Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus had just laid waste to his foes in the gladiator arena. He raises his arms and yells to the crowd “are you not entertained?!” It’s an iconic moment from an iconic movie. It’s a line I quote quite often as a matter of fact (although more so in my college days).

Here is a man who is on display before the crowds, and they seem disappointed in his performance, underwhelmed when they were expecting a show that would keep them on the edge of their seats. Here is a man at war personally while the crowds stand outside the field of battle, cheering or heckling, complaining or affirming.

I’ve been a pastor now for five years, and I can relate to that scene more and more.

I’ve been hesitant to even say that because I genuinely don’t seek a “woe is me” line of thinking or a “poor guy” response.

But I feel it.

And I share that feeling to advocate for those in my life who have been brutalized in the arena of ministry, all while they receive the thumbs down of those seeking to be entertained by the public figure that is the pastor. I share that feeling because men in ministry have been so hurt by the war that they face depression, discouragement, and even suicidal thoughts.

I know a man who has been faithful for decades and yet has people grumbling against him because his personality is not to their liking or some other minutia.

I know a man who was falsely accused (and proven so) of all sorts of moral failures by a group of people in the church who didn’t like him.

I know a man who was critiqued widely and regularly for his style of preaching.

I know a man who is exhausted and he’s only been in ministry a few years.

I know a dozen youth pastors who have faced to differing degrees the perception that they aren’t in the big leagues, they’re not adults, they’re not actually doing anything hard, they’re not real pastors yet, etc., despite being ordained ministers of the gospel. And to that I say, there is no greater mission field in the world than the ages of 15-30.

I know a man who regularly has to quote Colossians 1 and the importance of being continuously strengthened by the power of Christ, in order to continue manning up and seeking to live out his calling (that man is me).

Pastoral ministry is war.

It’s emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually draining.

It is painful.

It is hard.

Now, again, hear me say as clear as day: it’s worth it. The moments when I see young men and women catch the fire of discipleship, when I see students take ownership of their own faith, when I see older believers not get out of the game but continue advocating for the Kingdom to come, I am overwhelmed with joy. The pain and difficulty of ministry fades to the background as the joy of fruitfulness comes to the forefront.

So, yes it’s worth it.

But sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t lighten the load.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

When I was young, when God first called me into ministry (at the age of 7) and then later affirmed that call (at the age of 17), I thought pastoral ministry was easy and fun. I mean, I love to talk. I especially love to talk about Jesus. I thought people would love to hear me talk about Jesus. That’s all there was to it.

Then I actually got into ministry. Woah it ain’t that. Paul is challenging here. I think every man seeking to go into ministry should read this passage again and again. What does ministry sometimes look like?

Giving up one’s life for the church.

Sorrowful.

Yet always rejoicing.

Poor.

Yet making many (others) rich.

Having nothing.

But possessing everything (in Christ).

War.

For the Kingdom.

Here’s the beauty. Paul and his fellow ministers didn’t do anything that Christ didn’t do better. And so Christ doesn’t call the modern pastor to do anything that He didn’t do perfectly. Christ was homeless, lonely, poor. He continuously gave up His life for the people around Him and then He did it finally and firmly via the cross.

So, pastor, take heart.

Your affirmation comes not from the raucous crowd watching your public ministry.

Your affirmation comes from Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor, take heart.

Your faithfulness has been given a gigantic thumbs up from the only Emperor that matters, King Jesus.

Pastor, take heart.

He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. He provides strength.

Church, pray for your pastors. They are imperfect men, broken men, men in need of great grace.

Church, support your pastors. In every decision they make, they are weighing many different opinions and perspectives.

Church, love your pastors.

Church, fight alongside your pastors. Get in the arena with them. Do ministry alongside them.

Church, don’t lose your pastor. Don’t be the reason they step away from ministry.

I long for the day that I don’t hear of pastors taking their own lives. I long for the day when pastors don’t need counseling, don’t get burnt out, don’t battle depression on the regular.

I long for the day when the question isn’t “are you not entertained” but rather “are you with me”?

Let us strive for that day here on earth.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Inspiring Influence

He was sitting in the rocking chair of my childhood home in Wichita Falls, with the look of being deep in thought. I was 17, and considering where I wanted to go to college while seeking to avoid God’s call on my life. He was visiting from Virginia, and he wanted to leverage this time together to speak life into me. He looked at me and said “I think you should be a pastor” (or something much like this). I was caught off guard, as I had blinded myself to God’s plan for my life due to much sin in my life. This man saw through the grime and grit of my sinful anger, lust, and pride. He saw what I could become in Christ.

That was my Grandaddy. He has recently gone to be with the Lord, but his influence on my life continues to this day. 1 Thessalonians 2 teaches a whole lot about leadership that honors God. In his commentary on the book, Chuck Swindoll says that leadership is simply inspiring influence”.

What makes a good leader?

The ability to inspire people. The ability to leverage one’s influence in order to inspire people to do that which they didn’t think they could. The ability to leverage one’s influence to draw people into a new way of viewing themselves and the world around them.

I’m currently staring up at two items on the bookshelves of my office. A wooden piece of artwork that says ‘Happy’ (in memory of my mom’s dad who we called Happy) and the obituary of my Grandaddy. I live and serve with the memory of two men who had tremendous leadership in our family in that they had influence that inspired. I’ve seen the impact they made on so many, just in our family alone.

Since my Grandaddy just passed away, I have many memories of him running through my mind. We were both early risers, so we would take walks on the beach together when at family reunions. He would ask intentional questions about my life when he saw me and you could tell he genuinely wanted to know. He had the boldness to correct me when I was living in a way that wasn’t honoring to God. He took me to Pine Cove for father/son weekend when my dad was deployed. He shared with me then, while in his 60s, that the Bible was coming alive for him like never before. It inspired me to start digging in to its riches. He encouraged me to keep writing, keep studying, keep learning, and keep preaching. When I got ordained he wrote me a letter that I’m having a hard time finding. He said he longed to hear me preach once before God drew him home, and praise God in February of 2019 he got that opportunity. It is a memory I will never forget.

After he passed, I got to receive many of the things that he kept. He had an envelope full of my blog posts from five or six years ago. He printed them and kept them.

Grandaddy was a man who had a wall in his attic devoted to the achievements and accomplishments of his grandchildren. He was a man who kept the ramblings of his grandson. He wasn’t a man who pointed to himself. In fact I don’t ever remember him talking about his own achievements or accolades (a trait he has passed down to my dad). Grandaddy pointed to others, and ultimately to Jesus.

I see his influence in my uncle and aunt.

I see his influence most of all in my dad (because obviously I’ve been around him the most). I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad tells me to be God’s man. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad literally never talks about himself except in self-deprecating fashion. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad is borderline obsessed with loving on and leading my nephews, niece, and daughter. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad leads our family and the church he serves.

Grandaddy wrote me a letter several weeks after I was born, a letter that stays displayed on my shelf. He wanted to constantly encourage me and show me Jesus.

You see, I am not inspired by my Grandaddy alone.

I am inspired by the One who drew him into a relationship with Himself.

I’m inspired by the One who gave a family a rock of a patriarch. The One who gave a family a legacy that is centered not on athletics, academics, or prestige. But rather a legacy that is centered on the King and His Kingdom.

There’s a ton I didn’t say to Grandaddy in his final years. So many things I neglected to share with him. Many opportunities missed.

In just five days I will be privileged to have the opportunity to give the benediction at his funeral service. I can’t share all that I’ve said here in the moments before a prayer.

So I’ll say it here.

My Grandaddy is in the Kingdom of God. He is with Jesus. He is worshipping Jesus with every tribe, tongue, and nation. He has no more crying, tears, or pain.

I don’t think that he’s thinking about anything other than Jesus.

I long to be with him in paradise.

So I’ll say what he said to end his first letter to me 27 years ago.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously extremely grateful for these weeks I’ve had with Gracelyn Rae as she has stolen my heart. The quality time with Jamie and even with my good dog Mo is not something I want to take for granted. But man I still want to get back to a routine.

I enjoy doing, going, living, acting. I don’t enjoy resting. Vacations are hard for me, as my mind runs forward to what’s after we get back. Days off are difficult for me, as I think through the to do list that looms over me when I’m back at work.

I’ve confessed on these blogs before my workaholic nature, and it certainly shows itself in my seeming inability at times to rest.

So, after two weeks of paternity leave followed by poor weather keeping me indoors, I think the Lord is trying to teach me something.

He’s wanting to teach me how to rest in Christ in a way that makes me productive for the Kingdom rather than burnt out all the time.

I think that our modern churches are full of people who like me struggle when it comes to finding rest. We scroll, scroll, scroll, and numb ourselves with tons of entertainment at our fingertips. We rest by spending hours of TikTok or Facebook, binge-watching Netflix, listening to tons of podcasts. And by keeping our minds ‘on’ all the time, we prevent ourselves from truly resting.

Jesus extends to us an invitation to allow our souls to find rest in Him. Jesus extends to us an invitation to turn off from the world and all its noise, to sit in His presence and enjoy the good things of this world for His glory and our good.

Nancy Guthrie puts it this way, when describing this theme in the storyline of Scripture:

Even in Eden, history was headed somewhere. It was headed toward an unending, all-satisfying rest in the presence of God.

From the beginning of human history, we have been invited into rest that is Christ-centered. We must fight back against the ways of this world we live in. We must take intentional action to renew ourselves in Scripture and in the ways of Jesus.

For me this week, it meant turning my phone off at 8 PM for a couple days. This seems so simple and easy yet it was difficult to do. When I did so though, my last hours awake were spent enjoying God, prayerfully meditating on His Word, enjoying the gifts that He has given me. The to do lists could wait. The work responsibilities could wait. In those hours, I had rest.

I don’t know what it may look like for you to learn to rest in Christ. I would encourage you to prayerfully consider ways that you can fight back against the indoctrination of our world, ways that you can set your mind on things above.

Trust me, the cabin fever is still real (in part because we were created for community). I still anticipate getting back out into routines and rhythms.

Yet in this week ahead, with a winter storm bearing down on us, I hope to rest in Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Why Is The World Still Spinning?

Why is the world still spinning?

I get spiritually oppressed and tired of the darkness.

I’m tired of the stories I hear and stories I live out where children are in need, families are broken apart, and tragedies decimate communities. I am tired of seeing and knowing that there are innumerable lonely people in our churches, something antithetical to the New Testament. I am tired of the questions in my life that I can’t seem to answer. I am tired of seeing myself and others more vocal about politics than the Savior. I am tired of seeing my heart full of the American Dream instead of the Great Commission.

I get tired.

But I know I’m not alone in that spiritual exhaustion.

A friend recently told me “I have never felt the brokenness of this world more than today”.

Why is the world still spinning? Why hasn’t Jesus come to make all things new?

This past week I came to an answer to that question that is groan-worthily cheesy, yet Biblically accurate.

The world is still spinning because Jesus is still winning.

Yes. I know.

Grossly cheesy.

Yet it is profoundly Biblical. And it has been a source of daily bread to sustain me.

I’ve been on a Paul David Tripp binge. Reading his books, listening to his sermons, and reading his bi-weekly articles and devotionals. In a recent article, he directed my eyes towards 1 Corinthians 15 as a source of hope.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all of his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:24-26

This is what I need. I have to thrust this passage in front of my eyes every day. It is my daily bread. The end of our world hasn’t come because Jesus is still reigning, still winning, still putting all of his enemies under his feet. He is still at work.

When I’m really getting down, after meditating on the things of this world, I have the mental image of a light coming down a tunnel, impending darkness and suffering that I can’t escape barreling down at me like a train. I’ve journaled about those feelings more often than I’d care to admit. When I meditate on the things of this world, the news, social media, entertainment, etc., the future seems really bleak. Unavoidably bleak.

This passage shifts that mindset though. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train. It’s the destruction of death.

It’s the Kingdom where my deaf brother and my ailing grandfather are made physically whole, the Kingdom where the popular and the outcast are on a level playing field, the Kingdom where the tears of my loved ones are turned to cheers of joy, the Kingdom where those who claim Christ don’t worship idols like politics, the Kingdom where it’s all made new.

If this life is everything, it’s hopeless.

But as followers of Jesus, we can cling to this hope. Jesus is still reigning. Jesus is still winning. Jesus is still subjecting every spiritual ruler and authority to His Lordship.

The world is still spinning because Jesus is still winning.

It’s time we reorient ourselves and get involved in His work.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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

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