Nothing To Brag About

Do you brag a lot?

I do.

Do you brag about your accomplishments, your accolades, your abilities?

I do.

Going through my high school and college years at the same time that social media exploded, I lived in a time where bragging was normal, even encouraged.

Only recently, through conversations with men who care about me, and through time in God’s Word, I’ve learned just how foolish that is.

But it sure is hard not to sometimes.

It’s how many of us are wired. Our wicked hearts want glory. Our wicked hearts want praise.

A couple moments last year illustrated just how hungry for human praise I am. One happened over the summer.

Our student ministry had home groups over the summer in lieu of normal youth group. This was done to build community and camaraderie amongst all of our students. It was a great time.

Well, Jamie and I live in a duplex (Until March 9th! We just bought a house!), and so we outgrew that space. We had to start having our Sunday night home group at the church instead of in our home.

This was purely the work of God.

But I wanted to let people know about the 0% of it that was my doing.

So I snapped a couple photos and then posted them on our Facebook with a caption of “Look what God is doing! We outgrew our space! #Blessed” or something like that. The classic humble brag. Drawing attention to growth in our youth group. I’m not saying that my heart or intentions were to manipulate or to draw attention to myself. But if I’m being honest, that was probably part of it.

We all do it.

We all pride ourselves on our abilities, our accomplishments, our accolades.

Last week, I was reading in Jeremiah. And a passage leaped off the page and punched me in the gut. Metaphorically speaking.

This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord.

– Jeremiah 9:23-24

Wow. What a powerful word.

The wise aren’t to boast in their wisdom. The rich aren’t to boast in their riches. The strong aren’t to boast in their strength.

The only thing the people of God have to boast in?

That they have the understanding (from God) to know God. The God who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness (all of which He delights in). That’s it! That’s the only thing they have to boast in.

Man, I wish we read the prophets more. I understand why most people don’t. There are some hard indictments against the people of God in these passages. Some tough love. Some parts of Scripture that we want to avoid. We want the God who loves, but we don’t want the love of God that leads to rebuke. We want to feel happy any time we read Scripture, we don’t want to be corrected.

When I put my social media posts up against this passage, I am quickly shown just how prone to prideful boasting I am.

Now, I’m not saying that we can never show other people our accomplishments. It’s how we show them. It’s how we present them. It’s why we’re presenting them.

What’s our motivation?

For instance, a great young man I’ve been meeting and hanging out with over the last year was in a stock show in San Antonio this weekend. Now, although I live in a country town, I know literally nothing about stock shows. So, I’m not sure what it all means but he won a big award this weekend. His mom shared about it on Facebook, praising God, praising her son, and praising the tribe that was in his corner throughout this whole process. There was nothing wrong with that in my mind at all.

However, recently, I preached on a Sunday morning at my church. I quickly went to Facebook and posted about it, hoping to rake in heart emojis and praise for my preaching abilities.

My motivation was askew.

My motivation was to obtain glory and praise for myself, not the Lord.

So, what about you?

What’s your motivation?

What is your motivation for the things you share on Facebook? What is the motivation for the things you bring up in conversation? If you’re pointing to yourself a lot, like I do, you’re likely operating in a place of pride that the Bible confronts here in this passage.

However, if you’re striving to point to others and to point to Jesus, then you’re in the right place.

The only thing we have in life to brag about is the fact that God allows us to have a relationship with Him by His grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Me, Myself, and I

I wonder what they think of me.

I wish I had some time for myself, some self-care, maybe some pizza and a good movie. 

I’m so sick of the same sins that I battle all the time. I can’t seem to just fully get free of my struggles. 

If I could only eat better, be organized, be more fit, then I could really make a difference. I just need to improve my life. 

My upbringing was the worst, the job I recently left was so hard on me, none of the circumstances of my life have been fair at all. 

Have you ever had any of these thoughts? If we’re being honest, some of these go through our minds, right? In our day-to-day lives, we are focused on ourselves. That first one is the worst for me. I over-analyze every conversation, text message, or e-mail to make sure that I was perfectly articulate and kind in all that I said. I’m so introspective. To a fault. My wife regularly has to remind me to shut up and let things go.

