I Don’t Want To Be In Charge

“Why won’t people listen to me? Why won’t they follow my lead?”

Three years ago, I sat in the office of Craig Lyle, the pastor at Faith Baptist in Wichita Falls. Those two questions came flying out of my heart as I tried to share with him what I was feeling and thinking about my ministry here at FBC Vernon.

We were a few months into what became a fifteen month pastor search, and I felt overlooked and ignored as a leader in the church.

So in great frustration I asked my mentor and friend why he thought that was happening.

Our relationship had begun due to my need for marital counseling. I was one year into marriage, and I was ruining it. My anger and frustration was boiling over into unkind and abrasive words towards my wife. I needed help. I needed someone to point me to Jesus.

So there I sat on the couch.

I felt ignored at church and ignored at home.

I mean, seriously. I was twenty-five years of age! Why didn’t my church and my family submit to my vast knowledge and wisdom? Why didn’t they follow my great expertise?

Yes, that’s laughable now.

But that’s exactly how I felt.

I don’t remember exactly what Craig said in response, but the gist was clear.

It was something along the lines of “do you love them?”.

He went on to say “Nate, you’re not called by Jesus to be a cowboy driving cattle. You’re called to be a shepherd leading sheep”.

Man.

That was a challenging and convicting word.

All of that came to mind today due to a verse that jumped off the page in my quiet time. I was reading Colossians chapter two.

and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:10, NIV

Christ is the head over every power and authority.

That has so many implications in regards to governments and organizations, kings and kingdoms.

But what hit me was the fact that Christ is head over every authority, meaning he is head over mine.

I’ve been given responsibilities in my church. As I walk out these responsibilities, the fleshly desire to be followed, listened to, trusted, and affirmed can be high in me.

But here’s what this verse teaches me.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal after reading this verse.

I’m first and foremost a man under authority. Before I think about leading others, I have to remember I’m being led. I report to Jesus, my LORD. He is the authority that I am to submit to. This isn’t my youth group. It’s the LORD’s.”

That changes everything about leadership, doesn’t it?

If life is about me being in charge, I may guide people down a path, but they likely won’t feel loved along the way.

If life is about Someone being in charge of me, I’m going to seek to lead others the same way that I’m being led.

As I reflect on this, I worship.

The One in charge of me loves me. The One in charge of me is gentle, humble, patient, compassionate, merciful, kind, persistent, relational, intimate, and personal.

Wow.

That’s the type of leader I want to be.

The older I get, the less I want authority and power if I’m being honest with you. At times, the idea of me having authority feels dirty to me. Now I know from Scripture that godly men need to lead the people of God. So I keep going. But there are moments I just don’t want any part of the power structures of man.

The older I get, the less the desire to be in charge appeals to me.

The older I get, the more I want to love people like Jesus.

I’m asking God to bring that about in me.

I want those who are around me to see me as gentle, humble, patient, compassionate, merciful, kind, persistent, relational, intimate, and personal.

That truly brings a tear to my eye.

God, please let it be so.

At home, I want my wife and daughter to see Jesus in me.

At work, I want men and women to see Jesus in me.

If I’m given authority, I’ll use it.

But I want to use it in one way.

To love like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Seek The Lord

Lately I have been trying to get into God’s word and grow in wisdom. I’m twenty-eight years old, and in a lot of areas of my life, I still need to grow up. I need the Spirit’s help through the study of the word and prayer.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading in Zephaniah, looking for Biblical wisdom.

This verse jumped off the page:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. – Zephaniah 2:3

What do I seek?

When I look at the year or month or week ahead of me, what is it that I’m pursuing with my time and energy?

Sometimes I look at the week ahead and simply think about the responsibilities I have. I’m striving to lead my family as a husband and father. That takes intentionality. I’ve got seminary assignments. I’ve got work assignments. I am now an umpire for the local Boys & Girls Club softball league. I’ve got students that I’m meeting with for discipleship. I’ve got upcoming D-Now speaking engagements.

I’m seeking a lot of earthly things.

Many of those things are good things.

Obviously being a God-honoring spouse and father is important.

Doing my school work and work work for the glory of God is important.

But what is it that I’m chasing?

Without intentionality, a week can go by with no real growth in my walk with God.

To avoid this, I need to apply that verse from Zephaniah to my life.

Seek the Lord.

How can I commune with God this week? That’s the most important question, the most important part of my schedule.

