Negative Nathan

When I consider upcoming events in my life, I am prone to think of the worst-case scenario (that’s plausible and possible at least). I tend to have a negative approach to new relationships, job circumstances, etc. If there’s even a chance of something bad happening, I’m there mentally.

Recently, my wife Jamie called me on it. She called me out on the way that I had a negative outlook on life. I don’t blame her for calling me out. There had been a lot of grumbling and complaining coming from me recently.

That being said, I’ve noticed that my heart and mind have not been full of that grumbling and complaining spirit as of late. And I think I know why. 

I’ve been saturating my brain with the Word and with prayer.

Last week, I talked with one of my best friends over the phone, and we prayed together (for each other, our families, our ministries, our futures). We were both in a disgruntled place and had allowed the world to get us down. That prayer time together lifted us up immediately. To the point where I said “You know, it’s almost like the Bible knows what it’s talking about when it tells us to go to the Lord in prayer”.

We grow up hearing about the spiritual disciplines, and that’s not horrible language, but it sounds rigid and harsh. Really, prayer, Word, silence and solitude, memorization, etc. are the way to commune with the giver of life!

Anyway, I share that because it’s hard for me to pursue certain disciplines that deeply impact my soul.

Studying Scripture is easy for me though (applying, not so much). I’ve been listening to Philippians nearly every day. I have subconsciously memorized parts of it. And I’ve seen it changing my life.

Here’s what I mean. Look at this passage.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. – Philippians 2:14-16

I’ve heard this and read this so many times the last month or two. And slowly, oh so slowly, I’m seeing it change my outlook and mindset.

Unfortunately, we live in an extremely cynical and critical age. And church culture is not immune to this. If the worship style isn’t right up our alley, we grumble. If a committee makes a decision we don’t like, we grumble. If a pastor teaches on something that steps on our toes, we grumble. If a ministry isn’t running at it’s total potential, we grumble. I’m saying we for a reason. I’ve been there.

This passage should destroy that critical and cynical spirit in our hearts.

Let’s look at the command first.

Do all things without grumbling and complaining. – Philippians 2:14 

Period.

There’s no caveat here.

Paul is commanding the church at Philippi to live in a way that is devoid of grumbling and complaining. That is all-encompassing.

Let’s look at the why and how.

WHY ARE WE COMMANDED TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The why immediately follows the command. When we live in a way that is not critical or complainy (is that a word?), we show ourselves to be distinct from the world around us. The culture around the Philippian church was crooked and twistedI don’t believe it’s a stretch to consider our culture to be similar.

I’ll tell you, if you were to cut that mentality, that mindset, out of your life, you would truly shine as (a light) in the worldThere is clearly something counter-cultural about this attitude and behavior.

We are to live this way to shine bright for Christ. We are to live this way to show ourselves to be ‘saints’ in the midst of a dark world.

So, yeah, maybe you agree that this is good reasoning.

But HOW are we able to do this?

HOW ARE WE ABLE TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING?

The key is the context. If you back up to earlier in this chapter you see the passage of where Christ modeled perfect humility and others-first love (vv. 3-8).

We are able to do this by reflecting on and imitating the humility of Christ, and by pursuing unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If I’m being honest with myself, 99% of the things that cause me to grumble and complain find their genesis in my own self-centeredness. I grumble because things aren’t my way. I complain and dispute because my life isn’t the center of others’ universes.

I can’t sit here and say that the reasons I complain are that God’s glory isn’t being pursued or that Jesus isn’t being followed as Lord. Nope, I complain about what doesn’t align with my version of the perfect cosmos.

Once we humble ourselves, we must strive to put the unity of the body of Christ above ourselves. Philippians has an inescapable message of joy being found in Christian unity. As I’ve reflected on this, I’ve seen it to be true. When I view everyone, even those who may not be easy to be around (Toxic Relationships), as my brothers and sisters in Christ, joy is quick to follow.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD OF GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING? 

  1. Hold Fast To The Word Of Life 

Verse sixteen teaches us to hold fast to the word of life. Pray. Get into God’s Word. Meditate on His promises. When I am actively and intentionally doing these things, my spirit of frustration and disunity disappears.

2. Do Something

God convicted me in Phoenix that if there was something I was complaining about that I was able to effectually impact, I needed to do my part (Love The Church).

