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

The New Creation Has Begun

All of mankind destroyed in a moment.

All save one family sheltered from the raging flood of God’s wrath.

One family deemed righteous in the sight of God.

One family saved.

The story of Noah’s Ark is one that we’ve missed the focus of for quite some time. At least in my opinion. The story of Noah’s Ark is normally taught to little kids. And I’m not so sure it should be. Yes, it’s cute to imagine the scene of the animals coming to Noah on the ark.

But the whole story of Noah’s Ark is about the wrath of God. His righteous, just, fair anger towards the wickedness of man (Genesis 6:5). After a century of grace, of time for man to repent (Genesis 6:3), God brought His wrath to bear on the world. Massive destruction. Whether or not you believe in a global flood is not the primary point of application. This story should cause us to reflect on the righteous wrath of our God. It’s easy for our modern sensibilities to cause us to ignore the wrath of God. Yet it is an undeniable theme of Scripture. Even the other day I noticed in Ezra 5:12 that we are given a reminder that God’s anger led to their enslavement (which was ultimately for their good and His glory, mind you. Read the whole story, not just the one verse).

God’s anger poured out upon the earth.

Death came.

Have you ever stopped and let your mind linger on this story? The waiting and watching as the oceans flooded the earth, as all of life was destroyed.

Then, slowly but surely, the waters began to recede, to dissipate.

And in its place, life.

New life.

Noah and family start to think that maybe they’ll soon be getting off the ark. Noah opens up a window and lets a dove out. The dove comes back after circling the earth and finding nowhere to land.

Then, well, then the beautiful happens.

He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. – Genesis 8:10-11

Again. Have you lingered on this? It’s easy for us to read these stories and assume all these Biblical ‘heroes’ had insane faith in the midst of what they were experiencing. I don’t think that’s the case. Noah was not a perfect man. He was a drunk who passed out nude in front of his family. Isn’t it possible that after over FIVE MONTHS on an ark he started to doubt if God was going to come through?

I think so.

I think he likely started to wonder if new life would come. He sends out the dove, and the dove comes back with an olive leaf (fascinatingly enough, that became a historical signal for peace. God hangs his ‘bow’ back in the sky. We miss the significance of that when we only think about that as colorful, and not a symbol of war).

The dove comes back, communicating that new life has come. What a beautiful scene. But it points forward to a scene that brings tears to my eyes. It points forward to the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

Cause you see, despite God’s grace, the people screw things up again.

For centuries, the people of God fail to live holy lives, fail to be distinct from the culture around them. The human heart remains wicked, broken, evil, full of sin. Injustice and pain is brought about by the people of God. The prophets rise again and again to try and correct the sins of the people of God, and yet their messages are not heeded.

Then, silence.

Centuries of silence.

The promise of a Messiah faded into legend.

Again, it is extremely likely that doubt began to rise in the hearts of man.

Then, one day, a prophet arises from the wilderness. He is wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts. He begins to proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come, that the Messiah is here.

Honestly just typing this is giving me goosebumps.

Imagine.

Imagine the scene. People begin to flock to Him.

Then a man comes to Him.

And this is what happens next.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . . Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. – John 1:29, 32

BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD. Those words had to of hit the people listening hard. They knew all about sacrificial lambs. They knew about lambs used to atone for personal sin, familial sin, nationwide sin. But now a man steps into the Jordan while a prophet claims that He is going to absolve the entire world (all who choose to believe and submit) of their sin.

Then (with tears in my eyes again) the Spirit is shown to descend on the Son.

In the form of. . .

A dove.

New life had come.

And this time, it would last.

The Messiah had arrived. To bring life out of death. To bring new life that lasts. To inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth. To set us free from all of our sin. Through His death.

He lived a perfect life. He ministered for three years, showing His power over nature and the spiritual realm. He taught a way of life that would begin to turn the world upside down.

Then, one night, he found Himself in a garden, an olive grove to be exact (THE BIBLE IS ONE STORY!!!!!!). After toil and tears, He obeyed His Father to the point of death.

And through His death, we have life.

Life to the fullest.

If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing it! You can follow my blog down below or via the menu on the right side of the page! Also, I appreciate any and all feedback, so comment below as well! 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Voting For God?

“To say no to President Trump is to say no to God”

“One cannot really love Jesus and wish to follow him and also vote for a person (like Donald Trump)”

The first quote is from a recent interview with one of Trump’s spiritual advisers. The latter is from an old article from a few years back from the Dallas Morning News.

Do you see what’s happening here?

Do you see what’s been happening for years?

Do you see what is being ascribed to various political views?

The very name of God.

There is a reason you will never read on this blog or hear from the pulpit my political viewpoint on who to vote for. There is certainly been many times where I have spoken about my views in a sinful way on secondary or tertiary political issues on Facebook, but I strive to only address theological issues when it comes to what I say about voting and politics.

What I have been seeing in myself recently however is me breaking the Ten Commandments. Or being on some unsure footing regarding the Ten Commandments. Here’s what I mean.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. – Exodus 20:7

One of the Ten Commandments is to not take the Lord’s name in vain. While this does have an application when it comes to saying “oh my God” when surprised or angered, the primary implication of this command is to not ascribe to God what is not His doing.

Does that make sense?

All one has to do is look for even a moment of world history and you will see vile atrocities committed by people doing such things in the name of God. We all are aware of these situations. Sinful acts and wicked evil have been done in the name of God for millennia. God’s name is taken in vain.

I recently took God’s name in vain.

I took a grey issue, gun rights, and made it into a black and white issue, where my stance was fully in line with God and anyone who opposed me was outside of God’s will and grace and commands. This was not my intention, but it is certainly what took place. You may have even seen the Facebook post. Now, I apologized on Facebook and even apologized from the pulpit.

I remind you of that moment to make it abundantly clear that I have been guilty of the very thing I’m addressing.

We must stop equating our political beliefs with God’s name. Everyone does it. I shared those two quotes at the beginning of this blog to show you that it’s not coming from just one direction. It’s everywhere.

Let me address three dangers of saying “a Christian should vote for this candidate”.

1. We Forget Our Hope 

Biblical theology is a necessary study. Biblical theology is the practice of tracing one theme all throughout Scripture. The importance of this is to see the important themes of the Bible story.

Here’s one issue for example. There are a few verses, references about not cursing. There are however dozens and dozens of commands of Scripture about caring for the orphan. Our churches often prioritize the former way of life without addressing the latter. I am grateful for serving a church that takes up the cause of the orphan. Biblical theology shows us that God is more concerned with the orphan than He is our language. They are both commands from God, but one has more weight.

Biblical theology shows us that politics, government, authority, these things are secondary issues. Jesus, Paul, and Peter all talked about submitting to authority, none of them said to put all your hope in them. The whole “God will save our country if such and such person is elected” is a misplaced hope. God will work in our country primarily through the local church, not the White House. Biblical theology shows us the prophets regularly getting on to the people of God for trusting in their political, financial, or military might for their primary hope.

Biblical theology tells us to respect, submit to, and engage with government.

Biblical theology does not tell us to hope in those things.

(I have written a whole lot over the years on this topic: Jesus Isn’t On Your Team The American Flag or The Cross No Country)

2. We Forget God’s Sovereignty

I would encourage you to read Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God. It is a valuable resource that reminds us that God is in control of all things, from the weather to the governments of our world.

God is in control. So yes, vote, if you feel led to do so.

But the outcome of elections, the rise and fall of leaders and nations, all of these things are in the hands of God. Saying that God wants a Republican or a Democrat in the White House is to assume the desires of a God we can’t even begin to comprehend (according to Romans 11).

God has used wicked and evil men, as well as godly (and yet still imperfect) men to bring about His purposes in the world.

Don’t assume you know His plans.

3. We Will Lose The Next Generation 

This is honestly the real reason for my post. The truth that absolutely breaks my heart apart as a Family Discipleship Pastor.

Students are backing away from the church.

That’s the reality of the world that we live in.

Lifeway recently shared statistics about why they are doing so.

Look at this.

Linger on this.

Pray about this.

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66% of students will back away from the church, from coming regularly while in college.

25% of them will do so because the church propagates political beliefs that they don’t agree with.

As much as I want to address the 29% listing disconnect as a reason for leaving, and the 32% saying that church members are judgmental, let’s focus on the political views.

Two weeks ago, we had forty-eight students on a Wednesday. This was the largest I think we’ve ever had, and it is by no means the average attendance. But, let’s say I had 50 students.

According to Lifeway’s research, 34 of them will back away from church.

THIRTY-FOUR.

Eight of them will do so because they see and hear pastors and older church members say that the Christian view is this or that when it comes to politics.

EIGHT.

They aren’t backing away because they are constantly put away from the rest of the church in their own building (although 10 will). They aren’t backing away because they are judged by pastors and older Christians or their peers (although 11 or 12 will). No, they will back away because they hear the church tell them that they aren’t a good Christian if they don’t vote a certain way.

That is absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.

I can’t even wrap my head around that.

Church, I plead with you, watch what you say on Facebook and in conversations you have with others. Do not assume that there is only one right way to vote on every single matter (again, I have sinfully done so regularly).

I am not even remotely concerned with whether or not my students end up Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. I am concerned that they stay plugged into the church and that they know Jesus as Lord.

Because, at the end of their life, they don’t get into heaven because of political views. And, when they get to heaven, they will be with people of all parties.

Church, watch what you say.

I plead with you.

I beg you.

For the sake of the next generation, don’t take God’s name in vain.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Your Life Depends On It

The enemy loves to lie to you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, there are few things that Satan would rather do than to get you believing lies in your mind and in your heart. He strives to convince you of many falsehoods, normally in the veins of your view of God or your view of self.

The best way to combat the lies of the enemy is by filling your mind and heart with the truth.

We live in a society borderline obsessed with the notion of ‘personal truth’, but as believers we know that there is one worldview alone that is true, and that is the worldview that we find in the Scriptures.

We see truth as one of the items in the armor of God. Look with me at this verse in Ephesians 6.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, – Ephesians 6:14 

In his book, The Whole Armor of God, Iain Duguid talks about each item of the spiritual armor of God. When discussing the belt of truth, he talks about once has to apply the belt. For the belt to function in our attire today, we must remove it from the closet and apply it to our clothing. The same is to be said for the Word of God. It is of no use to us in spiritual warfare (the Christian life) if it is merely collecting dust on our bookshelf, consistently ignored due to our busy schedules and lives.

I believe with all of my heart, and I’ve seen via my own experience, that many of us fall into sinful behavior and sinful patterns and sinful habits because we are simply not in a habit of entering into God’s Word on a regular basis.

It’s a subtle descent from meditating on God’s Word to meditating on the circumstances of this world, are worse yet, replaying lies from the enemy in our minds and hearts to the point where we begin to believe it.

What I mean is that I don’t believe many of us wake up and think “today I am going to live outside of the commands of Scripture and guidance of the Spirit”. Rather, our sinful and wicked hearts are left to their own devices when we don’t saturate them with the doctrine of the Bible.

So, how do we best go about studying the Bible? What are some good tips and thought processes we should have when we approach it?

In his book, Supernatural Power for Everyday People, Jared Wilson shares five such helps. I am going to jack them for this blog, sharing my own thoughts about each of them.

1. Interpet, then Apply

What is the first question you ask when you get into God’s Word? Is it, “what is this saying to me” or “what is this saying?”. In our microwave culture, we use the former question to jump immediately to application every time that we open God’s Word. Yet, the latter question is extremely important. Interpreting what the Bible says should come before applying the Bible to our lives, every single time.

2. Keep It In Context

Honestly, I cringe sometimes when I see the way that certain verses are mishandled in Christian culture. The Bible is not a book for you to strip verses out of their context to match what you believe, or to say something that they are not. Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 are at the top of the list when it comes to this debacle. We must understand what verses are saying via their context. Every time.

3. Make Connections

The Bible is not a self-help book. It is not a list of rules and regulations. It is one grand narrative that tells the story of God and His people. There is so much beauty in the Word if you dig in.

For example: In David’s fight with Goliath, Goliath’s armor is described like a snake. This echoes backwards to Genesis 3:15, when God promises that a descendant of Adam would defeat the Devil, and it harkens forward to Jesus. This one connection reminds us that this story is a picture of Jesus and the Devil, not our ability to overcome ‘giants’ in our lives.

There are great resources for making these connections, none better in my opinion than the Knowing the Bible series from Crossway.

4. Look For Jesus

The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus. The Old Testament is replete with moments when He shows up physically, and moments that allude to His eventual arrival. The New Testament is full of stories about what He said and did, as well as moments that allude to His eventual return. The Bible is about Jesus. Look for Him on every page.

5. Apply Prayerfully

Here’s the reality. We may not see anything to apply to our lives every single time we come to His Word. That is okay. That is expected. However, when we hear the Word telling us to change, we must take that point of application to the Lord in prayer. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are able to bring about any change in our live to begin with. So, when the time comes to apply, apply in prayer.

Bonus: (Nate’s Own Advice) Choose It

My greatest encouragement to you is to slow down. Life may be busy, but we know from Scripture that our lives depend on the truth of Scripture. So when it comes to deciding what our families are going to be involved in, think of this verse.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 

There are about a thousand opportunities for your kids. For you. Sports, committees, events, clubs, vacations, etc. While these are good things when they supplement your family’s commitment to a church and to His Word, they are horrid things when they become the priority in your conversations, finances, and schedules.

My parents did not allow me to play on a traveling soccer team (one that played on Sundays out of town) when I was a kid, despite many saying I had the talent to do so. They chose instead to model for me commitment to a church community.

Guess what.

I LOVE THEM for it.

They taught me what is most important, and I’m a better man of God because of it. Traveling soccer would have been fun. But Jesus is better.

Just because it’s an option, doesn’t mean you have to do it as a family.

There’s fun things for kids in your community.

But, seriously, Jesus is better.

Get yourself and your family in the Word. Your life depends on it.

In His Name,

Nate Roach