I occasionally struggle with staying asleep. For instance, I’ve been up since 2:30 AM, and I’m writing this post at 5:15 AM. I would love to be sleeping right now. Especially with a busy day of preaching and hosting students for dinner ahead of me. But here I am.

And you know what?

It’s been beautiful. Sure, I watched a couple YouTube videos. But for the most part I’ve been reading some and praying some and journaling a whole lot. I feel God’s presence close, intimately close.

I wrote in one of my journals that I would take this feeling of intimacy with God over sleep every time.

I wish I could say this was a daily reality. It’s not.

Again, this verse is kicking my butt.

I need to seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek humility.

How can I become more righteous, more like Christ, this week?

How can I grow in humility (something that is central to my identity as a follower of Jesus, something I don’t have to work to have but rather seek to implement: see Philippians 2:5) this week?

Zephaniah tells me.

By doing just commands.

God’s commands that is.

If I seek to live in step with the commands of God in Scripture, I will over time, through the work of the Spirit, become more like Him and grow in humility and righteous living.

Humble, righteous men and women change communities because humble, righteous men and women give God all of the glory instead of seeking to hoard it for themselves.

Oh goodness I’ve got a long laundry list of times where I sought to get a little bit of God’s glory for myself.

It never pans out.

Brother or sister in Christ, seek the Lord this week.

He will be found!

May our communities be overflowing with men and women who seek the Lord and imitate His humility and righteousness to a watching world.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

A Committed Church

Paul gave thanks always for the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:2). They were a joy of his. We can see in 1 Thessalonians 1 why they so profoundly impacted his heart. Chuck Swindoll, in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, highlights how the people of God in Thessalonica had committed to three things: each other, non-believers, and Christ. We would do well to look at what their commitments entailed.

1. Commit To Stir Each Other On

If I am to live a life of faith, love, and hope like the believers in Thessalonica, I need help. I’m prone to discouragement. That is something that is engrained in me due to circumstances and sin and I’m constantly needing to work on that part of my heart. I don’t naturally live with vibrant hope. That’s where friends and fellow church members come in. In my years here in Vernon, I have been the recipient of words of affirmation that have helped me to keep going and to keep ministering. It’s likely that you need others too. It’s not weakness to need to be lifted up from time to time. Living life as a follower of Jesus is difficult in a fallen world. We need to encourage each other more than we do.

We need to be deeply committed to one another. We live in a culture of isolated nuclear families. That culture effects how we read the Scriptures and how we apply them. We are designed to be together. I’ve sought to break through some of this milieu by telling people that my home is open to anyone and everyone. I try and live a life of deep openness. In doing this my prayer is that people come to realize that one, pastors are normal men, and two, life is better when we’re walking through it together.

The church in Thessalonica was known for its works of faith, labors of love, and steadfastness of hope. If we want our churches to be known for the same things, we need to equip and empower one another to pursue those things.

2. Commit To Live In A Way That Draws Non-Christians In

The church in Thessalonica was known for its powerful response to the gospel.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

The surrounding regions knew about the faith of these Thessalonian believers. That’s a powerful testimony.

It gets me thinking. Do my actions and way of life match up with what I claim to believe about Jesus? Are non-believers drawn into the community of faith I’m a part of because they see a man who is wholly different than them?

Or, do they see a man who claims to worship the King but fails to live for the King in certain areas of my life, either public or private.

My prayer is that I would be different.

Whenever I feel at home in our country, our culture, our community, it gives me pause. Yes, God has a purpose for me in any place I find myself. But I should never be too comfortable here. This isn’t my home. And if I never feel different or distinct or placeless, then I likely am not living in a way that is too different from those around me.

We as God’s people need to commit to live in such a way that draws others in.

3. Commit to Pursue Christ Rather Than Idols

The church in Thessalonica was also known for their turning from idolatry.

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we have among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, – 1 Thessalonians 1:9

What are your idols?

It’s highly unlikely you have statues to other gods in your living room.

Idolatry in our modern church is much more insidious and subtle and dangerous.

A good diagnostic question to help you discover your idols is “what makes you the most angry?”

What posts on social media or news stories or conversations or circumstances get you riled up the quickest? At the heart of whatever it is is something you value. We get angry when that which we value or that which we love is threatened.

So what gets you angry?

I know for me it is typically revolving around respect. I’m an insecure man and when I feel like I’m not getting the respect I think I deserve, I get angry. This caused problems in my marriage early on, and still threatens to impact many of my relationships. I’ve had to realize that I idolize being respected and affirmed. So when I’m not, which is often, I can get heated. It doesn’t often come out in words, but it certainly fills my mind and heart and spirit. This is an idol I have to actively rid myself of.

The church in Thessalonica moved to the living and true God. They moved away from idolatry. They were committed to this endeavor.

Paul’s words urge us to be free from any and all entanglements that pull us away from the Savior. – Chuck Swindoll

This is easier said than done.

It’s painful.

It’s painful for me when I come face to face with the idols I’ve placed above God.

But on the other side of that pain is the joy of finding my security and identity in Christ.

The church in Thessalonica was committed to each other, the non-believers around them, and Christ.

May we do the same.

A Slow Burn

Churches that seek to cause great numerical growth at a fast pace tend to cause explosions that do lots of damage to lots of souls.

We need to return to the slow burn of relational discipleship. It’s messy. It’s painful. Mistakes are made and opposition is faced. But it’s the Biblical way.

Check out an (I think) encouraging conversation about this based in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. You can listen below, or go find the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. Just search Roach Ramblings!

The Heart-Changer

It’s Wednesday night at 8:45 PM. I’m driving home and reflecting on the day. Thirteen hours of work and I’m ready for sleep. Over the course of a week I had studied the Bible, scoured commentaries and books on theology, written a sermon, and delivered it twice. What I got in return was blank stares, students doodling on their note papers, and a seeming lack of passion.

That’s when the spiritual exhaustion is at its peak.

You’re likely not a youth pastor reading this.

So maybe you can grasp one of these other sets of circumstances.

You speak often about Jesus in your home, encouraging your children to follow Him, to seek first the Kingdom. All of your unique attempts at digging into Scripture with them seem to come up short. They are enamored with the things of this world, pursuing the American Dream, and your attempts at discipleship in the home don’t seem to be bearing fruit.

Your dear friend or family member is far from God. They have been for a while. You’ve prayed for them countless times. It’s not that you’ve stopped praying for them, that God would touch their hearts. It’s just that when you’re deeply honest with yourself, you’ve stopped believing that they will ever change.

Your community is full of sin and wickedness. The churches in your community are dwindling and shrinking, and it feels like things are hopeless. Those that walk under the banner of Christ aren’t honoring him with the things they post and the vitriol that is thrown back at the church disorients you and discourages you.

There are times when we feel hopeless.

There are times when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do to impact our family members, our churches, our communities.

And that’s exactly what we should be feeling.

Last Friday, it hit me afresh when I was reading a few chapters out of the book of Exodus as part of my quiet time. The people of God had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries, and now under the leadership of Moses they were being rescued by God. At the time of their departure, they were shown favor by their former captors, and this favor was from the Lord.

The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. – Exodus 12:35-36

There are a ton of examples from Scripture regarding the way that God is the one who moves in the hearts of men. This one was simply the one that stood out to me and impacted me last weekend.

Seriously. Think about what is happening here.

The people of God were enslaved.

And now those, whether they were actively serving as task-masters or were passive observers, who had been enslaving the people of God are lavishing them with silver and gold and clothing.

But did they do this of their own accord? By no means. We read that the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. God was the one who was working in the hearts of the people. The same God who by His sovereignty hardened the heart of the unnamed Pharaoh for His glory (as hard as that is to accept) now softened the hearts of the Egyptians for the sake of His people.

This floored me last Friday.

I would love to be in control of how people respond to the proclamations about Jesus that I make each Wednesday night and Sunday morning and occasionally at other times during the week. I would love to tell you that you have the power to change your prodigal family member’s heart, your child’s heart, or the spiritual health of your community. We love to pretend to be saviors.

But we’re not in control. We don’t have the power. And when we acknowledge that and rest in that we find the answer to seeing change happen.

Praying for the Spirit to move.

It’s only been six days. But I’ve been striving to push into that. I’ve been striving to get on my knees and pray for the Spirit of God to move. And you know what? He is.

He’s at work.

He’s always at work, but when I ask Him to move by the Spirit to soften the hearts of those who hear the Kingdom message, I begin to open my eyes to how He’s been working all along. It’s like buying a car. When I bought my Chevy Malibu, I started seeing them everywhere. It’s not that my purchase of a Chevy Malibu was followed by an outpouring of Malibu purchases in Vernon. It’s that I simply had my eyes opened to see them everywhere.

Here’s how God has been at work in my life recently. I desperately long to invite people into a deep, Christ-honoring, Spirit-led intimacy with the Father and passion for the Kingdom. I desperately want people to set their minds on things above and live for the only thing that matters. And I want to use the home God has so richly blessed me with to do so. I want to have adults and students in and out of it every day, growing into the image of the Son of God. As bad as I want that, it’s not been happening much.

But yesterday I prayed throughout the day that God would use His Word, a sermon on John 1:35-42, to ignite a fire for the Kingdom of God in the hearts of our students. I prayed that God would begin to use our home as a place for people to reorient themselves around the Kingdom.

After all of these prayers for the Spirit to move, in the span of an hour five students asked to come over to our house, three of them asking to be intentionally discipled by me and my wife. We are starting a Bible study open to the public on Sunday night and I pray we have many come.

Your prodigal needs the Spirit of God to work in their heart.

Your children need the Spirit of God to work in their heart.

Your community needs the Spirit of God to work in its streets.

Thankfully, we have a God who softens the hearts of the sinful and gives His people favor.

Let’s ask Him to do so.

If you enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it on social media? The algorithm is not kind to small blogs like mine, and I’d love for people to be encouraged by my writings.

What’s On Your Mind?

My mind races almost all the time. There are normally a dozen thought processes running through my head from moment to moment. It’s the way I’m wired.

It’s become such a part of me that my wife knows I’m lying anytime I answer ‘nothing’ when she asks me what I’m thinking about.

From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep my mind is on the run.

So I’ve striven to live a life of meditation.

You see, the Biblical view of meditation is the process of filling your mind. That’s what it means to meditate.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2

Oh how I desire to be that man.

The beautiful part of Psalm 1 is that it opens our eyes to the reality that happiness is found when we delight ourselves in meditating on God’s Word (v. 1).

Don’t you want to be happy? I certainly do. I want a life full of happiness that is grounded in the work of Christ and the beauty of His Word. I want to wake up excited to take on the day ahead, and that’s not always the case.

A lot of days I wake up and I’m just trying to summon the strength to get going.

That’s not God’s design for us.

He doesn’t want to produce flippant, fickle, ungrounded men and women who don’t acknowledge the realities of a Genesis 3 world. But at the same time He desires for His people to be the happiest of people.

Happiness isn’t found in mindless scrolling of social media. Happiness isn’t found in filling our minds with the latest Covid conspiracy theories, anecdotal articles that focus on self-help, or angry editorials that idolize our nation and our political party. Happiness is found in filling our minds with God’s Word.

Psalm 1 differentiates between the counsel of this world we reside in and the counsel of His Law. The opening verse encouraged us to avoid the counsel of the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.

How much of what I fill my mind with falls under that?

Instead, we are told by God to fill our minds with His Word. Day and night. If you instinctively go for your phone in moments of waiting, utilize that. When you’re in line at the grocery store. When you’re brushing your teeth. When you’re waiting for a few minutes before a meeting. When you’re waiting a few minutes for your spouse to get home. When you’re in those spaces where you grab your phone, go to your Bible app. Meditate. I think you could fill your mind with so much more Scripture than you might think if you intentionally stole those moments of waiting and instead of checking Instagram you read some Scripture.

Day and night.

Meditate.

Your time in God’s Word should not be casual and flippant. It should be voracious. We should be hungry for more of it, for it helps us commune with the Trinitarian God we love.

Meditation involves taking the Word seriously by our determining to make use of more than a casual and occasional reading of the Bible. – Alton McEachern

Do we take the Word seriously?

I don’t.

It’s much more easy and convenient to fill my mind with mindless stuff instead of filling it with Scripture.

May we grow to be happy men and women who passionately pursue a deep study of the Scriptures.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Dead Men Walking

When we were dead in our trespasses. 

That’s how the book of Ephesians (2:5) describes the state of our being before encountering Jesus.

We were dead.

We weren’t ‘struggling’ with sin or ‘falling into’ sin.

We weren’t morally good for the most part with just some natural, human struggles.

We were dead.

Deceased.

Kaput.

That’s where we were.

Look at Ephesians 2:1.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. . . – Ephesians 2:1

The book of Romans, chapter five, expands on this language.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10 

Weak.

Ungodly.

Sinners.

Enemies of God.

That’s a pretty bleak reality.

This should impact us in a litany of ways. But here’s a few things it gets me thinking about.

Who Is God Calling You To Help Rescue? 

A lost person is unlikely to enter our church building on a whim. That may have been a societal, cultural reality in the past, but it is certainly not the case today.

We are called to bring people into Christian community, not primarily a sanctuary. I believe that lives will first be changed around our dinner tables in our homes. From there, some may have the boldness to come sit in our pews. I believe that hospitality is the key to winning the battle against religious apathy and agnosticism.

I have heard, seen, and read Christians talk about the lost in surprisingly unkind ways (myself included). We judge them on how they act, dress, drink, talk, think, etc.

Have we really forgotten the Bible?

The Bible teaches us that God looks at the interior soul of a man, not their choice of dress. The Bible never calls us to judge the non-believer, but rather to hold the believer accountable (both of which we don’t typically follow well). The Bible tells me that I was a dead, ungodly, wicked enemy of God.

Whenever I drive past a jail on my way to Wichita Falls, I think about how I’m no better than any man or woman in there. The only difference is that God’s grace has kept many of my fleshly desires in fleeting thoughts in my mind and not my actions (they are no less wicked).

The same is true for believers and non-believers.

Some of us have received God’s grace, and the rest of us need to hear of it.

Lastly, this pushes us to evangelize differently. We are to build relationships. What we are telling people with the gospel is that they are evil, wicked sinners that are dead spiritually and destined for hell. That’s a weighty message. It’s a message that must be proclaimed, but it is weighty.

You may disagree with my methods of evangelism, but I think our churches would be far better at it if the emphasis was on relationships as opposed to numbers. For me that helps me make it about love and not just the pressure of making sure I tell a certain number of people.

Are You Living Joyfully In Light Of This? 

The second impact this has on me is that it should drive me to profound joy.

Life is mega-hard.

Today was honestly a rough one. Lots of thinking about what the future holds. Honestly lots of thoughts of hopelessness in the face of tragedy that I’ve had to take captive and give to the Lord. Some days are like that. In this current season of my life, many days are. I have had to cling to God today, or rather rest in His clinging on to me.

Despite life’s mega-hardness (as a budding academic theologian, that sounds so professional), I have experienced joy.

Why?

Because I was dead.

And now I’m not.

Now I’m alive.

Jesus rescued me, redeemed me, changed me, bought me, saved me. And now, He’s sanctifying me. Day by day. Through His Word. Through prayer. Through community. Through mentors. Through friends.

I’m not the man I was this time last year (praise God). I’m not the man I was ten years ago. God is changing me, molding me, growing me. Making me more and more like Himself.

Joy in my life isn’t always a bubbly personality and an ear to ear smile.

Often it is a deep seated remembrance that God is with me and that He has not abandoned me.

Are You Teaching Morality or Jesus? 

Lastly, this should impact the way we parent, teach, disciple, preach, lead.

For those that are dead, they need to be brought to life. They don’t need to be simply told that they’re dead. While God is the one that does this, we have a role to play.

We sometimes (if not all the time) expect non-Christians to act like Jesus (all while we’re not there yet). We teach them how they should live. We quote Scripture to them about alcoholism and crude language (both of which are sinful, but the Bible addresses my ability to be religious without a heart for God and others far more often). But that’s like throwing a book about how to swim to a person who is drowning. We should rescue, and then teach.

God forgive us for our judgmental hearts and teachings.

For those that have been made alive in Christ, they don’t need to be taught primarily how to be a better person. Because the message of Scripture, as we’ve clearly seen here, is not about bad people becoming good. It’s about dead people coming to life. Every sermon I preach, every discussion question I write, every blog, every podcast, every video should be about this full life.

Yes, God calls us to live a certain way.

But the core of the matter is that we’ve been made alive.

Not because we were morally good.

God doesn’t care about that.

But because He was rich in mercy and love.

We were dead men walking.

Now we are alive.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Manhood & Mister Rogers

I obviously did not know Mister Rogers personally. But by all accounts, it seems like he was a meek, kind, compassionate, and humble man.

I wonder if men’s ministries in our churches would accept him as a leader.

Over Thanksgiving break, I went to see A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood with Jamie and her family. Personally, I loved it.

Back at OBU, I had the opportunity to be a part of leading the men’s ministry on campus for several years. While in Phoenix, I sat in on a men’s ministry. I’ve read many books on the topic. It’s something I’m passionate about.

And with all of these experiences and lessons learned, I think that we need more men in our churches like Mister Rogers.

There’s a passage in Colossians that I came across that has me thinking more and more along those lines. At this point in the letter, Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus at Colosse to put their sin to death, replacing those sinful behaviors with that which is in accordance with Christlikeness. He says this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

So, in summary, according to Paul a follower of Jesus (men included) should be:

  • compassionate
  • kind
  • humble
  • meek
  • patient
  • forgiving
  • loving

Somewhere along the way, in American churches, strength and courage, bravado and bravery have taken the lead when it comes to what men should be like. I wrestle with that a lot, because those things wouldn’t exactly be on my epitaph.

I know a ton of godly men, in my church, in my community, and in my past. Men who have and are pouring into me. This is obviously not an indictment against all men everywhere.

I just want to push back against the idea that a godly man must be aggressive, strong, boisterous, etc. I would in fact make the argument that the godly man should look more like the list above. And I will tell you from firsthand experience that the men who have been the most impactful in my life have some or all of those characteristics.

I have nothing at all against hunting or home improvement. But if I’m being real candid I have felt some (possibly self-induced) feelings of being ‘less than’ at different times in my life for not enjoying the prototypical male activities. I have wrestled with the way that God designed me to be, the gifts He’s given me.

I used to be an extremely loud, obnoxious, flirtatious, annoying, braggadocios, vulgar turd. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, He has been pulling me away from those things. Well, maybe not the obnoxious part (as I wear a sequin-infested, dinosaur Christmas sweater while typing this).

I want to invest in younger men (something that both my full-time job as a pastor and part-time job with FCA allows me to do, praise God), and show them that manhood isn’t obscene and vulgar and loud. Manhood is service, meekness (the characteristic some say is ‘wussifying’ masculinity in our country), and humility. I want them to get that a lot earlier than I did.

I’ve read, listened to, and heard from men that masculinity is mostly strength and courage. But I’ve also seen many of these same men fall from grace. Hard. Private sexual sins and vulgarities and obscenities are ripped into the light. Anger and misogyny and domineering behaviors uncovered.

Why is it that so many men who have talked about manhood have had great public charisma and strength but little Christlikeness in private? Could it be because we’ve been teaching men the wrong things?

Have we focused so much on the man’s role in leading the family that we have forgot to talk about serving the family? Have we focused so much on outward strength that we’ve missed inward fruits of the Spirit?

Have we allowed Braveheart, Gladiator, and Saving Private Ryan to outshine Christ?

This past semester at the church I work at, we walked through the book of 1 Samuel with our youth and children. Jonathan leaps off the page.

Here you have a man who singlehandedly wins a battle for the people of God. Talk about strength and courage. These are not bad things. But he also was willing to relinquish his genetic right to the throne, giving it to David instead. Not only that, he wept over David, cherished his relationship with David, and saved him again and again. Here’s a man who had strength and courage, but that wasn’t all. He also was an empathetic, compassionate, humble, and kind man.

What a great example of what I personally believe manhood should look like.

I have another great example.

My dad.

My dad is strong. My dad is brave. My dad is courageous.

But my dad is also humble. My dad is kind. My dad is a servant.

And all the time, I mean all the time, he tells me one simple phrase. It’s not “be loud and proud”. It’s not “be rude and crude”. It’s not even “work hard and go hunt”.

It’s this.

“Be God’s man.”

And I want to tell younger men the same thing.

Be God’s man. 

Be a servant. Be someone who helps others in need. I’m not good at this one, but I’m working on it.

Be compassionate. When I see men tear up, I don’t think “what a pansy”. I think, “what a Christlike heart”.

Be kind. Sexism, sarcasm, rudeness and crudeness are not the way of Jesus. Be kind.

Be humble. You’re not all that and a bag of chips.

Be meek. Again, our culture doesn’t really like men like this. But Jesus was meek and gentle. Strength is not violent and aggressive. Strength is gentle.

Be patient. This world doesn’t revolve around you.

Be forgiving.

Be loving. Are you known for your jump shot, your wit, your looks, your intelligence, or your loving nature? Are you known more for the power of the Spirit (public life) or the fruit of the Spirit (private life)?

I think the world needs more men like Mr. Rogers.

I think the world needs more men like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

No copyright infringement is intended in using this picture of Mister Rogers

 

 

Nate, The Saint

Nathan Roach is. . . .

A saint.

Not gonna lie, typing that out is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to me because I know that I’ve had thoughts, actions, and attitudes today that weren’t all that saintly.

Yet, that’s my identity. That’s who I am.

I am a saint in Christ Jesus.

Last week, I went on a highly-anticipated vacation to Nashville with Jamie. We spent a few days at Student Ministry Essentials, a youth ministry conference that Lifeway puts on at their national headquarters. I learned a whole lot, took a lot of notes, and dreamed a lot of dreams with Jamie about what our youth group could look like in the future. But then we got to stay a couple extra days and see the sights and sounds of Nashville. And I even got to take a nap! Pretty dope.

The whole time I was there, I was reflecting on my life. I had been going at a rapid pace. I was doing a lot for God (which is laughable when in reality He doesn’t need me) while doing very little communing with God.

I wanted to get to the bottom of my frenetic pace and restlessness.

A book I finished while on vacation encouraged me to write out my name at the top of a piece of paper and start listing out my identity. Much of our lack of rest and most of our stress come from a misunderstood identity.

Let me show you what I mean.

Sitting in the Gaylord Opryland Resort (we didn’t stay there, simply pretended like we belonged their while waiting for our flight), I did that exercise.

I wrote in my journal:

Nathan Roach is. . . 

I wrote a whole lot. And sadly, most of what I said about myself revolved around my vocation and my personality, not my position in Christ.

Here’s a few examples of the things I thought about and wrote about.

A family pastor. Tired. Fun. Funny. Different. An outsider. A Christian. An imperfect husband. A man of God. Angry. Prideful. Selfish. An FCA Ambassador. A writer. A reader. An open book.

Obviously I had some much more raw responses to that question, but those are for face to face conversations, not the blogosphere.

Here’s what I came to realize.

When my primary identity is in my vocation, my work becomes supreme in my life. I am not able to leave it at work. I take it home, thinking and planning while with my wife Jamie, not enjoying the grace of God to me in so many good gifts He has given me. Work consumes my mind and heart. To make matters worse, when I fail at my job, making mistakes, then I’m rocked to my core.

Nathan Roach is a family pastor. So when Nathan Roach makes mistakes as a family pastor, my entire view of self is negatively affected. This is unhealthy for sure.

When my primary identity is in my sin, then my guilt and shame become supreme in my life. When I view myself as an angry, prideful, and selfish man, those sins continue to trip me up, reinforcing that false view of myself. When my primary identity is in my sins, then I start to again work really hard for God to atone for my sins. That is also clearly out of line with the message of the gospel.

God rocked me with these realities.

No wonder I was tired when I became primarily a pastor and a sinner, rather than a child of God and a saint.

Recently I’ve been all over Philippians. I try and read through it every couple of days, I listen to it in the car, I am memorizing part of it. There is a whole litany of reasons I’m doing this, but it has certainly served to remind me of who I am.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:1-2 

Just in the very beginning of the letter, there is so much beauty. I’m a saint. God is my Father.

Those two truths should be my primary view of myself. If anything else supersedes those things in my life, then my life will fall apart. I will begin to run at a pace that I can’t even begin to sustain. I’m grateful that God removed me from the grind and got me alone with Him to consider how I viewed myself.

So my question for you is. . .

Who are you?

I would encourage you to do the same exercise with yourself that I did. Be honest. Be real. Be raw. Let what’s percolating in your heart come out onto the page. Share the things you’ve written with a trusted brother and sister in Christ. Then ask God to reorient your heart and your mind around who you are in Him.

Now, let’s be honest, it’s not a switch you can flip in your brain that magically fixes all of our self-doubts and self-perceptions. It’s a journey. Yesterday was absolutely great for me. Today, not so much. But I’m continuing to stay in the Word and I’m continuing to ask God day after day to show me who I am.

Pro-tip: Leave your phone out of your bedroom. When I start my day in God’s Word, my entire day is affected. When I start my day checking my blog stats, checking my e-mail, checking Facebook, my day is already based off of my vocation and and my performance.

And if you need your phone for an alarm, invest in an alarm clock instead. Thankfully I have a dog that wakes me up every morning like clockwork.

Who are you?

My prayer is that you seek Scripture for the answer.

And if you need any help in your journey, feel free to hit me up.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Your Life Depends On It

The enemy loves to lie to you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, there are few things that Satan would rather do than to get you believing lies in your mind and in your heart. He strives to convince you of many falsehoods, normally in the veins of your view of God or your view of self.

The best way to combat the lies of the enemy is by filling your mind and heart with the truth.

We live in a society borderline obsessed with the notion of ‘personal truth’, but as believers we know that there is one worldview alone that is true, and that is the worldview that we find in the Scriptures.

We see truth as one of the items in the armor of God. Look with me at this verse in Ephesians 6.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, – Ephesians 6:14 

In his book, The Whole Armor of God, Iain Duguid talks about each item of the spiritual armor of God. When discussing the belt of truth, he talks about once has to apply the belt. For the belt to function in our attire today, we must remove it from the closet and apply it to our clothing. The same is to be said for the Word of God. It is of no use to us in spiritual warfare (the Christian life) if it is merely collecting dust on our bookshelf, consistently ignored due to our busy schedules and lives.

I believe with all of my heart, and I’ve seen via my own experience, that many of us fall into sinful behavior and sinful patterns and sinful habits because we are simply not in a habit of entering into God’s Word on a regular basis.

It’s a subtle descent from meditating on God’s Word to meditating on the circumstances of this world, are worse yet, replaying lies from the enemy in our minds and hearts to the point where we begin to believe it.

What I mean is that I don’t believe many of us wake up and think “today I am going to live outside of the commands of Scripture and guidance of the Spirit”. Rather, our sinful and wicked hearts are left to their own devices when we don’t saturate them with the doctrine of the Bible.

So, how do we best go about studying the Bible? What are some good tips and thought processes we should have when we approach it?

In his book, Supernatural Power for Everyday People, Jared Wilson shares five such helps. I am going to jack them for this blog, sharing my own thoughts about each of them.

1. Interpet, then Apply

What is the first question you ask when you get into God’s Word? Is it, “what is this saying to me” or “what is this saying?”. In our microwave culture, we use the former question to jump immediately to application every time that we open God’s Word. Yet, the latter question is extremely important. Interpreting what the Bible says should come before applying the Bible to our lives, every single time.

2. Keep It In Context

Honestly, I cringe sometimes when I see the way that certain verses are mishandled in Christian culture. The Bible is not a book for you to strip verses out of their context to match what you believe, or to say something that they are not. Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 are at the top of the list when it comes to this debacle. We must understand what verses are saying via their context. Every time.

3. Make Connections

The Bible is not a self-help book. It is not a list of rules and regulations. It is one grand narrative that tells the story of God and His people. There is so much beauty in the Word if you dig in.

For example: In David’s fight with Goliath, Goliath’s armor is described like a snake. This echoes backwards to Genesis 3:15, when God promises that a descendant of Adam would defeat the Devil, and it harkens forward to Jesus. This one connection reminds us that this story is a picture of Jesus and the Devil, not our ability to overcome ‘giants’ in our lives.

There are great resources for making these connections, none better in my opinion than the Knowing the Bible series from Crossway.

4. Look For Jesus

The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus. The Old Testament is replete with moments when He shows up physically, and moments that allude to His eventual arrival. The New Testament is full of stories about what He said and did, as well as moments that allude to His eventual return. The Bible is about Jesus. Look for Him on every page.

5. Apply Prayerfully

Here’s the reality. We may not see anything to apply to our lives every single time we come to His Word. That is okay. That is expected. However, when we hear the Word telling us to change, we must take that point of application to the Lord in prayer. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are able to bring about any change in our live to begin with. So, when the time comes to apply, apply in prayer.

Bonus: (Nate’s Own Advice) Choose It

My greatest encouragement to you is to slow down. Life may be busy, but we know from Scripture that our lives depend on the truth of Scripture. So when it comes to deciding what our families are going to be involved in, think of this verse.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23 

There are about a thousand opportunities for your kids. For you. Sports, committees, events, clubs, vacations, etc. While these are good things when they supplement your family’s commitment to a church and to His Word, they are horrid things when they become the priority in your conversations, finances, and schedules.

My parents did not allow me to play on a traveling soccer team (one that played on Sundays out of town) when I was a kid, despite many saying I had the talent to do so. They chose instead to model for me commitment to a church community.

Guess what.

I LOVE THEM for it.

They taught me what is most important, and I’m a better man of God because of it. Traveling soccer would have been fun. But Jesus is better.

Just because it’s an option, doesn’t mean you have to do it as a family.

There’s fun things for kids in your community.

But, seriously, Jesus is better.

Get yourself and your family in the Word. Your life depends on it.

In His Name,

Nate Roach