Love, Vocation, Geography

We tend to put the Spirit in a box where its primary purpose is to help us in love, vocation, and geography. What I mean by this is that the majority of my conversations in which the Holy Spirit comes up revolve around who someone is going to marry, what job they will have, and where they will live. These are all things that growing up I felt a lot of pressure to make a “Spirit-led” decision in. This led me also to relegate the Holy Spirit to a position in my life where his primary purpose was to speak to me in those areas alone.

God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. – R.C. Sproul 

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Sproul, and this quote is no exception. Nestled in a booklet about Christian conscience is this quote that speaks volumes.

The Holy Spirit’s primary leading in our life should be towards holiness and obedience. Take for instance the classic Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. This chapter pits two lists of characteristics against each other, the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We are all likely familiar with the so-named ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the characteristics that we as believers should have and exemplify (we all fall short, but it’s what we should be striving towards). In this chapter we come to Galatians 5:25, one of my favorite verses for its encouragement and conviction. This coupled with Galatians 5:16 gives us the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

These verses do not say ‘walk by the Spirit and you will know explicitly who you are to marry, where you are to live, and what you should do with your life”. These are aspects of our lives that God does speak into no doubt, but let us not relegate the Spirit of God to just these areas.

In efforts to potentially take some weight off younger and older believers alike, let’s take a quick look at what I personally believe (and I may be wrong, and you may not agree with me) regarding love, vocation, and geography.

LOVE 

I personally do not believe that the idea of ‘the one’ is accurate. We romanticize this ideology and that’s not necessarily good. I believe that we are called by Scripture to marry someone who is of the opposite gender and who has saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside of those two parameters, I believe that God is more concerned with us showing Christlike love to our spouse than he is us finding the perfect man or woman for us (newsflash, no perfect men or women exist). In my relationship with Jamie, I never got a lightning flash dreamlike moment where God audibly spoke to me and said she’s the one. Instead I found myself incredibly attracted to her outward appearance, her character, and her love for the Lord. Our goals and aspirations lined up, we enjoy being around each other, and so we have committed to loving each other for life. Seeking godly counsel and prayer do go a long way, but I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a rule of thumb where you get an audible confirmation from God about the person you want to marry.

VOCATION 

As previously stated, there are times where God explicitly calls people to do specific things with their lives (I have had God’s call on my life to be in vocational ministry. This was not an audible speech moment, rather a feeling in my gut that was affirmed and confirmed through prayer and godly counsel). More often than not though, I believe that we are to use the natural gifts we’ve been given by God in a way that brings honor and glory to His name. So if you’re a gifted scientist, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted orator, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted teacher, do that for Christ. In the midst of my sister having a specific calling from God on her life to one day do overseas missions, I remember playing XBOX as a teenager racking my brain and trying to discern God’s will so as not to garner his anger by stepping outside it. When boiled down, I believe that God’s will for us vocationally is to love God and love neighbor through something that we are gifted at, and the rest is just geography.

GEOGRAPHY

This sounds repetitive, but it’s true. There are times where God calls men and women to specific locations. Most of the time however I believe that God is more concerned with how we live than where we live. When making decisions regarding where you live, you should again pray and seek counsel. But don’t sit around waiting for an audible voice. The question should remain the same regardless of whether you’re talking about love, vocation, or geography: “will this bring glory to Christ?”

My decision to leave Phoenix and move to Vernon was never confirmed by signs and wonders. It was a decision made between me and Jamie, with the counsel of friends and families, in that we felt like we could serve the Lord faithfully here and bring glory to His name. Today marks six months and it stands as one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

I hope that this brings a breath of fresh air to many of us who become anal about the will of God. I welcome discussion and disagreement, just be cordial please.

The main thing (although I’ve devoted little words to it really) I want to share is that you shouldn’t limit the Spirit to these decisions. The Spirit of God is in your life to lead you in obedience and holiness.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Where’s The Love?

I walked up to the youth room to get ready for youth group and came to notice that all the chairs were messed up for another week. Instead of having them in neat, well-manicured rows, they were in piles in the corner of the room. I frustratingly put them all back. This transpired for several weeks and my ire grew. I finally wrote a note and left it for whomever was using the room to please put everything back. I tried my best to be respectful in the letter, yet I realize that I was annoyed. What took place after that has been convicting and encouraging.

It’s a bummer sometimes that I notice after the fact how God gives me a perfect opportunity to immediately apply what I’ve been learning in Scripture to my life and I just don’t capitalize. This scenario was one such opportunity missed.

The last few weeks I’ve been attending an early morning Bible study here in town with a handful of men from the church I work at. We’ve been slowly, and I mean slowly, walking through Romans. Since I’m new to the study we’re already in Romans 12. We were dialoging just the other week about Romans 12:9-18.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. 

Wowza. That is a tough passage to measure up to for sure. Too many of our churches are full of infighting, disrespect, gossip, and slander. Too often my heart is prone to those things as well. Yet as Christians we should be fighting for one another, not against one another. We should be striving to love, bless, rejoice with, weep with, honor, respect, and be hospitable towards all who are in our faith community.

Instead, what tends to happen? When relational friction occurs, we go to other members of the church to talk all about it (seeking counsel and gossiping are decidedly different things, and we all know the difference). When someone else gets their way instead of us in something church-related or life-related we may put up a facade but are we actually rejoicing with them? For those who have any type of leadership in the church (elders, pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, etc.), are we loving our people or are we trying to control them?

Like I said, this passage is a lot to live up to.

And in this situation, I didn’t.

Instead of striving to respect, honor, and love those who were using the youth room, I instead got all bent out of shape for having to spend an extra seven minutes getting ready on Wednesday nights. Instead of trying to figure out who was using the room and approaching them in kindness, I hid behind a note and their anonymity.

They responded (I still don’t even know who was using the room) with love, respect, and kindness above and beyond that which I was hoping for. The day following my note they put the chairs back, put the cords to the Tv on the right inputs for my youth slides, put up all the Bibles on the shelf, vacuumed, wiped down the counters, and cleaned some downstairs as well.

I was amazed that they would go to that extent in showing love to me and our youth.

That love shines bright in the darkness of our societal and cultural norms. What I mean by this is that we live in a culture saturated with disrespect, disdain, and division. I can hardly stand to get on social media anymore as it breaks my heart that there is so much hatred in our world. One cannot disagree with another anymore without attacking them, slandering them, making fun of them, clapping back at them, or generally mocking them. It’s heartbreaking. Kids disrespecting leaders, those leaders disrespecting kids. Neighbors and ‘friends’ engaged in hateful speech towards each other, getting extra points if they’re particularly witty in their comebacks. This very week I read a comment thread where even politicians did just this.

In a world of hate and division, loving and honoring and respecting each other will go a super long way. Especially in the local church. We of all people should be the brightest example of love, even in the midst of not seeing eye to eye on all things.

Let’s all be more like this anonymous group of people that have been cleaning the youth room for our students.

Let’s love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

You May Be Religious

Much has been said about the classic parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), to the point where I’m not looking to add to the discussion today. Rather, I wanted to share with you all a series of questions that I heard in a sermon I was listening to yesterday that challenged my heart and could be of use to all of us if we explored them individually.

The pastor’s name is Josh Kouri and in his treatment of the story, he zeroed in on the older son, who’s unwillingness to join the feast for his brother that had returned is an example of how we too can behave towards the grace and mercy of God. Kouri proclaimed that the older son struggled with religion rather than irreligion, and was in just as much danger of missing out on God’s love than the prodigal son who had left was.

Kouri posed the following four questions. These were his litmus test for whether or not you are living in grace or living in devotion to religion (in the bad sense of the term, the type of mind-driven rote behavior that God has disdain for).

Do I obey God to be loved by God?

Why do you follow the commands of God? Are you trying to earn his love, his affirmation, his support? We all need to pause and remember that God already loves us, that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross confirms that, and we have no fear of condemnation any longer. You can miss out on the grace of God if you get so caught up in following the commands of God in order to feel affirmed by God. It is out of the overflow of our gratitude for God’s saving work in our lives that our desire for holiness and obedience should come.

Is my identity in myself or in Jesus?

Many of us have rollercoaster spiritual lives. When we’re in God’s Word, we’re on top of the world. When sin wins the day in our lives, we feel like we’re underground. Since our commitment to holiness is more often than not sporadic, we have emotional lives that are thrown for a loop. The answer to this is remembering what Christ has done, and that our identity is SECURELY ROOTED in Him. On my best day, I’m deserving of hell. Yet because of Christ, on my worst day I’m awarded heaven.

Do I try and control God through my works?

You can’t manipulate God. But we sure do try sometimes. When trials hit we remind God of all the things we’ve done for Him. If our works are done in a way of putting God in our debt, then we misunderstand grace. God’s grace when comprehended leads to a desire for good works, but God cannot be coerced into blessing us because of our flippant faithfulness to Him.

Do I look to ‘more sinful’ people for righteousness via comparison?

This one is classic. Feeling bad about your life? Then look at your neighbor and see how much better you are. Righteousness via comparison is pathetic. We all fall short of God’s glory, so excusing sin in our lives because we think someone else’s sin is worse is hilariously ineffective in the long run.

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, which we all do in different ways at different times, then you may be religious.

Rest in God’s grace.

Repent of where you’ve tried to earn it.

Come in and enjoy the party of God’s love for you.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Jack Pearson Is No Fool

Last night was a doozy. Not because of anything Super Bowl related, but because of This Is Us.

If you watch the show, then you know that this episode was imminent. The episode where we get all the answers and find out just how Jack Pearson dies. After the very first episode of the show, I wanted answers. I wanted to know all the gritty details. Yet as yesterday progressed and this tumultuous episode quickly approached, I realized I didn’t want to see, I didn’t want to know. Yes, this is just a TV show, but hey the best stories are the ones that suck you in and make you feel like you’re part of it all. There’s power in stories.

Anyway, I sat at my friends’ house and watched in shock and awe as the details surrounding his death finally came to light. I hid my face between two pillows as some tears were shed. I sat in silence as the end credits came, amazed at the talent of the show’s writers.

Then my mind immediately started bouncing around, seeing all the gospel glimpses in this show. I’ve written other posts about themes in the show that I think speak into the Christian walk, but this episode by far had the greatest parallels.

If you’re reading this I hope you’ve seen the episode, otherwise I’m about to ruin your day.

Jack Pearson dies as a result of running back into his family’s burning home in efforts to save his daughter’s dog and other various treasured belongings, after rescuing his family and getting them safely outside. He doesn’t die in the house, but he dies later as a result of all the smoke that he had inhaled.

While I was obviously upset and bothered by these turn of events, I didn’t think it was a dramatic or questionable call by the writers. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Jack Pearson be a pretty tremendous father and husband. It was not out of character for him to run back into the house for his family. Out of the overflow of his love for his family, he ran back in. He was no fool. It would have been tremendously foolish if there was no dog inside and he just decided to prove his love by running back in for no reason. There were items and a pet that his family cherished and so he made the call.

When a doctor later questions his decision to run back into the burning building he says, “I love the girl that loves the dog.”

I recap all of this to say, Jesus was no fool either.

Jesus going through a gruesome death on the cross for us would have been foolish if there was any other way for us to receive salvation, to experience everlasting community with God, and to atone for our sins.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. – Galatians 2:21

If righteousness in God’s eyes could be gained by our behavior, than Christ died for no purpose. If we can gain righteousness in any other way than simply God’s great grace, then Christ was a fool for dying on the cross for us.

Jesus was no fool. I make Him a fool through my lifestyle however if I rely on anything other than His grace for my right standing with Him.

It is crazy to me how fast I can get into the mindset that I can bring anything to the table. It is crazy to me how fast I can fall into believing I can earn what He has done through good moral behavior. When I fall into this mindset or worldview, the entire book of Galatians blasts like dynamite through this false belief system.

If righteousness could be gained by behavior, Christ died for no reason.

I think we need to be reminded of this daily. It’s cool how the Lord works because a TV show can bring this reminder to me. Jack Pearson died because of his love, not because he was a fool. Jesus, in a far greater way, died because of his love for us, not because he was a fool.

This is the most well-known verse ever, but it’s important:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

It was the love of God that led Jesus to the cross.

Rest in grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

If there’s any topic you want to hear me ramble about, just leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Uncomfortable

There are aspects of church life that make me feel a little uncomfortable. The meet and greet times, talking about giving, waiting for somebody to pray to conclude small group, or in my case just about any time I speak to the youth. These feelings of discomfort are not bad, in fact I’d contend that feeling uncomfortable is a gift that pushes us forward into growth.

If I’m in a church where I feel comfortable at all times, I know that I’ll grow complacent.

Yet there are many of us (me included in college) who pick the church we’re going to attend based solely off of our preferences and those things that will make us comfortable. These preferences include the style of dress that is most prevalent, the style of worship, the style of teaching, the style of small groups, the style of leadership, and the general vibes of the church.

These are not explicitly wrong, but I think we’ve got church completely backwards when we make it all about us. There is most definitely wiggle room in this for wanting to be in a community that propels us forward into spiritual growth and there are situations where the church we attend may not be doing this for us. That being said, to pick a church because of how it makes us feel is something I can’t quite grasp.

In a blog from 2017, I wrote extensively about how I believe that if there’s something we wish was different in our church, we should seek to be the change in that department instead of bailing. (https://nathanpatrickroach.blog/2017/02/07/love-the-church/)

There’s no explicit verse in the Bible that says “be committed to a congregation, even when it’s uncomfortable.” There is one passage out of Hebrews that speaks about commitment to a faith community however:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

There is way more to this passage than simply a call to committing to a church, but it does emphasize this calling.

I know many whose commitment to church is loose, who go to church occasionally for the worship service but aren’t in a deep small group anywhere. I know many who have put off church altogether choosing instead to simply love Jesus alone. I know many who are anti-church membership for the sake of not wanting to submit to something. I know many who are not engaged in a church community because they claim to have a community of faith made up of family and friends.

Thankfully, I know many who are committed to their church community, laughing together, weeping together, going through hills and valleys together. This is a beautiful picture for me to see in others. The purpose of the church (besides glorifying and praising God through every facet of its programming) is to stir one another up into good words and love. The church is to encourage the follower of Christ to go all-in with the Lord through devotion to Him and service to others.

This is where being uncomfortable comes in.

It is in each of these moments of being uncomfortable that my potential for spiritual growth is the greatest. When I sing songs that are not in my comfort zone, I’m reminded that worship isn’t about me, but is about God. When the style of preaching (as long as it isn’t heretical) is not up my alley, I’m again reminded that preaching is simply re-announcing God’s Word and isn’t about my stylistic preferences. If the pastor is faithful to God’s Word, then the conviction that accompanies God’s Word via the Spirit of God is for sure uncomfortable but very necessary in my spiritual growth. When my brother in Christ believes differently than me about a certain topic that is breached in a small group, then I’m led to wrestle with my faith and beliefs as a result of this discomfort. When my brother in Christ calls me out for sin in my life, this is a blessing albeit an uncomfortable one. When my small group serves the community in a way that is foreign to me, my eyes become opened to the needs of areas of my community that I may not be aware of otherwise.

Since we’re in a culture that bought the lie of life’s about me, we have brought this into our thinking about church. We make church about being comfortable and entertained (despite the fact of almost every New Testament statement about discipleship and faith tells us that it’s about laying our lives down and suffering), and this leads to lots of church hopping.

Find a church that is close to your neighborhood and go all in. Regardless of stylistic preferences. If it’s heresy, that’s one thing. Yet church vibes, preaching style, worship style, etc. are not explicitly valid enough reasons to leave a church. Become willing to be uncomfortable.

Discomfort leads to growth. Every time.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Butterflies In The Stomach

I know very little about marriage. This makes perfect sense since I’m not indeed married.  Thus you could throw this whole blog out. But, don’t. Give it a chance.

I may know absolutely nothing functionally speaking about being married, but I can say pretty definitively that the picture of marriage or relationships that we see in movies and tv shows is ridiculous and far-fetched and is ultimately setting up a generation to fail in marriage because it’s all about emotion.

I have been stuck at home for the last 48 hours due to my respiratory system being ravaged by the flu (this stuff does not mess around). This has given me ample time to read, and one such book I’ve been digging into is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book was given to me by a dear friend shortly after I got engaged to my beautiful fiancee Jamie. I had every intention of putting it at the bottom of my to-read list but the tagline got me interested fast.

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

That sucked me in fast. Now I’m only a handful of chapters in, but this book has provoked a lot of thought in me about my upcoming wedding and lifelong marriage to Jamie. There’s one such aspect of the book that I want to devote this blog to, and that’s the false idea that our relationships should be built upon emotional highs or that we should value the feeling of chemistry more than anything else.

Thomas will devote an entire chapter to this ploy that media has thrown our way, saying “the concept that marriage should involve passion and fulfillment and excitement is a relatively recent development on the scale of human history, making its popular entry towards the end of the eleventh century.” It’s fascinating to me that romance or an obsession with feelings and emotion has not been a constant in conversations about love and marriage but has slowly entered the equation to eventually take over and dominate our thoughts about love in our modern age.

I grew up pretty obsessed with finding love, with finding this spark of chemistry and electricity and excitement with a girl. I was so wrapped up in this that I declared a girl my girlfriend at the ripe old age of seven. The more I watched the Disney Channel, read books, and watched movies, the more I wanted to have this cute happenstance meeting with a girl and then overcome insecurities to find a forever love. Real life wasn’t that simple. I’ve heard (although I haven’t researched this, but it sounds about right) that infatuation lasts 18 months at the most. I went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and college, being infatuated with different girls but never finding lasting stability with one because I would question the relationship as soon as the feeling wore off.

Then I met Jamie, and it wasn’t love at first sight. But then after a D-Now weekend in Weatherford, we hit it off and were infatuated with one another. This helped us to get through a stint of long distance in Portland and then me taking off to the West to go to Phoenix. But then something happened at the start of 2017. It was inevitable, but I was no less prepared for it. The emotional high we got from speaking or seeing each other began to wane. The long distance lengthened the timeline for these feelings we had for one another, but sooner or later they were gone and we were faced with questions of why we should keep going.

IS THIS NOT INSANITY. In all honesty it is crazy to think that I was conditioned to put so much stock in my feelings. It’s hilarious to think that we should base the most intimate of human relationships on the least reliable thing in the world. I think that Scripture shows us that God made marriage for so much more than getting butterflies in the stomach.

I think Genesis 2:18 is about holiness not happiness.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

 

I genuinely believe that all human relationships are designed to make us grow more like Christ. This applies to friendships, co-workers, neighbors, etc. That being said, a marriage relationship has got to give you the greatest opportunity for growth in Christlikeness since you spend so much time with your spouse. In every other type of relationship, you can distance yourself (or at least try to) from situations that challenge your character or provoke you to change. There’s no such option in marriage (well I guess you can try to avoid it here too).

That’s what makes Gary Thomas’ tagline for his book so intriguing to me. Because I want to believe that marriage truly was made for something greater than our feelings, than companionship, than sex or happiness. I want to believe that my relationship with Jamie in the coming decades will make me more like Jesus. Right now I am able to do pretty much whatever I want outside of my work obligations. That’s going to change in 149 days. That’s going to force me to become more like Jesus in laying down my desires and wants for the sake of my spouse.

Jamie and I got through last Spring by realizing that a relationship built upon the feelings we have when we’re around each other is like building a house on the sand. We’re striving to build our relationship upon Jesus, upon spiritual growth, and I can tell you that has bonded us together much more than butterflies in the stomach (which I still get around her periodically).

I’m not anti-romance. I’m actually a schmuck when it comes to it.

But I know that a relationship built upon the lies of modern movies and television is not a stable one.

Build your marriage upon Jesus.

Build your life upon Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

A Model Church

1 Thessalonians is a book of the Bible that sometimes goes unnoticed, unless you’re talking about end times and the like. But embedded in the book of 1 Thessalonians is a picture of what a model church should look like (a church that is being talked about all throughout the region [vv. 7-10]). Taking a cursory glance at the first chapter of this book will show us three truths that I pray are present in the church that I am a part of. My intention is not to tease out every theological truth present in this passage. Rather I pray that through reading this short synopsis, your heart would be stirred and that you would commit to laboring after Jesus over the coming days. I’d encourage you to have your Bible open as we dive in together. fbc

BE COMMITTED TO CHRIST. 

In verse three, Paul praises the church at Thessalonica for their work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is praising this church for their commitment to Christ. The lie we can so often fall into is that the Christian’s walk is one of ease, slumber, and natural growth in godliness.

This is simply not the case. Becoming more like Christ takes work. Discipleship is labor, it is work, and it takes endurance. In a previous blog on Psalm 1, I acknowledged the fact that I am prone to drifting away from the Lord when I’m not being intentional in my spiritual disciplines. Yes, there are seasons of my life where I’m walking closely with Jesus and am naturally desiring to come into His presence. But what normally happens is that when I don’t start my day in His Word with focus and drive, I’m going to neglect His Word, I’m going to neglect prayer.

The church at Thessalonica was known for the way that they were committed to Christ, even in the midst of severe suffering (v. 6). As we move ever closer to the return of Jesus, suffering will continue to rise for our faith. I’m not naive and I don’t have a persecution complex. We in America have it easy in regards to how we’re treated for our faith in Jesus. But should suffering come to Vernon, Texas, my prayer is that we would be a body of believers joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ, because we are just that committed to Him.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR CONGREGATION. 

You are going to disagree with people in the church you attend. I disagree with people in the church where I serve as a youth pastor. Here’s what I know to be true though, I am called to love, support, and equip every single person who is a member of my local congregation of Christ-followers.

The church at Thessalonica was known for its commitment to one another. Not only that, but Paul and Silas and Timothy set an example for how to serve the church, as verse five will tell us our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. The rest of this book will tease out just how Paul and his companions lived among the church of Thessalonica, but we do know that they lived with fatherly discipline, motherly nurturing and care, and brotherly love.

Not only that, but the Thessalonians would become imitators of them and thus of the Lord.

In a world that is fractured by divisions, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ that we could paint as the body of Christ is one of unity, love, of outdoing one another in honor and respect and service. We are not called to agree on how we worship, how we vote, how we parent, etc. We are called to love one another. So be committed to your congregation. Every member.

My prayer is that FBC Vernon would become a place known for its unity and its commitment to one another.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY.

The Thessalonians church was also committed to its community. It was well known for the way that they were turning from idols and serving the living and true God (v. 10). They were not silent about their faith. They definitely had struggles and fears, as they worried that the Lord had already come back and had simply left them in need. But they still served their community to the point where their church became well known all throughout Macedonia and Achaia.

This is hard to do sometimes. But the church should not be outside the community it finds itself in. Rather, the church should mirror the community. By no means are we to sacrifice truth or the gospel message in order to reach our neighborhoods for Jesus. Instead, we should be bodies of believers that are more focused on serving the people outside of it’s walls than it is hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to make all things new at the end of time.

Paul is writing this letter in hopes of stirring up the hearts of the Thessalonian church to  be focused in their present purpose, even as they place their faith in the future hope of Christ’s return.

May we fight the desire to hunker down and wait out the rest of our days. May we be men and women of Jesus Christ who charge forward into our communities, meeting needs and ministering to people who are messy, just as Jesus did.

The church at Thessalonica was a model church. They were committed to Christ. They were committed to their congregation. Lastly, they were committed to their community.

It is my daily prayer that FBC Vernon becomes a place known for these three distinctives as well.

For my followers who do not live here in Vernon, may your church become known for these three distinctives as well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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God Is Love

“When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”

– Peter, Paul & Mary, Lemon Tree

lemonsRomantic love is not always reliable, brotherly love is not always trustworthy, familial love can let you down. Love in almost every relationship we can have on earth can be strained and leave you hurting. This folk song speaks about the woes of that reality. Love from the outside, love desired, can be very pretty and appear so sweet. But when actually partaken of, it’s not always what we expected it to be.

There is a passage from the book of 1 John that blows holes in this mindset that we can fall into regarding love, and it’s worth sharing and expounding upon.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:7-11

Don’t miss the power of those three little words wedged into the middle of this passage I shared.

God is love.

There is a tremendous difference between the idea that God is loving and the assertion that is made here.

Your friend can be loving. Your boss can be loving. Your neighbor can be loving. Your mother can be loving.

But none of the men or women in our life are love itself.

God is not simply loving.

That being said however, it is a wonderful thing that He is loving, but that is not all that God is in the context of love. God has shown that He is loving, namely in the fact that He sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world to bring us life. We don’t inherently love God. We don’t inherently and naturally pour out praises and adoration to our Lord. Instead, before we even sought out His love, He gave His Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. All of them.

When things don’t go smoothly in my life, when things don’t go exactly as I would like, it’s naturally easy to immediately start to question or doubt God’s love for me.

It’s easy to say, “if You love me, why is this happening? If You love me, why aren’t you responding to my cries?”

Yet when you doubt God’s loving nature, look to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. There will you see the unadulterated message of God’s love for you. Even while you were an enemy of His, He gave Himself for You.

God is loving, and He is perfect in that love.

Yet, what calls us to deeper action is the reality that God IS love. That means that God is the perfect embodiment of what love is. Because of this, all love comes from Him. Because of this, we cannot claim to be in an intimate relationship with the God who perfectly embodies love if we do not strive to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way that He loves us.

Because God is love, love comes from God. God is the source of love. Like the electricity running through electrical wires, love comes from God to us, then flows through us to others in the community. When John exhorts his readers, let us love one another, he is encouraging them to allow God’s love to flow through them. – Marianne Meye Thompson

If my phone charger is plugged into the outlet, it will charge my phone (I’m a genius, I know). My charger cannot charge my phone without being plugged into a power source. If it is not charging my phone, it is not plugged into a power source.

If we as disciples of Jesus are abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God, we will overflow God’s love out onto our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We cannot be a conduit of God’s love to our Christian community if we are not abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God.

If we are not loving our Christian community, we are not in full connection with the God who is love.

That is what John is stating in this passage.

Now if you’re anything like me, there are bumps in the road. It is not easy to love our brothers and sisters in Christ at all times. There are times where I feel like I’m walking with the God who is love but still struggling to allow His love to come through me. In the case of my phone charger, sometimes I have to untangle the wires and make sure the connection is coming all the way through. In the case of my spiritual life, sometimes I have to take the time to untangle the dark recesses of my heart and mind as I allow the gospel of grace to deal with any bitterness or unconfessed sin in my life.

We are imperfect followers of Jesus. We are still on the journey of learning to love like Jesus.

I implore you to spend daily time with the Lord, meditating upon His great love for you. The more you come to terms with His love for you, the easier it will become to share His love with others.

And unlike the lemon, when you truly taste the love of God, you will see that it is good.

God is love.

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu.

– Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Live Long And Prosper

We live in a broken world. The effects of sin wreak havoc upon every facet of the cosmos, including our bodies. This is not to say that we are without hope. For the cross of Christ gives us the hope to carry on. Yet we still have to face the fallenness of our world, often in the ways of physical imperfection, from chronic illnesses to common colds.prosper

How are we to deal with these realities? How are we to pray for our loved ones, our family and our friends? Do we pray for healing? Do we assume sickness is punishment?

Many questions abound in my mind about health. Many answers are found in Scripture.

Look with me at the small book of 3rd John, and specifically John’s greeting and prayer for his dear friend Gaius.

Dear friend I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually. – 3 John 2

These types of wishes for good health were not at all uncommon openings to ancient Greek letters in the time of John. John goes beyond just the standard wish though, proclaiming that not only does he care for Gaius’ soul (spiritual health), he also prays for his physical health with the understanding that our bodies are held in the sovereign hands of the Lord.

Some believe that Gaius was in poor health when John wrote him this letter. Regardless of whether or not this is true, John loved him like a brother and thus desired to see Gaius in good physical health. This prayer for good health was way more valued in their time as medical care in that day and age was often ineffective leading to diminished life expectancy.

I chuckled to myself when I realized that John was essentially saying ‘live long and prosper’ to his buddy Gaius. Now, I’ll admit, I’m not much of a Star Trek fan but I do know enough to humorously recognize how Biblical of a greeting that classic line is.

Back to the subject at hand.

I would attest given this verse, and others like it, that it is normal and encouraged to pray for the good health of those we love and care about.

Just take a glance at Jesus’ earthly ministry and you can see countless examples of Him healing the sick and in need. Our God is a Healer. He is able to save. He is mighty to save. It is Biblical and right to pray for not only good health personally, but good health for friends and family.

So what about when we pray fervently for our health to change, or for the chronic illness of a friend, and God elects not to bring physical healing?

We must hold tight to the fact that God is good, God is great, and what He does is right.

This is difficult. This is immensely difficult. We in our broken nature and limited scope do not often think about the big picture.

I woke up this morning, not with a grand view of eternity in mind, but with March 2nd, 2017 in mind. I woke up thinking about what I’d like to accomplish today, and what I need to accomplish today. With such a minute view of my world, I can see sickness in the life of a friend as a travesty and a terrible blight. Yet in the grand scope of eternity, God uses every aspect of our lives for our good and His glory.

There is not a direct correlation between sickness and personal sin. Waking up with a cold one morning is not because you didn’t pray enough that week. No, in fact, sickness and poor health can bring us closer to the Father, and into a greater understanding of His Word. Take for example these two verses from the longest Psalm.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 119:67

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

When I reflect on my life, it’s easier for me to stray from God’s Word and from learning His ways when everything is peachy-keen in my world. When darkness comes creeping in from the edges or close to home, I am reminded of eternity. I am reminded of what matters. I am reminded of God’s precious Word and His ways. In a sense, these times of sickness in our lives can be for our good. The Psalmist here says it was good for him to be afflicted because it produced in him a greater attentiveness to learning the statutes of God.

Please do not read into what I’m saying. Please do not see me saying that our sicknesses are simply to draw us back in from going astray. I know countless men and women who this day are struggling with real difficult things despite amazing faith and faithfulness to the Lord throughout their lives. What I am saying, or what God’s Word is proclaiming, is that God uses every aspect of our lives to draw us closer to Him. In some cases, this means going through physical health issues for His glory.

God is good. God is great. What He does is right.

If you or a loved one is walking through sickness right now, I don’t have the perfect words to say to you. I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with praying for healing. Our God is a Healer. As you walk through this difficult journey, don’t walk through it alone. Walk in community. You may not understand why things happened the way they did this side of eternity. But hold tight to the fact that God is good, great, and He always does what is right.

My prayer is that my friends and family would live long and prosper.

I pray you do to.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback you can send my way, and you can follow my blog via the menu.

 

 

Fruit Of The Spirit

I try and show kindness and patience to the random guy checking my tire pressure at Discount Tire, but I pop off at my sister after four seconds of slight annoyance. I try and show gentleness and joy towards the cashier at Fry’s, but then I get upset with Jamie when I feel slighted. I try and show faithfulness and goodness towards my boss at work, but then I slander my brother in Christ. fruit-of-the-spirit

Here at Wellspring, the college and young adult ministry has been walking through the book of Galatians. As I’ve studied and taught, God has made it clear where I need work, and that is in my interactions with biological family and my family in Christ. I would argue that most of us have an easier and simpler time walking out the fruit of the Spirit with the stranger or non-believer than we do those who we’re intimately involved with in everyday life.

Yet as I’ve looked at the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ passage in Galatians, it’s come to my attention that evidences of the fruit of the Spirit are most clearly demonstrated and seen in our relationships with our biological and faith families.It’s easy to see the non-believer and strive to emulate these Christ-like characteristics in our interactions with them. It is much harder however to live these out in the context of our faith community and our relationships with roommates, siblings, and parents.

Let’s look at the passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:22-26

This list of God-glorifying characteristics is nestled inside many words that Paul has about the importance of supporting each other as the body of Christ. In verse thirteen of chapter five, Paul tells us to serve one another humbly in love. All throughout chapter six, Paul tells us lots about living in faith community: restore the unrepentant brother or sister who is walking in sin (v. 1), carry each other’s burdens (v. 2), do good to all, but especially those in the family of believers (v. 10).

So yes, while I definitely affirm that exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit to the stranger, the person in need, and the unbeliever is vastly important, I think the greater testament to or litmus test for our heart condition is how we walk out the fruit of the Spirit towards those that we are closest to.

Am I loving, joyful, patient, kind, self-controlled, and good towards my siblings, roommates, and those I’m in deepest community with via the body of Christ?

If you are anything like me, you don’t do this perfectly. If you are anything like me, you have areas you can grow in. So the question becomes, how do we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit?

 

Prayerfulness. The passage tells us to keep in step with the Spirit, to live by the Spirit. I can do neither of these things outside of prayerfulness.

Treasure Christ, cultivate a deep prayer life. Out of these practices, you will begin to see your heart become more in tune with how you can be living out the character of Christ in the relationships that are the closest to you.

I’ve tried to change my behavior simply by saying ‘hey I’m going to strive to be more loving this week’. While this may work for a moment, it rarely leads to any lasting change. Instead if I treasure Christ, and see in the Scriptures the love that Jesus walked out in all of His relationships, through prayer my heart becomes more aligned with His and I begin to see Christ’s love flowing out of me. The same can be said of any of the other fruit of the Spirit. When we study and see these characteristics personified in Christ, and when we pray that God would align our hearts with His, out of this comes cultivated character and lasting change.

My hope is that I would strive to better pray each day for my heart and actions to be aligned with the heart and character of Christ. Especially in how I treat the family of faith.

Blessings.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog via the menu.