Fighting God On #7

I was on hole #7. I had hit a fairly good drive (in actuality I sliced it hard, but it worked since the hole was a dogleg right), and I was now lining up my second shot with my fairway wood.

The breeze was nice and cool, and the course was gorgeous as Fall weather was finally descending upon North Texas.

I shanked my second shot. I mean I shanked it so bad into the rough that I had no idea where it was in the absence of GPS tracking. I was extremely frustrated at this point, as the six holes prior to this one were less than ideal.

I remember saying aloud “are you kidding me”. I was flustered and frustrated. It had been a long week and all I wanted was to get out on the golf course and escape for a little while. I no joke started venting right there to God. Me and Him came to mental blows right there in the rough. I wanted to see success in this hobby of mine. In ministry, most of what I do, all the hours I put into studying and preaching and teaching God’s Word, leads to few things I can visibly see. That’s part of the gig.

But, here on the golf course, I had the chance to work at a goal that I could tangibly see. It was an escape.

The problem was just that.

Instead of seeing a few hours on the golf course this past Friday afternoon as a gracious gift of God’s common grace to me, I instead abused said gift as a way to run away from the weightiness of this world. Instead of communing with God through my time golfing, I was more or less avoiding God if I’m being real honest with you today.

I don’t hear God audibly speak to me.

I instead feel His presence with me as themes and verses and ideas from Scripture flood my heart and mind throughout my day.

Right there, in the midst of my fuming at something silly and insignificant on hole #7, God reminded me that He must be my source of comfort, not any earthly thing.

Any earthly thing in our life can become an idol, a point of sin in our lives.

Golf is one of those gray areas in the Bible, obviously. There’s nothing in there about whether this sport is holy or profane. But I had to acknowledge on Friday, after the Spirit’s prompting, that I was running to this hobby as a source of comfort and escape, which certainly is sinful.

The Lord had to bring me to a place where I acknowledged that I had an unhealthy relationship with golf. That feels silly typing out, but it’s no less true. Here’s a small sampling of what Scripture has to say about our joy and our relationship with earthly things.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4

First off, my joy is to be found in the Lord. Secondly, my anxieties are to be removed from my mind and heart, not by hitting a little ball around (or by certain foods, or by an inundation of entertainment, or by mystery novels), but rather by bringing all of those things to the Father who cares for me.

The Bible is full of gray areas. One theme in Scripture is that God is our Good Father who gives us good gifts. The world is created for us to see our Father’s hand in. One way for us to approach the gray areas of Scripture and life on earth is by asking if these things can be received with thanksgiving, based in the Word and prayer.

For instance, can I give thanks for golf? Yes. Can it be spiritually beneficial to me, a way to respond to God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer? Yes, when utilized rightly.

Here’s an example from today.

Today, my dog Morty woke me up (as he does almost every single morning) by sniffing and licking my face. Once I put him outside, the pressures of upcoming children’s ministry and youth ministry events came careening into my mind. Today I was off of work, and so I certainly didn’t want to dwell on what I’ve got to do tomorrow all day today.

So I went to God’s Word. I reflected on His character.

I have spent the day reading through the book of Amos, and this jumped off the page.

Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite. – Amos 2:10 

Amos chapter two dictates and describes some of the most abhorrent sins of God’s people. Disgusting, vile, wicked stuff. I believe this runs hand in hand with their forgetfulness. They forgot what God had done. God uses Amos to remind them of His faithfulness. Boom. Just what I needed to read and meditate upon today. God is faithful. God has done great things for His people throughout history, and He has done great things for me.

I prayed that I would be reminded that He is God, and I’m just a little human. I don’t have to run from my problems, escaping into some worldly endeavor every chance I get. Instead, I can face them, not because I’m anything special, but rather because my God is.

I’ve been thinking about this all day long, and guess what.

I am going to go golfing with my wife Jamie here in a little while.

I am so excited.

Because my prayer is that, instead of fighting God on hole #7, I can commune with Him all along the way, receiving a night on the course with my wife as the wonderful gift that it is.

Yes, I’m likely going to splash one in the water on #5 and maybe even shank one on the highway on #2.

But I’m going in a state of gratitude for God’s grace, and I may just not keep score.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Timehop Trap

What were you doing one year ago today?timehop

This has been one of the consistent marketing taglines that the app Timehop has used to reel people in. The app is super awesome. Every day you can check into the app and see all that you’ve posted on social media on that day in years past, whether that was on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

In recent months however, I have seen how dangerous of an app this can be for me personally (I’m not using this blog post to boycott the app, say that it’s sinful for followers of Christ to use, or anything disproportionately crazy like that). One of my biggest struggles is looking backwards. I don’t blame myself for that, it’s easy to do. It’s easy and natural for me (as well as many others I’m sure) to think about the what used to be, and how life was different back in the day. Nostalgia distorts. Nostalgia is not regret. Nostalgia focuses on the good that used to be and glosses over the difficult. It’s like looking at the past with rose-colored glasses on.

I have wrestled with a sin that I hadn’t been able to put into words but knew was present in my life. This struggle was put to words by the author Jen Wilkin. Jamie and I are reading through her book None Like Him, and as we read through a chapter of it this past Saturday morning, Jen spoke on the idea of ‘sinful nostalgia’:

Sinful nostalgia causes us to idolize a time when life was “better” or “simpler,” resulting in perpetual discontentment with our present circumstance. We may long for a time before bad news of some kind arrived, for a time when our health was better, when our kids were still young, or when a loved one was still alive. Life’s changing seasons can cause a natural longing for the way things used to be, and though it is not necessarily sinful, it can become so. We are allowed to grieve the loss of happy seasons, but we are not allowed to resent their loss. There is a difference between missing the past and coveting the past. The antidote for covetousness is always gratitude: We can combat a sinful love of the past by counting the gifts we have been given in the present. 

