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

Stressed Out

49% of Americans say that they are regularly stressed out. That’s based on an article I saw today on my Twitter feed. Now, I don’t know how they’re able to track such a thing, but the study showed that people worldwide are more unhappy this year then they’ve been in the past ten years. I’m assuming it factors in emotional, mental, and physical struggles, but I don’t have all the details. Either way, this is shocking.

When I was attending OBU , I made it a point, a mission in some ways, to live a life devoid of stress. Some might call this irresponsible or lazy, but I can honestly say that that was not my heart behind it. Rather, I saw countless brothers and sisters in Christ who allowed their hearts to be overrun by stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.

As a result of my mission (a stress-free life) I sought to make the mundane fun. My friends helped me by having similar intentions.. Going to get groceries became an avenue for fun memories and experiences. Going to class became opportunities to bring joy to the lives of others. Doing homework was a chance to enjoy friendships. Everything was full of life and vitality. It brought me some of my favorite moments and memories of my whole life. Because of this intentional lifestyle, college was only occasionally stressful for me.

Writing this I realize how much things have changed in my life and heart. That joyous young buck has been slowed, worn down, more stoic. For those of you who know me now this may sound laughable, but you didn’t know me then. My eyes have been opened to the pains of this world, my heart opened to the fears of this world, and my mind overrun by the anxieties of this world. There is clearly a part of this transition that is genuinely good. As a pastor now, not just a wild and free college student, I have a responsibility to lead with maturity and focus. At the same time however, I ache for the jovial young man I once was.

You may not be in my same season of life. Most of my readers are not. But you may feel the same. You think about your life today and you realize that it’s not what it once was. You’re more stressed. You’re more afraid. You’re more anxious.

As believers, we need to reorient ourselves. Many of us bought the lie in the past that Christianity was the easy route, that Christianity was the path to a full and blessed life. All of that is crashing around us as we take our rightful place on the margins of society. This transition leaves many of us looking with rose-colored glasses back to the good ol’ days of Christianity in America.

We must reorient ourselves in Scripture. That’s why I blog. I see the problems and struggles of my fellow followers of Jesus and in my own life and I know for a fact they can only be overcome when we spend time with the Lord in His Word. So I blog, even in my weakness, praying that at least one person would be encouraged by my writings to go to Scripture for hope.

The goofy, jovial me is below the surface of my crustier than normal outer shell. Each time I’m with the Lord, my anxiety loosens its grip on me and I’m freed by the truths of Scripture. It happened just this morning. Check this out:This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5:1

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

These two verses are likely not on somebody’s coffee cup or on their pillow or in a picture frame on the wall. But man alive they’re powerful. The language used in these two verses shows that Seth’s relationship with Adam is much like our relationship with God. Made in his father’s image, Seth enjoyed a special relationship with his dad. Genesis 5:1 tell us that we can enjoy this same type of intimate relationship with God, as does Genesis 1:26. We are made in God’s image just as Seth was made in Adam’s image. I wrote in the margin of my Bible this morning, “We are all children of God.” This is the first of hundreds of passages in Scripture emphasizing the theme that as followers of Jesus we have a Father-child relationship with the God who made everything!

This theme of Scripture alone should ease our minds. Where is the need for legitimate worry when God is sovereignly working all things for our good? But here’s the deal. If I didn’t go to Scripture this morning, I would not have encountered this passage and would not have been reminded of God’s grace given to me in this way.

Again, that’s why I blog. I strive to remind people that listening to sermons and going to church can’t hold a candle to experiencing the brightness of seeing Jesus daily through prayer and His Word. I would most definitely be more stressed today if I was not in His Word this morning.

I like what Max Lucado has to say about this topic, “Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” – Max Lucado

Man, this is truly one of the cures for anxiety. Instead of playing the chaos of this world through my brain ad nauseam, I can choose instead to rejoice in the ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

Part of working in a church is we do get to have front row seats at life change. The other part is that all day long I’m hearing the chaos of our members, or people they know, or strangers. Sadly, 90% of the time someone comes into our office, or calls our office, it’s bad news. Not good news. (I welcome calls of encouragement. I don’t get to hear many great stories. Seriously. Call me sometime.)

It’s easy to take that home. It’s easy to just sit back and rehearse the chaos. But anxiety’s grip is loosened when I take an active step in meditating on Scripture, on God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean naively pretending the world is perfect, but rather acknowledging that God is greater. In the case of today, it means meditating on the fact that I’m able to approach God as His child.

Scripture memory is one way that we as God’s people can dwell on the greatness and graciousness of our Father. In my current season of life, I carry note cards with Scripture on them in my back pocket so that when I have downtime in my day, I can meditate on the beautiful truths of Scripture. The verse I wrote down today to memorize is the following:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

By meditating on what matters in the spiritual realm, I’m able to prevent myself from getting lost in the bad news of today, instead resting in the good news of the gospel.

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Worrying About Our Place In The Dirt

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.wallup.net

That line has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie Interstellar. In the sci-fi epic, Matthew McConaughey’s character is talking with his father about the state of humanity after monstrous dust storms and irresponsible land usage has destroyed the fabric of the world. McConaughey is acknowledging a sad fact that all the people are doing is worrying about what they’re going to eat, if the crops will come in.

Ever since I watched this movie for the first time and heard that line for the first time, the more I’ve wondered just how true that is in my own life. There was a day where I used to think about big things, my place in it all, and now it seems like all I can do is worry about my place in the dirt.

Don’t hear me talking about some sort of Lion King-esque belief that we will find our legacies in the stars. Not at all. The second part however is more what I’m focused on. All I seem to do on any given day is worry about earthly matters.

I’ve had a full-time job for like a month and a half and I can already tell how I can go days at a time without truly stopping to reflect on eternal matters.

Bills. Laundry. Cleaning my house. Preaching on Wednesday. Teaching on Sundays. Parents. Volunteers. E-mail. Seminary application. Girlfriend. The newest episode of This Is Us. Day after day every moment of down time seems to be consumed with the next thing on my schedule. I have done a heinous job of thinking about what truly matters in my day to day life.

This reality combined with this quote from this great movie leads me to think about Colossians 3.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3 

Am I thinking about eternal things, or am I consumed with worry about my place here in the dirt?

There is a gospel reality that we don’t take to heart as often as we should. Christ is seated in glory, at the right hand of the Father, and we are raised to life with Him. We have been left on earth after our salvation in order to tell others about Him. That’s it. To bring Him glory by sharing his story. It is insane to me how often my heart and mind get sidetracked by other matters.

I’m not saying our every word should be evangelistic or that we should never enjoy the good gifts of God here on earth. I am saying that we have been given a singular purpose, to make His glory known through telling the gospel story to all who do not yet know Him. That’s it. That’s why you and I are here. To use the illustration from the movie, to ‘wonder about our place in the stars’ is to think about our higher calling, our higher purpose.

You were not put on this earth to get married and have a family.

You were not put on this earth to have a successful career, even if that career is vocational ministry (talking to you Nate).

You were not put on this earth to make a lot of fond memories.

You were put on this earth to glorify God through bringing other people to know Him.

Please, enjoy your family, get married, have a job that you love, make a ton of memories. But don’t let those things overshadow your real reason for life.

It’s funny to me how the very things that sidetrack me from my gospel purpose are the very same things that cause the most anxiety and worry in my mind and heart. Again, I’m not saying that good gifts of God in our lives are wrong. They’re not. But let’s be careful not to spend every waking moment worrying about our place in the dirt. There’s so much more to life.

I don’t know what recalibrating your mind and heart looks like to you. For me it means putting everything up and just sitting outside, often looking up into the night sky. I have to remind myself that my stressors, anxieties, worries, and fears are ultimately going to be hilariously small and insignificant in a million years.

Stop worrying about your place among the dirt.

Live for something more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Us vs. Them

My bedroom here in Phoenix is adjacent to a relatively quiet street. Yet every late evening and early morning, cars come flying down it with their engines revving and their music blaring. I’ve tried every single trick imaginable to drown out the noise but alas I’m almost always woken up by it. In these moments of frustration I always have thoughts run through my head of how much better life would be for me if they weren’t around, if these humans that enjoy loud and fast cars in the wee hours of the night just went somewhere else.

This is a small example of how often my mind has an us vs. them mentality. Too often we have feelings of fear towards others or we perceive others to be but a burden on our life or society. Search your own hearts. Are there individuals, people groups, religious groups, families, or other various groups of people that you see in such a light? Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s those involved in criminal activity. Maybe it’s people who have differing political views than you do. Maybe it’s the ‘burden’ of financially and physically caring for the elderly or your own children (this is seen on a societal scale but maybe not personally).

phx
This city is full of people that aren’t like me. 

We are sinful. We struggle to see ourselves as Christ sees us. We also struggle to see others as Christ sees them.

 

I overthink. One thing I overthink is God’s calling on my life. In that I mean I overthink what God may be calling me to do. Yes I believe it is Biblical to wrestle with what God may be calling you into in the future. Yes I believe it is Biblical to try and discern what God may be calling you to do as a next step. Yet God’s calling on our lives while we wait for the return of the King of Kings is pretty simple. It is to love God and love our neighbor. Right now. Where you reside. This can happen via a lot of different routes or specific callings that you may have. But all we do should come out of our love for God and our desire to love our neighbors.

We are called to love God and love neighbor. Jesus Himself made this abundantly clear.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Loving God can be pretty easy sometimes when I meditate and consider all that He has so graciously and mercifully lavished on me in my day-to-day life. Loving my neighbor isn’t nearly as easy. My neighbors aren’t like me. As I write this at my kitchen table I am acutely aware of the religious, financial, ethnic, and lifestyle differences between me and my immediate neighbors. Christ has showered love onto my life, and I in turn should be a conduit of His love to my neighbors.

Every good and perfect thing that I have in my life is from above (James 1:17). God is not served by human hands and He doesn’t need anything from me (Acts 17:24-25). He is enthroned on high, being praised forever by the multitude of saints who have gone before, and the great celestial beings. Yes His mercies should result in a desire to worship, but He doesn’t need me to. He is not any less than Himself in the absence of my praise. Those blessings He invests into me each day should go somewhere, and they go horizontally to those in need around me, to my neighbors.

I’ll let Michael Horton bring us home:

In Christ our perspective on other people is transformed. We no longer see people as barriers to our happiness or as people to be feared. Through the lens of the gospel we see them as our neighbors, as part of a mutual exchange of gift giving, and not as threats to our well being. 

I pray today that God would continue to convict me in the times where I have an us vs. them mentality. I pray that God would give me an us for them mentality. I pray that I would joyfully labor daily for the good of my neighbor, whoever that may be, in light of the mercies of Christ and the way that God sees my neighbor.

As followers of Christ, it’s not about us vs. them.

It’s about us for them.

Go in peace.

–  Nate Roach

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