Shine In Me

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the need to use the restroom. With groggy eyes, I got out of bed and promptly came extremely close to stepping on my dog’s face. He is adorable, but enjoys curling up right next to my side of the bed, where he often wakes me in the morning with a lick or a right jab.

Darkness skews my view. I don’t see clearly how to get from one place to another. Making trips all the way out to the kitchen are even more perilous. Clumps of my dog’s hair look like tarantulas that are eighteen inches in diameter. Every gust of wind outside that shakes the leaves in our trees are absolutely intruders peering through our windows according to my half-awake brain.

Darkness overwhelms me.

You know what helps on my treks to the bathroom or the kitchen?

Light.

If we leave a lamp on in the living room, I can see clearly to get to my precious two percent milk (don’t judge me for what I choose to drink in the middle of the night, and don’t come at me with any other type of milk. They’re all nasty except for two percent).

Light provides guidance.

Light provides perspective.

Light makes the creepy darkness

simple and safe.

This afternoon, my heart has been overcome with wonder by my encounter with the following verse:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

God uttered a word and light entered the cosmos.

God uttered another word and light shone in my heart.

My ability to comprehend Scripture, to comprehend the Messiahship of Jesus, comes from God and God alone.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this light of the glory of God in my heart has no off switch. The light of God’s glory discovered through Christ cannot be turned out. It can’t be dimmed. It can however, be forgotten and ignored. At least that’s my experience.

This is insanely wonderful news.

This is what should spark joy in our hearts. The God who made the cosmos brimming with light is the same God who showed us His glory through Jesus.

I see a lot of melancholy Christians.

I am often a melancholy Christian.

But what if we meditated on, thought about, and worshipped because of this wonderful news.

Darkness is everywhere.

Don’t meditate on it.

I had a friend and man I look up to recently tell me that when he gets discouraged, he turns his attention to helping others.

Now, obviously, in some situations it’s not a quick fix.

But that rings true.

When we get down, discouraged, depleted, we can get stuck there if all we meditate on and fill our minds with is more darkness.

For me, I’ve had to force myself to look at the light.

And the light is Jesus. When I see Him, I see the very glory of God.

Look at the light.

The One who spoke light into our cosmos is available for you. Turn off the phone. Turn off the TV. Turn off the blather. Commune with Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

If you enjoyed this blog post, here’s a couple other avenues to get Biblical-focused content:

Prayer For Dummies Like Me

I am pretty horrible at praying.

This is something I’ve written about on my blog many times before.

I’m just not good at it.

I love to study Scripture and teach Scripture (applying Scripture to my life? Not so much. That hurts. That’s hard.). I read commentaries for fun on Saturdays when I’m stuck at home. I think one reason I love to study and teach Scripture is because I see very tangible results. I grow in knowledge. Books I finish go on my ‘finished’ book shelf in my office. Sermons I’ve preached and Bible studies I’ve taught are saved in my Logos Bible software. I can go back to them again and again.

Tangible results.

Prayer? That’s 99% of the time for me something not tangible.

Yeah, sure, the popcorn prayers throughout my day normally get ‘answered’. Like today I ran three miles and regularly panted out “God, don’t let me die”. And alas, die I did not.

But, when it comes to the deeper prayers of my heart, I don’t get to see tangible results.

“God, work in the lives of our students. Grow our youth ministry in depth.”

“God, work in the lives of my family members. Draw us all collectively closer to You.”

“God, grow Your joy and peace in me.”

Those things are 99% not quantifiable. Rarely if ever have I gotten a call or text from a student who just wants to tell me about their walk with God (Although I once got a call from a student who excitedly shared with me their Fortnite experience from the night before). Family members don’t just message out of the blue how they’re growing spiritually. Joy and peace in my heart? No idea if that’s growing or not.

Prayer doesn’t lead me to tangible results.

Yet, prayer is an unavoidable habit to be pursued as a follower of Jesus. It’s not something where I can say “I’m not good at it” and then never engage in it. That’s not how it works.

So, if you’re like me, a dummy when it comes to prayer, I want to share with you some encouragement. These are not tips and tricks for a vibrant prayer life (maybe I should have named this blog “Seven steps to mountain-moving, life-changing, Spirit-empowered prayer”). These are Biblically-based truths about prayer.

Since these are Biblically-based, lets read the passage that got me thinking about all this in the first place!

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, – Ephesians 1:15-17

This passage moves on to some beautiful truths about who Jesus is, what He has done, and who we are in light of that. And we’ll get there in the next two blogs.

But what I want to focus on is how Paul prays.

Pray for Others

Paul prayed for others. A lot. Like most of the time. I’m not doubting that Paul ever prayed for his own wants and needs, but he sure doesn’t talk about it nearly as much as he talks about praying for others. Most of the time I suck at prayer because I’m just repeating my same ol’ wants again and again and again. That gets boring, not gonna lie. And I run out of things to pray about seven minutes in.

I’m always absolutely amazed by those who are constantly in prayer for others. There are a few people in our community here in Vernon who have wowed me with their ability to do this. Tammy Chapman. Ronnie Gibbs. Jimmie Parmer. Dr. Darrell Monday (I may have spelled his name wrong).

These are just a few people who have put this on my heart. They regularly follow-up with those they’re praying for. They’re always encouraging.

Paul didn’t cease to pray for others.

Neither should we.

Pray Christian Prayers

What about the content of our prayers though?

A whole lot of the time, we pray for things that non-Christians could pray too. We pray for health, recovery, blessings.

But do we pray for spiritual things for our friends, families, fellow Christians?

Look at what Paul prayed for in that passage above! He prayed that they would gain wisdom and knowledge of God!

That’s a prayer that is distinctly Christian.

Pray for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in others. Pray for spiritual disciplines. Pray for a deeper understanding of Jesus! Pray for the Spirit’s power! Pray for Christian things.

Pray the Bible

This has served to help me sooooooooo much in prayer. Instead of praying lists, pray the Bible. Pray passages. This is actually extremely easy. Paul prayed that the church in Ephesus would gain knowledge of God. We have the complete revelation of God in the Bible. So pick a passage and pray.

The Psalms is the easiest place to do this. I read a verse and then pray all that comes to mind in light of that verse, and then I move on. Passages like Ephesians 1 are super easy because you can literally just pray the prayers of Paul.

Use the Bible!

Pray Alone

These last two don’t flow out of Ephesians 1. But they do flow out of the story of Scripture. Jesus prayed alone frequently and unashamedly.

I’ve realized that this is important for me. I will get anxious, angry, afraid, and my wife will encourage me to go to my closet. I sit on top of the seven feet of dirty clothes, close the door, and pray with God. And man it works wonders. I don’t magically open the door to a changed circumstance. But I 99% of the time open the door to a changed perspective.

Get alone with God.

Pray Together

But don’t forsake praying with others! I am bad at praying with my wife every night, but when I do it does wonders.

One of my closest friends lives in Phoenix and he recently (months ago) called me and we didn’t say a word except to pray out loud together, via Scripture, for over thirty minutes. I’ve never felt so strengthened in my faith.

And y’all, church doesn’t count. Too often prayer is used at church as guardrails for the start and end of activities, or for delays between moments when stuff is happening on stage.

Call up a friend.

Pray.

I’m a dummy when it comes to prayer.

But you don’t have to be.

In His Name,

Nate 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,

 

Stressed Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Me, Myself, and I

“If we can just get through May.”

I’ve heard this refrain from many friends and peers recently, and I’ve even thought it and said it myself. May is a busy season. A time of endless graduation related responsibilities and end of the year awards banquets. It is full of solidifying family vacations for the summer. Many who were faithfully following resolutions for 2018 have seen themselves depart from their grandiose plans as they move from Hello Fresh planned meals to driving through Braums or Taco Casa. For the college student, finals weigh heavily on the mind. The pace of the end of the school year is relentless and hard to keep up with.

Friendships and relationships that were strong and tight but three months ago are now more distant as a result of the busyness of life, whether that is co-workers, friends, or family.

While there are definitely seasons of life that are busier than others and thus will naturally effect our relationships, I don’t believe that as followers of Christ we are to nonchalantly go along with this flow and not strive for community all the same.

While reading this evening, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is a beautiful reminder of the necessity of community. As followers of Christ, we cannot do this alone. We need people to help us up (confession and repentance), keep us warm (encouragement and support), and prevent us from being broken (spiritual warfare). If we are not encouraging, praying for, and confessing to a select group of men or women in our church community, then we are missing out on so much of what it means to follow Christ. We were designed for community. Adam was in a perfect state and yet it was not good for him to be alone. In the midst of Genesis 3′ horrible turn of events, we see that God was in the practice of walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Eden was communal.

Yet way too often that cord of three strands is just me, myself, and I.

As the end of the school year has come, I have felt this need for community, for brotherhood, but have experienced the lack of it. This is just as much my fault as anybody’s as I have not taken all the active steps necessary to cultivate relationships that bring grace to those involved and glory to God.

I am neither a husband or a father (or wife or mother). There are daily responsibilities that are not on my shoulders that many of you reading this carry. I know there is an innocence and naivety there. That being said, I believe that God’s desire is to see His church genuinely and truly care for one another with love. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s tough.

I am aware as well that we don’t live in an era where the Acts 2:46 version of church is possible (meeting every evening). That being said, I also don’t believe we live in an era where this idea of actually being the church to each other can’t be fought for.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century because I loathe the family isolation that our culture is all about. You do you and I’ll do me. THAT’S NOT THE CHRISTIAN WAY. If I take the Lord’s Supper with you, that’s me saying that my family’s habits, struggles, and joys are your business. You have the right, even the calling, to call me out when I’m leading my family in sin, just as you should be rejoicing when we rejoice and mourning when we mourn. The Bible paints a picture of community that I rarely see in this day and age.

Forgive me for ranting, I’m passionate about that topic. It is my desire to lead my family (40 days till I’m married. That’s terrifying and exciting.) in a way that puts Christian community over the status quo of what you’re supposed to do in the US of A. Again, there are things that are required. I’m not saying ditch all the end of the year events. I am saying that God made you for community and when you’re throwing that aside for unceasing pragmatic programming, I think you’re missing out on so much.

Heaven will be idyllic. There will be no more nights of fast-food, no more relentless responsibilities. Too often we think once we’re there than we’ll embrace community. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We are to be a people formed by God to bring heaven down to earth. We are to be a people formed by God in such a way that our weekly habits and rhythms stand out. I’ve caught myself looking no different than the world when it comes to my isolation and the way that I spend my weeks. Being a Christian is about being different.

I say every word out of love and every word to myself more than anyone.

As a follower of Christ, slow down.

Speak with a friend. Confess, encourage, pray together.

Go for a walk.

I don’t want to wait ’till the end of May to walk in community, cause then the finish line will just keep getting extended (let us not forget as well that rest was woven into the fabric of creation, and when we don’t allow ourselves rest we are breaking a command of God).

Be different. Be in community.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

The Lonely Southern Baptist

When I got to OBU, I honestly had a pretty strong disdain for all things theological and doctrinal. To me, my faith was about loving Jesus and others and nothing else mattered. Over the course of my years of study at OBU, I came to realize that theology and doctrine, when studied rightly, lead to loving God and loving others better. With this newfound fervor I began to study, but I started to find myself in an increasingly lonely position.

I grew up in a strongly conservative Southern Baptist church. My beliefs about sexuality, Scripture, sacraments, service, and soteriology are thus all firmly conservative and Southern Baptist. This was a heritage I entered into OBU with, something I was proud of. I was proud to have been raised in a conservative Christian home. My peers and friends around me at ‘The Walk’ at OBU when we started our collegiate journey stood by me in said beliefs.

Then the ‘deconstruction’ began. Countless people I knew, who I sat by in class, began this process of deconstructing their faith, a process that in my belief is the result of the tremendous lack of family discipleship. Many members of my generation grew up in homes where church was mandatory, but the gospel was not lived out at home. This is a tremendous travesty, akin to that of Judges 2:10 – “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.” The book of Judges is full of disheartening and disgusting acts done by the people of God, and this is the backdrop. A generation arose that did not know the Lord or what He had done. This means implicitly that the parents of this generation did not show their kids who God was and didn’t tell their kids about what God had done.

In response to growing up in homes where there was a lack of genuine gospel conversation or Christlike character despite religious practices, many of my peers were driven to process their faith for themselves via the deconstruction of it. Soteriology, Scripture, service, sexuality, and the sacraments. All of these facets of theology were on the table now, ready to be studied and made new in the lives of my peers.

As this deconstruction revolution went up like a powder keg all around me, I found myself ostracized, villianized, and condemned by those who had stood by me as conservatives only four years before.

I remember the day. My Senior year we had Rosaria Butterfield come and speak in chapel at OBU. A group of students who had put sexuality on the cutting block and reassembled their beliefs about it were adamantly opposed to her presence. They stood up and silently left the auditorium in defense of said beliefs. This was the day where I felt the loneliness really start to kick in.

I am all for the right to protest. Yet in the aftermath of this protest, I felt myself smack dab in the middle of a divide with no place to call my own ‘theological home’.

On one side was the ‘deconstructionists’, a group that had pushed deeper into what they were taught and told to believe (an admirable endeavor) and had come out on the other side with opposing views to what I believed about sexuality, service, soteriology, and Scripture. Those who came before me at OBU were militantly and rudely attacking the college on social media in what was honestly a cowardly way of action. Instead of face-to-face conversations, there were social media clap-backs that were not at all showing the love of Jesus that this ‘camp’ was so desirous of. I felt (please know that I’m aware that feelings can be wrong) like I was looked down upon by this group for being one of two things. For holding tightly to my conservative Southern Baptist beliefs I was either 1) foolish and naive or 2) unloving and devoid of compassion. I was either a man who had not thought long and hard about what I believed, or if I had, I was a man who had no love or compassion for the broken and battered in our world.

On the other side were those who I felt like adhered to my beliefs about theology and doctrine. That being said, I felt myself alone in these circles due to my desire and emphasis on holiness. The ‘conservatives’ were now wearing shirts that said “I love Jesus but I cuss a little”. Cards Against Humanity, obscene talk about sex, and an outcry against our legalistic ancestors were the talk of the town. I could never find myself able to fully embrace this camp of ‘authenticity’ and ‘brokenness’ because I can’t escape the call of 1 Peter 1:16 to be holy as God is holy. This camp decried me as being either old-fashioned or legalistic for my belief about this. I became a weirdo in the denominational family that I called home.

When I left OBU I felt quite alone. I had a group of friends that stood with me in this middle ground, but we were few and far between. Two experiences at two different churches solidified me in this lonely middle ground.

On one hand, in Portland I was at a church event where we attended a Portland Timbers soccer game. I left discouraged and frustrated as members of this church chanted “We are the Timbers, we are the best. We are the Timbers, so F*&% all the rest. F&%$ them all! F#$% them all! F%#$ them all! Being authentic believers meant being no different than the world.

On the other hand, I served at a church in Phoenix where jokes were consistently made about SBC life (which in fact funded said church), and how we should not be so concerned with theology and doctrine (which led to an unhealthy meddling of Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic beliefs). “Let the theologians argue about theology, we are going to love like Jesus”.

In a world of acceptance and charity, I found myself ostracized by those who had deconstructed their faith and outed by those in my own denominational camp because my desire for holiness and Scripture-driven sermons was not in agreement with the cussing Christians.

Where was I to go?

The answer is still not clear.

That being said, I am grateful for God’s grace given to me in two ways. One, I’ve been grafted into a community of youth pastors in my region who seem to be in the same position I’ve found myself in with this middle ground. Second, I’m incredibly honored and grateful that I have been asked to join the conversation at Misfits Theology. Go give that blog a follow!

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Needy & Needed

I’m needy. It’s been a while since this has been shown me in such starkness as in my preparations for my youth group’s upcoming D-Now. I need people’s help, I need people’s prayers, I need friends and laughter and definitely the Lord.

Yet I’m also needed. Phone calls, e-mails, face-to-face conversations show me that my community of faith, my little circle, needs me.

Dwelling on my neediness alone leads to a misunderstanding of who I am in Christ, but dwelling on how I’m needed alone leads to arrogance and pride. Held in the tension and balance, we have what it means to be a Christian in community.

The same can be said about you. You are needy. You have struggles and difficulties and you weren’t meant to go through life alone. You are also needed. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says this, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” As a follower of Christ, you have been given specific gifts from the Spirit, not so you can be puffed up in them but rather so that you can serve your church community through them. You are an integral part of your local church, yet you’re also reliant upon your local church.

Opening up just a tad, as a young man I sometimes feel the pressure to remain composed, put-together, with all my ducks in a row. There’s then a hidden weight when I don’t share my neediness or struggle. A weight that bears on me because I didn’t share my sin, my sadness, my struggle with others in my life but instead carry it alone in an effort to again look perfectly put-together. In an Instagram filter world, I know I’m not alone in these feelings.

With that being said, one of the most freeing, encouraging things in the world is when an older man or woman opens up about just that: sins, sadnesses, or struggles.

There are two ways that we can open up about these things towards others, one is detrimental, and the other beneficial.

The first is sharing our ‘brokenness’ and leaving it at that, which I believe is done with a good heart but simply glorifies sin rather than God. It becomes opportunities to just air out sins but that doesn’t benefit the believer. It’s like a guy coming to small group and opening up about how he’s struggling with anger or consistent complaining or alcoholism and then everyone just saying God loves you and leaving for the night. So many use small groups to emphasize their own brokenness instead of the greatness of God. Yes, God does in fact use sinners, but sinners with no plans or purposes for growing in holiness are not actually repentant.

The second way to share your needs is in my opinion the beneficial way (I am not a perfect man, and I don’t share my sins or struggles in a perfect way). I don’t have like a key verse for this, but basically my sorrows and sins should be shared in order for me to be encouraged by the saints and grow in my holiness. Sorrows can be shared in order to be prayed for (like right there in the moment), not in order to have a who’s had the worst week competition. Sins can be shared in order to be confronted, in order to put legs on our repentance. John the Baptist was quite livid towards the religious leaders of Jesus’ day for they did not “produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8)”. There’s power in confession, but in my opinion only when there’s fruit.

Men and women in our churches are living isolated lives of private sin and sorrow because we don’t go to church with this tension of our neediness and our neededness (not actually a word, but whatever). We instead go to church doing our best to portray that we’re great parents, great friends, great workers, great Christians. We go to church just to be filled instead of to serve and support those around us (don’t get me started on how sick and twisted that is), and then we all go back to our lives without fully experiencing what the local church has to offer.

Young men and women, please remember that our lives are about God’s holiness, not our brokenness. In your efforts to share your need, please point to the Lord.

Older men and women, put down the facade. The next generation finds freedom in a way when you admit your sorrows and struggles.

Let’s be the church to one another.

You are needy. And you are needed.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Do What I Ask Of You

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

I was in my room reading this morning when my eyes fell on this verse (Mark 10:36). I was stunned and immediately started judging these two disciples. I mean, the audacity of these two men to approach Jesus and say such a statement is appalling. I mean, this is Jesus, the Son of God, who had been doing miracle after miracle throughout the region while teaching about repentance and the good news of the kingdom’s arrival. They had witnessed Him casting out demons, feeding multitudes with just a few fish and a couple loaves of bread, teaching about true religion, and healing tons of people. Yet despite having seen all of this power and glory, they chose to approach Him with their list of things He needed to do for them.

This seems so totally crazy, right? The acts of Jesus should have drawn these men into deep worship and adoration, but it instead led them to think selfishly about the ways that Jesus could bless their lives and bless their status.

Quickly, very quickly, my mind went to the ways that I have treated Jesus in exactly the same way. He has shown His power in my life in many ways. The way He saved me alone is enough of a sign of His power. Not to mention the daily gifts of grace that He provides for me. The daily ways that He protects me. The ways that He has done incredible things in the lives of my friends and family members for as long as I can remember.

The Scriptures show me His glory as well. The entire Bible paints a tremendous picture of His greatness, holiness, and majesty. Every story I read is a reminder of His greatness and His grace. It’s legitimately on each page, sometimes explicitly and other times implicitly.

Yet with all of this evidence of His character that should be pushing me into worship and adoration of Him, I still come to Him some days (or most days) with a list of things in my life that I want Him to bless. If I’m in a rush to get started in school and work responsibilities my time with Him becomes just a chance for me to quickly tell Him everything that I want from Him throughout the day.

I too approach Him and say:

I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you

When did we get it so backwards? Obviously as evidenced by Scripture, this is not a new struggle. We all have the tendency to approach the greatness of our God with our lists.

There is definitely a healthy way to ask for God’s providence in your life. In the Lord’s Prayer we are told to state, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our God is compassionate and loving, quick to extend mercy and help in our time of need. There is no sin in asking God for His help in a situation. Yet to come to the Lord as if He is obligated to meet our needs is preposterous. We serve a gracious and generous God, but we don’t serve a God who is entitled to give us a thing.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to subconsciously come to God with this type of mentality.