Some of us live our lives focused entirely on self-indulgence and self-care. We focus so much on making it to the weekend, getting away from responsibilities, filling our own souls up with what we need to keep going. As naturally selfish people, we can consistently put ourselves before others.

Self-improvement Christianity runs rampant in our current church culture. Sermons, books, articles, blogs, and podcasts all fill our minds with the idea that we can go to Jesus and His Word with a focus on improving ourselves. We learn of habits to help us overcome anger, pride, fear, anxiety, lust, doubt. We learn of habits to help us be better servants, friends, church members, neighbors, parents, spouses.

We listen to messages that tell us that God wants to help us achieve our dreams, God wants us to loosen up and accept grace, God wants to help us be better versions of ourselves. At first glance, this seems all good and right. The gospel and the Bible both impact how we live. We are called to get rid of that which hinders our faith and replace it with that which cultivates our love for God and neighbor.

But, the gospel is not about self-improvement. The gospel is not about God sprinkling a little bit of magic pixie dust on our problems and difficulties. The gospel is not a supplement we can take to help us be better. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, is about God taking us from death to life.

One vein of self-improvement Christianity that has become supremely popular is the brokenness obsession. You can read and listen to a lot of Christian media that encourages the reader or listener to lighten up, to accept the sins you struggle with, to be your ‘authentic’ self.

All of what I’ve written about so far is focused entirely inward.

There’s a better way for me to live.

There’s a better way for you to live.

When we take our eyes off of ourselves, we can find the freedom that Jesus intended for us.

In her book, Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self Focus, Lydia Brownback unpacks in detail much of what I just described. It was such a good book, I devoured it in two days. I would encourage you to get it and give it a read.

There are a litany of quotes I would love to share from this book, I’ll focus on just one though.

Christ is our identity too, if we’ve been united to him by faith. Sometimes we forget that. Some of us have never understood it. And it gets obscured by our naturally self-oriented hearts. 

That’s some good stuff right there.

That’s some good stuff based off of Galatians 2.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

When we fully grasp the message of the gospel, we look outside of ourselves, and we are set free to flourish in good works towards others.

If I spent as much time out in our community as I did inwardly over-analyzing how people perceived me, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time serving others as I did striving to create a better version of myself through self-improvement, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time diving into God’s Word and prayer as I did unwinding through entertainment, I guarantee you that I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life.

If I took my eyes off myself, believing that the truth of Galatians 2:20 applies to every facet of my life, I guarantee you that I would become more aware of how God is at work in the community around me.

So my encouragement for you is to immerse yourself in Scripture. Not self-help books that tell you to accept yourself and be your best self. Not podcasts that teach you that God can help you achieve all of your dreams. Get into Scripture. Remind yourself of what the overarching story of the Bible teaches us about who we are. We have been hidden with Christ. Our identity is in Him.

That means I don’t have to devote time to wondering what people think of me.

That means you don’t have to endlessly pursue the next self-improvement plan.

That means we don’t have to endlessly pursue the next activity that will help us feel better about ourselves.

That means we don’t have to parade our accomplishments before others in order to be praised by men.

It means we can focus on others.

It means we can live out the gospel.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Getting Into God’s Word

There are many days when I feel old, when I feel like I should have grown up in a different generation. Especially in Evangelical Christian circles. Especially when it comes to Scripture.

For me, I’ve always had a love for Scripture. Whether it was stealing away into my backyard as a teenager in order to study in quiet, or spending too much on books or Bible studies, I have always enjoyed studying God’s Word. That’s just the way I was made. I acknowledge that.

That being said, I feel more and more lonely in my view and approach to Scripture.

Here’s what I mean.

These days, I see three prevalent approaches to Scripture in the greater evangelical Christian community. And, to be frank, they make me feel isolated when I don’t adhere to them.

Approach 1: Brain Power

The first approach to Scripture is the intellectual approach. I have just finished my first year of Seminary, and I have come face to face with how countless men and women in academic circles have put Scripture on the cutting block. As a result, the supernatural is traded away for myth and legend. In conjunction with this view of Scripture is the intellectual pride that saturates so many men and women who are my age (including myself). What I mean is that we bicker and argue about things that are unnecessary. We make mountains out of molehills. We argue on Facebook and Twitter and clap back at one another. The intellectual approach to Scripture is one where the Bible is studied deeply and genuinely, but it is mostly a textbook to be dissected instead of the Word of God to be followed. The following passage has pushed me out of this approach.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. – John 5:39-40

Approach 2: Pixar-ism

The second approach to Scripture is the emotional approach. It could also be called the self-help approach. This is the demographic in Christian circles that wants to have some emotionally-dripping experience every time that they get into God’s Word. Feelings are king. So if you are in worship or prayer or Bible study but don’t have some heaven-opening, emotionally powerful experience, doubt creeps in and you are shaken. This leads to churches programming their services in order to manipulate emotions and produce a revival-like experience each and every week.

Even worse, when emotionalism and intellectualism combine, Scripture’s authority over the life of a Christian starts to crack. If the Bible can’t surely be the very words of God, and parts of the Bible make me feel bad, then it is no longer authoritative to me. What I’ve come to realize is that the Bible is often going to make me feel ‘bad’.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

According to Scripture itself, it’s going to rebuke and correct me. My feelings cannot be king. They can’t decide what parts of Scripture are authoritative or not.

I’ve been married for close to six months, and I’ve quickly learned that I am a selfish turd. I’m horrible at serving around the house without being asked. So when I read in Scripture that we are to put others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:4), I’m confronted with this truth. And I feel ‘bad’ and have a choice to make. I can either change my behavior accordingly, or I can claim that this part of Scripture is no longer authoritative over me.

Approach 3: Forget-About-It!

The last approach to Scripture is by far the most frustrating, disheartening, and draining to combat. This final approach to Scripture is to simply ignore it. I’m not talking about the world at large, I’m talking about in the lives of followers of Jesus.

I have been in ministry for just a few years, and I have seen the stark reality that a significant portion of our faith communities has no desire to read, study, or adhere to Scripture.

I see this when 10% of my students bring their Bible to church. I see this when I hear complaints about Bible study programs at our church that require homework. My heart breaks at this. We have become so busy and so preoccupied with the things of earth that the thought of taking time to study God’s Word is now a burden instead of a joy. Even as I write this, my heart feels overwhelmed. This subject is something I could write about for hours and hours.

I am an imperfect man who falls short in so many ways all the time.

That being said, I cannot wrap my mind around how our churches are full of people who don’t even open their Bibles during the week (or even on Sundays!). Those in our faith community that are younger than us are looking up to us to see how we walk out our faith. The responsibility is on us to lead the next generation. If they see us with no desire to grow in our knowledge of Scripture, they will follow suit.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also the honey and drippings of the honeycomb. – Psalm 19:10

My prayer is that more and more followers of Jesus would say this about God’s Word. That it is sweeter and more valuable than anything else in their lives. Not because it is ultimate in our faith, but rather because through studying it we learn to love God and love others more and more. It is supremely sad to me that countless people could arrive in heaven one day, meeting a stranger in Christ rather than a friend. No, Bible immersion is not what saves you.

Approach 4: Grace-Powered Saturation

I never want to criticize and condemn, rather I seek to convict and empower. While I see these above three options as prevalent, there is another way.

We can be men and women who, by God’s grace, saturate ourselves in the Word of God. Scripture is extremely clear that the desire to be with God is brought about by God Himself (Romans 3:10). What that means for us is that if we don’t have a yearning for God’s Word, we should pray and ask God for the grace and strength to get into the Word. Then, after relying on God’s grace for strength, we simply start. Start small.

For instance, this next week, read one chapter each morning, or five mornings of the week. Don’t stress yourself out with some elaborate reading plan. Instead, just simply begin. Even when you don’t feel like it. I can assure you, if you put in the effort, God will bring the illumination and the continued desire to keep getting in God’s Word.

For the rest of my life, my desire is to see people view God’s Word rightly and to fall in love with the One who wrote it.

In His Name,

 

We Are One

The strangest thing happened to me just the other day. In the middle of a hard day I was just chilling in my room listening to old school Disney movie soundtracks. Random I know, but it’s pretty fun to do. It was while listening to the music from the underrated but fantastic Lion King 2 that I got hit with some gospel truths.

Since the start of the new year God has been making it incredibly clear that I can’t live the Christian life outside of a strong prayer life and strong community in which to find courage and strength. These two truths have come at me from countless different directions. I’ve been reminded of them through my time in the Word, through the encouragement of a friend, through the quiet thoughts before sleep each night. And surprisingly enough, I found the encouragement and reminder to pursuelion-kin Biblical community through a song out of Lion King 2.

Before you exit out of the blog, just bear with me. This all might make sense in the end.

Here’s the gist of the scenario. Two lions in play here. Simba & Kiara. Kiara is struggling to find her purpose for her life. She doesn’t know where she fits in with the rest of the pride. Her father Simba comes along and sings to her this short song about the community that is the pride they’re in, and I truly believe that it speaks volumes about how the church functions. Here’s the full song:

As you go through life you'll see
There is so much that we
Don't understand

And the only thing we know
Is things don't always go
The way we planned

But you'll see every day
That we'll never turn away
When it seems all your dreams come undone

We will stand by your side
Filled with hope and filled with pride
We are more than we are
We are one

Kiara: If there's so much I must be
Can I still just be me
The way I am?

Kiara: Can I trust in my own heart
Or am I just one part
Of some big plan?

Even those who are gone
Are with us as we go on
Your journey has only begun

Tears of pain, tears of joy
One thing nothing can destroy
Is our pride, deep inside
We are one

We are one, you and I
We are like the earth and sky
One family under the sun

All the wisdom to lead
All the courage that you need
You will find when you see
We are one

There’s so much here that has implications on the church body although that’s obviously not the intended purpose of this song.

Simba encourages Kiara that although things might not go as she would like or she had planned, she would have a community that would never turn away from her in those hardships and failures. The encouragement that he gave to her was that they would all stand by her side in hope and pride, they as a pride are more than just individuals, they are ‘one’.

Being in Phoenix has showed me so quickly and so explicitly that I can’t keep going in the Christian walk apart from community. Evil is real, times get hard, and without the support of a church body we can easily get picked off by the enemy. I’ve been tremendously blessed by the generosity and kindness of my church body here in Phoenix. Without them it would have been far too hard to walk through death in my family and assimilating to a new place.

That’s one of the coolest blessings of following Christ. When we enter into salvation through faith, we become a part of something so much bigger than any one of us.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, – Ephesians 2:19

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. – Romans 12:5

That verse from Ephesians is in a passage describing what Christ did for us on the cross, all the benefits of salvation. We were saved by grace. We were affirmed as His workmanship. We have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ. We are no longer far off, instead we have been reconciled to God and are at peace with Him. We have access to the Father. Yet we also have been given the blessed hope of living in community with all believers across the globe. We are no longer strangers and aliens, we are fellow citizens in the household of God. We are, according to Paul, one body in Christ.

We are one.

The second verse of the song is even cooler in my opinion. As a younger follower of Christ, in a sense my journey has only begun, but I do not journey alone. I’m being equipped and encouraged by those who have gone before, Christ-followers from previous generations.

Simba tells Kiara that in the midst of tears of joy and tears of pain, nothing will destroy the fact that the pride is one. The pride is one big family under the sun. Simba promises Kiara that all the wisdom and courage she needs is found inside the pride, inside the community that she was born into.

Members of my generation (including myself at times) have bought the lie that we don’t need the organized church to pursue Christ. Oh that we would come to realize what a blessing the organized church is. As followers of Christ we are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We will find all the wisdom and courage that we need to stand for Christ in the context of the church community.

I still struggle with how to do this well. But Satan loves nothing more than isolating Christians and figuring out how to tear them down outside of community. Don’t let him.

Acknowledge the church community as the blessing that it is. Embrace it. Find courage, wisdom, support, purpose, hope, joy, and so much more in the bride of Christ.

We weren’t made to be alone.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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