Wow. As I was reading this section aloud to Jamie on Saturday, I had to stop at the end of this paragraph. This struggle I’ve battled in my heart, especially with post-graduation blues, was called into the light. It’s easy for me to allow my acceptable grief to turn into sinful covetousness of the past.

It’s laughable how I set myself up for falling into this sinful covetousness. For close to a month, the first thing I would do in the morning when I woke up would be to lay in bed and check my Timehop. I would scroll through posts and pictures of previous years, and immediately my current state would feel insignificant or less than ideal. Immediately my heart would yearn for the ‘better’ time in my life, disregarding all the gifts that God has granted to me daily in the present. As far as the rose-colored glasses are concerned, Timehop does nostalgia’s job for it. Considering I never post on social media about anything negative, all I see from past years is the good.

Not to mention the fact that I might as well be the Israelites in the book of Exodus. God had delivered them from slavery and they responded by grumbling and proclaiming that they’d rather be back in slavery. God has delivered me from ‘slavery’ to different idols and difficult circumstances, and when I long sinfully for the past, that’s me wanting to assert myself right back into the slavery He has rescued me from.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16

The days we have are numbered. They are passing. We are called by God to live wisely in our days, making much of His Name through all that we say and do. Yet I waste my days when I’m living in an attitude of sinful nostalgia.

Jen has it right when she says that the greatest way to combat this is via gratitude and thankfulness. On the extremely rare occasion, I will begin my day by writing in my journal ten things from the previous day that I’m thankful for. This is a wonderful way to begin my day, and it leaves me in awe of God’s generosity as I consider and meditate upon the fact that I deserve absolutely none of the gifts that God so generously pours into my life.

Is everything in my life just the way I want it? By no means (and that is absolutely a good thing). But everything in my life is exactly the way it is for a reason, as God uses each and every day of my existence to bring about my good and His glory.

Don’t fall into the Timehop trap (again, disclaimer: I’m not saying that Timehop is evil or wrong. When used rightly, it can be a wonderful way to reflect on God’s goodness) of wanting the past.

Be grateful for God’s gifts in the present.

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

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I Am Naomi

I have a heart that is fickle and discontent. I cry out against the Lord when I feel slighted but then ‘joyfully’ thank God for His kindness and provision as soon as things are going my way. I am Naomi.

The story of Ruth is one that I’ve been drawn to many times recently. It’s been particularly fascinating as I’ve realized that it is a story of God’s provision in a time of need as well as a story of simple faith. The book of Ruth is not like Exodus. It is not full of eventful miracles like the parting of a sea or various plagues that lead to redemption. No, the book of Ruth is about two women who were empty but found fullness in God. The book of Ruth is about God’s wonderful and ever-present care in one what would appear random family’s journey. As I’ve been walking through the book with a devotional by Mike McKinley, I found myself realizing that I was in fact Naomi.

Naomi was a widow, finding herself with a dead husband and two dead sons. She was broken and confused and in a foreign land. Orpah and Ruth were her daughters-in-law, yet only Ruth chose to return to Bethlehem with her. When they arrived, the whole town was excited and cried out to Naomi. This was Naomi’s response:

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” – Ruth 1:20-21

On one hand, Naomi had a correct understanding of God’s sovereignty and control over all things. She on the other hand however forgot that not only is God great, He is also good and orchestrates all things to best glorify Him which in turn brings us the most good. She asked the town to call her “Mara” which means “bitter”. She was so distraught she proclaimed that they should refer to her as essentially the bitter one.

Fast-forward one chapter. In chapter two, God provides for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz. Boaz was their relative and allowed the widowed Ruth the opportunity to safely gather grain in his fields with the protection of his workers. It is a moment of great joy as Naomi acknowledges God’s care all along.

“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative, he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” – Ruth 2:20

The Lord is no longer referred to as the one who brought down misfortune on her. Rather, Naomi refers to the Lord as He who has not stopped showing kindness to the living and the dead.

I wonder if Naomi would want to take back what she had said a chapter earlier. I wonder how often I am just like Naomi. One minute I’ll be crying out in anger at the Lord about all He has taken away from me, and then the next I’ll be praising Him for all that He’s doing in my life at the time. I would encourage you to read the Psalms and be encouraged that there will be times of heartache and doubt and times of joy and gratitude. However I would also caution you against criticizing God’s plan for your life (as I often do to be completely honest). Let us all push back against the Naomi in each of us. Let us be men and women of God who praise God in the storm and praise Him in the clear blue skies. Let us praise Him in the grief and praise Him in the celebration.

Crying and feeling heartache are not what I’m speaking against. I’ve had bouts of tears regularly in this most recent season of my life. When it becomes dangerous is when I begin to call out against God’s plan in my life due to my discontent and due to things not being perfect. Contentment is what I’m desperately fighting to secure in my heart and in my life. Hopefully this following passage will help.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Do you ever find that your heart is fickle, complaining about God’s provision for you one moment and then joyful when you later get what you want? What would be a godlier attitude in these times? – Mike McKinley 

We take nothing out of this world. Nothing. If we have food and clothing, we should be content with that. I know that’s hard to actually live in but I’m striving to. I don’t want to be Naomi, I don’t want to have a fickle heart.

Let’s strive together for contentment.

– Nate Roach