Don’t Come As You Are

Once you clean up your act, you can come in.

Once you stop falling into the same cycles and patterns of sin, then you’re welcome here.

Once you cover up those tattoos, take your hat off, and purge your social media, then you can find community in this place.

I look around at my generation, I listen intently to the stories they’re telling. Many of them are saying that these phrases above, these litmus tests for church community, were imposed against them.

If they were pretty, pristine, clean, and family-friendly, they could find the support of a faith community and of pastors. But if they were rough around the edges, broken, struggling, and sinful, they were judged and condemned. Subtly and not so subtly communicated with to clean up their act before they come back.

Sure, Jesus explicitly stated that He came to seek and to save the lost. Sure, Paul stated that Jesus’ reason for coming was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But that was Jesus. We’re just His people. We’re here for the nuclear families, the morally acceptable, those that know what to say and how to say it in church settings. That’s who we’re here for. That’s our calling.

God forgive us.

Jesus reinvigorate us.

Spirit guide us.

We were made for the mess. The dirty, broken, mess of life that is raw and real. Broken families. Egregious sin. Nasty rumors. Mental health struggles. We as the church are to sit, listen, encourage, and point to Jesus. But so many people in our communities won’t come in our doors. They’ve heard our gossip and slander. They’ve heard what we think about people like them.

I believe the role of the church community is to equip and empower the people of God to live in such a way that draws others into the community.

So in a sense, our Sunday morning worship services are for Christians. But they are for profoundly broken Christians. Those weekly services are to push us back into the world to reach others for Jesus.

But we sit on the sidelines.

Instead of leveraging our relationships for mission, we become codependent (this happens to me all of the time y’all).

People of God, you’re made for more. Let me show you one of the most insane examples of God’s heart for the broken.

Turn to 2 Kings chapter 5.

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

My passion is to take our G-rated glasses off when we read Scripture. I want you to read that again. What stands out?

An enemy of God’s people being given victory by God.

What in the world?

Remember, at this time the people of God were the nation of Israel. The people of God transcend nations and boundary lines today. Back then it was national. But yet you still see in this story God’s heart for those who were literally His enemies.

Naaman has leprosy and God heals him through the work of the prophet Elisha.

Things get even crazier in chapter six.

You may think, okay, sure God healed this man. But maybe it was so the Aram people stop their violence against Israel.

Nope. That doesn’t happen.

2 Kings 6:8 says that the Aram people are still moving against Israel.

Elisha hears of all their plans, before God uses Elisha to blind the people of Aram. This is an extremely popular story, for it is the moment where Elisha shows his servant the innumerable chariots of fire around them, protecting them. But people stop there (again, G-rated glasses).

The blinded army come before the king of Israel. Let me show you what happens next.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those who you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. – 2 Kings 6:21-23 (verse twenty-four tells us the Aram army comes to attack again)

Hold on.

What?

The people of God capture their enemies and then throw a feast for them?

Yes.

That’s exactly what happened.

God loves His enemies as well as His own people. They are given opportunities to repent, as Naaman showed. The book of Romans says that we are all God’s enemies. Not that we’re not close with Him. Rather that we are straight up His enemies. And yet God still sent His Son to die for us.

It seems like a Jesus juke but it’s Scripturally faithful.

God’s grace is for all people.

He extended grace to His enemies, both historically and spiritually.

What roadblocks do we put in the way of those who want to experience the love of God? Naaman did nothing that was worthy of being healed. The Aram army certainly didn’t deserve to be celebrated as they were.

I am stingy and self-righteous if I believe that the grace God has given to me was because of my actions and only goes to morally good people.

I am failing to live out the heart of God if any of my preaching, teaching, or day to day life is communicating to the Christian and non-Christian alike that they shouldn’t come into community as they are.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be the type of people who celebrate with our ‘enemies’. Let’s be the type of people who know we’re no better than the non-believer. We have no high ground. We’ve simply been rescued.

Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS. – 1 Timothy 1:15b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Open Eyes, Open Hearts

It is possible to sit in a church pew for decades and never grasp the gospel.

Not truly.

It is possible to sit under gospel-centered, Christ-glorifying preaching for decades and never have a life that is transformed by what is heard.

In the case of my ministry, it’s possible for a student to hear me rant (in a good way) about Jesus and the message of Scripture for years and still not get it, still not trust in Jesus, still not claim allegiance to Him as King.

Why?

Because we can’t just hear the good news.

We have to believe it.

We have to, as Paul says, have the “eyes of our hearts” enlightened and illuminated to the beauty of Jesus and the power of the gospel message.

That’s about the weirdest phrase I’ve come across in the Bible (although the top spot goes to when Paul refers to the church of Jesus Christ as ‘the circumcision” in Philippians 3).

The eyes of our hearts.

Now, growing up in church, I’ve heard the song that revolves around this phrase. It’s a good one.

But still, weird.

I don’t entirely know what it means exactly (those of you reading this likely are smarter than me, so please tell me if you do know). But I do know it’s something we should be praying for on behalf of others. Last time I posted I shared how I am utter garbage at prayer, and how we as followers of Jesus can do better at it. We’re going to keep going in Ephesians. Check this out.

having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, - Ephesians 1:18-20

Now, remember, chapter and verse numbers were added way later than when this letter to the churches in Ephesus was actually written. And this section is kind of the worst (if you descended from one of those scribes who added these verse designations, I mean no offense).

This is part of Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the churches in Ephesus.

Look at what he’s praying for.

He prays that they would have the ‘eyes of their hearts’ enlightened. Why? So that they can know the hope of following Jesus, and the riches of His grace, and the greatness of His power (the same power that rose Jesus from the dead and set Him at the right hand of the Father).

Wowza.

That’s a powerful prayer that we have recorded.

And remember y’all, this letter was written to believers. So this prayer can apply to non-believers and followers of Jesus alike. Some of us need to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened for the first time. Others need that to happen so that we can encounter again the powerful presence of Jesus.

Fullness of hope.

Riches of grace.

Greatness of power.

I want to quickly trace for us where this phrase “eyes of our hearts” shows up in Scripture, and the implications of these other passages (REMEMBER, THE BIBLE IS ONE BIG STORY THAT IS INTERCONNECTED AND YOU COULD SPEND HOURS ON EVERY VERSE MAKING ALL THE CONNECTIONS. Sorry for yelling, the Bible is just the coolest).

WE MUST UNDERSTAND OUR TRUE NEEDINESS

Look at this passage out of the book of Revelation (calm down, I’m not here to give my opinions on end times timelines, namely because I have no earthly idea. Jesus wins and I’m glad I’m on His team. That’s all I know.)

God proclaims the following about the church in Laodicea.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, SO THAT YOU MAY SEE (emphasis mine). - Revelation 3:17-18

God says, harshly I might add, that the church, the people of God in Laodicea, did not grasp the stark reality of their need.

Y’all, we need to continually pray that God would show us how much we need Him. As soon as I get cocky about my walk with God, God brings in a friend to show me how far short I’ve fallen in a certain area of my life.

GOD DOES THE ILLUMINATING

This is the hard part about this prayer.

I can (and will) preach Christ crucified every single time that I open up God’s Word for my students or on my blog or for ‘big church’. Every time.

But, even the most concise and clear presentations of the gospel (which mine are normally jumbled and messy) cannot produce illuminated hearts. God must do it.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, - Hebrews 6:4 

Again, not the greatest verse break-up.

This is in the middle of a warning about falling away from allegiance to Jesus as King. Notice the language. Those who have been enlightened, partaken of the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit. I could be wrong here, but the language sure makes it sound like someone outside the hearer of the gospel had to do the work of illumination. That’s the power of God at work.

And man this part of this Scriptural theme is low-key the absolute worst. I want tangible results. And I rarely ever know who in our youth group is growing spiritually because I don’t see their hearts.

I’m going to keep teaching.

I’m going to keep praying.

God will do the rest.

ILLUMINATED HEARTS LEAD TO SALVATION

When God does this work, people are brought from dark to light. Praise Jesus.

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. - Acts 26:18

This is Paul’s testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26. He’s sharing what the risen Lord Jesus said to him when he was commissioned to the Gentiles. God sent him to open their eyes.

Before you come after me saying this contradicts my last statement, hear me out. Paul was the vessel, the Spirit actually illuminated hearts. Just read the book of Acts and you’ll see.

Anyway, Paul was to open their eyes so that what?

They would turn from darkness to light! So they would receive forgiveness of sins! So they would be sanctified!

When God opens the eyes of people’s hearts, they are saved. Praise Jesus.

But there’s one last thing to remember.

ILLUMINATED HEARTS LEAD TO SUFFERING

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, - Hebrews 10:32

Remember these passages were not written first to us, but rather to specific groups of people in specific situations. The Hebrews, who the writer of Hebrews is addressing, had their hearts enlightened to the beauty of King Jesus and then immediately suffering came.

This theme is so blatantly obvious in Scripture. Following Jesus leads to suffering. You can go to church and like Jesus. You can pray occasionally and read occasionally. But a committed life, where every facet of your life comes under the authority of King Jesus, that kind of life leads to suffering. Every time. That’s why Jesus used the symbol of the most excruciating and humiliating form of torture we’ve ever seen as the calling card. The cross.

We must take it up daily.

This is why I never tell students, not once, that if they pray a prayer they will be saved. It’s so much more complicated than that. I always tell them that they’ve got to be willing to commit to King Jesus as Lord. I tell them that their life will be full of difficulty but that Jesus is worth it and joy is found in Him.

Brothers and sisters, let us pray that our hearts would be continuously enlightened to the hope, grace, and power found in following Jesus.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Worst Fears

What is your worst fear?

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

I’m asking what is your worst plausible fear.

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

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

It would probably lead you to say something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death strips us from all of our kingdoms of sand.

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

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

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

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

Why would God allow this?

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

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

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

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

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

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

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

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

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

Look at this verse.

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

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

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

Christian, be quiet.

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

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

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

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

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

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Receiving Bad From God

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

What about on difficult days though?

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

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

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

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

Satan is prepared for this, and he quickly responds.

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

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

Let’s read together what happens next.

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

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

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

Then Job’s wife enters the picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dang.

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

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

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

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

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

They must have cut this book out of their Bibles.

Job teaches us something powerful.

Following God is not about the level of your faith.

It’s about what your faith is in.

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

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

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

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

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

Job models that for us well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Why The Long Face?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suffering tends to really reveal our hearts.

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about oof.

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

Big oof.

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

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

All of this happened in my heart so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Fight Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse eight is when thinks get tricky.

God brings up Job.

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

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

At least, not of my own accord.

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

Jesus is the better Job.

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

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

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

Let’s move forward.

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

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

Here’s the real rub of the book.

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

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Suffering And Sin

Some books of the Bible are easier to read and to understand than others.

Finding the point of a passage from Philippians, for instance, is not too difficult.

But what about all the craziness of Ezekiel, Daniel, or Revelation? Those aren’t so simple. Those are way more complicated, scaring off even the most impassioned students of God’s Word.

Another difficult book of the Bible is the book of Job. It’s a complicated book that falls under the ‘Wisdom Literature’ of the Bible. It’s a book that I want us to explore together throughout the summer. Not every blog will be about this book, but it will remain the dominant topic. So, grab your Bible or pull up your Bible app, and let’s check it out together.

As I said, Job falls under the banner of wisdom literature. But what kind?

The rest of the wisdom literature have their own niches. Psalms is essentially an old hymnal. Proverbs is a collection of sayings about wisdom and folly, and the importance of pursuing the former. Ecclesiastes is about the wisdom to know that all of life is meaningless outside of God. Song of Solomon is about the wisdom of marriage, or our relationship with God, or maybe both?

Job is different though. Job is poetry bookended by narrative. We are told a story about Job (chapters 1-2) that leads to dozens of chapters of Job speaking with four of his friends, who are quite foolish (but we’ll see that later). Then God comes in and says the last word, humbling Job and hopefully us in the process. We then get a final chapter where we see the culmination of the story.

The Wrong Way To Read Job

There’s a couple ways to read Job incorrectly.

  1. We have the proclivity to unintentionally strip verses out of their context, trying to jam them into the puzzle that is our theological beliefs about God and man. This happens quite regularly with wisdom literature. Here’s where this is especially dangerous when it comes to the book of Job. Whenever any character other than God is speaking about the nature of God, you could have some falsehoods. There are innumerable times in Scripture when a character makes a false statement about the nature of God and the world (Pharaoh, the wicked prophets, the servant from the parable of the talents). So, as we sift through the dozens of chapters of dialogue in the book of Job, we should be careful not to take what Elihu, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, and Zophar say about God at any moment as necessarily true about God. Make sense?
  2. The other way to read Job incorrectly is to make Job the hero of this story. Yes, there are aspects of Job’s character and faith that are worthy of emulation. But ultimately this story is not a fable that teaches us some moral lesson as we try and make our lives more like Job’s. Instead, it has something much deeper and richer to teach us, and you’ll see that below.

The Right Way To Read Job

I personally have found that reading through entire books of the Bible (this doesn’t have to take place in one sitting) to be the most beneficial to me. I would attest that this best equips us to observe and grasp the book of the Bible we are wanting to glean from. So, to best read Job, you should do just that. Just as I’ve been methodically walking through Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire, we should methodically work through the book of Job.

Secondly, don’t go to the book of Job looking for black and white answers about the world we live in and what it means to be human. If you’re looking for a clear-cut answer to why suffering happens, you’ll be left wanting. There’s a whole lot of tension, gray area, and paradox in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The book of Job will take us deeper into that tension, rather than alleviate it.

The Theme of Job

As a matter of fact, the purpose of the book of Job is to highlight the incorrect black and white understanding of sin and suffering that so many people then and now hold to.

You will see that all of Job’s friends believe that Job’s suffering is a result of some hidden sin that is just below the surface. They attest again and again and again that Job is going through such powerful suffering and pain because of his unrighteousness and sin.

We still fall into this. Christian Karma is alive and well. We can claim faith in Christ and belief in the God of the Bible and yet still fall into the “do good, get good; do bad, get bad” mentality. This is so antithetical to Christian doctrine. The book of Job will show us that suffering happens in a Genesis 3 world. Suffering can have purposes for us, and sometimes it may just not. There have been tremendously painful moments in the life of my family that don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to them. It’s in that space that the book of Job can remind us that God is faithful, even when our sufferings don’t fit into our black and white, systematic beliefs about life.

Craig G. Bartholomew wrote a book on Job called When You Want To Yell At God. That name is so good.

Have you been there?

I have.

In fact, I’ve not only wanted to yell at God, I have.

Many times.

In his book, Bartholomew teaches that suffering is not always the result of wrong behavior, and right behavior does not always guarantee blessing – but God is always faithful.

I encourage you to read the book of Job. Again, not for trite answers to share in moments of grief, but rather for powerful proclamations from the Word about the faithful God we serve in the midst of our own abject sufferings.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Embracing Our Place

Last night I went to a graduation ceremony at my church for two great young men who had completed a gospel-centered drug rehabilitation program.

Those who filled the pews in our sanctuary came from all various backgrounds. There were those who have grown up in church, in Christian families, like myself. There were those who had fought addiction for decades and were continuing to be sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There were those who have their Baptist Hymnal memorized, complete with the third and fourth verses of many songs. There were those who prefer the ear-shattering drums and bass of concert-style music like we had last night.

All the while, I reflected on how this was the future of the church in America.

(I’m not talking about the music. Ear-shattering electric guitar is not more pleasing to God than hymns, or vice versa. Worship is about the condition of one’s heart, not one’s preference in music style.)

A unique, diverse group of men and women who were all acknowledging their need for the saving work of Christ.

You see, it’s those who acknowledge their need for Jesus who experience Jesus.

Those who act like they have it all together (none of us do) miss out on the joy and hope of Jesus.

The Lord has been revealing this to me over and over.

The first way God revealed this to me was on Monday night. Every week or so, my wife and I do a short Bible study in the Gospel of Luke. We were reading in Luke 6, and the following passage was impactful and intriguing.

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. – Luke 6:20-26

Wow.

Talk about how the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom.

Who is blessed?

The poor, those who are hungry, those who weep, those who are hated.

Now who is it that should be warned?

The rich, the well fed, the happy, the well spoken of and well liked.

When I think back to last night’s extravaganza, this passage just bursts into reality. A sanctuary full of men and women who acknowledged ‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not good enough. I need help. I need a Savior.” Those who acknowledge their needs will be blessed by the presence of their Savior.

Fast-forward from Monday night with my wife to yesterday afternoon. I was working through a Bible study on the book of Galatians, and I came across this quote.

Their belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah was hard to reconcile with the traditional view of an exalted Messiah, especially because Jesus had been nailed to a cross, like a common criminal. 

This quote is in reference to first-century Jews who had a hard time accepting that Jesus was the Messiah. This was because they believed their Messiah would restore the people of God to prominence, usurping the authority of Rome. This isn’t what happened. Instead, Rome crucified this Messiah. It didn’t make sense to them.

That’s because Jesus turns everything upside down. Instead of leading a rebellion to overthrow Rome and be served, He came to serve and give His life for His people.

You know what’s interesting to me?

You and I like to fight for that second list.

Don’t we?

We want to be full. We want to have self-worth that is boosting through the roof, so the gospel becomes about us rather than God. We want cushy, comfortable church experiences where we are never convicted or challenged. We want to be liked by everyone (well, some of us desire this). Our biggest hopes are that legislations and laws will be enacted that support our views. We want the church to be central. God and country. Cultural Christianity. All the while we are being warned by Jesus not to strive for these things.

Brothers and sisters, why are you clawing so hard to get back to the center of society?

Brothers and sisters, why are you exerting all of your energy to be better than Jesus? He suffered. We will suffer.

Instead, embrace what makes us blessed in the eyes of Christ.

Embrace your sinfulness. Embrace your need for a Savior. Embrace the aches and pains in your heart. Embrace God for who He is. Embrace the joy and hope that the saving work of Jesus brings. Embrace the margins of society. Most definitely speak up against sin in our country. Get off of Facebook pleading for people to see your point of view and instead be the hands and feet of Christ in your community. Stop trying to be more well-liked than your Savior.

I pray for the church to get pushed to the margins more and more. It’s not an easy prayer to pray, but it’s a powerful one.

This place is not your home.

God’s kingdom flips everything on its head.

Our walk as followers of Jesus comes with persecution.

But one day, a day I look forward to, I will be in the presence of God. He will have renewed all things. Once again I will be worshipping the King of Kings with hymnal-thumpers and Christian rappers alike (and I can promise you the worship won’t be like either), all acknowledging that we needed saving, and a Savior came for us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

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

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

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

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

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

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

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

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

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

Relatable much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak out.

Speak up.

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nate Roach