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 Kingdom is for Children

Then children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After placing his hands on them, he went on from there. – Matthew 19:13-15

Our world is built on power. Powerful men and women run nations, lead businesses, win awards, and make money. A brief glance at the news, politics, sports, church, and really any aspect of our culture at all will show you that the loud and proud lead the world. You get ahead by being good at something and not doing it for free. You get ahead by drawing attention to yourself and making a name for yourself.

These last couple days however God has put a lot on my heart.

It revolves around the passage above.

We are to become like little children. Jesus brings children to Himself, blesses them, and says the Kingdom is for them.

You see, the Kingdom of God is drastically different from the kingdoms of man, the cultures we live in. It’s upside-down. It’s backwards. It’s better.

In a world that says arrogance and self-service are the standard, we are to live with gentleness and kindness. We are to live with humility and self-giving love.

In a world that teaches us all to believe that everyone else orbits around our desires, the Kingdom teaches us to give up all of our life for everyone else.

In a world that teaches to take the spotlight, we are told to find the shadows, to find the opportunities to serve those around us.

This is counter-cultural in every regard. Romans 12:1-2 teaches that we are not to conform to the patterns of this world in its arrogance-promoting and self-serving way. Instead we are to be transformed by renewing our minds in Scripture, following the leadership of the Servant King (see the book of Philippians).

Through reading 2 Peter and praying through the passage above, I have had the following questions on my heart. Maybe they would be good for you to think about as well.

Do I chase, cling to, and cherish status?

OR

Do I chase, cling to, and cherish the Savior?

What is precious to me?

God’s promises, presence, and people?

OR

Earthly power, prestige, and pleasure?

You see, a quick look at our lives will show us the answers to those questions. If I wake up thinking about how to self-promote, self-serve, and get my way, then I’m clearly living askew. But if I wake up and take myself before the Lord in prayer and Word, then I’m living rightly.

In the same way, if I dedicate myself to obtaining likes on social media, supporters at church, friends in the community, and all the other earthly glories, then I’m living askew. But if I am motivated by and treasure above all else the promises of God for me, pursue time with Him at the expense of earthly things, and lavishly love all of His people, then I’m living rightly.

Too many people think that living for Jesus is easy, simple, natural. But that is simply not the case. It takes transformation in the Word. It takes prayer. It takes reorientation. It takes living in such a way that seems utterly foolish to an ego-driven culture.

The Kingdom is for children.

The Kingdom is for those of us who actively and intentionally forsake status and prestige for the sake of Jesus.

The Kingdom is for those who can play the background so that the Risen Savior gets all the spotlight.

I’m still on this journey.

You know when I most encounter this struggle?

Golfing.

(Don’t stop reading. I know this is my 1000th golf illustration)

I am atrocious at golf. Like high-nineties on a good day atrocious.

Today I played in a scramble at the local country club.

Now, generally speaking, golf tournaments for those who are good at golf. The best golfers in town were certainly out there today. In those environments I get real stressed because I hate people watching me play, especially those who are quite good.

If there was ever a sport about status and prestige, it’s certainly golf (in my opinion). So today was a chance to practice just existing. Not trying to impress. Not trying to make a name for myself. Just enjoying my time.

In my time with the Lord today I felt like He was wanting me to just enjoy the gift.

The phrase “I’m just golfing with my Father” ran through my mind again and again. I thought about Psalm 27:4 and how I wanted to just be in God’s presence today.

You see, growing up, my dad and I would golf together. It was our thing. None of my other siblings really enjoyed it, but I cherished that time with him. And it was so much fun. I would hit a horrible shot, and we would just laugh about it. We would give each other a lot of grace, move the ball onto good grass, take mulligans, and just have a great time. I never felt nervous with my dad.

That’s what life in general is supposed to be like as a Christian. It’s not about impressing others. It’s about enjoying life with the Father.

Having that mindset doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it snap me out of my fear of what others think of me. Not in a moment at least.

Today I shanked a tee shot about 2.5 miles away from the fairway near other people, and I didn’t have the humility to go get it. I’m still growing. Still learning to enjoy life with the Father.

My prayer is that you enjoy life too.

The world is pushing you towards elevating yourself. The way of Christ is the way of going deep into humility.

Let us be different. Let us be transformed. Let us live for others.

Let us enjoy life with the Father.

In His Name,

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

Preferences

What’s your idea of a perfect church?

What type of classes should be offered? What outreach ministries should be taking place? What should the church’s logo look like? What type of teaching and preaching should be utilized? What type of music should be sung? What should the youth ministry be like? Should there be formal theological training? What missions organizations should we support? What type of expectations for members should there be? What type of structure should we have?

If you’re like me, you probably have your answers to all of those questions.

And if you’re like me, 100% of your preferences aren’t being met in the church you are a part of.

So what do you do?

Preferences are by no means wrong to have. It’s ingrained in us. It’s the culture we live in.

But when the proliferation of personal preferences become the primary pursuit of my life in the church, I’m woefully missing the mark.

Over the years I’ve been in Vernon, God has been stripping me slowly but surely of my preoccupation with how I think the church should do certain things.

Last Fall, in preparation for leading our students and children through the book of Philippians, I studied said book. And it began to blow me away. Unity through humility and love. Concern for others rather than concern for one’s self, even one’s preferences.

Outside of Scripture, countless books have formed my heart and mind to remember what I’m supposed to be doing. J-Curve taught me that life is about giving up my rights in humility and love. Everywhere You Look is one I finished last month that teaches the Kingdom of God is going to come as we are hospitable and gospel-centered in our neighborhoods.

But lately two things have been on my mind.

Romans 12 and the book Uncomfortable.

Romans 12 is chock full of examples from the church in Rome as to how to apply the life and teachings of Jesus to our lives together.

One of the translations I use and study with is the NASB, and this was how Romans 12:10 was translated:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 

That has been swirling through my mind a lot. I actually have dedicated it to memory because I need to be reflecting on its truths.

What if that was the type of preference I was concerned with?

Putting others first, devoting my life to them in love.

When anxiety racks my mind, or frustrations mount, is it about preferences of how the church runs or the fear that some in my church family don’t feel loved?

What keeps you up at night?

What gets you animated?

Preferences or love?

Man, y’all this has been a tough lesson to learn for me.

I want my conversations to be about loving others well. The people I don’t understand. The people I disagree with at times. The people who are guests. The people who live near me.

I want my conversations and motivations to be about love for God and others.

The reality is, there is no such thing as a perfect church. From an organizational standpoint that is.

The people that make up our churches however are just that.

Perfect.

Saints.

Holy.

Beloved children of God the Father, purchased for Him by Christ the Son, held together through the power of the Spirit.

Shouldn’t that impact every conversation we have? Even the hard ones?

I sit and imagine a people that literally outdo one another in showing honor (the NIV version of Romans 12:10b) to each other.

In the book Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken doubles down on the fact that the modern church goer has the consumerist mentality. This is something the Bible never condones. Is it a normal thought process? Yes. Is it something I need to fight against in my life? Absolutely.

This is a super long series of quotes. You really just need to go read the book yourself. I’ve got it in my office.

‘How it fits me’ is the wrong criteria for finding the right church. Rather, church should be about collectively spurring one another to be fit into the likeness of Christ. This can happen in almost any sort of church as long as it’s fixed on Jesus, anchored in the gospel, and committed to the authority of Scripture. . . What if we learned to love churches even when they challenge us and stretch us out of our comfort zones? . . . Commitment even amidst discomfort, faithfulness even amidst disappointment: this is what being the people of God has always been about. . . A healthy relationship with the local church is like a healthy marriage: it only works when grounded in selfless commitment and a non consumerist covenant. 

What if we didn’t think about ourselves and our preferences at all when coming to a church?

What if instead we thought about how we could truly love others, not just our crew, but anyone in the pew.

What if going to a church that is not in your comfort zone in some areas was the way to learn humility and gentleness and love?

Brothers and sisters, I used to be a church basher. An over the top, anal, negative, cynical, apathetic, mocking, vocal critic of any church I went to or was involved in. Even a church I was once on staff at.

Then it hit me.

That’s the Bride of Christ.

It’s messy. It’s broken.

But it’s not a business. It’s not first and foremost an organization. It’s a people. A people to be loved.

Again, preferences aren’t bad. Changes aren’t bad. Changes need to be made to continue growing the Kingdom.

But I 100% believe that those changes are in our hearts first before it’s in the church.

Am I discipling?

When’s the last time you went through Scripture with another believer?

Am I witnessing?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

Am I having people over in my home?

When’s the last time you had someone outside of your sphere of friends over for dinner?

You see, even the seeker movement was based in the misconception that what happens at church during the week is how people come to join the people of God. Not so fast. That’s not true. Biblically or historically.

People will join the Kingdom of God through seeing a community that are devoted to one another in love every single day of the week. Praying for each other. Serving each other. Building relationships with each other. Disagreeing in love with each other. That’s the compelling community.

To build a church around primarily reaching new people is wrong, just as building a church around traditions that never change is wrong. The Gospels show us that when Jesus drew a crowd, He sent them away with tough teachings on laying down one’s lives.

I’m not concerned about how many new students come to youth group.

I’m concerned with how many of my current students go to them.

Every day I have to ask myself if I’m more concerned with my preferences than prayerfully submitting to the Spirit. Even at a place where I don’t agree with 100% of what happens.

Church, let us love one another.

Church, let us be more concerned with that than anything else.

Church, let us remember that we are the Bride. The Bride that Christ died for. The Bride that He loves (and He loves it a little better than we do). When I have berated the church, God is not cheering me on. When I try to humbly serve, that’s when I’m modeling His heart.

It’s time to ditch the consumerist outlook on church, what we can get out of it.

It’s time instead to commit to fighting in the trenches for the Kingdom of God.

Preferences don’t keep people away from Jesus.

Prayerless people do.

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. 

 

Social Justice Or Preaching The Gospel?

What should be the driving goal for the life of a follower of Jesus?

Social justice or preaching the gospel?

This is the raging debate both explicitly and implicitly in our midst today. Some think that our primary purpose as the church is to be involved in social justice efforts. Others think that we should simply preach the gospel and trust that the Kingdom of God at work in our churches will bring change.

There are a plethora of men much smarter and wiser than me that have preached, written, and taught on this topic. But I’ve had this on my heart for almost two months now, and I feel it’s time to wade into the conversation myself.

So what do I believe?

Is our primary goal social justice or preaching the gospel?

My prayerful, hard-fought answer is both.

Both.

As a Christian, as a pastor, I should be an advocate for social justice, inasmuch as it adheres with the Kingdom of God and Biblical mandates. As a Christian, as a pastor, I should be proclaiming the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at every opportunity.

I want to share my opinions, my experiences, and my studies that have brought me to this position. I want to share first the dangers of pursuing one of these things without the other, before showing how they come together beautifully in our lives.

Social Justice without the gospel. 

If you look around, most in my generation have a heart for social justice. They see it as a clear next step after receiving the good news of Jesus. I admire and affirm this.

Where I see danger is when advocating for social justice is completely separated from a local body of believers. When we separate ourselves from a church community, striving to be the hands and feet of Jesus while detached from the bride of Jesus, that’s where things can get wonky.

Praise God for my peers who are boldly stepping out and saying that in Christ, all are created equal.

But what are we drawing people into?

Say we met every barrier in society for every person in need. What a glorious goal. But if we are not drawing them into a church community, we are only doing half the work. The greatest barrier any person faces is the one that separates them from the Father.

May God help us to pursue His church, His messy, hypocritical, judgmental, broken church (often referred to in horrifically explicit terms by God in Scripture). It is only through the body of Christ that real community is found.

My heart mourns over the myriads upon myriads from my generation that left the church to be Jesus. I want to listen and hear why. But I also want to advocate for us to love Jesus AND His broken bride.

The gospel without social justice.

If you want to know what side of the pendulum I fall on, it’s right here. I talk and preach often about the importance of being engaged in society as the people of God (Just Mercy) but struggle to live it out.

I’m a nerd.

A Bible nerd specifically.

Across from my laptop are thirty books on theology and commentaries that I’m wading through currently.

I love to read and write and think.

Action is hard for me. It doesn’t come easy.

This has led me at times to preach the gospel without even an iota of concern for the men and women made in the image of God that are sinfully, unBiblically treated in our world.

Father forgive me.

In the blog I linked above, I share how I came to a stark realization in Isaiah 1 that God hates me when I offer up praise to Him with blood on my hands. That stung. But it also empowered. I want to be a man who stands up for what is Biblical in society. Most importantly in terms of all being made in the image of God.

Yes, the gospel is the best thing I have to offer a hurting world.

The message of a Savior who came to deliver them.

But how many can’t hear that message because I sit in my fancy office in a Baptist church instead of engaging them?

I put zero hope in politics.

I don’t believe that legislation and law are the way that the country will change.

I believe the world will change as the people of God obey the two key commands of God: love Him and love others.

I believe the local church is the agent of change God has given to the world. I stand on that.

But here’s the thing.

If my advocacy for Biblical treatment of others is the avenue through which some enter into the Kingdom community I’m a part of in Vernon, then so be it.

If my proclaiming of the gospel is written off because I don’t seem to actually get in the midst of the hurt people are experiencing in my community, then I’m in the wrong.

I believe the Kingdom communities in our cities are where we should strive for the Biblical treatment of all. That’s my priority. My heart, my church, then my community.

I’m young. I’m learning. I’m trying to grow.

Here’s where I’ve landed however.

Social justice is an extension of the gospel.

Social justice as an extension of the gospel. 

I’ve not put a whole lot of Scripture in this post. I’ve merely wanted to share my experiences and mindsets. I have done this in part because while I study Scripture deeply, I don’t have clear-cut interpretations of every verse I reference. So as I now share the verses the Lord has used to work in my heart, I share them with the caveat that I am not a Biblical scholar that fully grasps the message of each of them.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clear; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:16-17

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? – James 2:15-16

These are just a few that I’ve thought a lot about.

The prophets of the Old Testament are teachers I wish the modern church would read and study regularly. The difference between the world then and now is that the ‘nation’ of God was Israel. Now the people of God are transcendent beyond national boundaries. The Christian nation in our world is one composed of people from every earthly nation.

The prophets said that sacrifice without mercy was detestable.

James stated that offering spiritual health without meeting physical health needs was no good.

So in summary, I’m still thinking about all of this.

My hope isn’t in the public forum. My hope is in Jesus. But my hope in Jesus should lead me to change my heart, to advocate for the Biblical treatment of all in my church, and when necessary, in my culture as well.

I’m listening.

I’m learning.

But I know that social justice and the preaching of the gospel must go hand in hand.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Don’t Come As You Are

Once you clean up your act, you can come in.

Once you stop falling into the same cycles and patterns of sin, then you’re welcome here.

Once you cover up those tattoos, take your hat off, and purge your social media, then you can find community in this place.

I look around at my generation, I listen intently to the stories they’re telling. Many of them are saying that these phrases above, these litmus tests for church community, were imposed against them.

If they were pretty, pristine, clean, and family-friendly, they could find the support of a faith community and of pastors. But if they were rough around the edges, broken, struggling, and sinful, they were judged and condemned. Subtly and not so subtly communicated with to clean up their act before they come back.

Sure, Jesus explicitly stated that He came to seek and to save the lost. Sure, Paul stated that Jesus’ reason for coming was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But that was Jesus. We’re just His people. We’re here for the nuclear families, the morally acceptable, those that know what to say and how to say it in church settings. That’s who we’re here for. That’s our calling.

God forgive us.

Jesus reinvigorate us.

Spirit guide us.

We were made for the mess. The dirty, broken, mess of life that is raw and real. Broken families. Egregious sin. Nasty rumors. Mental health struggles. We as the church are to sit, listen, encourage, and point to Jesus. But so many people in our communities won’t come in our doors. They’ve heard our gossip and slander. They’ve heard what we think about people like them.

I believe the role of the church community is to equip and empower the people of God to live in such a way that draws others into the community.

So in a sense, our Sunday morning worship services are for Christians. But they are for profoundly broken Christians. Those weekly services are to push us back into the world to reach others for Jesus.

But we sit on the sidelines.

Instead of leveraging our relationships for mission, we become codependent (this happens to me all of the time y’all).

People of God, you’re made for more. Let me show you one of the most insane examples of God’s heart for the broken.

Turn to 2 Kings chapter 5.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1

My passion is to take our G-rated glasses off when we read Scripture. I want you to read that again. What stands out?

An enemy of God’s people being given victory by God.

What in the world?

Remember, at this time the people of God were the nation of Israel. The people of God transcend nations and boundary lines today. Back then it was national. But yet you still see in this story God’s heart for those who were literally His enemies.

Naaman has leprosy and God heals him through the work of the prophet Elisha.

Things get even crazier in chapter six.

You may think, okay, sure God healed this man. But maybe it was so the Aram people stop their violence against Israel.

Nope. That doesn’t happen.

2 Kings 6:8 says that the Aram people are still moving against Israel.

Elisha hears of all their plans, before God uses Elisha to blind the people of Aram. This is an extremely popular story, for it is the moment where Elisha shows his servant the innumerable chariots of fire around them, protecting them. But people stop there (again, G-rated glasses).

The blinded army come before the king of Israel. Let me show you what happens next.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those who you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. – 2 Kings 6:21-23 (verse twenty-four tells us the Aram army comes to attack again)

Hold on.

What?

The people of God capture their enemies and then throw a feast for them?

Yes.

That’s exactly what happened.

God loves His enemies as well as His own people. They are given opportunities to repent, as Naaman showed. The book of Romans says that we are all God’s enemies. Not that we’re not close with Him. Rather that we are straight up His enemies. And yet God still sent His Son to die for us.

It seems like a Jesus juke but it’s Scripturally faithful.

God’s grace is for all people.

He extended grace to His enemies, both historically and spiritually.

What roadblocks do we put in the way of those who want to experience the love of God? Naaman did nothing that was worthy of being healed. The Aram army certainly didn’t deserve to be celebrated as they were.

I am stingy and self-righteous if I believe that the grace God has given to me was because of my actions and only goes to morally good people.

I am failing to live out the heart of God if any of my preaching, teaching, or day to day life is communicating to the Christian and non-Christian alike that they shouldn’t come into community as they are.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be the type of people who celebrate with our ‘enemies’. Let’s be the type of people who know we’re no better than the non-believer. We have no high ground. We’ve simply been rescued.

Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS. – 1 Timothy 1:15b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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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*

Dead Men Walking

When we were dead in our trespasses. 

That’s how the book of Ephesians (2:5) describes the state of our being before encountering Jesus.

We were dead.

We weren’t ‘struggling’ with sin or ‘falling into’ sin.

We weren’t morally good for the most part with just some natural, human struggles.

We were dead.

Deceased.

Kaput.

That’s where we were.

Look at Ephesians 2:1.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. . . – Ephesians 2:1

The book of Romans, chapter five, expands on this language.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10 

Weak.

Ungodly.

Sinners.

Enemies of God.

That’s a pretty bleak reality.

This should impact us in a litany of ways. But here’s a few things it gets me thinking about.

Who Is God Calling You To Help Rescue? 

A lost person is unlikely to enter our church building on a whim. That may have been a societal, cultural reality in the past, but it is certainly not the case today.

We are called to bring people into Christian community, not primarily a sanctuary. I believe that lives will first be changed around our dinner tables in our homes. From there, some may have the boldness to come sit in our pews. I believe that hospitality is the key to winning the battle against religious apathy and agnosticism.

I have heard, seen, and read Christians talk about the lost in surprisingly unkind ways (myself included). We judge them on how they act, dress, drink, talk, think, etc.

Have we really forgotten the Bible?

The Bible teaches us that God looks at the interior soul of a man, not their choice of dress. The Bible never calls us to judge the non-believer, but rather to hold the believer accountable (both of which we don’t typically follow well). The Bible tells me that I was a dead, ungodly, wicked enemy of God.

Whenever I drive past a jail on my way to Wichita Falls, I think about how I’m no better than any man or woman in there. The only difference is that God’s grace has kept many of my fleshly desires in fleeting thoughts in my mind and not my actions (they are no less wicked).

The same is true for believers and non-believers.

Some of us have received God’s grace, and the rest of us need to hear of it.

Lastly, this pushes us to evangelize differently. We are to build relationships. What we are telling people with the gospel is that they are evil, wicked sinners that are dead spiritually and destined for hell. That’s a weighty message. It’s a message that must be proclaimed, but it is weighty.

You may disagree with my methods of evangelism, but I think our churches would be far better at it if the emphasis was on relationships as opposed to numbers. For me that helps me make it about love and not just the pressure of making sure I tell a certain number of people.

Are You Living Joyfully In Light Of This? 

The second impact this has on me is that it should drive me to profound joy.

Life is mega-hard.

Today was honestly a rough one. Lots of thinking about what the future holds. Honestly lots of thoughts of hopelessness in the face of tragedy that I’ve had to take captive and give to the Lord. Some days are like that. In this current season of my life, many days are. I have had to cling to God today, or rather rest in His clinging on to me.

Despite life’s mega-hardness (as a budding academic theologian, that sounds so professional), I have experienced joy.

Why?

Because I was dead.

And now I’m not.

Now I’m alive.

Jesus rescued me, redeemed me, changed me, bought me, saved me. And now, He’s sanctifying me. Day by day. Through His Word. Through prayer. Through community. Through mentors. Through friends.

I’m not the man I was this time last year (praise God). I’m not the man I was ten years ago. God is changing me, molding me, growing me. Making me more and more like Himself.

Joy in my life isn’t always a bubbly personality and an ear to ear smile.

Often it is a deep seated remembrance that God is with me and that He has not abandoned me.

Are You Teaching Morality or Jesus? 

Lastly, this should impact the way we parent, teach, disciple, preach, lead.

For those that are dead, they need to be brought to life. They don’t need to be simply told that they’re dead. While God is the one that does this, we have a role to play.

We sometimes (if not all the time) expect non-Christians to act like Jesus (all while we’re not there yet). We teach them how they should live. We quote Scripture to them about alcoholism and crude language (both of which are sinful, but the Bible addresses my ability to be religious without a heart for God and others far more often). But that’s like throwing a book about how to swim to a person who is drowning. We should rescue, and then teach.

God forgive us for our judgmental hearts and teachings.

For those that have been made alive in Christ, they don’t need to be taught primarily how to be a better person. Because the message of Scripture, as we’ve clearly seen here, is not about bad people becoming good. It’s about dead people coming to life. Every sermon I preach, every discussion question I write, every blog, every podcast, every video should be about this full life.

Yes, God calls us to live a certain way.

But the core of the matter is that we’ve been made alive.

Not because we were morally good.

God doesn’t care about that.

But because He was rich in mercy and love.

We were dead men walking.

Now we are alive.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach