Social Justice Or Preaching The Gospel?

What should be the driving goal for the life of a follower of Jesus?

Social justice or preaching the gospel?

This is the raging debate both explicitly and implicitly in our midst today. Some think that our primary purpose as the church is to be involved in social justice efforts. Others think that we should simply preach the gospel and trust that the Kingdom of God at work in our churches will bring change.

There are a plethora of men much smarter and wiser than me that have preached, written, and taught on this topic. But I’ve had this on my heart for almost two months now, and I feel it’s time to wade into the conversation myself.

So what do I believe?

Is our primary goal social justice or preaching the gospel?

My prayerful, hard-fought answer is both.

Both.

As a Christian, as a pastor, I should be an advocate for social justice, inasmuch as it adheres with the Kingdom of God and Biblical mandates. As a Christian, as a pastor, I should be proclaiming the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at every opportunity.

I want to share my opinions, my experiences, and my studies that have brought me to this position. I want to share first the dangers of pursuing one of these things without the other, before showing how they come together beautifully in our lives.

Social Justice without the gospel. 

If you look around, most in my generation have a heart for social justice. They see it as a clear next step after receiving the good news of Jesus. I admire and affirm this.

Where I see danger is when advocating for social justice is completely separated from a local body of believers. When we separate ourselves from a church community, striving to be the hands and feet of Jesus while detached from the bride of Jesus, that’s where things can get wonky.

Praise God for my peers who are boldly stepping out and saying that in Christ, all are created equal.

But what are we drawing people into?

Say we met every barrier in society for every person in need. What a glorious goal. But if we are not drawing them into a church community, we are only doing half the work. The greatest barrier any person faces is the one that separates them from the Father.

May God help us to pursue His church, His messy, hypocritical, judgmental, broken church (often referred to in horrifically explicit terms by God in Scripture). It is only through the body of Christ that real community is found.

My heart mourns over the myriads upon myriads from my generation that left the church to be Jesus. I want to listen and hear why. But I also want to advocate for us to love Jesus AND His broken bride.

The gospel without social justice.

If you want to know what side of the pendulum I fall on, it’s right here. I talk and preach often about the importance of being engaged in society as the people of God (Just Mercy) but struggle to live it out.

I’m a nerd.

A Bible nerd specifically.

Across from my laptop are thirty books on theology and commentaries that I’m wading through currently.

I love to read and write and think.

Action is hard for me. It doesn’t come easy.

This has led me at times to preach the gospel without even an iota of concern for the men and women made in the image of God that are sinfully, unBiblically treated in our world.

Father forgive me.

In the blog I linked above, I share how I came to a stark realization in Isaiah 1 that God hates me when I offer up praise to Him with blood on my hands. That stung. But it also empowered. I want to be a man who stands up for what is Biblical in society. Most importantly in terms of all being made in the image of God.

Yes, the gospel is the best thing I have to offer a hurting world.

The message of a Savior who came to deliver them.

But how many can’t hear that message because I sit in my fancy office in a Baptist church instead of engaging them?

I put zero hope in politics.

I don’t believe that legislation and law are the way that the country will change.

I believe the world will change as the people of God obey the two key commands of God: love Him and love others.

I believe the local church is the agent of change God has given to the world. I stand on that.

But here’s the thing.

If my advocacy for Biblical treatment of others is the avenue through which some enter into the Kingdom community I’m a part of in Vernon, then so be it.

If my proclaiming of the gospel is written off because I don’t seem to actually get in the midst of the hurt people are experiencing in my community, then I’m in the wrong.

I believe the Kingdom communities in our cities are where we should strive for the Biblical treatment of all. That’s my priority. My heart, my church, then my community.

I’m young. I’m learning. I’m trying to grow.

Here’s where I’ve landed however.

Social justice is an extension of the gospel.

Social justice as an extension of the gospel. 

I’ve not put a whole lot of Scripture in this post. I’ve merely wanted to share my experiences and mindsets. I have done this in part because while I study Scripture deeply, I don’t have clear-cut interpretations of every verse I reference. So as I now share the verses the Lord has used to work in my heart, I share them with the caveat that I am not a Biblical scholar that fully grasps the message of each of them.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clear; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:16-17

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? – James 2:15-16

These are just a few that I’ve thought a lot about.

The prophets of the Old Testament are teachers I wish the modern church would read and study regularly. The difference between the world then and now is that the ‘nation’ of God was Israel. Now the people of God are transcendent beyond national boundaries. The Christian nation in our world is one composed of people from every earthly nation.

The prophets said that sacrifice without mercy was detestable.

James stated that offering spiritual health without meeting physical health needs was no good.

So in summary, I’m still thinking about all of this.

My hope isn’t in the public forum. My hope is in Jesus. But my hope in Jesus should lead me to change my heart, to advocate for the Biblical treatment of all in my church, and when necessary, in my culture as well.

I’m listening.

I’m learning.

But I know that social justice and the preaching of the gospel must go hand in hand.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Worst Fears

What is your worst fear?

I’m not asking about what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of plenty. Just yesterday some close friends of mine were having a ball with the fact that I’m terrified of spiders and really bugs in general. I’m not a fan.

I’m asking what is your worst plausible fear.

For many of us it would be the unexpected loss of a family member, the loss of health, the loss of relationships, the pain of a child. School shootings. Natural disasters. Cancer. These things bring fear to our hearts and minds.

Now, what if a combination of all of these horrible fears came to fruition in a day?

It would probably lead you to say something like this:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job 3:25-26

The third chapter of Job is when Job begins to let it all out before God. In the first two chapters, he has shown exemplary faith (Receiving Bad From God) while having his world rocked by unjust, abject suffering. Now he is ready to tell God how he feels about the situation.

If you’re like me, you probably read the first two chapters with an air of annoyance. You start to feel like Job is a superhero, a super Christian, only ever praising God. The third chapter humanizes him no doubt. He is still not walking in consistent, unrepentant sin, but he lets his emotions come pouring out. I strive to teach my students regularly that God is more than capable of listening to and bearing your emotions. To hide from Him how you really feel about any given situation is not only unnecessary, but impossible due to His omniscience. Job worships, but he also wrestles.

We too can both worship and wrestle with God at the same time.

In Job’s wrestling, we see that there are some aspects of his heart that still need to be worked on, still need to be molded by the grace of God. As I’ve written about earlier in this study (A Man Named Job), Job had a karma-like view of God to some extent. He consistently sacrificed offerings to the Lord (that weren’t mandated by God) in order to protect his children from harm. It’s a noble idea, but it’s one that has a quid pro quo view of God just under the surface. If Job gave offerings to God, then surely God would keep his children safe.

Now, Job is facing the reality that all of his good deeds and good intentions did nothing to prevent him from suffering. His worst fears were being realized, and his gut reaction is to curse the very day of his birth. Reading through the book of Job is like reading the innermost thoughts of those in our churches and in our communities that are facing incredibly difficult circumstances. Job, a follower of God, curses the day of his birth, repeatedly saying he wishes he had never been born, for that would be better to him than the suffering he was going through.

That’s a level of pain I’ve honestly never experienced. But I know that it’s a level of pain that some are experiencing right now. As I read Job, the question that keeps coming to my head is whether or not our churches are a place where people can say the type of things that Job says with the knowledge that they will be listened to and loved.

Think about it.

If someone said something like that in Sunday School, the majority of us would cringe at best, offer our theological proclamations of God’s goodness at worst (again, I’m talking at the very beginning of suffering Christian, Be Quiet).

Our churches need to be places where there is space to mourn, to grieve, to suffer in community.

There’s something else interesting I want to point out about this chapter. Let’s look at verses 13-14, and 19.

For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and rulers of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, . . . The small and great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners. – Job 3:13-14, 19

Job proclaims that if he were to die, he would be at peace. He would be at peace with both the small and the great. He mentions also that those who built kingdoms for themselves here on earth would have nothing to show for it, as their kingdoms now lie in ruins.

While you can’t make grandiose doctrinal assumptions from passages like this, we know for a fact that this is true. The small and great die. Job’s view of death is not inherently Christian at this point, since his view of death is just rest, not communion with God. That being said, all people face this. Everyone faces either an eternity of communion with God or an eternity of separation from God.

So those kingdoms we’re building for ourselves don’t matter. They don’t go with us. Job said it in chapter one, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.

We can’t really judge for certain what Job’s motivations were throughout his life, but he had a kingdom. He had power, prestige, money, a solid family. He had everything that most people want. Yet it was all stripped away from him in a day.

The reality is, we will all be like Job at some point.

Death strips us from all of our kingdoms of sand.

In death, all we lived for other than the Lord comes down, gets left behind.

Job 3 is an opportunity to look into the mind of a man who has lost everything. And it’s just the start.

My prayer is that our churches become places where raw emotions can be shared without judgment or disdain. My prayer is that our churches become places where people are reminded that there is only one Kingdom that lasts and it has nothing to do with us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hanging out at my apartment in Phoenix, AZ with my friend Matt and my then girlfriend, now wife, Jamie. I got a text that my dad needed to talk to me, so I stepped outside into the 112 degree heat and gave him a ring.

My dad informed me that my eighteen year old brother who had run away about a year prior had chosen to legally remove himself from our family. This was something he could do without consulting us given the laws in Texas.

Before I even got off the phone, I was already in tears. Questions were racing through my mind.

Why would God allow this?

My parents followed God’s call to open up our home to this young man, to adopt him, to make him part of our family and bestow upon him all the blessings of parents that love him dearly.

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

For a year I prayed and prayed and prayed and now God allowed him to leave our family. No hope of reconciliation and restoration. No hope of a family reunion down the line where broken things are restored.

Instead, my parents lost a son and I lost a brother.

I made my way back to my door, got through it, and then collapsed to the ground. I sat there crying right in my doorway. Jamie and Matt came running and I barely eked out the words “Trevor left our family”.

For what felt like an eternity, I sobbed as Matt and Jamie sat on the floor next to me, consoling me. They didn’t speak. All you could hear were my cries.

In the book of Job, we see Job get blasted with suffering in the first two chapters. By the latter half of chapter two, Job is alone in his suffering, his own wife leaving him to suffer in silence.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Job 2:11-13 

We learned from the first chapter of Job that Job was a man of renown in the region where he lived (1:3). Word of his suffering spread, and three of his friends from the surrounding area came and sought to encourage him.

They noticed how much pain he was in, joined in his pain, mourned with him, and said nothing to him for a week.

These three will later show their foolishness to us, but here at the onset they teach us a considerable amount about how to respond to the suffering of a friend.