Do something. If you are frustrated with someone, confront them. If you are nervous about the outcome of a future event, prepare. If a decision bothers you, go to the decision maker and have a gentle conversation. If a ministry needs help in your opinion, get involved. Do something. If a family member or friend is on your nerves, say something.

Before you grumble or complain, act.

Be the change.

3. Pray 

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order. But prayer is obviously the key response to that which causes us to grumble and complain. Take what you are frustrated about straight to the Lord. Let me tell you, this doesn’t typically fix circumstances (although our God is obviously big enough to do so), but it does change attitudes. Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi at the start of the letter is my favorite.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment – Philippians 1:9

He prays that their love will grow. He prays that their knowledge of God and discernment will grow. Pray the same things for yourself and others!

It’s easy to be critical.

But the way of Christ is service, action, humility, and prayer.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

They Will Know Us By Our Hate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oops, I got a little carried away there.

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

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

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

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

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

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Warped And Sinful Words

When it comes to sin in the minds of modern Christians, sins of aggression (hate, malice, murder) and sex (lust, adultery, sexual assault) are the ones that we tend to see with the biggest amount of physical and earthly consequences, especially in the church.

We all have heard and read the stories of pastors who have fallen into egregious sexual sin and have been removed from their flock as a result. We have heard stories of men in pastoral roles who led with hatred and malice in their hearts, becoming dictators who trampled on their staff and congregations.

I am not inclined to disagree with this sentiment.

That being said, I want to put another sin in the ring.

There are few sins that are as detrimental to the life of a church than the sin of divisiveness.

There are few sins that are as prevalent in the life of our churches than divisiveness.

Gossip, slander, drama. They are too often saturating the life of the local church. Phone calls, texts, private conversations. All full of disagreements that instead of being addressed in a healthy way are spread through the grapevine. All of these conversations destroy the health of a church.

Look with me at a couple verses out of Titus 3.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11

Earlier this week I came across this passage in my devotional time with the Lord and it has stuck with me since. That is heavy stuff, a heavy indictment against this specific sin. These verses come on the heels of a passage in Titus 3 that is all about how as followers of Christ we have been saved by God to do good works and to live lives that are worthy of God.

In verse 8 we read, I want you to stress these things (the gospel message), so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

As those who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, we are saved to do good. What’s the antithesis of that in this passage? Foolish controversies and quarrels (v. 9), and divisiveness.

The book of Titus is such a good book to study as it speaks into the life of a church, and how it is supposed to function. Titus chapter one is mainly about the qualifications of a pastor or elder. Titus chapter two has a lot to say about intergenerational discipleship. Then it concludes with this chapter about good deeds and the dangers of divisiveness. My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would take the format of this book to heart. There is much more to it than this, but here’s a simplistic takeaway:

Titus 1 – If you have appointed or hired pastors or elders in your church. Trust them. Pray for them. Support them. They have not been placed in your church to be used, abused, or be treated like puppets. God has placed them in your midst to shepherd the church.

Titus 2 – Disciple, disciple, disciple. Some churches do this well, others not so much. But the call is clear. The older men are to disciple the younger men in the church, while being willing to learn from the younger men. The older women are to disciple the younger women in the church, while also being willing to learn from the younger women.

Titus 3 – Don’t be divisive. You have been saved for good works. You have been saved to evangelize, disciple, and support the leadership of your local church. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that your pastoral staff does. This does mean that you should talk to them about it rather than engage in gossip or slander.

It pains me to acknowledge that this sin of divisiveness has been present in my life to an extreme degree in my past. Instead of seeking counsel, speaking to my pastoral leaders, or supporting them in their actions, I instead gossiped, slandered, and honestly caused division.

Please do not make the same mistake. Look with me again at how Paul responds to this type of behavior in followers of Christ. We are to warn those who are being divisive. We are to call them out privately for living in a way that is not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture then goes on to use some severe terminology about them. They are warped, sinful, and self-condemned.

That’s harsh but true. It was in my life. I was warped in my beliefs. Church was about me. Pastors were a commodity for me to use, not a shepherd to trust. I was sinful. The fact of the matter is that Christians are called to be unified in the church. Shame on us when we’re not. Lastly, divisive people and gossips are ultimately just condemning themselves each time they talk. Scripture makes clear that every word we speak we will have to give an account for (Matthew 12:36).

I pray that I would avoid the sin of divisiveness.

I pray that you would too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach