Voting For God?

“To say no to President Trump is to say no to God”

“One cannot really love Jesus and wish to follow him and also vote for a person (like Donald Trump)”

The first quote is from a recent interview with one of Trump’s spiritual advisers. The latter is from an old article from a few years back from the Dallas Morning News.

Do you see what’s happening here?

Do you see what’s been happening for years?

Do you see what is being ascribed to various political views?

The very name of God.

There is a reason you will never read on this blog or hear from the pulpit my political viewpoint on who to vote for. There is certainly been many times where I have spoken about my views in a sinful way on secondary or tertiary political issues on Facebook, but I strive to only address theological issues when it comes to what I say about voting and politics.

What I have been seeing in myself recently however is me breaking the Ten Commandments. Or being on some unsure footing regarding the Ten Commandments. Here’s what I mean.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. – Exodus 20:7

One of the Ten Commandments is to not take the Lord’s name in vain. While this does have an application when it comes to saying “oh my God” when surprised or angered, the primary implication of this command is to not ascribe to God what is not His doing.

Does that make sense?

All one has to do is look for even a moment of world history and you will see vile atrocities committed by people doing such things in the name of God. We all are aware of these situations. Sinful acts and wicked evil have been done in the name of God for millennia. God’s name is taken in vain.

I recently took God’s name in vain.

I took a grey issue, gun rights, and made it into a black and white issue, where my stance was fully in line with God and anyone who opposed me was outside of God’s will and grace and commands. This was not my intention, but it is certainly what took place. You may have even seen the Facebook post. Now, I apologized on Facebook and even apologized from the pulpit.

I remind you of that moment to make it abundantly clear that I have been guilty of the very thing I’m addressing.

We must stop equating our political beliefs with God’s name. Everyone does it. I shared those two quotes at the beginning of this blog to show you that it’s not coming from just one direction. It’s everywhere.

Let me address three dangers of saying “a Christian should vote for this candidate”.

1. We Forget Our Hope 

Biblical theology is a necessary study. Biblical theology is the practice of tracing one theme all throughout Scripture. The importance of this is to see the important themes of the Bible story.

Here’s one issue for example. There are a few verses, references about not cursing. There are however dozens and dozens of commands of Scripture about caring for the orphan. Our churches often prioritize the former way of life without addressing the latter. I am grateful for serving a church that takes up the cause of the orphan. Biblical theology shows us that God is more concerned with the orphan than He is our language. They are both commands from God, but one has more weight.

Biblical theology shows us that politics, government, authority, these things are secondary issues. Jesus, Paul, and Peter all talked about submitting to authority, none of them said to put all your hope in them. The whole “God will save our country if such and such person is elected” is a misplaced hope. God will work in our country primarily through the local church, not the White House. Biblical theology shows us the prophets regularly getting on to the people of God for trusting in their political, financial, or military might for their primary hope.

Biblical theology tells us to respect, submit to, and engage with government.

Biblical theology does not tell us to hope in those things.

(I have written a whole lot over the years on this topic: Jesus Isn’t On Your Team The American Flag or The Cross No Country)

2. We Forget God’s Sovereignty

I would encourage you to read Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God. It is a valuable resource that reminds us that God is in control of all things, from the weather to the governments of our world.

God is in control. So yes, vote, if you feel led to do so.

But the outcome of elections, the rise and fall of leaders and nations, all of these things are in the hands of God. Saying that God wants a Republican or a Democrat in the White House is to assume the desires of a God we can’t even begin to comprehend (according to Romans 11).

God has used wicked and evil men, as well as godly (and yet still imperfect) men to bring about His purposes in the world.

Don’t assume you know His plans.

3. We Will Lose The Next Generation 

This is honestly the real reason for my post. The truth that absolutely breaks my heart apart as a Family Discipleship Pastor.

Students are backing away from the church.

That’s the reality of the world that we live in.

Lifeway recently shared statistics about why they are doing so.

Look at this.

Linger on this.

Pray about this.

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 7.53.16 AM

66% of students will back away from the church, from coming regularly while in college.

25% of them will do so because the church propagates political beliefs that they don’t agree with.

As much as I want to address the 29% listing disconnect as a reason for leaving, and the 32% saying that church members are judgmental, let’s focus on the political views.

Two weeks ago, we had forty-eight students on a Wednesday. This was the largest I think we’ve ever had, and it is by no means the average attendance. But, let’s say I had 50 students.

According to Lifeway’s research, 34 of them will back away from church.

THIRTY-FOUR.

Eight of them will do so because they see and hear pastors and older church members say that the Christian view is this or that when it comes to politics.

EIGHT.

They aren’t backing away because they are constantly put away from the rest of the church in their own building (although 10 will). They aren’t backing away because they are judged by pastors and older Christians or their peers (although 11 or 12 will). No, they will back away because they hear the church tell them that they aren’t a good Christian if they don’t vote a certain way.

That is absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.

I can’t even wrap my head around that.

Church, I plead with you, watch what you say on Facebook and in conversations you have with others. Do not assume that there is only one right way to vote on every single matter (again, I have sinfully done so regularly).

I am not even remotely concerned with whether or not my students end up Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. I am concerned that they stay plugged into the church and that they know Jesus as Lord.

Because, at the end of their life, they don’t get into heaven because of political views. And, when they get to heaven, they will be with people of all parties.

Church, watch what you say.

I plead with you.

I beg you.

For the sake of the next generation, don’t take God’s name in vain.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Jesus Isn’t On Your Team

We like to make the claim that Jesus is on our team.

For some of us, He’s a conservative, good ol’ boy American white man who bled red, white, and blue in the Garden of Gethsemane and wants nothing more than to see the United States prosper through Republican ideals.

For some of us, He’s a liberal, social justice warrior who wants nothing to do with organized religion and if He was here would vote purely Democratic on all ballots and bills.

Jesus is on one of these teams we believe.

And we know for a fact that He wouldn’t be on the other team.

Let’s take politics out of it for a second.

For some of us, Jesus is against movies, cards, and playing dice. He is all about commands, three-piece suits on Sunday mornings, and obedience, obedience, obedience. His yoke is heavy and we better earn our standing before Him.

For some of us, Jesus is all about grace. Go ahead and indulge at times, there is forgiveness and freedom. Come as you are. Be broken. Be authentic. Don’t be like the fake hypocrites who fill organized churches.

We know for a fact that Jesus is on one of these teams.

And we know for a fact that He wouldn’t be on the other team.

Here’s the thing. I have grown tired and pained by the rhetoric that fills our conversations these days. I’ve read and heard member after member of Christ’s body publicly call Democratic politicians idiots, monkeys, and fools. I’ve read and heard member after member of Christ’s body publicly call Republican politicians bigots, racists, and fools.

I’ve read and heard people attack organized churches for being full of hypocritical people. I’ve read and heard people attack those who aren’t committed to church by calling them licentious fools.

I’ve heard it and I’ve said it. .

Here’s what I read in Scripture though.

Countless times and in countless ways, God operates in ways that we cannot fathom, in ways that don’t fit into our preconceived notions about what He would be about.

God isn’t American.

God isn’t Republican or Democratic.

God calls His people into obedience but also extends grace.

He doesn’t fit into my box.

Let me show you one such way.

What we’ve popularized in our American churches is that God fights for the US of A. We proudly wave our flags in our churches and make the audacious claim that God is entitled to give our nation victory. I’ve written in length in other posts that this way of thinking is incorrect.

God fights for His people, the church, not the nation of the United States of America. Not only that, there are actually countless times throughout Scripture that He doesn’t fight for His people.

I’ve been reading through 2 Kings to start the year. Today I came to chapter five. In 2 Kings 5 we read a story of God using Elijah to heal a man named Naaman. Pretty cool. But let’s look at who Naaman was.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1

Wait.

What?

Naaman was a man who led the army of one of Israel’s enemies, and the Scriptures say that the Lord used him to give victory to the enemies of Israel. Wow. That doesn’t fit into our box. Or at least it doesn’t fit into mine.

As we read the rest of the story, we will see God heal this enemy of His people. For a purpose.

Naaman ends up boldly proclaiming that there is no God in all the world except for the God of Israel (v. 15); and that he will make no sacrifices to any other false deity, but rather to God and God alone (v. 17).

Let’s modernize this.

Do you believe that God can save and heal and work through the enemies of God’s people?

Time and time again God’s grace extends to those we would never fathom could receive it. Time and time again in Scripture we see that God is greater and higher than our petty fights. Time and time again in Scripture we see that God fights for His purposes on behalf of His glory and for our good.

In Joshua 5, Joshua asks if God fights for His people or against them and God responds by saying, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come (v. 14).”

The Scriptures show us that God doesn’t play on our teams.

Yet our traditions have tricked us into believing He does.

Jesus didn’t wear a three-piece suit.

Jesus showed his love for the Father by obeying the Father.

Jesus’ heart was grieved by the wickedness of man.

Jesus fought for the rights of ALL people.

Jesus wasn’t a Republican or a Democrat.

Jesus wasn’t an American.

So, in 2019, as followers of Jesus, let’s strive to follow His lead (through His Word) as we love, confront sin, call to holiness, and lay our misinformed traditions down.

I look forward to the day where I worship around the throne of King Jesus, a middle-eastern man, with Iraqi and Iranian (maybe some from ISIS itself), German and Japanese believers. I look forward to the day when I worship around the throne of King Jesus with Democrats and Republicans alike, and I pray my actions and words until then give glory to the Lord and grace to those who hear them.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

They Will Know Us By Our Hate?

I was not able to attend the SBC annual convention this year, since I’m now only TEN days away from getting married (whoa, that’s crazy) and decided I’d rather have time with my fiancee. Thankfully living in a world of technology, I was able to watch snippets of the convention after the fact online.

I know there are thousands of pastors and church leaders more qualified to speak into the situation, but I have decided to share a little bit of my heart in the wake of some things that I personally have seen.

Obviously, leading up to this year’s convention there has been a plethora of disheartening and discouraging circumstances regarding Paige Patterson and the ways that people were taking sides. I got somewhat involved in this conversation via a blog post and some private conversations with friends, but for the most part I stayed out of getting my opinions out there.

Despite all that took place leading up to the convention, all that I have heard about it and from it has been encouraging. I’ve read articles and tweets, watched videos and an incredibly powerful sermon from JD Greear. All that I’ve seen and read has been about the unity, the missionaries being sent out, and the way that the SBC is striving to make the gospel central again.

Then today Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, came and spoke to the SBC. What was thought by many to be a speech where he would share his support of the SBC turned into a speech about the Trump administration’s success in political affairs, and how with the help of the SBC the Trump administration can make America great again.

This understandably was incredibly divisive. What the speech appeared to do was to solidify the false belief that to be Southern Baptist is to be Republican, or at least to be a Southern Baptist is to be someone who puts their hope in the United States government. Regardless of what you believe about Trump, whether or not you voted for him, I pray that all who claim allegiance to Christ would acknowledge that their hope according to Scripture should not be in the governments and leaders of man, but rather that their hope should be in their risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I believe that Scripture is clear that God appoints and dictates the leaders and governments of our world. They can be used by Him in great ways to strengthen the faith of His people through persecution or to bless His people with seasons of peace. That being said, salvation is not found in a government. Salvation is not found in a mortal man. It is true that God used kings in Scripture. That being said, these kings were residing over God’s people, a people that today is not in any one country, a people that today is under the ultimate authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we as followers of Jesus pray for our leaders, but we are not to be wholly allegiant to them.

Oops, I got a little carried away there.

Anyway, this speech led to divide. It led to yet again a fractured room where some stood and applauded and some sat dejected. What has been the most disheartening however is the conversations that I have seen on social media. I have seen some of the most hateful and un-Christlike speech from people in both camps so to speak, both generations.

I have personally read outspoken believers on Twitter chastising, criticizing, condemning, and villianizing those who were not overly elated at Pence’s speech. I have seen people on both sides of the classic Calvinism debate launch attacks at each other. That is something I’ve been caught in the middle of, accused before of not reading Scripture correctly if I’m not reformed (I am a three-point Roachest by the way, I believe in Pizza, Jesus, and the OKC Thunder). I have seen language unbecoming of a Christ follower being launched at another image bearer of God. There has been crass, vulgar, sexual (you read that right) language being spewed.

It is disheartening to see so much hate. It is also disheartening to see so much unintentional tear-downs. While the older generation appears to be way more in your face regarding how they feel about you, the younger generation’s disrespect of the older generation is much more subtle. In a world of social media, everyone wants to be the clown, everyone wants to be the man or woman with the wit and jokes (me, 80% of the time). I have seen grown men display their cynicism and jadedness for all to see. It is immensely discouraging because people are watching. The clap-backs, digs, jokes and the like even between friends on social media does ostracize those who believe differently even when not directed at them.

May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say on social media. May we be men and women who think long and hard about what we say face to face. May we be men and women who do not allow secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine to drive a wedge between us. May we not be men and women known for our hate, but rather for our love. This is my desperate plea and prayer.

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear… let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:29,31-32 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The American Flag or The Cross

I remember the sermon. I was a senior in college home for the weekend and we had a guest speaker at our church. I enjoyed his message, but there was an undercurrent of a belief system that was concerning to me. Although not explicitly said, there was an implicit sense of the end of the world being equivalent to the rapid moral decline of the United States. This was a sentiment that I have heard echoed in other messages, blog posts, social media rants, etc. If the United States should fall as a nation, the end of the world would be upon us.

Honestly this is very concerning to me. Here’s a few quick reasons why.

  1. This belief is wholly inconsistent with history. The USA is not the first world power that has ever existed. Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Assyria. There is historical and Biblical proof of these nations’ rapid declines, and guess what, we’re still here.
  2. This belief is way too narrow. It is statistically true that in the Western world the church is dead or dying. Europe is incredibly dark spiritually and we’re right behind them. That being said, the global church is exploding. People are coming to Christ in droves in Africa and Asia. We may be on the outskirts here in the USA, but the global church is thriving in the midst of suffering.
  3. This belief is the result of putting our hope in the wrong thing. This is what this post is about. If you take a long look at the Old Testament, you will see that many of the prophetic oracles against the nations (including also the people of Israel) promised destruction because people were believing in their own government, specifically military, for hope and security. Take for instance Isaiah 31:1 – Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. (see also 2 Chronicles 16:7)

I grew up believing that this was the best country on earth. We were the epicenter of morality, spirituality, and Christian missions. We sent people out to the nations who needed the gospel. We were a country that was all about Christian values. We were God’s country. The rose-colored glasses started to come off at OBU, and then were completely ripped off my eyes in Phoenix.

Phoenix was the darkest of places I’ve been to. A staggering 90%+ don’t having saving faith in Jesus Christ. A major metropolitan area right here in our country, an epicenter of sorts in its own right, and it is dark. This country is not my home. This country is not my hope.

I’ll be honest, my time in Phoenix frightened me. I’ve written about this experience in other blogs, how I came to quickly realize that the United States wasn’t my home. God walked me through fear and anxiety and brought me to the point through studying Scripture that I was able to realize that the United States of America is not a Christian country.

Honestly, there is really no such thing. There can be leaders and policies that support Christian morals and values, but there is no such thing as a Christian country.

There is however such thing as a Christian nation. However it is not a nation that is limited by geography, ethnicity, financial class, or culture. It is a nation of people who have put their trust, hope, and security not in mere men or governments, but instead in Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

The decline of our country can be discombobulating. It can be devastating. It can be discouraging. However, if you remain in that space, that is likely a sign that your hope is in the wrong thing. Repent and believe in the good news of the gospel, that our Risen King sits enthroned in heaven and controls the world and the powers that ‘rule’ it.

It is easy to look at what’s happening and blame my generation for the moral chaos that seems to be swirling all around. It is harder to accept that we may have failed our children by teaching them to put their hope in our country, their security in the American Dream, and their peace in our military might. May we be people who teach our children to put their hope in their Risen Savior, their security in His sovereign hand, and their peace in His unfailing love.

We have an American flag in our sanctuary where I work, and I fear that it has become a symbol of where people are putting their hope. The cross is the symbol of that which we should be putting our hope in.

The American flag doesn’t bring me peace, security, or hope.

The cross of Christ and the empty tomb bring me peace, security, or hope.

MY HOPE IS NOT IN DONALD TRUMP MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. MY HOPE IS IN KING JESUS MAKING ALL THINGS NEW AGAIN.

I plead with you to live for Christ, to be allegiant to Him first and foremost. Be in the public sphere, vote, rally, protest when necessary, but be allegiant to Christ more than country.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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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