Move Toward Someone

Monday afternoon I was in Mardel bookstore searching for some material for the children’s ministry at our church. As I walked through the kids section, I saw a book I had given my prodigal younger brother for Christmas in a previous year and tears filled my eyes. Two years after his departure and I still get caught off guard with the pain of that reality.

Monday night I was at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and heard something about a great event being put on by another church in town, and for a moment envy and jealousy crept into my heart, threatening to briefly harden my heart towards this other church instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

In the span of just a few hours, I was confronted with my suffering and my sin. My external pain and internal temptations.

Some of you may be thinking what I think from time to time, “Nathan, shut up, you’re constantly talking about these things on this blog.” My fear is our churches are full of people thinking the same thing about each other, “Can you just stop talking about the same things all the time? We get it. Sin, sin, sin. Suffering, suffering, suffering.” And while there are a plethora of commands of how we’re supposed to treat each other, we appear sometimes to not really want to obey these commands at all. Let’s look at some below.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

What I am not advocating for is all of us sitting around together in our Sunday School classes, going in a circle and sharing our deepest current sins and struggles with absolutely no follow up (This happened to me at a D-Now when I was in Junior High. It wasn’t helpful.)

What I am advocating for is for us to be willing to have those type of conversations with some of our fellow believers.

Talking about these things is not always done in a beneficial way. Opening up about sins for the sake of tearing down facades of perfectionism and walls of great lives is not enough. I once sat in a Men’s Group in college where all we did was rate our temptation towards certain sins on a scale of 1 to 10. After that we prayed together, acknowledged we’re all battling temptation, and then never talked about it again. This does basically nothing. It’s borderline enabling, because it tells people that everyone fights sin so don’t beat yourself up too much. 

Confession without daily walking in wisdom and love through sin is dangerous and incomplete.

We need to be people who daily fight for each other. Yes, daily. To get there, we have to acknowledge that all of us fight sin and fight suffering. Every one of us. Every day.

I have yet to meet someone who is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally 100% every day. So even on my most joyous and hopeful days, I’m struggling in a sin-ravaged world.

Now that I’ve rambled, let me get to the part of the blog I really want to focus on.

To get to what I’ve described above, we have to move toward each other.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone is not going to randomly start opening up about their sins and struggles at church out of nowhere (if they do, that’s likely a cry for help that we must follow up on and be a source of hope and freedom for that person).

Why do we need to move toward one another?

Because we’re human. And we’d rather not open up about these things.

But Christ came to us.

John 1:14 says that the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us. He set up shop on our block. We in our flesh would never go to God, so He came to us in grace and love.

We can model this in this way. Move towards someone today. Move past the mega-annoying ‘how are you doing’ question that only leads to a ‘good’ response. Push past that into real questions about their lives. Seek to humbly listen, learn, and love. Don’t come with answers, come with questions. Don’t come with selfish motives, come with a desire to love someone in your church as Christ would.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19

This will inevitably be insanely awkward at first. Last year I met with two great young men every week for lunch, and for months it seemed to be all conversations about Fortnite and sports. It took a while for us all to collectively push past those surface conversations into deep intentional ones. In some of my discipleship relationships today I’m still in the awkward stage. To be vulnerable and open about these matters in our lives, we need to trust that the other person cares enough to pray, call out, convict, and follow up.

Guess what. Doing this, this moving towards someone else thing, is uncomfortable. It takes effort because it’s not what we’re naturally prone to do. Yet Christ stepped out of glory to meet us here on earth. You and I can get out of our comfort zone in order to become covenant communities of believers who are actually for each other in the grimy and gritty days we live in.

I would challenge you to not simply like and share this post, but rather to implement it. Pick one person this semester or season to have this type of relationship with (outside your spouse). Pick one person that you weekly, if not daily, reach out to in the midst of our own personal sins and struggles. Don’t just confess. Walk through sin. When it comes to walking through sin with another, I mean that when someone confesses sin to me, I’m going to text and call and message and make sure that they are aware of my prayers and of my Scripture-based encouragement as they go through the fight. Don’t just break down in tears about difficulties in your life, pray through it.

If we as the Church would do this, we would see our churches come alive.

Move towards another person today.

Jesus Wept

Lazarus was dying. He was terminally ill and his sisters were in desperate need for a miracle. Good thing they knew a Miracle-worker. They knew Jesus. Jesus had dined with them, they worshipped Him as God and they knew He was capable of healing the sick. So they reached out to Him. They sent for Him. They sent Him news that Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, was sick. Then they waited. And waited. And waited some more. Lazarus died and there was still no sign of Jesus.

