What’s On Your Mind?

My mind races almost all the time. There are normally a dozen thought processes running through my head from moment to moment. It’s the way I’m wired.

It’s become such a part of me that my wife knows I’m lying anytime I answer ‘nothing’ when she asks me what I’m thinking about.

From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep my mind is on the run.

So I’ve striven to live a life of meditation.

You see, the Biblical view of meditation is the process of filling your mind. That’s what it means to meditate.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2

Oh how I desire to be that man.

The beautiful part of Psalm 1 is that it opens our eyes to the reality that happiness is found when we delight ourselves in meditating on God’s Word (v. 1).

Don’t you want to be happy? I certainly do. I want a life full of happiness that is grounded in the work of Christ and the beauty of His Word. I want to wake up excited to take on the day ahead, and that’s not always the case.

A lot of days I wake up and I’m just trying to summon the strength to get going.

That’s not God’s design for us.

He doesn’t want to produce flippant, fickle, ungrounded men and women who don’t acknowledge the realities of a Genesis 3 world. But at the same time He desires for His people to be the happiest of people.

Happiness isn’t found in mindless scrolling of social media. Happiness isn’t found in filling our minds with the latest Covid conspiracy theories, anecdotal articles that focus on self-help, or angry editorials that idolize our nation and our political party. Happiness is found in filling our minds with God’s Word.

Psalm 1 differentiates between the counsel of this world we reside in and the counsel of His Law. The opening verse encouraged us to avoid the counsel of the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.

How much of what I fill my mind with falls under that?

Instead, we are told by God to fill our minds with His Word. Day and night. If you instinctively go for your phone in moments of waiting, utilize that. When you’re in line at the grocery store. When you’re brushing your teeth. When you’re waiting for a few minutes before a meeting. When you’re waiting a few minutes for your spouse to get home. When you’re in those spaces where you grab your phone, go to your Bible app. Meditate. I think you could fill your mind with so much more Scripture than you might think if you intentionally stole those moments of waiting and instead of checking Instagram you read some Scripture.

Day and night.

Meditate.

Your time in God’s Word should not be casual and flippant. It should be voracious. We should be hungry for more of it, for it helps us commune with the Trinitarian God we love.

Meditation involves taking the Word seriously by our determining to make use of more than a casual and occasional reading of the Bible. – Alton McEachern

Do we take the Word seriously?

I don’t.

It’s much more easy and convenient to fill my mind with mindless stuff instead of filling it with Scripture.

May we grow to be happy men and women who passionately pursue a deep study of the Scriptures.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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

 

 

 

The Least Of These

As I sit here writing these words, it is Easter Sunday morning. For the first time in my life I attended Easter worship in my pajamas, watching a livestream from my couch. It was easy, comfortable, and convenient for me and others viewing the service via my church’s Facebook page. My father gave an excellent sermon as he always does, and as the live video came to an end, all viewers were able to quickly continue with our days and whatever plans we have with our families.

Despite this apparent ease of our new routine, I feel a strong conviction from the Lord this morning. A verse that has continually worked itself into my mind this morning and in recent days is Matthew 25:40, which reads “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me,” the least of these being the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned. This verse puts on full display to me how ease and convenience are antithetical to our collective calling as followers of Christ. As the church, we like helping the poor, the needy, those who need our help, and it is a beautiful thing when we are able to meet the needs of our community. However, too often our participation in service to others only extends as far as it is convenient for us to do so. We will serve at a food bank on our saturday off, or serve the homeless during a regularly scheduled church meeting, or go on a mission trip during a free week in the summer. This brings the question: Would we only serve within our comfort zone if it was Christ himself we were serving?

My guess is no. We would go above and beyond, sacrificing time, money, and energy in our dedication to the Savior. This would be a show of reciprocity that is rightfully earned by His sacrifice on the cross. But when it comes to other people, we are hesitant to give beyond our bare minimum time, money, and effort because, let’s face it, what have they done for us? They haven’t made the ultimate sacrifice, they aren’t Jesus, so we don’t have an incentive to go above and beyond for them. In rationalizing this, we fail to remember that the reason Jesus came in the first place was because WE are “the least of these.” We are the ones that are so desperately in need of saving, and Jesus made a painful, inconvenient sacrifice on the cross, not because we were worth saving, but because of an overwhelming, all-encompassing love for His people.

It is that same love that we should aspire to give our fellow sinners, not because they deserve it, but because it is what we are called to. Mark 12:31 says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That does not mean love your neighbor according to what they have done for you, or treat them as you would like to be treated, but love them to the same extent that Jesus loved you, to the point of bloodshed, torture and death. This kind of love is self-sacrificial and requires faith to the point of reckless abandon of ourselves for the benefit of others. Our love is not a calculation of debts owed, but an extension of Christ. Our culture tells us that the condition of our lives is somehow earned, that the comfortable deserve their comfort and those who struggle haven’t been good enough to be in better circumstances, but I can personally say that that is not true. I have been blessed with comfort, a loving family, the good fortune to attend my dream college, and countless other things that I was lucky to receive, but did not earn.

The reality is that all any of us has earned in our lives is condemnation, but God has given us a way out because of love. When we accept that, it becomes easier to relinquish what we have been given on earth. Any earthly privilege we have is given from God so that we may use it to help His people. That means that if we are lucky enough to live lives without poverty, without oppression, without abuse, we should do everything in our power to assist those that have. It is our calling as Christians, not to mention just as human beings. I acknowledge that I often fail in this. I am selfish with my money, time, and privilege. I am consumed with my worldly image, striving to meet earthly measures of success.But just because we fail does not mean we cease to try. We cannot just stop loving the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated, and the abused simply because it is difficult. The cross was difficult too, but it gives us hope and life, and that outpouring of love is what we ought to emulate with our words and our efforts as we go forward.

Thank you and God bless

Tanner Knox

Nate Roach’s Church

There are times when Scripture just punches me in the face.

Today was one of those days.

I’ve been looking at the book of Ephesians lately here on my blog, and the passage I came to today shined a big ol’ light on some dark parts of my heart that I’ve been content to just ignore or gloss over.

Let’s look at the passage together.

when he raised (Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. - Ephesians 1:20b-23

This is an abrupt break due to the fact that I covered the previous parts of this chapter in prior blogs.

Here’s the gist of what we’re looking at though. We’re looking at a phenomenal, magnificent, amazing description of what God the Father gave to Christ the Son.

I mean, that list is engrossing.

Look at all that it says about Jesus:

  • He was raised from the dead (what we’re about to celebrate this weekend)
  • He is seated at the right hand of the Father
  • He is over every rule
  • He is over every authority
  • He is over every power
  • He is over every dominion
  • His Name is greater than all others
  • All things are under His feet
  • He is the head of the church

Wow. Now, I generally enjoy looking at least at all the cross-references for a passage before teaching on it. I didn’t do that today because there is honestly just so much here. There are dozens of other passages in the Bible that allude to these different realities regarding the magnificence of Jesus.

In this Covid-19 season of quarantine, this is the type of stuff that we should be meditating on. We shouldn’t be meditating on the news. We shouldn’t be looking up the word ‘plague’ in a concordance and trying to make verses speak into this direct situation. We should be looking to Jesus. We should be rejoicing in all that the Father has given Him.

Did you see all of that? He’s in charge. He resides over every nation, leading every ruler of every nation (even the ones you don’t like). There is nothing more powerful than Him. The entire world is under His feet. This passage brings me so much joy and hope. He’s got me. He’s got you. He’s got us.

But this passage also, like I said, punches me square in the face.

Because do you see who is in control here?

Is it Nate Roach?

Nope, and we should all be abundantly grateful that it’s not.

I’ve shared before that this quarantine scenario has served to take away any facade of my control over literally anything in my life. We like to think that we ourselves are in charge. But we’re not.

For me personally, as of late, that second to last verse is the one that really hits too close to home.

I had my ministry before Covid-19 struck. We were zooming through Philippians, gaining traction, seeing a little fruit, about to start a brand new High School only service. All was well.

Then bam.

Gone.

In an instant y’all.

I’ll be honest, these past few weeks of this quarantine stuff has been tough on me. As it has been tough on all of us. I’ve had to wrestle with doubt, fear, worry, feelings of purposelessness. All the while I wanted to wrestle back control of my life, my ministry, our church.

I mean, seriously, how will any student or child grow spiritually if we’re not gathered and I’m not leading?

Okay y’all, I hope you see what God showed me about the stupidity of that there statement.

Here’s where the fist drilled the face.

This church isn’t dependent on me. Not even remotely.

This church isn’t dependent upon any other staff member.

This church is dependent upon Christ.

He is the head.

Not Nate Roach.

And He is still in control.

Not Nate Roach.

Go back to that passage above. Read it again and again. Look at all that it says about Jesus. Look deeply, closely, intentionally. Be encouraged. Don’t fret or be afraid. God is in control. Jesus is still on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I’ve used this quarantine season to get started on a couple other avenues for sharing God’s Word. The first is a YouTube channel. You can find the latest video here: https://youtu.be/f1OnESBOAok.

The second is a podcast! This is what I’m super stoked about! I know reading a long rambling blog is not always the best. Sometimes, having something to listen to while doing other activities is a better way to soak up God’s Word. My prayer is that this new podcast (which will be up and running soon) will be a way for you to grow in your love for Jesus.

Legalism And Living Water

I was sitting in my room reading when I heard my wife exclaim from the kitchen. I made my way to her (after yelling back and forth for a sec) and found that the garbage disposal was leaking all over the place. It was pooling up in the dishwasher and it was pouring onto the floor. Nasty, chunky, yellowy (not sure if that’s a word, but I’m running with it) water. My dog was having a field day, but my wife and I were utterly disgusted.

As I unsuccessfully tried to fix it (I am woefully incompetent in the world of being a handyman), I couldn’t help but think about idolatry. I had just been reading in preparation for teaching the youth Sunday school class and we were discussing this verse.

God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, said this:

For my people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves – cracked cisterns that cannot hold water. – Jeremiah 2:3

Whew.

That’s a good word.

God is declaring His people guilty, for they not only abandoned Him but also pursued idols instead. And God doesn’t mince words through Jeremiah’s proclamation. He proclaims it to be evil.

Idolatry is evil.

So which idols are in your life? Where do you turn to for satisfaction or purpose? Where do you turn to for comfort and hope?

Sometimes mine are trivial in nature. I have spent a little too much time golfing during certain seasons of life. I can find a new show on TV and just go crazy with it. I can read until I drop the book on my face as a way of escaping the difficulty of my life.

Sometimes my idols are a little more insidious and dangerous. I crave being in control. I hate not being in control. That’s an idol that affects a lot in me.

The most dangerous idol in my life is legalism.

Yes, legalism.

I’ve only recently began to understand that legalism is idolatrous. It’s the belief that I can live in such a way so as to earn God’s favor, or to remain in his love. I’ve been reading a book by Trillia Newbell, and she summed up legalism in the local church in a phenomenal way. So I’ll just let you read her words.

The problem came when, at a certain point, some of the members twisted the gospel, equating some specific practices with godliness and placing matters of personal preference on the same level as the Word of God. . . It doesn’t seem to matter what’s going on in the hearts of those who live a certain way; they are automatically considered godly as long as they follow the accepted practices. – Trillia Newbell, Sacred Endurance 

What a profound description of one of my deepest struggles.

Legalism has affected my marriage in the past, my relationships with church members, my relationship with the Lord.

As soon as we start judging the faith of another based on our habits, we are walking in legalism.

The second half of that quote rocked me the most.

It doesn’t seem to matter what’s going on in the hearts of those who live a certain way (doing the accepted practices). 

I’m all about God’s Word. I love to teach it, study it, and read it. I love to sit under good preaching and listen to podcasts of sermons. So in my legalism I have been prone to see those who are more committed to gathering together under the Word as more solid in their faith.

But, one can sit under the Word for decades and still have a heart that is dead, cold, and unaffected by the glory of Christ.

One can not drink, not cuss, not watch certain movies, not dress a certain way, and still have a heart that is dead, cold, and unaffected by the glory of Christ.

I go to counseling/mentorship with a pastor in my area twice a month. And when I sit down in his office, he never asks me “How many hours have you prayed this week? You on track in your Bible reading plan? Have you done your Sunday School homework? Did you wear a t shirt to church?”

No, he asks me questions about my heart.

He gets me to acknowledge where I’m really at. Am I in love with Jesus or not. If not, why. And then we talk. A lot. For hours. And we discuss life, marriage, ministry, and Jesus.

When’s the last time you’ve asked that to a friend?

Again, external actions devoid of genuine love of Jesus mean nothing to God and should mean nothing to us.

Legalism is often unseen. It is insidious. We don’t always notice it at work in our lives. But then, the cracked cistern breaks and the impure water flows all over the place, affecting our relationships and churches and communities and families.

If you are realizing legalism in you, let me encourage you.

You MUST behave a certain way for God to love you.

No, that ain’t it. That’s more legalism.

If you are realizing legalism is at work in you, I want you to stop drinking leaky garbage disposal water and instead drink from a Dasani bottle (or whatever your favorite water is, I don’t care).

In that verse from Jeremiah above, God says that He is the fountain of living water (John 4 anyone? I mean, come on! The Bible is one big story, and I love the connections!)!

Legalism is a disgusting trade for genuine communion with God.

You have been set free! Read all through Galatians! Highlight all the grace and freedom! Underline the gospel!

Walk with Jesus!

Stop judging others and slandering others based on practices that you think are exactly equated with godliness (and if you’re even a little like me, those practices are normally practices I just so happen to be good at).

Let’s walk in freedom together. Pursuing holiness.

Let’s drink from communion with Jesus.

As a man who has been a legalist and a lover of Jesus, let me tell you the latter is so much greater.

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

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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

Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Present That Never Fades

Advent is a wonderful way to start the year.

In the liturgical church calendar, Advent begins the year. While I wasn’t raised following this church calendar, I’ve started to embrace it due to its richness and sublimity. It makes me stop and consider the history of our Christian faith, and feel a depth that’s lacking in general life.

It’s counter-cultural too. Instead of our year starting in January with “resolutions” to be the best we’ve ever been, our year starts with a realization that we can’t ever be better on our own. Our world is corrupt, fallen, sinful. Pain, sickness, and suffering abounds. Something’s not right.

We’re not ok.

But our year begins with the fulfillment of a promise. A promise that a savior would come and deliver us from sin and pain and death. A promise that a king would come to set things right. A promise that a gift would be given that keeps giving, giving, and giving.

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises and more.

When we start our year off with a baby Jesus, we’re starting the year off with a fulfilled promise. We’re starting our year off with songs of joy. We’re starting our year off with hope and peace. These are wonderful ways to begin the year, I’d say.

We start the year with deep hurt, deep desires unfulfilled. But we start the year with a child who was born to meet our deep hurt and to fulfill our deepest desires for life, joy, peace, and love. Jesus is this child. And the church calendar follows his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It’s a wonderful way to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

It also reminds us that Jesus lived an ordinary life for probably 30 years too. He worked with his hands as likely a carpenter. He didn’t have a lot of money. His family was pretty poor. He didn’t have running water. He didn’t even live in Jerusalem! That’s God’s own city! It’s where God’s presence was (more or less) since King David and King Solomon. But when Jesus, fully God and fully man, walked about on earth, he wasn’t even living in his own city. Why?

Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Because Jesus came to those who were far from God. Those who were literally, physically far from God — Gentiles, non-Jews, people like you and me.

Jesus offered a free gift through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. This gift is the beginning of our new life (for those who believe in Jesus). This gift starts our lives. This gift starts our years, year after year. It’s the beginning of something new and great.

Paul, in Romans, puts it this way:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. – Romans 5:16

I had to read this about fifty times before I had a glimmer of what he’s saying here. And pardon me for missing something. I’m sure I did.

But what I gathered here is so amazing.

The free gift from Jesus “following many trespasses brought justification.” It’s easy to get lost in all this language, to be honest. But right before this, Paul says, “the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” What’s that mean? It means the free gift is not exactly like how Adam’s one sin led to a fallen world. When we sin, even one time, we are condemned. Condemned means we’re guilty. So through one sin, we’re guilty.

One wrong thought or action in this life causes you to be guilty. That’s it.

We need this guilt removed somehow. But we can’t remove it ourselves through good works. John Stott explains why:

“So what can be done? If we are ever to be forgiven we must repay what we owe. Yet we are incapable of doing this, either for ourselves or for other people. Our present obedience and good works cannot make satisfaction for our sin, since these are required of us anyway. So we cannot save ourselves.” (emphasis mine)

We need a gift. Now, recall that one wrong thought or action in this life causes us to be guilty. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve done a bit more wrong than just one. Let’s just say I sin once a day. Since being born, that’s over 9,000 days. That’s over 9,000 sins. Woh. First of all, that’s more than I expected for some reason. Second of all, that’s only with one sin a day!

Two sins a day makes 18,000. Three makes over 27,000. If one makes me guilty, then how much more am I in the gutter!

But here’s the great part. Even after thousands of sins (or trespasses) the free gift of God brings justification! Just one sin causes condemnation. Yet one free gift overcomes innumerable sins and causes justification.

This is a much better way to start your year.

Instead of ending your year with presents that will fade away with time, start your year with a present that will never fade. Start your year with Jesus. Start your year believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Start your year with peace, hope, joy, and love.

– Matthew Welborn

 

Behind The Scenes Of Christmas

Aslan is on the move.

There are few phrases that draw out emotions deep in my soul like that one. Whether it was in the book form of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or the movie adaptation, that phrase brings so much hope. In the case of the aforementioned book, Aslan is a depiction of God in a fantasy world designed by C.S. Lewis. In the book there is much hopelessness as an evil witch presides and reigns over the kingdom. Those loyal to Aslan are captured and condemned. Yet whispers still bounce about in private conversations.

Aslan is on the move.

Sure enough, the titular character ends up defeating the evil witch and bringing joy and hope to the kingdom once ravaged by perpetual winter.

When I sat in the theaters and watched this book come to life on the big screen, my heart was overwhelmed with emotions each time that phrase was proclaimed. Something deep down in my heart was being pricked each time, and I began to realize that the thought of God’s intimate involvement in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations brings so much joy and hope in my heart.

Enter the Christmas story.

Hundreds of years of quiet.

A messiah was promised by the prophets of God, and yet generation after generation passed from life to death and each subsequent generation still had not seen this promised messiah rise up.

Over the last couple weeks my wife and I have been trying to prioritize time in God’s Word together and we’ve been focusing on the Gospel of Luke. As we have been digging in together, I have been struck by the way that the Spirit is moving throughout the first two chapters leading up to the public ministry of Jesus. Just under the surface of the events that are taking place, we see that the Holy Spirit is leading the way.

The Spirit of God was something that only a chosen few received from God the Father in the Old Testament. After the resurrection of Jesus, this Spirit is poured out on all who have put their faith in what Jesus did through his life and sacrificial death. It is not shackled or limited to just a few people. It’s for everyone. It’s the agent of life that works in each of our individual lives as followers of Jesus.

Yet here in the beginning of Luke, it was not for everyone. Not yet.

In the darkness of centuries of silence, the Spirit of God began to move.

First, an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him the following about his soon to be son:

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. ‘ – Luke 1:14-15

This soon to be child would be filled with the Spirit of God as a fetus. That’s pretty incredible. In his mother’s womb he would have a special outpouring of God’s Spirit upon his life, and he would eventually pave the way for the arrival of the promised Messiah (1:17). This proclamation of the angel comes during an average day, when it seemed like the Lord had forgotten His people.

After Jesus’ birth is proclaimed to Mary, the story continues with Mary going to visit her relative Elizabeth (the woman whom Zechariah was married to). When this happens, we see the Spirit move again.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” – Luke 1:41-42

Elizabeth is given the words to say to proclaim the praises of the Messiah through the presence of the Holy Spirit in her heart and life.

It only gets better though, as the Spirit of God continues to move.

Zechariah was made mute by the angel of the Lord due to his doubting of God’s promises, yet at the arrival of his promised son Zechariah begins to proclaim and sing the greatness of God, something that comes about via, you guessed it, the Spirit of God.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. – Luke 1:67-68

The phrase Aslan is on the move does something in me, but this verse does even more. God visited and redeemed His people. That is the message of Christmas. Everything else is just noise. Sunday school parties and Christmas lights and gifts are great, truly. But what gets me most excited about this season is that we get to reflect on that promise. God visited and redeemed His people.

The actual birth of Jesus aside, there is one more figure in the proceedings leading up to the ministry of Jesus that is gifted with the presence of the Spirit.

Jesus is now the age where he is required to be purified in the temple (according to Leviticus 12) by his parents. So Mary and Joseph take Him there, and they there encounter a man by the name of Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, and he was waiting for the promised Messiah.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. . . and he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, . . . “for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” – Luke 2:25, 27-28, 30-31

This Spirit-filled man proclaimed the majesty of the infant Jesus. He proclaimed to all who heard him (much like Anna a few verses later) that this infant was the one who would bring salvation to all the nations.

In the bleakness of the perceived silence of God, God shows that He is present and involved in the world.

The story of Christmas is a story of God’s movement in the world.

Aslan is on the move.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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