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

Suffering as a Christian is a reality. It is a promise straight from the lips of our Savior. It is to be expected. That being said, what a Christian or non-Christian for that matter needs to know in the midst of their suffering is that you are for them and that you are with them.

I’m sure many of us have stories where we sought to open up about a difficulty, a tragedy in our lives, only to be told right off the bat by good-hearted, well-meaning Christians that God has a purpose for our pain.

There are a plethora of Scriptures that teach that. We saw just in our last blog that God uses good and bad for our benefit, and that we should be willing to accept both from Him (Receiving Bad From God). But, in the throes of intense suffering, the best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut. Cry with them. Mourn with them. Sit with them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry out about God and against him. As time progresses, then you can share the beautiful truths of Scripture. But you do the faith a disservice when you come in with cookie-cutter statements.

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

They let me get angry, get sad, wrestle with God.

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

Imagine if I had come through the door of my apartment, collapsed on the ground, only for Matt and Jamie to say “Don’t cry, God’s got a plan”. That would have been the most detrimental thing they could have done in that moment.

Look at this verse.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 

I’m sure we all have stories of when someone spoke too soon instead of listening to us in our pain. I have been on both sides. I have been spoken to instead of listened to, but I’ve also opened my stupid mouth in the midst of the suffering of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not be the type of people who take away coats on cold days. Let’s not be people who, even in a church setting like Sunday School, offer up trite and flippant sayings from Scripture instead of letting people have a place to suffer and yet feel loved.

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that many have left church, or even given up on following Jesus, because you and I open our mouths instead of keeping them shut.

Christian, be quiet.

Let us show our communities that our churches are places where they can suffer, where they can be raw about their doubts and angers, their fears and anxieties, their wrestling with God. If our churches aren’t a safe place for people to wrestle with God in suffering, we will continue to see our churches die out as the next generation finds more loving people outside the church than inside it.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone of malicious ill will.

I’m rather reminding us that we all struggle, we all wrestle, we all fight, we all doubt, we all lose hope in the midst of suffering. If you have had a suffering-free life, you’re likely a kid or the luckiest person alive. So why do we not allow people to suffer? Why don’t we allow them the place and space to get to the point where they, like Job, can say “My Redeemer lives”.

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

For me, it has taken years to get to the point where I can reflect on Trevor’s story and have hope. Some days it still wanes.

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Receiving Bad From God

It’s easy to praise God on good days, isn’t it? When things are stable vocationally, relationally, financially, and physically, our worship of God is pretty natural.

What about on difficult days though?

What about on the days when one thing after another seems to be falling apart in your life?

On those days, it doesn’t come nearly as natural to us to open up our mouths and hearts in praise to our Heavenly Father.

Yet, this is exactly what Job did in Job 1. He faced the most excruciatingly difficult day of his life, and he was able to praise God regardless.

The second chapter of Job takes us back to the throne room of God. The angels are again presenting themself before His splendor and majesty (v. 1), and Satan again comes into the room. God is quick to bring up Job again, showing Satan that Job’s integrity and righteousness remained intact (v. 3), despite the tremendous suffering that was thrust upon him.

Satan is prepared for this, and he quickly responds.

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” – Job 2:4-5 

Satan’s point is clear. Job’s family and finances were destroyed, sure. But his body was still intact. Satan’s argument is that if God would affect Job’s physical body, Job would respond in anger and cursing.

Let’s read together what happens next.

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  – Job 2:6-8

I want you to see this first. Our good, glorious, gracious, and generous God allows this next test to be played out, just like He allowed the first. Beware any prosperity gospel that promises an easy life as a follower of Jesus. There is no such thing. It is a good life, absolutely, but it is not one devoid of suffering. Job’s life makes this abundantly clear to us.

Satan leaves the throne room of God and immediately goes after Job. Job is afflicted with a skin disease that isn’t exactly clear to us as the reader. It sounds like some sort of leprosy. Regardless of what it was, we see that Job is full of painful sores that go from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. There is no relief to be found anywhere.

Then Job’s wife enters the picture.

Now, I personally am blessed with a wonderful wife. When I face difficulties in my life, she is quick to encourage me and share wisdom with me. She’s done so in a couple instances just this week.

Job however had a less than great wife in this circumstance.

It’s interesting to note that there are some who actually believe that the wife was more or less on Satan’s team in this story, being used by him to encourage Job to fall into sin.

I personally don’t see her as a willing participant in the schemes of Satan. That’s a little extreme.

That being said, her faith is not grand. In the throes of pain (all this suffering surely affected her too, right?) she encourages Job to simply curse God in such a way that would cause God to strike him down in justice.

What happens next is another one of the most powerful sections of Scripture (well writing that sounded like a clickbait Facebook article. “We adopted a goldfish, what happened next will stun and amaze you!”).

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:9-10

Notice that Job doesn’t call her wicked, nor does he say that she is in fact foolish. Rather, he says that she is simply talking like someone who is a fool.

I’m not really sure what happens to Job’s wife after this, not gonna lie. She doesn’t ever show up again in the book, even after Job’s life is restored (chapter 42). He has more children, so maybe that’s proof she sticks around? I’m not sure. Consult someone smarter than me.

Let’s focus in on the second part of his statement though.

Dang.

