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.

Hope In The Darkness

November 17th. On this evening a dark weight fell on my shoulders. Anxiety gripped my mind. Despair gripped my heart. It was unexplainable. I chalk it up to spiritual warfare. For weeks after that night, I felt like my life was emptied of joy. I was going through the motions at work and in my family, but light was hard for me to see. I had no appetite and no energy. For a stretch it was painful to eat. When the enemy has me weakened, he brings his A-game. This year it was being stuck at home for Thanksgiving, stuck at home for my birthday. Nothing but days on end of me and my thoughts. I kept circling deeper and deeper into the spiritual darkness. I needed help. I told Jamie just that after I couldn’t control my breathing in the kitchen on one particularly difficult afternoon.

This has happened one other time in my life. Spring of 2017. I was living in Phoenix and a darkness came attacking. I did nothing to fight it. I didn’t get into the Word often, nor did I pray often. I laid in bed. I avoided people. I neglected responsibilities.

This time I purposed to do things differently (I was by no means perfect, and sin wasn’t absent in my processing of this pain).

I journaled like crazy (that thing needs to be burned, but I’ll hold onto it for the next spiritual attack). I did my best to get into the Word every single day. I prayed. I kept going to work. I talked to a pastor friend. I talked to a counselor. I kept staying near Gracie and Jamie. I brought in trusted friends into the depths of what I was feeling. One drove forty-five minutes just to sit with me in my living room. I felt like God was destroying me. Taking me down. Stealing from me. Hurting me. (It’s okay to be this honest. Read the Psalms if you don’t believe me).

Doing all of those things didn’t lessen the blows I felt from the enemy.

Spiritual warfare is real.

I still felt like I was going through the ringer.

I still broke down in tears at church when a friend asked how I was doing at the conclusion of the service.

I still woke up each day struggling to find the joy of the Lord, feeling empty instead.

Food didn’t taste good still.

Laughter was far from me.

But I kept hoping.

Hoping God would show me what He was doing.

Hoping God would take away my pain.

Hoping God would defend me from the attacks of the enemy.

Hoping God would provide clarity.

Hoping God would provide direction.

Hope is powerful. Hope is what keeps people moving forward. Hope in Christ is what kept me moving forward. Now, I may not have been able to articulate it in a way that is clear, but the only thing helping me pursue the spiritual disciplines was the hope that Christ would speak and move through them.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

The church in Thessalonica was facing persecution for their faith. Spiritual warfare had spread from the mental and ethereal to the physical and dangerous. And yet, the people of God in Thessalonica persevered. They endured. Because they hoped in Christ. No matter what happened to them on earth, their future was secured. So they kept loving others in their labor, kept working out their faith. Hope is a quality that is considered to be something unseen. But hope shows itself in endurance.

The greatest encouragement to me outside of Scripture during the weeks of darkness was the pastor mentor of mine who is decades older than me. He told me over the phone that he had been through similar seasons. And now he was on the other side of them. He endured. He persevered. Because he hoped in Jesus.

So I kept trying to do just that. Some days I would see the light start to break through. Other days I felt like my life was devoid of all good. It was a war. But I kept moving forward.

Last Saturday morning, December 11th, Jamie’s parents were in town. While they made breakfast, I took some time to pray and journal in my room. As suddenly as it had come, the darkness left. No circumstances changed. No insane act of God took place in the physical realm. But God was no less at work. For the first time in four weeks, I laughed and loved and didn’t dread. He answered my prayers.

Although I’m above the darkness now, I can still sense the powers of evil near, trying to draw me back down into the pit of anxiety and despair. I want to win against them and I want to endure. Today I read Romans 5 in my quiet time.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

I suffered this past month.

But it produced a little more endurance in me.

And that endurance brought a little more character.

And that character brought a little more hope.

And that hope is what will move me forward the next time the waves hit.

Where is my hope?

In the One who loved me so much He died for me.

Where is my proof of His love?

The cross in the past and the Spirit in the present.

I don’t know where you find yourself today. Maybe what I described is something you can’t conceptualize. Or maybe you’re in such a season right now.

My prayer is that you would stay tethered to your anchor in the storm.

My prayer is that you would have hope.

It’s a beautiful thing.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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 

Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus had just laid waste to his foes in the gladiator arena. He raises his arms and yells to the crowd “are you not entertained?!” It’s an iconic moment from an iconic movie. It’s a line I quote quite often as a matter of fact (although more so in my college days).

Here is a man who is on display before the crowds, and they seem disappointed in his performance, underwhelmed when they were expecting a show that would keep them on the edge of their seats. Here is a man at war personally while the crowds stand outside the field of battle, cheering or heckling, complaining or affirming.

I’ve been a pastor now for five years, and I can relate to that scene more and more.

I’ve been hesitant to even say that because I genuinely don’t seek a “woe is me” line of thinking or a “poor guy” response.

But I feel it.

And I share that feeling to advocate for those in my life who have been brutalized in the arena of ministry, all while they receive the thumbs down of those seeking to be entertained by the public figure that is the pastor. I share that feeling because men in ministry have been so hurt by the war that they face depression, discouragement, and even suicidal thoughts.

I know a man who has been faithful for decades and yet has people grumbling against him because his personality is not to their liking or some other minutia.

I know a man who was falsely accused (and proven so) of all sorts of moral failures by a group of people in the church who didn’t like him.

I know a man who was critiqued widely and regularly for his style of preaching.

I know a man who is exhausted and he’s only been in ministry a few years.

I know a dozen youth pastors who have faced to differing degrees the perception that they aren’t in the big leagues, they’re not adults, they’re not actually doing anything hard, they’re not real pastors yet, etc., despite being ordained ministers of the gospel. And to that I say, there is no greater mission field in the world than the ages of 15-30.

I know a man who regularly has to quote Colossians 1 and the importance of being continuously strengthened by the power of Christ, in order to continue manning up and seeking to live out his calling (that man is me).

Pastoral ministry is war.

It’s emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually draining.

It is painful.

It is hard.

Now, again, hear me say as clear as day: it’s worth it. The moments when I see young men and women catch the fire of discipleship, when I see students take ownership of their own faith, when I see older believers not get out of the game but continue advocating for the Kingdom to come, I am overwhelmed with joy. The pain and difficulty of ministry fades to the background as the joy of fruitfulness comes to the forefront.

So, yes it’s worth it.

But sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t lighten the load.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

When I was young, when God first called me into ministry (at the age of 7) and then later affirmed that call (at the age of 17), I thought pastoral ministry was easy and fun. I mean, I love to talk. I especially love to talk about Jesus. I thought people would love to hear me talk about Jesus. That’s all there was to it.

Then I actually got into ministry. Woah it ain’t that. Paul is challenging here. I think every man seeking to go into ministry should read this passage again and again. What does ministry sometimes look like?

Giving up one’s life for the church.

Sorrowful.

Yet always rejoicing.

Poor.

Yet making many (others) rich.

Having nothing.

But possessing everything (in Christ).

War.

For the Kingdom.

Here’s the beauty. Paul and his fellow ministers didn’t do anything that Christ didn’t do better. And so Christ doesn’t call the modern pastor to do anything that He didn’t do perfectly. Christ was homeless, lonely, poor. He continuously gave up His life for the people around Him and then He did it finally and firmly via the cross.

So, pastor, take heart.

Your affirmation comes not from the raucous crowd watching your public ministry.

Your affirmation comes from Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor, take heart.

Your faithfulness has been given a gigantic thumbs up from the only Emperor that matters, King Jesus.

Pastor, take heart.

He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. He provides strength.

Church, pray for your pastors. They are imperfect men, broken men, men in need of great grace.

Church, support your pastors. In every decision they make, they are weighing many different opinions and perspectives.

Church, love your pastors.

Church, fight alongside your pastors. Get in the arena with them. Do ministry alongside them.

Church, don’t lose your pastor. Don’t be the reason they step away from ministry.

I long for the day that I don’t hear of pastors taking their own lives. I long for the day when pastors don’t need counseling, don’t get burnt out, don’t battle depression on the regular.

I long for the day when the question isn’t “are you not entertained” but rather “are you with me”?

Let us strive for that day here on earth.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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!

Inspiring Influence

He was sitting in the rocking chair of my childhood home in Wichita Falls, with the look of being deep in thought. I was 17, and considering where I wanted to go to college while seeking to avoid God’s call on my life. He was visiting from Virginia, and he wanted to leverage this time together to speak life into me. He looked at me and said “I think you should be a pastor” (or something much like this). I was caught off guard, as I had blinded myself to God’s plan for my life due to much sin in my life. This man saw through the grime and grit of my sinful anger, lust, and pride. He saw what I could become in Christ.

That was my Grandaddy. He has recently gone to be with the Lord, but his influence on my life continues to this day. 1 Thessalonians 2 teaches a whole lot about leadership that honors God. In his commentary on the book, Chuck Swindoll says that leadership is simply inspiring influence”.

What makes a good leader?

The ability to inspire people. The ability to leverage one’s influence in order to inspire people to do that which they didn’t think they could. The ability to leverage one’s influence to draw people into a new way of viewing themselves and the world around them.

I’m currently staring up at two items on the bookshelves of my office. A wooden piece of artwork that says ‘Happy’ (in memory of my mom’s dad who we called Happy) and the obituary of my Grandaddy. I live and serve with the memory of two men who had tremendous leadership in our family in that they had influence that inspired. I’ve seen the impact they made on so many, just in our family alone.

Since my Grandaddy just passed away, I have many memories of him running through my mind. We were both early risers, so we would take walks on the beach together when at family reunions. He would ask intentional questions about my life when he saw me and you could tell he genuinely wanted to know. He had the boldness to correct me when I was living in a way that wasn’t honoring to God. He took me to Pine Cove for father/son weekend when my dad was deployed. He shared with me then, while in his 60s, that the Bible was coming alive for him like never before. It inspired me to start digging in to its riches. He encouraged me to keep writing, keep studying, keep learning, and keep preaching. When I got ordained he wrote me a letter that I’m having a hard time finding. He said he longed to hear me preach once before God drew him home, and praise God in February of 2019 he got that opportunity. It is a memory I will never forget.

After he passed, I got to receive many of the things that he kept. He had an envelope full of my blog posts from five or six years ago. He printed them and kept them.

Grandaddy was a man who had a wall in his attic devoted to the achievements and accomplishments of his grandchildren. He was a man who kept the ramblings of his grandson. He wasn’t a man who pointed to himself. In fact I don’t ever remember him talking about his own achievements or accolades (a trait he has passed down to my dad). Grandaddy pointed to others, and ultimately to Jesus.

I see his influence in my uncle and aunt.

I see his influence most of all in my dad (because obviously I’ve been around him the most). I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad tells me to be God’s man. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad literally never talks about himself except in self-deprecating fashion. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad is borderline obsessed with loving on and leading my nephews, niece, and daughter. I see my Grandaddy in the way my dad leads our family and the church he serves.

Grandaddy wrote me a letter several weeks after I was born, a letter that stays displayed on my shelf. He wanted to constantly encourage me and show me Jesus.

You see, I am not inspired by my Grandaddy alone.

I am inspired by the One who drew him into a relationship with Himself.

I’m inspired by the One who gave a family a rock of a patriarch. The One who gave a family a legacy that is centered not on athletics, academics, or prestige. But rather a legacy that is centered on the King and His Kingdom.

There’s a ton I didn’t say to Grandaddy in his final years. So many things I neglected to share with him. Many opportunities missed.

In just five days I will be privileged to have the opportunity to give the benediction at his funeral service. I can’t share all that I’ve said here in the moments before a prayer.

So I’ll say it here.

My Grandaddy is in the Kingdom of God. He is with Jesus. He is worshipping Jesus with every tribe, tongue, and nation. He has no more crying, tears, or pain.

I don’t think that he’s thinking about anything other than Jesus.

I long to be with him in paradise.

So I’ll say what he said to end his first letter to me 27 years ago.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Show Me What You Love

This past week I was in Clayton, OK speaking at a youth camp. One afternoon I went with a youth group that I had gotten to know to a lake not far from the camp’s grounds. The electric guitarist from the band, my friend Mason, was partnering with me to destroy young men in several rounds of chicken fights out in the murky water. Our final round was an awe-inspiring come from behind victory, as I as the base was fully submerged under water but stood strong in the sand. After my almost drowning (not to be dramatic), we retired on top of the world. Our conversation turned to working out, something Mason does a lot of and is really good at. I shared about the one time in the year 2021 that I went to the gym to lift. Mason mentioned in passing that my body type was one in which if I got committed to working out that I could see a lot of growth. Without skipping a beat I informed him that I don’t care enough to work out. Or in other words, I don’t love it enough to pursue growing in it.

We act upon what we love.

We labor towards what it is that we love.

It’s how we’re wired. And according to 1 Thessalonians 1, our love for God and others should lead to laboring alongside God and for others.

Paul gives thanks for three characteristics that the church in Thessalonica was known for.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Labor motivated by love.

The Christians in Thessalonica were known for this. What about you? When people look to you and your community of faith, do they see us laboring for one another?

I can’t claim to love my wife Jamie and then never show it via my actions.

In much the same way I can’t claim to love Jesus and His bride if I never show it via my actions.

If we love sports, we’re going to spend time watching them whether in person or via the media.Our kid’s participation in practices or games will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love earthly pleasures, we’re going to spend time and money preparing for vacations and going on vacations. These things of earth will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love money, we’re going to spend time working as hard as we can to earn more money and the love of money will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If Paul was to look at the modern church, he’d likely see a lot of labor motivated by love for vacations, sports, and excess.

Gone are the days where the commitment to one’s local body of believers trumped any other commitment. In a modern church context worried about the deceptive and destructive throes of legalism, the thought of deep commitment to a church body is seen as just a legalistic tendency of a bygone era. I would argue however that a deep commitment to a local church isn’t being legalistic, it’s being obedient.

Obviously, love for God and neighbor isn’t relegated to just attendance in a church on a Sunday morning. No, it’s much deeper than that. It shows itself in acts of service, evangelism, and intentional discipleship.

At Camp Minnetonka this week I saw so many adults who had given up a week of work not to go on vacation but to come intentionally invest in students by partnering alongside the pastors and youth pastors of their church. And it made my heart swell with joy.

Do you want this labor motivated by love for God and others?

I do.

And thankfully 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us the answer as to how to get it.

Not by working hard. But through receiving it via the Spirit.

our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b

The Holy Spirit brings the power.

Chuck Swindoll says “these qualities could only come from the work of the Spirit in the lives of genuine believers.

We all have room to grow in this. But that growth comes from the Spirit. The growth comes through communing with God.

And once we catch the fire of love, we share it with those around us. We model it.

My parents taught me to love God and others via the local church. That meant getting up at 7 AM for Sunday School after getting home from a Rangers game at 1 AM. That meant opening up our home for staff members, Sunday school classes, and students. That meant discipling younger believers. I watched and watched and watched. The fire was lit in me. And I want Gracie to grow up in a home where our commitment to the Lord and His people is shown by our wallets, schedules, conversations, and relationships.

I want her to see a labor of love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Working Faith

It was September 2016. I was in Phoenix, AZ, desiring friendships that would be centered around Jesus. I asked God to provide them for me, and then I got home from work to play three hours of XBOX before falling asleep. This went on for quite some time. I was discouraged, missing home, and begging God for relationships. There were people who cared about me in the church that grew into stronger relationships, but I didn’t have anyone my age. I would pray and ask and yet I kept the same routine of work and isolation.

It was only when I took a step of putting myself out there that relationships began to form and blossom. One day I went to Raising Cane’s with a guy named Victor and now he’s one of my best friends.

I was recently asked by a friend to be a backup speaker for a youth camp. I love traveling to preach God’s Word and yet I was wrestling with whether or not it was the right thing to do at this time in my life with a four month old at home. I was encouraged to pray and then act. So I did. It didn’t work out this time but I took a step of faith.

I kept hanging onto FCA after six months of knowing it was too much on my plate. My pastor kept encouraging me to step away, trusting God to provide for me and my family. I made the choice to step down, and within weeks I received an opportunity to speak at a youth camp this Summer, and the stipend was a generous gift of God’s grace.

Faith has a component not just of belief, but of action.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul is praising the church in Thessalonica for its qualities that honor God. Listen to what he says about their faith.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

In Paul’s mind, faith results in work. In action.

I think of the book of Ruth. Ruth trusted God to provide for her as she followed Naomi back to Bethlehem. She had faith. But that faith led to her following Naomi’s direction and going to work in the field of Boaz. God provided for her, but she acted to receive that provision.

Trusting God to provide for my family financially doesn’t mean I sit at home and do nothing. It means that I work, showing my faith through steps to obtain the gracious gifts of His provision. Every paycheck I receive is grace. As a matter of fact, every good thing in my life is grace. It’s not something I earned.

On the other extreme, trusting God to provide doesn’t mean chasing the promotion, piling our schedules super high with vocational opportunities at the expense of our spiritual lives. Sometimes the action we need to take isn’t getting a job, it’s denying earthly wealth and the upward trajectory of our American Dream in order to save our souls. Busyness is the greatest enemy of spiritual growth (go read John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Or better yet, go read the Gospels and watch Jesus’ pace of life).

Trusting God to protect my family from harm doesn’t mean I remove the doors from my home. It means that I lock the doors before bed, utilizing the gifts of common grace that God has given to keep my home safe. On the other hand, faith in the protection of my family can look like one day sending Gracie to the foreign mission field, trusting God to protect her even when she’s far from my sight.

Trusting God to draw those I love back to Jesus doesn’t mean that I say nothing and do nothing. I pray, ask others for prayer, and speak truth when I can. Yet I remember that God, not I, is the agent of change that can draw those far from Him back home.

I obviously do not know where this post finds you. I don’t know what difficulty you’ve encountered. I don’t know where you’re lacking faith or where you’re claiming faith but are inactive.

I would encourage you though to take the next step that aligns with God’s Word.

Show your faith in God.

Faith produces work.

Take a step of faith.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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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