Negative Nathan

When I consider upcoming events in my life, I am prone to think of the worst-case scenario (that’s plausible and possible at least). I tend to have a negative approach to new relationships, job circumstances, etc. If there’s even a chance of something bad happening, I’m there mentally.

Recently, my wife Jamie called me on it. She called me out on the way that I had a negative outlook on life. I don’t blame her for calling me out. There had been a lot of grumbling and complaining coming from me recently.

That being said, I’ve noticed that my heart and mind have not been full of that grumbling and complaining spirit as of late. And I think I know why. 

I’ve been saturating my brain with the Word and with prayer.

Last week, I talked with one of my best friends over the phone, and we prayed together (for each other, our families, our ministries, our futures). We were both in a disgruntled place and had allowed the world to get us down. That prayer time together lifted us up immediately. To the point where I said “You know, it’s almost like the Bible knows what it’s talking about when it tells us to go to the Lord in prayer”.

We grow up hearing about the spiritual disciplines, and that’s not horrible language, but it sounds rigid and harsh. Really, prayer, Word, silence and solitude, memorization, etc. are the way to commune with the giver of life!

Anyway, I share that because it’s hard for me to pursue certain disciplines that deeply impact my soul.

Studying Scripture is easy for me though (applying, not so much). I’ve been listening to Philippians nearly every day. I have subconsciously memorized parts of it. And I’ve seen it changing my life.

Here’s what I mean. Look at this passage.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. – Philippians 2:14-16

I’ve heard this and read this so many times the last month or two. And slowly, oh so slowly, I’m seeing it change my outlook and mindset.

Unfortunately, we live in an extremely cynical and critical age. And church culture is not immune to this. If the worship style isn’t right up our alley, we grumble. If a committee makes a decision we don’t like, we grumble. If a pastor teaches on something that steps on our toes, we grumble. If a ministry isn’t running at it’s total potential, we grumble. I’m saying we for a reason. I’ve been there.

This passage should destroy that critical and cynical spirit in our hearts.

Let’s look at the command first.

Do all things without grumbling and complaining. – Philippians 2:14 

Period.

There’s no caveat here.

Paul is commanding the church at Philippi to live in a way that is devoid of grumbling and complaining. That is all-encompassing.

Let’s look at the why and how.

WHY ARE WE COMMANDED TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The why immediately follows the command. When we live in a way that is not critical or complainy (is that a word?), we show ourselves to be distinct from the world around us. The culture around the Philippian church was crooked and twistedI don’t believe it’s a stretch to consider our culture to be similar.

I’ll tell you, if you were to cut that mentality, that mindset, out of your life, you would truly shine as (a light) in the worldThere is clearly something counter-cultural about this attitude and behavior.

We are to live this way to shine bright for Christ. We are to live this way to show ourselves to be ‘saints’ in the midst of a dark world.

So, yeah, maybe you agree that this is good reasoning.

But HOW are we able to do this?

HOW ARE WE ABLE TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The key is the context. If you back up to earlier in this chapter you see the passage of where Christ modeled perfect humility and others-first love (vv. 3-8).

We are able to do this by reflecting on and imitating the humility of Christ, and by pursuing unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If I’m being honest with myself, 99% of the things that cause me to grumble and complain find their genesis in my own self-centeredness. I grumble because things aren’t my way. I complain and dispute because my life isn’t the center of others’ universes.

I can’t sit here and say that the reasons I complain are that God’s glory isn’t being pursued or that Jesus isn’t being followed as Lord. Nope, I complain about what doesn’t align with my version of the perfect cosmos.

Once we humble ourselves, we must strive to put the unity of the body of Christ above ourselves. Philippians has an inescapable message of joy being found in Christian unity. As I’ve reflected on this, I’ve seen it to be true. When I view everyone, even those who may not be easy to be around (Toxic Relationships), as my brothers and sisters in Christ, joy is quick to follow.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING? 

  1. Hold Fast To The Word Of Life 

Verse sixteen teaches us to hold fast to the word of life. Pray. Get into God’s Word. Meditate on His promises. When I am actively and intentionally doing these things, my spirit of frustration and disunity disappears.

2. Do Something

God convicted me in Phoenix that if there was something I was complaining about that I was able to effectually impact, I needed to do my part (Love The Church).

Do something. If you are frustrated with someone, confront them. If you are nervous about the outcome of a future event, prepare. If a decision bothers you, go to the decision maker and have a gentle conversation. If a ministry needs help in your opinion, get involved. Do something. If a family member or friend is on your nerves, say something.

Before you grumble or complain, act.

Be the change.

3. Pray 

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order. But prayer is obviously the key response to that which causes us to grumble and complain. Take what you are frustrated about straight to the Lord. Let me tell you, this doesn’t typically fix circumstances (although our God is obviously big enough to do so), but it does change attitudes. Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi at the start of the letter is my favorite.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment – Philippians 1:9

He prays that their love will grow. He prays that their knowledge of God and discernment will grow. Pray the same things for yourself and others!

It’s easy to be critical.

But the way of Christ is service, action, humility, and prayer.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Toxic Relationships

I just need to work on myself right now. I need to care for myself. If you are ‘toxic’, or negative, then I’m done with ya. If you aren’t on board with helping me care for myself, then I’m done with ya. Forget the nay-sayers. I’m doing me. 

I have seen a ton of these types of posts on social media as of late. Like at least one each week.

Our culture, and unfortunately our Christian sub-culture, is all about individualism and living one’s best life. So the fact that these type of posts show up from Christians and non-Christians alike is not all that surprising.

But church, it is concerning.

As of late, I’ve been diving knee-deep into the book of Philippians. I try and listen to it every day in the car, read it a couple times a week, and memorize different portions of it. I want to know it inside and out, letting it permeate my mind and heart. One undeniable theme that runs throughout the entire book is the way that Jesus primarily, and Paul secondarily, model humble, others-first love.

Let’s start with the well-known passage about the descent of Christ, and then let’s look at how Paul modeled the same type of ‘stepping down’ love.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though, he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:3-7

You’ve likely heard this passage before.

You can see the steps down that Jesus takes (for more on this, read J-Curve by Paul Miller. I’m only halfway through it right now and it has blown up my view of walking with God. In a good way). Jesus forsook the throne for a season, stepping down into the likeness of men, loving the people of this world to the point of death (as the rest of this passage describes). Jesus was a man who put others before Himself.

However, Jesus is not the only example of this in the book of Philippians. Paul also lived an others-first life. Look at what I mean.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. – Philippians 1:7

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, – Philippians 1:24-25

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. – Philippians 2:17

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. – Philippians 4:1

Honestly, this is just a sampling. But I figured I didn’t need to type out the entire book. Paul held the Philippians in his heart. We see all throughout the letter that they financially supported him and that they cared for him. This obviously is not the ‘toxic’ relationships many of us try to avoid. But it is still a reminder of our need to have affection for one another.

Paul wanted to be with Jesus. He desired to be with Him. But he knew that it was likely that he would stay on earth. Why? So that he could help them progress in the faith.

Paul was willing to be literally offered up for the people of this church.

Paul loved and longed for this church.

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility leading to selfless love. Paul followed suit.

So, what does this have to do with toxic relationships and working on ourselves?

Let me boil it down for us.

0. If You Are In An Abusive Relationship, Seek Help and Get Out 

Let me start by introducing this huge caveat. If you are in an abusive relationship, Scripture does not teach you to suck it up and take it. Seek help. Get out. Go to a friend or pastor.

With that very important truth out of the way, let’s look at how we should treat others.

1. If Someone Is ‘Toxic’, Love Them 

I put the word toxic in quotes here, because oftentimes we use hyperbole and exaggeration to state the simple fact that someone is hard for us to be around. Yes, a lot of times it’s deeper than that, but in my experience, we like to call people toxic or negative simply because their world doesn’t revolve around us. 

Love them! In Miller’s book, he talks about how we have taken a therapeutic view on most of our relationships. If we don’t feel loved or appreciated by others, or valued or served, we see the friendship as pointless, or in this case, ‘toxic’. But the call of Scripture, the call of Christ, is to love those who may make our lives more difficult.

2. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Serve Them 

One way to show love for someone is to serve them. Have you done that? Have you sought to serve the person you’re thinking of right now that is difficult for you to be around? Have you modeled the humility of Christ, stooping low, giving up your rights, to serve them? Guess what. Service and love may not result in restoration or perfect relationships. You may get nothing out of it. We’ve made relationships transactional, and that is not the way of Christ either. Serve.

3. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Pray For Them

Have you prayed for them? I’m not talking a “God help them” kind of flippant or sarcastic prayer. I’m talking an intentional, genuine, Christ-centered prayer for them. Again, the book of Philippians is not a model of dealing with ‘toxic’ people (although chapter four sheds light on some tension in the church), but what is cool is how Paul’s prayers for them are about gospel growth, not circumstantial changes (1:9-10 for instance). Do you pray for those ‘toxic’ people in your life?

4. If Someone is ‘Toxic’, Confront Them

My biggest pet peeve in the church (or one of my biggest), is how we just drop people that we’re frustrated with or annoyed by. If someone bothers you, you drop them, because it’s too much work.

But.

Have you confronted them? I’m talking about a real honest talk where you tell them why there’s tension or frustration. Now, we don’t like to do this, because we’ve misunderstood the implications of the gospel in our communities. We think that to believe the gospel is to forgive to the point of not acknowledging wrongdoing.

It’s not pleasant to confront. But brother or sister, if you have dropped a friendship or relationship without telling the other party why the distance occurred, you are not absolved of guilt (so to speak). To do your part is to go to the source and confront.

5. If All Else Fails, Love Them Some More 

And if all else fails, keep loving, keep engaging, keep relating. In Miller’s book, he quasi-addresses the whole “Don’t be a welcome mat for people” mentality. He says that life itself is a fellowship in the sufferings of Christ. To be a follower of God is to intentionally take on difficult relationships. To be a follower of God is to focus on others, not ‘working on myself right now’.

Church, let us be men and women who live for others. Not ourselves.

That has been my anthem as of late. I’m a son, saint, and slave of Christ. I’m only still here to live for others. Yes, I’m going to enjoy my life and do things that I enjoy (like going to play golf once a week). But I’m not called to ‘work on myself’. I’m called to engage all people, even the ‘toxic’ ones, for the sake of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Don’t Forget That God Is With You

Besides John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13, there is one other verse that is extremely popular in Christian circles.

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:1-2

Now, obviously I’m kidding. You may have never seen that short little passage before.

Recently I’ve been reading through the book of Numbers in my time with the Lord. There is a whole lot about it that confuses and befuddles me, and I’m only just getting into it. Seriously, my journal is filled with a lot of questions.

But reflecting on this chapter (2) has been convicting and encouraging.

Let me unpack what is going on in these verses and how life-forming they should be for us as followers of Jesus. Here’s some truths to take away and consider.

1. God Was With His People 

The ‘tent of meeting’ was the tabernacle, the place where the presence of God dwelled. Jesus shows us the exact nature of God the Father, but Jesus was not the first theophany (appearance of God on earth), rather He was the ultimate one.

God appears on earth over and over again, beginning with walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. He appears to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. While leading the people of God out of Egypt, He appeared as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke.

Now, here in the trek towards the promised land, He is with them in the tent of meeting.

Guys, the message of the Bible is not ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. The message of the Bible is NOT about being good, moral people. The message of the Bible is ‘God with us’. It’s what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us.

Y’all, the commands of Scripture (of which there certainly are many) do not come from ethereal being in the heavens who has no relationship with His people. No, the commands of Scripture are built upon the foundation of God’s presence with His people.

Every family of God’s people made sure that their tents faced the tent of meeting. Think about it. Every morning, when they left their tent, they looked at where God’s presence dwelt. Every day began with reflections about God’s presence.

2. When You Forget God Is With You, Sin Surely Follows 

Things are relatively good at this point in the story of God’s people. The people have been rescued from slavery. They have a God who is with them, leading them.

The rest of the book of Numbers however unpacks how the people of God descend into lots of sin, simply because they forget that God is able and willing to provide for them and protect them.

In Numbers 11, the people of God complain against the Lord. They doubt His ability to provide for them in the wilderness. So then this happens.

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord,and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them. – Numbers 11:1-3

God’s anger was aroused and some of their were destroyed.

Now, this is probably one of those passages that people would use to accuse the portrayal of God in the OT to be one of anger and malice.

A couple quick things. First off, God is a righteous and angry God. We forget that anger is not inherently sinful. God has the right to be angry with His people. Our sin is telling Him that we are not allegiant to Him as Lord.

Secondly, the fact that God didn’t destroy everyone here is grace. When we accuse God of mistreatment, we forget that just one sin separates us from Him. One sin requires judgment and justice. So this passage is exuding grace, even if our human sensibilities are irked.

Lastly, God immediately provides manna and quail for His people. Even in their sin, God is still providing for His people.

Later on in the story, the people of God are on the cusp of the promised land. They are commanded and called by God to go to war and remove the Canaanites. But instead, they refuse to go in. They think that the people of the land are way too big and powerful.

THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT HAD WATCHED GOD RAIN DOWN PLAGUES UPON THEIR ENEMIES IN EGYPT.

Yet, now their cowardice leads to sin. They forget that God is with them and is ready to protect them.

And their punishment is a generation dying out in the wilderness.

Now, before you start thinking that these people are a bunch of idiots, look in the mirror (I’m including myself in this, fyi). God no longer dwells in a tent of meeting or a temple. Rather, according to the message of Scripture, He dwells in us.

I mean, come on!

We have the very presence of God with us, in us. Yet we doubt His ability to provide and protect. We forget He is near. God is omnipresent. There is no such thing as private sin in my life. God sees it all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let your life reflect that God is with you. Do people see you trusting in His ability to provide and protect? Do people see you reflecting His character?

Brothers and sisters, God is with you.

He is with you.

Rest in that.

Rejoice in that.

God is with you.

Don’t forget it.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 7.53.16 AM

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

Nate, The Saint

Nathan Roach is. . . .

A saint.

Not gonna lie, typing that out is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to me because I know that I’ve had thoughts, actions, and attitudes today that weren’t all that saintly.

Yet, that’s my identity. That’s who I am.

I am a saint in Christ Jesus.

Last week, I went on a highly-anticipated vacation to Nashville with Jamie. We spent a few days at Student Ministry Essentials, a youth ministry conference that Lifeway puts on at their national headquarters. I learned a whole lot, took a lot of notes, and dreamed a lot of dreams with Jamie about what our youth group could look like in the future. But then we got to stay a couple extra days and see the sights and sounds of Nashville. And I even got to take a nap! Pretty dope.

The whole time I was there, I was reflecting on my life. I had been going at a rapid pace. I was doing a lot for God (which is laughable when in reality He doesn’t need me) while doing very little communing with God.

I wanted to get to the bottom of my frenetic pace and restlessness.

A book I finished while on vacation encouraged me to write out my name at the top of a piece of paper and start listing out my identity. Much of our lack of rest and most of our stress come from a misunderstood identity.

Let me show you what I mean.

Sitting in the Gaylord Opryland Resort (we didn’t stay there, simply pretended like we belonged their while waiting for our flight), I did that exercise.

I wrote in my journal:

Nathan Roach is. . . 

I wrote a whole lot. And sadly, most of what I said about myself revolved around my vocation and my personality, not my position in Christ.

Here’s a few examples of the things I thought about and wrote about.

A family pastor. Tired. Fun. Funny. Different. An outsider. A Christian. An imperfect husband. A man of God. Angry. Prideful. Selfish. An FCA Ambassador. A writer. A reader. An open book.

Obviously I had some much more raw responses to that question, but those are for face to face conversations, not the blogosphere.

Here’s what I came to realize.

When my primary identity is in my vocation, my work becomes supreme in my life. I am not able to leave it at work. I take it home, thinking and planning while with my wife Jamie, not enjoying the grace of God to me in so many good gifts He has given me. Work consumes my mind and heart. To make matters worse, when I fail at my job, making mistakes, then I’m rocked to my core.

Nathan Roach is a family pastor. So when Nathan Roach makes mistakes as a family pastor, my entire view of self is negatively affected. This is unhealthy for sure.

When my primary identity is in my sin, then my guilt and shame become supreme in my life. When I view myself as an angry, prideful, and selfish man, those sins continue to trip me up, reinforcing that false view of myself. When my primary identity is in my sins, then I start to again work really hard for God to atone for my sins. That is also clearly out of line with the message of the gospel.

God rocked me with these realities.

No wonder I was tired when I became primarily a pastor and a sinner, rather than a child of God and a saint.

Recently I’ve been all over Philippians. I try and read through it every couple of days, I listen to it in the car, I am memorizing part of it. There is a whole litany of reasons I’m doing this, but it has certainly served to remind me of who I am.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:1-2 

Just in the very beginning of the letter, there is so much beauty. I’m a saint. God is my Father.

Those two truths should be my primary view of myself. If anything else supersedes those things in my life, then my life will fall apart. I will begin to run at a pace that I can’t even begin to sustain. I’m grateful that God removed me from the grind and got me alone with Him to consider how I viewed myself.

So my question for you is. . .

Who are you?

I would encourage you to do the same exercise with yourself that I did. Be honest. Be real. Be raw. Let what’s percolating in your heart come out onto the page. Share the things you’ve written with a trusted brother and sister in Christ. Then ask God to reorient your heart and your mind around who you are in Him.

Now, let’s be honest, it’s not a switch you can flip in your brain that magically fixes all of our self-doubts and self-perceptions. It’s a journey. Yesterday was absolutely great for me. Today, not so much. But I’m continuing to stay in the Word and I’m continuing to ask God day after day to show me who I am.

Pro-tip: Leave your phone out of your bedroom. When I start my day in God’s Word, my entire day is affected. When I start my day checking my blog stats, checking my e-mail, checking Facebook, my day is already based off of my vocation and and my performance.

And if you need your phone for an alarm, invest in an alarm clock instead. Thankfully I have a dog that wakes me up every morning like clockwork.

Who are you?

My prayer is that you seek Scripture for the answer.

And if you need any help in your journey, feel free to hit me up.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

You’re Not Alone In The Fight

Are you tired?

I am.

Are you hitting the point of the semester where you’re drained and bearing the weight of all that is on your plate?

I am.

It’s that time.

Late September.

The fun of the holidays isn’t quite here, North Texas hasn’t got the memo that today is the start of Fall, and the burden of busy calendars is upon us.

Coming in hot to steal away my ability to rest is some battles with insomnia. There are the occasional nights where I’m up for hours in the middle of the night for no reason other than the burdens of ministry (the pro of this is extra time in God’s Word, when I take the step of getting up and reading rather than just laying there). I see the light, but I also come face to face with the darkness that many are facing. There are moments where I feel like my tiny, feeble light is about to be extinguished by the darkness I battle every day.

You may not be in vocational ministry, but I know you’re likely prone to encounters with the weighty darkness of this world.

My problem is that I all too often try to bear this weight alone.

Thank God for friends who draw me back from the front lines, who remind me that I’m not in the fight alone, who remind me that discipleship is a team sport.

Discipleship is a team sport, guys! We need each other deeply and desperately. None of us, not a single one of us, are capable of doing the work of discipleship on our own in our individual communities. There’s enough work to go around.

We’re not alone in the fight.

The Lord’s been showing me this reality as of late. One through a pretty obvious text out of 2 Timothy, and secondly through a simple phrase at the start of an often-ignored letter of Paul.

Let me show you what He’s been showing me.

First off, we see in 2 Timothy a letter from a passionate missionary to his son in the faith. Timothy was at a point where he was deciding whether or not to go on in ministry. He was being pushed to and fro by the burdens of following Jesus above all else. He was a soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

Quick side-note. The easy life is the life of a man or woman who is not sold out in allegiance to King Jesus, ready to do His work. I’ve been there. I’ve been churchy, religious, a lover of God, but not all the way in as His soldier. Now I know that utter allegiance to Him is the hard life. But that’s also the worthwhile and joyful life. 

Paul sends him a letter of deep encouragement. He first reminds Timothy of his own care for him (1:2, my beloved child) and then he reminds Timothy of the heritage of faith that he had (1:5-6, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice). This was how Paul brought encouragement to Timothy for him to continue being resilient. He told Timothy to look behind him. See who came before him. See who invested in him personally. See who finished the race, and see who are still trucking along.

Man, as I’ve done that, I’ve felt such a fire in my soul to keep moving forward one day at at time.

Odus Compton. Brady Sharp. Zack Randles. Jeff Roach. Joshua Tompkins.

These are just a handful of men who have poured into me, who are still in the fight against the darkness.

Their faith, perseverance, and endurance keep me going.

Paul told Timothy to look behind him to those who came before.

Like I said, I’ve found another source of encouragement in a pretty random place.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

You read 2 Thessalonians as of late?

If you’re like me, probably not.

This short little letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica is pretty ignored at times. And while there is a ton of beneficial truths laced throughout the book, this opening greeting reminded me of something.

When you feel like you’re alone in the fight, look beside you.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

If we’re not careful, we can slide over to the belief that Paul was superhuman.

But, here we have a reminder that he had a team.

Sometimes this team abandoned him, sometimes this team didn’t get along well with him, but a team he had all the same.

Silas and Timothy did ministry with him, and they were a part of his letter of exhortation to the church in Thessalonica.

The Lord regularly has to remind me to look around me. To open my eyes to the men and women in my church who are fighting beside me, and the men and women in our community who are doing the same. I could list out a plethora of names of men and women who are chasing after Jesus as King, who are serving as soldiers in His battalions.

So I ask again.

Are you tired?

Are you worn out with life, not to mention the fight for the Kingdom of God?

Look behind you and look beside you.

You are not alone in the fight. Look behind you to those who came before, and look beside you to those who fight by your side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Aslan Is On The Move

God is near.
Do you believe that?
In the midst of all that you’re facing today, God is close.
Have you ever been in a situation where life seems hopeless? Have you ever been in circumstances or situations where things seem so dark, so discouraging, so messed up, that you don’t think there’s any light to be found?
If you have been there, or if you are there now, I want to show you something in the book of Samuel that I pray gives you hope, if you look closely.
The book of 1 Samuel begins with hope in the midst of darkness. Hannah, a deeply troubled infertile woman, cries out to the Lord in her pain, asking for a child. She promises to give her child back to the Lord if her prayer is granted. God is faithful to her, blessing her in just that way, and she keeps her promise to Him, bringing Samuel to the temple to serve under the headship of the priest, Eli. You can read all about that in 1 Samuel 1-2.
Eli, the priest, was set apart by God to serve Him in the temple. Yet, we see a pretty bleak picture of what his sons, two men who were supposed to follow in his footsteps, were doing at this time.
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. – 1 Samuel 2:12-14
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. – 1 Samuel 2:22
Phinehas and Hophni were the names of these two worthless men.
They were not only stealing from the sacrifices that the people of God were bringing to God, they were also having sex with the female workers at the temple. Worthless men is right. Driven by lust and greed.
Talk about a bleak situation.
The religious leaders were driven by lust and greed.
Things get even bleaker, and then hope peeks its head up in one simple verse.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. – 1 Samuel 3:1-3 
Verse 1 says that the voice of God was rare in those days. At the time of Samuel’s life there was rarely any words from the Lord through a prophet/judge. Instead, the people were doing whatever was right in their own eyes. There was no guidance from God, there was no leadership.
Look at verse three again though.
This is a key part of the story.
So first we read that the voice of God was rare in that day, but now we see that “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.”
In his commentary (1 Samuel for You), Tim Chester notes that he believes this phrase to not simply be a statement about what time of day it is in this moment. Instead, he believes the writer of 1 Samuel intended for this to be symbolic.
Eli’s eyes are literally “dim” in 1 Samuel 3:2. Now we have an image of a lamp almost going out. The light it casts is dim. But it is not yet extinguished. There is still hope. – Tim Chester
I can’t help but think of the moment in the The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe where the Pevensie children are with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The White Witch had turned Narnia into a winter not so wonderland of bleak and dreary days. Mr. Beaver states “Aslan is on the move”, and the children (all but Edmund) burst into hopeful smiles.
In the bleak moments of life, God is still on the move.
In the hopeless moments of life, the lamp of God is still burning.
God is still near.
If you feel like He’s not moving, not speaking, not at work, you’re failing to understand that God dwells with you.
The God of the universe, if you are a follower of Jesus, is with you at ALL times.
In the midst of divorce.
In the midst of losing friends.
In the midst of not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. 
In every situation, God is near.
The lamp of God had not yet gone out. God was about to remind His people that He was still near. He’s about to speak to Samuel.
In His Name,
Nate Roach