SuperChristian

When did doing what God has called us to do via His word become something that set us apart as some special tier of believer?

This morning I was checking my phone and saw five minutes worth of audio messages on Instagram from one of my dearest friends. In them he shared how he was being put on a pedestal at work (he works at a Christian organization) because he spends time in prayer and Scripture each day.

He was grieved.

Hearing it, I was grieved too.

This dear friend is devoted to Jesus. He is heavily committed to making disciples of Jesus and building the Kingdom of God where he lives. He fasts. He prays. He dives into Scripture. He tells others about Jesus. He disciples.

And because of this, other believers treat him like he’s special. And he doesn’t want to be. Like Paul, he knows that he’s the worst of sinners that Jesus came to save (1 Timothy 1:15). He longs for others to devote themselves to the things of Jesus.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re seeking to live for Jesus too.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re like me.

Your love for Jesus fades over time.

You drift away from Him.

And you look around to those who are intimately close to Jesus and see them as special or super.

However, there are not such things as SuperChristians. These men and women around us have simply held fast to Jesus, as the Bible has taught them to do.

In the book of Hebrews, we are called to hold fast to our Savior over and over again. The book of Hebrews is considered by some to be the most overlooked and neglected book of the New Testament (see Adrio Konig’s {what a name. geez.} book on Hebrews: Christ Above All).

Consider this provocative but weirdly enough encouraging verse:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. – Hebrews 2:1

None of us drift toward Jesus.

That’s not a thing.

All of us drift away from Him.

And this one verse tells us how not to.

Pay attention to what you’ve heard.

Those of you who are followers of Jesus, you’ve heard the gospel. You’ve heard the call to get to work for the Kingdom of God where you live. Are you paying attention to that message? Are you digging into its implications on your life each and every day?

If, like me, sometimes the answer is no, there’s likely one of four things causing you to drift (Michael Kruger’s book Hebrews for You talks about these).

  1. Busyness

I will share first the one that seems the most harmless. What does a schedule full of activities have to do with growing or not growing in our faith? The answer is, a whole lot.

The most dangerous thing in the world to my spiritual growth is my busyness. In this current season of my life, I am working super long days. I’m commuting an hour both ways for work, and due to the nature of student ministry, it has lead to 12-14 hour days over and over again. And unfortunately I’ve fallen hook, line, and sinker into every pitfall of the enemy. Drifting from my Savior day by day. It was only in this study of Hebrews I’m on that I was reoriented. And I can praise God that I started my day today in His word and presence.

2. Suffering

Our suffering causes us to drift. In the face of real and raw pain due to living in a fallen world, we find ourselves pushing God away. It is our knee-jerk response. I don’t know what it is that you are facing at this moment in regard to suffering. I know that we all have our fair share. My prayer for you is that you would cling to Jesus. I don’t have all the answers to all the questions I have regarding my own pains, but I am seeking to cling to Jesus all the same.

3. Opposition

Christians in America in 2022 are facing perhaps for the first time in our lives exactly what the church has historically faced throughout all of time. Opposition. Here’s what happens when we face opposition to the ways of Jesus. We do what is prevalent in our church culture today: we take an us vs. them mentality. We fight. We petition. We vote. We try all we can to take the lead in society.

Or we drift from Jesus because it’s hard.

There’s a better way fyi. Us FOR them. The church should enter into the world with goodness, kindness, and beauty. But that’s for another time.

4. Sin

Lastly, sin. My sin will separate me from intimacy with Jesus. My lustful thoughts. My anger. My fear. My pride. My desire to get the glory. These things will keep me from remaining close to my Lord and Savior.

Brother or sister in Christ, fight the drift. It takes intentionality and focus. It takes us waking up to the fact that we’re further from intimacy with Jesus than we thought we’d be.

Let’s go back to the friend I spoke about at the beginning of this post. I can promise you his heart isn’t that more people were like him in that they read Scripture, prayed, fasted, made disciples and all of this on a daily basis. His heart is that more people experience intimacy with God through these things.

There’s no such thing as SuperChristians.

We’re all the worst of sinners and we’re all in danger of drifting.

But my prayer is that more people would become like my friend. They would encounter God by pursuing God and making much of God.

Cause in the words of Syndrome, “if everyone is super, than nobody is”.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

American Dream In A Choir Robe

What guides your life?

If I looked at your schedule, your finances, your conversations, your thoughts, your motivations, and your habits, what would they point to?

For far too many in the West, they certainly wouldn’t point to Jesus.

For far too often in my life, they don’t point to Him.

I 100% believe that following Jesus in the West has been condensed down to The American Dream in a choir robe. Get the big house, the lake house, the boat, the spouse, the two kids, the dog, the promotion, the popularity, the success. Get it all. Just make sure you pray before meals and go to church on the weekends if you’re not busy.

Y’all. That ain’t the call of the gospel.

But for far too much of my life, that has been the dream. I want all that this world has to offer.

Right now I’m hanging out at the beach in North Carolina, on a family reunion trip that we take every few years. When I was little, we came to this exact same beach. I remember standing out in the waves as a teenager, thinking about what my life would be like. I wanted to taste and see that America was good. I wanted to work in sports information and make a name for myself. I legit thought I would be working at ESPN as a statistician.

Fast-forward half of my lifetime and I’m looking out at the waves praising God that He didn’t give me what I wanted.

This world is insidious.

We can 100% enjoy beach trips and all the other pleasures of this world. They’re from God. They’re good when received with thanksgiving.

But all too often, I get hooked.

Here’s what I mean.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is talking about the dangers of sexual immorality. In verse 12 he makes a statement that I believe applies to matters far broader than sexual activity.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

As Christians, we have freedom. There are a thousand worldly things that aren’t mentioned in Scripture. And even those that are come down to belief not behavior.

When it comes to my choices concerning things of this world, this verse gives the perfect thought process. Is engaging in a certain activity, going on a specific trip, establishing a certain rhythm, or implementing a certain hobby helpful for my walk with Christ?

I’d rather miss out on a million worldly things if those worldly things dim my light for Christ or lessen my commitment to Him.

I used to think that those who said ‘no’ to certain worldly forms of entertainment or activities were crotchety old legalists. And maybe some were. But now I see that maybe they had it right.

Here’s the definition of dominate:

have a commanding influence on; exercise control over.

Oh geez.

Does that not sound like the church in the West? We have become controlled by the things of this world. We have bowed down to a different lord.

So how do we know if we’ve been dominated by worldly things?

Where does your money go to first?

What do you first think about when you wake up?

What is your weekly schedule operating around?

What do you talk about the most?

The answers to these questions show us what we’re being dominated by and controlled by. If the answer isn’t “God’s people, the Kingdom of God, making disciples, and the good news of the gospel” respectively, then I’ve bowed down to an idol. I’ve taken a good thing and made it a god thing in my life.

Can I confess my false gods?

Over the last few years, I’ve had three things that have taken the role of lord in my life, three things that while not unlawful became the core of who I am. And boy they’re embarrassing.

The first one was a stupid little white ball with dimples. Back in 2020, I played AT LEAST once a week. Instead of devoting time to God in prayer or study, or spending time with my wife, I would go hit a ball over and over again for four or five hours. It became what I wanted to talk about, post about, research, and receive gifts regarding. It dominated me and it didn’t help me in my walk with Jesus.

After much conviction, I put it back in its proper place. I still play from time to time, but it no longer dominates me.

The second one was a dual threat of TikTok and YouTube. From 2019-2021 off and on I would become overpowered by the need to watch idiotic videos at every free moment I had. It was bad. And boy it’s embarrassing. But I would get home from a tiring day of work and lay on the couch or in bed looking and laughing. Now, humor is a gift from God. Laughter and levity are gifts from God. But I was neglecting time with God in prayer and word because I ‘didn’t have enough time’. All while ScreenTime was saying I spent 4 hours on my phone daily.

After much, much, much conviction, I deleted TikTok and have slowly tried to waste less time on YouTube.

The last thing that dominated me was work. For the last several years work had become something that was a burden instead of something that was a joy. While circumstances may have contributed to that burden, I mostly did that to myself. My time at home was consumed by my responsibilities at work.

In two days (depending on how the vote goes of course) I’ll be starting a new chapter in ministry. My prayer is that it will take its proper place in my heart and life. It is not what my life is about.

My life should be about Jesus.

Brother or sister in Christ, I can’t tell you what you’ve become dominated by.

What I can tell you is that removing good and morally neutral things from your life isn’t legalist. It’s life-giving.

Every single week I want to think about and live in response to what will make the most like Jesus, what will make me pursue Him the hardest.

Let’s be honest, the pleasures of this world will not compare to the glories of the Kingdom.

So I’m more than willing to miss out on some here.

Let’s not be dominated by anything.

The American Dream is incomplete.

Let’s do only that which is helpful for our walk with Jesus.

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

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

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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Is He Worth It?

I was lined up at running back and the play that was called had a strong chance of coming to me. I was to run a bubble screen, and I often found myself open as a result of that route.

Sure enough, my high school six-man quarterback threw me a pass. It was slightly behind me, and I reached back and caught it with one hand. My 2 seconds of glory were quickly ended, as the middle linebacker lit me up. I was hit so hard that my chinstrap broke. You read that right. It broke. It hurt. The equipment manager told me that I would have to wait some time to get back in. I told him I was more than happy with that.

The rest of the season, the fear I had revolving around football in general was that much more pronounced. I didn’t want to play and I was thankful I wasn’t good enough to. I would turn away from the coach when he scanned the sideline to find replacements for the starters so they could get a breather.

The pain of that one play prevented me from doing anything that would put me back into that position.

My love for football wasn’t great enough for me to willingly face physical pain again.

Paul faced more than a broken chinstrap on account of Christ when he was in Philippi.

Instead, he and his fellow gospel workers were seized by a rioting crowd, stripped of their clothes, beaten, and imprisoned. You can read all about it in Acts 16. After they leave Philippi, they make it to Thessalonica and preach the gospel there.

For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Wait, what?!

Paul and his fellow missionaries didn’t let the horrifying treatment they endured in Philippi prevent them to preach the gospel again.

Their love for Jesus was great enough for them to put themselves in potentially the same position again. Their love for Jesus was great enough for them to willingly face more horrifying persecution.

Stripped naked.

Beaten.

Imprisoned.

They would do it all again for their Lord and Savior.

What about you?

What about me?

I wouldn’t allow myself to step back onto a football field without being forced to.

There’s few things I would face physical pain and persecution over. That list might actually be empty on some days.

Then I read a passage like this.

My prayer is that I would count Jesus as worth it.

I don’t live in a context or culture where being stripped naked, beaten, and imprisoned is something I’ll face for Christ.

It’s a lot less violent.

But it’s still hard some days to put Jesus first.

But he’s worth it.

He’s worth it when we’re ostracized for our faith.

He’s worth it when we’re vilified or accused.

He’s worth it when we’re mocked and seen as either naive idiots or foolish.

He’s worth it.

Paul and company were willing to go through the ringer again and again.

All for the glory of their King.

May the same be said of us.

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.