Practice Vulnerability. Pursue Community.

Vulnerability. 

The word itself is enough to make most of us cringe. We often are scared of it and, if we’re being honest, being vulnerable with a friend is usually the last thing on our agenda. We assume that it will make us look weak, that people will judge us for the things we confess, or that any number of negative outcomes are possible. So, instead of stepping out in faith, we choose to be silent. 

However, most of us desire community. And we should. The Lord calls us to pursue community and it is so vital to our spiritual growth. But, when we are asked to be vulnerable, we shy away, we change the subject, or we remove ourselves from the conversation instead of diving in. 

Friends, this doesn’t work.

I have learned that you cannot have community without practicing vulnerability. 

The Lord has been so gracious to bless me with some God-ordained friendships that have radically changed my life. I am so thankful for these relationships, but they require work. They require honesty. They require trusting that the Lord has placed the right people in your life. They require vulnerability. 

Vulnerability is not comfortable and it is rarely easy, but I have seen firsthand the fruits of my labor, of my pursuit of vulnerability. I won’t tell you that being vulnerable is easier for me than the next person, but I have learned that it is essential and vital to the growth of God-ordained friendships. 

I would love to tell you that vulnerability is easy when you engage in deep relationships with the people that you know God has intentionally placed in your life to be your community. However, to tell you that would be a lie. My heart still beats a little faster, my hands still start to shake, and I still laugh nervously every time I prepare myself to be really vulnerable.

I don’t know what vulnerability looks like for you. Maybe for you it simply means expressing how you feel about something to a close friend. Maybe it means confessing a sinful practice in your life that you need to be held accountable for. Maybe it means discussing your past struggles that you haven’t healed from or your anxieties about the future. This deliberate choice of vulnerability may feel like the hardest thing you have ever done. But, I can tell you that it is so worth it. 

This, however, is not a guarantee that you will not be hurt. We are all human and we all, whether purposefully or not, let the people we love down. We speak before we listen. We don’t bite our tongue when we should. We say things we don’t mean. We are human. It happens in every relationship, and a God-ordained friendship in which you consistently practice vulnerability will not be void of these things. 

BUT, it will push you to be better and do better. It will push you to grow in your faith and to pursue the Lord more fully. It will teach you how to love yourself, the Lord, one another, and others better. 

When we choose vulnerability instead of silence, instead of surface-level relationships, we learn how to point each other to Jesus more. We learn how to hold each other accountable in our sinfulness. We learn what Biblical truths our friends need to be reminded of a little more often. The Lord can use others to pour into us much more when we are practicing vulnerability than when we choose to sit silent. 

Pursuing deep, God-centered relationships is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It takes effort. It takes discipline. It takes energy and so much heart. And it takes courage to be vulnerable. 

The Lord will use your vulnerability to grow relationships in ways that you could never imagine. He will supply you with just the right people in the most unexpected of times. He will do what only He can do, but the Lord cannot make us trust that He has put people in our lives for the purpose of vulnerability. He cannot choose to put in the work and the effort to grow and build a God-ordained relationship for you. He cannot be vulnerable for you. We have to do our part. 

The Lord calls us to be in community and we cannot do that without practicing vulnerability. 

My challenge to you is to look for the people that the Lord has placed in your life. Look for those people that God wants to give you a relationship with. It may be a person that you have known your whole life. It may be a person you have known for two months. The Lord loves to surprise us with beautiful things when we choose to look to Him, when we choose to look for His people. Look for and pursue those God-ordained friendships. When you find them, hold tightly to them. Practice vulnerability. It won’t be easy, but it will always be worth it.  

– Mackenzie Knox 

 

Painful Correction

It’s never pretty when the Lord reveals to my heart the ways that I have been sinning against Him. Sometimes it comes through the Word, other times through the words of a friend, and occasionally via my own conscience in the aftermath of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

A couple weeks ago, I was on my way back from an orthodontist appointment in Dallas when a friend called me. We chatted about life for a while, and then he lovingly confronted me, revealed to me actions of mine that weren’t in line with Christ. A light was shone on my selfishness and distrust, and I didn’t like what I saw. My flesh burned within me, and my every desire was to lash out, to claim that I was being wrongly accused, to try and cover up the realities of my sinfulness. But instead, by God’s grace, I listened. I wrestled with the confrontation.

God used the words of a friend to ‘discipline’ me, to reveal to me that I was walking out of step with the way of Christ.

In Job chapter five, Eliphaz is continuing to speak to Job about his suffering. Despite the fact that not everything he says is solid, we can glean some truths from the words that he speaks.

Let’s look at it together.

This Life Is Troublesome 

For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. – Job 5:6-7

Can I get an amen?

We are all in tune with the fact that this life is not a walk in the park. It’s troublesome, difficult, hard. As followers of Jesus, we know that it is going to be even harder for us as we walk against the grain of this modern culture.

There are popular pastors these days who claim that following Jesus with enough faith leads to prosperity. They claim that if you’re in the midst of storms or giants you can overcome them through a stronger faith. They claim that the road of blessing is the road of being called by God.

This is not only experientially false, it’s also straight-up Biblically false.

Recently I’ve been studying the book of 1 Samuel. At my church we will be taking our students and kids through it. We see in the book of 1 Samuel that David is chosen by God, and yet he spends the majority of the latter half of the book on the run from Saul, who is striving to kill him.

Being called by God leads to suffering and difficulty.

Eliphaz gets this right. There is no rosy world free of hard times.

God Disciplines His Children

Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. – Job 5:17-18

Eliphaz hits some truth here in this proclamation to Job. The imagery of God wounding and shattering is not necessarily accurate, but he gets that first part right.

The blessed man is the man who is disciplined by God.

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that you are blessed when God disciplines or corrects you? This used to make me so upset. I remember being a teenager or college student, facing the aftermath of sinful decisions, seeing the painful and exposed parts of my heart with clarity, all while hating that I was being disciplined by God.

It didn’t seem fair or right.

As a young man, I see now that God doesn’t lead with discipline. We have His Word. We know what’s right and wrong. We know how to walk in step with Christ. But for many of us, we don’t. At least in different aspects of our lives. So the Lord brings difficulty to reveal our dependence upon idols, and then to restore us, often painfully, into dedication to Him.

Consider the following verse out of the book of Hebrews.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

We don’t like discipline.

But it yields righteousness if we’re willing to listen.

If I were to buck up against what my friend was saying, which I was tempted to do, I would not have grown in my faith, in my faithfulness to Christ.

I had to be willing to receive correction.

God Does Unseen, Marvelous Things

(God) who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: – Job 5:9

Eliphaz reminds Job that God does unsearchable and marvelous things without number.

That’s what we have to remember as followers of Jesus here in 2019.

I just reminded us that life is hard.

But life is also beautiful in that God is doing innumerable things that would blow our minds if we were to see it all.

In your life, today, God is at work.

Do you believe that?

You may not see it, you may not feel like it’s true, but according to the entire corpus of Scripture, we know it is.

God is at work.

I have a journal where I record ways that God shows His faithfulness to me. I could sit down with you for hours and hours and tell you all that He’s done this very year, and that’s just what I’ve been able to see. He’s done immeasurably more I’m sure.

When you bring all of these points from chapter five together, you get the following.

GOD USES THE DIFFICULTIES OF THIS WORLD TO CORRECT US AND TO OPEN OUR EYES TO HIS FAITHFULNESS

I’ll say it again.

God is at work.

If you believe that, then I encourage you to respond to the correction of God’s Word or a trusted friend with the humility to ask God what unseen wonders He’s wanting to open your eyes to.

I ended my conversation with my friend that day with “I want to be mad at you, but I know you’re right.”

Honestly, that’s a pretty good prayer to pray.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

Every day is a chance for me to sing the praises of my King. Every morning is a gift of His grace poured out on my life.

Yesterday I came across Psalm 30 in my time with the Lord and my oh my it stirred my affections for Jesus and made my heart burst with joy. The Psalms tend to do this for me. They remind me that the experiences I face day to day are not unique or isolating, but rather they are just part of being a human being. The emotions the Psalmist unpacks give me the freeing reminder that I too can be bold when I approach the throne. Why? Because of Christ.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. – Psalm 30:1

Right out of the gate I was driven to my knees. I meditated and thought long and hard about the ways that God has rescued me. The ways  He has lifted me up out of harm’s way, out of the crosshairs of my foes. Worry, jealousy, anxiety, anger, pride, defeatism. These things assault me. These things want to rejoice in their victory over me. Yet the Lord draws me up and out of the way.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Healing is found in Christ and Christ alone. He alone is the soothing medicine that my aching and broken heart needs. Just look at this wondrous truth! God heals us! He heals me! I have cried out to Him in pain and He has reached down and lifted me out, He has healed me. What a wondrous Psalm.

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. – Psalm 30:3

Relatable much?

Have you ever felt like you’re in hell? That the junk you’re walking through is beyond words, is more painful than you could have ever imagined having to face? Now I’m not incredibly well-versed in the theology of the Psalms, but in my opinion what David is describing is not the reality of us all headed toward hell outside of Christ. Rather I think this is evocative imagery, much like David will earlier say that God has forsaken him completely (Psalm 22:1).

So if you’re going through a whole lot of garbage in your life right now, rejoice that we serve and worship a God who draws us out.

By the way, rejoicing doesn’t mean immediate gratitude for horrible circumstances. Job wrestled with so much suffering before he came to a deeper intimacy with God. If you have a friend who is walking through hellish circumstances, don’t be an idiot like Job’s friends and try and find a blame for what’s happening. Listen, learn, and love.

These first three verses describe the ebb and flow of life; they emphasize and illuminate our seasons of life where God is pulling us up and out.

I am not going to cover this entire Psalm in this post, I do however want to emphasize the way that we should respond to these verses.. We realize how we should respond by looking at verses five, nine, and twelve.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:9

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! – Psalm 30:12

How do we respond when God pulls us out and up?

We find joy in that truth! Joy comes in the morning. Every day is a reminder of what God has done. Every day when I get out of bed is a reminder of what else God has pulled me up from.

We tell of His faithfulness. David pleads with the Lord not to allow him to go down to death, because if he is but dust then he can’t praise the Lord. He knows that he is called to tell of the Lord’s faithfulness. So every day that we are living should be a day where we praise the Lord and tell others of all that He has done for us and in us.

We cannot be silent! God deserves our thanks forever. Again, every single day that we exist upon earth is a day to be loud about all that God has done. God has been faithful to us, over and over.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3-5

How will all the peoples and nations of the earth praise our Risen Savior, our good and great God, if we don’t first tell them of how this God has been faithful to us?

Speak out.

Speak up.

Our social media feeds and our daily conversations need an influx of proclamations of God’s faithfulness. In a world of hatred, vitriol, and division, we can be an encouragement to those in our lives who need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

If you still feel like you’re in a pit. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping that God will begin to pull you out. His grace is always stronger than our suffering.

For those of you who are in a season where you’re out of the pit, rejoice.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Strength Amidst Difficulty

It’s early evening on a Tuesday and I’m already feeling like getting ready for bed. I stand up from my couch to go make dinner and my right knee aches. I’ve gone for a post-work run and the lingering discomfort of a dislocated patella suffered in my Senior year of college still plagues me after running on the hard cement. My mind runs through the stories and hurts that my students, friends, and neighbors are battling through. I make my sandwich and take my vitamin, taking a seat at my dining room table. My mind goes forward to the following day as I think and pray about the upcoming youth group night. We’ve had an incredible weekend where God has shown up, however the pressure of maintaining the camaraderie of my students in the midst of the normal status quo weighs on me a little bit too.

It’s a normal day, and the hard circumstances of my own body, my relationships, and my work are here with me.

Here’s the wonderful beauty of the gospel though. I can take these things to the Lord. In prayer, I laid out all of these before my God and Father, and the God-who-hears quieted my heart and mind with His love.

My prayer life is not anything special, exciting, or amazing. It’s simply me telling God what He already knows. In the case of last night, it was me sharing with Him the hardships I felt around me in my body, my relationships, and my work. We all face these to some degree each and every day.

In my prayers, this verse finds fulfillment:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

The act of simply praying my difficult circumstances to the Lord brings me peace and rest. The majority of the time, my circumstances don’t change as a result of my prayers. Instead, my perspective is what changes after I present my requests to God.

In the case of last night, I journaled and prayed through a Psalm. Slowly but surely as the night went on I found myself encouraged and lifted up by reflecting on the ways that God was blessing my body, my relationships, and my work.

Due to changes in my diet, my body feels better than it has in a while. Due to modern technology, last night I was able to spend time with and have fun with my friends. God showed up in marvelous ways at the Disciple Now we put on, bringing 3 students to salvation as well as a litany of other spiritual decisions. Prayer reminded me that yes, life is hard sometimes, but God also blesses me in great ways each day.

 

The omnipresence of God brings the courage and strength necessary to wade through the gritty brokenness of our world and its impact on our bodies, relationships, and vocations. That’s why prayer is becoming more and more beautiful to me, since it reminds me of that reality of God’s presence.

This morning I read Joshua 1:1-9 in my time of study and the familiar verses of God’s promises to and commissioning of Joshua was a needed encouragement that He is present and we have no need to be afraid.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

Now, this statement of God recorded in Scripture is not to us, it is to Joshua. But the truth of God’s presence is shown throughout Scripture and so we should respond to it the same way that God calls Joshua to respond to it: by being strong and courageous.

What Joshua faced is incredible. The first leader of the nation (Moses) of Israel has been God’s instrument of rescue from Egypt, and led the people through the wilderness and the Law of God. Moses dies and now Joshua is tasked with leading the nation into the promised land and into war. I can’t imagine the pressure, anxiousness, or weight of this endeavor. To follow a charismatic leader had to have been hard. To lead a perpetually fearful people into war had to have been even harder.

With all of this looming, God reminded His servant that He would be present.

This day, you will face physical, relational, and vocational difficulties.

This day, God is present.

This day, you can be strong and courageous.

In His Name,

Nate Roach