That’s some A-level faith. We willingly accept good from God, we should be just as willing to accept evil (side-note. I was reading a commentary that mentioned that the Hebrew word here means ‘bad’. Don’t think that God is capable of doing something wicked or sinful).

“. . . for when the bad as well as the good is received at the hand of God, every experience of life becomes an occasion of blessing. But the cost is high. It is easier to lower your view of God than to raise your faith to such a height.” – Francis Andersen

Job’s faith is powerful, as is this quote.

Again, remember, Job is going to wrestle with God throughout this entire book. Yet, his faith here at the onset is secure. He doesn’t get it. He can’t fathom why this has happened to him. Yet he knows that it is from the Lord.

Again, the prosperity preachers and their thirty second clips getting shared on Facebook will tell you you’re an overcomer, a champion, a conqueror. They’ll tell you that you can overcome sickness if only your faith is strong enough. You can be blessed financially and spiritually and relationally and vocationally if you just have enough faith.

They must have cut this book out of their Bibles.

Job teaches us something powerful.

Following God is not about the level of your faith.

It’s about what your faith is in.

I’ll say that again. Following God is not about the level of your faith. It’s about what your faith is in.

Job is going to incessantly wrestle with God, but his faith is in God. That won’t waver.

The text goes so far as to say that Job didn’t sin in what he has said.

He hasn’t sinned, yet the affliction will remain for dozens of more chapters.

As followers of Jesus, we must have the faith to receive the bad as well as the good.

Job models that for us well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Why The Long Face?

It was late Saturday night, and I had woken up groggy and disoriented yet again. For a few nights in a row I was having experiences where I awoke from my sleep with the sensation that I was coming out of anesthesia. I knew where I was, but things felt hazy and cloudy, and my arms and legs felt weighted as if they were moving through water.

It had been five days since my jaw surgery, and I was getting over the hump of the discomfort, only to have my sleep continuously upended by these lingering side effects. The day had been a little rough, and I was just so done.

Jamie woke up to my groans, quickly coming to my side to see what was wrong. I told her, and started to tear up. All I wanted was to sleep.

Jamie, in her always on point wisdom, encouraged me to pray aloud while she went to the kitchen to get me some medicine.

I didn’t feel like praying, not gonna lie. Yes, all things considered, my suffering in the aftermath of my surgery was minor. My pain was not extreme, my battle not with death. But, in the moment, I was fighting despair.

So that’s where I found myself. Disoriented and uneasy in bed, encouraged by my wife to pray aloud.

As I stared up at the fan, I started to pray.

The words got louder and louder, my heart pouring out and echoing down the hall. The tears started flowing and things continued to escalate until I yelled loudly, “Look at what I’m doing for You, and this is what you did to me.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, things got quiet in the room and in my heart. You see, Scripture clearly teaches that our words come from the overflow of our hearts. Every thing we say displays some aspect of where our hearts are at.

Suffering tends to really reveal our hearts.

My suffering had revealed some things in my heart I didn’t really like.

I strive to serve God in all that I do. I strive to be obedient. I strive to point others to Jesus. I strive to show others the wonderful grace of God. I strive to extend the love of God to others. I strive to be a lifelong disciple of my risen Lord and Savior.

There’s nothing at all wrong with any of those desires of mine.

Yet my scream of anger at God showed that I certainly felt like I was entitled to a good life, one of prosperity and blessings. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I tried to serve God faithfully, so it only made sense that He should bless me with favor.

In the quiet stillness after my outburst, I felt God lovingly but firmly reminding me of what is true about Him. He doesn’t need me. If I wasn’t a family pastor in Vernon, someone else would be brought in and fill the same role.

Talk about oof.

What followed was the reminder from God of all the bazillion good gifts He had given me. A wonderful wife, parents who pray for and care for me, a brother and sister-in-law that let me have a fun weekend stay at their place before my surgery, a church family that has been continuously so amazing towards me (they’ve brought me meals and mowed my lawn), friends, a wonderfully talented surgeon, in-laws that let me stay with them when I got out of the hospital. The list goes on and on, and that’s centered around simply this past week or two.

Big oof.

Suffering causes us to lose sight of all of the light of God’s good and gracious gifts to us.

God continued to speak through His Word to me. He reminded me of His control over the situation. He reminded me that in the darkest of moments, He is still at work and still cares for His people like me (this has been slammed into my face since I’ve been studying Job for my blog and teaching Judges to the youth on Sundays).

All of this happened in my heart so fast.

Jamie came back in the room, helped me take some medicine, and soon I was back to sleep.

I wanted to share this experience with you for a handful of reasons.

First, I want to hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with acknowledging a hard day. It’s easy for us to compare our suffering to that of others, feeling like we can’t share that it’s been tough on us in fear of sounding pathetic or wimpy. If you’re struggling through something in your life right now, I genuinely pray that you have a faith community around you that can uplift you and that you can be open with. Stop the facades people, we need to be more real with others about our suffering and struggles.

Secondly, I want to remind us all that is in those dark nights (in my case literally) that we can ask the Lord to reveal the content of our hearts to us. Hear me, suffering is NOT always the result of sin. We don’t live in a black and white world like that. But, suffering can be used by God to reveal some sinful attitudes, motives, desires, etc. Just as He did with me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Lastly, I want to encourage you that our God reigns. Every single day, He has walked with me through this. Some days are harder than others, but He has brought stability. As I’ve been studying Job, I’ve been so encouraged by the following verse. Job cries out in all his emotions to the Lord all throughout the book. He despairs of his very life. Yet, in the midst of despair, He has a confidence in God. He is able to make the following declaration.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. – Job 19:25

Living in 2019, we are able to say the same. Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives.

Whatever you’re going through, you’ll get through it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Fight Night

Last night, there was apparently some big UFC fight. For hours leading up to the event, there was copious amounts of commentary, conjecture, and conversation. The bout itself lasted no longer than twenty minutes. I personally don’t see the appeal of paying money to watch grown men and women beat the snot out of each other. UFC fights are intriguing however. Sometimes the opponents are evenly matched fighters, trading blows as the fight drags on into the later rounds. Other times however, one fighter either gets a good jump or they are simply better pound for pound, as KO’s and TKO’s happen abruptly, sometimes within a minute or thirty seconds of the fight beginning.

I believe that many of us have a view of spiritual warfare that is more like the former type of fight I was describing. I know that for me personally, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that good and evil, life and death, darkness and light, God and Satan are evenly matched opponents duking it out on a grand stage. What the book of Job teaches us however is that God and Satan are not equally matched opponents. Rather, Satan is indescribably pathetic in comparison to the majesty and magnitude of God.

Let’s dive in together. If you haven’t got the chance to read it yet, you can catch my latest blog about Job via this link: A Man Named Job. It will tell you who Job was, where he lived, and what he did.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. – Job 1:6 

If you are familiar with the book of Job, then you know what’s about to happen. Job’s picture-perfect life is about to come falling apart around him, and his faith will be tested through tribulation. Before we see the trials come, we get this sort of court room scene. God is enthroned on high, and the ‘sons of God’ (think angelic beings) are gathering around Him. We read that Satan is ‘among’ them. Now, in Hebrew literature like we have in the Bible, this word can imply an intruder (I just had surgery, so this week I’ve had a lot of smoothies. So think, spinach was among the apples and strawberries. It’s not supposed to be there. Vegetables are gross). Satan is not welcome here, as if he is a regular character before the throne of God.

God quickly questions Satan about what he has been up to (v. 7). The enemy of our souls tells us that he has been roving throughout the world, going to and fro. This is not a casual stroll. We know from other Scripture that Satan prowls the world like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Also, be reminded that God is not in need of a report, in need of knowledge. He is omniscient.

Verse eight is when thinks get tricky.

God brings up Job.

That was a component of this story that hadn’t really hit me before, until recently when it was brought to my attention. Satan doesn’t bring Job up. God does. Knowing all that is to follow, the total breakdown of Job’s cosmos, it’s hard to wrap my head around that God initiates it. God sets the ball in motion that will lead to seemingly abject and unnecessary suffering for a man that God Himself describes as “my servant. . . a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”. If you find yourself confused, struggling with this, perfect. This book is for you. The book of Job is for those of us who can’t seem to wrap our heads around suffering.

I remember often reading the start to the book of Job and wishing that God would describe me the way He described Job. God seems to be so proud of the character of Job. There seems to be affection even, or at least that’s how I would read it. So I would clinch my fists, grit my teeth, and strive to be the man who turned away from evil and instead sought God. As a twenty-five year old, it’s already starkly clear to me that I will never be that. I will never be the blameless and upright man that the angelic hosts know of for my righteousness and purity of heart.

At least, not of my own accord.

There is so much freedom in realizing that Job is to point us to Jesus.

Jesus is the better Job.

What we are going to see in the book of Job is that Job is going to sin, struggle, and fall short in the midst of intense suffering.

Jesus faced far worse and yet remained solid in His righteousness, His fear of God, and His turning away from evil.

Because of Jesus, I don’t have to face the standard of being like Job.

Let’s move forward.

Satan responds to God by playing Devil’s Advocate (pun intended). In verses nine and ten, Satan lays the gauntlet. He questions the sincerity of Job’s faith and His righteousness. I mean, of course someone is going to follow God faithfully if that gets him or her wealth and prosperity and power and prominence. But remove all that, remove blessings, and no one will praise God.

But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face – Job 1:11

Here’s the real rub of the book.

The basic questions of the book are raised. God’s character and Job’s are both slighted. Is God so good that he can be loved for himself, not just for his gifts? Can a man hold on to God when there are no benefits attached? – Francis Andersen

In verse twelve, God accepts the challenge laid forth by the enemy of our souls. The only caveat is that Job’s physical health cannot be touched.

As hard as it is to wrap your head around, all that is taking place in the book of Job is happening due to God’s sovereign hand and loving kindness. This suffering that is looming over the horizon does not catch God off guard.

Any suffering that you are facing doesn’t catch Him off guard either. There is certainly suffering that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, suffering we will not understand this side of eternity. But suffering is not wasted. As we keep going through the book of Job together I hope that you see that.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The God Of All Comfort

I got home from work last Monday, and all I wanted to do was climb into bed and fall asleep. I had the same feeling on Tuesday. The enemy was reminding me of all the darkness in this world, as tragedy after tragedy assaulted the place that I call home. When tragedy strikes, when I’m faced with darkness, I tend to give the enemy a foothold and dwell on the tragedies that have happened in my life. I was in a tough place. I didn’t look forward to the next days and weeks with anticipation. Instead I looked to them with dread. What would happen next? What tragedy would strike? What problem would I be faced with? How would I be able to keep preaching the hope and joy that are found in Christ, despite deep darkness and real pain?

Thankfully, I have an amazing wife.

She gave me space to feel, to hurt, to shed some tears, and to rest.

Yet she made sure that I didn’t create space away from God. She made sure that I didn’t dwell on the enemy, she made sure I stayed active and thankful to God for the gifts He has given me.

She encouraged me to get into God’s Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. She encouraged me to actually commune with God, rather than just check things off a list. Thank God for her.

I have opened up my Bible this past week, reading various books. I have found comfort in a surprising place. Deuteronomy.

There are chapters upon chapters of laws in the book of Deuteronomy. They are absolutely important, but they’re not exactly the place where you might would think to find a solvent for an aching soul.

The prelude to these laws is in fact a place of great comfort to me however.

You see, in the first several chapters of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses to the people of God, as he recounts for them all the wondrous things that God has done for them. All the ways that He has intervened on their behalf up until this point of the Bible story. It was in reading these things that God had done for His people that my mind began to be filled with all the ways that God has worked in my life as well.

One particular image leapt off the page at me, and I’ve used it to guide my prayers this past week.

So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them (them being great massive giants in the promised land)! The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. – Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Side note. This passage at the beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people of God about the previous generation and how they failed to listen to his words. The previous generation didn’t take these words of Moses to heart, instead rebelling against God, leading to their destruction and wanderings in the wilderness. 

That last phrase is what God used to speak to me in this season.

God carried His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, like a loving father carries his son.

Years ago, my family got a bit lost on a hike at a state park here in Texas. My younger brother Matthew was really little at the time, and the heat was beginning to take a toll on him. My dad scooped him up and carried him until we made it back to the parking lot. That’s what loving fathers do. My dad would have been wicked if he had no regard for my brother’s exhaustion.

Our Heavenly Father carries us.

In times of complete exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally, God is there for you and for me.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is ludicrous and found nowhere in the Bible. It’s plain stupid.

Rather, God helps those who know they need Him.

This week I needed God. I needed Him to carry me. I needed Him to lift me up. I was spent.

As I sought truth in His Word and His face in prayer, I found the comfort I needed to keep moving forward.

Let’s look at one more passage real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . . For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8-11

Pastor Jason Meyer sees an alliteration in these verses that I believe will help us all.

Here’s the process.

Desperation. Dependence. Deliverance. Doxology.

Paul and Timothy make clear in verse eight that they were burdened beyond their strength (which reminds us that the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is also a lie that’s not found in the Scriptures). They were desperate.

Paul and Timothy’s sufferings led them to rely not on themselves, but God. We see this in verse nine. They became dependent on God to comfort them and to rescue them.

God is a God of comfort. All comfort. All mercies. God rescued Paul and Timothy from their difficulties. That’s not just part of what God does, it’s who He is. It’s in His character.

Where did this deliverance lead Paul and Timothy? It led them to praise. It led them to thanksgiving in verse eleven.

This word comfort meant “to strengthen” in Paul’s day. God did not put a blanket around them and give them a nice warm tea. He gave them strength to keep fighting, to keep going.

God has carried me this past week. He has kept me going. I can’t help but praise Him publicly for this.

I don’t know where you find yourself today.

Maybe you’re where I was last week, trying to cling to any semblance of light.

Maybe you’re in such a dark place that you can’t remember the last time you awoke with enthusiasm.

Maybe you’ve had year after year of brutal battering.

Know this.

God is your Father.

He is carrying you.

God is a source of comfort. Know amount of Pizza Hut pizza, Blue Bloods, NBA basketball, or friendships were going to lift me up last week. It had to be Him.

If you’re desperate, tell Him you are dependent on Him. He will bring deliverance, and this will lead to praise.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

Every day is a chance for me to sing the praises of my King. Every morning is a gift of His grace poured out on my life.

Yesterday I came across Psalm 30 in my time with the Lord and my oh my it stirred my affections for Jesus and made my heart burst with joy. The Psalms tend to do this for me. They remind me that the experiences I face day to day are not unique or isolating, but rather they are just part of being a human being. The emotions the Psalmist unpacks give me the freeing reminder that I too can be bold when I approach the throne. Why? Because of Christ.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. – Psalm 30:1

Right out of the gate I was driven to my knees. I meditated and thought long and hard about the ways that God has rescued me. The ways  He has lifted me up out of harm’s way, out of the crosshairs of my foes. Worry, jealousy, anxiety, anger, pride, defeatism. These things assault me. These things want to rejoice in their victory over me. Yet the Lord draws me up and out of the way.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Healing is found in Christ and Christ alone. He alone is the soothing medicine that my aching and broken heart needs. Just look at this wondrous truth! God heals us! He heals me! I have cried out to Him in pain and He has reached down and lifted me out, He has healed me. What a wondrous Psalm.

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. – Psalm 30:3

Relatable much?

Have you ever felt like you’re in hell? That the junk you’re walking through is beyond words, is more painful than you could have ever imagined having to face? Now I’m not incredibly well-versed in the theology of the Psalms, but in my opinion what David is describing is not the reality of us all headed toward hell outside of Christ. Rather I think this is evocative imagery, much like David will earlier say that God has forsaken him completely (Psalm 22:1).

So if you’re going through a whole lot of garbage in your life right now, rejoice that we serve and worship a God who draws us out.

By the way, rejoicing doesn’t mean immediate gratitude for horrible circumstances. Job wrestled with so much suffering before he came to a deeper intimacy with God. If you have a friend who is walking through hellish circumstances, don’t be an idiot like Job’s friends and try and find a blame for what’s happening. Listen, learn, and love.

These first three verses describe the ebb and flow of life; they emphasize and illuminate our seasons of life where God is pulling us up and out.

I am not going to cover this entire Psalm in this post, I do however want to emphasize the way that we should respond to these verses.. We realize how we should respond by looking at verses five, nine, and twelve.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:9

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! – Psalm 30:12

How do we respond when God pulls us out and up?

We find joy in that truth! Joy comes in the morning. Every day is a reminder of what God has done. Every day when I get out of bed is a reminder of what else God has pulled me up from.

We tell of His faithfulness. David pleads with the Lord not to allow him to go down to death, because if he is but dust then he can’t praise the Lord. He knows that he is called to tell of the Lord’s faithfulness. So every day that we are living should be a day where we praise the Lord and tell others of all that He has done for us and in us.

We cannot be silent! God deserves our thanks forever. Again, every single day that we exist upon earth is a day to be loud about all that God has done. God has been faithful to us, over and over.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3-5

How will all the peoples and nations of the earth praise our Risen Savior, our good and great God, if we don’t first tell them of how this God has been faithful to us?

Speak out.

Speak up.

Our social media feeds and our daily conversations need an influx of proclamations of God’s faithfulness. In a world of hatred, vitriol, and division, we can be an encouragement to those in our lives who need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

If you still feel like you’re in a pit. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping that God will begin to pull you out. His grace is always stronger than our suffering.

For those of you who are in a season where you’re out of the pit, rejoice.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Move Toward Someone

Monday afternoon I was in Mardel bookstore searching for some material for the children’s ministry at our church. As I walked through the kids section, I saw a book I had given my prodigal younger brother for Christmas in a previous year and tears filled my eyes. Two years after his departure and I still get caught off guard with the pain of that reality.

Monday night I was at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and heard something about a great event being put on by another church in town, and for a moment envy and jealousy crept into my heart, threatening to briefly harden my heart towards this other church instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

In the span of just a few hours, I was confronted with my suffering and my sin. My external pain and internal temptations.

Some of you may be thinking what I think from time to time, “Nathan, shut up, you’re constantly talking about these things on this blog.” My fear is our churches are full of people thinking the same thing about each other, “Can you just stop talking about the same things all the time? We get it. Sin, sin, sin. Suffering, suffering, suffering.” And while there are a plethora of commands of how we’re supposed to treat each other, we appear sometimes to not really want to obey these commands at all. Let’s look at some below.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

What I am not advocating for is all of us sitting around together in our Sunday School classes, going in a circle and sharing our deepest current sins and struggles with absolutely no follow up (This happened to me at a D-Now when I was in Junior High. It wasn’t helpful.)

What I am advocating for is for us to be willing to have those type of conversations with some of our fellow believers.

Talking about these things is not always done in a beneficial way. Opening up about sins for the sake of tearing down facades of perfectionism and walls of great lives is not enough. I once sat in a Men’s Group in college where all we did was rate our temptation towards certain sins on a scale of 1 to 10. After that we prayed together, acknowledged we’re all battling temptation, and then never talked about it again. This does basically nothing. It’s borderline enabling, because it tells people that everyone fights sin so don’t beat yourself up too much. 

Confession without daily walking in wisdom and love through sin is dangerous and incomplete.

We need to be people who daily fight for each other. Yes, daily. To get there, we have to acknowledge that all of us fight sin and fight suffering. Every one of us. Every day.

I have yet to meet someone who is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally 100% every day. So even on my most joyous and hopeful days, I’m struggling in a sin-ravaged world.

Now that I’ve rambled, let me get to the part of the blog I really want to focus on.

To get to what I’ve described above, we have to move toward each other.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone is not going to randomly start opening up about their sins and struggles at church out of nowhere (if they do, that’s likely a cry for help that we must follow up on and be a source of hope and freedom for that person).

Why do we need to move toward one another?

Because we’re human. And we’d rather not open up about these things.

But Christ came to us.

John 1:14 says that the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us. He set up shop on our block. We in our flesh would never go to God, so He came to us in grace and love.

We can model this in this way. Move towards someone today. Move past the mega-annoying ‘how are you doing’ question that only leads to a ‘good’ response. Push past that into real questions about their lives. Seek to humbly listen, learn, and love. Don’t come with answers, come with questions. Don’t come with selfish motives, come with a desire to love someone in your church as Christ would.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19

This will inevitably be insanely awkward at first. Last year I met with two great young men every week for lunch, and for months it seemed to be all conversations about Fortnite and sports. It took a while for us all to collectively push past those surface conversations into deep intentional ones. In some of my discipleship relationships today I’m still in the awkward stage. To be vulnerable and open about these matters in our lives, we need to trust that the other person cares enough to pray, call out, convict, and follow up.

Guess what. Doing this, this moving towards someone else thing, is uncomfortable. It takes effort because it’s not what we’re naturally prone to do. Yet Christ stepped out of glory to meet us here on earth. You and I can get out of our comfort zone in order to become covenant communities of believers who are actually for each other in the grimy and gritty days we live in.

I would challenge you to not simply like and share this post, but rather to implement it. Pick one person this semester or season to have this type of relationship with (outside your spouse). Pick one person that you weekly, if not daily, reach out to in the midst of our own personal sins and struggles. Don’t just confess. Walk through sin. When it comes to walking through sin with another, I mean that when someone confesses sin to me, I’m going to text and call and message and make sure that they are aware of my prayers and of my Scripture-based encouragement as they go through the fight. Don’t just break down in tears about difficulties in your life, pray through it.

If we as the Church would do this, we would see our churches come alive.

Move towards another person today.

Jesus Wept

Lazarus was dying. He was terminally ill and his sisters were in desperate need for a miracle. Good thing they knew a Miracle-worker. They knew Jesus. Jesus had dined with them, they worshipped Him as God and they knew He was capable of healing the sick. So they reached out to Him. They sent for Him. They sent Him news that Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, was sick. Then they waited. And waited. And waited some more. Lazarus died and there was still no sign of Jesus.

This story in John 11 is one of the most painful circumstances in the gospels in my mind. I try and place myself in the Biblical stories, especially the stories of Jesus in the gospels. I imagine how it would feel to have a loved one dying, to be crying out to God day after day, only to have the one I loved pass away. For some of you who are reading this, this requires no imagination. You’ve lost a parent, a friend, a husband, a neighbor, a coworker. You have faithfully served God and pleaded with God and yet God didn’t answer your prayers the way you had hoped He would.

This week in particular several of my friends have been facing loss in their families, unexpected loss. I don’t have the words to say. My heart is broken and burdened. I get home and think about God’s plans and purposes. I am not a pie-in-the-sky optimist and the Bible is not designed to create that mentality. Instead, the Bible is full of painful stories that are infused with the hope of Christ. I try then to share this hope with those I love.

The death of Lazarus in John 11 brings so many truths that lead to hope. Look at them with me. These aren’t alliterated because I guess I just haven’t been in ministry long enough to obtain that gift.

1. OUR WEEPING MESSIAH

To me, this is the prerequisite truth before one shares about the purposes of pain in our lives. Too many people have been turned off to the church because those who genuinely love Jesus and strive to love others through their grief lead with the fact that ‘God works all things for good and we are to count it all joy’. Many who have a high view of God’s sovereignty I think often miss this part, jumping to doctrinal truths before mourning with those who mourn. We miss the point when believing in God’s ultimate control over all things makes us horrible neighbors and brothers who are cold-hearted, intellectual, and jaded towards the hurting. That’s been me on many occasion, yet it’s missing the heart of Jesus. Cause here’s what Jesus did. It’s the shortest verse in all of Scripture.

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

There it is. Our Messiah, our Miracle-working divine Son of God wept with Lazarus’ friends and family in the wake of his death. Jesus is omniscient, He knew full well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet He wept. This is such powerful encouragement to us in our pain. Jesus weeps with you. God’s heart breaks when your heart breaks. God’s knowledge of His plan for our pain does not lead him to distant coldness of heart. No, to see His child in pain causes Him to mourn with us. Share your hurts with Him.

2. THE PURPOSE FOR PAIN

While I believe that this shouldn’t be the first thing we say to those who are grieving, it most definitely needs to be said. Maybe not for days or weeks after loss, but eventually. In my daily pains of this broken world, I have to tell myself of this. There are two verses that illustrate why pain comes into my life. Why my loved ones die and experience the affects of this world.

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” – John 11:4

and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there (when Lazarus died), so that you may believe; but let us go to him. – John 11:15

These two verses give us the answer to the ultimate reasons for our pain. Everything in my life happens so that:

A. God will be glorified

B. People would believe in Jesus

That’s it. Now again, this truth devoid of genuine care for the heart and soul of our brothers and sisters is cold, twisted, and unworthy to bring one to worship. This truth without the character of God leads one to feel like a pawn in a divine game of chess (I’m speaking from experience here). But this truth coming from a God who weeps with us, who hears our cries, who loves us, becomes a spark to the light the fire in my heart for me to worship God, even in the midst of immense pain.

3. ETERNAL LIFE 

The Lazarus story has an amazing ending. Jesus raises him from the dead to the awe of all who saw. We thus see clearly how Jesus was believed in and God was glorified as a result of what took place. For other stories in our lives that isn’t always the case. My brother Trevor’s story still has not resolved in a way that has clearly done the above two things, at least not in my heart, and it’s been almost two years since he took off. Our stories don’t always wrap up with a cute bow and a clear picture of God’s plan.

But here’s the most hopeful part of this story. Infused in this story is yet another “I Am” statement of Jesus. I’ve been walking through these this summer and they have amazed me. The character of Jesus is beautiful. What He claims to be and promises to be is amazing.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. – John 11:25

There you have it. The promise of eternal life.

When I was growing up, I kinda thought of the abundant life Jesus offered as starting after death. Like if you make through earth than you get this amazing offer of eternal life.

Yet Jesus is claiming with this proclamation that He is the resurrection. He brought the full life. To follow Jesus is not to wait until we die to experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers. Yet so many of us live like this.

Jesus is with you.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, He walks through life with you. He weeps with you. He glorifies Himself in you. He brings life to the death that is in your life.

I pray you are encouraged by the story of Lazarus.

Please know that if you are in need of prayer, you can reach out to me. Shoot me an e-mail or a Facebook message.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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