Don’t make this same mistake.

Go to the Lord in faith, asking Him to move. But don’t act like He’s required to.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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God Speaks

I’ve never heard audible words from the Lord. I’ve never had some overwhelming Damascus road experience where I saw with my own eyes the risen Christ. I’ve never had some immensely emotional response in worship. But even still, God has spoken to me time and time again. And today, He is speaking to you. In creation, In His Word, in the preaching of a pastor on a Sunday morning and the words of a friend on a Tuesday afternoon. God speaks to us daily.

That is something I wish I had come to grips with a long time ago, and it is something I think many of us will fight to believe in during our lifelong walks with the Lord. For me, I would have seasons of my life where I struggled with doubt and disbelief because I had never had some amazing emotional response to the gospel where I heard the Lord audibly speaking to me. For me I was a seven year old who accepted Christ and placed my faith in the gospel in my parents’ bedroom. It was childlike faith, living and moving and having my being in the Lord from day to day.

Somewhere along the way I accepted a lie. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that if I wasn’t hearing from God in some awesome, audible, amazing Exodus-style way then I wasn’t walking with Him well. So I would try and conjure up these emotional experiences. I remember sitting on the back row of youth group trying to will myself into an encounter with the Lord that I would be able to look back on as some incredible moment where I heard from God. Embarrassingly enough now, I would try and conjure up tears so that if I emotionally responded to some message than surely God would reward that with some indisputable word from Him.

This lie lingered in my mind throughout the years. It was triggered by sin. I would fall into a sin of some sort and immediately begin to doubt the strength of my relationship with the Lord simply because I felt like I wasn’t hearing from the Lord. Now this wouldn’t happen all the time but it would rear its ugly head over the years.

These past few months in Phoenix has simply obliterated and decimated that lie.  I’ve come to realize that God speaks to all of us daily through creation, friends, the truth of His Word, and the preaching of the pastoral shepherd we are under.

Creation. Scripture testifies over and over that creation speaks to us about God. The stars proclaim His glory (see Psalm 19:1-2). Looking at creation proves the existence of a Creator much as a painting proves the existence of an artist. Beaches, forests, mountains, sunsets, birds, dogs, snow, rain, stars, moon, sun, the Grand Canyon. When we immerse ourselves in creation we can find ourselves overwhelmed with the magnitude and creativity of the Lord. Open your eyes to the world around you and worship Him who made it all with just the words of His mouth. Worship in wonder.15226581_1112302335554109_839234830_n

Friends. This can also extend to family, or anyone at all you are in Christian community with. The Lord uses the words of a friend or family member to remind you of the truths of His Word. Don’t discount the words of a friend spoken in love. It’s been crazy to me how often God has reminded me of one of His promises or truths just in the middle of simple conversation while playing ping-pong, watching TV, or eating dinner. The Lord speaks to us daily through normal conversation.

God’s Word. My mom recently told me, “If you want to hear God audibly speak to you, then read the Bible out loud.” How impactful is that. What a beautiful reminder. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. The entirety of Scripture is God’s written words to us His church, useful for teaching and correction and reproof and training in righteousness. Don’t discount getting in God’s Word. Dive deep and discover the depths of God’s grace in every story, song, and letter. Let His Word be ever in your mind and on your lips.

Preaching. As followers of Christ we should all be engaged with a local body of believers. As a result of being a part of a local congregation, we are all under the preaching and teaching of the pastor, the shepherd God has appointed to care for us and teach us God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the message of Christ. A sermon is more than just a thirty minute scolding or fortune cookie anecdote. It is God speaking to us through a man He has chosen. This should lead us to all pray for our pastors, that they would weekly preach the gospel, no more and no less. Listening to God’s Word through the preaching of our local pastor is a way to hear from the Lord.

More often than not our lives will be more like the book of Ruth than the book of Exodus. It will be a life filled with normal activities rather than miraculous signs and audible voices. Yes God speaks audibly to whom He wills. Yes there are more avenues of God’s communication with us than just the ones I have listed. Yet if you like I have struggled to see the extraordinary and eternal in the ordinary and temporal, let these ways I have listed above be an encouragement to discern and discover God’s voice and communication with you.

God speaks to us all each day.

In His Name,

Nate Roach