The Voice Of God

There are seasons of my life in which I feel like God is not speaking to me. I pray, read, study, go to church, and there’s just something missing. He’ll ‘go quiet’ so to speak for a time, but then He’ll open up my ears to the ways that He was speaking to me all along. These seasons of quiet have the potential to strengthen my faith if I let them. Or I can allow myself to go the opposite way and depart from Christ in the quiet seasons.

There was a season in the history of God’s people where they faced this choice. The prophets had grown quiet, the Roman Empire was rising and making all peoples subjugated to its will, including the Jews. No genuine prophet had risen up for centuries, and yet the prophets of old had told of a Messiah that would come and make all things new. In a sense, the Lord hadn’t spoken for centuries.

I can’t imagine what it was like to be in the people of God in that time. It would have been tempting to lose hope, to jump on the bandwagon when any number of men claimed to be the promised Messiah. In this moment however, no one was expecting an infant babe in a manger. Man, this Christmas season so far has been great. I’ve had the opportunity to stop and reflect and remember what makes the Christmas story so magnificent. There’s an aspect of the Christmas story I pray that we all remember, one that sometimes gets lost on me. And to get this aspect of the story, look with me at the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews is an ongoing reminder that this infant babe we remember during the Christmas season is more marvelous and more amazing than anything that this world has to offer. Page after page, chapter after chapter extols the rich wonders of His majesty. If you have a hard time glimpsing the greatness of our gracious King, then take a gander at the book of Hebrews. Better_background slide

What I want us to think about comes from the opening passage of this book. I’m not intending to unpack this whole passage in this post, I just want us to have our minds and hearts formed by one part of it. Read with me Hebrews 1:1-4.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 

The truth I want us to grasp is found in the first two verses, but this whole chunk of Scripture is too great to not share.

Long ago, God spoke to His people via the prophets. Now he speaks to us by the Son.

Those two sentences should floor us.

But they don’t.

We are a disenchanted people, things don’t inspire awe in us because we have the answer or supposed answer for every phenomenon whether it be natural or manmade.

There are great and epic stories in our culture that get such an enchanted and wondrous response from us. For me it’s This Is Us and the new Star Wars. I’m reading tweets and news articles, trying to find out all I can about these two stories. The trailer for the new Star Wars movie drew me into wonder. Enchantment. Amazement.

Now that’s probably a lame reality of my life, but it’s also a convicting one.

There is a story that is far greater, far more worthy of our excitement, anticipation, and proclamation. The story of Jesus.

Seriously.

Pause with me. Think.

 

The people of God were used to having a conduit so to speak to God, they had men and women of renown who spoke on behalf of God as prophets. Then, silence. Now Jesus steps onto the scene and throughout the entire narrative of His life we come to realize that God now speaks to us through this personal and intimate relationship made available to us through the Resurrected Son.

Here are three quick ways to apply this wonderful gift to our lives this Christmas season:

1. Read the Gospels. God speaks to us now via His Son. Look at the Biblical accounts of Jesus. See the way that he interacts with sinners, religious leaders, His disciples. Hear the teachings of the Kingdom. Immerse yourself in the life of Jesus. Don’t let this amazing gift go to waste.

2. Prayer. Man, now I’m going the cliche Sunday School route. But it’s true. God speaks to us via His Son. The Son whom Hebrews tells us is still on the throne of glory. The Son who holds the cosmos together. He is willing and able to commune with you through prayer.

3. Be Still. I am horrendous at meditation. Literally the worst. My mind goes crazy running all over the place. But this Christmas season, stop. This Christmas season, be still. Be quiet. Don’t talk. Be still and silent. Imagine the 400 years of silence. Feel the anticipation well up inside of you. Then when you’ve lost your ability to stay still, go out and proclaim the wondrous news we have that Jesus is alive and He is the voice of God.

Jesus is the better prophet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Winter Snow

It’s hard to get into the Christmas season when it’s over seventy degrees outside, but I’ve still kept trying. Last night after church I cleaned around my home and then put up the small amount of Christmas decorations that I have. I’ve got a four foot tree, some garland, one wreath, and one string of lights. I’m incredibly grateful for these decorations that honestly some anonymous Christmas elf left at my door yesterday afternoon. 24302092_1519994381451567_5764404658296458904_o.jpg

I enjoyed several hours of Christmas music and reading and reflecting on the Christmas story. Later in the evening I went outside, and just down the road from me is a house that is stunning in its decorations. Thousands and thousands of lights pepper their lawn and home and shed. Their lawn is full of incredible life-size decorations and nativity scenes. To make this even more impressive, the lights are set to music you can listen to via car radio. It is an amazing feat of patience and ingenuity considering my twenty minutes of decorating had me ready to be done.

As I reflect on the amazing light show down the street compared to my modest living room decorations, it reminds me of the beauty and enchantment of the Christmas story.

God became a man. The God who is right now being praised on his throne by the angelic hosts and saints of old (including family members and friends who have gone before me) stepped down off his throne and became a man. He left glory and entered the muck and mire of our world. The King of the Cosmos becomes an infant babe born to a poor teenage woman in a manger. He didn’t show up with fanfare, He showed up unnoticed. What in the world.

Earlier today during my lunch break I was reading Revelation 19:1-10 and while I certainly do not fully understand what in the world is going on in this passage, I do understand that what this passage says about God is oh so true.

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, – Revelation 19:1

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. – Revelation 19:6b

The God from whom comes salvation, glory, and power. The God who reigns. The Almighty God. The Lord God. God became a man.

Now if you’re like me, you’ve heard the Christmas story many, many times. But have you paused to consider the wonder of it? God became a man. And he didn’t show up in great hoopla and power. He didn’t show up in awe-inspiring glory that made the whole world fall to its knees in fear and trembling. He could have showed up in a way that got everyone’s attention like a light show that you can see from blocks away. He could have. He didn’t.

Instead, he came as a little child. He came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Instead he came like a handful of lights in a living room. He came in such a way that the nations didn’t notice. Shepherds noticed only because the heavenly hosts drew their attention to Him. To the world He created, He was just another baby born to a young couple.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus is God. But He made Himself nothing by taking on the form of a servant in the likeness of man. Paul David Tripp unpacks this reality much more beautifully than I could:

God would take on human flesh and invade his sin-broken world with his wisdom, power, glory, and grace. But he wouldn’t descend to a palace. Instead, the Lord Almighty, the Creator, the sovereign King over all things would humble himself and take on the form of servant; he would live on our behalf the life we could have never lived, he would willingly die the death that you and I deserve to die, and he would rise from his tomb as the conquerer of sin and death. – Paul David Tripp 

He didn’t come like a hurricane, a fire, a tidal wave, or an earthquake. He came like a winter snow, gently and quietly.

Here’s three quick ways to cherish this reality and apply this to your own life this Christmas season:

  1. Look inI’ve written about this at length last week, but our minds and hearts are being formed by what we feed our eyes and ears. In this Christmas season, put away the media and technology for at least an hour before bed, giving yourself the time to reflect upon and meditate on the wondrous story of the birth of Jesus. Read the Scriptures, listen to music, put on a fire, and let your heart and mind be formed by Jesus and not the hubbub of our consumeristic culture. Acknowledge where you need to grow spiritually. It will pay off big time for you in the end.
  2. Look out. There is a world in need right outside your door, and it is my belief that God is at work in the nations in ways that we are too distracted to see. God is at work here in Vernon, Texas, and I simply don’t notice at times. So look out and see Him at work. We can also look out by remembering Christ came in humility, to serve. He could have come in justice, to reign (one day He will). Because of that, we can look out for people who are in need, and strive to serve them with the love of Christ.
  3. Look up. Gaze up at the stars sometime during this Christmas season. Absolutely go and look at Christmas lights, but also look further up. Nothing humbles me faster than looking way up in the sky and remembering just how teeny tiny I am and how magnificent and mighty God is. Revelation 19:4 tells us that Jesus is seated on the throne. Right now heavenly hosts and saints of old are giving him the praise that he deserves. Look up and join their magnificent chorus.

Make this Christmas about more than just gifts. Make it about Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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iHeart

For the last year or so I’ve had a growing disdain for all things technological. Let me rephrase that. I’ve had a growing disdain for the way I’ve allowed myself to be controlled by all things technological. So, as of two short days ago, I’ve begun trying to implement strategies so that my foolish self won’t be so prone to addiction to these tiny boxes of information we call smart phones. iphone-addiciton

So I bought an alarm clock.

You see, that was my go to excuse for having my phone in my bed. I needed it as an alarm. Now that argument is invalid.

For the last two evenings, I’ve enjoyed honestly tremendous freedom, tremendous peace and rest with my Creator. I know it sounds somewhat laughable, but putting my phone up before bed and until after I shower in the mornings has been like a mini retreat of sorts.

I’m far from there when it comes to setting aside technology for rest. But I am glad to be making steps in the right direction.

Not every one will come to the same conclusions about technology. My purpose for this blog post is not to tell you guys to become more like me. Because that would be stupid, because I can be stupid. Instead, I’m wanting us all as a community of faith to consider our rhythms, routines, and habits. We rarely stop and consider in our culture why we do the things we do. I’ve only recently begun to stop and consider my technological habits.

Why should we as followers of Christ consider our habits?

This passage (among many):

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. – Psalm 119:9-11

Here’s the deal. It all starts with the heart when it comes to our walk with the Lord.

H.B. Charles Jr. says it like this:

The matter of the heart is usually the heart of the matter.

Solomon would say it like this:

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Our hearts are the center of our intellect, emotions, and volition. From our hearts springs all of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Because of this, we must protect it. Because of this, we must guard it. And oh my goodness no this has little to do with dating or courting, it has everything to do with what we fill our hearts with throughout the day. Scripture tells us our hearts are wicked. Naturally, left to our own devices, apart from Christ, we have wicked and ugly hearts. Now when I spend hours a day on social media and/or Netflix, which most of the time aren’t honoring a Biblical worldview, then it’s no wonder my heart strays into broken thinking and ungodly actions.

Here’s the deal.

I’m a moron. To be honest, you kinda are too (I understand if you check out here).

We are all prone to depart from what we know is right. We are all prone to abandon Scriptural beliefs for cultural ones.

Look back at the passage from Psalm 119. Do you want to live a pure life? This means much more than just sexual purity. This means holistically applying the Bible to all of your life. Do you desire that? Then keep His Word. How do we keep His Word if we don’t spend time in it?

I imagine a day where I’m devoting all of my down time to growing closer to the Lord through prayer, Scripture memory, Bible study, and family worship.

Now, God gave us good things. He gave us hobbies and ways to unwind at the end of the day. Here’s the question though. Is it beneficial for you?

 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

This blog post is not intended to be anti-media or anti-entertainment. It is rather intended to be pro-spiritual growth. So we need to each ask ourselves what hobbies and habits are beneficial for our individual spiritual growth.

That means that for me, I can’t have my phone in bed at night or in the morning. I can’t. You can. You may very well have way more self-control than me and be able to not spend hours on it between the sun setting and the sun rising. But for me, I’m not disciplined enough. It is not sinful to have my phone in my bed, but I find myself mastered by it and thus it is not beneficial.

Look one more time with me at Psalm 119:10.

I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. – Psalm 119:10

Devotion and humility.

That is what it takes to cling to Christ and grow spiritually. The Psalmist seeks God with all his heart, with deep devotion. In the same breath though he humbly acknowledges His need for Christ to cling to him. Don’t let me wander from your commands.

Let this be our prayer as followers of Christ. Let us seek Christ with devotion. Let us acknowledge that we need him to hold us tight, to keep us from straying.

Here’s a novel idea for all of us. It’s difficult to stray from Him when you’re focused on communing with Him each day. Hide His word in your heart.

My last rant is about the rat race. Don’t get caught up in it. We behave unconsciously via what we’re told is the way to behave. That’s why the thought of even putting my phone up at night before two days ago made me feel like a crazy person. Don’t listen to the culture at hand, cling to Christ.

Seek Him.

God’s Word teaches us all we need to live well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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A Man Like Jack

Jamie and I have been watching the tv show This Is Us together for quite some time now (We are behind so please no spoilers). Throughout the entire series, I have been enamored by Jack Pearson. I know he’s just a tv show character, but I see in this character a father and husband worth emulating. He was encouraging, supportive, patient, compassionate, and loving towards his children and his wife (most of the time).

It is not a surprise that our country is in need of fathers, godly fathers. I have seen a growing trend of men seeing their children as burdens, their lives being basically over because they have a wife and kids at home. I’ve seen men neglect their family for video games. I’ve seen men vicariously live through the sports of their children. I’ve seen men neglect, control, berate, and condemn their children and wife who they see as burdens.

Again, Jack is just a tv show character, and there is no Christian witness in his life. But there is a wonderful scene where he shows the passion he has for his children and wife. He gets in a small squabble with his wife and his friend Miguel takes him to a golf course to play a round. Miguel and his friends start telling Jack how he will come to love golf because it’s four hours away from his wife and kids, and he’d be able to escape his wife specifically. jack.jpg

He says this:

“I don’t want to escape her,” Jack says. “I want to freeze time so that I can get a little bit more.”

Boom. The looks on the other men’s faces was classic in that scene.

Here’s the absolutely heartbreaking thing to me. I have been involved in a men’s Bible study in the past where the attitudes of the Christian men in the room were just that. They didn’t explicitly come out and say they just wanted to escape their wives and kids, but there were plenty of ‘ball and chain’ type jokes and there is truly a hint of truth in every joke. It was full of past high school sports stories as they relived their glory days, and ways that we were being called to live as godly men in the public sphere, standing up courageously for Christ. But jokes abounded about wives, and even some kids.

Here’s the reality.

I SHOULD SEEK TO BE A GODLY MAN IN MY PRIVATE FAMILY LIFE FAR MORE THAN I DO IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE. Sorry, I get a little ranty when I talk about this type of thing. I’m sick of seeing men like myself seeking public praise for their godly character while treating their private family and loved ones with ungodly character.

Here’s the thing about men. We have a yearning for praise of other men, we have a yearning for glory. We watch movies like Gladiator, Braveheart, and Black Hawk Down and we want that courageous story. So if we have to stand up for Christ in the public square, we will do it? But lay down our lives for our wives? Nah. Love, encourage, support, and spend time with our children instead of neglecting them for ‘ministry’? Nah.

I hate my tendency to do just that.

Three verses, two passages, one call to be a father and husband who loves their family.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. – Ephesians 5:25

In the 1 Thessalonians passage, Paul is reminding the church in Thessalonica how he lived among them in the past when he brought the gospel to them. He said he behaved with them like a father to his children. We see here in this passage then that a father is to encourage and comfort his kids, and then ultimately urge them to live lives worthy of God for His glory in the nations. How many men are this? How many Christian men are this? It’s easy to control, condemn, berate. We are called to encourage, comfort, and urge to godly living.

In the Ephesians passage, you can’t be anymore clear. Christ gave Himself up for the church. We are to give ourselves up for our wives.

Men of God, live for Christ. Men of God, encourage, comfort, and urge your children into godly living for God’s glory amongst the nations. Men of God, love your wives and give your life up for her.

Stop the vicarious living through your children, stop seeing your wife as a ball and chain. You were called into something far greater.

Women of God, live for Christ. You are called to far more than being a wife or mom. You are called to be a disciple. Be patient with your husband, but don’t treat him like he’s stupid or incapable of being the husband and father God has called him to be.

I have been criticized at times for speaking up about this since I’m not currently a husband or father. I have tried to write with grace and humility, admitting that I myself am not where I should be in my love and treatment of Jamie.

But I know what Scripture says. And I will not back down from that.

Jack is a character worth emulating in his love and support of his wives and kids. But as Christian men we should be so much more, as we urge our kids and wives to make disciples of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Young Lions

I grew up on Psalm 34:8.lions.jpg

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! – Psalm 34:8

I’ve seen it referenced time and time again, whether in somebody’s kitchen, on somebody’s Facebook post, or before taking the Lord’s Supper with a church community. Yet I have failed to recognize the beauty of this verse in the context of the entire 34th Psalm. Nestled in this verse is the doctrine of divine providence. We see the truth that God provides for and protects His people. I am not a seasoned scholar or theologian so I’m not even going to try and explain God’s sovereignty vs. the free will of man. However, I will tell you that God is ultimately the Provider and Protector of us His children.

Our every single need is met by God. He provides for all of our needs.

Not only does the 34th Psalm teach us that He is a Provider, it also teaches us that He is a Protector.

Look with me at verses seven and ten.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. – Psalm 34:7

There are days where I blow through life without meditating on or thinking about the spiritual aspects of my day-to-day life. There are other days where I’m more acutely aware of the spiritual warfare being waged around me. This verse should strengthen any feeble man, as it reminds us that God’s legion of hosts are around us, and that we will be delivered in the times of our need (v. 6).

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:10

I’ve not been around lions outside of the zoo, but it is apparent to me that they are accomplished hunters. Young lions especially are adept at hunting due to their speed, ferocity, and energy. They are referred to as the kings of the jungle for a reason. They are at the top of the food chain in their neck of the woods. For them to go hungry, many things have to be off kilter.

That’s what makes this verse so striking. There are seasons in the Sahara where the lions may be lacking in food, lacking in what they need to survive the season. Yet for the follower of Christ, no good thing is lacking. What a beautiful promise of God’s provision.

As we meditate upon the provision and protection of the God we serve, we should remember a few different things. There are truths this passage will remind us of before we expect a perfect life.

Be humble.

As we think about God’s providing and protecting hand, we must remember that we are called to remain humble before God. Psalm 34:2 will remind us to boast in the Lord, that the humble will hear of the promises of God and be glad. Psalm 34:6 tells us that it is the poor man whose cries the Lord hears.

God is loving, compassionate, and generous. At the same time however he is not a fan of the arrogant and prideful. His grace through Jesus is strong enough to cover over those sins, yet we should still seek humility before Him.

The very provision and protection of God is what is designed to lead us to be humble before Him. As I meditate upon the ways that God is providing for and protecting me each and every day, I am humbled because I understand that I’m not capable of doing those things in my own life.

Seek God.

God’s provision and protection should also lead us to worship Him and seek Him more. Psalm 34:4 says, I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. God is always in control of the cosmos. That being said, I know for a fact that in my life when I chase after Him and seek Him that I become more acutely aware of that reality.

When I’m coasting through life, I forget about God’s provision and protection and find myself shackled to fear and worry. I was a worry wart almost the entire time I was in Phoenix. Yet in the seasons of life where I have chased after God with everything in me, I have seen and beheld the ways that God has provided for and protected me and I am delivered from my fears.

Seeking God helps us to acknowledge the ways God is working in our midst.

Remember He is God and He is good. 

Lastly, we need to remember that not everything in life will work out the way that we would want it to. Just this very day things are not working out the way I had hoped in the life of one of my closest friends, and I question what God is up to.

Yet look with me at Psalm 34:9-10.

Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:9-10

The doctrine of divine providence does not promise perfect lives for followers of Christ. These verses do not promise our every heart’s desire. Instead these verses should remind and encourage us that God is God and God is good. When the psalmist promises us that we will lack no good thing when we seek the Lord, He is telling us that God is all the good we need.

When we pursue after and seek Christ, we get Him.

When we get Him, we lack nothing.

God promises to provide and protect for His people. Open your eyes and start acknowledging the ways God has done just that in your life. Next time you eat, thank God for His provision. Next time you sleep in safety, thank God for His protection.

In every bite and morsel throughout our lives we ought to taste the provision of God. 

Young lions may go hungry.

Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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You’re Not Great, But God Is

I remember being on a third grade Little League baseball team. It was the first year that kids were allowed to pitch, and I was terrified every time I stepped up to the plate. I made contact with the ball only two times that entire season. The rest of the time I got walked, or struck out looking. I played left field, and one time I had a ball go through my legs. In the outfield. At the end of this atrocious season, I received a trophy and was told I was great.

That was a common theme in my life. The parenting and social culture that I grew up in told me and my peers that we were great, that we could accomplish anything, that we were going to change the world. That we were above average. The reality is, that’s not the case.

This self-image obsession snuck into the church, and what was birthed out of this misconception is the “Self-Image Gospel”, a false gospel that makes the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ about making you and I feel better about ourselves as people.   I am thankful for men like Matt Chandler and others who have called out this insidious misbelief about the gospel.

There are tremendous gospel promises, promises that state all kinds of amazing things about us as children of God. That being said however, when we make the onus of the gospel about our self-image, we make the gospel about us instead of about God. This lie is insidious and not easy to catch, but we can see it creeping into our walk with Christ, when we start letting the litmus test of our faith be about how we feel at the time.

The self-image gospel can lead to two dangerous and concerning practices in our churches:

1) Acting Like We’re Perfect 

This is probably beating a broken drum, but it still continues to eat away at true community in the body of Christ. Because we were fed lies that we are great, amazing, and extraordinary people, we carry that facade into our small groups, our relationships with fellow members of our churches.

Women are supposed to be perfect. They are supposed to look perfect, act perfect, have the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect life. Men are supposed to be strong, able to overcome and tackle any struggle or difficulty in their life without help. These are standards that the Scriptures never ask of us. But because of our culture, we forfeit deep relationships. We make our lives out to be perfect, we don’t ask for help, we don’t admit that sometimes we’re simply not great.

Here’s something that’s freeing to me. In Scripture, when one of God’s servants proclaims their inability or their weakness, God never corrects them. God never tells them how great they are. He only ever tells them how great He is.

While praying in Genesis 18, Abraham says that he is but dust and ashes, and God doesn’t correct him.

In Exodus 3, Moses will come up with countless excuses as to why he can’t lead the Israelites out of Egypt, whether because of his lowliness, his speech, or the like. God doesn’t correct him. When Moses says “who am I?” to lead the people out, God simply reminds him of who God is.

In Jeremiah 1, Jeremiah says he’s too young and too inexperienced and unable to speak and thus he can’t be a prophet for the Lord. God doesn’t correct him and tell him how great a speaker he is. Instead, God reminds him of who made the mouth, of how great He was.

This is absolutely freeing. The reality is, you and I aren’t perfect. We can take down the facade. We are not great.

2) Obsession With Our Brokenness

People who tend to realize that the Scriptures never tell us to put up a facade take things to the complete opposite extreme. With hearts459488127_640 in the right place, they end up taking their eyes off of the character and greatness of God and spend too much time obsessing over their own broken lives.

This sounds like the gospel, when men and women are open about their brokenness. However, it becomes decidedly not the gospel when it becomes an obsession, the central focus of their walk with Christ. They preface every facet of their ministry in the context of their own brokenness. This is a twisted form of self-worship, which shows just how insidious the traps of Satan can be in our lives.

It is one thing to humbly admit that we don’t have it all together. It is another thing entirely to fixate on ourselves, taking our eyes off of Christ and who we are in Him.

In the Exodus story, Moses won’t take his eyes off of himself. He keeps remaining fixated on his own brokenness, and won’t put his eyes on God. In chapters four and seven, Moses continues to cry out to God, saying he’s unable to do what he’s been called to do. God is patient with him, but says time and again “I will go before you and with you”. Moses was so obsessed with his own shortcomings and ‘brokenness’ that he forgot the character and greatness of God.

Here’s where this struggle is tough for me. The men and women in the ‘brokenness’ subset of Christian community are some of the most genuine and well-meaning people that I know. Their hearts are in the right place. It is my prayer that this blog is not a form of condemnation upon them, but rather that it would remind them to acknowledge that they aren’t great, but God is.

The perfection facade club forgets that they aren’t great. The brokenness club forgets that God is. I have found myself in both camps in my life. And it’s a constant struggle.

Let us remember that the gospel is not about our self-image.

Let us remember that we are not great, but God truly is.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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A Model Church

1 Thessalonians is a book of the Bible that sometimes goes unnoticed, unless you’re talking about end times and the like. But embedded in the book of 1 Thessalonians is a picture of what a model church should look like (a church that is being talked about all throughout the region [vv. 7-10]). Taking a cursory glance at the first chapter of this book will show us three truths that I pray are present in the church that I am a part of. My intention is not to tease out every theological truth present in this passage. Rather I pray that through reading this short synopsis, your heart would be stirred and that you would commit to laboring after Jesus over the coming days. I’d encourage you to have your Bible open as we dive in together. fbc

BE COMMITTED TO CHRIST. 

In verse three, Paul praises the church at Thessalonica for their work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is praising this church for their commitment to Christ. The lie we can so often fall into is that the Christian’s walk is one of ease, slumber, and natural growth in godliness.

This is simply not the case. Becoming more like Christ takes work. Discipleship is labor, it is work, and it takes endurance. In a previous blog on Psalm 1, I acknowledged the fact that I am prone to drifting away from the Lord when I’m not being intentional in my spiritual disciplines. Yes, there are seasons of my life where I’m walking closely with Jesus and am naturally desiring to come into His presence. But what normally happens is that when I don’t start my day in His Word with focus and drive, I’m going to neglect His Word, I’m going to neglect prayer.

The church at Thessalonica was known for the way that they were committed to Christ, even in the midst of severe suffering (v. 6). As we move ever closer to the return of Jesus, suffering will continue to rise for our faith. I’m not naive and I don’t have a persecution complex. We in America have it easy in regards to how we’re treated for our faith in Jesus. But should suffering come to Vernon, Texas, my prayer is that we would be a body of believers joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ, because we are just that committed to Him.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR CONGREGATION. 

You are going to disagree with people in the church you attend. I disagree with people in the church where I serve as a youth pastor. Here’s what I know to be true though, I am called to love, support, and equip every single person who is a member of my local congregation of Christ-followers.

The church at Thessalonica was known for its commitment to one another. Not only that, but Paul and Silas and Timothy set an example for how to serve the church, as verse five will tell us our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. The rest of this book will tease out just how Paul and his companions lived among the church of Thessalonica, but we do know that they lived with fatherly discipline, motherly nurturing and care, and brotherly love.

Not only that, but the Thessalonians would become imitators of them and thus of the Lord.

In a world that is fractured by divisions, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ that we could paint as the body of Christ is one of unity, love, of outdoing one another in honor and respect and service. We are not called to agree on how we worship, how we vote, how we parent, etc. We are called to love one another. So be committed to your congregation. Every member.

My prayer is that FBC Vernon would become a place known for its unity and its commitment to one another.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY.

The Thessalonians church was also committed to its community. It was well known for the way that they were turning from idols and serving the living and true God (v. 10). They were not silent about their faith. They definitely had struggles and fears, as they worried that the Lord had already come back and had simply left them in need. But they still served their community to the point where their church became well known all throughout Macedonia and Achaia.

This is hard to do sometimes. But the church should not be outside the community it finds itself in. Rather, the church should mirror the community. By no means are we to sacrifice truth or the gospel message in order to reach our neighborhoods for Jesus. Instead, we should be bodies of believers that are more focused on serving the people outside of it’s walls than it is hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to make all things new at the end of time.

Paul is writing this letter in hopes of stirring up the hearts of the Thessalonian church to  be focused in their present purpose, even as they place their faith in the future hope of Christ’s return.

May we fight the desire to hunker down and wait out the rest of our days. May we be men and women of Jesus Christ who charge forward into our communities, meeting needs and ministering to people who are messy, just as Jesus did.

The church at Thessalonica was a model church. They were committed to Christ. They were committed to their congregation. Lastly, they were committed to their community.

It is my daily prayer that FBC Vernon becomes a place known for these three distinctives as well.

For my followers who do not live here in Vernon, may your church become known for these three distinctives as well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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