What God Taught Me About Community When I Had No Friends

About a year ago I moved to a town where I had no friends other than my soon-to-be husband. Although we were thrilled to be living in the same town after almost two years of long distance, my whole concept of community was changing. Suddenly, “community” didn’t look like five 21 year old girls, five spoons, and a pazookie. Community didn’t look like living in the same building as two hundred other girls on a campus full of people who were approximately the same age as me and roughly in the same stage of life as me. I moved to a town where there are very few people my age and in the same stage of life as me.

In school, you can pretend to have community even if you don’t. The people around you are at least similar to you in some way. Then you graduate. You go to work, come home, and then what? There’s no club meetings… no events… no wandering down the hall to find someone to hang out with.

You have to work for community.

My friendships now don’t look the same as before. We don’t eat every meal together or hang out every weekend. They are moms and some of them are even old enough to be my mom! But you know what? They show up. They check in. They encourage and share wisdom.

College spoils you. It’s so great, but it spoils you! Friendships and community won’t look like that your whole life! And sometimes that is hard. But you find people who share in the important things – people who will help when needed and celebrate when needed!

Matching pajamas and pazookie nights are great, but community changes just as the seasons of life do. When I let go of what I think friendships should look like at this stage of life, God provided me with great friendships that spur me on toward what is good.

To all of you college peeps out there… soak it in. But make it about more than just fun. Find encouragers and supporters and people who push you closer to Christ. Those relationships last.

To graduates… trust the Lord to provide you with community… and then get involved in a church. You may have to let go of some expectations about what you think your friendships should look like and that’s okay. God knows our desires and our needs and He will provide. But also don’t forget that He is the ultimate companion and can provide all that you need. If it is taking a long time to find your community, be patient and lean into Him.

When I had no friends, God brought me a community more caring, wise, and encouraging than I’ve ever known! And I am so thankful.

– Jamie Roach

The Reason For The Season

Yesterday, my good friend Marco and I went to the High School for lunch. In a forty minute lunch period, there were two fights. The saddest part of this is that both were widely encouraged by the other students. There was cheering, screaming, applauding, and the obligatory phone recordings of the festivities.

That more or less affected my entire day. I was supremely saddened by the fact that there is so much violence in our world, so much hatred. It seeps down into the upcoming generations.

After being present at these events, Marco and I had a conversation about sin and it’s global nature. He made a statement that I will forever steal.

Our sin is the reason for the season. 

When we approach the Christmas season, we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. To an extent this is true, and I’m not intending to split hairs. But we must acknowledge that the reason Jesus had to come in the first place is because of our sin which separates us from God. None of us come away clean, innocent, or pure in the eyes of God.

Although it’s generally not read in any Advent moments, the following passage is worth remembering:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one to come. – Romans 5:12-14

There you have it. According to Scripture, the real reason for this Christmas season is the sin that is prevalent in me.

Our sin is the reason for the season.

Adam’s sin has been imputed to all of mankind. Each of us is born into sin. There are many different worldviews present today that teach that mankind is inherently good. The Christian worldview is not one of them. According to Scripture, all have been born into sin. Instead of being inherently good, we are inherently sinful.

We don’t offer courses at our church to teach people to sin against God. Toddlers don’t go through “Deception 101” and “Advanced Selfishness”. It’s wired into them. They are innately broken.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

David sang about his innate sinfulness. He knew that he was birthed in sin.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

When I put my life up against this statement of Jesus, I realize just how sinful I am. I don’t love the Lord my God with all that is in me. So if we’re being real, we are way more sinful than we think that we are.

Yes, this is bad news.

That’s also why the good news of the gospel, the good news of Christmas, is good.

You see, the passage out of Romans 5 does not end there on the global nature of sin. It bursts into the glorious light of the gospel.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind. The sin of Adam spread to all of mankind. This is the background of the Christmas story. The shadow of the cross of Christ is on the cradle. The birth of Jesus is ultimately about His eventual death, His sacrifice for our sins.

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see two beautiful things happen.

Our sins are put on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ is put on us. Just as all of us are born into sin because of the sin of Adam, so we in Christ are righteous before God the Father because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Y’all, this is beautiful news.

I’ll be honest. Even when I write out this passage from Romans 5, my logical sensibilities are challenged by that final verse. The righteousness of Christ is a free gift. I cannot earn it. Neither can you.

We make our standing before God dependent upon our own actions and abilities, our personal holiness and righteousness. Yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear time and time again that there’s literally nothing I can do to earn what God did for me in sending His Son to die for me. Even my most noble attempts at righteousness are nowhere close to the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

The world we live in is broken, ravaged by sin. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is family violence and screaming matches in cafeterias. There doesn’t seem to be much peace anywhere. It is in this space that the message of the gospel can be transformative and tremendously impactful. The light of the gospel shines brightest in darkness.

This Christmas season, reflect. This Christmas season, in the midst of Sunday School parties and family, gifts and egg nog and decorating the house, reflect upon the message of the gospel.

Our sin is the reason for the season. But God the Father sent His Son Jesus to take our place. 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

I Am Nothing

“You’re not cool, Nathan! You’re not cool!” 403H

In college I played intramural basketball with some of my best friends. One of these guys would yell that at me every single time that I made a basket (which was rare). If there was even the teeny-tiniest hint of pride or arrogance on my face, he would scream from the sideline to remind me that I was in fact not very cool. At the time, this annoyed the snot out of me. It got to the point where I would dread seeing the ball go in the basket because I knew his scream would soon be filling the court.

While I did not enjoy that refrain ringing in my ears, there are some statements that I intend to tell myself daily:

“I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.”

In a world of self-help praise and positive thinking vibes, this proclamation does not sit well. I do want to clarify from the onset though that I am a wholehearted believer in reminding ourselves daily of our blessed identity in Jesus Christ, and I strive to teach myself the implications of the gospel onto my identity each day.

But for the purpose of this blog, I am focusing on the idea of contentment and how these phrases help us to reorient our hearts and minds on thankfulness and gratitude in light of our present circumstances.

We are called by God to deny ourselves. This is one of the main mandates of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

Discontentment is a litmus test for how well we are walking after Christ in our day-to-day lives, how well we are practicing the spiritual discipline of self-denial.

But how do we deny ourselves daily? How do we remind ourselves that we are not the center of our world? In his book, Chasing Contentment, Erik Raymond offers up these three short proclamations as one of a myriad of means through which we can find true and lasting contentment in Jesus Christ through denying ourselves.

I Am Nothing

This is not to be in conflict with the biblical truth about the dignity of every human life.

Rather it is putting ourselves against the majesty of God and realizing how small and insignificant we all truly are. All throughout Scripture I see men and women of God who had an understanding of their nothingness so to speak in light of the wonderful majesty of God. One of the most stark and surprising instances of this comes from Genesis chapter eighteen. In this chapter, Abraham is conversing with God, making his requests known to God in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at verse twenty-seven with me.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, – Genesis 18:27

Let me remind us that this proclamation comes after Genesis 15, when God proclaims his covenant blessings to Abraham. So Abraham knows the good news of God’s covenant faithfulness, yet he still proclaims that he is but dust and ashes.

Erik Raymond encourages us to find joy in being able to say that we are nothing:

Isn’t this what makes God’s pursuit of us in the gospel so refreshing? He pursues and arrests us by his grace. Though it may seem severe to think you are nothing, in the gospel you have Christ to be your everything!

I Deserve Nothing

The gospel shines incredibly bright into our lives because without Christ what we deserve is death. This may be a well-worn verse but it is no more striking in its verdict:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

This couldn’t be any more clear. What we deserve for our sin against God is physical and spiritual and eternal death; eternal separation from God. The wonderful news of the gospel could not shine any brighter either in this passage, as we see that the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is available for us!

Contentment is found in denying ourselves. Denying ourselves comes from remembering not only that we are nothing apart from Christ, but that we also deserve nothing. Pastor and theologian Mark Dever is known to quip “Anything less than hell is dancing time for Christians!” How true this is. When we truly understand that what we deserve is hell, anything less than that in our lives is a time for rejoicing. Lecrae, in his song Boasting makes the statement:

If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight. 

This is truly the case. You and I deserve nothing.

I Can Do Nothing

This is a hard one for me to remember as I am striving to live for God in vocational ministry. Yet its implications are profound on every one of us who professes Christ. Apart from Jesus, you and I can do nothing. We don’t have the power to say no to temptation, we don’t have the power to say yes to the Spirit, we don’t have the power to save souls. In all things we are unable to do what is necessary for bringing God glory in our own strength or ability.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

This is the reality about me that I seek to cling to:

I am nothing. I deserve nothing. I can do nothing.

With this, I can strive to deny myself daily. With this, I can see the beautiful message of the gospel shining through as it is truly a gracious gift of God. With this, I can practice Biblical and gospel-centered contentment.

While I often despised the refrain of my lack of coolness coming from the sidelines during a basketball game, I am already growing to love this method of self-denial.

Remember that you are nothing.

You deserve nothing.

You can do nothing.

Meditate on this and you will find the joys of the gospel message.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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My Greatest Need

There are situations in life and circumstances in life that I wish God would rescue me from and heal me from. There are physical, emotional, and relational needs that I have that I wish God would simply restore to perfection. I’m not alone in this. We all know that life is hard, that brokenness exists, that pain is deep. Mark 2.png

I’ve come to discover however that my greatest need is by far not the mending of my physical, emotional, or relational struggles. My greatest need is for my sins to be forgiven. God in His grace through the cross of Christ has met that great need, and my heart should be responding with great joy and gratitude. That however is hard to do in the midst of these other difficulties in life.

Yet God’s Word makes it crystal clear that the meeting of my spiritual needs through Christ is far more miraculous, necessary, and impactful than the changing of any emotional, mental, or relational circumstances. This gospel truth is most clearly found in Mark chapter two, when Jesus heals a paralytic.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man,carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” – Mark 2:1-12

Most of the times I’ve heard this story taught, it’s had a focus on the great length that this paralyzed man’s friends went to in order to help their friend find healing. Now, this teaching is beneficial, convicting, and applicable to our lives as followers of Christ. Yet in the times I’ve been taught this story growing up, I’ve never seen with such vividness the truth that Jesus was drawing the attention of the crowd to.

The paralytic’s greatest need was not for his legs to be healed so that he could walk, run, and jump. No, the paralytic’s greatest need was for his sins to be forgiven.

In verse five, Jesus makes this abundantly clear. He looks at this paralyzed man laying on a mat and says “your sins are forgiven”.

I can only imagine what his friends were thinking. They had just gone to great lengths to bring their friend to Jesus. They had even torn through a roof to do so. Yet Jesus looks at their friend and merely says “your sins are forgiven”.

Now, this was not only a statement that proved this paralyzed man’s greatest need. Rather it was also Jesus proclaiming His deity and ability to forgive sins (v. 10). The Lord Jesus Christ we worship and dedicate our lives to is able to forgive us of all of our sin. Every last grievance and shortcoming.

My prayer is that I would come to understand that even when my emotional, relational, and physical needs aren’t met in immediacy (although this wasn’t the case with this paralyzed man), that I have a reason to sing and worship because my spiritual needs are covered. The Son of Man has forgiven my sins. As a man who has placed my faith in the Lord Jesus and what the life and death of Jesus did for my eternal state, I have forgiveness of all sins. Oh that I could train my heart to be overjoyed with this reality.

Our God is good and great. Our God does no wrong, and He does not fail.

The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. – Zephaniah 3:5

I add that sentence and verse as a reminder that even when physical, emotional, or relational realities don’t change, God does no wrong and He never fails. He always does what is best and what is right. I’m an imperfect man who has to fight hard to cling to this truth. It’s not easy to claim this promise but it is no less true. What God does is right, and He does not fail.

Rejoice, believer.

Rejoice, follower of Jesus.

Your greatest need has been met in fullness by the precious blood of Christ on the cross. Bring your physical, emotional, and relational needs to Jesus. Cast your cares upon the One who loves You and cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). You are the apple of his eye, and you are hidden in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8).

Yet in the changing difficulties of this life, rejoice that the Lord has seen fit to look at you and say, “Your sins are forgiven”.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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God Speaks

I’ve never heard audible words from the Lord. I’ve never had some overwhelming Damascus road experience where I saw with my own eyes the risen Christ. I’ve never had some immensely emotional response in worship. But even still, God has spoken to me time and time again. And today, He is speaking to you. In creation, In His Word, in the preaching of a pastor on a Sunday morning and the words of a friend on a Tuesday afternoon. God speaks to us daily.

That is something I wish I had come to grips with a long time ago, and it is something I think many of us will fight to believe in during our lifelong walks with the Lord. For me, I would have seasons of my life where I struggled with doubt and disbelief because I had never had some amazing emotional response to the gospel where I heard the Lord audibly speaking to me. For me I was a seven year old who accepted Christ and placed my faith in the gospel in my parents’ bedroom. It was childlike faith, living and moving and having my being in the Lord from day to day.

Somewhere along the way I accepted a lie. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that if I wasn’t hearing from God in some awesome, audible, amazing Exodus-style way then I wasn’t walking with Him well. So I would try and conjure up these emotional experiences. I remember sitting on the back row of youth group trying to will myself into an encounter with the Lord that I would be able to look back on as some incredible moment where I heard from God. Embarrassingly enough now, I would try and conjure up tears so that if I emotionally responded to some message than surely God would reward that with some indisputable word from Him.

This lie lingered in my mind throughout the years. It was triggered by sin. I would fall into a sin of some sort and immediately begin to doubt the strength of my relationship with the Lord simply because I felt like I wasn’t hearing from the Lord. Now this wouldn’t happen all the time but it would rear its ugly head over the years.

These past few months in Phoenix has simply obliterated and decimated that lie.  I’ve come to realize that God speaks to all of us daily through creation, friends, the truth of His Word, and the preaching of the pastoral shepherd we are under.

Creation. Scripture testifies over and over that creation speaks to us about God. The stars proclaim His glory (see Psalm 19:1-2). Looking at creation proves the existence of a Creator much as a painting proves the existence of an artist. Beaches, forests, mountains, sunsets, birds, dogs, snow, rain, stars, moon, sun, the Grand Canyon. When we immerse ourselves in creation we can find ourselves overwhelmed with the magnitude and creativity of the Lord. Open your eyes to the world around you and worship Him who made it all with just the words of His mouth. Worship in wonder.15226581_1112302335554109_839234830_n

Friends. This can also extend to family, or anyone at all you are in Christian community with. The Lord uses the words of a friend or family member to remind you of the truths of His Word. Don’t discount the words of a friend spoken in love. It’s been crazy to me how often God has reminded me of one of His promises or truths just in the middle of simple conversation while playing ping-pong, watching TV, or eating dinner. The Lord speaks to us daily through normal conversation.

God’s Word. My mom recently told me, “If you want to hear God audibly speak to you, then read the Bible out loud.” How impactful is that. What a beautiful reminder. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. The entirety of Scripture is God’s written words to us His church, useful for teaching and correction and reproof and training in righteousness. Don’t discount getting in God’s Word. Dive deep and discover the depths of God’s grace in every story, song, and letter. Let His Word be ever in your mind and on your lips.

Preaching. As followers of Christ we should all be engaged with a local body of believers. As a result of being a part of a local congregation, we are all under the preaching and teaching of the pastor, the shepherd God has appointed to care for us and teach us God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the message of Christ. A sermon is more than just a thirty minute scolding or fortune cookie anecdote. It is God speaking to us through a man He has chosen. This should lead us to all pray for our pastors, that they would weekly preach the gospel, no more and no less. Listening to God’s Word through the preaching of our local pastor is a way to hear from the Lord.

More often than not our lives will be more like the book of Ruth than the book of Exodus. It will be a life filled with normal activities rather than miraculous signs and audible voices. Yes God speaks audibly to whom He wills. Yes there are more avenues of God’s communication with us than just the ones I have listed. Yet if you like I have struggled to see the extraordinary and eternal in the ordinary and temporal, let these ways I have listed above be an encouragement to discern and discover God’s voice and communication with you.

God speaks to us all each day.

In His Name,

Nate Roach