This story in John 11 is one of the most painful circumstances in the gospels in my mind. I try and place myself in the Biblical stories, especially the stories of Jesus in the gospels. I imagine how it would feel to have a loved one dying, to be crying out to God day after day, only to have the one I loved pass away. For some of you who are reading this, this requires no imagination. You’ve lost a parent, a friend, a husband, a neighbor, a coworker. You have faithfully served God and pleaded with God and yet God didn’t answer your prayers the way you had hoped He would.

This week in particular several of my friends have been facing loss in their families, unexpected loss. I don’t have the words to say. My heart is broken and burdened. I get home and think about God’s plans and purposes. I am not a pie-in-the-sky optimist and the Bible is not designed to create that mentality. Instead, the Bible is full of painful stories that are infused with the hope of Christ. I try then to share this hope with those I love.

The death of Lazarus in John 11 brings so many truths that lead to hope. Look at them with me. These aren’t alliterated because I guess I just haven’t been in ministry long enough to obtain that gift.

1. OUR WEEPING MESSIAH

To me, this is the prerequisite truth before one shares about the purposes of pain in our lives. Too many people have been turned off to the church because those who genuinely love Jesus and strive to love others through their grief lead with the fact that ‘God works all things for good and we are to count it all joy’. Many who have a high view of God’s sovereignty I think often miss this part, jumping to doctrinal truths before mourning with those who mourn. We miss the point when believing in God’s ultimate control over all things makes us horrible neighbors and brothers who are cold-hearted, intellectual, and jaded towards the hurting. That’s been me on many occasion, yet it’s missing the heart of Jesus. Cause here’s what Jesus did. It’s the shortest verse in all of Scripture.

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

There it is. Our Messiah, our Miracle-working divine Son of God wept with Lazarus’ friends and family in the wake of his death. Jesus is omniscient, He knew full well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet He wept. This is such powerful encouragement to us in our pain. Jesus weeps with you. God’s heart breaks when your heart breaks. God’s knowledge of His plan for our pain does not lead him to distant coldness of heart. No, to see His child in pain causes Him to mourn with us. Share your hurts with Him.

2. THE PURPOSE FOR PAIN

While I believe that this shouldn’t be the first thing we say to those who are grieving, it most definitely needs to be said. Maybe not for days or weeks after loss, but eventually. In my daily pains of this broken world, I have to tell myself of this. There are two verses that illustrate why pain comes into my life. Why my loved ones die and experience the affects of this world.

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” – John 11:4

and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there (when Lazarus died), so that you may believe; but let us go to him. – John 11:15

These two verses give us the answer to the ultimate reasons for our pain. Everything in my life happens so that:

A. God will be glorified

B. People would believe in Jesus

That’s it. Now again, this truth devoid of genuine care for the heart and soul of our brothers and sisters is cold, twisted, and unworthy to bring one to worship. This truth without the character of God leads one to feel like a pawn in a divine game of chess (I’m speaking from experience here). But this truth coming from a God who weeps with us, who hears our cries, who loves us, becomes a spark to the light the fire in my heart for me to worship God, even in the midst of immense pain.

3. ETERNAL LIFE 

The Lazarus story has an amazing ending. Jesus raises him from the dead to the awe of all who saw. We thus see clearly how Jesus was believed in and God was glorified as a result of what took place. For other stories in our lives that isn’t always the case. My brother Trevor’s story still has not resolved in a way that has clearly done the above two things, at least not in my heart, and it’s been almost two years since he took off. Our stories don’t always wrap up with a cute bow and a clear picture of God’s plan.

But here’s the most hopeful part of this story. Infused in this story is yet another “I Am” statement of Jesus. I’ve been walking through these this summer and they have amazed me. The character of Jesus is beautiful. What He claims to be and promises to be is amazing.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. – John 11:25

There you have it. The promise of eternal life.

When I was growing up, I kinda thought of the abundant life Jesus offered as starting after death. Like if you make through earth than you get this amazing offer of eternal life.

Yet Jesus is claiming with this proclamation that He is the resurrection. He brought the full life. To follow Jesus is not to wait until we die to experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers. Yet so many of us live like this.

Jesus is with you.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, He walks through life with you. He weeps with you. He glorifies Himself in you. He brings life to the death that is in your life.

I pray you are encouraged by the story of Lazarus.

Please know that if you are in need of prayer, you can reach out to me. Shoot me an e-mail or a Facebook message.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below.

Conditional Surrender

Have you ever read the book of Genesis?

All the way through?

Not just the stories that are retold in VeggieTales or on felt-boards in a Sunday School classroom, but every chapter?

Not just the stories of creation, the fall, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.

Every story. Every narrative.

I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis this past week in my time with the Lord. I have been blown away with how crazy the narratives are, how grace saturates the lives of the people of God, even way back at the beginning of the story.

It’s easy to get sucked into the mindset that the world is worse than it’s ever been. I honestly don’t really believe that the more I read Scripture. Yes, the darkness of sin and wickedness and war and evil are prominent at times in our world and in our country. That being said, this darkness is nothing new. It may be unsettling and off-putting for those of us who grew up in relative bliss and innocence, but it has been present since the dawn of creation.

Last night I was reading Genesis 31-34. I was blown away by the continued sins of God’s people. Let me tell you a portion of Jacob’s story. Mind you, this is a bird’s eye view of what is going on.

In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run. He has stolen the birthright of his older brother and his older brother wants to kill him. So he flees. He flees for the land of his mother’s family. On the way, he stops for the night and has a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. After that visual, the Lord appears to him in a dream and promises the following.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. – Genesis 28:15

What a promise. God appears and delivers that grandiose promise. Yet look how Jacob responds.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God.” – Genesis 28:20-21

IF.

What the what.

God appears to Jacob and promises safety and security, provision and protection. Instead of clinging to this, Jacob says that IF God remains with him and and keeps him safe and gives him food and clothes to wear and gets him home to his family safely, THEN He will be his God.

God appears, Jacob doubts.

Now, if I was God, I would have bailed on Jacob straight up.

But God is perfect.

He is gracious.

Over the next few chapters, God will provide for Jacob in amazing ways. He provides him with grace despite Jacob taking multiple wives, (addressing polygamy in the Bible is a blog post for another time. My Cliff Notes opinion is that this is sinful of Jacob. God makes clear in Scripture that marriage is between one man and one woman.), children, and tons of animals. Jacob leaves and heads back to his home, where Esau (his brother who wanted to kill him) welcomes him back with open arms.

In Genesis 32, Jacob encounters God yet again. This time he wrestles with God. If you have any questions about that story, please ask an actual theologian or Old Testament scholar, because I have no idea.

Either way, Jacob makes an awe-inspired realization that he survived by God’s grace alone (Genesis 32:30).

You would think that after seeing God, after having God fulfill all of His promises to you, that you would lead your family in godliness. You would lead your family in worship. Your life was full of sin (deception, scheming, polygamy), and God gave grace. This should make you want to lead your family in following God.

Instead, the wheels fall off.

Genesis 34 is a vile chapter. Jacob’s daughter is raped violently. In retaliation, Jacob’s sons (remember, these are the brothers of Joseph. I realized this for the first time last night.) murder an entire village of people. In the following chapter, God appears to Jacob and Jacob tells his household to hide the foreign gods in their midst.

I took you on this whirlwind tour of this section of Genesis to highlight something.

I tend to look back at these narratives from Scripture and think what a bunch of morons.

Then the Spirit comes and kicks my butt.

I’m all over these passages.

I, like Jacob, see God do amazing things in my life and respond with conditional surrender. I’ll follow you Jesus if you do all these things in my life.

I, like Jacob, can fail to lead my family in the gospel outside of the occasional bold proclamation that Jesus is my Lord. But my home is full of foreign gods. The gods of this culture. The gods of this world. Good things become God things. Idolatrous behaviors and actions seeping into my home. Into my life.

Yes, children are responsible for their own actions. But what kind of life are we living at home in front of them? Are we wholly surrendered to Jesus, or do we just say we are on Sunday mornings? Are we walking them through Scripture, or are we letting them play Fortnite and watch Netflix all evening? My daily prayer is that my actions and habits encourage my family in the faith. I fall so stinking short of this day after day, but it is my hope.

I, like Jacob, have lived a life full of imperfection, brokenness, and sin. I have failed countless times, and yet God gives me greater grace. What a wonderful God that we serve.

You probably have a whole lot of Jacob in you too.

Thankfully we have a God full of grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below.

Wounded By The Church

Since I’ve become a pastor on staff at a great church, I’ve found myself in the midst of many conversations about the church and about faith. Heartbreakingly I’ve heard many stories from those who have been hurt by and hindered by their local body of believers. The wounds brought about by the people of God can cut deep and leave long-lasting wounds on the hearts and psyches of many.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? There are church splits, church politics, church cliques, and  ungodly church leadership. All of us to some extent have been hurt by the church, hurt by the people of God.

One thing that baffles me at times is that God allows such horrible behavior in the lives of his servants and followers. If God is all-powerful, and loves the church so deeply (Ephesians 5), then why do such acts of ungodliness perpetrated by the people of God exist?

Why do I hear of men and women who are jaded towards the church, refusing to step into our buildings because they “love Jesus, but don’t love the church”?

Why do I see people turned off to religion because of the sins of prominent church leaders who allow greed, sexual desire, pride, hatred, or the lack of gentleness to take root and bloom in their lives, destroying their ministries?

Why does God allow ungodly men and women to be in positions of leadership in His church?

These are questions I have asked time and again, especially that last one.

My honest answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know why this stuff happens.

That being said, through my reading of a couple chapters of Genesis last night, I discovered some light that I want to shed on the darkness of these travesties.

Now, if you haven’t read Genesis I would encourage you to. If you haven’t read it in a long while, dive back into it. It truly is a book of beginnings, of answers to our deep questions, a foundation upon which the rest of the Bible sits. Regardless of what you believe about creation, etc. there is still much for you to glean from this book.

One scholar I was reading said it like this,

The first part of the Bible (Genesis) has rare blessings for every person who will study it in seeking to understand the gracious ways of God’s dealing with mankind. 

That in my opinion is a wonderful quote. Many think that the gospel, or grace, shows up simply in the New Testament. That there may be allusions to it in the Old, but it doesn’t really burst onto the scene until the time of the nativity. That’s false. God’s grace to wicked men and women is woven throughout all of Scripture, even this very first book of the Bible.

That being said, here’s what I believe to be Biblical truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

I get this belief out of the story in Genesis 20.

In this chapter, Abraham is moving with his wife Sarah throughout the land. They come into a place called Gerar, which was a region that was overseen by the king Abimelech. Abraham, out of a desire to keep himself safe (v. 11) lies to Abimelech and says that Sarah is in fact his sister, not his wife. One, weird. Two, how very sinful.

Abraham was a man who had seen God, who had heard from God, who had watched God do the miraculous in his life. Yet here he is, lying, walking in sin, to save his own skin. How disdainful. How honestly wretched.

You may be telling me to hold up, that lying is not all that bad.

Well, look at the consequences of Abraham’s actions.

In Genesis 20:18 it says that the wombs of of the household of Abimelech were all closed due to the fact that Sarah was in their midst as a single woman and potential suitor. Abimelech brings Sarah into his court, thinking that Sarah is Abraham’s sister. This leads God to close off the wombs of his family.

Deep consequences inflicted Abimelech’s family due to Abraham’s sin.

Now trust me, I know. These are much different circumstances than what most of us would think about when it comes to sins perpetrated against non-believers by the people of God.

I don’t think there is a family in Vernon, TX that is unable to have children because of the sins of our church members. At least not that I know of. I’m not intending to make light of infertility struggles, I’m merely saying this story in Genesis 20 is quite unique.

Here’s the kicker for me though.

Here’s why I (not an Old Testament scholar) believe the above truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

Because God appears to Abimelech.

In verses 3 through 7, God appears to Abimelech and basically tells him that he’s a dead man for taking a married woman into his household. Abimelech cries out and says that he didn’t know, that his nation didn’t deserve to be punished due to the lie of God’s servant Abraham.

Verse six is cool.

Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6

If Abimelech touches Sarah, the just wrath of God comes upon his family because of the sins of Abraham.

But God intervenes.

He prevents Abimelech from sinning.

Now, there are intricacies to this story and plenty of other questions. But in my humble opinion, the truth still stands. God is able to right the wrongs of His people.

If you have been hurt by the church, hurt by followers of Jesus, I sincerely apologize.

I pray that God will do for you what He did for Abimelech.

I pray that God will right the wrongs that have been done towards you by those who bear His name.

I pray that you would find healing.

I pray that you would find the trust to join a church community.

I’m grateful to serve a God who is bigger than my foolish mistakes.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below.

He Holds It All Together

It’s been a draining couple of days in Vernon, TX. My days have been chock full of ministry-related activities, and the busyness (albeit really exciting busyness) of moving Jamie into our duplex. Last night I wrestled with whether or not to wake up early and head to Wichita Falls for the youth pastor (and worship leader) breakfast I am a part of on Thursday mornings. I felt so tired (having been going from 6 AM to 9 PM) and didn’t feel like getting up. That being said, I felt the call of God for me to not abandon community just because I may be tired. So I set my alarm and headed into Wichita Falls. The breakfast was refreshing, I found myself encouraged and grateful for the community that I was a part of.

Just as we were wrapping up, I received a text. Tragedy had struck in Vernon. It is not my place to say what it was, but I was confronted yet again with the brokenness of the world that we reside in. The whole day has been solemn and somber, and tears have not been far from my eyes when I’ve had moments of quiet and isolation. As a young youth pastor, I’m walking through the brokenness of this world more days than I would like to, as I see the pain that so many congregants and students have to walk through some days.

I went about my usual Thursday routine before pausing just a little while ago to spend some time in Scripture. I read through the first chapter of Mark and when journaling about it I remembered what Scripture says to be true, what I believe the whole first chapter of Mark is all about:

Jesus is the Son of God, full of all the compassion and power of God.

The first chapter of Mark is a whirlwind of activity and snapshots of Jesus’ early ministry. In just one chapter we see John the Baptist prepare the way, Jesus get baptized, Jesus call his first disciples, and Jesus preaching and healing throughout Galilee, whether that be casting out demons or healing leprosy. In the midst of all this, there are key points that illustrate what I mean.

First off, verses seven and eight show the majesty of Jesus before He even arrives on the scene so to speak.

And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:7-8

John the Baptist says that he isn’t even worthy of untying Jesus’ shoes. That’s humility and that’s awe in the face of majesty. Jesus is fully God and John understood this. Shortly after this we see Jesus baptized and the very Spirit of God descending upon Him (vv. 9-11). Jesus is full of all the power of God, and the rest of the chapter proves this. He preaches the gospel (v. 15), drives out demons (vv. 23-27), and heals a leper (vv. 40-45).

It’s His healing of the leper that showcases in my opinion the compassion of Jesus and the heart of God. Lepers were outcast, contagious, treated as almost less than human. A leper approached Jesus and asked for healing, bowing before Him. Jesus responded in verses 41-42.

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:41-42

I’m aware that verse forty-one is also translated at times as ‘moved with pity’ or ‘moved with indignation’, and I’m not a Greek scholar, but I am amazed by the fact that Jesus touched him to heal him. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus move with power in many ways, often healing people just via his words. Yet he chooses to reach out and touch this man that so many found unclean and disgusting. I believe that shows His compassion.

Here’s what I want you to know. There are dark days. There are days where the darkness seems overwhelming and the grief is heavy. Yet on these days, we can remember that the King Jesus we submit to and follow is full of amazing compassion and amazing power.

As a follower of Jesus, I can KNOW that God is all-powerful and TRUST in His compassionate heart. That is hard on days like today, but it is no less true.

Be encouraged by this verse as well (one of my all-time faves):

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17

What was at one time no more than a pleasant reminder of God’s control has become over time a stake in the ground of my mind and heart to remember and cling to. God is still God and Jesus still holds the cosmos together. The sin of this world is raging and at times it’s all I can physically see. Yet I can cling to the fact that Jesus still reigns.

“By the Son, for the Son, and through the Son, all things exist and hold together.”

Jesus shows us the character and heart of God. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge His power and trust in His compassion.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Bad Days

Today was one of those days. Maybe you’ve had a day like this. I woke up with my heart all twisted up inside of me. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Sadness. It was the combination of many circumstances and situations in my life where I felt like God wasn’t at work in. But nothing happened today that ignited these feelings. I simply woke up with them.

Here’s the normal chain of events for my sinful heart. It happens every couple of months. I acknowledge and notice something off in my life, something outside of my control, and I begin to get mad and frustrated with God about it. I do the classic “if you loved me, you would do this. If you were good, this wouldn’t happen.”

“If you’re good, children wouldn’t be without a good home this Christmas. If you loved me, all of my relationships would be perfect in this season of my life. If you’re good, my family wouldn’t have lost a brother/son. If you’re loving, I wouldn’t be hurting. If you were good, my friends wouldn’t be in such pain.”

Around and around this goes, and each time this happens I show just how stupidly forgetful I am as a person.

I absolutely love the Psalms because of how transparent emotionally they are. I study different passages for the sake of teaching and preaching, but the bulk of my devotional readings are in the Psalms. They always hit me close to home.

A couple days ago I read Psalm 77. And it wrecked my whiney heart.

I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? – vv. 1-9

Retweet.

I’ve felt this before for sure. I have felt like I’m tirelessly crying out to God and not finding comfort. I’ve felt like I’ve remembered God and meditated on His promises and still felt faint and too tired to even pray. I’ve questioned in my heart whether or not God will reject me forever, whether His promises have failed, and whether He’s forgotten to be merciful and compassionate.

I’m sure if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve been here too. So as I was reading this Psalm I was feeling pretty vindicated and affirmed in my complaining. But abruptly in the middle of this Psalm, the script flips.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. – vv. 10-15

Asaph (the dude who wrote this little ditty) will go on to talk about the ways God specifically intervened and rescued the people of God in the book of Exodus.

I want to emphasize the way Asaph combats the feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, anger, and sorrow in his heart. He does so by appealing to the times when God rescued His people through His power and might.

Christians are pretty much the most forgetful people ever. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times God has shown His power and might in our lives, we still end up questioning His love and goodness the next time things aren’t going according to plan.

I write this blog not to condemn you, or myself (because this forgetfulness was literally me this very morning). I write it to convict and encourage you to take this Psalm to heart, and practice what I think is shown here to be a worthwhile endeavor. Reflect on and praise God for the ways He has moved in your life. This decade. This year. This month. This week. This very day.

In the last three months, God took me out of a ministry situation where I was almost constantly alone and put me in a place much closer to family, my fiancee, my friends. A place where I am able to work daily with a team and am given opportunities to grow, lead, and serve. This was a work of God in my life that I constantly doubted and wasn’t sure He would come through on. This alone is proof from this past year that He is good. The list could also easily be much much longer.

Make it personal for you. Write down and record the ways that God has rescued, redeemed, and moved in your life this past year.

It’s okay to not be okay some days. It’s okay to let out all your hurt and pain to the Lord who cares deeply for you. But don’t stay there. Praise God for the ways that He has moved.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach.

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Drifting

No one drifts closer to God.

I was eight hours into my egregiously long fifteen hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Wichita Falls, Texas when I heard this phrase in a podcast. I had seven more hours to think through its implications, and later that evening I realized that you can illustrate this reality in Scripture. 21208930_1417528678364805_1062599607_n

No one drifts closer to God. On days that we don’t pursue intimacy with Him we are naturally prone to drift further away from His presence, from the spiritual disciplines, and from His call on our lives. It just happens. Sure there are days where I’m not intentionally pursuing communion with Him and still feel close to Him. But 95% of the time, when I am not pursuing the spiritual disciplines, when I’m not pursuing His glory, I am drifting further and further from Him. If this happens for too long a season, it can lead me into sinful thoughts, behaviors, or lifestyles.

We all naturally drift away from God. This happens. This process is shown to us in the first Psalm. Look with me at Psalm 1:1.

How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! – Psalm 1:1

We see here in this verse an illustration of the regression that can happen in regards to sin.

Walking with the wicked – – – standing with sinners – – – sitting in the company of mockers.

Man this can happen so fast in our lives if we’re not careful.

It starts with us walking with God in the path of righteousness that is later described in this Psalm. Next thing you know, you’re not actively or intentionally making sure you’re on the path. This leads to a sometimes even subconscious walking on the path of the wicked. The wickedness of the world is thrown at us every waking moment, and so when we’re not communing regularly with God we can begin to walk out our lives on a path of wickedness that is provided to us by this world. It’s our natural inclination towards sin.

After drifting down this path for a while, we can find ourselves standing with sinners. Now, let me be clear, I do not see this verse as an indictment against having relationships and friendships with those who don’t share our faith. Standing with sinners in relationships is not at all what this verse is talking about, nor is it what I’m talking about. When placed in the illustration rather, it should surprise us that this wicked man is now standing. He is not moving towards God. He is not pursuing the Lord. He has set out on the path of wickedness and now he simply stands. Stands unaffected by sin.

In the seasons of my life that I have been drifting away from the Lord, I would find myself standing with sin lifestyles all around me, yet I wasn’t motivated to do anything about said sin. I had become apathetic towards sins that grieve the very heart of God, sins that my Lord and Savior had died for. This is what my heart is prone to do naturally when I do not pursue God. I subconsciously walk down the path of wickedness and soon find myself apathetic to sin.

I wish that was as far as we often get in our lives. Yet this isn’t the case. We can take it one step further – from apathy to mockery.

We can drift so far from the Lord that we go so far as to mock the very things of God.

This isn’t necessarily happening in our lives in pronounced or explicit ways, but it can happen in our hearts and minds. It can happen when we’re at small group or when we’re singing hymns at church. It can happen when we’re listening to a sermon or talking to a friend. We mock the things of God. I confess that this has happened in my life. I will be hearing a friend share about raising money for a mission trip and internally I’m mocking the idea of missions. I would be listening to a sermon and hear about how God is great and good and internally I would think to myself what is good about Him? I would receive godly and wise counsel from parents or other men and women in my life and immediately shrug it off or disregard it. This was extremely present in my high school days, as I sat in my mockery of God.

Now Psalm 1 is not in my opinion a Psalm about this regression, although I do believe David wrote the regression (walk – stand – sit) on purpose. I do pray and hope that as you read this, you are honest with yourself and with God about where you may find yourself today.

Are you walking with God on the path of righteousness, or are you sitting in sin?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:22-23a, 25

This is the fruit that should be present in our lives, that should be ripe in our lives. I am not myself prone to all of these things naturally, so again it takes active listening and walking with the Spirit of God in our lives.

The first Psalm gives us a clue on how we can make sure that we don’t drift away from the Lord.

Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. – Psalm 1:2

The man who is prosperous (not necessarily in an earthly way) is this man. The man who does not drift is this man.

May we be men and women who treasure the Word of God. May we be men and women who delight in the instructions of the Lord and make it a point to meditate on His Word day and night.

No one drifts closer to God.

It takes delightful discipline.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Grey-Colored Glasses

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘rose-colored glasses’. In our teenage days we all were likely infatuated with someone who really wasn’t all that great, but we had convinced ourselves that they were the epitome of spouse material as we viewed all they did with rose-colored glasses. Shortcomings and faults were disregarded, glaring character flaws were seen in an entirely different light. glasses

In a similar way, we can see all of our life through grey-colored glasses. This terminology certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue like its lingual ancestor, but I think it describes the effects of depression and hopelessness on a person. When in the throes of discouragement and depression, we can see all of life as dark and dim. We can view everything: our surroundings, our job, our circumstances, our family, our friends, our relationships, through the grey-colored glasses that depression and hopelessness put upon our eyes.

I want to offer some advice, and some hope, for those of us who fight this in different seasons and to different degrees. The advice is not my own, and come to think of it neither is the hope. Yet I do want to relay both to you today.

Here’s some advice for the discouraged among us:

1) Focus On The Facts, Not Your Feelings

I’m the champion of this. I’m prone to listen to what my feelings and emotions are telling me about any aspect of my life. To fight back against the seeds of depression and discouragement, proclaim the facts of any aspect of your life that you are seeing with grey-colored glasses. Let this be founded in truth from Scripture. Memorize the promises and heart of God in the Word of God, and use these Scriptures to fight back against what your emotions are telling you. Don’t allow the lies that our hearts believe take up root in your soul.

2) Get Some Sun

Depression and discouragement can make us want to lay in bed all day long, scrolling through social media or binge-watching some television. It takes discipline and commitment, it takes going on the offensive, but I strongly encourage you to fight this tendency. Go for a walk, go to the gym, play a little basketball. Get outside and soak in the sun. There’s something life-bringing about simply communing with God via nature. Also, being active tremendously helps the broken soul. When I work-out with a friend, I am relieved of a lot of the inner turmoil.

3) Tell Someone

I just alluded to it, but have brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging you and walking you through the darkness. We were not designed to be isolated. Satan would love nothing else than to have droves of Christians walking in the darkness of depression, bound to it because they aren’t bringing it into the light. We have made depression and discouragement taboo struggles for the follower of Christ. If you are goofy and extroverted like me, it may be extra difficult for you to admit that sometimes you’re not okay. There is freedom to be found in admitting your need for support. Have friends walking you through, able to call out your feelings and proclaim the truths of Scripture.

I hope these words of advice are as helpful for you as they were for me. I want to spend the latter half of this post giving you some hope. This is hope found in the Word of God. This is hope built upon the promises of God.

Recently I’ve been drawn to Ephesians. There’s something about the first fourteen verses that keeps drawing me back, deeper and deeper. Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel, the good news that breaks through the grey-colored glasses and shines the beautiful light of Christ into every aspect of our lives. In the onset of this letter from prison, Paul shares a twelve verse sentence (1:3-14) of praise to God. There is so much in this eulogy that can’t be covered in just one blog post, but I do want to make known to you 3 simple truths that are abounding in hope.

YOU ARE CHOSEN BY GOD

If you are a follower of Christ, having surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus, then let me remind you that YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD.

For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. – Ephesians 1:4

You have been chosen by God. There’s something awesome, something joy-inducing, something that fills our hearts with happiness whenever we are chosen for something. Whether that be a sports team, a school, a relationship, or even the Mr. Bison Pageant. This should do exponentially more to remove the darkness when we meditate on the fact that the Lord of all has chosen us to be His!

You are chosen.

YOU ARE SAVED BY CHRIST 

You have been chosen by God, and this plays itself out via the redemption and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace – Ephesians 1:7

We have been redeemed. You and I have been forgiven of all of our trespasses, every single one, through the riches of God’s grace poured out onto us through Jesus.

Grace > __________

You could list any sin you’ve committed and the equation would still be correct. You have been fully forgiven and completely redeemed.

YOU HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

God gave us a helper, a companion, someone to walk through this life with. That is the Holy Spirit of God.

In him you also – when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you also believed – were sealed in him with the promised Holy Spirit. – Ephesians 1:13

We have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Honestly I see this as one of the biggest ways to combat the darkness of depression. Remember, meditate upon, and utilize the fact that we have the very Spirit of God residing in us to help us live for him in any season.l Rely on the Spirit and seek the Spirit’s guidance.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you struggle with depression, bring it into the light. Get outside. Tell your community of faith. Last, but certainly not least, claim and proclaim the promises of Scripture. Be filled with hope!

There will be days where you and I see all of life through grey-colored glasses.

When those days come, remember the wonder of the gospel.

You have been chosen, saved, and filled.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Happy’s Porch

This world is broken. It is fractured, cracked, overwhelmed by the ravaging effects of sin upon the cosmos.14344313_1039930519457958_7959540184168886373_n

Families are in shambles, divorce and pornography run rampant, violence and death, suffering and disease. Loved ones passing away after long battles with cancer, strife between friends, financial woes, prejudice, injustice, war, slavery. The list goes on and on.

Yet this is not the way the world has always been. There was a time before the effects of sin, a time when all of creation lived in perfect harmony. A time before suffering, death, disease, and pain.

Regardless of what you believe about the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, it is clear to see that this world used to be in perfect harmony. Reading Genesis 1 leaves me aching and yearning for that day when God will restore all things. There is such a fluid rhythm of God’s creative acts and the refrain that ‘it was good’. Trying to picture a time of perfect peace is hard to do sometimes.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31

Very good.

The world and everything in it was very good.

I like to imagine what perfect peace sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. Images of being on the porch at my granddad’s house immediately flood my mind. There I would sit on the porch swing, listening to the birds call to each other, with the babbling of a forest brook in the distance with a little rain shower sweeping across the mountain.

You see, my granddad, who we affectionately called ‘Happy’ passed away less than a year ago. While I can’t imagine the pain that his spouse, siblings, and children went through when he passed, I definitely struggled and definitely still wade through seasons of deep sorrow and I miss him tremendously.

I would play and read and spend time on his porch for hours. Some of my favorite conversations and memories of him came from his porch. When I think perfect peace, I think of that porch.

Yet what happens when the place that is representative of perfect peace becomes instead a reminder of the effects of sin? What happens when Happy’s porch no longer brings the sense of peace to my soul but instead brings a painful reminder that he is no longer with us?

This is one way that the effects of sin have reared their ugly head in my life. You see, the story of the cosmos takes a turn for the worst real early on. Right after the creation of all things in perfect harmony, God makes Adam and Eve and puts them to work in the garden of Eden. Soon after, Satan comes and introduces temptation to Adam and Eve who unfortunately fall real quick. The perfection of the cosmos is shattered, and the consequences of sin are immediately imposed upon Adam and Eve and all that followed in their lineage (that is, all of us).

Yet in this bleak and dreary chapter 3, there is a promise. A promise that shines bright with gospel grace. A promise that comes flying onto the scene when it seemed all hope was lost.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. – Genesis 3:15

The Lord is cursing Satan, and makes a promise that there will be a descendant of Eve that will crush the head of Satan. Fast-forward several millennia and Jesus stepped onto the scene. He lived the perfect life you and I could not live and died the death we deserved. Three days later, he conquered death itself, crushing Satan, and making it possible for those who believe in Him to one day be with Him in paradise, in a perfect cosmos yet again.

The answer to my above question is to remember that God’s creation in the beginning was very good. The answer is to remember that God uses death, disease, suffering, and pain to bring about His glory. The answer is to remember that God is going to restore the cosmos into perfect harmony yet again. The answer is to remember the great news of the gospel. No more will we cry, be in pain, suffer, or face death. No more. Instead, as followers of Jesus, we will be in perfect harmony with God, enjoying eternal satisfaction in Him.

I loved those moments on the porch with Happy. I loved those moments of near-perfect peace.

But they pale in comparison to the wonderful perfection that is waiting for us in glory. Oh how I yearn for that day.

Brothers and sisters, if you are wading through suffering or pain, remember that this is not our home. Remember that this is for your good and His glory. Remember that there will be a day where the cosmos are totally restored.

This is good news. This is the gospel.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

In His Name,

Nathan Roach