Steady Love

One of my favorite musicians is Ben Rector. Last month for our anniversary, Jamie and I went to go see him at The Zoo in Oklahoma City. Although I wish that concerts were activities people sat during instead of standing for hours on end, I loved every minute of it. His music is so beautiful. His music points to the gracious gifts of God in this world even when it’s not explicitly Christ-exalting. He has one song entitled Steady Love. It’s all about how young men and women continue to chase the thrills of life and the adventures of the American Dream. In light of that, Ben sings about the importance of finding some steady love in life.

While that song is 100% about relationships, the importance of finding steady love still holds true when talking about the people of God.

Steady love.

I want to be a man who exhibits steady love to those in my path.

The longer I am in ministry, the more I see that love and gentleness go much further in impacting change than preaching a good sermon or staunchly leading an effective meeting.

I’ve been reading through and listening to 1 Corinthians as of late. 1 Corinthians brings up the importance of love time and time again. Two specific passages come to mind when I think about its teachings on love.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. – 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

For far too much of my life in ministry, I have been that man with knowledge. I read a ton. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books and thousands of digital books on Logos. I love to grow in my knowledge of the word.

My first several years in ministry I thought that was the extent of ministry: learn about the word and then preach about the word.

That was it.

By the grace of God I’ve been able to see that love is more important than knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong, I still study to preach and teach and blog and podcast and film videos and post. That’s still a part of my life. But God has shown me that loving the people of God is way more impactful, effective, and God-glorifying than my ability to stand at a pulpit and preach.

I can be a preacher without the heart of a pastor.

I want to be a pastor with the mind of a preacher.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . . . Love is not rude. It does not insist on its own way; – 1 Corinthians 13:1, 5a

When I look back on my years in ministry in Vernon, it’s easy to see that for the first half of it at least, I was loud and proud. I tried to be as provocative as possible. I wanted to rock the boat. I wanted to buck up against the status quo. I wanted to shake the trees. I wanted to step on toes.

Now, that’s not necessarily sinful.

There are moments where the word of God confronts me right in the face. And thus there are moments where my preaching and teaching should and must confront the sins of those I walk with Christ with.

But my motivation should never be to wound.

It should always be to convict and challenge.

I was bold in my walk with Jesus. But I didn’t process well the impact my words would make on those around me.

I look back now and hear a noisy gong.

I look back now and hear a clanging cymbal.

As of late, Jamie gets on to me because I have grown to love the quiet so much that I can foolishly get agitated by the smallest of noises.

But I have truly grown to love the quiet. Rides in the car without the radio. Runs in the morning. Reading underneath the massive tree in our backyard. Maybe I’m a Luddite.

There would be nothing more frustrating and annoying than reading in the back yard at dusk and hearing a car honking repeatedly in our driveway.

According to Paul, men and women who have gifts and talents devoid of love will be just as frustrating to the people of God.

And you know what? That’s me.

That’s been me more times than I can count.

But I want to be different now. I want people to think of love when they hear my name. I used to want them to think I was an amazing teacher of God’s Word. If I’m being 100% candid, I still do. But I would rather have them think of my love for them.

Brother or sister in Christ, are you loud? Do you insist on getting things the way you want them to be at the expense of relationships with others?

Do you have gifting straight from God (we all do) that is being used devoid of love for His people?

You may be accomplishing much for God, but at the end of the day you’re just a noisy gong on a quiet morning.

Let’s learn to love.

Let’s do it together.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Elsa’s School Of Emotions

I’m afraid that followers of Jesus are being discipled in the Elsa school of emotions rather than the David school.

When I first saw Frozen way back at Thanksgiving of 2013, the song “Let it Go” got stuck in my head. It makes perfect sense why it was an overnight sensation that was parodied and referenced and cashed in on a billion times. The music is catchy and the lyrics describe a generation.

So many followers of Jesus grew up in conceal, don’t feel environments. Maybe they were told to go to their rooms so they could get it together and not scare away the house guests. Maybe they were told that men don’t cry. Maybe they were told that following Jesus means counting it all joy when you face trials and the application of that truth meant being happy all the time and not acknowledging other pains. I don’t know exactly what it looked like for you. But maybe you can relate to the above statements.

So many followers of Jesus attend conceal, don’t feel churches. With K-Love bumping too and from church, the meet and greet time is full of plastered smiles and trite proclamations of how good one’s week was. We get a quick little Bible lesson that is nothing more than the American Dream in a choir robe. You depressed? Well, you’re welcome here but we’re gonna wonder what’s wrong with you and tell you to just go to a counselor. You doubting God? Well, you’re welcome here but we’re gonna wonder why you don’t believe Scripture and then tell you to just go to a counselor. You angry at God? Well, you’re welcome here but we’re gonna wonder if you’re actually a Christian and then tell you to just go to a counselor.

Don’t worry. Be Happy.

Hakuna Matata.

Here’s the reality though.

That’s an incomplete view of emotions and an incomplete application of Scripture.

Life is hard. But God is good.

You ever read the Psalms?

All over the place, David shares the pains and difficulties he is going through.

One in particular always stands out to me.

Psalm 6.

I want you to picture David in your Sunday School class (or life group or connect group or grow group or discipleship group or whatever cool way your church says “Sunday School”).

You guys are making small talk and sharing about your week and you ask David how he’s been doing. What was he up to this weekend?

I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.
– Psalm 6:6-7

Uhhhhh. *Slowly moves chair away from David and tries to have a conversation with someone else*

He would probably be welcome in your class still, but you’d think he was emotionally unstable at best and off his rocker at worst.

But y’all, that is what life is like! Sometimes life is really hard. If your life is all sunshine and butterflies every moment, I would argue you’ve got the American Dream in a choir robe and your life is more about Him blessing you than you serving and telling others about Him.

Elsa is not being Biblical with her emotions at all when she says conceal, don’t feel.

Yet, Elsa is not being Biblical when she reaches the lyrical conclusion of her transformation.

Saying Let it Go to all the stress one is feeling and emotions that come with living in a broken world is not the move.

Unfortunately again, I think a lot of modern followers of Jesus are being discipled by Elsa.

Men don’t cry.

Being strong is about not letting any of these *toxic* people around me bother me.

I believe God has a plan, so I will live with joy and not let things get me down.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s not the way of Christ.

Emotions can absolutely dominate you and cause issues. But shoving them down or escaping them with golf or alcohol or Netflix or your hobby of choice likely causes more.

I am the champ of shoving down emotions and then volcanoing on people I care about at the slightest provocation.

So what do we do with our emotions?

Let’s go back to Psalm 6.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
Psalm 6:8-9

Prayer. David was honest about his emotions and then took them to God in prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change one’s circumstances. But it always changes one’s perspective.

My journals need to be burned when I die. They are raw and real and are full of my emotions about a billion different issues. But as I write, God fills my mind with Scripture and I feel my perspective and outlook changing.

It’s interesting to me that wearing my emotions on my sleeve certainly impacts my relationships. Some think I’m weak. Some think I’m dramatic. Some think I need to trust God more. Some think I’m annoying.

There’s some truth to all of the above.

But at the end of the day, I’d much rather live in a way that the man after God’s own heart modeled.

I want to feel my emotions.

I want to make them known.

I don’t want to shove them down.

I don’t want to be dominated by them.

I want to take them to Jesus.

And as I do, I want to teach others to do the same.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Spirit-Led Leaders In A Broken Church

The world is broken and so is the church. We live in a day where the people of God do what is evil in the eyes of God. We worship the gods of this fallen world, all while claiming to be allegiant to Jesus. Our prayers before meals or occasional generosity seem to be the only things that separate us from the culture around us. We’ve forgotten the ways of God, instead living in the ways of this world. Church involvement is limited to when we’re free. Our leaders in the church fall into the trap of leading in ways that don’t honor God.

The church in America is broken, through and through.

But that isn’t new.

You know that right?

When people draw my attention to the great sins and hypocrisies of Christians, I smile and nod, and seek to listen respectfully. And then, given the opportunity, I tell them to read the book of Judges.

You see, the book of Judges teaches that the people of God have ALWAYS been broken.

That brokenness is real. It has adverse affects on us. It affects people’s willingness to enter into our church communities (and the last thing we need to do by the way is mock them, tell them they’re making excuses, condemn them).

Brokenness is real in the church.

So what do we do?

For me, I am begging and pleading for God to draw our attention to His Son and then that He would raise up men and women like Him.

Look with me at Judges 3.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them. Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. – Judges 3:7-11

All throughout the book of Judges, God raises up judges to deliver the people of God out of the hand of the enemy. Look though at how it described God’s people! They did evil. They forgot or neglected God. They worshipped other idols.

Sound familiar?

Again, it’s nothing new.

What did they do though?

They eventually came to their senses and pleaded with God for deliverance.

When I look at a church community that looks no different than the world, I start to pray and beg God to bring deliverance. We’re not enslaved to some bro that’s got a wild name. We’re enslaved to sin, and it’s far more insidious. We as the people of God have fallen consistently for every lie in the world.

So I pray. I cry out like this passage said the people of God did.

And I trust that God will move.

We, on the other side of the cross, know that the judges pointed forward to the Great Deliverer, Jesus Christ.

So we know that God has intervened firmly and finally in history.

But I regularly pray that we as the people of God would look to Him, and see innumerable men and women lead like Him.

You see, the judges were the symbolization or minor imitation of the presence of God. The Spirit was on Othniel (3:10). The Spirit was fully on Jesus. He is the perfect embodiment of the presence of God for He is God.

What about here and now?

Are there concrete examples of God’s presence?

I think so.

I believe by God’s grace He gives us examples around us of His ways.

Three things stand out from this passage. Three things that I believe show when God has put His presence in our midst.

  1. Look for those who exhibit His Spirit. In verse ten, we see that the Spirit of God was at work in Othniel. I can’t really put this one into clear words. But I think we all have experienced people in our lives who just exude the fruit of the Spirit. They’re a joy to be around. They are faithful. They are generous. They are distinctly different from the world around them. It’s not that they hate the world, they just love Jesus more, and it shows in their time, money, and conversations.
  2. Look for those who bring victory. Now, obviously, just like with the judges, we know that it is ultimately God who brings the victory for God’s people. Here in Othniel’s life, God used him to accomplish victory over Cushan-rishathaim. When I want to be reminded of God’s presence in our midst, I look for stories of people accomplishing Kingdom victory and bearing fruit when it comes to drawing people to Jesus and making disciples of those who choose to walk with Him.
  3. Look for those who bring peace. The final verse of this passage shows us that Othniel’s leadership brought peace. This is honestly the one that I am most encouraged by. When I see people who aren’t interested in stirring the pot, aren’t willing to talk poorly about anyone else, aren’t interested in drawing attention to themselves, my heart soars. Those are wonderful people to be around and spend time with. They want to love Jesus and love others. That’s it.

When I see people like this, I know the church isn’t lost in this broken world. I am reminded that Christ still reigns over His people. Those who are filled with the Spirit, those who are effective for Jesus, and those who are seeking peace are the types of people that I am strengthened in my faith by. They’re reminders that we aren’t left alone in this wild and broken world.

That’s the type of person I’d like to be as well. Fruitful and peaceful, all while living under the guidance of direction of the Spirit.

Our church is broken.

But it’s not lost.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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

Tell Me How Great I Am

It was a Thursday morning in the Spring of 2019. Two packs of the delicious Burger King cini-minis were on the table in front of me. Across from me sat my Dad, with his sausage biscuit and orange juice, ready to drop some Biblical wisdom on me.

You see, I love to preach.

But what I love in my sinful flesh more than preaching is the words of affirmation that often follow it.

Four days prior to this Burger King breakfast with my Dad, I had preached in big church. And much to my surprise and dismay, not many people came up to me to tell me how my sermon was incredible, my wit next-level, my illustrations relatable, and my applications on the money. No, it was mostly crickets.

So, what did past me do to get my words of affirmation quota met?

I went fishing on Facebook.

I posted something along the lines of “Thank you church family for letting a young guy like me get the pulpit on the Sunday morning”. And boy it worked. It worked perfectly (insert chef’s kiss).

My Dad knew that’s a dangerous game to play. Wanting words of affirmation is not inherently wrong. Intentionally leading in a way that you know will get you the most words of affirmation, at the expense of the message of the gospel and the truths contained therein? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

My Dad encouraged me with this Proverb:

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. – Proverbs 27:2

In my foolishness at the time, I was like, welllll I didn’t say I was great, so I didn’t actually live foolishly. But the point was the same. I was trying to lead in such a way that made people like me.

When Paul and his missionary team came to Thessalonica, they came without much concern as to how they were viewed by those they brought the gospel to.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

They spoke, not to please man, but to please God.

What is at the heart of your interactions with others, the conversations you have, the statements you make? Are you seeking to please the people you’re speaking to, or are you seeking to please God?

Back in the day, I knew a girl who would match her style and interests to the person she was interested in. From skateboarding to soccer to artsy movies, her personality would transform. It was distinct in her life, and it honestly helped me to see where it was happening in mine as well.

Do you do the same?

When it comes to church work, I’ve had to realize that it’s literally impossible to please everyone. We can love and respect everyone, but when it comes to decisions, not everyone will be pleased.

And I. Hate. That.

I want to be the guy absolutely everyone loves.

In earlier years of my ministry, I would play the field, subconsciously mind you, but play it I would. Oh, you think we should do this in music or in missions or in this particular ministry? Right on! Oh, you have the complete opposite view point? I’m with you.

Flattery. Flattery. Flattery.

It’s gross to me now.

I’m not above this, but I make a conscious effort not to do it.

I know that God has a plan for me that is greater than the here and now. One day I pray by God’s grace that after he’s done molding my character, I’ll be a senior pastor. And my prayer is that I will have security in who I am in Christ so as not to play the flattery game.

Now, if you know me, you know I’m tremendously passionate about relationships. We can disagree charitably. There are way too many Christians who are jerks when it comes to their beliefs vs. the beliefs of another. But if ministry is about pleasing those around me, I’m failing.

If your life is first and foremost about pleasing those around you, you’re likely not living in a way that honors God.

There are aspects of what I believe as a follower of Jesus that make me pitied by some of my peers and hated by others.

If I’m on this earth to please people, I’m going to cave on core Christian doctrines.

But if I’m on this earth to please God, I am going to charitably and gently hold the line.

If I’m on this earth to be affirmed, I’m going to ask you to tell me often how great I am.

But if I’m on this earth to please God, I am going to live for an audience of One, the One who knows my heart.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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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 Better Story

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thrityfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Have you ever had a passage from Scripture take on new life? You’ve heard it. You’ve read it. You’ve studied it. But all of a sudden, it becomes the heartbeat of your walk with Jesus. It’s as if the words on the pages of your Bible have floated upward, saturating your mind and heart. It becomes all that you can think about. You read, you pray, you move on. But it continues to tug. 

That has been my experience with the parable of the sower from Mark 4. I’ve been slowly but surely meditating on the Gospel of Mark over the last couple of months. A couple weeks ago, the parable of the sower was up next. I read it. Then read it again. Soon, my colored pens were flying over the text, scribbling and writing, highlighting and circling.  

This passage lodged itself in my heart.

Particularly that last line from Jesus.

The seed that produced fruit. 

Thirtyfold.

Sixtyfold.

A hundredfold. 

Oh how I long to be that seed. Oh how I long to see the church I serve as a pastor become that seed. I long to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

Yet, Jesus obviously hit the nail on the head. Spiritual warfare, persecution, worldly cares, wealth, and fleshly desires can destroy any fruitfulness in our lives. Nothing has changed in humanity. It’s still the same obstacles. 

Spiritual warfare is far more real than our little Western minds think it is. I’m not the “there’s a demon behind every tree” guy. But I am the “we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God” guy. A couple weeks ago I had five days straight of oppression. No, it wasn’t a demonic presence in the form of some beast on fire in the corner of my bedroom. But it was a weight, a spiritual weight, that I couldn’t shake. I would wake up at 3:45 every morning and not be able to fall back asleep. Instead I just laid there and laid there and laid there. I felt off for days. I neglected to go to God in prayer and instead tried to shoulder it myself. That didn’t work. 

We can fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’ve allowed the enemy of our souls to deceive and demoralize. 

We can also fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’re way too impressed with earth. 

And that’s what I want us to think about. 

What story are we telling in our churches?

Are we telling a better, more fruitful story?

Or are we telling an earthly story? 

You see, what we communicate in our churches matters. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that Jesus makes your life better, we are setting people up to no longer bear fruit once they face persecution of any kind. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about success, accolades, accomplishments, wealth, brands, and followings, then we set people up to fall for the deceitfulness of riches. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is unbearably hard, and that all that we see is just death and destruction, then we set people up to get distracted by the anxieties and worries of this broken world. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about vacations, sports, fun, food, drinks, and entertainment, then we set people up to pursue the desires of their flesh the 166 hours a week they aren’t sitting in the pews of our churches. 

I want to pastor my church in a way that tells a better story. 

A story about a King and His Kingdom.

A story about the repitition and affection-led aspects of discipleship.

A story about a King who creates a better world through His people. 

I don’t want to be the reason that those in my church don’t bear fruit. 

So I want to tell a better story. 

In the coming weeks and blog posts, I want to combat the false stories we tell in our churches by asking questions that help us to dig into Scripture, be honest about the modern church, and then look to and meditate on the hope of the King and His Kingdom. I hope to share anecdotes of how I’ve fallen short, narratives of where others haven’t, and Biblical principles to form our churches around. 

Here’s the next few to look forward to:

Do we delight to draw near to God?

Are we counter-culturally winsome?

Do we sit in church gatherings with greedy, lustful hearts?

Come, take a journey through the Scriptures. 

Let’s tell a better story together. 

– Nate Roach 

The Lowest In The Room

It’s mid-evening, and we just went on a walk as a family. I’m sitting in the living room with a good book. Gracie has been asleep for three minutes and I’m eagerly diving into a new book I just received in the mail. The baby monitor is right next to me and I hear her waking up. I can go comfort her, or I can keep reading.

I’m on vacation with my family in Waco. As we’re planning our trip back to Vernon, Jamie mentions that she wants to stop at a furniture store for an extended period of time. I can joyfully participate in this excursion or make it a draining experience of me clearly being annoyed and frustrated.

I’m sitting in staff meeting trying to stay mentally engaged after an early morning trip to Wichita Falls. Ideas are flying around about this or that upcoming ministry opportunity. Assignments are dished out, some that I wouldn’t have gone looking for. I can faithfully do the assignments I’ve been given with a cheerful attitude or just get by with mediocre work.

In all of these recent scenarios, I had a choice. I could choose my comfort, my way of life, my priorities and passions.

Or I could stoop.

I could submit.

I could put Gracie, Jamie, and my coworkers first.

In our modern world, the idea of submitting to any authority is frowned upon by some. It is difficult for most, myself included. Everywhere we look we’re told that we should be in charge, that we should pursue what’s best for ourselves. I mean, the loudest, proudest and meanest are the ones that get the spotlight and the responsibilities.

You want attention? Be the loudest in the room.

You want to be like Jesus? Be the lowest in the room.

You want to model the character of Christ? Submit.

In Ephesians 5, Paul shares with the church in Ephesus the behaviors and character traits of those who are seeking to walk in the light of God’s presence. After detailing the importance of being filled with the Spirit as opposed to earthly things, Paul says the church should be doing the following:

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21

Submission. It’s the way we show our love for Jesus. It’s the way that we grow our relationships as the people of God.

In my marriage, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Jamie. In my parenting, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Gracie. This doesn’t mean I don’t lead my family in the way that God has called me to. It just means my family is not about me. In my job, I am to submit to Brooks, Donovan, Mike, Greg, Tisha, Joni, and Sandra. I am to be consistently seeking the good of all those around me.

And when I do so, I am living in the way that Jesus would.

That being said, don’t get me wrong. Submission isn’t easy to me. I still don’t want to listen to others when I think I’m right. I still don’t want to submit to the preferences of others when I’m passionate about my way. But if I’m staunchly, arrogantly refusing to submit to anyone or anything, I’m showing that I am not fully grasping Jesus nor the commands of the New Testament.

A friend recently said to me that the entire New Testament ethic could be summarized in the word submission. And I’m inclined to agree with him. We’re called to submit to Scripture, the Spirit, the government authorities (not just those we voted for), our spouses, our pastors, etc. Submission is central. So why isn’t it practiced in our lives?

Probably because submission doesn’t come naturally. Yet, I can tell you that it’s the way to fullness of life. When I stoop, I feel joyful. When I submit, I feel like I’m living in the way that God designed me to live. When I stoop, I dream of and envision a church, a community, that is full of submission.

What would that look like?

What if we went out of our way to promote someone else’s worship style? What if we went out of our way to give someone else the spotlight? What if we went out of our way to make someone else’s ministry idea happen even if we aren’t naturally on board with it? What if we went out of our way to serve and sit under the authority and leadership of others? What if we went out of our way to stoop, stoop, stoop.

Man, that would be something else.

I think that would be the type of community that God desires us to be.

So, as counter-cultural as it may sound, I want to submit.

I invite you to do the same.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Bored At Church

Every Sunday and Wednesday I look out in the youth room or in the sanctuary and I see a lot of stoic, tired faces. Maybe there’s small talk, but people seem at times to be in the room simply because the doors are open. When I ask one of the students to pray at youth, I’m often met with twenty seconds of silence until some brave soul raises their hand.

A lot of weeks, I don’t understand this stoicism, this exhaustion, this ‘it’s Sunday so we should be here’ mentality. What we are doing at the weekend and midweek services is the experience of encountering God together.

That should be the least boring experience known to man.

We get to commune with the God of all creation, the God who is at work in our world day after day.

*yawn*

How can we be bored at church? How can we look like we’re exhausted and are there out of obligation and duty? How can we have no excitement, no anticipation, no joy (I guess it’s down in our hearts)?

I go to sporting events, game nights, golf courses and movie premieres. At all of these places (and many more) I see followers of Jesus pumped, excited, and joyful. I see them worshipping. I see them cheering, not caring what others think around them. Heck, I see some aspects of worship before a tasty meal at a great restaurant.

So why is it that we’re bored in church?

It’s not an issue of not having the capacity to worship.

Most people would respond to such an outlook with statements about setting, vibes, culture, style, etc. The enemy of our souls has stolen the worship of multitudes of modern Christians by giving us a consumeristic viewpoint to the church.

When I look at Scripture, I see no caveat to deep worship.

God’s worthiness of our praise is not dependent upon earthly things.

The ability to worship is not an issue of style or setting or atmosphere. The ability to worship is an issue of awe.

I’m afraid too many of us have no awe of God, and so we are definitely bored at church. We don’t commune with God in prayer. We don’t look at the character and works of God as described for us in Scripture. We don’t thank God for what He’s done in our lives or in the lives of those around us. We’re distracted by earthly things and so we have no awe when we enter the worship settings in our local churches.

I’m afraid too many of us need a ‘feeling’ in our stomachs to worship.

Again, the enemy of God has done a great job of making worship about feelings. We want to feel something. When we don’t, when the music isn’t Elevation Worship or Hillsong, we fall back into a passive attendance, a bored experience.

How sly and cunning our enemy is. He takes a good thing (feelings of God’s presence) and makes them the end goal. He stifles our worship with an obsession with feeling.

We can fight back.

Here’s just a few things you can do to not be bored in church.

1. Pursue the Greatness of God

Those who get pumped at sporting events know the ins and outs of the teams they cheer for. Those who get pumped at playing video games will research and even watch other people play the same game. We worship what we pursue. Get into the Word of God. Get before God in prayer. Encounter Him in His greatness. When I’m communing with God during the week, I can’t help but give Him my all in worship on the weekend!

2. Pray Before Attending The Service

Our worship problem is often a prayerlessness problem. We don’t ask God to give us worshipping hearts and then we wonder why we’re easily distracted, bored, and turned off to the service. We don’t ask God to give us a new mentality, then we wonder why we’re so consumeristic and selfish when it comes to worship. We don’t ask God to stir our hearts, and then we wonder why we’re cold and dry. Do you pray as a family the night before church, before you leave on Sunday morning, or before you get out of the car in the parking lot? It’s no wonder we struggle to worship when we don’t actively pray for help to do so.

3. Practice a Posture of Worship

Posture can guide our hearts and minds in worship. When we raise our hands, close our eyes, get on our knees, etc., we tune ourselves into the presence of God. The Bible is chock full of examples where the people of God praise God in exuberant fashion. If you’re focused on what others think, you won’t worship. My prayer is that my daughter Gracie sees the same level of worship from me at church on Sunday as she sees at a football game on Friday night.

Let me close with this quote from Max Lucado. I enjoy him for devotional reading and he has a great chapter on this concept in his book Just Like Jesus.

Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a ‘nice’ service. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find. A few, however, seek more. A few come with childlike enthusiasm.

I want to be a man who comes to worship like a child.

I want to be a man who isn’t content with a nice, normal, typical, boring experience in the presence of God.

I want more.

And when I want more, God is able and willing to provide more.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Sexual Brokenness

I am sexually broken.

You are sexually broken.

We are all sexually broken.

In my heart are desires that do not honor God, and since I’m married, my wife. This is true for you. This is true for everyone around you. God made this world good (according to Genesis 1) and we’ve strayed from it, seeking to call the shots for our sexual lives.

I have wrestled with this blog post for a while now. I know that what I believe is not popular. I know that for many it makes me a hateful bigot on the wrong side of history. Yet, for many others it makes me a coward who won’t simply condemn those who are sexually broken just like me.

I believe our culture has taken a good, God-honoring thing and skewed it. In 2 Samuel 1, we read this as David laments the loss of his dear friend Jonathan:

Jonathan lies slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women. – 2 Samuel 1:26

There is a deep companionship to be found between two men or two women. David had it with Jonathan. They were deeply committed to each other, they loved each other deeply.

That honors God and it actually mirrors God’s love for His people.

I have a relationship with a guy named Victor who lives in Phoenix. We call each other often, encouraging one another in our faith. There is a deep companionship there that is distinctly different than my relationship with my wife.

Our culture I believe has twisted the fact that we can have deep friendship with members of the same gender, making it romantic and erotic. That is when I believe that people step outside of God’s design. I believe that an active lifestyle of what our culture calls homosexuality doesn’t honor God, is sin. I am not saying that if you have those desires, you are sinning. I believe it is the erotic or romantic acting on those desires that is sinful.

That being said, how should the modern church respond to the sexual brokenness of the world we live in?

Here’s three things.

Repent

I am sexually broken. It starts here. It starts acknowledging that I have many desires that don’t honor God. We are currently doing discipleship groups in our church and here are two of the questions that we are to ask each other as we meet.

Am I walking in sexual integrity, submitting my mind and body to the Lordship of Jesus? Am I having any lustful attitudes, entertaining any inappropriate thoughts about someone not my spouse, or exposing myself to any explicit materials that would not glorify God?

I have heard from many that are in these groups that they’re refusing to answer those questions because they’re too personal. Now, I get it, that’s not always a fun set of questions to answer.

But we have no right to call those who struggle with certain sexual desires to repent if we are not calling ourselves to repent.

The church loses its voice fast when the sexual brokenness in each and every one of us is not acknowledged. We must repent of our sin. Each one of us. Not because it will magically give us a voice in the culture, but because we are called to do so in Scripture.

Love

They will know that we are disciples of Jesus by our love (John 13:34-35).

Are we loving those that have disordered sexual desires? Or are we up in arms that they are given rights in the world, actively making fun of them, and communicating on Facebook and in real life that they aren’t welcome anywhere near our faith community? God forgive us.

Jesus had a ministry in which he surrounded himself with those that were sexually broken and had disordered sexual desires. This is true for every single one of the people he was around. Most had private sexual brokenness. But a large chunk of the people he dined with had public sexual brokenness. Jesus was so active in their midst that he was condemned by the religious leaders of the day for being a friend of sinners, of being a glutton and drunk.

The Lord of all creation associated Himself with the sexually broken. He loved them and drew them into something better than their sexual desires. Purity. Holiness. Companionship with a faith community and with God. He went to them in love.

Church, those who are outside of a relationship with Christ should be welcomed, loved, encouraged, and shown compassion. This is true for any sin struggle.

It is my prayer for my youth group, for my church as a whole, that literally anyone feels welcome. It grieves me that the thirty-year porn addict or three year cohabitating young man may feel welcome in our church but not the man attracted to other men. We are to be a place of love for all.

Repent. Love. Then, only then:

Speak Truth

As a follower of Jesus, it is my calling to speak truth into the lives of those who claim Christ in my church community. Once I’ve shown that I’m actively repenting of my sexual sin, shown that I love the man or woman I’m in community with, then I am called to speak the truth according to Scripture in regards to marriage and sexuality. This isn’t fun nor is it easy. It is the call of the Christian however.

It is my prayer that the truth is spoken.

But it is my prayer that the truth is spoken in love.

I’ve seen so many professing Christians mock those have different sexual brokenness than they do.

Lord forgive us.

Give us love.

I am a lustful, angry, prideful, selfish, jealous, unkind man. And no one has given me just one chance to grow in my holiness. Why is it that we treat those with homosexual desires any differently? Why do we say change your desires immediately or get out? The reality is, the broken sexual desires will always be there in our lives. Each of us for always. Again, that’s not sin. It’s the acting on it that is. We will all fail and fall, but there is grace. We will all fail and fall but we are to repent and keep moving toward Jesus together.  

Church, may we repent of our sexual sin.

May we love people well, giving people of all backgrounds a family they feel deeply loved in.

May we speak the truth when it comes to what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality, but may it be saturated in love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach