The “New” Normal

When I was at OBU, I never sat in a lecture entitled How To Pastor During A Pandemic.

There were no nuggets of wisdom or examples shared with how to guide and lead a church or a ministry in the midst of all these things.

If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t found in the table of contents in your Bible a book on how to make much of Jesus during a pandemic either.

We, humans with finite knowledge and wisdom, are in uncharted territory.

The last nine or ten months have been hard vocationally. Decisions have been made that people don’t like. Striving to help students and adults make much of Jesus in a way that is safe for our community has been an ongoing task.

Throughout the seeming chaos, the Lord has been teaching me truth after truth. What I want to share this afternoon is not political, it is not a list of different conspiracy theories. It is my desire not to be flippant either, as I know people who have been through great despair and grief as a result of this year’s events. My prayer is that this would be a source of peace that drives you to Scripture and prayer.

Here’s my point. A phrase that I have heard a thousand times this year is “this is the new normal”. I bristled against that. I didn’t want that to be so. I fought against that in my heart. I’ve grumbled and given my opinions and been anything but gentle. As I’ve looked at the history of the church and more importantly Scripture, I’ve been struck with the reality that what we’re going through right now truly is normal, and it’s nothing new.

Pandemics and political upheaval are nothing new. They may be new to us, but they’re not new.

Much like I did when I wrote about the election, I want to ramble through my thoughts about this year in bullet point format:

  • God is not surprised by what is taking place. This should be a source of great security and peace in the life of a Christian.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of kingdoms rising and falling, political intrigue and drama. We must not be shaken by the events of human kingdoms and powers. We must strive to pray for our leaders and serve our neighbors.
  • The Biblical narrative is full of pestilence and disease, moments when the people of God faced great trials in the form of sickness.
  • Our nation is built upon the idea of individual freedom. This is not inherently sinful, but it is prone to be. The Bible does not teach individualism. It teaches submission and community. It doesn’t teach freedom to do whatever I want to do, but rather freedom to lovingly, by God’s grace, submit to leaders at every level of life knowing they are put in place by a sovereign Father. Go read Romans 13.
  • The vitriol, hatred, and conflict we are seeing is the result of our individualism being brought in check. We want to call the shots in our own lives. We want to do what we think is best. How Christlike, how Kingdom-expanding, how beautiful it would be if we were to start making decisions in line with what others think is best. If this rubs me the wrong way, I’ve allowed life to be all about me.
  • When the government asks us to do something, we should submit. In matters of personal preference, we should be charitable and understanding. Colossians 3 says that we are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Are our conversations about these matters of personal preference characterized by such fruits of God’s work in our lives?
  • What are you filling your mind with? I’m 100% prone to seek darkness. Give me the bad news. I want it. This is a matter of what we cherish. I’ve been reminded by the Lord to look for light. May we be brothers and sisters in Christ who are informed, but not obsessively preoccupied with the latest Covid news.
  • What we are experiencing, many of us, is the reality of our frailty, our coming death. We won’t live forever. We should live in light of this fact. Every day when we wake up, our prayer should be that God uses us to extend the Kingdom of God, that we would live out Romans 15:2, striving to encourage and build up those around us. Every single day is a gift of God’s sustaining grace at work in our lives (Psalm 4).
  • Community is important. Loneliness is real, it’s present, it’s a pandemic of its own in our communities. May we seek to love well those who have had to be isolated for the majority of this year. May we as the church be a conduit of God’s love to those in need.
  • Share Christ. Seriously. If all we share on our social media profiles and in our conversations is our election hot take, our conspiracy theory, our opinions on masks, our anger and outrage over such and such decision or result, we are acting like this country is our home. It’s not. We are refugees. Foreigners. Passing through. Yes, be aware and sensitive to the hurt that is being experienced. But if all we do is add to the noise, we are failing to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on our communities.
  • Pray, pray, pray. There are people I know that are exhausted. Hospital workers. Teachers. Administrators. Parents. Neighbors. Friends. Family members. Prayer is powerful and this year should drive us to our knees.
  • Lastly, please be patient with us pastors. We strive to make much of Jesus and to love His people well. We are trying to make decisions that boost the physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and relational health of our people. Very rarely will you 100% agree, but I ask that you pray for us.

That was an ol’ rambling mess, but it was my thoughts about this year. Whatever 2021 may hold, may we remember that Jesus is on the throne. In the span of history, this is normal, and this isn’t new. May we rest in the unchanging God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

My Prayer For The President

My heart is heavy this morning. I am a bit anxious about tomorrow, but not for the reason you might think. I’m anxious not about the outcome but rather about the witness of the church in 2020.

My heart hurts because I am a Family Discipleship Pastor tasked with reaching the next generation for Christ. Yet they are leaving the church in droves. LifeWay did a survey and 25% of the people they polled who had stopped attending church regularly said it was due to politics that they left (http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Young-Adult-Church-Dropout-Report-2017.pdf).

TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT.

And yet, we’re still doing it. We still are saying “True Christians would vote for ________”. We still break the second commandment by ascribing to God what He has not said in His word. As we break the second commandment day after day, conversation after conversation, Facebook post after Facebook post, the younger generations are leaving the church.

God help us.

Please. Stop reading right now and think. Think about the words you have spoken. My prayer, my desperate prayer, is that nothing I say drives anyone away from the church. Yet if I am breaking the second commandment and saying Christians can only vote Republican or Christians can only vote Democrat, there are statistics that show people are leaving the church over that.

Can you imagine?

People are missing the opportunity to hear about their Lord and Savior because of our political beliefs.

God have mercy. Forgive us.

With a grieving heart, I want to ramble a little bit about my beliefs regarding this election. This will come in bullet point form. After getting that all out in the open, I will then share a prayer from church history that I will be praying for our president, whether it be Trump or Biden.

  • I have Christ-honoring friends who are voting Republican, voting Democrat, and exercising their right not to vote. No one view is fully in line with Scripture. There should be nuance here, there should be grieving here. No political party is perfectly in line with Scripture.
  • Every word we speak should be to lift others up. It saddens me to see men and women who have been Christians for one year or fifty years calling the other side ‘idiots, morons, foolish, dumb,’ and things a lot worse than that. Jesus doesn’t cheer us on when we bash others (Ephesians 4:29-32). Even those policies you deem as evil or wicked are not the result of the man but of the spiritual warfare at work in the world (Ephesians 6). At the end of the day, look at your life. Look at all that God has forgiven you of. He didn’t condemn you. Don’t condemn others. Pray for them.
  • I have been taking church history in seminary this semester. When you study the 2,000 year history of the church, you see it thrive when it is under persecution. You see it dwindle and die, get corrupt and power-hungry, when it is the center of society. That’s why I’m not nervous about the results of the election. If the church keeps getting pushed out of the center of society, praise God. For it is there that we grow.
  • When we try and find our hope and peace in the outcome of an election, we forget the words of Jesus Himself. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36. This is not our home. I believe that we are seeing the idol of the American Dream fall, and it has us shaken. Yet when we remember that we are vapor, mist, dirt, and that we are temporary dwellers on earth, we have no reason to fear an election.
  • Our country is not loved more by God than other nations. The church in America is not loved by God more than the church in other nations. To think so is to forget his sovereignty over the whole world. To think so is for me to be arrogant. Let us be men and women who read the prophetic warnings against the church in the Prophets. Read them and repent.
  • God resides over every king and every kingdom. Nothing takes place that He did not plan for our good and His glory.
  • I am grieving at the loss of discipleship in our churches. You want to see change take place? You can’t legislate salvation. You can’t legislate sanctification. You must disciple. The commission of Matthew 28 is not ‘go and vote’. It’s ‘go and make disciples’. Yes, exercise our blessed right to vote. But don’t think that’s your primary Christian duty. Your primary Christian duty is to make disciples. When did you last meet with a younger brother or sister in Christ? When did you invest in someone spiritually? I see posts all over the place of ‘I voted’. Where are the posts about discipleship? Where is the passion to do that?
  • Again, vote if that is your conscience. Countless men and women have given their lives so that we can. Countless of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other nations don’t have such a right. But also realize that prayer is more powerful. In Daniel 10, an angel responds to the words of Daniel, and nations are changed as a result. We have that same power. We need the Spirit to move more than we need our guy in the White House.
  • We are called by God to submit to the president, even if it’s not the one we voted for. This is apparent in 1 Peter 2:13. We are also to remember that 1 Peter says (as does countless other passages from Genesis to Revelation) that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME (foreigners and exiles, v. 11). May we not expend all of our energy building a kingdom that will one day be a footnote in history. May we expend our energy bringing the Kingdom of God to earth (Matthew 6:10).
  • No matter the outcome, be kind. Be gracious. Be gentle. And please, please be humble. To celebrate your win is to forget your fellow image-bearers. No one should be excited this week. We should grieve the disunity, grieve the unkind words being spoken. Even in victory, speak words that honor Jesus, because you will give an account for what you say.
  • No matter the outcome, pray. Pray for Biden. Pray for Trump. Pray.

I urge you, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

I could preach on that for a while. We are called to live peaceful and quiet lives as Christians. Quiet lives. Not boisterous and loud lives of social media political drivel. Quiet lives of godliness and holiness. How do we go about doing that? By praying WITH THANKSGIVING FOR ALL PEOPLE.

Realize that Nero is emperor at this time. Nero, according to church history, is responsible for the death of Paul who writes this. Paul prayed for a man who eventually killed him. That’s the Kingdom of God on display.

That means, if Biden wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

That means, if Trump wins, you pray for him every morning, giving thanks to God for him.

Don’t you see that to be a Christian is to be distinctly different from the world?

For me, you won’t know how I vote.

For me, my prayer is that you see me living a quiet life and peaceful life, one of godliness and holiness, not one of arrogant celebration or condescending condemnation.

No matter the outcome, honor Christ.

No matter the outcome, make much of Jesus.

For if you cling to political power as your primary hope, you forsake the Scriptures. Acts 4:12 says that salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. John 10:10 says that life is found in Jesus.

You know who will be on the throne Wednesday? Jesus.

You know who won’t be surprised Wednesday? Jesus.

You know that if you don’t win, Jesus isn’t punishing our country. He’s using the election for His glory and our GOOD.

Lastly, finally, after much rambling, my prayer.

This prayer is not my own, but was prayed by Pope Clement, an early church father, prayed for the governmental authorities in Corinth.

Grant to them Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor in you.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

May we not drive people away from their Savior based on an election.

May we make much of Jesus.

For His Glory,

Nate Roach

The Long Road Of Repentance

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.

That’s the little ditty that you’ve heard if you have a background in church, particularly VBS or Sunday School. I grew up singing that song or at least hearing it often. This weekend, I was led to give it a lot more thought than I typically do.

You see, growing up, my knowledge of Zacchaeus was that he was a man who abruptly changed his life in response to the welcoming and receptive love of Jesus. If anything he was the epitome of rapid repentance, of going from being a tax collector who stole to a man who wanted to restore funds to all the people who he stole from. You can read all about his story in Luke 19.

But if I’m being honest, I don’t see that type of repentance happening very often in the ministries I’m a part of. I don’t see 180 degree turns from vice to virtue. Now, obviously, when it comes to salvation itself, we know that that truly is an instantaneous change from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.

I’m thinking more along the lines of habits being changed from sinful to sanctified. Gossips and slanderers becoming kind and encouraging. Cheaters and liars becoming men and women of integrity. The sexually immoral changing their ways.

I don’t see those in a moment changes.

I don’t see those changes in me. Oh how I wish I could be sanctified in certain areas of my life with the snap of my fingers. It would certainly be a lot easier that way.

But life with Christ is generally not like that.

It’s a journey.

A process.

So let me propose (my words, but the ideas of Marlena Graves in her book The Way Up Is Down) another angle to the Zacchaeus story. This angle is just an interpretation. It is by no means the right one. Just something to consider.

What if the process of repentance with Zacchaeus was a lot longer than we think?

You see, in the Gospel of Luke’s account of the teachings of John the Baptist, we see him address tax collectors in this way:

Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." - Luke 3:12-13

These were Kingdom ethics. And the reality is, where John the Baptist was preaching was likely only six miles from Jericho. Zacchaeus may have been in the crowd that listened to John the Baptist preach. If he wasn’t there personally, his tax collector buddies may have shared that teaching.

Take no more than you are supposed to.

Maybe that was something he mulled over when he went to bed at night. What kind of teaching is that?

John also spoke of one to come, one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, one who would come as the Christ.

As time passed, the city of Jericho was abuzz with knowledge of Jesus, son of Joseph.

Zacchaeus may have remembered what he saw with his own eyes or heard with his own ears. He may have come with that in mind, trying to push through the crowd to see this one that was to come.

Upon his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaimed that he would pay back fourfold what he had taken.

Repentance.

Life change.

A new way of living in the world.

Maybe it wasn’t instantaneous (although God has the power to bring that about). Maybe it was a long journey of submissive listening and learning, leading to Jesus.

I see that to be the case more often in my life.

I didn’t wake up one day and say “I don’t want an impatient and frustrated disposition” and then boom it came about. God has in the past year refined me, pained me, challenged me, convicted me. And I can now look back to where I was a year ago and see the change. Do I still get impatient and frustrated? You betcha. But I’ve seen change in my life. Painful, slow, hard change.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you’re praying for change in your life or in the life of someone you love, it’s a journey. You may not be seeing it. But it’s happening. Slowly. Oh so slowly.

You don’t know how many seeds will be planted via conversations, Scriptures, moments, and experiences before the life-altering encounter with Jesus takes place. I am prone to think that Zacchaeus had been worked on for a long time. Your loved one, or yourself for that matter, have been worked on for a long time too.

Repentance is slow.

But when we can look back and see the journey we’ve taken, it’s oh so beautiful.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

We’re Just Talking

One of the greatest movies of all time is obviously The Incredibles.

That may or may not be a bit exaggerated, but my family certainly loved it growing up. We loved it so much we had the accompanying GameCube game. We loved it so much we could quote vast stretches of the dialogue, especially the parts that we found humorous.

At one point in the movie, Mr. Incredible and Frozone are hanging out in a car, listening to the police scanner, hoping for something to be a part of. Syndrome, the villain, has his pal Mirage watching them.

She reports in and says “They’re just . . . talking”.

I don’t know if it’s the cadence of her voice or what, but that random line had me and my siblings dying, and we still use it. At least a couple of us do.

I wonder often what the city I live in thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

I wonder often what the enemy of the Kingdom thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

If they were to summarize what we’re doing, what would they say?

Do the spiritual forces of evil simply say “they’re just talking”?

When I look at my life, I pray that I’m able to say I do more than talk. Yet it’s so easy to do only that.

“We need to be discipling younger men and women. We need to reach out to our friends that aren’t believers. We need to invest in this ministry or get involved in this way in our neighborhood.”

We talk about it.

We go through studies on it.

We go to conferences about it.

But are we actually doing it?

We dream.

We vision cast.

We plan.

But do we act?

From my personal experience, I can attest that when I talk about getting to work in our community, sometimes that does enough to assuage the conviction that I should be doing just that.

So then I go back to the norm.

The status quo.

Here’s the American version of walking with Christ:

  1. Believe in Jesus
  2. Pursue the American Dream
  3. Stick to only minor adjustments to the status quo

I want so much more.

Church, enough is enough. Planning is good. Prepping is good. Talking is good. Vision-casting is good. Dreaming is good. But all of this leading to no action is not the heart of God.

I’ve been in Vernon for almost three years now.

I have done a whole lot of talking.

I don’t know how much I’ve actually done.

I want to invite you, brother or sister in Christ, into action.

I want to share what the Lord has put on my heart in regards to action.

Here’s the normal process for me before I act:

  1. I see a ‘problem’ in the church or the community
  2. I go to Scripture and look for a solution
  3. I act

There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that. But it often leads to rash action that is birthed out of my own frustrations or opinions or perceptions.

The Lord has been leading me to view my actions in this way instead:

  1. Prayerfully and quietly listen to the Spirit’s leading
  2. Make sure what I feel the Lord is leading me to do is faithful to Scripture
  3. Act

Do you see the difference? Too often we walk in Biblical wisdom, but it’s couched in our own frustrations. We adhere to Scripture, but in response to our perceived issues with the church or community, rather than in response to the Spirit’s voice in our prayers.

I long to be the type of man who only ever acts when the Spirit is calling me to act. I long to be the type of man who acts, rather than just talks.

The books of 2 Corinthians and Titus have been on my heart a lot lately.

2 Corinthians is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s a book all about weakness. I don’t like when people acknowledge my weakness. It leads me to pop off, to get frustrated. Yet 2 Corinthians teaches that Christ-followers are to rejoice in their weaknesses.

This verse has been coming to my mind a lot.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. – 2 Corinthians 1:12

Are we just talking?

Or are we conducting ourselves in the world with sincerity and integrity?

Are we relying on worldly wisdom (which I would argue that Biblical wisdom without the Spirit is rather close to that) or God’s grace?

The book of Titus is all about how we should respond to the gospel by doing good works in our communities.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always be gentle toward everyone. – Titus 3:1-2

That one’s tough.

(A quick side note: let’s stop with the gossip. Are we slandering people? Or are we considerate, remembering that every action has behind it life experiences that we know nothing about? Are we peaceable? Are we gentle, even when we don’t get our way?)

We are to be ready to talk about doing good.

No, that’s not what it’s calling us into.

We are to be ready to DO whatever is good.

Church, enough with the lallygagging. Enough with the talking endlessly.

It’s time to listen to where the Spirit is at work.

It’s time to join in with what He is doing.

It’s time to take the advice of Bono’s pastor who told him: Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed.

Are we mentoring someone?

Are we serving our church?

Are we serving our neighborhood?

Are we praying for others?

Are we letting others know we’re praying for them?

Are we inviting other people into life with us, or just the people we like the most?

It’s time to do more than just talk.

It’s time to act.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The photo is not my own. 

 

Shine In Me

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the need to use the restroom. With groggy eyes, I got out of bed and promptly came extremely close to stepping on my dog’s face. He is adorable, but enjoys curling up right next to my side of the bed, where he often wakes me in the morning with a lick or a right jab.

Darkness skews my view. I don’t see clearly how to get from one place to another. Making trips all the way out to the kitchen are even more perilous. Clumps of my dog’s hair look like tarantulas that are eighteen inches in diameter. Every gust of wind outside that shakes the leaves in our trees are absolutely intruders peering through our windows according to my half-awake brain.

Darkness overwhelms me.

You know what helps on my treks to the bathroom or the kitchen?

Light.

If we leave a lamp on in the living room, I can see clearly to get to my precious two percent milk (don’t judge me for what I choose to drink in the middle of the night, and don’t come at me with any other type of milk. They’re all nasty except for two percent).

Light provides guidance.

Light provides perspective.

Light makes the creepy darkness

simple and safe.

This afternoon, my heart has been overcome with wonder by my encounter with the following verse:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

God uttered a word and light entered the cosmos.

God uttered another word and light shone in my heart.

My ability to comprehend Scripture, to comprehend the Messiahship of Jesus, comes from God and God alone.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this light of the glory of God in my heart has no off switch. The light of God’s glory discovered through Christ cannot be turned out. It can’t be dimmed. It can however, be forgotten and ignored. At least that’s my experience.

This is insanely wonderful news.

This is what should spark joy in our hearts. The God who made the cosmos brimming with light is the same God who showed us His glory through Jesus.

I see a lot of melancholy Christians.

I am often a melancholy Christian.

But what if we meditated on, thought about, and worshipped because of this wonderful news.

Darkness is everywhere.

Don’t meditate on it.

I had a friend and man I look up to recently tell me that when he gets discouraged, he turns his attention to helping others.

Now, obviously, in some situations it’s not a quick fix.

But that rings true.

When we get down, discouraged, depleted, we can get stuck there if all we meditate on and fill our minds with is more darkness.

For me, I’ve had to force myself to look at the light.

And the light is Jesus. When I see Him, I see the very glory of God.

Look at the light.

The One who spoke light into our cosmos is available for you. Turn off the phone. Turn off the TV. Turn off the blather. Commune with Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

If you enjoyed this blog post, here’s a couple other avenues to get Biblical-focused content:

The Lost Art Of Sympathy

If you’ve been following my blog for even a small amount of time, you likely know a couple things about me.

I love Jesus and I love musicals.

I especially love how Biblical messages often show up in the storylines of musicals.

Yesterday I was driving from Wichita Falls back to my home in Vernon. I was listening to the Phantom of the Opera, which is a classic.

The final number, Down Once More, gets me emotional every time. This song humanizes the phantom. This song gives you sympathy for the phantom. The viewer doesn’t condone the murderous actions of the phantom, but you are able to briefly look past them and see the pain, the hurt, the brokenness that the phantom carried with him throughout his life.

As I got a lump in my throat from the final lyrics, I realized something.

We’ve lost that.

We’ve lost the art of sympathy.

Especially as Christians.

Anger and outrage, aggression and rudeness, boisterousness and vitriol. These are the fruits of the modern Christian.

We’ve stopped being willing to listen.

We only yell.

I urge you to ask the Lord to give you sympathy. Ask the Lord to give you the desire to understand where people are coming from, even if you disagree with them 100%.

Jesus was meek and gentle. He was not the macho American man. He absolutely spoke up and spoke out. But He did so to critique and convict the people of God and to draw them to Him. We’ve gotten a skewed view of his anger in the Gospels when we make them about condemnation as opposed to conviction. Those who didn’t turn, absolutely they stood condemned. But the call was to lead them to change.

Praise God for those who are calling the American church to change, to act, to move.

Let us do so in a way that leads to repentance, not hardened hearts.

Let us do so in a way that leads to conviction, not condemnation.

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:19-21

This passage is a hard one for me to live out. I want to give my opinions. I want to criticize. I want to condemn. But human anger in me doesn’t produce anything good.

There is a place for righteous anger. That is super clear in Scripture. Where injustice is taking place, there is a Spirit-driven anger. But only that anger can produce so much change in the hearts of men. We must strive to differentiate between the two.

Evil is prevalent. We’ve all seen it firsthand as of late. Moral filth is prevalent. We must actively rid ourselves of sin through the power of the Spirit, and then get into Scripture. Scripture must inform us. Scripture must lead us. Scripture must guide us.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. . . Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:9-12, 16-18

This passage has informed so much of my behavior these last few months.

Politics.

Covid-19.

The church and social justice.

If you go back and read my posts on social media, I’ve sought to listen. To learn. I am not wise. I don’t have the answers. I want to be a man who loves well. Who lives in harmony. Who lives at peace.

You can absolutely condemn the horrid sin of racism, mourning with those who mourn, in a way that brings peace and harmony, in a way that doesn’t condemn every police officer around the country. You can absolutely look at violent riots and condemn sin in a way that brings peace and harmony, in a way that doesn’t condemn every protestor around the country.

We’ve lost the ability to sympathize. To try and understand.

I try and live in such a way where I condemn sin but welcome and love all, praying that God leads every one of us to repentance.

I have had to confess publicly from the pulpit at my church that there is racism in my heart. That’s me condemning sin. I am grateful for a community protest that I attended in Vernon that did just what that passage in Romans described. Racism was condemned but police across the board were not. Violent rioters were condemned but protestors across the board were not.

Brother and sister in Christ, listen.

Brother and sister in Christ, sympathize.

Enough with the arguments.

Statistics.

Opinions.

Listen.

Learn.

Disagree in love.

Condemn sin.

But love the sinner.

I have learned over the past few months that personal conversations are hugely important. I have sat across from people who disagreed with me on politics, and we left loving one another. I have sat across from people who have said all manner of things regarding Covid-19, and we left loving one another. I have sat across from people who disagree with me regarding Jesus and social justice (I have another post coming soonish), and we have left loving one another.

Before you condemn, reach out.

Before you condemn, have a conversation.

Before you condemn, pray.

Before you condemn, sympathize.

Let us as the people of God live in such a way that we condemn sin but welcome and love all. Those aren’t mutually exclusive.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

*the above photo is not my property*

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.

Prayer For Dummies Like Me

I am pretty horrible at praying.

This is something I’ve written about on my blog many times before.

I’m just not good at it.

I love to study Scripture and teach Scripture (applying Scripture to my life? Not so much. That hurts. That’s hard.). I read commentaries for fun on Saturdays when I’m stuck at home. I think one reason I love to study and teach Scripture is because I see very tangible results. I grow in knowledge. Books I finish go on my ‘finished’ book shelf in my office. Sermons I’ve preached and Bible studies I’ve taught are saved in my Logos Bible software. I can go back to them again and again.

Tangible results.

Prayer? That’s 99% of the time for me something not tangible.

Yeah, sure, the popcorn prayers throughout my day normally get ‘answered’. Like today I ran three miles and regularly panted out “God, don’t let me die”. And alas, die I did not.

But, when it comes to the deeper prayers of my heart, I don’t get to see tangible results.

“God, work in the lives of our students. Grow our youth ministry in depth.”

“God, work in the lives of my family members. Draw us all collectively closer to You.”

“God, grow Your joy and peace in me.”

Those things are 99% not quantifiable. Rarely if ever have I gotten a call or text from a student who just wants to tell me about their walk with God (Although I once got a call from a student who excitedly shared with me their Fortnite experience from the night before). Family members don’t just message out of the blue how they’re growing spiritually. Joy and peace in my heart? No idea if that’s growing or not.

Prayer doesn’t lead me to tangible results.

Yet, prayer is an unavoidable habit to be pursued as a follower of Jesus. It’s not something where I can say “I’m not good at it” and then never engage in it. That’s not how it works.

So, if you’re like me, a dummy when it comes to prayer, I want to share with you some encouragement. These are not tips and tricks for a vibrant prayer life (maybe I should have named this blog “Seven steps to mountain-moving, life-changing, Spirit-empowered prayer”). These are Biblically-based truths about prayer.

Since these are Biblically-based, lets read the passage that got me thinking about all this in the first place!

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, – Ephesians 1:15-17

This passage moves on to some beautiful truths about who Jesus is, what He has done, and who we are in light of that. And we’ll get there in the next two blogs.

But what I want to focus on is how Paul prays.

Pray for Others

Paul prayed for others. A lot. Like most of the time. I’m not doubting that Paul ever prayed for his own wants and needs, but he sure doesn’t talk about it nearly as much as he talks about praying for others. Most of the time I suck at prayer because I’m just repeating my same ol’ wants again and again and again. That gets boring, not gonna lie. And I run out of things to pray about seven minutes in.

I’m always absolutely amazed by those who are constantly in prayer for others. There are a few people in our community here in Vernon who have wowed me with their ability to do this. Tammy Chapman. Ronnie Gibbs. Jimmie Parmer. Dr. Darrell Monday (I may have spelled his name wrong).

These are just a few people who have put this on my heart. They regularly follow-up with those they’re praying for. They’re always encouraging.

Paul didn’t cease to pray for others.

Neither should we.

Pray Christian Prayers

What about the content of our prayers though?

A whole lot of the time, we pray for things that non-Christians could pray too. We pray for health, recovery, blessings.

But do we pray for spiritual things for our friends, families, fellow Christians?

Look at what Paul prayed for in that passage above! He prayed that they would gain wisdom and knowledge of God!

That’s a prayer that is distinctly Christian.

Pray for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in others. Pray for spiritual disciplines. Pray for a deeper understanding of Jesus! Pray for the Spirit’s power! Pray for Christian things.

Pray the Bible

This has served to help me sooooooooo much in prayer. Instead of praying lists, pray the Bible. Pray passages. This is actually extremely easy. Paul prayed that the church in Ephesus would gain knowledge of God. We have the complete revelation of God in the Bible. So pick a passage and pray.

The Psalms is the easiest place to do this. I read a verse and then pray all that comes to mind in light of that verse, and then I move on. Passages like Ephesians 1 are super easy because you can literally just pray the prayers of Paul.

Use the Bible!

Pray Alone

These last two don’t flow out of Ephesians 1. But they do flow out of the story of Scripture. Jesus prayed alone frequently and unashamedly.

I’ve realized that this is important for me. I will get anxious, angry, afraid, and my wife will encourage me to go to my closet. I sit on top of the seven feet of dirty clothes, close the door, and pray with God. And man it works wonders. I don’t magically open the door to a changed circumstance. But I 99% of the time open the door to a changed perspective.

Get alone with God.

Pray Together

But don’t forsake praying with others! I am bad at praying with my wife every night, but when I do it does wonders.

One of my closest friends lives in Phoenix and he recently (months ago) called me and we didn’t say a word except to pray out loud together, via Scripture, for over thirty minutes. I’ve never felt so strengthened in my faith.

And y’all, church doesn’t count. Too often prayer is used at church as guardrails for the start and end of activities, or for delays between moments when stuff is happening on stage.

Call up a friend.

Pray.

I’m a dummy when it comes to prayer.

But you don’t have to be.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Death of A King

He was arguably the greatest king in the history of God’s people, yet now he lay on his death bed. His servants had brought in a young woman for his pleasure and warmth, but he chose to not have sex with her.

As he reflected over his life, he couldn’t help but remember all the highs and lows. He was a man who was overlooked by prophets, but noticed by the Lord. He rose out of the shepherd’s fields into the throne room of Israel. He spent a large portion of his younger years on the run, before the demise of his predecessor.

He brought about stability in the kingdom, but that was not the end of the story.

While his loyal troops were at war, his cowardice and laziness led him to stay behind. His lust filled his heart and mind, he had his servants bring a woman into him that was not his to know intimately. She was no willing participant in what took place. His lust led to a child, which led to murder in an attempt to cover up his grievous sin.

He prayerfully asked God for forgiveness, but the consequences of what he had done were still present. He lost his son, and late in life had his other son strive to kill him and take the throne.

His life was full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is the story of King David.

Recently I’ve been teaching through the book of 1-2 Kings with our students. We take it passage by passage, looking at how the people of God had a choice of who they would worship, what word they would listen to (God or man), and ultimately what weaknesses every human king had.

At the start of 1 Kings, David is dying. In the midst of political intrigue, his wife Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet approach David asking for David to make Solomon king.

What I want to draw your attention to is what David says. Remember, he’s been through so much in life. He’s seen his life in danger due to his faithfulness to God, and he’s seen his life in danger due to his sin.

Yet in summary, look what he says about his life.

And the king swore, saying, "As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, - 1 Kings 1:29

The Lord lives.

The Lord has delivered David out of every adversity he has faced.

This is what David wholeheartedly believed, and with the perspective we have given the whole canon of Scripture, we know this to be true.

That’s the Lord that you and I serve.

Someone who redeems.

Rescues.

Delivers.

Out of every adversity.

But there’s something even more powerful that I want you to consider, and it shows up later on in the story. David dies in chapter two, Solomon rises up and builds the temple for God’s presence to reside in. Solomon then breaks every command of God about what a king should be like (Deuteronomy 17), showing that contrary to popular church belief he was the most knowledgable king of Israel, but he was not the wisest (but that is a blog for another day).

Solomon’s vile and wicked sin leads to his destruction and the destruction of the kingdom. The kingdom splits in two, with Jeroboam on the throne in the north and Rehoboam on the throne in the south.

Jeroboam leads the people of God into idolatry via worshipping golden calves (sound familiar? Exodus 32 has a similar story, showing that we are prone to repeat the sins of our fathers). The prophet Ahijah then tells Jeroboam’s wife that destruction is coming on their family due to their sin.

But nestled in this prophetic word of destruction is the following:

yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes – 1 Kings 14:8

Uh, what?

Murder. Adultery. Cowardice.

Those were the sins of David.

Yet the prophet proclaims that God sees David as a man who followed Him with all of his heart.

Why can he say that?

Because of David’s repentance.

Perfection is not the sign of someone who follows Jesus.

Repentance is.

David, unlike his foolish son Solomon, did not walk in his sin. When he had sin brought to light in his life, he turned from it, and walked in righteousness instead.

Church, the message of the Bible is not sanctification by works.

We don’t become like Jesus by trying really hard.

We become like Jesus through repentance.

Confession.

Acknowledging our need for a Savior.

When I die, I want to say with David that God brought me out of every adversity.

When I die, I want to be remembered as a man who was full of sin yet had a heart that was fully given over to God.

That’s my prayer.

That’s my hope.

David knew his need.

I want to close with a quote.

Because if that’s what you are (a righteous, Kingdom-seeking saint), you’ll probably feel more like a sinful, desperate cur who can get out of bed each day only because you’ve managed once again to believe that Christ’s mercy is made new every time the sun ascends. – Andrew Peterson

That may sound kind of defeatist, but that’s not my intention for sharing it.

My intention is to acknowledge that the more we grow in our faith, the more we should see the cross, the more we should depend on grace, the more wretched we see ourselves to be without Christ. We shouldn’t grow confident in our behaviors.

Church, let’s be like David.

Let’s worship the Lord who draws us out of every adversity and who gives us grace for every weakness and failure.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach