I’m making progress (albeit very slow) towards eating better than I used to. Jamie encourages me to cook my own meals instead of purchasing fast food or something like that.

When I’ve followed her advice, I have felt so much better. There’s something about cooking your own meal and going for a run that relieves stress and makes you feel better about your life. There’s something far more restful about going to sleep devoid of screens and distractions, instead thinking about the Lord and what He has been doing.

There is benefit to discipline. There is usefulness to exercise, eating healthy, a bedtime routine, and periods of screen-less time. But there is a type of discipline that is even greater, a type of discipline that yields even greater rewards. Look with me at a passage from 1 Timothy.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:8-10

Rewind to my time at OBU, and this is a topic I taught on at OBU’s Men’s Ministry. Now, I definitely did teach it with my heart in the right place, but there was an aspect of me that felt like I had it made in this department of my life already. I took this passage to the extreme and felt that as long as I was studying the Bible and learning more about His Word, then I was a disciplined man. I was wrong on two accounts.

First, Paul tells Timothy that physical training does indeed have value. I knew I needed to eat better and exercise more, but I traded those things in for Bible study and the like. I neglected physical discipline. I neglected fighting the sin of slothfulness. I neglected fighting the sins of gluttony and laziness. I’m not saying that not exercising or not eating healthy is explicitly sinful. Rather, I’m saying that for me those were a neglect of God’s gift of my life and health.

The second way I was wrong about my state of self-discipline is in the fact that my spiritual health was focused on one thing: the study of Scripture. To this day my favorite thing to do is to study God’s Word via commentaries, books on theology, Bible studies, or podcasts. That being said however, I have noticed recently how unhealthy my spiritual life has become due to that fact. Now I’m not a big weightlifter, but if you work just one type of muscle every single day you’re in the gym, neglecting the other muscle types, you’re going to likely be a bit unhealthy. And you’ll likely look really weird too.

The same goes for me in my walk with God. I’m prone to dive into studying Scripture, but if I’m not worshipping, praying, fasting, communing with others, or serving, I’m going to be one unhealthy Christian. My mind will be full of great truth, Biblical knowledge, deep understanding of Scripture, but I won’t know how to commune with God or others. That’s deeply problematic. I need every discipline to have a healthy spiritual life, a healthy walk with God, and a healthy walk with my church community.

I was wrong back then about my discipline.

I am not naive to my areas of spiritual malnourishment in the present day either.

I want to focus on one more aspect of this passage.

Paul describes this process with the language of laboring and striving. It takes effort. It takes dedication. This is true of any discipline. That’s why I’ve never actually made it to a half-marathon. At least once a year I fall short in this goal and this desire because I’m just simply not dedicated enough to keep getting up in the morning to run before work. It takes more effort to make food at home then to pick up some Chick-Fil-A. It takes more effort to follow an evening routing and put up our phones rather than just watch TV till our eyes born.

Effort. Laboring. Striving.

The same is true of our spiritual discipline. Here’s where it gets super cool to me though. Paul says that we labor and strive because we have put our hope in the Savior of our souls.

For me, partaking in spiritual disciplines reminds me that I don’t have the strength to do that very thing without the grace of God at work in my life. Every time I spend time studying God’s Word, or in prayer, or in church community, or in rest, I am reminded of God’s grace and I give thanks that God would lead me closer to Himself. The only way I’m able to labor and strive after Jesus is because Jesus has given me the grace to labor and strive.

I’ll close with this great quote by Richard Foster.

A spiritual discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own. 

It takes effort to be healthy, active, and properly nourished physically.

It takes effort to chase after Christ through the practice of spiritual disciplines. But it is worth it.

What are some of the reasons you grow undisciplined spiritually?

What spiritual discipline do you need to focus more on this week, and what can you do practically to grow in it?

Labor and strive, secure in the hope of Jesus.

If you enjoyed this blog, please give it a share on Facebook or Twitter. I also appreciate any and all feedback you can send my way. I’m always seeking to grow my writing abilities.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach.

 

Live Long And Prosper

We live in a broken world. The effects of sin wreak havoc upon every facet of the cosmos, including our bodies. This is not to say that we are without hope. For the cross of Christ gives us the hope to carry on. Yet we still have to face the fallenness of our world, often in the ways of physical imperfection, from chronic illnesses to common colds.prosper

How are we to deal with these realities? How are we to pray for our loved ones, our family and our friends? Do we pray for healing? Do we assume sickness is punishment?

Many questions abound in my mind about health. Many answers are found in Scripture.

Look with me at the small book of 3rd John, and specifically John’s greeting and prayer for his dear friend Gaius.

Dear friend I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually. – 3 John 2

These types of wishes for good health were not at all uncommon openings to ancient Greek letters in the time of John. John goes beyond just the standard wish though, proclaiming that not only does he care for Gaius’ soul (spiritual health), he also prays for his physical health with the understanding that our bodies are held in the sovereign hands of the Lord.

Some believe that Gaius was in poor health when John wrote him this letter. Regardless of whether or not this is true, John loved him like a brother and thus desired to see Gaius in good physical health. This prayer for good health was way more valued in their time as medical care in that day and age was often ineffective leading to diminished life expectancy.

I chuckled to myself when I realized that John was essentially saying ‘live long and prosper’ to his buddy Gaius. Now, I’ll admit, I’m not much of a Star Trek fan but I do know enough to humorously recognize how Biblical of a greeting that classic line is.

Back to the subject at hand.

I would attest given this verse, and others like it, that it is normal and encouraged to pray for the good health of those we love and care about.

Just take a glance at Jesus’ earthly ministry and you can see countless examples of Him healing the sick and in need. Our God is a Healer. He is able to save. He is mighty to save. It is Biblical and right to pray for not only good health personally, but good health for friends and family.

So what about when we pray fervently for our health to change, or for the chronic illness of a friend, and God elects not to bring physical healing?

We must hold tight to the fact that God is good, God is great, and what He does is right.

This is difficult. This is immensely difficult. We in our broken nature and limited scope do not often think about the big picture.

I woke up this morning, not with a grand view of eternity in mind, but with March 2nd, 2017 in mind. I woke up thinking about what I’d like to accomplish today, and what I need to accomplish today. With such a minute view of my world, I can see sickness in the life of a friend as a travesty and a terrible blight. Yet in the grand scope of eternity, God uses every aspect of our lives for our good and His glory.

There is not a direct correlation between sickness and personal sin. Waking up with a cold one morning is not because you didn’t pray enough that week. No, in fact, sickness and poor health can bring us closer to the Father, and into a greater understanding of His Word. Take for example these two verses from the longest Psalm.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 119:67

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

When I reflect on my life, it’s easier for me to stray from God’s Word and from learning His ways when everything is peachy-keen in my world. When darkness comes creeping in from the edges or close to home, I am reminded of eternity. I am reminded of what matters. I am reminded of God’s precious Word and His ways. In a sense, these times of sickness in our lives can be for our good. The Psalmist here says it was good for him to be afflicted because it produced in him a greater attentiveness to learning the statutes of God.

Please do not read into what I’m saying. Please do not see me saying that our sicknesses are simply to draw us back in from going astray. I know countless men and women who this day are struggling with real difficult things despite amazing faith and faithfulness to the Lord throughout their lives. What I am saying, or what God’s Word is proclaiming, is that God uses every aspect of our lives to draw us closer to Him. In some cases, this means going through physical health issues for His glory.

God is good. God is great. What He does is right.

If you or a loved one is walking through sickness right now, I don’t have the perfect words to say to you. I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with praying for healing. Our God is a Healer. As you walk through this difficult journey, don’t walk through it alone. Walk in community. You may not understand why things happened the way they did this side of eternity. But hold tight to the fact that God is good, great, and He always does what is right.

My prayer is that my friends and family would live long and prosper.

I pray you do to.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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