The Kingdom is for Children

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

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

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

It revolves around the passage above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I chase, cling to, and cherish status?

OR

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

What is precious to me?

God’s promises, presence, and people?

OR

Earthly power, prestige, and pleasure?

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

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

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

The Kingdom is for children.

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

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

I’m still on this journey.

You know when I most encounter this struggle?

Golfing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My prayer is that you enjoy life too.

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

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

Let us enjoy life with the Father.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Don’t Follow Your Heart

I am a selfish, narcissistic jerk.

Seriously though. Life for Nathan Roach is about Nathan Roach.

At least when I’m left to my own devices.

You know what’s cool though? I don’t have to live that way. I have a choice now. I can choose to spend time with God and have my heart and mind reoriented back to a Kingdom mindset.

Did you know that is one of the many implications of the gospel? Not that I will always choose the Kingdom, but that I now have the chance to choose the Kingdom.

Before I put my faith in Jesus as my Savior and gave my allegiance to Him as Lord, I had no choice. Everything I did was for Nathan Roach. Even my ‘religious’ actions. Even my morally good choices. Even my generous or loving or kind decisions. It was all ultimately still about me and my glory.

Here’s the way Ephesians 2:1-3 puts it.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. - Ephesians 2:1-3 

That’s where I was outside of Christ.

I was dead.

Not morally wrong, not a bad person.

Straight up dead.

Because of the sins that I was walking in, because my entire life was given in allegiance to the enemy of our souls (the prince of the power of the air). Because my flesh and mind were my guide.

I was dead and deserved God’s wrath.

This passage then bursts into glorious gospel truths about the wonderful grace of God given to those who follow Jesus as Lord. But that’s for next time.

What I want to get you to think about is the fact that our hearts and minds, even as followers of Jesus, will regularly lead us astray.

My heart breaks when I see so many churches, or so many followers of Jesus proclaiming some sort of “follow your heart” kind of worldview. Your heart is not a good guide. Your flesh and your mind are not aligned with Jesus.

Notice again what that passage said. When I was not a follower of Jesus, I was carrying out the desires of my body and mind. Those things don’t magically become worth following when you get saved. They will perpetually need to be wrestled against, they will perpetually need to be reoriented. It’s why the people of God in the Old Testament were to talk consistently about and meditate on the words of God. Left to our own devices, we are selfish, narcissistic jerks. Like myself.

The good news of the gospel is that we now have a choice to live differently. You and I can choose to follow Jesus instead of our wicked hearts.

But my natural state, even as a Christian, is to live in such a way that glorifies me and leads to my own blessings and success in this world. Every day where I do not begin my day in His word and in His presence, I live for me. I don’t think about others. I don’t think about the Kingdom of God. I think about my family and our needs.

Church, I plead with you to bring your heart and mind, dreams, aspirations, motivations, intentions, and plans under the word of God and into the presence of God. It’s only by this intentional action that we can live for the Kingdom of God rather than ourselves, even as followers of Jesus.

Left to my own devices, my heart leads me into sin.

Every time.

I need to teach my heart and mind how to live for the Kingdom.

I do this through time with God in word and prayer.

I plead with you to do the same.

Don’t follow your heart.

Let God teach it.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Pursuing Victimhood

I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, but it’s easy to see that we live in a day and age where everyone pursues victimhood.

Those who have Republican leanings cry out as victims of a Democratic attempt to take over and destroy everything they hold dear.

Those who have Democratic leanings cry out as victims of an oppressive and tyrannical regime.

Obviously these are exaggerated to prove a point, that we are all prone to holding a victim mentality.

It is not just in politics. It happens in the sports world. Clemson football’s head coach spoke out about how the College Football Playoff Committee didn’t want them in it, how they were against them. In essence, how they were victims of an SEC-bias. You best believe that fired up his team.

It happens in even smaller things too.

This very morning at church I jokingly tried to present myself as the victim in my wife’s decision to not let us open Christmas presents a few days early.

Coming across as a victim has power in our day and age. People side with the victim.

Now, duh, there are very real victims of very real evil and wicked acts. Don’t get me wrong. But there are also innumerable moments where victimhood is claimed inappropriately and incorrectly.

I think it happens all of the time in the church.

We live in an age in the United States where Christians are crying out as victims just about daily. Petitions are floating around social media, boycotts are taking place, what isn’t persecution is decried as persecution. Everywhere I look, Christians are taking the role of the victim.

Toy Story 4 is liberal propaganda designed to subtly destroy the Christian view of sexuality. 

Starbucks is persecuting Christians because they didn’t put Merry Christmas on their cups. 

Netflix is persecuting Christians due to the abhorrent nature of some of their films and shows. 

Our schools are persecuting Christians by removing certain Christian practices (prayer before sporting events, etc.). 

These are all things I’ve seen (some less recent than others).

Is this inherently wrong?

Not necessarily. Although I would argue that most believers in countries that are actually physically persecuted for their faith would see our outcries of victimhood as interesting to say the least.

Is it forgetting some of the themes we see in Scripture?

Probably.

You see, as followers of Jesus, in my opinion, we should never play the victim card. Meaning, we shouldn’t really be loud about the ways that we may or may not be ‘persecuted’.

It’s expected that we should be ostracized for our faith.

Look with me at what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthian church.

When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the scum of the earth, like everyone’s garbage. – 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13

Honestly, and I guess weirdly, this is one of my favorite passages. Because it first reminds me that the entire story of Scripture says that we are never going to be popular for following God. What our country has experienced the last few decades is unique. It’s almost unheard of in Scripture. It certainly wasn’t normative.

Now, the church is finding itself headed back towards its rightful place. The bottom of society. Considered by at least some as scum and garbage.

Again, the ‘persecution’ I outlined above is not really persecution in the slightest. I personally have never gotten wrapped up in the fact that a non-Christian culture doesn’t put Christian values at the forefront of all that it does. Why would it? And why is the church so overly concerned with the fact that it doesn’t?

Look at what Paul said.

When they were reviled (I’ve never been hated for what I believe. At least not to my face. The closest thing to that is a lady who was cutting my hair giving me a half second weird look when I said I was a pastor), they BLESSED. They didn’t scream for their rights.

When they were persecuted (real, physical persecution), they ENDURED it. They didn’t put their hope in petitions to the government.

When they were slandered, they responded GRACIOUSLY, not enraged and ready to fire back.

When they were treated like SCUM OF THE EARTH AND GARBAGE, they accepted their role.

Church, it’s time we accept our role. Jesus was mocked, spat upon, beaten, tortured, and put on trial. He never once cried out as a victim. He never once petitioned the powers that be. He never once fired back in rage. He just went lower and lower unto death. It’s time that we become willing to ‘share in his sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10).

Does that mean we become a quiet partaker in unfair treatment? Maybe. Maybe that is what Jesus modeled for us.

When he was on trial and asked if he was king, he said this. And it’s fire.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” – John 18:36

MY. KINGDOM. IS. NOT. OF. THIS. WORLD.

If it was, His servants would fight.

Since it isn’t, His servants will give their lives in love.

Church, let us love our community. Let us engage our culture. Let us seek to be the hands and feet of Christ. Let us give up our rights (just as Jesus did in Philippians 2:5-8). Let us be more concerned with whether or communities know that we love them than we are whether or not our communities value all that we value.

Let me end with this quote from Mike Cosper, one of my fave authors.

We don’t love our cities well by withdrawing and doing nothing. We also don’t love them well if we waste our lives with political arguments about who has victimized whom. No doubt there is a need for legal battles, a need to fight for religious liberty and freedom of expression. But just as important – perhaps far more important  – there is a need for the faithful witness and faithful work of Christians in culture, putting themselves at risk for the sake of others and working in ways both great and small to make their cities more peaceful, flourishing places. – Mike Cosper

That’s gold.

In His Name,

Nate Roach